“I can, can I?” cried Mr. Tubbs. “Say, are you a human iceberg, to talk that cool before a man’s own face? Say, I’ll—”
But Cuthbert Vane broke in.
“Three rousing cheers, old boy!” he cried to the Scotchman enthusiastically. “Always did think the chap a frightful bounder, don’t you know? We’ll stand by old Shaw, won’t we, Magnus?” Which comradely outbreak showed the excess of the beautiful youth’s emotions, for usually he turned a large cold shoulder on the captain, though managing in some mysterious manner to be perfectly civil all the time. Perhaps you have to be born at High Staunton Manor or its equivalent to possess the art of relegating people to immense distances without seeming to administer even the gentlest shove.
But unfortunately the effect of the Honorable Cuthbert’s cordiality was lost, so far as the object of it was concerned, because of the surprising fact, only now remarked by any one, that Captain Magnus had disappeared.
SOME SECRET DIPLOMACY
The evanishment of Captain Magnus, though quite unlooked for at so critical a moment, was too much in keeping with his eccentric and unsocial ways to arouse much comment. Everybody looked about with mild ejaculations of surprise, and then forgot about the matter.
Whistling a Scotch tune, Dugald Shaw set to work again on the boat. In the face of difficulty or opposition he always grew more brisk and cheerful. I used to wonder whether in the event of a tornado he would not warm into positive geniality. Perhaps it would not have needed a tornado, if I had not begun by suspecting him of conspiring against Aunt Jane’s pocket, or if the Triumvirate, inspired by Mr. Tubbs, had not sat in gloomy judgment on his every movement. Or if he hadn’t been reproached so for saving me from the cave, instead of leaving it to Cuthbert Vane—
But now under the stimulus of speaking his mind about Mr. Tubbs the Scotchman whistled as he worked, and slapped the noble youth affectionately on the back when he came and got in the way with anxious industry.
As I wanted to observe developments—a very necessary thing when you are playing Providence—I chose a central position in the shade and pulled out some very smudgy tatting, a sort of Penelope’s web which there was no prospect of my ever completing, but which served admirably to give me an appearance of occupation at critical moments.