W. W. (William Wymark) Jacobs.

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Produced by David Widger


By W. W. Jacobs

Frederick A. Stokes Company - 1897


More Cargoes
Smoked Skipper
A Safety Match
A Rash Experiment
The Cabin Passenger
"Choice Spirits"
A Disciplinarian
Brother Hutchins
The Disbursement Sheet
Rule Of Three
Pickled Herring
Two Of A Trade
An Intervention
The Grey Parrot
The Lost Ship



"Wapping Old Stairs?" said the rough individual! shouldering the
brand-new sea-chest, and starting off at a trot with it; "yus, I know
the place, captin. Fust v'y'ge, sir?"

"Ay, ay, my hearty," replied the owner of the chest, a small,
ill-looking lad of fourteen. "Not so fast with those timbers of yours.
D'ye hear?"

"All right, sir," said the man, and, slackening his pace, twisted his
head round to take stock of his companion.

"This ain't your fust v'y'ge, captin," he said admiringly; "don't tell
me. I could twig that directly I see you. Ho, what's the use o' trying
to come it over a poor'ard-working man like that?"

"I don't think there's much about the sea I don't know," said the boy in
a satisfied voice. "Starboard, starboard your helium a bit."

The man obeying promptly, they went the remainder of the distance in
this fashion, to the great inconvenience of people coming from the other

"And a cheap 'arf-crown's worth, too, captin," said the man, as he
thoughtfully put the chest down at the head of the stairs and sat on it
pending payment.

"I want to go off to the _Susan Jane_," said the boy, turning to a
waterman who was sitting in his boat, holding on to the side of the
steps with his hand.

"All right," said the man, "give us a hold o' your box."

"Put it aboard," said the boy to the other man.

"A' right, captin," said the man, with a cheerful smile, "but I'll 'ave
my 'arf-crown fust if you don't mind."

"But you said sixpence at the station," said the boy.

"_Two_ an' sixpence, captin," said the man, still smiling, "but I'm a
bit 'usky, an' p'raps you didn't hear the two 'arf a crown's the regler
price. We ain't allowed to do it under."

"Well, I won't tell anybody," said the boy.

"Give the man 'is 'arf-crown," said the waterman, with sudden heat;
"that's 'is price, and my fare's eighteen pence."

"All right," said the boy readily; "cheap too. I didn't know the price,
that's all. But I can't pay either of you till I get aboard. I've only
got sixpence. I'll tell the captain to give you the rest."

"Tell 'oo," demanded the light porter, with some violence.

"The captain," said the boy.

"Look 'ere, you give me that 'arf-crown," said the other, "else I'll
chuck your box overboard, an' you after it."

"Wait a minute, then," said the boy, darting away up the narrow alley
which led to the stairs, "I'll go and get change."

"'E's goin' to change 'arf a suvren, or p'raps a suvren," said the
waterman; "you'd better make it five bob, matey."

"Ah, an' you make yours more," said the light-porter cordially. "Well,
I'm - - Well of all the - - "

"Get off that box," said the big policeman who had come back with the
boy. "Take your sixpence an' go. If I catch you down this way again - - "

He finished the sentence by taking the fellow by the scruff of the neck
and giving him a violent push as he passed him.

"Waterman's fare is threepence," he said to the boy, as the man in the
boat, with an utterly expressionless face, took the chest from him.
"I'll stay here till he has put you aboard."

The boy took his seat, and the waterman, breathing hard, pulled out
towards the vessels in the tier. He looked at the boy and then at the
figure on the steps, and, apparently suppressing a strong inclination to
speak, spat violently over the side.

"Fine big chap, ain't he?" said the boy.

The waterman, affecting not to hear, looked over his shoulder, and
pulled strongly with his left towards a small schooner, from the deck of
which a couple of men were watching the small figure in the boat.

"That's the boy I was going to tell you about," said the skipper, "and
remember this 'ere ship's a pirate."

"It's got a lot o' pirates aboard of it," said the mate fiercely, as
he turned and regarded the crew, "a set o' lazy, loafing, idle,
worthless - - "

"It's for the boy's sake," interrupted the skipper.

"Where'd you pick him up?" inquired the other.

"He's the son of a friend o' mine what I've brought aboard to oblige,"
replied the skipper. "He's got a fancy for being a pirate, so just to
oblige his father I told him we was a pirate. He wouldn't have come if I

"I'll pirate him," said the mate, rubbing his hands.

"He's a dreadful 'andful by all accounts," continued the other; "got his
'ed stuffed full 'o these 'ere penny dreadfuls till they've turned his
brain almost. He started by being an Indian, and goin off on 'is own
with two other kids. When he wanted to turn cannibal the other two
objected and gave 'im in charge. After that he did a bit 'o burgling,
and it cost 'is old man no end o' money to hush it up."

"Well, what did _you_ want him for?" grumbled the mate.

"I'm goin' to knock the nonsense out of him," said the skipper softly,
as the boat grazed the side. "Just step for'ard and let the hands know
what's expected of 'em. When we get to sea it won't matter."

The mate moved off grumbling, as the small fare stood on the thwarts
and scrambled up over the side. The waterman passed up the chest and,
dropping the coppers into his pocket, pushed off again without a word.

"Well, you've got here all right, Ralph?" said the skipper. "What do you
think of her?"

"She's a rakish-looking craft," said the boy, looking round the dingy
old tub with much satisfaction; "but where's your arms?"

"Hush!" said the skipper, and laid his finger on his nose.

"Oh, all right," said the youth testily, "but you might tell _me_."

"You shall know all in good time," said the skipper patiently, turning
to the crew, who came shuffling up, masking broad grins with dirty

"Here's a new shipmate for you, my lads. He's small, but he's the right
stuff." The newcomer drew himself up, and regarded the crew with some
dissatisfaction. For desperadoes they looked far too good-tempered and
prone to levity.

"What's the matter with you, Jem Smithers?" inquired the skipper,
scowling at a huge fair-haired man, who was laughing discordantly.

"I was thinkin' o' the last party I killed, sir," said Jem, with sudden
gravity. "I allers laugh when I think 'ow he squealed."

"You laugh too much," said the other sternly, as he laid a hand on
Ralph's shoulder. "Take a lesson from this fine fellow; he don't laugh.
He acts. Take 'im down below an' show him 'is bunk."

"Will you please to follow me, sir?" said Smithers, leading the way
below. "I dessay you'll find it a bit stuffy, but that's owing to Bill
Dobbs. A regler old sea-dog is Bill, always sleeps in 'is clothes and
never washes."

"I don't think the worse of him for that," said Ralph, regarding the
fermenting Dobbs kindly.

"You'd best keep a civil tongue in your 'ed, my lad," said Dobbs

"Never mind 'im," said Smithers cheerfully; "nobody takes any notice o'
old Dobbs. You can 'it 'im if you like. I won't let him hurt you."

"I don't want to start by quarreling," said Ralph seriously.

"You're afraid," said Jem tauntingly; "you'll never make one of us. 'It
'im; I won't let him hurt you."

Thus aroused, the boy, first directing Dobbs' attention to his
stomach by a curious duck of his head, much admired as a feint in his
neighborhood, struck him in the face. The next moment the forecastle was
in an uproar and Ralph prostrate on Dobbs' knees, frantically reminding
Jem of his promise.

"All right, I won't let him 'urt you," said Jem consolingly.

"But he _is_ hurting me," yelled the boy. "He's hurting me _now_."

"Well, wait till I get 'im ashore," said Jem, "his old woman won't know
him when I've done with him."

The boy's reply to this was a torrent of shrill abuse, principally
directed to Jem's facial short-comings.

"Now don't get rude," said the seaman, grinning.

"Squint eyes," cried Ralph fiercely.

"When you've done with that 'ere young gentleman, Dobbs," said Jem, with
exquisite politeness. "I should like to 'ave 'im for a little bit to
teach 'im manners."

"'E don't want to go," said Dobbs, grinning as Ralph clung to him. "He
knows who's kind to him."

"Wait till I get a chance at you," sobbed Ralph, as Jem took him away
from Dobbs.

"Lord lumme," said Jem, regarding him in astonishment. "Why, he's
actooaly cryin'. I've seen a good many pirates in my time, Bill, but
this is a new sort."

"Leave the boy alone," said the cook, a fat, good-natured man. "Here,
come 'ere, old man. They don't mean no 'arm."

Glad to escape, Ralph made his way over to the cook, grinding his teeth
with shame as that worthy took him between his knees and mopped his eyes
with something which he called a handkerchief.

"You'll be all right," he said kindly. "You'll be as good a pirate as
any of us before you've finished."

"Wait till the first engagement, that's all," sobbed the boy. "If
somebody don't get shot in the back it won't be my fault."

The two seamen looked at each other. "That's wot hurt my 'and then,"
said Dobbs slowly. "I thought it was a jack-knife."

He reached over, and unceremoniously grabbing the boy by the collar,
pulled him towards him, and drew a small, cheap revolver from his
pocket. "Look at that, Jem."

"Take your fingers orf the blessed trigger and then I will," said the
other, somewhat sourly.

"I'll pitch it overboard," said Dobbs.

"Don't be a fool, Bill," said Smithers, pocket-ing it, "that's worth a
few pints o' anybody's money. Stand out o' the way, Bill, the Pirit King
wants to go on deck."

Bill moved aside as the boy went to the ladder, and, allowing him to get
up four or five steps, did the rest for him with his shoulder. The boy
reached the deck on all fours, and, regaining a more dignified position
as soon as possible, went and leaned over the side, regarding with lofty
contempt the busy drudges on wharf and river.

They sailed at midnight and brought up in the early dawn in Longreach,
where a lighter loaded with barrels came alongside, and the boy smelt
romance and mystery when he learnt that they contained powder. They took
in ten tons, the lighter drifted away, the hatches were put on, and they
started once more.

It was his first voyage, and he regarded with eager interest the craft
passing up and down. He had made his peace with the seamen, and they
regaled him with blood-curdling stories of their adventures in the vain
hope of horrifying him.

"'E's a beastly little rascal, that's wot 'e is," said the indignant
Bill, who had surprised himself by his powers of narration; "fancy
larfin' when I told 'im of pitchin' the baby to the sharks."

'"E's all right, Bill," said the cook softly. "Wait till you've got
seven of 'em."

"What are you doing here, boy?" demanded the skipper, as Ralph, finding
the seamen's yarns somewhat lacking in interest, strolled aft with his
hands in his pockets.

"Nothing," said the boy, staring.

"Keep the other end o' the ship," said the skipper sharply, "an' go an'
'elp the cook with the taters."

Ralph hesitated, but a grin on the mate's face decided him.

"I didn't come here to peel potatoes," he said, loftily.

"Oh, indeed," said the skipper politely; "an' wot might you 'ave come
for, if it ain't being too inquisitive?"

"To fight the enemy," said Ralph shortly.

"Come 'ere," said the skipper.

The boy came slowly towards him.

"Now look 'ere," said the skipper, "I'm going to try and knock a little
sense into that stupid 'ed o' yours. I've 'eard all about your silly
little games ashore. Your father said he couldn't manage you, so I'm
goin' to have a try, and you'll find I'm a very different sort o' man
to deal with to wot 'e is. The idea o' thinking this ship was a pirate.
Why, a boy your age ought to know there ain't such things nowadays."

"You told me you was," said the boy hotly, "else I wouldn't have come."

"That's just why I told you," said the skipper.

"But I didn't think you'd be such a fool as to believe it. Pirates,
indeed! Do we look like pirates?"

"You don't," said the boy with a sneer; "you look more like - - "

"Like wot?" asked the skipper, edging closer to him. "Eh, like wot?"

"I forget the word," said Ralph, with strong good sense.

"Don't tell any lies now," said the skipper, flushing, as he heard
a chuckle from the mate. "Go on, out with it. Ill give you just two

"I forget it," persisted Ralph.

"Dustman?" suggested the mate, coming to his assistance. "Coster,
chimbley-sweep, mudlark, pickpocket, convict washer-wom - - "

"If you'll look after your dooty, George, instead o' interferin' in
matters that don't concern you," said the skipper in a choking voice, "I
shall be obliged. Now, then, you boy, what were you going to say I was

"Like the mate," said Ralph slowly.

"Don't tell lies," said the skipper furiously; "you couldn't 'ave forgot
that word."

"I didn't forget it," said Ralph, "but I didn't know how you'd like it."

The skipper looked at him dubiously, and pushing his cap from his brow
scratched his head.

"And I didn't know how the mate 'ud like it, either," continued the boy.

He relieved the skipper from an awkward dilemma by walking off to the
galley and starting on a bowl of potatoes. The master of the _Susan
Jane_ watched him blankly for some time and then looked round at the

"You won't get much change out of 'im," said the latter, with a nod;
"insultin' little devil."

The other made no reply, but as soon as the potatoes were finished set
his young friend to clean brass work, and after that to tidy the cabin
up and help the cook clean his pots and pans. Meantime the mate went
below and overhauled his chest.

"This is where he gets all them ideas from," he said, coming aft with a
big bundle of penny papers. "Look at the titles of 'em - 'The Lion of the
Pacific,' 'The One-armed Buccaneer,' 'Captain Kidd's Last Voyage.'"

He sat down on the cabin skylight and began turning them over, and,
picking out certain gems of phraseology, read them aloud to the skipper.
The latter listened at first with scorn and then with impatience.

"I can't make head or tail out of what you're reading, George," he said
snappishly. "Who was Rudolph? Read straight ahead."

Thus urged, the mate, leaning forward so that his listener might hear
better, read steadily through a serial in the first three numbers. The
third instalment left Rudolph swimming in a race with three sharks and
a boat-load of cannibals; and the joint efforts of both men failed to
discover the other numbers.

"Just wot I should 'ave expected of 'im," said the skipper, as the mate
returned from a fruitless search in the boy's chest. "I'll make him a
bit more orderly on this ship. Go an' lock them other things up in your
drawer, George. He's not to 'ave 'em again."

The schooner was getting into open water now, and began to feel it.
In front of them was the blue sea, dotted with white sails and
funnels belching smoke, speeding from England to worlds of romance and
adventure. Something of the kind the cook said to Ralph, and urged
him to get up and look for himself. He also, with the best intentions,
discussed the restorative properties of fat pork from a medical point of

The next few days the boy divided between seasickness and work, the
latter being the skipper's great remedy for piratical yearnings. Three
or four times he received a mild drubbing, and what was worse than the
drubbing, had to give an answer in the affirmative to the skipper's
inquiry as to whether he felt in a more wholesome frame of mind. On the
fifth morning they stood in towards Fairhaven, and to his great joy he
saw treess and houses again.

They stayed at Fairhaven just long enough to put out a small portion of
their cargo. Ralph, stripped to his shirt and trousers, having to work
in the hold with the rest, and proceeded to Lowport, a little place some
thirty miles distant, to put out their powder.

It was evening before they arrived, and, the tide being out, anchored in
the mouth of the river on which the town stands.

"Git in about four o'clock," said the skipper to the mate, as he looked
over the side towards the little cluster of houses on the shore. "Do you
feel better now I've knocked some o' that nonsense out o' you, boy?"

"Much better, sir," said Ralph respectfully.

"Be a good boy," said the skipper, pausing on the companion-ladder, "and
you can stay with us if you like. Better turn in now, as you'll have to
make yourself useful again in the morning working out the cargo."

He went below, leaving the boy on deck. The crew were in the forecastle
smoking, with the exception of the cook, who was in the galley over a
little private business of his own.

An hour later the cook went below to prepare for sleep. The other
two men were already in bed, and he was about to get into his when he
noticed that Ralph's bunk, which was under his own, was empty. He went
upon deck and looked round, and returning below, scratched his nose in

"Where's the boy?" he demanded, taking Jem by the arm and shaking him.

"Eh?" said Jem, rousing, "Whose boy?"

"Our boy, Ralph," said the cook. "I can't see 'im nowhere, I 'ope 'e
ain't gone overboard, poor little chap."

Jem refusing to discuss the matter, the cook awoke Dobbs. Dobbs swore
at him peacefully, and resumed his slumbers. The cook went up again and
prowled round the deck, looking in all sorts of unlikely places for
the boy. He even climbed a little way into the rigging, and, finding no
traces of him, was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that he had gone

"Pore little chap," he said solemnly, looking over the ship's side at
the still waters.

He walked slowly aft, shaking his head, and looking over the stern,
brought up suddenly with a cry of dismay and rubbed his eyes. The
ship's boat had also disappeared.

"Wot?" said the two seamen as he ran below and communicated the news.
"Well, if it's gorn, it's gorn."

"Hadn't I better go an' tell the skipper?" said the cook.

"Let 'im find it out 'isself," said Jem purring contentedly in the
blankets, "It's 'is boat. Go'night."

"Time we 'ad a noo 'un too," said Dobbs, yawning. "Don't you worry your
'ed, cook, about what don't consarn you."

The cook took the advice, and, having made his few simple preparations
for the night, blew out the lamp and sprang into his bunk. Then he
uttered a sharp exclamation, and getting out again fumbled for the
matches and relit the lamp. A minute later he awoke his exasperated
friends for the third time.

"S'elp me, cook," began Jem fiercely.

"If you don't I will," said Dobbs, sitting up and trying to reach the
cook with his clenched fist.

"It's a letter pinned to my pillow," said the cook in trembling tones,
as he held it to the lamp.

"Well, we don't want to 'ear it," said Jem. "Shut up, d'ye hear?"

But there was that in the cook's manner which awed him.

"Dear cook," he read feverishly, "I have made an infernal machine with
clock-work, and hid it in the hold near the gunpowder when we were at
Fairhaven. I think it will go off between ten and eleven to-night, but
I am not quite sure about the time. Don't tell those other beasts, but
jump overboard and swim ashore. I have taken the boat. I would have
taken you too, but you told me you swam seven miles once, so you can
eas - - "

The reading came to an abrupt termination as his listeners sprang out
of their bunks, and bolting on deck, burst wildly into the cabin,
and breathlessly reeled off the heads of the letter to its astonished

"Stuck a wot in the hold?" gasped the skipper.

"Infernal machine," said the mate; "one of them things wot you blow up
the 'Ouses of Parliament with."

"Wot's the time now?" interrogated Jem anxiously.

"'Bout ha'-past ten," said the cook trembling. "Let's give 'em a hail

They leaned over the side, and sent a mighty shout across the water.
Most of Lowport had gone to bed, but the windows in the inn were bright,
and lights showed in the upper windows of two or three of the cottages.

Again they shouted in deafening chorus, casting fearful looks behind
them, and in the silence a faint answering hail came from the shore.
They shouted again like madmen, and then listening intently heard a
boat's keel grate on the beach, and then the welcome click of oars in
the rowlocks.

"Make haste," bawled Dobbs vociferously, as the boat came creeping out
of the darkness. "W'y don't you make 'aste?"

"Wot's the row?" cried a voice from the boat.

"Gunpowder!" yelled the cook frantically: "there's ten tons of it aboard
just going to explode. Hurry up."

The sound of the oars ceased and a startled murmur was heard from the
boat; then an oar was pulled jerkily.

"They're putting back," said Jem suddenly. "I'm going to swim for it.
Stand by to pick me up, mates," he shouted, and lowering himself with
a splash into the water struck out strongly towards them. Dobbs, a poor
swimmer, after a moment's hesitation, followed his example.

"I can't swim a stroke," cried the cook, his teeth chattering.

The others, who were in the same predicament, leaned over the side,
listening. The swimmers were invisible in the darkness, but their
progress was easily followed by the noise they made. Jem was the first
to be hauled on board, and a minute or two later the listeners on
the schooner heard him assisting Dobbs. Then the sounds of strife, of
thumps, and wicked words broke on their delighted ears.

"They're coming back for us," said the mate, taking a deep breath. "Well
done, Jem."

The boat came towards them, impelled by powerful strokes, and was soon
alongside. The three men tumbled in hurriedly, their fall being modified
by the original crew, who were lying crouched up in the bottom of the
boat. Jem and Dobbs gave way with hearty goodwill, and the doomed ship
receded into the darkness. A little knot of people had gathered on the
shore, and, receiving the tidings, became anxious for the safety of
their town. It was felt that the windows, at least, were in imminent
peril, and messengers were hastily sent round to have them opened.

Still the deserted _Susan Jane_ made no sign. Twelve o'clock struck from
the little church at the back of the town, and she was still intact.

"Something's gone wrong," said an old fisherman with a bad way of
putting things. "Now's the time for somebody to go and tow her out to

There was no response.

"To save Lowport," said the speaker feelingly. "If I was only twenty
years younger - - "

"It's old men's work," said a voice.

The skipper, straining his eyes through the gloom in the direction of
his craft, said nothing. He began to think that she had escaped after

Two o'clock struck and the crowd began to disperse. Some of the bolder
inhabitants who were fidgety about draughts closed their windows, and
children who had been routed out of their beds to take a nocturnal walk
inland were led slowly back, By three o'clock the danger was felt to be
over, and day broke and revealed the forlorn _Susan Jane_ still riding
at anchor.

"I'm going aboard," said the skipper suddenly; "who's coming with me?"

Jem and the mate and the town-policeman volunteered, and, borrowing the
boat which had served them before, pulled swiftly out to their vessel
and, taking the hatches off with unusual gentleness, commenced their
search. It was nervous work at first, but they became inured to it,
and, moreover, a certain suspicion, slight at first, but increasing in
intensity as the search proceeded, gave them some sense of security.
Later still they began to eye each other shamefacedly.

"I don't believe there's anything there," said the policeman, sitting
down and laughing boisterously: "that boy's been making a fool of you."

"That's about the size of it," groaned the mate. "We'll be the
laughing-stock o' the town."

The skipper, who was standing with his back towards him, said nothing;
but, peering about, stooped suddenly, and, with a sharp exclamation,
picked up something from behind a damaged case.

"I've got it," he yelled suddenly; "stand clear!"

He scrambled hastily on deck, and, holding his find at arm's length,
with his head averted, flung it far into the water. A loud cheer from

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Online LibraryW. W. (William Wymark) JacobsMore cargoes → online text (page 1 of 11)