PART THREE: My Shore Adventure
Chapter 13: How My Shore Adventure Began
We had a dreary morning's work before us, for there was
no sign of any wind, and the boats had to be got out
and manned, and the ship warped three or four miles
round the corner of the island and up the narrow
passage to the haven behind Skeleton Island. I
volunteered for one of the boats, where I had, of
course, no business. The heat was sweltering, and the
men grumbled fiercely over their work. Anderson was in
command of my boat, and instead of keeping the crew in
order, he grumbled as loud as the worst.
"Well," he said with an oath, "it's not forever."
I thought this was a very bad sign, for up to that day
the men had gone briskly and willingly about their
business; but the very sight of the island had relaxed
the cords of discipline.
All the way in, Long John stood by the steersman and
conned the ship. He knew the passage like the palm of
his hand, and though the man in the chains got
everywhere more water than was down in the chart, John
never hesitated once.
"There's a strong scour with the ebb," he said, "and
this here passage has been dug out, in a manner of
speaking, with a spade."
We brought up just where the anchor was in the chart,
about a third of a mile from each shore, the mainland
on one side and Skeleton Island on the other. The
bottom was clean sand. The plunge of our anchor sent
up clouds of birds wheeling and crying over the woods,
but in less than a minute they were down again and all
was once more silent.
The place was entirely land-locked, buried in woods,
the trees coming right down to high-water mark, the
shores mostly flat, and the hilltops standing round at
a distance in a sort of amphitheatre, one here, one
there. Two little rivers, or rather two swamps,
emptied out into this pond, as you might call it; and
the foliage round that part of the shore had a kind of
poisonous brightness. From the ship we could see
nothing of the house or stockade, for they were quite
buried among trees; and if it had not been for the
chart on the companion, we might have been the first
that had ever anchored there since the island arose out
of the seas.