Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 189

CHAPTER SEVEN - THE SPANISH GALLEYS

audience open-mouthed at this strange freak of human behaviour, that a man saved first from death and then from captivity should wantonly thrust himself into peril again. Foster looked after the boat for some seconds before speaking; perhaps he was already regretting his rather hysterical outburst.
`I shall have much to do before morning,' he said, more to himself than to anyone near him, and then addressed himself to the midshipman of the guard boat, `You, sir, will take charge of these prisoners and convey me to my ship.'
`Aye aye, sir.'
`Is there anyone here who can speak their lingo? I would have it explained to them that I shall send them back to Cartagena under cartel, free without exchange. They saved our lives, and that is the least we can do in return.' The final explanatory sentence was addressed to Hornblower.
`I think that is just, sir.'
`And you, my fire-breathing friend. May I offer you my thanks? You did well. Should I live beyond to-morrow, I shall see that authority is informed of your actions.'
`Thank you, sir.' A question trembled on Hornblower's lips. It called for a little resolution to thrust it out, `And my examination, sir? My certificate?'
Foster shook his head. `That particular examining board will never reassemble, I fancy. You must wait your opportunity to go before another one.'
`Aye aye, sir,' said Hornblower, with despondency apparent in his tone.
`Now lookee here, Mr Hornblower,' said Foster, turning upon him. `To the best of my recollection, you were flat aback, about to lose your spars and with Dover cliffs under your lee. In one more minute you would have been failed - it was the warning gun that saved you. Is not that so?'
`I suppose it is, sir.'
`Then be thankful for small mercies. And even more thankful for big ones.'

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