AS soon as Ben Gunn saw the
colours he came to a halt, stopped
me by the arm, and sat down.
"Now," said he, "there's your
friends, sure enough."
"Far more likely it's the
mutineers," I answered.
"That!" he cried. "Why, in a place
like this, where nobody puts in but
gen'lemen of fortune, Silver would
fly the Jolly Roger, you don't make
no doubt of that. No, that's your
friends. There's been blows too, and
I reckon your friends has had the
best of it; and here they are ashore
in the old stockade, as was made
years and years ago by Flint. Ah, he
was the man to have a headpiece, was
Flint! Barring rum, his match were
never seen. He were afraid of none,
not he; on'y Silver—Silver was that
"Well," said I, "that may be so, and
so be it; all the more reason that I
should hurry on and join my
"Nay, mate," returned Ben, "not you.
You're a good boy, or I'm mistook;
but you're on'y a boy, all told.
Now, Ben Gunn is fly. Rum wouldn't
bring me there, where you're
going—not rum wouldn't, till I see
your born gen'leman and gets it on
his word of honour. And you won't
forget my words; 'A precious sight
(that's what you'll say), a precious
sight more confidence'—and then nips
And he pinched me the third time
with the same air of cleverness.
"And when Ben Gunn is wanted, you
know where to find him, Jim. Just
wheer you found him today. And him
that comes is to have a white thing
in his hand, and he's to come alone.
Oh! And you'll say this: 'Ben Gunn,'
says you, 'has reasons of his own.'"
"Well," said I, "I believe I
understand. You have something to
propose, and you wish to see the
squire or the doctor, and you're to
be found where I found you. Is that
"And when? says you," he added.
"Why, from about noon observation to
about six bells."
"Good," said I, "and now may I go?"
"You won't forget?" he inquired
anxiously. "Precious sight, and
reasons of his own, says you.
Reasons of his own; that's the
mainstay; as between man and man.
Well, then"—still holding me—"I
reckon you can go, Jim. And, Jim, if
you was to see Silver, you wouldn't
go for to sell Ben Gunn? Wild horses
wouldn't draw it from you? No, says
you. And if them pirates camp
ashore, Jim, what would you say but
there'd be widders in the morning?"
Here he was interrupted by a loud
report, and a cannonball came
tearing through the trees and
pitched in the sand not a hundred
yards from where we two were
talking. The next moment each of us
had taken to his heels in a
For a good hour to come frequent
reports shook the island, and balls
kept crashing through the woods. I
moved from hiding-place to
hiding-place, always pursued, or so
it seemed to me, by these terrifying
missiles. But towards the end of the
bombardment, though still I durst
not venture in the direction of the
stockade, where the balls fell
oftenest, I had begun, in a manner,
to pluck up my heart again, and
after a long detour to the east,
crept down among the shore-side
The sun had just set, the sea breeze
was rustling and tumbling in the
woods and ruffling the grey surface
of the anchorage; the tide, too, was
far out, and great tracts of sand
lay uncovered; the air, after the
heat of the day, chilled me through
The HISPANIOLA still lay where she
had anchored; but, sure enough,
there was the Jolly Roger—the black
flag of piracy—flying from her peak.
Even as I looked, there came another
red flash and another report that
sent the echoes clattering, and one
more round-shot whistled through the
air. It was the last of the
I lay for some time watching the
bustle which succeeded the attack.
Men were demolishing something with
axes on the beach near the
stockade—the poor jolly-boat, I
afterwards discovered. Away, near
the mouth of the river, a great fire
was glowing among the trees, and
between that point and the ship one
of the gigs kept coming and going,
the men, whom I had seen so gloomy,
shouting at the oars like children.
But there was a sound in their
voices which suggested rum.
At length I thought I might return
towards the stockade. I was pretty
far down on the low, sandy spit that
encloses the anchorage to the east,
and is joined at half-water to
Skeleton Island; and now, as I rose
to my feet, I saw, some distance
further down the spit and rising
from among low bushes, an isolated
rock, pretty high, and peculiarly
white in colour. It occurred to me
that this might be the white rock of
which Ben Gunn had spoken and that
some day or other a boat might be
wanted and I should know where to
look for one.
Then I skirted among the woods until
I had regained the rear, or
shoreward side, of the stockade, and
was soon warmly welcomed by the
I had soon told my story and began
to look about me. The log-house was
made of unsquared trunks of
pine—roof, walls, and floor. The
latter stood in several places as
much as a foot or a foot and a half
above the surface of the sand. There
was a porch at the door, and under
this porch the little spring welled
up into an artificial basin of a
rather odd kind—no other than a
great ship's kettle of iron, with
the bottom knocked out, and sunk "to
her bearings," as the captain said,
among the sand.
Little had been left besides the
framework of the house, but in one
corner there was a stone slab laid
down by way of hearth and an old
rusty iron basket to contain the
The slopes of the knoll and all the
inside of the stockade had been
cleared of timber to build the
house, and we could see by the
stumps what a fine and lofty grove
had been destroyed. Most of the soil
had been washed away or buried in
drift after the removal of the
trees; only where the streamlet ran
down from the kettle a thick bed of
moss and some ferns and little
creeping bushes were still green
among the sand. Very close around
the stockade—too close for defence,
they said—the wood still flourished
high and dense, all of fir on the
land side, but towards the sea with
a large admixture of live-oaks.
The cold evening breeze, of which I
have spoken, whistled through every
chink of the rude building and
sprinkled the floor with a continual
rain of fine sand. There was sand in
our eyes, sand in our teeth, sand in
our suppers, sand dancing in the
spring at the bottom of the kettle,
for all the world like porridge
beginning to boil. Our chimney was a
square hole in the roof; it was but
a little part of the smoke that
found its way out, and the rest
eddied about the house and kept us
coughing and piping the eye.
Add to this that Gray, the new man,
had his face tied up in a bandage
for a cut he had got in breaking
away from the mutineers and that
poor old Tom Redruth, still
unburied, lay along the wall, stiff
and stark, under the Union Jack.
If we had been allowed to sit idle,
we should all have fallen in the
blues, but Captain Smollett was
never the man for that. All hands
were called up before him, and he
divided us into watches. The doctor
and Gray and I for one; the squire,
Hunter, and Joyce upon the other.
Tired though we all were, two were
sent out for firewood; two more were
set to dig a grave for Redruth; the
doctor was named cook; I was put
sentry at the door; and the captain
himself went from one to another,
keeping up our spirits and lending a
hand wherever it was wanted.
From time to time the doctor came to
the door for a little air and to
rest his eyes, which were almost
smoked out of his head, and whenever
he did so, he had a word for me.
"That man Smollett," he said once,
"is a better man than I am. And when
I say that it means a deal, Jim."
Another time he came and was silent
for a while. Then he put his head on
one side, and looked at me.
"Is this Ben Gunn a man?" he asked.
"I do not know, sir," said I. "I am
not very sure whether he's sane."
"If there's any doubt about the
matter, he is," returned the doctor.
"A man who has been three years
biting his nails on a desert island,
Jim, can't expect to appear as sane
as you or me. It doesn't lie in
human nature. Was it cheese you said
he had a fancy for?"
"Yes, sir, cheese," I answered.
"Well, Jim," says he, "just see the
good that comes of being dainty in
your food. You've seen my snuff-box,
haven't you? And you never saw me
take snuff, the reason being that in
my snuff-box I carry a piece of
Parmesan cheese—a cheese made in
Italy, very nutritious. Well, that's
for Ben Gunn!"
Before supper was eaten we buried
old Tom in the sand and stood round
him for a while bare-headed in the
breeze. A good deal of firewood had
been got in, but not enough for the
captain's fancy, and he shook his
head over it and told us we "must
get back to this tomorrow rather
livelier." Then, when we had eaten
our pork and each had a good stiff
glass of brandy grog, the three
chiefs got together in a corner to
discuss our prospects.
It appears they were at their wits'
end what to do, the stores being so
low that we must have been starved
into surrender long before help
came. But our best hope, it was
decided, was to kill off the
buccaneers until they either hauled
down their flag or ran away with the
HISPANIOLA. From nineteen they were
already reduced to fifteen, two
others were wounded, and one at
least—the man shot beside the
gun—severely wounded, if he were not
dead. Every time we had a crack at
them, we were to take it, saving our
own lives, with the extremest care.
And besides that, we had two able
allies—rum and the climate.
As for the first, though we were
about half a mile away, we could
hear them roaring and singing late
into the night; and as for the
second, the doctor staked his wig
that, camped where they were in the
marsh and unprovided with remedies,
the half of them would be on their
backs before a week.
"So," he added, "if we are not all
shot down first they'll be glad to
be packing in the schooner. It's
always a ship, and they can get to
buccaneering again, I suppose."
"First ship that ever I lost," said
I was dead tired, as you may fancy;
and when I got to sleep, which was
not till after a great deal of
tossing, I slept like a log of wood.
The rest had long been up and had
already breakfasted and increased
the pile of firewood by about half
as much again when I was wakened by
a bustle and the sound of voices.
"Flag of truce!" I heard someone
say; and then, immediately after,
with a cry of surprise, "Silver
And at that, up I jumped, and
rubbing my eyes, ran to a loophole
in the wall.