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
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 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
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
"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
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 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
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
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
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 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 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
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
"For a long time, though I certainly
did my best to listen, I could hear
nothing but a low gattling; but at
last the voices began to grow
higher, and I could pick up a word
or two, mostly oaths, from the
"No, no, no, no; and an end of it!"
he cried once. And again, "If it
comes to swinging, swing all, say
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 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
"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
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
"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 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; 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
"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 recognized 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
"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 headforemost out of the
grave. Now, Mr. Bones—"
"That's not my name," he
"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 death."
And with that he went off to see my
father, taking me with him by the
"This is nothing," he said as soon
as he had closed the door. "I have
drawn blood enough to keep him quiet
awhile; he should lie for a week
where he is—that is the best thing
for him and you; but another stroke
would settle him."