Книга Peter Pan. Содержание - Chapter 15 "HOOK OR ME THIS TIME"
"HOOK OR ME THIS TIME"
Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without our noticing for a time that they have happened. Thus, to take an instance, we suddenly discover that we have been deaf in one ear for we don't know how long, but, say, half an hour. Now such an experience had come that night to Peter. When last we saw him he was stealing across the island with one finger to his lips and his dagger at the ready. He had seen the crocodile pass by without noticing anything peculiar about it, but by and by he remembered that it had not been ticking. At first he thought this eerie, but soon concluded rightly that the clock had run down.
Without giving a thought to what might be the feelings of a fellow-creature thus abruptly deprived of its closest companion, Peter began to consider how he could turn the catastrophe to his own use; and he decided to tick, so that wild beasts should believe he was the crocodile and let him pass unmolested. He ticked superbly, but with one unforeseen result. The crocodile was among those who heard the sound, and it followed him, though whether with the purpose of regaining what it had lost, or merely as a friend under the belief that it was again ticking itself, will never be certainly known, for, like slaves to a fixed idea, it was a stupid beast.
Peter reached the shore without mishap, and went straight on, his legs encountering the water as if quite unaware that they had entered a new element. Thus many animals pass from land to water, but no other human of whom I know. As he swam he had but one thought: "Hook or me this time." He had ticked so long that he now went on ticking without knowing that he was doing it. Had he known he would have stopped, for to board the brig by help of the tick, though an ingenious idea, had not occurred to him.
On the contrary, he thought he had scaled her side as noiseless as a mouse; and he was amazed to see the pirates cowering from him, with Hook in their midst as abject as if he had heard the crocodile.
The crocodile! No sooner did Peter remember it than he heard the ticking. At first he thought the sound did come from the crocodile, and he looked behind him swiftly. They he realised that he was doing it himself, and in a flash he understood the situation. "How clever of me!" he thought at once, and signed to the boys not to burst into applause.
It was at this moment that Ed Teynte the quartermaster emerged from the forecastle and came along the deck. Now, reader, time what happened by your watch. Peter struck true and deep. John clapped his hands on the ill-fated pirate's mouth to stifle the dying groan. He fell forward. Four boys caught him to prevent the thud. Peter gave the signal, and the carrion was cast overboard. There was a splash, and then silence. How long has it taken?
"One!" (Slightly had begun to count.)
None too soon, Peter, every inch of him on tiptoe, vanished into the cabin; for more than one pirate was screwing up his courage to look round. They could hear each other's distressed breathing now, which showed them that the more terrible sound had passed.
"It's gone, captain," Smee said, wiping off his spectacles. "All's still again."
Slowly Hook let his head emerge from his ruff, and listened so intently that he could have caught the echo of the tick. There was not a sound, and he drew himself up firmly to his full height.
"Then here's to Johnny Plank!" he cried brazenly, hating the boys more than ever because they had seen him unbend. He broke into the villainous ditty:
"Yo ho, yo ho, the frisky plank, You walks along it so, Till it goes down and you goes down To Davy Jones below!"
To terrorize the prisoners the more, though with a certain loss of dignity, he danced along an imaginary plank, grimacing at them as he sang; and when he finished he cried, "Do you want a touch of the cat [o' nine tails] before you walk the plank?"
At that they fell on their knees. "No, no!" they cried so piteously that every pirate smiled.
"Fetch the cat, Jukes," said Hook; "it's in the cabin."
The cabin! Peter was in the cabin! The children gazed at each other.
"Ay, ay," said Jukes blithely, and he strode into the cabin. They followed him with their eyes; they scarce knew that Hook had resumed his song, his dogs joining in with him:
"Yo ho, yo ho, the scratching cat, Its tails are nine, you know, And when they're writ upon your back — "
What was the last line will never be known, for of a sudden the song was stayed by a dreadful screech from the cabin. It wailed through the ship, and died away. Then was heard a crowing sound which was well understood by the boys, but to the pirates was almost more eerie than the screech.
"What was that?" cried Hook.
"Two," said Slightly solemnly.
The Italian Cecco hesitated for a moment and then swung into the cabin. He tottered out, haggard.
"What's the matter with Bill Jukes, you dog?" hissed Hook, towering over him.
"The matter wi' him is he's dead, stabbed," replied Cecco in a hollow voice.
"Bill Jukes dead!" cried the startled pirates.
"The cabin's as black as a pit," Cecco said, almost gibbering, "but there is something terrible in there: the thing you heard crowing."
The exultation of the boys, the lowering looks of the pirates, both were seen by Hook.
"Cecco," he said in his most steely voice, "go back and fetch me out that doodle-doo."
Cecco, bravest of the brave, cowered before his captain, crying "No, no"; but Hook was purring to his claw.
"Did you say you would go, Cecco?" he said musingly.
Cecco went, first flinging his arms despairingly. There was no more singing, all listened now; and again came a death-screech and again a crow.
No one spoke except Slightly. "Three," he said.
Hook rallied his dogs with a gesture. "'S'death and odds fish," he thundered, "who is to bring me that doodle-doo?"
"Wait till Cecco comes out," growled Starkey, and the others took up the cry.
"I think I heard you volunteer, Starkey," said Hook, purring again.
"No, by thunder!" Starkey cried.
"My hook thinks you did," said Hook, crossing to him. "I wonder if it would not be advisable, Starkey, to humour the hook?"
"I'll swing before I go in there," replied Starkey doggedly, and again he had the support of the crew.
"Is this mutiny?" asked Hook more pleasantly than ever. "Starkey's ringleader!"
"Captain, mercy!" Starkey whimpered, all of a tremble now.
"Shake hands, Starkey," said Hook, proffering his claw.
Starkey looked round for help, but all deserted him. As he backed up Hook advanced, and now the red spark was in his eye. With a despairing scream the pirate leapt upon Long Tom and precipitated himself into the sea.
"Four," said Slightly.
"And now," Hook said courteously, "did any other gentlemen say mutiny?" Seizing a lantern and raising his claw with a menacing gesture, "I'll bring out that doodle-doo myself," he said, and sped into the cabin.
"Five." How Slightly longed to say it. He wetted his lips to be ready, but Hook came staggering out, without his lantern.
"Something blew out the light," he said a little unsteadily.
"Something!" echoed Mullins.
"What of Cecco?" demanded Noodler.
"He's as dead as Jukes," said Hook shortly.
His reluctance to return to the cabin impressed them all unfavourably, and the mutinous sounds again broke forth. All pirates are superstitious, and Cookson cried, "They do say the surest sign a ship's accurst is when there's one on board more than can be accounted for."
"I've heard," muttered Mullins, "he always boards the pirate craft last. Had he a tail, captain?"
"They say," said another, looking viciously at Hook, "that when he comes it's in the likeness of the wickedest man aboard."