“Charlie took the coat like a lamb, though he was Tom’s pal, and Tom looked round to see whether he couldn’t nip up the ladder and get away, but Bill was just in front of it. Then Tom found out that one of ‘is bootlaces was undone and he knelt down to do it up, and this young ordinary seaman, Joe Simms by name, put his ‘ead out of his bunk and he ses, quiet-like:
“‘You ain’t afraid of that thing, mate, are you?’
“‘Wot?‘ screams Bill, starting.
“‘Don’t make such a noise when I’m speaking,’ ses Joe; ‘where’s your manners, you great ‘ulking rascal?’
“I thought Bill would ha’ dropped with surprise at being spoke to like that. His face was purple all over and ‘e stood staring at Joe as though ‘e didn’t know wot to make of ‘im. And we stared too, Joe being a smallish sort o’ chap and not looking at all strong.
“‘Go easy, mate,’ whispers Tom; ‘you don’t know who you’re talking to.’
“‘Bosh,’ ses Joe, ‘he’s no good. He’s too fat and too silly to do any ‘arm. He sha’n't ‘urt you while I’m ‘ere.’
“He just rolled out of ‘is bunk and, standing in front of Bill, put ‘is fists up at ‘im and stared ‘im straight in the eye.
“‘You touch that man,’ he ses, quietly, pointing to Tom, ‘and I’ll give you such a dressing-down as you’ve never ‘ad afore. Mark my words, now.’
“‘I wasn’t going to ‘it him,’ ses Bill, in a strange, mild voice.
“‘You’d better not,’ ses the young ‘un, shaking his fist at ‘im; ‘you’d better not, my lad. If there’s any fighting to be done in this fo’c’s’le I’ll do it. Mind that.’
“It’s no good me saying we was staggered; becos staggered ain’t no word for it. To see Bill put ‘is hands in ‘is pockets and try and whistle, and then sit down on a locker and scratch ‘is head, was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Presently ‘e begins to sing under his breath.
“‘Stop that ‘umming,’ ses Joe; ‘when I want you to ‘um, I’ll tell you.’
“Bill left off ‘umming, and then he gives a little cough behind the back of ‘is ‘and, and, arter fidgeting about a bit with ‘is feet, went up on deck again.
“‘Strewth,’ ses Tom, looking round at us, ”ave we shipped a bloomin’ prize-fighter?’
“‘Wot did you call me?’ ses Joe, looking at ‘im.
“‘Nothing, mate,’ ses Tom, drawing back.
“‘You keep a quiet tongue in your ‘ed,’ ses Joe, ‘and speak when you’re spoken to, my lad.’
“He was a ordinary seaman, mind, talking to A. B.’s like that. Men who’d been up aloft and doing their little bit when ‘e was going about catching cold in ‘is little petticuts. Still, if Bill could stand it, we supposed as we’d better.
“Bill stayed up on deck till we was under way, and ‘is spirit seemed to be broke. He went about ‘is work like a man wot was walking in ‘is sleep, and when breakfast come ‘e ‘ardly tasted it.
“Joe made a splendid breakfast, and when he’d finished ‘e went to Bill’s bunk and chucked the things out all over the place and said ‘e was going to ‘ave it for himself. And Bill sat there and took it all quiet, and by-and-by he took ‘is things up and put them in Joe’s bunk without a word.
“It was the most peaceful fust day we ‘ad ever ‘ad down that fo’c’s’le, Bill usually being in ‘is tantrums the fust day or two at sea, and wanting to know why ‘e’d been born. If you talked you was noisy and worriting, and if you didn’t talk you was sulky; but this time ‘e sat quite still and didn’t interfere a bit. It was such a pleasant change that we all felt a bit grateful, and at tea-time Tom Baker patted Joe on the back and said he was one o’ the right old sort.