THE PERSONS OF THE TALE
by Robert Louis Stevenson
After the 32nd chapter of Treasure Island, two
of the puppets strolled out to have a pipe
before business should begin again, and met
in an open place not far from the story.
"Good-morning, Cap'n," said the first, with
a man-o'-war salute, and a beaming countenance.
"Ah, Silver!" grunted the other. "You're
in a bad way, Silver."
"Now, Cap'n Smollett," remonstrated Silver,
"dooty is dooty, as I knows, and none better;
but we're off dooty now; and I can't see no
call to keep up the morality business."
"You're a damned rogue, my man," said the
"Come, come, Cap'n, be just," returned the
other. "There's no call to be angry with
me in earnest. I'm on'y a chara'ter in a
sea story. I don't really exist."
"Well, I don't really exist either," says
the Captain, "which seems to meet that."
"I wouldn't set no limits to what a virtuous
chara'ter might consider argument," responded
Silver. "But I'm the villain of this tale,
I am; and speaking as one seafaring man to
another, what I want to know is, what's the
"Were you never taught your catechism?"
said the Captain. "Don't you know there's
such a thing as an Author?"
"Such a thing as a Author?" returned John,
derisively. "And who better'n me? And the
p'int is, if the Author made you, he made
Long John, and he made Hands, and Pew, and
George Merry--not that George is up to much,
for he's little more'n a name; and he made
Flint, what there is of him; and he made
this here mutiny, you keep such a work about;
and he had Tom Redruth shot; and--well, if
that's a Author, give me Pew!"
"Don't you believe in a future state?" said
Smollett. "Do you think there's nothing
but the present story-paper?"
"I don't rightly know for that," said Silver;
"and I don't see what it's got to do with
it, anyway. What I know is this: if there
is sich a thing as a Author, I'm his favourite
chara'ter. He does me fathoms better'n he
does you--fathoms, he does. And he likes
doing me. He keeps me on deck mostly all
the time, crutch and all; and he leaves you
measling in the hold, where nobody can't
see you, nor wants to, and you may lay to
that! If there is a Author, by thunder, but
he's on my side, and you may lay to it!"
"I see he's giving you a long rope," said
the Captain. "But that can't change a man's
convictions. I know the Author respects me;
I feel it in my bones; when you and I had
that talk at the blockhouse door, who do you
think he was for, my man?"
"And don't he respect me?" cried Silver.
"Ah, you should 'a' heard me putting down
my mutiny, George Merry and Morgan and that
lot, no longer ago'n last chapter; you'd 'a'
heard something then! You'd 'a' seen what
the Author thinks o' me! But come now, do
you consider yourself a virtuous chara'ter
"God forbid!" said Captain Smollett, solemnly.
"I am a man that tries to do his duty, and
makes a mess of it as often as not. I'm
not a very popular man at home, Silver, I'm
afraid!" and the Captain sighed.
"Ah," says Silver. "Then how about this
sequel of yours? Are you to be Cap'n Smollett
just the same as ever, and not very popular
at home, says you? And if so, why it's
Treasure Island over again, by thunder;
and I'll be Long John, and Pew'll be Pew,
and we'll have another mutiny, as like as
not. Or are you to be somebody else? And
if so, why, what the better are you? and
what the worse am I?"
"Why, look here, my man," returned the
Captain, "I can't understand how this story
comes about at all, can I? I can't see how
you and I, who don't exist, should get to
speaking here, and smoke our pipes, for all
the world like reality? Very well, then,
who am I to pipe up with my opinions? I
know the Author's on the side of good; he
tells me so, it runs out of his pen as he
writes. Well, that's all I need to know;
I'll take my chance upon the rest."
"It's a fact he seemed to be against George
Merry," Silver admitted, musingly. "But
George is little more'n a name at the best
of it," he added, brightening. "And to get
into soundings for once. What is this
good? I made a mutiny, and I been a gentleman
o' fortune; well, but by all stories, you
ain't no such saint. I'm a man that keeps
company very easy; even by your own account,
you ain't, and to my certain knowledge, you're
a devil to haze. Which is which? Which is
good, and which bad? Ah, you tell me that!
Here we are in stays, and you may lay to it!"
"We're none of us perfect," replied the
Captain. "That's a fact of religion, my
man. All I can say is, I try to do my duty;
and if you try to do yours, I can't compliment
you on your success."
"And so you was the judge, was you?" said
"I would be both judge and hangman for you,
my man, and never turn a hair," returned the
Captain. "But I get beyond that: it mayn't
be sound theology, but it's common sense,
that what is good is useful too--or there
and thereabout, for I don't set up to be a
thinker. Now, where would a story go to, if
there were no virtuous characters?"
"If you go to that," replied Silver, "where
would a story begin, if there wasn't no
"Well, that's pretty much my thought," said
Captain Smollett. "The Author has to get a
story; that's what he wants; and to get a
story, and to have a man like the doctor
(say) given a proper chance, he has to put
in men like you and Hands. But he's on the
right side; and you mind your eye! You're
not through this story yet; there's trouble
coming for you."
"What'll you bet?" asked John.
"Much I care if there ain't," returned the
Captain. "I'm glad enough to be Alexander
Smollett, bad as he is; and I thank my stars
upon my knees that I'm not Silver. But
there's the ink-bottle opening. To quarters!"
And indeed the Author was just then beginning
to write the words:
~~~~~~~ THE END~~~~~~~