Mutiny part II - Death of the third lieutenant
On the other side of the ship, Fernand wanted to approach Patrick, who was holding the young boatswain’s mate. He had something to tell him now too, that it seemed the atmosphere changed and the young man’s protector wasn’t there anymore. The men were in commotion, ready to stand up against the bully, following the Breton’s example they had witnessed. Others were shouting the name of another boatswain’s mate they had a bone to pick with, and others Lieutenant Forrestier’s, who had given a few harsh punishments lately too, for minor offences.
It was as if the boatswain’s death (or maybe the young rigger’s before, the one they knew as Little Fish, by the boatswain’s hands) was the spark starting the fire of justice in their hearts. Would this burn as tall as to turn into an uprising against all those who had wronged them?
Some crewmen had been gathering around Little Fish, talking if to call the doctor when he obviously wasn’t breathing anymore or to get ready to sew him in his hammock. One of them remembered that an officer had to be called first… and the one who came on the deck to see what the commotion was about happened to be the most hated among them, the third lieutenant Forrestier. As if some of the thoughts of the men on the deck had brought him here!
The sailors had nothing against the acting captain, lieutenant Lecuyer, who was a fair but distant man, rather new aboard. He had been leading them to victories and to getting unharmed from the confrontation with blockade runners.
They had nothing with the second lieutenant, Bauldry, either. They were objective enough to admit these officers had been doing their duties and, in the rare opportunity when lieutenant Lecuyer had to give a punishment, it was well deserved and not cruel, mostly focused on remedying the issue at hand and learning a lesson what not to do in the future. They were the ones who made the ship function and do what the King expected from a flagship, and the sailors understood there was more in running a ship on the deep seas and in battles than ordering men to pull and haul and managing watches. These tasks were meant to be delegated to warrant and petty officers… and they were expected to do their jobs and make the men work.
How exactly said warrant and petty officers had done it and how much hatred they had gathered on themselves, it was seen now. And the third lieutenant, who just made his appearance, was of the same kind of ruthless men like the dead boatswain and his mates, chosen by their superior to match his way of being.
People gathered menacingly around Lieutenant Forrestier immediately. Jean shouted at Fernand to come join them in getting their revenge, as they had been recently the target of the lieutenant’s rage. Fernand left Lemieux be, focusing on the lieutenant he hated more. The once orderly seamen had become an angry mob, ready to make a stand for their own justice, not believing in the Naval authorities’ justice anymore.
The officer, frightened, understanding from the mob’s figures that their intentions weren’t kind, took out his small sword, trying to impose and make room with it, which ended in stabbing with it the sailor who was closest to him. This was the beginning of his undoing – the crowd took the sword from his hand by force, piercing his chest with it.
Jean and Fernand couldn’t say, in all honesty, which exactly had been their part in all this. Things happened quickly, more instinctively than well thought.