eighth share in the prize money. A young captain might find glory in the gunfire, Ramage thought sourly, but all too often promotion depended on his contribution to his admiral's prize account.

 The Admiral gestured to Ramage and Captain Edwards to sit down and lowered himself into a rattan chair with the usual care of anyone who had spent much time in the Tropics and knew of the sabotage which termites wreaked. He passed a bundle of papers to Ramage: 'The inventory of the Surcouf and the valuation. I'll buy her in, of course. She's three years old, so £14 a ton is a fair price. Seven hundred tons, which means £9800 for hull, masts, yards, rigging and fixed furniture. I think the Admiralty and Navy Board will approve that.'

 'And the rest of her equipment, sir?' Ramage asked.

 'Normal valuation based on prices at Jamaica dockyard, ' the Admiral said briskly. 'That's the valuation in England plus sixty per cent - the price they charge merchant ships.' He pointed to the papers he had just given Ramage. 'The figure is there - about £7500, I think. A total of just over £17, 000 for the whole ship. It'll work out less for La Comete, ' he added, waving towards the careened frigate. 'She's three years older and damaged. Then you have the schooner and the seven merchantmen. A tidy sum for you and your men. The two frigates bring you nearly £10, 000, with £5000 shared between the lieutenants, master and surgeon . . . Why, the seamen will get £50 each - the equivalent of four years' pay! '

 'They earned it, ' Captain Edwards commented. 'And that doesn't include the merchant ships and head money.'

 'I know they earned it, ' the Admiral said crossly, 'and they'll earn it twice over by the time they've carried out the orders I'm preparing for Ramage. Now, ' he said impatiently, indicating that the subject of the prize money was closed, 'how long before you'll have that Surcouf commissioned?'

 Although Ramage had guessed this was the real reason why he had been ordered to report to the Admiral, it was a difficult question to answer. The Admiral had originally promised to shift the ship's company of his last command, the Juno, to his new one, but the Juno had not yet arrived in English Harbour. No doubt Aitken, the First Lieutenant who had been left in command off Martinique when Ramage transferred to the Surcouf with a prize crew, had a perfectly good reason for the delay in reaching Antigua, but in the meantime Ramage was left with only forty men.

 So far he had met with nothing but obstruction from the dockyard's master attendant, bosun and storekeeper - who were probably scared stiff in case this sudden influx of work resulted in demands for stores which would reveal their peculations - but this was usual, not worth even mentioning to the Admiral.

 'About a week, once I get all my Junos. That's providing we use the French guns, sir. If we shift them and have to get out all the shot -' he broke off as Admiral Davis waved aside the idea. The two navies used different sized shot, but providing the Surcouf carried enough for her next operation it did not matter.

 'Provisions?' demanded the Admiral.

 'Three months on the French scale, sir, and three months' water.'

 'Very well. The Juno should be in within a day or two - I can't think what's delayed that young fellow: hope he's not going to be a disappointment. Anyway, a week from the time she arrives, eh?'

 His round face was lined, and the thick black eyebrows which jutted out of his brow like small brushes were drawn down, giving him a quaintly fierce appearance, like a truculent shoeblack. 'Now, her name. I don't like Surcouf; no need for us to celebrate a dam' French pirate.'

 'Calypso! ' Ramage was startled to find he had spoken the word aloud and hurriedly added: 'Perhaps you would consider renaming her 'Calypso', sir.'

 'Sounds all right, but I've forgotten my mythology. What does it mean, eh?'

 Captain Edwards stretched out his legs with the air of a man whose subject had just been reached on the agenda. 'When Odysseus was wrecked he was cast up on the island of Ogyvia, where Calypso lived. She was a sea nymph, sir. They - er, they lived together for several years, and when Odysseus eventually wanted to leave and go home, she promised him immortality and eternal youth if he stayed.'

 'But he refused, wise fellow, ' the Admiral commented. 'Can think of nothing worse than living forever. Anyway, that's the woman you had in mind, eh Ramage?'

 'Yes, sir -'

 'Why?' the Admiral interrupted bluntly. 'You seemed to have the name ready on the tip of your tongue.'

 'No sir, I didn't know you intended renaming her. I was thinking yesterday that the Jocasta frigate was rather like Odysseus, only she's held by the Spanish in a port on the Main -'

 'Very fanciful, ' sniffed Admiral Davis, 'but your job will be to get her out.'

 Edwards grinned. 'Zeus ordered Calypso to release Odysseus, sir. Perhaps Ramage had you in mind as Zeus: you give the Calypso frigate orders to release Odysseus - or, rather, the Jocasta frigate.'

 'It all sounds just as vague and confusin' as Greek mythology always was when I was a boy, ' the Admiral grumbled, 'but the name sounds right enough. Better than that damned French pirate. Very well, Calypso she is.'

 'Thank you, sir, ' Ramage said politely, turning slightly so that the sun was not in his eyes. It was getting hot now; the heat was soaking through his coat and he had tied his stock too tight: his neck would be raw in places before he could leave the Admiral's house and loosen it.

 Admiral Davis was frowning at the back of his sleeve, as though suspicious that the gold braid and lace was really pinchbeck. He seemed almost embarrassed. But Ramage knew that admirals were never embarrassed by anything they had to say to a junior post captain - in his own case one of the most junior in the Navy List. When he left England a few months ago his name had been the last on the List. Since then perhaps a dozen more lieutenants had been made post and their names would now follow his. Promotion was by seniority, which meant being pushed up from below, helped by a high mortality among the names above you on the List: there was nothing like a bloody war to hoist you up the ladder.

 Yet Ramage could see that the Admiral was certainly at a loss for words. He now inspected the nails of his left hand, tugged at his chin and finally gestured angrily at his burly flagcaptain. Edwards had obviously anticipated that this would happen, and he turned to Ramage. 'The Jocasta, ' he said. 'You know how she fell into Spanish hands?'

 'I've heard only gossip, ' Ramage said carefully, guessing this would be his only opportunity of finding out what really happened and realizing that the Admiral could hardly bear to talk about it.

 Captain Edwards caught the Admiral's eye, noted the approving nod, and said: 'She left Cape Nicolas Mole - that's at the western end of Hispaniola, as you probably know - some two years ago. Captain Wallis commanded her and had orders from Sir Hyde Parker at Jamaica to patrol the Mona Passage for seven weeks with the Alert and Reliance in company.

 'After three weeks the Alert sprang a leak and Captain Wallis ordered her back to the Mole. A fortnight later, on a night when the Reliance had been sent off in chase of a suspected privateer, the Jocasta's ship's company mutinied. They murdered Wallis and all his officers and sailed the ship to La Guaira, on the Main. There they handed her over to the Spanish, who refitted her but, as far as we know, never sent her to sea. At present she's in Santa Cruz.'

 'Did all the ship's company mutiny?'

 Edwards shook his head. 'She had a complement of some 150 men. We think about a third of them were active mutineers.'

 'And the rest?' Ramage asked, curious about their fate.

 Admiral Davis snorted and slapped his knee. 'They're mutineers too! All right, Edwards, I know you don't agree with me, but they did nothing to stop the mutiny, nor did they try to recover the ship, so they're just as guilty.'

 'Santa Cruz, ' Ramage said hurriedly, noticing Edwards's face reddening with suppressed anger, 'is it well defended?'

 'Well enough, ' Edwards said grimly. 'The harbour is a large lagoon. The entrance is more than half a mile long and too narrow for a ship to tack. It's a case of 'out boats and tow' if the wind is foul. Forts on each side of the entrance and a third one at the lagoon end of the channel. I have a rough chart ready for you, ' he added quickly, as if dismissing the forts.

 'How many guns in the forts?' Ramage asked warily.

 Edwards shrugged his shoulders. 'We can't be sure. Perhaps thirty or forty.'


 'No, ' Edwards said uncomfortably, 'in each fort.'

 More than a hundred guns, plunging fire at point-blank range, and the target a frigate being towed past them by men rowing in boats . . . Ramage felt the heat going out of the sun. Most of those guns would be 24- or 36-pounders, against the Calypso's 12-pounders.

 'And the Jocasta's in commission, so there'd be her guns as well, ' he said, then suddenly realized he was thinking aloud.

 'And more than three hundred men on board her, ' the Admiral said, his voice carefully neutral. 'We - the Admiralty, rather - have received word that she's to sail for Cuba in the middle of July. In four weeks' time.'

 Ramage now found himself puzzled as well as worried. Captain Edwards's point about Santa Cruz's entrance being narrow and strongly defended had made him think that the Calypso was intended to make a direct attack, which would be another way of committing suicide. But now the Admiral was talking about the Jocasta sailing for Cuba. He almost sighed with relief: his imagination was making him overly nervous; Edwards was being offhand about the forts simply because there was no need to go into Santa Cruz! He looked at the Admiral, who avoided his eyes, finding something of interest at the harbour entrance. 'You want me to take her as soon as she sails, sir?'

 Admiral Davis shook his head, still looking away. 'The Admiralty have ordered her to be cut out of Santa Cruz, ' he said tonelessly. 'Want to teach the Dons a lesson, I suppose, and they won't risk her slipping through our fingers and reaching Cuba.'

 Ramage felt the chilly ripple of fear tightening his skin: again he pictured the forts firing at the Calypso as she was towed in, and at both frigates as they sailed out. Was the fear showing in his face? He was thankful that neither the Admiral nor Edwards was looking at him. The perspiration on his brow and upper lip owed nothing to the sun; it was cold, and he wiped it away with what he hoped would seem a casual movement of his hand.

 Then he caught a glance exchanged between the two men, and although he could not interpret it he knew there was something strange and underhand about the whole business. It had begun several months ago, when he was on leave in London, a lieutenant enjoying a rest. Then suddenly he had been summoned to the Admiralty, unexpectedly made post and given command of the Juno frigate.

 All that had been very flattering; orders were addressed to 'Captain Ramage' and it did not matter that his name was at the bottom of the post captains in the Navy List, the most junior of them all. Then he had been sent off to the West Indies in the Juno with urgent instructions for Admiral Davis and orders to put himself under the Admiral's command. He had known nothing about the Admiralty's instructions, except that they concerned some 'special service'. They had nothing to do with Captain Ramage; he was merely the Admiralty's messenger.

 He had since discovered that the 'special service' was the recapture of the Jocasta, and that Admiral Davis had chosen his favourite for it, a Captain Eames, and

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