excerpt from GREENBEARD

by Richard James Bentley

An early run-in with Henry Morgan, excerpted from Chapter the Second

Captain Sylvestre de Greybagges, Israel Feet and Blue Peter Ceteshwayoo walked down the gangplank and onto the quay, dressed for a night out. The Captain was in his customary black attire. Blue Peter sported a coat of deep-pink silk with gleaming gold buttons, yellow knee-breeches, white hose and gold-buckled shoes the size of small boats on his huge feet, gemstone rings twinkling multicoloured on his fingers. Israel Feet was dressed in the traditional pirate rig of calico shirt, fustian waistcoat and knee-breeches with no hose and black leather pumps on his feet, a bright-coloured knotted kerchief covered his hair and a gold hoop dangled from his ear-lobe, an English Tower-of-London flintlock pistol and a Venetian poniard in his belt.

“Look you, boyos!” came a voice with a strong Welsh lilt. “It is Captain Yellowbeard the Pirate with his pets, the rat and the raven!”

Captain Greybagges spun round. “Why! Iffen it ain’t my ole shipmate Bloody Morgan – or shouldn’t that be bloody Bloody Morgan, har-har!” He grinned at Henry Morgan with every appearance of amiability. “Yez is surely looking wealthy these days! ‘Tis small reason to insult my friends, mind yez, especially when ye have dressed yer own fellows like they be performin’ monkeys o’ the sort that the Eyetalian hurdy-gurdy men has by them to caper and pass the hat round.” Morgan’s four bully-boys were dressed in short red bumfreezer jackets, and looked put-out at the Captain’s comment.

“You are surely jealous of my finery, Greybagges” sniffed Morgan, twirling around to show off his plum-coloured coat and its gold buttons, epaulettes and braid. “If you had possessed the good sense to accompany me to Panama you would be as grand as myself, surely you would.”

“I be merely a humble gentleman of fortune, Morgan, and I seeks not glory at the cost of the lives of my jolly buccaneers. I am not a captain in the Navy, that has Admirals to please and pressed men to fritter away to get a mention in the London Times.” Captain Greybagges shrugged eloquently.

“If you don’t please anyone but yourself, boyo, then nobody will want to please you. Why, King Charles himself has asked me to come to London. I hear he wants to dub me Sir Henry Morgan and make me Governor of Jamaica, on account of how my little expedition to Panama has discountenanced the Spaniards so.”

Captain Sylvestre de Greybagges eyebrows went up. “Well, and there is a wonder!” he said. “A gentleman of fortune to be Governor of Jamaikey!” The Captain looked thoughtful. “It may be that the king wants a poacher for a gamekeeper, rather than to reward you for upsetting the Dons, belike. You will not be Sir Henry Bloody Morgan Governor of Jamaikey and yet still be in good standing in the Free Brotherhood of the Coasts.” He indicated Morgan’s bully-boys with a wave of his hand. “And yer jolly boys will be dancing a hornpipe for yez one day, and dancing a different hornpipe for yez the very next day. At the end of a rope, methinks. Such is the price of a knighthood, given to yez by King Charles himself with a dab of his little sword on yer shoulder-boards.”

Morgan’s face flushed red with rage. “You always were a churlish cully, Greybagges! A mere scribbler for the scandal-sheets! I bid you good-day!” He and his bully-boys swept past them. Israel Feet had to jump back so as not to be jostled.

The three buccaneers watched them as they went. The small Welsh pirate captain strode confidently, his nose in the air. One of his bully-boys looked back at them uncertainly before the crowd closed behind them.

“Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn the jumped-up Welsh fool!” muttered Captain Greybagges, making no attempt to speak like a pirate. “And damn me for not being able to keep my mouth shut.”

“I thought you spoke well and to the point, Captain,” said Blue Peter. “I believe that you planted a seed of concern in the minds of his men, too.”

“I did, but that means he will be able to deal with it, as I have tipped him off in time to what people will say, and that in turn means that he will go to London and see the king.” Captain Greybagges sighed. “There was a small chance that I could have talked him out of it. He did trust my judgement in times gone by, when we were shipmates under Captain Flint. If I could have kept my own counsel and then seen him later alone I might have swayed him, but now it’s as though I’ve challenged him publicly, so he will go to the king, damn him. And the king will dub him Sir Henry Bloody Morgan. And the king will make him Governor of Jamaica. And the king will have hired himself a fine poacher as a gamekeeper, a very fine poacher indeed. And the Free Brotherhood of the Coasts will be broken. And England will be united with France and Spain to rid the oceans of the scourge of piracy, which is us.”

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