“Now, away with you!” cried Blackbeard, “and tell Sir Nightcap—”
“Bonnet,” interrupted Bittern.
“Well, Bonnet, or Cap, it matters not to me. Row straight back to your ship, and let him know that I shall be there and shall expect to be received with admiral’s honours.”
Bittern looked somewhat embarrassed. “But, captain,” he said, “my men are on their way to the town, and I fear me they will rebel if I tell them they cannot now go there.”
In saying this the sailing-master spoke not only for his men, but for himself. He was very anxious to go ashore; he had business there; he wanted to see who were in the place, and what was going on before Bonnet should go to the town.
“What!” cried Blackbeard, putting his head down like a charging bull. “I order you to row back to your vessel and take my message; and if you do it not I will sink you all in a bunch! Into your boat, sir, and waste not another minute. If you are not able to command your men, I will keep you here and give them a coxswain who can.”
Without another word, Bittern scuffled over the side, and, his boat being brought up, he dropped into it.
“Now, men,” he said, “I have a message from Captain Blackbeard to the Revenge; bend to it as I steer that way.”
“Give my pious regards to your Sir Nightcap,” shouted Blackbeard. And then, in a still higher tone, he yelled to them that if they disobeyed their coxswain and turned their bow shoreward he would sink them all to the unsounded depths of Hades. Without a protest the men pulled vigorously towards the Revenge, while Black Paul, considering it a new affront to be called “coxswain” when he was in reality captain, earnestly sent Blackbeard to the same regions to which he had just referred.
AN ORNAMENTED BEARD
It was about the middle of the afternoon when a large boat, well filled, was seen approaching the Revenge from Blackbeard’s vessel. As soon as it had become known that this chief of all pirates of that day, this Edward Thatch of England, was really coming on board the Revenge, not one word was uttered among the crew on the subject of going ashore, although they had been long at sea. The shore could wait when Blackbeard was coming. Even to look upon this doughty desperado would be an honour and a joy to the brawny scoundrels who made up the crew of the Revenge.
It might have been supposed that everything upon Captain Bonnet’s vessel had been made ready for the expected advent of Blackbeard, but nothing seemed good enough, nothing seemed as effectively placed and arranged as it might have been; and with execrations and commands, Bonnet hurried here and there, making everything, if possible, more ship-shape than it had been before.
“Stay you two in the background,” he said to Ben Greenway and Dickory; “you are both landsmen, and you don’t count in a ceremony such as this is going to be. Station your men as I told you, Bittern, and man the yards when it is time.”