“You don’t know Selina, sir,” repeated Mr. Tasker, in reply to this manifestation. “She always gets her own way. Her father ain’t ’it ’er mother not since Selina was seventeen. He dursent. The last time Selina went for him tooth and nail; smashed all the plates off the dresser throwing ’em at him, and ended by chasing of him up the road in his shirt-sleeves.”
The captain grunted.
“That was two years ago,” continued Mr. Tasker; “and his spirit’s quite broke. He ’as to give all his money except a shilling a week to his wife, and he’s not allowed to go into pubs. If he does it’s no good, because they won’t serve ’im. If they do Selina goes in next morning and gives them a piece of ’er mind. She don’t care who’s there or what she says, and the consequence is Mr. Vickers can’t get served in Binchester for love or money. That’ll show you what she is.”
“Well, tell her I won’t have her here,” said the captain, rising. “Good-night.”
“I’ve told her over and over again, sir,” was the reply,” and all she says is she’s not afraid of you, nor six like you.”
[Illustration: “All she says is she’s not afraid of you, nor six like you.”]
The captain fell back silent, and Mr. Tasker, pausing in a respectful attitude, watched him wistfully. The captain’s brows were bent in thought, and Mr. Tasker, reminding himself that crews had trembled at his nod and that all were silent when he spoke, felt a flutter of hope.
“Well,” said the captain, sharply, as he turned and caught sight of him, “what are you waiting there for?”
Mr. Tasker drifted towards the door which led upstairs.
“I—I thought you were thinking of something we could do to prevent her coming, sir,” he said, slowly. “It’s hard on me, because as a matter of fact——”
“Well?” said the captain.
“I—I’ve ’ad my eye on another young lady for some time,” concluded Mr. Tasker.
He was standing on the bottom stair as he spoke, with his hand on the latch. Under the baleful stare with which the indignant captain favoured him, he closed it softly and mounted heavily to bed.
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.