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Mr Midshipman Easy
Jack Easy, the hero of Captain Marryat's story, was "no fool, but a
bit of a philosopher." He had been spoiled by an indulgent mother and
a foolish father, who was continually prosing about "equality and the
rights of man." Indeed, Jack could even out-talk his father upon this
subject. "There was no end to Jack's arguing the point, though there
seldom was point to his argument." At sixteen he resolved to leave
school and go to sea; and though Mr. Easy was unwilling, Jack insisted
on his "rights" as his father's "equal," and the old man yielded. He
was to sail as midshipman on the sloop-of-war Harpy, with Captain
Wilson, a relative of his father's. He set out for Portsmouth with
plenty of money in his pockets, and squandering this he loitered three
weeks in the town without reporting to his ship. When Captain Wilson
heard of this he sent Mr. Sawbridge, his lieutenant, to summon the
boy. Mr. Sawbridge peremptorily ordered Jack on board; but the officer
was not in uniform, and Jack did not understand naval etiquette. He
pertly refused to go until he should be ready, arguing his "equality"
with any officer. Lieutenant Sawbridge departed, threatening that if
Jack did not appear that night a file of marines should arrest him in
the morning. He reported Jack's disobedience to the Captain, but the
latter, hoping to undo the father's foolish lessons, resolved to
discipline the boy gradually and gently. He sent a note inviting him
to breakfast at nine on the following morning, which invitation Jack
politely accepted. The next few pages give Jack's first experience of
"equality" at sea.
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