“Here I’ll raise
Hither by Thy grace I’ll come,”
when a form darkened the narrow doorway overhead.
Then followed a scream of fright, and before he had hardly time to look around she was lying by his side, a confused heap of silk, lace, and flowing dark-brown hair.
“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” Samuel exclaimed, scrambling to his feet. “What in time——?”
A merry laugh interrupted him, as the girl sprang lightly to her feet, arranged her disordered dress, and brushed back her hair.
“My! that was a surprise,” she remarked, glancing at the steps down which she had just tumbled. “I didn’t know they were there.”
“Ye didn’t, eh?” and Samuel looked curiously at his unexpected visitor. “Thought ye was walkin’ into a parlour, I s’pose.”
“Do you own this boat?” the girl suddenly and somewhat anxiously asked.
“Well, I thought I did, Miss, until you arrived, but now I ain’t quite sartin. I feel somethin’ like Bill Slocum said he did when a bear dropped in on him one night when he was campin’ out on his back medder.”
“What did he do?”
“Oh, Bill, jist lit out an’ left the bear in charge, the same as any sensible man would do.”
“I hope you do not compare me to a bear,” and the girl smiled.
“No, I wouldn’t like to do that, Miss. But ye must have had some mighty good reason fer comin’ down them steps the way ye did. It’s a wonder to me yer neck wasn’t broken.”
“I have a good reason,” was the emphatic reply. “I am running away.”
“Runnin’ away!” Samuel’s eyes opened wide in amazement, and he stared hard at the girl. He would have been less than human if his pulse had not quickened, and his heart beat faster, for she was truly possessed of more than ordinary beauty and grace of figure. Her large dark expressive eyes betrayed anxiety, and her cheeks were flushed. Once she gave a slight start and glanced nervously up the steps as if expecting to see someone following her.
“Yes, I am running away,” she repeated, “and I want you to hide me on this boat.”
“Runnin’ away, an’ want me to hide ye!” Samuel ran his fingers through his hair, a sure sign of his perplexity. “Ye ain’t been stealin’ or murderin’ anybody, have ye?”
“No, no; it’s not so bad as that. But it might be suicide, though, if you don’t help me. And you will, won’t you?” she pleaded, turning her eyes full upon the captain’s face.
The latter made no immediate reply. He picked up his pail and set it carefully aside. He then unrolled the turned-up sleeves of his coarse shirt, and deliberately buttoned them about his thick hairy wrists,
“Set down, Miss,” he at length ordered, motioning to the only chair the cabin contained. “Thar, that’s better,” he said as the girl immediately obeyed. “Sorry me accommodations are so poor, but then this ain’t no ocean liner. She’s nuthin’ but an old woodboat, an’ not much of a place fer receivin’ the likes of you.”