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play practical jokes; but if he had any regard for his own skin he had better avoid such practices. And Chaffin, who had expected that he should get into trouble for breaking the slates, and who did not know that Tom Howard had begged him off, only answered, “Yes, sir; no, sir; yes, sir; thank you, sir," and went his way.
Water, water, everywhere,
T may be remembered that when Mr. Chaffin took leave of
Tom Howard at the Abbotscliff station, after he had introduced him to his son, he proceeded on his journey by rail, his destination being a small sea-side place called Sandy Frith. The contractor had taken a great fancy to Sandy Frith, and expected to make money there. His attention had been first attracted to it by the report of some London men, who had spent a few hours on the spot, and who, conceiving that it possessed all the attractions necessary for a first-class wateringplace, had formed a limited liability company for the purchase of land and the erection of buildings. Mr. Chaffin had an appointment to meet the directors of this new company at Sandy Frith, and to go over the ground with them as a preliminary to laying out the estate and the shareholders' money.
“Ha!" said Mr. Chaffin, as he shook hands with some of the gentlemen who had come down from London at the station. “Ha! You see at once what is wanted to begin with. There is not an hotel for us to go to; there is not even a refreshment
bar at the station. I was going to ask you what you would take; but it would only be a disappointment. We must attend to that the first thing.”
“Is there not an inn of any kind ?” one of the directors asked.
“There's the Jolly Dolphin, kept by Joe Briinmer," the station-master answered; "and another little place or two; but a good hotel is very much wanted near the station."
"I know all about it," said Mr. Stride, the zealous and indefatigable secretary, bustling up to them. “I have taken all necessary steps. You will find that everything you can require has been provided, and the best room at the Jolly Dolphin engaged. We can go there at once if you like; or have a walk round the town first, and refresh afterwards, whichever you prefer."
“Business first," appeared to be the general sentiment; and the whole party, about a dozen in number, including Mr. Chaffin and two young men in his employment armed with surveying instruments, proceeded on their tour of inspection.
Sandy Frith was situated on the margin of a picturesque bay, looking towards the south, with a high foreland to the east and another to the west. The shore sloped very gradually, and beyond the first margin of shingle the sands were hard and admirably adapted for bathing. There was an irregular formation of high ground at the back of the little cluster of houses of which, at the time of which we are now speaking, the town of Sandy Frith consisted. In one or two places it was so steep as to be almost precipitous, offering splendid “outlooks," as Mr. Chaffin called them, where seats for invalids and excursionists could be placed, with a balustrade in front. Mr. Oram had a book of patterns with him, both of seats and palisades, and exhibited them on the spot. Roads were practicable from the beach to the summit, and charming spots for villas were
pointed out at different elevations. The sea view was magnificent—a “fine sea” every one pronounced it—and you could not look round you without seeing it. There was not much else to be seen at present. There were no trees;
you do not want trees by the sea-side, except a few along the streets to give it a foreign character, and those could be planted at so much a dozen as soon as there were streets to plant them in. Everything else could be supplied in the same manner. The greater the deficiencies, whether of nature or art, the more room for enterprise. There was the sea, and that was sufficient to begin with.
The general plan of the proposed town was discussed from a height which commanded a view of the whole panorama, and the directors grew very enthusiastic and excited, as Mr. Chaffin's "young men” made a rapid sketch-map of the locality, marking its chief undulations, and proceeded afterwards to write down the several sites upon which the chief buildings, public and private, might advantageously be erected. By the time they had been at their work an hour or so, it might have been supposed by any one who looked over their paper that the town of Sandy Frith, or Abbotsville, as it was proposed to call it, had already assumed the proportions of a large and fashionable watering-place. There was the “crescent," occupying a semicircular sweep in the cliff, “ made by nature for the express purpose." There was the grand hotel, with an esplanade, for the construction of which there was to be a distinct and separate company, also " limited.”
There was the bathing establishment, with hot, cold, and shower baths. There was the pier, which, judging from its proportions on the plan, was to run out a mile into the sea, at least. There was the assembly room, the circulating library, the bazaar; in fact, there was everything that could possibly be required, and perhaps more,
“And yet," said the secretary, "there is one thing wanting still."
“ What's that?" the chairman asked. “What we are not likely to get-a spa.” “A spa! Mineral waters ? Oh, we can do without them.”
“We could do better with them. They have a great charm for some people. A spa and a German band are a great attraction."
“Why should we not have a spa ?” said one of the party, a thin, sad-looking man, with dull eyes and pale cheeks, and a face the shape of a flat-iron. “Why should we not have a spa?
а I have a spa in my house in London, in the cellar. I can make a spa anywhere.”
The speaker, whose name was Dodder, might, from the colourless appearance of his cheeks, have been weaned on spa water, and tasted no other nourishment ever since.
“Artificial spas won't do," said the chairman.
“They are as good as the natural ones, and even better,” Mr. Dodder answered; “because you can make them of any strength and flavour that you like."
"That's a great advantage," said Mr. Chaffin. There was not much doubt about the strength and flavour which he would have liked.
“I wish we could have a real spa, though," the secretary repeated.
"Leave it to me," said Dodder; "who knows but such a thing may be found if we look for it in the right place ?”
Other business now called for attention, and when this was disposed of the party betook themselves to the Jolly Dolphin, in the club-room of which a banquet was prepared for them. Mr. Stride had spoken truly when he said that the preparations he had made would be found satisfactory. The long table, laden with good things, if it did not absolutely groan with the
weight of the feast, staggered under it, resting upon trestles and being somewhat shaky, as if it had stolen a march upon the guests, and partaken freely of the wines and spirits which had been prepared for their refection. Three or four waiters, who had accompanied the party from a neighbouring town, were running about with the regulation napkin under their arms; and many bottles with tinselled heads were stowed away in ice-pails, from which they appeared to be looking out to see whether the waiters were coming soon to uncork them. It was a very prosperous company, for the moment, at all events; and many of those present congratulated themselves more than they had ever done before that they belonged to it. “Limited !” Yes; in a legal sense it might be, but not in the matter of luncheons. The directors were only “provisional ” at present; they looked it and acted it, and their “provisional” secretary had done his providing well. The scramble on the cliffs had given them appetites too, and that was another pleasing proof of the soundness of their undertaking. Everybody would go to Sandy Frith as soon as the appetising properties of the air should be known, especially if such luncheons could be always calculated upon. Mr. Dodder proposed to take a sample of the air away with him in a bottle to analyse it. Such air as that would be a fortune to the shareholders. He suggested that they should compress a great many “volumes " of it into a metallic ozonised vessel, and keep it in the office of the company in London to be let off in whiffs whenever anybody of consequence should come in to inquire about the shares. The effect would be very satisfactory, he thought.
“It would help to puff the company, at all events,” Mr. Stride remarked. He was always rather talkative, and sometimes allowed his wit to go beyond his judgment.
“The company does not require puffing, Mr. Stride,” the