“There never was no proof, Captain, no more than smoke; and the family up at Mardykes wouldn’t allow the king to talk o’ them like that, sir; for though they be lang deod that had most right to be angered in the matter, there’s none o’ the name but would be half daft to think ’twas still believed, and he full out as mich as any. Not that I need care more than another, though they do say he’s a bit frowsy and short-waisted; for he can’t shouther me out o’ the George while I pay my rent, till nine hundred and ninety-nine year be rin oot; and a man, be he ne’er sa het, has time to cool before then. But there’s no good quarrellin’ wi’ teathy folk; and it may lie in his way to do the George mony an ill turn, and mony a gude one; an’ it’s only fair to say it happened a long way before he was born, and there’s no good in vexin’ him; and I lay ye a pound, Captain, the Doctor hods wi’ me.”
The Doctor, whose business was also sensitive, nodded; and then he said, “But for all that, the story’s old, Dick Turnbull—older than you or I, my jolly good friend.”
“And best forgotten,” interposed the host of the George.
“Ay, best forgotten; but that it’s not like to be,” said the Doctor, plucking up courage. “Here’s our friend the Captain has heard it; and the mistake he has made shows there’s one thing worse than its being quite remembered, and that is, its being half remembered. We can’t stop people talking; and a story like that will see us all off the hooks, and be in folks’ mouths, still, as strong as ever.”
“Ay; and now I think on it, ’twas Dick Harman that has the boat down there—an old tar like myself—that told me that yarn. I was trying for pike, and he pulled me over the place, and that’s how I came to hear it. I say, Tom, my hearty, serve us out another glass of brandy, will you?” shouted the Captain’s voice as the waiter crossed the room; and that florid and grizzled naval hero clapped his leg again on the chair by its wooden companion, which he was wont to call his jury-mast.
“Well, I do believe it will be spoke of longer than we are like to hear,” said the host, “and I don’t much matter the story, if it baint told o’ the wrong man.” Here he touched his tumbler with the spoon, indicating by that little ring that Tom, who had returned with the Captain’s grog, was to replenish it with punch. “And Sir Bale is like to be a friend to this house. I don’t see no reason why he shouldn’t. The George and Dragon has bin in our family ever since the reign of King Charles the Second. It was William Turnbull in that time, which they called it the Restoration, he taking the lease from Sir Tony Mardykes that was then. They was but knights then. They was made baronets first in the reign of King George the Second; you may see it in the list of baronets and the nobility. The lease was made to William Turnbull, which came from London; and he built the stables, which they was out o’ repair,