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Dick Leslie's Luck A Story of Shipwreck and Adventure   By: (1851-1922)

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Dick Leslie's Luck, by Harry Collingwood.



The night was as dark as the inside of a cow! Mr Pryce, the chief mate of the full rigged sailing ship Golden Fleece outward bound to Melbourne was responsible for this picturesque assertion; and one had only to glance for a moment into the obscurity that surrounded the ship to acknowledge the truth of it.

For, to begin with, it was four bells in the first watch that is to say, ten o'clock p.m.; then it also happened to be the date of the new moon; and, finally, the ship was just then enveloped in a fog so dense that, standing against the bulwarks on one side of the deck, it was impossible to see across to the opposite rail. It was Mr Pryce's watch; but the skipper Captain Rainhill was also on deck; and together the pair assiduously promenaded the poop, to and fro, pausing for a moment to listen and peer anxiously into the thickness to windward every time that they reached the break of the poop at one end of their walk, and the stern grating at the other.

Now, a dark and foggy night at sea is an anxious time for a skipper; but the anxiety is multiplied tenfold when, as in the present case, the skipper is responsible not only for the safety of a valuable ship and cargo, but also for many human lives. For the Golden Fleece was a magnificent clipper ship of two thousand eight hundred tons register, quite new this being her maiden voyage, while she carried a cargo, consisting chiefly of machinery, valued at close upon one hundred thousand pounds sterling; and there were thirty six passengers in her cuddy, together with one hundred and thirty emigrants mostly men in the 'tween decks. And there was also, of course, her crew.

For a reason that will shortly become apparent, it is unnecessary to introduce any of the above mentioned persons to the reader with two exceptions. Of these two exceptions one was a girl some three and twenty years of age, of medium height, perfect figure, lovely features crowned by an extraordinary wealth of sunny chestnut wavy hair with a glint of ruddy gold in it where the sun struck it, and a pair of marvellous dark blue eyes. Her beauty of face and form was perfect; and she would have been wonderfully attractive but for the unfortunate fact that her manner towards everybody was characterised by a frigid hauteur that at once effectually discouraged the slightest attempt to establish one's self on friendly terms with her. It was abundantly clear that she was a spoiled child, in the most pronounced acceptation of the term, and would be likely to remain so all her life unless some extraordinary circumstance should haply intervene to break down her repellent pride, and bring to the surface those sterling qualities of character that ever and anon seemed struggling for an opportunity to assert themselves. Her name was Flora Trevor; her father was an Indian judge; and, accompanied by her maid, and chaperoned nominally, at least by a friend and former schoolfellow of her mother, she was now proceeding on a visit to some relatives in Australia prior to joining her father at Bombay.

The other exception was a man, of thirty two years of age but who looked very considerably older. He stood six feet one inch in his socks; was of exceptionally muscular build, without an ounce of superfluous flesh anywhere about him; rather thin and worn looking as to face which was clean shaven and tinted a ruddy bronze, as though the owner had been long accustomed to exposure to the weather; of a gloomy and saturnine cast of countenance; and a manner so cold and unapproachable that, although on this particular night he had been on board the Golden Fleece just a fortnight, no one in the ship knew anything more about him than that he went by the name of Richard Leslie; and that he was like the rest of the passengers on his way to Australia.

Now, there is no need to make a secret of this man's history; on the contrary, a brief sketch of it will lead to a tolerably clear understanding of much that would otherwise prove incomprehensible in his character and actions... Continue reading book >>

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