“What! ain’t you got over that joke yet?” inquired Mr. Stobell, glaring at him. “Poor Chalk can’t help his feelings.”
“No, no,” said the captain, staring back.
“People can’t help being sea-sick,” said Stobell, fiercely.
“Certainly not, sir,” agreed the captain.
“There’s no disgrace in it,” continued Mr. Stobell, with unusual fluency, “and nothing funny about it that I can see.”
“Certainly not, sir,” said the perplexed captain again. “I was just going to point out to you how, talking about pork—”
“I know you was,” stormed Mr. Stobell, rising from his chair and lurching forward heavily. “D’ye think I couldn’t hear you? Prating, and prating, and pra——”
He disappeared below, and the captain, after exchanging a significant grin with Mr. Tredgold, put his hands behind his back and began to pace the deck, musing solemnly on the folly of trusting to appearances.
Sea-sickness wore off after a day or two, and was succeeded by the monotony of life on board a small ship. Week after week they saw nothing but sea and sky, and Mr. Chalk, thirsting for change, thought with wistful eagerness of the palm-girt islands of the Fijian Archipelago to which Captain Brisket had been bidden to steer. In the privacy of their own cabin the captain and Mr. Duckett discussed with great earnestness the nature of the secret which they felt certain was responsible for the voyage.
[Illustration: “The captain and Mr. Duckett discussed with great earnestness the nature of the secret.”]
It is an article of belief with some old-fashioned people that children should have no secrets from their parents, and, though not a model father in every way, Mr. Vickers felt keenly the fact that his daughter was keeping something from him. On two or three occasions since the date of sailing of the Fair Emily she had relieved her mind by throwing out dark hints of future prosperity, and there was no doubt that, somewhere in the house, she had a hidden store of gold. With his left foot glued to the floor he had helped her look for a sovereign one day which had rolled from her purse, and twice she had taken her mother on expensive journeys to Tollminster.
Brooding over the lack of confidence displayed by Selina, he sat on the side of her bed one afternoon glancing thoughtfully round the room. He was alone in the house, and now, or never, was his opportunity. After an hour’s arduous toil he had earned tenpence-halfpenny, and, rightly considering that the sum was unworthy of the risk, put it back where he had found it, and sat down gloomily to peruse a paper which he had found secreted at the bottom of her box.