Blackbeard seated himself on the other side of the table, on which he rested his massive arms. Behind him Ben Greenway stood in the doorway. For a few moments Blackbeard sat and gazed at Bonnet, and then he said: “Look ye, Stede Bonnet, do you know you are now as much out of place as a red herring would be at the top of the mainmast?”
Bonnet flushed. “I fear, Captain Blackbeard,” he said, “I very much fear me that you are right; this is no place for me. I have paid my respects to you, and now, if you please, I will take my leave. I have not been gratified by the conduct of your crew, but I did not expect that their captain would address me in such discourteous words.” And with this he reached out his hand for his hat.
Blackbeard brought down his hand heavily upon the table.
“Sit where you are!” he exclaimed. “I have that to say to you which you shall hear whether you like my vessel, my crew, or me. You are no sailor, Stede Bonnet of Bridgetown, and you don’t belong to the free companions, who are all good men and true and can sail the ships they command. You are a defrauder and a cheat; you are nothing but a landsman, a plough-tail sugar-planter!”
At this insult Bonnet rose to his feet and his hand went to his sword.
“Sit down!” roared Blackbeard; “an you do not listen to me, I’ll cut off this parley and your head together. Sit down, sir.”
Bonnet sat down, pale now and trembling with rage. He was not a coward, but on board this ship he must give heed to the words of the desperado who commanded it.
“You have no right,” continued Blackbeard, “to strut about on the quarter-deck of that fine vessel, the Revenge; you have no right to hoist above you the Jolly Roger, and you have no right to lie right and left and tell people you are a pirate. A pirate, forsooth! you are no pirate. A pirate is a sailor, and you are no sailor! You are no better than a blind man led by a dog: if the dog breaks away from him he is lost, and if the sailing-masters you pick up one after another break away from you, you are lost. It is a cursed shame, Stede Bonnet, and it shall be no longer. At this moment, by my own right and for the sake of every man who sails under the Jolly Roger, I take away from you the command of the Revenge.”
Now Bonnet could not refrain from springing to his feet. “Take from me the Revenge!” he cried, “my own vessel, bought with my own money! And how say you I am not a pirate? From Massachusetts down the coast into these very waters I have preyed upon commerce, I have taken prizes, I have burned ships, I have made my name a terror.”
Now his voice grew stronger and his tones more angry.
“Not a pirate!” he cried. “Go ask the galleons and the merchantmen I have stripped and burned; go ask their crews, now wandering in misery upon desert shores, if they be not already dead. And by what right, I ask, do you come to such an one as I am and declare that, having put me in the position of a prisoner on your ship, you will take away my own?”