'T-5 : iC^
W. W. JACOBS
AUTHOR OF "MANY CARGOES," ETC.
WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS
BY WILL OWEN
METHUEN & Co. LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
First Published October gist rqog
Second Edition October 1909
Third and Fourth Editions . December iqoq
Fifth Edition June iqio
HOMEWARD BOUND ....*. 25
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 77
ODD MAN OUT ....... 102
PETER'S PENCE 150
HEAD OF THE FAMILY . . . . . 177
PRIZE MONEY * 205
DOUBLE DEALING 230
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES . . , . 253
SENTENCE DEFERRED . e . . .276
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SHE STOOD BLOCKING UP THE DOORWAY WITH HER
'ANDS ON 'ER 'IPS Frontispiece
"K K K KCH ! K KCH!" HE SAID EXPLOSIVELY . $O
HE LET DRIVE WITH ALL HIS MIGHT IN 'iS FACE . . 70
CONSOLATIONS TO FLORA .... . . . IOI
WHEN THEY TURNED UP THEY FOUND EMMA AND J ER
FRIEND WAITING FOR THEM IOQ
THE OTHERS DREW NEAR, AND ALL THREE STOOD GAZING
AT THE DEAD MAN BELOW 149
MR. GOODMAN CAME IN A FOUR-WHEEL CAB WITH A BIG
BAG AND A FAT UMBRELLA 154
A DISAGREEABLE-LOOKING MAN WAS EYEING THEM IN
SOME ASTONISHMENT FROM THE DOORWAY . . l86
" WHERE'S HENERY WALKER?" HE SES, IN A LOUD VOICE 225
SHE PILED MR. CARTER'S PLATE UP SO GENEROUSLY THAT
HER FATHER AND BROTHER HAD AMPLE TIME TO
WATCH HIM EAT 244
'E WENT DOWNSTAIRS AND EMPTIED A BARREL O* BEER
DOWN THE SINK 270
"GIVE THIS TO THE SKIPPER, WILL YOU, MY LAD?" SAID
THE SERGEANT 300
" QAILORMEN ain't wot you might call
^ dandyfied as a rule," said the night-
watchman, who had just had a passage of
arms with a lighterman, and been advised
to let somebody else wash him and make
a good job of it: " they've got too much
sense. They leave dressing up and making
eyesores of theirselves to men wot 'ave
never smelt salt water ; men wot drift up
and down the river in lighters and get in
everybody's way.' 1
He glanced fiercely at the retreating
figure of the lighterman, and, turning a
deaf ear to a request for a lock of his hair
to patch a favourite doormat with, resumed
3 ; . : -. ; SAILORS' KNOTS
with much vigour his task of sweeping up
The most dressy sailorman I ever knew,
he continued, as he stood the broom up in
a corner and seated himself on a keg, was
a young feller named Rupert Brown. His
mother gave 'im the name of Rupert while
his father was away at sea, and when he
came 'ome it was too late to alter it. All
that a man could do he did do, and Mrs.
Brown 'ad a black eye till 'e went to sea
agin. She was a very obstinate woman,
though like most of 'em and a little over
a year arter wards got pore old Brown three
months 1 hard by naming 'er next boy
Young Rupert was on a barge when I
knew 'im fust, but he got tired of always
'aving dirty hands arter a time, and went
and enlisted as a soldier. I lost sight of
'im for a while, and then one evening he
turned up on furlough and come to see
O' course, by this time 'e was tired of
soldiering, but wot upset 'im more than
anything was always 'aving to be dressed
the same, and not being able to wear a
collar and neck-tie. He said that if it
wasn't for the sake of good old England,
and the chance o' getting six months, he'd
desert. I tried to give 'im good advice,
and, if I'd only known 'ow I was to be
dragged into it, I'd ha' given 'im a lot
As it 'appened he deserted the very next
arternoon. He was in the Three Widders
at Aldgate, in the saloon bar which is a
place where you got a penn'orth of ale in
a glass and pay twopence for it and, arter
being told by the barmaid that she had got
one monkey at 'ome, he got into conversa-
tion with another man wot was in there.
He was a big man with a black moustache
and a red face, and 'is fingers all smothered
in di'mond rings. He 'ad got on a gold
watch-chain as thick as a rope, and a scarf-
4 SAILORS' KNOTS
pin the size of a large walnut, and he had 'ad
a few words with the barmaid on 'is own
account. He seemed to take a fancy to
Rupert from the fust, and in a few minutes
he 'ad given 'im a big cigar out of a sealskin
case and ordered 'im a glass of sherry wine.
" Have you ever thought o' going on the
stage ? " he ses, arter Rupert 'ad told 'im of
his dislike for the Army.
" No," ses Rupert, staring.
" You s'prise me," ses the big man ; " you're
wasting of your life by not doing so."
" But I can't act," ses Rupert.
" Stuff and nonsense," ses the big man.
" Don't tell me. You've got an actor's
face. I'm a manager myself, and I know.
I don't mind telling you that I refused
twenty-three men and forty-eight ladies only
" I wonder you don't drop down dead,"
ses the barmaid, lifting up 'is glass to wipe
down the counter.
The manager looked at her, and, arter she
'ad gone to talk to a gentleman In the next
bar wot was knocking double knocks on the
counter with a pint pot, he whispered to
Rupert that she 'ad been one of them.
44 She can't act a bit," he ses. 4I Now,
look 'ere ; I'm a business man and my time
is valuable. I don't know nothing, and I
don't want to know nothing ; but, if a nice
young feller, like yourself, for example, was
tired of the Army and wanted to escape, I've
got one part left in my company that 'ud
suit 'im down to the ground."
44 Wot about being reckernised ? " ses
The manager winked at 'im. 4< It's the
part of a Zulu chief," he ses, in a whisper.
Rupert started. 44 But I should 'ave to
black my face," he ses.
" A little," ses the manager ; 4< but you'd
soon get on to better parts and see wot a
fine disguise it is."
He stood 'im two more glasses o f sherry
wine, and, arter he 'ad drunk 'em, Rupert
6 SAILORS' KNOTS
gave way. The manager patted 'im on the
back, and said that if he wasn't earning fifty
pounds a week in a year's time he'd eat his
'ead ; and the barmaid, wot 'ad come back
agin, said it was the best thing he could do
with it, and she wondered he 'adn't thought
of it afore.
They went out separate, as the manager
said it would be better for them not to be
seen together, and Rupert, keeping at out a
dozen yards behind, follered 'im down the
Mile End Road. By and by the manager
stopped outside a shop-window wot 'ad been
boarded up and stuck all over with savages
dancing and killing white people and hunting
elephants, and, arter turning round and
giving Rupert a nod, opened the door with
a key and went inside.
"That's all right/ 1 he ses, as Rupert
follered 'im in. " This is my wife, Mrs.
Alfredi," he ses, introducing 'im to a fat,
red-'aired lady wot was sitting inside sewing.
" She has performed before all the crowned
'eads of Europe. That di'mond brooch she's
wearing was a present from the Emperor of
Germany, but, being a married man, he
asked 'er to keep it quiet."
Rupert shook 'ands with Mrs. Alfred?, and
then her 'usband led 'im to a room at the
back, where a little lame man was clean-
ing up things, and told 'im to take his
"If they was mine," he ses, squinting at
the fireplace, " I should know wot to do
Rupert laughed and slapped 'im on the
back, and, arter cutting his uniform into
pieces, stuffed it into the fireplace and pulled
the dampers out. He burned up Ms boots
and socks and everything else, and they all
three laughed as though it was the best joke
in the world. Then Mr. Alfredi took his
coat off, and, dipping a piece of rag into a
basin of stuff wot George 'ad fetched, did
Rupert a lovely brown all over.
" That's the fust coat," he ses. "Now
8 SAILORS' KNOTS
take a stool in front of the fire and let it
He gave 'im another coat arf an hour
arterwards, while George curled his 'air,
and when 'e was dressed in bracelets round
'is ankles and wrists, and a leopard-skin
over his shoulder, he was as fine a Zulu as
you could wish for to see. His lips was
naturally thick and his nose flat, and even
his eyes 'appened to be about the right
" He's a fair perfect treat/' ses Mr. Alfredi.
" Fetch Kumbo in, George. 1 '
The little man went out and came back
agin shoving in a fat, stumpy Zulu woman
wot began to grin and chatter like a poll-
parrot the moment she saw Rupert.
"It's all right," ses Mr. Alfredi; "she's
took a fancy to you."
" Is is she an actress ?" ses Rupert.
" One o' the best," ses the manager.
" She'll teach you to dance and shy assegais.
Pore thing ! she buried her 'usband the day
afore we come here, but you'll be surprised
to see 'ow skittish she can be when she has
got over it a bit."
They sat there while Rupert practised
till he started shying the assegais, that is
and then they went out and left 'im with
Kumbo. Considering that she 'ad only just
buried her 'usband, Rupert found her quite
skittish enough, and he couldn't 'elp wonder-
ing wot she'd be like when she'd got over
her grief a bit more.
The manager and George said he 'ad got
on wonderfully, and arter talking it over
with Mrs. Alfredi they decided to open that
evening, and pore Rupert found out that the
shop was the theatre, and all the acting he'd
got to do was to dance war-dances and sing
in Zulu to people wot had paid a penny a
'ead. He was a bit nervous at fust, for fear
anybody should find out that 'e wasn't a
real Zulu, because the manager said they'd
tear 'im to pieces if they did, and eat 'im
arterwards, but arter a time 'is nervous-
io SAILORS' KNOTS
ness wore off and he jumped about like a
They gave performances every arf hour
from ha'-past six to ten, and Rupert felt
ready to drop. His feet was sore with
dancing and his throat ached with singing
Zulu, but wot upset 'im more than anything
was an elderly old party wot would keep
jabbing 'im in the ribs with her umbrella to
see whether he could laugh.
They 'ad supper arter they 'ad closed, and
then Mr. Alfredi and 'is wife went off, and
Rupert and George made up beds for them-
selves in the shop, while Kumbo 'ad a little
place to herself at the back.
He did better than ever next night, and
they all said he was improving fast ; and
Mr. Alfredi told 'im in a whisper that he
thought he was better at it than Kumbo.
" Not that I should mind 'er knowing much,"
he ses, "seeing that she's took such a fancy
" Ah, I was going to speak to you about
that," ses Rupert. " Forwardness is no
name for it; if she don't keep herself to
'erself, I shall chuck the whole thing up."
The manager coughed behind his 'and.
11 And go back to the Army ? " he ses.
"Well, I should be sorry to lose you, but
I won't stand in your way."
Mrs. Alfredi, wot was standing by, stuffed
her pocket-'andkercher in ; er mouth, and
Rupert began to feel a bit uneasy in his
" If I did," he ses, " you'd get into trouble
for 'elping me to desert."
"Desert!" ses Mr. Alfredi. "I don't
know anything about your deserting."
"Ho!" ses Rupert. "And wot about
"Uniform?" ses Mr. Alfredi. "Wot
uniform ? I ain't seen no uniform. Where
Rupert didn't answer 'im, but arter they
'ad gone 'ome he told George that he 'ad
'ad enough of actirig and he should go.
12 SAILORS' KNOTS
" Where to ? " ses George.
" I'll find somewhere," ses Rupert. " I
"You might ketch your death o' cold,
though," ses George.
Rupert said he didn't mind, and then he
shut 'is eyes and pretended to be asleep.
His idea was to wait till George was
asleep and then pinch 'is clothes ; conse-
quently 'is feelings when 'e opened one
eye and saw George getting into bed with
'is clothes on won't bear thinking about.
He laid awake for hours, and three times
that night George, who was a very heavy
sleeper, woke up and found Rupert busy
tucking him in.
By the end of a week Rupert was
getting desperate. He hated being black
for one thing, and the more he washed
the better colour he looked. He didn't
mind the black for out o' doors, in case
the Army was looking for 'im, but 'aving
no clothes he couldn't get out o' doors ; and
when he said he wouldn't perform unless
he got some, Mr. Alfred! dropped 'ints
about having 'im took up for a deserter.
" I've 'ad my suspicions of it for some
days," he ses, with a wink, " though you
did come to me in a nice serge suit and
tell me you was an actor. Now, you be
a good boy for another week and I'll ad-
vance you a couple o' pounds to get some
Rupert asked him to let 'im have it
then, but 'e wouldn't, and for another
week he 'ad to pretend 'e was a Zulu of
an evening,, and try and persuade Kumbo
that he was an English gentleman of a
He got the money at the end of the
week and 'ad to sign a paper to give a
month's notice any time he wanted to
leave, but he didn't mind that at all, being
determined the fust time he got outside
the place to run away and ship as a nigger
cook if 'e couldn't get the black off.
14 SAILORS' KNOTS
He made a list o' things out for George
to get for 'im, but there seemed to be
such a lot for two pounds that Mr. Alfredi
shook his 'ead over it ; and arter calling
'imself a soft-'arted fool, and saying he'd
finish up in the workhouse, he made it three
pounds, and told George to look sharp.
" He's a very good marketer," he ses,
arter George 'ad gone ; " he don't mind wot
trouble he takes. He'll very likely haggle
for hours to get sixpence knocked off the
trousers or twopence off the shirt."
It was twelve o'clock in the morning
when George went, and at ha'-past four
Rupert turned nasty, and said 'e was
afraid he was trying to get them for
nothing. At five o'clock he said George
was a fool, and at ha'-past he said 'e was
something I won't repeat.
They waited till eleven o'clock, and they
'ad just shut up for the night, when the
front door opened, and George stood there
smiling at 'em and shaking his 'ead.
" Sush a lark," he ses, catching 'old of
Mr. Alfredi's arm to steady 'imself. " I
gave 'im shlip."
"Wot d'ye mean?' ses the manager,
shaking him off. "Gave who the slip?
Where's them clothes ? "
"Boy's got 'em," ses George, smiling
agin and catching hold of Kumbo's arm.
" Sush a lark ; he's been car-carrying 'em
all day all day. Now I've given 'im the
the shlip, 'stead o' giving 'im fourpence.
Take care o 1 the pensh, an' pouris "
He let go o' Kumbo's arm, turned
round twice, and then sat down 'eavy and
fell fast asleep. The manager rushed to
the door and looked out, but there was no
signs of the boy, and he came back shak-
ing his 'ead, and said that George 'ad
been drinking again.
"Well, wot about my clothes?" ses
Rupert, hardly able to speak.
"P'raps he didn't buy 'em arter all,"
ses the manager. " Let's try 'is pockets."
16 SAILORS' KNOTS
" He tried fust, and found some straw-
berries that George 'ad spoilt by sitting
on. Then he told Rupert to have a try,
and Rupert found some bits of string, a
few buttons, two penny stamps, and two-
pence ha'penny in coppers.
" Never mind," ses Mr. Alfredi ; "I'll
go round to the police-station in the morn-
ing ; p'r'aps the boy 'as taken them there.
I'm disapp'inted in George. I shall tell
'im so, too."
He bid Rupert good night and went off
with Mrs. Alfredi ; and Rupert, wishful to
make the best o' things, decided that he
would undress George and go off in 'is
clothes. He waited till Kumbo 'ad gone
off to bed, and then he started to take
George's coat off. He got the two top
buttons undone all right, and then George
turned over in 'is sleep. It surprised
Rupert, but wot surprised 'im more when
he rolled George over was to find them
two buttons done up agin. Arter it had
'appened three times he see 'ow it was,
and he come to the belief that George
was no more drunk than wot he was, and
that it was all a put-up thing between 'im
and Mr. Alfredi.
He went to bed then to think it over,
and by the morning he 'ad made up his
mind to keep quiet and bide his time, as
the saying is. He spoke quite cheerful to
Mr. Alfredi, and pretended to believe 'im
when he said that he 'ad been to the police-
station about the clothes.
Two days arterwards he thought of some-
thing ; he remembered me. He 'ad found
a dirty old envelope on the floor, and, with
a bit o' lead pencil he wrote me a letter on
the back of one o' the bills, telling me all
his troubles, and asking me to bring some
clothes and rescue 'im. He stuck on one
of the stamps he 'ad found in George's
pocket, and opening the door just afore
going to bed threw it out on the pave-
1 8 SAILORS' KNOTS
The world is full of officious, interfering
busybodies. I should no more think of
posting a letter that didn't belong to me,
with an unused stamp on it, than I should
think o' flying ; but some meddlesome son
of a a gun posted that letter and I
I was never more surprised in my life.
He asked me to be outside the shop next
night at ha'-past eleven with any old
clothes I could pick up. If I didn't, he
said he should 'ang 'imself as the clock
struck twelve, and that his ghost would
sit on the wharf and keep watch with me
every night for the rest o' my life. He
said he expected it 'ud have a black face,
same as in life.
A wharf is a lonely place of a night ;
especially our wharf, which is full of dark
corners, and, being a silly, good-natured
fool, I went. I got a pal off one of the
boats to keep watch for me, and, arter
getting some old rags off of another sailor- %
man as owed me arf a dollar, I 'ad a drink
and started off for the Mile End Road.
I found the place easy enough. The
door was just on the jar, and as I tapped
on it with my finger-nails a wild-looking
black man, arf naked, opened it and said,
41 H'sh!" and pulled me inside. There was
a bit o' candle on the floor, shaded by a
box, and a man fast asleep and snoring up
in one corner. Rupert dressed like light-
ning, and he 'ad just put on 'is cap when
a door at the back opened and a 'orrid fat
black woman came out and began to
Rupert told her to hush, and she ; ushed,
and then he waved 'is hand to 'er to say
" good-bye," and afore you could say Jack
Robinson, she 'ad grabbed up a bit o' dirty
blanket, a bundle of assegais and a spear,
and come out arter us.
" Back ! " ses Rupert in a whisper, point-
Kumbo shook her 'ead, and then he took
20 SAILORS' KNOTS
hold of 'er and tried to shove 'er back, but
she wouldn't go. I lent him a 'and, but all
wimmen are the same, black or white, and
afore I knew where I was she 'ad clawed my
cap off and scratched me all down one side
of the face.
" Walk fast," ses Rupert.
I started to run, but it was all no good ;
Kumbo kept up with us easy, and she was
so pleased at being out in the open air that
she began to dance and play about like a
kitten. Instead o' minding their own busi-
ness people turned and follered us, and quite
a crowd collected.
"We shall 'ave the police in a minute,"
ses Rupert. " Come in 'ere quick."
He pointed to a pub up a side street, and
went in with Kumbo holding on to his arm.
The barman was for sending us out at fust,
but such a crowd follered us in that he
altered 'is mind. I ordered three pints, and,
while I was 'anding Rupert his, Kumbo
finished 'ers and began on mine. I tried to
explain, but she held on to it like grim
death, and in the confusion Rupert slipped
He 'adn't been gone five seconds afore
she missed 'im, and I never see anybody so
upset in all my life. She spilt the beer all
down the place where'er bodice ought to ha'
been, and then she dropped the pot and
went arter 'im like a hare. I follered in a
different way, and when I got round the
corner I found she 'ad caught 'im and was
holding 'im by the arm.
O' course, the crowd was round us agin,
and to get rid of 'em I did a thing I'd
seldom done afore I called a cab, and we
all bundled in and drove off to the wharf,
with the spear sticking out o' the window,
and most of the assegais sticking into me.
"This is getting serious," ses Rupert.
"Yes," I ses; "and wot 'ave I done to
be dragged into it? You must ha' been
paying 'er some attention to make 'er carry
on like this."
22 SAILORS' KNOTS
I thought Rupert would ha' bust, and the
things he said to the man wot was spending
money like water to rescue 4m was dis-
We got to the wharf at last, and I was
glad to see that my pal 'ad got tired of
night-watching and 'ad gone off, leaving the
gate open. Kumbo went in 'anging on to
Rupert's arm, arid I follered with the spear,
which I 'ad held in my 'and while I paid the
They went into the office, and Rupert
and me talked it over while Kumbo kept
patting 'is cheek. He was afraid that the
manager would track 'im to the wharf, and I
was afraid that the guv'nor would find out
that I 'ad been neglecting my dooty, for the
fust time in my life.
We talked all night pretty near, and then,
at ha'-past five, arf an hour afore the 'ands
came on, I made up my mind to fetch a
cab and drive 'em to my 'ouse. I wanted
Rupert to go somewhere else, but 'e said he
'ad got nowhere else to go, and it was the
only thing to get 'em off the wharf. I
opened the gates at ten minutes to six, and
just as the fust man come on and walked
down the wharf we slipped in and drove
We was all tired and yawning. There's
something about the motion of a cab or an
omnibus that always makes me feel sleepy,
and arter a time I closed my eyes and went
off sound. I remember I was dreaming that
I 'ad found a bag o' money, when the cab
pulled up with a jerk in front of my 'ouse
and woke me up. Opposite me sat Kumbo
fast asleep, and Rupert 'ad disappeared !
I was dazed for a moment, and afore I
could do anything Kumbo woke up and
missed Rupert. Wot made matters worse
than anything was that my missis was
kneeling down in the passage doing 'er
door-step, and 'er face, as I got down out
o' that cab with Kumbo 'anging on to my
arm, was something too awful for words.
24 SAILORS' KNOTS
It seemed to rise up slow-like from near
the door-step, and to go on rising till I
thought it 'ud never stop. And every inch
it rose it got worse and worse to look at.
She stood blocking up the doorway with
her 'ands on her 'ips, while I explained, with
Kumbo still 'anging on my arm and a crowd
collecting behind ; and the more I explained,
the more I could see she didn't believe a
word of it.
She never 'as believed it. I sent for Mr.
Alfredi to come and take Kumbo away, and
when I spoke to 'im about Rupert he said
I was dreaming, and asked me whether I
wasn't ashamed o' myself for carrying off a
pore black gal wot 'ad got no father or
mother to look arter her. He said that
afore my missis, and my character 'as been
under a cloud ever since, waiting for Rupert
to turn up and clear it away.
. HATCH ARD'S conversation for
nearly a week had been confined to
fault-finding and grunts, a system of treat-
ment designed to wean Mrs. Hatchard from
her besetting sin of extravagance. On other
occasions the treatment had, for short periods,
proved successful, but it was quite evident
that his wife's constitution was becoming
inured to this physic and required a change
of treatment. The evidence stared at him
from the mantelpiece in the shape of a pair
of huge pink vases, which had certainly not
been there when he left in the morning.
He looked at them and breathed heavily.
" Pretty, ain't they ? " said his wife, nodding
"Who gave 'em to you?" inquired Mr
26 SAILORS' KNOTS
His wife shook her head. "You don't
get vases like that given to you," she said,
slowly. " Leastways, I don't/'
"Do you mean to say you bought 'em?"
demanded her husband.
Mrs. Hatchard nodded.
" After all I said to you about wasting my
money?" persisted Mr. Hatchard, in amazed
Mrs. Hatchard nodded more brightly than
" There has got to be an end to this!"
said her husband desperately. " I won't
have it! D'ye hear? I won't have
" I bought 'em with my own money," said
his wife, tossing her head.
" Your money ? " said Mr. Hatchard.
" To hear you talk, anybody 'ud think you'd
got three hundred a year, instead of thirty.
Your money ought to be spent in useful
things, same as what mine is. Why should
I spend my money keeping you, while you