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The Battery and the Boiler Adventures in Laying of Submarine Electric Cables   By: (1825-1894)

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THE BATTERY AND THE BOILER, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.

CHAPTER ONE.

IN WHICH THE HERO MAKES HIS FIRST FLASH AND EXPLOSION.

Somewhere about the middle of this nineteenth century, a baby boy was born on the raging sea in the midst of a howling tempest. That boy was the hero of this tale.

He was cradled in squalls, and nourished in squalor a week of dirty weather having converted the fore cabin of the emigrant ship into something like a pig sty. Appreciating the situation, no doubt, the baby boy began his career with a squall that harmonised with the weather, and, as the steward remarked to the ship's cook, "continued for to squall straight on end all that day and night without so much as ever takin' breath!" It is but right to add that the steward was prone to exaggeration.

"Stooard," said the ship's cook in reply, as he raised his eyes from the contemplation of his bubbling coppers, "take my word for it, that there babby what has just bin launched ain't agoin' to shovel off his mortal coil as the play actor said without makin' his mark some'ow an' somew'eres."

"What makes you think so, Johnson?" asked the steward.

"What makes me think so, stooard?" replied the cook, who was a huge good natured young man. "Well, I'll tell 'ee. I was standin' close to the fore hatch at the time, a talkin' to Jim Brag, an' the father o' the babby, poor feller, he was standin' by the foretops'l halyards holdin' on to a belayin' pin, an' lookin' as white as a sheet for I got a glance at 'im two or three times doorin' the flashes o' lightnin'. Well, stooard, there was lightnin' playin' round the mizzen truck, an' the main truck, an' the fore truck, an' at the end o' the flyin' jib boom, an' the spanker boom; then there came a flash that seemed to set afire the entire univarse; then a burst o' thunder like fifty great guns gone off all at once in a hurry. At that identical moment, stooard, there came up from the fore cabin a yell that beat well, I can't rightly say what it beat, but it minded me o' that unfortnit pig as got his tail jammed in the capstan off Cape Horn. The father gave a gasp. `It's born,' says he. `More like's if it's basted,' growled Jim Brag. `You're a unfeelin' monster, Brag,' says I; `an' though you are the ship's carpenter, I will say it, you 'aven't got no more sympathy than the fluke of an anchor!' Hows'ever the poor father didn't hear the remark, for he went down below all of a heap head, legs, and arms anyhow. Then there came another yell, an' another, an' half a dozen more, which was followed by another flash o' lightnin' an' drownded in another roar o' thunder; but the yells from below kep' on, an' came out strong between times, makin' no account whatever o' the whistlin' wind an' rattlin' ropes, which they riz above easy. Now, stooard, do you mean for to tell me that all that signifies nothink? Do you suppose that that babby could go through life like an or'nary babby? No, it couldn't not even if it was to try w'ich it won't !"

Having uttered this prophecy the cook resumed the contemplation of his bubbling coppers.

"Well, I suppose you're right, John Johnson," said the steward.

"Yes, I'm right, Tom Thomson," returned the cook, with the nod and air of a man who is never wrong.

And the cook was right, as the reader who continues to read shall find out in course of time.

The gale in which little Robin Wright was thus launched upon the sea of Time blew the sails of that emigrant ship the Seahorse to ribbons. It also blew the masts out of her, leaving her a helpless wreck on the breast of the palpitating sea. Then it blew a friendly sail in sight, by which passengers and crew were rescued and carried safe back to Old England. There they separated some to re embark in other emigrant ships; some to renew the battle of life at home thenceforward and for ever after to vilify the sea in all its aspects, except when viewed at a safe distance from the solid land!

Little Robin's parents were among the latter... Continue reading book >>




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