Treasure Island By Robert Louis Stevenson Summary and Analysis Part II - The Sea Cook (Chapters 7–12)

Summary

As Chapter 7 ("I Go to Bristol") begins, Jim is staying at the squire's Hall for his protection and that of the map, while Dr. Livesey is in London to arrange for someone to take over his medical practice and Squire Trelawney is in Bristol to buy and outfit a ship. After a few weeks, Jim and Tom Redruth, the squire's trusted servant and head gamekeeper, receive a letter from Trelawney that informs them he has bought a schooner, the Hispaniola, and has hired a crew (with the help and advice of a man called Long John Silver, whom he has engaged as ship's cook). He directs them to come as soon as possible to Bristol. So, after a day's visit with Jim's mother at the inn (repaired now and refurnished by the squire), Jim and Redruth set off by stage for Bristol, an overnight journey. Trelawney greets them and says they will sail the next day.

The squire sends Jim (in Chapter 8, "At the Sign of the 'Spy-Glass'") to take a letter to Long John Silver at the tavern he owns, and there — after Silver has announced loudly that this is their new cabin boy — a man whom Jim recognizes as Black Dog runs out the door. Jim is at first suspicious of the one-legged Silver, and especially so upon seeing Black Dog, whom he knows to be a pirate. But he is soon convinced, by Silver's cleanliness, his courtesy, and in general his overall charisma, that Silver is an honest man. Silver sends two men out to run after Black Dog, but they return saying they have lost him in the crowd. Apologizing for his failure to have apprehended the pirate, Silver returns with Jim to the inn where Trelawney and Livesey are waiting and tells the story to them, impressing the doctor, too, with his apparent honest worthiness. Then he goes back to his tavern and the others set off to see the ship.

When Jim, Trelawney, and Livesey board the Hispaniola, at the beginning of Chapter 9 ("Powder and Arms"), the captain (Mr. Smollett, referred to earlier as the "sailing master") asks to speak with Trelawney, and Jim and the doctor stay in attendance. Smollett has complaints about the enterprise. He does not trust many of the crew (which it ought to have been his right as captain to hire), does not like the habit of his first mate, Mr. Arrow, of associating too freely with the common sailors, and especially does not like the fact that the whole crew knows they are sailing for treasure — and knows the bearings of the island — when he himself has been told none of this. The squire, saying he has told no one about the map and the island, begins to bluster heatedly, but Dr. Livesey steps in and prevents him from firing Smollett on the spot. Under Livesey's questioning, the captain explains his objections, admits that he has no proof that the first officer and crew are not to be trusted, but says that this treasure hunt will be a dangerous voyage. He asks that Trelawney's servants, Redruth and others whom the squire has brought with him, be quartered near Trelawney's cabin rather than before the mast with the rest of the crew, and that the store of guns and powder be removed from the forehold and kept below the cabin. This, Livesey observes, will effectively separate the newly hired crewmen from those whom Trelawney already knows — as well as from the weapons — and sounds as if the captain fears a mutiny, but Smollett again says he is only being cautious, and that if he had a real reason to fear mutiny he would ask to resign his orders.

Silver comes on board and complains that moving the powder and arms will waste too much time. Captain Smollett tells him to mind his own business, and tells Jim to go to the galley (ship's kitchen) with Silver to help prepare the meal.

In Chapter 10 ("The Voyage"), everyone works all night in order to lift anchor by dawn, and the song the men sing as they do so reminds Jim of his home and the old "captain." He says he will not tell in detail of the voyage, but only of a few incidents. Arrow, the mate, turns out to be a drunkard, although no one knows where he gets the liquor, and eventually, during mildly rough weather, he disappears — overboard, says Smollett without much regret. Others take on his duties, including the boatswain Job Anderson and the coxswain Israel Hands, a close companion to Silver. Silver makes a friend of Jim, telling him stories of the days when his parrot, Cap'n Flint, sailed with notorious pirates and learned to swear most terribly. Meanwhile, although Captain Smollett begins to think better of the crew and very well of the ship, he and Trelawney are still not on good terms. The squire is, in Smollett's eyes, too generous and easy with the crew. As they approach the island that is their destination, Jim goes to get an apple from the barrel always kept on deck. He has to get inside the barrel to find one, and while he is there, hidden, he hears Silver speaking nearby and realizes that he must stay hidden.

Chapter 11 ("What I Heard in the Apple Barrel") finds Jim listening as Silver speaks to a young crewman named Dick, flattering him with the same phrases and proffered friendship he has used on Jim, and at the same time revealing that he is indeed a pirate, as are most of the other hands he has "helped" Trelawney to choose. The two men, joined by Israel Hands, continue the conversation, with Jim growing more and more angry, resentful, and terrified. He hears Silver talk about Pew and others with contempt, advising Dick to save his money, as they did not. And he hears Silver's plan, which has been for the pirates to play their roles as honest seamen until the treasure has been found and loaded and Smollett has set a course for home. But Silver, perceiving that Hands and others will not have the patience for this, proposes that they not maroon the captain, Trelawney, Livesey, and others on the island, from which they may return, but to kill them all "when the time comes." He asks Dick to get him an apple, and Jim is horrified. But, at Hands' urging, Silver changes his mind and sends Dick to his secret keg for rum. They drink to "old Flint." Then the lookout sights land.

In Chapter 12 ("Council of War"), Jim escapes from his barrel in the rush of crew to their stations. Smollett orders a course just to the east of the island and asks whether anyone knows this place; Silver replies that he does and describes the anchorage. He is shown a map, and Jim guesses his disappointment on finding that it is only a copy of the original, with treasure locations unmarked. Silver makes some friendly remarks to Jim and then goes below. Jim tells Dr. Livesey that he has "terrible news," and asks to be sent for in the cabin. After the doctor has had a chance to tell this to Smollett, the captain announces to all hands that Squire Trelawney is pleased with their performance and will have grog sent up for them. He leads a cheer for the squire, and another cheer follows this for Smollett himself, led by Silver. After a little while Jim is sent for, and in the cabin he tells Trelawney, Livesey, and the captain what he has heard.

The squire apologizes to Smollett, saying the captain was right in the first place, and Smollett says he wasn't completely right, or he would have seen some sign that the crew was going to mutiny, which he has not; Livesey says this is Silver's doing in his firm control over them. Then Smollett advises them that their best course is to wait, because the pirates will not make their move until the treasure has been found, and then they can be surprised, giving the others a needed edge. They count the men on whom they think they can rely, and their calculation is that, of the twenty-five grown men on the ship, only six can be trusted.

Analysis

This second part of the book develops three of the major characters more fully. Two of these are Jim and Squire Trelawney, who seem to have much in common despite their different stations in life. Both are romantics, such that the lure of the sea, the colorful talk and dress and walk of seafarers, the idea of the voyage of adventure — in short, everything about the enterprise they are on — appeals to them both tremendously. Jim's description of Bristol, in the mid-eighteenth century a busy port in the busiest sea-going nation of Europe, is positively lyrical; and the squire's very language, in the letter that opens Chapter 7, shows that he has immediately chosen, wholeheartedly, to adopt the life of the seafaring man as the new object of his immense and more than a little silly enthusiasm. Both Jim and Trelawney, too, are inclined to judge people according to how much their own egos are flattered. Trelawney's "old friend" Blandly, who sold him the ship, has obviously assured him that he is making a deal he can be proud of, and the squire loves to be proud of his own accomplishments (in fact, Blandly has lied outright to Trelawney, hiding his own ownership and sale of the ship, a fact that Trelawney has heard but refuses to believe); Long John Silver, having heard of this rich, voluble country squire who has already told "all of Bristol" that he will sail in search of treasure, has read him well and, thus, posing as an honest and rather touching old fellow who lost his leg in service of his country, has no trouble in taking over the hiring of the first mate and crew. Silver certainly knows that Trelawney and his friends are the ones in possession of Billy Bones' chart. Jim, too, is flattered by Silver's treating him like an adult, and after only a few minutes has convinced himself that this one-legged man cannot be the one whom Billy Bones paid him to look out for. By the same token, both Jim and Trelawney dislike Captain Smollett because he does not flatter them, and, because they dislike him, both are sure that he does not know his business as well as they do. Of course, Jim knows absolutely nothing about the sea except, as you may surmise, what he has read in romanticized histories, and Trelawney — although he is said to have "followed" it — knows not a great deal more. All of this childishness is natural and perfectly understandable in Jim, who is, after all, about twelve or thirteen years old. But Trelawney, who calls himself an "old bachelor," must be in his thirties or forties and ought to know better.

About Dr. Livesey readers are again assured, by his intervention into the discussion between Trelawney and Smollett, that the doctor is honest, diplomatic, and, above all, sensible.

Two more major characters also make their first appearance in this part. Captain Alexander Smollett and Long John Silver are polar opposites in most ways, but both are old hands at the sea. And both, unlike Jim and the squire, are hard to fool. Smollett, fair-minded and plainspoken, smells something rotten about the whole venture. But, as he admits, he has no real proof that anything is wrong. He has already signed on as ship's captain, and he will not resign on the basis of a mere hunch. (Note that Smollett would not resign outright but would ask to resign — his scrupulous honor will not allow him simply to quit, which is why he addresses Trelawney so bluntly in Chapter 9, foreseeing and perhaps hoping that he will be fired, as he surely would be without the doctor's intervention.) Smollett, however, is no diplomat, and he does not hide the fact that, in his opinion, the squire is in some ways a fool and Jim a spoiled pet. Still, he is a professional and has had long experience in his line of work, which means that he is able to tolerate men, even to respect their strengths, without much liking them. This trait becomes important as the voyage and the book progress.

Silver, too, has had long experience. As he reveals in Chapter 11, he is fifty years old (which was elderly, not merely middle-aged, in the eighteenth century) and has sailed with the murderous fictional pirate, Flint, and the somewhat less murderous historical pirate, Edward England. He is not in his own profession for glory and adventure, but for gain — he speaks derisively of Pew, who spent 1,200 pounds in a year (nearly three times as much, according to one source, as the average merchant sailor may have earned in his lifetime) and then had to beg for a living. Silver also tells the young sailor Dick (apparently a very young man, probably only a year or two older than Jim) exactly how much money he brought back from his previous voyages and how he has saved it. Silver is a shrewd observer of human behavior, and he trusts people to be what he sees they are. Thus he trusts his wife to sell his tavern, withdraw his savings, and meet him at an agreed-upon place; and, despite the fact that he implies to Dick she can be trusted because she fears him, he obviously knows she will not do anything stupid in the conduct of their business. Silver sees through Jim instantly, of course. He has also seen through Trelawney, and he hates the squire. He does not say why, but from what is revealed about Silver here, you can guess that he despises him not because he is a fool (Silver has surely known plenty of fools in his time) but because he is such a lucky fool; Trelawney has always lived luxuriously, as Silver wishes and intends to live, without having to work or even to use his wits, whereas Silver has had to do both, losing his leg in the process, and will never again be a smart, able-bodied young man. His hatred of Trelawney is based in envy.

Israel Hands, a minor character who reappears in a later chapter and proves to be cut from the same sort of pattern as Black Dog and Pew, is interesting here mainly because of his name, which was the real name (or perhaps alias — pirates often used various names) of an historical buccaneer who sailed, to his grief, with the notorious Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. One evening in his cabin, without warning and for no apparent reason, Blackbeard blew out his lamp, drew his pistol, and shot Hands — who was sitting across the table from him — in the knee, crippling him for life. When asked why he had done so, Teach reportedly said that he had to kill one of his crew every so often in order that the rest would remember who he was.

In describing the voyage, Jim says he omits most particulars. This allows the adventure to proceed apace without the tedious narration of what was, in reality, a mostly tedious time. Treasure Island is a romance, written specifically with a young audience in mind, but given that some aspects of the book and its characters are brutally realistic, it may be well to comment briefly on the real nature of such a voyage.

At 200 tons and perhaps 25 to 30 yards along her main deck, the Hispaniola would have been a rather large schooner, large enough to carry three times the 26 men, plus Jim, with whom she sails from Bristol. She is a quick ship with a shallow draft, meaning that she can make good speed and be anchored in "shoal," or shallow, waters, which second characteristic will prove important in later chapters. Still, the voyage from Bristol to Treasure Island and back will take well over five months (from their departure date, apparently early in March, to their arrival back in port just before the departure of the consort Trelawney has arranged to sail after them should they not return by the end of August). Two and a half to three months at sea on a sailing ship, even with only 25 shipmates, cannot have been a picnic. Sleeping quarters, even for the officers, were crowded. Food was at best monotonous, with hard-baked, unleavened bread (ship biscuit) and fried or boiled salt pork being the staples, because only a condition of dryness or of immersion in salt could preserve food (more or less) from insect infestation and rotting. (Silver boasts of eating "dainty all my days, but when at sea," and even "dainty" in the mid-eighteenth century was not what twenty-first century Americans may find appetizing.) Drinking water was often rationed and was hardly fresh. Sanitary facilities were nonexistent; men did not bathe (of course, few bathed even on shore; it was considered unhealthy and slightly unmanly), and toilets were either the sea itself or buckets dumped into the sea. Lights and heat required open flames, which were a terrible hazard on wooden ships.

Note here that the men are not abusing young Jim by giving him a glass of wine to drink during their "council of war" in Chapter 12. Wine, at this point in the voyage, would have been much more palatable than water. Moreover, eighteenth-century customs were different from ours; Jim would probably have been drinking ale and hard cider with meals at his parents' inn since his early childhood. If anything, the men are honoring him, admitting him to their company as an adult.

Glossary

gamekeeper a person employed to breed and care for game birds and animals on private estates, releasing them for hunts.

schooner a sailing vessel with two or more masts.

a pretty rum go . . . a shame, a bad thing.

a score twenty.

salts slang term for seasoned sailors.

sailing master an officer in charge of navigation.

a stiff man . . . a stern man, strict, unbending (Smollett will later be called the ship's captain, a higher rank than sailing master, so perhaps Trelawney is belittling him here).

figurehead a carved figure on the bow of a ship.

sea-walk a kind of rolling, swaggering gait; sailors, walking on the rolling decks of relatively small ships at sea for months on end, did not regain their land legs until they'd been back on shore for some time.

boatswain a ship's warrant officer or petty officer in charge of the deck crew, anchors, boats, etc. (pronounced and often spelled bosun).

quid a piece, as of tobacco, to be chewed.

dead-eye a round, flat block of wood with three holes in it for a lanyard (short rope or cord), used in pairs on a sailing ship to hold the shrouds and stays (ropes for moving the sails) taut.

keel-haul to haul a person down through the water on one side of a ship, under the keel, and up on the other side as punishment or torture.

deadlights windows of heavy glass set in the side of a ship; nautical slang for "eyes."

my score my take; the man did not pay for his rum.

my davy Silver means "my affidavit" or statement made under oath; later he will say "my affy-davy."

my officer my first mate; next in rank to the captain.

the fable of the mountain and the mouse This is in reference to a saying ("a mountain labored and gave birth to a mouse") and means, roughly, "you seemed to be going to say a lot more than you finally did say."

tip us a stave start up a song for us; sailors sang to establish a rhythm for their work.

forehold storage space below the front part of a ship's deck.

head sea an ocean current moving in a direction opposite that of the ship's motion; sailing would be rough here.

coxswain a person in charge of a ship's boat and usually acting as its helmsman.

lanyard a short rope or cord used on board ship; a cord hung round the neck (by sailors) used to hang something.

pieces of eight obsolete Spanish and Spanish-American dollars.

foc's'le forecastle; the area of a ship ahead of the foremast.

quartermaster nautical term for petty officer or mate trained to steer a ship, perform navigational duties, and so on; on pirate ships, the next in line to the captain, elected by the crew as their representative.

England In Silver's conversation with Dick and Hands, England is the name of a pirate captain he has sailed with. (Edward England was a historical pirate; he died in the early 1720s, and one of his companions, a one-legged man, is said to have been the model on whom Stevenson based the character Long John Silver.)

a kind of a chapling a kind of a chaplain; Hands implies that Silver is known for not carousing like the other pirates.

trades trade winds; one of the winds that blows steadily toward the equator from the northeast in the tropics north of the equator and from the southeast in the tropics south of the equator.

mizzentop the top of the mizzenmast, which is the mast third from the bow of a ship with three or more masts.

careen to cause a ship to lean or lie on one side, as on a beach, for cleaning.

yard-arm either side of a yard, a slender rod fastened at right angles across a mast to support a sail.

lay to . . . keep a bright lookout to lie more or less stationary (as a ship, with the bow into the wind) and keep an alert watch.

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