Treasure Island: Chapter XXV

Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel

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


  • Author: Jane Austen

I HAD scarce gained a position on the bowsprit, when the flying jib flapped and filled
upon the other tack, with a report like a gun. The schooner trembled to her 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, crawled
back 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 still drawing, concealed from me a certain
portion of the after-deck. Not a soul was to be seen. The planks, which had not been
swabbed since the mutiny, bore the print of many feet; and an empty bottle, broken by the
neck, tumbled to and fro like a live thing in the scuppers. Suddenly the Hispaniola came
right into the wind. The jibs behind me cracked aloud; the rudder slammed to; the whole
ship gave a sickening heave and shudder, and at the same moment the main-boom swung
inboard, the sheet groaning 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 a handspike, with his arms
stretched out like those of a crucifix, and his teeth showing through his open lips;
Israel Hands propped against the bulwarks, his chin on his chest, his hands lying open
before him on the deck, his face as white, under its tan, as a tallow candle. For a while
the ship kept bucking and sidling like a vicious horse, the sails filling, now on one
tack, now on another, and the boom swinging to and fro till the mast groaned aloud under
the strain. Now and again, too, there would come a cloud of light sprays over the bulwark,
and a heavy blow of the ship's bows against the swell: so much heavier weather was made of
it by this great rigged ship than by my homemade, lop-sided coracle, now gone to the
bottom of the sea. At every jump of the schooner, red-cap slipped to and fro; but - what
was ghastly to behold - neither his attitude nor his fixed teeth-disclosing grin was
anyway disturbed by this rough usage. At every jump, too, Hands appeared still more to
sink into himself and settle down upon the deck, his feet sliding ever the farther out,
and the whole body canting towards the stern, so that his face became, little by little,
hid from me; and at last I could see nothing beyond his ear and the frayed ringlet of one
whisker. At the same time, I observed around both of them, splashes of dark blood upon the
planks, and began to feel sure that they had killed each other in their drunken wrath.
While I was thus looking and wondering, in a calm moment, when the ship was still, Israel
Hands turned partly round, and, with a low moan, writhed himself back to the position in
which I had seen him first. The moan, which told of pain and deadly weakness, and the way
in which his jaw hung open, went right to my heart. But when I remembered the talk I had
overheard from the apple barrel, all pity left me. I walked aft until I reached the
mainmast. `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 once
more lurched across the deck, I slipped aft, and down the companion-stairs into the cabin.
It was such a scene of confusion as you can hardly fancy. All the lock-fast places had
been broken open in quest of the chart. The floor was thick with mud, where ruffians had
sat down to drink or consult after wading in the marshes round their camp. The bulkheads,
all painted in clear white, and beaded round with gilt, bore a pattern of dirty hands.
Dozens of empty bottles clinked together in corners to the rolling of the ship. One of the
doctor's medical 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
most surprising number had been drunk out and thrown away. Certainly, since the mutiny
began, not a man of them could ever have been sober. Foraging about, I found a bottle with
some brandy left, for Hands; and for myself I routed out some biscuits, some pickled
fruits, a great bunch of raisins, and a piece of cheese. With these I came on deck, put
down my own stock behind the rudder-head, and well out of the coxswain's reach, went
forward 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 of
turns; but I don't have no manner of luck, you see, and that's what's the matter 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 where mought 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 come back into his cheeks, though he still looked very sick, and
still continued

to slip out and settle down as the ship banged about. `By-the-bye,' I continued, `I
can't have these colours, Mr Hands; and, by your leave, I'll strike 'em. Better none than
these.' And, again dodging the boom, I ran to the colour lines, handed down their cursed
black flag, and chucked it overboard. `God save the king!' said I, wavkng my cap; `and
there's an end to Captain Silver!' 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
to get ashore, now. S'pose we talks.' `Why, yes,' says I, `with all my heart, Mr Hands.
Say on.' And I went back to my meal with a good appetite. `This man,' he began, nodding
feebly at the corpse - `O'Brien were his name - a rank Irelander - this man and me got the
canvas on her, meaning for to sail her back. Well, he's dead now, he is - as dead as
bilge; and who's to sail this ship, I don't see. Without I gives you a hint, you aint that
man, as far's I can tell. Now, look here, you gives me food and drink, and a old scarf or
ankecher to tie my wound up, you do; and I'll tell you how to sail her; and that's about
square all round, I take it.' `I'll tell you one thing,' says I: `I'm not going back to
Captain Kidd's anchorage. I mean to get into North Inlet, and beach her quietly there.'
`To be sure you did,' he cried. `Why, I aint sich an infernal lubber, after all. I can
see, can't I? I've tried my fling, I have, and I've lost, and it's you has the wind of me.
North Inlet? Why, I haven't no ch'ice, not I! I'd help you 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 bargain on the spot. In three minutes I had the Hispaniola sailing easily before the
wind along the coast of Treasure Island, with good hopes of turning the northern point ere
noon, and beating down again as far as North Inlet before high water, when we might beach
her safely, and wait till the subsiding tide permitted us to land. Then I lashed the
tiller and went below to my own chest, where I got a soft silk handkerchief of my
mother's. With this, and with my aid, Hands bound up the great bleeding stab he had
received in the thigh, and after he had eaten a little and had a swallow or two more of
the brandy, he began to pick up visibly, sat straighter up, spoke louder and clearer, and
looked in every way another man. The breeze served us admirably. We skimmed before it like
a bird, the coast of the island flashing by, and the view changing every minute. Soon we
were past the high lands and bowling beside low, sandy country, sparsely dotted with dwarf
pines, and soon we were beyond that again, and had turned the corner of the 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
plenty of water and good things to eat, and my conscience, which had smitten me hard for
my desertion, was quieted by the great conquest I had made. I should, I think, have had
nothing left me to desire but for the eyes of the coxswain as they followed me derisively
about the deck, and the odd smile that appeared continually on his face. It was a smile
that had in it something both of pain and weakness - a haggard, old man's smile; but there
was, besides that, a grain of derision, a shadow of treachery, in his expression as he
craftily watched, and watched, and watched me at my work.

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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 XXVII
  9. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVI
  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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