ben gunn.jpg

Lesson 5: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (part 2)

What do you dream of?

In this lesson Mark introduces us to the character Ben Gunn, gives a short reading of the text below and then shares three guided reading questions.


The Man of the Island

He was concealed by this time behind another tree trunk; but he must have been watching me closely, for as soon as I began to move in his direction he reappeared and took a step to meet me. Then he hesitated, drew back, came forward again, and at last, to my wonder and confusion, threw himself on his knees and held out his clasped hands in supplication.
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.”
All this time he had been feeling the stuff of my jacket, smoothing my hands, looking at my boots, and generally, in the intervals of his speech, showing a childish pleasure in the presence of a fellow creature. But at my last words he perked up into a kind of startled slyness.
“If ever you can get aboard again, says you?” he repeated. “Why, now, who's to hinder you?”
“Not you, I know,” was my reply.
“And right you was,” he cried. “Now you—what do you call yourself, mate?”
“Jim,” I told him.
“Jim, Jim,” says he, quite pleased apparently. “Well, now, Jim, I've lived that rough as you'd be ashamed to hear of. Now, for instance, you wouldn't think I had had a pious mother—to look at me?” he asked.
“Why, no, not in particular,” I answered.
“Ah, well,” said he, “but I had—remarkable pious. And I was a civil, pious boy, and could rattle off my catechism that fast, as you couldn't tell one word from another. And here's what it come to, Jim, and it begun with chuck-farthen on the blessed grave-stones! That's what it begun with, but it went further'n that; and so my mother told me, and predicked the whole, she did, the pious woman! But it were Providence that put me here. I've thought it all out in this here lonely island, and I'm back on piety. You don't catch me tasting rum so much, but just a thimbleful for luck, of course, the first chance I have. I'm bound I'll be good, and I see the way to. And, Jim”—looking all round him and lowering his voice to a whisper—“I'm rich.”
I now felt sure that the poor fellow had gone crazy in his solitude, and I suppose I must have shown the feeling in my face, for he repeated the statement hotly: “Rich! Rich! I says. And I'll tell you what: I'll make a man of you, Jim. Ah, Jim, you'll bless your stars, you will, you was the first that found me!”
And at this there came suddenly a lowering shadow over his face, and he tightened his grasp upon my hand and raised a forefinger threateningly before my eyes.


Guided Reading Questions

After reading the full extract you could ask:

1. What was Ben Gunn hididng behind when he watching Jim closely?

(retrieval question)

2. When Ben came forward he threw himself onto his knees and clasped his hands in supplication.  What do you think this means? Give reasons for your answer.

(inference question)

3. If you were marooned on a desert island with only one item to keep from the ship, what would you take with you?  What about three objects? What would be the most important items on your list and why?

(P4C / 'Big idea' question)


©2020 The Reading