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O that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal
self in the Sandy Frith Land, Building, and General Improvement and Investment Company, Limited, was not a large one, yet he had expected to reap great profits in carrying out the objects of the association, and had already made engagements with landholders in the neighbourhood, which he thought would give him almost a monopoly of stone and lime, and other necessaries for building. It was of importance to him, therefore, as well as to the shareholders, that the project should be successful, and he was as anxious as any of the promoters that good water should be found. Mr. Chaffin had sunk many ordinary wells in other places, and had also carried out some deep boring operations under the direction of competent engineers. He had kept his eyes and ears open, according to his custom, and had picked up sufficient scientific knowledge, as he thought, to be able to "go a prospecting" on his own account now, in search of a water supply.
After parting from his friends, therefore, at the railwaystation, he returned towards Sandy Frith, walking slowly and thoughtfully, and pausing from time to time to take a view of the land, to observe the dip, as he called it, and to theorise upon the probable nature of the underlying strata. Having made a few notes, he returned to the Jolly Dolphin and engaged a bed there, intending to be up early the next morning and to have another look round before departing. An hour or two of day
light yet remained, and he intended to make use of that by going about among the inhabitants and gathering such information on the important topic as they might be able to afford.
Suddenly he remembered the shipyard. Mr. Dean, he thought, from Tom Howard's account of him, must be an old inhabitant; he had been born and brought up in the place, and his father and grandfather had carried on the shipbuilding business before him. He must, therefore, be well up in all the traditions of the neighbourhood. He resolved to go and see him.
The shipyard was soon found. It was the only place of the kind in the town, and was, of course, down by the shore. There were three or four small vessels on the stocks or undergoing repair, and six or seven men at work upon them; and Mr. Chaffin was attracted to the spot by the sound of axes and hammers. In addition to the shops and sheds, there was a good house, surrounded by a well-kept garden, adjoining the yard, and everything about it betokened prosperity and comfort. Mr. Chaffin paused to look about him as he approached the spot, and could not help being struck with the pleasantness of the situation. A little removed from the other cottages, the ground rising gradually from the sea, a fine stretch of hard sand in front of it, and the hills clothed with trees and herbage at the rear. The company's property did not extend so far as this. They had bought their estate from a neighbouring squire, to whom nearly the whole of the little town belonged, and had not concerned themselves about the two or three small freeholders, of whom Mr. Dean was one. But now Mr. Chaffin began to look with a covetous eye upon the shipyard and its belongings.
"It's one of the best sites in the place," he said. “It's worth double as much per yard as any other. I wonder whether this man Dean would part with it?” This man Dean was there to answer the question, if Mr. Chaffin had ventured to propose it; but he knew better than to go at it in such a blundering straightforward way as that. So he seated himself upon a piece of timber, as if tired with his walk, and took off his hat, to let the cool sea breeze play upon his forehead.
After he had been for some time watching the workmen, the door of the house opened, and a young woman came tripping along the garden path, and leaning over the paling, exchanged a few words with one of the artificers, who, though hard at work, with his coat off and his shirt-sleeves rolled up, might easily be recognised as the master.
“That's his sister," Chaffin said to himself. “That's Miss Dean. The young lad said he had a sister. I'll introdooce myself.”
He rose and sauntered towards them, replacing his hat, that he might take it off again as he approached the lady. The introducing was easily accomplished, and Mr. Chaffin proceeded to speak of the boy, a schoolfellow of his son's at Abbotscliff, who had mentioned Mr. Dean's name to him.
“Howard ?" said the shipbuilder. “I don't know any one of that name. Do you, Lucy ?”
“He came ashore last night from a ship that was passing down Channel."
“What ship?” Lucy exclaimed, in a moment.
"Oh yes; but I mean, why did he come? Who came with him?"