From forecastle to quarter-deck, from bowsprit to taffrail, Blackbeard scrutinized the Revenge.
“What mean you, dog?” he said to Bittern, Bonnet being at a little distance; “you tell me he is no mariner. This is a brave ship and well appointed.”
“Ay, ay,” said the sailing-master, “it has the neatness of his kitchen or his storehouses; but if his cables were coiled on his yard-arms or his anchor hung up to dry upon the main shrouds, he would not know that anything was wrong. It was Big Sam Loftus who fitted out the Revenge, and I myself have kept everything in good order and ship-shape ever since I took command.”
“Command!” growled Blackbeard. “For a charge of powder I would knock in the side of your head for speaking with such disrespect of the brave Sir Nightcap.”
The supper in the cabin of the Revenge was a better meal than the voracious Blackbeard had partaken of for many a year, if indeed he had ever sat down to such a sumptuous repast. Before him was food and drink fit for a stout and hungry sea-faring man, and there were wines and dainties which would have had fit place upon the table of a gentleman.
Blackbeard was in high spirits and tossed off cup after cup and glass after glass of the choicest wine and the most fiery spirits. He clapped his well-mannered host upon the back as he shouted some fragment of a wild sea-song.
“And who is this?” he cried, as they rose from the table and he first caught sight of Ben Greenway. “Is this your chaplain? He looks as sanctimonious as an empty rum cask. And that baby boy there, what do you keep him for? Are they for sale? I would like to buy the boy and let him keep my accounts. I warrant he has enough arithmetic in his head to divide the prize-moneys among the men.”
“He is no slave,” said Bonnet; “he came to this vessel to bring me a message from my daughter, but he is an ill-bred stripling, and can neither read nor write.”
“Then let’s kill him!” cried Blackbeard, and drawing his pistol he sent a bullet about two inches above Dickory’s head.
At this the men who had gathered themselves at every available point set up a cheer. Never before had they beheld such a magnificent and reckless miscreant.
Dickory did not start or move, but he turned very pale, and then he reddened and his eyes flashed. Blackbeard swore at him a great approbative oath. “A brave boy!” he cried, “and fit to carry messages if for nothing else. And what is this nonsense about a daughter?” said he to Bonnet. “We abide no such creatures in the ranks of the free companions; we drown them like kittens before we hoist the Jolly Roger.”