At dinner he said: “You’ll be up in the summer-house this afternoon? I shouldn’t wonder if Zeke comes to say good-bye. Tangye says he’ve got the offer of a new berth, up to Runcorn.”
“Yes, I know.”
If she wished, or struggled, to say more he did not seem to observe it, but rose from his chair, stooped and kissed her on the forehead, and resolutely marched out to his garden. He worked that afternoon in a small patch which commanded a view of the ferry and also of the road leading up to Hall: and at half-past three, or a few minutes later, dropped his spade and strolled down to the edge of his property, a low cliff overhanging the ferry-slip.
Zeke, as he stepped out of the ferry-boat, looked with some confusion on his face. He wore his best suit, with a bunch of sweet-william in his button-hole.
“Come to bid us good-bye, I s’pose? We’ve heard of your luck. Here, scramble up this way if you can manage, and shake hands on your fortune.”
Zeke obeyed. The climb seemed to fluster him; but the afternoon was a hot one, in spite of a light westerly breeze. The two men moved side by side across the garden-slope, and as they did so John caught sight of a twinkle of sunshine on Captain Tangye’s brass telescope across the harbour.
They paused beside one of the heaps of rubbish. “This is a fine thing for you, Zeke.”
“Ay, pretty fair.”
“I s’pose we sha’n’t be seein’ much of you now. ’Tis like an end of old times. I reckoned we’d have a pipe together afore partin’.” John pulled out a stumpy clay and filled it. “Got a match about you?”
Zeke passed him one, and he struck it on his boot. “There, now,” he went on, “I meant to set a light to these here heaps of rubbish this afternoon, and now I’ve come out without my matches.” He waited for the sulphur to finish bubbling, and then began to puff.
Zeke handed him half-a-dozen matches.
“I dunno how many ’twill take,” said John. “S’pose we go round together and light up. ‘Twont’ take us a quarter of an hour, an’ we can talk by the way.”
Ten minutes later, Captain Tangye, across the harbour, shut his telescope with an angry snap. The smoke of five-and-twenty bonfires crawled up the hillside and completely hid John Penaluna’s garden—hid the two figures standing there, hid the little summer-house at the top of the slope. It was enough to make a man swear, and Captain Tangye swore.
John Penaluna drew a long breath.
“Well, good-bye and bless ’ee, Zeke. Hester’s up in the summer-house. I won’t go up with ‘ee; my back’s too stiff. Go an’ make your adoos to her; she’s cleverer than I be, and maybe will tell ’ee what we’ve both got in our minds.”
This was the third rash thing that John Penaluna did.
He watched Zeke up the hill, till the smoke hid him. Then he picked up his spade. “Shall I find her, when I step home this evening? Please God, yes.”