Treasure island, p.20
Treasure Island, p.20Robert Louis Stevenson
“It was Dick,” said one.
“Dick, was it? Then Dick can get to prayers,” said Silver. “He’s seen his slice of luck, has Dick, and you may lay to that.”
But here the long man with the yellow eyes struck in.
“Belay that talk, John Silver,” he said. “This crew has tipped you the black spot in full council, as in dooty bound; just you turn it over, as in dooty bound, and see what’s wrote there. Then you can talk.”
“Thanky, George,” replied the sea-cook. “You always was brisk for business, and has the rules by heart, George, as I’m pleased to see. Well, what is it, anyway? Ah! ‘Deposed’—that’s it, is it? Very pretty wrote, to be sure; like print, I swear. Your hand o’ write George? Why, you was gettin’ quite a leadin’ man in this here crew. You’ll be cap’n next, I shouldn’t wonder. Just oblige me with that torch again, will you? this pipe don’t draw.”
“Come, now,” said George, “you don’t fool this crew no more. You’re a funny man, by your account; but you’re over now, and you’ll maybe step down off that barrel, and help vote.”
“I thought you said you knowed the rules,” returned Silver, contemptuously. “Leastways, if you don’t, I do; and I wait here—and I’m still your cap’n, mind—till you outs with your grievances, and I reply, in the meantime, your black spot ain’t worth a biscuit. After that, we’ll see.”
“Oh,” replied George, “you don’t be under no kind of apprehension; we’re all square, we are. First, you’ve made a hash of this cruise—you’ll be a bold man to say no to that. Second, you let the enemy out o’ this here trap for nothing. Why did they want out? I dunno; but it’s pretty plain they wanted it. Third, you wouldn’t let us go at them upon the march. Oh, we see through you, John Silver; you want to play booty, that’s what’s wrong with you. And then, fourth, there’s this here boy.”
“Is that all?” asked Silver, quietly.
“Enough, too,” retorted George. “We’ll all swing and sun-dry for your bungling.”
“Well, now, look here, I’ll answer these four p’ints; one after another I’ll answer ’em. I made a hash o’ this cruise, did I? Well, now, you all know what I wanted; and you all know, if that had been done, that we’d ‘a’ been aboard the Hispaniola this night as ever was, every man of us alive, and fit, and full of good plum-duff, and the treasure in the hold of her, by thunder! Well, who crossed me? Who forced my hand, as was the lawful cap’n? Who tipped me the black spot the day we landed, and began this dance? Ah, it’s a fine dance—I’m with you there—and looks mighty like a hornpipe in a rope’s end at Execution Dock by London town, it does. But who done it? Why, it was Anderson, and Hands, and you, George Merry! And you’re the last above board of that same meddling crew; and you have the Davy Jones’s insolence to up and stand for cap’n over me—you, that sank the lot of us! By the powers! but this tops the stiffest yarn to nothing.”
Silver paused, and I could see by the faces of George and his late comrades that these words had not been said in vain.
“That’s for number one,” cried the accused, wiping the sweat from his brow, for he had been talking with a vehemence that shook the house. “Why, I give you my word, I’m sick to speak to you. You’ve neither sense nor memory, and I leave it to fancy where your mothers was that let you come to sea. Sea! Gentlemen o’ fortune! I reckon tailors is your trade.”
“Go on, John,” said Morgan. “Speak up to the others.”
“Ah, the others!” returned John. “They’re a nice lot, ain’t they? You say this cruise is bungled. Ah! by gum, if you could understand how bad it’s bungled, you would see! We’re that near the gibbet that my neck’s stiff with thinking on it. You’ve seen ’em, maybe, hanged in chains, birds about ’em, seamen p’inting ’em out as they go down with the tide. ‘Who’s that?’ says one. ‘That! Why, that’s John Silver. I knowed him well,’ says another. And you can hear the chains a-jangle as you go about and reach for the other buoy. Now, that’s about where we are, every mother’s son of us, thanks to him, and Hands, and Anderson, and other ruination fools of you. And if you want to know about number four, and that boy, why, shiver my timbers! isn’t he a hostage? Are we a-going to waste a hostage? No, not us; he might be our last chance, and I shouldn’t wonder. Kill that boy? not me, mates! And number three? Ah, well, there’s a deal to say to number three. Maybe you don’t count it nothing to have a real college doctor 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? And may be, 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 at that? And now I resign, by thunder! Elect whom you please to be your cap’n now; I’m done with it.”
“Silver!” they cried. “Barbecue 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, suc
That was the end of the night’s business. Soon after, with a drink all round, we lay down to sleep, and the outside of Silver’s vengeance was to put George Merry up for sentinel, and threaten him with death if he should prove unfaithful.
It was long ere I could close an eye, and Heaven knows I had matter enough for thought in the man whom I had slain that afternoon, in my own most perilous position, and, above all, in the remarkable game that I saw Silver now engaged upon—keeping the mutineers together with one hand, and grasping, with the other, after every means, possible and impossible, to make his peace and save his miserable life. He himself slept peacefully, and snored aloud; yet my heart was sore for him, wicked as he was, to think on the dark perils that environed, and the shameful gibbet that awaited him.
I was wakened—indeed, we were all wakened, for I could see even the sentinel shake himself together from where he had fallen against the door-post—by a clear, hearty voice hailing us from the margin of the wood:—
“Block-house, ahoy!” it cried. “Here’s the doctor.”
And the doctor it was. Although I was glad to hear the sound, yet my gladness was not without admixture. I remembered with confusion my insubordinate and stealthy conduct; and when I saw where it had brought me—among what companions and surrounded by what dangers—I felt ashamed to look him in the face.
He must have risen in the dark, for the day had hardly come; and when I ran to a loophole and looked out, I saw him standing, like Silver once before, up to the mid-leg in creeping vapour.
“You, doctor! Top o’ the morning to you, sir!” cried Silver, broad awake and beaming with good nature in a moment. “Bright and early, to be sure; and it’s the early bird, as the saying goes, that gets the rations. George, shake up your timbers, son, and help Dr. Livesey over the ship’s side. All a-doin’ well, your patients was—all well and merry.”
So he pattered on, standing on the 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 and lodger, sir, and looking fit and taut as a fiddle; slep’ like a supercargo, he did, right alongside of John—stern 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:—
“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 Doctor Livesey, in his pleasantest way, “I make it a point of honour not to lose a man for King George (God bless him!) and the gallows.”
The rogues looked at each other, but swallowed the home-thrust in silence.
“Dick don’t feel well, sir,” said one.
“Don’t he?” replied the doctor. “Well, step up here, Dick, and let me see your tongue. No, I should be surprised if he did! the man’s tongue is fit to frighten the French. Another fever.”
“Ah, there,” said Morgan, “that corned of sp’iling Bibles.”
“That corned—as you call it—of being arrant asses,” retorted the doctor, “and not having sense enough to know honest air from poison, and the dry land from a vile, pestiferous slough. I think it most probable—though, of course, it’s only an opinion—that you’ll all have the deuce to pay before you get that malaria out of your systems. Camp in a bog, would you? Silver, I’m surprised at you. You’re less of a fool than many, take you all round; but you don’t appear to me to have the rudiments of a notion of the rules of health.
“Well,” he added, after he had dosed them round, and they had taken his prescriptions, with really laughable humility, more like charity 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, although poor born—your word of honour not to slip your cable?”
I readily gave the pledge required.
“Then, doctor,” said Silver, “you just step outside o’ that stockade, and once you’re there, I’ll bring the boy down on the inside, and I reckon you can yarn through the spars. Good day to you, sir, and all our dooties to the squire and Cap’n Smollett.”
The explosion of disapproval, which nothing but Silver’s black looks had restrained, broke out immediately the doctor had left the house. Silver was roundly accused of playing double—of trying to make a separate peace for himself—of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims; and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing. It seemed to me so obvious, in this case, that I could not imagine how he was to turn their anger. But he was twice the man the rest were; and his last night’s victory had given him a huge preponderance on their minds. He called them all the fools and dolts you can imagine, said it was necessary I should talk to the doctor, fluttered the chart in their faces, asked them if they could afford to break the treaty the very day they were bound a-treasure-hunting.
“No, by thunder!” he cried, “it’s us must break the treaty when the time comes; and till then I’ll gammon that doctor, if I have to ile his boots with brandy.”
And then he bade them get the fire lit, and stalked out upon his crutch, with his hand on my shoulder, leaving them in a disarray, and silenced by his volubility rather than convinced.
“Slow, lad, slow,” he said. “They might round upon us in a twinkle of an eye, if we was seen to hurry.”
Very deliberately, then, did we advance across the sand to where the doctor awaited us on the other side of the stockade, and as soon as we were within easy speaking distance, Silver stopped.
“You’ll make a note of this here also, doctor,” says he, “and the boy’ll tell you how I saved his life, and were deposed for it, too, and you may lay to that. Doctor, when a man’s steering as near the wind as me—playing chuck-farthing
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; 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——”
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson / History & Fiction / Actions & Adventure / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes