on the seats of the Hoe, looking out at the Breakwater; it always seems after dinner here.’
‘Do you know many people?’ asked the planter.
‘Heaps—women mostly. They swarm here. Here in Plymouth there are very few others to know. You see their husbands and brothers are away at sea, or in the army abroad, and the place simply swarms with women.’
‘Are you married?’
‘Oh, dear me, no! I wouldn’t be so well preserved if I were. I can’t afford it. Besides, the climate is against it. You want more ozone in the air to stimulate the resolution to proposing point.’
‘I should like to know your opinion upon podophyllin.’
‘I beg your pardon.’
‘Podophyllin,’ shouted Rigsby; he had lowered his voice to a confidential tone, forgetful of his friend’s infirmity.
Captain Ottley stood still, put the silver head of his cane to his mouth, which he pursed, contracted his brows, and then shook his head. ‘I don’t think much of it,’ he said. ‘I’ve tried it; but I don’t give my faith to it. Half-measures don’t suit us old Indians. Give me calomel.’
‘Calomel—ah!’ The sun came out on both their faces, they laughed like children. ‘Calomel, old boy!’
‘Blue pill, old fellow, shake hands.’ In their mutual enthusiasm they clasped fists.
‘But it may do for women?’ suggested Rigsby.
‘Virginibus puerisque, yes,’ answered Captain Ottley. ‘Let us sit down here. One’s limbs fail one in this damned Devonshire air.’
‘Have you been long here?’
‘Four or five years soaking in this steam, and expanding. It suits us Indians. We come here dry and shrivelled, and swell, taking in moisture at every pore.’
‘Then you know about the country people, the nobility and so on?’
‘Of course I do. I know everything about everybody.’
‘Do you know the Kingsbridge family?’
‘I can’t say I do. I know of them; no one meets them. I have a grievance. There was a superb ball at Court Royal the other day, and a special train full of officers went down. I was not invited. A plague upon them, say I. Why was not I invited? I am on half pay, was that the reason? I hear it was a splendid affair.’