AS soon as Benn Gunn saw the colours he came to a halt stopped me by the arm, and sat down.
`Now,' said he, `there's your friends, sure enough.'
`Far more likely it's the mutineers,' I answered.
`That!' he cried. `Why, in a place like this, where nobody puts in but gen'lemen of fortune, Silver would fly the Jolly Roger, you don't make no doubt of that. No; that's your friends. There's been blows, too, and I reckon your friends has had the best of it; and here they are ashore in the old stockade, as was made years and years ago by Flint. Ah, he was the man to have a headpiece, was Flint! Barring rum, his match were never seen. He were afraid of none, not he; on'y Silver - Silver was that genteel.'
`Well,' said I, `that may be so, and so be it; all the more reason that I should hurry on and join my friends.'
`Nay, mate,' returned Ben, `not you. you're a good boy or I'm mistook; but you're on'y a boy, all told. Now, Ben Gunn is fly. Rum wouldn't bring me there, where you're going - not rum wouldn't I, till I see your born gen'leman and gets it on his word of honour. And you won't forget my words: ``A precious sight (that's what you'll say), precious sight more confidence'' - and then nips him.'
And he pinched me the third time with the same air of cleverness.
`And when Ben Gunn is wanted, you know where to find him, Jim. Just wheer you found him to-day. And him that comes is to have a white thing in his hand: and he's to come alone. Oh! and you'll say this: ``Ben Gunn,'' says you, ``has reasons of his own.'''
`Well,' said I, `I believe I understand. You have something to propose, and you wish to see the squire or the doctor; ant you're to be found where I found you. Is that all?'
`And when? says you,' he added. `Why, from about noon observation to about six bells.'
`Good,' said I, `and now may I go?'
`You won't forget?' he inquired, anxiously. `Precious sight, and reasons of his own, says you. Reasons of his own; that's the mainstay; as between man and man. Well, then' - still holding me - `I reckon you can go, Jim. And, Jim, if you was to see Silver, you wouldn't go for to sell Ben Gunn? wild horses wouldn't draw it from you? No, says you. And if them pirates camp ashore, Jim, what would you say but there'd be widders in the morning?'
Here he was interrupted by a loud report, and a cannon-ball came tearing through the trees and pitched in the sand, not a hundred yards from where we two were talking. The next moment each of us had taken to his heels in a different direction.
For a good hour to come frequent reports shook the island, and balls kept crashing through the woods. I moved from hiding-place to hiding-place, always pursued, or so it seemed to me, by these terrifying missiles. But towards the end of the bombardment, though still I durst not venture in the direction of the stockade, where the balls fell oftenest, I had begun, in a manner, to pluck up my heart again; and after a long detour to the east, crept down among the shore-side trees.
The sun had just set, the sea breeze was rustling and tumbling in the woods, and ruffling the grey surface of the anchorage; the tide, too, was far out, and great tracts of sand lay uncovered; the air, after the heat of the day, chilled me through my jacket.
The Hispaniola still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger - the black flag of piracy - flying from her peak. Even as I looked, there came another red flash and another report, that sent the echoes clattering, and one more round-shot whistled through the air. It was the last of the cannonade.
|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.|