Mr. Chalk’s expedition to the Southern Seas became a standing joke with the captain, and he waylaid him on several occasions to inquire into the progress he was making, and to give him advice suitable for all known emergencies at sea, together with a few that are unknown. Even Mr. Chalk began to tire of his pleasantries, and, after listening to a surprising account of a Scotch vessel which always sailed backwards when the men whistled on Sundays, signified his displeasure by staying away from Dialstone Lane for some time.
[Illustration: “He waylaid him on several occasions to inquire into the progress he was making.”]
Deprived of his society the captain consoled himself with that of Edward Tredgold, a young man for whom he was beginning to entertain a strong partiality, and whose observations of Binchester folk, flavoured with a touch of good-natured malice, were a source of never-failing interest.
“He is very wide-awake,” he said to his niece. “There isn’t much that escapes him.”
Miss Drewitt, gazing idly out of window, said that she had not noticed it.
“Very clever at his business, I understand,” said the captain.
His niece said that he had always appeared to her—when she had happened to give the matter a thought—as a picture of indolence.
“Ah! that’s only his manner,” replied the other, warmly. “He’s a young man that’s going to get on; he’s going to make his mark. His father’s got money, and he’ll make more of it.”
Something in the tone of his voice attracted his niece’s attention, and she looked at him sharply as an almost incredible suspicion as to the motive of this conversation flashed on her.
“I don’t like to see young men too fond of money,” she observed, sedately.
“I didn’t say that,” said the captain, eagerly. “If anything, he is too open-handed. What I meant was that he isn’t lazy.”
“He seems to be very fond of coming to see you,” said Prudence, by way of encouragement.
“Ah!” said the captain, “and——”
He stopped abruptly as the girl faced round. “And?” she prompted.
“And the crow’s-nest,” concluded the captain, somewhat lamely.
There was no longer room for doubt. Scarce two months ashore and he was trying his hand at matchmaking. Fresh from a world of obedient satellites, and ships responding to the lightest touch of the helm, he was venturing with all the confidence of ignorance upon the most delicate of human undertakings. Miss Drewitt, eyeing him with perfect comprehension and some little severity, sat aghast at his hardihood.
“He’s very fond of going up there,” said Captain Bowers, somewhat discomfited.
“Yes, he and Joseph have much in common,” remarked Miss Drewitt, casually. “They’re some what alike, too, I always fancy.”
“Alike!” exclaimed the astonished captain.