THE BERSERK’S GENTLEMAN

FRANK H. SHAW May 1 1924

THE BERSERK’S GENTLEMAN

FRANK H. SHAW May 1 1924

THE BERSERK’S GENTLEMAN

FRANK H. SHAW

THERE wasn’t one chance in a thousand of effecting communication with the wreck. Our boats had entirely gone long since —every last strake of them; they’d been snatched from the davit-tackles as if they were wet paper boats.

Very obviously the wreck’s own boats had gone, too: as had almost the whole of her. A sorry sight she looked, enough to bring a man’s heart chokingly into his throat; for it’s a horrible thing to see wrhat has once been a noteworthy ship, fighting her last despairing gTapple with the sea that she has mastered for perhaps a matter of twenty years. Very little beyond her poop showed above the swirl of tearing water; but on that isolated eminence, licked incessantly by the grey-backs, were living men.

We saw them wave their garments to attract our attention; we saw one figure break away from where it had been lashed to a rail, and clamber up what remained of the mizzen rigging and hitch an oilskin coat to a swifter, so that it blew out like a steel plate, until it frapped itself to rags.

Oh, yes, as pitiful a sight as man could wish to see; Death stalking across the face of the waters, death poising above those . unfortunates, readying itself for the final, downward blow that would smash out life in a breath! And we couldn’t do anything to help, being in such sorry case ourselves, after the miraculous dusting we’d had. A little while before we'd never expected to see dawn break: We’d decided that

theBerserk would be posted as “missing,” along with the rest; but here we were, still afloat, still fighting gamely, with the hands slaving like heroes at the pumps, and the worst of the storm taking off.

“If he could only wait a matter of half a dozen hours,” the skipper complained to me, “we might do something.” I swear the moisture in his eyes wasn’t spindrift alone; he was a reserved man in the main, but I knew he could feel deeply.

Maybe, though, it was because he wa3 w'orn-out with much fighting— he hadn’t left the deck for three days and nights, and strain of that kind takes it out of a man. “Bindon, it’s hell to have to stand by and wait—a man feels a coward!” I nodded.

I wanted badly to do something myself—I tell you, it irked me savagely to be so helpless; but —I’d broken my arm a fortnight before, through the spanker boom sheet carrying away in the first squall that heralded this present snorter; and a man can’t swim with a broken flipper only partly mended. Not that I could have covered the distance even I’d been as sound as a bell of brass. Moreover, there was a churning welter of wreckage grinding away to leeward of the wre,ck; and the weather side was everlastingly deluged with waves as big as warehouses.

“She can’t wait half an hour, if I know anything about a sinking ship,” I told the old man. “Phew!” I thought she’d gone then—she took a sickening dive and rolled, BO that her decks were wide-open to our gaze; but she righted herself and came up again, fighting still, with the life-blood draining from her. Oh, a sorry sight, believe me; and yet—a glorious sight. That was the way to finish, after all—none of your being towed to a shipbreaker’s yard in wake of a foul-smoking tug, to be sold for scrap-iron. She was dying game—

JUST then Holroyd showed on our deck. Holroyd was our bad egg: A giant of a man with the strength

of a yoke of oxen, and a rare ability for finding the biggest sort of trouble if any happened to be sculling about. This was his second voyage with us, and I’d only signed him on out of charity, before we left dock two and a half years before. I’d further made a condition before I engaged him—I being mate and consequently able to make conditions with the forecastle hands—that when in foreign ports he should make no attempt to draw money on account and go ashore and get drunk. For that was what had caused the trouble during the previous voyage. However, it is this voyage I am talking of, and not of

those gone before, so we’ll let bygones be bygones.

Holroyd had gone below with the rest of the hands, when we decided it was possible to allow them a spell-ho, after working them hard for as long as we had been doing. And I’ll say this for the man: During the worst of the

gale he’d been our two best bowers. You couldn’t tire him; he’d stuck at the wheel for sixteen solid hours, because he was the only man who could handle the ship in her flurries; and it’s my firm conviction that it was Holroyd who kept her afloat; though I didn't tell him so, for you don’t hand bouquets round aboard windjammers unnecessarily. But Holroyd hadn’t turned out along with the rest when the word went round that a ship in distress was in sight and asking to be helped. Everyone else of the for’ard crowd had done so; they were all clustered under the break of the poop, staring and pointing, and doing mighty little else; just accepting conditions with that sullen hopelessness that thoroughly tired men show. Talk—that was their specialty! Nothing but talk; and Gibbs, our second mate, was mighty little better; he was an old man, garrulous to a fault, and always knew someone who’d done something better and bigger than anything that happened nowadays.

Holroyd only just turned out at the time I’ve opened the story. He hadn’t turned into his bunk, because it was wet-through; he’d bedded himself down on some sacks of shakings right up in the eyes of the ship, under the forecastle head. I expected it was hunger that wakened him; he was making for the galley, anyway, when he saw the crowd aft; then he looked overside at that piteous wreck. Then he came stumbling aft; right along to the weather side of the poop, and up the ladder.

“Give us a holt! of that deepsea leadline, Mister Mate,”

he said to me, with a sort of a laugh running under his words.

“What’s biting you, Holroyd?” I asked, and wondered for a minute if he’d managed to get hold of some liquor from the steward.

“That!” said he, nodding towards the wreck. “I know you’d have been there and Tack by now, Mr. Bindon, but for that cracked flipper of your’s, because you’re the sort of man who wouldn’t stand by and watch folk drown. The rest of the crowd are paper-backed washouts— scupper-slime! Let’s have a hold of that deepsea leadline, sir.” Of course, I knew what he was after, and the heart of me went warm. Just the sort of thing I’d—still, that doesn’t matter. I don’t come into this story at all.

“Thinkyoucanmake it, Holroyd?” I asked him, and sent the second mate to rouse up the big reel of light rope, together with a few extra coils of small stuff.

“I’ll have a damn’ good try!” he laughed, and I saw in his face the same light expression that had been there when the Berserk was fighting her hardest to stay above water with Holroyd at the wheel. So I warped across to the skipper and told him a volunteer had applied to try to swim across with a line; and the old man was very glad, because he felt as big a coward as I did, watching— just watching, and doing nothing.

“Thank God!” he said. "We’ll work her into position one-time. Send ’em a word to say we’re having a shot for it.” So we flagged the wreck, and Holroyd stripped himself to the buff, and I oiled him down from head to foot, because this was off the pitch of the Horn, and the water was icy cold. I also bandaged his chest with strips of my own thickest blanket, so that he wouldn’t be cut in two with the lead-line; and then, the old man having worked theBerserfc as close to the wreck as he dared, overboard went Holroyd, the line snaking after him easily.

I’LL say he made a good showing.

We thought he was done for at least a dozen times because no words of mine can describe what the water through which he had to pass was like. It was fierce enough to beat a rhinoceros to death and cold enough to freeze a Polar bear. Holroyd looked mighty small amongst the welter; but he won. I don’t exactly know how he managed it, because he wasn’t a man to talk much; but I once made a swim something like that, though of course in a lighter sea and warmer weather, and so I think I’ve a fair idea of what he went through. Anyway, he managed to get to leeward of the wreck, and then he hauled himself aboard, as we could see.

No one aboard the wreck attempted to help him— we learnt afterwards. They were by then all frozen stiff in their lashings, so that they could hardly stir a hand in their own salvation. But Holroyd kicked life into some of them, and they hauled in the line and then a stouter one and so on—usual rescue-fashion, if you take me; and once communciation was effected between the two ships the rest was fairly easy. Our shellbacks mightn’t have mustered the pluck of a louse amongst the lot of them, but they certainly could work—when driven, as I had the pleasure of driving them then. We hauled the survivors through that boiling smother one by one—to the number of fifteen. The rest had gone—killed by falling spars and so on. Last but one came the wreck’s skipper— almost all-in; last of all came Holroyd, with the ship’s cat slung in a bag round his neck. First thing he said was: “Some one dig this blasted hell-cat’s claws out

of my chest—I swear they’re red-hot!” Then he pitched in a shivering lump at my feet; and it took us six hours to fetch him to.

Long before that, though, the wreck had gone—she sank so quickly after her crew’d left her that we had to hack the hawser through and lose it, else we’d have been taken down along with her; and we were bustling on be-

{ore the gale and all the time heading into finer weather. I had Holroyd carried to my own bunk, and personally wrapped him up in piping hot blankets, and poured hot rum into him and so on; and after a bit he wasn’t any worse—in fact he seemed rather the better for his dip, indeed. It was a fine piece of work he had done and aroused in me an admiration for him.

Now, there’d always been a sort of guarded friendship between Holroyd and myself: as much as can exist between the afterguard and the forecastle, that is; and this job of his rescuing the people of the Chittagong did nothing to lessen that friendship. He didn’t like me to mention it; but it struck me—being an old fogey, maybe —that here was an opportunity to point a moral; so I opened out on him one middle-watch, the ship then being in the south-east trade and ramping along like a steamer through an easy sea, and steering like a witch. A wonderful night of stars it was, when a man finds himself thinking heavily of his own wasted years and making good resolutions for the future.

Said I: “Holroyd, a man who did what you did can

do even bigger things. You licked the sea at its worst; you can lick the worst part of yourself. Why don’t you pull up—make good? Look at you now: you’re thirty-five; a young man. You’ll draw a big payday out of this ship when she pays off, because you’ve done best part of three solid years in her, and you didn’t draw much abroad. Try and brace up. Invest your money and stop ashore long enough to pass an exam. If you like you can be a skipper before you’re many years older. You might die a shipowner—a man respected by everyone; and successful shipowners sometimes get titles— there’s no telling where you might get to. Have a shot at going straight.”

HE DIDN’T say anything for quite a bit; he just stared at the clew of the mainroyal as it swung across those blazing stars. Then: “Mr. Bindon,” said

he, “I’ve been going easy on my pay for a reason. I’ll tell you what it is. I stand to pull out more money than I’ve ever had at one time in my life. Well, I’m going to enjoy it in my own fashion, since it’s my money. I’m going to have the time of my life. I’m going to see what swell life is, if you understand. I’ll have enough for a month ashore in style. Best clothes I can get I’m going to wear; best hotel I can find I’m going to stay at; best theatre-seats, best of food and drink—particularly drink. I’ve thought it out: I’ve been a shellback ashore every voyage-end, behaving accordingly; getting drunk at the first pub I cameacross, blowing in my payday on anything that happened along; being sharked out of best part of my wages—chucking the whole lot down the nearest gutter. I never grudged it; but I see I’ve been a fool. Now, this time it’s going to be different, you mark my words. I’ve craved a lot to move in smart circles and see life that didn’t reek of the sewers. I’m a heavy thinker at times. A man’s a fool to let himself be treated the way the general run of jacks are treated ashore. I’ve been a limejuice no-good for best part of twenty-five years; but by the holy sailor I’m going to be a gentleman for a month. I’d ask you to join me, but I know you’re a married

man and prefer to spend all your time ashore with your wife and youngsters. I’ve no ambition to be a skipper—no, not even of a crack Cunarder, because I’m not cut out for responsibilty of that sort; but I do ambition to be a swell.atopnotcher, for a little while. Watch my smoke.”

Well, it wasn’t for me to make suggestions after that; after all, it was his own earnings we were discussing; and it struck me that this desire to hit it up amongst the swells was a step in the right direction; his ambition seemed to be quickening.

I noticed, after that, how careful he was to keep himSe¿^C^ean' Forecastle hands aren’t famous for cleanliness while at sea; but Holroyd took a tumble to himself. His hands had always looked like a bunch of carrots dipped m a tarbucket and badly dried, but now, he told

me, he’d got the habit of making bread poultices out of his whack of fresh bread on the days when it was served out instead of biscuits, and sleeping with his big, ugly hands steeped in those poultices, so they’d come out white and soft. As for trimming his nails—he always was at it. He made me the smartest pair of chestshackles I’ve ever seen in return for a pocket-knife I had with a file-blade in it; and every spare minute he was manicuring himself. Then, at the wheel o’ nights, he’d question me all about polite manners—not that I knew much about them. How to eat certain things; what tools to use for this and that; whether you tucked your serviette in your collar or in the V of your waistcoat; oh, many points of etiquette he questioned me about; and he lapped up information just as a puppy laps up warm milk.

He was terribly in earnest about it all: took it so seriously you wouldn’t believe. He even practised a different kind of walk from his usual deepsea roll; stepping crisply and holding his shoulders back like a soldier. And he was so polite, that the rest of the fellows for’ard began to laugh at him— behind his back, of course; for he was too big a man for them to laugh into his face. Once he saw big Hendriksen, the Russian Finn, sniggering because he’d said: “Thank you,” when the

Squarehead passed him a marlinespike; and after that Hendriksen was off-duty for a couple of weeks. He never had a chance from the first; but Holroyd’s chief concern was lest the scars should show up on his hurt knuckles. Believe me, that Finn’s face was like greenheart; before Holroyd attended to it; afterwards it was more like pulp.

One day, rummaging through my settee-locker which hadn’t been properly cleaned out since the Berserk was built, I expect, I came across an old book on manners, dated somewhere back in mid-Victorian times; and because in a way I admired Holroyd, I passed this precious, volume to him. He took it much as a lovesick girl might snatch a bouquet of flowers fron the man she’s sweet on, and I fancy he read it through from cover to cover his next watch below, instead of sleeping, as a good sailorman should. Not that he neglected his work in any way, he was always to be relied upon, for that and his work did not suffer from his reading.

AFTER that

the questions came thicker than ever. And as for washing himself: I don’t know how much soap he used, and after our long passage there wasn’t really any soap to spare aboard. He must have cleaned out the slopchest, though. He began to show a dislike for sailorising jobs, too, of the kind that meant dipping his fingers into the tar-bucket. And he talked whenever I gave him a chance about the time he was going to have when he handled his payday.

I didn’t agree with him; but I thought he might as well blow in that payday in moderately decent company rather than amongst the crimps and sluts that Jack ashore usually finds for acquaintances as soon as he comes off blue water. It made me shiver a bit, though, when I thought of all that good money going to waste. I could have discovered an excellent use for it if I’d been asked; but—well, I will say that he’d earned it all. And so, with this kind of weather and that kind of weatherfair and foul in about equal doses, which is much like what married life is—we reached Home waters; and at sight of the high blue land, Holroyd could hardly con-,

tain himself. This mad-brained notion of his had com« to be an obsession with him: Nothing else at all seemed to matter but that he should carry himself into the lordly West End and act the millionaire.

“I’ve altered my plans a bit, though, sir,” he told me that last middle watch we had together that trip. A fine night it was; with the wind coming away briskly from the West Nor’ West; a breeze that had taken the royala off us, but that was now blowing steadily and thrusting the old hooker along at ten knots. Yes, it was a fact that the Home girls had got a hold of our tow-rope then and were hauling ua to port hand over hand. Saint Catherine’s was shining like a hearthfire on the port beam; and you could seethe clusters of lights that told where the sea side towns were—uncommonly inviting they looked to a man who hadn’t set eyes on home or wife or child for a matter of three years. I’d been thinking of the welcome I expected when Holroyd opened out; and for a minute I was annoyed; because I’d embarked on one of those yearning, creamy trains of thought that cause a man’s heart to grow warm and as soft as butter in his chest. And I was thinking, too, that there’d be a goodish few glad hearts at home in a day or so, because we’d got those survivors from the Chittagong aboard, who’d probably long ago been given up for lost; for from the time of gathering them in, we’d spoken not a single ship. So, thinking of the Chittagong’s people reminded me of the man they owed their lives to; and that softened me in my feelings.

“Decided not to be such a thumping fool as to waste your payday on high living, I hope!” said I.

“No, sir—I’m going to concentrate. Instead of a month I’ll stand myself a fortnight only, and do the thing in proper style. I’ll be a slap-up gentleman for two weeks, and just two weeks. Thinking it over, I’ve realised that I can’t cut quite the best sort of dash for a whole month, so I’ll boil it down—same as I did my hands.” I saw those hands shimmering, white as a woman’s through the darkness.

“You can do what the merry hangment you like,”, I told him; “but don’t go whining around that you’ve been unfairly treated when you come to the end of your tether.”

Then, as he talked, I began to realise what it meant to him: This being a gentleman. Some men dream of a

woman, some of finding a gold-mine, or, being sailormen, of picking up a fat German liner with a broken propeller shaft and a crowd of grateful passengers aboard in a heavens-hard gale. We’ve all got our pet ambitions and our secretly cherished dreams, I suppose. Mine’s always been of a nice marine superintendent’s berth ashore, with a home to go to every night, and a long night in when the big gales are blowing. That and a chance to make young Roy, my second boy, a doctor. Neither ambition will ever be realised, so there’s no harm in mentioning them.

And Holroyd’s was this fool-headed notion of being a gentleman! And nothing would turn him from it; so that at last I gave up arguing, and walked for’ard to the rail, leaving him to dream his splendid and idiotic dreams.

NEXT night we tied up in dock; and as usual, after I’d given the word: “That’ll do the hands!” as a sign and token that we’d finished with the crew, the cheap Jew tailors and general panderers came flocking aboard to get their sharpened claws into our forecastle men’s flesh. You know their tricks, if you’ve ever sailed deep waters. It’s only very seldom that a ship pays off the day she arrives; but so long as that ship is lying alongside a wharf in a home port, Fo’c’sle Jack doesn’t intend to stop aboard a minute longer than he can help. But of course he never has a ha’penny to bless himself with—what’s the good of carrying money to sea where there are no shops? No; Jack just naturally blows in every cent he can lay his hands on in the last port; and he inevitably reaches Home broke to the wide. That’s what these shiprunners know and work on. It ought to be stopped; but there’d be mutiny if anyone tried it, I suppose. The Jew-boys flock down aboard a ship that’s due to be paid off on the following day and they invade the forecastles, and they get hold of the men and offer to lend them a pound or two for a spree ashore, and run the risk of being paid back the next day. Of course, poor silly Jack jumps at the chance, and off he goes ashore with his benefactor, who sticks to him like glue. Jack naturally gets half-seas over, or else is put clean under. Next day he rolls up to the Shipping Office to draw his pay; and on the doorstep as he comes out, is his friend of overnight. And then it’s: “No need to hurry about paying back that trifle, old man—come and have a drink with me,” says Continued on page 69

The Berserk’s Gentleman

Continued, from page 21

the shark; and that’s the end of Jack’s payday in nine cases out of ten. His benefactor doesn’t leave him so long as he’s a cent left; and when the last one’s spent he gets him hove into a gutter and starts to look for another. So, as customary, that night the Berserk docked, down came the sharks, and ashore went our crew, chanting their old song: Leave her, Johnny, leave her!” It was my job to stay aboard that night, because the old man was off ashore the minute we touched; and anyway, my home was in Liverpool, where I’d go as soon as the owners said so. I was pretty full of zeal, because I’d hopes of getting command of a new ship I’d heard they intended buying, and getting ? command meant a lot of extra things for Nancy—my wife. I did get the command; but it isn’t my story I’m telling—

though to my way of thinking, it would make interesting reading. Perhaps I’ll try to tell it some day.

After the shouting had died away and the ship was quiet, with the nightwatchman shuffling about abreast the gangway, I went for’ard to see whether the fo’c’sles really, needed repainting that time at home; and in the port fo’c’sle, I found Holroyd. He hadn’t gone ashore. He was lying in his bunk, with a candle stuck on the bunk-board, devouring that precious book on etiquette as if it were the clue to a buried treasure.

"Not gone ashore?” I asked.

"No, sir—I’m saving myself up for the real thing. No flying off the handle for me this time, thanks. I’m growing wise as I’m getting older. Though I found it mighty hard to resist—there was enough money offering to buy a ship.

Just wait till tomorrow, that’s all, sir.” Oh, yes, he was deadly in earnest, about it; and he took that opportunity to get a final polishing from me in deportment. But he didn’t need much—he had it all off by heart; correct forms of address, how to use fish-eaters and how to tackle an artichoke—how to enter a room without feeling all hands and feet, and how to speak to a waiter without blushing. He kept me there for a devil’s own delight of a time, and I wanted to get my first long night in, I can tell you. But finally I managed to break away; and left him—still diving into his book on etiquette.

NEXT morning, I went with the old man to the Shipping Office. The notice had been posted up that the Berserk would pay off at eleven; and the men were beginning to show up about the door, most of them looking as if they’d slept in ash-bins; thick-headed with cheap drink and red about the eyes. The old man and I took our places behind the grille, and the work began. Presently Holroyd’s name was called out. He walked in spruced to the nines—looking as smart as an officer, I give you my solemn word. In amongst the rest he looked like a clipper amongst coal-barges; cold sober, newly-shaved and his go-ashore suit pressed and cleaned until it looked like new. He signed his name to the articles, got his discharge-book, raked in his pay— over a hundred pounds it was in all, and it looked a lot.

“I’ve sent in a report of your gallant conduct in swimming to the Chittagong,” the old man told him through the grille; “I daresay you’ll hear more of it. I’d like to shake hands with you, Holroyd, before you go; and if you take my advice, you’d bank that payday of yours and try to better yourself.”

“Well, sir, I don’t know that I did anything in particular,” he answered, “nothing that Mr. Bindon here wouldn’t have done, that is, if it hadn’t been for his broken arm—so that’s done with. As regards banking my payday, Captain, I reckon I’ve got a better use for it than that.” He gathered up the money and stuffed it into his pockets; but he wasn’t to be allowed to go like that. The survivors of the Chittagong trooped into the office. They’d got paid somehow, and they insisted on pressing money on him. He refused, it all—told ’em they’d need what they’d got ; wouldn’t even drink with them when they asked him to. Barring a handshake all round, he’d take nothing from them. I was the last he shook hands with.

“Now for the gentleman’s life, Mr. Bindon,” he said. “It seems too good to be true. After I’ve tried it I’ll ask you to dine with me to show you if I’m a credit to your teaching. Lord, isn’t it good? A fortnight as a gentleman!” And although I had a last shot to dissuade him, he turned a deaf ear to all my protestations and off he went.

T DIDN’T get away that night after all. 1 The captain’s wife had fallen ill, very ill; and he couldn’t leave her. There was some talk, too, of his getting the new ship and I was to have the Berserk. I sent a wire to Nancy, telling her to pack up and come down to London, and spent what spare time I had in hunting for rooms for her—such rooms as befitted a newly-appointed captain’s wife. But I slept aboard that night, to economise— I was never wasteful, and I like Nancy to get whatever she can manage to get in the way of comfort and an occasional luxury. As it happened, I overslept myself and when I turned out it was after eight o’clock, and the stevedores had knocked off for breakfast. The night watchman hadn’t called me before he cleared outspite, I expect, because the night before when I got aboard, I’d found him lying on the galley locker blind to the world, and the ship wide-open to the riverthieves. Of course I roused him out of his stupor with a few buckets of dockwater, and told hirn to go to the office next morning and get his pay—he was fired.

First thing I saw, on getting on deck, was Holroyd; but not the Holroyd of the Shipping Office; no, not by a long sight He was sitting on the mooring-bittsunder, the break of the poop. He was grimy from head to foot, his clothes were torn in several places, smeared with mud and garbage. He had a black eye, and bis lip was cut. His white hands, that he’d

taken such a pride in, were cut badly as to the knuckles and anything but white now. Blood streaks everywhere—Lord! he looked a wreck! Yes, worse than the ■Chittagong looked even, before she took her final dive.

“Well, and so the gentleman’s game wasn’t a success, Holroyd?” said I. He looked up at me, and smiled a lop-sided smile out of that puffy-lipped mouth. I ■don’t think I’ve ever seen a man look so much like the morning after the night before as Holroyd did then.

“Yes, sir—couldn’t steer the course,” said he. I understood what it was without his telling me; I could see the story in his dirt and dishevelment. He’d been amongst the crimps as sure as death, and they’d gone through him like a rope through a block. He got to his feet, lurching a bit.

“I thought I’d slip down, sir, to see if there was any chance of getting a job aboard as night-watchman, until the ship’s ready to sail again,” said he.

“You were paid off yesterday with well over a hundred pounds,” I said, severely. “You don’t mean to tell me you’ve run through that in a night!” He nodded ruefully.

“Something of the sort, sir—I’m deadbroke; haven’t even the price of a breakfast on me.”

“Usual thing, I suppose?” I asked. “One drink led to another—good company? Same old tale?” He flushed a bit under his grime, and couldn’t meet my eyes. “Something of the sort, sir,” said he, trying to fit his burst boot into a seam of the deck. So there he was, wide to the world—a hundred-odd pounds gone in a night! It made me nearly sick; but—he looked so sheepish and ashamed of himself standing there that I couldn’t say all that was in my heart to say. After all, wastrel as he was, he’d saved the crew of the Chittagong. But it just shows you what even the best sailorman can come to when he’s turned loose ashore with a pocketful of money!

Remembering what he had been, I engaged him as night-watchman, and told him to come down to the cabin after he’d cooked me some breakfast, and eat what I left. I had all the heart to preach him a sermon; but somehow—I couldn’t do it. We’re all of us fools at one time or another, I expect. When I was a youngster, before Nancy happened into my life, I’d hit the high places once or twice in much this fashion, though never quite to the same extent.

A GOOD enough watchman he made.

Sober and so on—I had chances of watching him, because I was constantly aboard the ship, getting her captain’s cabin fitted to my liking. The owners had given me permission to take Nancy with me on my next voyage in command; and as her sister was willing to keep an eye on the youngsters, we’d arranged it so.

Since it’s no good opening out old sores, I made no mention to Holroyd of his attempt at gentility. I did notice that he used the book on etiquette to light the galley fire, though. He seldom showed up during daylight hours. He lived aboard and hardly ever went ashore. Very reliable he was; and I might stretch this tale out a good bit longer by telling how he went overboard one day to fetch

back young Roy, who’d been trying tight-rope walking on the taffrail—the owners let me keep the youngsters aboard during our stay in port. But I won’t trouble you with every trifling detail.

But one day I had to send him ashore on an errand; there was no one else availáble. He came back quickly, and I happened to be on deck at the time. He walked like a man who was afraid of a policeman or something—looking over his shoulder all the time, and trying to dodge in amongst the railway wagons. He came in over the gangway, and skipped to the poop where I was standing, to hand me the parcel I’d sent him for; and his manner was so uneasy that I fancied he’d been drinking again. I started asking him questions to prove it; and his answers were hurried and almost incoherent; he was in a fidget to be off. So I let him go; but just as he went down the poopladder, a woman came through between the railway wagons and screamed: “That’s him—I know him!”

She came stumbling towards the gangway; but Holroyd bent himself nearly double and started for the forecastle like a rat up a drain. And there was the woman yelling and pointing, and almost falling off the gangway as she stormed across it. So, of course, I had to go and help her; and when I got her landed on the deck, I said:

“Madam, if any man of mine has insulted you in any way, I’ll see that he gets his desserts!” With that she sat down on those same mooring-bitts where I’d found Holroyd after his attempt at being a gentleman, and burst out crying. It took me some time to quieten her—I daren’t leave her to bring Holroyd along.

But after a while she got control of herself, and then I piloted her to the cabin so that Nancy could look after her. A pretty girl she was, quiet-looking and modest.

“If you’ll tell me in what way any man of mine insulted you, I’ll see that you get satisfaction,"^ I repeated; and she stared at me out of big eyes like a dog’s.

“Insulted me!” she gasped, her throat working hard. “Insulted me! Why, I’ve been hoping I’d see him ever since that night he found me in that bad place. And when I tried to find out where he was from, no one knew; but—I saw him just now, and although he wouldn’t stop when I called, I followed him; and then I saw him on this ship, and—and—” She had another fit of crying, and it took her some time to get round; but Nancy has a wonderful way with her.

Presently she said: “They got me into a low-class drink-shop—told me I’d be treated as a lady. I wasn’t—it was a horrible place. A man tried to—to kiss me. I called out, and he came in—he was just passing. They tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t be stopped, no, not though all the men in the beastly place tried. He fought them all— oh, it was terrible— terrible! But he fetched me out. And I hadn’t anywhere to go—I was a stranger. So he gave me over a hundred pounds and told me to live on that until I found a new situation amongst decent people, and— and—” She started crying again.

I have an idea in my mind—may be wrong, of course—that Holroyd wasn’t such a bad attempt at a gentleman, after all.