THE red glare of the torch, lighting
up the interior of the block house,
showed me the worst of my
apprehensions realized. The pirates
were in possession of the house and
stores: there was the cask of
cognac, there were the pork and
bread, as before, and what tenfold
increased my horror, not a sign of
any prisoner. I could only judge
that all had perished, and my heart
smote me sorely that I had not been
there to perish with them.
There were six of the buccaneers,
all told; not another man was left
alive. Five of them were on their
feet, flushed and swollen, suddenly
called out of the first sleep of
drunkenness. The sixth had only
risen upon his elbow; he was deadly
pale, and the blood-stained bandage
round his head told that he had
recently been wounded, and still
more recently dressed. I remembered
the man who had been shot and had
run back among the woods in the
great attack, and doubted not that
this was he.
The parrot sat, preening her
plumage, on Long John's shoulder. He
himself, I thought, looked somewhat
paler and more stern than I was used
to. He still wore the fine
broadcloth suit in which he had
fulfilled his mission, but it was
bitterly the worse for wear, daubed
with clay and torn with the sharp
briers of the wood.
"So," said he, "here's Jim Hawkins,
shiver my timbers! Dropped in, like,
eh? Well, come, I take that
And thereupon he sat down across the
brandy cask and began to fill a
"Give me a loan of the link, Dick,"
said he; and then, when he had a
good light, "That'll do, lad," he
added; "stick the glim in the wood
heap; and you, gentlemen, bring
yourselves to! You needn't stand up
for Mr. Hawkins; HE'LL excuse you,
you may lay to that. And so,
Jim"—stopping the tobacco—"here you
were, and quite a pleasant surprise
for poor old John. I see you were
smart when first I set my eyes on
you, but this here gets away from me
clean, it do."
To all this, as may be well
supposed, I made no answer. They had
set me with my back against the
wall, and I stood there, looking
Silver in the face, pluckily enough,
I hope, to all outward appearance,
but with black despair in my heart.
Silver took a whiff or two of his
pipe with great composure and then
ran on again.
"Now, you see, Jim, so be as you ARE
here," says he, "I'll give you a
piece of my mind. I've always liked
you, I have, for a lad of spirit,
and the picter of my own self when I
was young and handsome. I always
wanted you to jine and take your
share, and die a gentleman, and now,
my cock, you've got to. Cap'n
Smollett's a fine seaman, as I'll
own up to any day, but stiff on
discipline. 'Dooty is dooty,' says
he, and right he is. Just you keep
clear of the cap'n. The doctor
himself is gone dead again
you—'ungrateful scamp' was what he
said; and the short and the long of
the whole story is about here: you
can't go back to your own lot, for
they won't have you; and without you
start a third ship's company all by
yourself, which might be lonely,
you'll have to jine with Cap'n
So far so good. My friends, then,
were still alive, and though I
partly believed the truth of
Silver's statement, that the cabin
party were incensed at me for my
desertion, I was more relieved than
distressed by what I heard.
"I don't say nothing as to your
being in our hands," continued
Silver, "though there you are, and
you may lay to it. I'm all for
argyment; I never seen good come out
o' threatening. If you like the
service, well, you'll jine; and if
you don't, Jim, why, you're free to
answer no—free and welcome,
shipmate; and if fairer can be said
by mortal seaman, shiver my sides!"
"Am I to answer, then?" I asked with
a very tremulous voice. Through all
this sneering talk, I was made to
feel the threat of death that
overhung me, and my cheeks burned
and my heart beat painfully in my
"Lad," said Silver, "no one's
a-pressing of you. Take your
bearings. None of us won't hurry
you, mate; time goes so pleasant in
your company, you see."
"Well," says I, growing a bit
bolder, "if I'm to choose, I declare
I have a right to know what's what,
and why you're here, and where my
"Wot's wot?" repeated one of the
buccaneers in a deep growl. "Ah,
he'd be a lucky one as knowed that!"
"You'll perhaps batten down your
hatches till you're spoke to, my
friend," cried Silver truculently to
this speaker. And then, in his first
gracious tones, he replied to me,
"Yesterday morning, Mr. Hawkins,"
said he, "in the dog-watch, down
came Doctor Livesey with a flag of
truce. Says he, 'Cap'n Silver,
you're sold out. Ship's gone.' Well,
maybe we'd been taking a glass, and
a song to help it round. I won't say
no. Leastways, none of us had looked
out. We looked out, and by thunder,
the old ship was gone! I never seen
a pack o' fools look fishier; and
you may lay to that, if I tells you
that looked the fishiest. 'Well,'
says the doctor, 'let's bargain.' We
bargained, him and I, and here we
are: stores, brandy, block house,
the firewood you was thoughtful
enough to cut, and in a manner of
speaking, the whole blessed boat,
from cross-trees to kelson. As for
them, they've tramped; I don't know
where's they are."
He drew again quietly at his pipe.
"And lest you should take it into
that head of yours," he went on,
"that you was included in the
treaty, here's the last word that
was said: 'How many are you,' says
I, 'to leave?' 'Four,' says he;
'four, and one of us wounded. As for
that boy, I don't know where he is,
confound him,' says he, 'nor I don't
much care. We're about sick of him.'
These was his words.
"Is that all?" I asked.
"Well, it's all that you're to hear,
my son," returned Silver.
"And now I am to choose?"
"And now you are to choose, and you
may lay to that," said Silver.
"Well," said I, "I am not such a
fool but I know pretty well what I
have to look for. Let the worst come
to the worst, it's little I care.
I've seen too many die since I fell
in with you. But there's a thing or
two I have to tell you," I said, and
by this time I was quite excited;
"and the first is this: here you
are, in a bad way—ship lost,
treasure lost, men lost, your whole
business gone to wreck; and if you
want to know who did it—it was I! I
was in the apple barrel the night we
sighted land, and I heard you, John,
and you, Dick Johnson, and Hands,
who is now at the bottom of the sea,
and told every word you said before
the hour was out. And as for the
schooner, it was I who cut her
cable, and it was I that killed the
men you had aboard of her, and it
was I who brought her where you'll
never see her more, not one of you.
The laugh's on my side; I've had the
top of this business from the first;
I no more fear you than I fear a
fly. Kill me, if you please, or
spare me. But one thing I'll say,
and no more; if you spare me,
bygones are bygones, and when you
fellows are in court for piracy,
I'll save you all I can. It is for
you to choose. Kill another and do
yourselves no good, or spare me and
keep a witness to save you from the
I stopped, for, I tell you, I was
out of breath, and to my wonder, not
a man of them moved, but all sat
staring at me like as many sheep.
And while they were still staring, I
broke out again, "And now, Mr.
Silver," I said, "I believe you're
the best man here, and if things go
to the worst, I'll take it kind of
you to let the doctor know the way I
"I'll bear it in mind," said Silver
with an accent so curious that I
could not, for the life of me,
decide whether he were laughing at
my request or had been favourably
affected by my courage.
"I'll put one to that," cried the
old mahogany-faced seaman—Morgan by
name—whom I had seen in Long John's
public-house upon the quays of
Bristol. "It was him that knowed
"Well, and see here," added the
sea-cook. "I'll put another again to
that, by thunder! For it was this
same boy that faked the chart from
Billy Bones. First and last, we've
split upon Jim Hawkins!"
"Then here goes!" said Morgan with
And he sprang up, drawing his knife
as if he had been twenty.
"Avast, there!" cried Silver. "Who
are you, Tom Morgan? Maybe you
thought you was cap'n here, perhaps.
By the powers, but I'll teach you
better! Cross me, and you'll go
where many a good man's gone before
you, first and last, these thirty
year back—some to the yard-arm,
shiver my timbers, and some by the
board, and all to feed the fishes.
There's never a man looked me
between the eyes and seen a good day
a'terwards, Tom Morgan, you may lay
Morgan paused, but a hoarse murmur
rose from the others.
"Tom's right," said one.
"I stood hazing long enough from
one," added another. "I'll be hanged
if I'll be hazed by you, John
"Did any of you gentlemen want to
have it out with ME?" roared Silver,
bending far forward from his
position on the keg, with his pipe
still glowing in his right hand.
"Put a name on what you're at; you
ain't dumb, I reckon. Him that wants
shall get it. Have I lived this many
years, and a son of a rum puncheon
cock his hat athwart my hawse at the
latter end of it? You know the way;
you're all gentlemen o' fortune, by
your account. Well, I'm ready. Take
a cutlass, him that dares, and I'll
see the colour of his inside, crutch
and all, before that pipe's empty."
Not a man stirred; not a man
"That's your sort, is it?" he added,
returning his pipe to his mouth.
"Well, you're a gay lot to look at,
anyway. Not much worth to fight, you
ain't. P'r'aps you can understand
King George's English. I'm cap'n
here by 'lection. I'm cap'n here
because I'm the best man by a long
sea-mile. You won't fight, as
gentlemen o' fortune should; then,
by thunder, you'll obey, and you may
lay to it! I like that boy, now; I
never seen a better boy than that.
He's more a man than any pair of
rats of you in this here house, and
what I say is this: let me see him
that'll lay a hand on him—that's
what I say, and you may lay to it."
There was a long pause after this. I
stood straight up against the wall,
my heart still going like a
sledge-hammer, but with a ray of
hope now shining in my bosom. Silver
leant back against the wall, his
arms crossed, his pipe in the corner
of his mouth, as calm as though he
had been in church; yet his eye kept
wandering furtively, and he kept the
tail of it on his unruly followers.
They, on their part, drew gradually
together towards the far end of the
block house, and the low hiss of
their whispering sounded in my ear
continuously, like a stream. One
after another, they would look up,
and the red light of the torch would
fall for a second on their nervous
faces; but it was not towards me, it
was towards Silver that they turned
"You seem to have a lot to say,"
remarked Silver, spitting far into
the air. "Pipe up and let me hear
it, or lay to."
"Ax your pardon, sir," returned one
of the men; "you're pretty free with
some of the rules; maybe you'll
kindly keep an eye upon the rest.
This crew's dissatisfied; this crew
don't vally bullying a marlin-spike;
this crew has its rights like other
crews, I'll make so free as that;
and by your own rules, I take it we
can talk together. I ax your pardon,
sir, acknowledging you for to be
captaing at this present; but I
claim my right, and steps outside
for a council."
And with an elaborate sea-salute,
this fellow, a long, ill-looking,
yellow-eyed man of five and thirty,
stepped coolly towards the door and
disappeared out of the house. One
after another the rest followed his
example, each making a salute as he
passed, each adding some apology.
"According to rules," said one.
"Forecastle council," said Morgan.
And so with one remark or another
all marched out and left Silver and
me alone with the torch.
The sea-cook instantly removed his
"Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins,"
he said in a steady whisper that was
no more than audible, "you're within
half a plank of death, and what's a
long sight worse, of torture.
They're going to throw me off. But,
you mark, I stand by you through
thick and thin. I didn't mean to;
no, not till you spoke up. I was
about desperate to lose that much
blunt, and be hanged into the
bargain. But I see you was the right
sort. I says to myself, you stand by
Hawkins, John, and Hawkins'll stand
by you. You're his last card, and by
the living thunder, John, he's
yours! Back to back, says I. You
save your witness, and he'll save
I began dimly to understand.
"You mean all's lost?" I asked.
"Aye, by gum, I do!" he answered.
"Ship gone, neck gone—that's the
size of it. Once I looked into that
bay, Jim Hawkins, and seen no
schooner—well, I'm tough, but I gave
out. As for that lot and their
council, mark me, they're outright
fools and cowards. I'll save your
life—if so be as I can—from them.
But, see here, Jim—tit for tat—you
save Long John from swinging."
I was bewildered; it seemed a thing
so hopeless he was asking—he, the
old buccaneer, the ringleader
"What I can do, that I'll do," I
"It's a bargain!" cried Long John.
"You speak up plucky, and by
thunder, I've a chance!"
He hobbled to the torch, where it
stood propped among the firewood,
and took a fresh light to his pipe.
"Understand me, Jim," he said,
returning. "I've a head on my
shoulders, I have. I'm on squire's
side now. I know you've got that
ship safe somewheres. How you done
it, I don't know, but safe it is. I
guess Hands and O'Brien turned soft.
I never much believed in neither of
THEM. Now you mark me. I ask no
questions, nor I won't let others. I
know when a game's up, I do; and I
know a lad that's staunch. Ah, you
that's young—you and me might have
done a power of good together!"
He drew some cognac from the cask
into a tin cannikin.
"Will you taste, messmate?" he
asked; and when I had refused:
"Well, I'll take a drain myself,
Jim," said he. "I need a caulker,
for there's trouble on hand. And
talking o' trouble, why did that
doctor give me the chart, Jim?"
My face expressed a wonder so
unaffected that he saw the
needlessness of further questions.
"Ah, well, he did, though," said he.
"And there's something under that,
no doubt—something, surely, under
that, Jim—bad or good."
And he took another swallow of the
brandy, shaking his great fair head
like a man who looks forward to the