‘I didn’t steal it, Dick.’
‘I don’t suppose you did; but I’m sure it’s the book I say.’
’No doubt it is. If you think it is in bad hands, shall I give it back to you?’
‘I don’t want it. If she gave it you, she was a fool for her pains.’
‘I don’t see that.’
’I would rather, at any rate, that you would not lend a book with my sister’s name in it to Mrs. Smith.’
’I was not thinking of doing so. She wants a Shakespeare that I have got here, and a volume of Tennyson.’ Then Dick retreated back into his berth, and snored again, while Caldigate dressed himself. When that operation was completed,—which, including his lavations, occupied about five minutes,—he went up on the deck with the books for Mrs. Smith in his hand, and with Thomson’s ‘Seasons’ in his pocket. So the poor girl had absolutely stolen down-stairs in the middle of the cold night, and had opened the case and re-fastened it, in order that he, when in strange lands, might find himself in possession of something that had been hers!
He had not been alone a minute or two, and was looking about to see if Mrs. Smith was there, when he was accosted by the Captain. The Captain was a pleasant-looking, handsome man, about forty-five years of age, who had the good word of almost everybody on board, but who had not before spoken specially to Caldigate.
’Good morning, Mr. Caldigate. I hope you find yourself fairly comfortable where you are.’
‘Pretty well, thank you, Captain.’
‘If there is anything I can do.’
‘We have all that we have a right to expect.’
’I wish, Mr. Caldigate, I could invite you and your friends to come astern among us sometimes, but it would be contrary to rule.’
‘I can quite understand that, Captain.’
’You are doing a bit of roughing,—no doubt for the sake of experience. If you only knew the sort of roughing I’ve had in my time!’
‘I dare say.’
’Salt pork and hard biscuit, and only half enough of that. You find yourself among some queer fellow-passengers I dare say, Mr. Caldigate.’
‘Everybody is very civil.’
’They’re sure to be that to a gentleman. But one has to be careful. The women are the most dangerous.’ Then the Captain laughed, as though it had only been a joke,—this allusion to the women. But Caldigate knew that there was more than a joke in it. The Captain had intended to warn him against Mrs. Smith.
The Three Attempts