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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCharley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 4. The Pirate Ship
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Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 4. The Pirate Ship Post by :teachmaster Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2981

Click below to download : Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 4. The Pirate Ship (Format : PDF)

Charley Laurel: A Story Of Adventure By Sea And Land - Chapter 4. The Pirate Ship

Chapter Four. The Pirate Ship


Dick and the little boy were lifted off the raft, with the basket and cask, and placed in the stern of the boat. The crew were swarthy fellows with red caps, and Dick at once saw that the uniform worn by the officers in command was neither English nor French. They appeared to be talking gibberish, but such indeed were all foreign languages to him. He asked Charley if it was the French lingo.

"Not know what they say," answered Charley.

"I suppose, however, that they will give us something to eat and drink," observed Dick. "And so, whoever they may be, we shall be better off than on the raft."

On getting alongside, Dick was hoisted on board, and one of the men carried Charley up in his arms.

Numerous questions were at once put to Dick, every one seeming anxious to know how he and the boy came to be on the raft. He replied by pointing to his lips, and showing by other signs that he was hungry and thirsty. When it was discovered that he was either too weak to speak, or that he did not understand their language, he was carried below and placed in a hammock, while the officers took charge of little Charley, who was soon at home among them. A rough-looking fellow brought Dick a mess of some sort in basin, and a horn cup filled with stiff grog. A sailor seldom refuses a glass of grog, and although water was what he then wanted, he drank the spirit off, and ate some of the food. The effect of the grog was to send him into a sound sleep, from which he did not awake till the next day. He felt by that time pretty strong, and, turning out, went on deck. He found that he was on board a flush-decked ship-rigged vessel, heavily armed, with a numerous crew of dark-skinned savage-looking fellows, most of them wearing long knives or daggers in their belts. He thought that perhaps they might be Spaniards or Portuguese, then the idea occurred to him that they were Algerines or Salee rovers, of whom he had heard. However, seeing some of them with leaden crucifixes round their necks, he came to the conclusion that they were Spaniards. Not one of them could speak a word of English, and Dick was ignorant of every language except his own.

The ship lying becalmed, the crew seemed to take it very easily, some sitting down between the guns, amusing themselves with cards or dice, while others were asleep on the deck. Going aft, and looking down the skylight, which was open, Dick saw that the officers were employed much as their men, only they were gambling with large gold pieces as stakes.

"These may be honest gentlemen, or may be not," he thought to himself. "However, if they are kind to Charley, I don't mind what they are, and I suppose for his sake they won't make me walk the plank. I wonder where the little chap can be," and he looked down the companion-hatch, though he did not venture to descend.

The officer of the watch seemed to understand what he wanted, and going to the head of the companion-ladder, shouted out, "Pedro!" and some other words, and presently a black man appeared with Charley in his arms, and handed him over to Dick.

"Much obliged to you, friend," said Dick; "he is a fine little chap, isn't he?"

The black grinned and seemed to understand him, and patted the child on the head.

"Well, Charley, my boy, have they treated you well?" asked Dick, as he took up the child and kissed him affectionately.

Charley said that the gentlemen had been kind, and had given him all sorts of things to eat, and some strong stuff to drink, which made him sleep most of the time.

Dick carried Charley to the only shady spot he could find unoccupied, and sat down with him on his knees. Charley prattled away merrily, but he soon stopped and complained of a headache, and of the strong stuff the officers had given him to drink. This made Dick suspect that they had been amusing themselves by trying to make the child tipsy.

"It was a shame in them," exclaimed Dick, indignantly. "You must stay by me, Charley. I can't trust you out of my sight."

Dick after this kept Charley by his side, and at night made him sleep in his hammock.

Several days passed by, and the ship lay without movement on the smooth ocean. A breeze at length springing up, the crew were all life and activity, with a look-out at each mast-head. Towards noon a sail was espied, and all sail was made in chase. She was a brig under English colours. On the stranger being come up with, a gun was fired across her bows; and as she did not heave-to, a shot was sent crashing into her hull. She then hauled down her colours. The boats were manned and shoved off to her. They quickly returned, laden almost to the water's edge. The ship stood on again nearer to her, when the boats towed her alongside. Her cargo, consisting of bales of merchandise, was transferred to the ship.

"I thought so," said Dick, when he saw the proceedings. "She is no better than she should be, and if it had not been for this little chap, I would rather have remained on the raft than have come aboard her. I wonder what they will do with the crew."

That matter was soon, to Dick's horror, settled. One after the other he saw the poor fellows compelled to walk to the end of a long plank, when the inner end was lifted up and they were sent overboard. The brig was set on fire, and the pirate, letting down the sheets, proceeded on her course.

Some days after this, when Dick came on deck, he saw at a short distance a small island with a few cocoa-nut trees growing on it. Several of the officers who were on deck were consulting together, every now and then casting a look at him and Charley. At last one of them called him up and made him understand that they were well-disposed towards him, and that as they understood he had been the means of saving the life of the little child, they wished to treat him kindly--that otherwise he would have shared the fate of the brig's crew, if they had not left him on the raft to perish. To show their regard, they intended to land him on the island, where he would find water and sufficient food to support life; though, if he wished it, they would take care of the child, to follow their noble profession.

"Thank you for nothing," answered Dick. "I would sooner heave the little chap overboard, to be munched up by a shark, than leave him with you; and as to quitting the ship without him, I will not do it; but if it please you to put him and me on shore, I'll go willingly enough, and trust to One better able to take care of us than you are."

Though the pirates did not understand what Dick said, they comprehended that he was perfectly willing to be left on the island. A boat was accordingly lowered, and numerous articles which the pirates had taken out of the brig, and were likely to prove useful to him, were put into her. Charley ran up and shook hands with the officers, but hastened back immediately to Dick, for he was afraid of being left behind. Poor little fellow, he felt grateful to them for their kindness, having no notion of the villains they were.

Dick, taking him in one arm, descended the ship's side into the boat, which pulled away towards the land. Numerous shoals and rocks surrounded the island, among which the boat threaded her way, and at length landed him and the boy, with the articles they had brought, on the sandy beach of a sheltered bay.

Dick had no inclination to shake hands with the crew who had so lately murdered his countrymen, and probably very many people besides, nor did he feel at his ease till he saw the boat again pulling out towards the ship. As soon as she had gone, Dick, who had held Charley in his arms, placed him on a rock, and examined the articles which had been sent with him.

"I am much obliged to the villains, at all events," he said; "but can only wish them a better calling and a happier end than most of them are likely to meet with. To be sure, they can afford to be generous, seeing that they stole the things and had more than they could use. Here are some carpenter's tools, a saw and axe, a hammer and nails, and a piece of canvas that will do for a tent; a bale of cloth, and calico, and needles, and thread; here are fish-hooks and lines, and shoes; three casks of flour and rice, and some pots, and pans, and knives; and a decent-looking fowling-piece and powder and shot. Well, if I hadn't seen what I did see, I should have taken them to be kind-hearted decent chaps, who, for some reason or other, didn't wish to keep me among them, and so had put me ashore, and wished to do their best to make me comfortable. Ah, I have a notion how it is--the skipper, or one or other of them has got a little chap like this at home, and they have done it for his sake; and savage as their hearts may be, they didn't quite like keeping him on board their wicked-doing craft. Yes, that's it; so if I have saved Charley's life, he has saved mine, though he doesn't know it, bless him!"

Dick having finished his soliloquy, cut a pole from a tree growing near, and quickly rigged up a tent, beneath which he placed Charley out of the heat of the sun. He then collected wood, of which there was an abundance on the beach, and soon had a fire burning, and next proceeded to cook some of the provisions for Charley and himself. Not far off was a spring of water, which would afford him an abundant supply of that necessary of life.

"We sha'n't be so badly off, Charley, after all," he said; "only I hope these fellows won't come back again, in case they may take it into their heads to carry you away."

"I will not leave you, Dick," answered the boy, taking his hand and beginning to cry at the thought.

"You sha'n't, Charley, you sha'n't," said Dick. "We will move away to another part of the island, where they cannot find us; may be there is water elsewhere, that's what we shall want most. There are plenty of cocoa-nuts, and I dare say other vegetables, and with the gun I shall be able to shoot birds, and with the hooks catch as many fish as we shall want. We are better off than on the raft, anyhow."

Dick having made up a bed with the cloth for Charley to sleep on, cut some grass for himself, and then prepared to pass the night.

"You say your prayers, Charley," said Dick; "and mind you thank God for bringing us ashore in safety."

Dick had a feeling that the little innocent boy could offer up his prayers more effectually than he himself could; but yet Dick did his best to pray in his own fashion, though he could seldom say more than, "I am a desperately wicked fellow; God be merciful to me, and, if He thinks fit, take care of me and make me better."

He, however, taught Charley a much longer prayer than this, suitable, as he considered, to his condition.

The rough sailor and the child having finished their devotions, lay down on their beds, and, fearless of evil, fell asleep.

Next day after breakfast Dick, leading Charley by one hand and taking his gun in the other, set out to explore the island. On reaching the top of the nearest height, which was of no great elevation, being a mass of barren rock thrown up by some convulsion of nature, he looked around him. The island was of small size, a couple of miles perhaps in length and about a quarter as broad, with deep indentations, bays, or small gulfs. The larger portion was barren, but here and there were spots overgrown with the richest vegetation of the tropics. The shores were rocky, but in no part high, while around in every direction were seen extensive reefs, some rising above the water, others only to be distinguished by the line of foam which danced above them.

"From the look of the place, ships are likely to give this a wide berth," observed Dick. "However, we can manage to live here pretty comfortably, and may be some day or other we shall get off again, but how, is more than I can tell."

On descending from the hill they reached a cocoa-nut grove. Dick looked up at the nuts, now almost ripe, with a well-satisfied eye.

"We will have some of those before long, and the milk will be good food for you, Charley," he observed. "Ah, and we shall have some cabbages, too." He pointed to some smaller palm-trees, the crown of which yields the cabbage, so prized in the tropics as one of the most delicious vegetables.

Sometimes Dick carried Charley on his shoulders, sometimes he let him run alongside him, and he thus made his progress to the farther end of the island. One part appeared very barren, low, and sandy, with wild rocks rising up on either side.

"After all, this place may be our best hunting-ground," observed Dick, on discovering that it was the habitation of wild fowl, who came there to lay their eggs and rear their young.

At length he reached the extreme end of the island. Near it was a grove of cocoa-nut and other palms, a beautiful sandy bay, and what Dick was in search of, a spring of clear water which bubbled out of the rock.

"We shall be better off here, and out of the way of those gentry if they return to the island, and I don't think they will come so far to look for us," said Dick. "We will move up the stores, and after that I will build a hut; it will be more comfortable than the tent, especially in the hurricane season, and we can't tell how long we may have to stop."

Dick having discovered that, by keeping partly inland and partly near the shore, a tolerably easy road existed from one end of the island to the other, he built a little hand-dray, in which, he conveyed the stores to the new location. It occupied several days, but, as he said, time being their own, he had no need to be in a hurry. He next put up a hut, for which the trees growing around and the planking from some unfortunate vessel dashed to pieces on the reefs afforded abundance of material, while the palm-leaves served for a thatch. He could not also be long content without a boat. Though not an expert ship-builder, he managed to knock together a contrivance in which he could venture out within the reefs in calm weather to fish with Charley.

"We live like princes, my boy," he said, "but I wish somehow I was able to look after your education; though if we had books I could not make use of them, seeing I never learned to read."

Charley replied that he was very happy without books, and he supposed when he grew up to be a big boy he should find the means of learning.

"I don't know when that may be, though," observed Dick. "We have been here now some months, and I have never yet caught sight of a sail. However, though I cannot give you learning, I can teach you religion, and I will try and recollect all I ever knew. I can remember the ten commandments, or most of them, which I learned at school, and they will do to begin with, and as we go on, may be I shall brush up more."

Dick was as good as his word, and at night frequently lay awake trying to recollect what he had known as a boy. The task was often a hard one, but his desire to benefit his charge induced him to persevere, when probably he might otherwise have abandoned the attempt.

Month after month passed away, and Dick and Charley continued to live their Robinson Crusoe style of life without interruption, and in happy ignorance of all that was going on in the world.

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