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OF A BLUE-JERSEYED MAN THAT WOULD HOIST NO MORE BRICKS;
AND A NIGHTCAP THAT HAD NO BUSINESS TO BE WHERE IT WAS.
No one acquainted with the character of that extraordinary town will be surprised when I say that, within an hour after the occurrences related in the last chapter, Troy had resumed its workday quiet. By two o'clock nothing was to be heard but the tick-tack of mallets in the ship-building yards, the puffing of the steam-tug, the rattle of hawsers among the vessels out in the harbour, and the melodious "Woo-hoo!" of a crew at capstan or windlass. Troy in carnival and Troy sober are as opposite, you must know, as the poles. Fun is all very well, but business is business, and Troy is a trading port with a character to keep up: for who has not heard the bye-word-- "Working like a Trojan"?
At two o'clock on this same day a little schooner lay alongside the town quay, busily discharging bricks. That is to say, a sunburnt man, blue-jerseyed and red with brick-dust, leisurely turned a windlass which let down an empty bucket and brought it up full. Another blue-jerseyed man, also sunburnt and red with brick-dust, then pulled it on shore, emptied and returned it; and the operation was repeated. A choleric little man, of about fifty, presumably the proprietor of the bricks, stood on the edge of the quay, and swore alternately at the man with the windlass and the man ashore.
"Look 'ere," said the man at the windlass, after a bit. "Stop cussin'. This ain't a hurdy-gurdy, and if you expec's music you'll have to toss us a copper."
The owner of the bricks swore worse than ever.
Round went the windlass as leisurely as might be and another bucketful was hoisted ashore. The man on deck spat on his hands, and broke into cheerful song:--
"Was you iver to Que-bec, Bonnie laddie, Hieland laddie Was you iver to Que-bec, Rousing timber over the deck? Hey my bonny laddie! Wur-roo! my heart's--"
The rage of the little man found extra vent.
"Look here, Caleb Trotter," he concluded, after a full minute of profanity, "how do you think I'm to get my living and pay a set of lubberly dolts like you?"
Caleb paused with his hand on the windlass, and suggested retrenchment of the halfpenny a week hitherto spent in manners. "'Cos, you see, all this po-liteness of yourn es a'runnin' to waste," he explained with fine irony.
But before the next load was more than three-parts hoisted, Caleb's patience was exhausted. What he did was simple but decisive. He removed his hold; the handle whizzed violently round, and the bucket of bricks descended to the hold with a crash.
"Now I tell 'ee straight. Enough's enough; an' I han't got time, at my time o' life, to be po-lite to ivery red-faced chap I meets. You can pay me or no, as you likes; but I'm off to get a drink. An' that's all about et; an' wen 'tes over, 'tes over, as Joan said by her weddin'."
With this Caleb stepped ashore, spat good-naturedly, put his hands in his pockets, and went off whistling.
At this moment Mr. Fogo, who had been on the quay long enough to hear this altercation, touched him softly by the arm.
"You said you were going to have a drink, I believe. May I go with you? I wish to ask you a few questions."
"Sutt'nly, sir," said Caleb with a stifled grin, as he recognised the hero of the morning. "I generally patronises the 'King o' Prooshia' for beer. It won't make your hair curl, nor yet prevent your seein' a hole dro' a ladder: but perhaps neither o' these is your objec'."
Mr. Fogo, a little bewildered, replied modestly that he pursued neither of these aims. Caleb led the way across the quay, and they ascended the steps of the "King of Prussia" together.
"My object," said Mr. Fogo timidly, as they were seated together in the low-roofed parlour before two foaming mugs--"My object was this. In the first place, I like your look."
"Same to you, sir," said Caleb, and acknowledged the compliment with a draught, "though 'tes what my gal said afore she desarted me for a Rooshan."
"Are you a single man, then?"
"To be sure, sir."
"So much the better--but I will talk of that presently. I, too, am a single man, with rather peculiar tastes. One of these is solitude. I had heard of Troy as a place where I was likely to find this, though my experience of this morning--"
"Never mind, sir. Accidents will happen even in the best reggylated families. You was took for another, which has happened even to Bible characters afore this--though Jacob's the only one I can call to mind just now."
"Still, I should be sorry to go back with the knowledge that my journey has been in vain. But I must have solitude at any price, and the reason why I am consulting you is that you might possibly know of a house to let in this neighbourhood, where I could be alone and secure against visitors."
Caleb scratched his head.
"I'm sure, sir, 'tes hard to say. Troy's a powerful place for knowin' what your neighbour's got for dinner, and they do say as the Admiral's telescope will carry dro' a brick wall."
Mr. Fogo's face fell.
"Stop a bit," said Caleb more brightly. "About livin' inside o' the town, now--es that a shiny cannon?"
"A shiny cannon--which es the same as to say, won't et do elst?"
"Oh, a sine-qua-non," said Mr. Fogo; "no, I am not particularly anxious to live in the town itself."
"Wud the matter of a mile up the river be out o' the way?"
"Not at all."
"An' about rent?"
"Within reasonable limits, that would not matter."
"Then my advice to you, sir, es to see the Twins about et."
Mr. Fogo's mild face looked more puzzled than ever. He removed his spectacles, wiped and resumed them.
"For any reasonable object," he said, "I am ready to see any number of twins--much as I dislike babies--"
But here Caleb interrupted him by bursting into a roar of laughter which lasted for half a minute.
"Babbies! Well I--ho! ho!--'scuse me, sir--but aw dear, aw dear! Babbies! Bab--" Here he slapped his thigh and broke into another roar, at the end of which he grew fairly black in the face.
"Bless yer innocent heart, sir! They'm a matter o' six foot high, the both--and risin' forty. Dearlove's their name--and lives up the river 'long wi' their sister--Peter an' Paul an' Tamsin (which es short for Thom-a-si-na), an' I've heerd tell as the boys came nigh to bein' chrisn'd Sihon an' Og, on'y the old Vicar said he'd be blowed fust--very free wi' his langwidge was th' ould Vicar."
"I should fancy so," said Mr. Fogo; "but you'll excuse me if I don't quite see, yet, why you advise me to call on these people."
"No offence, sir. On'y they owns Kit's House, that's all."
"I see; and Kit's House is the place you have in your mind."
"That's et, sir."
"And these Dearloves, where do they live?"
"Furder up the river by two mile."
"Could you row me up this afternoon to see them?"
Caleb Trotter rose, and drew the back of his hand across his mouth.
"Wi' all the pleasure in life, sir, as Uncle Zachy said when he gi'ed his da'ter in marriage."
In less than ten minutes Caleb had brought his boat round to the quay. Mr. Fogo stepped in, and was presently seated in the stern and meditatively listening while Caleb rowed--and talked--"like a Trojan."
Here we may leave them for a while and return to the Admiral, whom we left in the act of plunging furiously into his own house. It was not the habit of that fiery little tar to hide his emotions from the wife of his bosom.
"Emily!" he bellowed, "Em-i-ly, I say! Come down this instant."
The three Misses Buzza at the parlour window knew the tone, and shuddered: Mrs. Buzza, up-stairs, heard, trembled, and obeyed.
"Yes, darling. What is it?"
"Fill the warming-pan at once. I'm going to bed."
"To bed, love!"
"Yes, to bed. Don't I speak plainly enough? To bed, ma'am, to bed, and at once."
"You are upset, dearest; be cool, I implore you."
"Be cool! Be coo'--Don't hector me, ma'am, but fetch that warming-pan at once. I'll teach you about being cool! Sophy, pull off my boots."
They obeyed. The warming-pan was brought--an enormous engine, big enough to hold the Admiral himself--and the bed heated. The Admiral undressed, and, himself a warming-pan of rage, plunged between the sheets. It was a wonder the bed-clothes were not on fire.
"Pull down the blind, and bring me something to eat!"
"And be quick about it. Can't you see I'm starving?"
It is true that the Admiral's excitement had interfered with his breakfast that morning, but it was none the less difficult to read starvation upon his face. Mrs. Buzza obeyed, however; and presently returned with the liver-wing of a fowl.
"You call that a dinner for a hungry man, I suppose! Bring me some more!"
"My dear, I didn't know you wanted a dinner."
"Confound it, ma'am! must I put dress-studs in my night-shirt to convince you I want to dine? Bring me some more!"
"There is no more fowl, dear. I kept this from yesterday's as a tit-bit for you."
"What is for dinner to-day?"
"Boiled beef: but you said expressly that dinner was to be late to-day, in consequence of the arrivals, and it is not nearly done yet."
"I don't care, bring it!"
The mention of the arrivals sent the Admiral up to a white heat again.
It was brought. The Admiral had two helpings, and then a glass of grog.
Mrs. Buzza withdrew. Left to himself, the Admiral tossed, and turned, and fumed, and swore, lay still for a while, and then repeated the process backwards. After a time the bed-clothes began to prick him, and the heat to become a positive torture. He leapt out, and tore at the bell-rope, until it came away in his hand--just as his wife reappeared.
"Will you kindly inform me what the devil's wrong with this bed? Who made it?"
"Then will you kindly give Selina a month's notice on the spot? Do you hear? On the spot--What's that?"
The Admiral rushed to the window and pulled up the blind. He was just in time to see a close carriage and pair dash past and pull up at "The Bower."
A moment afterwards, Miss Limpenny, from the first-storey window of No. 1, saw the carriage door open, and a tall gentleman emerge. The tall gentleman was followed by a lady, whom even at that distance Miss Limpenny could see to possess a remarkably graceful figure. A small youth in livery sprang down from beside the coachman and helped to lower the boxes, whilst the new arrivals passed into the house where the charwoman, Mrs. Snell, stood smearing her face with her apron, and ducking in frenzied welcome.
The Honourable Frederic Augustus Hythe Goodwyn-Sandys and his wife, instead of arriving by train, had posted from Five-Lanes Junction.
There was no public demonstration. They might as well have come in the dead of night. Miss Limpenny was almost the sole witness of their arrival, and Miss Limpenny's observations were cut short by a terrible occurrence.
She had taken stock of the Honourable Frederic, and pronounced him "aristocratic-looking"; of the Honourable Mrs. Frederic's travelling-dress, and decided it to be Cumeelfo; she had counted the boxes twice, and made them seven each time; she was about to count the buttons on the liveried youth, when--
To this day she sinks her voice as she narrates it. She saw--the unseemliness, the monstrous indelicacy of it!--she saw--the nightcap and shoulders of Admiral Buzza craning out of the next-door window!
What happened next? Whether she actually fainted, or merely kept her eyes shut, she cannot clearly remember. But for weeks afterwards, as she declares, the sight of a man caused her to "turn all colours."
It was significant, this nightcap of Admiral Buzza--as the ram's horn to Jericho, the Mother Carey's chicken to the doomed ship. It announced, even as it struck, the first blow at the old morality of Troy.
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