(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Jack Easy was the son of a wealthy landowner in the county of Hampshire, England. Jack’s father and mother had almost spoiled the boy for any good in the world, the former by his oversimplified philosophy of equality, and the latter by her doting. Fortunately for the young lad, the family physician, Doctor Middleton, rescued him from his home and put him in a school where he began to learn that the survival of the fittest was the way of the world. When he left school, it was decided he should go to sea as midshipman with Captain Wilson, a poor relation who was indebted to Mr. Easy for a loan of one thousand pounds and who was in command of the warship Harpy.

Jack soon made friends aboard the Harpy through the use of his fists in beating down bullies among the ship’s company and through the obvious goodwill that the Captain showed him. It was hard at first for the young man to become accustomed to life aboard the warship. The duties of a midshipman kept him busy, but the small living quarters and the discipline proved irksome to the son of a philosopher who preached a doctrine of equality.

Jack’s first naval adventure occurred when the ship was not far from Tarragona. In command of a boat during the capture of a Spanish vessel by a boarding party, he was left behind when the Harpy sailed away. Captain Wilson thought that Easy’s boat had been sunk with all hands. The following night, Easy’s boat captured another Spanish vessel by boarding. Easy ordered the crew and passengers, including an elderly Sicilian and his wife and two beautiful daughters, overboard into a small boat. A few days later, after Easy had vainly tried to find the Harpy, the crew landed on an island and refused to return to the captured ship; but an Ashantee black, Mesty, was loyal to Easy because the midshipman had befriended him and had treated him as an equal. Through the efforts of Mesty, the men were brought back on board in a docile condition, and Easy again set sail to look for the Harpy. After a week had passed, Easy and his crew found the British warship engaged with a Spanish vessel. The timely aid of gunfire from Easy’s prize helped the Harpy take its opponent. Everyone, including Captain Wilson, was amused at the flag that Easy had flown in the engagement. Having no British flag aboard the prize, he had hoisted a lady’s green petticoat.

Malta was the first stop for the Harpy in the Mediterranean. Easy fought a duel there. Thinking he had killed his man, he and a fellow midshipman, Gascoigne, ran away in a native boat they had hired. A storm drove their small craft to the Sicilian shore, where the two young sailors hid in a cart and fell asleep. When they awakened, they found themselves in the yard of a great house. They heard loud cries and rushed into the house in time to prevent the owner from being murdered by two relatives. The man and his family proved to be the passengers whom Easy had put into a small boat when he had taken his...

(The entire section is 1209 words.)