Lem had been going about, secretly spreading slander about towards David as much as he could, but it was not enough to turn most of the crew against him. He wanted David off the ship.
One day as the Eagle cruised along, Lem strode up to the forecastle. He had a dangerous and difficult job for David to do today. He was in high spirits and whistled as he entered the forecastle. The sight which met his eyes caused his whistle to die on his lips. Tom Prince, Dan Keeler, and Chad Jansen were kneeling with David Mitchel, praying. Lem turned red with anger. David had now stolen his friend Tom Prince!
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!" Lem exploded. David turned to Lem with a radiant smile (which Lem misinterpreted as a vengeful one) on his face.
"These three men just enlisted in the Army of God, or Navy, if you prefer," he said.
Lem's face turned from red to purple as he spouted off a flood of curses at David and the other three. Sailors on the opposite end of the ship stopped to listen, open-mouthed. When Lem paused for breath David said in a firm voice, “‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God
in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.’ Exodus 20:7."
The veins in Lem's neck almost burst with his rage as he shook his fist at David and said, "I'll get even with you!" So saying he turned and stormed towards the captain’s cabin. He kicked the door open and stomped in, giving vent to a roar of fury. The captain sprang in surprise from his desk, and in a flash, had two loaded pistols in his hands.
"Oh, it’s you," the captain said as he recognized Lem and sat back down.
"Cap'n, that snifflin' pathetic, preacher of a man, David Mitchel," Lem spat out the the name with hate and loathing in his voice. "David Mitchel has done gone and converted Dan, Tom, and Chad as Christians! Oh, how I hate him!"
The captain looked up soberly, "Do what you see fit."
Eight bells struck; time to change the night watch. David Mitchel rolled out of his hammock and climbed up the ladder to the deck. He strode along the deck to his position at the bow, exchanged a few words with the sailor there, then took his place along the railing. David stared out into the blackness of the moonless night. He leaned against the railing and felt the cold ocean spray pelting his face as the Eagle cut along through the dark water.
All of a sudden David heard a heavy step behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see Lem Harvey standing behind him.
"Howdy Lem," David said.
"That's sir to you," Lem snapped back. David turned to Lem and folded his arms.
"Why do we always have to be enemies? We're shipmates. Comrades. We can't constantly be at odds." He said. "I want to reconcile whatever I have done to offend you..."
Lem cut him off, "You snifflin', preachin', lyin' hypocrite. You and all other Christians are the same. You say one thing and do another. I know that you are trying to take away my position as second mate, but I won't have a word of it!"
"I am not trying to..." David started, but Lem continued.
"You know why I hate you Christians? Huh!? I was ten years old when my parents became Christians. My whole life changed, many things for good. But that same summer, an epidemic
hit our town. Both of my parents got very sick. I prayed with all my might that they would not die, but both of them died anyway, three days apart from each other. All the Christians around me said this was God's will, but is it God's will that a little boy be left without parents? Why would a
God of love do something like that?"
David stood silent for a moment while painful memories flooded his own mind. He swallowed hard and looked up at Lem.
"Your parents are with the Lord in heaven now, Lem. I know how you feel, for I have been where you are. God may use this experience to draw you to Himself..."
"Shut up! That's what they all said! I am sick of it! God has nothing to do with what happens
to me! I have been blazing my own trail to survive! I picked myself up as a eleven year old boy with no parents, and nothing but the shirt on my back. I buried my hate and pain, and you come to stir it back up! I hate you! I signed up as cabin boy on this ship while she was still privately owned. I made myself a new family, and you have to come and destroy it! You are a thievin'
"Lem," David said calmly, "I am not trying to ruin your new sailor family, I want to be part of it. I am concerned for you and all the rest of this crew’s souls, which is why I share the gospel with you. Lem, give yourself over to God, surrender your life, your troubles, your sins, and your past to Him. He can heal your pain."
"Stupid Christian! I've heard it all afore!" Lem shouted.
"Lem, Christ died to take your sins on Himself, to save you from hell. Give yourself to Him!"
"Be quiet!" Lem roared. The hurt and anger of his past and present were rising up before him and the world seemed to sway before his eyes. "I will not yield to a God who let my parents die! I will not tolerate Christians who say that their God killed my parents for a greater good!"
David took a step towards Lem and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Lem," he said, "I know your pain, I too lost both my..."
"Don't touch me, you thief! You liar! You are a Christian too, whom I hate, and I hate you all the more for trying to ruin my life here on this ship! I will not stand for it any more!" So saying Lem whipped his pistol from his belt. David took one step back then stopped. He planted his feet, crossed his arms, and looked back at Lem.
"Shoot if you must. I know where I'm going. I forgive you," David said, but his voice quivered.
Lem stood for a moment, shaking in rage, pistol pointed at David's chest. For a moment his conscience pricked him and he hesitated. Then, with a cry of defiant anger he cocked back the hammer and pulled the trigger. The gun bucked and roared, sending a chunk of lead hurtling towards Davids chest. The ball caught David just below the left shoulder and spun him around.
He hit the deck with a thud, blood flowing from the wound.
Lem stared down at David, stunned as the reality of his angry actions sank in. His fingers loosened their grip on the pistol and it clattered to the deck. He did not hear the clopping of boots on the deck and the shouts of the other sailors as they ran towards the sound of the gunshot. When they saw Lem, the pistol, and David lying in his own blood, they halted, and
stared. Tom pushed his way through the group of sailors and knelt beside David, feeling for a pulse. Tom looked up at Lem, shocked.
"Lem, what have you done?" he asked desperately.
"I...I...I..." Lem stammered, then he turned and ran to his quarters that he shared with the first mate, slamming and locking the door behind him. Dropping to his knees, he grasped his head in his hands.
"What have I done? What have I done?" he asked himself over and over again. He stood and paced back and forth across his small room, muttering to himself the whole while. "I just shot him and he said he forgave me! He could 'ave defended himself, yet he did not! How can I live with what I've done? How can I live in the debt of a man I hate, who probably hates me?"
Lem smacked his left palm with his right fist. He continued to pace for a few moments more then flung himself heavily into his hammock. He buried his face in his hands while wild thoughts raced randomly through his mind.
Back on the deck Chad was leaning over David, checking his pulse and trying to stop the flow of blood with Tom right beside him. Dan was tramping back and forth, giving orders to the watching sailors, who scurried to obey his commands.
"How is he?" Dan asked, pausing for a moment to lean over David.
"He's still breathing, but it don't look good," Chad answered, "The ball hit on the left shoulder
and broke the bone. I don't think it hit any vital parts like his heart or lungs or arteries, but it's too soon to tell. I don't know enough about doctorin' to do much. Someone needs to get the doc right away."
Dan whirled around and barked, "You heard him, Sam. Now go!"
The sailor saluted and rushed off to get the surgeon. Chad continued to try and stop the blood from the gaping wound, and had set to tearing his shirt into strips for makeshift bandages.
Sam and the surgeon came hurrying up and Tom and Chad made way for him. The doctor instantly took things into hand and soon the flow of blood was stopped.
"I'll need my other bag to remove the bullet if we don't want to have to amputate," the doctor said.
"Sam, you know where that is?" Dan asked.
"Yes sir, I'll be right back," the man answered. He turned and ran off to the surgeon's quarters.
David groaned and opened his eyes. Dan gave a cry of joy and dropped to his knees on the bloody deck beside David.
"Praise the Lord yer alive! How do ya feel?" Dan asked.
"My shoulder hurts somethin’ awful," David answered in a voice that was nearly a whisper.
"It's only natural that yer shoulder would hurt, since there's a .45 caliber pistol ball in it! You best not talk right now, since you've lost an awful lot of blood," the surgeon said in his husky
manner. Just then Sam arrived with the required items and the surgeon set to work removing the ball and setting the broken bone. David clenched his teeth against the pain.
"Tell Lem I forgive him," he said, and lapsed back into unconsciousness. Chad looked at Tom and Dan and shook his head.
"He may not have long to live," Chad said in a low tone. At Dan's order a stretcher was brought and David was carefully placed on it. Four sailors then took the handles and gently lifted the litter and carried it to the surgeon's quarters.
It was just past midnight when Lem emerged from his quarters. Looking in both directions to make sure he was not observed, he slowly began to walk to the scene of the shooting. He
picked up the pistol which had been left alone on the deck and returned it to his belt. He stood
there looking at the blood spot on the deck, gloomy, not knowing if he should regret that he tried
to kill David, or the fact that he failed.
"Lem?" a voice sounded behind him. He spun around and recognized his friend Tom Prince.
"What do you want?" Lem asked harshly. "Don't you hate me after what I just did?"
"No, Lem. And neither does Chad, or Dan, or even David for that matter. Told me to tell you
he forgives you.
"No one could forgive me after I just tried to kill them," Lem said bitterly. Bitter against David, Mitchel, bitter against Tom, Dan, and Chad, bitter against God, and bitter against himself.
"That's where yer wrong, Lem. Jesus forgave the men that beat and killed him. David is followin' Jesus and forgivin' you, just as Jesus did him."
"There you go preachin' too, just like that David Mitchel!" Lem shouted angrily as he stormed away, but the words had gone straight to his heart.
To be continued...