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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 3. Introduction To Our Salt Tutor And The Wreck
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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 3. Introduction To Our Salt Tutor And The Wreck Post by :nogodiggydie Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :806

Click below to download : Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 3. Introduction To Our Salt Tutor And The Wreck (Format : PDF)

Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 3. Introduction To Our Salt Tutor And The Wreck

CHAPTER THREE. INTRODUCTION TO OUR SALT TUTOR AND THE WRECK

It was on Wednesday night that we became the guests of Clump and Juno, and commenced our cape life. The next morning at breakfast--and what a breakfast! eggs and bacon, lard cakes, clotted cream, honey preserves, and as much fresh milk as we wanted--Mr Clare told us that we need not commence our studies until the next week; that we could have the remainder of this week as holidays in which to make a thorough acquaintance with our new world.

Our first wishes were to see the wreck and old Mr Mugford, whom we agreed to dub Captain Mugford; and so, immediately after breakfast, we started out with Mr Clare to find those items of principal interest. When we had got beyond a hillock and an immense boulder of pudding-stone, which stood up to shut out the beach view from the west side of the house, we saw the wreck, only about half a mile off, and hurried down to it. Mr Clare joined in the race and beat us, although Walter pushed him pretty hard.

The brig sat high up on the rocky cliff, where only the fullest tides reached it. The deck careened at a small angle, and the stern projected several feet beyond the rocks hanging over the sea. The bow pointed toward the house. The brig's foremast only was standing, to the head of which old Mugford used to hoist, on all grand occasions, or on such as he chose to consider grand, a Union Jack or a red ensign, which had been saved from the wreck. The bowsprit was but little injured, and the cordage of that and of the foremast was there, and the shrouds--all of which had been replaced by old Mugford, who, having made the wreck his residence by my father's wishes, restored to it some of the grace and order the good brig possessed before misfortune overtook her, and now it looked fit for either a sailor or a landsman--a curious mongrel, half ship, half house. By the stump of the mainmast there stood a stove-pipe projecting from the deck.

When near the brig, which we always afterwards called by the name she had sailed under--_Clear the Track_--we hailed "Brig ahoy!" In a moment the head and shoulders of the Captain appeared above the companion-hatch, and his sonorous voice answered heartily, "Ah! ahoy, my hearties: this is the good brig _Clear the Track_; come aboard." He cast over the side a rope-ladder, such as is in common use on board ships, and we climbed to the quarterdeck, over the stern-board of which, and covering the companion-hatch, there had been built a roof, or open cabin, making that part of the brig answer the same purposes as the porch of a house. There were benches along the sides, a spyglass hanging overhead in beckets, and a binnacle close by where the wheel had once stood.

The Captain, as we will henceforth call him, however, just then fixed our attention more than the strangely fitted--up wreck. He was short, only about five feet four in height, with very heavy, broad, straight shoulders, immense chest, long arms, very narrow, compact hips, and short, sturdy legs, much bowed. His features were large, straight, and determined, and with something of the bulldog in them, yet stamped with kindness, intelligence, and humour--a face that might be a terror to an enemy, as it was a surety to a friend. It was well bronzed by many a storm and tropical sun, and a dark beard grew on it, as the wild moss on the sea-rocks, in a luxuriant, disorderly manner. His hair was very thick, black, and glossy, only here and there flecked with the grey of age, and hung in curls that almost made his rough and powerful head even handsome. Walter said that night that he was sure Samson and Neptune were relatives, for without doubt the Captain was descended from both of them. With the jawbone of an ass he might put to flight a thousand Philistines, and with a trident drive a four-in-hand of porpoises.

We told that to the Captain afterwards, when we got to know him well, and it tickled him greatly. He declared it was the finest compliment he had ever received, and took Walter high in his favour from that moment.

Our new friend never wore either collar or vest. When not "on duty," as he expressed it, he went about in his shirt-sleeves. His breeches were of the ample sailor-cut, and hung from suspenders as intricate as a ship's rigging. His shirts were spotlessly white, and of very fine linen. A short black pipe was always in his mouth, or sticking its clay stem from a waist-band pocket.

Such, my dear boys, was Captain Mugford, whom we fellows dubbed "our salt tute," in contradistinction to Mr Clare, who was afterwards known as "our fresh tutor."

As Mr Clare came over the brig's side, he said, with a bow, "Captain Mugford, I believe. These boys are to be both your crew and my scholars. I am their tutor, Richard Clare."

"I am happy to see you, Mr Clare. Give me your hand, sir. I hope our different commands will not clash."

As the skipper shook hands, he looked Mr Clare all over at a glance, and smiled as if pleased with the inspection.

"Come here, boys; if I'm not out in my calculation, these boys will do to sail any craft on land or water! Well, my hearties, we are often to be shipmates, so let's be friends to start with. I don't know your different names, boys, only that three of you are sons of my old and respected friend and owner--that's good enough--and you all look as if you hated lies and kept above-board."

"These," said Mr Clare, laying his hands on Harry's and Alfred's shoulders, "are Higginsons!"

"Higginsons? Fancy I knew your father, young gentlemen--an honest man, and a kind man, and a true man, and a brave man, if he was John Higginson; and brother of David Higginson, under whom I once served, and a better sailor never stepped. As he died unmarried, I take you to be John Higginson's sons. And if all you boys act as honest as you look, you need not care for shipwrecks of any kind--love or money, lands or goods, by land or by water."

Well, we thought the Captain a brick. So he was. So he proved.

We passed all the morning on the wreck. Each one of its details was a new delight. The Captain talked about the brig as if she were a human being in misfortune. An old invalid, he said--a veteran old salt laid up in a sailor's snug harbour; laid up and pensioned for the remainder of life, where it was able to overlook, by the side and in the very spray of its well-loved brine, the billows it had often gloried in.

We went below to the Captain's cabin and stateroom. There everything bore the marks of a sea habitation, and when hearing the dash of the waves on the shore and listening to the Captain's talk, I could not help fancying myself on a voyage. Not a nook or hole of that vessel but we explored, and numberless questions had each one of us to ask. Mr Clare seemed as much pleased and interested as we were. When at play, indeed, he was as heartily a boy as any of us.

Great was our astonishment--Mr Clare, however, was prepared for it-- upon going between decks, where the cargo had once been stored, to find ourselves in a _schoolroom_--a long, low schoolroom. Thick glass windows, only about eighteen inches square, had been set in on each side, and protected with dead-lights to fasten tight in case a heavy surf should dash up so high, and the entire hold--where on many and many long voyages there had been stored, in darkness, spices, coffee, sugar, and perhaps gold and jewels--was now transformed to a schoolroom.

There was a long table and there were globes and maps, shelves of books, and a blackboard. That schoolroom had, I am sure, none of the dulness and repulsiveness of other schoolrooms to us. No; it rather seemed a delightful place--an Arabian Nights' sort of study, with a romantic salty influence pervading it to comfort us at our tasks. We could take hold there of geography and history. Mathematics in a vessel's hold, what was it but a foreshadowing of navigation? We felt no hostility to Latin and Greek, for we were but reading of foreign lands and strange people across the ocean in old times, the occurrences of which were but storm-cast hulks like our old brig.

So low was our roof, the deck, that the crown of Walter's cap touched it, and Mr Clare had to bend his neck when he moved about. The square, dwarf windows looked out on nothing but jagged rocks and rolling blue waves.

Away forward and aft our schoolroom was dark, and the distance between decks so narrowed that we could only explore those extremes of the hold by going on hands and knees--with the chance, too, of starting some big rat, an old grey navigator, perhaps, who, believing firmly in "Don't give up the ship!" could not get over his surprise at seeing his once rolling and well-stored residence now stationary, and furnishing no better victuals than book-leaves, chalk, and sometimes the crumbs of a boy's lunch. I imagined the crew of old rats assembling beneath the globes at night, when a moon streamed through the small windows; and the captain, a surly grey fellow, with long whiskers and brown, broken grinders, taking his place on a Greek lexicon, and then the speeches of inquiry and indignation shrilly uttered in the mass meeting. "Long tails!"--would commence some orator with a fierce squeak--"long tails, long tails, I say! what in the name of all that's marine does this mean? Cheese and spices! how things are changed. Will this craft never sail, and our parents waiting for us in the New World over the sea! Where is our 'life on the ocean wave'? where is, I say, where 'a home in the rolling deep'? Can it be that our young are no longer to be nourished on sago, rice, or maize? Alas! if it has come to that, I myself will gnaw the beard from the old curmudgeon who thinks he sleeps here safely. Is the degradation of effeminate land rats, cheese-eaters, wharf robbers, stable vermin, to come upon us? Fates forbid it! Soon, perhaps, some fierce tabby may come to make our once brave hearts tremble. Then, then,"--but I imagined the eloquence broken off there and giving place to a furious scamper, as perhaps old Captain Mugford, arrayed in a long nightshirt and red bandanna nightcap, would fling open his stateroom door and send a boot-jack flying amid the noisy, noxious animals.

To think that our schoolhouse was on such a wild seashore--in a wrecked vessel, the same craft in which poor Harry Breese, who rested in the churchyard near by, had voyaged and been lost from--to have the smell of tar, and be surrounded by a thousand other sailor-like associations. What a glorious school-house, that old wreck by the ocean! What boy ever had a finer one!

The afternoon of that first day of novelty on the cape I remember with minute distinctness. We strolled about the beaches and climbed the rocks, everything being marvellous and delightful to us. In the evening Captain Mugford came in, and Mr Clare and he talked whilst we boys listened. After the Captain had gone, Mr Clare read the evening prayers to us, and that grand Psalm, the one hundred and seventh. The words reached us with the noise of the waves they sang of:--


_They that go down to the sea in ships_,
_that do business in great waters_.
_These see the works of the Lord_,
_and His wonders in the deep_.
_For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind_,
_which lifteth up the waves thereof_.
_They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths_:
_their soul is melted because of trouble_.
_They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man_,
_and are at their wit's end_.
_Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble_,
_and He bringeth them out of their distresses_.
_He maketh the storm a calm_,
_so that the waves thereof are still_.

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