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On Board the Esmeralda Martin Leigh's Log - A Sea Story   By:

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On Board the Esmeralda; or, Martin Leigh's Log

by John Conroy Hutcheson There is no doubt that John Hutcheson was a talented writer of books for teenagers. Most of his books were about the sea, but few of them were as well written as this one. What is meant here is that his English style is very good, even when he brings in characters whose command of English is less perfect; and also that he drives his characters from one gripping situation to another.

The hero, Martin Leigh, is the son of a brave British Naval officer, who was killed in Africa when the boy is very young. The mother also dies, and Martin is left an orphan, to be brought up by his father's brother. He has a horrible time in this family, and Aunt Matilda is his chief tormentor. Eventually he is sent to a cheap boarding school with a prospectus in no way matched by reality. Again he has a horrible time, for several years, but is befriended by another boy, Tom. One year, on Guy Fawkes' Day, they perpetrate a misdemeanour far beyond what they should have done, and are sentenced to be expelled. They run away, and stow away in a little coaster. When they are discovered, the captain beats them even worse than the Headmaster of their school had done. So Martin, aged thirteen, has known nothing but hard times.

He meets with nice people, has a while in which he gets his act together, and then goes to sea again. This trip is full of adventure, near misses and disasters. Fire at sea, wrecked on the southern tip of South Anerica, and finally back home to the kind people who had befriended him when he had that early chance to settle down.

It is a well written book, easy to read or to listen to, and I recommend it as one of Hutcheson's best. N.H.





It is strange what trifling events little things apparently in themselves seem to have the power of shaping our different destinies, and colouring, so to speak, the whole course of our subsequent life!

To illustrate this, I may state without exaggeration that, had it not been for Dr Hellyer's hat taken in connection with the mischievous promptings of that madcap Tom Larkyns, my special chum at the time it is more than probable that the grand climax which so abruptly brought my school days to a close might have been averted; and, in that case, following out the argument, I should not have gone to sea; have never started on that disastrous voyage round Cape Horn which nearly terminated my then newly commenced nautical career as summarily as my whilom academical studies had been put a stop to just previously; and, as a natural consequence, I should most certainly have never had the opportunity or necessity for spinning the present yarn. But, perhaps, the best plan for me to pursue, in order to make you fully understand the matter in all its bearings, will be to "begin at the beginning," as your regular 'longshore professional storytellers say, in the good old fashioned way, without any more backing and filling, and veering and hauling, which mode of progression, as every decent sailor knows, only tends to take a craft off her proper true course, and make lots of leeway; whereas, if we sail on free, with a fair wind and a steady helm, you'll soon be able to follow in my wake and form a correct opinion of your own as to the merits of my logical conclusions.

I will now, therefore, put back again and select a fresh point of departure after this little bit of sea lawyering; so, here goes for a start in earnest!

My name is Martin Leigh, and my mother died shortly after I was born, worse luck for me! My father, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, being within a year or two subsequently killed in action up the Niger river on the west coast of Africa, I was left an orphan at a very early age, without having ever experienced, even in my most remote childish recollections, those two greatest of all blessings a mother's love and parental guidance which many who have been more fortunate than myself to possess are, as I have frequently noticed in after life, but too often in the habit of undervaluing and making light of... Continue reading book >>

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