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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 5. An Unsuccessful Errand
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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 5. An Unsuccessful Errand Post by :mrtwist Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1718

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Kate Bonnet: The Romance Of A Pirate's Daughter - Chapter 5. An Unsuccessful Errand


For what seemed a very long time to Kate Bonnet, Dickory Charter paddled bravely through the darkness. She was relieved of the terror and the uncertainty which had fallen upon her during the past few hours, and she was grateful to the brave young fellow who had delivered her from the danger of sailing out upon the sea with a crew of wicked scoundrels who were about to steal her father's ship, and her heart should have beaten high with gratitude and joy, but it did not. She was very cold, and she knew not whither young Dickory was taking her. She did not believe that in all that darkness he could possibly know where he was going; at any moment that dreadful ship might loom up before them, and lights might be flashed down upon them. But all of a sudden the canoe scraped, grounded, and stopped.

"What is that?" she cried.

"It is our beach," said Dickory, and almost at that moment there came a call from the darkness beyond.

"Dickory!" cried a woman's voice, "is that you?"

"It is my mother," said the boy; "she has heard the scraping of my keel."

Then he shouted back, "It is Dickory; please show me a light, mother!"

Jumping out, Dickory pulled the canoe high up the shelving shore, and then he helped Kate to get out. It was not an easy job, for she could see nothing and floundered terribly; but he seemed to like it, and half led, half carried her over a considerable space of uneven ground, until he came to the door of a small house, where stood an elderly woman with a lantern.

"Dickory! Dickory!" shouted the woman, "what is that you are bringing home? Is it a great fish?"

"It is a young woman," said the boy, "but she is as wet as a fish."

"Woman!" cried good Dame Charter. "What mean you, Dickory, is she dead?"

"Not dead, Mother Charter," said Kate, who now stood, unassisted, in the light of the lantern, "but in woeful case, and more like to startle you than if I were the biggest fish. I am Mistress Kate Bonnet, just out of the river between here and the town. No, I will not enter your house, I am not fit; I will stand here and tell my tale."

"Dickory!" shouted Dame Charter, "take the lantern and run to the kitchen cabin, where ye'll make a fire quickly."

Away ran Dickory, and standing in the darkness, Kate Bonnet told her tale. It was not a very satisfactory tale, for there was a great part of it which Kate herself did not understand, but it sufficed at present for the good dame, who had known the girl when she was small, and who was soon busily engaged in warming her by her fire, refreshing her with food, and in fortifying her against the effects of her cold bath by a generous glass of rum, made, the good woman earnestly asserted, from sugar-cane grown on Master Bonnet's plantation.

Early the next morning came Dickory from the kitchen, where he had made a fire (before that he had been catching some fish), and on a rude bench by the house door he saw Kate Bonnet. When he perceived her he laughed; but as she also laughed, it was plain she was not offended.

This pretty girl was dressed in a large blue gown, belonging to the stout Dame Charter, and which was quite as much of a gown as she had any possible need for. Her head was bare, for she had lost her hat, and she wore neither shoes nor stockings, those articles of apparel having been so shrunken by immersion as to make it impossible for her to get them on.

"Thy mother is a good woman," said Kate, "and I am so glad you did not take me to the town. I don't wonder you gaze at me; I must look like a fright."

Dickory made no answer, but by the way in which he regarded her, she knew that he saw nothing frightful in her face.

"You have been very good to me," said she, rising and making a step towards him, but suddenly stopping on account of her bare feet, "and I wish I could tell you how thankful I am to you. You are truly a brave boy, Dickory; the bravest I have ever known."

His brows contracted. "Why do you call me a boy?" he interrupted. "I am nineteen years old, and you are not much more than that."

She laughed, and her white teeth made him ready to fall down and worship her.

"You have done as much," said she, "as any man could do, and more."

Then she held out her hand, and he came and took it.

"Truly you are a man," she said, and looking steadfastly into his face, she added, "how very, very much I owe you!"

He didn't say anything at all, this Dickory; just stood and looked at her. As many a one has been before, he was more grateful for the danger out of which he had plucked the fair young woman than she was thankful for the deliverance.

Just then Dame Charter called them to breakfast. When they were at the table, they talked of what was to be done next; and as, above everything else, Miss Kate desired to know where her father was and why he hadn't come aboard the Sarah Williams, Dickory offered to go to the town for news.

"I hate to ask too much, after all you have done," said the girl, "but after you have seen my father and told him everything, for he must be in sore trouble, would you mind rowing to our house and bringing me some clothes? Madam Bonnet will understand what I need; and she too will want to know what has become of me."

"Of course I will do that," cried Dickory, grateful for the chance to do her service.

"And if you happen to see Mr. Newcombe in the town, will you tell him where I am?"

Now Dickory gave no signs of gratitude for a chance to do her service, but his mother spoke quickly enough.

"Of course he will tell Master Newcombe," said she, "and anybody else you wish should know."

In ten minutes Dickory was in his canoe, paddling to the town. When he was out of the little inlet, on the shore of which lay his mother's cottage, he looked far up and down the broad river, but he could see nothing of the good ship Sarah Williams.

"I am glad they have gone," said Dickory to himself, "and may they never come back again. It is a pity that Major Bonnet should lose his ship, but as things have turned out, it is better for him to lose it than to have it."

When he had fastened his canoe to a little pier in the town with a rope which he borrowed, having now none of his own, Dickory soon heard strange news. The man who owned the rope told him that Major Bonnet had gone off in his vessel, which had sailed out of the harbour in the night, showing no light. And, although many people had talked of this strange proceeding, nobody knew whether he had gone of his own free will or against it.

"Of course it was against his will," cried Dickory. "The ship was stolen, and they have stolen him with it. The wretches! The beasts!" And then he went up into the town.

Some men were talking at the door of a baker's shop, and the baker himself, a stout young man, came out.

"Oh, yes," said he, "we know now what it means. The good Major Bonnet has gone off pirating; he thinks he can make more money that way than by attending to his plantation. The townspeople suspected him last night, and now they know what he is."

At this moment Master Dickory jumped upon the baker, and both went down. When Dickory got up, the baker remained where he was, and it was plain enough to everybody that the nerves and muscles of even a vigorous young man were greatly weakened by the confined occupation of a baker.

Dickory now went further to ask more, and he soon heard enough. The respectable Major Bonnet had gone away in his own ship with a savage crew, far beyond the needs of the vessel, and if he had not gone pirating, what had he gone for? And to this question Dickory replied every time: "He went because he was taken away." He would not give up his faith in Kate Bonnet's father.

"And Greenway," the people said. "Why should they take him? He is of no good on a ship."

On this, Dickory's heart fell further. He had been troubled about the Scotchman, but had tried not to think of him.

"The scoundrels have stolen them both, with the vessel," he said; and as he spoke his soul rose upward at the thought of what he had done for Kate; and as that had been done, what mattered it after all what had happened to other people?

Five minutes afterward a man came running through the town with the news that old Bonnet's daughter, Miss Kate, had also gone away in the ship. She was not at home; she was not in the town.

"That settles it!" said some people. "The black-hearted rascal! He has gone of his own accord, and he has taken Greenway and his fair young daughter with him."

"And what do you think of that!" said some to the doubter Dickory.

"I don't believe a word of it!" said he; and not wishing on his own responsibility to tell what he knew of Mistress Kate Bonnet, he rowed up the river towards the Bonnet plantation to carry her message. On his way, whom should he see, hurrying along the road by the river bank coming towards the town and looking hot and worried, but Mr. Martin Newcombe. At the sight of the boat he stopped.

"Ho! young man," he cried, "you are from the town; has anything fresh been heard about Major Bonnet and his daughter?"

Now here was the best and easiest opportunity of doing the third thing which Kate had asked him to do; but his heart did not bound to do it. He sat and looked at the man on the river bank.

"Don't you hear me?" cried Newcombe. "Has anybody heard further from the Bonnets?"

Dickory still sat motionless, gazing at Newcombe. He didn't want to tell this man anything. He didn't want to have anything to do with him. He hesitated, but he could not forget the third thing he had been asked to do, and who had asked him to do it. Whatever happened, he must be loyal to her and her wishes, and so he said, with but little animation in his voice, "Major Bonnet's daughter did not go with him."

Instantly came a great cry from the shore. "Where is she? Where is she? Come closer to land and tell me everything!"

This was too much! Dickory did not like the tone of the man on shore, who had no right to command him in that fashion.

"I have no time to stop now," said he; "I am carrying a message to Madam Bonnet."

And so he paddled away, somewhat nearer the middle of the river.

Martin Newcombe was wild; he ran and he bounded on his way to the Bonnet house; he called and he shouted to Dickory, but apparently that young person was too far away to hear him. When the canoe touched the shore, almost at the spot where the fair Kate had been fishing with a hook lying in the sun, Newcombe was already there.

"Tell me," he cried, "tell me about Miss Kate Bonnet! What has befallen her? If she did not go with her father, where is she now?"

"I have come," said Dickory sturdily, as he fastened his boat with the borrowed rope, "with a message for Madam Bonnet, and I cannot talk with anybody until I have delivered it."

Madam Bonnet saw the two persons hurrying towards her house, and she came out in a fine fury to meet them.

"Have you heard from my runaway husband," she cried, "and from his daughter? I am ashamed to hear news of them, but I suppose I am in duty bound to listen."

Dickory did not hesitate now to tell what he knew, or at least part of it.

"Your daughter--" said he.

"She is not my daughter," cried the lady; "thank Heaven I am spared that disgrace. And from what hiding-place does she and her sire send me a message?"

Dickory's face flushed.

"I bring no message from a hiding-place," he said, "nor any from your husband. He went to sea in his ship, but Mistress Kate Bonnet left the vessel before it sailed, and her clothes having been injured by water, she sent me for what a young lady in her station might need, supposing rightly that you would know what that might be."

"Indeed I do!" cried Madam Bonnet. "What she needs are the clouts of a fish-girl, and a stick to her back besides."

"Madam!" cried Newcombe, but she heeded him not; she was growing more angry.

"A fine creature she is," exclaimed the lady, "to run away from my house in this fashion, and treat me with such contumely, and then to order me to send her her fine clothes to deck herself for the eyes of strangers!"

"But, young man," cried Newcombe, "where is she? Tell that without further delay. Where is she?"

"I don't care where she is!" interrupted Madam Bonnet. "It matters not to me whether she is in the town, or sitting waiting for her finery on the bridge. If she didn't go with her father (cowardly sneak that he is), that gives her less reason to stay away all night from her home, and send her orders to me in the morning. No, I will have none of that! If my husband's daughter wants anything of me, let her come here and ask for it, first giving me the reason of her shameful conduct."

"Madam!" cried Newcombe, "I cannot listen to such speech, such--"

"Then stop your ears with your thumbs," she exclaimed, "and you will not hear it."

Then turning to Dickory: "Now, go you, and tell the young woman who sent you here she must come in sackcloth and ashes, if she can get them, and she must tell me her tale and her father's tale, without a lie mixed up in them; and when she has done this, and has humbly asked my pardon for the foul affront she has put upon me, then it will be time enough to talk of fine clothes and fripperies."

Newcombe now expostulated with much temper, but Dickory gave him little chance to speak.

"I carry no such message as that," he said. "Do you truly mean that you deny the young lady the apparel she needs, and that I am to tell her that?"

"Get away from here!" cried Madam Bonnet, with her face in a blaze. "I send her no message at all; and if she comes here on her knees, I shall spurn her, if it suit me."

If Dickory had waited a little he might have heard more, but he did not wait; he quickly turned, and away he went in his boat. And away went Martin Newcombe after him. But as the younger man was barefooted, the other one could not keep up with him, and the canoe was pushed off before he reached the water's edge.

"Stop, you young rascal!" cried Newcombe. "Where is Kate Bonnet? Stop! and tell me where she is!"

Troubled as he was at the tale he was going to tell, Dickory laughed aloud, and he paddled down the river as few in that region had ever paddled before.

Madam Bonnet went into her house, and if she had met a maid-servant, it might have been bad for that poor woman. She was not troubled about Kate. She knew the young man to be Dickory Charter, and she was quite sure that her step-daughter was in his mother's cottage. Why she happened to be there, and what had become of the recreant Bonnet, the equally recreant young woman could come and tell her whenever she saw fit.

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