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Книга Treasure island. Содержание - — 29. The Black Spot Again

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«Well, and see here,» added the sea-cook. «I'll put another again to that, by thunder! For it was this same boy that faked the chart from Billy Bones. First and last, we've split upon Jim Hawkins!»

«Then here goes!» said Morgan with an oath. And he sprang up, drawing his knife as if he had been twenty.

«Avast, there!» cried Silver. «Who are you, Tom Morgan? Maybe you thought you was cap'n here, perhaps. By the powers, but I'll teach you better! Cross me, and you'll go where many a good man's gone before you, first and last, these thirty year back — some to the yard-arm, shiver my timbers, and some by the board, and all to feed the fishes. There's never a man looked me between the eyes and seen a good day a'terwards, Tom Morgan, you may lay to that.»

Morgan paused, but a hoarse murmur rose from the others.

«Tom's right,» said one.

«I stood hazing long enough from one,» added another. «I'll be hanged if I'll be hazed by you, John Silver.»

«Did any of you gentlemen want to have it out with ME?» roared Silver, bending far forward from his position on the keg, with his pipe still glowing in his right hand. «Put a name on what you're at; you ain't dumb, I reckon. Him that wants shall get it. Have I lived this many years, and a son of a rum puncheon cock his hat athwart my hawse at the latter end of it? You know the way; you're all gentlemen o' fortune, by your account. Well, I'm ready. Take a cutlass, him that dares, and I'll see the colour of his inside, crutch and all, before that pipe's empty.»

Not a man stirred; not a man answered.

«That's your sort, is it?» he added, returning his pipe to his mouth. «Well, you're a gay lot to look at, anyway. Not much worth to fight, you ain't. P'r'aps you can understand King George's English. I'm cap'n here by 'lection. I'm cap'n here because I'm the best man by a long sea-mile. You won't fight, as gentlemen o' fortune should; then, by thunder, you'll obey, and you may lay to it! I like that boy, now; I never seen a better boy than that. He's more a man than any pair of rats of you in this here house, and what I say is this: let me see him that'll lay a hand on him — that's what I say, and you may lay to it.»

There was a long pause after this. I stood straight up against the wall, my heart still going like a sledge-hammer, but with a ray of hope now shining in my bosom. Silver leant back against the wall, his arms crossed, his pipe in the corner of his mouth, as calm as though he had been in church; yet his eye kept wandering furtively, and he kept the tail of it on his unruly followers. They, on their part, drew gradually together towards the far end of the block house, and the low hiss of their whispering sounded in my ear continuously, like a stream. One after another, they would look up, and the red light of the torch would fall for a second on their nervous faces; but it was not towards me, it was towards Silver that they turned their eyes.

«You seem to have a lot to say,» remarked Silver, spitting far into the air. «Pipe up and let me hear it, or lay to.»

«Ax your pardon, sir,» returned one of the men; «you're pretty free with some of the rules; maybe you'll kindly keep an eye upon the rest. This crew's dissatisfied; this crew don't vally bullying a marlin-spike; this crew has its rights like other crews, I'll make so free as that; and by your own rules, I take it we can talk together. I ax your pardon, sir, acknowledging you for to be capting at this present; but I claim my right, and steps outside for a council.»

And with an elaborate sea-salute, this fellow, a long, ill-looking, yellow-eyed man of five and thirty, stepped coolly towards the door and disappeared out of the house. One after another the rest followed his example, each making a salute as he passed, each adding some apology. «According to rules,» said one.

«Forecastle council,» said Morgan. And so with one remark or another all marched out and left Silver and me alone with the torch.

The sea-cook instantly removed his pipe.

«Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins,» he said in a steady whisper that was no more than audible, «you're within half a plank of death, and what's a long sight worse, of torture. They're going to throw me off. But, you mark, I stand by you through thick and thin. I didn't mean to; no, not till you spoke up. I was about desperate to lose that much blunt, and be hanged into the bargain. But I see you was the right sort. I says to myself, you stand by Hawkins, John, and Hawkins'll stand by you. You're his last card, and by the living thunder, John, he's yours! Back to back, says I. You save your witness, and he'll save your neck!»

I began dimly to understand.

«You mean all's lost?» I asked.

«Aye, by gum, I do!» he answered. «Ship gone, neck gone — that's the size of it. Once I looked into that bay, Jim Hawkins, and seen no schooner — well, I'm tough, but I gave out. As for that lot and their council, mark me, they're outright fools and cowards. I'll save your life — if so be as I can

— from them. But, see here, Jim — tit for tat — you save Long John from swinging.»

I was bewildered; it seemed a thing so hopeless he was asking — he, the old buccaneer, the ringleader throughout.

«What I can do, that I'll do,» I said.

«It's a bargain!» cried Long John. «You speak up plucky, and by thunder, I've a chance!»

He hobbled to the torch, where it stood propped among the firewood, and took a fresh light to his pipe.

«Understand me, Jim,» he said, returning. «I've a head on my shoulders, I have. I'm on squire's side now. I know you've got that ship safe somewheres. How you done it, I don't know, but safe it is. I guess Hands and O'Brien turned soft. I never much believed in neither of THEM. Now you mark me. I ask no questions, nor I won't let others. I know when a game's up, I do; and I know a lad that's staunch. Ah, you that's young — you and me might have done a power of good together!» He drew some cognac from the cask into a tin cannikin. «Will you taste, messmate?» he asked; and when I had refused: «Well, I'll take a drain myself, Jim,» said he. «I need a caulker, for there's trouble on hand. And talking o' trouble, why did that doctor give me the chart, Jim?»

My face expressed a wonder so unaffected that he saw the needlessness of further questions.

«Ah, well, he did, though,» said he. «And there's something under that, no doubt — something, surely, under that, Jim — bad or good.»

And he took another swallow of the brandy, shaking his great fair head like a man who looks forward to the worst.

— 29. The Black Spot Again

THE council of buccaneers had lasted some time, when one of them re-entered the house, and with a repetition of the same salute, which had in my eyes an ironical air, begged for a moment's loan of the torch. Silver briefly agreed, and this emissary retired again, leaving us together in the dark.

«There's a breeze coming, Jim,» said Silver, who had by this time adopted quite a friendly and familiar tone. I turned to the loophole nearest me and looked out. The embers of the great fire had so far burned themselves out and now glowed so low and duskily that I understood why these conspirators desired a torch. About half-way down the slope to the stockade, they were collected in a group; one held the light, another was on his knees in their midst, and I saw the blade of an open knife shine in his hand with varying colours in the moon and torchlight. The rest were all somewhat stooping, as though watching the manoeuvres of this last. I could just make out that he had a book as well as a knife in his hand, and was still wondering how anything so incongruous had come in their possession when the kneeling figure rose once more to his feet and the whole party began to move together towards the house.

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