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27. “Pieces of Eight”

OWING to the cant of the vessel, the masts hung far out
over the water, and from my perch on the cross-trees I
had nothing below me but the surface of the bay. Hands,
who was not so far up, was in consequence nearer to the ship and
fell between me and the bulwarks. He rose once to the surface in a
lather of foam and blood and then sank again for good. As the
water settled, I could see him lying huddled together on the clean,
bright sand in the shadow of the vessel’s sides. A fish or two
whipped past his body. Sometimes, by the quivering of the water,
he appeared to move a little, as if he were trying to rise. But he
was dead enough, for all that, being both shot and drowned, and
was food for fish in the very place where he had designed my

I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel sick, faint,
and terrified. The hot blood was running over my back and chest.
The dirk, where it had pinned my shoulder to the mast, seemed to
burn like a hot iron; yet it was not so much these real sufferings
that distressed me, for these, it seemed to me, I could bear without
a murmur; it was the horror I had upon my mind of falling from
the cross-trees into that still green water, beside the body of the

I clung with both hands till my nails ached, and I shut my eyes
as if to cover up the peril. Gradually my mind came back again, my
pulses quieted down to a more natural time, and I was once more
in possession of myself.

It was my first thought to pluck forth the dirk, but either it

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