The After House
11. The Dead Line
Mrs. Johns and the stewardess came up late in the afternoon. We had railed off
a part of the deck around the forward companionway for them, and none of the
crew except the man on guard was allowed inside the ropes. After a consultation,
finding the ship very short-handed, and unwilling with the night coming on to trust
any of the men, Burns and I decided to take over this duty ourselves, and; by
stationing ourselves at the top of the companionway, to combine the duties of
officer on watch and guard of the after house. To make the women doubly
secure, we had Oleson nail all the windows closed, although they were merely
portholes. Jones was no longer on guard below, and I had exchanged Singleton's
worthless revolver for my own serviceable one.
Mrs. Johns, carefully dressed, surveyed the railed-off deck with raised eyebrows.
"For - us?" she asked, looking at me. The men were gathered about the wheel
aft, and were out of ear-shot. Mrs. Sloane had dropped into a steamer-chair, and
was lying back with closed eyes.
"Yes, Mrs. Johns."
"Where have you put them?"
I pointed to where the jolly-boat, on the port side of the ship, swung on its davits.
"And the mate, Mr. Singleton?"
"He is in the forward house."
"What did you do with the - the weapon?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"Morbid curiosity," she said, with a lightness of tone that rang false to my ears.
"And then - naturally, I should like to be sure that it is safely overboard, so it will
not be" - she shivered - " used again."