1. The Nightmares Return.
It has been almost ten years since that fateful adventure that changed my life and shaped me into a man. Many things have since changed. The gold that I brought back from the island as my share was used to buy a better house, and as my mother wished, to further my education. Dear mother has long gone and been reunited with my father. It happened while I was away, and I sincerely regret not being with her in her final moments. As for what has become of my other companions I cannot say; all I have heard having been Ben Gunn being found drunk and beaten to death near an seafront Inn. I pity the poor man to whom life wasn't the kindest.
This story is somewhat of a sequel to my last account, and I have chosen to write it down in hopes that someone might find it interesting in the distant future. It starts with me having been back home for a month. As I was busy with other things, I had pushed the adventure of my youth to the back of my mind, but my being home again and near the sea reminded me of things I'd much rather have left forgotten. I remember it all as if it were yesterday. The mutiny, the lies, the murder of good men- all for hidden treasure. I saw the greed of those pirates; the unspeakable evil in their black hearts. It has been the one thing I cannot seem to forget. I had once said I would never venture back to that accursed island that was the cause of all of this, but the nightmares that returned to haunted me, caused me to reconsider.
It was a night like any other and I had been putting off retiring for some hours. I am a trifle ashamed to admit-I was dreading the moment in which I must finally put my weary head to rest. Every night since I had been home, the dreams had visited me. I would awaken, Captain Flint's cackling warning loud in my ears: "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" I couldn't understand it. I had had dreams like this in the days following my return from sea, but they hadn't haunted me in years. Why would they suddenly return now?
Hurrying into my coat and hat, I went down to my stables and saddled up my one and only horse. I hadn't been to see Doctor Livesey in some years, and only hoped he was still living at the same residence.
I arrived a little after midnight and knocked at his door. There was no answer, and I began to wonder if new people were now living in the place. I knocked louder and was finally rewarded with the sound of light footsteps coming down the hall. An older man I hadn't remembered seeing before opened up.
"May I help you?" he inquired, looking most decidedly like a undertaker in his stiff black suit and morbid expression.
"Is this the residence of Doctor Livesey?" I asked.
The man stared at me suspiciously. "It is sir, though he is now retired. If it is a doctor you need, there is one-"
I must say I interrupted him rather rudely. "I am in no need of a doctor. Doctor Livesey and I are long time friends. I only wish to speak with him. Please tell him Jim Hawkins is waiting."
The man closed the door and I assumed he might not have taken to the way I interrupted, but in a moment he returned. "The Doctor Livesey will see you."
I followed the man through the familiar house to the library where the doctor was sitting with a book in hand.
He looked up as I was ushered in, and smiled. "Ah Jim, you've finally returned home, I see."
"Yes sir, I have," I replied. I was happy to find the doctor looking in good health, though he had never been one to be under the weather. Excepting the heavy gray in his hair, he looked almost the same as when I was a lad-ten years had been generous to him.
I settled myself in a chair while he placed his book on the table beside him.
"So Jim, what brings you back to Black Hill Cove after all these years? Thought by now you'd be married and running a business."
Though his question was asked in good humor, I wasn't in the mood for such inquiries. I leaned forward in my seat. "I'm here to talk about the past, sir," I said, pausing for his reply.
He smiled. "I supposed. Why else would you come to call in the middle of the night? You're having the nightmares again, I presume?"
I ran a hand through my hair, wondering how he always seemed to know what was on my mind. "Yes," I sighed, "they have returned."
The doctor stood and opened a cabinet. He set a small pouch on my lap. "That will help you sleep."
"Thank you, sir," I said, "Though I fear this time it will take more than medicine to help me." I paused a moment, then continued, my voice low, "You still have the map?"
He glanced at me sharply. "Surely you don't mean to say you're actually contemplating returning to that Island?"
"I am sir," I confirmed.
There was a moments pause in which I quite nearly changed my mind about the whole affair, but the doctor stopped me saying so by commenting:
"I would go with you, if I were a few years younger. Never was one to leave an adventure behind." He eased himself back into his chair. "But these old legs of mine aren't as strong as they once were."
"I suppose," I continued, my determination to return to the island firmly back in place, "that this is the only way I will be rid of these dreams that torment my mind. I will sail back and return with the bar silver."
"I only hope," the doctor said slowly, "that for your sake Jim, this mission you have undertaken will prove to be profitable to you."
I left the doctor's residence a little after three in the morning, with the map in my shirt pocket and a note to a captain the doctor said would be more than capable of finding and commanding a ship and crew for me.
I arrived back home and took some of the medicine the doctor had given. I was soon in a deep, but not dreamless sleep. As I had before thought, not even drugs could calm the twisted realms of my imagination. I awoke in a pool of sweat, with Captain Flint's voice loud in my ears. It is needless to say I spent the rest of the morning hours preparing for my trip to Bristol.
The next few days were spent traveling, and I shall not bother writing it down, for nothing that is to be considered exciting happened. I arrived safely in Bristol, and secured lodgings, before going off to visit the man the doctor had recommended.
His name was Captain Michael Williams. I called at his home and gave him the note the doctor had written explaining who I was. He read it slowly, then invited me to stay at his house and provide him with the details.
"I see," The captain said, after I finished telling him of my mission to return to the Island. He was a middle aged man, unmarried, and very tall and thin. Not quite the type I would have thought looked the role of a captain, but there was something about the way he spoke that captured one's attention.
We were in his office, him leisurely enjoying an after supper pipe, and I (I must admit to being terribly impatient) pacing back and forth around the room, waiting for him to comment on what I had just told him.
"I see," he repeated, this time looking up at me. "You wish to return to that Island and recover the rest of the treasure that you presume is still there?"
"Yes sir," I replied. "And it's not just the treasure, as I told you, I am hoping the nightmares will disappear as a result of it also."
"Yes, well tell me Hawkins, how are you going to get there? Do you have a ship? A trustworthy crew?"
I stopped pacing and faced him. "I was hoping," I said, "that you would be willing to help me with those details."
The smoke from the captain's pipe floated upwards, twisting toward the ceiling in the silence that followed. When he finally spoke, it was in a subdued tone. "I'm going to be perfectly frank with you Hawkins-I don't know why Livesey sent you to me. I haven't commanded a ship in years; wasn't sure I ever wanted to try again."
I felt there was more that I needed to know, so I asked, "What made you retire early, sir?"
He sighed, pausing with his pipe halfway to his lips. "It was close to sixteen years ago," he began, "I was captain of a schooner, the Lady's Grace she was called. I had my...my wife Anna and baby daughter Kaitlyn with me. We were attacked by pirates. Anna and Kaitlyn were murdered along with more than half the crew. The rest of us were tied and locked in the cabins. The ship was scuttled. It was only by the grace of God we managed to escape."
I stared at this man who had lost so much, and my heart went out to him. "I'm sorry."
He looked up. "Hawkins," he said, "I have realized something from your being here. Like you, I am finally ready to be free from the chains of the past." He paused, and then what I would later come to call a rare smile formed on his thin face. "Gather provisions, I'll see to it we have the finest ship and crew in the whole sea."
I reached out to shake his outstretched hand. "Thank you sir."
He shook his head. "No Hawkins, thank you."
The next few days were busy for both the captain and I. He managed to find us a delightful little schooner, the Athena, for a good sum; and a whole crew of men he thought were of good character and of trustworthy nature. I managed, with the help of the cook he hired, to provision us out with as much stores as the ship could carry. We were ready to began our little adventure by the end of the week. The day before we were set to sail, I went over the men the good Captain Williams had hired, committing their names and faces to memory.
There was the first mate, a tall burly man by the name of Andrew Bows, who looked as if nothing anyone ever did was at all good enough for him; but he was pleasant enough with the captain and capable, so I was sure he would be suitable for the job. Then there came the quartermaster, Mitford, which was the only name he went by; and the gunner Tony, who looked rather like a pirate with his gold earrings and eye patch, but whom the captain reassured me was of the uttermost reliable character; and of course our cook who's name was Daniel Mackey, a jolly old salt he was.
There was quite a handful sailors, I dear say, but it would take a bit to write all their names down, so let me just mention a few more. The two brothers, Tucker and Reed Hirsch; a very young man by the name of Tip, and the cabin boy. I must say, it was the cabin boy who caught my special attention. His name was Peter, and by his brown skin and wavy hair, I supposed he must have been of partial African decent. But it was the frailness of his body and the way he looked completely out of place on a ship full of rough sea men, that prompted me to make up my mind to see to it he was well looked after and not treated poorly by the others.
We were soon underway the next morning, and I was happy to leave everything in the captain's good hands, for though I did know a good deal about sailing and the like, I will have to admit that being once again at sea didn't settle easy with me. I retired early to my cabin and took some of the medicine, thinking I would perhaps catch up on some much needed sleep. I lay in my berth, soon rocked to sleep by the gentle swaying of the ship.
'Fifteen men on the dead man's chest,
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!'
I awoke clutching my sheets, sweat dripping from my brow. It was as if I couldn't sleep anymore; no amount of medicine could calm the fevered dreams I experienced.
I pulled on my trousers and made my way out on deck. Except for the few men on watch, all was quiet. Peaceful. The cool sea air felt refreshing. It was as if being out here cooled my mind and freed me of the nightmares, if only for the moment. I stood looking out at the sea. Hearing a slight noise behind me, I turned, noticing someone else had the very same idea.
It took me a while in the dim light to see that it was the cabin boy, Peter. I hadn't seen him all day, being the reason he was working in the galley, and generally helping wherever he was needed.
I don't think he saw me at the same moment I noticed him, for he stopped short as if just noticing I was there, and half turned around to leave.
"Lovely night," I observed out loud.
Peter turned back. "Yes." There was a pause and then, "Sir."
"Is this your first time at sea?" I asked, wanting to break the silence that had gathered.
"Yes...sir," he replied, leaning his hands on the railing.
His hands were very slender, with long fingers and well cared for nails. I wondered what his background was, where he had come from. I was very much tempted to ask, and I very well might have, but for he must have felt my eyes on him, and swiftly removed his hands. I decided it best to ignore this, and went on talking.
"I remember the first and," I added with a slight laugh, "the last, sea voyage I ever was on. I was cabin boy just as you. Full of fanciful dreams of adventure."
"But you found out, things are never as they seem."
I glanced quickly over at the boy. His words seemed older than his years in the grave, matter-of-fact way he spoke them. There was a strange expression on his face, something unreadable, yet holding almost a trace of anger. I was puzzled by this, but as before, thought it best left alone.
"Aye," I answered, "Nothing is quite how it seems."
He turned abruptly, and without another word disappeared into the moonlit darkness from whence he had come. I stayed out a while longer, thinking on what had just occurred.
In the next few days, nothing of great importance happened. The Athena was a wonderful craft, swift and capable, even better I could say than the old Hispaniola. She skimmed along at a dazzling speed, and I even dared to hope the voyage might not take as long as it had the time before.
Everything was going quite well until a disturbing event occurred which I must make an account of. It happened a few weeks out at sea, and it left the whole crew in a state of shock and suspicion.