“Cert’nly not, sir,” replied Mr. Tasker. “Where should I get the money from?”
The captain eyed him without replying, and a sudden suspicion occurred to him. The strange disappearance of the map, followed by the sudden cessation of Mr. Chalk’s visits, began to link themselves to this tale of unexpected wealth. He bestowed another searching glance upon the agitated Mr. Tasker.
“You haven’t sold anything lately, have you?” he inquired, with startling gruffness.
“I haven’t ’ad nothing to sell, sir,” replied the other, in astonishment. “And I dare say Mr. Vickers here saw a new pair o’ boots on one o’ the young’uns and dreamt all the rest.”
Mr. Vickers intervened with passion.
“That’ll do,” said the captain, sharply. “How dare you make that noise in my house? I think that the tale about the clothes is all right,” he added, turning to Joseph. “I saw them go into church looking very smart. And you know nothing about it?”
Mr. Tasker’s astonishment was too genuine to be mistaken, and the captain, watching him closely, transferred his suspicions to a more deserving object. Mr. Vickers caught his eye and essayed a smile.
“Dry work talking, sir,” he said, gently.
Captain Bowers eyed him steadily. “Have we got any beer, Joseph?” he inquired.
“Plenty in the cask, sir,” said Mr. Tasker, reluctantly.
“Well, keep your eye on it,” said the captain. “Good morning, Mr. Vickers.”
But disappointment and indignation got the better of Mr. Vickers’s politeness.
“Penny for your thoughts, uncle,” said Miss Drewitt, as they sat at dinner an hour or two after the departure of Mr. Vickers.
“H’m?” said the captain, with a guilty start. “You’ve been scowling and smiling by turns for the last five minutes,” said his niece.
“I was thinking about that man that was here this morning,” said the captain, slowly; “trying to figure it out. If I thought that that girl Selina——”
He took a draught of ale and shook his head solemnly.
“You know my ideas about that,” said Prudence.
“Your poor mother was obstinate,” commented the captain, regarding her tolerantly. “Once she got an idea into her head it stuck there, and nothing made her more angry than proving to her that she was wrong. Trying to prove to her, I should have said.”
Miss Drewitt smiled amiably. “Well, you’ve earned half the sum,” she said. “Now, what were you smiling about?”
“Didn’t know I was smiling,” declared the captain.
With marvellous tact he turned the conversation to lighthouses, a subject upon which he discoursed with considerable fluency until the meal was finished. Miss Drewitt, who had a long memory and at least her fair share of curiosity, returned to the charge as he smoked half a pipe preparatory to accompanying her for a walk.