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The Willoughby Captains   By: (1852-1893)

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The Willoughby Captains

By Talbot Baines Reed This is one of this author's famous school stories. Like a new boy or girl at a school, you will be faced with learning the names of a great many youngsters, and to an extent, their characters. However, by the time you get half way through the book you will be familiar enough with the principal characters.

Of course, there are numerous small dramas being acted out as the book proceeds, but the main one concerns a boat race between two of the Houses. Along the course there is a very tight bend. The boat on the outside of the bend is slightly in the lead but will probably lose this due to the inside boat having less far to travel to the next straight.

At a most crucial moment, when maximum power is being exerted by the cox on the rudder lines, one of them snaps, and the boat goes out of control. The cox shouts the instructions for an emergency stop, and to back water. The other boat proceeds to the end of the course. It can now be seen that the rudder line had been deliberately half cut through, so that it would snap at that tight bend on the river.

For the rest of the book people are trying to work out who had done this deed. At one stage we think we know the answer. We become quite convinced we know the answer, in fact. But we are wrong, and we do not find out till almost the end of the book. And it is to be hoped that at that point the promised re row takes place.

There is some confusion with names in respect of Merrison and Morrison, but I suspect that to be a printer's error. It is not of great importance, since he is (or they are) not front line characters in the action.

The punctuation becomes very difficult in the reporting of the proceedings of the school parliament, because not only do you have the current speaker, but interspersed with it are comments by the raconteur and by the noisier of the boys. The printed book settled for a simplified version here, but we have done our best to give you a version that is more according to rule. THE WILLOUGHBY CAPTAINS




Something unusual is happening at Willoughby. The Union Jack floats proudly over the old ivy covered tower of the school, the schoolrooms are deserted, there is a band playing somewhere, a double row of carriages is drawn up round the large meadow (familiarly called "The Big"), old Mrs Gallop, the orange and sherbert woman, is almost beside herself with business flurry, and boys are going hither and thither, some of them in white ducks with favours on their sleeves, and others in their Sunday "tiles," with sisters and cousins and aunts in tow, whose presence adds greatly to the brightness of the scene.

Among these last named holiday making young Willoughbites no one parades more triumphantly to day than Master Cusack, of Welch's House, by the side of his father, Captain Cusack, R.N. Cusack, ever since he came to Willoughby, has bored friend and foe with endless references to "the gov., captain in the R.N., you know," and now that he really has a chance of showing off his parent in the flesh his small head is nearly turned. He puffs along like a small steam tug with a glorious man of war in tow, and is too anxious to exhibit his prize in "The Big" to do even the ordinary honours of the place to his relative.

Captain Cusack, R.N., the meekest and most amiable of men, resigns himself pleasantly to the will of his dutiful conductor, only too pleased to see the boy so happy, and pardonably gratified to know that he himself is the special object of that young gentleman's jubilation. He had come down, hoping for a quiet hour or two to see his boy and inspect Willoughby, but he finds that, instead, he is to be inspected himself, and, though he wouldn't thwart the lad for the world, he would just as soon have dropped in at Willoughby on a rather less public occasion... Continue reading book >>

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