Jim heaves himself onto the bowsprit, the spar jutting out from the deck, and crawls along it until tumbling onto the deck. He sees no one. The ship heaves to the side: suddenly Jim sees Hands and his mate sprawled on the after-deck. The ship bucks to and fro, causing foam to spray over the bulwark. Jim sees blood around them and is sure they’ve killed each other.
Once again, Jim is able to take advantage of the fact that the pirates are weakened by drink—and here, too, by the fight that has resulted from their drunkenness. At first, it seems that the combination has proved fatal to both of them.
Then Israel Hands moans and shifts. Jim walks over and calls out to him: Hands, in great pain, asks for brandy. Jim slips downstairs, where the cabin is in a state of disarray, empty bottles clattering over the floor. In the cellar all the barrels are gone, as are most of the rum bottles. He finds one, however, as well as some biscuit, fruits, raisins, and cheese. Jim returns to deck and eats while Hands downs the brandy. Jim tells Hands that he’s come to take possession of the ship, and Hands can now consider him captain.
Jim must balance his suspicions of Israel Hands with the knowledge that Hands might prove useful in navigating the ship into safety. Jim is faced, below deck, with concrete physical evidence of the pirates’ revelry, which makes Hands seem much less threatening, and emboldens Jim to take on the position of captain—truly assuming an adult leadership role.
After eating, Jim cuts down the Jolly Roger and throws it overboard. Hands watches Jim slyly and quietly, then says he imagines Jim wants to get to shore. Hands nods towards his dead mate, O’Brien, and says now there’s no one to sail the ship. If Jim gives Hands food, drink, and a scarf to tie his wound, he’ll instruct Jim on how to sail it. Jim says he wants to go to North Inlet, not the anchorage from before. They strike a bargain, and soon Jim is steering the Hispaniola along the coast. He gives Hands one of his mother’s handkerchiefs, and after Hands binds it up he begins to perk up and sit up straighter.
Ever since seeing the Jolly Roger flying from the shore, part of Jim’s adventure has included the goal of getting rid of that flag, and thus reasserting the supremacy of the captain’s crew. Now Israel Hands and Jim are intent on mutually benefiting from each other as long as they can, even while they’re both aware that they’re enemies and ultimately working towards opposite ends.
Jim is delighted that the weather and wind are good, and is fascinated by the new views of the coast. He no longer feels as guilty for having crept out in secrecy, since he’s conquered the ship. Still, Hands continues to watch him about the deck, treachery in his eyes.
Jim’s contentment at finally succeeding in having his own, independent adventure is beginning to be compromised by the deceit he now knows to recognize in pirates.