Black Dog Appears and Disappears
IT was not very long after this that there occurred the
of the mysterious events that rid us at last of the captain,
though not, as you will see, of his affairs. It was a bitter
winter, with long, hard frosts and heavy gales; and it
from the first that my poor father was little likely to
see the spring.
He sank daily, and my mother and I had all the inn upon
and were kept busy enough without paying much regard
to our unpleasant guest.
It was one January morning, very early--a pinching, frosty
-- the cove all grey with hoar-frost, the ripple lapping
on the stones, the sun still low and only touching the
and shining far to seaward. The captain had risen earlier
and set out down the beach, his cutlass swinging under
skirts of the old blue coat, his brass telescope under
his hat tilted back upon his head. I remember his breath
hanging like smoke in his wake as he strode off, and the
I heard of him as he turned the big rock was a loud snort
indignation, as though his mind was still running upon
Well, mother was upstairs with father and I was laying
the breakfast-table against the captain's return
when the parlour door opened and a man stepped in
on whom I had never set my eyes before. He was a pale,
tallowy creature, wanting two fingers of the left hand,
and though he wore a cutlass, he did not look much like
I had always my eye open for seafaring men, with one leg
and I remember this one puzzled me. He was not sailorly,
and yet he had a smack of the sea about him too.
I asked him what was for his service, and he said he would
take rum; but as I was going out of the room to fetch it,
he sat down upon a table and motioned me to draw near.
I paused where I was, with my napkin in my hand.
"Come here, sonny," says he. "Come nearer
I took a step nearer.
"Is this here table for my mate Bill?" he asked
with a kind of leer.
I told him I did not know his mate Bill, and this was for
who stayed in our house whom we called the captain.
"Well," said he, "my mate Bill would be
called the captain,
as like as not. He has a cut on one cheek and a mighty
way with him, particularly in drink, has my mate Bill.
We'll put it, for argument like, that your captain has
on one cheek--and we'll put it, if you like, that that
the right one. Ah, well! I told you. Now, is my mate Bill
in this here house?"
I told him he was out walking.
"Which way, sonny? Which way is he gone?"
And when I had pointed out the rock and told him
how the captain was likely to return, and how soon,
and answered a few other questions, "Ah," said
"this'll be as good as drink to my mate Bill."
The expression of his face as he said these words was not
pleasant, and I had my own reasons for thinking that the
was mistaken, even supposing he meant what he said.
But it was no affair of mine, I thought; and besides,
it was difficult to know what to do. The stranger kept
about just inside the inn door, peering round the corner
like a cat
waiting for a mouse. Once I stepped out myself into the
but he immediately called me back, and as I did not obey
quick enough for his fancy, a most horrible change
came over his tallowy face, and he ordered me in with an
that made me jump. As soon as I was back again he returned
to his former manner, half fawning, half sneering,
patted me on the shoulder, told me I was a good boy
and he had taken quite a fancy to me. "I have a son
of my own,"
said he, "as like you as two blocks, and he's all
the pride of my 'art.
But the great thing for boys is discipline, sonny--discipline.
Now, if you had sailed along of Bill, you wouldn't have
there to be spoke to twice--not you. That was never Bill's
nor the way of sich as sailed with him. And here, sure
is my mate Bill, with a spy-glass under his arm, bless
his old 'art,
to be sure. You and me'll just go back into the parlour,
and get behind the door, and we'll give Bill a little surprise--
bless his 'art, I say again.
So saying, the stranger backed along with me into the parlour
and put me behind him in the corner so that we were both
by the open door. I was very uneasy and alarmed,
as you may fancy, and it rather added to my fears
to observe that the stranger was certainly frightened himself.
He cleared the hilt of his cutlass and loosened the blade
in the sheath; and all the time we were waiting there he
swallowing as if he felt what we used to call a lump in
At last in strode the captain, slammed the door behind
without looking to the right or left, and marched straight
across the room to where his breakfast awaited him.
"Bill," said the stranger in a voice that I thought
he had tried
to make bold and big.
The captain spun round on his heel and fronted us;
all the brown had gone out of his face, and even his nose
he had the look of a man who sees a ghost, or the evil
or something worse, if anything can be; and upon my word,
I felt sorry to see him all in a moment turn so old and
"Come, Bill, you know me; you know an old shipmate,
surely," said the stranger.
The captain made a sort of gasp.
"Black Dog!" said he.
"And who else?" returned the other, getting more
at his ease.
"Black Dog as ever was, come for to see his old shipmate
at the Admiral Benbow inn. Ah, Bill, Bill, we have seen
a sight of times, us two, since I lost them two talons,"
holding up his mutilated hand.
"Now, look here," said the captain; "you've
run me down;
here I am; well, then, speak up; what is it?"
"That's you, Bill," returned Black Dog, "you're
in the right of it,
Billy. I'll have a glass of rum from this dear child here,
as I've took such a liking to; and we'll sit down, if you
and talk square, like old shipmates."
When I returned with the rum, they were already seated
on either side of the captain's breakfast-table--Black
to the door and sitting sideways so as to have one eye
on his old shipmate and one, as I thought, on his retreat.
He bade me go and leave the door wide open.
"None of your keyholes for me, sonny," he said;
and I left them together and retired into the bar.
"For a long time, though I certainly did my best to
I could hear nothing but a low gattling; but at last the
began to grow higher, and I could pick up a word or two,
mostly oaths, from the captain.
"No, no, no, no; and an end of it!" he cried
And again, "If it comes to swinging, swing all, say
Then all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion
of oaths and other noises--the chair and table went over
in a lump,
a clash of steel followed, and then a cry of pain,
and the next instant I saw Black Dog in full flight,
and the captain hotly pursuing, both with drawn cutlasses,
and the former streaming blood from the left shoulder.
Just at the
door the captain aimed at the fugitive one last tremendous
which would certainly have split him to the chine had it
intercepted by our big signboard of Admiral Benbow.
You may see the notch on the lower side of the frame to
That blow was the last of the battle. Once out upon the
Black Dog, in spite of his wound, showed a wonderful clean
of heels and disappeared over the edge of the hill in half
The captain, for his part, stood staring at the signboard
like a bewildered man. Then he passed his hand over his
several times and at last turned back into the house.
"Jim," says he, "rum"; and as he spoke,
he reeled a little,
and caught himself with one hand against the wall.
"Are you hurt?" cried I.
"Rum," he repeated. "I must get away from
here. Rum! Rum!"
I ran to fetch it, but I was quite unsteadied by all
that had fallen out, and I broke one glass and fouled the
and while I was still getting in my own way, I heard a
in the parlour, and running in, beheld the captain lying
upon the floor. At the same instant my mother, alarmed
cries and fighting, came running downstairs to help me.
Between us we raised his head. He was breathing very loud
hard, but his eyes were closed and his face a horrible
"Dear, deary me," cried my mother, "what
upon the house! And your poor father sick!"
In the meantime, we had no idea what to do to help the
nor any other thought but that he had got his death-hurt
in the scuffle with the stranger. I got the rum, to be
and tried to put it down his throat, but his teeth were
and his jaws as strong as iron. It was a happy relief for
when the door opened and Doctor Livesey came in, on his
to my father.
"Oh, doctor," we cried, "what shall we do?
Where is he wounded?"
"Wounded? A fiddle-stick's end!" said the doctor.
"No more wounded than you or I. The man has had a
as I warned him. Now, Mrs. Hawkins, just you run upstairs
to your husband and tell him, if possible, nothing about
For my part, I must do my best to save this fellow's trebly
worthless life; Jim, you get me a basin."
When I got back with the basin, the doctor had already
the captain's sleeve and exposed his great sinewy arm.
It was tattooed in several places. "Here's luck,"
"A fair wind,"
and "Billy Bones his fancy," were very neatly
and clearly executed
on the forearm; and up near the shoulder there was a sketch
of a gallows and a man hanging from it--done, as I thought,
with great spirit.
"Prophetic," said the doctor, touching this picture
with his finger.
"And now, Master Billy Bones, if that be your name,
we'll have a look at the colour of your blood.
Jim," he said, "are you afraid of blood?"
"No, sir," said I.
"Well, then," said he, "you hold the basin";
and with that he took his lancet and opened a vein.
A great deal of blood was taken before the captain opened
and looked mistily about him. First he recognized the doctor
with an unmistakable frown; then his glance fell upon me,
and he looked relieved. But suddenly his colour changed,
and he tried to raise himself, crying, "Where's Black
"There is no Black Dog here," said the doctor,
"except what you have on your own back. You have been
drinking rum; you have had a stroke, precisely as I told
and I have just, very much against my own will,
dragged you headforemost out of the grave.
Now, Mr. Bones--"
"That's not my name," he interrupted.
"Much I care," returned the doctor. "It's
the name of a buccaneer
of my acquaintance; and I call you by it for the sake of
and what I have to say to you is this; one glass of rum
won't kill you, but if you take one you'll take another
and I stake my wig if you don't break off short, you'll
do you understand that?--die, and go to your own place,
like the man in the Bible. Come, now, make an effort.
I'll help you to your bed for once."
Between us, with much trouble, we managed to hoist him
and laid him on his bed, where his head fell back on the
as if he were almost fainting.
"Now, mind you," said the doctor,
"I clear my conscience--the name of rum for you is
And with that he went off to see my father, taking me with
by the arm.
"This is nothing," he said as soon as he had
closed the door.
"I have drawn blood enough to keep him quiet awhile;
he should lie for a week where he is--that is the best
for him and you; but another stroke would settle him."
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