The Skipper's Wooing, and The Brown Man's Servant
by W. W. Jacobs
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The skipper, who was endeavoring to form new habits, obeyed the summons of the bell. The mate took a healthful walk of three miles, while the crew sat about the deck watching the cook's preparations for dinner, and occasionally lending him some slight assistance. It was not until the meal was despatched that they arrayed themselves in their Sunday clothes and went ashore.

Dick went first, having thoughtfully provided himself with the photograph which had been lent for the use of all of them. He walked at first into the town, but the bare shuttered shops and deserted streets worked upon his feelings, and with his hands in his pockets, he walked back in the direction of the harbor. Here he got into conversation with an elderly man of sedate aspect, and after a little general talk, beginning with the weather and ending with tobacco, he produced the photograph and broached the subject of Captain Gething.

"Well, I've seen a man very much like it," said his new friend after a prolonged study.

"Where?" asked Dick eagerly.

"I won't say it's the same man," said the other slowly, as he handed the portrait back, "but if it ain't him it's his brother."

"Where?" repeated Dick impatiently.

"Well, I don't know that I ought to interfere," said the man; "it ain't my business."

"If a bob would—" began Dick.

"It would," said the man, smiling as he pocketed it. "He lives at Piggott's Bay," he said impressively.

"And where might that be?" inquired the seaman.

The man turned and pointed across a piece of untidy waste ground to a coastguard's path which wound its way along the top of the cliffs.

"Follow that path as straight as you can go," said he.

"How far?" said Dick.

"Well, some people make a long journey of it, and some a short one," said the other oracularly. "Shall we say six miles?"

Dick said he would sooner say three.

"An easy six, then," said the man smiling indulgently. "Well, good-day to you."

"Good-day, mate," said Dick, and plunging into the debris before him, started on his walk.

It was unfortunate for him in the sequel that Sam and the cook, who had started out for a quiet stroll, without any intention of looking for Captain Gething, or any nonsense of that kind, had witnessed the interview from a distance. By dint of hurrying they overtook the elderly man of sedate aspect, and by dint of cross-questioning, elicited the cause of Dick's sudden departure.

"Which way is it?" inquired Sam.

"You follow him," said the man, indicating the figure in front as it slowly ascended the cliff, "and you'll be there as soon as he will."

The comfortable stroll was abandoned, and the couple, keeping at a respectful distance, followed their unconscious comrade. The day was hot, and the path, which sometimes ran along the top of the cliff and sometimes along the side of it, had apparently escaped the attention of the local County Council. No other person was in sight, and the only things that moved were a few sheep nibbling the short grass, which scampered off at their approach, and a gull or two poised overhead.

"We want to get there afore 'e does," said Sam, treading gingerly along a difficult piece of path.

"He'd see us if we ran along the beach," said the cook.

"We can't run on shingle," said Sam; "and it don't seem much good just gettin' there to see 'im find the cap'n, does it?"

"We must wait for an hoppertunity," said the cook.

Sam grunted.

"An' when it comes, seize it at once," continued the cook, who disapproved of the grunt.

They kept on for some time steadily, though Sam complained bitterly about the heat as he mopped his streaming brow.

"He's going down on to the beach," said the cook suddenly. "Make a spurt for it, Sam, and we'll pass him."

The stout seaman responded to the best of his ability, and arriving at the place where Dick had disappeared, flung himself down on the grass and lay there panting. He was startled by a cry of surprise from the cook.

"Come on, Sam," he said eagerly; "he's going in for a swim."

His friend moved to the edge of the cliff and looked over. A little heap of clothing lay just below him, and Dick was striding over the sands to the sea.

"Come on," repeated the cook impatiently; "we've got the start."

"I should laugh if somebody was to steal his clothes," said Sam vindictively as he gazed at the garments.

"Be all right for us if they did," said the cook; "we'd have plenty o' time to look around this 'ere Piggott's Bay then." He glanced at Sam as he spoke, and read his horrible purpose in his eyes. "No, no!" he said hastily.

"Not steal 'em, cookie," said Sam seductively, "only bury 'em under the shingle. I'll toss you who does it."

For sixty seconds the cook struggled gamely with the tempter.

"It's just a bit of a joke, cook," said Sam jovially. "Dick 'ud be the first to laugh at it hisself if it was somebody else's clothes." He spun a penny in the air, and covering it deftly, held it out to the cook.

"Heads!" said the latter softly.

"Tails!" said Sam cheerfully; "hurry up, cook."

The cook descended without a word, and hastily interring the clothes, not without an uneasy glance seaward, scrambled up the cliff again and rejoined his exultant accomplice. They set off in silence, keeping at some distance from the edge of the cliff.

"Business is business," said the cook after a time, "and he wouldn't join the syndikit."

"He was greedy, and wanted it all," said Sam with severity.

"P'raps it'll be a lesson to 'im," said the cook unctuously. "I took the bearings of the place in case 'e don't find 'em. Some people wouldn't ha' done that."

They kept on steadily for another hour, until at last they came quite suddenly upon a little fishing village situated on a tiny bay. Two or three small craft were anchored inside the stone pier, along which two or three small children, in all the restriction of Sunday clothes, were soberly pacing up and down.

"This must be it," said Sam. "Keep your eyes open, cook."

"What's the name o' this place, mate?" said Sam expectantly to an old salt who was passing.

"Stone-pen Quay," said the old man.

Sam's face fell. "How far is it to Piggott's Bay, then?" he inquired.

"To where?" said the old man, taking his pipe out of his mouth and staring hard.

"Piggott's Bay," said Sam.

"You don't tell me you're looking for Piggott's Bay," said the old man.

"Why not?" said Sam shortly.

Instead of replying the old man slapped his leg, and with his pipe cocked at one side of his mouth, laughed a thin senile laugh with the other.

"When you've done laughin'," said the cook with dignity.

"But I ain't," said the old man, removing his pipe and laughing with greater freedom. "They're looking for Piggott's Bay, Joe," he said, turning to a couple of fishermen who had just come up.

"What a lark!" said Joe, beaming with pleasure. "Come far?" he inquired.

"Cocklemouth," said Sam with a blank look. "When you've done laughin', what's the joke?"

"Why, there ain't no such place," said the man. "It's just a saying in these parts, that's all."

"Just a wot?" said the bewildered Sam faintly.

"It's just a saying like," said the other, exchanging glances with his friends.

"I don't take you," said the cook. "How can a place be a sayin'?"

"Well, it come through a chap about here named Captain Piggott," said the fisherman, speaking slowly. "He was a wonderful queer old chap, and he got out of his reckoning once, and made—ah, South Amerikey, warn't it, Dan?"

"I believe so," said the old man.

"He thought he'd found a new island," continued the fisherman, "an' he went ashore an' hoisted the Union Jack, and named it arter hisself, Piggott's Bay. Leastways that's the tale his chaps gave out when they come 'ome. Now when anybody's a bit out o' their reckoning we say they're looking for Piggott's Bay. It's just a joke about here."

He began to laugh again, and Sam, noting with regret that he was a big fellow and strong, turned away and followed in the footsteps of the cook, who had already commenced the ascent of the cliff. They paused at the top and looked back; Stone-pen Quay was still laughing.

Moved by a common idea of their personal safety, they struck inland, preferring an additional mile or two to encountering Dick. Conversation was at a discount, and they plodded on sulkily along the dusty road, their lips parched and their legs aching.

They got back to the Seamew at seven o'clock, and greeting Henry, who was in sole charge, with fair words and soothing compliments, persuaded him to make them some tea.

"Where's Dick?" inquired Sam casually as he sat drinking it.

"Ain't seen 'im since dinner," said the boy. "I thought he was with you p'raps."

Sam shook his head, and finishing his tea went on deck with the cook, and gave himself up to all the delights of a quiet sprawl. Fatigued with their exertions, neither of them moved until nine o'clock, and then, with a farewell glance in the direction in which Dick might be expected to come, went below and turned in.

They left the lamp burning, to the great satisfaction of Henry, who was reading, and, as ten o'clock struck somewhere in the town, exchanged anxious glances across the foc'sle concerning Dick's safety. Safe and warm in their bunks, it struck both of them that they had been perhaps a little bit selfish. Half an hour later Henry looked up suddenly as something soft leaped on to the deck above and came pattering towards the foc'sle. The next moment his surprise gave way to indignation, and he raised his voice in tones of expostulation which Mrs. Grundy herself would have envied.

"Dick!" he cried shrilly. "Dick!"

"Shut up!" said Dick fiercely as he flung himself panting on a locker. "O my Lord, I have had a time!"

"I'm surprised at you," said Henry severely, as he dragged some blankets from the bunks and threw them over the exhausted seaman. "Where's your modesty, Dick?"

"If you say another word I'll knock yer ugly little head off!" said Dick wrathfully. "If I hadn't been modest I should have come home by daylight. Oh, I have had a time! I have had a time!"

"Where's your clothes?" inquired Henry.

"How the devil should I know?" snapped the other. "I left 'em on the beach while I went for a swim, and when I comeback they'd gone. I've been sittin' on that damned cold shingle since three o'clock this arternoon, and not a soul come near me! It's the first time I've been lookin' for Cap'n Gething, and it'll be the last."

"Oh, you've been at it, 'ave yer!" said Henry. "I told you you chaps would get in a mess over that."

"You know a damned sight too much for your age!" growled Dick. "There's no call to say anything to Sam and the cook about it, mind."

"Why not?" said Henry.

"Cos I say you're not to," said Dick ferociously. "That's why."

"P'raps they know," said Henry quietly. "Seems to me Sam's listenin' in his sleep."

Dick got up, and going to their bunks inspected the sleep of both his comrades cautiously. Then with a repetition of his caution, strengthened by fearful penalties for disobedience, went to his own bunk and forgot his troubles in sleep. He kept his secret all next day, but his bewilderment when he awoke on Tuesday morning and found the clothes in an untidy brown paper parcel lying on the deck led to its divulgence. He told both Sam and the cook about it, and his opinion of both men went up when he found that they did not treat the matter in the light of a joke, as he had feared. Neither of them even smiled, neither did they extend much sympathy; they listened apathetically, and so soon as he had finished, went straight off to sleep where they sat—a performance which they repeated at every opportunity throughout the whole of the day.


The Seamew lay at Cocklemouth another three days, in which time Dick, after a twelve-mile walk, learnt all there was to learn about Piggott's Bay. The second outrage was likely to have seriously injured his constitution, but the silver lining of the cloud caught his eye just as he was closing it in sleep, and the tension was removed.

"I've been thinkin', Sam," he said next morning, "that I've been rather selfish over that syndikit business. I ought to 'ave joined it."

"You can please yourself," said Sam.

"But it's better late than never," said Dick, turning to the cook who had joined them. "I'm goin' to put you in the way of findin' Cap'n Gething."

The cook portrayed gratified surprise.

"I know for certain that he's livin' at a place called Piggott's Bay, a little place just up the coast here," continued Dick. "If you two chaps like to walk out this evening and find him you can have two quid apiece and just give me one for myself."

"Oh!" said Sam, and stood thunderstruck at his hardihood.

"But it wouldn't be fair to you, Dick," urged the cook. "We won't take no advantage of you. The five pounds is yours."

"I don't want it," said Dick earnestly. "I want to punish myself for being greedy. If you two 'll just go there and find him I'll take it as a favor."

"Oh, well, we'll go then," said the cook with deceitful joy.

"Dick's 'art's in the right place, cook," observed Sam. "We'd better get away directly arter tea."

"I'd like to shake you by the 'and, Dick," said the cook warmly.

"Me too," said Sam, taking it as the cook relinquished it. "You're a fair brick, Dick, an' no error."

"True blue," said the complimentary cook.

"We'll start directly arter tea, if you'll get us the flag, Dick," said Sam.

"Flag?" said Dick—"flag?"

"Why, yes, the Union Jack," said Sam, looking at him in simple surprise. "It's no use going to Piggott's Bay without a Union Jack? Didn't you know that, Dick? Arter goin' there last night too!"

He stood in an easy attitude waiting for an answer and gazed in clumsy surprise at Dick, as that arch-deceiver stamped his way down below in a fury. He even went so far as to pretend that Dick had gone down for the flag in question, and gingerly putting his head down the scuttle, said that a pair of bathing drawers would do if it was not forthcoming—a piece of pleasantry which he would willingly have withdrawn when the time came for him to meet Dick at dinner.

By the time they reached Northfleet again all interest in the search had practically ceased. For one thing it was an unpleasant thing for grown men to be exposed to the gibes of Henry, and for another, looking at it in the cold clear light of reason, they could but see that there was very little prospect of success. In the cabin pessimism was also to the front with the mate as its mouthpiece.

"It's against all reason," he said, after arguing the matter a little. "You can't expect to find him. Now take my advice, you're doing better with a safe trade between here and Brittlesea—stick to that."

"I won't," said the other doggedly.

"It's hard on 'em," said the mate—"the old men I mean—chevying 'em and hunting 'em about just because they've got gray whiskers and are getting into years. Besides which, some of the crew 'll get into a mess sooner or later."

"Talk as much as you like you won't affect me," retorted the other, who was carrying on the conversation as he was down below washing.

"There you go again," said the mate, "making yourself look nice. What for? Another fellow's girl. Turn it and twist it as much as you please, that's what it comes to."

"When I want your advice," said the skipper, covering his confusion by a vigorous use of the towel, "I'll ask for it."

He finished dressing in silence and went ashore, and after looking about him in a perfunctory fashion, strolled off in the direction of Gravesend. The one gleam of light in his present condition was the regular habits of schools, and as he went along he blessed the strong sense of punctuality which possessed the teaching body at four o'clock.

To-day, however, his congratulations were somewhat premature, for long after the children had come and gone there was no sign of Annis Gething. He walked up and down the road wondering. Half-past four, five. He waited until six o'clock—an object of much interest to sundry ladies who were eyeing him stealthily from their front parlor windows—and was just going at a quarter-past when he saw her coming towards him.

"Back again," she said as she shook hands.

"Just back," said he.

"No news of my father, I suppose?" said Annis. "None, I'm sorry to say," said the skipper. "You're late to-night, aren't you?"


"You look tired," said the skipper with tenderness.

"Well, I'm not," said Annis. "I just stayed and had a cup of tea with Miss Grattan. Mother has gone out, so I didn't hurry."

"Out now?" inquired he.

Miss Gething nodded brightly, and having by this time reached the corner of a road, came to a stop.

"I'm not going in just yet," she said, glancing up the road towards her house. "I'm going for a walk."

"I hope it will be a pleasant one," said Wilson, after a pause, devoted to wondering whether he might venture to offer to accompany her. "Goodbye." He held out his hand.

"Good-bye," said Annis; "if you like to call in and wait to see mother she will be pleased to see you, I'm sure."

"Is there anybody to let me in?" inquired Wilson.

"Mr. Glover is there, I expect," said Annis, looking steadily across the road.

"I—I'll call another time," said the perplexed Wilson, "but I should have thought—"

"Thought what?" said she.

"Nothin'," said he. "I—Are you going for a long walk?"

"Not very far," said she. "Why?"

"I suppose you prefer going alone?"

"I don't mind it," said Annis Gothing; "but you can come if you like."

They turned down the road together, and for some time walked on in silence.

"What was that you were going to say just now?" said Annis, when the silence threatened to become awkward.

"When?" said Wilson.

"When I told you that Mr. Glover was at our house you said you should have thought—" She turned and regarded him with an expression in her eyes which he tried in vain to decipher.

"Well, I should have thought," he said desperately, "that you would have wanted to go there."

"I don't understand you," said Annis coldly. "I think you are rather rude."

"I beg your pardon," said Wilson humbly; "I'm very sorry, very."

There was another long silence, during which they left the road and entered a footpath. It was very narrow, and Annis walked in front.

"I would give anything to find your father," said Wilson earnestly.

"Oh, I wish you could, I wish you could," said Annis, looking at him over her shoulder.

"I suppose Mr. Glover is trying all he can?" said Wilson.

"I want my father!" said Annis with sudden passion—"I want him badly, but I would sooner anybody than Mr. Glover found him!"

"But you are to be married when he is found," said the puzzled Wilson.

"If Mr. Glover finds him," said Annis in a low voice.

"Do you mean to say," said the skipper (in his excitement he caught her by the arm, and she did not release it)—"do you mean to say that you are not going to marry this Glover unless he finds your father?"

"Yes," said Annis, "that is the arrangement. Mother fretted so, and I thought nothing mattered much if we could only find my father. So I promised."

"And I suppose if anybody else finds him?" faltered Wilson, as with a ruthless disregard of growing crops he walked beside her.

"In that case," said Annis, looking at him pleasantly, "I sha'n't marry. Is that what you mean?"

"I didn't mean quite that," said Wilson. "I was going to say—"

"There!" said Annis, stopping suddenly and pointing, "isn't there a fine view of the river from here?"

"Splendid!" said Wilson.

"It is my favorite walk," said Annis.

Wilson made a mental note of it. "Especially when Mr. Glover is at your house," he said foolishly.

"Mr. Glover has been very kind," said Annis gravely. "He has been very good to my mother, and he has gone to a great deal of trouble in his search for my father."

"Well, I hope he doesn't find him," said Wilson. Annis turned and regarded him fixedly. "That is very kind of you," she said with severity.

"I want to find him myself," said Wilson, closely watching the river; "and you know why."

"I must get back," said Annis, without contesting the statement.

Wilson felt his courage oozing, and tried to hint at what he dared not say. "I should like you to treat me the same as you do Mr. Glover," he said nervously.

"I'll do that with pleasure," said Annis promptly. In spite of herself her lips quivered and her eyes danced.

"I've loved you ever since the first time I saw you!" said Wilson with sudden vehemence.

Utterly unprepared for this direct attack, Miss Gething had no weapon to meet it. The tables were turned, and reddening with confusion, she looked away and made no reply.

"I've spent days walking up and down the road the school is in because you were there," continued Wilson. "I've wondered sometimes that the school children didn't notice it."

Miss Gething turned to him a cheek which was of the richest carmine, "If it's any pleasure to you to know it, they did," she said viciously. "I taught one small infant the blessing of silence by keeping her in three afternoons."

"I can't help it," said Wilson. "You'll have to keep the whole school in before I get over my fondness for that road. What did she say?"

"Suppose we get back," said Annis coldly, and turning, walked silently beside him. Neither spoke until they reached the lane again, and then Wilson stopped and met her gaze full and fair. Miss Gething, after a brave trial, abandoned the contest and lowered her eyes.

"Will you serve us both alike?" said Wilson in a low voice.

"No," said Annis. She looked up at him shyly and smiled. A light broke in upon him, and seizing her hand he drew her towards him.

"No," said Annis, drawing back sharply; "it wouldn't be right."

Afraid he had gone too far, Wilson's cowardice got the better hand again. "What wouldn't?" he asked, with an awkward attempt at innocence. A tiny but ominous sparkle in Miss Gething's eye showed her opinion of this unfairness.

"I beg your pardon," he said humbly.

"What for?" asked Miss Gething innocently in her turn.

Soon tired of devious paths, in which he lost himself, Wilson tried a direct one again. "For trying to kiss you and then pretending I didn't know what you meant when you refused," he said bluntly.

"Captain Wilson!" said Miss Gething breathlessly, "I—I don't know what you mean."

"Yes you do," said Wilson calmly.

The sparkle came in Miss Gething's eye again, then she bit her lip and turned her head away miserably realizing her inability to treat this transgressor with the severity that he deserved.

"This is the first time you have ever said things of this sort to a girl, I should think," she said at last.

"Yes," said Wilson simply.

"You want practice," said Miss Gething scornfully.

"That's just what I do want," said Wilson eagerly.

He was moving towards her again, but she checked him with a look.

"But not with a girl who is half engaged to another man," she said, regarding him with soft eyes; "it isn't right."

"Does he know how it is?" inquired Wilson, referring, of course, to the absent Glover.

Miss Gething nodded.

"I think it's quite right and proper, then," said Wilson.

"I don't," said Annis, holding out her hand. "I'll say good-bye," she said steadily. "I won't see you again until my father is found. If Mr. Glover finds him I won't see you at all. Good-bye."

The skipper took her hand, and marvelling at his pluck, drew her, resisting slightly, towards him again. Then he bent his head, and, with the assistance of Miss Gething, kissed the brim of her hat. Then she broke from him and ran lightly up the lane, pausing at the end to stop and wave her hand ere she disappeared. The skipper waved his in return, and glancing boldly at a horse which had witnessed all the proceedings from over the hedge, walked back to Northfleet to urge his dispirited crew to still further efforts.


To the skipper's surprise and disapproval Annis kept her word. To be sure she could not prevent him meeting her in the road when the schooner was at Northfleet, his attitude when she tried to, being one of wilful and deliberate defiance. She met this disobedience adeptly by taking a pupil home with her, and when even this was not sufficient added to the number. The day on which she appeared in the road with four small damsels was the last day the skipper accompanied her. He could only walk in front or behind; the conversation was severely technical, and the expression on the small girls' faces precocious in the extreme.

The search went on all the summer, the crew of the Seamew causing much comment at the various ports by walking about as though they had lost something. They all got to wear a bereaved appearance after a time, which, in the case of the cook—who had risked some capital in the affair—was gradually converted to one of resignation.

At the beginning of September they found themselves at Ironbridge, a small town on the East Coast, situated on the river Lebben. As usual, the skipper's inquiries revealed nothing. Ironbridge was a small place, with absolutely nothing to conceal; but it was a fine day, and Henry, who disliked extremely the task of assisting to work out the cargo, obtained permission to go ashore to purchase a few small things for the cook and look round.

He strolled along blithely, casting a glance over his shoulders at the dusty cloud which hung over the Seamew as he went. It was virgin soil to him, and he thirsted for adventure.

The town contained but few objects of interest. Before the advent of railways it had been a thriving port with a considerable trade; now its streets were sleepy and its wharves deserted. Besides the Seamew the only other craft in the river was a tiny sloop, the cargo of which two men were unloading by means of a basket and pulley and a hand truck.

The quietude told upon Henry, who, after a modest half-pint, lit his pipe and sauntered along the narrow High Street with his hands in his pockets. A short walk brought him to the white hurdles of the desolate market-place. Here the town as a town ended and gave place to a few large houses standing in their own grounds.

"Well, give me London," said Henry to himself as he paused at a high brick wall and looked at the fruit trees beyond. "Why, the place seems dead!"

He scrambled up on to the wall, and, perched on the top, whistled softly. The grown-up flavor of half-pints had not entirely eradicated a youthful partiality for apples. He was hidden from the house by the trees, and almost involuntarily he dropped down on the other side of the wall and began to fill his pockets with the fruit.

Things were so quiet that he became venturesome, and, imitating the stealthy movement of the Red Indian, whom he loved, so far as six or seven pounds of apples would allow him, made his way to a large summer-house and peeped in. It was empty, except for a table and a couple of rough benches, and after another careful look round, he entered, and seating himself on the bench, tried an apple.

He was roused to a sense of the danger of his position by footsteps on the path outside, which, coming nearer and nearer, were evidently aimed at the summer-house. With a silence and celerity of which any brave would have been proud, he got under the table.

"There you are, you naughty little girl," said a woman's voice. "You will not come out until you know your rivers perfectly."

Somebody was pushed into the summer-house, the door slammed behind, and a key turned in the lock. The footsteps retreated again, and the embarrassed brave realized that he was in a cruelly false position, his very life, so to speak, depending on the strength a small girl's scream.

"I don't care!" said a dogged voice. "Bother your rivers! bother your rivers! bother your rivers!"

The owner of the voice sat on the table and hummed fiercely. In the stress of mental anguish caused by his position, Henry made a miscalculation, and in turning bumped the table heavily with his head.

"Ough!" said the small girl breathlessly.

"Don't be frightened," said Henry, popping up humbly; "I won't hurt you."

"Hoo!" said the small girl in a flutter; "a boy!"

Henry rose and seated himself respectfully, coughing confusedly, as he saw the small girl's gaze riveted on his pockets.

"What have you got in your pockets?" she asked.

"Apples," said Henry softly. "I bought 'em in the town."

The small girl extended her hand, and accepting a couple, inspected them carefully.

"You're a bad, wicked boy!" she said seriously as she bit into one. "You'll get it when Miss Dimchurch comes!"

"Who's Miss Dimchurch?" inquired Henry with pardonable curiosity.

"Schoolmistress," said the small girl.

"Is this a school?" said Henry.

The small girl, her mouth full of apple, nodded.

"Any men here?" inquired Henry with an assumed carelessness.

The small girl shook her head.

"You're the only boy I've ever seen here," she said gleefully. "You'll get it when Miss Dimchurch comes!"

His mind relieved of a great fear, Henry leaned back and smiled confidently.

"I'm not afraid of the old girl," he said quietly, as he pulled out his pipe and filled it.

The small girl's eyes glistened with admiration.

"I wish I was a boy," she said plaintively, "then I shouldn't mind her. Are you a sailor-boy?"

"Sailor," corrected Henry; "yes."

"I like sailors," said the small girl amicably. "You may have a bite of my apple if you like."

"Never mind, thanks," said Henry hastily; "I've got a clean one here."

The small girl drew herself up and eyed him haughtily, but finding that he was not looking at her resumed her apple.

"What's your name?" she asked.

"'Enery Hatkins," replied the youth, as he remembered sundry cautions about the letter h he had received at school. "What's yours?"

"Gertrude Ursula Florence Harcourt," said the small girl, sitting up straighter to say it. "I don't like the name of Atkins."

"Don't you?" said Henry, trying not to show resentment. "I don't like Gertrude, or Ursula, or Florence, and Harcourt's the worst of all."

Miss Harcourt drew off three or four inches and drummed with the tips of her fingers on the table. "I don't care what you like," she said humming.

"I like Gerty," said Henry with the air of a connoisseur, as he looked at the small flushed face. "I think Gerty's very pretty."

"That's what they always call me," said Miss Harcourt carelessly. "Does your ship go right out to sea?"

"Yes," said the boy. They had been blown out to sea once, and he salved his conscience with that.

"And how many times," said Gertrude Ursula Florence Harcourt, getting nearer to him again, "have you had fights with pirates?"

She left absolutely no loophole. If she had asked him whether he had ever fought pirates he would have said "No," though that would have been hard with her little excitable face turned towards his and the dark blue eyes dancing with interest.

"I forget whether it was six or seven," said Henry Atkins. "I think it was only six."

"Tell us all about them," said Miss Harcourt, shifting with excitement.

Henry took a bite of his apple and started, thankful that a taste for reading of a thrilling description had furnished him with material. He fought ships in a way which even admirals had never thought of, and certainly not the pirates, who were invariably discomfited by the ingenious means by which he enabled virtue to triumph over sin. Miss Harcourt held her breath with pleasurable terror, and tightened or relaxed the grip of her small and not too clean fingers on his arm as the narrative proceeded.

"But you never killed a man yourself," said she, when he had finished. There was an inflection, just a slight inflection, of voice, which Henry thought undeserved after the trouble he had taken.

"I can't exactly say," he replied shortly. "You see in the heat"—he got it right that time—"in the heat of an engagement you can't be sure."

"Of course you can't," said Miss Harcourt, repenting of her unreasonableness. "You are brave!" Henry blushed.

"Are you an officer?" inquired Miss Harcourt.

"Not quite," said Henry, wishing somehow that he was.

"If you make haste and become an officer I'll marry you when I grow up," said Miss Harcourt, smiling on him kindly. "That is if you like, of course."

"I should like it very much," said Henry wistfully, "I didn't mean it when I said I didn't like your names just now."

"You shouldn't have told stories, then," said Miss Harcourt severely, but not unkindly; "I can't bear storytellers."

The conscience-stricken Henry groaned inwardly, but, reflecting there was plenty of time to confess before the marriage, brightened up again. The "Rivers of Europe" had fallen beneath the table, and were entirely forgotten until the sounds of many feet and many voices in the garden recalled them to a sense of their position.

"Play-time," said the small girl, picking up her book and skipping to the farthest seat possible from Henry. "Thames, Seine, Danube, Rhine."

A strong, firm step stopped outside the door, and a key turned in the lock. The door was thrown open, and Miss Dimchurch peeping in, drew back with a cry of surprise. Behind her some thirty small girls, who saw her surprise, but not the reason for it, waited eagerly for light.

"Miss Harcourt!" said the principal in an awful voice.

"Yes, ma'am," said Miss Harcourt looking up, with her finger in the book to keep the place.

"How dare you stay in here with this person?" demanded the principal.

"It wasn't my fault," said Miss Harcourt, working up a whimper. "You locked me in. He was here when I came."

"Why didn't you call after me?" demanded Miss Dimchurch.

"I didn't know he was here; he was under the table," said Miss Harcourt.

Miss Dimchurch turned and bestowed a terrible glance upon Henry, who, with his forgotten pipe in his hand, looked uneasily up to see whether he could push past her. Miss Harcourt, holding her breath, gazed at the destroyer of pirates, and waited confidently for something extraordinary to happen.

"He's been stealing my apples!" said Miss Dimchurch tragically. "Where's the gymnasium mistress?"

The gymnasium mistress, a tall pretty girl, was just behind her.

"Remove that horrid boy, Miss O'Brien," said the principal.

"Don't worry," said Henry, trying to speak calmly; "I'll go. Stand away here. I don't want to be hard on wimmin."

"Take him out," commanded the mistress.

Miss O'Brien, pleased at this opportunity of displaying her powers, entered, and squaring her shoulders, stood over the intruder in much the same way that Henry had seen barmen stand over Sam.

"Look here, now," he said, turning pale; "you drop it. I don't want to hurt you."

He placed his pipe in his pocket, and rose to his feet as the gymnasium mistress caught him in her strong slender arms and raised him from the ground. Her grip was like steel, and a babel of admiring young voices broke upon his horrified ears as his captor marched easily with him down the garden, their progress marked by apples, which rolled out of his pockets and bounded along the ground.

"I shall kick you," whispered Henry fiercely—ignoring the fact that both legs were jammed together—as he caught sight of the pale, bewildered little face of Gertrude U. F. Harcourt.

"Kick away," said Miss O'Brien sweetly, and using him as a dumb-bell, threw in a gratuitous gymnastic display for the edification of her pupils.

"If you come here again, you naughty little boy," said Miss Dimchurch, who was heading the procession behind, "I shall give you to a policeman. Open the gate, girls!"

The gate was open, and Henry, half dead with shame, was thrust into the road in full view of the cook, who had been sent out in search of him.

"Wot, 'Enery?" said the cook in unbelieving accents as he staggered back, aghast at the spectacle—"wotever 'ave you been a-doin' of?"

"He's been stealing my apples!" said Miss Dimchurch sternly. "If I catch him here again I shall cane him!"

"Quite right, ma'am! I hope he hasn't hurt anybody," said the cook, unable to realize fully the discomfiture of the youth.

Miss Dimchurch slammed the gate and left the couple standing in the road. The cook turned and led the way down to the town again, accompanied by the crestfallen Henry.

"'Ave a apple, cook?" said the latter, proffering one; "I saved a beauty a-purpose for you."

"No, thanks," said the cook.

"It won't bite you," said Henry shortly.

"No, and I won't bite it either," replied the cook.

They continued their way in silence, until at the market-place Henry paused in front of the "Farmer's Arms."

"Come in and 'ave a pint, old chap," he said cordially.

"No, thankee," said the cook again. "It's no use, Enery, you don't git over me in that way."

"Wot d'ye mean?" blustered the youth.

"You know," said the other darkly.

"No, I don't," said Henry.

"Well, I wouldn't miss tellin' the other chaps, no, not for six pints," said the cook cheerfully. "You're a deep un, 'Enery, but so am I."

"Glad you told me," said the out-generalled youth "Nobody'd think so to look at your silly, fat face."

The cook smiled indulgently, and, going aboard, left his youthful charge to give the best explanation he could of his absence to the skipper—an explanation which was marred for him by the childish behavior of the cook at the other end of the ship, who taking the part of Miss O'Brien for himself, gave that of Henry to a cork fender, which, when it became obstreperous—as it frequently did on the slightest provocation—he slapped vigorously, giving sundry falsetto howls, which he fondly imagined were in good imitation of Henry. After three encores the skipper stepped forward for enlightenment, returning to the mate with a grin so aggravating that the sensitive Henry was near to receiving a thrashing for insubordination of the most impertinent nature.


From Ironbridge, two days later, they sailed with a general cargo for Stourwich, the Seamew picking her way carefully down the river by moonlight, followed at an ever-increasing distance by a cork fender of abandoned aspect.

A great change had come over Henry, and an attitude of proud reserve had taken the place of the careless banter with which he usually regaled the crew. He married Miss O'Brien in imagination to a strong man of villainous temper and despotic ideas, while the explanations he made to Miss Harcourt were too ingenious and involved to be confined in the space of a single chapter. To these daydreams, idle though he knew they were, he turned as a welcome relief from the coarse vulgarity of the crew.

Sympathy had widened his ideas, and he now felt a tender but mournful interest in the skipper's affairs. He read aloud to himself at every opportunity, and aspirated his h's until he made his throat ache. His aspirations also extended to his conversation, until at last the mate told him plainly "that if he blew in his face again he'd get his ears boxed."

They passed the breakwater and dropped anchor in the harbor of Stourwich just as the rising sun was glowing red on the steeple of the town church. The narrow, fishy little streets leading from the quay were deserted, except for one lane, down which sleepy passengers were coming in twos and threes to catch the boat, which was chafing and grinding against the timbers of the jetty and pouring from its twin-funnels dense volumes of smoke to take the sting out of the morning air.

Little by little as the Seamew who was not quite certain as to her berth, rode at anchor, the town came to life again. Men of marine appearance, in baggy trousers and tight jerseys, came slowly on to the quay and stared meditatively at the water or shouted vehemently at other men, who had got into small boats to bale them out with rusty cans. From some of these loungers, after much shouting and contradictory information, the Seamew, discovered her destination and was soon fast alongside.

The cargo—a very small one—was out by three o'clock that afternoon, and the crew, having replaced the hatches and cleaned up, went ashore together, after extending an invitation to Henry—which was coldly declined—to go with them.

The skipper was already ashore, and the boy, after enduring for some time the witticisms of the mate, on the subject of apples, went too.

For some time he wandered aimlessly about the town, with his hands in his pockets. The season was drawing to an end, but a few holiday-makers were lounging about on the parade, or venturing carefully along the dreary breakwater to get the full benefit of the sea air. Idly watching these and other objects of interest on the sea-shore, the boy drifted on until he found himself at the adjoining watering-place of Overcourt.

The parade ended in two flights of steps, one of which led to the sands and the other to the road and the cliffs above. For people who cared for neither, thoughtful local authorities had placed a long seat, and on this Henry placed himself and sat for some time, regarding with the lenity of age the erratic sports of the children below. He had sat there for some time when he became idly interested in the movements of an old man walking along the sands to the steps. Arrived at the foot he disappeared from sight, then a huge hand gripped the handrail, and a peaked cloth cap was revealed to the suddenly interested Henry, for the face of the old man was the face of the well-thumbed photograph in the foc'sle.

Unconscious of the wild excitement in the breast of the small boy on the seat, the old man paused to take breath for the next flight.

"Have you—got such a thing as a—as a match—about you?" said Henry, trying to speak calmly, but failing.

"You're over-young to smoke," said the old man, turning round and regarding him.

At any other time, with any other person, Henry's retort to this would have been rude, but the momentous events which depended on his civility restrained him.

"I find it soothing," he said with much gravity, "if I get overworked or worried."

The old man regarded him with unfeigned astonishment, a grim smile lurking at the corners of his well-hidden mouth.

"If you were my boy," he said shortly, as he put his forefinger and thumb into his waistcoat pocket and extracted a time-stained lucifer, "do you know what I'd do to you?"

"Stop me smoking?" hazarded Henry cheerfully.

"I would that," said the other, turning to go.

"How old were you when you started smoking?" asked the boy.

"About your age, I expect," said the old man slowly; "but I was a much bigger chap than you are. A stunted little chap like you ought not to smoke."

Henry smiled wanly, and began to think that the five pounds would be well earned.

"Will you have a pipe?" he said, proffering a gaudy pouch.

"Confound you!" said the old man, flashing into sudden weak anger. "When I want your tobacco I'll ask you for it."

"No offence," said the boy hastily, "no offence. It's some I bought cheap, and our chaps said I'd been 'ad. I only wanted to see what you thought of it."

The old man hesitated a moment, and then taking the seat beside him, accepted the proffered pouch and smelt the contents critically. Then he drew a small black clay from his pocket and slowly filled it.

"Smokes all right," he said after a few puffs. He leaned back, and half closing his eyes, smoked with the enjoyment of an old smoker to whom a pipe is a somewhat rare luxury, while Henry regarded his shabby clothes and much-patched boots with great interest.

"Stranger here?" inquired the old man amiably.

"Schooner Seamew down in the harbor," said Henry, indicating the distant town of Stourwich with a wave of his hand.

"Ay, ay," said the old man, and smoked in silence.

"Got to stay here for a few days," said Henry, watching him out of the tail of his eye; "then back."

"London?" suggested the other.

"Northfleet," said Henry carelessly, "that's where we came from."

The old man's face twitched ever so slightly, and he blew out a cloud of smoke.

"Do you live there?" he inquired.

"Wapping," said Henry; "but I know Northfleet very well—Gravesend too. Ever been there?"

"Never," said the old man emphatically; "never."

"Rather a nice place, I think," said Henry; "I like it better than Wapping. We've sailed from there a year now. Our skipper is fond of it too. He's rather sweet on a girl who's teacher in a school there."

"What school?" asked the old man.

The boy gave a slight laugh. "Well, it's no good telling you if you don't know the place," he said easily; "it's a girls' school."

"I used to know a man that lived there," said the other, speaking slowly and carefully. "What's her name?"

"I forget," said the boy, yawning.

Conversation flagged, and the two sat idly watching the last of the children as they toiled slowly towards home from the sands. The sun had set and the air was getting chilly.

"I'll be getting home," said the old man. "Goodnight, my lad."

"Good-night to you," said the well-mannered Henry.

He watched the old man's still strong figure as it passed slowly up the steps, and allowing him to get some little distance start, cautiously followed. He followed him up the steps and along the cliff, the figure in front never halting until it reached a small court at the back of a livery stable; then, heedless of the small shadow, now very close behind, it pushed open the door of a dirty little house and entered. The shadow crept up and paused irresolute, and then, after a careful survey of the place, stole silently and swiftly away.

The shadow, choosing the road because it was quicker, now danced back to Stourwich, and jumping lightly on to the schooner, came behind the cook and thumped him heavily on the back. Before the cook could seize him he had passed on to Sam, and embracing as much of that gentleman's waist as possible, vainly besought him to dance.

"'E's off 'is 'ead," said Sam, shaking himself free and regarding him unfavorably. "What's wrong, kiddy?"

"Nothing," said Henry jubilantly; "everything's right."

"More happles?" said the cook with a nasty sneer.

"No, it ain't apples," said Henry hotly; "you never get more than one idea at a time into that 'ead of yours. Where's the skipper? I've got something important to tell 'im—something that'll make 'im dance."

"Wot is it?" said the cook and Sam together turning pale.

"Now don't get excited," said Henry, holding up his hand warningly; "it's bad for you, Sam, because you're too fat, and it's bad for cookie because 'is 'ead's weak. You'll know all in good time."

He walked aft, leaving them to confer uneasily as to the cause of his jubilant condition, and hastily descending the companion ladder, burst noisily into the cabin and surveyed the skipper and mate with a smile, which he intended should be full of information. Both looked up in surprise, and the skipper, who was in a very bad temper, half rose from his seat.

"Where've you been, you young rascal?" he asked, eyeing him sternly.

"Looking around," said Henry, still smiling as he thought of the change in the skipper's manner when he should disclose his information.

"This is the second time you've taken yourself off," roared the other angrily. "I've half a mind to give you the soundest thrashing you ever had in your life."

"All right," said Henry, somewhat taken aback. "When—"

"Don't answer me, you idle young rascal!" said the skipper sternly; "get to bed."

"I want to——" began Henry, chilled by this order.

"Get to bed," repeated the skipper, rising.

"Bed?" said Henry, as his face hardened; "bed at seven o'clock?"

"I'll punish you somehow," said the skipper, looking from him to the cook who had just descended. "Cook!"

"Yes, sir," said the cook briskly.

"Put that boy to bed," said the other, "and see he goes now."

"A' right, sir," said the grinning cook. "Come along, 'Enery."

With a pale face and a haughty mien, which under other circumstances might have been extremely impressive, Henry, after an entreating glance at the skipper, followed him up the steps.

"'E's got to go to bed," said the cook to Sam and Dick, who were standing together. "'E's been naughty."

"Who said so?" asked Sam eagerly.

"Skipper," replied the cook. "'E told me we wos to put him to bed ourselves."

"You needn't trouble," said Henry stiffly; "I'll go all right."

"It's no trouble," said Sam oilily.

"It's a pleasure," said Dick truthfully.

Arrived at the scuttle, Henry halted, and with an assumption of ease he was far from feeling, yawned, and looked round at the night.

"Go to bed," said Sam reprovingly, and seizing him in his stout arms passed him below to the cook, feet first, as the cook discovered to his cost.

"'E ought to be bathed first," said Sam, assuming the direction of affairs; "and it's Monday night, and 'e ought to have a clean nightgown on."

"Is 'is little bed made?" inquired the cook anxiously.

"'Is little bed's just proper," said Dick, patting it.

"We won't bathe him to-night," said Sam, as he tied a towel apron-wise round his waist; "it 'ud be too long a job. Now, 'Enery, come on to my lap."

Aided by willing arms, he took the youth on to his knee, and despite his frantic struggles, began to prepare him for his slumbers. At the pressing request of the cook he removed the victim's boots first, and, as Dick said, it was surprising what a difference it made. Then having washed the boy's face with soap and flannel, he lifted him into his berth, grinning respectfully up at the face of the mate as it peered down from the scuttle with keen enjoyment of the scene.

"Is the boy asleep?" he inquired aggravatingly, as Henry's arms and legs shot out of the berth in mad attempts to reach his tormentors.

"Sleeping like a little hangel, sir!" said Sam respectfully. "Would you like to come down and see he's all right, sir?"

"Bless him!" said the grinning mate.

He went off, and Henry, making the best of a bad job, closed his eyes and refused to be drawn into replying to the jests of the men. Ever since he had been on the schooner he had been free from punishment of all kinds by the strict order of the skipper—a situation of which he had taken the fullest advantage. Now his power was shaken, and he lay grinding his teeth as he thought of the indignity to which he had been subjected.


He resolved that he would keep his discovery to himself. It was an expensive luxury, but he determined to indulge in it, and months or years later perhaps he would allow the skipper to learn what he had lost by his overbearing brutality. Somewhat soothed by this idea, he fell asleep.

His determination, which was strong when he arose, weakened somewhat as the morning wore on. The skipper, who had thought no more of the matter after giving his hasty instructions to the cook, was in a soft and amiable mood, and, as Henry said to himself fifty times in the course of the morning, five pounds was five pounds. By the time ten o'clock came he could hold out no longer, and with a full sense of the favor he was about to confer, he approached the unconscious skipper.

Before he could speak he was startled by a commotion on the quay, and looking up, saw the cook, who had gone ashore for vegetables, coming full tilt towards the ship. He appeared to be laboring under strong excitement, and bumped passers-by and dropped cabbages with equal unconcern.

"What on earth's the matter with the cook," said the skipper, as the men suspended work to gaze on the approaching figure. "What's wrong?" he demanded sharply, as the cook, giving a tremendous leap on board, rushed up and spluttered in his ear.

"What?" he repeated.

The cook, with his hand on his distressed chest, gasped for breath.

"Captain Gething!" panted the cook at last, recovering his breath with an effort. "Round the—corner."

Almost as excited as the cook, the skipper sprang ashore and hurried along the quay with him, violently shaking off certain respectable citizens who sought to detain the cook, and ask him what he meant by it.

"I expect you've made a mistake," said the skipper, as they rapidly reached the small street. "Don't run—we shall have a crowd."

"If it wasn't 'im it was his twin brother," said the cook. "Ah, there he is! That's the man!"

He pointed to Henry's acquaintance of the previous day, who, with his hands in his pockets, was walking listlessly along on the other side of the road.

"You get back," said the skipper hurriedly. "You'd better run a little, then these staring idiots 'll follow you."

The cook complied, and the curious, seeing that he appeared to be the more irrational of the two, and far more likely to get into mischief, set off in pursuit. The skipper crossed the road, and began gently to overtake his quarry.

He passed him, and looking back, regarded him unobserved. The likeness was unmistakable, and for a few seconds he kept on his way in doubt how to proceed. Then he stopped, and turning round, waited till the old man should come up to him.

"Good-morning," he said pleasantly.

"Morning," said the old man, half stopping.

"I'm in a bit of a difficulty," said the skipper laughing. "I've got a message to deliver to a man in this place and I can't find him. I wonder whether you could help me."

"What's his name?" asked the other.

"Captain Gething," said the skipper.

The old man started, and his face changed to an unwholesome white. "I never heard of him," he muttered, thickly, trying to pass on.

"Nobody else seems to have heard of him either," said the skipper, turning with him; "that's the difficulty."

He waited for a reply, but none came. The old man, with set face, walked on rapidly.

"He's supposed to be in hiding," continued the skipper. "If you should ever run across him you might tell him that his wife and daughter Annis have been wanting news of him for five years, and that he's making all this trouble and fuss about a man who is as well and hearty as I am. Good-morning."

The old man stopped abruptly, and taking his outstretched hand, drew a deep breath.

"Tell him—the—man—is alive?" he said in a trembling voice.

"Just that," said the skipper gently, and seeing the working of the other's face, looked away. For a little while they both stood silent, then the skipper spoke again.

"If I take you back," he said, "I am to marry your daughter Annis." He put his hand on the old man's, and without a word the old man turned and went with him.

They walked back slowly towards the harbor, the young man talking, the old man listening. Outside the post office the skipper came to a sudden stop.

"How would it be to send a wire?" he asked.

"I think," said the old man eagerly, as he followed him in, "it would be the very thing."

He stood watching attentively as the skipper tore up form after form, meditatively sucking the chained lead pencil with a view to inspiration between whiles. Captain Gething, as an illiterate, had every sympathy with one involved in the throes of writing, and for some time watched his efforts in respectful silence. After the fifth form had rolled a little crumpled ball on to the floor, however, he interposed.

"I can't think how to put it," said the skipper apologetically. "I don't want to be too sudden, you know."

"Just so," said the other, and stood watching him until, with a smile of triumph twitching the corners of his mouth, the skipper bent down and hastily scrawled off a message.

"You've done it?" he said with relief.

"How does this strike you?" asked the skipper reading. "Your father sends love to you both."

"Beautiful," murmured Captain Gething.

"Not too sudden," said the skipper; "it doesn't say I've found you, or anything of that sort; only hints at it. I'm proud of it."

"You ought to be," said Captain Gething, who was in the mood to be pleased with anything. "Lord, how pleased they'll be, poor dears! I'm ashamed to face 'em."

"Stuff!" said the skipper, who was in high spirits, as he clapped him on the back. "What you want is a good stiff drink."

He led him into a neighboring bar, and a little later the crew of the schooner, who had been casting anxious and curious glances up the quay, saw the couple approaching them. Both captains were smoking big cigars in honor of the occasion, and Captain Gething, before going on board, halted, and in warm terms noticed the appearance of the Seamew.

The crew, pausing in their labors, looked on expectantly as they reached the deck. On the cook's face was a benevolent and proprietary smile, while Henry concealed his anguish of soul under an appearance of stoic calm.

"This is the man," said the skipper, putting his hand on the cook's shoulder, "this is the man that found you, cap'n. Smartest and best chap I ever had sail with me!"

Flushed with these praises, but feeling that he fully deserved them, the cook took the hand which Captain Gething, after a short struggle with the traditions of ship masters, extended, and shook it vigorously. Having once started, he shook hands all round, winding up with the reluctant Henry.

"Why, I've seen this boy before," he said, starting. "Had a chat with him yesterday. That's what brought me down here to-day, to see whether I couldn't find him again."

"Well I'm hanged!" said the astonished skipper. "He's as sharp as needles as a rule. What were you doing with your eyes, Henry?"

In an agony of mortification and rage, as he saw the joy depicted on the faces of the crew, the boy let the question pass. The cook, at the skipper's invitation, followed him below, his reappearance being the signal for anxious inquiries on the part of his friends. He answered them by slapping his pocket, and then thrusting his hand in produced five gold pieces. At first it was all congratulations, then Sam, after a short, hard, cough, struck a jarring note.

"Don't you wish now as you'd joined the syndikit, Dick?" he asked boldly.

"Wot?" said the cook, hastily replacing the coins.

"I arst 'im whether he was sorry 'e 'adn't joined us," said Sam, trying to speak calmly.

The cook threw out his hand and looked round appealingly to the landscape to bear witness to this appalling attempt at brigandage.

"You needn't look like that," said Sam. "Two pun ten's wot I want of you, an' I'll take it afore you lose it."

Then the cook found words, and with Dick and Henry for audience made an impassioned speech in defence of vested interests and the sacred rights of property. Never in his life had he been so fluent or so inventive, and when he wound up a noble passage on the rights of the individual, in which he alluded to Sam as a fat sharper, he felt that his case was won.

"Two pun ten," said Sam, glowering at him.

The cook, moistening his lips with his tongue, resumed his discourse.

"Two pun ten," said Sam again; "an' I don't know what you're goin' to do with your half, but I'm goin' to give ten bob to Dick."

"Why don't you give the man his money?" said Dick warmly.

"Becos the syndikit 'ad all fell through," said the cook. "The syndikit was only a syndikit when we was both looking for 'im together. If the syndikit—"

"That's enough about 'em," said Dick impatiently; "give the man 'is money. Everybody knows you was goin' shares. I'm ashamed of you, cook, I wouldn't have thought it of you."

It ended in simple division, Dick taking what was over on Sam's side and more than hinting that he was ready to do the cook a similar service. The cook turned a deaf ear, however, and declining in emphatic language to step ashore and take something, went and sulked in the galley.

At dinner-time a telegram came from Annis, and the next morning brought a letter from her which the skipper read aloud to the proud father. He read it somewhat jerkily, omitting sentences and halves of sentences which he thought might not interest the old man, or perhaps, what was more likely, would interest him a great deal. After that they were all busy taking in the cargo, Captain Gething, in shirt and trousers, insisting upon lending a hand.

The cargo was all in by five o'clock and the hatches down. Below in the cabin the two captains and the mate sat over a substantial tea.

"Get away about three, I s'pose?" said the mate.

The skipper nodded.

"Get away about three," he repeated, "and then for Northfleet. I'll have all the hands to the wedding, and you shall be best man, Jim."

"And Henry 'll be a little page in white satin knickers holding up the bride's train," said the mate, spluttering at the picture he had conjured up.

They all laughed—all except Henry, who, having come down with some hot water from the galley, surveyed the ribald scene with a scarcely concealed sneer.

Half an hour later the skipper and mate went ashore to transact a little business, leaving the old man smoking peacefully in the cabin. The crew, having adjusted their differences, had already gone ashore to treat each other to beer, leaving Henry in sole charge.

"You'll stay by the ship, boy," said the skipper, looking down on him from the quay.

"Ay, ay, sir," said Henry sulkily.

The two men walked along the quay and into the High Street, the skipper shrugging his shoulders good-naturedly as he caught, through a half-open door, a glimpse of his crew settling down to business. It was an example that in the circumstances seemed to be worth following, and at the next public-house the mate, sacrificing his inclinations to the occasion, drank port wine instead of his favorite whisky. For the same reason he put his pipe back in his pocket and accepted a cigar, and then followed his superior into the street.

"Where's a likely tailor's?" asked the skipper, looking round.

"What for?" asked the mate.

"I'm going to get some things for Cap'n Gething," said the other. "He's hardly the figure to meet his family as he is."

"Why didn't you bring him with us?" asked the mate. "How about a fit?"

"He wouldn't hear of it," said the skipper, pausing in deep contemplation of three wax boys in a tailor's window. "He's an independent sort of man; but if I buy the clothes and take 'em aboard he can hardly refuse to wear 'em."

He led the way into the shop and asked to see some serge suits. At the mate's instigation he asked to see some more. At the mate's further instigation he asked whether that was all they had got, and being told that it was, looked at them all over again. It is ever a difficult thing to fit an absent man, but he and the mate tried on every jacket in the hope of finding a golden mean, until the mate, dropping his lighted cigar in the coat-sleeve of one, and not finding it as soon as the tailor could have desired, the latter lost all patience and insisted upon their taking that one.

"It's all right," said the mate, as they left the shop with the parcel; "it's only the lining. I'd fixed my mind on that one, too, from the first."

"Well, why didn't you say so, then?" said the skipper.

"Got it cheaper," said the mate, with a wink. "I'd bet you, if it could only be known, if we'd been suited at first he'd ha' wanted ten bob more for it."

It was quite dark by now, and after buying a cap and one or two other small articles, the mate led the way into a tavern for another drink.

"There's no hurry," he said, putting his share of bundles on the table with some relief. "What's your poison this time, cap'n?"


In less rapid times, before the invention of the electric telegraph and other scientific luxuries, Captain Gething would have remained quietly on board the Seamew, and been delivered to his expectant family without any further trouble. As it was, the message in which Captain Wilson took such pride, reached Mrs. Gething just as Mr. Glover—who had been sitting in her parlor all the afternoon, listening as patiently as he could to her somewhat uninteresting conversation—was on the point of departure. The effect on him was hardly less marked than on his hostess, and he went on his way to the railway station in a condition in which rage and jealousy strove for the mastery. All the way to town he pondered over ways and means to wrest from his rival the prize which he had won, and by the time the train had reached Fenchurch Street he had hatched as pleasant a little plot as ever occurred to a man, most of whose existence had been spent amid the blameless surroundings of ladies' hosiery. Half an hour later he was sitting in the dingy furnished apartments of a friend of his who lived in a small house off the Walworth Road.

"I want you to do me a favor, Tillotson," he said to the unkempt-looking tenant.

"I shall be delighted," said Mr. Tillotson, sticking his hands in his pockets, and warming himself comfortably at a fire-stove ornament trimmed with red paper roses—"if I can, you know."

"It is a great favor," said Glover.

Mr. Tillotson, looking very despondent, said, of course, that would please him more.

"I wouldn't ask anybody but you to do it," said the wily Glover. "If it comes off all right I will get you that berth you asked me for at Leatham and Roberts'."

"It's coming off, then," said Mr. Tillotson, brightening visibly. "If you will wait a minute—if the girl is in I will ask her if she will go and get us something to drink."

"I had better begin at the beginning," said Mr. Glover, as, all the 'ifs' having been triumphantly surmounted, he helped himself from a small flat bottle of whiskey; "it won't take long."

He lit his pipe, and, plunging into his story, finished it without interruption.

"You are a deep one, Glover," said his admiring friend when he had finished. "I thought you had been very smart lately—not but what you were always a dressy man," he added thoughtfully.

"I believe in keeping my own things to myself," said Glover.

"And this bargee has got the old un," said Tillotson, using the terms Glover had employed in his narrative. "I don't see what is to be done, Glover."

"I want to get him away," said the other. "If I can't find him, nobody else shall, and I want you to help me."

"Go down to Stourwich, tie him up in a sack, and drown him, I suppose," said Tillotson, trying to live up to a reputation several lady friends had bestowed upon him of being sarcastic.

"Can you get away to-morrow?" demanded Glover impatiently.

"I am as free as the birds of the air," responded Tillotson gloomily; "the only difference is, nobody puts out crumbs for me."

"I can reckon on you, then," said Glover. "I thought I could. We have known each other a long time, Tillotson. There is nothing like an old friend when one is in trouble."

Mr. Tillotson assented modestly. "You won't forget about Leatham and Roberts?" he said.

"Of course not," said Glover. "You see, it won't do to be seen in this thing myself. What I want you to do is to come down with me to Stourwich and bring the old man to London; then I can find him at my own time, in the street or anywhere, quite haphazard like."

"I don't quite see how it is to be done," said Tillotson.

"Meet me to-morrow morning at Waterloo, at ten minutes past eight," said Glover, finishing his glass and rising; "and we will have a try, at any rate."

He shook hands with his friend, and following him down the uncarpeted stairs, said a few words at the door in favor of early rising, and departed to his place of business to make his own arrangements about the morrow.

He was at the station and in the train first in the morning, Mr. Tillotson turning up with that extreme punctuality which enables a man to catch his train before it has got up full speed.

"I was half afraid at one time that I shouldn't have done it," said Mr. Tillotson, in self-congratulation, as he fell on to the seat. "Smoker, too! Couldn't have done better if I had been here at seven o'clock."

His friend grunted, and, there being nobody else in the carriage, began at once to discuss the practical part of the business.

"If he could only read we might send a letter aboard to him," said Mr. Tillotson, pushing his hat back. "The idea of a man his age not being able to!"

"He's one of the old school," said Glover.

"Funny sort of school," said Tillotson flippantly. "Well, we must take our chance of him going for a walk, I suppose."

They reached Stourwich soon after midday, and Glover, keeping a wary look out for Wilson, proceeded slowly to the quay with his friend, leaving the latter to walk down and discover the schooner while he went and hired a first-floor room at the "Royal Porpoise," a little bow-windowed tavern facing the harbor.

"That's the one," said Mr. Tillotson, as he joined his friend upstairs and led him to the window; "that little craft there. See that old chap working with the rest?"

Mr. Glover, who was focussing a pair of cheap field-glasses on to the schooner, gave a little exclamation of surprise.

"That's him, sure enough," he said, putting down the glasses. "Now what are we to do?"

At Tillotson's suggestion they had some dinner, and Glover fumed the afternoon away, while his friend hung about the quay. After tea his impatience got the better of his caution, and, pulling his hat over his eyes, he went on the quay too. Fifty yards beyond the Seamew he found a post, and leaning against it with his friend, anxiously watched the deck of the schooner.

"There's three of 'em going ashore," said Tillotson suddenly. "Look!"

They watched breathlessly as the crew walked slowly off, and, dusk coming on, approached a little closer.

"There's that fellow Wilson," said Glover, in a whisper. "Don't look!"

"Well, what's the use of telling me?" said Tillotson reasonably.

"He's going ashore with another chap," continued Glover excitedly— "the mate, I expect. Now's your chance. Get him away, and I'll stand you something handsome—upon my soul I will!"

"What do you call something handsome?" inquired Tillotson, whose pulse was not so feverish as his friend's.

"Get him safe to London and I'll stand a fiver," said Glover. "Now go. I'll stay here."

Mr. Tillotson, having got matters on a business footing, went, and, carelessly twisting his small moustache, slowly approached the schooner, on the deck of which was a small boy.

"Is Captain Gething aboard, old man?" inquired Mr. Tillotson, in a friendly voice.

"Down the cabin, I b'lieve," said Henry, jerking his thumb.

"I should like to see him," said Mr. Tillotson.

"I've got no objection," said Henry.

Charmed with his success, Mr. Tillotson stepped aboard and looked carelessly round.

"He's an old friend of mine," he said confidentially. "What's that you're smoking?"

"Shag," was the reply.

"Try a cigar," said Mr. Tillotson, producing three in an envelope. "You'll find them rather good."

The gratified Henry took one, and, first crackling it against his ear, smelt it knowingly, while Mr. Tillotson, in a leisurely fashion, descended to the cabin.

A tea-tray and an untidy litter of cups and saucers stood on the table, at the end of which sat an old man with his folded hands resting on the table.

"Good-evening," said Mr. Tillotson, pausing at the doorway and peering through the gloom to make sure that there was nobody else present. "All alone?"

"All alone," repeated Captain Gething, looking up and wondering who this might be.

"It's too dark to see you far," said Tillotson, in a mysterious whisper, "but it's Captain Gething, ain't it?"

"That's me," said the Captain uneasily.

"Going to Northfleet?" inquired Mr. Tillotson in another whisper.

"What do you mean?" inquired the captain quickly, as he gripped the edges of the table.

"Are you sure it'll be all right?" continued Tillotson.

"What do you mean?" repeated the captain from his seat. "Speak plain."

"I mean that you had better bolt," said Tillotson in a hurried whisper. "There's a heavy reward out for you, which Captain Wilson wants. You can't do what you did for nothing, you know."

Captain Gething sat down in his seat again and shaded his face with his hand.

"I'll go back," he said brokenly. "Wilson told me he was alive, and that it was all a mistake. If he's lying to me for the price of my old neck, let him have it."

"What about your wife and daughter?" said Tillotson, who was beginning to have a strong disrelish for his task. "I saw in the paper last night that Wilson had got you. He's gone ashore now to make arrangements at the station."

"He had a letter from my daughter this morning, said the old man brokenly.

"He told you it was from her," said Tillotson. "Get your things and come quick."

Excited by the part he was playing, he bent forward and clutched at the old man's arm. Captain Gething, obedient to the touch, rose, and taking his battered cap from a nail, followed him in silence above.

"We're going for a drink," said Tillotson to the boy. "We'll be back in ten minutes."

"All right," said Henry cheerfully; "wish I was going with you."

The other laughed airily, and gaining the quay, set off with the silent old man by his side. At first the captain went listlessly enough, but as he got farther and farther from the ship all the feelings of the hunted animal awoke within him, and he was as eager to escape as Tillotson could have wished.

"Where are we going?" he inquired as they came in sight of the railway station. "I'm not going by train."

"London," said Tillotson. "That's the most like-ly place to get lost in."

"I'm not going in the train," said the other doggedly.

"Why not?" said Tillotson in surprise.

"When they come back to the ship and find me gone they'll telegraph to London," said the old man. "I won't be caught like a rat in a trap."

"What are you going to do, then?" inquired the perplexed Tillotson.

"I don't know," said the old man. "Walk, I think. It's dark, and we might get twenty miles away before daybreak."

"Yes, we might," said Tillotson, who had no fancy for a nocturnal pilgrimage of the kind; "but we're not going to."

"Let me go alone," said the old man.

Tillotson shook his head.

"They'd be bound to spot you tramping about the country," he said confidently. "Now do let me know what's best for you, and go by train."

"I won't," said Gething obstinately. "You've been very kind, more than kind, in giving me warning. Let me go off by myself."

Tillotson shook his head and glanced carelessly in the direction of Glover, who was some few yards behind.

"I wish you'd trust me," he said earnestly. "You'll be safer in London than anywhere."

Captain Gething pondered. "There's a schooner about half a mile up the river, which is getting away about one o'clock this morning," he said slowly. "I've worked on her once or twice, and the skipper might take us if you can pay him well. He knows me as Stroud."

"If you'll wait here a minute or two I'll go to the railway station and get my bag," said Tillotson, who wanted to confer with his chief.

"I'll wait up the road under the arch," said Cap-tain Gething.

"Now don't run away," said Tillotson impressively. "If you won't go by train, perhaps the schooner is the best thing we can do."

He set off to the station, and after a hurried consultation with Glover, returned anxiously to the arch. Gething, standing in the shadow with his hands in his pockets, was patiently waiting.

"It's all right," said Tillotson cheerfully; "and now for a sea voyage. You know the way to the schooner, I suppose."

They made their way back cautiously, Captain Gething turning off to the left before they reached the harbor and leading the way through dingy little streets of private houses and chandlers' shops. It was not a part usually frequented by people taking an evening stroll, and Henry, who had begun to get uneasy at their absence, and starting in search of them had picked them up at the corner, followed wondering.

His wonder increased as they left the houses and met the cool air blowing from the river. The road was dark and uneven, and he followed cautiously, just keeping them in sight, until at a tumble-down little wharf they halted, and after a low consultation, boarded a small schooner lying alongside. There was nobody on the deck, but a light showed in the cabin, and after a minute's hesitation they went below.

An hour or two passed, and the small watcher, ensconced behind a pile of empties, shivered with the cold. Unconscious of the amicable overtures in the cabin, which had resulted in the master of the Frolic taking a couple of cabin passengers who were quite willing to rough it in the matter of food and accommodation, and willing to pay for it, he was afraid to desert his post. Another hour passed. A couple of seamen came by his place of concealment, and stepping aboard, went down the foc'sle. A clock struck eleven, and a few minutes later the light in the cabin was extinguished.

The boy watched another quarter of an hour and then, the ship being dark and still, crept noiselessly on board. The sound of deep snoring came from the cabin, and gaining the wharf again, he set off as hard as he could run to the Seamew.


Wilson and the mate returned to the ship laden with their spoils, and pitching them on board first, descended themselves by a slower but pleasanter method.

"I expect our chaps are all ashore still," said the mate, looking round. "Pretty state they'll be in for a start. I suppose the boy's down with the cap'n."

"Just go down and send him up," said the skipper; "it's rather a delicate thing to do to give a man a suit of clothes. I don't want anybody standing round."

"There's no light," said the mate, looking towards the skylight. He went below and felt his way into the cabin.

"All in the dark?" he said cheerfully.

There was no reply. He fumbled about in the darkness for the matches, and having obtained them, struck a light and looked round. The cabin was empty. He opened the door of the state-room and peered in; that too was empty.

"He must have gone for a walk with the boy," said the skipper uneasily when he returned with the news.

He took up the parcel again and went below, followed by the mate, and for some time sat silently smoking.

"Nine o'clock," said the mate at last in consternation as the little clock tinkled the hour. "That confounded boy's not up to any mischief, I s'pose? He's been in a devil of a temper the last day or two."

"I don't see what mischief he could do," pondered the other, knitting his brows.

"Look's to me as if he's spirited him away," continued the mate. "I'll go ashore and have a look round and see whether I can see anything of them."

He took his cap from the locker and went. An hour elapsed, and the skipper, a prey to great anxiety, went up on deck.

The shops had closed, and with the exception of the street lamps, the town was in darkness and the streets silent, except for a chance wayfarer. Two or three seamen came up the quay and went aboard the steamer in the next berth. A woman came slowly along, peering in an uncertain fashion at the various craft, and shrinking back as a seaman passed her. Abreast of the Seamew she stopped, and in the same doubtful manner looked down on the deck. The skipper crossed to the side, and straining his eyes through the gloom, looked up at her.

"Is this the Seamew?" inquired a fresh girlish voice.

"Annis!" shouted the astounded skipper. "Annis!"

He ran up the rigging, and stepping on to the quay seized her hand. Then he drew her unresistingly towards him and was in the act of passing his arm round her waist when he remembered his position and drew back awkwardly.

"Come on board," he said gently.

He straddled from the quay to the rigging, and extending his hand in the midst of a perfect silence, helped her to the deck.

"Where is my father?" she said eagerly.

Wilson made no reply.

"Where is he?" she repeated.

Wilson shook his head. "I don't know," he said gloomily, "I don't know. He was here an hour or two ago. He was here yesterday."

She caught his arm breathlessly.

"Where is he now? What have you done with him?"

Wilson told her all he knew and having finished, watched her anxiously as she drew back a little and tapped on the deck with her foot.

A badly-blended chorus, making up in strength what it lacked in harmony, sounded on the quay, and gradually coming nearer, stopped at the Seamew for a final shout. The finale was rendered by the cook and Dick with much vehemence, while Sam, excited by his potations, danced madly before them.

"Silence up there!" shouted the skipper sternly, as Annis shrank away.

"A' right, sir," hiccupped Dick solemnly. "I'm lookin' after them. Mind how you break your neck, Sam."

Thus adjured, Sam balanced himself on the edge of the quay, and executing a double shuffle on the very brink of it by way of showing his complete mastery over his feet, fell into the rigging and descended. He was followed by Dick and the cook, both drunk, and both preternaturally solemn.

"Get below," said the skipper sharply.

"Ay, ay, sir," said Dick, with a lurch. "Come on, Sam, we—ain't wanted—here."

"It's all your damned dancing, Sam!" said the cook—who had ever an eye for beauty—plaintively.

"Will you get below?" roared the maddened skipper, giving him a push.

"I'm very sorry," he said, turning to Annis as they disappeared; "everything seems to be going wrong to-night."

"It doesn't matter," she said coldly. "Goodnight."

"Where are you going?" asked Wilson.

"Going to find a hotel," said Annis; "there's no train back to-night."

"Take the cabin," he said entreatingly, "I and the mate'll sleep for'ard."

"No, thank you," said Annis.

She stepped to the side, and, assisted by the skipper, clambered up on to the quay again. The mate came up at the moment and stood eyeing her curiously.

"This is Miss Gething," said the skipper slowly. "Any news?"

"None," said the mate solemnly; "they've vanished like smoke."

"Is it certain," asked Annis, addressing, him, "that it was my father?"

The mate looked at the skipper and pushed his cap back. "We had no reason to think otherwise," he said shortly. "It's a mystery to me altogether. He can't have gone home by train because he had no money."

"It couldn't have been my father," said Annis slowly. "Somebody has been deceiving you. Good-night. I will come round in the morning; it is getting late."

"Where are you going?" inquired the mate.

"She's going to look for a hotel," said the skipper, answering for her.

"It's late," said the mate dubiously, "and this isn't much of a place for hotels. Why not take her to the woman where her father has been staying? You said she seemed a decent sort."

"It's a poor place," began the other.

"That'll do," said Annis decidedly; "if it was good enough for my father it is good enough for me. If it wasn't my father I may learn something about him. Is it far?"

"Two miles," said the mate.

"We'd better start at once, then," said the skipper, moving a step or two by way of example.

"And perhaps you'll walk down too," said Annis to the mate.

It went to the mate's heart to do it, but he was a staunch friend. "No, I think I'll turn in," he said, blushing at his rudeness; "I'm tired."

He lifted his cap awkwardly and descended. Annis, with her head at an uncomfortable altitude, set off with the skipper.

"I'm sorry the mate wouldn't come," said the latter stiffly.

After this they went on in silence along the quiet road, Miss Gething realizing instinctively that the man by her side had got a temper equal to at least a dozen of her own. This made her walk a little closer to him, and once, ever so lightly, her hand brushed against his. The skipper put his hands in his jacket pockets.

They reached the late habitation of the mysterious Captain Gething without another word having been spoken on the journey. The mews was uninviting enough by daylight, by night it was worse. The body of a defunct four-wheeler blocked up half the entrance, and a retriever came out of his kennel at the other end and barked savagely.

"That's the house," said Wilson, indicating it—"number five. What's the matter?"

For Miss Gething, after making little dabs with her handkerchief at lips which did not require the attention, was furtively applying it to eyes which did.

"I'm tired," she said softly—"tired and disappointed."

She hesitated a moment, and then before Wilson had quite made up his mind what to do, moved proudly away and knocked at the door of number five. It was opened after some delay by an untidy woman in crackers and a few other things, who having listened to the skipper's explanation, admitted Miss Gething to her father's room. She then saw the skipper to the door again, and having wished him a somewhat grim good-night, closed the door.

He walked back as sharply as he could to the schooner, his mind in a whirl with the events of the evening, and as he neared the quay broke into a run, in awkward imitation of a small figure approaching from the opposite direction.

"You little vagabond!" he panted, seizing him by the collar as they reached the schooner together.

"A'right," said Henry; "'ave it your own way then."

"Drop him overboard," said the mate, who was standing on the deck.

Henry indulged in a glance of contempt—made safe by the darkness—at this partisan, and with the air of one who knows that he has an interesting yarn to spin, began at the beginning and worked slowly up for his effects. The expediency of brevity and point was then tersely pointed out to him by both listeners, the highly feminine trait of desiring the last page first being strongly manifested.

"I can't make head or tail of it," said the skipper, after the artist had spoilt his tale to suit his public. "He's taken fright at something or other. Well, we'll go after him."

"They're getting away at about one," said the mate; "and suppose he won't come, what are you going to do then? After all, it mightn't be her father. Damned unsatisfactory I call it!"

"I don't know what to do," said the bewildered skipper; "I don't know what's best."

"Well, it ain't my business," said Henry, who had been standing by silently; "but I know what I should do."

Both men leaned forward eagerly.

"I may be a young vagabond," said Henry, enjoying to the full this tribute to his powers—"p'raps I am. I may be put to bed by a set of grinning idiots; I may—"

"What would you do, Henry?" asked the skipper very quietly.

"Go back an' fetch Miss Gething, o' course," said the boy, "an' take her down to the ship. That'll settle it."

"By Jove! the boy's right," said the mate—"if there's time."

But the skipper had already started.

"You're a very good boy, Henry," said the mate approvingly. "Now go down and watch the Frolic again, and as soon as she starts getting under way run back and let us know. If she passes before he comes back I'll hail her and try and find out what it all means."

Meantime the skipper, half walking, half running, went on his way to Overcourt, arriving at Stagg's Gardens in a breathless condition. Number five was fast asleep when he reached it and began a violent thumping upon the door.

"Who's there? What do you want?" demanded a shrill voice as the window was thrown up and a female head protruded.

"I want to see that young lady I brought here a little while ago," said the skipper—"quick."

"What, at this time o' night!" said the lady. "Be reasonable, young man, if you are sweethearting."

"Something important," said the skipper impatiently.

"Can't you tell me what it is?" said the lady, who felt that she was in a position to have her curiosity satisfied.

"Tell her I've got news of her father," said the skipper, restraining himself with difficulty.

The head disappeared and the window was closed. After what seemed an hour to the impatient man, he heard a step in the passage, the door opened, and Annis stood before him.

With a very few words they were walking together again down the road, Annis listening to his story as they went. It was a long way, and she was already tired, but she refused the offer of her companion's arm with a spirit which showed that she had not forgotten the previous journey. As they neared the Seamew the skipper's spirits sank, for the mate, who was watching, ran out to meet them.

"It's no use," he said sympathetically; "she's under way. Shall we hail her as she goes by?"

The skipper, leaving Annis unceremoniously on the quay, sprang aboard and peered anxiously down the river. The night was starlit, and he could just discern a craft coming slowly towards them.

"Hoist a couple of lanterns, Jack, and call the crew up quickly," he cried to the mate.

"What for?" said the other in astonishment.

"You light 'em," cried the skipper excitedly. "Henry, help me off with these hatches."

He was down on his knees with the boy unfastening them, while the mate, having lit a lantern, ran forward to rouse the men. The Frolic was now but twenty yards astern.

"Ahoy! schooner, ahoy!" bawled Wilson, running suddenly to the side.

"Halloa!" came a hoarse voice.

"Are you full up?" shouted the master of the Seamew.

"No," came the roar again.

"Drop your anchor and come alongside," shouted the skipper, "I've got to stay here another week, and I've got a dozen barrels o' herring must be in London before then."

The Frolic was abreast of them, and he held his breath with suspense.

"It won't take you half an hour," he shouted anxiously.

The grating of the cable was music in his ears as it ran out, and hardly able to believe in the success of his scheme he saw the crew taking in the sail they had just begun to set. Ten minutes later the Frolic was rubbing against his side.

The hatches were off the Seamew, and a lantern swinging in her hold shed a sickly light upon the sleepy faces of her crew. The mate was at the foc'sle whispering instructions to Annis.

"Look alive," said the master of the Frolic, "I'll just take 'em on deck for the present."

He came fussily to the side to superintend, gazing curiously at Annis, who was standing watching the operations.

"What a nice ship!" she said. "May I come on board?"

"You're quite welcome if you don't get in the way," was the reply.

Accepting this qualified permission, Annis stepped on board and walked quietly round the deck. At the companion she paused and looked round. Everybody was busy; and trembling with nervousness, she hesitated a moment and then descended into the dark cabin.

"That you, captain?" said a voice. "What are we stopping for?"

Annis made no reply.

"Who is it?" said the voice again.

"Hush!" said Annis.

"Oh, all right," said Mr. Tillotson shortly. "What's wrong?"

Annis hesitated, waiting to hear another voice, but in vain. She fancied that she heard another person breathing, but that was all.

"Father!" she cried, suddenly. "It's me! Annis! Where are you?"

There was a great shout from the other side of the cabin, and in the gloom she saw something spring up and come towards her. Something which caught her in a mighty grasp and crushed her soft face against a long, stiff beard. Laughing and crying together she put her arms about its neck and clung to it convulsively.

"There, there, my lass!" said Captain Gething at last.

"We only stopped you by a miracle," said Annis hysterically. "The Seamew is alongside, and why you wanted to run away again I don't know."

"I don't understand," said Captain Gething wearily.

"You can understand that I wouldn't take you into danger," said Annis tenderly. "Put your coat on and come with me."

Without another word Captain Gething did as he was bid. He stopped, as though to speak to Tillotson, and then thinking better of it, followed his daughter on deck.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse