Harry Escombe - A Tale of Adventure in Peru
135 Pages

Harry Escombe - A Tale of Adventure in Peru


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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Harry Escombe, by Harry Collingwood This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Harry Escombe A Tale of Adventure in Peru Author: Harry Collingwood Illustrator: Victor Prout Release Date: April 13, 2007 [EBook #21066] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HARRY ESCOMBE *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England Harry Collingwood "Harry Escombe" Chapter One. How the Adventure Originated. The hour was noon, the month chill October; and the occupants—a round dozen in number —of Sir Philip Swinburne’s drawing office were more or less busily pursuing their vocation of preparing drawings and tracings, taking out quantities, preparing estimates, and, in short, executing the several duties of a civil engineers’ draughtsman as well as they could in a temperature of 35° Fahrenheit, and in an atmosphere surcharged with smoke from a flue that refused to draw—when the door communicating with the chief draughtsman’s room opened and the head of Mr Richards, the occupant of that apartment, protruded through the aperture. At the sound of the opening door the draughtsmen, who were acquainted with Mr Richards’s ways, glanced up with one accord from their work, and the eye of one of them was promptly caught by Mr Richards, who, raising a beckoning finger, remarked: “Escombe, I want you,” and immediately retired. Thereupon Escombe, the individual addressed, carefully wiped his drawing pen upon a duster, methodically laid the instrument in its proper place in the instrument case, closed the latter, and, descending from his high stool, made his way into the chief draughtsman’s room, closing the door behind him. He did this with some little trepidation; for these private interviews with his chief were more often than not of a distinctly unpleasant character, having reference to some stupid blunder in a calculation, some oversight in the preparation of a drawing, or something of a similar nature calling for sharp rebuke; and as the lad—he was but seventeen—accomplished the short journey from one room to the other he rapidly reviewed his most recent work, and endeavoured to decide in which job he was most likely to have made a mistake. But before he could arrive at a decision on this point he was in the presence of Mr Richards, and a single glance at the chief draughtsman’s face—now that it could be seen clearly and unveiled by a pall of smoke—sufficed to assure Harry Escombe that in this case at least he had nothing in the nature of censure to fear. For Mr Richards’s face was beaming with satisfaction, and a large atlas lay open upon the desk at which he stood. “Sit down, Escombe,” remarked the dreaded potentate as he pointed to a chair. Escombe seated himself; and then ensued a silence of a full minute’s duration. The potentate seemed to be meditating how to begin. At length— “How long have you been with us, Escombe?” he enquired, hoisting himself onto a stool as he put the question. “A little over two years,” answered Escombe. “I signed my articles with Sir Philip on the first of September the year before last, and came on duty the next day.” “Two years!” ejaculated Mr Richards. “I did not think it had been so long as that. But time flies when one is busy, and we have done a lot of work during the last two years. Then you have only another year of pupilage to serve, eh, Escombe?” “Only one year more, Mr Richards,” answered the lad. “Ah!” commented Mr Richards, and paused again, characteristically. “Look here, Escombe,” he resumed; “you have done very well since you came here; Sir Philip is very pleased with you, and so am I. I have had my eye on you, and have seen that you have been studying hard and doing your best to perfect yourself in all the details of your profession. So far as theory goes you are pretty well advanced. What you need now is practical, out-of-door work, and,” laying his hand upon the open atlas, “I have got a job here that I think will just suit you. It is in Peru. Do you happen to know anything of Peru?” Escombe confessed that his knowledge of Peru was strictly confined to what he had learned about that interesting country at school. “It is the same with me,” admitted Mr Richards. “All I know about Peru is that it is a very mountainous country, which is the reason, I suppose, why there is considerably less than a thousand miles of railway throughout the length and breadth of it. And what there is is made up principally of short bits scattered about here and there. But there is some talk of altering all that now, and matters have gone so far that Sir Philip has been commissioned to prepare a scheme for constructing a railway from a place called Palpa—which is already connected with Lima and Callao—to Salinas, which is connected with Huacho, and from Huacho to Cochamarca and thence to a place called Cerro de Pasco, which in its turn is connected with Nanucaca; and from Nanucaca along the shore of Lake Chinchaycocha to Ayacucho, Cuzco, and Santa Rosa, which last is connected by rail with Mollendo, on the coast. There is also another scheme afoot which will involve the taking of a complete set of soundings over the length and breadth of Lake Titicaca. Now, all this means a lot of very important and careful survey work which I reckon will take the best part of two years to accomplish. Sir Philip has decided to entrust the work to Mr Butler, who has already done a great deal of survey work for him, as of course you know; but Mr Butler will need an assistant, and Sir Philip, after consultation with me, has decided to offer that post to you. It will be a splendid opportunity for you to acquire experience in a branch of your profession that you know very little of, as yet; and if the scheme should be carried out, you, in consequence of the familiarity with the country which you will have acquired, will stand an excellent chance of obtaining a good post on the job. Now, what do you say, Escombe; are you willing to go? Your pay during the survey will be a guinea a day—seven days a week—beginning on the day you sail