PART FIVE: My Sea Adventure
Chapter 25: I Strike the Jolly Roger
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
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 main-mast.
"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 lockfast 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.