“It’d be no use, Martha,” the captain replied. “Ye wouldn’t believe me if I did.”
“No, not in the face of this,” and Mrs. Tobin again held forth the comb.
“Well, then, Martha, what’s the use of so much talk? I’ve had a hard day, so am tired an’ hungry. Guess Eben is, too.”
“Tired! Hungry!” Mrs. Tobin snapped. “You’ll be more tired and hungry before I’m through with you, let me tell you that. You might as well own up first as last about that woman you had on board. Who is the miserable hussy, and where is she now?”
A gleam of hope suddenly appeared in the captain’s eyes, and he shot a swift glance toward his son.
“We had no miserable hussy on board, Martha,” he replied. “That’s the Gospel truth, so if ye don’t believe it, ye needn’t.”
“I’m afraid you’re lying, Sam’l. If you didn’t have a woman on board, where, then, did this comb come from?”
“Blamed if I know. How d’ye expect me to keep track of sich gear?”
Mrs. Tobin gave a sigh of despair as she turned to her son.
“Is your father telling the truth, Eben?” she asked.
“And you had no bad, miserable hussy on board this boat?”
“No, ma, we didn’t.”
“And you haven’t been doing anything wrong, anything that you’re ashamed of?”
Eben’s face suddenly coloured, and his eyes dropped. He remembered what he had done at the quarry. Mrs. Tobin was now convinced that she was being deceived, and that her husband and son were in league against her. She wheeled upon the captain.
“I want you to come right home with me, Sam’l. This is a very serious matter, and I need Flo’s advice. She’s got a level head, and will know what had better be done. I can hardly think, I’m so worked up.”
“But you kin talk all right, Martha, even if ye can’t think,” the captain retorted. “If ye’d think more ye’d talk less. If ye don’t believe what me an’ Eben have said, ye needn’t. Yes, I’ll go home with ye, fer I guess Flo’ll understand, if you don’t. Eben, you look after things here. Ye might as well keep the sail up as thar’s no wind. If it comes on to blow, ye can lower it. I’ll be on hand bright an’ early in the mornin’ so’s to catch the tide. We kin drift, even if thar’s no wind. Come on, Martha, let’s go.”
After he had eaten his supper, Eben washed his few dishes and went out on deck. He sat down upon one of the blocks of granite and looked out over the water. It was a beautiful evening, with not a breath of wind astir. The river shimmered like a great mirror, its surface only ruffled when an occasional motor-boat hurried by, and the little steamer “Oconee,” on her regular evening trip from the city, ploughed past and blew for a wharf a short distance beyond.