Sailormen don’t bother much about 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, p’r’aps.
[Illustration: “Put a bishop in my clothes, and you’d ask ’im to ’ave a ’arf-pint as soon as you would me.”]
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 indoors 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 Goodman,” he ses, staring. “Why, I ain’t seen ’im for over twenty years.”
“Do you owe ’im any money?” ses Sam.
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 about.”
“Wot is he?” ses Sam.
“He’s retired,” ses Peter, trying not to speak proud.
“Got money?” ses Sam, with a start.
“I b’leeve so,” ses 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 I’d 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’ 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.”