“Can you tell me what this means?” said she.
For a moment he did not answer, and then he said: “I don’t know everything myself, but I must presently go on board that vessel.”
“What!” exclaimed Lucilla, stepping back. “Is she there?”
“Yes,” said Dickory.
THE DELIVERY OF THE LETTER
The sea was smooth and the wind light, and the transfer of provisions from the Black Swan to the pirate sloop, which two ships now lay as near each other as safety would permit, was accomplished quietly.
During the progress of the transfer Captain Ichabod’s boat was rowed back to his ship, and its arrival was watched with great interest by everybody on board that pirate sloop. Kate and Dame Charter, as well as all the men who stood looking over the rail, were amazed to see a naval officer accompanying the captain and Mr. Delaplaine on their return. But that amazement was greatly increased when that officer, as soon as he set foot upon the deck, removed his hat and made directly for Dame Charter, who, with a scream loud enough to frighten the fishes, enfolded him in her arms and straightway fainted. It was like a son coming up out of the sea, sure enough, as she afterward stated. Kate, recognising Dickory, hurried to him with a scream of her own and both hands outstretched, but the young fellow, who seemed greatly distressed at the unconscious condition of his mother, did not greet Mistress Bonnet with the enthusiastic delight which might have been expected under the circumstances. He seemed troubled and embarrassed, which, perhaps, was not surprising, for never before had he seen his mother faint.
Kate was about to offer some assistance, but as the good Dame now showed signs of returning consciousness, she thought it would be better to leave the two together, and in a state of amazement she was hurrying to her uncle when Dickory rose from the side of his mother and stopped her.
“I have a letter for you,” he said, in a husky voice.
“A letter?” she cried, “from my father?”
“No,” said he, “from Captain Vince.” And he handed her the blood-stained missive.
Kate turned pale and stared at him; here was horrible mystery. The thought flashed through the young girl’s mind that the wicked captain had killed her father and had written to tell her so.
“Is my father dead?” she gasped.
“Not that I know of,” said Dickory.
“Where is he?” she cried.
“I do not know,” was the answer.
She stood, holding the letter, while Dickory returned to his mother. Mr. Delaplaine saw her standing thus, pale and shocked, but he did not hasten to her. He had sad things to say to her, for his practical mind told him that it would not be possible to continue the search for her father, he having put himself out of the reach of Captain Ichabod and his inefficient sloop. If Dickory had said anything about her father which had so cast her down, how much harder would it be for him when he had to tell her the whole truth.