Seaflower

Seaflower by Julian Stockwin Read Free Book Online

Book: Seaflower by Julian Stockwin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julian Stockwin
Tags: Historical Novel, Nautical
country while the
real battle was being fought and won without him.
    'Damn
you!' he ground out. Renzi glanced at him, no emotion on his face.
    Kydd
looked away. At least they were in position now — the fort must be away to their
left. He hunkered down for the wait. The others lay around, some on their
backs, seeming uncaring of the coming clash-at-arms. Renzi sat, hugging his
knees and staring into space, while Kydd got up and paced.
    The
sun grew hotter. They had no water as it was all expected to end rapidly one
way or the other. The minutes dragged on, with not a sound apart from a bird
that kept up a deafening racket. It was agonising — what was delaying the main
assault? Kydd checked the priming on his musket again. Perhaps Calley had
received secret knowledge of a greater than expected French garrison, and was
waiting for reinforcements. If that was so—
    A
rustling sounded on the other side of the wall of cane. They were discovered —
and before the assault!
    He
would sell their lives dearly, though. Kydd seized his musket and pointed it at
the sound. He sensed the others grouping behind him.
    Luke
wheeled round the end of the cane-field. 'I bin a-looldn' fer you!' His face
was wreathed in smiles as he ran towards Kydd. Then he stopped and attempted a
professional look, such as messengers have when delivering their news. ‘Er, Mr
Kydd, I'm ter tell yer from L'tenant Calley ter report t' the fort.'
    'What?
    'He's
in a rare takin' - Frogs ran off afore we c'd even get in position, they did!'
His face clouded. 'An' he says as how yer such an infernal looby as y' doesn't
know when the guns ain't firin' there ain't a battle.'
    Kydd
gritted his teeth. Of course! That was what had been niggling at the back of
his mind - no firing! A quick glance at Renzi's blank expression told him that
he had known all along that their advance on the fort would be guided by the
sound of battle.
    'An'
he told the Joey major that he'd be a confounded prig afore he sounds the
trumpet t' advance jus' ter oblige a parcel o'—'
    'That's
enough o' yer insolence, m' lad!' Larcomb said reprovingly. The party hefted
their muskets and followed Luke meekly to the fort.
     
    Flames
flickered ruddily from the cooking fire. The seamen had left the foraging and
other arrangements to the marines, who seemed well able to cope. Kydd nursed
his cracked cup of rum as he sat morosely against the wattle wall of the
chattel house, staring into the flames. It was not his kind of war, this -
crashing about in the undergrowth not knowing what was going on. Real war was
serving a mighty cannon on a surging gundeck.
    The
evening was pleasant, the constant breeze from the ocean reliable enough, but
the ground all about was hard and dusty. He scratched at a persistent tickle in
his leg-hairs in the darkness, then saw by the firelight that it was a busy
column of ants. He leaped to his feet in disgust.
    They'd
eaten a kind of spicy chicken that the previous owners of the house had thought
they would be having that night It sat uneasily on Kydd's stomach. Reluctantly
he pushed his way closer to the fire and settled down again on the stony
ground.
     
    It
seemed like minutes later when boatswain's mates and corporals roared about to
rouse the huddled men. Kydd ached in the pre-dawn darkness after his uncomfortable
doze. A thin overcast hid the half-moon and the night was full of dull shadows.
    Kydd
knew the plan in a general way. They would push forward before dawn towards a
much bigger fort, Fleur d'Epee, and fall upon it at first light It was hoped
that the defenders would not expect such a rapid resuming of the advance.
    'Pay
attention, you section leaders.' Calley was indistinct in the poor light but
his words came strongly. Kydd stood in the semicircle of a dozen men, listening
carefully.
    'We
advance on the fort shortly. There are two roads. Sections one and three will
take the easterly, the other sections the westerly. The roads go each side of
the fort. Now,

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