“Suppose!” sneered the other, “I know it. He has stolen from me as well as from Bonnet. I should have commanded this ship, and I had made all my plans to do it when I got here.”
“Then you are as great a rascal,” said Dickory, “as that vile pirate down below.”
“Just as great,” said Bittern, “the only difference being that he has won everything while I have lost everything.”
“What are we to do!” asked Dickory. “I cannot stay here, and I am sure you will not want to. Now, while he is below, can we not slip overboard and swim ashore? I am sure I could do it.”
Black Paul grinned grimly. “But where should we swim to?” he said. “On the coast of Honduras there is no safety for a man who flees from Blackbeard. But keep your tongue close; he is coming.”
The moment Blackbeard put his foot upon the deck he began to roar out his general orders.
“I go over to the bark,” he said, “and shall put my mate here in charge of her. After that I go to my own vessel, and when I have settled matters there I will return to this fine ship, where I shall strut about the quarter-deck and live like a prince at sea. Now look ye, youngster, what is your name?”
“Charter,” replied Dickory grimly.
“Well then, Charter,” the pirate continued, “I shall leave you in charge of this vessel until I come back, which will be before dark.”
“Me!” exclaimed Dickory in amazement.
“Yes, you,” said the pirate. “I am sure you don’t know anything about a ship any more than your master did, but he got on very well, and so may you. And now, remember, your head shall pay for it if everything is not the same when I come back as it is now.”
Thereupon this man of piratical business was rowed to the bark, quite satisfied that he left behind him no one who would have the power to tamper with his interests. He knew the crew, having bound most of them to him on the preceding night, and he trusted every one of them to obey the man he had set over them and no other. As Dickory would have no orders to give, there would be no need of obedience, and Black Paul would have no chance to interfere with anything.
* * * * *
When Bonnet had been left by Blackbeard—who, having said all he had to say, hurried up the companion-way to attend to the rest of his plans—the stately naval officer who had so recently occupied the bench by the table shrunk into a frightened farmer, gazing blankly at Ben Greenway.
“Think you, Ben,” he said in half a voice, “that this is one of that man’s jokes! I have heard that he has a fearful taste for horrid jokes.”