Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon the
eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of the
Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the weary.
The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main had
more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayers inwardly,
and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority to make them
kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to say them at
all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they
might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from heaven. Then at
once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge of sleep--but an
intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was conscience. They began
to feel a vague fear that they had been doing wrong to run away; and
next they thought of the stolen meat, and then the real torture came.
They tried to argue it away by reminding conscience that they had
purloined sweetmeats and apples scores of times; but conscience was not
to be appeased by such thin plausibilities; it seemed to them, in the
end, that there was no getting around the stubborn fact that taking
sweetmeats was only "hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such
valuables was plain simple stealing--and there was a command against that
in the Bible. So they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in
the business, their piracies should not again be sullied with the
crime of stealing. Then conscience granted a truce, and these curiously
inconsistent pirates fell peacefully to sleep.