XVIII. The ploughing.
XIX. Roses and three-per-cents.
XX. A newspaper paragraph.
XXI. The auction.
XXII. The last challenge.
XXIII. Passage regatta.
XXIV. Fancy brings news.
XXV. Cai renounces.
XXVI. ’Bias renounces.
XXVII. Mrs Bosenna gives the rose.
CAPTAIN CAI HAULS ASHORE.
“Well, that’s over!”
Captain Caius Hocken, from the stern-sheets of the boat bearing him shoreward, slewed himself half-about for a look back at his vessel, the Hannah Hoo barquentine. This was a ticklish operation, because he wore a tall silk hat and had allowed his hair to grow during the passage home—St. Michael’s to Liverpool with a cargo of oranges, and from Liverpool around to Troy in charge of a tug.
“I’m wonderin’ what ’twill feel like when it comes to my turn,” mused his mate Mr Tregaskis, likewise pensively contemplating the Hannah Hoo. “Not to be sure, sir, as I’d compare the two cases; me bein’ a married man, and you—as they say—with the ship for wife all these years, and children too.”
“I never liked the life, notwithstandin’,” confessed the Captain. “And I’ll be fifty come Michaelmas. Isn’ that enough?”
“Nobody likes it, sir; not at our age. But all the same I reckon there be compensations.” Mr Tregaskis, shading his eyes (for the day was sunny), let his gaze travel up the spars and rigging of the Barquentine—up to the truck of her maintopmast, where a gull had perched itself and stood with tail pointing like a vane. “If the truth were known, maybe your landsman on an average don’t do as he chooses any more than we mariners.”
“Tut, man!” The Captain, who held the tiller, had ceased to look aft. His eyes were on the quay and the small town climbing the hillside above it in tier upon tier of huddled grey houses. “Why, damme! Your landsman chooses to live ashore, to begin with. What’s more, he can walk where he has a mind to, no matter where the wind sits.”
Mr Tregaskis shook his head. Having no hat, he was able to do this, and it gave him some dialectical advantage over his skipper.
“In practice, sir, you’d find it depend on who’s left to mind the shop.”
“Home’s home, all the same,” said Captain Cai positively, thrusting over the tiller to round in for the landing-stairs. “I was born and reared in Troy, d’ye see? and as the sayin’ goes—Steady on!”