Chessup stood for a moment frowning and pulling nervously at the brass buttons on his coat. He slid the bolt on his door and turning to his colleague said resolutely: "I can give you some information, if you won't implicate me. You can do as you like, but keep my name out of it. For several hours last night cases of eggs and boxes of oranges were being carried into the Chief Steward's cabin by a flunky of his from the galley. Whatever port we make, he can get a shilling each for the fresh eggs, and perhaps sixpence for the oranges. They are your property, of course, furnished by your government; but this is his customary perquisite. I've been on this boat six years, and it's always been so. About a week before we make port, the choicest of the remaining stores are taken to his cabin, and he disposes of them after we dock. I can't say just how he manages it, but he does. The skipper may know of this custom, and there may be some reason why he permits it. It's not my business to see anything. The Chief Steward is a powerful man on an English vessel. If he has anything against me, sooner or later he can lose my berth for me. There you have the facts."
"Have I your permission to go to the Chief Steward?" Dr. Trueman asked.
"Certainly not. But you can go without my knowledge. He's an ugly man to cross, and he can make it uncomfortable for you and your patients."
"Well, we'll say no more about it. I appreciate your telling me, and I will see that you don't get mixed up in this. Will you go down with me to look at that new meningitis case?"
Claude waited impatiently in his stateroom for the doctor's return. He didn't see why the Chief Steward shouldn't be exposed and dealt with like any other grafter. He had hated the man ever since he heard him berating the old bath steward one morning. Hawkins had made no attempt to defend himself, but stood like a dog that has been terribly beaten, trembling all over, saying "Yes, sir. Yes, sir," while his chief gave him a cold cursing in a low, snarling voice. Claude had never heard a man or even an animal addressed with such contempt. The Steward had a cruel face,--white as cheese, with limp, moist hair combed back from a high forehead,--the peculiarly oily hair that seems to grow only on the heads of stewards and waiters. His eyes were exactly the shape of almonds, but the lids were so swollen that the dull pupil was visible only through a narrow slit. A long, pale moustache hung like a fringe over his loose lips.
When Dr. Trueman came back from the hospital, he declared he was now ready to call on Mr. Micks. "He's a nasty looking customer, but he can't do anything to me."
They went to the Chief Steward's cabin and knocked.
"What's wanted?" called a threatening voice.