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Brother Hutchins
by [?]

By the time they had got to their moorings it was too late to take the hatches off, and the crew sat gazing longingly at the lights ashore. Their delight when the visitor obtained permission for them to go ashore with him for a little stroll was unbounded, and they set off like schoolboys.

“They couldn’t be with a better man,” said the skipper, as the party moved off; “when I think of the good that man’s done in under four days it makes me ashamed of myself.”

“You’d better ship ‘im as mate,” said George. “There’d be a pair of you then.”

“There’s greater work for ‘im to do,” said the skipper solemnly.

He saw the mate’s face in the waning light, and moved off with a sigh. The mate, for his part, leaned against the side smoking, and as the skipper declined to talk on any subject but Mr. Hutchins, relapsed into a moody silence until the return of the crew some two hours later.

“Mr. Hutchins is coming on after, sir,” said the boy. “He told us to say he was paying a visit to a friend.”

“What’s the name of the pub?” asked the mate quietly.

“If you can’t speak without showing your nasty temper, George, you’d better hold your tongue,” said the skipper severely. “What’s your opinion about Mr. Hutchins, my lads!”

“A more open ‘arted man never breathed,” said Dan, the oldest of the crew, warmly.

“Best feller I ever met in my life,” said another.

“You hear that?” said the skipper.

“I hear,” said the mate.

“‘E’s a Christian,” said the boy. “I never knew what a Christian was before I met ‘im. What do you think ‘e give us?”

“Give you?” said the skipper.

“A pound cash,” said the boy. “A golden sovring each. Tork about Christians! I wish I knew a few more of ’em.”

“Well I never!” exclaimed the gratified skipper.

“An’ the way ‘e did it was so nice,” said the oldest seaman. “‘E ses, ‘That’s from me an’ the skipper,’ ‘e ses. ‘Thank the skipper for it as much as me,’ ‘e ses.”

“Well now, don’t waste it,” said the skipper. “I should bank it if I was you. It’ll make a nice little nest-egg.”

“I ‘ope it was come by honest, that’s all,” said the mate.

“O’ course it was,” cried the skipper. “You’ve got a ‘ard, cruel ‘art, George. P’raps if it ‘ad been a little softer you’d ‘ave ‘ad one too.”

“Blast ‘is sovrings,” said the surly mate. “I’d like to know where he got ’em from, an’ wot e’ means by saying it come from you as much as ‘im. I never knew you to give money away.”

“I s’pose,” said the skipper very softly, “he means that I put such-like thoughts into ‘is ‘art. Well, you’d better turn in, my lads. We start work at four.”

The hands went forward, and the skipper and mate descended to the cabin and prepared for sleep. The skipper set a lamp on the table ready for Mr. Hutchins when he should return, and after a short inward struggle bade the mate “good-night,” and in a couple of minutes was fast asleep.

At four o’clock the mate woke suddenly to find the skipper standing by his berth. The lamp still stood burning on the table, fighting feebly against the daylight which was pouring in through the skylight.

“Not turned up yet?” said the mate, with a glance at the visitor’s empty berth.

The skipper shook his head spiritlessly and pointed to the table. The mate following his finger, saw a small canvas bag, and by the side of it four-pence halfpenny in coppers and an unknown amount in brace buttons.

“There was twenty-three pounds freight money in that bag when we left London,” said the skipper, finding his voice at last.

“Well, what do you think’s become of it?” inquired the mate, taking up the lamp and blowing it out.

“I can’t think,” said the skipper, “my ‘ed’s all confused. Bro–Mr. Hutchins ain’t come back yet.”