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The Bully of the "Cavendish"
by [?]

“Talking of prize-fighters, sir,” said the night-watchman, who had nearly danced himself over the edge of the wharf in illustrating one of Mr. Corbett’s most trusted blows, and was now sitting down taking in sufficient air for three, “they ain’t wot they used to be when I was a boy. They advertise in the papers for months and months about their fights, and when it does come off, they do it with gloves, and they’re all right agin a day or two arter.

“I saw a picter the other day o’ one punching a bag wot couldn’t punch back, for practice. Why, I remember as a young man Sinker Pitt, as used to ‘ave the King’s Arms ‘ere in ‘is old age; when ‘e wanted practice ‘is plan was to dress up in a soft ‘at and black coat like a chapel minister or something, and go in a pub and contradict people; sailor-men for choice. He’d ha’ no more thought o’ hitting a pore ‘armless bag than I should ha’ thought of hitting ‘im.

“The strangest prize-fighter I ever come acrost was one wot shipped with me on the Cavendish. He was the most eggstrordinary fighter I’ve ever seen or ‘eard of, and ‘e got to be such a nuisance afore ‘e’d done with us that we could ‘ardly call our souls our own. He shipped as an ordinary seaman–a unfair thing to do, as ‘e was anything but ordinary, and ‘ad no right to be there at all.

“We’d got one terror on board afore he come, and that was Bill Bone, one o’ the biggest and strongest men I’ve ever seen down a ship’s fo’c’s’le, and that’s saying a good deal. Built more like a bull than a man, ‘e was, and when he was in his tantrums the best thing to do was to get out of ‘is way or else get into your bunk and keep quiet. Oppersition used to send ‘im crazy a’most, an’ if ‘e said a red shirt was a blue one, you ‘ad to keep quiet. It didn’t do to agree with ‘im and call it blue even, cos if you did he’d call you a liar and punch you for telling lies.

“He was the only drawback to that ship. We ‘ad a nice old man, good mates, and good grub. You may know it was A1 when I tell you that most of us ‘ad been in ‘er for several v’y’ges.

“But Bill was a drawback, and no mistake. In the main he was a ‘earty, good-tempered sort o’ shipmate as you’d wish to see, only, as I said afore, oppersition was a thing he could not and would not stand. It used to fly to his ‘ed direckly.

“The v’y’ge I’m speaking of–we used to trade between Australia and London–Bill came aboard about an hour afore the ship sailed. The rest of us was already aboard and down below, some of us stowing our things away and the rest sitting down and telling each other lies about wot we’d been doing. Bill came lurching down the ladder, and Tom Baker put ‘is ‘and to ‘im to steady ‘im as he got to the bottom.

“‘Who are you putting your ‘ands on?’ ses Bill, glaring at ‘im.

“‘Only ‘olding you up, Bill,’ ses Tom, smiling.

“‘Oh,’ ses Bill.

“He put ‘is back up agin a bunk and pulled his-self together.

“”Olding of me–up–was you?’ he ses; ‘whaffor, if I might be so bold as to arsk?’

“‘I thought your foot ‘ad slipped, Bill, old man,’ ses Tom; ‘but I’m sorry if it ‘adn’t.’

“Bill looks at ‘im agin, ‘ard.

“‘Sorry if my foot didn’t slip?’ he ses.

“‘You know wot I mean, Bill,’ ses Tom, smiling a uneasy smile.

“‘Don’t laugh at me,’ roars Bill.

“‘I wasn’t laughing, Bill, old pal,’ ses Tom.

“”E’s called me a liar,’ ses Bill, looking round at us; ‘called me a liar. ‘Old my coat, Charlie, and I’ll split ‘im in halves.’