Here Mr. Peter Forbes broke in to say that the Plymouth Adventure hadunmolested. Other passengers scoffed at the absurd notion of trusting a piratesoath, but the pompous Secretary of the Council could not be cried down. He wasa canny critic of human nature and he knew an honorable pirate when he metIt was odd, but in a pinch like this the dapper, finicky Councilor PeterArbuthnot Forbes displayed an unshaken courage as became a gentleman of hisposition, while young Jack Cockrell had suddenly changed his opinion of theascinating trade of piracy. He had not the slightest desire to investigate it at anycloser range. His knees were inclined to wobble and his stomach felt qualms. Hisuncle twitted him as a braggart ashore who sang a different tune afloat. The ladsgrin was feeble as he retorted that he took his pirates one at a time.The largest vessel of the pursuit came up at a tremendous pace, reelingbeneath an extraordinary spread of canvas, her spray-swept hull disclosing anarmament of thirty guns, the decks swarming with men. She was no merchanthip, this was already clear, but there was still the hope that she might be a manf-war or a privateer. Captain Wellsby looked in vain for her colors. At length hesaw a flag whip from the spanker gaff. He laid down the glass with a profoundThe flag was black with a sinister device, a white blotch whose outlinesuggested a human skullCaptain Wellsby gazed again and carefully examined the two sloops whichwere acting in concert with the thirty-gun ship. It was a squadron, and the bravePlymouth Adventure was hopelessly outmatched. To fight meant a slaughter withnever a chance of survivalThe passengers had made no great clamor until the menacing ship drew closenough for them to descry the dreadful pennant which showed as a sable blotgainst the evening sky. Two women fainted and others were seized with violenthysteria. Their shrill screams were so distressing that the skipper ordered them tobe lugged below and shut in their cabins. Mr Peter Forbes had plumped himselfdown upon a coil of hawser, as if utterly disgusted, but he implored the captainto blaze away at the besotted scoundrels as long as two planks held together. TheHonorable Secretary of the Council had been too outspoken in his opinions ofpirates to expect kindness at their hands



The sailors also expected no quarter but they sullenly crouched at the gun-carriages, gripping the handspikes and blowing the matches while they waitedfor the word. The pirate ship was now reaching to windward of the PlymouthAdventure, heeling over until her decks were in full view. Upon the poop stood anan of the most singular appearance. He was squat and burly and immenselybroad across the shoulders. what made him grotesque was a growth of beardwhich swept almost to his waist and covered his face like a hairy curtain. In itwere tied bright streamers of crimson ribbon. Evidently this fantastic monsterwas proud of his whiskers and liked to adom themThe laced hat with a feather in it, the skirted coat of buff and blue whichflapped around his bow-legs, and the rows of gold buttons across his chest werein slovenly imitation of a naval uniform. But there was nothing like navaldiscipline on those crowded decks where half the crew appeared to be drunk andthe rest of them cursing each other.8 Captain Jonathan Wellsby smothered a groan and his stern mouth twitched assaid to his chief mateGod's mercy on us! Iis none other than the bloody Edward Teach,-thatcalls himself Blackbeard! My information was that he still cruised off theSpanish Main and refitted his ships in the Bay of Honduras.The madman of the sea." said the stolid mate.A bad day for us when heiled to the north ard. He kills for the pleasure of it. Now Stede Bonnet lootssuch stuff as takes his fancy andHe loves to fight a king s ship for the sport of it, broke in the skipper, butthis murderer- An unlucky voyage for the old Plymouth Adventure and allhands. MateOne of the women who had been suffered to remain on deck was closeenough to overhear the direful news. Her hands to heaven, she wailedBlackbeard! Oh, my soul, we are as good as dead, or worse. Fight and sinkhim, dear captain. What shall I do? What shall I do? If I had only minded thedream I had the night before we sailed-lack Cockrell sat down beside his uncle, a limp and sorry youth for one whohad offered to slay a six-foot pirate before breakfast to please a pretty maid.with a sickly grin he murmured:

This cockerel crowed too loud Uncle Peter Methinks i share vour distastefor pir

to discover the pestilent Blackbeard in Carolina waters was like a thunderboltfrom a clear sky. Captain Wellsby had felt confident that he could beat off therdinary pirate craft which was apt to be smaller than his own stout ship. Andmost of these unsavory gentry were mere salt-water burglars who had little tastefor hard fighting. The master of the Plymouth Adventure, so pious and sedate,was a brave man to whom the thought of surrender was intolerable. From whathe knew of Blackbeard, it was useless to try to parley for the lives of hisassengers. Better it was to answer with double-shotted guns than to beg forThe British tars, stripped to the waist, tuned anxious eyes to the skipper uponthe quarter-deck while they quaffed pannikin of rum and water and crackedmany a rough jest. They fancied death no more than other men, but seafaringwas a perilous trade and they were toughened to its hazards. They were facinghopeless odds but let the master shout the command and they would send thesouls of some of these pirates sizzling down to hell before the PlymouthAdventure sank, a splintered hulk, in the smoke of her own gunpowder.Captain Wellsby delayed his decision a moment longer. Something mostunusual had attracted his attention. A ball of smoke puffed from a port ofBlackbeard s ship, but the round shot splashed beyond the bowsprit of thePlymouth Adventure instead of thudding into her oaken side. This was a signal toheave to. It was a courtesy both unexpected and perplexing, becauseBlackbeard s habit was to let fly with all the guns that could bear as thesummons to submit. Presently a dingy bit of cloth fluttered just beneath the blackflag. It looked like the remains of a pirate s shirt which had once been whiteA signal for a truce? muttered Captain Wellsby. A ruse, mayhap, but theThe two sloops of Blackbeard's squadron, spreading tall, square topsails,came driving down to windward in readiness to fire their bow- chasers and formin line of battle. The passengers of the Plymouth Adventure, snatching at thechance of safety, implored the skipper to send his men away from the guns lest arash shot might be their ruin. They prayed him to respect the precious flag oftruce and to ascertain the meaning of it. Mystified and wavering in his purpose,he told the mates to back the main- yard and heave the ship toUpon his own deck Blackbeard was stamping to and fro, bellowing at hiscrew while he flourished a broadsword by way of emphasis. The haplesscompany of the Plymouth Adventure shivered at the very sight of him and yetthere was something almost ludicrous in the antics of this atrocious pirate, asthough he were play-acting upon the stage of a theatre. He had tucked up thetails of his military coat because the wind whipped them about his bandy legsand made him stumble. The flowing whiskers also proved bothersomewherefore he looped them back over his ears bys of the bows of crimsonribbon. This seemed to be his personal fashion of clearing for action

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