PART THREE: My Shore Adventure
Chapter 15: The Man of the Island
At that I once more stopped.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Ben Gunn," he answered, and his voice sounded hoarse and
awkward, like a rusty lock. "I'm poor Ben Gunn, I am; and
I haven't spoke with a Christian these three years."
I could now see that he was a white man like myself and
that his features were even pleasing. His skin,
wherever it was exposed, was burnt by the sun; even his
lips were black, and his fair eyes looked quite
startling in so dark a face. Of all the beggar-men
that I had seen or fancied, he was the chief for
raggedness. He was clothed with tatters of old ship's
canvas and old sea-cloth, and this extraordinary
patchwork was all held together by a system of the most
various and incongruous fastenings, brass buttons, bits
of stick, and loops of tarry gaskin. About his waist
he wore an old brass-buckled leather belt, which was
the one thing solid in his whole accoutrement.
"Three years!" I cried. "Were you shipwrecked?"
"Nay, mate," said he; "marooned."
I had heard the word, and I knew it stood for a
horrible kind of punishment common enough among the
buccaneers, in which the offender is put ashore with a
little powder and shot and left behind on some desolate
and distant island.
"Marooned three years agone," he continued, "and lived
on goats since then, and berries, and oysters. Wherever
a man is, says I, a man can do for himself. But, mate,
my heart is sore for Christian diet. You mightn't happen
to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well,
many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted,
mostly--and woke up again, and here I were."
"If ever I can get aboard again," said I, "you shall
have cheese by the stone."