Chapter 26 Summary

As Jim works to sail the ship, Hands lies still and watches. Eventually he asks for wine, saying that brandy is too strong for him in his current state of weakness. Jim can tell this is a lie, but he pretends to believe it. He runs downstairs, then tiptoes back up to watch what Hands does. Hands heaves himself across the deck, grabs a bloodstained knife, and hides it in his shirt. Jim resolves to stay out of Hands's reach.

When Jim brings the wine, Hands makes a show of mortal weakness. Playing along, Jim advises him to pray and prepare for death. Hands snarls at this, saying that the only way to live is by taking what one wants:

I never seen good come o’ goodness yet. Him as strikes first is my fancy; dead men don’t bite; them’s my views—amen, so be it.

It is nearly time to beach the Hispaniola, and Hands explains how to aim the ship for shore. Jim runs back and forth, rushing to follow instructions, impressed in spite of himself with Hands's skill at sailing. Jim gets so absorbed by his work that he forgets to be careful of his companion’s treachery.

As the Hispaniola moves the last few feet toward shore, Hands draws his knife and runs at Jim. Noticing the attack at the last second, Jim lets go of the tiller and dodges out of the way. The tiller swings around and slams into Hands, who falls down long enough for Jim to draw one of his pistols. Unfortunately, it has been soaked with seawater, so it refuses to fire. Jim does not have time to re-load, so he is reduced to leaping and dodging.

As Jim and Hands face each other, the Hispaniola hits the beach. The impact tosses them both off their feet, and the deck of the ship turns to a forty-five degree angle. Both Jim and Hands fall, but Jim regains his footing first. He cannot easily run on the tilted deck, so he scrambles up a mast and, sitting down at the top, begins re-loading his pistols.

Hands puts his knife in his teeth and begins to climb the mast. His injury slows him, however, and before he reaches the top, Jim primes his pistols and takes aim, saying:

One more step, Mr. Hands, and I’ll blow your brains out! dead men don’t bite, you know.

Hands stops and takes the knife out of his mouth. Appearing confused and upset, he curses his bad luck and admits that he has lost. Then, as Jim revels in this victory, Hands throws his knife. The blade lodges in Jim's shoulder, causing him to fire both his pistols by accident. Hands gasps in pain and falls into the sea below.