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Brother Hutchins
by [?]

“I s’pose he was late and didn’t like to disturb you,” said the mate without moving a muscle, “but I’ve no doubt ‘e’s all right. Don’t you worry about him.”

“It’s very strange where it’s gone, George,” faltered the skipper, “very strange.”

“Well, ‘Utchins is a generous sort o’ chap,” said the mate, “‘e give the men five pounds for nothing, so perhaps he’ll give you something–when ‘e comes back.”

“Go an’ ask the crew to come down here,” said the skipper, sinking on a locker and gazing at the brazen collection before him.

The mate obeyed, and a few minutes afterwards returned with the men, who, swarming into the cabin, listened sympathetically as the skipper related his loss.

“It’s a mystery which nobody can understand, sir,” said old Dan when he had finished, “and it’s no use tryin’.”

“One o’ them things what won’t never be cleared up properly,” said the cook comfortably.

“Well, I don’t like to say it,” said the skipper, “but I must. The only man who could have taken it was Hutchins.”

“Wot, sir,” said Dan, “that blessed man! Why, I’d laugh at the idea.”

“He couldn’t do it,” said the boy, “not if he tried he couldn’t. He was too good.”

“He’s taken that twenty-three poun’,” said the skipper deliberately; “eighteen, we’ll call it, because I’m goin’ to have five of it back.”

“You’re labourin’ under a great mistake, sir,” said Dan ambiguously.

“Are you going to give me that money?” said the skipper loudly.

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, no,” said the cook, speaking for the rest, as he put his foot on the companion-ladder. “Brother ‘Utchins gave us that money for singing them ‘ims so well. ‘E said so, and we ain’t ‘ad no call to think as it warn’t honestly come by. Nothing could ever make us think that, would it, mates?”

“Nothing,” said the others with exemplary firmness. “It couldn’t be done.”

They followed the cook up on deck, and leaning over the side, gazed in a yearning fashion toward the place where they had last seen their benefactor. Then with a sorrowful presentiment that they would never look upon his like again, they turned away and prepared for the labours of the day.