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Sam’s Boy
by [?]

“There, there,” interrupted the skipper. “I don’t want any thanks. Take him forrard and give him something to eat–he looks half-starved, poor little chap.”

He turned away and went down to the cabin, while the cook, whom Mr. Brown had publicly rebuked for his sins the day before, led the boy to the galley and gave him a good meal. After that was done Charlie washed him, and Harry going ashore, begged a much-worn suit of boy’s clothes from a foreman of his acquaintance. He also brought back a message from the foreman to Mr. Brown to the effect that he was surprised at him.

The conversation that evening after Master Jones was asleep turned upon bigamy, but Mr. Brown snored through it all, though Mr. Legge’s remark that the revelations of that afternoon had thrown a light upon many little things in his behaviour which had hitherto baffled him came perilously near to awaking him.

At six in the morning they got under way, the boy going nearly frantic with delight as sail after sail was set, and the ketch, with a stiff breeze, rapidly left London behind her. Mr. Brown studiously ignored him, but the other men pampered him to his heart’s content, and even the cabin was good enough to manifest a little concern in his welfare, the skipper calling Mr. Brown up no fewer than five times that day to complain about his son’s behaviour.

“I can’t have somersaults on this ‘ere ship, Sam,” he remarked, shaking his head; “it ain’t the place for ’em.”

“I wonder at you teaching ‘im such things,” said the mate, in grave disapprobation.

“Me?” said the hapless Sam, trembling with passion.

“He must ‘ave seen you do it,” said the mate, letting his eye rove casually over Sam’s ample proportions. “You must ha’ been leading a double life altogether, Sam.”

“That’s nothing to do with us,” interrupted the skipper, impatiently. “I don’t mind Sam turning cart-wheels all day if it amuses him, but they mustn’t do it here, that’s all. It’s no good standing there sulking, Sam; I can’t have it.”

He turned away, and Mr. Brown, unable to decide whether he was mad or drunk, or both, walked back, and, squeezing himself up in the bows, looked miserably over the sea. Behind him the men disported themselves with Master Jones, and once, looking over his shoulder, he actually saw the skipper giving him a lesson in steering.

By the following afternoon he was in such a state of collapse that, when they put in at the small port of Withersea to discharge a portion of their cargo, he obtained permission to stay below in his bunk. Work proceeded without him, and at nine o’clock in the evening they sailed again, and it was not until they were a couple of miles on their way to Dimport that Mr. Legge rushed aft with the announcement that he was missing.

“Don’t talk nonsense,” said the skipper, as he came up from below in response to a hail from the mate.

“It’s a fact, sir,” said Mr. Legge, shaking his head.

“What’s to be done with the boy?” demanded the mate, blankly.

“Sam’s a unsteady, unreliable, tricky old man,” exclaimed the skipper, hotly; “the idea of going and leaving a boy on our hands like that. I’m surprised at him. I’m disappointed in Sam–deserting!”

“I expect ‘e’s larfing like anything, sir,” remarked Mr. Legge.

“Get forrard,” said the skipper, sharply; “get forrard at once, d’ye hear?”

“But what’s to be done with the boy?–that’s what I want to know,” said the mate.

“What d’ye think’s to be done with him?” bawled the skipper. “We can’t chuck him overboard, can we?”

“I mean when we get to Dimport?” growled the mate.

“Well, the men’ll talk,” said the skipper, calming down a little, “and perhaps Sam’s wife’ll come and take him. If not, I suppose he’ll have to go to the workhouse. Anyway, it’s got nothing to do with me. I wash my hands of it altogether.”