We inquired what the difference was between their privileges and his.
‘Why,’ said he, ’if they’re so much as accused of a disobedient act, off they ’re scurried, and lose fair wages and a kind captain. And let any man Jack of ’em accuse me, and he bounds a india-rubber ball against a wall and gets it; all he meant to give he gets. Once you fix the confidence of your superior, you’re waterproof.’
We held our peace, but we could have spoken.
Mr. Double had no moral hostility toward theatres. Supposing he did not relish the performance, he could enjoy a spell in the open air, he said, and this he speedily decided to do. Had we not been bound in honour to remain for him to fetch us, we also should have retired from a representation of which we understood only the word ja. It was tiresome to be perpetually waiting for the return of this word. We felt somewhat as dogs must feel when human speech is addressed to them. Accordingly, we professed, without concealment, to despise the whole performance. I reminded Temple of a saying of the Emperor Charles V. as to a knowledge of languages.
‘Hem!’ he went critically; ’it’s all very well for a German to talk in that way, but you can’t be five times an Englishman if you’re a foreigner.’
We heard English laughter near us. Presently an English gentleman accosted us.
‘Mr. Villiers, I believe?’ He bowed at me.
‘My name is Richmond.’
He bowed again, with excuses, talked of the Play, and telegraphed to a lady sitting in a box fronting us. I saw that she wrote on a slip of paper; she beckoned; the gentleman quitted us, and soon after placed a twisted note in my hand. It ran:
’Miss Goodwin (whose Christian name is Clara) wishes very much to know how it has fared with Mr. Harry Richmond since he left Venice.’
I pushed past a number of discontented knees, trying, on my way to her box, to recollect her vividly, but I could barely recollect her at all, until I had sat beside her five minutes. Colonel Goodwin was asleep in a corner of the box. Awakened by the sound of his native tongue, he recognized me immediately.
‘On your way to your father?’ he said, as he shook my hand.
I thought it amazing he should guess that in Germany.
‘Do you know where he is, sir?’ I asked.
‘We saw him,’ replied the colonel; ’when was it, Clara? A week or ten days ago.’
‘Yes,’ said Miss Goodwin; ‘we will talk of that by-and-by.’ And she overflowed with comments on my personal appearance, and plied me with questions, but would answer none of mine.
I fetched Temple into the box to introduce him. We were introduced in turn to Captain Malet, the gentleman who had accosted me below.
‘You understand German, then?’ said Miss Goodwin.
She stared at hearing that we knew only the word ja, for it made our presence in Germany unaccountable.