Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

9

Powder and Arms

THE Hispaniola lay some way out, and we went under the figureheads and round the sterns of many other ships, and their cables sometimes grated underneath our keel, and sometimes swung above us. At last, however, we got alongside, and were met and saluted as we stepped aboard by the mate, Mr. Arrow, a brown old sailor with earrings in his ears and a squint. He and the squire were very thick and friendly, but I soon observed that things were not the same between Mr. Trelawney and the captain.

This last was a sharp-looking man who seemed angry with everything on board and was soon to tell us why, for we had hardly got down into the cabin when a sailor followed us.

“Captain Smollett, sir, axing to speak with you,” said he.

“I am always at the captain’s orders. Show him in,” said the squire.

The captain, who was close behind his messenger, entered at once and shut the door behind him.

“Well, Captain Smollett, what have you to say? All well, I hope; all shipshape and seaworthy?”

“Well, sir,” said the captain, “better speak plain, I believe, even at the risk of offence. I don’t like this cruise; I don’t like the men; and I don’t like my officer. That’s short and sweet.”

“Perhaps, sir, you don’t like the ship?” inquired the squire, very angry, as I could see.

“I can’t speak as to that, sir, not having seen her tried,” said the captain. “She seems a clever craft; more I can’t say.”

“Possibly, sir, you may not like your employer, either?” says the squire.

But here Dr. Livesey cut in.

“Stay a bit,” said he, “stay a bit. No use of such questions as that but to produce ill feeling. The captain has said too much or he has said too little, and I’m bound to say that I require an explanation of his words. You don’t, you say, like this cruise. Now, why?”

“I was engaged, sir, on what we call sealed orders, to sail this ship for that gentleman where he should bid me,” said the captain. “So far so good. But now I find that every man before the mast knows more than I do. I don’t call that fair, now, do you?”

“No,” said Dr. Livesey, “I don’t.”

“Next,” said the captain, “I learn we are going after treasure — hear it from my own hands, mind you. Now, treasure is ticklish work; I don’t like treasure voyages on any account, and I don’t like them, above all, when they are secret and when (begging your pardon, Mr. Trelawney) the secret has been told to the parrot.”

“Silver’s parrot?” asked the squire.

“It’s a way of speaking,” said the captain. “Blabbed, I mean. It’s my belief neither of you gentlemen know what you are about, but I’ll tell you my way of it — life or death, and a close run.”

“That is all clear, and, I dare say, true enough,” replied Dr. Livesey. “We take the risk, but we are not so ignorant as you believe us. Next, you say you don’t like the crew. Are they not good seamen?”

“I don’t like them, sir,” returned Captain Smollett. “And I think I should have had the choosing of my own hands, if you go to that.”

“Perhaps you should,” replied the doctor. “My friend should, perhaps, have taken you along with him; but the slight, if there be one, was unintentional. And you don’t like Mr. Arrow?”

“I don’t, sir. I believe he’s a good seaman, but he’s too free with the crew to be a good officer. A mate should keep himself to himself — shouldn’t drink with the men before the mast!”

“Do you mean he drinks?” cried the squire.

“No, sir,” replied the captain, “only that he’s too familiar.”

“Well, now, and the short and long of it, captain?” asked the doctor. “Tell us what you want.”

“Well, gentlemen, are you determined to go on this cruise?”

“Like iron,” answered the squire.

“Very good,” said the captain. “Then, as you’ve heard me very patiently, saying things that I could not prove, hear me a few words more. They are putting the powder and the arms in the fore hold. Now, you have a good place under the cabin; why not put them there? — first point. Then, you are bringing four of your own people with you, and they tell me some of them are to be berthed forward. Why not give them the berths here beside the cabin? — second point.”

“Any more?” asked Mr. Trelawney.

“One more,” said the captain. “There’s been too much blabbing already.”

“Far too much,” agreed the doctor.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve heard myself,” continued Captain Smollett: “that you have a map of an island, that there’s crosses on the map to show where treasure is, and that the island lies —” And then he named the latitude and longitude exactly.

“I never told that,” cried the squire, “to a soul!”

“The hands know it, sir,” returned the captain.

“Livesey, that must have been you or Hawkins,” cried the squire.

“It doesn’t much matter who it was,” replied the doctor. And I could see that neither he nor the captain paid much regard to Mr. Trelawney’s protestations. Neither did I, to be sure, he was so loose a talker; yet in this case I believe he was really right and that nobody had told the situation of the island.

“Well, gentlemen,” continued the captain, “I don’t know who has this map; but I make it a point, it shall be kept secret even from me and Mr. Arrow. Otherwise I would ask you to let me resign.”

“I see,” said the doctor. “You wish us to keep this matter dark and to make a garrison of the stern part of the ship, manned with my friend’s own people, and provided with all the arms and powder on board. In other words, you fear a mutiny.”

“Sir,” said Captain Smollett, “with no intention to take offence, I deny your right to put words into my mouth. No captain, sir, would be justified in going to sea at all if he had ground enough to say that. As for Mr. Arrow, I believe him thoroughly honest; some of the men are the same; all may be for what I know. But I am responsible for the ship’s safety and the life of every man Jack aboard of her. I see things going, as I think, not quite right. And I ask you to take certain precautions or let me resign my berth. And that’s all.”

“Captain Smollett,” began the doctor with a smile, “did ever you hear the fable of the mountain and the mouse? You’ll excuse me, I dare say, but you remind me of that fable. When you came in here, I’ll stake my wig, you meant more than this.”

“Doctor,” said the captain, “you are smart. When I came in here I meant to get discharged. I had no thought that Mr. Trelawney would hear a word.”

“No more I would,” cried the squire. “Had Livesey not been here I should have seen you to the deuce. As it is, I have heard you. I will do as you desire, but I think the worse of you.”

“That’s as you please, sir,” said the captain. “You’ll find I do my duty.”

And with that he took his leave.

“Trelawney,” said the doctor, “contrary to all my notions, I believed you have managed to get two honest men on board with you — that man and John Silver.”

“Silver, if you like,” cried the squire; “but as for that intolerable humbug, I declare I think his conduct unmanly, unsailorly, and downright un-English.”

“Well,” says the doctor, “we shall see.”

When we came on deck, the men had begun already to take out the arms and powder, yo-ho-ing at their work, while the captain and Mr. Arrow stood by superintending.

The new arrangement was quite to my liking. The whole schooner had been overhauled; six berths had been made astern out of what had been the after-part of the main hold; and this set of cabins was only joined to the galley and forecastle by a sparred passage on the port side. It had been originally meant that the captain, Mr. Arrow, Hunter, Joyce, the doctor, and the squire were to occupy these six berths. Now Redruth and I were to get two of them and Mr. Arrow and the captain were to sleep on deck in the companion, which had been enlarged on each side till you might almost have called it a round-house. Very low it was still, of course; but there was room to swing two hammocks, and even the mate seemed pleased with the arrangement. Even he, perhaps, had been doubtful as to the crew, but that is only guess, for as you shall hear, we had not long the benefit of his opinion.

We were all hard at work, changing the powder and the berths, when the last man or two, and Long John along with them, came off in a shore-boat.

The cook came up the side like a monkey for cleverness, and as soon as he saw what was doing, “So ho, mates!” says he. “What’s this?”

“We’re a-changing of the powder, Jack,” answers one.

“Why, by the powers,” cried Long John, “if we do, we’ll miss the morning tide!”

“My orders!” said the captain shortly. “You may go below, my man. Hands will want supper.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” answered the cook, and touching his forelock, he disappeared at once in the direction of his galley.

“That’s a good man, captain,” said the doctor.

“Very likely, sir,” replied Captain Smollett. “Easy with that, men — easy,” he ran on, to the fellows who were shifting the powder; and then suddenly observing me examining the swivel we carried amidships, a long brass nine, “Here you, ship’s boy,” he cried, “out o’ that! Off with you to the cook and get some work.”


“Out o’ that! Off with you to the cook and get some work“

And then as I was hurrying off I heard him say, quite loudly, to the doctor, “I’ll have no favourites on my ship.”

I assure you I was quite of the squire’s way of thinking, and hated the captain deeply.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30