“Nay, nay,” cried Greenway, “but rather give half o’ it to me; then will it no’ disturb your brain, an’ mine will be comforted.”
“Heigho!” cried Blackbeard. “Truly you are a better chaplain than I thought you. Drain half this mug and then, by all the powers of heaven and hell, you shall convert me. Now, look ye,” said the pirate, when the mug was empty, “and hear what a brave repentance I have already begun. I am tired, my gay gardener, of all these piracies; I have had enough of them. Even now, my spoils and prizes are greater than I can manage, and why should I strive to make them more? I told you of my young lieutenant, who ran away and who gave his carcass to the birds of prey rather than sail with me and marry my strapping daughter. I liked that fellow, Greenway, and if he had known what was well for him there might be some reason for me to keep on piling up goods and money, but there’s cursed little reason for it now. I have merchandise of value at Belize and much more of it in these ships, besides money from Charles Town which ought to last an honest gentleman for the rest of his days.”
“Ay,” said Ben, “but an honest gentleman is sparing of his expenditures.”
“And you think I am not that kind of a man, do you?” shouted the pirate. “But let me tell you this. I am sailing now for Topsail Inlet, on the North Carolina coast, and I am going to run in there, disperse this fleet, sell my goods, and—”
“Be hanged?” interpolated Greenway in surprise.
“Not a bit of it, you croaking crow!” roared the pirate. “Not a bit of it. Don’t you know, you dull-head, that our good King George has issued a proclamation to the Brethren of the Coast to come in and behave themselves like honest citizens and receive their pardon? I have done that once, and so I know all about it; but I backslid, showing that my conversion was badly done.”
“It must hae been a poor hand that did the job for ye,” said Greenway, “for truly the conversion washed off in the first rain.”
The pirate laughed a great laugh. “The fact is,” he said, “I did the work myself, and knowing nothing about it made a bad botch of it, but this time it will be different. I am going to give the matter into your hands, and I shall expect you to do it well. If I become not an honest gentleman this time you shall pay for it, first with your ears and then with your head.”
“An’ ye’re goin’ to keep me by ye?” said Greenway, with an expression not of the best.
“Truly so,” said Blackbeard. “I shall make you my clerk as long as I am a pirate, for I have much writing and figuring work to be done, and after that you shall be my chaplain. And whether or not your work will be easier than it is now, it is not for me to say.”
The Scotchman was about to make an exclamation which might not have been complimentary, but he restrained himself.
“An’ Master Bonnet?” he asked. “If ye go out o’ piracy he may go too, and take the oath.”