“Oh, I wish it were over! I wish the next month were over!” he replied restively.
At the dock next morning the scene was one of the usual confusion. The sailing time was drawing near and Mr. Evringham had not appeared.
Harry, with his little girl’s hand in his, stood at the foot of the gang plank, peering at every newcomer and growing more anxious every moment. Jewel occupied herself in throwing kisses to her mother, who stood at the rail far above, never taking her eyes from the little figure in the blue sailor suit.
The child noted her father’s set lips and the concentrated expression of his eyes.
“If grandpa doesn’t come what shall I do?” she asked without anxiety.
“You’ll go to England,” was the prompt response.
“Without my trunk!” returned the child in protest.
Her father looked again at the watch he held in his hand. The order to go ashore was sending all visitors down the gang plank. “By George, I guess you’re going, too,” he muttered between his teeth, when suddenly his father’s tall form came striding through the crowd. Mr. Evringham was carrying a long pasteboard box, and seemed breathless.
“Horse fell down. Devil of a time! Roses for your wife.”
Harry grasped the box, touched his father’s hand, kissed the child, and strode up the plank amid the frowns of officials.
Jewel’s eager eyes followed him, then, as he disappeared, lifted again to her mother, who smiled and waved her hand to Mr. Evringham. The latter raised his hat and took the occasion to wipe his heated brow. He was irritated through and through. The morning had been a chapter of accidents. Even the roses, which he had ordered the night before, had proved to be the wrong sort.
The suspense of the last fifteen minutes had been a distressing wrong to put upon any man. He had now before him the prospect of caring for a strange child, of taking her out of town at an hour when he should have been coming into it. She would probably cry. Very well; if she did he determined on the instant to ride out to Bel-Air in the smoking car, although he detested its odors and uncleanness. The whole situation was enormous. What a fool he had been, and what an intelligent woman was Mrs. Forbes! She had seen from the first the inappropriateness, the impossibility, of the whole proposition. His attention was attracted to the fact that the small figure at his side was hopping up and down with excitement.
“There’s father, there’s father!” she cried, as Harry joined his wife at the rail and they lifted the wealth of roses from the box and waved them.
“We’ve wronged him, Harry!” exclaimed Julia, trying to see the little face below through her misty eyes. “How I love him for bringing me these sweet things! It gives me such a different feeling about him.”