A more humane man would have shown a little concern as to his benefactor’s sleeping-place; but the captain never gave the matter a thought. In fact, it was not until three days later that he discovered there was a spare bunk in the forecastle, and that the unscrupulous seaman was occupying it.
It was only one of many annoyances, but the captain realizing his impotence made no sign. From certain remarks let fall in his hearing he had no difficulty in connecting Mr. Kybird with his discomfiture and, of his own desire, he freely included the unfortunate Mr. Wilks.
He passed his time in devising schemes of vengeance, and when Captain Hardy, relenting, offered him a cabin aft, he sent back such a message of refusal that the steward spent half an hour preparing a paraphrase. The offer was not repeated, and the captain, despite the strong representations of Bill and his friends, continued to eat the bread of idleness before the mast.
Mr. Adolphus Swann spent a very agreeable afternoon after his interview with Nathan Smith in refusing to satisfy what he termed the idle curiosity of his partner. The secret of Captain Nugent’s whereabouts, he declared, was not to be told to everybody, but was to be confided by a man of insinuating address and appearance—here he looked at himself in a hand-glass—to Miss Nugent. To be broken to her by a man with no ulterior motives for his visit; a man in the prime of life, but not too old for a little tender sympathy.
“I had hoped to have gone this afternoon,” he said, with a glance at the clock; “but I’m afraid I can’t get away. Have you got much to do, Hardy?”
“No,” said his partner, briskly. “I’ve finished.”
“Then perhaps you wouldn’t mind doing my work for me, so that I can go?” said Mr. Swann, mildly.
Hardy played with his pen. The senior partner had been amusing himself at his expense for some time, and in the hope of a favour at his hands he had endured it with unusual patience.
“Four o’clock,” murmured the senior partner; “hadn’t you better see about making yourself presentable, Hardy?”
[Illustration: “Hadn’t you better see about making yourself presentable, Hardy?”]
“Thanks,” said the other, with alacrity, as he took off his coat and crossed over to the little washstand. In five minutes he had finished his toilet and, giving his partner a little friendly pat on the shoulder, locked up his desk.
“Well?” he said, at last.
“Well?” repeated Mr. Swann, with a little surprise.
“What am I to tell them?” inquired Hardy, struggling to keep his temper.
“Tell them?” repeated the innocent Swann. “Lor’ bless my soul, how you do jump at conclusions, Hardy. I only asked you to tidy yourself for my sake. I have an artistic eye. I thought you had done it to please me.”