Treasure Island: Chapter XXVII

Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel

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


  • Author: Jane Austen

OWING to the cant of the vessel, the masts hung far out over the water, and from my
perch on the cross- trees I had nothing below me but the surface of the bay. 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. The dirk, where it had pinned my shoulder to
the mast, seemed to burn like a hot iron; yet it was not so much these real sufferings
that distressed me, for these, it seemed to me, I could bear without a murmur; it was the
horror I had upon my mind of falling from the cross-trees into that still green water,
beside the body of the coxswain.

I clung with both hands till my nails ached, and I shut my eyes as if to cover up the
peril. Gradually my mind came back again, my pulses quieted down to a more natural time,
and I was once more in possession of myself.

It was my first thought to pluck forth the dirk; but either it stuck too hard or my
nerve failed me; and I desisted with a violent shudder. Oddly enough, that very shudder
did the business. The knife, in fact, had come the nearest in the world to missing me
altogether; it held me by a mere pinch of skin, and this the shudder tore away. The blood
ran down the faster, to be sure; but I was my own master again, and only tacked to the
mast by my coat and shirt.

These last I broke through with a sudden jerk, and then regained the deck by the
starboard shrouds. For nothing in the world would I have again ventured, shaken as I was,
upon the overhanging port shrouds, from which Israel had so lately fallen.

I went below, and did what I could for my wound; it pained me a good deal, and still
bled freely; but it was neither deep nor dangerous, nor did it greatly gall me when I used
my arm. Then I looked around me, and as the ship was now, in a sense, my own, I began to
think of clearing it from its last passenger - the dead man, O'Brien.

He had pitched, as I have said, against the bulwarks, where he lay like some horrible,
ungainly sort of puppet; life-sized, indeed, but how different from life's colour or
life's comeliness! In that position, I could easily have my way with him; and as the habit
of tragical adventures had worn off almost all my terror for the dead, I took him by the
waist as if he had been a sack of bran, and, with one good heave, tumbled him overboard.
He went in with a sounding plunge; the red cap came off, and remained floating on the
surface; and as soon as the splash subsided, I could see him and Israel lying side by
side, both wavering with the tremulous movement of the water. O'Brien, though still quite
a young man, was very bald. There he lay, with that bald head across the knees of the man
who had killed him, and the quick fishes steering to and fro over both.

I was now alone upon the ship; the tide had just turned. The sun was within so few
degrees of setting that already the shadow of the pines upon the western shore began to
reach right across the anchorage, and fall in patterns on the deck. The evening breeze had
sprung up, and though it was well warded off by the hill with the two peaks upon the east,
the cordage had begun to sing a little softly to itself and the idle sails to rattle to
and fro.

I began to see a danger to the ship. The jibs I speedily doused and brought tumbling to
the deck; but the mainsail was a harder matter. Of course, when the schooner canted over,
the boom had swung out - board, and the cap of it and a foot or two of sail hung even
under water. I thought this made it still more dangerous; yet the strain was so heavy that
I half feared to meddle. At last, I got my knife and cut the halyards. The peak dropped
instantly, a great belly of loose canvas floated broad upon the water; and since, pull as
I liked, I could not budge the downhaul; that was the extent of what I could accomplish.
For the rest, the Hispaniola must trust to luck, like myself.

By this time the whole anchorage had fallen into shadow - the last rays, I remember,
falling through a glade of the wood, and shining bright as jewels, on the flowery mantle
of the wreck. It began to be chill; the tide was rapidly fleeting seaward, the schooner
settling more and more on her beam-ends.

I scrambled forward and looked over. It seemed shallow enough, and holding the cut
hawser in both hands for a last security, I let myself drop softly overboard. The water
scarcely reached my waist; the sand was firm and covered with ripple marks, and I waded
ashore in great spirits, leaving the Hispaniola on her side, with her mainsail trailing
wide upon the surface of the bay. About the same time the sun went fairly down, and the
breeze whistled low in the dusk among the tossing pines.

At least, and at last, I was off the sea, nor had I returned thence empty-handed. There
lay the schooner, clear at last from buccaneers and ready for our own men to board and get
to sea again. I had nothing nearer my fancy than to get home to the stockade and boast of
my achievements. Possibly I might be blamed a bit for my truantry, but the recapture of
the Hispaniola was a clenching answer, and I hoped that even Captain Smollett would
confess I had not lost my time.

So thinking, and in famous spirits, I began to set my face homeward for the block-house
and my companions. I remembered that the most easterly of the rivers which drain into
Captain Kidd's anchorage ran from the two-peaked hill upon my left; and I bent my course
in that direction that I might pass the stream while it was small. The wood was pretty
open, and keeping along the lower spurs, I had soon turned the corner of that hill, and
not long after waded to the mid-calf across the water-course.

This brought me near to where I had encountered Ben Gunn, the maroon; and I walked more
circumspectly, keeping an eye on every side. The dusk had come nigh hand completely, and,
as I opened out the cleft between the two peaks, I became aware of a wavering glow against
the sky where, as I judged, the man of the island was cooking his supper before a roaring
fire. And yet I wondered, in my heart that he should show himself so careless. For if I
could see this radiance, might it not reach the eyes of Silver himself where he camped
upon the shore among the marshes?

Gradually the night fell blacker; it was all I could do to guide myself even roughly
towards my destination; the double hill behind me and the Spy-glass on my right hand
loomed faint and fainter; the stars were few and pale; and in the low ground where I
wandered I kept tripping among bushes and rolling into sandy pits.

Suddenly a kind of brightness fell about me. I looked up; a pale glimmer of moonbeams
had alighted on the summit of the Spy-glass, and soon after I saw something broad and
silvery moving low down behind the trees, and knew the moon had risen.

With this to help me, I passed rapidly over what remained to me of my journey; and,
sometimes walking, sometimes running, impatiently drew near to the stockade. Yet, as I
began to thread the grove that lies before it, I was not so thoughtless but that I slacked
my pace and went a trifle warily. It would have been a poor end of my adventures to get
shot down by my own party in mistake.

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 moonshine; 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. It had not
been our way to build great fires; we were, indeed, by the captain's orders, somewhat
niggardly of firewood; and I began to fear that something had gone wrong while I was

I stole round by the eastern end, keeping close in shadow, and at a convenient place,
where the darkness was thickest, crossed the palisade.

To make assurance surer, I got upon my hands and knees, and crawled, without a sound,
towards the corner of the house. As I drew nearer, my heart was suddenly and greatly
lightened. It is not a pleasant noise in itself, and I have often complained of it at
other times; but just then it was like music to hear my friends snoring together so loud
and peaceful in their sleep. The sea cry of the watch, that beautiful `All's well,' never
fell more reassuringly on my ear.

In the meantime, there was no doubt of one thing; they kept an infamous bad watch. If
it had been Silver and his lads that were now creeping in on them, not a soul would have
seen daybreak. 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:

`Pieces of eight! pieces of eight! pieces of eight! pieces of eight! pieces of eight!'
and so forth, without pause or change like the clacking of a tiny mill.

Silver's green parrot, Captain Flint! It was she whom I had heard pecking at a piece of
bark; it was she, keeping better watch than any human being, who thus announced my arrival
with her wearisome refrain.

I had no time left me to recover. At the sharp, clipping tone of the parrot, the
sleepers awoke and sprang up; and with a mighty oath, the voice of Silver cried:--

`Who goes?'

I turned to run, struck violently against one person recoiled, and ran full into the
arms of a second, who, for his part, closed upon and held me tight.

`Bring a torch, Dick,' said Silver, when my capture was thus assured.

And one of the men left the log-house, and presently returned with a lighted brand.

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

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