“Four shares still on the table,” repeated the skipper. “Well, lads, one bes for Black Dennis Nolan.”
He glared around at the circle of eager, watchful, shaggy faces set against the wall of gloom that hemmed in the table and the ill-trimmed lamp.
“Aye, skipper, that bes right,” muttered Nick Leary.
“And another bes for the skipper who feeds ye all from his store.”
Again he glared around, letting his dark, dauntless eyes dwell for a second on each face. “And t’other two bes for the lad who larned you how.”
With that, he swept the four piles of coins into a pocket of his coat. One of the men grunted. The skipper turned his black but glowing regard upon him. Another cursed harshly and withdrew a step from the table. The skipper jumped to his feet.
“Who says nay?” he roared. “Who gives the lie to my word? I bes skipper here—aye, an’ more nor skipper! Would ye have one gold guinea amongst the whole crew o’ ye, but for me? Would ye have a bite o’ food in yer bellies, but for me? An’ now yer bellies bes full an’ yer pockets bes full, an’ ye stand there an’ say nay to my aye!”
He pulled two pistols from beneath his coat, cocked them deliberately and stared insolently and inquiringly around.
“What d’ye say to it, Bill Brennen?” he asked.
Bill Brennen shuffled his big feet uneasily, and eyed the pistols askance.
“Thank ye kindly, skipper. Ye speaks the truth,” said he.
“An’ ye, Nick Leary?”
“Ye bes skipper here, sure—aye, and more nor skipper. But for ye we’d all be starved to death wid hunger an’ cold,” said Nick.
“An’ what says the rest o’ ye? Who denies me the right to four shares o’ the money?”
“Me, Dennis Nolan!” said Dick Lynch. “I denies ye the right.”
“Step up an’ say it to my face,” cried the skipper.
“Aye, step up an’ give it to him straight,” said one of the men. “Step up, Dick, I bes wid ye.”
“Who said that?” roared the skipper.
“Sure, ’twas me said it,” growled one, Dan Keen.
“Be there four o’ ye denies me the right to the money in me pocket?” asked the skipper.
“Aye, there bes four o’ us.”
“Then step out, the four o’ ye.”
Dick Lynch, Dan Keen and two others shuffled to the front of the group. Black Dennis Nolan looked them over with fury in his eyes and a sneer on his lips. He called up Bill Brennen and Nick Leary, and gave a pistol to each of them, and exchanged a few guarded words with them.
“Dick Lynch, Dan Keen, Corny Quinn an’ Pat Lynch, stand where ye be,” he said. “Ease back along the wall, the rest o’ ye. I’ll larn ye who bes skipper an’ master o’ this harbor! I’ll larn ye if I bes as good as the four o’ ye or not.”
He slipped off his coat, with the weight of coined gold in the pockets of it, stepped swiftly around the end of the table and sprang furiously upon the four men who had denied his right to four shares of the loot.