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King O’ Prussia
by [?]

But the tale they tell oftenest is about the battery he kept on Enys Point, and how he opened fire with it upon His Majesty’s vessel; and I want you to have the rights of that as I had it from Captain Will Richards himself. To hear folks speak you would think the King just opened fire and blazed away for the fun of it; whereas, with all his daring, he was the quietest, most inoffensive man in the trade, if only you let him alone. Mr. Wearne, the collector, understood this, and it was not by his fault either that the firing came about, but all through an interfering woman and a preacher who couldn’t mind his own business.

It began in this way. Bessie Bussow had a sister-in-law married and living over here in Ardevora–Ann Geen was the name of her–a daughter of Kitty Lemal. (You’ve heard tell of Kitty Lemal and her eight daughters, and her stocking full of guineas? No? Well there’s another story for you one of these days.) This Ann was the youngest of the eight, and married John Geen latish in life, just in time to bring him a boy before he left her a widow; and after her mother Kitty died she and the boy lived together in the old house at Carne Glaze–Ugnes House[2] they used to call it. The boy, being the son of old parents, was a lean, scrag-necked child, with a lollopping big head, too clever for his years. He had the Lemals’ pluck inside him though, for all his unhandy looks; and, of course, his mother thought him a nonesuch.

Well, with all the country talking about John Carter and his doings, you may fancy that every boy in Ardevora wanted to grow up in a hurry and be off to Prussia Cove a-smuggling. It took young Phoby Geen (his real name was Deiphobus) as bad as the rest. He had been over to the Cove with his mother on a visit to Bessie Bussow, and there in the Kiddlywink the King had patted him on his big head and given him a shilling. After that the boy gave his mother no peace. She, poor soul, wanted to make a preacher of him, and wouldn’t hear of his going; but often, after he had turned fifteen, she would be out of bed ten times of a night and listening at his door to make sure he hadn’t run off in the dark.

I told you the boy was clever; and this is how he gained his end. There had always been a tale that the Ugnes House was haunted–the ghost being old Reginald Bottrell, Kitty Lemal’s father, a very respectable sea-captain, who died in his bed with no reason whatever for being uncomfortable in the next world. Still, “walk” he did, or was said to; and one fine day the boy came to his mother with a pretty tale. It went that, the evening before, he and his young cousin, Arch’laus Bryant, had been lying stretched on their stomachs before the fire in the big room–he reading the Pilgrim’s Progress by the light of the turves, and Arch’laus listening. The boys were waiting for their supper, and for Mrs. Geen to come back from her Saturday’s shopping. Happening to look up as he turned a page, Phoby saw, on the steps which led down into the room, a brisk, stout little gentleman, dressed in a long, cutaway coat, black velvet waistcoat and breeches, black ribbed stockings, and pump shoes tied with a bow. He twinkled with brass or gilt buttons–one row down the coat and two rows down the waistcoat–and each button was stamped with a pattern of flowers. His head was bald, except for a bit of hair at the back; he had no hat; and when he turned, after closing the door behind him, Phoby took notice that his belly was round and as tight as a drum. The boy denied being frightened; “the gentleman,” he said, “was most pleasant-looking in all his features. I didn’t take ‘en for a sperat, but for somebody come to see mother. I stood up and said, ‘Good eveling, sir. Mother’ll be back in a minute or two if you’ll take a seat.'” “I’m not come for she, but for thee,” he said; “Deiphobus Geen, idle no longer. Arise, take my advice, and go a-smuggling.” And with that he vanished through the door.