Chapter 8 Summary

The Roundhouse

Late one night, Captain Hoseason comes down to the forecastle and kindly asks Davie to switch berths with Ransome. Just then two men bring Ransome to Davie’s bunk, and the cabin boy looks nearly dead. Davie runs out on deck and goes to the roundhouse, not realizing that the ship has not travelled as far as he would have guessed.

The roundhouse is large and stands six feet above the deck. Inside are a table, a bench, and two berths, one for the captain and one for the two mates. The cabin has lockers in which the men keep their belongings and a storeroom underneath where the best food, supplies, and ammunition are stored. The firearms are all here in a rack, though the cutlasses and two cannons are elsewhere. There is a small window on each side and a skylight on the roof. Mr. Shuan is sitting at the table with a brandy bottle and a tin cup in front of him. He is a tall, black, strong man, unmoving even when Davie and the captain enter the cabin.

Though Davie has good reason to fear Hoseason, he senses there is nothing to fear from the captain now. Davie whispers, asking how Shuan is, but the captain does not know. Soon Riach comes in and his face clearly says that Ransome is dead. Now all three of them stare at Shuan, but Shuan only looks down at the table. When he reaches for the bottle, Riach stops him and violently tosses the bottle into the sea, saying judgment is now going to fall on this ship. Shuan would have committed another murder right then if Hoseason had not interfered and announced that Shuan murdered Ransome. The first officer seems to comprehend the news but justifies his actions, claiming that the cabin boy brought him a dirty cup. The others are appalled and Hoseason puts Shuan to bed. Hoseason says the story must be that Ransome fell overboard.

This is the first night of Davie’s new life. He serves the officers’ meals and runs errands for his three masters before sleeping on the floor at night, often interrupted to do more errands. In other respects, Davie’s life is easy and his clumsiness is met with patience by Riach and Hoseason. Shuan is clearly disturbed by his guilt, but Davie is not afraid of him. Davie is fed well and enjoys talking with Riach who has been to college and shares many things with the boy. Despite that, Davie worries about his future and is glad to have his work to keep him busy.