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The third string, p.1
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       The Third String, p.1

           W. W. Jacobs
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The Third String

  Produced by David Widger


  By W.W. Jacobs


  Love? said the night-watchman, as he watched in an abstracted fashionthe efforts of a skipper to reach a brother skipper on a passing bargewith a boathook. Don't talk to me about love, because I've sufferedenough through it. There ought to be teetotalers for love the same aswot there is for drink, and they ought to wear a piece o' ribbon to showit, the same as the teetotalers do; but not an attractive piece o'ribbon, mind you. I've seen as much mischief caused by love as by drink,and the funny thing is, one often leads to the other. Love, arter it isover, often leads to drink, and drink often leads to love and to a mancommitting himself for life afore it is over.

  "Don't talk to me about love, because I've suffered enoughthrough it."]

  Sailormen give way to it most; they see so little o' wimmen thatthey naturally 'ave a high opinion of 'em. Wait till they becomenight-watchmen and, having to be at 'ome all day, see the other side of'em. If people on'y started life as night-watchmen there wouldn't be one'arf the falling in love that there is now.

  I remember one chap, as nice a fellow as you could wish to meet, too.He always carried his sweet-heart's photograph about with 'im, and it wasthe on'y thing that cheered 'im up during the fourteen years he was castaway on a deserted island. He was picked up at last and taken 'ome, andthere she was still single and waiting for 'im; and arter spendingfourteen years on a deserted island he got another ten in quod forshooting 'er because she 'ad altered so much in 'er looks.

  Then there was Ginger Dick, a red-'aired man I've spoken about before.He went and fell in love one time when he was lodging in Wapping 'erewith old Sam Small and Peter Russet, and a nice mess 'e made of it.

  They was just back from a v'y'ge, and they 'adn't been ashore a weekafore both of 'em noticed a change for the worse in Ginger. He turnedquiet and peaceful and lost 'is taste for beer. He used to play with 'isfood instead of eating it, and in place of going out of an evening withSam and Peter took to going off by 'imself.

  "It's love," ses Peter Russet, shaking his 'ead, "and he'll be worseafore he's better."

  "Who's the gal?" ses old Sam.

  Peter didn't know, but when they came 'ome that night 'e asked. Ginger,who was sitting up in bed with a far-off look in 'is eyes, cuddling 'isknees, went on staring but didn't answer.

  "Who is it making a fool of you this time, Ginger?" ses old Sam.

  "You mind your bisness and I'll mind mine," ses Ginger, suddenly wakingup and looking very fierce.

  "No offence, mate," ses Sam, winking at Peter. "I on'y asked in case Imight be able to do you a good turn."

  "Well, you can do that by not letting her know you're a pal o' mine," sesGinger, very nasty.

  Old Sam didn't understand at fust, and when Peter explained to 'im hewanted to hit 'im for trying to twist Ginger's words about.

  "She don't like fat old men," ses Ginger.

  "Ho!" ses old Sam, who couldn't think of anything else to say. "Ho!don't she? Ho! Ho! indeed!"

  He undressed 'imself and got into the bed he shared with Peter, and kept'im awake for hours by telling 'im in a loud voice about all the galshe'd made love to in his life, and partikler about one gal that alwaysfainted dead away whenever she saw either a red-'aired man or a monkey.

  Peter Russet found out all about it next day, and told Sam that it was abarmaid with black 'air and eyes at the Jolly Pilots, and that shewouldn't 'ave anything to say to Ginger.

  He spoke to Ginger about it agin when they were going to bed that night,and to 'is surprise found that he was quite civil. When 'e said that hewould do anything he could for 'im, Ginger was quite affected.

  "I can't eat or drink," he ses, in a miserable voice; "I lay awake alllast night thinking of her. She's so diff'rent to other gals; she'sgot--If I start on you, Sam Small, you'll know it. You go and make thatchoking noise to them as likes it."

  "It's a bit o' egg-shell I got in my throat at break-fast this morning,Ginger," ses Sam. "I wonder whether she lays awake all night thinking ofyou?"

  "I dare say she does," ses Peter Russet, giving 'im a little push.

  "Keep your 'art up, Ginger," ses Sam; "I've known gals to 'ave the mostext'ordinary likings afore now."

  "Don't take no notice of 'im," ses Peter, holding Ginger back. "'Ow areyou getting on with her?"

  Ginger groaned and sat down on 'is bed and looked at the floor, and Samwent and sat on his till it shook so that Ginger offered to step over andbreak 'is neck for 'im.

  "I can't 'elp the bed shaking," ses Sam; "it ain't my fault. I didn'tmake it. If being in love is going to make you so disagreeable to yourbest friends, Ginger, you'd better go and live by yourself."

  "I 'eard something about her to-day, Ginger," ses Peter Russet. "I met achap I used to know at Bull's Wharf, and he told me that she used to keepcompany with a chap named Bill Lumm, a bit of a prize-fighter, and sinceshe gave 'im up she won't look at anybody else."

  "Was she very fond of 'im, then?" asks Ginger.

  "I don't know," ses Peter; "but this chap told me that she won't walk outwith anybody agin, unless it's another prize-fighter. Her pride won'tlet her, I s'pose."

  "Well, that's all right, Ginger," ses Sam; "all you've got to do is to goand be a prize-fighter."

  "If I 'ave any more o' your nonsense--" ses Ginger, starting up.

  "That's right," ses Sam; "jump down anybody's throat when they're tryingto do you a kindness. That's you all over, Ginger, that is. Wot's toprevent you telling 'er that you're a prize-fighter from Australia orsomewhere? She won't know no better."

  He got up off the bed and put his 'ands up as Ginger walked across theroom to 'im, but Ginger on'y wanted to shake 'ands, and arter he 'ad donethat 'e patted 'im on the back and smiled at 'im.

  "I'll try it," he ses. "I'd tell any lies for 'er sake. Ah! you don'tknow wot love is, Sam."

  "I used to," ses Sam, and then he sat down agin and began to tell 'em allthe love-affairs he could remember, until at last Peter Russet got tiredand said it was 'ard to believe, looking at 'im now, wot a perfick terrorhe'd been with gals, and said that the face he'd got now was a judgmenton 'im. Sam shut up arter that, and got into trouble with Peter in themiddle o' the night by waking 'im up to tell 'im something that he 'adjust thought of about his face.

  The more Ginger thought o' Sam's idea the more he liked it, and the verynext evening 'e took Peter Russet into the private bar o' the JollyPilots. He ordered port wine, which he thought seemed more 'igh-classthan beer, and then Peter Russet started talking to Miss Tucker and toldher that Ginger was a prize-fighter from Sydney, where he'd beateverybody that stood up to 'im.

  The gal seemed to change toward Ginger all in a flash, and 'er beautifulblack eyes looked at 'im so admiring that he felt quite faint. Shestarted talking to 'im about his fights at once, and when at last 'eplucked up courage to ask 'er to go for a walk with 'im on Sundayarternoon she seemed quite delighted.

  "It'll be a nice change for me," she ses, smiling. "I used to walk outwith a prize-fighter once before, and since I gave 'im up I began tothink I was never going to 'ave a young man agin. You can't think 'owdull it's been."

  "Must ha' been," ses Ginger.

  "I s'pose you've got a taste for prize-fighters, miss," ses Peter Russet.

  "No," ses Miss Tucker; "I don't think that it's that exactly, but, yousee, I couldn't 'ave anybody else. Not for their own sakes."

  "Miss Tucker."]

  "Why not?" ses Ginger, looking puzzled.

  "Why not?" ses Miss Tucker. "Why, because o' Bill. He's such a 'orridjealous disposition. After I gave 'im up I walked out with a youngfellow named Smith; fine, big, strapping chap 'e was,
too, and I neversaw such a
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