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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 21: The Attack
Long John Silver disappears. When the Captain turns to his crew, he becomes furious on seeing the men have not stayed in the position he put them in, except Gray. Regaining his composure, the Captain addresses his men. He tells them that the mutineers could be back in an hour and that they have to fight them. He offers Jim his breakfast and asks Hunter to serve brandy to everyone. While he did so, he was planning defense strategies in his mind. Everyone was given positions to handle and monitor the movements of the enemy. An hour passed without any movement. Joyce reconfirms the Captain's command to shoot anyone at sight. Shortly later, Joyce fires his gun, and the fighting begins.
His shot is answered by many rounds of returned gunfire. After the initial rounds the Captain takes a stock of the situation. Suddenly a group of pirates appear from the woods and charge toward the stockade. Casualties on the enemy's side increase as fighting starts again. As the mutineers outnumber them, they still have an advantage over the Captain's men and they can attack the stockade from all sides. The situation in the stockade is reversed. The stockade has now filled with smoke from the fire used to cook their meals and the men have trouble seeing.
The Captain orders his men to fight in the open with their cutlasses. They rush out. Jim makes his first attack with the Cutlass and kills one. The Captain keeps giving orders. The fighting picks up tempo. Jim counts the number of mutineers who have died. He could see three of the four who attacked lying dead. The doctor's command to get back into cover is ignored. The mutineers are, by now, decreasing in number. They are defeated.
When they run back for inside the stockade shelter, Jim learns the price they have to pay for their victory. Hunter is wounded and lies beside a hole, and Joyce has been shot dead. The Squire informs them that the Captain is wounded. Despite his wounds, the Captain is overjoyed to hear that they had killed five pirates and says that the new ratio of the pirates with them is survivable.
Stevenson doesn't stretch the tension he has built up in the last chapter for long. But right at the beginning of the chapter he touches upon the character of the Captain when he is furious over his men for leaving their positions and compliments Gray for attending to his duty. Here it may be noted that despite the various problems looming before the Captain, he has a firm hold over his men.
His maturity and experience are obvious when he quickly summons everyone and asks them to prepare for an attack within the hour. He gives everybody a position to man and asks them to shoot at sight. They are successful in killing some of the mutineers. But, as the mutineers outnumber them their situation is worsened. They can no longer stay inside the stockade due to the smoke inside. So they get out, as per the Captain orders, and fight with their cutlasses. Here we are in the midst of excitement and action. Our hero is also part of the action. In fact, Jim kills a mutineer with his cutlass for the first time in his life. In this action, Jim is no longer a mere boy, he is a man fighting other men for his life.
In the heavy fighting that follows the number of mutineers keeps on decreasing. Meanwhile the doctor asks the men to get back to cover and fight. Nobody pays any attention to it. Soon the mutineers are defeated and the fighting stops.
The doctor, Jim and Gray run for shelter. When they reach the stockade, which is now cleared of smoke. There are casualties on their side too. Joyce is dead. Hunter is bleeding and the Squire informs them that the Captain is also wounded. Just like in the start of this chapter, Stevenson closes this chapter with his focus on Captain Smollet.
When he asks them about the mutineers, despite the pain caused by the wound, and finds out that five of them are killed, he is overjoyed. His enthusiasm is re-awakened. And when he says that the new ratio is more bearable now, the reader can only admire the true grit and spirit of a brave seasoned Captain. The Captain's respectable position in the ship, as well as his character in the book is developed as one of the most important in the whole adventure.