Chapter 1 Summary

Treasure Island begins as a scarred old pirate in ragged clothes appears at the Admiral Benbow Inn, a lonely stopping place on the coast of England. He orders a glass of rum and, after drinking it, introduces himself as “the captain” and says he plans to stay awhile. He takes his luggage—a heavy trunk—up to his room and makes himself at home.

The narrator of the story is a boy named Jim Hawkins, whose father owns the Admiral Benbow. Jim is fascinated by his father's new guest, especially after the captain asks him to watch out for “a seafaring man with one leg.” For this task, Jim receives payment of a fourpenny coin every month.

Every morning, the captain climbs up on some rocks and looks out at the sea. Every night, he sits in a corner at the inn drinking rum. Usually he refuses to speak or answer questions, but when he gets drunk he sometimes grows talkative. On such occasions he tells scary stories about his adventures at sea, or he sings his favorite song:

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!

The old pirate terrifies the simple country people who live in the local village, but they seem to enjoy the excitement. They visit the inn often to listen to his songs and stories. When he gets drunk, he sometimes demands that people sing with him, and they sing “for dear life,” certain he will murder them if they do not obey. To Jim’s surprise, some of the villagers come back for this experience again and again.

Unfortunately, the captain does not pay his bills at the Admiral Benbow. Now and then, Jim’s father asks timidly for money, but the captain refuses to give him any. Jim’s father struggles to pay his bills, and he begins to worry a great deal. Soon he grows very sick.

The town doctor, Dr. Livesey, sometimes visits the inn to care for Jim’s father. One night the doctor sits down in the parlor with the other guests. The captain, who happens to be in one of his drunken moods, waves a hand to let everyone know that he wants them to be quiet. Everyone obeys except Dr. Livesey, who loudly continues his conversation.

This makes the captain angry. He orders the doctor to quiet down, but Dr. Livesey refuses. Instead he calls the captain a drunk and predicts that his drinking will kill him. Outraged, the captain threatens the doctor with a knife. Calmly, the doctor says:

If you do not put that knife this instant in your pocket, I promise, upon my honour, that you shall hang at the next assizes.

To everyone’s surprise, the captain backs down. After that, he does not cause a ruckus for a long time.