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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 1. Two Young People, A Ship, And A Fish
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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 1. Two Young People, A Ship, And A Fish Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2710

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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 1. Two Young People, A Ship, And A Fish

CHAPTER I. TWO YOUNG PEOPLE, A SHIP, AND A FISH

The month was September and the place was in the neighbourhood of Bridgetown, in the island of Barbadoes. The seventeenth century was not seventeen years old, but the girl who walked slowly down to the river bank was three years its senior. She carried a fishing-rod and line, and her name was Kate Bonnet. She was a bright-faced, quick-moving young person, and apparently did not expect to catch many fish, for she had no basket in which to carry away her finny prizes. Nor, apparently, did she have any bait, except that which was upon her hook and which had been affixed there by one of the servants at her home, not far away. In fact, Mistress Kate was too nicely dressed and her gloves were too clean to have much to do with fish or bait, but she seated herself on a little rock in a shady spot not far from the water and threw forth her line. Then she gazed about her; a little up the river and a good deal down the river.

It was truly a pleasant scene which lay before her eyes. Not half a mile away was the bridge which gave this English settlement its name, and beyond the river were woods and cultivated fields, with here and there a little bit of smoke, for it was growing late in the afternoon, when smoke meant supper. Beyond all this the land rose from the lower ground near the river and the sea, in terrace after terrace, until the upper stretches of its woodlands showed clear against the evening sky.

But Mistress Kate Bonnet now gazed steadily down the stream, beyond the town and the bridge, and paid no more attention to the scenery than the scenery did to her, although one was quite as beautiful as the other.

There was a bunch of white flowers in the hat of the young girl; not a very large one, and not a very small one, but of such a size as might be easily seen from the bridge, had any one happened to be crossing about that time. And, in fact, as the wearer of the hat and the white flowers still continued to gaze at the bridge, she saw some one come out upon it with a quick, buoyant step, and then she saw him stop and gaze steadily up the river. At this she turned her head, and her eyes went out over the beautiful landscape and the wide terraces rising above each other towards the sky.

It is astonishing how soon after this a young man, dressed in a brown suit, and very pleasant to look upon, came rapidly walking along the river bank. This was Master Martin Newcombe, a young Englishman, not two years from his native land, and now a prosperous farmer on the other side of the river.

It often happened that Master Newcombe, at the close of his agricultural labours, would put on a good suit of clothes and ride over the bridge to the town, to attend to business or to social duties, as the case might be. But, sometimes, not willing to encumber himself with a horse, he walked over the bridge and strolled or hurried along the river bank. This was one of the times in which he hurried. He had been caught by the vision of the bunch of white flowers in the hat of the girl who was seated on the rock in the shade.

As Master Newcombe stepped near, his spirits rose, as they had not always risen, as he approached Mistress Kate, for he perceived that, although she held the handle of her rod in her hand, the other end of it was lying on the ground, not very far away from the bait and the hook which, it was very plain, had not been in the water at all. She must have been thinking of something else besides fishing, he thought. But he did not dare to go on with that sort of thinking in the way he would have liked to do it. He had not too great a belief in himself, though he was very much in love with Kate Bonnet.

"Is this the best time of day for fishing, Master Newcombe?" she said, without rising or offering him her hand. "For my part, I don't believe it is."

He smiled as he threw his hat upon the ground. "Let me put your line a little farther out." And so saying, he took the rod from her hand and stepped between her and the bait, which must have been now quite hot from lying so long in a bit of sunshine. He rearranged the bait and threw the line far out into the river. Then he gave her the rod again. He seated himself on the ground near-by.

"This is the second time I have been over the bridge to-day," he said, "and this morning, very early, I saw, for the first time, your father's ship, which was lying below the town. It is a fine vessel, so far as I can judge, being a landsman."

"Yes," said she, "and I have been on board of her and have gone all over her, and have seen many things which are queer and strange to me. But the strangest thing about her, to my mind, being a landswoman, is, that she should belong to my father. There are many things which he has not, which it would be easy to believe he would like to have, but that a ship, with sails and anchors and hatchways, should be one of these things, it is hard to imagine."

Young Newcombe thought it was impossible to imagine, but he expressed himself discreetly.

"It must be that he is going to engage in trade," he said; "has he not told you of his intentions?"

"Not much," said she. "He says he is going to cruise about among the islands, and when I asked him if he would take me, he laughed, and answered that he might do so, but that I must never say a word of it to Madam Bonnet, for if she heard of it she might change his plans."

The wicked young man found himself almost wishing that the somewhat bad-tempered Madam Bonnet might hear of and change any plan which might take her husband's daughter from this town, especially in a vessel; for vessels were always terribly tardy when any one was waiting for their return. And, besides, it often happened that vessels never came back at all.

"I shall take a little trip with him even if we don't go far; it would be ridiculous for my father to own a ship, and for me never to sail in her."

"That would not be so bad," said Master Martin, feeling that a short absence might be endured. Moreover, if a little pleasure trip were to be made, it was reasonable enough to suppose that other people, not belonging to the Bonnet family, might be asked to sail as guests.

"What my father expects to trade in," said she contemplatively gazing before her, "I am sure I do not know. It cannot be horses or cattle, for he has not enough of them to make such a venture profitable. And as to sugar-cane, or anything from his farm, I am sure he has a good enough market here for all he has to sell. Certainly he does not produce enough to make it necessary for him to buy a ship in order to carry them away."

"It is opined," said Martin, "by the people of the town, that Major Bonnet intends to become a commercial man, and to carry away to the other islands, and perhaps to the old country itself, the goods of other people."

"Now that would be fine!" said Mistress Kate, her eyes sparkling, "for I should then surely go with him, and would see the world, and perhaps London." And her face flushed with the prospect.

Martin's face did not flush. "But if your father's ship sailed on a long voyage," he said, with a suspicion of apprehension, "he would not sail with her; he would send her under the charge of others."

The girl shook her head. "When she sails," said she, "he sails in her. If you had heard him talking as I have heard him, you would not doubt that. And if he sails, I sail."

Martin's soul grew quite sad. There were very good reasons to believe that this dear girl might sail away from Bridgetown, and from him. She might come back to the town, but she might not come back to him.

"Mistress Kate," said he, looking very earnestly at her, "do you know that such speech as this makes my heart sink? You know I love you, I have told you so before. If you were to sail away, I care not to what port, this world would be a black place for me."

"That is like a lover," she exclaimed a little pertly; "it is like them all, every man of them. They must have what they want, and they must have it, no matter who else may suffer."

He rose and stood by her.

"But I don't want you to suffer," he said. "Do you think it would be suffering to live with one who loved you, who would spend his whole life in making you happy, who would look upon you as the chief thing in the world, and have no other ambition than to make himself worthy of you?"

She looked up at him with a little smile.

"That would, doubtless, be all very pleasant for you," she said, "and in order that you might be pleased, you would have her give up so much. That is the way with men! Now, here am I, born in the very end of the last century, and having had, consequently, no good out of that, and with but seventeen years in this century, and most of it passed in girlhood and in school; and now, when the world might open before me for a little, here you come along and tell me all that you would like to have, and that you would like me to give up."

"But you should not think," said he, and that was all he said, for at that moment Kate Bonnet felt a little jerk at the end of her line, and then a good strong pull.

"I have a fish!" she cried, and sprang to her feet. Then, with a swoop, she threw into the midst of the weeds and wild flowers a struggling fish which Martin hastened to take from the hook.

"A fine fellow!" he cried, "and he has arrived just in time to make a dainty dish for your supper."

"Ah, no!" she said, winding the line about her rod; "if I were to take that fish to the house, it would sorely disturb Madam Bonnet. She would object to my catching it; she would object to having it prepared for the table; she would object to having it eaten, when she had arranged that we should eat something else. No, I will give it to you, Master Newcombe; I suppose in your house you can cook and eat what you please."

"Yes," said he; "but how delightful it would be if we could eat it together."

"Meaning," said she, "that I should never eat other fish than those from this river. No, sir; that may not be. I have a notion that the first foreign fish I shall eat will be found in the island of Jamaica, for my father said, that possibly he might first take a trip there, where lives my mother's brother, whom we have not seen for a long time. But, as I told you before, nobody must know this. And now I must go to my supper, and you must take yours home with you."

"And I am sure it will be the sweetest fish," he said, "that was ever caught in all these waters. But I beg, before you go, you will promise me one thing."

"Promise you!" said she, quite loftily.

"Yes," he answered; "tell me that, no matter where you go, you will not leave Bridgetown without letting me know of it?"

"I will not, indeed," said she; "and if it is to Jamaica we go, perhaps my father--but no, I don't believe he will do that. He will be too much wrapped up in his ship to want for company to whom he must attend and talk."

"Ah! there would be no need of that!" said Newcombe, with a lover's smile.

She smiled back at him.

"Good-night!" she said, "and see to it that you eat your fish to-night while it is so fresh." Then she ran up the winding path to her home.

He stood and looked after her until she had disappeared among the shrubbery, after which he walked away.

"I should have said more than I did," he reflected; "seldom have I had so good a chance to speak and urge my case. It was that confounded ship. Her mind is all for that and not for me."

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