and if you're in no hurry I can tell you
a tale of a pal o* mine, Bill Burtenshaw
by name, that'll prove my words.
His mother was superstitious afore 'im,
and always knew when 'er friends died by
hearing three loud taps on the wall. The
on'y mistake she ever made was one night
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 255
when, arter losing no less than seven
friends, she found out it was the man next
door hanging pictures at three o'clock in
the morning. She found it out by 'im
hitting 'is thumb-nail.
For the first few years arter he grew up
Bill went to sea, and that on'y made 'im
more superstitious than ever. Him and a
pal named Silas Winch went several v'y'ges
together, and their talk used to be that
creepy that some o' the chaps was a'most
afraid to be left on deck alone of a night.
Silas was a long-faced, miserable sort o'
chap, always looking on the black side o'
things, and shaking his 'ead over it. He
thought nothing o' seeing ghosts, and pore
old Ben Huggins slept on the floor for a
week by reason of a ghost with its throat
cut that Silas saw in his bunk. He gave
Silas arf a dollar and a neck-tie to change
bunks with 'im.
When Bill Burtenshaw left the sea and
got married he lost sight of Silas alto-
256 SAILORS' KNOTS
gether, and the on'y thing he 'ad to remind
him of 'im was a piece o' paper which they
'ad both signed with their blood, promising
that the fust one that died would appear
to the other. Bill agreed to it one evenin'
when he didn't know what he was doing,
and for years arterwards 'e used to get
the cold creeps down 'is back when he
thought of Silas dying fust. And the idea
of dying fust 'imself gave 'im cold creeps
Bill was a very good husband when he
was sober, but 'is money was two pounds
a week, and when a man has all that and
on'y a wife to keep out of it, it's natural
for 'im to drink. Mrs. Burtenshaw tried
all sorts o' ways and means of curing 'im,
but it was no use. Bill used to think o j
ways, too, knowing the 'arm the drink was
doing 'im, and his fav'rite plan was for 'is
missis to empty a bucket o' cold water
over 'im every time he came 'ome the worse
for licker. She did it once, but as she 'ad
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 257
to spend the rest o' the night in the back
yard it wasn't tried agin.
Bill got worse as he got older, and even
made away with the furniture to get drink
with. And then he used to tell 'is missis
that he was drove to the pub because his
'ome was so uncomfortable.
Just at the time things was at their
worst, Silas Winch, who 'appened to be
ashore and 'ad got Bill's address from a
pal, called to see 'im. It was a Saturday
arternoon when he called, and, o' course,
Bill was out, but 'is missis showed him in,
and, arter fetching another chair from the
kitchen, asked 'im to sit down.
Silas was very perlite at fust, but arter
looking round the room and seeing 'ow bare
it was, he gave a little cough, and he ses,
"I thought Bill was doing well?" he ses.
14 So he is," ses Mrs. Burtenshaw.
Silas Winch coughed again.
" I suppose he likes room to stretch 'im-
self about in ? " he ses, looking round.
2 S 8 SAILORS' KNOTS
Mrs. Burtenshaw wiped 'er eyes, and
then, knowing 'ow Silas had been an old
friend o' Bill's, she drew 'er chair a bit
closer and told him 'ow it was. " A better
'usband, when he's sober, you couldn't wish
to see," she ses, wiping her eyes agin.
" He'd give me anything if he 'ad it."
Silas's face got longer than ever. "As
a matter o' fact," he ses, " I'm a bit down
on my luck, and I called round with the
'ope that Bill could lend me a bit, just till
I can pull round."
Mrs. Burtenshaw shook her 'ead.
"Well, I s'pose I can stay and see
'im?" ses Silas. "Me and 'im used to be
great pals at one time, and many's the
good turn I've done him. Wot time'll he
" Any time after twelve," ses Mrs. Burten-
shaw; "but you'd better not be here then.
You see, 'im being in that condition, he
might think you was your own ghost come
according to promise and be frightened
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 259
out of 'is life. He's often talked about
Silas Winch scratched his head and
looked at 'er thoughtful-like.
44 Why shouldn't he mistake me for a
ghost?" he ses at last; "the shock might
do 'im good. And, if you come to that,
why shouldn't I pretend to be my own
ghost and warn 'im off the drink ? "
Mrs. Burtenshaw got so excited at the
idea she couldn't 'ardly speak, but at last,
arter saying over and over agin she
wouldn't do such a thing for worlds, she
and Silas arranged that he should come
in at about three o'clock in the morning
and give Bill a solemn warning. She gave
'im her key, and Silas said he'd come in
with his 'air and cap all wet and pretend
he'd been drownded.
" It's very kind of you to take all this
trouble for nothing," ses Mrs. Burtenshaw,
as Silas got up to go.
" Don't mention it/' ses Silas. " It ain't
260 SAILORS' KNOTS
the fust time, and I don't suppose it'll be
the last, that I've put myself out to help
my feller-creeturs. We all ought to do
wot we can for each other."
"Mind, if he finds it out," ses Mrs.
Burtenshaw, all of a tremble, " I don't
know nothing about it. PVaps to make
it more life-like I'd better pretend not to
"PVaps it would be better," ses Silas,
stopping at the street door. "All I ask is
that you'll 'ide the poker and anything else
that might be laying about handy. And
you 'ad better oil the lock so as the key
won't make a noise."
Mrs. Burtenshaw shut the door arter 'im,
and then she went in and 'ad a quiet sit-
down all by 'erself to think it over. The
only thing that comforted 'er was that Bill
would be in licker, and also that 'e would
believe anything in the ghost line.
It was past twelve when a couple o' pals
brought him 'ome, and, arter offering to
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 261
fight all six of 'em, one arter the other,
Bill hit the wall for getting in 'is way,
and tumbled upstairs to bed. In less than
ten minutes 'e was fast asleep, and pore
Mrs. Burtenshaw, arter trying her best to
keep awake, fell asleep too.
She was woke up suddenly by a noise
that froze the marrer in 'er bones the
most 'artrending groan she 'ad ever heard
in 'er life ; and, raising her 'ead, she saw
Silas Winch standing at the foot of the
bed. He 'ad done his face and hands
over with wot is called loominous paint,
his cap was pushed at the back of his
'ead, and wet wisps of 'air was hanging
over his eyes. For a moment Mrs.
Burtenshaw's 'art stood still, and then
Silas let off another groan that put her
on edge all over. It was a groan that
seemed to come from nothing a'most until
it spread into a roar that made the room
tremble and rattled the jug in the wash-
stand basin. It shook everything in the
262 SAILORS' KNOTS
room but Bill, and he went on sleeping
like an infant. Silas did two more groans,
and then 'e leaned over the foot o' the
bed and stared at Bill, as though 'e
couldn't believe his eyesight.
"Try a squeaky one," ses Mrs. Burten-
Silas tried five squeaky ones, and then he
'ad a fit o' coughing that would ha f woke the
dead, as they say, but it didn't wake Bill.
11 Now some more deep ones," ses Mrs.
Burtenshaw, in a w'isper.
Silas licked his lips forgetting the paint
and tried the deep ones agin.
" Now mix 'em a bit," ses Mrs. Burten-
Silas stared at her. " Look 'ere," he ses,
very short, "do you think I'm a fog-horn, or
He stood there sulky for a moment, and
then 'e invented a noise that nothing living
could miss hearing ; even Bill couldn't. He
moved in 'is sleep, and arter Silas 'ad done it
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 263
twice more he turned and spoke to 'is missis
about it. " D'ye hear ? " he ses ; " stop it.
Stop it at once."
Mrs. Burtenshaw pretended to be asleep,
and Bill was just going to turn over agin
when Silas let off another groan. It was
on'y a little one this time, but Bill sat up as
though he 'ad been shot, and he no sooner
caught sight of Silas standing there than 'e
gave a dreadful 'owl and, rolling over,
wropped 'imself up in all the bed-clothes
'e could lay his 'ands on. Then Mrs.
Burtenshaw gave a 'owl and tried to get
some of 'em back; but Bill, thinking it
was the ghost, only held on tighter than
41 BILL," ses Silas Winch, in an awful
Bill gave a kick, and tried to bore a hole
through the bed.
"Bill," ses Silas agin, "why don't you
answer me ? I've come all the way from the
bottom of the Pacific Ocean to see you, and
264 SAILORS' KNOTS
this is all I get for it. Haven't you got any-
thing to say to me ? "
" Good-bye," ses Bill, in a voice all
smothered with the bed-clothes.
Silas Winch groaned agin, and Bill, as the
shock 'ad made a'most sober, trembled all
"The moment I died," ses Silas, "I
thought of my promise towards you. * Bill's
expecting me/ I ses, and, instead of staying
in comfort at the bottom of the sea, I kicked
off the body of the cabin-boy wot was cling-
ing round my leg, and 'ere I am."
"It was very t t t thoughtful of you
Silas," ses Bill ; " but you always w
w was thoughtful. Good-bye."
Afore Silas could answer, Mrs. Burten-
shaw, who felt more comfortable, 'aving got
a bit o* the clothes back, thought it was time
to put 'er spoke in.
11 Lor 1 bless me, Bill," she ses. " Wotever
are you a-talking to yourself like this for?
' Ave you been dreaming ? "
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 265
11 Dreaming ! " ses pore Bill, catching hold
of her 'and and gripping it till she nearly
screamed, " I wish I was. Can't you see
44 See it ? " ses his wife. " See wot ? "
" The ghost," ses Bill, in a 'orrible whisper ;
44 the ghost of my dear, kind old pal, Silas
Winch. The best and noblest pal a man
ever 'ad. The kindest-'arted "
44 Rubbish, 1 ' ses Mrs. Burtenshaw. 44 You've
been dreaming. And as for the kindest-
'arted pal, why I've often heard you say "
44 Hsh /" ses Bill. " I didn't. Til swear
I didn't. I never thought of such a thing."
44 You turn over and go to sleep,' 1 ses his
wife ; 44 hiding your 'ead under the clothes
like a child that's afraid o' the dark ! There's
nothing there, I tell you. Wot next will you
see, I wonder ? Last time it was a pink
44 This is fifty million times worse than
pink rats," ses Bill. 4< I on'y wish it was
a pink rat."
266 SAILORS' KNOTS
" I tell you there is nothing there," ses
his wife. " Look ! "
Bill put his 'ead up and looked, and
then 'e gave a dreadful scream and dived
under the bed-clothes agin.
" Oh, well, 'ave it your own way, then,"
ses his wife. "If it pleases you to think
there is a ghost there, and to go on
talking to it, do so, and welcome."
She turned over and pretended to go
to sleep agin, and arter a minute or two
Silas spoke agin in the same hollow
"Bill! "he ses.
"Yes," ses Bill, with a groan of his
" She can't see me," ses Silas, " and she
can't 'ear me; but I'm 'ere all right.
" I 'ave looked," ses Bill, with his 'ead
still under the clothes.
"We was always pals, Bill, you and
me," ses Silas; "many a v'y'ge 'ave we
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 267
had together, mate, and now I'm a-laying
at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and
you are snug and 'appy in your own warm
bed. I 'ad to come to see you, according
to promise, and, over and above that, since
I was drownded my eyes 'ave been opened.
Bill, you're drinking yourself to death ! "
11 1 I didn't know it," ses Bill, shaking
all over. " Til knock it off a bit, and
thank you for w w warning me. G
"You'll knock it off altogether," ses
Silas Winch, in a awful voice. " You're
not to touch another drop of beer, wine,
or spirits as long as you live. D'ye hear
"Not not as medicine ?" ses Bill, hold-
ing the clothes up a bit so as to be more
"Not as anything," ses Silas; "not
even over Christmas pudding. Raise your
right arm above your 'ead and swear by
the ghost of pore Silas Winch, as is laying
268 SAILORS' KNOTS
at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, that
you won't touch another drop."
Bill Burtenshaw put 'is arm up and swore
it. Then 'e took 'is arm in agin and lay
there wondering wot was going to 'appen
"If you ever break your oath by on'y
so much as a teaspoonful," ses Silas,
" you'll see me agin, and the second time
you see me you'll die as if struck by
lightning. No man can see me twice
Bill broke out in a cold perspiration all
over. " You'll be careful, won't you,
Silas?' 1 he ses. "You'll remember you
'ave seen me once, I mean?"
"And there's another thing afore I go,"
ses Silas. " I've left a widder, and if
she don't get 'elp from some one she'll
" Pore thing," ses Bill. " Pore thing."
" If you ad died afore me," ses Silas, " I
should 'ave looked arter your good wife
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 269
wot I've now put in a sound sleep as long
as I lived."
Bill didn't say anything.
" I should 'ave given 'er fifteen shillings a*
week," ses Silas.
"'Ow much?" ses Bill, nearly putting his
'ead up over the clothes, while 'is wife almost
woke up with surprise and anger.
" Fifteen shillings," ses Silas, in 'is most
awful voice. "You'll save that over the
" I I'll go round and see her," ses Bill.
"She might be one o' these 'ere inde-
11 1 forbid you to go near the place,"
ses Silas. " Send it by post every week ;
15 Shap Street will find her. Put your arm
up and swear it ; same as you did afore."
Bill did as 'e was told, and then 'e lay and
trembled, as Silas gave three more awful
" Farewell, Bill," he ses. " Farewell. I
am going back to my bed at the bottom
270 SAILORS' KNOTS
o' the sea. So long as you keep both your
oaths I shall stay there. If you break one
of 'em or go to see my pore wife I shall
appear agin. Farewell! Farewell! Fare-
well ! "
Bill said "Good-bye," and, arter a long
silence, he ventured to put an eye over the
edge of the clothes and discovered that the
ghost 'ad gone. He lay awake for a couple
o 1 hours, wondering and saying over the
address to himself so that he shouldn't forget
it, and just afore it was time to get up he
fell into a peaceful slumber. His wife didn't
get a wink, and she lay there trembling with
passion to think 'ow she'd been done, and
wondering 'ow she was to alter it.
Bill told 'er all about it in the morning;
and then with tears in his eyes 'e went down-
stairs and emptied a little barrel 'o beer down
the sink. For the fust two or three days 'e
went about with a thirst that he'd ha* given
pounds for if Vd been allowed to satisfy
it, but arter a time it went off, and then,
! E WENT DOWNSTAIRS AND EMPTIED A BARREL O' BEER DOWN THE SINK
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 271
like all teetotallers, 'e began to run down
drink and call it p'ison.
The fust thing 'e did when 'e got his
money on Friday was to send off a Post-
Office order to Shap Street, and Mrs.
Burtenshaw cried with rage and 'ad to put
it down to the headache. She 'ad the
headache every Friday for a month, and
Bill, wot was feeling stronger and better
than he 'ad done for years, felt quite sorry
By the time Bill 'ad sent off six orders
she was worn to skin and bone a'most
a-worrying over the way Silas Winch was
spending her money. She dursn't unde-
ceive Bill for two reasons : fust of all be-
cause she didn't want 'im to take to drink
agin ; and, secondly, for fear of wot he
might do to 'er if 'e found out 'ow she'd
been deceiving 'im.
She was laying awake thinking it over
one night while Bill was sleeping peaceful
by her side,^ when all of a sudden she 'ad
272 SAILORS' KNOTS
an idea. The more she thought of it the
better it seemed; but she laid awake for
ever so long afore she dared to do more
than think. Three or four times she
turned and looked at Bill and listened to
'im breathing, and then, trembling all over
with fear and excitement, she began 'er
" He did send it" she ses, with a pierc-
ing scream. " He did send it"
W-w-wot's the matter?" ses Bill, be-
ginning to wake up.
Mrs. Burtenshaw didn't take any notice
" He did send it," she ses, screaming
agin. " Every Friday night reg'lar. Oh,
dont let 'im see you agin."
Bill, wot was just going to ask 'er
whether she 'ad gone mad, gave a awful
'owl and disappeared right down in the
middle o' the bed.
"There's some mistake," ses Mrs.
Burtenshaw, in a voice that could ha 1 been
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 273
'card through arf-a-dozen beds easy. "It
must ha' been lost in the post. It must
She was silent for a few seconds, then
she ses, "All right," she ses, "I'll bring
it myself then by hand every week. No,
Bill shan't come; I'll promise that for 'im.
Do go away ; he might put his 'ead up at
She began to gasp and sob, and Bill
began to think wot a good wife he 'ad got,
when he felt 'er put a couple of pillers
over where she judged his 'ead to be, and
hold 'em down with her arm.
" Thank you, Mr. Winch," she ses, very
loud, " thank you. Good-bye. Good-bye."
She began to quieten down a bit, al-
though little sobs, like wimmen use when
they pretend that they want to leave off
crying but can't, kept breaking out of 'er.
Then, by and by, she quieted down alto-
gether, and a husky voice from near the
foot of the bed ses: "Has it gorn?"
274 SAILORS' KNOTS
"Oh, Bill," she ses, with another sob,
"I've seen the ghost!"
" Has it gorn?" ses Bill agin.
"Yes, it's gorn," ses his wife, shivering.
" Oh, Bill, it stood at the foot of the bed
looking at me, with its face and 'ands all
shiny white, and damp curls on its fore-
head. Oh ! "
Bill came up very slow and careful, but
with 'is eyes still shut.
" His wife didn't get the money this
week," ses Mrs. Burtenshaw ; " but as he
thought there might be a mistake somewhere
he appeared to me instead of to you. I've
got to take the money by hand."
"Yes, I heard," ses Bill; "and mind, if
you should lose it or be robbed of it,
let me know at once. D'ye hear? At
" Yes, Bill," ses 'is wife.
They lay quiet for some time, although
Mrs. Burtenshaw still kept trembling and
shaking; and then Bill ses: "Next time a
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES 275
man tells you he 'as seen a ghost, pYaps
you'll believe in 'im."
Mrs. Burtenshaw took out the end of the
sheet wot she 'ad stuffed in 'er mouth when
'e began to speak.
" Yes, Bill," she ses.
Bill Burtenshaw gave 'er the fifteen shil-
lings next morning and every Friday night
arterwards ; and that's 'ow it is that, while
other wimmen 'as to be satisfied looking at
new hats and clothes in the shop-winders,
Mrs. Burtenshaw is able to wear 'em.
pORTUNATELY for Captain Bligh,
* there were but few people about, and
the only person who saw him trip Police-
Sergeant Pilbeam was an elderly man with
a wooden leg, who joined the indignant
officer in the pursuit. The captain had youth
on his side, and, diving into the narrow
alley-ways that constitute the older portion
of Woodhatch, he moderated his pace and
listened acutely. The sounds of pursuit
died away in the distance, and he had already
dropped into a walk when the hurried tap of
the wooden leg sounded from one corner and
a chorus of hurried voices from the other. It
was clear that the number of hunters had
He paused a second, Irresolute. The next,
he pushed open a door that stood ajar in an
SENTENCE DEFERRED 277
old flint wall and peeped in. He saw a
small, brick-paved yard, in which trim
myrtles and flowering plants stood about in
freshly ochred pots, and, opening the door
a little wider, he slipped in and closed it
1 ' Well?" said a voice sharply. "What
do you want?"
Captain Bligh turned, and saw a girl stand-
ing in a hostile attitude in the doorway of the
11 Hsh ! " he said, holding up his finger.
The girl's cheek flushed and her eyes
"What are you doing in our yard?" she
The captain's face relaxed as the sound of
voices died away. He gave his moustache
a twist, and eyed her with frank admira-
"Escaping," he said briefly. "They
nearly had me, though."
" You have no business to escape into our
278 SAILORS' KNOTS
yard," said the girl. "What have you been
escaping from ? "
" Fat policeman," said the skipper jauntily,
twisting his moustache.
Miss Pilbeam, only daughter of Sergeant
Pilbeam, caught her breath sharply.
"What have you been doing?" she in-
quired, as soon as she could control her
11 Nothing," said the skipper airily, " no-
thing. I was kicking a stone along the path
and he told me to stop it."
" Well ? " said Miss Pilbeam impatiently.
"We had words," said the skipper. "I
don't like policemen fat policemen and
while we were talking he happened to
lose his balance and go over into some
mud that was swept up at the side of the
" Lost his balance ? " gasped the horrified
The skipper was flattered at her concern.
" You would have laughed if you had seen
SENTENCE DEFERRED 279
him/' he said, smiling. "Don't look so
frightened ; he hasn't got me yet."
" No," said the girl slowly. " Not yet/ 1
She gazed at him with such a world of
longing in her eyes that the skipper, despite
a somewhat large share of self-esteem, was
"And he shan't have me/ 1 he said, return-
ing her gaze with interest.
Miss Pilbeam stood in silent thought.
She was a strong, well-grown girl, but she
realised fully that she was no match for the
villain who stood before her, twisting his
moustache and adjusting his necktie. And
her father would not be off duty until nine.
" I suppose you would like to wait here
until it is dark ? " she said at last.
" I would sooner wait here than any-
where," said the skipper, with respectful
" Perhaps you would like to come in and
sit down ? " said the girl.
Captain Bligh thanked her, and removing
28o SAILORS' KNOTS
his cap followed her into a small parlour in
the front of the house.
11 Father is out," she said, as she motioned
him to an easy-chair, "but I'm sure he'll be
pleased to see you when he comes in."
" And I shall be pleased to see him," said
the innocent skipper.
Miss Pilbeam kept her doubts to herself
and sat in a brown study, wondering how
the capture was to be effected. She had a
strong presentiment that the appearance of
her father at the front door would be the
signal for her visitor's departure at the back.
For a time there was an awkward silence.
" Lucky thing for me I upset that police-
man," said the skipper at last.
11 Why?" inquired the girl.
" Else I shouldn't have come into your
yard," was the reply. " It's the first time
we have ever put into Woodhatch, and I
might have sailed away and never seen you.
Where should we have been but for that fat
policeman ? "
SENTENCE DEFERRED 281
Miss Pilbeam as soon as she could get
her breath said, " Ah, where indeed!" and
for the first time in her life began to feel
the need of a chaperon.
" Funny to think of him hunting for me
high and low while I am sitting here," said
Miss Pilbeam agreed with him, and began
to laugh to laugh so heartily that he was
fain at last to draw his chair close to hers
and pat her somewhat anxiously on the
back. The treatment sobered her at once,
and she drew apart and eyed him coldly.
11 1 was afraid you would lose your
breath," explained the skipper awkwardly.
" You are not angry, are you?"
He was so genuinely relieved when she
said "No" that Miss Pilbeam, despite her
father's wrongs, began to soften a little.
The upsetter of policemen was certainly
good-looking ; and his manner towards her
so nicely balanced between boldness and
timidity that a slight feeling of sadness
282 SAILORS' KNOTS
at his lack of moral character began to
44 Suppose you are caught after all?" she
said presently. " You will go to prison."
The skipper shrugged his shoulders. " I
don't suppose I shall be," he replied.
"Aren't you sorry?" persisted Miss Pil-
beam, in a vibrant voice.
" Certainly not," said the skipper. " Why,
I shouldn't have seen you if I hadn't
Miss Pilbeam looked at the clock and
pondered. It wanted but five minutes to
nine. Five minutes in which to make up a
mind that was in a state of strong unrest.
44 1 suppose it is time for me to go," said
the skipper, watching her.
Miss Pilbeam rose. "No, don't go," she
said hastily. " Do be quiet. I want to
Captain Bligh waited in respectful silence,