Chapters 21-22 Summary
Because of the recurrence of the cannibals, Robinson Crusoe sees a new benefit in having domesticated the goats: he does not need to fire a gun, which would alert the “savages” to his presence. It is now twenty-four years that he has been on the island.
One day he is surprised to hear the firing of a gun. He climbs to a higher point and sees a flash of fire far out to sea. It sounds to him like a message of distress, and he builds a fire as a signal. The ship evidently sees it, for it fires off several more shots. Crusoe discovers that the ship has struck a rock near the place where the current caused him so much trouble many years before. He prays that some of the men might survive and provide him with some companionship. However, he later discovers only the body of a boy with nothing but pieces of eight and a pipe. He voyages out to the ship but finds no survivors. There is very little of value in his eyes, except some cooking pots, clothing, some bottles of different spirits, and a little gunpowder. There is also a dog that is near starvation. Crusoe loads all this in his boat and sails back to land. He stores his newfound provisions in his cave arsenal. Crusoe, his life a little easier, resumes his previous occupations.
Crusoe thinks how foolish he had been to set sail for Africa to trade for slaves. If he had not, he would be a wealthy man on his Brazilian plantation, able to buy as many slaves as he wanted. He thinks of how providential it has been that he has, so far, escaped from the savages that periodically come to the island. He thinks that the main land must be relatively near for the cannibals to come so regularly to the island. He decides the only way he can escape is to attack the next band of cannibals that comes to the island, enslave one or two of them, and use them as guides to take him back to their home.
The moment comes at last when a group of cannibals returns to his island, but the party consists of five canoes filled with men. There are too many for him to effectively attack. Two men are held captive. The cannibals strike one on the head (presumably to be the evening meal). The other man swiftly escapes and runs straight toward the place where Robinson Crusoe is hiding. Three of the cannibals chase him. One is unable to cross the creek. Crusoe strikes the second and shoots the third. The man Crusoe refers to as “my savage” sees that the one Crusoe struck is still alive. He borrows Crusoe’s sword and cuts off the head of the cannibal. Crusoe takes “his savage” to his bower (rather than his cave) and lets him sleep.