William Bush's Journal - Mutiny
by PJ

Orders

I do not understand what just happened.

I've come out to sit beside the forecastle grating in order to find
some peace and privacy. I have long been accustomed to crowded
conditions on board ship, but in this case....

I do not want anyone coming upon me as I ponder what I have just
witnessed. I do not want any of the men to see me in such a
disturbed state of mind.

Where to begin?

Captain Sawyer called all of his senior officers into his day cabin
to deliver our orders. I was somewhat shocked to see the ship's
surgeon, Doctor Clive, present as well. I can see no sign that the
captain is so ill as to require a doctor's attendance. Puzzling.

But less so than the captain's behavior.

I see that I am getting ahead of myself. I must set everything down
in its proper order if I am to make any sense of these matters.

We are bound for the West Indies. Santo Domingo, to be exact. I
confess to a touch of boyish enthusiasm, in all my years with His
Majesty's navy I've never been to the West Indies. Perhaps it was
that which led me to abandon my habitual silence in such situations.

Utter stillness greeted my words; some inane comment about the West
Indies being preferable to the Channel Fleet as best I can recall. I
could see Hornblower and Kennedy beside me - both held their breaths
as if in anticipation of a blow.

Which never fell. The captain's response to me was perfectly
amiable, even jovial. Strange, considering his earlier acerbic
response to Hornblower's words about the slave rebellion on the
island.

So how to explain what occurred next?

I have seen little since my first moments on board this ship to
change my original impressions of Mister Buckland. He is deferent
almost to the point groveling. And there seems always to be a note
of fear in his voice when speaking to the captain. I know that is
not simply his way, for in the ward room with his fellow officers he
is a perfectly pleasant fellow, with kind words always spoken in his
soft voice.

Which makes Captain Sawyer's actions even more inexplicable. He and
Doctor Clive had begun, in an almost jocular fashion, to reminisce
about past experiences in tropical waters. I think it was the
humourous tone that made Mister Buckland forget himself enough to add
to their comments.

In the blink of an eye the captain rounded on him and, for lack of a
better word, attacked him, pointing out that he had never been in the
West Indies before. He was harsh, angry, and worst of all extremely
condescending. I'll never forget his words:

"Not a day's sail from Plymouth and you're out of your depth already."

It was only my shock at hearing a captain speak to his first
lieutenant in such a way that prevented me from speaking when the
captain asked me to concur with that outrageous statement. Or maybe
it was also self-preservation; I have virtually no doubt that Captain
Sawyer would have turned on me just as quickly and easily.

But why?

I have encountered many a captain I would consider eccentric, but
this goes beyond that. There is something there; an instability of
temper that is as sudden as a squall at sea. There is no telling
when or where it may strike. The only thing to do, as any good
seaman knows, is batten down and ride it out.

As I left the wardroom Hornblower and Kennedy were seated by the
stern windows, talking quietly together. They stopped as soon as
they sighted me. I am still an outsider to them, and I can hardly
condemn that attitude. I have not yet earned their trust.

I can see I shall have to tread lightly here.