Read CHAPTER IV. of The Little Skipper A Son of a Sailor , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on ReadCentral.com.

The next morning at breakfast the Skipper noticed that his mother looked as if she had been crying again, and the sight came like a chill over the boy.

“But she isn’t very angry with me,” he thought the next moment, for she kissed him eagerly.  “It’s only because she’s sorry.  I’m never going to make her unhappy again, though,” he thought, as he went on to shake hands with his father.

“Morning, Bob,” said the Captain, pressing his boy’s hand hard, and then turning to Dot, whom he jumped up so as to kiss her lovingly.

That was a very dull breakfast, for the sad looks of Captain and Mrs. Trevor had their effect upon the young folks, who were glad to escape, at last, to their own room, where they stayed till about ten o’clock, when Mrs. Trevor came suddenly in, looking very pale.

“Come, my darlings,” she said; “your poor father wants to see you.”

She caught Dot’s hand in hers and led her through the door, leaving poor Bob half stunned; for his mother seemed so strange to him, and he could not get the idea out of his head that this was all something to do with yesterday’s trouble; but he could not find the words to ask, and so followed into the drawing-room, where Captain Trevor was looking very hard and stern, as he held out his hands to Dot, catching her in his arms and kissing her in a way that startled her.

Then taking out his watch, he glanced at it and thrust it back in his pocket, drawing himself up directly after, and looking harder than ever.  His voice sounded strange too, as, without even glancing at his son, he said sharply: 

“I have driven it too long.  There is not a minute if I am to catch this train.  Duty, my own.  For pity’s sake be firm, or you will unman me.”

Bob saw his mother draw herself up, press her lips together, and knit her brows, as she nodded her head at her husband and took Dot, who looked frightened, from his arms.

“That’s right,” said the Captain sharply; “that’s like my wife;” and placing his hands upon her arms, he bent down and kissed her on the forehead, turned and caught the boy’s hand, wrung it hard, and strode out of the room.

The next moment they heard his step in the hall, and directly after on the gravel outside.  In another moment he was passing the window, to turn and wave his hand, when, as Bob felt heartsick with the feeling of misery which attacked him, Dot, who felt that something dreadful was the matter, hid her face on her mother’s shoulder and began to cry bitterly.

This had its good effect upon Mrs. Trevor, who began to kiss and soothe her.

“Hush, hush, my darling,” she cried.  “You must not cry, but help poor Mamma to try and bear it.  You must help me to pray to God to watch over him and bring him back safely to us from that dreadful place.”

These words unlocked the Skipper’s silent tongue.

“What dreadful place?” he cried excitedly.

“Africa, my boy ­the Gold Coast ­the White Man’s ­”

Mrs. Trevor shuddered, and checked herself.

“Gone!” cried the boy again, with the feeling strong upon him that his father was still angry and had not forgiven him.  And he had gone without a word.  He had kissed Dot and her mother, but only just pressed his hand.

“Gone!” he said again.

“Yes, my boy,” sobbed Mrs. Trevor.  “But he is a sailor, and it is his duty to serve his country and his Queen.  You, my boy, must ­”

The poor Skipper heard no more.  With a bitter cry he rushed out of the room, through the hall, and then along the path toward the swing gate, hatless and desperate.

“I must tell father how sorry I am,” he panted ­“he must bid me good-bye before he goes ­I must ­I must ­tell him.”

And then, setting his teeth hard, he ran at full speed to overtake the Captain; for he was too young to understand the workings of his gallant father’s heart, and the agony he felt at parting, suddenly ordered, as he had been, to be ready to start that night on a voyage to a deadly part of the African coast ­a place from which many who were sent never returned.