Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 23: The Ebb-Tide Runs
Handling the coracle (Gunn's small boat) was very difficult, though the boat is small and appropriate for a person of his size. He rows the boat with the water currents. He grasps the hawser when he gets closer to the Hispaniola. Suddenly it occurs to Jim that cutting the hawser means cutting free the huge Hispaniola. With her size and weight it would easily topple the coracle. This thought makes him change his plans but the south sea wind comes to his relief. He feels the hawser loosen his hand. The wind forces the Hispaniola to move in the opposite direction. So, Jim picks up the knife and cuts the hawser loose leaving just two strands of fiber uncut. He waits for another strong wind to finish the task. Jim hears loud voices from the cabin and recognizes Israel Hands' voice. Jim hears the crew arguing violently inside.
When the long awaited breeze comes, Jim cuts loose the last fibers of the hawser. The Hispaniola begins to spin and this terrifies Jim. When the coracle moves with the motion of the ship, Jim impulsively, holds a chord hanging from the ship. He decides to climb up the chord to get a look at what is going on within the cabin of the ship. One glance tells Jim that men are all drunk. He climbs down to his boat. The coracle changes its course and moves toward the sea. The ship too makes its way southward. The men on board, Jim knows, don't realize that the ship has been freed from it's anchor.
Suddenly the ship turns by twenty degrees. Violent shouts follow this and the crew and now Jim sees that the men are aware of the disaster. Unable to face the fact that his life might end on high sea, he lies down in the coracle and prays. Soon he goes to sleep dreaming of his home and the Admiral Benbow.
This chapter contains the most adventurous act of Jim. Cutting the Hispaniola loose from its anchor. Jim says the coracle was perfect for a person of his size and weight. But he says that it was very difficult to navigate it with the changing water current. Jim remembers Ben Gunn describing the boat as a queer thing to handle until one gets to know her way. Jim was lucky enough to have a tide sweep him toward the Hispaniola. He grasps the hawser when he gets near and plans to cut it. In a sudden flash of intelligence Jim realizes that a sudden cut in the hawser would relieve the mammoth Hispaniola that will crush his own boat. He almost abandons his idea. But when the hawser slackens with the wind Jim cuts the rope and leaves two strands to be loosened by the wind. He hears loud quarreling noises in the cabin where he recognizes the drunken Israel Hands voice. From the shore he recognizes the old sea song;
one man of her crew alive,
When a fresh breeze hits the ship Jim cuts loose the last rope fibers and the Hispaniola is freed of its anchor, leaving Jim in a fix. In a sudden impulse, he grasps a rope hanging from the ship. Jim feels the urge to climb up the schooner to get a glimpse the cabin. He climbs and finds Israel Hands engaged in a fist-fight.
Jim doesn't waste anytime on board and climbs down to his coracle. Stevenson, with portrayal of Jim's character, reminds the reader that Jim is not only a adventurous lad but also is an imaginative one. The reader may remember the first chapter of section two when Jim spends his time with Redruth day-dreaming about the island. Seeing the Hispaniola stumbling, Jim is terrified. He lies down flat on the bottom of the coracle praying and expects death with every big wave. Jim is very tired and worn out from his adventure. Even amidst these terrifying experiences he sleeps and dreams of "Admiral Benbow." By the end of the chapter, Stevenson leaves the reader with lots of questions. Whether the ship is wrecked? How would they get back to England? Or will they be stranded in the island like Ben Gunn?