Chapter 20 Summary

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Accompanied by one other pirate, Long John Silver stands outside the stockade. A chilly fog swirls around their knees and obscures the view of the forest behind them. The captain peers outside, looking for signs of a surprise attack. He sends three men to strategic positions inside the house to keep watch. He orders everyone else to load muskets and stand ready.

With these preparations complete, Captain Smollett calls out to ask Long John Silver what he wants. Long John Silver—now calling himself Captain Silver—asks permission to come unarmed into the bunkhouse and speak. Captain Smollett says, “I have not the slightest desire to talk to you.” However, he adds that Silver will not be harmed if he wishes to come.

The captain steps outside and watches Silver climb the fence and make his way up the hill. With his one leg and his crutch, Silver makes very slow progress on the sandy ground, but Captain Smollett does not offer to help. Instead he sits down and whistles a tune while he waits. Silver eventually reaches the captain and, after complaining that the captain should invite him inside, sits beside him on the ground.

Silver complains about something that happened last night, and it becomes clear that one of the pirates was bludgeoned and killed while he slept. None of the captain’s men went out last night, but the captain does not admit this. Jim knows what must have happened: Ben Gunn must have attacked the mutineers’ camp on his own. Now there are only fourteen pirates left.

Silver and Captain Smollett smoke their pipes together, not speaking. Finally Silver spits on the ground and makes an offer. He says that if Captain Smollett hands over the treasure map, the pirates will spare the men’s lives and share the rest of the food. However, the pirates will take the treasure for themselves.

Captain Smollett is clearly unimpressed by Silver’s proposal. He says that the pirates have no basis for making demands. They do not know where to the find the treasure. They do not have the knowledge necessary to sail the ship away without wrecking it. They are cowardly drunks who cannot fight. The captain makes a counterproposal: if the pirates turn themselves in, he will chain them up and take them back to England for a fair trial. Otherwise he will fight them to the death. “I’ll put a bullet in your back when next I meet you,” he says.

This makes Long John Silver angry. He wants to leave, but he cannot stand up on his own. He asks the captain to help him, but the captain refuses. Nobody else offers to help either, so Silver is forced to crawl to the porch and pull himself up to a standing position. He spits into the spring and vows to attack the stockade within the hour. “Them that die’ll be the lucky ones,” he says. He stumbles back down the hill and, with great difficulty, climbs over the fence. Jim and his friends watch, not speaking, until Silver disappears into the trees.

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Chapter 19 Summary


Chapter 21 Summary