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Chapter 3
The Black Spot
ABOUT 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 doctor
swab, 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 remark, "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 his strength.
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-
looking figure.
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 not."
"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 face foremost 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.
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Chapter 03 - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - The Black Spot

4252 Folder Collection
Bryan published on July 24, 2014
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