NO, Starlight, I’m sorry, but I do not see how you can possibly be of the least use in the world.”
Captain Lewis tried to speak kindly, but, big boy or no, real tears stood in Starlights eyes. “Why, do you feel as badly as that, Starlight?”
Starlight gave a nod which meant that he did feel just as badly as that, and at the same time succeeded in choking down what he feared might have proved an audible little sob.
“Well, then, let me see,” and the Captain leaned forward on his rude desk and thought a moment. They were in the cabin of the “Blue Bird,” whither Starlight had rowed over that morning, with such a favor to ask of the “Blue Bird’s” Captain as he never yet had asked of anybody.
“And yet you could do little odds and ends for me now, couldn’t you?” continued the Captain, after what seemed to Starlight a never-ending pause.
“Yes, sir,” he answered frankly, brushing away his tears with his sleeve in awkward boy fashion; “I’m sure I could save you ever so many steps. You know I wouldn’t think of going unless I really felt I could work my passage.”
“You are a proud little fellow, Job, but, then, I like your spirit, and if you won’t take the voyage as a cabin passenger at my invitation, why, then, you shall go as you propose. Of course your Aunt has given her consent.”
“I have not asked her yet, sir. I thought it would be half the battle to have your permission first.”
The Captain laughed heartily over Starlight’s diplomacy, and then they talked on for a quarter of an hour longer, arranging the details of the journey that was to be, if only Aunt Frances could be persuaded to give her consent—a pretty big if, by the way. At the end of that time Starlight, remembering that the Captain must have many things to attend to, said good-afternoon, shaking his rough sailor hand with a world of gratitude in his happy face. Then he clambered nimbly down the “Blue Bird’s” ladder, and jumping into his boat, rowed off toward New York and toward home, for, scarcely able to believe their senses, Aunt Frances and Starlight were back in the old house, with everything so nearly restored to what it had been before that those two years in the Van Vleet homestead already seemed half a dream.
And now the 15th of June had dawned, and as the “Blue Bird” was to sail that afternoon, everything was in readiness for the departure of the Bonifaces, and everything was in readiness for something else, too, which was nothing more nor less than a wedding at Aunt Frances’s. And who do you suppose were going to be married? Who, to be sure, but Josephine and Harry, and Josephine was to stay in America, and her home was to be right there in the old house with Aunt Frances. Strange, wasn’t it, that she should be willing to stay behind, when all the family were going away across the ocean to live in England? But that is one of the things that is often happening in this queer world of ours, and the beauty of it is that it is all right and beautiful, and just as the good Father Himself would have it. And so Josephine was married at noon in Aunt Frances’s parlor, and even her father was there, for it had been arranged that the ceremony should be performed when the Bonifaces were on their way to the “Blue Bird,” and when it would be an easy matter simply to carry the Captain in and lift him on to the broad lounge in the sitting-room.
There was something sad in the fact that, so strong was party feeling everywhere, that it had been difficult to find in the neighborhood the four men needed to accomplish the moving of Captain Boniface into the city and then out to the ship; four men, that is, who did not feel that they had some sort of grudge against the English officer. But Jake, the Marberrys’ man, had at last pressed into the service three others of his race, who bore Captain Boniface no ill-will. It was touching to see with what tender care the four strong fellows lifted their helpless burden, for although the Captain had recovered, as Dr. Melville said he would, partial use of his arms and hands, he was still powerless to take a single step.
Mr. Marberry naturally officiated at the wedding, and the twins, of course, were there, smiling and sweet, though possibly a little self-conscious, in their new white dresses, with soft silk sashes, tied in two exactly similar bows in the middle of their straight little backs. And the Van Vleets were there, and Miss Pauline, who looked rather mystified at the whole proceeding, and Captain Wadsworth besides, and Colonel and Mrs. Hamilton, the two latter of whom were invited because of Harry’s position in the Colonel’s office.
It was doubtless a real satisfaction to Captain Wadsworth and Colonel Hamilton to be present, though, when you come to think of it, it was rather a remarkable state of things.
Here they were attending a wedding in the very house that they had lawfully succeeded in wresting from Miss Avery, and here she was permanently established in her own home again, with the Captain out of it, and of his own accord too. It was strange indeed how it had all come about, and stranger still to think that a little girl of ten, mustering up sufficient courage to call upon two strange gentlemen several months before, had had much to do with bringing about this delightful change in affairs; but, as we all hear so often that we do not half take in the blessed truth of it, “God’s ways are not as our ways,” and the trifles, as we think them, are likely to prove anything but trifles.
It was more than a delight to Harry to have Colonel Hamilton present at his wedding, for although his employer was his senior by only a few years, Harry looked up to him with an admiring veneration amounting almost to worship. There was something about Alexander Hamilton that inspired this sort of devotion, an air, some have said, of serious, half-sad thoughtfulness, as though the cruel and unnecessary sacrifice of his life, which he felt in honor bound to make in 1804, cast long shadows of presentiment before it.
When the ceremony was over, and Hazel had been the first to press the lovingest sort of a kiss on Josephine’s lips, all the rest gathered around to congratulate the young couple, trying for the moment to forget the sorrowful parting so soon to follow. Then when they had eaten, or pretended to eat, some of the good things Aunt Frances had prepared in honor of the occasion, it was time to go down to the barge that was waiting at Fort George to carry the “Blue Bird’s” passengers. Josephine’s good-byes were all said at the house. She could not bear to have any strangers near when she took that long farewell of her father and mother, and Hazel and Bonny Kate, and then, going up to the room that Aunt Frances had fitted up for her, and burying her face in the pillows of the sofa, it seemed to her as though her heart would break. Sad enough for a bride, you think—so different from all the joyous cheer that ought to belong to a wedding; and yet many happy days were in store for Josephine, many happy years in the old homestead, never so homelike and attractive as since Aunt Frances had regained possession of it. There was quite a little company of them walking down to the barge, so much of a company, indeed, that some boys, who noticed them, wondered “what was up,” and having nothing better to do, followed in their train. Captain Boniface, of course, was driven down, and so was Mrs. Boniface and Kate; but Hazel preferred to walk, and with a “teary” little Marberry on either arm made her way along with the rest. There was but one bright spot on the otherwise dark horizon of those little Marberrys, and that was that Hazel’s pony, Gladys, had taken up her abode in the Rector’s stable, and was to be theirs from that day forth; and they took a sort of gloomy comfort in determining that as soon as they had said goodbye to Hazel herself they would go straight home and into Gladys’s stall, and ease their heavy little hearts by doing what they could for the welfare of Hazel’s pony. There was no doubt about it, the Marberrys were the most devoted of friends; but there was one thing that puzzled Hazel: Starlight was not as downcast as the occasion seemed to demand. On the contrary, he seemed more cheerful than for many days, and the nearer came the hour for the departure, why the more light-hearted. It was most inexplicable. Could it be, she thought, that she had been mistaken in him all these years, and that, after all, he was a boy with no more feeling than “other boys”?
It seems that Aunt Frances had finally given her consent to Starlight’s scheme to make the round trip on the “Blue Bird,” and see the Bonifaces safely landed on British soil, not, however, you may be sure, until she had talked the plan well over with Captain Lewis; but it had all been kept a carefully guarded secret from Hazel, and even Flutters did not know of it. At Fort George final leave was taken of Milly and Tilly, Aunt Frances and the Van Vleets; but we will not say very much about that. There are quite too many good-byes in the world for most of us as it is, and yet, where were the happy meetings were it not for these same good-byes?
Harry Avery and Starlight went over in the barge to the vessel, and as Starlight earlier in the day had stealthily stowed away his baggage, consisting in greater part of an old violin, there was nothing to betray that he had any thought other than to return in the barge with Harry when the time came.
It was not an easy thing to get Captain Boniface aboard of the “Blue Bird,” but finally it was safely accomplished to the great relief of everybody, including even Bonny Kate, who had been very much afraid the men would let him fall.
But no one watched the proceeding with greater evident anxiety than Flutters, for Flutters had given himself over mind and body to the Captain, anticipating his every wish, and trying to be both hands and feet to him; and Hazel had been sufficiently gracious to resume without demurring the brushing of her own clothes and sundry other little duties which had of late been performed for her by Flutters.
As for Flutters, now that his father was dead, it mattered not to him where home might be, if it were only with the Bonifaces; but he thought he should like some day, when they could spare him from the Rectory over there in Cheshire, to run down to Burnham, and without letting them know who he was, perhaps have a chat with those little white children of his father’s, that were babies when he left England, if he should happen to find them playing in the garden of the house where he used to live.
It was a beautiful early-summer day, that 15th of June, and the bay lay sparkling like silver in the sunshine. The “Blue Bird” was booked to sail at three o’clock, and at the exact moment the sailors began pulling hand over hand with their “Yo, heave O,” and the “Blue Bird’s” anchor was weighed.
Harry Avery had kissed Mrs. Boniface good-bye, and once again promised, with a tremble in his voice, “to take the best care of Josephine,” and now he was climbing down the ship’s side, and the rowers of the barge, bending to their oars, were simply waiting to “give way,” till he should have stepped aboard.
Starlight, with hands in his trousers’ pockets, stood on the “Blue Bird’s” deck, apparently unconcerned. Flutters, wondering what the fellow could be thinking of, with an excited gesture gave him a shove in the direction of the barge, while Hazel, with a strong accent on every word, cried, “Another minute, Job Starlight, and you’ll be left.”
“It can’t be helped, Hazel; I’m left now,” Starlight answered, and indeed truthfully, for the barge was already yards away; then, seeing how real was Hazel’s anxiety over what she deemed a most distressing accident, he hastened to announce, his face wreathed in smiles, “But it’s all right, Hazel; I am going to see you safe to England, and Aunt Frances is in the secret.” Hazel, as weak as a kitten with delight and astonishment, leaned against the ship’s rail, and could not find voice to speak for two whole minutes; while Captain Lewis looked on, rubbing his palms complacently together, and thinking what a grand thing it was to have had a hand in a surprise like that.