Chapters 15 and 16 Summary

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The first drops of rain start to fall after dark. Before long, the wind turns cool and begins blowing steadily. The surf crashes furiously, and slithering creatures, seeking higher ground, are seemingly everywhere in and around the hut.

Suddenly, there is a splintering sound, and the shelter comes apart and blows away. Phillip and Timothy drop to the ground, with Timothy covering Phillip’s body with his own. They lie flat on the sand for almost two hours, “taking the storm’s punishment, barely able to breathe in the driving rain.” The sea finally reaches the hilltop, forcing Timothy and Phillip to race to the palm.

Placing Phillip safely in front of him against the tree, Timothy loops their arms through the rope and stands with his back to the storm. The water rises around their ankles, and then to their knees, but Timothy holds on firmly, still sheltering Phillip with his body as the water tries to suck them away. After about an hour, the storm suddenly abates, and Timothy says they can relax a bit as the eye of the hurricane passes. Although Timothy tells Phillip that he is all right, the old man sits with his head cradled in his arms, “making...small noises, like a hurt animal.”

After a brief respite, the wind and rain start up again, and Phillip and Timothy return to the palm. The second half of the storm is even worse than the first. Near the end, a wave crashes over their heads, causing them to lose consciousness. When Phillip awakens, the storm is almost gone, but Timothy sags behind him, cold and limp. Phillip finds it difficult to untangle himself and Timothy from the palm, and when Timothy falls senseless to the ground, there is little he can do other than just sit by him and hold his hand.

Timothy recovers briefly after a long while, weakly asking Phillip if he is all right. He then rolls over on his stomach and loses consciousness again. When Phillip reaches for him, he finds that his friend’s back is warm and sticky; Timothy has been “cut to ribbons by the wind,” which has flayed his back and legs with driving rain and tiny grains of sand.

Phillip falls asleep beside his protector, and when he awakens just before dawn, he finds that “Old Timothy, of Charlotte Amalie, [is] dead.” Stew Cat, who has been missing, returns. Except for him, Phillip realizes with desolation that he is now “blind and alone on a forgotten cay.”

In the afternoon, Phillip buries Timothy. At first he is angry that his companion has left him behind, but as he works he recognizes that Timothy gave his life so Phillip might live. As he sets down stones to mark the grave, Phillip thanks his loyal friend and prays humbly, “Take care of him, God, he was good to me.”

After lingering at the grave, Phillip returns to the spot where the hut had been. He retrieves the water keg and Timothy’s knife, and he begins to rebuild all that the storm has destroyed. Somehow, Phillip understands that the key to his survival is to “stay very busy and not think about [him]self” or his situation.

Phillip manages to remake the shelter and the signal fire during the succeeding days. With the help of a pack of fishing poles Timothy had made and left for him, he is able to catch enough fish to feed himself and Stew Cat. On the sixth day after the storm, the birds return, and Phillip inadvertently walks into their new nesting grounds. Uncharacteristically, the birds attack him. Phillip is unhurt and can hardly blame them—they are fighting to survive, just like he is.

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