(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

As the Grosvenor was preparing to leave its British port, the wind died and the ship lay anchored in the Downs. The crew aboard grew increasingly discontented; at last, the cook stopped Mr. Royle, the second mate, and showed him a biscuit from the ship’s store. This biscuit, as well as the other food served to the crew, was crawling with vermin and inedible. When Mr. Royle brought the matter to the attention of Captain Coxon, that officer was indignant; the food was good enough for sailors who, he insisted, had eaten much worse food. Furthermore, he did not want Mr. Royle to fraternize with the crew. It was apparent, however, that the crew was likely to mutiny once the ship was on the high seas, and so the Captain and Mr. Duckling, the first mate, went ashore and came back with an entirely new crew.

After the ship had been a few days at sea, the new crew approached Mr. Royle to complain of the rations. The Captain had the food brought to his table, where he tasted it without flinching, but he hinted that he would put in at some convenient port and take aboard new stores. When he made no attempt to change the ship’s course, however, the crew became even more resentful. Mr. Royle tried to remain neutral. If he so much as spoke to any of the crew, the Captain would consider him mutinous. It he sided with the Captain and Mr. Duckling, the crew, in the event of a mutiny, would probably kill him. Nevertheless his anger mounted, and his disgust reached a high point when the Captain refused to rescue survivors from a shipwrecked vessel.

Some time later, another wrecked vessel was sighted, and the crew insisted that Mr. Royle be permitted to bring the the survivors aboard. The survivors were Mr. Robertson, the owner of a shipping firm, his daughter Mary, and a man who had gone mad from the terrifying experience of shipwreck at sea. Mr. Royle did everything he could for the Robertsons; the third survivor died. For his part in the rescue, Mr. Royle was confined to his cabin and put in irons.

One night, the crew mutinied. The Captain and Mr. Duckling were killed, and Mr. Royle was set free. He promised to steer as the crew wished if they in turn would promise not to kill the steward, whom they especially hated because he was in charge of ship stores.

It was...

(The entire section is 942 words.)