Produced by David Widger
By W.W. JACOBS
Yes, I know, said the night-watchman, thoughtfully, as he sat with a cold pipe in his mouth gazing across the river. I’ve ‘eard it afore. People tell me they don’t believe in ghosts and make a laugh of ’em, and all I say is: let them take on a night-watchman’s job. Let ’em sit ‘ere all alone of a night with the water lapping against the posts and the wind moaning in the corners; especially if a pal of theirs has slipped overboard, and there is little nasty bills stuck up just outside in the High Street offering a reward for the body. Twice men ‘ave fallen overboard from this jetty, and I’ve ‘ad to stand my watch here the same night, and not a farthing more for it.
One of the worst and artfullest ghosts I ever ‘ad anything to do with was Sam Bullet. He was a waterman at the stairs near by ‘ere; the sort o’ man that ‘ud get you to pay for drinks, and drink yours up by mistake arter he ‘ad finished his own. The sort of man that ‘ad always left his baccy-box at ‘ome, but always ‘ad a big pipe in ‘is pocket.
He fell overboard off of a lighter one evening, and all that his mates could save was ‘is cap. It was on’y two nights afore that he ‘ad knocked down an old man and bit a policeman’s little finger to the bone, so that, as they pointed out to the widder, p’r’aps he was taken for a wise purpose. P’r’aps he was ‘appier where he was than doing six months.
“He was the sort o’ chap that’ll make himself ‘appy anywhere,” ses one of ’em, comforting-like.
“Not without me,” ses Mrs. Bullet, sobbing, and wiping her eyes on something she used for a pocket-hankercher. “He never could bear to be away from me. Was there no last words?”
“On’y one,” ses one o’ the chaps, Joe Peel by name.
“As ‘e fell overboard,” ses the other.
Mrs. Bullet began to cry agin, and say wot a good ‘usband he ‘ad been. “Seventeen years come Michaelmas,” she ses, “and never a cross word. Nothing was too good for me. Nothing. I ‘ad only to ask to ‘ave.”
“Well, he’s gorn now,” ses Joe, “and we thought we ought to come round and tell you.”
“So as you can tell the police,” ses the other chap.
That was ‘ow I came to hear of it fust; a policeman told me that night as I stood outside the gate ‘aving a quiet pipe. He wasn’t shedding tears; his only idea was that Sam ‘ad got off too easy.
“Well, well,” I ses, trying to pacify ‘im, “he won’t bite no more fingers; there’s no policemen where he’s gorn to.”
He went off grumbling and telling me to be careful, and I put my pipe out and walked up and down the wharf thinking. On’y a month afore I ‘ad lent Sam fifteen shillings on a gold watch and chain wot he said an uncle ‘ad left ‘im. I wasn’t wearing it because ‘e said ‘is uncle wouldn’t like it, but I ‘ad it in my pocket, and I took it out under one of the lamps and wondered wot I ought to do.
My fust idea was to take it to Mrs. Bullet, and then, all of a sudden, the thought struck me: “Suppose he ‘adn’t come by it honest?”
I walked up and down agin, thinking. If he ‘adn’t, and it was found out, it would blacken his good name and break ‘is pore wife’s ‘art. That’s the way I looked at it, and for his sake and ‘er sake I determined to stick to it.
I felt ‘appier in my mind when I ‘ad decided on that, and I went round to the Bear’s Head and ‘ad a pint. Arter that I ‘ad another, and then I come back to the wharf and put the watch and chain on and went on with my work.
Every time I looked down at the chain on my waistcoat it reminded me of Sam. I looked on to the river and thought of ‘im going down on the ebb. Then I got a sort o’ lonesome feeling standing on the end of the jetty all alone, and I went back to the Bear’s Head and ‘ad another pint.
They didn’t find the body, and I was a’most forgetting about Sam when one evening, as I was sitting on a box waiting to get my breath back to ‘ave another go at sweeping, Joe Peel, Sam’s mate, came on to the wharf to see me.
He came in a mysterious sort o’ way that I didn’t like: looking be’ind ‘im as though he was afraid of being follered, and speaking in a whisper as if ‘e was afraid of being heard. He wasn’t a man I liked, and I was glad that the watch and chain was stowed safe away in my trowsis-pocket.
“I’ve ‘ad a shock, watchman,” he ses.
“Oh!” I ses.
“A shock wot’s shook me all up,” he ses, working up a shiver. “I’ve seen something wot I thought people never could see, and wot I never want to see agin. I’ve seen Sam!”
I thought a bit afore I spoke. “Why, I thought he was drownded,” I ses.
“So ‘e is,” ses Joe. “When I say I’ve seen ‘im I mean that I ‘ave seen his ghost!”