THERE was a great rush of feet across the deck. I could hear people tumbling up from the cabin and the foc's'le; and, slipping in an instant outside my barrel, I dived behind the fore-sail, made a double towards the stern, and came out upon the open deck in time to join Hunter and Dr Livesey in the rush for the weather bow.
There all hands were already congregated. A belt of fog had lifted almost simultaneously with the appearance of the moon. Away to the south-west of us we saw two low hills, about a couple of miles apart, and rising behind one of them a third and higher hill, whose peak was still buried in the fog. All three seemed sharp and conical in figure.
So much I saw, almost in a dream, for I had not yet recovered from my horrid fear of a minute or two before. And then I heard the voice of Captain Smollett issuing orders. The Hispaniola was laid a couple of points nearer the wind, and now sailed a course that would just clear the island on the east.
`And now, men,' said the captain, when all was sheeted home, `has any one of you ever seen that land ahead?'
`I have, sir,' said Silver. `I've watered there with a trader I was cook in.'
`The anchorage is on the south, behind an islet, I fancy?' asked the captain.
`Yes, sir; Skeleton Island they calls it. It were a main place for pirates once, and a hand we had on board knowed all their names for it. That hill to the nor'ard they calls the Fore-mast Hill; there are three hills in a row running south'ard - fore, main, and mizzen, sir. But the main - that's the big 'un, with the cloud on it - they usually calls the Spy-glass, by reason of a look-out they kept when they was in the anchorage cleaning; for it's there they cleaned their ships, sir, asking your pardon.'
`I have a chart here,' says Captain Smollett. `See if that's the place.'
Long John's eyes burned in his head as he took the char but, by the fresh look of the paper, I knew he was doom to disappointment. This was not the map we found in Billy Bones's chest, but an accurate copy, complete in all things - names and heights and soundings - with the single except it of the red crosses and the written notes. Sharp as must have been his annoyance, Silver had the strength of mind to hide it.
`Yes, sir,' said he, `this is the spot to be sure; and very prettily drawed out. Who might have done that, I wonder The pirates were too ignorant, I reckon. Ay, here it is: ``Capt. Kidd's Anchorage'' - just the name my shipmate called it. There's a strong current runs along the south, and then away nor'ard up the west coast. Right you was, sir,' says he, haul your wind and keep the weather of the island. Leastways, if such was your intention as to enter and careen, and the ain't no better place for that in these waters.
`Thank you, my man,' says Captain Smollett. `I'll ask you later on, to give us a help. You may go.'
I was surprised at the coolness with which John avowed his knowledge of the island; and I own I was half-frighten' when I saw him drawing nearer to myself. He did not know to be sure, that I had overheard his council from the apple barrel, and yet I had, by this time, taken such a horror his cruelty, duplicity, and power, that I could scarce conceal a shudder when he laid his hand upon my arm.
`Ah,' says he, `this here is a sweet spot, this island - a sweet spot for a lad to get ashore on. You'll bathe, and you'll climb trees, and you'll hunt goats, you will; and you'll get aloft them hills like a goat yourself. Why, it makes me young again I was going to forget my timber leg, I was. It's a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes, and you may lay that. When you want to go a bit of exploring, you just an old John, and he'll put up a snack for you to take along.'
And clapping me in the friendliest way upon the shoulder he hobbled off forward and went below.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|