Read CHAPTER EIGHT - DRINWATER'S MANNERS. of Will of the Mill , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

“Soon be able to walk all right; eh.  Mr Manners?” asked Will, who with Josh had come up to the cottage.

“Soon, my lad?  Yes, I think so,” said the artist, cheerily.  “I was talking to Drinkwater here about painting his portrait; but he won’t hear a word of it.  But I have got him in my mind’s eye all the same, and I shall paint him whether he likes it or not,” continued Mr Manners, as he looked laughingly at the boys, and then went on dipping his brush in the colours on the palette, rubbing it round and twiddling it in the pigment, while his landlord, pipe in mouth, gazed at him rather surlily.  “Wouldn’t he make a fine picture?  Eh?” And the artist leaned back in his chair and smiled good-humouredly first at Drinkwater and then at the boys, ending by shaking his head at his injured ankle, which was resting on another chair placed nearly in front of him.

“I don’t want my portrait painted, I tell ye,” said the man, gruffly.

“Hark at him!” said Manners.  “I should have thought he would be pleased.”

“What’s the matter, Boil O?” asked Will.  “Did you get out of bed the wrong way this morning?”

“No, sir,” said the man, shortly.

“Oh,” said Will.

“Leave the sulky bear alone,” put in Josh.

“Be quiet,” said Will to his companion.  “I say, Boil O, old chap, when are you going to make me that fishing-rod you promised?”

“Oh, I have no time to make fishing-rods for boys,” said the man.  “I have to work.”

“Look at him.  How busy he is!” cried Will, with mock seriousness, while the artist made a vermilion smudge on his canvas as the ground plan of a sunset.

“No, sir, no time.  Your father keeps me too busy.”

“Shame,” said Will.  “Why, my father was saying only the other day that you had done so much good work for him all your life, that he would be very pleased to see you take things a bit easier now; so there.”

“’Tain’t true,” said the man.

“What!” cried Will, his face growing very red.  “Don’t you believe what I say?”

“Not that exactly; but you don’t know all I’ve done ­no more than Mr Willows does, nor Mr Manners.”

“Oh, doesn’t he?” said Will.

“I know you to be a very faithful and good friend, Drinkwater,” said the artist, making a dab, and then leaning back in his chair with his head on one side to judge the effect.

“Look at him,” said Will, in a whisper, to Josh.  “He always wags his head like that when he’s at work painting.  What does he do it for?”

“Oh, I heard what you said,” continued the artist.  “I do it because I can judge distance better that way.  But as I was saying, Drinkwater here is a very good friend indeed, and if it had not been for his kindness, my little accident would have been twice as annoying as it is.  Thanks to his help, I am able to go out painting and fishing all the same, and I am very grateful to him.”

“I don’t want that, master,” said the man.  “I don’t want thanks;” and he slouched off, leaving the boys and the artist to continue the conversation.

“Surly old toad!” said Will.  “What’s wrong with him?”

“Something must have put him out,” said the artist.

“But he’s always getting into his nasty tempers.”

“Ah, well, he’ll soon come round.  He has been most thoughtful for me.”

“But I say, Mr Manners,” said Josh, “you will be able to come fishing to-night, won’t you?”

“Don’t know,” said the artist.

“Oh, yes,” cried Will.  “We will look after you; won’t we, Josh?”

“Of course.”

“All right, I’ll come; but in a few days, you know, I shall be quite all right again.”

“Hooray!” cried Will.  “But I was forgetting:  father sent me up here with his compliments, and he hopes you are going on A1.”

“So did mine,” said Josh.

“I am very grateful to Mr Willows and Mr Carlile,” said the artist.  “Very kind of them to have thought of me.”

Mr Manners’ prophecy was quite right.  In a few days practically all trace of his unfortunate mishap on the Tor had vanished, and there followed not merely one fishing trip, but several, for the artist’s chief recreation was throwing a fly, and one evening as he whipped the stream he turned quickly to the boys, who were a few yards away.

“See that?” he said.

“No,” said Will.  “Was it a bite?”

“No, no, ­amidst those trees, ­Drinkwater.”

“Oh,” said Josh.  “What about him?”

“I thought he wanted to speak to me,” said the artist.  “It looked as though he crept away because he saw you.”

“Glad he’s gone,” said Will.  “I don’t want him.  He’s too plaguey disagreeable, isn’t he, Josh?”

“Yes,” said the lad addressed.

“No, no,” said the artist.  “I am afraid something’s wrong.  He was too good over my accident for me to run him down.”

“Don’t run him down then,” said Will; “but he is getting to be an old curmudgeon all the same.”

“He has been with your father a long time.”

“What, old Boil O?” said Will, who had begun to draw in.  “Oh, yes, years and years.  He used to be a very good sort of a chap, but of late something’s made him as cross as a bear.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t like you calling him Boil O,” said the artist, taking out his book and carefully selecting a fresh fly, fastening the other in his hat.

“Oh, he doesn’t mind that,” said Will.  “Besides, it’s his name, or was his name before it was changed to Drinkwater.”

“I wish I could find out what has upset him,” said the artist.

“It’s nonsense, Mr Manners,” said Will.  “Old Boil O was always like that at times, and he’s as close as ­as anything.  He gets some pepper in him somehow.  But he will come round.  He always does.  It’s just his way.  He’s a strange chap.  Fancy his creeping about after you like that.”

“I take it as a compliment,” said the artist, smiling.  “Drinkwater and I are very good friends.”

“Well, my father likes him,” said Will, “and thinks he’s a very good workman, but his rough manners ­”

“You are not speaking of me, I hope?” said the artist.

“Speaking of you!  No.  But my father says that he often feels irritated by him.”

“Ah!” said the artist, reflectively.  “He never shows them to me when we have a pipe together at night.  He is a very interesting character, Will.  Of course, as somebody said, `manners makyth man ­’”

“Oh,” said Will, “I thought Manners made pictures.”

“No wonder you lost that fish,” said the artist, dryly, “if you waste your time making bad jokes.”