“My boat,” said Dickory, in the lowest of whispers; “take hold of it.”
Kate did so, and he moved from her. She knew that he was clambering into the boat, although she could not see or hear him. Soon he took hold of her under her arms, and he lifted with the strength of a young lion, yet so slowly, so warily, that not a drop of water could be heard dripping from her garments. And when she was drawn up high enough to help herself, he pulled her in, still warily and slowly. Then he slipped to the bow and cast off the rope with which the canoe had been anchored. It was his only rope, but he could not risk the danger of pulling up the bit of rock to which the other end of it was fastened. Then, with a paddle, worked as silently as if it had been handled by an Indian, the canoe moved away, farther and farther, into the darkness.
“Is all well with you?” said Dickory, thinking he might now safely murmur a few words.
“All well,” she murmured back, “except that this is the most uncomfortable boat I ever sat in!”
“I expect you are on my orange basket,” he said; “perhaps you can move it a little.”
Now he paddled more strongly, and then he stopped.
“Where shall I take you, Mistress Bonnet?” he asked, a little louder than he had dared to speak before.
Kate heaved a sigh before she answered; she had been saying her prayers.
“I don’t know, you brave Dickory,” she answered, “but it seems to me that you can’t see to take me anywhere. Everything is just as black as pitch, one way or another.”
“But I know the river,” he said, “with light or without it. I have gone home on nights as black as this. Will you go to the town?”
“I would not know where to go to there,” she answered, “and in such a plight.”
“Then to your home,” said he. “But that will be a long row, and you must be very cold.”
She shuddered, but not with cold. If her father had been at home it would have been all right, but her step-mother would be there, and that would not be all right. She would not know what to say to her.
“Oh, Dickory,” she said, “I don’t know where to go.”
“I know where you can go,” he said, beginning to paddle vigorously, “I will take you to my mother. She will take care of you to-night and give you dry clothes, and to-morrow you may go where you will.”
ON THE QUARTER-DECK
As the time approached when Big Sam intended to take the Sarah Williams out of port, it seemed really necessary that Mistress Kate Bonnet should descend from the exposed quarterdeck and seek shelter from the night air in the captain’s cabin or in her own room; and, as she had treated him so curtly at his last interview with her, he sent the elderly man with the mild countenance to tell her that she really must go below, for that he, Big Sam, felt answerable to her father for her health and comfort. But when the elderly man and his lantern reached the quarter-deck, there was no Mistress Kate there, and, during the rapid search which ensued, there was no Mistress Kate to be found on the vessel.