When they left the breakfast table the first morning of the rough weather, Breckon offered to go on deck with Miss Kenton, and put her where she could see the waves. That had been her shapeless ambition, dreamily expressed with reference to some time, as they rose. Breckon asked, “Why not now?” and he promised to place her chair on deck where she could enjoy the spectacle safe from any seas the boat might ship. Then she recoiled, and she recoiled the further upon her father’s urgence. At the foot of the gangway she looked wistfully up the reeling stairs, and said that she saw her shawl and Lottie’s among the others solemnly swaying from the top railing. “Oh, then,” Breckon pressed her, “you could be made comfortable without the least trouble.”
“I ought to go and see how Lottie is getting along,” she murmured.
Her father said he would see for her, and on this she explicitly renounced her ambition of going up. “You couldn’t do anything,” she said, coldly.
“If Miss Lottie is very sea-sick she’s beyond all earthly aid,” Breckon ventured. “She’d better be left to the vain ministrations of the stewardess.”
Ellen looked at him in apparent distrust of his piety, if not of his wisdom. “I don’t believe I could get up the stairs,” she said.
“Well,” he admitted, “they’re not as steady as land—going stairs.” Her father discreetly kept silence, and, as no one offered to help her, she began to climb the crazy steps, with Breckon close behind her in latent readiness for her fall.
From the top she called down to the judge, “Tell momma I will only stay a minute.” But later, tucked into her chair on the lee of the bulkhead, with Breckon bracing himself against it beside her, she showed no impatience to return. “Are they never higher than that” she required of him, with her wan eyes critically on the infinite procession of the surges.
“They must be,” Breckon answered, “if there’s any truth in common report. I’ve heard of their running mountains high. Perhaps they used rather low mountains to measure them by. Or the measurements may not have been very exact. But common report never leaves much to the imagination.”
“That was the way at Niagara,” the girl assented; and Breckon obligingly regretted that he had never been there. He thought it in good taste that she should not tell him he ought to go. She merely said, “I was there once with poppa,” and did not press her advantage. “Do they think,” she asked, “that it’s going to be a very long voyage?”
“I haven’t been to the smoking-room—that’s where most of the thinking is done on such points; the ship’s officers never seem to know about it —since the weather changed. Should you mind it greatly?”
“I wouldn’t care if it never ended,” said the girl, with such a note of dire sincerity that Breckon instantly changed his first mind as to her words implying a pose. She took any deeper implication from them in adding, “I didn’t know I should like being at sea.”