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Two Retired Mariners

- >_ *^X-j.rt_l i"^ miff. ****■<**,<>■ ■"* w

CHAPTER 111

**''//k:' FTERI a refresllin £ night's jiftil^ sleep and an early break"ij^jW fast, the love-afflicted 'UifAM} Captain Gray went housefly hunting. On the outskirts S^yi" 5 of Breakham he looked at W<i s\ the first house on his list, tj^j • anc^ decided it would do. 4(^ It was surrounded with a ju lovely garden, and the grounds contained a snug-coach-house and stable. He immediately made the necessary arrangements to purchase it. Then he hurrieH off to call on his lady-love. As an excuse he* decided to ask her advice about it. It never struck him that the subject might be a delicate ; one. Mrs. Newton answered the door and. greeted him cordially. He was invited into the drawing-room. Woman-like, her curiosity was -aroused as to why he had made such an early call. He, poor man, was in a terrible dilemma. He was with the wrong lady, and he did not exactly know what to say. He made a bold attempt at conversation. "Nice day, Mrs. Newton/ he said uneasily.

" Yes, Captain, very/ " Er — I came to — cr — to see Miss Boyd," he blurted out. "Is she at home ?" " Yes, Captain/ replied the old lady, looking solemnly at him. '"She'll be down in a few minutes." Her glance made him feel decidedly uncomfortable. What would she think of him, an acquaintance of three days, calling again so soon ? Miss Boyd was surprised to see him as she entered the room., Blushing slightly, she shook hands with him. '' Rose, my dear, the Captain has come to see you. I'm going into the garden/ said the aunt glancing at her niece. Poor Rose looked slightly embarrassed as her relative left the room. Not so the worthy skipper, Mrs. Newton's absence, on the contrary, afforded him considerable relief. " You'll pardon me, I hope, Miss — er — Rose, I mean, but I've come to see you on a . very important matter," he said. Miss Boyd's heart palpitated rapidly.

" What is the matter ?" she asked nervously. " I've been out this morning looking for a house, found one to suit, and purchased it ; and now I'm here to ask you to come and see it, as I — cr — wish you to approve of it." This was, a little too much for her. "I fail to see," she said hastily, " what difference it can possibly make to you, whether I like the house or not, as long as it pleases you." This reply knocked the captain flat aback. Poor fellow ! He thought he was getting on (so well. But this short answer of hers had taken all the wind out of his sails, and left him stranded for the want of words. Suddenly the fear flashed through his mind that he could not be carrying out the business as the book relating to love directed. One chapter certainly dealt with getting the cage first, then the bird. I took it to be the house, then the wife," he soliloquised. " Perhaps that wasn't what it meant, after all. and I ought to have got the wife first !" Miss Boyd noticed his confused manner, and really felt sorry for him. " What are you thinking about, Captain ?' she asked. "To tell you the truth," Gray murmured, glancing up at her, " I am a little mixed up in this affair." " What affair ?" " Getting married," he replied innocently. " Why, Captain, who are you going to marry ?" she asked in a tone of surprise. " You," he answered, nearly encircling her in his arms. She could not repress a scream. " 0 Captain, how could you say such a thing to me?" " 0 Lor' ! What have I done now ?" thought Gray. " Another blunder ! This will never do. I shall never make any headway like this." Then aloud: "Will you allow me to explain in my own way. I have been going "by the book — and made a mess of it I"

« of what r "Oh ! Here's a show," he thought. " Now for it — sink or swim !'"' " You remember when first I met you ?" he said aloud. " Yes, Captain, three days ago/ " Well, from that moment I made up my mind to — cr — propose to you. I went home and studied a bit about, the business in a book that I have." " What business ?" " The proposing business/ he answered innocently . "Oh !" And she laughed merrily .. " You may laugh if you like/ said Gray to himself. "But I'm determined I'll keep on until I get it right." " Will you allow me to explain what I want ?" he asked her. " I'm not stopping you, Captain." " I — cr — want— cr — you to be — cr — my wife," spluttered out the flustered skipper. Miss Boyd smiled at the Captain's way of proposing. You've gone a round-about way to do it," she said. "As to accepting you, 1 haven't known you very long, and besides, I know very littleabout you. You were very kind to me during the trouble with Bess. I'll admit that I do not dislike you,, and will promise to give you an answer in a day or two." He grasped her by the hand. " Call me by my Christian name,. Kose," he begged. " Very well, if it will do you any good, Gerizam," she answered' shyly.. Mrs. Newton came in and looked first at her niece, then at the skipper. " Aunt, dear," said Miss Boyd,. " the Captain wants me to look at some property he's bought/ " Very weil, Eose. What timewill you be back ?" " We shan't be very long, aunt." She watched them disappear. " It looks very much like losing my niece," she said to herself. "Ah well,, she isn't a child, and ought to know what she is about. The Captain is a bit wild, perhaps, but appears a.

very decent sort of man. He has, no doubt, enough money to live comfortably on, so she might do worse." Meanwhile, the Captain and his companion had arrived at the house. " What a beautiful house \" exclaimed Miss Boyd. " And the grounds are just lovely I" " I am glad you like the place/ replied the delighted skipper. " I bought it for you to share with me."

ask me that question wlien we are not even engaged !" " That, my dear, is very easilyfixed up/ replied the ardent mariner in a matter-of-fact tone, though, his heart was thumping violently. " Just say you will be my wife. Let it be four weeks from to-day. Then we can go right! on rigging up the house at once." " You said about an hour ago that you would wait for a few days for my answer, and now you press

Her eyes met his for a moment, then she turned quickly away to hide her blushing cheeks.

' Another blunder !" he muttered

As they were walking- through the drawing-room, Gray asked her how she would like it furnished.

" Oh, Gerizam !"■ exclaimed his fair companion. " How can you

me for it at once. That's scarcely fair; Captain/ After a minute's hard thinking, Gray responded, "My dear, we are not growing any younger— are we ? Let's clench the bargain now !" We can guess what took place, for when they' returned to Miss Boyd's home they were an engaged couple.

In confidence she told herself that from the first she knew she could love and 'honour the noble Gerizain Gray, master mariner. And he did not require any prompting from a book to assure her that he would do all in his power to make her happy as long as he lived. Directly he saw Mrs. Newton, he informed her that he wished to have a private interview with her. Missi Boyd disappeared. " Well, Captain, you wish to speak to me ?" " Yes, Mrs. Newton," he replied boldly. " I /want to talk to you about your niece, who has agreed to be my wife in four weeks' time — of course with your consent. I've bought the house >and she has approved of it. We intend to rig up the furniture at once." It was some minutes before the aunt replied. Gray thought it hours. " So, Captain Gray," she said, " my niece has consented to be your wife ?" " Yes," said Gray, smiling... "And I'm proud of it, and she shall never have cause to regret it." " I trust not, Captain. She is old enough to know her own mind. At the same time this has been very sudden." " Perhaps so," responded the skipper. " Wren I pet a fair wind, I make good use of it." " Yes ; I think you do !" replied Mrs. Newton laughing. " Then you make no objection, Mrs. Newton V " No, Captain. If my niece Ist satisfied, it is all right. She is marrying you— l'm not." "That's a fact," innocently answered Gray. " I never thought of that." On his way home he again wondered what James . would have to say about his engagement. There would be a scene, he was confident of that. " Ah well," he soliloquised, as he thought of Mrs. Newton's remark, " he's not going to marry her, though— not if I know it. All the

same he can come to live with us after we're settled, if he likes/ The next day he had arranged to take his intended for a drive. He had been out to see that Dick was in good condition, and was sitting on the verandah reading, when he was greeted familiarly from the road by a man shabbily dressed. He looked up with surprise and saw a sailor who had sailed under him many years. 11 Hullo, Backstay ! What are you doing here ?" " On me beam ends, sir," answered the sailor, coming up to the verandah. " What, haven't you left off the old game yet ? 1 suppose as soon as you're paid off, you spend all your earnings in a few days ?" " 'Shamed ter say that's what's 'appened, Capt'in." " I thought as much. More fool you ! What are you doing now ?" " Thinkin', sir, of tryin' a bit o' country life." " How are you off for money ?" " 'Ard up as can be, sir." " Humph/ grunted Gray. "Well, Backstay, I'll give you a job." " Thank ye, sir." " But remember, you must keep straight, or I'll have nothing more to do with you." " Very good, sir," replied the happy sailor, touching his forelock. "AH right, said the skipper. " Come inside and I'll rig you up a little decent. Had anything to eat ?" " Not fer some time, sir," quickly replied the sailor. Captain Gray having " rigged him up with spic and swan gear, and a good square feed," as he termed it, gave him some money and ordered him to return at 2 p.m. sharp. Backstay was there to the minute, looking quite spruce. " Now, said his commander, "I'm going to make you my coachman. Of course, I shall have charge of the steering gear, but you can stay aft and look after the anchors and so on." " Ay, ay, sir. Yer give the

order, an' I'll 'aye the anchors cockbilled in less than no time — sartin!" The buggy was ready, and the skipper and his coachman took their places and started to drive to Miss Boyd's. They had a mile to go on the outskirts of the town. As they neared a narrow part of the road they saw another buggy approaching them. As it came nearer, (Japtain Gray " ported " to keep ins vehicle on the right side. That is, in nautical phrase, directed the horse's head to the " starboard " (right), as all ships keep to the right when passing at sea. " What is that lubber up to ?" muttered the frantic skipper as the driver in the other vehicle did not show any signs of doing the same. " Why doesn't he port ?" " Eun inter 'im, sir," said Backstay. " An' knock 'is figger-'ead away if he doesn't keep ter the rules o' the road." The two buggies were in close proximity to one another. " Why don't yer keep on yer right side ?" inquired the stranger hotly. "I'm on my right 1 side, you swab !" retorted the angry Gray. As they were now stem on to each other they stopped. " Are yer goin' to get out of me way ?" " No," retorted the skipper with some warmth. " I'm jroing to stick to the rules of the road." The stranger recognized that this was one of the retired mariners. He urged his beast on, and when abreast of the skipper, raised his whip and hit him with it. " Take that, yer sea-dog !" Backstay saw this, and instantly heaved the anchor on board the stranger's buggy. It brought it up with a sudden jerk. Both Backstay and the stranger jumped out of their vehicles and were soon wrestling with one another. "Yer fat-'eaded lubber, yer'd strike me eapt'in, would yer ? I've a fair mind ter break every bone in yer ugly carcase !" cried the sailor

furiously, as he chastised his opponent. Gray got out of his buggy and stopped the fight. '*' Why did you persist in keeping on your wrong side ?" he asked the miserable driver, who had by this time two deeply-coloured circles round his aching optics. " I was on my right side." " Yer wrong/ retorted the man. " When two ve'icles pass each other they keeps to the left, an' what's more, yer sea-dog, yer'll 'ear o' this, I promise yer." Captain Gray was taken aback at this statement of the case. Can you prove that what you say is correct, my man ?" "' Yes, I can," was the curt answer. " Look here, if I've done you an injustice, I apologise." ''' That's all very fine, but what about me black heyes ? Apologising won't mend them !" " No, but perhaps this will," replied the skipper, giving the man a sovereign. The man grabbed it, looked at it, then said : " All right, Captain, this'U fix 'em." And he disappeared. Backstay honestly thought that he deserved a sovereign too. He gave the man the black eyes, and certainly deserved the reward. With becoming apologies for obtruding his opinion, he ventured a suggestion to that effect, but Gray did not see it in that light, and the subject dropped. They boarded their buggy again, and continued their drive to Miss Boyd's. "We must make a note of tlie difference in the rules of the road," Captain Gray remarked to his coachman. " I'm sorry that I made such a mistake, and that you pounded that man so heavily." " Ay, Captain, but the yokel 'as 'ad fair luck, sir, an' it were good fun fer me, sure. Yer paid 'im well, sir," answered the sailor, thinking; of the sovereign. They arrived at Miss Boyd's

house considerably after the appointed time. Nevertheless, the skipper was heartily greeted by his lady-love and her aunt. " Come down off there, Backstay, and let me introduce you to tbe ladies !" The sailor hopped off the buggy, and stept up to the ladies. <"0w d'y' do, madams." " Vast heaving, you rascal," roared out the skipper. " I've not introduced you yet \"

into the front seat of the buggy, with Backstay aft to look after the anchor gear. The lucky sailor thought that his present position was far preferable to hauling" out a weather reef earing on a dirty night. He made up his mind to stick to it, and study the captain's interests and Miss Boyd's as well. The drive was certainly a success. Gray now knew the rule of the road and had a quiet horse.

" Beg yer pardin', Captain, sure I'm a bit out o' me lat'tude." The ladies were much amused. " This man/ said Gray, "is a good, honest fellow, he lias sailed with me for years. He was an excellent sailor, lout inclined to be a, bit wild. He is now under my command, and will be handy in helping to rig up the house. Now, my dear, we'll make a start if you're ready." " Take great care of my niece/ said Mrs. Newton as a farewell. The Captain and his intended got

On returning to Mrs. Newton's, Gray was invited to dinner. " Can you drive the buggy back, Backstay V asked his commander. " Ay, sir," replied that gentleman. " I can navigate 'er all rite." " Away you go then \" ordered the skipper.

Gray enjoyed himself as a man can sometimes. A couple of hours after dinner, the maid came into the drawing-room, and told the skipper he was wanted at the front door.

" Hullo, Backstay !" said he on recognizing his valet at the door. " What do you want ?" " Tel' gam fer yer, sir." " Nothing the matter, Gerizam ?" enquired Miss Boyd, who had followed him out. " No, my dear, only a wire from my esteemed friend, Captain James/ " We'll go and meet the Cap tarn, to-morrow, Backstay/ said the skipper turning- to his man. " Send your man into the kitchen, and he shall have refreshment, then he can walk home with you, Gerizam," " A very good idea, my dear. Will you kindly show him the way ?" " Yes/ she replied. " Come on, Backstay." " Thank ye, mum." To his unbounded delight he was introduced to a charming 1 maid. " More luck !" he commented, as he gazed at the rosy-faced, smiling girl. " Now, May," said the kind hostess to her maid, " make Backstay as comfortable as you can." Miss Boyd was a lady who enjoy-

ed making everyone happy. In Backstay's case she hit a bull's-eye. " What would you like ?" enquired the maid as her mistress left the room. '' Ter 'aye yer good opinion, my dear/ The girl blushed. " What would you like to have to eat ?" " Any think yer likes ter give me/ answered Backstay, making himself decidedly at home, as all sailors do in a very short space of time no matter where they be. " I rather like your man, Backstay/ said Miss Boyd to his master on returning to the drawing-room. " He seems so grateful for any little thing you do for him." " Do you call introducing him to a pretty maid and giving him a good feed, little things ?" asked the Captain, and the ladies laughed merrily at the remark. " Well, 'Backstay, how did you get on in the kitchen ?" inquired Gray,, as he and the .sailor were walking home. " Tip-top, sir." il Do you like this country life ?" " So far, first-class, sir," replied Backstay.

(to be conclude n.)

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Two Retired Mariners New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 February 1904

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