“I see nothing humorous in my request,” she retorted.
Her features pinched, and he turned to hide his smile. He’d warned her not to raise her voice. “You don’t?”
“No, I don’t. I’m not seeking charity from you. I’m willing to pay for my passage.”
The laughter erupted again. Oh, how her naïveté amused him! “Do you know how much passage to Hong Kong costs?”
“No.” She stared at her feet, and then lifted her head, gaze steady on his face. “But I’m certain we could come to an agreement on a fair price.”
“Does your papa know where you are, little mouse?” Calling her little mouse seemed accurate enough for such a meek and brown creature. Why, in height, she barely reached his chest.
“I hardly see how that matters. I’m not a child.”
“Really?” He studied her more closely. Pale face, tiny stature, gray eyes. Definitely a mouse. And a youthful mouse at that. “You don’t look much older than one score.”
“Well, I am.”
“Are you married, madam?”
A rosy blush crept into her cheeks and lent some color to her bland features. “No.”
“Then you are your father’s responsibility until you wed. No doubt, he’ll deal with you far better than I.”
“Deal with me?”
She stamped her paw—or rather, her foot—but the effort only amused him more.
“No one deals with me, sir. I’m no man’s responsibility. I take care of myself, thank you.”
“Very well, then. Go home.” He waved a hand at her. “Shoo! Scurry back to your little hole where Mama and Papa Mouse are no doubt sick with worry over your disappearance.”
“I will go to Hong Kong, Captain.” The vow, spoken softly, held more impact than if she’d shouted the words.
She had a spark, but not enough fire to sway him.
“South Star does not take passengers.”
She hesitated, and he wondered what brewed inside her feminine brain. Whatever she planned to say, she apparently reconsidered. She took several deep breaths before replying, “Forgive my intrusion. Thank you for your time. Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“I doubt it. I’m sailing for Hong Kong in the morning.”
“As am I.” She moved past him, her shoulders thrown back and her bright red chin held high. “I wish you a safe and pleasant journey, sir.”
She opened the door and disappeared into the night.
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