W. W. (William Wymark) Jacobs.

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" He is asleep," he stammered.

Barnes, who had taken the candle from
the mantelpiece, stood peering at the
sleepers in silence and dropping tallow
over the floor.

" We must get out of this," said Meagle.
" Quick ! "

Barnes hesitated. " We can't leave them
here " he began.

" We must," said Meagle, in strident
tones. "If you go to sleep I shall go
Quick ! Come ! "


He seized the other by the arm and
strove to drag him to the door. Barnes
shook him off, and, putting the candle back
on the mantelpiece, tried again to arouse
the sleepers.

" It's no good," he said at last, and, turn-
ing from them, watched Meagle. " Don't
you go to sleep," he said anxiously.

Meagle shook his head, and they stood
for some time in uneasy silence. " May as
well shut the door," said Barnes at last.

He crossed over and closed it gently.
Then at a scuffling noise behind him he
turned and saw Meagle in a heap on the

With a sharp catch in his breath he stood
motionless. Inside the room the candle,
fluttering in the draught, showed dimly the
grotesque attitudes of the sleepers. Beyond
the door there seemed to his overwrought
imagination a strange and stealthy unrest.
He tried to whistle, but his lips were
parched, and in a mechanical fashion he


stooped, and began to pick up the cards
which littered the floor.

He stopped once or twice and stood with
bent head listening. The unrest outside
seemed to increase ; a loud creaking sounded
from the stairs.

"Who is there?" he cried loudly.

The creaking ceased. He crossed to the
door, and, flinging it open, strode out into
the corridor. As he walked his fears left
him suddenly.

"Come on!" he cried, with a low laugh.
" All of you ! All of you ! Show your faces
your infernal ugly faces ! Don't skulk ! "

He laughed again and walked on ; and
the heap in the fireplace put out its head
tortoise fashion and listened in horror to
the retreating footsteps. Not until they
had become inaudible in the distance did
the listener's features relax.

"Good Lord, Lester, we've driven him
mad," he said, in a frightened whisper.
" We must go after him."


There was no reply. Meagle sprang to
his feet.

" Do you hear ? " he cried. " Stop your
fooling now ; this is serious. White !
Lester! Do you hear?"

He bent and surveyed them in angry
bewilderment. " All right/' he said, in a
trembling voice. "You won't frighten me,
you know."

He turned away and walked with ex-
aggerated carelessness in the direction of the
door. He even went outside and peeped
through the crack, but the sleepers did not
stir. He glanced into the blackness behind,
and then came hastily into the room again.

He stood for a few seconds regarding
them. The stillness in the house was
horrible ; he could not even hear them
breathe. With a sudden resolution he
snatched the candle from the mantelpiece
and held the flame to White's finger. Then
as he reeled back stupefied, the footsteps
again became audible.


He stood with the candle in his shaking
hand, listening. He heard them ascending
the farther staircase, but they stopped sud-
denly as he went to the door. He walked a
little way along the passage, and they went
scurrying down the stairs and then at a
jog-trot along the corridor below. He went
back to the main staircase, and they ceased

For a time he hung over the balusters,
listening and trying to pierce the blackness
below ; then slowly, step by step, he made
his way downstairs, and, holding the candle
above his head, peered about him.

" Barnes ! " he called. " Where are you ? "

Shaking with fright, he made his way
along the passage, and summoning up all
his courage, pushed open doors and gazed
fearfully into empty rooms. Then, quite
suddenly, he heard the footsteps in front
of him.

He followed slowly for fear of extinguish-
ing the candle, until they led him at last into



a vast bare kitchen, with damp walls and a
broken floor. In front of him a door leading
into an inside room had just closed. He ran
towards it and flung it open, and a cold air
blew out the candle. He stood aghast.

" Barnes !" he cried again. " Don't be
afraid ! It is I Meagle ! "

There was no answer. He stood gazing
into the darkness, and all the time the idea
of something close at hand watching was
upon him. Then suddenly the steps broke
out overhead again.

He drew back hastily, and passing through
the kitchen groped his way along the narrow
passages. He could now see better in the
darkness, and finding himself at last at the
foot of the staircase, began to ascend it noise-
lessly. He reached the landing just in time
to see a figure disappear round the angle of
a wall. Still careful to make no noise, he
followed the sound of the steps until they led
him to the top floor, and he cornered the
chase at the end of a short passage.


" Barnes ! " he whispered. " Barnes ! "
Something stirred in the darkness. A
small circular window at the end of the
passage just softened the blackness and re-
vealed the dim outlines of a motionless figure.
Meagle, in place of advancing, stood almost
as still as a sudden horrible doubt took pos-
session of him. With his eyes fixed on the
shape in front he fell back slowly, and, as it
advanced upon him, burst into a terrible cry.
" Barnes ! For God's sake ! Is it you ? "
The echoes of his voice left the air quiver-
ing, but the figure before him paid no heed.
For a moment he tried to brace his cour-
age up to endure its approach, then with a
smothered cry he turned and fled.

The passages wound like a maze, and he
threaded them blindly in a vain search for
the stairs. If he could get down and open

the hall door

He caught his breath in a sob ; the steps
had begun again. At a lumbering trot they
clattered up and down the bare passages, in


and out, up and down, as though in search
of him. He stood appalled, and then as
they drew near entered a small room and
stood behind the door as they rushed by.
He came out and ran swiftly and noiselessly
in the other direction, and in a moment the
steps were after him. He found the long
corridor and raced along it at top speed.
The stairs he knew were at the end, and
with the steps close behind he descended
them in blind haste. The steps gained on
him, and he shrank to the side to let them
pass, still continuing his headlong flight.
Then suddenly he seemed to slip off the
earth into space.

Lester awoke in the morning to find the
sunshine streaming into the room, and White
sitting up and regarding with some perplexity
a badly-blistered finger.

" Where are the others ? " inquired Lester.

"Gone, I suppose," said White. "We
must have been asleep."




Lester arose, and, stretching his stiffened
limbs, dusted his clothes with his hands and
went out into the corridor. White followed.
At the noise of their approach a figure which
had been lying asleep at the other end sat
up and revealed the face of Barnes. " Why,
I've been asleep/' he said, in surprise. " I
don't remember coming here. How did I
get here ? "

" Nice place to come for a nap," said
Lester severely, as he pointed to the gap
in the balusters. " Look there ! Another
yard and where would you have been ? "

He walked carelessly to the edge and
looked over. In response to his startled cry
the others drew near, and all three stood
staring at the dead man below.


O AILORMEN don't bother much about
M their relations as a rule, said the night-
watchman ; sometimes because a railway-
ticket costs as much as a barrel o' beer,
and they ain't got the money for both, and
sometimes because most relations run away
with the idea that a sailorman has been
knocking about 'arf over the world just to
bring them 'ome presents.

Then, agin, some relations are partikler
about appearances, and they don't like it if
a chap don't wear a collar and tidy 'imself
up. Dress is everything nowadays ; put me
in a top-'at and a tail-coat, with a twopenny
smoke stuck in my mouth, and who would
know the difference between me and a lord ?
Put a bishop in my clothes, and you'd ask


'im to 'ave a 'arf-pint as soon as you would
me sooner, pVaps.

Talking of relations reminds me of Peter
Russet's uncle. It's some years ago now,
and Peter and old Sam Small and Ginger
Dick 'ad 'just come back arter being away
for nearly ten months. They 'ad all got
money in their pockets, and they was just
talking about the spree they was going to
have, when a letter was brought to Peter,
wot had been waiting for 'im at the office.

He didn't like opening it at fust. The
last letter he had 'ad kept 'im hiding in-
doors for a week, and then made him ship
a fortnight afore 'e had meant to. He
stood turning it over and over, and at
last, arter Sam, wot was always a curious
man, 'ad told 'im that if he didn't open it
he'd do it for 'im, he tore it open and
read it.

" It's from my old uncle, George Good-
man," he ses, staring. "Why, I ain't seen
'im for over twenty years."


" Do you owe 'im any money?" ses

Peter shook his 'ead. " He's up in
London," he ses, looking at the letter agin,
"up in London for the fust time in thirty-
three years, and he wants to come and
stay with me so that I can show 'im

" Wot is he ? " ses Sam.

" He's retired," ses Peter, trying not to
speak proud.

11 Got money ? " ses Sam, with a start.

" I b'leeve so," says Peter, in a off-hand
way. " I don't s'pose 'e lives on air."

" Any wives or children ? " ses Sam.

"No," ses Peter. "He 'ad a wife, but
she died."

"Then you have 'im, Peter," ses Sam,
wot was always looking out for money.
" Don't throw away a oppertunity like that.
Why, if you treat 'im well he might leave
it all to you."

" No such luck," ses Peter.


" You do as Sam ses," ses Ginger. " I
wish Td got an uncle."

" We'll try and give 'im a good time,"
ses Sam, "and if he's anything like Peter
we shall enjoy ourselves."

"Yes; but he ain't," ses Peter. " He's
a very solemn, serious-minded man, and a
strong teetotaller. Wot you'd call a glass
o 1 beer he'd call pison. That's 'ow he got on.
He's thought a great deal of in 'is place,
I can tell you, but he ain't my sort."

"That's a bit orkard," ses Sam, scratch-
ing his 'ead. " Same time, it don't do to
throw away a chance. If 'e was my uncle
I should pretend to be a teetotaller while
'e was here, just to please 'im."

"And when you felt like a drink, Peter,"
ses Ginger, "me and Sam would look arter
'im while you slipped off to get it."

"He could 'ave the room below us," ses
Sam. " It is empty."

Peter gave a sniff. " Wot about you
and Ginger ? " he ses.


"Well, wot about us?" ses Sam and
Ginger, both together.

V Why, you'd 'ave to be teetotallers, too,"
ses Peter. "Wot's the good o' me pre-
tending to be steady if 'e sees I've got
pals like you?"

Sam scratched his 'ead agin, ever so
long, and at last he ses, "Well, mate," he
ses, " drink don't trouble me nor Ginger.
We can do without it, as far as that goes ;
and we must all take it in turns to keep
the old gentleman busy while the others
go and get wot they want. You'd better
go and take the room downstairs for 'im,
afore it goes."

Peter looked at 'im in surprise, but that
was Sam all over. The idea o' knowing
a man with money was too much for 'im,
and he sat there giving good advice to
Peter about 'is behaviour until Peter didn't
know whether it was 'is uncle or Sam's.
'Owever, he took the room and wrote the
letter, and next arternoon at three o'clock



Mr. Goodman came in a four-wheel cab
with a big bag and a fat umbrella. A
short, stiffish-built man of about sixty he
was, with 'is top lip shaved and a bit o'
short grey beard. He 'ad on a top-'at
and a tail-coat, black kid gloves and a
little black bow, and he didn't answer the
cabman back a single word.

He seemed quite pleased to see Peter,
and by-and-by Sam, who was bursting with
curiosity, came downstairs to ask Peter to
lend 'im a boot-lace, and was interduced.
Then Ginger came down to look for Sam,
and in a few minutes they was all talking
as comfortable as possible.

" I ain't seen Peter for twenty years," ses
Mr. Goodman " twenty long years ! "

Sam shook his 'ead and looked at the

" 1 happened to go and see Peter's sister
my niece Polly," ses Mr. Goodman, " and
she told me the name of 'is ship. It was
quite by chance, because she told me it was


the fust letter she had 'ad from him in seven

" I didn't think it was so long as that," ses
Peter. " Time passes so quick."

His uncle nodded. " Ah, so it does," 'e
ses. " It's all the same whether we spend
it on the foaming ocean or pass our little
lives ashore. Afore we can turn round, in a
manner o' speaking, it 'as gorn."

" The main thing," ses Peter, in a good
voice, " is to pass it properly."

" Then it don't matter," ses Ginger.

" So it don't," ses Sam, very serious.

" I held 'im in my arms when 'e was a
baby," ses Mr. Goodman, looking at Peter.

" Fond o' children ? " ses Sam.

Mr. Goodman nodded. " Fond of every-
body," he ses.

" That's 'ow Peter is," ses Ginger ;
" specially young "

Peter Russet and Sam both turned and
looked at J im very sharp.

" Children," ses Ginger, remembering 'im-


self, "and teetotallers. I s'pose it is being
a teetotaller 'imself."

" Is Peter a teetotaller ? " ses Mr. Good-
man. " I'd no idea of it. Wot a joyful

" It was your example wot put it into his
'ead fust, I b'leeve," ses Sam, looking at
Peter for 'im to notice 'ow clever he was.

" And then, Sam and Ginger Dick being
teetotallers, too," ses Peter, " we all, natural-
like, keep together."

Mr. Goodman said they was wise men,
and, arter a little more talk, he said 'ow
would it be if they went out and saw a
little bit of the great wicked city. They
all said they would, and Ginger got quite
excited about it until he found that it meant

They got on a 'bus at Aldgate, and fust
of all they went to the British Museum, and
when Mr. Goodman was tired o J that and
long arter the others was they went into a
place and 'ad a nice strong cup o' tea and a


piece o' cake each. When they come out o'
there they all walked about looking at the
shops until they was tired out, and arter wot
Mr. Goodman said was a very improving
evening they all went 'ome.

Sam and Ginger went 'ome just for the
look o 1 the thing, and arter waiting a few
minutes in their room they crept downstairs
agin to spend wot was left of the evening.
They went down as quiet as mice, but. for all
that, just as they was passing Mr. Goodman's
room the door opened, and Peter, in a polite
voice, asked 'em to step inside.

"We was just thinking you'd be dull up
there all alone," he ses.

Sam lost 'is presence o' mind, and afore he
knew wot 'e was doing 'im and Ginger 'ad
walked in and sat down. They sat there for
over an hour and a 'arf talking, and then
Sam, with a look at Ginger, said they must
be going, because he 'ad got to call for a pair
o' boots he 'ad left to be mended.

"Why, Sam, wot are you thinking of?"


ses Peter, who didn't want anybody to 'ave
wot he couldn't. " Why, the shop's shut"

" I don't think so/ 1 ses Sam, glaring at
'im, " Anyway, we can go and see."

Peter said he'd go with ; im, and just as
they got to the door Mr. Goodman said
he'd go too. O' course, the shops was
shut, and arter Mr. Goodman 'ad stood on
Tower Hill admiring the Tower by moon-
light till Sam felt ready to drop, they all
walked back. Three times Sam's boot-
lace come undone, but as the others all
stopped too to see 'im do it up it didn't
do 'im much good. Wot with temper and
dry ness 'e could 'ardly bid Peter " Good-

Sam and Ginger 'ad something the next
morning, but morning ain't the time for
it ; and arter they had 'ad dinner Mr.
Goodman asked 'em to go to the Zoological
Gardens with 'im. He paid for them all,
and he 'ad a lot to say about kindness to
animals and 'ow you could do anything


with 'em a'most by kindness. He walked
about the place talking like a book, and
when a fat monkey, wot was pretending
to be asleep, got a bit o' Sam's whisker,
he said it was on'y instink, and the animal
had no wish to do 'im 'arm.

"Very likely thought it was doing you
a kindness, Sam," ses Ginger.

Mr. Goodman said it was very likely,
afore Sam could speak, and arter walking
about and looking at the other things they
come out and 'ad a nice, strong, 'ot cup
o' tea, same as they 'ad the day before,
and then walked about not knowing what
to do with themselves.

Sam got tired of it fust, and catching
Ginger's eye said he thought it was time
to get 'ome in case too much enjoyment
wasn't good for 'em. His idea was to get
off with Ginger and make a night of it,
and when 'e found Peter and his uncle was
coming too, he began to think that things
was looking serious.


" I don't want to spile your evening," he
says, very perlite. " I must get 'ome to
mend a pair o' trowsis o' mine, but there's
no need for you to come."

11 I'll come and watch you," ses Peter's

"And then I'm going off to bed early,"
ses Sam.

" Me, too," ses Ginger, and Peter said
he could hardly keep 'is eyes open.

They got on a 'bus, and as Sam was
about to foller Ginger and Peter on top,
Mr. Goodman took hold of 'im by the arm
and said they'd go inside. He paid two
penny fares, and while Sam was wondering
'ow to tell 'im that it would be threepence
each, the 'bus stopped to take up a pas-
senger and he got up and moved to the

" They've gone up there," he ses, pointing.

Afore Sam could stop 'im he got off,
and Sam, full o' surprise, got off too, and

follered 'im on to the pavement.


"Who's gone up there?" he ses, as the
'bus went on agin.

"Peter and Mr. Ginger Dick," ses Mr.
Goodman. " But don't you trouble. You
go 'ome and mend your trowsis."

"But they're on the 'bus," ses Sam,
staring. " Dick and Peter, I mean."

Mr. Goodman shook his 'ead.

"They got off. Didn't you see 'em?"
he ses.

"No," ses Sam, "I'll swear they didn't."

" Well, it's my mistake, I s'pose," ses
Peter's uncle. " But you get off home ;
I'm not tired yet, and I'll walk."

Sam said 'e wasn't very tired, and he
walked along wondering whether Mr. Good-
man was quite right in his 'ead. For one
thing, 'e seemed upset about something or
other, and kept taking little peeps at 'im
in a way he couldn't understand at all.

"It was nice tea we 'ad this arternoon,"
ses Mr. Goodman at last.

" De-licious," ses Sam.


" Trust a teetotaller for knowing good
tea," ses Mr. Goodman. " I expect Peter
enjoyed it. I s'pose 'e is a very strict tee-

" Strict ain't the word for it," ses Sam,
trying to do 'is duty by Peter. " We all

" That's right," says Mr. Goodman, and
he pushed his 'at back and looked at Sam
very serious. They walked on a bit further,
and then Peter's uncle stopped sudden just
as they was passing a large public-'ouse and
looked at Sam.

11 1 don't want Peter to know, 'cos it might
alarm 'im," he ses, " but I've come over a bit
faint. I'll go in 'ere for 'arf a minnit and sit
down. You'd better wait outside."

" I'll come in with you, in case you want
help," ses Sam. " I don't mind wot people

Mr. Goodman tried to persuade him not
to, but it was all no good, and at last 'e
walked in and sat down on a tall stool that


stood agin the bar, and put his hand to his

" I s'pose we shall 'ave to 'ave something,"
he ses in a whisper to Sam ; " we can't
expect to come in and sit down for nothing.
What'll you take?"

Sam looked at 'im, but he might just as
well ha 1 looked at a brass door-knob.

" I I I'll 'ave a small ginger-beer," he
ses at last, "a very small one."

"One small ginger," ses Mr. Goodman to
the barmaid, " and one special Scotch."

Sam could 'ardly believe his ears, and he
stood there 'oldin' his glass o' ginger- beer and
watching Peter's teetotal uncle drink whisky,
and thought 'e must be dreaming.

11 I dessay it seems very shocking to you,"
says Mr. Goodman, putting down 'is glass
and dryin' 'is lips on each other, " but I find
it useful for these attacks."

"I I s'pose the flavour's very nasty?"
ses Sam, taking a sip at 'is ginger-beer.

" Not exactly wot you could call nasty,"


ses Mr. Goodman, "though I dessay it
would seem so to you. I don't suppose you
could swallow it."

" I don't s'pose I could," ses Sam, " but
I've a good mind to 'ave a try. If it's good
for one teetotaller I don't see why it should
hurt another."

Mr. Goodman looked at 'im very hard,
and then he ordered a whisky and stood
watching while Sam, arter pretending for a
minnit to look at it as though 'e didn't know
wot to do with it, took a sip and let it roll
round 'is mouth.

"Well?" ses Mr. Goodman, looking at
'im anxious-like.

"It ain't so 'orrid as I 'ad fancied,"
ses Sam, lapping up the rest very gentle.
"'Ave you 'ad enough to do you all the
good it ought to?"

Mr. Goodman said that it was no good
'arf doing a thing, and p'r'aps he 'ad better
'ave one more ; and arter Sam 'ad paid for
the next two they went out arm-in-arm.


"'Ow cheerful everybody looks! 11 ses
Mr. Goodman, smiling.

" They're going to amuse theirselves, I
expect," ses Sam "music-'alls and such

Mr. Goodman shook his 'ead at 'em.

" Music-'alls ain't so bad as some people
try to make out," ses Sam. "Look 'ere;
I took some drink to see what the flavour
was like ; suppose you go to a music-'all
to see wot that's like?"

" It seems on'y fair," ses Peter's uncle,

"It is fair," ses Sam, and twenty minutes
arterwards they was sitting in a music-'all
drinking each other's 'ealths and listening
to the songs Mr. Goodman with a big
cigar in 'is mouth and his 'at cocked over
one eye, and Sam beating time to the
music with 'is pipe.

"'Ow do you like it?" he ses.

Mr. Goodman didn't answer 'im because
'e was joining in the chorus with one side


of 'is mouth and keeping 'is cigar alight
with the other. He just nodded at 'im ;
but 'e looked so 'appy that Sam felt it was
a pleasure to sit there and look at 'im.

" I wonder wot Peter and Ginger is
doin' ? " he ses, when the song was

11 1 don't know," ses Mr. Goodman,
"and, wot's more, I don't care. If I'd
'ad any idea that Peter was like wot he
is I should never 'ave wrote to ; im. I
can't think 'ow you can stand 'im."

" He ain't so bad," ses Sam, wondering
whether he ought to tell 'im 'arf of wot
Peter really was like.

"Bad!" ses Mr. Goodman. "I come
up to London for a 'oliday a change, mind
you and I thought Peter and me was going
to 'ave a good time. Instead o' that, he
goes about with a face as long as a fiddle.
He don't drink, 'e don't go to places of
amusement innercent places of amusement
and ; is idea of enjoying life is to go


walking about the streets and drinking
cups o' tea."

" We must try and alter 'im," ses Sam,
arter doing a bit o' thinking.

" Certainly not," ses Mr. Goodman, laying
his 'and on Sam's knee. " Far be it from
me to interfere with a feller-creature's ideas
o' wot's right. Besides, he might get writ-
ing to 'is sister agin, and she might tell my

" But Peter said she was dead," ses Sam,
very puzzled.

" I married agin," ses Peter's uncle, in a
whisper, 'cos people was telling 'im to keep
quiet, " a tartar a perfect tartar. She's in
a 'orsepittle at present, else I shouldn't be
'ere. And I shouldn't ha' been able to
come if I 'adn't found five pounds wot she'd
hid in a match-box up the chimbley."

" But wot'll you do when she finds it
out?" ses Sam, opening 'is eyes.

" I'm going to 'ave the house cleaned and
the chimbleys swept to welcome 'er ; ome,"


ses Mr. Goodman, taking a sip o' whisky.
" It'll be a little surprise for her."

They stayed till it was over, and on the
'bus he gave Sam some strong peppermint
lozenges wot 'e always carried about with

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Online LibraryW. W. (William Wymark) JacobsSailors' knots → online text (page 6 of 15)