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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 4. Captain Mugford's Saturday Lesson
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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 4. Captain Mugford's Saturday Lesson Post by :nogodiggydie Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2674

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Captain Mugford: Our Salt And Fresh Water Tutors - Chapter 4. Captain Mugford's Saturday Lesson


With a new week commenced our studies--order in tasks and play taking the place of the licence and excitement of the first days of novelty.

By Mr Clare's rule we reached our school-house in the wreck every morning at eight--that is, every morning except Saturday and Sunday. The brig's bell was our summons. Captain Mugford struck it as punctually as if the good order and safety of a large crew were dependent on his correctness. Our school-hours continued until half-after one. The remainder of each day was our own, only subject to the general directions of Mr Clare and the instructions of Captain Mugford in boating. Of course that was no task--rather the very best sport we had. Mr Clare grew fast in our good opinions. He was strict; but boys do not dislike strictness when it is mated with justice and guided by a firm and amiable disposition, as it was with our tutor.

We soon got to see that Mr Clare, in his way, was as much of a _man as Captain Mugford, and that the Captain respected him highly. The Captain always liked to have an evening smoke with our tutor, and the boating excursions were much jollier when Mr Clare made one of the party, as he often did. He was our master in school, but only wished to be our companion in play. In every athletic exercise he excelled, and I dare say that was one great reason of the powerful influence he soon gained with us--for boldness, strength, and agility are strong recommendations to boyish admiration. About two weeks after the commencement of our cape life, as we were going to bed one night, "our fresh tute" became the subject of discussion; and our first opinions were changed by a vote, in which all but Drake joined, that Mr Clare was a regular brick. Drake had a prejudice against tutors that required more than two weeks to break up. He allowed that Mr Clare seemed a very respectable sort of fellow, but then he said--

"I can't join in all the praise you boys give him; now my idea of a 'regular brick' is our 'salt tute.' He's the sort of man for me. If Captain Mugford _only knew Latin and Greek!"

Mr Clare was from the north of England. His parents being poor, he had obtained his education under difficulties, and did not enter college until he was twenty-three years of age. His parents had emigrated when he was a child to Canada, where he had seen a good deal of wild life among the Indians. For some cause his father returned--to take possession of a small property, I believe--and brought him with him. After the common country schooling he could pick up in winter, he began to prepare himself for college in the hours he was off work on his father's farm, or had to take from sleep. So he had a life of some difficulty and adventure; and now, in his own hours, he was studying to become a clergyman. Notwithstanding such a boyhood of labour, his manners were good and agreeable, and no one would ever have guessed that his training until he went to college had been little above that of a farm servant.

It was some time before we made acquaintance with the sailing-boat which had been provided by our father, for the first weeks of our new life were stormy and cold. What whetted our desire for a sail was that Captain Mugford would not even show us the boat. We would tease him, and guess at every mast we saw in the bay; but the Captain only laughed, and put us off with such remarks as "Keep your powder dry, my young hearties!" "Avast heaving! the skipper is dumb."

However, one fine morning the Captain steered into our breakfast-room before all the fresh brown bread and clotted cream and eggs and bacon had been quite stowed away. "At it, ain't you, boys, with forecastle appetites? Pitch in, old fellows; make the butter fly!" He had wished Mr Clare a good morning, sat down on a corner of a side-table, wiped his forehead with a great red silk handkerchief, and got his elbows well akimbo, before he directed the remark to us. There he sat shaking with a pleasant little interior rumble of laughter at our earnestness in the meal, and expressing his appreciation every few moments with, "Well! that's jolly!" which remark each time portended another series of sub-waistcoat convulsions. He got through laughing as we finished breakfast, and then each of us went up for a shake of his hand.

"Your cargoes are in. When do you sail?"

"O Captain! can we sail to-day?" we all cried, for the joke and his unusually radiant face signified something better to come.

"I have a fancy that way, if Mr Clare says yes. That's my business here this fine Saturday. Yes, Mr Clare? Thank you! the youngsters are mad for a trip under canvas. You will go with us, sir, I hope? Thank you again!--Scamper, boys, for your caps! Ha! ha! ha!--With your permission, Mr Clare, I will fill my pipe.--Juno! Juno! Ah! there you are. Do, like a good old woman, get me a coal out of your wood-fire-- just such a red, round piece of oak as Clump always chooses."

Presently Juno trudged smiling back, with a hot coal held in the tongs.

"Here, massa! here, Capting, is de berry heart of de fire!" and laying it carefully in the bowl of his pipe--"dat, sar, will keep yer terbacker gwine all day."

"Thank you, marm Juno! We shall try and bring you home some fish for dinner. A ninety-pound halibut, eh?"

The Captain having performed that operation so very necessary to his comfort, we all sallied forth for the long-anticipated sail.

The cape was about three-quarters of a mile wide where our house stood-- it being on high ground, about halfway between the ocean and bay-side. The ground fell gradually in wavelike hillocks in both directions, and its chief growth was a short fine grass on which the sheep throve well. Here and there we saw them in little companies of eight or ten, but before we could get within fifty yards they scampered off in a fright, so unaccustomed were they to strangers.

Soon we descried a boat with pennant flying at moorings just off the bay shore before us. That, the Captain told us, was our "school-ship."

"And now come, boys," said he, "let us see which one of you will be the best hand on watch when we sail a frigate together--let us see which one can first read the boat's name; it is on the pennant."

At that distance we were all baffled.

"Well, try ten yards nearer; there, halt. Now try."

We all strained our eyes. I thought it read, _Wave_.

"No, Robert, it is not _Wave_.--Come, boys, sharpen your eyes on the sides of your noses, and try again."

"I can read it," shouted Harry Higginson, throwing up his hat. "_Youth_! _Youth_!--that's it."

"Yes, that's it. Hurrah for you, Master Harry! I promote you on the spot captain of the maintop."

We hurried down to a white sand-beach on which lay a punt. In that the Captain pulled us, three at a time, out to the _Youth_. When well under sail and standing out for more open water, our good skipper at the tiller, having filled his pipe, rolled up his sleeves, and tautened the sheet a bit, said--

"Boys, this craft is yours, but I am Commodore until each and all of you have learned to sail her as well as I can. May you prove quick to learn, and I quick to teach. But as I'm an old seadog, my pipe is out already. Give us a light, shipmate?"--I was trying with flint and steel to strike a few sparks into our old tinder-box--"there!--puff--puff-- puff--that will do. I must talk less and smoke more."

As the jolly Captain got up a storm of smoke, slapped me a stinger on the knee, and winked at the pennant, Mr Clare jumped up, and swinging his hat, cried--

"Boys, let's give cheers, three rousing cheers, for our brave boat, the _Youth_, and her good master, Captain Mugford!"

And didn't we give them!!!

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