“Breakfast, Captain,” she cried. “Breakfast is served.”
The girl was laughing excitedly as she led the way to the dining-cabin and seated herself in front of a great, steaming nickel coffee-pot. Blushing radiantly she pointed to the other chair.
“Sit down, Captain Merrithew.” But Dan protested.
“Now, really, Miss Howland,” he laughed, “I can just as—”
“Captain,” interrupted Virginia, sharply, “don’t be a goose. There—” She began to pour the coffee. “It isn’t really much of a breakfast,” she added; “I shall do much better for luncheon. But, as it is—” she inclined her head with mock unction as she handed him his cup.
Dan never forgot that breakfast. It was one of those events which linger in memory, every detail indelibly stamped, long after more important pictures of the past have lost even a semblance of outline.
Sunlight flowed in through the portholes and rested on the red tablecloth and the glittering steel cutlery. For a centrepiece she had a half shattered clay flower-pot containing a geranium plant which she had picked up from the deck outside the woman’s cabin. It was droopy and generally woebegone, but it served its purpose. In front of Dan was a heaping dish of toast artistically browned, and a generous glass jar of marmalade.
And opposite, smiling at him, talking to him as though they had breakfasted together for a number of years, was the most radiant girl he had ever looked upon. The simple costume was wonderfully effective. The white, full throat and the curves of the neck running to the shoulders were revealed by the low rolling collar, and the hair coiled low shone with lustrous sheen.
[Illustration: Opposite, smiling at him, as though they had breakfasted together for years, was the radiant girl.]
Despite Dan’s fears as to the manner in which their tenancy of the derelict might terminate, he abandoned himself to the sheer charm of it all. When he finally arose, ending a light, laughing conversation, the girl regarded him seriously.
“Now, Captain,” she said, “I want to ask you something, and you must tell me truthfully. You have examined this vessel, and you have doubtless some idea as to what we are to do. Tell me the exact situation.”
Dan looked her straight in the eye a moment, and the girl returned his gaze unflinchingly.
“I am perfectly honest,” she said; “I want you to be.”
“Well,” said Dan, “first of all I’ll tell you what I am going to try to do: I am going to try to sail this derelict into some port. There is enough of the mainmast standing to allow some sort of a sail, and we can’t be so terribly far from land. Besides, this hold is filled with logwood and mahogany. Now this is a valuable cargo, worth at least fifty thousand dollars. The vessel herself isn’t worth a great deal, but still something. Here is the point: if we take this vessel into port alone we can claim fifty per cent salvage, and we’ll get it, too. That means that we shall net, through our little experience, some twenty-five thousand dollars between us.”