Mated by W. W. Jacobs
An Extract from
The schooner Falcon was ready for sea. The last bale of general
cargo had just been shipped, and a few hairy, unkempt seamen were busy
putting on the hatches under the able profanity of the mate.
"All clear?" inquired the master, a short, ruddy-faced man of about
thirty-five. "Cast off there!"
"Ain't you going to wait for the passengers, then?" inquired the
"No, no," replied the skipper, whose features were working with
excitement. "They won't come now, I'm sure they won't. We'll lose the
tide if we don't look sharp."
He turned aside to give an order just as a buxom young woman,
accompanied by a loutish boy, a band-box, and several other bundles,
came hurrying on to the jetty.
"Well, here we are, Cap'n Evans," said the girl, springing lightly
on to the deck. "I thought we should never get here; the cabman didn't
seem to know the way; but I knew you wouldn't go without us,"
"Here you are," said the skipper, with attempted cheerfulness, as
he gave the girl his right hand, while his left strayed vaguely in the
direction of the boy's ear, which was coldly withheld from him. "Go
down below, and the mate'll show you your cabin. Bill, this is Miss
Cooper, a lady friend o' mine, and her brother."
The mate, acknowledging the introduction, led the way to the cabin,
where they remained so long that by the time they came on deck again
the schooner was off Limehouse, slipping along well under a light
"How do you like the state-room?" inquired the skipper, who was at
"Pretty fair," replied Miss Cooper. "It's a big name for it though,
ain't it? Oh, what a large ship!"
She ran to the side to gaze at a big liner, and as far as Gravesend
besieged the skipper and mate with questions concerning the various
craft. At the mate's suggestion they had tea on deck, at which meal
William Henry Cooper became a source of much discomfort to his host by
his remarkable discoveries anent the fauna of lettuce. Despite his
efforts, however, and the cloud under which Evans seemed to be
labouring, the meal was voted a big success; and after it was over
they sat laughing and chatting until the air got chilly, and the banks
of the river were lost in the gathering darkness. At ten o'clock they
retired for the night, leaving Evans and the mate on deck.
"Nice gal, that," said the mate, looking at the skipper, who was
leaning moodily on the wheel.
"Ay, ay," replied he. "Bill," he continued, turning suddenly
towards the mate. "I'm in a deuce of a mess. You've got a good square
head on your shoulders. Now, what on earth am I to do? Of course you
can see how the land lays?"
"Of course," said the mate, who was not going to lose his
reputation by any display of ignorance. "Anyone could see it," he
"The question is what's to be done?" said the skipper.
"That's the question," said the mate guardedly.
"I feel that worried," said Evans, "that I've actually thought of
getting into collision, or running the ship ashore. Fancy them two
women meeting at Llandalock."
Such a sudden light broke in upon the square head of the mate, that
he nearly whistled with the brightness of it.
"But you ain't engaged to this one?" he cried.
"We're to be married in August," said the skipper desperately.
"That's my ring on her finger."
"But you're going to marry Mary Jones in September," expostulated
the mate. "You can't marry both of 'em."
"That's what I say," replied Evans; "that's what I keep telling
myself, but it don't seem to bring much comfort. I'm too soft-'earted
where wimmen is concerned, Bill, an' that's the truth of it. D'reckly
I get alongside of a nice gal my arm goes creeping round her before I
know what it's doing."
"What on earth made you bring the girl on the ship?" inquired the
mate. "The other one's sure to be on the quay to meet you as usual."
"I couldn't help it," groaned the skipper; "she would come; she can
be very determined when she likes. She's awful gone on me, Bill."
"So's the other one apparently," said the mate.
"I can't think what it is the gals see in me," said the other
mournfully. "Can you?"
"No, I'm blamed if I can," replied the mate frankly.
"I don't take no credit for it, Bill," said the skipper, "not a
bit. My father was like it before me. The worry's killing me."
"Well, which are you going to have?" inquired the mate. "Which do
you like the best?"
"I don't know, an' that's a fact," said the skipper. "They 've both
got money coming to 'em; when I'm in Wales I like Mary Jones best, and
when I'm in London it's Janey Cooper. It's dreadful to be like that,
"It is," said the mate drily. "I wouldn't be in your shoes when
those two gals meet for a fortune. Then you'll have old Jones and her
brothers to tackle, too. Seems to me things'll be a bit lively."
"I hev thought of being took sick, and staying in my bunk, Bill,"
suggested Evans anxiously.
"An' having the two of 'em to nurse you," retorted Bill. "Nice
quiet time for an invalid."
Evans made a gesture of despair.
"How would it be," said the mate, after a long pause, and speaking
very slowly; "how would it be if I took this one off your hands."
"You couldn't do it, Bill," said the skipper decidedly. "Not while
she knew I was above ground." "Well, I can try," returned the mate
shortly. "I've took rather a fancy to the girl. Is it a bargain?"
"It is," said the skipper, shaking hands upon it. "If you git me
out of this hole, Bill, I'll remember it the longest day I live."
With these words he went below, and, after cautiously undoing W. H.
Cooper, who had slept himself into a knot that a professional
contortionist would have envied, tumbled in beside him and went to
His heart almost failed him when he encountered the radiant Jane at
breakfast in the morning, but he concealed his feelings by a strong
effort; and after the meal was finished, and the passengers had gone
on deck, he laid hold of the mate, who was following, and drew him
into the cabin.
"You haven't washed yourself this morning," he said, eyeing him
closely. "How do you s'pose you are going to make an impression if you
don't look smart?"
"Well, I look tidier than you do," growled the mate.
"Of course you do," said the wily Evans. "I'm going to give you all
the chances I can. Now you go and shave yourself, and here—take it."
He passed the surprised mate a brilliant red silk tie, embellished
with green spots.
"No, no," said the mate deprecatingly.
"Take it," repeated Evans; "if anything'll fetch her it'll be that
tie; and here's a couple of collars for you; they're a new shape,
quite the rage down Poplar way just now."
"It's robbing you," said the mate, "and it's no good either. I
ain't got a decent suit of clothes to my back."
Evans looked up, and their eyes met; then, with a catch in his
breath, he turned away, and after some hesitation went to his locker,
and bringing out a new suit, bought for the edification of Miss Jones,
handed it silently to the mate.
"I can't take all these things without giving you something for
'em," said the mate. "Here, wait a bit."
He dived into his cabin, and, after a hasty search, brought out
some garments which he placed on the table before his commander.
"I wouldn't wear 'em, no, not to drown myself in," declared Evans
after a brief glance; "they ain't even decent."
"So much the better," said the mate; "it'll be more of a contrast
After a slight contest the skipper gave way, and the mate, after an
elaborate toilette, went on deck and began to make himself agreeable,
while his chief skulked below trying to muster up courage to put in an
"Where's the captain?" inquired Miss Cooper, after his absence had
been so prolonged as to become noticeable.
"He's below, dressin', I b'leeve," replied the mate simply.
Miss Cooper, glancing at his attire, smiled softly to herself, and
prepared for something startling, and she got it; for a more forlorn,
sulky-looking object than the skipper, when he did appear, had never
been seen on the deck of the Falcon, and his London betrothed glanced
at him hot with shame and indignation.
"Whatever have you got those things on for?" she whispered.
"Work, my dear—work," replied the skipper.
"Well, mind you don't lose any of the pieces," said the dear
suavely; "you mightn't be able to match that cloth."
"I'll look after that," said the skipper, reddening. "You must
excuse me talkin' to you now. I'm busy."
Miss Cooper looked at him indignantly, and, biting her lip, turned
away, and started a desperate flirtation with the mate, to punish him.
Evans watched them with mingled feelings as he busied himself with
various small jobs on the deck, his wrath being raised to boiling
point by the behaviour of the cook, who, being a poor hand at
disguising his feelings, came out of the galley several times to look
From this incident a coolness sprang up between the skipper and the
girl, which increased hourly. At times the skipper weakened, but the
watchful mate was always on hand to prevent mischief. Owing to his
fostering care Evans was generally busy, and always gruff; and Miss
Cooper, who was used to the most assiduous attentions from him, knew
not whether to be most bewildered or most indignant. Four times in one
day did he remark in her hearing that a sailor's ship was his
sweetheart, while his treatment of his small prospective brother
in-law, when he expostulated with him on the state of his wardrobe,
filled that hitherto pampered youth with amazement. At last, on the
fourth night out, as the little schooner was passing the coast of
Cornwall, the mate came up to him as he was steering, and patted him
heavily on the back.
"It's all right, cap'n," said he. "You've lost the prettiest little
girl in England."
"What?" said the skipper, in incredulous tones.
"Fact," replied the other. "Here's your ring back. I wouldn't let
her wear it any longer."
"However did you do it?" inquired Evans, taking the ring in a dazed
"Oh, easy as possible," said the mate. "She liked me best, that's
"But what did you say to her?" persisted Evans.
The other reflected.
"I can't call to mind exactly," he said at length. "But, you may
rely upon it, I said everything I could against you. But she never did
care much for you. She told me so herself."
"I wish you joy of your bargain," said Evans solemnly, after a long
"What do you mean?" demanded the mate sharply.
"A girl like that," said the skipper, with a lump in his throat,
"who can carry on with two men at once ain't worth having. She's not
my money, that's all."
The mate looked at him in honest bewilderment.
"Mark my words," continued the skipper loftily, "you'll live to
regret it. A girl like that's got no ballast. She'll always be running
after fresh neckties."
"You put it down to the necktie, do you?" sneered the mate
"That and the clothes, cert'nly," replied the skipper.
"Well, you're wrong," said the mate. "A lot you know about girls.
It wasn't your old clothes, and it wasn't all your bad behaviour to
her since she's been aboard. You may as well know first as last. She
wouldn't have nothing to do with me at first, so I told her all about
"You told her THAT?" cried the skipper fiercely.
"I did," replied the other. "She was pretty wild at first; but then
the comic side of it struck her—you wearing them old clothes, and
going about as you did. She used to watch you until she couldn't stand
it any longer, and then go down in the cabin and laugh. Wonderful
spirits that girl's got. Hush! Here she is!"
As he spoke the girl came on deck, and, seeing the two men talking
together, remained at a short distance from them.
"It's all right, Jane," said the mate; "I've told him."
"Oh!" said Miss Cooper, with a little gasp.
"I can't bear deceit," said the mate; "and now it's off his mind,
he's so happy he can't bear himself."
The latter part of this assertion seemed to be more warranted by
facts than the former, but Evans made a choking noise, which he
intended as a sign of unbearable joy, and, relinquishing the wheel to
the mate, walked forward. The clear sky was thick with stars, and a
mind at ease might have found enjoyment in the quiet beauty of the
night, but the skipper was too interested in the behaviour of the
young couple at the wheel to give it a thought. Immersed in each
other, they forgot him entirely, and exchanged little playful slaps
and pushes, which incensed him beyond description. Several times he
was on the point of exercising his position as commander and ordering
the mate below, but in the circumstances interference was impossible,
and, with a low-voiced good- night, he went below. Here his gaze fell
on William Henry, who was slumbering peacefully, and, with a hazy idea
of the eternal fitness of things, he raised the youth in his arms,
and, despite his sleepy protests, deposited him in the mate's bunk.
Then, with head and heart both aching, he retired for the night.
There was a little embarrassment next day, but it soon passed off,
and the three adult inmates of the cabin got on quite easy terms with
each other. The most worried person aft was the boy, who had not been
taken into their confidence, and whose face, when his sister sat with
the mate's arm around her waist, presented to the skipper a perfect
study in emotions.
"I feel quite curious to see this Miss Jones," said Miss Cooper
amiably, as they sat at dinner.
"She'll be on the quay, waving her handkerchief to him," said the
mate. "We'll be in to-morrow afternoon, and then you'll see her."
As it happened, the mate was a few hours out in his reckoning, for
by the time the Falcon's bows were laid for the small harbour it was
quite dark, and the little schooner glided in, guided by the two
lights which marked the entrance. The quay, seen in the light of a few
scattered lamps, looked dreary enough, and, except for two or three
indistinct figures, appeared to be deserted. Beyond, the broken lights
of the town stood out more clearly as the schooner crept slowly over
the dark water towards her berth.
"Fine night, cap'n," said the watchman, as the schooner came gently
alongside the quay.
The skipper grunted assent. He was peering anxiously at the quay.
"It's too late," said the mate. "You couldn't expect her this time
o'night. It's ten o'clock."
"I'll go over in the morning," said Evans, who, now that things had
been adjusted, was secretly disappointed that Miss Cooper had not
witnessed the meeting. "If you're not going ashore, we might have a
hand o' cards as soon's we're made fast."
The mate assenting, they went below, and were soon deep in the
mysteries of three-hand cribbage. Evans, who was a good player,
surpassed himself, and had just won the first game, the others being
nowhere, when a head was thrust down the companion-way, and a voice
like a strained foghorn called the captain by name.
"Ay, ay!" yelled Evans, laying down his hand.
"I'll come down, cap'n," said the voice, and the mate just had time
to whisper "Old Jones" to Miss Cooper, when a man of mighty bulk
filled up the doorway of the little cabin, and extended a huge paw to
Evans and the mate. He then looked at the lady, and, breathing hard,
"Young lady o' the mate's," said Evans breathlessly,—"Miss Cooper.
Sit down, cap'n. Get the gin out, Bill."
"Not for me," said Captain Jones firmly, but with an obvious
The surprise of Evans and the mate admitted of no concealment; but
it passed unnoticed by their visitor, who, fidgeting in his seat,
appeared to be labouring with some mysterious problem. After a long
pause, during which all watched him anxiously, he reached over the
table and shook hands with Evans again.
"Put it there, cap'n," said Evans, much affected by this token of
The old man rose and stood looking at him, with his hand on his
shoulder; he then shook hands for the third time, and patted him
encouragingly on the back.
"Is anything the matter?" demanded the skipper of the Falcon as he
rose to his feet, alarmed by these manifestations of feeling." Is
Mary—is she ill?"
"Worse than that," said the other—"worse'n that, my poor boy;
she's married a lobster!"
The effect of this communication upon Evans was tremendous; but it
may be doubted whether he was more surprised than Miss Cooper, who,
utterly unversed in military terms, strove in vain to realize the
possibility of such a mesalliance, as she gazed wildly at the speaker
and squeaked with astonishment.
"When was it?" asked Evans at last, in a dull voice.
"Thursday fortnight, at ha' past eleven," said the old man. "He's a
sergeant in the line. I would have written to you, but I thought it
was best to come and break it to you gently. Cheer up, my boy; there's
more than one Mary Jones in the world."
With this undeniable fact, Captain Jones waved a farewell to the
party and went off, leaving them to digest his news. For some time
they sat still, the mate and Miss Cooper exchanging whispers, until at
length, the stillness becoming oppressive, they withdrew to their
respective berths, leaving the skipper sitting at the table, gazing
hard at a knot in the opposite locker.
For long after their departure he sat thus, amid a deep silence,
broken only by an occasional giggle from the stateroom, or an idiotic
sniggering from the direction of the mate's bunk, until, recalled to
mundane affairs by the lamp burning itself out, he went, in befitting
gloom, to bed.