Tales of the Sea, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This is a collection
of nine stories, some short, and some not so short.
They are all very good reading, and Kingston seems to be at his best in
the short story mode. You will probably enjoy the two episodes from the
life of "Uncle Boz", that form the second story, especially the first,
when he organises the rescue
of the crew and passengers of a vessel
is wrecked near his house on a stormy Christmas Day.
The first story, "Happy Jack", is by far the longest, occupying one
third of the whole book. Jack, in spite of the desires of his lawyer
father, goes to sea, where he has many adventures, culminating in an
event in which he was presumed to have perished. Very short of money,
and looking somewhat dishevelled, he reaches home, where he is not
recognised by his sisters, but a girl who was being brought up by the
family, and who was mutually interested in Jack, does recognise him, and
he is given a proper welcome
TALES OF THE SEA, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 1.
Have any of you made a passage on board a steamer
between London and
Leith? If you have, you will have seen no small number of brigs and
brigantines, with sails of all tints, from doubtful
white to decided
black--some deeply=laden, making their way to the southward, others with
their sides high out of the water, heeling over to the slightest breeze,
On board one of those delectable craft, a brig called the _Naiad_, I
found myself when about fourteen summers had passed over my head. She
must have been named after a negress naiad, for black was the prevailing
colour on board, from the dark, dingy forecastle to the captain's state
cabin, which was but a degree less dirty than the portion
of the vessel
in which I was destined to live. The bulwarks, companion-hatch, and
other parts had, to be sure, once upon a time been painted green, but
the dust from the coal, which formed her usual cargo, had reduced every
portion to one sombre hue, which even the salt seas not unfrequently
breaking over her deck had failed to wash clean.
Captain Grimes, her commander, notwithstanding
this, was proud of the
old craft; and he especially delighted
to tell how she had once carried
a pennant when conveying troops to Corunna, or some other port in Spain.
I pitied the poor fellows confined to the narrow limits of her dark
hold, redolent of bilge-water and other foul odours. We, however, had
not to complain
on that score, for the fresh water which came in through
her old sides by many a leak, and had to be pumped out every watch, kept
her hold sweet.
How I came to be on board the _Naiad_ I'll tell you--
I had made up my mind to go to sea--why, it's hard to say, except that I
thought I should like to knock about the world and see strange
countries. I was happy enough at home, though I did not always make
others happy. Nothing came amiss to me; I was always either laughing or
singing, and do not recollect
having an hour's illness
in my life. Now
and then, by the elders of the family, and by Aunt Martha especially, I
was voted a nuisance; and it was with no small satisfaction, at the end
of the holidays, that they packed me off again to school. I was fond of
my brothers and sisters, and they were fond of me, though I showed my
affection for them in a somewhat rough fashion. I thought my sisters
somewhat demure, and I was always teasing them and playing them tricks.
Somehow or other I got the name among them and my brothers of "Happy
Jack," and certainly I was the merriest of the family. If I happened,
which was not unfrequently the case, to get into a scrape, I generally
managed to scramble
out of it with flying colours; and if I did not, I
laughed at the punishment
to which I was doomed. I was a
broad-shouldered, strongly-built boy, and could beat my elder brothers
at running, leaping, or any other athletic
exercise, while, without
boasting, I was not behind any of them in the school-room. My father
was somewhat proud of me, and had set his mind on my becoming a member
of one of the learned
professions, and rising to the top of the tree.
Why should I not? I had a great-uncle a judge, and another relative
bishop, and there had been admirals and generals by the score among our
ancestors. My father was a leading solicitor
in a large town, and
having somewhat ambitious
aspirations for his children, his intention
was to send all his sons to the university, in the hopes that they would
make a good figure in life. He was therefore
the more vexed when I
declared that my firm determination
was to go to sea. "Very well,
Jack," he said, "if such is your resolve, go you shall; but as I have no
interest in the navy, you must take your chance in the merchant
"It's all the same to me, sir," I replied; "I shall be just as happy in
the one as in the other service;" and so I considered the matter
When the day of parting
came, I was as merry and full of fun as ever,
though I own there was a strange sensation
about the heart which
bothered me; however, I was not going to show what I felt--not I.
I slyly pinched my sisters when we were exchanging parting
they were compelled to shriek
out and box my ears--an operation to which
I was well accustomed--and I made my brothers roar with the sturdy
I gave their fingers when we shook hands; and so, instead of tears,
there were shouts of laughter
and screeches and screams, creating a
regular hullabuloo which put all sentimental
grief to flight. "No, no,
Jack, I will have none of your tricks," cried Aunt Martha, when I
approached with a demure look to bid her farewell, so I took her hand
and pressed it to my lips with all the mock courtesy
of a Sir Charles
Grandison. My mother! I had no heart to do otherwise
than to throw my
arms round her neck and receive the fond embrace
she bestowed upon me,
and if a tear did come into my eye, it was then. But there was another
person to whom I had to say good-bye, and that was dear little Grace
Goldie, my father's ward, a fair, blue-eyed girl, three or four years
younger than myself. I did not play her any trick, but kissed her
smooth young brow, and promised that I would bring her back no end of
pearls and ivory, and treasures of all sorts, from across the seas. She
through her tears. "Thank you, Jack, thank you! I shall
so long to see you back," she whispered; and I had to bolt, or I believe
that I should have began to pipe my eye in a way I had no fancy for. My
father's voice summoned me. "Now, Jack," he said, "as you have chosen
your bed, you must lie on it. But remember--after a year's trial--if
you change your mind, let me know."
"No fear of that, sir," I answered.
"We shall see, Jack," he replied. He wrung my hand, and gave me his
blessing. "I have directed Mr Junk to provide your outfit, and you
will find it all right." Who Mr Junk was I had no conception; but as
my father said it was all right, I troubled my head no more about the
My father's old clerk, Simon Munch, was waiting
for me at the door, and
hurried me off to catch the Newcastle coach. On our arrival
took me to the office of Junk, Tarbox and Company, shipbrokers.
"Here is the young gentleman, Mr Junk," he said, addressing a one-eyed,
burly, broad-shouldered personage, with a rubicund countenance, in a
semi-nautical costume. "You know what to do with him, and so I leave
him in your hands. Good-bye, Jack, I hope you may like it."
"No fear of that, Mr Munch," I answered; "and tell them at home that
you left me as jolly and happy as ever."
"So, Master Brooke, you want to go to sea?" said Mr Junk, squirting a
stream of tobacco-juice across his office, and eyeing me with his sole
bloodshot blinker; "and you expect to like it?"
"Of course I do; I expect to be happy wherever
I am," I answered in a
"We shall see," he replied. "I have sent your chest aboard
_Naiad_. Captain Grimes will be here anon, and I'll hand you over to
The person he spoke of just then made his appearance. I did not
particularly like my future commander's outside. He was a tall, gaunt
man, with a long weather-beaten visage
and huge black or rather grizzled
whiskers; and his voice, when he spoke, was gruff and harsh in the
extreme. I need not further describe him; only I will observe that he
then than he usually did, as I afterwards
found on board the brig. He took but little notice of me beyond a
slight nod, as he was busy with the ship's papers. Having pocketed
them, he grasped me by the hand with a "Come along, my lad; I am to make
on ye." He spoke in a broad Northumbrian accent, and in a
harsh guttural tone. I was not prepossessed in his favour, but I
determined to show no signs of unwillingness to accompany him.
We were soon seated in the stern of an excessively dirty boat, with
coal-dust-begrimed rowers, who pulled away with somewhat lazy strokes
towards a deeply-laden brig lying out in mid-stream. "Get on board,
leddie, with you," said the captain, who had not since my first
introduction addressed a single word to me. I clambered up on deck.
The boat was hoisted in, the topsails let fall, and the crew, with
doleful "Yeo-yo-o's," began working
round the windlass, and the _Naiad_
in due time was gliding down the Tyne.
She was a very different craft to what I had expected to find myself on
board of. I had read about the white decks and snowy canvas, the bright
polish and the active, obedient
crew of a man-of-war; and such I had
pictured the vessel
I had hoped to sail in. The _Naiad_ was certainly a
contrast to this; but I kept to my resolve
not to flinch from whatever
turned up. When I was told to pull and haul away at the ropes, I did so
with might and main; and, as everything on board was thickly
coal-dust, I very soon became, as begrimed as the rest of the crew.
I was rather astonished, on asking Captain Grimes when tea would be
ready--for I was very hungry--to be told that I might get what I could
with the men forward. I went down accordingly
into the forecastle,
tumbling over a chest, and running
my head against the stomach
of one of
my new shipmates as I groped my way amid the darkness which shrouded it.
A cuff which sent me sprawling on the deck was the consequence. "Where
are your eyes, leddie?" exclaimed a gruff voice. "Ye'll see where ye
are ganging the next time."
I picked myself up, bursting into a fit of laughter, as if the affair
had been a good joke. "I beg your pardon, old fellow," I said; "but if
you had had a chandelier burning in this place of yours it would not
have happened. How do you all manage to see down here?"
"As cats do--we're accustomed to it," said another voice; and I now
began to distinguish
objects around me. The watch below were seated
round a sea-chest, with three or four mugs, a huge loaf of bread, and a
piece of cheese
and part of a flitch of fat cold bacon. It was rough
fare, but I was too hungry not to be glad to partake
A boy whom I had seen busy in the caboose soon came down with a kettle
of hot tea. My inquiry
for milk produced a general laugh, but I was
told I might take as much sugar as I liked from a jar, which contained a
dark-brown substance unlike
any sugar I had before seen.
"Ye'll soon be asking for your bed, leddie," said Bob Tubbs, the old man
I had so unceremoniously formed. "Ye'll find it
there, for'ard, if ye'll grope your way. It's not over airy, but it's
all the warmer in winter."
After supper, I succeeded in finding
the berth Bob had pointed
was the lowest berth, directly in the very bows of the vessel--a
shelf-like space, about five feet in length, with height
sufficient to allow me to sit upright,--Dirty Dick, the ship's boy I
have mentioned, having the berth above me. Mine contained a mattress
and a couple of blankets. My inquiry
for sheets produced as much
laughter as when I asked for milk. "Well, to be sure, as I suppose you
have not a washerwoman on board, they would not be of much use," I sang
out; "and so, unless the captain wants me to steer the ship, I will turn
in and go to sleep. Good night, mates."
"The leddie has got some spirit in him," I heard Bob Tubbs observe.
"What do you call yourself, boy?"
"Happy Jack!" I sang out; "and it's not this sort of thing that's going
to change me."
"You'll prove a tough one, if something else doesn't," observed Bob from
his berth. "But gang to sleep, boy. Ye'll be put into a watch
to-morrow, and it's the last time, may be, that ye'll have to rest
through the night till ye set foot on shore again." I little then
thought how long a time that would prove; but, rolling myself up in my
blanket, I soon forgot where I was.
Next morning I scrambled on deck, and found the brig plunging away into
a heavy sea, with a strong southerly wind, the coast just
distinguishable over our starboard quarter. The captain gave me a grim
smile as I made my way aft.
"Well, leddie, how do you like it?" he inquired.
"Thank you, pretty well," I answered; "but I hope we sha'n't have to
wait long for breakfast."
He smiled again. "And you don't feel queer?"
"No, not a bit of it," I replied. "But I say, captain, I thought I was
to come as a midshipman, and mess with the other young gentlemen on
He now fairly laughed outright; and looking at me for some time,
answered, "We have no young gentlemen on board here. You'll get your
breakfast in good time; but you are of the right sort, leddie, and
little Clem shall show you what you have got to do," pointing as he
spoke to a boy who just then came on deck, and whom I took to be his
"Thank you, captain," I observed; "I shall be glad of Clem's
instruction, as I suppose he knows more about the matter than I do."
"Clem can hand, reef, and steer as well as any one, as far as his
strength goes," said the captain, looking approvingly at him.
"I'll set to work as soon as he likes, then," I observed. "But I wish
those fellows would be sharp about breakfast, for I am desperately
"Well, go into the cabin, and Clem will give you a hunch of bread to
stay your appetite."
I followed Clem below. "Here, Brooke, some butter will improve it," he
said, spreading a thick slice of bread. "And so you don't seem to be
seasick, like most fellows. Well, I am glad of that. My father will
like you all the better for it, and soon make a sailor of you, if you
wish to learn."
I told Clem that was just what I wanted, and that I should look to him
to teach me my duties.
"I'll do my best," he said. "Take my advice and dip your hands in the
without delay, and don't shirk anything the mate puts you to.
My father is pretty gruff now and then, but old Growl is a regular
rough one. He does not say much to me, but you will have to look out
for squalls. Come, we had better go on deck, or old Growl will think
that I have been putting you up to mischief. He will soon pick a
quarrel with you, to see how you bear it."
"I'll take good care to keep out of his way, then," I said, bolting the
last piece of bread and butter. "Thank you, Clem, you and I shall be
good friends, I see that."
"I hope so," answered my young companion
with a sigh. "I have not many
on board, and till you came I had no one to speak to except father, and
he is not always in the mood to talk."
Clem's slice of bread and butter enabled me to hold out till the
forecastle breakfast was ready. I did ample justice to it. Directly I