by John Conroy Hutcheson
This short book tells the adventures over just one voyage to Shanghai of
the hero, Allan Graham, whose father is a country vicar. Allan is
obtained a place as an apprentice aboard the Silver Queen, which he
joins at Wapping Docks. An Irish bosun, Tim Rooney, takes a liking to
the lad and helps him learn the ropes. Hutcheson nearly always has an
Irish co-hero in his books. We get a good description of how the vessel
is warped out of the dock, how she makes her way down river, assisted by
a steam-tug, and then down the English Channel and into the wide
Atlantic Ocean. Allan begins to learn a bit about navigation and
ship-handling, when the movement of the vessel in the Bay of Biscay
causes him to retire with sea-sickness. A stowaway is found on board,
in the forepeak. Allan finds an ally in the Chinese cook, Ching Wang.
On the other hand the Portuguese steward, Pedro, hates that cook.
They round the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), cross the Indian Ocean,
and get into the Malay seas, where they notice a proa following them.
After negotiating the tail end of a typhoon, they think they have
escaped these possible pirates, pass through another typhoon, in which
all their storm sails are blown out, yet see the pirates again. They
are blown onto the Pratas shoal, aground, in which predicament the
pirates attack. Ching Wang and Allan manage to get away in one of the
pirates' small boats, and sail to where they can get help for the Silver
Queen from a patrolling British Naval vessel, the Blazer. Rescued,
eventually they get to Shanghai, where they receive their mails--it is
extraordinary how the mails are always waiting for them, no matter how
fast a vessel has travelled. Back home with an uneventful voyage, and
that's the end of the story. The book is very helpful in teaching you
the basics of reading these old nautical novels. N.H.
AFLOAT AT LAST
BY JOHN CONROY HUTCHESON
IN THE RECTORY GARDEN.
"And so, Allan, you wish to go to sea?"
"Yes, father," I replied.
"But, is there no other profession you would prefer--the law, for
instance? It seems a prosperous trade enough, judging from the fact
that solicitors generally appear well to do, with plenty of money--
possibly that of other people--in their possession; so, considering the
matter from a worldly point of view, you might do worse, Allan, than
join their ranks."
I shook my head, however, as a sign of dissent to this proposition.
"Well then, my boy," went on father in his logical way, anxious that I
should clearly understand all the bearings of the case, and have the
advantages and disadvantages of each calling succinctly set before me,
"there is medicine now, if you dislike the study of Themis, as your
gesture would imply. It is a noble profession, that of healing the sick
and soothing those bodily ills which this feeble flesh of ours is heir
to, both the young and old alike--an easier task, by the way, than that
of ministering to `the mind diseased,' as Shakespeare has it; although,
mind you, I must confess that a country physician, such as you could
only hope to be, for I have not the means of buying you a London
practice, has generally a hard life of it, and worse pay. However, this
is beside the question; and I want to avoid biassing your decision in
any way. Tell me, would you like to be a doctor--eh?"
But to this second proposal of my father as to my future career, I again
signified my disapproval by shaking my head; for I did not wish to
interrupt his argument by speaking until he had finished all he had to
say on the subject, and I could see he had not yet quite done.
"H'm, the wise man's dictum as to speech being silvern and silence gold
evidently holdeth good with the boy, albeit such discretion in youth is
somewhat rare," he murmured softly to himself, as if unconsciously
putting his thoughts in words, adding as he addressed me more directly:
"You ought to get on in life, Allan; for `a still tongue,' says the
proverb, `shows a wise head.' But now, my son, I've nearly come to the
end of the trio of learned professions, without, I see, prepossessing
you in favour of the two I have mentioned. You are averse to the law,
and do not care about doctoring; well then, there's the church, last
though by no means least--what say you to following my footsteps in that
sacred calling, as your brother Tom purposes doing when he leaves Oxford
after taking his degree?"