“Virginia, Virginia, where are you? Oh, up there! Come down quickly! Don’t you see we are coming alongside? And Merrithew, old chap—Virginia, will you come! You are to be put aboard after your aunt. Hurry!” There was a half-note of proprietorship in his voice.
As the girl turned to leave, Dan gave the wheel to Terry and ran to the deck with a speaking-trumpet in his hand. As he passed Oddington, who had assisted Miss Howland from the bridge, he spoke to him quietly.
“The man with the broken leg leaves this ship first.”
Below there was a dull crash and clouds of steam burst through the ventilators and the engine-room gratings. The bulkhead had succumbed, but no one cared now. The steamship was turning in about a hundred yards away. Dan directed his trumpet to the bridge.
“Scrape close alongside,” he yelled. “Open one of your cargo ports and we’ll board you through it.”
The freighter’s Captain had already anticipated this suggestion, and as the vessel slid alongside, Dan ranged the sailors along the deck.
In perfect order the mate with the broken leg was slid into the port as though he were merely being passed into another room. Then went the women, then the men of the party, and after them the sailors. Dan and Mr. Howland alone were left now. As the elder man prepared to enter the port he looked at Dan a moment and smiled.
“Some day I hope to cancel this debt.”
They were simple words, but potentially they meant much to Dan. He was to find they involved the realization of dreams, ambitions he had long held; another rung on the ladder which eventually—— But there was no time to think of the future now. Turning from the porthole he ran along the deck, calling to make sure that every one was off. When he returned, Miss Howland and several others were leaning over the rail above.
“For heaven’s sake, Captain Merrithew, will you please come off that yacht!” The girl’s voice rang imperiously.
With a last look at the bridge upon which he had passed the recent thrilling hours, he leaped aboard the freighter, and when ten minutes later the white Veiled Ladye threw up her bow with a great clanking sigh and slid swiftly from view, Dan Merrithew was fast asleep in the Captain’s cabin.
DAN IS COMMANDED TO A PARTY
A week later, Dan, in accordance with an engagement made with Mr. Howland when parting with him at the railroad station at Norfolk, whither the rescuing vessel had taken the shipwrecked party, called at the office of the Coastwise and West Indian Shipping Company in the Bowling Green Building and asked to see the president.
It was a large office, filled with clerks and all of them busy. The young man who received the caller’s request looked at him sharply and shook his head.