“I wish I was in Baltimore!
A-skating on the sanded floor.
A long time ago!
Forever and forever,
Forever and forever, boys,
A long time ago!”
Just as the cables were about to be cast off, a hail was heard from the wharf, and Mr. Bill Hen Pike appeared, purple and breathless.
“Schooner ahoy!” he gasped; and then fell against a post and mopped his brow.
“Senor!” responded the Skipper, coming to the stern, and greeting his guest with a wave of the hand, “you come to bid us farewell? It is kindly done! Or you bring us, perhaps, a message from our revered uncle? Speak with haste, Senor, the tide waits not!”
“I—I brought this!” said Mr. Bill Hen, holding up a small object. “I went up into his room, to see if there was anything he might like, and there warn’t nothing but just this. I thought you’d like to have it, Johnny, to take along with you.”
The good man’s voice faltered; John ran to the stern, and held out his hands eagerly, tenderly, crying,—“Oh, thank you, dear Mr. Pike! thank you so very, very much!”
For it was the china poodle that Mr. Bill Hen had brought. When the treasure was safe in the child’s hands, Mr. Bill Hen breathed more freely.
“Now you’ll have something to remember us by, Johnny!” he said. “We’ve lotted on ye a good deal, here to the village; more maybe than you thought on. I—I’ll miss ye consid’able, off and on, ye see, off and on. You’ll think about us nows and thens, won’t ye, Bub?”
“Oh, yes, indeed!” cried little John, eagerly. “I shall think of you a great, great deal, Mr. Bill Hen! You have always been so good and kind to me, and I shall miss you, too, and Lena, and lots of people. And—and how is Cousin Scraper, please, Mr. Bill Hen? Does he miss me, do you think?”
“He’s all right!” replied Mr. Bill Hen, gruffly. “Doosn’t seem none the worse for his tantrum. No, if you ask me, I can’t say as he seems to miss ye, not anyways to hurt him, that is. He’ll be out again to-morrow all right, doctor says; and besides bein’ rather uglier than common all day, I don’t see no difference in him.”
John sighed, but not very heavily.
“I suppose if I had been nicer he might have missed me,” he said; “but then, on the other hand, if he missed me, he wouldn’t be so comfortable at my going away; so, you see!”
Mr. Bill Hen did not see, but he said it was of no consequence. Then, coming to the edge of the wharf, he shook hands all round, never noticing, in the preoccupation of his mind, the knife that Franci flashed and brandished in his eyes as a parting dramatic effect. He held John’s hand long, and seemed to labour for words, but found none; and so they slipped away and left him standing alone on the wharf, a forlorn figure.
Down the river! Sailing, sailing over the magical waters, past the fairy shores, already darkening into twilight shades of purple and gray. The white schooner glided along, passing, as she had come, like a dream. In the bow stood the Skipper, his eyes bent forward, his hand clasping fast the hand of the child.