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marsh-birds rose again, darkening heaven, with a simultaneous
whirr; and long after that death yell was still ringing in my brain,
silence had re-established its empire, and only the rustle of the
redescending birds and the boom of the distant surges disturbed
the languor of the afternoon.
Tom had leaped at the sound, like a horse at the spur, but
Silver had not winked an eye. He stood where he was, resting
lightly on his crutch, watching his companion like a snake about to
“John!” said the sailor, stretching out his hand.
“Hands off!” cried Silver, leaping back a yard, as it seemed to
me, with the speed and security of a trained gymnast.
“Hands off, if you like, John Silver,” said the other. “It’s a black
conscience that can make you feared of me. But in heaven’s name,
tell me, what was that?”
“That?” returned Silver, smiling away, but warier than ever, his
eye a mere pin-point in his big face, but gleaming like a crumb of
glass. “That?” Oh, I reckon that’ll be Alan.”
And at this point Tom flashed out like a hero.
“Alan!” he cried. “Then rest his soul for a true seaman! And as
for you, John Silver, long you’ve been a mate of mine, but you’re
mate of mine no more. If I die like a dog, I’ll die in my dooty.
You’ve killed Alan, have you? Kill me too, if you can. But I defies
And with that, this brave fellow turned his back directly on the
cook and set off walking for the beach. But he was not destined to
go far. With a cry John seized the branch of a tree, whipped the
crutch out of his armpit, and sent that uncouth missile hurtling
through the air. It struck poor Tom, point foremost, and with