David stood looking on at the slaughter with a helpless puzzled air.
At last he seemed to have an idea, he caught Jack up by the throat and knee, lifted him with gigantic strength above his head, and was just going to hurl him shrieking into the sea, when a dozen strong hands interfered, and saved the man. Then they were going to bind Billy hand and foot; but he was discovered to be perfectly calm; so they remonstrated instead, and presently Billy's commander-in-chief, a ship-boy called Georgie White, shoved in and asked him in a shrill haughty voice how he dared do that. "My dear," said Billy, with great humility and placidity, "he was killing God's creatures, no allowance: * so, ye see, to save their lives, I was _obliged._"
*Nautical phrase, meaning without stint or limit, or niggardly admeasurement as there is of grog.
At this piece of reasoning, and the simplicity and gentle conviction with which it was delivered, there was a roar. It subsided, and a doubt arose whether Billy was altogether in the wrong.
"Well," said one, "I daresay life is sweet to them little creatures, if they could speak their minds."
"I've known a ship founder in a fair breeze all along of killing 'em," said one old salt.
Finally, several sided with Billy, and intimated that "it served the lubber right for not listening to _reason._" And, indeed, methinks it was lovely and touching that so divine a ray of goodness and superior reason should have shot from his heart or from Heaven across that poor benighted brain.
But it must be owned his mode of showing his humanity was somewhat excessive and abnormal, and smacked of lunacy. After this, however, the affection of his messmates was not so contemptuous.