Jack at Sea; or, All Work and no Play made him a Dull Boy, by George Manville Fenn.
We do seem to have rather a problem with this book, because the copy we worked from had pages 15 and 16 missing (sheet was missing) and also the bottom half of pages 283 and 284 has been torn out. Eventually, when I can see another copy of the book I will be able to rectify this, but at the moment there does not seem to be a copy in sight: it doesn't even seem to be listed in the British Library Catalogue.
Jack is an academic and clever boy, who does not do much in the way of sport and exercise. This worries his father who talks about it to the local doctor. They decide that Jack has to be forced into the world most of us inhabit, but the way they do it was surely a bit of an over-kill, for Sir John (the father, who is a baronet), buys a yacht capable of sailing round the world, and they all set off in it, including Ned, one of the domestics from home. There is an excellent crew and the skipper of the yacht is taken on for the trip.
Jack is pretty miserable at first, with seasickness, but gradually he joins in with the daily activities, and as time goes on he becomes indistinguishable from other boys who might have this opportunity. We join in with Jack and Ned in various adventures, mostly in the Java seas.
Apart from the minor blemish of the three missing texts, the book is most enjoyable. There are the usual G M Fenn tight situations, but of course the young men (as these boys would like to be called) manage to get out of them.
JACK AT SEA; OR, ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MADE HIM A DULL BOY, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
OR ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MADE JACK A DULL BOY.
WHEN A BOY IS NOT A BOY.
"Fine morning, Jack; why don't you go and have a run?"
John Meadows—always "Jack," because his father's name was John—upon hearing that father's voice, raised his dull, dreamy eyes slowly from the perusal of the old Latin author over which he was bending, and looked in Sir John's face, gazing at him inquiringly as if he had been walking with Cicero in Rome—too far away to hear the question which had fallen upon his ears like a sound which conveyed no meaning.
Father and son were as much alike as a sturdy sun-browned man of forty can resemble a thin, pale youth of sixteen or so. In other words, they possessed the same features, but the elder suggested an outdoor plant, sturdy and well-grown, the younger a sickly exotic, raised in the hot steaming air of the building which gardeners call a stove, a place in which air is only admitted to pass over hot-water pipes, for fear the plants within should shiver and begin to droop.
Sir John had just entered the handsome library, bringing with him a good breezy, manly suggestion of having been tramping through woods and over downs; and as soon as he had closed the door, he glanced at the large fire near to which his son had drawn a small writing-table, said "Pff!" unbuttoned his rough heather-coloured Norfolk jacket, raised his eyes to the window as if he would like to throw it open, and then lowered them and wrinkled up his forehead as he gazed at his son, carefully dressed in dark-brown velvet, and wearing correctly fitting trousers and patent leather shoes, a strong contrast to his own knickerbockers, coarse brown knitted stockings, and broad-soled shooting-boots.
Sir John looked anxious and worried, and he stretched out a strong brown hand to lay upon his son's shoulder, but he let it fall again, drew a deep breath, and then very gently asked him the question about the walk.
"Did you speak to me, father?" said the lad vacantly.
"Speak to you!" cried Sir John, in an impatient, angry tone, "of course I spoke to you. It worries me to see you so constantly sitting over the fire reading."
"Does it, father?" said the lad, wincing at the tone in which these words were spoken, and looking up in an apologetic way.
"I didn't mean to speak to you so sharply, my boy," continued Sir John, "but I don't like to see you neglecting your health so. Study's right enough, but too much of a good thing is bad for any one. Now, on a fine morning like this—"
"Is it fine, father? I thought it was cold."
"Cold! Tut—tut—tut! The weather is never cold to a healthy, manly boy."
"I'm afraid I'm not manly, father," said the lad.
"No, Jack, nor healthy neither; you are troubling me a great deal."
"Am I, father?" said the lad softly. "I'm very sorry. But I really am quite well."
"You are not, sir," cried Sir John, "and never will be if you spend all your time over books."
The lad gave him a sad, weary look.
"I thought you wanted me to study hard, father," he said reproachfully.
"Yes, yes, my boy, I do, and I should like to see you grow up into a distinguished man, but you are trying to make yourself into the proverbial dull boy."
"Am I? And I have worked so hard," said the lad in a weary, spiritless way.
"Yes; it's all work and no play with you, Jack, and it will not do, boy. When I was your age I was captain of our football club."
"I often carried out my bat at cricket."
The lad sighed.
"I could stick on anything, from a donkey up to an unbroken colt; throw a ball as far as any of my age, and come in smiling and ready for a good meal after a long paper-chase."
Jack's pitiable look of despair was almost comical.
"While you, sir," cried Sir John angrily, "you're a regular molly, and do nothing but coddle yourself over the fire and read. It's read, read, read, from morning till night, and when you do go out, it's warm wrappers and flannel and mackintoshes. Why, hang it all, boy! you go about as if you were afraid of being blown over, or that the rain would make you melt away."
"I am very sorry, father," said the youth piteously; "I'm afraid I am not like other boys."
"Not a bit."
"I can't help it."
"You don't try, Jack. You don't try, my boy. I always had the best of accounts about you from Daneborough. The reports are splendid. And, there, my dear boy, I am not angry with you, but it is very worrying to see you going about with lines in your forehead and this white face, when I want to see you sturdy and—well, as well and hearty as I am. Why, Jack, you young dog!" he cried, slapping him on the shoulder, and making the lad wince, "I feel quite ashamed of myself. It isn't right for an old man like I am."
"You old, father!" said the lad, with more animation, and a faint flush came in his cheeks. "Why you look as well and young and strong as—"
"As you ought to be, sir. Why, Jack, boy, I could beat you at anything except books—walk you down, run you down, ride, jump, row, play cricket, shoot, or swim."
"Yes, father, I know," sighed the lad.
"But I'm ashamed to do anything of the kind when I see you moping like a sick bird in a cage."
"But I'm quite well, father, and happy—at least I should be if you were only satisfied with me."
"And I do want to see you happy, my boy, and I try to be satisfied with you. Now look here: come out with me more. I want to finish my collection of the diptera. Suppose you help me, and then we'll make another collection—birds say, or—no, I know: we'll take up the British fishes, and work them all. There's room there. It has never been half done. Why, what they call roach vary wonderfully. Even in two ponds close together the fish are as different as can be, and yet they call them all roach. Look here—we'll fish and net, and preserve in spirits, and you'll be surprised how much interest you will find in it combined with healthy exercise."
"I'll come with you, father, if you wish it," said the lad.
"Bah! That's of no use. I don't want you to come because I wish it. I want you to take a good healthy interest in the work, my boy. But it's of no use. I am right; you have worked too hard, and have read till your brain's getting worn out. There, I am right, Jack. You are not well."
"Doctor Instow, Sir John," said a servant, entering.
"Humph! lost no time," muttered the baronet. "Where is he, Edward?"
"In the drawing-room, Sir John."
"I'll come. No; show him in here."
"Father," whispered the lad excitedly, and a hectic spot showed in each cheek, "why has Doctor Instow come here?"
"Because I sent for him, my boy."
"But not to see me?" said the lad excitedly. "Indeed I am quite well."
"No, you are not, boy. Yes, he has come to see you, and try to set you right, so speak out to him like a man."
At that moment steps were heard crossing the polished oak floor of the great hall, and directly after a keen-eyed, vigorous-looking man of about six-and-thirty entered the room in a quick, eager way.
DOCTOR INSTOW'S PRESCRIPTION.
"How are you?" he cried, rather boisterously, to Sir John, shaking hands warmly. "Well! no need to ask. And how are you, my Admirable Crichton?" he said, turning to Jack to continue the hand-shaking. "Well, no need to ask here either."
"No; I'm quite well, Doctor Instow."
"What! didn't they teach you to tell the truth at Daneborough, Jack Meadows?"
"Yes, of course," said the lad sharply.
"Then why don't you tell it?" said the doctor.
"There, Jack, you see," said Sir John quickly.
"What! has he been saying that he is quite well?" cried the doctor.
"Yes; he persists in it, when—"
"Any one can see with half an eye that he is completely out of order."
"You hear, Jack?"
"Yes, father, I hear," said the boy; "but really I am quite, quite well."
"'Quite, quite well,'" said the doctor, laughing merrily, as he sank back in his chair. "Never felt better in your life, eh, Jack? Haven't been so well since I doctored you for measles, ten years ago, when I was a young man, just come to Fernleigh, eh?"
"I do not see anything to laugh at, Doctor Instow," said the lad gravely.
"No? Well, I do, my dear boy—at the way in which you tell your anxious father and his old friend that there is nothing the matter with you, when the nature in you is literally shouting to every one who sees you, 'See how ill I am.'"
"Doctor Instow, what nonsense!" cried the lad.
"Indeed? Why, not ten minutes ago, as I drove towards the Hall, I met the Rector, and what do you think he said?"
"I don't know," said Jack, fidgeting in his chair.
"Then I'll tell you, my lad. 'Going to see young Jack?' he said. 'I don't know, but I expect so,' says your humble servant. 'Well, I hope you are, for I've felt quite concerned about his looks.'"
"But I can't help looking pale and delicate," cried Jack hurriedly. "Plenty of other boys do."
"Of course they do; but in your case you can help it."
"But how?" said Jack fretfully.
"I'll tell you directly," said the doctor. "Look here, Meadows, am I to speak out straight?"
"I beg that you will," said Sir John quickly. "I have sent for you because I cannot go on like this. No disrespect to you, my dear Instow, but I was thinking seriously of taking him up to some great specialist in town."
"I'm very glad to hear you say so," cried the doctor. "If you had not, before many days were over I should have sounded the alarm myself."
"Indeed!" cried Sir John.
"Yes; I should have presumed on our old intimacy, and told you what I thought, and that it was time something was done. We'll take him up to Doctor Lorimer, or Sir Humphrey Dean, or one of the other medical big-wigs. You sent for me, then, to give you my opinion. Here it is straight. It is the right thing to do, and before you start, I'll write down my idea of the proper course of treatment, and I guarantee that either of the fashionable physicians will prescribe the same remedies."
"Then," said Sir John eagerly, "you think you can see what is the matter with him?"
"Think? I'm sure, sir."
"I am glad of it, for I had decided not to take him up to a physician."
"Thank you, father," said Jack, giving him a grateful look. "There really is no need."
"Because," continued Sir John firmly, "I thought the matter over,"—and he talked at his son—"and I said to myself that it is impossible that a London doctor can in a visit or two understand the case half so well as the medical man who has known and attended him from a child."
"Thank you, Meadows," said the doctor warmly. "I thank you for your confidence. I do not want to boast of my knowledge, but, as I said before, I am perfectly sure of what is the matter with Jack here."
"Yes? What is it?—or no, I ought not to ask you that," said the father, with a hasty glance at his son.
"Oh yes, you ought. Why not? In this case it is quite right that he should know. I am going to convince him that he is in a very bad way."
"You think so?" cried Sir John, leaning forward anxiously.
"Yes, sir, a very bad way, though the conceited young rascal is laughing in his sleeve and mentally calling me a pretender."
"Indeed, no, Doctor Instow," cried Jack indignantly.
"What? Why you are saying to yourself all the time that you know better than I."
"I only felt that I was right and you were wrong, doctor," said the lad frankly.
"Same thing, my boy," cried the doctor, smiling. "Not the first time two people have been of different opinions, and we shan't quarrel, Jack. Know one another too well."
"Yes, yes," said Sir John impatiently. "But you said you thought he was in a bad way."
"I said I was sure."
"Yes, yes; then what is to be done? We must get him out of the bad way."
"The right treatment to a T," said the doctor.
"Then be frank, Instow," said Sir John; "what is the matter?"
Page missing, to be inserted when found.
Page missing, to be inserted when found.
fight again, but it has been fostered too much. Dad here, in his pride of your attainments, has allowed you to go too far. He has thought it was a natural weakness and tendency to bad health which kept you from taking to outdoor life more, but neither he nor I had the least idea that you carried it to such an extent, and it did not show so much till you came home after this last half."
"No, not till now, my boy," said Sir John.
"The result of the grinding of the past four years is just coming out with a rush," continued the doctor, "and if you went back to the school you would break down by the next holidays."
"If I went back?" cried the boy. "If? Oh, I must go back. I am expected to take some of the principal prizes next year."
"And lose the greatest prize that can be gained by a young man, my lad— health."
"Hah!" sighed Sir John; "he is quite right, Jack, I am afraid."
"Right as right, my boy. Here in four years you have done the work of about eight. It's very grand, no doubt, but it won't do."
"But what is to be done?" cried Sir John.
"Let the brain run fallow for the other four years, and give the body a chance," said the doctor bluntly.
"What! do nothing for four years?" cried the lad indignantly.
"Who said do nothing?" said the doctor testily.
"Do something else. Rest your brain with change, and give your body a fair chance of recovering its tone."
"Yes, Jack, my boy; he is quite right," cried Sir John.
"But, father, I should be wretched."
"How do you know?" said the doctor. "You have tried nothing else but books. There is something else in the world besides books, my lad. Ask your father if there is not. What's that about sermons in insects and running stones in the brooks, Meadows? I never can recollect quotations. Don't you imagine, my conceited young scholiast, that there is nothing to be seen or studied that does not exist in books. But I'm growing hoarse with talking and telling you the simple truth."
"Yes, Jack, my boy, it is the simple truth," said Sir John. "I was saying something of the kind to you, as you know, when Doctor Instow came; but all the time I was sure that you were ill—and you are."
"Oh yes, he's ill, and getting worse. Any one can see that."
"But I do not feel ill, father."
"Don't feel languid, I suppose?" said the doctor.
"Well, yes, I do often feel languid," said Jack, "when the weather is—"
"Bother the weather!" roared the doctor. "What business has a boy like you to know anything about the weather? Your father and I at your age would have played football, or cricket, or gone fishing in any weather— eh, Meadows?"
"Yes, in any weather," said Sir John, smiling. "A British boy knowing anything about the weather! Bosh! Do you think any of our old heroes ever bothered their brains about the weather when they wanted to do something? Look here! another word or two. You always go to sleep of course directly you lay your head on the pillow, and want another snooze when it's time to get up, eh?"
"No," said the lad sadly, "I often lie awake a long time thinking."
"Thinking!" cried the doctor in tones of disgust. "The idea of a healthy boy thinking when he goes to bed! It's monstrous. An overstrained brain, my lad. You are thoroughly out of order, my boy, and it was quite time that you were pulled up short. Frankly, you've been over-crammed with food to nourish the brain, while the body has been starved."
"And now, my boy, we're going to turn over a new leaf, and make a fresh start. Come, doctor, you will prescribe for him at once."
"What! jalap and senna, and Pil. Hydrargerum, and that sort of stuff, to make him pull wry faces?"
"I do not profess to understand much of such matters; but I should presume that you would give him tonics. What will you give him to take—bark?"
"No: something to make him bite."
"Ah, you are like the rest of the clever people, Meadows. You think a doctor is of no good unless he gives you pills and draughts. But don't be alarmed, Jack, boy. I am not going to give you either."
"Nothing, I tell you. Yes, I am; fresh air—fresh water."
"Yes; and then?"
"More fresh air, and more fresh water. Look here, Meadows; food is the best medicine for his case—good, wholesome food, and plenty of it as soon as he can digest. I want to hear him say, 'What's for dinner to-day?' That's a fine sign of a boy being in good health."
"Well, Jack, what do you say to all this?" said Sir John.
"I don't know what to say, father," replied the lad. "I did not know I was unwell."
"I suppose not," interposed the doctor. "But you are, and the worst of it is that you will get worse."
"Then give your instructions," said Sir John, "and we will try and follow them out—eh, Jack?"
"I will do anything you wish, father," said the boy, with a sigh.
"Yes, of course you will, my boy. Well, doctor, we are waiting. Let's take the stitch in time."
"Ah! but we can't now," said Doctor Instow. "We shall have to take nine, or eighty-one, or some other number in what our young philosopher calls geometrical progression—that's right, isn't it, Jack, eh?"
"Yes, I suppose so," said the lad, smiling. "Well, then, thread the needle for us, Instow," said Sir John merrily; "and we will begin to stitch, and be careful not to neglect our health for the future. Now then, we're both ready."
"Yes; but I'm not," said the doctor thoughtfully. "This is a ticklish case, and wants ticklish treatment. You see I know my patient. He is so accustomed to one particular routine, that it will be hard to keep him from longing for his customary work and habits. Suppose I prescribe outdoor work, riding, walking, cricket or football, according to the season; I shall be giving him repellent tasks to do. I can't make him a little fellow eager and longing to begin these things which he sees his bigger school-fellows enjoying. He would be disgusted with games directly, because others would laugh at him and call him a muff."
"Yes," said Sir John with a sigh, "the rent has grown very large, and I don't see how we are to sew it up."
"Neither do I," said the doctor; "it's past mending. We must have a new coat, Jack."
"You mean a new boy, Doctor Instow," said the lad, smiling sadly. "Had you not better let me be?"
"No," cried Sir John, bringing his fist down heavily upon he table. "That won't do, Jack. We've done wrong, taken the wrong turning, and we must go back and start afresh—eh, Instow?"
"Of course," said the doctor testily, "and give me time. I've got plenty of ideas, but I want to select the right one. Ah! I have it."
"Yes," cried Sir John eagerly, and his son looked at him in dismay.
"That's the very thing. Right away from books and the ordinary routine of life—fresh air of the best, fresh people, fresh scenes, constant change; everything fresh but the water, and that salt."
"Some country place at the seaside," said Sir John eagerly.
"No, no; bore the boy to death; make him miserable. Seaside! No, sir, the whole sea, and get away from the side as soon as possible."
"A sea voyage!" cried Sir John; and his son's face contracted with horror.
"That's the thing, sir. You have always been grumbling about the narrowness of your sphere, and envying men abroad who send and bring such fine collections home. Be off together, and make a big collection for yourselves of everything you come across worth saving."
"Yes; but where?"
"Anywhere—North Pole; South Pole; tropics. Start free from all trammels, open new ground away from the regular beaten tracks. You don't want to go by line steamers to regular ports. Get a big ocean-going yacht, and sail round the world. Here, what are you grinning at, patient?"
"At your idea, sir. It is so wild."
"Wild to you, sir, because you are so tame. It may have seemed a little wild for Captain Cook and Bougainville and the old Dutch navigators, with their poor appliances and ignorance of what there was beyond the seas. Wild too for Columbus; but wild now! Bah! I'm ashamed of you."
"You must recollect that Jack is no sailor," said Sir John, interposing. "He was very ill when we crossed to Calais."
"Ill! A bit sea-sick. That's nothing."
"I am not sailor enough to manage a yacht."
"What of that? Charter a good vessel, and get a clever captain and mate, and the best crew that can be picked. You can afford it, and to do it well, and relieve yourself of all anxieties, so as to be free both of you to enjoy your cruise."
"Enjoy!" said Jack piteously.
"But the responsibility?" said Sir John thoughtfully. "I should like it vastly. But to take a sick lad to sea? Suppose he were taken worse?"
"Don't exaggerate, doctor. Fancy us away from all civilised help, and Jack growing far weaker—no medical advice."
"I tell you he would grow stronger every day. Well, take a few boxes of pills with you; fish for cod, and make your own cod-liver oil, and make him drink it—oil to trim the lamp of his waning life and make it burn. He won't want anything of the kind—rest for his brain and change are his medicines."
"I dare not risk it," said Sir John sadly, and Jack's face began to light up.
"Well then, if you must do something foolish, take a doctor with you."
"Ah, but how to get the right man?"
"Pooh! Hundreds would jump at the chance."
Jack sighed, and looked from one to the other, while Sir John gazed hard at the doctor, who said merrily—
"There, don't sit trying to bring up difficulties where there is nothing that cannot be surmounted. What have you got hold of now?"
"I have not got hold of him. I am only trying to do so."
"What do you mean?"
"The doctor. Will you go with us, Instow?"
"I?" cried Doctor Instow, staring. "Only too glad of the chance. I'm sick of spending all my days in the sordid practice of trying to make money, when the world teems with wonders one would like to try and investigate. If I did not know that I was doing some little good amongst my fellow-creatures, my life would be unbearable, and I would have thrown it all up long ago."
"Then if I decide to follow out your advice, you will come with us?"
"No," said the doctor firmly; "it would not do."
Jack brightened up again.
"Why would it not do?" said Sir John anxiously. "The plan is excellent, and I am most grateful to you for the suggestion. Come with us, Instow, for I certainly will go."
"Look at him," cried the doctor. "There's spirit. The sooner you get to sea the better."
"Yes, I have decided upon it, if you will come."
"No, no; impossible."
"Because of leaving your practice?"
"Oh no; I could arrange that by having a locum tenens—'local demon' as the servant-girl in Punch called him."
"Then what objection is there?"
"Why, it's just as if I had been planning a pleasure-trip for myself at your expense."
"That's absurd, Instow, and an insult to an old friend. Look here, if you will come I shall look upon it as conferring a great favour upon us. We shall both be under a greater obligation to you than ever."
"I say, don't tempt me, Meadows. I'm not a bad doctor, but I'm a very weak man."
"But I will tempt you," cried Sir John eagerly. "Come, you can't let your old friend go without a companion, and stop here at home, knowing that there will be times when you could help Jack there on his way to health and strength."
"No, I can't—can I?" said the doctor, hesitating. "But no, no, it wouldn't do."
"Here, Jack, come and help me press him to go with us."
"I can't, father; oh, I can't," cried the boy despairingly.
"Oh, that settles it!" said Doctor Instow, jumping up. "You've done it now, Jack. You're worse than I thought."
"Then you will come?" cried Sir John, holding out his hand.
"I will," cried the doctor, "wherever you like to go;" and he brought down his hand with a sounding slap into his friend's. "Here, Jack," he cried directly after, "shake hands too. Come, be a man. In less than six months those dull filmy eyes of yours will be flashing with health, and you'll be wondering that you could ever have sat gazing at me in this miserable woe-begone fashion. There, pluck up, my lad. You don't know what is before you in the strange lands we shall visit. Why, when your father and I were boys of your age, we should have gone wild with delight at the very anticipation of such a cruise, and rushed off to our bedrooms to begin packing up at once, and crammed our boxes with all kinds of impossible unnecessaries—eh, Meadows?"
"Yes; our skates, cricket-bats—" cried Sir John.
"And fishing-rods, and sticks. I say, though, we must take a good supply of sea and fresh-water tackle. Fancy trying some river or lake in the tropics that has never been fished before."
"Yes, and a walk at the jungle edge, butterfly-catching," cried Sir John eagerly.
"Yes, and a tramp after rare birds, and always in expectation of bringing down one never yet seen by science," said the doctor.
"And the flowers and plants," said Sir John, "We must take plenty of cases and preserving paste."
"And entomological boxes and tins."
"Plenty of spirits, of course, too," cried the doctor. "I say, my little cooking apparatus I designed—it will be invaluable; and I shall treat myself to a new double gun, and a rifle."
"No need, my dear boy; I have plenty. But we must have a thoroughly good supply of fishing-tackle of all kinds."
"And cartridges," said the doctor. "What do you say to clothes for the rough work?"
"We must have plenty, and flannels and pyjamas," said Sir John. "A couple of small portable tents, too."
"And boots for the jungle—high boots. A deal depends on boots."
"No, not high," said Sir John, "they're a nuisance—good lace-up ankle boots, with knickerbockers and leggings."
"Yes, I believe you are right. My word, old fellow, we've got our work cut out to prepare."
"Yes; how soon would you go?"
"As soon as ever we can get away."
"That's the style. Nothing like striking while the iron is hot."
And, full of enthusiasm, the two friends sat throwing suggestions at one another, nearly forgetting the presence of Jack, who did not catch a spark of their excitement, but sat gazing at them with lack-lustre eyes, and a weary, woe-begone expression of countenance, for it seemed to him that all was over, that he was to be dragged away from his studious pursuits to a dreary end. His father and their old friend the doctor meant well, no doubt; but he knew that they were mistaken, and when the doctor left at last, it was for Sir John to wake up to the fact that he had never seen his son look so despondent before.
"Why, Jack, lad, what a face!" cried Sir John merrily.
The boy looked in his eyes, but said nothing. "Come, come, the doctor's right. Put away the books, and help me to prepare for our cruise."
"Then you really mean for us to go, father?" said the lad.
"Yes; I have quite made up my mind." Jack sighed like a girl.
"But you will let me take a few boxes of books, father?"
"A few natural history works of reference, nothing more. Bah! don't be so narrow-minded, boy. We shall be where Nature's own grand library is always open before us to read. We shall want no books. Come, pluck up, my lad; all this means ill health. Instow is perfectly right, and the sooner we begin our preparations the better."
"Father!" cried the boy passionately, "it will kill me."
"No," said Sir John, taking the boy's hand, and laying his own right affectionately upon his shoulder; "if I thought it would hurt you I would not stir a step; but I feel that it is to bring you back to a healthy life."
Jack sighed again, and shook his head.
"Ah," he argued to himself, "life and all that is worth living for—all passing away."
IN DOLEFUL DUMP.
"Beg pardon, sir."
Jack raised his head wearily from where it was resting upon his hand by the fireside, and looked dreamingly at the footman who had entered the warm library next morning.
"Head ache, sir?" said the man respectfully; and the well-built, fair, freckled-faced, but good-looking fellow gazed commiseratingly at his young master.
"My head ache, Edward? Yes, sadly, sadly."
"Begging your pardon, sir; it's because you sit over the fire too much."
"What!" cried Jack angrily; "have you got that silly idea in your head too? How dare you!"
"Beg pardon, sir. Very sorry, sir. Don't be angry with me, sir. You see I don't know any better."
"Then it's time you did."
"So it is, Master Jack, so it is; and I want to know better, if you'll help me."
"How can I help you?" said Jack, staring at the man.
"Well, you see, sir, it's like this: I don't get no chance to improve my mind. Up at six o'clock—No," cried the man emphatically, "I will speak the honest truth if I die for it! It ain't much before seven when I begin work, sir, for you see I have such a stiff beard, and it does grow so, I'm obliged to shave reg'lar. Well, say quarter to seven I begin, and it's boots and shoes. When they're done it's hard work to get my knives done before breakfast. Then there's the breakfast cloth to lay, and the toast to make, and after breakfast master's and your dress-clothes to brush; and them done, my plate to clean. That brings me up to laying the cloth for lunch, and—"
"Look here, Edward," cried Jack impatiently, "do you suppose I want to learn all you do in a day?"
"No, sir, of course not. I only wanted you to understand why it is I've no time to improve my mind."
"So much the better for you, Ned," cried Jack. "I've improved mine, and Sir John and the doctor say that I've been doing wrong."
"Do they, sir, really? Well, they ought to know; but all the same I feel as if I want to improve mine."
"Let it alone, Ned," said the boy drearily.
"No, sir, I can't do that, when there's such a chance in one's way."
"Chance! What for?" said Jack, whose interest was awakened by the man's earnestness.
"That's what I'm telling you, sir, a chance to improve myself."
"Well, you see, sir, I've got ears on my head."
"Of course you have."
"And can't help hearing, sir, a little of what's said."
"Look here, Ned," cried Jack, "I'm unwell; my head aches, and I'm very much worried. Tell me what it is that you want as briefly as you can."
"Well, sir, begging your pardon, sir, I couldn't help hearing that Sir John and you and the doctor's going abroad."
"Yes, Ned," said Jack moodily; "we're going abroad."
"Well, sir, I'd thank you kindly if you'd speak a word to master for me."
"What, about a character? There is no need, Ned; you will stay here till we come back—if ever we do," he added bitterly.
"Oh, you'll come back right enough, sir. But don't you see that's just what I don't want, unless I can come back too."
"What do you mean, Ned? Can't you see that you are worrying me dreadfully?"
"I am sorry, sir, for if there's a thing I can't abear, it's being talked to when I've got one o' them stinging 'eadaches. But I keep on explaining to you, sir. Don't you see? I want you to speak a word to Sir John about taking me with you."
"You!" cried Jack. "You want to go with us round the world?"
"Now, Master Jack," cried the man reproachfully, "would you like to spend all your days cleaning knives and boots and shoes, when it wasn't plate and waiting at table?"
"No, of course not; but you must be mad to want to do such a thing as go upon this dreadful journey."
"Dreadful journey! My word of honour, Master Jack, you talking like that!" cried the man. "You talking like that!" he repeated. "A young gent like you! Well, I'm about stunned. Do you know it would be about the greatest treat a body could have?"
"No, I don't," said Jack shortly. "It means nothing but misery and discomfort. A rough life amongst rough people; no chance to read and study. Oh, it would be dreadful."
"Well!" exclaimed the man; and again, "Well! You do cap me, sir, that you do. Can't you see it means change?"
"I don't want change," cried Jack petulantly.
"Oh, don't you say that, sir," cried Edward reproachfully; "because, begging your pardon, it ain't true."
"What! Are you going to begin on that silly notion too? I tell you I am not ill."
"No, sir, you're not ill certainly, because you don't have to take to your bed, and swaller physic, and be fed with a spoon, but every bit of you keeps on shouting that you ain't well."
"How? Why? Come now," cried the boy with more animation, as he snatched at the opportunity for gaining an independent opinion of his state. "But stop: has my father or Doctor Instow been saying anything to you?"
"To me, sir? Not likely."
"Then tell me what you mean."
"Well, sir; you're just like my magpie."
"What!" cried Jack angrily.
"I don't mean no harm, sir; you asked me."
"Well, there, go on," cried Jack pettishly.
"I only meant you were like him in some ways. You know, sir, I give one of the boys threppuns for him two years ago, when there was the nest at the top of the big ellum."
"Oh yes, I've seen the bird."
"I wasn't sure, sir, for you never did take much notice of that sort of thing. Why, some young gents is never happy unless they're keeping all kinds of pets—pigeons and rabbits and hedgehogs and such."
"I wish you wouldn't talk quite so much," cried Jack sharply.
"There, sir, that's what it is. You want stirring up. I like that. You haven't spoke to me so sharp since I don't know when."
"What, do you like me to scold you?"
"I'd like you to bully me, and chuck things at me too, sooner than see you sit moping all day as you do, sir. That's what made me say you put me in mind of my magpie. He sits on his perch all day long with his feathers, set up, and his tail all broken and dirty, and not a bit o' spirit in him. He takes the raw meat I cut up for him, but he doesn't eat half of it, only goes and pokes the bits into holes and corners, and looks as miserable and moulty as can be. It's because he's always shut up in a cage, doing just the same things every day, hopping from perch to perch that often—and back again over and over again, till he hasn't got a bit of spirit in him. I'm just the same—it's boots and knives and plate and coal-scuttles and answer the bells, till I get tired of a night and lie abed asking myself whether a strong chap like me was meant to go on all his life cleaning boots and knives; and if I was, what's the good of it all? I'm sick of it, Master Jack, and there's been times when I've been ready to go and 'list for a soldier, only I don't believe that would be much better. The toggery's right enough, and you have a sword or a gun, but it's mostly standing in a row and being shouted at by sergeants. But now there's a chance of going about and seeing what the world's like, and its works, and how it goes round, and you say you don't want to go. Why, it caps me, it do, sir, really."
"Yes," cried Jack angrily; "and it 'caps me,' as you call it, to hear a good servant like you talk about giving up a comfortable place and want to go on a long and dangerous voyage. Are you not well fed and clothed and paid, and have you not a good bed?"
"Yes, sir; yes sir; yes, sir," cried Edward; "but a man don't want to be always comfortable, and well fed, and to sleep on a feather bed. He's a poor sort of a chap who does. I don't think much of him. It's like being a blind horse in a clay mill, going round and round and round all his life. Why, he never gets so much change as to be able to go the other way round, because if he did the mill wouldn't grind."
"Pooh!" cried Jack sharply. "It is not true: you can have plenty of change. Clean knives first one day, and boots first the next, and then begin with the plate."
"Ha—ha! haw—haw! he—he!" cried the man, boisterously, laughing, and in his enjoyment lifting up one leg and putting it down with a stamp over and over again.
"Don't stand there laughing like an idiot!" cried Jack angrily. "How dare you!"
"Can't help it, sir, really, sir; can't help it. You made me. But go on, sir. Do. Chuck some books at me for being so impudent."
"I will," cried Jack fiercely, "if you don't leave the room."
"That's right, sir; do, sir; it's stirred you up. Why, you have got the stuff in you, Master Jack. I do believe you could fight after all if you was put to it. You, sir, actually, sir, making a joke about the knives and boots. Well, I wouldn't have believed it of you."
"Leave the room, sir!"
"Yes, sir, directly, sir; but do please ask the governor to take me, sir."
"Leave the room, sir!" cried Jack, starting to his feet.
"Certainly, sir, but if you would—"
In a fit of petulant anger Jack had followed the man's suggestion, caught up a heavy Greek lexicon, and thrown it with all his might, or rather with all his weakness, at the servant's head. Edward ducked down, and the book went through the glass of one of the cases; and at the same moment Sir John Meadows entered the library.
A READY-MADE MAN.
"What's the meaning of this?" cried Sir John angrily, as he stood staring in astonishment at his son's anger-distorted, flushed face, then at the footman, and back at his son.
"I—I—this fellow—this man—Edward was insolent, and—and—I—father— I—ordered him—to leave the room—and—and he would not go."
"Oh, I beg pardon, Master Jack, sir," said Edward reproachfully. "I said I'd go, and I was going."
"Silence, sir!" cried Sir John, frowning. "Now, Jack, he would not go?"
"I was angry, father—and—and—"
"And you threw this book at him, and broke the pane of glass?"
"Yes, father," said the boy, who was now scarlet, as he stood trembling with excitement and mortification.
"Humph!" ejaculated Sir John, crossing to raise the very short skirt of his brown velveteen Norfolk jacket, and stand with his hands behind him in front of the fire. "Pick up that book, Edward."
"Yes, Sir John."
"And tell one of the housemaids to come and sweep up the pieces."
"Yes, Sir John," said the man, moving toward the door.
"Stop! What does that signal to Mr Jack mean?"
"Well, Sir John, I—"
"Wait a minute. Now, Jack, in what way was Edward insolent to you?"
"Only laughed, Sir John."
"Be silent, sir! Now, Jack!"
"He irritated me, father," said the lad hastily. "He came to worry me with an absurd request, and—and when I ridiculed it, he burst out laughing in a rude, insolent way."
"Beg pardon, Sir John," said the man respectfully.—"Not insolent, Master Jack."
"Say Mr Jack."
"Certn'y, Sir John. Mister Jack actually made a joke,—it wasn't a good one, Sir John, but it seemed so rum for him to make a joke, and then get in a passion, that I bust out larfin, Sir John, and I couldn't help it really."
Sir John looked wonderingly at his son for an explanation.
"It was only a bit of petulant nonsense, father," stammered the lad. "I'm very sorry."
"And pray what was the request Edward made?"
"Well, father, it was about this dreadful business."
"What dreadful business?"
Jack was silent for a few moments, but his father's stern eyes were fixed upon him, and he stammered out—
"This going abroad."
"He came to beg me to ask you to take him with you."
"With us," said Sir John.
"Ye-es, father, if we went."
"There is no if about it, Jack," said Sir John quietly; "we are going. Humph! and you wanted to go, Edward?"
"Yes, sir, please, Sir John," cried the man earnestly. "I'd give anything to go."
Sir John looked at the man searchingly.
"Humph!" he said at last. "Well, I suppose it would sound attractive to a young man of your age."
"Attractive ain't the word for it, Sir John," cried the man.
Sir John smiled.
"Some people differ in their opinions, my lad," he said, with a meaning glance at his son.
"Yes, Sir John, meaning Master—Mister Jack; but he don't half understand what it means yet."
"You are quite right, Edward. In his delicate state he does not quite grasp what it means."
"Oh, father," cried the lad reproachfully; "don't speak like that. Once more, indeed I am not ill."
"Humph!" said Sir John, smiling, "not ill? What do you think, Edward?"
"No, Sir John, not ill, cert'nly," said the man.
"There, father!" cried Jack excitedly, and with a grateful look at their servant, but it faded out directly.
"He ain't no more ill than I am, Sir John, if I may make so bold. It's only that he wants stirring up. He reads and reads over the fire till he can't hardly see for the headache, and it's what I told him just now, he's all mopey like for want of change."
"Humph! You told him that?" said Sir John sharply.
"Yes, Sir John," faltered the man. "I know it was not my place, and I beg pardon. It slipped out quite promiskus like. I know now I oughtn't. It made Master—Mister Jack angry, and he chucked the book at me. Not as I minded the act, for I was glad to see he'd got so much spirit in him."
"And so you would like to go with us?"
"Oh yes, Sir John," cried the man, flushing with excitement. "But you wouldn't want me to go in livery, of course?"
"No," said Sir John quietly. "I should not want you to go in livery. I cannot consent to take you at all."
"Oh, sir!" cried the man appealingly.
"I am not sorry to hear you make the application, for it shows me that you are satisfied with your position as my servant. But the man I should select to take with us must be a strong active fellow."
"That's me, Sir John. I haven't been neither sick nor sorry all the five years I've been with you, 'cept that time when I cut my hand with the broken decanter."
"An outdoor servant," continued Sir John, rather sternly, passing over his man's interruption—"a man with something of the gamekeeper about him—a man who can tramp through woods, carry rifles and guns, and clean them; use a fishing-net or line; row, chop wood and make a fire; set up a tent or a hut of boughs; cook, and very likely skin birds and beasts. In short, make himself generally useful."
"And valet you and Mr Jack, Sir John," interposed the man.
"Certainly not, Edward; we shall leave all those civilised luxuries behind. You see I want a thorough outdoor servant, not such a man as you."
"Beg pardon, Sir John," cried the man promptly; "but it's me you do want, I'm just the sort you said."
"You?" said Sir John, smiling rather contemptuously.
"Yes, Sir John. I was meant for an outdoor man, only one can't get to be what one likes, and so I had to take to indoor."
Sir John shook his head.
"You are a very excellent servant, Edward," he said, "and I shall have great pleasure in giving you a very strong recommendation for cleanliness and thorough attention to your duties. I cannot recall ever having to find fault with you."
"Never did, Sir John, I will say that; and do you think I'm going to leave such a master as you and Mr Jack here, though he does chuck big books at me!" he said with a grin. "Not me."
"I thank you for all this, Edward, but—"
"Don't, don't say no, Sir John—in a hurry," cried the man imploringly. "You only know what I can do from what you've seen; and you know that having a willing heart and 'and 's half-way to doing anything."
"Yes," said his master with a smile; "I know too that you're a very handy person."
"Hope so, Sir John; but I'm obliged to stick up for myself, as there's no one here to do it for me. There ain't nothing you want done that I can't do. Father was a gamekeeper and bailiff and woodman, and when I was a boy I used to help him, cutting hop-poles with a bill-hook, felling trees with an axe, and I've helped him to make faggots, hurdles, and stacks, and tents, and thatched. I've helped him many a time use the drag and the cast-net, fishing. I can set night lines, and I had a gun to use for shooting rabbits and varmint, and I learned to skin and stuff 'em. We've got cases and cases at home. I used to wash out the master's guns, and dry and oil them; and as for lighting fires and cooking, why, I beg your pardon for laughing, Sir John, but my mother was ill for years before she died, and I always did all the cooking. Then I've had a turn at gardening and stable work; and as for the water, I can row, punt, or sail any small boat. I don't say as I could tackle a ship, but if there was no one else to do it, I'd have a try; and—beg pardon, Sir John, there's the front-door bell."
"Go and answer it," said Sir John quietly.
"And if you would think it over, Sir John—"
"Go and answer the bell."
The man darted out, and Sir John turned to his son to gaze at him for a time.
"You're a pretty good scholar for your age, Jack," he said; "but I wish you possessed some of Edward's accomplishments."
"Oh, father!" cried the boy hastily.
"But you have more strength in your arm than I thought for. That is plate glass."
"Doctor Instow," said Edward; and the doctor entered like a breeze.
"Morning!" he cried boisterously.
"Don't go, Edward," said Sir John; and the man stayed by the door, looking white with excitement.
"I was obliged to run in," said the doctor. "Well, Jack. Why, hulloa! You've got a bit more colour in your cheeks this morning, and your eyes are brighter. Come, that's good. You're beginning to take then to the idea?"
"No," said Jack firmly.
"Stop a moment, doctor," cried Sir John. "Here is some one of a different opinion. This foolish fellow has been laying before us his petition."
"Yes; he wants to go."
"Well," said the doctor; "we shall want a good smart handy man."
Edward's cheeks began to colour again.
"Yes; but what do you think? We want a strong fellow, not a fireside servant."
"Quite right, but—Here, take off your coat, my man."
Edward's livery coat seemed to fly off, and displayed his white arms with the shirt-sleeves rolled right above the elbows, spotted a little with rouge from plate-cleaning.
"Hum! ha!" said the doctor, taking one arm and doubling it up so that the biceps rose in a big lump. "Hard.—Stand still."
He laid one hand upon the man's chest and thumped it in different places; laid his ear to it and pressed it close.
"Now breathe.—Again.—Now harder.—Hold your breath."
Then he rose and twisted the man round, and listened at his back between the shoulder-blades before making him open his mouth, and ended by looking into his eyes, while the father and son watched him.
"Ha! that will do," said the doctor dryly. "Sleep well, I suppose?"
"Oh yes, sir."
"And you can eat and drink well?"
The man's face expanded in a broad smile.
"Goes without saying. There, put on your coat."
Edward began to put it on.
"Sound as a bell," said the doctor. "Strong as a horse."
"Yes, but we want something besides a healthy man."
"Of course: a good handy, willing fellow, who would not want to come home as soon as he had to rough it and do everything."
"There ain't anything I wouldn't do, gentlemen," cried Edward. "If you take me, Sir John, I'll serve you faithful, and you shan't repent it. May I tell the doctor, Sir John, what I can do?"
"There is no need. He boasts, Instow."
"Beg pardon, Sir John, it ain't boasting, it's honest truth."
"Yes, Edward, I believe you feel that it is. Well, Instow, he says he has been accustomed to outdoor life with his father from boyhood. His father was a gamekeeper and woodman. That he can shoot, fish, clean guns, manage nets, ride, sail boats, punt and row. Do everything, including building huts and cooking."
"Don't want any cooking. I shall do that myself."
"In addition, he can skin birds and beasts."
"Ha!" ejaculated the doctor. "Well, if we engage a stranger, we don't know how he'll turn out, and it would be very awkward to have a man who would turn tail at the first bit of discomfort. Look here, sir, it will be a rough life."
"If you only knew, doctor, how hungry I am for a bit of rough outdoor time, you'd put in a word for me," cried the man excitedly.
"And suppose we get in a hot corner, and have to fight for our lives against black fellows?"
There was a grim look in the man's face at once—a regular British bull-dog aspect, as he tightened his lips, and made wrinkles at the corners, as if putting his mouth in a parenthesis, and then he began to tuck up his cuffs and double his fists.
"That will do, Edward," said the doctor quietly. "We know him, Meadows, for a steady, straightforward fellow, sound in wind and limb, who has never given me a job since he tried to cut his hand off with a bit of glass. What he don't know he'd soon learn; and I should say that we are not likely to get a more suitable fellow if we tried for six months."
Edward's face was a study, as he glanced at Jack, and then turned to gaze imploringly at his master as if he were a judge about to utter words upon which his life depended.
"That will do, Edward, you may leave the room."
A look of despair came across the man's face, as in true servant fashion he turned to obey orders, and went straight to the door.
"Stop," said Sir John. "That way of obeying orders has quite convinced me that you will be our man. You shall see about your outfit at once."
"And go, Sir John?" faltered the man, as if he could not believe his luck.
He was going to add "ray!" but he recollected himself, and went quickly and promptly out of the room.
"The very fellow, Meadows," said the doctor.
"Yes," said Sir John. "He'll do."
"Then one knot is solved," cried the doctor. "I had come in to consult you upon that very point."
"Yes; and here he is ready-made and proved."
"Oh," said the doctor, "I'll answer for that."
THE "SILVER STAR."
A busy fortnight followed, during which Jack Meadows accompanied his father and the doctor up to town pretty well every day, to visit tailors, hatters, hosiers, gunsmiths, fishing-tackle-makers, naturalists, provision dealers, and help to spend money at a liberal rate upon the many necessaries for a long voyage. To do the lad justice, he tried hard to hide his distaste for all that was being done, and assumed an interest in the various purchases, making Sir John appear pleased, while Doctor Instow patted his shoulder, and told him that he looked brighter already. But when alone at night his depression came back, and there were moments when, tired out, he told himself that he could not bear it all, and that he must tell his father the next morning that it was impossible—he could not go.
But when the morning; came he said nothing, for on rising the matter did not look so black and gloomy by daylight, after a night's rest; and he felt that it would be too cowardly to make such a declaration, when his father was doing everything and going to so great an expense entirely for his sake.
"Because he thinks me weak and ill," he said to himself; "and nothing will persuade him that I am not."
That very morning, after a good sound night's rest, the boy woke with the sun shining brightly into his bedroom, and he got up thinking he had over-slept himself, but on looking round he found that his hot-water can had not been brought in, nor his freshly-brushed boots and clothes, so he rang impatiently.
"Disgraceful!" he said peevishly. "Ned thinks of nothing now but the voyage, and everything is neglected."
But all the same his bell was not neglected, for in a very short time there was a sharp tap at the door, and as the lad stood by his bedside in his dressing-gown, the white top of a pith helmet appeared slowly, followed by the lower part of a grinning face, a dark-brownish coarse canvas jacket, or rather a number of pockets stuck one above another, and attached to a pair of canvas sleeves; and next, a pair of leather breeches, ditto leggings, and to support all a very stout pair of lace-up boots.
As soon as all were inside the door, a familiar voice said—
"Morning sir. You are early."
"Early!" cried Jack angrily; "what do you mean by early?"
"Ten past six, sir."
"Nonsense! it must be nearly eight."
"Then all the clocks are wrong, sir, including my larum-scarum, for I set it for half-past five, so as to be up early and try 'em on."
"And what do you mean by coming here dressed up in that Guy Fawkes fashion?"
"Guy Fawkes! Oh, I say, Master Jack, don't be hard on a fellow."
"You look ridiculous."
"I say, sir! Why, they fit lovely, all but this pith helmet, as is two sizes too large, and reg'larly puts one out. These came home late last night. Just the thing, ain't they?"
"Go down and take them off, and bring me my hot water, and clothes and boots."
"Why, they ain't cleaned yet, sir, and the kitchen fire ain't alight. There's no hot water neither. You don't mean to get up now?"
Jack looked undecided, and ended by getting back into bed.
"I thought it was late," he said, in a somewhat apologetic tone.
"Not it, sir—extra early, sir. I say, Master Jack, this is a topper, isn't it?" said the man, taking off the helmet. "A'most do for an umbrella in a big shower."
"Think so, sir. Oh, I don't know what sort o' thing people wear in hot climates. But I have got a rig-out, sir, and a waterproof bag, a bullock trunk, and I dunno what all—most as many things as you have."
"Don't bother me about your things: go down, if it's so early, and come back and call me at the proper time."
"Yes, sir; cert'nly, sir," said the man, stealing a glance at himself in the looking-glass, and then standing examining his pith helmet as he held it upon his outstretched hand.
"Well, then, why don't you go?" cried Jack. "I was a-thinking, sir. I say, as you are awake, and there's plenty of time, why don't you try on some of your noo things?"
"Bah! because I don't want to make myself ridiculous," said the lad peevishly.
"You wouldn't look ridiculous, sir. You try 'em, and if I was you I'd go down to breakfast in 'em. Sir John would be as pleased as Punch to see you begin to take a little more interest in going."
"Look here!" cried Jack, springing from his pillow to sit upright in bed, "when I want any of your advice, sir, I will ask for it. Such impertinence!"
"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir, but I only thought you might like to do what Sir John would wish to see. I put 'em all straight last night, and laid a suit of tweeds, with knickerbockers, brown plaid worsted stockings, and high-laced brown shooting-boots, all ready for you."
"Then it was like your insolence, sir."
"Yes, sir, and the boots are lovely, sir; just the thing! Stout strong water-tights as lace on right to the knee. Leather's as soft as velvet. They'll be grand for you when you're going through the jungle where there's leeches and poisonous snakes."
"Ugh!" ejaculated the boy with a shudder.
"Oh, you needn't mind them, sir; I've been reading all about 'em in the Natural History Sir John's lent me. They always run away from you when they can."
"And when they cannot they bite venomously," cried Jack.
"That's it, sir," said Edward, "if they can."
"And they can," said Jack.
"If you don't kill 'em first," said the man, laughing, "and that's the proper thing to do. Kill everything that wants to kill you. Don't want me then yet, sir?"
"Only to go," said Jack, throwing himself down again and drawing up the coverings close to his ear.
"Yes, sir; I'll be back again at half-past seven."
Jack made no reply, and the man went off laughing to himself.
"He's getting stirred up," he said. "I never saw him take so much notice before."
Jack lay perfectly still for another hour, apparently asleep, but really thinking very deeply of his position, and of how hard it seemed to be that he should be obliged to give up his calm quiet life among his books to go upon a journey which, the more he thought of it, seemed to grow darker and more repellent.
He was still thinking and wishing that he could find some way to escape when Edward came into the room again, bearing clothes, boots, and hot-water can.
"Half-past seven, sir," he said.
"Very fine morning, sir," continued the man, arranging the things for his young master's toilet, but there was no response.
"Looks as if it was going to be settled weather, sir."
Still no response.
"Just been to Sir John, sir, and he says that he forgot to tell me Doctor Instow would be over to breakfast."
Jack did not move, and Edward went close to the bedside.
"Beg pardon, sir," he said loudly; "it's more than half-past seven."
"Will you go away, and not pester me," cried Jack, turning upon him fiercely.
"Yes, sir; certainly, sir; beg pardon, sir, but you said I was never to leave you till you were regularly woke up."
Jack said something inarticulate, and Edward went out once more grinning.
"My word!" he muttered; "he is coming round."
"I don't get a bit of peace," cried the boy peevishly, and he sprang out of bed, washed in hot water, shivered as he dried himself, and then turned to begin dressing, and paused.
Which way should he go?
On two chairs a yard apart lay his clothes: on the left his things he had worn the previous day; on his right, a suit specially made for the life ashore that they were to live abroad; and after a little hesitation he began to dress in that, finding everything feel strange, but certainly very comfortable, and at last he stood there in garments very much like those in which the man had come in, and he looked at himself in the glass.
Nothing could have been more comfortable and suitable, as he was fain to confess; but all the same the inclination was strong to take them off. He resisted, however, and in due time went down, feeling strange and half ashamed of being seen.
Sir John was in the breakfast-room, and he looked up from his newspaper rather severely, but as soon as he caught sight of his son's altered appearance, the paper dropped from his hands and he rose quickly.
"Thank you, Jack," he said warmly. "You did this to please me, and I am more than pleased. It shows me that you are trying to make the brave fight I expect of you, as my son should. Hah! you will see the truth of it all before long."
He would have said more, but the doctor was heard in the hall, and directly after he entered in his bluff fashion.
"Morning, morning," he cried; "splendid day for our trip. Why, bravo, Jack! The very thing. Your get-up is splendid, my lad, and it makes me impatient to be off. You are going with us of course?"
"I suppose so," said Jack with a sigh.
"I don't mean on our trip, but to see the vessel."
That sounded to the boy like a temporary reprieve, and he looked inquiringly at the doctor.
"I had not said anything about it to him," said Sir John. "We have had particulars from my agent of a large ocean-going steam yacht, my boy, which sounds well. It is really a sailing vessel, but fitted with a screw for occasional use in calm or storm. She is lying at Dartmouth, and we are going down to see her to-day. Will you come?"
"Do you wish me to come, father?" said Jack.
"Of course I do, but what I do wish is to see you take an interest in all our preparations."
"I am trying to, father."
"Yes, and succeeding," said the doctor, "or you would not have come out like you are this morning."
"How soon do you start?" said Jack hurriedly, to escape the doctor's allusions to his dress.
"In half-an-hour. We have to get up to town, and then go across to Paddington."
"I'll hurry through my breakfast then, and go and change my things."
"What for?" cried the doctor. "You couldn't be better."
"But I should look so absurd, sir, dressed like this."
"The absurdity is only in your imagination, my boy," said Sir John. "Go as you are."
Jack looked troubled, but he said nothing, for he was making a brave fight to master his antipathy to his father's projects, and without another word he went on with his breakfast, receiving the next time he caught his father's eye a nod of approval which meant a good deal.
But the pith helmet was a severe trial just before the carriage came to the door, and he stood in the hall with the round-topped head-piece standing on the table, for it would recall Edward's extinguisher, and his own remark that morning concerning the Guido-Fawkes-like aspect of their man.
"Don't seem to like your topper, Jack, lad," said the doctor, smiling.
"Well, who could?" cried the boy sharply. "It looks so absurd."
"Because you are not used to it, and will probably not see any one else wearing one. Now for my part, I think it the very reverse of absurd, and a thoroughly sensible head-piece, light, well ventilated, and cool, a good protection from the sun, and thoroughly comfortable."
"What, that thing?"
"Yes, that thing. It is a hot sunny day, and we shall be out of doors a good deal when we get into Devonshire, so it is most suitable. Now between ourselves, what would you have worn if left to yourself?"
"My black frock-coat and bat," said Jack quickly.
"Nice costume for a railway journey. Orchid in your button-hole of course, and a pair of straw-coloured kid gloves, I suppose? I have observed that those are your favourite colour."
"Bah! Try and be a little more manly, my lad," said the doctor kindly. "A healthy young fellow does not want to be so self-conscious, and to dress himself up so as to look pretty and be admired—or laughed at."
"I'm more likely to be laughed at dressed like this, and with a thing like half an egg-shell on my head."
"Fools will laugh at anything," said the doctor dryly; "but no one whose opinion is worth notice would laugh at a sensible costume. You would have gone down in a tall glossy hat, ironed and brushed up till it shines again. Hard, hot, uncomfortable, roughened at a touch, and perfectly absurd in a shower of rain. But it is the fashion, and you think it's right. Ladies study fashion, lad; look at them after they have been caught in a shower. Now in that rig-out you could go through anything."
"Ready?" said Sir John, taking a soft wide-awake from the hat-stand.
"Yes, and waiting," said the doctor; and they entered the carriage, which was driven off, Jack's last glance on leaving being at Edward on the doorsteps, as he patted his head, evidently in allusion to his young master's pith helmet.
"Oh, if I had only been behind him!" thought the lad indignantly; which, being analysed, meant that a most decided change was taking place, for a month earlier Jack Meadows could not by any possibility have harboured the thought of kicking any one for a mocking gesture.
In good time the terminus was reached, and soon after the fast train was whirling along, leaving the busy town behind, and off and away through the open country with gathering speed. Father and friend chatted away to the lad, but he was listless and dull, refusing to be interested in anything pointed out; and at last a meaning look passed between his companions, the doctor's eyes saying plainly enough—"Let him be: he'll come round by and by."
But this did not seem likely to be the case, Jack not even being attracted by the first glimpse of the beautiful estuary of the Dart when it was reached in the evening, and they looked down from the heights as the train glided along, at the town nestling up the slopes upon the other side of the water.
He did turn sharply once when the doctor said suddenly: "There are the two training ships for the naval cadets," and pointed at the old men-of-war with their tiers of ports, moored in midstream; and was feeling a strange sense of pity for the lads "cooped up," as he mentally called it, in the narrow limits of a ship, when the doctor suddenly exclaimed, "Look, look! both of you. I'll be bound to say that's our yacht."
Jack glanced sharply at what seemed in comparison with the huge men-of-war, and seen at a distance, a little three-masted, white-looking vessel with a dwarfed funnel, lying at anchor, but he turned pale and listless again, utterly wearied out with his journey, nor did he revive over the comfortable dinner of which he partook without appetite.
Sir John looked uneasy, but the doctor gave him a meaning nod.
"You won't care about going to look over the yacht this evening, Jack?" he said.
"I!" said the lad, almost imploringly. "No, not to-night."
"No; we're all tired," said the doctor. "I did not say anything to you, Meadows; but I thought we had done enough, so I sent off word to the captain to say that we had come down, and I shouldn't be surprised if he comes over to the hotel by and by."
It fell out just as the doctor had said, for about half-an-hour later the waiter came into the room to say that Captain Bradleigh would be glad to see Sir John Meadows; and Jack looked up curiously as a ruddy, tan-faced, rather fierce-looking man, with very crisp hair, beard sprinkled with grey, and keen, piercing grey eyes, shaded by rather shaggy brows, entered, glanced quickly round as he took off his gold-braided yachting cap, and at once addressed Sir John, as if quite sure that he was the principal.
"Sir John Meadows?" he said courteously, but with a ring of authority in his words.
"Yes; will you sit down. This is my friend, Doctor Instow; my son."
The captain shook hands with the two elders, giving them a firm, manly grip, short and sharp, as if he meant business; but his pressure of Jack's thin, white hand was gentle, and he retained it in his strong, firm palm as he said—
"Ah! father—doctor—you have been ill, young gentleman?"
"I? No," said Jack, with a look of resentment.
"Unwell, not bad," said the captain kindly. "Only want a sea-trip to do you good;" and he smiled pleasantly, looking like an Englishman full of firmness and decision, such a one as people would like to trust in a case of emergency.
"I got your message, gentlemen," he said, as he took a chair, "and I came on at once."
"Thank you," said Sir John.
"The agent wrote me a long letter, saying you might come down; but I did not think much of it, for I have had so many from him that have come to nothing."
"People don't like the yacht then?" said Sir John, rather anxiously.
"Oh yes, sir, they like the yacht," said the captain, with a little laugh. "No one could help liking her. They don't like the price."
"Ah, the price," said Sir John quietly; and the captain gave him a searching look.
"Yes, sir, the price; and it is a pretty good round sum; but I give you my word it is just one-third of what it cost Mr Ensler."
"Oh! you know what it cost?" said Sir John.
"Well, I ought to, sir," said the captain, smiling, a peculiarly frank, pleasant smile. "When he came over from New York five years ago, I was recommended to him, and he trusted me fully. She was built under my eyes, up in the Clyde, and I watched everything, as she was fitted up of the very best material, regardless of expense. The cheques all passed through my hands, so I think I ought to know."
"Yes, of course. The agent told me the yacht was built expressly for an American gentleman."
"That's right, sir. He's one of these millionaires who don't know how rich they are, for the money comes on rolling in. Restless, nervous sort of men who must be doing something, and then they want to do something else, and get tired of the idea before they've begun. He had an idea that it would be a fine thing to imitate Brassey, but do it better, and sail round the world. So the Silver Star was built, rigged and finished in style. I selected as good a crew of fifteen picked, sea-going fellows as were procurable, and just a year ago we started."
Jack began to grow interested.
"But you see, gentlemen, he was disappointed in her from the first."
"Hah!" said the doctor sharply; "now frankly, captain, what was her failing?"
"Failing, sir?" said the captain, turning in his chair, and fixing the doctor with his clear eyes. "I tell you as a man, I can't find a failing in her, except perhaps there's a little too much French polish about the saloon cabin, more in the stuffed cushion line than I quite care for. You see, for an ocean-going boat I think you want to study strength and sound workmanship more than show; but that's a matter of fancy."
"Of course," said Sir John, who was watching the captain very narrowly.
"Well, sir, I did my very best, what he called level best, and when she was done I was as proud of her as—as—well, as your young son here might have been of a new plaything."
Jack winced, and looked indignant.
"But Mr Ensler didn't like her: said she was a miserable little cock-boat, and not fit for a long voyage."
"And frankly, between man and man, isn't she?" said the doctor sharply.
"Well, gentlemen," said the captain, showing his regular white teeth in a smile, "that's a matter of opinion. I'm not interested in the matter. I'm in command with a good crew on board, and we have our pay regular as clockwork. She may be sold, or she may not; but I can only say what I think. I did all that a man who has been at sea pretty well everywhere for thirty years could do, and I say this: if you gentlemen like to buy her and engage me—mind, with a good picked crew—I'll sail her wherever you like. If, on the other hand, you like to pick your own man, I can tell him as a brother sailor that he can't get a better found boat in either of the yacht squadrons or in Her Majesty's navy."
"But Mr Ensler was dissatisfied with her."
"He? Yes," said the captain contemptuously. "He has been coming and going for years in the Cunard and the American liners, and his ideas were built on one of those floating palaces. As I told him, it was absurd. He wanted an ocean-going gentleman's yacht, and there she lies. I'd trust my life in her anywhere a deal sooner than I would in one of those coal-swallowing monsters. She's as light as a cork, easy to manage from her fore and aft rig, with a small picked crew, and has a magnificent engine with the best kind of boilers, which get up steam quickly, ready for any emergency; for of course as a yacht she's a boat in which you would depend most upon your sailing."
"Exactly," said Sir John, "that is what I meant."
"Then she'd suit you to a tittle, sir."
"Has she made any long voyages?" said the doctor.
"No, sir, but she has been in some rough weather. I brought her round from Glasgow in the dirtiest weather I was ever in on our coast; and from here we sailed to Gib, and right away through the Mediterranean, meaning to go through the Canal and on to Ceylon; but long before we'd got to Alexandria he was sick of it, and pitched it all. I must say that we did have rather a nasty time, but, as I told him, it only showed what a beautiful boat she was. It was wonderful how we danced over the waves with close-reefed canvas. But he'd had enough, gave me my orders to bring her here to Dartmouth, and he went back to Marseilles by one of the Messageries Maritimes, and across home. When we got back, first thing I saw was the advertisement that she was for sale."
"You have a good crew on board then?" said Sir John thoughtfully.
"As good a crew as I could pick, sir, and they are well up to their work. For I'm rather a hard man, young gentleman," continued the captain, turning to look sharply at Jack, "as stern about discipline as they are in the Royal Navy; but work done, I like to see my men play, and somehow I think they get on very well with me. But of course, gentlemen, if you bought the yacht, you are not bound to take the captain and crew."
"Oh no, of course not," said Sir John quietly.
"There, gentlemen, I've been doing all the talking: Perhaps now you would like to ask me a few questions."
"I think we might defer most of them till we have seen the yacht, eh, Meadows?" said Doctor Instow.
"Yes, certainly, unless anything occurs in our conversation with Captain Bradleigh."
"Anything you like, gentlemen, though there is very little that I could say more than I have said. She's a splendid craft in every respect. There is only one fault in her from a buyer's point of view."
"What is that?" said the doctor sharply.
"But to a man of means, who would give his cheque down, Mr Ensler would take considerably less?"
The captain shook his head.
"No, sir, I don't believe he would. He don't want money, and I have always lived in the hope that he would take a fresh sea-going trip; but it does not come off. He has had several offers for the boat, but sent a sharp answer back that he had fixed his price."
Sir John sat tapping the table with his finger-tips, watching his son, who seemed to be brightening up, evidently in the hope that the transaction would fall through.
"So you are going to have a few cruises, young gentleman," said the captain, turning to Jack, for the doctor too was looking very thoughtful, and was nibbling at his nails as he glanced at Sir John. "I suppose so," said the lad coldly. "Do you good," said the captain. "Fine thing the pure sea-air. Why a trip round the coast for a few weeks, and you'd be quite a new man. Like the sea?"
"I? Like the sea?" said Jack with a shiver. "My son thinks he will not like it at all," said Sir John, smiling.
"Thinks, sir," said the captain, laughing. "Ah, he don't know. Not like the sea! My word, what a weary world this would be if there were no sea. Storm or calm it's grand or beautiful. There's nothing like the sea. Oh, he don't know yet. You mean a short cruise or two, sir, or a trip round the island from port to port. She's a little too big for that."
"No," said Sir John, rousing himself from a reverie. "I intended to go from here through to Ceylon, then on to Singapore, and along the islands, touching here and there, till we reached some place at which we would like to stay."
"Perhaps round by the Horn, touching at Monte Video, Rio, and the West Indies?" cried the captain excitedly.
"Perhaps," said Sir John, smiling. "It depends."
"That means a couple of years to do it well, sir."
"I am not tied for time," said Sir John.
"That's a lot of money for a yacht," said the doctor thoughtfully.
"Yes, sir, a pretty good sum, but she's worth it, and whether you buy the Silver Star or no, I say, as an old seaman, don't you undertake such a trip without a good boat under you, a man who knows his business for sailing her, and a good crew. If you mind that, weather permitting, you'll have a pleasant voyage worth a man's doing. With a clumsy craft, a bad captain, and a scraped together mutinous crew, it will be a misery to you from the day you start to the day you come back—if you ever do."
"That is quite right," said Sir John, rising, for the captain had risen and picked up his cap. "What time shall we come on board to-morrow?"
"Come now if you like, sir."
"No, no; my son is tired. Will ten o'clock suit you?"
"Any hour you like to name, sir."
"Ten then," said Sir John. "Of course we can easily find a boatman to take us off?"
"At ten o'clock, sir, a boat will be waiting for you at the pier end," said the captain in a sharp businesslike tone. "Good-evening, gentlemen. Weather seems to be settling down for fine. My glass is very steady."
"Hah!" said the doctor, "I rather like that man."
"I don't," said Jack sharply. "He is insufferable. He treated me as if I were a child."
Sir John raised his brows a little in surprise to hear his son speak so sharply.
"Don't judge rashly, Jack," he said. "You don't know the man yet; neither do I; but he impressed me as being a very frank, straightforward fellow, one of Nature's rough gentlemen."
"Would you mind my going to bed, father?" said Jack hastily. "I am very tired."
"Go then, and have a good long night's rest."
"Yes," said the doctor; "and I say, Jack, leave your window open. Sea-air is a splendid tonic."
"Good-night," said Jack shortly; and, shaking hands quickly, he hurried out of the room, and went to bed, after carefully seeing that the window was closely shut.
"That's a pile of money for a yacht, Meadows," said the doctor, as they sat together to watch the moon rise over the hills in front of the hotel away across the estuary.
"Yes, it is a heavy sum, Instow, but if it answers the captain's description the yacht must be worth the money."
"Yes, if it does. Seems to be an honest sort of fellow, and he's right about having a good ship and crew for such a voyage."
"But it's a deal to pay down."
"I'd pay ten times as much down to-morrow to see my poor boy hale and hearty—a frank, natural lad with an English boy's firmness and strength."
"Instead of a weak, irritable, sickly, overstrained, nervous fellow, who would give me the horrors if I did not know that I can put him right."
"You do feel this, Instow?"
"Of course I do. Why look at him to-night. He is tired, and speaks sharply, and almost spitefully; but already he is showing twice as much spirit, though it is in the way of opposition."
"Yes; the feeling that he is to exert himself is beginning to show itself," said Sir John musingly. "He'll come round if he is given something to call out his energy."
They sat very silent till bed-time, and on saying good-night, Sir John turned quickly upon his old friend.
"This is a chance, Instow," he said, "and if the vessel comes up to his description I shall close at once."
JACK BEGINS TO WAKE.
The waters of the Dart were dancing merrily in the bright sunshine next morning, when, nervous and so anxious that his breakfast had been spoiled, Jack walked between his father and the doctor toward the pier, wondering what sort of a vessel the Silver Star, which had been finished too finely for the captain's taste, would prove.
"There she is," said the doctor suddenly. "That must be the yacht, for there is nothing else in sight at all answering her description."
"Yes, that is she, the one we saw as we came in yesterday. Why she must be quite half-a-mile away."
"Are we to go off to the yacht in a small boat?" asked Jack nervously.
"Yes, my boy," said Sir John. "You heard that the captain, said one would be waiting for us at ten, and it is now nearly that time. Look, there's a man-o'-war gig coming towards the pier. How well the men look in their white duck shirts and straw hats, and with the naval officer in the stern sheets. Those men row splendidly."
They stopped to look at the beautiful little boat glistening and brown in its varnish, with its three little fenders hanging on either side to protect it from chafing against boat-side or pier, and its rowlocks of highly polished gun-metal, and then lost sight of it behind the pier.
"Bringing the officer to land, I suppose," said Sir John. "I dare say she comes from the Britannia."
"No," said the doctor suddenly. "Why that's our captain and our boat."
"Oh no," said Sir John quickly. "That was a regular man-o'-war craft."
"I don't care; it was ours," said the doctor. "You'll see."
He proved to be right, for as they went on to the pier, they saw Captain Bradleigh climb up from a boat lying out of sight close in, and he came to meet them.
"Morning, gentlemen," he said. "You are punctuality itself. It's striking ten. This way. We'll go off at once, while the tide is with us, and save the lads' arms."
He led them to the end of the pier, where the so-called man-o'-war boat lay just beneath them, one of the sailors holding on by a boat-hook, while the other three smart-looking fellows sat quietly waiting on the thwarts. The gig was in the trimmest of conditions, and looked perfectly new, while it was set off by a gay scarlet cushion in the stern sheets, contrasting well with the brown varnished grating ready for the sitters' feet.
"But we are never going to the yacht in that crazy little boat?" whispered Jack nervously.
"The sailors came to shore in it," said Sir John quietly, "so why should we mind?"
"But it seems so slight and thin," faltered the boy to his father.
"Are you afraid, Jack?" asked Sir John gravely. "If so you had better stay on the pier while we go."
The lad was silent. That he was afraid was plainly written in his face—plainly, that is, to those who knew him. To a stranger it would have seemed to be the pallor of his complexion.
Sir John said no more, but made way for Doctor Instow to step down into the boat, and at a sign he descended and held out his hand to Jack.
"I can manage, thank you," said the lad, and he jumped down on to one of the thwarts, and then, without assistance, took his place in the stern sheets; his father and the captain followed, the latter gave a short, sharp order, the boat was vigorously thrust away into the stream, and the next minute the four men were sending her along with a regular stroke which seemed to make the slightly-built boat throb and quiver.
For a few minutes the utterly foreign sensation was absolutely painful to the boy; and as the land appeared to glide away from them, a sensation of giddiness attacked him as he sat hearing conversation going on, but understanding nothing, till, as he turned his eyes in the captain's direction, he saw that this gentleman was watching him curiously.
A pang shot through him, and the blood began to rise to his white cheeks, as he made a tremendous effort to master the miserable sensation of abject fear which troubled him, and succeeded so far that in a minute or two he was able to give himself the appearance of looking about him, as if examining the boats they passed.
"There, young gentleman," said the captain suddenly, "there's the Silver Star. What do you say to her? Doesn't she sit the water like a sea-bird?"
Jack looked at the graceful curve and taper spars of the vessel, and began to wonder at the way in which she seemed to grow as they drew nearer; or was it that the boat in which he was gliding onward was shrinking?
He had not much more time for examination of the delicate lines traced upon the sky by the yards and cordage, for the boat was cleverly run close up, the oars tossed on high, and as the bowman hooked on to a ring-bolt the boat was drawn beneath a side ladder.
Jack felt the tremor returning as he thought of the danger of such an ascent, when his father said in a low voice—
"You did that very bravely, my boy; now make another effort."
Jack was on his feet in an instant. He stepped forward, seized the lines on either side of the ladder, and climbed up very clumsily, but managed to reach the deck without accepting the assistance of the mate and one of the men, who stood in the gangway and made room for him to step for the first time in his life upon the deck of a ship.
Sir John and the doctor followed, and the captain remained silent, while his visitors stood gazing about the clean white deck, where everything was in the most perfect order, ropes coiled down so that at a distance they looked like pieces of engine turning, the hand-rails of polished brass and the ship's bell glistening in the sunshine, and the pair of small guns seeming to vie with them. The sails furled in the most perfect manner, and covered with yellowish tarpaulins, yards squared, and every rope tight and in its correct place and looking perfectly new, while the spare spars and yards were lashed on either side by the low bulwarks, smooth and polished till they were like ornaments.
"Well," said the doctor at last, "I am not a sailor, Captain Bradleigh, but everything here appears to be in the most perfect condition."
"I hope so, sir. My men are proud of our vessel, and we do our best."
Sir John glanced at the men, who were all at their stations, and felt a thrill of satisfaction as he noticed that they well deserved the term of "picked," being the smart, athletic, frank, manly-looking fellows we are accustomed to see in the Royal Naval Reserve.
The captain then led the way to the cabins, which were thoroughly in keeping with what had been seen on deck, elegantly decorated and furnished, and with every inch so contrived that the greatest of convenience was given in the smallest space. Berths, steward's room, cook's galley, all were inspected in turn, and then the captain opened a door with a smile.
"I don't know whether you gentlemen care for sport, but Mr Ensler had this little magazine fitted up, and it is well furnished."
The contents seemed nothing to Jack; but the doctor and Sir John exchanged glances of surprise, as they saw on each side the sliding glass doors in which, in the most perfect order, were ranged double and single fowling-pieces, rifles from the lightest express to the heaviest elephant guns, as well as a couple of large bore for wild-fowl shooting and one with its fittings for discharging shells or harpoons. Lances, lines, nets, dredges, sounding-lines, patent logs, everything that a scientific sportsman or naturalist could desire.
"There's a good magazine forward, gentlemen," said the captain, "which I will show you by and by, with, I should say, an ample supply of cartridges of all kinds—the best. Cartridge and ball for the big guns, and many chests of empty brass cases, canisters of powder, and bags of all-sized shot, and the like, so that I may say the yacht is well found in that respect."
"But these are Mr Ensler's," said Sir John, who appeared thoroughly interested, while his son looked on and listened in a careless way.
"Well, yes, sir, his, of course; but they go with the boat."
"At a valuation?" said the doctor.
"Oh no," replied the captain, smiling. "Everything in the yacht— stores, provisions, extra tackle, spare anchors, cables and sails—and I'll show you directly, gentlemen, the stores are well worth looking at—go with the yacht at the price named. I wouldn't be answerable for the state of some of the tinned provisions, of course, for they've been on board some time, but they were of the best, and I have had them gone over, and only found a few cases to condemn."
Sir John said nothing, and the captain led them on, showing them the store-rooms, the place devoted to provisions, and then the magazine, which he pointed out as being solidly constructed at the bottom and sides, but exceedingly light overhead.
"So you see, gentlemen," said Captain Bradleigh, "the powder and cartridges are so divided, that if there were an explosion it would be a small one, though of course it would be followed by others; but with the light construction overhead the force would fly upwards, and there would be no fear of our going to the bottom."
There was no farther progress to be made forward, a strong iron bulkhead lined with woodwork dividing the yacht here in two; and after the magazine had been carefully closed, the captain opened a couple of arm-chests, in which were rifles, bayonets, and cutlasses, the belts and cartouche boxes hanging in a row from pegs.
"Men are all well-drilled, sir," continued the captain, "and have regular small-arm practice, for Mr Ensler said there was no knowing where we might find ourselves; and there's no mistake about it, gentlemen, there's plenty of piracy out in the East still, specially in the Malay and Chinese waters."
Jack was interested now, and he gave the captain so sharp a look of inquiry that he smiled and nodded.
"Oh yes, young gentleman, there are plenty of cut-throat scoundrels out there, as I know well, who would be a deal better out of the world. Now we'll go back on deck, please."
They followed him up, and he went forward, taking them to see the engine and stoke-hole, then down into the cable-tiers and another store-room, where the extra tackle and various appliances were kept. Then into the carpenter's and smith's workshops, and lastly into the forecastle, and the men's cook's galley, the former being well-fitted, ventilated, and supplied with a case of books. Finally, after quite three hours' inspection, Captain Bradleigh led the way back to the saloon, where quite an elegant lunch had been spread, and the steward and his mate were in attendance.
"Oh, there was no need for this," said Sir John hastily.
"I am only obeying instructions, sir," said the captain, smiling. "Mr Ensler said that if any gentlemen took the trouble to come all the way to Dartmouth to see the yacht, the least we could do was to give them some refreshments. I think I've shown you everything, gentlemen, as far as I could, but of course if you thought anything of the yacht you would have her thoroughly gone over by a trustworthy marine surveyor."
Sir John and the doctor exchanged glances again.
"Oh, there's one thing I did not show you, gentlemen," cried the captain. "It may interest our young friend here. We have no figure-head."
"Is the man mad?" said Jack to himself, giving him a look full of contempt. "What interest could I possibly have in a ship's figure-head?"
"It was a whim, a fad of Mr Ensler's. He went to a lot of expense over it. I don't suppose you noticed it, but just out over the cut-water close to the bowsprit, there's a great cut-glass silver star, fitted inside with a set of the most wonderful silver reflectors, parabolic they call them, and when the big lamp inside is lit it sends rays out in all directions, so that when you are a way off, it looks just like the evening star shining out over the water. Going back to-night, gentlemen?"
"No," said Sir John quietly; "I shall not return to-night."
Jack winced and looked troubled.
"Then as soon as it's dusk, young gentleman, I'll have the star lit up. It's of no particular use except as a bow-light, but it looks mighty pretty, as good as the fireworks you've let off on fifth o' Novembers many a time, I'll be bound."
"Ha! ha! ha!" roared the doctor, turning to Jack merrily.
"I!" cried the lad, impatiently, and giving the captain a scornful look; "I never let off a firework in my life."
"I have," said the captain dryly, "many a one, and made them too. But boys—some of 'em—are a bit different to what they were when I was young."
"Oh, they're the same as ever, captain," said Sir John, smiling thoughtfully, as if in recollection of the past. "As a rule, a boy is a boy, but no rule is without an exception, you know."