The Day, by Bartimeus
Although it all happened in that dim, remote period of time "Before the
War," Torps and the First Lieutenant, the Indiarubber Man (who was the
Lieutenant for Physical Training Duties), the Junior Watchkeeper, and
others who participated, long afterwards referred to it as "The Day."
Since then they have seen their own gunfire sink an enemy's ship as a
well-flung brick disposes of an empty tin on the surface of a pond.
The after twelve-inch guns, astride whose muzzles David and Freckles
once soared to the giddy stars, have hurled instantaneous and awful
death across leagues of the North Sea. The X-ray apparatus, by the
agency of which Cornelius James desired to see right through his own
"tummy," has enabled the Fleet Surgeon to pick fragments of steel out
of tortured bodies, as a conjurer takes things out of a hat. The
after-cabin, that had witnessed so many informal tea-and-muffin
parties, has been an ether-reeking hospital.
Yet these memories grew blurred in time, as mercifully such memories
do. It was another and more fragrant one that sweetened the grim
winter vigil in the North, when every smudge of smoke on the horizon
might have been the herald of Armageddon. They were yet to see men die
by scores in the shambles of a wrecked battery, by hundreds on the
shell-torn decks of a ship that sank, fighting gallantly to the last.
And the recollection of what I am about to relate doubtless supplied
sufficient answer to the question that at such times assails the minds
Two who helped in that unforgettable good-night scene on the aft-deck
were destined to add their names to the Roll of Britain's Honour. It
is not too much to hope that the echo of children's merriment guided
their footsteps through that dark Valley of the Shadow to the peaks of
Eternal Laughter which lie beyond.
* * * * *
It all started during one of those informal tea-parties the Skipper's
Missus sometimes held in the after-cabin. They were delightful
affairs. You needn't accept the Invitation if you didn't want to;
there was no necessity to put on your best monkey-jacket if you did.
You were just told to "blow in" if you wanted some tea, and then you
made your own toast, and there was China tea, in a big blue-and-white
pot, that scented the whole cabin.
The Skipper's Missus sat by the fire, with her hands linked round her
knees in her habitually graceful and oddly characteristic attitude;
Torps and Jess, those gentle philosophers, occupied the chintz-covered
settee; the A.P. sat on the hearth-rug, cross-legged like a tailor, so
that he could toast and consume the maximum number of muffins with the
minimum amount of exertion; the Junior Watchkeeper, who by his own
admission "went all the bundle on his tea," and the Indiarubber Man,
who was clumsy with a tea-cup, shared the table and a jam-pot, and sat
munching, tranquil-eyed, like a pair of oxen in a stall.
The Captain and the First Lieutenant were rummaging through the drawers
of the knee-hole table in search of an ancient recipe of the former's
for manufacturing varnish of a peculiar excellence wherewith to
beautify the corticene on the aft-deck.
"How are the children?" asked the Torpedo Lieutenant, helping himself
to milk and Jess to a lump of sugar. "Out of quarantine yet?"
"Yes," replied the youthful mother of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius
James. "At last, poor things! Christmas is such a wretched time to
have measles. No parties, no Christmas-tree——"
The A.P. looked up from the absorbing task of buttering a muffin to his
satisfaction. "D'you remember the Christmas when you all came on
board—wasn't it a rag? I broke my glasses because I was a tiger. I
was that fierce."
"And I was chased by the dockyard police all the way from the Admiral
Superintendent's garden with a young fir-tree under my arm. We had it
for a Christmas-tree in the wardroom. Do you remember?"
They were all old friends, you see, and had served two commissions in
succession with this Captain.
"Isn't it rather hard on the Chee-si's?" asked Torps, "being done out
of their parties—no, Jess, three lumps are considered quite enough for
little dogs to consume at one sitting."
The Skipper's Missus looked across the cabin at her husband: "Tim, your
tea's getting cold. Why shouldn't we have a children's party on board
one day next week? It isn't too late, is it?"
"Yes, sir," chimed in the Indiarubber Man. "A pukka children's
party, with wind-sails for them to slither down and a merry-go-round on
The Captain drank his tea thoughtfully; his blue eyes twinkled. "Let
us have a definition of children, Standish. I seem to remember a
certain bridesmaid at the Gunnery Lieutenant's wedding of what I
believe is technically called the 'flapper' age——"
"Quite right, sir," cut in the Torpedo Lieutenant. "Our lives were a
misery for weeks afterwards. He burbled about 'shy flowerets' in his
The Indiarubber Man blushed hotly. "Not 't'll, sir. They're talking
rot. She thought I was ninety, and daft at that. They always do," he
added sighing, the sigh of a sore heart that motley traditionally
"I propose that we have no one older than Georgina or younger than
Cornelius James," suggested the Junior Watchkeeper. "That limits the
ages to between ten and seven, and then I think Standish's susceptible
heart would be out of danger."
"How many children do you propose to turn loose all over the ship?"
inquired the First Lieutenant dourly. "No one seems to have taken my
paint-work into consideration. It's all new this week."
The Skipper's Missus laughed softly. "We were so concerned about Mr.
Standish's heart, Mr. Hornby, that we quite forgot your paint-work.
Couldn't it be all covered up just for this once? Besides, they are
such tiny children . . ."
There are many skippers' missuses, but only one mother of Georgina,
Jane, and Cornelius James.
The First Lieutenant capitulated.
"I vote we don't have any grown-ups, either," contributed the Junior
Watchkeeper, "except ourselves. Mothers and nurses always spoil
The mother of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius James wrung her hands in
mock dismay. "Oh, but mayn't I come? I promise not to spoil
anything—I love parties so!"
The A.P. rushed in where an angel might have been excused for
faltering. "Glegg means that you don't count as a grown-up at a
children's party," he explained naively, regarding the Skipper's Missus
through his glasses with dog-like devotion.
She laughed merrily. "You pay a pretty compliment, Mr. Gerrard!"
"Double-O" Gerrard reddened and lapsed into bashful silence.
"It is agreed, then. We are to have a children's party, and I may
come. Won't the children be excited!"
"Torps, what are you going to do with them," asked the First
Lieutenant, "besides breaking their necks by pushing them down the
windsails?" He spoke without bitterness, but as a man who had in his
youth embraced cynicism as a refuge and found the pose easier to retain
than to discard.
The Torpedo Lieutenant regarded him severely. "It's no good adopting
this tone of lofty detachment, Number One. You're going to do most of
the entertaining, besides keeping my grey hairs company."
The First Lieutenant laughed, a sad, hard laugh without any laughter in
it. "I don't amuse children, I'm afraid. In fact, I frighten them.
They don't like my face. No, no——"
"Mr. Hornby," interposed the Skipper's Missus reproachfully, "that
isn't quite true, is it? You know Jane prays for you nightly, and
Corney wouldn't for worlds sleep without that wooden semaphore you made
"I think Hornby would make an admirable Father Neptune," said the
Captain, considering him mischievously, "with a tow wig and beard——"
"And my green bath kimono," supplemented the A.P. "I bought it at
Nagasaki, in the bazaar. It's got green dragons all over it——" He
met the First Lieutenant's eye and lapsed into silence again.
"Yes! Yes! And oyster-shells sewn all over it, and seaweed
trailing . . ." The Skipper's Missus clapped her hands. "And
distribute presents after tea. Oh, Mr. Hornby, wouldn't that be
The First Lieutenant took no further part in the discussion. But late
that night he was observed to select a volume of the "Encyclopaedia
Britannica" (L-N) from the wardroom library, and retire with it to his
cabin. His classical education had been scanty, and left him in some
doubt as to what might be expected of the son of Saturn and Rhea at a
"I doubt if any of 'em'll face it," said the First Lieutenant
hopefully, when The Day arrived. "There's a nasty lop on, and the
glass is tumbling down as if the bottom had dropped out. It's going to
blow a hurricane before midnight. Anyhow, they'll all be sick coming
The Torpedo Lieutenant was descending the ladder to the picket-boat.
"Bunje and I are going in to look after them. It's too late to put it
off now." He glanced at the threatening horizon. "They'll be all snug
once we get them on board, and this'll all blow over before tea-time."
Off went the steamboats, the Torpedo Lieutenant in the picket-boat and
the Indiarubber Man in the steam pinnace, and a tremor of excitement
ran through the little cluster of children gathering at the jetty steps
"It's awfully rough outside the harbour," announced Cornelius James,
submitting impatiently to his nurse's inexplicable manipulation of the
muffler round his neck. "I'm never sick, though," he confided to a
small and rather frightened-looking mite of a girl who clung to her
nurse's hand and looked out to the distant ship with some trepidation
in her blue eyes. "My daddy's a Captain," continued Cornelius James;
"and I'm never sick—are you?"
She nodded her fair head. "Yeth," she lisped sadly.
"P'r'aps your daddy isn't a Captain," conceded Cornelius James
The maiden shook her head. "My daddy's an Admiral," was the slightly
"I shall steer the boat," asserted Cornelius James presently, by way of
restoring his shaken prestige.
"Oh, Corney, you can't," said Jane. "Casey always lets Georgie steer
father's galley—you know he does. You're only saying that to show
"'M not," retorted Cornelius James. "I'm a boy: girls can't steer
boats. 'Sides, Georgie'll be sick."
"Oh, I hope there'll be a band and dancing," said Georgina rapturously.
"That's all you girls think about," snorted a young gentleman of about
her own age, with deep scorn. "I hope there'll be a shooting
gallery, an' those ras'berry puffs with cream on top. . . ." His eye
followed the pitching steamboats, fast drawing near. "Anyhow, I hope
there'll be a shooting gallery. . . . I say, it's rather rough, isn't
The children, cloaked and muffled in their wraps, watched the boats
buffet their way shoreward in clouds of spray. The parting injunctions
of nurses and governesses fell on deaf ears. How could anyone be
expected to listen to prompted rigmaroles about "bread and butter
before cake" and "don't forget to say thank you for asking me" with the
prospect of this brave adventure drawing so near?
Georgina, standing on tip-toe with excitement, suddenly emitted a
shrill squeal of emotion. "Oh! there's Mr. Mainwaring in the first
"Who's Mr. Mainwaring?" inquired a small girl with a white bow over one
ear, secretly impressed by Georgina's obvious familiarity with the
inspiring figure in the stern sheets of the picket-boat.
"Dear Mr. Mainwaring!" repeated Georgina under her breath, gazing
rapturously at her idol.
White Bow repeated her query.
"He's—he's Mr. Mainwaring," replied Georgina. "My Mr. Mainwaring."
Which is about as much information as any young woman may reasonably be
expected to give another who betrays too lively an interest in her
The Torpedo Lieutenant waved his arm in a gesture of indiscriminate
greeting, and the children responded with a fluttering of hands and
dancing eyes. The steam pinnace was following hard in the wake of the
Jane, with the far-seeing eye of love, recognised the occupant
instantly. "There's Mr. Standish," she said. "My Mr. Standish!"
The nurse of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius James turned to the
Providence that brooded over a small boy with a freckled face. "Did
you ever hear such children?" she asked in an aside. "Her Mr.
Standish! That's the way they goes on all day!"
The other nodded. "Mine's like that, too; only it's our ship's
Sergeant of Marines with him." Master Freckles's choice in the matter
of an idol had evidently not lacked the wise guidance of his nurse.
The boats swung alongside in the calm waters of the basin. The Torpedo
Lieutenant handed his freight of frills and furbelows to the Coxswain's
outstretched arms. The small boys to a man disdained the helping hand,
but scrambled with fine independence into the stern sheets.
"Sit still a minute." The Indiarubber Man counted. ". . .
Eight—twelve! Hallo! Six absentees—— No, Corney, you can't steer,
because I'm going to clap you all below hatches the moment we get
outside." He raised his voice, hailing the picket-boat. "All right,
Torps?" The Torpedo Lieutenant signified that they were all aboard the
lugger, and off they went.
The nurses assembled on the end of the jetty waved their handkerchiefs
with valedictory gestures; the wind caught their shrill farewells and
tossed them contemptuously to where the gulls wheeled far overhead.
"My! Isn't it blowing!" said the small boy in freckles, indifferent to
his nurse's lamentations of farewell. "Look at Nannie's skirts, like a
balloon. . . ."
"Yes," agreed the Torpedo Lieutenant gravely. "It's what's called a
typhoon. I've only seen one worse, and that was the day I sailed in
pursuit of Bill Blubbernose, the Bargee Buccaneer."
Georgina cast him a glance of passionate credence.
"Oh!" gasped Freckles, "have you really chased pirates?" The Torpedo
Lieutenant nodded. A certain three weeks spent in an open cutter off
the coast of Zanzibar as a midshipman still remained a vivid
"Tell us about it," said the children, and snuggled closer into the
shelter of the Torpedo Lieutenant's long arms.
The steamboats drew near the ship, and in the reeling stern-sheets of
the steam-pinnace the Indiarubber Man stood holding two small figures
by the collars—two small figures whose heads projected far beyond the
lee gunwale. They were Cornelius James and the young gentleman whose
valiant soul had yearned for shooting galleries and eke raspberry
puffs. And, horror of horrors! the little girls were laughing.
The picket-boat had no casualties to report, and as she went plunging
alongside, the Junior Watchkeeper (in sea-boots at the bottom of the
ladder) heard the Torpedo Lieutenant say:
"We cut their noses off and nailed them to the flying jibboom."
"And what happened then?" gasped the enthralled Freckles as he was
picked up and hoisted over the rail on to the spray-splashed ladder.
"And they all lived happily ever afterwards," murmured the Torpedo
Lieutenant absently. "Come on, who's next? One, two, three—on the
next wave. Hup you go!"
At the top of the ladder to greet each small guest stood the mother of
Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius James. She had lunched on board with her
husband and had spent the early part of the afternoon fashioning a
garment for Father Neptune—
"That the feast might be more joyous,
That the time might pass more gaily,
And the guests be more contented,"
quoted the First Lieutenant with his twisted smile, as he tried it on.
The quarterdeck had been closed in with an awning and side curtains of
canvas that made all within as snug as any nursery. The deck had been
dusted with French chalk; bright-coloured flags draped the canvas
walls; the band was whimpering to start.
Cornelius James and his fellow sufferer were not long in recovering
from their indisposition; a glass of milk and biscuits soon restored
matters to the normal, and together they sallied forth to sample the
joys that had been prepared for them.
There were windsails stretched from the after-bridge to mattresses on
the quarter-deck, down which one shot through the dizzy darkness to end
in a delicious "wump" at the bottom. The after-capstan was a
roundabout, with its squealing passengers suspended from capstan-bars.
Each grim twelve-inch gun had a saddle strapped round the muzzle, on
which one sat, thrilled and ecstatic, while the great guns rose slowly
to extreme elevation and descended again to mundane levels.
There were pennies for the venturesome, to be extracted at great
personal risk from an electric dip; in a dark casemate a green light
shivered in a little glass tube; you placed your hand in front of it,
and on a white screen a skeleton hand appeared in a manner at once
ghostly and delightful. Cornelius James returned to the quarter-deck
as one who had brushed elbows with the Black Arts. "But I wish I could
see right froo my own tummy," he confided, sighing, to the First
The First Lieutenant, however, was rather distrait; he glanced
constantly upwards at the bellying awning overhead and then walked to
the gangway to look out upon the tumbling grey sea and lowering sky.
Once or twice he conferred with a distinguished-looking gentleman who
had not joined in the revels, but, carrying a telescope and wearing a
sword-belt, remained aloof with a rather worried expression. This was
the Officer of the Watch.
"We'll furl it while they're having tea," said the First Lieutenant.
"But how the deuce they're going to get ashore the Lord knows. I'll
have to hoist in the boats if it gets any worse. Keep an eye on the
compass and see we aren't dragging." The Captain came across the deck.
"You must furl the awning, Hornby; we're in for a blow." He looked
round regretfully at the laughing throng of youngsters.
"Yes, sir. And I think we ought to send the children ashore while
there's still time." As he spoke a wave struck the bottom of the
accommodation ladder and broke in a great cloud of spray.
"Too late now, I'm afraid. They'll have to stay till it moderates.
The wind has backed suddenly. Get steam on the boat-hoist and hoist in
the boats. You'd better top-up the ladders. Pretty kettle of fish,
with my wife and all these children on board."
Tea had passed into the limbo of things enjoyed, if not forgotten, and
the guests had gathered in the after-cabin. "Children!" cried the
mother of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius James, "a visitor has come on
board to see you!" As she spoke, a gaunt apparition appeared in the
doorway. He wore a gilt paper crown, and was dressed in a robe of the
brightest green. Seaweed hung in festoons from his head and shoulders,
oyster-shells clashed as he walked; in one hand he carried a trident,
and on his back a heavy pannier. His legs were encased in mighty
boots, a shaggy beard hung down over his chest; his eyes, sombre and
unsmiling, roved over the assembled children.
There was a sudden silence: then the small girl with the white bow over
one ear burst into tears. "Boo-hoo!" she cried. "Don't like nasty
man," and ran to bury her face in her hostess's gown. Her fears were
infectious, and symptoms of a general panic ensued. "I knew it,"
mumbled the visitor despairingly into his beard, "I knew this would
"Children, children, don't be silly—it's only Father Neptune. He's
got presents for you all. Won't you go and say how d'you do to him!
He's come all the way from the bottom of the sea."
Cornelius James pulled himself together and advanced with outstretched
hand, as befitted the son of a post-captain on board his father's ship.
"I know who you are," he asserted stoutly. "You're Father Christmas's
The First Lieutenant hastily accepted this new mythology. "Quite
right," he replied with gratitude, "quite right!" Then, as if
realising that something further was required of him, added in a deep
"Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!"
White Bow screamed, and even Cornelius James the valiant fell back a
pace. Matters were beginning to look serious, when the Torpedo
Lieutenant appeared, rather out of breath. "Sorry we had to rush away
just now, but we had to furl the awning——" His quick eye took in the
situation at a glance.
"Hallo! old chap," he cried, and smote the dejected Father Neptune
on the back. "I am delighted to see you! How are all the
mermaids and flying-fish? Bless my soul! what have you got in this
pannier—dolls . . . lead soldiers, air-guns! I say——"
The children rallied round him as the children of another age must have
rallied round Saint George of England.
"Don't like nasty old man," repeated White Bow, considering the First
Lieutenant with dewy eyes. "Nasty cross old man." The visitor from
the bottom of the sea fumbled irresolutely with his trident.
"Is it really Father Christmas's own brother?" queried a small sceptic,
"Of course it is! Look here, look at all the things he's brought you,"
and in an undertone to the First Lieutenant, "Buck up, Number One,
don't look so frightened!" They unslung the pannier and commenced to
unpack the contents; the children gathered round with slowly returning
confidence, and by twos and threes the remainder of the hosts returned
from the upper-deck.
"Why aren't they all wet if they've come from the bottom of the sea?"
demanded Freckles the materialist. "Why isn't Father Christmas's
They looked round in vain. Father Christmas's brother had vanished.
At that moment the Captain entered and sought his wife's eye. For a
few moments they conferred in an undertone; then she laughed, that
clear confident laugh of hers with which they had shared so many of
"Children!" she cried, "listen! Here's an adventure! We've all got to
sleep on board to-night!"
"Oh, mummie!" gasped Georgina with rapture, "how lovely!" This was a
party, and no mistake. "Can I sleep in Mr. Mainwaring's cabin?"
"And can I sleep in Mr. Standish's cabin?" echoed Jane earnestly. "And
we needn't go to bed for hours and hours, need we?" chimed in Cornelius
"Where are they to sleep?" asked the Captain's wife, turning to the
Torpedo Lieutenant with laughter still in her eyes. "I never thought
of that. One always has spare rooms in a house, but a battleship is so
different. . . ."
"It's all right," he replied. "I've arranged all that. There are a
lot of people ashore: the children can use their cabins, and some of us
can sling in cots for the night. They'll have to wear our
pyjamas. . . . But I don't know about baths——"
"I think they must have plenary absolution from the tub to-night." She
glanced at the tiny watch at her wrist. "Now then, children, half an
hour before bed time: one good romp. What shall we play?"
"Oranges and lemons," said Georgina promptly, and seized the
Indiarubber Man's hand.
"I don't know the words," replied her partner plaintively; "I only
'knows the toon,'" as the leadsman said to the Navigator.
So the children supplied the words to the men's bass accompaniment; the
Captain and his wife linked hands. The candle came to light them to
bed; the chopper came to chop off a head; and at the end a grand
tug-of-war terminated with two squealing heaps of humanity in miniature
subsiding on top of the Young Doctor and the A.P.
Then they played "Hunt the slipper," at which Torps, with his long
arms, greatly distinguished himself, and "Hide the thimble," at which
Double-O Gerrard, blinking through his glasses straight at the quarry
without seeing it, was hopelessly disgraced. "General Post" and "Kiss
in the Ring" followed, and quite suddenly the mother of Georgina, Jane,
and Cornelius James decreed it was time for bed, and the best game of
The Captain's wife gathered six pairs of vasty pyjamas over her arm.
"I'll take the girls all together and look after them in my husband's
cabin," she said. "We'll come along when we're ready. Will you all
look after the boys?"
Freckles fell to the lot of the Junior Watchkeeper; David, specialist
in raspberry puffs, had already attached himself to the Indiarubber
Man. The A.P. found himself leading off a young gentleman with an
air-gun which he earnestly desired as a bed-fellow. The remaining two,
red-headed twins who had spent most of the afternoon locked in combat,
were in charge of Torps and the Young Doctor.
"Where's Cornelius James?" asked the First Lieutenant suddenly. "What
a day, what a day!" A search party was promptly instituted, and the
Captain's son at last discovered forward in the Petty Officers' mess.
Here, seated on the knee of Casey, his father's coxswain, he was being
regaled with morsels of bloater, levered into his willing mouth on the
point of a clasp knife, and washed down by copious draughts of strong
tea out of a basin.
"I went to say 'Good night' to Casey," explained the delinquent as he
was being led back to civilisation, "and Casey said I ought to be
hungry after mustering my bag this afternoon. What does that mean?"
"I shouldn't listen to everything Casey tells you," replied the First
"That's what daddy says sometimes," observed Cornelius James. "But I
like Casey awfully. Better'n Nannie. He taught me how to make a
reef-knot, an' I can do semaphore—the whole alphabet . . . nearly."
"Here we are," interrupted his harassed mentor, stopping before the
door of his cabin. "This is where you've got to sleep." He lifted his
small charge on to the bunk. "Now then, let's get these shoes
off. . . ."
The flat echoed with the voices of children and the sounds of
expostulation. The Marine sentry (specially selected for the post "on
account of 'im 'avin' a way with children," as the Sergeant-Major had
previously explained to the First Lieutenant) drifted to and fro on his
beat with a smile of ecstatic enjoyment on his faithful R.M.L.I.
features. For some moments he hovered outside the Junior Watchkeeper's
cabin. There were indications in the conversation drifting out through
the curtained doorway that all was not well within. At length Private
Phillips could contain himself no longer. "Better let me do it, sir.
Bein' a married man, sir, I knows the routine, in a manner o'
speakin' . . ." he said, and plunged into the fray.
"Oh, is that you, Phillips?" the relieved voice of the Junior
Watchkeeper was heard to say. "I can't get the lead of this infernal
rice-string—don't wriggle, Jim—it's rove so taut. . . ."
"What 'normous pyjamas," said Cornelius James, suffering himself to
be robed in his night-attire. The operation was conducted with some
difficulty because of the sheathed sword which the visitor had found in
a corner of his host's cabin and refused thereafter to be parted from.
"Have you ever killed anyone with this sword?" A blustering sea broke
against the ship's side and splashed the glass of the scuttle with
spray. "Hark at the waves outside! Can't I have the window open?
Shall I say my prayers to you?"
"No," replied the First Lieutenant, with a little wry smile, as the
shadow-fingers of the might-have-been tightened momentarily round his
heart. "No, I think you'd better wait till Mummie comes." Shrill
voices and peals of laughter sounded outside. "Here she is now."
He stepped outside, and met the mother of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius
James at the head of her flock.
"Here we are," she exclaimed, laughing. "But, oh, Mr. Hornby, our
pyjamas are so huge!"
"So are ours," said the First Lieutenant, and stooped to gather into
his arms a pathetic object whose pyjama coat of many colours almost
trailed along the deck. "Cornelius James wants you to go and hear him
say his prayers. . . . I will find sleeping quarters for this one."
Ten minutes later the last child had been swung into its unaccustomed
sleeping quarters; the twins in adjacent cabins had ceased to hurl
shrill defiance at each other; and silence brooded over the flat. By
the dim light of the police-lamp Private Phillips paced noiselessly up
and down on his beat, and the mother of Georgina, Jane, and Cornelius
James passed softly from cabin to cabin in that gentle meditation
mothers play at bedtime.
On her way aft to the after-cabin she met the Torpedo Lieutenant. "The
children all want to say 'Good night' to you," she said softly. "Only
don't stay long. They are so excited, and they'll never go to sleep."
Of all the men on board the Torpedo Lieutenant's heart was perhaps
nearest that of a child. He tiptoed into the cabin-flat and drew the
curtain of the nearest cabin.
"Who's in here?"
"Me," said a small voice. Torps approached the bunk. "Who's
"Yes. Goodnight, Mr. Mainwaring."
"Good night, shrimp," replied her idol, submitting to the valediction
of two skinny arms twined tightly round his neck. "Good night, and
sweet dreams. . . . No, I can't tell you stories to-night; it's much
too late. . . . Lie down and go to sleep."
In the next cabin, the sound of deep breathing showed that the small
occupant had passed into dreamland. It was Freckles. Jane remained
awake long enough to kiss his left eyebrow and was asleep the next
instant. White Bow also was asleep, and nearly all the remainder
drowsy. Cornelius James, clasping the First Lieutenant's sword,
however, remained wide-eyed. "I'm so firsty," he complained
"That's called Nemesis, my son," said Torps, and gave him to drink out
of the water-bottle. "Fank you," said Cornelius James, and sighed, as
children and dogs do after drinking.
"Good night, Corney. . . . Now you must go to sleep and dream of
bloaters. Oh, aren't you really sleepy? Well, if you shut your eyes
tight perhaps the dustman won't see you," and switched out the light.
As he was leaving a drowsy voice again spoke out of the darkness.
"What did the Buccaneer say when you nailed his nose to the flying
"Please make me a good boy," replied Torps, somewhat at random.
"Oh, same's I do," said Cornelius James.
"More or less; isn't that sword very uncomfortable?"
But no answer came back, for Cornelius James, the hilt of the sword
grasped firmly in two small hands, had passed into the Valhalla of