'You don't seem in the least astonished, Stephen.'
'Then practice has made me perfect, for I am, and have scarcely been more so in all my days. In neither of my chief occupations is expressive countenance an advantage, however.'
'And you don't think me a fearful low swab for not setting the account straight?'
'Not-at-all. What concern is it of any man's, after all? Perhaps Miss Williams should be tol—well, time enough for that. But I confess I have rarely encountered a person in whom reputation and reality were so much at odds, and so little to your advantage—you suffer the contumely of Captain Harte, when your conduct in respect of his wife cannot have been other than correct—and Sally! Sally of the bum-boat, who cost you the standing of a gentleman. If it would not be a humiliation to you, Jack—I am with chi—I mean, I am very anxious to hear the true history of Sally and the hiding of her in the cable tier.'
'Yes, for I shouldn't like to keep anything from you, of all men in the world. For all that I lack exercise in the amorous line, I am inveterate in amity. If I once concei—develop a fondness for a man, I'll do most anything for him—'
'I have reason to be thankful for that propensity in you.'
'And so it was aboard the old Reso. William—he was senior to me, but something my social inferior. Brought up in a hard school, you might say, and with a mother and four sisters dependent on his advancement. It was he brought Sally aboard—I think he was genuinely attached to her; he was not lascivious, but he had strong and distinct—needs, you know. It would have been the ruin of him to be found in breach of discipline in that way. So I hid her for him, and when we were—discovered, I—I confess for all the shame of it I—enjoyed being thought a gay dog. And—once a reputation is got, it's devilish hard to shake off. Even if you want to—'
'Jack, a stór, mo chroi. What are we to do with you at all?'
'Well—without impropriety, and in a—purely, um, fraternal character, perhaps you could—instruct—'
'Oh, my very dear fellow. Of course.'