Betrayal

Betrayal by Julian Stockwin Read Free Book Online

Book: Betrayal by Julian Stockwin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julian Stockwin
hand it would be in keeping with the French character to separate the two, one being confidential. So, short of bringing pressure to bear on the French seamen . . .
    He returned to the upper deck and saw them being herded into a square guarded by marines and seamen. Out in the open it was remarkable how many it took to man a ship – and, conversely, how such a large number could fit within the confines of a ship. And then he had an idea.
    ‘Collas!’ he called, to one of the carpenter’s mates on a hasty survey with Legge, the carpenter.
    The man loped aft.
    ‘You’re relieved of work. Go down and report to Mr Clinton that you’ve orders from me to guard the noisiest prisoners.’
    ‘Sir?’ Collas said, bewildered.
    ‘You’re a Guernseyman, know the French?’ Channel Islanders lived within sight of the French coast, and even if their own patois had diverged considerably, they had a trading relationship of centuries standing.
    ‘Aye, sir.’
    ‘I want you to listen carefully for any mention of their Admiral Maréchal. Anything at all that bears on where he is now. Be sure to let ’em think you’re a regular-going Jack Tar as is ignorant of the French lingo but keep your ears at full stretch. The minute you hear something, let me know. Understood?’
    ‘Aye aye, sir,’ Collas replied, knuckling his forehead.
    Kydd’s mind then turned to the task of getting
Marie Galante
downriver to the open sea. There was only one way for a square-rigger: boats. It was too much to expect the French to man the oars and, besides, it would cost too many men in the guarding. Fortunately, few would be necessary where they were at present in the open space ashore.
    Then there were the technical requirements: any seaman knew that it was much harder to bring a vessel downriver for motion was deceptive: moving at speed relative to the shore might well mean that the ship, brought along by the current, was barely moving relative to the water itself and therefore the rudder could not bite. The ultimate indignity was to lose control and end broadside to the river, stuck immovably bow and stern. In a swift-flowing and massive river such as this, the consequences could be serious.
    ‘Three boats ahead, one on the stern,’ he decided. ‘Her cable on the bitts and out through the hawse, then the three tows from one bridle.’ This would ensure all towing effort would be from one position, rather than from several points on the structure, which might fight each other. The boat astern was there to correct any yawing. All depended on the boats pulling hard and keeping it going: only by moving through the water would the rudder be effective.
    All except the wounded were landed and every man jack available was put to the oars. Kydd himself cast off the last line tethering
Marie Galante
to the bank after she had been swung around and headed downstream. The men stretched out like heroes. This was not simply their duty but the much more rewarding task of preserving their prize.
    The long reach was useful in getting the feel of the craft under tow and, standing next to Poulden at the wheel, Kydd felt increasing confidence. The first bend arrived. Taking a wide and careful sweep, the boats hauled ahead manfully and they were around. The next came almost immediately. ‘Pull, you lubbers!’ roared Gilbey, from the fo’c’sle. ‘Put y’ backs into it!’
    Kydd looked over the side. A noticeable ripple was forming a bow-wave: they were making way through the water and therefore under control. Taking the deeper outer curve they were well on their way. Poulden nodded as
Marie Galante
was obediently nudged into a deeper channel. Just another bend . . . The corvette emerging to the open sea with English colours would be a sight indeed from
L’Aurore
.
    ‘Heave out, lay into it!’ Gilbey’s voice cracked with the effort. At this last bend before the estuary and the bar it was crucial to keep way on through the single deep cleft channel through to

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