PART THREE: My Shore Adventure
Chapter 15: The Man of the Island
FROM the side of the hill, which was here steep and
stony, a spout of gravel was dislodged and fell
rattling and bounding through the trees. My eyes
turned instinctively in that direction, and I saw a
figure leap with great rapidity behind the trunk of a
pine. What it was, whether bear or man or monkey, I
could in no wise tell. It seemed dark and shaggy; more
I knew not. But the terror of this new apparition
brought me to a stand.
I was now, it seemed, cut off upon both sides; behind
me the murderers, before me this lurking nondescript.
And immediately I began to prefer the dangers that I
knew to those I knew not. Silver himself appeared less
terrible in contrast with this creature of the woods,
and I turned on my heel, and looking sharply behind me
over my shoulder, began to retrace my steps in the
direction of the boats.
Instantly the figure reappeared, and making a wide
circuit, began to head me off. I was tired, at any
rate; but had I been as fresh as when I rose, I could
see it was in vain for me to contend in speed with such
an adversary. From trunk to trunk the creature flitted
like a deer, running manlike on two legs, but unlike
any man that I had ever seen, stooping almost double as
it ran. Yet a man it was, I could no longer be in
doubt about that.
I began to recall what I had heard of cannibals. I was
within an ace of calling for help. But the mere fact
that he was a man, however wild, had somewhat reassured
me, and my fear of Silver began to revive in proportion.
I stood still, therefore, and cast about for some method
of escape; and as I was so thinking, the recollection of
my pistol flashed into my mind. As soon as I remembered
I was not defenceless, courage glowed again in my heart
and I set my face resolutely for this man of the island
and walked briskly towards him.
He was concealed by this time behind another tree
trunk; but he must have been watching me closely, for
as soon as I began to move in his direction he
reappeared and took a step to meet me. Then he
hesitated, drew back, came forward again, and at last,
to my wonder and confusion, threw himself on his knees
and held out his clasped hands in supplication.