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Low Water
by [?]

It was a calm, clear evening in late summer as the Elizabeth Ann, of Pembray, scorning the expensive aid of a tug, threaded her way down theLondon river under canvas. The crew were busy forward, and the masterand part-owner—a fussy little man, deeply imbued with a sense of hisown importance and cleverness—was at the wheel chatting with the mate. While waiting for a portion of his cargo, he had passed the previousweek pleasantly enough with some relatives in Exeter, and was now in amasterful fashion receiving a report from the mate.

"There’s one other thing," said the mate. "I dessay you’ve noticed howsober old Dick is to-night. "

"I kept him short o’ purpose," said the skipper, with a satisfied air.

"Tain’t that," said the mate. "You’ll be pleased to hear that ‘im an’Sam has been talked over by the other two, and that all your crew now,’cept the cook, who’s still Roman Catholic, has j’ined the SalvationArmy. "

"Salvation Army!" repeated the skipper in dazed tones. "I don’t wantnone o’ your gammon, Bob. "

"It’s quite right," said the other. "You can take it from me. How it wasdone I don’t know, but what I do know is, none of ’em has touched lickerfor five days. They’ve all got red jerseys, an’ I hear as old Dickpreaches a hexcellent sermon. He’s red-hot on it, and t’others follow’im like sheep. "

"The drink’s got to his brain," said the skipper sagely, after due reflection. "Well, I don’t mind, so long as they behave theirselves. "

He kept silence until Woolwich was passed, and they were running alongwith all sails set, and then, his curiosity being somewhat excited, hecalled old Dick to him, with the amiable intention of a little banter.

"What’s this I hear about you j’ining the Salvation Army?" he asked.

"It’s quite true, sir," said Dick. "I feel so happy, you can’t think—weall do. "

"Glory!" said one of the other men, with enthusiastic corroboration.

"Seems like the measles," said the skipper facetiously. "Four of youdown with it at one time!"

"It islike the measles, sir," said the old man impressively, "an’ Ionly hope as you’ll catch it yourself, bad. "

"Hallelujah!" bawled the other man suddenly. "He’ll catch it. "

"Hold that noise, you, Joe!" shouted the skipper sternly. "How dare youmake that noise aboard ship?"

"He’s excited, sir," said Dick. "It’s love for you in ‘is ‘eart as doesit. "

"Let him keep his love to hisself," said the skipper churlishly.

"Ah! that’s just what we can’t do," said Dick in high-pitched tones,which the skipper rightly concluded to be his preaching voice. "We can’tdo it—an’ why can’t we do it? Becos we feel good, an’ we want you tofeel good too. We want to share it with you. Oh, dear friend—"

"That’s enough," said the master of the Elizabeth Ann, sharply. "Don’tyou go ‘dear friending’ me. Go for’ard! Go for’ard at once!"

With a melancholy shake of his head the old man complied, and the startled skipper turned to the mate, who was at the wheel, and expressedhis firm intention of at once stopping such behaviour on his ship.

"You can’t do it," said the mate firmly.

"Can’t do it?" queried the skipper.

"Not a bit of it," said the other. "They’ve all got it bad, an’ the moreyou get at ’em the wuss they’ll be. Mark my words, best let ’em alone. "

"I’ll hold my hand a bit and watch ’em," was the reply; "but I’ve alwaysbeen cap’n on my own ship, and I always will. "