George Alfred Henty: The Story of an Active Life
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His ambition growing, he next bought the Dream, a thirty-two ton yawl. But Henty was no dreamer, and he changed her name to the Meerschaum, not after his pipe, but because of his love of sending her careening over and through the sea foam.
The Meerschaum only satisfied his desires, though, for about three years, when he purchased a vessel better worthy of his attention as an enthusiastic yachtsman, in the shape of the before-mentioned Egret, an eighty-three ton schooner. This boat he sailed with a skilful crew for years, indulging now and then in a handicap in the Corinthian or the Thames Yacht Club, of both of which, as well as of the Medway Club, he was a member.
He had various cups to show as the reward of his prowess. One of these, a handsome trophy, of which he was very proud, he would display to his friends with sparkling eyes, though the modest nature of the man stepped in at once as he hastened to say, “That was won by my men of the Egret at Cowes. They had the money prize, and out of it purchased this cup for me,” – a little fact this which clearly showed the friendly feeling existing between skipper and crew. The ambition to win what would be looked upon as a greater prize was shown more than once in his crossing the North Sea to enter the lists for the German Emperor’s Cup. On one occasion so brave a fight was made that the Egret would have proved the winner had not fate been against her; she was ready to battle with the sea no matter how rough, but was helpless when the wind failed, and this was what happened, to her owner’s intense disappointment.
A propos of prize cups, the sideboard in Henty’s museum-like study had a pretty good display of silver trophies, many of which were the prizes won during the time when he was a member of the London Rowing Club, where his broad, deep chest, heavy muscles, long reach, and powers of endurance made him a formidable competitor. And it was in this club, oddly enough, that he first made the acquaintance of Mr J.P. Griffith, who, being a very rapid scribe, became the amanuensis and writer to whom he dictated every one of the books which, calf bound, all en suite, made such an imposing show on the shelves of one large book-case.
In the summer of 1897, the Diamond Jubilee year, it fell to Henty’s lot to describe for the Standard the passing of the procession along the Piccadilly portion of the route, while a fellow correspondent for the Standard, Mr Bloundelle Burton, described the Queen’s journey along the Strand. This gentleman in the same year was acting as correspondent on board one of our battleships at the Naval Review off Portsmouth, and Henty, taking advantage of his position as a yacht owner, stationed the Egret off the Isle of Wight, and there in hospitable fashion kept “open house” for his friends.
He took a very keen and wholly natural pride in this graceful yacht, the Egret, perhaps because in acquiring her he pretty well reached the height of his ambition.He liked to talk about her prowess in sailing, which he modestly veiled by setting it down to the skill of his men. But his pride in the Egret when she walked the waters like a thing of life, shone out of his eyes, and he did what he could to make her fame lasting by having her photographed. The accompanying admirable representation, which was taken for him by Messrs Kirk and Son, of Cowes, shows the little yacht running free before a brisk breeze off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
Chapter Forty Four.