Salt Water: The Sea Life and Adventures of Neil D’Arcy the Midshipman

ÒThe sea, the sea,Ó if not my mother, has been my nurse (and anything but a dry one) from the earliest days of my recollection. I was born within the sound of old oceanÕs surges; I dabbled in salt water before I could run; and I have floated on salt water, and have been well sprinkled with it too, from that time to the present. It never occurred to me, indeed, that I could be anything but a sailor. In my innocence, I pictured a life on the ocean wave as the happiest allowed to mortals; and little did I wot of all the bumpings and thumpings, the blows and the buffetings, I was destined to endure in the course of it. Yet, even had I expected them, I feel very certain they would not have changed my wishes. No, no. I was mightily mistaken with regard to the romance of the thing, I own; but had I to begin life again, with all its dangers and hardships, still I would choose the ocean for my homeÑthe glorious navy of England for my profession.
But now for my antecedents. I will not trouble the reader with many of them. I was born at the family seat in the south of Ireland. My mother died while I was very young, and my father, Colonel DÕArcy, who had seen much service in the army and had been severely wounded, after a lingering illness, followed her to the grave. During this time I was committed to the charge of Larry Harrigan, the butler and family factotum; and, in truth, I desired no better companion, for well did I love the old man. He was a seaman every inch of him, from his cherished pigtail to the end of the timber toe on which he had long stumped through the world. He had been coxswain to my maternal grandfather, a captain in the navy, who was killed in action. Larry had gone to sea with him as a lad, and they had seldom been separated. A few minutes before his commander, in the moment of victory, lost his life, Larry had his leg shot away; and on being paid off, he repaired to where my motherÕs family were residing. When my father married, he offered the old seaman an asylum beneath his roof. He certainly did not eat the bread of idleness there, for no one about the place was more generally useful. There was nothing he could not do or make, and in spite of his loss of a limb, he was as active as most people possessed with the usual complement of supporters.

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