“Hush,” said Anne, with her eyes on Judy.
Judy was not afraid. She was still weak and wan, but she was braver than the little country girls, and not easily frightened.
“It is probably a pussy cat,” she scoffed.
“Or a hen,” giggled Amelia.
Anne said nothing. The darkness, the crashing storm outside, and Judy’s illness had upset her, and she shivered with apprehension.
“No,” Nannie flared, with a scornful look at Amelia and Judy, “it isn’t a cat and it isn’t a hen. It sneezed!”
“Ask who’s there,” advised Judy from her couch.
“I don’t dare,” said Nannie.
“I don’t dare,” said Amelia.
So that it was little timid Anne, after all, who gathered up her courage and went to the foot of the stairs and said in a trembling voice:
“Please, who is up there?”
For a moment there was silence, and then some one said in sepulchral tones:
“You won’t ever tell?”
The girls stared at each other.
“What shall we say?” whispered Anne.
“Say ‘never,’” suggested Judy, wishing she were well enough to manage this exciting episode.
“Never,” said the little girls all together.
There was a rustling in the hay in the loft, then cautious steps, and a figure appeared at the top of the stairs.
At sight of it, Amelia shrieked and Nannie giggled, but Anne ran forward with both hands out, and with her fair little face alight with welcome.
“Why, Tommy Tolliver, Tommy Tolliver,” she said, “is it really you, is it really, really you?”
TOMMY TOLLIVER: SEAMAN
Tommy shook hands with Anne, then sat down disconsolately on the bottom step.
“Yes,” he said, “it’s me.”
After a moment’s uncomfortable silence, Anne asked, “Didn’t you like it, Tommy?”
Tommy looked gloomy.
“Aw,” he burst out, “they thought I was too young—”
“Did you go as far as China?” questioned Amelia, eagerly.
“Of course he didn’t, Amelia,” said Nannie with a superior air; “he has only been away three weeks.”
“Then you didn’t get me any preserved ginger,” pouted Amelia.
“How could I?” But Tommy looked sheepish, as the memory of certain boastful promises came to him.
“Anyhow,” he announced suddenly, “I’m not going to give up. I am going to be a sailor some day—if I have to run away again.”
At that Judy sat up and fixed him with burning eyes.
“Did you go to sea?” she asked, intensely.
“I tried to.”
“How far did you get?”
“And they wouldn’t have you?”
“No. And I had used up all my money, so I had to come back.”
“Have you ever been on the ocean?”
“No. Have you?”