Chapter 31 Summary

After Dr. Livesey leaves, Long John Silver thanks Jim for not running away. They both know that Silver’s men might have killed him if Jim had disappeared. “If I saved your life, you saved mine; and I’ll not forget it,” Silver says.

Jim and Silver join the five remaining pirates for breakfast. While he eats, Jim marvels at the men’s general wastefulness and lawlessness. They burn up all their firewood in one huge fire, and they cook far more food than anyone can eat, tossing the leftovers into the flames at the end of the meal.

After breakfast, Long John Silver congratulates his men for choosing to keep him as captain. He explains the following plan: they will find the treasure, locate the Hispaniola, and sail away with Jim as their captive. Hearing this speech makes Jim feel sick to his stomach; he knows that Silver will really do all of this if he gets a chance. He has “a foot in either camp,” and he will choose the side that wins in the end.

Jim still has no idea why his friends gave up the stockade and the treasure map. He knows from Dr. Livesey’s comments, however, that something dangerous awaits them. Because of this, Jim is unenthusiastic as the pirates prepare to hunt down the treasure. The men tie him up and make him come with them, leading him on a rope “like a dancing bear.”

Soon Jim and the pirates reach the highest part of the island, a hill called the Spy-glass, where the map instructs them to find a certain tall tree. The men laugh and joke, running ahead, as Jim and Silver plod along behind. Silver is slowed by his disability, Jim by his worries.

Suddenly, up ahead, one of the pirates shouts. On the ground, he has found a skeleton. Judging by its clothing, it belonged to a sailor. The men think it was Allardyce, one of the men Captain Flint took with him to bury his gold. Some of them have always suspected that Flint killed everyone who saw him hide his treasure. Now it appears that they are correct.

The skeleton’s bones are laid out oddly, the hands raised above the head to point in the direction the map says to go. The pirates know that Captain Flint would have found it funny to use a corpse in this way, but they all knew Allardyce, and they do not laugh. Nervously, they ask each other if the sailor’s soul—or worse, Captain Flint’s—might haunt this spot. Silver tells them that they have nothing to fear from ghosts. However, seeing the skeleton destroys the pirates’ joyful mood. When they walk on, they go quietly and stick close together, clearly fearful of what else they might find ahead.