Read Like A Writer

There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers' conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers' magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves. You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Anton Chekhov's 'Heartache' than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least. When you read a story or novel the first time, just let it happen. Enjoy the journey. When you've finished, you know where the story took you, and now you can go back and reread, and this time notice how the writer reached that destination. Notice the choices he made at each chapter, each sentence, each word. (Every word is a choice.) You see now how the transitions work, how a character gets across a room. All this time you're learning. You loved the central character in the story, and now you can see how the writer presented the character and rendered her worthy of your love and attention. The first reading is creative—you collaborate with the writer in making the story. The second reading is critical.


John Dufresne, from his book, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction

Header

No Right Click

Disable Copy Paste

Amazon Quick Linker

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition, Vol. 6 by Stevenson

Transcriber's note: A few punctuation errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Hyphenation inconsistencies were left unchanged.
 

THE WORKS OF

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

SWANSTON EDITION

VOLUME VI
 

Of this SWANSTON EDITION in Twenty-five
Volumes of the Works of ROBERT LOUIS
STEVENSON Two Thousand and Sixty Copies
have been printed, of which only Two Thousand
Copies are for sale.

This is No. ............

THE WORKS OF

ROBERT LOUIS

STEVENSON

 
VOLUME SIX
 
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY CHATTO AND
WINDUS: IN ASSOCIATION WITH CASSELL
AND COMPANY LIMITED: WILLIAM
HEINEMANN: AND LONGMANS GREEN
AND COMPANY MDCCCCXI
 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
 

CONTENTS

TREASURE ISLAND
PART I.—THE OLD BUCCANEER
CHAPTER   PAGE
I. The Old Sea-dog at the "Admiral Benbow" 9
II. Black Dog appears and disappears 15
III. The Black Spot 22
IV. The Sea Chest 28
V. The Last of the Blind Man 34
VI. The Captain’s Papers 40
PART II.—THE SEA-COOK
VII. I go to Bristol 49
VIII. At the Sign of the "Spy-Glass" 54
IX. Powder and Arms 60
X. The Voyage 66
XI. What I Heard in the Apple-Barrel 72
XII. Council of War 79
PART III.—MY SHORE ADVENTURE
XIII. How I began my Shore Adventure 87
XIV. The First Blow 93
XV. The Man of the Island 99
PART IV.—THE STOCKADE
XVI. Narrative continued by the Doctor—How the Ship was abandoned 109
XVII. Narrative continued by the Doctor—The Jolly-boat’s Last Trip 114
XVIII. Narrative continued by the Doctor—End of the First Day’s Fighting 119
XIX. Narrative resumed by Jim Hawkins—The Garrison in the Stockade 124
XX. Silver’s Embassy 130
XXI. The Attack 136
PART V.—MY SEA ADVENTURE
XXII. How I began my Sea Adventure 145
XXIII. The Ebb-Tide runs 151
XXIV. The Cruise of the Coracle 156
XXV. I strike the Jolly Roger 162
XXVI. Israel Hands 167
XXVII. "Pieces of Eight" 176
PART VI.—CAPTAIN SILVER
XXVIII. In the Enemy’s Camp 185
XXIX. The Black Spot again 193
XXX. On Parole 200
XXXI. The Treasure Hunt—Flint’s Pointer 207
XXXII. The Treasure Hunt—The Voice among the Trees 214
XXXIII. The Fall of a Chieftain 220
XXXIV. And Last 226
WILL O’ THE MILL
    PAGE
The Plain and the Stars 235
The Parson’s Marjory 244
Death 256
THE TREASURE OF FRANCHARD
CHAPTER    
I. By the Dying Mountebank 267
II. Morning Talk 271
III. The Adoption 278
IV. The Education of a Philosopher 286
V. Treasure Trove 296
VI. A Criminal Investigation, in Two Parts 309
VII. The Fall of the House of Desprez 320
VIII. The Wages of Philosophy 329
 

1

TREASURE ISLAND

 

2

 

3

TO

LLOYD OSBOURNE

AN AMERICAN GENTLEMAN
IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHOSE CLASSIC TASTE
THE FOLLOWING NARRATIVE HAS BEEN DESIGNED
IT IS NOW, IN RETURN FOR NUMEROUS DELIGHTFUL HOURS
AND WITH THE KINDEST WISHES, DEDICATED
BY HIS AFFECTIONATE FRIEND

THE AUTHOR

4

 

5

TO THE HESITATING PURCHASER

If sailor tales to sailor tunes,

Storm and adventure, heat and cold,

If schooners, islands, and maroons

And Buccaneers and buried Gold,

And all the old romance, retold

Exactly in the ancient way,

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of to-day:

—So be it, and fall on! If not,

If studious youth no longer crave,

His ancient appetites forgot,

Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave:

So be it, also! And may I

And all my pirates share the grave

Where these and their creations lie!

6

 

7

PART I

THE OLD BUCCANEER

8

 

9

TREASURE ISLAND

 

CHAPTER I

THE OLD SEA-DOG AT THE “ADMIRAL BENBOW”

Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen, having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—, and go back to the time when my father kept the “Admiral Benbow” inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre-cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.

I remember him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn-door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow; a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails; and the sabre-cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white. I remember him looking round the cove and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards:—

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars. Then he rapped on the door with a bit of stick like a handspike that he carried, and when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. This, when it was brought to him, he drank10 slowly, like a connoisseur, lingering on the taste, and still looking about him at the cliffs and up at our signboard.

“This is a handy cove,” says he, at length; “and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop.—Much company, mate?”

My father told him no—very little company, the more was the pity.

“Well, then,” said he, “this is the berth for me.—Here you, matey,” he cried to the man who trundled the barrow; “bring up alongside and help up my chest. I’ll stay here a bit,” he continued. “I’m a plain man; rum and bacon and eggs is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships off.—What you mought call me? You mought call me captain. Oh, I see what you’re at—there;” and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold. “You can tell me when I’ve worked through that,” says he, looking as fierce as a commander.

And, indeed, bad as his clothes were, and coarsely as he spoke, he had none of the appearance of a man who sailed before the mast; but seemed like a mate or skipper, accustomed to be obeyed or to strike. The man who came with the barrow told us the mail had set him down the morning before at the “Royal George”; that he had inquired what inns there were along the coast, and hearing ours well spoken of, I suppose, and described as lonely, had chosen it from the others for his place of residence. And that was all we could learn of our guest.

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove, or upon the cliffs, with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlour next the fire, and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to; only look up sudden and fierce, and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day, when he came back from his stroll, he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question; but at last we began to see he11 was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman put up at the “Admiral Benbow” (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol), he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlour; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter; for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day, and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my “weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg,” and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough, when the first of the month came round, and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me, and stare me down; but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my fourpenny-piece, and repeat his orders to look out for “the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. On stormy nights, when the wind shook the four corners of the house, and the surf roared along the cove and up the cliffs, I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny-piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

But though I was so terrified by the idea of the seafaring man with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when he took a deal more rum and water than his head would carry; and then he would sometimes sit and sing his wicked old wild sea-songs, minding nobody; but sometimes he would call for glasses round, and force all the trembling company to listen to his stories or bear a chorus to his singing. Often I have heard the house shaking with “Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum”; all the neighbours joining12 in for dear life, with the fear of death upon them, and each singing louder than the other, to avoid remark. For in these fits he was the most overriding companion ever known; he would slap his hand on the table, for silence all round; he would fly up in a passion of anger at a question, or sometimes because none was put, and so he judged the company was not following his story. Nor would he allow any one to leave the inn till he had drunk himself sleepy and reeled off to bed.

His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were; about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea; and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannised over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life; and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a “true sea-dog,” and a “real old salt,” and suchlike names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.

In one way, indeed, he bade fair to ruin us; for he kept on staying week after week, and at last month after month, so that all the money had been long exhausted, and still my father never plucked up the heart to insist on having more. If ever he mentioned it, the captain blew through his nose so loudly that you might say he roared, and stared my poor father out of the room. I have seen him wringing his hands after such a rebuff, and I am sure the annoyance and the terror he lived in must have greatly hastened his early and unhappy death.13

All the time he lived with us the captain made no change whatever in his dress but to buy some stockings from a hawker. One of the cocks of his hat having fallen down, he let it hang from that day forth, though it was a great annoyance when it blew. I remember the appearance of his coat, which he patched himself up-stairs in his room, and which, before the end, was nothing but patches. He never wrote or received a letter, and he never spoke with any but the neighbours, and with these, for the most part, only when drunk on rum. The great sea-chest none of us had ever seen open.

He was only once crossed, and that was towards the end, when my poor father was far gone in a decline that took him off. Dr. Livesey came late one afternoon to see the patient, took a bit of dinner from my mother, and went into the parlour to smoke a pipe until his horse should come down from the hamlet, for we had no stabling at the old “Benbow.” I followed him in, and I remember observing the contrast the neat, bright doctor, with his powder as white as snow, and his bright black eyes and pleasant manners, made with the coltish country folk, and above all, with that filthy, heavy, bleared scarecrow of a pirate of ours, sitting far gone in rum, with his arms on the table. Suddenly he—the captain, that is—began to pipe up his eternal song:—

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

At first I had supposed “the dead man’s chest” to be that identical big box of his up-stairs in the front room, and the thought had been mingled in my nightmares with that of the one-legged seafaring man. But by this time we had all long ceased to pay any particular notice to the song; it was new, that night, to nobody but Dr. Livesey, and on him I observed it did not produce an agreeable effect, for he looked up for a moment quite angrily before he went on with his talk to old Taylor, the gardener, on a new cure for the14 rheumatics. In the meantime, the captain gradually brightened up at his own music, and at last flapped his hand upon the table before him in a way we all knew to mean—silence. The voices stopped at once, all but Dr. Livesey’s; he went on as before, speaking clear and kind, and drawing briskly at his pipe between every word or two. The captain glared at him for a while, flapped his hand again, glared still harder, and at last broke out with a villainous, low oath: “Silence, there, between decks!”

“Were you addressing me, sir?” says the doctor; and when the ruffian had told him, with another oath, that this was so, “I have only one thing to say to you, sir,” replies the doctor, “that if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit of a very dirty scoundrel!”

The old fellow’s fury was awful. He sprang to his feet, drew and opened a sailor’s clasp-knife, and, balancing it open on the palm of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to the wall.

The doctor never so much as moved. He spoke to him, as before, over his shoulder, and in the same tone of voice; rather high, so that all the room might hear, but perfectly calm and steady—

“If you do not put that knife this instant in your pocket, I promise, upon my honour, you shall hang at next assizes.”

Then followed a battle of looks between them; but the captain soon knuckled under, put up his weapon, and resumed his seat, grumbling like a beaten dog.

“And now, sir,” continued the doctor, “since I now know there’s such a fellow in my district, you may count I’ll have an eye upon you day and night. I’m not a doctor only; I’m a magistrate; and if I catch a breath of complaint against you, if it’s only for a piece of incivility like to-night’s, I’ll take effectual means to have you hunted down and routed out of this. Let that suffice.”

Soon after Dr. Livesey’s horse came to the door, and he rode away; but the captain held his peace that evening, and for many evenings to come.

 

15

CHAPTER II

BLACK DOG APPEARS AND DISAPPEARS

It was not very long after this that there occurred the first of the mysterious events that rid us at last of the captain, though not, as you will see, of his affairs. It was a bitter cold winter, with long, hard frosts and heavy gales; and it was plain from the first that my poor father was little likely to see the spring. He sank daily, and my mother and I had all the inn upon our hands, and were kept busy enough, without paying much regard to our unpleasant guest.

It was one January morning, very early—a pinching, frosty morning—the cove all grey with hoar-frost, the ripple lapping softly on the stones, the sun still low and only touching the hill-tops and shining far to seaward. The captain had risen earlier than usual, and set out down the beach, his cutlass swinging under the broad skirts of the old blue coat, his brass telescope under his arm, his hat tilted back upon his head. I remember his breath hanging like smoke in his wake as he strode off, and the last sound I heard of him, as he turned the big rock, was a loud snort of indignation, as though his mind was still running upon Dr. Livesey.

Well, mother was up-stairs with father; and I was laying the breakfast-table against the captain’s return, when the parlour door opened, and a man stepped in on whom I had never set my eyes before. He was a pale, tallowy creature, wanting two fingers of the left hand; and, though he wore a cutlass, he did not look much like a fighter. I had always my eye open for seafaring men, with one leg or two, and I remember this one puzzled me. He was not sailorly, and yet he had a smack of the sea about him too.16

I asked him what was for his service, and he said he would take rum; but as I was going out of the room to fetch it he sat down upon a table and motioned me to draw near. I paused where I was with my napkin in my hand.

“Come here, sonny,” says he. “Come nearer here.”

I took a step nearer.

“Is this here table for my mate Bill?” he asked, with a kind of leer.

I told him I did not know his mate Bill; and this was for a person who stayed in our house, whom we called the captain.

“Well,” said he, “my mate Bill would be called the captain, as like as not. He has a cut on one cheek, and a mighty pleasant way with him, particularly in drink, has my mate Bill. We’ll put it, for argument like, that your captain has a cut on one cheek—and we’ll put it, if you like, that that cheek’s the right one. Ah, well! I told you. Now, is my mate Bill in this here house?”

I told him he was out walking.

“Which way, sonny? Which way is he gone?”

And when I had pointed out the rock, and told him how the captain was likely to return, and how soon, and answered a few other questions,—“Ah,” said he, “this’ll be as good as drink to my mate Bill.”

The expression of his face as he said these words was not at all pleasant, and I had my own reasons for thinking that the stranger was mistaken, even supposing he meant what he said. But it was no affair of mine, I thought; and, besides, it was difficult to know what to do. The stranger kept hanging about just inside the inn door, peering round the corner like a cat waiting for a mouse. Once I stepped out myself into the road, but he immediately called me back, and, as I did not obey quick enough for his fancy, a most horrible change came over his tallowy face, and he ordered me in, with an oath that made me jump. As soon as I was back again he returned to his former manner, half-fawning, half-sneering, patted me on the shoulder, told me I was a17 good boy, and he had taken quite a fancy to me. “I have a son of my own,” said he, “as like you as two blocks, and he’s all the pride of my ’art. But the great thing for boys is discipline, sonny—discipline. Now, if you had sailed along of Bill, you wouldn’t have stood there to be spoke to twice—not you. That was never Bill’s way, nor the way of sich as sailed with him.—And here, sure enough, is my mate Bill, with a spy-glass under his arm, bless his old ’art, to be sure. You and me’ll just go back into the parlour, sonny, and get behind the door, and we’ll give Bill a little surprise—bless his ’art, I say again.”

So saying, the stranger backed along with me into the parlour, and put me behind him in the corner, so that we were both hidden by the open door. I was very uneasy and alarmed, as you may fancy, and it rather added to my fears to observe that the stranger was certainly frightened himself. He cleared the hilt of his cutlass and loosened the blade in the sheath; and all the time we were waiting there he kept swallowing as if he felt what we used to call a lump in the throat.

At last in strode the captain, slammed the door behind him, without looking to the right or left, and marched straight across the room to where his breakfast awaited him.

“Bill,” said the stranger, in a voice that I thought he had tried to make bold and big.

The captain spun round on his heel and fronted us; all the brown had gone out of his face, and even his nose was blue; he had the look of a man who sees a ghost, or the Evil One, or something worse, if anything can be; and, upon my word, I felt sorry to see him, all in a moment, turn so old and sick.

“Come, Bill, you know me; you know an old shipmate, Bill, surely,” said the stranger.

The captain gave a sort of gasp.

“Black Dog!” said he.

“And who else?” returned the other, getting more at his ease. “Black Dog as ever was, come for to see his old ship18mate Billy, at the ‘Admiral Benbow’ inn. Ah, Bill, Bill, we have seen a sight of times, us two, since I lost them two talons,” holding up his mutilated hand.

“Now, look here,” said the captain; “you’ve run me down; here I am; well, then, speak up: what is it?”

“That’s you, Bill,” returned Black Dog, “you’re in the right of it, Billy. I’ll have a glass of rum from this dear child here, as I’ve took such a liking to; and we’ll sit down, if you please, and talk square, like old shipmates.”

When I returned with the rum, they were already seated on either side of the captain’s breakfast-table—Black Dog next to the door, and sitting sideways, so as to have one eye on his old shipmate, and one, as I thought, on his retreat.

He bade me go, and leave the door wide open. “None of your keyholes for me, sonny,” he said; and I left them together, and retired into the bar.

For a long time, though I certainly did my best to listen, I could hear nothing but a low gabbling; but at last the voices began to grow higher, and I could pick up a word or two, mostly oaths, from the captain.

“No, no, no, no; and an end of it!” he cried once. And again, “If it comes to swinging, swing all, say I.”

Then all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion of oaths and other noises—the chair and table went over in a lump, a clash of steel followed, and then a cry of pain, and the next instant I saw Black Dog in full flight, and the captain hotly pursuing, both with drawn cutlasses, and the former streaming blood from the left shoulder. Just at the door the captain aimed at the fugitive one last tremendous cut, which would certainly have split him to the chine had it not been intercepted by our big signboard of Admiral Benbow. You may see the notch on the lower side of the frame to this day.

That blow was the last of the battle. Once out upon the road, Black Dog, in spite of his wound, showed a wonderful clean pair of heels, and disappeared over the edge of the hill in half a minute. The captain, for his part, stood staring19 at the signboard like a bewildered man. Then he passed his hand over his eyes several times, and at last turned back into the house.

“Jim,” says he, “rum;” and as he spoke he reeled a little, and caught himself with one hand against the wall.

“Are you hurt?” cried I.

“Rum,” he repeated. “I must get away from here. Rum! rum!”

I ran to fetch it; but I was quite unsteadied by all that had fallen out, and I broke one glass and fouled the tap, and while I was still getting in my own way, I heard a loud fall in the parlour, and, running in, beheld the captain lying full-length upon the floor. At the same instant my mother, alarmed by the cries and fighting, came running down-stairs to help me. Between us we raised his head. He was breathing very loud and hard; but his eyes were closed, and his face a horrible colour.

“Dear, deary me,” cried my mother, “what a disgrace upon the house! And your poor father sick!”

In the meantime, we had no idea what to do to help the captain, nor any other thought but that he had got his death-hurt in the scuffle with the stranger. I got the rum, to be sure, and tried to put it down his throat; but his teeth were tightly shut, and his jaws as strong as iron. It was a happy relief for us when the door opened and Doctor Livesey came in, on his visit to my father.

“Oh, doctor,” we cried, “what shall we do? Where is he wounded?”

“Wounded? A fiddle-stick’s end!” said the doctor. “No more wounded than you or I. The man has had a stroke, as I warned him.—Now, Mrs. Hawkins, just you run up-stairs to your husband, and tell him, if possible, nothing about it. For my part, I must do my best to save this fellow’s trebly worthless life; and Jim here will get me a basin.”

When I got back with the basin, the doctor had already ripped up the captain’s sleeve, and exposed his great sinewy20 arm. It was tattooed in several places. “Here’s luck,” “A fair wind,” and “Billy Bones his fancy,” were very neatly and clearly executed on the forearm; and up near the shoulder there was a sketch of a gallows and a man hanging from it—done, as I thought, with great spirit.

“Prophetic,” said the doctor, touching this picture with his finger. “And now, Master Billy Bones, if that be your name, we’ll have a look at the colour of your blood.—Jim,” he said, “are you afraid of blood?”

“No, sir,” said I.

“Well, then,” said he, “you hold the basin;” and with that he took his lancet and opened a vein.

A great deal of blood was taken before the captain opened his eyes and looked mistily about him. First he recognised the doctor with an unmistakable frown; then his glance fell upon me, and he looked relieved. But suddenly his colour changed, and he tried to raise himself, crying—

“Where’s Black Dog?”

“There is no Black Dog here,” said the doctor, “except what you have on your own back. You have been drinking rum; you have had a stroke, precisely as I told you; and I have just, very much against my own will, dragged you head-foremost out of the grave. Now, Mr. Bones——”

“That’s not my name,” he interrupted.

“Much I care,” returned the doctor. “It’s the name of a buccaneer of my acquaintance, and I call you by it for the sake of shortness, and what I have to say to you is this: one glass of rum won’t kill you, but if you take one you’ll take another and another, and I stake my wig if you don’t break off short, you’ll die—do you understand that?—die, and go to your own place, like the man in the Bible. Come, now, make an effort. I’ll help you to your bed for once.”

Between us, with much trouble, we managed to hoist him up-stairs, and laid him on his bed, where his head fell back on the pillow, as if he were almost fainting.

“Now, mind you,” said the doctor, “I clear my conscience—the name of rum for you is death.”21

And with that he went off to see my father, taking me with him by the arm.

“This is nothing,” he said, as soon as he had closed the door. “I have drawn blood enough to keep him quiet a while; he should lie for a week where he is—that is the best thing for him and you; but another stroke would settle him.”

 

22

CHAPTER III

THE BLACK SPOT

About noon I stopped at the captain’s door with some cooling drinks and medicines. He was lying very much as we had left him, only a little higher, and he seemed both weak and excited.

“Jim,” he said, “you’re the only one here that’s worth anything; and you know I’ve been always good to you. Never a month but I’ve given you a silver fourpenny for yourself. And now you see, mate, I’m pretty low, and deserted by all; and, Jim, you’ll bring me one noggin of rum, now, won’t you, matey?”

“The doctor——” I began.

But he broke in cursing the doctor, in a feeble voice, but heartily. “Doctors is all swabs,” he said; “and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch, and mates dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the sea with earthquakes—what do the doctor know of lands like that?—and I lived on rum, I tell you. It’s been meat and drink, and man and wife, to me; and if I’m not to have my rum now I’m a poor old hulk on a lee-shore, my blood’ll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab;” and he ran on again for a while with curses. “Look, Jim, how my fingers fidges,” he continued, in the pleading tone. “I can’t keep ’em still, not I. I haven’t had a drop this blessed day. That doctor’s a fool, I tell you. If I don’t have a drain o’ rum, Jim, I’ll have the horrors; I seen some on ’em already. I seen old Flint in the corner there, behind you; as plain as print, I seen him; and if I get the horrors, I’m a man that23 has lived rough, and I’ll raise Cain. Your doctor hisself said one glass wouldn’t hurt me. I’ll give you a golden guinea for a noggin, Jim.”

He was growing more and more excited, and this alarmed me for my father, who was very low that day, and needed quiet; besides, I was re-assured by the doctor’s words, now quoted to me, and rather offended by the offer of a bribe.

“I want none of your money,” said I, “but what you owe my father. I’ll get you one glass and no more.”

When I brought it to him, he seized it greedily, and drank it out.

“Ay, ay,” said he, “that’s some better, sure enough. And now, matey, did that doctor say how long I was to lie here in this old berth?”

“A week at least,” said I.

“Thunder!” he cried. “A week! I can’t do that: they’d have the black spot on me by then. The lubbers is going about to get the wind of me this blessed moment; lubbers as couldn’t keep what they got, and want to nail what is another’s. Is that seamanly behaviour, now, I want to know? But I’m a saving soul. I never wasted good money of mine; nor lost it neither; and I’ll trick ’em again. I’m not afraid on ’em. I’ll shake out another reef, matey, and daddle ’em again.”

As he was thus speaking, he had risen from bed with great difficulty, holding to my shoulder with a grip that almost made me cry out, and moving his legs like so much dead weight. His words, spirited as they were in meaning, contrasted sadly with the weakness of the voice in which they were uttered. He paused when he had got into a sitting position on the edge.

“That doctor’s done me,” he murmured. “My ears is singing. Lay me back.”

Before I could do much to help him he had fallen back again to his former place, where he lay for a while silent.

“Jim,” he said, at length, “you saw that seafaring man to-day?”24

“Black Dog?” I asked.

“Ah! Black Dog,” says he. “He’s a bad ’un; but there’s worse that put him on. Now, if I can’t get away nohow, and they tip me the black spot, mind you, it’s my old sea-chest they’re after; you get on a horse—you can, can’t you? Well, then, you get on a horse, and go to—well, yes, I will!—to that eternal doctor swab, and tell him to pipe all hands—magistrates and sich—and he’ll lay ’em aboard at the ‘Admiral Benbow’—all old Flint’s crew, man and boy, all on ’em that’s left. I was first mate, I was—old Flint’s first mate, and I’m the only one as knows the place. He gave it me to Savannah, when he lay a-dying, like as if I was to now, you see. But you won’t peach unless they get the black spot on me, or unless you see that Black Dog again, or a seafaring man with one leg, Jim—him above all.”

“But what is the black spot, captain?” I asked.

“That’s a summons, mate. I’ll tell you if they get that. But you keep your weather-eye open, Jim, and I’ll share with you equals, upon my honour.”

He wandered a little longer, his voice growing weaker; but soon after I had given him his medicine, which he took like a child, with the remark, “If ever a seaman wanted drugs, it’s me,” he fell at last into a heavy, swoon-like sleep, in which I left him. What I should have done had all gone well I do not know. Probably I should have told the whole story to the doctor; for I was in mortal fear lest the captain should repent of his confessions and make an end of me. But as things fell out, my poor father died quite suddenly that evening, which put all other matters on one side. Our natural distress, the visits of the neighbours, the arranging of the funeral, and all the work of the inn to be carried on in the meanwhile, kept me so busy that I had scarcely time to think of the captain, far less to be afraid of him.

He got down-stairs next morning, to be sure, and had his meals as usual, though he ate little, and had more, I am afraid, than his usual supply of rum, for he helped himself out of the bar, scowling and blowing through his nose, and25 no one dared to cross him. On the night before the funeral he was as drunk as ever; and it was shocking, in that house of mourning, to hear him singing away at his ugly old sea-song; but, weak as he was, we were all in fear of death for him, and the doctor was suddenly taken up with a case many miles away, and was never near the house after my father’s death. I have said the captain was weak; and indeed he seemed rather to grow weaker than regain his strength. He clambered up- and down-stairs, and went from the parlour to the bar and back again, and sometimes put his nose out of doors to smell the sea, holding on to the walls as he went for support, and breathing hard and fast like a man on a steep mountain. He never particularly addressed me, and it is my belief he had as good as forgotten his confidences; but his temper was more flighty, and, allowing for his bodily weakness, more violent than ever. He had an alarming way now when he was drunk of drawing his cutlass and laying it bare before him on the table. But, with all that, he minded people less, and seemed shut up in his own thoughts and rather wandering. Once, for instance, to our extreme wonder, he piped up to a different air, a kind of country love-song, that he must have learned in his youth before he had begun to follow the sea.

So things passed until, the day after the funeral, and about three o’clock of a bitter, foggy, frosty afternoon, I was standing at the door for a moment, full of sad thoughts about my father, when I saw some one drawing slowly near along the road. He was plainly blind, for he tapped before him with a stick, and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea-cloak with a hood, that made him appear positively deformed. I never saw in my life a more dreadful-looking figure. He stopped a little from the inn, and, raising his voice in an odd sing-song, addressed the air in front of him:—

“Will any kind friend inform a blind man, who has lost the precious sight of his eyes in the gracious defence of his26 native country, England, and God bless King George!—where or in what part of this country he may now be?”

“You are at the ‘Admiral Benbow,’ Black Hill Cove, my good man,” said I.

“I hear a voice,” said he—“a young voice. Will you give me your hand, my kind young friend, and lead me in?”

I held out my hand, and the horrible, soft-spoken, eyeless creature gripped it in a moment like a vice. I was so much startled that I struggled to withdraw; but the blind man pulled me close up to him with a single action of his arm.

“Now, boy,” he said, “take me in to the captain.”

“Sir,” said I, “upon my word I dare not.”

“Oh,” he sneered, “that’s it! Take me in straight, or I’ll break your arm.”

And he gave it, as he spoke, a wrench that made me cry out.

“Sir,” said I, “it is for yourself I mean. The captain is not what he used to be. He sits with a drawn cutlass. Another gentleman——”

“Come, now, march,” interrupted he; and I never heard a voice so cruel, and cold, and ugly as that blind man’s. It cowed me more than the pain; and I began to obey him at once, walking straight in at the door and towards the parlour, where our sick old buccaneer was sitting, dazed with rum. The blind man clung close to me, holding me in one iron fist, and leaning almost more of his weight on me than I could carry. “Lead me straight up to him, and when I’m in view, cry out, ‘Here’s a friend for you, Bill.’ If you don’t, I’ll do this;” and with that he gave me a twitch that I thought would have made me faint. Between this and that, I was so utterly terrified of the blind beggar that I forgot my terror of the captain, and as I opened the parlour door, cried out the words he had ordered in a trembling voice.

The poor captain raised his eyes, and at one look the rum went out of him, and left him staring sober. The ex27pression of his face was not so much of terror as of mortal sickness. He made a movement to rise, but I do not believe he had enough force left in his body.

“Now, Bill, sit where you are,” said the beggar. “If I can’t see, I can hear a finger stirring. Business is business. Hold out your left hand.—Boy, take his left hand by the wrist, and bring it near to my right.”

We both obeyed him to the letter, and I saw him pass something from the hollow of the hand that held his stick into the palm of the captain’s, which closed upon it instantly.

“And now that’s done,” said the blind man; and at the words he suddenly left hold of me, and, with incredible accuracy and nimbleness, skipped out of the parlour and into the road, where, as I still stood motionless, I could hear his stick go tap-tap-tapping into the distance.

It was some time before either I or the captain seemed to gather our senses; but at length, and about at the same moment, I released his wrist, which I was still holding, and he drew in his hand and looked sharply into the palm.

“Ten o’clock!” he cried. “Six hours. We’ll do them yet;” and he sprang to his feet.

Even as he did so, he reeled, put his hand to his throat, stood swaying for a moment, and then, with a peculiar sound, fell from his whole height face-foremost to the floor.

I ran to him at once, calling to my mother. But haste was all in vain. The captain had been struck dead by thundering apoplexy. It is a curious thing to understand, for I had certainly never liked the man, though of late I had begun to pity him, but as soon as I saw that he was dead I burst into a flood of tears. It was the second death I had known, and the sorrow of the first was still fresh in my heart.

 

28

CHAPTER IV

THE SEA CHEST

I lost no time, of course, in telling my mother all that I knew, and perhaps should have told her long before, and we saw ourselves at once in a difficult and dangerous position. Some of the man’s money—if he had any—was certainly due to us; but it was not likely that our captain’s shipmates, above all the two specimens seen by me, Black Dog and the blind beggar, would be inclined to give up their booty in payment of the dead man’s debts. The captain’s order to mount at once and ride for Doctor Livesey would have left my mother alone and unprotected, which was not to be thought of. Indeed, it seemed impossible for either of us to remain much longer in the house: the fall of coals in the kitchen-grate, the very ticking of the clock, filled us with alarms. The neighbourhood, to our ears, seemed haunted by approaching footsteps; and what between the dead body of the captain on the parlour floor, and the thought of that detestable blind beggar hovering near at hand, and ready to return, there were moments when, as the saying goes, I jumped in my skin for terror. Something must speedily be resolved upon; and it occurred to us at last to go forth together and seek help in the neighbouring hamlet. No sooner said than done. Bare-headed as we were, we ran out at once in the gathering evening and the frosty fog.

The hamlet lay not many hundred yards away, though out of view, on the other side of the next cove; and what greatly encouraged me, it was in an opposite direction from that whence the blind man had made his appearance, and whither he had presumably returned. We were not many29 minutes on the road, though we sometimes stopped to lay hold of each other and hearken. But there was no unusual sound—nothing but the low wash of the ripple and the croaking of the crows in the wood.

It was already candle-light when we reached the hamlet, and I shall never forget how much I was cheered to see the yellow shine in doors and windows; but that, as it proved, was the best of the help we were likely to get in that quarter. For—you would have thought men would have been ashamed of themselves—no soul would consent to return with us to the “Admiral Benbow.” The more we told of our troubles, the more—man, woman, and child—they clung to the shelter of their houses. The name of Captain Flint, though it was strange to me, was well enough known to some there, and carried a great weight of terror. Some of the men who had been to field-work on the far side of the “Admiral Benbow” remembered, besides, to have seen several strangers on the road, and, taking them to be smugglers, to have bolted away; and one at least had seen a little lugger in what we called Kitt’s Hole. For that matter, any one who was a comrade of the captain’s was enough to frighten them to death. And the short and the long of the matter was, that while we could get several who were willing enough to ride to Dr. Livesey’s, which lay in another direction, not one would help us to defend the inn.

They say cowardice is infectious; but then argument is, on the other hand, a great emboldener; and so when each had said his say, my mother made them a speech. She would not, she declared, lose money that belonged to her fatherless boy; “if none of the rest of you dare,” she said, “Jim and I dare. Back we will go, the way we came, and small thanks to you big, hulking, chicken-hearted men. We’ll have that chest open, if we die for it. And I’ll thank you for that bag, Mrs. Crossley, to bring back our lawful money in.”

Of course, I said I would go with my mother; and of course they all cried out at our foolhardiness; but even then30 not a man would go along with us. All they would do was to give me a loaded pistol, lest we were attacked; and to promise to have horses ready saddled, in case we were pursued on our return; while one lad was to ride forward to the doctor’s in search of armed assistance.

My heart was beating finely when we two set forth in the cold night upon this dangerous venture. A full moon was beginning to rise, and peered redly through the upper edges of the fog, and this increased our haste, for it was plain, before we came forth again, that all would be as bright as day, and our departure exposed to the eyes of any watchers. We slipped along the hedges, noiseless and swift, nor did we see or hear anything to increase our terrors, till, to our huge relief, the door of the “Admiral Benbow” had closed behind us.

I slipped the bolt at once, and we stood and panted for a moment in the dark, alone in the house with the dead captain’s body. Then my mother got a candle in the bar, and, holding each other’s hands, we advanced into the parlour. He lay as we had left him, on his back, with his eyes open, and one arm stretched out.

“Draw down the blind, Jim,” whispered my mother; “they might come and watch outside. And now,” said she, when I had done so, “we have to get the key off that; and who’s to touch it, I should like to know!” and she gave a kind of sob as she said the words.

I went down on my knees at once. On the floor close to his hand there was a little round of paper, blackened on the one side. I could not doubt that this was the black spot; and taking it up, I found written on the other side, in a very good, clear hand, this short message: “You have till ten to-night.”

“He had till ten, mother,” said I; and just as I said it our old clock began striking. This sudden noise startled us shockingly; but the news was good, for it was only six.

“Now, Jim,” she said, “that key.”

I felt in his pockets, one after another. A few small31 coins, a thimble, and some thread and big needles, a piece of pigtail tobacco bitten away at the end, his gully with the crooked handle, a pocket compass, and a tinder-box, were all that they contained, and I began to despair.

“Perhaps it’s round his neck,” suggested my mother.

Overcoming a strong repugnance, I tore open his shirt at the neck, and there, sure enough, hanging to a bit of tarry string, which I cut with his own gully, we found the key. At this triumph we were filled with hope, and hurried upstairs, without delay, to the little room where he had slept so long, and where his box had stood since the day of his arrival.

It was like any other seaman’s chest on the outside, the initial “B.” burned on the top of it with a hot iron, and the corners somewhat smashed and broken as by long, rough usage.

“Give me the key,” said my mother; and though the lock was very stiff, she had turned it and thrown back the lid in a twinkling.

A strong smell of tobacco and tar rose from the interior, but nothing was to be seen on the top except a suit of very good clothes, carefully brushed and folded. They had never been worn, my mother said. Under that, the miscellany began—a quadrant, a tin cannikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells. It has often set me thinking since that he should have carried about these shells with him in his wandering, guilty, and hunted life.

In the meantime, we had found nothing of any value but the silver and the trinkets, and neither of these were in our way. Underneath there was an old boat-cloak, whitened with sea-salt on many a harbour-bar. My mother pulled it up with impatience, and there lay before us, the last things in the chest, a bundle tied up in oilcloth, and looking32 like papers, and a canvas bag, that gave forth, at a touch, the jingle of gold.

“I’ll show these rogues that I’m an honest woman,” said my mother. “I’ll have my dues, and not a farthing over. Hold Mrs. Crossley’s bag.” And she began to count over the amount of the captain’s score from the sailor’s bag into the one that I was holding.

It was a long, difficult business, for the coins were of all countries and sizes—doubloons, and louis-d’ors, and guineas, and pieces of eight, and I know not what besides, all shaken together at random. The guineas, too, were about the scarcest, and it was with these only that my mother knew how to make her count.

When we were about half-way through I suddenly put my hand upon her arm; for I had heard in the silent, frosty air, a sound that brought my heart into my mouth—the tap-tapping of the blind man’s stick upon the frozen road. It drew nearer and nearer, while we sat holding our breath. Then it struck sharp on the inn-door, and then we could hear the handle being turned, and the bolt rattling as the wretched being tried to enter; and then there was a long time of silence both within and without. At last the tapping recommenced, and, to our indescribable joy and gratitude, died slowly away again until it ceased to be heard.

“Mother,” said I, “take the whole and let’s be going;” for I was sure the bolted door must have seemed suspicious, and would bring the whole hornets’ nest about our ears; though how thankful I was that I had bolted it, none could tell who had never met that terrible blind man.

But my mother, frightened as she was, would not consent to take a fraction more than was due to her, and was obstinately unwilling to be content with less. It was not yet seven, she said, by a long way; she knew her rights and she would have them; and she was still arguing with me, when a little low whistle sounded a good way off upon the hill. That was enough, and more than enough, for both of us.33

“I’ll take what I have,” she said, jumping to her feet.

“And I’ll take this to square the count,” said I, picking up the oilskin packet.

Next moment we were both groping down-stairs, leaving the candle by the empty chest; and the next we had opened the door and were in full retreat. We had not started a moment too soon. The fog was rapidly dispersing; already the moon shone quite clear on the high ground on either side; and it was only in the exact bottom of the dell and round the tavern-door that a thin veil still hung unbroken to conceal the first steps of our escape. Far less than half-way to the hamlet, very little beyond the bottom of the hill, we must come forth into the moonlight. Nor was this all, for the sound of several footsteps running came already to our ears, and as we looked back in their direction, a light tossing to and fro, and still rapidly advancing, showed that one of the new-comers carried a lantern.

“My dear,” said my mother suddenly, “take the money and run on. I am going to faint.”

This was certainly the end for both of us, I thought. How I cursed the cowardice of the neighbours; how I blamed my poor mother for her honesty and her greed, for her past foolhardiness and present weakness! We were just at the little bridge, by good fortune; and I helped her, tottering as she was, to the edge of the bank, where, sure enough, she gave a sigh and fell on my shoulder. I do not know how I found the strength to do it at all, and I am afraid it was roughly done; but I managed to drag her down the bank and a little way under the arch. Farther I could not move her, for the bridge was too low to let me do more than crawl below it. So there we had to stay—my mother almost entirely exposed, and both of us within earshot of the inn.

 

34

CHAPTER V

THE LAST OF THE BLIND MAN

My curiosity, in a sense, was stronger than my fear; for I could not remain where I was, but crept back to the bank again, whence, sheltering my head behind a bush of broom, I might command the road before our door. I was scarcely in position ere my enemies began to arrive, seven or eight of them, running hard, their feet beating out of time along the road, and the man with the lantern some paces in front. Three men ran together, hand in hand; and I made out, even through the mist, that the middle man of this trio was the blind beggar. The next moment his voice showed me that I was right.

“Down with the door!” he cried.

“Ay, ay, sir!” answered two or three; and a rush was made upon the “Admiral Benbow,” the lantern-bearer following; and then I could see them pause, and hear speeches passed in a lower key, as if they were surprised to find the door open. But the pause was brief, for the blind man again issued his commands. His voice sounded louder and higher, as if he were afire with eagerness and rage.

“In, in, in!” he shouted, and cursed them for their delay.

Four or five of them obeyed at once, two remaining on the road with the formidable beggar. There was a pause, then a cry of surprise, and then a voice shouting from the house——

“Bill’s dead!”

But the blind man swore at them again for their delay.

“Search him, some of you shirking lubbers, and the rest of you aloft and get the chest,” he cried.35

I could hear their feet rattling up our old stairs, so that the house must have shook with it. Promptly afterwards, fresh sounds of astonishment arose; the window of the captain’s room was thrown open with a slam and a jingle of broken glass; and a man leaned out into the moonlight, head and shoulders, and addressed the blind beggar on the road below him.

“Pew,” he cried, “they’ve been before us. Someone’s turned the chest out alow and aloft.”

“Is it there?” roared Pew.

“The money’s there.”

The blind man cursed the money.

“Flint’s fist, I mean,” he cried.

“We don’t see it here nohow,” returned the man.

“Here, you below there, is it on Bill?” cried the blind man again.

At that, another fellow, probably him who had remained below to search the captain’s body, came to the door of the inn. “Bill’s been overhauled a’ready,” said he; “nothin’ left.”

“It’s these people of the inn—it’s that boy. I wish I had put his eyes out!” cried the blind man, Pew. “They were here no time ago—they had the door bolted when I tried it. Scatter, lads, and find ’em.”

“Sure enough, they left their glim here,” said the fellow from the window.

“Scatter and find ’em! Rout the house out!” reiterated Pew, striking with his stick upon the road.

Then there followed a great to-do through all our old inn, heavy feet pounding to and fro, furniture thrown over, doors kicked in, until the very rocks re-echoed, and the men came out again, one after another, on the road, and declared that we were nowhere to be found. And just then the same whistle that had alarmed my mother and myself over the dead captain’s money was once more clearly audible through the night, but this time twice repeated. I had thought it to be the blind man’s trumpet, so to speak, summoning his36 crew to the assault; but I now found that it was a signal from the hillside towards the hamlet, and, from its effect upon the buccaneers, a signal to warn them of approaching danger.

“There’s Dirk again,” said one. “Twice! We’ll have to budge, mates.”

“Budge, you skulk!” cried Pew. “Dirk was a fool and a coward from the first—you wouldn’t mind him. They must be close by; they can’t be far; you have your hands on it. Scatter and look for them, dogs. Oh, shiver my soul,” he cried, “if I had eyes!”

This appeal seemed to produce some effect, for two of the fellows began to look here and there among the lumber, but half-heartedly, I thought, and with half an eye to their own danger all the time, while the rest stood irresolute on the road.

“You have your hands on thousands, you fools, and you hang a leg! You’d be as rich as kings if you could find it, and you know it’s here, and you stand there malingering. There wasn’t one of you dared face Bill, and I did it—a blind man! And I’m to lose my chance for you! I’m to be a poor, crawling beggar, sponging for rum, when I might be rolling in a coach! If you had the pluck of a weevil in a biscuit you would catch them still.”

“Hang it, Pew, we’ve got the doubloons!” grumbled one.

“They might have hid the blessed thing,” said another. “Take the Georges, Pew, and don’t stand here squalling.”

Squalling was the word for it, Pew’s anger rose so high at these objections; till at last, his passion completely taking the upper hand, he struck at them right and left in his blindness, and his stick sounded heavily on more than one.

These, in their turn, cursed back at the blind miscreant, threatened him in horrid terms, and tried in vain to catch the stick and wrest it from his grasp.

This quarrel was the saving of us; for while it was still37 raging, another sound came from the top of the hill on the side of the hamlet—the tramp of horses galloping. Almost at the same time a pistol-shot, flash and report, came from the hedge-side. And that was plainly the last signal of danger; for the buccaneers turned at once and ran, separating in every direction, one seaward along the cove, one slant across the hill, and so on, so that in half a minute not a sign of them remained but Pew. Him they had deserted, whether in sheer panic, or out of revenge for his ill words and blows, I know not; but there he remained behind, tapping up and down the road in a frenzy, and groping and calling for his comrades. Finally he took the wrong turn, and ran a few steps past me, towards the hamlet, crying—

“Johnny, Black Dog, Dirk,” and other names, “you won’t leave old Pew, mates—not old Pew!”

Just then the noise of horses topped the rise, and four or five riders came in sight in the moonlight, and swept at full gallop down the slope.

At this Pew saw his error, turned with a scream, and ran straight for the ditch, into which he rolled. But he was on his feet again in a second, and made another dash, now utterly bewildered, right under the nearest of the coming horses.

The rider tried to save him, but in vain. Down went Pew with a cry that rang high into the night; and the four hoofs trampled and spurned him and passed by. He fell on his side, then gently collapsed upon his face, and moved no more.

I leapt to my feet and hailed the riders. They were pulling up, at any rate, horrified at the accident; and I soon saw what they were. One, tailing out behind the rest, was a lad that had gone from the hamlet to Dr. Livesey’s; the rest were revenue officers, whom he had met by the way, and with whom he had had the intelligence to return at once. Some news of the lugger in Kitt’s Hole had found its way to Supervisor Dance, and set him forth that night in our38 direction, and to that circumstance my mother and I owed our preservation from death.

Pew was dead, stone dead. As for my mother, when we had carried her up to the hamlet, a little cold water and salts and that soon brought her back again, and she was none the worse for her terror, though she still continued to deplore the balance of the money. In the meantime, the supervisor rode on, as fast as he could, to Kitt’s Hole; but his men had to dismount and grope down the dingle, leading, and sometimes supporting, their horses, and in continual fear of ambushes; so it was no great matter for surprise that when they got down to the Hole the lugger was already under way, though still close in. He hailed her. A voice replied, telling him to keep out of the moonlight, or he would get some lead in him, and at the same time a bullet whistled close by his arm. Soon after, the lugger doubled the point and disappeared. Mr. Dance stood there, as he said, “like a fish out of water,” and all he could do was to despatch a man to B—— to warn the cutter. “And that,” said he, “is just about as good as nothing. They’ve got off clean, and there’s an end. Only,” he added, “I’m glad I trod on Master Pew’s corns;” for by this time he had heard my story.

I went back with him to the “Admiral Benbow,” and you cannot imagine a house in such a state of smash; the very clock had been thrown down by these fellows in their furious hunt after my mother and myself, and though nothing had been actually taken away except the captain’s money-bag and a little silver from the till, I could see at once that we were ruined. Mr. Dance could make nothing of the scene.

“They got the money, you say? Well, then, Hawkins, what in fortune were they after; more money, I suppose?”

“No, sir; not money, I think,” replied I. “In fact, sir, I believe I have the thing in my breast-pocket; and, to tell you the truth, I should like to get it put in safety.”

“To be sure, boy; quite right,” said he. “I’ll take it, if you like.”39

“I thought, perhaps, Dr. Livesey——” I began.

“Perfectly right,” he interrupted, very cheerily, “perfectly right—a gentleman and a magistrate. And, now I come to think of it, I might as well ride round there myself and report to him or squire. Master Pew’s dead, when all’s done; not that I regret it, but he’s dead, you see, and people will make it out against an officer of His Majesty’s revenue, if make it out they can. Now, I’ll tell you, Hawkins: if you like, I’ll take you along.”

I thanked him heartily for the offer, and we walked back to the hamlet where the horses were. By the time I had told mother of my purpose they were all in the saddle.

“Dogger,” said Mr. Dance, “you have a good horse; take up this lad behind you.”

As soon as I was mounted, holding on to Dogger’s belt, the supervisor gave the word, and the party struck out at a bouncing trot on the road to Dr. Livesey’s house.

 

40

CHAPTER VI

THE CAPTAIN’S PAPERS

We rode hard all the way, till we drew up before Dr. Livesey’s door. The house was all dark to the front.

Mr. Dance told me to jump down and knock, and Dogger gave me a stirrup to descend by. The door was opened almost at once by the maid.

“Is Dr. Livesey in?” I asked.

No, she said; he had come home in the afternoon, but had gone up to the Hall to dine and pass the evening with the squire.

“So there we go, boys,” said Mr. Dance.

This time, as the distance was short, I did not mount, but ran with Dogger’s stirrup-leather to the lodge gates, and up the long, leafless, moonlit avenue to where the white line of the Hall buildings looked on either hand on great old gardens. Here Mr. Dance dismounted, and, taking me along with him, was admitted at a word into the house.

The servant led us down a matted passage, and showed us at the end into a great library, all lined with book-cases and busts upon the top of them, where the squire and Dr. Livesey sat, pipe in hand, on either side of a bright fire.

I had never seen the squire so near at hand. He was a tall man, over six feet high, and broad in proportion, and he had a bluff, rough-and-ready face, all roughened and reddened and lined in his long travels. His eyebrows were very black, and moved readily, and this gave him a look of some temper—not bad, you would say, but quick and high.

“Come in, Mr. Dance,” says he, very stately and condescending.

“Good-evening, Dance,” says the doctor, with a nod.41 “And good-evening to you, friend Jim. What good wind brings you here?”

The supervisor stood up straight and stiff, and told his story like a lesson; and you should have seen how the two gentlemen leaned forward and looked at each other, and forgot to smoke in their surprise and interest. When they heard how my mother went back to the inn, Dr. Livesey fairly slapped his thigh, and the squire cried, “Bravo!” and broke his long pipe against the grate. Long before it was done, Mr. Trelawney (that, you will remember, was the squire’s name) had got up from his seat, and was striding about the room, and the doctor, as if to hear the better, had taken off his powdered wig, and sat there, looking very strange indeed with his own close-cropped black poll.

At last Mr. Dance finished the story.

“Mr. Dance,” said the squire, “you are a very noble fellow. And as for riding down that black, atrocious miscreant, I regard it as an act of virtue, sir, like stamping on a cockroach. This lad Hawkins is a trump, I perceive.—Hawkins, will you ring that bell? Mr. Dance must have some ale.”

“And so, Jim,” said the doctor, “you have the thing that they were after, have you?”

“Here it is, sir,” said I, and gave him the oilskin packet.

The doctor looked it all over, as if his fingers were itching to open it; but, instead of doing that, he put it quietly in the pocket of his coat.

“Squire,” said he, “when Dance has had his ale he must, of course, be off on His Majesty’s service; but I mean to keep Jim Hawkins here to sleep at my house, and, with your permission, I propose we should have up the cold pie, and let him sup.”

“As you will, Livesey,” said the squire; “Hawkins has earned better than cold pie.”

So a big pigeon-pie was brought in and put on a side-table, and I made a hearty supper, for I was as hungry as a42 hawk, while Mr. Dance was further complimented and at last dismissed.

“And now, squire,” said the doctor.

“And now, Livesey,” said the squire, in the same breath.

“One at a time, one at a time,” laughed Dr. Livesey.—“You have heard of this Flint, I suppose?”

“Heard of him!” cried the squire. “Heard of him, you say! He was the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that sailed. Blackbeard was a child to Flint. The Spaniards were so prodigiously afraid of him, that I tell you, sir, I was sometimes proud he was an Englishman. I’ve seen his top-sails with these eyes, off Trinidad, and the cowardly son of a rum-puncheon that I sailed with put back—put back, sir, into Port-of-Spain.”

“Well, I’ve heard of him myself, in England,” said the doctor. “But the point is, had he money?”

“Money!” cried the squire. “Have you heard the story? What were these villains after but money? What do they care for but money? For what would they risk their rascal carcases but money?”

“That we shall soon know,” replied the doctor. “But you are so confoundedly hot-headed and exclamatory that I cannot get a word in. What I want to know is this: Supposing that I have here in my pocket some clue to where Flint buried his treasure, will that treasure amount to much?”

“Amount, sir!” cried the squire. “It will amount to this: if we have the clue you talk about, I fit out a ship in Bristol dock, and take you and Hawkins here along, and I’ll have that treasure if I search a year.”

“Very well,” said the doctor. “Now, then, if Jim is agreeable, we’ll open the packet;” and he laid it before him on the table.

The bundle was sewn together, and the doctor had to get out his instrument-case, and cut the stitches with his medical scissors. It contained two things—a book and a sealed paper.43

“First of all we’ll try the book,” observed the doctor.

The squire and I were both peering over his shoulder as he opened it, for Dr. Livesey had kindly motioned me to come round from the side-table, where I had been eating, to enjoy the sport of the search. On the first page there were only some scraps of writing, such as a man with a pen in his hand might make for idleness or practice. One was the same as the tattoo-mark, “Billy Bones his fancy;” then there was “Mr. W. Bones, mate.” “No more rum.” “Off Palm Key he got itt;” and some other snatches, mostly single words and unintelligible. I could not help wondering who it was that had “got itt,” and what “itt” was that he got. A knife in his back as like as not.

“Not much instruction there,” said Dr. Livesey, as he passed on.

The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious series of entries. There was a date at one end of the line and at the other a sum of money, as in common account-books; but instead of explanatory writing, only a varying number of crosses between the two. On the 12th of June, 1745, for instance, a sum of seventy pounds had plainly become due to some one, and there was nothing but six crosses to explain the cause. In a few cases, to be sure, the name of a place would be added, as “Offe Caraccas;” or a mere entry of latitude and longitude, as “62° 17' 20", 19° 2' 40".”

The record lasted over nearly twenty years, the amount of the separate entries growing larger as time went on, and at the end a grand total had been made out after five or six wrong additions, and these words appended, “Bones his pile.”

“I can’t make head or tail of this,” said Dr. Livesey. “The thing is as clear as noonday,” cried the squire. “This is the black-hearted hound’s account-book. These crosses stand for the names of ships or towns that they sank or plundered. The sums are the scoundrel’s share, and where he feared an ambiguity, you see he added something clearer.44 ‘Offe Caraccas,’ now; you see, here was some unhappy vessel boarded off that coast. God help the poor souls that manned her—coral long ago.”

“Right!” said the doctor. “See what it is to be a traveller. Right! And the amounts increase, you see, as he rose in rank.”

There was little else in the volume but a few bearings of places noted in the blank leaves towards the end, and a table for reducing French, English, and Spanish moneys to a common value.

“Thrifty man!” cried the doctor. “He wasn’t the one to be cheated.”

“And now,” said the squire, “for the other.”

The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble by way of seal; the very thimble, perhaps, that I had found in the captain’s pocket. The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island, with latitude and longitude, soundings, names of hills, and bays and inlets, and every particular that would be needed to bring a ship to a safe anchorage upon its shores. It was about nine miles long and five across, shaped, you might say, like a fat dragon standing up, and had two fine land-locked harbours, and a hill in the centre part marked “The Spy-glass.” There were several additions of a later date; but, above all, three crosses of red ink—two on the north part of the island, one in the south-west, and, beside this last, in the same red ink, and in a small, neat hand, very different from the captain’s tottery characters, these words: “Bulk of treasure here.”

Over on the back the same hand had written this further information:—

“Tall tree, Spy-glass shoulder, bearing a point to the N. of N.N.E.

“Skeleton Island E.S.E. and by E.

“Ten feet.

“The bar silver is in the north cache; you can find it by the trend of the east hummock, ten fathoms south of the black crag with the face on it.

“The arms are easy found, in the sand hill, N. point of north inlet cape, bearing E. and a quarter N.

J. F.”

45

That was all; but brief as it was, and, to me, incomprehensible, it filled the squire and Dr. Livesey with delight.

“Livesey,” said the squire, “you will give up this wretched practice at once. To-morrow I start for Bristol. In three weeks’ time—three weeks!—two weeks—ten days—we’ll have the best ship, sir, and the choicest crew in England. Hawkins shall come as cabin-boy. You’ll make a famous cabin-boy, Hawkins. You, Livesey, are ship’s doctor; I am admiral. We’ll take Redruth, Joyce, and Hunter. We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat—to roll in—to play duck-and-drake with ever after.”

“Trelawney,” said the doctor, “I’ll go with you; and, I’ll go bail for it, so will Jim, and be a credit to the undertaking. There’s only one man I’m afraid of.”

“And who’s that?” cried the squire. “Name the dog, sir!”

“You,” replied the doctor; “for you cannot hold your tongue. We are not the only men who know of this paper. These fellows who attacked the inn to-night—bold, desperate blades, for sure—and the rest who stayed aboard that lugger, and more, I dare say, not far off, are, one and all, through thick and thin, bound that they’ll get that money. We must none of us go alone till we get to sea. Jim and I shall stick together in the meanwhile; you’ll take Joyce and Hunter when you ride to Bristol, and, from first to last, not one of us must breathe a word of what we’ve found.”

“Livesey,” returned the squire, “you are always in the right of it. I’ll be as silent as the grave.”

 

46

47

PART II

THE SEA-COOK

48

 

49

CHAPTER VII

I GO TO BRISTOL

It was longer than the squire imagined ere we were ready for the sea, and none of our first plans—not even Dr. Livesey’s, of keeping me beside him—could be carried out as we intended. The doctor had to go to London for a physician to take charge of his practice; the squire was hard at work at Bristol; and I lived on at the Hall under the charge of old Redruth, the gamekeeper, almost a prisoner, but full of sea-dreams and the most charming anticipations of strange islands and adventures. I brooded by the hour together over the map, all the details of which I well remembered. Sitting by the fire in the housekeeper’s room, I approached that island in my fancy, from every possible direction; I explored every acre of its surface; I climbed a thousand times to that tall hill they call the Spy-glass, and from the top enjoyed the most wonderful and changing prospects. Sometimes the isle was thick with savages, with whom we fought; sometimes full of dangerous animals that hunted us; but in all my fancies nothing occurred to me so strange and tragic as our actual adventures.

So the weeks passed on, till one fine day there came a letter addressed to Dr. Livesey, with this addition, “To be opened, in the case of his absence, by Tom Redruth, or young Hawkins.” Obeying this order, we found, or rather, I found—for the gamekeeper was a poor hand at reading anything but print—the following important news:—

Old Anchor Inn, Bristol, March 1, 17—.

Dear Livesey,—As I do not know whether you are at the Hall or still in London, I send this in double to both places.

“The ship is bought and fitted. She lies at anchor, ready for sea.50 You never imagined a sweeter schooner—a child might sail her—two hundred tons; name, Hispaniola.

“I got her through my old friend, Blandly, who has proved himself throughout the most surprising trump. The admirable fellow literally slaved in my interest, and so, I may say, did every one in Bristol, as soon as they got wind of the port we sailed for—treasure, I mean.”

“Redruth,” said I, interrupting the letter, “Dr. Livesey will not like that. The squire has been talking, after all.”

“Well, who’s a better right?” growled the gamekeeper. “A pretty rum go if squire ain’t to talk for Dr. Livesey, I should think.”

At that I gave up all attempt at commentary, and read straight on:—

“Blandly himself found the Hispaniola, and by the most admirable management got her for the merest trifle. There is a class of men in Bristol monstrously prejudiced against Blandly. They go the length of declaring that this honest creature would do anything for money, that the Hispaniola belonged to him, and that he sold it me absurdly high—the most transparent calumnies. None of them dare, however, to deny the merits of the ship.

“So far there was not a hitch. The workpeople, to be sure—riggers and what not—were most annoyingly slow; but time cured that. It was the crew that troubled me.

“I wished a round score of men—in case of natives, buccaneers, or the odious French—and I had the worry of the deuce itself to find so much as half a dozen, till the most remarkable stroke of fortune brought me the very man that I required.

“I was standing on the dock, when, by the merest accident, I fell in talk with him. I found he was an old sailor, kept a public-house, knew all the seafaring men in Bristol, had lost his health ashore, and wanted a good berth as cook to get to sea again. He had hobbled down there that morning, he said, to get a smell of the salt.

“I was monstrously touched—so would you have been—and, out of pure pity, I engaged him on the spot to be ship’s cook. Long John Silver, he is called, and has lost a leg; but that I regarded as a recommendation, since he lost it in his country’s service, under the immortal Hawke. He has no pension, Livesey. Imagine the abominable age we live in!

“Well, sir, I thought I had only found a cook, but it was a crew I had discovered. Between Silver and myself we got together in a few days a company of the toughest old salts imaginable—not pretty to look at, but fellows, by their faces, of the most indomitable spirit. I declare we could fight a frigate.

“Long John even got rid of two out of the six or seven I had already engaged. He showed me in a moment that they were just51 the sort of fresh-water swabs we had to fear in an adventure of importance.

“I am in the most magnificent health and spirits, eating like a bull, sleeping like a tree, yet I shall not enjoy a moment till I hear my old tarpaulins tramping round the capstan. Seaward ho! Hang the treasure! It’s the glory of the sea that has turned my head. So now, Livesey, come post; do not lose an hour if you respect me.

“Let young Hawkins go at once to see his mother, with Redruth for a guard; and then both come full speed to Bristol.

John Trelawney.

Postscript.—I did not tell you that Blandly, who, by the way, is to send a consort after us if we don’t turn up by the end of August, had found an admirable fellow for sailing master—a stiff man, which I regret, but, in all other respects, a treasure. Long John Silver unearthed a very competent man for a mate, a man named Arrow. I have a boatswain who pipes, Livesey; so things shall go man-o’-war fashion on board the good ship Hispaniola.

“I forgot to tell you that Silver is a man of substance; I know of my own knowledge that he has a banker’s account, which has never been overdrawn. He leaves his wife to manage the inn; and as she is a woman of colour, a pair of old bachelors like you and I may be excused for guessing that it is the wife, quite as much as the health, that sends him back to roving.

J. T.

P.P.S.—Hawkins may stay one night with his mother.

“J. T.”

You can fancy the excitement into which that letter put me. I was half beside myself with glee; and if ever I despised a man, it was old Tom Redruth, who could do nothing but grumble and lament. Any of the under-gamekeepers would gladly have changed places with him; but such was not the squire’s pleasure, and the squire’s pleasure was like law among them all. Nobody but old Redruth would have dared so much as even to grumble.

The next morning he and I set out on foot for the “Admiral Benbow,” and there I found my mother in good health and spirits. The captain, who had so long been a cause of so much discomfort, was gone where the wicked cease from troubling. The squire had had everything repaired, and the public rooms and the sign repainted, and had added some furniture—above all, a beautiful arm-chair for mother in the bar. He had found her a boy as an52 apprentice also, so that she should not want help while I was gone.

It was on seeing that boy that I understood, for the first time, my situation. I had thought, up to that moment, of the adventures before me, not at all of the home that I was leaving; and now, at sight of this clumsy stranger, who was to stay here in my place beside my mother, I had my first attack of tears. I am afraid I led that boy a dog’s life; for as he was new to the work I had a hundred opportunities of setting him right and putting him down, and I was not slow to profit by them.

The night passed, and the next day, after dinner, Redruth and I were afoot again, and on the road. I said good-bye to mother and the cove where I had lived since I was born, and the dear old “Admiral Benbow”—since he was repainted, no longer quite so dear. One of my last thoughts was of the captain, who had so often strode along the beach with his cocked hat, his sabre-cut cheek, and his old brass telescope. Next moment we had turned the corner, and my home was out of sight.

The mail picked us up about dusk at the “Royal George” on the heath. I was wedged in between Redruth and a stout old gentleman, and in spite of the swift motion and the cold night-air, I must have dozed a great deal from the very first, and then slept like a log up hill and down dale through stage after stage; for when I was awakened, at last, it was by a punch in the ribs, and I opened my eyes, to find that we were standing still before a large building in a city street, and that the day had already broken a long time.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Bristol,” said Tom. “Get down.”

Mr. Trelawney had taken up his residence at an inn far down the docks, to superintend the work upon the schooner. Thither we had now to walk, and our way, to my great delight, lay along the quays and beside the great multitude of ships of all sizes and rigs and nations. In one, sailors53 were singing at their work; in another, there were men aloft, high over my head, hanging to threads that seemed no thicker than a spider’s. Though I had lived by the shore all my life, I seemed never to have been near the sea till then. The smell of tar and salt was something new. I saw the most wonderful figureheads, that had all been far over the ocean. I saw, besides, many old sailors, with rings in their ears, and whiskers curled in ringlets, and tarry pigtails, and their swaggering, clumsy sea-walk; and if I had seen as many kings or archbishops I could not have been more delighted.

And I was going to sea myself; to sea in a schooner, with a piping boatswain, and pig-tailed singing seamen; to sea, bound for an unknown island, and to seek for buried treasures!

While I was still in this delightful dream, we came suddenly in front of a large inn, and met Squire Trelawney, all dressed out like a sea-officer, in stout blue cloth, coming out of the door with a smile on his face and a capital imitation of a sailor’s walk.

“Here you are,” he cried, “and the doctor came last night from London. Bravo! the ship’s company complete!”

“Oh, sir,” cried I, “when do we sail?”

“Sail!” says he. “We sail to-morrow!”

 

54

CHAPTER VIII

AT THE SIGN OF THE “SPY-GLASS”

When I had done breakfasting the squire gave me a note addressed to John Silver, at the sign of the “Spy-glass,” and told me I should easily find the place by following the line of the docks, and keeping a bright look-out for a little tavern with a large brass telescope for sign. I set off, overjoyed at this opportunity to see some more of the ships and seamen, and picked my way among a great crowd of people and carts and bales, for the dock was now at its busiest, until I found the tavern in question.

It was a bright enough little place of entertainment. The sign was newly painted; the windows had neat red curtains; the floor was cleanly sanded. There was a street on either side, and an open door on both, which made the large, low room pretty clear to see in, in spite of clouds of tobacco-smoke.

The customers were mostly seafaring men; and they talked so loudly that I hung at the door, almost afraid to enter.

As I was waiting, a man came out of a side room, and, at a glance, I was sure he must be Long John. His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham—plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling. Indeed, he seemed in the most cheerful spirits, whistling as he moved about among the tables, with a merry word or a slap on the shoulder for the more favoured of his guests.

Now, to tell you the truth, from the very first mention55 of Long John in Squire Trelawney’s letter, I had taken a fear in my mind that he might prove to be the very one-legged sailor whom I had watched for so long at the old “Benbow.” But one look at the man before me was enough. I had seen the captain, and Black Dog, and the blind man Pew, and I thought I knew what a buccaneer was like—a very different creature, according to me, from this clean and pleasant-tempered landlord.

I plucked up courage at once, crossed the threshold, and walked right up to the man where he stood, propped on his crutch, talking to a customer.

“Mr. Silver, sir?” I asked, holding out the note.

“Yes, my lad,” said he; “such is my name, to be sure. And who may you be?” And then, as he saw the squire’s letter, he seemed to me to give something almost like a start.

“Oh!” said he, quite loud, and offering his hand, “I see. You are our new cabin-boy; pleased I am to see you.”

And he took my hand in his large firm grasp.

Just then one of the customers at the far side rose suddenly and made for the door. It was close by him, and he was out in the street in a moment. But his hurry had attracted my notice, and I recognised him at a glance. It was the tallow-faced man, wanting two fingers, who had come first to the “Admiral Benbow.”

“Oh,” I cried, “stop him! it’s Black Dog!”

“I don’t care two coppers who he is,” cried Silver. “But he hasn’t paid his score.—Harry, run and catch him.”

One of the others who was nearest the door leaped up, and started in pursuit.

“If he were Admiral Hawke he shall pay his score,” cried Silver; and then, relinquishing my hand—“Who did you say he was?” he asked. “Black what?”

“Dog, sir,” said I. “Has Mr. Trelawney not told you of the buccaneers? He was one of them.”56

“So?” cried Silver. “In my house!—Ben, run and help Harry. One of those swabs, was he? Was that you drinking with him, Morgan? Step up here.”

The man whom he called Morgan—an old, grey-haired, mahogany-faced sailor—came forward pretty sheepishly, rolling his quid.

“Now, Morgan,” said Long John, very sternly; “you never clapped your eyes on that Black—Black Dog before, did you, now?”

“Not I, sir,” said Morgan, with a salute.

“You didn’t know his name, did you?”

“No, sir.”

“By the powers, Tom Morgan, it’s as good for you!” exclaimed the landlord. “If you had been mixed up with the like of that, you would never have put another foot in my house, you may lay to that. And what was he saying to you?”

“I don’t rightly know, sir,” answered Morgan.

“Do you call that a head on your shoulders, or a blessed dead-eye?” cried Long John. “Don’t rightly know, don’t you! Perhaps you don’t happen to rightly know who you was speaking to, perhaps? Come now, what was he jawing—v’yages, cap’ns, ships? Pipe up! What was it?”

“We was a-talkin’ of keel-hauling,” answered Morgan.

“Keel-hauling, was you? and a mighty suitable thing, too, and you may lay to that. Get back to your place for a lubber, Tom.”

And then, as Morgan rolled back to his seat, Silver added to me in a confidential whisper, that was very flattering, as I thought:—

“He’s quite an honest man, Tom Morgan, on’y stupid. And now,” he ran on again, aloud, “let’s see—Black Dog? No, I don’t know the name, not I. Yet I kind of think I’ve—yes, I’ve seen the swab. He used to come here with a blind beggar, he used.”57

“That he did, you may be sure,” said I. “I knew that blind man, too. His name was Pew.”

“It was!” cried Silver, now quite excited. “Pew! That were his name for certain. Ah, he looked a shark, he did! If we run down this Black Dog, now, there’ll be news for Cap’n Trelawney! Ben’s a good runner; few seamen run better than Ben. He should run him down, hand over hand, by the powers! He talked o’ keel-hauling, did he? I’ll keel-haul him!”

All the time he was jerking out these phrases he was stumping up and down the tavern on his crutch, slapping tables with his hand, and giving such a show of excitement as would have convinced an Old Bailey judge or a Bow Street runner. My suspicions had been thoroughly reawakened on finding Black Dog at the “Spy-glass,” and I watched the cook narrowly. But he was too deep, and too ready, and too clever for me, and by the time the two men had come back out of breath, and confessed that they had lost the track in a crowd, and been scolded like thieves, I would have gone bail for the innocence of Long John Silver.

“See here, now, Hawkins,” said he, “here’s a blessed hard thing on a man like me, now, ain’t it? There’s Cap’n Trelawney—what’s he to think? Here I have this confounded son of a Dutchman sitting in my own house, drinking of my own rum! Here you comes and tells me of it plain; and here I let him give us all the slip before my blessed dead-lights! Now, Hawkins, you do me justice with the cap’n. You’re a lad, you are, but you’re as smart as paint. I see that when you first came in. Now, here it is: What could I do, with this old timber I hobble on? When I was an A B master mariner I’d have come up alongside of him, hand over hand, and broached him to in a brace of old shakes, I would; but now——”

And then, all of a sudden, he stopped, and his jaw dropped as though he had remembered something.

“The score!” he burst out. “Three goes o’ rum!58 Why, shiver my timbers, if I hadn’t forgotten my score!”

And, falling on a bench, he laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks. I could not help joining; and we laughed together, peal after peal, until the tavern rang again.

“Why, what a precious old sea-calf I am!” he said at last, wiping his cheeks. “You and me should get on well, Hawkins, for I’ll take my davy I should be rated ship’s boy. But come now, stand by to go about. This won’t do. Dooty is dooty, messmates. I’ll put on my old cocked hat, and step along of you to Cap’n Trelawney, and report this here affair. For, mind you, it’s serious, young Hawkins; and neither you nor me’s come out of it with what I should make so bold as to call credit. Nor you neither, says you; not smart—none of the pair of us smart. But, dash my buttons! that was a good ’un about my score.”

And he began to laugh again, and that so heartily, that though I did not see the joke as he did, I was again obliged to join him in his mirth.

On our little walk along the quays, he made himself the most interesting companion, telling me about the different ships that we passed by, their rig, tonnage, and nationality, explaining the work that was going forward—how one was discharging, another taking in cargo, and a third making ready for sea; and every now and then telling me some little anecdote of ships or seamen, or repeating a nautical phrase till I had learned it perfectly. I began to see that here was one of the best of possible shipmates.

When we got to the inn, the squire and Dr. Livesey were seated together, finishing a quart of ale with a toast in it, before they should go aboard the schooner on a visit of inspection.

Long John told the story from first to last, with a great deal of spirit and the most perfect truth. “That was how59 it were, now, weren’t it, Hawkins?” he would say, now and again, and I could always bear him entirely out.

The two gentlemen regretted that Black Dog had got away; but we all agreed there was nothing to be done, and after he had been complimented, Long John took up his crutch and departed.

“All hands aboard by four this afternoon,” shouted the squire after him.

“Ay, ay, sir,” cried the cook, in the passage.

“Well, squire,” said Dr. Livesey, “I don’t put much faith in your discoveries as a general thing; but I will say this, John Silver suits me.”

“The man’s a perfect trump,” declared the squire.

“And now,” added the doctor, “Jim may come on board with us, may he not?”

“To be sure he may,” says squire.—“Take your hat, Hawkins, and we’ll see the ship.”

 

60

CHAPTER IX

POWDER AND ARMS

The Hispaniola lay some way out, and we went under the figureheads and round the sterns of many other ships, and their cables sometimes grated underneath our keel, and sometimes swung above us. At last, however, we got alongside, and were met and saluted as we stepped aboard by the mate, Mr. Arrow, a brown old sailor, with earrings in his ears and a squint. He and the squire were very thick and friendly, but I soon observed that things were not the same between Mr. Trelawney and the captain.

This last was a sharp-looking man, who seemed angry with everything on board, and was soon to tell us why, for we had hardly got down into the cabin when a sailor followed us.

“Captain Smollett, sir, axing to speak with you,” said he.

“I am always at the captain’s orders. Show him in,” said the squire.

The captain, who was close behind his messenger, entered at once, and shut the door behind him.

“Well, Captain Smollett, what have you to say? All well, I hope; all shipshape and seaworthy?”

“Well, sir,” said the captain, “better speak plain, I believe, even at the risk of offence. I don’t like this cruise; I don’t like the men; and I don’t like my officer. That’s short and sweet.”

“Perhaps, sir, you don’t like the ship?” inquired the squire, very angry, as I could see.

“I can’t speak as to that, sir, not having seen her tried,” said the captain. “She seems a clever craft; more I can’t say.”61

“Possibly, sir, you may not like your employer, either?” says the squire.

But here Dr. Livesey cut in.

“Stay a bit,” said he, “stay a bit. No use of such questions as that but to produce ill-feeling. The captain has said too much or he has said too little, and I’m bound to say that I require an explanation of his words. You don’t, you say, like this cruise. Now, why?”

“I was engaged, sir, on what we call sealed orders, to sail this ship for that gentleman where he should bid me,” said the captain. “So far so good. But now I find that every man before the mast knows more than I do. I don’t call that fair, now—do you?”

“No,” said Dr. Livesey, “I don’t.”

“Next,” said the captain, “I learn we are going after treasure—hear it from my own hands, mind you. Now, treasure is ticklish work; I don’t like treasure-voyages on any account; and I don’t like them, above all, when they are secret, and when (begging your pardon, Mr. Trelawney) the secret has been told to the parrot.”

“Silver’s parrot?” asked the squire.

“It’s a way of speaking,” said the captain. “Blabbed, I mean. It’s my belief neither of you gentlemen know what you are about; but I’ll tell you my way of it—life or death, and a close run.”

“That is all clear, and, I daresay, true enough,” replied Dr. Livesey. “We take the risk; but we are not so ignorant as you believe us.—Next, you say you don’t like the crew. Are they not good seamen?”

“I don’t like them, sir,” returned Captain Smollett. “And I think I should have had the choosing of my own hands, if you go to that.”

“Perhaps you should,” replied the doctor. “My friend should perhaps have taken you along with him; but the slight, if there be one, was unintentional.—And you don’t like Mr. Arrow?”

“I don’t, sir. I believe he’s a good seaman; but he’s62 too free with the crew to be a good officer. A mate should keep himself to himself—shouldn’t drink with the men before the mast!”

“Do you mean he drinks?” cried the squire.

“No, sir,” replied the captain; “only that he’s too familiar.”

“Well, now, and the short and long of it, captain?” asked the doctor. “Tell us what you want.”

“Well, gentlemen, are you determined to go on this cruise?”

“Like iron,” answered the squire.

“Very good,” said the captain. “Then, as you’ve heard me very patiently, saying things that I could not prove, hear me a few words more. They are putting the powder and the arms in the fore hold. Now, you have a good place under the cabin; why not put them there?—first point. Then you are bringing four of your own people with you, and they tell me some of them are to be berthed forward. Why not give them the berths here beside the cabin?—second point.”

“Any more?” asked Mr. Trelawney.

“One more,” said the captain. “There’s been too much blabbing already.”

“Far too much,” agreed the doctor.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve heard myself,” continued Captain Smollett: “that you have a map of an island; that there’s crosses on the map to show where treasure is; and that the island lies——” And then he named the latitude and longitude exactly.

“I never told that,” cried the squire, “to a soul!”

“The hands know it, sir,” returned the captain.

“Livesey, that must have been you or Hawkins,” cried the squire.

“It doesn’t much matter who it was,” replied the doctor. And I could see that neither he nor the captain paid much regard to Mr. Trelawney’s protestations. Neither did I, to be sure, he was so loose a talker; yet in63 this case I believe he was really right, and that nobody had told the situation of the island.

“Well, gentlemen,” continued the captain, “I don’t know who has this map; but I make it a point, it shall be kept secret even from me and Mr. Arrow. Otherwise I would ask you to let me resign.”

“I see,” said the doctor. “You wish us to keep this matter dark, and to make a garrison of the stern part of the ship, manned with my friend’s own people, and provided with all the arms and powder on board. In other words, you fear a mutiny.”

“Sir,” said Captain Smollett, “with no intention to take offence, I deny your right to put words into my mouth. No captain, sir, would be justified in going to sea at all if he had ground enough to say that. As for Mr. Arrow, I believe him thoroughly honest; some of the men are the same; all may be for what I know. But I am responsible for the ship’s safety and the life of every man-Jack aboard of her. I see things going, as I think, not quite right. And I ask you to take certain precautions, or let me resign my berth. And that’s all.”

“Captain Smollett,” began the doctor, with a smile, “did ever you hear the fable of the mountain and the mouse? You’ll excuse me, I daresay, but you remind me of that fable. When you came in here I’ll stake my wig you meant more than this.”

“Doctor,” said the captain, “you are smart. When I came in here I meant to get discharged. I had no thought that Mr. Trelawney would hear a word.”

“No more I would,” cried the squire. “Had Livesey not been here, I should have seen you to the deuce. As it is, I have heard you. I will do as you desire; but I think the worse of you.”

“That’s as you please, sir,” said the captain. “You’ll find I do my duty.”

And with that he took his leave.

“Trelawney,” said the doctor, “contrary to all my64 notions, I believe you have managed to get two honest men on board with you—that man and John Silver.”

“Silver, if you like,” cried the squire; “but as for that intolerable humbug, I declare I think his conduct unmanly, unsailorly, and downright un-English.”

“Well,” says the doctor, “we shall see.”

When we came on deck, the men had begun already to take out the arms and powder, yo-ho-ing at their work, while the captain and Mr. Arrow stood by superintending.

The new arrangement was quite to my liking. The whole schooner had been overhauled; six berths had been made astern, out of what had been the after-part of the main hold; and this set of cabins was only joined to the galley and forecastle by a sparred passage on the port side. It had been originally meant that the captain, Mr. Arrow, Hunter, Joyce, the doctor, and the squire, were to occupy these six berths. Now, Redruth and I were to get two of them, and Mr. Arrow and the captain were to sleep on deck in the companion, which had been enlarged on each side till you might almost have called it a round-house. Very low it was still, of course; but there was room to swing two hammocks, and even the mate seemed pleased with the arrangement. Even he, perhaps, had been doubtful as to the crew, but that is only guess; for, as you shall hear, we had not long the benefit of his opinion.

We were all hard at work, changing the powder and the berths, when the last man or two, and Long John along with them, came off in a shore-boat.

The cook came up the side like a monkey for cleverness, and, as soon as he saw what was doing, “So ho, mates!” says he, “what’s this?”

“We’re a-changing of the powder, Jack,” answers one.

“Why, by the powers,” cried Long John, “if we do, we’ll miss the morning tide!”

“My orders!” said the captain shortly. “You may go below, my man. Hands will want supper.”

“Ay, ay, sir,” answered the cook; and, touching his65 forelock, he disappeared at once in the direction of the galley.

“That’s a good man, captain,” said the doctor.

“Very likely, sir,” replied Captain Smollett.—“Easy with that, men—easy,” he ran on, to the fellows who were shifting the powder; and then suddenly observing me examining the swivel we carried amidships, a long brass nine—“Here, you ship’s boy,” he cried, “out o’ that! Off with you to the cook and get some work.”

And then as I was hurrying off, I heard him say, quite loudly, to the doctor—

“I’ll have no favourites on my ship.”

I assure you I was quite of the squire’s way of thinking, and hated the captain deeply.

 

66

CHAPTER X

THE VOYAGE

All the night we were in a great bustle getting things stowed in their place, and boatfuls of the squire’s friends, Mr. Blandly and the like, coming off to wish him a good voyage and a safe return. We never had a night at the “Admiral Benbow” when I had half the work; and I was dog-tired when, a little before dawn, the boatswain sounded his pipe, and the crew began to man the capstan-bars. I might have been twice as weary, yet I would not have left the deck; all was so new and interesting to me—the brief commands, the shrill note of the whistle, the men bustling to their places in the glimmer of the ship’s lanterns.

“Now, Barbecue, tip us a stave,” cried one voice.

“The old one,” cried another.

“Ay, ay, mates,” said Long John, who was standing by, with his crutch under his arm, and at once broke out in the air and words I knew so well—

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest”—

and then the whole crew bore chorus—

“Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

And at the third “ho!” drove the bars before them with a will.

Even at that exciting moment it carried me back to the old “Admiral Benbow” in a second; and I seemed to hear the voice of the captain piping in the chorus. But soon the anchor was short up; soon it was hanging dripping at the bows; soon the sails began to draw, and the land and67 shipping to flit by on either side; and before I could lie down to snatch an hour of slumber the Hispaniola had begun her voyage to the Isle of Treasure.

I am not going to relate that voyage in detail. It was fairly prosperous. The ship proved to be a good ship, the crew were capable seamen, and the captain thoroughly understood his business. But before we came the length of Treasure Island two or three things had happened which require to be known.

Mr. Arrow, first of all, turned out even worse than the captain had feared. He had no command among the men, and people did what they pleased with him. But that was by no means the worst of it; for, after a day or two at sea he began to appear on deck with hazy eye, red cheeks, stuttering tongue, and other marks of drunkenness. Time after time he was ordered below in disgrace. Sometimes he fell and cut himself; sometimes he lay all day long in his little bunk at one side of the companion; sometimes for a day or two he would be almost sober, and attend to his work at least passably.

In the meantime we could never make out where he got the drink. That was the ship’s mystery. Watch him as we pleased, we could do nothing to solve it; and when we asked him to his face, he would only laugh, if he were drunk, and if he were sober, deny solemnly that he ever tasted anything but water.

He was not only useless as an officer, and a bad influence amongst the men, but it was plain that at this rate he must soon kill himself outright; so nobody was much surprised, nor very sorry, when one dark night, with a head sea, he disappeared entirely and was seen no more.

“Overboard!” said the captain. “Well, gentlemen, that saves the trouble of putting him in irons.”

But there we were, without a mate; and it was necessary, of course, to advance one of the men. The boatswain, Job Anderson, was the likeliest man aboard, and, though he kept his old title, he served in a way as mate. Mr.68 Trelawney had followed the sea, and his knowledge made him very useful, for he often took a watch himself in easy weather. And the coxswain, Israel Hands, was a careful, wily, old, experienced seaman, who could be trusted at a pinch with almost anything.

He was a great confidant of Long John Silver, and so the mention of his name leads me on to speak of our ship’s cook, Barbecue, as the men called him.

Aboard-ship he carried his crutch by a lanyard round his neck, to have both hands as free as possible. It was something to see him wedge the foot of the crutch against a bulkhead, and, propped against it, yielding to every movement of the ship, get on with his cooking like some one safe ashore. Still more strange was it to see him in the heaviest of weather cross the deck. He had a line or two rigged up to help him across the widest spaces—Long John’s earrings they were called; and he would hand himself from one place to another, now using the crutch, now trailing it alongside by the lanyard, as quickly as another man could walk. Yet some of the men who had sailed with him before expressed their pity to see him so reduced.

“He’s no common man, Barbecue,” said the coxswain to me. “He had good schooling in his young days, and can speak like a book when so minded; and brave—a lion’s nothing alongside of Long John! I seen him grapple four, and knock their heads together—him unarmed.”

All the crew respected, and even obeyed him. He had a way of talking to each, and doing everybody some particular service. To me he was unweariedly kind; and always glad to see me in the galley, which he kept as clean as a new pin; the dishes hanging up burnished, and his parrot in a cage in one corner.

“Come away, Hawkins,” he would say; “come and have a yarn with John. Nobody more welcome than yourself, my son. Sit you down and hear the news. Here’s Cap’n Flint—I calls my parrot Cap’n Flint, after the famous69 buccaneer—here’s Cap’n Flint predicting success to our v’yage.—Wasn’t you, cap’n?”

And the parrot would say, with great rapidity, “Pieces of eight! pieces of eight! pieces of eight!” till you wondered that it was not out of breath, or till John threw his handkerchief over the cage.

“Now, that bird,” he would say, “is, maybe, two hundred years old, Hawkins—they lives for ever mostly; and if anybody’s seen more wickedness, it must be the devil himself. She’s sailed with England, the great Cap’n England, the pirate. She’s been at Madagascar, and at Malabar, and Surinam, and Providence, and Portobello. She was at the fishing up of the wrecked plate ships. It’s there she learned ‘Pieces of eight,’ and little wonder; three hundred and fifty thousand of ’em, Hawkins! She was at the boarding of the Viceroy of the Indies out of Goa, she was; and to look at her you would think she was a babby. But you smelt powder—didn’t you, cap’n?”

“Stand by to go about,” the parrot would scream.

“Ah, she’s a handsome craft, she is,” the cook would say, and give her sugar from his pocket, and then the bird would peck at the bars and swear straight on, passing belief for wickedness. “There,” John would add, “you can’t touch pitch and not be mucked, lad. Here’s this poor old innocent bird o’ mine swearing blue fire, and none the wiser, you may lay to that. She would swear the same, in a manner of speaking, before chaplain.” And John would touch his forelock with a solemn way he had, that made me think he was the best of men.

In the meantime the squire and Captain Smollett were still on pretty distant terms with one another. The squire made no bones about the matter; he despised the captain. The captain, on his part, never spoke but when he was spoken to, and then sharp and short and dry, and not a word wasted. He owned, when driven into a corner, that he seemed to have been wrong about the crew, that some of them were as brisk as he wanted to see, and all had behaved70 fairly well. As for the ship, he had taken a downright fancy to her. “She’ll lie a point nearer the wind than a man has a right to expect of his own married wife, sir. But,” he would add, “all I say is we’re not home again, and I don’t like the cruise.”

The squire, at this, would turn away and march up and down the deck, chin in air.

“A trifle more of that man,” he would say, “and I should explode.”

We had some heavy weather, which only proved the qualities of the Hispaniola. Every man on board seemed well content, and they must have been hard to please if they had been otherwise; for it is my belief that there was never a ship’s company so spoiled since Noah put to sea. Double grog was going on the least excuse; there was duff on odd days, as, for instance, if the squire heard it was any man’s birthday, and always a barrel of apples standing broached in the waist, for any one to help himself that had a fancy.

“Never knew good come of it yet,” the captain said to Dr. Livesey. “Spoil foc’s’le hands, make devils. That’s my belief.”

But good did come of the apple-barrel, as you shall hear; for if it had not been for that we should have had no note of warning, and might all have perished by the hand of treachery.

This was how it came about.

We had ran up the trades to get the wind of the island we were after—I am not allowed to be more plain,—and now we were running down for it with a bright look-out day and night. It was about the last day of our outward voyage, by the largest computation; some time that night, or, at latest, before noon of the morrow, we should sight the Treasure Island. We were heading s.s.w., and had a steady breeze abeam and a quiet sea. The Hispaniola rolled steadily, dipping her bowsprit now and then with a whiff of spray. All was drawing alow and aloft; every71 one was in the bravest spirits, because we were now so near an end of the first part of our adventure.

Now, just after sundown, when all my work was over, and I was on my way to my berth, it occurred to me that I should like an apple. I ran on deck. The watch was all forward looking out for the island. The man at the helm was watching the luff of the sail, and whistling away gently to himself; and that was the only sound excepting the swish of the sea against the bows and around the sides of the ship.

In I got bodily into the apple-barrel, and found there was scarce an apple left; but, sitting down there in the dark, what with the sound of the waters and the rocking movement of the ship, I had either fallen asleep, or was on the point of doing so, when a heavy man sat down with rather a clash close by. The barrel shook as he leaned his shoulders against it, and I was just about to jump up when the man began to speak. It was Silver’s voice, and, before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world, but lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity; for from these dozen words I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended upon me alone.

 

72

CHAPTER XI

WHAT I HEARD IN THE APPLE-BARREL

“No, not I,” said Silver. “Flint was cap’n; I was quartermaster, along of my timber leg. The same broadside I lost my leg old Pew lost his dead-lights. It was a master surgeon, him that ampytated me—out of college and all—Latin by the bucket, and what not; but he was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle. That was Roberts’ men, that was, and comed of changing names to their ships—Royal Fortune and so on. Now, what a ship was christened, so let her stay, I say. So it was with the Cassandra, as brought us all safe home from Malabar, after England took the Viceroy of the Indies; so it was with the old Walrus, Flint’s old ship, as I’ve seen a-muck with the red blood and fit to sink with gold.”

“Ah!” cried another voice, that of the youngest hand on board, and evidently full of admiration, “he was the flower of the flock, was Flint!”

“Davis was a man, too, by all accounts,” said Silver. “I never sailed along of him; first with England, then with Flint, that’s my story; and now here on my own account, in a manner of speaking. I laid by nine hundred safe, from England, and two thousand after Flint. That ain’t bad for a man before the mast—all safe in bank. ’Tain’t earning now, it’s saving does it, you may lay to that. Where’s all England’s men now? I dunno. Where’s Flint’s? Why, most on ’em aboard here, and glad to get the duff—been begging before that, some on ’em. Old Pew, as had lost his sight, and might have thought shame, spends twelve hundred pound in a year, like a lord in Parlia73ment. Where is he now? Well, he’s dead now and under hatches; but for two year before that, shiver my timbers! the man was starving. He begged, and he stole, and he cut throats, and starved at that, by the powers!”

“Well, it ain’t much use, after all,” said the young seaman.

“’Tain’t much use for fools, you may lay to it—that, nor nothing,” cried Silver. “But now, you look here: you’re young, you are, but you’re as smart as paint. I see that when I set my eyes on you, and I’ll talk to you like a man.”

You may imagine how I felt when I heard this abominable old rogue addressing another in the very same words of flattery as he had used to myself. I think, if I had been able, that I would have killed him through the barrel. Meantime he ran on, little supposing he was overheard.

“Here it is about gentlemen of fortune. They lives rough, and they risk swinging, but they eat and drink like fighting cocks, and when a cruise is done, why, it’s hundreds of pounds instead of hundreds of farthings in their pockets. Now, the most goes for rum and a good fling, and to sea again in their shirts. But that’s not the course I lay. I puts it all away, some here, some there, and none too much anywheres, by reason of suspicion. I’m fifty, mark you; once back from this cruise, I set up gentleman in earnest. Time enough, too, says you. Ah, but I’ve lived easy in the meantime; never denied myself o’ nothing heart desires, and slep’ soft and ate dainty all my days, but when at sea. And how did I begin? Before the mast, like you!”

“Well,” said the other, “but all the other money’s gone now, ain’t it? You daren’t show face in Bristol after this.”

“Why, where might you suppose it was?” asked Silver derisively.

“At Bristol, in banks and places,” answered his companion.74

“It were,” said the cook; “it were when we weighed anchor. But my old missis has it all by now. And the ‘Spy-glass’ is sold, lease and goodwill and rigging; and the old girl’s off to meet me. I would tell you where, for I trust you; but it ’ud make jealousy among the mates.”

“And can you trust your missis?” asked the other.

“Gentlemen of fortune,” returned the cook, “usually trusts little among themselves, and right they are, you may lay to it. But I have a way with me, I have. When a mate brings a slip on his cable—one as knows me, I mean—it won’t be in the same world with old John. There was some that was feared of Pew, and some that was feared of Flint; but Flint his own self was feared of me. Feared he was, and proud. They was the roughest crew afloat, was Flint’s; the devil himself would have been feared to go to sea with them. Well, now, I tell you, I’m not a boasting man, and you seen yourself how easy I keep company; but when I was quartermaster, lambs wasn’t the word for Flint’s old buccaneers. Ah, you may be sure of yourself in old John’s ship.”

“Well, I tell you now,” replied the lad, “I didn’t half a quarter like the job till I had this talk with you, John; but there’s my hand on it now.”

“And a brave lad you were, and smart too,” answered Silver, shaking hands so heartily that all the barrel shook, “and a finer figurehead for a gentleman of fortune I never clapped my eyes on.”

By this time I had begun to understand the meaning of their terms. By a “gentleman of fortune” they plainly meant neither more nor less than a common pirate, and the little scene that I had overheard was the last act in the corruption of one of the honest hands—perhaps of the last one left aboard. But on this point I was soon to be relieved, for, Silver giving a little whistle, a third man strolled up and sat down by the party.75

“Dick’s square,” said Silver.

“Oh, I know’d Dick was square,” returned the voice of the coxswain, Israel Hands. “He’s no fool, is Dick.” And he turned his quid and spat. “But, look here,” he went on, “here’s what I want to know, Barbecue: how long are we a-going to stand off and on like a blessed bum-boat? I’ve had a’most enough o’ Cap’n Smollett; he’s hazed me long enough, by thunder! I want to go into that cabin, I do. I want their pickles and wines, and that.”

“Israel,” said Silver, “your head ain’t much account, nor ever was. But you’re able to hear, I reckon; leastways, your ears is big enough. Now, here’s what I say: you’ll berth forward, and you’ll live hard, and you’ll speak soft, and you’ll keep sober, till I give the word; and you may lay to that, my son.”

“Well, I don’t say no, do I?” growled the coxswain. “What I say is, when? That’s what I say.”

“When! by the powers!” cried Silver. “Well now, if you want to know, I’ll tell you when. The last moment I can manage; and that’s when. Here’s a first-rate seaman, Cap’n Smollett, sails the blessed ship for us. Here’s this squire and doctor with a map and such—I don’t know where it is, do I? No more do you, says you. Well, then, I mean this squire and doctor shall find the stuff, and help us to get it aboard, by the powers. Then we’ll see. If I was sure of you all, sons of double Dutchmen, I’d have Cap’n Smollett navigate us half-way back again before I struck.”

“Why, we’re all seamen aboard here, I should think,” said the lad Dick.

“We’re all foc’s’le hands, you mean,” snapped Silver. “We can steer a course, but who’s to set one? That’s what all you gentlemen split on, first and last. If I had my way, I’d have Cap’n Smollett work us back into the trades at least; then we’d have no blessed miscalculations and a spoonful of water a day. But I know the sort you76 are. I’ll finish with ’em at the island, as soon’s the blunt’s on board, and a pity it is. But you’re never happy till you’re drunk. Split my sides, I’ve a sick heart to sail with the likes of you!”

“Easy all, Long John,” cried Israel. “Who’s a-crossin’ of you?”

“Why, how many tall ships, think ye, now, have I seen laid aboard? and how many brisk lads drying in the sun at Execution Dock?” cried Silver, “and all for this same hurry and hurry and hurry. You hear me? I seen a thing or two at sea, I have. If you would on’y lay your course, and a p’int to windward, you would ride in carriages, you would. But not you! I know you. You’ll have your mouthful of rum to-morrow, and go hang.”

“Everybody know’d you was a kind of a chapling, John; but there’s others as could hand and steer as well as you,” said Israel. “They liked a bit o’ fun, they did. They wasn’t so high and dry, nohow, but took their fling, like jolly companions every one.”

“So?” says Silver. “Well, and where are they now? Pew was of that sort, and he died a beggarman. Flint was, and he died of rum at Savannah. Ah, they was a sweet crew, they was! on’y, where are they?”

“But,” asked Dick, “when we do lay ’em athwart, what are we to do with ’em, anyhow?”

“There’s the man for me!” cried the cook, admiringly. “That’s what I call business. Well, what would you think? Put ’em ashore like maroons? That would have been England’s way. Or cut ’em down like that much pork? That would have been Flint’s or Billy Bones’s.”

“Billy was the man for that,” said Israel. “‘Dead men don’t bite,’ says he. Well, he’s dead now hisself; he knows the long and short on it now; and if ever a rough hand come to port, it was Billy.”

“Right you are,” said Silver, “rough and ready. But mark you here: I’m an easy man—I’m quite the gentle77man, says you; but this time it’s serious. Dooty is dooty, mates. I give my vote—death. When I’m in Parlyment, and riding in my coach, I don’t want none of these sea-lawyers in the cabin a-coming home, unlooked for, like the devil at prayers. Wait is what I say, but when the time comes, why, let her rip!”

“John,” cries the coxswain, “you’re a man!”

“You’ll say so, Israel, when you see,” said Silver. “Only one thing I claim—I claim Trelawney. I’ll wring his calf’s head off his body with these hands. Dick!” he added, breaking off, “you just jump up, like a sweet lad and get me an apple, to wet my pipe like.”

You may fancy the terror I was in! I should have leaped out and run for it, if I had found the strength; but my limbs and heart alike misgave me. I heard Dick begin to rise, and then some one seemingly stopped him, and the voice of Hands exclaimed—

“Oh, stow that! Don’t you get sucking of that bilge, John. Let’s have a go of the rum.”

“Dick,” said Silver, “I trust you. I’ve a gauge on the keg, mind. There’s the key; you fill a pannikin and bring it up.”

Terrified as I was, I could not help thinking to myself that this must have been how Mr. Arrow got the strong waters that destroyed him.

Dick was gone but a little while, and during his absence Israel spoke straight on in the cook’s ear. It was but a word or two that I could catch, and yet I gathered some important news; for, besides other scraps that tended to the same purpose, this whole clause was audible: “Not another man of them’ll jine.” Hence there were still faithful men on board.

When Dick returned, one after another of the trio took the pannikin and drank—one “To luck”; another with a “Here’s to old Flint”; and Silver himself saying, in a kind of song, “Here’s to ourselves, and hold your luff, plenty of prizes and plenty of duff.”78

Just then a sort of brightness fell upon me in the barrel, and, looking up, I found the moon had risen, and was silvering the mizzen-top and shining white on the luff of the fore-sail; and almost at the same time the voice of the look-out shouted “Land ho!”

 

79

CHAPTER XII

COUNCIL OF WAR

There was a great rush of feet across the deck. I could hear people tumbling up from the cabin and the foc’s’le; and, slipping in an instant outside my barrel, I dived behind the fore-sail, made a double towards the stern, and came out upon the open deck in time to join Hunter and Dr. Livesey in the rush for the weather bow.

There all hands were already congregated. A belt of fog had lifted almost simultaneously with the appearance of the moon. Away to the south-west of us we saw two low hills, about a couple of miles apart, and rising behind one of them a third and higher hill, whose peak was still buried in the fog. All three seemed sharp and conical in figure.

So much I saw, almost in a dream, for I had not yet recovered from my horrid fear of a minute or two before. And then I heard the voice of Captain Smollett issuing orders. The Hispaniola was laid a couple of points nearer the wind, and now sailed a course that would just clear the island on the east.

“And now, men,” said the captain, when all was sheeted home, “has any one of you ever seen that land ahead?”

“I have, sir,” said Silver. “I’ve watered there with a trader I was cook in.”

“The anchorage is on the south, behind an islet, I fancy?” asked the captain.

“Yes, sir; Skeleton Island they calls it. It were a main place for pirates once, and a hand we had on board knowed all their names for it. That hill to the nor’ard80 they calls the Fore-mast Hill; there are three hills in a row running south’ard—fore, main, and mizzen, sir. But the main—that’s the big ’un with the cloud on it—they usually calls the Spy-glass, by reason of a look-out they kept when they was in the anchorage cleaning; for it’s there they cleaned their ships, sir, asking your pardon.”

“I have a chart here,” says Captain Smollett. “See if that’s the place.”

Long John’s eyes burned in his head as he took the chart; but, by the fresh look of the paper, I knew he was doomed to disappointment. This was not the map we found in Billy Bones’s chest, but an accurate copy, complete in all things—names and heights and soundings—with the single exception of the red crosses and the written notes. Sharp as must have been his annoyance, Silver had the strength of mind to hide it.

“Yes, sir,” said he, “this is the spot, to be sure; and very prettily drawed out. Who might have done that, I wonder? The pirates were too ignorant, I reckon. Ay, here it is: ‘Capt. Kidd’s Anchorage’—just the name my shipmate called it. There’s a strong current runs along the south, and then away nor’ard up the west coast. Right you was, sir,” says he, “to haul your wind and keep the weather of the island. Leastways, if such was your intention as to enter and careen, and there ain’t no better place for that in these waters.”

“Thank you, my man,” says Captain Smollett. “I’ll ask you, later on, to give us a help. You may go.”

I was surprised at the coolness with which John avowed his knowledge of the island; and I own I was half-frightened when I saw him drawing nearer to myself. He did not know, to be sure, that I had overheard his council from the apple-barrel, and yet I had, by this time, taken such a horror of his cruelty, duplicity, and power, that I could scarce conceal a shudder when he laid his hand upon my arm.

“Ah,” says he, “this here is a sweet spot, this island—a 81 sweet spot for a lad to get ashore on. You’ll bathe, and you’ll climb trees, and you’ll hunt goats, you will; and you’ll get aloft on them hills like a goat yourself. Why, it makes me young again. I was going to forget my timber leg, I was. It’s a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes, and you may lay to that. When you want to go a bit of exploring, you just ask old John, and he’ll put up a snack for you to take along.”

And clapping me in the friendliest way upon the shoulder, he hobbled off forward, and went below.

Captain Smollett, the squire, and Dr. Livesey were talking together on the quarter-deck, and, anxious as I was to tell them my story, I durst not interrupt them openly. While I was still casting about in my thoughts to find some probable excuse, Dr. Livesey called me to his side. He had left his pipe below, and, being a slave to tobacco, had meant that I should fetch it; but as soon as I was near enough to speak and not to be overheard, I broke out immediately: “Doctor, let me speak. Get the captain and squire down to the cabin, and then make some pretence to send for me. I have terrible news.”

The doctor changed countenance a little, but next moment he was master of himself.

“Thank you, Jim,” said he, quite loudly, “that was all I wanted to know,” as if he had asked me a question.

And with that he turned on his heel and rejoined the other two. They spoke together for a little, and though none of them started, or raised his voice, or so much as whistled, it was plain enough that Dr. Livesey had communicated my request; for the next thing that I heard was the captain giving an order to Job Anderson, and all hands were piped on deck.

“My lads,” said Captain Smollett, “I’ve a word to say to you. This land that we have sighted is the place we have been sailing to. Mr. Trelawney, being a very open-handed gentleman, as we all know, has just asked me a word or two, and as I was able to tell him that every82 man on board had done his duty, alow and aloft, as I never ask to see it done better, why, he and I and the doctor are going below to the cabin to drink your health and luck, and you’ll have grog served out for you to drink our health and luck. I’ll tell you what I think of this: I think it handsome. And if you think as I do, you’ll give a good sea cheer for the gentleman that does it.”

The cheer followed—that was a matter of course; but it rang out so full and hearty that I confess I could hardly believe these same men were plotting for our blood.

“One more cheer for Cap’n Smollett,” cried Long John, when the first had subsided.

And this also was given with a will.

On the top of that the three gentlemen went below, and not long after, word was sent forward that Jim Hawkins was wanted in the cabin.

I found them all three seated round the table, a bottle of Spanish wine and some raisins before them, and the doctor smoking away, with his wig on his lap, and that, I knew, was a sign that he was agitated. The stern window was open, for it was a warm night, and you could see the moon shining behind on the ship’s wake.

“Now, Hawkins,” said the squire, “you have something to say. Speak up.”

I did as I was bid, and, as short as I could make it, told the whole details of Silver’s conversation. Nobody interrupted me till I was done, nor did any one of the three of them make so much as a movement, but they kept their eyes upon my face from first to last.

“Jim,” said Dr. Livesey, “take a seat.”

And they made me sit down at table beside them, poured me out a glass of wine, filled my hands with raisins, and all three, one after the other, and each with a bow, drank my good health, and their service to me, for my luck and courage.

“Now, captain,” said the squire, “you were right, and I was wrong. I own myself an ass, and I await your orders.”83

“No more an ass than I, sir,” returned the captain. “I never heard of a crew that meant to mutiny but what showed signs before, for any man that had an eye in his head to see the mischief and take steps according. But this crew,” he added, “beats me.”

“Captain,” said the doctor, “with your permission, that’s Silver. A very remarkable man.”

“He’d look remarkably well from a yard-arm, sir,” returned the captain. “But this is talk; this don’t lead to anything. I see three or four points, and with Mr. Trelawney’s permission, I’ll name them.”

“You, sir, are the captain. It is for you to speak,” says Mr. Trelawney grandly.

“First point,” began Mr. Smollett: “we must go on, because we can’t turn back. If I gave the word to go about, they would rise at once. Second point: we have time before us—at least, until this treasure’s found. Third point: there are faithful hands. Now, sir, it’s got to come to blows sooner or later; and what I propose is, to take time by the forelock, as the saying is, and come to blows some fine day when they least expect it. We can count, I take it, on your own home servants, Mr. Trelawney?”

“As upon myself,” declared the squire.

“Three,” reckoned the captain, “ourselves make seven, counting Hawkins, here. Now, about the honest hands?”

“Most likely Trelawney’s own men,” said the doctor; “those he had picked up for himself, before he lit on Silver.”

“Nay,” replied the squire, “Hands was one of mine.”

“I did think I could have trusted Hands,” added the captain.

“And to think that they’re all Englishmen!” broke out the squire. “Sir, I could find it in my heart to blow the ship up.”

“Well, gentlemen,” said the captain, “the best that I can say is not much. We must lay-to, if you please, and keep a bright look-out. It’s trying on a man, I know. It84 would be pleasanter to come to blows. But there’s no help for it till we know our men. Lay-to, and whistle for a wind, that’s my view.”

“Jim here,” said the doctor, “can help us more than any one. The men are not shy with him, and Jim is a noticing lad.”

“Hawkins, I put prodigious faith in you,” added the squire.

I began to feel pretty desperate at this, for I felt altogether helpless; and yet, by an odd train of circumstances, it was indeed through me that safety came. In the meantime, talk as we pleased, there were only seven out of the twenty-six on whom we knew we could rely; and out of these seven one was a boy, so that the grown men on our side were six to their nineteen.

 

85

PART III

MY SHORE ADVENTURE

86

 

87

CHAPTER XIII

HOW I BEGAN MY SHORE ADVENTURE

The appearance of the island when I came on deck next morning was altogether changed. Although the breeze had now utterly failed, we had made a great deal of way during the night, and were now lying becalmed about half a mile to the south-east of the low eastern coast. Grey-coloured woods covered a large part of the surface. This even tint was indeed broken up by streaks of yellow sandbreak in the lower lands, and by many tall trees of the pine family, out-topping the others—some singly, some in clumps; but the general colouring was uniform and sad. The hills ran up clear above the vegetation in spires of naked rock. All were strangely shaped, and the Spy-glass, which was by three or four hundred feet the tallest on the island, was likewise the strangest in configuration, running up sheer from almost every side, and then suddenly cut off at the top like a pedestal to put a statue on.

The Hispaniola was rolling scuppers under in the ocean swell. The booms were tearing at the blocks, the rudder was banging to and fro, and the whole ship creaking, groaning, and jumping like a manufactory. I had to cling tight to the backstay, and the world turned giddily before my eyes; for though I was a good enough sailor when there was way on, this standing still and being rolled about like a bottle was a thing I never learned to stand without a qualm or so, above all in the morning, on an empty stomach.

Perhaps it was this—perhaps it was the look of the88 island, with its grey, melancholy woods, and wild stone spires, and the surf that we could both see and hear foaming and thundering on the steep beach—at least, although the sun shone bright and hot, and the shore-birds were fishing and crying all around us, and you would have thought any one would have been glad to get to land after being so long at sea, my heart sank, as the saying is, into my boots; and from that first look onward I hated the very thought of Treasure Island.

We had a dreary morning’s work before us, for there was no sign of any wind, and the boats had to be got out and manned, and the ship warped three or four miles round the corner of the island, and up the narrow passage to the haven behind Skeleton Island. I volunteered for one of the boats, where I had, of course, no business. The heat was sweltering, and the men grumbled fiercely over their work. Anderson was in command of my boat, and instead of keeping the crew in order, he grumbled as loud as the worst.

“Well,” he said, with an oath, “it’s not for ever.”

I thought this was a very bad sign; for, up to that day, the men had gone briskly and willingly about their business; but the very sight of the island had relaxed the cords of discipline.

All the way in, Long John stood by the steersman and conned the ship. He knew the passage like the palm of his hand; and though the man in the chains got everywhere more water than was down in the chart, John never hesitated once.

“There’s a strong scour with the ebb,” he said, “and this here passage has been dug out, in a manner of speaking, with a spade.”

We brought up just where the anchor was in the chart, about a third of a mile from either shore, the mainland on one side, and Skeleton Island on the other. The bottom was clean sand. The plunge of our anchor sent up clouds of birds wheeling and crying over the woods; but in less89 than a minute they were down again, and all was once more silent.

The place was entirely land-locked, buried in woods, the trees coming right down to high-water mark, the shores mostly flat, and the hill-tops standing round at a distance in a sort of amphitheatre, one here, one there. Two little rivers, or rather, two swamps, emptied out into this pond, as you might call it; and the foliage round that part of the shore had a kind of poisonous brightness. From the ship we could see nothing of the house or stockade, for they were quite buried among trees; and if it had not been for the chart on the companion, we might have been the first that had ever anchored there since the island arose out of the seas.

There was not a breath of air moving, nor a sound but that of the surf booming half a mile away along the beaches and against the rocks outside. A peculiar stagnant smell hung over the anchorage—a smell of sodden leaves and rotting tree-trunks. I observed the doctor sniffing and sniffing, like some one tasting a bad egg.

“I don’t know about treasure,” he said, “but I’ll stake my wig there’s fever here.”

If the conduct of the men had been alarming in the boat, it became truly threatening when they had come aboard. They lay about the deck growling together in talk. The slightest order was received with a black look, and grudgingly and carelessly obeyed. Even the honest hands must have caught the infection, for there was not one man aboard to mend another. Mutiny, it was plain, hung over us like a thunder-cloud.

And it was not only we of the cabin party who perceived the danger. Long John was hard at work going from group to group, spending himself in good advice, and as for example no man could have shown a better. He fairly outstripped himself in willingness and civility; he was all smiles to every one. If an order were given, John would be on his crutch in an instant, with the cheeriest90 “Ay, ay, sir!” in the world; and when there was nothing else to do, he kept up one song after another, as if to conceal the discontent of the rest.

Of all the gloomy features of that gloomy afternoon, this obvious anxiety on the part of Long John appeared the worst.

We held a council in the cabin.

“Sir,” said the captain, “if I risk another order, the whole ship’ll come about our ears by the run. You see, sir, here it is. I get a rough answer, do I not? Well, if I speak back, pikes will be going in two shakes; if I don’t, Silver will see there’s something under that, and the game’s up. Now, we’ve only one man to rely on.”

“And who is that?” asked the squire.

“Silver, sir,” returned the captain; “he’s as anxious as you and I to smother things up. This is a tiff; he’d soon talk ’em out of it if he had the chance, and what I propose to do is to give him the chance. Let’s allow the men an afternoon ashore. If they all go, why, we’ll fight the ship. If they none of them go—well, then, we hold the cabin, and God defend the right. If some go, you mark my words, sir, Silver’ll bring ’em aboard again as mild as lambs.”

It was so decided; loaded pistols were served out to all the sure men; Hunter, Joyce, and Redruth were taken into our confidence, and received the news with less surprise and a better spirit than we had looked for, and then the captain went on deck and addressed the crew.

“My lads,” said he, “we’ve had a hot day, and are all tired and out of sorts. A turn ashore’ll hurt nobody—the boats are still in the water; you can take the gigs, and as many as please can go ashore for the afternoon. I’ll fire a gun half an hour before sun-down.”

I believe the silly fellows must have thought they would break their shins over treasure as soon as they were landed; for they all came out of their sulks in a moment, and gave a cheer that started the echo in a far-away hill, and sent91 the birds once more flying and squalling round the anchorage.

The captain was too bright to be in the way. He whipped out of sight in a moment, leaving Silver to arrange the party; and I fancy it was as well he did so. Had he been on deck he could no longer so much as have pretended not to understand the situation. It was as plain as day. Silver was the captain, and a mighty rebellious crew he had of it. The honest hands—and I was soon to see it proved that there were such on board—must have been very stupid fellows. Or, rather, I suppose the truth was this, that all hands were disaffected by the example of the ringleaders—only some more, some less; and a few, being good fellows in the main, could neither be led nor driven any further. It is one thing to be idle and skulk, and quite another to take a ship and murder a number of innocent men.

At last, however, the party was made up. Six fellows were to stay on board, and the remaining thirteen, including Silver, began to embark.

Then it was that there came into my head the first of the mad notions that contributed so much to save our lives. If six men were left by Silver, it was plain our party could not take and fight the ship; and since only six were left, it was equally plain that the cabin party had no present need of my assistance. It occurred to me at once to go ashore. In a jiffy I had slipped over the side, and curled up in the foresheets of the nearest boat, and almost at the same moment she shoved off.

No one took notice of me, only the bow oar saying, “Is that you, Jim? Keep your head down.” But Silver, from the other boat, looked sharply over and called out to know if that were me; and from that moment I began to regret what I had done.

The crews raced for the beach; but the boat I was in, having some start, and being at once the lighter and the better manned, shot far ahead of her consort, and the bow92 had struck among the shore-side trees, and I had caught a branch and swung myself out, and plunged into the nearest thicket, while Silver and the rest were still a hundred yards behind.

“Jim, Jim!” I heard him shouting.

But you may suppose I paid no heed; jumping, ducking, and breaking through, I ran straight before my nose, till I could run no longer.

 

93

CHAPTER XIV

THE FIRST BLOW

I was so pleased at having given the slip to Long John, that I began to enjoy myself and look around me with some interest on the strange land that I was in.

I had crossed a marshy track full of willows, bulrushes, and odd, outlandish, swampy trees; and I had now come out upon the skirts of an open piece of undulating, sandy country, about a mile long, dotted with a few pines, and a great number of contorted trees, not unlike the oak in growth, but pale in foliage, like willows. On the far side of the open stood one of the hills, with two quaint, craggy peaks, shining vividly in the sun.

I now felt for the first time the joy of exploration. The isle was uninhabited; my shipmates I had left behind, and nothing lived in front of me but dumb brutes and fowls. I turned hither and thither among the trees. Here and there were flowering plants, unknown to me; here and there I saw snakes, and one raised his head from a ledge of rock and hissed at me with a noise not unlike the spinning of a top. Little did I suppose that he was a deadly enemy, and that the noise was the famous rattle.

Then I came to a long thicket of these oak-like trees—live, or evergreen, oaks, I heard afterwards they should be called—which grew low along the sand like brambles, the boughs curiously twisted, the foliage compact, like thatch. The thicket stretched down from the top of one of the sandy knolls, spreading and growing taller as it went, until it reached the margin of the broad, reedy fen, through which the nearest of the little rivers soaked its way into the94 anchorage. The marsh was steaming in the strong sun, and the outline of the Spy-glass trembled through the haze.

All at once there began to go a sort of bustle among the bulrushes; a wild duck flew up with a quack, another followed, and soon over the whole surface of the marsh a great cloud of birds hung screaming and circling in the air. I judged at once that some of my shipmates must be drawing near along the borders of the fen. Nor was I deceived; for soon I heard the very distant and low tones of a human voice, which, as I continued to give ear, grew steadily louder and nearer.

This put me in a great fear, and I crawled under cover of the nearest live-oak, and squatted there, hearkening, as silent as a mouse.

Another voice answered; and then the first voice, which I now recognised to be Silver’s, once more took up the story, and ran on for a long while in a stream, only now and again interrupted by the other. By the sound they must have been talking earnestly, and almost fiercely; but no distinct word came to my hearing.

At last the speakers seemed to have paused, and perhaps to have sat down; for not only did they cease to draw any nearer, but the birds themselves began to grow more quiet, and to settle again to their places in the swamp.

And now I began to feel that I was neglecting my business; that since I had been so foolhardy as to come ashore with these desperadoes, the least I could do was to overhear them at their councils; and that my plain and obvious duty was to draw as close as I could manage, under the favourable ambush of the crouching trees.

I could tell the direction of the speakers pretty exactly, not only by the sound of their voices, but by the behaviour of the few birds that still hung in alarm above the heads of the intruders.

Crawling on all-fours, I made steadily but slowly towards them; till at last, raising my head to an aperture among the leaves, I could see clear down into a little green95 dell beside the marsh, and closely set about with trees, where Long John Silver and another of the crew stood face to face in conversation.

The sun beat full upon them. Silver had thrown his hat beside him on the ground, and his great, smooth, blonde face, all shining with heat, was lifted to the other man’s in a kind of appeal.

“Mate,” he was saying, “it’s because I thinks gold dust of you—gold dust, and you may lay to that! If I hadn’t took to you like pitch, do you think I’d have been here a-warning of you? All’s up—you can’t make nor mend; it’s to save your neck that I’m a-speaking, and if one of the wild ’uns knew it, where ’ud I be, Tom—now, tell me, where ’ud I be?”

“Silver,” said the other man—and I observed he was not only red in the face, but spoke as hoarse as a crow, and his voice shook, too, like a taut rope—“Silver,” says he, “you’re old, and you’re honest, or has the name for it; and you’ve money, too, which lots of poor sailors hasn’t; and you’re brave, or I’m mistook. And will you tell me you’ll let yourself be led away with that kind of a mess of swabs? not you! As sure as God sees me, I’d sooner lose my hand. If I turn agin my dooty——”

And then all of a sudden he was interrupted by a noise. I had found one of the honest hands—well, here, at that same moment, came news of another. Far away out in the marsh there arose, all of a sudden, a sound like the cry of anger, then another on the back of it; and then one horrid, long-drawn scream. The rocks of the Spy-glass re-echoed it a score of times; the whole troop of marsh-birds rose again, darkening heaven, with a simultaneous whirr; and long after that death-yell was still ringing in my brain silence had re-established its empire, and only the rustle of the re-descending 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,96 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’ll 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 arm-pit, 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 defenceless body. From my place of ambush I could hear him pant aloud as he struck the blows.

I do not know what it rightly is to faint, but I do know that for the next little while the whole world swam away97 from before me in a whirling mist; Silver and the birds, and the tall Spy-glass hill-top, going round and round and topsy-turvy before my eyes, and all manner of bells ringing and distant voices shouting in my ear.

When I came again to myself, the monster had pulled himself together, his crutch under his arm, his hat upon his head. Just before him Tom lay motionless upon the sward; but the murderer minded him not a whit, cleansing his blood-stained knife the while upon a wisp of grass. Everything else was unchanged, the sun still shining mercilessly on the steaming marsh and the tall pinnacle of the mountain, and I could scarce persuade myself that murder had been actually done, and a human life cruelly cut short, a moment since, before my eyes.

But now John put his hand into his pocket, brought out a whistle, and blew upon it several modulated blasts, that rang far across the heated air. I could not tell, of course, the meaning of the signal; but it instantly awoke my fears. More men would be coming. I might be discovered. They had already slain two of the honest people; after Tom and Alan, might not I come next?

Instantly I began to extricate myself and crawl back again, with what speed and silence I could manage, to the more open portion of the wood. As I did so, I could hear hails coming and going between the old buccaneer and his comrades, and this sound of danger lent me wings. As soon as I was clear of the thicket, I ran as I never ran before, scarce minding the direction of my flight, so long as it led me from the murderers; and as I ran, fear grew and grew upon me, until it turned into a kind of frenzy.

Indeed, could any one be more entirely lost than I? When the gun fired, how should I dare to go down to the boats among those fiends, still smoking from their crime? Would not the first of them who saw me wring my neck like a snipe’s? Would not my absence itself be an evidence to them of my alarm, and therefore of my fatal knowledge? It was all over, I thought. Good-bye to the Hispaniola;98 good-bye to the squire, the doctor, and the captain! There was nothing left for me but death by starvation, or death by the hands of the mutineers.

All this while, as I say, I was still running, and, without taking any notice, I had drawn near to the foot of the little hill with the two peaks, and had got into a part of the island where the live-oaks grew more widely apart, and seemed more like forest-trees in their bearing and dimensions. Mingled with these were a few scattered pines, some fifty, some nearer seventy, feet high. The air, too, smelt more freshly than down beside the marsh.

And here a fresh alarm brought me to a standstill with a thumping heart.

 

99

CHAPTER XV

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 man-like 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.100 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.

At that I once more stopped.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Ben Gunn,” he answered, and his voice sounded hoarse and awkward, like a rusty lock. “I’m poor Ben Gunn, I am; and I haven’t spoke with a Christian these three years.”

I could now see that he was a white man like myself, and that his features were even pleasing. His skin, where-ever it was exposed, was burnt by the sun; even his lips were black; and his fair eyes looked quite startling in so dark a face. Of all the beggar-men that I had seen or fancied, he was the chief for raggedness. He was clothed with tatters of old ship’s canvas and old sea cloth; and this extraordinary patchwork was all held together by a system of the most various and incongruous fastenings,—brass buttons, bits of stick, and loops of tarry gaskin. About his waist he wore an old brass-buckled leather belt, which was the one thing solid in his whole accoutrement.

“Three years!” I cried. “Were you shipwrecked?”

“Nay, mate,” said he—“marooned.”

I had heard the word, and I knew it stood for a horrible kind of punishment common enough among the buccaneers, in which the offender is put ashore with a little powder and shot, and left behind on some desolate and distant island.101

“Marooned three years agone,” he continued, “and lived on goats since then, and berries, and oysters. Where-ever a man is, says I, a man can do for himself. But, mate, my heart is sore for Christian diet. You mightn’t happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese—toasted, mostly—and woke up again, and here I were.”

“If ever I can get aboard again,” said I, “you shall have cheese by the stone.”

All this time he had been feeling the stuff of my jacket, smoothing my hands, looking at my boots, and generally, in the intervals of his speech, showing a childish pleasure in the presence of a fellow-creature. But at my last words he perked up into a kind of startled slyness.

“If ever you can get aboard again, says you?” he repeated. “Why, now, who’s to hinder you?”

“Not you, I know,” was my reply.

“And right you was,” he cried. “Now you—what do you call yourself, mate?”

“Jim,” I told him.

“Jim, Jim,” says he, quite pleased, apparently. “Well, now, Jim, I’ve lived that rough as you’d be ashamed to hear of. Now, for instance, you wouldn’t think I had had a pious mother—to look at me?” he asked.

“Why, no—not in particular,” I answered.

“Ah, well,” said he, “but I had—remarkable pious. And I was a civil, pious boy, and could rattle off my catechism that fast as you couldn’t tell one word from another. And here’s what it come to, Jim, and it begun with chuck-farthen on the blessed grave-stones! That’s what it begun with, but it went further’n that; and so my mother told me, and predicked the whole, she did, the pious woman! But it were Providence that put me here. I’ve thought it all out in this here lonely island, and I’m back on piety. You don’t catch me tasting rum so much; but just a thimbleful for luck, of course, the first chance I have. I’m bound I’ll be good, and I see the way to. And, Jim”102—looking all round him, and lowering his voice to a whisper—“I’m rich.”

I now felt sure that the poor fellow had gone crazy in his solitude, and I suppose I must have shown the feeling in my face; for he repeated the statement hotly:—

“Rich! rich! I says. And I’ll tell you what: I’ll make a man of you, Jim. Ah, Jim, you’ll bless your stars, you will, you was the first that found me!”

And at this there came suddenly a lowering shadow over his face, and he tightened his grasp upon my hand, and raised a forefinger threateningly before my eyes.

“Now, Jim, you tell me true: that ain’t Flint’s ship?” he asked.

At this I had a happy inspiration. I began to believe that I had found an ally, and I answered him at once.

“It’s not Flint’s ship, and Flint is dead; but I’ll tell you true, as you ask me—there are some of Flint’s hands aboard; worse luck for the rest of us.”

“Not a man—with one—leg?” he gasped.

“Silver?” I asked.

“Ah, Silver!” says he; “that were his name.”

“He’s the cook; and the ringleader, too.”

He was still holding me by the wrist, and at that he gave it quite a wring.

“If you was sent by Long John,” he said, “I’m as good as pork, and I know it. But where was you, do you suppose?”

I had made my mind up in a moment, and by way of answer told him the whole story of our voyage, and the predicament in which we found ourselves. He heard me with the keenest interest, and when I had done he patted me on the head.

“You’re a good lad, Jim,” he said; “and you’re all in a clove hitch, ain’t you? Well, you just put your trust in Ben Gunn—Ben Gunn’s the man to do it. Would you think it likely, now, that your squire would prove a liberal-103minded one in case of help—him being in a clove hitch, as you remark?”

I told him the squire was the most liberal of men.

“Ay, but you see,” returned Ben Gunn, “I didn’t mean giving me a gate to keep, and a shuit of livery-clothes, and such; that’s not my mark, Jim. What I mean is, would he be likely to come down to the toon of, say one thousand pounds out of money that’s as good as a man’s own already?”

“I am sure he would,” said I. “As it was, all hands were to share.”

And a passage home?” he added, with a look of great shrewdness.

“Why,” I cried, “the squire’s a gentleman. And, besides, if we got rid of the others, we should want you to help work the vessel home.”

“Ah,” said he, “so you would.” And he seemed very much relieved.

“Now, I’ll tell you what,” he went on. “So much I’ll tell you, and no more. I were in Flint’s ship when he buried the treasure; he and six along—six strong seamen. They was ashore nigh on a week, and us standing off and on in the old Walrus. One fine day up went the signal, and here come Flint by himself in a little boat, and his head done up in a blue scarf. The sun was getting up, and mortal white he looked about the cutwater. But, there he was, you mind, and the six all dead—dead and buried. How he done it not a man aboard us could make out. It was battle, murder, and sudden death, leastways—him against six. Billy Bones was the mate; Long John, he was quarter-master; and they asked him where the treasure was. ‘Ah,’ says he, ‘you can go ashore, if you like, and stay,’ he says; ‘but as for the ship, she’ll beat up for more, by thunder!’ That’s what he said.

“Well, I was in another ship three years back, and we sighted this island. ‘Boys,’ said I, ‘here’s Flint’s treasure;104 let’s land and find it.’ The cap’n was displeased at that; but my messmates were all of a mind, and landed. Twelve days they looked for it, and every day they had the worse word for me, until one fine morning all hands went aboard. ‘As for you, Benjamin Gunn,’ says they, ‘here’s a musket,’ they says, ‘and a spade, and pickaxe. You can stay here and find Flint’s money for yourself,’ they says.

“Well, Jim, three years have I been here, and not a bite of Christian diet from that day to this. But now, you look here; look at me. Do I look like a man before the mast? No, says you. Nor I weren’t neither, I says.”

And with that he winked and pinched me hard.

“Just you mention them words to your squire, Jim”—he went on: “Nor he weren’t, neither—that’s the words. Three years he were the man of this island, light and dark, fair and rain; and sometimes he would, maybe, think upon a prayer (says you), and sometimes he would, maybe, think of his old mother, so be as she’s alive (you’ll say); but the most part of Gunn’s time (this is what you’ll say)—the most part of his time was took up with another matter. And then you’ll give him a nip, like I do.”

And he pinched me again in the most confidential manner.

“Then,” he continued—“then you’ll up, and you’ll say this:—Gunn is a good man (you’ll say), and he puts a precious sight more confidence—a precious sight, mind that—in a gen’leman born than in these gen’lemen of fortune, having been one hisself.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t understand one word that you’ve been saying. But that’s neither here nor there; for how am I to get on board?”

“Ah,” said he, “that’s the hitch, for sure. Well, there’s my boat, that I made with my two hands. I keep her under the white rock. If the worst come to the worst, we might try that after dark.—Hi!” he broke out, “what’s that?”

For just then, although the sun had still an hour or two105 to run, all the echoes of the island awoke and bellowed to the thunder of a cannon.

“They have begun to fight!” I cried. “Follow me.”

And I began to run towards the anchorage, my terrors all forgotten; while, close at my side, the marooned man in his goatskins trotted easily and lightly.

“Left, left,” says he; “keep to your left hand, mate Jim! Under the trees with you! Theer’s where I killed my first goat. They don’t come down here now; they’re all mast-headed on them mountings for the fear of Benjamin Gunn. Ah! and there’s the cetemery”—cemetery, he must have meant. “You see the mounds? I come here and prayed, nows and thens, when I thought maybe a Sunday would be about doo. It weren’t quite a chapel, but it seemed more solemn like; and then, says you, Ben Gunn was short-handed—no chapling, nor so much as a Bible and a flag you says.”

So he kept talking as I ran, neither expecting nor receiving any answer.

The cannon-shot was followed, after a considerable interval, by a volley of small arms.

Another pause, and then, not a quarter of a mile in front of me, I beheld the Union Jack flutter in the air above a wood.

106

 

107

PART IV

THE STOCKADE

108

 

109

CHAPTER XVI

NARRATIVE CONTINUED BY THE DOCTOR—HOW THE
SHIP WAS ABANDONED

It was about half-past one—three bells in the sea phrase—that the two boats went ashore from the Hispaniola. The captain, the squire, and I were talking matters over in the cabin. Had there been a breath of wind we should have fallen on the six mutineers who were left aboard with us, slipped our cable, and away to sea. But the wind was wanting; and, to complete our helplessness, down came Hunter with the news that Jim Hawkins had slipped into a boat and was gone ashore with the rest.

It never occurred to us to doubt Jim Hawkins; but we were alarmed for his safety. With the men in the temper they were in, it seemed an even chance if we should see the lad again. We ran on deck. The pitch was bubbling in the seams; the nasty stench of the place turned me sick; if ever a man smelt fever and dysentery, it was in that abominable anchorage. The six scoundrels were sitting grumbling under a sail in the forecastle; ashore we could see the gigs made fast, and a man sitting in each, hard by where the river runs in. One of them was whistling “Lillibullero.”

Waiting was a strain; and it was decided that Hunter and I should go ashore with the jolly-boat, in quest of information.

The gigs had leaned to their right; but Hunter and I pulled straight in, in the direction of the stockade upon the chart. The two who were left guarding their boats seemed in a bustle at our appearance; “Lillibullero”110 stopped off, and I could see the pair discussing what they ought to do. Had they gone and told Silver, all might have turned out differently; but they had their orders, I suppose, and decided to sit quietly where they were and hark back again to “Lillibullero.”

There was a slight bend in the coast, and I steered so as to put it between us; even before we landed we had thus lost sight of the gigs. I jumped out, and came as near running as I durst, with a big silk handkerchief under my hat for coolness’ sake, and a brace of pistols ready primed for safety.

I had not gone a hundred yards when I came on the stockade.

This was how it was: a spring of clear water rose almost at the top of a knoll. Well, on the knoll, and enclosing the spring, they had clapped a stout log-house, fit to hold two-score people on a pinch, and loopholed for musketry on every side. All round this they had cleared a wide space, and then the thing was completed by a paling six feet high, without door or opening, too strong to pull down without time and labour, and too open to shelter the besiegers. The people in the log-house had them in every way; they stood quiet in shelter and shot the others like partridges. All they wanted was a good watch and food; for, short of a complete surprise, they might have held the place against a regiment.

What particularly took my fancy was the spring. For, though we had a good enough place of it in the cabin of the Hispaniola, with plenty of arms and ammunition, and things to eat, and excellent wines, there had been one thing overlooked—we had no water. I was thinking this over, when there came ringing over the island the cry of a man at the point of death. I was not new to violent death—I have served his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and got a wound myself at Fontenoy—but I know my pulse went dot and carry one. “Jim Hawkins is gone” was my first thought.111

It is something to have been an old soldier, but more still to have been a doctor. There is no time to dilly-dally in our work. And so now I made up my mind instantly, and with no time lost returned to the shore, and jumped on board the jolly-boat.

By good fortune Hunter pulled a good oar. We made the water fly; and the boat was soon alongside, and I aboard the schooner.

I found them all shaken, as was natural. The squire was sitting down, as white as a sheet, thinking of the harm he had led us to, the good soul! and one of the six forecastle hands was little better.

“There’s a man,” says Captain Smollett, nodding towards him, “new to this work. He came nigh-hand fainting, doctor, when he heard the cry. Another touch of the rudder and that man would join us.”

I told my plan to the captain, and between us we settled on the details of its accomplishment.

We put old Redruth in the gallery between the cabin and the forecastle, with three or four loaded muskets and a mattress for protection. Hunter brought the boat round under the stern-port, and Joyce and I set to work loading her with powder-tins, muskets, bags of biscuits, kegs of pork, a cask of cognac, and my invaluable medicine-chest.

In the meantime the squire and the captain stayed on deck, and the latter hailed the coxswain, who was the principal man aboard.

“Mr. Hands,” he said, “here are two of us with a brace of pistols each. If any one of you six make a signal of any description, that man’s dead.”

They were a good deal taken aback; and, after a little consultation, one and all tumbled down the fore companion, thinking, no doubt, to take us on the rear. But when they saw Redruth waiting for them in the sparred gallery, they went about-ship at once, and a head popped out again on deck.

“Down, dog!” cries the captain.112

And the head popped back again; and we heard no more, for the time, of these six very faint-hearted seamen.

By this time, tumbling things in as they came, we had the jolly-boat loaded as much as we dared. Joyce and I got out through the stern-port, and we made for shore again, as fast as oars could take us.

This second trip fairly aroused the watchers along shore. “Lillibullero” was dropped again; and just before we lost sight of them behind the little point, one of them whipped ashore and disappeared. I had half a mind to change my plan and destroy their boats, but I feared that Silver and the others might be close at hand, and all might very well be lost by trying for too much.

We had soon touched land in the same place as before, and set to provision the block-house. All three made the first journey, heavily laden, and tossed our stores over the palisade. Then, leaving Joyce to guard them—one man, to be sure, but with half a dozen muskets—Hunter and I returned to the jolly-boat, and loaded ourselves once more. So we proceeded without pausing to take breath, till the whole cargo was bestowed, when the two servants took up their positions in the block-house, and I, with all my power, sculled back to the Hispaniola.

That we should have risked a second boat-load seems more daring than it really was. They had the advantage of numbers, of course, but we had the advantage of arms. Not one of the men ashore had a musket, and before they could get within range for pistol-shooting, we flattered ourselves we should be able to give a good account of a half-dozen at least.

The squire was waiting for me at the stern window, all his faintness gone from him. He caught the painter and made it fast, and we fell to loading the boat for our very lives. Pork, powder, and biscuit was the cargo, with only a musket and a cutlass apiece for the squire and me and Redruth and the captain. The rest of the arms and powder we dropped overboard in two fathoms and a half of water,113 so that we could see the bright steel shining far below us in the sun, on the clean sandy bottom.

By this time the tide was beginning to ebb, and the ship was swinging round to her anchor. Voices were heard faintly halloaing in the direction of the two gigs; and though this reassured us for Joyce and Hunter, who were well to the eastward, it warned our party to be off.

Redruth retreated from his place in the gallery, and dropped into the boat, which we then brought round to the ship’s counter, to be handier for Captain Smollett.

“Now, men,” said he, “do you hear me?”

There was no answer from the forecastle.

“It’s to you, Abraham Gray—it’s to you I am speaking.”

Still no reply.

“Gray,” resumed Mr. Smollett, a little louder, “I am leaving this ship, and I order you to follow your captain. I know you are a good man at bottom, and I daresay not one of the lot of you’s as bad as he makes out. I have my watch here in my hand; I give you thirty seconds to join me in.”

There was a pause.

“Come, my fine fellow,” continued the captain, “don’t hang so long in stays. I’m risking my life, and the lives of these good gentlemen, every second.”

There was a sudden scuffle, a sound of blows, and out burst Abraham Gray with a knife-cut on the side of the cheek, and came running to the captain, like a dog to the whistle.

“I’m with you, sir,” said he.

And the next moment he and the captain had dropped aboard of us, and we had shoved off and given way.

We were clear out of the ship; but not yet ashore in our stockade.

 

114

CHAPTER XVII

NARRATIVE CONTINUED BY THE DOCTOR—THE
JOLLY-BOAT’S LAST TRIP

This fifth trip was quite different from any of the others. In the first place, the little gallipot of a boat that we were in was gravely overloaded. Five grown men, and three of them—Trelawney, Redruth, and the captain—over six feet high, was already more than she was meant to carry. Add to that the powder, pork, and bread-bags. The gunwale was lipping astern. Several times we shipped a little water, and my breeches and the tails of my coat were all soaking wet before we had gone a hundred yards.

The captain made us trim the boat, and we got her to lie a little more evenly. All the same, we were afraid to breathe.

In the second place, the ebb was now making—a strong rippling current running westward through the basin, and then south’ard and seaward down the straits by which we had entered in the morning. Even the ripples were a danger to our overloaded craft; but the worst of it was that we were swept out of our true course, and away from our proper landing-place behind the point. If we let the current have its way we should come ashore beside the gigs, where the pirates might appear at any moment.

“I cannot keep her head for the stockade, sir,” said I to the captain. I was steering, while he and Redruth, two fresh men, were at the oars. “The tide keeps washing her down. Could you pull a little stronger?”

“Not without swamping the boat,” said he. “You must bear up, sir, if you please—bear up till you see you’re gaining.”115

I tried, and found by experiment that the tide kept sweeping us westward until I had laid her head due east, or just about right angles to the way we ought to go.

“We’ll never get ashore at this rate,” said I.

“If it’s the only course that we can lie, sir, we must even lie it,” returned the captain. “We must keep upstream. You see, sir,” he went on, “if once we dropped to leeward of the landing-place, it’s hard to say where we should get ashore, besides the chance of being boarded by the gigs; whereas, the way we go the current must slacken, and then we can dodge back along the shore.”

“The current’s less a’ready, sir,” said the man Gray, who was sitting in the foresheets; “you can ease her off a bit.”

“Thank you, my man,” said I, quite as if nothing had happened: for we had all quietly made up our minds to treat him like one of ourselves.

Suddenly the captain spoke up again, and I thought his voice was a little changed.

“The gun!” said he.

“I have thought of that,” said I, for I made sure he was thinking of a bombardment of the fort. “They could never get the gun ashore, and if they did, they could never haul it through the woods.”

“Look astern, doctor,” replied the captain.

We had entirely forgotten the long nine; and there, to our horror, were the five rogues busy about her, getting off her jacket, as they called the stout tarpaulin cover under which she sailed. Not only that, but it flashed into my mind at the same moment that the round-shot and the powder for the gun had been left behind, and a stroke with an axe would put it all into the possession of the evil ones aboard.

“Israel was Flint’s gunner,” said Gray hoarsely.

At any risk, we put the boat’s head direct for the landing-place. By this time we had got so far out of the run of the current that we kept steerage way even at our necessarily116 gentle rate of rowing, and I could keep her steady for the goal. But the worst of it was, that with the course I now held, we turned our broadside instead of our stern to the Hispaniola, and offered a target like a barn-door.

I could hear, as well as see, that brandy-faced rascal, Israel Hands, plumping down a round-shot on the deck.

“Who’s the best shot?” asked the captain.

“Mr. Trelawney, out and away,” said I.

“Mr. Trelawney, will you please pick me off one of these men, sir? Hands, if possible,” said the captain.

Trelawney was as cool as steel. He looked to the priming of his gun.

“Now,” cried the captain, “easy with that gun, sir, or you’ll swamp the boat. All hands stand by to trim her when he aims.”

The squire raised his gun, the rowing ceased, and we leaned over to the other side to keep the balance, and all was so nicely contrived that we did not ship a drop.

They had the gun, by this time, slewed round upon the swivel, and Hands, who was at the muzzle with the rammer, was, in consequence, the most exposed. However, we had no luck; for just as Trelawney fired, down he stooped, the ball whistled over him, and it was one of the other four who fell.

The cry he gave was echoed, not only by his companions on board, but by a great number of voices from the shore, and looking in that direction I saw the other pirates trooping out from among the trees and tumbling into their places in the boats.

“Here come the gigs, sir,” said I.

“Give way then,” cried the captain. “We mustn’t mind if we swamp her now. If we can’t get ashore, all’s up.”

“Only one of the gigs is being manned, sir,” I added, “the crew of the other most likely going round by shore to cut us off.”117

“They’ll have a hot run, sir,” returned the captain. “Jack ashore, you know. It’s not them I mind; it’s the round-shot. Carpet bowls! My lady’s maid couldn’t miss. Tell us, squire, when you see the match, and we’ll hold water.”

In the meanwhile we had been making headway at a good pace for a boat so overloaded, and we had shipped but little water in the process. We were now close in; thirty or forty strokes and we should beach her; for the ebb had already disclosed a narrow belt of sand below the clustering trees. The gig was no longer to be feared; the little point had already concealed it from our eyes. The ebb-tide, which had so cruelly delayed us, was now making reparation, and delaying our assailants. The one source of danger was the gun.

“If I durst,” said the captain, “I’d stop and pick off another man.”

But it was plain that they meant nothing should delay their shot. They had never so much as looked at their fallen comrade, though he was not dead, and I could see him trying to crawl away.

“Ready!” cried the squire.

“Hold!” cried the captain, quick as an echo.

And he and Redruth backed with a great heave that sent her stern bodily under water. The report fell in at the same instant of time. This was the first that Jim heard, the sound of the squire’s shot not having reached him. Where the ball passed, not one of us precisely knew; but I fancy it must have been over our heads, and that the wind of it may have contributed to our disaster.

At any rate, the boat sank by the stern, quite gently, in three feet of water, leaving the captain and myself, facing each other, on our feet. The other three took complete headers, and came up again, drenched and bubbling.

So far there was no great harm. No lives were lost, and we could wade ashore in safety. But there were all our stores at the bottom, and, to make things worse, only118 two guns out of five remained in a state for service. Mine I had snatched from my knees and held over my head, by a sort of instinct. As for the captain, he had carried his over his shoulder by a bandoleer, and, like a wise man, lock uppermost. The other three had gone down with the boat.

To add to our concern, we heard voices already drawing near us in the woods along shore; and we had not only the danger of being cut off from the stockade in our half-crippled state, but the fear before us whether, if Hunter and Joyce were attacked by half a dozen, they would have the sense and conduct to stand firm. Hunter was steady, that we knew; Joyce was a doubtful case—a pleasant, polite man for a valet, and to brush one’s clothes, but not entirely fitted for a man of war.

With all this in our minds, we waded ashore as fast as we could, leaving behind us the poor jolly-boat, and a good half of all our powder and provisions.

 

119

CHAPTER XVIII

NARRATIVE CONTINUED BY THE DOCTOR—END
OF THE FIRST DAY’S FIGHTING

We made our best speed across the strip of wood that now divided us from the stockade; and at every step we took the voices of the buccaneers rang nearer. Soon we could hear their footfalls as they ran, and the cracking of the branches as they breasted across a bit of thicket.

I began to see we should have a brush for it in earnest, and looked to my priming.

“Captain,” said I, “Trelawney is the dead shot. Give him your gun; his own is useless.”

They exchanged guns, and Trelawney, silent and cool as he had been since the beginning of the bustle, hung a moment on his heel to see that all was fit for service. At the same time, observing Gray to be unarmed, I handed him my cutlass. It did all our hearts good to see him spit in his hand, knit his brows, and make the blade sing through the air. It was plain from every line of his body that our new hand was worth his salt.

Forty paces farther we came to the edge of the wood and saw the stockade in front of us. We struck the enclosure about the middle of the south side, and, almost at the same time, seven mutineers—Job Anderson, the boatswain, at their head—appeared in full cry at the south-western corner.

They paused, as if taken aback; and before they recovered, not only the squire and I, but Hunter and Joyce from the block-house, had time to fire. The four shots came in rather a scattering volley; but they did the busi120ness: one of the enemy actually fell, and the rest, without hesitation, turned and plunged into the trees.

After reloading, we walked down the outside of the palisade to see to the fallen enemy. He was stone dead—shot through the heart.

We began to rejoice over our good success, when just at that moment a pistol cracked in the bush, a ball whistled close past my ear, and poor Tom Redruth stumbled and fell his length on the ground. Both the squire and I returned the shot; but as we had nothing to aim at, it is probable we only wasted powder. Then we reloaded, and turned our attention to poor Tom.

The captain and Gray were already examining him; and I saw with half an eye that all was over.

I believe the readiness of our return volley had scattered the mutineers once more, for we were suffered without further molestation to get the poor old gamekeeper hoisted over the stockade, and carried, groaning and bleeding, into the log-house.

Poor old fellow, he had not uttered one word of surprise, complaint, fear, or even acquiescence, from the very beginning of our troubles till now, when we had laid him down in the log-house to die. He had lain like a Trojan behind his mattress in the gallery; he had followed every order silently, doggedly, and well; he was the oldest of our party by a score of years; and now, sullen, old, serviceable servant, it was he that was to die.

The squire dropped down beside him on his knees and kissed his hand, crying like a child.

“Be I going, doctor?” he asked.

“Tom, my man,” said I, “you’re going home.”

“I wish I had had a lick at them with the gun first,” he replied.

“Tom,” said the squire, “say you forgive me, won’t you?”

“Would that be respectful like, from me to you, squire?” was the answer. “Howsoever, so be it—amen!”121

After a little while of silence, he said he thought somebody might read a prayer. “It’s the custom, sir,” he added apologetically. And not long after, without another word, he passed away.

In the meantime the captain, whom I had observed to be wonderfully swollen about the chest and pockets, had turned out a great many various stores—the British colours, a Bible, a coil of stoutish rope, pen, ink, the log-book, and pounds of tobacco. He had found a longish fir-tree lying felled and cleared in the enclosure, and, with the help of Hunter, he had set it up at the corner of the log-house where the trunks crossed and made an angle. Then, climbing on the roof, he had with his own hand bent and run up the colours.

This seemed mightily to relieve him. He re-entered the log-house, and set about counting up the stores, as if nothing else existed. But he had an eye on Tom’s passage for all that; and as soon as all was over, came forward with another flag, and reverently spread it on the body.

“Don’t you take on, sir,” he said, shaking the squire’s hand. “All’s well with him; no fear for a hand that’s been shot down in his duty to captain and owner. It mayn’t be good divinity, but it’s a fact.”

Then he pulled me aside.

“Dr. Livesey,” he said, “in how many weeks do you and squire expect the consort?”

I told him it was a question, not of weeks, but of months; that if we were not back by the end of August, Blandly was to send to find us; but neither sooner nor later. “You can calculate for yourself,” I said.

“Why, yes,” returned the captain, scratching his head, “and making a large allowance, sir, for all the gifts of Providence, I should say we were pretty close hauled.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“It’s a pity, sir, we lost that second load. That’s what I mean,” replied the captain. “As for powder and shot, we’ll do. But the rations are short, very short—so122 short, Doctor Livesey, that we’re perhaps as well without that extra mouth.”

And he pointed to the dead body under the flag.

Just then, with a roar and a whistle, a round-shot passed high above the roof of the log-house and plumped far beyond us in the wood.

“Oho!” said the captain. “Blaze away! You’ve little enough powder already, my lads.”

At the second trial, the aim was better, and the ball descended inside the stockade, scattering a cloud of sand, but doing no further damage.

“Captain,” said the squire, “the house is quite invisible from the ship. It must be the flag they are aiming at. Would it not be wiser to take it in?”

“Strike my colours!” cried the captain. “No, sir, not I;” and, as soon as he had said the words I think we all agreed with him. For it was not only a piece of stout, seamanly, good feeling; it was good policy besides, and showed our enemies that we despised their cannonade.

All through the evening they kept thundering away. Ball after ball flew over or fell short, or kicked up the sand in the enclosure; but they had to fire so high that the shot fell dead and buried itself in the soft sand. We had no ricochet to fear; and though one popped in through the roof of the log-house, and out again through the floor, we soon got used to that sort of horse-play, and minded it no more than cricket.

“There is one thing good about all this,” observed the captain: “the wood in front of us is likely clear. The ebb has made a good while; our stores should be uncovered. Volunteers to go and bring in pork!”

Gray and Hunter were the first to come forward. Well armed, they stole out of the stockade; but it proved a fruitless mission. The mutineers were bolder than we fancied, or they put more trust in Israel’s gunnery. For four or five of them were busy carrying off our stores, and wading out with them to one of the gigs that lay close by,123 pulling an oar or so to hold her steady against the current. Silver was in the stern-sheets in command; and every man of them was now provided with a musket from some secret magazine of their own.

The captain sat down to his log, and here is the beginning of the entry:—

“Alexander Smollett, master; David Livesey, ship’s doctor; Abraham Gray, carpenter’s mate; John Trelawney, owner; John Hunter and Richard Joyce, owner’s servants, landsmen—being all that is left faithful of the ship’s company—with stores for ten days at short rations, came ashore this day, and flew British colours on the log-house in Treasure Island. Thomas Redruth, owner’s servant, landsman, shot by the mutineers; James Hawkins, cabin-boy——”

And at the same time I was wondering over poor Jim Hawkins’s fate.

A hail on the land side.

“Somebody hailing us,” said Hunter, who was on guard.

“Doctor! squire! captain! Hullo, Hunter, is that you?” came the cries.

And I ran to the door in time to see Jim Hawkins, safe and sound, come climbing over the stockade.

 

124

CHAPTER XIX

NARRATIVE RESUMED BY JIM HAWKINS—THE
GARRISON IN THE STOCKADE

As soon as Ben Gunn saw the colours he came to a halt, stopped me by the arm, and sat down.

“Now,” said he, “there’s your friends, sure enough.”

“Far more likely it’s the mutineers,” I answered.

“That!” he cried. “Why, in a place like this, where nobody puts in but gen’lemen of fortune, Silver would fly the Jolly Roger, you don’t make no doubt of that. No; that’s your friends. There’s been blows, too, and I reckon your friends has had the best of it; and here they are ashore in the old stockade, as was made years and years ago by Flint. Ah, he was the man to have a headpiece, was Flint! Barring rum, his match were never seen. He were afraid of none, not he; on’y Silver—Silver was that genteel.”

“Well,” said I, “that may be so, and so be it; all the more reason that I should hurry on and join my friends.”

“Nay, mate,” returned Ben, “not you. You’re a good boy, or I’m mistook: but you’re on’y a boy, all told. Now, Ben Gunn is fly. Rum wouldn’t bring me there, where you’re going—not rum wouldn’t, till I see your born gen’leman, and gets it on his word of honour. And you won’t forget my words: ‘A precious sight (that’s what you’ll say), a precious sight more confidence’—and then nips him.”

And he pinched me the third time with the same air of cleverness.

“And when Ben Gunn is wanted, you know where to find him, Jim. Just wheer you found him to-day. And him that comes is to have a white thing in his hand: and125 he’s to come alone. O, and you’ll say this: ‘Ben Gunn,’ says you, ‘has reasons of his own.’”

“Well,” said I, “I believe I understand. You have something to propose, and you wish to see the squire or the doctor; and you’re to be found where I found you. Is that all?”

“And when? says you,” he added. “Why, from about noon observation to about six bells.”

“Good,” said I, “and now may I go?”

“You won’t forget?” he inquired anxiously. “Precious sight, and reasons of his own, says you. Reasons of his own; that’s the mainstay; as between man and man. Well, then”—still holding me—“I reckon you can go, Jim. And, Jim, if you was to see Silver, you wouldn’t go for to sell Ben Gunn? wild horses wouldn’t draw it from you? No, says you. And if them pirates camp ashore, Jim, what would you say but there’d be widders in the morning?”

Here he was interrupted by a loud report, and a cannon-ball came tearing through the trees and pitched in the sand, not a hundred yards from where we two were talking. The next moment each of us had taken to his heels in a different direction.

For a good hour to come frequent reports shook the island, and balls kept crashing through the woods. I moved from hiding-place to hiding-place, always pursued, or so it seemed to me, by these terrifying missiles. But towards the end of the bombardment, though still I durst not venture in the direction of the stockade, where the balls fell oftenest, I had begun, in a manner, to pluck up my heart again; and after a long detour to the east, crept down among the shoreside trees.

The sun had just set, the sea-breeze was rustling and tumbling in the woods, and ruffling the grey surface of the anchorage; the tide, too, was far out, and great tracts of sand lay uncovered; the air, after the heat of the day, chilled me through my jacket.126

The Hispaniola still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger—the black flag of piracy—flying from her peak. Even as I looked, there came another red flash and another report, that sent the echoes clattering, and one more round-shot whistled through the air. It was the last of the cannonade.

I lay for some time, watching the bustle which succeeded the attack. Men were demolishing something with axes on the beach near the stockade; the poor jolly-boat, I afterwards discovered. Away, near the mouth of the river, a great fire was glowing among the trees, and between that point and the ship one of the gigs kept coming and going, the men, whom I had seen so gloomy, shouting at the oars like children. But there was a sound in their voices which suggested rum.

At length I thought I might return towards the stockade. I was pretty far down on the low, sandy spit that encloses the anchorage to the east, and is joined at half-water to Skeleton Island; and now, as I rose to my feet, I saw, some distance further down the spit, and rising from among low bushes, an isolated rock, pretty high, and peculiarly white in colour. It occurred to me that this might be the white rock of which Ben Gunn had spoken, and that some day or other a boat might be wanted, and I should know where to look for one.

Then I skirted among the woods until I had regained the rear, or shoreward side, of the stockade, and was soon warmly welcomed by the faithful party.

I had soon told my story, and began to look about me. The log-house was made of unsquared trunks of pine—roof, walls, and floor. The latter stood in several places as much as a foot or a foot and a half above the surface of the sand. There was a porch at the door, and under this porch the little spring welled up into an artificial basin of a rather odd kind—no other than a great ship’s kettle of iron, with the bottom knocked out, and sunk “to her bearings,” as the captain said, among the sand.127

Little had been left beside the framework of the house; but in one corner there was a stone slab laid down by way of hearth, and an old rusty iron basket to contain the fire.

The slopes of the knoll and all the inside of the stockade had been cleared of timber to build the house, and we could see by the stumps what a fine and lofty grove had been destroyed. Most of the soil had been washed away or buried in drift after the removal of the trees; only where the streamlet ran down from the kettle a thick bed of moss and some ferns and little creeping bushes were still green among the sand. Very close around the stockade—too close for defence, they said—the wood still flourished high and dense, all of fir on the land side, but towards the sea with a large admixture of live-oaks.

The cold evening breeze, of which I have spoken, whistled through every chink of the rude building, and sprinkled the floor with a continual rain of fine sand. There was sand in our eyes, sand in our teeth, sand in our suppers, sand dancing in the spring at the bottom of the kettle, for all the world like porridge beginning to boil. Our chimney was a square hole in the roof; it was but a little part of the smoke that found its way out, and the rest eddied about the house, and kept us coughing and piping the eye.

Add to this that Gray, the new man, had his face tied up in a bandage for a cut he had got in breaking away from the mutineers; and that poor old Tom Redruth, still unburied, lay along the wall, stiff and stark under the Union Jack.

If we had been allowed to sit idle, we should all have fallen in the blues, but Captain Smollett was never the man for that. All hands were called up before him, and he divided us into watches. The doctor, and Gray, and I, for one; the squire, Hunter, and Joyce upon the other. Tired as we all were, two were sent out for firewood; two more were set to dig a grave for Redruth; the doctor was named cook; I was put sentry at the door; and the captain himself128 went from one to another, keeping up our spirits and lending a hand wherever it was wanted.

From time to time the doctor came to the door for a little air and to rest his eyes, which were almost smoked out of his head; and whenever he did so, he had a word for me.

“That man Smollett,” he said once, “is a better man than I am. And when I say that it means a deal, Jim.”

Another time he came and was silent for a while. Then he put his head on one side, and looked at me.

“Is this Ben Gunn a man?” he asked.

“I do not know, sir,” said I. “I am not very sure whether he’s sane.”

“If there’s any doubt about the matter, he is,” returned the doctor. “A man who has been three years biting his nails on a desert island, Jim, can’t expect to appear as sane as you or me. It doesn’t lie in human nature. Was it cheese you said he had a fancy for?”

“Yes, sir, cheese,” I answered.

“Well, Jim,” says he, “just see the good that comes of being dainty in your food. You’ve seen my snuff-box, haven’t you? And you never saw me take snuff; the reason being that in my snuff-box I carry a piece of Parmesan cheese—a cheese made in Italy, very nutritious. Well, that’s for Ben Gunn!”

Before supper was eaten we buried old Tom in the sand, and stood round him for a while bareheaded in the breeze. A good deal of firewood had been got in, but not enough for the captain’s fancy; and he shook his head over it, and told us we “must get back to this to-morrow rather livelier.” Then, when we had eaten our pork, and each had a good stiff glass of brandy grog, the three chiefs got together in a corner to discuss our prospects.

It appears they were at their wits’ end what to do, the stores being so low that we must have been starved into surrender long before help came. But our best hope, it was decided, was to kill off the buccaneers until they either129 hauled down their flag or ran away with the Hispaniola. From nineteen they were already reduced to fifteen, two others were wounded, and one, at least—the man shot beside the gun—severely wounded, if he were not dead. Every time we had a crack at them, we were to take it, saving our own lives, with the extremest care. And, besides that, we had two able allies—rum and the climate.

As for the first, though we were about half a mile away, we could hear them roaring and singing late into the night; and as for the second, the doctor staked his wig that, camped where they were in the marsh, and unprovided with remedies, the half of them would be on their backs before a week.

“So,” he added, “if we are not all shot down first they’ll be glad to be packing in the schooner. It’s always a ship, and they can get to buccaneering again, I suppose.”

“First ship that ever I lost,” said Captain Smollett.

I was dead tired, as you may fancy; and when I got to sleep, which was not till after a great deal of tossing, I slept like a log of wood.

The rest had long been up, and had already breakfasted and increased the pile of firewood by about half as much again, when I was awakened by a bustle and the sound of voices.

“Flag of truce!” I heard some one say; and then, immediately after, with a cry of surprise, “Silver himself!”

And at that up I jumped, and, rubbing my eyes, ran to a loophole in the wall.

 

130

CHAPTER XX

SILVER’S EMBASSY

Sure enough, there were two men just outside the stockade, one of them waving a white cloth; the other, no less a person than Silver himself, standing placidly by.

It was still quite early, and the coldest morning that I think I ever was abroad in; a chill that pierced into the marrow. The sky was bright and cloudless overhead, and the tops of the trees shone rosily in the sun. But where Silver stood with his lieutenant all was still in shadow, and they waded knee-deep in a low, white vapour, that had crawled during the night out of the morass. The chill and the vapour taken together told a poor tale of the island. It was plainly a damp, feverish, unhealthy spot.

“Keep indoors, men,” said the captain. “Ten to one this is a trick.”

Then he hailed the buccaneer.

“Who goes? Stand, or we fire.”

“Flag of truce,” cried Silver.

The captain was in the porch, keeping himself carefully out of the way of a treacherous shot should any be intended. He turned and spoke to us:—

“Doctor’s watch on the look-out. Dr. Livesey take the north side, if you please; Jim, the east; Gray, west. The watch below, all hands to load muskets. Lively, men, and careful.”

And then he turned again to the mutineers.

“And what do you want with your flag of truce?” he cried.

This time it was the other man who replied.131

“Cap’n Silver, sir, to come on board and make terms,” he shouted.

“Cap’n Silver! Don’t know him. Who’s he?” cried the captain. And we could hear him adding to himself: “Cap’n, is it? My heart, and here’s promotion!”

Long John answered for himself.

“Me, sir. These poor lads have chosen me cap’n, after your desertion, sir”—laying a particular emphasis upon the word “desertion.” “We’re willing to submit, if we can come to terms, and no bones about it. All I ask is your word, Cap’n Smollett, to let me safe and sound out of this here stockade, and one minute to get out o’ shot before a gun is fired.”

“My man,” said Captain Smollett, “I have not the slightest desire to talk to you. If you wish to talk to me, you can come, that’s all. If there’s any treachery, it’ll be on your side, and the Lord help you.”

“That’s enough, cap’n,” shouted Long John cheerily. “A word from you’s enough. I know a gentleman, and you may lay to that.”

We could see the man who carried the flag of truce attempting to hold Silver back. Nor was that wonderful, seeing how cavalier had been the captain’s answer. But Silver laughed at him aloud, and slapped him on the back, as if the idea of alarm had been absurd. Then he advanced to the stockade, threw over his crutch, got a leg up, and with great vigour and skill succeeded in surmounting the fence and dropping safely to the other side.

I will confess that I was far too much taken up with what was going on to be of the slightest use as sentry; indeed, I had already deserted my eastern loophole, and crept up behind the captain, who had now seated himself on the threshold, with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands, and his eyes fixed on the water, as it bubbled out of the old iron kettle in the sand. He was whistling to himself, “Come, Lasses and Lads.”

Silver had terrible hard work getting up the knoll.132 What with the steepness of the incline, the thick tree-stumps, and the soft sand, he and his crutch were as helpless as a ship in stays. But he stuck to it like a man in silence, and at last arrived before the captain, whom he saluted in the handsomest style. He was tricked out in his best; an immense blue coat, thick with brass buttons, hung as low as to his knees, and a fine laced hat was set on the back of his head.

“Here you are, my man,” said the captain, raising his head. “You had better sit down.”

“You ain’t a-going to let me inside, cap’n?” complained Long John. “It’s a main cold morning, to be sure, sir, to sit outside upon the sand.”

“Why, Silver,” said the captain, “if you had pleased to be an honest man, you might have been sitting in your galley. It’s your own doing. You’re either my ship’s cook—and then you were treated handsome—or Cap’n Silver, a common mutineer and pirate, and then you can go hang!”

“Well, well, cap’n,” returned the sea cook, sitting down as he was bidden on the sand, “you’ll have to give me a hand up again, that’s all. A sweet pretty place you have of it here.—Ah, there’s Jim! The top of the morning to you, Jim.—Doctor, here’s my service. Why, there you all are together like a happy family, in a manner of speaking.”

“If you have anything to say, my man, better say it,” said the captain.

“Right you were, Cap’n Smollett,” replied Silver. “Dooty is dooty, to be sure. Well, now, you look here, that was a good lay of yours last night. I don’t deny it was a good lay. Some of you pretty handy with a handspike-end. And I’ll not deny neither but what some of my people was shook—maybe all was shook; maybe I was shook myself; maybe that’s why I’m here for terms. But you mark me, cap’n, it won’t do twice, by thunder! We’ll have to do sentry-go, and ease off a point or so on the rum.133 Maybe you think we were all a sheet in the wind’s eye. But I’ll tell you I was sober; I was on’y dog-tired; and if I’d awoke a second sooner I’d a-caught you at the act, I would. He wasn’t dead when I got round to him, not he.”

“Well?” says Captain Smollett, as cool as can be.

All that Silver said was a riddle to him, but you would never have guessed it from his tone. As for me, I began to have an inkling. Ben Gunn’s last words came back to my mind. I began to suppose that he had paid the buccaneers a visit, while they all lay drunk together round their fire, and I reckoned up with glee that we had only fourteen enemies to deal with.

“Well, here it is,” said Silver. “We want that treasure and we’ll have it—that’s our point! You would just as soon save your lives, I reckon; and that’s yours. You have a chart, haven’t you?”

“That’s as may be,” replied the captain.

“Oh, well, you have, I know that,” returned Long John. “You needn’t be so husky with a man; there ain’t a particle of service in that, and you may lay to it. What I mean is, we want your chart. Now, I never meant you no harm, myself.”

“That won’t do with me, my man,” interrupted the captain. “We know exactly what you meant to do, and we don’t care; for now, you see, you can’t do it.”

And the captain looked at him calmly, and proceeded to fill a pipe.

“If Abe Gray——” Silver broke out.

“Avast there!” cried Mr. Smollett. “Gray told me nothing, and I asked him nothing; and what’s more, I would see you and him and this whole island blown clean out of the water into blazes first. So there’s my mind for you, my man, on that.”

This little whiff of temper seemed to cool Silver down. He had been growing nettled before, but now he pulled himself together.134

“Like enough,” said he. “I would set no limits to what gentlemen might consider ship-shape, or might not, as the case were. And, seein’ as how you are about to take a pipe, cap’n, I’ll make so free as do likewise.”

And he filled a pipe and lighted it; and the two men sat silently smoking for quite a while, now looking each other in the face, now stopping their tobacco, now leaning forward to spit. It was as good as the play to see them.

“Now,” resumed Silver, “here it is. You give us the chart to get the treasure by, and drop shooting poor seamen, and stoving of their heads in while asleep. You do that, and we’ll offer you a choice. Either you come aboard along of us, once the treasure shipped, and then I’ll give you my affy-davy, upon my word of honour, to clap you somewhere safe ashore. Or, if that ain’t to your fancy, some of my hands being rough, and having old scores, on account of hazing, then you can stay here, you can. We’ll divide stores with you, man for man; and I’ll give my affy-davy, as before, to speak the first ship I sight, and send ’em here to pick you up. Now you’ll own that’s talking. Handsomer you couldn’t look to get, not you. And I hope”—raising his voice—“that all hands in this here block-house will overhaul my words, for what is spoke to one is spoke to all.”

Captain Smollett rose from his seat, and knocked out the ashes of his pipe in the palm of his left hand.

“Is that all?” he asked.

“Every last word, by thunder!” answered John. “Refuse that, and you’ve seen the last of me but musket-balls.”

“Very good,” said the captain. “Now you’ll hear me. If you’ll come up one by one, unarmed, I’ll engage to clap you all in irons, and take you home to a fair trial in England. If you won’t, my name is Alexander Smollett, I’ve flown my sovereign’s colours, and I’ll see you all to Davy Jones. You can’t find the treasure. You can’t sail the ship—there’s not a man among you fit to sail the ship.135 You can’t fight us—Gray, there, got away from five of you. Your ship’s in irons, Master Silver; you’re on a lee shore, and so you’ll find. I stand here and tell you so; and they’re the last good words you’ll get from me; for, in the name of heaven, I’ll put a bullet in your back when next I meet you. Tramp, my lad. Bundle out of this, please, hand over hand, and double quick.”

Silver’s face was a picture; his eyes started in his head with wrath. He shook the fire out of his pipe.

“Give me a hand up!” he cried.

“Not I,” returned the captain.

“Who’ll give me a hand up?” he roared.

Not a man among us moved. Growling the foulest imprecations, he crawled along the sand till he got hold of the porch and could hoist himself again upon his crutch. Then he spat into the spring.

“There!” he cried, “that’s what I think of ye. Before an hour’s out, I’ll stove in your old block-house like a rum-puncheon. Laugh, by thunder, laugh! Before an hour’s out, ye’ll laugh upon the other side. Them that die’ll be the lucky ones.”

And with a dreadful oath he stumbled off, ploughed down the sand, was helped across the stockade, after four or five failures, by the man with the flag of truce, and disappeared in an instant afterwards among the trees.

 

136

CHAPTER XXI

THE ATTACK

As soon as Silver disappeared, the captain, who had been closely watching him, turned towards the interior of the house, and found not a man of us at his post but Gray. It was the first time we had ever seen him angry.

“Quarters!” he roared. And then, as we all slunk back to our places, “Gray,” he said, “I’ll put your name in the log; you’ve stood by your duty like a seaman.—Mr. Trelawney, I’m surprised at you, sir.—Doctor, I thought you had worn the king’s coat! If that was how you served at Fontenoy, sir, you’d have been better in your berth.”

The doctor’s watch were all back at their loopholes, the rest were busy loading the spare muskets, and every one with a red face, you may be certain, and a flea in his ear, as the saying is.

The captain looked on for a while in silence. Then he spoke.

“My lads,” said he, “I’ve given Silver a broadside. I pitched it in red-hot on purpose; and before the hour’s out, as he said, we shall be boarded. We’re outnumbered, I needn’t tell you that, but we fight in shelter; and, a minute ago, I should have said we fought with discipline. I’ve no manner of doubt that we can drub them, if you choose.”

Then he went the rounds, and saw, as he said, that all was clear.

On the two short sides of the house, east and west, there were only two loopholes; on the south side, where137 the porch was, two again; and on the north side, five. There was a round score of muskets for the seven of us; the firewood had been built into four piles—tables, you might say—one about the middle of each side, and on each of these tables some ammunition and four loaded muskets were laid ready to the hand of the defenders. In the middle, the cutlasses lay ranged.

“Toss out the fire,” said the captain; “the chill is past, and we mustn’t have smoke in our eyes.”

The iron fire-basket was carried bodily out by Mr. Trelawney, and the embers smothered among sand.

“Hawkins hasn’t had his breakfast.—Hawkins, help yourself, and back to your post to eat it,” continued Captain Smollett. “Lively, now, my lad; you’ll want it before you’ve done.—Hunter, serve out a round of brandy to all hands.”

And while this was going on, the captain completed, in his own mind, the plan of the defence.

“Doctor, you will take the door,” he resumed. “See and don’t expose yourself; keep within, and fire through the porch.—Hunter, take the east side, there.—Joyce, you stand by the west, my man. Mr. Trelawney, you are the best shot—you and Gray will take this long north side, with the five loopholes; it’s there the danger is. If they can get up to it, and fire in upon us through our own ports, things would begin to look dirty.—Hawkins, neither you nor I are much account at the shooting; we’ll stand by to load and bear a hand.”

As the captain had said, the chill was past. As soon as the sun had climbed above our girdle of trees, it fell with all its force upon the clearing, and drank up the vapours at a draught. Soon the sand was baking, and the resin melting in the logs of the block-house. Jackets and coats were flung aside; shirts thrown open at the neck, and rolled up to the shoulders; and we stood there, each at his post, in a fever of heat and anxiety.

An hour passed away.138

“Hang them!” said the captain. “This is as dull as the doldrums.—Gray, whistle for a wind.”

And just at that moment came the first news of the attack.

“If you please, sir,” said Joyce, “if I see any one am I to fire?”

“I told you so!” cried the captain.

“Thank you, sir,” returned Joyce, with the same quiet civility.

Nothing followed for a time; but the remark had set us all on the alert, straining ears and eyes—the musketeers with their pieces balanced in their hands, the captain out in the middle of the block-house, with his mouth very tight and a frown on his face.

So some seconds passed, till suddenly Joyce whipped up his musket and fired. The report had scarcely died away ere it was repeated and repeated from without in a scattering volley, shot behind shot, like a string of geese, from every side of the enclosure. Several bullets struck the log-house, but not one entered; and, as the smoke cleared away and vanished, the stockade and the woods around it looked as quiet and empty as before. Not a bough waved, not the gleam of a musket-barrel betrayed the presence of our foes.

“Did you hit your man?” asked the captain.

“No, sir,” replied Joyce. “I believe not, sir.”

“Next best thing to tell the truth,” muttered Captain Smollett. “Load his gun, Hawkins. How many should you say there were on your side, doctor?”

“I know precisely,” said Dr. Livesey. “Three shots were fired on this side. I saw the three flashes—two close together—one farther to the west.”

“Three!” repeated the captain. “And how many on yours, Mr. Trelawney?”

But this was not so easily answered. There had come many from the north—seven, by the squire’s computation; eight or nine, according to Gray. From the east and west139 only a single shot had been fired. It was plain, therefore, that the attack would be developed from the north, and that on the other three sides we were only to be annoyed by a show of hostilities. But Captain Smollett made no change in his arrangement. If the mutineers succeeded in crossing the stockade, he argued, they would take possession of any unprotected loophole, and shoot us down like rats in our own stronghold.

Nor had we much time left to us for thought. Suddenly, with a loud huzza, a little cloud of pirates leaped from the woods on the north side, and ran straight on the stockade. At the same moment the fire was once more opened from the woods, and a rifle-ball sang through the doorway, and knocked the doctor’s musket into bits.

The boarders swarmed over the fence like monkeys, Squire and Gray fired again, and yet again; three men fell, one forwards into the enclosure, two back on the outside. But of these, one was evidently more frightened than hurt, for he was on his feet again in a crack, and instantly disappeared among the trees.

Two had bit the dust, one had fled, four had made good their footing inside our defences; while from the shelter of the woods seven or eight men, each evidently supplied with several muskets, kept up a hot, though useless, fire on the log-house.

The four who had boarded made straight before them for the building, shouting as they ran, and the men among the trees shouted back to encourage them. Several shots were fired; but, such was the hurry of the marksmen, that not one appeared to have taken effect. In a moment, the four pirates had swarmed up the mound and were upon us.

The head of Job Anderson, the boatswain, appeared at the middle loophole.

“At ’em, all hands—all hands!” he roared, in a voice of thunder.

At the same moment another pirate grasped Hunter’s140 musket by the muzzle, wrenched it from his hands, plucked it through the loophole, and, with one stunning blow, laid the poor fellow senseless on the floor. Meanwhile a third, running unharmed all round the house, appeared suddenly in the doorway, and fell with his cutlass on the doctor.

Our position was utterly reversed. A moment since we were firing, under cover, at an exposed enemy; now it was we who lay uncovered, and could not return a blow.

The log-house was full of smoke, to which we owed our comparative safety. Cries and confusion, the flashes and reports of pistol-shots, and one loud groan, rang in my ears.

“Out, lads, out, and fight ’em in the open! Cutlasses!” cried the captain.

I snatched a cutlass from the pile, and some one, at the same time snatching another, gave me a cut across the knuckles which I hardly felt. I dashed out of the door into the clear sunlight. Some one was close behind, I knew not whom. Right in front, the doctor was pursuing his assailant down the hill, and, just as my eyes fell upon him, beat down his guard, and sent him sprawling on his back, with a great slash across the face.

“Round the house, lads! round the house!” cried the captain; and even in the hurly-burly I perceived a change in his voice.

Mechanically I obeyed, turned eastwards, and, with my cutlass raised, ran round the corner of the house. Next moment I was face to face with Anderson. He roared aloud, and his hanger went up above his head, flashing in the sunlight. I had not time to be afraid, but, as the blow still hung impending, leaped in a trice upon one side, and missing my foot in the soft sand, rolled headlong down the slope.

When I had first sallied from the door, the other mutineers had been already swarming up the palisade to make an end of us. One man, in a red night-cap, with his cutlass in141 his mouth, had even got upon the top and thrown a leg across. Well, so short had been the interval, that when I found my feet again all was in the same posture, the fellow with the red night-cap still half-way over, another still just showing his head above the top of the stockade. And yet, in this breath of time, the fight was over, and the victory was ours.

Gray, following close behind me, had cut down the big boatswain ere he had time to recover from his lost blow. Another had been shot at a loophole in the very act of firing into the house, and now lay in agony, the pistol still smoking in his hand. A third, as I had seen, the doctor disposed of at a blow. Of the four who had scaled the palisade, one only remained unaccounted for, and he, having left his cutlass on the field, was now clambering out again with the fear of death upon him.

“Fire—fire from the house!” cried the doctor. “And you, lads, back into cover.”

But his words were unheeded, no shot was fired, and the last boarder made good his escape, and disappeared with the rest into the wood. In three seconds nothing remained of the attacking party but the five who had fallen, four on the inside, and one on the outside, of the palisade.

The doctor and Gray and I ran full speed for shelter. The survivors would soon be back where they had left their muskets, and at any moment the fire might recommence.

The house was by this time somewhat cleared of smoke, and we saw at a glance the price we had paid for victory. Hunter lay beside his loophole, stunned; Joyce by his, shot through the head, never to move again; while right in the centre, the squire was supporting the captain, one as pale as the other.

“The captain’s wounded,” said Mr. Trelawney.

“Have they run?” asked Mr. Smollett.

“All that could, you may be bound,” returned the doctor; “but there’s five of them will never run again.”142

“Five!” cried the captain. “Come, that’s better. Five against three leaves us four to nine. That’s better odds than we had at starting. We were seven to nineteen then, or thought we were, and that’s as bad to bear.”[1]


[1] The mutineers were soon only eight in number, for the man shot by Mr. Trelawney on board the schooner died that same evening of his wound. But this was, of course, not known till after by the faithful party.

 

143

PART V

MY SEA ADVENTURE

144

 

145

CHAPTER XXII

HOW I BEGAN MY SEA ADVENTURE

There was no return of the mutineers—not so much as another shot out of the woods. They had “got their rations for that day,” as the captain put it, and we had the place to ourselves and a quiet time to overhaul the wounded and get dinner. Squire and I cooked outside in spite of the danger, and even outside we could hardly tell what we were at, for horror of the loud groans that reached us from the doctor’s patients.

Out of the eight men who had fallen in the action, only three still breathed—that one of the pirates who had been shot at the loophole, Hunter, and Captain Smollett; and of these the first two were as good as dead; the mutineer, indeed, died under the doctor’s knife, and Hunter, do what we could, never recovered consciousness in this world. He lingered all day, breathing loudly, like the old buccaneer at home in his apoplectic fit; but the bones of his chest had been crushed by the blow and his skull fractured in falling, and some time in the following night, without sign or sound, he went to his Maker.

As for the captain, his wounds were grievous indeed, but not dangerous. No organ was fatally injured. Anderson’s ball—for it was Job that shot him first—had broken his shoulder-blade and touched the lung, not badly; the second had only torn and displaced some muscles in the calf. He was sure to recover, the doctor said, but in the meantime, and for weeks to come, he must not walk nor move his arm, nor so much as speak when he could help it.146

My own accidental cut across the knuckles was a flea-bite. Dr. Livesey patched it up with plaster, and pulled my ears for me into the bargain.

After dinner the squire and the doctor sat by the captain’s side a while in consultation; and when they had talked to their hearts’ content, it being then a little past noon, the doctor took up his hat and pistols, girt on a cutlass, put the chart in his pocket, and with a musket over his shoulder, crossed the palisade on the north side, and set off briskly through the trees.

Gray and I were sitting together at the far end of the block-house, to be out of earshot of our officers consulting; and Gray took his pipe out of his mouth and fairly forgot to put it back again, so thunderstruck he was at this Occurrence.

“Why, in the name of Davy Jones,” said he, “is Dr. Livesey mad?”

“Why, no,” says I. “He’s about the last of this crew for that, I take it.”

“Well, shipmate,” said Gray, “mad he may not be; but if he’s not, you mark my words, I am.”

“I take it,” replied I, “the doctor has his idea; and if I am right, he’s going now to see Ben Gunn.”

I was right, as appeared later; but, in the meantime, the house being stifling hot, and the little patch of sand inside the palisade ablaze with midday sun, I began to get another thought into my head, which was not by any means so right. What I began to do was to envy the doctor, walking in the cool shadow of the woods, with the birds about him, and the pleasant smell of the pines, while I sat grilling, with my clothes stuck to the hot resin, and so much blood about me, and so many poor dead bodies lying all around, that I took a disgust of the place that was almost as strong as fear.

All the time I was washing out the block-house and then washing up the things from dinner, this disgust and envy kept growing stronger and stronger, till at last, being147 near a bread-bag, and no one then observing me, I took the first step towards my escapade, and filled both pockets of my coat with biscuit.

I was a fool, if you like, and certainly I was going to do a foolish, over-bold act; but I was determined to do it with all the precautions in my power. These biscuits, should anything befall me, would keep me, at least, from starving till far on in the next day.

The next thing I laid hold of was a brace of pistols, and as I already had a powder-horn and bullets, I felt myself well supplied with arms.

As for the scheme I had in my head, it was not a bad one in itself. I was to go down the sandy spit that divides the anchorage on the east from the open sea, find the white rock I had observed last evening, and ascertain whether it was there or not that Ben Gunn had hidden his boat; a thing quite worth doing, as I still believe. But as I was certain I should not be allowed to leave the enclosure, my only plan was to take French leave, and slip out when nobody was watching; and that was so bad a way of doing it as made the thing itself wrong. But I was only a boy, and I had made my mind up.

Well, as things at last fell out, I found an admirable opportunity. The squire and Gray were busy helping the captain with his bandages; the coast was clear; I made a bolt for it over the stockade and into the thickest of the trees, and before my absence was observed I was out of cry of my companions.

This was my second folly, far worse than the first, as I left but two sound men to guard the house; but like the first, it was a help towards saving all of us.

I took my way straight for the east coast of the island, for I was determined to go down the sea side of the spit to avoid all chance of observation from the anchorage. It was already late in the afternoon, although still warm and sunny. As I continued to thread the tall woods I could hear from far before me not only the continuous thunder148 of the surf, but a certain tossing of foliage and grinding of boughs, which showed me the sea breeze had set in higher than usual. Soon cool draughts of air began to reach me; and a few steps farther I came forth into the open borders of the grove, and saw the sea lying blue and sunny to the horizon, and the surf tumbling and tossing its foam along the beach.

I have never seen the sea quiet round Treasure Island. The sun might blaze overhead, the air be without a breath, the surface smooth and blue, but still these great rollers would be running along all the external coast, thundering and thundering by day and night; and I scarce believe there is one spot in the island where a man would be out of earshot of their noise.

I walked along beside the surf with great enjoyment, till, thinking I was now got far enough to the south, I took the cover of some thick bushes, and crept warily up to the ridge of the spit.

Behind me was the sea, in front the anchorage. The sea breeze, as though it had the sooner blown itself out by its unusual violence, was already at an end; it had been succeeded by light, variable airs from the south and south-east, carrying great banks of fog; and the anchorage, under lee of Skeleton Island, lay still and leaden as when first we entered it. The Hispaniola, in that unbroken mirror, was exactly portrayed from the truck to the water-line, the Jolly Roger hanging from her peak.

Alongside lay one of the gigs, Silver in the stern-sheets—him I could always recognise—while a couple of men were leaning over the stern bulwarks, one of them with a red cap—the very rogue that I had seen some hours before stride-legs upon the palisade. Apparently they were talking and laughing, though at that distance—upwards of a mile—I could, of course, hear no word of what was said. All at once there began the most horrid, unearthly screaming, which at first startled me badly, though I had soon remembered the voice of Captain Flint, and even thought149 I could make out the bird by her bright plumage as she sat perched upon her master’s wrist.

Soon after the jolly-boat shoved off and pulled for shore, and the man with the red cap and his comrade went below by the cabin companion.

Just about the same time the sun had gone down behind the Spy-glass, and as the fog was collecting rapidly, it began to grow dark in earnest. I saw I must lose no time if I were to find the boat that evening.

The white rock, visible enough above the brush, was still some eighth of a mile farther down the spit, and it took me a goodish while to get up with it, crawling, often on all-fours, among the scrub. Night had almost come when I laid my hand on its rough sides. Right below it there was an exceedingly small hollow of green turf, hidden by banks and a thick underwood about knee-deep, that grew there very plentifully; and in the centre of the dell, sure enough, a little tent of goat-skins, like what the gipsies carry about with them in England.

I dropped into the hollow, lifted the side of the tent, and there was Ben Gunn’s boat—home-made if ever anything was home-made: a rude, lop-sided framework of tough wood, and stretched upon that a covering of goat-skin, with the hair inside. The thing was extremely small, even for me, and I can hardly imagine that it could have floated with a full-sized man. There was one thwart set as low as possible, a kind of stretcher in the bows, and a double paddle for propulsion.

I had not then seen a coracle, such as the ancient Britons made, but I have seen one since, and I can give you no fairer idea of Ben Gunn’s boat than by saying it was like the first and the worst coracle ever made by man. But the great advantage of the coracle it certainly possessed, for it was exceedingly light and portable.

Well, now that I had found the boat, you would have thought I had had enough of truantry for once; but, in the meantime, I had taken another notion, and become150 so obstinately fond of it, that I would have carried it out, I believe, in the teeth of Captain Smollett himself. This was to slip out under cover of the night, cut the Hispaniola adrift, and let her go ashore where she fancied. I had quite made up my mind that the mutineers, after their repulse of the morning, had nothing nearer their hearts than to up anchor and away to sea; this, I thought, it would be a good thing to prevent; and now that I had seen how they left their watchmen unprovided with a boat, I thought it might be done with little risk.

Down I sat to wait for darkness, and made a hearty meal of biscuit. It was a night out of ten thousand for my purpose. The fog had now buried all heaven. As the last rays of daylight dwindled and disappeared, absolute blackness settled down on Treasure Island. And when, at last, I shouldered the coracle, and groped my way stumblingly out of the hollow where I had supped, there were but two points visible on the whole anchorage.

One was the great fire on shore, by which the defeated pirates lay carousing in the swamp. The other, a mere blur of light upon the darkness, indicated the position of the anchored ship. She had swung round to the ebb—her bow was now towards me—the only lights on board were in the cabin; and what I saw was merely a reflection on the fog of the strong rays that flowed from the stern window.

The ebb had already run some time, and I had to wade through a long belt of swampy sand, where I sank several times above the ankle, before I came to the edge of the retreating water, and wading a little way in, with some strength and dexterity, set my coracle, keel downwards, on the surface.

 

151

CHAPTER XXIII

THE EBB-TIDE RUNS

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

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

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

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

So far so good; but it next occurred to my recollection that a taut hawser, suddenly cut, is a thing as dangerous152 as a kicking horse. Ten to one, if I were so foolhardy as to cut the Hispaniola from her anchor, I and the coracle would be knocked clean out of the water.

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

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

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

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

On shore, I could see the glow of the great camp-fire burning warmly through the shore-side trees. Some one153 was singing, a dull, old, droning sailor’s song, with a droop and a quaver at the end of every verse, and seemingly no end to it at all but the patience of the singer. I had heard it on the voyage more than once, and remembered these words:—

“But one man of her crew alive,

What put to sea with seventy-five.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

By this time the schooner and her little consort were gliding pretty swiftly through the water; indeed, we had154 already fetched up level with the camp-fire. The ship was talking, as sailors say, loudly, treading the innumerable ripples with an incessant weltering splash; and until I got my eye above the window-sill I could not comprehend why the watchmen had taken no alarm. One glance, however, was sufficient; and it was only one glance that I durst take from that unsteady skiff. It showed me Hands and his companion locked together in deadly wrestle, each with a hand upon the other’s throat.

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

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

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

I was just thinking how busy drink and the devil were at that very moment in the cabin of the Hispaniola, when I was surprised by a sudden lurch of the coracle. At the same moment she yawed sharply and seemed to change her course. The speed in the meantime had strangely increased.

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

I glanced over my shoulder, and my heart jumped against my ribs. There, right behind me, was the glow of the camp-fire. The current had turned at right angles,155 sweeping round along with it the tall schooner and the little dancing coracle; ever quickening, ever bubbling higher, ever muttering louder, it went spinning through the narrows for the open sea.

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

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

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

 

156

CHAPTER XXIV

THE CRUISE OF THE CORACLE

It was broad day when I awoke, and found myself tossing at the south-west end of Treasure Island. The sun was up, but was still hid from me behind the great bulk of the Spy-glass, which on this side descended almost to the sea in formidable cliffs.

Haulbowline Head and Mizzen-mast Hill were at my elbow; the hill bare and dark, the head bound with cliffs forty or fifty feet high, and fringed with great masses of fallen rock. I was scarce a quarter of a mile to seaward, and it was my first thought to paddle in and land.

That notion was soon given over. Among the fallen rocks the breakers spouted and bellowed; loud reverberations, heavy sprays flying and falling, succeeded one another from second to second; and I saw myself, if I ventured nearer, dashed to death upon the rough shore, or spending my strength in vain to scale the beetling crags.

Nor was that all; for crawling together on flat tables of rock, or letting themselves drop into the sea with loud reports, I beheld huge slimy monsters—soft snails, as it were, of incredible bigness—two or three score of them together, making the rocks to echo with their barkings.

I have understood since that they were sea-lions, and entirely harmless. But the look of them, added to the difficulty of the shore and the high running of the surf, was more than enough to disgust me of that landing place. I felt willing rather to starve at sea than to confront such perils.

In the meantime I had a better chance, as I supposed, before me. North of Haulbowline Head, the land runs in157 a long way, leaving, at low tide, a long stretch of yellow sand. To the north of that, again, there comes another cape—Cape of the Woods, as it was marked upon the chart—buried in tall green pines, which descended to the margin of the sea.

I remembered what Silver had said about the current that sets northward along the whole west coast of Treasure Island; and seeing from my position that I was already under its influence, I preferred to leave Haulbowline Head behind me, and reserve my strength for an attempt to land upon the kindlier-looking Cape of the Woods.

There was a great, smooth swell upon the sea. The wind blowing steady and gentle from the south, there was no contrariety between that and the current, and the billows rose and fell unbroken.

Had it been otherwise, I must long ago have perished; but as it was, it is surprising how easily and securely my little and light boat could ride. Often, as I still lay at the bottom, and kept no more than an eye above the gunwale, I would see a big blue summit heaving close above me; yet the coracle would but bounce a little, dance as if on springs, and subside on the other side into the trough as lightly as a bird.

I began after a little to grow very bold, and sat up to try my skill at paddling. But even a small change in the disposition of the weight will produce violent changes in the behaviour of a coracle. And I had hardly moved before the boat, giving up at once her gentle dancing movement, ran straight down a slope of water so steep that it made me giddy, and struck her nose, with a spout of spray, deep into the side of the next wave.

I was drenched and terrified, and fell instantly back into my old position, whereupon the coracle seemed to find her head again, and led me as softly as before among the billows. It was plain she was not to be interfered with, and at that rate, since I could in no way influence her course, what hope had I left of reaching land?158

I began to be horribly frightened, but I kept my head for all that. First, moving with all care, I gradually baled out the coracle with my sea-cap; then getting my eye once more above the gunwale, I set myself to study how it was she managed to slip so quietly through the rollers.

I found each wave, instead of the big, smooth glossy mountain it looks from the shore, or from a vessel’s deck, was for all the world like any range of hills on the dry land, full of peaks and smooth places and valleys. The coracle, left to herself, turning from side to side, threaded, so to speak, her way through these lower parts, and avoided the steep slopes and higher, toppling summits of the wave.

“Well, now,” thought I to myself, “it is plain I must lie where I am, and not disturb the balance; but it is plain, also, that I can put the paddle over the side, and from time to time, in smooth places, give her a shove or two towards land.” No sooner thought upon than done. There I lay on my elbows, in the most trying attitude, and every now and again gave a weak stroke or two to turn her head to shore.

It was very tiring, and slow work, yet I did visibly gain ground; and, as we drew near the Cape of the Woods, though I saw I must infallibly miss that point, I had still made some hundred yards of easting. I was, indeed, close in. I could see the cool, green tree-tops swaying together in the breeze, and I felt sure I should make the next promontory without fail.

It was high time, for I now began to be tortured with thirst. The glow of the sun from above, its thousandfold reflection from the waves, the sea-water that fell and dried upon me, caking my very lips with salt, combined to make my throat burn and my brain ache. The sight of the trees so near at hand had almost made me sick with longing; but the current had soon carried me past the point; and, as the next reach of sea opened out, I beheld a sight that changed the nature of my thoughts.159

Right in front of me, not half a mile away, I beheld the Hispaniola under sail. I made sure, of course, that I should be taken; but I was so distressed for want of water that I scarce knew whether to be glad or sorry at the thought; and, long before I had come to a conclusion, surprise had taken entire possession of my mind, and I could do nothing but stare and wonder.

The Hispaniola was under her main-sail and two jibs, and the beautiful white canvas shone in the sun like snow or silver. When I first sighted her, all her sails were drawing; she was lying a course about north-west; and I presumed the men on board were going round the island on their way back to the anchorage. Presently she began to fetch more and more to the westward, so that I thought they had sighted me and were going about in chase. At last, however, she fell right into the wind’s eye, was taken dead aback, and stood there a while helpless, with her sails shivering.

“Clumsy fellows,” said I; “they must still be drunk as owls.” And I thought how Captain Smollett would have set them skipping.

Meanwhile the schooner gradually fell off, and filled again upon another tack, sailed swiftly for a minute or so, and brought up once more dead in the wind’s eye. Again and again was this repeated. To and fro, up and down, north, south, east, and west, the Hispaniola sailed by swoops and dashes, and at each repetition ended as she had begun, with idly-flapping canvas. It became plain to me that nobody was steering. And, if so, where were the men? Either they were dead drunk, or had deserted her, I thought, and perhaps if I could get on board, I might return the vessel to her captain.

The current was bearing coracle and schooner southward at an equal rate. As for the latter’s sailing, it was so wild and intermittent, and she hung each time so long in irons, that she certainly gained nothing, if she did not even lose. If only I dared to sit up and paddle, I made160 sure that I could overhaul her. The scheme had an air of adventure that inspired me, and the thought of the water-breaker beside the fore-companion doubled my growing courage.

Up I got, was welcomed almost instantly by another cloud of spray, but this time stuck to my purpose; and set myself, with all my strength and caution, to paddle after the unsteered Hispaniola. Once I shipped a sea so heavy that I had to stop and bale, with my heart fluttering like a bird; but gradually I got into the way of the thing, and guided my coracle among the waves, with only now and then a blow upon her bows and a dash of foam in my face.

I was now gaining rapidly on the schooner; I could see the brass glisten on the tiller as it banged about; and still no soul appeared upon her decks. I could not 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 worst 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.161

For the last little while I had even lost; but now redoubling my efforts, I began once more to overhaul the chase.

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.

 

162

CHAPTER XXV

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 on163 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 drunken wrath.

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.164 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 bulk-heads, 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.

“Ay,” 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 posses165sion 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 bye,” 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 ankercher 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 the166 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.

 

167

CHAPTER XXVI

ISRAEL HANDS

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 another meal.

“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 have 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 maybe watching us.”168

“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;169 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 underjaw, 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 re-appearance 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 lay170 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 unusual solemnity.

“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 and171 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 catspaw, 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 off again?”

“Why, so,” he replied: “you take a line ashore there on the other side at low water: take a turn about one o’ 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 little—steady—steady!”

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 manœuvres 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 quite172 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 bull’s. At the same instant he threw himself forward, and I leapt sideways towards the bows. As I did so, I left hold 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 ex173perience 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 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 his174 face upturned to mine, a perfect statue of surprise and disappointment.

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 can175 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.

 

176

CHAPTER XXVII

“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, near 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 very177 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 it178 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 mainsail 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 downhaul, 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 mainsail 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 I179 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 water-course.

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 slackened my pace and went180 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 moonshine: 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 breezes.

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 his181 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 thus assured.

And one of the men left the log-house and presently returned with a lighted brand.

182

 

183

PART VI

CAPTAIN SILVER

184

 

185

CHAPTER XXVIII

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 realised. 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,186 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; and187 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 Dr. 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,’188 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,” returned Silver.

“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 the worst, I’ll take it kind of you to let the doctor know the way I took it.”189

“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 been twenty.

“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 sides! 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’m190 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 marlinspike; 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,191 acknowledging you to be capting 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. “Fo’c’s’le 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.

“Ay, 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.”192

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 chart, Jim?”

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.

 

193

CHAPTER XXIX

THE BLACK SPOT AGAIN

The council of the 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 manœuvres 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.”194

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 a depytation.”

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 his companions.

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.195 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 have196 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 come 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?197 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 there—that’s why!”

And he cast down upon the floor a paper that I instantly recognised—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 at198 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 for ever! Barbecue for cap’n!”

“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 ballad-book.”

“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 a round 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 his thumb-nail.

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,199 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.

 

200

CHAPTER XXX

ON PAROLE

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 hill-top, 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 and201 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 medicine, men?”

“Ay, ay, 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 Dr. 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.202

“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 comed—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 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-school children than blood-guilty mutineers and pirates—“Well, that’s done for to-day. 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,203 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 de204posed 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 Doctor 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;205 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 daresay 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 like antelopes.”

“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 and206 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.

 

207

CHAPTER XXXI

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 reck208lessness. And this the more surprised me, for I thought he had never shown himself so cunning as he did then.

“Ay, 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 warn209ing 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 any one 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 muddied and unbaled 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 the210 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.

“Ten feet.”

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 spice211 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 approaching the brow of the plateau, when the man upon the farthest left began to cry aloud, as if in terror. Shout after shout came from him, and the others began to run in his direction.

“He can’t ’a’ found the treasure,” said old Morgan, hurrying past us from the right, “for that’s clean a-top.”

Indeed, as we found when we also reached the spot, it was something very different. At the foot of a pretty big pine, and involved in a green creeper, which had even partly lifted some of the smaller bones, a human skeleton lay, with a few shreds of clothing, on the ground. I believe a chill struck for a moment to every heart.

“He was a seaman,” said George Merry, who, bolder than the rest, had gone up close, and was examining the rags of clothing. “Leastways, this is good sea-cloth.”

“Ay, ay,” said Silver, “like enough; you wouldn’t look to find a bishop here, I reckon. But what sort of a way is that for bones to lie? ’Tain’t in natur’.”

Indeed, on a second glance, it seemed impossible to fancy that the body was in a natural position. But for some disarray (the work, perhaps, of the birds that had fed upon him, or of the slow-growing creeper that had gradually enveloped his remains) the man lay perfectly straight—his feet pointing in one direction, his hands, raised above his head like a diver’s, pointing directly in the opposite.

“I’ve taken a notion into my old numskull,” observed212 Silver. “Here’s the compass; there’s the tip-top p’int o’ Skeleton Island, stickin’ out like a tooth. Just take a bearing, will you, along the line of them bones?”

It was done. The body pointed straight in the direction of the island, and the compass read duly E.S.E. and by E.

“I thought so,” cried the cook; “this here is a p’inter. Right up there is our line for the Pole Star and the jolly dollars. But, by thunder! if it don’t make me cold inside to think of Flint. This is one of his jokes, and no mistake. Him and these six was alone here; he killed ’em, every man; and this one he hauled here and laid down by compass, shiver my timbers! They’re long bones, and the hair’s been yellow. Ay, that would be Allardyce.—You mind Allardyce, Tom Morgan?”

“Ay, ay,” returned Morgan, “I mind him; he owed me money, he did, and took my knife ashore with him.”

“Speaking of knives,” said another, “why don’t we find his’n lying round? Flint warn’t the man to pick a seaman’s pocket; and the birds, I guess, would leave it be.”

“By the powers, and that’s true!” cried Silver.

“There ain’t a thing left here,” said Merry, still feeling round among the bones, “not a copper doit nor a baccy-box. It don’t look nat’ral to me.”

“No, by gum, it don’t,” agreed Silver; “not nat’ral, nor not nice, says you. Great guns! messmates, but if Flint was living, this would be a hot spot for you and me. Six they were, and six are we; and bones is what they are now.”

“I saw him dead with these here deadlights,” said Morgan. “Billy took me in. There he laid, with penny-pieces on his eyes.”

“Dead—ay, sure enough he’s dead and gone below,” said the fellow with the bandage; “but if ever sperrit walked, it would be Flint’s. Dear heart, but he died bad, did Flint!”

“Ay, that he did,” observed another; “now he raged, and now he hollered for the rum, and now he sang. ‘Fifteen Men’ were his only song, mates; and I tell you true,213 I never rightly liked to hear it since. It was main hot, and the windy was open, and I hear that old song comin’ out as clear as clear—and the death-haul on the man already.”

“Come, come,” said Silver, “stow this talk. He’s dead, and he don’t walk, that I know; leastways, he won’t walk by day, and you may lay to that. Care killed a cat. Fetch ahead for the doubloons.”

We started, certainly; but in spite of the hot sun and the staring daylight, the pirates no longer ran separate and shouting through the wood, but kept side by side and spoke with bated breath. The terror of the dead buccaneer had fallen on their spirits.

 

214

CHAPTER XXXII

THE TREASURE HUNT—THE VOICE AMONG THE
TREES

Partly from the damping influence of this alarm, partly to rest Silver and the sick folk, the whole party sat down as soon as they had gained the brow of the ascent.

The plateau being somewhat tilted towards the west, this spot on which we had paused commanded a wide prospect on either hand. Before us, over the tree-tops, we beheld the Cape of the Woods fringed with surf; behind, we not only looked down upon the anchorage and Skeleton Island, but saw—clear across the spit and the eastern lowlands—a great field of open sea upon the east. Sheer above us rose the Spy-glass, here dotted with single pines, there black with precipices. There was no sound but that of the distant breakers, mounting from all round, and the chirp of countless insects in the brush. Not a man, not a sail upon the sea; the very largeness of the view increased the sense of solitude.

Silver, as he sat, took certain bearings with his compass.

“There are three ‘tall trees,’” said he, “about in the right line from Skeleton Island. ‘Spy-glass Shoulder,’ I take it, means that lower p’int there. It’s child’s-play to find the stuff now. I’ve half a mind to dine first.”

“I don’t feel sharp,” growled Morgan. “Thinkin’ o’ Flint—I think it were—’as done me.”

“Ah, well, my son, you praise your stars he’s dead,” said Silver.

“He were an ugly devil,” cried a third pirate with a shudder; “that blue in the face, too!”215

“That was how the rum took him,” added Merry. “Blue! well, I reckon he was blue. That’s a true word.”

Ever since they had found the skeleton and got upon this train of thought, they had spoken lower and lower, and they had almost got to whispering by now, so that the sound of their talk hardly interrupted the silence of the wood. All of a sudden, out of the middle of the trees in front of us, a thin, high, trembling voice struck up the well-known air and words:—

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

I never have seen men more dreadfully affected than the pirates. The colour went from their six faces like enchantment; some leaped to their feet, some clawed hold of others; Morgan grovelled on the ground.

“It’s Flint, by ——!” cried Merry.

The song had stopped as suddenly as it began—broken off, you would have said, in the middle of a note, as though some one had laid his hand upon the singer’s mouth. Coming so far through the clear, sunny atmosphere among the green tree-tops, I thought it had sounded airily and sweetly; and the effect on my companions was the stranger.

“Come,” said Silver, struggling with his ashen lips to get the word out, “this won’t do. Stand by to go about. This is a rum start, and I can’t name the voice: but it’s some one skylarking—some one that’s flesh and blood, and you may lay to that.”

His courage had come back as he spoke, and some of the colour to his face along with it. Already the others had begun to lend an ear to this encouragement, and were coming a little to themselves, when the same voice broke out again—not this time singing, but in a faint distant hail, that echoed yet fainter among the clefts of the Spy-glass.

“Darby M’Graw,” it wailed—for that is the word that best describes the sound—“Darby M’Graw! Darby M’Graw!” again and again and again; and then rising a216 little higher, and with an oath that I leave out, “Fetch aft the rum, Darby!”

The buccaneers remained rooted to the ground, their eyes starting from their heads. Long after the voice had died away they still stared in silence, dreadfully, before them.

“That fixes it!” gasped one. “Let’s go.”

“They was his last words,” moaned Morgan, “his last words above board.”

Dick had his Bible out, and was praying volubly. He had been well brought up, had Dick, before he came to sea and fell among bad companions.

Still, Silver was unconquered. I could hear his teeth rattle in his head; but he had not yet surrendered.

“Nobody in this here island ever heard of Darby,” he muttered: “not one but us that’s here.” And then, making a great effort: “Shipmates,” he cried, “I’m here to get that stuff, and I’ll not be beat by man nor devil. I never was feared of Flint in his life, and, by the powers! I’ll face him dead. There’s seven hundred thousand pound not a quarter of a mile from here. When did ever a gentleman o’ fortune show his stern to that much dollars, for a boosy old seaman with a blue mug—and him dead, too?”

But there was no sign of re-awakening courage in his followers; rather, indeed, of growing terror at the irreverence of his words.

“Belay there, John!” said Merry. “Don’t you cross a sperrit.”

And the rest were all too terrified to reply. They would have run away severally had they dared; but fear kept them together, and kept them close by John, as if his daring helped them. He, on his part, had pretty well fought his weakness down.

“Sperrit? Well, maybe,” he said. “But there’s one thing not clear to me. There was an echo. Now, no man ever seen a sperrit with a shadow; well, then, what’s he doing with an echo to him, I should like to know? That ain’t in natur’, surely?”217

This argument seemed weak enough to me. But you can never tell what will affect the superstitious, and, to my wonder, George Merry was greatly relieved.

“Well, that’s so,” he said. “You’ve a head upon your shoulders, John, and no mistake. ’Bout ship, mates! This here crew is on a wrong tack, I do believe. And come to think on it, it was like Flint’s voice, I grant you, but not just so clear-away like it, after all. It was liker somebody else’s voice now—it was liker——”

“By the powers, Ben Gunn!” roared Silver.

“Ay, and so it were,” cried Morgan, springing on his knees. “Ben Gunn it were!”

“It don’t make much odds, do it, now?” asked Dick. “Ben Gunn’s not here in the body, any more’n Flint.”

But the older hands greeted this remark with scorn.

“Why, nobody minds Ben Gunn,” cried Merry; “dead or alive, nobody minds him.”

It was extraordinary how their spirits had returned, and how the natural colour had revived in their faces. Soon they were chatting together, with intervals of listening; and not long after, hearing no further sound, they shouldered the tools and set forth again, Merry walking first with Silver’s compass to keep them on the right line with Skeleton Island. He had said the truth; dead or alive, nobody minded Ben Gunn.

Dick alone still held his Bible, and looked around him as he went, with fearful glances; but he found no sympathy, and Silver even joked him on his precautions.

“I told you,” said he—“I told you, you had sp’iled your Bible. If it ain’t no good to swear by, what do you suppose a sperrit would give for it? Not that!” and he snapped his big fingers, halting a moment on his crutch.

But Dick was not to be comforted; indeed, it was soon plain to me that the lad was falling sick; hastened by heat, exhaustion, and the shock of his alarm, the fever, predicted by Doctor Livesey, was evidently growing swiftly higher.

It was fine open walking here, upon the summit; our218 way lay a little down-hill, for, as I have said, the plateau tilted towards the west. The pines, great and small, grew wide apart: and even between the clumps of nutmeg and azalea, wide open spaces baked in the hot sunshine. Striking, as we did, pretty near north-west across the island, we drew, on the one hand, ever nearer under the shoulders of the Spy-glass, and on the other, looked ever wider over that western bay where I had once tossed and trembled in the coracle.

The first of the tall trees was reached, and, by the bearing, proved the wrong one. So with the second. The third rose nearly two hundred feet into the air above a clump of underwood; a giant of a vegetable, with a red column as big as a cottage, and a wide shadow around in which a company could have manœuvred. It was conspicuous far to sea both on the east and west, and might have been entered as a sailing mark upon the chart.

But it was not its size that now impressed my companions; it was the knowledge that seven hundred thousand pounds in gold lay somewhere buried below its spreading shadow. The thought of the money, as they drew nearer, swallowed up their previous terrors. Their eyes burned in their heads; their feet grew speedier and lighter; their whole soul was bound up in that fortune, that whole lifetime of extravagance and pleasure, that lay waiting there for each of them.

Silver hobbled, grunting, on his crutch; his nostrils stood out and quivered: he cursed like a madman when the flies settled on his hot and shiny countenance; he plucked furiously at the line that held me to him, and, from time to time, turned his eyes upon me with a deadly look. Certainly he took no pains to hide his thoughts; and certainly I read them like print. In the immediate nearness of the gold, all else had been forgotten; his promise and the doctor’s warning were both things of the past; and I could not doubt that he hoped to seize upon the treasure, find and board the Hispaniola under cover of night, cut every honest219 throat about that island, and sail away, as he had at first intended, laden with crimes and riches.

Shaken as I was with these alarms, it was hard for me to keep up with the rapid pace of the treasure-hunters. Now and again I stumbled; and it was then that Silver plucked so roughly at the rope and launched at me his murderous glances. Dick, who had dropped behind us, and now brought up the rear, was babbling to himself both prayers and curses, as his fever kept rising. This also added to my wretchedness, and, to crown all, I was haunted by the thought of the tragedy that had once been acted on that plateau, when that ungodly buccaneer with the blue face—he who died at Savannah, singing and shouting for drink—had there, with his own hand, cut down his six accomplices. This grove, that was now so peaceful, must then have rung with cries, I thought; and even with the thought I could believe I heard it ringing still.

We were now at the margin of the thicket.

“Huzza, mates, all together!” shouted Merry; and the foremost broke into a run.

And suddenly, not ten yards farther, we beheld them stop. A low cry arose. Silver doubled his pace, digging away with the foot of his crutch like one possessed; and next moment he and I had come also to a dead halt.

Before us was a great excavation, not very recent, for the sides had fallen in and grass had sprouted on the bottom. In this were the shaft of a pick broken in two and the boards of several packing-cases strewn around. On one of these boards I saw, branded with a hot iron, the name Walrus—the name of Flint’s ship.

All was clear to probation. The cache had been found and rifled: the seven hundred thousand pounds were gone!

 

220

CHAPTER XXXIII

THE FALL OF A CHIEFTAIN

There never was such an overturn in this world. Each of these six men was as though he had been struck. But with Silver the blow passed almost instantly. Every thought of his soul had been set full-stretch, like a racer, on that money; well, he was brought up in a single second, dead; and he kept his head, found his temper, and changed his plan before the others had had time to realise the disappointment.

“Jim,” he whispered, “take that, and stand by for trouble.”

And he passed me a double-barrelled pistol.

At the same time he began quietly moving northward, and in a few steps had put the hollow between us two and the other five. Then he looked at me and nodded, as much as to say, “Here is a narrow corner,” as, indeed, I thought it was. His looks were now quite friendly; and I was so revolted at these constant changes, that I could not forbear whispering, “So you’ve changed sides again.”

There was no time left for him to answer in. The buccaneers, with oaths and cries, began to leap, one after another, into the pit, and to dig with their fingers, throwing the boards aside as they did so. Morgan found a piece of gold. He held it up with a perfect spout of oaths. It was a two-guinea piece, and it went from hand to hand among them for a quarter of a minute.

“Two guineas!” roared Merry, shaking it at Silver. “That’s your seven hundred thousand pounds, is it? You’re the man for bargains, ain’t you? You’re him that never bungled nothing, you wooden-headed lubber!”221

“Dig away, boys,” said Silver, with the coolest insolence; “you’ll find some pig-nuts and I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Pig-nuts!” repeated Merry, in a scream. “Mates, do you hear that? I tell you, now, that man there knew it all along. Look in the face of him, and you’ll see it wrote there.”

“Ah, Merry,” remarked Silver, “standing for cap’n again? You’re a pushing lad, to be sure.”

But this time every one was entirely in Merry’s favour. They began to scramble out of the excavation, darting furious glances behind them. One thing I observed, which looked well for us: they all got out upon the opposite side from Silver.

Well, there we stood, two on one side, five on the other, the pit between us, and nobody screwed up high enough to offer the first blow. Silver never moved; he watched them, very upright on his crutch, and looked as cool as ever I saw him. He was brave, and no mistake.

At last, Merry seemed to think a speech might help matters.

“Mates,” says he, “there’s two of them alone there; one’s the old cripple that brought us all here and blundered us down to this; the other’s that cub that I mean to have the heart of. Now, mates——”

He was raising his arm and his voice, and plainly meant to lead a charge. But just then—crack! crack! crack!—three musket-shots flashed out of the thicket. Merry tumbled head-foremost into the excavation; the man with the bandage spun round like a teetotum, and fell all his length upon his side, where he lay dead, but still twitching; and the other three turned and ran for it with all their might.

Before you could wink, Long John had fired two barrels of a pistol into the struggling Merry; and as the man rolled up his eyes at him in the last agony, “George,” said he, “I reckon I settled you.”

At the same moment the doctor, Gray, and Ben Gunn222 joined us, with smoking muskets, from among the nutmeg trees.

“Forward!” cried the doctor. “Double quick, my lads! We must head ’em off the boats.”

And we set off at a great pace, sometimes plunging through the bushes to the chest.

I tell you, but Silver was anxious to keep up with us. The work that man went through, leaping on his crutch till the muscles of his chest were fit to burst, was work no sound man ever equalled; and so thinks the doctor. As it was, he was already thirty yards behind us, and on the verge of strangling, when we reached the brow of the slope.

“Doctor,” he hailed, “see there! no hurry!”

Sure enough there was no hurry. In a more open part of the plateau, we could see the three survivors still running in the same direction as they had started, right for Mizzen-mast Hill. We were already between them and the boats; and so we four sat down to breathe, while Long John, mopping his face, came slowly up with us.

“Thank ye kindly, doctor,” says he. “You came in in about the nick, I guess, for me and Hawkins.—And so it’s you, Ben Gunn!” he added. “Well, you’re a nice one, to be sure.”

“I’m Ben Gunn, I am,” replied the maroon, wriggling like an eel in his embarrassment. “And,” he added, after a long pause, “how do, Mr. Silver? Pretty well, I thank ye, says you.”

“Ben, Ben,” murmured Silver, “to think as you’ve done me!”

The doctor sent back Gray for one of the pickaxes, deserted, in their flight, by the mutineers; and then, as we proceeded leisurely down-hill to where the boats were lying, related, in a few words, what had taken place. It was a story that profoundly interested Silver; and Ben Gunn, the half-idiot maroon, was the hero from beginning to end.

Ben, in his long, lonely wanderings about the island223 had found the skeleton—it was he that had rifled it; he had found the treasure; he had dug it up (it was the haft of his pickaxe that lay broken in the excavation); he had carried it on his back, in many weary journeys, from the foot of a tall pine to a cave he had on the two-pointed hill at the north-east angle of the island, and there it had lain stored in safety since two months before the arrival of the Hispaniola.

When the doctor had wormed this secret from him, on the afternoon of the attack, and when, next morning, he saw the anchorage deserted, he had gone to Silver, given him the chart, which was now useless—given him the stores, for Ben Gunn’s cave was well supplied with goat’s meat salted by himself—given anything and everything to get a chance of moving in safety from the stockade to the two-pointed hill, there to be clear of malaria and keep a guard upon the money.

“As for you, Jim,” he said, “it went against my heart, but I did what I thought best for those who had stood by their duty; and if you were not one of these, whose fault was it?”

That morning, finding that I was to be involved in the horrid disappointment he had prepared for the mutineers, he had run all the way to the cave, and, leaving squire to guard the captain, had taken Gray and the maroon, and started, making the diagonal across the island, to be at hand beside the pine. Soon, however, he saw that our party had the start of him: and Ben Gunn, being fleet of foot, had been despatched in front to do his best alone. Then it had occurred to him to work upon the superstitions of his former shipmates; and he was so far successful that Gray and the doctor had come up and were already ambushed before the arrival of the treasure-hunters.

“Ah,” said Silver, “it were fortunate for me that I had Hawkins here. You would have let old John be cut to bits, and never given it a thought, doctor.”

“Not a thought,” replied Dr. Livesey cheerily.

And by this time we had reached the gigs. The doctor,224 with the pickaxe, demolished one of them, and then we all got aboard the other and set out to go round by sea for North Inlet.

This was a run of eight or nine miles. Silver, though he was almost killed already with fatigue, was set to an oar, like the rest of us, and we were soon skimming swiftly over a smooth sea. Soon we passed out of the straits and doubled the south-east corner of the island, round which, four days ago, we had towed the Hispaniola.

As we passed the two-pointed hill we could see the black mouth of Ben Gunn’s cave, and a figure standing by it, leaning on a musket. It was the squire; and we waved a handkerchief and gave him three cheers, in which the voice of Silver joined as heartily as any.

Three miles farther, just inside the mouth of North Inlet, what should we meet but the Hispaniola, cruising by herself? The last flood had lifted her; and had there been much wind, or a strong tide current, as in the southern anchorage, we should never have found her more, or found her stranded beyond help. As it was, there was little amiss, beyond the wreck of the main-sail. Another anchor was got ready, and dropped in a fathom and a half of water. We all pulled round again to Rum Cove, the nearest point for Ben Gunn’s treasure-house; and then Gray, single-handed, returned with the gig to the Hispaniola, where he was to pass the night on guard.

A gentle slope ran up from the beach to the entrance of the cave. At the top the squire met us. To me he was cordial and kind, saying nothing of my escapade, either in the way of blame or praise. At Silver’s polite salute he somewhat flushed.

“John Silver,” he said, “you’re a prodigious villain and impostor—a monstrous impostor, sir. I am told I am not to prosecute you. Well, then, I will not. But the dead men, sir, hang about your neck like mill-stones.”

“Thank you kindly, sir,” replied Long John, again saluting.225

“I dare you to thank me!” cried the squire. “It is a gross dereliction of my duty. Stand back.”

And thereupon we all entered the cave. It was a large, airy place, with a little spring and a pool of clear water, overhung with ferns. The floor was sand. Before a big fire lay Captain Smollett; and in a far corner, only duskily flickered over by the blaze, I beheld great heaps of coin and quadrilaterals built of bars of gold. That was Flint’s treasure, that we had come so far to seek, and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many it had cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell. Yet there were still three upon that island—Silver, and old Morgan, and Ben Gunn—who had each taken his share in these crimes, as each had hoped in vain to share in the reward.

“Come in, Jim,” said the captain. “You’re a good boy in your line, Jim; but I don’t think you and me’ll go to sea again. You’re too much of the born favourite for me.—Is that you, John Silver? What brings you here, man?”

“Come back to my dooty, sir,” returned Silver.

“Ah!” said the captain; and that was all he said.

What a supper I had of it that night, with all my friends around me; and what a meal it was, with Ben Gunn’s salted goat, and some delicacies and a bottle of old wine from the Hispaniola. Never, I am sure, were people gayer or happier. And there was Silver, sitting back almost out of the firelight, but eating heartily, prompt to spring forward when anything was wanted, even joining quietly in our laughter—the same bland, polite, obsequious seaman of the voyage out.

 

226

CHAPTER XXXIV

AND LAST

The next morning we fell early to work, for the transportation of this great mass of gold near a mile by land to the beach, and thence three miles by boat to the Hispaniola, was a considerable task for so small a number of workmen. The three fellows still abroad upon the island did not greatly trouble us; a single sentry on the shoulder of the hill was sufficient to insure us against any sudden onslaught, and we thought, besides, they had had more than enough of fighting.

Therefore the work was pushed on briskly. Gray and Ben Gunn came and went with the boat, while the rest, during their absences, piled treasure on the beach. Two of the bars, slung in a rope’s-end, made a good load for a grown man—one that he was glad to walk slowly with. For my part, as I was not much use at carrying, I was kept busy all day in the cave, packing the minted money into bread-bags.

It was a strange collection, like Billy Bones’s hoard for the diversity of coinage, but so much larger and so much more varied that I think I never had more pleasure than in sorting them. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Georges, and Louises, doubloons and double guineas and moidores and sequins, the pictures of all the kings of Europe for the last hundred years, strange Oriental pieces stamped with what looked like wisps of string or bits of spider’s web, round pieces and square pieces, and pieces bored through the middle, as if to wear them round your neck—nearly every variety of money in the world must, I think, have227 found a place in that collection; and for number, I am sure they were like autumn leaves, so that my back ached with stooping and my fingers with sorting them out.

Day after day this work went on; by every evening a fortune had been stowed aboard, but there was another fortune waiting for the morrow; and all this time we heard nothing of the three surviving mutineers.

At last—I think it was on the third night—the doctor and I were strolling on the shoulder of the hill where it overlooks the lowlands of the isle, when, from out the thick darkness below, the wind brought us a noise between shrieking and singing. It was only a snatch that reached our ears, followed by the former silence.

“Heaven forgive them,” said the doctor; “’tis the mutineers!”

“All drunk, sir,” struck in the voice of Silver from behind us.

Silver, I should say, was allowed his entire liberty, and, in spite of daily rebuffs, seemed to regard himself once more as quite a privileged and friendly dependant. Indeed, it was remarkable how well he bore these slights, and with what unwearying politeness he kept on trying to ingratiate himself with all. Yet, I think, none treated him better than a dog; unless it was Ben Gunn, who was still terribly afraid of his old quartermaster, or myself, who had really something to thank him for; although for that matter, I suppose, I had reason to think even worse of him than anybody else, for I had seen him meditating a fresh treachery upon the plateau. Accordingly, it was pretty gruffly that the doctor answered him.

“Drunk or raving,” said he.

“Right you were, sir,” replied Silver; “and precious little odds which, to you and me.”

“I suppose you would hardly ask me to call you a humane man,” returned the doctor, with a sneer, “and so my feelings may surprise you, Master Silver. But if I were sure they were raving—as I am morally certain one,228 at least, of them is down with fever—I should leave this camp, and, at whatever risk to my own carcass, take them the assistance of my skill.”

“Ask your pardon, sir, you would be very wrong,” quoth Silver. “You would lose your precious life, and you may lay to that. I’m on your side now, hand and glove; and I shouldn’t wish for to see the party weakened, let alone yourself, seeing as I know what I owes you. But these men down there, they couldn’t keep their word—no, not supposing they wished to; and, what’s more, they couldn’t believe as you could.”

“No,” said the doctor. “You’re the man to keep your word, we know that.”

Well, that was about the last news we had of the three pirates. Only once we heard a gunshot a great way off, and supposed them to be hunting. A council was held, and it was decided that we must desert them on the island—to the huge glee, I must say, of Ben Gunn, and with the strong approval of Gray. We left a good stock of powder and shot, the bulk of the salt goat, a few medicines, and some other necessaries, tools, clothing, a spare sail, a fathom or two of rope, and, by the particular desire of the doctor, a handsome present of tobacco.

That was about our last doing on the island. Before that, we had got the treasure stowed, and had shipped enough water and the remainder of the goat meat, in case of any distress; and at last, one fine morning, we weighed anchor, which was about all that we could manage, and stood out of North Inlet, the same colours flying that the captain had flown and fought under at the palisade.

The three fellows must have been watching us closer than we thought for, as we soon had proved. For, coming through the narrows, we had to lie very near the southern point, and there we saw all three of them kneeling together on a spit of sand, with their arms raised in supplication. It went to all our hearts, I think, to leave them in that wretched state; but we could not risk another mutiny; and to take229 them home for the gibbet would have been a cruel sort of kindness. The doctor hailed them, and told them of the stores we had left, and where they were to find them. But they continued to call us by name, and appeal to us, for God’s sake, to be merciful, and not leave them to die in such a place.

At last, seeing the ship still bore on her course, and was now swiftly drawing out of earshot, one of them—I know not which it was—leapt to his feet with a hoarse cry, whipped his musket to his shoulder, and sent a shot whistling over Silver’s head and through the main-sail.

After that we kept under cover of the bulwarks, and when next I looked out they had disappeared from the spit, and the spit itself had almost melted out of sight in the growing distance. That was, at least, the end of that; and before noon, to my inexpressible joy, the highest rock of Treasure Island had sunk into the blue round of sea.

We were so short of men that every one on board had to bear a hand—only the captain lying on a mattress in the stern and giving his orders; for, though greatly recovered, he was still in want of quiet. We laid her head for the nearest port in Spanish America, for we could not risk the voyage home without fresh hands; and as it was, what with baffling winds and a couple of fresh gales, we were all worn out before we reached it.

It was just at sundown when we cast anchor in a most beautiful land-locked gulf, and were immediately surrounded by shore-boats full of negroes, and Mexican Indians, and half-bloods, selling fruit and vegetables, and offering to dive for bits of money. The sight of so many good-humoured faces (especially the blacks), the taste of the tropical fruits, and, above all, the lights that began to shine in the town, made a most charming contrast to our dark and bloody sojourn on the island; and the doctor and the squire, taking me along with them, went ashore to pass the early part of the night. Here they met the captain of an English man-of-war, fell in talk with him, went on board his ship, and, in230 short, had so agreeable a time, that day was breaking when we came alongside the Hispaniola.

Ben Gunn was on deck alone, and, as soon as we came on board, he began, with wonderful contortions, to make us a confession. Silver was gone. The maroon had connived at his escape in a shore-boat some hours ago, and he now assured us he had only done so to preserve our lives, which would certainly have been forfeit if “that man with the one leg had stayed aboard.” But this was not all. The sea-cook had not gone empty-handed. He had cut through a bulkhead unobserved, and had removed one of the sacks of coin, worth, perhaps, three or four hundred guineas, to help him on his further wanderings.

I think we were all pleased to be so cheaply quit of him.

Well, to make a long story short, we got a few hands on board, made a good cruise home, and the Hispaniola reached Bristol just as Mr. Blandly was beginning to think of fitting out her consort. Five men only of those who had sailed returned with her. “Drink and the devil had done for the rest,” with a vengeance; although, to be sure, we were not quite in so bad a case as that other ship they sang about:

“With one man of her crew alive,

What put to sea with seventy-five.”

All of us had an ample share of the treasure, and used it wisely or foolishly, according to our natures. Captain Smollett is now retired from the sea. Gray not only saved his money, but, being suddenly smit with the desire to rise, also studied his profession; and he is now mate and part owner of a fine full-rigged ship; married besides, and the father of a family. As for Ben Gunn, he got a thousand pounds, which he spent or lost in three weeks, or, to be more exact, in nineteen days, for he was back begging on the twentieth. Then he was given a lodge to keep, exactly as he had feared upon the island; and he still lives, a great favourite, though something of a butt, with the country boys, and a notable singer in church on Sundays and saints’ days.231

Of Silver we have heard no more. That formidable seafaring man with one leg has at last gone clean out of my life; but I daresay he met his old negress, and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small.

The bar silver and the arms still lie, for all that I know, where Flint buried them; and certainly they shall lie there for me. Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: “Pieces of eight! pieces of eight!”

232

 

233

WILL O’ THE MILL

234

 

235

WILL O’ THE MILL

 

THE PLAIN AND THE STARS

The Mill where Will lived with his adopted parents stood in a falling valley between pinewoods and great mountains. Above, hill after hill soared upwards until they soared out of the depth of the hardiest timber, and stood naked against the sky. Some way up, a long grey village lay like a seam or a rag of vapour on a wooded hillside; and when the wind was favourable, the sound of the church bells would drop down, thin and silvery, to Will. Below, the valley grew ever steeper and steeper, and at the same time widened out on either hand; and from an eminence beside the mill it was possible to see its whole length and away beyond it over a wide plain, where the river turned and shone, and moved on from city to city on its voyage towards the sea. It chanced that over this valley there lay a pass into a neighbouring kingdom; so that, quiet and rural as it was, the road that ran along beside the river was a high thoroughfare between two splendid and powerful societies. All through the summer, travelling-carriages came crawling up, or went plunging briskly downwards past the mill; and as it happened that the other side was very much easier of ascent, the path was not much frequented, except by people going in one direction; and of all the carriages that Will saw go by, five-sixths were plunging briskly downwards and only one-sixth crawling up. Much more was this the case with foot-passengers. All the light-footed tourists, all the pedlars laden with strange wares, were tending downward like the river that accompanied their path. Nor was this all; for236 when Will was yet a child a disastrous war arose over a great part of the world. The newspapers were full of defeats and victories, the earth rang with cavalry hoofs, and often for days together and for miles around the coil of battle terrified good people from their labours in the field. Of all this, nothing was heard for a long time in the valley; but at last one of the commanders pushed an army over the pass by forced marches, and for three days horse and foot, cannon and tumbril, drum and standard, kept pouring downward past the mill. All day the child stood and watched them on their passage; the rhythmical stride, the pale, unshaven faces tanned about the eyes, the discoloured regimentals, and the tattered flags, filled him with a sense of weariness, pity, and wonder; and all night long, after he was in bed, he could hear the cannon pounding and the feet trampling, and the great armament sweeping onward and downward past the mill. No one in the valley ever heard the fate of the expedition, for they lay out of the way of gossip in those troublous times; but Will saw one thing plainly, that not a man returned. Whither had they all gone? Whither went all the tourists and pedlars with strange wares? whither all the brisk barouches with servants in the dicky? whither the water of the stream, ever coursing downward, and ever renewed from above? Even the wind blew oftener down the valley, and carried the dead leaves along with it in the fall. It seemed like a great conspiracy of things animate and inanimate; they all went downward, fleetly and gaily downward, and only he, it seemed, remained behind, like a stock upon the wayside. It sometimes made him glad when he noticed how the fishes kept their heads up stream. They, at least, stood faithfully by him, while all else were posting downward to the unknown world.

One evening he asked the miller where the river went.

“It goes down the valley,” answered he, “and turns a power of mills—sixscore mills, they say, from here to Unterdeck—and it none the wearier after all. And then it goes237 out into the lowlands, and waters the great corn country, and runs through a sight of fine cities (so they say) where kings live all alone in great palaces, with a sentry walking up and down before the door. And it goes under bridges with stone men upon them, looking down and smiling so curious at the water, and living folks leaning their elbows on the wall and looking over too. And then it goes on and on, and down through marshes and sands, until at last it falls into the sea, where the ships are that bring parrots and tobacco from the Indies. Ay, it has a long trot before it as it goes singing over our weir, bless its heart!”

“And what is the sea?” asked Will.

“The sea!” cried the miller. “Lord help us all, it is the greatest thing God made! That is where all the water in the world runs down into a great salt lake. There it lies, as flat as my hand, and as innocent-like as a child; but they do say when the wind blows it gets up into water-mountains bigger than any of ours, and swallows down great ships bigger than our mill, and makes such a roaring that you can hear it miles away upon the land. There are great fish in it five times bigger than a bull, and one old serpent as long as our river and as old as all the world, with whiskers like a man, and a crown of silver on her head.”

Will thought he had never heard anything like this, and he kept on asking question after question about the world that lay away down the river, with all its perils and marvels, until the old miller became quite interested himself, and at last took him by the hand and led him to the hill-top that overlooks the valley and the plain. The sun was near setting, and hung low down in a cloudless sky. Everything was defined and glorified in golden light. Will had never seen so great an expanse of country in his life; he stood and gazed with all his eyes. He could see the cities, and the woods and fields, and the bright curves of the river, and far away to where the rim of the plain trenched along the shining heavens. An overmastering emotion seized upon the boy, soul and body; his heart beat so thickly that he could not238 breathe; the scene swam before his eyes; the sun seemed to wheel round and round, and throw off, as it turned, strange shapes which disappeared with the rapidity of thought, and were succeeded by others. Will covered his face with his hands, and burst into a violent fit of tears; and the poor miller, sadly disappointed and perplexed, saw nothing better for it than to take him up in his arms and carry him home in silence.

From that day forward Will was full of new hopes and longings. Something kept tugging at his heart-strings; the running water carried his desires along with it as he dreamed over its fleeting surface; the wind, as it ran over innumerable tree-tops, hailed him with encouraging words; branches beckoned downward; the open road, as it shouldered round the angles and went turning and vanishing fast and faster down the valley, tortured him with its solicitations. He spent long whiles on the eminence, looking down the rivershed and abroad on the fat lowlands, and watched the clouds that travelled forth upon the sluggish wind and trailed their purple shadows on the plain; or he would linger by the wayside, and follow the carriages with his eyes as they rattled downward by the river. It did not matter what it was; everything that went that way, were it cloud or carriage, bird or brown water in the stream, he felt his heart flow out after it in an ecstasy of longing.

We are told by men of science that all the ventures of mariners on the sea, all that counter-marching of tribes and races that confounds old history with its dust and rumour, sprang from nothing more abstruse than the laws of supply and demand, and a certain natural instinct for cheap rations. To any one thinking deeply, this will seem a dull and pitiful explanation. The tribes that came swarming out of the North and East, if they were indeed pressed onward from behind by others, were drawn at the same time by the magnetic influence of the South and West. The fame of other lands had reached them; the name of the eternal city rang in their ears; they were not colonists, but pilgrims;239 they travelled towards wine and gold and sunshine, but their hearts were set on something higher. That divine unrest, that old stinging trouble of humanity that makes all high achievements and all miserable failure, the same that spread wings with Icarus, the same that sent Columbus into the desolate Atlantic, inspired and supported these barbarians on their perilous march. There is one legend which profoundly represents their spirit, of how a flying party of these wanderers encountered a very old man shod with iron. The old man asked them whither they were going; and they answered with one voice: “To the Eternal City!” He looked upon them gravely. “I have sought it,” he said, “over the most part of the world. Three such pairs as I now carry on my feet have I worn out upon this pilgrimage, and now the fourth is growing slender underneath my steps. And all this while I have not found the city.” And he turned and went his own way alone, leaving them astonished.

And yet this would scarcely parallel the intensity of Will’s feeling for the plain. If he could only go far enough out there, he felt as if his eyesight would be purged and clarified, as if his hearing would grow more delicate, and his very breath would come and go with luxury. He was transplanted and withering where he was; he lay in a strange country and was sick for home. Bit by bit, he pieced together broken notions of the world below: of the river, ever moving and growing until it sailed forth into the majestic ocean; of the cities, full of brisk and beautiful people, playing fountains, bands of music and marble palaces, and lighted up at night from end to end with artificial stars of gold; of the great churches, wise universities, brave armies, and untold money lying stored in vaults; of the high-flying vice that moved in the sunshine, and the stealth and swiftness of midnight murder. I have said he was sick as if for home: the figure halts. He was like some one lying in twilit, formless pre-existence, and stretching out his hands lovingly towards many-coloured, many-240sounding life. It was no wonder he was unhappy, he would go and tell the fish: they were made for their life, wished for no more than worms and running water, and a hole below a falling bank; but he was differently designed, full of desires and aspirations, itching at the fingers, lusting with the eyes, whom the whole variegated world could not satisfy with aspects. The true life, the true bright sunshine, lay far out upon the plain. And, O! to see this sunlight once before he died! to move with a jocund spirit in a golden land! to hear the trained singers and sweet church bells, and see the holiday gardens! “And, O fish!” he would cry, “if you would only turn your noses down stream, you could swim so easily into the fabled waters and see the vast ships passing over your head like clouds, and hear the great water-hills making music over you all day long!” But the fish kept looking patiently in their own direction, until Will hardly knew whether to laugh or cry.

Hitherto the traffic on the road had passed by Will, like something seen in a picture: he had perhaps exchanged salutations with a tourist, or caught sight of an old gentleman in a travelling cap at a carriage window; but for the most part it had been a mere symbol, which he contemplated from apart and with something of a superstitious feeling. A time came at last when this was to be changed. The miller, who was a greedy man in his way, and never forewent an opportunity of honest profit, turned the mill-house into a little wayside inn, and, several pieces of good fortune falling in opportunely, built stables and got the position of post-master on the road. It now became Will’s duty to wait upon people, as they sat to break their fasts in the little arbour at the top of the mill garden; and you may be sure that he kept his ears open, and learned many new things about the outside world as he brought the omelette or the wine. Nay, he would often get into conversation with single guests, and by adroit questions and polite attention, not only gratify his own curiosity, but win the goodwill of the travellers. Many complimented the old couple on their241 serving-boy; and a professor was eager to take him away with him, and have him properly educated in the plain. The miller and his wife were mightily astonished, and even more pleased. They thought it a very good thing that they should have opened their inn. “You see,” the old man would remark, “he has a kind of talent for a publican; he never would have made anything else!” And so life wagged on in the valley, with high satisfaction to all concerned but Will. Every carriage that left the inn-door seemed to take a part of him away with it; and when people jestingly offered him a lift, he could with difficulty command his emotion. Night after night he would dream that he was awakened by flustered servants, and that a splendid equipage waited at the door to carry him down into the plain; night after night; until the dream, which had seemed all jollity to him at first, began to take on a colour of gravity, and the nocturnal summons and waiting equipage occupied a place in his mind as something to be both feared and hoped for.

One day, when Will was about sixteen, a fat young man arrived at sunset to pass the night. He was a contented-looking fellow, with a jolly eye, and carried a knapsack. While dinner was preparing, he sat in the arbour to read a book; but as soon as he had begun to observe Will, the book was laid aside; he was plainly one of those who prefer living people to people made of ink and paper. Will, on his part, although he had not been much interested in the stranger at first sight, soon began to take a great deal of pleasure in his talk, which was full of good nature and good sense, and at last conceived a great respect for his character and wisdom. They sat far into the night; and about two in the morning Will opened his heart to the young man, and told him how he longed to leave the valley, and what bright hopes he had connected with the cities of the plain. The young man whistled, and then broke into a smile.

“My young friend,” he remarked, “you are a very curious little fellow, to be sure, and wish a great many242 things which you will never get. Why, you would feel quite ashamed if you knew how the little fellows in these fairy cities of yours are all after the same sort of nonsense, and keep breaking their hearts to get up into the mountains. And let me tell you, those who go down into the plains are a very short while there before they wish themselves heartily back again. The air is not so light nor so pure; nor is the sun any brighter. As for the beautiful men and women, you would see many of them in rags, and many of them deformed with horrible disorders, and a city is so hard a place for people who are poor and sensitive that many choose to die by their own hand.”

“You must think me very simple,” answered Will. “Although I have never been out of this valley, believe me, I have used my eyes. I know how one thing lives on another; for instance, how the fish hangs in the eddy to catch his fellows; and the shepherd, who makes so pretty a picture carrying home the lamb, is only carrying it home for dinner. I do not expect to find all things right in your cities. That is not what troubles me; it might have been that once upon a time; but although I live here always, I have asked many questions and learned a great deal in these last years, and certainly enough to cure me of my old fancies. But you would not have me die like a dog and not see all that is to be seen, and do all that a man can do, let it be good or evil? you would not have me spend all my days between this road here and the river, and not so much as make a motion to be up and live my life?—I would rather die out of hand,” he cried, “than linger on as I am doing.”

“Thousands of people,” said the young man, “live and die like you, and are none the less happy.”

“Ah!” said Will, “if there are thousands who would like, why should not one of them have my place?”

It was quite dark; there was a hanging lamp in the arbour which lit up the table and the faces of the speakers; and along the arch, the leaves upon the trellis stood out illuminated against the night sky, a pattern of transparent243 green upon a dusky purple. The fat young man rose, and, taking Will by the arm, led him out under the open heavens. “Did you ever look at the stars?” he asked, pointing upwards.

“Often and often,” answered Will.

“And do you know what they are?”

“I have fancied many things.”

“They are worlds like ours,” said the young man.

“Some of them less; many of them a million times greater; and some of the least sparkles that you see are not only worlds but whole clusters of worlds turning about each other in the midst of space. We do not know what there may be in any of them; perhaps the answer to all our difficulties or the cure of all our sufferings: and yet we can never reach them; not all the skill of the craftiest of men can fit out a ship for the nearest of these our neighbours, nor would the life of the most aged suffice for such a journey. When a great battle has been lost or a dear friend is dead, when we are hipped or in high spirits, there they are, unweariedly shining overhead. We may stand down here, a whole army of us together, and shout until we break our hearts, and not a whisper reaches them. We may climb the highest mountain, and we are no nearer them. All we can do is to stand down here in the garden and take off our hats; the starshine lights upon our heads, and where mine is a little bald, I daresay you can see it glisten in the darkness. The mountain and the mouse. That is like to be all we shall ever have to do with Arcturus or Aldebaran. Can you apply a parable?” he added, laying his hand upon Will’s shoulder.

“It is not the same thing as a reason, but usually vastly more convincing.”

Will hung his head a little, and then raised it once more to heaven. The stars seemed to expand and emit a sharper brilliancy; and as he kept turning his eyes higher and higher, they seemed to increase in multitude under his gaze.

“I see,” he said, turning to the young man. “We are in a rat-trap.”244

“Something of that size. Did you ever see a squirrel turning in a cage? and another squirrel sitting philosophically over his nuts? I needn’t ask you which of them looked more of a fool.”

 

THE PARSON’S MARJORY

After some years the old people died, both in one winter, very carefully tended by their adopted son, and very quietly mourned when they were gone. People who had heard of his roving fancies supposed he would hasten to sell the property, and go down the river to push his fortunes. But there was never any sign of such an intention on the part of Will. On the contrary, he had the inn set on a better footing, and hired a couple of servants to assist him in carrying it on; and there he settled down, a kind, talkative, inscrutable young man, six feet three in his stockings, with an iron constitution and a friendly voice. He soon began to take rank in the district as a bit of an oddity: it was not much to be wondered at from the first, for he was always full of notions, and kept calling the plainest commonsense in question; but what most raised the report upon him was the odd circumstance of his courtship with the parson’s Marjory.

The parson’s Marjory was a lass about nineteen, when Will would be about thirty; well enough looking, and much better educated than any other girl in that part of the country, as became her parentage. She held her head very high, and had already refused several offers of marriage with a grand air, which had got her hard names among the neighbours. For all that she was a good girl, and one that would have made any man well contented.

Will had never seen much of her; for although the church and parsonage were only two miles from his own door, he was never known to go there but on Sundays. It245 chanced, however, that the parsonage fell into disrepair, and had to be dismantled; and the parson and his daughter took lodgings for a month or so, on very much reduced terms, at Will’s inn. Now, what with the inn, and the mill, and the old miller’s savings, our friend was a man of substance; and besides that he had a name for good temper and shrewdness, which make a capital portion in marriage; and so it was currently gossiped, among their ill-wishers, that the parson and his daughter had not chosen their temporary lodging with their eyes shut. Will was about the last man in the world to be cajoled or frightened into marriage. You had only to look into his eyes, limpid and still like pools of water, and yet with a sort of clear light that seemed to come from within, and you would understand at once that here was one who knew his own mind, and would stand to it immovably. Marjory herself was no weakling by her looks, with strong, steady eyes and a resolute and quiet bearing. It might be a question whether she was not Will’s match in steadfastness, after all, or which of them would rule the roast in marriage. But Marjory had never given it a thought, and accompanied her father with the most unshaken innocence and unconcern.

The season was still so early that Will’s customers were few and far between; but the lilacs were already flowering, and the weather was so mild that the party took dinner under the trellis, with the noise of the river in their ears and the woods ringing about them with the songs of birds. Will soon began to take a particular pleasure in these dinners. The parson was rather a dull companion, with a habit of dozing at table; but nothing rude or cruel ever fell from his lips. And as for the parson’s daughter, she suited her surroundings with the best grace imaginable; and whatever she said seemed so pat and pretty that Will conceived a great idea of her talents. He could see her face, as she leaned forward, against a background of rising pine-woods; her eyes shone peaceably; the light lay around her hair like a kerchief; something that was hardly a smile rippled her246 pale cheeks, and Will could not contain himself from gazing on her in an agreeable dismay. She looked, even in her quietest moments, so complete in herself, and so quick with life down to her finger-tips and the very skirts of her dress, that the remainder of created things became no more than a blot by comparison; and if Will glanced away from her to her surroundings, the trees looked inanimate and senseless, the clouds hung in heaven like dead things, and even the mountain tops were disenchanted. The whole valley could not compare in looks with this one girl.

Will was always observant in the society of his fellow-creatures; but his observation became almost painfully eager in the case of Marjory. He listened to all she uttered, and read her eyes, at the same time, for the unspoken commentary. Many kind, simple, and sincere speeches found an echo in his heart. He became conscious of a soul beautifully poised upon itself, nothing doubting, nothing desiring, clothed in peace. It was not possible to separate her thoughts from her appearance. The turn of her wrist, the still sound of her voice, the light in her eyes, the lines of her body, fell in tune with her grave and gentle words, like the accompaniment that sustains and harmonises the voice of the singer. Her influence was one thing, not to be divided or discussed, only to be felt with gratitude and joy. To Will, her presence recalled something of his childhood, and the thought of her took its place in his mind beside that of dawn, of running water, and of the earliest violets and lilacs. It is the property of things seen for the first time, or for the first time after long, like the flowers in spring, to reawaken in us the sharp edge of sense and that impression of mystic strangeness which otherwise passes out of life with the coming of years; but the sight of a loved face is what renews a man’s character from the fountain upwards.

One day after dinner Will took a stroll among the firs; a grave beatitude possessed him from top to toe, and he kept smiling to himself and the landscape as he went. The river ran between the stepping-stones with a pretty wimple;247 a bird sang loudly in the wood; the hill-tops looked immeasurably high, and, as he glanced at them from time to time, seemed to contemplate his movements with a beneficent but awful curiosity. His way took him to the eminence which overlooked the plain; and there he sat down upon a stone, and fell into deep and pleasant thought. The plain lay abroad with its cities and silver river; everything was asleep, except a great eddy of birds which kept rising and falling and going round and round in the blue air. He repeated Marjory’s name aloud, and the sound of it gratified his ear. He shut his eyes, and her image sprang up before him, quietly luminous and attended with good thoughts. The river might run for ever; the birds fly higher and higher till they touched the stars. He saw it was empty bustle after all; for here, without stirring a foot, waiting patiently in his own narrow valley, he also had attained the better sunlight.

The next day Will made a sort of declaration across the dinner-table, while the parson was filling his pipe.

“Miss Marjory,” he said, “I never knew any one I liked so well as you. I am mostly a cold, unkindly sort of man; not from want of heart, but out of strangeness in my way of thinking; and people seem far away from me. ’Tis as if there were a circle round me, which kept every one out but you; I can hear the others talking and laughing; but you come quite close.—Maybe this is disagreeable to you?” he asked.

Marjory made no answer.

“Speak up, girl,” said the parson.

“Nay, now,” returned Will, “I wouldn’t press her, parson. I feel tongue-tied myself, who am not used to it; and she’s a woman, and little more than a child, when all is said. But for my part, as far as I can understand what people mean by it, I fancy I must be what they call in love. I do not wish to be held as committing myself; for I may be wrong; but that is how I believe things are with me. And if Miss Marjory should feel any248 otherwise on her part, mayhap she would be so kind as shake her head.”

Marjory was silent, and gave no sign that she had heard.

“How is that, parson?” asked Will.

“The girl must speak,” replied the parson, laying down his pipe.—“Here’s our neighbour, who says he loves you, Madge. Do you love him, ay or no?”

“I think I do,” said Marjory faintly.

“Well then, that’s all that could be wished!” cried Will heartily. And he took her hand across the table and held it a moment in both of his with great satisfaction.

“You must marry,” observed the parson, replacing his pipe in his mouth.

“Is that the right thing to do, think you?” demanded Will.

“It is indispensable,” said the parson.

“Very well,” replied the wooer.

Two or three days passed away with great delight to Will, although a bystander might scarce have found it out. He continued to take his meals opposite Marjory, and to talk with her and gaze upon her in her father’s presence; but he made no attempt to see her alone, nor in any other way changed his conduct towards her from what it had been since the beginning. Perhaps the girl was a little disappointed, and perhaps not unjustly; and yet if it had been enough to be always in the thoughts of another person, and so pervade and alter his whole life, she might have been thoroughly contented. For she was never out of Will’s mind for an instant. He sat over the stream, and watched the dust of the eddy, and the poised fish, and straining weeds; he wandered out alone into the purple even, with all the blackbirds piping round him in the wood; he rose early in the morning, and saw the sky turn from grey to gold, and the light leap upon the hill-tops; and all the while he kept wondering if he had never seen such things before, or how it was that they should look so different now. The sound of his own mill-wheel, or of the wind among the trees,249 confounded and charmed his heart. The most enchanting thoughts presented themselves unbidden in his mind. He was so happy that he could not sleep at night, and so restless that he could hardly sit still out of her company. And yet it seemed as if he avoided her rather than sought her out.

One day, as he was coming home from a ramble, Will found Marjory in the garden picking flowers, and, as he came up with her, slackened his pace and continued walking by her side.

“You like flowers?” he said.

“Indeed I love them dearly,” she replied. “Do you?”

“Why, no,” said he, “not so much. They are a very small affair when all is done. I can fancy people caring for them greatly, but not doing as you are just now.”

“How?” she asked, pausing and looking up at him.

“Plucking them,” said he. “They are a deal better off where they are, and look a deal prettier, if you go to that.”

“I wish to have them for my own,” she answered, “to carry them near my heart, and keep them in my room. They tempt me when they grow here; they seem to say, ‘Come and do something with us’; but once I have cut them and put them by, the charm is laid, and I can look at them with quite an easy heart.”

“You wish to possess them,” replied Will, “in order to think no more about them. It’s a bit like killing the goose with the golden eggs. It’s a bit like what I wished to do when I was a boy. Because I had a fancy for looking out over the plain, I wished to go down there—where I couldn’t look out over it any longer. Was not that fine reasoning? Dear, dear, if they only thought of it, all the world would do like me; and you would let your flowers alone, just as I stay up here in the mountains.” Suddenly he broke off sharp. “By the Lord!” he cried. And when she asked him what was wrong, he turned the question off, and walked away into the house with rather a humorous expression of face.250

He was silent at table; and after the night had fallen and the stars had come out overhead, he walked up and down for hours in the courtyard and garden with an uneven pace. There was still a light in the window of Marjory’s room: one little oblong patch of orange in a world of dark blue hills and silver starlight. Will’s mind ran a great deal on the window; but his thoughts were not very lover-like.

“There she is in her room,” he thought, “and there are the stars overhead:—a blessing upon both!” Both were good influences in his life; both soothed and braced him in his profound contentment with the world. And what more should he desire with either? The fat young man and his counsels were so present to his mind that he threw back his head and, putting his hands before his mouth, shouted aloud to the populous heavens. Whether from the position of his head or the sudden strain of the exertion, he seemed to see a momentary shock among the stars, and a diffusion of frosty light pass from one to another along the sky. At the same instant, a corner of the blind was lifted and lowered again at once. He laughed a loud ho-ho! “One and another!” thought Will. “The stars tremble, and the blind goes up. Why, before Heaven, what a great magician I must be! Now if I were only a fool, should not I be in a pretty way?” And he went off to bed, chuckling to himself: “If I were only a fool!”

The next morning, pretty early, he saw her once more in the garden, and sought her out.

“I have been thinking about getting married,” he began abruptly; “and after having turned it all over, I have made up my mind it’s not worth while.”

She turned upon him for a single moment; but his radiant, kindly appearance would, under the circumstances, have disconcerted an angel, and she looked down again upon the ground in silence. He could see her tremble.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he went on, a little taken aback. “You ought not. I have turned it all over, and upon my soul there’s nothing in it. We should never be251 one whit nearer than we are just now, and, if I am a wise man, nothing like so happy.”

“It is unnecessary to go round about with me,” she said. “I very well remember that you refused to commit yourself; and now that I see you were mistaken, and in reality have never cared for me, I can only feel sad that I have been so far misled.”

“I ask your pardon,” said Will stoutly; “you do not understand my meaning. As to whether I have ever loved you or not, I must leave that to others. But for one thing, my feeling is not changed; and for another, you may make it your boast that you have made my whole life and character something different from what they were. I mean what I say; no less. I do not think getting married is worth while. I would rather you went on living with your father, so that I could walk over and see you once, or maybe twice a week, as people go to church, and then we should both be all the happier between whiles. That’s my notion. But I’ll marry you if you will,” he added.

“Do you know that you are insulting me?” she broke out.

“Not I, Marjory,” said he; “if there is anything in a clear conscience, not I. I offer all my heart’s best affection; you can take it or want it, though I suspect it’s beyond either your power or mine to change what has once been done, and set me fancy-free. I’ll marry you, if you like; but I tell you again and again, it’s not worth while, and we had best stay friends. Though I am a quiet man, I have noticed a heap of things in my life. Trust in me, and take things as I propose; or, if you don’t like that, say the word, and I’ll marry you out of hand.”

There was a considerable pause, and Will, who began to feel uneasy, began to grow angry in consequence.

“It seems you are too proud to say your mind,” he said. “Believe me that’s a pity. A clean shrift makes simple living. Can a man be more downright or honourable to a woman than I have been? I have said my say, and given252 you your choice. Do you want me to marry you? or will you take my friendship, as I think best? or have you had enough of me for good? Speak out for the dear God’s sake! You know your father told you a girl should speak her mind in these affairs.”

She seemed to recover herself at that, turned without a word, walked rapidly through the garden, and disappeared into the house, leaving Will in some confusion as to the result. He walked up and down the garden, whistling softly to himself. Sometimes he stopped and contemplated the sky and hill-tops; sometimes he went down to the tail of the weir and sat there, looking foolishly in the water. All this dubiety and perturbation was so foreign to his nature and the life which he had resolutely chosen for himself, that he began to regret Marjory’s arrival. “After all,” he thought, “I was as happy as a man need be. I could come down here and watch my fishes all day long if I wanted: I was as settled and contented as my old mill.”

Marjory came down to dinner, looking very trim and quiet; and no sooner were all three at table than she made her father a speech, with her eyes fixed upon her plate, but showing no other sign of embarrassment or distress.

“Father,” she began, “Mr. Will and I have been talking things over. We see that we have each made a mistake about our feelings, and he has agreed, at my request, to give up all idea of marriage, and be no more than my very good friend, as in the past. You see, there is no shadow of a quarrel, and indeed I hope we shall see a great deal of him in the future, for his visits will always be welcome in our house. Of course, father, you will know best, but perhaps we should do better to leave Mr. Will’s house for the present. I believe, after what has passed, we should hardly be agreeable inmates for some days.”

Will, who had commanded himself with difficulty from the first, broke out upon this into an inarticulate noise, and raised one hand with an appearance of real dismay, as if he were about to interfere and contradict. But she checked him at253 once, looking up at him with a swift glance and an angry flush upon her cheek.

“You will perhaps have the good grace,” she said, “to let me explain these matters for myself.”

Will was put entirely out of countenance by her expression and the ring of her voice. He held his peace, concluding that there were some things about this girl beyond his comprehension—in which he was exactly right.

The poor parson was quite crestfallen. He tried to prove that this was no more than a true lovers’ tiff, which would pass off before night; and when he was dislodged from that position, he went on to argue that where there was no quarrel there could be no call for a separation; for the good man liked both his entertainment and his host. It was curious to see how the girl managed them, saying little all the time, and that very quietly, and yet twisting them round her finger and insensibly leading them wherever she would by feminine tact and generalship. It scarcely seemed to have been her doing—it seemed as if things had merely so fallen out—that she and her father took their departure that same afternoon in a farm-cart, and went farther down the valley, to wait, until their own house was ready for them, in another hamlet. But Will had been observing closely, and was well aware of her dexterity and resolution. When he found himself alone he had a great many curious matters to turn over in his mind. He was very sad and solitary, to begin with. All the interest had gone out of his life, and he might look up at the stars as long as he pleased, he somehow failed to find support or consolation. And then he was in such a turmoil of spirit about Marjory. He had been puzzled and irritated at her behaviour, and yet he could not keep himself from admiring it. He thought he recognised a fine, perverse angel in that still soul which he had never hitherto suspected; and though he saw it was an influence that would fit but ill with his own life of artificial calm, he could not keep himself from ardently desiring to possess it.254 Like a man who has lived among shadows and now meets the sun, he was both pained and delighted.

As the days went forward he passed from one extreme to another; now pluming himself on the strength of his determination, now despising his timid and silly caution. The former was, perhaps, the true thought of his heart, and represented the regular tenor of the man’s reflections; but the latter burst forth from time to time with an unruly violence, and then he would forget all consideration, and go up and down his house and garden or walk among the fir-woods like one who is beside himself with remorse. To equable, steady-minded Will, this state of matters was intolerable; and he determined, at whatever cost, to bring it to an end. So, one warm summer afternoon, he put on his best clothes, took a thorn switch in his hand, and set out down the valley by the river. As soon as he had taken his determination, he had regained at a bound his customary peace of heart, and he enjoyed the bright weather and the variety of the scene without any admixture of alarm or unpleasant eagerness. It was nearly the same to him how the matter turned out. If she accepted him he would have to marry her this time, which perhaps was all for the best. If she refused him, he would have done his utmost, and might follow his own way in the future with an untroubled conscience. He hoped, on the whole, she would refuse him; and then, again, as he saw the brown roof which sheltered her, peeping through some willows at an angle of the stream, he was half inclined to reverse the wish, and more than half-ashamed of himself for this infirmity of purpose.

Marjory seemed glad to see him, and gave him her hand without affectation or delay.

“I have been thinking about this marriage,” he began.

“So have I,” she answered. “And I respect you more and more for a very wise man. You understood me better than I understood myself; and I am now quite certain that things are all for the best as they are.”255

“At the same time——” ventured Will.

“You must be tired,” she interrupted. “Take a seat and let me fetch you a glass of wine. The afternoon is so warm; and I wish you not to be displeased with your visit. You must come quite often; once a week, if you can spare the time; I am always so glad to see my friends.”

“Oh, very well,” thought Will to himself. “It appears I was right after all.” And he paid a very agreeable visit, walked home again in capital spirits, and gave himself no further concern about the matter.

For nearly three years Will and Marjory continued on these terms, seeing each other once or twice a week without any word of love between them; and for all that time I believe Will was nearly as happy as a man can be. He rather stinted himself the pleasure of seeing her; and he would often walk half-way over to the parsonage, and then back again, as if to whet his appetite. Indeed, there was one corner of the road, whence he could see the church-spire wedged into a crevice of the valley between sloping fir-woods, with a triangular snatch of plain by way of background, which he greatly affected as a place to sit and moralise in before returning homewards; and the peasants got so much into the habit of finding him there in the twilight that they gave it the name of “Will o’ the Mill’s Corner.”

At the end of the three years Marjory played him a sad trick by suddenly marrying somebody else. Will kept his countenance bravely, and merely remarked that, for as little as he knew of women, he had acted very prudently in not marrying her himself three years before. She plainly knew very little of her own mind, and, in spite of a deceptive manner, was as fickle and flighty as the rest of them. He had to congratulate himself on an escape, he said, and would take a higher opinion of his own wisdom in consequence. But at heart he was reasonably displeased, moped a good deal for a month or two, and fell away in flesh, to the astonishment of his serving-lads.

It was perhaps a year after this marriage that Will was256 awakened late one night by the sound of a horse galloping on the road, followed by precipitate knocking at the inn-door. He opened his window and saw a farm-servant, mounted and holding a led horse by the bridle, who told him to make what haste he could and go along with him; for Marjory was dying, and had sent urgently to fetch him to her bedside. Will was no horseman, and made so little speed upon the way that the poor young wife was very near her end before he arrived. But they had some minutes’ talk in private, and he was present and wept very bitterly while she breathed her last.

 

DEATH

Year after year went away into nothing, with great explosions and outcries in the cities on the plain: red revolt springing up and being suppressed in blood, battle swaying hither and thither, patient astronomers in observatory towers picking out and christening new stars, plays being performed in lighted theatres, people being carried into hospital on stretchers, and all the usual turmoil and agitation of men’s lives in crowded centres. Up in Will’s valley only the winds and seasons made an epoch; the fish hung in the swift stream, the birds circled overhead, the pine-tops rustled underneath the stars, the tall hills stood over all; and Will went to and fro, minding his wayside inn, until the snow began to thicken on his head. His heart was young and vigorous; and if his pulses kept a sober time, they still beat strong and steady in his wrists. He carried a ruddy stain on either cheek, like a ripe apple; he stooped a little, but his step was still firm; and his sinewy hands were reached out to all men with a friendly pressure. His face was covered with those wrinkles which are got in open air, and which, rightly looked at, are no more than a sort of permanent sunburning; such wrinkles heighten the257 stupidity of stupid faces; but to a person like Will, with his clear eyes and smiling mouth, only give another charm by testifying to a simple and easy life. His talk was full of wise sayings. He had a taste for other people; and other people had a taste for him. When the valley was full of tourists in the season, there were merry nights in Will’s arbour; and his views, which seemed whimsical to his neighbours, were often enough admired by learned people out of towns and colleges. Indeed, he had a very noble old age, and grew daily better known; so that his fame was heard of in the cities of the plain; and young men who had been summer travellers spoke together in cafés of Will o’ the Mill and his rough philosophy. Many and many an invitation, you may be sure, he had; but nothing could tempt him from his upland valley. He would shake his head and smile over his tobacco-pipe with a deal of meaning. “You come too late,” he would answer. “I am a dead man now: I have lived and died already. Fifty years ago you would have brought my heart into my mouth; and now you do not even tempt me. But that is the object of long living, that man should cease to care about life.” And again: “There is only one difference between a long life and a good dinner: that, in the dinner, the sweets come last.” Or once more: “When I was a boy I was a bit puzzled, and hardly knew whether it was myself or the world that was curious and worth looking into. Now, I know it is myself, and stick to that.”

He never showed any symptom of frailty, but kept stalwart and firm to the last; but they say he grew less talkative towards the end, and would listen to other people by the hour in an amused and sympathetic silence. Only, when he did speak, it was more to the point and more charged with old experience. He drank a bottle of wine gladly; above all, at sunset on the hill-top or quite late at night under the stars in the arbour. The sight of something attractive and unattainable seasoned his enjoyment, he would say; and he professed he had lived long enough to258 admire a candle all the more when he could compare it with a planet.

One night, in his seventy-second year, he awoke in bed in such uneasiness of body and mind that he arose and dressed himself and went out to meditate in the arbour. It was pitch dark, without a star; the river was swollen, and the wet woods and meadows loaded the air with perfume. It had thundered during the day, and it promised more thunder for the morrow. A murky, stifling night for a man of seventy-two! Whether it was the weather or the wakefulness, or some little touch of fever in his old limbs, Will’s mind was besieged by tumultuous and crying memories. His boyhood, the night with the fat young man, the death of his adopted parents, the summer days with Marjory, and many of those small circumstances, which seem nothing to another, and are yet the very gist of a man’s own life to himself—things seen, words heard, looks misconstrued—arose from their forgotten corners and usurped his attention. The dead themselves were with him, not merely taking part in this thin show of memory that defiled before his brain, but revisiting his bodily senses as they do in profound and vivid dreams. The fat young man leaned his elbows on the table opposite; Marjory came and went with an apronful of flowers between the garden and the arbour; he could hear the old parson knocking out his pipe or blowing his resonant nose. The tide of his consciousness ebbed and flowed: he was sometimes half-asleep and drowned in his recollections of the past: and sometimes he was broad awake, wondering at himself. But about the middle of the night he was startled by the voice of the dead miller calling to him out of the house as he used to do on the arrival of custom. The hallucination was so perfect that Will sprang from his seat and stood listening for the summons to be repeated; and as he listened he became conscious of another noise besides the brawling of the river and the ringing in his feverish ears. It was like the stir of horses and the creaking of harness, as though a carriage with259 an impatient team had been brought up upon the road before the courtyard gate. At such an hour, upon this rough and dangerous pass, the supposition was no better than absurd; and Will dismissed it from his mind, and resumed his seat upon the arbour chair; and sleep closed over him again like running water. He was once again awakened by the dead miller’s call, thinner and more spectral than before; and once again he heard the noise of an equipage upon the road. And so thrice and four times, the same dream, or the same fancy, presented itself to his senses: until at length, smiling to himself as when one humours a nervous child, he proceeded towards the gate to set his uncertainty at rest.

From the arbour to the gate was no great distance, and yet it took Will some time; it seemed as if the dead thickened around him in the court, and crossed his path at every step. For, first, he was suddenly surprised by an overpowering sweetness of heliotropes; it was as if his garden had been planted with this flower from end to end, and the hot, damp night had drawn forth all their perfumes in a breath. Now the heliotrope had been Marjory’s favourite flower, and since her death not one of them had ever been planted in Will’s ground.

“I must be going crazy,” he thought. “Poor Marjory and her heliotropes!”

And with that he raised his eyes towards the window that had once been hers. If he had been bewildered before, he was now almost terrified; for there was a light in the room; the window was an orange oblong as of yore; and the corner of the blind was lifted and let fall as on the night when he stood and shouted to the stars in his perplexity. The illusion only endured an instant; but it left him somewhat unmanned, rubbing his eyes and staring at the outline of the house and the black night behind it. While he thus stood, and it seemed as if he must have stood there quite a long time, there came a renewal of the noises on the road: and he turned in time to meet a stranger, who was advancing260 to meet him across the court. There was something like the outline of a great carriage discernible on the road behind the stranger, and, above that, a few black pine-tops, like so many plumes.

“Master Will?” asked the new-comer, in brief military fashion.

“That same, sir,” answered Will. “Can I do anything to serve you?”

“I have heard you much spoken of, Master Will,” returned the other; “much spoken of, and well. And though I have both hands full of business, I wish to drink a bottle of wine with you in your arbour. Before I go, I shall introduce myself.”

Will led the way to the trellis, and got a lamp lighted and a bottle uncorked. He was not altogether unused to such complimentary interviews, and hoped little enough from this one, being schooled by many disappointments. A sort of cloud had settled on his wits and prevented him from remembering the strangeness of the hour. He moved like a person in his sleep; and it seemed as if the lamp caught fire and the bottle came uncorked with the facility of thought. Still, he had some curiosity about the appearance of his visitor, and tried in vain to turn the light into his face; either he handled the lamp clumsily, or there was a dimness over his eyes; but he could make out little more than a shadow at table with him. He stared and stared at this shadow, as he wiped out the glasses, and began to feel cold and strange about the heart. The silence weighed upon him, for he could hear nothing now, not even the river, but the drumming of his own arteries in his ears.

“Here’s to you,” said the stranger roughly.

“Here is my service, sir,” replied Will, sipping his wine, which somehow tasted oddly.

“I understand you are a very positive fellow,” pursued the stranger.

Will made answer with a smile of some satisfaction and a little nod.261

“So am I,” continued the other; “and it is the delight of my heart to tramp on people’s corns. I will have nobody positive but myself; not one. I have crossed the whims, in my time, of kings and generals and great artists. And what would you say,” he went on, “if I had come up here on purpose to cross yours?”

Will had it on his tongue to make a sharp rejoinder; but the politeness of an old innkeeper prevailed; and he held his peace and made answer with a civil gesture of the hand.

“I have,” said the stranger. “And if I did not hold you in a particular esteem, I should make no words about the matter. It appears you pride yourself on staying where you are. You mean to stick by your inn. Now I mean you shall come for a turn with me in my barouche; and before this bottle’s empty, so you shall.”

“That would be an odd thing, to be sure,” replied Will, with a chuckle. “Why, sir, I have grown here like an old oak-tree; the devil himself could hardly root me up: and for all I perceive you are a very entertaining old gentleman, I would wager you another bottle you lose your pains with me.”

The dimness of Will’s eyesight had been increasing all this while; but he was somehow conscious of a sharp and chilling scrutiny which irritated and yet overmastered him.

“You need not think,” he broke out suddenly, in an explosive, febrile manner that startled and alarmed himself, “that I am a stay-at-home because I fear anything under God. God knows I am tired enough of it all; and when the time comes for a longer journey than ever you dream of, I reckon I shall find myself prepared.”

The stranger emptied his glass and pushed it away from him. He looked down for a little, and then, leaning over the table, tapped Will three times upon the forearm with a single finger. “The time has come!” he said solemnly.

An ugly thrill spread from the spot he touched. The262 tones of his voice were dull and startling, and echoed strangely in Will’s heart.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, with some discomposure. “What do you mean?”

“Look at me, and you will find your eyesight swim. Raise your hand; it is dead-heavy. This is your last bottle of wine, Master Will, and your last night upon the earth.”

“You are a doctor?” quavered Will.

“The best that ever was,” replied the other; “for I cure both mind and body with the same prescription. I take away all pain and I forgive all sins; and where my patients have gone wrong in life, I smooth out all complications and set them free again upon their feet.”

“I have no need of you,” said Will.

“A time comes for all men, Master Will,” replied the doctor, “when the helm is taken out of their hands. For you, because you were prudent and quiet, it has been long of coming, and you have had long to discipline yourself for its reception. You have seen what is to be seen about your mill; you have sat close all your days like a hare in its form; but now that is at an end; and,” added the doctor, getting on his feet, “you must arise and come with me.”

“You are a strange physician,” said Will, looking steadfastly upon his guest.

“I am a natural law,” he replied, “and people call me Death.”

“Why did you not tell me so at first?” cried Will. “I have been waiting for you these many years. Give me your hand, and welcome.”

“Lean upon my arm,” said the stranger, “for already your strength abates. Lean on me as heavily as you need; for though I am old, I am very strong. It is but three steps to my carriage, and there all your trouble ends. Why, Will,” he added, “I have been yearning for you as if you were my own son; and of all the men that ever I came for in my long days, I have come for you most gladly. I am caustic, and263 sometimes offend people at first sight; but I am a good friend at heart to such as you.”

“Since Marjory was taken,” returned Will, “I declare before God you were the only friend I had to look for.”

So the pair went arm-in-arm across the courtyard.

One of the servants awoke about this time and heard the noise of horses pawing before he dropped asleep again; all down the valley that night there was a rushing as of a smooth and steady wind descending towards the plain; and when the world rose next morning, sure enough Will o’ the Mill had gone at last upon his travels.

264

 

265

THE TREASURE OF FRANCHARD

266

 

267

THE TREASURE OF FRANCHARD

 

CHAPTER I

BY THE DYING MOUNTEBANK

They had sent for the doctor from Bourron before six. About eight some villagers came round for the performance, and were told how matters stood. It seemed a liberty for a mountebank to fall ill like real people, and they made off again in dudgeon. By ten Madame Tentaillon was gravely alarmed, and had sent down the street for Doctor Desprez.

The Doctor was at work over his manuscripts in one corner of the little dining-room, and his wife was asleep over the fire in another, when the messenger arrived.

Sapristi!” said the Doctor, “you should have sent for me before. It was a case for hurry.” And he followed the messenger as he was, in his slippers and skull-cap.

The inn was not thirty yards away, but the messenger did not stop there; he went in at one door and out by another into the court, and then led the way, by a flight of steps beside the stable, to the loft where the mountebank lay sick. If Doctor Desprez were to live a thousand years, he would never forget his arrival in that room; for not only was the scene picturesque, but the moment made a date in his existence. We reckon our lives, I hardly know why, from the date of our first sorry appearance in society, as if from a first humiliation; for no actor can come upon the stage with a worse grace. Not to go further back, which would be judged too curious, there are subsequently many moving and decisive accidents in the lives of all, which would make as logical a period as this of birth. And here, for instance, Doctor Desprez, a man past forty, who had made what is268 called a failure in life, and was moreover married, found himself at a new point of departure when he opened the door of the loft above Tentaillon’s stable.

It was a large place, lighted only by a single candle set upon the floor. The mountebank lay on his back upon a pallet; a large man with a Quixotic nose inflamed with drinking. Madame Tentaillon stooped over him, applying a hot water and mustard embrocation to his feet; and on a chair close by sat a little fellow of eleven or twelve, with his feet dangling. These three were the only occupants except the shadows. But the shadows were a company in themselves; the extent of the room exaggerated them to a gigantic size, and from the low position of the candle the light struck upwards and produced deformed foreshortenings. The mountebank’s profile was enlarged upon the wall in caricature, and it was strange to see his nose shorten and lengthen as the flame was blown about by draughts. As for Madame Tentaillon, her shadow was no more than a gross hump of shoulders, with now and again a hemisphere of head. The chair-legs were spindled out as long as stilts, and the boy sat perched a-top of them, like a cloud, in the corner of the roof.

It was the boy who took the Doctor’s fancy. He had a great arched skull, the forehead and the hands of a musician, and a pair of haunting eyes. It was not merely that these eyes were large, or steady, or the softest ruddy brown. There was a look in them, besides, which thrilled the Doctor, and made him half uneasy. He was sure he had seen such a look before, and yet he could not remember how or where. It was as if this boy, who was quite a stranger to him, had the eyes of an old friend or an old enemy. And the boy would give him no peace; he seemed profoundly indifferent to what was going on, or rather abstracted from it in a superior contemplation, beating gently with his feet against the bars of the chair, and holding his hands folded on his lap. But, for all that, his eyes kept following the Doctor about the room with a thoughtful fixity of gaze. Desprez could not269 tell whether he was fascinating the boy, or the boy was fascinating him. He busied himself over the sick man, he put questions, he felt the pulse, he jested, he grew a little hot and swore: and still, whenever he looked round, there were the brown eyes waiting for his with the same inquiring, melancholy gaze.

At last the Doctor hit on the solution at a leap. He remembered the look now. The little fellow, although he was as straight as a dart, had the eyes that go usually with a crooked back; he was not at all deformed, and yet a deformed person seemed to be looking at you from below his brows. The Doctor drew a long breath, he was so much relieved to find a theory (for he loved theories) and to explain away his interest.

For all that, he despatched the invalid with unusual haste, and, still kneeling with one knee on the floor, turned a little round and looked the boy over at his leisure. The boy was not in the least put out, but looked placidly back at the Doctor.

“Is this your father?” asked Desprez.

“Oh no,” returned the boy; “my master.”

“Are you fond of him?” continued the Doctor.

“No, sir,” said the boy.

Madame Tentaillon and Desprez exchanged expressive glances.

“That is bad, my man,” resumed the latter, with a shade of sternness. “Every one should be fond of the dying, or conceal their sentiments; and your master here is dying. If I have watched a bird a little while stealing my cherries, I have a thought of disappointment when he flies away over my garden wall, and I see him steer for the forest and vanish. How much more a creature such as this, so strong, so astute, so richly endowed with faculties! When I think that, in a few hours, the speech will be silenced, the breath extinct, and even the shadow vanished from the wall, I who never saw him, this lady who knew him only as a guest, are touched with some affection.”270

The boy was silent for a little, and appeared to be reflecting.

“You did not know him,” he replied at last. “He was a bad man.”

“He is a little pagan,” said the landlady. “For that matter, they are all the same, these mountebanks, tumblers, artists, and what not. They have no interior.”

But the Doctor was still scrutinising the little pagan, his eyebrows knotted and uplifted.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Jean-Marie,” said the lad.

Desprez leaped upon him with one of his sudden flashes of excitement, and felt his head all over from an ethnological point of view.

“Celtic, Celtic!” he said.

“Celtic!” cried Madame Tentaillon, who had perhaps confounded the word with hydrocephalous. “Poor lad! is it dangerous?”

“That depends,” returned the Doctor grimly. And then once more addressing the boy: “And what do you do for your living, Jean-Marie?” he inquired.

“I tumble,” was the answer.

“So! Tumble?” repeated Desprez. “Probably healthful. I hazard the guess, Madame Tentaillon, that tumbling is a healthful way of life. And have you never done anything else but tumble?”

“Before I learned that, I used to steal,” answered Jean-Marie gravely.

“Upon my word!” cried the Doctor. “You are a nice little man for your age.—Madame, when my confrère comes from Bourron, you will communicate my unfavourable opinion. I leave the case in his hands; but of course, on any alarming symptom, above all if there should be a sign of rally, do not hesitate to knock me up. I am a doctor no longer, I thank God; but I have been one. Good-night, madame.—Good sleep to you, Jean-Marie.”

 

271

CHAPTER II

MORNING TALK

Doctor Desprez always rose early. Before the smoke arose, before the first cart rattled over the bridge to the day’s labour in the fields, he was to be found wandering in his garden. Now he would pick a bunch of grapes; now he would eat a big pear under the trellis; now he would draw all sorts of fancies on the path with the end of his cane; now he would go down and watch the river running endlessly past the timber landing-place at which he moored his boat. There was no time, he used to say, for making theories like the early morning. “I rise earlier than any one else in the village,” he once boasted. “It is a fair consequence that I know more and wish to do less with my knowledge.”

The Doctor was a connoisseur of sunrises, and loved a good theatrical effect to usher in the day. He had a theory of dew, by which he could predict the weather. Indeed, most things served him to that end: the sound of the bells from all the neighbouring villages, the smell of the forest, the visits and the behaviour of both birds and fishes, the look of the plants in his garden, the disposition of cloud, the colour of the light, and last, although not least, the arsenal of meteorological instruments in a louvre-boarded hutch upon the lawn. Ever since he had settled at Gretz, he had been growing more and more into the local meteorologist, the unpaid champion of the local climate. He thought at first there was no place so healthful in the arrondissement. By the end of the second year, he protested there was none so wholesome in the whole department. And for some time before he met Jean-Marie he had been272 prepared to challenge all France and the better part of Europe for a rival to his chosen spot.

“Doctor,” he would say—“doctor is a foul word. It should not be used to ladies. It implies disease. I remark it, as a flaw in our civilisation, that we have not the proper horror of disease. Now I, for my part, have washed my hands of it; I have renounced my laureation; I am no doctor; I am only a worshipper of the true goddess Hygieia. Ah! believe me, it is she who has the cestus! And here, in this exiguous hamlet, has she placed her shrine: here she dwells and lavishes her gifts; here I walk with her in the early morning, and she shows me how strong she has made the peasants, how fruitful she has made the fields, how the trees grow up tall and comely under her eyes, and the fishes in the river become clean and agile at her presence.—Rheumatism!” he would cry, on some malapert interruption, “Oh, yes, I believe we do have a little rheumatism. That could hardly be avoided, you know, on a river. And of course the place stands a little low; and the meadows are marshy, there’s no doubt. But, my dear sir, look at Bourron! Bourron stands high. Bourron is close to the forest; plenty of ozone there, you would say. Well, compared with Gretz, Bourron is a perfect shambles.”

The morning after he had been summoned to the dying mountebank, the Doctor visited the wharf at the tail of his garden, and had a long look at the running water. This he called prayer; but whether his adorations were addressed to the goddess Hygieia or some more orthodox deity, never plainly appeared. For he had uttered doubtful oracles, sometimes declaring that a river was the type of bodily health, sometimes extolling it as the great moral preacher, continually preaching peace, continuity, and diligence to man’s tormented spirits. After he had watched a mile or so of the clear water running by before his eyes, seen a fish or two come to the surface with a gleam of silver, and sufficiently admired the long shadows of the trees falling half across the river from the opposite bank, with patches of273 moving sunlight in between, he strolled once more up the garden and through his house into the street, feeling cool and renovated.

The sound of his feet upon the causeway began the business of the day; for the village was still sound asleep. The church tower looked very airy in the sunlight; a few birds that turned about it seemed to swim in an atmosphere of more than usual rarity; and the Doctor, walking in long transparent shadows, filled his lungs amply, and proclaimed himself well contented with the morning.

On one of the posts before Tentaillon’s carriage entry he espied a little dark figure perched in a meditative attitude, and immediately recognised Jean-Marie.

“Aha!” he said, stopping before him humorously, with a hand on either knee. “So we rise early in the morning, do we? It appears to me that we have all the vices of a philosopher.”

The boy got to his feet and made a grave salutation.

“And how is our patient?” asked Desprez.

It appeared the patient was about the same.

“And why do you rise early in the morning?” he pursued.

Jean-Marie, after a long silence, professed that he hardly knew.

“You hardly know?” repeated Desprez. “We hardly know anything, my man, until we try to learn. Interrogate your consciousness. Come, push me this inquiry home. Do you like it?”

“Yes,” said the boy slowly; “yes, I like it.”

“And why do you like it?” continued the Doctor. “(We are now pursuing the Socratic method.) Why do you like it?”

“It is quiet,” answered Jean-Marie; “and I have nothing to do; and then I feel as if I were good.”

Doctor Desprez took a seat on the post at the opposite side. He was beginning to take an interest in the talk, for the boy plainly thought before he spoke, and tried to answer274 truly. “It appears you have a taste for feeling good,” said the Doctor. “Now, there you puzzle me extremely; for I thought you said you were a thief; and the two are incompatible.”

“Is it very bad to steal?” asked Jean-Marie.

“Such is the general opinion, little boy,” replied the Doctor.

“No; but I mean as I stole,” explained the other. “For I had no choice. I think it is surely right to have bread; it must be right to have bread, there comes so plain a want of it. And then they beat me cruelly if I returned with nothing,” he added. “I was not ignorant of right and wrong; for before that I had been well taught by a priest, who was very kind to me.” (The Doctor made a horrible grimace at the word “priest.”) “But it seemed to me, when one had nothing to eat and was beaten, it was a different affair. I would not have stolen for tartlets, I believe; but any one would steal for baker’s bread.”

“And so I suppose,” said the Doctor, with a rising sneer, “you prayed God to forgive you, and explained the case to Him at length.”

“Why, sir?” asked Jean-Marie. “I do not see.”

“Your priest would see, however,” retorted Desprez.

“Would he?” asked the boy, troubled for the first time. “I should have thought God would have known.”

“Eh?” snarled the Doctor.

“I should have thought God would have understood me,” replied the other. “You do not, I see; but then it was God that made me think so, was it not?”

“Little boy, little boy,” said Dr. Desprez, “I told you already you had the vices of philosophy; if you display the virtues also, I must go. I am a student of the blessed laws of health, an observer of plain and temperate nature in her common walks; and I cannot preserve my equanimity in presence of a monster. Do you understand?”

“No, sir,” said the boy.275

“I will make my meaning clear to you,” replied the Doctor. “Look there at the sky—behind the belfry first, where it is so light, and then up and up, turning your chin back, right to the top of the dome, where it is already as blue as at noon. Is not that a beautiful colour? Does it not please the heart? We have seen it all our lives, until it has grown in with our familiar thoughts. Now,” changing his tone, “suppose that sky to become suddenly of a live and fiery amber, like the colour of clear coals, and growing scarlet towards the top—I do not say it would be any the less beautiful; but would you like it as well?”

“I suppose not,” answered Jean-Marie.

“Neither do I like you,” returned the Doctor roughly. “I hate all odd people, and you are the most curious little boy in all the world.”

Jean-Marie seemed to ponder for a while, and then he raised his head again and looked over at the Doctor with an air of candid inquiry. “But are not you a very curious gentleman?” he asked.

The Doctor threw away his stick, bounded on the boy, clasped him to his bosom, and kissed him on both cheeks. “Admirable, admirable imp!” he cried. “What a morning, what an hour for a theorist of forty-two! No,” he continued, apostrophising heaven, “I did not know such boys existed; I was ignorant they made them so; I had doubted of my race; and now! It is like,” he added, picking up his stick, “like a lovers’ meeting. I have bruised my favourite staff in that moment of enthusiasm. The injury, however, is not grave.” He caught the boy looking at him in obvious wonder, embarrassment, and alarm. “Hullo!” said he, “why do you look at me like that? Egad, I believe the boy despises me. Do you despise me, boy?”

“Oh, no,” replied Jean-Marie seriously; “only I do not understand.”

“You must excuse me, sir,” returned the Doctor, with gravity; “I am still so young. Oh, hang him!” he added to himself. And he took his seat again and observed the boy276 sardonically. “He has spoiled the quiet of my morning,” thought he. “I shall be nervous all day, and have a febricule when I digest. Let me compose myself.” And so he dismissed his preoccupations by an effort of the will which he had long practised, and let his soul roam abroad in the contemplation of the morning. He inhaled the air, tasting it critically as a connoisseur tastes a vintage, and prolonging the expiration with hygienic gusto. He counted the little flecks of cloud along the sky. He followed the movements of the birds round the church tower—making long sweeps, hanging poised, or turning airy somersaults in fancy, and beating the wind with imaginary pinions. And in this way he regained peace of mind and animal composure, conscious of his limbs, conscious of the sight of his eyes, conscious that the air had a cool taste, like a fruit, at the top of his throat; and at last, in complete abstraction, he began to sing. The Doctor had but one air—“Malbrouck s’en va-t-en guerre”; even with that he was on terms of mere politeness; and his musical exploits were always reserved for moments when he was alone and entirely happy.

He was recalled to earth rudely by a pained expression on the boy’s face. “What do you think of my singing?” he inquired, stopping in the middle of a note; and then, after he had waited some little while and received no answer, “What do you think of my singing?” he repeated imperiously.

“I do not like it,” faltered Jean-Marie.

“Oh, come!” cried the Doctor. “Possibly you are a performer yourself?”

“I sing better than that,” replied the boy.

The Doctor eyed him for some seconds in stupefaction. He was aware that he was angry, and blushed for himself in consequence, which made him angrier. “If this is how you address your master!” he said at last, with a shrug and a flourish of his arms.

“I do not speak to him at all,” returned the boy. “I do not like him.”277

“Then you like me?” snapped Doctor Desprez, with unusual eagerness.

“I do not know,” answered Jean-Marie.

The Doctor rose. “I shall wish you a good-morning,” he said. “You are too much for me. Perhaps you have blood in your veins, perhaps celestial ichor, or perhaps you circulate nothing more gross than respirable air; but of one thing I am inexpugnably assured:—that you are no human being. No, boy”—shaking his stick at him—“you are not a human being. Write, write it in your memory—‘I am not a human being—I have no pretension to be a human being—I am a dive, a dream, an angel, an acrostic, an illusion—what you please, but not a human being.’ And so accept my humble salutations and farewell!”

And with that the Doctor made off along the street in some emotion, and the boy stood, mentally gaping, where he left him.

 

278

CHAPTER III

THE ADOPTION

Madame Desprez, who answered to the Christian name of Anastasie, presented an agreeable type of her sex; exceedingly wholesome to look upon, a stout brune, with cool smooth cheeks, steady, dark eyes, and hands that neither art nor nature could improve. She was the sort of person over whom adversity passes like a summer cloud; she might, in the worst of conjunctions, knit her brows into one vertical furrow for a moment, but the next it would be gone. She had much of the placidity of a contented nun; with little of her piety, however; for Anastasie was of a very mundane nature, fond of oysters and old wine, and somewhat bold pleasantries, and devoted to her husband for her own sake rather than for his. She was imperturbably good-natured, but had no idea of self-sacrifice. To live in that pleasant old house, with a green garden behind and bright flowers about the window, to eat and drink of the best, to gossip with a neighbour for a quarter of an hour, never to wear stays or a dress except when she went to Fontainebleau shopping, to be kept in a continual supply of racy novels, and to be married to Dr. Desprez and have no ground of jealousy, filled the cup of her nature to the brim. Those who had known the Doctor in bachelor days, when he had aired quite as many theories, but of a different order, attributed his present philosophy to the study of Anastasie. It was her brute enjoyment that he rationalised and perhaps vainly imitated.

Madame Desprez was an artist in the kitchen, and made coffee to a nicety. She had a knack of tidiness, with279 which she had infected the Doctor; everything was in its place; everything capable of polish shone gloriously; and dust was a thing banished from her empire. Aline, their single servant, had no other business in the world but to scour and burnish. So Doctor Desprez lived in his house like a fatted calf, warmed and cosseted to his heart’s content.

The midday meal was excellent. There was a ripe melon, a fish from the river in a memorable Béarnaise sauce, a fat fowl in a fricassee, and a dish of asparagus, followed by some fruit. The Doctor drank half a bottle plus one glass, the wife half a bottle minus the same quantity, which was a marital privilege, of an excellent Côte-Rôtie, seven years old. Then the coffee was brought, and a flask of Chartreuse for madame, for the Doctor despised and distrusted such decoctions; and then Aline left the wedded pair to the pleasures of memory and digestion.

“It is a very fortunate circumstance, my cherished one,” observed the Doctor—“this coffee is adorable—a very fortunate circumstance upon the whole—Anastasie, I beseech you, go without that poison for to-day; only one day, and you will feel the benefit, I pledge my reputation.”

“What is this fortunate circumstance, my friend?” inquired Anastasie, not heeding his protest, which was of daily recurrence.

“That we have no children, my beautiful,” replied the Doctor. “I think of it more and more as the years go on, and with more and more gratitude towards the power that dispenses such afflictions. Your health, my darling, my studious quiet, our little kitchen delicacies, how they would all have suffered, how they would all have been sacrificed! And for what? Children are the last word of human imperfection. Health flees before their face. They cry, my dear; they put vexatious questions; they demand to be fed, to be washed, to be educated, to have their noses blown; and then, when the time comes, they break our hearts, as I break this piece of sugar. A pair of professed egoists, like you and me, should avoid offspring, like an infidelity.”280

“Indeed!” said she; and she laughed. “Now, that is like you—to take credit for the thing you could not help.”

“My dear,” returned the Doctor solemnly, “we might have adopted.”

“Never!” cried madame. “Never, Doctor, with my consent. If the child were my own flesh and blood, I would not say no. But to take another person’s indiscretion on my shoulders, my dear friend, I have too much sense.”

“Precisely,” replied the Doctor. “We both had. And I am all the better pleased with our wisdom, because—because——” He looked at her sharply.

“Because what?” she asked, with a faint premonition of danger.

“Because I have found the right person,” said the Doctor firmly, “and shall adopt him this afternoon.”

Anastasie looked at him out of a mist. “You have lost your reason,” she said; and there was a clang in her voice that seemed to threaten trouble.

“Not so, my dear,” he replied; “I retain its complete exercise. To the proof: instead of attempting to cloak my inconsistency, I have, by way of preparing you, thrown it into strong relief. You will there, I think, recognise the philosopher who has the ecstasy to call you wife. The fact is, I have been reckoning all this while without an accident. I never thought to find a son of my own. Now, last night, I found one. Do not unnecessarily alarm yourself, my dear; he is not a drop of blood to me that I know. It is his mind, darling, his mind that calls me father.”

“His mind!” she repeated, with a titter between scorn and hysterics. “His mind, indeed! Henri, is this an idiotic pleasantry, or are you mad? His mind! And what of my mind?”

“Truly,” replied the Doctor, with a shrug, “you have your finger on the hitch. He will be strikingly antipathetic to my ever beautiful Anastasie. She will never understand him; he will never understand her. You married the animal side of my nature, dear; and it is on the spiritual281 side that I find my affinity for Jean-Marie. So much so, that, to be perfectly frank, I stand in some awe of him myself. You will easily perceive that I am announcing a calamity for you. Do not,” he broke out in tones of real solicitude—“do not give way to tears after a meal, Anastasie. You will certainly give yourself a false digestion.”

Anastasie controlled herself. “You know how willing I am to humour you,” she said, “in all reasonable matters. But on this point——”

“My dear love,” interrupted the Doctor, eager to prevent a refusal, “who wished to leave Paris? Who made me give up cards, and the opera, and the boulevard, and my social relations, and all that was my life before I knew you? Have I been faithful? Have I been obedient? Have I not borne my doom with cheerfulness? In all honesty, Anastasie, have I not a right to a stipulation on my side? I have, and you know it. I stipulate my son.”

Anastasie was aware of defeat; she struck her colours instantly. “You will break my heart,” she sighed.

“Not in the least,” said he. “You will feel a trifling inconvenience for a month, just as I did when I was first brought to this vile hamlet; then your admirable sense and temper will prevail, and I see you already as content as ever, and making your husband the happiest of men.”

“You know I can refuse you nothing,” she said, with a last flicker of resistance; “nothing that will make you truly happier. But will this? Are you sure, my husband? Last night, you say, you found him! He may be the worst of humbugs.”

“I think not,” replied the Doctor. “But do not suppose me so unwary as to adopt him out of hand. I am, I flatter myself, a finished man of the world; I have had all possibilities in view; my plan is contrived to meet them all. I take the lad as stable-boy. If he pilfer, if he grumble, if he desire to change, I shall see I was mistaken; I shall recognise him for no son of mine, and send him tramping.”282

“You will never do so when the time comes,” said his wife; “I know your good heart.”

She reached out her hand to him, with a sigh; the Doctor smiled as he took it and carried it to his lips; he had gained his point with greater ease than he had dared to hope; for perhaps the twentieth time he had proved the efficacy of his trusty argument, his Excalibur, the hint of a return to Paris. Six months in the capital, for a man of the Doctor’s antecedents and relations, implied no less a calamity than total ruin. Anastasie had saved the remainder of his fortune by keeping him strictly in the country. The very name of Paris put her in a blue fear; and she would have allowed her husband to keep a menagerie in the back-garden, let alone adopting a stable-boy, rather than permit the question of return to be discussed.

About four of the afternoon, the mountebank rendered up his ghost; he had never been conscious since his seizure. Doctor Desprez was present at his last passage, and declared the farce over. Then he took Jean-Marie by the shoulder and led him out into the inn garden, where there was a convenient bench beside the river. Here he sat him down and made the boy place himself on his left.

“Jean-Marie,” he said very gravely, “this world is exceedingly vast; and even France, which is only a small corner of it, is a great place for a little lad like you. Unfortunately it is full of eager, shouldering people moving on; and there are very few bakers’ shops for so many eaters. Your master is dead; you are not fit to gain a living by yourself; you do not wish to steal? No. Your situation then is undesirable; it is, for the moment, critical. On the other hand, you behold in me a man not old, though elderly, still enjoying the youth of the heart and the intelligence; a man of instruction; easily situated in this world’s affairs; keeping a good table:—a man, neither as friend nor host, to be despised. I offer you your food and clothes, and to teach you lessons in the evening, which will be infinitely more to the purpose for a lad of your stamp than283 those of all the priests in Europe. I propose no wages, but if ever you take a thought to leave me, the door shall be open, and I will give you a hundred francs to start the world upon. In return, I have an old horse and chaise, which you would very speedily learn to clean and keep in order. Do not hurry yourself to answer, and take it or leave it as you judge aright. Only remember this, that I am no sentimentalist or charitable person, but a man who lives rigorously to himself; and that if I make the proposal, it is for my own ends—it is because I perceive clearly an advantage to myself. And now, reflect.”

“I shall be very glad. I do not see what else I can do. I thank you, sir, most kindly, and I will try to be useful,” said the boy.

“Thank you,” said the Doctor warmly, rising at the same time and wiping his brow, for he had suffered agonies while the thing hung in the wind. A refusal, after the scene at noon, would have placed him in a ridiculous light before Anastasie. “How hot and heavy is the evening, to be sure! I have always had a fancy to be a fish in summer, Jean-Marie, here in the Loing beside Gretz. I should lie under a water-lily and listen to the bells, which must sound most delicately down below. That would be a life—do you not think so too?”

“Yes,” said Jean-Marie.

“Thank God you have imagination!” cried the Doctor, embracing the boy with his usual effusive warmth, though it was a proceeding that seemed to disconcert the sufferer almost as much as if he had been an English schoolboy of the same age. “And now,” he added, “I will take you to my wife.”

Madame Desprez sat in the dining-room in a cool wrapper. All the blinds were down, and the tile floor had been recently sprinkled with water; her eyes were half shut, but she affected to be reading a novel as they entered. Though she was a bustling woman, she enjoyed repose between-whiles and had a remarkable appetite for sleep.284

The Doctor went through a solemn form of introduction, adding, for the benefit of both parties, “You must try to like each other for my sake.”

“He is very pretty,” said Anastasie.—“Will you kiss me, my pretty little fellow?”

The Doctor was furious, and dragged her into the passage. “Are you a fool, Anastasie?” he said. “What is all this I hear about the tact of women? Heaven knows, I have not met with it in my experience. You address my little philosopher as if he were an infant. He must be spoken to with more respect, I tell you; he must not be kissed and Georgy-porgy’d like an ordinary child.”

“I only did it to please you, I am sure,” replied Anastasie; “but I will try to do better.”

The Doctor apologised for his warmth. “But I do wish him,” he continued, “to feel at home among us. And really your conduct was so idiotic, my cherished one, and so utterly and distantly out of place, that a saint might have been pardoned a little vehemence in disapproval. Do, do try—if it is possible for a woman to understand young people—but of course it is not, and I waste my breath. Hold your tongue as much as possible at least, and observe my conduct narrowly; it will serve you for a model.”

Anastasie did as she was bidden, and considered the Doctor’s behaviour. She observed that he embraced the boy three times in the course of the evening, and managed generally to confound and abash the little fellow out of speech and appetite. But she had the true womanly heroism in little affairs. Not only did she refrain from the cheap revenge of exposing the Doctor’s errors to himself, but she did her best to remove their ill-effect on Jean-Marie. When Desprez went out for his last breath of air before retiring for the night, she came over to the boy’s side and took his hand.

“You must not be surprised or frightened by my husband’s manners,” she said. “He is the kindest of men, but so clever that he is sometimes difficult to understand.285 You will soon grow used to him, and then you will love him, for that nobody can help. As for me, you may be sure, I shall try to make you happy, and will not bother you at all. I think we should be excellent friends, you and I. I am not clever, but I am very good-natured. Will you give me a kiss?”

He held up his face, and she took him in her arms and then began to cry. The woman had spoken in complaisance; but she had warmed to her own words, and tenderness followed. The Doctor, entering, found them enlaced: he concluded that his wife was in fault; and he was just beginning, in an awful voice, “Anastasie——,” when she looked up at him, smiling, with an upraised finger; and he held his peace, wondering, while she led the boy to his attic.

 

286

CHAPTER IV

THE EDUCATION OF A PHILOSOPHER

The installation of the adopted stable-boy was thus happily effected, and the wheels of life continued to run smoothly in the Doctor’s house. Jean-Marie did his horse and carriage duty in the morning; sometimes helped in the housework; sometimes walked abroad with the Doctor, to drink wisdom from the fountainhead; and was introduced at night to the sciences and the dead tongues. He retained his singular placidity of mind and manner; he was rarely in fault; but he made only a very partial progress in his studies, and remained much of a stranger in the family.

The Doctor was a pattern of regularity. All forenoon he worked on his great book, the “Comparative Pharmacopœia, or Historical Dictionary of all Medicines,” which as yet consisted principally of slips of paper and pins. When finished, it was to fill many personable volumes, and to combine antiquarian interest with professional utility. But the Doctor was studious of literary graces and the picturesque; an anecdote, a touch of manners, a moral qualification, or a sounding epithet was sure to be preferred before a piece of science; a little more, and he would have written the “Comparative Pharmacopœia” in verse! The article “Mummia,” for instance, was already complete, though the remainder of the work had not progressed beyond the letter A. It was exceedingly copious and entertaining, written with quaintness and colour, exact, erudite, a literary article; but it would hardly have afforded guidance to a practising physician of to-day. The feminine good sense of his wife had led her to point this out with un287compromising sincerity; for the Dictionary was duly read aloud to her, betwixt sleep and waking, as it proceeded towards an infinitely distant completion; and the Doctor was a little sore on the subject of mummies, and sometimes resented an allusion with asperity.

After the midday meal and a proper period of digestion, he walked, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by Jean-Marie; for madame would have preferred any hardship rather than walk.

She was, as I have said, a very busy person, continually occupied about material comforts, and ready to drop asleep over a novel the instant she was disengaged. This was the less objectionable, as she never snored or grew distempered in complexion when she slept. On the contrary, she looked the very picture of luxurious and appetising ease, and woke without a start to the perfect possession of her faculties. I am afraid she was greatly an animal, but she was a very nice animal to have about. In this way she had little to do with Jean-Marie; but the sympathy which had been established between them on the first night remained unbroken; they held occasional conversations, mostly on household matters; to the extreme disappointment of the Doctor, they occasionally sallied off together to that temple of debasing, superstition, the village church; madame and he, both in their Sunday’s best, drove twice a month to Fontainebleau and returned laden with purchases; and in short, although the Doctor still continued to regard them as irreconcilably antipathetic, their relation was as intimate, friendly, and confidential as their natures suffered.

I fear, however, that in her heart of hearts madame kindly despised and pitied the boy. She had no admiration for his class of virtues; she liked a smart, polite, forward, roguish sort of boy, cap in hand, light of foot, meeting the eye; she liked volubility, charm, a little vice—the promise of a second Doctor Desprez. And it was her indefeasible belief that Jean-Marie was dull. “Poor dear boy,” she had said once, “how sad it is that he should be so stupid!”288 She had never repeated that remark, for the Doctor had raged like a wild bull, denouncing the brutal bluntness of her mind, bemoaning his own fate to be so unequally mated with an ass, and, what touched Anastasie more nearly, menacing the table china by the fury of his gesticulations. But she adhered silently to her opinion; and when Jean-Marie was sitting, stolid, blank, but not unhappy, over his unfinished tasks, she would snatch her opportunity in the Doctor’s absence, go over to him, put her arms about his neck, lay her cheek to his, and communicate her sympathy with his distress. “Do not mind,” she would say; “I, too, am not at all clever, and I can assure you that it makes no difference in life.”

The Doctor’s view was naturally different. That gentleman never wearied of the sound of his own voice, which was, to say the truth, agreeable enough to hear. He now had a listener, who was not so cynically indifferent as Anastasie, and who sometimes put him on his mettle by the most relevant objections. Besides, was he not educating the boy? And education, philosophers are agreed, is the most philosophical of duties. What can be more heavenly to poor mankind than to have one’s hobby grow into a duty to the State? Then, indeed, do the ways of life become ways of pleasantness. Never had the Doctor seen reason to be more content with his endowments. Philosophy flowed smoothly from his lips. He was so agile a dialectician that he could trace his nonsense, when challenged, back to some root in sense, and prove it to be a sort of flower upon his system. He slipped out of antinomies like a fish, and left his disciple marvelling at the rabbi’s depth.

Moreover, deep down in his heart the Doctor was disappointed with the ill-success of his more formal education. A boy, chosen by so acute an observer for his aptitude, and guided along the path of learning by so philosophic an instructor, was bound, by the nature of the universe, to make a more obvious and lasting advance. Now Jean-Marie was slow in all things, impenetrable in others; and his power of289 forgetting was fully on a level with his power to learn. Therefore the Doctor cherished his peripatetic lectures, to which the boy attended, which he generally appeared to enjoy, and by which he often profited.

Many and many were the talks they had together; and health and moderation proved the subject of the Doctor’s divagations. To these he lovingly returned.

“I lead you,” he would say, “by the green pastures. My system, my beliefs, my medicines, are resumed in one phrase—to avoid excess. Blessed nature, healthy, temperate nature, abhors and exterminates excess. Human law, in this matter, imitates at a great distance her provisions; and we must strive to supplement the efforts of the law. Yes, boy, we must be a law to ourselves and for our neighbours—lex armata—armed, emphatic, tyrannous law. If you see a crapulous human ruin snuffing, dash from him his box! The judge, though in a way an admission of disease, is less offensive to me than either the doctor or the priest. Above all the doctor—the doctor and the purulent trash and garbage of his pharmacopœia! Pure air—from the neighbourhood of a pinetum for the sake of the turpentine—unadulterated wine, and the reflections of an unsophisticated spirit in the presence of the works of nature—these, my boy, are the best medical appliances and the best religious comforts. Devote yourself to these. Hark! there are the bells of Bourron (the wind is in the north, it will be fair). How clear and airy is the sound. The nerves are harmonised and quieted; the mind attuned to silence; and observe how easily and regularly beats the heart! Your unenlightened doctor would see nothing in these sensations; and yet you yourself perceive they are a part of health. Did you remember your cinchona this morning? Good. Cinchona also is a work of nature; it is, after all, only the bark of a tree which we might gather for ourselves if we lived in the locality. What a world is this! Though a professed atheist, I delight to bear my testimony to the world. Look at the gratuitous remedies and pleasures that surround290 our path! The river runs by the garden end, our bath, our fish-pond, our natural system of drainage. There is a well in the court which sends up sparkling water from the earth’s very heart, clean, cool, and, with a little wine, most wholesome. The district is notorious for its salubrity; rheumatism is the only prevalent complaint, and I myself have never had a touch of it. I tell you—and my opinion is based upon the coldest, clearest processes of reason—if I, if you, desired to leave this home of pleasures, it would be the duty, it would be the privilege, of our best friend to prevent us with a pistol bullet.”

One beautiful June day they sat upon the hill outside the village. The river, as blue as heaven, shone here and there among the foliage. The indefatigable birds turned and flickered about Gretz church-tower. A healthy wind blew from over the forest, and the sound of innumerable thousands of tree-tops and innumerable millions on millions of green leaves was abroad in the air, and filled the ear with something between whispered speech and singing. It seemed as if every blade of grass must hide a cigale; and the fields rang merrily with their music, jingling far and near as with the sleigh-bells of the fairy queen. From their station on the slope the eye embraced a large space of poplared plain upon the one hand, the waving hill-tops of the forest on the other, and Gretz itself in the middle, a handful of roofs. Under the bestriding arch of the blue heavens, the place seemed dwindled to a toy. It seemed incredible that people dwelt, and could find room to turn or air to breathe, in such a corner of the world. The thought came home to the boy, perhaps for the first time, and he gave it words.

“How small it looks!” he sighed.

“Ay,” replied the Doctor, “small enough now. Yet it was once a walled city; thriving, full of furred burgesses and men in armour, humming with affairs;—with tall spires, for aught that I know, and portly towers along the battlements. A thousand chimneys ceased smoking at the curfew-291bell. There were gibbets at the gate as thick as scarecrows. In time of war, the assault swarmed against it with ladders, the arrows fell like leaves, the defenders sallied hotly over the drawbridge, each side uttered its cry as they plied their weapons. Do you know that the walls extended as far as the Commanderie? Tradition so reports. Alas! what a long way off is all this confusion—nothing left of it but my quiet words spoken in your ear—and the town itself shrunk to the hamlet underneath us! By-and-by came the English wars—you shall hear more of the English, a stupid people, who sometimes blundered into good—and Gretz was taken, sacked, and burned. It is the history of many towns; but Gretz never rose again; it was never rebuilt; its ruins were a quarry to serve the growth of rivals; and the stones of Gretz are now erect along the streets of Nemours. It gratifies me that our old house was the first to rise after the calamity; when the town had come to an end, it inaugurated the hamlet.”

“I, too, am glad of that,” said Jean-Marie.

“It should be the temple of the humbler virtues,” responded the Doctor with a savoury gusto. “Perhaps one of the reasons why I love my little hamlet as I do, is that we have a similar history, she and I. Have I told you that I was once rich?”

“I do not think so,” answered Jean-Marie. “I do not think I should have forgotten. I am sorry you should have lost your fortune.”

“Sorry?” cried the Doctor. “Why, I find I have scarce begun your education after all. Listen to me! Would you rather live in the old Gretz or in the new, free from the alarms of war, with the green country at the door, without noise, passports, the exactions of the soldiery, or the jangle of the curfew-bell to send us off to bed by sundown?”

“I suppose I should prefer the new,” replied the boy.

“Precisely,” returned the Doctor; “so do I. And in the same way, I prefer my present moderate fortune to my292 former wealth. Golden mediocrity! cried the adorable ancients; and I subscribe to their enthusiasm. Have I not good wine, good food, good air, the fields and the forest for my walk, a house, an admirable wife, a boy whom I protest I cherish like a son? Now, if I were still rich, I should indubitably make my residence in Paris—you know Paris—Paris and Paradise are not convertible terms. This pleasant noise of the wind streaming among leaves changed into the grinding Babel of the street, the stupid glare of plaster substituted for this quiet pattern of greens and greys, the nerves shattered, the digestion falsified—picture the fall! Already you perceive the consequences: the mind is stimulated, the heart steps to a different measure, and the man is himself no longer. I have passionately studied myself—the true business of philosophy. I know my character as the musician knows the ventages of his flute. Should I return to Paris, I should ruin myself gambling; nay, I go further—I should break the heart of my Anastasie with infidelities.”

This was too much for Jean-Marie. That a place should so transform the most excellent of men transcended his belief. Paris, he protested, was even an agreeable place of residence. “Nor when I lived in that city did I feel much difference,” he pleaded.

“What!” cried the Doctor. “Did you not steal when you were there?”

But the boy could never be brought to see that he had done anything wrong when he stole. Nor, indeed, did the Doctor think he had; but that gentleman was never very scrupulous when in want of a retort.

“And now,” he concluded, “do you begin to understand? My only friends were those who ruined me. Gretz has been my academy, my sanatorium, my heaven of innocent pleasures. If millions are offered me, I wave them back: Retro, Sathanas!—Evil one, begone! Fix your mind on my example; despise riches, avoid the debasing influence of cities. Hygiene—hygiene and mediocrity of fortune—these be your watchwords during life!”293

The Doctor’s system of hygiene strikingly coincided with his tastes; and his picture of the perfect life was a faithful description of the one he was leading at the time. But it is easy to convince a boy, whom you supply with all the facts for the discussion. And besides, there was one thing admirable in the philosophy, and that was the enthusiasm of the philosopher. There was never any one more vigorously determined to be pleased; and if he was not a great logician, and so had no right to convince the intellect, he was certainly something of a poet, and had a fascination to seduce the heart. What he could not achieve in his customary humour of a radiant admiration of himself and his circumstances, he sometimes effected in his fits of gloom.

“Boy,” he would say, “avoid me to-day. If I were superstitious, I should even beg for an interest in your prayers. I am in the black fit; the evil spirit of King Saul, the hag of the merchant Abudah, the personal devil of the mediæval monk, is with me—is in me,” tapping on his breast. “The vices of my nature are now uppermost; innocent pleasures woo me in vain; I long for Paris, for my wallowing in the mire. See,” he would continue, producing a handful of silver, “I denude myself, I am not to be trusted with the price of a fare. Take it, keep it for me, squander it on deleterious candy, throw it in the deepest of the river—I will homologate your action. Save me from that part of myself which I disown. If you see me falter, do not hesitate; if necessary, wreck the train! I speak, of course, by a parable. Any extremity were better than for me to reach Paris alive.”

Doubtless the Doctor enjoyed these little scenes, as a variation in his part; they represented the Byronic element in the somewhat artificial poetry of his existence; but to the boy, though he was dimly aware of their theatricality, they represented more. The Doctor made perhaps too little, the boy possibly too much, of the reality and gravity of these temptations.294

One day a great light shone for Jean-Marie. “Could not riches be used well?” he asked.

“In theory, yes,” replied the Doctor. “But it is found in experience that no one does so. All the world imagine they will be exceptional when they grow wealthy; but possession is debasing, new desires spring up; and the silly taste for ostentation eats out the heart of pleasure.”

“Then you might be better if you had less,” said the boy.

“Certainly not,” replied the Doctor; but his voice quavered as he spoke.

“Why?” demanded pitiless innocence.

Doctor Desprez saw all the colours of the rainbow in a moment; the stable universe appeared to be about capsizing with him. “Because,” said he—affecting deliberation after an obvious pause—“because I have formed my life for my present income. It is not good for men of my years to be violently dissevered from their habits.”

That was a sharp brush. The Doctor breathed hard, and fell into taciturnity for the afternoon. As for the boy, he was delighted with the resolution of his doubts; even wondered that he had not foreseen the obvious and conclusive answer. His faith in the Doctor was a stout piece of goods. Desprez was inclined to be a sheet in the wind’s eye after dinner, especially after Rhone wine, his favourite weakness. He would then remark on the warmth of his feeling for Anastasie, and with inflamed cheeks and a loose, flustered smile, debate upon all sorts of topics, and be feebly and indiscreetly witty. But the adopted stable-boy would not permit himself to entertain a doubt that savoured of ingratitude. It is quite true that a man may be a second father to you, and yet take too much to drink; but the best natures are ever slow to accept such truths.

The Doctor thoroughly possessed his heart, but perhaps he exaggerated his influence over his mind. Certainly Jean-Marie adopted some of his master’s opinions, but I have yet to learn that he ever surrendered one of his own. Convic295tions existed in him by divine right; they were virgin, unwrought, the brute metal of decision. He could add others indeed, but he could not put away; neither did he care if they were perfectly agreed among themselves; and his spiritual pleasures had nothing to do with turning them over or justifying them in words. Words were with him a mere accomplishment, like dancing. When he was by himself, his pleasures were almost vegetable. He would slip into the woods towards Achères, and sit in the mouth of a cave among grey birches. His soul stared straight out of his eyes; he did not move or think; sunlight, thin shadows moving in the wind, the edge of firs against the sky, occupied and bound his faculties. He was pure unity, a spirit wholly abstracted. A single mood filled him, to which all the objects of sense contributed, as the colours of the spectrum merge and disappear in white light.

So while the Doctor made himself drunk with words, the adopted stable-boy bemused himself with silence.

 

296

CHAPTER V

TREASURE TROVE

The Doctor’s carriage was a two-wheeled gig with a hood; a kind of vehicle in much favour among country doctors. On how many roads has one not seen it, a great way off between the poplars!—in how many village streets, tied to a gate-post! This sort of chariot is affected—particularly at the trot—by a kind of pitching movement to and fro across the axle, which well entitles it to the style of a Noddy. The hood describes a considerable arc against the landscape, with a solemnly absurd effect on the contemplative pedestrian. To ride in such a carriage cannot be numbered among the things that appertain to glory; but I have no doubt it may be useful in liver complaint. Thence, perhaps, its wide popularity among physicians.

One morning early, Jean-Marie led forth the Doctor’s noddy, opened the gate, and mounted to the driving-seat. The Doctor followed, arrayed from top to toe in spotless linen, armed with an immense flesh-coloured umbrella, and girt with a botanical case on a baldric; and the equipage drove off smartly in a breeze of its own provocation. They were bound for Franchard, to collect plants, with an eye to the “Comparative Pharmacopœia.”

A little rattling on the open roads, and they came to the borders of the forest and struck into an unfrequented track; the noddy yawed softly over the sand, with an accompaniment of snapping twigs. There was a great, green, softly murmuring cloud of congregated foliage overhead. In the arcades of the forest the air retained the freshness of the night. The athletic bearing of the trees, each carrying its297 leafy mountain, pleased the mind like so many statues; and the lines of the trunk led the eye admiringly upward to where the extreme leaves sparkled in a patch of azure. Squirrels leaped in mid-air. It was a proper spot for a devotee of the goddess Hygieia.

“Have you been to Franchard, Jean-Marie?” inquired the Doctor. “I fancy not.”

“Never,” replied the boy.

“It is a ruin in a gorge,” continued Desprez, adopting his expository voice; “the ruin of a hermitage and chapel. History tells us much of Franchard; how the recluse was often slain by robbers; how he lived on a most insufficient diet; how he was expected to pass his days in prayer. A letter is preserved, addressed to one of these solitaries by the superior of his order, full of admirable hygienic advice; bidding him go from his book to praying, and so back again, for variety’s sake, and when he was weary of both to stroll about his garden and observe the honey-bees. It is to this day my own system. You must often have remarked me leaving the ‘Pharmacopœia’—often even in the middle of a phrase—to come forth into the sun and air. I admire the writer of that letter from my heart; he was a man of thought on the most important subjects. But, indeed, had I lived in the Middle Ages (I am heartily glad that I did not) I should have been an eremite myself—if I had not been a professed buffoon, that is. These were the only philosophical lives yet open: laughter or prayer; sneers, we might say, and tears. Until the sun of the Positive arose, the wise man had to make his choice between these two.”

“I have been a buffoon, of course,” observed Jean-Marie.

“I cannot imagine you to have excelled in your profession,” said the doctor, admiring the boy’s gravity. “Do you ever laugh?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the other. “I laugh often. I am very fond of jokes.”

“Singular being!” said Desprez. “But I divagate (I perceive in a thousand ways that I grow old). Franchard298 was at length destroyed in the English wars, the same that levelled Gretz. But—here is the point—the hermits (for there were already more than one) had foreseen the danger and carefully concealed the sacrificial vessels. These vessels were of monstrous value, Jean-Marie—monstrous value—priceless, we may say; exquisitely worked, of exquisite material. And now, mark me, they have never been found. In the reign of Louis Quatorze some fellows were digging hard by the ruins. Suddenly—tock!—the spade hit upon an obstacle. Imagine the men looking one to another; imagine how their hearts bounded, how their colour came and went. It was a coffer, and in Franchard, the place of buried treasure! They tore it open like famished beasts. Alas! it was not the treasure; only some priestly robes, which, at the touch of the eating air, fell upon themselves and instantly wasted into dust. The perspiration of these good fellows turned cold upon them, Jean-Marie. I will pledge my reputation, if there was anything like a cutting wind, one or other had a pneumonia for his trouble.”

“I should like to have seen them turning into dust,” said Jean-Marie. “Otherwise, I should not have cared so greatly.”

“You have no imagination,” cried the Doctor. “Picture to yourself the scene. Dwell on the idea—a great treasure lying in the earth for centuries: the material for a giddy, copious, opulent existence not employed; dresses and exquisite pictures unseen; the swiftest galloping horses not stirring a hoof, arrested by a spell; women with the beautiful faculty of smiles, not smiling; cards, dice, opera singing, orchestras, castles, beautiful parks and gardens, big ships with a tower of sailcloth, all lying unborn in a coffin—and the stupid trees growing overhead in the sunlight, year after year. The thought drives one frantic.”

“It is only money,” replied Jean-Marie. “It would do harm.”299

“Oh, come!” cried Desprez, “that is philosophy; it is all very fine, but not to the point just now. And besides, it is not ‘only money,’ as you call it; there are works of art in the question; the vessels were carved. You speak like a child. You weary me exceedingly, quoting my words out of all logical connection, like a parroquet.”

“And at any rate, we have nothing to do with it,” returned the boy submissively.

They struck the Route Ronde at that moment; and the sudden change to the rattling causeway combined, with the Doctor’s irritation, to keep him silent. The noddy jigged along; the trees went by, looking on silently, as if they had something on their minds. The Quadrilateral was passed; then came Franchard. They put up the horse at the little solitary inn, and went forth strolling. The gorge was dyed deeply with heather; the rocks and birches standing luminous in the sun. A great humming of bees about the flowers disposed Jean-Marie to sleep, and he sat down against a clump of heather, while the Doctor went briskly to and fro, with quick turns, culling his simples.

The boy’s head had fallen a little forward, his eyes were closed, his fingers had fallen lax about his knees, when a sudden cry called him to his feet. It was a strange sound, thin and brief; it fell dead, and silence returned as though it had never been interrupted. He had not recognised the Doctor’s voice; but, as there was no one else in all the valley, it was plainly the Doctor who had given utterance to the sound. He looked right and left, and there was Desprez, standing in a niche between two boulders, and looking round on his adopted son with a countenance as white as paper.

“A viper!” cried Jean-Marie, running towards him. “A viper! You are bitten!”

The Doctor came down heavily out of the cleft, and advanced in silence to meet the boy, whom he took roughly by the shoulder.

“I have found it,” he said, with a gasp.300

“A plant?” asked Jean-Marie.

Desprez had a fit of unnatural gaiety, which the rocks took up and mimicked. “A plant!” he repeated scornfully. “Well—yes—a plant. And here,” he added suddenly, showing his right hand, which he had hitherto concealed behind his back—“here is one of the bulbs.”

Jean-Marie saw a dirty platter, coated with earth.

“That?” said he. “It is a plate!”

“It is a coach and horses,” cried the Doctor. “Boy,” he continued, growing warmer, “I plucked away a great pad of moss from between these boulders, and disclosed a crevice; and when I looked in, what do you suppose I saw? I saw a house in Paris with a court and garden, I saw my wife shining with diamonds, I saw myself a deputy, I saw you—well, I—I saw your future,” he concluded, rather feebly. “I have just discovered America,” he added.

“But what is it?” asked the boy.

“The Treasure of Franchard,” cried the Doctor; and, throwing his brown straw hat upon the ground, he whooped like an Indian and sprang upon Jean-Marie, whom he suffocated with embraces and bedewed with tears. Then he flung himself down among the heather and once more laughed until the valley rang.

But the boy had now an interest of his own, a boy’s interest. No sooner was he released from the Doctor’s accolade than he ran to the boulders, sprang into the niche, and, thrusting his hand into the crevice, drew forth one after another, encrusted with the earth of ages, the flagons, candlesticks, and patens of the hermitage of Franchard. A casket came last, tightly shut and very heavy.

“Oh what fun!” he cried.

But when he looked back at the Doctor, who had followed close behind and was silently observing, the words died from his lips. Desprez was once more the colour of ashes; his lip worked and trembled; a sort of bestial greed possessed him.

“This is childish,” he said. “We lose precious time.301 Back to the inn, harness the trap, and bring it to yon bank. Run for your life, and remember—not one whisper. I stay here to watch.”

Jean-Marie did as he was bid, though not without surprise. The noddy was brought round to the spot indicated; and the two gradually transported the treasure from its place of concealment to the boot below the driving-seat. Once it was all stored the Doctor recovered his gaiety.

“I pay my grateful duties to the genius of this dell,” he said. “Oh for a live coal, a heifer, and a jar of country wine! I am in the vein for sacrifice, for a superb libation. Well, and why not? We are at Franchard. English pale ale is to be had—not classical, indeed, but excellent. Boy, we shall drink ale.”

“But I thought it was so unwholesome,” said Jean-Marie, “and very dear besides.”

“Fiddle-de-dee!” exclaimed the Doctor gaily. “To the inn!”

And he stepped into the noddy, tossing his head with an elastic, youthful air. The horse was turned, and in a few seconds they drew up beside the palings of the inn garden.

“Here,” said Desprez—“here, near the table, so that we may keep an eye upon things.”

They tied the horse, and entered the garden, the Doctor singing, now in fantastic high notes, now producing deep reverberations from his chest. He took a seat, rapped loudly on the table, assailed the waiter with witticisms; and when the bottle of Bass was at length produced, far more charged with gas than the most delirious champagne, he filled out a long glassful of froth and pushed it over to Jean-Marie. “Drink,” he said; “drink deep.”

“I would rather not,” faltered the boy, true to his training.

“What?” thundered Desprez.

“I am afraid of it,” said Jean-Marie: “my stomach——”

“Take it or leave it,” interrupted Desprez fiercely:302 “but understand it once for all—there is nothing so contemptible as a precisian.”

Here was a new lesson! The boy sat bemused, looking at the glass but not tasting it, while the Doctor emptied and refilled his own, at first with clouded brow, but gradually yielding to the sun, the heady, prickling beverage, and his own predisposition to be happy.

“Once in a way,” he said at last, by way of a concession to the boy’s more rigorous attitude, “once in a way, and at so critical a moment, this ale is a nectar for the gods. The habit, indeed, is debasing; wine, the juice of the grape, is the true drink of the Frenchman, as I have often had occasion to point out; and I do not know that I can blame you for refusing this outlandish stimulant. You can have some wine and cakes. Is the bottle empty? Well, we will not be proud; we will have pity on your glass.”

The beer being done, the Doctor chafed bitterly while Jean-Marie finished his cakes. “I burn to be gone,” he said, looking at his watch. “Good God, how slow you eat!” And yet to eat slowly was his own particular prescription, the main secret of longevity!

His martyrdom, however, reached an end at last; the pair resumed their places in the buggy, and Desprez, leaning luxuriously back, announced his intention of proceeding to Fontainebleau.

“To Fontainebleau?” repeated Jean-Marie.

“My words are always measured,” said the Doctor. “On!”

The Doctor was driven through the glades of paradise; the air, the light, the shining leaves, the very movements of the vehicle, seemed to fall in tune with his golden meditations; with his head thrown back, he dreamed a series of sunny visions, ale and pleasure dancing in his veins. At last he spoke.

“I shall telegraph for Casimir,” he said. “Good Casimir! a fellow of the lower order of intelligence, Jean-Marie, distinctly not creative, not poetic; and yet he will303 repay your study; his fortune is vast, and is entirely due to his own exertions. He is the very fellow to help us to dispose of our trinkets, find us a suitable house in Paris, and manage the details of our installation. Admirable Casimir, one of my oldest comrades! It was on his advice, I may add, that I invested my little fortune in Turkish bonds; when we have added these spoils of the mediæval Church to our stake in the Mahometan empire, little boy, we shall positively roll among doubloons, positively roll!—Beautiful forest,” he cried, “farewell! Though called to other scenes, I will not forget thee. Thy name is graven in my heart. Under the influence of prosperity I become dithyrambic, Jean-Marie. Such is the impulse of the natural soul; such was the constitution of primæval man. And I—well, I will not refuse the credit—I have preserved my youth like a virginity; another, who should have led the same snoozing, countrified existence for these years, another had become rusty, become stereotype; but I, I praise my happy constitution, retain the spring unbroken. Fresh opulence and a new sphere of duties find me unabated in ardour and only more mature by knowledge. For this prospective change, Jean-Marie—it may probably have shocked you. Tell me now, did it not strike you as an inconsistency? Confess—it is useless to dissemble—it pained you?”

“Yes,” said the boy.

“You see,” returned the Doctor, with sublime fatuity, “I read your thoughts! Nor am I surprised—your education is not yet complete; the higher duties of men have not been yet presented to you fully. A hint—till we have leisure—must suffice. Now that I am once more in possession of a modest competence; now that I have so long prepared myself in silent meditation, it becomes my superior duty to proceed to Paris. My scientific training, my undoubted command of language, mark me out for the service of my country. Modesty in such a case would be a snare. If sin were a philosophical expression, I should call it sinful. A man must not deny his manifest abilities, for that is to304 evade his obligations. I must be up and doing; I must be no skulker in life’s battle.”

So he rattled on, copiously greasing the joint of his inconsistency with words; while the boy listened silently, his eyes fixed on the horse, his mind seething. It was all lost eloquence; no array of words could unsettle a belief of Jean-Marie’s; and he drove into Fontainebleau filled with pity, horror, indignation, and despair.

In the town Jean-Marie was kept a fixture on the driving-seat, to guard the treasure; while the Doctor, with a singular, slightly tipsy airiness of manner, fluttered in and out of cafés, where he shook hands with garrison officers, and mixed an absinthe with the nicety of old experience; in and out of shops, from which he returned laden with costly fruits, real turtle, a magnificent piece of silk for his wife, a preposterous cane for himself, and a képi of the newest fashion for the boy; in and out of the telegraph office, whence he despatched his telegram, and where three hours later he received an answer promising a visit on the morrow, and generally pervaded Fontainebleau with the first fine aroma of his divine good-humour.

The sun was very low when they set forth again; the shadows of the forest trees extended across the broad white road that led them home; the penetrating odour of the evening wood had already arisen, like a cloud of incense, from that broad field of tree-tops; and even in the streets of the town, where the air had been baked all day between white walls, it came in whiffs and pulses, like a distant music. Half-way home, the last gold flicker vanished from a great oak upon the left; and when they came forth beyond the borders of the wood, the plain was already sunken in pearly greyness, and a great, pale moon came swinging skyward through the filmy poplars.

The Doctor sang, the Doctor whistled, the Doctor talked. He spoke of the woods, and the wars, and the deposition of dew; he brightened and babbled of Paris; he soared into cloudy bombast on the glories of the political arena. All305 was to be changed; as the day departed, it took with it the vestiges of an outworn existence, and to-morrow’s sun was to inaugurate the new. “Enough,” he cried, “of this life of maceration!” His wife (still beautiful, or he was sadly partial) was to be no longer buried; she should now shine before society. Jean-Marie would find the world at his feet; the roads open to success, wealth, honour, and posthumous renown. “And oh, by the way,” said he, “for God’s sake keep your tongue quiet! You are, of course, a very silent fellow; it is a quality I gladly recognise in you—silence, golden silence! But this is a matter of gravity. No word must get abroad; none but the good Casimir is to be trusted; we shall probably dispose of the vessels in England.”

“But are they not even ours?” the boy said, almost with a sob—it was the only time he had spoken.

“Ours in this sense, that they are nobody else’s,” replied the Doctor. “But the State would have some claim. If they were stolen, for instance, we should be unable to demand their restitution; we should have no title; we should be unable even to communicate with the police. Such is the monstrous condition of the law.[2] It is a mere instance of what remains to be done, of the injustices that may yet be righted by an ardent, active, and philosophical deputy.”

Jean-Marie put his faith in Madame Desprez; and as they drove forward down the road from Bourron, between the rustling poplars, he prayed in his teeth, and whipped up the horse to an unusual speed. Surely, as soon as they arrived, madame would assert her character, and bring this waking nightmare to an end.

Their entrance into Gretz was heralded and accompanied by a most furious barking; all the dogs in the village seemed to smell the treasure in the noddy. But there was no one in the street, save three lounging landscape-painters at Tentaillon’s door. Jean-Marie opened the green gate and led in the horse and carriage; and almost at the same moment 306 Madame Desprez came to the kitchen threshold with a lighted lantern; for the moon was not yet high enough to clear the garden walls.

“Close the gates, Jean-Marie!” cried the Doctor, somewhat unsteadily alighting.—“Anastasie, where is Aline?”

“She has gone to Montereau to see her parents,” said madame.

“All is for the best!” exclaimed the Doctor fervently. “Here quick, come near to me; I do not wish to speak too loud,” he continued. “Darling, we are wealthy!”

“Wealthy!” repeated the wife.

“I have found the treasure of Franchard,” replied her husband, “See, here are the first-fruits; a pine-apple, a dress for my ever-beautiful—it will suit her—trust a husband’s, trust a lover’s taste! Embrace me, darling! This grimy episode is over; the butterfly unfolds its painted wings. To-morrow Casimir will come; in a week we may be in Paris—happy at last! You shall have diamonds.—Jean-Marie, take it out of the boot, with religious care, and bring it piece by piece into the dining-room. We shall have plate at table! Darling, hasten and prepare this turtle; it will be a whet—it will be an addition to our meagre ordinary. I myself will proceed to the cellar. We shall have a bottle of that little Beaujolais you like, and finish with the Hermitage; there are still three bottles left. Worthy wine for a worthy occasion.”

“But, my husband, you put me in a whirl,” she cried. “I do not comprehend.”

“The turtle, my adored, the turtle!” cried the Doctor; and he pushed her towards the kitchen, lantern and all.

Jean-Marie stood dumfoundered. He had pictured to himself a different scene—a more immediate protest, and his hope began to dwindle on the spot.

The Doctor was everywhere, a little doubtful on his legs, perhaps, and now and then taking the wall with his shoulder; for it was long since he had tasted absinthe, and he was even then reflecting that the absinthe had been a misconception.307 Not that he regretted excess on such a glorious day, but he made a mental memorandum to beware; he must not, a second time, become the victim of a deleterious habit. He had his wine out of the cellar in a twinkling; he arranged the sacrificial vessels, some on the white table-cloth, some on the sideboard, still crusted with historic earth. He was in and out of the kitchen, plying Anastasie with vermouth, heating her with glimpses of the future, estimating their new wealth at ever larger figures; and before they sat down to supper, the lady’s virtue had melted in the fire of his enthusiasm, her timidity had disappeared; she, too, had begun to speak disparagingly of the life at Gretz; and as she took her place and helped the soup, her eyes shone with the glitter of prospective diamonds.

All through the meal she and the Doctor made and unmade fairy plans. They bobbed and bowed and pledged each other. Their faces ran over with smiles; their eyes scattered sparkles, as they projected the Doctor’s political honours and the lady’s drawing-room ovations.

“But you will not be a Red!” cried Anastasie.

“I am Left Centre to the core,” replied the Doctor.

“Madame Gastein will present us—we shall find ourselves forgotten,” said the lady.

“Never,” protested the Doctor. “Beauty and talent leave a mark.”

“I have positively forgotten how to dress,” she sighed.

“Darling, you make me blush,” cried he. “Yours has been a tragic marriage!”

“But your success—to see you appreciated, honoured, your name in all the papers, that will be more than pleasure—it will be heaven!” she cried.

“And once a week,” said the Doctor, archly scanning the syllables, “once a week—one good little game of baccarat?”

“Only once a week?” she questioned, threatening him with a finger.

“I swear it by my political honour,” cried he.308

“I spoil you,” she said, and gave him her hand.

He covered it with kisses.

Jean-Marie escaped into the night. The moon swung high over Gretz. He went down to the garden end and sat on the jetty. The river ran by with eddies of oily silver, and a low monotonous song. Faint veils of mist moved among the poplars on the farther side. The reeds were quietly nodding. A hundred times already had the boy sat, on such a night, and watched the streaming river with untroubled fancy. And this perhaps was to be the last. He was to leave this familiar hamlet, this green, rustling country, this bright and quiet stream; he was to pass into the great city; his dear lady mistress was to move bedizened in saloons; his good, garrulous, kind-hearted master to become a brawling deputy; and both be lost for ever to Jean-Marie and their better selves. He knew his own defects; he knew he must sink into less and less consideration in the turmoil of a city life, sink more and more from the child into the servant. And he began dimly to believe the Doctor’s prophecies of evil. He could see a change in both. His generous incredulity failed him for this once; a child must have perceived that the Hermitage had completed what the absinthe had begun. If this were the first day, what would be the last? “If necessary, wreck the train,” thought he, remembering the Doctor’s parable. He looked round on the delightful scene; he drank deep of the charmed night-air, laden with the scent of hay. “If necessary, wreck the train,” he repeated. And he rose and returned to the house.


[2] Let it be so, for my tale!

 

309

CHAPTER VI

A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, IN TWO PARTS

The next morning there was a most unusual outcry in the Doctor’s house. The last thing before going to bed, the Doctor had locked up some valuables in the dining-room cupboard; and behold, when he rose again, as he did about four o’clock, the cupboard had been broken open, and the valuables in question had disappeared. Madame and Jean-Marie were summoned from their rooms, and appeared in hasty toilets; they found the Doctor raving, calling the heavens to witness and avenge his injury, pacing the room barefooted, with the tails of his night-shirt flirting as he turned.

“Gone!” he said; “the things are gone, the fortune gone! We are paupers once more. Boy! what do you know of this? Speak up, sir, speak up. Do you know of it? Where are they?” He had him by the arm, shaking him like a bag, and the boy’s words, if he had any, were jolted forth in inarticulate murmurs. The Doctor, with a revulsion from his own violence, set him down again. He observed Anastasie in tears. “Anastasie,” he said, in quite an altered voice, “compose yourself, command your feelings. I would not have you give way to passion like the vulgar. This—this trifling accident must be lived down.—Jean-Marie, bring me my smaller medicine-chest. A gentle laxative is indicated.”

And he dosed the family all round, leading the way himself with a double quantity. The wretched Anastasie, who had never been ill in the whole course of her existence, and whose soul recoiled from remedies, wept floods of tears as she sipped, and shuddered, and protested, and then was310 bullied and shouted at until she sipped again. As for Jean-Marie, he took his portion down with stoicism.

“I have given him a less amount,” observed the Doctor, “his youth protecting him against emotion. And now that we have thus parried any morbid consequences, let us reason.”

“I am so cold,” wailed Anastasie.

“Cold!” cried the Doctor. “I give thanks to God that I am made of fierier material. Why, madam, a blow like this would set a frog into a transpiration. If you are cold, you can retire; and, by the way, you might throw me down my trousers. It is chilly for the legs.”

“Oh no!” protested Anastasie; “I will stay with you.”

“Nay, madam, you shall not suffer for your devotion,” said the Doctor. “I will myself fetch you a shawl.” And he went upstairs and returned more fully clad and with an armful of wraps for the shivering Anastasie. “And now,” he resumed, “to investigate this crime. Let us proceed by induction. Anastasie, do you know anything that can help us?” Anastasie knew nothing. “Or you, Jean-Marie?”

“Not I,” replied the boy steadily.

“Good,” returned the Doctor. “We shall now turn our attention to the material evidences. (I was born to be a detective; I have the eye and the systematic spirit.) First, violence has been employed. The door was broken open; and it may be observed, in passing, that the lock was dear indeed at what I paid for it: a crow to pluck with Master Goguelat. Second, here is the instrument employed, one of our own table-knives, one of our best, my dear; which seems to indicate no preparation on the part of the gang—if gang it was. Thirdly, I observe that nothing has been removed except the Franchard dishes and the casket; our own silver has been minutely respected. This is wily; it shows intelligence, a knowledge of the code, a desire to avoid legal consequences. I argue from this fact that the gang numbers persons of respectability—outward,311 of course, and merely outward, as the robbery proves. But I argue, second, that we must have been observed at Franchard itself by some occult observer, and dogged throughout the day with a skill and patience that I venture to qualify as consummate. No ordinary man, no occasional criminal, would have shown himself capable of this combination. We have in our neighbourhood, it is far from improbable, a retired bandit of the highest order of intelligence.”

“Good heaven!” cried the horrified Anastasie. “Henri, how can you?”

“My cherished one, this is a process of induction,” said the Doctor. “If any of my steps are unsound, correct me. You are silent? Then do not, I beseech you, be so vulgarly illogical as to revolt from my conclusion. We have now arrived,” he resumed, “at some idea of the composition of the gang—for I incline to the hypothesis of more than one—and we now leave this room, which can disclose no more, and turn our attention to the court and garden. (Jean-Marie, I trust you are observantly following my various steps; this is an excellent piece of education for you.) Come with me to the door. No steps on the court; it is unfortunate our court should be paved. On what small matters hang the destiny of these delicate investigations! Hey! What have we here? I have led you to the very spot,” he said, standing grandly backward and indicating the green gate. “An escalade, as you can now see for yourselves, has taken place.”

Sure enough, the green paint was in several places scratched and broken; and one of the panels preserved the print of a nailed shoe. The foot had slipped, however, and it was difficult to estimate the size of the shoe, and impossible to distinguish the pattern of the nails.

“The whole robbery,” concluded the Doctor, “step by step, has been reconstituted. Inductive science can no further go.”

“It is wonderful,” said his wife. “You should indeed have been a detective, Henri. I had no idea of your talents.”312

“My dear,” replied Desprez condescendingly, “a man of scientific imagination combines the lesser faculties; he is a detective just as he is a publicist or a general; these are but local applications of his special talent. But now,” he continued, “would you have me go further? Would you have me lay my finger on the culprits—or rather, for I cannot promise quite so much, point out to you the very house where they consort? It may be a satisfaction, at least it is all we are likely to get, since we are denied the remedy of law. I reach the further stage in this way. In order to fill my outline of the robbery, I require a man likely to be in the forest idling, I require a man of education, I require a man superior to considerations of morality. The three requisites all centre in Tentaillon’s boarders. They are painters, therefore they are continually lounging in the forest. They are painters, therefore they are not unlikely to have some smattering of education. Lastly, because they are painters, they are probably immoral. And this I prove in two ways. First, painting is an art which merely addresses the eye; it does not in any particular exercise the moral sense. And second, painting, in common with all the other arts, implies the dangerous quality of imagination. A man of imagination is never moral; he outsoars literal demarcations and reviews life under too many shifting lights to rest content with the invidious distinctions of the law!”

“But you always say—at least, so I understood you”—said madame, “that these lads display no imagination whatever.”

“My dear, they displayed imagination, and of a very fantastic order too,” returned the Doctor, “when they embraced their beggarly profession. Besides—and this is an argument exactly suited to your intellectual level—many of them are English and American. Where else should we expect to find a thief?—And now you had better get your coffee. Because we have lost a treasure, there is no reason for starving. For my part, I shall break my fast with white313 wine. I feel unaccountably heated and thirsty to-day. I can only attribute it to the shock of the discovery. And yet, you will bear me out, I supported the emotion nobly.”

The Doctor had now talked himself back into an admirable humour; and as he sat in the arbour and slowly imbibed a large allowance of white wine and picked a little bread and cheese with no very impetuous appetite, if a third of his meditations ran upon the missing treasure, the other two-thirds were more pleasingly busied in the retrospect of his detective skill.

About eleven Casimir arrived; he had caught an early train to Fontainebleau, and driven over, to save time; and now his cab was stabled at Tentaillon’s, and he remarked, studying his watch, that he could spare an hour and a half. He was much the man of business, decisively spoken, given to frowning in an intellectual manner. Anastasie’s born brother, he did not waste much sentiment on the lady, gave her an English family kiss, and demanded a meal without delay.

“You can tell me your story while we eat,” he observed. “Anything good to-day, Stasie?”

He was promised something good. The trio sat down to table in the arbour, Jean-Marie waiting as well as eating, and the Doctor recounted what had happened in his richest narrative manner. Casimir heard it with explosions of laughter.

“What a streak of luck for you, my good brother,” he observed, when the tale was over. “If you had gone to Paris, you would have played dick-duck-drake with the whole consignment in three months. Your own would have followed; and you would have come to me in a procession like the last time. But I give you warning—Stasie may weep and Henri ratiocinate—it will not serve you twice. Your next collapse will be fatal. I thought I had told you so, Stasie? Hey? No sense?”

The Doctor winced and looked furtively at Jean-Marie; but the boy seemed apathetic.314

“And then again,” broke out Casimir, “what children you are—vicious children, my faith! How could you tell the value of this trash? It might have been worth nothing, or next door.”

“Pardon me,” said the Doctor. “You have your usual flow of spirits, I perceive, but even less than your usual deliberation. I am not entirely ignorant of these matters.”

“Not entirely ignorant of anything ever I heard of,” interrupted Casimir, bowing, and raising his glass with a sort of pert politeness.

“At least,” resumed the Doctor, “I gave my mind to the subject—that you may be willing to believe—and I estimated that our capital would be doubled.” And he described the nature of the find.

“My word of honour!” said Casimir, “I half believe you! But much would depend on the quality of the gold.”

“The quality, my dear Casimir, was——” And the Doctor, in default of language, kissed his finger-tips.

“I would not take your word for it, my good friend,” retorted the man of business. “You are a man of very rosy views. But this robbery,” he continued—“this robbery is an odd thing. Of course I pass over your nonsense about gangs and landscape-painters. For me, that is a dream. Who was in the house last night?”

“None but ourselves,” replied the Doctor.

“And this young gentleman?” asked Casimir, jerking a nod in the direction of Jean-Marie.

“He too”—the Doctor bowed.

“Well; and, if it is a fair question, who is he?” pursued the brother-in-law.

“Jean-Marie,” answered the Doctor, “combines the functions of a son and stable-boy. He began as the latter, but he rose rapidly to the more honourable rank in our affections. He is, I may say, the greatest comfort in our lives.”

“Ha!” said Casimir. “And previous to becoming one of you?”315

“Jean-Marie has lived a remarkable existence; his experience has been eminently formative,” replied Desprez. “If I had had to choose an education for my son, I should have chosen such another. Beginning life with mountebanks and thieves, passing onward to the society and friendship of philosophers, he may be said to have skimmed the volume of human life.”

“Thieves?” repeated the brother-in-law, with a meditative air.

The Doctor could have bitten his tongue out. He foresaw what was coming, and prepared his mind for a vigorous defence.

“Did you ever steal yourself?” asked Casimir, turning suddenly on Jean-Marie, and for the first time employing a single eyeglass which hung round his neck.

“Yes, sir,” replied the boy, with a deep blush.

Casimir turned to the others with pursed lips, and nodded to them meaningly. “Hey?” said he; “how is that?”

“Jean-Marie is a teller of the truth,” returned the Doctor, throwing out his bust.

“He has never told a lie,” added madame. “He is the best of boys.”

“Never told a lie, has he not?” reflected Casimir. “Strange, very strange. Give me your attention, my young friend,” he continued. “You knew about this treasure?”

“He helped to bring it home,” interposed the Doctor.

“Desprez, I ask you nothing but to hold your tongue,” returned Casimir. “I mean to question this stable-boy of yours; and if you are so certain of his innocence, you can afford to let him answer for himself.—Now, sir,” he resumed, pointing his eyeglass straight at Jean-Marie. “You knew it could be stolen with impunity? You knew you could not be prosecuted? Come! Did you, or did you not?”

“I did,” answered Jean-Marie, in a miserable whisper. He sat there changing colour like a revolving pharos, twist316ing his fingers hysterically, swallowing air, the picture of guilt.

“You knew where it was put?” resumed the inquisitor.

“Yes,” from Jean-Marie.

“You say you have been a thief before,” continued Casimir. “Now, how am I to know that you are not one still? I suppose you could climb the green gate?”

“Yes,” still lower, from the culprit.

“Well, then, it was you who stole these things. You know it, and you dare not deny it. Look me in the face! Raise your sneak’s eyes, and answer!”

But in place of anything of that sort Jean-Marie broke into a dismal howl and fled from the arbour. Anastasie, as she pursued to capture and reassure the victim, found time to send one Parthian arrow—“Casimir, you are a brute!”

“My brother,” said Desprez, with the greatest dignity, “you take upon yourself a licence——”

“Desprez,” interrupted Casimir, “for Heaven’s sake be a man of the world. You telegraph me to leave my business and come down here on yours. I come, I ask the business, you say, ‘Find me this thief!’ Well, I find him; I say ‘There he is!’ You need not like it, but you have no manner of right to take offence.”

“Well,” returned the Doctor, “I grant that; I will even thank you for your mistaken zeal. But your hypothesis was so extravagantly monstrous——”

“Look here,” interrupted Casimir; “was it you or Stasie?”

“Certainly not,” answered the Doctor.

“Very well; then it was the boy. Say no more about it,” said the brother-in-law, and he produced his cigar-case.

“I will say this much more,” returned Desprez: “if that boy came and told me so himself, I should not believe him; and if I did believe him, so implicit is my trust, I should conclude that he had acted for the best.”

“Well, well,” said Casimir indulgently. “Have you a light? I must be going. And by the way, I wish you would317 let me sell your Turks for you. I always told you, it meant smash. I tell you so again. Indeed, it was partly that which brought me down. You never acknowledge my letters—a most unpardonable habit.”

“My good brother,” replied the Doctor blandly, “I have never denied your ability in business; but I can perceive your limitations.”

“Egad, my friend, I can return the compliment,” observed the man of business. “Your limitation is to be downright irrational.”

“Observe the relative position,” returned the Doctor, with a smile. “It is your attitude to believe through thick and thin in one man’s judgment—your own. I follow the same opinion, but critically and with open eyes. Which is the more irrational? I leave it to yourself.”

“Oh, my dear fellow!” cried Casimir, “stick to your Turks, stick to your stable-boy, go to the devil in general in your own way and be done with it. But don’t ratiocinate with me—I cannot bear it. And so, ta-ta. I might as well have stayed away for any good I’ve done. Say good-bye from me to Stasie, and to the sullen hang-dog of a stable-boy, if you insist on it; I’m off.”

And Casimir departed. The Doctor, that night, dissected his character before Anastasie. “One thing, my beautiful,” he said, “he has learned one thing from his lifelong acquaintance with your husband: the word ratiocinate. It shines in his vocabulary like a jewel in a muck-heap. And, even so, he continually misapplies it. For you must have observed he uses it as a sort of taunt, in the sense of to ergotise, implying, as it were—the poor, dear fellow!—a vein of sophistry. As for his cruelty to Jean-Marie, it must be forgiven him—it is not his nature, it is the nature of his life. A man who deals with money, my dear, is a man lost.”

With Jean-Marie the process of reconciliation had been somewhat slow. At first he was inconsolable, insisted on leaving the family, went from paroxysm to paroxysm of318 tears; and it was only after Anastasie had been closeted for an hour with him, alone, that she came forth, sought out the Doctor, and, with tears in her eyes, acquainted that gentleman with what had passed.

“At first, my husband, he would hear of nothing,” she said. “Imagine! if he had left us! what would the treasure be to that? Horrible treasure, it has brought all this about! At last, after he has sobbed his very heart out, he agrees to stay on a condition—we are not to mention this matter, this infamous suspicion, not even to mention the robbery. On that agreement only, the poor, cruel boy will consent to remain among his friends.”

“But this inhibition,” said the Doctor, “this embargo—it cannot possibly apply to me?”

“To all of us,” Anastasie assured him.

“My cherished one,” Desprez protested, “you must have misunderstood. It cannot apply to me. He would naturally come to me.”

“Henri,” she said, “it does; I swear to you it does.”

“This is a painful, a very painful circumstance,” the Doctor said, looking a little black. “I cannot affect, Anastasie, to be anything but justly wounded. I feel this—I feel it, my wife, acutely.”

“I knew you would,” she said. “But if you had seen his distress! We must make allowances, we must sacrifice our feelings.”

“I trust, my dear, you have never found me averse to sacrifices,” said the Doctor very stiffly.

“And you will let me go and tell him that you have agreed? It will be like your noble nature,” she cried.

So it would, he perceived—it would be like his noble nature! Up jumped his spirits, triumphant at the thought. “Go, darling,” he said nobly, “reassure him. The subject is buried; more—I make an effort, I have accustomed my will to these exertions—and it is forgotten.”

A little after, but still with swollen eyes and looking mortally sheepish, Jean-Marie reappeared and went osten319tatiously about his business. He was the only unhappy member of the party that sat down that night to supper. As for the Doctor, he was radiant. He then sang the requiem of the treasure:—

“This has been, on the whole, a most amusing episode,” he said. “We are not a penny the worse—nay, we are immensely gainers. Our philosophy has been exercised; some of the turtle is still left—the most wholesome of delicacies; I have my staff, Anastasie has her new dress, Jean-Marie is the proud possessor of a fashionable képi. Besides, we had a glass of Hermitage last night; the glow still suffuses my memory. I was growing positively niggardly with that Hermitage, positively niggardly. Let me take the hint: we had one bottle to celebrate the appearance of our visionary fortune; let us have a second to console us for its occultation. The third I hereby dedicate to Jean-Marie’s wedding breakfast.”

 

320

CHAPTER VII

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DESPREZ

The Doctor’s house has not yet received the compliment of a description, and it is now high time that the omission were supplied, for the house is itself an actor in the story, and one whose part is nearly at an end. Two stories in height, walls of a warm yellow, tiles of an ancient ruddy brown diversified with moss and lichen, it stood with one wall to the street in the angle of the Doctor’s property. It was roomy, draughty, and inconvenient. The large rafters were here and there engraven with rude marks and patterns; the hand-rail of the stair was carved in countrified arabesque; a stout timber pillar, which did duty to support the dining-room roof, bore mysterious characters on its darker side, runes, according to the Doctor; nor did he fail, when he ran over the legendary history of the house and its possessors, to dwell upon the Scandinavian scholar who had left them. Floors, doors, and rafters made a great variety of angles; every room had a particular inclination; the gable had tilted towards the garden, after the manner of a leaning tower, and one of the former proprietors had buttressed the building from that side with a great strut of wood, like the derrick of a crane. Altogether, it had many marks of ruin; it was a house for the rats to desert; and nothing but its excellent brightness—the window-glass polished and shining, the paint well scoured, the brasses radiant, the very prop all wreathed about with climbing flowers—nothing but its air of a well-tended, smiling veteran, sitting, crutch and all, in the sunny corner of a garden, marked it as a house for comfortable people to inhabit. In poor or idle management it would soon have321 hurried into the blackguard stages of decay. As it was, the whole family loved it, and the Doctor was never better inspired than when he narrated its imaginary story and drew the character of its successive masters, from the Hebrew merchant who had re-edified its walls after the sack of the town, and past the mysterious engraver of the runes, down to the long-headed, dirty-handed boor from whom he had himself acquired it at a ruinous expense. As for any alarm about its security, the idea had never presented itself. What had stood four centuries might well endure a little longer.

Indeed, in this particular winter, after the finding and losing of the treasure, the Desprez had an anxiety of a very different order, and one which lay nearer their hearts. Jean-Marie was plainly not himself. He had fits of hectic activity, when he made unusual exertions to please, spoke more and faster, and redoubled in attention to his lessons. But these were interrupted by spells of melancholia and brooding silence, when the boy was little better than unbearable.

“Silence,” the Doctor moralised—“you see, Anastasie, what comes of silence. Had the boy properly unbosomed himself, the little disappointment about the treasure, the little annoyance about Casimir’s incivility, would long ago have been forgotten. As it is, they prey upon him like a disease. He loses flesh, his appetite is variable and, on the whole, impaired. I keep him on the strictest regimen, I exhibit the most powerful tonics; both in vain.”

“Don’t you think you drug him too much?” asked madame, with an irrepressible shudder.

“Drug?” cried the Doctor; “I drug? Anastasie, you are mad!”

Time went on, and the boy’s health still slowly declined. The Doctor blamed the weather, which was cold and boisterous. He called in his confrère from Bourron, took a fancy for him, magnified his capacity, and was pretty soon under treatment himself—it scarcely appeared for what complaint. He and Jean-Marie had each medicine322 to take at different periods of the day. The Doctor used to lie in wait for the exact moment, watch in hand. “There is nothing like regularity,” he would say, fill out the doses, and dilate on the virtues of the draught; and if the boy seemed none the better, the Doctor was not at all the worse.

Gunpowder Day, the boy was particularly low. It was scowling, squally weather. Huge broken companies of cloud sailed swiftly overhead; raking gleams of sunlight swept the village, and were followed by intervals of darkness and white, flying rain. At times the wind lifted up its voice and bellowed. The trees were all scourging themselves along the meadows, the last leaves flying like dust.

The Doctor, between the boy and the weather, was in his element; he had a theory to prove. He sat with his watch out and a barometer in front of him, waiting for the squalls and noting their effect upon the human pulse. “For the true philosopher,” he remarked delightedly, “every fact in nature is a toy.” A letter came to him; but, as its arrival coincided with the approach of another gust, he merely crammed it into his pocket, gave the time to Jean-Marie, and the next moment they were both counting their pulses as if for a wager.

At nightfall the wind rose into a tempest. It besieged the hamlet, apparently from every side, as if with batteries of cannon; the houses shook and groaned; live coals were blown upon the floor. The uproar and terror of the night kept people long awake, sitting with pallid faces giving ear.

It was twelve before the Desprez family retired. By half-past one, when the storm was already somewhat past its height, the Doctor was awakened from a troubled slumber, and sat up. A noise still rang in his ears, but whether of this world or the world of dreams he was not certain. Another clap of wind followed. It was accompanied by a sickening movement of the whole house, and in the subsequent lull Desprez could hear the tiles pouring like a cataract into the loft above his head. He plucked Anastasie bodily out of bed.323

“Run!” he cried, thrusting some wearing apparel into her hands; “the house is falling! To the garden!”

She did not pause to be twice bidden; she was down the stair in an instant. She had never before suspected herself of such activity. The Doctor meanwhile, with the speed of a piece of pantomime business, and undeterred by broken shins, proceeded to rout out Jean-Marie, tore Aline from her virgin slumbers, seized her by the hand, and tumbled downstairs and into the garden, with the girl tumbling behind him, still not half awake.

The fugitives rendezvoused in the arbour by some common instinct. Then came a bull’s-eye flash of struggling moonshine, which disclosed their four figures standing huddled from the wind in a raffle of flying drapery, and not without a considerable need for more. At the humiliating spectacle Anastasie clutched her night-dress desperately about her and burst loudly into tears. The Doctor flew to console her; but she elbowed him away. She suspected everybody of being the general public, and thought the darkness was alive with eyes.

Another gleam and another violent gust arrived together; the house was seen to rock on its foundation, and, just as the light was once more eclipsed, a crash which triumphed over the shouting of the wind announced its fall, and for a moment the whole garden was alive with skipping tiles and brickbats. One such missile grazed the Doctor’s ear; another descended on the bare foot of Aline, who instantly made night hideous with her shrieks.

By this time the hamlet was alarmed, lights flashed from the windows, hails reached the party, and the Doctor answered, nobly contending against Aline and the tempest. But this prospect of help only awakened Anastasie to a more active stage of terror.

“Henri, people will be coming,” she screamed in her husband’s ear.

“I trust so,” he replied.

“They cannot. I would rather die,” she wailed.324

“My dear,” said the Doctor reprovingly, “you are excited. I gave you some clothes. What have you done with them?”

“Oh, I don’t know—I must have thrown them away! Where are they?” she sobbed.

Desprez groped about in the darkness. “Admirable!” he remarked; “my grey velveteen trousers! This will exactly meet your necessities.”

“Give them to me!” she cried fiercely; but as soon as she had them in her hands her mood appeared to alter—she stood silent for a moment, and then pressed the garment back upon the Doctor. “Give it to Aline,” she said—“poor girl.”

“Nonsense!” said the Doctor. “Aline does not know what she is about. Aline is beside herself with terror; and, at any rate, she is a peasant. Now, I am really concerned at this exposure for a person of your housekeeping habits; my solicitude and your fantastic modesty both point to the same remedy—the pantaloons.” He held them ready.

“It is impossible. You do not understand,” she said with dignity.

By this time rescue was at hand. It had been found impracticable to enter by the street, for the gate was blocked with masonry, and the nodding ruin still threatened further avalanches. But between the Doctor’s garden and the one on the right hand there was that very picturesque contrivance—a common well; the door on the Desprez side had chanced to be unbolted, and now, through the arched aperture, a man’s bearded face and an arm supporting a lantern were introduced into the world of windy darkness, where Anastasie concealed her woes. The light struck here and there among the tossing apple boughs, it glinted on the grass; but the lantern and the glowing face became the centre of the world. Anastasie crouched back from the intrusion.

“This way!” shouted the man. “Are you all safe?”325

Aline, still screaming, ran to the new-comer, and was presently hauled head-foremost through the wall.

“Now, Anastasie, come on; it is your turn,” said the husband.

“I cannot,” she replied.

“Are we all to die of exposure, madame?” thundered Doctor Desprez.

“You can go!” she cried. “Oh, go, go away! I can stay here; I am quite warm.”

The Doctor took her by the shoulders with an oath.

“Stop!” she screamed. “I will put them on.”

She took the detested lendings in her hand once more; but her repulsion was stronger than shame. “Never!” she cried, shuddering, and flung them far away into the night.

Next moment the Doctor had whirled her to the well. The man was there, and the lantern; Anastasie closed her eyes and appeared to herself to be about to die. How she was transported through the arch she knew not; but once on the other side she was received by the neighbour’s wife, and enveloped in a friendly blanket.

Beds were made ready for the two women, clothes of very various sizes for the Doctor and Jean-Marie; and for the remainder of the night, while madame dozed in and out on the borderland of hysterics, her husband sat beside the fire and held forth to the admiring neighbours. He showed them, at length, the causes of the accident; for years, he explained, the fall had been impending; one sign had followed another: the joints had opened, the plaster had cracked, the old walls bowed inward; last, not three weeks ago, the cellar-door had begun to work with difficulty in its grooves. “The cellar!” he said, gravely shaking his head over a glass of mulled wine. “That reminds me of my poor vintages. By a manifest providence the Hermitage was nearly at an end. One bottle—I lose but one bottle of that incomparable wine. It had been set apart against Jean-Marie’s wedding. Well, I must lay down some more;326 it will be an interest in life. I am, however, a man somewhat advanced in years. My great work is now buried in the fall of my humble roof; it will never be completed—my name will have been writ in water. And yet you find me calm—I would say cheerful. Can your priest do more?”

By the first glimpse of day the party sallied forth from the fireside into the street. The wind had fallen, but still charioted a world of troubled clouds; the air bit like frost; and the party, as they stood about the ruins in the rainy twilight of the morning, beat upon their breasts and blew into their hands for warmth. The house had entirely fallen, the walls outward, the roof in; it was a mere heap of rubbish, with here and there a forlorn spear of broken rafter. A sentinel was placed over the ruins to protect the property, and the party adjourned to Tentaillon’s to break their fast at the Doctor’s expense. The bottle circulated somewhat freely; and before they left the table it had begun to snow.

For three days the snow continued to fall, and the ruins, covered with tarpaulin and watched by sentries, were left undisturbed. The Desprez meanwhile had taken up their abode at Tentaillon’s. Madame spent her time in the kitchen, concocting little delicacies, with the admiring aid of Madame Tentaillon, or sitting by the fire in thoughtful abstraction. The fall of the house affected her wonderfully little; that blow had been parried by another; and in her mind she was continually fighting over again the battle of the trousers. Had she done right? Had she done wrong? And now she would applaud her determination; and anon, with a horrid flush of unavailing penitence, she would regret the trousers. No juncture in her life had so much exercised her judgment. In the meantime the Doctor had become vastly pleased with his situation. Two of the summer boarders still lingered behind the rest, prisoners for lack of a remittance; they were both English, but one of them spoke French pretty fluently, and was, besides,327 a humorous, agile-minded fellow, with whom the Doctor could reason by the hour, secure of comprehension. Many were the glasses they emptied, many the topics they discussed.

“Anastasie,” the Doctor said on the third morning, “take an example from your husband, from Jean-Marie! The excitement has done more for the boy than all my tonics, he takes his turn as sentry with positive gusto. As for me, you behold me. I have made friends with the Egyptians; and my Pharaoh is, I swear it, a most agreeable companion. You alone are hipped. About a house—a few dresses? What are they in comparison to the ‘Pharmacopœia’—the labour of years lying buried below stones and sticks in this depressing hamlet? The snow falls; I shake it from my cloak! Imitate me. Our income will be impaired, I grant it, since we must rebuild; but moderation, patience, and philosophy will gather about the hearth. In the meanwhile, the Tentaillons are obliging; the table, with your additions, will pass; only the wine is execrable—well, I shall send for some to-day. My Pharaoh will be gratified to drink a decent glass; aha! and I shall see if he possesses that acme of organisation—a palate. If he has a palate, he is perfect.”

“Henri,” she said, shaking her head, “you are a man; you cannot understand my feelings; no woman could shake off the memory of so public a humiliation.”

The Doctor could not restrain a titter. “Pardon me, darling,” he said; “but really, to the philosophical intelligence, the incident appears so small a trifle. You looked extremely well——”

“Henri!” she cried.

“Well, well, I will say no more,” he replied. “Though, to be sure, if you had consented to indue——À propos,” he broke off, “and my trousers! They are lying in the snow—my favourite trousers!” And he dashed in quest of Jean-Marie.

Two hours afterwards the boy returned to the inn with328 a spade under one arm and a curious sop of clothing under the other.

The Doctor ruefully took it in his hands. “They have been!” he said. “Their tense is past. Excellent pantaloons, you are no more! Stay, something in the pocket,” and he produced a piece of paper. “A letter! ay, now I mind me; it was received on the morning of the gale, when I was absorbed in delicate investigations. It is still legible. From poor dear Casimir! It is as well,” he chuckled, “that I have educated him to patience. Poor Casimir and his correspondence—his infinitesimal, timorous, idiotic correspondence!”

He had by this time cautiously unfolded the wet letter; but, as he bent himself to decipher the writing, a cloud descended on his brow.

Bigre!” he cried, with a galvanic start.

And then the letter was whipped into the fire, and the Doctor’s cap was on his head in the turn of a hand.

“Ten minutes! I can catch it, if I run,” he cried. “It is always late. I go to Paris. I shall telegraph.”

“Henri! what is wrong?” cried his wife.

“Ottoman Bonds!” came from the disappearing Doctor; and Anastasie and Jean-Marie were left face to face with the wet trousers. Desprez had gone to Paris, for the second time in seven years; he had gone to Paris with a pair of wooden shoes, a knitted spencer, a black blouse, a country nightcap, and twenty francs in his pocket. The fall of the house was but a secondary marvel; the whole world might have fallen and scarce left his family more petrified.

 

329

CHAPTER VIII

THE WAGES OF PHILOSOPHY

On the morning of the next day, the Doctor, a mere spectre of himself, was brought back in the custody of Casimir. They found Anastasie and the boy sitting together by the fire; and Desprez, who had exchanged his toilette for a ready-made rig-out of poor materials, waved his hand as he entered, and sank speechless on the nearest chair. Madame turned direct to Casimir.

“What is wrong?” she cried.

“Well,” replied Casimir, “what have I told you all along? It has come. It is a clean shave this time; so you may as well bear up and make the best of it. House down, too, eh? Bad luck, upon my soul!”

“Are we—are we—ruined?” she gasped.

The Doctor stretched out his arms to her. “Ruined,” he replied, “you are ruined by your sinister husband.”

Casimir observed the consequent embrace through his eyeglass; then he turned to Jean-Marie. “You hear?” he said. “They are ruined; no more pickings, no more house, no more fat cutlets. It strikes me, my friend, that you had best be packing; the present speculation is about worked out.” And he nodded to him meaningly.

“Never!” cried Desprez, springing up. “Jean-Marie, if you prefer to leave me, now that I am poor, you can go; you shall receive your hundred francs, if so much remains to me. But if you will consent to stay”—the Doctor wept a little—“Casimir offers me a place—as clerk,” he resumed. “The emoluments are slender, but they will be enough for three. It is too much already to have lost my fortune; must I lose my son?”330

Jean-Marie sobbed bitterly, but without a word.

“I don’t like boys who cry,” observed Casimir. “This one is always crying.—Here! you clear out of this for a little; I have business with your master and mistress, and these domestic feelings may be settled after I am gone. March!” and he held the door open.

Jean-Marie slunk out, like a detected thief.

By twelve they were all at table but Jean-Marie.

“Hey?” said Casimir. “Gone, you see. Took the hint at once.”

“I do not, I confess,” said Desprez, “I do not seek to excuse his absence. It speaks a want of heart that disappoints me sorely.”

“Want of manners,” corrected Casimir. “Heart he never had. Why, Desprez, for a clever fellow, you are the most gullible mortal in creation. Your ignorance of human nature and human business is beyond belief. You are swindled by heathen Turks, swindled by vagabond children, swindled right and left, upstairs and downstairs. I think it must be your imagination. I thank my stars I have none.”

“Pardon me,” replied Desprez, still humbly, but with a return of spirit at sight of a distinction to be drawn; “pardon me, Casimir. You possess, even to an eminent degree, the commercial imagination. It was the lack of that in me—it appears it is my weak point—that has led to these repeated shocks. By the commercial imagination the financier forecasts the destiny of his investments, marks the falling house——”

“Egad,” interrupted Casimir: “our friend the stable-boy appears to have his share of it.”

The Doctor was silenced; and the meal was continued and finished principally to the tune of the brother-in-law’s not very consolatory conversation. He entirely ignored the two young English painters, turning a blind eyeglass to their salutations, and continuing his remarks as if he were alone in the bosom of his family; and with every331 second word he ripped another stitch out of the air-balloon of Desprez’ vanity. By the time coffee was over the poor Doctor was as limp as a napkin.

“Let us go and see the ruins,” said Casimir.

They strolled forth into the street. The fall of the house, like the loss of a front tooth, had quite transformed the village. Through the gap the eye commanded a great stretch of open snowy country, and the place shrank in comparison. It was like a room with an open door. The sentinel stood by the green gate, looking very red and cold, but he had a pleasant word for the Doctor and his wealthy kinsman.

Casimir looked at the mound of ruins, he tried the quality of the tarpaulin. “H’m,” he said, “I hope the cellar arch has stood. If it has, my good brother, I will give you a good price for the wines.”

“We shall start digging to-morrow,” said the sentry. “There is no more fear of snow.”

“My friend,” returned Casimir sententiously, “you had better wait till you get paid.”

The Doctor winced, and began dragging his offensive brother-in-law towards Tentaillon’s. In the house there would be fewer auditors, and these already in the secret of his fall.

“Hullo!” cried Casimir, “there goes the stable-boy with his luggage; no, egad, he is taking it into the inn.”

And sure enough, Jean-Marie was seen to cross the snowy street and enter Tentaillon’s, staggering under a large hamper.

The Doctor stopped with a sudden, wild hope.

“What can he have?” he said. “Let us go and see.” And he hurried on.

“His luggage, to be sure,” answered Casimir. “He is on the move—thanks to the commercial imagination.”

“I have not seen that hamper for—for ever so long,” remarked the Doctor.

“Nor will you see it much longer,” chuckled Casimir,332 “unless, indeed, we interfere. And by the way, I insist on an examination.”

“You will not require,” said Desprez, positively with a sob; and, casting a moist, triumphant glance at Casimir, he began to run.

“What the devil is up with him, I wonder?” Casimir reflected; and then, curiosity taking the upper hand, he followed the Doctor’s example and took to his heels.

The hamper was so heavy and large, and Jean-Marie himself so little and so weary, that it had taken him a great while to bundle it upstairs to the Desprez’ private room; and he had just set it down on the floor in front of Anastasie, when the Doctor arrived, and was closely followed by the man of business. Boy and hamper were both in a most sorry plight; for the one had passed four months underground in a certain cave on the way to Achères, and the other had run about five miles as hard as his legs would carry him, half that distance under a staggering weight.

“Jean-Marie,” cried the Doctor, in a voice that was only too seraphic to be called hysterical, “is it——? It is!” he cried. “Oh, my son, my son!” And he sat down upon the hamper and sobbed like a little child.

“You will not go to Paris now,” said Jean-Marie sheepishly.

“Casimir,” said Desprez, raising his wet face, “do you see that boy, that angel boy? He is the thief; he took the treasure from a man unfit to be entrusted with its use; he brings it back to me when I am sobered and humbled. These, Casimir, are the Fruits of my Teaching, and this moment is the Reward of my Life.”

Tiens,” said Casimir.

 

END OF VOL. VI
 

PRINTED BY CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, LONDON, E.C.


 

No comments:

Post a Comment