|About the Book|
It was a balmy autumn day four years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne, and the neighbourhood of Southampton Water was looking perhaps more brilliant and more beautiful than it had during the long summer which had just passed. Already theMoreIt was a balmy autumn day four years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne, and the neighbourhood of Southampton Water was looking perhaps more brilliant and more beautiful than it had during the long summer which had just passed. Already the leaves were covering the ground, and away across the water pine-trees stood up like sentinels amidst others which had already lost their covering. A dim blue haze in the distance denoted the presence of Southampton, then as now a thriving seaport town.Situated on a low eminence within some hundred yards of the sea, and commanding an extended view to either side and in front, was a tiny creeper-clad cottage with gabled roof and twisted chimneys. Behind the little residence there was a square patch of kitchen-garden, in which a grizzled, weather-beaten individual was toiling, whilst in front a long strip of turf, in which were many rose beds, extended as far as the wicket-gate which gave access to the main Portsmouth road.Seated in the picturesque porch of the cottage, with a long clay pipe between his lips, and a telescope of large dimensions beside him, was a gray-headed gentleman whose dress at once betokened that in his earlier days he had followed the sea as a calling. In spite of his sunken cheeks, and general air of ill-health, no one could have mistaken him for other than a sailor- and if there had been any doubt the clothes he wore would have at once settled the question. But Captain John Richardson, to give him his full title, was proud of the fact that he had at one time belonged to the royal navy, and took particular pains to demonstrate it to all with whom he came in contact. It was a little vanity for which he might well be excused, and, besides, he was such a genial good-natured man that no one would have thought of blaming him.On this particular day some question of unusual importance seemed to be absorbing the captains whole attention. His eyes had a far-away expression, his usually wrinkled brow was puckered in an alarming manner, and the lips, between which rested the stem of his clay pipe, were pursed up in the most thoughtful position. Indeed, so much was he occupied that he forgot even to pull at his smoke, and in consequence the tobacco had grown cold.Thats the sixth time! he suddenly exclaimed, with a muttered expression of disgust, awaking suddenly from his reverie. Ive used nearly half the box of matches already, and that is an extravagance which I cannot afford. No, John Richardson, matches are dear to you at least, for you are an unfortunate dog with scarcely enough to live on, and with nothing in your pocket to waste. But Id forego many little luxuries, and willingly cut down my expenditure, if only I could see a way of settling this beggarly question. For three years and more it has troubled me, and Im as far now from a solution as I was when the matter first cropped up. Theres Frank, my brother at Bristol, who has offered his help, and I fully realize his kindness- but I am sure that his plan will fail to satisfy the boy. Thats where the difficulty comes. The lads so full of spirit, so keen to follow his fathers profession, that he would eat his heart out were I to send him to Bristol, but what else can I suggest as a future for him?