Chapter XXXII

PARTLY from the damping influence of this alarm, partly to rest Silver and the sick folk, the whole party sat down as soon as they had gained the brow of the ascent.

The plateau being somewhat tilted towards the west, this spot on which we had paused commanded a wide prospect on either hand. Before us, over the tree-tops, we beheld the Cape of the Woods fringed with surf; behind, we not only looked down upon the anchorage and Skeleton Island, but saw - clear across the spit and the eastern lowlands - a great field of open sea upon the east. Sheer above us rose the Spy-glass, here dotted with single pines, there black with precipices. There was no sound but that of the distant breakers, mounting from all round, and the chirp of countless insects in the brush. Not a man, not a sail upon the sea; the very largeness of the view increased the sense of solitude.

Silver, as he sat, took certain bearings with his compass.

`There are three "tall trees" ' said he, `about in the right line from Skeleton Island. "Spy-glass Shoulder," I take it, means that lower p'int there. It's child's play to find the stuff now. I've half a mind to dine first.'

`I don't feel sharp,' growled Morgan. `Thinkin' o' Flint - I think it were - as done me.'

`Ah, well, my son, you praise your stars he's dead,' said Silver.

`He were an ugly devil,' cried a third pirate, with a shudder; `that blue in the face, too!'

`That was how the rum took him,' added Merry. `Blue! well, I reckon he was blue. That's a true word.'

Ever since they had found the skeleton and got upon this train of thought, they had spoken lower and lower, and they had almost got to whispering by now, so that the sound of their talk hardly interrupted the silence of the wood. All of a sudden, out of the middle of the trees in front of us, a thin, high, trembling voice struck up the well-known air and words:-

`Fifteen men on the dead man's chest--
You-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'

I never have seen men more dreadfully affected than the pirates. The colour went from their six faces like enchantment; some leaped to their feet, some clawed hold of others; Morgan grovelled on the ground.

`It's Flint, by - !' cried Merry.

The song had stopped as suddenly as it began - broken off, you would have said, in the middle of. a note, as though someone had laid his hand upon the singer's mouth. Coming so far through the clear, sunny atmosphere among the green tree-tops, I thought it had sounded airily and sweetly; and the effect on my companions was the stranger.

`Come,' said Silver, struggling with his ashen lips to get the word out, `this won't do. Stand by to go about. This is a rum start, and I can't name the voice: but it's someone skylarking - someone that's flesh and blood, and you may lay to that.'

His courage had come back as he spoke, and some of the colour to his face along with it. Already the others had begun to lend an ear to this encouragement, and were coming a little to themselves, when the same voice broke out again - not this time singing, but in a fainter distant hail, that echoed yet faint among the clefts of the Spy-glass.

`Darby M'Graw,' it wailed - for that is the word that best describes the sound - `Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!' again and again and again; and then rising a little higher, and with an oath that I leave out, `Fetch aft the rum, Darby!'

The buccaneers remained rooted to the ground, their eyes starting from their heads. Long after the voice had died away they still stared in silence, dreadfully, before them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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