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King o' the Beach A Tropic Tale   By: (1831-1909)

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King o' the Beach, a Tropic Tale, by George Manville Fenn.

This book was written just before the end of the century, when it would have been expected that travel by steamer was pretty safe. Carey, a teenage boy making his way by steamer "Chusan" to meet his parents in Australia, becomes very friendly with the ship's doctor, and also with one of the seamen, Bob Bostock. But somewhere out in the Indian Ocean he has an accident, falling from the ship's rigging, and is unconscious and possibly may not live. His telescope took the brunt of the fall. But while he is lying unconscious, a great gale springs up, the vessel loses power, and is driven onto a coral girt volcanic island.

Some of the passengers and crew get away on the ship's boats, but Carey is not fit for the journey. The ship lies on the reef, but mostly undamaged. The Doctor and Bostock remain with him. After they are settling in, and Carey is recovering well, a "beachcomber", who reckons he is king of these islands, makes his appearance with a retinue of aborigines. He is quite a nasty piece of work. However one of the aborigines becomes friendly with Carey and the others. The beachcomber shoots the doctor, but then fall down a stairway, breaking both legs. Since he can't get the doctor, he dies. At this moment Carey's father appears, as the other passengers had reached Australia, and contact had been made.

There are the usual tense moments with various saurians, and other nasties, but perhaps not such a high level of tension as is usual with this author. A good easy read, nevertheless. NH



"Mind what you're doing! Come down directly, you young dog! Ah, I thought as much. There, doctor: a job for you."

It was on board the great steamer Chusan , outward bound from the port of London for Rockhampton, Moreton Bay, and Sydney, by the north route, with a heavy cargo of assorted goods such as are wanted in the far south Colonies, and some fifty passengers, for the most part returning from a visit to the Old Country.

"Visit" is a very elastic word it may mean long or short. In Carey Cranford's case it was expressed by the former, for it had lasted ten years, during which he had been left by his father with one of his uncles in London, so that he might have the full advantage of an English education before joining his parents in their adopted land.

It had been a delightful voyage, with pleasant fellow passengers and everything new and exciting, to the strong, well grown, healthy lad, who had enjoyed the Mediterranean; revelled in the glowing heat of the Red Sea, where he had begun to be the regular companion of the young doctor who had charge of the passengers and crew; stared at that great cinder heap Aden, and later on sniffed at the sweet breezes from Ceylon's Isle.

Here the captain good humouredly repeated what he had said more than once during the voyage: "Now look out, young fellow; if you're not back in time I shall sail without you:" for wherever the great steamer put in the boy hurried ashore with the doctor to see all he could of the country, and came back at the last minute growling at the stay being so short.

It was horrible, he said, when they touched at Colombo not to be able to go and see what the country was like.

He repeated his words at Singapore; so did the captain, but with this addition:

"Only one more port to stop at, and then I shall have you off my hands."

"But shan't we stop at Java or any of the beautiful islands?"

"Not if I can help it, my lad," said the captain. "Beautiful islands indeed! Only wish I could clear some of 'em off the map."

So Carey Cranford, eager to see everything that was to be seen, had to content himself with telescopic views of the glorious isles scattered along the vessel's course, closing the glass again and again with an ejaculation signifying his disgust... Continue reading book >>

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