“But surely I won’t be any worse off than you are.”
“I’m not so sure about that. You see, I’m about boss here, and do and say just what I like.”
“Well, I’m the only person Jim can get to work here. All the girls for miles around know what kind of a creature he is, and they wouldn’t come for any amount of money. They’re scared to death of him. But I’m not, and I tell him right to his face what I think of him, and the way he treats his poor wife. He would like to horsewhip me, but he knows that if I leave no one else would come in my place. But I’m glad now that I am here so I can look after you.”
“Look after me!”
“Yes. I guess you’ll need me all right. I know who you are, and I’m sorry for you. I’m going to stand between you and Jim Goban. He’s scared to death of me, for I’m the only one who dares give him a tongue-lashing, and I do it whenever it is necessary, which is quite often.”
“You’re a brave girl,” and David looked with admiration upon the slight form by his side. “How old are you?”
“Fifteen last March. But one’s age is nothing. I’ve done a woman’s work ever since I was ten. I stand up for my rights now, though. When I first came here Jim was bound that I should work all the time. But at last I told him that I was going to have every Saturday afternoon off, especially in summer, so I could go home or out upon the river. Can you row?” she suddenly asked.
“A little,” was the reply.
“That’s good. Now, look, I’m going to take you out in the boat next Saturday, and you’re going to meet somebody there you’ll like.”
“Somebody I like,” David repeated. “Who is it?”
“It’s a woman, that’s who it is. But I’m not going to tell you her name. She only came here last week, and she is so fond of the water, and spends so much time upon it. Oh, you’ll like her when you see her. She’s a beauty, with such lovely eyes and dark hair. And she’s not a bit stuck up, either. She just talks in a friendly way, and makes you feel easy all over. There, now, I guess you’d better pile some more wood. I have a bit of work to do, and when I’m through I’ll come out and give you a hand. I like to be with you. I know we’re going to be friends.”
The girl rose, and was about to leave. She paused, however, and looked inquiringly into the old man’s face.
“Do you smoke?” she asked.
Into David’s eyes came an eager expression, which Betty was not slow to see.
“I know you do,” she cried, “but you have no tobacco.”
“I have a pipe,” and David fumbled into a pocket of his coat. “But I haven’t had a smoke for weeks, because——”
“I know, I know,” the girl hastily replied. “I’ll get you some in a jiffy.”
She was gone only a short time when she returned, and handed David half a fig of tobacco.