At last the breeze came; the schooner sidled and drew nearer in the dark; I felt the hawser slacken once
more, and with a good, tough effort, cut the last fibres through.
The breeze had but little action on the coracle, and I was almost instantly swept against the bows of the
Hispaniola. At the same time the schooner began to turn upon her heel, spinning slowly, end for end,
across the current.
I wrought like a fiend, for I expected every moment to be swamped; and since I found I could not push
the coracle directly off, I now shoved straight astern. At length I was clear of my dangerous neighbour; and
just as I gave the last impulsion, my hands came across a light cord that was trailing overboard across
the stern bulwarks. Instantly I grasped it.
Why I should have done so I can hardly say. It was at first mere instinct; but once I had it in my hands
and found it fast, curiosity began to get the upper hand, and I determined I should have one look through
the cabin window.
I pulled in hand over hand on the cord, and, when I judged myself near enough, rose at infinite risk to
about half my height, and thus commanded the roof and a slice of the interior of the cabin.
By this time the schooner and her little consort were gliding pretty swiftly through the water; indeed, we
had already fetched up level with the camp fire. The ship was talking, as sailors say, loudly, treading
the innumerable ripples with an incessant weltering splash; and until I got my eye above the window-sill I
could not comprehend why the watchmen had taken no alarm. One glance, however, was sufficient; and
it was only one glance that I durst take from that unsteady skiff. It showed me Hands and his companion
locked together in deadly wrestle, each with a hand upon the other's throat.
I dropped upon the thwart again, none too soon, for I was near overboard. I could see nothing for the
moment but these two furious, encrimsoned faces, swaying together under the smoky lamp; and I shut
my eyes to let them grow once more familiar with the darkness.
The endless ballad had come to an end at last, and the whole diminished company about the camp fire
had broken into the chorus I had heard so often:--
`Fifteen men on the dead man's chest - Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for
the rest - Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'
I was just thinking how busy drink and the devil were at that very moment in the cabin of the Hispaniola,
where I was surprised by a sudden lurch of the coracle. At the same moment she yawed sharply and
seemed to change her course. The speed in the meantime had strangely increased.
I opened my eyes at once. All round me were little ripples, combing over with a sharp, bristling sound
and slightly phosphorescent. The Hispaniola herself, a few yards in whose wake I was still being whirled
along, seemed to stagger in her course, and I saw her spars toss a little against the blackness of the
night; nay, as I looked longer, I made sure she also was wheeling to the southward.
I glanced over my shoulder, and my heart jumped against my ribs. There, right behind me, was the glow
of the camp fire. The current had turned at right angles, sweeping round along with it the tall schooner
and the little dancing coracle; ever quickening, ever bubbling higher, ever muttering louder, it went spinning
through the narrows for the open sea.
Suddenly the schooner in front of me gave a violent yaw, turning, perhaps, through twenty degrees; and
almost at the same moment one shout followed another from on board; I could hear feet pounding on