Treasure Island By Robert Louis Stevenson Summary and Analysis Part IV - The Stockade (Chapters 16–21)

Summary

In the first chapter of the novel's fourth part ("Narrative Continued by the Doctor: How the Ship Was Abandoned"), and in the two chapters that follow, Dr. Livesey is the narrator, relating the experiences of Trelawney's group that take place during Jim's separation from it. On board the ship in the early afternoon, Hunter tells the others that Jim has gone ashore, and they fear for his life. They know there's no point in overpowering the six mutineers left on board, for there is no wind to carry the ship back to sea, so after a while, Livesey and Hunter take a boat and row to the island to see whether they can find out what has happened to Jim. The two mutineers left to guard the shore party's boats see them but decide to stay where they are, and Livesey and Hunter steer around a bend, out of their sight. The doctor goes ashore. Within a hundred yards he discovers a stockade, a large blockhouse of logs equipped with firing ports, enclosing a clear spring of water, and itself enclosed by a strong six-foot fence without an opening. Because this structure is near the top of a hill, Livesey knows that a small group could hold it against a much larger force — indefinitely, if they had food and ammunition and kept close watch to avoid a surprise. As he thinks this, he hears the death-cry that Jim reported in the preceding part, and he believes that Jim has been killed. He runs to the boat where Hunter is waiting and they go back to the ship, where the rest of their group and one of the six remaining hands have been shaken by the cry.

Telling the coxswain, Israel Hands, that anyone who signals to Silver's shore party will be shot, they load the boat with supplies, muskets, and ammunition. The six mutineers hurry below, but Redruth has been set to watch them, and they are trapped below decks. Joyce, Hunter, and Livesey take the boat ashore again and, as one of the watchers there runs to inform Silver of this, they take the supplies to the stockade and leave them with Joyce as guard. Hunter and Livesey return for a second load, and then Livesey alone rows back to the ship. He, Trelawney, Redruth, and Smollett load the boat again with as much as it can carry and drop the rest of the arms and their powder overboard. These four are ready to abandon the ship to the mutineers when Smollett calls to one of the men below, Abraham Gray, and orders him to come with them. There is a scuffle among the mutineers and then Gray, cut in the face, comes out and joins them. They shove off from the ship and strike out for shore.

In Chapter 17 ("Narrative Continued by the Doctor: The Jolly-Boat's Last Trip") the five men head again for shore with the boat severely overloaded. The tide is ebbing and they are nearly swamped, but they are making their way slowly when they realize that Hands and the other four left on the Hispaniola are now in possession of the ship's "long-nine" — a long-range mounted gun — and its powder and shot. From their boat they can see Hands getting ready to load the gun, and Squire Trelawney, the best shot, aims his musket and fires. He misses Hands but hits one of the others. Then Silver's party comes down to the beach. Some start out toward the squire's group in one of their two boats, while others run along by the shore to head them off. They know it will be a race, but they are close to shore and they try for it, the ebbing tide now working for them and against the pirates' boat. By now, however, Hands has readied the gun on deck and he fires. The shot whistles over their heads, but at their effort to back the boat out of Hands' aim, it sinks, along with their supplies and three of their five muskets.

The five men wade to shore (Chapter 18, "Narrative Continued by the Doctor: End of the First Day's Fighting") and run for the stockade, hearing the pirates who remained on shore coming toward them. Both groups reach the enclosure at the same time. Trelawney and Livesey, along with Hunter and Joyce from the blockhouse, fire their muskets at the mutineers (who are armed only with pistols and have not reached their weapons' range), hitting one. The others run for the trees. Still outside the stockade fence, Livesey and the others find that the fallen man is dead. But then one of the men in the trees shoots Redruth with a pistol, and, after he is brought into the blockhouse, the old gamekeeper dies.

Captain Smollett has brought his English flag ashore, and now he sets it on a pole above the stockade. The ship's gun continues to fire on them, to little effect, for they are nearly out of its range. Smollett tells the doctor that they have plenty of arms but that, having lost most of their food when the boat sank, they will not be able to survive long, and he asks about the consort that Trelawney arranged at Bristol to come after them if they were late in returning. He is told that it will be a matter of months before help arrives, far too long, and so he sends two of the men to salvage what they can from the sunken boat, which will now be exposed at low tide. But they find that the mutineers are ahead of them, already bringing up these supplies, and that they have somehow armed themselves with muskets from what must have been a secret store. The captain has begun a log, setting down their names and situation, when Jim Hawkins, coming over the wall of the stockade, hails them.

In Chapter 19 ("Narrative Resumed by Jim Hawkins: The Garrison in the Stockade") Jim takes up the story again where he left it, three chapters earlier, sighting the British colors flying above the stockade. Gunn assures him that Silver would fly the pirates' flag, not this one, and that therefore the squire and his group must be occupying the stockade. He instructs Jim to tell the squire about him and his offer, lets him know where and when to find him, and — as firing from the Hispaniola commences — he and Jim flee, separately. Jim stays hidden until sunset and then approaches the shore, where he sees the pirates' colors flying from the ship and, after the end of the bombardment, watches the mutineers on the beach destroy the boat that has brought his friends to the island. Then he goes to the stockade, where he is greeted happily, and tells his story.

Captain Smollett sets them all tasks and arranges watches. The Doctor asks Jim about Ben Gunn, and tells him that the castaway cannot be expected to appear sane after three years alone here. Livesey has a piece of Parmesan cheese and says he'll give it to Gunn. He, Smollett, and Trelawney confer and decide their best course of action is to try to kill the pirates one by one until they are so weakened that the survivors are forced to leave with the ship. They hear the pirates a half-mile off, singing drunkenly for half the night, and the doctor says they will be sick with fever in a few days, camped near the swamp as they are. In the morning Jim wakes to hear someone announcing that Silver has arrived with a flag of truce.

Going to one of the gun ports in the blockhouse wall (Chapter 20, "Silver's Embassy"), Jim sees Silver and another man just outside the stockade. Captain Smollett goes to the doorway to talk with Silver, allowing him to climb over the fence. He waits while Silver struggles with his crutch on the sandy knoll, and he refuses to let the erstwhile cook, now calling himself "Captain Silver," enter the house. Silver says he has come to discuss terms, after the trouble of the previous night when the pirates, all drunk but Silver, were attacked and one was killed with a spike. Smollett acts nonchalant, although he does not know what Silver means, but Jim remembers Ben Gunn's promise that, if the pirates camped on shore, there would be "widders in the morning." Silver tries to get Smollett and the others to give his group the map, assuring him that he will then take them without harm off the island to safety — or, if the captain would prefer, will leave them provisions and send a ship to rescue them. Smollett replies with his own terms: If the pirates will surrender, he'll put them in irons and take them back to England for trial. Angrily, Silver struggles to his foot and leaves, making dire threats.

Smollett turns back into the house, as Chapter 21 ("The Attack") begins, to find that all but Gray have left their posts to witness the parlay, and he rebukes them. Then he tells them the attack will come within an hour, but that they are in a better position and can defeat the larger force. They prepare to defend the blockhouse, and as the day begins to heat up they wait. After a little over an hour, Joyce sees one of the pirates approaching and fires. The attackers come in from all sides. As shots are exchanged, one hits Livesey's musket and destroys it. Four of the pirates get over the fence. Two more are killed, and one runs away. Others continue to fire from the woods outside the fence. The four inside the enclosure swarm the house, injuring Hunter, and soon all are fighting in the yard with cutlasses. The battle is short. The surviving pirates retreat. But Hunter and the captain are injured, and Joyce is dead. Still, the group in the stockade has bettered the odds in their favor, for — counting the man Trelawney shot on board the ship — eleven of the original nineteen pirates, as Smollett had estimated, are dead.

Analysis

The three chapters narrated by Livesey do not change the voice of the narrative greatly, because both narrators narrate in a similar style — clear, concise, and informal but not colloquial. Yet the doctor relates incidents that Jim could not relate, even if he had been present (for example, Smollett's saying that they have so little food that perhaps they are better off without Redruth, a coldly calculated remark he would surely never have confided to anyone but Livesey). Likewise, Jim remarks upon events (for example, Smollett and Silver smoking together, each trying to unnerve the other — which, he says, was "as good as a play" to watch) that Livesey would probably not point out.

Abraham Gray, as carpenter's mate, would have been useful to the pirates if they could have made him join them. Historically, specialists like Gray were often forced or recruited by pirates who had taken their ships, whereas common sailors were usually allowed to go free unless they joined willingly. However, the mutineers here could not have afforded to free the two sailors (Tom and Alan) whom Silver took ashore, and, because they could not persuade the sailors, the pirates killed them. Gray, potentially more valuable, was left on the ship. Silver, who is thinking all the time, knows his position was severely weakened when Alan's death was heard, and especially when the captain and his party got to the stockade, even at the cost of Redruth's life. He has probably been in contact with the group left on the ship during the first evening and knows that he has lost one man there, leaving him with ten ashore (including himself) and four on the ship. With the loss of the man killed by Ben Gunn — although Silver thinks someone from the stockade killed him — he is no closer to gaining the map, is subject to more random losses of men, and is in dubious control of the undisciplined bunch who have elected him captain but can depose him if they wish. Thus, although he must realize his embassy to the stockade is going to fail, he wants to size up the situation there in preparation for an attack, which will be what he sees is his last chance — and the sooner the better. The mutineers still outnumber Smollett's group (by twelve to seven, including Jim, for Silver has probably got all but one man, Hands, off the ship; thus Jim's count during the attack is wrong even so), and they are now armed with some muskets. (This is never made clear, but probably Silver had a cache of weapons brought on board before they left Bristol.)

A note on weaponry is in order here to explain how primitive the firearms available in the eighteenth century were. Pistols were useful only at close range and had to be primed and reloaded after each shot (or after two shots for double-barreled pistols), a time-consuming process. Muskets had a longer range, although they, too, fired only one shot at a time. But muskets lost accuracy and force at greater distances, because their longer barrels were still smooth-bored, although the balls they fired might be rifled (that is, scored to ensure a relatively straight flight). Squire Trelawney's shot from the boat, from half the distance between ship and shore (a sixth of a mile or nearly 300 yards), is so much a stretch that it must be attributed to poetic license on Stevenson's part. The ship's gun, the "long nine," also had to be primed and loaded before firing, and its nine-pound cannonballs were relatively ineffective at long range except for lucky shots, because they did not explode on impact; such guns were most useful at close range during sea battles between ships.

Glossary

jolly-boat a sailing vessel's small boat, usually carried on the stern.

gig a long, light ship's boat.

"looped for musketry" with small ports for firing weapons.

paling a fence made of pales (narrow, upright pointed stakes; pickets).

musket a smoothbore, long-barreled firearm, used before the invention of the rifle.

keg of pork a barrel of pork cured in salt for preservation.

painter a rope attached to the bow of a boat for tying it to a dock (or to a ship) or for towing it.

two fathoms and a half fifteen feet; a fathom is a unit of length used to measure the depth of water or the length of a nautical rope or cable, equal to six feet (1.8288 meters).

don't hang so long in stays "In stays" or "in irons" is said of a sailing vessel that is headed into the wind with no way on, one that has failed to come about (to change course so that the sails shift); the captain is using the phrase figuratively to urge Gray to change his loyalty from Silver to his rightful captain; he uses "in irons" in much the same way during his later parlay with Silver.

gallipot a small pot or jar of glazed earthenware, especially one used by druggists as a container for medicine; Dr. Livesey uses this figuratively of the jolly-boat because of its small size.

the gunwale was lipping astern The gunwale (pronounced GUN-ulh) is the upper edge of the side of a boat; water was touching the edge of the jolly-boat's gunwale at the rear (stern).

trim the boat to balance the boat by ballasting, shifting cargo, and so on.

the long nine a large artillery piece mounted on the ship; this is primed with powder and wadding; loaded with nine-pound, round lead shot; aimed; and fired by a gunner by touching the powder with a lit match. Thus, in Chapter 17, the captain asks Trelawney, who is watching the gunner, to tell the others in the jolly-boat when he sees the match so that they can hold or back the boat, because the gunner will have aimed ahead of it.

carpet bowls a game played by rolling a weighted ball at a target ball or jack, as in lawn bowling but played indoors on a carpet.

good divinity sound religious doctrine.

Jolly Roger a black flag of pirates, with a white skull and crossbones.

Ben Gunn is fly Fly is thieves' slang, originally, meaning "alert and knowing; sharp, quick."

Davy Jones in folklore, the spirit of the sea, or the sea personified; used by sailors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

You're on a lee shore A lee shore is a sheltered shore, out of the wind; thus Smollett means that Silver and his pirates are in a bad position with no good way out.

a rum puncheon a wooden cask or barrel for holding rum.

doldrums equatorial ocean regions noted for dead calms; a sailing ship in the doldrums may be becalmed indefinitely for lack of wind.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

As a pointer to the treasure site, Flint has left




Quiz