This council was met to determine what should be done with the Spanish prisoners. Considering that Curacao now lay beyond their reach, as they were running short of water and provisions, and also that Pitt was hardly yet in case to undertake the navigation of the vessel, it had been decided that, going east of Hispaniola, and then sailing along its northern coast, they should make for Tortuga, that haven of the buccaneers, in which lawless port they had at least no danger of recapture to apprehend. It was now a question whether they should convey the Spaniards thither with them, or turn them off in a boat to make the best of their way to the coast of Hispaniola, which was but ten miles off. This was the course urged by Blood himself.
“There’s nothing else to be done,” he insisted. “In Tortuga they would be flayed alive.”
“Which is less than the swine deserve,” growled Wolverstone.
“And you’ll remember, Peter,” put in Hagthorpe, “that boy’s threat to you this morning. If he escapes, and carries word of all this to his uncle, the Admiral, the execution of that threat will become more than possible.”
It says much for Peter Blood that the argument should have left him unmoved. It is a little thing, perhaps, but in a narrative in which there is so much that tells against him, I cannot — since my story is in the nature of a brief for the defence — afford to slur a circumstance that is so strongly in his favour, a circumstance revealing that the cynicism attributed to him proceeded from his reason and from a brooding over wrongs rather than from any natural instincts. “I care nothing for his threats.”
“You should,” said Wolverstone. “The wise thing’d be to hang him, along o’ all the rest.”
“It is not human to be wise,” said Blood. “It is much more human to err, though perhaps exceptional to err on the side of mercy. We’ll be exceptional. Oh, faugh! I’ve no stomach for cold-blooded killing. At daybreak pack the Spaniards into a boat with a keg of water and a sack of dumplings, and let them go to the devil.”
That was his last word on the subject, and it prevailed by virtue of the authority they had vested in him, and of which he had taken so firm a grip. At daybreak Don Esteban and his followers were put off in a boat.
Two days later, the Cinco Llagas sailed into the rock-bound bay of Cayona, which Nature seemed to have designed for the stronghold of those who had appropriated it.
It is time fully to disclose the fact that the survival of the story of Captain Blood’s exploits is due entirely to the industry of Jeremy Pitt, the Somersetshire shipmaster. In addition to his ability as a navigator, this amiable young man appears to have wielded an indefatigable pen, and to have been inspired to indulge its fluency by the affection he very obviously bore to Peter Blood.