Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/118

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THE RELIANCE AND THE TOM THUMB

This companion was George Bass, a Lincolnshire man like Flinders himself, born at Aswarby near Sleaford. He was a farmer's son, but his father died when he was quite a child, and his mother moved to Boston. She managed out of her widow's resources to give her son an excellent education, and designed that he should enter the medical profession. In due course he was apprenticed to a Boston surgeon, Mr. Francis—a common mode of securing training in medicine at that period. He "walked" the Boston hospital for a finishing course of instruction, and won his surgeon's diploma with marked credit.

Bass had from his early years shown a desire to go to sea. His mother was able to buy for him a share in a merchant ship; but this was wrecked, whereupon, not cured of his love of the ocean, he entered the navy as a surgeon. It was in that capacity that he sailed in the Reliance. He was then, in 1795, thirty-two years of age.

All the records of Bass, both the personal observations of those who came in contact with him, and the tale of his own deeds, leave the impression that he was a very remarkable man. He was six feet in height, dark-complexioned, handsome in countenance, keen in expression, vigorous, strong, and enterprising. His father-in-law spoke of his "very penetrating countenance." Flinders called him "the penetrating Bass." Governor Hunter, in official despatches, said he was "a young man of a well-informed mind and an active disposition," and one who was "of much ability in various ways out of the line of his profession." He was gifted with a mind capable of intense application to any task that he took in hand. Upon his firm courage, resourcefulness and strength of purpose, difficulties and dangers acted merely as the whetstone to the finely tempered blade. He undertook hazardous enterprises from the