THERE never was such an overturn
in this world. Each of these six men
was as though he had been struck.
But with Silver the blow passed
almost instantly. Every thought of
his soul had been set full-stretch,
like a racer, on that money; well,
he was brought up, in a single
second, dead; and he kept his head,
found his temper, and changed his
plan before the others had had time
to realize the disappointment.
"Jim," he whispered, "take that, and
stand by for trouble."
And he passed me a double-barrelled
At the same time, he began quietly
moving northward, and in a few steps
had put the hollow between us two
and the other five. Then he looked
at me and nodded, as much as to say,
"Here is a narrow corner," as,
indeed, I thought it was. His looks
were not quite friendly, and I was
so revolted at these constant
changes that I could not forbear
whispering, "So you've changed sides
There was no time left for him to
answer in. The buccaneers, with
oaths and cries, began to leap, one
after another, into the pit and to
dig with their fingers, throwing the
boards aside as they did so. Morgan
found a piece of gold. He held it up
with a perfect spout of oaths. It
was a two-guinea piece, and it went
from hand to hand among them for a
quarter of a minute.
"Two guineas!" roared Merry, shaking
it at Silver. "That's your seven
hundred thousand pounds, is it?
You're the man for bargains, ain't
you? You're him that never bungled
nothing, you wooden-headed lubber!"
"Dig away, boys," said Silver with
the coolest insolence; "you'll find
some pig-nuts and I shouldn't
"Pig-nuts!" repeated Merry, in a
scream. "Mates, do you hear that? I
tell you now, that man there knew it
all along. Look in the face of him
and you'll see it wrote there."
"Ah, Merry," remarked Silver,
"standing for cap'n again? You're a
pushing lad, to be sure."
But this time everyone was entirely
in Merry's favour. They began to
scramble out of the excavation,
darting furious glances behind them.
One thing I observed, which looked
well for us: they all got out upon
the opposite side from Silver.
Well, there we stood, two on one
side, five on the other, the pit
between us, and nobody screwed up
high enough to offer the first blow.
Silver never moved; he watched them,
very upright on his crutch, and
looked as cool as ever I saw him. He
was brave, and no mistake.
At last Merry seemed to think a
speech might help matters.
"Mates," says he, "there's two of
them alone there; one's the old
cripple that brought us all here and
blundered us down to this; the
other's that cub that I mean to have
the heart of. Now, mates—"
He was raising his arm and his
voice, and plainly meant to lead a
charge. But just then—crack! crack!
crack!—three musket-shots flashed
out of the thicket. Merry tumbled
head foremost into the excavation;
the man with the bandage spun round
like a teetotum and fell all his
length upon his side, where he lay
dead, but still twitching; and the
other three turned and ran for it
with all their might.
Before you could wink, Long John had
fired two barrels of a pistol into
the struggling Merry, and as the man
rolled up his eyes at him in the
last agony, "George," said he, "I
reckon I settled you."
At the same moment, the doctor,
Gray, and Ben Gunn joined us, with
smoking muskets, from among the
"Forward!" cried the doctor. "Double
quick, my lads. We must head 'em off
And we set off at a great pace,
sometimes plunging through the
bushes to the chest.
I tell you, but Silver was anxious
to keep up with us. The work that
man went through, leaping on his
crutch till the muscles of his chest
were fit to burst, was work no sound
man ever equalled; and so thinks the
doctor. As it was, he was already
thirty yards behind us and on the
verge of strangling when we reached
the brow of the slope.
"Doctor," he hailed, "see there! No
Sure enough there was no hurry. In a
more open part of the plateau, we
could see the three survivors still
running in the same direction as
they had started, right for
Mizzenmast Hill. We were already
between them and the boats; and so
we four sat down to breathe, while
Long John, mopping his face, came
slowly up with us.
"Thank ye kindly, doctor," says he.
"You came in in about the nick, I
guess, for me and Hawkins. And so
it's you, Ben Gunn!" he added.
"Well, you're a nice one, to be
"I'm Ben Gunn, I am," replied the
maroon, wriggling like an eel in his
embarrassment. "And," he added,
after a long pause, "how do, Mr.
Silver? Pretty well, I thank ye,
"Ben, Ben," murmured Silver, "to
think as you've done me!"
The doctor sent back Gray for one of
the pick-axes deserted, in their
flight, by the mutineers, and then
as we proceeded leisurely downhill
to where the boats were lying,
related in a few words what had
taken place. It was a story that
profoundly interested Silver; and
Ben Gunn, the half-idiot maroon, was
the hero from beginning to end.
Ben, in his long, lonely wanderings
about the island, had found the
skeleton—it was he that had rifled
it; he had found the treasure; he
had dug it up (it was the haft of
his pick-axe that lay broken in the
excavation); he had carried it on
his back, in many weary journeys,
from the foot of the tall pine to a
cave he had on the two-pointed hill
at the north-east angle of the
island, and there it had lain stored
in safety since two months before
the arrival of the HISPANIOLA.
When the doctor had wormed this
secret from him on the afternoon of
the attack, and when next morning he
saw the anchorage deserted, he had
gone to Silver, given him the chart,
which was now useless—given him the
stores, for Ben Gunn's cave was well
supplied with goats' meat salted by
himself—given anything and
everything to get a chance of moving
in safety from the stockade to the
two-pointed hill, there to be clear
of malaria and keep a guard upon the
"As for you, Jim," he said, "it went
against my heart, but I did what I
thought best for those who had stood
by their duty; and if you were not
one of these, whose fault was it?"
That morning, finding that I was to
be involved in the horrid
disappointment he had prepared for
the mutineers, he had run all the
way to the cave, and leaving the
squire to guard the captain, had
taken Gray and the maroon and
started, making the diagonal across
the island to be at hand beside the
pine. Soon, however, he saw that our
party had the start of him; and Ben
Gunn, being fleet of foot, had been
dispatched in front to do his best
alone. Then it had occurred to him
to work upon the superstitions of
his former shipmates, and he was so
far successful that Gray and the
doctor had come up and were already
ambushed before the arrival of the
"Ah," said Silver, "it were
fortunate for me that I had Hawkins
here. You would have let old John be
cut to bits, and never given it a
"Not a thought," replied Dr. Livesey
And by this time we had reached the
gigs. The doctor, with the pick-axe,
demolished one of them, and then we
all got aboard the other and set out
to go round by sea for North Inlet.
This was a run of eight or nine
miles. Silver, though he was almost
killed already with fatigue, was set
to an oar, like the rest of us, and
we were soon skimming swiftly over a
smooth sea. Soon we passed out of
the straits and doubled the
south-east corner of the island,
round which, four days ago, we had
towed the HISPANIOLA.
As we passed the two-pointed hill,
we could see the black mouth of Ben
Gunn's cave and a figure standing by
it, leaning on a musket. It was the
squire, and we waved a handkerchief
and gave him three cheers, in which
the voice of Silver joined as
heartily as any.
Three miles farther, just inside the
mouth of North Inlet, what should we
meet but the HISPANIOLA, cruising by
herself? The last flood had lifted
her, and had there been much wind or
a strong tide current, as in the
southern anchorage, we should never
have found her more, or found her
stranded beyond help. As it was,
there was little amiss beyond the
wreck of the main-sail. Another
anchor was got ready and dropped in
a fathom and a half of water. We all
pulled round again to Rum Cove, the
nearest point for Ben Gunn's
treasure-house; and then Gray,
single-handed, returned with the gig
to the HISPANIOLA, where he was to
pass the night on guard.
A gentle slope ran up from the beach
to the entrance of the cave. At the
top, the squire met us. To me he was
cordial and kind, saying nothing of
my escapade either in the way of
blame or praise. At Silver's polite
salute he somewhat flushed.
"John Silver," he said, "you're a
prodigious villain and imposter—a
monstrous imposter, sir. I am told I
am not to prosecute you. Well, then,
I will not. But the dead men, sir,
hang about your neck like
"Thank you kindly, sir," replied
Long John, again saluting.
"I dare you to thank me!" cried the
squire. "It is a gross dereliction
of my duty. Stand back."
And thereupon we all entered the
cave. It was a large, airy place,
with a little spring and a pool of
clear water, overhung with ferns.
The floor was sand. Before a big
fire lay Captain Smollett; and in a
far corner, only duskily flickered
over by the blaze, I beheld great
heaps of coin and quadrilaterals
built of bars of gold. That was
Flint's treasure that we had come so
far to seek and that had cost
already the lives of seventeen men
from the HISPANIOLA. How many it had
cost in the amassing, what blood and
sorrow, what good ships scuttled on
the deep, what brave men walking the
plank blindfold, what shot of
cannon, what shame and lies and
cruelty, perhaps no man alive could
tell. Yet there were still three
upon that island—Silver, and old
Morgan, and Ben Gunn—who had each
taken his share in these crimes, as
each had hoped in vain to share in
"Come in, Jim," said the captain.
"You're a good boy in your line,
Jim, but I don't think you and me'll
go to sea again. You're too much of
the born favourite for me. Is that
you, John Silver? What brings you
"Come back to my dooty, sir,"
"Ah!" said the captain, and that was
all he said.
What a supper I had of it that
night, with all my friends around
me; and what a meal it was, with Ben
Gunn's salted goat and some
delicacies and a bottle of old wine
from the HISPANIOLA. Never, I am
sure, were people gayer or happier.
And there was Silver, sitting back
almost out of the firelight, but
eating heartily, prompt to spring
forward when anything was wanted,
even joining quietly in our
laughter—the same bland, polite,
obsequious seaman of the voyage out.