The “grand manner”—that was how, naturally, without posing or bombast, these two persons envisaged life for good or evil—for this last, too, might be possible!—shaped their purposes and conduct. Sir Charles, he knew, had played for big stakes. Damaris, he felt intuitively, young though she was, played and would play for them likewise. He looked at her with awakened speculation, awakened curiosity. What, he wondered, would come of it. Did it make her attractive or the reverse? Really he wasn’t at all sure. Whereat he grew restive, the claims of inherent masculine superiority, let alone those of public school, university and an honourable profession, asserting themselves. He began to question whether this young lady did not take up an undue amount of room, thus cramping him and denying his powers of conversation suitable opportunity of display. Was not it about time gently to reduce her, relegate her to a more modest position? To achieve which laudable result—he acted, of course, for her good exclusively—he prepared to broach the subject of the unaccountable noises which disturbed his rest last night. He would cross-examine her as to their origin, thereby teasing and perhaps even discountenancing her somewhat.
But before Tom could put his benevolent scheme into execution, his attention was unexpectedly diverted, a quite new element projecting itself upon the scene.
For some little while an open boat, a hoary though still seaworthy tub of a thing, deep in draught and broad in the beam, loaded up with lobster-pots—the skeleton ribs of them black against the surrounding expanse of shining turquoise and pearl—had slowly neared the Bar from seaward. The bows, in which a small, withered old man bent double over the oars, cocked up on end. The stern, where a young man stood erect among the lobster-pots, was low in the water. Now, as the nose of the boat grounded, the young man clambered along the gunwale, and balancing for a minute, tall and straight, on the prow, took a flying leap across the wide intervening space of breaking wave and clear water, alighting on his feet, upon the firm sand beyond.
“Good for him! Neatly done,” Tom Verity murmured, appreciating the grace and vigour of the action.
The young man, meanwhile, turning, called to the rower: “Thank you heartily for putting me ashore, Daddy Proud. I’ll go across home by the ferry. But see here, can you manage her by yourself or shall I help shove her off for you?”
“Lord love ’ee, I can manage her sure enough,” the other called back shrilly and a trifle truculently. “I knows ’er ways and she knows her master—ought to by now the old strumpet, if years count for anythink. So don’t ’ee go wetting yer dandy shoes for the likes of her and me, Cap’en.”
And keckling with thin wheezy laughter he straightened his back, and, planting one oar in the sand, set the boat afloat again skilfully.