Part 3 out of 4
turned to the valiant Sims and made herself so agreeable to that daring
blade that Mr. Drill, a prey to violent jealousy, bade the company a curt
good-night and withdrew.
He stayed away for nearly a week, and then one evening as he approached
the house, carrying a carpet-bag, he saw the door just opening to admit
the fortunate Herbert. He quickened his pace and arrived just in time to
follow him in. Mr. Sims, who bore under his arm a brown-paper parcel,
seemed somewhat embarrassed at seeing him, and after a brief greeting
walked into the room, and with a triumphant glance at Mr. Gunnill and
Selina placed his burden on the table.
[Illustration: "He saw the door just opening to admit the fortunate
"You--you ain't got it?" said Mr. Gunnill, leaning forward.
"How foolish of you to run such a risk!" said Selina.
"I brought it for Miss Gunnill," said the young man, simply. He
unfastened the parcel, and to the astonishment of all present revealed a
policeman's helmet and a short boxwood truncheon.
"You--you're a wonder," said the gloating Mr. Gunnill. "Look at it,
Mr. Drill was looking at it; it may be doubted whether the head of Mr.
Cooper itself could have caused him more astonishment. Then his eyes
sought those of Mr. Sims, but that gentleman was gazing tenderly at the
gratified but shocked Selina.
"How ever did you do it?" inquired Mr. Gunnill.
"Came behind him and threw him down," said Mr. Sims, nonchalantly. "He
was that scared I believe I could have taken his boots as well if I'd
Mr. Gunnill patted him on the back. "I fancy I can see him running
bare-headed through the town calling for help," he said, smiling.
Mr. Sims shook his head. "Like as not it'll be kept quiet for the credit
of the force," he said, slowly, "unless, of course, they discover who did
A slight shade fell on the good-humoured countenance of Mr. Gunnill, but
it was chased away almost immediately by Sims reminding him of the chaff
of Cooper's brother-constables.
"And you might take the others away," said Mr. Gunnill, brightening; "you
might keep on doing it."
Mr. Sims said doubtfully that he might, but pointed out that Cooper would
probably be on his guard for the future.
"Yes, you've done your share," said Miss Gunnill, with a half-glance at
Mr. Drill, who was still gazing in a bewildered fashion at the trophies.
"You can come into the kitchen and help me draw some beer if you like."
Mr. Sims followed her joyfully, and reaching down a jug for her watched
her tenderly as she drew the beer. All women love valour, but Miss
Gunnill, gazing sadly at the slight figure of Mr. Sims, could not help
wishing that Mr. Drill possessed a little of his spirit.
[Illustration: "Mr. Sims watched her tenderly as she drew the beer."]
She had just finished her task when a tremendous bumping noise was heard
in the living-room, and the plates on the dresser were nearly shaken off
"What's that?" she cried.
They ran to the room and stood aghast in the doorway at the spectacle of
Mr. Gunnill, with his clenched fists held tightly by his side, bounding
into the air with all the grace of a trained acrobat, while Mr. Drill
encouraged him from an easy-chair. Mr. Gunnill smiled broadly as he met
their astonished gaze, and with a final bound kicked something along the
floor and subsided into his seat panting.
Mr. Sims, suddenly enlightened, uttered a cry of dismay and, darting
under the table, picked up what had once been a policeman's helmet. Then
he snatched a partially consumed truncheon from the fire, and stood white
and trembling before the astonished Mr. Gunnill.
"What's the matter?" inquired the latter. "You--you've spoilt 'em,"
gasped Mr. Sims. "What of it?" said Mr. Gunnill, staring.
"I was--going to take 'em away," stammered Mr. Sims.
"Well, they'll be easier to carry now," said Mr. Drill, simply.
Mr. Sims glanced at him sharply, and then, to the extreme astonishment of
Mr. Gunnill, snatched up the relics and, wrapping them up in the paper,
dashed out of the house. Mr. Gunnill turned a look of blank inquiry upon
"It wasn't Cooper's number on the helmet," said that gentleman.
"Eh?" shouted Mr. Gunnill.
"How do you know?" inquired Selina.
"I just happened to notice," replied Mr. Drill. He reached down as
though to take up the carpet-bag which he had placed by the side of his
chair, and then, apparently thinking better of it, leaned back in his
seat and eyed Mr. Gunnill.
"Do you mean to tell me," said the latter, "that he's been and upset the
Mr. Drill shook his head. "That's the puzzle," he said, softly.
He smiled over at Miss Gunnill, but that young lady, who found him
somewhat mysterious, looked away and frowned. Her father sat and
exhausted conjecture, his final conclusion being that Mr. Sims had
attacked the first policeman that had come in his way and was now
suffering the agonies of remorse.
He raised his head sharply at the sound of hurried footsteps outside.
There was a smart rap at the street door, then the handle was turned, and
the next moment, to the dismay of all present, the red and angry face of
one of Mr. Cooper's brother-constables was thrust into the room.
Mr. Gunnill gazed at it in helpless fascination. The body of the
constable garbed in plain clothes followed the face and, standing before
him in a menacing fashion, held out a broken helmet and staff.
"Have you seen these afore?" he inquired, in a terrible voice.
"No," said Mr. Gunnill, with an attempt at surprise. "What are they?"
"I'll tell you what they are," said Police-constable Jenkins,
ferociously; "they're my helmet and truncheon. You've been spoiling His
Majesty's property, and you'll be locked up."
"Yours?" said the astonished Mr. Gunnill.
"I lent 'em to young Sims, just for a joke," said the constable. "I felt
all along I was doing a silly thing."
"It's no joke," said Mr. Gunnill, severely. "I'll tell young Herbert
what I think of him trying to deceive me like that."
"Never mind about deceiving," interrupted the constable. "What are you
going to do about it?"
"What are you?" inquired Mr. Gunnill, hardily. "It seems to me it's
between you and him; you'll very likely be dismissed from the force, and
all through trying to deceive. I wash my hands of it."
"You'd no business to lend it," said Drill, interrupting the constable's
indignant retort; "especially for Sims to pretend that he had stolen it
from Cooper. It's a roundabout sort of thing, but you can't tell of Mr.
Gunnill without getting into trouble yourself."
"I shall have to put up with that," said the constable, desperately;
"it's got to be explained. It's my day-helmet, too, and the night one's
as shabby as can be. Twenty years in the force and never a mark against
my name till now."
"If you'd only keep quiet a bit instead of talking so much," said Mr.
Drill, who had been doing some hard thinking, "I might be able to help
"How?" inquired the constable.
"Help him if you can, Ted," said Mr. Gunnill, eagerly; "we ought all to
help others when we get a chance."
Mr. Drill sat bolt upright and looked very wise.
He took the smashed helmet from the table and examined it carefully. It
was broken in at least half-a-dozen places, and he laboured in vain to
push it into shape. He might as well have tried to make a silk hat out
of a concertina. The only thing that had escaped injury was the metal
plate with the number.
"Why don't you mend it?" he inquired, at last.
"Mend it?" shouted the incensed Mr. Jenkins. "Why don't you?"
"I think I could," said Mr. Drill, slowly; "give me half an hour in the
kitchen and I'll try."
"Have as long as you like," said Mr. Gunnill.
"And I shall want some glue, and Miss Gunnill, and some tin-tacks," said
"What do you want me for?" inquired Selina.
"To hold the things for me," replied Mr. Drill.
Miss Gunnill tossed her head, but after a little demur consented; and
Drill, ignoring the impatience of the constable, picked up his bag and
led the way into the kitchen. Messrs. Gunnill and Jenkins, left behind
in the living-room, sought for some neutral topic of discourse, but in
vain; conversation would revolve round hard labour and lost pensions.
From the kitchen came sounds of hammering, then a loud "Ooh!" from Miss
Gunnill, followed by a burst of laughter and a clapping of hands. Mr.
Jenkins shifted in his seat and exchanged glances with Mr. Gunnill.
[Illustration: "From the kitchen came sounds of hammering."]
"He's a clever fellow," said that gentleman, hopefully. "You should hear
him imitate a canary; life-like it is."
Mr. Jenkins was about to make a hasty and obvious rejoinder, when the
kitchen door opened and Selina emerged, followed by Drill. The snarl
which the constable had prepared died away in a murmur of astonishment as
he took the helmet. It looked as good as ever.
He turned it over and over in amaze, and looked in vain for any signs of
the disastrous cracks. It was stiff and upright. He looked at the
number: it was his own. His eyes round with astonishment he tried it on,
and then his face relaxed.
"It don't fit as well as it did," he said.
"Well, upon my word, some people are never satisfied," said the indignant
Drill. "There isn't another man in England could have done it better."
"I'm not grumbling," said the constable, hastily; "it's a wonderful piece
o' work. Wonderful! I can't even see where it was broke. How on earth
did you do it?"
Drill shook his head. "It's a secret process," he said, slowly. "I
might want to go into the hat trade some day, and I'm not going to give
"Quite right," said Mr. Jenkins. "Still--well, it's a marvel, that's
what it is; a fair marvel. If you take my advice you'll go in the hat
trade to-morrow, my lad."
"I'm not surprised," said Mr. Gunnill, whose face as he spoke was a map
of astonishment. "Not a bit. I've seen him do more surprising things
than that. Have a go at the staff now, Teddy."
"I'll see about it," said Mr. Drill, modestly. "I can't do
impossibilities. You leave it here, Mr. Jenkins, and we'll talk about it
Mr. Jenkins, still marvelling over his helmet, assented, and, after
another reference to the possibilities in the hat trade to a man with a
born gift for repairs, wrapped his property in a piece of newspaper and
"Ted," said Mr. Gunnill, impressively, as he sank into his chair with a
sigh of relief. "How you done it I don't know. It's a surprise even to
"He is very clever," said Selina, with a kind smile
Mr. Drill turned pale, and then, somewhat emboldened by praise from such
a quarter, dropped into a chair by her side and began to talk in low
tones. The grateful Mr. Gunnill, more relieved than he cared to confess,
thoughtfully closed his eyes.
"I didn't think all along that you'd let Herbert outdo you," said Selina.
"I want to outdo him," said Mr. Drill, in a voice of much meaning.
Miss Gunnill cast down her eyes and Mr. Drill had just plucked up
sufficient courage to take her hand when footsteps stopped at the house,
the handle of the door was turned, and, for the second time that evening,
the inflamed visage of Mr. Jenkins confronted the company.
"Don't tell me it's a failure," said Mr. Gunnill, starting from his
chair. "You must have been handling it roughly. It was as good as new
when you took it away."
Mr. Jenkins waved him away and fixed his eyes upon Drill.
"You think you're mighty clever, I dare say," he said, grimly; "but I can
put two and two together. I've just heard of it."
"Heard of two and two?" said Drill, looking puzzled.
"I don't want any of your nonsense," said Mr. Jenkins. "I'm not on duty
now, but I warn you not to say anything that may be used against you."
"I never do," said Mr. Drill, piously.
"Somebody threw a handful o' flour in poor Cooper's face a couple of
hours ago," said Mr. Jenkins, watching him closely, "and while he was
getting it out of his eyes they upset him and made off with his helmet
and truncheon. I just met Brown and he says Cooper's been going on like
"By Jove! it's a good job I mended your helmet for you," said Mr. Drill,
"or else they might have suspected you."
Mr. Jenkins stared at him. "I know who did do it," he said,
"Herbert Sims?" guessed Mr. Drill, in a stage whisper.
"You'll be one o' the first to know," said Mr. Jenkins, darkly; "he'll be
arrested to-morrow. Fancy the impudence of it! It's shocking."
Mr. Drill whistled. "Nell, don't let that little affair o' yours with
Sims be known," he said, quietly. "Have that kept quiet--if you can."
Mr. Jenkins started as though he had been stung. In the joy of a case he
had overlooked one or two things. He turned and regarded the young man
"Don't call on me as a witness, that's all," continued Mr. Drill. "I
never was a mischief-maker, and I shouldn't like to have to tell how you
lent your helmet to Sims so that he could pretend he had knocked Cooper
down and taken it from him."
[Illustration: "Don't call on me as a witness, that's all," continued Mr.
"Wouldn't look at all well," said Mr. Gunnill, nodding his head sagely.
Mr. Jenkins breathed hard and looked from one to the other. It was plain
that it was no good reminding them that he had not had a case for five
"When I say that I know who did it," he said, slowly, "I mean that I have
"Don't call on me as a witness, that's all,' continued Mr. Drill."
"Ah," said Mr. Drill, "that's a very different thing."
"Nothing like the same," said Mr. Gunnill, pouring the constable a glass
Mr. Jenkins drank it and smacked his lips feebly.
"Sims needn't know anything about that helmet being repaired," he said at
"Certainly not," said everybody.
Mr. Jenkins sighed and turned to Drill.
"It's no good spoiling the ship for a ha'porth o' tar," he said, with a
faint suspicion of a wink. "No," said Drill, looking puzzled.
"Anything that's worth doing at all is worth doing well," continued the
constable, "and while I'm drinking another glass with Mr. Gunnill here,
suppose you go into the kitchen with that useful bag o' yours and finish
repairing my truncheon?"
THE PERSECUTION OF BOB PRETTY
The old man sat on his accustomed bench outside the Cauliflower. A
generous measure of beer stood in a blue and white jug by his elbow, and
little wisps of smoke curled slowly upward from the bowl of his
churchwarden pipe. The knapsacks of two young men lay where they were
flung on the table, and the owners, taking a noon-tide rest, turned a
polite, if bored, ear to the reminiscences of grateful old age.
Poaching, said the old man, who had tried topics ranging from early
turnips to horseshoeing--poaching ain't wot it used to be in these 'ere
parts. Nothing is like it used to be, poaching nor anything else; but
that there man you might ha' noticed as went out about ten minutes ago
and called me "Old Truthfulness" as 'e passed is the worst one I know.
Bob Pretty 'is name is, and of all the sly, artful, deceiving men that
ever lived in Claybury 'e is the worst--never did a honest day's work in
'is life and never wanted the price of a glass of ale.
[Illustration: "Poaching," said the old man, "ain't wot it used to be in
these 'ere parts."]
Bob Pretty's worst time was just after old Squire Brown died. The old
squire couldn't afford to preserve much, but by-and-by a gentleman with
plenty o' money, from London, named Rockett, took 'is place and things
began to look up. Pheasants was 'is favourites, and 'e spent no end o'
money rearing of 'em, but anything that could be shot at suited 'im, too.
He started by sneering at the little game that Squire Brown 'ad left, but
all 'e could do didn't seem to make much difference; things disappeared
in a most eggstrordinary way, and the keepers went pretty near crazy,
while the things the squire said about Claybury and Claybury men was
Everybody knew as it was Bob Pretty and one or two of 'is mates from
other places, but they couldn't prove it. They couldn't catch 'im nohow,
and at last the squire 'ad two keepers set off to watch 'im by night and
Bob Pretty wouldn't believe it; he said 'e couldn't. And even when it
was pointed out to 'im that Keeper Lewis was follering of 'im he said
that it just 'appened he was going the same way, that was all. And
sometimes 'e'd get up in the middle of the night and go for a fifteen-
mile walk 'cos 'e'd got the toothache, and Mr. Lewis, who 'adn't got it,
had to tag along arter 'im till he was fit to drop. O' course, it was
one keeper the less to look arter the game, and by-and-by the squire see
that and took 'im off.
All the same they kept a pretty close watch on Bob, and at last one
arternoon they sprang out on 'im as he was walking past Gray's farm, and
asked him wot it was he 'ad in his pockets.
"That's my bisness, Mr. Lewis," ses Bob Pretty.
Mr. Smith, the other keeper, passed 'is hands over Bob's coat and felt
something soft and bulgy.
"You take your 'ands off of me," ses Bob; "you don't know 'ow partikler I
He jerked 'imself away, but they caught 'old of 'im agin, and Mr. Lewis
put 'is hand in his inside pocket and pulled out two brace o' partridges.
"You'll come along of us," he ses, catching 'im by the arm.
"We've been looking for you a long time," ses Keeper Smith, "and it's a
pleasure for us to 'ave your company."
Bob Pretty said 'e wouldn't go, but they forced 'im along and took 'im
all the way to Cudford, four miles off, so that Policeman White could
lock 'im up for the night. Mr. White was a'most as pleased as the
keepers, and 'e warned Bob solemn not to speak becos all 'e said would be
used agin 'im.
"Never mind about that," ses Bob Pretty. "I've got a clear conscience,
and talking can't 'urt me. I'm very glad to see you, Mr. White; if these
two clever, experienced keepers hadn't brought me I should 'ave looked
you up myself. They've been and stole my partridges."
Them as was standing round laughed, and even Policeman White couldn't
'elp giving a little smile.
"There's nothing to laugh at," ses Bob, 'olding his 'ead up. "It's a
fine thing when a working man--a 'ardworking man--can't take home a
little game for 'is family without being stopped and robbed."
"I s'pose they flew into your pocket?" ses Police-man White.
"No, they didn't," ses Bob. "I'm not going to tell any lies about it;
I put 'em there. The partridges in my inside coat-pocket and the bill in
"The bill?" ses Keeper Lewis, staring at 'im.
"Yes, the bill," ses Bob Pretty, staring back at 'im; "the bill from Mr.
Keen, the poulterer, at Wick-ham."
He fetched it out of 'is pocket and showed it to Mr. White, and the
keepers was like madmen a'most 'cos it was plain to see that Bob Pretty
'ad been and bought them partridges just for to play a game on 'em.
"I was curious to know wot they tasted like," he ses to the policeman.
"Worst of it is, I don't s'pose my pore wife'll know 'ow to cook 'em."
"You get off 'ome," ses Policeman White, staring at 'im.
"But ain't I goin' to be locked up?" ses Bob. "'Ave I been brought all
this way just to 'ave a little chat with a policeman I don't like."
"You go 'ome," ses Policeman White, handing the partridges back to 'im.
"All right," ses Bob, "and I may 'ave to call you to witness that these
'ere two men laid hold o' me and tried to steal my partridges. I shall
go up and see my loryer about it."
He walked off 'ome with his 'ead up as high as 'e could hold it, and the
airs 'e used to give 'imself arter this was terrible for to behold. He
got 'is eldest boy to write a long letter to the squire about it, saying
that 'e'd overlook it this time, but 'e couldn't promise for the future.
Wot with Bob Pretty on one side and Squire Rockett on the other, them two
keepers' lives was 'ardly worth living.
Then the squire got a head-keeper named Cutts, a man as was said to know
more about the ways of poachers than they did themselves. He was said to
'ave cleared out all the poachers for miles round the place 'e came from,
and pheasants could walk into people's cottages and not be touched.
He was a sharp-looking man, tall and thin, with screwed-up eyes and a
little red beard. The second day 'e came 'e was up here at this 'ere
Cauliflower, having a pint o' beer and looking round at the chaps as he
talked to the landlord. The odd thing was that men who'd never taken a
hare or a pheasant in their lives could 'ardly meet 'is eye, while Bob
Pretty stared at 'im as if 'e was a wax-works.
"I 'ear you 'ad a little poaching in these parts afore I came," ses Mr.
Cutts to the landlord.
"I think I 'ave 'eard something o' the kind," ses the landlord, staring
over his 'ead with a far-away look in 'is eyes.
"You won't hear of much more," ses the keeper. "I've invented a new way
of catching the dirty rascals; afore I came 'ere I caught all the
poachers on three estates. I clear 'em out just like a ferret clears
"Sort o' man-trap?" ses the landlord.
"Ah, that's tellings," ses Mr. Cutts.
"Well, I 'ope you'll catch 'em here," ses Bob Pretty; "there's far too
many of 'em about for my liking. Far too many."
"I shall 'ave 'em afore long," ses Mr. Cutts, nodding his 'ead.
[Illustration: "I shall 'ave 'em afore long,' ses Mr. Cutts."]
"Your good 'ealth," ses Bob Pretty, holding up 'is mug. "We've been
wanting a man like you for a long time."
"I don't want any of your impidence, my man," ses the keeper. "I've
'eard about you, and nothing good either. You be careful."
"I am careful," ses Bob, winking at the others. "I 'ope you'll catch all
them low poaching chaps; they give the place a bad name, and I'm a'most
afraid to go out arter dark for fear of meeting 'em."
Peter Gubbins and Sam Jones began to laugh, but Bob Pretty got angry with
'em and said he didn't see there was anything to laugh at. He said that
poaching was a disgrace to their native place, and instead o' laughing
they ought to be thankful to Mr. Cutts for coming to do away with it all.
"Any help I can give you shall be given cheerful," he ses to the keeper.
"When I want your help I'll ask you for it," ses Mr. Cutts.
"Thankee," ses Bob Pretty. "I on'y 'ope I sha'n't get my face knocked
about like yours 'as been, that's all; 'cos my wife's so partikler."
"Wot d'ye mean?" ses Mr. Cutts, turning on him. "My face ain't been
"Oh, I beg your pardin," ses Bob; "I didn't know it was natural."
Mr. Cutts went black in the face a'most and stared at Bob Pretty as if 'e
was going to eat 'im, and Bob stared back, looking fust at the keeper's
nose and then at 'is eyes and mouth, and then at 'is nose agin.
"You'll know me agin, I s'pose?" ses Mr. Cutts, at last.
"Yes," ses Bob, smiling; "I should know you a mile off--on the darkest
"We shall see," ses Mr. Cutts, taking up 'is beer and turning 'is back on
him. "Those of us as live the longest'll see the most."
"I'm glad I've lived long enough to see 'im," ses Bob to Bill Chambers.
"I feel more satisfied with myself now."
Bill Chambers coughed, and Mr. Cutts, arter finishing 'is beer, took
another look at Bob Pretty, and went off boiling a'most.
The trouble he took to catch Bob Pretty arter that you wouldn't believe,
and all the time the game seemed to be simply melting away, and Squire
Rockett was finding fault with 'im all day long. He was worn to a
shadder a'most with watching, and Bob Pretty seemed to be more prosperous
Sometimes Mr. Cutts watched in the plantations, and sometimes 'e hid
'imself near Bob's house, and at last one night, when 'e was crouching
behind the fence of Frederick Scott's front garden, 'e saw Bob Pretty
come out of 'is house and, arter a careful look round, walk up the road.
He held 'is breath as Bob passed 'im, and was just getting up to foller
'im when Bob stopped and walked slowly back agin, sniffing.
"Wot a delicious smell o' roses!" he ses, out loud.
He stood in the middle o' the road nearly opposite where the keeper was
hiding, and sniffed so that you could ha' 'eard him the other end o' the
"It can't be roses," he ses, in a puzzled voice, "be-cos there ain't no
roses hereabouts, and, besides, it's late for 'em. It must be Mr. Cutts,
the clever new keeper."
He put his 'ead over the fence and bid 'im good evening, and said wot a
fine night for a stroll it was, and asked 'im whether 'e was waiting for
Frederick Scott's aunt. Mr. Cutts didn't answer 'im a word; 'e was
pretty near bursting with passion. He got up and shook 'is fist in Bob
Pretty's face, and then 'e went off stamping down the road as if 'e was
And for a time Bob Pretty seemed to 'ave all the luck on 'is side.
Keeper Lewis got rheumatic fever, which 'e put down to sitting about
night arter night in damp places watching for Bob, and, while 'e was in
the thick of it, with the doctor going every day, Mr. Cutts fell in
getting over a fence and broke 'is leg. Then all the work fell on Keeper
Smith, and to 'ear 'im talk you'd think that rheumatic fever and broken
legs was better than anything else in the world. He asked the squire for
'elp, but the squire wouldn't give it to 'im, and he kept telling 'im wot
a feather in 'is cap it would be if 'e did wot the other two couldn't do,
and caught Bob Pretty. It was all very well, but, as Smith said, wot 'e
wanted was feathers in 'is piller, instead of 'aving to snatch a bit o'
sleep in 'is chair or sitting down with his 'ead agin a tree. When I
tell you that 'e fell asleep in this public-'ouse one night while the
landlord was drawing a pint o' beer he 'ad ordered, you'll know wot 'e
O' course, all this suited Bob Pretty as well as could be, and 'e was
that good-tempered 'e'd got a nice word for everybody, and when Bill
Chambers told 'im 'e was foolhardy 'e only laughed and said 'e knew wot
'e was about.
But the very next night 'e had reason to remember Bill Chambers's words.
He was walking along Farmer Hall's field--the one next to the squire's
plantation--and, so far from being nervous, 'e was actually a-whistling.
He'd got a sack over 'is shoulder, loaded as full as it could be, and 'e
'ad just stopped to light 'is pipe when three men burst out o' the
plantation and ran toward 'im as 'ard as they could run.
[Illustration: "Three men burst out o' the plantation."]
Bob Pretty just gave one look and then 'e dropped 'is pipe and set off
like a hare. It was no good dropping the sack, because Smith, the
keeper, 'ad recognised 'im and called 'im by name, so 'e just put 'is
teeth together and did the best he could, and there's no doubt that if it
'adn't ha' been for the sack 'e could 'ave got clear away.
As it was, 'e ran for pretty near a mile, and they could 'ear 'im
breathing like a pair o' bellows; but at last 'e saw that the game was
up. He just man-aged to struggle as far as Farmer Pinnock's pond, and
then, waving the sack round his 'ead, 'e flung it into the middle of it,
and fell down gasping for breath.
"Got--you--this time--Bob Pretty," ses one o' the men, as they came up.
"Wot--Mr. Cutts?" ses Bob, with a start. "That's me, my man," ses the
"Why--I thought--you was. Is that Mr. Lewis? It can't be."
"That's me," ses Keeper Lewis. "We both got well sudden-like, Bob
Pretty, when we 'eard you was out. You ain't so sharp as you thought you
Bob Pretty sat still, getting 'is breath back and doing a bit o' thinking
at the same time.
"You give me a start," he ses, at last. "I thought you was both in bed,
and, knowing 'ow hard worked Mr. Smith 'as been, I just came round to
'elp 'im keep watch like. I promised to 'elp you, Mr. Cutts, if you
"Wot was that you threw in the pond just now?" ses Mr. Cutts.
"A sack," ses Bob Pretty; "a sack I found in Farmer Hall's field. It
felt to me as though it might 'ave birds in it, so I picked it up, and I
was just on my way to your 'ouse with it, Mr. Cutts, when you started
"Ah!" ses the keeper, "and wot did you run for?"
Bob Pretty tried to laugh. "Becos I thought it was the poachers arter
me," he ses. "It seems ridikilous, don't it?"
"Yes, it does," ses Lewis.
"I thought you'd know me a mile off," ses Mr. Cutts. "I should ha'
thought the smell o' roses would ha' told you I was near."
Bob Pretty scratched 'is 'ead and looked at 'im out of the corner of 'is
eye, but he 'adn't got any answer. Then 'e sat biting his finger-nails
and thinking while the keepers stood argyfying as to who should take 'is
clothes off and go into the pond arter the pheasants. It was a very cold
night and the pond was pretty deep in places, and none of 'em seemed
"Make 'im go in for it," ses Lewis, looking at Bob; "'e chucked it in."
"On'y Becos I thought you was poachers," ses Bob. "I'm sorry to 'ave
caused so much trouble."
"Well, you go in and get it out," ses Lewis, who pretty well guessed
who'd 'ave to do it if Bob didn't. "It'll look better for you, too."
"I've got my defence all right," ses Bob Pretty. "I ain't set a foot on
the squire's preserves, and I found this sack a 'undred yards away from
"Don't waste more time," ses Mr. Cutts to Lewis.
"Off with your clothes and in with you. Anybody'd think you was afraid
of a little cold water."
"Whereabouts did 'e pitch it in?" ses Lewis.
Bob Pretty pointed with 'is finger exactly where 'e thought it was, but
they wouldn't listen to 'im, and then Lewis, arter twice saying wot a bad
cold he'd got, took 'is coat off very slow and careful.
[Illustration: "Bob Pretty pointed with 'is finger exactly where 'e
thought it was."]
"I wouldn't mind going in to oblige you," ses Bob Pretty, "but the pond
is so full o' them cold, slimy efts; I don't fancy them crawling up agin
me, and, besides that, there's such a lot o' deep holes in it. And
wotever you do don't put your 'ead under; you know 'ow foul that water
Keeper Lewis pretended not to listen to 'im. He took off 'is clothes
very slowly and then 'e put one foot in and stood shivering, although
Smith, who felt the water with his 'and, said it was quite warm. Then
Lewis put the other foot in and began to walk about careful, 'arf-way up
to 'is knees.
"I can't find it," he ses, with 'is teeth chattering.
"You 'aven't looked," ses Mr. Cutts; "walk about more; you can't expect
to find it all at once. Try the middle."
Lewis tried the middle, and 'e stood there up to 'is neck, feeling about
with his foot and saying things out loud about Bob Pretty, and other
things under 'is breath about Mr. Cutts.
"Well, I'm going off 'ome," ses Bob Pretty, getting up. "I'm too
tender-'arted to stop and see a man drownded."
"You stay 'ere," ses Mr. Cutts, catching 'old of him.
"Wot for?" ses Bob; "you've got no right to keep me 'ere."
"Catch 'old of 'im, Joe," ses Mr. Cutts, quick-like.
Smith caught 'old of his other arm, and Lewis left off trying to find the
sack to watch the struggle. Bob Pretty fought 'ard, and once or twice 'e
nearly tumbled Mr. Cutts into the pond, but at last 'e gave in and lay
down panting and talking about 'is loryer. Smith 'eld him down on the
ground while Mr. Cutts kept pointing out places with 'is finger for Lewis
to walk to. The last place 'e pointed to wanted a much taller man, but
it wasn't found out till too late, and the fuss Keeper Lewis made when 'e
could speak agin was terrible.
"You'd better come out," ses Mr. Cutts; "you ain't doing no good. We
know where they are and we'll watch the pond till daylight--that is,
unless Smith 'ud like to 'ave a try."
"It's pretty near daylight now, I think," ses Smith.
Lewis came out and ran up and down to dry 'imself, and finished off on
'is pocket-'andkerchief, and then with 'is teeth chattering 'e began to
dress 'imself. He got 'is shirt on, and then 'e stood turning over 'is
clothes as if 'e was looking for something.
"Never mind about your stud now," ses Mr. Cutts; "hurry up and dress."
"Stud?" ses Lewis, very snappish. "I'm looking for my trowsis."
"Your trowsis?" ses Smith, 'elping 'im look.
"I put all my clothes together," ses Lewis, a'most shouting. "Where are
they? I'm 'arf perished with cold. Where are they?"
"He 'ad 'em on this evening," ses Bob Pretty, "'cos I remember noticing
"They must be somewhere about," ses Mr. Cutts; "why don't you use your
He walked up and down, peering about, and as for Lewis he was 'opping
round 'arf crazy.
"I wonder," ses Bob Pretty, in a thoughtful voice, to Smith--"I wonder
whether you or Mr. Cutts kicked 'em in the pond while you was struggling
with me. Come to think of it, I seem to remember 'earing a splash."
"He's done it, Mr. Cutts," ses Smith; "never mind, it'll go all the
'arder with 'im."
"But I do mind," ses Lewis, shouting. "I'll be even with you for this,
Bob Pretty. I'll make you feel it. You wait till I've done with you.
You'll get a month extra for this, you see if you don't."
"Don't you mind about me," ses Bob; "you run off 'ome and cover up them
legs of yours. I found that sack, so my conscience is clear."
Lewis put on 'is coat and waistcoat and set off, and Mr. Cutts and Smith,
arter feeling about for a dry place, set theirselves down and began to
"Look 'ere," ses Bob Pretty, "I'm not going to sit 'ere all night to
please you; I'm going off 'ome. If you want me you'll know where to find
"You stay where you are," ses Mr. Cutts. "We ain't going to let you out
of our sight."
"Very well, then, you take me 'ome," ses Bob. "I'm not going to catch my
death o' cold sitting 'ere. I'm not used to being out of a night like
you are. I was brought up respectable."
"I dare say," ses Mr. Cutts. "Take you 'ome, and then 'ave one o' your
mates come and get the sack while we're away."
Then Bob Pretty lost 'is temper, and the things 'e said about Mr. Cutts
wasn't fit for Smith to 'ear. He threw 'imself down at last full length
on the ground and sulked till the day broke.
Keeper Lewis was there a'most as soon as it was light, with some long
hay-rakes he'd borrowed, and I should think that pretty near 'arf the
folks in Clay-bury 'ad turned up to see the fun. Mrs. Pretty was crying
and wringing 'er 'ands; but most folks seemed to be rather pleased that
Bob 'ad been caught at last.
In next to no time 'arf-a-dozen rakes was at work, and the things they
brought out o' that pond you wouldn't believe. The edge of it was all
littered with rusty tin pails and saucepans and such-like, and by-and-by
Lewis found the things he'd 'ad to go 'ome without a few hours afore, but
they didn't seem to find that sack, and Bob Pretty, wot was talking to
'is wife, began to look 'opeful.
But just then the squire came riding up with two friends as was staying
with 'im, and he offered a reward of five shillings to the man wot found
it. Three or four of 'em waded in up to their middle then and raked
their 'ardest, and at last Henery Walker give a cheer and brought it to
the side, all heavy with water.
"That's the sack I found, sir," ses Bob, starting up. "It wasn't on your
land at all, but on the field next to it. I'm an honest, 'ardworking
man, and I've never been in trouble afore. Ask anybody 'ere and they'll
tell you the same."
Squire Rockett took no notice of 'im. "Is that the sack?" he asks,
turning to Mr. Cutts.
"That's the one, sir," ses Mr. Cutts. "I'd swear to it anywhere."
"You'd swear a man's life away," ses Bob. "'Ow can you swear to it when
it was dark?"
Mr. Cutts didn't answer 'im. He went down on 'is knees and cut the
string that tied up the mouth o' the sack, and then 'e started back as if
'e'd been shot, and 'is eyes a'most started out of 'is 'ead.
"Wot's the matter?" ses the squire.
Mr. Cutts couldn't speak; he could only stutter and point at the sack
with 'is finger, and Henery Walker, as was getting curious, lifted up the
other end of it and out rolled a score of as fine cabbages as you could
wish to see.
I never see people so astonished afore in all my born days, and as for
Bob Pretty, 'e stood staring at them cabbages as if 'e couldn't believe
"And that's wot I've been kept 'ere all night for," he ses, at last,
shaking his 'ead. "That's wot comes o' trying to do a kindness to
keepers, and 'elping of 'em in their difficult work. P'r'aps that ain't
the sack arter all, Mr. Cutts. I could ha' sworn they was pheasants in
the one I found, but I may be mistook, never 'aving 'ad one in my 'ands
afore. Or p'r'aps somebody was trying to 'ave a game with you, Mr.
Cutts, and deceived me instead."
The keepers on'y stared at 'im.
"You ought to be more careful," ses Bob. "Very likely while you was
taking all that trouble over me, and Keeper Lewis was catching 'is death
o' cold, the poachers was up at the plantation taking all they wanted.
And, besides, it ain't right for Squire Rockett to 'ave to pay Henery
Walker five shillings for finding a lot of old cabbages. I shouldn't
like it myself."
[Illustration: "You ought to be more careful," ses Bob.]
He looked out of the corner of 'is eye at the squire, as was pretending
not to notice Henery Walker touching 'is cap to him, and then 'e turns to
'is wife and he ses:
"Come along, old gal," 'e ses. "I want my breakfast bad, and arter that
I shall 'ave to lose a honest day's work in bed."
Talking about eddication, said the night-watchman, thoughtfully, the
finest eddication you can give a lad is to send 'im to sea. School is
all right up to a certain p'int, but arter that comes the sea. I've been
there myself and I know wot I'm talking about. All that I am I owe to
'aving been to sea.
[Illustration: "Talking about eddication, said the night-watchman."]
There's a saying that boys will be boys. That's all right till they go
to sea, and then they 'ave to be men, and good men too. They get knocked
about a bit, o' course, but that's all part o' the eddication, and when
they get bigger they pass the eddication they've received on to other
boys smaller than wot they are. Arter I'd been at sea a year I spent all
my fust time ashore going round and looking for boys wot 'ad knocked me
about afore I sailed, and there was only one out o' the whole lot that I
wished I 'adn't found.
Most people, o' course, go to sea as boys or else not at all, but I mind
one chap as was pretty near thirty years old when 'e started. It's a
good many years ago now, and he was landlord of a public-'ouse as used to
stand in Wapping, called the Blue Lion.
His mother, wot had 'ad the pub afore 'im, 'ad brought 'im up very quiet
and genteel, and when she died 'e went and married a fine, handsome young
woman who 'ad got her eye on the pub without thinking much about 'im. I
got to know about it through knowing the servant that lived there. A
nice, quiet gal she was, and there wasn't much went on that she didn't
hear. I've known 'er to cry for hours with the ear-ache, pore gal.
Not caring much for 'er 'usband, and being spoiled by 'im into the
bargain, Mrs. Dixon soon began to lead 'im a terrible life. She was
always throwing his meekness and mildness up into 'is face, and arter
they 'ad been married two or three years he was no more like the landlord
o' that public-'ouse than I'm like a lord. Not so much. She used to get
into such terrible tempers there was no doing anything with 'er, and for
the sake o' peace and quietness he gave way to 'er till 'e got into the
habit of it and couldn't break 'imself of it.
They 'adn't been married long afore she 'ad her cousin, Charlie Burge,
come in as barman, and a month or two arter that 'is brother Bob, who 'ad
been spending a lot o' time looking for work instead o' doing it, came
too. They was so comfortable there that their father--a 'ouse-painter by
trade--came round to see whether he couldn't paint the Blue Lion up a bit
and make 'em look smart, so that they'd get more trade. He was one o'
these 'ere fust-class 'ousepainters that can go to sleep on a ladder
holding a brush in one hand and a pot o' paint in the other, and by the
time he 'ad finished painting the 'ouse it was ready to be done all over
I dare say that George Dixon--that was 'is name--wouldn't ha' minded so
much if 'is wife 'ad only been civil, but instead o' that she used to
make fun of 'im and order 'im about, and by-and-by the others began to
try the same thing. As I said afore, Dixon was a very quiet man, and if
there was ever anybody to be put outside Charlie or Bob used to do it.
They tried to put me outside once, the two of 'em, but they on'y did it
at last by telling me that somebody 'ad gone off and left a pot o' beer
standing on the pavement. They was both of 'em fairly strong young chaps
with a lot of bounce in 'em, and she used to say to her 'usband wot fine
young fellers they was, and wot a pity it was he wasn't like 'em.
Talk like this used to upset George Dixon awful. Having been brought up
careful by 'is mother, and keeping a very quiet, respectable 'ouse--I
used it myself--he cert'nly was soft, and I remember 'im telling me once
that he didn't believe in fighting, and that instead of hitting people
you ought to try and persuade them. He was uncommon fond of 'is wife,
but at last one day, arter she 'ad made a laughing-stock of 'im in the
bar, he up and spoke sharp to her.
"Wot?" ses Mrs. Dixon, 'ardly able to believe her ears.
"Remember who you're speaking to; that's wot I said," ses Dixon.
"'Ow dare you talk to me like that?" screams 'is wife, turning red with
rage. "Wot d'ye mean by it?"
"Because you seem to forget who is master 'ere," ses Dixon, in a
"Master?" she ses, firing up. "I'll soon show you who's master. Go out
o' my bar; I won't 'ave you in it. D'ye 'ear? Go out of it."
Dixon turned away and began to serve a customer. "D'ye hear wot I say?"
ses Mrs. Dixon, stamping 'er foot. "Go out o' my bar. Here, Charlie!"
"Hullo!" ses 'er cousin, who 'ad been standing looking on and grinning.
"Take the master and put 'im into the parlour," ses Mrs. Dixon, "and
don't let 'im come out till he's begged my pardon."
"Go on," ses Charlie, brushing up 'is shirt-sleeves; "in you go. You
'ear wot she said."
He caught 'old of George Dixon, who 'ad just turned to the back o' the
bar to give a customer change out of 'arf a crown, and ran 'im kicking
and struggling into the parlour. George gave 'im a silly little punch in
the chest, and got such a bang on the 'ead back that at fust he thought
it was knocked off.
When 'e came to 'is senses agin the door leading to the bar was shut, and
'is wife's uncle, who 'ad been asleep in the easy-chair, was finding
fault with 'im for waking 'im up.
"Why can't you be quiet and peaceable?" he ses, shaking his 'ead at him.
"I've been 'ard at work all the morning thinking wot colour to paint the
back-door, and this is the second time I've been woke up since dinner.
You're old enough to know better."
"Go and sleep somewhere else, then," ses Dixon. "I don't want you 'ere
at all, or your boys neither. Go and give somebody else a treat; I've
'ad enough of the whole pack of you."
[Illustration: "'Go and sleep somewhere else, then,' ses Dixon."]
He sat down and put 'is feet in the fender, and old Burge, as soon as he
'ad got 'is senses back, went into the bar and complained to 'is niece,
and she came into the parlour like a thunderstorm.
"You'll beg my uncle's pardon as well as mine afore you come out o' that
room," she said to her 'usband; "mind that."
George Dixon didn't say a word; the shame of it was a'most more than 'e
could stand. Then 'e got up to go out o' the parlour and Charlie pushed
'im back agin. Three times he tried, and then 'e stood up and looked at
"I've been a good 'usband to you," he ses; "but there's no satisfying
you. You ought to ha' married somebody that would ha' knocked you about,
and then you'd ha' been happy. I'm too fond of a quiet life to suit
"Are you going to beg my pardon and my uncle's pardon?" ses 'is wife,
stamping 'er foot.
"No," ses Dixon; "I am not. I'm surprised at you asking it."
"Well, you don't come out o' this room till you do," ses 'is wife.
"That won't hurt me," ses Dixon. "I couldn't look anybody in the face
arter being pushed out o' my own bar."
They kept 'im there all the rest o' the day, and, as 'e was still
obstinate when bedtime came, Mrs. Dixon, who wasn't to be beat, brought
down some bedclothes and 'ad a bed made up for 'im on the sofa. Some men
would ha' 'ad the police in for less than that, but George Dixon 'ad got
a great deal o' pride and 'e couldn't bear the shame of it. Instead o'
that 'e acted like a fourteen-year-old boy and ran away to sea.
They found 'im gone when they came down in the morning, and the side-door
on the latch. He 'ad left a letter for 'is wife on the table, telling
'er wot he 'ad done. Short and sweet it was, and wound up with telling
'er to be careful that her uncle and cousins didn't eat 'er out of house
She got another letter two days arterward, saying that he 'ad shipped as
ordinary seaman on an American barque called the _Seabird,_ bound for
California, and that 'e expected to be away a year, or thereabouts.
"It'll do 'im good," ses old Burge, when Mrs. Dixon read the letter to
'em. "It's a 'ard life is the sea, and he'll appreciate his 'ome when 'e
comes back to it agin. He don't know when 'e's well off. It's as
comfortable a 'ome as a man could wish to 'ave." It was surprising wot a
little difference George Dixon's being away made to the Blue Lion.
Nobody seemed to miss 'im much, and things went on just the same as afore
he went. Mrs. Dixon was all right with most people, and 'er relations
'ad a very good time of it; old Burge began to put on flesh at such a
rate that the sight of a ladder made 'im ill a'most, and Charlie and Bob
went about as if the place belonged to 'em.
They 'eard nothing for eight months, and then a letter came for Mrs.
Dixon from her 'usband in which he said that 'e had left the _Seabird_
after 'aving had a time which made 'im shiver to think of. He said that
the men was the roughest of the rough and the officers was worse, and
that he 'ad hardly 'ad a day without a blow from one or the other since
he'd been aboard. He'd been knocked down with a hand-spike by the second
mate, and had 'ad a week in his bunk with a kick given 'im by the
boatswain. He said 'e was now on the _Rochester Castle,_ bound for
Sydney, and he 'oped for better times.
That was all they 'eard for some months, and then they got another letter
saying that the men on the _Rochester Castle_ was, if anything, worse
than those on the Seabird, and that he'd begun to think that running away
to sea was diff'rent to wot he'd expected, and that he supposed 'e'd done
it too late in life. He sent 'is love to 'is wife and asked 'er as a
favour to send Uncle Burge and 'is boys away, as 'e didn't want to find
them there when 'e came home, because they was the cause of all his
"He don't know 'is best friends," ses old Burge. "'E's got a nasty
sperrit I don't like to see."
"I'll 'ave a word with 'im when 'e does come home," ses Bob. "I s'pose
he thinks 'imself safe writing letters thousands o' miles away."
The last letter they 'ad came from Auckland, and said that he 'ad shipped
on the _Monarch,_ bound for the Albert Docks, and he 'oped soon to be at
'ome and managing the Blue Lion, same as in the old happy days afore he
was fool enough to go to sea.
That was the very last letter, and some time arterward the _Monarch_ was
in the missing list, and by-and-by it became known that she 'ad gone down
with all hands not long arter leaving New Zealand. The only difference
it made at the Blue Lion was that Mrs. Dixon 'ad two of 'er dresses dyed
black, and the others wore black neckties for a fortnight and spoke of
Dixon as pore George, and said it was a funny world, but they supposed
everything was for the best.
It must ha' been pretty near four years since George Dixon 'ad run off to
sea when Charlie, who was sitting in the bar one arternoon reading the
paper, things being dull, saw a man's head peep through the door for a
minute and then disappear. A'most direckly arterward it looked in at
another door and then disappeared agin. When it looked in at the third
door Charlie 'ad put down 'is paper and was ready for it.
"Who are you looking for?" he ses, rather sharp. "Wot d'ye want? Are
you 'aving a game of peepbo, or wot?"
The man coughed and smiled, and then 'e pushed the door open gently and
came in, and stood there fingering 'is beard as though 'e didn't know wot
"I've come back, Charlie," he ses at last.
"Wot, George!" ses Charlie, starting. "Why, I didn't know you in that
beard. We all thought you was dead, years ago."
"I was pretty nearly, Charlie," ses Dixon, shaking his 'ead. "Ah! I've
'ad a terrible time since I left 'once."
"'You don't seem to ha' made your fortune," ses Charlie, looking down at
'is clothes. "I'd ha' been ashamed to come 'ome like that if it 'ad been
"I'm wore out," ses Dixon, leaning agin the bar. "I've got no pride
left; it's all been knocked out of me. How's Julia?"
"She's all right," ses Charlie. "Here, Ju--"
"H'sh!" ses Dixon, reaching over the bar and laying his 'and on his arm.
"Don't let 'er know too sudden; break it to 'er gently."
"Fiddlesticks!" ses Charlie, throwing his 'and off and calling, "Here,
Julia! He's come back."
Mrs. Dixon came running downstairs and into the bar. "Good gracious!"
she ses, staring at her 'us-band. "Whoever'd ha' thought o' seeing you
agin? Where 'ave you sprung from?"
"Ain't you glad to see me, Julia?" ses George Dixon.
"Yes, I s'pose so; if you've come back to behave yourself," ses Mrs.
Dixon. "What 'ave you got to say for yourself for running away and then
writing them letters, telling me to get rid of my relations?"
"That's a long time ago, Julia," ses Dixon, raising the flap in the
counter and going into the bar. "I've gone through a great deal o'
suffering since then. I've been knocked about till I 'adn't got any
feeling left in me; I've been shipwrecked, and I've 'ad to fight for my
life with savages."
"Nobody asked you to run away," ses his wife, edging away as he went to
put his arm round 'er waist. "You'd better go upstairs and put on some
[Illustration: "You'd better go upstairs and put on some decent
Dixon looked at 'er for a moment and then he 'ung his 'ead.
"I've been thinking o' you and of seeing you agin every day since I went
away, Julia," he ses. "You'd be the same to me if you was dressed in
He went upstairs without another word, and old Burge, who was coming
down, came down five of 'em at once owing to Dixon speaking to 'im afore
he knew who 'e was. The old man was still grumbling when Dixon came down
agin, and said he believed he'd done it a-purpose.
"You run away from a good 'ome," he ses, "and the best wife in Wapping,
and you come back and frighten people 'arf out o' their lives. I never
see such a feller in all my born days."
"I was so glad to get 'ome agin I didn't think," ses Dixon. "I hope
you're not 'urt."
He started telling them all about his 'ardships while they were at tea,
but none of 'em seemed to care much about hearing 'em. Bob said that the
sea was all right for men, and that other people were sure not to like
"And you brought it all on yourself," ses Charlie. "You've only got
yourself to thank for it. I 'ad thought o' picking a bone with you over
those letters you wrote."
"Let's 'ope 'e's come back more sensible than wot 'e was when 'e went
away," ses old Burge, with 'is mouth full o' toast.
By the time he'd been back a couple o' days George Dixon could see that
'is going away 'adn't done any good at all. Nobody seemed to take any
notice of 'im or wot he said, and at last, arter a word or two with
Charlie about the rough way he spoke to some o' the customers, Charlie
came in to Mrs. Dixon and said that he was at 'is old tricks of
interfering, and he would not 'ave it.
"Well, he'd better keep out o' the bar altogether," ses Mrs. Dixon.
"There's no need for 'im to go there; we managed all right while 'e was
"Do you mean I'm not to go into my own bar?" ses Dixon, stammering.
"Yes, I do," ses Mrs. Dixon. "You kept out of it for four years to
please yourself, and now you can keep out of it to please me."
"I've put you out o' the bar before," ses Charlie, "and if you come
messing about with me any more I'll do it agin. So now you know."
He walked back into the bar whistling, and George Dixon, arter sitting
still for a long time thinking, got up and went into the bar, and he'd
'ardly got his foot inside afore Charlie caught 'old of 'im by the
shoulder and shoved 'im back into the parlour agin.
"I told you wot it would be," ses Mrs. Dixon, looking up from 'er sewing.
"You've only got your interfering ways to thank for it."
"This is a fine state of affairs in my own 'ouse," ses Dixon, 'ardly able
to speak. "You've got no proper feeling for your husband, Julia, else
you wouldn't allow it. Why, I was happier at sea than wot I am 'ere."
"Well, you'd better go back to it if you're so fond of it," ses 'is wife.
"I think I 'ad," ses Dixon. "If I can't be master in my own 'ouse I'm
better at sea, hard as it is. You must choose between us, Julia--me or
your relations. I won't sleep under the same roof as them for another
night. Am I to go?"
"Please yourself," ses 'is wife. "I don't mind your staying 'ere so long
as you behave yourself, but the others won't go; you can make your mind
easy on that."
"I'll go and look for another ship, then," ses Dixon, taking up 'is cap.
"I'm not wanted here. P'r'aps you wouldn't mind 'aving some clothes
packed into a chest for me so as I can go away decent."
He looked round at 'is wife, as though 'e expected she'd ask 'im not to
go, but she took no notice, and he opened the door softly and went out,
while old Burge, who 'ad come into the room and 'eard what he was saying,
trotted off upstairs to pack 'is chest for 'im.
In two hours 'e was back agin and more cheerful than he 'ad been since he
'ad come 'ome. Bob was in the bar and the others were just sitting down
to tea, and a big chest, nicely corded, stood on the floor in the corner
of the room.
"That's right," he ses, looking at it; "that's just wot I wanted."
"It's as full as it can be," ses old Burge. "I done it for you myself.
'Ave you got a ship?"
"I 'ave," ses Dixon. "A jolly good ship. No more hardships for me this
time. I've got a berth as captain."
"Wot?" ses 'is wife. "Captain? You!"
"Yes," ses Dixon, smiling at her. "You can sail with me if you like."
"Thankee," ses Mrs. Dixon, "I'm quite comfortable where I am."
"Do you mean to say you've got a master's berth?" ses Charlie, staring at
"I do," ses Dixon; "master and owner."
Charlie coughed. "Wot's the name of the ship?" he asks, winking at the
"The BLUE LION," ses Dixon, in a voice that made 'em all start. "I'm
shipping a new crew and I pay off the old one to-night. You first, my
"Pay off," ses Charlie, leaning back in 'is chair and staring at 'im in a
puzzled way. "Blue Lion?"
"Yes," ses Dixon, in the same loud voice. "When I came 'ome the other
day I thought p'r'aps I'd let bygones be bygones, and I laid low for a
bit to see whether any of you deserved it. I went to sea to get
hardened--and I got hard. I've fought men that would eat you at a meal.
I've 'ad more blows in a week than you've 'ad in a lifetime, you
He walked to the door leading to the bar, where Bob was doing 'is best to
serve customers and listen at the same time, and arter locking it put the
key in 'is pocket. Then 'e put his 'and in 'is pocket and slapped some
money down on the table in front o' Charlie.
"There's a month's pay instead o' notice," he ses. "Now git."
"George!" screams 'is wife. "'Ow dare you? 'Ave you gone crazy?"
"I'm surprised at you," ses old Burge, who'd been looking on with 'is
mouth wide open, and pinching 'imself to see whether 'e wasn't dreaming.
"I don't go for your orders," ses Charlie, getting up. "Wot d'ye mean by
locking that door?"
"Wot!" roars Dixon. "Hang it! I mustn't lock a door without asking my
barman now. Pack up and be off, you swab, afore I start on you."
Charlie gave a growl and rushed at 'im, and the next moment 'e was down
on the floor with the 'ardest bang in the face that he'd ever 'ad in 'is
life. Mrs. Dixon screamed and ran into the kitchen, follered by old
Burge, who went in to tell 'er not to be frightened. Charlie got up and
went for Dixon agin; but he 'ad come back as 'ard as nails and 'ad a
rushing style o' fighting that took Charlie's breath away. By the time
Bob 'ad left the bar to take care of itself, and run round and got in the
back way, Charlie had 'ad as much as 'e wanted and was lying on the
sea-chest in the corner trying to get 'is breath.
[Illustration: "Charlie had 'ad as much as 'e wanted and was lying on the
"Yes? Wot d'ye want?" ses Dixon, with a growl, as Bob came in at the
He was such a 'orrible figure, with the blood on 'is face and 'is beard
sticking out all ways, that Bob, instead of doing wot he 'ad come round
for, stood in the doorway staring at 'im without a word.
"I'm paying off," ses Dixon. "'Ave you got any-thing to say agin it?"
"No," ses Bob, drawing back.
"You and Charlie'll go now," ses Dixon, taking out some money. "The old
man can stay on for a month to give 'im time to look round. Don't look
at me that way, else I'll knock your 'ead off."
He started counting out Bob's money just as old Burge and Mrs. Dixon,
hearing all quiet, came in out of the kitchen.
"Don't you be alarmed on my account, my dear," he ses, turning to 'is
wife; "it's child's play to wot I've been used to. I'll just see these
two mistaken young fellers off the premises, and then we'll 'ave a cup o'
tea while the old man minds the bar."
Mrs. Dixon tried to speak, but 'er temper was too much for 'er. She
looked from her 'usband to Charlie and Bob and then back at 'im agin and
caught 'er breath.
"That's right," ses Dixon, nodding his 'ead at her. "I'm master and
owner of the Blue Lion and you're first mate. When I'm speaking you keep
quiet; that's dissipline."
I was in that bar about three months arterward, and I never saw such
a change in any woman as there was in Mrs. Dixon. Of all the
nice-mannered, soft-spoken landladies I've ever seen, she was the best,
and on'y to 'ear the way she answered her 'usband when he spoke to 'er
was a pleasure to every married man in the bar.
[Illustration: "The way she answered her 'usband was a pleasure to every
married man in the bar."]
A SPIRIT OF AVARICE
Mr. John Blows stood listening to the foreman with an air of lofty
disdain. He was a free-born Englishman, and yet he had been summarily
paid off at eleven o'clock in the morning and told that his valuable
services would no longer be required. More than that, the foreman had
passed certain strictures upon his features which, however true they
might be, were quite irrelevant to the fact that Mr. Blows had been
discovered slumbering in a shed when he should have been laying bricks.
[Illustration: "Mr. John Blows stood listening to the foreman with an air
of lofty disdain."]
"Take your ugly face off these 'ere works," said the foreman; "take it
'ome and bury it in the back-yard. Anybody'll be glad to lend you a
Mr. Blows, in a somewhat fluent reply, reflected severely on the
foreman's immediate ancestors, and the strange lack of good-feeling and
public spirit they had exhibited by allowing him to grow up.
"Take it 'ome and bury it," said the foreman again. "Not under any
plants you've got a liking for."
"I suppose," said Mr. Blows, still referring to his foe's parents, and
now endeavouring to make excuses for them--"I s'pose they was so pleased,
and so surprised when they found that you was a 'uman being, that they
didn't mind anything else."
He walked off with his head in the air, and the other men, who had
partially suspended work to listen, resumed their labours. A modest pint
at the Rising Sun revived his drooping spirits, and he walked home
thinking of several things which he might have said to the foreman if he
had only thought of them in time.
He paused at the open door of his house and, looking in, sniffed at the
smell of mottled soap and dirty water which pervaded it. The stairs were
wet, and a pail stood in the narrow passage. From the kitchen came the
sounds of crying children and a scolding mother. Master Joseph Henry
Blows, aged three, was "holding his breath," and the family were all
aghast at the length of his performance. He re-covered it as his father
entered the room, and drowned, without distressing himself, the impotent
efforts of the others. Mrs. Blows turned upon her husband a look of hot
"I've got the chuck," he said, surlily.
"What, again?" said the unfortunate woman. "Yes, again," repeated her
Mrs. Blows turned away, and dropping into a chair threw her apron over
her head and burst into discordant weeping. Two little Blows, who had
ceased their outcries, resumed them again from sheer sympathy.
"Stop it," yelled the indignant Mr. Blows; "stop it at once; d'ye hear?"
"I wish I'd never seen you," sobbed his wife from behind her apron. "Of
all the lazy, idle, drunken, good-for-nothing----"
"Go on," said Mr. Blows, grimly.
"You're more trouble than you're worth," declared Mrs. Blows. "Look at
your father, my dears," she continued, taking the apron away from her
face; "take a good look at him, and mind you don't grow up like it."
Mr. Blows met the combined gaze of his innocent offspring with a dark
scowl, and then fell to moodily walking up and down the passage until he
fell over the pail. At that his mood changed, and, turning fiercely, he
kicked that useful article up and down the passage until he was tired.
"I've 'ad enough of it," he muttered. He stopped at the kitchen-door
and, putting his hand in his pocket, threw a handful of change on to the
floor and swung out of the house.
Another pint of beer confirmed him in his resolution. He would go far
away and make a fresh start in the world. The morning was bright and the
air fresh, and a pleasant sense of freedom and adventure possessed his
soul as he walked. At a swinging pace he soon left Gravelton behind him,
and, coming to the river, sat down to smoke a final pipe before turning
his back forever on a town which had treated him so badly.
The river murmured agreeably and the rushes stirred softly in the breeze;
Mr. Blows, who could fall asleep on an upturned pail, succumbed to the
influence at once; the pipe dropped from his mouth and he snored
He was awakened by a choking scream, and, starting up hastily, looked
about for the cause. Then in the water he saw the little white face of
Billy Clements, and wading in up to his middle he reached out and,
catching the child by the hair, drew him to the bank and set him on his
feet. Still screaming with terror, Billy threw up some of the water he
had swallowed, and without turning his head made off in the direction of
home, calling piteously upon his mother.
Mr. Blows, shivering on the bank, watched him out of sight, and, missing
his cap, was just in time to see that friend of several seasons slowly
sinking in the middle of the river. He squeezed the water from his
trousers and, crossing the bridge, set off across the meadows.
His self-imposed term of bachelorhood lasted just three months, at the
end of which time he made up his mind to enact the part of the generous
husband and forgive his wife everything. He would not go into details,
but issue one big, magnanimous pardon.
Full of these lofty ideas he set off in the direction of home again. It
was a three-days' tramp, and the evening of the third day saw him but a
bare two miles from home. He clambered up the bank at the side of the
road and, sprawling at his ease, smoked quietly in the moonlight.
A waggon piled up with straw came jolting and creaking toward him. The
driver sat dozing on the shafts, and Mr. Blows smiled pleasantly as he
recognised the first face of a friend he had seen for three months. He
thrust his pipe in his pocket and, rising to his feet, clambered on to
the back of the waggon, and lying face downward on the straw peered down
at the unconscious driver below.
"I'll give old Joe a surprise," he said to himself. "He'll be the first
to welcome me back."
"Joe," he said, softly. "'Ow goes it, old pal?"
Mr. Joe Carter, still dozing, opened his eyes at the sound of his name
and looked round; then, coming to the conclusion that he had been
dreaming, closed them again.
"I'm a-looking at you, Joe," said Mr. Blows, waggishly. "I can see you."
Mr. Carter looked up sharply and, catching sight of the grinning features
of Mr. Blows protruding over the edge of the straw, threw up his arms
with a piercing shriek and fell off the shafts on to the road. The
astounded Mr. Blows, raising himself on his hands, saw him pick himself
up and, giving vent to a series of fearsome yelps, run clumsily back
along the road.
"Joe!" shouted Mr. Blows. "J-o-o-oE!"
[Illustration: "'Joe!' shouted Mr. Blows. 'J-o-o-OE!'"]
Mr. Carter put his hands to his ears and ran on blindly, while his
friend, sitting on the top of the straw, regarded his proceedings with
mixed feelings of surprise and indignation.
"It can't be that tanner 'e owes me," he mused, "and yet I don't know
what else it can be. I never see a man so jumpy."
He continued to speculate while the old horse, undisturbed by the
driver's absence, placidly continued its journey. A mile farther,
however, he got down to take the short cut by the fields.
"If Joe can't look after his 'orse and cart," he said, primly, as he
watched it along the road, "it's not my business."
The footpath was not much used at that time of night, and he only met one
man. They were in the shadow of the trees which fringed the new cemetery
as they passed, and both peered. The stranger was satisfied first and,
to Mr. Blows's growing indignation, first gave a leap backward which
would not have disgraced an acrobat, and then made off across the field
with hideous outcries.
"If I get 'old of some of you," said the offended Mr. Blows, "I'll give
you something to holler for."
He pursued his way grumbling, and insensibly slackened his pace as he
drew near home. A remnant of conscience which had stuck to him without
encouragement for thirty-five years persisted in suggesting that he had
behaved badly. It also made a few ill-bred inquiries as to how his wife
and children had subsisted for the last three months. He stood outside
the house for a short space, and then, opening the door softly, walked
The kitchen-door stood open, and his wife in a black dress sat sewing by
the light of a smoky lamp. She looked up as she heard his footsteps, and
then, without a word, slid from the chair full length to the floor.
"Go on," said Mr. Blows, bitterly; "keep it up. Don't mind me."
Mrs. Blows paid no heed; her face was white and her eyes were closed.
Her husband, with a dawning perception of the state of affairs, drew a
mug of water from the tap and flung it over her. She opened her eyes and
gave a faint scream, and then, scrambling to her feet, tottered toward
him and sobbed on his breast.
"There, there," said Mr. Blows. "Don't take on; I forgive you."
"Oh, John," said his wife, sobbing convulsively, "I thought you was dead.
I thought you was dead. It's only a fortnight ago since we buried you!"
"Buried me?" said the startled Mr. Blows. "Buried me?"
"I shall wake up and find I'm dreaming," wailed Mrs. Blows; "I know I
shall. I'm always dreaming that you're not dead. Night before last I
dreamt that you was alive, and I woke up sobbing as if my 'art would
"Sobbing?" said Mr. Blows, with a scowl. "For joy, John," explained his
Mr. Blows was about to ask for a further explanation of the mystery when
he stopped, and regarded with much interest a fair-sized cask which stood
in one corner.
"A cask o' beer," he said, staring, as he took a glass from the dresser
and crossed over to it. "You don't seem to 'ave taken much 'arm during
my--my going after work."
"We 'ad it for the funeral, John," said his wife; "leastways, we 'ad two;
this is the second."
Mr. Blows, who had filled the glass, set it down on the table untasted;
things seemed a trifle uncanny.
"Go on," said Mrs. Blows; "you've got more right to it than anybody else.
Fancy 'aving you here drinking up the beer for your own funeral."
"I don't understand what you're a-driving at," retorted Mr. Blows,
drinking somewhat gingerly from the glass. 'Ow could there be a funeral
"It's all a mistake," said the overjoyed Mrs. Blows; "we must have buried
somebody else. But such a funeral, John; you would ha' been proud if you
could ha' seen it. All Gravelton followed, nearly. There was the boys'
drum and fife band, and the Ancient Order of Camels, what you used to
belong to, turned out with their brass band and banners--all the people
marching four abreast and sometimes five."
Mr. Blows's face softened; he had no idea that he had established himself
so firmly in the affections of his fellow-townsmen.
"Four mourning carriages," continued his wife, "and the--the hearse, all
covered in flowers so that you couldn't see it 'ardly. One wreath cost
Mr. Blows endeavoured to conceal his gratification beneath a mask of
surliness. "Waste o' money," he growled, and stooping to the cask drew
himself an-other glass of beer.
"Some o' the gentry sent their carriages to follow," said Mrs. Blows,
sitting down and clasping her hands in her lap.
"I know one or two that 'ad a liking for me," said Mr. Blows, almost
"And to think that it's all a mistake," continued his wife. "But I
thought it was you; it was dressed like you, and your cap was found near
"H'm," said Mr. Blows; "a pretty mess you've been and made of it. Here's
people been giving two pounds for wreaths and turning up with brass bands
and banners because they thought it was me, and it's all been wasted."
"It wasn't my fault," said his wife. "Little Billy Clements came running
'ome the day you went away and said 'e'd fallen in the water, and you'd
gone in and pulled 'im out. He said 'e thought you was drownded, and
when you didn't come 'ome I naturally thought so too. What else could I
Mr. Blows coughed, and holding his glass up to the light regarded it with
a preoccupied air.
"They dragged the river," resumed his wife, "and found the cap, but they
didn't find the body till nine weeks afterward. There was a inquest at
the Peal o' Bells, and I identified you, and all that grand funeral was
because they thought you'd lost your life saving little Billy. They said
you was a hero."
[Illustration: "'They dragged the river,' resumed his wife, 'and found
"You've made a nice mess of it," repeated Mr. Blows.
"The rector preached the sermon," continued his wife; "a beautiful sermon
it was, too. I wish you'd been there to hear it; I should 'ave enjoyed
it ever so much better. He said that nobody was more surprised than what
'e was at your doing such a thing, and that it only showed 'ow little we
knowed our fellow-creatures. He said that it proved there was good in
all of us if we only gave it a chance to come out."
Mr. Blows eyed her suspiciously, but she sat thinking and staring at the
"I s'pose we shall have to give the money back now," she said, at last.
"Money!" said the other; "what money?"
"Money that was collected for us," replied his wife. "One 'undered and
eighty-three pounds seven shillings and fourpence."
Mr. Blows took a long breath. "Ow much?" he said, faintly; "say it
His wife obeyed.
"Show it to me," said the other, in trembling tones; "let's 'ave a look
at it. Let's 'old some of it."
"I can't," was the reply; "there's a committee of the Camels took charge
of it, and they pay my rent and allow me ten shillings a week. Now I
s'pose it'll have to be given back?"
"Don't you talk nonsense," said Mr. Blows, violently. "You go to them
interfering Camels and say you want your money--all of it. Say you're
going to Australia. Say it was my last dying wish."
Mrs. Blows puckered her brow.
"I'll keep quiet upstairs till you've got it," continued her husband,
rapidly. "There was only two men saw me, and I can see now that they
thought I was my own ghost. Send the kids off to your mother for a few
His wife sent them off next morning, and a little later was able to tell
him that his surmise as to his friends' mistake was correct. All
Gravelton was thrilled by the news that the spiritual part of Mr. John
Blows was walking the earth, and much exercised as to his reasons for so
"Seemed such a monkey trick for 'im to do," complained Mr. Carter, to the
listening circle at the Peal o' Bells. "'I'm a-looking at you, Joe,' he
ses, and he waggled his 'ead as if it was made of india-rubber."
"He'd got something on 'is mind what he wanted to tell you," said a
listener, severely; "you ought to 'ave stopped, Joe, and asked 'im what
"I think I see myself," said the shivering Mr. Carter. "I think I see
"Then he wouldn't 'ave troubled you any more," said the other.
Mr. Carter turned pale and eyed him fixedly. "P'r'aps it was only a
death-warning," said another man.
"What d'ye mean, 'only a death-warning'?" demanded the unfortunate Mr.
Carter; "you don't know what you're talking about."
"I 'ad an uncle o' mine see a ghost once," said a third man, anxious to
relieve the tension.
"And what 'appened?" inquired the first speaker. "I'll tell you after
Joe's gone," said the other, with rare consideration.
Mr. Carter called for some more beer and told the barmaid to put a little
gin in it. In a pitiable state of "nerves" he sat at the extreme end of
a bench, and felt that he was an object of unwholesome interest to his
acquaintances. The finishing touch was put to his discomfiture when a
well-meaning friend in a vague and disjointed way advised him to give up
drink, swearing, and any other bad habits which he might have contracted.
[Illustration: "In a pitiable state of 'nerves' he sat at the extreme end
of a bench."]
The committee of the Ancient Order of Camels took the news calmly, and
classed it with pink rats and other abnormalities. In reply to Mrs.
Blows's request for the capital sum, they expressed astonishment that she
could be willing to tear herself away from the hero's grave, and spoke of
the pain which such an act on her part would cause him in the event of
his being conscious of it. In order to show that they were reasonable
men, they allowed her an extra shilling that week.
The hero threw the dole on the bedroom floor, and in a speech bristling
with personalities, consigned the committee to perdition. The
confinement was beginning to tell upon him, and two nights afterward,
just before midnight, he slipped out for a breath of fresh air.
It was a clear night, and all Gravelton with one exception, appeared to
have gone to bed. The exception was Police-constable Collins, and he,
after tracking the skulking figure of Mr. Blows and finally bringing it
to bay in a doorway, kept his for a fort-night. As a sensible man, Mr.
Blows took no credit to himself for the circumstance, but a natural
feeling of satisfaction at the discomfiture of a member of a force for
which he had long entertained a strong objection could not be denied.
Gravelton debated this new appearance with bated breath, and even the
purblind committee of the Camels had to alter their views. They no
longer denied the supernatural nature of the manifestations, but, with
a strange misunderstanding of Mr. Blows's desires, attributed his
restlessness to dissatisfaction with the projected tombstone, and, having
plenty of funds, amended their order for a plain stone at ten guineas to
one in pink marble at twenty-five.
"That there committee," said Mr. Blows to his wife, in a trembling voice,
as he heard of the alteration--"that there committee seem to think that
they can play about with my money as they like. You go and tell 'em you
won't 'ave it. And say you've given up the idea of going to Australia
and you want the money to open a shop with. We'll take a little pub
Mrs. Blows went, and returned in tears, and for two entire days her
husband, a prey to gloom, sat trying to evolve fresh and original ideas
for the possession of the money. On the evening of the second day he
became low-spirited, and going down to the kitchen took a glass from the
dresser and sat down by the beer-cask.
Almost insensibly he began to take a brighter view of things. It was
Saturday night and his wife was out. He shook his head indulgently as he
thought of her, and began to realise how foolish he had been to entrust
such a delicate mission to a woman. The Ancient Order of Camels wanted a
man to talk to them--a man who knew the world and could assail them with
unanswerable arguments. Having applied every known test to make sure
that the cask was empty, he took his cap from a nail and sallied out into
Old Mrs. Martin, a neighbour, saw him first, and announced the fact with
a scream that brought a dozen people round her. Bereft of speech, she
mouthed dumbly at Mr. Blows.
"I ain't touch--touched her," said that gentleman, earnestly. "I ain't--
been near 'er."
The crowd regarded him wild-eyed. Fresh members came running up, and
pushing for a front place fell back hastily on the main body and watched
breathlessly. Mr. Blows, disquieted by their silence, renewed his
"I was coming 'long----"
He broke off suddenly and, turning round, gazed with some heat at a
gentleman who was endeavouring to ascertain whether an umbrella would
pass through him. The investigator backed hastily into the crowd again,
and a faint murmur of surprise arose as the indignant Mr. Blows rubbed
"He's alive, I tell you," said a voice. "What cheer, Jack!"
"Ullo, Bill," said Mr. Blows, genially.
Bill came forward cautiously, and, first shaking hands, satisfied himself
by various little taps and prods that his friend was really alive.
"It's all right," he shouted; "come and feel."
At least fifty hands accepted the invitation, and, ignoring the threats
and entreaties of Mr. Blows, who was a highly ticklish subject, wandered
briskly over his anatomy. He broke free at last and, supported by Bill
and a friend, set off for the Peal o' Bells.
By the time he arrived there his following had swollen to immense
proportions. Windows were thrown up, and people standing on their
doorsteps shouted inquiries. Congratulations met him on all sides, and
the joy of Mr. Joseph Carter was so great that Mr. Blows was quite
In high feather at the attention he was receiving, Mr. Blows pushed his
way through the idlers at the door and ascended the short flight of
stairs which led to the room where the members of the Ancient Order of
Camels were holding their lodge. The crowd swarmed up after him.
The door was locked, but in response to his knocking it opened a couple
of inches, and a gruff voice demanded his business. Then, before he
could give it, the doorkeeper reeled back into the room, and Mr. Blows
with a large following pushed his way in.
The president and his officers, who were sitting in state behind a long
table at the end of the room, started to their feet with mingled cries of
indignation and dismay at the intrusion. Mr. Blows, conscious of the
strength of his position, walked up to them.
[Illustration: "Mr. Blows, conscious of the strength of his position,
walked up to them."]
"Mr. Blows!" gasped the president.
"Ah, you didn't expec' see me," said Mr. Blows, with a scornful laugh
"They're trying do me, do me out o' my lill bit o' money, Bill."
"But you ain't got no money," said his bewildered friend.
Mr. Blows turned and eyed him haughtily; then he confronted the staring
"I've come for--my money," he said, impressively-- "one 'under-eighty
"But look 'ere," said the scandalised Bill, tugging at his sleeve; "you
ain't dead, Jack."
"You don't understan'," said Mr. Blows, impatiently. "They know wharri
mean; one 'undereighty pounds. They want to buy me a tombstone, an' I
don't want it. I want the money. Here, stop it! _Dye hear?_" The words
were wrung from him by the action of the president, who, after eyeing him
doubtfully during his remarks, suddenly prodded him with the butt-end of
one of the property spears which leaned against his chair. The solidity
of Mr. Blows was unmistakable, and with a sudden resumption of dignity
the official seated himself and called for silence.
"I'm sorry to say there's been a bit of a mistake made," he said, slowly,
"but I'm glad to say that Mr. Blows has come back to support his wife and
family with the sweat of his own brow. Only a pound or two of the money
so kindly subscribed has been spent, and the remainder will be handed
back to the subscribers."
"Here," said the incensed Mr. Blows, "listen me."
"Take him away," said the president, with great dignity. "Clear the
room. Strangers outside."
Two of the members approached Mr. Blows and, placing their hands on his
shoulders, requested him to withdraw. He went at last, the centre of a
dozen panting men, and becoming wedged on the narrow staircase, spoke
fluently on such widely differing subjects as the rights of man and the
shape of the president's nose.
He finished his remarks in the street, but, becoming aware at last of a
strange lack of sympathy on the part of his audience, he shook off the
arm of the faithful Mr. Carter and stalked moodily home.
THE THIRD STRING
Love? said the night-watchman, as he watched in an abstracted fashion
the efforts of a skipper to reach a brother skipper on a passing barge
with a boathook. Don't talk to me about love, because I've suffered
enough through it. There ought to be teetotalers for love the same as
wot there is for drink, and they ought to wear a piece o' ribbon to show
it, the same as the teetotalers do; but not an attractive piece o'
ribbon, mind you. I've seen as much mischief caused by love as by drink,
and the funny thing is, one often leads to the other. Love, arter it is
over, often leads to drink, and drink often leads to love and to a man
committing himself for life afore it is over.
[Illustration: "Don't talk to me about love, because I've suffered enough
Sailormen give way to it most; they see so little o' wimmen that
they naturally 'ave a high opinion of 'em. Wait till they become
night-watchmen and, having to be at 'ome all day, see the other side of
'em. If people on'y started life as night-watchmen there wouldn't be one
'arf the falling in love that there is now.
I remember one chap, as nice a fellow as you could wish to meet, too.
He always carried his sweet-heart's photograph about with 'im, and it was
the on'y thing that cheered 'im up during the fourteen years he was cast
away on a deserted island. He was picked up at last and taken 'ome, and
there she was still single and waiting for 'im; and arter spending
fourteen years on a deserted island he got another ten in quod for
shooting 'er because she 'ad altered so much in 'er looks.
Then there was Ginger Dick, a red-'aired man I've spoken about before.
He went and fell in love one time when he was lodging in Wapping 'ere
with old Sam Small and Peter Russet, and a nice mess 'e made of it.
They was just back from a v'y'ge, and they 'adn't been ashore a week
afore both of 'em noticed a change for the worse in Ginger. He turned
quiet and peaceful and lost 'is taste for beer. He used to play with 'is
food instead of eating it, and in place of going out of an evening with
Sam and Peter took to going off by 'imself.
"It's love," ses Peter Russet, shaking his 'ead, "and he'll be worse
afore he's better."
"Who's the gal?" ses old Sam.
Peter didn't know, but when they came 'ome that night 'e asked. Ginger,
who was sitting up in bed with a far-off look in 'is eyes, cuddling 'is
knees, went on staring but didn't answer.
"Who is it making a fool of you this time, Ginger?" ses old Sam.
"You mind your bisness and I'll mind mine," ses Ginger, suddenly waking
up and looking very fierce.
"No offence, mate," ses Sam, winking at Peter. "I on'y asked in case I
might be able to do you a good turn."
"Well, you can do that by not letting her know you're a pal o' mine," ses
Ginger, very nasty.
Old Sam didn't understand at fust, and when Peter explained to 'im he
wanted to hit 'im for trying to twist Ginger's words about.
"She don't like fat old men," ses Ginger.
"Ho!" ses old Sam, who couldn't think of anything else to say. "Ho!
don't she? Ho! Ho! indeed!"
He undressed 'imself and got into the bed he shared with Peter, and kept
'im awake for hours by telling 'im in a loud voice about all the gals
he'd made love to in his life, and partikler about one gal that always
fainted dead away whenever she saw either a red-'aired man or a monkey.
Peter Russet found out all about it next day, and told Sam that it was a
barmaid with black 'air and eyes at the Jolly Pilots, and that she
wouldn't 'ave anything to say to Ginger.
He spoke to Ginger about it agin when they were going to bed that night,
and to 'is surprise found that he was quite civil. When 'e said that he
would do anything he could for 'im, Ginger was quite affected.
"I can't eat or drink," he ses, in a miserable voice; "I lay awake all
last night thinking of her. She's so diff'rent to other gals; she's
got--If I start on you, Sam Small, you'll know it. You go and make that
choking noise to them as likes it."
"It's a bit o' egg-shell I got in my throat at break-fast this morning,
Ginger," ses Sam. "I wonder whether she lays awake all night thinking of
"I dare say she does," ses Peter Russet, giving 'im a little push.
"Keep your 'art up, Ginger," ses Sam; "I've known gals to 'ave the most
ext'ordinary likings afore now."
"Don't take no notice of 'im," ses Peter, holding Ginger back. "'Ow are
you getting on with her?"
Ginger groaned and sat down on 'is bed and looked at the floor, and Sam
went and sat on his till it shook so that Ginger offered to step over and
break 'is neck for 'im.
"I can't 'elp the bed shaking," ses Sam; "it ain't my fault. I didn't
make it. If being in love is going to make you so disagreeable to your
best friends, Ginger, you'd better go and live by yourself."
"I 'eard something about her to-day, Ginger," ses Peter Russet. "I met a
chap I used to know at Bull's Wharf, and he told me that she used to keep
company with a chap named Bill Lumm, a bit of a prize-fighter, and since
she gave 'im up she won't look at anybody else."
"Was she very fond of 'im, then?" asks Ginger.
"I don't know," ses Peter; "but this chap told me that she won't walk out
with anybody agin, unless it's another prize-fighter. Her pride won't
let her, I s'pose."
"Well, that's all right, Ginger," ses Sam; "all you've got to do is to go
and be a prize-fighter."
"If I 'ave any more o' your nonsense--" ses Ginger, starting up.
"That's right," ses Sam; "jump down anybody's throat when they're trying
to do you a kindness. That's you all over, Ginger, that is. Wot's to
prevent you telling 'er that you're a prize-fighter from Australia or
somewhere? She won't know no better."
He got up off the bed and put his 'ands up as Ginger walked across the
room to 'im, but Ginger on'y wanted to shake 'ands, and arter he 'ad done
that 'e patted 'im on the back and smiled at 'im.
"I'll try it," he ses. "I'd tell any lies for 'er sake. Ah! you don't
know wot love is, Sam."
"I used to," ses Sam, and then he sat down agin and began to tell 'em all
the love-affairs he could remember, until at last Peter Russet got tired
and said it was 'ard to believe, looking at 'im now, wot a perfick terror
he'd been with gals, and said that the face he'd got now was a judgment
on 'im. Sam shut up arter that, and got into trouble with Peter in the
middle o' the night by waking 'im up to tell 'im something that he 'ad
just thought of about his face.
The more Ginger thought o' Sam's idea the more he liked it, and the very
next evening 'e took Peter Russet into the private bar o' the Jolly
Pilots. He ordered port wine, which he thought seemed more 'igh-class
than beer, and then Peter Russet started talking to Miss Tucker and told
her that Ginger was a prize-fighter from Sydney, where he'd beat
everybody that stood up to 'im.