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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 express power and determination—and one that will dramatically weaken the French reason. Rear-Admiral Bolitho needs to keep on with his flag's culture of victory, even though—for the 1st time in his life—he is torn among the calls for of public accountability and private need.

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Bolitho grinned. “Don’t play with the boy, Neale. ” He turned to the midshipman. ” Kilburne, astonished that he was still alive after being brought face-to-face with his admiral, a young one or not, stammered, “W—well, sir, we were all so excited when we were told about your coming aboard . ” By all he probably meant the ship’s three other midshipmen, Bolitho thought. ” He turned apologetically to Bolitho. “I am sorry, sir. ” Bolitho could feel the sudden tension. “What is it, Mr Kilburne? ” He darted a frightened glance at his captain, wondering what had suddenly changed everything into a nightmare.

She would not wait, should not be made to suffer as she had done with her late husband. Bolitho stopped and gripped the nettings tightly. Even now she might be with someone else. Younger perhaps, with his feet firmly set on the land. ” Browne had rarely been seen since leaving Plymouth, although his fight with the frigate’s lively movements and the smells which were constant reminders of his seasickness was spoken of with awe even by the older hands. He looked a little stronger, Bolitho thought.

He had to shout above the hiss and surge of sea alongside. ” Bolitho walked to the nettings and held on firmly as the ship plunged forward and down, her tapering jib-boom slicing at the drifting spray like a lance. No wonder Adam yearned so much for a command of his own. As I once did. Bolitho looked up at the bulging canvas, the spread legs of some seamen working out along the swaying length of the main-yard. It was what he missed A TRADI T ION OF V ICTORY 33 most. The ability to hold and tame the power of a ship like Styx, to match his skill with rudder and sail against her own wanton desire to be free.

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