What was the evidence that the squire had been talking the whole night?
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is an adventure novel that purports to be an uncomplicated story of good and evil, complete with pirates and buried treasure. The author’s main purpose is to entertain his readers by guiding them through a simple and exciting plot sequence. Launching and advancing the story’s plot is the primary reason for the existence of the first-introduced character, Squire John Trelawney, in this tale.
The novel opens with the narrator, Jim Hawkins, indicating that Trelawney’s urging was significant enough for him to relate his tale to the world:
SQUIRE TRELAWNEY, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17__ and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.
In the early stages of the novel, the squire is portrayed as a good-hearted and patriotic man of nobility, although somewhat of a loose-lipped gossip, unable to maintain a secret. After Jim finds a treasure map, he brings it to the attention of his friend Dr. Livesey, who conveniently happens to be having dinner with the squire, and plans are hatched to outfit a ship and find the location of the treasure. Trelawney suggests that he go to Bristol to arrange the purchase of a vessel for the journey. Dr. Livesey, aware of the squire’s reputation, warns him not to tell anyone about the map or their intentions:
“You ... cannot hold your tongue. We are not the only men who know of this paper. These fellows who attacked the inn tonight—bold, desperate blades, for sure—and the rest who stayed aboard that lugger, and more, I dare say, not far off, are, one and all, through thick and thin, bound that they'll get that money. We must none of us go alone till we get to sea. Jim and I shall stick together in the meanwhile; you'll take Joyce and Hunter when you ride to Bristol, and from first to last, not one of us must breathe a word of what we've found.”
“Livesey,” returned the squire, “you are always in the right of it. I'll be as silent as the grave.”
Trelawney wastes no time. He sends a letter to Dr. Livesey indicating he purchased the ship, Hispaniola, and to his co-adventurers’ dismay, he writes:
I got her through my old friend, Blandly, who has proved himself throughout the most surprising trump. The admirable fellow literally slaved in my interest, and so, I may say, did everyone in Bristol, as soon as they got wind of the port we sailed for—treasure, I mean.
It is clear that Trelawney, in keeping with his reputation, had leaked the news:
The squire has been talking, after all.
Chapter 9 provides the reader with a further indication of Trelawney’s continuous prattling:
“Any more?” asked Mr. Trelawney.
“One more,” said the captain. “There's been too much blabbing already.”
“Far too much,” agreed the doctor.
“I'll tell you what I've heard myself,” continued Captain Smollett: “that you have a map of an island, that there's crosses on the map to show where treasure is, and that the island lies—” And then he named the latitude and longitude exactly.
“I never told that,” cried the squire, “to a soul!”
“The hands know it, sir,” returned the captain.
“Livesey, that must have been you or Hawkins,” cried the squire.
“It doesn't much matter who it was,” replied the doctor. And I could see that neither he nor the captain paid much regard to Mr.Trelawney's protestations. Neither did I, to be sure, he was so loose a talker ...”
There is no question about Stevenson’s use of Squire Trelawney to advance his plot. The author uses the character’s propensity toward unconstrained conversation as a literary mechanism to explore the theme of good and evil. The squire’s incessant babbling enables him to move the story along by setting the goal for the adventure, along with the motivation for the evil antagonists. Nearly everything in this tale discovered by virtue of rumors can safely be traced back to Squire Trelawney.