By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Naval Occasions - and Some Traits of the Sailor-man
Author: Bartimeus
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 "Naval Occasions - and Some Traits of the Sailor-man" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                            Naval Occasions


                     Some Traits of the Sailor-man



             "... Relating to ... the Navy, whereon, under
          the good Providence of God, the wealth, safety, and
      strength of the kingdom chiefly depend."—_Articles of War_.

           "... A safeguard unto our most gracious Sovereign
          Lord ... and his Dominions, and a security for such
         as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions."—_The
                        Book of Common Prayer_.

                         FOURTEENTH IMPRESSION

                       William Blackwood and Sons
                          Edinburgh and London

                         _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED_

                               MY MOTHER_


"I reckon that’s proper ’New Navy,’" said the coxswain of a duty cutter
to the midshipman perched on the "dickey" seat beside him in the stern.

It was 6 A.M.: the boat was returning from the early morning beef trip,
and the midshipman in charge of her had seen fit to discuss with his
coxswain the subject which at most hours, and particularly at this one,
lay nearest to his heart—the subject of Food.

"Proper ’New Navy,’" repeated the petty officer with contempt.  He
referred to the recent introduction of marmalade into his scale of
rations.  He spoke bitterly, yet his quarrel was not with the marmalade,
which, in its way, was all that marmalade should have been.  His regret
was for the "dear dead days" before marmalade was thought of on the

That was ten years ago, but fondness for the ancient order of things is
still a feature of this Navy of ours.  There was never a ship like our
last ship: no commission like the one before this one.  Gipsies all: yet
we would fain linger a little by the ashes of our camp-fire while the
caravans move on.

The most indifferent observer of naval affairs during the last decade
will admit that it has been one of immense transition. Changes, more
momentous even than this business of the marmalade, have followed in the
wake of a great wave of progress. "Up and onward" is the accepted order,
but at the bottom of the Sailor-man’s conservative heart a certain
reluctance still remains.  The talk of smoking-room and forecastle
concerns the doings of yesterday; the ties that link us in a "common
brotherhood" were for the most part forged in the "Old" Navy, so fast
yielding place to new.

In ’Naval Occasions’ the Author has strung together a few sketches of
naval life afloat in the past ten years.  They relate to ships mainly of
the "pre-Dreadnought" era, and officers (those of the Military branch at
least) who owe their early training to the old _Britannia_.  At the same
time, for all the outward changes, the inner work-a-day life of the
Fleet remains unaltered.  With this, and not in criticism of things old
or new, these Sketches are concerned.  Pathos and humour continue to rub
elbows on either side of us much as they always have, and there still
remains more to laugh about than sigh over when the day’s work is done.



With the exception of "A Committee of Supply," "That which Remained," "A
Galley’s Day," "C/o G.P.O.," "Watch there, Watch!" "A One-Gun Salute,"
"The Greater Love," "A Picturesque Ceremony," and "Why the Gunner went
Ashore," the following Naval Sketches were published originally in ’The
Pall Mall Gazette.’

The first three exceptions appeared in ’The Illustrated Sporting and
Dramatic News,’ ’The Magpie,’ and ’The Naval and Military Record’
respectively. The remainder have not before appeared in print.

The Author’s best thanks are due to the Editors of the above Journal and
Periodicals for their ready permission to reproduce these Sketches.


      I. "D. S. B."
     IV. "NOEL!"
    XIV. "C/O G.P.O."

                           *NAVAL OCCASIONS.*


                            *"D. S. B."[#]*

[#] Duty Steam Boat.

    "The songs of Greece, the pomp of Rome,
    Were clean forgot at seventeen.
      Oh Lord!  At seventeen!"

The Midshipman of the Second Picket Boat—that is to say, the boat with
the bell-mouthed funnel of burnished brass and vermilion paint inside
her cowls—was standing under the electric light at the battery door
reading the Commander’s night order-book.

"Second Picket Boat to have steam by 5 A.M., and will perform duties of
D.S.B. for the Second Division."  He closed the book and stood
meditatively looking out into the darkness beyond the quarter-deck
rails.  It was blowing fitfully, gusts of wind shaking the awning in a
manner that threatened dirty weather on the morrow.  "Why the deuce
couldn’t the other Picket boat...?  But she hadn’t got a brass
funnel—only a skimpy painted affair.  Decidedly it was the fatal beauty
of his boat that had influenced the Commander’s decision.  Still..."  He
yawned drearily, and opening the deck log, ran his finger down the
barometer readings. "Glass low—beastly low—and steady.  Wind 4-5,
o.c.q.r.  H’m’m."  The cryptic quotations did not appear to add joy to
the outlook.  Ten o’clock had struck, and forward in the waist the
boatswain’s mate was "piping down," the shrill cadence of his pipe
floating aft on the wind.  Sorrowfully the Midshipman descended to the
steerage flat, and crouching beneath the hammocks that hung from the
overhead beams, reached his chest and noiselessly
undressed,—noiselessly, because the sleeping occupant of the adjacent
hammock had the morning watch, and was prone to be unreasonable when
accidentally awakened.

In rather less than a minute he had undressed and donned his pyjamas;
then, delving amid the mysterious contents of his sea-chest, produced a
pair of sea-boots, an oilskin and sou’wester and a sweater.  He made his
preparations mechanically, propping the sea-boots where they would be
handiest when he turned out.  Lastly, he hung his cap over a
police-light, because he knew from experience that the light caught his
eyes when he was in his hammock, locked his chest, and, choosing a spot
where two mess-mates (who were scuffling for the possession of a
hammock-stretcher) would not fall over his feet, he unconcernedly knelt
down and said his prayers.  The corporal of the watch passed on his
rounds: the sentry clicked to attention an instant, and resumed his
beat: above his head the ward-room door opened to admit a new-comer, and
the jangle of a piano drifted down the hatchway; then the door closed
again, shutting out the sound, and the kneeling figure, in rather
dilapidated pyjamas, rose to his feet.  Steadying himself by a ringbolt
overhead, he swung lightly into his hammock and wriggled down between
the blankets.  From the other side of the flat came a voice—

"Freckles, you’re D.S.B. to-morrow."

The Midshipman of the Second Picket Boat grunted in reply and pulled the
blanket close under his chin.  Presently the voice sounded again—

"Freckles, dear, aren’t you glad you sold your little farm and came to

But he who had sold a farm only snuggled his face against the pillow,
sighed once, and was asleep.

Had you seen the sleeper in waking hours, nursing a cutter close-reefed
through a squall, or handling a launch-load of uproarious liberty-men,
you might, passing by at this moment, have found food for meditation.
For the vibration of the dynamo a deck below presently caused the cap to
fall from the police-light it had shielded, and the glare shone full in
a face which (for all the valiant razor locked away in its owner’s
chest) was that of a very tired child.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Orders for the Picket Boat, sir?"

The Officer of the Morning Watch, who was staring through his binoculars
into the darkness, turned and glanced at the small figure muffled in
oilskins at his side.  Many people would have smiled in something
between amusement and compassion at the earnest tone of inquiry.  But
this is a trade in which men get out of the way of smiling at 5
A.M.—besides, he’d been through it all himself.

"Flagship’s signalled some empty coal-lighters broken adrift up to
windward—cruisin’ independently.  Go an’ round ’em up before they drift
down on the Fleet. Better man your boat from the boom and shove straight
off.  Smack it about!"

The small figure in oilskins—who, as a matter of fact, was none other
than the Midshipman of the Second Picket Boat, brass funnel,
vermilion-painted cowls and all—turned and scampered forward.  It was
pitch dark, and the wind that swept in rainy gusts along the battery
caught the flaps of his oilskins and buffeted the sleep out of him.
Overside the lights of the Fleet blinked in an indeterminate confusion
through the rain, and for an instant a feeling of utter schoolboy woe,
of longing for the security of his snug hammock, filled his being.  Then
the short years of his training told.  Somewhere ahead, in that welter
of rain and darkness, there was work to be done—to be accomplished,
moreover, swiftly and well.  It was an order.

Stumbling on to the forecastle, he slipped a life-belt over his
shoulders, climbed the rail, and descended the ship’s side by a steel
ladder, until he reached the lower boom.  It jutted out into the
darkness, a round, dimly-discerned spar, and secured to it by a
boat-rope at the farthest point of his vision, he saw his boat.  The
circular funnel-mouth ringed a smoky glow, and in the green glare of a
side-light one of the bowmen was reaching for the ladder that hung from
the boom. Very cautiously he felt his way out along it steadied by a
man-rope, breast high.  Looking downward, he saw the steamboat fretting
like a dog in leash; the next instant she was lurching forward on the
crest of a wave and as suddenly dropped away again in a shower of spray.
Releasing his grip with one hand he slipped astride of the boom,
wriggled on his stomach till his feet touched rungs of a Jacob’s ladder,
and so hung in a few feet above the tumbling water.

"’Arf a mo’, sir," said a deep voice behind him.  The boat’s bows were
plunging just below ... the ladder tautened with a jerk.

"Now, sir!" said the voice.  He relaxed his hold and dropped nimbly on
to the triangular space in the bows.  As he landed, the Jacob’s ladder
shot upwards into the darkness, as though snatched by an unseen hand.

Steadying himself by the rail along the engine-room casing he hurried to
the wheel. A bearded petty officer moved aside as he came aft.  This was
his Coxswain, a morose man about the age of his father, who obeyed
orders like an automaton, and had once (mellowed by strong waters) been
known to smile.

"Cast off forward!"  The engine-room bell rang twice, and the Midshipman
gave a quick turn to the wheel.  For an instant the boat plunged as if
in uncertainty, then swung round on the slope of a slate-grey wave and
slid off on her quest.  Forward in the bows the bowmen were crouched,
peering through the rain.  Presently one of them hailed hoarsely.

"Port a bit, sir," supplemented the Coxswain.  "That’s them, there!"  He
pointed ahead to where indistinct shapes showed black against the
troubled waters.  The bell rang again in the tiny engine-room, and the
Leading Stoker, scenting adventures, threw up the hatch and thrust a
head and hairy chest into the cold air.  His interest in the proceedings
apparently soon waned, however, for he shut the hatch down again and
busied himself mysteriously—always within reach of the throttle and
reversing-lever—with an oil-can.

Going very slow, the boat crept alongside the foremost lighter, a huge
derelict that, when loaded, carried fifty tons of coal.  They had been
moored alongside one another to the wharf, but, rocking in the swell,
had chafed through their moorings and broken adrift.

Now to take in tow an unwieldy lighter in the dark with a heavy swell
running, and to moor it safely in the spot whence it came, is a piece of
work that requires no small judgment.  However, one by one, the three
truants were captured and secured, and then, with the grey dawn of a
winter morning breaking overhead, the picket boat swung round on her
return journey.  On the way she passed another boat racing shoreward for
the mails.  The Midshipman at the wheel raised his hand with a little
gesture of salutation, and she went by in a shower of spray.

Half an hour later the Midshipman of the Second Picket Boat, garbed in
the "rig of the day," was ladling sugar over his porridge with the
abandon of one who is seventeen and master of his fate.  A messenger
appeared at the gunroom door—

"Duty Steam Boat’s called away, sir."

Her Midshipman locked away his pet marmalade-pot (for there are limits
even to the communism of a gunroom) and reached for his cap and dirk.
"We ain’t got much money," he observed grimly, "but we _do_ see life!"


                        *CAPTAIN’S DEFAULTERS.*

At the last stroke of six bells in the Forenoon Watch the Marine bugler
drew himself up stiffly, as one on whom great issues hung, and raising
his bugle sent the imperious summons echoing along the upper deck.
Clattering forward along the battery he halted at the break of the
forecastle and repeated the blast; then, shaking the moisture from the
instrument, he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and strutted aft.
He had sounded "Captain’s Defaulters."

An Able Seaman burnishing a search-light on the boat-deck heard the
strident bugle-call and winced.  Hurriedly he replaced his cleaning
rags, and with a moistened forefinger and thumb adjusted a dank curl
that peeped beneath his cap.  He shared the belief, not uncommon among
sailor-men, that the Captain’s judgment at the defaulter-table is duly
swayed by the personal appearance of the delinquent.  Eyeing his
inverted reflection in the big concave mirror, he screwed his face into
an expression of piteous appeal, and, cap in hand, repeated several
times in varying notes of regretful surprise: "I ’adn’t ’ad no more’n a
drop, sir, w’en I come over all dizzy."  The rehearsal concluded, he
flung himself pell-mell down the ladder.  On the way he met a messmate
ascending, who remonstrated in the brusque parlance of the tar.

"In the bloomin’ rattle, I am," explained the disturber of traffic.

"Wha’s up, then?"

The other made a little upward gesture with his elbow and gave a laugh
of pleasant retrospection.  "’Strewth!" he supplemented. "Wasn’t ’arf
blind, neither," implying that when last ashore he had looked upon the
cup when it was very ruddy indeed.

At the screen door to the quarter-deck he overtook a companion in
misfortune _en route_ to "toe pitch."  This was a frightened
Second-class Stoker, harried aft by one of the Ship’s Police at the
shambling gait officially recognised as the "steady double."  Together
they saluted and stepped on to the quarter-deck, where, already standing
between his escort, a sullen-eyed deserter, captured the previous day,
scowled into vacancy.  The new-comers took their places in the
melancholy line, stood easy, and commenced to preen themselves
furtively, after the manner of sailors about to come under the direct
eye of authority.  Then the Captain’s Clerk arrived with a bundle of
papers in his hand.

"All ready, Master-at-Arms?"

"All ready, sir."  The iron-visaged Chief of Police saluted and went to
report to the Commander.  The Commander ran his eye over the
defaulter-sheet and, entering the Captain’s cabin, disappeared from
view.  For a minute a hush settled over the group as silently they
awaited the coming of the man who, to them, represented all that was
Omnipotent upon earth.  The breeze led the shadow of the White Ensign a
fantastic dance across the spotless planking, and rustled the papers on
the baize-covered table.  Overhead a gull soared, screaming at
intervals, and then swooped suddenly to the water.  The owner of the
cherished curl, who was what is technically known in the Service as a
"bird," sucked his teeth thoughtfully and speculated as to the probable
extent of his punishment. The Second-class Stoker fallen-in beside him,
who had broken his leave twenty-four hours, and apparently expected to
be executed, suddenly sniffled and was reproved in an undertone by the
Master-at-Arms.  "’_Old_ yer row!" said that dignitary.  Then, raising
his voice, he shouted, "’Faulters, ’Shun!"

The Captain’s Clerk, who had been abstractedly watching the sea-gull’s
antics and thinking about trout-fishing, came to earth with a start: the
waiting group stiffened to attention and saluted.  The Captain walked to
the table and picked up the charge-sheet.

’"Erbert ’Awkins!" snapped the Master-at-Arms. "Off cap.  Absenover
leave twenty-four hours, sir."

The Second-class Stoker stepped forward; it was his first offence in the
Service, and the Adam’s-apple in his throat worked like a piston.
Suddenly recollecting, he snatched off his cap and stood, moistening dry

"How long has this man been in the Service?" asked the Captain, grave
eyes on the delinquent’s face.

"Four months, sir," replied his Clerk.

Then to the culprit: "Why did you break your leave?"  The lad shook his
head in obstinate silence.  As a matter of fact, he had broken it
because a glib-tongued slut ashore kept him too drunk to return till he
was penniless.  But what was the use of telling all that to a Being with
four gold rings on his sleeve, and grey eyes like gimlets in the shadow
of the cap-peak.  He wouldn’t understand how desperately bad the liquor
had been, and the way the women talked...

"Why did you break your leave?"  The voice was neither harsh nor
impatient.  Its tone merely implied that the speaker not only wanted an
answer but meant to have one. Rather a kind voice for a Captain.  Queer
little wrinkles he had round the corners of his mouth and eyes ... made
a bloke look wise-like ... as though after all ... Lord!  How his head
ached....  Steady eyes those were...

"It’s like this ’ere, sir——"  The gates of sulky reserve opened suddenly
and without warning: in a flood of words came the sorry explanation,
sordid, incoherent, clothed in half-learned _patois_ of the lower deck.
But the figure in the gold-peaked cap seemed to accept it, such as it
was, for presently he nodded dismissal.

"Cautioned," he said curtly.

With a click of the heels, the escort and their prisoner wheeled before
the table.  The Commander made a brief report, and the Captain scanned a
few papers.  The charge was desertion.

"Anything to say?"

"No, sir."

"Why did you desert?"

"I’m fed up with the Navy."

The Captain’s eyes grew stern, and he nodded as one who comprehends.
There had been moments in his own career when he too had been "fed up
with the Navy."  But life holds other things than obedience to

Now this deserter represented a type that is to be met with in both
Services, these days of "piping peace."  Recruited from the slums of a
great city, bone-lazy and vicious as a weasel, small wonder he found a
life wherein men worked hard and cleanly little to his taste.  The
immaculate cleanliness and clock-work regularity around him were bad
enough, but far worse was the discipline.  It astonished him at first;
then, half-awed, he hated it with all the sullen savagery of his warped
nature.  The so-called Socialism of black-garbed orators, idly listened
to on Sunday afternoons in bygone days, had hinted at such
possibilities—but here he met it face to face at every turn.

For a while—a very little while—he defied it, as he had defied impassive
policemen in guttersnipe days, with shrill, meaningless obscenities.
Then he strove to elude it, and was clouted grievously by O’Leary, the
brawny Chief Stoker, in that he had skulked from his lawfully appointed
task.  He had meant to drop a fire-bar on O’Leary’s head for that, but
hadn’t the courage requisite for murder.  Because of his dirty habits
and an innate habit for acquiring other men’s gear, he was not beloved
of his messmates; and to be unpopular on the mess-deck of a man-of-war
means that the sooner you seek another walk of life the better.  He
strove to seek it, accordingly, burrowing back into the teeming
slum-life of yore, until one night, in the flare of a hawker’s barrow, a
policeman’s hand closed upon his collar.

"... I think there’s time.  I believe we’ll make a man of you yet.  I’ll
deal with you by warrant."

The escort swung him on his heel.

The Captain glanced again at the charge-sheet and thence to the third
culprit before him.

"You were drunk on leave?"

"No, sir."

"But the Officer of the Patrol and the Officer of the Watch and the
Surgeon all say you were drunk."

The "bird" sighed deeply.  "I ’adn’t ’ad no more’n a drop, sir——" he

"Deprived of one day’s pay," interrupted the Captain; "and get your hair

"’Air cut—forfeit one day’s pay," echoed the Master-at-Arms.  "_Hon_
cap; ’bout turn, quick march!"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The day passed as most days do in harbour. In the afternoon the Captain
played a game of golf, and in the evening dined with a brother Captain.
During the meal they discussed submarine signalling and a new putter.
The Commander, who contemplated matrimony, was in a conservatory
conducting himself in a manner calculated to reduce his ship’s
company—had they been present—to babbling delirium.  In the twilight,
the Captain’s Clerk, with rod and fly-book, meandered beside a stream
twenty miles away.  The Master-at-Arms, who had a taste for melodrama,
witnessed from a plush-lined box "The Body-Snatcher’s Revenge" in the
company of Mrs and Miss Master-at-Arms and a quart of stout.  On board,
in the foremost cell, sat a recovered deserter under sentence of ninety
days’ detention.

"Gawd!" he whined—and in his voice was an exceeding bitterness—"Wotcher
want to ’ate me for?"

Now these things were happening at about the same time, so you see the
drift of his argument with his Maker.


                           *A GALLEY’S DAY.*

Boom!  On board the Flagship a puff of smoke rose and dissolved in the
breeze; the cluster of whalers and gigs that had been hovering about the
starting-line sped away before the wind.  The bay to windward resembled
the shallows near the nesting-ground of white-winged gulls as the
remaining gigs, whalers, and cutters zigzagged tentatively to and fro,
and a couple of belated 25-feet whalers, caught napping, went tearing
down among them.

The launches and pinnaces do not start for another hour, and are for the
most part still at the booms of their respective ships.  There are three
more classes before us, and it only remains to keep out of the way and
an eye on the stop-watch.  The breeze is freshening, and it looks like a
"Galley’s day."  A 32-feet cutter (handiest and sweetest of all Service
boats to sail) goes skimming past on a trial run.  Her gilded badge
gleams in the spray, and there is a sheen of brasswork and enamel about
her that proclaims the pampered darling of a ship. The Midshipman at the
helm—to show a mere galley what he can do—chooses a squall in which he
put her about; she spins round like a top, and is off on her new tack in
the twinkling of an eye.

Casey, Petty Officer and Captain’s Coxswain, is busy forward with the
awning and an additional halliard rove through a block at the foremast
head.  This, steadied by the boat-hook, will serve us as a spinnaker
during the three-mile run down-wind; and, in a Service rig race, is the
only additional fitting allowed beyond what is defined as "the rig the
boat uses on service, made of service canvas by service labour."

Only half a minute now....  Check away the sheets.  Spinnaker halliards
in hand.

Boom!  We are off!  Hoist spinnaker!

As we cross the line the 32-ft. cutter and a couple of gigs slip over
abreast of us; astern a host of white sails come bellying in our wake;
up to windward the pinnaces and launches are manoeuvring for positions.
The cutter has "goose-winged" her dipping-lug and is running dead before
the wind.  In a narrow boat like a galley this is dangerous and does not
pay.  Luffing a little, we get the wind on our quarter, and the gigs
follow suit. Presently the cutter gybes and loses ground; the gigs, too,
have dropped astern a little.

Our galley’s crew settle down in the bottom of the boat, and producing
pipes and cigarettes from inside their caps, speculate on the chances of
the day.  Far ahead the smaller fry are negotiating the mark-buoy.
Imperceptibly the breeze freshens, till the wind is whipping a wet smoke
off the tops of the waves.  Casey, tending the main-sheet, removes his
pipe and spits overside.  "I reckons we’ll want our weather-boards
before we’m done, sir," he prophesies.  We have shown the rest of our
class a clean pair of heels by now, and are fast overhauling the
whalers.  At last the mark-buoy.

"Down spinnaker!" and round we go, close hauled.  Now the work starts.
A white squall tearing down the bay blinds us with spray and fine desert
sand.  The water pours over the gunwale as we luff and luff again.
There’s nothing for it: we must reef, and while we do so, round come the
remainder, some reefed and labouring, others lying up in the wind with
flapping sails.  A nasty short sea has set in, and at the snub of each
wave, the galley, for all the careful nursing she receives, quivers like
a sensitive being.

"She can’t abear that reef in her foresail," says Casey; "it do make her
that sluggish."  As he spoke, our rival, the 32-ft. cutter, went
thrashing past under full sail, her crew crouched to windward.  It was
going to be neck or nothing with them.  Then, by James—

"Got anything to bail with, forward there?"

"Yessir!" replied seven voices as one.

"Stand-by to shake out that reef!"  We luffed for a second while two
gigs and a pinnace crept up on our quarter, and then off we went in the
seething wake of the cutter. Even Casey’s big toe curled convulsively as
he braced himself against the thwart and spat on his hands to get a
fresh grip on the main-sheet. The spray hissed over us like rain, and,
under cover of his oilskin, I believe No. 5, perched on the weather
gunwale, was sorrowfully unlacing his boots.

"If it don’t get no worse," says Casey, "we’ll do all right."  With his
bull-dog chin above the gunwale he commenced a running commentary on the
proceedings.  "... ’Strewth! There’s ’is foremast gorn!"  He gazed
astern enraptured.  "Commander’s weather-shroud carried away, sir, an’
’im a-drifting ’elpless....  Them whalers is bailin’ like loo-natics—"
he gave a hoarse chuckle, "like proper loo-natics, sir....  That there
launch precious near fouled the mark-buoy.... ’E’ll run down that gig if
’e don’t watch it.  Their owner sailing ’er too."

Then the squalls died away and the breeze steadied.  I could hear the
surge of a launch as she came crashing along on our quarter, but once
round the second mark-buoy and on the port tack no one could touch us—at
least so Casey vowed.

Suddenly, the half-drowned bowman gave the first sign of animation that
he had displayed since the green seas began to break over him.  "She’s
missed stays," he announced with gruff relish, peering under the lip of
the foresail.

"’Oo?  Not that cutter...?"  Casey so far forgot himself as to squirt
tobacco juice into the sacred bottom of his own boat. "Yessir, an’ so
help me," he added in confirmation, "she’s in Hirons!"[#]

[#] A boat is said to be "in irons" when she lies dead head-to-wind and
cannot pay off on either tack.

The next minute we passed to windward of our rival, as with flapping
sheets and reversed helm she drifted slowly astern. Her Midshipman
avoided our eyes as we passed, but his expression of incredulous
exasperation I have seen matched only on the face of one whose loved and
trusted hunter has refused a familiar jump.  Above the noise of the wind
and waves I heard his angry wail—

"O-o-oh!  Isn’t she a cow!"

The wind held fair and true, and, as Casey prophesied, it proved a
Galley’s day after all. A launch and two pinnaces raced us for the
Flagship’s ram, and our rudder missed the cable by inches as we wore to
bring us on to the finishing line.  Even then the launch nearly had it;
but I think that the observations exchanged, as we slipped round side by
side (_sotto voce_ and perfectly audible to every one in both boats),
between Casey and the launch’s Coxswain, did much to spoil the nerve of
the First Lieutenant who was sailing her.

Much of that day I have forgotten.  But the sheen of white sails
sprinkled along the triangular nine-mile course, the grey hulls of the
Fleet against the blue of sea and sky, the tremor of the boat’s frame as
the water raced hissing past her clinker-built sides, the bucket and
shrug, the lurch and reel and plunge as she fought her way to
windward,—all these things have combined to make a blur of infinitely
pleasant memories.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Casey gave a sigh of contentment and handed back an empty glass through
the pantry door.

"Well, sir," he said, "I reckon that was a proper caper!"  Then, as if
realising that his summing up of the race required adequate
embellishment, and less formal surroundings in which to do the occasion
justice, he wiped his mouth on the back of a huge paw and moved forward
out of sight along the mess-deck.



"’Arf-pas’ seven, sir!"  A private of Marines rapped heavy knuckles
against the chest of drawers, and, seeing the occupant of the bunk stir
slightly, withdrew from the cabin. For a little while longer the figure
under the blankets lay motionless; then a tousled head appeared,
followed by shoulders and arms.

"Gr-r-r!" said their owner.  He blinked at the electric light a moment,
then reached out a lean, tatooed arm for his tea.  He drank it
thoughtfully, and, lighting a cigarette, lay back again.  His gaze
travelled from the rack overhead that contained his gun and golf-clubs,
down over the chest of drawers with its freight of battered silver cups,
photographs, and Japanese curios, to the deck where a can of hot water
steamed beside the shallow bath; finally it lit on the chair, on the
back of which hung his frock-coat.  Why had his servant put out his
frock-coat?  Was it Sunday? For a while he considered the problem.

Then he remembered.

With a grunt he hoisted himself on to one elbow and looked out of the
scuttle into the gloom.  It was snowing, and the reflected lights of the
ships blinked at him across the water.

"Oh Lord!" he ejaculated, and buried himself anew among the blankets.
Twenty minutes later, as he was sitting in his bath, the curtain across
the door was unceremoniously jerked aside and a ruddy face appeared in
the opening.

"No-o-el-l-l!  N-o-el!" chanted the apparition. A sponge full of water
cut the caroller short, and the sounds of strife and expostulation
drifting from adjacent cabins marked the trail of Yuletide greetings.

In the Wardroom the fire was smoking fitfully, each outpour being
regarded with philosophic resignation by the Marine duty-servant.  Him
the First Lieutenant, entering at that moment, drove wrathfully on deck.
"Go up an’ trim the cowl to the wind: don’t stand there trying to
mesmerise the infernal thing."

One by one the members of the Mess struggled in and seated themselves in
gloomy silence.  There were many gaps in the long row of chairs, for
every one "spared by the exigencies of the Service" was on leave, the
heads of departments being represented by their juniors, and a couple of
Watch-keeping Lieutenants completing the complement.

The Young Doctor alone preserved a cheerful mien.  "Boy, you’re as
yellow as a guinea!" was his greeting to the Junior Watch-keeper
(recently a sojourner on the West Coast, with a constitution to match).
"How’s the fever?"

The Junior Watch-keeper ascribed to the malady a quality hitherto
unrecognised by the most advanced medical science, and scanned the
_menu_ indifferently.

The belated arrival of the postman as the table was being cleared did
much to brighten matters.  A rustling silence, interspersed by an
occasional chuckle (hurriedly repressed), presently gave way to general
conversation. Pipes were lit, and the fire coaxed into a more urbane
frame of mind.  The Junior Watch-keeper was seen to transfer stealthily
from a letter to his pocket something that crackled crisply.  The Young
Doctor and the Assistant Paymaster (hereinafter known as the A.P.) sat
complacently on his chest while they explored his pockets.

"Let me—it’s years since I touched a fiver....  _And_ a dun from
Ikey—well, I’m blessed!  _And_ a Christmas card from Aunt Selina to dear
Gussie—oh, Gussie, look at the pretty angels!  He hides it in his

"He stands fizz all round at seven bells," announced the First
Lieutenant in a calm, judicial voice.

The Junior Watch-keeper didn’t stand it, but fizz all round there was.
The First Lieutenant read prayers on the snow-powdered quarterdeck, and
then, following the immemorial custom of the Service, the Wardroom made
a tour of the garland-hung mess-deck, halting at each mess to exchange
the compliments of the season and to sample the plum-duff.

Properly observed, this ritual would put the normal stomach out of
action for the remainder of the day.  But there are discreet methods of
sampling.  The Day-on flopped exhaustedly on to a Wardroom settee, and
proceeded to empty his cap of lumps of "figgy-duff," cigarettes, and
walnuts.  "Bless their hearts," he murmured, "I love them and I love
their figgy-duff, but there are limits—here, Jess!"  He whistled gently,
and a fox-terrier asleep by the fire rose and delicately accepted the
tribute.  "Number One," continued the speaker, "you looked quite coy
when they cheered you, going rounds just now."  Then raising his voice
he sang—

    "For he’s a jolly good fe-ello-o-O!"

The First Lieutenant’s grave face relaxed. "Less of it, young fellow,"
he replied, smiling. He had lost a wife and child as a young lieutenant,
and something of his life’s tragedy still lingered in the level grey

Then followed the popping of corks and the tinkle of glass.  Even the
fever-stricken one brightened.  "Now then," he shouted truculently to
the Young Doctor, "I don’t mind if you do wish me a happy Christmas, you
benighted body-snatcher."  But the Surgeon was opening the piano, and as
he fingered the opening bars of "Good King Wenceslas," some one turned
and smote the fire into a blaze.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The short day was fading into dusk, and the Mess sat eyeing one another
sorrowfully over the tea-table.  You can’t drink champagne, sing "Good
King Wenceslas," and beat the fire all day.

"What price being at home now?" said the Engineer-Lieutenant, gloomily
buttering a piece of bread and smearing it with treacle.

"Yes, and charades, and kids, and snapdragon," added the A.P.  He mused
awhile reminiscently.  "Christmas is rotten without kids to buck things

The Day-on looked up from a book. "You’re right.  I don’t feel as if it
were Christmas day—except for my head," he added reflectively.

The First Lieutenant entered, holding a note in his hand.  "Look here,
the Skipper wants us to have him and his missus to supper.  He’ll motor
in, and"—he referred again to the note—"he’s bringing the four
youngsters—and a Christmas-tree.  Wants to know if we can put up a turn
for them."

In the annals of the Service had such a thing ever happened before?  The
Mess stared wild-eyed at one another.  "Crackers," gasped the Day-on,
visions of childhood fleeting through his mind.  "Santa Claus!" murmured
the Young Doctor, already mentally reviewing his store of cotton-wool.
"Holly and mistletoe," supplemented the Engineer-Lieutenant, eyeing the
bare walls of the Mess.

There was much to be done, but they did it somehow.  The A.P. sallied
forth and stole crackers from a Mission schoolroom.  The First
Lieutenant and Young Doctor between them fashioned a wondrous wig and
beard for Santa Claus.  The Junior Watch-keeper is rumoured to have
uprooted (under cover of darkness) an entire holly bush from the Admiral
Superintendent’s garden, and their guests arrived to find the Mess
transformed. No sooner was supper over than the First Lieutenant
vanished, and they entered the smoking-room to find a genuine Santa
Claus, with snowy beard and gruff voice, dispensing gifts from the magic
tree.  There were miraculous presents for all: Zeiss binoculars for one
(had he not been bemoaning the want of a pair on the bridge a fortnight
before?): a wrist-watch for another (it replaced one smashed while
working targets not long ago), a fountain-pen for another, a
cigarette-holder for a fourth, whose tobacco-stained fingers had long
been a subject of reproach from his Captain’s wife.

And when the tree was denuded at last, what an ambush for lurking
dragons! They were slain ultimately with a sword-scabbard by a flushed
Knight astride the champing Junior Watch-keeper.  It figured further in
the tiger-shoot conducted from the howdah of an elephant—a noble beast
in whose identity no one would have recognised the grey-painted canvas
cover of a 3-pdr. gun, much less the Engineer-Lieutenant inside it.

For the matter of that, had you seen the tiger who died, roaring
terribly almost within reach of its tethered quarry (Jess, the bored and
disgusted terrier), you would never have known the A.P.—especially as he
had broken his glasses in the throes of realistic dissolution.

When it was all over, the "Skipper’s Missus" sat down at the piano, and
together they sang the old, memory-haunted Christmas hymns, the woman’s
contralto and children’s trebles blending with the voices of men who at
heart were ever children themselves.

The First Lieutenant didn’t sing.  The fire needed so much attending to.


                            *THE ARGONAUTS.*

    "... Lest perchance them grow weary
    In the uttermost parts of the Sea,
    Pray for leave, for the good of the Service,
    As much and as oft as may be."
      —_The Laws of the Navy_.

Life on board a man-of-war in the tropics, especially Gunroom life, is
attended by discomforts peculiarly its own.  To begin with, a trip at
sea heats the ship like a steel-walled Inferno, and on reaching harbour
she swings at her anchor, bows-on to what breeze there may be; the
chances of getting a cool draught through scuttles and gun-ports are
thus reduced to a minimum.  There is, furthermore, an Affliction known
as "prickly heat," beside which chastisement with scorpions is futile
and ineffectual; moreover, you must meet the same faces day after day,
month after month, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, till Junior Officers
of His Majesty’s Navy have been known to revile one another over each
other’s style of masticating food.  From these conditions of life
spring, indeed, a candid and illuminating intimacy; but they are also at
times responsible for a weariness of the soul that passes utterly all

                     *      *      *      *      *

The trouble began in the bathroom, an apartment 12 feet long by 8 feet
broad, and occupied at the time by six people in various stages of their
ablutions.  It concerned the ownership of a piece of soap, which may
seem a trivial enough matter—as indeed it was; but when you have lain
sweating under the awnings all through a breathless night, when, having
watched another aching dawn creep over the sea, you descend to splash
sulkily in three inches of lukewarm water, the tired brain lacks a fine
sense of the proportion of things.

It finished as suddenly as it flared up, and both combatants realised
the childishness of it all ere the blood had time to dry on their
damaged knuckles.  But beyond a peevish request that they should not
hold their dripping noses over the basins, no one present appeared
interested or dismayed—which was a very bad sign indeed.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Senior Midshipman burst into the Gunroom with a whoop of joy and
flung the leave-book on the table.

"What did he say?" chorussed the inmates anxiously.

"Said we could take the third cutter, an’ go to Blazes in her," replied
the delegate breathlessly, grovelling under the table for his gun-case.
"We can clear out till Sunday night, an’ if there’s a scratch on the new
paint when we come back"—the flushed face appeared for an instant—"we’ll
all be crucified!"

Whereupon ensued swift and awful pandemonium. Three blissful days of
untrammelled freedom ashore, in which to eat, bathe, and sleep at will!
The Mess rose with one accord and blessed the name of the Commander in
ornate phraseology of the Sea.  Four navigating experts flung themselves
upon a large-scale Admiralty Chart: guns and cartridges appeared as if
by magic.  A self-appointed Committee of Supply, wrangling amicably,
invaded the pantry; blankets were hurriedly dragged from the
hammock-nettings, while willing hands lowered the cutter from her
davits.  In crises such as these there is no need to detail workers for
any particular duty.  Each one realises his own particular metier and is
a law unto himself.

"Hoist foresail!"  The boat sheered off lazily from the gangway, and the
bowmen tugged and strained at the halliards.  "Set mainsail!"  A light
breeze whispered in from the open sea, and the rippled water clucked and
gurgled along the clinker-built sides. Perched on a bundle of rugs in
the stern sat the Coxswain, one hand on the tiller, the other shading
his eyes from the afternoon sun.  The remainder of the crew disposed
themselves in more or less inelegant attitudes of ease in the bottom of
the boat.  She had been rigged and provisioned in silence—not lightly
does one imperil one’s emancipation by making a noise alongside; but
once clear of the ship, the youth tending the main-sheet lifted up his
voice in song, a babble of spontaneous nonsense set to a half-remembered

    "Isn’t this a bit of all-right!
    Oh, _isn’t_ this a bit of all-right!"

he chanted joyously, eyes half closed under the brim of his tilted
helmet.  Forgotten the weary monotony of ship routine, with its
watch-keeping and school, squabbling and recrimination, and the
ceaseless adjustment of the scales of discipline.  Forward in the bows
one of the bowmen hove the lead, chanting imaginary soundings with
ultra-professional intonation: "A-a-and a ha’ five..."  Clinging to the
weather shroud, another, a slim, white-clad figure against the blue of
sea and sky, declaimed "The Ancient Mariner"—or as much of it as he
could remember.

The islands, that half an hour earlier had been but vague outlines
quivering in the heat-haze, took form and substance.  Rock-guarded
inlets crept up to beaches of white sand where the kelp and drift-wood
of ages formed a barrier at high-water mark, and overhanging palms threw
shadows deep and delectably mysterious.  As the water shoaled, seaweed
stretched purple tentacles upward out of the gloom, swaying and
undulating towards the swirl beneath the rudder.  A half-clad figure in
the bows, trailing naked toes over the side, shattered the sleepy
silence with shouts that sent the echoes rioting among the rocks.
Overhead a startled gull wheeled inquisitively.

"Hard a-port!  Now, steady as you go!"  With lowered sails and oars
rising and dipping lazily, the boat headed towards an inlet whose
shelving beach promised good camping-ground.  Presently came the order—

"Way enough!"  The oars clattered down on to the thwarts, the anchor
splashed overside, and a moment later a dozen figures were swimming
lustily for thrice-blessed terra firma.

A tent was pitched and the precious guns ferried ashore.  An intrepid
party of explorers headed off into the jungle in search of pigeon.
Others played desultory Rugby football in the shallows, chased lizards,
rent the air with song.  The long day passed all too quickly.  Swiftly
the tropic night swept in over painted sky and tree-top.  Ghost-like
figures came splashing from pools, sliding down from trees, floating
shoreward on improvised rafts, to gather round the fire and fizzling
frying-pans.  Tinned sausages ("Bangers") and bacon, jam, sardines and
bananas, cocoa, beer, and sloe-gin: the Argonauts guzzled shamelessly.

When it was over and pipes and cigarettes were lit, some one rose and
flung an armful of dry kelp into the white heart of the fire.  It
spluttered angrily and then flared, throwing an arc of crimson light on
the beach, deepening the obscurity that ringed the seated group.

The Argonaut nearest the fire picked up a pebble and pitched it lazily
at a neighbour. "What about a song, you slacker!  Something with a
chorus."  The other removed his pipe from his mouth, wriggled into a
sitting posture and, hugging the corners of his blanket over his
shoulders, started a song. It was from a comic opera two years old, but
it was the last thing they heard before leaving England, and the refrain
went ringing across the star-lit bay.  The firelight waned, and a yellow
moon crept up out of the sea, setting a shimmering pathway to the edge
of the world.

"Hai-yah!" yawned one.  "So sleepy."  He hollowed out the sand beneath
his hip-bone, drew his blanket closer round him, and was asleep.  One by
one the singers were silent, and as the moon, full sail upon the face of
heaven, flooded the islands with solemn light, the last Argonaut rolled
over and began to snore.  The waves lapped drowsily along the beach;
tiny crabs crept out in scurrying, sidelong rushes to investigate the
disturbers of their peace; the dying embers of the fire clinked and
whispered in the silence.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Commander, smoking on the after sponson, smiled as the sound of oars
came faintly across the water.  Out of the darkness drifted the hum of
voices, and presently he heard a clear laugh, mirthful and carefree.
Knocking the ashes out of his pipe, he nodded sagely, as though in
answer to an unspoken question.


                      *A GUNROOM SMOKING CIRCLE.*

Be it understood that Gunroom Officers do not usually talk at breakfast.
The right-minded entrench themselves behind newspapers, and deal in all
seriousness and silence with such fare as it has pleased the Messman to
provide.  In harbour, those favoured of the gods make a great business
of opening and reading letters, pausing between mouthfuls to smirk in an
irritating and unseemly manner. But it is not until one reaches the
marmalade stage, and the goal of repletion is nigh, that speech is
pardonable, and is then usually confined to observations on the
incompetency of the cook in the matter of scrambling eggs and the like.

Abreast the screen-door, which opened from the battery to the
quarter-deck, the ship’s side curved suddenly into a semicircular
bastion.  It was thus designed to give the main-deck gun a larger arc of
fire, but had other advantages—affording a glimpse ahead of splayed-out
seas racing aft from the bow, and in fine weather a sunny space
sheltered from the wind by casemate and superstructure.

Here, one morning after breakfast, came the Gunroom Smokers, pipe and
tobacco-pouches in hand.  Cigarettes were all very well in their way:
"two draws and a spit" snatched during stand-easy in the forenoon. A
cigar was a satisfying enough smoke after dinner when one’s finances
permitted it; but while the day of infinite possibilities still lay
ahead, and the raw, new sunlight flushed the world with promise, then
was the time for briar or clay: black, well seasoned, and of a pungent

Each smoker settled into his favourite nook, and, cap tilted over his
nose, with feet drawn up and hand-clasped knees, prepared to sit in
kindly judgment on the Universe.  The Sub-Lieutenant blew a mighty cloud
of smoke and gave a sigh of contentment.  He had kept the Middle Watch.
From midnight till four that morning he had been on the bridge, moving
between the faint glow of the binnacle and the chart-house, busying
himself with a ruler and dividers, and faint lines on the surface of the
chart.  He was clear-eyed and serene of brow, as befitted a man who had
seen the dawning.  For a like reason he had neglected to shave.

"What’s the news?" inquired the Assistant Paymaster between puffs.  The
ship had been three days at sea, and was even then a hundred and fifty
miles from her destination. But very early in the morning a tired-eyed
Operator in the Wireless-house had sat, measuring in dots and dashes the
beating of the world’s pulse.

"A disastrous earthquake—" began a Midshipman, reading from the
closely-written sheet.

"Oh, hang you and your earthquake!" said the Sub.  "I’m sick of
earthquakes—who won the Test Match?"  Which, when you consider the
matter, is no bad attitude towards life in which to start the day.

"A new aeroplane—" resumed the reader.

"Talkin’ of aeroplanes," interrupted some one, "I once knew a girl——"

"Why don’t they have Snotties in the Flying Corps?" chimed in a third.
"Why, if I were in the Government, I’d——"

But the reader continued in tranquil indifference.  Quite a number of
years had passed since he first learned that in Gunroom communities to
stop speaking on account of interruptions meant spending your days in
the silence of a Trappist.

"... at the point of the bayonet, the enemy retreating in disorder."
Silence on the group at last.  This was of more account than cricket or
aeroplanes, for this was War, their trade in theory, and, perchance—and
the Fates were wondrous kind—the ultimate destiny of each.  The Censor
of Governments gave a delighted blast from his pipe—

"The bayonet!" he breathed.  "That’s the game...!"  In all his short
life he had never seen a blow delivered in hate—the hate that strikes to
kill.  Yet a queer light smouldered in his eyes as half-dreamily he
watched the waves scurrying to join the smother of the wake.

The Clerk by the muzzle of the 6-in. gun took his pipe out of his mouth
and turned towards the speaker.  "I’ve got a brother on the
Frontier—lucky blighter, I bet he’s in it!"  He removed his glasses, as
he always did in moments of excitement, and blinked short-sightedly in
the morning sunlight.  He came of a fighting strain, but had been doomed
by bad sight to exchange the sword, that was his heritage, for pen and
ledger.  "Does it say anything else—let me see, Billy."

"No—no details; only a few casualties; they killed a Subalt—" he stopped
abruptly; the wind caught the sheet and whisked it from his fingers.
His face had grown white beneath its tan.

"Oh, you ass!" chorussed the group.  The piece of paper whirled high in
the air and settled into the water astern.  A shadow fell athwart the
seated group, and the Sub. looked up.

"Hullo!  Good-morning, Padre!"

"Good-morning," replied the sturdy figure in the mortar-board.  A genial
priest this, who combined parochial duties with those of Naval
Instructor, and spent the dog-watches in flannels on the forecastle,
shepherding a section of his flock with the aid of boxing-gloves.
"Discussing the affairs of your betters, and the Universe, as usual, I
suppose! I came over to observe that there is a very fine horizon, and
if any of ye feel an uncontrollable desire to take a sight——"

"Not yet, sir!" protested a clear tenor chorus.  "Morning-watch, sir,"
added a voice; then, mimicking the grumbling whine of a discontented
Ordinary Seaman: "Ain’t ’ad no stand-easy—besides, sir, the index-error
of my sextant——"

Somewhere forward in the battery the notes of a bugle sang out.  The
members of the Gunroom smoking circle mechanically knocked out their
pipes against the rim of the white-washed spitkid, and rose one by one
to their feet, straightening their caps.  In a minute the sponson was
deserted, save for the Clerk who lingered, blinking at the sunlit sea.
A moment later he turned, encountering the kindly, level eyes of the

"The name," he said, with a little inclination of his head to where, far
astern, a gull was circling curiously, "was it—the same, sir, as—as

"Yes," replied the Chaplain gravely.

The boy nodded and turned again to the sea.  His young face had
hardened, and the colour had gone out of his lips.  The other, thrice
blessed in the knowledge of how much sympathy unmans, and how much
strengthens to endure, laid a steadying hand on the square shoulder
presented to him. "He died fighting, remember," said this man of peace.

The Clerk nodded again, and gripped the hand-rail harder.  "He always
was the lucky one, sir."  He adjusted his glasses thoughtfully, and went
below to where, in the electric-lit office, the ship’s Ledger was
awaiting him.


                          *THE SHIP-VISITORS.*

"There’s the boat!" exclaimed the younger girl excitedly.  Her sister
nodded with dancing eyes, and half turned to squeeze her mother’s arm.
Half a mile away a picket-boat detached itself from one of the anchored
battleships and came speeding across the harbour.  Breathless, they
watched it approach, saw bow and stern-sheet men stoop for their
boat-hooks, heard the warning clang of the engine-room bell, and the
next moment the Midshipman in charge swung her deftly alongside the
landing-stage with a smother of foam under the stern.  A figure in
uniform frock-coat jumped out.

"Hullo, mother!  Sorry I’m late: have you been waiting long? ... Mind
the step!"

The descent into a picket-boat’s stern-sheets, especially if you are
encumbered by a skirt, is no easy matter.  Perhaps the Midshipman of the
boat realised it too, for he abandoned the wheel and assisted in the
embarkation with the ready hand and averted eye that told of no small
experience in such matters.

Then they heard a clear-cut order, the bell rang again, and the return
journey commenced; but they did not hear the hoarse whisper conveyed
down the voice-pipe to the Leading Stoker to "Whack her up!"  And so
they failed to realise that they were throbbing through the water at a
speed which, though causing the Midshipmen of passing boats to gnash
their teeth with envy, was exceedingly bad for the engines and wholly
illegal.  But then one does not bring a messmate’s sisters off to the
ship every day of the week.

Presently the bell rang again, and a grey steel wall, dotted with
scuttles and surmounted by a rail, towered above them.  The boat stopped
palpitating beside a snowy ladder that reached to the water’s edge.  The
occupant of the stockhold threw up the hatch of his miniature Inferno
and thrust a perspiring head into view; but it is to be feared that no
one noticed him, though he had contributed in no small degree to the
passengers’ entertainment.  The Mother looked at the mahogany-railed
ladder and sighed thankfully.  "I always thought you climbed up by
rope-ladders, dear," she whispered.

The ascent accomplished, followed introductions to smiling and somewhat
bashful youths, who relieved the visitors of parasols and handbags, and
led the way to a deck below, where racks of rifles were ranged along
white-enamelled bulkheads, and a Marine sentry clicked to attention as
they passed.  Down a narrow passage, lit by electric lights, past a
cage-like kitchen and rows of black-topped chests, and, as the guide
paused before a curtained door, a glimpse forward of crowded mess-decks.
Then, a little bewildered, they found themselves in a narrow apartment,
lit by four brass-bound scuttles.  A long table ran the length of the
room, with tea things laid at one end; overhead were racks of golf-clubs
and hockey-sticks, cricket-bats and racquets.  A row of dirks hung above
the tiled stove, and a baize-covered notice-board, letter-racks, and a
miscellaneous collection of pictures adorned the rivet-studded walls.  A
somewhat battered piano, topped by a dejected palm, occupied one end of
the Mess, and beneath the sideboard a strip of baize made an ineffectual
attempt to cover the end of a beer barrel.

"This," said the host, with a tinge of pride in his voice, "is the
Gunroom—where we live," he added.

"It’s very nice," murmured the visitors.

"It’s not a bad one, as Gunrooms go," admitted another of the escort.
He did not add that under his personal supervision a harassed throng of
junior Midshipmen had pent a lurid half-hour "squaring off" before their

After tea came a tour of the ship, and to those who inspect one for the
first time the interior of a man-of-war is not without interest.  They
emerged from a hatchway on to the Quarter-deck, beneath the wicked
muzzles of the after 12-inch guns: they crossed the immaculate planking
and looked down to the level waters of the harbour, thirty feet below.
They admired the neatly-coiled boat’s falls, the trim and slightly
self-conscious figure of the Officer of the Watch, and as they turned to
mount the ladder that led over the turret a Signalman came on to the
Quarter-deck, raising his hand to the salute as he passed through the

"Who did that sailor salute?" inquired the Mother.

"Oh," replied her escort vaguely, "only salutin’ the Quarter-deck.  We
all do, you know."  So much for his summary of a custom that has
survived from days when a crucifix overshadowing the poop required the
doffing of a sailor’s cap.

Then they were taken forward, past the orderly confusion of the "booms,"
to a round pill-box, described as the Conning Tower. with twelve-inch
walls of Krupp steel, and introduced to an assortment of levers and
voice-pipes, mysterious dials, and a brass-studded steering-wheel.  Then
up a ladder to the signal-bridge, where barefooted men, with skins
tanned brick-red and telescopes under their arms, swung ceaselessly to
and fro. They examined the flag-lockers—each flag rolled neatly in a
bundle and stowed in a docketed compartment—the black-and-white
semaphores, and the key of the mast-head flashing lamp that at night
winked messages across five miles of darkness.

From then onwards that afternoon became a series of blurred impression
of things mysterious and delightfully bewildering. They carried away
with them memories of the swarming forecastle and batteries, where they
saw the sailor-man enjoying his leisure in his own peculiar fashion.  Of
the six-inch breech-block that opened with a clang to show the spiral
grooved bore—rifled to prevent the projectile from turning
somersaults....  The younger girl wiped a foot of wet paint off the
coaming of a hatch and said sweetly it didn’t matter in the least. They
invaded the sanctity of the wireless room, with its crackling spark and
network of wires, and listened, all uncomprehending, to the petty
officer in charge, as, delighted with a lay audience, he plunged into a
whirl of technical explanations.  And, lastly, the Mother was handed the
receivers, and heard a faint intermittent buzzing that was a ship
calling querulously three hundred miles away.

After that they descended to electric-lit depths, and were invited into
cabins; they visited the "Slop-room" (impossible name), where they
fingered serge and duck with feminine appreciation.  They saw the
nettings where the hammocks were stowed, and the overhead slinging
space—eighteen inches to a man!  And so back to the upper deck, to find
the picket-boat again at the bottom of the ladder.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Hasn’t it been lovely!" gasped the elder girl, as they walked back to
their hotel.

"Scrumptious!" assented her sister.  "And _did_ you notice the boy who
steered the boat that brought us back?—he had a face like a cherub
looked at through a magnifying-glass!"

Meanwhile, he of the magnified cherubic countenance was rattling dice
with a friend preparatory to indulging in a well-earned glass of
Marsala.  Outside the gunroom pantry the grimy gentleman whose sphere of
duty lay in the picket-boat’s stockhold sought recognition of his
services in an upturned quart jug.

Which is also illegal, and contrary to the King’s Regulations and
Admiralty Instructions.


                       *THE LEGION ON THE WALL.*

"Not now.  Not now.  Not yet."
       —_Sea Law and Sea Power_.

The last of the Battle Squadrons filed majestically to its appointed
anchorage.  A snake-like flotilla of Destroyers slid in under the lee of
the land and joined the parent ship; wisps of smoke east and west
heralded the arrival of far-flung scouts.  The great annual War-game was
at an end, and the Fleet had met, with rime-crusted funnels and
rust-streaked sides, to talk it over and snatch a breathing space ere
returning to their wide sea-beats and patrols.  Evening drew on, and the
semaphores were busy waving invitations to dinner from ship to ship.
Opportunities of meeting friends are none too frequent, and when they
occur, are often of the briefest.  So no time was lost, and a sort of
"General Post" ensued among Wardrooms and Gunrooms.

In the Flagship’s Wardroom dinner was over, and a haze of tobacco smoke
spread among the shaded lights and glinting plate. Conversation that
began with technical discussion had become personal and reminiscent. "Do
you remember that time..." commenced one.  His immediate listeners
nodded delightedly, and sat with narrowed eyes and retrospective smiles
as the narrator continued, twirling the stem of his wine-glass.  Well
did they recall the story, but it had to be told again for the joy of
the telling, while they supplemented with a forgotten name or incident,
harking back to the golden yesterday, when the world went very well
indeed. The talk swung north to the Bering Sea and south to Table Bay,
forging swift links with the past as it went.  It would have seemed to a
stranger as if the members of a club had met to discuss a common
experience.  And yet these men were here haphazard from a dozen
ships—their club the Seven Seas, and their common experience, life, as
it is to be met in the seaports of the world.  As chairs were pushed
from the table and the evening wore on, fresh greetings sounded on all
sides: "Hullo! Old Tubby, as I live!  Good Lord!  How long is it
since—seven—nine—my dear soul! It’s ten weary years..." and so on.  They
were all young men, too: almost boys, some of them, with eager, excited
faces, lean with hard work—worthy sons of the same grey, hard Mother.

Through the skylight came the opening bars of the "Lancers," and there
was a general move on deck.  The Gunroom was there already, and, two
sets being formed, the dance began.  Much it left in point of elegance,
it is to be feared, but it was fine strenuous exercise.  The last figure
was reached, and on completion of the Grand-Chain, the two sets linked
arms, dashed whooping across the deck, and met in an inextricable heap
of arms, legs, crumpled shirt-fronts and mess-jackets.

"Oh, my aunt!" gasped an ex-International, crawling from beneath a mound
of assailants, and vainly striving to adjust collar and tie.  "My last
boiled shirt—and it’s got to last another week!"

Presently every one repaired to the Wardroom, where corks were popping
from soda-water bottles, and an amateur humourist of renown sat down to
the piano as the laughing crowd gathered round.  A couple of
bridge-tables were made up, and the players settled down with that
complacent indifference to outside distraction peculiar to men who live
habitually in crowded surroundings. Seated astride the chairs at one end
of the mess, two teams of would-be polo-players were soon locked in
conflict, table-spoons and an orange being accessories to the game.

The singer of comic songs had finished his repertoire, and the Mess
turned in search of fresh distraction.  "Come on, old Mouldy, what about
putting up your little turn?" called out one, addressing a grave-faced
officer who sat smoking on the settee. "Yes," chorussed half a dozen
voices, "go on, do!"  The officer addressed as "Mouldy" sat down at the
piano, fingered the keys contemplatively for a moment, and then in a
deep baritone voice began—

    "God of our fathers, known of old,
    Lord of our far-flung battle line,"

and so on to the end of the first verse.  The polo-players ceased their
horseplay, and leaned panting over the backs of their wooden steeds to
listen.  The second verse drew to a close—

    "An humble and a contrite heart,"

and then the group round the singer joined in the refrain—

    "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget!"

At the fourth verse the Mess clustered round the piano.  The
bridge-players had laid their hands down, and at the skylight overhead
appeared faces and the glint of uniforms.  The Gunroom started the last
verse, and the rest joined—men’s voices, bass and tenor, lifting the
stately words in a great volume of harmony up through the skylight into
the night—

    "All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    And guarding calls not thee to guard,
    For frantic boast and foolish word
    Thy mercy on thy people, Lord!

The last solemn chord died away, and a sudden silence fell upon the
Mess: it was some moments before the conversation once more became
general.  By twos and threes the guests departed.  Groups clustered at
the gangways; the night was full of farewells and the hooting of
picket-boats’ syrens. Gradually the Mess emptied, and in the flat where
the midshipmen slept silence reigned among the chests and hammocks.  The
Admiral’s guests had also departed, but on the silent quarter-deck two
tall figures walked up and down, pipes in mouth.

"I wonder why they sang that thing," said one musingly.  His companion
paused and stared across the water at the lights of the town.  From
there his gaze travelled round to the silent Fleet, line after line of
twinkling anchor-lights and huge hulls looming through the darkness.
"Somehow, it seemed extraordinarily appropriate, with things as they are
ashore just now."

"You mean all these strikes and rioting—class-hatred—this futile
discussion about armaments—brawling in Parliament.... ’Lesser breeds
without the law’ gradually assuming control....?"

The other nodded and turned again to the sea; as he moved, a row of
miniature decorations on his jacket made a tiny clink.  "Yes. And
meanwhile we go on just the same, talking as little as they will let
us—just working on our appointed task: holding to our tradition of
’Ready, Aye Ready!’"

"Our tradition—yes."  His companion gave a little grim laugh.  "D’you
know the story of the last Legion left on the Wall—?" he jerked his head
towards where the Pole Star hung in the starry heavens.  "How Rome,
sliding into Chaos, withdrew her Legions till only one was left to
garrison the Wall.  And it was forgotten.  Rumours must have reached the
fellows in that Legion of what was going on at Home: of blind folly in
high places—corruption: defeat.  The draggle-tailed Roman Eagle must
have been a jest in the market-places of the world."

He paused, puffing thoughtfully.  "You can imagine them," he continued,
"falling back, tower by tower, on the centre: attacked in front and
behind and on both flanks by an enemy they despised as barbarians, but
who, by sheer force of numbers, must annihilate them in the end—unless
Rome rallied, suppose they could have retreated—or compromised,—haggled
for their skins.  No one would have thought less of them for it in those
days.  But they had been brought up in all the brave traditions of their
Empire.... When you think of it, there wasn’t much left to fight for,
except their proud traditions. And yet they fought to the last ... while
the Roman Empire went fiddling into ruin."

Far away down the line a mast-head lamp flickered a message out of the
darkness.  The Fleet was resting like a tired giant; but the pin-point
of light, and another that answered it on the instant a mile away,
showed that its sleep was light.  "But the end is not yet," concluded
the speaker.

"No," replied his companion.  He made a little gesture with his
pipe-stem, embracing the silent battle-array stretching away into the
night.  "Not yet."


                         *A TITHE OF ADMIRALTY*

It was the hour preceding dinner, and a small boy in the uniform of a
Naval Cadet stood on the balcony of an hotel at Dartmouth.

Earlier in the day a tremendous self-importance had possessed his soul;
it was begotten primarily of brass buttons and a peaked cap, and its
outward manifestation at Paddington Station had influenced a
short-sighted old lady in her decision that he was a railway official of
vast, if premature, responsibilities.  He leaned over the balustrade and
looked up harbour; beyond the scattered yachts and coal-hulks, black
against the path of the sunset, lay the old _Britannia_.  She was
moored, this cradle of a generation’s Naval destiny, where the Dart
commenced to wind among green hills crowned by woods and red-brown
plough lands; and as he stared, the smaller vanities of the morning
passed from him.

He was barely fifteen, and his ideas were jumbled and immature, but in a
confused sort of way he thought of the thousands of other boys those
wooden walls had sheltered, and who, at the bidding of unknown powers,
had gone down to the sea in ships.

He pictured them working their pinnaces and cutters—as he would some
day—soaked and chilled by winter gales.  Others departed for the
Mediterranean, where, if the testimony of an aunt (who had once spent a
winter at Malta) was to be accepted, life was all picnics and dances.
He saw them yet farther afield, chasing slavers, patrolling
pirate-infested creeks, fighting through jungle and swamp, lying stark
beneath desert stars, ... and ever fresh ones came to fill the vacant
places, bred for the work—even as he was to be—on the placid waters of
the Dart, amid Devon coombes.  It was all a little vainglorious,
perhaps; and if his imagination was coloured by the periodicals and
literature of boyhood, who is to blame him?

Why it was necessary for these things to be he understood vaguely, if at
all.  But in some dim way he realised it was part of his new heritage, a
sort of brotherhood of self-immolation and hardship into which he was
going to be initiated.

His thoughts went back along the path of the last few years that had
followed his father’s death.  With a tightening of the heart-strings he
saw how an Empire demands other sacrifices.  How, in order that men
might die to martial music, must sometimes come first an even greater
heroism of self-denial.  Years of thrift and contrivance, new clothes
foresworn, a thousand renunciations—this had been his mother’s part,
that her son might in time bear his share of the Empire’s burden.

She came out on to the balcony as the sun dipped behind the hills, and
the woods were turning sombre, and slipped a thin arm inside his.  It is
rarely given to men to live worthy of the mothers that bore them; a
few—a very few—are permitted to die worthy of them.  Perhaps it was some
dim foreknowledge of the end that thrilled him as he drew her closer.

They had dinner, and with it, because it was such a great occasion, a
bottle of "Sparkling Cider," drunk out of wine-glasses to the
inscrutable Future.  Another boy was dining with his parents at a
distant table, and at intervals throughout the meal the embryo admirals
glanced at one another with furtive interest.  After dinner the mother
and son sat on the balcony watching the lights of the yachts twinkling
across the water, and talked in low voices scarcely raised above the
sound of the waves lapping along the quay.  At times their heads were
very close together, and, since in the star-powdered darkness there were
none to see, their hands met and clung.

She accompanied him on board the following day, to be led by a
grave-faced Petty Officer along spotless decks that smelt of tar and
resin.  She saw the chest-deck, where servants were slinging hammocks
above the black-and-white painted chests—the chest-deck with its wide
casement ports and rows of enamelled basins, and everywhere that smell
of hemp and scrubbed woodwork.

"Number 32, you are, sir," said the Petty Officer; and as he spoke she
knew the time had come when her boy was no longer hers alone.

They bade farewell by the gangway, under the indifferent eyes of a
sentry, and Number 32 watched the frail figure in the waterman’s boat
till it was out of sight.  Then he turned with a desperate longing for
privacy—anywhere where he could go and blubber like a kid.  But from
that time onwards (with the rare exceptions of leave at home) he was
never to know privacy again.


The old _Britannia_ training consisted of four terms, each of three
months’ duration, during which a boy fresh from the hands of a tutor or
crammer had many things to learn.  He was taught to "drop everything and
nip!" when called; how, when, and whom to salute.  To pull an oar and
sail a boat; to knot, splice, and run aloft; how to use a sextant.  He
learned that trigonometry and algebra were not really meaningless mental
gymnastics, but a purposeful science that guided men upon trackless
seas.  In short, at an age when other schoolboys see their education
nearing its end, he had to begin all over again, to be moulded afresh
for a higher purpose.

The path of the "New" in those days was by no means strewn with roses.
Jerry had to submit to strange indignities and stranger torments at the
hands of Olympian "Niners" (Fourth-term Cadets).  He had to accustom
himself to bathe, dress and undress, to sleep and to pray, surrounded by
a hundred others. There was also the business of the hammock, in and out
of which he was learning to turn without dishonour.

But the conclusion of the first breathless three months found him
amazingly fit and happy.  His mind was stored with newly-acquired and
vastly interesting knowledge. The beagles and football sweated the
"callow suet" off him and gave him the endurance of a lean hound.  He
was fitting into the new life as a hand into a well-worn glove.

The end of his second term brought the coveted triangular badge on the
right cuff that marks the Cadet Captain among his fellows.  The duties
(which are much the same as those of monitor or prefect) offered him his
first introduction to the peculiar essence we call tact, necessary in
dealing with contemporaries.  About this time began his friendship with
Jubbs.  This young gentleman’s real name was as unlike his sobriquet as
anything could be; among a community of Naval Cadets this was perhaps a
sufficient _raison d’être_: anyhow none other was ever forthcoming.
They earned their "Rugger" colours together as scrum and stand-off
halves, and as time went on a slow friendship matured and knit between
them.  Their first sight of each other had been in the hotel the evening
before joining.  Thenceforward it pleased the power that is called
Destiny to run the brief threads of their lives together to the end.

At the close of their third term they became Chief Cadet Captains, and
Jubbs’ papa, a long, lean baronet with a beak-like nose, came down to
attend the prize-giving.  At the conclusion of the ceremony he was
piloted to the Canteen, where the Cadet Captains were pleased to
"stodge" at his expense, while he—as one who sits at meat among the
gods—trumpeted his satisfaction into a flaring bandana handkerchief.

At the end of the fourth and last term Jerry’s mother came down to see
the last prize-giving, and thus was present when her son received the
King’s Medal.  For one never-to-be-forgotten moment she watched him turn
from the dais and come towards her, erect and rather pale, with
compressed lips.  But the cheering broke from the throats of three
hundred inveterate hero-worshippers like a tempest, and then a mist hid
him from her sight.


A P. & O. liner, a few months later, carried Jerry and Jubbs to China.
During the voyage they came in contact with a hitherto unrecognised
factor in life, and found themselves faced with unforeseen perplexities.
One evening, as they leaned over the rail experimenting gingerly with
two cigars, Jubbs unburdened himself.  "... Besides, they jaw such awful
rot," was his final summary of feminine allurements.  Jerry nodded,
tranquil-eyed.  "I know.  I told Mrs What’s-her-name—that woman with the
ear-rings—that I’d got one mother already; and as I’m going to China,
and she’s going to India, I didn’t see the use of being tremendous
friends. ’Sides, she’s as old as the hills."

Jerry!  Jerry!  The lady in question was barely thirty, even if she had
an unaccountable partiality for taking him into the bows to watch the
moon rise over the Indian Ocean.

They joined their ship at Hong-Kong, and found themselves members of a
crowded, cockroach-haunted gunroom, where every one was on the best of
terms with every one else, and there reigned a communism undreamed of in
their philosophy.  It is said that in those days of stress and novelty,
among unknown faces and unfamiliar surroundings, their friendship bound
them in ever-closer ties.  The Sub-Lieutenant, when occasion arose for
the chastisement of one, thrashed the other out of sheer pity.  They
kept watch, took in signal exercise, went ashore, shot snipe, picnicked
and went through their multifarious duties generally within hail of one
another.  Till at length Jerry’s call of "Jubbs!" and Jubbs’ unfailing
"Coming!" brought half-wistful smiles to older eyes.

The Boxer rising broke out like a sudden flame, and their letters home,
those voluminous and ill-spelt missives that meant so much to the
recipients, announced the momentous tidings.  Jerry was landing in
charge of a maxim gun; Jubbs was to be aide-de-camp to the Commander.
Their whites were being dyed a warlike tint of khaki, and they were
being sent up to take part in the defence of Tientsin.  For a while
silence, then at last a letter scrawled in pencil on some provision
wrappers.  Jerry boasted a three-weeks’ growth of stubble, and had
killed several peculiarly ferocious Boxer bravos.  They were looking
forward to being moved up to Peking for the relief of the Legations, and
there was practically no danger as long as a fellow took reasonable
precautions.  He had not seen Jubbs for some time, but expected to meet
him before long.

As a matter of fact, they came together the next afternoon, and their
meeting-place was a Joss-house that had been converted into a temporary
field-hospital.  Jerry was the first to arrive, "in the bight of a
canvas trough"—Jerry, very white and quiet, a purple-brown stain
spreading over his dusty tunic and a bullet lodged somewhere near the
base of the spine.  Towards sunset he became conscious, and the Red
Cross nursing sister supported his head while he drank tepid water from
a tin mug.  "’Sparkling Cider,’" he whispered weakly, "for luck, ...
thank you, mummie darling."

The firing outside was becoming intermittent and gradually growing more
distant, when the patch of dusty sunlight in the doorway was darkened by
a fresh arrival. The stretcher party laid him on the bed next to Jerry
and departed.  The Surgeon made a brief examination, and as he
straightened up, met the pitying eyes of the Red Cross sister.  He shook
his head.

"The poor children," she whispered. Outside there came a sudden renewal
of firing and the spiteful stammer of a maxim.  It died away, and there
was silence, broken by the buzzing of flies in the doorway and the sound
of some one fighting for his breath. In the heavy air the sickly smell
of iodoform mingled with the odours of departed joss-sticks and
sun-baked earth.

Suddenly, from a bed in the shadows, a weak voice spoke—

"Jubbs!" said Jerry.

A moment’s pause, while the motionless figure in the next bed gathered
energy for a last effort of speech.  Then—

"Coming!" said Jubbs.


                           *THE CHOSEN FOUR.*

The Admiral, it was rumoured, had said, "Let there be Signal
Midshipmen."  Wherefore the Flag-Lieutenant communed with the Commander,
who sent for the Senior Midshipman.

The Senior Midshipman responded to the summons with an alacrity that
hinted at a conscience not wholly void of offence.

"Let there be Signal Midshipmen," said the Commander, or words to that
effect, "in four watches."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the Senior Midshipman. He emerged from the
Commander’s cabin and breathed deeply, as one who had passed unscathed
through a grave crisis. Apparently that small matter of the
picket-boat’s damaged stem-piece had been overlooked.

Ere he was out of earshot, however, the Commander spoke again.  "By the
way," added the Arbiter of his little destinies, "I don’t want to see
your name in the leave-book again until the picket-boat is repaired."

"Aye, aye, sir," repeated the Senior Midshipman.  He descended to the
Gunroom, where, it being "make-and-mend" afternoon, his brethren were
wrapped in guileless slumber.  An ’Inman’s Nautical Tables,’ lying handy
on the table, described a parabola through the air, and, striking a
prominent portion of the nearest sleeper’s anatomy, ricochetted into his
neighbour’s face.  The two sat up, glowered suspiciously at each other
for an instant, and joined battle.  The shock of their conflict
overturned a form, and two more recumbent figures awoke wrathfully to
"life and power and thought."

"You four," announced the Senior Midshipman calmly, when the uproar had
subsided, "will take on signal duty from to-morrow morning."  Then,
having satisfactorily discharged the duty imposed upon him, he settled
himself to slumber on the settee.

Three of the four, to whom this announcement was made gasped and were
silent. _Signals_!  Under the very eye of the Admiral! Each one saw
himself an embryo Flag-Lieutenant.... One even made a little prophetic
motion with his left arm, as though irked by the aiguilette that in
fancy already encircled it.  The fourth alone spoke—-

"Crikey!" he muttered, "an’ my only decent pair of breeches are in the

[#] The "scran-bag" is the receptacle for articles of clothing, &c.,
left lying about at First Lieutenant’s rounds in the morning.  Gear thus
impounded can be redeemed once a week by payment of a bar of soap.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Men say that with the passing of "Masts and Yards" the romance of the
Naval Service died.  This is for those to judge who have seen a fleet of
modern battleships flung plunging from one complex formation to another
at the dip of a "wisp of coloured bunting," and have watched the stutter
of a speck of light, as unseen ships talk across leagues of darkness.

The fascination of a game only partly understood, yet ever hinting vast
possibilities, seized upon the minds of the Chosen Four. Morse and
semaphore of course they knew, and the crude translations of the flags
were also familiar enough.  But the inner mysteries of the science (and
in these days it is a very science) had not as yet unfolded themselves.

At intervals the Flag-Lieutenant would summon them to his cabin, where,
with the aid of the Signal Books and little oblong pieces of brass, he
demonstrated the working of a Fleet from the signal point of view, and
how a mistake in the position of a flag in the hoist might result in
chaos—and worse.

The Chosen Four sat wide-eyed at his feet amid cigarette ash and the
shattered fragments of the Third Commandment.

Harbour watch-keeping perfected their semaphore and Morse, till by
ceaseless practice they could read general signals flashed at a speed
that to the untrained eye is merely a bewildering flicker.  As time wore
on they began to acquire the almost uncanny powers of observation common
to the lynx-eyed men around them on the bridge.

Each ship in a Fleet is addressed by hoisting that ship’s numeral
pendants.  The ship thus addressed hoists an answering pendant in reply.
At intervals all through the day the Signal Yeoman of the Watch would
suddenly snap his glass to his eye, pause an instant as the wind
unfurled a distant flutter of bunting at some ship’s yard-arm, and then
jump for the halyard that hoisted the answering pendant.  The smartness
of a ship’s signal-bridge is the smartness of that ship, and in
consequence this is a game into which the stimulus of competition
enters, Signal Boatswain, Midshipmen, and Yeomen vying with each other
to be the first to give the shout, "Up Answer!"

One night at the Junior Officers’ Club one of the Chosen Four
encountered another of his ilk from a different ship: and, since at
eighteen (if you are ever to become anything) shop is a right and
necessary topic of conversation, they fell to discussing their
respective bridges.

Presently said he of the other ship, waxing pot-valiant by reason of
Marsala, "I’ll bet you a dinner ashore we’ll show your pendants before
the week’s up."

Now should a ship fail to see a signal made to her, other ships present
can be very offensive by hoisting the pendants of the ship addressed at
mast-head and yard-arms.  This is to hold the delinquent up as an object
of scorn and derision to the Fleet, and is a fate more dreaded by
right-minded signalmen than the Plagues of Egypt.

"An’ I’ll give you fifteen seconds’ grace," added the speaker.

The challenge was accepted, and for five sweltering days—it was summer
at Malta—the two ships watched each other from sunrise till dark, the
pendants "bent" to the halyards in readiness.  On the evening of the
sixth day a thunderstorm that had been brewing all the afternoon burst
in a torrential downpour over the harbour.  At that instant a signal
crept to the flagship’s yard-arm.

On board the ship addressed the Midshipman had dashed for the shelter of
the bridge-house, the Yeoman was struggling into an oilskin, and the
Second Hand had stepped into the lee of a search-light.

"Stand by—thirteen, fourteen..." counted the small figure standing in
the driving rain on the flagship’s bridge, watch in hand: "fifteen,
Hoist!"  Then for the first time in his short career he deserted his
post. Clattering pell-mell down the ladders to the Gunroom, where the
remainder of the Chosen Four were playing cut-throat whist, he flung
back the drab-coloured curtain.

"Got him!" he shouted triumphantly. "By the aching stomach, I had him

                     *      *      *      *      *

I have said that of the Chosen Four—three saw visions, while the other
bewailed the inaccessibility till the end of the week of his best
trousers.  Now of the four he alone came to wear the aiguilettes of a
Flag-Lieutenant, and to-day the mysteries of Tactics, Fleet Organisation
and Formation, are to him as an open book.  A Baker Street photographer
once had the temerity to display his photograph in the window, in
uniform, tinted.  Passing by, I heard a woman gush foolishly to her
companion, "Oh, isn’t he a darling!"

The relevancy of this anon.

Another forsook the bunting-draped path of Signals to climb to fame
through the smoke of many battle practices.  He now adds after his rank
the cryptic initial (G).  The third married an heiress and her
relations, and retired.  He has several children and is reported to have
lost interest in the Service.

The remaining one, when I saw him last, had also lost interest in the
Service.  He was lying in a curiously crumpled heap across the stakes of
a jungle stockade, his empty revolver dangling by the lanyard round his
neck.  A handful of his men fought like demons to recover possession of
the mutilated body.

"Sure," said a bearded Petty Officer, half apologetically, wiping his
cutlass with a tussock of grass, "we couldn’t lave him there—an’ himself
somewan’s darlin’, likely..."

Sailors are inveterate sentimentalists.


                        *A COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY.*

The Junior Watch-keeper entered the Wardroom and rang the bell with an
air of gloomy mystery.

"The Russians are coming," he announced. "Cocktail, please, waiter."

The Young Doctor looked up from the year-old ’Bradshaw’ with which he
was wont to enliven moments of depression by arranging mythical
week-ends at friends’ houses in various parts of England.  It was a
dreary amusement, and, conducted off the coast of Russian Tartary,
stamped him as the possessor of no small imaginative powers.

"Who said so?"

"Skipper: three Russian Destroyers, an’ we’re to invite them to dinner,
an’ there’s nothing to eat."  The Junior Watch-keeper managed the
affairs of the Mess for that quarter.

"Those chaps feed like fighting-cocks," observed the Assistant
Paymaster.  "Let’s send for the Messman."

The Junior Watch-keeper applied himself to his cocktail in silence, and
the Celestial bandit who, in consideration of a monthly levy of thirty
dollars per head, starved or poisoned them according to his whim,
appeared in the doorway.  The Mess broached the subject with quailing
hearts; it was proposed to dine the representatives of a foreign Power.
Could he for once rise to the occasion and produce a suitable repast?

The Oriental summed up the situation with impassive brevity—

"No can do."

"Oh, rot!" said the Junior Watch-keeper, who up to this juncture had
been gracefully pursuing the olive at the bottom of his glass with the
tip of his tongue.  "Pull your socks up, Ah Chee, an’ think of

The Messman brooded darkly.  "S’pose you go shore-side, catchee salmon,
catchee snipe, pl’aps can do."

"By Jove, yes," said the A.P., rising and walking to the scuttle.  "We
never thought of that.  But it’s a God-forsaken place—look at it."

The ship was anchored in a little bay off the mouth of a shallow river.
On one side the ground rose abruptly to a bleak promontory, and on the
other stretched a waste of sand-dunes.  Inland not a tree or vestige of
human habitation broke the dreary expanse of plain, which was covered
with stunted bushes and rolled away to a range of low hills in the

"All very fine to talk about salmon," said the Young Doctor, "but there
isn’t a rod in the ship, and no one could use it if there was."

"Make one," suggested the Junior Watchkeeper, with cheerful resource
begotten of cocktails.

"But flies—?  A rod’s no good without flies and things."

"I’ll make a spinner.  They won’t take a fly in these parts, a fellow
told me at Shanghai.  ’Sides, we can’t chuck a fly."

The Carpenter was summoned to the conclave, and the result of his
labours was a formidable spar, resembling more closely a hop-pole than a
salmon-rod, some fourteen feet in length.

"Why not take the lower boom and have done with it?" inquired the Young
Doctor, who had abandoned ’Bradshaw’ in favour of his gun-case, and was
dabbling with awful joy in oil and cotton-waste.

The Junior Watch-keeper vouched no reply. His was the spirit of the
"Compleat Angler," and armed with a nippers and clasp-knife he wrestled
grimly with the lid of a tobacco-tin. Half an hour’s toil, conducted in
profane silence, resulted in a triangular object which, embellished with
red bunting and bristling with hooks, he passed round for the startled
consideration of the Mess.

"Well," admitted the Young Doctor, with the air of one generously
conceding a debatable point, "you _might_ catch the bottom, with a
certain amount of luck, but—" a well-flung cushion cut short further
criticism, and the Committee of Supplies adjourned.

The rising sun next morning beheld three depressed-looking figures
disembarking on the sandy beach.  The Junior Watch-keeper had fashioned
a wondrous reel out of pieces of a cigar-box, and the Boatswain had
provided about thirty fathoms of mackrel-line and some thin wire.  The
A.P. essayed a joke about using the rod as a flagstaff to commemorate
their landing, but it lacked savour—as indeed jests do in the pale light
of dawn.  Wreaths of mist hung over the river, swirling between sandy
banks, leaden-grey and noiseless.  A few gulls wheeled overhead,
protesting at the invasion with dismal cries, and the waves broke
whispering along the beach in an arc of foam.

The three adventurers gazed despondently at the sand-dunes, the receding
stern of the boat, and finally each other’s sleepy, unshaven faces.  The
Young Doctor broke suddenly into a feeble cackle of laughter.  An
unfamiliar chord of memory vibrated, and with it came a vision of a
certain coffee-stall outside Charing Cross Station and the Junior
Watch-keeper’s wan face surmounted by a battered opera-hat.  "Jove!" he
murmured. "... Reminds me ... Covent Garden Ball...!"

The A.P. had toiled to the top of an adjacent mound, from which, like
Moses of old, he "surveyed the landscape o’er."  "Come on," he shouted

"Well," said the Junior Watch-keeper, "_Vive le sport_!  If there were
no fools there’d be no fun."  He shouldered his strange impedimenta and
joined the A.P.

Away to their left a glint of water showed intermittently as the river
wound between clumps of low bushes and hillocks.  Patches of level
ground covered with reeds and coarse grass fought with the sand-dunes,
and stretched away in dreary perspective to the hills.  Briefly they
arranged their plan of campaign: the Junior Watch-keeper was to fish
up-stream, the other two meeting him about five miles inland in a couple
of hours’ time.  They separated, and the Junior Watchkeeper dipped
behind a rise and was lost to view.

It is not recorded what exactly the snipe were doing that day.  The
Young Doctor had it that they were "taking a day off," the A.P. that
they had struck the wrong part of the country.  But the melancholy fact
remains that two hours later they sat down to share their sandwiches
with empty bags and clean barrels.  A faint shout from out of the
distance started them again into activity.

"He’s fallen in," suggested the Young Doctor with cheerful promptitude.

"Sat on the hook, more likely."  There was grim relish in the A.P.’s
tone.  Neither was prepared for the spectacle that met their astonished
eyes when they reached the river.

Standing on a partly submerged sand-bank, in the middle of the stream,
dripping wet and "full of strange oaths," was the Junior Watchkeeper.
The point of his rod was agitated like the staff of a Morse signaller’s
flag, while a smother of foam and occasional glimpses of a silver belly
twenty yards up-stream testified that the age of miracles had not yet

"Play him, you fool!" yelled the A.P.

"Can’t," wailed the Junior Watch-keeper, battling with the rod.  "The
reel’s jammed!"

"Look out, then!" shouted the Young Doctor, and the safety-catch of his
gun snapped.  "Let me have a shot——"

But the Junior Watch-keeper had abandoned his rod.  Seizing the stout
line in his fingers, his feet braced in the yielding sand, shamelessly
he hauled the lordly fish, fighting, to his feet.  "Come on," he
spluttered, "bear a hand, you blokes!"  The "blokes" rushed into the
shallows, and together they floundered amid a tangle of line and showers
of spray, grabbing for its gills.  Eventually it was flung ashore, and
the _coup de grâce_ administered with the butt-end of the A.P.’s gun.

"Thirty pounds, if it’s an ounce," gasped the Junior Watch-keeper,
wringing the water out of his trousers.  They stood and surveyed it in
amazed silence, struck dumb with the wonder of the thing.  Contrasted
with the salmon as they knew it—decorated with sprigs of fennel on a
fishmonger’s slab—it looked an uncouth creature, with an underhung jaw
and a curiously arched back.  The A.P. prodded it suspiciously with the
toe of his boot.

"’S’pose it’s all right—eh?  Clean run, an’ all the rest of it?"

"Course it is," replied the Junior Watchkeeper indignantly.  He knew no
more about its condition than the other two, but his was all the pride
of capture.  He relieved the tedium of the return journey with tales of
wondrous salmon that lurked in pools beneath the bank; unmoved they
listened to outrageous yarns of still larger salmon that swam in
open-mouthed pursuit of the home-made spinner, jostling each other by
reason of their numbers.  The Junior Watch-keeper had set out that
morning an honourable man, who had never angled for anything larger than
a stickleback in his life.  He returned at noon hugging a thirty-pound
salmon, his mouth speaking vanity and lies.

"An’ I nearly shot the damn thing," sighed the Young Doctor at the close
of the recital.

"What _did_ you shoot, by the way?" asked the Junior Watch-keeper

"Nothing," was the curt reply, and his cup of happiness ran over.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The principal guest of the evening eyed a generous helping of salmon
that was placed in front of him, and turned to his neighbour. "Pardon
me," he said courteously, "but does this fish happen to have been caught
in any of the local rivers?"

All eyes turned to the Junior Watchkeeper, who, prevented by a mouthful
from replying, sat breathing heavily through his nose.  "Because if it
was," went on the Russian, "I think I ought to warn you—at the risk of
giving you offence—that local salmon are poisonous.  That is, unfit for
human consumption."

Followed an awful silence.  The Young Doctor broke it.  "How
interesting," he observed feebly; "but why?"

The Russian shook his head.  "I don’t really know.  And I hope you will
forgive me for assuring you that they are dangerous to the health."

"Oh," said the captor faintly, "I’ve eaten my whack!"

The remainder of the dinner was not, gastronomically speaking, a
success.  The Mess and their guests eyed one another at intervals with
furtive apprehension, much as Cleopatra’s poisoned slaves must have
awaited the appearance of each other’s symptoms.  But it was not until
some hours later that the Young Doctor was awakened by some one calling
his name aloud.  He sat up in his bunk and listened, and presently it
was borne upon him that somewhere, in the stillness of the night,
watches, the Junior Watch-keeper was dreeing his weird.


                         *THAT WHICH REMAINED.*

Oddly enough, no record exists of the origin of his nickname.
"Periwinkle" he had been all through crammer and _Britannia_ days.  As
senior Signal Midshipman of the Mediterranean Flagship, he was still
"The Periwinkle," small for his years, skinny as a weasel, with straight
black hair, and grey eyes set wide apart in a brown face; the eyelashes,
black and short, grew very close together, which gave him the perpetual
appearance of having recently coaled ship and neglected to clean the
dust from his eyes.

The Signal Midshipmen of a fleet, especially the Mediterranean Fleet of
those days, were essentially keen on their "job."  The nature of the
work and inter-ship rivalry provided for that.  But with the Periwinkle,
Signals were more than a mere "job."  They formed his creed and
recreation: the flag-lockers were tarpaulin-covered shrines; the
semaphores spoke oracles by day as did the flashing lamps by night.  And
the high priest of these mysteries was the Flag-Lieutenant, a Rugby
International and right good fellow withal, but, to the Periwinkle, a
very god who walked among men.

To understand something of his hero-worship you would need to have been
on the bridge when the Fleet put out to sea for tactics.  It was
sufficient for the Periwinkle to watch this immaculate, imperturbable
being snap out a string of signals apparently from memory, as he so
often did, while hoist after hoist of flags leaped from the lockers and
sped skywards, and the bridge was a whirl of bunting.  Even the Admiral,
who spoke so little and saw so much, was in danger of becoming a mere
puppet in the boy’s sight.

But there was more than this to encourage his ardour.  The
Flag-Lieutenant, recognising the material of a signalman of unusual
promise, would invite the Periwinkle to his cabin after dinner and
unfold, with the aid of printed diagrams and little brass oblongs
representing ships, the tactical and strategical mysteries of his craft.
There was one unforgettable evening, too, when the Periwinkle was bidden
to dinner ashore at the Malta Club.  The dinner was followed by a dance,
whereat, in further token of esteem, the Flag-Lieutenant introduced him
to a lady of surpassing loveliness—The Fairest (the Periwinkle was given
to understand) of All the Pippins.

The spring gave place to summer, and the island became a glaring
wilderness of sun-baked rock.  For obscure reasons of policy the Fleet
remained at Malta instead of departing on its usual cruise, and week
after week the sun blazed pitilessly down on the awnings of the anchored
ships.  Week by week the Periwinkle grew more brown and angular, and
lost a little more of his wiry activity.  The frequent stampedes up and
down ladders with signals for the Admiral sent him into a lather like a
nervous horse; at the end of a watch his hair was wet with perspiration
and his whites hung clammily on his meagre limbs.  After a while, too,
he began to find the glare tell, and to ease the aching of his eyes, had
sometimes to shift the telescope from one eye to the other in the middle
of a signal.  As a matter of fact, there was no necessity for him to
read signals at all: that was part of the signalman’s duty.  And if he
had chosen to be more leisurely in his ascent and descent of ladders, no
one would have called him to account.  But his zeal was a flame within
him, and terror lest he earned a rebuke from the Flag-Lieutenant for
lack of smartness, lent wings to his tired heels.

It was August when the Flag-Lieutenant sought out the Fleet Surgeon in
the Wardroom after dinner, and broached the subject of the Periwinkle.

"P.M.O., I wish you’d have a look at that shrimp; he’s knocking himself
up in this heat.  He swears he’s all right, but he looks fit for nothing
but hospital."

So the Periwinkle was summoned to the Fleet Surgeon’s cabin.  Vehemently
he asserted that he had never felt better in his life, and the most the
fatherly old Irishman could extort from him was the admission that he
had not been sleeping particularly well. As a matter of fact he had not
slept for three nights past; but fear lest he should be "put on the
list" forbade his admitting either this or the shooting pain behind his
eyes, which by now was almost continual. The outcome of the interview,
however, was an order to turn in forthwith.  Next morning the Periwinkle
was ignominiously hoisted over the side in a cot—loudly protesting at
the indignity of not even being allowed to walk—en route for Bighi
Hospital as a fever patient.


The news of the world is transmitted to Naval Stations abroad by cable,
and promulgated by means of Wireless Telegraphy to ships cruising or out
of reach of visual signalling.  At Malta the news is distributed to
ships present in harbour by semaphore from the Castile, an eminence
above the town of Valletta, commanding the Grand Harbour and nearly
opposite the Naval Hospital.

One morning a group of convalescents were sunning themselves on the
balcony of the hospital, and one, watching the life of the harbour
through a telescope, suddenly exclaimed, "Stand by!  They’re going to
make the Reuter Telegram.  I wonder how the Navy got on at Lords."

"It’s hopeless trying to read it," said another, "they make it at such a
beastly rate."

The Periwinkle, fuming in bed in an adjacent ward, overheard the
speaker.  In a second he was on his feet and at the open window, a
tousled-haired object in striped pyjamas, crinkling his eyes in the
glare.  "I can read it, sir; lend me the glass."

"You ought to be in bed, my son.  Haven’t you got Malta Fever?"

"It’s very slight," replied the Periwinkle—as indeed it was,—"and I’m
quite as warm out here as in bed.  May I borrow your glass?"

He took the telescope and steadied it against a pillar.  The distant
semaphore began waving, and the group of convalescents settled down to
listen.  But no sound came from the boy.  He was standing with the
eye-piece held to his right eye, motionless as a statue.  A light wind
fluttered the gaudy pyjamas, and their owner lowered the glass with a
little frown, half-puzzled, half-irritated.

"I—it’s—there’s something wrong—" he began, and abruptly put the glass
to his left eye.  "Ah, that’s better...."  He commenced reading, but in
a minute or two his voice faltered and trailed off into silence.  He
changed the glass to his right, and back to his left eye.  Then,
lowering it, turned a white scared face to the seated group.  "I’m
afraid I can’t read any more," he said in a curiously dry voice; "I—it
hurts my eyes."

He returned the glass to its owner and hopped back into bed, where he
sat with the clothes drawn up under his chin, sweating lightly.

After a while he closed his left eye and looked cautiously round the
room.  The tops of objects appeared indistinctly out of a grey mist.  It
was like looking at a partly fogged negative.  He closed his right eye
and repeated the process with the other.  His field of vision was clear
then, except for a speck of grey fog that hung threateningly in the
upper left-hand corner.

By dinner-time he could see nothing with the right eye, and the fog had
closed on half the left eye’s vision.

At tea-time he called the Sister on duty—

"My eyes—hurt ... frightfully."  Thus the Periwinkle, striving to hedge
with Destiny.

"Do they?" sympathised the Sister.  "I’ll tell the Surgeon when he comes
round to-night, and he’ll give you something for them. I shouldn’t read
for the present if I were you."

The Periwinkle smiled grimly, as if she had made a joke, and lay back,
every nerve in his body strung to breaking-point.

"Can’t see, eh?"  The visiting Surgeon who leaned over his bed a few
hours later looked at him from under puzzled brows. "Can’t see—d’you
mean...."  He picked up an illustrated paper, holding it about a yard
away, and pointed to a word in block type: "What’s this word?"

The Periwinkle stared past him with a face like a flint.  "I can’t see
the paper.  I can’t see you ... or the room, or—or—anything.... I’m
blind."  His voice trembled.

To the terror by night that followed was added physical pain past
anything he had experienced or imagined in his short life.  It almost
amazed him that anything could hurt so much and not rob him of
consciousness. The next room held a sufferer who raved in delirium:
cursing, praying, and shrieking alternately.  The tortured voice rose in
the stillness of the night to a howl, and the Periwinkle set his teeth
grimly.  He was not alone in torment, but his was still the power to
meet it like a man.

By the end of a week the pain had left him.  At intervals during this
period he was guided to a dark room—for the matter of that, all rooms
were dark to him—and unseen beings bandied strange technicalities about
his ears.  "Optic neuritis ... retrobulbar ... atrophy."  The words
meant nothing to the boy, and their meaning mattered less.  For nothing,
they told him, could give him back his sight.  After that they left him
alone, to wait with what patience he might until the next P. & O.
steamer passed through.

His first visitor was the Chaplain, the most well-meaning of men, whose
voice quavered with pity as he spoke at some length of resignation and
the beauty of cheerfulness in affliction.  On his departure, the
Periwinkle caught the rustle of the Sister’s dress.

"Sister," said the boy, "will you please go away for a few minutes.  I’m
afraid I have to swear—out loud."

"But you mustn’t," she expostulated, slightly taken aback.  "It’s—it’s
very wicked."

"Can’t help that," replied the Periwinkle austerely.  "Please go at
once; I’m going to begin."

Scandalised and offended—as well she might be—she left the Periwinkle to
his godless self, and he swore aloud—satisfying, unintelligible,
senseless lower-deckese.  But when she brought him his tea an hour later
she found he had the grace to look ashamed of himself, and forgave him.
They subsequently became great friends, and at the Periwinkle’s
dictation she wrote long cheerful letters that began: "My dear Mother,"
and generally ended in suspicious-looking smudges.

Every one visited the Periwinkle.  His brethren from the Fleet arrived,
bearing as gifts strange and awful delicacies that usually had to be
confiscated, sympathising with the queer, clumsy tenderness of boyhood.
The Flag-Lieutenant came often, always cheerful and optimistic,
forbearing to voice a word of pity: for this the Periwinkle was
inexpressibly grateful.  He even brought the Fairest of All the Pippins,
but the boy shrank a little from the tell-tale tremor she could never
quite keep out of her voice.  Her parting gift was an armful of roses,
and on leaving she bent over till he could smell the faint scent of her
hair.  "Good-bye," she whispered; "go on being brave," and, to his
wrathful astonishment, kissed him lightly on the mouth.

There was the Admiral’s wife too—childless herself—who, from long
dealings with men, had acquired a brusque, almost masculine manner.  As
soon as he had satisfied himself that she evinced no outward desire to
"slobber," the Periwinkle admitted her to his friendship.  He
subsequently confessed to the Sister that, for a woman, she read aloud
extremely well.  "Well, I must be goin’," she said one day at parting.
"I’ll bring John up to see you to-morrow."  When she had gone, the
Periwinkle smote his pillow. "John!" he gasped.

"John" was the Admiral.

Even the crew of his cutter—just the ordinary rapscallion duty-crew of
the boat he had commanded—trudged up one sweltering Sunday afternoon,
and were ushered with creaking boots and moist, shiny faces into his

"Bein’ as we ’ad an arfternoon orf, sir," began the spokesman, who was
also the Coxswain of the boat.  But at the sight of the wavering,
sightless eyes, although prompted by nudges and husky whispers, he
forgot his carefully-prepared sentences.

"We reckoned we’d come an’ give you a chuck-up, like, sir," concluded
another, and instead of the elaborate speech they had deemed the
occasion demanded, they told him of their victory in a three-mile race
over a rival cutter.  How afterwards they had generously fraternised
with the vanquished crew,—so generously that the port stroke—"’im as we
calls ’Nobby’ Clark, sir, if you remembers"—was at that moment
languishing in a cell, as a result of the lavish hospitality that had
prevailed.  Finally, the Periwinkle extended a thin hand to the
darkness, to be gripped in turn by fourteen leathery fists, ere their
owners tiptoed out of the room and out of his life.


The Periwinkle found blindness an easier matter to bear in the ward of a
hospital than on board the P. & O. Liner by which he was invalided home.
A Naval Sick-berth Steward attended to his wants, helped him to dress,
and looked after him generally.  But every familiar smell and sound of
ship-life awoke poignant memories of the ship-life of former days, and
filled him with bitter woe.  He was morbidly sensitive of his blindness,
too, and for days moped in his cabin alone, fiercely repelling any
attempt at sympathy or companionship.  Then, by degrees, the ship’s
doctor coaxed him up into a deck-chair, and sat beside him, warding off
intruders and telling stories with the inimitable drollery that is the
heritage of the surgeons of P. & O. Liners.  And at night, when the
decks were clear, and every throb of the propellers was a reminder of
the home they were drawing near to, he would link his arm loosely within
the boy’s and together they would walk to and fro.  During these
promenades he invariably treated the Periwinkle as a man of advanced
years and experience, whereby was no little balm in Gilead.

Many people tried to make a fuss of the boy with the sullen mouth, whose
cheek-bones looked as if they were coming through the skin, and who had
such a sad story.  Wealthy globe-trotters, Anglo-Indians, missionaries,
and ladies of singular charm and beauty, all strove according to their
lights to comfort him.  But by degrees they realised he never wanted to
play cat’s-cradle or even discuss his mother, and so left him in peace.

But the boy had a friend beside the doctor, a grizzled major from an
Indian Frontier regiment, returning home on furlough with a V.C. tacked
on to his unpretentious name. At first the Periwinkle rather shrank from
a fresh acquaintance—it is a terrible thing to have to shake hands with
an unknown voice. But he was an incorrigible little hero-worshipper, and
this man with the deep steady voice had done and seen wonderful things.
Further, he didn’t mind talking about them—to the Periwinkle; so that
the boy, as he sat clasping his ankles and staring out to sea with
sightless eyes, was told stories which, a week later, the newspaper
reporters of the Kingdom desired to hear in vain.

He was a philosopher too, this bronzed, grey-haired, warrior with the
sun-puckered eyes: teaching how, if you only take the trouble to look
for it, a golden thread of humour runs through all the sombre warp and
woof of life; and of "Hope which ... outwears the accidents of life and
reaches with tremulous hand beyond the grave and death."

This is the nicest sort of philosophy.

But for all that it was a weary voyage, and the Periwinkle was a
brown-faced ghost, all knees and elbows and angularities by the time
Tilbury was reached.  The first to board the ship was a lady, pale and
sweetly dignified, whom the doctor met at the gangway and piloted to the
Periwinkle’s cabin.  He opened the door before he turned and fled, and
so heard, in her greeting of the Periwinkle, the infinite love and
compassion that can thrill a woman’s voice.

                     *      *      *      *      *

In a corner of the railway carriage that carried them home, the
Periwinkle—that maimed and battered knight—still clung to the haft of
his broken sword.  "I meant to do so jolly well.  Oh, mother, I meant
you to be so jolly proud of me.  The Flag-Lieutenant said I might have
been ... if only it had been an arm or a leg—deaf or dumb ... but
there’s nothing left in all the world ... it’s empty—nothing remains."

She waited till the storms of self-pity and rebellion passed, leaving
him biting his fingers and breathing hard.  Then little by little, with
mysterious tenderness, she drew out the iron that had entered the boyish
soul.  And, at the last, he turned to her with a little fluttering sigh,
as a very tired child abandons a puzzle.  She bent her head low—

"This remains," she whispered.


                         *THE TIZZY-SNATCHER.*

In the beginning he was an Assistant Clerk—which is a very small potato
indeed; his attainments in this lowly rank were limited to an extensive
and intimate knowledge of the various flavours of gum employed in the
composition of envelopes.  Passing straight from a private school, he
began life in the Gunroom of a sea-going ship, and was afraid with a
great amazement.

The new conditions amid which in future he was to have his being
unfolded themselves in a succession of crude disillusionments.  He found
himself surrounded by Midshipmen: contemporaries, but, as they took care
to remind him, men in authority—beings with vast, dimly conceived
responsibilities: barbarous in their manners, incomprehensive of speech.
To the pain of countless indignities was added the fear of personal
chastisement (had he not read of such things?), and, having been
delicately nurtured, it is to be feared that the days of his earlier
service were not without unhappiness.

With the experience of a commission abroad, however, things began to
assume their proper perspective.  He became a Clerk, R.N., and blossomed
into the dignity of a frock-coat and sword at Sunday morning Divisions,
whereby was no small balm in Gilead.

Your Midshipman differs but little in point of thoughtless cruelty from
his brethren of "Quad" and school bench.  But the mess-mates who
(obedient to the boyish dictates of inhumanity, and for the good of his
immortal soul) had chaffed and snubbed him into maturity, now
appreciated him for the even temper and dry sense of humour he acquired
in the process.

Having mastered the queer sea-oaths and jargon of a Gunroom, he learned
to handle an oar and sail a boat without discredit. The Sub. took him on
deck in the dog-watches, and punched into him the rudiments of the art
of self-defence; and, lastly, under the tutorship of a kindly Paymaster,
he came to understand dimly the inner workings of that vast and complex
organisation that has its seat in Whitehall, by whose mouths speak the
Lords of Admiralty.

His twenty-first birthday confronted him with the ordeal of an
examination, which, successfully passed, entitled him to a commission in
His Majesty’s Fleet with the rank of Assistant Paymaster.

For the next four years he continued to live in the Gunroom, where, by
reason of an alleged unholy intimacy with the King’s Regulations and
Admiralty Instructions, his advice was commonly sought on questions
pertaining to the Service.  His mode of speech had become precise—as
befitted a wielder of the pen in life’s battle, and one versed in the
mysteries of Naval Correspondence. The ship’s Office was his kingdom,
where he was Lord of the Ledgers, with a lack of tan on face and hands
that told of a sedentary life in confined spaces: not infrequently he
wore glasses.

Some day he will become a Paymaster, warden of the money-chest, and
answerable for the pay, victualling, and clothing of every man on board.
The years will bring three gold rings to his cuff, a Fleet Paymaster’s
grey hairs, and a nice perception between the digestible and otherwise
in matters of diet.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The A.P. leaned back in his chair and threw down his pen: in the glare
of the electric light his face looked white and tired. Beside him the
Chief Writer sat totalling a column of figures: on deck a bell struck

"What d’you make it?" asked the A.P. wearily. The Writer named a sum.

"Penny out," replied the A.P. laconically, picking up his pen again.
Outside the Office door, where the hammocks of the guard were slung, a
Marine muttered in his sleep.

The two great ledgers that lay open on the desk contained the names of
every man on board.  They were duplicates, worked independently, and by
a comparison of the two mistakes could be detected and rectified.
Opposite the names were noted the credits of pay and allowances,
adjusted for different charges, the period borne, and all particulars
affecting the victualling of each man.

"Ah!"  The missing penny had been found.  "It’s in the account of that
confounded Ordinary Seaman who broke his leave and got seven days
cells," said the A.P.  "No. 215."  He gave a sigh of relief and closed
the ledger.  Perhaps he experienced something of the satisfaction an
author might feel on writing the magic word "Finis."  It was his
creation, every word and figure of it, working as irrevocably as Destiny
towards its appointed end: and on the morrow eight hundred men would
file past the pay tables, and in less than twenty minutes have received,
in coin or postal orders, the balance of pay due to them.

"I’m going to turn in now," said the A.P. "We’ll coin to-morrow."

Now the coins on a Paymaster’s charge are of certain
denominations—usually sovereigns, half-sovereigns, florins, shillings,
and sixpenny bits.  Each man is paid, as a rule, to the nearest
shilling, and the odd pence, if any, are carried forward to the
succeeding quarter. Thus the pay due to a man is, say, £3, 19s. 4d. He
receives three sovereigns, a half-sovereign, four florins, and a
shilling; the four pence are brought on to the next ledger.  A Paymaster
is thus enabled to foretell with some degree of accuracy the number of
coins that he must demand from time to time.

Having coined the total amount to be paid out in wages, and ascertained
the number of coins of each denomination required, the pay-trays were
laid on the desk in the Office. Each tray was made up of compartments
large enough to hold a man’s pay.

The Paymaster divested himself of his coat, lit a pipe, and arranged
side by side the two bags containing sovereigns and half-sovereigns. The
A.P. similarly disposed of the florins and shillings, so that he could
reach them easily. They contained the exact total amount required for
the payment in the requisite coins.

"Ready, sir?" he asked.

"Right," said the Paymaster.

The Chief Writer read out the amount due to the first man.  Quick as a
flash the amount had clinked into the first division of the tray, both
officers making mental calculations as to the coins required.  For the
next half-hour the only sounds in the Office were the voice of the Chief
Writer and the tinkle of the coins as each one was slipped into its
compartment.  In an incredibly short time the piles of gold and silver
had melted away; as a tray was filled it was placed in a box and locked
up in readiness for the payment. The three faces grew anxious as the
piles dwindled and the number of empty compartments lessened....  The
last total was reached: the Paymaster threw down two sovereigns; the
A.P. added a florin and a shilling.  The bags were empty: would it "pan

"Two pounds three," read out the Chief Writer, craning his neck to see
the result.

"Thank the Lord," murmured the A.P.

                     *      *      *      *      *

On the quarter-deck, facing aft, the ship’s company were mustered:
seamen, stokers, artisans, cooks, and police, one after another, as
their names were called by the A.P., stepped briskly up to the pay
table, where the Captain and the Commander stood, scooped their wages
into their caps and hurried away.  The Marines followed, receiving their
pay in their hands, with a click of the heels and a swinging salute.

At the break of the forecastle an Ordinary Seaman stood regarding a few
silver coins in his grimy palm.  Having broken his leave during the
month and been awarded cells in consequence, he had received
considerably less pay than usual—a penalty he had not foreseen and did
not understand.

"Bloomin’ tizzy-snatcher," he muttered, slipping the coins into his

He referred to the A.P.


                             *"C/O G.P.O."*

The bell above the door of the village post-office tinkled and the
Postmistress looked up over her spectacles.

"Is it yourself, Biddy?"

A barefooted country girl with a shawl over her head entered and shyly
tendered an envelope across the counter.

"Can you tell me how much it will be, Mrs Malone?" she queried.  There
was anxiety in the dark-blue eyes.

The Postmistress glanced at the address. "Sure, it’ll go for a penny,"
she said reassuringly.

"That’s a terrible long way for a penny," said the girl.  "Sure, it’s a
terrible long way."

From under her shawl she produced a coin and stamped the envelope.  It
took some time to do this, because a good deal depended on the exact
angle at which the stamp was affixed.  In itself it carried a message to
the recipient.

"It’s grand writin’ ye’ve got," said the Postmistress, her Celtic
sympathy aroused. "An’ himself will be houldin’ it in his hands a month
from now."

The girl blushed.  "Father Denis is after learnin’ me; an’ please for a
bit o’ stamp-paper, Mrs Malone," she pleaded softly, "the way no one
will be after opening it an’ readin’ it in them outlandish parts."  It
was the seal of the poor, a small square of stamp-paper gummed over the
flap of the envelope.

As she was concluding this final rite the bell tinkled again.  A
fair-haired girl in tweeds, carrying a walking-stick, entered with a
spaniel at her heels.

She smiled a greeting to both women. "A penny stamp, please, Mrs
Malone."  She stamped a letter she carried in her hand, and turned the
face of the envelope towards the Postmistress.  "How long is this going
to take getting to its destination?"

The Postmistress beamed.  "Sure, himself—" she began, and recollected
herself. "A month, me lady—no more."  Outside, the girl with the shawl
over her head was standing before the slit of the post-box; the other
girl came out the next moment, and the two letters started on their long
journey side by side. As the two women turned to go, their eyes met for
an instant: the country girl blushed. They went their way, each with a
little smile on her lips.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Destroyer, that for three hours had been slamming through a head
sea, rounded the headland and came in sight of the anchored Fleet.

The Yeoman of Signals on the Flagship’s bridge closed his glass with a
snap.  "She’s got mails for the Fleet," he called to the Leading
Signalman.  "I’ll report to the Flag-Lieutenant."  As he descended to
the quarterdeck he met the Officer of the Watch.

"Destroyer coming in with mails, sir."  The Lieutenant’s face
brightened; he called an order to the Boatswain’s Mate, who ran forward
piping shrilly.  "A-wa-a-ay picket-boat!" he bawled.

The Flag-Lieutenant was reading in his cabin when the Yeoman made his
report. Snatching up his cap, he hastened in to the Admiral’s
apartments.  "Destroyer arriving with mails for the Fleet, sir."  The
Admiral glanced at the calendar.  "Ah!  Eight days since we had the
last.  Thank you."

The Flag-Lieutenant poked his head inside the Secretary’s Office.  "Now
you fellows will have something to do—the mail’s coming in!"

"Thank you," replied the Secretary’s Clerk. "But, Flags, _try_ not to
look quite so inanely pleased about it.  She’s probably forgotten all
about you by now."

The Destroyer with rime-crusted funnels drew near, and men working on
the upper decks of the Fleet ceased their labours to watch her approach.
One of the side-party, working over the side in a bowline, jerked his
paint-brush in her direction.  "If I don’t get no letter this mail—so
’elp me I stops me ’arf pay," he confided grimly to a "Raggie," and spat
sententiously.  In the Wardroom the married officers awoke from their
afternoon siesta and began to harass the Officer of the Watch with
inquiries.  The news spread even to the Midshipmen’s Schoolplace, and
the Naval Instructor found straightway that to all intents and purposes
he was lecturing on Spherical Trigonometry to deaf adders.

With the eyes of the Fleet upon her, the Destroyer anchored at last, and
the Flagship’s picket-boat slid alongside to embark the piles of bloated
mail-bags.  As she swung round on her return journey the Yeoman on the
Flagship’s bridge glanced down at a signal-boy standing beside the
flag-lockers, and nodded.  Two flags leaped from the lockers and sped to
the masthead.  Instantly an answering flutter of bunting appeared on
each ship.

"Send boats for mails."  The Flagship had spoken.

                     *      *      *      *      *

In Wardroom and Gunroom a rustling silence prevailed.  Each new-comer as
he entered rushed to the letter-rack and hurriedly grabbed his pile of
letters: there is a poignant joy in seeing one’s name on an envelope
twelve thousand watery miles away from home, no matter whose hand penned
the address.  In some cases, though, it mattered a good deal.

The Flag-Lieutenant retired to his cabin like a dog with a bone, and
became engrossed with closely-written sheets that enclosed several
amateur snapshots.  One or two portrayed a slim, fair-haired girl in
tweeds; others a black spaniel.  The Flag-Lieutenant studied them
through a magnifying-glass, smiling.

The Admiral, busy over his private correspondence, was also smiling.  He
had been offered another group of letters to tack after his name (he had
five already).  The agent of his estate at home had a lot to say about
the pheasants....  His wife sprawled an account of life at Aix across
eight pages.  He had been invited to be the executor of one man’s will
and godfather to another’s child.  But a series of impressionist
sketches by his youngest daughter (_ætat._ 5), inspired by a visit to
the Zoo, was what he was actually smiling over.

Up on the after-bridge the Yeoman of the Watch leaned over the rail and
whistled to the signal-boy.  "Nip down to my mess an’ see if there’s a
letter for me."

The boy fled down the ladder and presently returned with a letter.  The
Yeoman took it from him and turned it over in his hands, scanning it
almost hungrily.

The stamp was cryptically askew and the flap of the envelope ornamented
by a fragment of stamp-paper.

"An’ what the ’ell are _you_ grinnin’ at?" he began.  The boy turned and
scampered down the ladder into safety.  The Yeoman of Signals stood
looking after him, the letter held in his hand, when a bell rang outside
the signal-house.  He put his ear to the voice-pipe.  The
Flag-Lieutenant was speaking.

"Yes, sir?"

"Make the following signal to the Destroyer that brought our mails—

"To Commanding Officer.  Admiral requests the pleasure of your company
to dinner to-night at eight o’clock."

"Aye, aye, sir."  He turned away from the voice-pipe.  "_An’_ ’e could
’ave my tot on top o’ that for the askin’."


                           *THE "LOOK-SEE."*

                         SOUTHEND, AUGUST 1909.

A bunting-draped paddle-steamer, listed over with a dense crowd of
trippers, thrashed her leisurely way down the lines.  On the quarterdeck
of one of the Battleships the Midshipman of the Afternoon Watch rubbed
the lense of his telescope with his jacket cuff, adjusted the focus
against a stanchion, and prepared to make the most of this heaven-sent
diversion.  Over the water came a hoarse roar of cheering, and, as she
drew near, handkerchiefs and flags fluttered along the steamer’s rail.
The Lieutenant of the Watch, in frock-coat and sword-belt, paused beside
the Midshipman and raised his glass, a dry smile creasing the corners of
his eyes.

"What’s up with them all, sir?" murmured the boy delightedly.  "My Aunt!
What a Banzai!"

"Ever seen kids cheer a passing train? Same sort of thing."

"But look at the girl in white; she’s half off her chump—look at her
waving her arms.... Friend of yours, sir?"

"No—only hysterical.  The man with her is trying to make her stop."  The
sailor laughed.  "He’s given it up ... now he’s waving too—what at?"  He
closed his glass. "Curious, isn’t it?"

The steamer passed on, and a confused burr of cheering announced that
she had reached the next silent warship.  "It’s all-same ’Maffick,’" he
continued presently, "Entente—Banzai—anything you like to call it.  An’
when we’ve gone they’ll come to their senses and feel hot all over—like
a fellow who wakes up and finds his hat on the gas-bracket and his boots
in the water-jug!"

The Midshipman nodded: "I saw some kids dancing round a policeman once.
Made the bobby look rather an ass—though as a matter of fact I believe
he rather liked it. Bad for discipline, though," he added with the
austere judgment of eighteen summers.

A launch bumped alongside, and a stout man in the stern-sheets shouted
for permission to come on board.

"Do," said the Lieutenant gravely.  The stout man took a valedictory
pull at a black bottle in the stern-locker, pocketed a handful of
shrimps for future consumption, and, accompanied by three feminine
acquaintances, laboriously ascended the ladder.  They gazed stolidly and
all uncomprehending at the sleek barbette guns, the snowy planking
underfoot, over which flickered the shadow of the White Ensign, and
finally wandered forward through the screen-doors, where they were lost
to view among the throngs of sightseers.

The afternoon wore on; every few minutes a launch or steamer swirled
past, gay with bunting and parasols.  Many carried bands, and in the
lulls of cheering the light breeze bore the notes of martial, if not
strictly appropriate, music across the line.  An Able Seaman paused in
his occupation of burnishing the top of the after-capstan, and passed
the back of his hand across his forehead.

"Proper dizzy, ain’t they?" he remarked in an undertone to a companion.
"Wot’s the toon?"

"Sons of the Muvverland," replied the other.  He sucked his teeth
appreciatively, after the manner of sailor-men, and added, "Gawd!  Look
at them women!..."

A launch with a crimson banner, bearing the name of a widely-circulated
halfpenny paper, fussed under the stern.  A man in a dingy white
waistcoat hailed the quarter-deck in the vernacular through a megaphone.

"No, thank you," came the clear-cut reply; "we have to-day’s papers."
The Lieutenant hitched his glass under his arm and resumed his measured
walk.  "I’m no snob, Lord knows," he confided to the other, "but it
bores me stiff to be patted on the head by the halfpenny press—
Sideboy! pick up those shrimps’ heads that gentleman dropped."

By degrees the more adventurous spirits found their way down between
decks, where, in a short time, the doorway of each officer’s cabin
framed a cluster of inquisitive heads. In one or two cases daring
sightseers had invaded the interiors, and were examining with naïve
interest the photographs, Rugby caps, dented cups, and all the _lares
atque penates_ of a Naval Officer.

"’Ere, Florrie!" called a flushed maiden of Hebraic mien, obtruding her
head into the flat, "come an’ look!"  She extended a silver photograph
frame,—"Phyllis Dare—signed an’ all!"

The other sighed rapturously and examined it with round-eyed interest.
Then she gazed round the tiny apartment.  "_Ain’t_ ’e a one! Look at ’is
barf ’anging on the roof!..."

The harassed sentry evicted them with difficulty.

"Better’n Earl’s Court, this is," opined a stout lady, who, accompanied
by a meek-looking husband and three children, had subsided on to a
Midshipman’s sea-chest. She opened the mouth of a string-bag. "Come on,
’Orace—you just set down this minute, an’ you shall ’ave ’arf a banana."

A very small Midshipman approached the chest.  "I hate disturbing you,
and Horace," he ventured, "but I want to go ashore, and all my things
are in that box you’re sitting on—would you mind...?"

"Ma!" shrilled a small boy, indicating the modest brass plate on the lid
of the chest they had vacated.  "Look—" he extended a small, grubby
forefinger, "’e’s a Viscount!"

"Garn," snapped his father, "that’s swank, that is.  Viscounts don’ go
sailorin’—they stops ashore an’ grinds the faces of the poor, an’ don’
forget what I’m tellin’ of you."

The Marine Sentry overheard.  "Pity they don’ wash ’em as well," he
observed witheringly.  His duties included that of servant to the
Midshipman in question, and he resented the scepticism of a stranger who
sat on the lid of his master’s chest eating cold currant pudding out of
a string-bag.

                     *      *      *      *      *

On the pier-head a dense perspiring crowd surged through gates and
barriers, swarmed outward into all the available space, and slowly
congested into a packed throng of over-heated, over-tired humanity.
Those nearest the rails levelled cheap opera-glasses at the distant line
of men-of-war stretching away into the haze, each ship with her
attendant steamer circling round her.  An excursion steamer alongside
hooted deafeningly, and a man in a peaked cap on her bridge raised his
voice above the babel, bellowing hoarse incoherencies.  A gaitered
Lieutenant clanked through the crowd, four patrol-men at his heels,
moving as men do who are accustomed to cramped surroundings.

At the landing-stages, where the crowd surged thickest, the picket-boats
from the Fleet swung hooting alongside, rocking in the swell.  As each
went astern and checked her way, the front of the excited throng of
sightseers bellied outward, broke, and poured across the boats in a wild
stampede for seats. They swayed on the edge of the gunwales, floundered
hobnailed over enamelled casings, were clutched and steadied on the
heaving decks by barefooted, half-contemptuous men. The Midshipmen
raised their voices in indignant protest: drunk and riotous liberty-men
they understood: one "swung-off" at them in unfettered language of the
sea, or employed the butt-end of a tiller to back an ignored command on
which their safety depended.  But here was a people that had never known
discipline—had scorned the necessity for it in their own unordered
lives. The Midshipman of the inside pinnace jerked the lanyard of the
syren savagely. "Look at my priceless paintwork!  look at—_That’s_
enough—no more in this boat—it’s not safe!  Please stand back, it’s—oh,

A man, in utter disregard of the request, had picked up a child in his
arms and jumped on board, steadying himself by the funnel guys. "Orl
right, my son, don’t bust yerself," he replied pleasantly.

                     *      *      *      *      *

An old woman forced her way through the crush towards the Lieutenant of
the Patrol, who with knotted brows was trying to grasp the gist of a
signal handed to him by a coastguard.

"I want to see my ’usband’s nephew," she explained breathlessly; "’e’s
in 39 Mess."  The Lieutenant smiled gravely.  "What ship?"  She named
the ship, and stood expectant, a look of confidence on her heated
features, as if awaiting some sleight-of-hand trick.  There was
something dimly prophetic in the simple faith with which she voiced her

"I see.  Will you excuse me a minute while I answer this signal, and
I’ll send some one to help you find the right boat."

A Petty Officer guided her eventually to the landing-place and saw her
safely embarked; he returned to find his Lieutenant comforting with
clumsy tenderness a small and lacrymose boy who had lost his parents,
turning from him to receive the reproaches of a lady whose purse had
been stolen.  The two men exchanged a little smile, and the Petty
Officer edged a little nearer—

"’Arf an hour on the parade-ground at Whale Island,[#] sir, I’d like to
’ave with some of ’em," he confided behind a horny palm. The jostling
throng surged round him, calling high heaven to witness the might of its

[#] The hotbed of Naval Discipline.

"_I’d_ make ’em ’op..." he murmured dreamily.


                        *"WATCH THERE, WATCH!"*

Dinner in the long, antler-hung mess-room of the Naval Barracks had come
to an end. Here and there along the table, where the shaded lights
glinted on silver loving-cups and trophies, a few officers lingered in
pairs over their coffee.  Presently the band moved down from the gallery
that overlooked one end of the Mess, and began playing in the hall.
This was the signal for a general move to the smoking-room, where a
score of figures in mess undress uniform were grouped round the fire,
lighting pipes and cigars and exchanging mild, after-dinner chaff.

A few couples of dancing enthusiasts were solemnly revolving in the
hall.  Others made their way up the broad staircase to the
billiard-room, or settled down at the bridge tables.

"Come on," shouted a tall Commander seated on the "club" fender in the
smoking-room, "what about a game of skill or chance?  Come up to the
billiard-room, and bring your pennies!"  He stirred a form recumbent in
an arm-chair with the toe of his boot.  "What about you, young feller?
Are you going to play pool?"

The young Lieutenant shook his head. "Not to-night, sir, thanks.  I’m
going to bed early: I’ve got the Night Guard trip."

Gradually the room emptied.  The figure in the arm-chair finished the
paper he was reading, glanced at the clock and rose, knocking the ashes
out of his pipe.  "Call me at 1.15," he said to the hall porter as he
passed him on his way to his room.

An officer, immaculate in evening dress, who was putting his overcoat in
the hall, overheard the speaker, and laughed.  "That’s the spirit!
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!"

"More’n you’ll ever be, my sprig o’ fashion," grumbled the Lieutenant,
and passed on.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Lieutenant of the Night Guard went cautiously down the wooden steps
of the Barracks’ Pier that led to the landing-place. Cautiously, because
the tide was low, and experience had taught him that the steps would be
slippery with weed.  Also the night was very dark, and the lights of the
steamboat alongside showed but indistinctly through the surrounding fog.
At the bottom of the steps one of the boat’s crew was waiting with a
lantern.  Its rays lit for a minute the faces of the two men, and
gleamed on the steel guard of the cutlass at the bearer’s hip.

"Infernal night!" said the Lieutenant from the depths of his overcoat
collar.  He had just turned out, and there was an exceeding bitterness
in his voice.  The lantern-bearer also had views on the night—possibly
stronger views—but refrained from any reply. Perhaps he realised that
none was expected. The other swung himself down into the sternsheets of
the boat, and, as he did so, the Coxswain came aft, blowing on his

"Carry on, sir?"

"Please.  Usual rounds: go alongside a Destroyer and any ship that
doesn’t hail. Fog’s very thick: got a compass?"

"There’s a compass in the boat, sir."  The Coxswain moved forward again
to the wheel, wearing a slightly ruffled expression which, owing to the
darkness and the fact that there was no one to see it, was rather
wasted.  For thirty years he’d known that harbour, man and boy, fair or
foul, and his father a waterman before him....  He jerked the telegraph
bell twice, gave a half-contemptuous turn to the wheel, and spat

"Compass!" he observed to the night.

The boat slid away on its mission, and the shore lights glimmered wan
and vanished in the fog astern.  A clock ashore struck the hour, and
from all sides came the answering ships’ bells—some near, some far, all
muffled by the moisture in the heavy atmosphere.

Ding-ding!  Ding!  Half-past one.

He who had borne the lantern deposited it in the tiny cabin aft, and
with a thoughtful expression removed a frayed halfpenny paper from the
inside of the breast of his jumper. To carry simultaneously a cutlass
and a comic paper did not apparently accord with his views on the
fitness of things, for he carefully refolded the latter and placed it
under the cushions of the locker.  Then he unhooked a small megaphone
from the bulkhead, and came out, closing the sliding-door behind him.
Finally he passed forward into the bows of the boat, where he remained
visible in the glare of the steaming light, his arms crossed on his
chest, hands tucked for warmth one under each arm-pit, peering stolidly
into the blackness ahead.

Once in mid-stream the fog lessened. Sickly patches of light waxed out
of indistinctness and gleamed yellow.  Anon as they brightened, a human
voice, thin and lonely as a wraith’s, came abruptly out of the night.

"Boat ahoy!"  The voice from nowhere sounded like an alarm.  It was as
if the darkness were suddenly suspicious of this swiftly-moving,
palpitating thing from across the water.  The figure in the bows removed
his hands from his arm-pits, picked up the megaphone, and sent a
reassuring bellow in the direction of the hail.

"Guard Boat!" he answered, and as he did so a vast towering shape had
loomed up over them.  "Answer’s, ’Guard Boat!’ sir," said the faint
voice somewhere above their heads, addressing an unseen third person.  A
dark wall appeared, surmounted by a shadowy superstructure and a giant
tripod mast that was swallowed, long before the eye could reach its
apex, in vapour and darkness.  The sleek flanks of guns at rest showed
for an instant....  A sleeping "Super-Dreadnought."  It faded into the
darkness astern; then nothing but the mist again, and the throb of the
boat’s engines.

Another, and another, and yet another watchful Presence loomed up out of
the night, hailed suspiciously, and, at the megaphone’s answering
bellow, merged again into the silent darkness.  A figure stepped aft in
the Guard Boat and adjusted the tarpaulin that covered the rifles lying
on top of the cabin: moisture had collected among the folds in little
pools.  Then the engine-room gong rang, and a voice quite near hailed
them.  A long black shadow appeared abreast, and the Guard Boat slid
alongside a Destroyer at anchor.  The dark water between the two hulls
churned into foam as the boat reversed her engines.  A tall figure
holding a lantern leaned over the Destroyer’s rail.

"Night Guard," said the Lieutenant curtly. As he came forward, three men
climbed silently up from below and stood awaiting orders at his side.
The lantern shone unsteadily on their impassive faces.

"Are you the Quartermaster?"

"Yessir."  The tall man in oilskins leaning over the Destroyer’s rail
lowered his lantern.

"All right, I won’t come inboard.  All correct?"

"All correct, sir."

"Right.  Put it in the log that I’ve visited you.  Good-night."

"Good-night, sir."

The gong clanged, and the Guard Boat slid away into the mist again.  The
figure in the bows was relieved by a comrade, and together with the
remaining two vanished down the foremost hatch.  The faint reek of Navy
tobacco drifted aft to the stern-sheets, where the Lieutenant of the
Night Guard had resumed his position, leaning against an angle of the
cabin with his hands deep in the pockets of his overcoat.  He was
reflecting on the strangeness of a profession that dragged a man from
his bed at one o’clock in the morning, to steam round a foggy harbour in
the company of armed men, these times of piping peace.

Once a night throughout the year, in every Dockyard Port in the kingdom,
a launch slid away from the Depot jetty, slipped in and out among the
anchored ships, and returned to her moorings when the patrol was
completed.  Why?  Some grim significance surely lay in the duty, in the
abrupt hails that stabbed the stillness, greeting the throb of her
engines: in the figure of the armed man in the bows with the megaphone,
ready to fling back the reassuring answer....

He shifted his position and glanced forward.  The bowman was chewing
tobacco, and every now and again turned his head to spit overside.  Each
time he did so the port bow-light lit his features with a ruddy glare.
It was a stolid countenance, slightly bored.

The Lieutenant smiled gravely.  Did the figure wonder why he wore a
cutlass in peace time?  Did he realise the warning it embodied—the
message they conveyed night by night to the anchored ships?  His
thoughts took a more sombre turn.  Would the night ever come—just such a
night as this—and under the fog a Menace glide in among the blindfold
Fleet?  To the first hail of alarm answer with a lever released, a
silvery shadow that left a trail of bubbles on the surface....  And
then—the fog and silence riven to the dark vault of heaven.

He raised his head.  "All right, Coxswain, enough for to-night.  Carry
on back."  Over went the helm: the boat swung round on a new course,
heading whence she had come an hour before.

Carry on back!  It was so easy to say.

His thoughts reverted to the grim picture his imagination had created.
How would that shadowy Terror, her mission fulfilled, "carry on back"?
Wheel wrenched over, funnels spouting flame, desperate men clinging to
the rail as she reeled under the concussion, racing blindly through the
outraged night for safety.

Thus had a warring Nation written a lesson across the map of Manchuria
for all the world to read—and, if they might, remember.

Where did he come in, then—this figure leaning thoughtfully against the
angle of the steamboat’s cabin?  What was his mission, and that of the
steamboat with its armed crew, night after night, in fog and by
starlight, winter and summer...?

A chord of memory vibrated faintly in his mind.  There was a phrase that
summed it up, learned long ago....  He was a cadet again on the
seamanship-deck of the old _Britannia_, at instruction in a now obsolete
method of sounding with the Deep-Sea Lead and Line.  They were shown
how, in order to obtain a sounding, a number of men were stationed along
the ship’s side, each holding a coil of the long line.  As the heavy
lead sank and the line tautened from hand to hand, each man flung his
coil overboard.  As he did so he called to warn the next—

"Watch there, watch!"

The steamboat, slowed as she passed close under the stern of a
battleship.  The fog had lifted, and the Officer of the Middle Watch was
leaning over the quarter-deck rail.  The Lieutenant of the Night Guard
raised his head, and in the gleam of the ship’s stern light the two
officers recognised each other. They had been in the _Britannia_,
together. The former laughed a greeting.

"Go back to bed, you noisy blighter!"

The cloaked figure in the boat chuckled. "That’s where I am going," he
called back.


                        *"FAREWELL AND ADIEU!"*

The Junior Watch-keeper paused at the corner of the street and smote the
pavement with the ferrule of his stick.

"Lord!" he ejaculated, "to think this is the last night!  Look at it
all...."  Dusk had fallen, and with it a wet mist closed down on the
town.  The lights from the shop windows threw out a warm orange glow
that was reflected off the wet pavements and puddles in the street.  The
shrill voice of a paper-boy, hawking the evening paper, dominated all
other sounds for a moment. "Eve ... nin’ Er-r-rald!" he called.  Then,
seeing the two figures standing irresolute on the kerb, ran towards

"Evenin’ ’Erald!  sir?  Naval ’Pointments, sir ... To-night’s Naval

The Lieutenant shook his head half impatiently, then added as if
speaking to himself, "No—not yet."  It was such a familiar evening
feature of life ashore in a Dockyard Port, that hoarse, "jodelling" cry.
One bought the paper and glanced through the columns over a
gin-and-bitters at the Club.  But this was the last night: every
familiar sensation and experience should be flavoured in their turn—ere
they two went hence and were no more seen!

The Young Doctor at his elbow gave a curt laugh: "We shan’t be very
interested in the Appointments to-morrow night, Jerry!"  An itinerant
seller of violets drifted down the pavement and thrust his fragrant
merchandise upon them.

"What shall we do first?" asked the Junior Watch-keeper.  "Let’s go and
have our hair cut and a shampoo."

"I hate having my hair cut," pleaded the Surgeon.

"Never mind: it’s all part of the show. You won’t get another chance of
talking football to a barber for years....  And that awful green stuff
that he rubs in with a bit of sponge—oh, come on!"

Together they drifted up the familiar street, pausing to stare into shop
windows with a sudden renewal of interest that was half pathetic.  A
jeweller’s shop, throwing a glittering white arc of light across the
pavement arrested their progress.

"I never realised before," mused the Surgeon, "how these fellows cater
for the love-lorn Naval Officer.  Look at those brooches: naval crowns;
hat-pins made of uniform buttons, bracelets with flags done in
enamel—D-E-A-R-E-S—" he spelt out, and broke off abruptly, "Pouf!  What

The other was fumbling with the door-latch. "Half a minute, Peter,
there’s something I’ve just remembered..." and vanished inside
muttering.  The Young Doctor caught the words "some little thing," and
waited outside. The traffic of the street, a fashionable shopping street
in a Dockyard town at 6 P.M., streamed past him as he stood there
waiting.  Girls in furs, with trim ankles, carrying parcels or Badminton
raquets, hurried along, pausing every now and again to glance into an
attractive shop window. Several tweed-clad figures, shouldering golf
clubs, passed in the direction of the railway station; one or two nodded
a salutation as they recognised him.  Little pigtailed girls with tight
skirts enclosing immature figures, of a class known technically as the
"Flapper," drifted by with lingering, precocious stares. The horns of
the motors that whizzed along the muddy street sounded far and near.
They, together with the clang and rumble of tram-cars a few streets
away, and the voices of the paper-boys, dominated in turn all other
sounds in the mirky night air.  The man with the basket of violets
shuffled past again, and left a faint trail of fragrance lingering. Long
after that night, in the uttermost parts of the earth he remembered it,
and the half-caught scent of violets, drifting from a perfume shop in
Saigon, was destined to conjure up for the Surgeon a vision of that
glittering street, with its greasy pavement and hurrying passers-by, and
of a pair of grey eyes that glanced back for an instant over their
owner’s furs....

The Junior Watch-keeper reappeared, buttoning up his coat.  "Sorry to
have kept you waiting, Peter," and fell into step beside his companion.

Half an hour later they emerged from the hairdresser’s establishment,
clipped and anointed as to the head.

"Now," breathed the Lieutenant, "where to?"

"Sawdust Club!" said the Surgeon.  They crossed the road and turned up a
narrow passage-way.  As they quitted the street, a diminutive boy, with
an old, wizened face and an unnaturally husky voice, wormed his way in
under the Young Doctor’s elbow, "’Erald, sir?  Latest, sir!  Naval—"
The Surgeon slipped a sixpenny bit into his hand and took the proffered
paper, still damp from the press.  They entered a long vault-like
apartment, its floor strewn with sawdust and long counters and a row of
wooden stools extending down each side.  Behind the counters rose tiers
of barrels, and in one corner was a sandwich buffet, with innumerable
neat piles of sandwiches in a glass case.  The place was crowded with
customers: a bull-dog sauntered about the floor, nosing among the
sawdust for pieces of biscuit.  As the new-comers entered several of the
inmates, perched on their wooden stools, looked round and smiled a

"Ah-ha!  Last night in England, eh?"

"Yes," replied the Junior Watch-keeper, "the last night."  He sniffed
the mingled aroma of sawdust, tobacco-smoke, and the faint pungent smell
of alcohol.  "Good old pot-house!  Good old Sawdust Club!  Dear, dear,
curried egg sandwiches! ... _And_ a drop of sherry white-wine ’what the
orficers drinks’—yes, in a dock-glass, and may the Lord ha’ mercy on

                     *      *      *      *      *

"And now," said the Young Doctor, "a ’chop-and-chips,’ I think."

"A mixed-grill," substituted the other. "Kidney and sausage and tomato
and all the rest of it.  Oh yes, a ’mixed-grill.’"

They entered swing-doors, past a massive Commissionaire, who saluted
with a broad smile.  "They’re askin’ for you inside, sir," he whispered
jocularly to the Junior Watch-keeper.  "Wonderin’ when you was comin’
along....  Sailin’ to-morrow, ain’t you, sir?"

Together the "last-nighters" descended a flight of carpeted stairs and
entered a subterranean, electric-lit lounge bar.  A dozen or more of
Naval men were standing about the fireplace and sitting in more or less
graceful attitudes in big saddle-bag arm-chairs.  The majority were
conducting a lively badinage with a pretty, fair-haired girl who leaned
over the bar at one end of the room.  She smiled a greeting as the
new-comers entered, and emerged from her retreat.  The Junior
Watch-keeper doffed his hat with a low bow and hung it on the stand.
Then he bent down, swung her into his arms, and handed her like a doll
to the Young Doctor, who in turn deposited her on the lap of a seated
Officer reading the evening paper.  "Look what I’ve found."

With a squeal she twisted herself to her feet and retreated behind the
bar again, her hands busy with the mysteries of hair-pins.

"Hullo! hullo!"  Greetings sounded on all sides.  A tall
broad-shouldered figure with a brown beard elbowed his way through the
crush and smote the Junior Watch-keeper on the breast-bone.

"Dear sakes!  Where have you sprung from?  I just come from the Persian
Gulf, and it’s a treat to see a familiar face!"

"We’re off to China again to-morrow," said the other, a half-suppressed
note of exultation in his voice—"China-side again!  Do you remember...?"

The bearded one nodded wistfully.  "Do I not! ... You lucky devils....
Oh, you lucky devils!  Here, Molly——"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The waiter sought them presently with the time-honoured formula: "Your
grill’s spoilin’, gentlemen, please," and they took their places in the
mirror-walled grill-room, where the violins were whimpering some
pizzicato melody.  A girl with dark eyes set a shade obliquely in a pale
face, seated at the grand piano, looked across as they entered and
smiled a faint greeting to the Young Doctor.

"I think we’re entitled to a voluntary from the pianist to-night," said
the other presently, his mouth full of mixed-grill.  "What shall we ask

The other thought for a moment.  "There’s a thing ... I don’t know what
it’s called ... it’s like wind in the leaves—_she_ knows."  He beckoned
a waiter and whispered.  The girl with the pale face looked across the
room and for an instant met the eyes of the Young Doctor; then she ran
her fingers lightly over the keys and drifted into Sinding’s

The Surgeon nodded delightedly.  "That’s the thing....  Good girl.  I
don’t know what it’s called, but it reminds me of things."  He munched
cheerfully, pausing anon to bury his face in a tankard of beer, and they
fell to discussing prospects of sport up the Yangtse.  Once or twice as
she played, the girl behind the piano allowed her dark eyes to travel
across the crowded grill-room over the heads of the diners, and her
glance lingered a moment at the table where the two "last-nighters" were
seated.  The first violin, who was also a musician, sat with a rapt
expression, holding his fiddle across his knees. When the piece was over
he started abruptly—so abruptly it was evident that for him a spell had
broken.  He looked up at the pianist with a queer, puzzled expression,
as if half-resentful of something.

The Young Doctor was arranging forks and a cruet-stand in a diagram on
the table-cloth. "There was a joss-house here, if you remember, and the
guns were here ... the pigeon came over that clump of bamboo...."  The
other, leaning across the table, nodded with absorbed interest.


The Lieutenant glanced at his watch. "Come along; we must be moving if
we’re going to the ’Palace.’"  They paid their bill, tipped the waiter
in a manner that appeared to threaten him with instant dislocation of
the spine, and walked up the tiled passage that led past the open door
of the lounge. From her vantage behind the bar inside, the girl some one
had addressed as "Molly" caught a glimpse of their retreating figures.
She slipped out through the throng of customers, most of whom had dined,
and were talking to each other over their port and liqueurs, into the
quiet of the corridor.

"Jerry!" she called; "Mr——"

"Lord!" ejaculated the Junior Watch-keeper, "I’d forgotten—"  He turned
quickly on his heel.  "Hullo, Molly!  We’re coming back presently.  But
that reminds me..." he fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, and the Surgeon
strolled slowly on up the steps, round a bend, and was lost to view.

The girl gave a little breathless laugh. "That’s what you all say, you
boys.  And you never do come back....  _You_ weren’t going without
saying good-bye to me, were you?"

"No, no, Molly, of course I wasn’t: and look here, old lady, here’s a
gadget I got for you—" he fumbled with the tissue paper enclosing a
little leather case.

The girl stood with one hand on the lapel of his coat, twisted a button
backwards, and forwards.  "Jerry, I—I wanted to thank you ... you were a
real brick to me, that time. It saved my life, goin’ to the Sanatorium,
an’ I couldn’t never have afforded it...."  Her careful grammar became a
shade confused.

The man gave a little, deep laugh of embarrassment.  "Rot!  Molly,
that’s all over and forgotten.  No more nasty coughs now, eh?"  He
patted her shoulder clumsily.

"An’ mind you drop me a line when that fathom of trouble of yours comes
up to the scratch, and send me a bit of wedding-cake—here, hang on to
this thing....  No, it’s nothing; only a little brooch....  Good-bye,
old lady—good-bye.  Good luck to you, and don’t forget to——"

The girl raised her pretty, flushed face and gave a quick glance up and
down the deserted corridor.  "Ain’t you—aren’t you going to—say good-bye
... properly—Jerry?"

The Junior Watch-keeper bent down. "’Course ... and another for luck...!
Good-bye, dear; good-bye...!"

The Young Doctor was waiting with his nose flattened against the
darkened window of a gunsmith’s opposite when the Lieutenant joined him.
His silence held a vague hint of disapproval as they fell into step.
"That girl," he ventured presently, "isn’t she a bit fond of you, old

The Junior Watch-keeper paused to light a pipe.  "I—I don’t think so,
Peter.  Not more than she is of a dozen others."  He glanced at his
companion: "You don’t think I’ve been up to any rotten games, do you?"
The other shook his head with quick protest. "But I like her awfully,
and she’s a jolly good little sport.  They all are, taking them all
round, in a Naval Port.  It’s a rotten life when you think of it ...
cooped up there in that beastly atmosphere, year in, year out, listening
to everlasting Service shop, or being made love to by half-tight fools.
Their only refuge from it is in marriage—if they care to take advantage
of some young ass.  Who else do they meet...?  The marvel of it is not
that a few come to grief, but that so many are so jolly straight.  That
girl to-night—Molly—I suppose she has refused half a dozen N.O.’s.
Prefers to wait till some scallywag in her own class can afford to take
her away out of it.  And I’ve heard her talking like a Mother to a rorty
Midshipman—a silly young ass who was drinking like a fish and wasting
his money and health pub-crawling.  She shook him to the core.  Lord
knows, I don’t want to idealise barmaids—p’raps I’d be a better man if
I’d seen less of them myself—but——"

The Surgeon gripped his elbow soothingly. "I know—_I_ know, old son.
Don’t get in a stew!  And as for seeing less of them ... it’s hard to
say.  Unless a man knows people ashore, and is prepared to put on his
’superfine suitings’ and pay asinine calls when he might be playing golf
or cricket, where else is he to speak to a woman all the days of his
life?  Dances...?  I can’t dance."

They had turned into the main thoroughfare, and the traffic that
thronged the pavements and roadway made conversation difficult.  The
liberty men from scores of ships in the port streamed to and fro: some
arm-in-arm with quietly-dressed servant girls and shop girls; others
uproarious in the company of befeathered women.  At short intervals
along the street a flaring gin-palace or cinema-theatre flung smudges of
apricot-coloured light on to the greasy pavements and the faces of
passers-by.  Trams clanged past, and every now and again a blue-jacket
or military foot-patrol, belted and gaitered, moved with watchful eyes
and measured gait along the kerb.

As they neared the music-hall the throng grew denser.  On all sides the
West Country burr filled the night, softening even the half-caught oath
with its broad, kindly inflection. Men from the garrison regiments
mingled with the stream of blue-clad sailors.  A woman hawking oranges
from the kerb raised her shrill voice, thrusting the cheap fruit under
the noses of passers-by.  A group of young Stokers, lounging round a
vendor of hot chestnuts, were skylarking with two brazen-voiced girls.
At the doorway of the music-hall, a few yards away, a huge man in livery
began to bawl into the night, hoarsely incoherent.

The two officers mounted the steps together, and, as one obtained
tickets from the booking-office, the other turned with a little smile to
look down the mile-long vista of lights and roaring humanity.  The
scintillant tram-cars came swaying up the street from the direction of
the Dockyard: on either side the gleaming windows of the shops that
still remained open—the tattooists, the barbers, tobacconists, the
fried-fish and faggot shops, and the host of humbler tradesmen who plied
most of their trade at this hour—grew fainter and duller, until they
dwindled away to a point under the dark converging house-tops.  A girl,
shouting some shameless jest, broke away from the horse-play round the
chestnut-oven, and thrust herself, reeling with laughter, through the
passing crowd. A burly Marine caught her by the waist as she wriggled
past, and kissed her dexterously without stopping in his stride.  His
companion smirked appreciation of the feat, and glanced back over his

The watcher on the steps turned and followed the other up the broad

                     *      *      *      *      *

A man with a red nose and baggy trousers was singing a song about his
mother-in-law and a lodger.  His accents were harshly North Country, and
out of the paint-streaked countenance, his eyes—pathetic, brown
monkey-eyes—roamed anxiously over the audience, as if even he had little
enough confidence in the humour of his song.

The Lieutenant leaned back in his seat and refilled his pipe.  "Isn’t it
wonderful to think that when we come home again in three years’ time
that chap with the baggy trousers and red nose—or his twin-brother,
anyhow—will still be singing about the same old mother-in-law!"

Presently a stout, under-clad woman skipped before the footlights and
commenced some broadly suggestive patter.  The audience, composed for
the most part of blue-jackets and Tommies, roared delight at each
doubtful sally.  She ended with a song that had a catchy, popular
refrain, and the house took it up with a great burst of song.

"Hark at ’em!" whispered the Surgeon. "Don’t they love it all!  Yet her
voice is nothing short of awful, her song means nothing on earth, and
her anatomy—every line of it—ought to be in the museum of the Royal
College of Surgeons....  Let’s go and have a drink."

They ascended the stairway to the promenade, and passed under a
curtain-hung archway into a long bar.  The atmosphere was clouded with
tobacco smoke, and reeked of spirits and cheap, clinging scent.  From a
recess in one corner a gramophone blared forth a modern rag-time, and a
few women, clasped by very callow-looking youths, were swaying to a
"One-step" in the middle of the carpeted space.  Behind the bar two
tired-looking girls scurried to and fro, jerking beer handles as if for
a wager, and mechanically repeating orders.  Settees ran the length of
the walls under rows of sporting prints, and here more women, with
painted lips and over-bright, watchful eyes, were seated at little
tables.  Most of them were accompanied by young men in lounge or tweed

"Phew," grunted the Junior Watch-keeper, "what an atmosphere!  Look at
those young asses....  Kümmel at this time of night.... And we did it
once, Peter!  Lord! it makes me feel a hundred."

A panting woman disengaged herself from her youthful partner, and linked
her arm within that of the Young Doctor.  "Ouf!" she gasped, "I’m that
’ot, dearie.  Stand us a drop of wot killed auntie!"

With a gallant bow the Young Doctor led her to the bar.  "My dear
madam," he murmured—"a privilege!  And if you will allow me to prescribe
for you—as a Medical Man—I suggest——"

"Port an’ lemon," prompted the lady.  She fanned herself with a
sickly-scented and not over-clean scrap of lace.  "Ain’t it ’ot, Doctor!
... Glad I lef me furs at ’ome. Ain’t you goin’ to have nothin’...?"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Junior Watch-keeper drew a deep breath as they reached the open

"Thank God for fresh air again!"  He filled and refilled his lungs.

"’And so to bed,’" quoted the other.  The taverns and places of
amusement were emptying their patrons into the murky street. Raucous
laughter and farewells filled the night.

"Yes."  The Junior Watch-keeper yawned, and they walked on in silence,
each busy with his own long thoughts.  By degrees the traffic lessened,
until, nearing the Dockyard, the two were alone in deserted
thoroughfares with no sound but the echo of their steps. They were
threading the maze of dimly-lit, cobbled streets that still lay before
them, when a draggle-skirted girl, standing in the shelter of a doorway,
plucked at their sleeves. They walked on almost unheeding, when suddenly
the Young Doctor hesitated and stopped.  The woman paused irresolute for
a moment, and then came towards them, with the light from a gas-lamp
playing round her tawdry garments.  She murmured something in a
mechanical tone, and smiled terribly. The Young Doctor emptied his
pockets of the loose silver and coppers they contained, and thrust the
coins into her palm: with his disengaged hand he tilted her face up to
the light.  It was a pathetically young, pathetically painted face.
"Wish me good luck," he said, and turned abruptly to overtake his

The woman stood staring after them, her hand clenched upon her suddenly
acquired riches.  An itinerant fried-fish and potato merchant, homeward
bound, trundled his barrow suddenly round a distant corner. The girl
wheeled in the direction of the sound.

"’Ere!" she called imperiously, "_’ere!_..."

The echo of her voice died away, and the Young Doctor linked his arm
within the other’s.

"There is a poem by some one[#] I read the other day—d’you know it?—

    "’I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the
    And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.’"

[#] John Masefield.

He mused for a moment in silence as they strode along.  "I forget how it
goes on: something about a ’vagrant gypsy life,’ and the wind ’like a
whetted knife’—

    "’And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
    And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.’

"That’s how it ends, I know."

The Junior Watch-keeper nodded soberly. "Yes....  But it’s the star we
need the most, Peter—you and I."

                     *      *      *      *      *

It was early in the morning, and thin columns of smoke were rising from
the funnels of a cruiser lying alongside one of the Dockyard jetties.
On her decks there was a bustle of preparation: steaming covers were
being laced to yards and topmasts: the Boatswain, "full of strange
oaths" and of apoplectic countenance, moved forward in the wake of a
depressed part of the watch.  On the booms the Carpenter was
superintending the stowage of some baulks of timber.  Packing-cases were
coming in at the gangway; barefooted messengers darted to and fro.
There was a frequent shrilling of pipes, and the hoarse voice of the
Boatswain’s Mate bellowing orders.

Presently there came a lull, and the ship’s company were mustered aft as
a bell began to toll.  Then over the bared heads the familiar words of
the Navy Prayer drifted outward into space.

"... That we may return to enjoy ... the fruits of our labours."  In the
course of the next three years, the words, by reason of their frequent
repetition, would come to mean to them no more than the droning of the
Chaplain’s voice; yet that morning their significance was plain enough
to the ranks of silent men.  A minute later, with the notes of a bugle,
the ship boiled into activity again.

Out on the straw-littered jetty a gradually-increasing crowd had
gathered.  It was composed for the most part of women, poorly clad, with
pinched, anxious faces.  Some had babies in their arms; others carried
little newspaper parcels tucked under their shawls: parting gifts for
some one.  A thin drizzle swept in from the sea, as a recovered
deserter, slightly intoxicated, was brought down between an escort and
vanished over the gangway amid sympathetic murmurs from the onlookers.
A telegram boy pushed his way through the crowd, delivered his message
of God-speed in its orange-coloured envelope, and departed again,
whistling jauntily.

The men drifted out into the jetty to bid farewell, with forced
nonchalance and frequent expectoration.  Each man was the centre of a
little group of relatives, discussing trivialities with laughter that
did not ring quite true.  Here and there a woman had broken down, crying
quietly; but for the most part they stood dry-eyed and smiling, as
befitted the women of a Nation that must be ever bidding "Vale" to its

"All aboard!"  The voices of the Ship’s Police rose above the murmur of
the crowd. Farewells were over.

A hoist of flags crept to the masthead, and an answering speck of colour
appeared at the signal halliards over Admiralty House.

"Askin’ permission to proceed," said some one.  The gang-planks rattled
on to the jetty, and a knot of workmen began casting off wires from the

"Stand clear!" shouted a warning voice. The ropes slid across the tarred
planking and fell with a sullen splash.  Beneath the stern the water
began to churn and boil. The ship was under way at last, gliding farther
every minute from the watching crowd.  The jetty was a sea of faces and
waving handkerchiefs: the band on board struck up a popular tune.

In a few minutes she was too far off to distinguish faces.  On the fore
bridge the Captain raised his cap by the peak and waved it.  Somewhere
near the turf-scarped fort ashore an answering gleam of white appeared
and fluttered for a moment.  The lines of men along the upper deck, the
guard paraded aft, the cluster of officers on the bridge, slowly faded
into an indistinct blur as the mist closed round them.  For a while
longer the band was still audible, very far off and faint.

After a while the watchers turned and straggled slowly towards the
Dockyard Gates.


                           *THE SEVENTH DAY.*

The Sub-Lieutenant clanked into the Gunroom and surveyed the apartment
critically. The Junior Midshipmen stationed at each scuttle fell to
burnishing the brass butterfly nuts with sudden and anxious renewal of

"Stinks of beer a bit," observed the Sub., "but otherwise it’s all
right.  Hide that ’Pink ’Un’ under the table-cloth, one of you."  As he
spoke the notes of a bugle drifted down the hatchway.  "There you are!
Officers’ Call!  Clear out of it, sharp!"  Hastily they tucked away the
possible cause of offence to their Captain, bundled their cleaning-rags
into a cupboard, snatched their dirks off the rack, and hurried on deck.

On the quarter-deck the remainder of the Officers were assembling in
answer to the summons of the bugle.  Frock-coated figures clanked to and
fro, struggling with refractory white gloves.  Under the supervision of
a bearded Petty Officer the Quarter-deck men were hurriedly putting the
finishing touches to neatly coiled boats’ falls and already gleaming
metal-work.  It was 9 A.M. on a Sunday forenoon, and the ship was
without stain or blemish from her gilded truck to her freshly painted
water-line.  All the working hours of the previous day—what time the
citizen ashore donned "pearlies" or broadcloth and shut up shop—the
blue-jacket had been burnishing and scrubbing,—a lick of paint here,
there a scrap of gold-leaf or a pound of elbow-grease.  And pervading
the ship was the comfortless atmosphere of an organisation, normally in
a high state of adjustment, strained yet a point higher.

The Commander came suddenly out of the Captain’s cabin and nodded to the
Officer of the Watch.

"Sound off with the bell."

The buglers, drawn up in line at the entrance to the battery, moistened
their lips in anticipation and raised their bugles.  The Corporal of the
Watch stepped to the bell and jerked the clapper.


Simultaneously the four bugles blared out, and the hundreds of men
forward in the waist of the ship and on the forecastle formed up into
their different divisions and stood easy. The divisions were ranged
along both sides of the ship—Forecastle, Foretop, Maintop, Quarter-deck
men on one side, Stokers, Day-men, and Marines on the other.

The "Rig of the Day" was "Number Ones," which was attended by certain
obligations in the matter of polished boots, carefully brushed hair, and
shaven faces.  To any one unversed in the mysteries of the sailors’
garb, the men appeared to be dressed merely in loose,
comfortably-fitting blue clothes.  But a hundred subtleties in that
apparently simple dress received the wearer’s attention before he
submitted himself to the lynx-eyed inspection of his Divisional
Lieutenant that morning.  The sit of the blue-jean collar, the spotless
flannel, the easy play of the jumper round the hips, the immaculate
lines of the bell-bottomed trousers (harder to fit properly than any
tail-coat or riding-breeches) all came in for a more critical overhaul
than did ever a young girl before her first ball.  And the result, in
all its pleasing simplicity, was the sailor’s unconscious tribute to
that one day of the seven wherein his luckier brethren ashore do no
manner of work.

The Captain stepped out of his cabin, and the waiting group of officers
saluted.  The Heads of Departments made their reports, and then, with an
attendant retinue of Midshipmen, Aides-de-Camp, messengers, and buglers,
followed the Captain down the hatchway for the Rounds.

Along the mess-decks, deserted save for an occasional sweeper or Ship’s
Corporal standing at attention, swept the procession; halting at a
galley or casemate as the Captain paused to ask a question or pass a
white-gloved hand along a beam in search of dust.  Then aft again, past
Gunroom and Wardroom—with a stoppage outside the former.  The Captain
elevated his nose.

"I think the beer-barrel must be leaking, sir," said the Sub-Lieutenant,
"standing the rounds" in the doorway.

"See to it," was the reply, and the cortége swept on, with swords
clanking and lanterns throwing arcs of light into dark corners suspected
of harbouring a hastily concealed deck-cloth or of being the pet _cache_
for somebody’s coaling-suit.

Up in the sunlight of the outer world the band was softly playing
selections from "The Pirates of Penzance."  The ship’s goat, having
discovered a white kid glove dropped by the Midshipman of the Maintop,
retired with it to the shelter of the boat-hoist engine for a hurried
cannibalistic feast.  The Officers of Divisions had concluded the
preliminary inspection, and were pacing thoughtfully to and fro in front
of their men.  Suddenly the Captain’s head appeared above the after

The Lieutenant of the Quarter-deck Division, in the midst of receiving a
whispered account of an overnight dance from his Midshipman, wheeled
abruptly and called his Division to attention.  Then—

"Off hats!"

As if actuated by a single lever each man raised his left hand, whipped
off his hat and brought it to his side.  The Captain acknowledged the
Lieutenant’s salute and passed quickly down the ranks, his keen eyes
travelling rapidly from each man’s face to his boots. Once or twice he
paused to ask a question and then passed on to the next waiting

Presently the bugler sounded the "Disperse"; the Divisions turned
forward, stepped outward, and broke up.  Here and there the Midshipman
of a Division remained standing, scribbling hurriedly in his note-book
such criticisms as it had pleased his Captain to make.  One man’s hair
had wanted cutting; it was time another had passed for Leading
Seaman....  A third had elected to attend Divisions—on this the Sabbath
of the Lord his God—without the knife attached to his lanyard.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Half an hour later the normal aspect of the Quarter-deck had changed.
Rows of plank benches, resting on capstan bars supported by buckets,
filled the available space on each side of the barbette.  Chairs for the
Officers had been placed further aft, facing the men who were to occupy
the benches.  In front of the burnished muzzles of the two great 12-inch
guns a lectern had been draped with a white flag, and between the guns a
’cello, flute, and violin prepared to augment the strains of a rather
wheezy harmonium.  Then the bell began to toll, and a flag crept to the
peak to inform the rest of the Fleet that the ship was about to commence
Divine Service.

The men hurried aft, seamen and marines pouring in a continuous stream
through the open doors from the batteries.  No sooner had the last man
squeezed hurriedly into his place with the slightly hang-dog air seamen
assume in the full glare of the public eye, than the Master-at-Arms
appeared at the battery door and reported every one aft to the
Commander. The Captain took his chair, facing the Ship’s Company, and a
little in advance of the remainder of the Officers; the Chaplain walked
up the hatchway, stepped briskly to the lectern and gave out a hymn.
The orchestra played the opening bars, five hundred men swung themselves
to their feet, and the service began.

Presently the Captain crossed to the lectern and read the lesson for the
day.  It dealt with warfare and bloodshed, and there was a suddenly
awakened interest in the rows of intent faces opposite—for this was the
consummation each man present believed would ultimately come to some
day’s work, although it might not be amid the welter and crash of
shattered chariot and struggling horses, nor the twang of released
bow-strings....  And the stern, level voice went on to tell of the
establishment of laws, wise and austere as those which regulated the
reader’s paths and those of his listeners; while under the stern-walk a
flock of gulls screeched and quarrelled, and the water lapped with a
drowsy, soothing sound against the side of the ship.

After a while the Chaplain gave out the number of another hymn.  The
Bluejacket’s most enthusiastic admirer would hesitate to describe him as
a devout man; but when the words and tune are familiar—it may be
reminiscent of happier surroundings—the sailor-man will sing a hymn with
the fervour of inspiration.  And if only for the sake of the
half-effaced memories it recalled, the volume of bass harmony that
rolled across the sunlit harbour doubtless travelled as far as the
thunder of organ and chant from many a cathedral choir.

Then, standing very upright, his fingers linked behind his back, the
Chaplain commenced his sermon.  He spoke very simply, adorning his
periods with no flowery phrase or ornate quotation, suiting the manner
of his delivery to the least intelligent of his hearers. There was no
fierce denunciation, no sudden gestures nor change in the grave, even
voice. He touched on matters not commonly spoken of in pulpits, and his
speech was wondrous plain, as indeed was meet for a congregation such as
his.  And they were no clay under the potter’s thumb.  Composed for the
most part of men indifferent to religion, almost fiercely resentful of
interference with their affairs; living on crowded mess-decks afloat,
fair game for every crimp and land-shark ashore.  But there was that in
the sane, temperate discourse that passed beyond creed or dogma, and a
tatooed fist suddenly clenched on its owner’s hat-brim, or the restless
shifting of a foot, told where a shaft passed home.

Here and there, screened by his fellows, a tired man’s head nodded
drowsily.  But the "Padre" had learned twenty years before that it took
more than a sermon to keep awake a seated man who had perhaps kept the
middle watch, and turned out for the day at 6.15 A.M.; in the five
hundred odd pairs of eyes that remained fixed on his face he doubtless
read a measure of compensation.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The short-cropped heads bowed as in clear tones the Benediction was

"... and remain with you ... always."  An instant’s pause, and then,
Officers and men standing upright and rigid, they sang the National

The Captain turned and nodded to the Commander, who was putting on his

"Pipe down."


                            *THE PARRICIDE.*

"’Ark!" said the hedger, his can of cold tea arrested half-way to his
lips.  But Sal, the lurcher bitch curled up under the hedge, had heard
some seconds before.  With twitching nose and ears alert, she jumped out
of the ditch and trotted up the road.  A far-off sound was coming over
the downs—a faint drone as of a clustering swarm of bees.

"One of them motor-bikes——" murmured the man and paused.  Away in the
west, approaching the coast-line and flying high, was a dark object like
the framework of a box suspended in mid-air.  It drew near, rising and
falling on the unseen swell of the ocean of ether, and the droning sound
grew louder.  "Aeri-o-plane," continued the hedger, again speaking
aloud, after the manner of those who live much alone in the open.

As a matter of fact it was a Hydro-Aeroplane, and after it had passed
overhead the watchers saw it wheel and swoop towards the harbour hidden
from them by the shoulder of the downs.

The man stood looking after it, his shadow sprawling across the dusty
road before him. "Lawks!" he ejaculated, "’ere’s goin’s-on!"  A ripple
from the Naval Manoeuvre Area had passed across the placid surface of
his life. He resumed his interrupted tea.

A stone breakwater stretched a half-encircling arm round the little
harbour. Within its shelter a huddle of coasting craft and trawlers lay
at anchor, with the red roofs of the town banked up as a background for
their tangled spars.  Behind them again the tall chimney of an electric
power station lifted a slender head.

In the open water of the harbour a flotilla of Submarines were moored
alongside one another: figures moved about the tiny railed platforms,
and in the stillness of the summer afternoon the harbour held only the
sound of their voices, the muffled clink of a hammer, and, from an
unseen siding ashore, the noise of shunting railway trucks made musical
by distance.

The seaplane drew near and circled gracefully overhead; then it
volplaned down and settled lightly on the water at the harbour mouth: a
Submarine moved from her moorings to meet it.  The pilot of the seaplane
pulled off his gauntlets, pushed his goggles up on to his forehead, and
lit a cigarette. The Submarine ranged alongside and her Captain leaned
over the rail with a smile of greeting.

"Any news?"

The Flying Corps Officer raised his hands to his mouth: "Enemy’s
Battleship and eight Destroyers, eighteen miles to the Sou’-East," he
shouted.  "Steering about Nor’-Nor’-West at 12 knots.  Battleship’s got
troops or Marines on board in marching order.... No, nothing, thanks—I’m
going north to warn them.  So-long..."

Five minutes later he was a black speck in the sky above the headland
where the tall masts of a Wireless Station and a cluster of whitewashed
cottages showed up white against the turf.

The Submarine slid back into the harbour and approached the Senior
Officer’s boat. The Senior Officer, in flannels, was swinging Indian
clubs on the miniature deck of his craft.  The Lieutenant who had
communicated with the Seaplane made his report; his Senior Officer
nodded and put down his clubs.

"Guessed as much.  They’re coming to raid this place.  Come inboard for
a minute, and tell Forbes and Lawrence and Peters to come too.  We’ll
have a Council of War—Wow, wow!"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The sun set in a great glory of light; then a faint haze, blue-grey,
like a pigeon’s wing, veiled the indeterminate meeting of sea and sky.
It crept nearer, stealing along the horizon, stretching leaden fingers
across the smooth sea.

A fishing smack, becalmed a league from the harbour mouth, faded
suddenly like a wraith into nothingness.

Six Destroyers came out of the mist, heading towards the breakwater.
They were about a mile away when the leading boat altered course
abruptly towards the North, and the others followed close in her wake,
leaving a smear of smoke in the still air. Before their wake had ceased
to trouble the surface—before, almost, the rearmost boat had vanished
into the fog—the periscope of a Submarine slid round the corner of the
breakwater, paused a moment as if in uncertainty, and then headed, like
a swimming snake, in swift pursuit.  Another followed; another, and

                     *      *      *      *      *

A Battleship came slowly out of the haze. She moved with a certain
deliberate sureness, a grey, majestic citadel afloat.  A jet of steam
from an escape and the Ensign at her peak showed up with startling
whiteness against the sombre sea.  An attendant Destroyer hovered on
each quarter, but as they neared the land these darted ahead, obedient
to the tangle of flags at the masthead of the Battleship.  Off the mouth
of the harbour they swung round: the semaphore of one signalled that the
harbour was clear, and they separated, to commence a slow patrol North
and South on the fringe of the mist.  A moment later the Battleship
anchored with a thunder and rattle of cable.  Pipes twittered shrilly,
and boats began to sink from her davits into the water.  Ladders were
lowered, and armed men streamed down the ship’s side.  They were
disembarking troops for a raid.

There was a sudden swirl in the water at the harbour entrance.  Unseen,
a slender, upright stick, surmounted by a little oblong disc, crept
along in the shadow of the breakwater, indistinguishable in the floating
debris awash there on the flood tide.  It turned seaward and sank.

A minute passed; a cutter full of men was pulling under the stern to
join the other boats waiting alongside.  The steel derrick, raised like
a huge warning finger, swung slowly round, lifting a steamboat out into
the water! From the boats afloat came the plash of oars, an occasional
curt order, and the rattle of sidearms as the men took their places.

Then a signalman, high up on the forebridge, rushed to the rail, bawling

A couple of hundred yards away the dark stick had reappeared.  Almost
simultaneously two trails of bubbles sped side by side towards the flank
of the Battleship.  There was a sudden tense silence.  The Destroyer to
the Northward sighted the menace and opened fire with blank on the
periscope from her 12-pounders.

"Bang! ... Bang!  Bang!"

The men in the boats alongside craned their necks to watch the path of
the approaching torpedoes.  The Commander standing at the gangway
shrugged his shoulders and turned with a grim smile to the Captain.

"They’ve bagged us, sir."

A dull concussion shook the after part of the ship, and the pungent
smell of calcium drifted up off the water on to the quarterdeck.

"Yes," said the Captain.  He stepped to the rail, and stood looking down
at the spluttering torpedoes with the noses of their copper collision
heads telescoped flat, as they rolled drunkenly under the stern.

The Submarine thrust her conning-tower above the surface, and from the
hatchway appeared a figure in the uniform of a Lieutenant.  He climbed
on to the platform with a pair of handflags, and commenced to signal.

The Post-Captain on the quarter-deck of the Battleship raised his glass,
made an inaudible observation, and lowered it again.

"Claim-to-have-put-you-out-of-action," spelt the handflags.  The Captain
smiled dryly and lifted his cap by the peak with a little gesture of
greeting; there was answering gleam of teeth in the sunburnt face of the
Lieutenant across the water.  The Captain turned to his Commander.  "But
he needn’t have torpedoed his own father," he said, as if in
continuation of his last remark.  "The penalty for marrying young, I

The Submarine recovered her torpedoes and returned to harbour.  Her
Commanding Officer summoned his Sub-Lieutenant, and together they delved
in a cupboard; followed the explosion of a champagne cork.  Glasses
clinked, and there was a gurgling silence.

"Not bad work," said the Sub-Lieutenant, "bagging your Old Man’s ship."

"Not so dusty," replied the Lieutenant in command of the Submarine,

She was a brand-new Battleship, and had cost a million and
three-quarters.  It was his twenty-fourth birthday.


                          *THE NIGHT-WATCHES.*

"Out pipes!  Clear up the upper deck!"  The Boatswain Mate moved forward
along the lee side of the battery repeating the hoarse call.  Slowly the
knots of tired men broke up, knocking the ashes out of their pipes, or
pinching their cigarette-ends with horny fingers before economically
tucking the remnants into their caps.  A part of the Watch came aft,
sweeping down the deck, coiling down ropes for the night.  Then, as the
bell struck, the shrill wail of the pipe rose again above the sound of
the wind and waves. It grew louder and shriller, and died away: then,
rising again, changed to another key and ended abruptly.  It was the
sailor’s Curfew—"Pipe down."

On the crowded mess-decks, where scrubbed canvas hammocks swung with the
roll of the ship above the mess-tables, the ship’s company was turning
in.  A struggle with a tight-fitting jumper, which, rolled up in company
with a pair of trousers, was tucked under the tiny horse-hair pillow; a
pat to the mysterious pockets lining the "cholera-belt," to reassure a
man that his last month’s pay was still intact, and then, with a
steadying hand on the steel beam overhead, one after another they swung
themselves into their hammocks and fell a-snoring.

Aft in the Gunroom an extra half-hour’s lights had been granted in
honour of somebody’s birthday, and the inmates of the Mess were still
gathered round the piano.  It was a war-scarred instrument: but it
served its purpose, albeit the hero of the evening—in celebration of his
advance into the sere and yellow leaf—had emptied a whisky-and-soda into
its long-suffering interior.  The musician, his features ornamented by a
burnt-cork moustache, thumped valiantly at the keys.

    "And then there came the Boatswain’s Wife,"

roared the young voices.  It was an old, old song, familiar to men who
were no longer even memories with the singers and their generation.  But
its unnumbered verses and quaint, old-world jingle had survived
unchanged the passing of "Masts and Yards," and were even then being
handed on into the era of the hydroplane and submarine.

"Ten o’clock, gentlemen!" said the voice of the Ship’s Corporal at the
door.  The Sub. eyed him sternly.  "You may get yourself a glass of
beer, Corporal," and thereby won a five-minutes’ respite.  Then——

"Out lights, please, gentlemen," again broke in upon the revels.

"Corporal, will you——"

The man shook his head with a grim smile. "Come along, please,
gentlemen, or you’ll get me ’ung."

Reluctantly the singers withdrew, drifting by twos and threes to the
steerage flat where their hammocks swung.  The Ship’s Corporal switched
off the lights and locked the gun-room door.  "I likes to see ’igh
sperits meself," he admitted to the yawning Steward who accompanied him
out of the Mess.  The Gunroom Steward’s reply was to the effect that you
could have too much even of a good thing, and he retired gloomily to the
pantry, where, in company with a vast ham and the gunroom crockery, he
spent most of his waking hours.

In the nearly deserted Wardroom a rubber of bridge was still in
lingering progress; a sea raced frothing past the thick glass of a
scuttle, and one of the players raised his eyes from his hand.  "Blowing
up for a dirty night," he observed.  A Lieutenant deep in an arm-chair
by the fire lifted his head.  "It’s sure to—my middle watch."  He closed
the book he was reading and stood up, stretching himself.  Then with a
glance at the clock he moved towards the door.  As he opened it the
Senior Engineer came into the Mess. His face was drawn with tiredness,
and there were traces of dust round his eyes. He pulled off a pair of
engine-room gloves, and, ordering a drink, thoughtfully rolled a
cigarette.  At the sound of his voice the Engineer Commander looked up
from the game and raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question to his
subordinate.  The Senior Engineer nodded.  "Yes, sir, she’s all right
now; I don’t think she’ll give any more trouble to-night."  He finished
his drink and sought his cabin.  He had had three hours’ sleep in the
last forty-eight hours, and hoped, as he undressed, that the infernal
scrap-heap would hold together till he’d had a bit more.

The night wore on, and one by one the inmates of the Wardroom drifted to
their respective cabins.  Outside the Captain’s cabin the sentry
beguiled the tedium of the vigil by polishing the buckle of his belt.
Every now and again he glanced at the clock.

At last the hands pointed to a quarter to twelve.  In fifteen minutes
his watch would be over.  He buckled on his belt and resumed his
noiseless beat.  Occasionally from some cabin or hammock the snore of a
tired sleeper reached his ears.  The rifles, stowed upright round the
aft-deck, moved in their racks to the measured roll of the ship, with a
long-drawn, monotonous rattle, like a boy’s stick drawn lightly across
area railings.

A tread sounded overhead, and a figure carrying a lantern came lightly
down the hatchway.  It was the Midshipman of the First Watch, calling
the reliefs.  He descended to the steerage flat, and bending down under
the hammocks of his sleeping brethren, knocked at the door of one of the
cabins. There was a lull in the stertorous breathing, in the warm, dim

"Ten minutes to twelve, sir!"  The inmate grunted and switched on his
light.  "All right," he growled.

The boy moved off till he came to a hammock slung by the armoured door.
He ranged up beside it and blew lightly into the face of the sleeper.

"Jimmy!  Ten to twelve!"

The occupant of the hammock opened one eye.

"’Ll right," he murmured sleepily, and closed it again.

The Midshipman of the First Watch eyed him suspiciously.

"No you don’t!"  He shook the hammock. "Wake up, you fat-headed
blighter, or I’ll slip you."  Then, changing his tone to a wheedling
one: "Come on, Jimmy, it’s a lovely night—much more healthy on the
bridge than fugging in your beastly hammock."

His relief said something under his breath, and emerged shivering from
the blankets, blinking in the light of the lantern.  Once his feet were
fairly on the deck, the other turned and scampered up the ladder again.

The bell struck eight times as the Lieutenant and Midshipman of the
Middle Watch climbed the ladder to the fore bridge.  The Fleet was
steaming in two divisions, with a flotilla of destroyers stationed on
the beam.  Beyond them the silhouette of an island was just visible in
the pale moonlight.

At the last stroke of the bell the pipe of the Boatswain’s Mate shrilled
out, calling the Middle Watch.  "A-a-all the starboard watch!  Seaboats,
crews, and reliefs fall in!" Fore and aft the ship the mantle of
responsibility changed wearers.  Sentries, seamen, stokers, signalmen,
their tale of bricks complete for a few hours, turned over to their
reliefs and hurried to their hammocks.

On the bridge the two Lieutenants walked up and down for a few minutes,
while the newcomer received details of the course and speed of the Fleet
and the Captain’s orders for the night.  Then the Officer of the Watch
that was ended unslung his binoculars and turned towards the ladder.

"I think that’s all....  She’s keeping station very well now, but they
had a bit of trouble in the Engine-room earlier in the Watch.  Captain
wants to be called at daybreak.  Good-night."


The Midshipman of the Watch was already in position on the upper bridge,
settling down to his four hours’ vigil with a sextant on the lights of
the next ship ahead.  From the battery below came the voice of the
Corporal of the Watch mustering the hands.  Overhead the wind thrummed
in the shrouds and halliards: the steady throb of the engines beat out
an accompaniment—a deep _pizzicato_ accompaniment as if from some mighty
bass-viol floating up through the open casings—and, somehow dominating
all other sounds, the ceaseless swish and murmur of the waves breaking
along the ship’s side.

The Officer of the Watch crossed over to the Midshipman’s side.  "Are we
in station all right?"

The boy lowered the sextant: "Yes, sir, quite steady."

"Right: give me the sextant and go and brew some cocoa in the
chart-house.  There’s a spirit-lamp there."

The Midshipman vanished and reappeared a few minutes later with two cups
of steaming beverage.  They drank together, gulping it hastily to warm

"A-ah!" sighed the Lieutenant gratefully. "That’s better.  Now put the
cups back, and come and show me Arcturus—if you have shaken off your fat

                     *      *      *      *      *

A couple of hours passed.  The Midshipman of the Watch, accompanied by
the Corporal with a lantern, had gone his rounds of the mess-decks and
cell-flat.  The seaboat’s crew had gone through an undress rehearsal of
"Man overboard!" and were huddled yarning in the lee of the forecastle
screen.  Twice the ship had crept a shade out of her appointed station
in the line, and, when the telegraph had rung the trouble to the
Engine-room below, stolen back to her appointed bearing.  Once the Fleet
altered course majestically to avoid a fishing-fleet as it lay spread
over the waters, a confusion of flares and bobbing lights.

The bridge was in darkness, save for the faint glow of the binnacle that
threw into relief the rugged features of the Quartermaster at the wheel.
The face might have been that of a bronze statue, but for a slight
movement of the jaws as he thoughtfully chewed his quid.  Suddenly a
light at the masthead of the Flagship began to blink hurriedly.  A
signalman stepped out of the lee of the chart-house and rattled the key
of the masthead flashing lamp.  On all sides the other ships began
blinking in answer to the Admiral’s call.  Presently the Yeoman spoke: a
rocket soared up into the night ahead of them.  The Lieutenant put his
mouth to the voice-pipe and gave a clear spoken order, which the
telegraph-man repeated: somewhere overhead a bell rang in answer from
the engine-room.

The Fleet had increased speed.

The breeze freshened, and the men on the bridge ducked their heads as
from time to time a shower of spray drifted over the weather-screens.
The Midshipman of the Watch lowered his sextant and sniffed longingly,
his nose in the air; the off-shore wind had brought with it a hint of
heather and moist earth.  Then, with a little sigh, he steadied his
sextant again on the lights of the next ahead.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The sky was turning pale in the East, and the chilly dawn crept over a
grey sea.  The faces of the men on the bridge slowly became
distinguishable.  They were the faces of the Morning Watch, wan in the
growing light.

The Lieutenant rubbed the stubble on his chin and turned his glasses on
a school of porpoises chasing each other through the waves.  The sky
astern changed gradually from grey to lilac.  Low down on the horizon a
little belt of cloud became slowly tinged with pink.  Out of a hen-coop
on the booms the shrill crow of a newly-awakened cockerel greeted
another day.  Then from the mess-deck, drifting up hatchway and
ventilating cowl, came the hoarse bellow—

"’Eave out, ’eave out, ’eave out!  Show a leg there, show a leg!  ’Sun’s
a-scorching your eyes out!..."

The look-out in the foretop watched the antics of a small land-bird
balancing itself on the forestay.

"Poor little bloke," he muttered, blowing on his benumbed fingers,
"’spect’s you wants yer breakfus’—same’s me!"


                          *A ONE-GUN SALUTE.*

"Every person subject to this Act who shall strike ... or lift up any
weapon against his superior officer in the execution of his office,
shall be punished with Death or such other punishment as is hereinafter
mentioned."—Sec. 16, _Naval Discipline Act_.

In Official eyes—even in eyes anxious to condone—illicit rum and the
unreasoning passion of a Celtic temperament were the sole causes of the
trouble.  Yet a man may fight Destiny in the shape of these evils and
still make a very fair show of it.  It was the addition of the third
factor that in this case overtipped the scales.

Her red, untidy hair was usually screwed into wisps of last night’s
’Football Herald.’  She had green, provocative eyes that slanted upwards
ever so slightly at the corners, and coarse, chapped hands—useful hands,
as many an overbold Ordinary Seaman had discovered to his fuddled
amazement, but in no wise ornamental.  Her speech was partly Lower-deck,
partly Barrack-room, softened withal by the broad West Country burr; her
home was an alehouse in an obscure back street near Devonport Dockyard.

She was in no sense of the word a "nice" girl; but she was tall,
deep-bosomed, and broad of hip, and appealed inordinately to Ivor
Jenkins, Stoker 1st Class of His Majesty’s Navy, who was dark and
undersized, and had lately developed a troublesome cough.

The recreations of a man who, on a daily rate of pay of 2s. 1d.,
contrives to support a bed-ridden mother and a consumptive sister,
cannot perforce partake of the elaborate.  Ivor, denied a wider choice,
was therefore content to spend as much of his watch ashore as a
jealously eked-out pint would allow, at the "Crossed Killicks."  For
many weeks past, alternate nights had found the little man perched on a
three-legged stool in a corner of the bar, raging inwardly at an
unnumbered host of rivals, dumbly grateful for such crumbs of
recognition as Arabella, from behind the beer handles, was pleased to
fling him.

The sailor-man a-wooing usually conducts his financial affairs with an
open-handed generosity calculated to make a ministering angel pensive.
In consequence, Ivor, who could not afford to back his protestations by
invitations to the Hippodrome, whelk-suppers, and the like, dropped by
degrees more and more out of the running.  At first the girl gave him
encouragement—not the vague, nebulous coquetry Mayfair recognises as
such, but an intimate familiarity extended to slaps on the nose (boko),
and once a dash of swipes down the back of his neck as Ivor stooped to
recover a broken pipe.  But nothing came of it—not even a penn’orth of
fish-and-chips.  Accustomed to tribute tendered with a lavish hand,
Arabella decided that this must be a "proper stinge,"—one, moreover,
niggardly in his consumption of beer, and (since there was the good of
the house to be considered) to be dealt a lesson in due season.

"Bella! ... Give us a kiss!"

Save for Ivor and the girl, the squalid bar was deserted.  She paused in
the act of replacing a bottle on the shelf behind her, and looked over
her shoulder, half-surprised, half-contemptuous.  A beam of afternoon
sunlight slanted through the dusty panes and caught the greenish feline
eyes and ruddy hair, innocent for once of curl-papers.

"Wot? ... Me—kiss—yu!"  She spoke slowly, and flung each word like a
whip-lash at the soul of Ivor Jenkins.

"Ah, yus, Bella—jest one.  There ain’t——"

"Mai dear laife!  Yu ain’t ’arf got no neck!"  She turned with her hands
on her hips and regarded him with a smile on her thin lips, measuring
his undersized stature with her eyes.  "I only kisses men—yu don’ even
drink laike no man, yu don’.  ’Sides, wot’ve ’ee done for us tu kiss
’ee?  Us laikes men wot does things, yu know."

Ivor winced, but never took his smouldering eyes from the girl.  "I’d do
anything for you," he said tensely, "so I would," and coughed abruptly.

She laughed and fell to wiping the sloppy counter.  "Them as wants mai
kisses earns un.  Same’s Pete Worley: broke out of uns ship, un did, tu
take I tu theatre.  An’ w’en th’ escort commed tu fetch un back, Pete un
laid un out laike nine-pins!  Proper man, un was!"  She surveyed Ivor,
perched smoking on his stool, and a sudden gleam came into her eyes.

"Yeer!—us knows of a kiss goin’ beggin’ tu-morrow afternoon."  She
leaned across the counter with a dangerous tenderness in her rather
hoarse voice, "If so be as a man (she laid a slight intonation on the
word) as’t leave tu go tu Dockyard Bank for’n hour, an’ slipped out,

It was his watch on board, as she knew; but she had also noted the red
Good Conduct Badge on his arm, and chose it instead of the accustomed
tribute he had denied her.  Then her eyes hardened like agates.  "Simly
yu ain’t got no money tu bank, though?"

"Aye," said Ivor slowly; "aye, indeed I have.  Three poun’."  It was his
sheet-anchor, saved (how Heaven and he alone knew) that his mother might
eventually be buried with that circumstance which is dearer to the
hearts of the Welsh than life itself.

The girl nodded, and laid her hand caressingly on his sleeve.  "Tha’s
right, mai dear. Yu get leave tu go tu bank, an’ slip along ’ere.
Tu-morrow afternoon ’bout five—will ’ee now?"  She looked at him from
beneath tawny lashes.

Ivor finished his beer and wiped his mouth musingly on the back of his
hand.  The girl thought he was considering the Good Conduct Badge: as a
matter of fact Ivor was wondering how the Police at the Dockyard Gate
might be circumvented.

"’Course," she said indifferently, turning away, "ef yu’m ’feered——"

The man flushed darkly and stood up. "You’ll see," he replied, and went
out through the swing-doors in a gust of coughing.  It had been worrying
him a good deal lately, that cough.


The short November afternoon was drawing to a close as Ivor left the
Dockyard Bank with a shining sovereign gripped tightly in his trousers
pocket.  Dusk was settling down on the lines of store-houses, and from
the Hamoaze below came the hoot of syrens that told of a fog sweeping in
from the Channel. Ivor strolled across the cobbles to where the
figurehead of a bygone frigate lifted an impassive countenance, and from
the shelter of its plinth he surveyed the gateway.  The main entrance
was closed, and the narrow door, that only admitted the passage of one
person at a time, was guarded by a watchful policeman.  It seemed as if
nothing short of a miracle would get a man in uniform through without a

Presently a bell in some neighbouring tower struck the hour, and the
waiting man turned in the direction of the sound.  The ships in the
lower yard were invisible, only their top-masts appeared out of a fog
that came slowly swirling in from the sea.  Higher and higher it crept;
then suddenly the policeman at the gate was blotted out, and the wall
became a towering blackness that loomed up through the vapour.  Still
Ivor waited, holding his sovereign tightly, and wrestling with a cough
that threatened every minute to betray him. Some parties of liberty-men
going on leave tramped past: he heard the gates open and saw for a
moment the glare of the streets beyond.  A couple of officers in plain
clothes appeared suddenly into the blurred circle of his vision and were
swallowed again by the blackness.  "What a fog!" he heard one say.  The
other laughed, and grumbled something about being glad he was not
Channel groping.  Their voices died away, and Ivor emerged to
reconnoitre, only to scurry back into shelter as a telegraph boy on a
bicycle steered a devious course past him across the cobbles.  The
little disc of light from his lamp zigzagged to and fro for a minute and
was gone.  Then Ivor heard the rumble of wheels and the clatter of a
horse’s hoofs: the lights of a four-wheeler passed him and stopped.  The
policeman was unbolting the gates.

It was Ivor’s chance, and, realising it, he slipped up beside the cab.
Inside was a figure muffled in a greatcoat, above which he caught a
glimpse of a clean-shaven, impatient face.  Presently the inmate lowered
the further window and leant out, effectually interposing his body as a
screen between Ivor and the guardian of the gate.

"Hurry up," he called; "I’ve got a train to catch."

The gates swung slowly back, the cab rumbled through, and with it passed
Ivor Jenkins.  Then for the first time he relinquished his grip on his
sovereign, and permitted himself the luxury of a fit of unchecked

"Bilked ’im," he gasped when he got his breath again, half-awed at the
ease with which he found himself in the strangely unfamiliar streets.
At the corner of the side-street he turned and looked back at the grim
wall.  In the signal-tower that loomed above it into the murky sky the
yeoman on watch had just tapped the key of the flashing lamp to test the
circuit.  To Ivor it seemed as if Fate had winked at him, solemnly and

                     *      *      *      *      *

Ivor pushed through the swing-doors of the "Crossed Killicks" and looked
hastily round the bar.

"’Ullo!...." he ejaculated blankly. "W’ere’s Bella?"

The girl behind the counter, a short, stout woman in a purple plush
bodice, tossed her head.  "’Er a’ternoon orf," she explained tartly.

"Aye, but—w’ere’s she gorn?"

"Walkin’ out with a Blue Marine.  ’Ippodrome, I think, they was goin’."

Ivor sat down and fumbled blindly in the lining of his cap for his pipe.
Save for a spot of colour on either cheek-bone, his face was an ugly

"Fine upstanding feller, ’e was too," added the barmaid, weighing Ivor
in the balance of comparison, and finding him somewhat wanting.  Ivor
nodded dully, and for a while examined with apparently absorbed interest
an advertisement on the wall opposite. Passion surged through him in
waves that made the skin of his forehead tingle.  So she’d bilked him
after all: given him the go-by for a Blue Marine!  Ivor knew him too,
... had once even stood him a drink....  The Adam’s-apple in his throat
worked like a piston.

Presently the girl behind the bar looked up from her occupation of
drying glasses and eyed him curiously; but all she saw was a small dark
man, who sucked hard at an empty pipe, one fist clenched tightly in his
trousers pocket, staring hard at an advertisement for somebody’s whisky.

At length, out of the chaos of his thoughts, two courses of action took
shape and presented themselves for consideration.  One was to bash the
Blue Marine into irrecognition; the other was to get mercifully drunk as
soon as possible.  The Blue Marine, Ivor remembered, scaled a matter of
fourteen stone, so he chose the latter alternative, and for thirty-six
hours Oblivion, as understood by men of His Majesty’s Forces, received
him into her arms.


"Did remain absen’ over leave thirty-six tours, under haggravated
circumstances," declaimed the Master-at-Arms.

It was the first time Ivor had broken his leave for three years.  His
head ached intolerably: he felt sick, too, and heard as from an infinite
distance the cool, crisp tones of the Commander, who spoke sternly of
the penalties attached to "not playing the game."  Ivor listened
sullenly.  It was another and an older game he had tried to play,—a game
in which Fate seemed to hold most of the trumps.  There was a good deal
more in the same strain about the abuse of privileges, and it all ended
in his being placed in the Captain’s Report, to stand over till next

At dinner his resentment against the Universe in general swelled into an
excited flood of lower-deck jargon.  In particular, he poured out
invective on the perfidy of Woman, and 43 Mess, with the peculiar
understanding vouched in the matter to men who go down to the sea in
ships, sucked its teeth in sympathetic encouragement.

"I’d serve ’er to rights," said a youthful Second-Class Stoker darkly.
He removed the point of his clasp-knife from his mouth, whither it had
conveyed a potato, and illustrated with a gesture an argument certain of
his feminine acquaintances in the Mile End Road were supposed to have
found conclusive.

"Don’t you take on, Taff," said another, pushing over his pannikin of
rum.  "’Ave a rub at this lot."  Ivor finished his sympathiser’s tot,
and several others that were furtively offered him—for he was a popular
little man among his messmates.  But spirit—even "three-water" rum—is
not the soundest remedy for an alcoholic head.  It set him coughing, and
deepened the sense of injury that rankled within him.

"Wot you wants," said a Leading Stoker, "is to run about an’ bite
things, like.  You go on deck an’ ’ave a smoke."  He knew the
danger-signals of a mess-deck with the intimacy of seventeen years’
experience, and Ivor went sullenly.  But it was a dangerous man that
stopped at the break of the forecastle to light his pipe.

"Well," he said presently, "what d’you reckon I’ll get whateffer?"  His
"Raggie" considered the situation.  "Couldn’t rightly say; there’s the
Jauntie[#] over by the ’atchway—go ’long an’ ask ’im."  Ivor smoked in
silence for a moment, then nodded, and stepping through the wreaths of
tobacco smoke, touched the Master-at-Arms on the shoulder. The latter,
who was listening to a story related by the Ship’s Steward, was a small
man, with a grim vinegary face.  He turned sharply—

[#] Master-at-Arms.

"Well?" he said curtly.

Now Ivor had stepped across the deck, honestly intending to ask the
probable extent of the punishment the Captain would award him for
breaking his leave.  The suddenness with which the Master-at-Arms turned
jarred his jangled nerves; the sour face opposite him was the face of
the man who, on the Lower Deck, represented Law, Order, and Justice,
things Ivor knew to be perverse and monstrous mockeries.  His brain swam
with the fumes of the thirty-six hours’ debauch, reawakened by his
messmate’s rum. A sudden insane rage closed down on him like a mist,
leaving him conscious only of the Master-at-Arms’ face, as in the centre
of a partly fogged negative, very distinct, and for an instant
imperturbable and maddening....  Yet, as Ivor struck, fair and true
between the eyes, he somehow realised that not even now had he got level
with Fate.


A man seated in the foremost cell raised an unshaven face from his hands
as the sullen report of a gun reached him through the open scuttle.  For
a while he speculated dully what it was for; then with curious
disinterestedness remembered that it was the court-martial gun, and that
he, Ivor Jenkins, was that day to be tried for an offence the extreme
penalty for which is Death.

They said he’d slogged the Jauntie.  For a while he had been, dazed and
incredulous, but as the testimony of innumerable witnesses seemed to
leave no doubt about the matter, Ivor accepted the intelligence with
stoical unconcern.  Personally he had no recollection of anything save a
great uproar and a sea of excited faces appearing suddenly on all sides
out of a red mist....  However, there were the witnesses, and, moreover,
there was still an unexplained tenderness about his knuckles.

"I pleads guilty," was all the prisoner’s friend (a puzzled and
genuinely sympathetic Engineer Lieutenant) could get out of him.

"Well, I should have thought you were the last man to have done such a
thing in the whole of the ship’s company."

"Same ’ere, sir," said Ivor, and fell a-coughing.

Subsequent proceedings bewildered and finally bored him.  They thrust
documents upon him, wherein he found his name coupled to the
incomprehensible prefix "For that he," and his misdemeanour described in
a style worthy of the ’Police Budget.’  The Chaplain visited him and
spoke words of reproof in a kindly and mechanical tone.  For the rest,
he was left to himself throughout the long days; to cough and cough
again, to watch the light grow and fade, to count the stars in the
barred circle of the scuttle, and to the recollection of green, slanting
eyes vexed by dusty sunlight in their depths....

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Have you any objection to any members of this Court?"

Ivor started at the question and looked round the cabin.  Till then he
had not noticed his surroundings much.  A Captain and several Commanders
in frock-coats and epaulettes were seated round a baize-covered table;
they were enclosed by a rope covered with green cloth, secured
breast-high to wooden pillars, also covered with green cloth. It was the
Captain’s fore-cabin, and the bulkheads were covered with paintings of
ships. One of these in particular—a corvette close-hauled—arrested
Ivor’s attention.  The Deputy Judge-Advocate, a Paymaster with a
preternaturally grave face and slightly nervous manner, repeated his

"Do you object to being tried by any of the Officers present on the
Court?"  Ivor moistened his lips; why on earth should they expect him to
object to them?  An unknown Master-at-Arms standing beside him with a
drawn sword nudged him in the ribs.

"No, sir."

The Captains and Commanders then rose with a clank of swords, and swore
to administer justice without partiality, favour, or affection, in tones
that for a moment brought Ivor visions of a stuffy chapel (Ebenezer,
they called it) in far away Glamorganshire.  Then the Judge-Advocate
turned to him again.

"You need not plead either ’Guilty’ or ’Not Guilty.’  But if you wish to
plead ’Guilty’ you may do so now."

At last: "Guilty," said Ivor Jenkins.

For an instant there was utter silence. The junior Commander stirred
slightly and glanced at the clock: he would have time for that round of
golf after all.

The Prisoner’s Friend then gave evidence, and Ivor experienced his first
sensation of interest at hearing himself described as an excellent
working hand, who had never given anything but satisfaction to his
superiors.  A perspiring and obviously embarrassed Chief Stoker

"The last man in the ship I’d ’a’ thought ’ud do such a thing," he
maintained.  Ivor glanced at him indulgently, as one who hears an
oft-repeated platitude, and resumed his study of the corvette

"Clear the Court," said the President briskly.  Ivor found himself once
more in the lobby, sitting between his escort.  One, a kindly man,
pressed a small, hard object into his hand.  Ivor nodded imperceptible
thanks, and under cover of a cough, conveyed it to his mouth.  It was a
plug of Navy tobacco.

A bell rang overhead, and the prisoner was marched back into Court.

"... to be imprisoned with hard labour for the term of twelve calendar
months."  It was over.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Now say ’Ah!’ ... Again! ... Raise your arms ... H’m."  The Surgeon
disentangled himself from his stethoscope and looked Ivor in the eyes.

"My lad," he said bluntly, "it’s Hospital for you—and too late at that."

In the Wardroom later on he met the Engineer Lieutenant.  "I’d make a
better Prisoner’s Friend than ever you will," he remarked.  Pressed for
an explanation, he tapped the stethoscope-case in his pocket.

"Consumption—galloping," he said.

Perhaps Ivor had held the Ace of Trumps after all.


                      *CONCERNING THE SAILOR-MAN.*

"Able Seaman, Seaman Gunner, one Good Conduct Badge."  Thus, with a
click of unaccustomed boot-heels, he might describe himself at the
monthly "Muster by open-list."  In less formal surroundings, however, he
is wont to refer to himself as a "matlow," a designation not
infrequently accompanied by fervid embellishments.

Occasionally he serves to adorn the moral of a temperance tract: a
reporter, hard pressed for police court news, may record one of his
momentary lapses from the paths of convention ashore.  Otherwise
Literature knows him not.

Generally speaking, his appearance is familiar enough, though it is to
be feared that the world—the unfamiliar world of streets and a shod
people, of garish "pubs" and pitfalls innumerable—does not invariably
see him at his best.  The influence of the Naval Discipline Act relaxes
ashore, and not unnatural reaction inspires him with a desire to tilt
his cap on the back of his head and a fine indiscrimination in the
matter of liquid refreshment.

But to be appreciated he must be seen in his proper sphere.  On board
ship he is not required to play up to any romantic _rôle_: no one
regards him with curiosity or even interest, and he is in consequence
normal. Ashore, aware of observation, he becomes as unnatural as a
self-conscious child.  A very genuine pride in his appearance is partly
the outcome of tradition and partly fostered by a jealous supervision of
his Divisional Lieutenant.  A score of subtleties go to make up his rig,
and never was tide bound by more unswerving laws than those that set a
span to the width of his bell-bottomed trousers or the depth of his
collar. This collar was instituted by his forebears to protect their
jackets from the grease on their queues.  The queue has passed away, but
the collar remains, and its width is 16 inches, no more, no less.  The
triple row of tape that adorns its edge commemorates (so runs the
legend) the three victories that won for him his heritage; in perpetual
mourning for the hero of Trafalgar, the tar of to-day knots a black silk
handkerchief beneath it. It is doubtful whether he is aware of the
portent of these emblems, for he is not commonly of an inquiring turn of
mind, but they are as they were in the beginning, they must be "just
so," and that for him suffices.

A number of factors go to make his speech the obscure jargon it has been
represented. Recruited from the North, South, East, and West, he brings
with him the dialect he spoke in childhood.  And it were easier to
change the colour of a man’s eyes than to take out of his mouth the
brogue he lisped in his cradle.  A succession of commissions abroad
enriches his vocabulary with a smattering of half the tongues of
Earth—Arabic, Chinese, Malay, Hindustanee, and Japanese: smatterings
truly, and rightly untranslatable, but Pentecostal in their variety.
Lastly, and proclaiming his vocation most surely of all, are the undying
sea phrases and terms without which no sailor can express himself.  Even
the objects of everyday life need translation. The floor becomes a deck,
stairs a hatchway, the window a scuttle or gun-port.  There are others,
smacking of masts and yards, and the "Tar-and-Spunyarn" of a bygone
Navy; they are obsolete to-day, yet current speech among men who at
heart remain unchanged, in spite of Higher Education and the
introduction of marmalade and pickles into their scale of rations.  The
tendency to emphasis that all vigorous forms of life demand, finds
outlet in the meaningless oaths that mar the sailor’s speech.  Lack of
culture denies him a wider choice of adjectives: the absence of privacy
or refinements in his mode of life, and a great familiarity from
earliest youth, would seem an explanation of, if not an excuse for, a
habit which remains irradicable in spite of well-meaning efforts to
counteract it.

The conditions of Naval Service sever his home ties very soon in life.
The isolation from feminine and gentler influences that it demands is
responsible for the curiously intimate friendships and loyalty that
exist on the mess-deck of a man-of-war.  With a friend the blue-jacket
is willing to share all his worldly possessions—even to the contents of
the mysterious little bag that holds his cleaning-rags, brick, and emery
paper.  Since the work of polishing a piece of brass make no great
demand on his mental activity, the sailor chooses this time to "spin a
yarn," and, from the fact that the recipient of these low-voiced
quaintly-worded confidences usually shares his cleaning-rags, the tar
describes his friend as his "Raggie."  To the uninitiated the word
signifies little, but to the sailor it represents all in his hard life
that "suffereth long and is kind."  His love for animals, which is
proverbial, affords but another outlet for the springs of affection that
exist in all hearts, and, in his case, being barred wider scope, are

Outside events have for him but little interest.  So long as he is not
called upon to bear a hand by his divinely appointed superior, while his
ration of rum and stand-easy time are not interfered with, the rise and
fall of dynasties, battle, murder, and sudden death, leave him
imperturbable and unmoved. Only when these are accompanied by
sufficiently gruesome pictorial representations in the section of the
press he patronises can they be said to be of much import to him. But he
dearly loves a funeral.

His attitude towards his officers is commonly that demanded by an
austere discipline, and accompanied more often than not by real
affection and loyalty.  He accepts punishment at the hands of his
Superior in the spirit that he accepts rain or toothache.  Its justice
may be beyond his reasoning, but administered by the Power that rules
his paths, it is the Law, as irrevocable as Fate.

Morally he has been portrayed in two lights.  Idealists claim for him a
guilelessness of soul that would insult an Arcadian shepherd.  To his
detractors he is merely a godless scoffer, rudely antagonistic to
Religion, a brand not even worth snatching from the burning.  Somewhere
midway between these two extremes is to be found the man as he really
is, to whom Religion presents itself (when he considers the matter at
all) a form of celestial Naval Discipline tempered by sentimentality.

But these are generalities, and may not apply to even a fraction of the
men in the Fleet to-day.  Conditions of life and modes of thought on the
Lower Deck are even now changing as the desert sand, and those who live
among sailor-men would hesitate the most to unite their traits in one
comprehensive summary.  It is only by glimpses here and there of
individuals who represent types that one may glean knowledge of the

In the Ship’s Office of a man-of-war are rows of neat brass-bound boxes,
and here are stowed the certificates of the Ship’s Company, those of
each Class—seamen, engine-room ratings, marines, &c., being kept
separately.  At the first sight there is little enough about these
prosaic documents to suggest romance or even human interest to the
ordinary individual.  Yet if you read between the lines a little,
picking out an entry here and there among the hundreds of different
handwritings, you can weave with the aid of a little imagination all
manner of whimsical fancies.  And if, at the end, the study of them
leaves you little wiser, it will be with a quickened interest in the
inner life of the barefooted, incomprehensible being on whose shoulders
will some day perchance fall the burden of your destiny and mine.

The King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions, with a flourish of
unwonted metaphor, refer to the document as "a man’s passport through
life."  The sailor himself, ever prone to generalities, describes his
Certificate as his "Discharge."  In Accountant circles in which the
thing circulates it is known as a "Parchment."

A Service Certificate—to give its official title—is a double sheet of
parchment with printed headings, foolscap size, which is prepared for
every man on first entry into the Service.  At the outset it is
inscribed with his name, previous occupation and description, his
religion, the name and address of his next of kin, and the period of
service for which he engages.

In due course, when he completes his training and is drafted to sea, his
Certificate accompanies him.  As he goes from ship to ship, on pages 2
and 3 are entered the records of his service, his rating, the names of
his ships, and the period he served in each.

On 31st December in each year his Captain assesses in his own
handwriting, on page 4, the character and ability of each man in the
ship.  These fluctuate between various stages from "Very Good" to
"Indifferent" in the former case; "Exceptional" to "Inferior" in the
latter.  Here, too, appear the history of award and deprivation of Good
Conduct Badges; the more severe penalties of wrong-doing, such as cells
and imprisonment.  Here, too, they must remain (for parchment cannot be
tampered with, and an alteration must be sanctioned by the Admiralty) in
perpetual appraisement or reproach until the man completes his
Engagement and his Certificate becomes his own property.

The heading PREVIOUS OCCUPATION shows plainly enough the trades and
classes from which the Navy is recruited, and is interesting, if only
for the incongruity of the entries. They are most varied among the
Stokers’ Certificates, as these men entered the Service later in life
than the Seamen.

_Labourer_ suggests little save perhaps a vision of the Thames
Embankment at night, and the evidence that some one at least found a
solution of the Unemployment problem. But we may be wronging him.
Doubtless he had employment enough.  Yet I still connect him with the
Embankment.  At the bidding of the L.C.C. it was here he wielded pick
and crowbar until the sudden distant hoot of a syren stirred something
dormant within him: the barges sliding down-stream out of a smoky sunset
into the Unknown suggested a wider world.  So he laid down his tools,
and his pay is now 2s. 1d. per diem: from his NEXT OF KIN notation he
apparently supports a wife on it.

_Farm Hand_.  Can you say what led him from kine-scented surroundings
and the swishing milk-pails to the stokehold of a man-of-war?  Did the
clatter of the threshing-machine wake an echo of

    "... the bucket and clang of the brasses
    Working together by perfect degree"?

Perhaps it was the ruddy glow of the hop-ovens by night that he
exchanged for the hell-glare of a battleship’s furnaces.  Or, as a final
solution, was it the later product of these same ovens, in liquid form,
that helped the Recruiting Officer?

_Newspaper Vendor_.  A pretty conceit, that Vendor!  He has changed
vastly since he dodged about the Strand, hawking the world’s news and
exchanging shrill obscenities with the rebuke of policemen and
cab-drivers. But the gutter-patois clings to him yet: and of nights you
may see him forward, seated on an upturned bucket, wringing discords of
unutterable melancholy from a mouth-organ.

_Merchant Seaman—Golf Caddie_.  He spat in the sand-box before making
your tee, and looked the other way when you miss your drive, if he was
as loyal as caddie as he is a sailor.  _Errand Boy—Circus Artiste_.  Of
a surety he was the clown, this last.  His inability to forget his early
training has on more than one occasion introduced him to a cell and the
bitter waters of affliction.  But he is much in demand at sing-songs and
during stand-easy time.

Now here is one with a heavy black line ruled across his record on page
2, and in the margin appears the single letter "K" He is a recovered
deserter.  He "ran," after eight years’ service and stainless record.
Was it some red-lipped, tousle-haired siren who lured him from the paths
of rectitude?  Did the galling monotony and austere discipline suddenly
prove too much for him?  Was it a meeting with a Yankee tar in some
foreign grog-shop that tempted him with tales of a higher pay and
greater independence?  Hardly the latter, I think, because they caught
him, and on page 4 of the tell-tale parchment appears the penalty—90
days’ Detention.

Lastly: _Porter_.  Where on earth did he shoulder trunks and bawl "By
y’r leave"?  Was it amid the echoing vastness of a London terminus, with
its smoke and gloom? Or—and this I think the more probable—was it on
some sleepy branch-line that he rang a bell or waved a flag, collected
tickets, and clattered to and fro with fine effect in enormous hobnail
boots?  Then one fine day ... but imagination falters here, leaving us
no nearer the reason why he exchanged his green corduroys for the jumper
and collar. And if we asked him (which we cannot very well), I doubt if
he could tell himself.

They make a motley collection, these tinkers and tailors and
candlestick-makers, but in time they filter through the same mould, and
emerge, as a rule, vastly improved.  You may sometimes encounter them,
in railway stations or tram-cars, returning on leave to visit a home
that has become no more than an amiable memory.

And some day, maybe, you will advertise for a caretaker, or one to do
odd jobs about the house and garden, whose wife can do plain cooking.
Look out then for the man with tattooed wrists, and eyes that meet yours
unflinching from a weather-beaten face.  He will come to apply in person
for the job—being no great scribe or believer in the power of the pen.
He will arrange his visit so as to arrive towards evening,—this being,
he concludes, your "stand-easy time."  He wastes few words, but from the
breast-pocket of an obviously ready-made jacket he will produce a
creased and soiled sheet of parchment.

It is the record of his life: and after two-and-twenty years through
which the frayed passport has brought him, at forty years of age, he
turns to you for employment and a life wherein (it is his one
stipulation) "there shall be no more sea."


                          *THE GREATER LOVE.*

The sun was setting behind a lurid bank of cloud above the hills of
Spain, and, as is usual at Gibraltar about that hour, a light breeze
sprang up.  It eddied round the Rock and scurried across the harbour,
leaving dark cat’s-paws in its trail: finally it reached the inner mole,
alongside which a cruiser was lying.

A long pendant of white bunting, that all day had hung listlessly from
the main top-mast, stirred, wavered, and finally bellied out astern, the
gilded bladder at the tail bobbing uneasily over the surface of the

The Officer of the Watch leaned over the rail and watched the antics of
the bladder, round which a flock of querulous gulls circled and
screeched.  "The paying-off pendant[#] looks as if it were impatient,"
he said laughingly to an Engineer Lieutenant standing at his side.

[#] A pendant, one-and-a-quarter times the length of the ship, flown by
ships homeward bound under orders to pay off.

The other smiled in his slow way and turned seaward, nodding across the
bay towards Algeciras.  "Not much longer to wait—there’s the steamer
with the mail coming across now."  He took a couple of steps across the
deck and turned.  "Only another 1200 miles.  Isn’t it ripping to think
of, after three years...?"  He rubbed his hands with boyish
satisfaction. "All the coal in and stowed—boats turned in, funnels
smoking—that’s what I like to see! Only the mail to wait for now: and
the gauges down below"—he waggled his forefinger in the air,
laughing,—"like that...!"

The Lieutenant nodded and hitched his glass under his arm.  "Your middle
watch, Shortie?  Mine too: we start working up for our passage trial
then, don’t we?  Whack her up, lad—for England, Home, and Beauty!"

The Engineer Lieutenant walked towards the hatchway.  "What do you
think!" and went below humming—

    "From Ushant to Scilly...

The Lieutenant on watch turned and looked up at the Rock, towering over
the harbour. Above the green-shuttered, pink and yellow houses, and
dusty, sun-dried vegetation, the grim pile was flushing rose-colour
against the pure sky.  How familiar it was, he thought, this great
milestone on the road to the East, and mused awhile, wondering how many
dawns he had lain under its shadow: how many more sunsets he would watch
and marvel at across the purple Bay.

"British as Brixton!"  He had read the phrase in a book once, describing
Gibraltar. So it was, when you were homeward bound. He resumed his
measured pacing to and fro. The ferry steamer had finished her short
voyage and had gone alongside the wharf, out of sight behind an arm of
the mole.  Not much longer to wait now.  He glanced at his wrist-watch.
"Postie" wouldn’t waste much time getting back.  Not all the beer in
Waterport Street nor all the glamour of the "Ramps" would lure him
astray to-night. The Lieutenant paused in his measured stride and
beckoned a side-boy.  "Tell the signalman to let me know directly the
postman is sighted coming along the mole."

He resumed his leisurely promenade, wondering how many letters there
would be for him, and who would write.  His mother, of course, ... and
Ted at Charterhouse. His speculations roamed afield.  Any one else?
Then he suddenly remembered the Engineer Lieutenant imitating the
twitching gauge-needle with his forefinger.  Lucky beggar he was.  There
was some one waiting for him who mattered more than all the Teds in the
world.  More even than a Mother—at least, he supposed....  His thoughts
became abruptly sentimental and tender.

A signalman, coming helter-skelter down the ladder, interrupted them, as
the Commander stepped out of his cabin on to the quarter-deck.

"Postman comin’ with the mail, sir."

A few minutes later a hoist of flags, whirled hurriedly to the masthead,
asking permission to proceed "in execution of previous orders."  What
those orders were, even the paying-off pendant knew, trailing aft over
the stern-walk in the light wind.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Rock lay far astern like a tinted shadow, an opal set in a blue-grey
sea.  Once beyond the Straits the wind freshened, and the cruiser began
to lift her lean bows to the swell, flinging the spray aft along the
forecastle in silver rain.  The Marine bugler steered an unsteady course
to the quarterdeck hatchway and sounded the Officers’ Dinner Call.

    "Officers’ wives eat puddings and pies,
    But sailors’ wives eat skilly..."

chanted the Lieutenant of the impending first watch, swaying to the roll
of the ship as he adjusted his tie before the mirror.  He thumped the
bulkhead between his cabin and the adjoining one.

"Buck up, Shortie!" he shouted; "it’s Saturday Night at Sea!  Your night
for a glass of port."

"Sweethearts and wives!" called another voice across the flat.  "You’ll
get drunk to-night, Snatcher, if you try to drink to all——" the voice
died away and rose again in expostulation with a Marine servant. "...
Well, does it _look_ like a clean shirt...!"

"Give it a shake, Pay, and put it on like a man!"  Some one else had
joined in from across the flat.  The Engineer Lieutenant pushed his head
inside his neighbour’s cabin: "Come along—come along!  You’ll be late
for dinner.  Fresh grub to-night: no more ’Russian Kromeskis’ and ’Fanny

"One second....  Right!"  They linked arms and entered the Wardroom as
the President tapped the table for grace.  The Surgeon scanned the menu
with interest.  "Jasus! Phwat diet!" he ejaculated, quoting from an old
Service story.  "Listen!" and read out—

"Soup: Clear."

"That’s boiled swabs," interposed the Junior Watch-keeper.

"Mr President, sir, I object—this Officer’s unladylike conversation."

"Round of port—fine him!" interrupted several laughing voices.

"Go on, Doc.; what next?"

"Fish: ’Mullets.’"

"Main drain loungers," from the Junior Watch-keeper.  "Isn’t he a little
Lord Fauntleroy—two rounds of port!"

"_Entree_: Russian Kromeskis——"  A roar of protest.


"Mutton cutlets."

"Goat, he means.  What an orgie!  Go on; fain would we hear the worst,
fair chirurgeon," blathered the Paymaster.  "Joint?"

"Joint; mutton or——"

"Princely munificence," murmured the First Lieutenant.  "He’s not a
messman: he’s a—a—what’s the word?"

"Philanthropist.  What’s the awful alternative?"

"There isn’t any; it’s scratched out."  The A.P. and the Junior
Watch-keeper clung to each other.  "The originality of the creature! And
the duff?"


"Ah me! alack-a-day! alas!"  The Paymaster tore his hair.  "I must
prophesy ... _must_ prophesy,—shut up, every one!  Shut up!"  He closed
his eyes and pawed the air feebly.  "I’m a medium.  I’m going to
prophesy.  I feel it coming....  The savoury is ... the savoury
is"—there was a moment’s tense silence—"sardines on toast."  He opened
his eyes.  "Am I right, sir?  Thank you."

The Surgeon leaned forward, and picking up the massive silver shooting
trophy that occupied the centre of the table, handed it to a waiter.

"Take that to the Paymaster, please.  First prize for divination and
second sight.  And you, Snatcher—you’ll go down for another round of
port if you keep on laughing with your mouth full."

So the meal progressed.  The "mullets" were disentangled from their
paper jackets amid a rustling silence of interrogation.  The Worcester
sauce aided and abetted the disappearance of the Russian Kromeskis, as
it had so often done before.  The mutton was voted the limit, and the
rice-pudding held evidences that the cook’s hair wanted cutting.  The
Junior Watch-keeper—proud officer of that functionary’s division—vowed
he’d have it cut in a manner which calls for no description in these
pages.  There weren’t any sardines on toast.  The Philanthropist
appeared in person, with dusky, upturned palms, to deplore the omission.

"Ow! signor—olla fineesh!  I maka mistake!  No have got sardines,

"Dear old Ah Ying!" sighed the Engineer Lieutenant, "I never really
loved him till this minute.  Why did we leave him at Hong-Kong and
embark this snake-in-the-grass.... No sardines...!"

But for all that every one seemed to have made an admirable meal, and
the Chaplain’s "For what we have received, thank God!" brought it to a
close.  The table was cleared, the wine decanters passed round, and once
again the President tapped with his ivory mallet.  There was a little

"Mr Vice—the King!"

The First Lieutenant raised his glass. "Gentlemen—the King!"

"The King!" murmured the Mess, with faces grown suddenly decorous and
grave. At that moment the Corporal of the Watch entered; he glanced down
the table, and approaching the Junior Watch-keeper’s chair saluted and
said something in an undertone. The Junior Watch-keeper nodded, finished
his port, and rose, folding his napkin.  His neighbour, the Engineer
Lieutenant, leaned back in his chair, speaking over his shoulder—

"Your First Watch, James?"

The other nodded.

"Then," with mock solemnity, "may I remind you that our lives are in
your hands till twelve o’clock?  Don’t forget that, will you?"

The Junior Watch-keeper laughed.  "I’ll bear it in mind."  At the
doorway he turned with a smile: "It won’t be the first time your
valuable life has been there."

"Or the last, we’ll hope."

"We’ll hope not, Shortie."

The buzz of talk and chaff had again begun to ebb and flow round the
long table.  The First Lieutenant lit a cigarette and began collecting
napkin-rings, placing them eventually in a row, after the manner of
horses at the starting-post.  "Seven to one on the field, bar one—Chief,
your ring’s disqualified. It would go through the ship’s side. Now, wait
for the next roll—stand by! Clear that flower-pot——"

"Disqualified be blowed!  Why, I turned it myself when I was a student,
out of a bit of brass I stole——"

"Can’t help that; it weighs a ton—scratched at the post!"

The Commander tapped the table with his little hammer—

"May I remind you all that it’s Saturday Night at Sea?" and gave the
decanters a little push towards his left-hand neighbour. The First
Lieutenant brushed the starters into a heap at his side; the faintest
shadow passed across his brow.

"So it is!" echoed several voices.

"Now, Shortie, fill up!  Snatcher, you’d better have a bucket....
’There’s a Burmah girl a-settin’ an’ I know she thinks,’—port, Number
One?" The First Lieutenant signed an imperceptible negation and pushed
the decanter round, murmuring something about hereditary gout.

It was ten years since he had drunk that toast: since a certain tragic
dawn, stealing into the bedroom of a Southsea lodging, found him on his
knees at a bedside....  They all knew the story, as men in Naval Messes
afloat generally do know each other’s tragedies and joys.  And yet his
right-hand neighbour invariably murmured the same formula as he passed
the wine on Saturday nights at sea.  In its way it was considered a
rather subtle intimation that no one wanted to pry into his sorrow—even
to the extent of presuming that he would never drink that health again.

In the same way they all knew that it was the one occasion on which the
little Engineer Lieutenant permitted himself the extravagance of wine.
He was saving up to get married; and perhaps for the reason that he had
never mentioned the fact, every one not only knew it, but loved and
chaffed him for it.

The decanters travelled round, and the First Lieutenant leaned across to
the Engineer Lieutenant, who was contemplatively watching the smoke of
his cigarette.  There was a whimsical smile in the grave, level eyes.

"I suppose we shall have to think about rigging a garland[#] before
long, eh?"

[#] A garland of evergreens is triced up to the triatic stay between the
masts on the occasion of an officer’s marriage.

The other laughed half-shyly.  "Yes, before long, I hope, Number One."

Down came the ivory hammer—

"Gentlemen—Sweethearts and Wives!"

"And may they never meet!" added the Engineer Commander.  In reality the
most domesticated and blameless of husbands, it was the ambition of his
life to be esteemed a sad dog, and that, men should shake their heads
over him crying "Fie!"

The First Lieutenant gathered together his silver rings.  "Now then,
clear the table. She’s rolling like a good ’un.  Seven to one on the
field, bar——"

"Speech!" broke in the Paymaster. "Speech, Shortie!  Few words by a
young officer about to embark on the troubled sea of matrimony.  Hints
on the Home——"

The prospective bridegroom shook his head, laughing, and coloured in a
way rather pleasant to see.  He rose, pushing in his chair.  In the
inside pocket of his mess-jacket was an unopened letter, saved up-to
read over a pipe in peace,

"My advice to you all is——"

"’Don’t,’" from the Engineer Commander.

"Mind your own business," and the Engineer Lieutenant fled from the Mess
amid derisive shouts of "Coward!"  The voice of the First Lieutenant
rose above the hubbub—

"Seven to one on the field—and what about a jump or two?  Chuck up the
menu-card, Pay.  Now, boys, roll, bowl, or pitch ... ’Every time a
blood-orange or a good see-gar’...!"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Officer of the First Watch leaned out over the bridge rails, peering
into the darkness that enveloped the forecastle, and listening intently.
The breeze had freshened, and the cruiser slammed her way into a rising
sea, labouring with the peculiar motion known as a "cork-screw roll":
the night was very dark.  Presently he turned and walked to the
chart-house door: inside, the Navigation Officer was leaning over the
chart, wrinkling his brows as he pencilled a faint line.

"Pilot," said the other, "just step out here a second."

The Navigator looked up, pushing his cap from his forehead.  "What’s

"I think the starboard anchor is ’talking.’  I wish you’d come and
listen a moment."  The Navigator stepped out on to the bridge, closing
the chart-house door after him, and paused a moment to accustom his eyes
to the darkness.  "Dark night, isn’t it?  Wind’s getting up, too...."
He walked to the end of the bridge and leaned out.  The ship plunged
into a hollow with a little shudder and then flung her bows upwards
into, a cascade of spray.  A dull metallic sound detached itself from
the sibilant rushing of water and the beat of waves against the ship’s
side, repeating faintly with each roll of the ship from the
neighbourhood of the anchor-bed. The Navigator nodded: "Yes, ... one of
the securing chains wants tautening, I should say.  ’Saltash Luck’[#]
for some one!"  He moved back into the chart-house and picked up the
parallel-rulers again.

[#] A thorough wetting.

The Lieutenant of the Watch went to the head of the ladder and called
the Boatswain’s Mate, who was standing in the lee of the conning-tower
yarning with the Corporal of the Watch—

"Pipe the duty sub. of the watch to fall in with oilskins on; when
they’re present, take them on to the forecastle and set up the securing
chain of the starboard bower-anchor. Something’s worked loose.  See that
any one who goes outside the rail has a bowline on."

"Aye, aye, sir."  The Boatswain’s Mate descended the ladder, giving a
few preliminary "cheeps" with his pipe before delivering himself of his
tidings of "Saltash Luck" to the duty sub. of the port watch.

The Officer of the Watch gave an order to the telegraph-man on the
bridge, and far below in the Engine-room they heard the clang of the
telegraph gongs.  He turned into the chart-house and opened the ship’s
log, glancing at the clock as he did so. Then he wrote with a stumpy bit
of pencil—

"9.18.  Decreased speed to 6 knots.  Duty Sub. secured starboard

He returned to the bridge and leaned over the rail, straining his eyes
into the darkness and driving spray towards the indistinct group of men
working on the streaming forecastle.  In the light of a swaying lantern
he could make out a figure getting out on to the anchor-bed; another was
turning up with a rope’s end; he heard the faint click of a hammer on
metal.  The ship lurched and plunged abruptly into the trough of a sea.
An oath, clear-cut and distinct, tossed aft on the wind, and a quick

He turned aft and rushed to the top of the ladder, bawling down between
curved palms with all the strength of his lungs.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Engineer Lieutenant who left the Wardroom after dinner did not
immediately go on deck.  He went first to his cabin, where he filled and
lit a pipe, and changed his mess-jacket for a comfortable, loose-fitting
monkey-jacket.  Then he settled down in his armchair, wedged his feet
against the bunk to steady himself against the roll of the ship, and
read his letter.  Often as he read he smiled, and once he blinked a
little, misty-eyed.  The last sheet he re-read several times.

"... Oh, isn’t it good to think of!  It was almost worth the pain of
separation to have this happiness now—to know that every minute is
bringing you nearer.  I wake up in the morning with that happy sort of
feeling that something nice is going to happen soon—and then I realise:
you are coming Home!  I jump out of bed and tear another leaf off the
calendar,—there are only nine left now, and then comes one marked with a
big cross....  Do you know the kind of happiness that hurts?  Or is it
only a girl who can feel it? ... I pray every night that the days may
pass quickly, and that you may come safely."

It was a very ordinary little love-letter, with its shy admixture of
love and faith and piety: the sort so few men ever earn, and so many (in
Heaven’s mercy) are suffered to receive.  The recipient folded it
carefully, replaced it in its envelope, and put it in his pocket.  Then
he lifted his head suddenly, listening....

Down below, the Engine-room telegraph gong had clanged, and the steady
beat of the engines slowed.  With an eye on his wrist-watch he counted
the muffled strokes of the piston....  Decreased to 6 knots. What was
the matter?  Fog?  He rose and leaned over his bunk, peering through the
scuttle.  Quite clear.  He decided to light a pipe and go on deck for a
"breather" before turning in, and glanced at the little clock ticking on
the bulkhead.  Twenty past nine; ten minutes walk on the quarter-deck
and then to bed.  It was his middle watch.

As he left his cabin some one in the Wardroom began softly playing the
piano, and the Paymaster’s clear baritone joined in, singing a song
about somebody’s grey eyes watching for somebody else.  The Mess was
soaking in sentiment to-night: must be the effect of Saturday Night at
Sea he reflected.

He reached the quarter-deck and stood looking round, swaying easily with
the motion of the ship.  The sea was getting up, and the wind blew a
stream of tiny sparks from his pipe.  Farther aft the sentry on the
life-buoys was mechanically walking his beat, now toiling laboriously up
a steep incline, now trying to check a too precipitous descent.  The
Engineer Lieutenant watched him for a moment, listening to the notes of
the piano tinkling up through the open skylight from the Wardroom.

    "I know of two white arms
    Waiting for me ..."

The singer had started another verse; the Engineer Lieutenant smiled
faintly, and walked to the ship’s side to stare out into the darkness.
Why on earth had they slowed down?  A sudden impatience filled him.
Every minute was precious now. Why——

"MAN OVERBOARD.  AWAY LIFEBOAT’S CREW!"  Not for nothing had the Officer
of the Watch received a "Masts and Yards" upbringing; the wind forward
caught the stentorian shout and hurled it along the booms and battery,
aft to the quarter-deck where the little Engineer Lieutenant was
standing, one hand closed over the glowing bowl of his pipe, the other
thrust into his trousers pocket.

The Engine-room telegraph began clanging furiously, the sound passing up
the casings and ventilators into the night; then the Boatswain’s Mate
sent his ear-piercing pipe along the decks, calling away the lifeboat’s
crew.  The sentry on the life-buoys wrenched at the releasing knob of
one of his charges and ran across to the other.

The leaden seconds passed, and the Engineer Lieutenant still stood
beside the rail, mechanically knocking the ashes from his pipe....  Then
something went past on the crest of a wave: something white that might
have been a man’s face, or broken water showing up in the glare of a
scuttle.... A sound out of the darkness that might have been the cry of
a low-flying gull.

Now it may be argued that the Engineer Lieutenant ought to have stayed
where he was.  Going overboard on such a night was too risky for a man
whose one idea was to get home as quickly as possible—who, a moment
before, had chafed at the delay of reduced speed.  Furthermore, he had
in his pocket a letter bidding him come home safely; and for three years
he had denied himself his little luxuries for love of her who wrote

All the same—would she have him stand and wonder if that was a gull he
had heard...?

Love of women, Love of life....!  Mighty factors—almost supreme.  Yet a
mortal has stayed in a wrecked stokehold, amid the scalding steam, to
find and shut a valve; Leper Settlements have their doctors and pastor;
and "A very gallant Gentleman" walks unhesitatingly into an Antarctic
blizzard, to show there is a love stronger and higher even than these.

The Engineer Lieutenant was concerned with none of these fine thoughts.
For one second he did pause, looking about as if for somewhere to put
his pipe.  Then he tossed it on to the deck, scrambled over the rail,
took a deep breath, and dived.

The Marine sentry ran to the side of the ship.

"_Christ!_" he gasped, and forsook his post, to cry the tale aloud along
the seething battery.

The ship shuddered as the engines were reversed, and the water under the
stern began to seethe and churn.  The Commander had left his cabin, and
was racing up to the bridge, as the Captain reached the quarterdeck. A
knot of officers gathered on the after-bridge.

"Pin’s out, sir!" shouted the Coxswain of the sea-boat, and added under
his breath, "Oars all ready, lads!  Stan’ by to pull like bloody
’ell—there’s two of ’em in the ditch...."  The boat was hanging a few
feet above the tumbling water.

"Slip!" shouted a voice from the invisible fore-bridge.  An instant’s
pause, and the boat dropped with a crash on to a rising wave, There was
a clatter and thud of oars in row-locks; the clanking of the
chain-slings, and the boat, with her motley-clad[#] life-belted crew,
slid off down the slant of a wave. For a moment the glare of an electric
light lit the faces of the men, tugging and straining grimly at their
oars; then she vanished, to reappear a moment later on the crest of a
sea, and disappeared again into the darkness.

[#] Any one near the boat responds to the call "Away Life-boat’s crew!"

The Commander on the fore-bridge snatched up a megaphone, shouting

"Pull to starboard, cutter!  Make for the life-buoy light!"

The watchers on the after-bridge were peering into the night with
binoculars and glasses. The A.P. extended an arm and forefinger:
"There’s the life-buoy—there! ... Now—there! D’you see it?  You can just
see the flare when it lifts on a wave....  Ah! That’s better!"

The dazzling white beam from a search-light on the fore-bridge leaped
suddenly into the night.  "Now we can see the cutter—" the beam wavered
a moment and finally steadied. "Yes, there they are....  I say, there’s
a devil of a sea running."

"Ripping sea-boats our Service cutters are," said another, staring
through his glasses. "They’ll live in almost anything; but this isn’t a
dangerous sea.  The skipper ’ll turn in a minute and make a lee for

"Think old Shortie reached the buoy?"

"Probably swimming about looking for the other fellow, if I know
anything of him; who did he go in after?"

"One of the duty sub.—they were securing the anchor or something
forward, and the bowline slipped——"

"By gad!  He’s got him!  There’s the buoy—yes, two of them.  _Good_ old
Shortie.... My God!  _Good_ old Shortie!"  The speaker executed a sort
of war-dance and trod on the Paymaster’s toes.

"When you’ve quite finished, Snatcher.... By the way, what about
hot-water bottles—blankets—stimulants....  First aid: come along!
’Assure the patient in a loud voice that he is safe.’ ... ’Aspect
cheerful but subdued.’ ... I learned the whole rigmarole once!"

From the fore upper bridge the Captain was handling his ship like a

"’Midships—steady!  Stop both!"  He raised his mouth from the voice-pipe
to the helmsman, and nodded to the Officer of the Watch.  "She’ll do
now....  The wind ’ll take her down."

The Commander leaned over the rail and called the Boatswain’s Mate—

"Clear lower deck!  Man the falls!"

The ranks of men along the ship’s side turned inboard, and passed the
ropes aft, in readiness to hoist the boat.  There were three hundred men
on the falls, standing by to whisk the cutter to the davit-heads like a

"They’ve got ’em—got ’em both!" murmured the deep voices: they spat
impatiently. "What say, lads?  Stamp an’ go with ’er?"

"Silence in the battery!  _Marry_!"

The Commander was leaning over the bridge rails; the Surgeon and two
Sick-berth Stewards were waiting by the davits.  Alongside the cutter
was rising and falling on the waves....

"All right, sir!"  The voice of the Coxswain came up as if from the
deep.  They had hooked the plunging boat on somehow, and his thumb-nail
was a pulp....

Three hundred pairs of eyes turned towards the fore-bridge.

"_Hoist away!_"

No need for the Boatswain’s Mate to echo the order; no need for the
Petty Officers’ "With a will, then, lads!"  They rushed aft in a wild
stampede, hauling with every ounce of beef and strength in their bodies.
The cutter, dripping and swaying, her crew fending her off the rolling
ship with their stretchers, shot up to the davits.

"High ’nough!"

The rush stopped like one man.  Another pull on the after-fall—enough.
She was hoisted.  "_Walk back! ... Lie to!_"

A tense silence fell upon the crowded battery: the only sound that of
men breathing hard.  A limp figure was seen descending the Jacob’s
ladder out of the boat, assisted by two of the crew.  Heady hands were
outstretched to help, and the next moment Willie Sparling, Ordinary
Seaman, Official Number 13728, was once more on the deck of a
man-of-war—a place he never expected to see again.

"Ow!" He winced, "Min’ my shoulder—it’s ’urted...."  He looked round at
the familiar faces lit by the electric lights, and jerked his head back
at the boat hanging from her davits.  "_’E_ saved my life—look after
’im.  ’E’s a ... e’s a—bleedin’ ’ero, ..." and Willie Sparling, with a
broken collar-bone, collapsed dramatically enough.

The Engineer Lieutenant swung himself down on to the upper deck and
stooped to wring the water from his trousers.  The Surgeon seized him by
the arm—-

"Come along, Shortie—in between the blankets with you!"

The hero of the moment disengaged his arm and shook himself like a
terrier. "Blankets be blowed—it’s my Middle Watch."

The Surgeon laughed.  "Plenty of time for that: it’s only just after
half-past nine. What about a hot toddy?"

"Lord!  I thought I’d been in the water for hours....  Yes, by Jove! a
hot toddy——"  He paused and looked round, his face suddenly anxious.
"By the way, ... ’any one seen a pipe sculling about...?"

Down below the telegraph gongs clanged, and the ship’s bows swung round
on to her course, heading once more for England, Home, and Beauty.


                      *"A PICTURESQUE CEREMONY."*

"S—— Parish Church was, yesterday afternoon, the scene of a picturesque
ceremony...."—_Local Paper_.

The Torpedo Lieutenant (hereinafter known as "Torps") was awakened by
the June sunlight streaming in through the open scuttle of his cabin.
Overhead the quarterdeck-men were busy scrubbing decks: the grating
murmur of the holystones and swish of water from the hoses, all part of
each day’s familiar routine, sent his eyes round to the clock ticking on
the chest of drawers.

For a while he lay musing, watching with thoughtful gaze the disc of
blue sky framed by the circle of the scuttle; then, as if in obedience
to a sudden resolution, he threw back the bed-clothes and hoisted
himself out of his bunk.  Slipping his feet into a pair of ragged
sandals, he left his cabin and walked along the flat till he came to
another a few yards away; this he entered, drawing the curtain

The occupant of the bunk was still asleep, breathing evenly and quietly,
one bare forearm, with the faint outline of a snake tattooed upon it,
lying along the coverlet.  For a few moments the new-comer stood
watching the sleeper, the corners of his eyes creased in a little smile.
Men sometimes smile at their friends that way, and at their dogs.  The
face on the pillow looked very boyish, somehow, ... he hadn’t changed
much since _Britannia_ days, really; and they had been through a good
deal between then and now. Wholesome, lean old face it was; no wonder a

The sleeper stirred, sighed a little, and opened his eyes.  For a moment
they rested, clear and direct as an awakened child’s, on Torps’ face;
then he laughed a greeting—

"Hullo, Torps!"  He yawned and stretched, and rising on one elbow,
thrust his head out of the scuttle.  "Thank Heaven for a fine day!
Number One back from leave yet?"

"Yes, he’s back: you’re quite safe."

The other lay back in the bunk.  "Has Phillips brought my tea yet?"  He
looked round helplessly.  "What an awful pot-mess my cabin is in.  Those
are presents that came last night—they’ve all got to be packed. What’s
the time?  Why, it’s only half-past seven!  Torps, you are the limit!  I
swear I’ve always read in books that fellows stayed in bed till lunch on
these occasions, mugging up the marriage-service.  I’m not going to get
up in the middle of the night—be blowed if I do!"

Torps lit a cigarette.  "That’s only in books.  We’ll have breakfast,
and take your gear up to the hotel, and then we’ll play nine holes of
golf—just to take our minds off frivolous subjects."

"Golf!  My dear old ass, I couldn’t drive a yard!"

"Well, you’re going to have a try, anyway.  Everything’s arranged that
can be: you aren’t allowed to drink cocktails; you can’t see Her—till
two o’clock.  You’d fret yourself into a fever here in bed—what else do
you think you’re going to do?"

The prospective bridegroom stirred his tea in silence.  "Well, I suppose
there’s something in all that; pass me a cigarette—there’s a box just
there....  Oh, thanks, old bird; don’t quite know why I should be
treated as if I were an irresponsible and feeble-minded invalid, just
because I’m going to be married."

The Best Man laughed.  "How d’you feel about it yourself?"

"H’m....  D’you remember one morning at Kao-chu—was that the name of the
place?  It began to dawn, and we saw those yellow devils coming up, a
thousand or so of the blighters: we had a half-company and no maxim,
d’you remember?  It was dev’lish cold, and we wanted our breakfasts, ...
and we were about sixteen?"

Torps smiled recollection.  "Bad’s that?"

"Very nearly."

"I remember—what they call in the quack advertisements ’That Sickish
Feeling’!  Never mind, turn out and scrape your face; you’ll feel much
better after your bath——"

Outside in the flat the voice of some one carolling drew near—

"_For_ ... it is ... my _wed_—ding _MOR-_ ... ning....!"

The victim groaned.  "Oh Lord!  Now they’re going to start being comic."

"All right; it’s only the Indiarubber Man."[#]  The curtain was drawn
back and a smiling face, surmounted by a shock of ruddy hair, thrust
into the cabin—

[#] Lieutenant for Physical Training Duties.

"’Morning, Guns!  Many happy returns of the day, and all that sort of
thing.  Merry and bright?"

The Gunnery Lieutenant forced a wan smile.  "Quite—thanks."

"That’s right!  And our Torps in attendance with smelling salts....
Condemned man suffered Billington to pinion him without Resistance——"

The bridegroom sat up, searching for a missile.  "Look here, for
goodness’ sake.... That ’Condemned man’ business ’s been done before.
All the people who tell funny stories about fellows being married——"

"Tut, tut!  Tuts in two places!  A pretty business, forsooth!  Sense of
humour going. Beginning of the end.  Fractious.  Tongue furred, for all
we know....  Where’s the Young Doc.?  I suggest a thorough medical
examination before it’s too late——"  Another face appeared grinning in
the doorway. "Why, here he is!  Doc., don’t you think a stringent
medical examination——"

The Gunnery Lieutenant crawled reluctantly out of his bunk.  "You two
needn’t come scrapping in here.  I’m going to shave, and I don’t want to
cut my face off!"

The visitors helped themselves to cigarettes. "We don’t want to scrap:
we want to see you shave, Guns.  Watch him lathering himself with aspen
hand!"  They explored the cardboard-boxes and parcels that littered all
available space.  "Did you ever see such prodigal generosity as the
man’s friends display!  Toast-rack—no home complete without
one—Card-case!"—they probed among the tissue wrappings.  "Case of
pipes.... Handsome ormulu timepiece, suitably inscribed.  My Ghost!
Guns—almost thou persuadest me ..."

"Yes, those things came last night: people are awfully kind——"

The Torpedo Lieutenant intervened.  "Come on, give him a chance—I’ll
never get him dressed with you two messing about."

The Gunnery Lieutenant grinned above the lather at his reflection in the
mirror.  "D’you hear that!  That’s the way he’s been going on ever since
I woke up.  One would think I had G.P.I.!"  The visitors prepared to
depart.  "You have my profound sympathy, Torps," said the Surgeon.  "I
was Best Man to a fellow once—faith, I kept him under morphia till it
was all over.  He was practically no trouble."

"Now I’m going to get my bath," said the Torpedo Lieutenant when the
well-wishers had taken their departure.  "Shove on any old clothes:
we’ll send your full-dress up to the hotel, and your boxes to the house;
and you needn’t worry your old head about anything."

Torps left the cabin; there was a tap at the door and a private of
Marines entered, surveying the Gunnery Lieutenant with affectionate
regard.  "I just come in to see if we was turnin’ out, sir.  Razor all
right?  Better ’ave a ’ot bath this mornin’, sir!"  His master’s
unaccountable predilection for immersing his body in cold water every
morning was a custom that not even twelve years of familiarity had
robbed of its awfulness.  "I strip right down an’ ’ad a bath meself,
sir, mornin’ I was spliced," he admitted, as one who condones generously
an inexplicable weakness, "but it were a ’ot one.  You’d best ’ave it
’ot, sir!"

His master laughed.  "No, thanks, Phillips; it’s all right as it is.
Will you be up at the house this afternoon and lend a hand, after the

The Private of Marines nodded sorrowfully. "I understands, sir.  I bin
married meself—I knows all the routine, as you might say."  He departed
with a sigh that left a faint reminiscence of rum in the morning air,
and the Gunnery Lieutenant proceeded with his toilet, humming a little
tune under his breath. Half an hour later he entered the Wardroom clad
in comfortable grey flannels and an old shooting-coat.  The Mess,
breakfasting, received him with a queer mixture of chaff and solicitude.
The First Lieutenant grinned over a boiled egg: "Guns, sorry I couldn’t
get back earlier to relieve you, but ’urgent private affairs,’ you

"All right, Number One!  As long as you got back before two o’clock this
afternoon, that’s all I cared about."  He helped himself to bacon and
poured out a cup of coffee.

"Marvellous!"  The Indiarubber Man opposite feigned breathless interest
in his actions, and murmured something into his cup about condemned men
partaking of hearty breakfasts.

"Come on, that’s enough of the ’Condemned man’!  You’d better find out
something about a Groomsman’s duties," said the Best Man, coming to the
rescue of his principal.

"Am I a Groomsman?  So I am—I’d forgotten.  What do I do?  Show people
to their seats: ’this way please, madam, second shop through on the
right.’ ... Have you any rich aunts, Guns?  ’Pon my word, I might get
off this afternoon—you never know.  ’Every nice girl loves a sailor....’
Which of the lucky bridesmaids falls to my lot?  Do I kiss the

"You try it on," retorted the prospective husband grimly.’

"Can’t I kiss anybody," inquired the Indiarubber Man plaintively.

"Not if they see you coming, I shouldn’t think," cut in the Paymaster
from behind his paper.

"Then the head waiter and I will retire behind a screen and get quietly
drunk—I don’t suppose anybody will want to kiss him either: they never
do, somehow.  We shall drift together, blighted misogamists...."

The Engineer Commander glowered at the speaker.  "Suppose ye reserve a
little of this unpar-r-ralleled wit——"

"I will, Chief—beg pardon.  But there’s something about a wedding
morning—don’t you know?  Screams-of-fun-and-roars-of-laughter sort of
atmosphere."  He looked round the silent table.  "Now I’ve annoyed
everybody.  Ah, me!  What it is to have to live with mouldy messmates,
..." and the Indiarubber Man drifted away to the smoking-room.

"He ought to keep your little show from getting dull this afternoon,"
said the First Lieutenant.

The Gunnery Lieutenant laughed.  "Yes, it’s pleasant to find some one
who does regard it as a joke.  The only trouble is that his bridesmaid
is my young sister, a flapper from school, and I know he’ll make her
giggle in the middle of the service.  She doesn’t want much
encouragement at any time."  The speaker finished a leisurely breakfast
and filled his pipe.

"Now then, Torps, I’m ready for you and your nine holes...."


The Gunnery Lieutenant sat down and began laboriously dragging on his
Wellington boots.  His Best Man stood in front of the glass adjusting
the medals on the breast of his full-dress coat.  This concluded to his
satisfaction, he picked up a prayer-book from the dressing-table—

"Now, then, Guns, a ’dummy-run,’" and read; "N.  Wilt thou have this

"Why ’N’?" objected the prospective bridegroom.

"Dunno, It says ’N’ here."

"I’ve never heard a parson say ’N,’" ventured the other, "but it’s years
since I saw a wedding—chuck me my braces—Well, go on."  The Best Man

"I know that part.  That’s the ’I will’ business,—by the way, where’s
the ring? Don’t, for Heaven’s sake, let it out of your sight—are my
trousers hitched up too high...?"

"No, they’re all right.  Then you say: ’I, N, take thee, N——’"

"More N’s.  We can’t both be N—must be a misprint...."  He seized the
book.  "Have I got to learn all that by heart? Why don’t they have a
Short Course at Greenwich, or Whaley, or somewhere, about these things.
"I, ’N,’ take thee, ’N’"—he began reading the words feverishly.

"No—that’s all right.  You repeat it after the parson.  And you say, ’I,
John Willie,’ or whatever your various names might be, ’take thee,
Millicent’—d’you see?  Here, let me fix that epaulette."

"Give me a cigarette, for Heaven’s sake."  He hurriedly scanned the
pages.  "Ass I was to leave it so late....  What awful things they talk
about....  Why didn’t I insist on a Registry Office?  Or can’t you get
married over a pair of tongs somewhere—what religion’s that?"

"Don’t know—Gretna Green, or something. It’s too late now.  Do stand
still....  Right! Where’s your sword....  Gloves?"  He stepped back and
surveyed his handiwork, smiling his whimsical, half-grave smile.  For a
few seconds the two men stood looking at each other, and the thoughts
that passed through their minds were long, long thoughts.

"You’ll do," said the Torpedo Lieutenant at length, but there was an
absent look in his eyes, as though his thoughts had gone a long way
beyond the spare, upright figure in blue and gold.  In truth they had:
back fifteen years or more to a moonlit night in the club garden at
Malta.  Two midshipmen had finished dinner (roast chicken, rum-omelette,
"Scotch-woodcock," and all the rest of it), and were experimenting
desperately with two cigars.  It was Ladies’ Night, and down on the
terrace a few officers’ wives were dining with their husbands; the
Flagship’s band was playing softly.

"A fellow must make up his mind, Bill," one of the midshipmen had said.
"It’s either one thing or the other—either the Service or Women.  You
can’t serve both; and it seems to me that the Service ought to come
first."  And there and then they had vowed eternal celibacy for the
benefit of the Navy, upon which, under the good providence of God, the
Honour, Safety, and Welfare of the Nation do most chiefly depend.

Fifteen years ago...!

"You’ll do," repeated the Torpedo Lieutenant in a matter-of-fact tone,
and rang the bell.

Private Phillips of the Royal Marine Light Infantry entered with a
gold-necked bottle and two tumblers.  The cork popped and the two
officers raised their glasses—

"Happy days!" said Torps.

"Salue!" replied the other, and for a moment his eyes rested on his Best
Man with something half-wistful in their regard. "D’you remember
Aldershot...?  The Middles: you seconded me, and we split a bottle

Torps nodded, smiling.  "But this is ’Just before the battle, mother!’"
They moved towards the door, and for a moment he rested his hand on the
heavy epaulette beside his.  "An’ if you make as good a show of this as
you did that afternoon, you won’t come to no ’arm, old son."


They were greeted at the church door by the beaming Indiarubber Man.

"Come along in—spot or plain?—I mean Bride or Bridegroom?  Bride’s
friends on the left and Bridegroom’s on the right—or is it the other way
about?  I’m getting so rattled.... I’ve just put the old caretaker in a
front pew under the impression that it was your rich aunt, Guns!  What a
day, what a day!  Got the ring, Torps?  Here come the Bridesmaids, bless
’em!  Go on, you two, get up into your proper billets....  ’The
condemned man walked with unfaltering step’—oh, sorry, I forgot...."

The Groomsmen slid into their pew with much rattling of sword-scabbards
and nodding of heads and whispering.  On their gilded shoulders appeared
to lie the responsibility of the whole affair.

The Bridegroom took up his appointed place and stood, his hands linked
behind his back, looking down the aisle to where the choir was
gathering.  The church seemed a sea of faces, glinting uniforms, and
women’s finery.  Who on earth were they all?  He had no idea he knew so
many people.... Quite sure Millicent didn’t....  How awful it must be to
have to preach a sermon.... The faint scent of lilies drifted up to
where he was standing.  At his side Torps shifted his feet, and the
ferrule of his scabbard clinked on the aisle.  Dear old Torps! ... How
he must be hating it all.

There was a faint stir at the entrance.  The Bridesmaids’ black velvet
hats and white feathers were bobbing agitatedly.  He caught a glimpse of
a white-veiled figure.  People were turning round, staring and
whispering. Dash it all!  It wasn’t a circus....  What did they think
they were here for?

"There she is," murmured Torps.  "Not much longer now."

The clergyman was giving out the number of a hymn from the back of the
church somewhere, and the deep, sweet notes of the organ poured out over
their heads: then the voices of the choir-boys swelled up, drawing
nearer.... Again the scent of lilies.

"Stand by," from Torps, tensely.

The choir-boys filed past, singing; one had on a red tie that peeped
above his cassock. They glanced at him indifferently as they went by,
their heads on a level with his belt-buckle....  Then the white-veiled
figure on the Colonel’s arm—Millicent: his, in a few short minutes, for
ever and aye....  He drew a deep breath.

"_Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of
God...._"  Torps touched him lightly on the elbow.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"_I, John Mainprice Edgar..._"

"I, John Mainprice Edgar:"

"_Take thee, Millicent..._"

"Take thee, Millicent:"

                     *      *      *      *      *

"_To have and to hold..._"

This was simple enough—"To have and to hold:"

                     *      *      *      *      *

"And thereto I plight thee my troth."

How warm and steady the small hand was, lying in his: then gently
withdrawn.  Torps was trying to attract attention—What was his trouble?
The ring—Of course, the ring....

                     *      *      *      *      *

"_Those whom, God hath joined together let no man put asunder._"

                     *      *      *      *      *

Life’s haven at last!  Or had all life been a cruise within the harbour:
and this the beat to open sea ... The Brave Adventure?

                     *      *      *      *      *

"_The peace of God which passeth all understanding ... remain with you
now and for evermore._"

                     *      *      *      *      *

There was a whisper of silken petticoats, and the clink of swords seems
to fill the church: then, dominating all other sounds for a moment, the
old Colonel blowing his nose vehemently....

Down the aisle again, the organ thundering familiar strains—familiar,
yet suddenly imbued with a personal and intimate message,—Millicent’s
arm resting on his, trembling ever so lightly....

In the warm, bouquet-scented gloom of the vestry they gathered, and
Torps wrung the Bridegroom’s hand in a hard, unaccustomed grip—Torps
with his winning, half-sad smile, and the hair over his temples showing
the first trace of grey....  The bride finished signing the register,
and rose smiling, with the veil thrown back from her fair face.  In
later years he found himself recalling a little sadly (as the happiest
of bachelors may do at times) the queer, shining gladness in her eyes.
He bent and touched the warm cheek with his lips.

Then for a minute every one seemed to fall a-kissing.  Father and
daughter, Mother and son, newly-made brothers- and sisters-in-law sought
each other in turn.  The Bridegroom’s Lady Mother kissed the Indiarubber
Man because no one else seemed to want to, and they were such old
friends.  The Clergyman kissed two of the Bridesmaids because he was
their uncle, and the Colonel (who had stopped blowing his nose and was
cheering up) kissed the other two because he wasn’t.  In the middle of
all this pleasant exercise Torps, who had vanished for a minute,
reappeared to announce that the Arch of Swords was ready and the
carriages were alongside.

So the procession formed up once more: Bride and Bridegroom, the Colonel
and the Bridegroom’s Lady Mother: Torps leading the Bridegroom’s new
sister-in-law (and a very pretty sister-in-law she was), the Flapper and
the Indiarubber Man, a girl called Etta Someone on the Junior
Watch-keeper’s arm, and another called Doris Somebody Else under the
escort of the A.P.  They all passed beneath the arch of naked blades
held up by the Bridegroom’s messmates and friends, to receive a running
fire of chaff and laughing congratulation; to find outside in the golden
afternoon sunshine that the horses had been taken from the
carriage-traces, and a team of lusty blue-jackets, all very perspiring
and serious of mien, waiting to do duty instead.


Private Phillips, R.M.L.I., in all subsequent narrations of the events
of the day—and they were many and varied—was wont to preface each
reminiscence with "Me an’ the Torpedo Lootenant..."  And indeed he did
both indefatigable workers bare justice.  Whether it was opening
carriage doors or bottles of champagne, fetching fresh supplies of
glasses or labelling and strapping portmanteaux, Private Phillips
laboured with the same indomitable stertorous energy.  He accepted
orders with an omniscient and vehement nod of the head; usurped the
duties of enraptured maid-servants with, "You leave me do it, Miss—I bin
married meself.  I knows the routine, as you might say...."

And Torps, superintending the distribution of beer to panting
blue-jackets (whose panting, in some cases, was almost alarming in its
realism); fetching cups of tea for stout dowagers, and ices for giggling
schoolgirls; begging a sprig from the bridesmaids’ bouquets; tipping
policemen; opening telegrams; yet always with an attention ready for the
Bridegroom’s aunt who remembered Guns as such a _little_ boy....
Helpful even to the ubiquitous reporter of the local paper....

"A picturesque ceremony—if I may say so. A _most_ picturesque ceremony."
The reporter would feel for his notebook.  "Might I ask who that tall
Officer is with the medals...? My Paper——" And Torps, with his gentle
manners and quiet smile, would supply the information to the best of his
ability, conscious that at a wedding there are harder lots even than the
Best Man’s....

The Indiarubber Man drifted disconsolately about in the crush, finally
coming to a momentary anchorage in a corner beside his Bridesmaid.

"Miss Betty, no one loves me, and I’m going into the garden"—he dropped
his voice to a confidential undertone—"to eat worms."

The girl giggled weakly.  "Please don’t make me laugh any more!  Won’t
you stay here and have an ice instead?  I’m sure it would be much better
for you."

"Would it, d’you think?  I’ve been watching the sailors drinking beer.
Have you ever seen a sailor drink beer, Miss Betty?  It’s a grim sight."

She shook her head, and there was both laughter and reproach in the
young eyes considering him over the bouquet.  "You forsook me—and a nice
Midshipman had pity on my loneliness and brought me an ice."

The Indiarubber Man eyed her sorrowfully. "I turn my back for a moment
to watch sailors drink beer—I am a man of few recreations—and return to
find you sighing over the memory of another and making shocking bad
puns.  Really, Miss Betty—Ah! _Now_ I can understand...."

A small and pink-faced Midshipman approached with two brimming glasses
of champagne.  The Indiarubber Man faded discreetly away, leaving his
charge and her new-found knight pledging each other with sparkling eyes.

The Bride touched her husband’s sleeve in a lull in the handshaking and
congratulations. "Isn’t it rather nice to see people enjoying
themselves!  Don’t you feel as if you wanted everybody to be as happy as
we?—_Look_ at Betty and that boy....  Champagne, if you please!  How ill
the child will be; and she’s got to go back to school to-morrow...."

Her husband laughed softly.  "Pretty little witch....  Torps has taken
it away from her and given her some lemonade instead.  Where’s
Mother?—Oh, I see: hobnobbing with the Colonel over a cup of tea. What a
crush!  Dear, can’t we escape soon....?"

"Very soon now—poor boy, are you very hot in those things?"

"Not very.  The worst part’s coming—the rice and slippers and good-byes.
Are you very tired, darling...?"

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Good-bye—Good-bye!  Good-bye, Daddie.... Yes, yes....  I will....
Good-bye, Betty darling....  Good-bye——"

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Good-bye, Mother mine....  Torps, you’ve been a brick.....  So-long!
Good-bye! ... Not down my neck, Betty! ... Yes, I’ve got the tickets——
Good-bye, Good-bye!——"

                     *      *      *      *      *

The lights of Dover were twinkling far astern.  Two people, a man and a
woman, walked to the stern of the steamer and stood close together,
leaning over the rail.

"What a lot of Good-byes we’ve said to-day," murmured the woman,
watching the pin-points of light that vanished and reappeared.  She fell
silent, as if following a train of thought, "And after all, we’re only
going to Paris!"

"We’re going further than that——"  The man took possession of her slim,
ungloved hands, and the star-powdered heavens alone were witness to the
act.  "All the way to El Dorado, darling!"

She gave him back the pressure of his fingers, and presently sighed a
little, happily, as a child sighs in its sleep.  "And we haven’t any
return tickets...."


The members of the wedding party returned to the ship and straggled into
the Mess.  Each one as he entered unbuckled his sword-belt, loosened his
collar, and called for strong waters.  A gloom lay upon the gathering:
possibly the shadow of an angel’s wing.

"I feel as if I’d been to a funeral," growled the Paymaster.  "Awful
shows these weddings are!"

"Poor old Guns!" said the A.P. lugubriously.

"She’s a jolly nice girl, any way," maintained the Young Doctor.

"Yes," sighed the Junior Watch-keeper, "but still....  He _was_ a good

The Indiarubber Man was the last to enter. He added his sword to the
heap already on the table, glanced at the solemn countenances of his
messmates, and lit a cigarette.

"_Sunt rerum lachrimæ_.  I am reminded of a harrowing story," he began,
leaning against the tiled stove, "recounted to me by a—a lady.

"We met in London, at a place of popular entertainment, and our
acquaintance was, judged by the standards of conventionality, perhaps
slender."  The Indiarubber Man paused and looked gravely from face to
face. "However," he continued, "encouraged by my frank open countenance
and sympathetic manner, she was constrained to tell the story of how she
once loved and lost...."

The narrator broke off and appeared to have forgotten how the story went
on, in dreamy contemplation of his cigarette.  The mess waited in
silence: at length the Junior Watch-keeper could bear it no longer.

"What _did_ she tell you?"

The Indiarubber Man thoughtfully exhaled a cloud of smoke.  "She said:
’Pa shot ’im.... Sniff!—_’Ow_ I loved ’im....  Sniff!—Lor’, ’ow ’e did
bleed.’ ..."


                     *WHY THE GUNNER WENT ASHORE.*

The evening mail had come, and Selby sat alone in his cabin mechanically
reading and re-reading a letter.  Finally he tore it up into very small
pieces and held them clenched in his hand, staring very hard at nothing
in particular.

He was engaged to be married: or to be more precise, he had been
engaged.  The letter that had come by the evening mail said that this
was not so any longer.

The girl who wrote it was a very straight-forward person who hated
concealment of facts because they were unpleasant.  It had become
necessary to tell Selby that she couldn’t love him any longer, and,
faith, she had told him.  Further, by her creed, it was only right that
she should tell him about Someone Else as well.

It was all very painful, and the necessity for thus putting things to
Selby in their proper light, had cost her sleepless nights, red eyes,
and much expensive notepaper, before the letter was finally posted.  But
she did hope he would realise it was For the Best, ... and some day he
would be so thankful....  It had all been a Big Mistake, because she
wasn’t a bit what he thought, ... and so forth.  A very distressing
letter to have to write, and, from Selby’s point of view, even more
distressing to have to read.

Few men enjoy being brought up against their limitations thus abruptly,
especially where Women and Love are concerned.  In Selby’s case was
added the knowledge that another had been given what he couldn’t hold.
He had made a woman love him, but he couldn’t make her go on loving
him.... He was insufficient unto the day.

Critics with less biassed judgment might have taken a different point of
view: might have said she was a jilt, or held she acted a little
cruelly: gone further, even, and opined he was well out of it.  But
Selby was one of those who walk the earth under a ban of idealism and
had never been seriously in love before.  She was the Queen who could do
no wrong.  It was he who had been weighed and found wanting.  If only he
had acted differently on such and such an occasion.  If, in short,
instead of being himself he had been somebody quite different all

Succeeding days and nights provided enough matches and sulphur of this
sort to enable him to fashion a sufficiently effective purgatory, in
which his mind revolved round its hurt like a cockchafer on a pin.

When a man depends for the efficient performance of his duties upon
getting his just amount of sleep (Selby was a watch-keeping Lieutenant
in a battleship of the line), affairs of this sort are apt to end in
disaster.  But his ship went into Dockyard hands to refit, and Selby,
who was really a sensible enough sort of fellow, though an idealist,
realised that for his own welfare and that of the Service it were
"better to forget and smile than remember and be sad."  Accordingly he
applied for and obtained a week’s leave, bought a map of the surrounding
district, packed a few necessaries into a light knapsack, and set off to
walk away his troubles.

For a day he followed the coast—it was high summer—along a path that
skirted the cliffs.  The breeze blew softly off the level _lapis-lazuli_
of the Channel, sea-gulls wheeled overhead for company, and following
the curve of each ragged headland in succession, the creamy edge of the
breakers lured him on towards the West.  He walked thirty miles that day
and slept dreamlessly in a fishing village hung about with nets and
populated by philosophers with patched breeches.

He struck inland the second day, to plunge into a confusion of lanes
that led him blindfold for a while between ten-foot hedges. These opened
later into red coombes, steeped to their sunny depths with the scent of
fern and may, and all along the road bees held high carnival above the
hedgerows.  Then green tunnels of foliage, murmurous with wood-pigeon,
dappled him at each step with alternate sunlight and shadow, and passed
him on to villages whose inns had cool, flagged parlours, and cider in
blue-and-white mugs.  An ambient trout-stream held him company most of
the long afternoon, with at times a kingfisher darting along its
tortuous course like a streak from the rainbow that each tiny waterfall
had caught and held.

He supped early in a farm kitchen off new-made pasties, apple tart and
yellow-crusted cream, and walked on till the bats began wheeling
overhead in the violet dusk. His ship was sixty miles away when he crept
into the shelter of a hayrick and laid his tired head on his knapsack.

The third day found him up on the ragged moors, steering north.  The
exercise and strong salt wind had driven the sad humours from him, and
the affairs of life were beginning to resume their right perspective; so
much so that when, about noon, a sore heel began abruptly to make itself
felt (in the irrational way sore heels have), Selby sat down and pulled
out his map.  The day before yesterday he would have pushed on doggedly,
almost welcoming the counter-irritant of physical discomfort.  To-day,
however, he accepted the inevitable and searched the map for some
neighbouring village where he could rest a day or so until the chafed
foot was healed.

After a while he turned east, and, leaving the high moorland, discerned
the smoke of chimneys among some trees in the valley. He descended a
steep road that seemed to lead in the right direction, and presently
caught a glimpse of a square church tower among some elms; later on the
breeze bore the faint cawing of rooks up the hillside. A stream divided
the valley: the few cottages clustered on the opposite side huddled
close together as if reluctant to venture far beyond the shadow of the
grey church.  The green of the hillside behind them was gashed in one
place by an old quarry; but the work had long been abandoned, and Nature
had already begun to repair the red scar with impatient furz and

So much Selby took in as he descended past the grey church and cawing
rooks; once at the bottom and across the quaint, square-arched bridge,
he found there was a small inn amongst the huddled cottages, where they
would receive him for a night or two.

He lunched, did what he could to the blistered heel with a darning
needle and worsted (after the fashion of blistered sailormen), and took
a light siesta in the lavender-smelling bedroom under the roof until it
was time for tea.  Tea over, he lit a pipe, borrowed his host’s little 9
ft. trout rod that hung in the passage, and limped down to the meadows
skirting the stream beyond the village.

The light occupation gave him something to think about; and, held by the
peace of running water, he lingered by the stream till evening.  Then
something of his old sadness came back with the dimpsey light,—a gentle
melancholy that only resembled sorrow "as the mist resembles the rain."
He wanted his supper, too, and so walked slowly back to the village with
the rod on his shoulder. The inn-keeper met him at the door: "Well done,
sir!  Well done!  Yu’m a fisherman, for sure!  Missus, she fry ’un for
supper for ’ee now....  Yes, ’tis nice li’l rod—cut un meself: li’l
hickory rod, ’tis....  Where did ’ee have that half-pounder, sir?
There’s many a good fish tu that li’l pool...."

Selby had finished supper and repaired to a bench outside in the
gloaming with his pipe and a mug of beer.  The old stained chancel
windows of the church beyond the river were lit up and choir practice
appeared to be in progress.  The drone of the organ and voices uplifted
in familiar harmonies drifted across to him out of the dusk.  The pool
below the bridge still mirrored the last gleams of day in the sky: a few
old men were leaning over the low parapet smoking, and down the street
one or two villagers stood gossiping at their doorsteps.  A dog came out
of the shadows and sniffed Selby’s hands: then he flopped down in the
warm dust and sighed to himself.  The strains of the organ on the other
side of the valley swelled louder:—

    "... Holy Ghost the Infinite,
      Comforter Divine..."

sang the unseen choir.  How warm and peaceful the evening was, reflected
Selby, puffing at his pipe, one hand caressing the dog’s ear.
Extraordinarily peaceful, in fact.... He wondered what sort of a man the
vicar was, in this tiny backwater of life, and whether he found it

While he wondered, the vicar came down the road and stopped abreast of

"Good evening," he said, half hesitating, and came nearer.  "Please
don’t get up.... I don’t want to disturb you, but I—they told me this
afternoon that a stranger was staying here.  I thought I would make
myself known to you: I am the rector of this little parish."  He smiled
and named himself.

Selby responded to the introduction. "Won’t you sit down for a few
minutes? I was listening to your choir——"

"They are practising—yes: I have just come down from the church and," he
hesitated.  "I hoped I should find you in—to have the opportunity of
making your acquaintance."

"It was most kind of you."  Selby wondered if all parsons in this fair
country were as attentive to the stranger within their gates.  "Most
kind," he repeated.  "I—I was on a walking tour, and"—he indicated a
slipper of his host’s that adorned his left foot—"one of my heels began
to chafe—only a blister, you know; but I thought I’d take things easy
for a day or two....

"Quite so, quite so.  An enforced rest is sometimes very pleasant.  I
remember once, my throat....  However, that was not what I came to see
you about.  I believe, Mr Selby, er—am I right in supposing that you are
in the Navy?"

"Yes."  A note of chilliness had crept into Selby’s voice.  After all,
his clerical acquaintance was only an inquisitive old busybody, agog to
pry into other people’s affairs.  "Yes," he repeated, "I’m a
Lieutenant," and he named his ship.

The rector made a little deprecatory gesture.  "Please don’t think I am
trying to acquire the materials for gossip; and I am not asking out of
inquisitiveness.  The good people here told me this afternoon—this is an
out-of-the-way place, and strangers, distinguished ones, if I may say
so," he made a little inclination of the head, "do not come here very
frequently: they mentioned it to me as I was passing on my way to hold a
confirmation class...."

Selby hastened to put him at his ease. After all, why shouldn’t he ask?
And then he remembered offering the inn-keeper a fill of hard, Navy plug
tobacco.  He carried a bit in his knapsack with a view to just such
small courtesies.  "That’s the stuff, sir," the man had said, loading
his pipe.  "We wondered, me an’ the missus, was you a Naval

But while his mind busied itself over these recollections his companion
was talking on in his, gentle way.

"... He is not a very old man: but the Doctor tells me he has lived a
life of many hardships, and not, I fear, always a temperate one.
However, ’Never a sinner, never a saint,’ ... and now he is fast—to use
one of his own seafaring expressions—’slipping his cable.’  He retired
from the Navy as a Gunner, I think.  That would be a Warrant Officer’s
rank, would it not?"

Selby nodded.  "Yes.  Has he been retired long, this person you speak

"Yes, he retired a good many years ago, and has a small pension quite
sufficient for his needs.  He settled here because he liked the quiet——"
The speaker made a little gesture, embracing the hollow in the hills,
sombre now in the gathering darkness.  "He lives a very lonely life in a
cottage some little distance along the road.  An eccentric old man, with
curious ideas of beautifying a home.... However, I am digressing.  As
far as I know he has no relatives alive, and no friends ever visit him.
He has been bed-ridden for some time, and the wife of one of my
parishioners, a most kindly woman, looks in several times a day, and
sees he has all he wants.

"Now I come to the part of my story that affects you.  Lately, in fact
since he took to his bed and the Doctor was compelled to warn him of his
approaching end, he has been very anxious to meet some one in the Navy.
He so often begs me, if I hear of any one connected with the Service
being in the vicinity, to bring him to the cottage.  And this afternoon,
hearing quite by accident that a Naval Officer was in our midst,"—again
the rector made his courteous little inclination of the head—"it seemed
an opportunity of gratifying the old fellow’s wish—if you could spare a
few moments some time to-morrow...?"

"I should be only too glad to be of any service," said Selby.  "Perhaps
you would call for me some time to-morrow morning, and we could go round

The rector rose.  "You are most kind.  I was sure when I saw you—I knew
I should not appeal in vain...."  He extended his hand.  "And now I will
say good-night. Forgive me for taking up so much of your time with an
old man’s concerns.  One can do so little in this life to bring
happiness to others that when the opportunity arises..."

"Yes, _rather_——!" said Selby a little awkwardly, and shook hands,
conscious of more than a slight compunction for his hastiness in
judgment of this mild divine.  "Good-night, sir," and stood looking
after him till he disappeared along the road into the luminous summer

Selby had finished breakfast, and was leaning over the pig-sty wall
watching his host ministering to the fat sow and her squealing litter,
when his acquaintance of the previous night appeared.  Seen in the broad
daylight he was an elderly man, short and spare, with placid blue eyes,
and a singularly winning smile.  A bachelor, so the inn-keeper had
instructed Selby; a man of learning and of no small wealth, who,
moreover, dressed and threw as pretty a fly as any in the county.

He saluted Selby with a little gesture of his ash-plant, inquired after
the blistered heel, and then after an ailing member of the fat sow’s
litter.  "And now, if you are ready and still of the same mind, shall we
be strolling along?" he inquired.

Selby fetched his stick, and together they set out along a road made
aromatic in the morning sunlight by the scents of dust and flowering
hedgerow.  Half a mile beyond the village the rector stopped before a
gate-way.  A dogcart and cob stood at the roadside, and a small boy in
charge touched his cap.

"The Doctor is here, I see," said the clergyman, and opened the gate in
the hedge. Selby caught a glimpse of a flagged path leading through an
orchard to a whitewashed cottage.  But his attention from the outset had
been arrested by a most extraordinary assortment of crockery, glass and
earthenware vases, busts, statuettes, and odds and ends of ironwork that
occupied every available inch of space round the gateway, bordering the
path, and were even cemented on to the front of the house itself.  Above
the gateway a defaced lion faced an equally mutilated unicorn across the
Royal Arms of England. Arranged beneath, cemented into the pillars of
the arch, were busts of Napoleon, Irving, Stanley, and George
Washington; an earthenware jar bearing the inscription, "HOT POT"; a
little group representing Leda and the Swan in white marble; and a
grinning soapstone joss, such as is sold to tourists and sailors at
ports on the China coast. Interspersed with these were cups without
handles, segments of soup-plates, china dolls’-heads, lead soldiers, and
a miscellaneous collection of tea-pot spouts, ... all firmly plastered
into the ironwork of the pillars.

On each side of the path, banked up to the height of about three feet,
was a further indescribable conglomeration of bric-à-brac, cemented
together into a sort of hedge.  The general effect was as if the
knock-about comedians of a music-hall stage (who break plates and
domestic crockery out of sheer joy of living) had combined with demented
graveyard masons, bulls in china shops, and all the craftsmen of Murano,
to produce a nightmare.  A light summer breeze strayed down the valley,
and scores of slips of coloured glass, hanging in groups from the
apple-trees, responded with a musical tinkling.  The sound brought
recollections of a Japanese temple garden, and Selby paused to look
about him.

"What an extraordinary place!"

The vicar, leading the way up the tiled walk, seemed suddenly to become
aware of the strangeness of their surroundings.  Long familiarity with
the house had perhaps robbed the fantastic decorations of their
incongruity. He stopped and smiled.  "To be sure.... Yes, I had
forgotten; to a stranger all this must seem very peculiar.  I think I
hinted that the old man had very curious ideas of beautifying the home.
This was about his only hobby—and yet, oddly enough, he rarely spoke of
it to me."

At that moment the cottage door opened and a tall florid man came out.
The vicar turned.  "Ah, Doctor Williams—that was his trap at the
gate—let me introduce you...."  The introduction accomplished, he
inquired after the patient.  The medical man shook his head.

"Won’t last much longer, I’m afraid: a day or so at the most.  No
organic disease, y’know, but just"—he made a little gesture—"like a
clock that’s run down. Not an old man either, as men go.  But these Navy
men age so quickly....  Well, I must get along.  I shall look in again
this evening, but there is nothing one can do, really.  He’s quite
comfortable.... Good-morning," and the Doctor passed down the path to
his trap.

The vicar opened the cottage door, and stood aside to allow Selby to
enter.  The room was partly a kitchen, partly a bedroom; occupying the
bed, with a patchwork quilt drawn up under his chin, was a shrunken
little old man, with a square beard nearly white, and projecting craggy
eyebrows.  He turned his head to the door as they entered; in spite of
the commanding brows they were dull, tired old eyes, without interest or
hope, or curiosity in them.

"I’ve brought you a visitor, Mr Tyelake," said the vicar.  "Some one
you’ll be glad to see: an Officer in the Navy."

The old man considered Selby with the same vacant, passionless gaze.

"Have you ever ate Navy beef?" he asked abruptly.  It was a thin
colourless voice, almost the falsetto of the very old.  Selby smiled.
"Oh yes, sometimes."

"Navy beef—that’s what brought me here—an’ the rheumatics.  I’m dyin’."
He made the statement with the simple pride of one who has at last
achieved a modest distinction.

The vicar asked a few questions touching the old man’s comfort, and
opened the little oriel window to admit the morning air. "Lieutenant
Selby was most interested in your unique collection of curios outside,
Mr Tyelake.  Perhaps you would like to tell him something about them."
He looked at his watch, addressing Selby.  "I have a meeting, I’m
afraid....  I don’t know if you’d care to stay a few minutes longer and

"Certainly," said Selby, and drew a chair near the bed.  "If Mr Tyelake
doesn’t mind, I’d like to stay a little while...."  He sat down, and the
vicar took his departure, closing the door behind him.  In a corner by
the dresser a tall grandfather clock ticked out the deliberate seconds;
a bluebottle sailed in through the open window and skirmished round the
low ceiling.

The old man lay staring at his hands as they lay on the patchwork quilt;
twisted, nubbly hands they were, with something pathetic about their
toilworn helplessness. Every now and again the wind brought into the
little room the tinkle of the glass ornaments pendent in the apple-trees
outside: the faint sound seemed to rouse the occupant of the bed.

"I’ve seen a mort of religions," he said in a low voice, as if speaking
to himself.  "Heaps of ’em.  An’ some said one thing an’ some said the
other."  His old blank eyes followed the gyrations of the fly upon the
ceiling. "An’ I dunno....  Buddhas an’ Me-’ommets, Salvation Armies, an’
Bush Baptists, ... an’ some says one thing an’ some says the other. I
dunno..."  He shook his head wearily. "But many’s the pot of galvanised
paint I used up outside there ... an’ goldleaf, in the dog-watches

This, then, was the explanation of the fantastic decorations outside.
Altars to the unknown God!  The old man turned his head towards his
visitor.  "But don’t you tell the parson.  He wouldn’t hold with it....
I tell you because you’re in the Navy, an’ p’r’aps you’d understand.  I
was in the Navy—Mr Tyelake’s my name.  Thirty year a Gunner; an’ Navy
beef——"  For a while the old man rambled on, seemingly unconscious of
his visitor’s presence, of ships long passed through the breakers’
yards, of forgotten commissions all up and down the world, of beef and
rheumatism and Buddha, while Selby sat listening, half moved by pity,
half amused at himself for staying on.

About noon a woman came in and fed the old man with a spoon out of a
cup.  Selby rose to go.  "I’ll come again," he said, touching the
passive hands covered with faint blue tattooing.  "I’ll come and see you
again this evening."  The old man roused himself from his reveries.
"Come again," he repeated, "that’s right, come again—soon.  When she’s
gone—she an’ her fussin’ about," and for the first time an expression
came into his eyes, as he watched the woman with the cup, an expression
of malevolence.  "I don’t hold with women ... fussin’ round.  An’ I’ve
got something to tell you: something pressin’. You must come soon; I’m
slippin’ my cable.... Navy beef _an’_ the rheumatics—an’ it’s to your

The shadows of the alders by the river were lengthening when Selby again
walked up the bricked path leading to the cottage.  The old man was
still lying in contemplation of his hands: the grandfather clock had
stopped, and there was a great stillness in the little room.

His gaze was so vacant and the silence remained unbroken so long that
Selby doubted if the old man recognised him.

"I’ve come back, you see.  I’ve come to see you again."  Still the
figure in the bed said nothing, staring dully at his visitor.  "I’ve
come to see you again," Selby repeated.

"It’s to your advantage," said the old man. His voice was weaker, and it
was evident that he was, as he said, slipping his cable fast.

"Give me that there ditty-box," continued the thin, toneless voice.
Selby looked round the room, and espied on a corner of the chest of
drawers the scrubbed wooden "ditty-box" in which sailors keep their more
intimate and personal possessions: he fetched it and placed it on the
patchwork quilt; the old man fumbled ineffectually with the lid.

"Tip ’em out," he said at length, and Selby inverted the box to allow a
heap of papers and odds and ends to slide on to the old man’s hands.  It
was a pathetic collection, the flotsam and jetsam of a sailor’s life:
faded photographs, certificates from Captains scarcely memories with the
present generation, a frayed parchment, letters tied up with an old
knife-lanyard, a lock of hair from which the curl had not quite departed
... ghost of a day when perhaps the old man did "hold with" women.  At
length he found what he wanted, a soiled sheet of paper that had been
folded and refolded many times.

"Here!" he said, and extended it to Selby. It was a printed form,
discoloured with age, printed in old-fashioned type, and appeared to
relate to details of prison routine and the number of prisoners
victualled.  Selby turned it over: on the back, drawn in ink that was
now faded and rusty, was a clumsy arrow showing the points of the
compass; beneath that a number of oblong figures arranged haphazard and
enclosed by a line.  One of the figures was marked with a cross.

"That’s a cemetery," said the old man; "cemetery at a place called Port
des Reines."  He lay silent for a while, as if trying to arrange his
scattered ideas; presently the weak voice started again.

"There’s a prison at Trinidad, and my father was a warder there ... long
time ago: time the old _Calypso_ was out on the station...."  He talked
slowly, with long pauses.  "They was sent to catch a murderer who was
hidin’ among the islands—a half-breed: pirate he must ha’ been ...
murderer an’ I don’t know what not....  They caught him an’ they brought
him to Trinidad where my father was warder in the prison ... when I was
little...."  The old man broke off into disconnected, rambling whispers,
and the shadows began gathering in the corners of the room.  A thrush in
the orchard outside sang a few long, sweet notes of its Angelus and was
silent.  Selby waited with his chin resting in his hand.  The old man
suddenly turned his head: "She ain’t comin’——?  She an’ her fussin’...?
I’ve got something important——"

"No, no," said Selby soothingly, "there’s no one here but me.  And you
wanted to tell me about your father——"

"Warder in the prison at Trinidad," said the old man, "my father was,
an’ a kind-hearted man.  There was a prisoner there, a pirate an’
murderer he was, what the _Calypso_ caught ... an’ father was kind to
him before he was hanged ... I can’t say what he did, but bein’
kind-hearted naturally, it might have been anything ... not takin’ into
account of him being a pirate an’ murderer.  Jewels he had, an’ rings
an’ such things hidden away somewhere; an’ before he was hanged he told
my father where they was buried, ’cos father was kind to him before he
was hanged....  Port des Reines cemetery ... in the grave what’s marked
on that chart, he’d buried the whole lot.  Seventy thousand pounds, he

There was a long silence.  "Father caught the prison fever an’ died just
afterwards.  My mother, she gave me the paper ... joined the Navy: an’ I
never went to des Reines but the once ... then I went to the wrong
cemetery to dig: ship was under sailin’ orders—I hadn’t time.
Afterwards I heard there was two cemeteries: priest at Martinique told
me.  I was never there but the once....  Seventy thousand pounds: an’ me
slippin’ me cable...."

Selby sat by the bed in the darkening room holding the soiled sheet of
paper in his hand, piecing together bit by bit the fragments of this
remarkable narrative, until he had a fairly connected story in his head.

Summed up, it appeared to amount to this: A pirate or murderer had been
captured by a man-of-war, taken to Trinidad prison to be tried, and
there sentenced to death. "Time the old _Calypso_ was out on the
Station." ... That would be in the ’forties or thereabouts.  The old
man’s father had been a warder in Trinidad prison at the time, and had
performed some service or kindness to the prisoner, in exchange for
which the condemned felon had given him a clue to the whereabouts of his
plunder.  It was apparently buried in a grave in Port des Reines
cemetery, but the warder had died before he could verify this valuable
piece of information.  His son, the ex-Gunner, had actually been to a
cemetery at Port des Reines, but had gone to the wrong one, and did not
find out his mistake till after the ship had sailed.  The plunder was
valued at £70,000.

Selby turned the paper over and folded it up.  "What do you wish me to
do with this, Mr Tyelake?  Have you any relations or next-of-kin?  It
seems to me——"

The old man shook his head faintly.  "I’ve got no relatives alive—nor
friends.  They’re all dead ... an’ I’m dyin’.  That’s for you, that
there bit of paper.  Keep it, it’s to your advantage....  Some day,
maybe, you’ll go to Port des Reines, an’ it’s the old cemetery furthest
from the sea.  I went to the wrong one time I was there."

"But," said Selby, half-amused, half-incredulous, "I—I’m a total
stranger to you.... If all this was true——"

"You keep it," said the old man.  His voice was very spent and scarcely
raised above a whisper.  "I meant it for the first Navy-man that came
along.  You came, an’ you were kind to me.  It’s yours—an’ to your

There was silence again in the little room, and Selby sat on in the
dusk, wondering how much of the story was true, or whether it was all
the hallucination of a failing mind; but the old man had given him the
paper, and he would keep it as a memento, ... and the fact of its being
a prison-form seemed to bear out some of the details; anyhow, the story
was very interesting.  He rose and lit the lamp; the old man had slipped
off into an easy doze, with his pathetic collection of treasures still
lying in a heap on the quilt; Selby replaced them in the ditty-box, and
put the box back where he had found it; the piece of paper that had been
a prison-form he put in his pocket-book.  As he was leaving, the woman
who had been there earlier in the day made her appearance.

Selby wished her good evening, told her the old man was dozing, and
passed down the path.  "I’ll come again to-morrow," he added at the
gate.  But that night the old man died, and the next morning, having
ascertained from the vicar that there was nothing he could do to help,
Selby shouldered his knapsack and struck out once more along the road
that led up on to the moor.


It was tea-time, and the Mess had gathered round the Wardroom table; a
signalman came down from the upper deck and pinned a signal on the
baize-covered notice-board.

"Hullo," said some one, "signal from the Flagship!  What’s the news?"

The Assistant Paymaster, who was sitting with his back to the
notice-board, relinquished the jam-pot, and tilting up his chair,
scrutinised the paper over his shoulder. "Flag-General: Let fires die
out.  Usual leave may be granted to Officers."

The Major of Marines, who had finished his tea, rose from the table and
tucked the novel he had been reading under his arm.  "Thanks very much,"
he said, "now we’re all happy."  He stared out through the rain-smeared
scuttle at an angry grey sea and lowering sky. "I can see a faint blur
on the horizon—would that be the delectable beach we’re invited to
repair to?"

"That’s it," said the First Lieutenant, stirring the leaves in his
tea-pot with the spoon. He had just spent three-quarters of an hour on
the forecastle, mooring ship in a cold, driving rain.  "It’s not more
than three miles away, and it’s only blowing about half a gale—there’s a
cutter to go ashore in; time some of you young bloods were climbing into
your ’civvy’[#] suits."

[#] Lowerdeckese = Civilian.

"So much for the joys of a big Fleet in the North Sea.  I’d like to
bring some of these fellows, who are always writing to the papers about
it, for a little yachting trip," grumbled the Fleet Surgeon, who had
just returned from two successively placid commissions in the West
Indies.  "Never anchor in sight of land—always blowing, always raining;
never get ashore, and when you do, you wish you were on board again....
It’s the limit."

"Well, thank Heaven for a fire and an arm-chair, anyway," said the
Paymaster, and drifted towards the smoking-room, filling his pipe as he

"Who’ll make a four at Bridge?" asked the Major.  "Come on, Number One,"
and so the Mess dispersed, some to arm-chairs round the fire, others to
the Bridge-table, others again to write letters in their cabins.

About half an hour before dinner, as was his wont, the Captain came down
from his cabin and joined the group round the smoking-room fire.  The
occupants of the arm-chairs made room and smiled greetings.

"Hullo," said the Captain, "none of you ashore!  Thought you all came
into the Navy to see life!"

The Commander laughed.  "We’re beginning to forget there is such a thing
as the beach."

The Captain lit a cigarette.  "Not a bad principle either—saves your
plain-clothes from wearing out."  He settled down in an arm-chair
somebody had vacated.  "Like an old Gunner of a small ship I was in once
in the West Indies; he only went ashore three times during the
commission—once at Trinidad, and once at Bermuda, and each time when he
returned he had to be hoisted on board in a bowline."  There was a
general laugh.  "What about the third time, sir?" asked the Engineer

"Third time—ah, that was rather mysterious.  We never discovered why he
did go ashore that day.  I don’t know now."  The Mess scented a yarn;
thrice-blessed was their Captain in that he could tell a yarn.

"We were cruising round that fringe of islands, part of the Windward
Group, showing the Flag, and the Skipper decided to look in at a place
called ... h’m’m.  Can’t remember what it’s called—Port des something
... Port des Reines, that’s it,—what did you say, Selby?"

"Nothing, sir, go on..."

"The last place ever made, this Port des Reines, and it’s not finished
yet—just a mountain and the remains of an old French settlement.  Well,
we anchored off this God-forsaken hole, and as soon as the Skipper had
had a look at it he decided to up killick and out of it; as far as I can
remember he had to go and lunch with the Consul, but he was to come off
in a couple of hours’ time; so we banked fires, and off went the Captain
in the galley.

"No sooner had he gone than the Gunner—this funny old boy I’ve been
telling you about—came to my cabin (I was by way of being First
Lieutenant of that ship—we’d no Commander) and asked for leave to go

"I was rather startled: couldn’t imagine what on earth he wanted to do.
I told him we were under sailing orders, and only staying a couple of
hours, and that it was an awful hole: had he any friends staying there,
I asked him.  No, he said, he had no friends there, but he particularly
wanted to land there for an hour or so on urgent private affairs, as he
called it.

"Well, he seemed in rather a stew about something, so I gave him leave
and lowered a boat.  Off he went in his old bowler hat (he always went
ashore in a bowler hat and a blue suit) armed with something wrapped up
in paper; this turned out afterwards to be a sort of pick or jemmy he
had got the blacksmith to make for him a couple of days before; that
must have been when he heard the ship was going to Port des Reines; it
was the only clue we ever had.

"Two hours later, at the expiration of his leave, he returned, looking
very dusty and dejected, and reported himself.  I chaffed him a bit
about going ashore, but nothing could I get out of him, and he never
volunteered an explanation to any one, as far as I know."

A Lieutenant who had finished playing Bridge and had joined the group of
listeners round the fire leaned forward suddenly.

"D’you remember his name, sir?"

"No," said the Captain, "can’t say I do. Never can remember names."

"Not a Mr Tyelake by any chance, sir?"

The Captain threw away the end of his cigarette and turned towards the
speaker. "Good Lord!  Yes, that was it—Tyelake. But look here, Selby,——"

The Lieutenant rose and walked towards the door.  "If you’ll wait a
second, sir, I’ll show you why he went ashore."  He left the mess and
returned with a soiled sheet of paper in his hand; it was creased by
much folding and discoloured with age.

The Captain turned it over and examined it.  "But this doesn’t explain
much, does it? And how do you come to know old Tyelake? All this
happened twelve—fifteen—nearly twenty years ago, and he was pensioned
soon after.  And anyhow, what’s this got to do with it?"

"That," Selby turned the paper over, "that’s the cemetery at Port des
Reines, sir,"—and then he told them of a walking tour in the West
Country (omitting the reason for it and other superfluous details) some
two years before, and of the old man who had since solved, it is to be
hoped to his satisfaction, his religious perplexities.

The Assistant Paymaster removed his glasses and blinked excitedly, as
was his habit when much moved.  "But ... why couldn’t he find it when he
went ashore? And why didn’t——"

"Because he went to the wrong cemetery; there were two, d’you see, and
he dug up the wrong one and didn’t find out there was another one till
after they’d sailed.  He never went there again."

"No," said the Captain.  "That’s right, we didn’t."

The First Lieutenant laughed.  "But just imagine him in that climate,
tearing off the tombstones in his bowler hat and serge suit, with one
eye on his watch all the time, and only finding coffins...!"

"And then hearing when it was too late that he’d backed the wrong
horse," added the Major of Marines.

"But...." began the A.P. again, "_How_ much did you say?  Seventy
thousand pounds! My Aunt!  Selby, have _you_ been there yet?"

Selby smiled and shook his head.  "I? No, I’ve been ’Channel-groping’
ever since; in fact, I’d forgotten all about it until the Captain
mentioned Port des Reines.  He was a very old man, and his wits were

The Engineer Commander examined the plan.  "But there may be something
in the yarn, Selby.  It seems almost worth while——"

"A treasure hunt!" broke in the A.P. "Let’s all put in for a couple of
months’ half-pay, and go out there!  Hire a schooner, like they do in

"Schooner!" ejaculated the Major.  "I can see myself setting sail for
the Antilles in a schooner!  Ugh!  It makes me feel queer to think of

"You’d look fine in a red smuggler’s cap and thigh-boots, Major," said
the First Lieutenant.  "That’s what treasure-hunters always wear."

"With a black patch over one eye, and the skull and cross-bones
embroidered on your brisket," supplemented an imaginative Watch-keeper.
"’Yo! ho! and a bottle of rum!’—can’t you see yourself, Major?  Only you
ought to have a wooden leg."

"Has anybody in the Mess ever been there?" inquired the Commander.

"Why, the P.M.O.’s just come home from the West Indies; where is he?"

At that moment the Fleet Surgeon entered, to be assailed by a volley of

"P.M.O.!  You’re just the man!  Where’s Porte des Reines?"

"We’re all going treasure-hunting in a schooner with the Major!"

"With the Jolly Roger at the fore!"

"P.M.O., have you ever been to Porte des Reines?"

"How many cemeteries are there there?"

"What’s the law about digging up graves in the West Indies?"

"——And treasure trove?"

The Fleet Surgeon looked a little bewildered.  "What are you all talking
about? Porte des Reines?  Yes, I’ve been there. I don’t know about the
cemeteries, but I’ve got some photographs of the place, if you’re all so
anxious to see it—they’re in my cabin."

He left the Mess, and the storm of conjecture and speculation broke out

"I shall chuck the Service and buy a farm," said the First Lieutenant,
"with my share."

"S-sh!  Don’t make such a row!  One of the Servants will hear, and we
don’t want it to get all over the ship!  These things are much better
kept quiet.  If there’s anything in it, the fewer——"

The A.P.’s voice rose above the turmoil: "An’ I shall buy a cycle-car
... and a split-cane, steel-centred grilse-rod ... _and_ go to
Switzerland next winter—I——"

The Fleet Surgeon reappeared with a bulky album under his arm; he laid
it on the card-table and turned the pages.  "Now—there’s Port des
Reines: what’s left of it after the earthquake."

"Earthquake!"  The Mess gathered round and leaned breathlessly over the

"Yes; two years ago they had that awful earthquake, and the mountain
shifted almost bodily; there’s a million tons of rock on top of—well,
you can see!"

They scanned the scene of desolation in silence.  "It swallowed the
whole town," said some one in awestruck tones.  The magnitude of a
calamity had somehow never come home to them before quite so forcibly.

"Yes," replied the Fleet Surgeon calmly. "Town, such as it was, and
church and cemeteries, mountain toppled down on top of them!"

There was a long, tense silence.  "But——" began the A.P., still clinging
to his dreams of a split-cane grilse-rod with a steel centre.

"_Dry_ up!" snapped the First Lieutenant irritably.

"Oh Death, where is thy sting!" murmured the Major of Marines.  "Seventy
thousand pounds buried under a mountain!"

The Captain rang the bell and ordered a sherry and bitters.  "Well," he
said, "thank Heaven I know at last why the Gunner went ashore!"

                                THE END.


           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *


       *Bound in Cloth.  With Coloured Illustration on Wrapper.*

CAPTAIN DESMOND, V.C.  (_Revised Edition._)  MAUD DIVER
THE VITAL SPARK.  (_Illustrated.  Paper Cover._)  HUGH FOULIS
"No. 101."  WYMOND CAREY


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Naval Occasions - and Some Traits of the Sailor-man" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.