The girl shivered, and her face turned white.
“Are you hungry?” she unexpectedly asked.
“Why, I jist had me breakfast.”
“I know you did, but your father said you are always hungry. Suppose you come down and I’ll give you something more. You didn’t have much to eat.”
To his own surprise Eben at once obeyed, lumbered down the steps, and seated himself by the little table. The girl placed a boiled egg before him, cut a slice of bread, and poured out a cup of coffee.
“I cooked one egg too many,” she explained.
“Lucky ye did,” Eben replied, as he broke the shell. “Say, it’s great havin’ you here. What’s yer name!”
“Only Jess. I hope you will like it.”
“I like it already. I think it’s nice. An’ say, I won’t let anyone git ye.”
“That’s kind of you. But I thought you hated girls.”
“Who told ye that?”
“Your father, of course. Isn’t it true?”
“Mebbe it is, an’ mebbe it isn’t. An’ mebbe after all it is. I never did take much stock in girls.”
“Dunno, ’cept it’s me make-up. Girls are too fussy fer me, so I like to keep out of their way.”
“But you came my way this morning, though,” the girl smilingly reminded.
“Oh, you’re different. I like what you did. You came here to be protected, an’ I’m goin’ to see that ye are. I won’t let them men git ye.”
“What will you do if they come on board?”
Eben dropped his knife and fork suddenly upon the table, while his hands clenched hard.
“They won’t come on board,” he declared. “They’ll do well to git close to this boat. Look,” and he pointed to a rifle standing in one corner of the cabin.
“Oh, you mustn’t shoot,” the girl protested. “You might kill someone, and then you would be hung for murder.”
“No, it’s not likely I’ll shoot, though I’ll feel like doin’ it if them men come snookin’ ’round here. I’ll jist keep the gun in me hands, that’s all. Guess that’ll be hint enough fer them fellers.”
“Oh, I wish a strong wind would blow,” the girl fervently exclaimed. “I want to get away from here, and out of sight of those men searching for me over there.”
“It does give one a kind of creepy feelin’, doesn’t it?” Eben replied. “But I think we’ll git a breeze when the tide comes up, an’ then we’ll show ye what this old tub kin do.”
“Won’t that be great! I have often longed for a sail on the river in a boat such as this. How you must enjoy this life. I know I should.”
“Would ye?” Eben asked. “Well, I guess ye’d soon git tired of it if ye had to do it all the time. It makes a mighty big difference whether ye do a thing fer pleasure or fer business. I don’t like it, anyway, an’ I’m goin’ to git clear of it as soon as I kin. Mebbe I’ll follow your example, an’ run away.”