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A Disciplinarian
by [?]

“There’s no doubt about it,” said the night watchman, “but what dissipline’s a very good thing, but it don’t always act well. For instance, I ain’t allowed to smoke on this wharf, so when I want a pipe I either ‘ave to go over to the ‘Queen’s ‘ed,’ or sit in a lighter. If I’m in the ‘Queen’s ‘ed’ I can’t look arter the wharf, an’ once when I was sitting in a lighter smoking the chap come aboard an’ cast off afore I knew what he was doing, an’ took me all the way to Greenwich. He said he’d often played that trick on watchmen.

“The worst man for dissipline I ever shipped with was Cap’n Tasker, of the Lapwing. He’d got it on the brain bad. He was a prim, clean-shaved man except for a little side-whisker, an’ always used to try an’ look as much like a naval officer as possible.

“I never ‘ad no sort of idea what he was like when I jined the ship, an’ he was quite quiet and peaceable until we was out in the open water. Then the cloven hoof showed itself, an’ he kicked one o’ the men for coming on deck with a dirty face, an’ though the man told him he never did wash becos his skin was so delikit, he sent the bos’en to turn the hose on him.

“The bos’en seemed to take a hand in everything. We used to do everything by his whistle, it was never out of his mouth scarcely, and I’ve known that man to dream of it o’ nights, and sit up in his sleep an’ try an’ blow his thumb. He whistled us to swab decks, whistled us to grub, whistled us to every blessed thing.

“Though we didn’t belong to any reg’ler line, we’d got a lot o’ passengers aboard, going to the Cape, an’ they thought a deal o’ the skipper. There was one young leftenant aboard who said he reminded him o’ Nelson, an’ him an’ the skipper was as thick as two thieves. Nice larky young chap he was, an’ more than one o’ the crew tried to drop things on him from aloft when he wasn’t looking.

“Every morning at ten we was inspected by the skipper, but that wasn’t enough for the leftenant, and he persuaded the old man to drill us. He said it would do us good an’ amuse the passengers, an’ we ‘ad to do all sorts of silly things with our arms an’ legs, an’ twice he walked the skipper to the other end of the ship, leaving twenty-three sailor-men bending over touching their toes, an’ wondering whether they’d ever stand straight again.

“The very worst thing o’ the lot was the boat-drill. A chap might be sitting comfortable at his grub, or having a pipe in his bunk, when the bos’en’s whistle would scream out to him that the ship was sinking, an’ the passengers drownding, and he was to come an’ git the boats out an’ save ’em. Nice sort o’ game it was too. We had to run like mad with kegs o’ water an’ bags o’ biscuit, an’ then run the boats out an’ launch ’em. All the men were told off to certain boats, an’ the passengers too. The only difference was, if a passenger didn’t care about taking a hand in the game he didn’t, but we had to.

“One o’ the passengers who didn’t play was Major Miggens. He was very much agin it, an’ called it tomfoolery; he never would go to his boat, but used to sit and sneer all the time.

“‘It’s only teaching the men to cut an’ run,’ he said to the skipper one day; ‘if there ever was any need they’d run to the boats an’ leave us here. Don’t tell me.’

“‘That’s not the way I should ha’ expected to hear you speak of British sailors, major,’ ses the skipper rather huffy.