Copyright
W. W. (William Wymark) Jacobs.

Sailors' knots online

. (page 2 of 15)
Online LibraryW. W. (William Wymark) JacobsSailors' knots → online text (page 2 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


HOMEWARD BOUND 27

waste yours on pink vases and having friends
in to tea ? "

Mrs. Hatchard's still comely face took on
a deeper tinge.

44 Keeping me ? " she said sharply.
" You'd better stop before you say anything
you might be sorry for, Alfred."

<4 1 should have to talk a long time before
I said that," retorted the other.

44 I'm not so sure," said his wife. " I'm
beginning to be tired of it."

44 I've reasoned with you," continued Mr.
Hatchard, " I've argued with you, and I've
pointed out the error of your ways to you,
and it's all no good."

44 Oh, be quiet, and don't talk nonsense,"
said his wife.

"Talking," continued Mr. Hatchard, "as
I said before, is no good. Deeds, not words,
is what is wanted."

He rose suddenly from his chair, and,
taking one of the vases from the mantel-
piece, dashed it to pieces on the fender.



28 SAILORS' KNOTS

Example is contagious, and two seconds
later he was in his chair again, softly feeling
a rapidly growing bump on his head, and
gazing goggle-eyed at his wife.

"And I'd do it again," said that lady
breathlessly, " if there was another vase."

Mr. Hatchard opened his mouth, but
speech failed him. He got up and left the
room without a word, and, making his
way to the scullery, turned on the tap
and held his head beneath it. A sharp
intake of the breath announced that a tribu-
tary stream was looking for the bump down
the neck of his shirt.

He was away a long time so long that
the half-penitent Mrs. Hatchard was begin-
ning to think of giving first aid to the
wounded. Then she heard him coming
slowly back along the passage. He entered
the room, drying his wet hair on a hand-
kerchief.

"I I hope I didn't hurt you much?"
said his wife.



HOMEWARD BOUND 29

Mr. Hatchard drew himself up and
regarded her with lofty indignation.

" You might have killed me," he said at
last, in thrilling tones, " Then what would
, you have done ? "

" Swept up the pieces, and said you came
home injured and died in my arms," said
Mrs. Hatchard glibly. " I don't want to be
unfeeling, but you'd try the temper of a
saint. I'm sure I wonder I haven't done
it before. Why I married a stingy man I
don't know."

"Why I married at all I don't know,"
said her husband, in a deep voice.

" We were both fools," said Mrs. Hatchard,
in a resigned voice; " that's what it was.
However, it can't be helped now."

" Some men would go and leave you,"
said Mr. Hatchard.

"Well, go," said his wife, bridling. "I
don't want you."

" Don't talk nonsense," said the other.
* " It ain't nonsense," said Mrs. Hatchard.



30 SAILORS' KNOTS

" If you want to go, go. I don't want to
keep you."

" I only wish I could/ 1 said her husband
wistfully.

11 There's the door," said Mrs Hatchard,
pointing. " What's to prevent you ? "

" And have you going to the magistrate ?"
observed Mr. Hatchard.

" Not me," was the reply.

44 Or coming up, full of complaints, to the
warehouse."

" Not me," said his wife again.

" It makes my mouth water to think of
it," said Mr. Hatchard. " Four years ago I
hadn't a care in the world."

" Me neither," said Mrs Hatchard ; " but
then I never thought I should marry you.
I remember the first time I saw you I had
to stuff my handkerchief in my mouth."

"What for?" inquired Mr. Hatchard.

4< Keep from laughing," was the reply.

" You took care not to let me see you
laugh/' said Mr. Hatchard grimly. "You



HOMEWARD BOUND 31

were polite enough in them days. I only
wish I could have my time over again ;
that's all."

" You can go, as I said before," said his
wife.

" I'd go this minute," said Mr. Hatchard,
" but I know what it 'ud be : in three or
four days you'd be coming and begging me
to take you back again."

" You try me," said Mrs. Hatchard, with
a hard laugh. " I can keep myself. You
leave me the furniture most of it is mine
and I shan't worry you again."

"Mind!" said Mr. Hatchard, raising his
hand with great solemnity. " If I go, I
never come back again."

" I'll take care of that," said his wife
equably. " You are far more likely to ask
to come back than I am."

Mr. Hatchard stood for some time in
deep thought, and then, spurred on by a
short, contemptuous laugh from his wife,
went to the small passage, and, putting on



32 SAILORS' KNOTS

his overcoat and hat, stood in the parlour
doorway regarding her.

" I've a good mind to take you at your
word," he said at last.

"Good night," said his wife briskly. "If
you send me your address, I'll send your
things on to you. There's no need for you
to call about them."

Hardly realising the seriousness of the
step, Mr. Hatchard closed the front door
behind him with a bang, and then dis-
covered that it was raining. Too proud
to return for his umbrella, he turned up
his coat-collar and, thrusting his hands in
his pockets, walked slowly down the de-
solate little street. By the time he had
walked a dozen yards he began to think
that he might as well have waited until
the morning ; before he had walked fifty
he was certain of it.

He passed the night at a coffee-house,
and rose so early in the morning that the
proprietor took it as a personal affront,



HOMEWARD BOUND 3 3

and advised him to get his breakfast else-
where. It was the longest day in Mr.
Hatchard's experience, and, securing modest
lodgings that evening, he overslept him-
self and was late at the warehouse next
morning for the first time in ten years.

His personal effects arrived next day,
but no letter came from his wife, and
one which he wrote concerning a pair of
missing garments received no reply. He
wrote again, referring to them in laudatory
terms, and got a brief reply to the effect
that they had been exchanged in part pay-
ment of a pair of valuable pink vases, the
pieces of which he could have by paying
the carriage.

In six weeks Mr. Hatchard changed his
lodgings twice. A lack of those home
comforts which he had taken as a matter
of course during his married life was a
source of much tribulation, and it was
clear that his weekly bills were compiled
by a clever writer of fiction. It was his



34 SAILORS' KNOTS

first experience of lodgings, and the diffi-
culty of saying unpleasant things to a
woman other than his wife was not the
least of his troubles. He changed his lodg-
ings for a third time, and, much surprised
at his wife's continued silence, sought out
a cousin of hers named Joe Pett, and
poured his troubles into that gentleman's
reluctant ear.

" If she was to ask me to take her back,"
he concluded, " I'm not sure, mind you, that
I wouldn't do so."

" It does you credit/' said Mr. Pett.
"Well, ta-ta; I must be off."

"And I expect she'd be very much
obliged to anybody that told her so," said
Mr. Hatchard, clutching at the other's
sleeve.

Mr. Pett, gazing into space, said that he
thought it highly probable.

"It wants to be done cleverly, though,"
said Mr. Hatchard, "else she might get
the idea that I wanted to go back."



HOMEWARD BOUND 3 5

" I s'pose you know she's moved ? "
said Mr. Pett, with the air of a man
anxious to change the conversation.

"Eh?" said the other.

" Number thirty-seven, John Street," said
Mr. Pett. "Told my wife she's going
to take in lodgers. Calling herself Mrs.
Harris, after her maiden name."

He went off before Mr. Hatchard could
recover, and the latter at once verified the
information in part by walking round to
his old house. Bits of straw and paper
littered the front garden, the blinds were
down, and a bill was pasted on the front
parlour window. Aghast at such deter-
mination, he walked back to his lodgings
in gloomy thought.

On Saturday afternoon he walked round
to John Street, and from the corner of his
eye, as he passed, stole a glance at No.
37. He recognised the curtains at once,
and, seeing that there was nobody in the
room, leaned over the palings and peered



36 SAILORS' KNOTS

at a card that stood on the window-
sash

FURNISHED APARTMENTS

FOR SINGLE YOUNG MAN.
BOARD IF DESIRED.

He walked away whistling, and after
going a little way turned and passed it
again. He passed in all four times, and
then, with an odd grin lurking at the
corners of his mouth, strode up to the
front door and knocked loudly. He heard
somebody moving about inside, and, more
with the idea of keeping his courage up
than anything else, gave another heavy
knock at the door. It was thrown open
hastily, and the astonished face of his wife
appeared before him.

"What do you want?" she inquired
sharply.

Mr. Hatchard raised his hat. " Good
afternoon, ma'am," he said politely.

"What do you want?" repeated his
wife.



HOMEWARD BOUND 37

"I called/' said Mr. Hatchard, clearing
his throat " I called about the bill in the
window."

Mrs. Hatchard clutched at the door-
post.

"Well?" she gasped.

"I'd like to see the rooms,' 1 said the
other.

"But you ain't a single young man,"
said his wife, recovering.

11 I'm as good as single," said Mr.
Hatchard. " I should say, better."

"You ain't young," objected Mrs.
Hatchard.

41 I'm three years younger than what you
are," said Mr. Hatchard dispassionately.

His wife's lips tightened and her hand
closed on the door; Mr. Hatchard put his
foot in.

"If you don't want lodgers, why do you
put a bill up ? " he inquired.

" I don't take the first that comes," said
his wife.



38 SAILORS' KNOTS

" I'll pay a week in advance," said
Mr. Hatchard, putting his hand in his
pocket. " Of course, if you're afraid of
having me here afraid o' giving way to
tenderness, I mean "

11 Afraid?" choked Mrs. Hatchard.
" Tenderness ! I I "

"Just a matter o' business," continued
her husband, "that's my way of looking
at it that's a mans way. I s'pose women
are different. They can't "

" Come in," said Mrs. Hatchard, breath-
ing hard.

Mr. Hatchard obeyed, and clapping a
hand over his mouth ascended the stairs
behind her. At the top she threw open the
door of a tiny bedroom, and stood aside
for him to enter. Mr. Hatchard sniffed
critically.

" Smells rather stuffy," he said at last.

"You needn't have it," said his wife
abruptly. " There's plenty of other fish in
the sea."



HOMEWARD BOUND 39

14 Yes ; and I expect they'd stay there if
they saw this room," said the other.

" Don't think I want you to have it ;
because I don't," said Mrs. Hatchard, making
a preliminary movement to showing him
downstairs.

" They might suit me," said Mr. Hatchard
musingly, as he peeped in at the sitting-room
door. " I shouldn't be at home much. I'm
a man that's fond of spending his evenings
out."

Mrs. Hatchard, checking a retort, eyed
him grimly.

11 I've seen worse," he said slowly; "but
then I've seen a good many. How much
are you asking?"

" Seven shillings a week," replied his wife.
" With breakfast, tea, and supper, a pound a
week/ 1

Mr. Hatchard nearly whistled, but checked
himself just in time.

" I'll give it a trial," he said, with an air of
unbearable patronage.



40 SAILORS' KNOTS

Mrs. Hatchard hesitated.

"If you come here, you quite understand
it's on a business footing ? ;| she said.

"O' course," said the other, with affected
surprise. " What do you think I want it on ? "

" You come here as a stranger, and I look
after you as a stranger," continued his wife.

"Certainly," said the other. " I shall be
made more comfortable that way, I'm sure.
But, of course, if you're afraid, as I said
before, of giving way to tender "

" Tender fiddlesticks ! " interrupted his
wife, flushing and eyeing him angrily.

" I'll come in and bring my things at nine
o'clock to-night," said Mr. Hatchard. " I'd
like the windows open and the rooms aired a
bit. And what about the sheets ? "

" What about them ? " inquired his wife.

" Don't put me in damp sheets, that's all,"
said Mr. Hatchard. " One place I was
at "

He broke off suddenly.

" Well ? " said his wife quickly.



HOMEWARD BOUND 41

" Was very particular about them," said
Mr. Hatchard, recovering. "Well, good
afternoon to you, ma'am."

" I want three weeks in advance," said his
wife.

" Three " exclaimed the other. " Three
weeks in advance ? Why "

" Those are my terms," said Mrs. Hat-
chard. "Take 'em or leave 'em. PVaps
it would be better if you left s em."

Mr. Hatchard looked thoughtful, and
then with obvious reluctance took his
purse from one pocket and some silver
from another, and made up the required
sum.

"And what if I'm not comfortable
here ? " he inquired, as his wife hastily
pocketed the money.

" It'll be your own fault," was the reply.

Mr. Hatchard looked dubious, and, in a
thoughtful fashion, walked downstairs and
let himself out. He began to think that
the joke was of a more complicated



42 SAILORS' KNOTS

nature than he had expected, and it was
not without forebodings that he came back
at nine o'clock that night accompanied by
a boy with his baggage.

His gloom disappeared the moment the
door opened. The air inside was warm
and comfortable, and pervaded by an ap-
petizing smell of cooked meats. Upstairs a
small, bright fire and a neatly laid supper-
table awaited his arrival.

He sank into an easy-chair and rubbed
his hands. Then his gaze fell on a small
bell on the table, and opening the door
he rang for supper.

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Hatchard, enter-
ing the room.

" Supper, please," said the new lodger,
with dignity.

Mrs. Hatchard looked bewildered.
" Well, there it is," she said, indicating
the table. "You don't want me to feed
you, do you ? "

The lodger eyed the small, dry piece of



HOMEWARD BOUND 43

cheese, the bread and butter, and his face
fell. " I I thought I smelt something
cooking," he said at last.

" Oh, that was my supper," said Mrs.
Hatchard, with a smile.

" I Pm very hungry," said Mr. Hat-
chard, trying to keep his temper.

44 It's the cold weather, I expect," said
Mrs. Hatchard thoughtfully ; " it does
affect some people that way, I know.
Please ring if you want anything."

She left the room, humming blithely,
and Mr. Hatchard, after sitting for some
time in silent consternation, got up and
ate his frugal meal. The fact that the
water-jug held three pints and was filled
to the brim gave him no satisfaction.

He was still hungry when he arose next
morning, and, with curiosity tempered by
uneasiness, waited for his breakfast. Mrs.
Hatchard came in at last, and after polite
inquiries as to how he had slept, proceeded
to lay breakfast. A fresh loaf and a large



44 SAILORS' KNOTS

teapot appeared, and the smell of frizzling
bacon ascended from below. Then Mrs.
Hatchard came in again, and, smiling
benevolently, placed an egg before him
and withdrew. Two minutes later he rang
the bell.

" You can clear away," he said, as Mrs.
Hatchard entered the room.

4 * What, no breakfast?" she said, hold-
ing up her hands. " Well, I've heard
of you single young men, but I never
thought "

" The tea's cold and as black as ink/ 1
growled the indignant lodger, " and the
egg ought to be ashamed of itself.' 1

" I'm afraid you're a bit of a fault-
finder," said Mrs. Hatchard, shaking her
head at him. " I'm sure I try my best to
please. I don't mind what I do, but if
you're not satisfied you'd better go."

" Look here, Emily " began her hus-
band.

"Don't you 'Emily' me!" said Mrs.



HOMEWARD BOUND 45

Hatchard quickly. " The idea ! A lodger,
too! You know the arrangement. You'd
better go, I think, if you can't behave
yourself."

" I won't go till my three weeks are up/'
said Mr. Hatchard doggedly, "so you may
as well behave yourself''

11 1 can't pamper you for a pound a week/'
said Mrs. Hatchard, walking to the door.
41 If you want pampering, you had better go."

A week passed, and the additional expense
caused by getting most of his meals out
began to affect Mr. Hatchard's health. His
wife, on the contrary, was in excellent spirits,
and, coming in one day, explained the
absence of the easy-chair by stating that it
was wanted for a new lodger.

" He's taken my other two rooms/ 1 she
said, smiling "the little back parlour and
the front bedroom I'm full up now."

" Wouldn't he like my table, too ? " inquired
Mr. Hatchard, with bitter sarcasm.

His wife said that she would inquire, and



46 SAILORS' KNOTS

brought back word next day that Mr. Sadler,
the new lodger, would like it. It disappeared
during Mr. Hat chard's enforced absence at
business, and a small bamboo table, weak in
the joints, did duty in its stead.

The new lodger, a man of middle age with
a ready tongue, was a success from the first,
and it was only tot) evident that Mrs.
Hatchard was trying her best to please him.
Mr. Hatchard, supping on bread and cheese,
more than once left that wholesome meal to
lean over the balusters and smell the hot
meats going in to Mr. Sadler.

" You're spoiling him, 11 he said to Mrs.
Hatchard, after the new lodger had been
there a week. " Mark my words he'll get
above himself. 1 '

" That's my look - out," said his wife
briefly.

" Don't come to me if you get into trouble,
that's all," said the other.

Mrs. Hatchard laughed derisively. " You
don't like him, that's what it is," she re-



HOMEWARD BOUND 4 7

marked. " He asked me yesterday whether
he had offended you in any way."

"Oh! He did, did he?" snarled Mr.
Hatchard. " Let him keep himself to him-
self, and mind his own business."

" He said he thinks you have got a bad
temper," continued his wife. " He thinks
perhaps, it's indigestion, caused by eating
cheese for supper always."

Mr. Hatchard affected not to hear, and,
lighting his pipe, listened for some time to
the hum of conversation between his wife
and Mr. Sadler below. With an expression
of resignation on his face that was almost
saintly, he knocked out his pipe at last and
went to bed.

Half-an-hour passed, and he was still
awake. His wife's voice had ceased, but
the gruff tones of Mr. Sadler were still
audible. Then he sat up in bed and listened,
as a faint cry of alarm and the sound of
somebody rushing upstairs fell on his ears.
The next moment the door of his room



48 SAILORS' KNOTS

burst open, and a wild figure, stumbling
in the darkness, rushed over to the bed
and clasped him in its arms.

"Help!" gasped the wife's voice. "Oh,
Alfred! Alfred!"

" Ma'am ! " said Mr. Hatchard in a prim
voice, as he struggled in vain to free
himself.

"I'm so so fr-frightened ! " sobbed Mrs.
Hatchard.

"That's no reason for coming into a
lodger's room and throwing your arms
round his neck," said her husband severely.

" Don't be stu-stu-stupid," gasped Mrs.
Hatchard. " He he's sitting downstairs
in my room with a paper cap on his head
and a fire-shovel in his hand, and he he
says he's the the Emperor of China."

" He ? Who ? " inquired her husband.

" Mr. Sad-Sadler," replied Mrs. Hatchard,
almost strangling him. " He made me kneel
in front of him and keep touching the floor
with my head."



HOMEWARD BOUND 49

The chair-bedstead shook in sympathy
with Mr. Hatchard's husbandly emotion.

"Well, it's nothing to do with me," he
said at last.

"He's mad" said his wife, in a tense
whisper; " stark staring mad. He says I'm
his favourite wife, and he made me stroke
his forehead."

The bed shook again.

"I don't see that I have any right to
interfere," said Mr. Hatchard, after he had

quieted the bedstead. "He's your lodger."
" You're my husband," said Mrs. Hatchard.

" Ho ! " said Mr. Hatchard. " You've re-
membered that at last, have you?"

11 Yes, Alfred," said his wife.

" And are you sorry for all your bad
behaviour ? " demanded Mr. Hatchard.

Mrs. Hatchard hesitated. Then a clatter
of fireirons downstairs moved her to speech.

"Ye-yes," she sobbed.

" And you want me to take you back ? "
queried the generous Mr. Hatchard.



50 SAILORS' KNOTS

" Ye-ye-yes," said his wife.

Mr. Hatchard got out of bed and striking
a match lit the candle, and, taking his over-
coat from a peg behind the door, put it on
and marched downstairs. Mrs. Hatchard,
still trembling, followed behind.

" What's all this?" he demanded, throw-
ing the door open with a flourish.

Mr. Sadler, still holding the fire-shovel
sceptre-fashion and still with the paper cap
on his head, opened his mouth to reply. Then,
as he saw the unkempt figure of Mr. Hatchard
with the scared face of Mrs. Hatchard peeping
over his shoulder, his face grew red, his eyes
watered, and his cheeks swelled.

"K-K-K-Kch! K-Kch!" he said ex-
plosively.

" Talk English, not Chinese," said Mr.
Hatchard sternly.

Mr. Sadler threw down the fire-shovel,
and to Mr. Hatchard's great annoyance
clapped his open hand over his mouth and
spluttered with merriment.



* * * *




K K K KCH ! K KCH ! ' HE SAID EXPLOSIVELY



HOMEWARD BOUND 51

"When you've done playing at steam-
engines," said Mr. Hatchard grimly.

" Sh - sh she she " said Mr. Sadler.

" That'll do," said Mr. Hatchard hastily,
with a warning frown.

" Kow-towed to me," gurgled Mr. Sadler.
"You ought to have seen it, Alf. I shall
never get over it never. It's no no
good win-winking at me ; I can't help
myself."

He put his handkerchief to his eyes and
leaned back exhausted. When he removed
it, he found himself alone and everything
still but for a murmur of voices over-
head. Anon steps sounded on the stairs,
and Mr. Hatchard, grave of face, entered
the room.

"Outside!" he said briefly.

" What ! " said the astounded Mr. Sadler.
" Why, it's eleven o'clock."

" I can't help it if it's twelve o'clock,"
v/as the reply. "You shouldn't play the
fool and spoil things by laughing. Now,



52 SAILORS' KNOTS

are you going, or have I got to put you
out?"

He crossed the room, and, putting his
hand on the shoulder of the protesting Mr/
Sadler, pushed him into the passage, and
taking his coat from the peg, held it up
for him. Mr. Sadler, abandoning himself
to his fate, got into it slowly and indulged
in a few remarks on the subject of in-
gratitude.

" I can't help it," said his friend, in a low
voice. " I've had to swear I've never seen
you before/

"Eh?" said the staring Mr. Sadler,
shivering at the open door, "does she
believe you?"

"No," said Mr. Hatchard slowly, "but
she pretends to "



SELF-HELP

HP HE night-watchman sat brooding darkly
over life and its troubles. A shooting
corn on the little toe of his left foot, and
a touch of liver, due, he was convinced, to
the unlawful cellar-work of the landlord of
the Queen's Head, had induced in him a
vein of profound depression. A discarded
boot stood by his side, and his grey-stock-
inged foot protruded over the edge of the
jetty until a passing waterman gave it a
playful rap with his oar. A subsequent
inquiry as to the price of pigs' trotters fell
on ears rendered deaf by suffering.

11 I might 'ave expected it," said the
watchman at last. " I done that man if
you can call him a man a kindness once,
and this is my reward for it. Do a man a
kindness, and years arterwards 'e comes

53



54 SAILORS > KNOTS

along and hits you over your tenderest
corn with a oar."

He took up his boot, and, inserting his
foot with loving care, stooped down and
fastened the laces.

Do a man a kindness, he continued,
assuming a safer posture, and 'e tries to
borrow money off of you ; do a woman a
kindness and she thinks you want to marry
'er ; do an animal a kindness and it tries to
bite you same as a horse bit a sailor-man I
knew once, when 'e sat on its head to 'elp it
get up. He sat too far for'ard, pore chap.

Kindness never gets any thanks. I re-
member a man whose pal broke 'is leg while
they was working together unloading a
barge ; and he went off to break the news
to 'is pal's wife. A kind-'earted man 'e was
as ever you see, and, knowing 'ow she would
take on when she 'card the news, he told
her fust of all that 'er husband was killed.
She took on like a mad thing, and at last,
when she couldn't do anything more and 'ad



SELF-HELP 55

quieted down a bit, he told 'er that it was
on'y a case of a broken leg, thinking that
'er joy would be so great that she wouldn't
think anything of that. He 'ad to tell her
three times afore she understood 'im, and
then, instead of being thankful to 'im for 'is
thoughtfulness, she chased him 'arf over
Wapping with a chopper, screaming with
temper.

I remember Ginger Dick and Peter Russet
trying to do old Sam Small a kindness one
time when they was 'aving a rest ashore
arter a v'y'ge. They 'ad took a room to-
gether as usual, and for the fust two or
three days they was like brothers. That
couldn't last, o J course, and Sam was so an-
noyed one evening at Ginger's suspiciousness


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryW. W. (William Wymark) JacobsSailors' knots → online text (page 2 of 15)