XV. The Brave Cabin Boy
Many years ago, when Charles II. was King of England,1
there was a war between England and Holland. One stormy afternoon
in the autumn an English fleet 2 was sailing along before the approaching
gale.3 The men were disheartened.4 For days 6 they had been cruising
around,6 hoping to meet with some ships of the enemy,7 but not
a Dutch sail had been sighted .8
Suddenly upon the ears of the eager 9 sailors 10 broke the cry
11 of the lookout,12 " A sail! " Immediately all eyes
were busy searching the angry waters. Away on the horizon 13 appeared
one, two, then more and more ships. The men watched them with the
greatest interest.14 " Are they ships of the enemy ?" "Perhaps
they belong to a friendly nation." 15 "Are they coming
on to battle, or will they fly when they discover 16 us ?"
Nearer and nearer come the ships. There is now no doubt. They are
Dutch men-of-war,17 and they mean to fight.
Quickly the English ships are cleared for action 18 ; officers
and men are all ready at their places to greet 19 the enemy, when
they come within range of the guns.20 The Dutch are as eager for
the fight as the English, and soon the dashing 21 of the waves
and the howling of the wind are drowned 22 in the roar 23 of the
On board the admiral's 24 ship the fighting has not stopped
for a moment. The captain of the guns approaches the admiral. " Sir," he
says, " most of the guns are disabled." 25 Before the
admiral can reply, another officer tells him that the ship is in
a dangerous condition.25 "Unless we get help soon,26 nothing
can save the ship."
The admiral looks around. What his officers say is true : his deck
is covered with dead and dying sailors ; his ship is entirely 27
surrounded by the ships of the enemy ; he cannot signal 28 any
of the other English ships, for the smoke from the guns hangs like
a great fog, cutting them off from his sight.29
Quickly the admiral writes a short note,30 asking the other English
ships to come to his assistance. With the note in his hand, he
speaks to his sailors :" Men, we must have help at once from
the rest of the fleet. I will give fifty pounds to the man who
will take this note to the commander 31 on one of our other ships.
Who will volunteer? "32
Immediately a number of men step forward, but the little cabin" boy,
pushing them back with his small hands, comes eagerly to the front.
Oh, Sir Admiral, let me go," he pleads.34 " I can swim
as well as any man. I am so little that the Dutch can't see me,
and I am not needed here so much as a man. Do let me go! "
You shall go, my brave boy," answers the admiral.
The boy took the note, and folding it as small as possible, put
it into his mouth. Then throwing off 35 his coat and boots, he
slipped into the stormy sea, and was soon out of sight.36
Shortly afterwards 37 a loud British cheer,38 rising above 39 the
thunder of guns and the noise of battle, told the listeners 40
on the flagship 24 that the boy had reached the other ship. Soon
the flagship, reinforced 41 by the other ships, was able to drive
off the Dutch fleet, and add another to Britain's naval
Next morning all the men on the flagship were ordered on deck.43
There their admiral told them of the little cabin boy. Then calling
the boy to him and offering him a purse,44 the admiral said: "Here
is the fifty pounds I promised to the man who would carry my note.
Take it, boy, for well have you earned it."
But the boy drew himself up 45 proudly. " No, no, I won't
have it! " he cried. " I didn't do the job 46 for money!
I did it for love of the flag ! 47 And I'm glad if you are satisfied! "48
Then what a cheer burst from the men ! 49 One might have thought
50 they had won another victory.
The good admiral looked at the boy with pride and something else
shining in his eyes. Then taking the boy's hand in his own, he
said, " My lad,51 I am proud of you, and some day England
will be proud of you, for you are surely going to become a great
Think of it !" said the boy afterwards. " Our great admiral
shook hands with me before all the men I Oh, wasn't that worth
52 hundreds of pounds!"
And the beat of the whole story is this-every word that the admiral
spoke came true. The brave little cabin boy became one of England's
greatest admirals-Sir Cloudesley Shovel.
1 He was King of England from 1660 to 1685. 2 A number
of ships, used for fighting, not to carry wares (like Mr Fitz
warren's ship that took Dick Whittington's cat). 3 A very strong wind. It
is blowing a gale. 4 Or : had lost heart. They wanted to fight, but had not
the enemy. b For (many) days, for days and days. 6 Sailing about, this way
and that; not from one place to another. 7 Those against whom they were fighting,
the Dutch (the people of Holland). s They had not caught sight of a Dutch ship.
9 They were eager to meet their enemies, they wanted very much to fight. 10
The soldier fights on land, the sailor at sea. 11 The sailors suddenly heard
the cry. 12 The sailor who has to look out, to tell the others what is in sight.
13 The line where the sky meets the sea. 14 It was very interesting for them
to see the ships, they wanted very much to know what kind of ships they were.
15 The British nation, the French nation, the German nation. 18 Or : see us,
find out who we are. 17 Or : battle-ships, ships used for fighting a battle
at sea. ls All is made ready for fighting. The deck (top part) of the ships
is cleared, everything is taken away that is not wanted. 19 Or : welcome. We
greet our friends by saying "Good-morning." 20 When they come so
near that the guns (or cannons) can reach them. 21 When the weather is stormy,
the waves dash against what is in their way : ships, rocks, etc. 22 When a
man who cannot swim falls into the sea, he is drowned. A loud noise drowns
a gentle sound, so that we cannot hear it. The noise of the cannons was so
loud that the sailors could not hear the waves or the wind. 23 When the lion
roars, smaller animals are terrified. 24 The admiral is at the head of the
fleet. His flag floats on his ship, the flag-ship of the fleet. 25 They are
of no use, it is impossible to shoot with them, because they have been hit
by the cannons of the enemy. The ship, too, has been hit, and it may soon sink
(go down in the water). The ship sank; it has sunk. There is danger that it
may sink. It is dangerous to walk over thin ice. My friend is very ill, the
doctor says that his condition is dangerous; I hope he will soon be out of
danger. 26 Or : if we do not get help soon, if we are left to ourselves. 27
Or: Aft ogether, quite, on all sides; opp. partly. 28 Or: make a sign to. On
ships this is done by means of flags. He signals : he signalled ; cp. travel
: travelled. 29 So that he cannot see them. 30 A letter containing only
a few words. 31 The admiral is in command of the fleet, and each ship has its
commander. 32 Who is willing to do this ? The admiral
did not say: " One of you must do this." 33 A cabin is the
little room in which we sleep when on a ship. The cabin
boy had to keep the cabins in order. 34 Or : begs earnestly. 35 Taking them
off quickly. 36 Or : had soon disappeared. 37 Or : a little while after. -'s
Cries of delight, shouts of admiration ; coming from the ship which the cabin
boy had reached. 38 Or : louder than, drowning (see note 22). 40 Those who
were listening. " Or : helped, assisted. 42 In a battle, one side loses,
the other wins the victory, is victorious. This was a naval victory, because
it was won at sea, by the fleet or navy. 43 They were told to come on deck
(see note 18). 44 Money is carried in a purse. 45 He stood straight, lifted
up his head. 48 This piece of work. 47 Or : because I love the flag of my country,
the British flag. 48 Or: contented ; if you think I have done my duty. When
you do your work well, your parents are satisfied. 49 How loudly they cheered
! 50 It seemed as though . . . 51 A lad is older than a boy, but not yet a
man. 52 It was as good as, had the same worth as.