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Captain Blood

21. The Service Of King James
Miss Arabella Bishop was aroused very early on the following morning by the brazen
voice of a bugle and the insistent clanging of a bell in the ship's belfry. As she lay
awake, idly watching the rippled green water that appeared to be streaming past the
heavily glazed porthole, she became gradually aware of the sounds of swift, laboured
bustle - the clatter of many feet, the shouts of hoarse voices, and the persistent
trundlings of heavy bodies in the ward-room immediately below the deck of the cabin.
Conceiving these sounds to portend a more than normal activity, she sat up, pervaded
by a vague alarm, and roused her still slumbering woman.
In his cabin on the starboard side Lord Julian, disturbed by the same sounds, was
already astir and hurriedly dressing. When presently he emerged under the break of the
poop, he found himself staring up into a mountain of canvas. Every foot of sail that she
could carry had been crowded to the Arabella's yards, to catch the morning breeze.
Ahead and on either side stretched the limitless expanse of ocean, sparkling golden in
the sun, as yet no more than a half-disc of flame upon the horizon straight ahead.
About him in the waist, where all last night had been so peaceful, there was a frenziedly
active bustle of some threescore men. By the rail, immediately above and behind Lord
Julian, stood Captain Blood in altercation with a one-eyed giant, whose head was
swathed in a red cotton kerchief, whose blue shirt hung open at the waist. As his
lordship, moving forward, revealed himself, their voices ceased, and Blood turned to
greet him.
"Good-morning to you," he said, and added "I've blundered badly, so I have. I should
have known better than to come so close to Jamaca by night. But I was in haste to land
you. Come up here. I have something to show you."
Wondering, Lord Julian mounted the companion as he was bidden. Standing beside
Captain Blood, he looked astern, following the indication of the Captain's hand, and
cried out in his amazement. There, not more than three miles away, was land - an
uneven wall of vivid green that filled the western horizon. And a couple of miles this side
of it, bearing after them, came speeding three great white ships.
"They fly no colours, but they're part of the Jamaica fleet." Blood spoke without
excitement, almost with a certain listlessness. "When dawn broke we found ourselves
running to meet them. We went about, and it's been a race ever since. But the Arabella
's been at sea these four months, and her bottom's too foul for the speed we're
needing."
Wolverstone hooked his thumbs into his broad leather belt, and from his great height
looked down sardonically upon Lord Julian, tall man though his lordship was. "So that
you're like to be in yet another sea-fight afore ye've done wi' ships, my lord."
 
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