12:51 pm - Sunday June 24, 2018

Deserted-by W.W.Jacobs-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Deserted

Written by:W.W.Jacobs

Category: Authors

Page 1:

“Sailormen ain’t wot you might call dandyfied as a rule,” said the night- watchman, who had just had a passage of arms with a lighterman and been advised to let somebody else wash him and make a good job of it; “they’ve got too much sense. They leave dressing up and making eyesores of theirselves to men wot ‘ave never smelt salt water; men wot drift up and down the river in lighters and get in everybody’s way.”

He glanced fiercely at the retreating figure of the lighterman, and, turning a deaf ear to a request for a lock of his hair to patch a favorite doormat with, resumed with much vigor his task of sweeping up the litter.

The most dressy sailorman I ever knew, he continued, as he stood the broom up in a corner and seated himself on a keg, was a young feller named Rupert Brown. His mother gave ‘im the name of Rupert while his father was away at sea, and when he came ‘ome it was too late to alter it. All that a man could do he did do, and Mrs. Brown ‘ad a black eye till ‘e went to sea agin. She was a very obstinate woman, though–like most of ’em–and a little over a year arterwards got pore old Brown three months’ hard by naming ‘er next boy Roderick Alfonso.

Young Rupert was on a barge when I knew ‘im fust, but he got tired of always ‘aving dirty hands arter a time, and went and enlisted as a soldier. I lost sight of ‘im for a while, and then one evening he turned up on furlough and come to see me.

O’ course, by this time ‘e was tired of soldiering, but wot upset ‘im more than anything was always ‘aving to be dressed the same and not being able to wear a collar and neck-tie. He said that if it wasn’t for the sake of good old England, and the chance o’ getting six months, he’d desert. I tried to give ‘im good advice, and, if I’d only known ‘ow I was to be dragged into it, I’d ha’ given ‘im a lot more.

As it ‘appened he deserted the very next arternoon. He was in the Three Widders at Aldgate, in the saloon bar–which is a place where you get a penn’orth of ale in a glass and pay twopence for it–and, arter being told by the barmaid that she had got one monkey at ‘ome, he got into conversation with another man wot was in there.

He was a big man with a black moustache and a red face, and ‘is fingers all smothered in di’mond rings. He ‘ad got on a gold watch-chain as thick as a rope, and a scarf-pin the size of a large walnut, and he had ‘ad a few words with the barmaid on ‘is own account. He seemed to take a fancy to Rupert from the fust, and in a few minutes he ‘ad given ‘im a big cigar out of a sealskin case and ordered ‘im a glass of sherry wine.

“Have you ever thought o’ going on the stage?” he ses, arter Rupert ‘ad told ‘im of his dislike for the Army.

“No,” ses Rupert, staring.

“You s’prise me,” ses the big man; “you’re wasting of your life by not doing so.”

“But I can’t act,” ses Rupert.

“Stuff and nonsense!” ses the big man. “Don’t tell me. You’ve got an actor’s face. I’m a manager myself, and I know. I don’t mind telling you that I refused twenty-three men and forty-eight ladies only yesterday.”

“I wonder you don’t drop down dead,” ses the barmaid, lifting up ‘is glass to wipe down the counter.

The manager looked at her, and, arter she ‘ad gone to talk to a gentleman in the next bar wot was knocking double knocks on the counter with a pint pot, he whispered to Rupert that she ‘ad been one of them.

“She can’t act a bit,” he ses. “Now, look ‘ere; I’m a business man and my time is valuable. I don’t know nothing, and I don’t want to know nothing; but, if a nice young feller, like yourself, for example, was tired of the Army and wanted to escape, I’ve got one part left in my company that ‘ud suit ‘im down to the ground.”

“Wot about being reckernized?” ses Rupert.

The manager winked at ‘im. “It’s the part of a Zulu chief,” he ses, in a whisper.

Rupert started. “But I should ‘ave to black my face,” he ses.

“A little,” ses the manager; “but you’d soon get on to better parts–and see wot a fine disguise it is.”

He stood ‘im two more glasses o’ sherry wine, and, arter he’ ad drunk ’em, Rupert gave way. The manager patted ‘im on the back, and said that if he wasn’t earning fifty pounds a week in a year’s time he’d eat his ‘ead; and the barmaid, wot ‘ad come back agin, said it was the best thing he could do with it, and she wondered he ‘adn’t thought of it afore.

They went out separate, as the manager said it would be better for them not to be seen together, and Rupert, keeping about a dozen yards behind, follered ‘im down the Mile End Road. By and by the manager stopped outside a shop-window wot ‘ad been boarded up and stuck all over with savages dancing and killing white people and hunting elephants, and, arter turning round and giving Rupert a nod, opened the door with a key and went inside.

“That’s all right,” he ses, as Rupert follered ‘im in. “This is my wife, Mrs. Alfredi,” he ses, introducing ‘im to a fat, red-‘aired lady wot was sitting inside sewing. “She has performed before all the crowned ‘eads of Europe. That di’mond brooch she’s wearing was a present from the Emperor of Germany, but, being a married man, he asked ‘er to keep it quiet.”

Rupert shook ‘ands with Mrs. Alfredi, and then her ‘usband led ‘im to a room at the back, where a little lame man was cleaning up things, and told ‘im to take his clothes off.

“If they was mine,” he ses, squinting at the fire-place, “I should know wot to do with ’em.”

Rupert laughed and slapped ‘im on the back, and, arter cutting his uniform into pieces, stuffed it into the fireplace and pulled the dampers out. He burnt up ‘is boots and socks and everything else, and they all three laughed as though it was the best joke in the world. Then Mr. Alfredi took his coat off and, dipping a piece of rag into a basin of stuff wot George ‘ad fetched, did Rupert a lovely brown all over.

“That’s the fust coat,” he ses. “Now take a stool in front of the fire and let it soak in.”

He gave ‘im another coat arf an hour arterwards, while George curled his ‘air, and when ‘e was dressed in bracelets round ‘is ankles and wrists, and a leopard-skin over his shoulder, he was as fine a Zulu as you could wish for to see. His lips was naturally thick and his nose flat, and even his eyes ‘appened to be about the right color.

“He’s a fair perfect treat,” ses Mr. Alfredi. “Fetch Kumbo in, George.”

The little man went out, and came back agin shoving in a fat, stumpy Zulu woman wot began to grin and chatter like a poll-parrot the moment she saw Rupert.

“It’s all right,” ses Mr. Alfredi; “she’s took a fancy to you.”

“Is–is she an actress?” ses Rupert.

“One o’ the best,” ses the manager. “She’ll teach you to dance and shy assegais. Pore thing! she buried her ‘usband the day afore we come here, but you’ll be surprised to see ‘ow skittish she can be when she has got over it a bit.”

They sat there while Rupert practised–till he started shying the assegais, that is–and then they went out and left ‘im with Kumbo. Considering that she ‘ad only just buried her ‘usband, Rupert found her quite skittish enough, and he couldn’t ‘elp wondering wot she’d be like when she’d got over her grief a bit more.

The manager and George said he ‘ad got on wonderfully, and arter talking it over with Mrs. Alfredi they decided to open that evening, and pore Rupert found out that the shop was the theatre, and all the acting he’d got to do was to dance war-dances and sing in Zulu to people wot had paid a penny a ‘ead. He was a bit nervous at fust, for fear anybody should find out that ‘e wasn’t a real Zulu, because the manager said they’d tear ‘im to pieces if they did, and eat ‘im arterwards, but arter a time ‘is nervousness wore off and he jumped about like a monkey.

They gave performances every arf hour from ha’-past six to ten, and Rupert felt ready to drop. His feet was sore with dancing and his throat ached with singing Zulu, but wot upset ‘im more than anything was an elderly old party wot would keep jabbing ‘im in the ribs with her umbrella to see whether he could laugh.

They ‘ad supper arter they ‘ad closed, and then Mr. Alfredi and ‘is wife went off, and Rupert and George made up beds for themselves in the shop, while Kumbo ‘ad a little place to herself at the back.

He did better than ever next night, and they all said he was improving fast; and Mr. Alfredi told ‘im in a whisper that he thought he was better at it than Kumbo. “Not that I should mind ‘er knowing much,” he ses, “seeing that she’s took such a fancy to you.”

“Ah, I was going to speak to you about that,” ses Rupert. “Forwardness is no name for it; if she don’t keep ‘erself to ‘erself, I shall chuck the whole thing up.”

The manager coughed behind his ‘and. “And go back to the Army?” he ses. “Well, I should be sorry to lose you, but I won’t stand in your way.”

Mrs. Alfredi, wot was standing by, stuffed her pocket-‘ankercher in ‘er mouth, and Rupert began to feel a bit uneasy in his mind.

“If I did,” he ses, “you’d get into trouble for ‘elping me to desert.”

“Desert!” ses Mr. Alfredi. “I don’t know anything about your deserting.”

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