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´╗┐Title: Manners Makyth Man - Ship's Company, Part 12.
Author: Jacobs, W. W. (William Wymark), 1863-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Manners Makyth Man - Ship's Company, Part 12." ***

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By W.W. Jacobs


The night-watchman appeared to be out of sorts.  His movements were even
slower than usual, and, when he sat, the soap-box seemed to be unable to
give satisfaction.  His face bore an expression of deep melancholy, but a
smouldering gleam in his eye betokened feelings deeply moved.

"Play-acting I don't hold with," he burst out, with sudden ferocity.
"Never did.  I don't say I ain't been to a theayter once or twice in my
life, but I always come away with the idea that anybody could act if they
liked to try.  It's a kid's game, a silly kid's game, dressing up and
pretending to be somebody else."

He cut off a piece of tobacco and, stowing it in his left cheek, sat
chewing, with his lack-lustre eyes fixed on the wharves across the river.
The offensive antics of a lighterman in mid-stream, who nearly fell
overboard in his efforts to attract his attention, he ignored.

"I might ha' known it, too," he said, after a long silence.  "If I'd only
stopped to think, instead o' being in such a hurry to do good to others,
I should ha' been all right, and the pack o' monkey-faced swabs on the
Lizzie and Annie wot calls themselves sailor-men would 'ave had to 'ave
got something else to laugh about.  They've told it in every pub for 'arf
a mile round, and last night, when I went into the Town of Margate to get
a drink, three chaps climbed over the partition to 'ave a look at me.

"It all began with young Ted Sawyer, the mate o' the Lizzie and Annie.
He calls himself a mate, but if it wasn't for 'aving the skipper for a
brother-in-law 'e'd be called something else, very quick.  Two or three
times we've 'ad words over one thing and another, and the last time I
called 'im something that I can see now was a mistake.  It was one o'
these 'ere clever things that a man don't forget, let alone a lop-sided
monkey like 'im.

"That was when they was up time afore last, and when they made fast 'ere
last week I could see as he 'adn't forgotten it.  For one thing he
pretended not to see me, and, arter I 'ad told him wot I'd do to him if
'e ran into me agin, he said 'e thought I was a sack o' potatoes taking a
airing on a pair of legs wot somebody 'ad throwed away.  Nasty tongue
'e's got; not clever, but nasty.

"Arter that I took no notice of 'im, and, o' course, that annoyed 'im
more than anything.  All I could do I done, and 'e was ringing the
gate-bell that night from five minutes to twelve till ha'-past afore I
heard it.  Many a night-watchman gets a name for going to sleep when
'e's only getting a bit of 'is own back.

"We stood there talking for over 'arf-an-hour arter I 'ad let'im in.
Leastways, he did.  And whenever I see as he was getting tired I just
said, 'H'sh!' and 'e'd start agin as fresh as ever.  He tumbled to it at
last, and went aboard shaking 'is little fist at me and telling me wot
he'd do to me if it wasn't for the lor.

"I kept by the gate as soon as I came on dooty next evening, just to give
'im a little smile as 'e went out.  There is nothing more aggravating
than a smile when it is properly done; but there was no signs o' my lord,
and, arter practising it on a carman by mistake, I 'ad to go inside for a
bit and wait till he 'ad gorn.

"The coast was clear by the time I went back, and I 'ad just stepped
outside with my back up agin the gate-post to 'ave a pipe, when I see a
boy coming along with a bag.  Good-looking lad of about fifteen 'e was,
nicely dressed in a serge suit, and he no sooner gets up to me than 'e
puts down the bag and looks up at me with a timid sort o' little smile.

"'Good evening, cap'n,' he ses.

"He wasn't the fust that has made that mistake; older people than 'im
have done it.

"'Good evening, my lad,' I ses.

"'I s'pose,' he ses, in a trembling voice, 'I suppose you ain't looking
out for a cabin-boy, sir?'

"'Cabin-boy?' I ses.  'No, I ain't.'

"'I've run away from 'ome to go to sea,' he ses, and I'm afraid of being
pursued.  Can I come inside?'

"Afore I could say 'No' he 'ad come, bag and all; and afore I could say
anything else he 'ad nipped into the office and stood there with his 'and
on his chest panting.

"'I know I can trust you,' he ses; 'I can see it by your face."

"'Wot 'ave you run away from 'ome for?' I ses.  'Have they been
ill-treating of you?'

"'Ill-treating me?' he ses, with a laugh.  'Not much.  Why, I expect my
father is running about all over the place offering rewards for me.  He
wouldn't lose me for a thousand pounds.'

"I pricked up my ears at that; I don't deny it.  Anybody would.  Besides,
I knew it would be doing him a kindness to hand 'im back to 'is father.
And then I did a bit o' thinking to see 'ow it was to be done.

"'Sit down,' I ses, putting three or four ledgers on the floor behind one
of the desks.  'Sit down, and let's talk it over.'

"We talked away for ever so long, but, do all I would, I couldn't
persuade 'im.  His 'ead was stuffed full of coral islands and smugglers
and pirates and foreign ports.  He said 'e wanted to see the world, and

"'I love the blue billers,' he ses; 'the heaving blue billers is wot I

"I tried to explain to 'im who would be doing the heaving, but 'e
wouldn't listen to me.  He sat on them ledgers like a little wooden
image, looking up at me and shaking his 'ead, and when I told 'im of
storms and shipwrecks he just smacked 'is lips and his blue eyes shone
with joy.  Arter a time I saw it was no good trying to persuade 'im, and
I pretended to give way.

"'I think I can get you a ship with a friend o' mine,' I ses; 'but, mind,
I've got to relieve your pore father's mind--I must let 'im know wot's
become of you.'

"'Not before I've sailed,' he ses, very quick.

"'Certingly not,' I ses.  'But you must give me 'is name and address,
and, arter the Blue Shark--that's the name of your ship--is clear of the
land, I'll send 'im a letter with no name to it, saying where you ave

"He didn't seem to like it at fust, and said 'e would write 'imself, but
arter I 'ad pointed out that 'e might forget and that I was responsible,
'e gave way and told me that 'is father was named Mr. Watson, and he kept
a big draper's shop in the Commercial Road.

"We talked a bit arter that, just to stop 'is suspicions, and then I told
'im to stay where 'e was on the floor, out of sight of the window, while
I went to see my friend the captain.

"I stood outside for a moment trying to make up my mind wot to do.
O'course, I 'ad no business, strictly speaking, to leave the wharf, but,
on the other 'and, there was a father's 'art to relieve.  I edged along
bit by bit while I was thinking, and then, arter looking back once or
twice to make sure that the boy wasn't watching me, I set off for the
Commercial Road as hard as I could go.

"I'm not so young as I was.  It was a warm evening, and I 'adn't got even
a bus fare on me.  I 'ad to walk all the way, and, by the time I got
there, I was 'arf melted.  It was a tidy-sized shop, with three or four
nice-looking gals behind the counter, and things like babies' high chairs
for the customers to sit onlong in the leg and ridikerlously small in the
seat.  I went up to one of the gals and told Per I wanted to see Mr.

"'On private business,' I ses.  'Very important.'

"She looked at me for a moment, and then she went away and fetched a
tall, bald-headed man with grey side-whiskers and a large nose.

"'Wot d'you want?"  he ses, coming up to me.

I want a word with you in private,' I ses.

"'This is private enough for me,' he ses.  'Say wot you 'ave to say, and
be quick about it.'

"I drawed myself up a bit and looked at him.  'P'r'aps you ain't missed
'im yet,' I ses.

"'Missed 'im?' he ses, with a growl.  'Missed who?'

"'Your-son.  Your blue-eyed son,' I ses, looking 'im straight in the eye.

"'Look here!' he ses, spluttering.  'You be off.  'Ow dare you come here
with your games?  Wot d'ye mean by it?'

"'I mean,' I ses, getting a bit out o' temper, 'that your boy has run
away to go to sea, and I've come to take you to 'im.'

"He seemed so upset that I thought 'e was going to 'ave a fit at fust,
and it seemed only natural, too.  Then I see that the best-looking girl
and another was having a fit, although trying 'ard not to.

"'If you don't get out o' my shop,' he ses at last, 'I'll 'ave you locked

"'Very good!' I ses, in a quiet way.  'Very good; but, mark my words,
if he's drownded you'll never forgive yourself as long as you live for
letting your temper get the better of you--you'll never know a good
night's rest agin.  Besides, wot about 'is mother?'

"One o' them silly gals went off agin just like a damp firework, and Mr.
Watson, arter nearly choking 'imself with temper, shoved me out o' the
way and marched out o' the shop.  I didn't know wot to make of 'im at
fust, and then one o' the gals told me that 'e was a bachelor and 'adn't
got no son, and that somebody 'ad been taking advantage of what she
called my innercence to pull my leg.

"'You toddle off 'ome,' she ses, 'before Mr. Watson comes back.'

"'It's a shame to let 'im come out alone,' ses one o' the other gals.
'Where do you live, gran'pa?'

"I see then that I 'ad been done, and I was just walking out o' the shop,
pretending to be deaf, when Mr. Watson come back with a silly young
policeman wot asked me wot I meant by it.  He told me to get off 'ome
quick, and actually put his 'and on my shoulder, but it 'ud take more
than a thing like that to push me, and, arter trying his 'ardest, he
could only rock me a bit.

"I went at last because I wanted to see that boy agin, and the young
policeman follered me quite a long way, shaking his silly 'ead at me and
telling me to be careful.

"I got a ride part o' the way from Commercial Road to Aldgate by getting
on the wrong bus, but it wasn't much good, and I was quite tired by the
time I got back to the wharf.  I waited outside for a minute or two to
get my wind back agin, and then I went in-boiling.

"You might ha' knocked me down with a feather, as the saying is, and I
just stood inside the office speechless.  The boy 'ad disappeared and
sitting on the floor where I 'ad left 'im was a very nice-looking gal of
about eighteen, with short 'air, and a white blouse.

"'Good evening, sir,' she ses, jumping up and giving me a pretty little
frightened look.  'I'm so sorry that my brother has been deceiving you.
He's a bad, wicked, ungrateful boy.  The idea of telling you that Mr.
Watson was 'is father!  Have you been there?  I do 'ope you're not

"'Where is he?' I ses.

"'He's gorn,' she ses, shaking her 'ead.  'I begged and prayed of 'im to
stop, but 'e wouldn't.  He said 'e thought you might be offended with
'im.  "Give my love to old Roley-Poley, and tell him I don't trust 'im,"
he ses.'

"She stood there looking so scared that I didn't know wot to say.  By and
by she took out 'er little pocket-'ankercher and began to cry--

"'Oh, get 'im back,' she ses.  'Don't let it be said I follered 'im 'ere
all the way for nothing.  Have another try.  For my sake!'

"''Ow can I get 'im back when I don't know where he's gorn?' I ses.

"'He-he's gorn to 'is godfather,' she ses, dabbing her eyes.  'I promised
'im not to tell anybody; but I don't know wot to do for the best.'

"'Well, p'r'aps his godfather will 'old on to 'im,' I ses.

"'He won't tell 'im anything about going to sea,' she ses, shaking 'er
little head.  'He's just gorn to try and bo--bo-borrow some money to go
away with.'

"She bust out sobbing, and it was all I could do to get the godfather's
address out of 'er.  When I think of the trouble I took to get it I come
over quite faint.  At last she told me, between 'er sobs, that 'is name
was Mr. Kiddem, and that he lived at 27, Bridge Street.

"'He's one o' the kindest-'arted and most generous men that ever lived,'
she ses; 'that's why my brother Harry 'as gone to 'im.  And you needn't
mind taking anything 'e likes to give you; he's rolling in money.'

"I took it a bit easier going to Bridge Street, but the evening seemed
'otter than ever, and by the time I got to the 'ouse I was pretty near
done up.  A nice, tidy-looking woman opened the door, but she was a' most
stone deaf, and I 'ad to shout the name pretty near a dozen times afore
she 'eard it.

"'He don't live 'ere,' she ses.

"''As he moved?' I ses.  'Or wot?'

"She shook her 'cad, and, arter telling me to wait, went in and fetched
her 'usband.

"'Never 'eard of him,' he ses, 'and we've been 'ere seventeen years.  Are
you sure it was twenty-seven?'

"'Sartain,' I ses.

"'Well, he don't live 'ere,' he ses.  'Why not try thirty-seven and

"I tried'em: thirty-seven was empty, and a pasty-faced chap at forty-
seven nearly made 'imself ill over the name of 'Kiddem.'  It 'adn't
struck me before, but it's a hard matter to deceive me, and all in a
flash it come over me that I 'ad been done agin, and that the gal was as
bad as 'er brother.

"I was so done up I could 'ardly crawl back, and my 'ead was all in a
maze.  Three or four times I stopped and tried to think, but couldn't,
but at last I got back and dragged myself into the office.

"As I 'arf expected, it was empty.  There was no sign of either the gal
or the boy; and I dropped into a chair and tried to think wot it all
meant.  Then, 'appening to look out of the winder, I see somebody running
up and down the jetty.

"I couldn't see plain owing to the things in the way, but as soon as I
got outside and saw who it was I nearly dropped.  It was the boy, and he
was running up and down wringing his 'ands and crying like a wild thing,
and, instead o' running away as soon as 'e saw me, he rushed right up to
me and threw 'is grubby little paws round my neck.

"'Save her!' 'e ses.  'Save 'er!  Help!  Help!'

"'Look 'ere,' I ses, shoving 'im off.

"'She fell overboard,' he ses, dancing about.  'Oh, my pore sister!
Quick!  Quick!  I can't swim!'

"He ran to the side and pointed at the water, which was just about at
'arf-tide.  Then 'e caught 'old of me agin.

"'Make 'aste,' he ses, giving me a shove behind.  'Jump in.  Wot are you
waiting for?'

"I stood there for a moment 'arf dazed, looking down at the water.  Then
I pulled down a life-belt from the wall 'ere and threw it in, and, arter
another moment's thought, ran back to the Lizzie and Annie, wot was in
the inside berth, and gave them a hail.  I've always 'ad a good voice,
and in a flash the skipper and Ted Sawyer came tumbling up out of the
cabin and the 'ands out of the fo'c'sle.

"'Gal overboard!' I ses, shouting.

"The skipper just asked where, and then 'im and the mate and a couple of
'ands tumbled into their boat and pulled under the jetty for all they was
worth.  Me and the boy ran back and stood with the others, watching.

"'Point out the exact spot,' ses the skipper.

"The boy pointed, and the skipper stood up in the boat and felt round
with a boat-hook.  Twice 'e said he thought 'e touched something, but it
turned out as 'e was mistaken.  His face got longer and longer and 'e
shook his 'ead, and said he was afraid it was no good.

"'Don't stand cryin' 'ere,' he ses to the boy, kindly.  'Jem, run round
for the Thames police, and get them and the drags.  Take the boy with
you.  It'll occupy 'is mind.'

"He 'ad another go with the boat-hook arter they 'ad gone; then 'e gave
it up, and sat in the boat waiting.

"'This'll be a bad job for you, watchman,' he ses, shaking his 'ead.
'Where was you when it 'appened?'

"'He's been missing all the evening,' ses the cook, wot was standing
beside me.  'If he'd been doing 'is dooty, the pore gal wouldn't 'ave
been drownded.  Wot was she doing on the wharf?'

"'Skylarkin', I s'pose,' ses the mate.  'It's a wonder there ain't more
drownded.  Wot can you expect when the watchman is sitting in a pub all
the evening?'

"The cook said I ought to be 'ung, and a young ordinary seaman wot was
standing beside 'im said he would sooner I was boiled.  I believe they
'ad words about it, but I was feeling too upset to take much notice.

"'Looking miserable won't bring 'er back to life agin,' ses the skipper,
looking up at me and shaking his 'ead.  'You'd better go down to my cabin
and get yourself a drop o' whisky; there's a bottle on the table.  You'll
want all your wits about you when the police come.  And wotever you do
don't say nothing to criminate yourself.'

"'We'll do the criminating for 'im all right,' ses the cook.

"'If I was the pore gal I'd haunt 'im,' ses the ordinary seaman; 'every
night of 'is life I'd stand afore 'im dripping with water and moaning.'

"'P'r'aps she will,' ses the cook; 'let's 'ope so, at any rate.'

"I didn't answer 'em; I was too dead-beat.  Besides which, I've got a
'orror of ghosts, and the idea of being on the wharf alone of a night
arter such a thing was a'most too much for me.  I went on board the
Lizzie and Annie, and down in the cabin I found a bottle o' whisky, as
the skipper 'ad said.  I sat down on the locker and 'ad a glass, and then
I sat worrying and wondering wot was to be the end of it all.

"The whisky warmed me up a bit, and I 'ad just taken up the bottle to
'elp myself agin when I 'eard a faint sort o' sound in the skipper's
state-room.  I put the bottle down and listened, but everything seemed
deathly still.  I took it up agin, and 'ad just poured out a drop o'
whisky when I distinctly 'eard a hissing noise and then a little moan.

"For a moment I sat turned to stone.  Then I put the bottle down quiet,
and 'ad just got up to go when the door of the state-room opened, and I
saw the drownded gal, with 'er little face and hair all wet and dripping,
standing before me.

"Ted Sawyer 'as been telling everybody that I came up the companion-way
like a fog-horn that 'ad lost its ma; I wonder how he'd 'ave come up if
he'd 'ad the evening I had 'ad?

"They were all on the jetty as I got there and tumbled into the skipper's
arms, and all asking at once wot was the matter.  When I got my breath
back a bit and told 'em, they laughed.  All except the cook, and 'e said
it was only wot I might expect.  Then, like a man in a dream, I see the
gal come out of the companion and walk slowly to the side.

"'Look!' I ses.  'Look.  There she is!'

"'You're dreaming,' ses the skipper, 'there's nothing there.'

"They all said the same, even when the gal stepped on to the side and
climbed on to the wharf.  She came along towards me with 'er arms held
close to 'er sides, and making the most 'orrible faces at me, and it took
five of'em all their time to 'old me.  The wharf and everything seemed to
me to spin round and round.  Then she came straight up to me and patted
me on the cheek.

"'Pore old gentleman,' she ses.  'Wot a shame it is, Ted!  It's too bad.'

"They let go o' me then, and stamped up and down the jetty laughing fit
to kill themselves.  If they 'ad only known wot a exhibition they was
making of themselves, and 'ow I pitied them, they wouldn't ha' done it.
And by and by Ted wiped his eyes and put his arm round the gal's waist
and ses--

"'This is my intended, Miss Florrie Price,' he ses.  'Ain't she a little
wonder?  Wot d'ye think of 'er?'

"'I'll keep my own opinion,' I ses.  'I ain't got nothing to say against
gals, but if I only lay my hands on that young brother of 'ers'

"They went off agin then, worse than ever; and at last the cook came and
put 'is skinny arm round my neck and started spluttering in my ear.  I
shoved 'im off hard, because I see it all then; and I should ha' seen it
afore only I didn't 'ave time to think.  I don't bear no malice, and all
I can say is that I don't wish 'er any harder punishment than to be
married to Ted Sawyer."

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