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James Braithwaite, the Supercargo by Kingston

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

James Braithwaite, the Supercargo; The Story of his Adventures Ashore and Afloat, by W.H.G. Kingston.


This is a typical Kingston book, very skilfully written, with lots of difficult situations very well described. But what is worth remembering is that it is probably the last book Kingston ever wrote, for he had already been diagnosed with a rapid and terminal illness, which I suppose to have been cancer. Yet, despite the position that redoubtable author found himself in, he still gave us one of his very best well-written adventure stories.

A supercargo is a position in the ship's crew analogous to the ship's clerk. His work consists of knowing exactly where every item of the cargo is stowed, so that it can be put in the right place for it to be most conveniently taken out on its arrival at its destination.

Do read it and judge for yourself. You will find it worth the short seven hours it takes to read aloud.





"What's the name of the craft you want to get aboard, sir?" asked old Bob, the one-legged boatman, whose wherry I had hired to carry me out to Spithead.

"The _Barbara_," I answered, trying to look more at my ease than I felt; for the old fellow, besides having but one leg, had a black patch over the place where his right eye should have been, while his left arm was partially crippled; and his crew consisted of a mite of a boy whose activity and intelligence could scarcely make up for his want of size and strength. The ebb tide, too, was making strong out of Portsmouth Harbour, and a fresh breeze was blowing in, creating a tumbling, bubbling sea at the mouth; and vessels and boats of all sizes and rigs were dashing here and there, madly and without purpose it seemed to me, but at all events very likely to run down the low narrow craft in which I had ventured to embark. Now and then a man-of-war's boat, with half-a-dozen reckless midshipmen in her, who looked as if they would not have the slightest scruple in sailing over us, would pass within a few inches of the wherry; now a ship's launch with a party of marines, pulling with uncertain strokes like a huge maimed centipede, would come right across our course and receive old Bob's no very complimentary remarks; next a boatful of men-of-war's men, liberty men returning from leave. There was no use saying anything to them, for there wasn't one, old Bob informed me, but what was "three sheets in the wind," or "half seas over,"--in other words, very drunk; still, they managed to find their way and not to upset themselves, in a manner which surprised me. Scarcely were we clear of them when several lumbering dockyard lighters would come dashing by, going out with stores or powder to the fleet at Spithead.

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