“You ask me if I own the ‘Eb an’ Flo,’ eh?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Well, first of all, Mister, I want to know what bizness is it of yours if I do? D’ye want to buy her?”
“I should say not,” was the impatient retort. “My name is Henry Randall, and I want to know if my daughter was on board your boat the night she was supposed to have drowned herself off Benton’s wharf?”
“No, I didn’t see yer daughter,” the captain replied. “I never sot eyes on her.”
Randall’s eyes opened wide in amazement at this unexpected answer. The word “liar” was on his lips, but with an effort he checked himself.
“I am surprised to hear you say that you never saw my daughter,” and he looked sternly at the captain. “I have almost certain proof that she boarded your boat off Benton’s wharf, and was concealed in the cabin while men were dragging the river for her body. Can you deny that?”
Exclamations from both Flo and her mother caused Randall to turn quickly around. Mrs. Tobin had risen to her feet, and her eyes were blazing with indignation. She was about to speak when her husband lifted his hand.
“Keep calm, Martha. Keep calm,” he advised. “Let me handle this gent.” Then he turned to Randall, “So ye say yer daughter ran away from home, eh?”
“She did, and that’s why I’m here.”
“What did she run away fer?”
“Because she was wilful, and wanted her own way; that’s why.”
“H’m,” the captain grunted, “so that’s how ye look at it?”
“And why shouldn’t I? But what has all this to do with the finding of my daughter? I didn’t come here to be catechised in this way.”
“Well, I didn’t tell ye to come, Mister. If ye don’t like yer reception, ye kin leave whenever ye want to. No one’ll interfere with yer goin’, an’ the door’s right thar.”
Henry Randall was unused to such plain speech, and it angered him. So accustomed had he been to having his own way and lording it over others that this was an unusual experience and hard for him to endure. His face darkened and he looked sternly at the captain.
“I am not in the habit of allowing people to speak to me in such a manner,” he declared. “I can make you pay dearly for your impudence. Do you know who I am?”
“Sartinly I know, an’ that’s why I’m talkin’ jist as I am. I don’t very often git roused up, but when I do it takes more’n you to stop me. An’ I am roused at the way ye’ve treated that gal ye call yer daughter. Ye’ve been buyin’ an sellin’ so long that yer heart is nuthin’ more’n a bank account. An’ ye weren’t satisfied with tradin’ in lumber, but ye even want to sell yer only daughter. Thar, now, don’t git riled. Jist keep cool fer a few minutes ’til I’m through. If yer tired standin’, ye kin set down. Flo, give this feller a chair.”
“I don’t want a chair,” Randall angrily retorted. “I want to get through with my business here. I ask you once more if my daughter sought refuge on board your boat the night she was supposed to have drowned herself off Benton’s wharf?”