Chapters 8-10 Summary

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Timothy gets to work immediately, constructing a shelter out of palm fronds. After a few hours he is done and proudly helps Phillip run his hands over a sturdy hut large enough to fit both of them comfortably. Despite Phillip’s protests, Timothy then goes down to the reef to fetch some langosta. Phillip is still terrified about being left alone and thinks resentfully that his mother was right—Negroes “had their place” and were clearly “different.”

When Timothy returns, triumphantly bearing three large lobsters, Phillip refuses to speak to him. Timothy responds by telling him softly, “Young bahss, be an outrageous mahn if you like, but ’ere I’m all you got.” After they eat, Timothy seems very tired. As they settle in for the night, Phillip asks him how old he is. Timothy says that he is “more dan seventy,” and Phillip reflects that he is very old—“old enough to die there.”

In the morning, Timothy constructs a signal fire on the beach and enlists Phillip’s aid in arranging rocks to “say somethin’ on d’san’.” Although Timothy does not admit it openly, Phillip realizes that he cannot spell. Using a stick, Phillip draws out the letters H-E-L-P on the sand, and Timothy happily arranges the rocks, following the lines Phillip has made.

Later that afternoon, Timothy begins making a rope that will stretch from the hut down to the beach and fire pile. While he is engaged in this activity, he tells Phillip that he “mus’ begin to help wid d’udder wark” and shows him how to weave sleeping mats. Phillip tries at first but quickly becomes frustrated and throws the palm fibers at the old man, screaming epithets at him. Timothy slaps Phillip sharply once, then he returns quietly to his own task. After pouting, Phillip realizes that the rope Timothy is making is for him, to enable him to get around the island by himself. Something begins to change within Phillip from that moment, and he turns to Timothy and tells him that he wants to be his friend. Timothy responds warmly, “Young bahss, you ’ave always been my friend.”

On their seventh night on the island, a gentle rain falls, providing much needed drinking water. Lying comfortably in the hut, Phillip and Timothy talk for a long time. Timothy speaks about his childhood. He remembers that he had never gone to school and had been working on a fishing boat by the time he was ten. Phillip tells Timothy about his life in Scharloo. Because it has been bothering him, he also tells him that his mother “didn’t like black people” and asks him why. Timothy responds that he does not like some White people, but that “’twould be outrageous if [he] didn’ like any o’ dem.” When Phillip asks Timothy why there are different colors of skin, Timothy laughs and says he does not know, but he believes that “beneath d’skin is all d’same.”

On the cay, Phillip and Timothy have been subsisting on a steady diet of food that comes from the sea. There are coconuts high in the trees with which Timothy would love to supplement their diet, but he realizes he is too old to climb to such a great height. Occasionally Timothy hints that his young companion should make the ascent, but Phillip has not found the courage to do so.

One day, Timothy comments that Phillip has become “veree brown an’ veree lean.” Phillip tries to imagine his changed appearance. He asks Timothy what his eyes look like, and Timothy responds that “dey look widout cease...dey stare.” Phillip remembers that when he had first become blind, Timothy had told him about a friend he had who had lost his sight and regained it again spontaneously in a few days. He asks, “How long was it before that friend of yours...could see again?” Timothy responds vaguely and changes the subject; Phillip notices that he frequently does this when they talk about his blindness.

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Chapters 11 and 12 Summary