The Story of Admiral Hobson: Chapter 1

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“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." (Eccles. 11:1.) CC 11:1{
A STORY from English history has brought the verse I have just written to my mind, and though perhaps some of our older readers may know the story of the workhouse boy who rose to be Lord High Admiral of England, there are many to whom it will be new, and, I hope, interesting: The events of my story happened a long time ago, when Queen Anne was upon the throne of England. France and England were then, as now, only divided from each other by the Straits of Dover, but the people of the two countries, though near neighbors, were not on friendly terms with each other. Instead of their soldiers fighting side by side against a common enemy, as they have since, they were fighting with each other, and sea-fights between the ships of the French and English were frequent.
Admiral Hobson was born in the pretty village of Bonchurch, in the Isle of Wight. Both his parents died when he was very young, and as he had no relatives who were able or willing to take care of the orphan boy, he was sent to the workhouse. We do not know much about his boyhood, his upbringing may have been rather a rough one; but there was one thing that is pleasant to remember, all the old people liked him; he was, they said, so good-tempered, and always ready to help them. When he was old enough to learn a trade the guardians decided to apprentice him to the village tailor.
We may be sure that he was not very pleased on hearing their decision, for "Hobby," as in those days every one called him, loved the sea, and wished very much to be a sailor, not a tailor. But he had no choice in the matter. He got on better than many workhouse apprentices in those days, for the tailor and his wife, who were getting on in years, had no children of their own, and took kindly to the bright-faced, willing lad, who was always ready to run errands, chop wood, or fetch water, who, in fact, liked anything better than sitting, doubled up, stitching away on the shop-board.
One day there was great excitement in the village. Neighbors came in telling of a large ship, a real man-of-war, that had just come to anchor off shore. How Hobby longed to see it, but the tailor was busy, and he did not venture to ask. How long and weary the hours must have seemed to the restless, eager boy. But after their frugal mid-day meal came the opportunity for which he had waited. The tailor was taking his customary after-dinner nap, his wife busy in her small kitchen. Hobby slipped off the shop-board, unfastened the garden gate without making a sound, then ran as fast as his legs would carry him down to the beach. Once there everything was forgotten in his admiration for the beautiful ship, by far the largest he had ever seen. How he longed to tread her decks! At that moment a boat was putting off to the ship, and without stopping to think of how wrongly he was acting, the boy jumped into its If any one noticed him they may have thought he had been sent on some errand for his master. He soon found himself on board. Making his way to the captain, he asked, "Please, sir, do you want a boy?”
Yes, the captain did want a boy, and seeing that Hobby looked a bright, likely lad, no questions were asked. Very soon after the order, to weigh the anchor was given, and before he had time to think what had happened they had lost sight of land.
He soon found that being at sea was not all sunshine. For two or three days he was very seasick, and hardly able to move; an old sailor was, however, very kind to him, and told him it was only what happened to most of the "landlubbers," and he would soon be on his sea legs. So he was, and about his duties, which were, he found, to combine those of cabin-boy with powder-monkey.
A day or two later a French war vessel was sighted, and everything was prepared for a sea-fight. It soon began; a sailor who had been standing by his gun, near Hobby, was killed, and one or two others wounded. Hobby did not like to see any one hurt, and finding the old sailor who had been kind to him, asked, "How long are they going to keep this up?” "How long? Why, till that white rag comes down," was the reply, as the old man pointed to the French flag at the masthead.
“If that's all, I'll see what I can do," the boy said to himself. He was a splendid climber; there was hardly a tree round Bonchurch he had not been up after birds' nests. During the engagement the ships had got so close to each other that their yard-arms met. A cloud of smoke hung over the decks of both. No one noticed the boy, who, with almost the agility of a monkey, was climbing the topmast of the British man-of-war. Swinging himself on the yard-arm of the French battleship, he climbed her mast, took down the flag and, winding it round his waist, returned in safety to the deck of his own ship. The French ship being the larger and better manned of the two, up till that moment everything had seemed in her favor. But her flag was lowered! The British sailors saw it and set up a ringing cheer. The French commander who knew he had given no orders to strike her colors, was quite puzzled. The French gunners left their guns and stood looking at the empty flagstaff with wonder and dismay written upon their faces.
But amid the confusion Hobby made his way to the captain and gave him the flag. He was greatly pleased with a naval victory won at so small a cost, and said, "You are a brave boy, Hobby, go on as you have begun; be willing and obedient, and I'll be a good friend to you." And he kept his word, teaching the boy navigation and many other things that were likely to be of use to him. Hobby proved himself a born sailor, and by repeated acts of bravery rose quickly in his profession, till he became Lord High Admiral. But the sweetest part of my story is to tell you how richly the kindness the village tailor and his wife had shown to their workhouse apprentice was repaid. Do not forget, dear ones, that God's written word says plainly, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal. 6:7.)