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The Cask Ashore
by [?]

“Pass it over,” commanded Mr. Jope. He took the paper and unfolded it, but either the light was dim within the store, or the handwriting hard to decipher. “Would your Reverence read it out for us?”

Parson Spettigew carried the paper to the doorway. He read its contents aloud, and slowly:

To Mr. Bill Adams,

Capt. of the Fore-top, H.M.S. Vesuvius.

Sir,–It was a dummy Capt. Crang buried. We cast the late E. Tonkin overboard the second night in lat. 46/30, long. 7/15, or thereabouts. By which time the feeling aboard had cooled down and it seemed a waste of good spirit. The rum you paid for is good rum. Hoping that you and Mr. Jope will find a use for it,

Your obedient servant,
S. Wilkins.

There was a long pause, through which Mr. Adams could be heard breathing hard.

“But what are we to do with it?” asked Mr. Jope, scratching his head in perplexity.

“Drink it. Wot else?”

“But where?”

“Oh,” said Mr. Adams, “anywhere!”

“That’s all very well,” replied his friend. “You never had no property, an’ don’t know its burdens. We’ll have to hire a house for this, an’ live there till it’s finished.”



St. Dilp by Tamar has altered little in a hundred years. As it stands to-day, embowered in cherry-trees, so (or nearly so) it stood on that warm afternoon in the early summer of 1807, when two weather-tanned seamen of His Majesty’s Fleet came along its fore street with a hand-barrow and a huge cask very cunningly lashed thereto. On their way they eyed the cottages and gardens to right and left with a lively curiosity; but “Lord, Bill,” said the shorter seaman, misquoting Wordsworth unawares, “the werry houses look asleep!”

At the “Punch-Bowl” Inn, kept by J. Coyne, they halted by silent consent. Mr. William Adams, who had been trundling the barrow, set it down, and Mr. Benjamin Jope–whose good-natured face would have recommended him anywhere–walked into the drinking-parlour and rapped on the table. This brought to him the innkeeper’s daughter, Miss Elizabeth, twenty years old and comely. “What can I do for you, sir?” she asked.

“Two pots o’ beer, first-along,” said Mr. Jope.


“I got a shipmate outside.”

Miss Elizabeth fetched the two pots.

“Here, Bill!” he called, carrying one to the door. Returning, he blew at the froth on his own pot meditatively. “And the next thing is, I want a house.”

“A house?”

“‘Stonishing echo you keep here. . . . Yes, miss, a house. My name’s Jope–Ben Jope–o’ the Vesuvius bomb, bo’s’un; but paid off at eight this morning. My friend outside goes by the name of Bill Adams; an’ you’ll find him livelier than he looks. Everyone does. But I forgot; you ha’n’t seen him yet, and he can’t come in, havin’ to look after the cask.”

“The ca–” Miss Elizabeth had almost repeated the word, but managed to check herself.

“You ought to consult someone about it, at your age,” said Mr. Jope solicitously. “Yes, the cask. Rum it is, an’ a quarter-puncheon. Bill and me clubbed an’ bought it off the purser las’ night, the chaplain havin’ advised us not to waste good prize-money ashore but invest it in something we really wanted. But I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how often one thing leads to another. You can’t go drinkin’ out a quarter-puncheon o’ rum in the high road, not very well. So the next thing is, we want a house.”

“But,” said the girl, “who ever heard of a house to let hereabouts!”

Mr. Jope’s face fell.

“Ain’t there none? An’ it seemed so retired, too, an’ handy near Plymouth.”

“There’s not a house to let in St. Dilp parish, unless it be the Rectory.”

Mr. Jope’s face brightened.

“Then we’ll take the Rectory,” he said. “Where is it?”