Книга Treasure island. Содержание - — 26. Israel Hands

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.

I went into the cellar; all the barrels were gone, and of the bottles a most surprising number had been drunk out and thrown away. Certainly, since the mutiny began, not a man of them could ever have been sober. Foraging about, I found a bottle with some brandy left, for Hands; and for myself I routed out some biscuit, some pickled fruits, a great bunch of raisins, and a piece of cheese. With these I came on deck, put down my own stock behind the rudder head and well out of the coxswain's reach, went forward to the water-breaker, and had a good deep drink of water, and then, and not till then, gave Hands the brandy.

He must have drunk a gill before he took the bottle from his mouth.

«Aye,» said he, «by thunder, but I wanted some o' that!»

I had sat down already in my own corner and begun to eat.

«Much hurt?» I asked him.

He grunted, or rather, I might say, he barked.

«If that doctor was aboard,» he said, «I'd be right enough in a couple of turns, but I don't have no manner of luck, you see, and that's what's the matter with me. As for that swab, he's good and dead, he is,» he added, indicating the man with the red cap. «He warn't no seaman anyhow. And where mought you have come from?»

«Well,» said I, «I've come aboard to take possession of this ship, Mr. Hands; and you'll please regard me as your captain until further notice.»

He looked at me sourly enough but said nothing. Some of the colour had come back into his cheeks, though he still looked very sick and still continued to slip out and settle down as the ship banged about.

«By the by,» I continued, «I can't have these colours, Mr. Hands; and by your leave, I'll strike 'em. Better none than these.»

And again dodging the boom, I ran to the colour lines, handed down their cursed black flag, and chucked it overboard.

«God save the king!» said I, waving my cap. «And there's an end to Captain Silver!»

He watched me keenly and slyly, his chin all the while on his breast.

«I reckon,» he said at last, «I reckon, Cap'n Hawkins, you'll kind of want to get ashore now. S'pose we talks.»

«Why, yes,» says I, «with all my heart, Mr. Hands. Say on.» And I went back to my meal with a good appetite.

«This man,» he began, nodding feebly at the corpse « — O'Brien were his name, a rank Irelander — this man and me got the canvas on her, meaning for to sail her back. Well, HE'S dead now, he is — as dead as bilge; and who's to sail this ship, I don't see. Without I gives you a hint, you ain't that man, as far's I can tell. Now, look here, you gives me food and drink and a old scarf or ankecher to tie my wound up, you do, and I'll tell you how to tail her, and that's about square all round, I take it.»

«I'll tell you one thing,» says I: «I'm not going back to Captain Kidd's anchorage. I mean to get into North Inlet and beach her quietly there.»

«To be sure you did,» he cried. «Why, I ain't sich an infernal lubber after all. I can see, can't I? I've tried my fling, I have, and I've lost, and it's you has the wind of me. North Inlet? Why, I haven't no ch'ice, not I! I'd help you sail her up to Execution Dock, by thunder! So I would.»

Well, as it seemed to me, there was some sense in this. We struck our bargain on the spot. In three minutes I had the HISPANIOLA sailing easily before the wind along the coast of Treasure Island, with good hopes of turning the northern point ere noon and beating down again as far as North Inlet before high water, when we might beach her safely and wait till the subsiding tide permitted us to land.

Then I lashed the tiller and went below to my own chest, where I got a soft silk handkerchief of my mother's. With this, and with my aid, Hands bound up the great bleeding stab he had received in the thigh, and after he had eaten a little and had a swallow or two more of the brandy, he began to pick up visibly, sat straighter up, spoke louder and clearer, and looked in every way another man.

The breeze served us admirably. We skimmed before it like a bird, the coast of the island flashing by and the view changing every minute. Soon we were past the high lands and bowling beside low, sandy country, sparsely dotted with dwarf pines, and soon we were beyond that again and had turned the corner of the rocky hill that ends the island on the north.

I was greatly elated with my new command, and pleased with the bright, sunshiny weather and these different prospects of the coast. I had now plenty of water and good things to eat, and my conscience, which had smitten me hard for my desertion, was quieted by the great conquest I had made. I should, I think, have had nothing left me to desire but for the eyes of the coxswain as they followed me derisively about the deck and the odd smile that appeared continually on his face. It was a smile that had in it something both of pain and weakness — a haggard old man's smile; but there was, besides that, a grain of derision, a shadow of treachery, in his expression as he craftily watched, and watched, and watched me at my work.

— 26. Israel Hands

THE wind, serving us to a desire, now hauled into the west. We could run so much the easier from the north-east corner of the island to the mouth of the North Inlet. Only, as we had no power to anchor and dared not beach her till the tide had flowed a good deal farther, time hung on our hands. The coxswain told me how to lay the ship to; after a good many trials I succeeded, and we both sat in silence over another meal.

«Cap'n,» said he at length with that same uncomfortable smile, «here's my old shipmate, O'Brien; s'pose you was to heave him overboard. I ain't partic'lar as a rule, and I don't take no blame for settling his hash, but I don't reckon him ornamental now, do you?»

«I'm not strong enough, and I don't like the job; and there he lies, for me,» said I.

«This here's an unlucky ship, this HISPANIOLA, Jim,» he went on, blinking. «There's a power of men been killed in this HISPANIOLA — a sight o' poor seamen dead and gone since you and me took ship to Bristol. I never seen sich dirty luck, not I. There was this here O'Brien now — he's dead, ain't he? Well now, I'm no scholar, and you're a lad as can read and figure, and to put it straight, do you take it as a dead man is dead for good, or do he come alive again?»

«You can kill the body, Mr. Hands, but not the spirit; you must know that already,» I replied. «O'Brien there is in another world, and may be watching us.»

«Ah!» says he. «Well, that's unfort'nate — appears as if killing parties was a waste of time. Howsomever, sperrits don't reckon for much, by what I've seen. I'll chance it with the sperrits, Jim. And now, you've spoke up free, and I'll take it kind if you'd step down into that there cabin and get me a — well, a — shiver my timbers! I can't hit the name on 't; well, you get me a bottle of wine, Jim — this here brandy's too strong for my head.»

© 2012-2016 Электронная библиотека booklot.ru