dispatched him to Santa Cruz. The newly arrived Captain Ramage had been given orders appropriate for the most junior captain on the station - to blockade the French port of Fort Royal, Martinique.

 From then on, Ramage thought wryly, the Admiral's plans had gone awry. The junior captain had caused the capture of two French frigates, sunk three others, and seized seven merchantmen. The favourite captain, as far as Ramage could make out, had come back from Santa Cruz to report complete failure. Well, war was a massive game of chance; he was prepared to admit that good luck had brought the French convoy into the trap he had set off Fort Royal, and bad luck might have prevented Eames from cutting out the Jocasta. That being so, why was he now sitting on the Admiral's balcony at English Harbour being given orders which were - not to put too fine a point on it - the ones that Eames had already failed to carry out? Eames was a very senior captain; he was sufficiently high in the Navy List that within a year or two he could reasonably expect to be given command of a 74-gun ship.

 The reason, he decided coldly, was that Eames had failed. He had failed miserably and the Admiral was hurriedly whitewashing him. He wasn't sending Eames back to try again, nor was he risking any of his other captains; no, he was sending out the newcomer, Captain Nicholas Ramage. A man whose name was the lowest on the post list was supposed to succeed where someone halfway up the list had failed. And failed so badly, Ramage guessed, that everyone on the station was remaining tactfully silent about it.

 Suddenly he realized that Captain Ramage was not expected to succeed; he was expected to fail. He saw it as though he had just walked from darkness into a well-lit room. Admiral Davis was protecting one of his favourites and yet, in his own curious way, he was trying to be fair. He felt guilty about it; that explained why he had left Edwards to explain the situation.

 A dispatch would soon be on its way to the Admiralty in the next Post Office packet brig describing how Captain Ramage had attacked and seized the convoy off Martinique, and Their Lordships would be pleased that he had captured two frigates. The dispatch would be printed in the Gazette and Captain Ramage's stock would be high.

 Admiral Davis's next dispatch would tell Their Lordships how Captain Ramage had tried to cut out the Jocasta from Santa Cruz, and how he had failed. There would be no mention of Eames's earlier attempt; as far as Their Lordships would know, Ramage had been the only one sent on the 'special service'. Ramage would be the Admiral's scapegoat: it was as simple as that. And, he realized, the one person who would not care would be himself; he would be dead. There could be few survivors from a determined attempt to cut out the Jocasta.

 Not only had Eames failed, Ramage reflected bitterly, but he had raised the alarm at Santa Cruz. For the past couple of years, and probably longer, the Spanish garrison had dozed happily in the heat of the sun; the enemy was never sighted and no doubt roundshot rusted in the torrential tropical showers and the carriages of the guns rotted. Then Eames had appeared off the coast and roused the Dons as surely as a prodding stick stirred up a beehive. Sentries would now be alert, rust would be hammered from the shot, and gun carriages repaired. For the next few weeks the Spaniards would be full of bustle and zeal; they would be more than ready for the Calypso frigate . . .

 It was unfair, of course, but it was also the Navy. No doubt in the past lieutenants and captains had complained that the First Lord of the Admiralty had favoured young Ramage, giving him orders that allowed him to cut a dash and get his name in the London Gazette with almost monotonous regularity. Still, perhaps he had enough credit at the Admiralty by now so that if he survived a complete failure at Santa Cruz - a big 'if' - it would not have a disastrous effect on his career.

 What had Admiral Davis just said? The Admiralty wanted to teach the Dons a lesson? Yes, it made good sense; cut out the Jocasta from under their very noses (and hope to find some of the original mutineers still on board, so that they could be hanged for treason as well as mutiny). It would be a warning for any British seaman who might have the thought of mutiny flash across his mind on a wet and windy night; a warning to the Dons for having welcomed a mutinous ship. They seemed not to realize that the spirit of mutiny was like fire - it did not respect flags or frontiers.

 Why had Eames failed, Ramage wondered. Driven off by the guns of the forts? Went aground in the channel? Sailed down to the lagoon but found the Jocasta too strongly manned to be able to board her? The Admiral had mentioned three hundred men, twice her normal complement under British command.

 He looked up to find both the Admiral and Edwards watching him closely, as if trying to read his thoughts. Or, he suddenly realized, more like fishermen trying to see if the fish had taken the bait.

 'Captain Eames, ' Ramage said diffidently, 'he - er, he met with some difficulty?'

 The Admiral grunted, as though the question had given him a sharp and unexpected prod under the ribs. 'Completely misunderstood his orders, unfortunately. Came back with valuable intelligence, though. Had to send him straight off on another operation, otherwise he'd be on his way back to Santa Cruz.'

 Ramage smiled politely and the Admiral smiled back, and then Edwards smiled, and all three of them knew that each understood Eames's role. The failure at Santa Cruz was now Eames's raddled mistress, a shrill harridan who for the rest of his life in the Navy would occasionally look over his shoulder and nag him. Officially no one would talk about her - there would probably be the occasional captain who would gossip, but that couldn't be helped, because Admiral Davis could not hope to keep it a secret for ever - but Eames would always be ashamed; always worried in case someone broke the rules and spoke.

 'Yes, we owe Captain Eames a lot for providing valuable information about the entrance, ' Admiral Davis said as Edwards unfolded a piece of paper and began smoothing it out. 'Edwards has a copy of the chart. Plenty of soundings on it -to seaward, anyway. And the guns - the exact number are marked in. On the two forts at the entrance, anyway . . .' His voice tailed off as he realized that his praise was damning Eames.

 'Neutrals, ' Edwards said suddenly, obviously intending to break the silence that followed. 'Eames said one or two neutral ships go in and out of Santa Cruz every week. Mostly American, These dam' Jonathans seem to get in everywhere with their cargoes of 'notions' and salt fish.'

 He finished smoothing the sheet of paper and gave it to Ramage. 'It's rather a small scale, I'm afraid; Eames's master didn't have time to re-draw it. No need to return it, though: I have a copy.'

 Ramage nodded. The sketch was small but it was neat and, judging by the distance from the forts at the entrance to the nearest sounding, it damned Eames for a cowardly poltroon. Ramage glanced up and saw that Edwards had read his thoughts on this occasion, but instead of causing embarrassment it seemed to hint at a friendly understanding. In the dim future Edwards might prove to be an ally - or, at least, not an enemy.

 'A week, ' Admiral Davis said absently. 'A week after the Juno comes in. If the Calypso is delayed much longer, I'll have to send you men from the flagship. The Jocasta's due to sail from Santa Cruz in four weeks - not a lot of time, even though the Dons are always late.'


 Back on board the frigate, Ramage settled down at his desk to read through the Calypso's inventory. On the deck above his head he could hear carpenter's mates getting ready to rig a stage over the transom to remove the board with the name Surcouf carved on it, and the carpenter was already over in the dockyard searching for a suitable piece of straight-grained wood on which to carve the new name of Calypso. No doubt he was cursing the choice because it included four curved letters. Carpenters preferred names like 'Vixen' or 'Kite' which, in capitals, meant the chisels or gouges had to cut only straight lines.

 The inventory ran to dozens of pages, each signed by the four dockyard men, and beside each item was their valuation. The first few pages covered the hull, masts and spars. Then came all the sails, blocks and cordage, as well as the spares. He noted that the French followed the Royal Navy in allowing four anchors and six cables, although at 100 fathoms each the cables were shorter.

 He turned the pages of the rest of the inventory, the first full one he had ever seen, and although he saw many of them every day he found himself surprised at the number of items needed for a ship as small as a frigate. The reason was simple enough, of course; she was the home of more than two hundred men as well as a fighting ship which had to be sailed and navigated.

 He glanced at random at the descriptions. Three large copper kettles in which the ship's company's food was cooked were valued at £12 each. There were two-minute, half-hour and one-hour glasses ('with sand running free') which cost less than he would have expected - the two-minute glasses were valued at twopence each.

 Then came the spare sails: a new maintopgallant was valued at £12 5s 4d. The list of purser's stores had a note that the clothing was new 'but of poor quality'. Well, that would have to be taken on shore; the storekeeper must get rid of it as best he could. Ramage was not having poor-quality clothing sold to his men.

 Perishable stores - the French must have gone to a lot of trouble in Fort Royal to provision the ship. He nofed that, by Royal Navy standards, there was an enormous quantity of various cheeses which the dockyard surveyors had not tried to name, merely contenting themselves with the comment that they were in good condition 'and strong in flavour'.

 There were dozens of defective casks, which meant plenty of work for the dockyard coopers, making and fitting new staves. The master shipwright had made a deduction of £4 10s for repairs, based on the cost of employing three coopers for six days at 5s a day per man.

 How he hated all this paperwork. Now he had to check and sign the requisitions for all the remaining items needed for the Calypso to sail as one of the King's ships. He reached across the desk for several pages held down by a paperweight.

 The surgeon's requirements were on top. Bowen needed a sick book, journal and various forms for his daily reports to the Captain. Then came a string of abbreviated Latin representing the medicines and nostrums needed to keep the seamen fit and sound in wind and limb.

 The purser needed a ton of forms, judging from his list. Tables for casting up allowances of food for the ship's company, bed lists, tobacco lists, forms for reporting surveys on casks of salt beef and pork which held fewer pieces than the total stencilled on the outside, forms for reporting the leakage of beer . . . Ramage felt his patience ebbing as he continued reading: the King's ships carried so much paper that he was sometimes surprised they remained afloat. The sheer quantity only became apparent when a ship was commissioned. Bounty list, conduct list, muster table, captain's journal, master's log, account of impressed men, daily report of this, daily report of that . . .

 He could guess the dockyard storekeeper's answer to such a requisition: a large packet of blank paper, a box of powder for making ink, a couple of dozen quills and a few straight-edges, and the suggestion that the Calypso make use of the Seaman's Vade Mecum (which gave specimens of just about every form, voucher, list and report used in the Navy) and draw her own.

 He heard someone clattering down the ladder and a moment later the Marine sentry at the cabin door called out: 'Mr Southwick, sir! '

 'Send him in.'

 The old Master looked tired: his eyes were rimmed with red, his shoulders sagged and his white hair, usually flowing like a dried mop, was dank with

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