Editor's note: Searching for Captain Flint's buried treasure, a noble group of landlubbers mistakenly hires Long John Silver's treacherous crew. The two sides try to outsmart each other as they race for the gold. Dogs are the main characters in this retelling of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic.
The pirates bounded through jungle like mindless pups until they stumbled upon one of Captain Flint's weather-beaten markers -- the remains of a skeleton pointing toward a nearby tree.
"That's a strange way to mark a trail," observed Long John. "But on we go. The treasure must lie straight ahead."
The pirates crept forward more cautiously now, torn between their greed for gold and their fear of the dead. When we were no more than 100 paces from the tree, a ghostly voice began to wail:
Fifteen bones on a dead dogs chest
Arf-arf-arf and a bottle of rum!
The cowardly scoundrels froze in their tracks, convinced that the spirit of Captain Flint was hovering nearby, but Long John simply tightened his grip on my leash, dragging me forward and urging his mates on.
"Aye, that's a familiar voice," he sniffed, "but it isn't Flint's."
And then, in a whisper that only I could hear, he added, "I smell an ill wind ahead. You and I had best look out for each other, my dear friend."
With that, we stepped into a clearing and tumbled into a large hole where a vast treasure had once been buried. Caught in a tangle of fangs and fur, Long John's crew was outraged by this discovery and directed their anger at the wily old pirate captain.
"You promised us tons of gold," one snarled, aiming a pistol at us. "But now all we have is you and a hole and that blasted pup ..."
Their threat was interrupted -- and our lives were spared -- by several musket shots and the maniacal laugh of old Ben Gunn.
"I've spent three long years digging up this treasure, Mr. Silver," cried the mad hermit as he emerged from the bushes with Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey. "And now these good dogs have offered me passage home."
Breaking free of Long John, I rushed to Dr. Livesey, thanking him for rescuing me and begging forgiveness at the same time.
"You've saved me, sir, although I'm not sure I deserve your efforts," I whimpered. "I've been so reckless with all our lives. That cursed map almost killed us all. And I abandoned the ship and allowed myself to be captured ..."
But the doctor waved my confession aside and hugged me.
"Young Hawkins, you made us rich beyond our dreams when you found that map," he proclaimed. "Why, you have saved our lives at every turn. You discovered the plot, recruited Ben Gunn to our cause, then stole the ship out from under Long John Silver's nose.
"You left home an untrained pup but will return a hero," he added.
And then, as we ambled down the hillside with our prisoners, the doc- tor and the squire explained how Ben Gunn had convinced them to leave the stockade for the comfort of his treasure-filled den, where they could prepare a final ambush when Long John followed the treasure map to the empty pit.
On the way back to the ship, we stopped at the den so that I could see the treasure trove. It was a cavern the size of a ship's hold, filled with gold and silver bars, jewelry, coins and trinkets.
"But it's all yours now," cackled Gunn. "In return, of course, for a berth aboard your lovely schooner."
Reprinted from TREASURE ISLAND WITH LOTS OF DOGS by Frank B. Edwards, illustrated by John Bianchi. Text c 1999 by Frank B. Edwards; illustrations c 1999 by John Bianchi. Published by PPokeweed Press.