Infomotions, Inc.Ship's Company, the Entire Collection / Jacobs, W. W., 1863-1943



Author: Jacobs, W. W., 1863-1943
Title: Ship's Company, the Entire Collection
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jobson; arter; teak; culpepper; bunnett; kidd; clarkson; gibbs; smithson; kemp; ginger; bob; sam; cap'n tarbell; davis; agin; wright; pore; afore; uncle dick; peter; peter russet
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Project Gutenberg's Ship's Company, The Entire Collection, by W.W. Jacobs

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Title: Ship's Company, The Entire Collection

Author: W.W. Jacobs

Release Date: October 29, 2006 [EBook #10573]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHIP'S COMPANY ***




Produced by David Widger




SHIP'S COMPANY

By W.W. Jacobs


CONTENTS:

     Fine Feathers
     Friends in Need
     Good Intentions
     Fairy Gold
     Watch-Dogs
     The Bequest
     The Guardian Angel
     Dual Control
     Skilled Assistance
     For Better or Worse
     The Old Man of The Sea
     "Manners Makyth Man"




[Illustration: "Can I 'ave it took off while I eat my bloater, mother?"]




FINE FEATHERS


Mr. Jobson awoke with a Sundayish feeling, probably due to the fact that
it was Bank Holiday.  He had been aware, in a dim fashion, of the rising
of Mrs. Jobson some time before, and in a semi-conscious condition had
taken over a large slice of unoccupied territory.  He stretched himself
and yawned, and then, by an effort of will, threw off the clothes and
springing out of bed reached for his trousers.

He was an orderly man, and had hung them every night for over twenty
years on the brass knob on his side of the bed.  He had hung them there
the night before, and now they had absconded with a pair of red braces
just entering their teens.  Instead, on a chair at the foot of the bed
was a collection of garments that made him shudder.  With trembling
fingers he turned over a black tailcoat, a white waistcoat, and a pair of
light check trousers.  A white shirt, a collar, and tie kept them
company, and, greatest outrage of all, a tall silk hat stood on its own
band-box beside the chair.  Mr. Jobson, fingering his bristly chin,
stood: regarding the collection with a wan smile.

"So that's their little game, is it?"  he muttered.  "Want to make a toff
of me.  Where's my clothes got to, I wonder?"

A hasty search satisfied him that they were not in the room, and, pausing
only to drape himself in the counterpane, he made his way into the next.
He passed on to the others, and then, with a growing sense of alarm,
stole softly downstairs and making his way to the shop continued the
search.  With the shutters up the place was almost in darkness, and in
spite of his utmost care apples and potatoes rolled on to the floor and
travelled across it in a succession of bumps.  Then a sudden turn brought
the scales clattering down.

"Good gracious, Alf!"  said a voice.  "Whatever are you a-doing of?"

Mr. Jobson turned and eyed his wife, who was standing at the door.

"I'm looking for my clothes, mother," he replied, briefly.

"Clothes!"  said Mrs. Jobson, with an obvious attempt at unconcerned
speech.  "Clothes!  Why, they're on the chair."

"I mean clothes fit for a Christian to wear--fit for a greengrocer to
wear," said Mr. Jobson, raising his voice.

"It was a little surprise for you, dear," said his wife.  "Me and Bert
and Gladys and Dorothy 'ave all been saving up for it for ever so long."

"It's very kind of you all," said Mr. Jobson, feebly--"very, but--"

"They've all been doing without things themselves to do it," interjected
his wife.  "As for Gladys, I'm sure nobody knows what she's given up."

"Well, if nobody knows, it don't matter," said Mr. Jobson.  "As I was
saying, it's very kind of you all, but I can't wear 'em.  Where's my
others?"

Mrs. Jobson hesitated.

"Where's my others?"  repeated her husband.

"They're being took care of," replied his wife, with spirit.  "Aunt
Emma's minding 'em for you--and you know what she is.  H'sh!  Alf!  Alf!
I'm surprised at you!"

Mr. Jobson coughed.  "It's the collar, mother," he said at last.  "I
ain't wore a collar for over twenty years; not since we was walking out
together.  And then I didn't like it."

"More shame for you," said his wife.  "I'm sure there's no other
respectable tradesman goes about with a handkerchief knotted round his
neck."

"P'r'aps their skins ain't as tender as what mine is," urged Mr. Jobson;
"and besides, fancy me in a top-'at!  Why, I shall be the laughing-stock
of the place."

"Nonsense!"  said his wife.  "It's only the lower classes what would
laugh, and nobody minds what they think."

Mr. Jobson sighed.  "Well, I shall 'ave to go back to bed again, then,"
he said, ruefully.  "So long, mother.  Hope you have a pleasant time at
the Palace."

He took a reef in the counterpane and with a fair amount of dignity,
considering his appearance, stalked upstairs again and stood gloomily
considering affairs in his bedroom.  Ever since Gladys and Dorothy had
been big enough to be objects of interest to the young men of the
neighbourhood the clothes nuisance had been rampant.  He peeped through
the window-blind at the bright sunshine outside, and then looked back at
the tumbled bed.  A murmur of voices downstairs apprised him that the
conspirators were awaiting the result.

He dressed at last and stood like a lamb--a redfaced, bull-necked lamb--
while Mrs. Jobson fastened his collar for him.

"Bert wanted to get a taller one," she remarked, "but I said this would
do to begin with."

"Wanted it to come over my mouth, I s'pose," said the unfortunate Mr.
Jobson.  "Well, 'ave it your own way.  Don't mind about me.  What with
the trousers and the collar, I couldn't pick up a sovereign if I saw one
in front of me."

"If you see one I'll pick it up for you," said his wife, taking up the
hat and moving towards the door.  "Come along!"

Mr. Jobson, with his arms standing out stiffly from his sides and his
head painfully erect, followed her downstairs, and a sudden hush as he
entered the kitchen testified to the effect produced by his appearance.
It was followed by a hum of admiration that sent the blood flying to his
head.

"Why he couldn't have done it before I don't know," said the dutiful
Gladys.  "Why, there ain't a man in the street looks a quarter as smart."

"Fits him like a glove!"  said Dorothy, walking round him.

"Just the right length," said Bert, scrutinizing the coat.

"And he stands as straight as a soldier," said Gladys, clasping her hands
gleefully.

"Collar," said Mr. Jobson, briefly.  "Can I 'ave it took off while I eat
my bloater, mother?"

"Don't be silly, Alf," said his wife.  "Gladys, pour your father out a
nice, strong, Pot cup o' tea, and don't forget that the train starts at
ha' past ten."

"It'll start all right when it sees me," observed Mr. Jobson, squinting
down at his trousers.

Mother and children, delighted with the success of their scheme, laughed
applause, and Mr. Jobson somewhat gratified at the success of his retort,
sat down and attacked his breakfast.  A short clay pipe, smoked as a
digestive, was impounded by the watchful Mrs. Jobson the moment he had
finished it.

"He'd smoke it along the street if I didn't," she declared.

"And why not?" demanded her husband--"always do."

"Not in a top-'at," said Mrs. Jobson, shaking her head at him.

"Or a tail-coat," said Dorothy.

"One would spoil the other," said Gladys.

"I wish something would spoil the hat," said Mr. Jobson, wistfully.
"It's no good; I must smoke, mother."

Mrs. Jobson smiled, and, going to the cupboard, produced, with a smile of
triumph, an envelope containing seven dangerous-looking cigars.  Mr.
Jobson whistled, and taking one up examined it carefully.

"What do they call 'em, mother?"  he inquired.  "The 'Cut and Try Again
Smokes'?"

Mrs. Jobson smiled vaguely.  "Me and the girls are going upstairs to get
ready now," she said.  "Keep your eye on him, Bert!"

Father and son grinned at each other, and, to pass the time, took a cigar
apiece.  They had just finished them when a swish and rustle of skirts
sounded from the stairs, and Mrs. Jobson and the girls, beautifully
attired, entered the room and stood buttoning their gloves.  A strong
smell of scent fought with the aroma of the cigars.

"You get round me like, so as to hide me a bit," entreated Mr. Jobson, as
they quitted the house.  "I don't mind so much when we get out of our
street."

Mrs. Jobson laughed his fears to scorn.

"Well, cross the road, then," said Mr. Jobson, urgently.  "There's Bill
Foley standing at his door."

His wife sniffed.  "Let him stand," she said, haughtily.

Mr. Foley failed to avail himself of the permission.  He regarded Mr.
Jobson with dilated eyeballs, and, as the party approached, sank slowly
into a sitting position on his doorstep, and as the door opened behind
him rolled slowly over onto his back and presented an enormous pair of
hobnailed soles to the gaze of an interested world.

"I told you 'ow it would be," said the blushing Mr. Jobson.  "You know
what Bill's like as well as I do."

His wife tossed her head and they all quickened their pace.  The voice of
the ingenious Mr. Foley calling piteously for his mother pursued them to
the end of the road.

"I knew what it 'ud be," said Mr. Jobson, wiping his hot face.  "Bill
will never let me 'ear the end of this."

"Nonsense!"  said his wife, bridling.  "Do you mean to tell me you've got
to ask Bill Foley 'ow you're to dress?  He'll soon get tired of it; and,
besides, it's just as well to let him see who you are.  There's not many
tradesmen as would lower themselves by mixing with a plasterer."

Mr. Jobson scratched his ear, but wisely refrained from speech.  Once
clear of his own district mental agitation subsided, but bodily
discomfort increased at every step.  The hat and the collar bothered him
most, but every article of attire contributed its share.  His uneasiness
was so manifest that Mrs. Jobson, after a little womanly sympathy,
suggested that, besides Sundays, it might be as well to wear them
occasionally of an evening in order to get used to them.

"What, 'ave I got to wear them every Sunday?"  demanded the unfortunate,
blankly; "why, I thought they was only for Bank Holidays."

Mrs. Jobson told him not to be silly.

"Straight, I did," said her husband, earnestly.  "You've no idea 'ow I'm
suffering; I've got a headache, I'm arf choked, and there's a feeling
about my waist as though I'm being cuddled by somebody I don't like."

Mrs. Jobson said it would soon wear off and, seated in the train that
bore them to the Crystal Palace, put the hat on the rack.  Her husband's
attempt to leave it in the train was easily frustrated and his
explanation that he had forgotten all about it received in silence.  It
was evident that he would require watching, and under the clear gaze of
his children he seldom had a button undone for more than three minutes at
a time.

The day was hot and he perspired profusely.  His collar lost its starch--
a thing to be grateful for--and for the greater part of the day he wore
his tie under the left ear.  By the time they had arrived home again he
was in a state of open mutiny.

"Never again," he said, loudly, as he tore the collar off and hung his
coat on a chair.

There was a chorus of lamentation; but he remained firm.  Dorothy began
to sniff ominously, and Gladys spoke longingly of the fathers possessed
by other girls.  It was not until Mrs. Jobson sat eyeing her supper,
instead of eating it, that he began to temporize.  He gave way bit by
bit, garment by garment.  When he gave way at last on the great hat
question, his wife took up her knife and fork.

His workaday clothes appeared in his bedroom next morning, but the others
still remained in the clutches of Aunt Emma.  The suit provided was of
considerable antiquity, and at closing time, Mr. Jobson, after some
hesitation, donned his new clothes and with a sheepish glance at his wife
went out; Mrs. Jobson nodded delight at her daughters.

"He's coming round," she whispered.  "He liked that ticket-collector
calling him 'sir' yesterday.  I noticed it.  He's put on everything but
the topper.  Don't say nothing about it; take it as a matter of course."

It became evident as the days wore on that she was right...  Bit by bit
she obtained the other clothes--with some difficulty--from Aunt Emma, but
her husband still wore his best on Sundays and sometimes of an evening;
and twice, on going into the bedroom suddenly, she had caught him
surveying himself at different angles in the glass.

And, moreover, he had spoken with some heat--for such a good-tempered
man--on the shortcomings of Dorothy's laundry work.

"We'd better put your collars out," said his wife.

"And the shirts," said Mr. Jobson.  "Nothing looks worse than a bad
got-up cuff."

"You're getting quite dressy," said his wife, with a laugh.

Mr. Jobson eyed her seriously.

"No, mother, no," he replied.  "All I've done is to find out that you're
right, as you always 'ave been.  A man in my persition has got no right
to dress as if he kept a stall on the kerb.  It ain't fair to the gals,
or to young Bert.  I don't want 'em to be ashamed of their father."

"They wouldn't be that," said Mrs. Jobson.

"I'm trying to improve," said her husband.  "O' course, it's no use
dressing up and behaving wrong, and yesterday I bought a book what tells
you all about behaviour."

"Well done!"  said the delighted Mrs. Jobson.

Mr. Jobson was glad to find that her opinion on his purchase was shared
by the rest of the family.  Encouraged by their approval, he told them of
the benefit he was deriving from it; and at tea-time that day, after a
little hesitation, ventured to affirm that it was a book that might do
them all good.

"Hear, hear!"  said Gladys.

"For one thing," said Mr. Jobson, slowly, "I didn't know before that it
was wrong to blow your tea; and as for drinking it out of a saucer, the
book says it's a thing that is only done by the lower orders."

"If you're in a hurry?"  demanded Mr. Bert Jobson, pausing with his
saucer half way to his mouth.

"If you're in anything," responded his father.  "A gentleman would rather
go without his tea than drink it out of a saucer.  That's the sort o'
thing Bill Foley would do."

Mr. Bert Jobson drained his saucer thoughtfully.

"Picking your teeth with your finger is wrong, too," said Mr. Jobson,
taking a breath.  "Food should be removed in a--a--un-undemonstrative
fashion with the tip of the tongue."

"I wasn't," said Gladys.

"A knife," pursued her father--"a knife should never in any circumstances
be allowed near the mouth."

"You've made mother cut herself," said Gladys, sharply; "that's what
you've done."

"I thought it was my fork," said Mrs. Jobson.  "I was so busy listening I
wasn't thinking what I was doing.  Silly of me."

"We shall all do better in time," said Mr. Jobson.  "But what I want to
know is, what about the gravy?  You can't eat it with a fork, and it
don't say nothing about a spoon.  Oh, and what about our cold tubs,
mother?"

"Cold tubs?"  repeated his wife, staring at him.  "What cold tubs?"

"The cold tubs me and Bert ought to 'ave," said Mr. Jobson.  "It says in
the book that an Englishman would just as soon think of going without his
breakfus' as his cold tub; and you know how fond I am of my breakfus'."

"And what about me and the gals?"  said the amazed Mrs. Jobson.

"Don't you worry about me, ma," said Gladys, hastily.

"The book don't say nothing about gals; it says Englishmen," said Mr.
Jobson.

"But we ain't got a bathroom," said his son.

"It don't signify," said Mr. Jobson.  "A washtub'll do.  Me and Bert'll
'ave a washtub each brought up overnight; and it'll be exercise for the
gals bringing the water up of a morning to us."

"Well, I don't know, I'm sure," said the bewildered Mrs. Jobson.
"Anyway, you and Bert'll 'ave to carry the tubs up and down.  Messy, I
call it.

"It's got to be done, mother," said Mr. Jobson cheerfully.  "It's only
the lower orders what don't 'ave their cold tub reg'lar.  The book says
so."

He trundled the tub upstairs the same night and, after his wife had gone
downstairs next morning, opened the door and took in the can and pail
that stood outside.  He poured the contents into the tub, and, after
eyeing it thoughtfully for some time, agitated the surface with his right
foot.  He dipped and dried that much enduring member some ten times, and
after regarding the damp condition of the towels with great satisfaction,
dressed himself and went downstairs.

"I'm all of a glow," he said, seating himself at the table.  "I believe I
could eat a elephant.  I feel as fresh as a daisy; don't you, Bert?"

Mr. Jobson, junior, who had just come in from the shop, remarked,
shortly, that he felt more like a blooming snowdrop.

"And somebody slopped a lot of water over the stairs carrying it up,"
said Mrs. Jobson.  "I don't believe as everybody has cold baths of a
morning.  It don't seem wholesome to me."

Mr. Jobson took a book from his pocket, and opening it at a certain page,
handed it over to her.

"If I'm going to do the thing at all I must do it properly," he said,
gravely.  "I don't suppose Bill Foley ever 'ad a cold tub in his life; he
don't know no better.  Gladys!"

"Halloa!"  said that young lady, with a start.

"Are you--are you eating that kipper with your fingers?"

Gladys turned and eyed her mother appealingly.

"Page-page one hundred and something, I think it is," said her father,
with his mouth full.  "'Manners at the Dinner Table.' It's near the end
of the book, I know."

"If I never do no worse than that I shan't come to no harm," said his
daughter.

Mr. Jobson shook his head at her, and after eating his breakfast with
great care, wiped his mouth on his handkerchief and went into the shop.

"I suppose it's all right," said Mrs. Jobson, looking after him, "but
he's taking it very serious--very."

"He washed his hands five times yesterday morning," said Dorothy, who had
just come in from the shop to her breakfast; "and kept customers waiting
while he did it, too."

"It's the cold-tub business I can't get over," said her mother.  "I'm
sure it's more trouble to empty them than what it is to fill them.
There's quite enough work in the 'ouse as it is."

"Too much," said Bert, with unwonted consideration.

"I wish he'd leave me alone," said Gladys.  "My food don't do me no good
when he's watching every mouthful I eat."

Of murmurings such as these Mr. Jobson heard nothing, and in view of the
great improvement in his dress and manners, a strong resolution was
passed to avoid the faintest appearance of discontent.  Even when,
satisfied with his own appearance, he set to work to improve that of Mrs.
Jobson, that admirable woman made no complaint.  Hitherto the brightness
of her attire and the size of her hats had been held to atone for her
lack of figure and the roomy comfort of her boots, but Mr. Jobson,
infected with new ideas, refused to listen to such sophistry.  He went
shopping with Dorothy; and the Sunday after, when Mrs. Jobson went for an
airing with him, she walked in boots with heels two inches high and toes
that ended in a point.  A waist that had disappeared some years before
was recaptured and placed in durance vile; and a hat which called for a
new style of hair-dressing completed the effect.

"You look splendid, ma!"  said Gladys, as she watched their departure.
"Splendid!"

"I don't feel splendid," sighed Mrs. Jobson to her husband.  "These 'ere
boots feel red-'ot."

"Your usual size," said Mr. Jobson, looking across the road.

"And the clothes seem just a teeny-weeny bit tight, p'r'aps," continued
his wife.

Mr. Jobson regarded her critically.  "P'r'aps they might have been let
out a quarter of an inch," he: said, thoughtfully.  "They're the best fit
you've 'ad for a long time, mother.  I only 'ope the gals'll 'ave such
good figgers."

His wife smiled faintly, but, with little breath for conversation, walked
on for some time in silence.  A growing redness of face testified to her
distress.

"I--I feel awful," she said at last, pressing her hand to her side.
"Awful."

"You'll soon get used to it," said Mr. Jobson, gently.  "Look at me!  I
felt like you do at first, and now I wouldn't go back to old clothes--and
comfort--for anything.  You'll get to love them boots.

"If I could only take 'em off I should love 'em better," said his wife,
panting; "and I can't breathe properly--I can't breathe."

"You look ripping, mother," said her husband, simply.

His wife essayed another smile, but failed.  She set her lips together
and plodded on, Mr. Jobson chatting cheerily and taking no notice of the
fact that she kept lurching against him.  Two miles from home she stopped
and eyed him fixedly.

"If I don't get these boots off, Alf, I shall be a 'elpless cripple for
the rest of my days," she murmured.  "My ankle's gone over three times."

"But you can't take 'em off here," said Mr. Jobson, hastily.  "Think 'ow
it would look."

"I must 'ave a cab or something," said his wife, hysterically.  "If I
don't get 'em off soon I shall scream."

She leaned against the iron palings of a house for support, while Mr.
Jobson, standing on the kerb, looked up and down the road for a cab.  A
four-wheeler appeared just in time to prevent the scandal--of Mrs. Jobson
removing her boots in the street.

"Thank goodness," she gasped, as she climbed in.  "Never mind about
untying 'em, Alf; cut the laces and get 'em off quick."

They drove home with the boots standing side by side on the seat in front
of them.  Mr. Jobson got out first and knocked at the door, and as soon
as it opened Mrs. Jobson pattered across the intervening space with the
boots dangling from her hand.  She had nearly reached the door when Mr.
Foley, who had a diabolical habit of always being on hand when he was
least wanted, appeared suddenly from the offside of the cab.

"Been paddlin'?"  he inquired.

Mrs. Jobson, safe in her doorway, drew herself up and, holding the boots
behind her, surveyed him with a stare of high-bred disdain.

"Been paddlin'?"  he inquired

"I see you going down the road in 'em," said the unabashed Mr. Foley,
"and I says to myself, I says, 'Pride'll bear a pinch, but she's going
too far.  If she thinks that she can squeedge those little tootsywootsies
of 'ers into them boo--'"

The door slammed violently and left him exchanging grins with Mr. Jobson.

"How's the 'at?"  he inquired.

Mr. Jobson winked.  "Bet you a level 'arf-dollar I ain't wearing it next
Sunday," he said, in a hoarse whisper.

Mr. Foley edged away.

"Not good enough," he said, shaking his head.  "I've had a good many bets
with you first and last, Alf, but I can't remember as I ever won one yet.
So long."







FRIENDS IN NEED



R. Joseph Gibbs finished his half-pint in the private bar of the Red Lion
with the slowness of a man unable to see where the next was coming from,
and, placing the mug on the counter, filled his pipe from a small paper
of tobacco and shook his head slowly at his companions.

"First I've 'ad since ten o'clock this morning," he said, in a hard
voice.

"Cheer up," said Mr. George Brown.

"It can't go on for ever," said Bob Kidd, encouragingly.

"All I ask for--is work," said Mr. Gibbs, impressively.  "Not slavery,
mind yer, but work."

"It's rather difficult to distinguish," said Mr. Brown.

"'Specially for some people," added Mr. Kidd.

"Go on," said Mr. Gibbs, gloomily.  "Go on.  Stand a man 'arf a pint, and
then go and hurt 'is feelings.  Twice yesterday I wondered to myself what
it would feel like to make a hole in the water."

"Lots o' chaps do do it," said Mr. Brown, musingly.

"And leave their wives and families to starve," said Mr. Gibbs, icily.

"Very often the wife is better off," said his friend.  "It's one mouth
less for her to feed.  Besides, she gen'rally gets something.  When pore
old Bill went they 'ad a Friendly Lead at the 'King's Head' and got his
missis pretty nearly seventeen pounds."

"And I believe we'd get more than that for your old woman," said Mr.
Kidd.  "There's no kids, and she could keep 'erself easy.  Not that I
want to encourage you to make away with yourself."

Mr. Gibbs scowled and, tilting his mug, peered gloomily into the
interior.

"Joe won't make no 'ole in the water," said Mr. Brown, wagging his head.
"If it was beer, now--"

Mr. Gibbs turned and, drawing himself up to five feet three, surveyed the
speaker with an offensive stare.

"I don't see why he need make a 'ole in anything," said Mr. Kidd, slowly.
"It 'ud do just as well if we said he 'ad.  Then we could pass the hat
round and share it."

"Divide it into three halves and each 'ave one," said Mr. Brown, nodding;
"but 'ow is it to be done?"

"'Ave some more beer and think it over," said Mr. Kidd, pale with
excitement.  "Three pints, please."

He and Mr. Brown took up their pints, and nodded at each other.  Mr.
Gibbs, toying idly with the handle of his, eyed them carefully.  "Mind,
I'm not promising anything," he said, slowly.  "Understand, I ain't
a-committing of myself by drinking this 'ere pint."

"You leave it to me, Joe," said Mr. Kidd.

Mr. Gibbs left it to him after a discussion in which pints played a
persuasive part; with the result that Mr. Brown, sitting in the same bar
the next evening with two or three friends, was rudely disturbed by the
cyclonic entrance of Mr. Kidd, who, dripping with water, sank on a bench
and breathed heavily.

"What's up?  What's the matter?"  demanded several voices.

"It's Joe--poor Joe Gibbs," said Mr. Kidd.  "I was on Smith's wharf
shifting that lighter to the next berth, and, o' course Joe must come
aboard to help.  He was shoving her off with 'is foot when--"

He broke off and shuddered and, accepting a mug of beer, pending the
arrival of some brandy that a sympathizer had ordered, drank it slowly.

"It all 'appened in a flash," he said, looking round.  "By the time I 'ad
run round to his end he was just going down for the third time.  I hung
over the side and grabbed at 'im, and his collar and tie came off in my
hand.  Nearly went in, I did."

He held out the collar and tie; and approving notice was taken of the
fact that he was soaking wet from the top of his head to the middle
button of his waistcoat.

"Pore chap!"  said the landlord, leaning over the bar.  "He was in 'ere
only 'arf an hour ago, standing in this very bar."

"Well, he's 'ad his last drop o' beer," said a carman in a chastened
voice.

"That's more than anybody can say," said the landlord, sharply.  "I never
heard anything against the man; he's led a good life so far as I know,
and 'ow can we tell that he won't 'ave beer?"

He made Mr. Kidd a present of another small glass of brandy.

"He didn't leave any family, did he?" he inquired, as he passed it over.

"Only a wife," said Mr. Kidd; "and who's to tell that pore soul I don't
know.  She fair doated on 'im.  'Ow she's to live I don't know.  I shall
do what I can for 'er."

"Same 'ere," said Mr. Brown, in a deep voice.

"Something ought to be done for 'er," said the carman, as he went out.

"First thing is to tell the police," said the landlord.  "They ought to
know; then p'r'aps one of them'll tell her.  It's what they're paid for."

"It's so awfully sudden.  I don't know where I am 'ardly," said Mr. Kidd.
"I don't believe she's got a penny-piece in the 'ouse.  Pore Joe 'ad a
lot o' pals.  I wonder whether we could'nt get up something for her."

"Go round and tell the police first," said the landlord, pursing up his
lips thoughtfully.  "We can talk about that later on."

Mr. Kidd thanked him warmly and withdrew, accompanied by Mr. Brown.
Twenty minutes later they left the station, considerably relieved at the
matter-of-fact way in which the police had received the tidings, and,
hurrying across London Bridge, made their way towards a small figure
supporting its back against a post in the Borough market.

"Well?"  said Mr. Gibbs, snappishly, as he turned at the sound of their
footsteps.

"It'll be all right, Joe," said Mr. Kidd.  "We've sowed the seed."

"Sowed the wot?"  demanded the other.

Mr. Kidd explained.

"Ho!"  said Mr. Gibbs.  "An' while your precious seed is a-coming up, wot
am I to do?  Wot about my comfortable 'ome?  Wot about my bed and grub?"

His two friends looked at each other uneasily.  In the excitement of the
arrangements they had for gotten these things, and a long and sometimes
painful experience of Mr. Gibbs showed them only too plainly where they
were drifting.

"You'll 'ave to get a bed this side o' the river somewhere," said Mr.
Brown, slowly.  "Coffee-shop or something; and a smart, active man wot
keeps his eyes open can always pick up a little money."

Mr. Gibbs laughed.

"And mind," said Mr. Kidd, furiously, in reply to the laugh, "anything we
lend you is to be paid back out of your half when you get it.  And, wot's
more, you don't get a ha'penny till you've come into a barber's shop and
'ad them whiskers off.  We don't want no accidents."

Mr. Gibbs, with his back against the post, fought for his whiskers for
nearly half an hour, and at the end of that time was led into a barber's,
and in a state of sullen indignation proffered his request for a "clean"
shave.  He gazed at the bare-faced creature that confronted him in the
glass after the operation in open-eyed consternation, and Messrs.  Kidd
and Brown's politeness easily gave way before their astonishment.

"Well, I may as well have a 'air-cut while I'm here," said Mr. Gibbs,
after a lengthy survey.

"And a shampoo, sir?"  said the assistant.

"Just as you like," said Mr. Gibbs, turning a deaf ear to the frenzied
expostulations of his financial backers.  "Wot is it?"

[Illustration: Mr. Gibbs, with his back against the post, fought for
nearly half an hour]

He sat in amazed discomfort during the operation, and emerging with his
friends remarked that he felt half a stone lighter.  The information was
received in stony silence, and, having spent some time in the selection,
they found a quiet public-house, and in a retired corner formed
themselves into a Committee of Ways and Means.

"That'll do for you to go on with," said Mr. Kidd, after he and Mr. Brown
had each made a contribution; "and, mind, it's coming off of your share."

Mr. Gibbs nodded.  "And any evening you want to see me you'll find me in
here," he remarked.  "Beer's ripping.  Now you'd better go and see my old
woman."

The two friends departed, and, to their great relief, found a little knot
of people outside the abode of Mrs. Gibbs.  It was clear that the news
had been already broken, and, pushing their way upstairs, they found the
widow with a damp handkerchief in her hand surrounded by attentive
friends.  In feeble accents she thanked Mr. Kidd for his noble attempts
at rescue.

"He ain't dry yet," said Mr. Brown.

"I done wot I could," said Mr. Kidd, simply.  "Pore Joe!  Nobody could
ha' had a better pal.  Nobody!"

"Always ready to lend a helping 'and to them as was in trouble, he was,"
said Mr. Brown, looking round.

"'Ear, 'ear!"  said a voice.

"And we'll lend 'im a helping 'and," said Mr. Kidd, energetically.  "We
can't do 'im no good, pore chap, but we can try and do something for 'er
as is left behind."

He moved slowly to the door, accompanied by Mr. Brown, and catching the
eye of one or two of the men beckoned them to follow.  Under his able
guidance a small but gradually increasing crowd made its way to the "Red
Lion." For the next three or four days the friends worked unceasingly.
Cards stating that a Friendly Lead would be held at the "Red Lion," for
the benefit of the widow of the late Mr. Joseph Gibbs, were distributed
broadcast; and anecdotes portraying a singularly rare and beautiful
character obtained an even wider circulation.  Too late Wapping realized
the benevolent disposition and the kindly but unobtrusive nature that had
departed from it for ever.

Mr. Gibbs, from his retreat across the water, fully shared his friends'
enthusiasm, but an insane desire--engendered by vanity--to be present at
the function was a source of considerable trouble and annoyance to them.
When he offered to black his face and take part in the entertainment as a
nigger minstrel, Mr. Kidd had to be led outside and kept there until such
time as he could converse in English pure and undefiled.

"Getting above 'imself, that's wot it is," said Mr. Brown, as they wended
their way home.  "He's having too much money out of us to spend; but it
won't be for long now."

"He's having a lord's life of it, while we're slaving ourselves to
death," grumbled Mr. Kidd.  "I never see'im looking so fat and well.  By
rights he oughtn't to 'ave the same share as wot we're going to 'ave; he
ain't doing none of the work."

His ill-humour lasted until the night of the "Lead," which, largely owing
to the presence of a sporting fishmonger who had done well at the races
that day, and some of his friends, realized a sum far beyond the
expectations of the hard-working promoters.  The fishmonger led off by
placing a five-pound note in the plate, and the packed audience breathed
so hard that the plate-holder's responsibility began to weigh upon his
spirits.  In all, a financial tribute of thirty-seven pounds three and
fourpence was paid to the memory of the late Mr. Gibbs.

"Over twelve quid apiece," said the delighted Mr. Kidd as he bade his
co-worker good night.  "Sounds too good to be true."

The next day passed all too slowly, but work was over at last, and Mr.
Kidd led the way over London Bridge a yard or two ahead of the more
phlegmatic Mr. Brown.  Mr. Gibbs was in his old corner at the
"Wheelwright's Arms," and, instead of going into ecstasies over the sum
realized, hinted darkly that it would have been larger if he had been
allowed to have had a hand in it.

"It'll 'ardly pay me for my trouble," he said, shaking his head.  "It's
very dull over 'ere all alone by myself.  By the time you two have 'ad
your share, besides taking wot I owe you, there'll be 'ardly anything
left."

"I'll talk to you another time," said Mr. Kidd, regarding him fixedly.
"Wot you've got to do now is to come acrost the river with us."

"What for?"  demanded Mr. Gibbs.

"We're going to break the joyful news to your old woman that you're alive
afore she starts spending money wot isn't hers," said Mr. Kidd.  "And we
want you to be close by in case she don't believe us.

"Well, do it gentle, mind," said the fond husband.  "We don't want 'er
screaming, or anything o' that sort.  I know 'er better than wot you do,
and my advice to you is to go easy."

He walked along by the side of them, and, after some demur, consented, as
a further disguise, to put on a pair of spectacles, for which Mr. Kidd's
wife's mother had been hunting high and low since eight o'clock that
morning.

"You doddle about 'ere for ten minutes," said Mr. Kidd, as they reached
the Monument, "and then foller on.  When you pass a lamp-post 'old your
handkerchief up to your face.  And wait for us at the corner of your road
till we come for you."

He went off at a brisk pace with Mr. Brown, a pace moderated to one of
almost funeral solemnity as they approached the residence of Mrs. Gibbs.
To their relief she was alone, and after the usual amenities thanked them
warmly for all they had done for her.

"I'd do more than that for pore Joe," said Mr. Brown.

"They--they 'aven't found 'im yet?"  said the widow.

Mr. Kidd shook his head.  "My idea is they won't find 'im," he said,
slowly.

"Went down on the ebb tide," explained Mr. Brown; and spoilt Mr. Kidd's
opening.

"Wherever he is 'e's better off," said Mrs. Gibbs.

"No more trouble about being out o' work; no more worry; no more pain.
We've all got to go some day.

"Yes," began Mr. Kidd; "but--

"I'm sure I don't wish 'im back," said Mrs. Gibbs; "that would be
sinful."

"But 'ow if he wanted to come back?"  said Mr. Kidd, playing for an
opening.

"And 'elp you spend that money," said Mr. Brown, ignoring the scowls of
his friend.

Mrs. Gibbs looked bewildered.  "Spend the money?" she began.

"Suppose," said Mr. Kidd, "suppose he wasn't drownded after all?  Only
last night I dreamt he was alive."

"So did I," said Mr. Brown.

"He was smiling at me," said Mr. Kidd, in a tender voice.  "'Bob,' he
ses, 'go and tell my pore missis that I'm alive,' he ses; 'break it to
'er gentle.'"

"It's the very words he said to me in my dream," said Mr. Brown.  "Bit
strange, ain't it?"

"Very," said Mrs. Gibbs.

"I suppose," said Mr. Kidd, after a pause, "I suppose you haven't been
dreaming about 'im?"

"No; I'm a teetotaller," said the widow.

The two gentlemen exchanged glances, and Mr. Kidd, ever of an impulsive
nature, resolved to bring matters to a head.

"Wot would you do if Joe was to come in 'ere at this door?"  he asked.

"Scream the house down," said the widow, promptly.

"Scream--scream the 'ouse down?"  said the distressed Mr. Kidd.

Mrs. Gibbs nodded.  "I should go screaming, raving mad," she said, with
conviction.

"But--but not if 'e was alive!"  said Mr. Kidd.

"I don't know what you're driving at," said Mrs. Gibbs.  "Why don't you
speak out plain?  Poor Joe is drownded, you know that; you saw it all,
and yet you come talking to me about dreams and things."

Mr. Kidd bent over her and put his hand affectionately on her shoulder.
"He escaped," he said, in a thrilling whisper.  "He's alive and well."

"WHAT?" said Mrs. Gibbs, starting back.

"True as I stand 'ere," said Mr. Kidd; "ain't it, George?"

"Truer," said Mr. Brown, loyally.

Mrs. Gibbs leaned back, gasping.  "Alive!" she said.  "But 'ow?  'Ow can
he be?"

"Don't make such a noise," said Mr. Kidd, earnestly.  "Mind, if anybody
else gets to 'ear of it you'll 'ave to give that money back."

"I'd give more than that to get 'im back," said Mrs. Gibbs, wildly.  "I
believe you're deceiving me."

"True as I stand 'ere," asseverated the other.  "He's only a minute or
two off, and if it wasn't for you screaming I'd go out and fetch 'im in."

"I won't scream," said Mrs. Gibbs, "not if I know it's flesh and blood.
Oh, where is he?  Why don't you bring 'im in?  Let me go to 'im."

"All right," said Mr. Kidd, with a satisfied smile at Mr. Brown; "all in
good time.  I'll go and fetch 'im now; but, mind, if you scream you'll
spoil everything."

He bustled cheerfully out of the room and downstairs, and Mrs. Gibbs,
motioning Mr. Brown to silence, stood by the door with parted lips,
waiting.  Three or four minutes elapsed.

"'Ere they come," said Mr. Brown, as footsteps sounded on the stairs.
"Now, no screaming, mind!"

Mrs. Gibbs drew back, and, to the gratification of all concerned, did not
utter a sound as Mr. Kidd, followed by her husband, entered the room.
She stood looking expectantly towards the doorway.

"Where is he?"  she gasped.

"Eh?"  said Mr. Kidd, in a startled voice.  "Why here.  Don't you know
'im?"

"It's me, Susan," said Mr. Gibbs, in a low voice.

"Oh, I might 'ave known it was a joke," cried Mrs. Gibbs, in a faint
voice, as she tottered to a chair.  "Oh,'ow cruel of you to tell me my
pore Joe was alive!  Oh, 'ow could you?"

"Lor' lumme," said the incensed Mr. Kidd, pushing Mr. Gibbs forward.
"Here he is.  Same as you saw 'im last, except for 'is whiskers.  Don't
make that sobbing noise; people'll be coming in."

"Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  Take 'im away," cried Mrs. Gibbs.  "Go and play your
tricks with somebody else's broken 'art."

"But it's your husband," said Mr. Brown.

"Take 'im away," wailed Mrs. Gibbs.

Mr. Kidd, grinding his teeth, tried to think.  "'Ave you got any marks on
your body, Joe?"  he inquired.

"I ain't got a mark on me," said Mr. Gibbs with a satisfied air, "or a
blemish.  My skin is as whi--"

"That's enough about your skin," interrupted Mr. Kidd, rudely.

"If you ain't all of you gone before I count ten," said Mrs. Gibbs, in a
suppressed voice, "I'll scream.  'Ow dare you come into a respectable
woman's place and talk about your skins?  Are you going?  One!  Two!
Three!  Four!  Five!"

Her voice rose with each numeral; and Mr. Gibbs himself led the way
downstairs, and, followed by his friends, slipped nimbly round the
corner.

"It's a wonder she didn't rouse the whole 'ouse," he said, wiping his
brow on his sleeve; "and where should we ha' been then?  I thought at the
time it was a mistake you making me 'ave my whiskers off, but I let you
know best.  She's never seen me without 'em.  I 'ad a remarkable strong
growth when I was quite a boy.  While other boys was--"

"Shut-up!"  vociferated Mr. Kidd.

"Sha'n't!"  said Mr. Gibbs, defiantly.  "I've 'ad enough of being away
from my comfortable little 'ome and my wife; and I'm going to let 'em
start growing agin this very night.  She'll never reckernize me without
'em, that's certain."

"He's right, Bob," said Mr. Brown, with conviction.

"D'ye mean to tell me we've got to wait till 'is blasted whiskers grow?"
cried Mr. Kidd, almost dancing with fury.  "And go on keeping 'im in
idleness till they do?"

"You'll get it all back out o' my share," said Mr. Gibbs, with dignity.
"But you can please yourself.  If you like to call it quits now, I don't
mind."

Mr. Brown took his seething friend aside, and conferred with him in low
but earnest tones.  Mr. Gibbs, with an indifferent air, stood by
whistling softly.

"'Ow long will they take to grow?"  inquired Mr. Kidd, turning to him
with a growl.

Mr. Gibbs shrugged his shoulders.  "Can't say," he replied; "but I should
think two or three weeks would be enough for 'er to reckernize me by.  If
she don't, we must wait another week or so, that's all."

"Well, there won't be much o' your share left, mind that," said Mr. Kidd,
glowering at him.

"I can't help it," said Mr. Gibbs.  "You needn't keep reminding me of
it."

They walked the rest of the way in silence; and for the next fortnight
Mr. Gibbs's friends paid nightly visits to note the change in his
appearance, and grumble at its slowness.

"We'll try and pull it off to-morrow night," said Mr. Kidd, at the end of
that period.  "I'm fair sick o' lending you money."

Mr. Gibbs shook his head and spoke sagely about not spoiling the ship for
a ha'porth o' tar; but Mr. Kidd was obdurate.

"There's enough for 'er to reckernize you by," he said, sternly, "and we
don't want other people to.  Meet us at the Monument at eight o'clock
to-morrow night, and we'll get it over."

"Give your orders," said Mr. Gibbs, in a nasty voice.

"Keep your 'at well over your eyes," commanded Mr. Kidd, sternly.  "Put
them spectacles on wot I lent you, and it wouldn't be a bad idea if you
tied your face up in a piece o' red flannel."

"I know wot I'm going to do without you telling me," said Mr. Gibbs,
nodding.  "I'll bet you pots round that you don't either of you
reckernize me tomorrow night."

The bet was taken at once, and from eight o'clock until ten minutes to
nine the following night Messrs. Kidd and Brown did their best to win it.
Then did Mr. Kidd, turning to Mr. Brown in perplexity, inquire with many
redundant words what it all meant.

[Illustration: "Gone!" exclaimed both gentlemen.  "Where?"]

"He must 'ave gone on by 'imself," said Mr. Brown.  "We'd better go and
see."

In a state of some disorder they hurried back to Wapping, and, mounting
the stairs to Mrs. Gibbs's room, found the door fast.  To their fervent
and repeated knocking there was no answer.

"Ah, you won't make her 'ear," said a woman, thrusting an untidy head
over the balusters on the next landing.  "She's gone."

"Gone!"  exclaimed both gentlemen.  "Where?"

"Canada," said the woman.  "She went off this morning."

Mr. Kidd leaned up against the wall for support; Mr. Brown stood
open-mouthed and voiceless.

"It was a surprise to me," said the woman, "but she told me this morning
she's been getting ready on the quiet for the last fortnight.  Good
spirits she was in, too; laughing like anything."

"Laughing!"  repeated Mr. Kidd, in a terrible voice.

The woman nodded.  "And when I spoke about it and reminded 'er that she
'ad only just lost 'er pore husband, I thought she would ha' burst," she
said, severely.  "She sat down on that stair and laughed till the tears
ran dowwn 'er face like water."

Mr. Brown turned a bewildered face upon his partner.  "Laughing!"  he
said, slowly.  "Wot 'ad she got to laugh at?"

"Two born-fools," replied Mr. Kidd.






GOOD INTENTIONS


"Jealousy; that's wot it is," said the night-watchman, trying to sneer--
"pure jealousy."  He had left his broom for a hurried half-pint at the
"Bull's Head"--left it leaning in a negligent attitude against the
warehouse-wall; now, lashed to the top of the crane at the jetty end, it
pointed its soiled bristles towards the evening sky and defied capture.

"And I know who it is, and why 'e's done it," he continued.  "Fust and
last, I don't suppose I was talking to the gal for more than ten minutes,
and 'arf of that was about the weather.

"I don't suppose anybody 'as suffered more from jealousy than wot I 'ave:
Other people's jealousy, I mean.  Ever since I was married the missis has
been setting traps for me, and asking people to keep an eye on me.  I
blacked one of the eyes once--like a fool--and the chap it belonged to
made up a tale about me that I ain't lived down yet.

"Years ago, when I was out with the missis one evening, I saved a gal's
life for her.  She slipped as she was getting off a bus, and I caught 'er
just in time.  Fine strapping gal she was, and afore I could get my
balance we 'ad danced round and round 'arfway acrost the road with our
arms round each other's necks, and my missis watching us from the
pavement.  When we were safe, she said the gal 'adn't slipped at all;
and, as soon as the gal 'ad got 'er breath, I'm blest if she didn't say
so too.

"You can't argufy with jealous people, and you can't shame 'em.  When I
told my missis once that I should never dream of being jealous of her,
instead of up and thanking me for it, she spoilt the best frying-pan we
ever had.  When the widder-woman next-door but two and me 'ad rheumatics
at the same time, she went and asked the doctor whether it was catching.

"The worse trouble o' that kind I ever got into was all through trying to
do somebody else a kindness.  I went out o' my way to do it; I wasted the
whole evening for the sake of other people, and got into such trouble
over it that even now it gives me the cold shivers to think of.

"Cap'n Tarbell was the man I tried to do a good turn to; a man what used
to be master of a ketch called the _Lizzie and Annie,_ trading between
'ere and Shoremouth.  'Artful Jack' he used to be called, and if ever a
man deserved the name, he did.  A widder-man of about fifty, and as silly
as a boy of fifteen.  He 'ad been talking of getting married agin for
over ten years, and, thinking it was only talk, I didn't give 'im any
good advice.  Then he told me one night that 'e was keeping company with
a woman named Lamb, who lived at a place near Shoremouth.  When I asked
'im what she looked like, he said that she had a good 'art, and, knowing
wot that meant, I wasn't at all surprised when he told me some time arter
that 'e had been a silly fool.

"'Well, if she's got a good 'art,' I ses, 'p'r'aps she'll let you go.'

"'Talk sense,' he ses.  'It ain't good enough for that.  Why, she
worships the ground I tread on.  She thinks there is nobody like me in
the whole wide world.'

"'Let's 'ope she'll think so arter you're married,' I ses, trying to
cheer him up.

"'I'm not going to get married,' he ses.  'Leastways, not to 'er.  But
'ow to get out of it without breaking her 'art and being had up for
breach o' promise I can't think.  And if the other one got to 'ear of it,
I should lose her too.'

"'Other one?' I ses, 'wot other one?'

"Cap'n Tarbell shook his 'ead and smiled like a silly gal.

"'She fell in love with me on top of a bus in the Mile End Road,' he ses.
'Love at fust sight it was.  She's a widder lady with a nice little 'ouse
at Bow, and plenty to live on-her 'usband having been a builder.  I don't
know what to do.  You see, if I married both of 'em it's sure to be found
out sooner or later.'

"'You'll be found out as it is,' I ses, 'if you ain't careful.  I'm
surprised at you.'

"'Yes,' he ses, getting up and walking backwards and forwards;
'especially as Mrs. Plimmer is always talking about coming down to see
the ship.  One thing is, the crew won't give me away; they've been with
me too long for that.  P'r'aps you could give me a little advice, Bill.'

"I did.  I talked to that man for an hour and a'arf, and when I 'ad
finished he said he didn't want that kind of advice at all.  Wot 'e
wanted was for me to tell 'im 'ow to get rid of Miss Lamb and marry Mrs.
Plimmer without anybody being offended or having their feelings hurt.

"Mrs. Plimmer came down to the ship the very next evening.  Fine-looking
woman she was, and, wot with 'er watch and chain and di'mond rings and
brooches and such-like, I should think she must 'ave 'ad five or six
pounds' worth of jewell'ry on 'er.  She gave me a very pleasant smile,
and I gave 'er one back, and we stood chatting there like old friends
till at last she tore 'erself away and went on board the ship.

"She came off by and by hanging on Cap'n Tarbell's arm.  The cap'n was
dressed up in 'is Sunday clothes, with one of the cleanest collars on I
'ave ever seen in my life, and smoking a cigar that smelt like an escape
of gas.  He came back alone at ha'past eleven that night, and 'e told me
that if it wasn't for the other one down Shoremouth way he should be the
'appiest man on earth.

"'Mrs. Plimmer's only got one fault,' he ses, shaking his 'cad, 'and
that's jealousy.  If she got to know of Laura Lamb, it would be all U.P.
It makes me go cold all over when I think of it.  The only thing is to
get married as quick as I can; then she can't help 'erself.'

"'It wouldn't prevent the other one making a fuss, though,' I ses.

"'No,' he ses, very thoughtfully, 'it wouldn't.  I shall 'ave to do
something there, but wot, I don't know.'

"He climbed on board like a man with a load on his mind, and arter a look
at the sky went below and forgot both 'is troubles in sleep.

"Mrs. Plimmer came down to the wharf every time the ship was up, arter
that.  Sometimes she'd spend the evening aboard, and sometimes they'd go
off and spend it somewhere else.  She 'ad a fancy for the cabin, I think,
and the cap'n told me that she 'ad said when they were married she was
going to sail with 'im sometimes.

"'But it ain't for six months yet,' he ses, 'and a lot o' things might
'appen to the other one in that time, with luck.'

"It was just about a month arter that that 'e came to me one evening
trembling all over.  I 'ad just come on dooty, and afore I could ask 'im
wot was the matter he 'ad got me in the 'Bull's Head' and stood me three
'arf-pints, one arter the other.

"'I'm ruined,' he ses in a 'usky whisper; 'I'm done for.  Why was wimmen
made?  Wot good are they?  Fancy 'ow bright and 'appy we should all be
without 'em.'

"'I started to p'int out one or two things to 'im that he seemed to 'ave
forgot, but 'e wouldn't listen.  He was so excited that he didn't seem to
know wot 'e was doing, and arter he 'ad got three more 'arf-pints waiting
for me, all in a row on the counter, I 'ad to ask 'im whether he thought
I was there to do conjuring tricks, or wot?'

"'There was a letter waiting for me in the office,' he ses.  'From Miss
Lamb--she's in London.  She's coming to pay me a surprise visit this
evening--I know who'll get the surprise.  Mrs. Plimmer's coming too.'

"I gave 'im one of my 'arf-pints and made 'im drink it.  He chucked the
pot on the floor when he 'ad done, in a desprit sort o' way, and 'im and
the landlord 'ad a little breeze then that did 'im more good than wot the
beer 'ad.  When we came outside 'e seemed more contented with 'imself,
but he shook his 'ead and got miserable as soon as we got to the wharf
agin.

"'S'pose they both come along at the same time,' he ses.  'Wot's to be
done?'

"I shut the gate with a bang and fastened the wicket.  Then I turned to
'im with a smile.

"'I'm watchman 'ere,' I ses, 'and I lets in who I thinks I will.  This
ain't a public 'ighway,' I ses; 'it's a wharf.'

"'Bill,' he ses, 'you're a genius.'

"'If Miss Lamb comes 'ere asking arter you,' I ses, 'I shall say you've
gone out for the evening.'

"'Wot about her letter?' he ses.

"'You didn't 'ave it,' I ses, winking at 'im.

"'And suppose she waits about outside for me, and Mrs. Plimmer wants me
to take 'er out?' he ses, shivering.  'She's a fearful obstinate woman;
and she'd wait a week for me.'

"He kept peeping up the road while we talked it over, and then we both
see Mrs. Plimmer coming along.  He backed on to the wharf and pulled out
'is purse.

"'Bill,' he ses, gabbling as fast as 'e could gabble, 'here's five or six
shillings.  If the other one comes and won't go away tell 'er I've gone
to the Pagoda Music-'all and you'll take 'er to me, keep 'er out all the
evening some'ow, if you can, if she comes back too soon keep 'er in the
office.'

"'And wot about leaving the wharf and my dooty?' I ses, staring.

"'I'll put Joe on to keep watch for you,' he ses, pressing the money in
my 'and.  'I rely on you, Bill, and I'll never forget you.  You won't
lose by it, trust me.'

"He nipped off and tumbled aboard the ship afore I could say a word.  I
just stood there staring arter 'im and feeling the money, and afore I
could make up my mind Mrs. Plimmer came up.

"I thought I should never ha' got rid of 'er.  She stood there chatting
and smiling, and seemed to forget all about the cap'n, and every moment I
was afraid that the other one might come up.  At last she went off,
looking behind 'er, to the ship, and then I went outside and put my back
up agin the gate and waited.

"I 'ad hardly been there ten minutes afore the other one came along.  I
saw 'er stop and speak to a policeman, and then she came straight over to
me.

"'I want to see Cap'n Tarbell,' she ses.

"'Cap'n Tarbell?' I ses, very slow; 'Cap'n Tarbell 'as gone off for the
evening.'

"'Gone off!' she ses, staring.  'But he can't 'ave.  Are you sure?'

"'Sartain,' I ses.  Then I 'ad a bright idea.  'And there's a letter come
for 'im,' I ses.

"'Oh, dear!' she ses.  'And I thought it would be in plenty of time.
Well, I must go on the ship and wait for 'im, I suppose.'

"If I 'ad only let 'er go I should ha' saved myself a lot o' trouble, and
the man wot deserved it would ha' got it.  Instead o' that I told 'er
about the music-'all, and arter carrying on like a silly gal o' seventeen
and saying she couldn't think of it, she gave way and said she'd go with
me to find 'im.  I was all right so far as clothes went as it happened.
Mrs. Plimmer said once that I got more and more dressy every time she saw
me, and my missis 'ad said the same thing only in a different way.  I
just took a peep through the wicket and saw that Joe 'ad taken up my
dooty, and then we set off.

"I said I wasn't quite sure which one he'd gone to, but we'd try the
Pagoda Music-'all fust, and we went there on a bus from Aldgate.  It was
the fust evening out I 'ad 'ad for years, and I should 'ave enjoyed it if
it 'adn't been for Miss Lamb.  Wotever Cap'n Tarbell could ha' seen in
'er, I can't think.

"She was quiet, and stupid, and bad-tempered.  When the bus-conductor came
round for the fares she 'adn't got any change; and when we got to the
hall she did such eggsterrordinary things trying to find 'er pocket that
I tried to look as if she didn't belong to me.  When she left off she
smiled and said she was farther off than ever, and arter three or four
wot was standing there 'ad begged 'er to have another try, I 'ad to pay
for the two.

"The 'ouse was pretty full when we got in, but she didn't take no notice
of that.  Her idea was that she could walk about all over the place
looking for Cap'n Tarbell, and it took three men in buttons and a
policeman to persuade 'er different.  We were pushed into a couple o'
seats at last, and then she started finding fault with me.

"'Where is Cap'n Tarbell?' she ses.  'Why don't you find him?'

"'I'll go and look for 'im in the bar presently,' I ses.  'He's sure to
be there, arter a turn or two.'

"I managed to keep 'er quiet for 'arf an hour--with the 'elp of the
people wot sat near us--and then I 'ad to go.  I 'ad a glass o' beer to
pass the time away, and, while I was drinking it, who should come up but
the cook and one of the hands from the _Lizzie and Annie_.

"'We saw you,' ses the cook, winking; 'didn't we Bob?'

"'Yes,' ses Bob, shaking his silly 'ead; 'but it wasn't no surprise to
me.  I've 'ad my eye on 'im for a long time past.'

"'I thought 'e was married,' ses the cook.

"'So he is,' ses Bob, 'and to the best wife in London.  I know where she
lives.  Mine's a bottle o' Bass,' he ses, turning to me.

"'So's mine,' ses the cook.

"I paid for two bottles for 'em, and arter that they said that they'd
'ave a whisky and soda apiece just to show as there was no ill-feeling.

"'It's very good,' ses Bob, sipping his, 'but it wants a sixpenny cigar
to go with it.  It's been the dream o' my life to smoke a sixpenny
cigar.'

"'So it 'as mine,' ses the cook, 'but I don't suppose I ever shall.'

"They both coughed arter that, and like a goodnatured fool I stood 'em a
sixpenny cigar apiece, and I 'ad just turned to go back to my seat when
up come two more hands from the Lizzie and Annie.

"'Halloa, watchman!' ses one of 'em.  'Why, I thought you was a-taking
care of the wharf.'

"'He's got something better than the wharf to take care of,' ses Bob,
grinning.

"'I know; we see 'im,' ses the other chap.  'We've been watching 'is
goings-on for the last 'arf-hour; better than a play it was.'

"I stopped their mouths with a glass o' bitter each, and went back to my
seat while they was drinking it.  I told Miss Lamb in whispers that 'e
wasn't there, but I'd 'ave another look for him by and by.  If she'd ha'
whispered back it would ha' been all right, but she wouldn't, and, arter
a most unpleasant scene, she walked out with her 'ead in the air follered
by me with two men in buttons and a policeman.

"O' course, nothing would do but she must go back to the wharf and wait
for Cap'n Tarbell, and all the way there I was wondering wot would 'appen
if she went on board and found 'im there with Mrs. Plimmer.  However,
when we got there I persuaded 'er to go into the office while I went
aboard to see if I could find out where he was, and three minutes
arterwards he was standing with me behind the galley, trembling all over
and patting me on the back.

"'Keep 'er in the office a little longer,' he ses, in a whisper.  'The
other's going soon.  Keep 'er there as long as you can.'

"'And suppose she sees you and Mrs. Plimmer passing the window?' I ses.

"'That'll be all right; I'm going to take 'er to the stairs in the ship's
boat,' he ses.  'It's more romantic.'

"He gave me a little punch in the ribs, playfullike, and, arter telling
me I was worth my weight in gold-dust, went back to the cabin agin.

"I told Miss Lamb that the cabin was locked up, but that Cap'n Tarbell
was expected back in about 'arf-an-hour's time.  Then I found 'er an old
newspaper and a comfortable chair and sat down to wait.  I couldn't go on
the wharf for fear she'd want to come with me, and I sat there as patient
as I could, till a little clicking noise made us both start up and look
at each other.

"'Wot's that?' she ses, listening.

"'It sounded,' I ses 'it sounded like somebody locking the door.'

"I went to the door to try it just as somebody dashed past the window
with their 'ead down.  It was locked fast, and arter I had 'ad a try at
it and Miss Lamb had 'ad a try at it, we stood and looked at each other
in surprise.

"'Somebody's playing a joke on us,' I ses.

"'Joke!' ses Miss Lamb.  'Open that door at once.  If you don't open it
I'll call for the police.'

"She looked at the windows, but the iron bars wot was strong enough to
keep the vans outside was strong enough to keep 'er in, and then she gave
way to such a fit o' temper that I couldn't do nothing with 'er.

"'Cap'n Tarbell can't be long now,' I ses, as soon as I could get a word
in.  'We shall get out as soon as e comes.'

"She flung 'erself down in the chair agin with 'er back to me, and for
nearly three-quarters of an hour we sat there without a word.  Then, to
our joy, we 'eard footsteps turn in at the gate.  Quick footsteps they
was.  Somebody turned the handle of the door, and then a face looked in
at the window that made me nearly jump out of my boots in surprise.  A
face that was as white as chalk with temper, and a bonnet cocked over one
eye with walking fast.  She shook 'er fist at me, and then she shook it
at Miss Lamb.

"'Who's that?' ses Miss Lamb.

"'My missis,' I ses, in a loud voice.  'Thank goodness she's come.'

"'Open the door!' ses my missis, with a screech.

"'OPEN THE DOOR!'

"'I can't,' I ses.  'Somebody's locked it.  This is Cap'n Tarbell's young
lady.'

"'I'll Cap'n Tarbell 'er when I get in!' ses my wife.  'You too.  I'll
music-'all you!  I'll learn you to go gallivanting about!  Open the
door!'

"She walked up and down the alley-way in front of the window waiting for
me just like a lion walking up and down its cage waiting for its dinner,
and I made up my mind then and there that I should 'ave to make a clean
breast of it and let Cap'n Tarbell get out of it the best way he could.
I wasn't going to suffer for him.

"'Ow long my missis walked up and down there I don't know.  It seemed
ages to me; but at last I 'eard footsteps and voices, and Bob and the
cook and the other two chaps wot we 'ad met at the music'all came along
and stood grinning in at the window.

"'Somebody's locked us in,' I ses.  'Go and fetch Cap'n Tarbell.'

"'Cap'n Tarbell?' ses the cook.  'You don't want to see 'im.  Why, he's
the last man in the world you ought to want to see!  You don't know 'ow
jealous he is.'

"'You go and fetch 'im, I ses.  ''Ow dare you talk like that afore my
wife!'

"'I dursen't take the responserbility,' ses the cook.  'It might mean
bloodshed.'

"'You go and fetch 'im,' ses my missis.  'Never mind about the bloodshed.
I don't.  Open the door!'

"She started banging on the door agin, and arter talking among themselves
for a time they moved off to the ship.  They came back in three or four
minutes, and the cook 'eld up something in front of the window.

"'The boy 'ad got it,' he ses.  'Now shall I open the door and let your
missis in, or would you rather stay where you are in peace and
quietness?'

"I saw my missis jump at the key, and Bob and the others, laughing fit to
split their sides, 'olding her back.  Then I heard a shout, and the next
moment Cap'n Tarbell came up and asked 'em wot the trouble was about.

"They all started talking at once, and then the cap'n, arter one look in
at the window, threw up his 'ands and staggered back as if 'e couldn't
believe his eyesight.  He stood dazed-like for a second or two, and then
'e took the key out of the cook's 'and, opened the door, and walked in.
The four men was close be'ind 'im, and, do all she could, my missis
couldn't get in front of 'em.

"'Watchman!' he ses, in a stuck-up voice, 'wot does this mean?  Laura
Lamb!  wot 'ave you got to say for yourself?  Where 'ave you been all the
evening?'

"'She's been to a music-'all with Bill,' ses the cook.  'We saw 'em.'

"'WOT?' ses the cap'n, falling back again.  'It can't be!'

"'It was them,' ses my wife.  'A little boy brought me a note telling me.
You let me go; it's my husband, and I want to talk to 'im.'

"'It's all right,' I ses, waving my 'and at Miss Lamb, wot was going to
speak, and smiling at my missis, wot was trying to get at me.

"'We went to look for you,' ses Miss Lamb, very quick.  'He said you were
at the music-'all, and as you 'adn't got my letter I thought it was very
likely.'

"'But I did get your letter,' ses the cap'n.

"'He said you didn't,' ses Miss Lamb.

"'Look 'ere,' I ses.  'Why don't you keep quiet and let me explain?  I
can explain everything.'

"'I'm glad o' that, for your sake, my man,' ses the cap'n, looking at me
very hard.  'I 'ope you will be able to explain 'ow it was you came to
leave the wharf for three hours.'

"I saw it all then.  If I split about Mrs. Plimmer, he'd split to the
guv'nor about my leaving my dooty, and I should get the sack.  I thought
I should ha' choked, and, judging by the way they banged me on the back,
Bob and the cook thought so too.  They 'elped me to a chair when I got
better, and I sat there 'elpless while the cap'n went on talking.

"'I'm no mischief-maker,' he ses; 'and, besides, p'r'aps he's been
punished enough.  And as far as I'm concerned he can take this lady to a
music-'all every night of the week if 'e likes.  I've done with her.'

"There was an eggsterrordinary noise from where my missis was standing;
like the gurgling water makes sometimes running down the kitchen sink at
'ome, only worse.  Then they all started talking together, and
'arf-a- dozen times or more Miss Lamb called me to back 'er up in wot
she was saying, but I only shook my 'ead, and at last, arter tossing her
'ead at Cap'n Tarbell and telling 'im she wouldn't 'ave 'im if he'd got
fifty million a year, the five of 'em 'eld my missis while she went off.

"They gave 'er ten minutes' start, and then Cap'n Tarbell, arter looking
at me and shaking his 'ead, said he was afraid they must be going.

"'And I 'ope this night'll be a lesson to you,' he ses.  'Don't neglect
your dooty again.  I shall keep my eye on you, and if you be'ave yourself
I sha'n't say anything.  Why, for all you know or could ha' done the
wharf might ha' been burnt to the ground while you was away!'

"He nodded to his crew, and they all walked out laughing and left me
alone--with the missis."






[Illustration: Mr. Chase, with his friend in his powerful grasp, was
doing his best, as he expressed it, to shake the life out of him]



FAIRY GOLD


"Come and have a pint and talk it over," said Mr. Augustus Teak.  "I've
got reasons in my 'ead that you don't dream of, Alf."

Mr. Chase grunted and stole a side-glance at the small figure of his
companion.  "All brains, you are, Gussie," he remarked.  "That's why it
is you're so well off."

"Come and have a pint," repeated the other, and with surprising ease
pushed his bulky friend into the bar of the "Ship and Anchor."  Mr.
Chase, mellowed by a long draught, placed his mug on the counter and
eyeing him kindly, said--

"I've been in my lodgings thirteen years."

"I know," said Mr. Teak; "but I've got a partikler reason for wanting
you.  Our lodger, Mr. Dunn, left last week, and I only thought of you
yesterday.  I mentioned you to my missis, and she was quite pleased.  You
see, she knows I've known you for over twenty years, and she wants to
make sure of only 'aving honest people in the 'ouse.  She has got a
reason for it."

He closed one eye and nodded with great significance at his friend.

"Oh!"  said Mr. Chase, waiting.

"She's a rich woman," said Mr. Teak, pulling the other's ear down to his
mouth.  "She--"

"When you've done tickling me with your whiskers," said Mr. Chase,
withdrawing his head and rubbing his ear vigorously, "I shall be glad."

Mr. Teak apologized.  "A rich woman," he repeated.  "She's been stinting
me for twenty-nine years and saving the money--my money!--money that I
'ave earned with the sweat of my brow.  She 'as got over three 'undred
pounds!"

"'Ow much?"  demanded Mr. Chase.

"Three 'undred pounds and more," repeated the other; "and if she had 'ad
the sense to put it in a bank it would ha' been over four 'undred by this
time.  Instead o' that she keeps it hid in the 'Ouse."

"Where?"  inquired the greatly interested Mr. Chase.

Mr. Teak shook his head.  "That's just what I want to find out," he
answered.  "She don't know I know it; and she mustn't know, either.
That's important."

"How did you find out about it, then?"  inquired his friend.

"My wife's sister's husband, Bert Adams, told me.  His wife told 'im in
strict confidence; and I might 'ave gone to my grave without knowing
about it, only she smacked his face for 'im the other night."

"If it's in the house you ought to be able to find it easy enough," said
Mr. Chase.

"Yes, it's all very well to talk," retorted Mr. Teak.  "My missis never
leaves the 'ouse unless I'm with her, except when I'm at work; and if she
thought I knew of it she'd take and put it in some bank or somewhere
unbeknown to me, and I should be farther off it than ever."

"Haven't you got no idea?"  said Mr. Chase.

"Not the leastest bit," said the other.  "I never thought for a moment
she was saving money.  She's always asking me for more, for one thing;
but, then women alway do.  And look 'ow bad it is for her--saving money
like that on the sly.  She might grow into a miser, pore thing.  For 'er
own sake I ought to get hold of it, if it's only to save her from
'erself."

Mr. Chase's face reflected the gravity of his own.

"You're the only man I can trust," continued Mr. Teak, "and I thought if
you came as lodger you might be able to find out where it is hid, and get
hold of it for me."

"Me steal it, d'ye mean?"  demanded the gaping Mr. Chase.  "And suppose
she got me locked up for it?  I should look pretty, shouldn't I?"

"No; you find out where it is hid," said the other; "that's all you need
do.  I'll find someway of getting hold of it then."

"But if you can't find it, how should I be able to?"  inquired Mr. Chase.

"'Cos you'll 'ave opportunities," said the other.  "I take her out some
time when you're supposed to be out late; you come 'ome, let yourself in
with your key, and spot the hiding-place.  I get the cash, and give you
ten-golden-sovereigns--all to your little self.  It only occurred to me
after Bert told me about it, that I ain't been in the house alone for
years."

He ordered some more beer, and, drawing Mr. Chase to a bench, sat down to
a long and steady argument.  It shook his faith in human nature to find
that his friend estimated the affair as a twenty-pound job, but he was in
no position to bargain.  They came out smoking twopenny cigars whose
strength was remarkable for their age, and before they parted Mr. Chase
was pledged to the hilt to do all that he could to save Mrs. Teak from
the vice of avarice.

It was a more difficult undertaking than he had supposed.  The house,
small and compact, seemed to offer few opportunities for the concealment
of large sums of money, and after a fortnight's residence he came to the
conclusion that the treasure must have been hidden in the garden.  The
unalloyed pleasure, however, with which Mrs. Teak regarded the efforts
of her husband to put under cultivation land that had lain fallow for
twenty years convinced both men that they were on a wrong scent.  Mr.
Teak, who did the digging, was the first to realize it, but his friend,
pointing out the suspicions that might be engendered by a sudden
cessation of labour, induced him to persevere.

"And try and look as if you liked it," he said, severely.  "Why, from the
window even the back view of you looks disagreeable."

"I'm fair sick of it," declared Mr. Teak.  "Anybody might ha' known she
wouldn't have buried it in the garden.  She must 'ave been saving for
pretty near thirty years, week by week, and she couldn't keep coming out
here to hide it.  'Tain't likely."

Mr. Chase pondered.  "Let her know, casual like, that I sha'n't be 'ome
till late on Saturday," he said, slowly.  "Then you come 'ome in the
afternoon and take her out.  As soon as you're gone I'll pop in and have
a thorough good hunt round.  Is she fond of animals?"

"I b'lieve so," said the other, staring.  "Why?"

"Take 'er to the Zoo," said Mr. Chase, impressively.  "Take two-penn'orth
o' nuts with you for the monkeys, and some stale buns for--for--for
animals as likes 'em.  Give 'er a ride on the elephant and a ride on the
camel."

"Anything else?"  inquired Mr. Teak disagreeably.  "Any more ways you can
think of for me to spend my money?"

"You do as I tell you," said his friend.  "I've got an idea now where it
is.  If I'm able to show you where to put your finger on three 'undred
pounds when you come 'ome it'll be the cheapest outing you have ever 'ad.
Won't it?"

Mr. Teak made no reply, but, after spending the evening in deliberation,
issued the invitation at the supper-table.  His wife's eyes sparkled at
first; then the light slowly faded from them and her face fell.

"I can't go," she said, at last.  "I've got nothing to go in."

"Rubbish!"  said her husband, starting uneasily.

"It's a fact," said Mrs. Teak.  "I should like to go, too--it's years
since I was at the Zoo.  I might make my jacket do; it's my hat I'm
thinking about."

Mr. Chase, meeting Mr. Teak's eye, winked an obvious suggestion.

"So, thanking you all the same," continued Mrs. Teak, with amiable
cheerfulness, "I'll stay at 'ome."

"'Ow-'ow much are they?"  growled her husband, scowling at Mr. Chase.

"All prices," replied his wife.

"Yes, I know," said Mr. Teak, in a grating voice.  "You go in to buy a
hat at one and eleven-pence; you get talked over and flattered by a man
like a barber's block, and you come out with a four-and-six penny one.
The only real difference in hats is the price, but women can never see
it."

Mrs. Teak smiled faintly, and again expressed her willingness to stay at
home.  They could spend the afternoon working in the garden, she said.
Her husband, with another indignant glance at the right eye of Mr. Chase,
which was still enacting the part of a camera-shutter, said that she
could have a hat, but asked her to remember when buying it that nothing
suited her so well as a plain one.

The remainder of the week passed away slowly; and Mr. Teak, despite his
utmost efforts, was unable to glean any information from Mr. Chase as to
that gentleman's ideas concerning the hiding-place.  At every suggestion
Mr. Chase's smile only got broader and more indulgent.

"You leave it to me," he said.  "You leave it to me, and when you come
home from a happy outing I 'ope to be able to cross your little hand with
three 'undred golden quids."

"But why not tell me?"  urged Mr. Teak.

"'Cos I want to surprise you," was the reply.  "But mind, whatever you
do, don't let your wife run away with the idea that I've been mixed up in
it at all.  Now, if you worry me any more I shall ask you to make it
thirty pounds for me instead of twenty."

The two friends parted at the corner of the road on Saturday afternoon,
and Mr. Teak, conscious of his friend's impatience, sought to hurry his
wife by occasionally calling the wrong time up the stairs.  She came down
at last, smiling, in a plain hat with three roses, two bows, and a
feather.

"I've had the feather for years," she remarked.  "This is the fourth hat
it has been on--but, then, I've taken care of it."

Mr. Teak grunted, and, opening the door, ushered her into the street.  A
sense of adventure, and the hope of a profitable afternoon made his
spirits rise.  He paid a compliment to the hat, and then, to the surprise
of both, followed it up with another--a very little one--to his wife.

They took a tram at the end of the street, and for the sake of the air
mounted to the top.  Mrs. Teak leaned back in her seat with placid
enjoyment, and for the first ten minutes amused herself with the life in
the streets.  Then she turned suddenly to her husband and declared that
she had felt a spot of rain.

"'Magination," he said, shortly.

Something cold touched him lightly on the eyelid, a tiny pattering
sounded from the seats, and then swish, down came the rain.  With an
angry exclamation he sprang up and followed his wife below.

"Just our luck," she said, mournfully.  "Best thing we can do is to stay
in the car and go back with it."

"Nonsense!"  said her husband, in a startled' voice; "it'll be over in a
minute."

Events proved the contrary.  By the time the car reached the terminus it
was coming down heavily.  Mrs. Teak settled herself squarely in her seat,
and patches of blue sky, visible only to the eye of faith and her
husband, failed to move her.  Even his reckless reference to a cab
failed.

"It's no good," she said, tartly.  "We can't go about the grounds in a
cab, and I'm not going to slop about in the wet to please anybody.  We
must go another time.  It's hard luck, but there's worse things in life."

Mr. Teak, wondering as to the operations of Mr. Chase, agreed dumbly.  He
stopped the car at the corner of their road, and, holding his head down
against the rain, sprinted towards home.  Mrs. Teak, anxious for her hat,
passed him.

"What on earth's the matter?"  she inquired, fumbling in her pocket for
the key as her husband executed a clumsy but noisy breakdown on the front
step.

"Chill," replied Mr. Teak.  "I've got wet."

He resumed his lumberings and, the door being opened, gave vent to his
relief at being home again in the dry, in a voice that made the windows
rattle.  Then with anxious eyes he watched his wife pass upstairs.

"Wonder what excuse old Alf'll make for being in?"  he thought.

He stood with one foot on the bottom stair, listening acutely.  He heard
a door open above, and then a wild, ear-splitting shriek rang through the
house.  Instinctively he dashed upstairs and, following his wife into
their bedroom, stood by her side gaping stupidly at a pair of legs
standing on the hearthstone.  As he watched they came backwards into the
room, the upper part of a body materialized from the chimney, and turning
round revealed the soot-stained face of Mr. Alfred Chase.  Another wild
shriek from Mrs. Teak greeted its appearance.

"Hul-lo!"  exclaimed Mr. Teak, groping for the right thing to say.
"Hul-lo!  What--what are you doing, Alf?"

Mr. Chase blew the soot from his lips.  "I--I--I come 'ome unexpected,"
he stammered.

"But--what are--you doing?"  panted Mrs. Teak, in a rising voice.

"I--I was passing your door," said Mr. Chase, "passing your door--to go
to my room to--to 'ave a bit of a rinse, when--"

"Yes," said Mrs. Teak.

Mr. Chase gave Mr. Teak a glance the pathos of which even the soot could
not conceal.  "When I--I heard a pore little bird struggling in your
chimbley," he continued, with a sigh of relief.  "Being fond of animals,
I took the liberty of comin' into your room and saving its life."

Mr. Teak drew a breath, which he endeavoured in vain to render noiseless.

"It got its pore little foot caught in the brickwork," continued the
veracious Mr. Chase, tenderly.  "I released it, and it flowed--I mean
flew--up the chimbley."

With the shamefaced air of a man detected in the performance of a noble
action, he passed out of the room.  Husband and wife eyed each other.

"That's Alf--that's Alf all over," said Mr. Teak, with enthusiasm.  "He's
been like it from a child.  He's the sort of man that 'ud dive off
Waterloo Bridge to save the life of a drownding sparrow."

"He's made an awful mess," said his wife, frowning; "it'll take me the
rest of the day to clean up.  There's soot everywhere.  The rug is quite
spoilt."

She took off her hat and jacket and prepared for the fray.  Down below
Messrs.  Teak and Chase, comparing notes, sought, with much warmth, to
put the blame on the right shoulders.

"Well, it ain't there," said Mr. Chase, finally.  "I've made sure of
that.  That's something towards it.  I shan't 'ave to look there again,
thank goodness."

Mr. Teak sniffed.  "Got any more ideas?"  he queried.

"I have," said the other sternly.  "There's plenty of places to search
yet.  I've only just begun.  Get her out as much as you can and I'll 'ave
my hands on it afore you can say--"

"Soot?"  suggested Mr. Teak, sourly.

"Any more of your nasty snacks and I chuck it up altogether," said Mr.
Chase, heatedly.  "If I wasn't hard up I'd drop it now."

He went up to his room in dudgeon, and for the next few days Mr. Teak saw
but little of him.  To, lure Mrs. Teak out was almost as difficult as to
persuade a snail to leave its shell, but he succeeded on two or three
occasions, and each time she added something to her wardrobe.

The assistant fortune-hunter had been in residence just a month when Mr.
Teak, returning home one afternoon, stood in the small passage listening
to a suppressed wailing noise proceeding from upstairs.  It was so creepy
that half-way up he hesitated, and, in a stern but trembling voice,
demanded to know what his wife meant by it.  A louder wail than before
was the only reply, and, summoning up his courage, he pushed open the
door of the bedroom and peeped in.  His gaze fell on Mrs. Teak, who was
sitting on the hearth-rug, rocking to and fro in front of a dismantled
fire-place.

"What--what's the matter?"  he said, hastily.

Mrs. Teak raised her voice to a pitch that set his teeth on edge.  "My
money!" she wailed.  "It's all gone!  All gone!"

"Money?"  repeated Mr. Teak, hardly able to contain himself.  "What
money?"

"All--all my savings!"  moaned his wife.  "Savings!"  said the delighted
Mr. Teak.  "What savings?"

"Money I have been putting by for our old age," said his wife.  "Three
hundred and twenty-two pounds.  All gone!"

In a fit of sudden generosity Mr. Teak decided then and there that Mr.
Chase should have the odd twenty-two pounds.

"You're dreaming!"  he said, sternly.

"I wish I was," said his wife, wiping her eyes.  "Three hundred and
twenty-two pounds in empty mustard-tins.  Every ha'penny's gone!"

Mr. Teak's eye fell on the stove.  He stepped for ward and examined it.
The back was out, and Mrs. Teak, calling his attention to a tunnel at the
side, implored him to put his arm in and satisfy himself that it was
empty.

"But where could you get all that money from?"  he demanded, after a
prolonged groping.

"Sa--sa--saved it," sobbed his wife, "for our old age."

"Our old age?"  repeated Mr. Teak, in lofty tones.  "And suppose I had
died first?  Or suppose you had died sudden?  This is what comes of
deceitfulness and keeping things from your husband.  Now somebody has
stole it."

Mrs. Teak bent her head and sobbed again.  "I--I had just been out for
--for an hour," she gasped.  "When I came back I fou--fou--found the
washhouse window smashed, and--"

Sobs choked her utterance.  Mr. Teak, lost in admiration of Mr. Chase's
cleverness, stood regarding her in silence.

"What--what about the police?"  said his wife at last.

"Police!"  repeated Mr. Teak, with extraordinary vehemence.  "Police!
Certainly not.  D'ye think I'm going to let it be known all round that
I'm the husband of a miser?  I'd sooner lose ten times the money."

He stalked solemnly out of the room and downstairs, and, safe in the
parlour, gave vent to his feelings in a wild but silent hornpipe.  He
cannoned against the table at last, and, subsiding into an easy-chair,
crammed his handkerchief to his mouth and gave way to suppressed mirth.

In his excitement he forgot all about tea, and the bereaved Mrs. Teak
made no attempt to come downstairs to prepare it.  With his eye on the
clock he waited with what patience he might for the arrival of Mr. Chase.
The usual hour for his return came and went.  Another hour passed; and
another.  A horrible idea that Mr. Chase had been robbed gave way to one
more horrible still.  He paced the room in dismay, until at nine o'clock
his wife came down, and in a languid fashion began to set the
supper-table.

"Alf's very late," said Mr. Teak, thickly.

"Is he?"  said his wife, dully.

"Very late," said Mr. Teak.  "I can't think--Ah, there he is!"

He took a deep breath and clenched 'his hands together.  By the time Mr.
Chase came into the room he was able to greet him with a stealthy wink.
Mr. Chase, with a humorous twist of his mouth, winked back.

"We've 'ad a upset," said Mr. Teak, in warning tones.

"Eh?" said the other, as Mrs. Teak threw her apron over her head and sank
into a chair.  "What about?"

In bated accents, interrupted at times by broken murmurs from his wife,
Mr. Teak informed him of the robbery.  Mr. Chase, leaning against the
doorpost, listened with open mouth and distended eyeballs.  Occasional
interjections of pity and surprise attested his interest.  The tale
finished, the gentlemen exchanged a significant wink and sighed in
unison.

"And now," said Mr. Teak an hour later, after his wife had retired,
"where is it?"

"Ah, that's the question," said Mr. Chase, roguishly.  "I wonder where it
can be?"

"I--I hope it's in a safe place," said Mr. Teak, anxiously.  "Where 'ave
you put it?"

"Me?"  said Mr. Chase.  "Who are you getting at?  I ain't put it
anywhere.  You know that."

"Don't play the giddy goat," said the other, testily.  "Where've you hid
it?  Is it safe?"

Mr. Chase leaned back in his chair and, shaking his head at him, smiled
approvingly.  "You're a little wonder, that's what you are, Gussie," he
remarked.  "No wonder your pore wife is took in so easy."

Mr. Teak sprang up in a fury.  "Don't play the fool," he said hoarsely.
"Where's the money?  I want it.  Now, where've you put it?"

"Go on," said Mr. Chase, with a chuckle.  "Go on.  Don't mind me.  You
ought to be on the stage, Gussie, that's where you ought to be."

"I'm not joking," said Mr. Teak, in a trembling voice, "and I don't want
you to joke with me.  If you think you are going off with my money,
you're mistook.  If you don't tell me in two minutes where it is, I shall
give you in charge for theft."

"Oh" said Mr. Chase.  He took a deep breath.  "Oh, really!"  he said.  "I
wouldn't 'ave thought it of you, Gussie.  I wouldn't 'ave thought you'd
have played it so low down.  I'm surprised at you."

"You thought wrong, then," said the other.

"Trying to do me out o' my twenty pounds, that's what you are," said Mr.
Chase, knitting his brows.  "But it won't do, my boy.  I wasn't born
yesterday.  Hand it over, afore I lose my temper.  Twenty pounds I want
of you, and I don't leave this room till I get it."

Speechless with fury, Mr. Teak struck at him.  The next moment the
supper-table was overturned with a crash, and Mr. Chase, with his friend
in his powerful grasp, was doing his best, as he expressed it, to shake
the life out of him.  A faint scream sounded from above, steps pattered
on the stairs, and Mrs. Teak, with a red shawl round her shoulders, burst
'hurriedly into the room.  Mr. Chase released Mr. Teak, opened his mouth
to speak, and then, thinking better of it, dashed into the passage, took
his hat from the peg, and, slamming the front door with extraordinary
violence, departed.

He sent round for his clothes next day, but he did not see Mr. Teak until
a month afterwards.  His fists clenched and his mouth hardened, but Mr.
Teak, with a pathetic smile, held out his hand, and Mr. Chase, after a
moment's hesitation, took it.  Mr. Teak, still holding his friend's hand,
piloted him to a neighbouring hostelry.

"It was my mistake, Alf," he said, shaking his head, "but it wasn't my
fault.  It's a mistake anybody might ha' made."

"Have you found out who took it?"  inquired Mr. Chase, regarding him
suspiciously.

Mr. Teak gulped and nodded.  "I met Bert Adams yesterday," he said,
slowly.  "It took three pints afore he told me, but I got it out of 'im
at last.  My missis took it herself."

Mr. Chase put his mug down with a bang.  "What?"  he gasped.

"The day after she found you with your head up the chimbley," added Mr.
Teak, mournfully.  "She's shoved it away in some bank now, and I shall
never see a ha'penny of it.  If you was a married man, Alf, you'd
understand it better.  You wouldn't be surprised at anything."





[Illustration: "As I was a-saying, kindness to animals is all very well"]



WATCH-DOGS

"It's a'most the only enj'yment I've got left," said the oldest
inhabitant, taking a long, slow draught of beer, "that and a pipe o'
baccy.  Neither of 'em wants chewing, and that's a great thing when you
ain't got anything worth speaking about left to chew with."

He put his mug on the table and, ignoring the stillness of the summer
air, sheltered the flame of a match between his cupped hands and conveyed
it with infinite care to the bowl of his pipe.  A dull but crafty old eye
squinting down the stem assured itself that the tobacco was well alight
before the match was thrown away.

"As I was a-saying, kindness to animals is all very well," he said to the
wayfarer who sat opposite him in the shade of the "Cauliflower" elms;
"but kindness to your feller-creeturs is more.  The pint wot you give me
is gone, but I'm just as thankful to you as if it wasn't."

He half closed his eyes and, gazing on to the fields beyond, fell into a
reverie so deep that he failed to observe the landlord come for his mug
and return with it filled.  A little start attested his surprise, and,
to his great annoyance, upset a couple of tablespoonfuls of the precious
liquid.

"Some people waste all their kindness on dumb animals," he remarked,
after the landlord had withdrawn from his offended vision, "but I was
never a believer in it.  I mind some time ago when a gen'lemen from
Lunnon wot 'ad more money than sense offered a prize for kindness to
animals.  I was the only one that didn't try for to win it.

"Mr. Bunnett 'is name was, and 'e come down and took Farmer Hall's 'ouse
for the summer.  Over sixty 'e was, and old enough to know better.  He
used to put saucers of milk all round the 'ouse for cats to drink, and,
by the time pore Farmer Hall got back, every cat for three miles round
'ad got in the habit of coming round to the back-door and asking for milk
as if it was their right.  Farmer Hall poisoned a saucer o' milk at last,
and then 'ad to pay five shillings for a thin black cat with a mangy tail
and one eye that Bob Pretty said belonged to 'is children.  Farmer Hall
said he'd go to jail afore he'd pay, at fust, but arter five men 'ad
spoke the truth and said they 'ad see Bob's youngsters tying a empty
mustard-tin to its tail on'y the day afore, he gave way.

"Tha was Bob Pretty all over, that was; the biggest raskel Claybury 'as
ever had; and it wasn't the fust bit o' money 'e made out o' Mr. Bunnett
coming to the place.

"It all come through Mr. Bunnett's love for animals.  I never see a man
so fond of animals as 'e was, and if he had 'ad 'is way Claybury would
'ave been overrun by 'em by this time.  The day arter 'e got to the farm
he couldn't eat 'is breakfuss because of a pig that was being killed in
the yard, and it was no good pointing out to 'im that the pig was on'y
making a fuss about it because it was its nature so to do.  He lived on
wegetables and such like, and the way 'e carried on one day over 'arf a
biled caterpillar 'e found in his cabbage wouldn't be believed.  He
wouldn't eat another mossel, but sat hunting 'igh and low for the other
'arf.

"He 'adn't been in Claybury more than a week afore he said 'ow surprised
'e was to see 'ow pore dumb animals was treated.  He made a little speech
about it one evening up at the schoolroom, and, arter he 'ad finished, he
up and offered to give a prize of a gold watch that used to belong to 'is
dear sister wot loved animals, to the one wot was the kindest to 'em
afore he left the place.

"If he'd ha' known Claybury men better 'e wouldn't ha' done it.  The very
next morning Bill Chambers took 'is baby's milk for the cat, and smacked
'is wife's 'ead for talking arter he'd told 'er to stop.  Henery Walker
got into trouble for leaning over Charlie Stubbs's fence and feeding his
chickens for 'im, and Sam Jones's wife had to run off 'ome to 'er mother
'arf-dressed because she had 'appened to overlay a sick rabbit wot Sam
'ad taken to bed with 'im to keep warm.

"People used to stop animals in the road and try and do 'em a kindness--
especially when Mr. Bunnett was passing--and Peter Gubbins walked past
'is house one day with ole Mrs. Broad's cat in 'is arms.  A bad-tempered
old cat it was, and, wot with Peter kissing the top of its 'ead and
calling of it Tiddleums, it nearly went out of its mind.

"The fust time Mr. Bunnett see Bob Pretty was about a week arter he'd
offered that gold watch.  Bob was stooping down very careful over
something in the hedge, and Mr. Bunnett, going up quiet-like behind 'im,
see 'im messing about with a pore old toad he 'ad found, with a smashed
leg.

"'Wots the matter with it?' ses Mr. Bunnett.

"Bob didn't seem to hear 'im.  He was a-kneeling on the ground with 'is
'ead on one side looking at the toad; and by and by he pulled out 'is
pocket'an'kercher and put the toad in it, as if it was made of
egg-shells, and walked away.

"'Wot's the matter with it?' ses Mr. Bunnett, a'most trotting to keep up
with 'im.

"'Got it's leg 'urt in some way, pore thing,' ses Bob.  'I want to get it
'ome as soon as I can and wash it and put it on a piece o' damp moss.
But I'm afraid it's not long for this world.'

"Mr. Bunnett said it did 'im credit, and walked home alongside of 'im
talking.  He was surprised to find that Bob hadn't 'eard anything of the
gold watch 'e was offering, but Bob said he was a busy, 'ard-working man
and didn't 'ave no time to go to hear speeches or listen to
tittle-tattle.

"'When I've done my day's work,' he ses, 'I can always find a job in the
garden, and arter that I go in and 'elp my missis put the children to
bed.  She ain't strong, pore thing, and it's better than wasting time and
money up at the "Cauliflower."'

"He 'ad a lot o' talk with Mr. Bunnett for the next day or two, and when
'e went round with the toad on the third day as lively and well as
possible the old gen'leman said it was a miracle.  And so it would ha'
been if it had been the same toad.

"He took a great fancy to Bob Pretty, and somehow or other they was
always dropping acrost each other.  He met Bob with 'is dog one day--a
large, ugly brute, but a'most as clever as wot Bob was 'imself.  It stood
there with its tongue 'anging out and looking at Bob uneasy-like out of
the corner of its eye as Bob stood a-patting of it and calling it pet
names.

"' Wunnerful affectionate old dog, ain't you, Joseph?' ses Bob.

"'He's got a kind eye,' ses Mr. Bunnett.

"'He's like another child to me, ain't you, my pretty?' ses Bob, smiling
at 'im and feeling in 'is pocket.  'Here you are, old chap.'

"He threw down a biskit so sudden that Joseph, thinking it was a stone,
went off like a streak o' lightning with 'is tail between 'is legs and
yelping his 'ardest.  Most men would ha' looked a bit foolish, but Bob
Pretty didn't turn a hair.

"'Ain't it wunnerful the sense they've got,' he ses to Mr. Bunnett, wot
was still staring arter the dog.

"'Sense?' ses the old gen'leman.

"'Yes,' ses Bob smiling.  'His food ain't been agreeing with 'im lately
and he's starving hisself for a bit to get round agin, and 'e knew that
'e couldn't trust hisself alongside o' this biskit.  Wot a pity men ain't
like that with beer.  I wish as 'ow Bill Chambers and Henery Walker and a
few more 'ad been 'ere just now.'

"Mr. Bunnett agreed with 'im, and said wot a pity it was everybody 'adn't
got Bob Pretty's commonsense and good feeling.

"'It ain't that,' ses Bob, shaking his 'ead at him; 'it ain't to my
credit.  I dessay if Sam Jones and Peter Gubbins, and Charlie Stubbs and
Dicky Weed 'ad been brought up the same as I was they'd 'ave been a lot
better than wot I am.'

"He bid Mr. Bunnett good-bye becos 'e said he'd got to get back to 'is
work, and Mr. Bunnett had 'ardly got 'ome afore Henery Walker turned up
full of anxiousness to ask his advice about five little baby kittens wot
'is old cat had found in the wash-place: the night afore.

"'Drownd them little innercent things, same as most would do, I can't,'
he ses, shaking his 'ead; 'but wot to do with 'em I don't know.'

"'Couldn't you find 'omes for 'em?' ses Mr. Bunnett.

"Henery Walker shook his 'ead agin.  ''Tain't no use thinking o' that,'
he ses.  'There's more cats than 'omes about 'ere'.  Why, Bill Chambers
drownded six o'ny last week right afore the eyes of my pore little boy.
Upset 'im dreadful it did.'

"Mr. Bunnett walked up and down the room thinking.  'We must try and find
'omes for 'em when they are old enough,' he says at last; 'I'll go round
myself and see wot I can do for you.'

"Henery Walker thanked 'im and went off 'ome doing a bit o' thinking; and
well he 'ad reason to.  Everybody wanted one o' them kittens.  Peter
Gubbins offered for to take two, and Mr. Bunnett told Henery Walker next
day that 'e could ha' found 'omes for 'em ten times over.

"'You've no idea wot fine, kind-'arted people they are in this village
when their 'arts are touched,' he ses, smiling at Henery.  'You ought to
'ave seen Mr. Jones's smile when I asked 'im to take one.  It did me good
to see it.  And I spoke to Mr. Chambers about drowning 'is kittens, and
he told me 'e hadn't slept a wink ever since.  And he offered to take
your old cat to make up for it, if you was tired of keeping it.

"It was very 'ard on Henery Walker, I must say that.  Other people was
getting the credit of bringing up 'is kittens, and more than that, they
used to ask Mr. Bunnett into their places to see 'ow the little dears was
a-getting on.

"Kindness to animals caused more unpleasantness in Claybury than anything
'ad ever done afore.  There was hardly a man as 'ud speak civil to each
other, and the wimmen was a'most as bad.  Cats and dogs and such-like
began to act as if the place belonged to 'em, and seven people stopped
Mr. Bunnett one day to tell 'im that Joe Parsons 'ad been putting down
rat-poison and killed five little baby rats and their mother.

"It was some time afore anybody knew that Bob Pretty 'ad got 'is eye on
that gold watch, and when they did they could 'ardly believe it.  They
give Bob credit for too much sense to waste time over wot they knew 'e
couldn't get, but arter they 'ad heard one or two things they got
alarmed, and pretty near the whole village went up to see Mr. Bunnett and
tell 'im about Bob's true character.  Mr. Bunnett couldn't believe 'em at
fast, but arter they 'ad told 'im of Bob's poaching and the artful ways
and tricks he 'ad of getting money as didn't belong to 'im 'e began to
think different.  He spoke to parson about 'im, and arter that 'e said he
never wanted for to see Bob Pretty's face again.

"There was a fine to-do about it up at this 'ere Cauliflower public-'ouse
that night, and the quietest man 'o the whole lot was Bob Pretty.  He sat
still all the time drinking 'is beer and smiling at 'em and giving 'em
good advice 'ow to get that gold watch.

"'It's no good to me,' he ses, shaking his 'ead.  'I'm a pore labourin'
man, and I know my place.'

"'Ow you could ever 'ave thought you 'ad a chance, Bob, I don't know,'
ses Henery Walker.

"'Ow's the toad, Bob?' ses Bill Chambers; and then they all laughed.

"'Laugh away, mates,' ses Bob; 'I know you don't mean it.  The on'y thing
I'm sorry for is you can't all 'ave the gold watch, and I'm sure you've
worked 'ard enough for it; keeping Henery Walker's kittens for 'im, and
hanging round Mr. Bunnett's.'

"'We've all got a better chance than wot you 'ave, Bob,' ses little Dicky
Weed the tailor.

"The quietest man o' the whole lot was Bob Pretty"

"'Ah, that's your iggernerance, Dicky,' ses Bob.  'Come to think it over
quiet like, I'm afraid I shall win it arter all.  Cos why?  Cos I
deserves it.'

"They all laughed agin, and Bill Chambers laughed so 'arty that 'e
joggled Peter Gubbins's arm and upset 'is beer.

"'Laugh away,' ses Bob, pretending to get savage.  'Them that laughs best
laughs last, mind.  I'll 'ave that watch now, just to spite you all.'

"'Ow are you going to get it, Bob?' ses Sam Jones, jeering.

"'Never you mind, mate,' ses Bob, stamping 'is foot; 'I'm going to win it
fair.  I'm going to 'ave it for kindness to pore dumb animals.'

"Ear! 'ear!' ses Dicky Weed, winking at the others.  'Will you 'ave a bet
on it, Bob?'

"'No,' ses Bob Pretty; 'I don't want to win no man's money.  I like to
earn my money in the sweat o' my brow.'

"'But you won't win it, Bob,' ses Dicky, grinning.  'Look 'ere!  I'll lay
you a level bob you don't get it.'

"Bob shook his 'ead, and started talking to Bill Chambers about something
else.

"'I'll bet you two bob to one, Bob,' ses Dicky. 'Well, three to one,
then.'

"Bob sat up and looked at'im for a long time, considering, and at last he
ses, 'All right,' he ses, 'if Smith the landlord will mind the money I
will.'

"He 'anded over his shilling,' but very slow-like, and Dicky Weed 'anded
over 'is money.  Arter that Bob sat looking disagreeable like, especially
when.  Dicky said wot 'e was goin' to do with the money, and by an by Sam
Jones dared 'im to 'ave the same bet with 'im in sixpences.

"Bob Pretty 'ad a pint more beer to think it over, and arter Bill
Chambers 'ad stood 'im another, he said 'e would.  He seemed a bit dazed
like, and by the time he went 'ome he 'ad made bets with thirteen of 'em.
Being Saturday night they 'ad all got money on 'em, and, as for Bob, he
always 'ad some.  Smith took care of the money and wrote it all up on a
slate.

"'Why don't you 'ave a bit on, Mr. Smith?' ses Dicky.

"'Oh, I dunno,' ses Smith, wiping down the bar with a wet cloth.

"'It's the chance of a lifetime,' ses Dicky.

"'Looks like it,' ses Smith, coughing.

"'But 'e can't win,' ses Sam Jones, looking a bit upset.  'Why, Mr.
Bunnett said 'e ought to be locked up.'

"'He's been led away,' ses Bob Pretty, shaking his 'ead.  'He's a
kind-'arted old gen'leman when 'e's left alone, and he'll soon see wot a
mistake 'e's made about me.  I'll show 'im.  But I wish it was something
more useful than a gold watch.'

"'You ain't got it yet,' ses Bill Chambers.

"'No, mate,' ses Bob.

"'And you stand to lose a sight o' money,' ses Sam Jones.  'If you like,
Bob Pretty, you can 'ave your bet back with me.'

"'Never mind, Sam,' ses Bob; 'I won't take no advantage of you.  If I
lose you'll 'ave sixpence to buy a rabbit-hutch with.  Good-night, mates
all.'

"He rumpled Bill Chambers's 'air for 'im as he passed--a thing Bill never
can a-bear--and gave Henery Walker, wot was drinking beer, a smack on the
back wot nearly ruined 'im for life.


[Illustration: "Some of 'em went and told Mr. Bunnett some more things
about Bob next day"]


"Some of 'em went and told Mr. Bunnett some more things about Bob next
day, but they might as well ha' saved their breath.  The old gen'leman
said he knew all about 'im and he never wanted to 'ear his name mentioned
agin.  Arter which they began for to 'ave a more cheerful way of looking
at things; and Sam Jones said 'e was going to 'ave a hole bored through
'is sixpence and wear it round 'is neck to aggravate Bob Pretty with.

"For the next three or four weeks Bob Pretty seemed to keep very quiet,
and we all began to think as 'ow he 'ad made a mistake for once.
Everybody else was trying their 'ardest for the watch, and all Bob done
was to make a laugh of 'em and to say he believed it was on'y made of
brass arter all.  Then one arternoon, just a few days afore Mr. Bunnett's
time was up at the farm, Bob took 'is dog out for a walk, and arter
watching the farm for some time met the old gen'leman by accident up at
Coe's plantation.

"'Good arternoon, sir,' he ses, smiling at 'im.  'Wot wunnerful fine
weather we're a-having for the time o' year.  I've just brought Joseph
out for a bit of a walk.  He ain't been wot I might call hisself for the
last day or two, and I thought a little fresh air might do 'im good.'

"Mr. Bunnett just looked at him, and then 'e passed 'im by without a
word.

"'I wanted to ask your advice about 'im,' ses Bob, turning round and
follering of 'im.  'He's a delikit animal, and sometimes I wonder whether
I 'aven't been a-pampering of 'im too much.'

"'Go away,' ses Mr. Bunnett; 'I've'eard all about you.  Go away at once.'

"'Heard all about me?' ses Bob Pretty, looking puzzled.  'Well, you can't
'ave heard no 'arm, that's one comfort.'

"'I've been told your true character,' ses the old gen'leman, very firm.
'And I'm ashamed that I should have let myself be deceived by you.  I
hope you'll try and do better while there is still time.'

"'If anybody 'as got anything to say agin my character,' says Bob, 'I
wish as they'd say it to my face.  I'm a pore, hard-working man, and my
character's all I've got.'

"'You're poorer than you thought you was then,' says Mr. Bunnett.  'I
wish you good arternoon.'

"'Good arternoon, sir,' ses Bob, very humble.  'I'm afraid some on 'em
'ave been telling lies about me, and I didn't think I'd got a enemy in
the world.  Come on, Joseph.  Come on, old pal.  We ain't wanted here.'

"He shook 'is 'ead with sorrow, and made a little sucking noise between
'is teeth, and afore you could wink, his dog 'ad laid hold of the old
gen'leman's leg and kep' quiet waiting orders.

"'Help!' screams Mr. Bunnett.  'Call, 'im off!  Call 'im off!'

"Bob said arterwards that 'e was foolish enough to lose 'is presence o'
mind for a moment, and instead o' doing anything he stood there gaping
with 'is mouth open.

"'Call 'im off!' screams Mr. Bunnett, trying to push the dog away.  'Why
don't you call him off?'

"'Don't move,' ses Bob Pretty in a frightened voice.  'Don't move,
wotever you do.'

"'Call him off!  Take 'im away!' ses Mr. Bunnett.

"'Why, Joseph!  Joseph!  Wotever are you a-thinking of?' ses Bob, shaking
'is 'ead at the dog.  'I'm surprised at you!  Don't you know Mr. Bunnett
wot is so fond of animals?'

"'If you don't call 'im off, ses Mr. Bunnett, trembling all over, 'I'll
have you locked up.'

"'I am a-calling 'im off,' ses Bob, looking very puzzled.  'Didn't you
'ear me?  It's you making that noise that excites 'im, I think.  P'r'aps
if you keep quiet he'll leave go.  Come off, Joseph, old boy, there's a
good doggie.  That ain't a bone.'

"'It's no good talking to 'im like that,' ses Mr. Bunnett, keeping quiet
but trembling worse than ever.  'Make him let go.'

"'I don't want to 'urt his feelings,' ses Bob; 'they've got their
feelings the same as wot we 'ave.  Besides, p'r'aps it ain't 'is fault--
p'r'aps he's gone mad.'

"'HELP!' ses the old gen'leman, in a voice that might ha' been heard a
mile away.  'HELP!'

"'Why don't you keep quiet?' ses Bob.  'You're on'y frightening the pore
animal and making things worse.  Joseph, leave go and I'll see whether
there's a biskit in my pocket.  Why don't you leave go?'

"'Pull him off.  Hit 'im,' ses Mr. Bunnett, shouting.

"'Wot?' ses Bob Pretty, with a start.  'Hit a poor, dumb animal wot don't
know no better!  Why, you'd never forgive me, sir, and I should lose the
gold watch besides.'

"'No, you won't,' ses Mr. Bunnett, speaking very fast.  'You'll 'ave as
much chance of it as ever you had.  Hit 'im!  Quick!'

"'It 'ud break my 'art,' ses Bob.  'He'd never forgive me; but if you'll
take the responserbility, and then go straight 'ome and give me the gold
watch now for kindness to animals, I will.'

"He shook his 'ead with sorrow and made that sucking noise agin.'

"'All right, you shall 'ave it,' ses Mr. Bunnett, shouting.  'You shall
'ave it.'

"'For kindness to animals?' ses Bob.  'Honour bright?'

"'Yes,' ses Mr. Bunnett.

[Illustration:"Bob Pretty lifted 'is foot and caught Joseph one behind
that surprised 'im."]

"Bob Pretty lifted 'is foot and caught Joseph one behind that surprised
'im.  Then he 'elped Mr. Bunnett look at 'is leg, and arter pointing out
that the skin wasn't hardly broken, and saying that Joseph 'ad got the
best mouth of any dog in Claybury, 'e walked 'ome with the old gen'leman
and got the watch.  He said Mr. Bunnett made a little speech when 'e gave
it to 'im wot he couldn't remember, and wot he wouldn't repeat if 'e
could.

"He came up to this 'ere Cauliflower public-'ouse the same night for the
money 'e had won, and Bill Chambers made another speech, but, as Smith
the landlord put' in outside for it, it didn't do Bob Pretty the good it
ought to ha' done."







THE BEQUEST

R. Robert Clarkson sat by his fire, smoking thoughtfully.  His lifelong
neighbour and successful rival in love had passed away a few days before,
and Mr. Clarkson, fresh from the obsequies, sat musing on the fragility
of man and the inconvenience that sometimes attended his departure.

His meditations were disturbed by a low knocking on the front door, which
opened on to the street.  In response to his invitation it opened slowly,
and a small middle-aged man of doleful aspect entered softly and closed
it behind him.

"Evening, Bob," he said, in stricken accents.  "I thought I'd just step
round to see how you was bearing up.  Fancy pore old Phipps!  Why, I'd
a'most as soon it had been me.  A'most."

Mr. Clarkson nodded.

"Here to-day and gone to-morrow," continued Mr. Smithson, taking a seat.
"Well, well!  So you'll have her at last-pore thing."

"That was his wish," said Mr. Clarkson, in a dull voice.

"And very generous of him too," said Mr. Smithson.  "Everybody is saying
so.  Certainly he couldn't take her away with him.  How long is it since
you was both of you courting her?"

"Thirty years come June," replied the other.

"Shows what waiting does, and patience," commented Mr. Smithson.  "If
you'd been like some chaps and gone abroad, where would you have been
now?  Where would have been the reward of your faithful heart?"

Mr. Clarkson, whose pipe had gone out, took a coal from the fire and lit
it again.

"I can't understand him dying at his age," he said, darkly.  "He ought to
have lived to ninety if he'd been taken care of."

"Well, he's gone, pore chap," said his friend.  "What a blessing it must
ha' been to him in his last moments to think that he had made provision
for his wife."

"Provision!"  exclaimed Mr. Clarkson.  "Why he's left her nothing but the
furniture and fifty pounds insurance money--nothing in the world."

Mr. Smithson fidgeted.  "I mean you," he said, staring.

"Oh!" said the other.  "Oh, yes--yes, of course."

"And he doesn't want you to eat your heart out in waiting," said Mr.
Smithson.  "'Never mind about me,' he said to her; 'you go and make Bob
happy.'  Wonderful pretty girl she used to be, didn't she?"  Mr. Clarkson
assented.

"And I've no doubt she looks the same to you as ever she did," pursued
the sentimental Mr. Smithson.  "That's the extraordinary part of it."

Mr. Clarkson turned and eyed him; removed the pipe from his mouth, and,
after hesitating a moment, replaced it with a jerk.

"She says she'd rather be faithful to his memory," continued the
persevering Mr. Smithson, "but his wishes are her law.  She said so to my
missis only yesterday."

"Still, she ought to be considered," said Mr. Clarkson, shaking his head.
"I think that somebody ought to put it to her.  She has got her feelings,
poor thing, and, if she would rather not marry again, she oughtn't to be
compelled to."

"Just what my missis did say to her," said the other; "but she didn't pay
much attention.  She said it was Henry's wish and she didn't care what
happened to her now he's gone.  Besides, if you come to think of it, what
else is she to do?  Don't you worry, Bob; you won't lose her again."

Mr. Clarkson, staring at the fire, mused darkly.  For thirty years he had
played the congenial part of the disappointed admirer but faithful
friend.  He had intended to play it for at least fifty or sixty.  He
wished that he had had the strength of mind to refuse the bequest when
the late Mr. Phipps first mentioned it, or taken a firmer line over the
congratulations of his friends.  As it was, Little Molton quite
understood that after thirty years' waiting the faithful heart was to be
rewarded at last.  Public opinion seemed to be that the late Mr. Phipps
had behaved with extraordinary generosity.

"It's rather late in life for me to begin," said Mr. Clarkson at last.

"Better late than never," said the cheerful Mr. Smithson.

"And something seems to tell me that I ain't long for this world,"
continued Mr. Clarkson, eyeing him with some disfavour.

"Stuff and nonsense," said Mr. Smithson.  "You'll lose all them ideas as
soon as you're married.  You'll have somebody to look after you and help
you spend your money."

Mr. Clarkson emitted a dismal groan, and clapping his hand over his mouth
strove to make it pass muster as a yawn.  It was evident that the
malicious Mr. Smithson was deriving considerable pleasure from his
discomfiture--the pleasure natural to the father of seven over the
troubles of a comfortable bachelor.  Mr. Clarkson, anxious to share his
troubles with somebody, came to a sudden and malicious determination to
share them with Mr. Smithson.

"I don't want anybody to help me spend my money," he said, slowly.
"First and last I've saved a tidy bit.  I've got this house, those three
cottages in Turner's Lane, and pretty near six hundred pounds in the
bank."

Mr. Smithson's eyes glistened.

"I had thought--it had occurred to me," said Mr. Clarkson, trying to keep
as near the truth as possible, "to leave my property to a friend o' mine
--a hard-working man with a large family.  However, it's no use talking
about that now.  It's too late."

"Who--who was it?"  inquired his friend, trying to keep his voice steady.

Mr. Clarkson shook his head.  "It's no good talking about that now,
George," he said, eyeing him with sly enjoyment.  "I shall have to leave
everything to my wife now.  After all, perhaps it does more harm than
good to leave money to people."

"Rubbish!"  said Mr. Smithson, sharply.  "Who was it?"

"You, George," said Mr. Clarkson, softly.

"Me?"  said the other, with a gasp.  "Me?"  He jumped up from his chair,
and, seizing the other's hand, shook it fervently.

"I oughtn't to have told you, George," said Mr. Clarkson, with great
satisfaction.  "It'll only make you miserable.  It's just one o' the
might ha' beens."

Mr. Smithson, with his back to the fire and his hands twisted behind him,
stood with his eyes fixed in thought.

"It's rather cool of Phipps," he said, after a long silence; "rather
cool, I think, to go out of the world and just leave his wife to you to
look after.  Some men wouldn't stand it.  You're too easy-going, Bob,
that's what's the matter with you."

Mr. Clarkson sighed.

"And get took advantage of," added his friend.

"It's all very well to talk," said Mr. Clarkson, "but what can I do?  I
ought to have spoke up at the time.  It's too late now."

"If I was you," said his friend very earnestly, "and didn't want to marry
her, I should tell her so.  Say what you like it ain't fair to her you
know.  It ain't fair to the pore woman.  She'd never forgive you if she
found it out."

"Everybody's taking it for granted," said the other.

"Let everybody look after their own business," said Mr. Smithson, tartly.
"Now, look here, Bob; suppose I get you out of this business, how am I to
be sure you'll leave your property to me?--not that I want it.  Suppose
you altered your will?"

"If you get me out of it, every penny I leave will go to you," said Mr.
Clarkson, fervently.  "I haven't got any relations, and it don't matter
in the slightest to me who has it after I'm gone."

"As true as you stand there?"  demanded the other, eyeing him fixedly.

"As true as I stand here," said Mr. Clarkson, smiting his chest, and
shook hands again.

Long after his visitor had gone he sat gazing in a brooding fashion at
the fire.  As a single man his wants were few, and he could live on his
savings; as the husband of Mrs. Phipps he would be compelled to resume
the work he thought he had dropped for good three years before.
Moreover, Mrs. Phipps possessed a strength of character that had many
times caused him to congratulate himself upon her choice of a husband.

Slowly but surely his fetters were made secure.  Two days later the widow
departed to spend six weeks with a sister; but any joy that he might have
felt over the circumstance was marred by the fact that he had to carry
her bags down to the railway station and see her off.  The key of her
house was left with him, with strict injunctions to go in and water her
geraniums every day, while two canaries and a bullfinch had to be removed
to his own house in order that they might have constant attention and
company.

"She's doing it on purpose," said Mr. Smithson, fiercely; "she's binding
you hand and foot."

Mr. Clarkson assented gloomily.  "I'm trusting to you, George," he
remarked.

"How'd it be to forget to water the geraniums and let the birds die
because they missed her so much?"  suggested Mr. Smithson, after
prolonged thought.

Mr. Clarkson shivered.

"It would be a hint," said his friend.

Mr. Clarkson took some letters from the mantelpiece and held them up.
"She writes about them every day," he said, briefly, "and I have to
answer them."

"She--she don't refer to your getting married, I suppose?"  said his
friend, anxiously.

Mr. Clarkson said "No.  But her sister does," he added.  "I've had two
letters from her."

Mr. Smithson got up and paced restlessly up and down the room.  "That's
women all over," he said, bitterly.  "They never ask for things straight
out; but they always get 'em in roundabout ways.  She can't do it
herself, so she gets her sister to do it."

Mr. Clarkson groaned.  "And her sister is hinting that she can't leave
the house where she spent so many happy years," he said, "and says what a
pleasant surprise it would be for Mrs. Phipps if she was to come home and
find it done up."

"That means you've got to live there when you're married," said his
friend, solemnly.

Mr. Clarkson glanced round his comfortable room and groaned again.  "She
asked me to get an estimate from Digson," he said, dully.  "She knows as
well as I do her sister hasn't got any money.  I wrote to say that it had
better be left till she comes home, as I might not know what was wanted."

Mr. Smithson nodded approval.

"And Mrs. Phipps wrote herself and thanked me for being so considerate,"
continued his friend, grimly, "and says that when she comes back we must
go over the house together and see what wants doing."

Mr. Smithson got up and walked round the room again.

"You never promised to marry her?"  he said, stopping suddenly.

"No," said the other.  "It's all been arranged for me.  I never said a
word.  I couldn't tell Phipps I wouldn't have her with them all standing
round, and him thinking he was doing me the greatest favour in the
world."

"Well, she can't name the day unless you ask her," said the other.  "All
you've got to do is to keep quiet and not commit yourself.  Be as cool as
you can, and, just before she comes home, you go off to London on
business and stay there as long as possible."

Mr. Clarkson carried out his instructions to the letter, and Mrs. Phipps,
returning home at the end of her visit, learned that he had left for
London three days before, leaving the geraniums and birds to the care of
Mr. Smithson.  From the hands of that unjust steward she received two
empty bird-cages, together with a detailed account of the manner in which
the occupants had effected their escape, and a bullfinch that seemed to
be suffering from torpid liver.  The condition of the geraniums was
ascribed to worms in the pots, frost, and premature decay.

"They go like it sometimes," said Mr. Smithson, "and when they do nothing
will save 'em."

Mrs. Phipps thanked him.  "It's very kind of you to take so much
trouble," she said, quietly; "some people would have lost the cages too
while they were about it."

"I did my best," said Mr. Smithson, in a surly voice.

"I know you did," said Mrs. Phipps, thoughtfully, "and I am sure I am
much obliged to you.  If there is anything of yours I can look after at
any time I shall be only too pleased.  When did you say Mr. Clarkson was
coming back?"

"He don't know," said Mr. Smithson, promptly.  "He might be away a month;
and then, again, he might be away six.  It all depends.  You know what
business is."

"It's very thoughtful of him," said Mrs. Phipps.  "Very."

"Thoughtful!"  repeated Mr. Smithson.

"He has gone away for a time out of consideration for me," said the
widow.  "As things are, it is a little bit awkward for us to meet much at
present."

"I don't think he's gone away for that at all," said the other, bluntly.

Mrs. Phipps shook her head.  "Ah, you don't know him as well as I do,"
she said, fondly.  "He has gone away on my account, I feel sure."

Mr. Smithson screwed his lips together and remained silent.

"When he feels that it is right and proper for him to come back," pursued
Mrs. Phipps, turning her eyes upwards, "he will come.  He has left his
comfortable home just for my sake, and I shall not forget it."

Mr. Smithson coughed-a short, dry cough, meant to convey incredulity.

"I shall not do anything to this house till he comes back," said Mrs.
Phipps.  "I expect he would like to have a voice in it.  He always used
to admire it and say how comfortable it was.  Well, well, we never know
what is before us."

Mr. Smithson repeated the substance of the interview to Mr. Clarkson by
letter, and in the lengthy correspondence that followed kept him posted
as to the movements of Mrs. Phipps.  By dint of warnings and entreaties
he kept the bridegroom-elect in London for three months.  By that time
Little Molton was beginning to talk.

"They're beginning to see how the land lays," said Mr. Smithson, on the
evening of his friend's return, "and if you keep quiet and do as I tell
you she'll begin to see it too.  As I said before, she can't name the day
till you ask her."

Mr. Clarkson agreed, and the following morning, when he called upon Mrs.
Phipps at her request, his manner was so distant that she attributed it
to ill-health following business worries and the atmosphere of London.
In the front parlour Mr. Digson, a small builder and contractor, was busy
whitewashing.

"I thought we might as well get on with that," said Mrs. Phipps; "there
is only one way of doing whitewashing, and the room has got to be done.
To-morrow Mr. Digson will bring up some papers, and, if you'll come
round, you can help me choose."

Mr. Clarkson hesitated.  "Why not choose 'em yourself?"  he said at last.

"Just what I told her," said Mr. Digson, stroking his black beard.
"What'll please you will be sure to please him, I says; and if it don't
it ought to."

Mr. Clarkson started.  "Perhaps you could help her choose," he said,
sharply.

Mr. Digson came down from his perch.  "Just what I said," he replied.
"If Mrs. Phipps will let me advise her, I'll make this house so she won't
know it before I've done with it."

"Mr. Digson has been very kind," said Mrs. Phipps, reproachfully.

"Not at all, ma'am," said the builder, softly.  "Anything I can do to
make you happy or comfortable will be a pleasure to me."

Mr. Clarkson started again, and an odd idea sent his blood dancing.
Digson was a widower; Mrs. Phipps was a widow.  Could anything be more
suitable or desirable?

"Better let him choose," he said.  "After all, he ought to be a good
judge."

Mrs. Phipps, after a faint protest, gave way, and Mr. Digson, smiling
broadly, mounted his perch again.

Mr. Clarkson's first idea was to consult Mr. Smithson; then he resolved
to wait upon events.  The idea was fantastic to begin with, but, if
things did take such a satisfactory turn, he could not help reflecting
that it would not be due to any efforts on the part of Mr. Smithson, and
he would no longer be under any testamentary obligations to that
enterprising gentleman.

By the end of a week he was jubilant.  A child could have told Mr.
Digson's intentions--and Mrs. Phipps was anything but a child.  Mr.
Clarkson admitted cheerfully that Mr. Digson was a younger and
better-looking man than himself--a more suitable match in every way.
And, so far as he could judge, Mrs. Phipps seemed to think so.  At any
rate, she had ceased to make the faintest allusion to any tie between
them.  He left her one day painting a door, while the attentive Digson
guided the brush, and walked homewards smiling.

"Morning!"  said a voice behind him.

"Morning, Bignell," said Mr. Clarkson.

"When--when is it to be?" inquired his friend, walking beside him.

Mr. Clarkson frowned.  "When is what to be?" he demanded, disagreeably.

Mr. Bignell lowered his voice.  "You'll lose her if you ain't careful,"
he said.  "Mark my words.  Can't you see Digson's little game?"

Mr. Clarkson shrugged his shoulders.

"He's after her money," said the other, with a cautious glance around.

"Money?"  said the other, with an astonished laugh.  "Why, she hasn't got
any."


[Illustration: "She'll be riding in her carriage and pair in six months"]


"Oh, all right," said Mr. Bignell.  "You know best of course.  I was just
giving you the tip, but if you know better--why, there's nothing more to
be said.  She'll be riding in her carriage and pair in six months,
anyhow; the richest woman in Little Molton."

Mr. Clarkson stopped short and eyed him in perplexity.

"Digson got a bit sprung one night and told me," said Mr. Bignell.  "She
don't know it herself yet--uncle on her mother's side in America.  She
might know at any moment."

"But--but how did Digson know?"  inquired the astonished Mr. Clarkson.

"He wouldn't tell me," was the reply.  "But it's good enough for him.
What do you think he's after?  Her?  And mind, don't let on to a soul
that I told you."

He walked on, leaving Mr. Clarkson standing in a dazed condition in the
centre of the foot-path.  Recovering himself by an effort, he walked
slowly away, and, after prowling about for some time in an aimless
fashion, made his way back to Mrs. Phipps's house.

He emerged an hour later an engaged man, with the date of the wedding
fixed.  With jaunty steps he walked round and put up the banns, and then,
with the air of a man who has completed a successful stroke of business,
walked homewards.

Little Molton is a small town and news travels fast, but it did not
travel faster than Mr. Smithson as soon as he had heard it.  He burst
into Mr. Clarkson's room like the proverbial hurricane, and, gasping for
breath, leaned against the table and pointed at him an incriminating
finger.

"You you've been running," said Mr. Clarkson, uneasily.

"What--what--what do you--mean by it?" gasped Mr. Smithson.  "After all
my trouble.  After our--bargain."

"I altered my mind," said Mr. Clarkson, with dignity.

"Pah!"  said the other.

"Just in time," said Mr. Clarkson, speaking rapidly.  "Another day and I
believe I should ha' been too late.  It took me pretty near an hour to
talk her over.  Said I'd been neglecting her, and all that sort of thing;
said that she was beginning to think I didn't want her.  As hard a job as
ever I had in my life."

"But you didn't want her," said the amazed Mr. Smithson.  "You told me
so."

"You misunderstood me," said Mr. Clarkson, coughing.  "You jump at
conclusions."

Mr. Smithson sat staring at him.  "I heard," he said at last, with an
effort...  "I heard that Digson was paying her attentions."

Mr. Clarkson spoke without thought.  "Ha, he was only after her money,"
he said, severely.  "Good heavens!  What's the matter?"

Mr. Smithson, who had sprung to his feet, made no reply, but stood for
some time incapable of speech.

"What--is--the--matter?"  repeated Mr. Clarkson.  "Ain't you well?"

Mr. Smithson swayed a little, and sank slowly back into his chair again.

"Room's too hot," said his astonished host.

Mr. Smithson, staring straight before him, nodded.

"As I was saying," resumed Mr. Clarkson, in the low tones of confidence,
"Digson was after her money.  Of course her money don't make any
difference to me, although, perhaps, I may be able to do something for
friends like you.  It's from an uncle in America on her mother's--"

Mr. Smithson made a strange moaning noise, and, snatching his hat from
the table, clapped it on his head and made for the door.  Mr. Clarkson
flung his arms around him and dragged him back by main force.

"What are you carrying on like that for?" he demanded.  "What do you mean
by it?"

"Fancy!"  returned Mr. Smithson, with intense bitterness.  "I thought
Digson was the biggest fool in the place, and I find I've made  a
mistake.  So have you.  Good-night."

He opened the door and dashed out.  Mr. Clarkson, with a strange sinking
at his heart, watched him up the road.






THE GUARDIAN ANGEL

[Illustration: "The lodger was standing at the foot o' Ginger's bed,
going through 'is pockets."]

The night-watchman shook his head.  "I never met any of these phil--
philantherpists, as you call 'em," he said, decidedly.  "If I 'ad they
wouldn't 'ave got away from me in a hurry, I can tell you.  I don't say I
don't believe in 'em; I only say I never met any of 'em.  If people do
you a kindness it's generally because they want to get something out of
you; same as a man once--a perfick stranger--wot stood me eight
'arf-pints becos I reminded 'im of his dead brother, and then borrered
five bob off of me.

"O' course, there must be some kind-'arted people in the world--all men
who get married must 'ave a soft spot somewhere, if it's only in the
'ead--but they don't often give things away.  Kind-'artedness is often
only another name for artfulness, same as Sam Small's kindness to Ginger
Dick and Peter Russet.

"It started with a row.  They was just back from a v'y'ge and 'ad taken a
nice room together in Wapping, and for the fust day or two, wot with
'aving plenty o' money to spend and nothing to do, they was like three
brothers.  Then, in a little, old-fashioned public-'ouse down Poplar way,
one night they fell out over a little joke Ginger played on Sam.

"It was the fust drink that evening, and Sam 'ad just ordered a pot o'
beer and three glasses, when Ginger winked at the landlord and offered to
bet Sam a level 'arf-dollar that 'e wouldn't drink off that pot o' beer
without taking breath.  The landlord held the money, and old Sam, with a
'appy smile on 'is face, 'ad just taken up the mug, when he noticed the
odd way in which they was all watching him.  Twice he took the mug up and
put it down agin without starting and asked 'em wot the little game was,
but they on'y laughed.  He took it up the third time and started, and he
'ad just got about 'arf-way through when Ginger turns to the landlord and
ses--

"'Did you catch it in the mouse-trap,' he ses, 'or did it die of poison?'

"Pore Sam started as though he 'ad been shot, and, arter getting rid of
the beer in 'is mouth, stood there 'olding the mug away from 'im and
making such 'orrible faces that they was a'most frightened.

"'Wot's the matter with him?  I've never seen 'im carry on like that over
a drop of beer before,' ses Ginger, staring.

"'He usually likes it,' ses Peter Russet.

"'Not with a dead mouse in it,' ses Sam, trembling with passion.

"'Mouse?' ses Ginger, innercent-like.  'Mouse?  Why, I didn't say it was
in your beer, Sam.  Wotever put that into your 'ead?'

"'And made you lose your bet,' ses Peter.

"Then old Sam see 'ow he'd been done, and the way he carried on when the
landlord gave Ginger the 'arf-dollar, and said it was won fair and
honest, was a disgrace.  He 'opped about that bar 'arf crazy, until at
last the landlord and 'is brother, and a couple o' soldiers, and a
helpless cripple wot wos selling matches, put 'im outside and told 'im to
stop there.

"He stopped there till Ginger and Peter came out, and then, drawing
'imself up in a proud way, he told 'em their characters and wot he
thought about 'em.  And he said 'e never wanted to see wot they called
their faces agin as long as he lived.

"'I've done with you,' he ses, 'both of you, for ever.'

"'All right,' ses Ginger moving off.  'Ta-ta for the present.  Let's 'ope
he'll come 'ome in a better temper, Peter.'

"'Ome?' ses Sam, with a nasty laugh, "'ome?  D'ye think I'm coming back to
breathe the same air as you, Ginger?  D'ye think I want to be
suffocated?'

"He held his 'ead up very 'igh, and, arter looking at them as if they was
dirt, he turned round and walked off with his nose in the air to spend
the evening by 'imself.

"His temper kept him up for a time, but arter a while he 'ad to own up to
'imself that it was very dull, and the later it got the more he thought
of 'is nice warm bed.  The more 'e thought of it the nicer and warmer it
seemed, and, arter a struggle between his pride and a few 'arf-pints, he
got 'is good temper back agin and went off 'ome smiling.

"The room was dark when 'e got there, and, arter standing listening a
moment to Ginger and Peter snoring, he took off 'is coat and sat down on
'is bed to take 'is boots off.  He only sat down for a flash, and then he
bent down and hit his 'ead an awful smack against another 'ead wot 'ad
just started up to see wot it was sitting on its legs.

"He thought it was Peter or Ginger in the wrong bed at fust, but afore he
could make it out Ginger 'ad got out of 'is own bed and lit the candle.
Then 'e saw it was a stranger in 'is bed, and without saying a word he
laid 'old of him by the 'air and began dragging him out.

"'Here, stop that!' ses Ginger catching hold of 'im.  'Lend a hand 'ere,
Peter.'

"Peter lent a hand and screwed it into the back o' Sam's neck till he
made 'im leave go, and then the stranger, a nasty-looking little chap
with a yellow face and a little dark moustache, told Sam wot he'd like to
do to him.

"'Who are you?' ses Sam, 'and wot are you a-doing of in my bed?'

"'It's our lodger,' ses Ginger.

"'Your wot?' ses Sam, 'ardly able to believe his ears.

"'Our lodger,' ses Peter Russet.  'We've let 'im the bed you said you
didn't want for sixpence a night.  Now you take yourself off.'

"Old Sam couldn't speak for a minute; there was no words that he knew bad
enough, but at last he licks 'is lips and he ses, 'I've paid for that bed
up to Saturday, and I'm going to have it.'

"He rushed at the lodger, but Peter and Ginger got hold of 'im agin and
put 'im down on the floor and sat on 'im till he promised to be'ave
himself.  They let 'im get up at last, and then, arter calling themselves
names for their kind-'artedness, they said if he was very good he might
sleep on the floor.

"Sam looked at 'em for a moment, and then, without a word, he took off
'is boots and put on 'is coat and went up in a corner to be out of the
draught, but, wot with the cold and 'is temper, and the hardness of the
floor, it was a long time afore 'e could get to sleep.  He dropped off at
last, and it seemed to 'im that he 'ad only just closed 'is eyes when it
was daylight.  He opened one eye and was just going to open the other
when he saw something as made 'im screw 'em both up sharp and peep
through 'is eyelashes.  The lodger was standing at the foot o' Ginger's
bed, going through 'is pockets, and then, arter waiting a moment and
'aving a look round, he went through Peter Russet's.  Sam lay still mouse
while the lodger tip-toed out o' the room with 'is boots in his 'and, and
then, springing up, follered him downstairs.

"He caught 'im up just as he 'ad undone the front door, and, catching
hold of 'im by the back o' the neck, shook 'im till 'e was tired.  Then
he let go of 'im and, holding his fist under 'is nose, told 'im to hand
over the money, and look sharp about it.

"'Ye--ye--yes, sir,' ses the lodger, who was 'arf choked.

"Sam held out his 'and, and the lodger, arter saying it was only a little
bit o' fun on 'is part, and telling 'im wot a fancy he 'ad taken to 'im
from the fust, put Ginger's watch and chain into his 'ands and eighteen
pounds four shillings and sevenpence.  Sam put it into his pocket, and,
arter going through the lodger's pockets to make sure he 'adn't forgot
anything, opened the door and flung 'im into the street.  He stopped on
the landing to put the money in a belt he was wearing under 'is clothes,
and then 'e went back on tip-toe to 'is corner and went to sleep with one
eye open and the 'appiest smile that had been on his face for years.

"He shut both eyes when he 'eard Ginger wake up, and he slept like a
child through the 'orrible noise that Peter and Ginger see fit to make
when they started to put their clothes on.  He got tired of it afore they
did, and, arter opening 'is eyes slowly and yawning, he asked Ginger wot
he meant by it.

"'You'll wake your lodger up if you ain't careful, making that noise,' he
ses.  'Wot's the matter?'

"'Sam,' ses Ginger, in a very different voice to wot he 'ad used the
night before, 'Sam, old pal, he's taken all our money and bolted.'

"'Wot?' ses Sam, sitting up on the floor and blinking, 'Nonsense!'

"'Robbed me and Peter,' ses Ginger, in a trembling voice; 'taken every
penny we've got, and my watch and chain.'

"'You're dreaming,' ses Sam.

"'I wish I was,' ses Ginger.

"'But surely, Ginger,' ses Sam, standing up, 'surely you didn't take a
lodger without a character?'

"'He seemed such a nice chap,' ses Peter.  'We was only saying wot a much
nicer chap he was than--than----'

"'Go on, Peter,' ses Sam, very perlite.

"'Than he might ha' been,' ses Ginger, very quick.

"'Well, I've 'ad a wonderful escape,' ses Sam.  'If it hadn't ha' been
for sleeping in my clothes I suppose he'd ha' 'ad my money as well.'

"He felt in 'is pockets anxious-like, then he smiled, and stood there
letting 'is money fall through 'is fingers into his pocket over and over
agin.

"'Pore chap,' he ses; 'pore chap; p'r'aps he'd got a starving wife and
family.  Who knows?  It ain't for us to judge 'im, Ginger.'

"He stood a little while longer chinking 'is money, and when he took off
his coat to wash Ginger Dick poured the water out for im and Peter Russet
picked up the soap, which 'ad fallen on the floor.  Then they started
pitying themselves, looking very 'ard at the back of old Sam while they
did it.

"'I s'pose we've got to starve, Peter,' ses Ginger, in, a sad voice.

"'Looks like it,' ses Peter, dressing hisself very slowly.

"'There's nobody'll mourn for me, that's one comfort,' ses Ginger.

"'Or me,' ses Peter.

"'P'r'aps Sam'll miss us a bit,' ses Ginger, grinding 'is teeth as old
Sam went on washing as if he was deaf.  'He'ss the only real pal we ever
'ad.'

"'Wot are you talking about?' ses Sam, turning round with the soap in
his eyes, and feeling for the towel.  'Wot d'ye want to starve for?  Why
don't you get a ship?'

"'I thought we was all going to sign on in the Cheaspeake agin, Sam,' ses
Ginger, very mild.

"'She won't be ready for sea for pretty near three weeks,' ses Sam.  'You
know that.'

"'P'r'aps Sam would lend us a trifle to go on with, Ginger,' ses Peter
Russet.  'Just enough to keep body and soul together, so as we can hold
out and 'ave the pleasure of sailing with 'im agin.'

"'P'r'aps he wouldn't,' ses Sam, afore Ginger could open his mouth.
'I've just got about enough to last myself; I 'aven't got any to lend.
Sailormen wot turns on their best friends and makes them sleep on the
cold 'ard floor while their new pal is in his bed don't get money lent to
'em.  My neck is so stiff it creaks every time I move it, and I've got
the rheumatics in my legs something cruel.'

"He began to 'um a song, and putting on 'is cap went out to get some
brekfuss.  He went to a little eating-'ouse near by, where they was in
the 'abit of going, and 'ad just started on a plate of eggs and bacon
when Ginger Dick and Peter came into the place with a pocket-'ankercher
of 'is wot they 'ad found in the fender.

"'We thought you might want it, Sam,' ses Peter.

"'So we brought it along,' ses Ginger.  'I 'ope you're enjoying of your
brekfuss, Sam.'

"Sam took the 'ankercher and thanked 'em very perlite, and arter standing
there for a minute or two as if they wanted to say something they
couldn't remember, they sheered off.  When Sam left the place
'arf-an-hour afterwards they was still hanging about, and as Sam passed
Ginger asked 'im if he was going for a walk.

"'Walk?' ses Sam.  'Cert'nly not.  I'm going to bed; I didn't 'ave a good
night's rest like you and your lodger.'

"He went back 'ome, and arter taking off 'is coat and boots got into bed
and slept like a top till one o'clock, when he woke up to find Ginger
shaking 'im by the shoulders.

"'Wot's the matter?' he ses.  'Wot are you up to?'

"'It's dinner-time,' ses Ginger.  'I thought p'r'aps you'd like to know,
in case you missed it.'

"'You leave me alone,' ses Sam, cuddling into the clothes agin.  'I don't
want no dinner.  You go and look arter your own dinners.'

"He stayed in bed for another 'arf-hour, listening to Peter and Ginger
telling each other in loud whispers 'ow hungry they was, and then he got
up and put 'is things on and went to the door.

"'I'm going to get a bit o' dinner,' he ses.  'And mind, I've got my
pocket 'ankercher.'

"He went out and 'ad a steak and onions and a pint o' beer, but, although
he kept looking up sudden from 'is plate, he didn't see Peter or Ginger.
It spoilt 'is dinner a bit, but arter he got outside 'e saw them standing
at the corner, and, pretending not to see them, he went off for a walk
down the Mile End Road.

[Illustration: "'We thought you might want it, Sam,' ses Peter"]

"He walked as far as Bow with them follering'im, and then he jumped on a
bus and rode back as far as Whitechapel.  There was no sign of 'em when
he got off, and, feeling a bit lonesome, he stood about looking in
shop-windows until 'e see them coming along as hard as they could come.

"'Why, halloa!' he ses.  'Where did you spring from?'

"'We--we--we've been--for a bit of a walk,' ses Ginger Dick, puffing and
blowing like a grampus.

"'To-keep down the 'unger,' ses Peter Russet.

"Old Sam looked at 'em very stern for a moment, then he beckoned 'em to
foller 'im, and, stopping at a little public-'ouse, he went in and
ordered a pint o' bitter.

"'And give them two pore fellers a crust o' bread and cheese and
'arf-a-pint of four ale each,' he ses to the barmaid.

"Ginger and Peter looked at each other, but they was so hungry they
didn't say a word; they just stood waiting.

"'Put that inside you my pore fellers,' ses Sam, with a oily smile.  'I
can't bear to see people suffering for want o' food,' he ses to the
barmaid, as he chucked down a sovereign on the counter.

"The barmaid, a very nice gal with black 'air and her fingers covered all
over with rings, said that it did 'im credit, and they stood there
talking about tramps and beggars and such-like till Peter and Ginger
nearly choked.  He stood there watching 'em and smoking a threepenny
cigar, and when they 'ad finished he told the barmaid to give 'em a
sausage-roll each, and went off.

"Peter and Ginger snatched up their sausage-rolls and follered 'im, and
at last Ginger swallowed his pride and walked up to 'im and asked 'im to
lend them some money.

"'You'll get it back agin,' he ses.  'You know that well enough.'

"'Cert'nly not,' ses Sam; 'and I'm surprised at you asking.  Why, a child
could rob you.  It's 'ard enough as it is for a pore man like me to 'ave
to keep a couple o' hulking sailormen, but I'm not going to give you
money to chuck away on lodgers.  No more sleeping on the floor for me!
Now I don't want none o' your langwidge, and I don't want you follering
me like a couple o' cats arter a meat-barrer.  I shall be 'aving a cup o'
tea at Brown's coffee-shop by and by, and if you're there at five sharp
I'll see wot I can do for you.  Wot did you call me?'

"Ginger told 'im three times, and then Peter Russet dragged 'im away.
They turned up outside Brown's at a quarter to five, and at ten past six
Sam Small strolled up smoking a cigar, and, arter telling them that he
'ad forgot all about 'em, took 'em inside and paid for their teas.  He
told Mr. Brown 'e was paying for 'em, and 'e told the gal wot served 'em
'e was paying for 'em, and it was all pore Ginger could do to stop
'imself from throwing his plate in 'is face.

"Sam went off by 'imself, and arter walking about all the evening without
a ha'penny in their pockets, Ginger Dick and Peter went off 'ome to bed
and went to sleep till twelve o'clock, when Sam came in and woke 'em up
to tell 'em about a music-'all he 'ad been to, and 'ow many pints he had
'ad.  He sat up in bed till past one o'clock talking about 'imself, and
twice Peter Russet woke Ginger up to listen and got punched for 'is
trouble.

"They both said they'd get a ship next morning, and then old Sam turned
round and wouldn't 'ear of it.  The airs he gave 'imself was awful.  He
said he'd tell 'em when they was to get a ship, and if they went and did
things without asking 'im he'd let 'em starve.

"He kept 'em with 'im all that day for fear of losing 'em and having to
give 'em their money when 'e met 'em agin instead of spending it on 'em
and getting praised for it.  They 'ad their dinner with 'im at Brown's,
and nothing they could do pleased him.  He spoke to Peter Russet out loud
about making a noise while he was eating, and directly arterwards he told
Ginger to use his pocket 'ankercher.  Pore Ginger sat there looking at
'im and swelling and swelling until he nearly bust, and Sam told 'im if
he couldn't keep 'is temper when people was trying to do 'im a kindness
he'd better go and get somebody else to keep him.

"He took 'em to a music-'all that night, but he spoilt it all for 'em by
taking 'em into the little public-'ouse in Whitechapel Road fust and
standing 'em a drink.  He told the barmaid 'e was keeping 'em till they
could find a job, and arter she 'ad told him he was too soft-'arted and
would only be took advantage of, she brought another barmaid up to look
at 'em and ask 'em wot they could do, and why they didn't do it.

"Sam served 'em like that for over a week, and he 'ad so much praise from
Mr. Brown and other people that it nearly turned his 'ead.  For once in
his life he 'ad it pretty near all 'is own way.  Twice Ginger Dick
slipped off and tried to get a ship and came back sulky and hungry, and
once Peter Russet sprained his thumb trying to get a job at the docks.

"They gave it up then and kept to Sam like a couple o' shadders, only
giving 'im back-answers when they felt as if something 'ud give way
inside if they didn't.  For the fust time in their lives they began to
count the days till their boat was ready for sea.  Then something
happened.

"They was all coming 'ome late one night along the Minories, when Ginger
Dick gave a shout and, suddenly bolting up a little street arter a man
that 'ad turned up there, fust of all sent 'im flying with a heavy punch
of 'is fist, and then knelt on 'im.

"'Now then Ginger,' ses Sam bustling up with Peter Russet, 'wot's all
this?  Wot yer doing?'

"'It's the thief,' ses Ginger.  'It's our lodger.  You keep still!' he
ses shaking the man.  'D'ye hear?'

"Peter gave a shout of joy, and stood by to help.

"'Nonsense!' ses old Sam, turning pale.  'You've been drinking, Ginger.
This comes of standing you 'arf-pints.'

"'It's him right enough,' ses Ginger.  'I'd know 'is ugly face anywhere.'

"'You come off 'ome at once,' ses Sam, very sharp, but his voice
trembling.  'At once.  D'ye hear me?'

"'Fetch a policeman, Peter,' ses Ginger.

"'Let the pore feller go, I tell you,' ses Sam, stamping his foot.  ''Ow
would you like to be locked up?  'Ow would you like to be torn away from
your wife and little ones?  'Ow would you--'

"'Fetch a policeman, Peter,' ses Ginger agin.  'D'ye hear?'

"'Don't do that, guv'nor,' ses the lodger.  'You got your money back.
Wot's the good o' putting me away?'

"'Got our wot back?' ses Ginger, shaking 'im agin.  'Don't you try and be
funny with me, else I'll tear you into little pieces.'

"'But he took it back,' ses the man, trying to sit up and pointing at
Sam.  'He follered me downstairs and took it all away from me.  Your
ticker as well.'

"'Wot?' ses Ginger and Peter both together.

"Strue as I'm 'ere,' ses the lodger.  'You turn 'is pockets out and see.
Look out!  He's going off!'

"Ginger turned his 'ead just in time to see old Sam nipping round the
corner.  He pulled the lodger up like a flash, and, telling Peter to take
hold of the other side of him, they set off arter Sam.

"'Little-joke-o' mine-Ginger,' ses Sam, when they caught 'im.  'I was
going to tell you about it to-night.  It ain't often I get the chance of
a joke agin you Ginger; you're too sharp for a old man like me.'

"Ginger Dick didn't say anything.  He kept 'old o' Sam's arm with one
hand and the lodger's neck with the other, and marched 'em off to his
lodgings.

"He shut the door when 'e got in, and arter Peter 'ad lit the candle they
took hold o' Sam and went through 'im, and arter trying to find pockets
where he 'adn't got any, they took off 'is belt and found Ginger's watch,
seventeen pounds five shillings, and a few coppers.

"'We 'ad over nine quid each, me and Peter,' ses Ginger.  'Where's the
rest?'

"'It's all I've got left,' ses Sam; 'every ha'penny.'

"He 'ad to undress and even take 'is boots off afore they'd believe 'im,
and then Ginger took 'is watch and he ses to Peter, 'Lemme see; 'arf of
seventeen pounds is eight pounds ten; 'arf of five shillings is
'arf-a-crown; and 'arf of fourpence is twopence.'

"'What about me Ginger old pal?' ses Sam, in a kind voice.  'We must
divide it into threes.'

"'Threes?' ses Ginger, staring at'im.  'Whaffor?'

"''Cos part of it's mine,' ses Sam, struggling 'ard to be perlite.  'I've
paid for everything for the last ten days, ain't I?'

"'Yes,' ses Ginger.  'You 'ave, and I thank you for it.'

"'So do I,' ses Peter Russet.  'Hearty I do.'

"'It was your kind-'artedness,' ses Ginger, grinning like mad.  'You gave
it to us, and we wouldn't dream of giving it to you back.'

"'Nothin' o' the kind,' ses Sam, choking.

"'Oh, yes you did,' ses Ginger, 'and you didn't forget to tell people
neither.  You told everybody.  Now it's our turn.'

"He opened the door and kicked the lodger out.  Leastways, he would 'ave
kicked 'im, but the chap was too quick for 'im.  And then 'e came back,
and, putting his arm round Peter's waist, danced a waltz round the room
with 'im, while pore old Sam got on to his bed to be out of the way.
They danced for nearly 'arf-an-hour, and then they undressed and sat on
Peter's bed and talked.  They talked in whispers at fust, but at last Sam
'eard Peter say:--

"'Threepence for 'is brekfuss; sevenpence for 'is dinner; threepence for
'is tea; penny for beer and a penny for bacca.  'Ow much is that,
Ginger?'

"'One bob,' ses Ginger.

"Peter counted up to 'imself.  'I make it more than that, old pal,' he
ses, when he 'ad finished.

"'Do you?' ses Ginger, getting up.  'Well, he won't; not if he counts it
twenty times over he won't.  Good-night, Peter.  'Appy dreams.'"




DUAL CONTROL

"Never say 'die,' Bert," said Mr. Culpepper, kindly; "I like you, and so
do most other people who know what's good for 'em; and if Florrie don't
like you she can keep single till she does."

Mr. Albert Sharp thanked him.

"Come in more oftener," said Mr. Culpepper.  "If she don't know a steady
young man when she sees him, it's her mistake."

"Nobody could be steadier than what I am," sighed Mr. Sharp.

Mr. Culpepper nodded.  "The worst of it is, girls don't like steady young
men," he said, rumpling his thin grey hair; "that's the silly part of
it."

"But you was always steady, and Mrs. Culpepper married you," said the
young man.

Mr. Culpepper nodded again.  "She thought I was, and that came to the
same thing," he said, composedly.  "And it ain't for me to say, but she
had an idea that I was very good-looking in them days.  I had chestnutty
hair.  She burnt a piece of it only the other day she'd kept for thirty
years."

[Illustration: A very faint squeeze in return decided him]

"Burnt it?  What for?"  inquired Mr. Sharp.

"Words," said the other, lowering his voice.  "When I want one thing
nowadays she generally wants another; and the things she wants ain't the
things I want."

Mr. Sharp shook his head and sighed again.

"You ain't talkative enough for Florrie, you know," said Mr. Culpepper,
regarding him.

"I can talk all right as a rule," retorted Mr. Sharp.  "You ought to hear
me at the debating society; but you can't talk to a girl who doesn't talk
back."

"You're far too humble," continued the other.  "You should cheek her a
bit now and then.  Let 'er see you've got some spirit.  Chaff 'er."

"That's no good," said the young man, restlessly.  "I've tried it.  Only
the other day I called her 'a saucy little kipper,' and the way she went
on, anybody would have thought I'd insulted her.  Can't see a joke, I
s'pose.  Where is she now?"

"Upstairs," was the reply.

"That's because I'm here," said Mr. Sharp.  "If it had been Jack Butler
she'd have been down fast enough."

"It couldn't be him," said Mr. Culpepper, "because I won't have 'im in
the house.  I've told him so; I've told her so, and I've told 'er aunt
so.  And if she marries without my leave afore she's thirty she loses the
seven hundred pounds 'er father left her.  You've got plenty of time--ten
years."

Mr. Sharp, sitting with his hands between his knees, gazed despondently
at the floor.  "There's a lot o' girls would jump at me," he remarked.
"I've only got to hold up my little finger and they'd jump."

"That's because they've got sense," said Mr. Culpepper.  "They've got the
sense to prefer steadiness and humdrumness to good looks and dash.  A
young fellow like you earning thirty-two-and-six a week can do without
good looks, and if I've told Florrie so once I have told her fifty
times."

"Looks are a matter of taste," said Mr. Sharp, morosely.  "Some of them
girls I was speaking about just now--"

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Culpepper, hastily.  "Now, look here; you go on a
different tack.  Take a glass of ale like a man or a couple o' glasses;
smoke a cigarette or a pipe.  Be like other young men.  Cut a dash, and
don't be a namby-pamby.  After you're married you can be as miserable as
you like."

Mr. Sharp, after a somewhat lengthy interval, thanked him.

"It's my birthday next Wednesday," continued Mr. Culpepper, regarding him
benevolently; "come round about seven, and I'll ask you to stay to
supper.  That'll give you a chance.  Anybody's allowed to step a bit over
the mark on birthdays, and you might take a glass or two and make a
speech, and be so happy and bright that they'd 'ardly know you.  If you
want an excuse for calling, you could bring me a box of cigars for my
birthday."

"Or come in to wish you 'Many Happy Returns of the Day,'" said the
thrifty Mr. Sharp.

"And don't forget to get above yourself," said Mr. Culpepper, regarding
him sternly; "in a gentlemanly way, of course.  Have as many glasses as
you like--there's no stint about me."

"If it ever comes off," said Mr. Sharp, rising--"if I get her through
you, you shan't have reason to repent it.  I'll look after that."

Mr. Culpepper, whose feelings were a trifle ruffled, said that he would
"look after it too."  He had a faint idea that, even from his own point
of view, he might have made a better selection for his niece's hand.

Mr. Sharp smoked his first cigarette the following morning, and,
encouraged by the entire absence of any after-effects, purchased a pipe,
which was taken up by a policeman the same evening for obstructing the
public footpath in company with a metal tobacco-box three parts full.

In the matter of ale he found less difficulty.  Certainly the taste was
unpleasant, but, treated as medicine and gulped down quickly, it was
endurable.  After a day or two he even began to be critical, and on
Monday evening went so far as to complain of its flatness to the
wide-eyed landlord of the "Royal George."

"Too much cellar-work," he said, as he finished his glass and made for
the door.

"Too much!  'Ere, come 'ere," said the landlord, thickly.  "I want to
speak to you."

The expert shook his head, and, passing out into, the street, changed
colour as he saw Miss Garland approaching.  In a blundering fashion he
clutched at his hat and stammered out a "Good evening."

Miss Garland returned the greeting and, instead of passing on, stopped
and, with a friendly smile, held out her hand.  Mr. Sharp shook it
convulsively.

"You are just the man I want to see," she exclaimed.  "Aunt and I have
been talking about you all the afternoon."

Mr. Sharp said "Really!"

"But I don't want uncle to see us," pursued Miss Garland, in the low
tones of confidence.  "Which way shall we go?"

Mr. Sharp's brain reeled.  All ways were alike to him in such company.
He walked beside her like a man in a dream.

"We want to give him a lesson," said the girl, presently.  "A lesson that
he will remember."

"Him?"  said the young man.

"Uncle," explained the girl.  "It's a shocking thing, a wicked thing, to
try and upset a steady young man like you.  Aunt is quite put out about
it, and I feel the same as she does."

"But," gasped the astonished Mr. Sharp, "how did you?"

"Aunt heard him," said Miss Garland.  "She was just going into the room
when she caught a word or two, and she stayed outside and listened.  You
don't know what a lot she thinks of you."

Mr. Sharp's eyes opened wider than ever.  "I thought she didn't like me,"
he said, slowly.

"Good gracious!"  said Miss Garland.  "Whatever could have put such an
idea as that into your head?  Of course, aunt isn't always going to let
uncle see that she agrees with him.  Still, as if anybody could help--"
she murmured to herself.

"Eh?"  said the young man, in a trembling voice.

"Nothing."

Miss Garland walked along with averted face; Mr. Sharp, his pulses
bounding, trod on air beside her.

"I thought," he said, at last "I thought that Jack Butler was a favourite
of hers?"

"Jack Butler!"  said the girl, in tones of scornful surprise.  "The idea!
How blind men are; you're all alike, I think.  You can't see two inches
in front of you.  She's as pleased as possible that you are coming on
Wednesday; and so am--"

Mr. Sharp caught his breath.  "Yes?"  he murmured.

"Let's go down here," said Miss Garland quickly; "down by the river.  And
I'll tell you what we want you to do."

She placed her hand lightly on his arm, and Mr. Sharp, with a tremulous
smile, obeyed.  The smile faded gradually as he listened, and an
expression of anxious astonishment took its place.  He shook his head as
she proceeded, and twice ventured a faint suggestion that she was only
speaking in jest.  Convinced at last, against his will, he walked on in
silent consternation.

"But," he said at last, as Miss Garland paused for breath, "your uncle
would never forgive me.  He'd never let me come near the house again."

"Aunt will see to that," said the girl, confidently.  "But, of course, if
you don't wish to please me--"

She turned away, and Mr. Sharp, plucking up spirit, ventured to take her
hand and squeeze it.  A faint, a very faint, squeeze in return decided
him.

"It will come all right afterwards," said Miss Garland, "especially with
the hold it will give aunt over him."

"I hope so," said the young man.  "If not, I shall be far--farther off
than ever."

Miss Garland blushed and, turning her head, gazed steadily at the river.

"Trust me," she said at last.  "Me and auntie."

Mr. Sharp said that so long as he pleased her nothing else mattered, and,
in the seventh heaven of delight, paced slowly along the towpath by her
side.

"And you mustn't mind what auntie and I say to you," said the girl,
continuing her instructions.  "We must keep up appearances, you know; and
if we seem to be angry, you must remember we are only pretending."

Mr. Sharp, with a tender smile, said that he understood perfectly.

"And now I had better go," said Florrie, returning the smile.  "Uncle
might see us together, or somebody else might see us and tell him.
Good-bye."

She shook hands and went off, stopping three times to turn and wave her
hand.  In a state of bewildered delight Mr. Sharp continued his stroll,
rehearsing, as he went, the somewhat complicated and voluminous
instructions she had given him.

By Wednesday evening he was part-perfect, and, in a state of mind divided
between nervousness and exaltation, set out for Mr. Culpepper's.  He
found that gentleman, dressed in his best, sitting in an easy-chair with
his hands folded over a fancy waistcoat of startling design, and, placing
a small box of small cigars on his knees, wished him the usual "Happy
Returns."  The entrance of the ladies, who seemed as though they had just
come off the ice, interrupted Mr. Culpepper's thanks.

"Getting spoiled, that's what I am," he remarked, playfully.  "See this
waistcoat?  My old Aunt Elizabeth sent it this morning."

He leaned back in his chair and glanced down in warm approval.  "The
missis gave me a pipe, and Florrie gave me half a pound of tobacco.  And
I bought a bottle of port wine myself, for all of us."

He pointed to a bottle that stood on the supper-table, and, the ladies
retiring to the kitchen to bring in the supper, rose and placed chairs.
A piece of roast beef was placed before him, and, motioning Mr. Sharp to
a seat opposite Florrie, he began to carve.

"Just a nice comfortable party," he said, genially, as he finished.
"Help yourself to the ale, Bert."

Mr. Sharp, ignoring the surprise on the faces of the ladies, complied,
and passed the bottle to Mr. Culpepper.  They drank to each other, and
again a flicker of surprise appeared on the faces of Mrs. Culpepper and
her niece.  Mr. Culpepper, noticing it, shook his head waggishly at Mr.
Sharp.

"He drinks it as if he likes it," he remarked.

"I do," asserted Mr. Sharp, and, raising his glass, emptied it, and
resumed the attack on his plate.  Mr. Culpepper unscrewed the top of
another bottle, and the reckless Mr. Sharp, after helping himself, made a
short and feeling speech, in which he wished Mr. Culpepper long life and
happiness.  "If you ain't happy with Mrs. Culpepper," he concluded,
gallantly, "you ought to be."

Mr. Culpepper nodded and went on eating in silence until, the keen edge
of his appetite having been taken off, he put down his knife and fork and
waxed sentimental.

"Been married over thirty years," he said, slowly, with a glance at his
wife, "and never regretted it."

"Who hasn't?"  inquired Mr. Sharp.

"Why, me," returned the surprised Mr. Culpepper.

Mr. Sharp, who had just raised his glass, put it down again and smiled.
It was a faint smile, but it seemed to affect his host unfavourably.

"What are you smiling at?"  he demanded.

"Thoughts," said Mr. Sharp, exchanging a covert glance with Florrie.
"Something you told me the other day."

Mr. Culpepper looked bewildered.  "I'll give you a penny for them
thoughts," he said, with an air of jocosity.

Mr. Sharp shook his head.  "Money couldn't buy 'em," he said, with owlish
solemnity, "espec--especially after the good supper you're giving me."

"Bert," said Mr. Culpepper, uneasily, as his wife sat somewhat erect
"Bert, it's my birthday, and I don't grudge nothing to nobody; but go
easy with the beer.  You ain't used to it, you know."

"What's the matter with the beer?"  inquired Mr. Sharp.  "It tastes all
right--what there is of it."

"It ain't the beer; it's you," explained Mr. Culpepper.

Mr. Sharp stared at him.  "Have I said anything I oughtn't to?"  he
inquired.

Mr. Culpepper shook his head, and, taking up a fork and spoon, began to
serve a plum-pudding that Miss Garland had just placed on the table.

"What was it you said I was to be sure and not tell Mrs. Culpepper?"
inquired Mr. Sharp, dreamily.  "I haven't said that, have I?"

"No!"  snapped the harassed Mr. Culpepper, laying down the fork and spoon
and regarding him ferociously.  "I mean, there wasn't anything.  I mean,
I didn't say so.  You're raving."

"If I did say it, I'm sorry," persisted Mr. Sharp.  "I can't say fairer
than that, can I?"

"You're all right," said Mr. Culpepper, trying, but in vain, to exchange
a waggish glance with his wife.

"I didn't say it?"  inquired Mr. Sharp.

"No," said Mr. Culpepper, still smiling in a wooden fashion.

"I mean the other thing?"  said Mr. Sharp, in a thrilling whisper.

"Look here," exclaimed the overwrought Mr. Culpepper; "why not eat your
pudding, and leave off talking nonsense?  Nobody's listening to you."

"Speak for yourself," said his wife, tartly.  "I like to hear Mr. Sharp
talk.  What was it he told you not to tell me?"

Mr. Sharp eyed her mistily.  "I--I can't tell you," he said, slowly.

"Why not?"  asked Mrs. Culpepper, coaxingly.

"Because it--it would make your hair stand on end," said the industrious
Mr. Sharp.

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Culpepper, sharply.

"He said it would," said Mr. Sharp, indicating his host with his spoon,
"and he ought--to know-- Who's that kicking me under the table?"

Mr. Culpepper, shivering with wrath and dread, struggled for speech.
"You'd better get home, Bert," he said at last.  "You're not yourself.
There's nobody kicking you under the table.  You don't know what you are
saying.  You've been dreaming things.  I never said anything of the
kind."

"Memory's gone," said Mr. Sharp, shaking his head at him.  "Clean gone.
Don't you remember--"

"NO!"  roared Mr. Culpepper.

Mr. Sharp sat blinking at him, but his misgivings vanished before the
glances of admiring devotion which Miss Garland was sending in his
direction.  He construed them rightly not only as a reward, but as an
incentive to further efforts.  In the midst of an impressive silence Mrs.
Culpepper collected the plates and, producing a dish of fruit from the
sideboard, placed it upon the table.

"Help yourself, Mr. Sharp," she said, pushing the bottle of port towards
him.

Mr. Sharp complied, having first, after several refusals, put a little
into the ladies' glasses, and a lot on the tablecloth near Mr. Culpepper.
Then, after a satisfying sip or two, he rose with a bland smile and
announced his intention of making a speech.

"But you've made one," said his host, in tones of fierce expostulation.

"That--that was las' night," said Mr. Sharp.  "This is to-night--your
birthday."

"Well, we don't want any more," said Mr. Culpepper.

Mr. Sharp hesitated.  "It's only his fun," he said, looking round and
raising his glass.  "He's afraid I'm going to praise him up--praise him
up.  Here's to my old friend, Mr. Culpepper: one of the best.  We all
have our--faults, and he has his--has his.  Where was I?"

"Sit down," growled Mr. Culpepper.

"Talking about my husband's faults," said his wife.

"So I was," said Mr. Sharp, putting his hand to his brow.  "Don't be
alarm'," he continued, turning to his host; "nothing to be alarm' about.
I'm not going to talk about 'em.  Not so silly as that, I hope.  I don't
want spoil your life."

"Sit down," repeated Mr. Culpepper.

"You're very anxious he should sit down," said his wife, sharply.

"No, I'm not," said Mr. Culpepper; "only he's talking nonsense."

Mr. Sharp, still on his legs, took another sip of port and, avoiding the
eye of Mr. Culpepper, which was showing signs of incipient inflammation,
looked for encouragement to Miss Garland.

"He's a man we all look up to and respect," he continued.  "If he does go
off to London every now and then on business, that's his lookout.  My
idea is he always ought to take Mrs. Culpepper with him.

"He'd have pleasure of her company and, same time, he'd be money in pocket
by it.  And why shouldn't she go to music-halls sometimes?  Why shouldn't
she--"

"You get off home," said the purple Mr. Culpepper, rising and hammering
the table with his fist.  "Get off home; and if you so much as show your
face inside this 'ouse again there'll be trouble.  Go on.  Out you go!"

"Home?"  repeated Mr. Sharp, sitting down suddenly.  "Won't go home till
morning."

"Oh, we'll soon see about that," said Mr. Culpepper, taking him by the
shoulders.  "Come on, now."

Mr. Sharp subsided lumpishly into his chair, and Mr. Culpepper, despite
his utmost efforts, failed to move him.  The two ladies exchanged a
glance, and then, with their heads in the air, sailed out of the room,
the younger pausing at the door to bestow a mirthful glance upon Mr.
Sharp ere she disappeared.

"Come--out," said Mr. Culpepper, panting.

"You trying to tickle me?"  inquired Mr. Sharp.

"You get off home," said the other.  "You've been doing nothing but make
mischief ever since you came in.  What put such things into your silly
head I don't know.  I shall never hear the end of 'em as long as I live."

"Silly head?"  repeated Mr. Sharp, with an alarming change of manner.
"Say it again."

Mr. Culpepper repeated it with gusto.

"Very good," said Mr. Sharp.  He seized him suddenly and, pushing him
backwards into his easychair, stood over him with such hideous
contortions of visage that Mr. Culpepper was horrified.  "Now you sit
there and keep quite still," he said, with smouldering ferocity.  "Where
did you put carving-knife?  Eh?  Where's carving-knife?"

"No, no, Bert," said Mr. Culpepper, clutching at his sleeve.  "I--I was
only joking.  You--you ain't quite yourself, Bert."

"What?"  demanded the other, rolling his eyes, and clenching his fists.

"I--I mean you've improved," said Mr. Culpepper, hurriedly.  "Wonderful,
you have."

Mr. Sharp's countenance cleared a little.  "Let's make a night of it," he
said.  "Don't move, whatever you do."

[Illustration: He felt the large and clumsy hand of Mr. Butler take him
by the collar]

He closed the door and, putting the wine and a couple of glasses on the
mantelpiece, took a chair by Mr. Culpepper and prepared to spend the
evening.  His instructions were too specific to be disregarded, and three
times he placed his arm about the waist of the frenzied Mr. Culpepper and
took him for a lumbering dance up and down the room.  In the intervals
between dances he regaled him with interminable extracts from speeches
made at the debating society and recitations learned at school.
Suggestions relating to bed, thrown out by Mr. Culpepper from time to
time, were repelled with scorn.  And twice, in deference to Mr. Sharp's
desires, he had to join in the chorus of a song.

Ten o'clock passed, and the hands of the clock crawled round to eleven.
The hour struck, and, as though in answer, the door opened and the
agreeable face of Florrie Garland appeared.  Behind her, to the intense
surprise of both gentlemen, loomed the stalwart figure of Mr. Jack
Butler.

"I thought he might be useful, uncle," said Miss Garland, coming into the
room.  "Auntie wouldn't let me come down before."

Mr. Sharp rose in a dazed fashion and saw Mr. Culpepper grasp Mr. Butler
by the hand.  More dazed still, he felt the large and clumsy hand of Mr.
Butler take him by the collar and propel him with some violence along the
small passage, while another hand, which he dimly recognized as belonging
to Mr. Culpepper, was inserted in the small of his back.  Then the front
door opened and he was thrust out into the night.  The door closed, and a
low feminine laugh sounded from a window above.




[Illustration: 'I tell you, I am as innercent as a new-born babe'.]



SKILLED ASSISTANCE

The night-watchman, who had left his seat on the jetty to answer the
gate-bell, came back with disgust written on a countenance only too well
designed to express it.

"If she's been up 'ere once in the last week to, know whether the
_Silvia_ is up she's been four or five times," he growled.  "He's
forty-seven if he's a day; 'is left leg is shorter than 'is right, and
he talks with a stutter.  When she's with 'im you'd think as butter
wouldn't melt in 'er mouth; but the way she talked to me just now you'd
think I was paid a-purpose to wait on her.  I asked 'er at last wot she
thought I was here for, and she said she didn't know, and nobody else
neither.  And afore she went off she told the potman from the 'Albion,'
wot was listening, that I was known all over Wapping as the Sleeping
Beauty.

"She ain't the fust I've 'ad words with, not by a lot.  They're all the
same; they all start in a nice, kind, soapy sort o' way, and, as soon as
they don't get wot they want, fly into a temper and ask me who, I think I
am.  I told one woman once not to be silly, and I shall never forget it
as long as I live-never.  For all I know, she's wearing a bit o' my 'air
in a locket to this day, and very likely boasting that I gave it to her.

"Talking of her reminds me of another woman.  There was a Cap'n Pinner,
used to trade between 'ere and Hull on a schooner named the Snipe.  Nice
little craft she was, and 'e was a very nice feller.  Many and many's the
pint we've 'ad together, turn and turn-about, and the on'y time we ever
'ad a cross word was when somebody hid his clay pipe in my beer and 'e
was foolish enough to think I'd done it.

"He 'ad a nice little cottage, 'e told me about, near Hull, and 'is
wife's father, a man of pretty near seventy, lived with 'em.  Well-off
the old man was, and, as she was his only daughter, they looked to 'ave
all his money when he'd gorn.  Their only fear was that 'e might marry
agin, and, judging from wot 'e used to tell me about the old man, I
thought it more than likely.

"'If it wasn't for my missis he'd ha' been married over and over agin,'
he ses one day.  'He's like a child playing with gunpowder.'

"''Ow would it be to let 'im burn hisself a bit?' I ses.

"'If you was to see some o' the gunpowder he wants to play with, you
wouldn't talk like that,' ses the cap'n.  'You'd know better.  The on'y
thing is to keep 'em apart, and my pore missis is wore to a shadder
a-doing of it.'

"It was just about a month arter that that he brought the old man up to
London with 'im.  They 'ad some stuff to put out at Smith's Wharf,
t'other side of the river, afore they came to us, and though they was
on'y there four or five days, it was long enough for that old man to get
into trouble.

"The skipper told me about it ten minutes arter they was made snug in the
inner berth 'ere.  He walked up and down like a man with a raging
toothache, and arter follering 'im up and down the wharf till I was tired
out, I discovered that 'is father-in-law 'ad got 'imself mixed up with a
widder-woman ninety years old and weighing twenty stun.  Arter he 'ad
cooled down a bit, and I 'ad given 'im a few little pats on the shoulder,
'e made it forty-eight years old and fourteen stun.

"'He's getting ready to go and meet her now,' he ses, 'and wot my
missis'll say to me, I don't know.'

"His father-in-law came up on deck as 'e spoke, and began to brush
'imself all over with a clothesbrush.  Nice-looking little man 'e was,
with blue eyes, and a little white beard, cut to a point, and dressed up
in a serge suit with brass buttons, and a white yachting cap.  His real
name was Mr. Finch, but the skipper called 'im Uncle Dick, and he took
such a fancy to me that in five minutes I was calling 'im Uncle Dick too.

"'Time I was moving,' he ses, by and by.  'I've got an app'intment.'

"'Oh! who with?' ses the skipper, pretending not to know.

"'Friend o' mine, in the army,' ses the old man, with a wink at me.  'So
long.'

"He went off as spry as a boy, and as soon as he'd gorn the skipper
started walking back'ards and for'ards agin, and raving.

"'Let's 'ope as he's on'y amusing 'imself,' I ses.

"'Wait till you see 'er,' ses the skipper; 'then you won't talk
foolishness.'

"As it 'appened she came back with Uncle Dick that evening, to see 'im
safe, and I see at once wot sort of a woman it was.  She 'adn't been on
the wharf five minutes afore you'd ha' thought it belonged to 'er, and
when she went and sat on the schooner it seemed to be about 'arf its
size.  She called the skipper Tom, and sat there as cool as you please
holding Uncle Dick's 'and, and patting it.

"I took the skipper round to the 'Bull's Head' arter she 'ad gorn, and I
wouldn't let 'im say a word until he had 'ad two pints.  He felt better
then, and some o' the words 'e used surprised me.

"'Wot's to be done?' he ses at last.  'You see 'ow it is, Bill.'

"'Can't you get 'im away?' I ses.  'Who is she, and wot's 'er name?'

"'Her name,' ses the skipper, 'her name is Jane Maria Elizabeth Muffit,
and she lives over at Rotherhithe.'

"'She's very likely married already,' I ses.

"'Her 'usband died ten years ago,' ses the skipper; 'passed away in 'is
sleep.  Overlaid, I should say.'

"He sat there smoking, and I sat there thinking.  Twice 'e spoke to me,
and I held my 'and up and said 'H'sh.' Then I turned to 'im all of a
sudden and pinched his arm so hard he nearly dropped 'is beer.

"'Is Uncle Dick a nervous man?' I ses.

"'Nervous is no name for it,' he ses, staring.

"'Very good, then,' I ses.  'I'll send 'er husband to frighten 'im.'

"The skipper looked at me very strange.  'Yes,' he ses.  'Yes.  Yes.'

"'Frighten 'im out of 'is boots, and make him give 'er up,' I ses.  'Or
better still, get 'im to run away and go into hiding for a time.  That
'ud be best, in case 'e found out.'

"'Found out wot?' ses the skipper.

"'Found out it wasn't 'er husband,' I ses.

"'Bill,' ses the skipper, very earnest, 'this is the fust beer I've 'ad
to-day, and I wish I could say the same for you.'

"I didn't take 'im at fast, but when I did I gave a laugh that brought in
two more customers to see wot was the matter.  Then I took 'im by the
arm--arter a little trouble--and, taking 'im back to the wharf, explained
my meaning to 'im.

"'I know the very man,' I ses.  'He comes into a public-'ouse down my way
sometimes.  Artful 'Arry, he's called, and, for 'arf-a-quid, say, he'd
frighten Uncle Dick 'arf to death.  He's big and ugly, and picks up a
living by selling meerschaum pipes he's found to small men wot don't want
'em.  Wonderful gift o' the gab he's got.'

"We went acrost to the 'Albion' to talk it over.  There's several bars
there, and the landlady always keeps cotton-wool in 'er ears, not 'aving
been brought up to the public line.  The skipper told me all 'e knew
about Mrs. Muffit, and we arranged that Artful 'Arry should come down at
seven o'clock next night, if so be as I could find 'im in time.

"I got up early the next arternoon, and as it 'appened, he came into the
'Duke of Edinburgh' five minutes arter I got there.  Nasty temper 'e was
in, too.  He'd just found a meerschaum pipe, as usual, and the very fust
man 'e tried to sell it to said that it was the one 'e lost last
Christmas, and gave 'im a punch in the jaw for it.

"'He's a thief, that's wot he is,' ses 'Arry; 'and I 'ate thiefs.  'Ow's
a honest tradesman to make a living when there's people like that about?'

"I stood 'im 'arf a pint, and though it hurt 'im awful to drink it, he
said 'ed 'ave another just to see if he could bear the pain.  Arter he
had 'ad three 'e began for to take a more cheerful view o' life, and told
me about a chap that spent three weeks in the London 'Orsepittle for
calling 'im a liar.

"'Treat me fair,' he ses, 'and I'll treat other people fair.  I never
broke my word without a good reason for it, and that's more than
everybody can say.  If I told you the praise I've 'ad from some people
you wouldn't believe it.'

"I let 'im go on till he 'ad talked 'imself into a good temper, and then I
told 'im of the little job I 'ad got for 'im.  He listened quiet till I
'ad finished, and then he shook 'is 'ead.

"'It ain't in my line,' he ses.

"'There's 'arf a quid 'anging to it,' I ses.

"'Arry shook his 'ead agin.  'Tain't enough, mate,' he ses.  'If you was
to make it a quid I won't say as I mightn't think of it.'

"I 'ad told the skipper that it might cost 'im a quid, so I knew 'ow far
I could go; and at last, arter 'Arry 'ad got as far as the door three
times, I gave way.

"'And I'll 'ave it now,' he ses, 'to prevent mistakes.'

"'No, 'Arry,' I ses, very firm.  'Besides, it ain't my money, you see.'

"'You mean to say you don't trust me,' 'e ses, firing up.

"'I'd trust you with untold gold,' I ses, 'but not with a real quid;
you're too fond of a joke, 'Arry.'

"We 'ad another long argyment about it, and I had to tell 'im plain at
last that when I wanted to smell 'is fist, I'd say so.

"'You turn up at the wharf at five minutes to seven,' I ses, 'and I'll
give you ten bob of it; arter you've done your business I'll give you the
other.  Come along quiet, and you'll see me waiting at the gate for you.'

"He gave way arter a time, and, fust going 'ome for a cup o' tea, I went
on to the wharf to tell the skipper 'ow things stood.

"'It couldn't 'ave 'appened better,' he ses.  'Uncle Dick is sure to be
aboard at that time, 'cos 'e's going acrost the water at eight o'clock to
pay 'er a visit.  And all the hands'll be away.  I've made sure of that.'

"He gave me the money for Artful 'Arry in two 'arf-suverins, and then we
went over to the 'Albion' for a quiet glass and a pipe, and to wait for
seven o'clock.

"I left 'im there at ten minutes to, and at five minutes to, punctual to
the minute, I see 'Arry coming along swinging a thick stick with a knob
on the end of it.

"'Where's the 'arf thick-un?' he ses, looking round to see that the coast
was clear.

"I gave it to 'im, and arter biting it in three places and saying it was
a bit short in weight he dropped it in 'is weskit-pocket and said 'e was
ready.

"I left 'im there for a minute while I went and 'ad a look round.  The
deck of the Snipe was empty, but I could 'ear Uncle Dick down in the
cabin singing; and, arter listening for a few seconds to make sure that
it was singing, I went back and beckoned to 'Arry.

"'He's down in the cabin,' I ses, pointing.  'Don't overdo it, 'Arry, and
at the same time don't underdo it, as you might say.'

"'I know just wot you want,' ses 'Arry, 'and if you'd got the 'art of a
man in you, you'd make it two quids.'

"He climbed on board and stood listening for a moment at the companion,
and then 'e went down, while I went off outside the gate, so as to be out
of earshot in case Uncle Dick called for me.  I knew that I should 'ear
all about wot went on arterwards--and I did.

"Artful 'Arry went down the companion-ladder very quiet, and then stood
at the foot of it looking at Uncle Dick.  He looked 'im up and down and
all over, and then 'e gave a fierce, loud cough.

"'Good-evening,' he ses.

"'Good-evening,' ses Uncle Dick, staring at 'im.  'Did you want to see
anybody?'

"'I did,' ses 'Arry.  'I do.  And when I see 'im I'm going to put my arms
round 'im and twist 'is neck; then I'm going to break every bone in 'is
body, and arter that I'm going to shy 'im overboard to pison the fishes
with.'

"'Dear me!' ses Uncle Dick, shifting away as far as 'e could.

"'I ain't 'ad a wink o' sleep for two nights,' ses 'Arry--'not ever since
I 'eard of it.  When I think of all I've done for that woman-working for
'er, and such-like-my blood boils.  When I think of her passing 'erself
off as a widder--my widder--and going out with another man, I don't know
wot to do with myself.'

"Uncle Dick started and turned pale.  Fust 'e seemed as if 'e was going
to speak, and then 'e thought better of it.  He sat staring at 'Arry as
if 'e couldn't believe his eyes.

"'Wot would you do with a man like that?' ses 'Arry.  'I ask you, as man
to man, wot would you do to 'im?'

"'P'r'aps-p'r'aps 'e didn't know,' ses Uncle Dick, stammering.

"'Didn't know!' ses 'Arry.  'Don't care, you mean.  We've got a nice
little 'ome, and, just because I've 'ad to leave it and lay low for a bit
for knifing a man, she takes advantage of it.  And it ain't the fust
time, neither.  Wot's the matter?'

"'Touch-touch of ague; I get it sometimes,' ses Uncle Dick.

"'I want to see this man Finch,' ses 'Arry, shaking 'is knobby stick.
'Muffit, my name is, and I want to tell 'im so.'

"Uncle Dick nearly shook 'imself on to the floor.

"'I--I'll go and see if 'e's in the fo'c'sle,' he ses at last.

"'He ain't there, 'cos I've looked,' ses 'Arry, 'arf shutting 'is eyes and
looking at 'im hard.  'Wot might your name be?'

"'My name's Finch,' ses Uncle Dick, putting out his 'ands to keep him
off; 'but I thought she was a widder.  She told me her 'usband died ten
years ago; she's deceived me as well as you.  I wouldn't ha' dreamt of
taking any notice of 'er if I'd known.  Truth, I wouldn't.  I should'nt
ha' dreamt of such a thing.'

"Artful 'Arry played with 'is stick a little, and stood looking at 'im
with a horrible look on 'is face.

"''Ow am I to know you're speaking the truth?' he ses, very slow.  'Eh?
'Ow can you prove it?'

"'If it was the last word I was to speak I'd say the same,' ses Uncle
Dick.  'I tell you, I am as innercent as a new-born babe.'

"'If that's true,' ses 'Arry, 'she's deceived both of us.  Now, if I let
you go will you go straight off and bring her 'ere to me?'

"'I will,' ses Uncle Dick, jumping up.

"''Arf a mo,' ses 'Arry, holding up 'is stick very quick.  'One thing is,
if you don't come back, I'll 'ave you another day.  I can't make up my
mind wot to do.  I can't think--I ain't tasted food for two days.  If I
'ad any money in my pocket I'd 'ave a bite while you're gone.'

"'Why not get something?' ses Uncle Dick, putting his 'and in his pocket,
in a great 'urry to please him, and pulling out some silver.

"'Arry said 'e would, and then he stood on one side to let 'im pass, and
even put the knobby stick under 'im to help 'im up the companion-ladder.

"Uncle Dick passed me two minutes arterwards without a word, and set off
down the road as fast as 'is little legs 'ud carry 'im.  I watched 'im
out o' sight, and then I went on board the schooner to see how 'Arry 'ad
got on.

"Arry,' I ses, when he 'ad finished, 'you're a masterpiece!'

"'I know I am,' he ses.  'Wot about that other 'arf-quid?'

"'Here it is,' I ses, giving it to 'im.  'Fair masterpiece, that's wot
you are.  They may well call you Artful.  Shake 'ands.'

"I patted 'im on the shoulder arter we 'ad shook 'ands, and we stood
there smiling at each other and paying each other compliments.

"'Fancy 'em sitting 'ere and waiting for you to come back from that
bite,' I ses.

"'I ought to 'ave 'ad more off of him,' ses 'Arry.  ''Owever, it can't be
helped.  I think I'll 'ave a lay down for a bit; I'm tired.'

"'Better be off,' I ses, shaking my 'ead.  'Time passes, and they might
come back afore you think.'

"'Well, wot of it?' ses 'Arry.

"'Wot of it?' I ses.  'Why, it'ud spoil everything.  It 'ud be blue
ruin.'

"'Are you sure?' ses 'Arry'.

"'Sartin,' I ses.

"'Well, make it five quid, and I'll go, then,' he ses, sitting down agin.

"I couldn't believe my ears at fust, but when I could I drew myself up
and told 'im wot I thought of 'im; and he sat there and laughed at me.

"'Why, you called me a masterpiece just now,' he ses.  'I shouldn't be
much of a masterpiece if I let a chance like this slip.  Why, I shouldn't
be able to look myself in the face.  Where's the skipper?'

"'Sitting in the "Albion",' I ses, 'arf choking.

"'Go and tell 'im it's five quid,' ses 'Arry.  'I don't mean five more,
on'y four.  Some people would ha' made it five, but I like to deal square
and honest.'

"I run over for the skipper in a state of mind that don't bear thinking
of, and he came back with me, 'arf crazy.  When we got to the cabin we
found the door was locked, and, arter the skipper 'ad told Artful wot
he'd do to 'im if he didn't open it, he 'ad to go on deck and talk to 'im
through the skylight.

"'If you ain't off of my ship in two twos,' he ses, 'I'll fetch a
policeman.'

"'You go and fetch four pounds,' ses 'Arry; 'that's wot I'm waiting for,
not a policeman.  Didn't the watchman tell you?'

"'The bargain was for one pound,' ses the skipper, 'ardly able to speak.

"'Well, you tell that to the policeman,' ses Artful 'Arry.

"It was no use, he'd got us every way; and at last the skipper turns out
'is pockets, and he ses, 'Look 'ere,' he ses, 'I've got seventeen and
tenpence ha' penny.  Will you go if I give you that?'

"''Ow much has the watchman got?' ses 'Arry.  'His lodger lost 'is purse
the other day.'

"I'd got two and ninepence, as it 'appened, and then there was more
trouble because the skipper wouldn't give 'im the money till he 'ad gone,
and 'e wouldn't go till he 'ad got it.  The skipper gave way at last, and
as soon as he 'ad got it 'Arry ses, 'Now 'op off and borrer the rest, and
look slippy about it.'

"I put one hand over the skipper's mouth fust, and then, finding that was
no good, I put the other.  It was no good wasting bad langwidge on 'Arry.

"I pacified the skipper at last, and arter 'Arry 'ad swore true 'e'd go
when 'e'd got the money, the skipper rushed round to try and raise it.
It's a difficult job at the best o' times, and I sat there on the
skylight shivering and wondering whether the skipper or Mrs. Muffit would
turn up fust.

"Hours seemed to pass away, and then I see the wicket in the gate open,
and the skipper come through.  He jumped on deck without a word, and
then, going over to the skylight, 'anded down the money to 'Arry.

"'Right-o,' ses 'Arry.  'It on'y shows you wot you can do by trying.'

"He unlocked the door and came up on deck, looking at us very careful,
and playing with 'is stick.

"'You've got your money,' ses the skipper; 'now go as quick as you can.'

"'Arry smiled and nodded at him.  Then he stepped on to the wharf and was
just moving to the gate, with us follering, when the wicket opened and in
came Mrs. Muffit and Uncle Dick.

"'There he is,' ses Uncle Dick.  'That's the man!'

"Mrs. Muffit walked up to 'im, and my 'art a'most stopped beating.  Her
face was the colour of beetroot with temper, and you could 'ave heard her
breath fifty yards away.

"'Ho!' she says, planting 'erself in front of Artful 'Arry, 'so you're
the man that ses you're my 'usband, are you?'

"'That's all right,' ses 'Arry, 'it's all a mistake.'

"'MISTAKE?' ses Mrs. Muffit.

"'Mistake o' Bill's,' ses 'Arry, pointing to me.  'I told 'im I thought
'e was wrong, but 'e would 'ave it.  I've got a bad memory, so I left it
to 'im.'

"'Ho!' ses Mrs. Muffit, taking a deep breath.  'Ho!  I thought as much.
Wot 'ave you got to say for yourself--eh?'

"She turned on me like a wild cat, with her 'ands in front of her.  I've
been scratched once in my life, and I wasn't going to be agin, so, fixing
my eyes on 'er, I just stepped back a bit, ready for 'er.  So long as I
kept my eye fixed on 'ers she couldn't do anything.  I knew that.
Unfortunately I stepped back just a inch too far, and next moment I went
over back'ards in twelve foot of water.

"Arter all, p'r'aps it was the best thing that could have 'appened to me;
it stopped her talking.  It ain't the fust time I've 'ad a wet jacket;
but as for the skipper, and pore Uncle Dick--wot married her--they've
been in hot water ever since."








FOR BETTER OR WORSE


Mr. George Wotton, gently pushing the swing doors of the public bar of
the "King's Head" an inch apart, applied an eye to the aperture, in the
hope of discovering a moneyed friend.  His gaze fell on the only man in
the bar a greybeard of sixty whose weather-beaten face and rough clothing
spoke of the sea.  With a faint sigh he widened the opening and passed
through.

"Mornin', Ben," he said, with an attempt at cheerfulness.

"Have a drop with me," said the other, heartily.  "Got any money about
you?"

Mr. Wotton shook his head and his face fell, clearing somewhat as the
other handed him his mug.  "Drink it all up, George," he said.

His friend complied.  A more tactful man might have taken longer over the
job, but Mr. Benjamin Davis, who appeared to be labouring under some
strong excitement, took no notice.

"I've had a shock, George," he said, regarding the other steadily.  "I've
heard news of my old woman."

"Didn't know you 'ad one," said Mr. Wotton calmly.  "Wot's she done?"

"She left me," said Mr. Davis, solemnly--"she left me thirty-five years
ago.  I went off to sea one fine morning, and that was the last I ever
see of er.

"Why, did she bolt?"  inquired Mr. Wotton, with mild interest.

"No," said his friend, "but I did.  We'd been married three years--three
long years--and I had 'ad enough of it.  Awful temper she had.  The last
words I ever heard 'er say was: 'Take that!'"

Mr. Wotton took up the mug and, after satisfying himself as to the
absence of contents, put it down again and yawned.

"I shouldn't worry about it if I was you," he remarked.  "She's hardly
likely to find you now.  And if she does she won't get much."

Mr. Davis gave vent to a contemptuous laugh.  "Get much!"  he repeated.
"It's her what's got it.  I met a old shipmate of mine this morning what
I 'adn't seen for ten years, and he told me he run acrost 'er only a
month ago.  After she left me--"

"But you said you left her!"  exclaimed his listening friend.

"Same thing," said Mr. Davis, impatiently.  "After she left me to work
myself to death at sea, running here and there at the orders of a pack
o'lazy scuts aft, she went into service and stayed in one place for
fifteen years.  Then 'er missis died and left her all 'er money.  For
twenty years, while I've been working myself to skin and bone, she's been
living in comfort and idleness."

"'Ard lines," said Mr. Wotton, shaking his head.  "It don't bear thinking
of."

"Why didn't she advertise for me?"  said Mr. Davis, raising his voice.
"That's what I want to know.  Advertisements is cheap enough; why didn't
she advertise?  I should 'ave come at once if she'd said anything about
money."

Mr. Wotton shook his head again.  "P'r'aps she didn't want you," he said,
slowly.

"What's that got to do with it?"  demanded the other.  "It was 'er dooty.
She'd got money, and I ought to have 'ad my 'arf of it.  Nothing can make
up for that wasted twenty years--nothing."

"P'r'aps she'll take you back," said Mr. Wotton.

"Take me back?"  repeated Mr. Davis.  "O' course she'll take me back.
She'll have to.  There's a law in the land, ain't there?  What I'm
thinking of is: Can I get back my share what I ought to have 'ad for the
last twenty years?"

"Get 'er to take you back first," counselled his friend.  "Thirty-five
years is along time, and p'r'aps she has lost 'er love for you.  Was you
good-looking in those days?"

"Yes," snapped Mr. Davis; "I ain't altered much--.  'Sides, what about
her?"

"That ain't the question," said the other.  "She's got a home and money.
It don't matter about looks; and, wot's more, she ain't bound to keep
you.  If you take my advice, you won't dream of letting her know you run
away from her.  Say you was cast away at sea, and when you came back
years afterwards you couldn't find her."

Mr. Davis pondered for some time in sulky silence.

"P'r'aps it would be as well," he said at last; "but I sha'n't stand no
nonsense, mind."

"If you like I'll come with you," said Mr. Wotton.  "I ain't got nothing
to do.  I could tell 'er I was cast away with you if you liked.  Anything
to help a pal."

Mr. Davis took two inches of soiled clay pipe from his pocket and puffed
thoughtfully.

"You can come," he said at last.  "If you'd only got a copper or two we
could ride; it's down Clapham way."

Mr. Wotton smiled feebly, and after going carefully through his pockets
shook his head and followed his friend outside.

"I wonder whether she'll be pleased?"  he remarked, as they walked slowly
along.  "She might be--women are funny creatures--so faithful.  I knew
one whose husband used to knock 'er about dreadful, and after he died she
was so true to his memory she wouldn't marry again."

Mr. Davis grunted, and, with a longing eye at the omnibuses passing over
London Bridge, asked a policeman the distance to Clapham.

"Never mind," said Mr. Wotton, as his friend uttered an exclamation.
"You'll have money in your pocket soon."

Mr. Davis's face brightened.  "And a watch and chain too," he said.

"And smoke your cigar of a Sunday," said Mr. Wotton, "and have a
easy-chair and a glass for a friend."

Mr. Davis almost smiled, and then, suddenly remembering his wasted twenty
years, shook his head grimly over the friendship that attached itself to
easy-chairs and glasses of ale, and said that there was plenty of it
about.  More friendship than glasses of ale and easy-chairs, perhaps.

At Clapham, they inquired the way of a small boy, and, after following
the road indicated, retraced their steps, cheered by a faint but
bloodthirsty hope of meeting him again.

A friendly baker put them on the right track at last, both gentlemen
eyeing the road with a mixture of concern and delight.  It was a road of
trim semi-detached villas, each with a well-kept front garden and
neatly-curtained windows.  At the gate of a house with the word
"Blairgowrie" inscribed in huge gilt letters on the fanlight Mr. Davis
paused for a moment uneasily, and then, walking up the path, followed by
Mr. Wotton, knocked at the door.

He retired a step in disorder before the apparition of a maid in cap and
apron.  A sharp "Not to-day!"  sounded in his ears and the door closed
again.  He faced his friend gasping.

"I should give her the sack first thing," said Mr. Wotton.

Mr. Davis knocked again, and again.  The maid reappeared, and after
surveying them through the glass opened the door a little way and
parleyed.

"I want to see your missis," said Mr. Davis, fiercely.

"What for?"  demanded the girl.

"You tell 'er," said Mr. Davis, inserting his foot just in time, "you
tell 'er that there's two gentlemen here what have brought 'er news of
her husband, and look sharp about it."

"They was cast away with 'im," said Mr. Wotton.

"On a desert island," said Mr. Davis.  He pushed his way in, followed by
his friend, and a head that had been leaning over the banisters was
suddenly withdrawn.  For a moment he stood irresolute in the tiny
passage, and then, with a husband's boldness, he entered the front room
and threw himself into an easy-chair.  Mr. Wotton, after a scared glance
around the well-furnished room, seated himself on the extreme edge of the
most uncomfortable chair he could find and coughed nervously.

[Illustration: "You tell 'er that there's two gentlemen here what have
brought 'er news of her husband"]

"Better not be too sudden with her," he whispered.  "You don't want her
to faint, or anything of that sort.  Don't let 'er know who you are at
first; let her find it out for herself."

Mr. Davis, who was also suffering from the stiff grandeur of his
surroundings, nodded.

"P'r'aps you'd better start, in case she reckernizes my voice," he said,
slowly.  "Pitch it in strong about me and 'ow I was always wondering what
had 'appened to her."

"You're in luck, that's wot you are," said his friend, enviously.  "I've
only seen furniture like thiss in shop windows before.  H'sh!  Here she
comes."

He started, and both men tried to look at their ease as a stiff rustling
sounded from the stairs.  Then the door opened and a tall, stoutly-built
old lady with white hair swept into the room and stood regarding them.

Mr. Davis, unprepared for the changes wrought by thirty-five years,
stared at her aghast.  The black silk dress, the gold watch-chain, and
huge cameo brooch did not help to reassure him.

"Good-good afternoon, ma'am," said Mr. Wotton, in a thin voice.

The old lady returned the greeting, and, crossing to a chair and seating
herself in a very upright fashion, regarded him calmly.

"We--we called to see you about a dear old pal--friend, I mean,"
continued Mr. Wotton; "one o' the best.  The best."

"Yes?"  said the old lady.

"He's been missing," said Mr. Wotton, watching closely for any symptoms
of fainting, "for thir-ty-five years.  Thir-ty-five years ago-very much
against his wish-he left 'is young and handsome wife to go for a sea
v'y'ge, and was shipwrecked and cast away on a desert island."

"Yes?"  said the old lady again.

"I was cast away with 'im," said Mr. Wotton.  "Both of us was cast away
with him."

He indicated Mr. Davis with his hand, and the old lady, after a glance at
that gentleman, turned to Mr. Wotton again.

"We was on that island for longer than I like to think of," continued Mr.
Wotton, who had a wholesome dread of dates.  "But we was rescued at last,
and ever since then he has been hunting high and low for his wife."

"It's very interesting," murmured the old lady; "but what has it got to
do with me?"

Mr. Wotton gasped, and cast a helpless glance at his friend.

"You ain't heard his name yet," he said, impressively.  "Wot would you
say if I said it was--Ben Davis?"

"I should say it wasn't true," said the old lady, promptly.

"Not--true?"  said Mr. Wotton, catching his breath painfully.  "Wish I
may die----"

"About the desert island," continued the old lady, calmly.  "The story
that I heard was that he went off like a cur and left his young wife to
do the best she could for herself.  I suppose he's heard since that she
has come in for a bit of money."

"Money!" repeated Mr. Wotton, in a voice that he fondly hoped expressed
artless surprise.  "Money!"

"Money," said the old lady; "and I suppose he sent you two gentlemen
round to see how the land lay."

She was looking full at Mr. Davis as she spoke, and both men began to
take a somewhat sombre view of the situation.

"You didn't know him, else you wouldn't talk like that," said Mr. Wotton.
"I don't suppose you'd know 'im if you was to see him now."

"I don't suppose I should," said the other.

"P'r'aps you'd reckernize his voice?"  said Mr. Davis, breaking silence
at last.

Mr. Wotton held his breath, but the old lady merely shook her head
thoughtfully.  "It was a disagreeable voice when his wife used to hear
it," she said at last.  "Always fault-finding, when it wasn't swearing."

Mr. Wotton glanced at his friend, and, raising his eyebrows slightly,
gave up his task.  "Might ha' been faults on both sides," said Mr. Davis,
gruffly.  "You weren't all that you should ha' been, you know."

"Me!" said his hostess, raising her voice.

[Illustration: "Don't you know me, Mary?"]

"Yes, you," said Mr. Davis, rising.  "Don't you know me, Mary?  Why, I
knew you the moment you come into the room."

He moved towards her awkwardly, but she rose in her turn and drew back.

"If you touch me I'll scream," she said, firmly.  "How dare you.  Why,
I've never seen you before in my life."

"It's Ben Davis, ma'am; it's 'im, right enough," said Mr. Wotton, meekly.

"Hold your tongue," said the old lady.

"Look at me!"  commanded Mr. Davis, sternly.  "Look at me straight in the
eye."

"Don't talk nonsense," said the other, sharply.  "Look you in the eye,
indeed!  I don't want to look in your eye.  What would people think?"

"Let 'em think wot they like," said Mr. Davis, recklessly.  "This is a
nice home-coming after being away thirty-five years."

"Most of it on a desert island," put in Mr. Wotton, pathetically.

"And now I've come back," resumed Mr. Davis; "come back to stop."

He hung his cap on a vase on the mantelpiece that reeled under the shock,
and, dropping into his chair again, crossed his legs and eyed her
sternly.  Her gaze was riveted on his dilapidated boots.  She looked up
and spoke mildly.

"You're not my husband," she said.  "You've made a mistake--I think you
had better go."

"Ho!"  said Mr. Davis, with a hard laugh.  "Indeed!  And 'ow do you know
I'm not?"

"For the best of reasons," was the reply.  "Besides, how can you prove
that you are?  Thirty-five years is a long time."

"'Specially on a desert island," said Mr. Wotton, rapidly.  "You'd be
surprised 'ow slow the time passes.  I was there with 'im, and I can lay
my hand on my 'art and assure you that that is your husband."

"Nonsense!"  said the old lady, vigorously.  "Rubbish!"

"I can prove it," said Mr. Davis, fixing her with a glittering eye.  "Do
you remember the serpent I 'ad tattooed on my leg for a garter?"

"If you don't go at once," said the old lady, hastily, "I'll send for the
police."

"You used to admire it," said Mr. Davis, reproachfully.  "I remember
once----"

"If you say another word," said the other, in a fierce voice, "I'll send
straight off for the police.  You and your serpents!  I'll tell my
husband of you, that's what I'll do."

"Your WHAT?"  roared Mr. Davis, springing to his feet.

"My husband.  He won't stand any of your nonsense, I can tell you.  You'd
better go before he comes in."

"O-oh," said Mr. Davis, taking a long breath.  "Oh, so you been and got
married again, 'ave you?  That's your love for your husband as was cast
away while trying to earn a living for you.  That's why you don't want
me, is it?  We'll see.  I'll wait for him."

"You don't know what you're talking about," said the other, with great
dignity.  "I've only been married once."

Mr. Davis passed the back of his hand across his eyes in a dazed fashion
and stared at her.

"Is--is somebody passing himself off as me?"  he demanded.  "'Cos if he
is I'll 'ave you both up for bigamy."

"Certainly not."

"But--but--"

Mr. Davis turned and looked blankly at his friend.  Mr. Wotton met his
gaze with dilated eyes.

"You say you recognize me as your wife?"  said the old lady.

"Certainly," said Mr. Davis, hotly.

"It's very curious," said the other--"very.  But are you sure?  Look
again."

Mr. Davis thrust his face close to hers and stared hard.  She bore his
scrutiny without flinching.

"I'm positive certain," said Mr. Davis, taking a breath.

"That's very curious," said the old lady; "but, then, I suppose we are a
bit alike.  You see, Mrs. Davis being away, I'm looking after her house
for a bit.  My name happens to be Smith."

Mr. Davis uttered a sharp exclamation, and, falling back a step, stared
at her open-mouthed.

"We all make mistakes," urged Mr. Wotton, after a long silence, "and
Ben's sight ain't wot it used to be.  He strained it looking out for a
sail when we was on that desert----"

"When--when'll she be back?"  inquired Mr. Davis, finding his voice at
last.

The old lady affected to look puzzled.  "But I thought you were certain
that I was your wife?"  she said, smoothly.

"My mistake," said Mr. Davis, ruefully.  "Thirty-five years is a long
time and people change a bit; I have myself.  For one thing, I must say
I didn't expect to find 'er so stout."

"Stout!"  repeated the other, quickly.

"Not that I mean you're too stout," said Mr. Davis, hurriedly--"for
people that like stoutness, that is.  My wife used to 'ave a very good
figger."

Mr. Wotton nodded.  "He used to rave about it on that des----"

"When will she be back?"  inquired Mr. Davis, interrupting him.

Mrs. Smith shook her head.  "I can't say," she replied, moving towards
the door.  "When she's off holidaying, I never know when she'll return.
Shall I tell her you called?"

"Tell her I----certainly," said Mr. Davis, with great vehemence.  "I'll
come in a week's time and see if she's back."

"She might be away for months," said the old lady, moving slowly to the
passage and opening the street door.  "Good-afternoon."

She closed the door behind them and stood watching them through the glass
as they passed disconsolately into the street.  Then she went back into
the parlour, and standing before the mantelpiece, looked long and
earnestly into the mirror.

Mr. Davis returned a week later--alone, and, pausing at the gate, glanced
in dismay at a bill in the window announcing that the house was to be
sold.  He walked up the path still looking at it, and being admitted by
the trim servant was shown into the parlour, and stood in a dispirited
fashion before Mrs. Smith.

"Not back yet?"  he inquired, gruffly.

The old lady shook her head.

"What--what--is that bill for?"  demanded Mr. Davis, jerking his thumb
towards it.

"She is thinking of selling the house," said Mrs. Smith.  "I let her know
you had been, and that is, the result.  She won't comeback.  You won't
see her again."

"Where is she?"  inquired Mr. Davis, frowning.

Mrs. Smith shook her head again.  "And it would be no use my telling
you," she said.  "What she has got is her own, and the law won't let you
touch a penny of it without her consent.  You must have treated her
badly; why did you leave her?"

"Why?"  repeated Mr. Davis.  "Why?  Why, because she hit me over the 'ead
with a broom-handle."

Mrs. Smith tossed her head.

"Fancy you remembering that for thirty-five years!"  she said.

"Fancy forgetting it!"  retorted Mr. Davis.

"I suppose she had a hot temper," said the old lady.

"'Ot temper?"  said the other.  "Yes."  He leaned forward, and holding
his chilled hands over the fire stood for some time deep in thought.

"I don't know what it is," he said at last, "but there's a something
about you that reminds me of her.  It ain't your voice, 'cos she had a
very nice voice--when she wasn't in a temper--and it ain't your face,
because--"

"Yes?"  said Mrs. Smith, sharply.  "Because it don't remind me of her."

"And yet the other day you said you recognized me at once," said the old
lady.

"I thought I did," said Mr. Davis.  "One thing is, I was expecting to see
her, I s'pose."

There was a long silence.

"Well, I won't keep you," said Mrs. Smith at last, "and it's no good for
you to keep coming here to see her.  She will never come here again.
I don't want to hurt your feelings, but you don't look over and above
respectable.  Your coat is torn, your trousers are patched in a dozen
places, and your boots are half off your feet--I don't know what the
servant must think."

"I--I only came to look for my wife," said Mr. Davis, in a startled
voice.  "I won't come again."

"That's right," said the old lady.  "That'll please her, I know.  And if
she should happen to ask what sort of a living you are making, what shall
I tell her?"

"Tell her what you said about my clothes, ma'am," said Mr. Davis, with
his hand on the door-knob.  "She'll understand then.  She's known wot it
is to be poor herself.  She'd got a bad temper, but she'd have cut her
tongue out afore she'd 'ave thrown a poor devil's rags in his face.
Good-afternoon."

"Good-afternoon, Ben," said the old woman, in a changed voice.

Mr. Davis, half-way through the door, started as though he had been shot,
and, facing about, stood eyeing her in dumb bewilderment.

"If I take you back again," repeated his wife, "are you going to behave
yourself?"

"It isn't the same voice and it isn't the same face," said the old woman;
"but if I'd only got a broomhandle handy----"

Mr. Davis made an odd noise in his throat.

"If you hadn't been so down on your luck," said his wife, blinking her
eyes rapidly, "I'd have let you go.  If you hadn't looked 'so miserable I
could have stood it.  If I take you back, are you going to behave
yourself?"

Mr. Davis stood gaping at her.

"If I take you back again," repeated his wife, speaking very slowly, "are
you going to behave yourself?"

"Yes," said Mr. Davis, finding his voice at last.  "Yes, if you are."







THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA

"What I want you to do," said Mr. George Wright, as he leaned towards the
old sailor, "is to be an uncle to me."

"Aye, aye," said the mystified Mr. Kemp, pausing with a mug of beer
midway to his lips.

"A rich uncle," continued the young man, lowering his voice to prevent
any keen ears in the next bar from acquiring useless knowledge.  "An
uncle from New Zealand, who is going to leave me all 'is money."

"Where's it coming from?"  demanded Mr. Kemp, with a little excitement.

"It ain't coming," was the reply.  "You've only got to say you've got it.
Fact of the matter is, I've got my eye on a young lady; there's another
chap after 'er too, and if she thought I'd got a rich uncle it might make
all the difference.  She knows I 'ad an uncle that went to New Zealand
and was never heard of since.  That's what made me think of it."

Mr. Kemp drank his beer in thoughtful silence.  "How can I be a rich
uncle without any brass?"  he inquired at length.

"I should 'ave to lend you some--a little," said Mr. Wright.

[Illustration: "What I want you to do," said Mr. George Wright, "is to
be an uncle to me."]

The old man pondered.  "I've had money lent me before," he said,
candidly, "but I can't call to mind ever paying it back.  I always meant
to, but that's as far as it got."

"It don't matter," said the other.  "It'll only be for a little while,
and then you'll 'ave a letter calling you back to New Zealand.  See?  And
you'll go back, promising to come home in a year's time, after you've
wound up your business, and leave us all your money.  See?"

Mr. Kemp scratched the back of his neck.  "But she's sure to find it out
in time," he objected.

"P'r'aps," said Mr. Wright.  "And p'r'aps not.  There'll be plenty of
time for me to get married before she does, and you could write back and
say you had got married yourself, or given your money to a hospital."

He ordered some more beer for Mr. Kemp, and in a low voice gave him as
much of the family history as he considered necessary.

"I've only known you for about ten days," he concluded, "but I'd sooner
trust you than people I've known for years."

"I took a fancy to you the moment I set eyes on you," rejoined Mr. Kemp.
"You're the living image of a young fellow that lent me five pounds once,
and was drowned afore my eyes the week after.  He 'ad a bit of a squint,
and I s'pose that's how he came to fall overboard."

He emptied his mug, and then, accompanied by Mr. Wright, fetched his
sea-chest from the boarding-house where he was staying, and took it to
the young man's lodgings.  Fortunately for the latter's pocket the chest
contained a good best suit and boots, and the only expenses incurred
were for a large, soft felt hat and a gilded watch and chain.  Dressed
in his best, with a bulging pocket-book in his breast-pocket, he set out
with Mr. Wright on the following evening to make his first call.

Mr. Wright, who was also in his best clothes, led the way to a small
tobacconist's in a side street off the Mile End Road, and, raising his
hat with some ceremony, shook hands with a good-looking young woman who
stood behind the counter: Mr. Kemp, adopting an air of scornful dignity
intended to indicate the possession of great wealth, waited.

"This is my uncle," said Mr. Wright, speaking rapidly, "from New Zealand,
the one I spoke to you about.  He turned up last night, and you might
have knocked me down with a feather.  The last person in the world I
expected to see."

Mr. Kemp, in a good rolling voice, said, "Good evening, miss; I hope you
are well," and, subsiding into a chair, asked for a cigar.  His surprise
when he found that the best cigar they stocked only cost sixpence almost
assumed the dimensions of a grievance.

"It'll do to go on with," he said, smelling it suspiciously.  "Have you
got change for a fifty-pound note?"

Miss Bradshaw, concealing her surprise by an effort, said that she would
see, and was scanning the contents of a drawer, when Mr. Kemp in some
haste discovered a few odd sovereigns in his waistcoat-pocket.  Five
minutes later he was sitting in the little room behind the shop, holding
forth to an admiring audience.

"So far as I know," he said, in reply to a question of Mrs. Bradshaw's,
"George is the only relation I've got.  Him and me are quite alone, and I
can tell you I was glad to find him."

Mrs. Bradshaw sighed.  "It's a pity you are so far apart," she said.

"It's not for long," said Mr. Kemp.  "I'm just going back for about a
year to wind up things out there, and then I'm coming back to leave my
old bones over here.  George has very kindly offered to let me live with
him."

"He won't suffer for it, I'll be bound," said Mrs. Bradshaw, archly.

"So far as money goes he won't," said the old man.  "Not that that would
make any difference to George."

"It would be the same to me if you hadn't got a farthing," said Mr.
Wright, promptly.

[Illustration: "It'll do to go on with," he said]

Mr. Kemp, somewhat affected, shook hands with him, and leaning back in
the most comfortable chair in the room, described his life and struggles
in New Zealand.  Hard work, teetotalism, and the simple life combined
appeared to be responsible for a fortune which he affected to be too old
to enjoy.  Misunderstandings of a painful nature were avoided by a timely
admission that under medical advice he was now taking a fair amount of
stimulant.

[Illustration: "'Ow much did you say you'd got in the bank?"]

"Mind," he said, as he walked home with the elated George, "it's your
game, not mine, and it's sure to come a bit expensive.  I can't be a rich
uncle without spending a bit.  'Ow much did you say you'd got in the
bank?"

"We must be as careful as we can," said Mr. Wright, hastily.  "One thing
is they can't leave the shop to go out much.  It's a very good little
business, and it ought to be all right for me and Bella one of these
days, eh?"

Mr. Kemp, prompted by a nudge in the ribs, assented.  "It's wonderful how
they took it all in about me," he said; "but I feel certain in my own
mind that I ought to chuck some money about."

"Tell 'em of the money you have chucked about," said Mr. Wright.  "It'll
do just as well, and come a good deal cheaper.  And you had better go
round alone to-morrow evening.  It'll look better.  Just go in for
another one of their sixpenny cigars."

Mr. Kemp obeyed, and the following evening, after sitting a little while
chatting in the shop, was invited into the parlour, where, mindful of Mr.
Wright's instructions, he held his listeners enthralled by tales of past
expenditure.  A tip of fifty pounds to his bedroom steward coming over
was characterized by Mrs. Bradshaw as extravagant.

"Seems to be going all right," said Mr. Wright, as the old man made his
report; "but be careful; don't go overdoing it."

Mr. Kemp nodded.  "I can turn 'em round my little finger," he said.
"You'll have Bella all to yourself to-morrow evening."

Mr. Wright flushed.  "How did you manage that?"  he inquired.  "It's the
first time she has ever been out with me alone."

"She ain't coming out," said Mr. Kemp.  "She's going to stay at home and
mind the shop; it's the mother what's coming out.  Going to spend the
evening with me!"

Mr. Wright frowned.  "What did you do that for?"  he demanded, hotly.

"I didn't do it," said Mr. Kemp, equably; "they done it.  The old lady
says that, just for once in her life, she wants to see how it feels to
spend money like water."

"_Money like water!_"  repeated the horrified Mr. Wright.  "Money like--
I'll 'money' her--I'll----"

"It don't matter to me," said Mr. Kemp.  "I can have a headache or a
chill, or something of that sort, if you like.  I don't want to go.  It's
no pleasure to me."

"What will it cost?"  demanded Mr. Wright, pacing up and down the room.

The rich uncle made a calculation.  "She wants to go to a place called
the Empire," he said, slowly, "and have something for supper, and there'd
be cabs and things.  I dessay it would cost a couple o' pounds, and it
might be more.  But I'd just as soon ave' a chill--just."

Mr. Wright groaned, and after talking of Mrs. Bradshaw as though she were
already his mother-in-law, produced the money.  His instructions as to
economy lasted almost up to the moment when he stood with Bella outside
the shop on the following evening and watched the couple go off.

"It's wonderful how well they get on together," said Bella, as they
re-entered the shop and passed into the parlour.  "I've never seen mother
take to anybody so quick as she has to him."

"I hope you like him, too," said Mr. Wright.

"He's a dear," said Bella.  "Fancy having all that money.  I wonder what
it feels like?"

"I suppose I shall know some day," said the young man, slowly; "but it
won't be much good to me unless----"

"Unless?"  said Bella, after a pause.

"Unless it gives me what I want," replied the other.  "I'd sooner be a
poor man and married to the girl I love, than a millionaire."

Miss Bradshaw stole an uneasy glance at his somewhat sallow features, and
became thoughtful.

"It's no good having diamonds and motor-cars and that sort of thing
unless you have somebody to share them with," pursued Mr. Wright.

Miss Bradshaw's eyes sparkled, and at that moment the shop-bell tinkled
and a lively whistle sounded.  She rose and went into the shop, and Mr.
Wright settled back in his chair and scowled darkly as he saw the
intruder.

"Good evening," said the latter.  "I want a sixpenny smoke for twopence,
please.  How are we this evening?  Sitting up and taking nourishment?"

Miss Bradshaw told him to behave himself.

"Always do," said the young man.  "That's why I can never get anybody to
play with.  I had such an awful dream about you last night that I
couldn't rest till I saw you.  Awful it was."

"What was it?"  inquired Miss Bradshaw.

"Dreamt you were married," said Mr. Hills, smiling at her.

Miss Bradshaw tossed her head.  "Who to, pray?"  she inquired.

"Me," said Mr. Hills, simply.  "I woke up in a cold perspiration.
Halloa! is that Georgie in there?  How are you, George?  Better?"

"I'm all right," said Mr. Wright, with dignity, as the other hooked the
door open with his stick and nodded at him.

"Well, why don't you look it?"  demanded the lively Mr. Hills.  "Have you
got your feet wet, or what?"

"Oh, be quiet," said Miss Bradshaw, smiling at him.

"Right-o," said Mr. Hills, dropping into a chair by the counter and
caressing his moustache.  "But you wouldn't speak to me like that if you
knew what a terrible day I've had."

"What have you been doing?"  asked the girl.

"Working," said the other, with a huge sigh.  "Where's the millionaire?
I came round on purpose to have a look at him."

"Him and mother have gone to the Empire?"  said Miss Bradshaw.

Mr. Hills gave three long, penetrating whistles, and then, placing his
cigar with great care on the counter, hid his face in a huge
handkerchief.  Miss Bradshaw, glanced from him to the frowning Mr.
Wright, and then, entering the parlour, closed the door with a bang.  Mr.
Hills took the hint, and with a somewhat thoughtful grin departed.

He came in next evening for another cigar, and heard all that there was
to hear about the Empire.  Mrs. Bradshaw would have treated him but
coldly, but the innocent Mr. Kemp, charmed by his manner, paid him great
attention.

"He's just like what I was at his age," he said.  "Lively."

"I'm not a patch on you," said Mr. Hills, edging his way by slow degrees
into the parlour.  "I don't take young ladies to the Empire.  Were you
telling me you came over here to get married, or did I dream it?"

"'Ark at him," said the blushing Mr. Kemp, as Mrs. Bradshaw shook her
head at the offender and told him to behave himself.

"He's a man any woman might be happy with," said Mr. Hills.  "He never
knows how much there is in his trousers-pocket.  Fancy sewing on buttons
for a man like that.  Gold-mining ain't in it."

Mrs. Bradshaw shook her head at him again, and Mr. Hills, after
apologizing to her for revealing her innermost thoughts before the most
guileless of men, began to question Mr. Kemp as to the prospects of a
bright and energetic young man, with a distaste for work, in New Zealand.
The audience listened with keen attention to the replies, the only
disturbing factor being a cough of Mr. Wright's, which became more and
more troublesome as the evening wore on.  By the time uncle and nephew
rose to depart the latter was so hoarse that he could scarcely speak.

"Why didn't you tell 'em you had got a letter calling you home, as I told
you?"  he vociferated, as soon as they were clear of the shop.

"I--I forgot it," said the old man.

"Forgot it!"  repeated the incensed Mr. Wright.

"What did you think I was coughing like that for--fun?"

"I forgot it," said the old man, doggedly.  "Besides, if you take my
advice, you'd better let me stay a little longer to make sure of things."

Mr. Wright laughed disagreeably.  "I dare say," he said; "but I am
managing this affair, not you.  Now, you go round to-morrow afternoon and
tell them you're off.  D'ye hear?  D'ye think I'm made of money?  And
what do you mean by making such a fuss of that fool, Charlie Hills?  You
know he is after Bella."

He walked the rest of the way home in indignant silence, and, after
giving minute instructions to Mr. Kemp next morning at breakfast, went
off to work in a more cheerful frame of mind.  Mr. Kemp was out when he
returned, and after making his toilet he followed him to Mrs. Bradshaw's.

To his annoyance, he found Mr. Hills there again; and, moreover, it soon
became clear to him that Mr. Kemp had said nothing about his approaching
departure.  Coughs and scowls passed unheeded, and at last in a
hesitating voice, he broached the subject himself.  There was a general
chorus of lamentation.

"I hadn't got the heart to tell you," said Mr. Kemp.  "I don't know when
I've been so happy."

"But you haven't got to go back immediate," said Mrs. Bradshaw.

"To-morrow," said Mr. Wright, before the old man could reply.
"Business."

"Must you go," said Mrs. Bradshaw.

Mr. Kemp smiled feebly.  "I suppose I ought to," he replied, in a
hesitating voice.

"Take my tip and give yourself a bit of a holiday before you go back,"
urged Mr. Hills.

"Just for a few days," pleaded Bella.

"To please us," said Mrs. Bradshaw.  "Think 'ow George'll miss you."

"Lay hold of him and don't let him go," said Mr. Hills.

He took Mr. Kemp round the waist, and the laughing Bella and her mother
each secured an arm.  An appeal to Mr. Wright to secure his legs passed
unheeded.

"We don't let you go till you promise," said Mrs. Bradshaw.

Mr. Kemp smiled and shook his head.  "Promise?"  said Bella.

"Well, well," said Mr. Kemp; "p'r'aps--"

"He must go back," shouted the alarmed  Mr. Wright.

"Let him speak for himself," exclaimed Bella, indignantly.

"Just another week then," said Mr. Kemp.  "It's no good having money if I
can't please myself."

"A week!" shouted Mr. Wright, almost beside himself with rage and dismay.
"A week!  Another week!  Why, you told me----"

"Oh, don't listen to him," said Mrs. Bradshaw.  "Croaker!  It's his own
business, ain't it?  And he knows best, don't he?  What's it got to do
with you?"

She patted Mr. Kemp's hand; Mr. Kemp patted back, and with his disengaged
hand helped himself to a glass of beer--the fourth--and beamed in a
friendly fashion upon the company.

"George!"  he said, suddenly.

"Yes," said Mr. Wright, in a harsh voice.

"Did you think to bring my pocket-book along with you?"

"No," said Mr. Wright, sharply; "I didn't."

"Tt-tt," said the old man, with a gesture of annoyance.  "Well, lend me a
couple of pounds, then, or else run back and fetch my pocket-book," he
added, with a sly grin.

Mr. Wright's face worked with impotent fury.  "What--what--do you--want
it for?"  he gasped.

Mrs. Bradshaw's "Well! Well!" seemed to sum up the general feeling; Mr.
Kemp, shaking his head, eyed him with gentle reproach.

"Me and Mrs. Bradshaw are going to gave another evening out," he said,
quietly.  "I've only got a few more days, and I must make hay while the
sun shines."

To Mr. Wright the room seemed to revolve slowly on its axis, but,
regaining his self-possession by a supreme effort, he took out his purse
and produced the amount.  Mrs. Bradshaw, after a few feminine
protestations, went upstairs to put her bonnet on.

"And you can go and fetch a hansom-cab, George, while she's a-doing of
it," said Mr. Kemp.  "Pick out a good 'orse--spotted-grey, if you can."

Mr. Wright arose and, departing with a suddenness that was almost
startling, exploded harmlessly in front of the barber's, next door but
one.  Then with lagging steps he went in search of the shabbiest cab and
oldest horse he could find.

"Thankee, my boy," said Mr. Kemp, bluffly, as he helped Mrs. Bradshaw in
and stood with his foot on the step.  "By the way, you had better go back
and lock my pocket-book up.  I left it on the washstand, and there's best
part of a thousand pounds in it.  You can take fifty for yourself to buy
smokes with."

There was a murmur of admiration, and Mr. Wright, with a frantic attempt
to keep up appearances, tried to thank him, but in vain.  Long after the
cab had rolled away he stood on the pavement trying to think out a
position which was rapidly becoming unendurable.  Still keeping up
appearances, he had to pretend to go home to look after the pocket-book,
leaving the jubilant Mr. Hills to improve the shining hour with Miss
Bradshaw.

Mr. Kemp, returning home at midnight--in a cab--found the young man
waiting up for him, and, taking a seat on the edge of the table, listened
unmoved to a word-picture of himself which seemed interminable.  He was
only moved to speech when Mr. Wright described him as a white-whiskered
jezebel who was a disgrace to his sex, and then merely in the interests
of natural science.

"Don't you worry," he said, as the other paused from exhaustion.  "It
won't be for long now."

"Long?"  said Mr. Wright, panting.  "First thing to-morrow morning you
have a telegram calling you back--a telegram that must be minded.  D'ye
see?"

"No, I don't," said Mr. Kemp, plainly.  "I'm not going back, never no
more--never!  I'm going to stop here and court Mrs. Bradshaw."

Mr. Wright fought for breath.  "You--you can't!" he gasped.

"I'm going to have a try," said the old man.  "I'm sick of going to sea,
and it'll be a nice comfortable home for my old age.  You marry Bella,
and I'll marry her mother.  Happy family!"

Mr. Wright, trembling with rage, sat down to recover, and, regaining his
composure after a time, pointed out almost calmly the various
difficulties in the way.

"I've thought it all out," said Mr. Kemp, nodding.  "She mustn't know I'm
not rich till after we're married; then I 'ave a letter from New Zealand
saying I've lost all my money.  It's just as easy to have that letter as
the one you spoke of."

"And I'm to find you money to play the rich uncle with till you're
married, I suppose," said Mr. Wright, in a grating voice, "and then lose
Bella when Mrs. Bradshaw finds you've lost your money?"

Mr. Kemp scratched his ear.  "That's your lookout," he said, at last.

"Now, look here," said Mr. Wright, with great determination.  "Either you
go and tell them that you've been telegraphed for--cabled is the proper
word--or I tell them the truth."

"That'll settle you then," said Mr. Kemp.

"No more than the other would," retorted the young man, "and it'll come
cheaper.  One thing I'll take my oath of, and that is I won't give you
another farthing; but if you do as I tell you I'll give you a quid for
luck.  Now, think it over."

Mr. Kemp thought it over, and after a vain attempt to raise the promised
reward to five pounds, finally compounded for two, and went off to bed
after a few stormy words on selfishness and ingratitude.  He declined to
speak to his host at breakfast next morning, and accompanied him in the
evening with the air of a martyr going to the stake.  He listened in
stony silence to the young man's instructions, and only spoke when the
latter refused to pay the two pounds in advance.

The news, communicated in halting accents by Mr. Kemp, was received with
flattering dismay.  Mrs. Bradshaw refused to believe her ears, and it was
only after the information had been repeated and confirmed by Mr. Wright
that she understood.

"I must go," said Mr. Kemp.  "I've spent over eleven pounds cabling
to-day; but it's all no good."

"But you're coming back?"  said Mr. Hills.

"O' course I am," was the reply.  "George is the only relation I've got,
and I've got to look after him, I suppose.  After all, blood is thicker
than water."

"Hear, hear!" said Mrs. Bradshaw, piously.

"And there's you and Bella," continued Mr. Kemp; "two of the best that
ever breathed."

The ladies looked down.

"And Charlie Hills; I don't know--I don't know _when_ I've took such a
fancy to anybody as I have to 'im.  If I was a young gal--a single young
gal--he's--the other half," he said, slowly, as he paused--"just the one I
should fancy.  He's a good-'arted, good-looking----"

"Draw it mild," interrupted the blushing Mr. Hills as Mr. Wright bestowed
a ferocious glance upon the speaker.

"Clever, lively young fellow," concluded Mr. Kemp.  "George!"

"Yes," said Mr. Wright.

"I'm going now.  I've got to catch the train for Southampton, but I don't
want you to come with me.  I prefer to be alone.  You stay here and cheer
them up.  Oh, and before I forget it, lend me a couple o' pounds out o'
that fifty I gave you last night.  I've given all my small change away."

He looked up and met Mr. Wright's eye; the latter, too affected to speak,
took out the money and passed it over.

"We never know what may happen to us," said the old man, solemnly, as he
rose and buttoned his coat.  "I'm an old man and I like to have things
ship-shape.  I've spent nearly the whole day with my lawyer, and if
anything 'appens to my old carcass it won't make any difference.  I have
left half my money to George; half of all I have is to be his."

In the midst of an awed silence he went round and shook hands.

"The other half," with his hand on the door--"the other half and my best
gold watch and chain I have left to my dear young pal, Charlie Hills.
Good-bye, Georgie!"





"MANNERS MAKYTH MAN"

The night-watchman appeared to be out of sorts.  His movements were even
slower than usual, and, when he sat, the soap-box seemed to be unable to
give satisfaction.  His face bore an expression of deep melancholy, but a
smouldering gleam in his eye betokened feelings deeply moved.

"Play-acting I don't hold with," he burst out, with sudden ferocity.
"Never did.  I don't say I ain't been to a theayter once or twice in my
life, but I always come away with the idea that anybody could act if they
liked to try.  It's a kid's game, a silly kid's game, dressing up and
pretending to be somebody else."

He cut off a piece of tobacco and, stowing it in his left cheek, sat
chewing, with his lack-lustre eyes fixed on the wharves across the river.
The offensive antics of a lighterman in mid-stream, who nearly fell
overboard in his efforts to attract his attention, he ignored.

"I might ha' known it, too," he said, after a long silence.  "If I'd only
stopped to think, instead o' being in such a hurry to do good to others,
I should ha' been all right, and the pack o' monkey-faced swabs on the
_Lizzie and Annie_ wot calls themselves sailor-men would 'ave had to 'ave
got something else to laugh about.  They've told it in every pub for 'arf
a mile round, and last night, when I went into the Town of Margate to get
a drink, three chaps climbed over the partition to 'ave a look at me.

"It all began with young Ted Sawyer, the mate o' the _Lizzie and Annie_.
He calls himself a mate, but if it wasn't for 'aving the skipper for a
brother-in-law 'e'd be called something else, very quick.  Two or three
times we've 'ad words over one thing and another, and the last time I
called 'im something that I can see now was a mistake.  It was one o'
these 'ere clever things that a man don't forget, let alone a lop-sided
monkey like 'im.

"That was when they was up time afore last, and when they made fast 'ere
last week I could see as he 'adn't forgotten it.  For one thing he
pretended not to see me, and, arter I 'ad told him wot I'd do to him if
'e ran into me agin, he said 'e thought I was a sack o' potatoes taking a
airing on a pair of legs wot somebody 'ad throwed away.  Nasty tongue
'e's got; not clever, but nasty.

"Arter that I took no notice of 'im, and, o' course, that annoyed 'im
more than anything.  All I could do I done, and 'e was ringing the
gate-bell that night from five minutes to twelve till ha'-past afore I
heard it.  Many a night-watchman gets a name for going to sleep when
'e's only getting a bit of 'is own back.

"We stood there talking for over 'arf-an-hour arter I 'ad let'im in.
Leastways, he did.  And whenever I see as he was getting tired I just
said, 'H'sh!' and 'e'd start agin as fresh as ever.  He tumbled to it at
last, and went aboard shaking 'is little fist at me and telling me wot
he'd do to me if it wasn't for the lor.

"I kept by the gate as soon as I came on dooty next evening, just to give
'im a little smile as 'e went out.  There is nothing more aggravating
than a smile when it is properly done; but there was no signs o' my lord,
and, arter practising it on a carman by mistake, I 'ad to go inside for a
bit and wait till he 'ad gorn.

"The coast was clear by the time I went back, and I 'ad just stepped
outside with my back up agin the gate-post to 'ave a pipe, when I see a
boy coming along with a bag.  Good-looking lad of about fifteen 'e was,
nicely dressed in a serge suit, and he no sooner gets up to me than 'e
puts down the bag and looks up at me with a timid sort o' little smile.

"'Good evening, cap'n,' he ses.

"He wasn't the fust that has made that mistake; older people than 'im
have done it.

"'Good evening, my lad,' I ses.

"'I s'pose,' he ses, in a trembling voice, 'I suppose you ain't looking
out for a cabin-boy, sir?'

"'Cabin-boy?' I ses.  'No, I ain't.'

"'I've run away from 'ome to go to sea,' he ses, and I'm afraid of being
pursued.  Can I come inside?'

"Afore I could say 'No' he 'ad come, bag and all; and afore I could say
anything else he 'ad nipped into the office and stood there with his 'and
on his chest panting.

"'I know I can trust you,' he ses; 'I can see it by your face."

"'Wot 'ave you run away from 'ome for?' I ses.  'Have they been
ill-treating of you?'

"'Ill-treating me?' he ses, with a laugh.  'Not much.  Why, I expect my
father is running about all over the place offering rewards for me.  He
wouldn't lose me for a thousand pounds.'

"I pricked up my ears at that; I don't deny it.  Anybody would.  Besides,
I knew it would be doing him a kindness to hand 'im back to 'is father.
And then I did a bit o' thinking to see 'ow it was to be done.

"'Sit down,' I ses, putting three or four ledgers on the floor behind one
of the desks.  'Sit down, and let's talk it over.'

"We talked away for ever so long, but, do all I would, I couldn't
persuade 'im.  His 'ead was stuffed full of coral islands and smugglers
and pirates and foreign ports.  He said 'e wanted to see the world, and
flying-fish.

"'I love the blue billers,' he ses; 'the heaving blue billers is wot I
want.'

"I tried to explain to 'im who would be doing the heaving, but 'e
wouldn't listen to me.  He sat on them ledgers like a little wooden
image, looking up at me and shaking his 'ead, and when I told 'im of
storms and shipwrecks he just smacked 'is lips and his blue eyes shone
with joy.  Arter a time I saw it was no good trying to persuade 'im, and
I pretended to give way.

"'I think I can get you a ship with a friend o' mine,' I ses; 'but, mind,
I've got to relieve your pore father's mind--I must let 'im know wot's
become of you.'

"'Not before I've sailed,' he ses, very quick.

"'Certingly not,' I ses.  'But you must give me 'is name and address,
and, arter the Blue Shark--that's the name of your ship--is clear of the
land, I'll send 'im a letter with no name to it, saying where you ave
gorn.'

"He didn't seem to like it at fust, and said 'e would write 'imself, but
arter I 'ad pointed out that 'e might forget and that I was responsible,
'e gave way and told me that 'is father was named Mr. Watson, and he kept
a big draper's shop in the Commercial Road.

"We talked a bit arter that, just to stop 'is suspicions, and then I told
'im to stay where 'e was on the floor, out of sight of the window, while
I went to see my friend the captain.

"I stood outside for a moment trying to make up my mind wot to do.
O'course, I 'ad no business, strictly speaking, to leave the wharf, but,
on the other 'and, there was a father's 'art to relieve.  I edged along
bit by bit while I was thinking, and then, arter looking back once or
twice to make sure that the boy wasn't watching me, I set off for the
Commercial Road as hard as I could go.

"I'm not so young as I was.  It was a warm evening, and I 'adn't got even
a bus fare on me.  I 'ad to walk all the way, and, by the time I got
there, I was 'arf melted.  It was a tidy-sized shop, with three or four
nice-looking gals behind the counter, and things like babies' high chairs
for the customers to sit onlong in the leg and ridikerlously small in the
seat.  I went up to one of the gals and told Per I wanted to see Mr.
Watson.

"'On private business,' I ses.  'Very important.'

"She looked at me for a moment, and then she went away and fetched a
tall, bald-headed man with grey side-whiskers and a large nose.

"'Wot d'you want?"  he ses, coming up to me.

I want a word with you in private,' I ses.

"'This is private enough for me,' he ses.  'Say wot you 'ave to say, and
be quick about it.'

"I drawed myself up a bit and looked at him.  'P'r'aps you ain't missed
'im yet,' I ses.

"'Missed 'im?' he ses, with a growl.  'Missed who?'

"'Your-son.  Your blue-eyed son,' I ses, looking 'im straight in the eye.

"'Look here!' he ses, spluttering.  'You be off.  'Ow dare you come here
with your games?  Wot d'ye mean by it?'

"'I mean,' I ses, getting a bit out o' temper, 'that your boy has run
away to go to sea, and I've come to take you to 'im.'

"He seemed so upset that I thought 'e was going to 'ave a fit at fust,
and it seemed only natural, too.  Then I see that the best-looking girl
and another was having a fit, although trying 'ard not to.

"'If you don't get out o' my shop,' he ses at last, 'I'll 'ave you locked
up.'

"'Very good!' I ses, in a quiet way.  'Very good; but, mark my words,
if he's drownded you'll never forgive yourself as long as you live for
letting your temper get the better of you--you'll never know a good
night's rest agin.  Besides, wot about 'is mother?'

"One o' them silly gals went off agin just like a damp firework, and Mr.
Watson, arter nearly choking 'imself with temper, shoved me out o' the
way and marched out o' the shop.  I didn't know wot to make of 'im at
fust, and then one o' the gals told me that 'e was a bachelor and 'adn't
got no son, and that somebody 'ad been taking advantage of what she
called my innercence to pull my leg.

"'You toddle off 'ome,' she ses, 'before Mr. Watson comes back.'

"'It's a shame to let 'im come out alone,' ses one o' the other gals.
'Where do you live, gran'pa?'

"I see then that I 'ad been done, and I was just walking out o' the shop,
pretending to be deaf, when Mr. Watson come back with a silly young
policeman wot asked me wot I meant by it.  He told me to get off 'ome
quick, and actually put his 'and on my shoulder, but it 'ud take more
than a thing like that to push me, and, arter trying his 'ardest, he
could only rock me a bit.

"I went at last because I wanted to see that boy agin, and the young
policeman follered me quite a long way, shaking his silly 'ead at me and
telling me to be careful.

"I got a ride part o' the way from Commercial Road to Aldgate by getting
on the wrong bus, but it wasn't much good, and I was quite tired by the
time I got back to the wharf.  I waited outside for a minute or two to
get my wind back agin, and then I went in-boiling.

"You might ha' knocked me down with a feather, as the saying is, and I
just stood inside the office speechless.  The boy 'ad disappeared and
sitting on the floor where I 'ad left 'im was a very nice-looking gal of
about eighteen, with short 'air, and a white blouse.

"'Good evening, sir,' she ses, jumping up and giving me a pretty little
frightened look.  'I'm so sorry that my brother has been deceiving you.
He's a bad, wicked, ungrateful boy.  The idea of telling you that Mr.
Watson was 'is father!  Have you been there?  I do 'ope you're not
tired.'

"'Where is he?' I ses.

"'He's gorn,' she ses, shaking her 'ead.  'I begged and prayed of 'im to
stop, but 'e wouldn't.  He said 'e thought you might be offended with
'im.  "Give my love to old Roley-Poley, and tell him I don't trust 'im,"
he ses.'

"She stood there looking so scared that I didn't know wot to say.  By and
by she took out 'er little pocket-'ankercher and began to cry--

"'Oh, get 'im back,' she ses.  'Don't let it be said I follered 'im 'ere
all the way for nothing.  Have another try.  For my sake!'

"''Ow can I get 'im back when I don't know where he's gorn?' I ses.

"'He-he's gorn to 'is godfather,' she ses, dabbing her eyes.  'I promised
'im not to tell anybody; but I don't know wot to do for the best.'

"'Well, p'r'aps his godfather will 'old on to 'im,' I ses.

"'He won't tell 'im anything about going to sea,' she ses, shaking 'er
little head.  'He's just gorn to try and bo--bo-borrow some money to go
away with.'

"She bust out sobbing, and it was all I could do to get the godfather's
address out of 'er.  When I think of the trouble I took to get it I come
over quite faint.  At last she told me, between 'er sobs, that 'is name
was Mr. Kiddem, and that he lived at 27, Bridge Street.

"'He's one o' the kindest-'arted and most generous men that ever lived,'
she ses; 'that's why my brother Harry 'as gone to 'im.  And you needn't
mind taking anything 'e likes to give you; he's rolling in money.'

"I took it a bit easier going to Bridge Street, but the evening seemed
'otter than ever, and by the time I got to the 'ouse I was pretty near
done up.  A nice, tidy-looking woman opened the door, but she was a' most
stone deaf, and I 'ad to shout the name pretty near a dozen times afore
she 'eard it.

"'He don't live 'ere,' she ses.

"''As he moved?' I ses.  'Or wot?'

"She shook her 'cad, and, arter telling me to wait, went in and fetched
her 'usband.

"'Never 'eard of him,' he ses, 'and we've been 'ere seventeen years.  Are
you sure it was twenty-seven?'

"'Sartain,' I ses.

"'Well, he don't live 'ere,' he ses.  'Why not try thirty-seven and
forty-seven?'

"I tried'em: thirty-seven was empty, and a pasty-faced chap at
forty-seven nearly made 'imself ill over the name of 'Kiddem.'  It
'adn't struck me before, but it's a hard matter to deceive me, and all
in a flash it come over me that I 'ad been done agin, and that the gal
was as bad as 'er brother.

"I was so done up I could 'ardly crawl back, and my 'ead was all in a
maze.  Three or four times I stopped and tried to think, but couldn't,
but at last I got back and dragged myself into the office.

"As I 'arf expected, it was empty.  There was no sign of either the gal
or the boy; and I dropped into a chair and tried to think wot it all
meant.  Then, 'appening to look out of the winder, I see somebody running
up and down the jetty.

"I couldn't see plain owing to the things in the way, but as soon as I
got outside and saw who it was I nearly dropped.  It was the boy, and he
was running up and down wringing his 'ands and crying like a wild thing,
and, instead o' running away as soon as 'e saw me, he rushed right up to
me and threw 'is grubby little paws round my neck.

"'Save her!' 'e ses.  'Save 'er!  Help!  Help!'

"'Look 'ere,' I ses, shoving 'im off.

"'She fell overboard,' he ses, dancing about.  'Oh, my pore sister!
Quick!  Quick!  I can't swim!'

"He ran to the side and pointed at the water, which was just about at
'arf-tide.  Then 'e caught 'old of me agin.

"'Make 'aste,' he ses, giving me a shove behind.  'Jump in.  Wot are you
waiting for?'

"I stood there for a moment 'arf dazed, looking down at the water.  Then
I pulled down a life-belt from the wall 'ere and threw it in, and, arter
another moment's thought, ran back to the _Lizzie and Annie,_ wot was in
the inside berth, and gave them a hail.  I've always 'ad a good voice,
and in a flash the skipper and Ted Sawyer came tumbling up out of the
cabin and the 'ands out of the fo'c'sle.

"'Gal overboard!' I ses, shouting.

"The skipper just asked where, and then 'im and the mate and a couple of
'ands tumbled into their boat and pulled under the jetty for all they was
worth.  Me and the boy ran back and stood with the others, watching.

"'Point out the exact spot,' ses the skipper.

"The boy pointed, and the skipper stood up in the boat and felt round
with a boat-hook.  Twice 'e said he thought 'e touched something, but it
turned out as 'e was mistaken.  His face got longer and longer and 'e
shook his 'ead, and said he was afraid it was no good.

"'Don't stand cryin' 'ere,' he ses to the boy, kindly.  'Jem, run round
for the Thames police, and get them and the drags.  Take the boy with
you.  It'll occupy 'is mind.'

"He 'ad another go with the boat-hook arter they 'ad gone; then 'e gave
it up, and sat in the boat waiting.

"'This'll be a bad job for you, watchman,' he ses, shaking his 'ead.
'Where was you when it 'appened?'

"'He's been missing all the evening,' ses the cook, wot was standing
beside me.  'If he'd been doing 'is dooty, the pore gal wouldn't 'ave
been drownded.  Wot was she doing on the wharf?'

"'Skylarkin', I s'pose,' ses the mate.  'It's a wonder there ain't more
drownded.  Wot can you expect when the watchman is sitting in a pub all
the evening?'

"The cook said I ought to be 'ung, and a young ordinary seaman wot was
standing beside 'im said he would sooner I was boiled.  I believe they
'ad words about it, but I was feeling too upset to take much notice.

"'Looking miserable won't bring 'er back to life agin,' ses the skipper,
looking up at me and shaking his 'ead.  'You'd better go down to my cabin
and get yourself a drop o' whisky; there's a bottle on the table.  You'll
want all your wits about you when the police come.  And wotever you do
don't say nothing to criminate yourself.'

"'We'll do the criminating for 'im all right,' ses the cook.

"'If I was the pore gal I'd haunt 'im,' ses the ordinary seaman; 'every
night of 'is life I'd stand afore 'im dripping with water and moaning.'

"'P'r'aps she will,' ses the cook; 'let's 'ope so, at any rate.'

"I didn't answer 'em; I was too dead-beat.  Besides which, I've got a
'orror of ghosts, and the idea of being on the wharf alone of a night
arter such a thing was a'most too much for me.  I went on board the
_Lizzie and Annie,_ and down in the cabin I found a bottle o' whisky, as
the skipper 'ad said.  I sat down on the locker and 'ad a glass, and then
I sat worrying and wondering wot was to be the end of it all.

"The whisky warmed me up a bit, and I 'ad just taken up the bottle to
'elp myself agin when I 'eard a faint sort o' sound in the skipper's
state-room.  I put the bottle down and listened, but everything seemed
deathly still.  I took it up agin, and 'ad just poured out a drop o'
whisky when I distinctly 'eard a hissing noise and then a little moan.

"For a moment I sat turned to stone.  Then I put the bottle down quiet,
and 'ad just got up to go when the door of the state-room opened, and I
saw the drownded gal, with 'er little face and hair all wet and dripping,
standing before me.

"Ted Sawyer 'as been telling everybody that I came up the companion-way
like a fog-horn that 'ad lost its ma; I wonder how he'd 'ave come up if
he'd 'ad the evening I had 'ad?

"They were all on the jetty as I got there and tumbled into the skipper's
arms, and all asking at once wot was the matter.  When I got my breath
back a bit and told 'em, they laughed.  All except the cook, and 'e said
it was only wot I might expect.  Then, like a man in a dream, I see the
gal come out of the companion and walk slowly to the side.

"'Look!' I ses.  'Look.  There she is!'

"'You're dreaming,' ses the skipper, 'there's nothing there.'

"They all said the same, even when the gal stepped on to the side and
climbed on to the wharf.  She came along towards me with 'er arms held
close to 'er sides, and making the most 'orrible faces at me, and it took
five of'em all their time to 'old me.  The wharf and everything seemed to
me to spin round and round.  Then she came straight up to me and patted
me on the cheek.

"'Pore old gentleman,' she ses.  'Wot a shame it is, Ted!  It's too bad.'

"They let go o' me then, and stamped up and down the jetty laughing fit
to kill themselves.  If they 'ad only known wot a exhibition they was
making of themselves, and 'ow I pitied them, they wouldn't ha' done it.
And by and by Ted wiped his eyes and put his arm round the gal's waist
and ses--

"'This is my intended, Miss Florrie Price,' he ses.  'Ain't she a little
wonder?  Wot d'ye think of 'er?'

"'I'll keep my own opinion,' I ses.  'I ain't got nothing to say against
gals, but if I only lay my hands on that young brother of 'ers'

"They went off agin then, worse than ever; and at last the cook came and
put 'is skinny arm round my neck and started spluttering in my ear.  I
shoved 'im off hard, because I see it all then; and I should ha' seen it
afore only I didn't 'ave time to think.  I don't bear no malice, and all
I can say is that I don't wish 'er any harder punishment than to be
married to Ted Sawyer."





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