“Not a bit,” confessed Mr. Hanmer. He added, “They take to me, though— the few I’ve met.
“Dick will take to you, for certain. Dicky is Sir Oliver’s child.”
“I didn’t know—” Mr. Hanmer came to a full stop.
“No,” said Ruth, as though she echoed him. “He is eight years old almost.” Her eyes looked straight ahead, but she was aware that his had scanned her face for a moment, and almost she felt his start of reassurance.
“So, the child being a friend of mine, and his father having promised him a cruise in the Venus, you see that I very much want to know what manner of lady is Captain Harry’s wife; and that I could not ask you point-blank because you would have set the question down to idle curiosity. . . . It might make all the difference to him,” she added, getting no answer.
“A child of eight, and the country at war!” Mr. Hanmer muttered. “His father must know that we cruise ready for action.”
“I tell you, sir, what Dicky told me this morning.”
“But it’s impossible!”
“To that, sir, I might find you half a dozen answers. To begin with, we all know—and Sir Oliver perhaps, from private information, knows better than any of us—that peace is in sight. Here in the northern Colonies it has arrived already; the enemy has no fleet on this side of the world, and on this coast no single ship to give you any concern.”
“Guarda-costas? There may be a few left on the prowl, even in these latitudes. I don’t believe it for my part; we’ve accounted for most of ’em. Still—”
“And Captain Harry thinks so much of them that he sails from Carolina to Boston with his bride on board!”
“You are right, Miss Josselin, and you are wrong. . . . Mistress Vyell has come to Boston in the Venus; and by reason that her husband, when he started, had as little acquaintance with fear for others as for himself. But if she return to Carolina it will be by land or when peace is signed. Love has made the Captain think; and thought has made him— well, with madam on board, I am thankful—” He checked himself.
“You are thankful he did not sight a guarda-costa.” She concluded the sentence for him, and walked some way in silence, while he at her side was silent, being angry at having said so much.
“Yet Captain Harry is recklessly brave?” she mused.
“To the last degree, Miss Josselin,” Mr. Hanmer agreed eagerly. “To the last degree within the right military rules. Fighting a ship’s an art, you see.”
It seemed that she did not hear him. “It runs in the blood,” she said. She was thinking, fearfully yet exultantly, of this wonderful power of women, for whose sake cowards will behave as heroes and heroes turn to cowards.
They had outstripped the chairmen, and were at the gate of Sabines. He held it open for her. She bethought her that his last two or three sentences had been firmly spoken, that his voice had shaken off its husky stammer, and on the impulse of realised power she took a fancy to hear it tremble again.