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The Eagle Cliff   By: (1825-1894)

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The Eagle Cliff, by R.M. Ballantyne.

This is a truly delightful book by this prolific author. I know of no other of his books that leaves so many images in the mind, so fresh after many a year. The scene starts with a young man cycling on his penny farthing towards London. On the way he has an accident, knocking down an elderly lady, but fleeing the scene when he sees a policeman coming. But when he gets home he finds a telegram informing him that his friends will be departing very soon in a yacht, to visit the islands on the North West of Britain, so he joins them.

Unfortunately there is a fog and the yacht is damaged but all the young men and their crew manage to get ashore, finding themselves in the neighbourhood of a large house, the residence of a gentleman and his family. They are invited to stay there as his guests, and it is at this point that the adventures begin, involving fishing, shooting, bird watching, sailing and so forth. There is a charming young lady also staying in the house, and deploying her hobby of painting. Our hero falls in love with her, but is very much taken aback when she is joined by her mother, who turns out to be none other than the elderly lady he had knocked down back in London. Even more disastrous was the fire that destroyed the house. This is a brilliant book, and you will love it.

As a footnote you may be surprised that one of the children is called Junkie. This certainly does not mean that same as it does today: instead it is a nickname given to a favourite boy child, and you will find several examples of this in Ballantyne's books.

THE EAGLE CLIFF, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.

CHAPTER ONE.

BEGINS THE TALE NATURALLY.

From the earliest records of history we learn that man has ever been envious of the birds, and of all other winged creatures. He has longed and striven to fly. He has also signally failed to do so.

We say "failed" advisedly, because his various attempts in that direction have usually resulted in disappointment and broken bones. As to balloons, we do not admit that they fly any more than do ships; balloons merely float and glide, when not otherwise engaged in tumbling, collapsing, and bursting.

This being so, we draw attention to the fact that the nearest approach we have yet made to the sensation of flying is that achieved by rushing down a long, smooth, steep hill road on a well oiled and perfect ball bearings bicycle! Skating cannot compare with this, for that requires exertion; bicycling down hill requires none. Hunting cannot, no matter how splendid the mount, for that implies a certain element of bumping, which, however pleasant in itself, is not suggestive of the smooth swift act of flying.

We introduce this subject merely because thoughts somewhat similar to those which we have so inadequately expressed were burning in the brain of a handsome and joyful young man one summer morning not long ago, as, with legs over the handles, he flashed if he did not actually fly down one of our Middlesex hills on his way to London.

Urgent haste was in every look and motion of that young man's fine eyes and lithe body. He would have bought wings at any price had that been possible; but, none being yet in the market, he made the most of his wheel a fifty eight inch one, by the way, for the young man's legs were long, as well as strong.

Arrived at the bottom of the hill the hilarious youth put his feet to the treadles, and drove the machine vigorously up the opposite slope. It was steep, but he was powerful. He breathed hard, no doubt, but he never flagged until he gained the next summit. A shout burst from his lips as he rolled along the level top, for there, about ten miles off, lay the great city, glittering in the sunshine, and with only an amber tinted canopy of its usual smoke above it.

Among the tall elms and in the flowering hedgerows between which he swept, innumerable birds warbled or twittered their astonishment that he could fly with such heedless rapidity through that beautiful country, and make for the dismal town in such magnificent weather... Continue reading book >>




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