“Pieces of Eight”

Owingtothecantofthevessel,themastshungfaroutoverthewater,andfrommyperchonthecross-treesIhadnothingbelowmebutthesurfaceofthebay.Hands,whowasnotsofarup,wasinconsequencenearertotheshipandfellbetweenmeandthebulwarks.Heroseoncetothesurfaceinalatheroffoamandbloodandthensankagainforgood.Asthewatersettled,Icouldseehimlyinghuddledtogetherontheclean,brightsandintheshadowofthevessel’ssides.Afishortwowhippedpasthisbody.Sometimes,bythequiveringofthewater,heappearedtomovealittle,asifheweretryingtorise.Buthewasdeadenough,forallthat,beingbothshotanddrowned,andwasfoodforfishintheveryplacewherehehaddesignedmyslaughter.

IwasnosoonercertainofthisthanIbegantofeelsick,faint,andterrified.Thehotbloodwasrunningovermybackandchest.Thedirk,whereithadpinnedmyshouldertothemast,seemedtoburnlikeahotiron;yetitwasnotsomuchtheserealsufferingsthatdistressedme,forthese,itseemedtome,Icouldbearwithoutamurmur;itwasthehorrorIhaduponmymindoffallingfromthecross-treesintothatstillgreenwater,besidethebodyofthecoxswain.

Iclungwithbothhandstillmynailsached,andIshutmyeyesasiftocoveruptheperil.Graduallymymindcamebackagain,mypulsesquieteddowntoamorenaturaltime,andIwasoncemoreinpossessionofmyself.

Itwasmyfirstthoughttopluckforththedirk,buteitheritstucktoohardormynervefailedme,andIdesistedwithaviolentshudder.Oddlyenough,thatveryshudderdidthebusiness.Theknife,infact,hadcomethenearestintheworldtomissingmealtogether;itheldmebyamerepinchofskin,andthistheshuddertoreaway.

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