Produced by David Widger
By W.W. JACOBS
Sailor man—said the night-watchman, musingly—a sailorman is like a fish he is safest when ‘e is at sea. When a fish comes ashore it is in for trouble, and so is sailorman. One poor chap I knew ‘ardly ever came ashore without getting married; and he was found out there was no less than six wimmen in the court all taking away ‘is character at once. And when he spoke up Solomon the magistrate pretty near bit ‘is ‘ead off.
Then look at the trouble they get in with their money! They come ashore from a long trip, smelling of it a’most, and they go from port to port like a lord. Everybody has got their eye on that money—everybody except the sailorman, that is—and afore he knows wot’s ‘appened, and who ‘as got it, he’s looking for a ship agin. When he ain’t robbed of ‘is money, he wastes it; and when ‘e don’t do either, he loses it.
I knew one chap who hid ‘is money. He’d been away ten months, and, knowing ‘ow easy money goes, ‘e made up sixteen pounds in a nice little parcel and hid it where nobody could find it. That’s wot he said, and p’r’aps ‘e was right. All I know is, he never found it. I did the same thing myself once with a couple o’ quid I ran acrost unexpected, on’y, unfortunately for me, I hid it the day afore my missus started ‘er spring-cleaning.
One o’ the worst men I ever knew for getting into trouble when he came ashore was old Sam Small. If he couldn’t find it by ‘imself, Ginger Dick and Peter Russet would help ‘im look for it. Generally speaking they found it without straining their eyesight.
I remember one time they was home, arter being away pretty near a year, and when they was paid off they felt like walking gold-mines. They went about smiling all over with good-temper and ‘appiness, and for the first three days they was like brothers. That didn’t last, of course, and on the fourth day Sam Small, arter saying wot ‘e would do to Ginger and Peter if it wasn’t for the police, went off by ‘imself.
His temper passed off arter a time, and ‘e began to look cheerful agin. It was a lovely morning, and, having nothing to do and plenty in ‘is pocket to do it with, he went along like a schoolboy with a ‘arf holiday. He went as far as Stratford on the top of a tram for a mouthful o’ fresh air, and came back to his favourite coffee-shop with a fine appetite for dinner. There was a very nice gentlemanly chap sitting opposite ‘im, and the way he begged Sam’s pardon for splashing gravy over ‘im made Sam take a liking to him at once. Nicely dressed he was, with a gold pin in ‘is tie, and a fine gold watch-chain acrost his weskit; and Sam could see he ‘ad been brought up well by the way he used ‘is knife and fork. He kept looking at Sam in a thoughtful kind o’ way, and at last he said wot a beautiful morning it was, and wot a fine day it must be in the, country. In a little while they began to talk like a couple of old friends, and he told Sam all about ‘is father, wot was a clergyman in the country, and Sam talked about a father of his as was living private on three ‘undred a year.
“Ah, money’s a useful thing,” ses the man.
“It ain’t everything,” ses Sam. “It won’t give you ‘appiness. I’ve run through a lot in my time, so I ought to know.”
“I expect you’ve got a bit left, though,” ses the man, with a wink.
Sam laughed and smacked ‘is pocket. “I’ve got a trifle to go on with,” he ses, winking back. “I never feel comfortable without a pound or two in my pocket.”
“You look as though you’re just back from a vy’ge,” ses the man, looking at ‘im very hard.
“I am,” ses Sam, nodding. “Just back arter ten months, and I’m going to spend a bit o’ money afore I sign on agin, I can tell you.”
“That’s wot it was given to us for,” ses the man, nodding at him.
They both got up to go at the same time and walked out into the street together, and, when Sam asked ‘im whether he might have the pleasure of standing ‘im a drink, he said he might. He talked about the different kinds of drink as they walked along till Sam, wot was looking for a high- class pub, got such a raging thirst on ‘im he hardly knew wot to do with ‘imself. He passed several pubs, and walked on as fast as he could to the Three Widders.
“Do you want to go in there partikler?” ses the man, stopping at the door.
“No,” ses Sam, staring.
“‘Cos I know a place where they sell the best glass o’ port wine in London,” ses the man.
He took Sam up two or three turnings, and then led him into a quiet little pub in a back street. There was a cosy little saloon bar with nobody in it, and, arter Sam had ‘ad two port wines for the look of the thing, he ‘ad a pint o’ six-ale because he liked it. His new pal had one too, and he ‘ad just taken a pull at it and wiped his mouth, when ‘e noticed a little bill pinned up at the back of the bar.
“Lost, between—the Mint and—Tower Stairs,” he ses, leaning forward and reading very slow, “a gold—locket—set with—diamonds. Whoever will—return—the same to—Mr. Smith—Orange Villa—Barnet—will receive —thirty pounds—reward.”
“‘Ow much?” ses Sam, starting. “Thirty pounds,” ses the man. “Must be a good locket. Where’d you get that?” he ses, turning to the barmaid.
“Gentleman came in an hour ago,” ses the gal, “and, arter he had ‘ad two or three drinks with the guv’nor, he asks ‘im to stick it up. ‘Arf crying he was—said ‘it ‘ad belonged to his old woman wot died.”
She went off to serve a customer at the other end of the bar wot was making little dents in it with his pot, and the man came back and sat down by Sam agin, and began to talk about horse-racing. At least, he tried to, but Sam couldn’t talk of nothing but that locket, and wot a nice steady sailorman could do with thirty pounds.
“Well, p’r’aps you’ll find it,” ses the man, chaffing-like. “‘Ave another pint.”
Sam had one, but it only made ‘im more solemn, and he got in quite a temper as ‘e spoke about casuals loafing about on Tower Hill with their ‘ands in their pockets, and taking gold lockets out of the mouths of hard-working sailormen.
“It mightn’t be found yet,” ses the man, speaking thoughtful-like. “It’s wonderful how long a thing’ll lay sometimes. Wot about going and ‘aving a look for it?”
Sam shook his ‘ead at fust, but arter turning the thing over in his mind, and ‘aving another look at the bill, and copying down the name and address for luck, ‘e said p’r’aps they might as well walk that way as anywhere else.
“Something seems to tell me we’ve got a chance,” ses the man, as they stepped outside.
“It’s a funny feeling and I can’t explain it, but it always means good luck. Last time I had it an aunt o’ mine swallered ‘er false teeth and left me five ‘undred pounds.”
“There’s aunts and aunts,” ses Sam, grunting. “I ‘ad one once, but if she had swallered ‘er teeth she’d ha’ been round to me to help ‘er buy some new ones. That’s the sort she was.”