Kate looked at him with lowered lids, her lips curling slightly, but she did not defend the culprit. It was only one of what Prim called his “jokes:” he was the last man in the world to wish any such punishment. Moreover, she knew her father much better than the Honorable Prim knew his daughter, and whenever she had a favor to ask was invariably careful not to let his little tea-kettle boil over.
“Only a short time ago, father, you got a berth as supercargo on one of my grandfather’s ships for Mark Gilbert. Can’t you do it for Harry?”
“But, Kate, that was quite a different thing. Mark’s father came to me and asked it as a special favor.” His assumed authority at the shipping office rarely extended to the appointing of officers—not when the younger partners objected.
“Well, Harry’s father won’t come to you, nor will Harry; and it isn’t a different thing. It’s exactly the same thing so far as you are concerned, and there is a greater reason for Harry, for he is alone in the world and he is not used to hard work of any kind, and it is cruel to make a common sailor of him.”
“Why, I thought Temple was fathering him.”
“So Uncle George has, and would always look after him, but Harry is too brave and manly to live upon him any longer, now that Uncle George has lost most of his money. Will you see Mr. Pendergast, or shall I go down to the office?”
Prim mused for a moment. “There may not be a vacancy,” he ventured, “but I will inquire. The Ranger sails on Friday for the River Plate, and I will have Mr. Pendergast come and see me. Supercargoes are of very little use, my dear, unless they have had some business training, and this young man, of course, has had none at all.”
“This young man, indeed!” thought Kate with a sigh, stifling her indignation. “Poor Harry!—no one need treat him any longer with even common courtesy, now that St. George, his last hold, had been swept away.”
“I think on the whole I had better attend to it myself,” she added with some impatience. “I don’t want anything to go wrong about it.”
“No, I’ll see him, Kate; just leave it all to me.”
He had already decided what to do—or what he would try to do—when he first heard the boy wanted to leave the country. What troubled him was what the managing partner of the line might think of the proposition. As long as Harry remained at home and within reach any number of things might happen—even a return of the old love. With the scapegrace half-way around the world some other man might have a chance—Willits, especially, who had proved himself in every way worthy of his daughter, and who would soon be one of the leading lawyers of the State if he kept on.