« AnteriorContinuar »
“Nobody; he was put ashore by himself.”
” “Oh no; don't be uneasy; nothing the matter with the captain, nor with anybody else.”
Lucy Dean stood looking at the speaker with eager eyes and heightened colour, as if longing to hear more ; but Mr. Chaffin had not much more to tell her. The boy had friends aboard, and had been indulged with a passage so far in the ship. The captain had told him about Mr. Dean at Sandy Frith, and he was coming to see them some day.
“Was there any message ?" Lucy asked.
Mr. Chaffin could not say. Lucy had fancied that there might be a letter or something; if so, the young gentleman, she thought, would bring it himself. She wished she could see the young gentleman. He would be coming some day soon, no doubt. She did not say all this aloud, but Mr. Chaffin read it in her face, as with downcast eyes she occupied herself in playing with a ring upon the fourth finger of the left hand —not a wedding-ring yet, but symptomatic of one to come. The contractor, although anything but sentimental, was of quick observation, and had guessed Lucy's secret already.
“We are very rude to you, sir,” Lucy said, presently, as if waking from a dream, “ keeping you standing here. Do come in. Josh will be in in a minute or two; he has been working late this evening, but has knocked off now;" and she led the way through the garden to the front door, the contractor following.
Lucy took him into the parlour, where a very neat old lady was sitting with her knitting before her. She had a row of little curls over her forehead, surmounted by a large, comfortable-looking cap; her neck was encased in muslin, the snowy whiteness of which contrasted well with her old-fashioned, well-worn, but still handsome black silk dress. Lucy introduced her to Mr. Chaffin as her mother, and Mr. Chaffin was introduced to the old lady as a gentleman who had seen a young gentleman who had seen Captain Broad, and had just come ashore from the Neptune. Old Mrs. Dean was very deaf, and this long description had to be repeated two or three times before she could take it all in, which might have been embarrassing to anybody else; but Mr. Chaffin did not mind it at all, and stood in front of her, bowing and smiling all the while.
Presently Joshua Dean arrived, having cleaned and tidied himself, and they sat for some time in a half-circle at the open window, chatting and looking out upon the sea. The weather had greatly improved since last night. There was a fine sunset, and the weathercock on the top of the mast in front of the shipyard pointed N.E.
“It's a fair wind down Channel,” said Josh—"good for outward-bound ships. If they have got to go,” he continued, glancing at his sister, “the quicker the better. Soon out, soon
, home again."
Lucy looked as if she grudged every knot added to the distance between her future husband and herself, for though she assented to Joshua's kindly-meant remarks, the smile soon faded from her lips, and a look of care came over her face instead.
" You have a pleasant spot here, Mr. Dean,” said Chaffin. “I dare say you are very fond of it ? ”
Yes,” he replied ; " and so I ought to be. It's my native
“You know what's going to be done, I suppose, in the neighbourhood ?”
"I have heard something about it.” “Grand improvements ! grand improvements !" “Grandmother! did you say ?” the old lady interrupted.
“No; not yet. These are my only children, and neither of 'em married-not as yet.”
Mr. Chaffin repeated his remark in a louder key. “Improvement !” she said again. "Oh yes; young people
. think so, of course; I only hope they'll find it so when they are married, and be happy."
Mr. Chaffin made no further attempt at explanation, and the conversation with Joshua Dean continued.
“What are you going to do ?” the latter inquired. Mr. Chaffin entered into particulars.
“You don't seem to like it,” he remarked, when he had finished.
“I had rather you would let the place alone,” Dean answered. “It suits me best as it is.”
" Very likely,” said Chaffin. "It won't do you much good, I dare say. 'One man's food is another man's poison,' they
“I don't like the idea of it,” Dean repeated. “If a big town were to spring up all round the shipyard, I should feel inclined to run away from it.”
"You could sell it, you know," Mr. Chaffin said.
"Could I!” said Dean. “ That wouldn't suit me neither. I don't want to sell my birthright. Why, my grandfather built this house; with his own hands, too, mostly. No; I don't want to sell it, and I don't want to have it spoilt."
You will take a bit of supper with us, Mr. Chaffin ?” Lucy said, interrupting them at this moment.
"Thank you; I don't want anything to eat,” he replied, emphasising the last word, and waiting to be asked after his own formula what he would take to drink.
Brother and sister looked at each other, and the latter said quickly, “We are all teetotalers here, Mr. Chaffin, or nearly so."
"Indeed! Have you taken the pledge ?” said Chaffin.
"No," Joshua answered; “not that; but, as a rule, we don't touch wine or spirits. Still, when a friend drops in—" he stopped, and looked at Lucy.
“Oh, never mind," said the contractor; “I thought the water was not good, though. How do you manage about that ?”
“We have excellent water,” Lucy answered, with alacrity, “excellent! You must try it. It's the only good well in the town. You see, this is our own property, and father went to great expense in sinking a well—a very deep one. Other folks might be as well off, I dare say, but they rent their houses, and the owners of the property won't do anything.”
“Is that so ?” cried the contractor, jumping up with great animation. “I should like to see that well; I should like to taste that water. It confirms my own opinion. Water may be got anywhere about here if you bore deep enough.”
Water was brought-clear, fresh, cool, delicious. The company would go on! Mr. Chaffin's investments would turn out famously! In his exultation he drank a whole tumblerful of the water.
It's capital !” he said, as he put it down. Lucy poured him out another glass.
“No, thank ye,” he said ; “ one's enough. I'm not a waterdrinker myself, as a rule ; it's too cold for me. I like a nip of brandy in it."
"Lucy, my dear," said Josh, looking at his sister.
She could no longer disregard his appeal, and leaving the room, returned with a bottle containing some brandy, which she placed at the contractor's elbow.
He thanked her, and helped himself; then passed the bottle on to Joshua.
" I won't take any,” he said, “ if you'll excuse me.”
Oh, come; I can't sit and drink alone,” said Chaffin. “You have not taken the pledge; you said so."
Putting down his glass, he reached over to where Joshua was sitting and poured out some brandy for him, and lifted it almost to the level of his lips.
The man's eyes gleamed, and the colour faded from his face as the smell of the liquor rose into his nostrils.
“ Josh !” cried his sister, sharply, though in an undertone.
He did not listen to her, but put the glass to his lips, tasted it, and set it down again, but held it still between his fingers. “All right!” he said, speaking in a low tone, and without looking at her ; "one can't be inhospitable. I will have one glass with Mr. Chaffin, that's all. Don't be afraid.”
Then John he did him to record draw,
And John he caste him a God's pennie;
OSHUA DEAN was quite sincere when he protested to his
sister that he would take only one glass with Mr. Chaffin ; and Lucy, taking him at his word, or perhaps on the contrary, doubting his resolution, took away the bottle and locked it up. Mr. Chaffin thought it was rather a shabby thing to do, but made no remark, and as soon as he had emptied his tumbler rose and bade them good night.
"You'll go a step of the way with me, won't you ?" Chaffin said, as Dean opened the door for him. The latter assented,