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Many Cargoes
by W.W. Jacobs
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"I won't have it!" he said fiercely; "I'll knock it out of 'em."

"You can't," said the mate. "You can't knock sailor men about nowadays. The only thing you can do is to get rid of 'em."

"I don't want to do that," was the growling reply. "They've been with me a long time, and they're all good men. Why don't they have a go at you, I wonder?"

"ME?" said the mate, in indignant surprise. "Why, I'm a Seventh Day Baptist! They don't want to waste their time over me. I'm all right."

"You're a pretty Seventh Day Baptist, you are!" replied the skipper. "Fust I've heard of it."

"You don't understand about such things," said the mate.

"It must be a very easy religion," continued the skipper.

"I don't make a show of it, if that's what you mean," rejoined the other warmly. "I'm one o' them as believe in 'iding my light under a bushel."

"A pint pot'ud do easy," sneered the skipper. "It's more in your line, too."

"Anyway, the men reckernise it," said the mate loftily. "They don't go an' sit in their red jerseys an' hold mothers' meetings over me."

"I'll knock their blessed heads off!" growled the skipper. "I'll learn 'em to insult me!"

"It's all for your own good," said the other. "They mean it kindly. Well, I wish 'em luck."

With these hardy words he retired, leaving a seething volcano to pace the deck, and think over ways and means of once more reducing his crew to what he considered a fit and proper state of obedience and respect.

The climax was reached at tea-time, when an anonymous hand was thrust beneath the skylight, and a full-bodied tract fluttered wildly down and upset his tea.

"That's the last straw!" he roared, fishing out the tract and throwing it on the floor. "I'll read them chaps a lesson they won't forget in a hurry, and put a little money in my pocket at the same time. I've got a little plan in my 'ed as come to me quite sudden this afternoon. Come on deck, Bob."

Bob obeyed, grinning, and the skipper, taking the wheel from Sam, sent him for the others.

"Did you ever know me break my word, Dick?" he inquired abruptly, as they shuffled up.

"Never," said Dick.

"Cap'n Bowers' word is better than another man's oath," asseverated Joe.

"Well," said Captain Bowers, with a wink at the mate, "I'm going to give you chaps a little self-denial week all to yourselves. If you all live on biscuit and water till we get to port, and don't touch nothing else, I'll jine you and become a Salvationist."

"Biscuit and water," said Dick doubtfully, scratching a beard strong enough to scratch back.

"It wouldn't be right to play with our constitooshuns in that way, sir," objected Joe, shaking his head.

"There you are," said Bowers, turning to the mate with a wave of his hand. "They're precious anxious about me so long as it's confined to jawing, and dropping tracts into my tea, but when it comes to a little hardship on their part, see how they back out of it."

"We ain't backing out of it," said Dick cautiously; "but s'pose we do, how are we to be certain as you'll jine us?"

"You 've got my word for it," said the other, "an' the mate an' cook witness it."

"O' course, you jine the Army for good, sir," said Dick, still doubtfully.

"O' course."

"Then it's a bargain, sir," said Dick, beaming; "ain't it, chaps?"

"Ay, ay," said the others, but not beaming quite so much. "Oh, what a joyful day this is!" said the old man. "A Salvation crew an' a Salvation cap'n! We'll have the cook next, bad as he is."

"You'll have biskit an' water," said the cook icily, as they moved off, "an' nothing else, I'll take care."

"They must be uncommon fond o' me," said the skipper meditatively.

"Uncommon fond o' having their own way," growled the mate. "Nice thing you've let yourself in for."

"I know what I 'm about," was the confident reply.

"You ain't going to let them idiots fast for a week an' then break your word?" said the mate in surprise.

"Certainly not," said the other wrathfully; "I'd sooner jine three armies than do that, and you know it."

"They'll keep to the grub, don't you fear," said the mate. "I can't understand how you are going to manage it."

"That's where the brains come in," retorted the skipper, somewhat arrogantly.

"Fust time I've heard of 'em," murmured the mate softly; "but I s'pose you've been using pint pots too."

The skipper glared at him scornfully, but, being unprovided with a retort, forbore to reply, and going below again mixed himself a stiff glass of grog, and drank success to his scheme.

Three days passed, and the men stood firm, and, realising that they were slowly undermining the skipper's convictions, made no effort to carry him by direct assault. The mate made no attempt to conceal his opinion of his superior's peril, and in gloomy terms strove to put the full horror of his position before him.

"What your missis'll say the first time she sees you prancing up an' down the road tapping a tambourine, I can't think," said he.

"I shan't have no tambourine," said Captain Bowers cheerfully.

"It'll also be your painful dooty to stand outside your father-in-law's pub and try and persuade customers not to go in," continued Bob. "Nice thing that for a quiet family!"

The skipper smiled knowingly, and, rolling a cigar in his mouth, leaned back in his seat and cocked his eye at the skylight.

"Don't you worry, my lad," said he; "don't you worry. I'm in this job, an' I'm coming out on top. When men forget what's due to their betters, and preach to 'em, they've got to be taught what's what. If the wind keeps fair we ought to be home by Sunday night or Monday morning."

The other nodded.

"Now, you keep your eyes open," said the skipper; and, going to his state-room, he returned with three bottles of rum and a corkscrew, all of which, with an air of great mystery, he placed on the table, and then smiled at the mate. The mate smiled too.

"What's this?" inquired the skipper, drawing the cork, and holding a bottle under the other's nose.

"It smells like rum," said the mate, glancing round, possibly for a glass.

"It's for the men," said the skipper, "but you may take a drop."

The mate, taking down a glass, helped himself liberally, and, having made sure of it, sympathetically, but politely, expressed his firm opinion that the men would not touch it under any conditions whatever.

"You don't quite understand how firm they are," said he; "you think it's just a new fad with 'em, but it ain't."

"They'll drink it," said the skipper, taking up two of the bottles. "Bring the other on deck for me."

The mate complied, wonderingly, and, laden with prime old Jamaica, ascended the steps.

"What's this?" inquired the skipper, crossing over to Dick, and holding out a bottle.

"Pison, sir," said Dick promptly.

"Have a drop," said the skipper jovially.

"Not for twenty pounds," said the old man, with a look of horror.

"Not for two million pounds," said Sam, with financial precision.

"Will anybody have a drop?" asked the owner, waving the bottle to and fro.

As he spoke a grimy paw shot out from behind him, and, before he quite realised the situation, the cook had accepted the invitation, and was hurriedly making the most of it.

"Not you," growled the skipper, snatching the bottle from him; "I didn't mean you. Well, my lads, if you won't have it neat you shall have it watered."

Before anybody could guess his intention he walked to the water-cask, and, removing the cover, poured in the rum. In the midst of a profound silence he emptied the three bottles, and then, with a triumphant smile, turned and confronted his astonished crew.

"What's in that cask, Dick?" he asked quietly.

"Rum and water," groaned Dick; "but that ain't fair play, sir. We've kep' to our part o' the agreement, sir, an' you ought to ha' kep' to yours."

"So I have," was the quick reply; "so I have, an' I still keep to it. Don't you see this, my lads; when you start playing antics with me you're playing a fool's game, an' you're bound to come a cropper. Some men would ha' waited longer afore they spiled their game, but I think you've suffered enough. Now there's a lump of beef and some taters on, an' you'd better go and make a good square meal, an' next time you want to alter the religion of people as knows better than you do, think twice."

"We don't want no beef, sir; biskit'll do for us," said Dick firmly.

"All right, please yourselves," said the skipper; "but mind, no hanky-panky, no coming for drink when my back's turned; this cask'll be watched; but if you do alter your mind about the beef you can tell the cook to get it for you any time you like."

He threw the bottles overboard, and, ignoring the groaning and head-shaking of the men, walked away, listening with avidity to the respectful tributes to his genius tendered by the mate and cook—flattery so delicate and so genuine withal that he opened another bottle.

"There's just one thing," said the mate presently; "won't the rum affect the cooking a good deal?"

"I never thought o' that," admitted the skipper; "still, we musn't expect to have everything our own way."

"No, no," said the mate blankly, admiring the other's choice of pronouns.

Up to Friday afternoon the skipper went about with a smile of kindly satisfaction on his face; but in the evening it weakened somewhat, and by Saturday morning it had vanished altogether, and was replaced by an expression of blank amazement and anxiety, for the crew shunned the water cask as though it were poison, without appearing to suffer the slightest inconvenience. A visible air of proprietorship appeared on their faces whenever they looked at the skipper, and the now frightened man inveighed fiercely to the mate against the improper methods of conversion patronised by some religious bodies, and the aggravating obstinacy of some of their followers.

"It's wonderful what enthusiasm'll do for a man," said Bob reflectively; "I knew a man once—"

"I don't want none o' your lies," interposed the other rudely.

"An' I don't want your blamed rum and water, if it comes to that," said the mate, firing up. "When a man's tea is made with rum, an' his beef is biled in it, he begins to wonder whether he's shipped with a seaman or a—a—"

"A what?" shouted the skipper. "Say it!"

"I can't think o' nothing foolish enough," was the frank reply. "It's all right for you, becos it's the last licker as you'll be allowed to taste, but it's rough on me and the cook."

"Damn you an' the cook," said the skipper, and went on deck to see whether the men's tongues were hanging out.

By Sunday morning he was frantic; the men were hale and well enough, though, perhaps, a trifle thin, and he began to believe with the cook that the age of miracles had not yet passed.

It was a broiling hot day, and, to add to his discomfort, the mate, who was consumed by a raging thirst, lay panting in the shade of the mainsail, exchanging condolences of a most offensive nature with the cook every time he looked his way.

All the morning he grumbled incessantly, until at length, warned by an offensive smell of rum that dinner was on the table, he got up and went below.

At the foot of the ladder he paused abruptly, for the skipper was leaning back in his seat, gazing in a fascinated manner at some object on the table.

"What's the matter?" inquired the mate in alarm.

The other, who did not appear to hear the question, made no answer, but continued to stare in a most extraordinary fashion at a bottle which graced the centre of the table.

"What is it?" inquired the mate, not venturing to trust his eyes. "WATER? Where did it come from?"

"Cook!" roared the skipper, turning a bloodshot eye on that worthy, as his pallid face showed behind the mate, "what's this? If you say it's water I'll kill you."

"I don't know what it is, sir," said the cook cautiously; "but Dick sent it to you with his best respects, and I was to say as there's plenty more where that came from. He's a nasty, under'anded, deceitful old man, is Dick, sir, an' it seems he laid in a stock o' water in bottles an' the like afore you doctored the cask, an' the men have had it locked up in their chests ever since."

"Dick's a very clever old man," remarked the mate, pouring himself out a glass, and drinking it with infinite relish, "ain't he, cap'n? It'll be a privilege to jine anything that man's connected with, won't it?"

He paused for a reply, but none came, for the cap'n, with dim eyes, was staring blankly into a future so lonely and uncongenial that he had lost the power of speech—even of that which, at other crises, had never failed to afford him relief. The mate gazed at him curiously for a moment, and then, imitating the example of the cook, quitted the cabin.



IN MID-ATLANTIC

"No, sir," said the night-watchman, as he took a seat on a post at the end of the jetty, and stowed a huge piece of tobacco in his cheek. "No, man an' boy, I was at sea forty years afore I took on this job, but I can't say as ever I saw a real, downright ghost."

This was disappointing, and I said so. Previous experience of the power of Bill's vision had led me to expect something very different.

"Not but what I've known some queer things happen," said Bill, fixing his eyes on the Surrey side, and going off into a kind of trance. "Queer things."

I waited patiently; Bill's eyes, after resting for some time on Surrey, began to slowly cross the river, paused midway in reasonable hopes of a collision between a tug with its flotilla of barges and a penny steamer, and then came back to me.

"You heard that yarn old Cap'n Harris was telling the other day about the skipper he knew having a warning one night to alter his course, an' doing so, picked up five live men and three dead skeletons in a open boat?" he inquired.

I nodded.

"The yarn in various forms is an old one," said I.

"It's all founded on something I told him once," said Bill. "I don't wish to accuse Cap'n Harris of taking another man's true story an' spoiling it; he's got a bad memory, that's all. Fust of all, he forgets he ever heard the yarn; secondly, he goes and spoils it."

I gave a sympathetic murmur. Harris was as truthful an old man as ever breathed, but his tales were terribly restricted by this circumstance, whereas Bill's were limited by nothing but his own imagination.

"It was about fifteen years ago now," began Bill, getting the quid into a bye-way of his cheek, where it would not impede his utterance "I was A. B. on the Swallow, a barque, trading wherever we could pick up stuff. On this v'y'ge we was bound from London to Jamaica with a general cargo.

"The start of that v'y'ge was excellent. We was towed out of the St. Katherine's Docks here, to the Nore, an' the tug left us to a stiff breeze, which fairly raced us down Channel and out into the Atlantic. Everybody was saying what a fine v'y'ge we was having, an' what quick time we should make, an' the fust mate was in such a lovely temper that you might do anything with him a'most.

"We was about ten days out, an' still slipping along in this spanking way, when all of a sudden things changed. I was at the wheel with the second mate one night, when the skipper, whose name was Brown, came up from below in a uneasy sort o' fashion, and stood looking at us for some time without speaking. Then at last he sort o' makes up his mind, and ses he—

"'Mr. McMillan, I've just had a most remarkable experience, an' I don't know what to do about it.'

"'Yes, sir?' ses Mr. McMillan.

"'Three times I 've been woke up this night by something shouting in my ear, "Steer nor'-nor'-west!"' ses the cap'n very solemnly, '"Steer nor'-nor'-west!"' that's all it says. The first time I thought it was somebody got into my cabin skylarking, and I laid for 'em with a stick but I've heard it three times, an' there's nothing there.'

"'It's a supernatural warning,' ses the second mate, who had a great uncle once who had the second sight, and was the most unpopular man of his family, because he always knew what to expect, and laid his plans according.

"'That's what I think,' ses the cap'n. 'There's some poor shipwrecked fellow creatures in distress."

"'It's a verra grave responsebeelity,' ses Mr. McMillan 'I should just ca' up the fairst mate.'

"'Bill,' ses the cap'n, 'just go down below, and tell Mr. Salmon I 'd like a few words with him partikler.'

"Well, I went down below, and called up the first mate, and as soon as I'd explained to him what he was wanted for, he went right off into a fit of outrageous bad language, an' hit me. He came right up on deck in his pants an' socks. A most disrespekful way to come to the cap'n, but he was that hot and excited he didn't care what he did.

"'Mr. Salmon,' ses the cap'n gravely, 'I've just had a most solemn warning, and I want to—'

"'I know,' says the mate gruffly.

"'What! have you heard it too?' ses the cap'n, in surprise. 'Three times?' "I heard it from him,' ses the mate, pointing to me. 'Nightmare, sir, nightmare.'

"'It was not nightmare, sir,' ses the cap'n, very huffy, 'an if I hear it again, I 'm going to alter this ship's course.'

"Well, the fust mate was in a hole. He wanted to call the skipper something which he knew wasn't discipline. I knew what it was, an' I knew if the mate didn't do something he'd be ill, he was that sort of man, everything flew to his head. He walked away, and put his head over the side for a bit, an' at last, when he came back, he was, comparatively speaking, calm.

"'You mustn't hear them words again, sir,' ses he; 'don't go to sleep again to-night. Stay up, an' we'll have a hand o' cards, and in the morning you take a good stiff dose o' rhoobarb. Don't spoil one o' the best trips we've ever had for the sake of a pennyworth of rhoobarb,' ses he, pleading-like.

"'Mr. Salmon,' ses the cap'n, very angry, 'I shall not fly in the face o' Providence in any such way. I shall sleep as usual, an' as for your rhoobarb,' ses the cap'n, working hisself up into a passion—'damme, sir, I'll—I'll dose the whole crew with it, from first mate to cabin-boy, if I have any impertinence.'

"Well, Mr. Salmon, who was getting very mad, stalks down below, followed by the cap'n, an' Mr. McMillan was that excited that he even started talking to me about it. Half-an-hour arterwards the cap'n comes running up on deck again.

"'Mr. McMillan,' ses he excitedly, 'steer nor'-nor'-west until further orders. I've heard it again, an' this time it nearly split the drum of my ear.'

"The ship's course was altered, an' after the old man was satisfied he went back to bed again, an' almost directly arter eight bells went, an' I was relieved. I wasn't on deck when the fust mate come up, but those that were said he took it very calm. He didn't say a word. He just sat down on the poop, and blew his cheeks out.

"As soon as ever it was daylight the skipper was on deck with his glasses. He sent men up to the masthead to keep a good look-out, an' he was dancing about like a cat on hot bricks all the morning.

"'How long are we to go on this course, sir?' asks Mr. Salmon, about ten o'clock in the morning.

"'I've not made up my mind, sir,' ses the cap'n, very stately; but I could see he was looking a trifle foolish.

"At twelve o'clock in the day, the fust mate got a cough, and every time he coughed it seemed to act upon the skipper, and make him madder and madder. Now that it was broad daylight, Mr. McMillan didn't seem to be so creepy as the night before, an' I could see the cap'n was only waiting for the slightest excuse to get into our proper course again.

"'That's a nasty, bad cough o' yours, Mr. Salmon,' ses he, eyeing the mate very hard.

"'Yes, a nasty, irritating sort o' cough, sir,' ses the other; 'it worries me a great deal. It's this going up nor'ards what's sticking in my throat,' ses he.

"The cap'n give a gulp, and walked off, but he comes back in a minute, and ses he—

"'Mr. Salmon, I should think it a great pity to lose a valuable officer like yourself, even to do good to others. There's a hard ring about that cough I don't like, an' if you really think it's going up this bit north, why, I don't mind putting the ship in her course again.'

"Well, the mate thanked him kindly, and he was just about to give the orders when one o' the men who was at the masthead suddenly shouts out—

"'Ahoy! Small boat on the port bow!'

"The cap'n started as if he'd been shot, and ran up the rigging with his glasses. He came down again almost direckly, and his face was all in a glow with pleasure and excitement.

"'Mr. Salmon,' ses he, 'here's a small boat with a lug sail in the middle o' the Atlantic, with one pore man lying in the bottom of her. What do you think o' my warning now?'

"The mate didn't say anything at first, but he took the glasses and had a look, an' when he came back anyone could see his opinion of the skipper had gone up miles and miles.

"'It's a wonderful thing, sir,' ses he, 'and one I'll remember all my life. It's evident that you've been picked out as a instrument to do this good work.'

"I'd never heard the fust mate talk like that afore, 'cept once when he fell overboard, when he was full, and stuck in the Thames mud. He said it was Providence; though, as it was low water, according to the tide-table, I couldn't see what Providence had to do with it myself. He was as excited as anybody, and took the wheel himself, and put the ship's head for the boat, and as she came closer, our boat was slung out, and me and the second mate and three other men dropped into her, an' pulled so as to meet the other.

"'Never mind the boat; we don't want to be bothered with her,' shouts out the cap'n as we pulled away—'Save the man!'

"I'll say this for Mr. McMillan, he steered that boat beautifully, and we ran alongside o' the other as clever as possible. Two of us shipped our oars, and gripped her tight, and then we saw that she was just an ordinary boat, partly decked in, with the head and shoulders of a man showing in the opening, fast asleep, and snoring like thunder.

"'Puir chap,' ses Mr. McMillan, standing up. 'Look how wasted he is.'

"He laid hold o' the man by the neck of his coat an' his belt, an', being a very powerful man, dragged him up and swung him into our boat, which was bobbing up and down, and grating against the side of the other. We let go then, an' the man we'd rescued opened his eyes as Mr. McMillan tumbled over one of the thwarts with him, and, letting off a roar like a bull, tried to jump back into his boat.

"'Hold him!' shouted the second mate. 'Hold him tight! He's mad, puir feller.'

"By the way that man fought and yelled, we thought the mate was right, too. He was a short, stiff chap, hard as iron, and he bit and kicked and swore for all he was worth, until at last we tripped him up and tumbled him into the bottom of the boat, and held him there with his head hanging back over a thwart.

"'It's all right, my puir feller,' ses the second mate; 'ye're in good hands—ye're saved.'

"'Damme!' ses the man; 'what's your little game? Where's my boat—eh? Where's my boat?'

"He wriggled a bit, and got his head up, and, when he saw it bowling along two or three hundred yards away, his temper got the better of him, and he swore that if Mr. McMillan didn't row after it he'd knife him.

"'We can't bother about the boat,' ses the mate; 'we've had enough bother to rescue you.'

"'Who the devil wanted you to rescue me?' bellowed the man. 'I'll make you pay for this, you miserable swabs. If there's any law in Amurrica, you shall have it!'

"By this time we had got to the ship, which had shortened sail, and the cap'n was standing by the side, looking down upon the stranger with a big, kind smile which nearly sent him crazy.

"'Welcome aboard, my pore feller,' ses he, holding out his hand as the chap got up the side.

"'Are you the author of this outrage?' ses the man fiercely. "'I don't understand you,' ses the cap'n, very dignified, and drawing himself up.

"'Did you send your chaps to sneak me out o' my boat while I was having forty winks?' roars the other. 'Damme! that's English, ain't it?'

"'Surely,' ses the cap'n, 'surely you didn't wish to be left to perish in that little craft. I had a supernatural warning to steer this course on purpose to pick you up, and this is your gratitude.'

"'Look here!' ses the other. 'My name's Cap'n Naskett, and I'm doing a record trip from New York to Liverpool in the smallest boat that has ever crossed the Atlantic, an' you go an' bust everything with your cussed officiousness. If you think I'm going to be kidnapped just to fulfil your beastly warnings, you've made a mistake. I'll have the law on you, that's what I'll do. Kidnapping's a punishable offence.'

"'What did you come here for, then?' ses the cap'n.

"'Come!' howls Cap'n Naskett. 'Come! A feller sneaks up alongside o' me with a boat-load of street-sweepings dressed as sailors, and snaps me up while I'm asleep, and you ask me what I come for. Look here. You clap on all sail and catch that boat o' mine, and put me back, and I'll call it quits. If you don't, I'll bring a law-suit agin you, and make you the laughing-stock of two continents into the bargain.'

"Well, to make the best of a bad bargain, the cap'n sailed after the cussed little boat, and Mr. Salmon, who thought more than enough time had been lost already, fell foul o' Cap'n Naskett. They was both pretty talkers, and the way they went on was a education for every sailorman afloat. Every man aboard got as near as they durst to listen to them; but I must say Cap'n Naskett had the best of it. He was a sarkastik man, and pretended to think the ship was fitted out just to pick up shipwrecked people, an' he also pretended to think we was castaways what had been saved by it. He said o' course anybody could see at a glance we wasn't sailormen, an' he supposed Mr. Salmon was a butcher what had been carried out to sea while paddling at Margate to strengthen his ankles. He said a lot more of this sort of thing, and all this time we was chasing his miserable little boat, an' he was admiring the way she sailed, while the fust mate was answering his reflexshuns, an' I'm sure that not even our skipper was more pleased than Mr. Salmon when we caught it at last, and shoved him back. He was ungrateful up to the last, an', just before leaving the ship, actually went up to Cap'n Brown, and advised him to shut his eyes an' turn round three times and catch what he could.

"I never saw the skipper so upset afore, but I heard him tell Mr. McMillan that night that if he ever went out of his way again after a craft, it would only be to run it down. Most people keep pretty quiet about supernatural things that happen to them, but he was about the quietest I ever heard of, an', what's more, he made everyone else keep quiet about it, too. Even when he had to steer nor'-nor'-west arter that in the way o' business he didn't like it, an' he was about the most cruelly disappointed man you ever saw when he heard afterwards that Cap'n Naskett got safe to Liverpool."



AFTER THE INQUEST

It was a still fair evening in late summer in the parish of Wapping. The hands had long since left, and the night watchman having abandoned his trust in favour of a neighbouring bar, the wharf was deserted.

An elderly seaman came to the gate and paused irresolute, then, seeing all was quiet, stole cautiously on to the jetty, and stood for some time gazing curiously down on to the deck of the billy-boy PSYCHE lying alongside.

With the exception of the mate, who, since the lamented disappearance of its late master and owner, was acting as captain, the deck was as deserted as the wharf. He was smoking an evening pipe in all the pride of a first command, his eye roving fondly from the blunt bows and untidy deck of his craft to her clumsy stern, when a slight cough from the man above attracted his attention.

"How do, George?" said the man on the jetty, somewhat sheepishly, as the other looked up.

The mate opened his mouth, and his pipe fell from it and smashed to pieces unnoticed.

"Got much stuff in her this trip?" continued the man, with an obvious attempt to appear at ease.

"The mate, still looking up, backed slowly to the other side of the deck, but made no reply.

"What's the matter, man?" said the other testily. "You don't seem overpleased to see me."

He leaned over as he spoke, and, laying hold of the rigging, descended to the deck, while the mate took his breath in short, exhilarating gasps.

"Here I am, George," said the intruder, "turned up like a bad penny, an' glad to see your handsome face again, I can tell you."

In response to this flattering remark George gurgled.

"Why," said the other, with an uneasy laugh, "did you think I was dead, George? Ha, ha! Feel that!"

He fetched the horrified man a thump in the back, which stopped even his gurgles.

"That feel like a dead man?" asked the smiter, raising his hand again. "Feel"—

The mate moved back hastily. "That'll do," said he fiercely; "ghost or no ghost, don't you hit me like that again."

"A' right, George," said the other, as he meditatively felt the stiff grey whiskers which framed his red face. "What's the news?"

"The news," said George, who was of slow habits and speech, "is that you was found last Tuesday week off St. Katherine's Stairs, you was sat on a Friday week at the Town o' Ramsgate public-house, and buried on Monday afternoon at Lowestoft."

"Buried?" gasped the other, "sat on? You've been drinking, George."

"An' a pretty penny your funeral cost, I can tell you," continued the mate. "There's a headstone being made now—'Lived lamented and died respected,' I think it is, with 'Not lost, but gone before,' at the bottom."

"Lived respected and died lamented, you mean," growled the old man; "well, a nice muddle you have made of it between you. Things always go wrong when I'm not here to look after them."

"You ain't dead, then?" said the mate, taking no notice of this unreasonable remark, "Where've you been all this long time?"

"No more than you're master o' this 'ere ship," replied Mr. Harbolt grimly. "I—I've been a bit queer in the stomach, an' I took a little drink to correct it. Foolish like, I took the wrong drink, and it must have got into my head."

"That's the worst of not being used to it," said the mate, without moving a muscle.

The skipper eyed him solemnly, but the mate stood firm.

"Arter that," continued the skipper, still watching him suspiciously, "I remember no more distinctly until this morning, when I found myself sitting on a step down Poplar way and shiverin', with the morning newspaper and a crowd round me."

"Morning newspaper!" repeated the mystified mate. "What was that for?"

"Decency. I was wrapped up in it," replied the skipper. "Where I came from or how I got there I don't know more than Adam. I s'pose I must have been ill; I seem to remember taking something out of a bottle pretty often. Some old gentleman in the crowd took me into a shop and bought me these clothes, an' here I am. My own clo'es and thirty pounds o' freight money I had in my pocket is all gone."

"Well, I'm hearty glad to see you back," said the mate. "It's quite a home-coming for you, too. Your missis is down aft."

"My missis? What the devil's she aboard for?" growled the skipper, successfully controlling his natural gratification at the news.

"She's been with us these last two trips," replied the mate. "She's had business to settle in London, and she's been going through your lockers to clear up, like."

"My lockers!" groaned the skipper. "Good heavens! there's things in them lockers I wouldn't have her see for the world; women are so fussy an' so fond o' making something out o' nothing. There's a pore female touched a bit in the upper storey, what's been writing love letters to me, George."

"Three pore females," said the precise mate; "the missis has got all the letters tied up with blue ribbon. Very far gone they was, too, poor creeters."

"George," said the skipper in a broken voice, "I'm a ruined man. I'll never hear the end o' this. I guess I'll go an' sleep for'ard this voyage, and lie low. Be keerful you don't let on I'm aboard, an' after she's home I'll take the ship again, and let the thing leak out gradual. Come to life bit by bit, so to speak. It wouldn't do to scare her, George, an' in the meantime I'll try an' think o' some explanation to tell her. You might be thinking too."

"I'll do what I can," said the mate.

"Crack me up to the old girl all you can; tell her I used to write to all sorts o' people when I got a drop of drink in me; say how thoughtful I always was of her. You might tell her about that gold locket I bought for her an' got robbed of."

"Gold locket?" said the mate in tones of great surprise. "What gold locket? Fust I've heard of it."

"Any gold locket," said the skipper irritably; "anything you can think of; you needn't be pertikler. Arter that you can drop little hints about people being buried in mistake for others, so as to prepare her a bit—I don't want to scare her."

"Leave it to me," said the mate.

"I'll go an' turn in now, I'm dead tired," said the skipper. "I s'pose Joe and the boy's asleep?"

George nodded, and meditatively watched the other as he pushed back the fore-scuttle and drew it after him as he descended. Then a thought struck the mate, and he ran hastily forward and threw his weight on the scuttle just in time to frustrate the efforts of Joe and the boy, who were coming on deck to tell him a new ghost story. The confusion below was frightful, the skipper's cry of "It's only me, Joe," not possessing the soothing effect which he intended. They calmed down at length, after their visitor had convinced them that he really was flesh and blood and fists, and the boy's attention being directed to a small rug in the corner of the foc's'le, the skipper took his bunk and was soon fast asleep.

He slept so soundly that the noise of the vessel getting under way failed to rouse him, and she was well out in the open river when he awoke, and after cautiously protruding his head through the scuttle, ventured on deck. For some time he stood eagerly sniffing the cool, sweet air, and then, after a look round, gingerly approached the mate, who was at the helm.

"Give me a hold on her," said he.

"You had better get below again, if you don't want the missis to see you," said the mate. "She's gettin' up—nasty temper she's in too."

The skipper went forward grumbling. "Send down a good breakfast, George," said he.

To his great discomfort the mate suddenly gave a low whistle, and regarded him with a look of blank dismay.

"Good gracious!" he cried, "I forgot all about it. Here's a pretty kettle of fish—well, well."

"Forgot about what?" asked the skipper uneasily.

"The crew take their meals in the cabin now," replied the mate, "'cos the missis says it's more cheerful for 'em, and she's l'arning 'em to eat their wittles properly."

The skipper looked at him aghast. "You'll have to smuggle me up some grub," he said at length. "I'm not going to starve for nobody."

"Easier said than done," said the mate. "The missis has got eyes like needles; still, I'll do the best I can for you. Look out! Here she comes."

The skipper fled hastily, and, safe down below, explained to the crew how they were to secrete portions of their breakfast for his benefit. The amount of explanation required for so simple a matter was remarkable, the crew manifesting a denseness which irritated him almost beyond endurance. They promised, however, to do the best they could for him, and returned in triumph after a hearty meal, and presented their enraged commander with a few greasy crumbs and the tail of a bloater.

For the next two days the wind was against them, and they made but little progress. Mrs. Harbolt spent most of her time on deck, thereby confining her husband to his evil-smelling quarters below. Matters were not improved for him by his treatment of the crew, who, resenting his rough treatment of them, were doing their best to starve him into civility. Most of the time he kept in his bunk—or rather Jemmy's bunk—a prey to despondency and hunger of an acute type, venturing on deck only at night to prowl uneasily about and bemoan his condition.

On the third night Mrs. Harbolt was later in retiring than usual, and it was nearly midnight before the skipper, who had been indignantly waiting for her to go, was able to get on deck and hold counsel with the mate.

"I've done what I could for you," said the latter, fishing a crust from his pocket, which Harbolt took thankfully. "I've told her all the yarns I could think of about people turning up after they was buried and the like."

"What'd she say?" queried the skipper eagerly, between his bites.

"Told me not to talk like that," said the mate; "said it showed a want o' trust in Providence to hint at such things. Then I told her what you asked me about the locket, only I made it a bracelet worth ten pounds."

"That pleased her?" suggested the other hopefully.

The mate shook his head. "She said I was a born fool to believe you'd been robbed of it," he replied. "She said what you'd done was to give it to one o' them pore females. She's been going on frightful about it all the afternoon—won't talk o' nothing else."

"I don't know what's to be done," groaned the skipper despondently. "I shall be dead afore we get to port this wind holds. Go down and get me something to eat George; I'm starving."

"Everything's locked up, as I told you afore," said the mate.

"As the master of this ship," said the skipper, drawing himself up, "I order you to go down and get me something to eat. You can tell the missus it's for you if she says anything."

"I'm hanged if I will," said the mate sturdily. "Why don't you go down and have it out with her like a man? She can't eat you."

"I'm not going to," said the other shortly. "I'm a determined man, and when I say a thing I mean it. It's going to be broken to her gradual, as I said; I don't want her to be scared, poor thing."

"I know who'd be scared the most," murmured the mate.

The skipper looked at him fiercely, and then sat down wearily on the hatches with his hands between his knees, rising, after a time, to get the dipper and drink copiously from the water-cask. Then, replacing it with a sigh, he bade the mate a surly good-night and went below.

To his dismay he found when he awoke in the morning that what little wind there was had dropped in the night, and the billy-boy was just rising and falling lazily on the water in a fashion most objectionable to an empty stomach. It was the last straw, and he made things so uncomfortable below that the crew were glad to escape on deck, where they squatted down in the bows, and proceeded to review a situation which was rapidly becoming unbearable.

"I've 'ad enough of it, Joe," grumbled the boy. "I'm sore all over with sleeping on the floor, and the old man's temper gets wuss and wuss. I'm going to be ill."

"Whaffor?" queried Joe dully.

"You tell the missus I'm down below ill. Say you think I'm dying," responded the infant Machiavelli, "then you'll see somethink if you keep your eyes open."

He went below again, not without a little nervousness, and, clambering into Joe's bunk, rolled over on his back and gave a deep groan.

"What's the matter with YOU!" growled the skipper, who was lying in the other bunk staving off the pangs of hunger with a pipe.

"I'm very ill—dying," said Jemmy, with another groan.

"You'd better stay in bed and have your breakfast brought down here, then," said the skipper kindly.

"I don't want no breakfast," said Jem faintly.

"That's no reason why you shouldn't have it sent down, you unfeeling little brute," said the skipper indignantly. "You tell Joe to bring you down a great plate o' cold meat and pickles, and some coffee; that's what you want."

"All right, sir," said Jemmy. "I hope they won't let the missus come down here, in case it's something catching. I wouldn't like her to be took bad."

"Eh?" said the skipper, in alarm. "Certainly not. Here, you go up and die on deck. Hurry up with you."

"I can't; I'm too weak," said Jemmy.

"You get up on deck at once; d'ye hear me?" hissed the skipper, in alarm.

"I c-c-c-can't help it," sobbed Jemmy, who was enjoying the situation amazingly. "I b'lieve it's sleeping on the hard floor's snapped something inside me."

"If you don't go I'll take you," said the skipper, and he was about to rise to put his threat into execution when a shadow fell across the opening, and a voice, which thrilled him to the core, said softly, "Jemmy!"

"Yes 'm?" said Jemmy languidly, as the skipper flattened himself in his bunk and drew the clothes over him.

"How do you feel?" inquired Mrs. Harbolt.

"Bad all over," said Jemmy. "Oh, don't come down, mum—please don't."

"Rubbish!" said Mrs. Harbolt tartly, as she came slowly and carefully down backwards. "What a dark hole this is, Jemmy. No wonder you're ill. Put your tongue out."

Jemmy complied.

"I can't see properly here," murmured the lady, "but it looks very large. S'pose you go in the other bunk, Jemmy. It's a good bit higher than this, and you'd get more air and be more comfortable altogether."

"Joe wouldn't like it, mum," said the boy anxiously. The last glimpse he had had of the skipper's face did not make him yearn to share his bed with him.

"Stuff an' nonsense!" said Mrs. Harbolt hotly. "Who's Joe, I'd like to know? Out you come."

"I can't move, mum," said Jemmy firmly.

"Nonsense!" said the lady. "I'll just put it straight for you first, then in it you go."

"No, don't, mum," shouted Jemmy, now thoroughly alarmed at the success of his plot. "There, there's a gentleman in that bunk. A gentleman we brought from London for a change of sea air."

"My goodness gracious!" ejaculated the surprised Mrs. Harbolt. "I never did. Why, what's he had to eat?"

"He—he—didn't want nothing to eat," said Jemmy, with a woeful disregard for facts.

"What's the matter with him?" inquired Mrs. Harbolt, eyeing the bunk curiously. "What's his name? Who is he?"

"He's been lost a long time," said Jemmy, "and he's forgotten who he is—he's a oldish man with a red face an' a little white whisker all round it—a very nice-looking man, I mean," he interposed hurriedly. "I don't think he's quite right in his head, 'cos he says he ought to have been buried instead of someone else. Oh!"

The last word was almost a scream, for Mrs. Harbolt, staggering back, pinched him convulsively.

"Jemmy!" she gasped, in a trembling voice, as she suddenly remembered certain mysterious hints thrown out by the mate. "Who is it?"

"The CAPTAIN!" said Jemmy, and, breaking from her clasp, slipped from his bed and darted hastily on deck, just as the pallid face of his commander broke through the blankets and beamed anxiously on his wife.

* * * * * * * *

Five minutes later, as the crew gathered aft were curiously eyeing the foc's'le, Mrs. Harbolt and the skipper came on deck. To the great astonishment of the mate, the eyes of the redoubtable woman were slightly wet, and, regardless of the presence of the men, she clung fondly to her husband as they walked slowly to the cabin. Ere they went below, however, she called the grinning Jemmy to her, and, to his private grief and public shame, tucked his head under her arm and kissed him fondly.



IN LIMEHOUSE REACH

It was the mate's affair all through. He began by leaving the end of a line dangling over the stern, and the propeller, though quite unaccustomed to that sort of work, wound it up until only a few fathoms remained. It then stopped, and the mischief was not discovered until the skipper had called the engineer everything that he and the mate and three men and a boy could think of. The skipper did the interpreting through the tube which afforded the sole means of communication between the wheel and the engine-room, and the indignant engineer did the listening.

The Gem was just off Limehouse at the time, and it was evident she was going to stay there. The skipper ran her ashore and made her fast to a roomy old schooner which was lying alongside a wharf. He was then able to give a little attention to the real offender, and the unfortunate mate, who had been the most inventive of them all, realised to the full the old saying of curses coming home to roost. They brought some strangers with them, too.

"I'm going ashore," said the skipper at last. "We won't get off till next tide now. When it's low water you'll have to get down and cut the line away. A new line too! I'm ashamed o' you, Harry."

"I'm not surprised," said the engineer, who was a vindictive man.

"What do you mean by that?" demanded the mate fiercely.

"We don't want any of your bad temper," interposed the skipper severely. "NOR bad language. The men can go ashore, and the engineer too, provided he keeps steam up. But be ready for a start about five. You'll have to mind the ship."

He looked over the stern again, shook his head sadly, and, after a visit to the cabin, clambered over the schooner's side and got ashore. The men, after looking at the propeller and shaking their heads, went ashore too, and the boy, after looking at the propeller and getting ready to shake his, caught the mate's eye and omitted that part of the ceremony, from a sudden conviction that it was unhealthy.

Left alone, the mate, who was of a sensitive disposition, after a curt nod to Captain Jansell of the schooner Aquila, who had heard of the disaster, and was disposed to be sympathetically inquisitive, lit his pipe and began moodily to smoke.

When he next looked up the old man had disappeared, and a girl in a print dress and a large straw hat sat in a wicker chair reading. She was such a pretty girl that the mate forgot his troubles at once, and, after carefully putting his cap on straight, strolled casually up and down the deck.

To his mortification, the girl seemed unaware of his presence, and read steadily, occasionally looking up and chirping with a pair of ravishing lips at a blackbird, which hung in a wicker cage from the mainmast.

"That's a nice bird," said the mate, leaning against the side, and turning a look of great admiration upon it.

"Yes," said the girl, raising a pair of dark blue eyes to the bold brown ones, and taking him in at a glance.

"Does it sing?" inquired the mate, with a show of great interest.

"It does sometimes, when we are alone," was the reply.

"I should have thought the sea air would have affected its throat," said the mate, reddening. "Are you often in the London river, miss? I don't remember seeing your craft before."

"Not often," said the girl.

"You've got a fine schooner here," said the mate, eyeing it critically. "For my part, I prefer a sailer to a steamer."

"I should think you would," said the girl.

"Why?" inquired the mate tenderly, pleased at this show of interest.

"No propeller," said the girl quietly, and she left her seat and disappeared below, leaving the mate gasping painfully.

Left to himself, he became melancholy, as he realised that the great passion of his life had commenced, and would probably end within a few hours. The engineer came aboard to look at the fires, and, the steamer being now on the soft mud, good-naturedly went down and assisted him to free the propeller before going ashore again. Then he was alone once more, gazing ruefully at the bare deck of the Aquila.

It was past two o'clock in the afternoon before any signs of life other than the blackbird appeared there. Then the girl came on deck again, accompanied by a stout woman of middle age, and an appearance so affable that the mate commenced at once.

"Fine day," he said pleasantly, as he brought up in front of them.

"Lovely weather," said the mother, settling herself in her chair and putting down her work ready for a chat. "I hope the wind lasts; we start to-morrow morning's tide. You'll get off this afternoon, I s'pose."

"About five o'clock," said the mate.

"I should like to try a steamer for a change," said the mother, and waxed garrulous on sailing craft generally, and her own in particular.

"There's five of us down there, with my husband and the two boys," said she, indicating the cabin with her thumb; "naturally it gets rather stuffy."

The mate sighed. He was thinking that under some conditions there were worse things than stuffy cabins.

"And Nancy's so discontented," said the mother, looking at the girl who was reading quietly by her side. "She doesn't like ships or sailors. She gets her head turned reading those penny novelettes."

"You look after your own head," said Nancy elegantly, without looking up.

"Girls in those novels don't talk to their mothers like that," said the elder woman severely.

"They have different sorts of mothers," said Nancy, serenely turning over a page. "I hate little pokey ships and sailors smelling of tar. I never saw a sailor I liked yet."

The mate's face fell. "There's sailors and sailors," he suggested humbly.

"It's no good talking to her," said the mother, with a look of fat resignation on her face, "we can only let her go her own way; if you talked to her twenty-four hours right off it wouldn't do her any good."

"I'd like to try," said the mate, plucking up spirit.

"Would you?" said the girl, for the first time raising her head and looking him full in the face. "Impudence!"

"Perhaps you haven't seen many ships," said the impressionable mate, his eyes devouring her face. "Would you like to come and have a look at our cabin?"

"No, thanks!" said the girl sharply. Then she smiled maliciously. "I daresay mother would, though; she's fond of poking her nose into other people's business."

The mother regarded her irreverent offspring fixedly for a few moments. The mate interposed.

"I should be very pleased to show you over, ma'am," he said politely.

The mother hesitated; then she rose, and accepting the mate's assistance, clambered on to the side of the steamer, and, supported by his arms, sprang to the deck and followed him below.

"Very nice," she said, nodding approvingly, as the mate did the honours. "Very nice."

"It's nice and roomy for a little craft like ours," said the mate, as he drew a stone bottle from a locker and poured out a couple of glasses of stout. "Try a little beer, ma'am."

"What you must think o' that girl o' mine I can't think," murmured the lady, taking a modest draught.

"The young," said the mate, who had not quite reached his twenty-fifth year, "are often like that."

"It spoils her," said her mother. "She's a good-looking girl, too, in her way."

"I don't see how she can help being that," said the mate.

"Oh, get away with you," said the lady pleasantly. "She'll get fat like me as she gets older."

"She couldn't do better," said the mate tenderly.

"Nonsense," said the lady, smiling.

"You're as like as two peas," persisted the mate. "I made sure you were sisters when I saw you first."

"You ain't the first that's thought that," said the other, laughing softly; "not by a lot."

"I like to see ladies about," said the mate, who was trying desperately for a return invitation. "I wish you could always sit there. You quite brighten the cabin up."

"You're a flatterer," said his visitor, as he replenished her glass, and showed so little signs of making a move that the mate, making a pretext of seeing the engineer, hurried up on deck to singe his wings once more.

"Still reading?" he said softly, as he came abreast of the girl. "All about love, I s'pose."

"Have you left my mother down there all by herself?" inquired the girl abruptly.

"Just a minute," said the mate, somewhat crestfallen. "I just came up to see the engineer."

"Well, he isn't here," was the discouraging reply.

The mate waited a minute or two, the girl still reading quietly, and then walked back to the cabin. The sound of gentle regular breathing reached his ears, and, stepping softly, he saw to his joy that his visitor slept.

"She's asleep," said he, going back, "and she looks so comfortable I don't think I'll wake her."

"I shouldn't advise you to," said the girl; "she always wakes up cross."

"How strange we should run up against each other like this," said the mate sentimentally; "it looks like Providence, doesn't it?"

"Looks like carelessness," said the girl.

"I don't care," replied the mate. "I'm glad I did let that line go overboard. Best day's work I ever did. I shouldn't have seen you if I hadn't."

"And I don't suppose you'll ever see me again," said the girl comfortably, "so I don't see what good you've done yourself."

"I shall run down to Limehouse every time we're in port, anyway," said the mate; "it'll be odd if I don't see you sometimes. I daresay our craft'll pass each other sometimes. Perhaps in the night," he added gloomily.

"I shall sit up all night watching for you," declared Miss Jansell untruthfully.

In this cheerful fashion the conversation proceeded, the girl, who was by no means insensible to his bright eager face and well-knit figure, dividing her time in the ratio of three parts to her book and one to him. Time passed all too soon for the mate, when they were interrupted by a series of hoarse unintelligible roars proceeding from the schooner's cabin.

"That's father," said Miss Jansell, rising with a celerity which spoke well for the discipline maintained on the Aquila; "he wants me to mend his waistcoat for him."

She put down her book and left, the mate watching her until she disappeared down the companion-way. Then he sat down and waited.

One by one the crew returned to the steamer, but the schooner's deck showed no signs of life. Then the skipper came, and, having peered critically over his vessel's side, gave orders to get under way.

"If she'd only come up," said the miserable mate to himself, "I'd risk it, and ask whether I might write to her."

This chance of imperilling a promising career did not occur, however; the steamer slowly edged away from the schooner, and, picking her way between a tier of lighters, steamed slowly into clearer water.

"Full speed ahead!" roared the skipper down the tube. The engineer responded, and the mate gazed in a melancholy fashion at the water as it rapidly widened between the two vessels. Then his face brightened up suddenly as the girl ran up on deck and waved her hand. Hardly able to believe his eyes, he waved his back. The girl gesticulated violently, now pointing to the steamer, and then to the schooner.

"By Jove, that girl's taken a fancy to you," said the skipper. "She wants you to go back."

The mate sighed. "Seems like it," he said modestly.

To his astonishment the girl was now joined by her men folk, who also waved hearty farewells, and, throwing their arms about, shouted incoherently.

"Blamed if they haven't all took a fancy to you," said the puzzled skipper; "the old man's got the speaking-trumpet now. What does he say?"

"Something about life, I think," said the mate.

"They're more like jumping-jacks than anything else," said the skipper. "Just look at 'em."

The mate looked, and, as the distance increased, sprang on to the side, and, his eyes dim with emotion, waved tender farewells. If it had not been for the presence of the skipper—a tremendous stickler for decorum—he would have kissed his hand.

It was not until Gravesend was passed, and the side-lights of the shipping were trying to show in the gathering dusk, that he awoke from his tender apathy. It is probable that it would have lasted longer than that but for a sudden wail of anguish and terror which proceeded from the cabin and rang out on the still warm air.

"Sakes alive!" said the skipper, starting; "what's that?"

Before the mate could reply, the companion was pushed back, and a middle-aged woman, labouring under strong excitement, appeared on deck.

"You villain!" she screamed excitably, rushing up to the mate. "Take me back; take me back!"

"What's all this, Harry?" demanded the skipper sternly.

"He—he—he—asked me to go into the cab—cabin," sobbed Mrs. Jansell, "and sent me to sleep, and too—too—took me away. My husband'll kill me; I know he will. Take me back."

"What do you want to be took back to be killed for?" interposed one of the men judicially.

"I might ha' known what he meant when he said I brightened the cabin up," said Mrs. Jansell; "and when he said he thought me and my daughter were sisters. He said he'd like me to sit there always, the wretch!"

"Did you say that?" inquired the skipper fiercely.

"Well, I did," said the miserable mate; "but I didn't mean her to take it that way. She went to sleep, and I forgot all about her."

"What did you say such silly lies for, then?" demanded the skipper.

The mate hung his head.

"Old enough to be your mother too," said the skipper severely. "Here's a nice thing to happen aboard my ship, and afore the boy too!"

"Blast the boy!" said the goaded mate.

"Take me back," wailed Mrs. Jansell; "you don't know how jealous my husband is."

"He won't hurt you," said the skipper kindly "he won't be jealous of a woman your time o' life; that is, not if he's got any sense. You'll have to go as far as Boston with us now. I've lost too much time already to go back."

"You must take me back," said Mrs. Jansell passionately.

"I'm not going back for anybody," said the skipper. "But you can make your mind quite easy: you're as safe aboard my ship as what you would be alone on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic; and as for the mate, he was only chaffing you. Wasn't you, Harry?"

The mate made some reply, but neither Mrs. Jansell, the skipper, nor the men, who were all listening eagerly, caught it, and his unfortunate victim, accepting the inevitable, walked to the side of the ship and gazed disconsolately astern.

It was not until the following morning that the mate, who had received orders to mess for'ard, saw her, and ignoring the fact that everybody suspended work to listen, walked up and bade her good morning.

"Harry," said the skipper warningly.

"All right," said the mate shortly. "I want to speak to you very particularly," he said nervously, and led his listener aft, followed by three of the crew who came to clean the brasswork, and who listened mutinously when they were ordered to defer unwonted industry to a more fitting time. The deck clear, the mate began, and in a long rambling statement, which Mrs. Jansell at first thought the ravings of lunacy, acquainted her with the real state of his feelings.

"I never did!" said she, when he had finished. "Never! Why, you hadn't seen her before yesterday."

"Of course I shall take you back by train," said the mate, "and tell your husband how sorry I am."

"I might have suspected something when you said all those nice things to me," said the mollified lady. "Well, you must take your chance, like all the rest of them. She can only say 'No,' again. It'll explain this affair better, that's one thing; but I expect they'll laugh at you."

"I don't care," said the mate stoutly. "You're on my side, ain't you?"

Mrs. Jansell laughed, and the mate, having succeeded beyond his hopes in the establishment of amicable relations, went about his duties with a light heart.

By the time they reached Boston the morning was far advanced, and after the Gem was comfortably berthed he obtained permission of the skipper to accompany the fair passenger to London, beguiling the long railway journey by every means in his power. Despite his efforts, however, the journey began to pall upon his companion, and it was not until evening was well advanced that they found themselves in the narrow streets of Limehouse.

"We'll see how the land lies first," said he, as they approached the wharf and made their way cautiously on to the quay.

The Aquila was still alongside, and the mate's heart thumped violently as he saw the cause of all the trouble sitting alone on the deck. She rose with a little start as her mother stepped carefully aboard, and, running to her, kissed her affectionately, and sat her down on the hatches.

"Poor mother," she said caressingly. "What did you bring that lunatic back with you for?"

"He would come," said Mrs. Jansell. "Hush! here comes your father."

The master of the Aquila came on deck as she spoke, and walking slowly up to the group, stood sternly regarding them. Under his gaze the mate breathlessly reeled off his tale, noticing with somewhat mixed feelings the widening grin of his listener as he proceeded.

"Well, you're a lively sort o' man," said the skipper as he finished. "In one day you tie up your own ship, run off with my wife, and lose us a tide. Are you always like that?"

"I want somebody to look after me, I s'pose," said the mate, with a side glance at Nancy.

"Well, we'd put you up for the night," said the skipper, with his arm round his wife's shoulders; "but you're such a chap. I'm afraid you'd burn the ship down, or something. What do you think, old girl?"

"I think we'll try him this once," said his wife. "And now I'll go down and see about supper; I want it."

The old couple went below, and the young one remained on deck. Nancy went and leaned against the side; and as she appeared to have quite forgotten his presence, the mate, after some hesitation, joined her.

"Hadn't you better go down and get some supper?" she asked.

"I'd sooner stay here, if yon don't mind," said the mate. "I like watching the lights going up and down; I could stay here for hours."

"I'll leave you, then," said the girl; "I'm hungry."

She tripped lightly off with a smothered laugh, leaving the fairly-trapped man gazing indignantly at the lights which had lured him to destruction.

From below he heard the cheerful clatter of crockery, accompanied by a savoury incense, and talk and laughter. He imagined the girl making fun of his sentimental reasons for staying on deck; but, too proud to meet her ironical glances, stayed doggedly where he was, resolving to be off by the first train in the morning. He was roused from his gloom by a slight touch on his arm, and, turning sharply, saw the girl by his side.

"Supper's quite ready," said she soberly. "And if you want to admire the lights very much, come up and see them when I do—after supper."



AN ELABORATE ELOPEMENT

I have always had a slight suspicion that the following narrative is not quite true. It was related to me by an old seaman who, among other incidents of a somewhat adventurous career, claimed to have received Napoleon's sword at the battle of Trafalgar, and a wound in the back at Waterloo. I prefer to tell it in my own way, his being so garnished with nautical terms and expletives as to be half unintelligible and somewhat horrifying. Our talk had been of love and courtship, and after making me a present of several tips, invented by himself, and considered invaluable by his friends, he related this story of the courtship of a chum of his as illustrating the great lengths to which young bloods were prepared to go in his days to attain their ends.

It was a fine clear day in June when Hezekiah Lewis, captain and part owner of the schooner Thames, bound from London to Aberdeen, anchored off the little out-of-the-way town of Orford in Suffolk. Among other antiquities, the town possessed Hezekiah's widowed mother, and when there was no very great hurry—the world went slower in those days—the dutiful son used to go ashore in the ship's boat, and after a filial tap at his mother's window, which often startled the old woman considerably, pass on his way to see a young lady to whom he had already proposed five times without effect.

The mate and crew of the schooner, seven all told, drew up in a little knot as the skipper, in his shore-going clothes, appeared on deck, and regarded him with an air of grinning, mysterious interest.

"Now you all know what you have got to do?" queried the skipper.

"Ay, ay," replied the crew, grinning still more deeply.

Hezekiah regarded them closely, and then ordering the boat to be lowered, scrambled over the side, and was pulled swiftly towards the shore.

A sharp scream, and a breathless "Lawk-a-mussy me!" as he tapped at his mother's window, assured him that the old lady was alive and well, and he continued on his way until he brought up at a small but pretty house in the next road.

"Morning, Mr. Rumbolt," said he heartily to a stout, red-faced man, who sat smoking in the doorway.

"Morning, cap'n, morning," said the red-faced man.

"Is the rheumatism any better?" inquired Hezekiah anxiously, as he grasped the other's huge hand.

"So, so," said the other. "But it ain't the rheumatism so much what troubles me," he resumed, lowering his voice, and looking round cautiously. "It's Kate."

"What?" said the skipper.

"You've heard of a man being henpecked?" continued Mr. Rumbolt, in tones of husky confidence.

The captain nodded.

"I'm CHICK-PECKED" murmured the other.

"What?" inquired the astonished mariner again.

"Chick-pecked," repeated Mr. Rumbolt firmly. "CHIK-PEKED. D'ye understand me?"

The captain said that he did, and stood silent awhile, with the air of a man who wants to say something, but is half afraid to. At last, with a desperate appearance of resolution, he bent down to the old man's ear.

"That's the deaf 'un," said Mr. Rumbolt promptly.

Hezekiah changed ears, speaking at first slowly and awkwardly, but becoming more fluent as he warmed with his subject; while the expression of his listener's face gradually changed from incredulous bewilderment to one of uncontrollable mirth. He became so uproarious that he was fain to push the captain away from him, and lean back in his chair and choke and laugh until he nearly lost his breath, at which crisis a remarkably pretty girl appeared from the back of the house, and patted him with hearty good will.

"That'll do, my dear," said the choking Mr. Rumbolt. "Here's Captain Lewis."

"I can see him," said his daughter calmly. "What's he standing on one leg for?"

The skipper, who really was standing in a somewhat constrained attitude, coloured violently, and planted both feet firmly on the ground.

"Being as I was passing close in, Miss Rumbolt," said he, "and coming ashore to see mother"—

To the captain's discomfort, manifestations of a further attack on the part of Mr. Rumbolt appeared, but were promptly quelled by the daughter.

"Mother?" she repeated encouragingly,

"I thought I'd come on and ask you just to pay a sort o' flying visit to the Thames." "Thank you, I'm comfortable enough where I am," said the girl.

"I've got a couple of monkeys and a bear aboard, which I 'm taking to a menagerie in Aberdeen," continued the captain, "and the thought struck me you might possibly like to see 'em." "Well, I don't know," said the damsel in a flutter. "Is it a big bear?"

"Have you ever seen an elephant?" inquired Hezekiah cautiously.

"Only in pictures," replied the girl.

"Well, it's as big as that, nearly," said he.

The temptation was irresistible, and Miss Rumbolt, telling her father that she should not be long, disappeared into the house in search of her hat and jacket, and ten minutes later the brawny rowers were gazing their fill into her deep blue eyes as she sat in the stern of the boat, and told Lewis to behave himself.

It was but a short pull out to the schooner, and Miss Rumbolt was soon on the deck, lavishing endearments on the monkey, and energetically prodding the bear with a handspike to make him growl. The noise of the offended animal as he strove to get through the bars of his cage was terrific, and the girl was in the full enjoyment of it, when she became aware of a louder noise still, and, turning round, saw the seamen at the windlass.

"Why, what are they doing?" she demanded, "getting up anchor?"

"Ahoy, there!" shouted Hezekiah sternly. "What are you doing with that windlass?"

As he spoke, the anchor peeped over the edge of the bows, and one of the seamen running past them took the helm.

"Now then," shouted the fellow, "stand by. Look lively there with them sails."

Obeying a light touch of the helm, the schooner's bow-sprit slowly swung round from the land, and the crew, hauling lustily on the ropes, began to hoist the sails.

"What the devil are you up to?" thundered the skipper. "Have you all gone mad? What does it all mean?"

"It means," said one of the seamen, whose fat, amiable face was marred by a fearful scowl, "that we've got a new skipper."

"Good heavens, a mutiny!" exclaimed the skipper, starting melodramatically against the cage, and starting hastily away again. "Where's the mate?"

"He's with us," said another seaman, brandishing his sheath knife, and scowling fearfully. "He's our new captain."

In confirmation of this the mate now appeared from below with an axe in his hand, and, approaching his captain, roughly ordered him below.

"I'll defend this lady with my life," cried Hezekiah, taking the handspike from Kate, and raising it above his head.

"Nobody'll hurt a hair of her beautiful head," said the mate, with a tender smile.

"Then I yield," said the skipper, drawing himself up, and delivering the handspike with the air of a defeated admiral tendering his sword.

"Good," said the mate briefly, as one of the men took it.

"What!" demanded Miss Rumbolt excitedly, "aren't you going to fight them? Here, give me the handspike."

Before the mate could interfere, the sailor, with thoughtless obedience, handed it over, and Miss Rumbolt at once tried to knock him over the head. Being thwarted in this design by the man taking flight, she lost her temper entirely, and bore down like a hurricane on the remaining members of the crew who were just approaching.

They scattered at once, and ran up the rigging like cats, and for a few moments the girl held the deck; then the mate crept up behind her, and with the air of a man whose job exactly suited him, clasped her tightly round the waist, while one of the seamen disarmed her.

"You must both go below till we've settled what to do with you," said the mate, reluctantly releasing her.

With a wistful glance at the handspike, the girl walked to the cabin, followed slowly by the skipper.

"This is a bad business," said the latter, shaking his head solemnly, as the indignant Miss Rumbolt seated herself.

"Don't talk to me, you coward!" said the girl energetically.

The skipper started.

"I made three of 'em run," said Miss Rumbolt, "and you did nothing. You just stood still, and let them take the ship. I'm ashamed of you."

The skipper's defence was interrupted by a hoarse voice shouting to them to come on deck, where they found the mutinous crew gathered aft round the mate. The girl cast a look at the shore, which was now dim and indistinct, and turned somewhat pale as the serious nature of her position forced itself upon her.

"Lewis," said the mate.

"Well," growled the skipper.

"This ship's going in the lace and brandy trade, and if so be as you're sensible you can go with it as mate, d'ye hear?"

"An' s'pose I do; what about the lady?" inquired the captain.

"You and the lady'll have to get spliced," said the mate sternly. "Then there'll be no tales told. A Scotch marriage is as good as any, and we'll just lay off and put you ashore, and you can get tied up as right as ninepence."

"Marry a coward like that?" demanded Miss Rumbolt, with spirit; "not if I know it. Why, I'd sooner marry that old man at the helm."

"Old Bill's got three wives a'ready to my sartin knowledge," spoke up one of the sailors. "The lady's got to marry Cap'n Lewis, so don't let's have no fuss about it."

"I won't," said the lady, stamping violently.

The mutineers appeared to be in a dilemma, and, following the example of the mate, scratched their heads thoughtfully.

"We thought you liked him," said the mate, at last, feebly.

"You had no business to think," said Miss Rumbolt. "You are bad men, and you'll all be hung, every one of you; I shall come and see it." "The cap'n's welcome to her for me," murmured the helmsman in a husky whisper to the man next to him. "The vixen!"

"Very good," said the mate. "If you won't, you won't. This end of the ship'll belong to you after eight o'clock of a night. Lewis, you must go for'ard with the men."

"And what are you going to do with me after?" inquired the fair prisoner.

The seven men shrugged their shoulders helplessly, and Hezekiah, looking depressed, lit his pipe, and went and leaned over the side.

The day passed quietly. The orders were given by the mate, and Hezekiah lounged moodily about, a prisoner at large. At eight o'clock Miss Rumbolt was given the key of the state-room, and the men who were not in the watch went below.

The morning broke fine and clear with a light breeze, which, towards mid-day, dropped entirely, and the schooner lay rocking lazily on a sea of glassy smoothness. The sun beat fiercely down, bringing the fresh paint on the taffrail up in blisters, and sorely trying the tempers of the men who were doing odd jobs on deck.

The cabin, where the two victims of a mutinous crew had retired for coolness, got more and more stuffy, until at length even the scorching deck seemed preferable, and the girl, with a faint hope of finding a shady corner, went languidly up the companion-ladder.

For some time the skipper sat alone, pondering gloomily over the state of affairs as he smoked his short pipe. He was aroused at length from his apathy by the sound of the companion being noisily closed, while loud frightened cries and hurrying footsteps on deck announced that something extraordinary was happening. As he rose to his feet he was confronted by Kate Rumbolt, who, panting and excited, waved a big key before him.

"I've done it," she cried, her eyes sparkling.

"Done what?" shouted the mystified skipper.

"Let the bear loose," said the girl. "Ha, ha! you should have seen them run. You should have seen the fat sailor!"

"Let the—phew—let the— Good heavens! here's a pretty kettle of fish!" he choked.

"Listen to them shouting," cried the exultant Kate, clapping her hands. "Just listen."

"Those shouts are from aloft," said Hezekiah sternly, "where you and I ought to be."

"I've closed the companion," said the girl reassuringly.

"Closed the companion!" repeated Hezekiah, as he drew his knife. "He can smash it like cardboard, if the fit takes him. Go in here."

He opened the door of his state-room.

"Shan't!" said Miss Rumbolt politely.

"Go in at once!" cried the skipper. "Quick with you."

"Sha—" began Miss Rumbolt again. Then she caught his eye, and went in like a lamb. "You come too," she said prettily.

"I've got to look after my ship and my men," said the skipper. "I suppose you thought the ship would steer itself, didn't you?"

"Mutineers deserve to be eaten," whimpered Miss Rumbolt piously, somewhat taken aback by the skipper's demeanour.

Hezekiah looked at her.

"They're not mutineers, Kate," he said quietly. "It was just a piece of mad folly of mine. They're as honest a set of old sea dogs as ever breathed, and I only hope they are all safe up aloft. I'm going to lock you in; but don't be frightened, it shan't hurt you."

He slammed the door on her protests, and locked it, and, slipping the key of the cage in his pocket, took a firm grip of his knife, and, running up the steps, gained the deck. Then his breath came more freely, for the mate, who was standing a little way up the fore rigging, after tempting the bear with his foot, had succeeded in dropping a noose over its head. The brute made a furious attempt to extricate itself, but the men hurried down with other lines, and in a short space of time the bear presented much the same appearance as the lion in Aesop's Fables, and was dragged and pushed, a heated and indignant mass of fur, back to its cage.

Having locked up one prisoner the skipper went below and released the other, who passed quickly from a somewhat hysterical condition to one of such haughty disdain that the captain was thoroughly cowed, and stood humbly aside to let her pass.

The fat seaman was standing in front of the cage as she reached it, and regarding the bear with much satisfaction until Kate sidled up to him, and begged him, as a personal favour, to go in the cage and undo it.

"Undo it! Why he'd kill me!" gasped the fat seaman, aghast at such simplicity.

"I don't think he would," said his tormenter, with a bewitching smile; "and I'll wear a lock of your hair all my life if you do. But you'd better give it to me before you go in."

"I ain't going in," said the fat sailor shortly.

"Not for me?" queried Kate archly.

"Not for fifty like you," replied the old man firmly. "He nearly had me when he was loose. I can't think how he got out."

"Why, I let him out," said Miss Rumbolt airily. "Just for a little run. How would you like to be shut up all day?"

The sailor was just going to tell her with more fluency than politeness when he was interrupted. "That'll do," said the skipper, who had come behind them. "Go for'ard, you. There's been enough of this fooling; the lady thought you had taken the ship. Thompson, I'll take the helm; there's a little wind coming. Stand by there."

He walked aft and relieved the steersman, awkwardly conscious that the men were becoming more and more interested in the situation, and also that Kate could hear some of their remarks. As he pondered over the subject, and tried to think of a way out of it, the cause of all the trouble came and stood by him.

"Did my father know of this?" she inquired.

"I don't know that he did exactly," said the skipper uneasily. "I just told him not to expect you back that night."

"And what did he say?" said she.

"Said he wouldn't sit up," said the skipper, grinning, despite himself.

Kate drew a breath the length of which boded no good to her parent, and looked over the side.

"I was afraid of that traveller chap from Ipswich," said Hezekiah, after a pause. "Your father told me he was hanging round you again, so I thought I—well, I was a blamed fool anyway."

"See how ridiculous you have made me look before all these men," said the girl angrily.

"They've been with me for years," said Hezekiah apologetically, "and the mate said it was a magnificent idea. He quite raved about it, he did. I wouldn't have done it with some crews, but we've had some dirty times together, and they've stood by me well. But of course that's nothing to do with you. It's been an adventure I'm very sorry for, very."

"A pretty safe adventure for YOU," said the girl scornfully. "YOU didn't risk much. Look here, I like brave men. If you go in the cage and undo that bear, I'll marry you. That's what I call an adventure."

"Smith," called the skipper quietly, "come and take the helm a bit."

The seaman obeyed, and Lewis, accompanied by the girl, walked forward.

At the bear's cage he stopped, and, fumbling in his pocket for the key, steadily regarded the brute as it lay gnashing its teeth, and trying in vain to bite the ropes which bound it.

"You're afraid," said the girl tauntingly; "you're quite white."

The captain made no reply, but eyed her so steadily that her gaze fell. He drew the key from his pocket and inserted it in the huge lock, and was just turning it, when a soft arm was drawn through his, and a soft voice murmured sweetly in his ear, "Never mind about the old bear."

And he did not mind.



THE COOK OF THE "GANNET"

"All ready for sea, and no cook," said the mate of the schooner Gannet, gloomily. "What's become of all the cooks I can't think."

"They most on 'em ship as mates now," said the skipper, grinning. "But you needn't worry about that; I've got one coming aboard to-night. I'm trying a new experiment, George."

"I once knew a chemist who tried one," said George, "an' it blew him out of the winder; but I never heard o' shipmasters trying 'em."

"There's all kinds of experiments," rejoined the other, "What do you say to a lady cook, George?"

"A WHAT?" asked the mate in tones of strong amazement. "What, aboard a schooner?"

"Why not?" inquired the skipper warmly; "why not? There's plenty of 'em ashore—why not aboard ship?"

"'Tain't proper, for one thing," said the mate virtuously.

"I shouldn't have expected you to have thought o' that," said the other unkindly. "Besides, they have stewardesses on big ships, an' what's the difference? She's a sort o' relation o' mine, too—cousin o' my wife's, a widder woman, and a good sensible age, an' as the doctor told her to take a sea voyage for the benefit of her 'elth, she's coming with me for six months as cook. She'll take her meals with us; but, o' course, the men are not to know of the relationship."

"What about sleeping accommodation?" inquired the mate, with the air of a man putting a poser.

"I've thought o' that," replied the other; "it's all arranged."

The mate, with an uncompromising air, waited for information.

"She—she's to have your berth, George," continued the skipper, without looking at him. "You can have that nice, large, airy locker."

"One what the biscuit and onions kep' in?" inquired George.

The skipper nodded.

"I think, if it's all the same to you," said the mate, with laboured politeness, "I'll wait till the butter keg's empty, and crowd into that."

"It's no use your making yourself unpleasant about it," said the skipper, "not a bit. The arrangements are made now, and here she comes."

Following his gaze, the mate looked up as a stout, comely-looking woman of middle age came along the jetty, followed by the watchman staggering under a box of enormous proportions.

"Jim!" cried the lady.

"Halloa!" cried the skipper, starting uneasily at the title. "We've been expecting you for some time."

"There's a row on with the cabman," said the lady calmly. "This silly old man"—the watchman snorted fiercely—"let the box go through the window getting it off the top, and the cabman wants ME to pay. He's out there using language, and he keeps calling me grandma—I want you to have him locked up."

"Come down below now," said the skipper; "we'll see about the cab. Mrs. Blossom—my mate. George, go and send that cab away."

Mrs. Blossom, briefly acknowledging the introduction, followed the skipper to the cabin, while the mate, growling under his breath, went out to enter into a verbal contest in which he was from the first hopelessly overmatched.

The new cook, being somewhat fatigued with her journey, withdrew at an early hour, and the sun was well up when she appeared on deck next morning. The wharves and warehouses of the night before had disappeared, and the schooner, under a fine spread of canvas, was just passing Tilbury.

"There's one thing I must put a stop to," said the skipper, as he and the mate, after an admirably-cooked breakfast, stood together talking. "The men seem to be hanging round that galley too much."

"What can you expect?" demanded the mate. "They've all got their Sunday clothes on too, pretty dears."

"Hi, you Bill!" cried the skipper. "What are you doing there?"

"Lending cook a hand with the saucepans, sir," said Bill, an oakum-bearded man of sixty.

"There ain't no call for 'im to come 'ere at all, sir," shouted another seaman, putting his head out of the galley. "Me an' cook's lifting 'em beautiful."

"Come out, both of you, or I'll start you with a rope!" roared the irritated commander.

"What's the matter?" inquired Mrs. Blossom. "They're not doing any harm."

"I can't have 'em there," said the skipper gruffly. "They've got other things to do."

"I must have some assistance with that boiler and the saucepans," said Mrs. Blossom decidedly, "so don't you interfere with what don't concern you, Jimmy."

"That's mutiny," whispered the horrified mate. "Sheer, rank mutiny."

"She don't know no better," whispered the other back. "Cook, you mustn't talk like that to the cap'n—what me and the mate tell you you must do. You don't understand yet, but it'll come easier by-and-bye."

"WILL it," demanded Mrs. Blossom loudly; "WILL it? I don't think it will. How dare you talk to me like that, Jim Harris? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

"My name's Cap'n Harris," said the skipper stiffly.

"Well, CAPTAIN Harris," said Mrs. Blossom scornfully; "and what'll happen if I don't do as you and that other shamefaced-looking man tell me?"

"We hope it won't come to that," said Harris, with quiet dignity, as he paused at the companion. "But the mate's in charge just now, and I warn you he's a very severe man. Don't stand no nonsense, George."

With these brave words the skipper disappeared below, and the mate, after one glance at the dauntless and imposing attitude of Mrs. Blossom, walked to the side and became engrossed in a passing steamer. A hum of wondering admiration arose from the crew, and the cook, thoroughly satisfied with her victory, returned to the scene of her labours.

For the next twenty-four hours Mrs. Blossom reigned supreme, and performed the cooking for the vessel, assisted by five ministering seamen. The weather was fine, and the wind light, and the two officers were at their wits' end to find jobs for the men.

"Why don't you put your foot down," grumbled the mate, as a burst of happy laughter came from the direction of the galley. "The idea of men laughing like that aboard ship; they're carrying on just as though we wasn't here."

"Will you stand by me?" demanded the skipper, pale but determined.

"Of course I will," said the other indignantly.

"Now, my lads," said Harris, stepping forward, "I can't have you chaps hanging round the galley all day; you're getting in cook's way and hindering her. Just get your knives out; I'll have the masts scraped."

"You just stay where you are," said Mrs. Blossom. "When they're in my way, I'll soon let 'em know."

"Did you hear what I said?" thundered the skipper, as the men hesitated.

"Aye, aye, sir," muttered the crew, moving off.

"How dare you interfere with me?" said Mrs. Blossom hotly, as she realised the defeat. "Ever since I've been on this ship you've been trying to aggravate me. I wonder the men don't hit you, you nasty, ginger-whiskered little man."

"Go on with your work," said the skipper, fondly stroking the maligned whiskers.

"Don't you talk to me, Jim Harris," said Mrs. Blossom, quivering with wrath. "Don't you give ME none of your airs. WHO BORROWED FIVE POUNDS FROM MY POOR DEAD HUSBAND JUST BEFORE HE DIED, AND NEVER PAID IT BACK?"

"Go on with your work," repeated the skipper, with pale lips.

"WHOSE UNCLE BENJAMIN HAD THREE WEEKS?" demanded Mrs. Blossom darkly. "WHOSE UNCLE JOSEPH HAD TO GO ABROAD WITHOUT STOPPING TO PACK UP?"

The skipper made no reply, but the anxiety of the crew to have these vital problems solved was so manifest that he turned his back on the virago and went towards the mate, who at that moment dipped hurriedly to escape a wet dish-clout. The two men regarded each other, pale with anxiety.

"Now, you just move off," said Mrs. Blossom, shaking another clout at them. "I won't have you hanging about my galley. Keep to your own end of the ship."

The skipper drew himself up haughtily, but the effect was somewhat marred by one eye, which dwelt persistently on the clout, and after a short inward struggle he moved off, accompanied by the mate. Wellington himself would have been nonplussed by a wet cloth in the hands of a fearless woman.

"She'll just have to have her own way till we get to Llanelly," said the indignant skipper, "and then I'll send her home by train and ship another cook. I knew she'd got a temper, but I didn't know it was like this. She's the last woman that sets foot on my ship—that's all she's done for her sex."

In happy ignorance of her impending doom Mrs. Blossom went blithely about her duties, assisted by a crew whose admiration for her increased by leaps and bounds; and the only thing which ventured to interfere with her was a stiff Atlantic roll, which they encountered upon rounding the Land's End.

The first intimation Mrs. Blossom had of it was the falling of small utensils in the galley. After she had picked them up and replaced them several times, she went out to investigate, and discovered that the schooner was dipping her bows to big green waves, and rolling, with much straining and creaking, from side to side. A fine spray, which broke over the bows and flew over the vessel, drove her back into the galley, which had suddenly developed an unaccountable stuffiness; but, though the crew to a man advised her to lie down and have a cup of tea, she repelled them with scorn, and with pale face and compressed lips stuck to her post.

Two days later they made fast to the quay at Llanelly, and half-an-hour later the skipper called the mate down to the cabin, and, handing him some money, told him to pay the cook off and ship another. The mate declined.

"You obey orders," said the skipper fiercely, "else you an' me'll quarrel."

"I've got a wife an' family," urged the mate.

"Pooh!" said the skipper. "Rubbish!"

"And uncles," added the mate rebelliously.

"Very good," said the skipper, glaring. "We'll ship the other cook first and let him settle it. After all, I don't see why we should fight his battles for him."

The mate, being agreeable, went off at once; and when Mrs. Blossom, after a little shopping ashore, returned to the Gannet she found the galley in the possession of one of the fattest cooks that ever broke ship's biscuit.

"Hullo!" said she, realising the situation at a glance, "what are you doing here?"

"Cooking," said the other gruffly. Then, catching sight of his questioner, he smiled amorously and winked at her.

"Don't you wink at me," said Mrs. Blossom wrathfully. "Come out of that galley."

"There's room for both," said the new cook persuasively. "Come in an' put your 'ed on my shoulder."

Utterly unprepared for this mode of attack, Mrs. Blossom lost her nerve, and, instead of storming the galley, as she had fully intended, drew back and retired to the cabin, where she found a short note from the skipper, enclosing her pay, and requesting her to take the train home. After reading this she went ashore again, returning presently with a big bundle, which she placed on the cabin table in front of Harris and the mate, who had just begun tea.

"I'm not going home by train," said she, opening the bundle, which contained a spirit kettle and provisions. "I'm going back with you; but I am not going to be beholden to you for anything—I 'm going to board myself."

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