The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson: The Dream Of X & Other Fantastic Visions

Free The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson: The Dream Of X & Other Fantastic Visions by William Hope Hodgson

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Authors: William Hope Hodgson
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy, Short Stories, Comics & Graphic Novels
explained to him he adopted an attitude that was even more indicative of kindliness and benevolence, which rose a wicked idea in Tommy’s mind.
    “I should think you are a very kind captain to them,” he said, in the most girlish way possible. And the captain spared not of emphasis to insure this point being fixed in the mind of his newly-found girl friend, for he saw that along such lines lay the way to her liking and favour.
    Tommy—the girl—stepped in over the washboard, and all the ’prentices rose and uncapped.
    “What a quaint little place!” said Tommy, parodying a remark of his sister’s, which she had made when she came down in London to see the vessel in which her brother was to sail. “And do they sleep on all those shelves? How funny!” Then, as if the idea had come suddenly: “Oh, captain, couldn’t we have tea in here? We could all have it together; it would be so homely. And if my cousin comes back, he could join in with us.”
    Tommy clapped his hands, as if in ecstasy at the thought, and looked up at the skipper, very nicely from under the longest lashes in the world—or so that elderly reprobate thought at the moment.
    “I—er—well—er——” said the skipper confusedly, and with the beginnings of a little irritation, that somehow was held in check by the daintiness of Tommy’s attitude of request. “I—er—think the cabin will be nicer, Miss Jenny, don’t you?”
    “Perhaps you’re right, captain,” said Tommy thoughtfully, with his head of golden curls a little on one side, pondering.
    “More room, too,” added the skipper, brightening, as the danger seemed to be passing—“much more room.”
    “Yea,” said Tommy, nodding and peering round at the gloomy little berth. “This is a pokey little place. Why don’t you make your young gentlemen live with you in the cabin, captain? Then the steward could look after them properly. And it would be so nice to have them all with you.”
    James, away in the corner of the glory hole, nearly choked; whilst the captain turned to the doorway and got out on deck, hoping thus to change the conversation, which was becoming a practical difficulty for a sea captain troubled with paternal and benevolent instincts towards his “young gentlemen.”
    “Tea’ll be gettin’ cold, Miss Jenny,” he said, and held out a large hand to help Tommy, which the boy took, to assist him over the washboard. Then the boy turned and looked back into the berth. “Come along, all of you!” he said. “The captain says it will be nicer to have tea in the cabin, as there will be more room there. Be quick, the tea’s getting cold! We’ll all have a jolly tea together! Come on, captain!”—this last to the distracted skipper, who had halted, as if suddenly frozen, at finding this innocent but startling interpretation put upon his attempts at evading having to join his authority to the girl’s suggestion to invite the whole berth to tea.
    For their part, the five ’prentices stood as still and stupid as the skipper; but presently James terminated the suspense, by asking in so many words:
    “Are we to come, sir?”
    “Of course,” said Tommy, laughing happily. “Didn’t you hear the captain saying it would be nicer to have it in the cabin?”
    But James still looked at the captain, who now saw that he could not possibly evade the invitation and still retain the high opinion which Miss Jenny had formed of him. He, therefore, with a fierce attempt to sound hearty, told the boys to follow, which they did, all more or less uneasy, because they understood perfectly the skipper’s attitude in the matter, yet all of them wordless with astonishment and admiration at the way in which Master Tommy Dodd was “carrying it off.”
    As they all sat down round the cabin table, with the captain at the head, the steward finished setting out the additional tea-cups for the five lads. Tommy noticed the way in which he was doing it, and saw how to avenge the bitter

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