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Chapter 4 I Strike the Jolly Roger

  • 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,
  • and watched, and watched me at my work.