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Captain Rogers
by [?]

“Keep your distance,” he said, in a sharp, quick voice.

The innkeeper, in no wise disturbed at the pistol, turned away calmly, and ringing the bell, ordered some spirits. Then taking a chair, he motioned to the other to do the same, and they sat in silence until the staring waiter had left the room again. The stranger raised his glass.

“My old friend Captain Rogers,” he said, solemnly, “and may he never get his deserts!”

“From what jail have you come?” inquired Mullet, sternly.

“‘Pon my soul,” said the other, “I have been in so many–looking for Captain Rogers–that I almost forget the last, but I have just tramped from London, two hundred and eighty odd miles, for the pleasure of seeing your damned ugly figure-head again; and now I’ve found it, I’m going to stay. Give me some money.”

The innkeeper, without a word, drew a little gold and silver from his pocket, and placing it on the table, pushed it toward him.

“Enough to go on with,” said the other, pocketing it; “in future it is halves. D’ye hear me? Halves! And I’ll stay here and see I get it.”

He sat back in his chair, and meeting the other’s hatred with a gaze as steady as his own, replaced his pistol.

“A nice snug harbor after our many voyages,” he continued. “Shipmates we were, shipmates we’ll be; while Nick Gunn is alive you shall never want for company. Lord! Do you remember the Dutch brig, and the fat frightened mate?”

“I have forgotten it,” said the other, still eyeing him steadfastly. “I have forgotten many things. For fifteen years I have lived a decent, honest life. Pray God for your own sinful soul, that the devil in me does not wake again.”

“Fifteen years is a long nap,” said Gunn, carelessly; “what a godsend it ‘ll be for you to have me by you to remind you of old times! Why, you’re looking smug, man; the honest innkeeper to the life! Gad! who’s the girl?”

He rose and made a clumsy bow as a girl of eighteen, after a moment’s hesitation at the door, crossed over to the innkeeper.

“I’m busy, my dear,” said the latter, somewhat sternly.

“Our business,” said Gunn, with another bow, “is finished. Is this your daughter, Rog– Mullet?”

“My stepdaughter,” was the reply.

Gunn placed a hand, which lacked two fingers, on his breast, and bowed again.

“One of your father’s oldest friends,” he said smoothly; “and fallen on evil days; I’m sure your gentle heart will be pleased to hear that your good father has requested me–for a time–to make his house my home.”

“Any friend of my father’s is welcome to me, sir,” said the girl, coldly. She looked from the innkeeper to his odd-looking guest, and conscious of something strained in the air, gave him a little bow and quitted the room.

“You insist upon staying, then?” said Mullet, after a pause.

“More than ever,” replied Gunn, with a leer toward the door. “Why, you don’t think I’m afraid, Captain? You should know me better than that.”

“Life is sweet,” said the other.

“Ay,” assented Gunn, “so sweet that you will share things with me to keep it.”

“No,” said the other, with great calm. “I am man enough to have a better reason.”

“No psalm singing,” said Gunn, coarsely. “And look cheerful, you old buccaneer. Look as a man should look who has just met an old friend never to lose him again.”

He eyed his man expectantly and put his hand to his pocket again, but the innkeeper’s face was troubled, and he gazed stolidly at the fire.

“See what fifteen years’ honest, decent life does for us,” grinned the intruder.

The other made no reply, but rising slowly, walked to the door without a word.

“Landlord,” cried Gunn, bringing his maimed hand sharply down on the table.

The innkeeper turned and regarded him.

“Send me in some supper,” said Gunn; “the best you have, and plenty of it, and have a room prepared. The best.”