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宝岛(Treasure Island) 二十三 潮水急退

双击单词可弹出解释框  时间:2010-07-16 21:14  作者:

THE coracle - as I had ample reason to know before I was done with her - was a very safe boat for a person of my height and weight, both buoyant and clever in a seaway; but she was the most cross- grained lop-sided craft to manage. Do as you please, she always made more leeway than anything else, and turning round and round was the manoeuvre she was best at. Even Ben Gunn himself has admitted that she was `queer to handle till you knew her way.'

Certainly I did not know her way. She turned in every direction but the one I was bound to go; the most part of the time we were broadside on, and I am very sure I never should have made the ship at all but for the tide. By good fortune, paddle as I pleased, the tide was still sweeping me down; and there lay the Hispaniola right in the fairway, hardly to be missed.

First she loomed before me like a blot of something yet blacker than darkness, then her spars and hull began to take shape, and the next moment, as it seemed (for, the further I went, the brisker grew the current of the ebb), I was alongside of her hawser, and had laid hold.

The hawser was as taut as a bowstring, and the current so strong she pulled upon her anchor. All round the hull, in the blackness, the rippling current bubbled and chattered like a little mountain stream. One cut with my sea-gully, and the Hispaniola would go humming down the tide.

So far so good; but it next occurred to my recollection that a taut hawser, suddenly cut, is a thing as dangerous as a kicking horse. Ten to one, if I were so foolhardy as to cut the Hispaniola from her anchor, I and the coracle would be knocked clean out of the water.

This brought me to a full stop, and if fortune had not again particularly favoured me, I should have had to abandon my design. But the light airs which had begun blowing from the south-east and south had hauled round after nightfall into the south-west. Just while I was meditating, a puff came, caught the Hispaniola, and forced her up into the current; and to my great joy, I felt the hawser slacken in my grasp, and the hand by which I held it dip for a second under water.

With that I made my mind up, took out my gully, opened it with my teeth, and cut one strand after another, till the vessel swung only by two. Then I lay quiet, waiting to sever these last when the strain should be once more lightened by a breath of wind.

All this time I had heard the sound of loud voices from the cabin; but, to say truth, my mind had been so entirely take up with other thoughts that I had scarcely given ear. Now, however, when I had nothing else to do, I began to pay more heed.

One I recognised for the coxswain's, Israel Hands, that had been Flint's gunner in former days. The other was, of course, my friend of the red night-cap. Both men were plainly the worse of drink, and they were still drinking; for, even while I was listening, one of them, with a drunken cry, opened the stern window and threw out something, which I divined to be an empty bottle. But they were not only tipsy; it was plain that they were furiously angry. Oaths flew like hailstones, and every now and then there came forth such an explosion as I thought was sure to end in blows. But each time the quarrel passed off, and the voices grumbled lower for a while, until the next crisis came, and, in its turn, passed away without result.

On shore, I could see the glow of the great camp fire burning warmly through the shore-side trees. Someone was singing, a dull, old, droning sailor's song, with a droop and a quaver at the end of every verse, and seemingly no end to it at all but the patience of the singer. I had heard it on the voyage more than once, and remembered these words:--

`But one man of her crew alive, What put to sea with seventy-five.'

And I thought it was a ditty rather too dolefully appropriate for a company that had met such cruel losses in the morning. But, indeed, from what I saw, all these buccaneers were as callous as the sea they sailed on.

At last the breeze came; the schooner sidled and drew nearer in the dark; I felt the hawser slacken once more, and with a good, tough effort, cut the last fibres through.

The breeze had but little action on the coracle, and I was almost instantly swept against the bows of the Hispaniola. At the same time the schooner began to turn upon her heel, spinning slowly, end for end, across the current.

I wrought like a fiend, for I expected every moment to be swamped; and since I found I could not push the coracle directly off, I now shoved straight astern. At length I was clear of my dangerous neighbour; and just as I gave the last impulsion, my hands came across a light cord that was trailing overboard across the stern bulwarks. Instantly I grasped it.

Why I should have done so I can hardly say. It was at first mere instinct; but once I had it in my hands and found it fast, curiosity began to get the upper hand, and I determined I should have one look through the cabin window.

I pulled in hand over hand on the cord, and, when I judged myself near enough, rose at infinite risk to about half my height, and thus commanded the roof and a slice of the interior of the cabin.

By this time the schooner and her little consort were gliding pretty swiftly through the water; indeed, we had already fetched up level with the camp fire. The ship was talking, as sailors say, loudly, treading the innumerable ripples with an incessant weltering splash; and until I got my eye above the window-sill I could not comprehend why the watchmen had taken no alarm. One glance, however, was sufficient; and it was only one glance that I durst take from that unsteady skiff. It showed me Hands and his companion locked together in deadly wrestle, each with a hand upon the other's throat.

I dropped upon the thwart again, none too soon, for I was near overboard. I could see nothing for the moment but these two furious, encrimsoned faces, swaying together under the smoky lamp; and I shut my eyes to let them grow once more familiar with the darkness.

The endless ballad had come to an end at last, and the whole diminished company about the camp fire had broken into the chorus I had heard so often:--

`Fifteen men on the dead man's chest - Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest - Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!'
I was just thinking how busy drink and the devil were at that very moment in the cabin of the Hispaniola, where I was surprised by a sudden lurch of the coracle. At the same moment she yawed sharply and seemed to change her course. The speed in the meantime had strangely increased.

I opened my eyes at once. All round me were little ripples, combing over with a sharp, bristling sound and slightly phosphorescent. The Hispaniola herself, a few yards in whose wake I was still being whirled along, seemed to stagger in her course, and I saw her spars toss a little against the blackness of the night; nay, as I looked longer, I made sure she also was wheeling to the southward.

I glanced over my shoulder, and my heart jumped against my ribs. There, right behind me, was the glow of the camp fire. The current had turned at right angles, sweeping round along with it the tall schooner and the little dancing coracle; ever quickening, ever bubbling higher, ever muttering louder, it went spinning through the narrows for the open sea.

Suddenly the schooner in front of me gave a violent yaw, turning, perhaps, through twenty degrees; and almost at the same moment one shout followed another from on board; I could hear feet pounding on the companion ladder; and I knew that the two drunkards had at last been interrupted in their quarrel and awakened to a sense of their disaster.

I lay down flat in the bottom of that wretched skiff, and devoutly recommended my spirit to its Maker. At the end of the straits, I made sure we must fall into some bar of raging breakers, where all my troubles would be ended speedily; and though I could, perhaps, bear to die, I could not bear to look upon my fate as it approached.

So I must have lain for hours, continually beaten to and fro upon the billows, now and again wetted with flying sprays, and never ceasing to expect death at the next plunge. Gradually weariness grew upon me; a numbness, an occasional stupor, fell upon my mind even in the midst of my terrors; until sleep at last supervened, and in my sea-tossed coracle I lay and dreamed of home and the old `Admiral Benbow.'

那只小艇对于我这样体重和身高的人来说,非常安全。我有充分的体会,直到不再用它为止。小艇既轻便又灵巧,但划起来又很别扭,好向一边偏。无论你怎样划,它总是比其他船更好偏向下风方向,还来回打转,且精于此道。甚至本·葛恩自己也承认,这小船“不好对付,除非你摸透了它的脾气”。

我当然不知道它的脾气。它能转向任何一个方向,就是不肯走我要去的方向,我大部分时间坐在船的内侧,要不是有潮水帮助,我相信我这辈子也无法靠近大船。算我运气好,无论我怎样划,潮水始终把我往下冲,而伊斯班袅拉号正巧在航道上,错过它也不太可能。

大船最初黑糊糊的一团出现在我面前。渐渐地显现出桅杆。帆桁和船体。紧接着由于我愈往前,退潮愈急,小船已接近锚索了,我就立刻把它抓在手里。

锚索绷得像弓弦一样紧,可见用多大的力量才把船拴住。夜色中泛着细浪的潮水在船身周围汩汩作响,犹如山间流淌的泉水。只要我用刀把锚索砍断,船就会被潮水冲走。

到目前为止,一切都很顺利,但我忽然意识到,绷紧的绳索一经砍断,我的小船就会像被马蹄踢了一样翻进水里。这是由于小船与大船的比例相差太悬殊了。

一想到这儿,我就停了下来,如果不是幸运之神再次垂青于我,我可能会干脆放弃原来的打算。但正在此时,从东南面,一会儿又从南面吹来的微风,在夜色中转成了西南风。我正在犹豫不决时,一阵风吹来,潮水把伊斯班袅拉号高高拱起。令我喜出望外的是被我抓紧的锚索松了一下,有那么一瞬间,我的手浸人了水中。

于是我当机立断,掏出折刀,用牙齿把它拉开,开始一股股地割断绳索,直剩下最后两股绳牵紧船身。于是我停了一会儿,静候下一阵风能再次使锚索松弛下来,以便割断最后两股。

整个这段时间,我一直听到从船舱里传出的大声谈话,但是,说句实话,我的心思一直在别的事情上,压根儿没去听。然而现在由于我没有什么事可做,便开始留心听他们讲话。

我听出其中一个声音是副水手长伊斯莱尔·汉兹的,他曾经做过弗林特的炮手。另一个声音,当然是出自那个戴红帽子的家伙。两个人显然已酒醉如泥,但还在喝。因为在我侧耳聆听时,他们中的一个推开尾窗,随着一声大喊,扔出一件东西来,我猜是一只空酒瓶。但他们不光是喝醉了,看起来还暴跳如雷,吵骂声像雹子一样,不时达到高潮。我总以为这次定会打起来,但是每次对骂都会平息下去,声音逐渐压下来,转为嘟囔声。过一会儿,危机重新爆发,但又会转危为安。

在岸上,我可以看到一大堆熊熊燃烧的篝火,从岸边的树丛中透出红光来,有人在唱一首老歌,一支单调的水手歌谣。歌谣的每一句的尾音都唱得发颤,都要降低,没完没了,除非唱歌的人自己不耐烦了才不唱了。在航行中我听到过不只一次,还记得其中两句是这样的:

  七十五个汉子驾船出海;只剩一人活着回来。

我想对于今天早上伤亡惨重的一群海盗来说,这只悲伤的调子再合适不过了。但是,接下来我看到的是,这群海盗同大海一样对此毫无感觉。

终于又吹来一阵海风,大船在黑暗中侧着船身向我靠近了些,我感觉到锚素又松了一下,就用力把最后两股完全割断。

小艇只稍稍被风推了一下,我几乎一下子对准伊斯班袅拉号的船头撞去。与此同时,大帆船开始慢慢掉转船身,在潮水的带动下头尾倒了个过儿。

我拼命地划桨,时刻都提心吊胆怕被大船带翻。我发现我无论怎样也不能把小艇从大船身边划开,就手撑着大船把小艇划向大船尾部,这才逃离了险境。就在我撑罢最后一桨时,我的手仍然碰到一条从后舷墙上垂挂下来的绳子,就一下子把它抓在手里。

我为什么要抓住它,我自己也说不清楚。起初只是下意识的动作,但我既然已经抓住了它,并发现绳子另一端栓得很牢,好奇心开始占了上风。我决心要向船舱里面张望一下。

我两手交替地抓住绳子往大船上靠,当我估计已靠得够近时,就冒着生命危险升高大约半个身体,见到了船舱的舱顶和舱内的一个角落。

正在这时,大船和小艇正在迅速地顺着潮水向下滑,最终滑向和岸边的篝火一齐。按水手的说法,大船嗓门大,也就是溅起的哗哗的水声不绝于耳。但是在我的眼睛高过窗棂之前,我始终弄不清楚守卫的人为什么不发警报信号。在这么不稳的小船上我只能看一眼,但只这一眼就看得明明白白:原来汉兹和他的伙伴都用一只手掐住对方的脖子扭作一团,在做拼死的搏斗。

我又及时跳回到座板上,差一点儿就掉进水里。刹时间我什么也看不见,只有两张凶神恶煞似的脸在熏黑了的灯下晃荡着,显得通红。我闭上眼睛,让它们重新适应黑暗。

没完没了的歌谣终于停了下来。篝火旁所剩无几的海盗又唱起我听腻了的那个调子:

  十五个汉子扒上了死人胸——哟——嗬——嗬,再来郎姆酒一大瓶!酗酒和魔鬼使其余的人都丧了命——哟——嗬——嗬,再来他郎姆酒一大瓶!

我正思量着,酒和魔鬼在这伊斯班袅拉号的船舱里想必正忙得不可开交,不曾想小艇突然一斜来了个急转弯,好像要改变航向,而这时我又突然感到小艇奇怪地加速了。

我立刻睁开双眼。我周围伴随有刺耳的流水声和波光粼粼的细浪。我始终未能脱离伊斯班袅拉号后面几码的漩涡,而大船本身好像也在摇摇摆摆地转变方向,我看见船的桅杆在漆黑的夜幕的映衬下颠了一下,就敢断定大船也正朝南转弯。

我回头一望,心吓得差点蹦出来,我背后就是红红的篝火。潮水已转向右边,把高高的大船和我那不断颠簸的小艇一并带走。水流愈来愈急,浪花愈溅愈高,潮声愈来愈响。潮水一路旋转着冲向那个狭小的口子向宽阔的海洋退去。

突然,我前面的大船猛地一歪,大约转了一个二十度的弯。几乎就在同时,从船上传来两次叫喊声,我听到了匆匆登上升降口梯子的脚步声。我知道两个醉鬼最终停止了那场搏斗,终于意识到灾难即将来临。

我趴在可怜的小艇底部,把我的灵魂虔诚地交给造物主安排。到了海峡的尽头,我相信我们必定会被汹涌的波浪所吞没,那时所有的烦恼都将消失得无影无踪。死对我来说并没什么可怕,可眼看着厄运临头却让我无法忍受。

我这样将近趴了几个小时,不断地被海浪抛来荡去。不时地被海浪打湿衣裳,每次都担心会被下一次大浪抛入海中。渐渐地,疲倦使我在惊恐万状的情况下打起盹来,最后终于睡着了。我躺在惊涛骇浪中的一叶小舟里,梦见了家乡和我的“本葆海军上将”老店。


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