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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 34. Captain Thomas Of The Royal James
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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 34. Captain Thomas Of The Royal James Post by :Truman Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2779

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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 34. Captain Thomas Of The Royal James

CHAPTER XXXIV. CAPTAIN THOMAS OF THE ROYAL JAMES

When Blackbeard's little fleet anchored in Topsail Inlet, Stede Bonnet, who had not been informed of the intentions of the pirate, was a good deal puzzled. Since joining Blackbeard's fleet in the vessel which came up from Belize, Bonnet had considered himself very shabbily treated, and his reasons for that opinion were not bad. During the engagements off Charles Town his services had not been required and his opinion had not been consulted, Blackbeard having no use for the one and no respect for the other. The pirate captain had taken a fancy to Ben Greenway, while his contempt for the Scotchman's master increased day by day; and it was for this reason that Greenway had been taken on board the flag-ship, while Bonnet remained on one of the smaller vessels.

Bonnet was in a discontented and somewhat sulky mood, but when Blackbeard's full plans were made known to him and he found that he might again resume command of his own vessel, the Revenge, if he chose to do so, his eyes began to sparkle once more.

Ben Greenway soon resumed his former position with Bonnet, for it did not take Blackbeard very long to settle up his affairs, and in a very short time he became tired of the work of conversion; or, to speak more correctly, of the bore of talking about it. Bonnet was glad to have the Scotchman back again, although he never ceased to declare his desire to get rid of this faithful friend and helper; for, when the Revenge again came into his hands, there were many things to be done, and few people to help him do it.

"It will be merchandise an' fair trade this time," said Ben, "an' ye'll find it no' so easy as your piracies, though safer. An' when ye're off to see the Governor an' hae got your pardon, it'll be a happy day, Master Bonnet, for ye an' for your daughter, an' for your brother-in-law an' everybody in Bridgetown wha either knew ye or respected ye."

"No more of that," cried Bonnet. "I did not say I was going to Bridgetown, or that I wanted anybody there to respect me. It is my purpose to fit out the Revenge as a privateer and get a commission to sail in her in the war between Spain and the Allies. This will be much more to my taste, Ben Greenway, than trading in sugar and hides."

Greenway was very grave.

"There is so little difference," said he, "between a privateer an' a pirate that it is a great strain on a common mind to keep them separate; but a commission from the king is better than a commission from the de'il, an' we'll hope there won't be much o' a war after all is said an' done."

There was not much intercourse between Blackbeard and Bonnet at Topsail Inlet. The pirate was on very good terms with the authorities at that place, who for their own sakes cared not much to interfere with him, and Bonnet had his own work in hand and industriously engaged in it. He went to Bath and got his pardon; he procured a clearance for St. Thomas, where he freely announced his intention to take out a commission as privateer, and he fitted out his vessel as best he could. Of men he had not many, but when he left the inlet he sailed down to an island on the coast, where Blackbeard, having had too many men on his return from Charles Town, had marooned a large number of the sailors belonging to his different crews, finding this the easiest way of getting rid of them. Bonnet took these men on board with the avowed intention of taking them to St. Thomas, and then he set sail upon the high seas as free and untrammelled as a fish-hawk sweeping over the surface of a harbour with clearance papers tied to his leg.

Stede Bonnet had changed very much since he last trod the quarter-deck of the Revenge as her captain. He was not so important to look at, and he put on fewer airs of authority, but he issued a great many more commands. In fact, he had learned much about a sailor's life, of navigation and the management of a vessel, and was far better able to command a ship than he had ever been before. He had had a long rest from the position of a pirate captain, and he had not failed to take advantage of the lessons which had been involuntarily given him by the veteran scoundrels who had held him in contempt. He was now, to a great extent, sailing-master as well as captain of the Revenge; but Ben Greenway, who was much given to that sort of thing, undertook to offer Bonnet some advice in regard to his course.

"I am no sailor," said he, "but I ken a chart when I see it, an' it is my opeenion that there is no need o' your sailin' so far to the east before ye turn about southward. There is naething much stickin' out from the coast between here an' St. Thomas."

Bonnet looked at the Scotchman with lofty contempt.

"Perhaps you can tell me," said he, "what there is stickin' out from the coast between here and Ocracoke Inlet, where you yourself told me that Blackbeard had gone with the one sloop he kept for himself?"

"Blackbeard!" shouted the Scotchman, "an' what in the de'il have ye got to do wi' Blackbeard?"

"Do with that infernal dog?" cried Bonnet, "I have everything to do with him before I do aught with anybody or anything besides. He stole from me my possessions, he degraded me from my position, he made me a laughing-stock to my men, and he even made me blush and bow my head with shame before my daughter and my brother-in-law, two people in whose sight I would have stood up grander and bolder than before any others in the world. He took away from me my sword and he gave me instead a wretched pen; he made me nothing where I had been everything. He even ceased to consider me any more than if I had been the dirty deck under his feet. And then, when he had done with my property and could get no more good out of it, he cast it to me in charity as a man would toss a penny to a beggar. Before I sail anywhere else, Ben Greenway," continued Bonnet, "I sail for Ocracoke Inlet, and when I sight Blackbeard's miserable little sloop I shall pour broadside after broadside into her until I sink his wretched craft with his bedizened carcass on board of it."

"But wi' your men stand by ye?" cried Greenway. "Ye're neither a pirate nor a vessel o' war to enter into a business like that."

Bonnet swore one of his greatest oaths. "There is no business nor war for me, Ben Greenway," he cried, "until I have taught that insolent Blackbeard what manner of man I am."

Ben Greenway was very much disheartened. "If Blackbeard should sink the Revenge instead of Master Bonnet sinking him," he said to himself, "and would be kind enough to maroon my old master an' me, it might be the best for everybody after all. Master Bonnet is vera humble-minded an' complacent when bad fortune comes upon him, an' it is my opeenion that on a desert island I could weel manage him for the good o' his soul."

But there were no vessels sunk on that cruise. Blackbeard had gone, nobody knew where, and after a time Bonnet gave up the search for his old enemy and turned his bow southward. Now Ben Greenway's countenance gleamed once more.

"It'll be a glad day at Spanish Town when Mistress Kate shall get my letter."

"And what have you been writing to her?" cried Bonnet.

"I told her," said Ben Greenway, "how at last ye hae come to your right mind, an' how ye are a true servant o' the king, wi' your pardon in your pocket an' your commission waitin' for ye at St. Thomas, an' that, whatever else ye may do at sea, there'll be no more black flag floatin' over your head, nor a see-saw plank wobblin' under the feet o' onybody else. The days o' your piracies are over, an' ye're an honest mon once more."

"You wrote her that?" said Bonnet, with a frown.

"Ay," said Greenway, "an' I left it in the care o' a good mon, whose ship is weel on its way to Kingston by this day."

That afternoon Captain Bonnet called all his men together and addressed them.

He made a very good speech, a better one than that delivered when he first took real command of the Revenge after sailing out of the river at Bridgetown, and it was listened to with respectful and earnest interest. In brief manner he explained to all on board that he had thrown to the winds all idea of merchandising or privateering; that his pardon and his ship's clearance were of no value to him except he should happen to get into some uncomfortable predicament with the law; that he had no idea of sailing towards St. Thomas, but intended to proceed up the coast to burn and steal and rob and slay wherever he might find it convenient to do so; that he had brought the greater part of his crew from the desert island where Blackbeard had left them because he knew that they were stout and reckless fellows, just the sort of men he wanted for the piratical cruise he was about to begin; and that, in order to mislead any government authorities who by land or sea might seek to interfere with him, he had changed the name of the good old Revenge to the Royal James, while its captain, once Stede Bonnet, was now to be known on board and everywhere else as Captain Thomas, with nothing against him. He concluded by saying that all that had been done on that ship from the time she first hoisted the black flag until the present moment was nothing at all compared to the fire and the blood and the booty which should follow in the wake of that gallant vessel, the Royal James, commanded by Captain Thomas.

The men looked at each other, but did not say much. They were all pirates, although few of them had regularly started out on a piratical career, and there was nothing new to them in this sort of piratical dishonour. In the little cruise after Blackbeard their new captain had shown himself to be a good man, ready with his oaths and very certain about what he wanted done. So, whenever Stede Bonnet chose to run up the Jolly Roger, he might do it for all they cared.

Poor Ben Greenway sat apart, his head bowed upon his hands.

"You seem to be in a bad case, old Ben," said Bonnet, gazing down upon him, "but you throw yourself into needless trouble. As soon as I lay hold of some craft which I am willing shall go away with a sound hull, I will put you on board of her and let you go back to the farm. I will keep you no longer among these wicked people, Ben Greenway, and in this wicked place."

Ben shook his head. "I started wi' ye an' I stay wi' ye," said he, "an' I'll follow ye to the vera gates o' hell, but farther than that, Master Bonnet, I willna go; at the gates o' hell I leave ye!"

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