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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 11. A Memorable Cruise Commences
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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 11. A Memorable Cruise Commences Post by :healthyways2101 Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3656

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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 11. A Memorable Cruise Commences

CHAPTER ELEVEN. A MEMORABLE CRUISE COMMENCES

We had nearly reached our cutter before the sun lifted its yellowish, red sphere, with just such an expression as a jolly, fat, old alderman accustomed to good cheer might present, on raising his head from the folds of a comfortable night's pillow.

It looked about in a dim, bewildered way at first, as if trying to wake up and make out what was the matter--that dark, vast, heaving, rolling sea, the rocks and capes touched with light, and a great land behind them yet dark and undefined; all so quiet too; and the soft, pink mist that rolled away in smoke-like clouds--rolled away over the billowy surface of the ocean toward the land, and, frightened, perhaps, by that red apparition on the eastern horizon, faded from sight, or rose for shelter to the sky above.

It was bravely up now; had mastered the situation, dispelled the night. The great honest face took a king's expression, and breathing bounty, warmth, and courage, blessed the scene it looked upon.

Then how the birds sang out, how sea and land grew beautiful and full of voice, how the clouds dressed their ranks and marched on their way. And the irrepressible exclamation came from all our boy lips at once, "How glorious!"

Ugly saluted us in a most vociferous manner, continuing his welcome from the time we left the shore to the moment we reached the yacht. "Behold," said Harry, "our rear-admiral waving his ta--I beg his honour's pardon--flag."

Yes--old Ugly kept his tail going in utmost delight, whilst he ran from one end to the other of the gunwale, assuring us that all was safe.

Sure enough, everything was in good order, but the supper had not been eaten. It had been pulled out of the after-cabin and inspected--that was all. Now Ugly's supper consisted of two things he could never be induced to eat--ham and cold potatoes; and Harry, from mischief--he knew, however, that the dog had had a hearty dinner--prepared those things purposely, supposing that Ugly's daintiness would fail in a twelve hours fast. But no; there the edibles were untouched.

"Come here, sir," said Harry to Ugly; "now why have you not eaten this nice meal, eh?"

Ugly's answer was merely to turn his head one side and look out at the sea, as if very much interested in something he saw--so much so as not to be able to attend to what Harry asked him.

"You dainty rascal, come along and eat this meal; it is good enough for any dog." And Harry put the despised victuals on another part of the deck, and, quite unintentionally, within a foot of the port scuppers. "Here, Ugly, eat it, sir, every bit of it."

Ugly's sensitive little spirit could not brook such a public mortification; but he was obedient in part. He approached the pieces slowly--in a dignified, contemptuous way--as he would have gone up to a cat, and, putting his nose to them, gave a push--away they flew into the sea.

Shouts of laughter greeted the act--Harry's the loudest--and he completed his attempt at discipline by calling to Ugly, "Come here, thou pluckiest and smartest of dogs. If you won't eat sailors' rations, come feast at the officers' mess on the luxuries of the fleet. How will that do, eh, old fellow?" cutting him off, as he spoke, a fat slice of mutton. "Another? well there! Bread and butter? Well, there is as much as you can eat;" and Ugly stowed it all away, triumph beaming in his eyes and wagging from his tail.

"Come, boys, now," said the Captain, "let's get under way. Cast loose the sails, Alfred and Bob. Drake, stand by to hoist the mainsail. Walter, take the helm. I want you to act as sailing-master this morning. Drake and I will get up the anchor. Is the mainsail ready for hoisting?"

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Drake.

"Then up with it. There--good!"

"Are your halliards all clear there, boys?"

"Aye, aye, sir," came from Alf and Bob.

"Hoist the jib, my hearties," cried the Captain, as the anchor came up. "Keep her head for the old church tower, Walter. There--steady, steady."

The Captain and Drake now secured the anchor, and the next order given was--

"Now, Alf, another pull on your main halliards. Get them well up. All right? Make fast."

The Captain lifted his hat and wiped with the bandanna his red forehead. Then he shook out a reef in his suspenders, and threw back his coat. "By golly! my hearties, we are snug now, ship and cargo; and what an air to breathe! I only wish this was a good ship of twelve hundred tons or so, Captain Mugford the skipper, and we were all bound for Calcutta together this splendid morning."

"Don't I--don't I," came from each of us in response.

"Now, my mates," called the Captain again, "we'll go about presently, when we get abreast of that tanned-sailed fishing-boat there off the port bow, and then, Walter, you can head her right out of the harbour. Let her go south-east-by-east, and we'll about fetch in ten miles as nice a bank for cod and halibut as there is off the coast. It is a small spot to get on nicely, and difficult to drop on often in just the right place; but it's no riddle to me, and if this breeze freshens a bit, as I think it will with the young flood, you can get out your lines in about one hour. So now let's have breakfast--the little rear-admiral, you know, had his long ago."

Yes--and the consequential Ugly was occupying a comfortable seat right under the jib, and only turned his head the least bit when he heard the Captain's mention of him.

"Keep her full now, Walter, ready to go about. Let go the jib-sheet, Bob; and now, down with your helm, Walter!"

The mainsail flapped twice. By that time the foresail had filled on the other tack. The cutter went about like a dancer on her heel, and we were off on the other tack, standing out of the harbour for the open sea ahead.

Then, the breakfast having been got out of the cuddy in the meanwhile, and arranged for our onset by Drake, we seized cups, knives and forks, and were soon very busy.

What a glorious thing to remember and marvel at, and wish back again, is a boy's appetite. And if any good old fellow is reading, who is not ashamed to recall those best of days--boyhood days--who is not ashamed to recall them, aye, with pride and smiles, let him think now of the suppers after Saturday tramps, of the Christmas and Michaelmas dinners, and of meals like that I am describing, when, after two hours in the early morning air, bowling along in our cutter, the sea-breeze swelling out our lungs as it did the sails, with merry hearts and perfect digestions, we found real fun--true animal happiness--in good bread and butter, a leg of cold mutton, and a cup of coffee. And to see the best of good skippers--as our dear old salt tute was--let himself down in a right angle after that on the deck, his back against the weather-side of the mast, and, heaving a sigh of vast internal satisfaction, draw out his pipe slowly, as if it was a ceremony too precious to be hurried, and, having put it just right in his lips and lighted it, puff the first long sweet wreaths of smoke; ah! that was a picture of creature happiness.

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