“Where are you staying—at what hotel?”
“I haven’t gone to any yet; I used to stay with a cousin of mine, but he’s moved. Do you know any good boarding place, where they’d make me feel at home, and let me smoke a pipe after dinner?”
An idea struck Jack. They had an extra room at home, or could make one by his sleeping in the sitting room. Why shouldn’t they take the stranger to board? The money would certainly be acceptable. He determined to propose it.
“If we lived in a nicer house,” he said, “I’d ask you to board at my mother’s.”
“Would she take me, my lad?”
“I think she would; but we are poor, and live in a small house.”
“That makes no odds. I ain’t a bit particular, as long as I can feel at home. So heave ahead, my lad, and we’ll go and see this mother of yours, and hear what she has to say about it.”
Jack took the way home well pleased, and, opening the front door, entered the sitting room, followed by the sailor.
Aunt Rachel looked up nervously, and exclaimed: “A man!”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the stranger. “I’m a man, and no mistake. Are you this lad’s mother?”
“No, sir!” answered Rachel, emphatically. “I am nobody’s mother.”
“Oh, an old maid!” said the sailor, whose mode of life had made him unceremonious.
“I am a spinster,” said Rachel, with dignity.
“That’s the same thing,” said the visitor, sitting down opposite Aunt Rachel, who eyed him suspiciously.
“My aunt, Rachel Harding, Capt. Bowling,” introduced Jack. “Aunt Rachel, Capt. Bowling is the commander of a vessel now in port.”
Aunt Rachel made a stiff courtesy, and Capt. Bowling eyed her curiously.
“Are you fond of knitting, ma’am?” he asked.
“I am not fond of anything,” said Rachel, mournfully. “We should not set our affections upon earthly things.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you had a beau, ma’am,” said Capt. Bowling, facetiously.
“A beau!” repeated Rachel, horror-stricken.
“Yes, ma’am. I suppose you’ve had a beau some time or other.”
“I don’t think it proper to talk on such a subject to a stranger,” said Aunt Rachel, primly.
“Law, ma’am, you needn’t be so particular.”
Just at this moment, Mrs. Harding entered the room, and was introduced to Capt. Bowling by Jack. The captain proceeded to business at once.
“Your son, here, ma’am, told me you might maybe swing a hammock for me somewhere in your house. I liked his looks, and here I am.”
“Do you think you would be satisfied with our plain fare, and humble dwelling, Capt. Bowling?”
“I ain’t hard to suit, ma’am; so, if you can take me, I’ll stay.”
His manner was frank, although rough; and Mrs. Harding cheerfully consented to do so. It was agreed that Bowling should pay five dollars a week for the three or four weeks he expected to stay.