With All Despatch (The Bolitho Novels) (Volume 8)
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It is 1792, over ten years since Britain's defeat by the American colonies, and the bitter humiliation still sticks in the Admiralty's craw. Now brutal smugglers, many of them naval deserters, occupy the Channel, plying their trade between England and France. Richard Bolitho's mission: to take three speedy topsail cutters and fight the treacherous raiders off the coast of Kent.
shall follow Wakeful, and attack to—” He hesitated, thinking of the dead gunner. “To lar-board. There’s no time to transfer the carronades this time.” The boatswain frowned and then touched his arm. “ That’s more like it.” He turned to the others nearby. “The lieutenant says we’ll engage to larboard!” He brandished the axe. “So stand to, lads! Man the braces there!” From aft Paice watched the sudden bustle, with even injured men limping to their stations, the sudden response as the punctured
watch Bolitho’s expression. “It will involve a lot of men.” His dark eyes seemed to dance in the candlelight as the youth placed a silver candelabrum on the desk. “Men for the fleet, or the gallows, we’ll strike no bargains, and a cargo to make these bloody smugglers realise we’re on the attack!” Bolitho’s mind was in a whirl. If it was true, Hoblyn was right. It would make all the difference to their presence here. He pictured Whitstable on the chart, a small fishing port which lay near the
scowled. The idiot had left the most important fact to the end. He swallowed his revulsion and said softly, “Fetch two men and—” The gunner’s mate thrust his face even closer and whispered thickly, “No need, sir, someone be comin’!” The lieutenant thankfully withdrew his face. The gunner’s mate’s breath was as foul as any bilge. Chewing tobacco, rum and bad teeth made a vile mixture. “Stand to!” The lieutenant faced the narrow alley and cursed Their Lordships for the absurdity of it. The
been a mere passenger at the time, a hard role for a man of action like him, Bolitho had thought. It had been the French intention to attack and seize Jamaica and for Brennier, a very senior officer, to be installed as governor. The Saintes had changed all that, as it had for so many on such a fine April day. Ordinary, decent men. Like Stockdale who had fallen without a word, Ferguson who had lost an arm; the list was endless. His own ship, Phalarope, had only stayed afloat by working the pumps
against Allday’s massive shoulder and gasped. “So it’s not over.” Then he looked up, his eyes clearing like clouds from the sea. “Was he dead?” Allday shrugged and gave a slow grin of relief and pride. For both of them. “Didn’t ask, Cap’n.” Bolitho turned towards the white-haired admiral. “I must leave you, m’sieu. My prize crew will take care of you.” He looked away towards Kempthorne’s sprawled body. He had intended to make him prize master of La Revanche, give him a small authority which