'Stephen' Jack exclaimed, 'a splendid conceit. Ha! Ha! A dumb animal a better watch-keeper than a Surprise hand?'
Stephen's face hardened. 'Stormy weather' thought Bonden, finding a sudden interest in the stink-cabbage around him.
'Pray, brother, how define you: 'dumb'?'
Jack heard the edge in his friend's voice, and lobbed a shot or two preparatory to clawing off this nasty shore.
'Ain't we higher than the animals? Don't the blue lights have at us about souls, and don't even the slowest foremast hand know animals don't have 'em?'
'Thalassemia of Rhodes claimed animals were our natural kin, did he not? And the estimable Dr Terper of Utrecht recently went so far as to propose to the Latvian Society for Curiosities that the apes and man may be related as ancestors. Be such blasphemy as it may, Jack, and properly left for the theologically inclined to debate (though I shall turn my philosophical eye to it before long, there being such a wealth of brutish material about me) nevertheless, I say, Muong may not have a soul, but eyes she has, and a ship she saw, and I divine it to be French!'
Jack had long held that action muddied all waters.
'Skinner!' he roared, 'take my glass, leap up the hill, and report! The rest of you, look lively and clear the beach. If there is a ship', and at that he cast a meaning glance at Muong, now engaged in a vigorous search for fleas in Bonden's pigtail, 'we'd best be prepared for anything'.
From a hundred yards above and beyond silly-mid-off, Skinner's carrying bellow announced a ship, a Yankee Whaler no less!
'Wesley, run up the ensign on the signal tree. We ain't at war with 'em right now. This is our release, lads!'
As the Surprise' tattered but still recognisable flag soared into the signal tree, all hands rushed to the beach, roaring and crying out for the Yankees: Zimmermann basking in a glow of righteous certainty that his prayers had been answered.
Linois clapped telescope to eye, hand to brow, and cursed. 'What was Aubrey playing at besides a rather poor game of cricket' He was as good as declaring a fight'.
Linois had the American bunting whipped down, and the proud tricolour flown aloft. Perhaps even Aubrey would catch the meaning of the situation, and get back to the blasted game.
By now the Jolie Laide was hull-up to the beach. A breathless Skinner pressed the Captain's glass into his hands.
'A Frenchie, alright!' exclaimed Jack. 'And manned by the usual rag-bag of half-trained '
'Jack, for all love, your choler is too high-and in this heat. Come, let us stretch out beneath a shading tree. And my green draught would not be amiss. '
'Stephen, as we may be captured by the French in minutes clean bowled, stumped, out! I shall neither stretch out now take your draughts. We'll fight, lads! Draw stumps: arm yourselves to repel boarders!'
Perhaps the debacle on the pitch earlier that day perhaps, heat and an excess of fermented cabbage juice, as Stephen with his surgeon's eye and old acquaintance with Jack's physique had thought perhaps sheer boredom with cricket who can say what so clouded Aubrey's normally acute judgement'
He and his scruffy crew, the depredations of months on the Island all too evident, and armed with a collection of what only by courtesy would be called weapons, met his friend Linois in the waves.
'Jack! Mon Ami! Pace, Pax, whatever phrase you English want. I have come to take you away from all this!'
It took some time, but dignity, of a fashion, and understanding, so much as was possible between the representatives of two great but mutually incomprehensible nations, was brought about at last.
Sadly, Linois could not be persuaded, much as Jack pressed, to get up a team for a closing innings.
'We must take the wind, and evade my confreres, who may not grasp honour and playing with a straight bat quite as you and I, old friend. The Jolie Laide shall transport you to Googlie Atoll, not ten leagues from here, and land you on the west shore. You'll find a botanical expedition to the east, run by one Bligh a noted scientist of your Navy, I think?'
'Hit for six, old man!' cried Jack. 'Bligh's a damn fine sailor bit of a stickler for order, though. However,' and he turned to the crew, now gaping at the sudden turn of their fate, 'lads we'll be home, and in style in one of His Majesty's ships. . . '
'Bounty' interjected Critchley,
' . . .to play in the all-Hampshire League next spring!'
Frantic packing ensued, with each man looking for one keepsake to mark his sojourn in that strange isle.
Linois took Jack to one side.
'Your surgeon, Maturin? he is known to my crew for his botanical and zoological predilections. Alas, they are a nervous and contrary lot, after so long in the South Seas. And they will not, under threat of mutiny, have the Doctor's specimens roaming the Jolie Laide'.
Jack was appalled at this news, for he knew Stephen was at that moment preparing the serpent, the turtles, all three curious and hitherto nondescript giant spiders, and, of course, the orang-outang, for their journey. With his customary tact, Jack broke the news to his old and dear shipmate.
Stephen received it with a grave face.
'Not one specimen, Jack? You have agreed to this abominable assault on science? You countenance the destruction of priceless work? The tyranny of command, Jack Oh, the tyranny!'
At the finish, Jack had to make it an order, and Stephen turned on his heel and walked up the beach, shoulders rigid, mind running furiously on the problem.
'Muong, Muong, what's to do?' he asked the orang-outang. Muong stared steadily out to sea, fixed on the Jolie Laide. At last she rose, went into the doctor's tent (not yet struck by Killick, still busy digging up the silver he'd hoarded from the wreck) and emerged a moment later wearing Stephen's best white shirt. Stephen looked blankly for a moment at Muong, who, he thought resembled nothing so much as a Portsmouth lady patrolling the taverns of the docks, and then her intent flashed across him.
'Muong, Muong, Oh, 'dumb animal' indeed!'
One by one the Surprises came over the side of the Jolie Laide, each with his pathetic bundle of belongings, each under the close eye of Lieutenant Bekere, the most rabid of the livestock haters on board. The French foremast hands, seeing Muong (even now hatted with one of Bonden's best straw boat-hats), set up a clamour to know Mam'selle's name, or Madame La Veuve's, per'aps? And where was she to bunk? Much room forward, they cried.
Lieutenant Bekere's attention was thus drawn to Madame, and over the side Madame went, with less ceremony than the day's slops would receive.
An apoplectic Stephen, shocked, fixed to the one spot on the poop of
the Jolie Laide, gazed back at the strand as the ship slipped out into
the bay, making for the channel and freedom from that accursed Isle, while,
on the shore, a dripping, white-clad and straw-hatted figure was waving,
waving, waving .....
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