Frederic rises and comes forward with Pirate King, who enters from R. U. E.)
King. Yes, Frederic, from to-day you rank as a full-blown member of our band.
Frederic. My friends, I thank you all, from my heart, for your kindly wishes. Would that I could repay them as they deserve!
King. What do you mean?
Fred. To-day I am out of my indentures, and to-day I leave you for ever.
All. Leave us?
Fred. For ever!
King. But this is quite unaccountable. A keener hand at scuttling a Cunarder or cutting out a White Star never shipped a handspike.
Fred. Yes, I have done my best for you. And why? It was my duty under my indentures, and I am the slave of duty. As a child I was regularly apprenticed to your band. It was through an error. No matter, the mistake was ours, not yours, and I was in honor bound by it.
Samuel. An error? What error?
Fred. I may not tell you. It would reflect upon my well-loved Ruth.
(Ruth comes down C.)
Ruth. Nay, dear master, my mind has long been gnawed by the cankering tooth of mystery. Better have it out at once.
When Frederic was a little lad he proved so brave and daring
His father thought he'd 'prentice him to some career seafaring.
I was, alas! his nursery-maid, and so it fell to my lot
To take and bind this promising boy apprentice to a pilot.
A life not bad for a hardy lad, though certainly not a high lot;
Though I'm a nurse, you might do worse than make your boy a pilot.
I was a stupid nursery-maid, on breakers always steering,
And I did not catch the word aright, through being hard of hearing.
Mistaking my instructions, which within my brain did gyrate.
I took and bound this promising boy apprentice to a pirate.
A sad mistake it was to make, and doom him to a vile lot:
I bound him to a pirate—you—instead of to a pilot!