The Charm School
kindly face crinkling with good humor. He nudged Chad with his elbow.
    “Don’t we, son?”
    “We do indeed.” Debonair as a fairy-tale prince, Chad bowed from the waist.
    “Safe winds and a fair voyage.”
    Isadora savored the gentle warmth he inspired in her. “I shall write a letter daily, telling you of all my adventures.” She caught a merry, conspiratorial look from Abel; they had agreed that each letter would contain a private report on the conduct of the skipper and crew.
    She took an awkward step back, praying no yardarm would sweep her away.
    “I know you and Captain Calhoun have business to discuss, so if you’ll excuse me …” She took another step back. Kiss me goodbye, her heart begged him.
    Kiss me goodbye.
    But of course, the mad fantasy had no place on a deck aswarm with sailors.
    She lifted her gloved hand and offered a lame wave. And then it happened.
    Chad looked at her, and he smiled a smile that promised so much more than a kiss. Someday, please God, someday.
    Awash with pleasure, she hurried away, getting her foot tangled in the hem of her dress, then almost stumbling. But she didn’t. She caught herself and stood leaning against the pin rail thinking of Chad and how perhaps this voyage would transform her in his eyes.
    Father and son finished their conference with Ryan and returned to the wharves. She watched them until they were mere specks in the distance, one light head, one dark, finally blending in with the crowd.
    “And now,” said a voice behind her, “one question remains.”
    Startled, Isadora turned, knocking her glasses askew with the abrupt motion.
    The chief mate shouted orders, and the second mate repeated them. A rush of running feet pounded the decks.
    “And what remains. Captain Calhoun?” Self-conscious, she straightened the spectacles.
    “To assure myself that you aren’t having second thoughts.” He stepped toward her, took her hand and …
    CHAPTER Six.
     
    I must go Where the fleet of stars is anchored and the young Star captains glow.
    Herman James Elroy Flecker, The Dying Patriot.
    I know what’s curious?” Ryan asked, standing back from the captain’s table and watching Journey expertly pour the claret.
    ‘ “Your taste in neck cloths?” Journey ventured, looking askance at the hibiscus-and-lime paisley cravat Ryan had donned for supper.
    Ryan ignored him.
    “When I was in school, I could no more remember a Latin declension than the table of the elements. Yet on this ship I can keep every fact and figure as keenly in my mind as if God himself whispered them into my ear. Why do you suppose that is?”
    “Maybe because Latin declensions don’t help you deal with dishonest stevedores.”
    Ryan vividly recalled the endless hours of stumbling through lessons at Albion.
    “Why can’t I learn something simply for learning’s sake?”
    “You’re starting to sound like your daddy.”
    A chill slid through him. It was true. He recalled all those humiliating times he’d stood before Jared Calhoun, squirming inside while his father quizzed him mercilessly about Horace and the gospel and the price of tobacco in Richmond.
    If you constantly have your head in the stars, his father used to demand, how are you going to keep your feet firmly on the ground?
    “There’s no need, if I go to sea,” Ryan murmured.
    “What’s that?”
    Ryan shook his head.
    “Nothing. You know, I keep the stars up here, too.” He touched his temple.
    “Ever since we were lads, I’ve been able to read the stars as easily as most boys read their scripture.”
    Journey put a cut glass stopper in the crystal decanter. The Silver Swan’s previous skipper had been a man of excellent taste and terrible business practices. When Abel Easterbrook discovered the extent of his cheating, he’d had the man hauled off in chains, leaving behind a salon full of his ill-gotten gains. Ryan had inherited comfortable quarters indeed.
    Built into the wall of the cabin, invisible behind a false

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