[Illustration: “He reached acrost the table and shook ’ands with Peter.”]
“It’s nice to ’ave money agin,” he ses. “There’s enough for a week’s enjoyment here.”
“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 twelve o’clock we’ll go somewhere. Knock loud.”
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.
Mr. 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 Dunchurch as he followed in the wake of his sea-chest were the result. Master and mate nodded in grim appreciation of the crew’s efforts.
[Illustration: “After some years spent in long voyages”]
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 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 another cigarette.
The woman assented and sat looking over the sea.
“Ever done any cooking?” asked Mr. Letts, presently.
“Plenty,” was the surprised reply. “Why?”
“I just wanted to ask you how long you would boil a bit o’ 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 favor him rather.”
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.”