Chapter 23 Summary
Ben Gunn’s little homemade boat is very hard to paddle, and Jim cannot easily steer it toward the Hispaniola. However, the tide is going in about the right direction. With a little effort, Jim manages to row and drift toward the ship. When he arrives, he bumps against the side and pushes himself along with his hands. Soon he finds the anchor rope, and he is about to cut it when he realizes that what he is doing is dangerous. Surely the taut rope is exerting force on the ship. If he cuts the rope now, the ship may swing around and knock Jim into the water.
Jim is about to abandon his whole plan when a breeze arises and loosens the rope for a moment. Reassured, Jim gets out a knife and saws through. The rope grows tight again as he works, so he waits to cut the last few strands until the next breeze comes along. While he waits, he listens to the arguments of the two watchmen on board the Hispaniola, who are clearly drunk and out of sorts. Eventually a breeze rises, and Jim takes his chance to finish cutting the rope.
Immediately the Hispaniola begins to move with the ocean’s current. Jim’s little round boat gets buffeted along the side. At first he is afraid that he will get swamped and drown, but this does not happen. However, Jim finds that he cannot fight against the force of the Hispaniola’s movement. He simply allows himself to be pushed along, waiting until the current frees him on its own.
The watchmen do not seem to notice that they are adrift, and Jim wonders why. Curiosity gets the best of him, and as he drifts past the cabin, he stand up—almost toppling overboard in the process—and peeks inside. He sees the watchmen in a silent fight, each of them trying to strangle the other. He sits back down, careful not to upset his boat, and soon the current carries him away.
Unfortunately, Jim still cannot steer. He drifts toward the shore, where a group of pirates is singing by their campfire. When he sees where he is headed, Jim grows terrified that someone will soon notice him drifting in the water and come to kill him. Unwilling to watch his death approach, he ducks down inside the boat and closes his eyes. There he waits for someone to come and kill him. Nobody comes, and eventually the rocking of the waves lulls him to sleep.