Still grasping the tiller-lines, the Admiral stood up on the stern seat and shouted.
At the sound Mr. Fogo raised his spectacles and blandly stared through them at the strangers. Caleb started, turned suddenly round, and came rushing down the beach, his right hand frantically waving them back, his left grasping a pair of—(Oh! Miss Limpenny!)
“Hi! you must go back. Go away, I tell ’ee!” he gesticulated.
“Go away; no females allowed here. Off with ’ee this moment!”
“Put down those —s, sir,” yelled the Admiral.
“Sarve ’ee right: no business to come: ’tes Bachelor’s Hall, this, an’ us don’t want no womankind trapesin’ here: so keep your distance. Go ’long!” And Caleb began to wave again.
“Sir,” cried the Admiral, appealing to Mr. Fogo, “what is the meaning of this extraordinary reception?”
“Eh? What?” said that gentleman, who apparently had fallen into a fit of deep abstraction. “I beg your pardon. I did not quite catch—”
“What is the meaning of all this, sir?” The Admiral was scarlet with passion.
“Oh, it’s quite right, I believe—quite right. Caleb will tell you.” As he gave this astonishing answer in a far-away tone, Mr. Fogo’s spectacles rested on his visitor for a moment with a smile of deepest benevolence. Then, with a sigh, he resumed his washing.
The Admiral positively danced with rage.
“There, what did I tell ’ee?” exclaimed Caleb triumphantly. “That’s your answer, and now you can go ’long home. Off with ’ee!”
The Admiral’s reply would probably have contained some strong words. It was arrested by a catastrophe.
During this altercation the tide had been rising, and carried the boat gently up towards the little beach. As the Admiral opened his mouth to retort, the boat’s nose jarred upon a sunken heap of pebbles. The shock was slight, but enough to upset his equilibrium. Without any warning, the Admiral’s heels shot upwards, and the great man himself, with a wild clutch at vacancy, soused backwards— cocked-hat and all—into the water.
The three Misses Buzza with one accord clasped their hands and uttered dismal shrieks; the three mushroom hats shook with terror. Mr. Fogo looked up from his washing.
“Papa! oh, save him—save our dear Papa!”
There was no danger. Presently a crimson face rose over the boat’s stern, blowing like a grampus. A pair of dripping epaulets followed; and then the Admiral stood up, knee-deep in water, and swore and spat alternately.
How different from that glittering hero, at sight of whom, not an hour before, the Trojan dames at their lattices had stopped their needlework to whisper! Down his nose and chin ran a pitiable flood; his scanty locks, before so wiry and obstinate, lay close against his ears; his gorgeous uniform, tarnished with slime, hung in folds, and from each fold poured a separate cascade; the whole man had become suddenly shrunken.