“Your man?” said Miss Drewitt.
“Yes; I thought a man would be easier to manage than a girl,” said the captain, knowingly. “You can be freer with ’em in the matter of language, and then there’s no followers or anything of that kind. I got him to sign articles ship-shape and proper. Mr. Tredgold recommended him.”
“No, no,” said that gentleman, hastily.
“I asked you before he signed on with me,” said the captain, pointing a stumpy forefinger at him. “I made a point of it, and you told me that you had never heard anything against him.”
“I don’t call that a recommendation,” said Mr. Tredgold.
“It’s good enough in these days,” retorted the captain, gloomily. “A man that has got a character like that is hard to find.”
“He might be artful and keep his faults to himself,” suggested Tredgold.
“So long as he does that, it’s all right,” said Captain Bowers. “I can’t find fault if there’s no faults to find fault with. The best steward I ever had, I found out afterwards, had escaped from gaol. He never wanted to go ashore, and when the ship was in port almost lived in his pantry.”
“I never heard of Tasker having been in gaol,” said Mr. Tredgold. “Anyhow, I’m certain that he never broke out of one; he’s far too stupid.”
As he paid this tribute the young man referred to entered laden with parcels, and, gazing awkwardly at the company, passed through the room on tiptoe and began to busy himself in the pantry. Mr. Tredgold, refusing the captain’s invitation to stay for a cup of tea, took his departure.
“Very nice youngster that,” said the captain, looking after him. “A little bit light-hearted in his ways, perhaps, but none the worse for that.”
He sat down and looked round at his possessions. “The first real home I’ve had for nearly fifty years,” he said, with great content. “I hope you’ll be as happy here as I intend to be. It sha’n’t be my fault if you’re not.”
Mr. Tredgold walked home deep in thought, and by the time he had arrived there had come to the conclusion that if Miss Drewitt favoured her mother, that lady must have been singularly unlike Captain Bowers in features.
In less than a week Captain Bowers had settled down comfortably in his new command. A set of rules and regulations by which Mr. Joseph Tasker was to order his life was framed and hung in the pantry. He studied it with care, and, anxious that there should be no possible chance of a misunderstanding, questioned the spelling in three instances. The captain’s explanation that he had spelt those words in the American style was an untruthful reflection upon a great and friendly nation.
Dialstone Lane was at first disposed to look askance at Mr. Tasker. Old-fashioned matrons clustered round to watch him cleaning the doorstep, and, surprised at its whiteness, withdrew discomfited. Rumour had it that he liked work, and scandal said that he had wept because he was not allowed to do the washing.