“And why Mr. Bull-dog?” asked Cauldwell, after a glance at the paper.
“By the airs he takes. Odd’s life! if we’d had the Duke of Cumberland aboard, he’d not have carried himself the stiffer. From the day we shipped him, not so much as a word has he passed with one of us, save to threat Mr. Higgins’ life, when he knocked him down with a belaying pin for his da—for his impertinence. And he nothing but an indentured servant not able to write his name and like as not with a sheriff at his heels.” The captain’s sudden volubility could mean either dislike or mere curiosity.
“Dost think he’s of the wrong colour?” asked the merchant, looking with more interest at the covenant.
“’T is the dev—’t is beyond me to say what he is. A good man at the ropes, but a da—a Dutchman for company. ’Twixt he and the bog-trotters we shipped at Cork Harbour ’t was the dev—’t was the scuttiest lot I ever took aboard ship.” The rum was getting into the captain’s tongue, and making his usual vocabulary difficult to keep under.
“Have ye no artisans among the Irish?”
“Not so much as one who knows the differ between his two hands.”
“’T is too bad of Gorman not to pick better,” growled the merchant. “There’s a great demand for Western settlers, and Mr. Lambert Meredith writes me to pick him up a good man at horses and gardening, without stinting the price. ’T would be something to me to oblige him.”
’T is a parcel of raw teagues except for the Bristol man.”
“And ye think he’s of the light-fingered gentry?”
“As for that,” said the captain, “I know nothing about him. But he came to your factor and wanted to take the first ship that cleared, and seemed in such a mortal pother that Mr. Horsley suspicioned something, and gave me a slant to look out for him. And all the time we lay off Bristol, my fine fellow kept himself well out of sight.”
“Come,” said the merchant, rising, “we’ll have a look at him. Mr. Meredith is not a man to be disappointed if it can be avoided.”
Once on deck the captain led the way to the forepart of the ship, where, standing by himself, and, like the other emigrants, looking over the rail, but, unlike them, looking not at the city, but at the water, stood a fellow of a little over medium height, with broad shoulders and a well-shaped back, despite the ill form his ragged coat tried to give it. At a slap on the shoulder he turned about, showing to the merchant a ruddy, sea-tanned skin, light brown hair, gray eyes, and a chin and mouth hidden by a two months’ beard, still too bristly to give him other than an unkempt, boorish look.
“Here ’s the rogue,” announced the captain, with a suggestion of challenge in the speech, as if he would like to have the epithet resented. But the man only regarded the officer with steady, inexpressive eyes.
“Now, my good fellow,” asked the merchant, “to what kind of work have ye been bred?”