“Oh, Dan, Dan!” she cried, “you frightened me so! I thought you had gone. I thought you were dead. You are not going to leave me again, are you?”
“Never,” said Dan.
Then both started as though the underlying significance of the question and answer had suddenly dawned upon them. Gently she withdrew her hands, which Dan did not seek to retain. In conversational tone, he said:
“I am awfully sorry, Virginia. While you were sleeping, the wind fell, an hour or two after dawn, and the blue of the water struck me. I found the Captain’s thermometer and lowered it overboard. My best hopes were realized. We are in the Gulf Stream, Virginia, and moving northward at about four miles an hour. We are all right now if all goes well.”
“But why were you hiding?” asked the girl.
“I wasn’t. I wanted to see if the water had hurt the logwood, so as to impair its value, and to learn the condition of the hull. You know the cargo is all that is keeping us afloat. Everything is pretty soggy down there, but we’ll hold together, I guess; and I don’t believe the logwood will suffer a bit. Of course the mahogany is all right. We’re lucky. One schooner in a million has mahogany these days.”
She had been gazing at him almost vacantly while he was talking. Now she smiled beautifully.
“Oh, I am so glad to see you again,” she said. “It seems almost as if you had been away a thousand years.”
“That,” said Dan, “almost pays me for frightening you. Are you ready for breakfast? I knocked it together a while ago.”
“For which you shall be punished—when we get ashore.”
DAN AND VIRGINIA
After breakfast they drew chairs to the wheel and sat out on deck. It was a wonderful May morning. Thin clouds hung in the blue, like little yachts; and the cool, balmy air and the sparkling sunlight brought the clear, steady call of work to be done, of life to be lived beautifully and nobly, and strong things to overcome, or to accomplish—the call of youth.
And they heard the call, these two, and responded to it with the joyousness of youth, wherein a phrase is a lifetime, and a word, volumes. They talked of themselves, regarding each other wonderingly as hidden depths of character were revealed, or a word, or a sentence, or a sympathetic silence threw light upon a new element of personality.
He spoke of the Fledgling. He used to see her through a golden haze. She was his first command. Yet each day came the old question, What next? And the answer. Why, everything. A future—bigger things and better, broader work, not on the sea at the last. No; landward, somewhere, anywhere. But onward, onward!
“Something is linked with every one’s destiny, Virginia. Fate fires no salutes; every shot is solid and aimed at something. And the thing that is hit you have to step over and go on; if you stop to look at it and think over it and try to look for something else for Fate to knock down for you, something easier to step over and get away from, you find, perhaps, years later, that just there you missed your chance.”