Part 4 out of 5
choose but suppose she was deserted. If not, the men
were lying drunk below, where I might batten them down,
perhaps, and do what I chose with the ship.
For some time she had been doing the worse thing
possible for me--standing still. She headed nearly due
south, yawing, of course, all the time. Each time she
fell off, her sails partly filled, and these brought
her in a moment right to the wind again. I have said
this was the worst thing possible for me, for helpless
as she looked in this situation, with the canvas cracking
like cannon and the blocks trundling and banging on the
deck, she still continued to run away from me, not only
with the speed of the current, but by the whole amount
of her leeway, which was naturally great.
But now, at last, I had my chance. The breeze fell for
some seconds, very low, and the current gradually
turning her, the HISPANIOLA revolved slowly round
her centre and at last presented me her stern, with the
cabin window still gaping open and the lamp over the
table still burning on into the day. The main-sail
hung drooped like a banner. She was stock-still but
for the current.
For the last little while I had even lost, but now
redoubling my efforts, I began once more to overhaul
I was not a hundred yards from her when the wind came
again in a clap; she filled on the port tack and was
off again, stooping and skimming like a swallow.
My first impulse was one of despair, but my second was
towards joy. Round she came, till she was broadside on
to me--round still till she had covered a half and then
two thirds and then three quarters of the distance that
separated us. I could see the waves boiling white
under her forefoot. Immensely tall she looked to me
from my low station in the coracle.
And then, of a sudden, I began to comprehend. I had
scarce time to think--scarce time to act and save
myself. I was on the summit of one swell when the
schooner came stooping over the next. The bowsprit was
over my head. I sprang to my feet and leaped, stamping
the coracle under water. With one hand I caught the
jib-boom, while my foot was lodged between the stay and
the brace; and as I still clung there panting, a dull
blow told me that the schooner had charged down upon
and struck the coracle and that I was left without
retreat on the HISPANIOLA.
I Strike the Jolly Roger
I HAD scarce gained a position on the bowsprit when the
flying jib flapped and filled upon the other tack, with
a report like a gun. The schooner trembled to her keel
under the reverse, but next moment, the other sails still
drawing, the jib flapped back again and hung idle.
This had nearly tossed me off into the sea; and now I
lost no time, crawled back along the bowsprit, and
tumbled head foremost on the deck.
I was on the lee side of the forecastle, and the main-
sail, which was still drawing, concealed from me a
certain portion of the after-deck. Not a soul was to
be seen. The planks, which had not been swabbed since
the mutiny, bore the print of many feet, and an empty
bottle, broken by the neck, tumbled to and fro like a
live thing in the scuppers.
Suddenly the HISPANIOLA came right into the wind. The
jibs behind me cracked aloud, the rudder slammed to, the
whole ship gave a sickening heave and shudder, and at the
same moment the main-boom swung inboard, the sheet groaning
in the blocks, and showed me the lee after-deck.
There were the two watchmen, sure enough: red-cap on
his back, as stiff as a handspike, with his arms
stretched out like those of a crucifix and his teeth
showing through his open lips; Israel Hands propped
against the bulwarks, his chin on his chest, his hands
lying open before him on the deck, his face as white,
under its tan, as a tallow candle.
For a while the ship kept bucking and sidling like a
vicious horse, the sails filling, now on one tack, now
on another, and the boom swinging to and fro till the
mast groaned aloud under the strain. Now and again too
there would come a cloud of light sprays over the
bulwark and a heavy blow of the ship's bows against the
swell; so much heavier weather was made of it by this
great rigged ship than by my home-made, lop-sided
coracle, now gone to the bottom of the sea.
At every jump of the schooner, red-cap slipped to and
fro, but--what was ghastly to behold--neither his
attitude nor his fixed teeth-disclosing grin was anyway
disturbed by this rough usage. At every jump too,
Hands appeared still more to sink into himself and
settle down upon the deck, his feet sliding ever the
farther out, and the whole body canting towards the
stern, so that his face became, little by little, hid
from me; and at last I could see nothing beyond his ear
and the frayed ringlet of one whisker.
At the same time, I observed, around both of them,
splashes of dark blood upon the planks and began to
feel sure that they had killed each other in their
While I was thus looking and wondering, in a calm
moment, when the ship was still, Israel Hands turned
partly round and with a low moan writhed himself back
to the position in which I had seen him first. The
moan, which told of pain and deadly weakness, and the
way in which his jaw hung open went right to my heart.
But when I remembered the talk I had overheard from the
apple barrel, all pity left me.
I walked aft until I reached the main-mast.
"Come aboard, Mr. Hands," I said ironically.
He rolled his eyes round heavily, but he was too far
gone to express surprise. All he could do was to utter
one word, "Brandy."
It occurred to me there was no time to lose, and dodging
the boom as it once more lurched across the deck, I
slipped aft and down the companion stairs into the cabin.
It was such a scene of confusion as you can hardly
fancy. All the lockfast places had been broken open in
quest of the chart. The floor was thick with mud where
ruffians had sat down to drink or consult after wading
in the marshes round their camp. The bulkheads, all
painted in clear white and beaded round with gilt, bore
a pattern of dirty hands. Dozens of empty bottles
clinked together in corners to the rolling of the ship.
One of the doctor's medical books lay open on the
table, half of the leaves gutted out, I suppose, for
pipelights. In the midst of all this the lamp still
cast a smoky glow, obscure and brown as umber.
I went into the cellar; all the barrels were gone, and
of the bottles a most surprising number had been drunk
out and thrown away. Certainly, since the mutiny
began, not a man of them could ever have been sober.
Foraging about, I found a bottle with some brandy left,
for Hands; and for myself I routed out some biscuit,
some pickled fruits, a great bunch of raisins, and a
piece of cheese. With these I came on deck, put down
my own stock behind the rudder head and well out of the
coxswain's reach, went forward to the water-breaker,
and had a good deep drink of water, and then, and not
till then, gave Hands the brandy.
He must have drunk a gill before he took the bottle
from his mouth.
"Aye," said he, "by thunder, but I wanted some o' that!"
I had sat down already in my own corner and begun to eat.
"Much hurt?" I asked him.
He grunted, or rather, I might say, he barked.
"If that doctor was aboard," he said, "I'd be right
enough in a couple of turns, but I don't have no manner
of luck, you see, and that's what's the matter with me.
As for that swab, he's good and dead, he is," he added,
indicating the man with the red cap. "He warn't no
seaman anyhow. And where mought you have come from?"
"Well," said I, "I've come aboard to take possession of
this ship, Mr. Hands; and you'll please regard me as
your captain until further notice."
He looked at me sourly enough but said nothing. Some
of the colour had come back into his cheeks, though he
still looked very sick and still continued to slip out
and settle down as the ship banged about.
"By the by," I continued, "I can't have these colours,
Mr. Hands; and by your leave, I'll strike 'em. Better
none than these."
And again dodging the boom, I ran to the colour lines, handed
down their cursed black flag, and chucked it overboard.
"God save the king!" said I, waving my cap. "And
there's an end to Captain Silver!"
He watched me keenly and slyly, his chin all the while
on his breast.
"I reckon," he said at last, "I reckon, Cap'n Hawkins,
you'll kind of want to get ashore now. S'pose we talks."
"Why, yes," says I, "with all my heart, Mr. Hands. Say
on." And I went back to my meal with a good appetite.
"This man," he began, nodding feebly at the corpse "--
O'Brien were his name, a rank Irelander--this man and
me got the canvas on her, meaning for to sail her back.
Well, HE'S dead now, he is--as dead as bilge; and
who's to sail this ship, I don't see. Without I gives
you a hint, you ain't that man, as far's I can tell.
Now, look here, you gives me food and drink and a old
scarf or ankecher to tie my wound up, you do, and I'll
tell you how to sail her, and that's about square all
round, I take it."
"I'll tell you one thing," says I: "I'm not going back
to Captain Kidd's anchorage. I mean to get into North
Inlet and beach her quietly there."
"To be sure you did," he cried. "Why, I ain't sich an
infernal lubber after all. I can see, can't I? I've
tried my fling, I have, and I've lost, and it's you has
the wind of me. North Inlet? Why, I haven't no
ch'ice, not I! I'd help you sail her up to Execution
Dock, by thunder! So I would."
Well, as it seemed to me, there was some sense in this.
We struck our bargain on the spot. In three minutes I
had the HISPANIOLA sailing easily before the wind
along the coast of Treasure Island, with good hopes of
turning the northern point ere noon and beating down
again as far as North Inlet before high water, when we
might beach her safely and wait till the subsiding tide
permitted us to land.
Then I lashed the tiller and went below to my own
chest, where I got a soft silk handkerchief of my
mother's. With this, and with my aid, Hands bound up
the great bleeding stab he had received in the thigh,
and after he had eaten a little and had a swallow or
two more of the brandy, he began to pick up visibly,
sat straighter up, spoke louder and clearer, and looked
in every way another man.
The breeze served us admirably. We skimmed before it
like a bird, the coast of the island flashing by and
the view changing every minute. Soon we were past the
high lands and bowling beside low, sandy country,
sparsely dotted with dwarf pines, and soon we were
beyond that again and had turned the corner of the
rocky hill that ends the island on the north.
I was greatly elated with my new command, and pleased
with the bright, sunshiny weather and these different
prospects of the coast. I had now plenty of water and
good things to eat, and my conscience, which had
smitten me hard for my desertion, was quieted by the
great conquest I had made. I should, I think, have had
nothing left me to desire but for the eyes of the
coxswain as they followed me derisively about the deck
and the odd smile that appeared continually on his
face. It was a smile that had in it something both of
pain and weakness--a haggard old man's smile; but there
was, besides that, a grain of derision, a shadow of
treachery, in his expression as he craftily watched,
and watched, and watched me at my work.
THE wind, serving us to a desire, now hauled into the west.
We could run so much the easier from the north-east corner
of the island to the mouth of the North Inlet. Only, as
we had no power to anchor and dared not beach her till the
tide had flowed a good deal farther, time hung on our hands.
The coxswain told me how to lay the ship to; after a good
many trials I succeeded, and we both sat in silence over
"Cap'n," said he at length with that same uncomfortable
smile, "here's my old shipmate, O'Brien; s'pose you was
to heave him overboard. I ain't partic'lar as a rule,
and I don't take no blame for settling his hash, but I
don't reckon him ornamental now, do you?"
"I'm not strong enough, and I don't like the job; and
there he lies, for me," said I.
"This here's an unlucky ship, this HISPANIOLA,
Jim," he went on, blinking. "There's a power of men
been killed in this HISPANIOLA--a sight o' poor
seamen dead and gone since you and me took ship to
Bristol. I never seen sich dirty luck, not I. There
was this here O'Brien now--he's dead, ain't he? Well
now, I'm no scholar, and you're a lad as can read and
figure, and to put it straight, do you take it as a
dead man is dead for good, or do he come alive again?"
"You can kill the body, Mr. Hands, but not the spirit;
you must know that already," I replied. "O'Brien there
is in another world, and may be watching us."
"Ah!" says he. "Well, that's unfort'nate--appears as
if killing parties was a waste of time. Howsomever,
sperrits don't reckon for much, by what I've seen.
I'll chance it with the sperrits, Jim. And now, you've
spoke up free, and I'll take it kind if you'd step down
into that there cabin and get me a--well, a--shiver my
timbers! I can't hit the name on 't; well, you get me
a bottle of wine, Jim--this here brandy's too strong
for my head."
Now, the coxswain's hesitation seemed to be unnatural,
and as for the notion of his preferring wine to brandy,
I entirely disbelieved it. The whole story was a
pretext. He wanted me to leave the deck--so much was
plain; but with what purpose I could in no way imagine.
His eyes never met mine; they kept wandering to and
fro, up and down, now with a look to the sky, now with
a flitting glance upon the dead O'Brien. All the time
he kept smiling and putting his tongue out in the most
guilty, embarrassed manner, so that a child could have
told that he was bent on some deception. I was prompt
with my answer, however, for I saw where my advantage
lay and that with a fellow so densely stupid I could
easily conceal my suspicions to the end.
"Some wine?" I said. "Far better. Will you have
white or red?"
"Well, I reckon it's about the blessed same to me,
shipmate," he replied; "so it's strong, and plenty of
it, what's the odds?"
"All right," I answered. "I'll bring you port, Mr.
Hands. But I'll have to dig for it."
With that I scuttled down the companion with all the
noise I could, slipped off my shoes, ran quietly along
the sparred gallery, mounted the forecastle ladder, and
popped my head out of the fore companion. I knew he
would not expect to see me there, yet I took every
precaution possible, and certainly the worst of my
suspicions proved too true.
He had risen from his position to his hands and knees,
and though his leg obviously hurt him pretty sharply
when he moved--for I could hear him stifle a groan--yet
it was at a good, rattling rate that he trailed himself
across the deck. In half a minute he had reached the
port scuppers and picked, out of a coil of rope, a long
knife, or rather a short dirk, discoloured to the hilt
with blood. He looked upon it for a moment, thrusting
forth his under jaw, tried the point upon his hand, and
then, hastily concealing it in the bosom of his jacket,
trundled back again into his old place against the bulwark.
This was all that I required to know. Israel could
move about, he was now armed, and if he had been at so
much trouble to get rid of me, it was plain that I was
meant to be the victim. What he would do afterwards--
whether he would try to crawl right across the island
from North Inlet to the camp among the swamps or
whether he would fire Long Tom, trusting that his own
comrades might come first to help him--was, of course,
more than I could say.
Yet I felt sure that I could trust him in one point,
since in that our interests jumped together, and that
was in the disposition of the schooner. We both
desired to have her stranded safe enough, in a
sheltered place, and so that, when the time came, she
could be got off again with as little labour and danger
as might be; and until that was done I considered that
my life would certainly be spared.
While I was thus turning the business over in my mind,
I had not been idle with my body. I had stolen back to
the cabin, slipped once more into my shoes, and laid my
hand at random on a bottle of wine, and now, with this
for an excuse, I made my reappearance on the deck.
Hands lay as I had left him, all fallen together in a
bundle and with his eyelids lowered as though he were
too weak to bear the light. He looked up, however, at
my coming, knocked the neck off the bottle like a man
who had done the same thing often, and took a good
swig, with his favourite toast of "Here's luck!" Then
he lay quiet for a little, and then, pulling out a
stick of tobacco, begged me to cut him a quid.
"Cut me a junk o' that," says he, "for I haven't no
knife and hardly strength enough, so be as I had. Ah,
Jim, Jim, I reckon I've missed stays! Cut me a quid,
as'll likely be the last, lad, for I'm for my long
home, and no mistake."
"Well," said I, "I'll cut you some tobacco, but if I
was you and thought myself so badly, I would go to my
prayers like a Christian man."
"Why?" said he. "Now, you tell me why."
"Why?" I cried. "You were asking me just now about the
dead. You've broken your trust; you've lived in sin
and lies and blood; there's a man you killed lying at
your feet this moment, and you ask me why! For God's
mercy, Mr. Hands, that's why."
I spoke with a little heat, thinking of the bloody dirk
he had hidden in his pocket and designed, in his ill
thoughts, to end me with. He, for his part, took a
great draught of the wine and spoke with the most
"For thirty years," he said, "I've sailed the seas and
seen good and bad, better and worse, fair weather and
foul, provisions running out, knives going, and what
not. Well, now I tell you, I never seen good come o'
goodness yet. Him as strikes first is my fancy; dead
men don't bite; them's my views--amen, so be it. And
now, you look here," he added, suddenly changing his
tone, "we've had about enough of this foolery. The
tide's made good enough by now. You just take my orders,
Cap'n Hawkins, and we'll sail slap in and be done with it."
All told, we had scarce two miles to run; but the
navigation was delicate, the entrance to this northern
anchorage was not only narrow and shoal, but lay east
and west, so that the schooner must be nicely handled
to be got in. I think I was a good, prompt subaltern,
and I am very sure that Hands was an excellent pilot,
for we went about and about and dodged in, shaving the
banks, with a certainty and a neatness that were a
pleasure to behold.
Scarcely had we passed the heads before the land closed
around us. The shores of North Inlet were as thickly
wooded as those of the southern anchorage, but the
space was longer and narrower and more like, what in
truth it was, the estuary of a river. Right before us,
at the southern end, we saw the wreck of a ship in the
last stages of dilapidation. It had been a great
vessel of three masts but had lain so long exposed to
the injuries of the weather that it was hung about with
great webs of dripping seaweed, and on the deck of it
shore bushes had taken root and now flourished thick
with flowers. It was a sad sight, but it showed us
that the anchorage was calm.
"Now," said Hands, "look there; there's a pet bit for
to beach a ship in. Fine flat sand, never a cat's paw,
trees all around of it, and flowers a-blowing like a
garding on that old ship."
"And once beached," I inquired, "how shall we get her
"Why, so," he replied: "you take a line ashore there on
the other side at low water, take a turn about one of
them big pines; bring it back, take a turn around the
capstan, and lie to for the tide. Come high water, all
hands take a pull upon the line, and off she comes as
sweet as natur'. And now, boy, you stand by. We're
near the bit now, and she's too much way on her.
Starboard a little--so--steady--starboard--larboard a
So he issued his commands, which I breathlessly obeyed,
till, all of a sudden, he cried, "Now, my hearty,
luff!" And I put the helm hard up, and the
HISPANIOLA swung round rapidly and ran stem on for the
low, wooded shore.
The excitement of these last manoeuvres had somewhat
interfered with the watch I had kept hitherto, sharply
enough, upon the coxswain. Even then I was still so
much interested, waiting for the ship to touch, that I
had quite forgot the peril that hung over my head and
stood craning over the starboard bulwarks and watching
the ripples spreading wide before the bows. I might
have fallen without a struggle for my life had not a
sudden disquietude seized upon me and made me turn my
head. Perhaps I had heard a creak or seen his shadow
moving with the tail of my eye; perhaps it was an
instinct like a cat's; but, sure enough, when I looked
round, there was Hands, already half-way towards me,
with the dirk in his right hand.
We must both have cried out aloud when our eyes met,
but while mine was the shrill cry of terror, his was a
roar of fury like a charging bully's. At the same
instant, he threw himself forward and I leapt sideways
towards the bows. As I did so, I let go of the tiller,
which sprang sharp to leeward, and I think this saved
my life, for it struck Hands across the chest and
stopped him, for the moment, dead.
Before he could recover, I was safe out of the corner
where he had me trapped, with all the deck to dodge
about. Just forward of the main-mast I stopped, drew a
pistol from my pocket, took a cool aim, though he had
already turned and was once more coming directly after
me, and drew the trigger. The hammer fell, but there
followed neither flash nor sound; the priming was
useless with sea-water. I cursed myself for my
neglect. Why had not I, long before, reprimed and
reloaded my only weapons? Then I should not have been
as now, a mere fleeing sheep before this butcher.
Wounded as he was, it was wonderful how fast he could
move, his grizzled hair tumbling over his face, and his
face itself as red as a red ensign with his haste and
fury. I had no time to try my other pistol, nor indeed
much inclination, for I was sure it would be useless.
One thing I saw plainly: I must not simply retreat
before him, or he would speedily hold me boxed into the
bows, as a moment since he had so nearly boxed me in
the stern. Once so caught, and nine or ten inches of
the blood-stained dirk would be my last experience on
this side of eternity. I placed my palms against the
main-mast, which was of a goodish bigness, and waited,
every nerve upon the stretch.
Seeing that I meant to dodge, he also paused; and a
moment or two passed in feints on his part and
corresponding movements upon mine. It was such a game
as I had often played at home about the rocks of Black
Hill Cove, but never before, you may be sure, with such
a wildly beating heart as now. Still, as I say, it was
a boy's game, and I thought I could hold my own at it
against an elderly seaman with a wounded thigh. Indeed
my courage had begun to rise so high that I allowed myself
a few darting thoughts on what would be the end of the
affair, and while I saw certainly that I could spin it
out for long, I saw no hope of any ultimate escape.
Well, while things stood thus, suddenly the HISPANIOLA
struck, staggered, ground for an instant in the sand,
and then, swift as a blow, canted over to the port side
till the deck stood at an angle of forty-five degrees
and about a puncheon of water splashed into the scupper
holes and lay, in a pool, between the deck and bulwark.
We were both of us capsized in a second, and both of us
rolled, almost together, into the scuppers, the dead
red-cap, with his arms still spread out, tumbling
stiffly after us. So near were we, indeed, that my
head came against the coxswain's foot with a crack that
made my teeth rattle. Blow and all, I was the first
afoot again, for Hands had got involved with the dead
body. The sudden canting of the ship had made the deck
no place for running on; I had to find some new way of
escape, and that upon the instant, for my foe was
almost touching me. Quick as thought, I sprang into
the mizzen shrouds, rattled up hand over hand, and did
not draw a breath till I was seated on the cross-trees.
I had been saved by being prompt; the dirk had struck
not half a foot below me as I pursued my upward flight;
and there stood Israel Hands with his mouth open and
his face upturned to mine, a perfect statue of surprise
Now that I had a moment to myself, I lost no time in
changing the priming of my pistol, and then, having one
ready for service, and to make assurance doubly sure, I
proceeded to draw the load of the other and recharge it
afresh from the beginning.
My new employment struck Hands all of a heap; he began
to see the dice going against him, and after an obvious
hesitation, he also hauled himself heavily into the
shrouds, and with the dirk in his teeth, began slowly
and painfully to mount. It cost him no end of time and
groans to haul his wounded leg behind him, and I had
quietly finished my arrangements before he was much
more than a third of the way up. Then, with a pistol
in either hand, I addressed him.
"One more step, Mr. Hands," said I, "and I'll blow your
brains out! Dead men don't bite, you know," I added
with a chuckle.
He stopped instantly. I could see by the working of
his face that he was trying to think, and the process
was so slow and laborious that, in my new-found
security, I laughed aloud. At last, with a swallow or
two, he spoke, his face still wearing the same
expression of extreme perplexity. In order to speak he
had to take the dagger from his mouth, but in all else
he remained unmoved.
"Jim," says he, "I reckon we're fouled, you and me, and
we'll have to sign articles. I'd have had you but for
that there lurch, but I don't have no luck, not I; and
I reckon I'll have to strike, which comes hard, you see,
for a master mariner to a ship's younker like you, Jim."
I was drinking in his words and smiling away, as
conceited as a cock upon a wall, when, all in a breath,
back went his right hand over his shoulder. Something
sang like an arrow through the air; I felt a blow and
then a sharp pang, and there I was pinned by the
shoulder to the mast. In the horrid pain and surprise
of the moment--I scarce can say it was by my own
volition, and I am sure it was without a conscious aim--
both my pistols went off, and both escaped out of my
hands. They did not fall alone; with a choked cry, the
coxswain loosed his grasp upon the shrouds and plunged
head first into the water.
"Pieces of Eight"
OWING to the cant of the vessel, the masts hung far out
over the water, and from my perch on the cross-trees I
had nothing below me but the surface of the bay.
Hands, who was not so far up, was in consequence nearer
to the ship and fell between me and the bulwarks. He
rose once to the surface in a lather of foam and blood
and then sank again for good. As the water settled, I
could see him lying huddled together on the clean, bright
sand in the shadow of the vessel's sides. A fish or two
whipped past his body. Sometimes, by the quivering of the
water, he appeared to move a little, as if he were trying
to rise. But he was dead enough, for all that, being both
shot and drowned, and was food for fish in the very place
where he had designed my slaughter.
I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel
sick, faint, and terrified. The hot blood was running
over my back and chest. The dirk, where it had pinned
my shoulder to the mast, seemed to burn like a hot
iron; yet it was not so much these real sufferings that
distressed me, for these, it seemed to me, I could bear
without a murmur; it was the horror I had upon my mind
of falling from the cross-trees into that still green
water, beside the body of the coxswain.
I clung with both hands till my nails ached, and I shut my
eyes as if to cover up the peril. Gradually my mind came
back again, my pulses quieted down to a more natural time,
and I was once more in possession of myself.
It was my first thought to pluck forth the dirk, but
either it stuck too hard or my nerve failed me, and I
desisted with a violent shudder. Oddly enough, that
very shudder did the business. The knife, in fact, had
come the nearest in the world to missing me altogether;
it held me by a mere pinch of skin, and this the
shudder tore away. The blood ran down the faster, to
be sure, but I was my own master again and only tacked
to the mast by my coat and shirt.
These last I broke through with a sudden jerk, and then
regained the deck by the starboard shrouds. For
nothing in the world would I have again ventured,
shaken as I was, upon the overhanging port shrouds from
which Israel had so lately fallen.
I went below and did what I could for my wound; it pained
me a good deal and still bled freely, but it was neither
deep nor dangerous, nor did it greatly gall me when I used
my arm. Then I looked around me, and as the ship was now,
in a sense, my own, I began to think of clearing it from
its last passenger--the dead man, O'Brien.
He had pitched, as I have said, against the bulwarks,
where he lay like some horrible, ungainly sort of puppet,
life-size, indeed, but how different from life's colour
or life's comeliness! In that position I could easily
have my way with him, and as the habit of tragical
adventures had worn off almost all my terror for the
dead, I took him by the waist as if he had been a sack
of bran and with one good heave, tumbled him overboard.
He went in with a sounding plunge; the red cap came off
and remained floating on the surface; and as soon as the
splash subsided, I could see him and Israel lying side
by side, both wavering with the tremulous movement of
the water. O'Brien, though still quite a young man, was
very bald. There he lay, with that bald head across the
knees of the man who had killed him and the quick fishes
steering to and fro over both.
I was now alone upon the ship; the tide had just
turned. The sun was within so few degrees of setting
that already the shadow of the pines upon the western
shore began to reach right across the anchorage and
fall in patterns on the deck. The evening breeze had
sprung up, and though it was well warded off by the
hill with the two peaks upon the east, the cordage had
begun to sing a little softly to itself and the idle
sails to rattle to and fro.
I began to see a danger to the ship. The jibs I
speedily doused and brought tumbling to the deck, but
the main-sail was a harder matter. Of course, when the
schooner canted over, the boom had swung out-board, and
the cap of it and a foot or two of sail hung even under
water. I thought this made it still more dangerous;
yet the strain was so heavy that I half feared to
meddle. At last I got my knife and cut the halyards.
The peak dropped instantly, a great belly of loose
canvas floated broad upon the water, and since, pull as
I liked, I could not budge the downhall, that was the
extent of what I could accomplish. For the rest, the
HISPANIOLA must trust to luck, like myself.
By this time the whole anchorage had fallen into
shadow--the last rays, I remember, falling through a
glade of the wood and shining bright as jewels on the
flowery mantle of the wreck. It began to be chill; the
tide was rapidly fleeting seaward, the schooner
settling more and more on her beam-ends.
I scrambled forward and looked over. It seemed shallow
enough, and holding the cut hawser in both hands for a
last security, I let myself drop softly overboard. The
water scarcely reached my waist; the sand was firm and
covered with ripple marks, and I waded ashore in great
spirits, leaving the HISPANIOLA on her side, with her
main-sail trailing wide upon the surface of the bay.
About the same time, the sun went fairly down and the
breeze whistled low in the dusk among the tossing pines.
At least, and at last, I was off the sea, nor had I
returned thence empty-handed. There lay the schooner,
clear at last from buccaneers and ready for our own men
to board and get to sea again. I had nothing nearer my
fancy than to get home to the stockade and boast of my
achievements. Possibly I might be blamed a bit for my
truantry, but the recapture of the HISPANIOLA was a
clenching answer, and I hoped that even Captain
Smollett would confess I had not lost my time.
So thinking, and in famous spirits, I began to set
my face homeward for the block house and my companions.
I remembered that the most easterly of the rivers which
drain into Captain Kidd's anchorage ran from the two-peaked
hill upon my left, and I bent my course in that direction
that I might pass the stream while it was small. The wood
was pretty open, and keeping along the lower spurs, I had
soon turned the corner of that hill, and not long after
waded to the mid-calf across the watercourse.
This brought me near to where I had encountered Ben
Gunn, the maroon; and I walked more circumspectly,
keeping an eye on every side. The dusk had come nigh
hand completely, and as I opened out the cleft between
the two peaks, I became aware of a wavering glow
against the sky, where, as I judged, the man of the
island was cooking his supper before a roaring fire.
And yet I wondered, in my heart, that he should show
himself so careless. For if I could see this radiance,
might it not reach the eyes of Silver himself where he
camped upon the shore among the marshes?
Gradually the night fell blacker; it was all I could do
to guide myself even roughly towards my destination;
the double hill behind me and the Spy-glass on my right
hand loomed faint and fainter; the stars were few and
pale; and in the low ground where I wandered I kept
tripping among bushes and rolling into sandy pits.
Suddenly a kind of brightness fell about me. I looked
up; a pale glimmer of moonbeams had alighted on the
summit of the Spy-glass, and soon after I saw something
broad and silvery moving low down behind the trees, and
knew the moon had risen.
With this to help me, I passed rapidly over what
remained to me of my journey, and sometimes walking,
sometimes running, impatiently drew near to the
stockade. Yet, as I began to thread the grove that
lies before it, I was not so thoughtless but that I
slacked my pace and went a trifle warily. It would
have been a poor end of my adventures to get shot down
by my own party in mistake.
The moon was climbing higher and higher, its light
began to fall here and there in masses through the more
open districts of the wood, and right in front of me a
glow of a different colour appeared among the trees.
It was red and hot, and now and again it was a little
darkened--as it were, the embers of a bonfire smouldering.
For the life of me I could not think what it might be.
At last I came right down upon the borders of the
clearing. The western end was already steeped in moon-
shine; the rest, and the block house itself, still lay
in a black shadow chequered with long silvery streaks
of light. On the other side of the house an immense
fire had burned itself into clear embers and shed a
steady, red reverberation, contrasted strongly with the
mellow paleness of the moon. There was not a soul
stirring nor a sound beside the noises of the breeze.
I stopped, with much wonder in my heart, and perhaps a
little terror also. It had not been our way to build
great fires; we were, indeed, by the captain's orders,
somewhat niggardly of firewood, and I began to fear
that something had gone wrong while I was absent.
I stole round by the eastern end, keeping close in
shadow, and at a convenient place, where the darkness
was thickest, crossed the palisade.
To make assurance surer, I got upon my hands and knees
and crawled, without a sound, towards the corner of the
house. As I drew nearer, my heart was suddenly and
greatly lightened. It is not a pleasant noise in
itself, and I have often complained of it at other
times, but just then it was like music to hear my
friends snoring together so loud and peaceful in their
sleep. The sea-cry of the watch, that beautiful "All's
well," never fell more reassuringly on my ear.
In the meantime, there was no doubt of one thing; they
kept an infamous bad watch. If it had been Silver and
his lads that were now creeping in on them, not a soul
would have seen daybreak. That was what it was,
thought I, to have the captain wounded; and again I
blamed myself sharply for leaving them in that danger
with so few to mount guard.
By this time I had got to the door and stood up. All
was dark within, so that I could distinguish nothing by
the eye. As for sounds, there was the steady drone of
the snorers and a small occasional noise, a flickering
or pecking that I could in no way account for.
With my arms before me I walked steadily in. I should
lie down in my own place (I thought with a silent chuckle)
and enjoy their faces when they found me in the morning.
My foot struck something yielding--it was a sleeper's
leg; and he turned and groaned, but without awaking.
And then, all of a sudden, a shrill voice broke forth
out of the darkness:
"Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!
Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" and so forth, without
pause or change, like the clacking of a tiny mill.
Silver's green parrot, Captain Flint! It was she whom
I had heard pecking at a piece of bark; it was she,
keeping better watch than any human being, who thus
announced my arrival with her wearisome refrain.
I had no time left me to recover. At the sharp,
clipping tone of the parrot, the sleepers awoke and
sprang up; and with a mighty oath, the voice of Silver
cried, "Who goes?"
I turned to run, struck violently against one person,
recoiled, and ran full into the arms of a second, who
for his part closed upon and held me tight.
"Bring a torch, Dick," said Silver when my capture was
And one of the men left the log-house and presently
returned with a lighted brand.
In the Enemy's Camp
THE red glare of the torch, lighting up the interior of
the block house, showed me the worst of my
apprehensions realized. The pirates were in possession
of the house and stores: there was the cask of cognac,
there were the pork and bread, as before, and what
tenfold increased my horror, not a sign of any
prisoner. I could only judge that all had perished,
and my heart smote me sorely that I had not been there
to perish with them.
There were six of the buccaneers, all told; not another
man was left alive. Five of them were on their feet,
flushed and swollen, suddenly called out of the first
sleep of drunkenness. The sixth had only risen upon
his elbow; he was deadly pale, and the blood-stained
bandage round his head told that he had recently been
wounded, and still more recently dressed. I remembered
the man who had been shot and had run back among the woods
in the great attack, and doubted not that this was he.
The parrot sat, preening her plumage, on Long John's
shoulder. He himself, I thought, looked somewhat paler
and more stern than I was used to. He still wore the
fine broadcloth suit in which he had fulfilled his
mission, but it was bitterly the worse for wear, daubed
with clay and torn with the sharp briers of the wood.
"So," said he, "here's Jim Hawkins, shiver my timbers!
Dropped in, like, eh? Well, come, I take that friendly."
And thereupon he sat down across the brandy cask and
began to fill a pipe.
"Give me a loan of the link, Dick," said he; and then,
when he had a good light, "That'll do, lad," he added;
"stick the glim in the wood heap; and you, gentlemen,
bring yourselves to! You needn't stand up for Mr.
Hawkins; HE'LL excuse you, you may lay to that.
And so, Jim"--stopping the tobacco--"here you were, and
quite a pleasant surprise for poor old John. I see you
were smart when first I set my eyes on you, but this
here gets away from me clean, it do."
To all this, as may be well supposed, I made no answer.
They had set me with my back against the wall, and I
stood there, looking Silver in the face, pluckily
enough, I hope, to all outward appearance, but with
black despair in my heart.
Silver took a whiff or two of his pipe with great
composure and then ran on again.
"Now, you see, Jim, so be as you ARE here," says
he, "I'll give you a piece of my mind. I've always
liked you, I have, for a lad of spirit, and the picter
of my own self when I was young and handsome. I always
wanted you to jine and take your share, and die a
gentleman, and now, my cock, you've got to. Cap'n
Smollett's a fine seaman, as I'll own up to any day,
but stiff on discipline. 'Dooty is dooty,' says he,
and right he is. Just you keep clear of the cap'n.
The doctor himself is gone dead again you--'ungrateful
scamp' was what he said; and the short and the long of
the whole story is about here: you can't go back to
your own lot, for they won't have you; and without you
start a third ship's company all by yourself, which
might be lonely, you'll have to jine with Cap'n Silver."
So far so good. My friends, then, were still alive,
and though I partly believed the truth of Silver's
statement, that the cabin party were incensed at me for
my desertion, I was more relieved than distressed by
what I heard.
"I don't say nothing as to your being in our hands,"
continued Silver, "though there you are, and you may
lay to it. I'm all for argyment; I never seen good
come out o' threatening. If you like the service,
well, you'll jine; and if you don't, Jim, why, you're
free to answer no--free and welcome, shipmate; and if
fairer can be said by mortal seaman, shiver my sides!"
"Am I to answer, then?" I asked with a very tremulous
voice. Through all this sneering talk, I was made to
feel the threat of death that overhung me, and my
cheeks burned and my heart beat painfully in my breast.
"Lad," said Silver, "no one's a-pressing of you. Take
your bearings. None of us won't hurry you, mate; time
goes so pleasant in your company, you see."
"Well," says I, growing a bit bolder, "if I'm to
choose, I declare I have a right to know what's what,
and why you're here, and where my friends are."
"Wot's wot?" repeated one of the buccaneers in a deep
growl. "Ah, he'd be a lucky one as knowed that!"
"You'll perhaps batten down your hatches till you're
spoke to, my friend," cried Silver truculently to this
speaker. And then, in his first gracious tones, he
replied to me, "Yesterday morning, Mr. Hawkins," said
he, "in the dog-watch, down came Doctor Livesey with a
flag of truce. Says he, 'Cap'n Silver, you're sold
out. Ship's gone.' Well, maybe we'd been taking a
glass, and a song to help it round. I won't say no.
Leastways, none of us had looked out. We looked out,
and by thunder, the old ship was gone! I never seen a
pack o' fools look fishier; and you may lay to that, if
I tells you that looked the fishiest. 'Well,' says the
doctor, 'let's bargain.' We bargained, him and I, and
here we are: stores, brandy, block house, the firewood
you was thoughtful enough to cut, and in a manner of
speaking, the whole blessed boat, from cross-trees to
kelson. As for them, they've tramped; I don't know
where's they are."
He drew again quietly at his pipe.
"And lest you should take it into that head of yours,"
he went on, "that you was included in the treaty,
here's the last word that was said: 'How many are you,'
says I, 'to leave?' 'Four,' says he; 'four, and one of
us wounded. As for that boy, I don't know where he is,
confound him,' says he, 'nor I don't much care. We're
about sick of him.' These was his words.
"Is that all?" I asked.
"Well, it's all that you're to hear, my son,"
"And now I am to choose?"
"And now you are to choose, and you may lay to
that," said Silver.
"Well," said I, "I am not such a fool but I know pretty
well what I have to look for. Let the worst come to
the worst, it's little I care. I've seen too many die
since I fell in with you. But there's a thing or two I
have to tell you," I said, and by this time I was quite
excited; "and the first is this: here you are, in a bad
way--ship lost, treasure lost, men lost, your whole
business gone to wreck; and if you want to know who did
it--it was I! I was in the apple barrel the night we
sighted land, and I heard you, John, and you, Dick
Johnson, and Hands, who is now at the bottom of the
sea, and told every word you said before the hour was
out. And as for the schooner, it was I who cut her
cable, and it was I that killed the men you had aboard
of her, and it was I who brought her where you'll never
see her more, not one of you. The laugh's on my side;
I've had the top of this business from the first; I no
more fear you than I fear a fly. Kill me, if you
please, or spare me. But one thing I'll say, and no
more; if you spare me, bygones are bygones, and when
you fellows are in court for piracy, I'll save you all
I can. It is for you to choose. Kill another and do
yourselves no good, or spare me and keep a witness to
save you from the gallows."
I stopped, for, I tell you, I was out of breath, and to
my wonder, not a man of them moved, but all sat staring
at me like as many sheep. And while they were still
staring, I broke out again, "And now, Mr. Silver," I
said, "I believe you're the best man here, and if
things go to the worst, I'll take it kind of you to let
the doctor know the way I took it."
"I'll bear it in mind," said Silver with an accent so
curious that I could not, for the life of me, decide
whether he were laughing at my request or had been
favourably affected by my courage.
"I'll put one to that," cried the old mahogany-faced
seaman--Morgan by name--whom I had seen in Long John's
public-house upon the quays of Bristol. "It was him
that knowed Black Dog."
"Well, and see here," added the sea-cook. "I'll put
another again to that, by thunder! For it was this
same boy that faked the chart from Billy Bones. First
and last, we've split upon Jim Hawkins!"
"Then here goes!" said Morgan with an oath.
And he sprang up, drawing his knife as if he had
"Avast, there!" cried Silver. "Who are you, Tom
Morgan? Maybe you thought you was cap'n here, perhaps.
By the powers, but I'll teach you better! Cross me,
and you'll go where many a good man's gone before you,
first and last, these thirty year back--some to the
yard-arm, shiver my timbers, and some by the board, and
all to feed the fishes. There's never a man looked me
between the eyes and seen a good day a'terwards, Tom
Morgan, you may lay to that."
Morgan paused, but a hoarse murmur rose from the others.
"Tom's right," said one.
"I stood hazing long enough from one," added another.
"I'll be hanged if I'll be hazed by you, John Silver."
"Did any of you gentlemen want to have it out with ME?"
roared Silver, bending far forward from his
position on the keg, with his pipe still glowing in his
right hand. "Put a name on what you're at; you ain't
dumb, I reckon. Him that wants shall get it. Have I
lived this many years, and a son of a rum puncheon cock
his hat athwart my hawse at the latter end of it? You
know the way; you're all gentlemen o' fortune, by your
account. Well, I'm ready. Take a cutlass, him that
dares, and I'll see the colour of his inside, crutch
and all, before that pipe's empty."
Not a man stirred; not a man answered.
"That's your sort, is it?" he added, returning his pipe
to his mouth. "Well, you're a gay lot to look at,
anyway. Not much worth to fight, you ain't. P'r'aps
you can understand King George's English. I'm cap'n
here by 'lection. I'm cap'n here because I'm the best
man by a long sea-mile. You won't fight, as gentlemen
o' fortune should; then, by thunder, you'll obey, and
you may lay to it! I like that boy, now; I never seen
a better boy than that. He's more a man than any pair
of rats of you in this here house, and what I say is
this: let me see him that'll lay a hand on him--that's
what I say, and you may lay to it."
There was a long pause after this. I stood straight up
against the wall, my heart still going like a sledge-
hammer, but with a ray of hope now shining in my bosom.
Silver leant back against the wall, his arms crossed, his
pipe in the corner of his mouth, as calm as though he had
been in church; yet his eye kept wandering furtively, and
he kept the tail of it on his unruly followers. They, on
their part, drew gradually together towards the far end of
the block house, and the low hiss of their whispering sounded
in my ear continuously, like a stream. One after another,
they would look up, and the red light of the torch would
fall for a second on their nervous faces; but it was not
towards me, it was towards Silver that they turned their eyes.
"You seem to have a lot to say," remarked Silver,
spitting far into the air. "Pipe up and let me hear
it, or lay to."
"Ax your pardon, sir," returned one of the men; "you're
pretty free with some of the rules; maybe you'll kindly
keep an eye upon the rest. This crew's dissatisfied;
this crew don't vally bullying a marlin-spike; this
crew has its rights like other crews, I'll make so free
as that; and by your own rules, I take it we can talk
together. I ax your pardon, sir, acknowledging you for
to be captaing at this present; but I claim my right,
and steps outside for a council."
And with an elaborate sea-salute, this fellow, a long,
ill-looking, yellow-eyed man of five and thirty,
stepped coolly towards the door and disappeared out of
the house. One after another the rest followed his
example, each making a salute as he passed, each adding
some apology. "According to rules," said one.
"Forecastle council," said Morgan. And so with one
remark or another all marched out and left Silver and
me alone with the torch.
The sea-cook instantly removed his pipe.
"Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins," he said in a steady
whisper that was no more than audible, "you're within
half a plank of death, and what's a long sight worse,
of torture. They're going to throw me off. But, you
mark, I stand by you through thick and thin. I didn't
mean to; no, not till you spoke up. I was about
desperate to lose that much blunt, and be hanged into
the bargain. But I see you was the right sort. I says
to myself, you stand by Hawkins, John, and Hawkins'll
stand by you. You're his last card, and by the living
thunder, John, he's yours! Back to back, says I. You
save your witness, and he'll save your neck!"
I began dimly to understand.
"You mean all's lost?" I asked.
"Aye, by gum, I do!" he answered. "Ship gone, neck gone
--that's the size of it. Once I looked into that bay, Jim
Hawkins, and seen no schooner--well, I'm tough, but I gave
out. As for that lot and their council, mark me, they're
outright fools and cowards. I'll save your life--if so be
as I can--from them. But, see here, Jim--tit for tat--you
save Long John from swinging."
I was bewildered; it seemed a thing so hopeless he was
asking--he, the old buccaneer, the ringleader throughout.
"What I can do, that I'll do," I said.
"It's a bargain!" cried Long John. "You speak up
plucky, and by thunder, I've a chance!"
He hobbled to the torch, where it stood propped among
the firewood, and took a fresh light to his pipe.
"Understand me, Jim," he said, returning. "I've a head
on my shoulders, I have. I'm on squire's side now. I
know you've got that ship safe somewheres. How you
done it, I don't know, but safe it is. I guess Hands
and O'Brien turned soft. I never much believed in
neither of THEM. Now you mark me. I ask no questions,
nor I won't let others. I know when a game's up, I do;
and I know a lad that's staunch. Ah, you that's young--
you and me might have done a power of good together!"
He drew some cognac from the cask into a tin cannikin.
"Will you taste, messmate?" he asked; and when I had
refused: "Well, I'll take a drain myself, Jim," said
he. "I need a caulker, for there's trouble on hand.
And talking o' trouble, why did that doctor give me the
My face expressed a wonder so unaffected that he saw
the needlessness of further questions.
"Ah, well, he did, though," said he. "And there's
something under that, no doubt--something, surely,
under that, Jim--bad or good."
And he took another swallow of the brandy, shaking his
great fair head like a man who looks forward to the worst.
The Black Spot Again
THE council of buccaneers had lasted some time, when
one of them re-entered the house, and with a repetition
of the same salute, which had in my eyes an ironical
air, begged for a moment's loan of the torch. Silver
briefly agreed, and this emissary retired again,
leaving us together in the dark.
"There's a breeze coming, Jim," said Silver, who had by
this time adopted quite a friendly and familiar tone.
I turned to the loophole nearest me and looked out.
The embers of the great fire had so far burned
themselves out and now glowed so low and duskily that I
understood why these conspirators desired a torch.
About half-way down the slope to the stockade, they
were collected in a group; one held the light, another
was on his knees in their midst, and I saw the blade of
an open knife shine in his hand with varying colours in
the moon and torchlight. The rest were all somewhat
stooping, as though watching the manoeuvres of this last.
I could just make out that he had a book as well as a
knife in his hand, and was still wondering how anything
so incongruous had come in their possession when the
kneeling figure rose once more to his feet and the whole
party began to move together towards the house.
"Here they come," said I; and I returned to my former
position, for it seemed beneath my dignity that they
should find me watching them.
"Well, let 'em come, lad--let 'em come," said Silver
cheerily. "I've still a shot in my locker."
The door opened, and the five men, standing huddled
together just inside, pushed one of their number
forward. In any other circumstances it would have been
comical to see his slow advance, hesitating as he set
down each foot, but holding his closed right hand in
front of him.
"Step up, lad," cried Silver. "I won't eat you. Hand
it over, lubber. I know the rules, I do; I won't hurt
Thus encouraged, the buccaneer stepped forth more
briskly, and having passed something to Silver, from
hand to hand, slipped yet more smartly back again to
The sea-cook looked at what had been given him.
"The black spot! I thought so," he observed. "Where
might you have got the paper? Why, hillo! Look here,
now; this ain't lucky! You've gone and cut this out of
a Bible. What fool's cut a Bible?"
"Ah, there!" said Morgan. "There! Wot did I say? No
good'll come o' that, I said."
"Well, you've about fixed it now, among you," continued
Silver. "You'll all swing now, I reckon. What soft-
headed lubber had a Bible?"
"It was Dick," said one.
"Dick, was it? Then Dick can get to prayers," said
Silver. "He's seen his slice of luck, has Dick, and
you may lay to that."
But here the long man with the yellow eyes struck in.
"Belay that talk, John Silver," he said. "This crew
has tipped you the black spot in full council, as in
dooty bound; just you turn it over, as in dooty bound,
and see what's wrote there. Then you can talk."
"Thanky, George," replied the sea-cook. "You always
was brisk for business, and has the rules by heart,
George, as I'm pleased to see. Well, what is it,
anyway? Ah! 'Deposed'--that's it, is it? Very pretty
wrote, to be sure; like print, I swear. Your hand o'
write, George? Why, you was gettin' quite a leadin'
man in this here crew. You'll be cap'n next, I
shouldn't wonder. Just oblige me with that torch
again, will you? This pipe don't draw."
"Come, now," said George, "you don't fool this crew no
more. You're a funny man, by your account; but you're
over now, and you'll maybe step down off that barrel
and help vote."
"I thought you said you knowed the rules," returned
Silver contemptuously. "Leastways, if you don't, I do;
and I wait here--and I'm still your cap'n, mind--till
you outs with your grievances and I reply; in the
meantime, your black spot ain't worth a biscuit. After
that, we'll see."
"Oh," replied George, "you don't be under no kind of
apprehension; WE'RE all square, we are. First,
you've made a hash of this cruise--you'll be a bold man
to say no to that. Second, you let the enemy out o'
this here trap for nothing. Why did they want out? I
dunno, but it's pretty plain they wanted it. Third,
you wouldn't let us go at them upon the march. Oh, we
see through you, John Silver; you want to play booty,
that's what's wrong with you. And then, fourth,
there's this here boy."
"Is that all?" asked Silver quietly.
"Enough, too," retorted George. "We'll all swing and
sun-dry for your bungling."
"Well now, look here, I'll answer these four p'ints;
one after another I'll answer 'em. I made a hash o'
this cruise, did I? Well now, you all know what I
wanted, and you all know if that had been done that
we'd 'a been aboard the HISPANIOLA this night as
ever was, every man of us alive, and fit, and full of
good plum-duff, and the treasure in the hold of her, by
thunder! Well, who crossed me? Who forced my hand, as
was the lawful cap'n? Who tipped me the black spot the
day we landed and began this dance? Ah, it's a fine
dance--I'm with you there--and looks mighty like a
hornpipe in a rope's end at Execution Dock by London
town, it does. But who done it? Why, it was Anderson,
and Hands, and you, George Merry! And you're the last
above board of that same meddling crew; and you have
the Davy Jones's insolence to up and stand for cap'n
over me--you, that sank the lot of us! By the powers!
But this tops the stiffest yarn to nothing."
Silver paused, and I could see by the faces of George
and his late comrades that these words had not been
said in vain.
"That's for number one," cried the accused, wiping the
sweat from his brow, for he had been talking with a
vehemence that shook the house. "Why, I give you my
word, I'm sick to speak to you. You've neither sense
nor memory, and I leave it to fancy where your mothers
was that let you come to sea. Sea! Gentlemen o'
fortune! I reckon tailors is your trade."
"Go on, John," said Morgan. "Speak up to the others."
"Ah, the others!" returned John. "They're a nice lot,
ain't they? You say this cruise is bungled. Ah! By
gum, if you could understand how bad it's bungled, you
would see! We're that near the gibbet that my neck's
stiff with thinking on it. You've seen 'em, maybe,
hanged in chains, birds about 'em, seamen p'inting 'em
out as they go down with the tide. 'Who's that?' says
one. 'That! Why, that's John Silver. I knowed him
well,' says another. And you can hear the chains a-
jangle as you go about and reach for the other buoy.
Now, that's about where we are, every mother's son of
us, thanks to him, and Hands, and Anderson, and other
ruination fools of you. And if you want to know about
number four, and that boy, why, shiver my timbers,
isn't he a hostage? Are we a-going to waste a hostage?
No, not us; he might be our last chance, and I
shouldn't wonder. Kill that boy? Not me, mates! And
number three? Ah, well, there's a deal to say to
number three. Maybe you don't count it nothing to have
a real college doctor to see you every day--you, John,
with your head broke--or you, George Merry, that had
the ague shakes upon you not six hours agone, and has
your eyes the colour of lemon peel to this same moment
on the clock? And maybe, perhaps, you didn't know
there was a consort coming either? But there is, and
not so long till then; and we'll see who'll be glad to
have a hostage when it comes to that. And as for
number two, and why I made a bargain--well, you came
crawling on your knees to me to make it--on your knees
you came, you was that downhearted--and you'd have
starved too if I hadn't--but that's a trifle! You look
And he cast down upon the floor a paper that I
instantly recognized--none other than the chart on
yellow paper, with the three red crosses, that I had
found in the oilcloth at the bottom of the captain's
chest. Why the doctor had given it to him was more
than I could fancy.
But if it were inexplicable to me, the appearance of
the chart was incredible to the surviving mutineers.
They leaped upon it like cats upon a mouse. It went
from hand to hand, one tearing it from another; and by
the oaths and the cries and the childish laughter with
which they accompanied their examination, you would
have thought, not only they were fingering the very
gold, but were at sea with it, besides, in safety.
"Yes," said one, "that's Flint, sure enough. J. F., and
a score below, with a clove hitch to it; so he done ever."
"Mighty pretty," said George. "But how are we to get
away with it, and us no ship."
Silver suddenly sprang up, and supporting himself with
a hand against the wall: "Now I give you warning,
George," he cried. "One more word of your sauce, and
I'll call you down and fight you. How? Why, how do I
know? You had ought to tell me that--you and the rest,
that lost me my schooner, with your interference, burn
you! But not you, you can't; you hain't got the
invention of a cockroach. But civil you can speak, and
shall, George Merry, you may lay to that."
"That's fair enow," said the old man Morgan.
"Fair! I reckon so," said the sea-cook. "You lost the
ship; I found the treasure. Who's the better man at
that? And now I resign, by thunder! Elect whom you
please to be your cap'n now; I'm done with it."
"Silver!" they cried. "Barbecue forever! Barbecue
"So that's the toon, is it?" cried the cook. "George,
I reckon you'll have to wait another turn, friend; and
lucky for you as I'm not a revengeful man. But that
was never my way. And now, shipmates, this black spot?
'Tain't much good now, is it? Dick's crossed his luck
and spoiled his Bible, and that's about all."
"It'll do to kiss the book on still, won't it?" growled
Dick, who was evidently uneasy at the curse he had
brought upon himself.
"A Bible with a bit cut out!" returned Silver
derisively. "Not it. It don't bind no more'n a
"Don't it, though?" cried Dick with a sort of joy.
"Well, I reckon that's worth having too."
"Here, Jim--here's a cur'osity for you," said Silver,
and he tossed me the paper.
It was around about the size of a crown piece. One
side was blank, for it had been the last leaf; the
other contained a verse or two of Revelation--these
words among the rest, which struck sharply home upon my
mind: "Without are dogs and murderers." The printed
side had been blackened with wood ash, which already
began to come off and soil my fingers; on the blank
side had been written with the same material the one
word "Depposed." I have that curiosity beside me at
this moment, but not a trace of writing now remains
beyond a single scratch, such as a man might make with
That was the end of the night's business. Soon after,
with a drink all round, we lay down to sleep, and the
outside of Silver's vengeance was to put George Merry
up for sentinel and threaten him with death if he
should prove unfaithful.
It was long ere I could close an eye, and heaven knows
I had matter enough for thought in the man whom I had
slain that afternoon, in my own most perilous position,
and above all, in the remarkable game that I saw Silver
now engaged upon--keeping the mutineers together with
one hand and grasping with the other after every means,
possible and impossible, to make his peace and save his
miserable life. He himself slept peacefully and snored
aloud, yet my heart was sore for him, wicked as he was,
to think on the dark perils that environed and the
shameful gibbet that awaited him.
I WAS wakened--indeed, we were all wakened, for I could
see even the sentinel shake himself together from where
he had fallen against the door-post--by a clear, hearty
voice hailing us from the margin of the wood:
"Block house, ahoy!" it cried. "Here's the doctor."
And the doctor it was. Although I was glad to hear the
sound, yet my gladness was not without admixture. I
remembered with confusion my insubordinate and stealthy
conduct, and when I saw where it had brought me--among
what companions and surrounded by what dangers--I felt
ashamed to look him in the face.
He must have risen in the dark, for the day had hardly
come; and when I ran to a loophole and looked out, I
saw him standing, like Silver once before, up to the
mid-leg in creeping vapour.
"You, doctor! Top o' the morning to you, sir!" cried
Silver, broad awake and beaming with good nature in a
moment. "Bright and early, to be sure; and it's the
early bird, as the saying goes, that gets the rations.
George, shake up your timbers, son, and help Dr.
Livesey over the ship's side. All a-doin' well, your
patients was--all well and merry."
So he pattered on, standing on the hilltop with his crutch
under his elbow and one hand upon the side of the log-house
--quite the old John in voice, manner, and expression.
"We've quite a surprise for you too, sir," he
continued. "We've a little stranger here--he! he! A
noo boarder and lodger, sir, and looking fit and taut
as a fiddle; slep' like a supercargo, he did, right
alongside of John--stem to stem we was, all night."
Dr. Livesey was by this time across the stockade and
pretty near the cook, and I could hear the alteration
in his voice as he said, "Not Jim?"
"The very same Jim as ever was," says Silver.
The doctor stopped outright, although he did not speak,
and it was some seconds before he seemed able to move on.
"Well, well," he said at last, "duty first and pleasure
afterwards, as you might have said yourself, Silver.
Let us overhaul these patients of yours."
A moment afterwards he had entered the block house and
with one grim nod to me proceeded with his work among
the sick. He seemed under no apprehension, though he
must have known that his life, among these treacherous
demons, depended on a hair; and he rattled on to his
patients as if he were paying an ordinary professional
visit in a quiet English family. His manner, I
suppose, reacted on the men, for they behaved to him as
if nothing had occurred, as if he were still ship's
doctor and they still faithful hands before the mast.
"You're doing well, my friend," he said to the fellow
with the bandaged head, "and if ever any person had a
close shave, it was you; your head must be as hard as
iron. Well, George, how goes it? You're a pretty
colour, certainly; why, your liver, man, is upside
down. Did you take that medicine? Did he take that
"Aye, aye, sir, he took it, sure enough," returned Morgan.
"Because, you see, since I am mutineers' doctor, or
prison doctor as I prefer to call it," says Doctor
Livesey in his pleasantest way, "I make it a point of
honour not to lose a man for King George (God bless
him!) and the gallows."
The rogues looked at each other but swallowed the home-
thrust in silence.
"Dick don't feel well, sir," said one.
"Don't he?" replied the doctor. "Well, step up here,
Dick, and let me see your tongue. No, I should be
surprised if he did! The man's tongue is fit to
frighten the French. Another fever."
"Ah, there," said Morgan, "that comed of sp'iling Bibles."
"That comes--as you call it--of being arrant asses,"
retorted the doctor, "and not having sense enough to
know honest air from poison, and the dry land from a
vile, pestiferous slough. I think it most probable--
though of course it's only an opinion--that you'll all
have the deuce to pay before you get that malaria out
of your systems. Camp in a bog, would you? Silver,
I'm surprised at you. You're less of a fool than many,
take you all round; but you don't appear to me to have
the rudiments of a notion of the rules of health.
"Well," he added after he had dosed them round and they
had taken his prescriptions, with really laughable humility,
more like charity schoolchildren than blood-guilty mutineers
and pirates--"well, that's done for today. And now I should
wish to have a talk with that boy, please."
And he nodded his head in my direction carelessly.
George Merry was at the door, spitting and spluttering
over some bad-tasted medicine; but at the first word of
the doctor's proposal he swung round with a deep flush
and cried "No!" and swore.
Silver struck the barrel with his open hand.
"Si-lence!" he roared and looked about him positively
like a lion. "Doctor," he went on in his usual tones,
"I was a-thinking of that, knowing as how you had a
fancy for the boy. We're all humbly grateful for your
kindness, and as you see, puts faith in you and takes
the drugs down like that much grog. And I take it I've
found a way as'll suit all. Hawkins, will you give me
your word of honour as a young gentleman--for a young
gentleman you are, although poor born--your word of
honour not to slip your cable?"
I readily gave the pledge required.
"Then, doctor," said Silver, "you just step outside o'
that stockade, and once you're there I'll bring the boy
down on the inside, and I reckon you can yarn through
the spars. Good day to you, sir, and all our dooties
to the squire and Cap'n Smollett."
The explosion of disapproval, which nothing but
Silver's black looks had restrained, broke out
immediately the doctor had left the house. Silver was
roundly accused of playing double--of trying to make a
separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the
interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one
word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.
It seemed to me so obvious, in this case, that I could
not imagine how he was to turn their anger. But he was
twice the man the rest were, and his last night's
victory had given him a huge preponderance on their
minds. He called them all the fools and dolts you can
imagine, said it was necessary I should talk to the
doctor, fluttered the chart in their faces, asked them
if they could afford to break the treaty the very day
they were bound a-treasure-hunting.
"No, by thunder!" he cried. "It's us must break the
treaty when the time comes; and till then I'll gammon
that doctor, if I have to ile his boots with brandy."
And then he bade them get the fire lit, and stalked out
upon his crutch, with his hand on my shoulder, leaving
them in a disarray, and silenced by his volubility
rather than convinced.
"Slow, lad, slow," he said. "They might round upon us
in a twinkle of an eye if we was seen to hurry."
Very deliberately, then, did we advance across the sand
to where the doctor awaited us on the other side of the
stockade, and as soon as we were within easy speaking
distance Silver stopped.
"You'll make a note of this here also, doctor," says
he, "and the boy'll tell you how I saved his life, and
were deposed for it too, and you may lay to that.
Doctor, when a man's steering as near the wind as me--
playing chuck-farthing with the last breath in his
body, like--you wouldn't think it too much, mayhap, to
give him one good word? You'll please bear in mind
it's not my life only now--it's that boy's into the
bargain; and you'll speak me fair, doctor, and give me
a bit o' hope to go on, for the sake of mercy."
Silver was a changed man once he was out there and had
his back to his friends and the block house; his cheeks
seemed to have fallen in, his voice trembled; never was
a soul more dead in earnest.
"Why, John, you're not afraid?" asked Dr. Livesey.
"Doctor, I'm no coward; no, not I--not SO much!"
and he snapped his fingers. "If I was I wouldn't say
it. But I'll own up fairly, I've the shakes upon me
for the gallows. You're a good man and a true; I never
seen a better man! And you'll not forget what I done
good, not any more than you'll forget the bad, I know.
And I step aside--see here--and leave you and Jim
alone. And you'll put that down for me too, for it's a
long stretch, is that!"
So saying, he stepped back a little way, till he was
out of earshot, and there sat down upon a tree-stump
and began to whistle, spinning round now and again upon
his seat so as to command a sight, sometimes of me and
the doctor and sometimes of his unruly ruffians as they
went to and fro in the sand between the fire--which
they were busy rekindling--and the house, from which
they brought forth pork and bread to make the breakfast.
"So, Jim," said the doctor sadly, "here you are. As
you have brewed, so shall you drink, my boy. Heaven
knows, I cannot find it in my heart to blame you, but
this much I will say, be it kind or unkind: when
Captain Smollett was well, you dared not have gone off;
and when he was ill and couldn't help it, by George, it
was downright cowardly!"
I will own that I here began to weep. "Doctor," I
said, "you might spare me. I have blamed myself
enough; my life's forfeit anyway, and I should have
been dead by now if Silver hadn't stood for me; and
doctor, believe this, I can die--and I dare say I
deserve it--but what I fear is torture. If they come
to torture me--"
"Jim," the doctor interrupted, and his voice was quite
changed, "Jim, I can't have this. Whip over, and we'll
run for it."
"Doctor," said I, "I passed my word."
"I know, I know," he cried. "We can't help that, Jim,
now. I'll take it on my shoulders, holus bolus, blame
and shame, my boy; but stay here, I cannot let you.
Jump! One jump, and you're out, and we'll run for it
"No," I replied; "you know right well you wouldn't do
the thing yourself--neither you nor squire nor captain;
and no more will I. Silver trusted me; I passed my
word, and back I go. But, doctor, you did not let me
finish. If they come to torture me, I might let slip a
word of where the ship is, for I got the ship, part by
luck and part by risking, and she lies in North Inlet,
on the southern beach, and just below high water. At
half tide she must be high and dry."
"The ship!" exclaimed the doctor.
Rapidly I described to him my adventures, and he heard
me out in silence.
"There is a kind of fate in this," he observed when I
had done. "Every step, it's you that saves our lives;
and do you suppose by any chance that we are going to
let you lose yours? That would be a poor return, my
boy. You found out the plot; you found Ben Gunn--the
best deed that ever you did, or will do, though you
live to ninety. Oh, by Jupiter, and talking of Ben
Gunn! Why, this is the mischief in person. Silver!"
he cried. "Silver! I'll give you a piece of advice,"
he continued as the cook drew near again; "don't you be
in any great hurry after that treasure."
"Why, sir, I do my possible, which that ain't," said
Silver. "I can only, asking your pardon, save my life
and the boy's by seeking for that treasure; and you may
lay to that."
"Well, Silver," replied the doctor, "if that is so, I'll
go one step further: look out for squalls when you find it."
"Sir," said Silver, "as between man and man, that's too
much and too little. What you're after, why you left
the block house, why you given me that there chart, I
don't know, now, do I? And yet I done your bidding
with my eyes shut and never a word of hope! But no,
this here's too much. If you won't tell me what you
mean plain out, just say so and I'll leave the helm."
"No," said the doctor musingly; "I've no right to say
more; it's not my secret, you see, Silver, or, I give
you my word, I'd tell it you. But I'll go as far with
you as I dare go, and a step beyond, for I'll have my
wig sorted by the captain or I'm mistaken! And first,
I'll give you a bit of hope; Silver, if we both get
alive out of this wolf-trap, I'll do my best to save
you, short of perjury."
Silver's face was radiant. "You couldn't say more, I'm
sure, sir, not if you was my mother," he cried.
"Well, that's my first concession," added the doctor.
"My second is a piece of advice: keep the boy close
beside you, and when you need help, halloo. I'm off to
seek it for you, and that itself will show you if I
speak at random. Good-bye, Jim."
And Dr. Livesey shook hands with me through the
stockade, nodded to Silver, and set off at a brisk pace
into the wood.
The Treasure-hunt--Flint's Pointer
"JIM," said Silver when we were alone, "if I saved your
life, you saved mine; and I'll not forget it. I seen
the doctor waving you to run for it--with the tail of
my eye, I did; and I seen you say no, as plain as hearing.
Jim, that's one to you. This is the first glint of hope
I had since the attack failed, and I owe it you. And now,
Jim, we're to go in for this here treasure-hunting, with
sealed orders too, and I don't like it; and you and me
must stick close, back to back like, and we'll save our
necks in spite o' fate and fortune."
Just then a man hailed us from the fire that breakfast
was ready, and we were soon seated here and there about
the sand over biscuit and fried junk. They had lit a
fire fit to roast an ox, and it was now grown so hot
that they could only approach it from the windward, and
even there not without precaution. In the same
wasteful spirit, they had cooked, I suppose, three
times more than we could eat; and one of them, with an
empty laugh, threw what was left into the fire, which
blazed and roared again over this unusual fuel. I
never in my life saw men so careless of the morrow;
hand to mouth is the only word that can describe their
way of doing; and what with wasted food and sleeping
sentries, though they were bold enough for a brush and
be done with it, I could see their entire unfitness for
anything like a prolonged campaign.
Even Silver, eating away, with Captain Flint upon his
shoulder, had not a word of blame for their recklessness.
And this the more surprised me, for I thought he had
never shown himself so cunning as he did then.
"Aye, mates," said he, "it's lucky you have Barbecue to
think for you with this here head. I got what I wanted,
I did. Sure enough, they have the ship. Where they have
it, I don't know yet; but once we hit the treasure, we'll
have to jump about and find out. And then, mates, us that
has the boats, I reckon, has the upper hand."
Thus he kept running on, with his mouth full of the hot
bacon; thus he restored their hope and confidence, and,
I more than suspect, repaired his own at the same time.
"As for hostage," he continued, "that's his last talk,
I guess, with them he loves so dear. I've got my piece
o' news, and thanky to him for that; but it's over and
done. I'll take him in a line when we go treasure-
hunting, for we'll keep him like so much gold, in case
of accidents, you mark, and in the meantime. Once we
got the ship and treasure both and off to sea like
jolly companions, why then we'll talk Mr. Hawkins over,
we will, and we'll give him his share, to be sure, for
all his kindness."
It was no wonder the men were in a good humour now.
For my part, I was horribly cast down. Should the
scheme he had now sketched prove feasible, Silver,
already doubly a traitor, would not hesitate to adopt
it. He had still a foot in either camp, and there was
no doubt he would prefer wealth and freedom with the
pirates to a bare escape from hanging, which was the
best he had to hope on our side.
Nay, and even if things so fell out that he was forced
to keep his faith with Dr. Livesey, even then what
danger lay before us! What a moment that would be when
the suspicions of his followers turned to certainty and
he and I should have to fight for dear life--he a cripple
and I a boy--against five strong and active seamen!
Add to this double apprehension the mystery that still
hung over the behaviour of my friends, their
unexplained desertion of the stockade, their
inexplicable cession of the chart, or harder still to
understand, the doctor's last warning to Silver, "Look
out for squalls when you find it," and you will readily
believe how little taste I found in my breakfast and
with how uneasy a heart I set forth behind my captors
on the quest for treasure.
We made a curious figure, had anyone been there to see
us--all in soiled sailor clothes and all but me armed
to the teeth. Silver had two guns slung about him--one
before and one behind--besides the great cutlass at his
waist and a pistol in each pocket of his square-tailed
coat. To complete his strange appearance, Captain
Flint sat perched upon his shoulder and gabbling odds
and ends of purposeless sea-talk. I had a line about
my waist and followed obediently after the sea-cook,
who held the loose end of the rope, now in his free
hand, now between his powerful teeth. For all the
world, I was led like a dancing bear.
The other men were variously burthened, some carrying
picks and shovels--for that had been the very first
necessary they brought ashore from the HISPANIOLA--
others laden with pork, bread, and brandy for the
midday meal. All the stores, I observed, came from our
stock, and I could see the truth of Silver's words the
night before. Had he not struck a bargain with the doctor,
he and his mutineers, deserted by the ship, must have been
driven to subsist on clear water and the proceeds of their
hunting. Water would have been little to their taste; a
sailor is not usually a good shot; and besides all that,
when they were so short of eatables, it was not likely
they would be very flush of powder.
Well, thus equipped, we all set out--even the fellow
with the broken head, who should certainly have kept in
shadow--and straggled, one after another, to the beach,
where the two gigs awaited us. Even these bore trace
of the drunken folly of the pirates, one in a broken
thwart, and both in their muddy and unbailed condition.
Both were to be carried along with us for the sake of
safety; and so, with our numbers divided between them,
we set forth upon the bosom of the anchorage.
As we pulled over, there was some discussion on the
chart. The red cross was, of course, far too large to
be a guide; and the terms of the note on the back, as
you will hear, admitted of some ambiguity. They ran,
the reader may remember, thus:
Tall tree, Spy-glass shoulder, bearing a point to
the N. of N.N.E.
Skeleton Island E.S.E. and by E.
A tall tree was thus the principal mark. Now, right
before us the anchorage was bounded by a plateau from
two to three hundred feet high, adjoining on the north
the sloping southern shoulder of the Spy-glass and
rising again towards the south into the rough, cliffy
eminence called the Mizzen-mast Hill. The top of the
plateau was dotted thickly with pine-trees of varying
height. Every here and there, one of a different
species rose forty or fifty feet clear above its
neighbours, and which of these was the particular "tall
tree" of Captain Flint could only be decided on the
spot, and by the readings of the compass.
Yet, although that was the case, every man on board the
boats had picked a favourite of his own ere we were
half-way over, Long John alone shrugging his shoulders
and bidding them wait till they were there.
We pulled easily, by Silver's directions, not to weary
the hands prematurely, and after quite a long passage,
landed at the mouth of the second river--that which
runs down a woody cleft of the Spy-glass. Thence,
bending to our left, we began to ascend the slope
towards the plateau.
At the first outset, heavy, miry ground and a matted,
marish vegetation greatly delayed our progress; but by
little and little the hill began to steepen and become
stony under foot, and the wood to change its character
and to grow in a more open order. It was, indeed, a
most pleasant portion of the island that we were now
approaching. A heavy-scented broom and many flowering
shrubs had almost taken the place of grass. Thickets
of green nutmeg-trees were dotted here and there with
the red columns and the broad shadow of the pines; and
the first mingled their spice with the aroma of the
others. The air, besides, was fresh and stirring, and
this, under the sheer sunbeams, was a wonderful
refreshment to our senses.
The party spread itself abroad, in a fan shape,
shouting and leaping to and fro. About the centre, and
a good way behind the rest, Silver and I followed--I
tethered by my rope, he ploughing, with deep pants,
among the sliding gravel. From time to time, indeed, I
had to lend him a hand, or he must have missed his
footing and fallen backward down the hill.
We had thus proceeded for about half a mile and were