Treasure Island: Chapter XX

Author: Jane Austen

Format: online reading

Category: Novel

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


  • Author: Jane Austen

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

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.

`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. 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 aint 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. 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 at caught you i 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

`Well, here it is,' said Silver. `We want that treasure, an 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 aint 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.

`Like enough,' said he. `I would set no limits to what gentlemen might consider
shipshape, 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 aint 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
blockhouse 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. 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'd 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.

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More on This Book:
  1. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXIV
  2. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXIII
  3. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXII
  4. Treasure Island: Chapter XXXI
  5. Treasure Island: Chapter XXX
  6. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIX
  7. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVIII
  8. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVII
  9. Treasure Island: Chapter XXVI
  10. Treasure Island: Chapter XXV
  11. Treasure Island: Chapter XXIII
  12. Treasure Island: Chapter XXII
  13. Treasure Island: Chapter XXI
  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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