even fasterâsoon enough youâll be so hungry for me you wonât be able to take a deep breath.
Friend came blundering into the fireside crowd just as Davies entered it from the beach side. The pirate chief was grinning confidently, and Friend rolled his eyes in exasperation. Oh, spare us the brave show, captain, thought the fat physician; youâre in no danger from anyone hereâ¦unless you really annoy
with your gallant
âAh, hereâs our captain!â cried one of the pirates, a stocky red-haired man with a broad, freckled, smiling face; and though some of the men in the crowd were frowning angrily, Friend watched this smiling man, for he sensed that it was he who posed the threat. âPhil,â the man said earnestly, âsome of the lads here were wonderinâ exactly what action weâve worked so hard outfitting the
for, and how much profit we stand to take from it compared to what sorts of perils there be waitinâ. I tried to answer âem in general, but they want
Davies laughed. âIâd have thought theyâd all know better than to go to
Venner,â he said easilyâthough to Friend the apprehension behind the unconcerned pose was obvious.
Friend saw the new recruitâElizabethâs friend, what was his name? Shandy, that was itâscuffling his way through the crowdbehind Davies, and for a moment the physician considered engineering things so that the interfering puppeteer would be killedâ¦ or, better, maimed, rendered simple-minded by a blow to the headâ¦but he regretfully decided that it would be difficult enough to restrain a crowd this big and wild from mutiny, without trying to get them to swat his personal fly at the same time.
He returned his attention to Venner, whose face, despite the smile, shone with sweat in the firelight. âThatâs what I told âem, capân,â he said, and for a moment the falsity of his smile must have been obvious to everyone present, âbut several have said they plain wonât sail if we be goinâ to that damned place on the Florida coast where Thatch got infested by ghosts.â
Davies shrugged. âAny of âem who be not satisfied with my promise to make âem rich, or who doubt my word on that, can see me privately to settle it. And any that want to desert in mid-endeavor know the prescribed penalties. Do you fit into either of those groups, Venner?â
Friend, peering in from the periphery, whispered and held up his hand.
Venner tried to reply, but produced only a choked grunt. Should I have him provoke his own death, Friend wondered, or save him? Better let him liveâthere
real fear and anger in this crowd, and I donât want it stirred to a blaze. He whispered and gestured again, and Venner suddenly hunched forward and vomited onto the sand. The people near him drew away, and coarse laughter broke the tension.
Playing to the audience, Davies said, âI donât call that a responsive answer.â
Friendâs fat fingers danced in the air, and Venner straightened and said, loudly but haltingly, âNoâ¦Phil. Iâ¦trust you. Iâ¦
whatâs happening here? These arenât my
â¦I was just drunk, and wanted toâ¦stir up a bit of trouble. All these ladsâ¦know youâve got their bestâ¦
â¦interests at heart.â
Davies raised his eyebrows in surprise, then frowned suspiciously and peered around among the crowd; but Vennerâs words had been convincing enough for one pirate, who clumped up and punched the would-be mutineer in the face.
âTreacherous pig,â the pirate muttered as Venner sat down in the sand, blood spilling from his nose. The man turned to Davies. âYour word soonerân his, anytime, capân.â
Davies smiled. âTry not to forget, Tom,â he said mildly.
Out at the edge of the crowd,