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TREASURE ISLAND
by Robert Louis Stevenson
TO THE HESITATING PURCHASER
If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
If schooners, islands, and maroons,
And buccaneers, and buried gold,
And all the old romance, retold
Exactly in the ancient way,
Can please, as me they pleased of old,
The wiser youngsters of today:
--So be it, and fall on! If not,
If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,
Or Cooper of the wood and wave:
So be it, also! And may I
And all my pirates share the grave
Where these and their creations lie!
To S. Lloyd Osbourne, an American gentleman
in accordance with whose classic taste the
following narrative has been designed, it
is now, in return for numerous delightful
hours, and with the kindest wishes,
dedicated by his affectionate friend, the
author.
TREASURE ISLAND
PART ONE--The Old Buccaneer
The Old Sea-dog at the Admiral Benbow
SQUIRE 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.
I remember 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 to avoid 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 and ditch was the worst of
nightmares.
And altogether I paid pretty dear for my
monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of
these abominable fancies.
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
remark.
For in these fits he was the most
overriding companion ever known; he would
slap his hand on the table for silence 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 to ruin
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
to insist 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 the appearance 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 song:
"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.
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Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - Chapter 01 - The Old Sea-Dog At The Admiral Benbow

6314 Folder Collection
Bryan published on July 24, 2014
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