The Luck of Smalley
THE LUCK OF SMALLEY
By Henry C. Rowland
Illustrations by J. H. Gardner Soper
MR. JEROME PONSONBY SMALLEY stood at the end of the long jetty and surveyed his recent purchase with the complacent pride felt only by the landsman when for the first time he finds himself the happy owner of a rakish vessel. Out in the harbor the brand-new fin-keel twenty-one-footer rode gracefully at her mooring, her gleaming hull of polished mahogany flashing brightly in the summer sunshine. To her elated owner she seemed a living thing of form divine and glorious enigmas, and he awaited with impatience the arrival of her newly engaged sailing-master, who was that morning to give him his maiden lesson in the gentle art of navigation.
Voices at the shore end of the jetty arousing him from his ecstatic revery, he turned to behold, in joyful surprise, one before whose obvious charm the beauties of his vessel were as dross. Whence she had come Mr. Smalley was in no fault to conjecture, as he knew that she had friends in that section of Long Island at whose house she was wont to visit.
He turned on his heel, and with a swing in his step suggestive of the heaving deep, made his way along the jetty, at the same time smoothing the bosom of his blue serge coat and setting his resplendent yachting cap at a more jaunty angle. As he drew near, the group looked up expectantly.
"Why, Mr. Smalley!" exclaimed the girl in a tone of glad surprise that increased the rate of Mr. Smalley's pulse by several beats to the minute. "I did not know that you were here. When did you arrive? Are you stopping at the hotel? You know papa and Jack, and let me present the Rev. Mr. Wynges."
Mr. Smalley bowed gracefully and murmured a few felicitations, glancing, however, somewhat darkly at the Rev. Mr. Wynges, whose name a garrulous society was beginning to whisper in connection with that of the lady. Miss Felicia Vaugn, the beautiful daughter of General Horatius Vaugn, Retired, of the Army.
"We are so disappointed," said Miss Vaugn plaintively. "It is Regatta Day over at the Sachem Harbor Yacht Club—across the Sound, you know—and we had planned to charter a launch and run across; but we find that everything is taken except this nasty little sail-boat!"
Mr. Smalley stifled an exclamation of delight. It seemed to him that Fortune had deliberately bestowed upon him all the honors of a heart trump hand.
"Do you particularly wish to go in a launch?" he asked, throwing into his voice as much casualty as the situation would allow him.
"By no means!" replied the General. "I detest the smelly contraptions. Give me a roaring breeze with a wet sea and a flowing sheet——"
"And a wind that follows fast," quoted the clergyman sepulchrally.
"Right you are," pursued the General heartily. "Then put her on the starboard tack with the spray flying over the port-quarter and let her go free! That's the way I like to sail!"
Mr. Smafley listened to this peroration with an admiration not unmixed with envy. Although he had carefully perused "Every Man His Own Skipper," and "The Small Boat Sailer," according to the text of which there appeared to be some discrepancy in running free on the starboard tack, he was nevertheless impressed with the fact that the General's words possessed the true nautical swing, and decided that at some time in the elder gentleman's career he must have had much to do with affairs maritime.
"The reason for my asking," he continued, with a mighty effort to hide his exultation, "is that I am just about to take a spin across the Sound in my new yacht, and nothing could give me more pleasure than to put her at your disposal for the day. You will find her fast, able, and comfortable," he concluded, quoting the words of the advertisement which had first attracted his interest in the vessel.
There was a chorus of gratified surprise from the group.
"Why, have you a yacht, Mr. Smalley?" exclaimed Miss Vaugn, her pretty face aglow with interest and delight.
"There she lies—off the jetty," answered Mr. Smalley indifferently, indicating his recent purchase.
"A rakish-looking clipper!" exclaimed the General largely.
"A beautiful vessel!" exclaimed the Rev. Wynges; "but don't you think that she looks a trifle—eh—tippy?"
"A perfect darling!" cried Miss Vaugn. "Isn't she, Jack?"
"She's a peach!" observed Jack critically; "bully lines. Got a fin, hasn't she? Twenty-one-foot water-line?"
"You know Jack is a sailor-man like yourself, Mr. Smalley," observed Miss Vaugn. "He sailed all of last summer with Mr. Winthrop, on his racing-boat."
"Yes?" replied Mr. Smalley indulgently. "Well," he continued, with a rare and beautiful modesty, "I don't pretend to be a crack, Miss Vaugn. Of course, I know the topping-lift from the fore-stay and the lazareet from the fore-peak and a few things like that——"
"I'll bet you do!" exclaimed the General admiringly. "I can tell a sailor-man by the cut of his jib."
"Or the cut of his jeans," suggested Jack, a bit satirically.
"I'd trust myself with you anywhere," began Miss Vaugn, regarding the faultless yachting garb with a look of such respect as opera-boxes and automobiles had never been able to produce.
"Did I understand you to say that you were expecting your sailing-master?" inquired the Rev. Wynges anxiously.
"What do you want of a sailing-master?" demanded Jack, with the ill-timed insistence of youth.
"I like to carry a man to pull and haul," said Mr. Smalley. "Besides, I have not yet become very well acquainted with these waters, and with a deep-draught boat one must have a good local knowledge of rocks and shoals."
The Rev. Wynges nodded approvingly.
"A very sensible view—very sensible indeed," he observed.
"Hadn't we better be getting aboard?" suggested the General. "It really is tremendously good of you to ask us, Smalley; and as to the pleasure of a trip in a beautiful sailing yacht like that and one of these chugging sea-skunks——"
"Papa!" exclaimed his daughter, reprovingly.
"If you will be so good as to excuse me for a few minutes," said Mr. Smalley, "I will jump in the dinghy and pull off aboard to see whether we have everything that we need—ice, you know, and a small bottle or two——"
"Yes, yes; certainly—in case we should get chilled," assented the General approvingly. "The air is quite fresh to-day."
Mr. Smalley, to whom there had come an idea of such brilliance that he was fairly dazzled, strode quickly down to the landing and stepping into the dinghy pulled swiftly off to his yacht. Making the painter fast to the traveller, he unlocked the lazarette and after a minute's search produced a hammer, a chisel, and a piece of sandpaper. Stepping back into the dinghy, he passed himself under the stern, and with a few muscular efforts neatly removed the letters G-U-L-L, which had hitherto spelled the name upon the narrow stern. Next, with his sandpaper he quickly effaced all traces of the lettering. This simple task accomplished, he pulled strongly back to the landing.
"I think that we have everything necessary," he announced. "Has my sailing-master put in an appearance?"
"Not yet," replied the General. "Don't you think that we can get along without him? It is growing late."
"Oh, it is stiff quite early!" exclaimed the Rev. Wynges hastily. "I think that it would be much more prudent to wait for the sailing-master!"
While heartily agreeing with his rival, Mr. Smalley did not see fit to give utterance to the sentiment.
"You've got a fair wind over," remarked Jack; "and there'll be lots of it when you get clear of the shore," he added with gusto.
"I think that perhaps I had better walk up the street and see if I can find my man," remarked Mr. Smalley, into whose heart a chill doubt had suddenly struck, a good deal as might the first sight of a "black hand" dismay the bridge-player whose partner had made the trump a heart.
Followed by cheerful admonitions to hurry, from all but the Rev. Wynges, who was noting the freshening breeze with keen misgiving, Mr. Smalley strode rapidly up the road in the direction of the village tavern, where some cold psychic wave told him that he might find the delinquent. As he was about to enter, a squat-figured individual, with a face that would have blanched a tropic sunset, cannoned heavily through the swinging door, colliding against Mr. Smalley with a force that almost knocked him from his feet. With wrath in his heart he confronted his convivial sailing-master.
The expressions that rippled from the patrician lips of the irate owner, while in generous vogue upon the heaving main, were not to be found among the nautical terms which he had recently acquired from his study of "The Small Boat Sailer." Nevertheless, they were of a force and fluency to arouse the unbounded admiration of their innocent source.
"D'ye hear that?" he cried triumphantly, to the admiring and interested group of loungers who had followed in his wake. "I take it all back, fren's—that what I said about his bein' a light-draught, paint-slick, over-canvassed land-lubber! He ain't no short chop, he ain't! He's a ground swell—that's what he is! Why, he's my owner!"
Mr. Smalley indignantly and with some heat repudiated all proprietorship to such an undesirable craft as the one before him. Whatever he might be at sea, ashore at least he was thoroughly the master of such diction as might serve to give point and fluency to his views; moreover, while æsthetic in his tastes, he was of a size of frame which seemed to render contradiction ill-advised, especially when, as on the present occasion, he appeared to court it.
After the first shock of pained surprise, the sailing-master subsided miserably upon an upturned skiff, where he made frequent mention of his widowed mother and bitterly complained against the injustice of being always misunderstood.
Thoroughly disgusted, Mr. Smalley turned upon his heel and retraced his steps to the landing, where his guests were eagerly awaiting his return.
"Did you find him?" inquired the Rev. Wynges, with eagerness.
"Unfortunately I did," replied Mr. Smalley; "but I do not think that we will wait for him. His—eh—condition was not such as made me wish to entrust him with such a valuable cargo. I think that, under the circumstances, we will endeavor to do without him."
"I—eh—trust," began the Rev. Wynges, "that you are—eh—experienced——"
It needed but this insinuation to confirm the rash purpose already forming in Mr. Smalley's mind. He had observed, on walking to the landing, that the wind was blowing directly toward their destination; also, as it seemed to his slight experience, sheltered as was the cove from the high sand hills to windward, that it was not unduly strong. With two men to help him, and a boy who had had some experience in boat-handling, it did not appear a difficult feat to sail his twenty-one-footer across the Sound. Should the wind fail, or still be ahead upon their return, he could secure a launch through the Club, of which he had lately become a member, or at least obtain a man to sail them back again.
"If I did not feel that I was competent to sail my boat across the Sound——" he began with dignity, when Miss Vaugn interrupted him.
"Have I not already told you that I would trust you?" she asked, with a ravishing smile. "Let us go aboard. It is much nicer, anyway, just to have ourselves. Come on; let's go out. Oh, what a duck of a little boat!"
As they stepped down into the dinghy, Jack remained upon the jetty.
"Come on!" called Mr. Smalley, seeing that he hesitated.
"Oh, Jack's not going with us!" cried Miss Vaugn. "He just came down to see us off. He's got a baseball game this afternoon—besides, he's got to take the horses back."
Mr. Smalley's heart sank with the weight of a five-hundred-pound mushroom anchor. He felt like a general whose staff-officers are falling one by one. Seeing, however, that it was too late for an orderly retreat, he stuck manfully to his guns.
"That is too bad!" he managed to say. "Well, good-by!"
He picked up the oars and began to row out to the boat with a heavy heart, but deriving much consolation from the recollection that the builders of the boat had guaranteed her practically impossible to sink or capsize. As they rounded under the stern Miss Vaugn uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"Why, Mr. Smalley, your boat has no name!"
"No," he replied easily. "The builders gave her a name when she was launched, but I did not like it. It was a fancy of mine to call her after the first lady to come aboard when she was in my possession—with her permission, of course," he added gallantly.
"Who was she?" inquired Miss Vaugn demurely.
"She is just in the act of coming aboard," replied Mr. Smalley, as, stepping out of the dinghy, he reached out his hand to assist the lady over the side.
Miss Vaugn dimpled delightfully. "Why, how perfectly charming! then you will christen her 'Felicia'?" she exclaimed, with rapture.
"If you will permit me. I can think of no more charming name!"
"I'm afraid that there will hardly be room for so long a name," observed the Rev. Wynges. "Her end is very narrow."
"Then I will have the over-hang cut down to make room!" said Mr. Smalley, with heat. "That has got to be her name!"
" 'Felicia,' that means 'Good luck,' " said the Rev. Wynges thoughtfully. "Let us hope that she may never lack an equivalent good management."
"Touché!" gurgled the General, nudging Mr. Smalley. "Not bad for a sky-pilot, eh, Smalley?" he whispered aside to that gentleman.
"As I remember the Latin derivation, the word means 'happiness,' " said Mr. Smalley. "In that case it is most appropriate!"
"Well, let's hoist the main-sheet!" cried the General heartily, grabbing at the star-board topping-lift, which was the nearest rope at hand. "Heave-ho, my lads!"
Mr. Smalley, whose nautical literary research had not been entirely without avail, especially upon a boat at anchor, cast off the gaskets which secured the canvas, and, after a short search, discovering the main-sail halliards, the creamy sail was soon hoisted. The jib was a somewhat more complicated problem, there appearing to be no end of lines which interfered with setting it; but by persistent effort he finally succeeded in getting it clear and running it up. As the boat was lying head to wind with the main sheet hauled aft and belayed, the hoisting of the jib caused the bow to swing off sufficiently to fill the main-sail, whereupon the craft began to slowly forge ahead. Mr. Smalley, seeing that they had already started, although a little sooner than he had anticipated, quickly let go the buoyed mooring-line and they were off.
"Why, we're going the wrong way!" exclaimed Miss Vaugn in surprise.
"She'll turn in a minute!" he replied, jamming the tiller hard up and at the same time easing the main-sheet.
"That front sail is loose!" cried the Rev. Wynges, noting in some alarm the flapping of the jib.
"Just haul on that rope beside you," commanded Mr. Smalley. "No—that is the painter of the dinghy-the other one!"
The Rev. Wynges by a happy accident grabbing the jib-sheet, the boat swung swiftly off until the light breeze was almost astern.
"Duck!" yelled the General, whose strategic eye was following the evolutions of the main-boom.
The others instinctively obeyed the order, and none too soon, as just at that moment the main-sail jibed. The Rev. Wynges, belonging to a somewhat stiff-necked persuasion, failed to sufficiently humble himself before the all-compelling forces of the elements, with the result that, although his head escaped, his hat was sent spinning over the side.
"W-w-what was that?" he inquired, raising a pale face cautiously above the cock-pit rail.
"I jibed her over to save time," replied Mr. Smalley nonchalantly. "I'm sorry we can't pick up your hat, but with the breeze in this quarter it is impossible—unless you want me to jibe again."
"Oh, never mind the hat!" exclaimed the clergyman hurriedly. "That is part of the fun; besides, it is an old one."
The wind being now on the port quarter, and steadily freshening as they sped swiftly down the bay, Mr. Smalley slacked off the sheet to what he considered the proper limit, after which there was nothing to do but direct the boat's course. Far across the ten-mile sweep of dark blue water they saw the snowy specks of myriad sails, as they darted back and forth about the starting line, and as they swept swiftly onward their tall sail caught the freshening breeze until their speed became appalling. Outside the bay, a coasting schooner was beating to the westward under reefed canvas, and soon they overtook and quickly passed a large oyster-sloop with a party of picnickers aboard, who cheered them admiringly as they dashed gallantly through the rising sea.
"This is glorious! glorious!" cried the General exultantly. "Ho, for a life on the ocean wave! eh, Dominie?"
"G-g-glorious!" replied the bare-headed clergyman, whose somewhat ascetic face betrayed a growing pallor with each drop of the long stern into the trough of the following sea.
"Magnificent!" cried the General. "But it strikes me that there is a certain chill in the air."
"It is down below, in the first locker on the starboard side," observed Mr. Smalley, who was having some difficulty in meeting the swing of each succeeding plunge.
"Right you are!" replied the General, filled with admiration for the perspicuity of his host. "Come along, Dominie, it will do you good! Nothing like knowing the right time for a little stimulant."
"Thank you," replied the clammy Rev. Wynges, "but the air up here is very bracing and it is rather stuffy in the cabin. Don't you think that it would be well to haul down that front sail, Mr. Smalley? We don't want to have this fine sail over too quickly."
"We want to get over in time to see the start of the race," replied Mr. Smahey, who was beginning to feel that the "fine sail" could be over none too quickly for him. "Besides, I don't like to leave the tiller."
"Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore!" chanted the General, who was pulling at something else in the cabin.
Miss Vaugn, her pink cheeks aglow, and big blue eyes sparkling with excitement, gazed admiringly at her host, whose athletic arms were wrestling manfully with the kick of the tiller.
"I never knew that you were such a splendid sailor, Mr. Smalley," she exclaimed brightly. "You never say anything about it."
"I don't like to hear a man brag about his accomplishments," modestly replied her host, who was beginning to wonder how he was going to stop the boat when their destination should be reached.
"Aren't you enjoying it, Mr. Wynges?" asked Miss Vaugn. "Don't you think it's simply thrilling?"
"D-d-d-d-delightful!" replied the Rev. Wynges, whose facial expression belied the word. "B-b-but I r-regret to say that the g-glare has given me a sick headache. I f-fear that something which I ate for breakfast has disagreed with me."
His following performance gave an air of simple honesty to the words.
" 'Tis better to have eaten and lost, than never to have eaten at all," said Mr. Smalley softly.
"Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum," chanted the General, emerging from the cabin.
"I think that I will go down stairs and get out of the glare," remarked the Rev. Wynges.
The wind was blowing in humming blasts from the sou'west, and soon the new-named Felicia was half way across the Sound. The close-hauled coasting schooner had shaved them close, but, although feeling that she had the right of way, both legally and by virtue of her tonnage, Mr. Smalley did not alter his course, not knowing what calamitous results might ensue. As it was, they narrowly escaped being cut down, just managing to slip under the schooner's bows pursued by a wild chorus of yells.
"What did they say?" inquired Miss Vaugn, curiously.
"They were cheering us," replied the host. "These old shell-backs delight in a daring piece of sailing."
"It sounded rather funny for a cheer," observed the girl meditatively. "But I suppose that's just a way these rough sailors have of expressing their pleasure."
As they drew in on the Connecticut shore Mr. Smalley observed with dismay that it would be necessary to cut around the end of an island which had up to that time escaped his observation. Just under its lee lay the Yacht Club, gay with bunting and the multi-colored flash of summer costumes. The tide was far out, as Mr. Smalley observed from the rocks along the shore, but he judged that there must be plenty of water inside, as the cove was filled with sails.
"How the dickens am I ever going to stop this rampaging chariot of joy?" he thought desperately to himself, although to the others he presented an alert and confident composure. As he neared the end of the island he pulled the tiller steadily upward, his heart pounding in his throat.
For a moment the big sail seemed to hang slack; then a puff of air caught the leach aback. The boom was whipped high in air as if by a great invisible hand.
"Duck!" yelled the General, whose previous experience with that fragment of naval architecture had taught him wisdom.
They dropped obediently; then for an instant the big sail seemed hanging over their heads. There was a crash as if the boat had been hurled bodily against a cliff, and an agonized wail from the cabin; then with a quick leap they drove into the sheltered waters of the cove, while a chorus of shouts arose from the excited group upon the veranda of the Club.
"Keep off!" yelled a stentorian voice through a megaphone. "You've got no water! Luff—luff!"
In an agony of doubt, Mr. Smalley shoved the tiller desperately from him. There was in fact no other thing to do, as had he steered the other way, he would have gone upon the island. The Felicia shot ahead, her sails flapping like musketry; then suddenly she stopped—stopped in her tracks, and, with an ear-splitting crash, the mast lurched forward over the bow, spars, sails, and cordage, striking the water with a splash.
Mr. Smalley described a graceful parabola, landing with more force than elegance against the after end of the house, where he furnished an admirable fender for Miss Vaugn, who had closely followed him. The General, scenting danger like the old war-horse that he was, had clung desperately to the rail and sustained his strong strategic position, while the wails proceeding from the cabin were both heart-rending and alarming.
Gently extricating himself from the struggling lady, Mr. Smalley picked her up bodily and placed her on a thwart, where for a moment or two she sat sobbing and laughing hysterically. The General, who apparently had been the first to recover from the shock, was rapidly hauling the dinghy alongside. From the depths of the cabin came a frenzied patter of supplications.
"Come, Smalley!" called the General, "no time to lose! Let's abandon ship!"
Mr. Smalley lifted Miss Vaugn in his strong arms and lowered her gently into the boat. This done, he dived below, to emerge presently, half lifting, half shoving the Rev. Mr. Wynges. A fleet of row-boats had quickly surrounded them, and in a moment the Club launch came threading its way between. In the stern of this latter craft Mr. Smalley recognized a former class-mate, who it happened was the vice-commodore of the Club.
"Hard luck, Jerry!" he called, as the launch came alongside; "but it might have happened to anybody. You could have rounded up all right on an ordinary low tide, but this full moon has sucked the water 'way out."
"Oh, that's it, is it? " replied Mr. Smalley, in the voice of one who has just heard the solution of a baffling mystery. "I always thought that there was plenty of water here at all tides."
"Barring your mast, she's not hurt any," reassured his friend comfortingly. "Nothing but soft mud under her keel. She must have a whacking old fin! No one hurt, I hope," he went on, in the voice of one pursuing a minor detail.
"I fear that I have sustained internal injuries," began the Rev. Wynges.
"Well, the fleet surgeon is out aboard the flag-ship. He'll fix you up all right. Come aboard—I'll have your boat taken in charge. You and your guests are just in time to come aboard with me and see the race."
"How jolly!" cried Miss Vaugn.
"Capital! capital!" cried the General heartily. "It's a shame, my boy," he went on, turning to Mr. Smalley, "that this handsome boat should have got dismasted this way, especially through no fault of yours. By George, sir!" he continued to the "Vice," "I never had such a magnificent sail in my life. Smalley, here, is certainly a master hand at a boat. You should have seen us come ploughing across—right straight, I tell you! None of this tacking back and forth and around, but right in a bee line!"
"And to think that she should have just this morning been named after me!" wailed his pretty daughter, her blue eyes full of tears. "Why, I feel directly responsible."
"You are directly responsible for the finest and the most exciting sail I ever had, Miss Vaugn!" exclaimed Mr. Smalley, with deep feeling.
"Jove, but you're the boy to carry sail, Smalley!" cried the "Vice." "We were all watching you from the Club-house. You surely had your nerve with you to jibe around that buoy; but she took it like a steeple-chaser. How she did come!"
"I was afraid that we might be too late for the start," explained Mr. Smalley modestly.
"You're a good sport! But I say, why didn't you trim in your sheet when you jibed?"
"She came over a little quicker than I expected," answered Mr. Smalley frankly. "You see, she's a new boat and I haven't quite learned her tricks as yet."
"No? Is that so? Well, you certainly meant to get acquainted. Never mind, old chap. A new stick won't cost much, and her hull's not hurt any. Well, let's start."
The midsummer hop was in progress at the big hotel at Lobster Bay. In the brilliantly lighted ballroom pretty summer girls, whose sun-tanned faces and round, athletic arms seemed strangely dusky as seen against their snowy gowns, swung in and out to the rollicking strains of the band, while gallant cavaliers in yachting ducks and the statelier evening clothes of the formal city, led them this way and that, or innocently discovered sheltered nooks upon the broad verandas.
Among these latter artful swains was Mr. Smalley, who, from the darkest shadows to be found, pointed out to his demure companion such interesting objects far in the murky distance, as the Mate's Island fight and the brilliant blaze of passing steamers swinging down the Sound.
"You see that light right opposite, Felicia? That is at the Sachem Harbor Yacht Club."
As a matter of fact it was the anchor-light of a coal-barge lying at the harbor-mouth, but it answered the purpose just as well.
"How near it looks; but things always do, across the water. I shall never forget that day," she murmured pensively.
"Nor I," answered Mr. Smalley with deep conviction. "What a fool I was—" he began thoughtlessly.
"Why?" she asked innocently. "I thought you were splendid."
"I mean for dashing into that mud-puddle without knowing how much water there was," he replied in haste. "But it taught me a lesson, Felicia. No matter how much a man may know about a boat, or how good a sailor he may be—or," he thought to himself, "how much of an ass"—"he has no right to take any chances where there is a lady concerned. I made a vow that day," he continued with perfect truth, "never to take a lady out again without a sailing-master—possibly two!"
"Do you often take ladies out?" she inquired a trifle coldly.
"There is one——"
"Then you had better beware. There is always more safety in numbers, you know."
"One whose course I should love to steer——"
"But suppose you ran her into a mud-bank? Would you abandon her——"
"One," pursued Mr. Smalley, ignoring the interruption, "who once said that she would trust me anywhere; said it at a time when I was undertaking a task of which I didn't know be——eh, that is, for whose happiness I took a risk that made my hair stand on end from beginning to end, and might easily have ended in a tragedy!"
Mr. Smalley's usually somewhat mocking voice had suddenly given way to a different note, and there was in his closing words a depth of feeling and true ring of honesty that thrilled the girl at his side. When she spoke again there was the slightest tremor to her sweet voice:
"Do you mean that——"
"I mean that I know as much about sailing as a star-fish knows of the Matterhorn. I deliberately invited you aboard my boat that day, risked your lives in crossing the Sound, came within an ace of getting run down, and then blundered into that mud-hole with about as much skill as a jackass coasting down a mountain on a land-slide."
There was a short silence; then Felicia spoke in an odd voice:
"Was it also a myth about the sailing-master?"
"By no means. That was one of the microscopic elements of truth about the whole business. He was entirely out of commission, and when I asked you to go in spite of that, I reckoned on Jack's helping me out. When he balked, I could see no way out of it with honor, and I wasn't man enough to own up to being a duffer. Besides, I really thought it would be all right."
There was another short silence; then Felicia asked slowly:
"Why have you told me all of this?"
"Because I want you to marry me, Felicia. You know that it is nothing new with me; but since that day you have seemed to care a little at times—and——"
"And I did so admire you that day!" she answered sadly, and in the voice of one completely disillusioned. "You seemed so strong and ready and competent. And to think that you really knew nothing about what you were doing all of the time!"
"That's just it, Felicia," he said doggedly. "I had an idea that you might think all of that—and—you see, it wasn't so at all. This is too serious for me to sail under false colors."
"It does seem to result disastrously," she admitted. "Think of the other poor Felicia!"
There was no reply, then suddenly Mr. Smalley felt a soft little hand drop upon his arm.
"You foolish boy!" said a tender voice in his ear. "I knew it all of the time——"
"You knew it, Felicia?" he exclaimed in surprise.
"Not at the time," she admitted. "But I learned it afterwards. It's rather dangerous to confide a secret to a girl's twin brother, you know. I wanted to see if you would tell me of your own accord, and——"
There was a sudden rustle of crushed draperies. A light step and a heavy one were heard on the veranda close at hand, and a new voice said, in a tone of disappointment:
"Pshaw—there is someone there already!"