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A Love Passage
by [?]

The mate was leaning against the side of the schooner, idly watching a few red-coated linesmen lounging on the Tower Quay. Careful mariners were getting out their side-lights, and careless lightermen were progressing by easy bumps from craft to craft on their way up the river. A tug, half burying itself in its own swell, rushed panting by, and a faint scream came from aboard an approaching skiff as it tossed in the wash.

“JESSICA ahoy!” bawled a voice from the skiff as she came rapidly alongside.

The mate, roused from his reverie, mechanically caught the line and made it fast, moving with alacrity as he saw that the captain’s daughter was one of the occupants. Before he had got over his surprise she was on deck with her boxes, and the captain was paying off the watermen.

“You’ve seen my daughter Hetty afore, haven’t you?” said the skipper. “She’s coming with us this trip. You’d better go down and make up her bed, Jack, in that spare bunk.”

“Ay, ay,” said the mate dutifully, moving off.

“Thank you, I’ll do it myself,” said the scandalised Hetty, stepping forward hastily.

“As you please,” said the skipper, leading the way below. “Let’s have a light on, Jack.”

The mate struck a match on his boot, and lit the lamp.

“There’s a few things in there’ll want moving,” said the skipper, as he opened the door. “I don’t know where we’re to keep the onions now, Jack.”

“We’ll find a place for ’em,” said the mate confidently, as he drew out a sack and placed it on the table.

“I’m not going to sleep in there,” said the visitor decidedly, as she peered in. “Ugh! there’s a beetle. Ugh!”

“It’s quite dead,” said the mate reassuringly. “I’ve never seen a live beetle on this ship.”

“I want to go home,” said the girl. “You’ve no business to make me come when I don’t want to.”

“You should behave yourself then,” said her father magisterially. “What about sheets, Jack; and pillers?”

The mate sat on the table, and, grasping his chin, pondered. Then as his gaze fell upon the pretty, indignant face of the passenger, he lost the thread of his ideas.

“She’ll have to have some o’ my things for the present,” said the skipper.

“Why not,” said the mate, looking up again–“why not let her have your state-room?”

“‘Cos I want it myself,” replied the other calmly.

The mate blushed for him, and, the girl leaving them to arrange matters as they pleased, the two men, by borrowing here and contriving there, made up the bunk. The girl was standing by the galley when they went on deck again, an object of curious and respectful admiration to the crew, who had come on board in the meantime. She stayed on deck until the air began to blow fresher in the wider reaches, and then, with a brief good- night to her father, retired below.

“She made up her mind to come with us rather suddenly, didn’t she?” inquired the mate after she had gone.

“She didn’t make up her mind at all,” said the skipper; “we did it for her, me an’ the missus. It’s a plan on our part.”

“Wants strengthening?” said the mate suggestively.

“Well, the fact is,” said the skipper, “it’s like this, Jack; there’s a friend o’ mine, a provision dealer in a large way o’ business, wants to marry my girl, and me an’ the missus want him to marry her, so, o’ course, she wants to marry someone else. Me an’ ‘er mother we put our ‘eads together and decided for her to come away. When she’s at ‘ome, instead o’ being out with Towson, direckly her mother’s back’s turned she’s out with that young sprig of a clerk.”

“Nice-looking young feller, I s’pose?” said the mate somewhat anxiously.

“Not a bit of it,” said the other firmly. “Looks as though he had never had a good meal in his life. Now my friend Towson, he’s all right; he’s a man of about my own figger.”