Men, Im going to ask you two or three questions let one of you answer yes or no, and the rest keep silent. Now then: Have you anything to say against your mate, Mr.Jermin? And he looked sharply among the sailors, and, at last, right into the eye of the cooper, whom everybody was eyeing.
Well, sir, faltered Bungs, we cant say anything against Mr.Jermins seamanship, but
I want no buts, cried the consul, breaking in: answer me yes or nohave you anything to say against Mr. Jermin?
I was going on to say, sir; Mr.Jermins a very good man; but then Here the mate looked marlingspikes at Bungs; and Bungs, after stammering out something, looked straight down to a seam in the deck, and stopped short.
A rather assuming fellow heretofore, the cooper had sported many feathers in his cap; he was now showing the white one.
So much then for that part of the business, exclaimed Wilson, smartly; you have nothing to say against him, I see.
Upon this, several seemed to be on the point of saying a good deal; but disconcerted by the coopers conduct, checked themselves, and the consul proceeded.
Have you enough to eat, aboard? answer me, you man who spoke before.
Well, I dont know as to that, said the cooper, looking excessively uneasy, and trying to edge back, but pushed forward again. Some of that salt horse aint as sweet as it might be.
Thats not what I asked you, shouted the consul, growing brave quite fast; answer my questions as I put them, or Ill find a way to make you.
This was going a little too far. The ferment, into which the coopers poltroonery had thrown the sailors, now brooked no restraint; and one of thema young American who went by the name of Salem1dashed out from among the rest, and fetching the cooper a blow that sent him humming over toward the consul, flourished a naked sheathknife in the air, and burst forth with Im the little fellow that can answer your questions; just put them to me once, counsellor.
But the counsellor had no more questions to ask just then; for at the alarming apparition of Salems knife, and the extraordinary effect produced upon Bungs, he had popped his head down the companionway, and was holding it there.
Upon the mates assuring him, however, that it was all over, he looked up, quite flustered, if not frightened, but evidently determined to put as fierce a face on the matter as practicable. Speaking sharply, he warned all present to look out; and then repeated the question, whether there was enough to eat aboard. Everyone now turned spokesman; and he was assailed by a perfect hurricane of yells, in which the oaths fell like hailstones.
Hows this! what dye mean? he cried, upon the first lull; who told you all to speak at once? Here, you man with the knife, youll be putting someones eyes out yet; dye hear, you sir? You seem to have a good deal to say, who are you, pray; where did you ship?
Im nothing more nor a bloody beachcomber,2retorted Salem, stepping forward piratically and eyeing him; and if you want to know, I shipped at the Islands about four months ago.
Only four months ago? And here you have more to say than men who have been aboard the whole voyage; and the consul made a dash at looking furious, but failed.
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