A Tradition of Victory by Alexander Kent

By Alexander Kent

Plymouth, July 1801: Richard Bolitho's small squadron, nonetheless repairing the scars of conflict earned in heavy motion at Copenhagen, has been months clear of the ocean. After 8 years of struggle with France, Britain needs to make a gesture that might convey power and determination—and one that will dramatically weaken the French reason. Rear-Admiral Bolitho needs to stick to his flag's culture of victory, even though—for the 1st time in his life—he is torn among the calls for of public responsibility and private need.

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Bolitho turned to see the bright signal flags break from Styx’s yard. Numbers exchanged, two ships meeting on a pinpoint. To most of the hands it was a welcome diversion, as well as a sight of some additional fire power. “Heave to when convenient, if you please. ” Neale nodded. ” Bolitho took a telescope from the midshipman of the watch and walked up the deck to the weather side. He was conscious of each move and every heartbeat, like an actor about to make an entrance. He held his breath and waited for the sea to smooth itself.

She was smart for her age, and was reacting to the sight of a rear-admiral’s flag just as Bolitho had once done when he had taken Phalarope to Antigua. Neale called, “Heave to, Mr Pickthorn! ” Bolitho saw the uncertainty, the need to understand. ” Allday walked to the entry port and waited for the gig to be pulled round to the main-chains. Neale’s own coxswain nodded to Allday and allowed him to take his place at the tiller without comment. Bolitho noticed all and none of these things. So it was right through Styx already, probably every vessel under his flag.

S’not that, sir. She were different. They’ve no right to put her in the Bay, she’s too old, an’ I doubt if she ever got over the Saintes. ” Bolitho watched him, suddenly uneasy. “There’s nothing I can do. ” Allday stood up and turned beside the cannon, his head bowed between the beams. ” Bolitho bit back the sharp retort as quickly as it had formed. Why take it out on Allday? Like the midshipman on the quarterdeck who had unwittingly broken the news, he was not to blame. Bolitho said quietly, “No, Allday, she’s not.

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