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Bolitho 05 - In Gallant Company by Alexander Kent

Bolitho 05 - In Gallant Company by Alexander Kent

Author:Alexander Kent [Kent, Alexander]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction:Historical
Publisher: Arrow
Published: 2011-05-26T18:31:33+00:00


12

Rivals

The day after Rear-Admiral Coutts had shifted his flag to Trojan found Bolitho pacing the quarterdeck, keeping an eye on the forenoon watch and enjoying a fresh north-west breeze. During the night the big ninety-gun Resolute with the frigate in company had vanished astern, and would now be beating back towards New York, the wind making every mile a battle of its own.

For the Trojan things were different, as if Coutts' unexpected arrival had brought a change of circumstances. She must make a fine sight, Bolitho thought as his feet took him up and down the windward side without conscious effort. In her fair-weather canvas, and under courses, topsails and topgallants, she was leaning her shoulder into the blue water, throwing curtains of spray high above her beakhead.

The compass held steady at south, south-east, taking the powerful two-decker well away from the land, down towards the long chain of islands which separated the Atlantic from the Caribbean.

The wind held back the heat, and allowed the less badly wounded and injured men to move about the decks, to find themselves again in their own way. The remainder, some of whom might die before they reached Sandy Hook, had gone with the flagship, as had the prisoners, and Coutts' report of the attack.

Only one captive remained aboard, the Frenchman, Contenay. He took regular walks on deck without an escort, and seemed completely at home in a King's ship.

Bolitho had discovered that he still knew little about his own captain. The brief moments of contact, even warmth, upon his return to the ship had been replaced by Pears' usual stem, remote demeanour. Bolitho thought that the admiral's presence had a lot to do with it.

Coutts had appeared on deck this morning. Youthful, relaxed and apparently interested, he had strolled along the weather gangway, pausing to watch the bare-backed seamen at their work, the carpenter with his crew, the sailmaker and the cooper, the ship's tradesmen who daily changed a man-of-war into a busy street.

He had spoken to the officers and some of the senior hands. The Sage had been impressed by his knowledge of Arctic exploration, and Midshipman Forbes reduced to blushing incoherence by a few well-aimed questions.

If he was troubled at the doubtful prospect of running another enemy supply cache to earth, or at what the commanderin-chief might say at his behaviour, he certainly did not show it. His plans he kept to himself, and only Ackerman, his urbane flag lieutenant, the one Bolitho had seen in a cabin with a half-naked woman, and his personal clerk shared his confidences.

Bolitho decided that would also irritate Pears beyond measure.

A step fell on the deck nearby and Cairns joined him at the rail, his eyes taking in the working parties and the set of each sail with practised authority.

He said, 'The admiral is with our captain. I sense an air of grapeshot close by.' He turned and glanced meaningly at the poop skylight. 'I was glad to leave the great men.'

'No news yet?'

'Not much. Like D'Esterre, the admiral plays a taut hand.



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