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An Old-School Pilot
by [?]

At the mouth of a north-country river a colony of pilots dwelt. The men and women of this colony looked differently and spoke a dialect different from that used by the country people only half a mile off. The names, too, of the pilot community were different from those of the surrounding population. Tully was the most common surname of all, and the great number of people who bore it were mostly black-eyed and dark-haired, quite unlike our fair and blue-eyed north-country folk. Antiquaries say the Romans must have lived on the spot for at least two hundred years, judging by the coins and the vast quantities of household materials unearthed; and so some persons have no difficulty in accounting for the peculiarities of the pilot colony. Speculations of this sort are, however, somewhat beside the mark. It is only certain that the pilots lived amongst themselves, intermarried, and kept their habits and dialect quite distinct. When a pilot crossed the line a hundred yards west of his house, he met people who knew him by his tongue to be a “foreigner.”

My particular friend among the pilots was a very big man, who used, to amuse us much by the childish gravity of his remarks. He was a remnant of a past generation, and the introduction of steam shocked his faculties beyond recovery. He would say: “In the old times, sir, vessels had to turn up here. It was back, fill, and shiver-r-r all the way; but now you might as well have sets of rails laid on the water and run the ships on them. There is no seamanship needed.” He never quite forgave the Commissioners for deepening the river. As he said in his trenchant manner: “There used to be some credit in bringing a ship across the bar when you were never quite sure whether she would touch or not; but now you could bring the ‘Duke of Wellington’ in at low water. These kid-gloved captains come right up to their moorings as safe as if they were driving a coach along the road.” He was quite intolerant of railways, too; but then his first experience of the locomotive engine was not pleasant. Somehow he got on to the railway line on a hazy night; and just as the train had slowed down to enter the station the engine struck him and knocked him over. The engine-driver became aware of a brief burst of strong language, and in great alarm called upon two porters to walk along the line to see what had happened. They did so of course, and when they got to the place of the accident the light of their lanterns revealed the pilot perfectly sound and engaged in brushing dirt off his clothes. When he saw the bright buttons of the railway officials the thought of the police came instantly into his mind, and he said, “Here, now, you needn’t be taking me up; if I’ve done any damage to your engine I’ll pay for it.” At another time he was bringing a ship northwards when he was invited by the captain to run down below and help himself to a nip of brandy. After taking his brandy he proceeded to light his pipe at the stove. Now the captain possessed a large monkey, and the creature was shivering near the fire. The pilot said, “A gurly day, sir;” and the monkey gave a responsive shiver. Tho pilot went on with affable gruffness, “The Soutar light’s away on the port bow now, sir;” and still the monkey made no answer. Not to be stalled off, the pilot proceeded, “We’ll be over the bar in an hour, sir.” But failing to elicit a response even to this pleasant information, he stepped up on deck, and ranging himself alongside of the captain on the bridge, said, “What a quiet chap your father is!”