Dark Hunger


Chapter 10


IT WAS NEARLY three weeks more, passing wholly without incident, before they sighted the island of New Amsterdam: Temeraire delighted by the glistening heaps of seals, most sunbathing lazily upon the beaches and the more energetic coming to the ship to frolic in her wake. They were not shy of the sailors, nor even of the Marines who were inclined to use them for target practice, but when Temeraire descended into the water, they vanished away at once, and even those on the beach humped themselves sluggishly further away from the waterline.

Deserted, Temeraire swam about the ship in a disgruntled circle, then climbed back aboard: he had grown more adept at this maneuver with practice, and now barely set the Allegiance to bobbing. The seals gradually returned, and did not seem to object to him peering down at them more closely, though they dived deep again if he put his head too far into the water.

They had been carried southward by the storm nearly into the forties and had lost almost all their easting as well: a cost of more than a week's sailing. "The one benefit is that I think the monsoon has set in, finally," Riley said, consulting Laurence over his charts. "From here, we can strike out for the Dutch East Indies directly; it will be a good month and a half without landfall, but I have sent the boats to the island, and with a few days of sealing to add to what we already have, we should do nicely."

The barrels of seal meat, salted down, stank profoundly; and two dozen more fresh carcasses were hung in meat-lockers from the catheads to keep them cool. The next day, out at sea again, the Chinese cooks butchered almost half of these on deck, throwing the heads, tails, and entrails overboard with shocking waste, and served Temeraire a heap of steaks, lightly seared. "It is not bad, with a great deal of pepper, and perhaps more of those roasted onions," he said after tasting, now grown particular.

Still as anxious to please as ever, they at once altered the dish to his liking. He then devoured the whole with pleasure and laid himself down for a long nap, wholly oblivious to the great disapproval of the ship's cook and quartermasters, and the crew in general. The cooks had not cleaned after themselves, and the upper deck was left nearly awash in blood; this having taken place in the afternoon, Riley did not see how he could ask the men to wash the decks a second time for the day. The smell was overpowering as Laurence sat down to dinner with him and the other senior officers, especially as the small windows were obliged to be kept shut to avoid the still-more-pungent smell of the remaining carcasses hanging outside.

Unhappily, Riley's cook had thought along the same lines as the Chinese cooks: the main dish upon the table was a beautifully golden pie, a week's worth of butter gone into the pastry along with the last of the fresh peas from Capetown, accompanied by a bowl of bubbling-hot gravy; but when cut into, the smell of the seal meat was too distinctly recognizable, and the entire table picked at their plates.

"It is no use," Riley said, with a sigh, and scraped his serving back into the platter. "Take it down to the midshipmen's mess, Jethson, and let them have it; it would be a pity to waste." They all followed suit and made do with the remaining dishes, but it created a sad vacancy on the table, and as the steward carried away the platter, he could be heard through the door, talking loudly of "foreigners what don't know how to behave civilized, and spoil people's appetite."

They were passing around the bottle for consolation when the ship gave a queer jerk, a small hop in the water unlike anything Laurence had ever felt. Riley was already going to the door when Purbeck said suddenly, "Look there," and pointed out the window: the chain of the meat-locker was dangling loose, and the cage was gone.

They all stared; then a confusion of yells and screams erupted on deck, and the ship yawed abruptly to starboard, with the gunshot sound of cracking wood. Riley rushed out, the rest of them hard on his heels. As Laurence went up the ladder-way another crash shook her; he slipped down four rungs, and nearly knocked Granby off the ladder.

They popped out onto the deck jack-in-the-box fashion, all of them together; a bloody leg with buckled shoe and silk stocking was lying across the larboard gangway, all that was left of Reynolds, who had been the midshipman on duty, and two more bodies had fetched up against a splintered half-moon gap in the railing, apparently bludgeoned to death. On the dragondeck, Temeraire was sitting up on his haunches, looking around wildly; the other men on deck were leaping up into the rigging or scrambling for the forward ladder-way, struggling against the midshipmen who were trying to come up.

"Run up the colors," Riley said, shouting over the noise, even as he leapt to try and grapple with the double-wheel, calling several other sailors to come and help him; Basson, the coxswain, was nowhere to be seen, and the ship was still drifting off her course. She was moving steadily, so they had not grounded on a reef, and there was no sign of any other ship, the horizon clear all around. "Beat to quarters."

The drumroll started and drowned out any hope of learning what was going on, but it was the best means of getting the panicking men back into order, the most urgent matter of business. "Mr. Garnett, get the boats over the side, if you please," Purbeck called loudly, striding out to the middle of the rail, fixing on his hat; he had as usual worn his best coat to dinner, and made a tall, official figure. "Griggs, Masterson, what do you mean by this?" he said, addressing a couple of the hands peering down fearfully from the tops. "Your grog is stopped for a week; get down and go along to your guns."

Laurence pushed forward along the gangway, forcing a lane against the men now running to their proper places: one of the Marines hopping past, trying to pull on a freshly blacked boot, his hands greasy and slipping on the leather; the gun-crews for the aft carronades scrambling over one another. "Laurence, Laurence, what is it?" Temeraire called, seeing him. "I was asleep; what has happened?"

The Allegiance rocked abruptly over to one side, and Laurence was thrown against the railing; on the far side of the ship, a great jet of water fountained up and came splashing down upon the deck, and a monstrous draconic head lifted up above the railing: enormous, luridly orange eyes set behind a rounded snout, with ridges of webbing tangled with long trailers of black seaweed. An arm was still dangling from the creature's mouth, limply; it opened its maw and threw its head back with a jerk, swallowing the rest: its teeth were washed bright red with blood.

Riley called for the starboard broadside, and on deck Purbeck was drawing three of the gun-crews together around one of the carronades: he meant them to point it at the creature directly. They were casting loose its tackles, the strongest men blocking the wheels; all sweating and utterly silent but for low grunting, working as fast as they could, greenish-pale; the forty-two-pounder could not be easily handled.

"Fire, fire, you fucking yellow-arsed millers!" Macready yelling hoarsely in the tops, already reloading his own gun. The other Marines belatedly set off a ragged volley, but the bullets did not penetrate; the serpentine neck was clad in thickly overlapping scales, blue and silver-gilt. The sea-serpent made a low croaking noise and lunged at the deck, striking two men flat and seizing another in its mouth; Doyle's shrieks could be heard even from within, his legs kicking frantically.

"No!" Temeraire said. "Stop; arr锟斤拷tez!" and followed this with a string of words in Chinese also; the serpent looked at him incuriously, with no sign of understanding, and bit down: Doyle's legs fell abruptly back to the deck, severed, blood spurting briefly in mid-air before they struck.

Temeraire held quite motionless with staring horror, his eyes fixed on the serpent's crunching jaws and his ruff completely flattened against his neck; Laurence shouted his name, and he came alive again. The fore- and mainmasts lay between him and the sea-serpent; he could not come at the creature directly, so he leapt off the bow and winged around the ship in a tight circle to come up behind it.

The sea-serpent's head turned to follow his movement, rising higher out of the water; it laid spindly forelegs on the Allegiance's railing as it lifted itself out, webbing stretched between unnaturally long taloned fingers. Its body was much narrower than Temeraire's, thickening only slightly along its length, but in size its head was larger, with eyes larger than dinner platters, terrible in their unblinking, dull savagery.

Temeraire dived; his talons skidded along the silver hide, but he managed to find purchase by putting his forearms nearly around the body: despite the serpent's length, it was narrow enough for him to grasp. The serpent croaked again, gurgling deep in its throat, and clung to the Allegiance, the sagging jowly folds of flesh along its throat working with its cries. Temeraire set himself and hauled back, wings beating the air furiously: the ship leaned dangerously under their combined force, and yells could be heard from the hatchways, where water was coming in through the lowest gunports.

"Temeraire, cut loose," Laurence shouted. "She will overset."

Temeraire was forced to let go; the serpent seemed to only have a mind to get away from him now: it crawled forward onto the ship, knocking askew the mainsail yards and tearing the rigging as it came, head weaving from side to side. Laurence saw his own reflection, weirdly elongated, in the black pupil; then the serpent blinked sideways, a thick translucent sheath of skin sliding over the orb, and moved on past; Granby was pulling him back towards the ladder-way.

The creature's body was immensely long; its head and forelegs vanished beneath the waves on the other side of the ship, and its hindquarters had not yet emerged, the scales shading to deeper blue and purple iridescence as the length of it kept coming, undulating onwards. Laurence had never seen one even a tenth the size; the Atlantic serpents reached no more than twelve feet even in the warm waters off the coast of Brazil, and those in the Pacific dived when ships drew near, rarely seen as anything more than fins breaking the water.

The master's-mate Sackler was coming up the ladder-way, panting, with a big sliver spade, seven inches wide, hastily tied onto a spar: he had been first mate on a South Seas whaler before being pressed. "Sir, sir; tell them to 'ware; oh Christ, it'll loop us," he yelled up, seeing Laurence through the opening, even as he threw the spade onto the deck and hauled himself out after.

With the reminder, Laurence remembered on occasion seeing a swordfish or tunny hauled up with a sea-serpent wrapped about it, strangling: it was their favorite means of seizing prey. Riley had heard the warning also; he was calling for axes, swords. Laurence seized one from the first basket handed up the ladder-way, and began chopping next to a dozen other men. But the body moved on without stopping; they made some cuts into pale, grey-white blubber, but did not even reach flesh, nowhere near cutting through.

"The head, watch for the head," Sackler said, standing at the rail with the cutting-spade ready, hands clenched and shifting anxiously around the pole; Laurence handed off his axe and went to try and give Temeraire some direction: he was still hovering above in frustration, unable to grapple with the sea-serpent while it was so entangled with the ship's masts and rigging.

The sea-serpent's head broke the water again, on the same side, just as Sackler had warned, and the coils of the body began to draw tight; the Allegiance groaned, and the railing cracked and began to give way under the pressure.

Purbeck had the gun positioned and ready. "Steady, men; wait for the downroll."

"Wait, wait!" Temeraire called: Laurence could not see why.

Purbeck ignored him and called out, "Fire!" The carronade roared, and the shot went flying across the water, struck the sea-serpent on the neck, and flew onwards before sinking. The creature's head was knocked sideways by the impact, and a burning smell of cooked meat rose; but the blow was not mortal: it only gargled in pain and began to tighten still further.

Purbeck never flinched, steady though the serpent's body was scarcely half a foot away from him now. "Spunge your gun," he said as soon as the smoke had died away, setting the men on another round. But it would be another three minutes at least before they could fire again, hampered by the awkward position of the gun and the confusion of three gun-crews flung together.

Abruptly a section of the starboard railing just by the gun burst under the pressure into great jagged splinters, as deadly as those scattered by cannon-fire. One stabbed Purbeck deep in the flesh of the arm, purple staining his coat sleeve instantly. Chervins threw up his arms, gargling around the shard in his throat, and slumped over the gun; Dyfydd hauled his body off onto the floor, never flagging despite the splinter stuck right through his jaw, the other end poking out the underside of his chin and dripping blood.

Temeraire was still hovering back and forth near the serpent's head, growling at it. He had not roared, perhaps afraid of doing so close to the Allegiance: a wave like that which had destroyed the Valerie would sink them just as easily as the serpent itself. Laurence was on the verge of ordering him to take the risk regardless: the men were hacking frantically, but the tough hide was resisting them, and in any moment the Allegiance might be broken beyond repair: if her futtocks cracked, or worse the keel bent, they might never be able to bring her into port again.

But before he could call, Temeraire suddenly gave a low frustrated cry, beat up into the air, and folded his wings shut: he fell like a stone, claws outstretched, and struck the sea-serpent's head directly, driving it below the water's surface. His momentum drove him beneath the waves also, and a deep purpling cloud of blood filled the water. "Temeraire!" Laurence cried, scrambling heedless over the shuddering, jerking body of the serpent, half-crawling and half-running along the length of the blood-slippery deck; he climbed out over the rail and onto the mainmast chains, while Granby grabbed at him and missed.

He kicked his boots off into the water, no very coherent plan in mind; he could swim only a little, and he had no knife or gun. Granby was trying to climb out to join him, but could not keep his feet with the ship sawing to and fro like a nursery rocking-horse. Abruptly a great shiver traveled in reverse along the silver-grey length of the serpent's body which was all that was visible; its hindquarters and tail surfaced in a convulsive leap, then fell back into the water with a tremendous splash; and it lay still at last.

Temeraire popped back out through the surface like a cork, bouncing partway out of the water and splashing down again: he coughed and spluttered, and spat: there was blood all over his jaws. "I think she is dead," he said, between his wheezing gasps for air, and slowly paddled himself to the ship's side: he did not climb aboard, but leaned against the Allegiance, breathing deeply and relying on his native buoyancy to keep him afloat. Laurence clambered over to him on the fretwork like a boy, and perched there stroking him, as much for his own comfort as Temeraire's.

Temeraire being too weary to climb back aboard at once, Laurence took one of the small boats and pulled Keynes around to inspect him for any signs of injury. There were some scratches - in one wound an ugly, saw-edged tooth lodged - but none severe; Keynes, however, listened to Temeraire's chest again and looked grave, and opined that some water had entered the lungs.

With much encouragement from Laurence, Temeraire pulled himself back aboard; the Allegiance sagged more than usual, both from his fatigue and her own state of disarray, but he eventually managed to climb back aboard, though causing some fresh damage to the railing. Not even Lord Purbeck, devoted as he was to the ship's appearance, begrudged Temeraire the cracked banisters; indeed a tired but wholehearted cheer went up as he thumped down at last.

"Put your head down over the side," Keynes said, once Temeraire was fairly established on the deck; he groaned a little, wanting only to sleep, but obeyed. After leaning precariously far, and complaining in a stifled voice that he was growing dizzy, he did manage to cough up some quantity of salt water. Having satisfied Keynes, he shuffled himself slowly backwards until his position on the deck was more secure, and curled into a heap.

"Will you have something to eat?" Laurence said. "Something fresh; a sheep? I will have them prepare it for you however you like."

"No, Laurence, I cannot eat anything, not at all," Temeraire said, muffled, his head hidden under his wing and a shudder visible between his shoulder-blades. "Pray let them take her away."

The body of the sea-serpent still lay sprawled across the Allegiance: the head had bobbed to the surface on the larboard side, and now the whole impressive extent of it could be seen. Riley sent men in boats to measure it from nose to tail: more than 250 feet, at least twice the length of the largest Regal Copper Laurence had ever heard of, which had rendered it thus capable of encircling the whole vessel, though its body was less than twenty feet in diameter.

"Kiao, a sea-dragon," Sun Kai called it, having come up on deck to see what had happened; he informed them that there were similar creatures in the China Sea, though ordinarily smaller.

No one suggested eating it. After the measurements had been done, and the Chinese poet, also something of an artist, permitted to render an illustration, the axes were applied to it once more. Sackler led the effort with practiced strokes of the cutting-spade, and Pratt severed the thick armored column of the spine with three heavy blows. After this its own weight and the slow forward motion of the Allegiance did the rest of the work almost at once: the remaining flesh and hide parted with a sound like tearing fabric, and its separate halves slid away off the opposite sides.

There was already a great deal of activity in the water around the body: sharks tearing at the head, and other fishes also; now an increasingly furious struggle arose around the hacked and bloody ends of the two halves. "Let us get under way as best we can," Riley said to Purbeck; though the main- and mizzen sails and rigging had been badly mauled, the foremast and its rigging were untouched but for a few tangled ropes, and they managed to get a small spread of sail before the wind.

They left the corpse drifting on the surface behind them and got under way; in an hour or so it was little more than a silvery line on the water. Already the deck had been washed down, freshly scrubbed and sanded with holystone, and sluiced clean again, water pumped up with great enthusiasm, and the carpenter and his mates were engaged in cutting a couple of spars to replace the mainsail and mizzen topsail yards.

The sails had suffered greatly: spare sailcloth had to be brought up from stores, and this was found to have been rat-chewed, to Riley's fury. Some hurried patchwork was done, but the sun was setting, and the fresh cordage could not be rigged until morning. The men were let go by watches to supper, and then to sleep without the usual inspection.

Still barefoot, Laurence took some coffee and ship's biscuit when Roland brought it him, but stayed by Temeraire, who remained subdued and without appetite. Laurence tried to coax him out of the low spirits, worried that perhaps he had taken some deeper injury, not immediately apparent, but Temeraire said dully, "No, I am not hurt at all, nor sick; I am perfectly well."

"Then what has distressed you so?" Laurence at length asked, tentatively. "You did so very well today, and saved the ship."

"All I did was kill her; I do not see it is anything to be so proud of," Temeraire said. "She was not an enemy, fighting us for some cause; I think she only came because she was hungry, and then I suppose we frightened her, with the shooting, and that is why she attacked us; I wish I could have made her understand and leave."

Laurence stared: it had not occurred to him that Temeraire might not have viewed the sea-serpent as the monstrous creature it seemed to him. "Temeraire, you cannot think that beast anything like a dragon," he said. "It had no speech, nor intelligence; I dare say you are right that it came looking for food, but any animal can hunt."

"Why should you say such things?" Temeraire said. "You mean that she did not speak English, or French, or Chinese, but she was an ocean creature; how ought she have learned any human languages, if she was not tended by people in the shell? I would not understand them myself otherwise, but that would not mean I did not have intelligence."

"But surely you must have seen she was quite without reason," Laurence said. "She ate four of the crew, and killed six others: men, not seals, and plainly not dumb beasts; if she were intelligent, it would have been inhuman - uncivilized," he amended, stumbling over his choice of words. "No one has ever been able to tame a sea-serpent; even the Chinese do not say differently."

"You may as well say, that if a creature will not serve people, and learn their habits, it is not intelligent, and had just as well be killed," Temeraire said, his ruff quivering; he had lifted his head, stirred-up.

"Not at all," Laurence said, trying to think of how he could give comfort; to him the lack of sentience in the creature's eyes had been wholly obvious. "I am saying only that if they were intelligent, they would be able to learn to communicate, and we would have heard of it. After all, many dragons do not choose to take on a handler, and refuse to speak with men at all; it does not happen so very often, but it does, and no one thinks dragons unintelligent for it," he added, thinking he had chanced on a happy example.

"But what happens to them, if they do?" Temeraire said. "What should happen to me, if I were to refuse to obey? I do not mean a single order; what if I did not wish to fight in the Corps at all."

So far this had all been general; the suddenly narrower question startled Laurence, giving the conversation a more ominous cast. Fortunately, there was little work to be done with so light a spread of sail: the sailors were gathered on the forecastle, gambling with their grog rations and intent on their game of dice; the handful of aviators remaining on duty were talking together softly at the rail. There was no one likely to overhear, for which Laurence was grateful: others might misunderstand, and think Temeraire unwilling, even disloyal in some way. For his own part he could not believe there was any real risk of Temeraire's choosing to leave the Corps and all his friends; he tried to answer calmly. "Feral dragons are housed in the breeding grounds, very comfortably. If you chose, you might live there also; there is a large one in the north of Wales, on Cardigan Bay, which I understand is very beautiful."

"And if I did not care to live there, but wished to go somewhere else?"

"But how would you eat?" Laurence said. "Herds which could feed a dragon would be raised by men, and their property."

"If men have penned up all the animals and left none wild, I cannot think it reasonable of them to complain if I take one now and again," Temeraire said. "But even making such allowance, I could hunt for fish. What if I chose to live near Dover, and fly as I liked, and eat fish, and did not bother anyone's herds; should I be allowed?"

Too late Laurence saw he had wandered onto dangerous ground, and bitterly regretted having led the conversation in this direction. He knew perfectly well Temeraire would be allowed nothing of the sort. People would be terrified at the notion of a dragon living loose among them, no matter how peaceable the dragon might be. The objections to such a scheme would be many and reasonable, and yet from Temeraire's perspective the denial would represent an unjust curtailment of his liberties. Laurence could not think how to reply without aggravating his sense of injury.

Temeraire took his silence for the answer it was, and nodded. "If I would not go, I should be put in chains again, and dragged off," he said. "I would be forced to go to the breeding grounds, and if I tried to leave, I would not be allowed; and the same for any other dragon. So it seems to me," he added, grimly, a suggestion of a low growling anger beneath his voice, "that we are just like slaves; only there are fewer of us, and we are much bigger and dangerous, so we are treated generously where they are treated cruelly; but we are still not free."

"Good God, that is not so," Laurence said, standing up: appalled, dismayed, at his own blindness as much as the remark. Small wonder if Temeraire had flinched from the storm-chains, if such a train of thought had been working through his imagination before now, and Laurence did not believe that it could be the result solely of the recent battle.

"No, it is not so; wholly unreasonable," Laurence repeated; he knew himself inadequate to debate with Temeraire on most philosophical grounds, but the notion was inherently absurd, and he felt he must be able to convince Temeraire of the fact, if only he could find the words. "It is as much to say that I am a slave, because I am expected to obey the orders of the Admiralty: if I refused, I would be dismissed the service and very likely hanged; that does not mean I am a slave."

"But you have chosen to be in the Navy and the Corps," Temeraire said. "You might resign, if you wished, and go elsewhere."

"Yes, but then I should have to find some other profession to support myself, if I did not have enough capital to live off the interest. And indeed, if you did not wish to be in the Corps, I have enough to purchase an estate, somewhere in the north, or perhaps Ireland, and stock the grounds. You might live there exactly as you liked, and no one could object." Laurence breathed again as Temeraire mulled this over; the militant light had faded a little from his eyes, and gradually his tail ceased its restless mid-air twitching and coiled again into a neatly spiraled heap upon the deck, the curving horns of his ruff lying more easily against his neck.

Eight bells rang softly, and the sailors left their dice game, the new watch coming on deck to put out the last handful of lights. Ferris came up the dragondeck stairs, yawning, with a handful of fresh crewmen still rubbing the sleep from their eyes; Baylesworth led the earlier watch below, the men saying, "Good night, sir; good night, Temeraire," as they went by, many of them patting Temeraire's flank.

"Good night, gentlemen," Laurence answered, and Temeraire gave a low warm rumble.

"The men may sleep on deck if they like, Mr. Tripp," Purbeck was saying, his voice carrying along from the stern. The ship's night settled upon her, the men gladly dropping along the forecastle, heads pillowed on coiled hawsers and rolled-up shirts; all darkness but for the solitary stern lantern, winking far at the other end of the ship, and the starlight; there was no moon, but the Magellanic Clouds were particularly bright, and the long cloudy mass of the Milky Way. Presently silence fell; the aviators also had disposed of themselves along the larboard railing, and they were again as nearly alone as they might be on board. Laurence had sat down once more, leaning against Temeraire's side; there was a waiting quality to Temeraire's silence.

And at length Temeraire said, "But if you did," as if there had been no break in the conversation; although not with the same heat of anger as before. "If you purchased an estate for me, that would still be your doing, and not mine. You love me, and would do anything you could to ensure my happiness; but what of a dragon like poor Levitas, with a captain of Rankin's sort, who did not care for his comfort? I do not understand what precisely capital is, but I am sure I have none of my own, nor any way of getting it."

He was at least not so violently distressed as before, but rather now sounded weary, and a little sad. Laurence said, "You do have your jewels, you know; the pendant alone is worth some ten thousand pounds, and it was a clear gift; no one could dispute that it is your own property in law."

Temeraire bent his head to inspect the piece of jewelry, the breastplate which Laurence had purchased for him with much of the prize-money for the Amitie, the frigate which had carried his egg. The platinum had suffered some small dents and scratches in the course of the journey, which remained because Temeraire would not suffer to be parted from it long enough for them to be sanded out, but the pearl and sapphires were as brilliant as ever. "So is that what capital is, then? Jewels? No wonder it is so nice. But Laurence, that makes no difference; it was still your present, after all, not something which I won myself."

"I suppose no one has ever thought of offering dragons a salary, or prize-money. It is no lack of respect, I promise you; only that money does not seem to be of much use to dragons."

"It is of no use, because we are not permitted to go anywhere, or do as we like, and so have nothing to spend it upon," Temeraire said. "If I had money, I am sure I still could not go to a shop and buy more jewels, or books; we are even chided for taking our food out of the pen when it suits us."

"But it is not because you are a slave that you cannot go where you like, but because people would naturally be disturbed by it, and the public good must be consulted," Laurence said. "It would do you no good to go into town and to a shop if the keeper had fled before you came."

"It is not fair that we should be thus restricted by others' fears, when we have not done anything wrong; you must see it is so, Laurence."

"No, it is not just," Laurence said, reluctantly. "But people will be afraid of dragons no matter how they are told it is safe; it is plain human nature, foolish as it may be, and there is no managing around it. I am very sorry, my dear." He laid his hand on Temeraire's side. "I wish I had better answers for your objections; I can only add to these, that whatever inconveniences society may impose upon you, I would no more consider you a slave than myself, and I will always be glad to serve you in overcoming these as I may."

Temeraire huffed out a low sigh, but nudged Laurence affectionately and drew a wing down more closely about him; he said no more on the subject, but instead asked for the latest book, a French translation of the Arabian Nights, which they had found in Capetown. Laurence was glad enough to be allowed to thus escape, but uneasy: he did not think he had been very successful in the task of reconciling Temeraire to a situation with which Laurence had always thought him well-satisfied.

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