“You wrote her that?” said Bonnet, with a frown.
“Ay,” said Greenway, “an’ I left it in the care o’ a good mon, whose ship is weel on its way to Kingston by this day.”
That afternoon Captain Bonnet called all his men together and addressed them.
He made a very good speech, a better one than that delivered when he first took real command of the Revenge after sailing out of the river at Bridgetown, and it was listened to with respectful and earnest interest. In brief manner he explained to all on board that he had thrown to the winds all idea of merchandising or privateering; that his pardon and his ship’s clearance were of no value to him except he should happen to get into some uncomfortable predicament with the law; that he had no idea of sailing towards St. Thomas, but intended to proceed up the coast to burn and steal and rob and slay wherever he might find it convenient to do so; that he had brought the greater part of his crew from the desert island where Blackbeard had left them because he knew that they were stout and reckless fellows, just the sort of men he wanted for the piratical cruise he was about to begin; and that, in order to mislead any government authorities who by land or sea might seek to interfere with him, he had changed the name of the good old Revenge to the Royal James, while its captain, once Stede Bonnet, was now to be known on board and everywhere else as Captain Thomas, with nothing against him. He concluded by saying that all that had been done on that ship from the time she first hoisted the black flag until the present moment was nothing at all compared to the fire and the blood and the booty which should follow in the wake of that gallant vessel, the Royal James, commanded by Captain Thomas.
The men looked at each other, but did not say much. They were all pirates, although few of them had regularly started out on a piratical career, and there was nothing new to them in this sort of piratical dishonour. In the little cruise after Blackbeard their new captain had shown himself to be a good man, ready with his oaths and very certain about what he wanted done. So, whenever Stede Bonnet chose to run up the Jolly Roger, he might do it for all they cared.
Poor Ben Greenway sat apart, his head bowed upon his hands.
“You seem to be in a bad case, old Ben,” said Bonnet, gazing down upon him, “but you throw yourself into needless trouble. As soon as I lay hold of some craft which I am willing shall go away with a sound hull, I will put you on board of her and let you go back to the farm. I will keep you no longer among these wicked people, Ben Greenway, and in this wicked place.”
Ben shook his head. “I started wi’ ye an’ I stay wi’ ye,” said he, “an’ I’ll follow ye to the vera gates o’ hell, but farther than that, Master Bonnet, I willna go; at the gates o’ hell I leave ye!”