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Money Changers
by [?]

“Tain’t no use waiting any longer,” said Harry Pilchard, looking over the side of the brig towards the Tower stairs. “‘E’s either waiting for the money or else ‘e’s a-spending of it. Who’s coming ashore?”

“Give ‘im another five minutes, Harry,” said another seaman persuasively; “it ‘ud be uncommon ‘ard on ‘im if ‘e come aboard and then ‘ad to go an’ get another ship’s crew to ‘elp ‘im celebrate it.”

“‘Ard on us too,” said the cook honestly. “There he is!”

The other glanced up at a figure waving to them from the stairs. “‘E wants the boat,” he said, moving aft.

“No ‘e don’t, Steve,” piped the boy. “‘E’s waving you not to. He’s coming in the waterman’s skiff.”

“Ha! same old tale,” said the seaman wisely. “Chap comes in for a bit o’ money and begins to waste it directly. There’s threepence gone; clean chucked away. Look at ‘im. Just look at him!”

“‘E’s got the money all right,” said the cook, “there’s no doubt about that. Why, ‘e looks ‘arf as large again as ‘e did this morning.”

The crew bent over the side as the skiff approached, and the fare, who had been leaning back in the stern with a severely important air, rose slowly and felt in his trousers-pocket.

“There’s sixpence for you, my lad,” he said pompously. “Never mind about the change.”

“All right, old slack-breeches,” said the waterman with effusive good-fellowship: “up you get.”

Three pairs of hands assisted the offended fare on board, and the boy hovering round him slapped his legs vigorously.

“Wot are you up to?” demanded Mr. Samuel Dodds, A.B., turning on him.

“Only dusting you down, Sam,” said the boy humbly.

“You got the money all right, I s’pose, Sammy?” said Steve Martin.

Mr. Dodds nodded and slapped his breastpocket.

“Right as ninepence,” he replied genially. “I’ve been with my lawyer all the arternoon, pretty near. ‘E’s a nice feller.”

“‘Ow much is it, Sam?” inquired Pilchard eagerly.

“One ‘undred and seventy-three pun seventeen shillings an’ ten pence,” said the heir, noticing with much pleasure the effect of his announcement.

“Say it agin, Sam,” said Pilchard in awed tones.

Mr. Dodds, with a happy laugh, obliged him. “If you’ll all come down the foc’sle,” he continued, “I’ve got a bundle o’ cigars an’ a drop o’ something short in my pocket.”

“Let’s ‘ave a look at the money, Sam,” said Pilchard when the cigars were alight.

“Ah, let’s ‘ave a look at it,” said Steve.

Mr. Dodds laughed again, and, producing a small canvas bag from his pocket, dusted the table with his big palm, and spread out a roll of banknotes and a little pile of gold and silver. It was an impressive sight, and the cook breathed so hard that one note fluttered off the table. Three men dived to recover it, while Sam, alive for the first time to the responsibilities of wealth, anxiously watched the remainder of his capital.

“There’s something for you to buy sweets with, my lad,” he said, restored to good-humour as the note was replaced.

He passed over a small coin, and regarded with tolerant good-humour the extravagant manifestation of joy on the part of the youth which followed. He capered joyously for a minute or two, and than taking it to the foot of the steps, where the light was better, bit it ecstatically.

“How much is it?” inquired the wondering Steve. “You do chuck your money about, Sam.”

“On’y sixpence,” said Sam, laughing. “I expect if it ‘ad been a shillin’ it ‘ud ha’ turned his brain.”

“It ain’t a sixpence,” said the boy indignantly. “It’s ‘arf a suvrin’.”

“‘Arf a wot?” exclaimed Mr. Dodds with a sudden change of manner.

“‘Arf a suvrin’,” repeated the boy with nervous rapidity; “and thank-you very much, Sam, for your generosity. If everybody was like you we should all be the better for it The world ‘ud be a different place to live in,” concluded the youthful philosopher.

Mr. Dodd’s face under these fulsome praises was a study in conflicting emotions. “Well, don’t waste it,” he said at length, and hastily gathering up the remainder stowed it in the bag.