It was not very long after this that there occurred the first of th_ysterious events that rid us at last of the captain, though not, as you wil_ee, of his affairs. It was a bitter cold winter, with long, hard frosts an_eavy gales; and it was plain from the first that my poor father was littl_ikely to see the spring. He sank daily, and my mother and I had all the in_pon our hands, and were kept busy enough without paying much regard to ou_npleasant guest.
It was one January morning, very early—a pinching, frosty morning—the cove al_rey with hoar-frost, the ripple lapping softly on the stones, the sun stil_ow and only touching the hilltops and shining far to seaward. The captain ha_isen earlier than usual and set out down the beach, his cutlass swingin_nder the broad skirts of the old blue coat, his brass telescope under hi_rm, his hat tilted back upon his head. I remember his breath hanging lik_moke in his wake as he strode off, and the last sound I heard of him as h_urned the big rock was a loud snort of indignation, as though his mind wa_till running upon Dr. Livesey.
Well, mother was upstairs with father and I was laying the breakfast-tabl_gainst the captain's return when the parlour door opened and a man stepped i_n 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 no_ook much like a fighter. I had always my eye open for seafaring men, with on_eg or two, and I remember this one puzzled me. He was not sailorly, and ye_e 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 here."
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 a person who staye_n our house whom we called the captain. "Well," said he, "my mate Bill woul_e called the captain, as like as not. He has a cut on one cheek and a might_leasant way with him, particularly in drink, has my mate Bill. We'll put it, for argument like, that your captain has a cut on one cheek—and we'll put it, if you like, that that cheek's the right one. Ah, well! I told you. Now, is m_ate 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 t_eturn, and how soon, and answered a few other questions, "Ah," said he,
"this'll be as good as drink to my mate Bill."
The expression of his face as he said these words was not at all pleasant, an_ had my own reasons for thinking that the stranger was mistaken, eve_upposing he meant what he said. But it was no affair of mine, I thought; an_esides, it was difficult to know what to do. The stranger kept hanging abou_ust inside the inn door, peering round the corner like a cat waiting for _ouse. Once I stepped out myself into the road, but he immediately called m_ack, and as I did not obey quick enough for his fancy, a most horrible chang_ame over his tallowy face, and he ordered me in with an oath that made m_ump. As soon as I was back again he returned to his former manner, hal_awning, half sneering, patted me on the shoulder, told me I was a good bo_nd he had taken quite a fancy to me. "I have a son of my own," said he, "a_ike you as two blocks, and he's all the pride of my 'art. But the great thin_or boys is discipline, sonny—discipline. Now, if you had sailed along o_ill, you wouldn't have stood there to be spoke to twice—not you. That wa_ever Bill's way, nor the way of sich as sailed with him. And here, sur_nough, 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, sonny, and get behin_he 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 m_ehind him in the corner so that we were both hidden by the open door. I wa_ery uneasy and alarmed, as you may fancy, and it rather added to my fears t_bserve that the stranger was certainly frightened himself. He cleared th_ilt of his cutlass and loosened the blade in the sheath; and all the time w_ere waiting there he kept swallowing as if he felt what we used to call _ump in the throat.
At last in strode the captain, slammed the door behind him, without looking t_he right or left, and marched straight across the room to where his breakfas_waited him.
"Bill," said the stranger in a voice that I thought he had tried to make bol_nd big.
The captain spun round on his heel and fronted us; all the brown had gone ou_f his face, and even his nose was blue; he had the look of a man who sees _host, or the evil one, or something worse, if anything can be; and upon m_ord, I felt sorry to see him all in a moment turn so old and sick.
"Come, Bill, you know me; you know an old shipmate, Bill, surely," said th_tranger.
The captain made a sort of gasp.
"Black Dog!" said he.
"And who else?" returned the other, getting more at his ease. "Black Dog a_ver was, come for to see his old shipmate Billy, at the Admiral Benbow inn.
Ah, Bill, Bill, we have seen a sight of times, us two, since I lost them tw_alons," 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 likin_o; and we'll sit down, if you please, and talk square, like old shipmates."
When I returned with the rum, they were already seated on either side of th_aptain's breakfast-table—Black Dog next to the door and sitting sideways s_s 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 listen, I could hea_othing but a low gattling; but at last the voices began to grow higher, and _ould pick up a word or two, mostly oaths, from the captain.
"No, no, no, no; and an end of it!" he cried once. And again, "If it comes t_winging, swing all, say I."
Then all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion of oaths and othe_oises—the chair and table went over in a lump, a clash of steel followed, an_hen a cry of pain, and the next instant I saw Black Dog in full flight, an_he captain hotly pursuing, both with drawn cutlasses, and the forme_treaming blood from the left shoulder. Just at the door the captain aimed a_he fugitive one last tremendous cut, which would certainly have split him t_he chine had it not been intercepted by our big signboard of Admiral Benbow.
You may see the notch on the lower side of the frame to this day.
That blow was the last of the battle. Once out upon the road, Black Dog, i_pite of his wound, showed a wonderful clean pair of heels and disappeare_ver the edge of the hill in half a minute. The captain, for his part, stoo_taring at the signboard like a bewildered man. Then he passed his hand ove_is eyes several times and at last turned back into the house.
"Jim," says he, "rum"; and as he spoke, he reeled a little, and caught himsel_ith 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, an_ broke one glass and fouled the tap, and while I was still getting in my ow_ay, I heard a loud fall in the parlour, and running in, beheld the captai_ying full length upon the floor. At the same instant my mother, alarmed b_he cries and fighting, came running downstairs to help me. Between us w_aised his head. He was breathing very loud and hard, but his eyes were close_nd his face a horrible colour.
"Dear, deary me," cried my mother, "what a disgrace upon the house! And you_oor father sick!"
In the meantime, we had no idea what to do to help the captain, nor any othe_hought but that he had got his death-hurt in the scuffle with the stranger. _ot the rum, to be sure, and tried to put it down his throat, but his teet_ere tightly shut and his jaws as strong as iron. It was a happy relief for u_hen the door opened and Doctor Livesey came in, on his visit 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 o_. The man has had a stroke, as I warned him. Now, Mrs. Hawkins, just you ru_pstairs to your husband and tell him, if possible, nothing about it. For m_art, I must do my best to save this fellow's trebly worthless life; Jim, yo_et me a basin."
When I got back with the basin, the doctor had already ripped up the captain'_leeve 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 neatl_nd clearly executed on the forearm; and up near the shoulder there was _ketch of a gallows and a man hanging from it—done, as I thought, with grea_pirit.
"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 o_our 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 lance_nd opened a vein.
A great deal of blood was taken before the captain opened his eyes and looke_istily about him. First he recognized the doctor with an unmistakable frown; then his glance fell upon me, and he looked relieved. But suddenly his colou_hanged, and he tried to raise himself, crying, "Where's Black Dog?"
"There is no Black Dog here," said the doctor, "except what you have on you_wn back. You have been drinking rum; you have had a stroke, precisely as _old you; and I have just, very much against my own will, dragged yo_eadforemost 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 m_cquaintance; and I call you by it for the sake of shortness, and what I hav_o say to you is this; one glass of rum won't kill you, but if you take on_ou'll take another and another, and I stake my wig if you don't break of_hort, you'll die—do you understand that?—die, and go to your own place, lik_he man in the Bible. Come, now, make an effort. I'll help you to your bed fo_nce."
Between us, with much trouble, we managed to hoist him upstairs, and laid hi_n his bed, where his head fell back on the pillow as if he were almos_ainting.
"Now, mind you," said the doctor, "I clear my conscience—the name of rum fo_ou is death."
And with that he went off to see my father, taking me with him by the arm.
"This is nothing," he said as soon as he had closed the door. "I have draw_lood enough to keep him quiet awhile; he should lie for a week where h_s—that is the best thing for him and you; but another stroke would settl_im."