Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 1, Chapter 4 : The Old Buccaneer (The Sea-Chest) | Summary

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Summary

Jim and his mother are alone in the inn. Captain Flint's former crew could return at any time to seize whatever money they can find. Angrily, Mrs. Hawkins declares that some of Billy's money is owed to the inn. Pirates or no pirates, she will take from Billy's sea chest enough to settle the account.

She and Jim bar the door and pull the shades. Rushing upstairs, the two unlock the old sea-chest and, at the very bottom, find a canvas bag filled with money and a bundle of papers.

Mrs. Hawkins begins counting out what Billy Bones owes. Suddenly, they hear the sound of tapping along the road. The blind beggar has returned. He strikes the barred door with his cane and jiggles the handle. Then the sound of his tapping retreats. Using the fog for cover, they escape.

Analysis

At last the contents of the mysterious sea chest are revealed. They offer tantalizing hints about Billy Bones. The clean, brushed suit of clothes suggests his hopes for a better future when he might wear such things. The miscellaneous items seem linked to his seafaring years, while the West Indian shells hint at a hidden facet of Billy's personality that could value things delicate and beautiful.

In a spectacular show of courage and foolishness, Mrs. Hawkins returns to the inn. She is fully aware that the pirates will soon return to search for Billy's treasure. Nevertheless, she wants her money. She is honest to a fault as she goes through Billy's sea chest, refusing to cheat the dead man as well as the scoundrels who, given a chance, will harm her and her son. Jim condemns his mother for her honesty.

When Jim takes the oilskin packet from among Billy's things, he acquires the catalyst that sets the rest of the story in motion. He also demonstrates a touch of maturity when he overcomes his natural disgust to search Billy's body for the sea chest key. This foreshadows the frequent close contact with death that Jim will have to deal with later in his adventure.

Sound plays an important role in this chapter. Before Jim and Mrs. Hawkins flee the inn, there are whispers between mother and son, the tapping of the beggar's stick, the rattle of the inn door's bolt, and the ominous, far-off whistle. Outside, there is the sound of running footsteps approaching the inn. When Mrs. Hawkins faints, she and Jim are close enough to hear what happens next.

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