He was silent, and John watched him, breathless.
Presently, “Will you come with me, Colorado?” asked the Skipper. “I invite you to come, to spend the day on the ‘Nautilus,’ to play with Jack and Jim, to polish the shells,—what you please. I desire not longer to wait here, I desire not that yet Sir Scraper know of my visit. Had he been here, other happenings might have been; as it is—shortly, will you come with me, Colorado?”
John shut his eyes tight, and took possession of his soul.
“I promised!” he said, “I promised him that if he would not whip me this morning I would not stir off the place. He was mad because I went yesterday, and he was going to give me a good one this morning, and I hadn’t got over the last good one, and so—I promised that! But if I had known you were coming,” he cried, “I would not have promised, and I would have taken three good ones, if I could only go.”
The Skipper nodded, and was silent again. Suddenly he rose to his feet.
“Have you heard of pirates, Colorado?” he asked, abruptly.
John nodded, wondering.
“Of Malay pirates?” the Skipper continued, with animation. “They are wild fellows, those! They come, they see a person, they carry him off, to keep at their fancy, till a ransom is paid, or till he grow old and die, or till they kill him the next day, who knows? But not all are bad fellows, and there are some of them who are kind to captives, who take them on board their ships, play with them, show to them strange things, shells and fish and corals, all things. Have you ever played at pirate, Colorado?”
“Yes, sometimes,” the boy admitted, wondering still more at the brightness in his friend’s look, and his air of sudden determination.
“I never played Malay, only Portugee; I thought they weren’t so cruel, but I don’t know. I had a ship down by the wharf, and I made a good many pirate voyages round the wharf, and sometimes quite a piece down river, when I could get the time. But then, after a while, I thought it was nicer to be a rescuing ship, and get folks away from the pirates, you know, so I’ve done that lately, and I’ve rescued as many as twenty vessels, I should think.”
“That was fine!” said the Skipper, nodding sagely. “That was well done, Colorado! But here we come to trouble, do you see? for I that speak to you—I am a Malay pirate!”
The boy started violently and looked up, expecting he knew not what sudden and awful change in the face that bent down over him; but no! it was the same quiet, dark face, only there was a bright gleam in the eyes. A gleam of fun, was it? Surely not of ferocity.
“I come up this river,” the Skipper continued, rapidly, “to see what I find,—perhaps gold, perhaps silver, perhaps prisoners of value. I look about, I see the pleasant village, I see persons very amiable, but no precious thing except one; that one, I have it! I am a Malay pirate, Colorado, and thus I carry off my prize!” and picking up the child as if he were a feather, and tossing him up to his shoulder, the Skipper strode from the garden, and took his way toward the wharf.