Meanwhile, in 1779, I had entered the sea service of the Honourable East India Company; and with passable good fortune had risen in it pretty fast. Enough to say, that by the spring of 1796 I was looking forward to the command of a ship. Just then my fortune deserted me. In a sudden fear of French invasion, our Government bought the four new ships which the Company had building (and a bad bargain they proved). This put a stop for the time to all chance of promotion; and a sharp attack of jaundice falling on top of my disappointments, I took the usual decrease of pay and the Board’s promise to remember my services on a proper occasion, and hauled ashore to Vellingey for a holiday and a thorough refit of health.
I believe that the eight or nine following months which Obed and I spent together were the happiest in our two lives. He was glad enough to shoulder off the small business of the farm and turn—as I have seen so many men play, in a manner, at the professions they have given over—to his favourite amusement of sounding the coast of Vellingey and correcting the printed charts. He kept a small lugger mainly for this purpose, and plied her so briskly that he promised to know the sea-bottom between Kelsey Head and Godrevy Rock better than his own fields. As for me, after years of salt water and stumping decks, I asked nothing better than to steer a plough and smell broken soil, and drowse after supper in an armchair, with good tobacco and Obed for company.