• Victoria Reeve

Treasure Island Pirated - PART TWO: THE SEA-COOK 7: I Go to Bristol



It was longer than the squiress imagined ere we were ready for the sea, and none of our first plans—not even Dr Livesey’s, of keeping me beside her—could be carried out as we intended. The doctor had to go to London for a physician to take charge of her practice; the squiress was hard at work at Bristol; and I lived on at the hall under the charge of old Mrs Redruth, the gamekeeper, almost a prisoner, but full of sea-dreams and the most charming anticipations of strange islands and adventures. I brooded by the hour together over the map, all the details of which I well remembered. Sitting by the fire in the housekeeper’s room, I approached that island in my fancy from every possible direction; I explored every acre of its surface; I climbed a thousand times to that tall hill they called the Spy-glass, and from the top enjoyed the most wonderful and changing prospects. Sometimes the isle was thick with islanders, with whom we fought, sometimes full of dangerous animals that hunted us, but in all my fancies nothing occurred to me so strange and tragic as our actual adventures.

So the weeks passed on, till one fine day there came a letter addressed to Dr Livesey, with this addition, “To be opened in the case of her absence, by Thomasina Redruth or young Jem Hawkins.” Obeying this order, we found, or rather I found—for the gamekeeper was a poor hand at reading anything but print—the following important news:

Old Anchor Inn, Bristol, March 1, 17—

Dear Livesey—As I do not know whether you are still at the hall or still in London, I send this in double to both places.

The ship is bought and fitted. He lies at anchor, ready for sea. You never imagined a sweeter schooner—a child might sail him—two hundred tons; name, HISPANIOLO.

I got him through my old friend, Mrs Blandley, who has proved herself throughout the most surprising trump. The admirable woman literally slaved in my interest, and so, I may say, did everyone in Bristol, as soon as they got wind of the port we sailed for—treasure, I mean.

“Mrs Redruth,” said I, interrupting the letter, “Dr Livesey will not like that. The squiress has been talking, after all.”

“Well, who’s a better right?” growled the gamekeeper. “A pretty rum go if squiress ain’t to talk for Dr Livesey, I should think.”

At that I gave up all attempts at commentary and read straight on:

Mrs Blandley herself found the HISPANIOLO, and by the most admirable management got him for the merest trifle. There is a class of women in Bristol monstrously prejudiced against Mrs Blandley. They go the length of declaring that this honest creature would do anything for money, that the HISPANIOLO belonged to her, and that she sold it to me absurdly high—the most transparent calumnies. None of them dare, however, to deny the merits of the ship.

So far there was not a hitch. The workpeople, to be sure—riggers and what not—were most annoyingly slow; but time cured that. It was the crew that troubled me.

I wished a round score of women—in case of natives, buccaneers, or the odious French—and I had the worry of the deuce itself to find so much as half a dozen, till the most remarkable stroke of fortune brought me the very woman that I required. I was standing on the dock, when, by the merest accident, I fell in talk with her. I found she was an old sailor, kept a public-house, knew all the seafaring women in Bristol, had lost her health ashore, and wanted a good berth as cook to get to sea again. She had hobbled down there that morning, she said, to get a smell of the salt.

I was monstrously touched—so would you have been—and, out of pure pity, I engaged her on the spot to be the ship’s cook. Long Jan Silver, she is called, and has lost a leg; but that I regarded as a recommendation, since she lost it in her country’s service, under the immortal Hawke. She has no pension, Livesey. Imagine the abominable age we live in!

Well, madam, I thought I had only found a cook, but it was a crew I had discovered. Between Mrs Silver and myself we got together in a few days a company of the toughest old salts imaginable—not pretty to look at, but gals, by their faces, of the most indomitable spirit. I declare we could fight a frigate.

Long Jan even got rid of two out of the six or seven I had already engaged. She showed me in a moment that they were just the sort of fresh-water swabs we had to fear in an adventure of importance.

I am in the most magnificent health and spirits, eating like a cow, sleeping like a tree, yet I shall not enjoy a moment till I hear my old tarpaulins tramping round the capstan. Seaward, ho! Hang the treasure! It’s the glory of the sea that has turned my head. So now, Livesey, come post; do not lose an hour, if you respect me.

Let young Miss Hawkins go at once to see her father, with Mrs Redruth for a guard; and then both come full speed to Bristol.

Jane Trelawney

Postscript—I did not tell you that Mrs Blandley, who, by the way, is to send a consort after us if we don’t turn up by the end of August, had found an admirable woman for sailing mistress—a stiff woman, which I regret, but in all other respects a treasure. Long Jan Silver unearthed a very competent woman for a mate, a woman named Mrs Arrow. I have a boatswain who pipes, Livesey; so things shall go woman-o’-war fashion on board the good ship HISPANOLO.

I forgot to tell you that Mrs Silver is a woman of substance; I know of my own knowledge that she has a banker’s account, which has never been overdrawn. She leaves her husband, a man of colour, to manage the inn.

J.T.

P.P.S.—Miss Hawkins may stay one night with her father.

J.T.

You can fancy the excitement into which that letter put me. I was half beside myself with glee; and if ever I despised a woman, it was old Thomasina Redruth, who could do nothing but grumble and lament. Any of the under-gamekeepers would gladly have changed places with her; but such was not the squiress’s pleasure, and the squiress’s pleasure was like law among them all. Nobody but old Mrs Redruth would have dared so much as even to grumble.

The next morning she and I set out on foot for the Admiral Benbow, and there I found my father in good health and spirits. The captain, who had so long been a cause of so much discomfort, was gone where the wicked cease from troubling. The squiress had had everything repaired, and the public rooms and the sign repainted, and had added some furniture—above all a beautiful armchair for father in the bar. She had found him a girl as an apprentice also so that he should not want help while I was gone.

It was on seeing that girl that I understood, for the first time, my situation. I had thought up to that moment of the adventures before me, not at all of the home that I was leaving; and now, at the sight of this clumsy stranger, who was to stay here in my place beside my father, I had my first attack of tears. I am afraid I led that girl a dog’s life, for as she was new to the work, I had a hundred opportunities of setting her right and putting her down, and I was not slow to profit by them.

The night passed, and the next day, after dinner, Mrs Redruth and I were afoot again and on the road. I said good-bye to Father and the cove where I had lived since I was born, and the dear old Admiral Benbow—since she was repainted, no longer quite so dear. One of my last thoughts was of the captain, who had so often strode along the beach with her cocked hat, her sabre-cut cheek, and her old brass telescope. Next moment we had turned the corner and my home was out of sight.

The mail picked us up about dusk at the Royal Georgiana on the heath. I was wedged between Mrs Redruth and a stout old lady, and in spite of the swift motion and the cold night air, I must have dozed a great deal from the very first, and then slept like a log up hill and down dale through stage after stage, for when I was awakened at last it was by a punch in the ribs, and I opened my eyes to find that we were standing still before a large building in a city street and that the day had already broken a long time.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Bristol,” said Thomasina. “Get down.”

Mrs Trelawney had taken up her residence at an inn far down the docks to superintend the work upon the schooner. Thither we had now to walk, and our way, to my great delight, lay along the quays and beside the great multitude of ships of all sizes and rigs and nations. In one, sailors were singing at their work, in another there were women aloft, high over my head, hanging to threads that seemed no thicker than a spider’s. Though I had lived by the shore all my life, I seemed never to have been near the sea till then. The smell of tar and salt was something new. I saw the most wonderful figureheads, that had all been far over the ocean. I saw, besides, many old sailors, with rings in their ears, and their bangs curled in ringlets, and tarry pigtails, and their swaggering, clumsy sea-walk; and if I had seen as many queens or archbishops I could not have been more delighted.

And I was going to sea myself, to sea in a schooner, with a piping boatswain and a pig-tailed singing seawoman, to sea, bound for an unknown island, and to seek for buried treasure!

While I was still in this delightful dream, we came suddenly in front of a large inn and met Squiress Trelawney, all dressed out like a sea-officer, in stout blue cloth, coming out of the door with a smile on her face and a capital imitation of a sailor’s walk.

“Here you are,” she cried, “and the doctor came last night from London. Bravo! The ship’s company complete!”

“Oh, ma’am,” cried I, “when do we sail?”

“Sail!” says she. “We sail tomorrow!”

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