A Falcon Flies

A Falcon Flies by Wilbur Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: A Falcon Flies by Wilbur Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Wilbur Smith
shattered her, that she, the daughter of Fuller Ballantyne, the great champion of freedom and sworn adversary of slavery – she, the accredited agent of the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade should be travelling aboard a notorious slaver.
    She was pale, the green eyes huge and liquid with the shock of it.
    â€˜Captain Codrington,’ her voice was husky and low, ‘my brother is right – I also assure you that there are no slaves aboard this ship.’
    The Englishman’s expression softened, she was not a beautiful woman, but there was a freshness and wholesomeness about her which was difficult to resist.
    â€˜I will accept your word, madam.’ He inclined his head. ‘Indeed, only a madman would carry black ivory towards Africa, but,’ and his voice hardened again, ‘if only I were able to enter her holds, I’d find enough down there to run her into Table Bay under a prize crew and have her condemned out of hand at the next session of the Court of Mixed Commission.’
    Codrington swung on his heel to face Mungo St John again.
    â€˜Oh yes, I know that your slave decks will be struck to make way for your trade cargo, but the spare planks are aboard and it won’t take you a day to set them up again,’ Codrington almost snarled, ‘and I’ll wager there are open gratings under those hatch covers,’ he pointed down at the maindeck, but without taking his eyes from Mungo St John’s face, ‘that there are shackles in the lower decks to take the chains and leg irons—’
    â€˜Captain Codrington, I find your company wearying,’ Mungo St John drawled softly. ‘You have sixty seconds to leave this ship, before I have my mate assist you over the side.’
    Tippoo stepped forward, hairless as an enormous toad, and stood a foot behind Codrington’s left shoulder.
    With a visible effort, the English captain retained his temper, as he inclined his head towards Mungo St John.
    â€˜May God grant we meet again, sir.’ He turned back to Robyn and saluted her briefly.
    â€˜May I wish you a pleasant continuation of your voyage, madam.’
    â€˜Captain Codrington, I think you are mistaken,’ she almost pleaded with him. He did not reply but stared at her for a moment longer, the pale eyes were direct and disturbing – the eyes of a prophet or a fanatic – then he turned and went with a gangling boyish stride to
Huron
’s entry port.

T ippoo had stripped off the high-necked tunic and oiled his upper body so it gleamed in the sunlight with the metallic lustre of the skin of some exotic reptile.
    He stood stolidly on flat bare feet, balancing effortlessly to the
Huron
’s roll, his thick arms hanging at his side and the lash of the whip coiled on the deck at his feet.
    There was a grating fixed at the ship’s side and the sailor who had been at the masthead lookout when they had raised the African coast, was spread-eagled upon it like a stranded starfish on a rock exposed at low tide. He twisted his head awkwardly to look back over his shoulder at the mate, and his face was white with terror.
    â€˜You were excused witnessing punishment, Doctor Ballantyne,’ Mungo St John told her quietly.
    â€˜I feel it my duty to suffer this barbaric—’
    â€˜As you wish,’ he cut her short with a nod, and turned away. ‘Twenty, Mr Tippoo.’
    â€˜Twenty it is, Cap’n.’
    With no expression at all Tippoo stepped up behind the man, hooked his finger into the back of his collar and ripped the shirt down to the belt. The man’s back was pale as suet pudding, but studded with fat purple carbuncles, the sailor’s affliction, caused by salty, wet clothing and the unhealthy diet.
    Tippoo stepped back and flicked out the lash so that it extended to its full length along the seamed oak planking.
    â€˜Ship’s company!’ Mungo St John called. ‘The charge is inattention to

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