Treasure Island: Chapter XIII


Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel


Posted on 2007-05-11, updated at 2007-05-27. By anonymous.

Description

  • Author: Jane Austen

THE appearance of the island when I came on deck next morning was altogether changed.
Although the breeze ha now utterly ceased, we had made a great deal of way during the
night, and were now lying becalmed about half a mile to the south-east of the low eastern
coast. Grey-coloured woods covered a large part of the surface. This even tint was indeed
broken up by streaks of yellow sandbreak in the lower lands, and by many tall trees of the
pine family, out-topping the others - some singly, some in clumps; but the general
colouring was uniform and sad. The hills ran up clear above the vegetation in spires of
naked rock. All were strangely shaped, and the Spy-glass, which was by three or four
hundred feet the tallest on the island, was likewise the strange in configuration, running
up sheer from almost every side then suddenly cut off at the top like a pedestal to put
statue on.



The Hispaniola was rolling scuppers under in the ocean swell. The booms were tearing at
the blocks, the rudder we banging to and fro, and the whole ship creaking, groaning and
jumping like a manufactory. I had to cling tight to the backstay, and the world turned
giddily before my eyes; for though I was a good enough sailor when there was way or this
standing still and being rolled about like a bottle was thing I never learned to stand
without a qualm or so, above all in the morning, on an empty stomach.



Perhaps it was this - perhaps it was the look of the island with its grey, melancholy
woods, and wild stone spires, an the surf that we could both see and hear foaming an
thundering on the steep beach - at least, although the sun shone bright and hot, and the
shore birds were fishing and crying all around us, and you would have thought anyone would
have been glad to get to land after being so long at sea, my heart sank, as the saying is,
into my boots; and from that first look onward, I hated the very thought of Treasure
Island.



We had a dreary morning's work before us, for there was no sign of any wind, and the
boats had to be got out and manned, and the ship warped three or four miles round the
corner of the island, and up the narrow passage to the haven behind Skeleton Island. I
volunteered for one of the boats, where I had, of course, no business. The heat was
sweltering, and the men grumbled fiercely over their work. Anderson was in command of my
boat, and instead of keeping the crew in order, he grumbled as loud as the worst.



`Well,' he said, with an oath, `it's not for ever.'



I thought this was a very bad sign; for, up to that day, the men had gone briskly and
willingly about their business; but the very sight of the island had relaxed the cords of
discipline.



All the way in, Long John stood by the steersman and conned the ship. He knew the
passage like the palm of his hand; and though the man in the chains got everywhere more
water than was down in the chart, John never hesitated once.



`There's a strong scour with the ebb,' he said, `and this here passage has been dug
out, in a manner of speaking, with a spade.'



We brought up just where the anchor was in the chart, about a third of a mile from each
shore, the mainland on one side, and Skeleton Island on the other. The bottom was clean
sand. The plunge of our anchor sent up clouds of birds wheeling and crying over the woods;
but in less than a minute they were down again, and all was once more silent.



The place was entirely land-locked, buried in woods, the trees coming right down to
high-water mark, the shores mostly flat, and the hill-tops standing round at a distance in
a sort of amphitheatre, one here, one there. Two little rivers, or, rather, two swamps,
emptied out into this pond, as you might call it; and the foliage round that part of the
shore had a kind of poisonous brightness. From the ship, we could see nothing of the house
or stockade, for they were quite buried among trees; and if it had not been for the chart
on the companion we might have been the first that had ever anchored there sin the island
arose out of the seas.



There was not a breath of air moving, nor a sound but the of the surf booming half a
mile away along the beaches a against the rocks outside. A peculiar stagnant smell hung
over the anchorage - a smell of sodden leaves and rotting tree trunks. I observed the
doctor sniffing and sniffing, like someone tasting a bad egg.



`I don't know about treasure,' he said, `but I'll stake my wig there's fever here.'



If the conduct of the men had been alarming in the boat it became truly threatening
when they had come aboard. The lay about the deck growling together in talk. The slightest
order was received with a black look, and grudgingly and carelessly obeyed. Even the
honest hands must have caught the infection, for there was not one man aboard to mend
another. Mutiny, it was plain, hung over us like a thunder-cloud.



And it was not only we of the cabin party who perceived the danger. Long John was hard
at work going from group to group, spending himself in good advice, and as for example no
man could have shown a better. He fairly outstripped himself in willingness and civility;
he was all smiles everyone. If an order were given, John would be on his crutch in an
instant, with the cheeriest `Ay, ay, sir!' in the world and when there was nothing else to
do, he kept up one song after another, as if to conceal the discontent of the rest.



Of all the gloomy features of that gloomy afternoon, this obvious anxiety on the part
of Long John appeared the worst.'



We held a council in the cabin.



`Sir,' said the captain, `if I risk another order, the whole ship'll come about our
ears by the run. You see, sir, here is. I get a rough answer, do I not? Well, if I speak
back, pikes will be going in two shakes; if I don't, Silver will see there something under
that, and the game's up. How, we've on one man to rely on.'



`And who is that?' asked the squire.



`Silver, sir,' returned the captain; `he's as anxious as you and I to smother things
up. This is a tiff; he'd soon talk 'em out of it if he had the chance, and what I propose
to do is to give him the chance. Let's allow the men an afternoon ashore. If they all go,
why, we'll fight the ship. If they none of them go, well, then, we hold the cabin, and God
defend the right. If some go, you mark my words, sir, Silver'll bring em aboard again as
mild as lambs.'



It was so decided; loaded pistols were served out to all the sure men; Hunter, Joyce,
and Redruth were taken into our confidence, and received the news with less surprise and a
better spirit than we had looked for, and then the captain went on deck and addressed the
crew.



`My lads,' said he, `we've had a hot day, and are all tired and out of sorts. A turn
ashore'll hurt nobody - the boats are still in the water; you can take the gigs, and as
many as please may go ashore for the afternoon. I'll fire a gun half an hour before
sundown.'



I believe the silly fellows must have thought they would break their shins over
treasure as soon as they were landed; for they all came out of their sulks in a moment,
and gave a cheer that started the echo in a far-away hill, and sent the birds once more
flying and squalling round the anchorage.



The captain was too bright to be in the way. He whipped out of sight in a moment,
leaving Silver to arrange the party; and I fancy it was as well he did so. Had he been on
deck, he could no longer so much as have pretended not to understand the situation. It was
as plain as day. Silver was the captain, and a mighty rebellious crew he had of it. The
honest hands - and I was soon to see it proved that there were such on board - must have
been stupid fellows. Or, rather, I suppose the truth was this, that all hands were
disaffected by the example of the ringleaders - only some more, some less: and a few,
being good fellows in the main, could neither be led nor driven any further. It is one
thing to be idle and skulk, and quite another to take a ship and murder a number of
innocent men.



At last, however, the party was made up. Six fellows were to stay on board, and the
remaining thirteen, including Silver, began to embark.



Then it was that there came into my head the first of the mad notions that contributed
so much to save our lives. If six men were left by Silver, it was plain our party could
not take and fight the ship; and since only six were left, it was equally plain that the
cabin party had no present need of my assistance. It occurred to me at once to go ashore.
In a jiffy I had slipped over the side, and curled up in the fore- sheets of the nearest
boat, and almost at the same moment she shoved off.



No one took notice of me, only the bow oar saying, `Is that you, Jim? Keep your head
down.' But Silver, from the other boat, looked sharply over and called out to know if that
were me; and from that moment I began to regret what I had done.



The crews raced for the beach; but the boat I was in, having some start, and being at
once the lighter and the better manned, shot far ahead of her consort, and the bow had
struck among the shoreside trees, and I had caught a branch at swung myself out, and
plunged into the nearest thicket, while Silver and the rest were still a hundred yards
behind.



`Jim, Jim!' I heard him shouting.



But you may suppose I paid no heed; jumping, ducking and breaking through, I ran
straight before my nose, till could run no longer.


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More on This Book:
  1. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVIII
  2. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVII
  3. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVI
  4. Treasure Island: Chapter XXV
  5. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIII
  6. Treasure Island: Chapter XXII
  7. Treasure Island: Chapter XXI
  8. Treasure Island: Chapter XX
  9. Treasure Island: Chapter XIX
  10. Treasure Island: Chapter XVIII
  11. Treasure Island: Chapter XVII
  12. Treasure Island: Chapter XVI
  13. Treasure Island: Chapter XV
  14. Treasure Island: Chapter XIV
  15. Treasure Island: Chapter XI
  16. Treasure Island: Chapter X
  17. Treasure Island: Chapter IX
  18. Treasure Island: Chapter VIII
  19. Treasure Island: Chapter VII
  20. Treasure Island: Chapter VI
  21. Treasure Island: Chapter V
  22. Treasure Island: Chapter IV
  23. Treasure Island: Chapter II
  24. Treasure Island: Chapter III
  25. Treasure Island: Chapter I
  26. Treasure Island: Chapter XII
  27. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIV

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