W. W. (William Wymark) Jacobs.

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" I call on all of you to witness that,"
ses Bob, looking round. " Henery Walker
went into my 'ouse to steal my hamper.
He ses so, and it wasn't 'is fault he
couldn't find it. I'm a pore man and I
can't afford such things ; I sold it this
morning, a bargain, for thirty bob."

"Well, then there's no call to make a
fuss over it, Bob," ses Bill Chambers.

"I sold it for thirty bob," ses Bob
Pretty, " and when I went out this evening
I left the money on my bedroom mantel-
piece one pound, two arf-crowns, two two-
shilling pieces, and two sixpences. My
wife and her sister both saw it there.
That they'll swear to."

"Well, wot about it?" ses Sam Jones,
staring at 'im.

"Arter my pore wife 'ad begged and
prayed Henery Walker on 'er bended
knees to spare 'er life and go," ses Bob


Pretty, "she looked at the mantelpiece
and found the money 'ad disappeared."

Henery Walker got up all white and
shaking and flung 'is arms about, trying
to get 'is breath.

"Do you mean to say I stole it?" he
ses at last.

"O 1 course I do," ses Bob Pretty.
" Why, you said yourself afore these
witnesses and Mr. Smith that you came to
steal the hamper. Wot's the difference
between stealing the hamper and the
money I sold it for?"

Henery Walker tried for to answer 'im,
but he couldn't speak a word.

" I left my pore wife with 'er apron over
her 'ead sobbing as if her 'art would break,"
ses Bob Pretty; "not because o' the loss
of the money so much, but to think of
Henery Walker doing such a thing and
'aving to go to jail for it."

" I never touched your money, and you
know it," ses Henery Walker, finding his


breath at last. " I don't believe it was there.
You and your wife 'ud swear anything."

"As you please, Henery," ses Bob Pretty.
"Only I'm going straight off to Cudford to
see Policeman White ; hell be glad of a job,
I know. There's three of us to swear to it,
and you was found under my bed."

"Let bygones be bygones, Bob," ses
Bill Chambers, trying to smile at 'im.

"No, mate," ses Bob Pretty. "I'm
going to 'ave my rights, but I don't want
to be 'ard on a man I've known all my
life; and if, afore I go to my bed to-night,
the thirty shillings is brought to me, I
won't say as I won't look over it."

He stood for a moment shaking his 'ead
at them, and then, still holding it very
'igh, he turned round and walked out.

" He never left no money on the mantel-
piece," ses Sam Jones at last. " Don't
you believe it. You go to jail, Henery."

"Anything sooner than be done by Bob
Pretty," ses George Kettle.


" There's not much doing now, Henery,"
ses Bill Chambers, in a soft voice.

Henery Walker wouldn't listen to 'em,
and he jumped up and carried on like a
madman. His idea was for 'em all to
club together to pay the money, and
to borrow it from Smith, the landlord,
to go on with. They wouldn't 'ear of
it at fust, but arter Smith 'ad pointed
out that they might 'ave to go to jail
with Henery, and said things about 'is
licence, they gave way. Bob Pretty was
just starting off to see Policeman White
when they took the money, and instead o'
telling 'im wot they thought of 'im, as they
'ad intended, Henery Walker 'ad to walk
alongside of 'im and beg and pray of 'im
to take the money. He took it at last
as a favour to Henery, and bought the
hamper back with it next morning cheap.
Leastways, he said so.


A/TR. FRED CARTER stood on the
spacious common, inhaling with all
the joy of the holiday-making Londoner the
salt smell of the sea below, and regarding
with some interest the movements of a
couple of men who had come to a stop a
short distance away. As he looked they
came on again, eyeing him closely as they
approached a strongly-built, shambling
man of fifty, and a younger man, evidently
his son.

" Good evening," said the former, as they
came abreast of Mr. Carter.

"Good evening/ 1 he replied.

44 That's him," said both together.

They stood regarding him in a fashion
unmistakably hostile. Mr. Carter, with an
uneasy smile, awaited developments.



" What have you got to say for yourself? "
demanded the elder man at last. " Do you
call yourself a man ? "

" I don't call myself anything," said the
puzzled Mr. Carter. "Perhaps you're mis-
taking me for somebody else."

" Didn't I tell you," said the younger man,
turning to the other " didn't I tell you he'd
say that?"

11 He can say what he likes," said the
other, "but we've got him now. If he gets
away from me he'll be cleverer than what
he thinks he is."

11 What are we to do with him now we've
got him ? " inquired his son.

The elder man clenched a huge fist and
eyed Mr. Carter savagely. " If I was just
considering myself," he said, " I should ham-
mer him till I was tired and then chuck him
into the sea."

His son nodded. "That wouldn't do
Nancy much good, though," he remarked.

" I want to do everything for the best,"


said the other, "and I s'pose the right and
proper thing to do is to take him by the
scruff of his neck and run him along to

"You try it," said Mr. Carter hotly.
"Who is Nancy?"

The other growled, and was about to aim
a blow at him when his son threw himself
upon him and besought him to be calm.

" Just one," said his father, struggling,
" only one. It would do me good ; and
perhaps he'd come along the quieter for it."

" Look here ! " said Mr. Carter. " You're
mistaking me for somebody else, that's what
you are doing. What am I supposed to
have done ? "

" You're supposed to have come courting
my daughter, Mr. Somebody Else," said the
other, releasing himself and thrusting his
face into Mr. Carter's, "and, after getting her
promise to marry you, nipping off to London
to arrange for the wedding. She's been
mourning over you for four years now,


having an idea that you had been made
away with."

" Being true to your memory, you skunk,"
said the son.

" And won't look at decent chaps that
want to marry her," added the other.

" It's all a mistake," said Mr. Carter. " I
came down here this morning for the first
time in my life."

" Bring him along," said the son impa-
tiently. " It's a waste of time talking to

Mr. Carter took a step back and par-
leyed. " I'll come along with you of my
own free will," he said hastily, " just to show
you that you are wrong ; but I won't be

He turned and walked back with them
towards the town, pausing occasionally to
admire the view. Once he paused so long
that an ominous growl arose from the elder
of his captors.

" I was just thinking," said Mr. Carter,


eyeing him in consternation; " suppose that
she makes the same mistake that you have
made ? Oh, Lord ! "

" Keeps it up pretty well, don't he, Jim?"
said the father.

The other grunted, and, drawing nearer to
Mr. Carter as they entered the town, stepped
along in silence. Questions which Mr.
Carter asked with the laudable desire of
showing his ignorance concerning the neigh-
bourhood elicited no reply. His discom-
fiture was increased by the behaviour of
an elderly boatman, who, after looking at
him hard, took his pipe from his mouth and
bade him " Good evening." Father and son
exchanged significant glances.

They turned at last into a small street,
and the elder man, opening the door of a
neat cottage, laid his hand on the prisoner's
shoulder and motioned him in. Mr. Carter
obeyed, and, entering a spotless living-
room, removed his hat, and with affected
composure seated himself in an easy -chair.


"I'll go up and tell Nan," said Jim.
" Don't let him run away/ 1

He sprang up the stairs, which led from a
corner of the room, and the next moment
the voice of a young lady, labouring under
intense excitement, fell on the ears of Mr.
Carter. With a fine attempt at unconcern
he rose and inspected an aged engraving of
" The Sailor's Return."

" She'll be down in a minute," says Jim,

14 PVaps it's as well that I didn't set about
him, after all," said his father. " If I had
done what I should like to do, his own
mother wouldn't have known him."

Mr. Carter sniffed defiantly, and, with a
bored air, resumed his seat. Ten minutes
passed fifteen; at the end of half-an-hour
the elder man's impatience found vent in a
tirade against the entire sex.

" She's dressing up ; that's what it is,"
explained Jim. "For him!"

A door opened above and a step sounded


on the stairs. Mr. Carter looked up uneasily,
and, after the first sensation of astonishment
had passed, wondered vaguely what his
double had run away for. The girl, her
lips parted and her eyes bright, came swiftly
down into the room.

" Where is he?" she said quickly.

" Eh ? " said her father in surprise. " Why,
there ! Can't you see ? "

The light died out of the girl's face and
she looked round in dismay. The watchful
Mr. Carter thought that he also detected in
her glance a spice of that temper which had
made her relatives so objectionable.

" That ! " she said loudly. " That ! That's
not my Bert ! "

" That's what I told 'em," said Mr. Carter
deferentially, "over and over again."

" What ! " said her father loudly. " Look

" If I looked all night it wouldn't make any
difference," said the (disappointed Miss Evans.
" The idea of making such a mistake ! "


" We're all liable to mistakes," said Mr.
Carter magnanimously, "even the best of

" You take a good look at him,' 1 urged
her brother, "and don't forget that it's four
years since you saw him. Isn't that Bert's

44 No," said the girl, glancing at the feature
in question, " not a bit like it. Bert had a
beautiful nose."

11 Look at his eyes," said Jim.

Miss Evans looked, and meeting Mr.
Carter's steady gaze tossed her head scorn-
fully and endeavoured to stare him down.
Realising too late the magnitude of the task,
but unwilling to accept defeat, she stood
confronting him with indignant eyes.

"Well?" said Mr. Evans, misunderstanding.

41 Not a bit like," said his daughter, turning
thankfully. " And if you don't like Bert, you
needn't insult him."

She sat down with her back towards Mr.
Carter and looked out at the window.


" Well, I could ha' sworn it was Bert
Simmons," said the discomfited Mr. Evans.

41 Me too," said his son. " I'd ha* sworn
to him anywhere. It's the most extraordinary
likeness fve ever seen."

He caught his father's eye, and with a jerk
of his thumb telegraphed for instructions as
to the disposal of Mr. Carter.

" He can go," said Mr. Evans, with an
attempt at dignity ; " he can go this time,
and I hope that this'll be a lesson to him
not to go about looking like other people.
If he does, next time, pVaps, he won't
escape so easy."

"You're quite right," said Mr. Carter
blandly. "I'll get a new face first thing
to-morrow morning. I ought to have done
it before."

He crossed to the door, and, nodding to
the fermenting Mr. Evans, bowed to the
profile of Miss Evans and walked slowly
out. Envy of Mr. Simmons was mingled
with amazement at his deplorable lack of


taste and common sense. He would
willingly have changed places with him.
There was evidently a strong likeness,

Busy with his thoughts he came to a
standstill in the centre of the footpath,
and then, with a sudden air of determina-
tion, walked slowly back to the house.

"Yes?" said Mr. Evans, as the door
opened and the face of Mr. Carter was
thrust in. "What have you come back

The other stepped into the room and
closed the door softly behind him. " I
have come back," he said slowly " I have
come back because I feel ashamed of my-

"Ashamed of yourself?" repeated Mr.
Evans, rising and confronting him.

Mr. Carter hung his head and gazed
nervously in the direction of the girl. " I
can't keep up this deception," he said, in
a low but distinct voice. " I am Bert


Simmons. At least, that is the name I
told you four years ago."

" I knew I hadn't made a mistake," roared
Mr. Evans to his son. " I knew him well
enough. Shut the door, Jim. Don't let
him go."

" I don't want to go," said Mr. Carter,
with a glance in the direction of Nancy.
" I have come back to make amends."

" Fancy Nancy not knowing him ! " said
Jim, gazing at the astonished Miss Evans.

"She was afraid of getting me into
trouble," said Mr. Carter, " and I just gave
her a wink not to recognise me; but she
knew me well enough, bless her."

How dare you ! " said the girl, starting
up. "Why, I've never seen you before
in my life."

"All right, Nan," said the brazen Mr.
Carter ; " but it's no good keeping it up now.
I've come back to act fair and square."

Miss Evans struggled for breath.

"There he is, my girl," said her father,


patting her on the back. " He's not much
to look at, and he treated you very shabby,
but if you want him I suppose you must
have him."

" Want him ?" repeated the incensed Miss
Evans. " Want him ? I tell you it's not
Bert. How dare he come here and call
me Nan?"

"You used not to mind it," said Mr.
Carter plaintively.

" I tell you," said Miss Evans, turning to
her father and brother, " it's not Bert. Do
you think I don't know ? "

" Well, he ought to know who he is,"
said her father reasonably.

"Of course I ought," said Mr. Carter,
smiling at her. " Besides, what reason
should I have for saying I am Bert if I
am not?"

"That's a fair question," said Jim, as the
girl bit her lip. " Why should he ? "

" Ask him," said the girl tartly.

"Look here, my girl," said Mr. Evans,



in ominous accents. " For four years you've
been grieving over Bert, and me and Jim
have been hunting high and low for him.
We've got him at last, and now you've
got to have him."

"If he don't run away again," said Jim.
" I wouldn't trust him farther than I could
see him."

Mr. Evans sat and glowered at his pro-
spective son-in-law as the difficulties of the
situation developed themselves. Even Mr.
Carter's reminders that he had come back
and surrendered of his own free will failed
to move him, and he was hesitating between
tying him up and locking him in the attic
and hiring a man to watch him, when Mr.
Carter himself suggested a way out of the

"I'll lodge with you," he said, "and I'll
give you all my money and things to take
care of. I can't run away without money."

He turned out his pockets on the table.
Seven pounds eighteen shillings and four-


pence with his return ticket made one heap ;
his watch and chain, penknife, and a few
other accessories another. A suggestion of
Jim's that he should add his boots was vetoed
by the elder man as unnecessary.

"There you are," said Mr. Evans, sweep-
ing the things into his own pockets; "and
the day you are married I hand them back
to you."

His temper improved as the evening wore
on. By the time supper was finished and
his pipe alight he became almost jocular,
and the coldness of Miss Evans was the only
drawback to an otherwise enjoyable evening.

"Just showing off a little temper," said
her father, after she had withdrawn; "and
wants to show she ain't going to forgive you
too easy. Not but what you behaved badly ;
however, let bygones be bygones, that's my

The behaviour of Miss Evans was so
much better next day that it really seemed
as though her father's diagnosis was correct.


At dinner, when the men came home from
work, she piled Mr. Carter's plate up so
generously that her father and brother had
ample time at their disposal to watch him
eat. And when he put his hand over his
glass she poured half a pint of good beer,
that other men would have been thankful
for, up his sleeve.

She was out all the afternoon, but at tea-
time she sat next to Mr. Carter, and joined
brightly in the conversation concerning her
marriage. She addressed him as Bert, and
when he furtively pressed her hand beneath
the table-cloth, made no attempt to with-
draw it.

14 1 can't think how it was you didn't
know him at first," said her father. " You're
usually wide-awake enough."

" Silly of me," said Nancy ; " but I am
silly sometimes."

Mr. Carter pressed her hand again, and
gazing tenderly into her eyes received a
glance in return which set him thinking.



It was too cold and calculating for real
affection; in fact, after another glance, he
began to doubt if it indicated affection at all.

"It's like old times, Bert," said Miss
Evans, with an odd smile. " Do you re-
member what you said that afternoon when
I put the hot spoon on your neck ? "

" Yes," was the reply.

" What was it ? " inquired the girl.

"I won't repeat it," said Mr. Carter

He was reminded of other episodes
during the meal, but, by the exercise of
tact and the plea of a bad memory, did
fairly well. He felt that he had done very
well indeed when, having cleared the tea-
things away, Nancy came and sat beside

him with her hand in his. Her brother
grunted, but Mr. Evans, in whom a vein
of sentiment still lingered, watched them
with much satisfaction.

Mr. Carter had got possession of both
hands and was murmuring fulsome flatteries


when the sound of somebody pausing at the
open door caused them to be hastily with-

" Evening, Mr. Evans," said a young
man, putting his head in. "Why, halloa!
Bert ! Well, of all the "

" Halloa ! " said Mr. Carter, with attempted
enthusiasm, as he rose from his chair.

" I thought you was lost," said the other,
stepping in and gripping his hand. " I never
thought I was going to set eyes on you
again. Well, this is a surprise. You ain't
forgot Joe Wilson, have you?"

"'Course I haven't, Joe," said Mr. Carter.
" I'd have known you anywhere."

He shook hands effusively, and Mr. Wilson,
after a little pretended hesitation, accepted a
chair and began to talk about old times.

" I lay you ain't forgot one thing, Bert," he
said at last.

" What's that ? " inquired the other.

"That arf-quid I lent you," said Mr.


Mr. Carter, after the first shock of sur-
prise, pretended to think, Mr. Wilson sup-
plying him with details as to time and place,
which he was in no position to dispute. He
turned to Mr. Evans, who was still acting as
his banker, and, after a little hesitation, re-
quested him to pay the money. Conversation
seemed to fail somewhat after that, and
Mr. Wilson, during an awkward pause, went
off whistling.

" Same old Joe," said Mr. Carter lightly,
after he had gone. " He hasn't altered a

Miss Evans glanced at him, but said no-
thing. She was looking instead towards a
gentleman of middle age who was peeping
round the door indulging in a waggish game
of peep-bo with the unconscious Mr. Carter.
Finding that he had at last attracted his
attention, the gentleman came inside, and,
breathing somewhat heavily after his exer-
tions, stood before him with outstretched


"How goes it?" said Mr. Carter, forcing
a smile and shaking hands.

" He's grown better-looking than ever,"
said the gentleman, subsiding into a chair.

" So have you," said Mr. Carter. " I
should hardly have known you. 1 '

"Well, I'm glad to see you again," said the
other, in a more subdued fashion. " We're
all glad to see you back, and I 'ope that
when the wedding-cake is sent out there'll
be a bit for old Ben Prout."

" You'll be the first, Ben," said Mr. Carter

Mr. Prout got up and shook hands with
him again. "It only shows what mistakes
a man can make," he said, resuming his
seat. "It only shows how easy it is to
misjudge one's fellow-creeturs. When you
went away sudden four years ago, I says
to myself, * Ben Prout/ I says, ' make
up your mind to it, that two quid has

The smile vanished from Mr. Carter's


face, and a sudden chill descended upon the

" Two quid ? " he said stiffly. " What
two quid? "

"The two quid I lent you," said Mr
Prout, in a pained voice.

" When ? " said Mr. Carter, struggling.

" When you and I met him that evening
on the pier," said Miss Evan, in a matter-of-
fact voice.

Mr. Carter started, and gazed at her un-
easily. The smile on her lip and the tri-
umphant gleam in her eye were a revelation
to him. He turned to Mr. Evans and, in as
calm a voice as he could assume, requested
him to discharge the debt. Mr. Prout, his
fingers twitching, stood waiting.

" Well, it's your money," said Mr. Evans,
grudgingly extracting a purse from his
trouser-pocket ; " and I suppose you ought
to pay your debts ; still "

He put down two pounds on the table,
and broke off in sudden amazement as Mr.


Prout, snatching up the money, bolted head-
long from the room. His surprise was
shared by his son, but the other two made
no sign. Mr. Carter was now prepared for
the worst, and his voice was quite calm as
he gave instructions for the payment of
the other three gentlemen who presented
claims during the evening endorsed by Miss
Evans. As the last departed Mr. Evans,
whose temper had been gradually getting
beyond his control, crossed over and handed
him his watch and chain, a few coppers, and
the return half of his railway ticket.

" I think we can do without you, after all,"
he said, breathing thickly. " I've no doubt
you owe money all over England. You're a
cadger, that's what you are."

He pointed to the door, and Mr. Carter,
after twice opening his lips to speak and
failing, blundered towards it. Miss Evans
watched him curiously.

" Cheats never prosper," she said, with
gentle severity.


" Good-bye," said Mr. Carter, pausing at
the door.

" It's your own fault," continued Miss
Evans, who was suffering from a slight
touch of conscience. " If you hadn't come
here pretending to be Bert Simmons and
calling me ' Nan ' as if you had known me
all my life, I wouldn't have done it."

" It doesn't matter," said Mr. Carter. " I
wish I was Bert Simmons, that's all. Good-

14 Wish you was," said Mr. Evans, who had
been listening in open-mouthed astonish-
ment. " Look here ! Man to man Are
you Bert Simmons or are you not ?"

" No," said Mr. Carter.

" Of course not," said Nancy.

11 And you didn't owe that money?"

" Nobody owed it," said Nancy. " It was
done just to punish him."

Mr. Evans, with a strange cry, blundered
towards the door. " I'll have that money
out of 'em," he roared, "if I have to hold


'em upside down and shake it out of their
trouser-pockets. You stay here."

He hurried up the road, and Jim, with the
set face of a man going into action against
heavy odds, followed him.

14 Your father told me to stay," said Mr.
Carter, coming farther into the room.

Nancy looked up at him through her eye-
lashes. "You need not unless you want to,"
she said, very softly.


"CVERYBODY is superstitious," said
the night-watchman, as he gave ut-
terance to a series of chirruping endear-
ments to a black cat with one eye that
had just been using a leg of his trousers
as a serviette ; "if that cat 'ad stole some
men's suppers they'd have acted foolish,
and suffered for it all the rest of their

He scratched the cat behind the ear,
and despite himself his face darkened.
11 Slung it over the side, they would," he
said longingly, "and chucked bits o' coke
at it till it sank. As I said afore, every-
body is superstitious, and those that ain't
ought to be night-watchmen for a time
that 'ud cure 'em. I knew one man that

killed a black cat, and arter that for the


rest of his life he could never get three
sheets in the wind without seeing its ghost.
Spoilt his life for 'im, it did."

He scratched the cat's other ear. " I
only left it a moment, while I went round
to the Bull's Head," he said, slowly filling
his pipe, "and I thought I'd put it out o'
reach. Some men "

His fingers twined round the animal's
neck ; then, with a sigh, he rose and took
a turn or two on the jetty.

Superstitiousness is right and proper, to
a certain extent, he said, resuming his
seat ; but, o' course, like everything else,
some people carry it too far they'd be-
lieve anything. Weak-minded they are,

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Online LibraryW. W. (William Wymark) JacobsSailors' knots → online text (page 9 of 15)