But the single spectator above, behind the promenade-deck rail, did not look on with delight. He lost no time. He did not even waste ten seconds in rushing to the little stairway which led downward from his place of vantage, but, with the wiry hand and arm of the trained college athlete to help him in the spring, he vaulted lightly clean across the barrier, and, with legs bent skilfully to break the force of the long drop, landed like a lithe and angry tiger on the deck below, within two feet of the utterly amazed and terrified Moresco.
Once there the young American proceeded neatly, rapidly. Almost instantly the Italian bully was sprawling in the scuppers and Vanderlyn had raised the old man to his feet. In another moment he had taken the girl’s hand, led her to her father and they were both trying, in excited German and in English, suffering from the stress of their emotions, to express their thanks to him.
It was at this moment that they met with one of the greatest surprises of their lives. With a sharp cry M’riar burst on them. She had been, as usual, hiding miserably in the narrow entrance to the companion-way which led down to the steerage sleeping quarters, where, daily, since she had in part recovered from her fierce attack of seasickness, she had lurked with furtive eyes and worried heart, squeezing herself against the bulkhead to give others way as they went up or down, afraid to let the voyage end without revealing to her friends her presence, lest they escape to leave her at the mercy of the outraged law of the new land, of which she heard much gossip; afraid to let them know that she was there, lest they, in anger at her presence, refuse to let her join them. But this situation was too much for her. Seeing her adored ones in distress she could restrain herself no longer. She sprang out to the open deck and ranged herself, a veritable little fury, between her friends and the prostrate Italian.
“Garn! Don’t yer dare to tech ’er! Garn! Garn!” she cried and poised, tense, vicious, ready to pit her puny strength against his might if he should rise, vanquish Vanderlyn and try, again, to trouble Anna and her father.
But members of the ship’s crew now rushed up, and, seemingly almost against their will (Moresco, being in New York City politics, might control much steerage business for the line), but yielding to the loud demand of many passengers above, who, attracted by the shouts, had crowded to the rail, caught the man as, rising, he would have sprung upon the young American. A moment later and he had been dragged away and the blushing rescuer of beauty in distress and old age vanquished, had, stammering in embarrassment before the thanks of his two beneficiaries, gone back to his own part of the ship. He might have wholly lost his self-possession had not the vicious glance of the Italian and a shouted curse come to him while the man was struggling viciously with his unwilling captors. It cheered him unto laughter to hear Moresco laying claim to that mysterious importance which he had so often boasted, and note that he was threatening him with awful things. Much more interesting he found the small scene he was leaving, in which two utterly bewildered and astonished Germans and a little cockney girl were the three actors.