The steady gray eyes were turned deliberately from the captain until the questioner was within their vision. Then, after a moment’s scrutiny of his face, they were slowly dropped so as to take in the merchant from head to foot. Finally they came back to the face again, and once more studied it with intentness, though apparently without the slightest interest.
“Come,” said the merchant a little heatedly, and flushing at the man’s coolness. “Answer me. Are ye used to horses and gardening?”
As if he had not heard the question, the man turned, and resumed his staring at the water.
“None of your damned impertinence!” roared the captain, catching up the free part of a halyard coiled on the deck, “or I’ll give you a taste of the rope’s end.”
The young fellow faced about in sudden passion, which strangely altered him. “Strike me at your peril!” he challenged, his arm drawn back, and fist clinched for a blow.
“None but a jail-bird would be so afraid of telling about himself,” cried the captain, though ceasing to threaten. “The best thing you can do will be to turn the cursed son of a sea cook over to the authorities, Mr. Cauldwell.”
“Look ye, my man,” warned the merchant, “ye only bring suspicion on yourself by such conduct, and ye know best how far ye want to have your past searched into—”
The man interrupted the merchant.
“Ar bain’t much usen to gardening, but ar knows—” he hesitated for a moment and then went on, “but ar bai willin’ to work.”
“Ay,” bawled the captain. “Fear of the courts has made him find his tongue.”
“Well,” remarked the merchant, “’t is not for my interest to look too closely at a man I have for sale.” Then, as he walked away with the captain, he continued: “Many a convict or fugitive has come to the straightabout out here, but hang me if I like his looks or his manner. However, Mr. Meredith knows the pot-luck of redemptioners as well as I, and he can say nay if he chooses.” He stopped and eyed the group of emigrants sourly, saying, “I’ll let Gorman hear what I think of his shipment. He knows I don’t want mere bog cattle.”
“’T is a poor consignment that can’t be bettered in the advertisement,” comforted the captain, and apparently he spoke truly, for in the “Pennsylvania Gazette” of September 7th appeared the following:—
“Just arrived on board the brig ‘Boscawen,’ Alexander Caine, Master from Ireland, a number of likely, healthy, men and women Servants; among whom are Taylors, Barbers, Foiners, Weavers, Shoemakers, Sewers, Labourers, etc., etc., whose indentures are to be disposed of by Cauldwell & Wilson, or the master on board the Vessel off Market Street Wharff— Said Cauldwall & Wilson will give the highest prices for good Pot-Ashes and Bees-Wax.”