فصل 11-1

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فصل 11-1

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

The “Jolly Roger”

As I dropped beside the first of the bound men I looked over my shoulder and saw Jack rushing upon Yellow Hair, swinging his club.

The chief leaped back as quick as a cat, and at the same time aimed a blow at Jack. Now it was Jack’s turn to spring aside, and then the two of them were fighting fiercely.

I tore at the cords that held the man’s legs, while Peterkin went along the line slashing away with his knife. When I looked up again I saw Yellow Hair swing up his club. Then Jack darted in and struck the savage between the eyes with all his force. Yellow Hair fell forward and Jack, staggering, went down beneath the body of the chief.

The other savages yelled with fury. A dozen clubs were swung high, ready to crush Jack’s skull, but the men hesitated for a moment, as if afraid to strike their chief.

That moment saved Jack’s life. All the prisoners were free, and Peterkin and I led them across the sands, in a howling, shrieking mob, grabbing for stones and fallen clubs as we went.

A fierce hand-to-hand struggle followed. Seven of Yellow Hair’s men went down beneath the clubs of the prisoners, who knew well enough that they were fighting for their lives. Our enemies were taken completely by surprise and, I think, felt disheartened because of the fall of their chief. They were also overawed by the sweeping fury of Jack, who had no sooner shaken himself free of the chief ‘s body than he rushed into the midst of them and struck down three men in as many blows.

Inside ten minutes all our opponents were either knocked down or made prisoners, bound hand and foot, and stretched out in a line upon the seashore.

We stood there, breathing hard, while the savages crowded around and jabbered away in their own tongue, which sounded so strange to our ears. I saw Jack take hold of the hand of the big man who was their chief (and who seemed to have recovered from the blow that had struck him down) and shake it warmly to show that we were friends. Then his eye fell upon the poor child that had been thrown upon the shore. Dropping the chief ‘s hand, he hurried towards it and found that it was still alive. Its mother was lying upon the sand where she had fallen, and Jack carried the baby to her and laid its warm little cheek on hers. The effect was wonderful. The woman opened her eyes, felt the child, let out a scream of joy, and clasped the baby in her arms.

Jack turned away.

“Come on,” he said to Peterkin and me. “Let’s take them to the camp and hunt up some food.”

Within half an hour all the savages were seated on the ground in front of our camp making a hearty meal of a cold roast pig, several ducks, some cold fish, and an unlimited supply of fruits.

As soon as we had eaten, we three, who now felt thoroughly exhausted, threw ourselves down on our beds and immediately fell fast asleep. Then the savages followed our example, and in a little while the whole camp was lost to the world.

The sun was up when I awoke, and the savages were already awake. We made a cold breakfast; then Jack signed to the savages to follow him down to the beach, where we had left the prisoners forgotten overnight.

They seemed none the worse of their night on the shore and they ate greedily of the food we gave them. Jack then began to dig a hole in the sand with one of the native paddles and after working at it for some time, he pointed to it and to the dead bodies that still lay stretched out upon the beach. The savages saw what he wanted, ran for their paddles, and inside an hour had dug a hole big enough to make a common grave.

The savages stayed with us for three days. During that time we made every effort to talk with them, but all we could learn was that their chief was named Tararo and that the young girl was called Avatea.

On the fourth day the whole party made ready to depart. We helped them to load their canoe with fruit and provisions, and to put the prisoners in it. Since we could not speak to say goodbye, we went through the ceremony of shaking hands. As soon as Tararo had done that, however, he took hold of Jack and rubbed noses with him. Then he did the same to Peterkin and me. I didn’t think that was much fun.

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