“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.
“You’re looking very cheerful,” she remarked.
The captain’s face fell several points. “Am I?” he said, ruefully. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Why not?” inquired his niece.
“I mean I didn’t know I was,” he replied, “more than usual, I mean. I always do look fairly cheerful—at least, I hope I do. There’s nothing to make me look the opposite.”
Miss Drewitt eyed him carefully and then passed upstairs to put on her hat. Relieved of her presence the captain walked to the small glass over the mantelpiece and, regarding his tell-tale features with gloomy dissatisfaction, acquired, after one or two attempts, an expression which he flattered himself defied analysis.
He tapped the barometer which hung by the door as they went out, and, checking a remark which rose to his lips, stole a satisfied glance at the face by his side.
“Clark’s farm by the footpaths would be a nice walk,” said Miss Drewitt, as they reached the end of the lane.
The captain started. “I was thinking of Dutton Priors,” he said, slowly. “We could go there by Hanger’s Lane and home by the road.”