Treasure Island: Chapter XXXIII

Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel

Posted on 2007-05-11, updated at 2007-05-27. By anonymous.


  • Author: Jane Austen

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, aint you? You're him that never bungled
nothing, you wooden-headed lubber!'

`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

But this time everyone 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 Gunn 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

`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 island, 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 the 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 goats' 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

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 the squire to
I 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 Doctor Livesey, cheerily.

And by this time we had reached the gigs. The doctor, with the pick-axe, demolished one
of them, and then we all got aboard the other, and set out to go round by sea for North

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 fire 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 mainsail. 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 millstones.'

`Thank you kindly, sir,' replied Long John, again saluting.

`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 bad 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.

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More on This Book:
  1. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXIV
  2. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXII
  3. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXI
  4. Treasure Island: Chapter XXX
  5. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIX
  6. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVIII
  7. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVII
  8. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVI
  9. Treasure Island: Chapter XXV
  10. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIII
  11. Treasure Island: Chapter XXII
  12. Treasure Island: Chapter XXI
  13. Treasure Island: Chapter XX
  14. Treasure Island: Chapter XIX
  15. Treasure Island: Chapter XVIII
  16. Treasure Island: Chapter XVII
  17. Treasure Island: Chapter XVI
  18. Treasure Island: Chapter XV
  19. Treasure Island: Chapter XIV
  20. Treasure Island: Chapter XIII
  21. Treasure Island: Chapter XI
  22. Treasure Island: Chapter X
  23. Treasure Island: Chapter IX
  24. Treasure Island: Chapter VIII
  25. Treasure Island: Chapter VII
  26. Treasure Island: Chapter VI
  27. Treasure Island: Chapter V
  28. Treasure Island: Chapter IV
  29. Treasure Island: Chapter II
  30. Treasure Island: Chapter III
  31. Treasure Island: Chapter I
  32. Treasure Island: Chapter XII
  33. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIV

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