There had been a light frost in the night, which Lanzhou Map still coated higher patches of ground. Yet with the effort of urging on my lazy pony Lanzhou Map I warmed up. The saddle was ill-fitting and wooden – no wonder it was spare.
Its stirrup leathers were too short for my legs but they couldn't be altered. My body was beginning to ache when finally we reached a rocky knoll and the boy said that I must turn back.
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Whether he thought it was too far for me or for my clapped out nag, I don't know, but I did as he asked.
Some of us nodded at Mr. Harman in agreement, to show that we were in fact already wise. I met Dave four years later, up the Hooghly River near Calcutta. By that time I was third mate of a white oil tanker, and we tied up alongside a sister ship in the fleet. Dave was onboard, still a cadet – a very old one too, having taken another 12 months before deciding to go to sea. I came across Mr. Harman too, a year after that in a bar on Anson Road in Singapore, and he told me he had been dismissed from recruitment for being too graphic in his descriptions and had been sent back to sea. I never saw any of the others who attended that interview day; they must have thought they were steering towards hell and fled to sanity before it was too late. The train continued to roll. I explained to my family and whoever else would listen what a time I was going to have and how exciting it was all going to be, my every sentence and boast was another barrier to me staying ashore.