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"Their Lawful Occasions"
by [?]

By mysterious doublings he had brought me out on to the edge of a narrow strip of water crowded with coastwise shipping that runs far up into Weymouth town. A large foreign timber-brig lay at my feet, and under the round of her stern cowered, close to the wharf-edge, a slate-coloured, unkempt, two-funnelled craft of a type–but I am no expert–between the first-class torpedo-boat and the full-blooded destroyer. From her archaic torpedo-tubes at the stern, and quick-firers forward and amidship, she must have dated from the early nineties. Hammerings and clinkings, with spurts of steam and fumes of hot oil, arose from her inside, and a figure in a striped jersey squatted on the engine-room gratings.

“She ain’t much of a war-canoe, but you’ll see more life in ‘er than on an whole squadron of bleedin’ Pedantics.”

“But she’s laid up here–and Blue Fleet have gone,” I protested. “Precisely. Only, in his comprehensive orders Frankie didn’t put us out of action. Thus we’re a non-neglectable fightin’ factor which you mightn’t think from this elevation; an’ m’rover, Red Fleet don’t know we’re ‘ere. Most of us”–he glanced proudly at his boots–“didn’t run to spurs, but we’re disguised pretty devious, as you might say. Morgan, our signaliser, when last seen, was a Dawlish bathing-machine proprietor. Hinchcliffe was naturally a German waiter, and me you behold as a squire of low degree; while yonder Levantine dragoman on the hatch is our Mr. Moorshed. He was the second cutter’s snotty–my snotty–on the Archimandrite–two years–Cape Station. Likewise on the West Coast, mangrove swampin’, an’ gettin’ the cutter stove in on small an’ unlikely bars, an’ manufacturin’ lies to correspond. What I don’t know about Mr. Moorshed is precisely the same gauge as what Mr. Moorshed don’t know about me–half a millimetre, as you might say. He comes into awful opulence of his own when ‘e’s of age; an’ judgin’ from what passed between us when Frankie cursed ‘im, I don’t think ‘e cares whether he’s broke to-morrow or–the day after. Are you beginnin’ to follow our tatties? They’ll be worth followin’. Or are you goin’ back to your nice little cabin on the Pedantic–which I lay they’ve just dismounted the third engineer out of–to eat four fat meals per diem, an’ smoke in the casement?”

The figure in the jersey lifted its head and mumbled.

“Yes, Sir,” was Mr. Pyecroft’s answer. “I ‘ave ascertained that Stiletto, Wraith, and Kobbold left at 6 P. M. with the first division o’ Red Fleet’s cruisers except Devulotion and Cryptic, which are delayed by engine-room defects.” Then to me: “Won’t you go aboard? Mr. Moorshed ‘ud like some one to talk to. You buy an ‘am an see life.”

At this he vanished; and the Demon of Pure Irresponsibility bade me lower myself from the edge of the wharf to the tea-tray plates of No. 267.

“What d’you want?” said the striped jersey.

“I want to join Blue Fleet if I can,” I replied. “I’ve been left behind by–an accident.


“Mr. Pyecroft told me to buy a ham and see life. About how big a ham do you need?”

“I don’t want any ham, thank you. That’s the way up the wharf. Good– night.”

“Good-night!” I retraced my steps, wandered in the dark till I found a shop, and there purchased, of sardines, canned tongue, lobster, and salmon, not less than half a hundredweight. A belated sausage-shop supplied me with a partially cut ham of pantomime tonnage. These things I, sweating, bore out to the edge of the wharf and set down in the shadow of a crane. It was a clear, dark summer night, and from time to time I laughed happily to myself. The adventure was preordained on the face of it. Pyecroft alone, spurred or barefoot, would have drawn me very far from the paths of circumspection. His advice to buy a ham and see life clinched it. Presently Mr. Pyecroft–I heard spurs clink–passed me. Then the jersey voice said: “What the mischief’s that?”