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The Battle and the Breeze   By: (1825-1894)

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The Battle and the Breeze, by R.M. Ballantyne.

In this shortish book we have a description of the Battle of the Nile, in which the naval forces of Admiral Nelson fought and defeated the French. The story is made more human by recounting tales of the life of a British seaman, Bill Bowls, along with incidents involving his friends Ben Bolter and Tom Riggles.




Bill Bowls was the most amiable, gentle, kindly, and modest fellow that ever trod the deck of a man of war. He was also one of the most lion hearted men in the Navy.

When Bill was a baby a round faced, large eyed, fat legged baby, as unlike to the bronzed, whiskered, strapping seaman who went by the name of "Fighting Bill" as a jackdaw is to a marlinespike when Bill was a baby, his father used to say he was just cut out for a sailor; and he was right, for the urchin was overflowing with vigour and muscular energy. He was utterly reckless, and very earnest we might almost say desperately earnest. Whatever he undertook to do he did "with a will." He spoke with a will, listened with a will, laughed, yelled, ate, slept, wrought, and fought with a will. In short, he was a splendid little fellow, and therefore, as his father wisely said, was just cut out for a sailor.

Bill seemed to hold the same opinion, for he took to the water quite naturally from the very commencement of life. He laughed with glee when his mother used to put him into the washtub, and howled with rage when she took him out. Dancing bareheaded under heavy rain was his delight, wading in ponds and rivers was his common practice, and tumbling into deep pools was his most ordinary mishap. No wonder, then, that Bill learned at an early age to swim, and also to fear nothing whatever, except a blowing up from his father. He feared that, but he did not often get it, because, although full of mischief as an egg is full of meat, he was good humoured and bidable, and, like all lion hearted fellows, he had little or no malice in him.

He began his professional career very early in life. When in after years he talked to his comrades on this subject, he used to say

"Yes, mates, I did begin to study navigation w'en I was about two foot high more or less an' I tell 'e what it is, there's nothin' like takin' old Father Time by the forelock. I was about four year old when I took my first start in the nautical way; and p'r'aps ye won't believe it, but it's a fact, I launched my first ship myself; owned her; commanded and navigated her, and was wrecked on my first voyage. It happened this way; my father was a mill wright, he was, and lived near a small lake, where I used to splutter about a good deal. One day I got hold of a big plank, launched it after half an hour o' the hardest work I ever had, got on it with a bit of broken palm for an oar, an' shoved off into deep water. It was a splendid burst! Away I went with my heart in my mouth and my feet in the water tryin' to steady myself, but as ill luck would have it, just as I had got my ship on an even keel an' was beginnin' to dip my oar with great caution, a squall came down the lake, caught me on the starboard quarter, and threw me on my beam ends. Of coorse I went sowse into the water, and had only time to give out one awful yell when the water shut me up. Fortnitly my father heard me; jumped in and pulled me out, but instead of kicking me or blowin' me up, he told me that I should have kept my weather eye open an' met the squall head to wind. Then he got hold of the plank and made me try it again, and didn't leave me till I was able to paddle about on that plank almost as well as any Eskimo in his skin canoe... Continue reading book >>

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