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´╗┐Title: Sentence Deferred - Sailor's Knots, Part 4.
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 "Sentence Deferred - Sailor's Knots, Part 4." ***

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SAILORS' KNOTS

By W.W. Jacobs


1909



SENTENCE DEFERRED


[Illustration: "An elderly man with a wooden leg, who joined the
indignant officer in the pursuit."]

Fortunately for Captain Bligh, there were but few people about, and the
only person who saw him trip Police-Sergeant Pilbeam was an elderly man
with a wooden leg, who joined the indignant officer in the pursuit.  The
captain had youth on his side, and, diving into the narrow alley-ways
that constitute the older portion of Wood-hatch, he moderated his pace
and listened acutely.  The sounds of pursuit died away in the distance,
and he had already dropped into a walk when the hurried tap of the wooden
leg sounded from one corner and a chorus of hurried voices from the
other.  It was clear that the number of hunters had increased.

He paused a second, irresolute.  The next, he pushed open a door that
stood ajar in an old flint wall and peeped in.  He saw a small, brick-
paved yard, in which trim myrtles and flowering plants stood about in
freshly ochred pots, and, opening the door a little wider, he slipped in
and closed it behind him.

"Well?"  said a voice, sharply.  "What do you want?"

Captain Bligh turned, and saw a girl standing in a hostile attitude in
the doorway of the house.  "H'sh!" he said, holding up his finger.

The girl's cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkled.

"What are you doing in our yard?" she demanded.

The captain's face relaxed as the sound of voices died away.  He gave his
moustache a twist, and eyed her with frank admiration.

"Escaping," he said, briefly.  "They nearly had me, though."

"You had no business to escape into our yard," said the girl.  "What have
you been escaping from?"

"Fat policeman," said the skipper, jauntily, twisting his moustache.

Miss Pilbeam, only daughter of Sergeant Pilbeam, caught her breath
sharply.

"What have you been doing?" she inquired, as soon as she could control
her voice.

"Nothing," said the skipper, airily, "nothing.  I was kicking a stone
along the path and he told me to stop it."

"Well?" said Miss Pilbeam, impatiently.

"We had words," said the skipper.  "I don't like policemen--fat
policemen--and while we were talking he happened to lose his balance and
go over into some mud that was swept up at the side of the road."

"Lost his balance?" gasped the horrified Miss Pilbeam.

The skipper was flattered at her concern.  "You would have laughed if you
had seen him," he said, smiling.  "Don't look so frightened; he hasn't
got me yet."

"No," said the girl, slowly.  "Not yet."

She gazed at him with such a world of longing in her eyes that the
skipper, despite a somewhat large share of self-esteem, was almost
startled.

"And he shan't have me," he said, returning her gaze with interest.

Miss Pilbeam stood in silent thought.  She was a strong, well-grown girl,
but she realized fully that she was no match for the villain who stood
before her, twisting his moustache and adjusting his neck-tie.  And her
father would not be off duty until nine.

"I suppose you would like to wait here until it is dark?" she said at
last.

"I would sooner wait here than anywhere," said the skipper, with
respectful ardor.

"Perhaps you would like to come in and sit down?" said the girl.

Captain Bligh thanked her, and removing his cap followed her into a small
parlor in the front of the house.

"Father is out," she said, as she motioned him to an easy-chair, "but I'm
sure he'll be pleased to see you when he comes in."

"And I shall be pleased to see him," said the innocent skipper.

Miss Pilbeam kept her doubts to herself and sat in a brown study,
wondering how the capture was to be effected.  She had a strong
presentiment that the appearance of her father at the front door would be
the signal for her visitor's departure at the back.  For a time there was
an awkward silence.

"Lucky thing for me I upset that policeman," said the skipper, at last.

"Why?" inquired the girl.

"Else I shouldn't have come into your yard," was the reply.  "It's the
first time we have ever put into Woodhatch, and I might have sailed away
and never seen you.  Where should we have been but for that fat
policeman?"

Miss Pilbeam--as soon as she could get her breath--said, "Ah, where
indeed!" and for the first time in her life began to feel the need of a
chaperon.

"Funny to think of him hunting for me high and low while I am sitting
here," said the skipper.

Miss Pilbeam agreed with him, and began to laugh--to laugh so heartily
that he was fain at last to draw his chair close to hers and pat her
somewhat anxiously on the back.  The treatment sobered her at once, and
she drew apart and eyed him coldly.

"I was afraid you would lose your breath," explained the skipper,
awkwardly.  "You are not angry, are you?"

He was so genuinely relieved when she said, "No," that Miss Pilbeam,
despite her father's wrongs, began to soften a little.  The upsetter of
policemen was certainly good-looking; and his manner towards her so
nicely balanced between boldness and timidity that a slight feeling of
sadness at his lack of moral character began to assail her.

"Suppose you are caught after all?" she said, presently.  "You will go to
prison."

The skipper shrugged his shoulders.  "I don't suppose I shall be," he
replied.

"Aren't you sorry?" persisted Miss Pilbeam, in a vibrant voice.

"Certainly not," said the skipper.  "Why, I shouldn't have seen you if I
hadn't done it."

Miss Pilbeam looked at the clock and pondered.  It wanted but five
minutes to nine.  Five minutes in which to make up a mind that was in a
state of strong unrest.

"I suppose it is time for me to go," said the skipper, watching her.
Miss Pilbeam rose.  "No, don't go," she said, hastily.  "Do be quiet.
I want to think."

Captain Bligh waited in respectful silence, heedless of the fateful
seconds ticking from the mantelpiece.  At the sound of a slow, measured
footfall on the cobblestone path outside Miss Pilbeam caught his arm and
drew him towards the door.

"Go!" she breathed.  "No, stop!"

She stood trying in vain to make up her mind.  "Upstairs," she said.
"Quick!" and, leading the way, entered her father's bedroom, and, after a
moment's thought, opened the door of a cupboard in the corner.

"Get in there," she whispered.

"But--" objected the astonished Bligh.

The front door was heard to open.

"Police!" said Miss Pilbeam, in a thrilling whisper.  The skipper stepped
into the cupboard without further parley, and the girl, turning the key,
slipped it into her pocket and sped downstairs.

Sergeant Pilbeam was in the easy-chair, with his belt unfastened, when
she entered the parlor, and, with a hungry reference to supper, sat
watching her as she lit the lamp and drew down the blind.  With a
lifelong knowledge of the requirements of the Force, she drew a jug of
beer and placed it by his side while she set the table.

"Ah! I wanted that," said the sergeant.  "I've been running."

Miss Pilbeam raised her eyebrows.

"After some sailor-looking chap that capsized me when I wasn't prepared
for it," said her father, putting down his glass.  "It was a neat bit o'
work, and I shall tell him so when I catch him.  Look here!"

He stood up and exhibited the damage.

"I've rubbed off what I could," he said, resuming his seat, "and I s'pose
the rest'll brush off when it's dry.  To-morrow morning I shall go down
to the harbor and try and spot my lord."

He drew his chair to the table and helped himself, and, filling his mouth
with cold meat and pickles, enlarged on his plans for the capture of his
assailant; plans to which the undecided Miss Pilbeam turned a somewhat
abstracted ear.

By the time her father had finished his supper she was trying, but in
vain, to devise means for the prisoner's escape.  The sergeant had opened
the door of the room for the sake of fresh air, and it was impossible for
anybody to come downstairs without being seen.  The story of a sickly
geranium in the back-yard left him unmoved.

"I wouldn't get up for all the geraniums in the world," he declared.
"I'm just going to have one more pipe and then I'm off to bed.  Running
don't agree with me."

He went, despite his daughter's utmost efforts to prevent him, and she
sat in silent consternation, listening to his heavy tread overhead.  She
heard the bed creak in noisy protest as he climbed in, and ten minutes
later the lusty snoring of a healthy man of full habit resounded through
the house.

She went to bed herself at last, and, after lying awake for nearly a
couple of hours, closed her eyes in order to think better.  She awoke
with the sun pouring in at the window and the sounds of vigorous brushing
in the yard beneath.

"I've nearly got it off," said the sergeant, looking up.  "It's
destroying evidence in a sense, I suppose; but I can't go about with my
uniform plastered with mud.  I've had enough chaff about it as it is."

Miss Pilbeam stole to the door of the next room and peeped stealthily in.
Not a sound came from the cupboard, and a horrible idea that the prisoner
might have been suffocated set her trembling with apprehension.

"H'sh!" she whispered.

An eager but stifled "H'st!" came from the cup-board, and Miss Pilbeam,
her fears allayed, stepped softly into the room.

"He's downstairs brushing the mud off," she said, in a low voice.

"Who is?"  said the skipper.

"The fat policeman," said the girl, in a hard voice, as she remembered
her father's wrongs.

"What's he doing it here for?" demanded the astonished skipper.

"Because he lives here."

"Lodger?" queried the skipper, more astonished than before.

"Father," said Miss Pilbeam.

A horrified groan from the cupboard fell like music on her ears.  Then
the smile forsook her lips, and she stood quivering with indignation as
the groan gave way to suppressed but unmistakable laughter.

"H'sh!" she said sharply, and with head erect sailed out of the room and
went downstairs to give Mr. Pilbeam his breakfast.

To the skipper in the confined space and darkness of the cupboard the
breakfast seemed unending.  The sergeant evidently believed in sitting
over his meals, and his deep, rumbling voice, punctuated by good-natured
laughter, was plainly audible.  To pass the time the skipper fell to
counting, and, tired of that, recited some verses that he had acquired at
school.  After that, and with far more heartiness, he declaimed a few
things that he had learned since; and still the clatter and rumble
sounded from below.

It was a relief to him when he heard the sergeant push his chair back and
move heavily about the room.  A minute later he heard him ascending the
stairs, and then he held his breath with horror as the foot-steps entered
the room and a heavy hand was laid on the cupboard door.

"Elsie!" bawled the sergeant.  "Where's the key of my cupboard?  I want
my other boots."

"They're down here," cried the voice of Miss Pilbeam, and the skipper,
hardly able to believe in his good fortune, heard the sergeant go
downstairs again.

At the expiration of another week--by his own reckoning--he heard the
light, hurried footsteps of Miss Pilbeam come up the stairs and pause at
the door.

"H'st!" he said, recklessly.

"I'm coming," said the girl.  "Don't be impatient."

A key turned in the lock, the door was flung open, and the skipper, dazed
and blinking with the sudden light, stumbled into the room.

"Father's gone," said Miss Pilbeam.

The skipper made no answer.  He was administering first aid to a right
leg which had temporarily forgotten how to perform its duties, varied
with slaps and pinches at a left which had gone to sleep.  At intervals
he turned a red-rimmed and reproachful eye on Miss Pilbeam.

[Illustration: "He was administering first aid to a right leg."]

"You want a wash and some breakfast," she said, softly, "especially a
wash.  There's water and a towel, and while you're making yourself tidy
I'll be getting breakfast."

The skipper hobbled to the wash-stand, and, dipping his head in a basin
of cool water, began to feel himself again.  By the time he had done his
hair in the sergeant's glass and twisted his moustache into shape he felt
better still, and he went downstairs almost blithely.

"I'm very sorry it was your father," he said, as he took a seat at the
table.  "Very."

"That's why you laughed, I suppose?" said the girl, tossing her head.

"Well, I've had the worst of it," said the other.  "I'd sooner be upset a
hundred times than spend a night in that cupboard.  However, all's well
that ends well."

"Ah!" said Miss Pilbeam, dolefully, "but is it the end?"

Captain Bligh put down his knife and fork and eyed her uneasily.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Never mind; don't spoil your breakfast," said the girl.  "I'll tell you
afterwards.  It's horrid to think, after all my trouble, of your doing
two months as well as a night in the cupboard."

"Beastly," said the unfortunate, eying her in great concern.  "But what's
the matter?"

"One can't think of everything," said Miss Pilbeam, "but, of course, we
ought to have thought of the mate getting uneasy when you didn't turn up
last night, and going to the police-station with a description of you."

The skipper started and smote the table with his fist.

"Father's gone down to watch the ship now," said Miss Pilbeam.  "Of
course, it's the exact description of the man that assaulted him.
Providential he called it."

"That's the worst of having a fool for a mate," said the skipper,
bitterly.  "What business was it of his, I should like to know?  What's
it got to do with him whether I turn up or not?  What does he want to
interfere for?"

"It's no good blaming him," said Miss Pilbeam, thinking deeply, with her
chin on her finger.  "The thing is, what is to be done?  Once father gets
his hand on you----"

She shuddered; so did the skipper.

"I might get off with a fine; I didn't hurt him," he remarked.

Miss Pilbeam shook her head.  "They're very strict in Woodhatch," she
said.

"I was a fool to touch him at all," said the repentant skipper.  "High
spirits, that's what it was.  High spirits, and being spoken to as if I
was a child."

"The thing is, how are you to escape?" said the girl.  "It's no good
going out of doors with the police and half the people in Woodhatch all
on the look-out for you."

"If I could only get aboard I should be all right," muttered the skipper.
"I could keep down the fo'-c's'le while the mate took the ship out."

Miss Pilbeam sat in deep thought.  "It's the getting aboard that's the
trouble," she said, slowly.  "You'd have to disguise yourself.  It would
have to be a good disguise, too, to pass my father, I can tell you."

Captain Bligh gave a gloomy assent.

"The only thing for you to do, so far as I can see," said the girl,
slowly, "is to make yourself up like a coalie.  There are one or two
colliers in the harbor, and if you took off your coat--I could send it on
afterwards--rubbed yourself all over with coal-dust, and shaved off your
moustache, I believe you would escape."

"Shave!" ejaculated the skipper, in choking accents.  "Rub--!
Coal-dust!"

"It's your only chance," said Miss Pilbeam.

Captain Bligh leaned back frowning, and from sheer force of habit passed
the ends of his moustache slowly through his fingers.  "I think the coal-
dust would be enough," he said at last.

The girl shook her head.  "Father particularly noticed your moustache,"
she said.

"Everybody does," said the skipper, with mournful pride.  "I won't part
with it."

"Not for my sake?" inquired Miss Pilbeam, eying him mournfully.  "Not
after all I've done for you?"

"No," said the other, stoutly.

Miss Pilbeam put her handkerchief to her eyes and, with a suspicious
little sniff, hurried from the room.  Captain Bligh, much affected,
waited for a few seconds and then went in pursuit of her.  Fifteen
minutes later, shorn of his moustache, he stood in the coal-hole, sulkily
smearing himself with coal.

"That's better," said the girl; "you look horrible."

She took up a handful of coal-dust and, ordering him to stoop, shampooed
him with hearty good-will.

[Illustration: "She took up a handful of coal-dust and, ordering him to
stoop, shampooed him with hearty good-will."]

"No good half doing it," she declared.  "Now go and look at yourself in
the glass in the kitchen."

The skipper went, and came back in a state of wild-eyed misery.  Even
Miss Pilbeam's statement that his own mother would not know him failed to
lift the cloud from his brow.  He stood disconsolate as the girl opened
the front door.

"Good-by," she said, gently.  "Write and tell me when you are safe."

Captain Bligh promised, and walked slowly up the road.  So far from
people attempting to arrest him, they vied with each other in giving him
elbow-room.  He reached the harbor unmolested, and, lurking at a
convenient corner, made a careful survey.  A couple of craft were working
out their coal, a small steamer was just casting loose, and a fishing-
boat gliding slowly over the still water to its berth.  His own schooner,
which lay near the colliers, had apparently knocked off work pending his
arrival.  For Sergeant Pilbeam he looked in vain.

He waited a minute or two, and then, with a furtive glance right and
left, strolled in a careless fashion until he was abreast of one of the
colliers.  Nobody took any notice of him, and, with his hands in his
pockets, he gazed meditatively into the water and edged along towards his
own craft.  His foot trembled as he placed it on the plank that formed
the gangway, but, resisting the temptation to look behind, he gained the
deck and walked forward.

"Halloa!  What do you want?"  inquired a sea-man, coming out of the
galley.

"All right, Bill," said the skipper, in a low voice.  "Don't take any
notice of me."

"Eh?" said the seaman, starting.  "Good lor'!  What ha' you----"

"Shut up!" said the skipper, fiercely; and, walking to the forecastle,
placed his hand on the scuttle and descended with studied slowness.  As
he reached the floor the perturbed face of Bill blocked the opening.

"Had an accident, cap'n?" he inquired, respectfully.

"No," snapped the skipper.  "Come down here--quick!  Don't stand up there
attracting attention.  Do you want the whole town round you?  Come down!"

"I'm all right where I am," said Bill, backing hastily as the skipper,
putting a foot on the ladder, thrust a black and furious face close to
his.

"Clear out, then," hissed the skipper.  "Go and send the mate to me.
Don't hurry.  And if anybody noticed me come aboard and should ask you
who I am, say I'm a pal of yours."

The seaman, marvelling greatly, withdrew, and the skipper, throwing
himself on a locker, wiped a bit of grit out of his eye and sat down to
wait for the mate.  He was so long in coming that he waxed impatient, and
ascending a step of the ladder again peeped on to the deck.  The first
object that met his gaze was the figure of the mate leaning against the
side of the ship with a wary eye on the scuttle.

"Come here," said the skipper.

"Anything wrong?" inquired the mate, retreating a couple of paces in
disorder.

"Come--here!" repeated the skipper.

The mate advanced slowly, and in response to an imperative command from
the skipper slowly descended and stood regarding him nervously.

"Yes; you may look," said the skipper, with sudden ferocity.  "This is
all your doing.  Where are you going?"

He caught the mate by the coat as he was making for the ladder, and
hauled him back again.

"You'll go when I've finished with you," he said, grimly.  "Now, what do
you mean by it?  Eh?  What do you mean by it?"

"That's all right," said the mate, in a soothing voice.  "Don't get
excited."

"Look at me!" said the skipper.  "All through your interfering.  How dare
you go making inquiries about me?"

"Me?" said the mate, backing as far as possible.  "Inquiries?"

"What's it got to do with you if I stay out all night?"  pursued the
skipper.

"Nothing," said the other, feebly.

"What did you go to the police about me for, then?" demanded the skipper.

"Me?" said the mate, in the shrill accents of astonishment.  "Me?
I didn't go to no police about you.  Why should I?"

"Do you mean to say you didn't report my absence last night to the
police?"  said the skipper, sternly.

"Cert'nly not," said the mate, plucking up courage.  "Why should I?  If
you like to take a night off it's nothing to do with me.  I 'ope I know
my duty better.  I don't know what you're talking about."

"And the police haven't been watching the ship and inquiring for me?"
asked the skipper.

The mate shook his bewildered head.  "Why should they?" he inquired.

The skipper made no reply.  He sat goggle-eyed, staring straight before
him, trying in vain to realize the hardness of the heart that had been
responsible for such a scurvy trick.

"Besides, it ain't the fust time you've been out all night," remarked the
mate, aggressively.

The skipper favored him with a glance the dignity of which was somewhat
impaired by his complexion, and in a slow and stately fashion ascended to
the deck.  Then he caught his breath sharply and paled beneath the
coaldust as he saw Sergeant Pilbeam standing on the quay, opposite the
ship.  By his side stood Miss Pilbeam, and both, with a far-away look in
their eyes, were smiling vaguely but contentedly at the horizon.  The
sergeant appeared to be the first to see the skipper.

"Ahoy, Darkie!" he cried.

Captain Bligh, who was creeping slowly aft, halted, and, clenching his
fists, regarded him ferociously.

"Give this to the skipper, will you, my lad?" said the sergeant, holding
up the jacket Bligh had left behind.  "Good-looking young man with a very
fine moustache he is."

[Illustration: "Give this to the skipper, will you, my lad?"  said the
sergeant.]

"Was," said his daughter, in a mournful voice.

"And a rather dark complexion," continued the sergeant, grinning madly.
"I was going to take him--for stealing my coal--but I thought better of
it.  Thought of a better way.  At least, my daughter did.  So long;
Darkie."

He kissed the top of a fat middle finger, and, turning away, walked off
with Miss Pilbeam.  The skipper stood watching them with his head
swimming until, arrived at the corner, they stopped and the sergeant came
slowly back.

"I was nearly forgetting," he said, slowly.  "Tell your skipper that if
so be as he wants to apologize--for stealing my coal--I shall be at home
at tea at five o'clock."

He jerked his thumb in the direction of Miss Pilbeam and winked with slow
deliberation.  "She'll be there, too," he added.  "Savvy?"





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