PART FIVE: My Sea Adventure
Chapter 23: The Ebb-tide Runs
With that I made my mind up, took out my gully, opened
it with my teeth, and cut one strand after another,
till the vessel swung only by two. Then I lay quiet,
waiting to sever these last when the strain should be
once more lightened by a breath of wind.
All this time I had heard the sound of loud voices from
the cabin, but to say truth, my mind had been so
entirely taken up with other thoughts that I had
scarcely given ear. Now, however, when I had nothing
else to do, I began to pay more heed.
One I recognized for the coxswain's, Israel Hands, that
had been Flint's gunner in former days. The other was,
of course, my friend of the red night-cap. Both men
were plainly the worse of drink, and they were still
drinking, for even while I was listening, one of them,
with a drunken cry, opened the stern window and threw
out something, which I divined to be an empty bottle.
But they were not only tipsy; it was plain that they
were furiously angry. Oaths flew like hailstones, and
every now and then there came forth such an explosion
as I thought was sure to end in blows. But each time
the quarrel passed off and the voices grumbled lower
for a while, until the next crisis came and in its turn
passed away without result.
On shore, I could see the glow of the great camp-fire
burning warmly through the shore-side trees. Someone
was singing, a dull, old, droning sailor's song, with a
droop and a quaver at the end of every verse, and
seemingly no end to it at all but the patience of the
singer. I had heard it on the voyage more than once
and remembered these words:
"But one man of her crew alive,
What put to sea with seventy-five."
And I thought it was a ditty rather too dolefully
appropriate for a company that had met such cruel
losses in the morning. But, indeed, from what I saw,
all these buccaneers were as callous as the sea they