Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 192

CHAPTER NINE - NOAH'S ARK

something was moving, but it was hard with eyes dazzled by the sun to see what it was. Then it emerged from the shadow as a little group coming towards them - a half-naked Negro leading a donkey, and on the back of the donkey, seated sideways far back towards the root of the tail, a vast figure in a blue robe.
`Shall we meet His Britannic Majesty's Consul halfway? asked Tapling. `No. Let him come to us.'
The Negro halted the donkey, and the man on the donkey' back slid to the ground and came towards them - a moun tainous man, waddling straddle-legged in his robe, his huge clay-coloured face topped by a white turban. A scanty black moustache and beard sprouted from his lip and chin.
`Your servant, Mr Duras,' said Tapling. `And may I presen Acting-Lieutenant - Horatio Hornblower, of the frigate Indefatigable ?'
Mr Duras nodded his perspiring head.
`Have you brought the money?' he asked, in guttura French; it took Hornblower a moment or two-to adjust hi mind to the language and his ear to Duras' intonation.
`Seven thousand golden guineas,' replied Tapling, in reasonably good French.
`Good,' said Duras, with a trace of relief. `Is it in the boat?
`It is in the boat, and it stays in the boat at present,' answered Tapling. `Do you remember the conditions agreed upon? Four hundred fat cattle, fifteen hundred fanegas o barley grain. When I see those in the lighters, and the lighters alongside the ships down the bay, then I hand over the money Have you the stores ready?'
`Soon.'
`As I expected. How long?'
`Soon - very soon.'
Tapling made a grimace of resignation.
`Then we shall return to the ships. To-morrow, perhaps, or the day after, we shall come back with the gold.' Alarm appeared on Duras' sweating face.

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