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The Story of the Rock   By: (1825-1894)

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The Story of the Rock, by R.M. Ballantyne.

In this book Ballantyne has brilliantly woven the story of a family that worked on the building of the Eddystone lighthouse, with the story of the actual building. Three successive attempts were made to build a lighthouse on this dangerous rock which lies several miles off the south coast of Devon, and on which so many fine ships making their way up the English Channel to the North Sea ports of Europe had been wrecked.

The first attempt was made in the early years of the eighteenth century, but that lighthouse did not last long. The second was made by Rudyerd, and was very well made and strong, but its upperworks were made of timber, and the whole thing was destroyed by fire, after having shown a light for over a third of a century. There was an amusing episode during the construction of the Rudyerd lighthouse when a French warship took all the construction workers prisoner, and made off with them to France. Luckily Louis, the King of France, heard of this and was quite incensed, ordering the British prisoners to be released and treated as hospitably as possible, while the captain of the warship was to be cast into the prison.

The final construction was by a mathematical instrument maker, of all people, called Smeaton. His lighthouse was even more soundly founded than even Rudyerd's had been, and he used the fact that stone is heavier than timber to add weight to the building, thus rendering it more resistant to the forces of wind and water. It was not only succesful as a lighthouse, but it has lasted to this day, well over two centuries, and has ever since it was completed been a highly regarded example of the art of lighthouse building.




"At mischief again, of course: always at it."

Mrs Potter said this angrily, and with much emphasis, as she seized her son by the arm and dragged him out of a pool of dirty water, into which he had tumbled.

"Always at mischief of one sort or another, he is," continued Mrs Potter, with increasing wrath, "morning, noon, and night he is; tumblin' about an' smashin' things for ever he does; he'll break my heart at last he will. There: take that!"

"That," which poor little Tommy was desired to take, was a sounding box on the ear, accompanied by a violent shake of the arm which would have drawn that limb out of its socket if the child's bones and muscles had not been very tightly strung together.

Mrs Potter was a woman of large body and small brain. In respect of reasoning power, she was little better than the wooden cuckoo which came out periodically from the interior of the clock that stood over her own fireplace and announced the hours. She entertained settled convictions on a few subjects, in regard to which she resembled a musical box. If you set her going on any of these, she would harp away until she had played the tune out, and then begin over again; but she never varied. Reasons, however good, or facts, however weighty, were utterly powerless to penetrate her skull: her "settled convictions" were not to be unsettled by any such means. Men might change their minds; philosophers might see fit to alter their opinions; weaklings of both sexes and all ages might trim their sails in accordance with the gales of advancing knowledge, but Mrs Potter no: never! her colours were nailed to the mast. Like most people who unite a strong will with an empty head, she was "wiser in her own conceit than eleven men that can render a reason:" in brief, she was obstinate.

One of her settled convictions was that her little son Tommy was "as full of mischief as a hegg is full of meat." Another of these convictions was that children of all ages are tough; that it does them good to pull them about in a violent manner, at the risk even of dislocating their joints... Continue reading book >>

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