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Quicksilver by George Manville Fenn

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Quicksilver; or, The Boy With No Skid To His Wheel, by George Manville Fenn.


I don't know where they get titles for books from. The subtitle is "The Boy with no Skid to his Wheel", and that is the only mention of the word "skid" in the entire book. The only "wheel" mentioned is when the boy hero does cartwheels round the drawing-room. And the said boy is referred to as "a globule of quicksilver". So I suppose it is something the author had in his mind before he began the book.

Unlike most of Fenn's books, which involve dire situations with pirates in the China Seas, and other such places, the entire action of this book takes place in a small English village. The local doctor, having retired childless, decides he would like to adopt a boy. Being a Governor of the local Institute for the Poor he goes there and selects a boy who at the age of two had been a foundling, and who is now eleven or twelve.

Everyone is keen to make this work, but there is a big difference in social manners between a boy brought up in an Institute, and the boy the doctor would like to have. So a certain amount of retraining has to take place. Of course this is successful in the end, but there are a lot of blips long the way. Our hero makes friends with a local boy who is definitely "non-U". They run away together in a boat they have nicked for the purpose. For a few days they have various adventures, some enjoyable, but most of them not.

On being brought back our hero is sent to a small private school run by a clergyman, who beats the boy mercilessly, so that he runs away from the school, back to the doctor's, but remains hidden in an out-house. He is found, but becomes very ill, so the whole household is taken to a rented house in the Isle of Wight, where he eventually recovers. At which point it is discovered who his real parents are, and he is "U" after all, so everyone feels good about it.





He was very grubby, and all about his dark grey eyes there were the marks made by his dirty fingers where he had rubbed away the tickling tears. The brownish red dust of the Devon lanes had darkened his delicate white skin, and matted his shiny yellow curls.

As to his hands, with their fat little fingers, with every joint showing a pretty dimple, they looked white and clean, but that was due to the fact that he was sitting in a bed of moss by the roadside, where the water came trickling down from the red rocks above, and dabbling and splashing the tiny pool, till the pearly drops hung among his dusty curls, and dotted, as if with jewels, the ragged old blue jersey shirt which seemed to form his only garment.

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