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PART THREE—My Shore Adventure
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How My Shore Adventure Began
THE appearance of the island when I came on deck next morning was
altogether changed. Although the breeze had now utterly ceased, we had
made a great deal of way during the night and were now lying becalmed
about half a mile to the south-east of the low eastern coast.
Grey-coloured woods covered a large part of the surface. This even tint
was indeed broken up by streaks of yellow sand-break in the lower lands,
and by many tall trees of the pine family, out-topping the others—some
singly, some in clumps; but the general colouring was uniform and sad. The
hills ran up clear above the vegetation in spires of naked rock. All were
strangely shaped, and the Spy-glass, which was by three or four hundred
feet the tallest on the island, was likewise the strangest in
configuration, running up sheer from almost every side and then suddenly
cut off at the top like a pedestal to put a statue on.
The HISPANIOLA was rolling scuppers under in the ocean swell. The booms
were tearing at the blocks, the rudder was banging to and fro, and the
whole ship creaking, groaning, and jumping like a manufactory. I had to
cling tight to the backstay, and the world turned giddily before my eyes,
for though I was a good enough sailor when there was way on, this standing
still and being rolled about like a bottle was a thing I never learned to
stand without a qualm or so, above all in the morning, on an empty
Perhaps it was this—perhaps it was the look of the island, with its
grey, melancholy woods, and wild stone spires, and the surf that we could
both see and hear foaming and thundering on the steep beach—at
least, although the sun shone bright and hot, and the shore birds were
fishing and crying all around us, and you would have thought anyone would
have been glad to get to land after being so long at sea, my heart sank,
as the saying is, into my boots; and from the first look onward, I hated
the very thought of Treasure Island.
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
"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
"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.
There was not a breath of air moving, nor a sound but that of the surf
booming half a mile away along the beaches and against the rocks outside.
A peculiar stagnant smell hung over the anchorage—a smell of sodden
leaves and rotting tree trunks. I observed the doctor sniffing and
sniffing, like someone tasting a bad egg.
"I don't know about treasure," he said, "but I'll stake my wig there's
If the conduct of the men had been alarming in the boat, it became truly
threatening when they had come aboard. They lay about the deck growling
together in talk. The slightest order was received with a black look and
grudgingly and carelessly obeyed. Even the honest hands must have caught
the infection, for there was not one man aboard to mend another. Mutiny,
it was plain, hung over us like a thunder-cloud.
And it was not only we of the cabin party who perceived the danger. Long
John was hard at work going from group to group, spending himself in good
advice, and as for example no man could have shown a better. He fairly
outstripped himself in willingness and civility; he was all smiles to
everyone. If an order were given, John would be on his crutch in an
instant, with the cheeriest "Aye, aye, sir!" in the world; and when there
was nothing else to do, he kept up one song after another, as if to
conceal the discontent of the rest.
Of all the gloomy features of that gloomy afternoon, this obvious anxiety
on the part of Long John appeared the worst.
We held a council in the cabin.
"Sir," said the captain, "if I risk another order, the whole ship'll come
about our ears by the run. You see, sir, here it is. I get a rough answer,
do I not? Well, if I speak back, pikes will be going in two shakes; if I
don't, Silver will see there's something under that, and the game's up.
Now, we've only one man to rely on."
"And who is that?" asked the squire.
"Silver, sir," returned the captain; "he's as anxious as you and I to
smother things up. This is a tiff; he'd soon talk 'em out of it if he had
the chance, and what I propose to do is to give him the chance. Let's
allow the men an afternoon ashore. If they all go, why we'll fight the
ship. If they none of them go, well then, we hold the cabin, and God
defend the right. If some go, you mark my words, sir, Silver'll bring 'em
aboard again as mild as lambs."
It was so decided; loaded pistols were served out to all the sure men;
Hunter, Joyce, and Redruth were taken into our confidence and received the
news with less surprise and a better spirit than we had looked for, and
then the captain went on deck and addressed the crew.
"My lads," said he, "we've had a hot day and are all tired and out of
sorts. A turn ashore'll hurt nobody—the boats are still in the
water; you can take the gigs, and as many as please may go ashore for the
afternoon. I'll fire a gun half an hour before sundown."
I believe the silly fellows must have thought they would break their shins
over treasure as soon as they were landed, for they all came out of their
sulks in a moment and gave a cheer that started the echo in a faraway hill
and sent the birds once more flying and squalling round the anchorage.
The captain was too bright to be in the way. He whipped out of sight in a
moment, leaving Silver to arrange the party, and I fancy it was as well he
did so. Had he been on deck, he could no longer so much as have pretended
not to understand the situation. It was as plain as day. Silver was the
captain, and a mighty rebellious crew he had of it. The honest hands—and
I was soon to see it proved that there were such on board—must have
been very stupid fellows. Or rather, I suppose the truth was this, that
all hands were disaffected by the example of the ringleaders—only
some more, some less; and a few, being good fellows in the main, could
neither be led nor driven any further. It is one thing to be idle and
skulk and quite another to take a ship and murder a number of innocent
At last, however, the party was made up. Six fellows were to stay on
board, and the remaining thirteen, including Silver, began to embark.
Then it was that there came into my head the first of the mad notions that
contributed so much to save our lives. If six men were left by Silver, it
was plain our party could not take and fight the ship; and since only six
were left, it was equally plain that the cabin party had no present need of
my assistance. It occurred to me at once to go ashore. In a jiffy I had
slipped over the side and curled up in the fore-sheets of the nearest
boat, and almost at the same moment she shoved off.
No one took notice of me, only the bow oar saying, "Is that you, Jim? Keep
your head down." But Silver, from the other boat, looked sharply over and
called out to know if that were me; and from that moment I began to regret
what I had done.
The crews raced for the beach, but the boat I was in, having some start
and being at once the lighter and the better manned, shot far ahead of her
consort, and the bow had struck among the shore-side trees and I had
caught a branch and swung myself out and plunged into the nearest thicket
while Silver and the rest were still a hundred yards behind.
"Jim, Jim!" I heard him shouting.
But you may suppose I paid no heed; jumping, ducking, and breaking
through, I ran straight before my nose till I could run no longer.