Meanwhile, I was pleased to find among the otherwise complete party General Rieppe. What I had seen of him from a distance held promise, and the hero’s nearer self fulfilled it. We fell to each other’s lot for the most natural of reasons: nobody else desired the company of either of us. Charley was making himself the devoted servant of Hortense, while Kitty drew Beverly, Bohm, and Gazza in her sprightly wake. To her, indeed, I made a few compliments during the first few minutes after my coming aboard, while every sort of drink and cigar was being circulated among us by the cabin boy. Kitty’s costume was the most markedly maritime thing that I have ever beheld in any waters, and her white shoes looked (I must confess) supremely well on her pretty little feet. I am no advocate of sumptuary laws; but there should be one prohibiting big-footed women from wearing white shoes. Did these women know what a spatulated effect their feet so shod produce, no law would be needed. Yes, Kitty was superlatively, stridently maritime; you could have known from a great distance that she belonged to the very latest steam yacht class, and that she was perfectly ignorant of the whole subject. On her left arm, for instance, was worked a red propeller with one blade down, and two chevrons. It was the rating mark for a chief engineer, but this, had she known it, would not have disturbed her.
“I chose it,” she told me in reply to my admiration of it, “because it’s so pretty. Oh, won’t we enjoy ourselves while those stupid old blue-bloods in Kings Port are going to church!” And with this she gave a skip, and ordered the cabin boy to bring her a Remsen cooler. Beverly Rodgers called for dwarf’s blood, and I chose a horse’s neck, and soon found myself in the society of the General.
He was sipping whiskey and plain water. “I am a rough soldiers sir,” he explained to me, “and I keep to the simple beverage of the camp. Had we not ’rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of’?” And he waved a stately hand at my horse’s neck. “You are acquainted with the works of Shakespeare?”
I replied that I had a moderate knowledge of them, and assured him that a horse’s neck was very simple.
“Doubtless, sir; but a veteran is ever old-fashioned.”
“Papa,” said Hortense, “don’t let the sun shine upon your head.”
“Thank you, daughter mine.” They said no more; but I presently felt that for some reason she watched him.
He moved farther beneath the awning, and I followed him. “Are you a father, sir? No? Then you cannot appreciate what it is to confide such a jewel as yon girl to another’s keeping.” He summoned the cabin boy, who brought him some more of the simple beverage of the camp, and I, feeling myself scarce at liberty to speak on matters so near to him and so far from me as his daughter’s marriage, called his attention to the beautiful aspect of Kings Port, spread out before us in a long white line against the blue water.