Love Passage by W. W. Jacobs
An Extract from
The mate was leaning against the side of the schooner, idly
watching a few red-coated linesmen lounging on the Tower Quay. Careful
mariners were getting out their side-lights, and careless lightermen
were progressing by easy bumps from craft to craft on their way up the
river. A tug, half burying itself in its own swell, rushed panting by,
and a faint scream came from aboard an approaching skiff as it tossed
in the wash.
"JESSICA ahoy!" bawled a voice from the skiff as she came rapidly
The mate, roused from his reverie, mechanically caught the line and
made it fast, moving with alacrity as he saw that the captain's
daughter was one of the occupants. Before he had got over his surprise
she was on deck with her boxes, and the captain was paying off the
"You've seen my daughter Hetty afore, haven't you?" said the
skipper. "She's coming with us this trip. You'd better go down and
make up her bed, Jack, in that spare bunk."
"Ay, ay," said the mate dutifully, moving off.
"Thank you, I'll do it myself," said the scandalised Hetty,
stepping forward hastily.
"As you please," said the skipper, leading the way below. "Let's
have a light on, Jack."
The mate struck a match on his boot, and lit the lamp.
"There's a few things in there'll want moving," said the skipper,
as he opened the door. "I don't know where we're to keep the onions
"We'll find a place for 'em," said the mate confidently, as he drew
out a sack and placed it on the table.
"I'm not going to sleep in there," said the visitor decidedly, as
she peered in. "Ugh! there's a beetle. Ugh!"
"It's quite dead," said the mate reassuringly. "I've never seen a
live beetle on this ship."
"I want to go home," said the girl. "You've no business to make me
come when I don't want to."
"You should behave yourself then," said her father magisterially.
"What about sheets, Jack; and pillers?"
The mate sat on the table, and, grasping his chin, pondered. Then
as his gaze fell upon the pretty, indignant face of the passenger, he
lost the thread of his ideas.
"She'll have to have some o' my things for the present," said the
"Why not," said the mate, looking up again—"why not let her have
"'Cos I want it myself," replied the other calmly.
The mate blushed for him, and, the girl leaving them to arrange
matters as they pleased, the two men, by borrowing here and contriving
there, made up the bunk. The girl was standing by the galley when they
went on deck again, an object of curious and respectful admiration to
the crew, who had come on board in the meantime. She stayed on deck
until the air began to blow fresher in the wider reaches, and then,
with a brief good- night to her father, retired below.
"She made up her mind to come with us rather suddenly, didn't she?"
inquired the mate after she had gone.
"She didn't make up her mind at all," said the skipper; "we did it
for her, me an' the missus. It's a plan on our part."
"Wants strengthening?" said the mate suggestively.
"Well, the fact is," said the skipper, "it's like this, Jack;
there's a friend o' mine, a provision dealer in a large way o'
business, wants to marry my girl, and me an' the missus want him to
marry her, so, o' course, she wants to marry someone else. Me an' 'er
mother we put our 'eads together and decided for her to come away.
When she's at 'ome, instead o' being out with Towson, direckly her
mother's back's turned she's out with that young sprig of a clerk."
"Nice-looking young feller, I s'pose?" said the mate somewhat
"Not a bit of it," said the other firmly. "Looks as though he had
never had a good meal in his life. Now my friend Towson, he's all
right; he's a man of about my own figger."
"She'll marry the clerk," said the mate, with conviction.
"I'll bet you she don't," said the skipper. "I'm an artful man,
Jack, an' I, generally speaking, get my own way. I couldn't live with
my missus peaceable if it wasn't for management."
The mate smiled safely in the darkness, the skipper's management
consisting chiefly of slavish obedience.
"I've got a cabinet fortygraph of him for the cabin mantel-piece,
Jack," continued the wily father. "He gave it to me o' purpose. She'll
see that when she won't see the clerk, an' by-and-bye she'll fall into
our way of thinking. Anyway, she's going to stay here till she does."
"You know your way about, cap'n," said the mate, in pretended
The skipper laid his finger on his nose, and winked at the
mainmast. "There's few can show me the way, Jack," he answered softly;
"very few. Now I want you to help me too; I want you to talk to her a
"Ay, ay," said the mate, winking at the mast in his turn.
"Admire the fortygraph on the mantel-piece," said the skipper.
"I will," said the other.
"Tell her about a lot o' young girls you know as married young
middle- aged men, an' loved 'em more an" more every day of their
lives," continued the skipper.
"Not another word," said the mate. "I know just what you want. She
shan't marry the clerk if I can help it."
The other turned and gripped him warmly by the hand. "If ever you
are a father your elf, Jack," he said with emotion, "I hope as how
somebody'll stand by you as you're standing by me."
The mate was relieved the next day when he saw the portrait of
Towson. He stroked his moustache, and felt that he gained in good
looks every time he glanced at it.
Breakfast finished, the skipper, who had been on deck all night,
retired to his bunk. The mate went on deck and took charge, watching
with great interest the movements of the passenger as she peered into
the galley and hotly assailed the cook's method of washing up.
"Don't you like the sea?" he inquired politely, as she came and sat
on the cabin skylight.
Miss Alsen shook her head dismally. "I've got to it," she remarked.
"Your father was saying something to me about it," said the mate
"Did he tell the cook and the cabin boy too?" inquired Miss Alsen,
flushing somewhat. "What did he tell you?"
"Told me about a man named Towson," said the mate, becoming intent
on the sails, "and—another fellow."
"I took a little notice of HIM just to spoil the other," said the
girl, "not that I cared for him. I can't understand a girl caring for
any man. Great, clumsy, ugly things."
"You don't like him then?" said the mate.
"Of course not," said the girl, tossing her head.
"And yet they 've sent you to sea to get out of his way," said the
mate meditatively. "Well, the best thing you can do"—His hardihood
failed him at the pitch.
"Go on," said the girl.
"Well, it's this way," said the mate, coughing; "they've sent you
to sea to get you out of this fellow's way, so if you fall in love
with somebody on the ship they'll send you home again."
"So they will," said the girl eagerly. "I'll pretend to fall in
love with that nice-looking sailor you call Harry. What a lark!"
"I shouldn't do that," said the mate gravely.
"Why not?" said the girl.
"'Tisn't discipline," said the mate very firmly; "it wouldn't do at
all. He's before the mast."
"Oh, I see," remarked Miss Alsen, smiling scornfully.
"I only mean pretend, of course," said the mate, colouring. "Just
to oblige you."
"Of course," said the girl calmly. "Well, how are we to be in
The mate flushed darkly. "I don't know much about such things," he
said at length; "but we'll have to look at each other, and all that
sort of thing, you know."
"I don't mind that," said the girl.
"Then we'll get on by degrees," said the other. "I expect we shall
both find it come easier after a time."
"Anything to get home again," said the girl, rising and walking
The mate began his part of the love-making at once, and, fixing a
gaze of concentrated love on the object of his regard, nearly ran down
a smack. As he had prognosticated, it came easy to him, and other
well- marked symptoms, such as loss of appetite and a partiality for
bright colours, developed during the day. Between breakfast and tea he
washed five times, and raised the ire of the skipper to a dangerous
pitch by using the ship's butter to remove tar from his fingers.
By ten o'clock that night he was far advanced in a profound
melancholy. All the looking had been on his side, and, as he stood at
the wheel keeping the schooner to her course, he felt a fellow-feeling
for the hapless Towson, His meditations were interrupted by a slight
figure which emerged from the companion, and, after a moment's
hesitation, came and took its old seat on the skylight.
"Calm and peaceful up here, isn't it?" said he, after waiting some
time for her to speak. "Stars are very bright to-night."
"Don't talk to me," said Miss Alsen snappishly.
"Why doesn't this nasty little ship keep still? I believe it's you
making her jump about like this."
"Me?" said the mate in amazement.
"Yes, with that wheel."
"I can assure you "—began the mate.
"Yes, I knew you'd say so," said the girl.
"Come and steer yourself," said the mate; "then you'll see."
Much to his surprise she came, and, leaning limply against the
wheel, put her little hands on the spokes, while the mate explained
the mysteries of the compass. As he warmed with his subject he
ventured to put his hands on the same spokes, and, gradually becoming
more venturesome, boldly supported her with his arm every time the
schooner gave a lurch.
"Thank you," said Miss Alsen, coldly extricating herself, as the
male fancied another lurch was coming. "Good-night."
She retired to the cabin as a dark figure, which was manfully
knuckling the last remnant of sleep from its eyelids, stood before the
mate, chuckling softly.
"Clear night," said the seaman, as he took the wheel in his great
"Beastly," said the mate absently, and, stifling a sigh, went below
and turned in.
He lay awake for a few minutes, and then, well satisfied with the
day's proceedings, turned over and fell asleep. He was pleased to
discover, when he awoke, that the slight roll of the night before had
disappeared, and that there was hardly any motion on the schooner. The
passenger herself was already at the breakfast-table.
"Cap'n's on deck, I s'pose?" said the mate, preparing to resume
negotiations where they were broken off the night before. "I hope you
feel better than you did last night."
"Yes, thank you," said she.
"You'll make a good sailor in time," said the mate.
"I hope not," said Miss Alsen, who thought it time to quell a gleam
of peculiar tenderness plainly apparent in the mate's eyes. "I
shouldn't like to be a sailor even if I were a man."
"Why not?" inquired the other.
"I don't know," said the girl meditatively; "but sailors are
generally such scrubby little men, aren't they?"
"SCUBBY?" repeated the mate, in a dazed voice.
"I'd sooner be a soldier," she continued; "I like soldiers—they're
so manly. I wish there was one here now."
"What for?" inquired the mate, in the manner of a sulky schoolboy.
"If there was a man like that here now," said Miss Alsen
thoughtfully, "I'd dare him to mustard old Towson's nose."
"Do what?" inquired the astonished mate.
"Mustard old Towson's nose," said Miss Alsen, glancing lightly from
the cruet-stand to the portrait.
The infatuated man hesitated a moment, and then, reaching over to
the cruet, took out the spoon, and with a pale, determined face,
indignantly daubed the classic features of the provision dealer. His
indignation was not lessened by the behaviour of the temptress, who,
instead of fawning upon him for his bravery, crammed her handkerchief
to her mouth and giggled foolishly.
"Where's father," she said suddenly, as a step sounded above. "Oh,
you will get it!"
She rose from her seat, and, standing aside to let her father pass,
went on deck. The skipper sank on to a locker, and, raising the
tea-pot, poured himself out a cup of tea, which he afterwards decanted
into a saucer. He had just raised it to his lips, when he saw
something over the rim of it which made him put it down again
untasted, and stare blankly at the mantel-piece.
"Who the—what the—who the devil's done this?" he inquired in a
strangulated voice, as he rose and regarded the portrait,
"I did," said the mate.
"You did?" roared the other. "You? What for?"
"I don't know," said the mate awkwardly. "Something seemed to come
over me all of a sudden, and I felt as though I MUST do it."
"But what for? Where's the sense of it?" said the skipper.
The mate shook his head sheepishly.
"But what did you want to do such a monkey-trick FOR?" roared the
"I don't know," said the mate doggedly; "but it's done, ain't it?
and it's no good talking about it."
The skipper looked at him in wrathful perplexity. "You'd better
have advice when we get to port, Jack," he said at length; "the last
few weeks I've noticed you've been a bit strange in your manner. You
go an' show that 'ed of yours to a doctor."
The mate grunted, and went on deck for sympathy, but, finding Miss
Alsen in a mood far removed from sentiment, and not at all grateful,
drew off whistling. Matters were in this state when the skipper
appeared, wiping his mouth.
"I've put another portrait on the mantel-piece, Jack," he said
menacingly; "it's the only other one I've got, an' I wish you to
understand that if that only smells mustard, there'll be such a row in
this 'ere ship that you won't be able to 'ear yourself speak for the
He moved off with dignity as his daughter, who had overheard the
remark, came sidling up to the mate and smiled on him agreeably.
"He's put another portrait there," she said softly.
"You'll find the mustard-pot in the cruet," said the mate coldly.
Miss Alsen turned and watched her father as he went forward, and
then, to the mate's surprise, went below without another word. A prey
to curiosity, but too proud to make any overture, he compromised
matters by going and standing near the companion.
"Mate!" said a stealthy whisper at the foot of the ladder.
The mate gazed calmly out to sea.
"Jack!" said the girl again, in a lower whisper than before.
The mate went hot all over, and at once descended. He found Miss
Alsen, her eyes sparkling, with the mustard-pot in her left hand and
the spoon in her right, executing a war-dance in front of the second
"Don't do it," said the mate, in alarm.
"Why not?" she inquired, going within an inch of it.
"He'll think it's me," said the mate.
"That's why I called you down here," said she; "you don't think I
wanted you, do you?"
"You put that spoon down," said the mate, who was by no means
desirous of another interview with the skipper.
"Shan't!" said Miss Alsen.
The mate sprang at her, but she dodged round the table. He leaned
over, and, catching her by the left arm, drew her towards him; then,
with her flushed, laughing face close to his, he forgot everything
else, and kissed her.
"Oh!" said Hetty indignantly.
"Will you give it to me now?" said the mate, trembling at his
"Take it," said she. She leaned across the table, and, as the mate
advanced, dabbed viciously at him with the spoon. Then she suddenly
dropped both articles on the table and moved away, as the mate,
startled by a footstep at the door, turned a flushed visage,
ornamented with three streaks of mustard, on to the dumbfounded
"Sakes alive!" said that astonished mariner, as soon as he could
speak; "if he ain't a-mustarding his own face now—I never 'card of
such a thing in all my life. Don't go near 'im, Hetty. Jack!"
"Well," said the mate, wiping his smarting face with his
"You've never been took like this before?" queried the skipper
"O'course not," said the mortified mate.
"Don't you say o'course not to me," said the other warmly, "after
behaving like this. A straight weskit's what you want. I'll go an' see
old Ben about it. He's got an uncle in a 'sylum. You come up too, my
He went in search of Ben, oblivious of the fact that his daughter,
instead of following him, came no farther than the door, where she
stood and regarded her victim compassionately.
"I'm so sorry," she said "Does it smart?"
"A little," said the mate; "don't you trouble about me."
"You see what you get for behaving badly," said Miss Alsen
"It's worth it," said the mate, brightening.
"I'm afraid it'll blister," said she. She crossed over to him, and
putting her head on one side, eyed the traces wisely. "Three marks,"
"I only had one," suggested the mate.
"One what?" enquired Hetty.
"Those," said the mate.
In full view of the horrified skipper, who was cautiously peeping
at the supposed lunatic through the skylight, he kissed her again.
"You can go away, Ben," said the skipper huskily to the expert.
"D'ye hear, you can go AWAY, and not a word about this, mind."
The expert went away grumbling, and the father, after another
glance, which showed him his daughter nestling comfortably on the
mate's right shoulder, stole away and brooded darkly over this
crowning complication. An ordinary man would have run down and
interrupted them; the master of the Jessica thought he could attain
his ends more certainly by diplomacy, and so careful was his demeanour
that the couple in the cabin had no idea that they had been
observed—the mate listening calmly to a lecture on incipient idiocy
which the skipper thought it advisable to bestow.
Until the mid-day meal on the day following he made no sign. If
anything he was even more affable than usual, though his wrath rose at
the glances which were being exchanged across the table.
"By the way, Jack," he said at length, "what's become of Kitty
"Who?" inquired the mate. "Who's Kitty Loney?"
It was now the skipper's turn to stare, and he did it admirably.
"Kitty Loney," he said in surprise, "the little girl you are going
"Who are you getting at?" said the mate, going scarlet as he met
the gaze opposite.
"I don't know what you mean," said the skipper with dignity. "I'm
allooding to Kitty Loney, the little girl in the red hat and white
feathers you introduced to me as your future."
The mate sank back in his seat, and regarded him with open-mouthed,
"You don't mean to say you've chucked 'er," pursued the heartless
skipper, "after getting an advance from me to buy the ring with, too?
Didn't you buy the ring with the money?"
"No," said the mate, "I—oh, no—of course—what on earth are you
The skipper rose from his seat and regarded him sorrowfully but
severely. "I'm sorry, Jack," he said stiffly, "if I've said anything
to annoy you, or anyway hurt your feelings. O' course it's your
business, not mine. P'raps you'll say you never heard o' Kitty Loney?"
"I do say so," said the bewildered mate; "I do say so."
The skipper eyed him sternly, and without another word left the
cabin. "If she's like her mother," he said to himself, chuckling as he
went up the companion-ladder, "I think that'll do."
There was an awkward pause after his departure. "I'm sure I don't
know what you must think of me," said the mate at length, "but I don't
know what your father's talking about."
"I don't think anything," said Hetty calmly. "Pass the potatoes,
"I suppose it's a joke of his," said the mate, complying.
"And the salt," said she; "thank you."
"But you don't believe it?" said the mate pathetically.
"Oh, don't be silly," said the girl calmly. "What does it matter
whether I do or not?"
"It matters a great deal," said the mate gloomily. "It's life or
death to me."
"Oh, nonsense," said Hetty. "She won't know of your foolishness. I
won't tell her."
"I tell you," said the mate desperately, "there never was a Kitty
Loney. What do you think of that?"
"I think you are very mean," said the girl scornfully; "don't talk
to me any more, please."
"Just as you like," said the mate, beginning to lose his temper.
He pushed his plate from him and departed, while the girl, angry
and resentful, put the potatoes back as being too floury for
consumption in the circumstances.
For the remainder of the passage she treated him with a politeness
and good humour through which he strove in vain to break. To her
surprise her father made no objection, at the end of the voyage, when
she coaxingly suggested going back by train; and the mate, as they sat
at dummy-whist on the evening before her departure, tried in vain to
discuss the journey in an unconcerned fashion.
"It'll be a long journey," said Hetty, who still liked him well
enough to make him smart a bit, "What's trumps?"
"You'll be all right," said her father. "Spades."
He won for the third time that evening, and, feeling wonderfully
well satisfied with the way in which he had played his cards
generally, could not resist another gibe at the crestfallen mate.
"You'll have to give up playing cards and all that sort o' thing
when you're married, Jack," said he.
"Ay, ay," said the mate recklessly, "Kitty don't like cards."
"I thought there was no Kitty," said the girl, looking up,
"She don't like cards," repeated the mate. "Lord, what a spree we
had. Cap'n, when we went to the Crystal Palace with her that night."
"Ay, that we did," said the skipper.
"Remember the roundabouts?" said the mate.
"I do," said the skipper merrily. "I'll never forget 'em."
"You and that friend of hers, Bessie Watson, lord how you did go
on!" continued the mate, in a sort of ecstasy. The skipper stiffened
suddenly in his chair. "What on earth are you talking about?" he
"Bessie Watson," said the mate, in tones of innocent surprise.
"Little girl in a blue hat with white feathers, and a blue frock, that
came with us."
"You're drunk," said the skipper, grinding his teeth, as he saw the
trap into which he had walked.
"Don't you remember when you two got lost, an' me and Kitty were
looking all over the place for you?" demanded the mate, still in the
same tones of pleasant reminiscence.
He caught Hetty's eye, and noticed with a thrill that it beamed
with soft and respectful admiration.
"You've been drinking," repeated the skipper, breathing hard. "How
dare you talk like that afore my daughter?"
"It's only right I should know," said Hetty, drawing herself up. "I
wonder what mother'll say to it all?"
"You say anything to your mother if you dare," said the now
maddened skipper. "You know what she is. It's all the mate's
"I'm very sorry, cap'n," said the mate, "if I've said anything to
annoy you, or anyway hurt your feelings. O' course it's your business,
not mine. Perhaps you'll say you never heard o' Bessie Watson?"
"Mother shall hear of her," said Hetty, while her helpless sire was
struggling for breath.
"Perhaps you'll tell us who this Bessie Watson is, and where she
lives?" he said at length.
"She lives with Kitty Loney," said the mate simply.
The skipper rose, and his demeanour was so alarming that Hetty
shrank instinctively to the mate for protection. In full view of his
captain, the mate placed his arm about her waist, and in this position
they confronted each other for some time in silence. Then Hetty looked
up and spoke.
"I'm going home by water," she said briefly.