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The Luck of Gerard Ridgeley   By: (1855-1914)

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The Luck of Gerard Ridgeley, by Bertram Mitford.




The steamship Amatikulu was drawing near the end of her voyage.

A fresh breeze was ploughing up the blue waves of the Indian Ocean, hurling off their crests in white, foamy masses, casting showers of salt spray upon the wet decks of the vessel as she plunged her nose into each heaving, tossing billow, and leaped up again with a sudden jerk which was more than lively, and calculated to produce the most distressful of throes in the systems of her passengers. But these were well salted by this time, for, as we have just stated, they were at the end of their voyage.

This being so, it was pleasant work coasting along the Natal shore; pleasant to gaze on the green slopes and luxuriant tropical foliage, with here and there a planter's bungalow peeping out from the tall canes; trebly pleasant, indeed, after a month of sea and sky line, unvaried by any sight or diversion save such as the ocean could afford; for the Amatikulu was not in the mail service, but owned by a private firm, and, being advertised to "sail direct for Natal," had touched nowhere save at Madeira, a week out from home.

"I reckon you two youngsters will be glad to stretch your legs ashore."

The two thus unceremoniously addressed, who had been leaning over the taffrail intently watching the coastline, turned to the speaker, one with an air of would be offended dignity, the other with a good humoured laugh and a word of hearty assent.

Not less dissimilar in appearance than in their manner of receiving the above greeting were these two. Both of the same age, both bound on the same errand, it was easy to see that, come good or come ill, their lines would run upon altogether different roads. One, a well made, broad shouldered young fellow, whose sunburnt face and muscular hands spoke of abundance of cricket and rowing, and, in short, of every healthy outdoor sport within reach. The other, of slighter build, showed, in feature and dress alike, every symptom of the budding "masher," the would be man of the world. Thus Gerard Ridgeley and Harry Maitland respectively, as they gazed curiously at the shores of the new country, whither both had been consigned to seek their fortunes in a word, to shift for themselves.

They were in no way related. They had become friends on board ship up to a certain point, that is, for they had few ideas in common. Both were of the same age, however just under nineteen, and the Amatikulu carried but few passengers. But she carried them at a considerably reduced rate.

"Of course, of course," went on he who had accosted the pair, a bluff, jolly looking individual with a short, grizzled beard. "That's only natural and right. Young fellows who don't look ahead ain't worth their salt, in my humble opinion. And yet, if I know anything of life, I'll bet a guinea the time'll come when you'll find yourselves wishing all you know you were back aboard this old barkie, with the cockroaches running over you all night, and nothing to do all day but play `bull,' and look at the sea, or quarrel to kill time."

"That's cheerful, Mr Kingsland, at any rate," said Gerard Ridgeley, laughing heartily at this terse summary of a sea voyage, no less than at the somewhat discouraging prediction which accompanied it. "But of course no one expects a bed of roses by way of a start in a new country. And now that it has come to the point, I feel in no hurry to leave the old barkie, cockroaches and all."

"That's right, my lad," said his senior, looking at him approvingly. "We haven't had such a bad time aboard the old ship after all. And she's brought us over safe and sound. No you'll do; I can sea you'll do, wherever you are." And the speaker strolled away forward... Continue reading book >>

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