The start of our example from Treasure Island comes more than one third of the way through the story. By this time a number of non-Basic words have been made clear (in the same way as 'pine' and 'oar' are made clear in this part) and are being freely used. For any reader without a knowledge of full English we give here the senses of those used in the example, in the order in which they come in.
- metal instrument through which things at a great distance away are seen more clearly and as if nearer
- rod of wood keeping the base of a sail stretched out
- flat structure going down into the water at the back end of a ship or boat, which is turned from side to side for guiding it
- store of gold, silver, jewels, money, and so on
- place where a ship may let down her anchor and keep at rest
- the dry bones of a dead man or animal
- the wheel-like structure which is turned by hand for turning the rudder
- great iron hook let down to sea-bed on a chain to keep a ship at rest
- man in authority over a ship
- a room in a ship
- great mass of stone
- medical man
- false hair for covering the head, a special form of which, made white with powder, was in general use among men in the days of the story
- on(to) or in(to) a ship
- wood floor over all or part of one level of a ship
- support put under arm and used in place of a leg when it has been damaged or taken off
- chief landowner in a country place
- small firearm used with one hand
- small mountain
- the front end of a ship or boat
- men working together (for example in a ship) are one another's mates.
'Mate' is frequently used by sailors and so on in the sense of 'friend'
- outlaw of the sea, attacking ships transporting treasure
XIII : The start of my land experiences
The look of the island when I came on deck in the morning was completely changed. Though there was now no wind at all, we had got on well in the night, and were now stopped about half a mile to the south-east of the low land on the east side of the island. A great part of the island was covered by gray-colored woods. This unchanging color was, however, broken by long narrow stretches of yellow sand in the lower land, and by a great number of tall trees of the pine1 family over-topping the others-some by themselves, some in groups; but the general color was sad, and the same everywhere. The hills were wooded only on their lower slopes. Higher up they came out as tall pointed structures of uncovered stone. All were strangely formed, and 'the Spy-glass,' which was by three or four hundred feet the tallest on the island, was the strangest in form as well, going up straight to a point on almost every side, and then suddenly cut off at the top like a table.
The 'Hispaniola' was rolling deeply in the lift and fall of the sea. The booms were pulling at the cords, the rudder was jumping from side to side, and every part of the ship was giving out troubled sounds, and shaking like a building full of machines.
I had to keep a tight grip on the cords, and the earth went turning round and round before my eyes; for, though I was a good enough sailor when we were moving, this stopping and letting ourselves be rolled about like a bottle was a thing I was never able to put up with without my stomach turning over, specially in the morning before a meal.
Possibly this was the reason -- possibly it was the look of the island with its gray, sad woods and strange stone points, and the line of white water thundering onto the sharply sloping land -- at any rate, though the sun was bright and warm, and the birds were fishing and crying all round us, and I had naturally been looking forward to getting to land after being so long at sea, my heart went down, as the saying is, into my boots; and from my first view of it I was unhappy at the very thought of Treasure Island.
We had a very uninteresting morning's work before us, for there was no sign of any wind, and the long boats had to be got out and manned, and the ship pulled three or four miles round the curve of the island, and up the narrow way to the anchorage at the back of Skeleton Island. I made an offer to go in one of the boats, where I had no business to be. The heat was overpowering, and the men were protesting violently at their work. Anderson was in control of my boat, and in place of keeping the hands in order, he was protesting as loudly as the worst.
"Well," he said, using bad language, "it's not for ever.
This was to me a very bad sign; for, till that day, the men had done their work quickly and readily; but their first look at the island had made them harder to keep under control.
All the way in, Long John was by the man at the wheel giving him directions for getting the ship into the anchorage. He had a very detailed knowledge of the narrow way in; and though the man with the measuring chains got deeper water everywhere than was marked on the map, John was never uncertain.
"There's a strong pull when the water goes out," he said, "and this way through has been hollowed out, one might say, as if with a spade."
We came to a stop in the very same place where the anchor was marked on the map, about a third of a mile from the two islands, Treasure Island on one side, and Skeleton Island on the other. The sea-bed was clean sand. The noise of our anchor dropping into the sea sent up clouds of birds circling and crying over the woods, but in less than a minute they were down again, and all was quiet as before.
The place was completely shut in, with woods all round, the trees coming down to high-water mark, the land at the sea-edge flat for the most part, and the hill-tops seen at a distance in a rough half-circle, one here, one there. Two little rivers, or, more truly, two stretches of wet land, sent their water down into this basin of sea, as you might say; and the leaves round that part of the island had a sort of unhealthily bright look. From the ship nothing was to be seen of the house or the stockade,2 for they were deep among the trees; and but for the map in the Captain's cabin, we might have taken ourselves for the first who had ever been there from the time when the island came up out of the sea.
There was not a breath of air moving, and no sound but that of the waves half a mile away boiling onto the land and against the rocks outside. A strange smell was hanging over the anchorage -- a smell of death, of dead leaves and long-dead trees gone soft on the wet earth. I saw the Doctor smelling at the air like someone tasting a bad egg.
"I'm not certain about treasure," he said, "but you may have my wig if there isn't disease here."
If the behavior of the men had given cause for fear in the boat, it gave very much more when they had come aboard. They were stretched about on the deck talking together in low, angry voices. The smallest order was taken with a black look, and done slowly and without care. Even the true men seemed to have got into the same humor, for there was not one hand aboard to give a good example to another. The danger of their taking up arms against us, it was clear, was hanging over us like a thundercloud.
And it was not only we of the cabin group who saw the danger. Long John was working hard, going from group to group, doing everything in his power to keep them in order by talk and argument, and, as for a good example, he was the best possible. He was readier than ever to do things, and full of respect; he was all smiles to everyone. If an order was given, John was on his crutch in a second, with the best-humored "Ay, ay, sir!" on earth; and when there was nothing further to do, he kept up one song after another, as if in an attempt at covering up the bad humor of the rest.
Of all the troubling things on that troubling day, the fact that Long John himself was clearly in fear of an outburst seemed to be the worst.
We had a meeting in the cabin.
"Sir," said the Captain, "if I give another order, all the ship will come at us, at a run. It'll not do to take the chance. You see, sir, here it is. I get a rough answer, do I not? Well, if I give one back, there will be a fight in less than no time; if I don't, Silver will see there's some reason for my not doing so, and that will be the end of us. Now, there's only one man in a position to be of any help to us.
"And who is that?" said the Squire.
"Silver, sir," was the Captain's answer; "he has as great a desire as you and I to keep it from coming to an open fight. There have been some angry words between them; he will quickly get them to see reason if he has the chance, and my suggestion is to give him the chance. Let's give the men half a day off to go on land. If they all go, we'll keep the ship against them all. If not one of them goes, well, then we'll keep the cabin, and may God be on the side of the right. If some go, take note of my words, sir, Silver will make them come aboard again as quiet as sheep."
That was the decision we came to; pistols were made ready and given out to all the men of whose support we were certain; Hunter, Joyce, and Redruth were let into the secret, and they took the news with less surprise and better heart than we had been ready for; and then the Captain went on deck to give his talk to the men.
"My boys," said he, "it has been like an oven today, and we're all tired and not feeling very pleased with things. A walk on land will do everyone good. The boats are still in the water; you may take the two long ones, and whoever has the desire may go on land for the rest of the day. A gun will be fired half an hour before sundown."
It's my belief the thickheads had the idea that they'd be falling over treasure the minute they put a foot on land; for straight away they came out of their bad humor, with a 'Hurrah' which was given back by a far-away hill, and sent the birds up into the air again, circling and crying round the anchorage.
The Captain had the sense to get out of the way. He quickly went off the deck, letting Silver see to getting the landing group ready; and in my opinion it was a good thing that he did so. If he had been there, it would have been impossible for him any longer to seem to be unconscious of the true position. It was as clear as day. Silver was the captain, and having hard work to keep his authority. The hands who were straight -- and it was not long before it was clear that there were some such men aboard -- were, it seemed, very slow in the uptake. Or it may be truer to say that all hands were to some degree turned against us by the example of the chief trouble-makers, but some more, some less; and one or two, being straight men for the most part, were not letting themselves be pulled or pushed any farther. It is one thing to do as little as possible, and that with black looks, and quite another to take a ship by force and put to death a number of men who have done no wrong.
At last, however, the group was complete. Six hands were to keep to the ship, and the other thirteen, with Silver, went to get into the boats.
Then it was that there came into my head the first of the unreasoning impulses which in the end did so much to keep us from death. If Silver was keeping six men on the ship, it was clear that our group would not be able to take control of it and keep the others off; but as there were only six of them, it was equally clear that the cabin group had no present need of my help. I straight away had the idea of going on land. In a second I had got quietly over the side, and made myself small in the forward part of the nearest boat, and almost at the same time she was pushed off.
No one gave any attention to me, only the man at the front oar3 said, "Is that you, Jim? Keep your head down." But Silver, from the other boat, gave a sharp look over, crying out to see if it was me; and from that minute I wasn't very happy about what I had done.
The men had a competition to see who would get to land first; but the boat I was in, starting a little before the other, and being at the same time of less weight and better manned, got far in front, and the bow was among the trees on the water's edge, and I, gripping a branch, had got myself out and into the nearest undergrowth, while Silver and the rest were still a hundred yards off.
"Jim, Jim!" came his cry.
But naturally I gave no attention, and with bent body I went jumping and pushing my way through, running straight before my nose, till I was unable to go on running any longer.
1. pine : sorts of evergreen tree with needle-like leaves in groups of two or more, much valued for wood.
2. stockade : wall of upright sticks fixed very near together in earth, for keeping off attack and so on.
3. oar : long-bladed instrument of wood pulled by hand against support on side of boat and forcing it through water.
XIV : The first blow
I was so happy at having got away from Long John, that I let myself take some pleasure in the walk, looking about me with interest at the strange land I was in.
I had gone across a very wet part full of water-side trees, tall water-loving grasses, and strange, unnatural-looking plants; and I had now come out on the edge of an open stretch of waving, sand-covered country about a mile long, with one or two pines, and a great number of low, twisted trees, not unlike the oak4 in form, but with light-colored leaves like water-side frees. On the far side of the open space was one of the hills, with two strange-looking tops formed of masses of rock, bright in the sun.
Now for the first time I became conscious of the pleasure of discovery. There was no one living on the island; my shipmates were far away; and before me the only living things were animals and birds. I went this way and that among the trees. Here and there were flowering plants which I had never seen before; here and there I saw snakes, and one, lifting its head from a narrow shelf of rock, made a strange noise at me. I had no idea till later that his bite was poisoned, and that I had been very near death at that minute.
Then I came to a long mass of these oak-like trees -- evergreen oaks they were named, as came to my knowledge later -- stretching low over the sand like blackberry plants, the branches strangely twisted, the leaves forming a solid mass, like a roof. This growth went down from the top of one of the sand-hills, becoming wider and taller as it went, till it came to the edge of the wide, green stretch of low, wet land, through which the nearest of the little rivers went, as through a sponge, to the anchorage. The wet land was steaming in the strong sun, and the outline of the Spy-glass was dancing up and down through the heat mist.
Suddenly there came the sound of something moving among the tall grasses; a bird went into the air with a cry, another came after, and in almost no time, over all the wet land, a great cloud of birds was hanging, crying and circling in the air. I was straight away certain that some of my shipmates were coming near, on the edge of the wet waste. And I was not wrong; for not long after there came to my ears from a distance the low sound of a man's voice, which by degrees got louder and nearer.
This put me in great fear, and I went on my hands and knees under the cover of the nearest evergreen oak, and, seated there, with legs pulled up arid back bent, I kept as quiet as possible, waiting for more sounds.
Another voice gave an answer; and then the first voice, which it was now clear was Silver's, again took up the story, and went on for a long time, stopping only when the other man put in an infrequent word. By the sound, they seemed to be talking very seriously, and almost angrily; but no word came clearly to my hearing.
At last the two men seemed to have come to a stop, and possibly to have taken a seat, for not only did they not come any nearer, but the birds themselves became more quiet, and went back again to their places.
And now the thought came to me that I was not doing my work; that, as I had done such a foolish thing as to come on land with these pirates, it was my business to make some use of it by at least overhearing their discussions; and that I clearly had to get as near to them as possible, under the helping cover of the twisted trees.
I was able to get a good idea of the direction of the men, not only from the sound of their voices, but from the behavior of the one or two birds which were still hanging about in fear over the heads of the unlooked-for company.
Making my way on my hands and knees, I went without stopping, but slowly, in this direction; till at last, lifting my head to an opening among the leaves, I was able to see straight down into a little green hollow near the wet land, thickly circled with frees, where Long John Silver and another of the ship's company were talking face to face.
The sun was coming down strongly on them. Silver's hat was near him on the grass, and his great, smooth, white face, all wet with the heat, was lifted to the other man's as if to a friend for help.
"Mate," he was saying, "it's because I've got such a high opinion of you, valuing you like gold dust -- gold dust, and that's a fact! If I wasn't a friend to you from the first, would I be here giving you news of your danger? All's over -- you ye no power to do anything about it; it's to keep you yourself from death that I'm talking, and if it came to the ears of one of the bad ones, where would I be, Tom -- now, in your opinion, where would I be?"
"Silver," said the other man -- and I saw that he was not only red in the face, but talking from a dry throat, in a voice shaking like a tight cord -- "Silver," says he, "you're old, and you're straight, or has the name for being so; and moreover you've money, which a number of poor sailors hasn't; and you're a good one in danger, if I'm not wrong. And will you say that you'll let yourself be pushed into this by that sort of low-down cut-throat? Not you! As certain as God sees me, I'd let my hand be cut off before I'd do it. If I'm false to ----"
And then suddenly he was stopped by a noise. Before me was one of our supporters -- well, here, at the very same minute, I had news of another. From far away out in the wet land there came, suddenly, a sound like an angry cry, then another on top of it; and then one shocking, very long, sharp cry of pain. The rocks of the Spy-glass gave back the sound time after time; all the birds were in the air again, with a great noise of wings, making the sky dark; and long after everything was at peace again, the warm quiet broken only by the sound of the birds as they came back to rest and the low boom of the sea in the distance, that cry of death was still sounding in my head.
Tom had given a jump at the sound, like a horse at a sharp touch of the whip; but Silver had not made the smallest move. He kept his place, resting quietly on his crutch, watching Tom like a snake about to make an attack.
"John!" said the sailor, stretching out his hand.
"Hands off!" was Silver's cry, jumping back a yard, as it seemed to me, as quick and certain as an expert trained to do tricks with his body.
"Hands off, if you say so, John Silver," said the other. "It's the knowledge that you've done wrong which puts you in fear of me. But, for the love of Cod, what was that?"
"That?" said Silver, smiling all the time, but more than ever on the watch, his eye nothing more than a pin-point in his great face, but bright as a bit of glass. "That? Oh, that was Alan, very probably."
At this poor Tom made answer like a man.
"Alan!" he said. "Then may God take care of him, for he's a true seaman! And as for you, John Silver, long you've been a mate o' mine, but you're mate o' mine no longer. If I'm to be put to death like a dog, I'll go to my death doing what's right. You've put an end to Alan have you? Do the same to me, if you're able. But you'll not make me give up.
And with that, this great-hearted man, turning his back to the cook without another word, went walking off in the direction of the sea. But he did not go far. With a cry, John took a grip of the branch of a free, got the crutch quickly under his arm, and sent it with great force through the air after him.
It went straight into the middle of poor Tom's back, point first, giving him a violent blow. Up went his hands, he made a sound like letting out a long breath, then went flat on his face.
It was impossible to say if he was wounded much or little. Most probably, judging from the sound of the blow, his back was broken straight away. But he had no time given him to come round. Silver, quick as a monkey, even without leg or crutch, was on top of him in no time, and twice had sent the blade of his knife as deep as possible into that quiet body. In my secret place I was in hearing of his loud breathing when he gave the blows.
I'm not certain if I became truly unconscious, but what I an certain is that for a short time everything before me went swimming away from me in a circling mist; Silver and the birds, and the tall Spy-glass hill-top, going round and round and upside down before my eyes, and all sorts of bells sounding and faraway voices crying loudly in my ears.
When I came to my senses again, the unnatural devil had got himself in order, his crutch under his arm, his hat on his head. There in front of him was Tom, stretched unmoving on the grass; but the man who had put him to death took no note of him at all, turning his attention to cleaning the blood from his knife with a bit of grass. All the other things were unchanged, the sun still coming down cruelly on the steaming wet land and the tall point of the mountain, and it was almost outside my power of belief that a man had in fact been put to death, a man's existence cruelly cut short, only a minute earlier, before my eyes.
But now John put his hand into his pocket, took out a whistle, and sent out one or two notes with it, which went sounding far across the heated air. What this was a sign for was, naturally, not clear to me; but straight away my fears were awake. More men would be coming. I might be seen. They had by now put to death two of our Supporters; after Tom and Alan, might it not be my turn?
Straight away I made a start at getting myself out and going back again on my bands and knees, as quickly and quietly as possible, to the more open part of the wood.
While I was doing so, there were cries coming and going between the old pirate and his friends, and this sound of danger gave me wings. When I had got clear of the undergrowth, I went running off at a greater rate than ever before, almost not caring about the direction of my flight, so long as it took me away from those men of death; and as I went, my fear became greater and greater till I was almost off my head.
In fact, was it possible for anyone to be in a worse position than I? When the gun was fired, how was I to get myself to go down to the boats among those devils, whose hands were still red with blood? Would not the first of them who saw me give my neck a twist like a bird's? Would not the very fact of my not being there be a clear sign of my fear of them, and so of my knowledge of their crimes? It was all over for me, I said to myself. I would never again see the 'Hispaniola'; or the Squire, or the Doctor, or the Captain. There was nothing for me but death from being without food, or death by the hands of the pirates.
All this time, as I say, I was still running, and, without being conscious of the fact, I had come near to the foot of the hill with the two points, and had got into a part of the island where the evergreen oaks came up more thinly, and seemed more like normal frees in their growth and size. Mixed with these were pines here and there, some fifty, some nearer seventy feet high. The air, moreover, had a more healthy smell than down near the wet land.
And here a new shock made me come to a stop with a hammering heart.
4. oak : great tree, common in England, valued for wood.