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by [?]

“That’s not my reason, though,” said Captain Hosken, a sunburnt and serious man, at the painter’s elbow.

“Then what may it be, makin’ so bold?”

“I’ll tell ye when the painting’s done.”

“A couple of strokes, and it’s finished,” said the artist, cocking his head on one side and screwing up his blue eyes. “There, I’ll tell you plainly, friend, that my skill is but a seven-and-sixpenny matter, or a trifle beyond. It does well enough what it pretends to do; but this is a subject I never ought to have touched. I know my limits. You’ll see, sir,” he went on, in a more business-like tone, “I’ve indicated your ship here in the middle distance. I thought it would give the portrait just that touch of sentiment you would desire.”

The faces gathered closer to stare. ‘Liza left the pillar, stretched herself to her full height, and came forward, tying the strings of her sun-bonnet.

“‘Tis the very daps of her!” was Captain Hosken’s comment as he pulled out his three half-crowns. “As for the Rare Plant, what you’ve put in might be took for a vessel; and if a man took it for a vessel, he might go on to take it for a schooner; but I’d be tolerable sorry if he took it for a schooner o’ which I was master. Hows’ever, you’ve put in all ‘Liza’s good looks an’ enticingness. ‘Tis a picture I’m glad to own, an’ be dashed to the sentiment you talked about!”

He took the portrait carefully from the easel, and held it before him, between his open palms.

“Neighbours all,” he began, his rather stupid face overspread with an expression of satisfied cunning, “I promised to tell ‘ee my reasons for havin’ ‘Liza’s portrait took. They’re rather out o’ the common, an’ ‘Liza hersel’ don’t guess what they be, no more than the biggest fool here present amongst us.”

He looked from the man Thomas, from whose countenance this last innuendo glanced off as from a stone wall, to ‘Liza, who answered him with a puzzled scowl. Her foot began to tap the paving-stone impatiently.

“When I gazes ‘pon ‘Liza,” he pursued, “my eyes be fairly dazzled wi’ the looks o’ her. I allow that. She’s got that build, an’ them lines about the neck an’ waist, an’ them red-ripe lips, that I feels no care to look ‘pon any other woman. That’s why I took up wi’ her, an’ offered her my true heart. But strike me if I’d counted ‘pon her temper; an’ she’s got the temper of Old Nick! Why, only last evenin’–the very evenin’ before I sailed, mark ye–she slapped my ear. She did, though! Says I, down under my breath, ‘Right you are my lady! we’ll be quits for that.’ But, you see, I couldn’ bear to break it off wi’ her, because I didn’ want to miss her beautiful looks.”

The women began to titter, and ‘Liza’s face to flame, but her lover proceeded with great complacency:

“Well, I was beset in my mind till an hour agone, when–as I walked down here with ‘Liza, half mad to take leave of her, and sail for Rio Grande, and likewise sick of her temper–I sees this gentleman a-doin’ pictures at seven-an’-six; and thinks I, ‘If I can get ‘en to make a copy of ‘Liza’s good looks, then I shall take off to sea as much as I want of her, an’ the rest, temper included, can bide at home till I calls for it. That’s all I’ve got to say. ‘Liza’s a beauty beyond compare, an’ her beauty I worships, an’ means to worship. But if any young man wants to take her, I tell him he’s welcome. So long t’ ye all!”

Still holding the canvas carefully a foot from his waistcoat, to avoid smearing it, he sauntered off to the quay-steps, and hailed his boat to carry him aboard the Rare Plant. As he passed the girl he had thus publicly jilted, her fingers contracted for a second like a hawk’s talons; but she stood still, and watched him from under her brows as he descended the steps. Then with a look that, as it travelled in a semi-circle, obliterated the sympathy which most of the men put into their faces, and the sneaking delight which all the women wore on theirs, she strode out of the fish-market and up the street.