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The Cook of The "Gannet"
by [?]

All ready for sea, and no cook,” said the mate of the schooner Gannet, gloomily. “What’s become of all the cooks I can’t think.”

“They most on ’em ship as mates now,” said the skipper, grinning. “But you needn’t worry about that; I’ve got one coming aboard to-night. I’m trying a new experiment, George.”

“I once knew a chemist who tried one,” said George, “an’ it blew him out of the winder; but I never heard o’ shipmasters trying ’em.”

“There’s all kinds of experiments,” rejoined the other, “What do you say to a lady cook, George?”

“A WHAT?” asked the mate in tones of strong amazement. “What, aboard a schooner?”

“Why not?” inquired the skipper warmly; “why not? There’s plenty of ’em ashore–why not aboard ship?”

“‘Tain’t proper, for one thing,” said the mate virtuously.

“I shouldn’t have expected you to have thought o’ that,” said the other unkindly. “Besides, they have stewardesses on big ships, an’ what’s the difference? She’s a sort o’ relation o’ mine, too–cousin o’ my wife’s, a widder woman, and a good sensible age, an’ as the doctor told her to take a sea voyage for the benefit of her ‘elth, she’s coming with me for six months as cook. She’ll take her meals with us; but, o’ course, the men are not to know of the relationship.”

“What about sleeping accommodation?” inquired the mate, with the air of a man putting a poser.

“I’ve thought o’ that,” replied the other; “it’s all arranged.”

The mate, with an uncompromising air, waited for information.

“She–she’s to have your berth, George,” continued the skipper, without looking at him. “You can have that nice, large, airy locker.”

“One what the biscuit and onions kep’ in?” inquired George.

The skipper nodded.

“I think, if it’s all the same to you,” said the mate, with laboured politeness, “I’ll wait till the butter keg’s empty, and crowd into that.”

“It’s no use your making yourself unpleasant about it,” said the skipper, “not a bit. The arrangements are made now, and here she comes.”

Following his gaze, the mate looked up as a stout, comely-looking woman of middle age came along the jetty, followed by the watchman staggering under a box of enormous proportions.

“Jim!” cried the lady.

“Halloa!” cried the skipper, starting uneasily at the title. “We’ve been expecting you for some time.”

“There’s a row on with the cabman,” said the lady calmly. “This silly old man”–the watchman snorted fiercely–“let the box go through the window getting it off the top, and the cabman wants ME to pay. He’s out there using language, and he keeps calling me grandma–I want you to have him locked up.”

“Come down below now,” said the skipper; “we’ll see about the cab. Mrs. Blossom–my mate. George, go and send that cab away.”

Mrs. Blossom, briefly acknowledging the introduction, followed the skipper to the cabin, while the mate, growling under his breath, went out to enter into a verbal contest in which he was from the first hopelessly overmatched.

The new cook, being somewhat fatigued with her journey, withdrew at an early hour, and the sun was well up when she appeared on deck next morning. The wharves and warehouses of the night before had disappeared, and the schooner, under a fine spread of canvas, was just passing Tilbury.

“There’s one thing I must put a stop to,” said the skipper, as he and the mate, after an admirably-cooked breakfast, stood together talking. “The men seem to be hanging round that galley too much.”

“What can you expect?” demanded the mate. “They’ve all got their Sunday clothes on too, pretty dears.”

“Hi, you Bill!” cried the skipper. “What are you doing there?”

“Lending cook a hand with the saucepans, sir,” said Bill, an oakum- bearded man of sixty.

“There ain’t no call for ‘im to come ‘ere at all, sir,” shouted another seaman, putting his head out of the galley. “Me an’ cook’s lifting ’em beautiful.”

“Come out, both of you, or I’ll start you with a rope!” roared the irritated commander.