I had scarce gained a position on the bowsprit when the flying jib flapped an_illed upon the other tack, with a report like a gun. The schooner trembled t_er keel under the reverse, but next moment, the other sails still drawing,
the jib flapped back again and hung idle.
This had nearly tossed me off into the sea; and now I lost no time, crawle_ack along the bowsprit, and tumbled head foremost on the deck.
I was on the lee side of the forecastle, and the main-sail, which was stil_rawing, concealed from me a certain portion of the after-deck. Not a soul wa_o be seen. The planks, which had not been swabbed since the mutiny, bore th_rint of many feet, and an empty bottle, broken by the neck, tumbled to an_ro like a live thing in the scuppers.
Suddenly the Hispaniola came right into the wind. The jibs behind me cracke_loud, the rudder slammed to, the whole ship gave a sickening heave an_hudder, and at the same moment the main-boom swung inboard, the shee_roaning in the blocks, and showed me the lee after-deck.
There were the two watchmen, sure enough: red-cap on his back, as stiff as _andspike, with his arms stretched out like those of a crucifix and his teet_howing through his open lips; Israel Hands propped against the bulwarks, hi_hin on his chest, his hands lying open before him on the deck, his face a_hite, under its tan, as a tallow candle.
For a while the ship kept bucking and sidling like a vicious horse, the sail_illing, now on one tack, now on another, and the boom swinging to and fr_ill the mast groaned aloud under the strain. Now and again too there woul_ome a cloud of light sprays over the bulwark and a heavy blow of the ship'_ows against the swell; so much heavier weather was made of it by this grea_igged ship than by my home-made, lop-sided coracle, now gone to the bottom o_he sea.
At every jump of the schooner, red-cap slipped to and fro, but—what wa_hastly to behold—neither his attitude nor his fixed teeth-disclosing grin wa_nyway disturbed by this rough usage. At every jump too, Hands appeared stil_ore to sink into himself and settle down upon the deck, his feet sliding eve_he farther out, and the whole body canting towards the stern, so that hi_ace became, little by little, hid from me; and at last I could see nothin_eyond his ear and the frayed ringlet of one whisker.
At the same time, I observed, around both of them, splashes of dark blood upo_he planks and began to feel sure that they had killed each other in thei_runken wrath.
While I was thus looking and wondering, in a calm moment, when the ship wa_till, Israel Hands turned partly round and with a low moan writhed himsel_ack to the position in which I had seen him first. The moan, which told o_ain and deadly weakness, and the way in which his jaw hung open went right t_y heart. But when I remembered the talk I had overheard from the appl_arrel, all pity left me.
I walked aft until I reached the main-mast.
"Come aboard, Mr. Hands," I said ironically.
He rolled his eyes round heavily, but he was too far gone to express surprise.
All he could do was to utter one word, "Brandy."
It occurred to me there was no time to lose, and dodging the boom as it onc_ore lurched across the deck, I slipped aft and down the companion stairs int_he cabin.
It was such a scene of confusion as you can hardly fancy. All the lockfas_laces had been broken open in quest of the chart. The floor was thick wit_ud where ruffians had sat down to drink or consult after wading in th_arshes round their camp. The bulkheads, all painted in clear white and beade_ound with gilt, bore a pattern of dirty hands. Dozens of empty bottle_linked together in corners to the rolling of the ship. One of the doctor'_edical books lay open on the table, half of the leaves gutted out, I suppose,
for pipelights. In the midst of all this the lamp still cast a smoky glow,
obscure and brown as umber.
I went into the cellar; all the barrels were gone, and of the bottles a mos_urprising number had been drunk out and thrown away. Certainly, since th_utiny began, not a man of them could ever have been sober.
Foraging about, I found a bottle with some brandy left, for Hands; and fo_yself I routed out some biscuit, some pickled fruits, a great bunch o_aisins, and a piece of cheese. With these I came on deck, put down my ow_tock behind the rudder head and well out of the coxswain's reach, wen_orward to the water-breaker, and had a good deep drink of water, and then,
and not till then, gave Hands the brandy.
He must have drunk a gill before he took the bottle from his mouth.
"Aye," said he, "by thunder, but I wanted some o' that!"
I had sat down already in my own corner and begun to eat.
"Much hurt?" I asked him.
He grunted, or rather, I might say, he barked.
"If that doctor was aboard," he said, "I'd be right enough in a couple o_urns, but I don't have no manner of luck, you see, and that's what's th_atter with me. As for that swab, he's good and dead, he is," he added,
indicating the man with the red cap. "He warn't no seaman anyhow. And wher_ought you have come from?"
"Well," said I, "I've come aboard to take possession of this ship, Mr. Hands;
and you'll please regard me as your captain until further notice."
He looked at me sourly enough but said nothing. Some of the colour had com_ack into his cheeks, though he still looked very sick and still continued t_lip out and settle down as the ship banged about.
"By the by," I continued, "I can't have these colours, Mr. Hands; and by you_eave, I'll strike 'em. Better none than these."
And again dodging the boom, I ran to the colour lines, handed down thei_ursed black flag, and chucked it overboard.
"God save the king!" said I, waving my cap. "And there's an end to Captai_ilver!"
He watched me keenly and slyly, his chin all the while on his breast.
"I reckon," he said at last, "I reckon, Cap'n Hawkins, you'll kind of want t_et ashore now. S'pose we talks."
"Why, yes," says I, "with all my heart, Mr. Hands. Say on." And I went back t_y meal with a good appetite.
"This man," he began, nodding feebly at the corpse "—O'Brien were his name, _ank Irelander—this man and me got the canvas on her, meaning for to sail he_ack. Well, he's dead now, he is—as dead as bilge; and who's to sail thi_hip, I don't see. Without I gives you a hint, you ain't that man, as far's _an tell. Now, look here, you gives me food and drink and a old scarf o_nkecher to tie my wound up, you do, and I'll tell you how to tail her, an_hat's about square all round, I take it."
"I'll tell you one thing," says I: "I'm not going back to Captain Kidd'_nchorage. I mean to get into North Inlet and beach her quietly there."
"To be sure you did," he cried. "Why, I ain't sich an infernal lubber afte_ll. I can see, can't I? I've tried my fling, I have, and I've lost, and it'_ou has the wind of me. North Inlet? Why, I haven't no ch'ice, not I! I'd hel_ou sail her up to Execution Dock, by thunder! So I would."
Well, as it seemed to me, there was some sense in this. We struck our bargai_n the spot. In three minutes I had the Hispaniola sailing easily before th_ind along the coast of Treasure Island, with good hopes of turning th_orthern point ere noon and beating down again as far as North Inlet befor_igh water, when we might beach her safely and wait till the subsiding tid_ermitted us to land.
Then I lashed the tiller and went below to my own chest, where I got a sof_ilk handkerchief of my mother's. With this, and with my aid, Hands bound u_he great bleeding stab he had received in the thigh, and after he had eaten _ittle and had a swallow or two more of the brandy, he began to pick u_isibly, sat straighter up, spoke louder and clearer, and looked in every wa_nother man.
The breeze served us admirably. We skimmed before it like a bird, the coast o_he island flashing by and the view changing every minute. Soon we were pas_he high lands and bowling beside low, sandy country, sparsely dotted wit_warf pines, and soon we were beyond that again and had turned the corner o_he rocky hill that ends the island on the north.
I was greatly elated with my new command, and pleased with the bright,
sunshiny weather and these different prospects of the coast. I had now plent_f water and good things to eat, and my conscience, which had smitten me har_or my desertion, was quieted by the great conquest I had made. I should, _hink, have had nothing left me to desire but for the eyes of the coxswain a_hey followed me derisively about the deck and the odd smile that appeare_ontinually on his face. It was a smile that had in it something both of pai_nd weakness—a haggard old man's smile; but there was, besides that, a grai_f derision, a shadow of treachery, in his expression as he craftily watched,