PART THREE: My Shore Adventure
Chapter 14: The First Blow
I WAS so pleased at having given the slip to Long John
that I began to enjoy myself and look around me with
some interest on the strange land that I was in.
I had crossed a marshy tract full of willows,
bulrushes, and odd, outlandish, swampy trees; and I had
now come out upon the skirts of an open piece of
undulating, sandy country, about a mile long, dotted
with a few pines and a great number of contorted trees,
not unlike the oak in growth, but pale in the foliage,
like willows. On the far side of the open stood one of
the hills, with two quaint, craggy peaks shining
vividly in the sun.
I now felt for the first time the joy of exploration.
The isle was uninhabited; my shipmates I had left
behind, and nothing lived in front of me but dumb
brutes and fowls. I turned hither and thither among
the trees. Here and there were flowering plants,
unknown to me; here and there I saw snakes, and one
raised his head from a ledge of rock and hissed at me
with a noise not unlike the spinning of a top. Little
did I suppose that he was a deadly enemy and that the
noise was the famous rattle.
Then I came to a long thicket of these oaklike trees--
live, or evergreen, oaks, I heard afterwards they
should be called--which grew low along the sand like
brambles, the boughs curiously twisted, the foliage
compact, like thatch. The thicket stretched down from
the top of one of the sandy knolls, spreading and
growing taller as it went, until it reached the margin
of the broad, reedy fen, through which the nearest of
the little rivers soaked its way into the anchorage.
The marsh was steaming in the strong sun, and the
outline of the Spy-glass trembled through the haze.
All at once there began to go a sort of bustle among
the bulrushes; a wild duck flew up with a quack,
another followed, and soon over the whole surface of
the marsh a great cloud of birds hung screaming and
circling in the air. I judged at once that some of my
shipmates must be drawing near along the borders of the
fen. Nor was I deceived, for soon I heard the very
distant and low tones of a human voice, which, as I
continued to give ear, grew steadily louder and nearer.