only the rustle of the redescending birds and the boom of the distant surges disturbed the languor of the afternoon.
Tom had leaped at the sound like a horse at the spur; but Silver had not winked an eye. He stood where he was, resting lightly on his crutch, watching his companion like a snake about to spring.
"John!" said the sailor, stretching out his hand.
"Hands off!" cried Silver, leaping back a yard, as it seemed to me, with the speed and security of a trained gymnast.
"Hands off, if you like, John Silver," said the other. "It's a black conscience that can make you feared of me. But, in Heaven's name, tell me what was that?"
"That?" returned Silver, smiling away, but warier than ever, his eye a mere pin-point in his big face, but gleaming like a crumb of glass. 'That? Oh, I reckon that '11 be Alan."
And at this poor Tom flashed out like a hero.
"Alan!" he cried. "Then rest his soul for a true seaman! And as for you, John Silver, long you've been a mate of mine, but you're mate of mine no more. If I die like a dog, I'll die in my dooty. You've killed Alan, have you? Kill me, too, if you can. But I defies you."
And with that this brave fellow turned his back directly on the cook, and set off walking for the beach. But he was not destined to go far. With a cry John seized the branch of a tree, whipped the crutch out of his armpit, and sent that uncouth missile hurtling through the air. It struck poor Tom, point foremost, and with stunning violence, right between the shoulders in the middle of his back. His hands flew up, he gave a sort of gasp, and fell.
Whether he were injured much or little, none could ever tell. Like enough, to judge from the sound, his back was broken on the spot. But he had no time given him to recover. Silver, agile as a monkey, even without leg or crutch, was on the top of him next moment, and had twice buried his knife up to the hilt in that defenseless body. From my place of ambush I could hear him pant aloud as he struck the blows.