“Would you hire it to us?” asked Jerry anxiously.
“I was thinking of that,” answered the owner of the Ripper. “I heard from my friend, Rose,” and he looked at the girl, “that you boys had had some experience with motor boats. I had rather hire mine out to some one who knew about machinery, than to persons who would have to learn. So, if we can make some deal, you may have a chance to run this boat. I’ve got to go to San Francisco in about a week.”
“We’ll take the boat,” said Jerry quickly, “that is—”
“Oh, you needn’t be afraid I’ll ask too much money for her,” interposed Charlie. “All I want is enough to pay for any possible damages, and for reasonable wear and tear. We’ll talk it over later.”
“Say, isn’t that glorious!” whispered Ned to Bob. “Think of having a motor boat, and cruising on the Pacific! We’re getting to be like Sinbad the sailor, making voyages all over.”
“Yes, but maybe he’ll want a small fortune for the hire of the Ripper,” objected Bob. “We haven’t any too much money, for this trip was rather costly.”
“If we could get damages for the Dartaway, we—”
“Yes, but ‘if’ is a big word, even though it only has two letters,” replied Bob quickly. “However, we’ll do our best to get the Ripper during our stay here, and we’ll take the girls out for some nice rides.”
“That’s what we will.”
Charlie speeded his boat about the bay for some time longer, and then; as the girls said they thought they had better go home, he put back, picked up the anchored boats, and the motor boys and their hosts were soon rowing to shore.
“Come over any evening, Charlie,” called Rose.
“Yes, come to-night,” urged Jerry. “We can talk over the boat proposition then.”
“I’ll be there,” replied the Ripper’s skipper, as he put about and went whizzing over the blue waters of the bay.
When the young people entered the gateway they saw Ponto stretched out on the bench in the shade, fast asleep.
“Wait a minute,” said Rose. “I’ll play a trick on him.”
She stole softly up, and, with a long piece of grass tickled the old colored servant on the ear. He put up his hand and sat up with a start.
“I ‘clar’ t’ goodness!” he said, “I were jest waitin’ fo’ yo’, an’ I close mah eyes, jest fo’ one little second, but dis atmosphere am so slumberous dat, ’fore I knows it, I’m sort of noddin’.”
“I guess you were more than nodding,” said Olivia. “But why were you waiting for us, Ponto?”
“‘Deed an’ I didn’t no mo’ dan nod, Miss Olivia, dat’s what I didn’t. But I’se been waitin’ heah a pow’ful long time, an’ I jest natcherly done gone an’ fell t’ noddin’.”
“But what were you waiting for?” persisted Olivia.
“Dis letter,” replied the colored man. “Massa Seabury done tole me t’ give it t’ one ob de young gentlemen what had de motor boat. He say it come from Cresville, an’ it might be important, so I done set heah waitin’, but I done forgot which young gentlemen he tole me t’ gib it to.”