Donald and Dorothy
Mary Mapes Dodge
"So," began the questioner grandly, as if to awe his man into a becoming deference, "you are the person who, according to Mr. Reed, rescued the twins? How—I mean in what way, by what means—did you save them?"
"Mostly by tryin', your honor," replied Jack, sullenly.
"Clever tar!" exclaimed Mr. Slade, in mock admiration, inwardly resolved to conciliate the man, if possible, by letting him have his own way for a while. "Well, I was on the wrong tack, as you sailors would say. Now, to start fair, can you tell me what happened after the first shock of the shipwreck was over? Which of the children did you pick up first?"
"Ah! They were always together, then; now we're getting it. Could you tell which was the mother of the twins?"
"Could I tell which was the mother of the twins? I didn't know half the passengers from t'other half, let alone knowin' which babby belonged to which mother. Why, man, boxin' the compass back'ard would be nothin' compared to that. All I can tell you is we was 'most all hove out into the sea, high and low together."
"I'd have you hove out again if you were my man, or make you keep a civiller tongue in your head," was Eben's savage retort. "Now, sir, will you or will you not tell me how you saved the two babies, and what became of the other one?"
"I will not," answered Jack, doggedly; then seeing that Mr. George was about to reprove him, he added, in an altered tone: "As for the savin', that's my business; but the other poor little critter must'a been put into the boat with its poor mother. I feel sartain it was."
"Sorry I can't oblige you," said Jack; "but you see it was night, and, besides, I'd forgot my specs."
"Did you see Mr. Robertson?" asked Slade, loftily. "Was he with the lady in the boat?"
"Well, if ever I met the like of land lubbers! Was he with the lady in the boat? Did I see him? Why, man, it warn't a pleasure-party. Out of all that shipload, barely twenty men and wimmen ever saw the sun rise again; and Mr. Robertson,—no, nor his wife, nor the babby, nor t'other poor lady,—warn't amongst them, as the master here can tell you; and none on 'em couldn't make us any the wiser about who the babbies belonged to. An' their mothers wasn't hardly ever on deck; 'most like they was sick in their state-rooms, for they was born ladies, both of 'em; and that's all you'll learn about it, if I stand here till daylight. Now, Capt'n, shall I pilot the gentl'man out?"
"Yes, you may," cried Eben, rising so suddenly that Jack's eyes blinked, though, apart from that, not a muscle stirred. "I'll have a talk with you outside."
"Jest my idee!" said Jack, with alacrity, holding wide the door. "No place like the open sea for a collision." Again his glance questioned Mr. Reed. He was in the habit of studying that face, very much as in times past he had studied the sky to learn the weather. But the stern answer he found there, this time, disappointed him, and "saved Eben Slade from bein' stove in an' set beam-end in less than no time," as Jack elegantly remarked to himself, while Mr. George rose and bade his visitor a stiff "good-evening."