“Were you here when he called?” he demanded.
“Yes,” was the reply.
“And you—you spoke to him?” roared the captain.
“I had to be civil,” said Miss Nugent, calmly; “I’m not a sea-captain.”
Her father walked up and down the room again. Mrs. Kingdom, terrified at the storm she had evoked, gazed helplessly at her niece.
“What did he come here for?” said the captain.
Miss Nugent glanced down at her plate. “I can’t imagine,” she said, demurely. “The first time he came to tell us what had become of you.”
The captain stopped in his walk and eyed her sternly. “I am very fortunate in my children,” he said, slowly. “One is engaged to marry the daughter of the shadiest rascal in Sunwich, and the other—”
“And the other?” said his daughter, proudly, as he paused.
“The other,” said the captain, as he came round the table and put his hand on her shoulder, “is my dear and obedient daughter.”
“Yes,” said Miss Nugent; “but that isn’t what you were going to say. You need not worry about me; I shall not do anything that would displease you.”
With a view to avoiding the awkwardness of a chance meeting with any member of the Nugent family Hardy took the sea road on his way to the office the morning after the captain’s return. Common sense told him to leave matters for the present to the healing hand of Time, and to cultivate habits of self-effacement by no means agreeable to one of his temperament.
Despite himself his spirits rose as he walked. It was an ideal spring morning, cool and sunny. The short turf by the side of the road was fragrant under his heel, and a light wind stirred the blueness of the sea. On the beach below two grizzled men of restful habit were endeavouring to make an old boat waterproof with red and green paint.
A long figure approaching slowly from the opposite direction broke into a pleasant smile as he drew near and quickened his pace to meet him.
“You’re out early,” said Hardy, as the old man stopped and turned with him.
“’Ave to be, sir,” said Mr. Wilks, darkly; “out early and ’ome late, and more often than not getting my dinner out. That’s my life nowadays.”
“Can’t you let her see that her attentions are undesirable?” inquired Hardy, gravely.
“Can’t you let her see that her attentions are undesirable?”
[Illustration: “’Can’t you let her see that her attentions are undesirable?’”]
“I can’t be rude to a woman,” said the steward, with a melancholy smile; “if I could, my life would ha’ been very different. She’s always stepping across to ask my advice about Teddy, or something o’ that sort. All last week she kept borrowing my frying-pan, so at last by way of letting ’er see I didn’t like it I went out and bought ’er one for herself. What’s the result? Instead o’ being offended she went out and bought me a couple o’ neck-ties. When I didn’t wear ’em she pretended it was because I didn’t like the colour, and she went and bought two more. I’m wearing one now.”