PART FIVE: My Sea Adventure
Chapter 25: I Strike the Jolly Roger
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 home-made, lop-sided
coracle, now gone to the bottom of the sea.