“I think I can struggle along without it,” said Dan. “Good-night.”
He turned toward the harbor and the Tampico. The moon had now broken from the clouds which had partially hidden it all evening, and the hotel grounds and the slope leading to the water front were bathed in light. Dan’s mood was rather bitter. They might have waited for him, he thought. At least, Miss Howland and her father might have, in view of what had happened. But still, why should they? The old feeling of aloofness filled him, and all the self-assurance which had characterized his attitude with Miss Howland a half-hour before vanished. He was angry with himself for having dared to maintain such an attitude.
He turned to look at the hotel and bowed gravely.
“It seems that one Daniel Merrithew has been forgetting he is a mere steamship captain. He will remember it in future—at all times.”
And then he walked slowly to his ship.
THE WRAITH IN THE MOONLIGHT
Twenty-four hours later the Tampico was at sea. The itinerary proposed by Mr. Howland had been altered for the reason that cable despatches from New York had contained financial tidings that made it incumbent upon him to return to the United States without more delay than was necessary; and Ralph Oddington’s firm had been retained by a corporation seeking protection against assaults of the Attorney-General’s office, and he was wanted in the city at his “earliest convenience,” which he had interpreted as meaning “right away.”
And so there was to be no stopping at various ports, but a quick run to the States. Mr. Howland imparted this information to Dan as the two sat at table in the saloon over cigars and coffee the evening after the departure from San Blanco. The other members of the party had gone on deck.
“They can do their sightseeing at Galveston and Savannah, where you can call for your cotton and naval stores as usual.” As Dan raised his eyebrows, Mr. Howland shook his head emphatically. “Can’t help it,” he said. “You see by this despatch,” pointing to a pile of papers on the table, “that the Tybee’s out of commission for a month; and business is business, party or no party. And now, Merrithew,” stuffing the papers into his pocket as though all matters concerning them were finally settled, “I want to ask you about something else. Of course you’re in this Central American service here and will be for a time. I’ve been thinking what you said about the fighting the other morning.” He lit a cigar and pushed his case toward Dan. “I gathered you did not exactly approve of it. Didn’t you?”
“Mr. Howland,” replied Dan, “it was not the fighting that bothered me, it was the idea I had landed guns which your men were using to shoot down other men like sheep. It was a new sensation, and it got into me, I’ll say that. Still it was none of my business; I was carrying out your instructions. I am sorry I was so unwise as to give you the impression I did.”