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25. I Strike the Jolly Roger
IHAD scarce gained a position on the bowsprit when the
flying jib flapped and filled upon the other tack, with a report
like a gun. The schooner trembled to her keel under the
reverse, but next moment, the other sails still drawing, the jib
flapped back again and hung idle.
This had nearly tossed me off into the sea; and now I lost no
time, crawled back along the bowsprit, and tumbled head
foremost on the deck.
I was on the lee side of the forecastle, and the main-sail, which
was still drawing, concealed from me a certain portion of the after-
deck. Not a soul was to be seen. The planks, which had not been
swabbed since the mutiny, bore the print of many feet, and an
empty bottle, broken by the neck, tumbled to and fro like a live
thing in the scuppers.
Suddenly the Hispaniola came right into the wind. The jibs
behind me cracked aloud, the rudder slammed to, the whole ship
gave a sickening heave and shudder, and at the same moment the
main-boom swung inboard, the sheet groaning in the blocks, and
showed me the lee after-deck.
There were the two watchmen, sure enough: red-cap on his
back, as stiff as a handspike, with his arms stretched out like those
of a crucifix and his teeth showing through his open lips; Israel
Hands propped against the bulwarks, his chin on his chest, his
hands lying open before him on the deck, his face as white, under
its tan, as a tallow candle.
For a while the ship kept bucking and sidling like a vicious