Jack of Clubs

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Authors: Bárbara Metzger
help Miss Harriet brush her hair and her teeth and say her prayers and who knows what else?”
    Harriet knew. “Read a story. Or you could tell me one. I like pirates and highwaymen and Red Indians.”
    Calloway was bowing to Allie as best he could with a tray in his hands. “This way, ma’am.”
    As Captain Endicott had predicted, they saw no one on the trek up the stairs and down the carpeted halls. Calloway opened the door to a sitting room and adjoining bedchamber that were freshly painted and tastefully decorated, with no red satin sheets or mirrors above the bed, thank goodness. The bed was large enough for half the girls at Miss Semple’s School, so Allie would not be kept awake by Harriet’s tossing and turning again. The sitting room would get the morning sun, but the bedroom faced the rear of the house, so she would not even be bothered by carriages arriving and leaving. She could even pretend she was in a gentleman’s residence, instead of a gambling den, if she tried hard enough.
    The food was excellent, and far more elaborate than Allie expected for a hastily gathered snack. Of course the chef had thought he was feeding the owner of the establishment too, obviously a hearty eater. There was enough for three or four or ten, with enough variety that Harriet found something she favored, once she had scraped the sauce off the veal and the breading off the chicken. The tea was hot and heavenly to Allie’s sore throat and aching head, and Harriet declared her chocolate sweetened perfectly. She ate two servings of pudding, prattling on about her new guardian, his house, his dog, his library that was far more interesting and informative than the one at Mrs. Semple’s School.
    â€œWhat do you think I should call him?” she asked Allie between bites. “He’s not really my papa, and not even an uncle.”
    Allie put down her fork. “I think Captain Endicott is fine for now, since everyone still seems to be calling him by his army rank. And say ‘sir.’ Do not forget to show him respect, for he is being very kind.”
    â€œCap’n Jack sounds better.”
    â€œIt sounds overly familiar. As you say, you are not related. I do not want you to be disappointed, Harriet, but you must remember that we might not be staying. I am not, and I doubt if the captain will keep you here on his own.” When the child’s lower lip started quivering, Allie went on: “He is not really fixed to be a father, you know. And his way of life is truly not suitable for a child. Why, he stays up all night and likely sleeps during the day, not wanting any noise or playing in the house. He knows nothing of raising a little girl, and his, ah, associates are not proper company for Viscount Hildebrand’s granddaughter. We were a shock to him, you saw that, so do not get your hopes pinned on the captain. But I am certain he will find you a loving family and a real house, perhaps in the country where you can play outdoors and learn to ride.”
    A tear fell down Harriet’s sticky cheek.
    â€œAnd a dog of your own,” Allie promised, perjuring those poor people who would have Harriet left on their doorstep within the week, if Allie guessed the captain’s intentions correctly.
    â€œBut I like it here!”
    â€œYou will like it there, too, wherever there is.”
    Harriet wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve. If Allie’s appetite had not left before, it did now. She handed over her last clean handkerchief. “He would not send you somewhere hateful.”
    â€œBut I like Cap’n Jack!” Harriet wailed, throwing herself into Allie’s arms, not playacting for effect, but truly upset.
    â€œYes, I like him too.”
    That was the trouble. The man was wondrously handsome in a rugged way, broad shouldered and fit. Allie could not help noticing all that while he was in his shirt sleeves, which he should not have been, of course,

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