she said deliberately. " It shan't be said
a daughter of mine was afraid to hear
the truth about herself; father'll find the
" And she can say what she likes about
you, but I shan't believe it," said Mr. Foss
" I don't suppose it'll be anything to be
ashamed of," said Miss Dowson sharply.
Mr. Foss bade them good-night suddenly,
and, finding himself accompanied to the door
by Mr. Dowson, gave way to gloom. He
stood for so long with one foot on the step
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 85
and the other on the mat that Mr. Dowson,
who disliked draughts, got impatient.
"You'll catch cold, Charlie," he said at
14 That's what I'm trying to do," said Mr.
Foss ; " my death o' cold. Then I shan't
get five years for bigamy," he added bitterly.
"Cheer up," said Mr. Dowson; "five
years ain't much out of a lifetime ; and you
can't expect to 'ave your fun without "
He watched the retreating figure of Mr.
Foss as it stamped its way down the street,
and closing the door returned to the kitchen
to discuss palmistry and other sciences until
Mrs. Dowson saw husband and daughter
off to work in the morning, and after wash-
ing-up the breakfast things drew her chair
up to the kitchen fire and became absorbed
in memories of the past. All the leading
incidents in Flora's career passed in review
before her. Measles, whooping-cough,
school-prizes, and other things peculiar to
86 SAILORS' KNOTS
the age of innocence were all there. In her
enthusiasm she nearly gave her a sprained
ankle which had belonged to her sister.
Still shaking her head over her mistake, she
drew Flora's latest portrait carefully from its
place in the album, and putting on her hat
and jacket went round to make a call in
By the time Flora returned home Mrs.
Dowson appeared to have forgotten the
arrangements made the night before, and,
being reminded by her daughter, questioned
whether any good could come of attempts
to peer into the future. Mr. Dowson was
still more emphatic, but his objections,
being recognised by both ladies as trouser-
pocket ones, carried no weight. It ended
in Flora going off with half-a-crown in her
glove and an urgent request from her
father to make it as difficult as possible
for the sibyl by giving a false name and
No name was asked for, however, as
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 87
Miss Dowson was shown into the untidy
little back-room on the first floor, in which
the sorceress ate, slept, and received visi-
tors. She rose from an old rocking-chair
as the visitor entered, and, regarding her
with a pair of beady black eyes, bade her
" Are you the fortune-teller ? " inquired
14 Men call me so," was the reply.
" Yes, but are you ? " persisted Miss
Dowson, who inherited her father's fond-
ness for half-crowns.
"Yes," said the other, in a more natural
She took the girl's left hand, and, pour-
ing a little dark liquid into the palm,
gazed at it intently. " Left for the past ;
right for the future/* she said, in a deep
She muttered some strange words and
bent her head lower over the girl's hand.
"I see a fair-haired infant," she said
88 SAILORS' KNOTS
slowly ; " I see a little girl of four racked
with the whooping-cough ; I see her later,
eight she appears to be. She is in bed
Miss Dowson stared at her open-mouthed.
"She goes away to the seaside to get
strong," continued the sorceress; "she is
paddling ; she falls into the water and
spoils her frock ; her mother "
" Never mind about that," interrupted the
staring Miss Dowson hastily. " I was only
eight at the time and mother always was
ready with her hands."
" People on the beach smile," resumed
the other. "They "
"It don't take much to make some
people laugh," said Miss Dowson, with
" At fourteen she and a boy next door
but seven both have the mumps."
"And why not?" demanded Miss Dow-
son, with great warmth, " Why not?"
"I'm only reading what I see in your
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 89
hand," said the other. " At fifteen I see
her knocked down by a boat-swing ; a boy
from opposite brings her home."
II Passing at the time," murmured Miss
"His head is done up with sticking-
plaster. I see her apprenticed to a dress-
maker. I see her "
The voice went on monotonously, and
Flora, gasping with astonishment, listened
to a long recital of the remaining interesting
points in her career.
" That brings us to the present/' said the
soothsayer, dropping her hand. " Now for
She took the girl's other hand and poured
some of the liquid into it. Miss Dowson
"If it's anything dreadful," she said
quickly, " I don't want to hear it. It it
II 1 can warn you of dangers to keep clear
of," said the other, detaining her hand. " I
9 o SAILORS' KNOTS
can let you peep into the future and see what
to do and what to avoid. Ah ! "
She bent over the girl's hand again and
uttered little ejaculations of surprise and
" I see you moving in gay scenes sur-
rounded by happy faces," she said slowly.
"You are much sought after. Handsome
presents and fine clothes are showered upon
you. You will cross the sea. I see a dark
young man and a fair young man. They
will both influence your life. The fair young
man works in his father's shop. He will
have great riches."
"What about the other?" inquired Miss
Dowson, after a somewhat lengthy pause.
The fortune-teller shook her head. " He
is his own worst enemy," she said, " and
he will drag down those he loves with
him. You are going to marry one of
them, but I can't see clear I can't see
" Look again," said the trembling Flora.
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 91
" 1 can't see," was the reply, " therefore it
isn't meant for me to see. It's for you to
choose. I can see them now as plain as I
can see you. You are all three standing
where two roads meet. The fair young
man is beckoning to you and pointing to
a big house, and a motor-car and a yacht."
"And the other?" said the surprised
" He's in knickerbockers," said the other
doubtfully. " What does that mean ? Ah,
I see! They've got the broad arrow on
them, and he is pointing to a jail. It's all
gone I can see no more."
She dropped the girl's hand and, drawing
her hand across her eyes, sank back into
her chair. Miss Dowson, with trembling
fingers, dropped the half-crown into her
lap, and, with her head in a whirl, made
her way downstairs.
After such marvels the streets seemed
oddly commonplace as she walked swiftly
home. She decided as she went to keep
9 2 SAILORS' KNOTS
her knowledge to herself, but inclination
on the one hand and Mrs. Dowson on
the other got the better of her resolution.
With the exception of a few things in her
past, already known, and therefore not
worth dwelling upon, the whole of the
interview was disclosed.
"It fair takes your breath away," declared
the astounded Mr. Dowson.
" The fair young man is meant for Ben
Lippet," said his wife, " and the dark one is
Charlie Foss. It must be. It's no use
shutting your eyes to things. "
14 It's as plain as a pikestaff," agreed her
husband. "And she told Charlie five years
for bigamy, and when she's telling Flora's
fortune she sees 'im in convict's clothes.
How she does it I can't think."
" It's a gift," said Mrs. Dowson briefly,
"and I do hope that Flora is going to act
sensible. Anyhow, she can let Ben Lippet
come and see her, without going upstairs
with the toothache."
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 9 3
41 He can come if he likes/' said Flora ;
" though why Charlie couldn't have 'ad the
motor-car and 'im the five years, I don't
Mr. Lippet came in the next evening, and
the evening after. In fact, so easy is it to
fall into habits of an agreeable nature that
nearly every evening saw him the happy
guest of Mr. Dowson. A spirit of resigna-
tion, fostered by a present or two and a
visit to the theatre, descended upon Miss
Dowson. Fate and her mother combined
were in a fair way to overcome her inclina-
tions, when Mr. Foss, who had been out of
town on a job, came in to hear the result
of her visit to the fortune-teller, and found
Mr. Lippet installed in the seat that used to
At first Mrs. Dowson turned a deaf ear to
his request for information, and it was only
when his jocularity on the subject passed the
bounds of endurance that she consented to
gratify his curiosity.
94 SAILORS' KNOTS
" I didn't want to tell you," she said, when
she had finished, " but you asked for it, and
now you've got it."
11 It's very amusing," said Mr. Foss. " I
wonder who the dark young man in the
fancy knickers is ? "
" Ah, I dessay you'll know some day,"
said Mrs. Dowson.
" Was the fair young man a good-looking
chap ? " inquired the inquisitive Mr. Foss.
Mrs. Dowson hesitated. M Yes," she
" Wonder who it can be ? " muttered Mr.
Foss, in perplexity.
" You'll know that too some day, no
doubt," was the reply.
Mr. Foss assented. " I'm glad it's to be
a good-looking chap," he said ; " not that I
think Flora believes in such rubbish as
fortune-telling. She's too sensible."
" I do," said Flora. " How should she
know all the things I did when I was a little
girl ? Tell me that."
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 9$
11 1 believe in it, too," said Mrs. Dowson.
11 PVaps you'll tell me fm not sensible ! "
Mr. Foss quailed at the challenge and
relapsed into moody silence. The talk
turned on an aunt of Mr. Lippet's, rumoured
to possess money, and an uncle who was
" rolling " in it. He began to feel in the
way, and only his native obstinacy prevented
him from going.
It was a relief to him when the front door
opened and the heavy step of Mr. Dowson
was heard in the tiny passage. If any thing
it seemed heavier than usual, and Mr. Dow-
son's manner when he entered the room and
greeted his guests was singularly lacking in
its usual cheerfulness. He drew a chair to
the fire, and putting his feet on the fender
gazed moodily between the bars.
1 ' I've been wondering as I came along,*'
he said at last, with an obvious attempt to
speak carelessly, " whether this 'ere fortune-
telling as we've been hearing so much about
lately always comes out true."
96 SAILORS' KNOTS
44 It depends on the fortune-teller," said
44 I mean/' said Mr. Dowson slowly " I
mean that gipsy woman that Charlie and
Flora went to."
44 Of course it does," snapped his wife.
" I'd trust what she says afore anything/'
44 1 know five or six that she has told,"
said Mr. Lippet, plucking up courage; "and
they all believe 'er. They couldn't help
themselves ; they said so."
44 Still, she might make a mistake some-
times," said Mr. Dowson faintly. 44 Might
get mixed up, so to speak."
44 Never ! " said Mrs. Dowson firmly.
4< Never!" echoed Flora and Mr. Lip-
Mr. Dowson heaved a big sigh, and his
eye wandered round the room. It lighted
on Mr. Foss.
44 She's an old humbug," said that
gentleman. " I've a good mind to put
the police on to her."
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 9 7
Mr. Dowson reached over and gripped
his hand. Then he sighed again.
"Of course, it suits Charlie Foss to say
so," said Mrs. Dowson; " naturally he'd
say so ; he's got reasons. I believe every
word she says. If she told me I was
coming in for a fortune I should believe
her; and if she told me I was going to
have misfortunes I should believe her."
" Don't say that," shouted Mr. Dowson,
with startling energy. " Don't say that.
That's what she did say ! "
"What?" cried his wife sharply.
" What are you talking about ? "
"I won eighteenpence off of Bob Stevens,"
said her husband, staring at the table."
" Eighteenpence is 'er price for telling the
future only, and, being curious and feeling
I'd like to know what's going to 'appen to
me, I went in and had eighteenpennorth."
" Well, you're upset," said Mrs. Dowson,
with a quick glance at him. " You get
upstairs to bed."
98 SAILORS' KNOTS
"I'd sooner stay 'ere," said her hus-
band, resuming his seat; "it seems more
cheerful and life-like. I wish I 'adn't gorn,
that's what I wish."
"What did she tell you?" inquired Mr.
Mr. Dowson thrust his hands into his
trouser pockets and spoke desperately.
" She says I'm to live to ninety, and I'm
to travel to foreign parts "
" You get to bed," said his wife. " Come
Mr. Dowson shook his head doggedly.
"I'm to be rich," he continued slowly
"rich and loved. After my pore dear
wife's death I'm to marry again ; a young
woman with money and stormy brown
Mrs. Dowson sprang from her chair and
stood over him quivering with passion.
"How dare you?" she gasped. "You
you've been drinking."
"I've 'ad two 'arf-pints," said her hus-
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS 99
band solemnly. " I shouldn't 'ave 'ad the
second only I felt so miserable. I know I
shan't be 'appy with a young woman."
Mrs. Dowson, past speech, sank back
in her chair and stared at him.
" I shouldn't worry about it if I was
you, Mrs. Dowson," said Mr. Foss kindly.
" Look what she said about me. That
ought to show you she ain't to be relied
" Eyes like lamps," said Mr. Dowson
musingly, "and I'm forty-nine next month.
Well, they do say every eye 'as its own
idea of beauty."
A strange sound, half laugh and half
cry, broke from the lips of the over-
wrought Mrs. Dowson. She controlled
herself by an effort.
" If she said it," she said doggedly,
with a fierce glance at Mr. Foss, "it'll
come true. If, after my death, my 'usband
is going to marry a young woman with
ioo SAILORS' KNOTS
" Stormy brown eyes," interjected Mr.
"It's his fate and it can't be avoided,"
concluded Mrs. Dowson.
" But it's so soon," said the unfortunate
husband. "You're to die in three weeks
and I'm to be married three months after."
Mrs. Dowson moistened her lips and
tried, but in vain, to avoid the glittering
eye of Mr. Foss. "Three!" she said
mechanically, "three! three weeks!"
" Don't be frightened," said Mr. Foss,
in a winning voice. " I don't believe it ;
and, besides, we shall soon see ! And if
you don't die in three weeks, perhaps I
shan't get five years for bigamy, and per-
haps Flora won't marry a fair man with
millions of money and motor-cars."
" No ; perhaps she is wrong after all,
mother," said Mr. Dowson hopefully.
Mrs. Dowson gave him a singularly
unkind look for one about to leave him so
soon, and, afraid to trust herself to speech,
CONSOLATIONS TO FLORA
MATRIMONIAL OPENINGS roi
left the room and went upstairs. As the
door closed behind her, Mr. Foss took
the chair which Mr. Lippet had thought-
lessly vacated, and offered such consolation
to Flora as he considered suitable to the
ODD MAN OUT
night watchman pursed up his lips
A and shook his head. Friendship, he
said decidedly, is a deloosion and a snare.
I've ; ad more friendships in my life than
most people owing to being took a fancy
to for some reason or other and they nearly
all came to a sudden ending.
I remember one man who used to think I
couldn't do wrong : everything I did was
right to 'im ; and now if I pass 'im in the
street he makes a face as if he'd got a hair in
'is mouth. All because I told 'im the truth
one day when he was thinking of getting
married. Being a bit uneasy-like in his
mind, he asked me 'ow, supposing I was a
gal, his looks would strike me.
It was an orkard question, and I told him
that he 'ad got a good 'art and that no man
ODD MAN OUT 103
could 'ave a better pal. I said he 'ad got a
good temper and was free with 'is money.
O' course, that didn't satisfy 'im, and at last
he told me to take a good look at 'im and
tell him wot I thought of 'is looks. There
was no getting out of it, and at last I 'ad to
tell him plain that everybody 'ad diffrent
ideas about looks ; that looks wasn't every-
thing; and that 'andsome is as 'andsome
does. Even then 'e wasn't satisfied, and at
last I told 'im, speaking as a pal to a pal,
that if I was a gal and he came along trying
to court me, I should go to the police about it.
I remember two young fellers that was
shipmates with me some years ago, and
they was such out-and-out pals that every-
body called 'em the Siamese twins. They
always shipped together and shared lodgings
together when they was ashore, and Ted
Denver would no more 'ave thought of going
out without Charlie Brice than Charlie Brice
would 'ave thought of going out without 'im.
They shared their baccy and their money
io 4 SAILORS' KNOTS
and everything else, and it's my opinion that
if they 'ad only 'ad one pair o' boots between
'em they'd 'ave hopped along in one eactu
They 'ad been like it for years, and they
kept it up when they left the sea and got
berths ashore. Anybody knowing them
would ha' thought that nothing but death
could part 'em ; but it happened otherwise.
There was a gal in it, of course. A gal
that Ted Denver got into conversation with
on top of a 'bus, owing to her steadying
'erself by putting her hand on 'is shoulder
as she passed 'im. Bright, lively sort o' gal
she seemed, and, afore Ted knew where he
was, they was talking away as though they
'ad known each other for years.
Charlie didn't seem to care much for it at
fust, but he didn't raise no objection ; and
when the gal got up to go he stopped the
'bus for 'er by poking the driver in the back,
and they all got off together. Ted went
fust to break her fall, in case the 'bus started
off too sudden, and Charlie 'elped her down
ODD MAN OUT 105
behind by catching hold of a lace collar she
was wearing. When she turned to speak to
'im about it, she knocked the conductor's hat
off with 'er umbrella, and there was so much
unpleasantness that by the time they 'ad got
to the pavement she told Charlie that she
never wanted to see his silly fat face agin.
" It ain't fat/* ses Ted, speaking up for
'im ; " it's the shape of it."
"And it ain't silly," ses Charlie, speaking
very quick ; " mind that ! "
" It's a bit o' real lace," ses the gal,
twisting her 'ead round to look at the collar ;
"it cost me one and two-three only last
"One an 1 wot?" ses Charlie, who, not
being a married man, didn't understand 'er.
"One shilling," ses the gal, "two pennies,
and three farthings. D'ye understand that ? "
" Yes," ses Charlie.
11 He's cleverer than he looks," ses the gal,
turning to Ted. " I s'pose you're right, and
it is the shape after all."
106 SAILORS' KNOTS
Ted walked along one side of 'er and
Charlie the other, till they came to the corner
of the road where she lived, and then Ted
and 'er stood there talking till Charlie got
sick and tired of it, and kept tugging at
Ted's coat for 'im to come away.
" I'm coming," ses Ted at last. " I s'pose
you won't be this way to-morrow night ? " he
ses, turning to the gal.
" I might if I thought there was no chance
of seeing you," she ses, tossing her 'ead.
"You needn't be alarmed," ses Charlie,
shoving in his oar; " we're going to a
music-'all to-morrow night."
" Oh, go to your blessed music-'all," ses
the gal to Ted ; " I don't want you."
She turned round and a'most ran up the
road, with Ted follering 'er and begging of
'er not to be so hasty, and afore they parted
she told 'im that 'er name was Emma White,
and promised to meet 'im there the next
night at seven.
O' course Mr. Charlie Brice turned up
ODD MAN OUT 107
alongside o' Ted the next night, and at fust
Emma said she was going straight off 'ome
agin. She did go part o' the way, and then,
when she found that Ted wouldn't send his
mate off, she came back, and, woman-like,
said as 'ow she wasn't going to go 'ome just
to please Charlie Brice. She wouldn't speak
a word to J im, and when they all went to the
music-'all together she sat with her face
turned away from 'im and her elbow sticking
in 'is chest. Doing that and watching the
performance at the same time gave 'er a stiff
neck, and she got in such a temper over it
she wouldn't hardly speak to Ted, and when
Charlie meaning well told 'er to rub it
with a bit o' hot mutton-fat she nearly went
off her 'ead.
11 Who asked you to come with us?" she
ses, as soon as she could speak. "'Ow
dare you force yourself where you ain't
wanted ? "
" Ted wants me," ses Charlie.
" We've been together for years," ses Ted.
i o8 SAILORS' KNOTS
" You'll like Charlie when you get used to
'im everybody does."
" Not me ! " ses Emma, with a shiver. " It
gives me the fair creeps to look at him.
You'll 'ave to choose between us. If he
comes, I shan't. Which is it to be?"
Neither of 'em answered 'er, but the next
night they both turned up as usual, and
Emma White stood there looking at 'em and
nearly crying with temper.
" 'Ow would you like it if I brought another
young lady with me ? " she ses to Ted.
14 It wouldn't make no difference to me./'
ses Ted. " Any friend o' yours is welcome."
Emma stood looking at 'em, and then she
patted 'er eyes with a pocket-'ankercher
and began to look more cheerful.
"You ain't the only one that has got a
dear friend," she says, looking at 'im and
wiping 'er lips with the 'ankercher. "I've
got one, and if Charlie Brice don't promise
to stay at 'ome to-morrow night I'll bring
her with me."
WHEN THEY TURNED UP THEY FOUND EMMA AND *ER FRIEND WAITING FOR
ODD MAN OUT 109
''Bring 'er, and welcome," ses Ted.
" I shan't stay at 'ome for fifty dear
friends," ses Charlie.
14 Have it your own way," ses Emma. " If
you come, Sophy Jennings comes, that's all."
She was as good as 'er word, too, and
next night when they turned up they found
Emma and 'er friend waiting for them.
Charlie thought it was the friend's mother
at fust, but he found out arterwards that she
was a widder-woman. She had 'ad two
husbands, and both of 'em 'ad passed away
with a smile on their face. She seemed to
take a fancy to Charlie the moment she set
eyes on 'im, and two or three times they'd
'ave lost Ted and Emma if it hadn't been
They did lose 'em the next night, and
Charlie Brice 'ad Mrs. Jennings all alone to
himself for over a couple of hours walking
up and down the Commercial Road talking
about the weather ; Charlie saying 'ow wet
and cold it was, and thinking p'r'aps they
no SAILORS' KNOTS
'ad better go off 'ome afore she got a
He complained to Ted about it when 'e
got 'ome, and Ted promised as it shouldn't
'appen agin. He said that 'im and Emma
'ad been so busy talking about getting
married that he 'ad forgotten to keep an
eye on him.
" Married ! " ses Charlie, very upset.
" Married ! And wot's to become o' me ? "
" Come and lodge with us," ses Ted.
They shook hands on it, but Ted said
they 'ad both better keep it to themselves
a bit and wait until Emma 'ad got more
used to Charlie afore they told her. Ted
let 'er get used to 'im for three days more
afore he broke the news to 'er, and the
way she went on was alarming. She went
on for over ten minutes without taking
breath, and she was just going to start
again when Mrs. Jennings stopped her.
"He's all right," she ses. "You leave
ODD MAN OUT in
" I'm not touching 'im," ses Emma, very
"You leave 'im alone," ses Mrs.
Jennings, taking hold of Charlie's arm.
" I don't say things about your young
Charlie Brice started as if he 'ad been
shot, and twice he opened 'is mouth to
speak and show Mrs. Jennings 'er mistake ;
but, wot with trying to find 'is voice in the
fust place, and then finding words to use
it with in the second, he didn't say any-
thing. He just walked along gasping,
with 'is mouth open like a fish.
41 Don't take no notice of 'er, Charlie,"
ses Mrs. Jennings.
" I I don't mind wot she ses," ses pore
Charlie ; " but you're making a great "
" She's quick-tempered, is Emma," ses
Mrs. Jennings. " But, there, so am I.
Wot you might call a generous temper,
Charlie went cold all over,
ii2 SAILORS 1 KNOTS
" Treat me well and I treat other
people well," ses Mrs. Jennings. " I can't
say fairer than that, can I ?"
Charlie said " Nobody could," and then
'e walked along with her hanging on to
'is arm, 'arf wondering whether it would
be wrong to shove 'er under a 'bus that
was passing, and 'arf wondering whether
'e could do it if it wasn't.
"As for Emma saying she won't 'ave
you for a lodger," ses Mrs. Jennings, "let
'er wait till she's asked. She'll wait a
long time if I 'ave my say."
Charlie didn't answer her. He walked
along with 'is mouth shut, 'is idea being