“Excuse us for interrupting you,” the latter began, “but we thought we’d make a neighbourly call to-night since Sam’l’s home. We’re all anxious to meet your company.”
Mrs. Hampton had now left the piano and was advancing to meet her neighbours. She, too, was annoyed, for she knew only too well how Mrs. Tobin would make every effort to ferret out the secret of Miss Randall’s presence. But as they had come, she had to make the best of it.
“It is thoughtful of you to come over,” she replied. “We were enjoying a little music. This is Miss Bean, Mrs. Tobin. I feel sure you will be pleased to meet her.”
Mrs. Tobin at once stepped forward and reached out her hand.
“Very glad I am to make your acquaintance, Miss. It’s not often we see a stranger in this place. I hope you’ll come over to see us.”
Jess took Mrs. Tobin’s hand in hers and was about to reply, when, happening to glance across the room, she saw the captain standing near the door. She recognised him at once, and her face turned white, while her body trembled. Mrs. Tobin believed that this agitation was due to her strenuous grip, and she quickly dropped the girl’s hand.
“Excuse me, Miss,” she apologised. “I didn’t intend to hurt you. But when I shake hands I mean it. Now, some people just touch the tips of your fingers as if they were afraid you’d bite. That may be the fashionable way, but I like the good old handshake.”
“I never let you shake hands with me, Mrs. Tobin,” John laughingly told her. “I know you too well.”
“And I guess you should,” was the retort. “You often felt my hands when you were a boy, didn’t you? I had to use them more than once, especially when you took my apples.”
“Come, come, Mrs. Tobin, you must not give me away. Let us forget the past. I want the captain to meet Miss Bean. He looks as if he would like to run away. Come here, sir. You were always nervous in the presence of women, I know. But Miss Bean is perfectly harmless.”
John was well aware why the captain wished to get out of the house. Knowing Mrs. Tobin as well as he did, he felt certain that her husband was most anxious to keep from her the story of his experience with Miss Randall on the “Eb and Flo.” It amused him, and yet he felt it was his duty not only to the captain but to Jess as well not to divulge the secret. He had noticed the girl’s white face and trembling hands, and surmised the cause.
The captain was indeed in a quandary. At the first glimpse of Miss Randall he was seized with a great fear. How could he face her in the presence of his wife? Would she recognise him, and call him by name? If she did, then he would be at once amid serious breakers on a stormy shore. He wanted to retreat, to get away from the house as fast as possible. But there was no escape, for he heard John telling him to come and meet the young woman. For a few seconds he stood as if rooted to the floor, staring straight before him. Notwithstanding her own agitation, Jess could hardly keep from smiling at the captain’s confusion. She felt sorry for him, so acting upon the impulse of the instant, she crossed the room and held out her hand.