Read Desolation Island Online

Authors: Patrick O'Brian

Tags: #Historical Fiction

Desolation Island (42 page)

The moon rose, huge and very little past the full, flooding the sea with her pale fire. Clear of the horizon now: higher still, and somewhere on the left a battle broke out among the sea-elephants.

'Maybe they've fouled a fluke, hanging about so long,' said Bonden at last. 'No. She's loosed her foretopsail. She'll weigh any minute now. Soon be gone, with the ebbing tide; and she'll cast pretty on this breeze. Soon be gone, and so shalt we, thank God. Gudgeons in and rudder shipped tomorrow, and homeward bound maybe, once the hold is stowed. The lantern again. They'll lose their tide if they keep hanging about like this: what a rum way of carrying on! Do you hear that, sir? No, not the old seal. A boat, a-pulling for the brig. There, I see 'un, coming from behind the pointed rock. Why, our jolly-boat. I dare say it is Mr Herapath to say good-bye, he pulls so awkward. Yes, so it is. But who's his mate, the black-haired boy? I don't know that phiz. Sir, sir, it's Mrs Wogan! She's skipped her bail! Shall I shove off and bring 'cm back?'

'No,' said Stephen. 'Sit still and keep quiet.'

The boat came nearer still, passed within whispering distance, and the moon shone on their faces, delighted, ingenuous, and absurdly young. It passed on; swung into the black shadow of the whaler's side. Some low cries from the La Fayette - 'Get a good hold on the lines, ma'am, and mind your petticoats - easy, all, as she rises' - and then, as the brig swung to the breeze and gathered way, Mrs Wogan's laugh, floating clear across the water, very cheerful and amused, more amused than ever, so amused that both Stephen and Bonden chuckled aloud; and now, for the first time, it had a fine triumphant ring.

The End

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