“It will be merchandise an’ fair trade this time,” said Ben, “an’ ye’ll find it no’ so easy as your piracies, though safer. An’ when ye’re off to see the Governor an’ hae got your pardon, it’ll be a happy day, Master Bonnet, for ye an’ for your daughter, an’ for your brother-in-law an’ everybody in Bridgetown wha either knew ye or respected ye.”
“No more of that,” cried Bonnet. “I did not say I was going to Bridgetown, or that I wanted anybody there to respect me. It is my purpose to fit out the Revenge as a privateer and get a commission to sail in her in the war between Spain and the Allies. This will be much more to my taste, Ben Greenway, than trading in sugar and hides.”
Greenway was very grave.
“There is so little difference,” said he, “between a privateer an’ a pirate that it is a great strain on a common mind to keep them separate; but a commission from the king is better than a commission from the de’il, an’ we’ll hope there won’t be much o’ a war after all is said an’ done.”
There was not much intercourse between Blackbeard and Bonnet at Topsail Inlet. The pirate was on very good terms with the authorities at that place, who for their own sakes cared not much to interfere with him, and Bonnet had his own work in hand and industriously engaged in it. He went to Bath and got his pardon; he procured a clearance for St. Thomas, where he freely announced his intention to take out a commission as privateer, and he fitted out his vessel as best he could. Of men he had not many, but when he left the inlet he sailed down to an island on the coast, where Blackbeard, having had too many men on his return from Charles Town, had marooned a large number of the sailors belonging to his different crews, finding this the easiest way of getting rid of them. Bonnet took these men on board with the avowed intention of taking them to St. Thomas, and then he set sail upon the high seas as free and untrammelled as a fish-hawk sweeping over the surface of a harbour with clearance papers tied to his leg.
Stede Bonnet had changed very much since he last trod the quarter-deck of the Revenge as her captain. He was not so important to look at, and he put on fewer airs of authority, but he issued a great many more commands. In fact, he had learned much about a sailor’s life, of navigation and the management of a vessel, and was far better able to command a ship than he had ever been before. He had had a long rest from the position of a pirate captain, and he had not failed to take advantage of the lessons which had been involuntarily given him by the veteran scoundrels who had held him in contempt. He was now, to a great extent, sailing-master as well as captain of the Revenge; but Ben Greenway, who was much given to that sort of thing, undertook to offer Bonnet some advice in regard to his course.
“I am no sailor,” said he, “but I ken a chart when I see it, an’ it is my opeenion that there is no need o’ your sailin’ so far to the east before ye turn about southward. There is naething much stickin’ out from the coast between here an’ St. Thomas.”