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"Their Lawful Occasions"
by [?]

“‘Asn’t the visitor come aboard, Sir? ‘E told me he’d purposely abandoned the Pedantic for the pleasure of the trip with us. Told me he was official correspondent for the Times; an’ I know he’s littery by the way ‘e tries to talk Navy-talk. Haven’t you seen ‘im, Sir?”

Slowly and dispassionately the answer drawled long on the night; “Pye, you are without exception the biggest liar in the Service!”

“Then what am I to do with the bag, Sir? It’s marked with his name.” There was a pause till Mr. Moorshed said “Oh!” in a tone which the listener might construe precisely as he pleased.

He was the maniac who wanted to buy a ham and see life–was he? If he goes back to the Pedantic–“

“Pre-cisely, Sir. Gives us all away, Sir.”

“Then what possessed you to give it away to him, you owl?”

“I’ve got his bag. If ‘e gives anything away, he’ll have to go naked.”

At this point I thought it best to rattle my tins and step out of the shadow of the crane.

“I’ve bought the ham,” I called sweetly. “Have you still any objection to my seeing life, Mr. Moorshed?”

“All right, if you’re insured. Won’t you come down?”

I descended; Pyecroft, by a silent flank movement, possessing himself of all the provisions, which he bore to some hole forward.

“Have you known Mr. Pyecroft long?” said my host.

“Met him once, a year ago, at Devonport. What do you think of him?”

“What do you think of him?”

“I’ve left the Pedantic–her boat will be waiting for me at ten o’clock, too–simply because I happened to meet him,” I replied.

“That’s all right. If you’ll come down below, we may get some grub.”

We descended a naked steel ladder to a steel-beamed tunnel, perhaps twelve feet long by six high. Leather-topped lockers ran along either side; a swinging table, with tray and lamp above, occupied the centre. Other furniture there was none.

“You can’t shave here, of course. We don’t wash, and, as a rule, we eat with our fingers when we’re at sea. D’you mind?”

Mr. Moorshed, black-haired, black-browed, sallow-complexioned, looked me over from head to foot and grinned. He was not handsome in any way, but his smile drew the heart. “You didn’t happen to hear what Frankie told me from the flagship, did you? His last instructions, and I’ve logged them here in shorthand, were”–he opened a neat pocket-book–“‘Get out of this and conduct your own damned manoeuvres in your own damned tinker fashion! You’re a disgrace to the Service, and your boat’s offal.'”

“Awful?” I said.

“No–offal–tripes–swipes–ullage.” Mr. Pyecroft entered, in the costume of his calling, with the ham and an assortment of tin dishes, which he dealt out like cards.

“I shall take these as my orders,” said Mr. Moorshed. “I’m chucking the Service at the end of the year, so it doesn’t matter.”

We cut into the ham under the ill-trimmed lamp, washed it down with whisky, and then smoked. From the foreside of the bulkhead came an uninterrupted hammering and clinking, and now and then a hiss of steam.

“That’s Mr. Hinchcliffe,” said Pyecroft. “He’s what is called a first- class engine-room artificer. If you hand ‘im a drum of oil an’ leave ‘im alone, he can coax a stolen bicycle to do typewritin’.”

Very leisurely, at the end of his first pipe, Mr. Moorshed drew out a folded map, cut from a newspaper, of the area of manoeuvres, with the rules that regulate these wonderful things, below.

“Well, I suppose I know as much as an average stick-and-string admiral,” he said, yawning. “Is our petticoat ready yet, Mr. Pyecroft?”

As a preparation for naval manoeuvres these councils seemed inadequate. I followed up the ladder into the gloom cast by the wharf edge and the big lumber-ship’s side. As my eyes stretched to the darkness I saw that No. 267 had miraculously sprouted an extra pair of funnels–soft, for they gave as I touched them.

“More prima facie evidence. You runs a rope fore an’ aft, an’ you erects perpendick-u-arly two canvas tubes, which you distends with cane hoops, thus ‘avin’ as many funnels as a destroyer. At the word o’ command, up they go like a pair of concertinas, an’ consequently collapses equally ‘andy when requisite. Comin’ aft we shall doubtless overtake the Dawlish bathin’-machine proprietor fittin’ on her bustle.”