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a third of the way up. Then, with a pistol in either hand, I
“One more step, Mr. Hands,” said I, “and I’ll blow your brains
out! Dead men don’t bite, you know,” I added with a chuckle.
He stopped instantly. I could see by the working of his face that
he was trying to think, and the process was so slow and laborious
that, in my new-found security, I laughed aloud. At last, with a
swallow or two, he spoke, his face still wearing the same
expression of extreme perplexity. In order to speak he had to take
the dagger from his mouth, but in all else he remained unmoved.
“Jim,” says he, “I reckon we’re fouled, you and me, and we’ll
have to sign articles. I’d have had you but for that there lurch, but
I don’t have no luck, not I; and I reckon I’ll have to strike, which
comes hard, you see, for a master mariner to a ship’s younker like
I was drinking in his words and smiling away, as conceited as a
cock upon a wall, when, all in a breath, back went his right hand
over his shoulder. Something sang like an arrow through the air; I
felt a blow and then a sharp pang, and there I was pinned by the
shoulder to the mast. In the horrid pain and surprise of the
moment--I scarce can say it was by my own volition, and I am sure
it was without a conscious aim-- both my pistols went off, and both
escaped out of my hands. They did not fall alone; with a choked
cry, the coxswain loosed his grasp upon the shrouds and plunged
head first into the water.