The Old Sea-dog at the "Admiral Benbow"
QUIRE TRELAWNEY, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island
, and that only because there is still treasure
not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace
17__ and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.
him as if it were yesterday, as he came plodding to the inn door, his sea-chest following behind him in a hand-barrow-a tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man, his tarry
pigtail falling over the shoulder of his soiled blue coat, his hands ragged
and scarred, with black, broken nails, and the sabre cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid
white. I remember
him looking round the cover and whistling to himself as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song that he sang so often afterwards:
"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
in the high, old tottering voice that seemed to have been tuned and broken at the capstan bars. Then he rapped on the door with a bit of stick like a handspike that he carried, and when my father appeared, called roughly for a glass of rum. This, when it was brought to him, he drank slowly, like a connoisseur
, lingering on the taste and still looking about him at the cliffs and up at our signboard.
"This is a handy cove
," says he at length
; "and a pleasant
sittyated grog-shop. Much company, mate?"
My father told him no, very little company, the more was the pity
"Well, then," said he, "this is the berth
for me. Here you, matey," he cried to the man who trundled the barrow; "bring up alongside and help up my chest. I'll stay here a bit," he continued. "I'm a plain
man; rum and bacon and eggs is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships off. What you mought call me? You mought call me captain. Oh, I see what you're at-there"; and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold
. "You can tell me when I've worked through
that," says he, looking as fierce
as a commander
And indeed bad as his clothes were and coarsely as he spoke
, he had none of the appearance
of a man who sailed before the mast, but seemed like a mate or skipper accustomed
to be obeyed or to strike
. The man who came with the barrow told us the mail had set him down the morning before at the Royal George, that he had inquired what inns there were along the coast
, and hearing ours well spoken of, I suppose
, and described as lonely
, had chosen it from the others for his place of residence
. And that was all we could learn of our guest.
He was a very silent man by custom
. All day he hung round the cove
or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope
; all evening he sat in a corner
of the parlour next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce
and blow through
his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned
to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll
he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought
it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous
them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast
road for Bristol) he would look in at him through
the curtained door before he entered the parlour; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter
, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside
one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment
he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage
, he would only blow through
his nose at me and stare
me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat
his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg."
How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely
tell you. On stormy
nights, when the wind shook the four corners of the house and the surf roared along the cove
and up the cliffs, I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical
expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous
kind of a creature
who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap
and run and pursue
me over hedge
was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape
of these abominable
But though I was so terrified by the idea of the seafaring man with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when he took a deal more rum and water than his head would carry
; and then he would sometimes sit and sing his wicked
, old, wild sea-songs, minding nobody; but sometimes he would call for glasses round and force
all the trembling company to listen to his stories or bear a chorus
to his singing. Often I have heard the house shaking with "Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum," all the neighbours joining in for dear life, with the fear of death upon them, and each singing louder than the other to avoid
. For in these fits he was the most overriding companion
ever known; he would slap his hand on the table
all round; he would fly up in a passion
of anger at a question, or sometimes because none was put, and so he judged the company was not following his story. Nor would he allow
anyone to leave the inn till
he had drunk himself sleepy and reeled off to bed.
His stories were what frightened
people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were-about hanging, and walking the plank
, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account
he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea, and the language
in which he told these stories shocked our plain
country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined
, for people would soon cease
coming there to be tyrannized over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence
did us good. People were frightened
at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement
in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire
him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.
In one way, indeed, he bade fair
us, for he kept on staying week after week, and at last month after month, so that all the money had been long exhausted
, and still my father never plucked up the heart
on having more. If ever he mentioned it, the captain blew through
his nose so loudly that you might
say he roared, and stared my poor father out of the room. I have seen him wringing his hands after such a rebuff
, and I am sure the annoyance and the terror
he lived in must have greatly hastened his early and unhappy death.
All the time he lived with us the captain made no change whatever in his dress but to buy some stockings from a hawker. One of the cocks of his hat having fallen
down, he let it hang from that day forth, though it was a great annoyance when it blew. I remember
of his coat, which he patched himself upstairs in his room, and which, before the end, was nothing but patches. He never wrote or received a letter, and he never spoke
with any but the neighbours, and with these, for the most part, only when drunk on rum. The great sea-chest none of us had ever seen open.
He was only once crossed, and that was towards the end, when my poor father was far gone in a decline
that took him off. Dr. Livesey came late one afternoon to see the patient
, took a bit of dinner from my mother, and went into the parlour to smoke a pipe until his horse should come down from the hamlet
, for we had no stabling at the old Benbow. I followed him in, and I remember
observing the contrast
the neat, bright doctor, with his powder as white as snow and his bright, black eyes and pleasant
manners, made with the coltish country folk, and above all, with that filthy
, heavy, bleared scarecrow of a pirate of ours, sitting, far gone in rum, with his arms on the table
. Suddenly he-the captain, that is-began to pipe up his eternal
"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest-
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
At first I had supposed
"the dead man's chest" to be that identical
big box of his upstairs in the front room, and the thought
had been mingled in my nightmares with that of the one-legged seafaring man. But by this time we had all long ceased to pay any particular notice
to the song; it was new, that night, to nobody but Dr. Livesey, and on him I observed it did not produce
an agreeable effect
, for he looked up for a moment
quite angrily before he went on with his talk to old Taylor, the gardener, on a new cure for the rheumatics. In the meantime, the captain gradually brightened up at his own music, and at last flapped his hand upon the table
before him in a way we all knew to mean silence
. The voices stopped at once, all but Dr. Livesey's; he went on as before speaking clear and kind and drawing briskly at his pipe between every word or two. The captain glared at him for a while, flapped his hand again, glared still harder, and at last broke out with a villainous
, low oath
, "Silence, there, between decks!"
"Were you addressing me, sir?" says the doctor; and when the ruffian
had told him, with another oath
, that this was so, "I have only one thing to say to you, sir," replies the doctor, "that if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit
of a very dirty scoundrel
The old fellow's fury
was awful. He sprang to his feet, drew and opened a sailor's clasp-knife, and balancing it open on the palm
of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to the wall.
The doctor never so much as moved. He spoke
to him as before, over his shoulder and in the same tone
of voice, rather high, so that all the room might
hear, but perfectly calm and steady
: "If you do not put that knife this instant
in your pocket, I promise
, upon my honour, you shall hang at the next assizes."
Then followed a battle
of looks between them, but the captain soon knuckled under, put up his weapon
, and resumed his seat, grumbling like a beaten dog.
"And now, sir," continued the doctor, "since I now know there's such a fellow in my district
, you may count I'll have an eye upon you day and night. I'm not a doctor only; I'm a magistrate
; and if I catch a breath of complaint
against you, if it's only for a piece of incivility
like tonight's, I'll take effectual
means to have you hunted down and routed out of this. Let that suffice
Soon after, Dr. Livesey's horse came to the door and he rode away, but the captain held his peace that evening, and for many evenings to come.
The Black Spot
BOUT noon I stopped at the captain's door with some cooling drinks and medicines. He was lying very much as we had left him, only a little higher, and he seemed both weak and excited.
"Jim," he said, "you're the only one here that's worth anything, and you know I've been always good to you. Never a month but I've given you a silver fourpenny for yourself. And now you see, mate, I'm pretty low, and deserted
by all; and Jim, you'll bring me one noggin of rum, now, won't you, matey?"
"The doctor-" I began.
But he broke in cursing the doctor, in a feeble
voice but heartily. "Doctors is all swabs," he said; "and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch
, and mates dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the sea with earthquakes-what to the doctor know of lands like that?-and I lived on rum, I tell you. It's been meat and drink, and man and wife, to me; and if I'm not to have my rum now I'm a poor old hulk
on a lee shore
, my blood'll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab
"; and he ran on again for a while with curses. "Look, Jim, how my fingers fidges," he continued in the pleading tone
. "I can't keep 'em still, not I. I haven't had a drop
this blessed day. That doctor's a fool, I tell you. If I don't have a drain
o' rum, Jim, I'll have the horrors; I seen some on 'em already. I seen old Flint in the corner
there, behind you; as plain
as print, I seen him; and if I get the horrors, I'm a man that has lived rough, and I'll raise
Cain. Your doctor hisself said one glass wouldn't hurt me. I'll give you a golden guinea for a noggin, Jim."
He was growing more and more excited, and this alarmed me for my father, who was very low that day and needed quiet; besides, I was reassured by the doctor's words, now quoted to me, and rather offended by the offer of a bribe
"I want none of your money," said I, "but what you owe my father. I'll get you one glass, and no more."
When I brought it to him, he seized it greedily and drank it out.
"Aye, aye," said he, "that's some better, sure enough. And now, matey, did that doctor say how long I was to lie here in this old berth
"A week at least," said I.
"Thunder!" he cried. "A week! I can't do that; they'd have the black spot on me by then. The lubbers is going about to get the wind of me this blessed moment
; lubbers as couldn't keep what they got, and want to nail what is another's. Is that seamanly behaviour, now, I want to know? But I'm a saving soul
. I never wasted good money of mine
, nor lost
it neither; and I'll trick 'em again. I'm not afraid on 'em. I'll shake out another reef
, matey, and daddle 'em again."
As he was thus
speaking, he had risen from bed with great difficulty
, holding to my shoulder with a grip
that almost made me cry out, and moving his legs like so much dead weight
. His words, spirited
as they were in meaning
, contrasted sadly with the weakness of the voice in which they were uttered. He paused when he had got into a sitting position on the edge
"That doctor's done me," he murmured. "My ears is singing. Lay me back."
Before I could do much to help him he had fallen
back again to his former
place, where he lay for a while silent.
"Jim," he said at length
, "you saw that seafaring man today?"
"Black Dog?" I asked.
"Ah! Black Dog," says he. "He's a bad un; but there's worse that put him on. Now, if I can't get away nohow, and they tip
me the black spot, mind
you, it's my old sea-chest they're after; you get on a horse-you can, can't you? Well, then, you get on a horse, and go to-well, yes, I will!-to that eternal
, and tell him to pipe all hands-magistrates and sich-and he'll lay 'em aboard
at the Admiral Benbow-all old Flint's crew
, man and boy, all on 'em that's left. I was first mate, I was, old Flint's first mate, and I'm the on'y one as knows the place. He gave it me at Savannah, when he lay a-dying, like as if I was to now, you see. But you won't peach unless they get the black spot on me, or unless you see that Black Dog again or a seafaring man with one leg, Jim-him above all."
"But what is the black spot, captain?" I asked.
"That's a summons
, mate. I'll tell you if they get that. But you keep your weather-eye open, Jim, and I'll share with you equals, upon my honour."
He wandered a little longer, his voice growing weaker; but soon after I had given him his medicine
, which he took like a child, with the , "If ever a seaman wanted drugs, it's me," he fell at last into a heavy, swoon-like sleep, in which I left him. What I should have done had all gone well I do not know. Probably I should have told the whole story to the doctor, for I was in mortal
fear lest the captain should repent
of his confessions and make an end of me. But as things fell out, my poor father died quite suddenly
that evening, which put all other matters on one side. Our natural distress
, the visits of the neighbours, the arranging of the funeral
, and all the work of the inn to be carried on in the meanwhile kept me so busy that I had scarcely
time to think of the captain, far less to be afraid of him.
He got downstairs next morning, to be sure, and had his meals as usual, though he ate little and had more, I am afraid, than his usual supply
of rum, for he helped himself out of the bar
, scowling and blowing through
his nose, and no one dared to cross
him. On the night before the funeral
he was as drunk as ever; and it was shocking, in that house of mourning
, to hear him singing away at his ugly old sea-song; but weak as he was, we were all in the fear of death for him, and the doctor was suddenly
taken up with a case many miles away and was never near the house after my father's death. I have said the captain was weak, and indeed he seemed rather to grow weaker than regain
. He clambered up and down stairs, and went from the parlour to the bar
and back again, and sometimes put his nose out of doors to smell the sea, holding on to the walls as he went for support
and breathing hard and fast like a man on a steep
mountain. He never particularly
addressed me, and it is my belief
he had as good as forgotten his confidences; but his temper
was more flighty
, and allowing for his bodily weakness, more violent
than ever. He had an alarming
way now when he was drunk of drawing his cutlass and laying it bare before him on the table
. But with all that, he minded people less and seemed shut up in his own thoughts and rather wandering. Once, for instance
, to our extreme wonder
, he piped up to a different
air, a kind of country love-song that he must have learned
in his youth before he had begun to follow the sea.
So things passed until, the day after the funeral
, and about three o'clock of a bitter
, foggy, frosty
afternoon, I was standing at the door for a moment
, full of sad thoughts about my father, when I saw someone drawing slowly near along the road. He was plainly blind
, for he tapped before him with a stick and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered
sea-cloak with a hood that made him appear positively
deformed. I never saw in my life a more dreadful
. He stopped a little from the inn, and raising his voice in an odd sing-song, addressed the air in front of him, "Will any kind friend inform
a poor blind
man, who has lost
the precious sight
of his eyes in the gracious
defence of his native
country, England-and God bless King George!-where or in what part of this country he may now be?"
"You are at the Admiral Benbow, Black Hill Cove, my good man," said I.
"I hear a voice," said he, "a young voice. Will you give me your hand, my kind young friend, and lead me in?"
I held out my hand, and the horrible
, soft-spoken, eyeless creature
gripped it in a moment
like a vise
. I was so much startled that I struggled to withdraw
, but the blind
man pulled me close up to him with a single action of his arm.
"Now, boy," he said, "take me in to the captain."
"Sir," said I, "upon my word I dare
"Oh," he sneered, "that's it! Take me in straight
or I'll break your arm."
And he gave it, as he spoke
, a wrench
that made me cry out.
"Sir," said I, "it is for yourself I mean
. The captain is not what he used to be. He sits with a drawn cutlass. Another gentleman-"
"Come, now, march
," interrupted he; and I never heard a voice so cruel
, and cold, and ugly as that blind
man's. It cowed me more than the pain, and I began to obey
him at once, walking straight
in at the door and towards the parlour, where our sick old buccaneer
was sitting, dazed with rum. The blind
man clung close to me, holding me in one iron
fist and leaning almost more of his weight
on me than I could carry
. "Lead me straight
up to him, and when I'm in view, cry out, 'Here's a friend for you, Bill.' If you don't, I'll do this," and with that he gave me a twitch
that I thought
would have made me faint
. Between this and that, I was so utterly
terrified of the blind beggar
that I forgot my terror
of the captain, and as I opened the parlour door, cried out the words he had ordered in a trembling voice.
The poor captain raised his eyes, and at one look the rum went out of him and left him staring sober
. The expression
of his face was not so much of terror
as of mortal
sickness. He made a movement
to rise, but I do not believe he had enough force
left in his body.
"Now, Bill, sit where you are," said the beggar
. "If I can't see, I can hear a finger stirring. Business is business. Hold out your left hand. Boy, take his left hand by the wrist and bring it near to my right
We both obeyed him to the letter, and I saw him pass something from the hollow
of the hand that held his stick into the palm
of the captain's, which closed upon it instantly.
"And now that's done," said the blind
man; and at the words he suddenly
left hold of me, and with incredible accuracy
and nimbleness, skipped out of the parlour and into the road, where, as I still stood motionless
, I could hear his stick go tap-tap-tapping into the distance
It was some time before either I or the captain seemed to gather
our senses, but at length
, and about at the same moment
, I released his wrist, which I was still holding, and he drew in his hand and looked sharply
into the palm
"Ten o'clock!" he cried. "Six hours. We'll do them yet," and he sprang to his feet.
Even as he did so, he reeled, put his hand to his throat, stood swaying for a moment
, and then, with a peculiar sound
, fell from his whole height
to the floor.
I ran to him at once, calling to my mother. But haste
was all in vain
. The captain had been struck dead by thundering apoplexy
. It is a curious
thing to understand
, for I had certainly
never liked the man, though of late I had begun to pity
him, but as soon as I saw that he was dead, I burst
into a flood
of tears. It was the second death I had known, and the sorrow
of the first was still fresh
in my heart