“You would ha’ done if you’d been better looking, p’raps,” retorted the other. “Well, I’ve offered this young woman to come for a trip with us.”
“Oh, you have, ’ave you!” said the skipper, sharply. “And what do you think Louisa will say to it?”
“That’s your look out,” said Louisa’s brother, cheerfully. “I’ll make her up a bed for’ard, and we’ll all be as happy as you please.”
He started suddenly. The mate of the schooner was indulging in a series of whistles of the most amatory description.
“There she is,” he said. “I told her to wait outside.”
He ran upon deck, and his perturbed brother-in-law, following at his leisure, was just in time to see him descending the ladder with a young woman and a small handbag.
“This is my brother-in-law, Cap’n Gibbs,” said Ted, introducing the new arrival; “smartest man at a barge on the river.”
The girl extended a neatly gloved hand, shook the skipper’s affably, and looked wonderingly about her.
“It’s very close to the water, Ted,” she said, dubiously.
The skipper coughed. “We don’t take passengers as a rule,” he said, awkwardly; “we ’ain’t got much convenience for them.”
“Never mind,” said the girl, kindly; “I sha’nt expect too much.”
She turned away, and following the mate down to the cabin, went into ecstasies over the space-saving contrivances she found there. The drawers fitted in the skipper’s bunk were a source of particular interest, and the owner watched with strong disapprobation through the skylight her efforts to make him an apple-pie bed with the limited means at her disposal. He went down below at once as a wet blanket.
“I was just shaking your bed up a bit,” said Miss Harris, reddening.
“I see you was,” said the skipper, briefly.
He tried to pluck up courage to tell her that he couldn’t take her, but only succeeded in giving vent to an inhospitable cough.
“I’ll get the supper,” said the mate, suddenly; “you sit down, old man, and talk to Lucy.”
In honour of the visitor he spread a small cloth, and then proceeded to produce cold beef, pickles, and accessories in a manner which reminded Miss Harris of white rabbits from a conjurer’s hat. Captain Gibbs, accepting the inevitable, ate his supper in silence and left them to their glances.
“We must make you up a bed, for’ard, Lucy,” said the mate, when they had finished.
Miss Harris started. “Where’s that?” she inquired.
“Other end o’ the boat,” replied the mate, gathering up some bedding under his arm. “You might bring a lantern, John.”
The skipper, who was feeling more sociable after a couple of glasses of beer, complied, and accompanied the couple to the tiny forecastle. A smell compounded of bilge, tar, paint, and other healthy disinfectants emerged as the scuttle was pushed back. The skipper dangled the lantern down and almost smiled.