their courage would return
When they were hired on, the crew was specifically described as being "certainly possessed of dauntless courage" (I:L2:1
). It is, of course, possible that Walton was wrong in his original estimation, or that the ordeal through which they have passed has sapped the men of their bravery. But it is also possible that Walton, driven by an obsession with a purpose to which he has devoted years and a small fortune, has misinterpreted the caution with which these seamen view the continuance of their mission. Twice in his early letters to his sister (I:L2:5
), Walton assured her that he would "do nothing rashly." His crew may simply be holding him to that promise.