There was no sort of interruption on the part of the audience; but the moment Ford paused for breath his mother said,—
“Are you sure the black boy was not hurt, Ford?”
“Hurt, mother? Why, he seems to be a kind of black-fish. The rest all know him, and they went right past my hook to his, all the while.”
“Dear me!” exclaimed Mrs. Foster: “I forgot. Annie, this is Ford’s friend Dabney Kinzer, our neighbor.”
“Won’t you shake hands with me, Mr. Kinzer?” said Annie, with a malicious twinkle of fun in her merry blue eyes.
Poor Dabney! He had been in quite a “state of mind” for at least three minutes; but he would hardly have been his own mother’s son if he had let himself be entirely “posed.” Up rose his long right arm, with the heavy string of fish at the end of it; and Annie’s fun broke out into a musical laugh, just as her brother exclaimed,—
“There now, I’d like to see the other boy of your size can do that. Look here, Dab, where’d you get your training?”
“I mustn’t drop the fish, you see,” began Dab; but Ford interrupted him with,—
’No, indeed! You’ve given me half I’ve got, as it is. Annie, have you looked at the crabs? You ought to have seen Dick Lee, with a lot of ’em gripping in his hair.”
“In his hair?”
“When he was down through the bottom of his boat. They’d have eaten him up if they’d had a chance. You see, he’s no shell on him.”
“Exactly,” said Annie, as Dab lowered his fish. “Well, Dabney, I wish you would thank your mother for me, for sending my trunk over. Your sisters too. I’ve no doubt we shall be very neighborly.”
It was wonderfully pleasant to be called by his first name by so very pretty a young lady, and yet it seemed to bring up something curious into Dabney Kinzer’s throat.
“She considers me a mere boy, and she means I’d better take my fish right home,” was the next thought that came to him; and he was right, to a fraction. So the great lump in his throat took a very wayward and boyish form, and came out as a reply, accompanied by a low bow,—
“I will, thank you. Good-afternoon, Mrs. Foster. I’ll see you to-night, Ford, about Monday and the yacht. Good-afternoon, Annie.”
And then he marched out with his fish.
“Mother, did you hear him call me ’Annie’?”
“Yes; and I heard you call him ‘Dabney.’”
“But he’s only a boy “—
“I don’t care,” exclaimed Ford. “He’s an odd fellow, but he’s a good one. Did you see how wonderfully strong he is in his arms? I couldn’t lift these fish at arm’s-length, to save my life.”
He knew, for he had been trying his best with his own.
It was quite likely that Dab Kinzer’s rowing, and all that sort of thing, had developed in him greater strength of muscle than even he himself was aware of; but for all that he went home with his very ears tingling.