THE QUEEN OF THE PIRATE ISLE
THE QUEEN OF THE PIRATE ISLE
An hour after luncheon one day Polly Hickory Hunt her cousin
and Wan Lee a Chinese page were crossing the nursery floor in a
Chinese junk. The sea was calm and the sky cloudless. Any change
in the weather was as unexpected as it is in books. Suddenly a
West Indian Hurricane purely local in character and unfelt
anywhere else struck Master Hickory and threw him overboard
whence wildly swimming for his life and carrying Polly on his
back he eventually reached a Desert Island in the closet. Here
the rescued party put up a tent made of a table-cloth providentially
snatched from the raging billows and from two o'clock until four
passed six weeks on the island supported only by a piece of candle
a box of matches and two peppermint lozenges. It was at this time
that it became necessary to account for Polly's existence among
them and this was only effected by an alarming sacrifice of their
morality; Hickory and Wan Lee instantly became PIRATES and at once
elected Polly as their Queen. The royal duties which seemed to be
purely maternal consisted in putting the Pirates to bed after a day
of rapine and bloodshed and in feeding them with licorice water
through a quill in a small bottle. Limited as her functions were
Polly performed them with inimitable gravity and unquestioned
sincerity. Even when her companions sometimes hesitated from actual
hunger or fatigue and forgot their guilty part she never faltered.
It was her real existence; her other life of being washed dressed
and put to bed at certain hours by her mother was the ILLUSION.
Doubt and skepticism came at last--and came from Wan Lee! Wan Lee
of all creatures! Wan Lee whose silent stolid mechanical
performance of a pirate's duties--a perfect imitation like all his
household work--had been their one delight and fascination!
It was just after the exciting capture of a merchantman with the
indiscriminate slaughter of all on board--a spectacle on which the
round blue eyes of the plump Polly had gazed with royal and
maternal tolerance--and they were burying the booty two
tablespoons and a thimble in the corner of the closet when Wan
Lee stolidly rose.
"Melican boy pleenty foolee! Melican boy no Pilat!" said the
little Chinaman substituting "l's" for "r's" after his usual
"Wotcher say?" said Hickory reddening with sudden confusion.
"Melican boy's papa heap lickee him--s'pose him leal Pilat"
continued Wan Lee doggedly. "Melican boy Pilat INSIDE housee.
Chinee boy Pilat OUTSIDE housee. First chop Pilat."
Staggered by this humiliating statement Hickory recovered himself
in character. "Ah! Ho!" he shrieked dancing wildly on one leg
"Mutiny and Splordinashun! 'Way with him to the yard-arm."
"Yald-alm--heap foolee! Alee same clothes-horse for washee
It was here necessary for the Pirate Queen to assert her authority
which as I have before stated was somewhat confusingly maternal.
"Go to bed instantly without your supper" she said seriously.
"Really I never saw such bad pirates. Say your prayers and see
that you're up early to church tomorrow."
It should be explained that in deference to Polly's proficiency as
a preacher and probably as a relief to their uneasy consciences
Divine Service had always been held on the Island. But Wan Lee
"Me no shabbee Pilat INSIDE housee; me shabbee Pilat OUTSIDE
housee. S'pose you lun away longside Chinee boy--Chinee boy make
Hickory softly scratched his leg; while a broad bashful smile
almost closed his small eyes. "Wot?" he asked.
"Mebbe you too flightened to lun away. Melican boy's papa heap
This last infamous suggestion fired the corsair's blood. "Dy'ar
think we daresen't?" said Hickory desperately but with an uneasy
glance at Polly. "I'll show yer to-morrow."
The entrance of Polly's mother at this moment put an end to Polly's
authority and dispersed the pirate band but left Wan Lee's
proposal and Hickory's rash acceptance ringing in the ears of the
Pirate Queen. That evening she was unusually silent. She would
have taken Bridget her nurse into her confidence but this would
have involved a long explanation of her own feelings from which
like all imaginative children she shrank. She however made
preparation for the proposed flight by settling in her mind which
of her two dolls she would take. A wooden creature with easy-going
knees and movable hair seemed to be more fit for hard service and
any indiscriminate scalping that might turn up hereafter. At
supper she timidly asked a question of Bridget. "Did ye ever hear
the loikes uv that ma'am?" said the Irish handmaid with affectionate
pride. "Shure the darlint's head is filled noight and day with
ancient history. She's after asking me now if Queens ever run
away!" To Polly's remorseful confusion here her good father
equally proud of her precocious interest and his own knowledge at
once interfered with an unintelligible account of the abdication of
various queens in history until Polly's head ached again. Well
meant as it was it only settled in the child's mind that she must
keep the awful secret to herself and that no one could understand
The eventful day dawned without any unusual sign of importance. It
was one of the cloudless summer days of the Californian foothills
bright dry and as the morning advanced hot in the white
sunshine. The actual prosaic house in which the Pirates
apparently lived was a mile from a mining settlement on a beautiful
ridge of pine woods sloping gently towards a valley on the one
side and on the other falling abruptly into a dark deep olive gulf
of pine-trees rocks and patches of red soil. Beautiful as the
slope was looking over to the distant snow peaks which seemed to
be in another world than theirs the children found a greater
attraction in the fascinating depths of a mysterious gulf or
canyon as it was called whose very name filled their ears with a
weird music. To creep to the edge of the cliff to sit upon the
brown branches of some fallen pine and putting aside the dried
tassels to look down upon the backs of wheeling hawks that seemed
to hang in mid-air was a never-failing delight. Here Polly would
try to trace the winding red ribbon of road that was continually
losing itself among the dense pines of the opposite mountains; here
she would listen to the far-off strokes of a woodman's axe or the
rattle of some heavy wagon miles away crossing the pebbles of a
dried-up watercourse. Here too the prevailing colors of the
mountains red and white and green most showed themselves. There
were no frowning rocks to depress the children's fancy but
everywhere along the ridge pure white quartz bared itself through
the red earth like smiling teeth; the very pebbles they played with
were streaked with shining mica like bits of looking-glass. The
distance was always green and summer-like but the color they most
loved and which was most familiar to them was the dark red of the
ground beneath their feet everywhere. It showed itself in the
roadside bushes; its red dust pervaded the leaves of the
overhanging laurel; it colored their shoes and pinafores; I am
afraid it was often seen in Indian-like patches on their faces and
hands. That it may have often given a sanguinary tone to their
fancies I have every reason to believe.
It was on this ridge that the three children gathered at ten
o'clock that morning. An earlier flight had been impossible on
account of Wan Lee being obliged to perform his regular duty of
blacking the shoes of Polly and Hickory before breakfast--a menial
act which in the pure republic of childhood was never thought
inconsistent with the loftiest piratical ambition. On the ridge
they met one "Patsey" the son of a neighbor sun-burned broad-
brimmed hatted red-handed like themselves. As there were
afterwards some doubts expressed whether he joined the Pirates of
his own free will or was captured by them I endeavor to give the
colloquy exactly as it occurred:--
Patsey: "Hallo fellers."
The Pirates: "Hello!"
Patsey: "Goin' to hunt bars? Dad seed a lot o' tracks at sun-up."
The Pirates (hesitating): "No--o--"