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The Boatswain’s Watch
by [?]

Captain Polson sat in his comfortable parlour smiling benignly upon his daughter and sister. His ship, after an absence of eighteen months, was once more berthed in the small harbour of Barborough, and the captain was sitting in that state of good-natured affability which invariably characterised his first appearance after a long absence.

“No news this end, I suppose,” he inquired, after a lengthy recital of most extraordinarily uninteresting adventures.

“Not much,” said his sister Jane, looking nervously at her niece. “Young Metcalfe has gone into partnership with his father.”

“I don’t want to hear about those sharks,” said the captain, waxing red. “Tell me about honest men.”

“Joe Lewis has had a month’s imprisonment for stealing fowls,” said Miss Polson meekly. “Mrs. Purton has had twins–dear little fellows they are, fat as butter!–she has named one of them Polson, after you. The greedy one.”

“Any deaths?” inquired the captain snappishly, as he eyed the innocent lady suspiciously.

“Poor old Jasper Wheeler has gone,” said his sister; “he was very resigned. He borrowed enough money to get a big doctor from London, and when he heard that there was no hope for him he said he was just longing to go, and he was sorry he couldn’t take all his dear ones with him. Mary Hewson is married to Jack Draper, and young Metcalfe’s banns go up for the third time next Sunday.”

“I hope he gets a Tartar,” said the vindictive captain. “Who’s the girl? Some silly little fool, I know. She ought to be warned!”

“I don’t believe in interfering in marriages,” said his daughter Chrissie, shaking her head sagely.

“Oh!” said the captain, staring, “YOU don’t! Now you’ve put your hair up and taken to wearing long frocks, I suppose you’re beginning to think of it.”

“Yes; auntie wants to tell you something!” said his daughter, rising and crossing the room.

“No, I don’t!” said Miss Polson hastily.

“You’d better do it,” said Chrissie, giving her a little push, “there’s a dear; I’ll go upstairs and lock myself in my room.”

The face of the captain, whilst this conversation was passing, was a study in suppressed emotions. He was a firm advocate for importing the manners of the quarter-deck into private life, the only drawback being that he had to leave behind him the language usual in that locality. To this omission he usually ascribed his failures.

“Sit down, Chrissie,” he commanded; “sit down, Jane. Now, miss, what’s all this about?”

“I don’t like to tell you,” said Chrissie, folding her hands in her lap. “I know you’ll be cross. You’re so unreasonable.”

The captain stared–frightfully.

“I’m going to be married,” said Chrissie suddenly,–“there! To Jack Metcalfe–there! So you’ll have to learn to love him. He’s going to try and love you for my sake.” To his sister’s dismay the captain got up, and brandishing his fists walked violently to and fro. By these simple but unusual means decorum was preserved.

“If you were only a boy,” said the captain, when he had regained his seat, “I should know what to do with you.”

“If I were a boy,” said Chrissie, who, having braced herself up for the fray, meant to go through with it, “I shouldn’t want to marry Jack. Don’t be silly, father!”

“Jane,” said the captain, in a voice which made the lady addressed start in her chair, “what do you mean by it?”

“It isn’t my fault,” said Miss Polson feebly. “I told her how it would be. And it was so gradual; he admired my geraniums at first, and, of course, I was deceived. There are so many people admire my geraniums; whether it is because the window has a south aspect”–

“Oh!” said the captain rudely, “that’ll do, Jane. If he wasn’t a lawyer, I’d go round and break his neck. Chrissie is only nineteen, and she’ll come for a year’s cruise with me. Perhaps the sea air’ll strengthen her head. We’ll see who’s master in this family.”