“Do they?” Captain Cai glanced at the ship-chandler for confirmation. “Well, then, I hope it is true.”
“’Tis nothing of the sort,” snapped Mr Rogers. Seeing how Captain Cai’s face fell, he added, “I may be wrong, o’ course, but I reckon there was two tenants, and they wanted a cottage apiece.”
“Ah, to be sure!” agreed the honest captain, visibly relieved.
But the Quaymaster persisted. “Yes, yes; there was talk of a friend o’ yours, an’ that you two were for settin’ up house alongside one another. Hunken was the name, if I remember?”
Again Captain Cai glanced at the ship-chandler. He was plainly puzzled, as the ship-chandler was plainly nettled. But he answered simply—
“That’s it—’Bias Hunken.”
“Have I met the man, by any chance?”
“No,” said Captain Cai firmly, “you haven’t, or you wouldn’t ask the question. He’s the best man ever wore shoe-leather, and you can trust him to the end o’ the earth.”
“I can’t say as I know a Hunken answerin’ that description,” Mr Bussa confessed dubiously.
“You’ve heard the description, anyway,” suggested Mr Rogers, losing patience. “And now, Peter Bussa, what d’ye say to running off and annoying somebody else?”
The Quaymaster fawned, and was backing away. But at this point up came Barber Toy, who for some minutes had been fretting to attract Captain Cai’s notice, and could wait no longer.
“Hulloa, there! Is it Cap’n Cai?—an’ still carryin’ his gaff-tops’l, I see” (this in pleasant allusion to the tall hat). “Well, home you be, it seems, an’ welcome as flowers in May!”
“Thank ’ee, Toy.” Captain Cai shook hands.
“We was talkin’ business,” said the ship-chandler pointedly.
“Then you might ha’ waited for a better occasion,” Mr Toy retorted. “Twasn’ mannerly of ye, to say the least.”
“Better be unmannerly than troublesome, I’ve heard.”
“Better be both than unfeelin’. What! Leave Cap’n Cai, here, pass my door, an’ never a home-comin’ word?”
“I was meanin’ to pay you a visit straight away; indeed I was,” said Captain Cai contritely. “Troy streets be narrow and full o’ friends; and when a man’s accustomed to sea-room—” He broke off and drew a long breath. “But O, friends, if you knew the good it is!”
“Ay, Cap’n: East or West, home is best.”
“And too far East is West, as every sailor man knows. . . . There, now, take me along and think’ that out while you’re giving me a clip; for the longer you stand scratching your head the longer my hair’s growing.” He turned to Mr Rogers. “So long, soce! I’ll be punctual at twelve-thirty—what’s left of me.”
THE BARBER’S CHAIR.
“This is home!” Captain Cai settled himself down in the barber’s chair with a sigh of luxurious content. “I’ve heard married men call it better,” said Mr Toy, fetching forth a clean wrapper.