Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Night Watches by W.W. Jacobs

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

walk. He stepped round by 'imself the next arternoon and made 'imself
agreeable to Mrs. Gill, and the day arter they was both so nice and kind
that 'e plucked up 'is courage and offered to take Miss Gill to the Zoo.

She said "No" at fust, of course, but arter Ginger 'ad pointed out that
Joe was at work all day and couldn't take 'er 'imself, and that 'e was
Joe's uncle's best pal, she began to think better of it.

"Why not?" ses her mother. "Joe wouldn't mind. He wouldn't be so
silly as to be jealous o' Mr. Ginger Dick."

"Of course not," ses the gal. "There's nothing to be jealous of."

She let 'er mother and Ginger persuade 'er arter a time, and then she
went upstairs to clean herself, and put on a little silver brooch that
Ginger said he 'ad picked up coming along.

She took about three-quarters of an hour to get ready, but when she came
down, Ginger felt that it was quite worth it. He couldn't take 'is eyes
off 'er, as the saying goes, and 'e sat by 'er side on the top of the
omnibus like a man in a dream.

"This is better than being at sea," he ses at last.

"Don't you like the sea?" ses the gal. "I should like to go to sea

"I shouldn't mind the sea if you was there," ses Ginger.

Miss Gill turned her 'ead away. "You mustn't talk to me like that," she
ses in a soft voice. "Still--"

"Still wot?" ses Ginger, arter waiting a long time.

"I mean, if I did go to sea, it would be nice to have a friend on
board," she ses. "I suppose you ain't afraid of storms, are you?"

"I like 'em," ses Ginger.

"You look as if you would," ses the gal, giving 'im a little look under
'er eyelashes. "It must be nice to be a man and be brave. I wish I was
a man."

"I don't," ses Ginger.

"Why not?" ses the gal, turning her 'ead away agin.

Ginger didn't answer, he gave 'er elbow a little squeeze instead. She
took it away at once, and Ginger was just wishing he 'adn't been so
foolish, when it came back agin, and they sat for a long time without
speaking a word.

"The sea is all right for some things," ses Ginger at last, "but suppose
a man married!"

The gal shook her 'ead. "It would be hard on 'is wife," she ses, with
another little look at 'im, "but--but----"

Ginger pinched 'er elbow agin.

"But p'r'aps he could get a job ashore," she ses, "and then he could
take his wife out for a bus-ride every day."

They 'ad to change buses arter a time, and they got on a wrong bus and
went miles out o' their way, but neither of 'em seemed to mind. Ginger
said he was thinking of something else, and the gal said she was too.
They got to the Zoological Gardens at last, and Ginger said he 'ad never
enjoyed himself so much. When the lions roared she squeezed his arm,
and when they 'ad an elephant ride she was holding on to 'im with both

"I am enjoying myself," she ses, as Ginger 'elped her down and said
"whoa" to the elephant. "I know it's wicked, but I can't 'elp it, and
wot's more, I'm afraid I don't want to 'elp it."

She let Ginger take 'er arm when she nearly tripped up over a peppermint
ball some kid 'ad dropped; and, arter a little persuasion, she 'ad a
bottle of lemonade and six bath-buns at a refreshment stall for dinner.

She was as nice as she could be to him, but by the time they started for
'ome, she 'ad turned so quiet that Ginger began to think 'e must 'ave
offended 'er in some way.

"Are you tired?" he ses.

"No," ses the gal, shaking her 'ead, "I've enjoyed myself very much."

"I thought you seemed a bit tired," ses Ginger, arter waiting a long

"I'm not tired," ses the gal, giving 'im a sad sort o' little smile,
"but I'm a little bit worried, that's all."

"Worried?" ses Ginger, very tender. "Wot's worrying you?"

"Oh, I can't tell you," ses Miss Gill. "It doesn't matter; I'll try and
cheer up. Wot a lovely day it is, isn't it? I shall remember it all my

"Wot is it worrying you?" ses Ginger, in a determined voice. "Can't
you tell me?"

"No," ses the gal, shaking her 'ead, "I can't tell you because you might
want to 'elp me, and I couldn't allow that."

"Why shouldn't I 'elp you?" ses Ginger. "It's wot we was put 'ere for:
to 'elp one another."

"I couldn't tell you," ses the gal, just dabbing at'er eyes--with a lace
pocket-'ankercher about one and a 'arf times the size of 'er nose.

"Not if I ask you to?" ses Ginger.

Miss Gill shook 'er 'ead, and then she tried her 'ardest to turn the
conversation. She talked about the weather, and the monkey-'ouse, and a
gal in 'er street whose 'air changed from red to black in a single
night; but it was all no good, Ginger wouldn't be put off, and at last
she ses--

"Well," she ses, "if you must know, I'm in a difficulty; I 'ave got to
get three pounds, and where to get it I don't know any more than the man
in the moon. Now let's talk about something else."

"Do you owe it?" ses Ginger.

"I can't tell you any more," ses Miss Gill, "and I wouldn't 'ave told
you that only you asked me, and somehow I feel as though I 'ave to tell
you things, when you want me to."

"Three pounds ain't much," ses pore Ginger, wot 'ad just been paid off
arter a long v'y'ge. "I can let you 'ave it and welcome."

Miss Gill started away from 'im as though she 'ad been stung, and it
took 'im all his time to talk 'er round agin. When he 'ad she begged
'is pardon and said he was the most generous man she 'ad ever met, but
it couldn't be.

"I don't know when I could pay it back," she ses, "but I thank you all
the same for offering it."

"Pay it back when you like," ses Ginger, "and if you never pay it back,
it don't matter."

He offered 'er the money four or five times, but she wouldn't take it,
but at last just as they got near her 'ouse he forced it in her 'and,
and put his own 'ands in his pockets when she tried to make 'im take it

"You are good to me," she ses arter they 'ad gone inside and 'er mother
'ad gone upstairs arter giving Ginger a bottle o' beer to amuse 'imself
with; "I shall never forget you. Never."

"I 'ope not," ses Ginger, starting. "Are you coming out agin to-

"I'm afraid I can't," ses Miss Gill, shaking her 'ead and looking

"Not with me?" ses Ginger, sitting down beside her on the sofa and
putting 'is arm so that she could lean against it if she wanted to.

"I don't think I can," ses the gal, leaning back very gentle.

"Think agin," ses Ginger, squeezing 'er waist a little.

Miss Gill shook her 'ead, and then turned and looked at 'im. Her face
was so close to his, that, thinking that she 'ad put it there a-purpose,
he kissed it, and the next moment 'e got a clout that made his 'ead

"'Ow dare you!" she ses, jumping up with a scream. "'Ow dare you! 'Ow

"Wot's the matter?" ses her mother, coming downstairs like a runaway
barrel of treacle.

"He--he's insulted me," ses Miss Gill, taking out her little 'ankercher
and sobbing. "He--k-kissed me!"

"WOT!" ses Mrs. Gill. "Well, I'd never 'ave believed it! Never! Why
'e ought to be taken up. Wot d'ye mean by it?" she ses, turning on
pore Ginger.

Ginger tried to explain, but it was all no good, and two minutes
arterwards 'e was walking back to 'is lodgings like a dog with its tail
between its legs. His 'ead was going round and round with astonishment,
and 'e was in such a temper that 'e barged into a man twice as big as
himself and then offered to knock his 'ead off when 'e objected. And
when Sam and Peter asked him 'ow he 'ad got on, he was in such a state
of mind it was all 'e could do to answer 'em.

"And I'll trouble you for my 'arf dollar, Peter," he ses; "I've been out
with 'er all day, and I've won my bet."

Peter paid it over like a lamb, and then 'e sat thinking 'ard for a bit.

"Are you going out with 'er agin to-morrow, Ginger?" he ses, arter a

"I don't know," ses Ginger, careless-like, "I ain't made up my mind

Peter looked at 'im and then 'e looked at Sam and winked. "Let me 'ave
a try," he ses; "I'll bet you another 'arf dollar that I take 'er out.
P'r'aps I shall come 'ome in a better temper than wot you 'ave."

Old Sam said it wasn't right to play with a gal's 'art in that way, but
arter a lot o' talking and telling Sam to shut up, Ginger took the bet.
He was quite certain in his own mind that Miss Gill would slam the door
in Peter's face, and arter he 'ad started off next morning, Ginger and
Sam waited in to 'ave the pleasure of laughing in 'is face.

They got tired of waiting at last, and went out to enjoy themselves, and
breathe the fresh air in a pub down Poplar way. They got back at seven
o'clock, and ten minutes arterwards Peter came in and sat down on his
bed and began to smoke without a word.

"Had a good time?" ses Ginger.

"Rippin'," ses Peter, holding 'is pipe tight between 'is teeth. "You
owe me 'arf a dollar, Ginger."

"Where'd you go?" ses Ginger, passing it over.

"Crystal Pallis," ses Peter.

"Are you going to take 'er out to-morrow?" ses Sam.

"I don't think so," ses Peter, taking 'is pipe out of 'is mouth and
yawning. "She's rather too young for me; I like talking to gals wot's a
bit older. I won't stand in Ginger's way."

"I found 'er a bit young too," ses Ginger. "P'r'aps we'd better let
Sam's nevy 'ave 'er. Arter all it's a bit rough on 'im when you come to
think of it."

"You're quite right," ses Peter, jumping up. "It's Sam's business, and
why we should go out of our way and inconvenience ourselves to do 'im a
good turn, I don't know."

"It's Sam all over," ses Ginger; "he's always been like that, and the
more you try to oblige 'im, the more you may."

They went on abusing Sam till he got sick and tired of it, and arter
telling 'em wot he thought of 'em he slammed the door and went out and
spent the evening by 'imself. He would 'ardly speak to them next day,
but arter tea he brightened up a bit and they went off together as if
nothing 'ad happened, and the fust thing they saw as they turned out of
their street was Sam's nevy coming along smiling till it made their
faces ache to look at him.

"I was just coming to see you," he ses.

"We're just off on business," ses Ginger.

"I wasn't going to stop," ses the nevy; "my young lady just told me to
step along and show uncle wot she has bought me. A silver watch and
chain and a gold ring. Look at it!"

He held his 'and under Ginger's nose, and Ginger stood there looking at
it and opening and shutting 'is mouth like a dying fish. Then he took
Peter by the arm and led'im away while the nevy was opening 'is new
watch and showing Sam the works.

"'Ow much did she get out of you, Peter?" ses Ginger, looking at 'im
very hard. "I don't want any lies."

"Three quid," ses Peter, staring at 'im.

"Same 'ere," ses Ginger, grinding his teeth. "Did she give you a smack
on the side of your face?"

"Wot--are--you--talking about, Ginger?" ses Peter.

"Did she smack your face too?" ses Ginger.

"Yes," ses Peter.


"They're as like as two peas, him and 'is brother," said the night-
watchman, gazing blandly at the indignant face of the lighterman on the
barge below; "and the on'y way I know this one is Sam is because Bill
don't use bad langwidge. Twins they are, but the likeness is only
outside; Bill's 'art is as white as snow."

He cut off a plug of tobacco, and, placing it in his cheek, waited

"White as snow," he repeated.

"That's me," said the lighterman, as he pushed his unwieldy craft from
the jetty. "I'll tell Sam your opinion of 'im. So long."

The watchman went a shade redder than usual. That's twins all over, he
said, sourly, always deceiving people. It's Bill arter all, and,
instead of hurting 'is feelings, I've just been flattering of 'im up.

It ain't the fust time I've 'ad trouble over a likeness. I've been a
twin myself in a manner o' speaking. It didn't last long, but it lasted
long enough for me to always be sorry for twins, and to make a lot of
allowance for them. It must be very 'ard to have another man going
about with your face on 'is shoulders, and getting it into trouble.

It was a year or two ago now. I was sitting one evening at the gate,
smoking a pipe and looking at a newspaper I 'ad found in the office,
when I see a gentleman coming along from the swing-bridge. Well-
dressed, clean-shaved chap 'e was, smoking a cigarette. He was walking
slow and looking about 'im casual-like, until his eyes fell on me, when
he gave a perfect jump of surprise, and, arter looking at me very 'ard,
walked on a little way and then turned back. He did it twice, and I was
just going to say something to 'im, something that I 'ad been getting
ready for 'im, when he spoke to me.

"Good evening," he ses.

"Good evening," I ses, folding the paper over and looking at 'im rather

"I hope you'll excuse me staring," he ses, very perlite; "but I've never
seen such a face and figger as yours in all my life--never."

"Ah, you ought to ha' seen me a few years ago," I ses. "I'm like
everybody else--I'm getting on."

"Rubbish!" he ses. "You couldn't be better if you tried. It's
marvellous! Wonderful! It's the very thing I've been looking for.
Why, if you'd been made to order you couldn't ha' been better."

I thought at fust he was by way of trying to get a drink out o' me--I've
been played that game afore--but instead o' that he asked me whether I'd
do 'im the pleasure of 'aving one with 'im.

We went over to the Albion, and I believe I could have 'ad it in a pail
if I'd on'y liked to say the word. And all the time I was drinking he
was looking me up and down, till I didn't know where to look, as the
saying is.

"I came down 'ere to look for somebody like you," he ses, "but I never
dreamt I should have such luck as this. I'm an actor, and I've got to
play the part of a sailor, and I've been worried some time 'ow to make
up for the part. D'ye understand?"

"No," I ses, looking at 'im.

"I want to look the real thing," he ses, speaking low so the landlord
shouldn't hear. "I want to make myself the living image of you. If
that don't fetch 'em I'll give up the stage and grow cabbages."

"Make yourself like me?" I ses. "Why, you're no more like me than I'm
like a sea-sick monkey."

"Not so much," he ses. "That's where the art comes in."

He stood me another drink, and then, taking my arm in a cuddling sort o'
way, and calling me "Dear boy," 'e led me back to the wharf and
explained. He said 'e would come round next evening with wot 'e called
his make-up box, and paint 'is face and make 'imself up till people
wouldn't know one from the other.

"And wot about your figger?" I ses, looking at 'im.

"A cushion," he ses, winking, "or maybe a couple. And what about
clothes? You'll 'ave to sell me those you've got on. Hat and all. And

I put a price on 'em that I thought would 'ave finished 'im then and
there, but it didn't. And at last, arter paying me so many more
compliments that they began to get into my 'ead, he fixed up a meeting
for the next night and went off.

"And mind," he ses, coming back, "not a word to a living soul!"

He went off agin, and, arter going to the Bull's Head and 'aving a pint
to clear my 'ead, I went and sat down in the office and thought it over.
It seemed all right to me as far as I could see; but p'r'aps the pint
didn't clear my 'ead enough--p'r'aps I ought to 'ave 'ad two pints.

I lay awake best part of next day thinking it over, and when I got up I
'ad made up my mind. I put my clothes in a sack, and then I put on some
others as much like 'em as possible, on'y p'r'aps a bit older, in case
the missis should get asking questions; and then I sat wondering 'ow to
get out with the sack without 'er noticing it. She's got a very
inquiring mind, and I wasn't going to tell her any lies about it.
Besides which I couldn't think of one.

I got out at last by playing a game on her. I pertended to drop 'arf a
dollar in the washus, and while she was busy on 'er hands and knees I
went off as comfortable as you please.

I got into the office with it all right, and, just as it was getting
dark, a cab drove up to the wharf and the actor-chap jumped out with a
big leather bag. I took 'im into the private office, and 'e was so
ready with 'is money for the clothes that I offered to throw the sack

He changed into my clothes fust of all, and then, asking me to sit down
in front of 'im, he took a looking-glass and a box out of 'is bag and
began to alter 'is face. Wot with sticks of coloured paint, and false
eyebrows, and a beard stuck on with gum and trimmed with a pair o'
scissors, it was more like a conjuring trick than anything else. Then
'e took a wig out of 'is bag and pressed it on his 'ead, put on the cap,
put some black stuff on 'is teeth, and there he was. We both looked
into the glass together while 'e gave the finishing touches, and then he
clapped me on the back and said I was the handsomest sailorman in

"I shall have to make up a bit 'eavier when I'm behind the floats," he
ses; "but this is enough for 'ere. Wot do you think of the imitation of
your voice? I think I've got it exact."

"If you ask me," I ses, "it sounds like a poll-parrot with a cold in the

"And now for your walk," he ses, looking as pleased as if I'd said
something else. "Come to the door and see me go up the wharf."

I didn't like to hurt 'is feelings, but I thought I should ha' bust. He
walked up that wharf like a dancing-bear in a pair of trousers too tight
for it, but 'e was so pleased with 'imself that I didn't like to tell
'im so. He went up and down two or three times, and I never saw
anything so ridikerlous in my life.

"That's all very well for us," he ses; "but wot about other people?
That's wot I want to know. I'll go and 'ave a drink, and see whether
anybody spots me."

Afore I could stop 'im he started off to the Bull's Head and went in,
while I stood outside and watched 'im.

"'Arf a pint o' four ale," he ses, smacking down a penny.

I see the landlord draw the beer and give it to 'im, but 'e didn't seem
to take no notice of 'im. Then, just to open 'is eyes a bit, I walked
in and put down a penny and asked for a 'arf-pint.

The landlord was just wiping down the counter at the time, and when I
gave my order he looked up and stood staring at me with the wet cloth
'eld up in the air. He didn't say a word--not a single word. He stood
there for a moment smiling at us foolish-like, and then 'e let go o' the
beer-injin, wot 'e was 'olding in 'is left hand, and sat down heavy on
the bar floor. We both put our 'eads over the counter to see wot had
'appened to 'im, and 'e started making the most 'orrible noise I 'ave
ever heard in my life. I wonder it didn't bring the fire-injins. The
actor-chap bolted out as if he'd been shot, and I was just thinking of
follering 'im when the landlord's wife and 'is two daughters came
rushing out and asking me wot I 'ad done to him.

"There--there--was two of 'im !" ses the landlord, trembling and
holding on to 'is wife's arm, as they helped 'im up and got 'im in the
chair. "Two of 'im!"

"Two of wot?" ses his wife.

"Two--two watchmen," ses the landlord; "both exac'ly alike and both
asking for 'arf a pint o' four ale."

"Yes, yes," ses 'is wife.

"You come and lay down, pa," ses the gals. "I tell you there was," ses
the landlord, getting 'is colour back, with temper.

"Yes, yes; I know all about it," ses 'is wife. "You come inside for a
bit; and, Gertie, you bring your father in a soda--a large soda."

They got 'im in arter a lot o' trouble; but three times 'e came back as
far as the door, 'olding on to them, and taking a little peep at me.
The last time he shook his 'ead at me, and said if I did it agin I could
go and get my 'arf-pints somewhere else.

I finished the beer wot the actor 'ad left, and, arter telling the
landlord I 'oped his eyesight 'ud be better in the morning, I went
outside, and arter a careful look round walked back to the wharf.

I pushed the wicket open a little way and peeped in. The actor was
standing just by the fust crane talking to two of the hands off of the
Saltram. He'd got 'is back to the light, but 'ow it was they didn't
twig his voice I can't think.

They was so busy talking that I crept along by the side of the wall and
got to the office without their seeing me. I went into the private
office and turned out the gas there, and sat down to wait for 'im. Then
I 'eard a noise outside that took me to the door agin and kept me there,
'olding on to the door-post and gasping for my breath. The cook of the
Saltram was sitting on a paraffin-cask playing the mouth-orgin, and the
actor, with 'is arms folded across his stummick, was dancing a horn-pipe
as if he'd gorn mad.

I never saw anything so ridikerlous in my life, and when I recollected
that they thought it was me, I thought I should ha' dropped.

A night-watchman can't be too careful, and I knew that it 'ud be all
over Wapping next morning that I 'ad been dancing to a tuppenny-ha'penny
mouth-orgin played by a ship's cook. A man that does 'is dooty always
has a lot of people ready to believe the worst of 'im.

I went back into the dark office and waited, and by and by I 'eard them
coming along to the gate and patting 'im on the back and saying he ought
to be in a pantermime instead o' wasting 'is time night-watching. He
left 'em at the gate, and then 'e came into the office smiling as if
he'd done something clever.

"Wot d'ye think of me for a understudy?" he ses, laughing. "They all
thought it was you. There wasn't one of 'em 'ad the slightest suspicion
--not one."

"And wot about my character?" I ses, folding my arms acrost my chest
and looking at him.

"Character?" he ses, staring. "Why, there's no 'arm in dancing; it's a
innercent enjoyment."

"It ain't one o' my innercent enjoyments," I ses, "and I don't want to
get the credit of it. If they hadn't been sitting in a pub all the
evening they'd 'ave spotted you at once."

"Oh!" he ses, very huffy. "How?"

"Your voice," I ses. "You try and mimic a poll-parrot, and think it's
like me. And, for another thing, you walk about as though you're
stuffed with sawdust."

"I beg your pardon," he ses; "the voice and the walk are exact. Exact."

"Wot?" I ses, looking 'im up and down. "You stand there and 'ave the
impudence to tell me that my voice is like that?"

"I do," he ses.

"Then I'm sorry for you," I ses. "I thought you'd got more sense."

He stood looking at me and gnawing 'is finger, and by and by he ses,
"Are you married?" he ses.

"I am," I ses, very short.

"Where do you live?" he ses.

I told 'im.

"Very good," he ses; "p'r'aps I'll be able to convince you arter all.
By the way, wot do you call your wife? Missis?"

"Yes," I ses, staring at him. "But wot's it got to do with you?"

"Nothing," he ses. "Nothing. Only I'm going to try the poll-parrot
voice and the sawdust walk on her, that's all. If I can deceive 'er
that'll settle it."

"Deceive her?" I ses. "Do you think I'm going to let you go round to
my 'ouse and get me into trouble with the missis like that? Why, you
must be crazy; that dancing must 'ave got into your 'ead."

"Where's the 'arm?" he ses, very sulky.

"'Arm?" I ses. "I won't 'ave it, that's all; and if you knew my missis
you'd know without any telling."

"I'll bet you a pound to a sixpence she wouldn't know me," he ses, very

"She won't 'ave the chance," I ses, "so that's all about it."

He stood there argufying for about ten minutes; but I was as firm as a
rock. I wouldn't move an inch, and at last, arter we was both on the
point of losing our tempers, he picked up his bag and said as 'ow he
must be getting off 'ome.

"But ain't you going to take those things off fust?" I ses.

"No," he ses, smiling. "I'll wait till I get 'ome. Ta-ta."

He put 'is bag on 'is shoulder and walked to the gate, with me follering
of 'im.

"I expect I shall see a cab soon," he ses. "Good-bye."

"Wot are you laughing at?" I ses.

"On'y thoughts," he ses.

"'Ave you got far to go?' I ses.

"No; just about the same distance as you 'ave," he ses, and he went off
spluttering like a soda-water bottle.

I took the broom and 'ad a good sweep-up arter he 'ad gorn, and I was
just in the middle of it when the cook and the other two chaps from the
Saltram came back, with three other sailormen and a brewer's drayman
they 'ad brought to see me DANCE!

"Same as you did a little while ago, Bill," ses the cook, taking out 'is
beastly mouth-orgin and wiping it on 'is sleeve. "Wot toon would you

I couldn't get away from 'em, and when I told them I 'ad never danced in
my life the cook asked me where I expected to go to. He told the
drayman that I'd been dancing like a fairy in sea-boots, and they all
got in front of me and wouldn't let me pass. I lost my temper at last,
and, arter they 'ad taken the broom away from me and the drayman and one
o' the sailormen 'ad said wot they'd do to me if I was on'y fifty years
younger, they sheered off.

I locked the gate arter 'em and went back to the office, and I 'adn't
been there above 'arf an hour when somebody started ringing the gate-
bell as if they was mad. I thought it was the cook's lot come back at
fust, so I opened the wicket just a trifle and peeped out. There was a
'ansom-cab standing outside, and I 'ad hardly got my nose to the crack
when the actor-chap, still in my clothes, pushed the door open and
nipped in.

"You've lost," he ses, pushing the door to and smiling all over.
"Where's your sixpence?"

"Lost?" I ses, hardly able to speak. "D'ye mean to tell me you've been
to my wife arter all--arter all I said to you?"

"I do," he ses, nodding, and smiling agin. "They were both deceived as
easy as easy."

"Both?" I ses, staring at 'im. "Both wot? 'Ow many wives d'ye think
I've got? Wot d'ye mean by it?"

"Arter I left you," he ses, giving me a little poke in the ribs, "I
picked up a cab and, fust leaving my bag at Aldgate, I drove on to your
'ouse and knocked at the door. I knocked twice, and then an angry-
looking woman opened it and asked me wot I wanted.

"'It's all right, missis,' I ses. 'I've got 'arf an hour off, and I've
come to take you out for a walk.'

"'Wot?' she ses, drawing back with a start.

"'Just a little turn round to see the shops,' I ses; 'and if there's
anything particler you'd like and it don't cost too much, you shall 'ave

"I thought at fust, from the way she took it, she wasn't used to you
giving 'er things.

"'Ow dare you!' she ses. 'I'll 'ave you locked up. 'Ow dare you insult
a respectable married woman! You wait till my 'usband comes 'ome.'

"'But I am your 'usband,' I ses. 'Don't you know me, my pretty? Don't
you know your pet sailor-boy?'

"She gave a screech like a steam-injin, and then she went next door and
began knocking away like mad. Then I see that I 'ad gorn to number
twelve instead of number fourteen. Your wife, your real wife, came out
of number fourteen--and she was worse than the other. But they both
thought it was you--there's no doubt of that. They chased me all the
way up the road, and if it 'adn't ha' been for this cab that was just
passing I don't know wot would 'ave 'appened to me."

He shook his 'ead and smiled agin, and, arter opening the wicket a
trifle and telling the cabman he shouldn't be long, he turned to me and
asked me for the sixpence, to wear on his watch-chain.

"Sixpence!" I ses. "SIXPENCE!" Wot do you think is going to 'appen to
me when I go 'ome?"

"Oh, I 'adn't thought o' that," he ses. "Yes, o' course."

"Wot about my wife's jealousy?" I ses. "Wot about the other, and her
'usband, a cooper as big as a 'ouse?"

"Well, well," he ses, "one can't think of everything. It'll be all the
same a hundred years hence."

"Look 'ere," I ses, taking 'is shoulder in a grip of iron. "You come
back with me now in that cab and explain. D'ye see? That's wot you've
got to do."

"All right," he ses; "certainly. Is--is the husband bad-tempered?"

"You'll see," I ses; "but that's your business. Come along."

"With pleasure," he ses, 'elping me in. "'Arf a mo' while I tell the
cabby where to drive to."

He went to the back o' the cab, and afore I knew wot had 'appened the
'orse had got a flick over the head with the whip and was going along at
a gallop. I kept putting the little flap up and telling the cabby to
stop, but he didn't take the slightest notice. Arter I'd done it three
times he kept it down so as I couldn't open it.

There was a crowd round my door when the cab drove up, and in the middle
of it was my missis, the woman next door, and 'er husband, wot 'ad just
come 'ome. 'Arf a dozen of 'em helped me out, and afore I could say a
word the cabman drove off and left me there.

I dream of it now sometimes: standing there explaining and explaining,
until, just as I feel I can't bear it any longer, two policemen come up
and 'elp me indoors. If they had 'elped my missis outside it would be a
easier dream to have.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest