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A Night In The Dreadnought
by [?]

Chapter I. Stowaways.

We were spending the winter of 185–, my young brother Jack and I, with our grandfather at Kingstairs, a quiet little seaside village not a hundred miles from the Nore.

I am not quite clear to this day as to why we were there–whether we were sent for a treat, or for a punishment, or whether I was sent to take care of Jack, or Jack was sent to take care of me. I can’t remember that we had committed any unusually heinous offence at home. Indeed, since our attempt a week or two previously to emulate history by smothering the twins, after the manner of the princes in the Tower, we had been particularly quiet, not to say dull, at home. For the little accident of the squib that went off in the night nursery in the middle of the night counted for nothing, nobody being hurt, and only the head nurse and our aunt having hysterics.

So that when, the day after we had broken up for the holidays, our father told us we were going to spend Christmas at grandfather’s, there was nothing in our past conduct to suggest that the step was to be regarded in the light of a punishment.

All the same, it was no great treat. At least it would have been far more of a treat to spend Christmas at home, and carry out our long- cherished design of digging at the bottom of the garden till we reached the fire in the middle of the earth, an operation which we reckoned would occupy at least a week; to say nothing of the usual Christmas parties, which we did not see the fun of missing, and the visits to the Tower and the Monument, which always seemed to be part of every Christmas holiday.

However, as it was all settled for us, and everybody seemed to think it a great treat for us, and further, as Jack had a boat which wanted sailing, we yielded to the general wish, and reminding everybody that the presents could be sent down in a trunk a day or two before the 25th, we took our leave and repaired to Kingstairs.

Our father came with us, just to see us settled down, and then returned to town. And it was not till after he had gone that we began to think it rather slow to be left alone down there with only grandfather and Jack’s boat for company.

Grandfather was very old. We always used to put him down at a round hundred years, but I believe he was only seventy-five really. However, he was not as young as we were, and being rather infirm and subject to rheumatism, he preferred staying indoors near the fire to coming with us over the rocks and sailing Jack’s boat in mid-December.

He little knew the pleasure he missed, of course! Happily, he did not insist on our staying indoors with him, and the consequence was we managed to do pretty much as we liked, and indeed rather more so than he or any one else interested in our welfare supposed.

Kingstairs, as any one who has been there knows, is not a very exciting place at the best of times. In summer, however, it is a pleasant enough retreat, where family parties come down from town for a week or so, and spend their days boating in the pretty bay, or else basking on the sands under the chalk cliffs, where the children construct fearful and wonderful pits and castles, and arm-chairs for their mothers to sit in, or canals and ponds in which to sail their craft. In fine weather nothing is so enjoyable as a day on the rocks, hunting for crabs and groping for “pungars,” or else strolling about on the jetty to watch the packet-boat go out to meet the steamer, or see the luggers coming in after a week’s fishing cruise in the German Ocean.