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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 2. A Fruit-Basket And A Friend
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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 2. A Fruit-Basket And A Friend Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2227

Click below to download : Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 2. A Fruit-Basket And A Friend (Format : PDF)

Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 2. A Fruit-Basket And A Friend

CHAPTER II. A FRUIT-BASKET AND A FRIEND

Major Stede Bonnet, the father of Kate, whose mother had died when the child was but a year old, was a middle-aged Englishman of a fair estate, in the island of Barbadoes. He had been an officer in the army, was well educated and intelligent, and now, in vigorous middle life, had become a confirmed country gentleman. His herds and his crops were, to him, the principal things on earth, with the exception of his daughter; for, although he had married for the second time, there were a good many things which he valued more than his wife. And it had therefore occasioned a good deal of surprise, and more or less small talk among his neighbours, that Major Bonnet should want to buy a ship. But he had been a soldier in his youth, and soldiers are very apt to change their manner of living, and so, if Major Bonnet had grown tired of his farm and had determined to go into commercial enterprises, it was not, perhaps, a very amazing thing that a military man who had turned planter should now turn to be something else.

Madam Bonnet had heard of the ship, although she had not been told anything about her step-daughter taking a trip in her, and if she had heard she might not have objected. She had regarded, in an apparently careless manner, her husband's desire to navigate the sea; for, no matter to what point he might happen to sail, his ship would take him away from Barbadoes, and that would very well suit her. She was getting tired of Major Bonnet. She did not believe he had ever been a very good soldier; she was positively sure that he was not a good farmer; and she had the strongest kind of doubt as to his ability as a commercial man. But as this new business would free her from him, at least for a time, she was well content; and, although she should feel herself somewhat handicapped by the presence of Kate, she did not intend to allow that young lady to interfere with her plans and purposes during the absence of the head of the house. So she went her way, saying nothing derisive about the nautical life, except what she considered it necessary for her to do, in order to maintain her superior position in the household.

Major Bonnet was now very much engaged and a good deal disturbed, for he found that projected sailing, even in one's own craft, is not always smooth sailing. He was putting his vessel in excellent order, and was fitting her out generously in the way of stores and all manner of nautical needfuls, not forgetting the guns necessary for defence in these somewhat disordered times, and his latest endeavours were towards the shipping of a suitable crew. Seafaring men were not scarce in the port of Bridgetown, but Major Bonnet, now entitled to be called "Captain," was very particular about his crew, and it took him a long time to collect suitable men.

As he was most truly a landsman, knowing nothing about the sea or the various intricate methods of navigating a vessel thereupon, he was compelled to secure a real captain--one who would be able to take charge of the vessel and crew, and who would do, and have done, in a thoroughly seamanlike manner, what his nominal skipper should desire and ordain.

This absolutely necessary personage had been secured almost as soon as the vessel had been purchased, before any of the rest of the crew had signed ship's articles; and it was under his general supervision that the storing and equipment had been carried on. His name was Sam Loftus. He was a big man with a great readiness of speech. There were, perhaps, some things he could not do, but there seemed to be nothing that he was not able to talk about. As has been said, the rest of the crew came in slowly, but they did come, and Major Bonnet told his daughter that when he had secured four more men, it was his intention to leave port.

"And sail for Jamaica?" she exclaimed.

"Oh, yes," he said, with an affectionate smile, "and I will leave you with your Uncle Delaplaine, where you can stay while I make some little cruises here and there."

"And so I am really to go?" she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling.

"Really to go," said he.

"And what may I pack up?" she asked, thinking of her step-mother.

"Not much," he said, "not much. We will be able to find at Spanish Town something braver in the way of apparel than anything you now possess. It will be some days before we sail, and I shall have quietly conveyed on board such belongings as you need."

She was very happy, and she laughed.

"Yours will be an easily laden ship," said she, "for you take in with you no great store of goods for traffic. But I suppose you design to pick up your cargo among the islands where you cruise, and at a less cost, perchance, than it could be procured here?"

"Yes, yes," he said; "you have hit it fairly, my little girl, you have hit it fairly."

New annoyances now began to beset Major Bonnet. What his daughter had remarked in pleasantry, the people of the town began to talk about unpleasantly. Here was a good-sized craft about to set sail, with little or no cargo, but with a crew apparently much larger than her requirements, but not yet large enough for the desires of her owner. To be sure, as Major Bonnet did not know anything about ships, he was bound to do something odd when he bought one and set forth to sail upon her, but there were some odd things which ought to be looked into; and there were people who advised that the attention of the colonial authorities should be drawn to this ship of their farmer townsman. Major Bonnet had such a high reputation as a good citizen, that there were few people who thought it worth while to trouble themselves about his new business venture, but a good many disagreeable things came to the ears of Sam Loftus, who reported them to his employer, and it was agreed between them that it would be wise for them to sail as soon as they could, even if they did not wait for the few men they had considered to be needed.

Early upon a cloudy afternoon, Major Bonnet and his daughter went out in a small boat to look at his vessel, the Sarah Williams, which was then lying a short distance below the town.

"Now, Kate," said the good Major Bonnet, when they were on board, "I have fitted up a little room for you below, which I think you will find comfortable enough during the voyage to Jamaica. I will take you with me when I return to the house, and then you can make up a little package of clothes which it will be easy to convey to the river bank when the time shall come for you to depart. I cannot now say just when that time will arrive; it may be in the daytime or it may be at night, but it will be soon, and I will give you good notice, and I will come up the river for you in a boat. But now I am very busy, and I will leave you to become acquainted with the Sarah Williams, which, for a few days, will be your home. I shall be obliged to row over to the town for, perhaps, half an hour, but Ben Greenway will be here to attend to anything you need until I return."

Ben Greenway was a Scotchman, who had for a long time been Major Bonnet's most trusted servant. He was a good farmer, was apt at carpenter work, and knew a good deal about masonry. A few months ago, any one living in that region would have been likely to say, if the subject had been brought up, that without Ben Greenway Major Bonnet could not get along at all, not even for a day, for he depended upon him in so many ways. And yet, now the master of the estate was about to depart, for nobody knew how long, and leave his faithful servant behind. The reason he gave was, that Ben could not be spared from the farm; but people in general, and Ben in particular, thought this very poor reasoning. Any sort of business which made it necessary for Major Bonnet to separate himself from Ben Greenway was a very poor business, and should not be entered upon.

The deck of the Sarah Williams presented a lively scene as Kate stood upon the little quarter-deck and gazed forward. The sailors were walking about and sitting about, smoking, talking, or coiling things away. There were people from the shore with baskets containing fruit and other wares for sale, and all stirring and new and very interesting to Miss Kate as she stood, with her ribbons flying in the river breeze.

"Who is that young fellow?" she said to Ben Greenway, who was standing by her, "the one with the big basket? It seems to me I have seen him before."

"Oh, ay!" said Ben, "he has been on the farm. That is Dickory Charter, whose father was drowned out fishing a few years ago. He is a good lad, an' boards all ships comin' in or goin' out to sell his wares, for his mither leans on him now, having no ither."

The youth, who seemed to feel that he was being talked about, now walked aft, and held up his basket. He was a handsome youngster, lightly clad and barefooted; and, although not yet full grown, of a strong and active build. Kate beckoned to him, and bought an orange.

"An' how is your mither, Dickory?" said Ben.

"Right well, I thank you," said he, and gazed at Kate, who was biting a hole in her orange.

Then, as he turned and went away, having no reason to expect to sell anything more, Kate remarked to Ben: "That is truly a fine-looking young fellow. He walks with such strength and ease, like a deer or a cat."

"That comes from no' wearin' shoes," said Ben; "but as for me, I would like better to wear shoes an' walk mair stiffly."

Now there came aft a sailor, who touched his cap and told Ben Greenway that he was wanted below to superintend the stowing some cases of the captain's liquors. So Kate, left to herself, began to think about what she should pack into her little bundle. She would make it very small, for the fewer things she took with her the more she would buy at Spanish Town. But the contents of her package did not require much thought, and she soon became a little tired staying there by herself, and therefore she was glad to see young Dickory, with his orange-basket, walking aft.

"I don't want any more oranges," she said, when he was near enough, "but perhaps you may have other fruit?"

He came up to her and put down his basket. "I have bananas, but perhaps you don't like them?"

"Oh, yes, I do!" she answered.

But, without offering to show her the fruit, Dickory continued: "There's one thing I don't like, and that's the men on board your ship."

"What do you mean?" she asked, amazed.

"Speak lower," he said; and, as he spoke, he bethought himself that it might be well to hold out towards her a couple of bananas.

"They're a bad, hard lot of men," he said. "I heard that from more than one person. You ought not to stay on this ship."

"And what do you know about it, Mr. Impudence?" she asked, with brows uplifted. "I suppose my father knows what is good for me."

"But he is not here," said Dickory.

Kate looked steadfastly at him. He did not seem as ruddy as he had been. And then she looked out upon the forward deck, and the thought came to her that when she had first noticed these men it had seemed to her that they were, indeed, a rough, hard lot. Kate Bonnet was a brave girl, but without knowing why she felt a little frightened.

"Your name is Dickory, isn't it?" she said.

He looked up quickly, for it pleased him to hear her use his name. "Indeed it is," he answered.

"Well, Dickory," said she, "I wish you would go and find Ben Greenway. I should like to have him with me until my father comes back."

He turned, and then stopped for an instant. He said in a clear voice: "I will go and get the shilling changed." And then he hurried away.

He was gone a long time, and Kate could not understand it. Surely the Sarah Williams was not so big a ship that it would take all this time to look for Ben Greenway. But he did come back, and his face seemed even less ruddy than when she had last seen it. He came up close to her, and began handling his fruit.

"I don't want to frighten you," he said, "but I must tell you about things. I could not find Ben Greenway, and I asked one of the men about him, feigning that he owed me for some fruit, and the man looked at another man and laughed, and said that he had been sent for in a hurry, and had gone ashore in a boat."

"I cannot believe that," said Kate; "he would not go away and leave me."

Dickory could not believe it either, and could offer no explanation.

Kate now looked anxiously over the water towards the town, but no father was to be seen.

"Now let me tell you what I found out," said Dickory, "you must know it. These men are wicked robbers. I slipped quietly among them to find out something, with my shilling in my hand, ready to ask somebody to change, if I was noticed."

"Well, what next?" laying her hand on his arm.

"Oh, don't do that!" he said quickly; "better take hold of a banana. I spied that Big Sam, who is sailing-master, and a black-headed fellow taking their ease behind some boxes, smoking, and I listened with all sharpness. And Sam, he said to the other one--not in these words, but in language not fit for you to hear--what he would like to do would be to get off on the next tide. And when the other fellow asked him why he didn't go then and leave the fool--meaning your father--to go back to his farm, Big Sam answered, with a good many curses, that if he could do it he would drop down the river that very minute and wait at the bar until the water was high enough to cross, but that it was impossible because they must not sail until your father had brought his cash-box on board. It would be stupid to sail without that cash-box."

"Dickory," said she, "I am frightened; I want to go on shore, and I want to see my father and tell him all these things."

"But there is no boat," said Dickory; "every boat has left the ship."

"But you have one," said she, looking over the side.

"It is a poor little canoe," he answered, "and I am afraid they would not let me take you away, I having no orders to do so."

Kate was about to open her mouth to make an indignant reply, when he exclaimed, "But here comes a boat from the town; perhaps it is your father!"

She sprang to the rail. "No, it is not," she exclaimed; "it holds but one man, who rows."

She stood, without a word, watching the approaching boat, Dickory doing the same, but keeping himself out of the general view. The boat came alongside and the oarsman handed up a note, which was presently brought to Kate by Big Sam, young Dickory Charter having in the meantime slipped below with his basket.

"A note from your father, Mistress Bonnet," said the sailing-master. And as she read it he stood and looked upon her.

"My father tells me," said Kate, speaking decidedly but quietly, "that he will come on board very soon, but I do not wish to wait for him. I will go back to the town. I have affairs which make it necessary for me to return immediately. Tell the man who brought the note that I will go back with him."

Big Sam raised his eyebrows and his face assumed a look of trouble.

"It grieves me greatly, Mistress Bonnet," he said, "but the man has gone. He was ordered not to wait here."

"Shout after him!" cried Kate; "call him back!"

Sam stepped to the rail and looked over the water. "He is too far away," he said, "but I will try." And then he shouted, but the man paid no attention, and kept on rowing to shore.

"I thought it was too far," he said, "but your father will be back soon; he sent that message to me. And now, fair mistress, what can we do for you? Shall it be that we send you some supper? Or, as your cabin is ready, would you prefer to step down to it and wait there for your father?"

"No," said she, "I will wait here for my father. I want nothing."

So, with a bow he strode away, and presently Dickory came back. She drew near to him and whispered. "Dickory," she said, "what shall I do? Shall I scream and wave my handkerchief? Perhaps they may see and hear me from the town."

"No," said Dickory, "I would not do that. The night is coming on, and the sky is cloudy. And besides, if you make a noise, those fellows might do something."

"Oh, Dickory, what shall I do?"

"You must wait for your father," he said; "he must be here soon, and the moment you see him, call to him and make him take you to shore. You should both of you get away from this vessel as soon as you can."

For a moment the girl reflected. "Dickory," said she, "I wish you would take a message for me to Master Martin Newcombe. He may be able to get here to me even before my father arrives."

Dickory Charter knew Mr. Newcombe, and he had heard what many people had talked about, that he was courting Major Bonnet's daughter. The day before Dickory would not have cared who the young planter was courting, but this evening, even to his own surprise, he cared very much. He was intensely interested in Kate, and he did not desire to help Martin Newcombe to take an interest in her. Besides, he spoke honestly as he said: "And who would there be to take care of you? No, indeed, I will not leave you."

"Then row to the town," said she, "and have a boat sent for me."

He shook his head. "No," he said, "I will not leave you."

Her eyes flashed. "You should do what you are commanded to do!" and in her excitement she almost forgot to whisper.

He shook his head and left her.

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