“‘Soap,’ ses Joe, in a nasty sneering way, ’you wouldn’t reckernise a piece if you saw it.’
“Arter that I could see there was nothing to be got out of ‘im, an’ I just kept my eyes open and watched. The skipper didn’t worry about his fits, ’cept that he said he wasn’t to let the sarpint see his face when he was in ’em for fear of scaring it; an’ when the mate wanted to leave him out o’ the watch, he ses, ’No, he might as well have fits while at work as well as anywhere else.’
“We were about twenty-four hours from port, an’ the sarpint was still following us; and at six o’clock in the evening the officers puffected all their arrangements for ketching the creetur at eight o’clock next morning. To make quite sure of it an extra watch was kept on deck all night to chuck it food every half-hour; an’ when I turned in at ten o’clock that night it was so close I could have reached it with a clothes-prop.
“I think I’d been abed about ’arf-an-hour when I was awoke by the most infernal row I ever heard. The foghorn was going incessantly, an’ there was a lot o’ shouting and running about on deck. It struck us all as ’ow the sarpint was gitting tired o’ bread, and was misbehaving himself, consequently we just shoved our ‘eds out o’ the fore-scuttle and listened. All the hullaballoo seemed to be on the bridge, an’ as we didn’t see the sarpint there we plucked up courage and went on deck.
“Then we saw what had happened. Joe had ’ad another fit while at the wheel, and, not knowing what he was doing, had clutched the line of the foghorn, and was holding on to it like grim death, and kicking right and left. The skipper was in his bedclothes, raving worse than Joe; and just as we got there Joe came round a bit, and, letting go o’ the line, asked in a faint voice what the foghorn was blowing for. I thought the skipper ‘ud have killed him; but the second mate held him back, an’, of course, when things quieted down a bit, an’ we went to the side, we found the sea-sarpint had vanished.
“We stayed there all that night, but it warn’t no use. When day broke there wasn’t the slightest trace of it, an’ I think the men was as sorry to lose it as the officers. All ’cept Joe, that is, which shows how people should never be rude, even to the humblest; for I’m sartin that if the skipper hadn’t hurt his feelings the way he did we should now know as much about the sea-sarpint as we do about our own brothers.”
MRS. BUNKER’S CHAPERON
Matilda stood at the open door of a house attached to a wharf situated in that dreary district which bears the high-sounding name of “St. Katharine’s.”
Work was over for the day. A couple of unhorsed vans were pushed up the gangway by the side of the house, and the big gate was closed. The untidy office which occupied the ground-floor was deserted, except for a grey-bearded “housemaid” of sixty, who was sweeping it through with a broom, and indulging in a few sailorly oaths at the choking qualities of the dust he was raising.