“This is Mr. Fitzgerald, the new secretary,” she answered blandly.
“Aha! Bring a chair over and sit down. What did you say the name is, Laura?”
“Sit down, Mr. Fitzgerald,” repeated the admiral cordially.
Fitzgerald desired but one thing; the privilege of laughter!
NO FALSE PRETENSES
A private secretary, and only one way out! If the girl had been kind enough to stand her ground with him he would not have cared so much. But there she was vanishing beyond the door. There was a suggestion of feline cruelty in thus abandoning him. He dared not call her back. What the devil should he say to the admiral? There was one thing he knew absolutely nothing about, and this was the duties of a private secretary to a retired admiral who had riches, a yacht, a hobby, and a beautiful, though impulsive daughter. His thought became irrelevant, as is frequent when one faces a crisis, humorous or tragic; here indeed was the coveted opportunity to study at close range the habits of a man who spent less than his income.
“Come, come; draw up your chair, Mr. Fitzgerald.”
“I beg your pardon; I—that is, I was looking at those flags, sir,” stuttered the self-made victim of circumstances.
“Oh, those? Good examples of their kind; early part of the nineteenth century. Picked them up one cruise in the Indies. That faded one belonged to Morgan, the bloodthirsty ruffian. I’ve always regretted that I wasn’t born a hundred years ago. Think of bottling them up in a shallow channel and raking ’em fore and aft!” With a bang of his fist on the desk, setting the ink-wells rattling like old bones, “That would have been sport!”
The keen, blue, sailor’s eye seemed to bore right through Fitzgerald, who thought the best thing he could do was to sit down at once, which he did. The ticket agent had said that the admiral was of a quiet pattern, but this start wasn’t much like it. The fire in the blue eyes suddenly gave way to a twinkle, and the old man laughed.
“Did I frighten you, Mr. Fitzgerald?”
“Well, every secretary I’ve had has expected to see a red-nosed, swearing, peg-legged sailor; so I thought I’d soften the blow for you. Don’t worry. Sailor?”
“Not in the technical sense,” answered Fitzgerald, warming. “I know a stanchion from an anchor and a rope from a smoke-stack. But as for travel, I believe that I have crossed all the high and middle seas.”
“Sounds good. Australia, East Indies, China, the Antilles, Gulf, and the South Atlantic?”
“Yes; round the Horn, too, and East Africa.” Fitzgerald remembered his instructions and spoke clearly.
“Well, well; you are a find. In what capacity have you taken these voyages?”
Here was the young man’s opportunity. This was a likeable old sea-dog, and he determined not to impose upon him another moment. Some men, for the sake of the adventure, would have left the truth to be found out later, to the disillusion of all concerned. The abrupt manner in which Miss Killigrew had abandoned him merited some revenge.