Chapter Twelve : Council of War
THERE was a great rush of feet across the deck. I could hear people tumbling up from the cabin and the forecastle, 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 lookout 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 chart, but by the fresh look of the paper I knew he was doomed 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 exception 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. Aye, 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, “to haul your wind and keep the weather of the island. Leastways, if such was your intention as to enter and careen, and there 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-frightened 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 of 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 on 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 to that. When you want to go a bit of exploring, you just ask 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.
Captain Smollett, the squire, and Dr. Livesey were talking together on the quarter-deck, and anxious as I was to tell them my story, I durst not interrupt them openly. While I was still casting about in my thoughts to find some probable excuse, Dr. Livesey called me to his side. He had left his pipe below, and being a slave to tobacco, had meant that I should fetch it; but as soon as I was near enough to speak and not to be overheard, I broke immediately, “Doctor, let me speak. Get the captain and squire down to the cabin, and then make some pretence to send for me. I have terrible news.”
The doctor changed countenance a little, but next moment he was master of himself.
“Thank you, Jim,” said he quite loudly, “that was all I wanted to know,” as if he had asked me a question.
And with that he turned on his heel and rejoined the other two. They spoke together for a little, and though none of them started, or raised his voice, or so much as whistled, it was plain enough that Dr. Livesey had communicated my request, for the next thing that I heard was the captain giving an order to Job Anderson, and all hands were piped on deck.
“My lads,” said Captain Smollett, “I’ve a word to say to you. This land that we have sighted is the place we have been sailing for. Mr. Trelawney, being a very open-handed gentleman, as we all know, has just asked me a word or two, and as I was able to tell him that every man on board had done his duty, alow and aloft, as I never ask to see it done better, why, he and I and the doctor are going below to the cabin to drink your health and luck, and you’ll have grog served out for you to drink our health and luck. I’ll tell you what I think of this: I think it handsome. And if you think as I do, you’ll give a good sea-cheer for the gentleman that does it.”
The cheer followed—that was a matter of course; but it rang out so full and hearty that I confess I could hardly believe these same men were plotting for our blood.
“One more cheer for Cap’n Smollett,” cried Long John when the first had subsided.
And this also was given with a will.
On the top of that the three gentlemen went below, and not long after, word was sent forward that Jim Hawkins was wanted in the cabin.
I found them all three seated round the table, a bottle of Spanish wine and some raisins before them, and the doctor smoking away, with his wig on his lap, and that, I knew, was a sign that he was agitated. The stern window was open, for it was a warm night, and you could see the moon shining behind on the ship’s wake.
“Now, Hawkins,” said the squire, “you have something to say. Speak up.”
I did as I was bid, and as short as I could make it, told the whole details of Silver’s conversation. Nobody interrupted me till I was done, nor did any one of the three of them make so much as a movement, but they kept their eyes upon my face from first to last.
“Jim,” said Dr. Livesey, “take a seat.”
And they made me sit down at table beside them, poured me out a glass of wine, filled my hands with raisins, and all three, one after the other, and each with a bow, drank my good health, and their service to me, for my luck and courage.
“Now, captain,” said the squire, “you were right, and I was wrong. I own myself an ass, and I await your orders.”
“No more an ass than I, sir,” returned the captain. “I never heard of a crew that meant to mutiny but what showed signs before, for any man that had an eye in his head to see the mischief and take steps according. But this crew,” he added, “beats me.”
“Captain,” said the doctor, “with your permission, that’s Silver. A very remarkable man.”
“He’d look remarkably well from a yard-arm, sir,” returned the captain. “But this is talk; this don’t lead to anything. I see three or four points, and with Mr. Trelawney’s permission, I’ll name them.”
“You, sir, are the captain. It is for you to speak,” says Mr. Trelawney grandly.
“First point,” began Mr. Smollett. “We must go on, because we can’t turn back. If I gave the word to go about, they would rise at once. Second point, we have time before us—at least until this treasure’s found. Third point, there are faithful hands. Now, sir, it’s got to come to blows sooner or later, and what I propose is to take time by the forelock, as the saying is, and come to blows some fine day when they least expect it. We can count, I take it, on your own home servants, Mr. Trelawney?”
“As upon myself,” declared the squire.
“Three,” reckoned the captain; “ourselves make seven, counting Hawkins here. Now, about the honest hands?”
“Most likely Trelawney’s own men,” said the doctor; “those he had picked up for himself before he lit on Silver.”
“Nay,” replied the squire. “Hands was one of mine.”
“I did think I could have trusted Hands,” added the captain.
“And to think that they’re all Englishmen!” broke out the squire. “Sir, I could find it in my heart to blow the ship up.”
“Well, gentlemen,” said the captain, “the best that I can say is not much. We must lay to, if you please, and keep a bright lookout. It’s trying on a man, I know. It would be pleasanter to come to blows. But there’s no help for it till we know our men. Lay to, and whistle for a wind, that’s my view.”
“Jim here,” said the doctor, “can help us more than anyone. The men are not shy with him, and Jim is a noticing lad.”
“Hawkins, I put prodigious faith in you,” added the squire.
I began to feel pretty desperate at this, for I felt altogether helpless; and yet, by an odd train of circumstances, it was indeed through me that safety came. In the meantime, talk as we pleased, there were only seven out of the twenty-six on whom we knew we could rely; and out of these seven one was a boy, so that the grown men on our side were six to their nineteen.