Luke Thorpe is a fifteen-year-old wimp. Excellent at maths and terrible at sport, he'd rather keep his head down and get on with his school work.
Of the tens of thousands of excursionists who every summer travel down by rail to Southend, there are few indeed who stop at Leigh, or who, once at Southend, take the trouble to walk three miles along the shore to the fishing village. It may be doubted, indeed, whether along the whole stretch of coastline from Plymouth to Yarmouth there is a village that has been so completely overlooked by the world. Other places, without a tithe of its beauty of position, or the attraction afforded by its unrivalled view over the Thames, from Gravesend to Warden Point, ever alive with ships passing up and down, have grown from fishing hamlets to fashionable watering-places; while Leigh remains, or at any rate remained at the time this story opens, ten years ago, as unchanged and unaltered as if, instead of being but an hour's run from London, it lay far north in Scotland.
When the proofs came, in a very short time, he hardly knew what to do with them. But in reading them he discovered several mistakes, which he lost no time in correcting, and Mr. Jennings said that he had done very well indeed. "Now you can spend the day in doing what you please. I would suggest that you go about New York and have as many strange experiences as possible, so that to-morrow you can write them up for us. And it will pay you, by the way, to go out to Coney Island, which is a different place from any you have seen before. You are sure to see some unusual things, and in the morning you can bring me in two columns about it."
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