“I should have said more than I did,” he reflected; “seldom have I had so good a chance to speak and urge my case. It was that confounded ship. Her mind is all for that and not for me.”
A FRUIT-BASKET AND A FRIEND
Major Stede Bonnet, the father of Kate, whose mother had died when the child was but a year old, was a middle-aged Englishman of a fair estate, in the island of Barbadoes. He had been an officer in the army, was well educated and intelligent, and now, in vigorous middle life, had become a confirmed country gentleman. His herds and his crops were, to him, the principal things on earth, with the exception of his daughter; for, although he had married for the second time, there were a good many things which he valued more than his wife. And it had therefore occasioned a good deal of surprise, and more or less small talk among his neighbours, that Major Bonnet should want to buy a ship. But he had been a soldier in his youth, and soldiers are very apt to change their manner of living, and so, if Major Bonnet had grown tired of his farm and had determined to go into commercial enterprises, it was not, perhaps, a very amazing thing that a military man who had turned planter should now turn to be something else.
Madam Bonnet had heard of the ship, although she had not been told anything about her step-daughter taking a trip in her, and if she had heard she might not have objected. She had regarded, in an apparently careless manner, her husband’s desire to navigate the sea; for, no matter to what point he might happen to sail, his ship would take him away from Barbadoes, and that would very well suit her. She was getting tired of Major Bonnet. She did not believe he had ever been a very good soldier; she was positively sure that he was not a good farmer; and she had the strongest kind of doubt as to his ability as a commercial man. But as this new business would free her from him, at least for a time, she was well content; and, although she should feel herself somewhat handicapped by the presence of Kate, she did not intend to allow that young lady to interfere with her plans and purposes during the absence of the head of the house. So she went her way, saying nothing derisive about the nautical life, except what she considered it necessary for her to do, in order to maintain her superior position in the household.
Major Bonnet was now very much engaged and a good deal disturbed, for he found that projected sailing, even in one’s own craft, is not always smooth sailing. He was putting his vessel in excellent order, and was fitting her out generously in the way of stores and all manner of nautical needfuls, not forgetting the guns necessary for defence in these somewhat disordered times, and his latest endeavours were towards the shipping of a suitable crew. Seafaring men were not scarce in the port of Bridgetown, but Major Bonnet, now entitled to be called “Captain,” was very particular about his crew, and it took him a long time to collect suitable men.