Jess Randall stood by his side, her face aglow with animation, and her heart lighter than at any time since she had first come on board. It was a great relief to be out of the cabin and once more in the open with the fresh breeze whipping about her, and tossing her hair over cheeks and brow. The searching party was left behind, and the small boats seemed like mere vanishing specks in the distance. She had no fear now, for she believed that the “Eb and Flo” would carry her safely away from her pursuers, whither she did not know. The strain through which she had recently passed, and the want of sleep the night before were telling upon her now, causing her to feel very tired. She leaned against the cabin for support, and this the captain at once noted.
“Here, take this wheel fer a minute,” he ordered. “I want to go below. Jist keep her at that,” he continued, when the girl with uncertain hands laid hold of the wheel. “Ye kin do it all right.”
For the first time in her life, Jess was in command of a vessel, and a delightful thrill swept through, her as she watched, the full-swelled sail, and listened to the ripple of the boat as it cut through the water. What an easy thing it was to control such a craft, and cause it to do one’s slightest bidding. And what a sense of freedom possessed her. It was a life for which she had so often longed, and she thought with amusement of her various social activities in the city. She had always been fond of life in the open, and she was never happier than when wandering through the fields or along some secluded woodland way. But such opportunities had been rare, for the barriers which surrounded her had been too firm and high.
In another minute the captain came from the cabin, carrying a three-legged stool, which he placed upon the deck.
“Thar, Miss,” he said, “I think that’ll be more comfortable than standin’. Ye kin lean aginst the cabin, providin’ ye don’t go to sleep an’ push it over.”
The girl smiled as she resigned the wheel and sat down upon the stool. It was certainly a relief to sit there leaning against the cabin for she felt unusually tired.
“You are very good to me, Captain,” she remarked, turning her face to his. “I do not know how I can ever thank you.”
“Don’t try, Miss. I don’t like to be thanked, anyway. It takes all the pleasure out of doin’ anything, accordin’ to my way of thinkin’.”
The girl made no immediate reply, but sat looking out upon the river and away to the road winding along the shore. She could see an occasional auto speeding on its way, and she wondered what had become of the one which had been at the store when the captain was there. She was quite certain who the young driver was, and her heart beat somewhat faster when she thought of him. She longed to know how he had surmised where she was, and what he had said to the captain. She did not like to ask any questions lest she should betray her feelings, so she preferred to remain silent. She was aroused from her reverie by the captain shouting to his son.