Available as a Free eBook: View or Download
Dermot O'Neil, was out fishing in a small boat that he usually went with his widowed mother in. The catch being good he went up to the nearby castle, the abode of the Earl Kilfinnan, where he easily sells his fish, and is asked to come back with more the next day. Being a good-looking and well-mannered 12-year-old, he wins the admiration of the Earl's daughter and her cousin, who offer to teach him to read. When they go back to London they get the local Protestant minister to take him on, much to the annoyance of Father O'Rourke, who does not like his Catholic parishioners to be able to read.
Eventually the boy goes to sea. At some point in his career he decides to give up his Irish name, and takes an English one, Denham. Several incidents in which he distinguishes himself occur, and he is given the chance of becoming a midshipman, from which rank he duly rises by examination to Lieutenant. Meanwhile the Earl has obtained a position in the West Indies of Lieutenant-Governor of one of the islands, since he had been finding it hard to make ends meet from the revenues of his estates in Ireland. There are occasions on which Denham has to call on the Earl and his family, but is not recognised.
Time goes on. The Earl's son and heir dies of an illness and is much lamented: he had been at sea pretty much as an equal in promotion with Denham. The Earl's time in the West Indies is up, and he and his family return to Ireland. Denham's ship visits Kilfinnan Bay, and he walks on shore, where it is possible he may have been recognised by O'Rourke and by a demented woman, who is not as mad as she seems.
Eventually the Earl dies, and to everyone's surprise Denham is not only revealed as our original young acquaintance, Dermot, but the lawyer states that Dermot's father was in the line of succession to the Earldom. This makes Dermot the new Earl. Cheers all round, but who wants to be saddled with a derilict castle and a bankrupt estate?