Big Sam was very much disturbed; she must have jumped overboard. But what a wild young woman to do that upon such little provocation, for how should she know that he was about to run away with her father’s vessel!
“This is a bad business,” he said to the black-haired man, “and who would have thought it?”
“I see not that,” said Black Paul, “nor why you should trouble yourself about her. She is gone, and you are well rid of her. Had she stayed aboard with us, every ship in the colony might have been cruising after us before to-morrow’s sun had gone down.”
But this did not quiet the cowardly soul of Big Sam.
“Now I shall tell you,” said he, “exactly what happened. A little before dark she went ashore in a boat which was then leaving the ship. I allowed her to do this because she was very much in earnest about it, and talked sharply, and also because I thought the town was the best place for her, since it was growing late and her father did not seem to be coming. Now, if the old man comes on board, that’s what happened; but if he does not come on board, the devil and the fishes know what happened, and they may talk about it if they like. But if any man says anything to old Bonnet except as I have ordered, then the fishes shall have another feast.”
“And now, what I have to say to you,” said Black Paul, “is, that you should get away from here without waiting for the tide. If one of these rascals drops overboard and swims ashore, he may get a good reward for news of the murder committed on this vessel, and there isn’t any reason to think, so far as I know, that the Sarah Williams can sail any faster than two or three other vessels now in the harbour.”
“There’s sense in all that,” said Big Sam as he walked forward. But he suddenly stopped, hearing, not very far away, the sound of oars.
Now began the body and soul of Big Sam to tremble. If the officers of the law, having disposed of Captain Bonnet, had now come to the ship, he had no sufficient tale to tell them about the disappearance of Mistress Kate Bonnet; nor could he resist. For why should the crew obey his orders? They had not yet agreed to receive him as their captain, and, so far, they had done nothing to set themselves against the authorities. It was a bad case for Big Sam.
But now the ship was hailed, and the voice which hailed it was that of Captain Bonnet. And the soul of Big Sam upheaved itself.
In a few minutes Bonnet was on board, with a big box and the crew of the long-boat. Speaking rapidly, he explained to Big Sam the situation of affairs. The authorities of the port had indeed sadly interfered with him. They had heard reports about the unladen vessel and the big crew; and, although they felt loath to detain and to examine a fellow-townsman, hitherto of good report, they did detain him and they did examine him, and they would have gone immediately to the ship had it not been so dark.