I WAS so pleased at having given the
slip to Long John that I began to
enjoy myself and look around me with
some interest on the strange land
that I was in.
I had crossed a marshy tract full of
willows, bulrushes, and odd,
outlandish, swampy trees; and I had
now come out upon the skirts of an
open piece of undulating, sandy
country, about a mile long, dotted
with a few pines and a great number
of contorted trees, not unlike the
oak in growth, but pale in the
foliage, like willows. On the far
side of the open stood one of the
hills, with two quaint, craggy peaks
shining vividly in the sun.
I now felt for the first time the
joy of exploration. The isle was
uninhabited; my shipmates I had left
behind, and nothing lived in front
of me but dumb brutes and fowls. I
turned hither and thither among the
trees. Here and there were flowering
plants, unknown to me; here and
there I saw snakes, and one raised
his head from a ledge of rock and
hissed at me with a noise not unlike
the spinning of a top. Little did I
suppose that he was a deadly enemy
and that the noise was the famous
Then I came to a long thicket of
these oaklike trees—live, or
evergreen, oaks, I heard afterwards
they should be called—which grew low
along the sand like brambles, the
boughs curiously twisted, the
foliage compact, like thatch. The
thicket stretched down from the top
of one of the sandy knolls,
spreading and growing taller as it
went, until it reached the margin of
the broad, reedy fen, through which
the nearest of the little rivers
soaked its way into the anchorage.
The marsh was steaming in the strong
sun, and the outline of the
Spy-glass trembled through the haze.
All at once there began to go a sort
of bustle among the bulrushes; a
wild duck flew up with a quack,
another followed, and soon over the
whole surface of the marsh a great
cloud of birds hung screaming and
circling in the air. I judged at
once that some of my shipmates must
be drawing near along the borders of
the fen. Nor was I deceived, for
soon I heard the very distant and
low tones of a human voice, which,
as I continued to give ear, grew
steadily louder and nearer.
This put me in a great fear, and I
crawled under cover of the nearest
live-oak and squatted there,
hearkening, as silent as a mouse.
Another voice answered, and then the
first voice, which I now recognized
to be Silver's, once more took up
the story and ran on for a long
while in a stream, only now and
again interrupted by the other. By
the sound they must have been
talking earnestly, and almost
fiercely; but no distinct word came
to my hearing.
At last the speakers seemed to have
paused and perhaps to have sat down,
for not only did they cease to draw
any nearer, but the birds themselves
began to grow more quiet and to
settle again to their places in the
And now I began to feel that I was
neglecting my business, that since I
had been so foolhardy as to come
ashore with these desperadoes, the
least I could do was to overhear
them at their councils, and that my
plain and obvious duty was to draw
as close as I could manage, under
the favourable ambush of the
I could tell the direction of the
speakers pretty exactly, not only by
the sound of their voices but by the
behaviour of the few birds that
still hung in alarm above the heads
of the intruders.
Crawling on all fours, I made
steadily but slowly towards them,
till at last, raising my head to an
aperture among the leaves, I could
see clear down into a little green
dell beside the marsh, and closely
set about with trees, where Long
John Silver and another of the crew
stood face to face in conversation.
The sun beat full upon them. Silver
had thrown his hat beside him on the
ground, and his great, smooth, blond
face, all shining with heat, was
lifted to the other man's in a kind
"Mate," he was saying, "it's because
I thinks gold dust of you—gold dust,
and you may lay to that! If I hadn't
took to you like pitch, do you think
I'd have been here a-warning of you?
All's up—you can't make nor mend;
it's to save your neck that I'm
a-speaking, and if one of the wild
uns knew it, where'd I be, Tom—now,
tell me, where'd I be?"
"Silver," said the other man—and I
observed he was not only red in the
face, but spoke as hoarse as a crow,
and his voice shook too, like a taut
rope—"Silver," says he, "you're old,
and you're honest, or has the name
for it; and you've money too, which
lots of poor sailors hasn't; and
you're brave, or I'm mistook. And
will you tell me you'll let yourself
be led away with that kind of a mess
of swabs? Not you! As sure as God
sees me, I'd sooner lose my hand. If
I turn agin my dooty—"
And then all of a sudden he was
interrupted by a noise. I had found
one of the honest hands—well, here,
at that same moment, came news of
another. Far away out in the marsh
there arose, all of a sudden, a
sound like the cry of anger, then
another on the back of it; and then
one horrid, long-drawn scream. The
rocks of the Spy-glass re-echoed it
a score of times; the whole troop of
marsh-birds rose again, darkening
heaven, with a simultaneous whirr;
and long after that death yell was
still ringing in my brain, silence
had re-established its empire, and
only the rustle of the redescending
birds and the boom of the distant
surges disturbed the languor of the
Tom had leaped at the sound, like a
horse at the spur, but Silver had
not winked an eye. He stood where he
was, resting lightly on his crutch,
watching his companion like a snake
about to spring.
"John!" said the sailor, stretching
out his hand.
"Hands off!" cried Silver, leaping
back a yard, as it seemed to me,
with the speed and security of a
"Hands off, if you like, John
Silver," said the other. "It's a
black conscience that can make you
feared of me. But in heaven's name,
tell me, what was that?"
"That?" returned Silver, smiling
away, but warier than ever, his eye
a mere pin-point in his big face,
but gleaming like a crumb of glass.
"That? Oh, I reckon that'll be
And at this point Tom flashed out
like a hero.
"Alan!" he cried. "Then rest his
soul for a true seaman! And as for
you, John Silver, long you've been a
mate of mine, but you're mate of
mine no more. If I die like a dog,
I'll die in my dooty. You've killed
Alan, have you? Kill me too, if you
can. But I defies you."
And with that, this brave fellow
turned his back directly on the cook
and set off walking for the beach.
But he was not destined to go far.
With a cry John seized the branch of
a tree, whipped the crutch out of
his armpit, and sent that uncouth
missile hurtling through the air. It
struck poor Tom, point foremost, and
with stunning violence, right
between the shoulders in the middle
of his back. His hands flew up, he
gave a sort of gasp, and fell.
Whether he were injured much or
little, none could ever tell. Like
enough, to judge from the sound, his
back was broken on the spot. But he
had no time given him to recover.
Silver, agile as a monkey even
without leg or crutch, was on the
top of him next moment and had twice
buried his knife up to the hilt in
that defenceless body. From my place
of ambush, I could hear him pant
aloud as he struck the blows.
I do not know what it rightly is to
faint, but I do know that for the
next little while the whole world
swam away from before me in a
whirling mist; Silver and the birds,
and the tall Spy-glass hilltop,
going round and round and
topsy-turvy before my eyes, and all
manner of bells ringing and distant
voices shouting in my ear.
When I came again to myself the
monster had pulled himself together,
his crutch under his arm, his hat
upon his head. Just before him Tom
lay motionless upon the sward; but
the murderer minded him not a whit,
cleansing his blood-stained knife
the while upon a wisp of grass.
Everything else was unchanged, the
sun still shining mercilessly on the
steaming marsh and the tall pinnacle
of the mountain, and I could scarce
persuade myself that murder had been
actually done and a human life
cruelly cut short a moment since
before my eyes.
But now John put his hand into his
pocket, brought out a whistle, and
blew upon it several modulated
blasts that rang far across the
heated air. I could not tell, of
course, the meaning of the signal,
but it instantly awoke my fears.
More men would be coming. I might be
discovered. They had already slain
two of the honest people; after Tom
and Alan, might not I come next?
Instantly I began to extricate
myself and crawl back again, with
what speed and silence I could
manage, to the more open portion of
the wood. As I did so, I could hear
hails coming and going between the
old buccaneer and his comrades, and
this sound of danger lent me wings.
As soon as I was clear of the
thicket, I ran as I never ran
before, scarce minding the direction
of my flight, so long as it led me
from the murderers; and as I ran,
fear grew and grew upon me until it
turned into a kind of frenzy.
Indeed, could anyone be more
entirely lost than I? When the gun
fired, how should I dare to go down
to the boats among those fiends,
still smoking from their crime?
Would not the first of them who saw
me wring my neck like a snipe's?
Would not my absence itself be an
evidence to them of my alarm, and
therefore of my fatal knowledge? It
was all over, I thought. Good-bye to
the HISPANIOLA; good-bye to the
squire, the doctor, and the captain!
There was nothing left for me but
death by starvation or death by the
hands of the mutineers.
All this while, as I say, I was
still running, and without taking
any notice, I had drawn near to the
foot of the little hill with the two
peaks and had got into a part of the
island where the live-oaks grew more
widely apart and seemed more like
forest trees in their bearing and
dimensions. Mingled with these were
a few scattered pines, some fifty,
some nearer seventy, feet high. The
air too smelt more freshly than down
beside the marsh.
And here a fresh alarm brought me to
a standstill with a thumping heart.