‘What do you call a scrape, Captain Munday?’
’I should call it a scrape if a young gentleman of your position and your prospects were to find himself engaged on board ship to marry a woman he knew nothing about.’
‘Do you know anything about my position and prospects, Captain Munday?’
‘I know you are a gentleman.’
‘And I think you know less about the lady.’
‘I know nothing;—but I will tell you what I hear.’
’I really would rather that you did not. Of course, Captain Munday, on board your own ship you are a despot, and I must say that you have made everything very pleasant for us. But I don’t think even your position entitles you to talk to me about my private affairs,—or about hers. You say you know nothing. Is it manly to repeat what one hears about a poor forlorn woman?’ Then the Captain retreated without another word, owning to himself that he was beaten. If this foolish young man chose to make for himself a bed of that kind he must lie upon it. Captain Munday went away shrugging his shoulders, and spoke no further word to John Caldigate on that or any other subject during the voyage.
Caldigate had driven off his persecutors valiantly, and had taught them all to think that he was resolute in his purposes in regard to Mrs. Smith, let those purposes be what they might; but nothing could be further from the truth; for he had no purposes and was, within his own mind, conscious of his lack of all purpose, and very conscious of his folly. And though he could repel Mrs. Callander and the Captain,—as he had always repelled those who had attempted to control him,—still he knew that they had been right. Such an intimacy as this could not be wise, and its want of wisdom became the more strongly impressed upon him the nearer he got to shore, and the more he felt that when he had got ashore he should not know how to act in regard to her.
The intimacy had certainly become very close. He had expressed his great admiration, and she had replied that, ’had things not been as they were,’ she could have returned the feeling. But she did not say what the things were which might have been otherwise. Nor did she seem to attempt to lead him on to further and more definite proposals. And she never spoke of any joint action between them when on shore, though she gave herself up to his society here on board the ship. She seemed to think that they were then to part, as though one would be going one way, and one the other;—but he felt that after so close an intimacy they could not part like that.