I LOST no time, of course, in telling my mother all that
and perhaps should have told her long before, and we saw
ourselves at once in a difficult and dangerous position.
the man's money--if he had any--was certainly due to us,
but it was not likely that our captain's shipmates, above
the two specimens seen by me, Black Dog and the blind beggar,
would be inclined to give up their booty in payment of
dead man's debts. The captain's order to mount at once
for Doctor Livesey would have left my mother alone and
unprotected, which was not to be thought of. Indeed, it
impossible for either of us to remain much longer in the
the fall of coals in the kitchen grate, the very ticking
of the clock,
filled us with alarms. The neighbourhood, to our ears,
haunted by approaching footsteps; and what between the
body of the captain on the parlour floor and the thought
detestable blind beggar hovering near at hand and ready
there were moments when, as the saying goes, I jumped in
skin for terror. Something must speedily be resolved upon,
and it occurred to us at last to go forth together and
in the neighbouring hamlet. No sooner said than done.
Bare-headed as we were, we ran out at once in the
gathering evening and the frosty fog.
The hamlet lay not many hundred yards away,
though out of view, on the other side of the next cove;
and what greatly encouraged me, it was in an opposite direction
from that whence the blind man had made his appearance
whither he had presumably returned. We were not many minutes
on the road, though we sometimes stopped to lay hold of
other and hearken. But there was no unusual sound-- nothing
the low wash of the ripple and the croaking of the inmates
It was already candle-light when we reached the hamlet,
and I shall never forget how much I was cheered to see
the yellow shine in doors and windows; but that, as it
was the best of the help we were likely to get in that
For--you would have thought men would have been ashamed
of themselves--no soul would consent to return with us
to the Admiral Benbow. The more we told of our troubles,
the more--man, woman, and child-- they clung to the shelter
of their houses. The name of Captain Flint, though it was
to me, was well enough known to some there and carried
weight of terror. Some of the men who had been to field-work
on the far side of the Admiral Benbow remembered, besides,
to have seen several strangers on the road, and taking
to be smugglers, to have bolted away; and one at least
a little lugger in what we called Kitt's Hole. For that
anyone who was a comrade of the captain's was enough to
them to death. And the short and the long of the matter
that while we could get several who were willing enough
to Dr. Livesey's, which lay in another direction, not one
help us to defend the inn.
They say cowardice is infectious; but then argument is,
on the other hand, a great emboldener; and so when each
his say, my mother made them a speech. She would not,
she declared, lose money that belonged to her fatherless
"If none of the rest of you dare," she said,
"Jim and I dare.
Back we will go, the way we came, and small thanks to you
hulking, chicken-hearted men. We'll have that chest open,
if we die for it. And I'll thank you for that bag, Mrs.
to bring back our lawful money in."
Of course I said I would go with my mother, and of course
they all cried out at our foolhardiness, but even then
not a man
would go along with us. All they would do was to give me
a loaded pistol lest we were attacked, and to promise to
horses ready saddled in case we were pursued on our return,
while one lad was to ride forward to the doctor's in search
of armed assistance.
My heart was beating finely when we two set forth in the
upon this dangerous venture. A full moon was beginning
and peered redly through the upper edges of the fog, and
increased our haste, for it was plain, before we came forth
that all would be as bright as day, and our departure exposed
to the eyes of any watchers. We slipped along the hedges,
noiseless and swift, nor did we see or hear anything to
our terrors, till, to our relief, the door of the Admiral
had closed behind us.
I slipped the bolt at once, and we stood and panted for
in the dark, alone in the house with the dead captain's
Then my mother got a candle in the bar, and holding each
hands, we advanced into the parlour. He lay as we had left
on his back, with his eyes open and one arm stretched out.
"Draw down the blind, Jim," whispered my mother;
"they might come and watch outside. And now,"
when I had done so, "we have to get the key off THAT;
and who's to touch it, I should like to know!" and
a kind of sob as she said the words.
I went down on my knees at once. On the floor close to
there was a little round of paper, blackened on the one
I could not doubt that this was the BLACK SPOT; and taking
I found written on the other side, in a very good, clear
this short message: "You have till ten tonight."
"He had till ten, Mother," said I; and just as
I said it, our old clock
began striking. This sudden noise startled us shockingly;
but the news was good, for it was only six.
"Now, Jim," she said, "that key."
I felt in his pockets, one after another. A few small coins,
a thimble, and some thread and big needles, a piece
of pigtail tobacco bitten away at the end, his gully with
crooked handle, a pocket compass, and a tinder box were
that they contained, and I began to despair.
"Perhaps it's round his neck," suggested my mother.
Overcoming a strong repugnance, I tore open his shirt at
and there, sure enough, hanging to a bit of tarry string,
which I cut
with his own gully, we found the key. At this triumph we
filled with hope and hurried upstairs without delay to
the little room
where he had slept so long and where his box had stood
since the day of his arrival.
It was like any other seaman's chest on the outside, the
burned on the top of it with a hot iron, and the corners
smashed and broken as by long, rough usage.
"Give me the key," said my mother; and though
the lock was very
stiff, she had turned it and thrown back the lid in a twinkling.
A strong smell of tobacco and tar rose from the interior,
but nothing was to be seen on the top except a suit of
clothes, carefully brushed and folded. They had never been
my mother said. Under that, the miscellany began--a quadrant,
a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of
handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish
and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign
a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six
West Indian shells. I have often wondered since why he
have carried about these shells with him in his wandering,
guilty, and hunted life.
In the meantime, we had found nothing of any value but
and the trinkets, and neither of these were in our way.
Underneath there was an old boat-cloak, whitened with sea-salt
on many a harbour-bar. My mother pulled it up with impatience,
and there lay before us, the last things in the chest,
tied up in oilcloth, and looking like papers, and a canvas
that gave forth, at a touch, the jingle of gold.
"I'll show these rogues that I'm an honest woman,"
said my mother.
"I'll have my dues, and not a farthing over. Hold
bag." And she began to count over the amount of the
score from the sailor's bag into the one that I was holding.
It was a long, difficult business, for the coins were of
and sizes--doubloons, and louis d'ors, and guineas, and
pieces of eight, and I know not what besides, all shaken
at random. The guineas, too, were about the scarcest, and
with these only that my mother knew how to make her count.
When we were about half-way through, I suddenly put my
upon her arm, for I had heard in the silent frosty air
that brought my heart into my mouth--the tap-tapping of
man's stick upon the frozen road. It drew nearer and nearer,
while we sat holding our breath. Then it struck sharp
on the inn door, and then we could hear the handle being
and the bolt rattling as the wretched being tried to enter;
and then there was a long time of silence both within and
At last the tapping recommenced, and, to our indescribable
and gratitude, died slowly away again until it ceased to
"Mother," said I, "take the whole and let's
for I was sure the bolted door must have seemed suspicious
and would bring the whole hornet's nest about our ears,
though how thankful I was that I had bolted it, none could
who had never met that terrible blind man.
But my mother, frightened as she was, would not consent
a fraction more than was due to her and was obstinately
to be content with less. It was not yet seven, she said,
by a long way; she knew her rights and she would have them;
and she was still arguing with me when a little low whistle
sounded a good way off upon the hill. That was enough,
and more than enough, for both of us.
"I'll take what I have," she said, jumping to
"And I'll take this to square the count," said
I, picking up the
Next moment we were both groping downstairs, leaving the
by the empty chest; and the next we had opened the door
and were in full retreat. We had not started a moment too
The fog was rapidly dispersing; already the moon shone
on the high ground on either side; and it was only in the
bottom of the dell and round the tavern door that a thin
still hung unbroken to conceal the first steps of our escape.
Far less than half-way to the hamlet, very little beyond
the bottom of the hill, we must come forth into the moonlight.
Nor was this all, for the sound of several footsteps running
came already to our ears, and as we looked back in their
a light tossing to and fro and still rapidly advancing
one of the newcomers carried a lantern.
"My dear," said my mother suddenly, "take
the money and run on.
I am going to faint."
This was certainly the end for both of us, I thought. How
the cowardice of the neighbours; how I blamed my poor mother
for her honesty and her greed, for her past foolhardiness
and present weakness! We were just at the little bridge,
by good fortune; and I helped her, tottering as she was,
to the edge of the bank, where, sure enough, she gave a
and fell on my shoulder. I do not know how I found the
to do it at all, and I am afraid it was roughly done, but
to drag her down the bank and a little way under the arch.
Farther I could not move her, for the bridge was too low
to let me do more than crawl below it. So there we had
my mother almost entirely exposed and both of us within
of the inn.
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