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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 1
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Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 1 Post by :winfordg Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3103

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Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 1

CHAPTER ONE

Some account of my family, including Aunt Deb--My father receives an offer--A family discussion, in which Aunt Deb distinguishes herself-- Her opinions and mine differ considerably--My desire to go to sea haunts my dreams--My brother Ned's counsel--I go a-fishing in Leighton Park--I meet with an accident--My career nearly cut short--A battle with a swan, in which I get the worst of it--A courageous mother--Mark Riddle to the rescue--An awkward fix--Mark finds a way out of it--Old Roger's cottage--The Riddle family--Roger Riddle's yarns and their effect on me--Mark takes a different view--It's not all gold that glitters--The model--My reception at home.

We were all seated round the tea-table, that is to say, my father and mother, my five sisters, and three of my elder brothers, who were at home--two were away--and the same number of young ones, who wore pinafores, and last, but not least, Aunt Deb, who was my mother's aunt, and lived with us to manage everything and keep everybody in order, for this neither my father nor mother were very well able to do; the latter nearly worn out with nursing numerous babies, while my father was constantly engaged in the duties of the parish of Sandgate, of which he was incumbent.

Aunt Deb was never happy unless she was actively engaged in doing something or other. At present she was employed in cutting, buttering, or covering with jam, huge slices of bread, which she served out as soon as they were ready to the juvenile members of the family, while my eldest sister, Mary, was presiding at the tea-tray, and passing round the cups as she filled them.

When all were served, my father stood up and said grace, and then all fell to with an eagerness which proved that we had good appetites.

"I say, Aunt Deb, Tom Martin has lent me such a jolly book. Please give me another slice before you sit down. It's all about Anson's voyage round the world. I don't know whether I shall like it as well as 'Robinson Crusoe' or 'Captain Cook's Voyages,' or 'Gulliver's Travels,' or the 'Life of Nelson,' or 'Paul Jones,' but I think I shall from the look I got of it," I exclaimed, as Aunt Deb was doing what I requested.

"I wish, Dick, that you would not read those pestiferous works," she answered, as, having given me the slice of bread, she sat down to sip her tea. "They are all written with an evil intent, to make young people go gadding about the world, instead of staying contentedly at home doing their duty in that state of life to which they are called."

"But I don't understand why I should not be called to go to sea," I replied; "I have for a long time made up my mind to go, and I intend to try and become as great a man as Howe, or Nelson, or Collingwood, or Lord Cochrane, or Sir Sidney Smith. I've just to ask you, Aunt Deb, what England would be without her navy, and what the navy would be unless boys were allowed to go into it?"

"Stuff and nonsense, you know nothing about the matter, Dick. It's very well for boys who have plenty of interest, for sons of peers or members of parliament, or judges or bishops, or of others who possess ample means and influence, but the son of a poor incumbent of an out of the way parish, who knows no one, and whom nobody knows, would remain at the bottom of the tree."

"But you forget, Aunt Deb, that there are ways of getting on besides through interest. I intend to do all sorts of dashing things, and win my promotion, through my bravery. If I can once become a midshipman I shall have no fear about getting on."

"Stuff and nonsense!" again ejaculated Aunt Deb, "you know nothing about the matter, boy."

"Don't I though," I said to myself, for I knew that my father, who felt the importance of finding professions for his sons according to their tastes, had some time before written to Sir Reginald Knowsley, of Leighton Park,--"the Squire," as he used to be called till he was made a baronet, and still was so very frequently, asking him to exert his influence in obtaining an appointment for me on board a man-of-war. This Sir Reginald had promised to do. Aunt Deb, however, had made many objections, but for once in a way my father had acted contrary to her sage counsel, and as he considered for the best. Still Aunt Deb had not given in.

"You'll do as you think fit, John," she observed to him, "but you will repent it. Dick is not able to take care of himself at home, much less will he be so on board a big ship among a number of rough sailors. Let him remain at school until he is old enough to go into a counting-house in London or Bristol, where he'll make his fortune and become a respectable member of society, as his elder brother means to be, or let him become a master at a school, or follow any course of life rather than that of a soldier or a sailor."

I did not venture to interrupt Aunt Deb, indeed it would have been somewhat dangerous to have done so, while she was arguing a point, but I had secretly begged my father to write to Sir Reginald as he had promised, assuring him that I had set my heart on following a naval career, and that it would break if I was not allowed to go to sea. This took place, it will be understood, some time before the evening of which I am now speaking.

Aunt Deb suspected that my father was inclined to favour my wishes, and this made her speak still more disparagingly than ever of the navy.

Tea was nearly over when the post arrived. It only reached us of an evening, and Sarah, the maid, brought in a large franked letter. I at once guessed that it was from Sir Reginald Knowsley, who was in London.

I gazed anxiously at my father's face as he read it. His countenance did not, however, exhibit any especial satisfaction.

"Who is it from?" asked my mother, in a languid voice. "From Sir Reginald," he replied. "It is very kind and complimentary. He says that he has had great pleasure in doing as I requested him. He fortunately, when going down to the Admiralty, met his friend Captain Grummit, who has lately been appointed to the 'Blaze-away,' man-of-war, and who expressed his willingness to receive on board his ship the son of any friend of his, but--and here comes the rub--Captain Grummit, he says, has made it a rule to take no midshipmen unless their parents consent to allow them fifty pounds a year, in addition to their pay. This sum, the Captain states, is absolutely necessary to enable them to make the appearance he desires all his midshipmen to maintain. Fifty pounds a year is a larger sum, I fear, than my purse can supply," observed my father when he had read thus far.

"I should think it was, indeed!" exclaimed Aunt Deb. "Fifty pounds a year! Why, that's nearly half of my annual income. It would be madness, John, to make any promise of the sort. Suppose you were to let him go, and to stint the rest of his brothers and sisters by making him so large an allowance--what will be the result, granting that he is not killed in the first battle he is engaged in, or does not fall overboard and get drowned, or the ship is not wrecked, and he escapes the other hundred and one casualties to which a sailor is liable? Why, when he becomes a lieutenant he'll marry to a certainty, and then he'll be killed, and leave you and his mother and me, or his brothers and sisters, to look after his widow and children, supposing they are able to do so."

"But I shall have a hundred and twenty pounds full pay, and ninety pounds a year half-pay," I answered; "I know all about it, I can tell you."

"Ninety pounds a year and a wife and half-a-dozen small brats to support on it," exclaimed Aunt Deb in an indignant tone. "The wife is sure to be delicate, and know nothing about housekeeping, and she and the children will constantly be requiring the doctor in the house."

"But you are going very far ahead, Aunt Deb, I haven't gone to sea yet, or been made a lieutenant, and if I had, there's no reason why I should marry."

"There are a great many reasons why you should not," exclaimed Aunt Deb.

"I was going to say that there are many lieutenants in the navy who have not got wives, and I do not suppose that I shall marry when I become one," I answered.

"It seems pretty certain that you will never be a lieutenant or a midshipman either, if it depends upon your having an allowance of fifty pounds a year, for where that fifty pounds is to come from I'm sure I don't know," cried my aunt. "As it is, your poor father finds it a difficult matter to find food and clothing for you all, and to give you a proper education, and unless the Bishop should suddenly bestow a rich living on him, he, at all events, could not pay fifty pounds a year, or fifty shillings either, so I would advise you forthwith to give up this mad idea of yours, and stay quietly at school until a profitable employment is found for you."

I looked up at my father, feeling that there was a good deal of truth in what Aunt Deb said, although I did not like the way she said it.

"Your aunt only states what is the case, Dick," said my father. "I should be glad to forward your views, but I could not venture, with my very limited income, to bind myself to supply you with the sum which Sir Reginald says is necessary."

"Couldn't you get Sir Reginald to advance the money?" I inquired, as the bright idea occurred to me; "I will return it to him out of my pay and prize-money."

Aunt Deb fairly burst out laughing.

"Out of your pay, Dick?" she exclaimed. "Why fifty pounds is required over and above that pay you talk of, every penny of which you will have to spend, and supposing that you should not be employed for a time, and have to live on shore. Do you happen to know what a midshipman's half-pay is? Why just nothing at all and find yourself. You talk a good deal of knowing all about the matter, but it's just clear that you know nothing."

"I wish, my dear Dick, that we could save enough to help you," said my mother, who was always ready to assist us in any of our plans; "but you know how difficult I find it to get even a few shillings to spend."

My mother's remark soothed my irritated feelings and disappointment, or I should have said something which might not have been pleasant to Aunt Deb's ears.

We continued talking on the subject, I devising all sorts of plans, and arguing tooth and nail with Aunt Deb, for I had made up my mind to go to sea, and to go I was determined by hook or by crook; but that fifty pounds a year was, I confess, a damper to my hopes of becoming a midshipman.

If I could have set to work and made the fifty pounds, I would have done my best to do so, but I was as little likely to make fifty pounds as I was to make fifty thousand. Aunt Deb also reminded my father that it was not fifty pounds a year for one year, but fifty pounds for several years, which he might set down as three hundred pounds, at least, of which, through my foolish fancy, I should be depriving him, and my mother, and brothers, and sisters.

There was no denying that, so I felt that I was defeated. I had at length to go to bed, feeling as disappointed and miserable as I had ever been in my life. To Ned, the brother just above me in age, who slept in the same room, I opened my heart.

"I am the most miserable being in the world!" I exclaimed. "I wish that I had never been born. If it had not been for Aunt Deb father would have given in, but she hates me, I know, and always has hated me, and takes a pleasure in thwarting my wishes. I've a great mind to run off to sea, and enter before the mast just to spite her."

Ned, who was a quiet, amiable fellow, taking much after our kind mother, endeavoured to tranquillise my irritated feelings.

"Don't talk in that way, Dick," he said in a gentle tone. "You might get tired of the life, even if you were to go into the navy; but, perhaps, means may be found, after all, to enable you to follow the bent of your wishes. All naval captains may not insist on their midshipmen having an allowance of fifty pounds a year; or, perhaps, if they do, some friend may find the necessary funds."

"I haven't a friend in the world," I answered. "If my father cannot give me the money I don't know who can. I know that Aunt Deb would not, even if she could."

"Cheer up, Dick," said Ned; "or rather I would advise you to go to sleep. Perhaps to-morrow morning some bright idea may occur which we can't think of at present. I've got my lessons to do before breakfast, so I must not stop awake talking, or I shall not be able to arouse myself."

I had begun taking off my clothes, and Ned waited until he saw me lie down, when he put out the candle, and jumped into bed. I continued talking till a loud snore from his corner of the room showed me that he was fast asleep. I soon followed his example, but my mind was not idle, for I dreamed that I had gone to sea, become a midshipman, and was sailing over the blue ocean with a fair breeze, that the captain was talking to me and telling me what a fine young sailor I had become, and that he had invited me to breakfast with him, and had handed me a plate of buttered toast and a fresh-laid egg; when, looking up, I saw his countenance suddenly change into that of Aunt Deb.

"Don't you wish you may get it?" he said. "Before you eat that, go on deck and see what weather it is."

Of course I had to go, when to my astonishment I found the ship rolling and pitching; the foam-covered seas tossing and roaring; the officers shouting and bawling, ordering the men to take in sail. Presently there came a crash, the masts went by the board, the seas dashed over the ship, and I found myself tumbling about among the breakers, until it seemed almost in an instant I was thrown on the beach, where I lay unable to crawl out of the way of the angry waters, which threatened every moment to carry me off again. In vain I tried to work my way up the sands with my arms and legs. Presently down I came, to find myself sprawling on the floor.

"What can have made all that row?" exclaimed Ned, starting up, awakened by the noise of my falling out of bed.

"I thought I was shipwrecked," I answered.

"I'm glad you are not," said Ned. "So get into bed again, and if you can go to sleep, dream of something else."

Feeling somewhat foolish, I did as he advised, but I had first to put my bed-clothes to rights, for I had dragged them off with me to the floor. It was no easy matter, although I was assisted by the pale light of early morning, which came through the chinks of the shutters.

In a short time afterwards Ned again got up to go to his books, for he, being somewhat delicate, was studying under our father, while I, who had been sent to school, had just come home for the holidays. I had a holiday task, but had no intention of troubling myself about it at present. I was, therefore, somewhat puzzled to know what to do. While I was dressing, it occurred to me that I would go over to Leighton Park with my rod, to try the ponds, hoping to return with a basket of fish. I might go there and get an hour's fishing, and be back again before breakfast. I tried to persuade Ned to accompany me, but he preferred to stick to his books.

"Much good may they do you," I answered, rather annoyed. "Why can't you shut them up for once in a way. It's a beautiful morning, and by going early we are sure to have plenty of sport, and you can learn your lessons just as well after breakfast."

"Not if I had been out three or four hours fishing, and came home wet and dirty; and I want to get my studies over while the day is young, and the air fresh and pure. I can read twice as well now as I shall be able after breakfast."

"Well, if you are so unsociable, I must go by myself," I said, getting down my rod from the wall on which it hung with my fishing-tackle and basket. Swinging the latter over my shoulder I crept noiselessly out of the room and down stairs. No one was stirring, so I let myself out by a back door which led into the garden. Even our old dog "Growler" did not bark, for he was, I suppose, taking his morning snooze after having been on the watch all night.

Before setting off I had to get some bait. I found a spade in the tool-house and proceeded with it to a certain well-known heap in the corner of the kitchen garden, full of vivacious worms of a ruddy hue, for which fish of all descriptions had a decided predilection. Even now, whenever I smell a similar odour to that which emanated from the heap, the garden and its surroundings are vividly recalled to my mind. I quickly filled a box, which I kept for the purpose, with wriggling worms. It had a perforated lid, and contained damp moss.

"I ought to have thought of getting these fellows yesterday and have given them time to clean themselves," I said to myself. "They'll do, notwithstanding, although they will not prove as tough as they ought." Shouldering my rod I made my way out of the garden by a wicket gate, and proceeded across the fields on which it opened towards Leighton Park. The grass was wet with dew, the air was pure and fresh, almost cold; the birds were singing blithely in the trees. A lark sprang up before me, and rose into the blue air, warbling sweetly to welcome the rising sun, which he could see long before its rays glanced over the ground on which I was walking. I could not help also singing and whistling, the bright air alone being sufficient to raise my spirits. I hurried away, as I was eager to begin fishing, for I wanted the fish in the first place, and I knew in the second that Ned would laugh at me if I came back empty handed. The pond to which I was going, although supplied by the same stream which fed the ornamental piece of water in the neighbourhood of the Hall, was at a distance from it, and was accessible without having to pass through the grounds. It was surrounded by trees, and one side of the bank was thickly fringed by sedges which extended a considerable way into the water. It served as a preserve for ducks and wild fowl of various descriptions, and was inhabited also by a number of swans, who floated gracefully over its calm surface. As they were accustomed to depend upon their own exertions for a subsistence, they generally kept at a distance from strangers, and I had never been interrupted by them when fishing. I made my way to a spot where I knew that the water was deep, and where I had frequently been successful in fishing. It was a green bank, which jutted out into a point, with bushes on one side, but perfectly free on the other. I quickly got my rod together, and my hook baited with a red wriggling worm. I did not consider that the worm wriggled because it did not like to be put on the hook, but if I had been asked I should have said that it was rather pleased than otherwise at having so important a duty to perform as catching fish for my pleasure. I had a new float, white above and green below, which I thought looked very pretty as I threw my line out on the water. Up it popped at once, there being plenty of lead. Before long it began to move, gliding slowly over the surface, then faster and faster. I eagerly held my rod ready to strike as soon as it went down; now it moved on one side, now on the other. I knew that there was a fish coquetting with the bait, trying perhaps to suck off the worm without letting the hook run into its jaws. Before long down went the float, and I gave my rod a scientific jerk against the direction in which the float was last moving, when to my intense satisfaction I felt that I had hooked a fish, but whether a large or a small one I could not at first tell. I wound up my line until I had got it of a manageable length, then drew it in gradually towards the bank. I soon discovered that I had hooked a fine tench. It was so astonished at finding itself dragged through the water, without any exertion of its fins, that it scarcely struggled at all, and I quickly hauled it up on the bank. It was three-quarters of a pound at least, one of the largest I had ever caught. It was soon unhooked and placed safely in my basket. As I wanted several more I put on a fresh worm, and again threw my line into the water.

Some people say there is no pleasure in float-fishing, but for me it always had a strange fascination, that would not have been the case, if I could have seen through the water, for I believe the interest depends upon not knowing what size or sort of fish has got hold of the hook, when the float first begins to move, and then glides about as I have described, until it suddenly disappears beneath the surface. I caught four or five fine tench in little more than twice as many minutes. I don't know why they took a fancy to bite so freely that fine bright morning. Generally they take the hook best of a dull, muggy day, with a light drizzling rain, provided the weather is warm. After I had caught those four fish, I waited for fully ten minutes more without getting another bite; at last, I came to the conclusion that only those four fish had come to that part of the pond. There was another place a little further on, free of trees and bushes, where I could throw my line without the risk of its being caught in the bushes above my head; I had not, however, generally gone there. Tall sedges lined the shore, and water-lilies floated on the greater part of the surface and its immediate neighbourhood. It was also somewhat difficult to get at, owing to the dense brushwood which covered the ground close to it. I waited five minutes more, and then slinging my basket behind my back, I made my way to the spot I have described. After catching my line two or three times in the bushes, and spending some time in clearing it, I reached the bank and unslinging my basket quickly, once more had my float in the water. The ground, which was covered with moss rather than grass, sloped quietly down to the water, and was excessively slippery. As I held my rod, expecting every moment to get a bite, I heard a low whistling sound coming from the bushes close to me. At first I thought it was produced by young frogs, but where they were I could not make out. I observed that several of the swans I have before mentioned were floating on the surface not far off. Now one, now another would put down its long neck in search of fish or water insects. Presently one of them caught sight of me, and came swimming rapidly towards the extreme point of the bank. In an instant it landed, and half-flying, half-running over the ground, came full at me through the bushes. To retreat was impossible, should it intend to attack me, but I hoped it would not venture to do so. Before, however, I had any time for considering the matter, it suddenly spread its powerful wings, with one of which it dealt me such a blow, that before I could recover I was sent down the slippery bank, and plunged head over heels into the water. In my fright I let go my rod, but instinctively held out my hands to grasp whatever I could get hold of.

The swan, not content with its first success, came after me, when, by some means or other. I caught hold of it by one of its legs. To this day I don't know how it happened. The water was deep, and I had very little notion of swimming, and having once got hold of something to support myself I was not inclined to let go, while the swan was as much astonished at being seized hold of as I was. I shouted and bawled for help, although, as no one was likely to be at the pond at that early hour, or passing in the neighbourhood, there was little chance of obtaining assistance.

Away flew the swan, spreading out her broad wings to enable her to rise above the surface. Instead of seeking the land, to my horror, she dragged me right out towards the middle of the pond; while the other swans, alarmed at seeing the extraordinary performance of their companion, flew off in all directions. Fortunately I was able to keep my head above the surface, but was afraid of getting a kick from the other leg of the swan as she struck the water with it to assist herself in making her onward way, but as I held her captive foot at arm's length, fortunately she did not touch me. I dared not let go with one of my hands, or I should have tried to seize it. Whether it was instinct or not which induced her to carry me away from her nest I cannot tell, but that seemed to be her object. I felt as if I was in a horrid dream, compelled to hold on, and yet finding myself dragged forward against my will. The pond was a long and narrow one, but it seemed wider than it had ever done before. The swan, instead of going across to the opposite bank, took a course right down the centre. My shouts and shrieks must have filled her with alarm. On and on she went flapping her huge wings. I knew that my life depended upon being able to hold fast to her foot, but my arms were beginning to ache, and it seemed to me that we were still a long way from the end. When we got there, I could not tell what she might do. Perhaps, I thought, she might turn round and attack me with beak and wings, when, exhausted by my struggles, I should be unable to defend myself. Still I dared not venture to let go. I heartily wished that I had been a good swimmer, because then, when we got near the end, I might have released her and struck out, either for one side or the other. As it was, my safety depended on being dragged by her to the shore. She frequently struck the water with her wings. Showers of spray came flying over my head, which prevented me from seeing how near I was to it. At last I began to fear that I should be unable to hold on long enough. My arms ached, and my hands felt cramped, still the love of life induced me not to give in.

I shouted again and again. Presently I heard a shout in return.

"Hold on, young fellow. Hold on, you'll be all right." This encouraged me, for I knew that help was at hand. Suddenly, as I looked up, I saw the tops of the trees, and presently afterwards I found the swan was trying to make her way up the bank, while my feet touched the muddy bottom.

I had no wish to be dragged through the bushes by the swan, so, as I was close to the shore, I let go, but as I did so, I fell utterly exhausted on the bank, and was very nearly slipping again into the water. The swan, finding herself free after going a short distance, closed her wings, and recollecting, I fancy, that I had been the cause of her alarm, came rushing back with out-stretched neck, uttering a strange hissing sound, preparing, as I supposed, to attack me. I was too much exhausted to try and get up and endeavour to escape from her. Just as she was within a few feet of me, I saw a boy armed with a thick stick spring out from among the bushes, and run directly towards her. A blow from his stick turned her aside, and instead of making for me, she again plunged into the water, and made her way over the surface in the direction from which we had come.

"I am very much obliged to you, my fine fellow, for driving off the swan, or I suppose the savage creature would have mauled me terribly, had she got up to me."

"Very happy to have done you a service, master; but it didn't give me much trouble to do it. However, I would advise you not to stop here in your wet clothes, for the mornings are pretty fresh, and you'll be catching a bad cold."

"Thank you," I said, "but I do not feel very well able to walk far just yet."

"Have you got far to go home?" he asked.

I told him.

"Well, then, you had better come home with me to my father's cottage. It is away down near the sea, and he'll give you some hot spirits, and you can turn into my bed while your clothes are drying."

I was very glad to accept his proposal, for I did not at all fancy having to go home all dripping, to be laughed at by my brothers, and to get a scolding from Aunt Deb into the bargain, for I knew she would say it was all my own fault, and that if I had not been prying into the swan's nest, the bird would not have attacked me. I did not, however, wish to lose my rod and basket of fish, and I thought it very probable that if I left them, somebody else would carry them off. I asked my new friend his name.

"Mark Riddle," he answered.

"Before I go I must get back my rod and basket of fish; it won't take us long. Would you mind coming with me?"

"No, master, I don't mind; but I would advise you to be quick about it."

Mark helped me up, and as I soon got the use of my legs, we ran round outside the trees as fast as we could go. The basket of fish was safe enough on the bank, but the rod was floating away at some distance.

"Oh dear, oh dear. I shall never be able to get it," I exclaimed.

"What! Can't you swim, master?" asked Mark.

I confessed that I was afraid I could not swim far enough to bring it in.

"Well, never you mind. I'll have it in a jiffy," and stripping off his clothes he plunged into the water and soon brought in the rod.

"There's a fish on the hook I've a notion," he said, as he handed me the butt end of the rod.

He was right, and as he was dressing, not taking long to rub himself dry with his handkerchief, I landed a fine fat tench.

"That belongs to you," I said. "And, indeed, I ought to give you all the fish I have in my basket."

"Much obliged, master; but I've got a fine lot myself, which I pulled out of the pond this morning, only don't you say a word about it, for the Squire, I've a notion, doesn't allow us poor people to come fishing here."

I assured Mark that I would not inform against him, and having taken my rod to pieces and wound up my line, I said that I was ready to set out. Mark by that time was completely dressed. Just as we were about to start I saw the swan--I suppose the same one which had dragged me across the pond--come swimming back at a rapid rate towards where we were standing, in the neighbourhood, as I well knew, of her nest. Whether or not she fancied we were about to interfere with her young, we could not tell, but we agreed that it was well to beat a retreat. We accordingly set off and ran on until we reached the further end of the pond, when Mark, asking me to stop a minute, disappeared among the bushes, and in a few minutes returned with a rough basket full of fine tench, carp, and eels. I had a notion that some night-lines had assisted him to take so many. I did not, however, ask questions just then, and once more we set off running. Wet as I was, I was very glad to move quickly, not that I felt particularly cold, for the sun had now risen some way above the trees, and as there was not a breath of air, his rays warmed me and began to dry my outer garments. I must have had a very draggled look, and I had no wish to be seen by any one at home in that condition. In little more than a quarter of an hour we came in sight of a cottage situated below a cliff on the side of a ravine, opening out towards the sea. A stream which flowed from the Squire's ponds running through it.

"That is my home, and father will be right glad to see you," said Mark, pointing to it.

A fine old sailor-like man with a straw hat and round jacket came out of the door as we approached, and began to look about him in the fashion seafaring men have the habit of doing when they first turn out in the morning, to ascertain what sort of weather it is likely to be. His eyes soon fell on Mark and me as we ran down the ravine.

"Who have you got with you, my son?" he asked.

"The young gentleman from the vicarage. He has had a ducking, and he wants to dry his clothes before he goes home; or maybe he'd call it a swanning, seeing it was one of those big white birds which pulled him in, and towed him along from one end of the pond to the other, eh, master? What's your name?"

"Richard," I replied, "though I'm generally called Dick," not at all offended at my companion's familiarity.

"You are welcome, Master Dick, and if you like to turn into Mark's bed, or put on a shirt and pair of trousers of his, we'll get your duds dried before the kitchen fire in a jiffy," said the old sailor. "Come in, come in; it doesn't do to stand out in the air when you are wet through with fresh water."

I gladly entered the old sailor's cottage, where I found his wife and a young daughter, a year or two older than Mark, busy in getting breakfast ready. I thought Nancy Riddle a nice-looking pleasant-faced girl, and her mother a good-natured buxom dame. As I had no fancy for going to bed I gladly accepted a pair of duck trousers and a blue check shirt belonging to Mark, and a pair of low shoes, which were certainly not his. I suspected that they were Nancy's best.

I quickly took off my wet things in Mark's room, and getting into dry ones, made my appearance in the room which served them for parlour, kitchen, and hall, where I found the table spread, with a pot of hot tea, cups and saucers, a bowl of porridge, a loaf of home-made bread, and a pile of buttered toast, to which several of Mark's freshly caught fish were quickly added. I offered mine to Mrs Riddle, but she answered--

"Thank you kindly, but you had better take them home to your friends, they'll be glad of them, and we've got a plenty, as you see."

I was very thankful to get a cup of scalding tea, for I was beginning to feel somewhat chilly, though Mrs Riddle made me sit near the fire. A saucer of porridge and milk, followed by some buttered toast and the best part of a tench, with a slice or two of bread soon set me up.

Nancy, however, now and then got up and gave my clothes a turn to dry them faster--a delicate attention which I duly appreciated. Mr Riddle, who was evidently fond of spinning yarns, as most old sailors are, narrated a number of his adventures, which greatly interested me, and made me more than ever wish to go to sea. Mark had already made a trip in a coaster to the north of England, and I was much surprised to hear him say that he had had enough of it.

"It is not all gold that glitters," he remarked. "I fancied that I was to become a sailor all at once, instead of that I was made to clean out the cabin, attend on the skipper, and wash up the pots and the pans for the cook, and be at everybody's beck and call, with a rope's-end for my reward whenever I was not quick enough to please my many masters."

"That's what most youngsters have to put up with when they first go to sea," remarked his father. "You should not have minded it, my lad."

I found that Mark's great ambition was to become the owner of a fishing-boat, when he could live at home and be his own master. He was fonder of fishing than anything else, and when he could not get out to sea he passed much of his time with his rod and lines on the banks of the Squire's ponds, or on those of others in the neighbourhood. He did not consider it poaching, as he asserted he had a perfect right to catch fish wherever he could find them, and I suspect that his father was of the same opinion, for he did not in any way find fault with him. When breakfast was over Mark exhibited with considerable pride a small model of a vessel which he and his father had cut out of a piece of pine, and rigged in a very perfect manner. I was delighted with her appearance, and said I should like to have a similar craft.

"Well, Master Cheveley, I'll cut one out for you as soon as I can get a piece of wood fit for the purpose," said the old sailor; "and when Mark and I have rigged her I'll warrant she'll sail faster than any other craft of her size which you can find far or near."

"Thank you," I answered, "I shall be very pleased to have her; and perhaps we can get up a regatta, and Mark must bring his vessel. I feel sure he or I will carry off the prize."

As I wanted to get home, dreading the jobation I should get from Aunt Deb for not making my appearance at prayer-time, I begged my friends to let me put on my own clothes. They were tolerably dry by this time, though the shoes were still wet, but that was of no consequence.

"Well, Master Dick, we shall always be glad to see you. Whenever you come this way give us a call," said the old sailor, as I was preparing to wish him, his wife and daughter good-bye.

I shook hands all round, and Mark accompanied me part of the way home. I parted from him as if he had been an old friend, indeed I was really grateful to him for the way in which he had saved my life, as I believed he had done, when he drove off the enraged swan.

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Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 2 Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 2

Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 2
CHAPTER TWO Aunt Deb's lecture, and what came of it--My desire to go to sea still further increases--My father, to satisfy me, visits Leighton Hall--Our interview with Sir Reginald Knowsley--Some description of Leighton Hall and what we saw there--The magistrate's room--A smuggler in trouble--The evidence against him, and its worth--An ingenious plea-- An awkward witness--The prisoner receives the benefit of the doubt-- Sir Reginald consults my father, and my father consults Sir Reginald-- My expectations stand a fair chance of being realised--The proposed crusade against the smugglers--My father decides on taking an active part in it--I resolve to second him. On
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Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Preface Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Preface

Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Preface
So extraordinary are the adventures of my hero, Master Richard Cheveley, son of the Reverend John Cheveley, vicar of the parish of S--, in the county of D---, that it is possible some of my readers may be inclined to consider them incredible, but that they are thoroughly probable the following paragraph which appeared in the evening edition of the _Standard early in the month of November, 1879, will, I think, amply prove. I have no fear that any sensible boys will be inclined to follow Dick's example; but if they will write to him at Liverpool he resides,
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