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The Cask Ashore
by [?]

“Yes,” agreed the Parson, as Mr. Jope paused, “I fear it could not be done without scandal.”

“That’s just how Bill put it. ‘Well then,’ says I, thinkin’ it over, ‘why not do the handsome while we’re about it? You an’ me ain’t the sort of men,’ I says, ‘to spoil the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar.’ ‘Certainly we ain’t,’ says Bill. ‘An’ we’ve done a lot for Eli,’ says I. ‘We have,’ says Bill. ‘Well then,’ says I, ‘let’s put a coat o’ paint on the whole business an’ have him embalmed.’ Bill was enchanted.”

“I–I beg your pardon,” put in the barber, edging away a pace.

“Bill was enchanted. Hark to him in the store, there, knockin’ away at the chisel.”

“But there’s some misunderstanding,” the little man protested earnestly. “I understood it was to be a shave.”

“You can shave him, too, if you like.”

“If I th–thought you were s–serious–“

“Have some more brandy.” Mr. Jope pulled out and proffered a flask. “Only don’t overdo it, or it’ll make your hand shaky. . . . Serious? You may lay to it that Bill’s serious. He’s that set on the idea, it don’t make no difference to him, as you may have noticed, Eli’s mother not bein’ alive to take pleasure in it. Why, he wanted to embalm her, too! He’s doin’ this now for his own gratification, is Bill, an’ you may take it from me when Bill sets his heart on a thing he sees it through. Don’t you cross him, that’s my advice.”


“No, you don’t.” As the little man made a wild spring to flee up the beach, Mr. Jope shot out a hand and gripped him by the coat collar. “Now look here,” he said very quietly, as the poor wretch would have grovelled at the Parson’s feet, “you was boastin’ to Bill, not an hour agone, as you could stuff anything.”

“Don’t hurt him,” Parson Spettigew interposed, touching Mr. Jope’s arm.

“I’m not hurtin’ him, your Reverence, only–Eh? What’s that?”

All turned their faces towards the store.

“Your friend is calling to you,” said the Parson.

“Bad language, too . . . that’s not like Bill, as a rule. Ahoy there, Bill!”

“Ahoy!” answered the voice of Mr. Adams.

“What’s up?” Without waiting for an answer Mr. Jope ran the barber before him up the beach to the doorway, the Parson following. “What’s up?” he demanded again, as he drew breath.

“Take an’ see for yourself,” answered Mr. Adams darkly, pointing with his chisel.

A fine fragrance of rum permeated the store.

Mr. Jope advanced, and peered into the staved cask.

“Gone?” he exclaimed, and gazed around blankly.

Bill Adams nodded.

“But where?. . . You don’t say he’s dissolved?”

“It ain’t the usual way o’ rum. An’ it is rum?”

Bill appealed to the Parson.

“By the smell, undoubtedly.”

“I tell you what’s happened. That fool of a Wilkins has made a mistake in the cask. . . .”

“An’ Eli?–oh, Lord!” gasped Mr. Jope.

“They’ll have returned Eli to the Victuallin’ Yard before this,” said Bill gloomily. “I overheard Wilkins sayin’ as he was to pass over all stores an’ accounts at nine-thirty this mornin’.”

“An’, once there, who knows where he’s got mixed? . . . He’ll go the round o’ the Fleet, maybe. Oh, my word, an’ the ship that broaches him!”

Bill Adams opened and shut his mouth quickly, like a fish ashore.

“They’ll reckon they’ve got a lucky-bag,” he said weakly.

“An’ Wilkins paid off with the rest, an’ no address, even if he could help–which I doubt.”

“Eh? I got a note from Wilkins, as it happens.” Bill Adams took off his tarpaulin hat, and extracted a paper from the lining of the crown. “He passed it down to me this mornin’ as I pushed off from the ship. Said I was to keep it, an’ maybe I’d find it useful. I wondered what he meant at the time, me takin’ no particular truck with pursers ashore. . . . It crossed my mind as I’d heard he meant to get married, and maybe he wanted me to stand best man at the weddin’. W’ich I didn’ open the note at the time; not likin’ to refuse him, after he’d behaved so well to me.”