“I don’t want to frighten you,” he said, “but I must tell you about things. I could not find Ben Greenway, and I asked one of the men about him, feigning that he owed me for some fruit, and the man looked at another man and laughed, and said that he had been sent for in a hurry, and had gone ashore in a boat.”
“I cannot believe that,” said Kate; “he would not go away and leave me.”
Dickory could not believe it either, and could offer no explanation.
Kate now looked anxiously over the water towards the town, but no father was to be seen.
“Now let me tell you what I found out,” said Dickory, “you must know it. These men are wicked robbers. I slipped quietly among them to find out something, with my shilling in my hand, ready to ask somebody to change, if I was noticed.”
“Well, what next?” laying her hand on his arm.
“Oh, don’t do that!” he said quickly; “better take hold of a banana. I spied that Big Sam, who is sailing-master, and a black-headed fellow taking their ease behind some boxes, smoking, and I listened with all sharpness. And Sam, he said to the other one—not in these words, but in language not fit for you to hear—what he would like to do would be to get off on the next tide. And when the other fellow asked him why he didn’t go then and leave the fool—meaning your father—to go back to his farm, Big Sam answered, with a good many curses, that if he could do it he would drop down the river that very minute and wait at the bar until the water was high enough to cross, but that it was impossible because they must not sail until your father had brought his cash-box on board. It would be stupid to sail without that cash-box.”
“Dickory,” said she, “I am frightened; I want to go on shore, and I want to see my father and tell him all these things.”
“But there is no boat,” said Dickory; “every boat has left the ship.”
“But you have one,” said she, looking over the side.
“It is a poor little canoe,” he answered, “and I am afraid they would not let me take you away, I having no orders to do so.”
Kate was about to open her mouth to make an indignant reply, when he exclaimed, “But here comes a boat from the town; perhaps it is your father!”
She sprang to the rail. “No, it is not,” she exclaimed; “it holds but one man, who rows.”
She stood, without a word, watching the approaching boat, Dickory doing the same, but keeping himself out of the general view. The boat came alongside and the oarsman handed up a note, which was presently brought to Kate by Big Sam, young Dickory Charter having in the meantime slipped below with his basket.
“A note from your father, Mistress Bonnet,” said the sailing-master. And as she read it he stood and looked upon her.
“My father tells me,” said Kate, speaking decidedly but quietly, “that he will come on board very soon, but I do not wish to wait for him. I will go back to the town. I have affairs which make it necessary for me to return immediately. Tell the man who brought the note that I will go back with him.”