What happened on the Pericles.
“You, Thompson, go down and send the second mate up to me. Tell him to leave whatever he is doing and to come up here at once. I want to speak to him,” growled Captain Fisher of the steamer Pericles, turning, with a menacing expression, to the grizzled old quartermaster who stood beside him on the bridge.
Thompson, as though only too glad of an excuse to leave the neighbourhood of his skipper, grunted out an assent, and, swinging round on his heel, shambled away down the ladder leading from the bridge to the spar-deck, and departed on his errand.
The Pericles was an iron single-screw steamer of two thousand tons or thereabout. She was employed in the carriage of nitrates, silver ore, hides, etcetera, between Chilian ports and Liverpool. She was owned by a company, which also possessed two similar vessels employed in the same trade. Captain Fisher, her skipper, had a considerable number of shares in this company, a circumstance which accounted in no small measure for the fact of his being the skipper of the Pericles; for a man less fit to have the control of other men it would have been exceedingly difficult to find.
Fisher was a man of enormous stature and splendid physique, but his features, which would otherwise have been considered handsome, were marred by a ferocious expression, due to his chronic condition of ill-humour. He was constantly “hazing” his men, and was never at a loss for an excuse for irritating them in every possible way. In this pleasing occupation he was ably seconded by his first mate, an American, named Silas Hoover. Between the pair of them they had contrived, during the course of the several voyages which they had performed together, to render their men thoroughly dissatisfied almost to the verge of mutiny; and there is little doubt that long before this the crew would have given open and forcible expression to their feelings had it not been for the efforts of the second mate, a young fellow of eighteen years of age, named James Douglas. This was the individual for whom Fisher had just sent. He had conceived a most virulent hatred for him, in consequence, probably, of the fact that Douglas was the only officer in the ship for whom the men would work willingly and for whom they showed any real respect. The lad had been left an orphan at an early age, and as he showed even from he first a predilection for a seafaring life, he had been sent by his uncle at the age of fourteen as an apprentice on board a sailing ship, and during the four following years he had gradually worked his way upward until now he was second mate of the Pericles.
Up to the time when he joined that ship he had had no cause to regret his choice of a profession; but the six or seven months which he had spent under Fisher had proved so thoroughly unpleasant that he had made up his mind he would leave the ship at the first port at which she called. This resolve was echoed by his own particular chum, Terence O’Meara, third engineer of the same ship, who had likewise found life on board the Pericles anything but to his liking....