“Captain Blood!” he cried. “Are you Captain Blood?”
“What else were ye supposing?”
Blood asked the question wearily, his mind on other things. “I do not number thieves and pirates among my acquaintance.” The cruel phrase filled his brain, reechoing and reverberating there.
But Lord Julian would not be denied. He caught him by the sleeve with one hand, whilst with the other he pointed after the retreating, dejected figure of Don Miguel.
“Do I understand that ye’re not going to hang that Spanish scoundrel?”
“What for should I be hanging him?”
“Because he’s just a damned pirate, as I can prove, as I have proved already.”
“Ah!” said Blood, and Lord Julian marvelled at the sudden haggardness of a countenance that had been so devil-may-care but a few moments since. “I am a damned pirate, myself; and so I am merciful with my kind. Don Miguel goes free.”
Lord Julian gasped. “After what I’ve told you that he has done? After his sinking of the Royal Mary? After his treatment of me — of us?” Lord Julian protested indignantly.
“I am not in the service of England, or of any nation, sir. And I am not concerned with any wrongs her flag may suffer.”
His lordship recoiled before the furious glance that blazed at him out of Blood’s haggard face. But the passion faded as swiftly as it had arisen. It was in a level voice that the Captain added:
“If you’ll escort Miss Bishop aboard my ship, I shall be obliged to you. I beg that you’ll make haste. We are about to scuttle this hulk.”
He turned slowly to depart. But again Lord Julian interposed. Containing his indignant amazement, his lordship delivered himself coldly. “Captain Blood, you disappoint me. I had hopes of great things for you.”
“Go to the devil,” said Captain Blood, turning on his heel, and so departed.
THIEF AND PIRATE
Captain Blood paced the poop of his ship alone in the tepid dusk, and the growing golden radiance of the great poop lantern in which a seaman had just lighted the three lamps. About him all was peace. The signs of the day’s battle had been effaced, the decks had been swabbed, and order was restored above and below. A group of men squatting about the main hatch were drowsily chanting, their hardened natures softened, perhaps, by the calm and beauty of the night. They were the men of the larboard watch, waiting for eight bells which was imminent.
Captain Blood did not hear them; he did not hear anything save the echo of those cruel words which had dubbed him thief and pirate.
Thief and pirate!