“Why, naturally; I haven’t the slightest doubt of it. But Harrison will stay with the ship for two or three more trips to break him in thoroughly. Both companies by whom he was employed while in tugboat work speak of him in the highest terms. It’s all rather a departure. But I feel I owe it to Merrithew; and besides, I have an idea he is the sort of man we want. This West Indian trade is not all beer and skittles.”
“It is very interesting,” said Virginia, stifling a yawn. “I hope to see something more of him; he’s a new sort and worth studying. And—oh, father, is there any chance that we’ll have that house-party at our San Blanco estate next Spring? I mean—of course you’ve promised that. What I meant was, will we go on the Tampico? Now don’t smile, father; you have said a dozen times you were through with steam yachts.”
“I’m not smiling,” said Mr. Howland. “It is quite possible we’ll go down on the Tampico—unless Merrithew manages to sink her in the meantime.”
“Bully,” cried the girl. “Good-night. . . . I think,” she said, speaking slowly over her shoulder—“I think we had a very successful partee.” She paused and looked doubtfully at her father. “The only difficulty is that, now we know he is not hopelessly impossible in one way, we have to face the fact that he is all the more impossible in others.”
“Yes,” said her aunt, laughing, “as an interesting social freak we might have used him; but as an ordinary, well-behaved steamship captain—” Mrs. Van Vleck shrugged her shoulders expressively and raised her eyebrows.
“Well,” said the girl, “he’ll be eminently eligible for the Captain’s table of the Tampico. Somehow I wish he had done something unusual to-night. I had developed all sorts of strange fancies concerning him.”
Now, as a matter of fact, she did not wish that at all.
WITS VERSUS MACHINE GUNS
Dan brought to his new duties a well-grounded knowledge of the fundamentals of his calling, and his deficiencies, such as they were, were skilfully eliminated by his white-haired mentor, Captain Harrison. Among other things, this prince of ancient mariners, who had taken a great fancy to Dan, was at infinite pains to impress upon him the fact that in the duties of captain of a vessel calling regularly at the ports of small Latin republics many requirements aside from mere ability to navigate a ship are involved. Seductive arts, such as verbal or financial propitiation; knowledge when to give a dinner and when to threaten to invoke the “big stick”; when to hold to a position and when to recede from it;—all these attributes of diplomacy were acquired by Dan under Harrison’s tutelage, so that when the old Captain finally retired to his well-earned rest on a Long Island farm, he “allowed” that young Merrithew had the stuff in him of which smart officers are made.