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by [?]

“Where’s the captain?” inquired Miss Cooper, after his absence had been so prolonged as to become noticeable.

“He’s below, dressin’, I b’leeve,” replied the mate simply.

Miss Cooper, glancing at his attire, smiled softly to herself, and prepared for something startling, and she got it; for a more forlorn, sulky-looking object than the skipper, when he did appear, had never been seen on the deck of the Falcon, and his London betrothed glanced at him hot with shame and indignation.

“Whatever have you got those things on for?” she whispered.

“Work, my dear–work,” replied the skipper.

“Well, mind you don’t lose any of the pieces,” said the dear suavely; “you mightn’t be able to match that cloth.”

“I’ll look after that,” said the skipper, reddening. “You must excuse me talkin’ to you now. I’m busy.”

Miss Cooper looked at him indignantly, and, biting her lip, turned away, and started a desperate flirtation with the mate, to punish him. Evans watched them with mingled feelings as he busied himself with various small jobs on the deck, his wrath being raised to boiling point by the behaviour of the cook, who, being a poor hand at disguising his feelings, came out of the galley several times to look at him.

From this incident a coolness sprang up between the skipper and the girl, which increased hourly. At times the skipper weakened, but the watchful mate was always on hand to prevent mischief. Owing to his fostering care Evans was generally busy, and always gruff; and Miss Cooper, who was used to the most assiduous attentions from him, knew not whether to be most bewildered or most indignant. Four times in one day did he remark in her hearing that a sailor’s ship was his sweetheart, while his treatment of his small prospective brother in-law, when he expostulated with him on the state of his wardrobe, filled that hitherto pampered youth with amazement. At last, on the fourth night out, as the little schooner was passing the coast of Cornwall, the mate came up to him as he was steering, and patted him heavily on the back.

“It’s all right, cap’n,” said he. “You’ve lost the prettiest little girl in England.”

“What?” said the skipper, in incredulous tones.

“Fact,” replied the other. “Here’s your ring back. I wouldn’t let her wear it any longer.”

“However did you do it?” inquired Evans, taking the ring in a dazed fashion.

“Oh, easy as possible,” said the mate. “She liked me best, that’s all.”

“But what did you say to her?” persisted Evans.

The other reflected.

“I can’t call to mind exactly,” he said at length. “But, you may rely upon it, I said everything I could against you. But she never did care much for you. She told me so herself.”

“I wish you joy of your bargain,” said Evans solemnly, after a long pause.

“What do you mean?” demanded the mate sharply.

“A girl like that,” said the skipper, with a lump in his throat, “who can carry on with two men at once ain’t worth having. She’s not my money, that’s all.”

The mate looked at him in honest bewilderment.

“Mark my words,” continued the skipper loftily, “you’ll live to regret it. A girl like that’s got no ballast. She’ll always be running after fresh neckties.”

“You put it down to the necktie, do you?” sneered the mate wrathfully.

“That and the clothes, cert’nly,” replied the skipper.

“Well, you’re wrong,” said the mate. “A lot you know about girls. It wasn’t your old clothes, and it wasn’t all your bad behaviour to her since she’s been aboard. You may as well know first as last. She wouldn’t have nothing to do with me at first, so I told her all about Mary Jones.”

“You told her THAT?” cried the skipper fiercely.

“I did,” replied the other. “She was pretty wild at first; but then the comic side of it struck her–you wearing them old clothes, and going about as you did. She used to watch you until she couldn’t stand it any longer, and then go down in the cabin and laugh. Wonderful spirits that girl’s got. Hush! Here she is!”