by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Billy Bones's] stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were--about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men that God ever allowed upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. [...] People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea. (1.10)
It's only appropriate, given that Robert Louis Stevenson is a writer, that he assigns so much magical power to language and storytelling. Billy Bones is charismatic and exciting because he tells amazing pirate stories – ones much like the one we are reading. Billy Bones foreshadows what's coming down the road for Jim. By placing this outlandish, larger-than-life pirate in the middle of quiet English society, Stevenson is really highlighting how different Jim's future with the pirates will be from the quiet life he's led up until now.
The stranger kept hanging about just inside the inn door, peering round the corner like a cat waiting for a mouse. Once I stepped out myself into the road, but he immediately called me back, and as I did not obey quick enough for his fancy, a most horrible change came over his tallowy face, and he ordered me in with an oath that made me jump. As soon as I was back again he returned to his former manner, half fawning, half sneering, patted me on the shoulder, told me I was a good boy and he had taken quite a fancy to me. (12-3)
This sneering stranger is Black Dog, and he's trying to ambush his former shipmate Billy Bones at the Admiral Benbow Inn. Black Dog is like a pale imitation of Long John Silver. And like Israel Hands, he is unable to keep his "sneering" manner off his face, so even his flattery rings false. These efforts to get on Jim's good side prove that Black Dog isn't stupid, but he's not as smart as the real thing, Long John Silver.
"You'd be as rich as kings if you could find it, and you know it's here, and you stand there skulking. There wasn't one of you dared face Bill, and I did it--a blind man! And I'm to lose my chance for you! I'm to be a poor, crawling beggar, sponging for rum, when I might be rolling in a coach! If you had the pluck of a weevil in a biscuit you would catch them still." (5.25)
This amazing outburst of hatred for his fellow pirates emerges from Pew, the blind man who comes looking for Billy Bones after Bones chased off Black Dog with his sword. The "it" Pew is talking about is, of course, Flint's treasure. We can see what's wrong with pirate society in the way Pew addresses his fellow pirates: it's all about personal gain rather than teamwork. Pew is filled with loathing for the other pirates, who lack "the pluck of a weevil in a biscuit." He cares only about "[his] chance" to be "rolling in a coach" and has no patience for any man who stands in the way of his personal ambition.