Treasure Island: Chapter XVII

Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel

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


  • Author: Jane Austen

THIS fifth trip was quite different from any of the others. In the first place, the
little gallipot of a boat that we were in was gravely overloaded. Five grown men, and
three of them - Trelawney, Redruth, and the captain - over six feet high, was already more
than she was meant to carry. Add to that the powder, pork, and bread-bags. The gunwale was
lipping astern. Several times we shipped a little water, and my breeches and the tails of
my coat were all soaking wet before we had gone a hundred yards.

The captain made us trim the boat, and we got her to lie a little more evenly. All the
same, we were afraid to breathe.

In the second place, the ebb was now making-a strong rippling current running westward
through the basin, and then south'ard and seaward down the straits by which we had entered
in the morning. Even the ripples were a danger to our overloaded craft; but the worst of
it was that we were swept out of our true course, and away from our proper landing-place
behind the point. If we let the current have its way we should come ashore beside the
gigs, where the pirates might appear at any moment.

`I cannot keep her head for the stockade, sir,' said I to the captain. I was steering,
while he and Redruth, two fresh men, were at the oars. `The tide keeps washing her down.
Could you pull a little stronger?'

`Not without swamping the boat,' said he. `you must bear up, sir, if you please - bear
up until you see you're gaining.'

I tried, and found by experiment that the tide kept sweeping us westward until I had
laid her head due east, or just about right angles to the way we ought to go.

`We'll never get ashore at this rate,' said I.

`If it's the only course that we can lie, sir, we must even lie it,' returned the
captain. `We must keep up- stream. You see, sir,' he went on, `if once we dropped to
leeward of the landing-place, it's hard to say where we should get ashore besides the
chance of being boarded by the gigs; whereas, the way we go the current must slacken, and
then we can dodge back along the shore.'

`The current's less a'ready, sir,' said the man Gray, who was sitting in the
fore-sheets; `you can ease her off a bit.'

`Thank you, my man,' said I, quite as if nothing had happened; for we had all quietly
made up our minds to treat him like one of ourselves.

Suddenly the captain spoke up again, and I thought his voice was a little changed.

`The gun!' said he.

`I have thought of that,' said I, for I made sure he was thinking of a bombardment of
the fort. `They could never get the gun ashore, and if they did, they could never haul it
through the woods.'

`Look astern, doctor,' replied the captain.

We had entirely forgotten the long nine; and there, to our horror, were the five rogues
busy about her, getting off her jacket, as they called the stout tarpaulin cover under
which she sailed. Not only that, but it flashed into my mind at the same moment that the
round-shot and the powder for the gun had been left behind, and a stroke with an axe would
put it all into the possession of the evil ones aboard.

`Israel was Flint's gunner,' said Gray, hoarsely.

At any risk, we put the boat's head direct for the landing-place. By this time we had
got so far out of the run of the current that we kept steerage way even at our necessarily
gentle rate of rowing, and I could keep her steady for the goal. But the worst of it was,
that with the course I now held, we turned our broadside instead of our stern to the
Hispaniola, and offered a target like a barn door.

I could hear, as well as see, that brandy-faced rascal, Israel Hands, plumping down a
round-shot on the deck.

`Who's the best shot?' asked the captain.

`Mr Trelawney, out and away,' said I.

`Mr Trelawney, will you please pick me off one of these men, sir? Hands, if possible,'
said the captain.

Trelawney was as cool as steel. He looked to the priming of his gun.

`Now,' cried the captain, `easy with that gun, sir, or you'll swamp the boat. All hands
stand by to trim her when he aims.'

The squire raised his gun, the rowing ceased, and we leaned over to the other side to
keep the balance, and all was so nicely contrived that we did not ship a drop.

They had the gun, by this time, slewed round upon the swivel, and Hands, who was at the
muzzle with the rammer, was, in consequence, the most exposed. However, we had no luck;
for just as Trelawney fired, down he stooped, the ball whistled over him, and it was one
of the other four who fell.

The cry he gave was echoed, not only by his companions on board, but by a great number
of voices from the shore, and looking in that direction I saw the other pirates trooping
out from among the trees and tumbling into their places in the boats.

`Here come the gigs, sir,' said I.

`Give way then,' cried the captain. `We mustn't mind if we swamp her now. If we can't
get ashore, all's up.'

`Only one of the gigs is being manned, sir,' I added, `the crew of the other most
likely going round by shore to cut us off.'

`They'll have a hot run, sir,' returned the captain. `Jack ashore, you know. It's not
them I mind; it's the round-shot. Carpet-bowls! My lady's maid couldn't miss. Tell us,
squire, when you see the match, and we'll hold water.'

In the meanwhile we had been making headway at a good pace for a boat so overloaded,
and we had shipped but little water in the process. We were now close in; thirty or forty
strokes and we should beach her; for the ebb had already disclosed a narrow belt of sand
below the clustering trees. The gig was no longer to be feared; the little point had
already concealed it from our eyes. The ebb-tide, which had so cruelly delayed us, was now
making reparation, and delaying our assailants. The one source of danger was the gun.

`If I durst,' said the captain, `I'd stop and pick off another man.'

But it was plain that they meant nothing should delay their shot. They had never so
much as looked at their fallen comrade, though he was not dead, and I could see him trying
to crawl away.

`Ready!' cried the squire.

`Hold!' cried the captain, quick as an echo.

And he and Redruth backed with a great heave that sent her stern bodily under water.
The report fell in at the same instant of time. This was the first that Jim heard, the
sound of the squire's shot not having reached him. Where the ball passed, not one of us
precisely knew; but I fancy it must have been over our heads, and that the wind of it may
have contributed to our disaster.

At any rate, the boat sank by the stern, quite gently, in three feet of water, leaving
the captain and myself, facing each other, on our feet. The other three took complete
headers, and came up again, drenched and bubbling.

So far there was no great harm. No lives were lost, and we could wade ashore in safety.
But there were all our stores at the bottom, and, to make things worse, only two guns out
of five remained in a state for service. Mine I had snatched from my knees and held over
my head, by a sort of instinct. As for the captain, he had carried his over his shoulder
by a bandoleer, and, like a wise man, lock uppermost. The other three had gone down with
the boat.

To add to our concern, we heard voices already drawing near us in the woods along
shore; and we had not only the danger of being cut off from the stockade in our
half-crippled state, but the fear before us whether, if Hunter and Joyce were attacked by
half a dozen, they would have the sense an conduct to stand firm. Hunter was steady, that
we knew; Joyce was a doubtful case - a pleasant, polite man for a valet, and to brush
one's clothes, but not entirely fitted for a man of war.

With all this in our minds, we waded ashore as fast as we could, leaving behind us the
poor jolly-boat, and a good half of all our powder and provisions.

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

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