Peter Blood stood in the pillared portico of Government House, and with unseeing eyes that were laden with pain and anger, stared out across the great harbour of Port Royal to the green hills rising from the farther shore and the ridge of the Blue Mountains beyond, showing hazily through the quivering heat.
He was aroused by the return of the negro who had gone to announce him, and following now this slave, he made his way through the house to the wide piazza behind it, in whose shade Colonel Bishop and my Lord Julian Wade took what little air there was.
“So ye’ve come,” the Deputy-Governor hailed him, and followed the greeting by a series of grunts of vague but apparently ill-humoured import.
He did not trouble to rise, not even when Lord Julian, obeying the instincts of finer breeding, set him the example. From under scowling brows the wealthy Barbados planter considered his sometime slave, who, hat in hand, leaning lightly upon his long beribboned cane, revealed nothing in his countenance of the anger which was being steadily nourished by this cavalier reception.
At last, with scowling brow and in self-sufficient tones, Colonel Bishop delivered himself.
“I have sent for you, Captain Blood, because of certain news that has just reached me. I am informed that yesterday evening a frigate left the harbour having on board your associate Wolverstone and a hundred men of the hundred and fifty that were serving under you. His lordship and I shall be glad to have your explanation of how you came to permit that departure.”
“Permit?” quoth Blood. “I ordered it.”
The answer left Bishop speechless for a moment. Then:
“You ordered it?” he said in accents of unbelief, whilst Lord Julian raised his eyebrows. “’Swounds! Perhaps you’ll explain yourself? Whither has Wolverstone gone?”
“To Tortuga. He’s gone with a message to the officers commanding the other four ships of the fleet that is awaiting me there, telling them what’s happened and why they are no longer to expect me.”
Bishop’s great face seemed to swell and its high colour to deepen. He swung to Lord Julian.
“You hear that, my lord? Deliberately he has let Wolverstone loose upon the seas again — Wolverstone, the worst of all that gang of pirates after himself. I hope your lordship begins at last to perceive the folly of granting the King’s commission to such a man as this against all my counsels. Why, this thing is... it’s just mutiny... treason! By God! It’s matter for a court-martial.”
“Will you cease your blather of mutiny and treason and courts-martial?” Blood put on his hat, and sat down unbidden. “I have sent Wolverstone to inform Hagthorpe and Christian and Yberville and the rest of my lads that they’ve one clear month in which to follow my example, quit piracy, and get back to their boucans or their logwood, or else sail out of the Caribbean Sea. That’s what I’ve done.”