Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 4, Chapter 20 : The Stockade (Silver's Embassy) | Summary

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Summary

Silver and his lieutenant wade through early morning fog up to the stockade, carrying a flag of truce. Silver calls out that he's come to make terms on behalf of the "poor lads" who have chosen him as captain after Smollett's "desertion." Agilely scaling the stockade wall, Silver approaches, expecting to be invited into the log house, where it's warm. However, the captain states that, as a mutineer and pirate, Silver can "go hang" and stay outside.

Still on his best behavior, Silver launches into his speech and proposes an exchange: the treasure map for the lives of the captain and his party. The captain bluntly replies that he knows the violent end Silver has planned for them. Silver's temper flares, but he recovers and makes a new offer: Give him the map and, upon his word of honor, they will be given safe passage on the Hispaniola to somewhere safe ashore.

Captain Smollett makes a counteroffer to arrest and take the mutineers back to England, where they will get a fair trial. He points out that, without the map, Silver can't find the treasure. Furthermore his mutineers aren't fit to sail the ship, and they do very poorly in a fight. He then sends Silver on his way, with the promise that, the next time they meet, he will shoot him.

Analysis

The chess game between Long John Silver and Captain Smollett continues. In his confrontation with the captain, Silver demonstrates the coolness and cunning that make him a leader. Coming to the stockade is a bold move, but being a good judge of men, Silver knows that the occupants will honor a flag of truce. The captain treats him with contempt and stubbornly refuses to bargain, but Silver keeps his head, preferring to get what he wants by persuasion and deceit than by violence. Only at the last does Silver unleash his fury at being thwarted. He is used to being feared and obeyed. The transformation is as swift and frightening as that witnessed by Jim earlier on the island.

In cool-thinking and strategy, Captain Smollett is a perfect match for Silver. By the time Silver departs, the lines of battle have been drawn—which is what the captain wants.

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