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
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
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
as he did so, and then breaking out in that old sea-song
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
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
This, when it was brought to him, he drank slowly, like
connoisseur, lingering on the taste and still looking about
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,
My father told him no, very little company, the more was
"Well, then," said he," this is the berth
Here you, matey," he cried to the man who trundled
"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
is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships
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
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
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
cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening
in a corner of the parlour next the fire and drank rum
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
soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back
from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone
along the road. At first we thought it was the want of
of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at
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
making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in
through the curtained door before he entered the
and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when
was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about
for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken
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
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
but before the week was out he was sure to think better
bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to
for "the seafaring man with one leg."
How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell
On stormy nights, when the wind shook the four corners
of the house and the surf roared along the cove and up
I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand
diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at
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
of these abominable fancies.
But though I was so terrified by the idea of the seafaring
with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself
than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when
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
for glasses round and force all the trembling company to
to his stories or bear a chorus to his singing. Often I
the house shaking with "Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of
all the neighbours joining in for dear life, with the fear
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
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
himself sleepy and reeled off to bed.
His stories were what frightened people worst of all.
Dreadful stories they were--about hanging, and walking
and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds
on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived
his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever
upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories
shocked our plain country people almost as much as the
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
People were frightened at the time, but on looking back
they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet
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
week after week, and at last month after month, so that
money had been long exhausted, and still my father never
up the heart to insist on having more. If ever he mentioned
the captain blew through his nose so loudly that you might
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
in his dress but to buy some stockings from a hawker.
One of the cocks of his hat having fallen down, he let
from that day forth, though it was a great annoyance when
I remember the appearance of his coat, which he patched
upstairs in his room, and which, before the end, was nothing
patches. He never wrote or received a letter, and he never
with any but the neighbours, and with these, for the most
only when drunk on rum. The great sea-chest none of us
He was only once crossed, and that was towards the end,
when my poor father was far gone in a decline that took
Dr. Livesey came late one afternoon to see the patient,
took a bit
of dinner from my mother, and went into the parlour to
a pipe until his horse should come down from the hamlet,
for we had no stabling at the old Benbow. I followed him
and I remember observing the contrast the neat, bright
with his powder as white as snow and his bright, black
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
Suddenly he--the captain, that is--began to pipe up his
"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"
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
we had all long ceased to pay any particular notice to
it was new, that night, to nobody but Dr.
and on him I observed it did not produce an agreeable effect,
for he looked up for a moment quite angrily before he went
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
upon the table before him in a way we all knew to mean
The voices stopped at once, all but Dr.
he went on as before speaking clear and kind and drawing
at his pipe between every word or two. The captain glared
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
replies the doctor, "that if you keep on drinking
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
on the palm of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to
The doctor never so much as moved. He spoke to him as before,
over his shoulder and in the same tone of voice, rather
so that all the room might hear, but perfectly calm and
"If you do not put that knife this instant in your
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
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
for a piece of incivility like tonight's, I'll take effectual
to have you hunted down and routed out of this. Let that
Soon after, Dr. Livesey's horse came to the door and he
but the captain held his peace that evening, and for many
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