“Ho! ho!” echoed Jack, equally amused.
Aunt Rachel turned red with confusion. “I am afraid I ought not to have come,” she murmured. “I feel ready to drop.”
“You’d better not drop just yet,” said the captain—they were just crossing the street—“wait till it isn’t so muddy.”
On the whole, Aunt Rachel decided not to drop.
The Argo was a medium-sized vessel, and Jack in particular was pleased with his visit. Though not outwardly so demonstrative, Aunt Rachel also seemed to enjoy the expedition. The captain, though blunt, was attentive, and it was something new to her to have such an escort. It was observed that Miss Harding was much less gloomy than usual during the remainder of the day. It might be that the captain’s cheerfulness was contagious. For a stranger, Aunt Rachel certainly conversed with him with a freedom remarkable for her.
“I never saw Rachel so cheerful,” remarked Mrs. Harding to her husband that evening after they had retired. “She hasn’t once spoken of life being a vale of tears to-day.”
“It’s the captain,” said her husband. “He has such spirits that it seems to enliven all of us.”
“I wish we could have him for a permanent boarder.”
“Yes; the five dollars a week which he pays are a great help, especially now that I am out of work.”
“What is the prospect of getting work soon?”
“I am hoping for it from day to day, but it may be weeks yet.”
“Jack earned fifty cents to-day by selling papers.”
“His daily earnings are an important help. With what the captain pays us, it is enough to pay all our living expenses. But there’s one thing that troubles me.”
“Yes, it is due in three weeks, and as yet I haven’t a dollar laid by to meet it. It makes me feel anxious.”
“Don’t lose your trust in Providence, Timothy. He may yet carry us over this difficulty.”
“So I hope, but I can’t help feeling in what straits we shall be, if some help does not come.”
Two weeks later, Capt. Bowling sailed for Liverpool.
“I hope we shall see you again sometime, captain,” said Mrs. Harding.
“Whenever I come back to New York, I shall come here if you’ll keep me,” said the bluff sailor.
“Aunt Rachel will miss you, captain,” said Jack, slyly.
Capt. Bowling turned to the confused spinster.
“I hope she will,” said he, heartily. “Perhaps when I see her again, she’ll have a husband.”
“Oh, Capt. Bowling, how can you say such things?” gasped Rachel, who, as the time for the captain’s departure approached, had been subsiding into her old melancholy. “There’s other things to think of in this vale of tears.”
“Are there? Well, if they’re gloomy, I don’t want to think of ’em. Jack, my lad, I wish you were going to sail with me.”
“So do I,” said Jack.