Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 170

CHAPTER SEVEN - THE SPANISH GALLEYS

There was only one man who seemed likely to demur actively, and Hornblower had it in mind to snatch a pistol from his belt and shoot him on the spot. But the pistol might misfire, the shot might arouse the Spaniards out of their fascinated dream. He stared the man down.
`Get forrard, I say.'
They began to move, they began to shamble off. Hornblower watched them go. Now his emotions were returning to him, and his heart was thumping madly in his chest so that it was hard to control himself. Yet he must not be precipitate. He had to wait until the others were well clear before he could address himself to the overseer.
`Stop those men,' he said.
He glared into the overseer's eyes while pointing to the oarsmen; the overseer's lips moved, but he made no sound.
`Stop them,' said Hornblower, and this time he put his hand to the butt of his pistol.
That sufficed. The overseer raised his voice in a high pitched order, and the oars instantly ceased. Strange what sudden stillness possessed the ship with the cessation of the grinding of the oars in the tholes. Now it was easy to hear the bubbling of the water round the galley as her way carried her forward. Hornblower turned back to hail Oldroyd.
'Oldroyd! Where away's the gig?'
`Close on the starboard bow, sir!'
`How close?'
`Two cable's lengths, sir. She's pulling for us now.'
`Steer for her while you've steerage way.'
`Aye aye, sir.'
How long would it take the gig under oars to cover a quarter of a mile? Hornblower feared anticlimax, feared a sudden revulsion of feeling among the Spaniards at this late moment. Mere waiting might occasion it, and he must not stand merely idle. He could still hear the motion of the galley through the water, and he turned to Jackson.
`This ship carries her way well, Jackson, doesn't she?' he

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