Dawn on a Distant Shore Page 111

"We lived this far to tell the tale, I expect we'll survive a Tory frigate," Hawkeye finished.

"Captain." Giselle had been hovering at the back of the crowd of sailors, but now she pushed forward and spoke up in her best drawing-room voice. "I will join you, as well. I have no business on this ship."

Hawkeye forgotten, Stoker's head snapped toward her. "You greedy bitch!" He lunged; the marine next to Giselle lifted the butt of his musket in a lazy swing and tapped him above the eye. Groaning, Stoker went down on his knees, pressing a fist to his bloody forehead.

"Captain Stoker, contain yourself," said Fane. "I shan't be taking your ... lady on the Leopard."

"Sir," Giselle said, and pressed her lips hard together. "You would deny my request for assistance without knowing my name, or my father's?"

Fane shrugged. "You came on board of your own accord, did you not, madam?"

"I did. And now I would leave."

"But not on the Leopard," said Fane firmly.

Giselle gave the man an injured look. "Captain, perhaps you know my father, Lord Bainbridge. He is lieutenant governor of Lower Canada."

Fane bit back a smile. "Captain Stoker, I am impressed. The King of Siam, an Indian chief, and now the daughter of the lieutenant governor ... Ayres! We're away. Fetch Quint, and take these two men into custody."

At the rail, Fane came up behind Hawkeye. "Your son and his family are not on board?" he asked quietly.

Hawkeye shook his head.

Fane grunted, clearly not surprised but displeased all the same.

"Rob MacLachlan!" shouted Giselle from the quarterdeck. "You and I have unfinished business!"

But Robbie went down the rope ladder to the longboat without even looking in her direction.

"Captain Stoker," said Fane, touching the rim of his tricorn. "Until we meet again."

"Aye," said Stoker with a bloody frown. "Sure and that day will come sooner than you think."

The marines pulled the longboat through rough waters toward the Leopard. Hawkeye sat shoulder to shoulder with Robbie; Fane was out of earshot at the other end of the boat.

On the Jackdaw the crew had already set about repairs, half of them heaving the spare mast into place while the others were at work on the rigging. There was no damage to the hull, and Hawkeye didn't doubt that they would be under sail again before morning.

Below them, turning gently on their wake, Micah's body floated amid the jetsam. Only Giselle stood at the rail to watch them go, her fists clenched like stones.

Hawkeye said, "I should have seen it long ago. She's got Iona's eyes."

The wind whipped the words from him, but Robbie had understood. He wiped the sea spray from his face.

"I gave ma word that I wad nivver speak o' it."

Hawkeye tried to remember Wee Iona as he had last seen her in the shadows of the pig farmer's barn on the outskirts of Montréal, but another picture came to mind. A young Highland Scotswoman he had first met after the battle of Québec; she had put aside the veil to live among the roughest sort of men. It made too much sense to be doubted.

"I suppose Pink George must be her father, or he wouldn't have taken her in. But why would Iona give her up to him?"

Robbie hunched his shoulders. "It's a complicated tale, Dan'l. One I canna tell in guid faith."

Hawkeye put the question out between them, because he could do nothing else.

"And the boy? Is it true?"

Robbie ran a hand over his face. "Aye," he said hoarsely. "It's aye true. But Dan'l, ye mun believe me when I tell ye, I didna ken aboot the lad until I broucht Moncrieff tae Montréal just after the New Year. I couldna think how tae tell ye."

A flock of tiny seabirds settled around the longboat. The men called them little peters, the souls of lost sailors who danced along the tops of the waves; bound to the sea in death as they had been in life. Beneath the water long sleek forms wove silver streams, moving faster than any horse. Headed somewhere else. Hawkeye took a deep breath, salt and storm, the endless sea. One grandchild unclaimed; the others equally out of reach, headed for an unknown shore. He wished that he had Cora beside him, for her quiet counsel and the simple sound of her voice.

"Dan'l, do ye think we shall ever see hame agin?"

They were close enough to the Leopard now to make out the voices of the men peering over the rail at them. More officers and curious sailors, the gun crews still standing alert at their cannons; sharpshooters up in the rigging. And someone else.

"Look, Rab, here's an old friend," Hawkeye said by way of answer.

Robbie raised his head. "Christ Jesus," he said softly. "Young Will Spencer. For the love o' Mary, what is he doin' on the Leopard?"

"Come to Elizabeth's rescue, looks like," said Hawkeye. "Now we'll just have to track her down."

21

Almost two years out of home port, the Isis was overflowing with the evidence of her industry and enterprise. The hold was as big as a longhouse but still it was filled to bursting with kegs of cinnamon and mace, cardamom and saffron; endless bales of India silk, cashmere and cotton and a hundred seroons of indigo. On the last leg of the journey up the eastern seaboard to Halifax, the Isis had taken on what seemed to Hannah to be more Virginia tobacco than the whole Hodenosaunee nation had ever produced, or needed. And still, the sailors told stories of the real treasures kept in a locked room on the lower deck. None of them had ever been inside, but Hannah went there with Hakim Ibrahim early one morning when Charlie's brother Mungo lay dying.

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