“Not a man,” said Mr. Duckett.
“At Melbourne,” said the captain, who was in a hurry to be off,” we all separated, and Duckett and me worked our way home on a cargo-boat. We always stick together, Peter and me.”
“And always will,” said Mr. Duckett, with a little emotion as he gazed meaningly at the captain’s breast-pocket.
“When I think o’ that little craft lying all those fathoms down,” continued the captain, staring full at Mr. Tredgold,” it hurts me. The nicest little craft of her kind I ever handled. Well—so long, gentlemen.”
“We shall see you to-morrow,” said Tredgold, hastily, as the captain rose.
Brisket shook his head.
“Me and Peter are very busy,” he said, softly. “We’ve been putting our little bit o’ savings together to buy a schooner, and we want to settle things as soon as possible.”
“A schooner?” exclaimed Mr. Tredgold, with an odd look.
Captain Brisket nodded indulgently.
“One o’ the prettiest little craft you ever saw, gentlemen,” he said,” and, if you’ve got no objection, me and Peter Duckett thought o’ calling her the Fair Emily, in memory of old times. Peter’s a bit sentimental at times, but I don’t know as I can blame him for it. Good night.”
He opened the door slowly, and the sentimental Mr. Duckett, still holding fast to the parcel containing Mr. Stobell’s old boot, slipped thankfully outside. Calmly and deliberately Captain Brisket followed, and the door was closing behind him when it suddenly stopped, and his red face was thrust into the room again.
“One thing is,” he said, eyeing the speechless Tredgold with sly relish, “she’s uncommonly like the Fair Emily we lost. Good night.”
The door closed with a snap, but Tredgold and Chalk made no move. Glued to their seats, they stared blankly at the door, until the rigidity of their pose and the strangeness of their gaze began to affect the slower-witted Mr. Stobell.
“Anything wrong?” inquired the astonished Captain Bowers, looking from one to the other.
There was no reply. Mr. Stobell rose and, after steadying himself for a moment with his hands on the table, blundered heavily towards the door. As though magnetized, Tredgold and Chalk followed and, standing beside him on the footpath, stared solemnly up Dialstone Lane.
Captain Brisket and his faithful mate had disappeared.
[Illustration: “They stared solemnly up Dialstone Lane.”]