Ida grew lovelier as she grew older, and her rare beauty and attractive manners caused her to be sought after. It may be that some of my readers are expecting that she will marry Jack; but they will probably be disappointed. They are too much like brother and sister for such a relation to be thought of. Jack reminds her occasionally of the time when she was his little ward, and he was her guardian and protector.
One day, as Rachel was walking up Chestnut Street, she was astonished by a hearty grasp of the hand from a bronzed and weather-beaten stranger.
“Release me, sir,” she said, hysterically. “What do you mean by such conduct?”
“Surely you have not forgotten your old friend, Capt. Bowling,” said the stranger.
Rachel brightened up.
“I didn’t remember you at first,” she said, “but now I do.”
“Now tell me, how are all your family?”
“They are all well, all except me—I don’t think I am long for this world.”
“Oh, yes, you are. You are too young to think of leaving us yet,” said Capt. Bowling, heartily.
Rachel was gratified by this unusual compliment.
“Are you married?” asked Capt. Bowling, abruptly.
“I shall never marry,” she said. “I shouldn’t dare to trust my happiness to a man.”
“Not if I were that man?” said the captain, persuasively.
“Oh, Capt. Bowling!” murmured Rachel, agitated. “How can you say such things?”
“I’ll tell you why, Miss Harding. I’m going to give up the sea, and settle down on land. I shall need a good, sensible wife, and if you’ll take me, I’ll make you Mrs. Bowling at once.”
“This is so unexpected, Capt. Bowling,” said Rachel; but she did not look displeased. “Do you think it would be proper to marry so suddenly?”
“It will be just the thing to do. Now, what do you say—yes or no.”
“If you really think it will be right,” faltered the agitated spinster.
“Then it’s all settled?”
“What will Timothy say?”
“That you’ve done a sensible thing.”
Two hours later, leaning on Capt. Bowling’s arm, Mrs. Rachel Bowling re-entered her brother’s house.
“Why, Rachel, where have you been?” asked Mrs. Harding, and she looked hard at Rachel’s companion.
“This is my consort, Capt. Bowling,” said Rachel, nervously.
“This is Mrs. Bowling, ma’am,” said the captain.
“When were you married?” asked the cooper. It was dinner time, and both he and Jack were at home.
“Only an hour ago. We’d have invited you, but time was pressing.”
“I thought you never meant to be married, Aunt Rachel,” said Jack, mischievously.
“I—I don’t expect to live long, and it won’t make much difference,” said Rachel.
“You’ll have to consult me about that,” said Capt. Bowling. “I don’t want you to leave me a widower too soon.”