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The Bonds Of Discipline
by [?]

“I’m in charge o’ the cutter. Our wardroom is dinin’ on the beach en masse. They won’t be home till mornin’,” said the square man with the remarkable eyes. “Are you an Archimandrite?” I demanded.

“That’s me. I was, as you might say.”

“Hold on. I’m a Archimandrite.” A Red Marine with moist eyes tried to climb on the table. “Was you lookin’ for a Bedlamite? I’ve–I’ve been invalided, an’ what with that, an’ visitin’ my family ‘ome at Lewes, per’aps I’ve come late. ‘Ave I?”

“You’ve ‘ad all that’s good for you,” said Tom Wessels, as the Red Marine sat cross-legged on the floor.

“There are those ‘oo haven’t ‘ad a thing yet!” cried a voice by the door.

“I will take this Archimandrite” I said, “and this Marine. Will you please give the boat’s crew a drink now, and another in half an hour if– if Mr.—-“

“Pyecroft,” said the square man. “Emanuel Pyecroft, second-class petty- officer.”

“–Mr. Pyecroft doesn’t object?”

“He don’t. Clear out. Goldin’, you picket the hill by yourself, throwin’ out a skirmishin’-line in ample time to let me know when Number One’s comin’ down from his vittles.”

The crowd dissolved. We passed into the quiet of the inner bar, the Red Marine zealously leading the way.

“And what do you drink, Mr. Pyecroft?” I said.

“Only water. Warm water, with a little whisky an’ sugar an’ per’aps a lemon.”

“Mine’s beer,” said the Marine. “It always was.”

“Look ‘ere, Glass. You take an’ go to sleep. The picket’ll be comin’ for you in a little time, an’ per’aps you’ll ‘ave slep’ it off by then. What’s your ship, now?” said Mr. Wessels.

“The Ship o’ State–most important?” said the Red Marine magnificently, and shut his eyes.

“That’s right,” said Mr. Pyecroft. “He’s safest where he is. An’ now– here’s santy to us all!–what d’you want o’ me?”

“I want to read you something.”

“Tracts, again!” said the Marine, never opening his eyes. “Well. I’m game…. A little more ‘ead to it, miss, please.”

“He thinks ‘e’s drinkin’–lucky beggar!” said Mr. Pyecroft. “I’m agreeable to be read to. ‘Twon’t alter my convictions. I may as well tell you beforehand I’m a Plymouth Brother.”

He composed his face with the air of one in the dentist’s chair, and I began at the third page of “M. de C.”

“‘At the moment of asphyxiation, for I had hidden myself under the boat’s cover, I heard footsteps upon the superstructure and coughed with empress‘–coughed loudly, Mr. Pyecroft. ‘By this time I judged the vessel to be sufficiently far from land. A number of sailors extricated me amid language appropriate to their national brutality. I responded that I named myself Antonio, and that I sought to save myself from the Portuguese conscription.’

“Ho!” said Mr. Pyecroft, and the fashion of his countenance changed. Then pensively: “Ther beggar! What might you have in your hand there?”

“It’s the story of Antonio–a stowaway in the Archimandrite’s cutter. A French spy when he’s at home, I fancy. What do you know about it?”

“An’ I thought it was tracts! An’ yet some’ow I didn’t.” Mr. Pyecroft nodded his head wonderingly. “Our old man was quite right–so was ‘Op–so was I. ‘Ere, Glass!” He kicked the Marine. “Here’s our Antonio ‘as written a impromptu book! He was a spy all right.”

The Red Marine turned slightly, speaking with the awful precision of the half-drunk. “‘As ‘e got any-thin’ in about my ‘orrible death an’ execution? Excuse me, but if I open my eyes, I shan’t be well. That’s where I’m different from all other men. Ahem!”

“What about Glass’s execution?” demanded Pyecroft.

“The book’s in French,” I replied.

“Then it’s no good to me.”

“Precisely. Now I want you to tell your story just as it happened. I’ll check it by this book. Take a cigar. I know about his being dragged out of the cutter. What I want to know is what was the meaning of all the other things, because they’re unusual.”

“They were,” said Mr. Pyecroft with emphasis. “Lookin’ back on it as I set here more an’ more I see what an ‘ighly unusual affair it was. But it happened. It transpired in the Archimandrite–the ship you can trust… Antonio! Ther beggar!”