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“I couldn’t help it,” groaned the skipper; “she would come; she can be very determined when she likes. She’s awful gone on me, Bill.”

“So’s the other one apparently,” said the mate.

“I can’t think what it is the gals see in me,” said the other mournfully. “Can you?”

“No, I’m blamed if I can,” replied the mate frankly.

“I don’t take no credit for it, Bill,” said the skipper, “not a bit. My father was like it before me. The worry’s killing me.”

“Well, which are you going to have?” inquired the mate. “Which do you like the best?”

“I don’t know, an’ that’s a fact,” said the skipper. “They ‘ve both got money coming to ’em; when I’m in Wales I like Mary Jones best, and when I’m in London it’s Janey Cooper. It’s dreadful to be like that, Bill.”

“It is,” said the mate drily. “I wouldn’t be in your shoes when those two gals meet for a fortune. Then you’ll have old Jones and her brothers to tackle, too. Seems to me things’ll be a bit lively.”

“I hev thought of being took sick, and staying in my bunk, Bill,” suggested Evans anxiously.

“An’ having the two of ’em to nurse you,” retorted Bill. “Nice quiet time for an invalid.”

Evans made a gesture of despair.

“How would it be,” said the mate, after a long pause, and speaking very slowly; “how would it be if I took this one off your hands.”

“You couldn’t do it, Bill,” said the skipper decidedly. “Not while she knew I was above ground.” “Well, I can try,” returned the mate shortly. “I’ve took rather a fancy to the girl. Is it a bargain?”

“It is,” said the skipper, shaking hands upon it. “If you git me out of this hole, Bill, I’ll remember it the longest day I live.”

With these words he went below, and, after cautiously undoing W. H. Cooper, who had slept himself into a knot that a professional contortionist would have envied, tumbled in beside him and went to sleep.

His heart almost failed him when he encountered the radiant Jane at breakfast in the morning, but he concealed his feelings by a strong effort; and after the meal was finished, and the passengers had gone on deck, he laid hold of the mate, who was following, and drew him into the cabin.

“You haven’t washed yourself this morning,” he said, eyeing him closely. “How do you s’pose you are going to make an impression if you don’t look smart?”

“Well, I look tidier than you do,” growled the mate.

“Of course you do,” said the wily Evans. “I’m going to give you all the chances I can. Now you go and shave yourself, and here–take it.”

He passed the surprised mate a brilliant red silk tie, embellished with green spots.

“No, no,” said the mate deprecatingly.

“Take it,” repeated Evans; “if anything’ll fetch her it’ll be that tie; and here’s a couple of collars for you; they’re a new shape, quite the rage down Poplar way just now.”

“It’s robbing you,” said the mate, “and it’s no good either. I ain’t got a decent suit of clothes to my back.”

Evans looked up, and their eyes met; then, with a catch in his breath, he turned away, and after some hesitation went to his locker, and bringing out a new suit, bought for the edification of Miss Jones, handed it silently to the mate.

“I can’t take all these things without giving you something for ’em,” said the mate. “Here, wait a bit.”

He dived into his cabin, and, after a hasty search, brought out some garments which he placed on the table before his commander.

“I wouldn’t wear ’em, no, not to drown myself in,” declared Evans after a brief glance; “they ain’t even decent.”

“So much the better,” said the mate; “it’ll be more of a contrast with me.”

After a slight contest the skipper gave way, and the mate, after an elaborate toilette, went on deck and began to make himself agreeable, while his chief skulked below trying to muster up courage to put in an appearance.