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Pickled Herring
by [?]

There was a sudden uproar on deck, and angry shouts, accompanied by an incessant barking; the master of the brig Arethusa stopped with his knife midway to his mouth, and exchanging glances with the mate, put it down and rose to his feet.

“They’re chevying that poor animal again,” he said hotly. “It’s scandalous.”

“Rupert can take care of himself,” said the mate calmly, continuing his meal. “I expect, if the truth’s known, it’s him ‘s been doin’ the chevying.”

“You’re as bad as the rest of ’em,” said the skipper angrily, as a large brown retriever came bounding into the cabin. “Poor old Rupe! what have they been doin’ to you?”

The dog, with a satisfied air, sat down panting by his chair, listening quietly to the subdued hubbub which sounded from the companion.

“Well, what is it?” roared the skipper, patting his favourite’s head.

“It’s that blasted dawg, sir,” cried an angry voice from above. “Go down and show ‘im your leg, Joe.”

“An’ ‘ave another lump took out of it, I s’pose,” said another voice sourly. “Not me.”

“I don’t want to look at no legs while I’m at dinner,” cried the skipper. “O’ course the dog ‘ll bite you if you’ve been teasing him.”

“There’s nobody been teasing ‘im,” said the angry voice again. “That’s the second one ‘e’s bit, and now Joe’s goin’ to have ‘im killed–ain’t you, Joe?”

Joe’s reply was not audible, although the infuriated skipper was straining his ears to catch it.

“Who’s going to have the dog killed?” he demanded, going up on deck, while Rupert, who evidently thought he had an interest in the proceedings, followed unobtrusively behind.

“I am, sir,” said Joe Bates, who was sitting on the hatch while the cook bathed an ugly wound in his leg. “A dog’s only allowed one bite, and he’s ‘ad two this week.”

“He bit me on Monday,” said the seaman who had spoken before. “Now he’s done for hisself.”

“Hold your tongue!” said the skipper angrily. “You think you know a lot about the law, Sam Clark; let me tell you a dog’s entitled to have as many bites as ever he likes, so as he don’t bite the same person twice.”

“That ain’t the way I’ve ‘eard it put afore,” said Clark, somewhat taken back.

“He’s the cutest dog breathing,” said the skipper fondly, “and he knows all about it. He won’t bite either of you again.”

“And wot about them as ‘asn’t been bit yet, sir?” inquired the cook.

“Don’t halloo before you’re hurt,” advised the skipper. “If you don’t tease him he won’t bite you.”

He went down to his dinner, followed by the sagacious Rupert, leaving the hands to go forward again, and to mutinously discuss a situation which was fast becoming unbearable.

“It can’t go on no longer, Joe,” said Clark firmly; “this settles it.”

“Where is the stuff?” inquired the cook in a whisper.

“In my chest,” said Clark softly. “I bought it the night he bit me.”

“It’s a risky thing to do,” said Bates.

“‘Ow risky?” asked Sam scornfully. “The dog eats the stuff and dies. Who’s going to say what he died of? As for suspicions, let the old man suspect as much as he likes. It ain’t proof.”

The stronger mind had its way, as usual, and the next day the skipper, coming quietly on deck, was just in time to see Joe Bates throw down a fine fat bloater in front of the now amiable Rupert. He covered the distance between himself and the dog in three bounds, and seizing it by the neck, tore the fish from its eager jaws and held it aloft.

“I just caught ‘im in the act!” he cried, as the mate came on deck. “What did you give that to my dog for?” he inquired of the conscience-stricken Bates.

“I wanted to make friends with him,” stammered the other.

“It’s poisoned, you rascal, and you know it,” said the skipper vehemently.

“Wish I may die, sir,” began Joe.