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“Not for me,” said Captain Jones firmly, but with an obvious effort.

The surprise of Evans and the mate admitted of no concealment; but it passed unnoticed by their visitor, who, fidgeting in his seat, appeared to be labouring with some mysterious problem. After a long pause, during which all watched him anxiously, he reached over the table and shook hands with Evans again.

“Put it there, cap’n,” said Evans, much affected by this token of esteem.

The old man rose and stood looking at him, with his hand on his shoulder; he then shook hands for the third time, and patted him encouragingly on the back.

“Is anything the matter?” demanded the skipper of the Falcon as he rose to his feet, alarmed by these manifestations of feeling.” Is Mary–is she ill?”

“Worse than that,” said the other–“worse’n that, my poor boy; she’s married a lobster!”

The effect of this communication upon Evans was tremendous; but it may be doubted whether he was more surprised than Miss Cooper, who, utterly unversed in military terms, strove in vain to realize the possibility of such a mesalliance, as she gazed wildly at the speaker and squeaked with astonishment.

“When was it?” asked Evans at last, in a dull voice.

“Thursday fortnight, at ha’ past eleven,” said the old man. “He’s a sergeant in the line. I would have written to you, but I thought it was best to come and break it to you gently. Cheer up, my boy; there’s more than one Mary Jones in the world.”

With this undeniable fact, Captain Jones waved a farewell to the party and went off, leaving them to digest his news. For some time they sat still, the mate and Miss Cooper exchanging whispers, until at length, the stillness becoming oppressive, they withdrew to their respective berths, leaving the skipper sitting at the table, gazing hard at a knot in the opposite locker.

For long after their departure he sat thus, amid a deep silence, broken only by an occasional giggle from the stateroom, or an idiotic sniggering from the direction of the mate’s bunk, until, recalled to mundane affairs by the lamp burning itself out, he went, in befitting gloom, to bed.