Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 151

CHAPTER SEVEN - THE SPANISH GALLEYS

Hornblower struggled through twelve lines of compliments addressed by His Excellency the Duke of Belchite (Grandee of the First Class, with eighteen other titles ending with Captain-General of Andalusia) to the Most Gallant ShipCaptain Sir Edward Pellew, Knight of the Bath. The second paragraph was short and contained only a brief intimation of peace. The third paragraph was as long as the first, and repeated its phraseology almost word for word in a ponderous farewell.
`That's all, sir,' said Hornblower.
But the Spanish captain had a verbal message with which to supplement the written one.
`Please tell your captain,' he said, in his lisping SpanishFrench, `that now as a neutral power, Spain must enforce her rights. You have already been at anchor here for twenty-four hours. Six hours from now' - the Spaniard took a gold watch from his pocket and glanced at it -`if you are within range of the batteries at Puntales there they will be given orders to fire on you.'
Hornblower could only translate the brutal message without any attempt at softening it, and Pellew listened, white with anger despite his tan.
`Tell him -' he began, and then mastered his rage. 'Damme if I'll let him see he has made me angry.'
He put his hat across his stomach and bowed in as faithful an imitation of the Spaniard's courtliness as he could manage, before he turned to Hornblower.
`Tell him I have received his message with pleasure. Tell him I much regret that circumstances are separating him from me, and that I hope I shall always enjoy his personal friendship whatever the relations between our countries. Tell him - oh, you can tell him the sort of thing I want said, can't you, Hornblower? Let's see him over the side with dignity. Sideboys I Bosun's mates ! Drummers!'
Hornblower poured out compliments to the best of his ability, and at every phrase the two captains exchanged bows,

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