The Story of Paul Jones
The Story of Paul Jones
CHAPTER II-IN THE BLACK TRADE
T he sun is struggling through the dust-coated, cobwebbed windows, and lighting dimly yet sufficiently the dingy office of Shipowner Younger of Whitehaven. That substantial man is sitting at his desk, eyes fixed upon the bristle of upstanding masts which sprout, thick as forest pines on a hillside, from the harbor basin below. The face of Shipowner Younger has been given the seasoning of several years, since he went to Arbigland that squall-torn afternoon, to pick up a crew for Dick Bennison. Also, Shipowner Younger shines with a new expression of high yet retiring complacency. The expression is one awful and fascinating to the clerk, who sits at the far end of the room. Shipowner Younger has been elected to Parliament, and his awful complacency is that elevation's visible sign. The knowledge of his master's election offers the basis of much of the clerk's awe, and that stipendary almost charms himself into the delusion that he sees a halo about the bald pate of Shipowner Younger.
The latter brings the spellbound clerk from his trance of fascination, by wheeling upon him.
"Did ye send doon, mon," he cries, "to my wharf, with word for young Jack Paul to come?"
The clerk says that he did.
"Then ye can go seek your denner."
The clerk, acting on this permission, scrambles to his fascinated feet. As he retires through the one door, young Jack Paul enters. The brown-faced boy of the Arbigland yawl has grown to be a brisk young sailor, taut and natty. He shakes the hand of Shipowner Younger, who gives him two fingers in that manner of condescending reserve, which he conceives to be due his dignity as a member of the House of Commons. Having done so much for his dignity, Shipowner Younger relaxes.
"Have a chair, lad!" he says. "Bring her here where we can chat."
The natty Jack Paul brings the clerk's chair, as being the only one in the room other than that occupied by Shipowner Younger. One sees the thorough-paced sailor in the very motions of him; for his step is quick, catlike and sure, and there is just the specter of a roll in his walk, as though the heaving swell of the ocean still abides in his heels. When he has placed the chair, so as to bring himself and Shipowner Younger face to face, he says:
"And now, sir, what are your commands'?"
"I'll have sent for ye, Jack," begins Shipowner Younger, portentously lengthening the while his shaven upper-lip-"I'll have sent for ye, for three several matters: To pay ye a compliment or twa; to gi' ye a gude lecture; an' lastly to do a trifle of business wi' ye, by way of rounding off. For I hold," goes on Shipowner Younger, in an admonishing tone, "that conversations which don't carry a trifle of business are no mair than just the crackle of thorns under a pot. Ye'll ken I'm rich, Jack-ye'll ken I can clink my gold, an' count my gold, an' keep my gold wi' the warmest mon in Whitehaven?"
Young Jack Paul smiles, and nods his full agreement.
"But ye'll no ken," goes on Shipowner Younger, with proud humility, the pride being real and the humility imitated-"ye'll no ken, I believe, that I'm 'lected to the Parleyment in Lunnon, lad?" Shipowner Younger pauses to observe the effect of this announcement of his greatness. Being satisfied, he goes on. "It's a sacrifeece, no doot, but I s'all make it. The King has need of my counsel; an', God save him! he s'all have it. For I've always said, lad, that a mon's first debt is to the King. But it'll mean sore changes, Jack, sore changes will it mean; for I'm to sell up my ships to the last ship's gig of 'em, the better to leave me hand-free and head-free to serve the King."
Young Jack Paul is polite enough to arch his brows and draw a serious face. Shipowner Younger is pleased at this, and, with a deprecatory wave of his hand, as one who dismisses discussion of misfortunes which are beyond the help