It has been five years since my voyage on the Hispaniola. I'm living with my mother once again at the Admiral Benbow. The old inn has been rebuilt. Larger, but simple still. The only original piece from the first Benbow is the notched sign. It serves as a reminder of the old inn to our customers, and a reminder to me of Billy Bones. While as modest as the old Admiral Benbow, the inn keeps its reputation for comfortable beds, good food and pleasant company. Part of my share of the treasure has been invested into the Benbow. I'm glad. There is something satisfactory in knowing your hard work paid off, and the inn will be mine one day.
Speaking of which, Mother isn't as well as she used to be. Her bones ache at night and she is constantly chilled. Doctor Livesey says it is only old age creeping up on her. He tells me she has many years left, and I hope his prediction is true. I think the Admiral Benbow would be too empty with out Mother. The whole building breathes with her work ethic and honest love for mankind.
I came down stairs one afternoon to start preparation for our guests' lunch when I heard Mother speaking with someone at the front door.
"There's no room, sir," Mother shrilled. I could hear nervousness building in her voice.
"Are you sure?" A voice boomed with shocking familiarity. "I am tired, and need a good night's rest."
I bolted from the kitchen. In the front foyer stood a man, parallel from my mother. His weather beaten face shone with humour. His eyes sparkled with a startling intelligence. Below the knees, one leg was missing.
"Ah! Jim Hawkins!" He cried, salty winds and clear waters rolling in his words.
Mother spun to look at me. "Jim? You know this man?"
Unable to speak, I nodded hesitantly. In my mind, his name echoed. Long John Silver.
"Jim." The old sailor opened his arms welcomingly. "C'mere, lad."
I stepped forward numbly. He drew me into a bear hug. He smelt of salt and leather. Memories that had been pushed aside by the hustle of present day came rushing forward like the tide. The man released me from his grasp, seizing his crutches before they fell to the floor.
"Your dear mother tells me there's no room at the inn," he said jovially, winking an eye. "But is there a seat at your table for an old sea dog to rest his bones?"
"You're not old, Long John," I said with automatic politeness.
He roared with laughter, clapping a big hand on my shoulder. I could see Mother fidgeting nervously. She had made a point of turning seamen away at the door ever since my adventure five years previous. Knowing Silver was one of the mutineers I had sailed with did nothing to ease her mind. Worse was the knowledge that Long John had been the leader of the mutiny.
But Silver carried no weapons. No scabbard hung around his waist. No knife tucked into his boot. No strange lumps in his shirt from pistols. Casting Mother what I hoped was a comforting glance; I lead Long John to the common room. He hopped nimbly behind me on his crutches. Whistling cheerfully, he admired his surroundings.
"Nice set up you've got here, Jim lad." He commented amiably, lowering himself into a chair. Silver gave me a word of thanks as I set his crutches off to the side. Sweat cropped up on my neck as I thought of putting the crutches out of his reach. Thoughts of calling the police swirled in my head. Instead, I sat across from him, acutely aware of the inn patrons' eyes on us. Hushed conversation buzzed in my ear. I was sure we were the subject of discussion.
"Why are you here?" I hissed at him, "I could call police right now and have you hanged for mutiny!"
Long John Silver chuckled deeply. He drew out a pipe and filled it with a pinch of tobacco. Playing the part of welcoming host for the guests watching us intently, I offered him a match from my pocket. He took it, smiling easily at me. Wedging the end of the pipe between his teeth, he tapped the table with his index finger. "I want a job here, Jimmy. A cook's job!"
I sat straight up. My face flushed with anger. "You come here, after all you've done and demand for employment?" I struggled to keep my voice in check.
The sailor leaned back in his chair, balancing himself with his remaining foot. His eyes looked pained. I tried to steel my heart against pity for him. I refused to look away, to show weakness. It was his words that broke my resolve.
"Please Jim… I left my wife. She took the treasure… I have no where to go." He sighed, taking the pipe in his hand. "I thought of you. My only friend in the world. We are friends, aren't we, Jim?"
Keeping my emotions in check, I pushed away from the table. "I thought so once. Welcome to the team, Mr. Silver."
I turned away before he could say more, but I knew he was smiling gratefully at me. I heard his crutches scrape against the table, the chair screech across the floor. I walked towards the kitchen, assuming Silver was following. How was I going to tell Mother I had hired the very man who betrayed me?