But Kate did not wait for further speech from anybody. She gave a great start, and then rushed down the companion-way to her cabin. There, with her door shut, she opened the letter. This was the letter, written in lead pencil, in an irregular but bold hand, with some letters partly dimmed where the paper had been damp:
“At the very end of my life I write to you that you have escaped the fiercest love that ever a man had for a woman. I shall carry this love with me to hell, if it may be, but you have escaped it. This escape is a blessing, and now that I cannot help it I give it to you. Had I lived, I should have shed the blood of every one whom you loved to gain you and you would have cursed me. So love me now for dying.
anywhere and always,
Kate put down the letter and some colour came into her face; she bowed her head in thankful prayer.
“He is dead,” she said, “and now he cannot harm my father.” That was the only thought she had regarding this hot-brained and infatuated lover. He was dead, her father was safe from him. How he died, how Dickory came to bring the letter, how anything had happened that had happened except the death of Captain Vince, did not at this moment concern her. Not until now had she known how the fear of the vengeful captain of the Badger had constantly been with her.
Over and over again Dickory told his tale to his mother. She interrupted him so much with her embraces that he could not explain things clearly to her, but she did not care, she had him with her. He was with her, and she had fast hold of him, and she would never let him go again. What mattered it what sort of clothes he wore, or where he had escaped from—a family on a desert island or from a pirate crew? She had him, and her happiness knew no bounds. Dickory was perfectly willing to stay with her and to talk to her. He did not care to be with anybody else, not even with Mistress Kate, who had taken so much interest in him all the time he had been away; though, of course, not so much interest as his own dear mother.
Then the good Dame Charter, being greatly recovered and so happy, began to talk of herself. Slipping in a disjointed way over her various experiences, she told her dear boy, in strictest confidence, that she was very much disappointed in the way pirates took ships. She thought it was going to be something very exciting that she would remember to the end of her days, and wake up in the middle of the night and scream when she thought of it, but it was nothing of the kind; not a shot was fired, not a drop of blood shed; there was not even a shout or a yell or a scream for mercy. It was all like going into the pantry to get the flour and the sugar. She was all the time waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. Dickory smiled, but it was like watered milk.
“I do not understand such piracy,” he said, “but supposed, dear mother, that these pirates had taken that ship in the usual way, I being on board.”