Ben had not taken particular notice of the young lady, and was much surprised when he felt a hand laid on his arm, and, turning, his eyes fell npon her face.
“May I speak a few words with you?” she said.
“Certainly,” answered Ben politely, though he could not conceal his astonishment.
The young lady looked uneasily at Tom, and hesitated.
“Won’t you move away a few steps, Tom?” said Ben, understanding the look.
“Thank you,” said the young lady, in a low voice. “Are you intending to sail for California by the next steamer?”
“I should like to, miss, but I am poor, and I don’t know whether I can afford the expense of a ticket.”
“Would you go if your ticket were paid-by a friend?”
“You bet I would-I mean I certainly would,” answered Ben, correcting his phraseology, as he remembered that he was addressing a young lady, and not one of his boy friends.
“Would you be willing to take care of me—that is, to look after me?”
Ben was certainly surprised; but he answered promptly and with native politeness: “It would be a pleasure to me.”
“You were going alone-you had no friends with you?”
“None at all, miss.”
“That is well,” she said. “What is your name?”
“Do you live in the city?”
“No, miss. I came from the small town of Hampton.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Nowhere. I only arrived in the city this morning.”
“Will you be able to go by the next steamer?”
Ben hesitated. It almost took away his breath—it seemed so sudden-but he reflected that there really was no reason why he should not, and he answered in the affirmative.
“Then go back with me, and I will engage passage for us both.”
The young lady and Ben reentered the office, Tom Cooper looking on with astonishment. She approached the counter, this time with confidence, and the agent came forward.
“I have concluded to engage passage for myself and this lad,” she said.
The agent regarded her with surprise.
“Both first-class?” he asked.
“Certainly, sir. I should like the lad to occupy a stateroom near mine.”
“Very well. I will show you on the plan those that are unengaged. I cannot give either of you a stateroom to yourselves. I can give you a room with a very agreeable lady, a Mrs. Dunbar, and the boy can occupy part of the adjoining room.”
“Very well, sir.”
“What name?” continued the agent.
“Ida Sinclair,” answered the young lady, with visible hesitation.
“And the boy’s name?”
Miss Sinclair had forgotten; but Ben promptly answered for himself.
The young lady drew out her pocketbook, and produced several large bills, out of which she paid the passage money. Then, turning to Ben, she said: “Now we will go.”