Bill was a very good husband when he was sober, but ’is money was two pounds a week, and when a man has all that and on’y a wife to keep out of it, it’s natural for ‘im to drink. Mrs. Burtenshaw tried all sorts o’ ways and means of curing ‘im, but it was no use. Bill used to think o’ ways, too, knowing the ’arm the drink was doing ’im, and his fav’rite plan was for ‘is missis to empty a bucket o’ cold water over ’im every time he came ’ome the worse for licker. She did it once, but as she ’ad to spend the rest o’ the night in the back yard it wasn’t tried again.
Bill got worse as he got older, and even made away with the furniture to get drink with. And then he used to tell ’is missis that he was drove to the pub because his ’ome was so uncomfortable.
Just at that time things was at their worst Silas Winch, who ’appened to be ashore and ’ad got Bill’s address from a pal, called to see ’im. It was a Saturday arternoon when he called, and, o’ course, Bill was out, but ’is missis showed him in, and, arter fetching another chair from the kitchen, asked ’im to sit down.
Silas was very perlite at fust, but arter looking round the room and seeing ’ow bare it was, he gave a little cough, and he ses, “I thought Bill was doing well?” he ses.
[Illustration: “Silas was very perlite at fust.”]
“So he is,” ses Mrs. Burtenshaw.
Silas Winch coughed again.
“I suppose he likes room to stretch ’imself about in?” he ses, looking round.
Mrs. Burtenshaw wiped ’er eyes and then, knowing ’ow Silas had been an old friend o’ Bill’s, she drew ’er chair a bit closer and told him ’ow it was. “A better ’usband, when he’s sober, you couldn’t wish to see,” she ses, wiping her eyes agin. “He’d give me anything—if he ’ad it.”
Silas’s face got longer than ever. “As a matter o’ fact,” he ses, “I’m a bit down on my luck, and I called round with the ’ope that Bill could lend me a bit, just till I can pull round.”
Mrs. Burtenshaw shook her ’ead.
“Well, I s’pose I can stay and see ’im?” ses Silas. “Me and ’im used to be great pals at one time, and many’s the good turn I’ve done him. Wot time’ll he be ’ome?”
“Any time after twelve,” ses Mrs. Burtenshaw; “but you’d better not be here then. You see, ’im being in that condition, he might think you was your own ghost come according to promise and be frightened out of ’is life. He’s often talked about it.”
Silas Winch scratched his head and looked at ’er thoughtful-like.
“Why shouldn’t he mistake me for a ghost?” he ses at last; “the shock might do ’im good. And, if you come to that, why shouldn’t I pretend to be my own ghost and warn ’im off the drink?”
Mrs. Burtenshaw got so excited at the idea she couldn’t ’ardly speak, but at last, arter saying over and over agin she wouldn’t do such a thing for worlds, she and Silas arranged that he should come in at about three o’clock in the morning and give Bill a solemn warning. She gave ’im her key, and Silas said he’d come in with his ’air and cap all wet and pretend he’d been drowned.