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.”
“When you’re tired of this nonsense,” said the indignant Hardy, “I shall be glad.”
Mr. Swann looked him over carefully and, coming to the conclusion that his patience was exhausted, told him the result of his inquiries. His immediate reward was the utter incredulity of Mr. Hardy, together with some pungent criticisms of his veracity. When the young man did realize at last that he was speaking the truth he fell to wondering blankly what was happening aboard the Conqueror.
“Never mind about that,” said the older man. “For a few weeks you have got a clear field. It is quite a bond between you: both your fathers on the same ship. But whatever you do, don’t remind her of the fate of the Kilkenny cats. Draw a fancy picture of the two fathers sitting with their arms about each other’s waists and wondering whether their children——”