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My First Cruise and Other stories

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Story 1—Chapter 1. Notes from Pringle Rushforth’s Sea Log. A Letter to Brother Harry, at Eton.

It has become a reality, dear Harry. I feel very strange—a curious sensation in the throat, just as if I was going to cry, and yet it is exactly what I have been longing for. You know better than any one how I had set my heart on going to sea, and yet I thought that I should never manage it. But, after all, here I am, really and truly a midshipman; at least a volunteer of the first class, as we are called now. The first time I put on my uniform, with my gold-band cap and dirk, I could not help every now and then looking at the gold lace on my collar and the buttons with the anchor and crown, and very pretty and nice they looked; and I do believe that this half-reconciled poor mamma, and Fanny, and Mary, and dear little Emily to my going when they saw me with them on. I’ll tell you how it all happened. Uncle Tom came to stay with us. He had been at the Hall a week when, the very day before I was to go back to school, while we were all at breakfast, he got a long official-looking letter. No sooner had he torn it open and glanced at its contents, than he jumped up and shook papa by the hand, then kissed mamma, exclaiming, “They do acknowledge my services, and in a handsome way too, and they have appointed me to the Juno intended for the South American station; the very ship I should have chosen! I must have Pringle with me. No nonsense, Mary. He wants to be a sailor, and a sailor he shall be. He’s well fitted for it. I’ll have no denial. It’s settled—that’s all right.” (I had been telling him the day before how much I wanted to go to sea.) He carried his point, and set all the household preparing my kit, and then posted off for London, and rattled down to Portsmouth to hoist his flag. He is not a man to do things by halves. In three days I followed him. The ship was nearly ready for sea. Most of the officers had joined. There was only one vacancy, which I got. Another captain had been appointed, who had been superseded, and he had selected most of the officers. Many of my messmates are good fellows, but of others the less said about them the better, at least as far as I could judge from the way they behaved when I first went into the berth. We carry thirty-six guns. There is the main deck, on which most of them are placed, and the upper deck, which is open to the sky, and where all the ropes lead, and where some guns are, and the lower deck, where we sleep in hammocks slung to the beams, and where our berth is; that is the place where we live—our drawing-room, and parlour, and study, and anything else you please. There is a table in the centre, and lockers all round, and if you want to move about you have to get behind the other fellows’ backs or over the table. Under it are cases and hampers of all sorts, which the caterer has not unpacked. He is an old mate, and keeps us all in order. His name is Gregson. I don’t know whether I shall like him. He has been a great many years a midshipman; for a mate is only a passed midshipman who wants to be a lieutenant, but can’t....