We bargained, him and I, and here we are: stores, brandy, block house, the firewood you was thoughtful enough to cut, and in a manner of speaking, the whole blessed boat, from cross-trees to kelson. As for them, they've tramped; I don't know where's they are. He drew again quietly at his pipe. And lest you should take it into that head of yours, he went on, that you was included in the treaty, here's the last word that was said: 'How many are you,' says I, 'to leave?' 'Four,' says he; 'four, and one of us wounded. As for that boy, I don't know where he is, confound him,' says he, 'nor I don't much care. We're about sick of him. These was his words. Is that all? I asked.
The moon was climbing higher and higher, its light began to fall here and there in masses through the more open districts of the wood, and right in front of me a glow of a different colour appeared among the trees. It was red
and hot, and now and again it was a little darkened--as it were, the embers of a bonfire smouldering. For the life of me I could not think what it might be. At last I came right down upon the borders of the clearing. The western end was already steeped in moon- shine; the rest, and the block house itself, still lay in a black shadow chequered with long silvery streaks of light. On the other side of the house an immense fire had burned itself into clear embers and shed a steady, red reverberation, contrasted strongly with the mellow paleness of the moon. There was not a soul stirring nor a sound beside the noises of the breeze. I stopped, with much wonder in my heart, and perhaps a little terror also.
Here's the doctor. And the doctor it was. Although I was glad to hear the sound, yet my gladness was not without admixture. I remembered with confusion my insubordinate and stealthy conduct, and when I saw where
it had brought me--among what companions and surrounded by what dangers--I felt ashamed to look him in the face. He must have risen in the dark, for the day had hardly come; and when I ran to a loophole and looked out, I saw him standing, like Silver once before, up to the mid-leg in creeping vapour. You, doctor! Top o' the morning to you, sir! cried Silver, broad awake and beaming with good nature in a moment. Bright and early, to be sure; and it's the early bird, as the saying goes, that gets the rations. George, shake up your timbers, son, and help Dr.
I began dimly to understand. You mean all's lost? I
asked. Aye, by gum, I do! he answered. Ship gone, neck gone --that's the size of it. Once I looked into that bay, Jim Hawkins, and seen no schooner--well, I'm tough, but I gave out. As for that lot and their council, mark me, they're outright fools and cowards. I'll save your life--if so be as I can--from them. But, see here, Jim--tit for tat--you save Long John from swinging.
But how are we to get away with it, and us no ship. Silver suddenly sprang up, and supporting himself with a hand against the wall: Now I give you warning, George, he cried. One more word of your sauce, and I'll call you down and fight you. How? Why, how do I know? You had ought to tell me that--you and the rest, that lost me my schooner, with your interference, burn you! But not you, you can't; you hain't got the invention of a cockroach. But civil you can speak, and shall, George Merry, you may lay to that. That's fair enow, said the old man Morgan. Fair! I reckon so, said the sea-cook. You lost the ship; I found the treasure.
Hands, who was not so far up, was in consequence nearer to the ship and fell between me and the bulwarks. He rose once to the surface in a lather of
foam and blood and then sank again for good. As the water settled, I could see him lying huddled together on the clean, bright sand in the shadow of the vessel's sides. A fish or two whipped past his body. Sometimes, by the quivering of the water, he appeared to move a little, as if he were trying to rise. But he was dead enough, for all that, being both shot and drowned, and was food for fish in the very place where he had designed my slaughter. I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel sick, faint, and terrified. The hot blood was running over my back and chest.
I had no time to try my other pistol, nor indeed much inclination, for I was sure it would be useless. One thing I saw plainly: I must not simply retreat before him, or he would speedily hold me boxed into the bows, as a moment since he had so nearly boxed me in the stern. Once
so caught, and nine or ten inches of the blood-stained dirk would be my last experience on this side of eternity. I placed my palms against the main-mast, which was of a goodish bigness, and waited, every nerve upon the stretch. Seeing that I meant to dodge, he also paused; and a moment or two passed in feints on his part and corresponding movements upon mine. It was such a game as I had often played at home about the rocks of Black Hill Cove, but never before, you may be sure, with such a wildly beating heart as now. Still, as I say, it was a boy's game, and I thought I could hold my own at it against an elderly seaman with a wounded thigh. Indeed my courage had begun to rise so high that I allowed myself a few darting thoughts on what would be the end of the affair, and while I saw certainly that I could spin it out for long, I saw no hope of any ultimate
That was what it was, thought I, to have the captain wounded; and again I blamed myself sharply for leaving them in that danger with so few to mount guard. By this time I had got to the door and stood up. All was dark within, so that I could distinguish nothing by the eye. As for sounds, there was the steady drone of the snorers and a small occasional noise, a flickering or pecking that I could in no way account for. With my arms before me I walked steadily in. I should lie down in my own place (I thought with a silent chuckle) and enjoy their faces when they found me in the morning. My foot struck something yielding--it was a sleeper's leg; and he turned and groaned, but without awaking. And then, all of a sudden, a shrill voice broke forth out of the darkness:
They're going to throw me off. But, you mark, I stand by you through thick and thin. I didn't mean to;
no, not till you spoke up. I was about desperate to lose that much blunt, and be hanged into the bargain. But I see you was the right sort. I says to myself, you stand by Hawkins, John, and Hawkins'll stand by you. You're his last card, and by the living thunder, John, he's yours! Back to back, says I. You save your witness, and he'll save your neck!
And you can hear the chains a- jangle as you go about and reach for the other buoy. Now, that's about where we are, every mother's son of us, thanks to him, and Hands, and Anderson, and other ruination fools of you. And if you want to know about number four, and that boy, why, shiver my timbers, isn't he a hostage? Are we a-going to waste a hostage? No, not us; he might be our last chance, and I shouldn't wonder. Kill that boy? Not me, mates! And number three? Ah, well, there's a deal to say to number three.
Maybe you don't count it nothing to have a real college doctor to see you every day--you, John, with your head broke--or you, George Merry, that had the ague shakes upon you not six hours agone, and has your eyes the colour of lemon peel to this same moment on the clock? And maybe, perhaps, you didn't know there was a consort coming either? But there is, and not so long till then; and we'll see who'll be glad to have a hostage when it comes to that. And as for number two, and why I made a bargain--well, you came crawling on your knees to me to make it--on your knees you came, you was that downhearted--and you'd have starved too if I hadn't--but that's a trifle! You look there--that's why! And he cast down upon the floor a paper that I instantly recognized--none other than the chart on yellow paper, with the three red crosses, that I had found in the oilcloth at the bottom of the captain's chest. Why the doctor had
given it to him was more than I could fancy.
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