9:56 pm - Monday July 16, 2018

Captain Roger-by W.W.Jacobs-Noel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Captain Roger

Written by:W.W.Jacobs

Category: Authors, Classics, Fiction

Page 1:

A man came slowly over the old stone bridge, and averting his gaze from the dark river with its silent craft, looked with some satisfaction toward the feeble lights of the small town on the other side. He walked with the painful, forced step of one who has already trudged far. His worsted hose, where they were not darned, were in holes, and his coat and knee-breeches were rusty with much wear, but he straightened himself as he reached the end of the bridge and stepped out bravely to the taverns which stood in a row facing the quay.

He passed the “Queen Anne”–a mere beershop–without pausing, and after a glance apiece at the “Royal George” and the “Trusty Anchor,” kept on his way to where the “Golden Key” hung out a gilded emblem. It was the best house in Riverstone, and patronized by the gentry, but he adjusted his faded coat, and with a swaggering air entered and walked boldly into the coffee-room.

The room was empty, but a bright fire afforded a pleasant change to the chill October air outside. He drew up a chair, and placing his feet on the fender, exposed his tattered soles to the blaze, as a waiter who had just seen him enter the room came and stood aggressively inside the door.

“Brandy and water,” said the stranger; “hot.”

“The coffee-room is for gentlemen staying in the house,” said the waiter.

The stranger took his feet from the fender, and rising slowly, walked toward him. He was a short man and thin, but there was something so menacing in his attitude, and something so fearsome in his stony brown eyes, that the other, despite his disgust for ill-dressed people, moved back uneasily.

“Brandy and water, hot,” repeated the stranger; “and plenty of it. D’ye hear?”

The man turned slowly to depart.

“Stop!” said the other, imperiously. “What’s the name of the landlord here?”

“Mullet,” said the fellow, sulkily.

“Send him to me,” said the other, resuming his seat; “and hark you, my friend, more civility, or ’twill be the worse for you.”

He stirred the log on the fire with his foot until a shower of sparks whirled up the chimney. The door opened, and the landlord, with the waiter behind him, entered the room, but he still gazed placidly at the glowing embers.

“What do you want?” demanded the landlord, in a deep voice.

The stranger turned a little weazened yellow face and grinned at him familiarly.

“Send that fat rascal of yours away,” he said, slowly.

The landlord started at his voice and eyed him closely; then he signed to the man to withdraw, and closing the door behind him, stood silently watching his visitor.

“You didn’t expect to see me, Rogers,” said the latter.

“My name’s Mullet,” said the other, sternly. “What do you want?”

“Oh, Mullet?” said the other, in surprise. “I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake, then. I thought you were my old shipmate, Captain Rogers. It’s a foolish mistake of mine, as I’ve no doubt Rogers was hanged years ago. You never had a brother named Rogers, did you?”

“I say again, what do you want?” demanded the other, advancing upon him.

“Since you’re so good,” said the other. “I want new clothes, food, and lodging of the best, and my pockets filled with money.”

“You had better go and look for all those things, then,” said Mullet. “You won’t find them here.”

“Ay!” said the other, rising. “Well, well–There was a hundred guineas on the head of my old shipmate Rogers some fifteen years ago. I’ll see whether it has been earned yet.”

“If I gave you a hundred guineas,” said the innkeeper, repressing his passion by a mighty effort, “you would not be satisfied.”

“Reads like a book,” said the stranger, in tones of pretended delight. “What a man it is!”

He fell back as he spoke, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, drew forth a long pistol as the innkeeper, a man of huge frame, edged toward him.

“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.”

The door closed silently, and was opened a little later by the dubious George coming in to set a bountiful repast. Gunn, after cursing him for his slowness and awkwardness, drew his chair to the table and made the meal of one seldom able to satisfy his hunger. He finished at last, and after sitting for some time smoking, with his legs sprawled on the fender, rang for a candle and demanded to be shown to his room.

His proceedings when he entered it were but a poor compliment to his host. Not until he had poked and pried into every corner did he close the door. Then, not content with locking it, he tilted a chair beneath the handle, and placing his pistol beneath his pillow, fell fast asleep.

Despite his fatigue he was early astir next morning. Breakfast was laid for him in the coffee-room, and his brow darkened. He walked into the hall, and after trying various doors entered a small sitting-room, where his host and daughter sat at breakfast, and with an easy assurance drew a chair to the table. The innkeeper helped him without a word, but the girl’s hand shook under his gaze as she passed him some coffee.

“As soft a bed as ever I slept in,” he remarked.

“I hope that you slept well,” said the girl, civilly.

“Like a child,” said Gunn, gravely; “an easy conscience. Eh, Mullet?”

Filed in: Classics, Fiction

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