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Captain Mugford: Our Salt and Fresh Water Tutors

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Captain Mugford, or Our Salt and Fresh Water Tutors, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  This is not a long book, but it is an absolutely delightful one. TheTregellins had owned a large old house on a headland in Cornwall. Theyhad not lived there for some time, and had left it in the care of Clumpand his wife Juno, West Indians, while the family lived in Bristol.Tregellin senior decides that he will install some of his youngrelatives there, in the care of the Clumps and two tutors, one of which,Mr Clare, has to deal with their academic needs, and the other, CaptainMugford, is to teach them watermanship. The date is early in thenineteenth century.

  There is also a brave and virtuous dog, Ugly. The boys' sailing,swimming and rowing improve, and they rise to various challenges.Eventually they all set off for a longer sailing and fishing expedition. But it all goes pear-shaped, as the weather turns very nasty, and theyare marooned on a reef some way out to sea. Clare is not on thisexpedition, but they need a way to alert him to where they are. It isUgly that saves the day.

  They had been using an old wrecked brig, high ashore in the bay, as aclassroom, but unknown to them some smugglers have been using it as abase as well. Open war breaks out, and things get nasty. Read the bookto find out what happens in the end.





  We belong to a Cornish family of the greatest respectability and highantiquity--so say the county records, in which we have every reason toplace the most unbounded confidence. The Tregellins have possessed thesame estate for I do not know exactly how long; only I suppose it musthave been some time after Noah disembarked from the ark, and, at allevents, for a very long time. The estate of which I speak was in a wildpart of the country, and not at that time very productive; but I believethat my father would not have parted with it for ten times its marketvalue. It contained between four and five hundred acres of hill anddale, and rock and copse, and wood; its chief feature a lofty cape,which ran out for a considerable distance into the sea. On one side itwas exposed to the almost unbroken sweep of the Atlantic Ocean; on theother it was washed by the tranquil waters of a deep bay, which formed asafe and picturesque harbour for numerous small craft which frequentlytook shelter there from press of weather when running up channel.

  That headland, where the happiest half-year of all my boyhood's days waspassed, is now dotted with several pleasant summer residences; its acresare marked off by fences and walls, and variegated with the diversecrops of well-tilled fields, and on its bay-side are occasional smallwharves for pleasure-boats. Fifty years ago it was very different, and,(though, perhaps, I may be an old fogey and have that grey-hair fashionof thinking, with an expressive shrug, "Ah, things are not as they werewhen I was a boy!") I must say, far more beautiful to my eyes than it isnow. You have seen a bold, handsome-bearded, athletic sailor-fellow,with a manner combining the sunniness of calms, the dash of storms, andthe romance of many strange lands about him. Now, if our admired heroshould abandon his adventurous profession, and settle down quietly intothe civilised career of an innkeeper, or village constable, or shopman,or sedate church clerk, and we chanced to meet him years after his "lifeon the ocean wave," it would probably be to find a sober-facedgentleman, with forehead a little bald, with somewhat of a paunch, withsturdy legs and gaiters, perhaps with a stiff stock and dignified whitecollar--altogether a very respectable, useful citizen. But the eye andthe heart could not find in our excellent acquaintance the fascinationwhich so charmed us in our _friend_ the brave sailor. So with our cape:fifty years ago, in all its natural wildness; in the beauty of itslonely beaches strewn with pieces of shivered waterlogged spars andgreat rusty remnants of ship-knees and keels; in the melancholy of thosestrips of short brown heath on the seaside, disappearing in the whitesand; in the frowning outlines of the determined rocks that likefortresses defied their enemy the ocean; in the roll of crisp pasturagethat in unbroken swells covered the long backbone of the cape; in thefew giant old trees, and, more than all, in its character of freedom,loneliness, and isolation, there was a savage charm and dignity that thethrift and cultivation, the usefulness and comfort of civilisation'sbeauty can never equal.

  My first sight of the old cape was when I was about nine years of age.My father took me with him in a chaise from Bristol--two days' journeyin those times; and I do not think now that my year's tour of Europe,fifteen years after, was half as full of incident and delight as that myfirst expedition of a few hours. I can recall how the man at thetoll-gate hobbled to us on his crutch; how my father chatted with himfor a few moments; how, as we drove off, the man straightened himself onhis crutch and touched the brim of his hat with the back of his hand.How well I remember the amazement with which I then heard my father say,"Robert, that man lost his leg while fighting under the great Duke inthe Peninsula." I thrust my head far out of the chaise to look well atmy first live hero. That sight was romance enough for an hour. Thenthe first glimpse of the top of the high cape, and my father's tellingme that where I saw the haze beyond was the ocean, were sources offurther reverie and mystery, dispelled, however, very suddenly whendirectly afterwards a wheel came off the chaise and pitched me into theroad, with my father's small valise on my stomach. I remember the walkto the nearest house, which happened to be an inn, and how my fathertook off a large tumbler of ale, and gave me some biscuits and a glassof water. It occurred to me, I recollect, whether, when I became a man,I should be able to drink a full glass of ale and not be a drunkard, andwhether my son would take biscuits and water and I not be conscious thathe wanted to taste the ale. A thousand things more I remember--meretrifles in reality, but abounding in great interest to me on my firstjourney, which really then seemed of as much importance as CaptainCook's voyage around the world or Mungo Park's travels in Africa. Itwas a delightful day, the most interesting chapter in my life up to thattime--brimful of novelty, thought, and excitement--but I shall not writeits events in detail. What I have already mentioned will do as asample. Late in the afternoon--it was the afternoon of a September day,the first fine one after a three days' storm--we reached the cape, justas the short sombre twilight of an autumn day settled down on land andsea. As the horse trudged laboriously along through the heavy piece ofsand connecting the cape and the mainland, I was almost terrified by thegreat sound of waves, whose spray tossed up in vast spouts from everyrocky head before us. The rush of waters, the rumbling of great stonesreceding with the current, the booming as of ships' broadsides--allthese united to awe a little boy making his first acquaintance with theocean.

  When we drove up to the house, which was the only habitation on thepoint, not a light was to be seen, and the dark stone walls were blackerthan the night that had settled down so quickly on the land. My fathersaid there was no use to knock, for that old Juno lived in the back partof the house and was too deaf to hear us. So he led the horse round,and we went to the back windows. Through them we saw our old blackcastellan nodding, pipe in mouth, over the fireplace. She had not heardthe noise of our wheels, and it required a vigorous pounding on theheavy back-door before old Juno, in much trembling, opened it to us.

  "Oh my, Massa Tregellins, is dat you dis dark night! And Clump, de olenigger, gone to willage. Lor, massa, how you did frighten me--and, ohmy! thar's young Massa Bob!"

  Juno had often come up to Bristol to see us, and felt an engrossinginterest
in all of the family. She now led me into the house, and wentas briskly to work as her rheumatic old limbs would allow, to make agood fire--piling on logs, blowing with the bellows, and talking all thewhile with the volubility of a kind old soul of fully sixty years ofage. My father had gone to tie up the horse under the shed until Clumpshould return and take care of him. Clump was Juno's husband, and hersenior by many years. The exact age of negroes is always of unreliabletradition. The two had charge of the house, and were, indeed, rulers ofthe entire cape. Clump cultivated vegetables sufficient for his wifeand himself, and was also a skilful fisherman. His duties were to lookafter the copses and fences and gates, and to tend the numerous sheepthat found a living on the cape; in which tasks Juno helped him, besideskeeping the old house free from ghosts and desolation--indeed, a modelof neatness and coziness.

  I must now pause for a minute and describe how it happened that the twoold negroes were living on that out-of-the-way farm in Cornwall. Myfather had been a West Indian proprietor, and had resided out in theWest Indies for many years. It was in the days when Wilberforce andtrue and noble philanthropists who fought the battle of emancipationwith him first began to promulgate their doctrines. My father, likemost other proprietors, was at first very indignant at hearing ofproceedings which were considered to interfere with their rights andprivileges, and he was their strenuous opponent. To enable himselfstill more effectually to oppose the emancipists, he sent for all theworks which appeared on the subject of emancipation, that he mightrefute them, as he believed himself fully able to do. He read and readon, and got more and more puzzled how to contradict the statements whichhe saw put forth, till at length, his mind being an honest and clearone, he came completely round to the opinion of the emancipists. He nowconscientiously asked himself how, with his new opinions, he couldremain a slaveholder. The property was only partly his, and he acted asmanager for the rest of the proprietors. They, not seeing matters inthe light in which he had been brought to view them, would not consentto free the slaves and, as they believed, not unnaturally, ruin theproperty as he desired. Then he proposed having the negroes educatedand prepared for that state of freedom which, he assured his partners,he was certain they would some day ere long obtain. They replied thatslaves were unfit for education, that the attempt would only set them upto think something of themselves, and certainly spoil them, andtherefore neither to this proposition would they agree. They wereresolved that as the slaves were theirs by right of law--whatever Godmight have to say in the matter--slaves they should remain. At lengthmy father determined, after praying earnestly for guidance, to havenothing personally to do with the unclean thing. Had he been able toimprove the condition of the slaves, the case would have been different;but all the attempts he made were counteracted by his partners and bythe surrounding proprietors, who looked upon him in the light of adangerous lunatic. He therefore offered to give up his share in theproperty, provided he might be allowed to emancipate some of the slaves.To this even they would not consent, as they were afraid he mightselect the most able-bodied, and thus deprive the ground of some of itsbest cultivators. He did his best for the poor blacks, but the law wason the side of his partners, and, to do them justice, they, blinded bytheir interests and the contempt in which they held the negro race,considered they were right, and that he was wrong. All they would dowas to allow him to select ten negroes from among a certain number whomthey pointed out, and they agreed to pay him over a sum of money for hisshare of the land. To this proposal he was compelled to agree, and asWest India property was at that time considered of great value, hereceived a very handsome sum, yet it must be owned not half what hemight properly have claimed. With this he returned to England, and, ashe was a man who could not bear to be idle, he commenced business as ageneral merchant at Bristol. Shortly after that he married, and mybrothers and sisters and I in due course came into the world. Among thenegroes he set free were Clump and his sable partner Juno, and soattached were they to him that they entreated that he would take themwith him to England. Clump was, properly speaking, a free man; forhaving in his younger days, after he had married Juno, gone a short tripto sea, he was wrecked, and after meeting many adventures, finallypressed on board a man-of-war. He saw a good deal of service, (aboutwhich he was very fond of talking, by the by), and at last obtaining hisdischarge, or rather taking it, I suspect, with French leave--evermindful of his beloved Juno, he returned voluntarily to a state ofslavery, that he might enjoy life with her. The navy in those days wasnot what it now is, and he had not been in the enjoyment of any largeamount of freedom. He had, indeed, being a good-natured, simple-heartedfellow, been sadly put upon both in the merchant service and navy. Itwas always, he used to say, "Clump, you don't want to go on shore, youstay and take care of the ship;" or, "Clump, you stay in the boat whilewe just take a run along the quay for five minutes;" or, "Clump, leaveis no use to you, just let me have it instead of you;" or, "Clump, rumis a bad thing for niggers. I'll drink your grog to-day, and if youjust tip me a wink I'll take half of it to-morrow, and let you have therest, or Bill Noakes'll have the whole of it, and you'll get none."Clump and Juno being intelligent, trustworthy people, my father, as Ihave said, put them in charge of the farm on the cape, which they in ashort time learned to manage with great judgment. Two other negroes hetook into his service at Bristol. One of them became his butler, and itwould have been difficult to find his equal in that capacity.

  Now a lesson may be learned from this history. My father did what heconsidered right, and prospered; his partners, neglecting to enlightenthemselves as they might have done, persisted in holding their blackfellow-creatures in abject slavery, refusing one of the great rights ofman--a sound education. Emancipation was carried, and they received alarge compensation, and rejoiced, spending their money extravagantly;but the half-savage negroes whom they had neglected to educate refusedto work. Their estates were left uncultivated for want of labourers,and they were ruined. My father, managing his mercantile affairswisely, was a prosperous man.

  His business on this visit was to see an adjoining property which hadonce belonged to the family, and which, being in the market, he hoped torepurchase.

  The house had been built as long back as 1540-1550. It was of stone--the rough stone, as it had been taken from the beaches and cliffs, ofdifferent shades and kinds. Above the ground floor was only an atticstorey; and the main part of the ground floor consisted of four largelow rooms, panelled in wood, and with ceiling of dark, heavy beams.Adjoining the rear of these, my grandfather had built a comparativelymodern kitchen; but every fireplace in the old house preserved thegenerous cheerful style of ample spread and fire-dogs. From the greatdoor of the main floor a narrow stairway, like cabin steps, led up, withquaintly carved banisters, to five real old-fashioned bedrooms, risingabove to the ridge of the steep-sloping roof and its uncovered butwhitewashed rafters. The windows were at least five feet above thefloor, and had the many small panes we sometimes yet see in very oldhouses. No doubt it was a house of pretension in its day. When I was aboy it remained a precious ark of family legends and associations. Howsplendid it is to possess a house nearly three hundred years old.To-day nothing could induce me to exchange the walls of that dear oldhouse for the handsomest residence in Belgravia. A house can be builtin a few months; but to make a home--that is beyond the craft andquickness of masons, carpenters, and architects.

  Alone on that bold, sea-beaten cape, so sturdy, dark, and time-worn, itlooked out always with shrewd, steady little window-eyes on the greattroubled ocean, across which it had watched the Pilgrim Fathers sailingaway towards the new home they sought in the Western world, and many arich argosy in days of yore go forth, never to return. It might haveseen, too, the proud Spanish Armada gliding up channel for the purposeof establishing Popery and the Inquisition in Protestant England, tomeet from the hands of a merciful Providence utter discomfiture anddestruction. With satisfaction and becoming dignity, too, it seemed onfresh sunny mornings t
o gaze at the hundreds of sails dotting the sea,and bound for all parts of the globe, recalling, perhaps with somemournfulness, the days of its youth and the many other varied scenes ofinterest which it had witnessed on those same tossing billows from itslofty height.

  All through our supper, which was laid in the largest of the first floorrooms, did Juno stand by, repeating the refrain--

  "Oh dat nigger, dat Clump,--why he no come? And here's Massa er waittenand er waitten; but Clump, ole mon, he get berry slow--berry, berryslow. Now Massa Bob, vy you laff at ole Juno so?--hi! hi!"

  However, Clump came at last; and when he beheld us, great and comicalwas his surprise. He dropped his basket to the floor, and, withbattered hat in hand and both hands on his knees, stood for a moment andstared at us, and then his mouth stretched wide with joy and his sidesshook with delight, while the tears trickled down from the wrinkled eyesto the laughing ivory.

  "Tank de Lord! tank de Lord! Clump lib to see his ole Massa agin; anddat young gemmen,--vy, lem'me see! vy, sure as I'm dat nigger Clump, efdat ain't--Massa Drake?--no,--Massa Walter?--no,--vy Juno, ole woman!dat are Massa Bob!" He took my hands and shook and squeezed them,saying over and over again, "Massa Bob am cum ter see de ole cradle.Oh! hi hi!"