In two hours ’e was back agin and more cheerful than he ’ad been since he ’ad come ’ome. Bob was in the bar and the others were just sitting down to tea, and a big chest, nicely corded, stood on the floor in the corner of the room.
“That’s right,” he ses, looking at it; “that’s just wot I wanted.”
“It’s as full as it can be,” ses old Burge. “I done it for you myself. ’Ave you got a ship?”
“I ’ave,” ses Dixon. “A jolly good ship. No more hardships for me this time. I’ve got a berth as captain.”
“Wot?” ses ’is wife. “Captain? You!”
“Yes,” ses Dixon, smiling at her. “You can sail with me if you like.”
“Thankee,” ses Mrs. Dixon, “I’m quite comfortable where I am.”
“Do you mean to say you’ve got a master’s berth?” ses Charlie, staring at ’im.
“I do,” ses Dixon; “master and owner.”
Charlie coughed. “Wot’s the name of the ship?” he asks, winking at the others.
“The BLUE LION,” ses Dixon, in a voice that made ’em all start. “I’m shipping a new crew and I pay off the old one to-night. You first, my lad.”
“Pay off,” ses Charlie, leaning back in ’is chair and staring at ’im in a puzzled way. “Blue Lion?”
“Yes,” ses Dixon, in the same loud voice. “When I came ’ome the other day I thought p’r’aps I’d let bygones be bygones, and I laid low for a bit to see whether any of you deserved it. I went to sea to get hardened—and I got hard. I’ve fought men that would eat you at a meal. I’ve ’ad more blows in a week than you’ve ’ad in a lifetime, you fat-faced land-lubber.”
He walked to the door leading to the bar, where Bob was doing ’is best to serve customers and listen at the same time, and arter locking it put the key in ’is pocket. Then ’e put his ’and in ’is pocket and slapped some money down on the table in front o’ Charlie.
“There’s a month’s pay instead o’ notice,” he ses. “Now git.”
“George!” screams ’is wife. “’Ow dare you? ’Ave you gone crazy?”
“I’m surprised at you,” ses old Burge, who’d been looking on with ’is mouth wide open, and pinching ’imself to see whether ’e wasn’t dreaming.
“I don’t go for your orders,” ses Charlie, getting up. “Wot d’ye mean by locking that door?”
“Wot!” roars Dixon. “Hang it! I mustn’t lock a door without asking my barman now. Pack up and be off, you swab, afore I start on you.”
Charlie gave a growl and rushed at ’im, and the next moment ’e was down on the floor with the ’ardest bang in the face that he’d ever ’ad in ’is life. Mrs. Dixon screamed and ran into the kitchen, follered by old Burge, who went in to tell ’er not to be frightened. Charlie got up and went for Dixon agin; but he ’ad come back as ’ard as nails and ’ad a rushing style o’ fighting that took Charlie’s breath away. By the time Bob ’ad left the bar to take care of itself, and run round and got in the back way, Charlie had ’ad as much as ’e wanted and was lying on the sea-chest in the corner trying to get ’is breath.