Monday, 30 March 2009

A Lad of Grit continued

A series of events also continue in the background of the main drive of this narrative. These are connected with the activities of the Dorset smugglers. Aubrey finds himself involved in encounters with these men – depicted as wild, ruthless and completely outside any normal lawful authority. With those honest men (or boys) who cross them they are implacable. Once the villains are in the hands of the upholders of justice they are given short shrift.
Aubrey soon realises that he must never fall into their hands. Life, it seems, is full of peril for the young man. He will be safer at sea fighting the King’s enemies on board ship.
He finally gets his chance on the vessel Gannet which has an interesting voyage to many different parts of the world. In the Caribbean he encounters the buccaneers and pirates. In the Mediterranean his vessel has to tackle the Barbary pirates. All the while Aubrey begins to develop the friendships that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
The Gannet’s return to England culminates in a tremendous shipwreck and a renewed encounter with the smugglers.
Aubrey’s later career involves him in tremendous sea fights with the Dutch vessels who are successfully attacking the English coast. In the end he is actually captured and taken into captivity in Holland. Here, in prison, he meets again the man who killed his father. He starts to plan a way that he can outwit his enemy and take possession of the treasure that was left to him by his father. Aubrey’s attempts at escape end in farcical failures and, it is only after peace has been declared that he can return home to England and to Portsmouth.
Westerman uses the last section of the book to wrap up the various strands that he has been weaving from the beginning. To achieve his fortune the young man (who finally comes of age) must travel from Hampshire to the wilds of Yorkshire. Westerman manages to cram in an encounter with a witch in the process of being drowned before Aubrey and his close friends escape on their road northwards. Holwick proves to be the place where he must go and frustrate the schemes of his hated rival. This appears to be a settlement to the south of York and some events (including a remarkable coincidence) take place in that city, involving a visit to Clifford’s Tower.
The rival is drowned, the treasure is retrieved and all ends happily for the hero and his friends. The process by which the chest is made available is both fascinating and fantastic. Rivers being diverted and huge hidden chambers being found are treated as almost commonplace but are still gripping to read about.

Aubrey lives on to the days of Good Queen Anne but somehow fails to mention any part he played in the events surrounding the advent of William of Orange or the departure of James II.

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