'No, sir, she wasn't there.'

 'There you are, ' the Admiral said crossly. 'Just taking a needless risk. Your orders were to cut out the Jocasta and bring her back here. There was no mention of cruising along the coast of the Main. Bring the Jocasta back here; that was the important thing. Their Lordships will be pleased; you'll get all the credit, I'll see to that.'

 Ramage sensed that Edwards was watching him closely and sympathizing with him for the way the Admiral interrupted and jumped to conclusions after insisting Ramage told his story in a precise sequence.

 'What happened at La Guaira, Ramage?' Captain Edwards asked.

 Ramage described the caldereta, minimizing the risk to the Jocasta, and told how he had sailed into the empty anchorage under the Spanish flag, been boarded by the Mayor, commander of the garrison and Port Captain, and learned from them that the merchant ship had drifted out to sea after parting her anchor cables in the caldereta.

 'When I think of the Jocasta lying hove-to under the guns of that fort, ' Admiral Davis said wrathfully, 'I feel like bringing you to trial. Risking the Jocasta just to ask dam' silly questions about a merchant ship. I'm not saying, ' he added 'that I don't want my captains to harass the enemy, but I did expect you to appreciate the Admiralty's interest in the Jocasta, she's not just another frigate.'

 At that moment the steward came in with a tray of drinks and hurriedly handed them round. The moment he had left the cabin Edwards said: 'I get the impression that you had a particular interest in this merchant ship, Ramage.'

 'There were two phrases in the Captain-General's orders, ” Ramage explained. 'One referred to 'a particular cargo’ and the other referred to it as 'valuable'. The Viceroy was involved, so I thought it must be important.'

 'Bah! ' the Admiral exclaimed. 'He or his friends had an investment in it. Safeguarding his own purse. Anyway you finally decided to obey my orders and bring the Jocasta back, and I'm thankful for that.'

 'Well, ' Ramage said cautiously, 'not immediately, sir. I –“

 'Don't tell me you went off and searched for this ship?”

 'Yes, sir.'

 'But you didn't find her! I've been waiting here day after day, waiting and worrying! What a damned waste of time! ”

 'I think Ramage did find her, ' Edwards said mildly. “What was she carrying?'

 'A quantity of pearls and emeralds consigned to the Spanish Crown, ' Ramage said in a flat voice.

 The Admiral sat bolt upright. 'A quantity?'

 'Yes, sir.'

 'Why the devil didn't you tell me this at the beginning?' The surprise had angered the Admiral, and Ramage looked at Edwards helplessly.

 'I think it was my fault, sir, ' Edwards said smoothly. 'I kept telling him to make his report in sequence, and -'

 'Yes, the poor fellow didn't get a chance. Well, don't keep on interrupting, Edwards, you confuse Ramage. Where are all these pearls and emeralds now?'

 'On board the Jocasta, sir.'

 'Why didn't you bring them over with you?'

 'With me, sir?' Ramage said, startled.

 'Yes, with you. You can carry that dam' pouch of papers; surely you could have put a bag of gems in your pocket?'

 The Admiral was obviously interested in his eighth share of the value and wanted to see them.

 Ramage looked the Admiral straight in the eye. 'There are nine crates of pearls, two years' output from the Pearl Island, and eleven crates of emeralds, two years' output from the mines of the province of Columbia, sir. The crates weigh more than a ton, complete with royal seals.'

 For a full minute there was complete silence in the cabin. Ramage saw the Admiral trying to put a value on them, until finally he took a deep drink and then smiled happily, suddenly comfortable in the knowledge that his share of the prize money would make him a rich man. 'Orders should never be too rigid, ' he said. 'One must be careful not to stifle initiative. Remember that, Edwards.'

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