“Ay, ay, sir!”
“Jack and Jim!”
The monkeys for answer leaped on their master’s shoulder, and chattered, and peered round into his face.
“The company of this schooner, attention! Behold Colorado, who comes to be my son! He sails with us, he receives kindness from you all, he is in his home. Instruction you will give him in ways of the sea, and he becomes in all things your brother. Am I understood?”
The different members of the crew received this intelligence each in his own way. Rento advanced, and shaking John cordially by the hand, assured him with honest warmth that he was proper glad to see him, and that he hoped they should be good friends.
Franci smiled like an angel, and the moment the Skipper’s back was turned, made frightful grimaces at the boy, and threatened his life. But John was too happy to be afraid of Franci. Going boldly up to him, he asked,—
“Why don’t you like me, and why do you want to kill me? I never did you any harm, and I should like to be friends, please.”
The Spaniard looked at him sidelong out of his soft, sleepy eyes.
“Have you understanding?” he asked presently. “Have you intelligence to accept the idea of a person of poetry, of soul?”
“I think so!” said John, with some confidence. “I could try, anyhow.”
“Look, then!” exclaimed Franci, throwing his arms abroad with a dramatic gesture.
“I am not of nature murderous. A dove, a lamb at sport in the meadow, such is the heart of Franci. But—behold me desolated on this infernal schooner. Torn by my parents from my home, from warm places of my delight, from various maidens, all enamoured of my person, I am sent to be a sailor. A life of horror, believe me who say it to you! Wetness, cold and work; work, cold and wetness! Behold the sea! may it be accursed, and dry up at the earliest moment! I come here, on this so disastrous voyage. Have I poetry, think you, on board this vessel? Is the pig-faced armadillo yonder a companion for me, for Franci? Is my beauty, the gentleness and grace of my soul appreciated here? even the Patron, a person in some ways of understanding, has for me only the treatment of a child, of a servant. Crushed to the ground by these afflictions, how do I revenge myself? How do I make possible the passage of time in this wooden prison? I make for myself the action, I make for myself the theatre. Born for the grace of life, deprived of it, let me have the horrors! In effect, I would not hurt the safety of a flea; in appearance, I desire blood, blood, blood!”
He shrieked the last words aloud, and leaped upon the boy, his eyes glaring like a madman’s; but John was on his own ground now; his eyes shone with appreciation.
“That’s splendid!” he cried. “Blood! Oh, I wish I could do it like that! I say, we can play all kind of things, can’t we? We’ll be pirates—only good pirates,—and we’ll scour the seas, and save all the shipwrecked people, won’t we? And you shall be the captain (or you might call it admiral, if you liked the sound better, I often do), and I will be the mate, or the prisoners, or the drowning folks, just as you like. I love to play things.”