'im, and took some 'imself. He said 'e found
11 What are we going to tell Peter and
Ginger ? " ses Sam, as they got near the
"Tell 'em?" ses Mr. Goodman. "Tell
'em the truth. How we follered 'em when
they got off the 'bus, and 'ave been looking
for 'em ever since. I'm not going to 'ave
my 'oliday spoilt by a teetotal nevvy, I can
He started on Peter, wot was sitting on
his bed with Ginger waiting for them, the
moment he got inside, and all Ginger and
Peter could say didn't make any difference.
" Mr. Small see you as plain as what I
did/' he ses.
" Plainer/' ses Sam.
i;o SAILORS' KNOTS
" But I tell you we come straight 'ome,"
ses Ginger, "and we've been waiting for
you 'ere ever since."
Mr. Goodman shook his 'ead at 'im.
11 Say no more about it," he ses, in a kind
voice. " I dessay it's rather tiresome for
young men to go about with two old ones,
and in future, if you and Peter keep together,
me and my friend Mr. Small will do the
Sam shook 'ands with 'im, and though
Peter tried his 'ardest to make 'im alter his
mind it was no good. His uncle patted ; im
on the shoulder, and said they'd try it for a
few days, at any rate, and Ginger, wot
thought it was a very good idea, backed ; im
up. Everybody seemed pleased with the
idea except Bfcter Russet, but arter Sam ; ad
told 'im in private wot a high opinion 'is
uncle 'ad got of 'im, and 'ow well off he was,
'e gave way.
They all enjoyed the next evening, and
Sam and Mr. Goodman got on together
PETER'S PENCE 171
like twin brothers. They went to a place
of amusement every night, and the on'y
unpleasantness that happened was when
Peter's uncle knocked a chemist's shop up
at a quarter-past twelve one night to buy a
penn'orth o' peppermint lozenges.
They 'ad four of the 'appiest evenings
together that Sam 'ad ever known ; and Mr.
Goodman would 'ave been just as 'appy too
if it hadn't ha' been for the thoughts o' that
five pounds. The more 'e thought of it the
more unlikely it seemed that 'is wife would
blame it on to the sweep, and one night he
took the match-box out of 'is pocket and
shook his 'ead over it till Sam felt quite sorry
" Don't take up your troubles afore they
come," he ses. " 'Orsepittles are dangerous
Mr. Goodman cheered up a bit at that,
but he got miserable agin the next night
because 'is money was getting low and he
wanted another week in London.
172 SAILORS' KNOTS
" I've got seven shillings and fourpence
and two stamps left," he ses. " Where it's
all gone to I can't think."
" Don't you worry about that," ses Sam.
" I've got a pound or two left yet."
" No, I ain't going to be a burden
on you," ses Mr. Goodman, "but another
week I must 'ave, so I must get the money
somehow. Peter can't spend much, the
way he goes on."
Sam gave a little cough.
" I'll get a pound or two out of 'im," ses
Sam coughed agin. "Won't he think
it rather funny?" he ses, arter a bit.
" Not if it's managed properly," ses
Mr. Goodman, thinking 'ard. " I'll tell
you 'ow we'll do it. To-morrow morning,
while we are eating of our breakfast, you
ask me to lend you a pound or two."
Sam, what 'ad just taken up 'is glass
for a drink, put it down agin and stared
PETER'S PENCE 173
" But I don't want no money," he ses ;
"and, besides, you 'aven't got any."
" You do as I tell you," ses Mr. Good-
man, " and when you've got it, you hand
it over to me, see? Ask me to lend you
Sam thought as 'ow the whisky 'ad got
to Mr. Goodman's 'ead at last. 'Owever,
to pacify 'im he promised to do wot 'e was
told, and next morning, when they was all
at breakfast, he looks over and catches Mr.
" I wonder if I might be so bold as to
ask a favour of you ? " he ses.
" Certainly," ses Peter's uncle, c< and glad
I shall be to oblige you. There is no man
I've got a greater respect for."
11 Thankee," ses Sam. " The fact is, I've
run a bit short owing to paying a man some
money I owed 'im. If you could lend me
five pounds, I couldn't thank you enough."
Mr. Goodman put down 'is knife and
fork and wrinkled up 'is forehead.
174 SAILORS' KNOTS
" I'm very sorry," he ses, feeling in 'is
pockets; "do you want it to-day?"
"Yes; I should like it," ses Sam.
" It's most annoying," ses Mr. Goodman,
" but I was so afraid o' pickpockets that
I didn't bring much away with me. If you
could wait till the day arter to-morrow,
when my money is sent to me, you can
'ave ten if you like."
"You're very kind," ses Sam, "but that
'ud be too late for me. I must try and
get it somewhere else."
Peter and Ginger went on eating their
breakfast, but every time Peter looked up
he caught 'is uncle looking at 'im in such
a surprised and disappointed sort o' way
that e' didn't like the look of it at all
"I could just do it for a couple o' days,
Sam," he ses at last, "but it'll leave me
4< That's right," ses his uncle, smiling.
II My nevvy, Peter Russet, will lend it to
you, Mr. Small, of 'is own free will. He
PETER'S PENCE 175
'as offered afore he was asked, and that's
the proper way to do it, in my opinion."
He reached acrost the table and shook
'ands with Peter, and said that generosity
ran in their family, and something seemed
to tell 'im as Peter wouldn't lose by it.
Everybody seemed pleased with each other,
and arter Ginger Dick and Peter 'ad gone
out Mr. Goodman took the five pounds off
of old Sam and stowed 'em away very
careful in the match-box.
" It's nice to 'ave money agin," he ses.
"There's enough for a week's enjoyment
"Yes," ses Sam, slow-like; "but wot I
want to know is, wot about the day arter
to-morrow, when Peter expects 'is money?"
Mr. Goodman patted 'im on the shoulder.
" Don't you worry about Peter's troubles,"
he ses. " I know exactly wot to do ; it's
all planned out. Now I'm going to 'ave
a lay down for an hour I didn't get much
sleep last night and if you'll call me at
1 76 SAILORS' KNOTS
twelve o'clock we'll go somewhere. Knock
He patted 'im on the shoulder agin, and
Sam, arter fidgeting about a bit, went
out. The last time he ever see Peter's
uncle he was laying on the bed with 'is
eyes shut, smiling in his sleep. And Peter
Russet didn't see Sam for eighteen months.
HEAD OF THE FAMILY
TV If R. LETTS had left his ship by mutual
^ arrangement, and the whole of the
crew had mustered to see him off and to
express their sense of relief at his departure.
After some years spent in long voyages, he
had fancied a trip on a coaster as a change,
and, the schooner Curlew having no use for
a ship's carpenter, had shipped as cook. He
had done his best, and the unpleasant epithets
that followed him along the quay at Dun-
church as he followed in the wake of his
sea-chest were the result. Master and mate
nodded in grim appreciation of the crew's
He put his chest up at a seamen's lodging-
house, and, by no means perturbed at this
sudden change in his fortunes, sat on a seat
overlooking the sea, with a cigarette between
i;8 SAILORS' KNOTS
his lips, forming plans for his future. His
eyes closed, and he opened them with a
start to find that a middle-aged woman
of pleasant but careworn appearance had
taken the other end of the bench.
" Fine day," said Mr. Letts, lighting
The woman assented and sat looking over
"Ever done any cooking?" asked Mr.
" Plenty/ 1 was the surprised reply.
" I just wanted to ask you how long you
would boil a bit o 1 beef," said Mr. Letts.
-Only from curiosity; I should never ship
as cook again."
He narrated his experience of the last few
days, and, finding the listener sympathetic,
talked at some length about himself and his
voyages ; also of his plans for the future.
"I lost my son at sea," said the woman,
with a sigh. " You favour him rather."
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 179
Mr. Letts's face softened. " Sorry," he
said. " Sorry you lost him, I mean."
" At least, I suppose he would have been
like you," said the other ; " but it's nine
years ago now. He was just sixteen."
Mr. Letts after a calculation nodded.
" Just my age," he said. "I was twenty-
five last March."
" Sailed for Melbourne," said the woman.
" My only boy."
Mr. Letts cleared his throat, sympatheti-
" His father died a week after he sailed/'
continued the other, "and three months
afterwards my boy's ship went down. Two
years ago, like a fool, I married again. I
don't know why I'm talking to you like this.
I suppose it is because you remind me of
" You talk away as much as you like,"
said Mr. Letts kindly. " I've got nothing
He lit another cigarette, and, sitting in an
1 8o SAILORS' KNOTS
attitude of attention, listened to a recital of
domestic trouble that made him congratulate
himself upon remaining single.
41 Since I married Mr. Green I can't call
my soul my own," said the victim of matri-
mony as she rose to depart. "If my poor
boy had lived things would have been
different. His father left the house and
furniture to him, and that's all my second
married me for, I'm sure. That and the bit
o' money that was left to me. He's selling
some of my boy's furniture at this very
moment. That's why I came out ; I couldn't
" PYaps he'll turn up after all," said Mr.
Letts. " Never say die."
Mrs. Green shook her head.
" I s'pose," said Mr. Letts, regarding her
" I s'pose you don't let lodgings for a
night or two?"
Mrs. Green shook her head again.
"It don't matter," said the young man.
" Only I would sooner stay with you than
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 181
at a lodging-house. I've taken a fancy to
you. I say, it would be a lark if you did,
and I went there and your husband thought
I was your son, wouldn't it ? "
Mrs. Green caught her breath, and sitting
down again took his arm in her trembling
" Suppose/' she said unsteadily " suppose
you came round and pretended to be my
son pretended to be my son, and stood up
Mr. Letts stared at her in amazement, and
then began to laugh.
41 Nobody would know," continued the
other quickly. " We only came to this
place just before he sailed, and his sister
was only ten at the time. She wouldn't
Mr. Letts said he couldn't think of it, and
sat staring, with an air of great determination,
at the sea. Arguments and entreaties left
him unmoved, and he was just about to
express his sorrow for her troubles and leave,
1 82 SAILORS' KNOTS
when she gave a sudden start and put her
arm through his.
" Here comes your sister ! " she exclaimed.
Mr. Letts started in his turn.
" She has seen me holding your arm,"
continued Mrs. Green, in a tense whisper.
4 'It's the only way I can explain it. Mind,
your name is Jack Foster and hers is Betty."
Mr. Letts gazed at her in consternation,
and then, raising his eyes, regarded with
much approval the girl who was approach-
ing. It seemed impossible that she could be
Mrs. Green's daughter, and in the excitement
of the moment he nearly said so.
" Betty," said Mrs. Green, in a voice to
which nervousness had imparted almost the
correct note " Betty, this is your brother
Jack ! "
Mr. Letts rose sheepishly, and then to his
great amazement a pair of strong young arms
were flung round his neck, and a pair of warm
lips after but slight trouble found his. Then
and there Mr. Letts's mind was made up.
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 183
"Oh, Jack!" said Miss Foster, and began
to cry softly.
" Oh, Jack ! " said Mrs. Green, and, moved
by thoughts, perhaps, of what might have
been, began to cry too.
" There, there ! " said Mr. Letts.
He drew Miss Foster to the seat, and,
sitting between them, sat with an arm round
each. There was nothing in sight but a sail
or two in the far distance, and he allowed
Miss Foster's head to lie upon his shoulder
undisturbed. An only child, and an orphan,
he felt for the first time the blessing of a
"Why didn't you come home before?"
murmured the girl.
Mr. Letts started and squinted reproach-
fully on the top of her hat. Then he turned
and looked at Mrs. Green in search of the
" He was shipwrecked," said Mrs. Green.
" I was shipwrecked," repeated Mr. Letts,
1 84 SAILORS' KNOTS
" And had brain-fever after it through
being in the water so long, and lost his
memory," continued Mrs. Green.
" It's wonderful what water will do salt
water," said Mr. Letts, in confirmation.
Miss Foster sighed, and, raising the hand
which was round her waist, bent her head
and kissed it. Mr. Letts coloured, and
squeezed her convulsively.
Assisted by Mrs. Green he became remi-
niscent, and, in a low voice, narrated such
incidents of his career as had escaped the
assaults of the brain-fever. That his head
was not permanently injured was proved by
the perfect manner in which he remembered
incidents of his childhood narrated by his
newly-found mother and sister. He even
volunteered one or two himself which had
happened when the latter was a year or
11 And now," said Mrs. Green, in a some-
what trembling voice, " we must go and tell
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 185
Mr. Letts responded, but without brisk-
ness, and, with such moral support as an arm
of each could afford, walked slowly back.
Arrived at a road of substantial cottages at
the back of the town, Mrs. Green gasped,
and, coming to a standstill, nodded at a van,
that stood half-way up the road.
" There it is," she exclaimed.
14 What?" demanded Mr. Letts.
" The furniture I told you about," said
Mrs. Green. "The furniture that your poor
father thought such a lot of, because it used
to belong to his grandfather. He's selling it
to Simpson, though I begged and prayed
him not to."
Mr. Letts encouraged himself with a deep
cough. " My furniture ? " he demanded.
Mrs. Green took courage. " Yes," she
said hopefully ; " your father left it to
Mr. Letts, carrying his head very erect,
took a firmer grip of their arms and gazed
steadily at a disagreeable-looking man who
1 86 SAILORS' KNOTS
was eyeing them in some astonishment
from the doorway. With arms still linked
they found the narrow gateway somewhat
difficult, but they negotiated it by a turn-
ing movement, and, standing in the front
garden, waited while Mrs. Green tried to
find her voice.
"Jack," she said at last, "this is your
Mr. Letts, in some difficulty as to the
etiquette on such occasions, released his
right arm and extended his hand.
" Good evening, stepfather," he said
Mr. Green drew back a little and re-
garded him unfavourably.
" We we thought you was drownded,"
he said at last.
" I was nearly," said Mr. Letts.
" We all thought so," pursued Mr. Green
grudgingly. " Everybody thought so."
He stood aside, as a short, hot-faced
man, with a small bureau clasped in his
A DISAGREEABLE-LOOKING MAN WAS EYEING THEM IN SOME ASTONISHMENT
FROM THE DOORWAY
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 187
arms and supported on his knees, emerged
from the house and staggered towards the
gate. Mr. Letts reflected.
"Halloa!" he said suddenly. "Why,
are you moving, mother ? "
Mrs. Green sniffed sadly and shook her
14 Well," said Mr. Letts, with an ad-
mirable stare, " what's that chap doing with
my furniture?' 1
" Eh ? " spluttered Mr. Green. " What ? "
" I say, what's he doing with my furni-
ture?" repeated Mr. Letts sternly.
Mr. Green w r aved his arm. " That's all
right," he said conclusively; "he's bought
it. Your mother knows/'
"But it ain't all right," said Mr. Letts.
"Here! bring that back, and those chairs
The dealer, who had just placed the
bureau on the tail-board of the van, came
back wiping his brow with his sleeve.
"Wot's the little game?" he demanded.
1 88 SAILORS' KNOTS
Mr. Letts left the answer to Mr. Green,
and going to the van took up the bureau
and walked back to the house with it. Mr.
Green and the dealer parted a little at his
approach, and after widening the parting
with the bureau he placed it in the front
room while he went back for the chairs. He
came back with three of them, and was,
not without reason, called a porcupine by
the indignant dealer.
He was relieved to find, after Mr. Simp-
son had taken his departure, that Mr.
Green was in no mood for catechizing
him, and had evidently accepted the story
of his escape and return as a particularly
disagreeable fact. So disagreeable that the
less he heard of it the better.
" I hope you've not come home after all
these years to make things unpleasant ? " he
remarked presently, as they sat at tea.
" I couldn't be unpleasant if I tried," said
" We've been very happy and comfortable
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 189
here me and your mother and sister," con-
tinued Mr. Green. " Haven't we, Emily?"
" Yes," said his wife, with nervous quick-
" And I hope you'll be the same," said
Mr. Green. " It's my wish that you should
make yourself quite comfortable here till
you go to sea again."
"Thankee," said Mr. Letts; "but I don't
think I shall go to sea any more. Ship's
carpenter is my trade, and I've been told
more than once that I should do better
ashore. Besides, I don't want to lose mother
and Betty again."
He placed his arm round the girl's waist,
and, drawing her head on to his shoulder,
met with a blank stare the troubled gaze of
" I'm told there's wonderful openings for
carpenters in Australia," said Mr. Green,
trying to speak in level tones. " Wonder-
ful ! A good carpenter can make a fortune
there in ten years, so I'm told."
r 90 SAILORS' KNOTS
Mr. Letts, with a slight wink at Mrs.
Green and a reassuring squeeze with his left
arm, turned an attentive ear.
" O' course, there's a difficulty," he said
slowly, as Mr. Green finished a vivid picture
of the joys of carpentering in Australia.
" Difficulty ? " said the other.
" Money to start with," exclaimed Mr.
Letts. " It's no good starting without
money. I wonder how much this house
and furniture would fetch? Is it all mine,
mother ? "
" M-m-most of it," stammered Mrs. Green,
gazing in a fascinated fashion at the contorted
visage of her husband.
"All except a chair in the kitchen and
three stair-rods," said Betty.
" Speak when you're spoke to, miss ! "
snarled her stepfather. " When we married
we mixed our furniture up together mixed
it up so that it would be impossible to tell
which is which. Nobody could."
" For the matter o 1 that, you could have
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 191
all the kitchen chairs and all the stair-rods,"
said Mr. Letts generously. " However, I
don't want to do anything in a hurry, and
I shouldn't dream of going to Australia
without Betty. It rests with her."
" She's going to be married," said Mr.
Green hastily ; " and if she wasn't she
wouldn't turn her poor, ailing mother out
of house and home, that I'm certain of.
She's not that sort. We've had a word
or two at times me and her but I know
a good daughter when I see one."
" Married ? " echoed Mr. Letts, as his left
arm relaxed its pressure. " Who to ? "
" Young fellow o' the name of Henry
Widden," replied Mr. Green, "a very steady
young fellow ; a great friend of mine."
" Oh ! " said Mr. Letts blankly.
" I'd got an idea, which I've been keeping
as a little surprise," continued Mr. Green,
speaking very rapidly, " of them living here
with us, and saving house-rent and furni-
Mr. Letts surveyed him with a dejected
" It would be a fine start for them," con-
tinued the benevolent Mr. Green.
Mr. Letts, by a strong effort, regained
" I must have a look at him first," he
said briskly. " He mightn't meet with my
" Eh ? " said Mr. Green, starting. " Why,
if Betty "
" I must think it over, 1 " interrupted Mr.
Letts, with a wave of his hand. " Betty
is only nineteen, and, as head of the family,
I don't think she can marry without my
consent. I'm not sure, but I don't think so.
Anyway, if she does, I won't have her
husband here sitting in my chairs, eating
off of my tables, sleeping in my beds, wearing
out my stair-rods, helping himself "
" Stow it," said Miss Foster calmly.
Mr. Letts started, and lost the thread of
his discourse. " I must have a look at
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 193
him/' he concluded lamely ; " he may be all
right, but then, again, he mightn't."
He finished his tea almost in silence, and,
the meal over, emphasized his position as
head of the family by taking the easy-chair,
a piece of furniture sacred to Mr. Green,
and subjecting that injured man to a catechism
which strained his powers of endurance almost
" Well, I shan't make any change at
present," said Mr. Letts, when the task was
finished. " There's plenty of room here for
us all, and, so long as you and me agree,
things can go on as they are. To-morrow
morning I shall go out and look for a
He found a temporary one almost at once,
and, determined to make a favourable im-
pression, worked hard all day. He came
home, tired and dirty, and was about to go
straight to the wash-house to make his toilet
when Mr. Green called him in.
11 My friend, Mr. Widden," he said, with
i 9 4 SAILORS' KNOTS
a satisfied air, as he pointed to a slight, fair
young man with a well-trimmed moustache.
Mr. Letts shook hands.
"Fine day," said Mr. Widden.
"Beautiful," said the other. "Til come
in and have a talk about it when I've had
" Me and Miss Foster are going out for
a bit of a stroll," said Mr. Widden.
" Quite right," agreed Mr. Letts. " Much
more healthy than staying indoors all the
evening. If you just wait while I have a
wash and a bit o' something to eat I'll
come with you. 1 '
"Co-come with us!" said Mr. Widden,
after an astonished pause.
Mr. Letts nodded. "You see, I don't
know you yet," he explained, "and as head
of the family I want to see how you behave
yourself. Properly speaking, my consent
ought to have been asked before you walked
out with her; still, as everybody thought I
was drowned, 111 say no more about it."
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 195
"Mr. Green knows all about me," said
Mr, Widden rebelliously.
" It's nothing to do with him," declared
Mr. Letts. "And, besides, he's not what
I should call a judge of character. I dare
say you are all right, but I'm going to see
for myself. You go on in the ordinary
way with your love-making, without taking
any notice of me. Try and forget I'm
watching you. Be as natural as you can
be, and if you do anything I don't like I'll
soon tell you of it."
The bewildered Mr. Widden turned, but,
reading no hope of assistance in the in-
furiated eyes of Mr. Green, appealed in
despair to Betty.
" I don't mind," she said. " Why should
Mr. Widden could have supplied her with
many reasons, but he refrained, and sat in
sulky silence while Mr. Letts got ready.
From his point of view the experiment was
by no means a success, his efforts to be
1 96 SAILORS' KNOTS
natural being met with amazed glances from
Mr. Letts and disdainful requests from Miss
Foster to go home if he couldn't behave
himself. When he relapsed into moody
silence Mr. Letts cleared his throat and
"There's no need to be like a monkey-
on-a-stick, and at the same time there's no
need to be sulky," he pointed out; " there's
a happy medium."
" Like you, I s'pose ? " said the frantic
" Like me," said the other gravely.
"Now, you watch ; fall in behind and watch."
He drew Miss Foster's arm through
his, and, leaning towards her with tender
deference, began a long conversation. At
the end of ten minutes Mr. Widden inti-
mated that he thought he had learned
enough to go on with.
"Ah! that's only your conceit," said Mr.
Letts over his shoulder. " I was afraid
you was conceited."
HEAD OF THE FAMILY 197
He turned to Miss Foster again, and
Mr. Widden, with a despairing gesture,
abandoned himself to gloom. He made
no further interruptions, but at the conclu-
sion of the walk hesitated so long on the
doorstep that Mr. Letts had to take the
"Good night," he said, shaking hands.
"Come round to-morrow night and I'll
give you another lesson. You're a slow
learner, that's what you are ; a slow
He gave Mr. Widden a lesson on the
following evening, but cautioned him sternly
against imitating the display of brotherly
fondness of which, in a secluded lane, he
had been a wide-eyed observer.