Author: Jane Austen
Format: online reading
Posted on 2007-05-11, updated at 2007-05-27. By anonymous.
- Author: Jane Austen
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 boar-frost, the ripple lapping softly on the stones, the sun still low and only
touching the hilltops 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 upstairs 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.
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 kit 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 the 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 answer 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 the the stranger was mistaken, even supposing he meant who 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 no 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 a 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 such 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 made 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 shipmate 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
`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 voice: 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 forme' streaming blood from the left shoulder. Just at the
door, that 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 that 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 staring 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 that 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
downstairs 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
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 upstairs 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, you 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 sinewy 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
`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
`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 upstairs, 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
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.'
- Treasure Island: Chapter XVIII
- Treasure Island: Chapter XVII
- Treasure Island: Chapter XVI
- Treasure Island: Chapter XV
- Treasure Island: Chapter XIV
- Treasure Island: Chapter XIII
- Treasure Island: Chapter XI
- Treasure Island: Chapter X
- Treasure Island: Chapter IX
- Treasure Island: Chapter VIII
- Treasure Island: Chapter VII
- Treasure Island: Chapter VI
- Treasure Island: Chapter V
- Treasure Island: Chapter IV
- Treasure Island: Chapter III
- Treasure Island: Chapter I
- Treasure Island: Chapter XII
- Treasure Island: Chapter XXIV
- Ebooks list page : 86
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XXIV
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter I
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter III
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter IV
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter V
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter VI
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter VII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter VIII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter IX
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter X
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XI
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XIII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XIV
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XV
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XVI
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XVII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XVIII
- 2007-05-11Treasure Island: Chapter XIX
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