(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Frederic, the pirate apprentice, has reached his twenty-first birthday, and at midnight he will be free of his indenture. The pirate king announces that Frederic will then become a full-fledged member of the band. Frederic says that he served them only because he was a slave to duty; now he is going to leave the pirates. Astounded, the king asks for reasons. Frederic will not tell, but Ruth, the pirate maid of all work, confesses that she had been Frederic’s nurse when he was a baby. She had been told to apprentice him to a pilot, but being hard of hearing, she had thought the word was “pirate.” Afraid to reveal her mistake, she, too, had joined the pirates to look after her charge.

Frederic also announces that when he leaves the pirates he is going to do his best to exterminate the whole band. Individually, he loves them all, but as a crew of pirates they must be done away with. The pirates agree that they are such unsuccessful pirates, and that they can not blame him for leaving. Frederic tells them he knows why they are such poor pirates. When they remind him that he is still one of them until midnight, he feels that it is his duty to give them the benefit of his knowledge. The trouble is that they are too kindly. They never attack a weaker party and are always beaten by a stronger one. Then, too, if any captive says he is an orphan, he is set free; the pirates themselves had all been orphans. Word about the soft-hearted pirates spreads, and now everyone who is captured declares himself an orphan. The pirates know that Frederic is right, but they hate to be grim and merciless.

Asked what Ruth will do when he leaves their band, Frederic says he will take her with him. He wonders if she is attractive. Ruth declares that she is, but since he had had no opportunity to see another female face, Frederic cannot be sure. The king assures him that she is still a fine-appearing woman, but when Frederic tries to give her to the king, he will not have her.

Ruth has him almost convinced that she is a fair woman when Frederic sees a bevy of beautiful maidens approaching. Ruth, realizing that her cause is lost, admits that she has deceived him; she is forty-seven years of age. Frederic...

(The entire section is 905 words.)