"How was that matter, Bill?" asked one of his messmates. "They say you have kept the captain's reckoning, man and boy, these fifteen years."
"That have I, and never a truer heart floated than the man you see yonder leaning over the rail on the quarterdeck, where he belongs," answered Bill Marline.
"How did you first fall in with him, Bill?--Tell us that," said one of the crew.
"Well, do ye see, messmates, it must have been the matter of thirteen years ago, there or thereabouts, but I can't exactly say, seeing's I never have kept a log and can't write; but must have been about that length of time, when I was a foremast hand on board the 'Sea Lion,' as fine an Indiaman as you would wish to see. We were lying in the Liverpool docks, with sails bent and cargo stowed, under sailing orders, when one afternoon there strolled alongside a boy rather ragged and dirty, but with such eyes and such a countenance as would m