FROM the side of the hill, which was
here steep and stony, a spout of
gravel was dislodged and fell
rattling and bounding through the
trees. My eyes turned instinctively
in that direction, and I saw a
figure leap with great rapidity
behind the trunk of a pine. What it
was, whether bear or man or monkey,
I could in no wise tell. It seemed
dark and shaggy; more I knew not.
But the terror of this new
apparition brought me to a stand.
I was now, it seemed, cut off upon
both sides; behind me the murderers,
before me this lurking nondescript.
And immediately I began to prefer
the dangers that I knew to those I
knew not. Silver himself appeared
less terrible in contrast with this
creature of the woods, and I turned
on my heel, and looking sharply
behind me over my shoulder, began to
retrace my steps in the direction of
Instantly the figure reappeared, and
making a wide circuit, began to head
me off. I was tired, at any rate;
but had I been as fresh as when I
rose, I could see it was in vain for
me to contend in speed with such an
adversary. From trunk to trunk the
creature flitted like a deer,
running manlike on two legs, but
unlike any man that I had ever seen,
stooping almost double as it ran.
Yet a man it was, I could no longer
be in doubt about that.
I began to recall what I had heard
of cannibals. I was within an ace of
calling for help. But the mere fact
that he was a man, however wild, had
somewhat reassured me, and my fear
of Silver began to revive in
proportion. I stood still,
therefore, and cast about for some
method of escape; and as I was so
thinking, the recollection of my
pistol flashed into my mind. As soon
as I remembered I was not
defenceless, courage glowed again in
my heart and I set my face
resolutely for this man of the
island and walked briskly towards
He was concealed by this time behind
another tree trunk; but he must have
been watching me closely, for as
soon as I began to move in his
direction he reappeared and took a
step to meet me. Then he hesitated,
drew back, came forward again, and
at last, to my wonder and confusion,
threw himself on his knees and held
out his clasped hands in
At that I once more stopped.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Ben Gunn," he answered, and his
voice sounded hoarse and awkward,
like a rusty lock. "I'm poor Ben
Gunn, I am; and I haven't spoke with
a Christian these three years."
I could now see that he was a white
man like myself and that his
features were even pleasing. His
skin, wherever it was exposed, was
burnt by the sun; even his lips were
black, and his fair eyes looked
quite startling in so dark a face.
Of all the beggar-men that I had
seen or fancied, he was the chief
for raggedness. He was clothed with
tatters of old ship's canvas and old
sea-cloth, and this extraordinary
patchwork was all held together by a
system of the most various and
incongruous fastenings, brass
buttons, bits of stick, and loops of
tarry gaskin. About his waist he
wore an old brass-buckled leather
belt, which was the one thing solid
in his whole accoutrement.
"Three years!" I cried. "Were you
"Nay, mate," said he; "marooned."
I had heard the word, and I knew it
stood for a horrible kind of
punishment common enough among the
buccaneers, in which the offender is
put ashore with a little powder and
shot and left behind on some
desolate and distant island.
"Marooned three years agone," he
continued, "and lived on goats since
then, and berries, and oysters.
Wherever a man is, says I, a man can
do for himself. But, mate, my heart
is sore for Christian diet. You
mightn't happen to have a piece of
cheese about you, now? No? Well,
many's the long night I've dreamed
of cheese—toasted, mostly—and woke
up again, and here I were."
"If ever I can get aboard again,"
said I, "you shall have cheese by
All this time he had been feeling
the stuff of my jacket, smoothing my
hands, looking at my boots, and
generally, in the intervals of his
speech, showing a childish pleasure
in the presence of a fellow
creature. But at my last words he
perked up into a kind of startled
"If ever you can get aboard again,
says you?" he repeated. "Why, now,
who's to hinder you?"
"Not you, I know," was my reply.
"And right you was," he cried. "Now
you—what do you call yourself,
"Jim," I told him.
"Jim, Jim," says he, quite pleased
apparently. "Well, now, Jim, I've
lived that rough as you'd be ashamed
to hear of. Now, for instance, you
wouldn't think I had had a pious
mother—to look at me?" he asked.
"Why, no, not in particular," I
"Ah, well," said he, "but I
had—remarkable pious. And I was a
civil, pious boy, and could rattle
off my catechism that fast, as you
couldn't tell one word from another.
And here's what it come to, Jim, and
it begun with chuck-farthen on the
blessed grave-stones! That's what it
begun with, but it went further'n
that; and so my mother told me, and
predicked the whole, she did, the
pious woman! But it were Providence
that put me here. I've thought it
all out in this here lonely island,
and I'm back on piety. You don't
catch me tasting rum so much, but
just a thimbleful for luck, of
course, the first chance I have. I'm
bound I'll be good, and I see the
way to. And, Jim"—looking all round
him and lowering his voice to a
I now felt sure that the poor fellow
had gone crazy in his solitude, and
I suppose I must have shown the
feeling in my face, for he repeated
the statement hotly: "Rich! Rich! I
says. And I'll tell you what: I'll
make a man of you, Jim. Ah, Jim,
you'll bless your stars, you will,
you was the first that found me!"
And at this there came suddenly a
lowering shadow over his face, and
he tightened his grasp upon my hand
and raised a forefinger
threateningly before my eyes.
"Now, Jim, you tell me true: that
ain't Flint's ship?" he asked.
At this I had a happy inspiration. I
began to believe that I had found an
ally, and I answered him at once.
"It's not Flint's ship, and Flint is
dead; but I'll tell you true, as you
ask me—there are some of Flint's
hands aboard; worse luck for the
rest of us."
"Not a man—with one—leg?" he gasped.
"Silver?" I asked.
"Ah, Silver!" says he. "That were
"He's the cook, and the ringleader
He was still holding me by the
wrist, and at that he give it quite
"If you was sent by Long John," he
said, "I'm as good as pork, and I
know it. But where was you, do you
I had made my mind up in a moment,
and by way of answer told him the
whole story of our voyage and the
predicament in which we found
ourselves. He heard me with the
keenest interest, and when I had
done he patted me on the head.
"You're a good lad, Jim," he said;
"and you're all in a clove hitch,
ain't you? Well, you just put your
trust in Ben Gunn—Ben Gunn's the man
to do it. Would you think it likely,
now, that your squire would prove a
liberal-minded one in case of
help—him being in a clove hitch, as
I told him the squire was the most
liberal of men.
"Aye, but you see," returned Ben
Gunn, "I didn't mean giving me a
gate to keep, and a suit of livery
clothes, and such; that's not my
mark, Jim. What I mean is, would he
be likely to come down to the toon
of, say one thousand pounds out of
money that's as good as a man's own
"I am sure he would," said I. "As it
was, all hands were to share."
"AND a passage home?" he added with
a look of great shrewdness.
"Why," I cried, "the squire's a
gentleman. And besides, if we got
rid of the others, we should want
you to help work the vessel home."
"Ah," said he, "so you would." And
he seemed very much relieved.
"Now, I'll tell you what," he went
on. "So much I'll tell you, and no
more. I were in Flint's ship when he
buried the treasure; he and six
along—six strong seamen. They was
ashore nigh on a week, and us
standing off and on in the old
WALRUS. One fine day up went the
signal, and here come Flint by
himself in a little boat, and his
head done up in a blue scarf. The
sun was getting up, and mortal white
he looked about the cutwater. But,
there he was, you mind, and the six
all dead—dead and buried. How he
done it, not a man aboard us could
make out. It was battle, murder, and
sudden death, leastways—him against
six. Billy Bones was the mate; Long
John, he was quartermaster; and they
asked him where the treasure was.
'Ah,' says he, 'you can go ashore,
if you like, and stay,' he says;
'but as for the ship, she'll beat up
for more, by thunder!' That's what
"Well, I was in another ship three
years back, and we sighted this
island. 'Boys,' said I, 'here's
Flint's treasure; let's land and
find it.' The cap'n was displeased
at that, but my messmates were all
of a mind and landed. Twelve days
they looked for it, and every day
they had the worse word for me,
until one fine morning all hands
went aboard. 'As for you, Benjamin
Gunn,' says they, 'here's a musket,'
they says, 'and a spade, and
pick-axe. You can stay here and find
Flint's money for yourself,' they
"Well, Jim, three years have I been
here, and not a bite of Christian
diet from that day to this. But now,
you look here; look at me. Do I look
like a man before the mast? No, says
you. Nor I weren't, neither, I
And with that he winked and pinched
"Just you mention them words to your
squire, Jim," he went on. "Nor he
weren't, neither—that's the words.
Three years he were the man of this
island, light and dark, fair and
rain; and sometimes he would maybe
think upon a prayer (says you), and
sometimes he would maybe think of
his old mother, so be as she's alive
(you'll say); but the most part of
Gunn's time (this is what you'll
say)—the most part of his time was
took up with another matter. And
then you'll give him a nip, like I
And he pinched me again in the most
"Then," he continued, "then you'll
up, and you'll say this: Gunn is a
good man (you'll say), and he puts a
precious sight more confidence—a
precious sight, mind that—in a
gen'leman born than in these
gen'leman of fortune, having been
"Well," I said, "I don't understand
one word that you've been saying.
But that's neither here nor there;
for how am I to get on board?"
"Ah," said he, "that's the hitch,
for sure. Well, there's my boat,
that I made with my two hands. I
keep her under the white rock. If
the worst come to the worst, we
might try that after dark. Hi!" he
broke out. "What's that?"
For just then, although the sun had
still an hour or two to run, all the
echoes of the island awoke and
bellowed to the thunder of a cannon.
"They have begun to fight!" I cried.
And I began to run towards the
anchorage, my terrors all forgotten,
while close at my side the marooned
man in his goatskins trotted easily
"Left, left," says he; "keep to your
left hand, mate Jim! Under the trees
with you! Theer's where I killed my
first goat. They don't come down
here now; they're all mastheaded on
them mountings for the fear of
Benjamin Gunn. Ah! And there's the
cetemery"—cemetery, he must have
meant. "You see the mounds? I come
here and prayed, nows and thens,
when I thought maybe a Sunday would
be about doo. It weren't quite a
chapel, but it seemed more solemn
like; and then, says you, Ben Gunn
was short-handed—no chapling, nor so
much as a Bible and a flag, you
So he kept talking as I ran, neither
expecting nor receiving any answer.
The cannon-shot was followed after a
considerable interval by a volley of
Another pause, and then, not a
quarter of a mile in front of me, I
beheld the Union Jack flutter in the
air above a wood.