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Middy and Ensign   By: (1831-1909)

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Middy and Ensign, by George Manville Fenn.

This was the first Manville Fenn book I ever encountered, and I loved it at first sight. So much so that I had put nearly fifty of his books on the website within a couple of years, although, writing in 2005, two years ago I had never heard of Manville Fenn.

HMS Startler is on patrol up the Parang River in the Malay peninsula. On board are the midshipman, Bob Roberts, and the ensign, Tom Long. Their friendly bickering goes on throughout the book. Various tropical indispositions trouble them, and also of course the insect life in the air and saurian life in the river is of no help. It is hard to know which of the natives are on their side, and which not, and there is a great deal of two facedness. We are introduced to various fruits. A soldier on their own side is prone to fall asleep when on sentry duty, and the little fort they build to give the womenfolk a little more room than aboard ship, is very nearly captured and destroyed.

There are various trips for fishing and shooting purposes, and we learn a great deal about the natural history of the area while these expeditions are in progress.

One of the reasons why some of the natives do not like the British Protectorate is that normally any traffic passing up and down the river does so only on payment of a toll to the local chieftains, who in turn are at loggerheads with each other in dispute of the right to exact tolls.

It's a very exciting book, and you'll probably learn a lot by reading it.




The close of a hot day on board Her Majesty's ship "Startler," whose engines kept up a regular pulsation as the screw propeller churned the water astern into golden and orange foam. The dappled sky and the rippled sea were a blaze of colour; crimson, scarlet, burnished copper, orange chrome, dead, and flashing gold, all were there, on cloud edge and wave slope, mingled with purples, and greens, and blues, as the sun slowly descended to his rest.

There had been a general disposition all day long to lie under awnings, and pant "like tired dogs," so Bob Roberts the midshipman said; but now officers and men, in the lightest of garments, were eagerly looking for the cool evening breeze, and leaning over the bulwarks, gazing at the wondrous sunset sky and gorgeous sea.

The deck of the clean, smart looking vessel had a very picturesque aspect, dotted as it was with groups of officers and men; for in addition to the crew, the "Startler" carried four companies of Her Majesty's somethingth foot, the escort of the British Resident and his suite, bound for Campong Allee, the chief town of Rajah Hamet, on the Parang River, west coast of the Malay peninsula.

The Resident was to be the help and adviser of the Mohammedan potentate, who had sought the protection of the British Government; and to fix him in his position, and save him from the assaults of the various inimical petty rajahs around, the corvette was to lie for some months in the river, and the residency was to be turned into a fort, garrisoned by the troops under Major Sandars.

Bob Roberts, a fair, good looking, curly headed lad of sixteen, was standing with his back leaned against the bulwarks, his cap thrust back, and his hands deep in his pockets, staring defiantly across the deck at a lad of about a year or so older, who, as he stood very stiff and upright by the cabin ladder, returned the stare with interest.

The latter had just buckled on his sword, and, in spite of the heat, buttoned up his undress coatee to the chin, ready for the short spell of drill which he knew would take place before the officers dined; and after giving the finishing touch to his gloves, he rather ostentatiously raised his sword, then hanging to the full length of its slings, and hooked it on to his belt... Continue reading book >>

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