The boat’s crew did not hesitate one second in obeying these orders. They knew by whom they were given, and there was no man in the great body of free companions who would disobey an order given by Blackbeard. They rowed to the position assigned them and sat quietly looking into the mouths of the two cannon which were pointed towards them.
“Now then,” said Blackbeard, turning to Bittern, “I think they’ll stay there till they get some other order.”
Between frequent sips at the cup of brandy Bittern told the story of the Revenge, and Blackbeard listened with many an oath and many a pound upon his massive knee by his mighty fist.
“Oh, I have heard of him,” he cried, “I have heard of him! He has played the devil along the Atlantic coast. He must he a great fellow this—what did you say his name was?”
“Bonnet,” said the other.
Blackbeard laughed. “That suits him well; he must have clapped his name over the eyes of many a merchant captain! Where did he sail before he hoisted the Jolly Roger?”
At this Bittern laughed. “He never sailed anywhere, he is no seaman; and if he were not rich enough to pay others to do his navigatin’ for him he would have run his vessel upon the first sand-bar on his way from Bridgetown to the sea. But he pays some good mariner to sail his Revenge, and he now pays me. I am, in fact, the captain of his vessel.”
“You mean,” cried Blackbeard, “that he knows nothing of navigation?”
“Not a whit,” replied the other; “he doesn’t know the backstays from the taffrail. It was only yesterday that he thought he was already in the port of Belize, and dressed himself up like a fighting-cock to meet you.”
“To meet me?” roared Blackbeard; “what does he want to meet me for, and why don’t he come and do it instead of sending you?”
“Not he,” said Bittern. “He is a great man, if not a sailor; he knows what is politeness on shipboard, and as he is the last comer you must be the first caller. He is all dressed up now, hoping that you will row over to the Revenge as soon as you know that he is its commander.”
The hairy pirate leaned back and laughed in loud explosions.
“He is a rare man, truly,” he exclaimed, “this Captain Nightcap of yours—”
“Bonnet,” interrupted Bittern.
“Well, one is as good as the other,” cried Blackbeard, “and he be well clothed if it be of the right colour. And you started out with him to sail his ship, you rascal? That’s a piece of impudence almost as great as his own.”
Bittern did not much like this speech, and wanted to explain that since he had served under Blackbeard he had commanded vessels himself, but he restrained himself and told how Sam Loftus had been tumbled overboard for running afoul his captain, and how he had been appointed to his place.
Now Blackbeard laughed again, with a great pound upon his knee. “He is a man after my own heart,” he shouted, “be he sailor or no sailor, this nightcap commander of yours. I know I shall love him!” And springing to his feet and uttering a resounding oath, he swore that he would visit his new brother that afternoon.