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The Congo Rovers A Story of the Slave Squadron

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My first Appearance in Uniform.

“Um!” ejaculated my father as he thoughtfully removed his double eye-glass from his nose with one hand, and with the other passed a letter to me across the breakfast-table—“Um! this letter will interest you, Dick. It is from Captain Vernon.”

My heart leapt with sudden excitement, and my hand trembled as I stretched it out for the proffered epistle. The mention of Captain Vernon’s name, together with the announcement that the subject-matter of the letter was of interest to me, prepared me in a great measure for the intelligence it conveyed; which was to the effect that the writer, having been appointed to the command of the sloop-of-war Daphne, now found himself in a position to fulfil a promise of some standing to his dear and honoured friend Dr Hawkesley (my father) by receiving his son (myself) on board the sloop, with the rating of midshipman. The sloop, the letter went on to say, was commissioned for service on the west coast of Africa; and if I decided to join her no time should be lost in procuring my outfit, as the Daphne was under orders to sail on the —; just four days from the date of the receipt of the letter.

“Well, Dick, what do you think of Captain Vernon’s proposal?” inquired my father somewhat sadly, as I concluded my perusal of the letter and raised my eyes to his.

“Oh, father!” I exclaimed eagerly, “I hope you will consent to let me go. Perhaps I may never have another such an opportunity; and I am quite sure I shall never care to be anything but a sailor.”

“Ah! yes—the old, old story,” murmured my father, shaking his head dubiously. “Thousands of lads have told their fathers exactly the same thing, and have lived to bitterly regret their choice of a profession. Look at my life. I have to run about in all weathers; to take my meals when and how I can; there is not a single hour in the twenty-four that I can call my own; it is a rare thing for me to get a night of undisturbed rest; it is a hard, anxious, harassing life that I lead—you have often said so yourself, and urged it as one of the reasons why you object to follow in my footsteps. But I tell you, Dick, that my life—ay, or the life even of the poorest country practitioner, for that matter—is one of ease and luxury compared with that of a sailor. But I have said all this to you over and over again, without convincing you; and I hardly dare hope that I shall be more successful now; so, if you are really quite resolved to go to sea, I will offer no further objections. It is true that you will be going to an unhealthy climate; but God is just as well able to preserve you there as He is here; and then, again, you have a strong healthy constitution, which, fortified with such preservative medicines as I can supply, will, I hope, enable you to withstand the malaria and to return to us in safety. Now, what do you say—are you still resolved to go?”

“Quite,” I replied emphatically. “Now that you have given your consent the last obstacle is removed, and I can follow with a light heart the bent of my own inclinations.”

“Very well, then,” said my father, rising from the table and pushing back his chair....