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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 2
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Dick Cheveley: His Adventures And Misadventures - Chapter 2 Post by :winfordg Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :906

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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 reaching home, the first person I encountered was Aunt Deb.

"Where have you been, Master Dick?" she exclaimed, in a stern tone, "you've frightened your poor father and mother out of their wits. They have been fancying that you must have met with some accident, or run off to sea."

"I have been fishing, aunt," I answered, exhibiting the contents of my basket, "this shows that I am speaking the truth, though you look as if you doubted my word."

"Ned said you had gone out fishing, but that you promised to be back for breakfast," she replied, "it has been over half an hour or more, and the things have been cleared away, so you must be content with a mug of milk and a piece of bread. The teapot was emptied, and we can't be brewing any more for you."

"Thank you, aunt. I must, as you say, be content with the mug of milk and piece of bread you offer me," I said, with a demure countenance, glad to escape any questioning. "I shall have a better appetite for dinner, when I hope you will allow these fish to be cooked, and I fancy that you will find them very good, I have seldom caught finer."

"Well, well, go in and get off your dirty shoes, you look as if you had been wading into the pond, and remember to be home in good time another day. While I manage the household, I must have regularity; the want of it throws everybody out, though your father and mother do not seem to care about the matter."

Glad to escape so easily, I hurried away. My father had gone out to visit a sick person who had sent for him. My brothers and sisters were engaged in their various studies and occupations, and my mother was still in her room. Jane, the maid, by Aunt Deb's directions, brought me the promised mug of milk and piece of bread, and I, without complaint, ate a small piece of the one, and drank up the contents of the other, and then said I had had enough, and could manage to go on until dinner-time. It did not strike me at the time that I was guilty of any deception, though I really was; but I was afraid if I mentioned my visit to Roger Riddle's cottage, the rest of my adventures in the morning would come out, and so said nothing about the matter.

When my father came home, I told him that I was sorry for being so late, but considering the fine basket of fish I had brought home, it would add considerably to the supply of provisions for the family, and hoped he would not be angry with me.

"No, Dick, I am not angry," he said, "but Aunt Deb likes regularity, and we are in duty bound to yield to her wishes."

"I wish that Aunt Deb were at Jericho," I muttered to myself, "and I should not have minded saying the same thing aloud to my brothers and some of my sisters, for we most of us were heartily tired of her interference with all family arrangements, and were frequently on the verge of rebellion, but my father paid her so much deference, that we were afraid of openly breaking out."

Finding that my father was disengaged, I followed him into the study, and again broached the subject of going to sea.

"Couldn't you take me to Squire Knowsley, and talk the matter over with him," I said. "You can tell him that 50 pounds a year is a large sum for you to allow me, and perhaps he may induce Captain Grummit to take me, although I may not have the usual allowance. I promise to be very economical, and I would be ready to make any sacrifice rather than not go afloat."

"Sir Reginald came back yesterday, I find," said my father. "You know, Dick, I am always anxious to gratify your wishes, and as I do not see any objection to your proposal, we will set off at once to call on him; perhaps he will do as you desire. If he does not, it will show him how anxious you are to go to sea, and he may assist you in some other way."

I was very grateful to my father, and thanked him for agreeing to my proposal.

"It won't do, however, for you to go in your present untidy condition," he remarked; "go and put on your best clothes, and by that time I shall be ready to set off."

I hurried to my room, and throwing my clothes down on my bed, rigged myself out in the best I possessed. I also, as may be supposed, put on dry socks and shoes. It did not occur to me at the time, that the condition of the clothing I threw off was likely to betray my adventure of the morning. I went down stairs and set off with my father. We had a pleasant walk, although the weather was rather hot, and in the course of about an hour arrived at Leighton Park.

Sir Reginald, who was at home, desired that we should at once be admitted to his study, or rather justice-room, in which he performed his magisterial duties. It was a large oak room, the walls adorned with stags' horns, foxes' brushes, and other trophies of the chase, with a couple of figures in armour in the corner, holding candelabra in their hands. On the walls were hung also bows and arrows, halberds, swords, and pikes, as well as modern weapons, and they were likewise adorned with several hunting pictures, and some grim portraits of the Squire's ancestors. On one side was a bookcase, on the shelves of which were a few standard legal works, with others on sporting subjects, veterinary, falconry, horses and dogs, and other branches of natural history.

Sir Reginald himself, a worthy gentleman, with slightly grizzled hair and a ruddy countenance, was seated at a writing-table covered with a green cloth, on which was a Bible and two or three other books, and writing materials. He rose as we entered, and received us very courteously, begging my father and me to take seats near him on the inner side of the table.

"You will excuse me, if any cases are brought in, I must attend to them at once. I never allow anything to interfere with my magisterial duties. But do not go away. I'll dispose of them off-hand, and shall be happy to continue the conversation. I want to have a few words with you, Mr Cheveley, upon a matter of importance, to obtain your advice and assistance. By-the-bye, you wrote to me a short time ago about a son of yours who wishes to enter the naval service. This is, I presume, the young gentleman," he continued, looking at me, "Eh! My lad? And so you wish to become a second Nelson?"

"I wish to enter the navy, Sir Reginald, but don't know whether I shall ever become an admiral; my ambition is at present to be made a midshipman," I answered boldly.

"I am very ready to forward your wishes, although it is not so easy a matter as it was a few years ago during the war time. I spoke to my friend Grummit, who has just commissioned the 'Blaze-away,' and he expressed his willingness to take you. I think I wrote to you, Mr Cheveley, on the subject."

"That is the very matter on which I am anxious to consult you, Sir Reginald," said my father. "You mentioned that Captain Grummit insists on all his midshipmen having an allowance from their friends of 50 pounds a year, and although that does not appear to him probably, or to you, Sir Reginald, a large sum, it is beyond the means of a poor incumbent to furnish, and I am anxious to know whether Captain Grummit will condescend to take him with a smaller allowance."

"I am sorry to say he told me that he made it a rule to receive no midshipman who had not at least that amount of private property to keep up the respectability of his position," answered Sir Reginald, "and from what I know of him, I should think he is not a man likely to depart from any rule he may think fit to make. However, my dear Mr Cheveley, I will communicate with him, and let you know what he replies. If he still insists on your son having 50 pounds a year, we must see what else can be done. Excuse me for a few minutes, here come some people on business."

Several persons who had entered the hall, approached the table. One of them, a dapper little gentleman in black, with a bundle of papers in his hand, took a seat at one end, and began busily spreading them out before him. At the same time two men, whom I saw were constables, brought up a prisoner, who was dressed as a seafaring man, handcuffed.

"Whom have you got here?" asked Sir Reginald, scrutinising the prisoner.

"Please, your honour, Sir Reginald, we took this man last night assisting in running contraband goods, landed, as we have reason to believe, from Dick Hargreave's boat the 'Saucy Bess,' which had been seen off the coast during the day between Milton Cove and Rock Head."

"Ah, I'm glad you've got one of them at last. We must put a stop to this smuggling which is carried on under our noses to the great detriment of the revenue. What became of the rest of the crew, and the men engaged in landing the cargo?"

"Please, your worship, the cargo was sprighted away before we could get hold of a single keg or bale, and all the fellows except this one made their escape. The 'Preventive' men had been put on a wrong scent, and gone off in a different direction, so that we were left to do as best we could, and we only captured this one prisoner with a keg on his shoulders, making off across the downs, and we brought him along with the keg as evidence against him."

"Half a loaf is better than no bread, and I hope by the punishment he will receive to induce others now engaged in smuggling to abandon so low a pursuit. What is your name, prisoner?"

"Jack Cope, your worship," answered the smuggler, who looked wonderfully unconcerned, and spoke without the slightest hesitation or fear.

"Well, Mr Jack Cope, what have you to say for yourself to induce me to refrain from making out a warrant to commit you to gaol?" asked the magistrate.

"Please, your worship, I don't deny that I was captured as the constables describe with a cask on my shoulders, for I had been down to the sea to fill it with salt water to bathe one of my children whose limbs require strengthening, and I was walking quietly along when these men pounced down upon me, declaring that I had been engaged in running the cargo of the 'Saucy Bess,' with which I had no more to do than the babe unborn."

"A very likely story, Master Cope. You were caught with a keg on your shoulders; it's very evident that you were unlawfully employed in assisting to run the cargo of the vessel you spoke of, and I shall forthwith make out the order for your committal to prison."

"Please, your worship, before you do that, I must beg you to examine the keg I was carrying, for if it contains spirits I am ready to go; but if not, I claim in justice the right to be set at liberty."

"Have you examined the keg, men," said the squire, "to ascertain if it contains spirits?"

"No, your worship, we would not venture to do that, seeing that t'other day when one of the coastguard broached a keg to see whether it had brandy or not he got into trouble for drinking the spirits."

"For drinking the spirits! He deserved to be," exclaimed Sir Reginald. "However, that is not the point. Bring the keg here, and if you broach it in my presence you need have no fear of the consequences. There can be little doubt that we shall be able to convict this fellow, and send him to gaol for twelve months. I wish it to be understood that I intend by every means in my power to put a stop to the proceedings of these lawless smugglers, who have so long been carrying on this illegal traffic with impunity in this part of the country."

Jack Cope, who had kept a perfectly calm demeanour from the time he had been brought up to the table, smiled scornfully as Sir Reginald spoke. He said nothing, however, as he turned his glance towards the door. In a short time a revenue man appeared carrying a keg on his shoulders.

"Place it on the table," said Sir Reginald. "Can you swear this is the keg you took from the prisoner?" he asked of the constable.

"Yes, your worship. It has never been out of our custody since we captured it," replied the man.

"And _I_, too, can swear that it is the same keg that was taken from me!" exclaimed the bold smuggler in a confident tone.

"Silence there, prisoner," said Sir Reginald, "You are not to speak until you are desired. Let the cask be broached."

A couple of glasses and a gimlet had been sent for. The servant now brought them on a tray. One of the officers immediately set to work and bored a couple of holes in the head and side of the cask. The liquid which flowed out was bright and sparkling. The officer passed it under his nose, but made no remark, though I thought his countenance exhibited an odd expression.

"Hand it here," said Sir Reginald. "Bah!" he exclaimed, intensely disgusted, "why, it's salt water."

"I told you so, your worship," said Jack Cope, apparently much inclined to burst into a fit of laughter. "You'll believe me another time, I hope, when I said that I had gone down to the seaside to get some salt water for one of my children; and I think you'll allow, your worship, that it is salt water."

"You are an impudent rascal!" exclaimed Sir Reginald, irritated beyond measure at the smuggler's coolness. "I shall not believe you a bit the more. I suspect that you have played the officers a trick to draw them away from your companions, and though you escape conviction this time, you will be caught another, you may depend upon that; and you may expect no leniency from me. Set the prisoner at liberty, there is no further evidence against him."

"I hope, Sir Reginald, that I may be allowed to carry my keg of salt water home," said the smuggler demurely. "It is my property, of which I have been illegally deprived by the officers, and I demand to have it given to me back."

"Let the man have the keg," said Sir Reginald in a gruff voice. "Is there any other case before me?"

"No, your worship," replied his clerk.

And Jack Cope carried off his cask of salt water in triumph, followed by the officers and the other persons who had entered the hall.

I had observed that Jack Cope had eyed my father and me as we were seated with the baronet, and it struck me that he had done so with no very pleasant expression of countenance.

"These proceedings are abominable in the extreme, Mr Cheveley," observed the justice to my father. "We must, as I before remarked, put an effectual stop to them. You have a good deal of influence in your parish, and I must trust to you to find honest men who will try and obtain information, and give us due notice when a cargo is to be run."

"I fear the people do not look upon smuggling as you and I do, Sir Reginald," observed my father. "The better class of my parishioners may not probably engage in it, but the _very best of them would think it dishonourable to act the part of informers. I do not believe any bribe would induce them to do so."

"Perhaps not, but you can place the matter before them in its true light. Show them that they are acting a patriotic part by aiding the officers of the law in putting a stop to proceedings which are so detrimental to the revenue of the country. If they can be made to understand the injury which smuggling inflicts on the fair trader, they may see it in a different light from that in which they at present regard it. The Government requires funds to carry on the affairs of the nation, and duties and taxes must be levied to supply those funds. We should show them that smuggling is a practice which it is the duty of all loyal men to put a stop to."

"I understand your wishes, Sir Reginald, and agree with you that energetic measures are necessary; and you may depend upon my exerting myself to the utmost."

"My great object, at present, is to capture the 'Saucy Bess.' The revenue officers afloat will, of course, do their duty; but she has so often eluded them that my only hope is to catch her while she is engaged in running her cargo. I will give a handsome reward to any one who brings reliable information which leads to that desirable result."

"I am afraid that, although one or two smugglers may be captured, others will soon take their places; as while the present high duties on spirits, silks, and other produce of France exist, the profit to be made by smuggling will always prove a temptation too strong to be resisted," observed my father. "If the smugglers find that a vigilant watch is kept on this part of the coast they will merely carry on their transactions in another part."

"At all events, my dear Mr Cheveley, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done our duty in removing what I consider a disgrace to our community," observed Sir Reginald. "As to lowering the duties, that is what I will never consent to. I shall always oppose any scheme of the sort while I hold my place in Parliament. I feel that I am bound to preserve things as they are, and am not to be moved by the brawling cries of demagogues."

"Of course, Sir Reginald, you understand these things better than I do. I have never given my mind to politics, and have always been ready to record my vote in your favour, and to induce as many as possible of my parishioners to follow my example."

All this time I had been sitting on the tenter-hooks of expectation, wondering if my father would again refer to the subject which had induced him to pay a visit to the baronet.

"I must wish you good morning, Sir Reginald," he said, rising. "You will, I feel sure, not forget your promise regarding my son Dick, and if Captain Grummit cannot take him, I trust that you will find some other captain who does not insist on his midshipmen having so large an allowance."

"Of course, my dear Mr Cheveley, of course," said the baronet, rising; "although it did not strike me as anything unreasonable. Yet I am aware how you are situated with a numerous family and a comparatively small income; and, believe me, I will not lose an opportunity of forwarding the views of the young gentleman. Good morning, my dear Mr Cheveley, good morning," and nodding to me, he bowed us out of the hall.

"I hope Sir Reginald will get me a berth on board some other ship," I said to my father, as we walked homeward. "He seems wonderfully good-natured and condescending."

"I don't feel altogether satisfied as to that point," answered my father, who knew the baronet better than I did.

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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
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