The After House
17. The Axe Is Gone
My first thought was of the after house. Jones, who had been fond of Burns, was
working over him, muttering to himself. I felt his heart, which was beating slowly
but regularly, and, convinced that he was not dying, ran down into the after
house. The cabin was empty: evidently the guard around the pearl handled
revolver had been given up on the false promise of peace. All the lights were
going, however, and the heat was suffocating.
I ran to Miss Lee's door, and tried it. It was locked, but almost instantly she spoke
"What is it?"
"Nothing much. Can you come out?"
She came a moment later, and I asked her to call into each cabin to see if every
one was safe. The result was reassuring - no one had been disturbed; and I was
put to it to account to Miss Lee for my anxiety without telling her what had
happened. I made some sort of excuse, which I have forgotten, except that she
evidently did not believe it.
On deck, the men were gathered around Burns. There were ominous faces
among them, and mutterings of hatred and revenge; for Burns had been popular
- the best-liked man among them all. Jones, wrought to the highest pitch, had
even shed a few shamefaced tears, and was obliterating the humiliating memory
by an extra brusqueness of manner.
We carried the injured man aft, and with such implements as I had I cleaned and
dressed the wound. It needed sewing, and it seemed best to do it before he
regained consciousness. Jones and Adams went below to the forecastle,
therefore, and brought up my amputating set, which contained, besides its
knives, some curved needles and surgical silk, still in good condition.