Chapter 16

LAURENCE, I WILL DO you credit; I have never in my life met any man more desirable to hang, and less convenient," Wellesley said.

"Oh, and after everything we have done," Temeraire said, indignantly.

"No more than you ought, and less than some," Wellesley fired back. "It is a damned pity you could not get yourself decently killed on the field: better than you managed it."

Laurence put his hand on Temeraire's forearm, to restrain. "Yes, sir; and the same could be said of many another."

Wellesley - or rather Wellington, now; he had taken the new name with the ducal coronet that was his reward - snorted. They sat on the portico of Temeraire's own pavilion - his first opportunity to take up residence, though Laurence had built it for him months before; their journey to Africa and imprisonment had intervened, and in the interim it had become a general residence. Even now a few other dragons napped in corners, and nearby Perscitia was very audibly lecturing her former militia - she had brought the men along with her after the battle, those who would be bribed by a share of her treasure - in their mixing of mortar: they were putting up another pavilion.

A tremendous crash heralded the arrival of another load of bricks; Requiescat, assisting with the construction and fired with enthusiasm, had carried alone what looked to be nearly five tons.

Wellington looked broodingly at the heap, and the foundations for the next pavilion over, which were busily being excavated by Minnow and half-a-dozen of her fellows: dirt flew at a prodigious rate. "Where are you getting that brick?"

"We have bought it," Perscitia said, overhearing this question, "so you needn't try and complain we are stealing; we have sold our eagles, and have capital."

"And God help us all," Wellington said, tapping his fingers against his thigh. "You ought to be made to pay damages, out of it; do you know I had nearly a mutiny on my hands, the next day? Not one drop of beer or rum to be had, among a hundred thousand men, and a good ten thousand casualties."

"If you did not like it," Perscitia said, "you ought to have managed the battle more neatly, and then I shouldn't have needed to find a way to stop those French dragons for so long."

This was not a little outrageous, considering that Wellington had managed to stage a battle of two hundred thousand men, three hundred dragons, and two dozen ships-of-the-line, nearly to his exact specifications; and to hold worse ground against an army better-trained and better-equipped than his own, for nearly three hours longer than planned, until the fog had loosened its grip enough for the ships to make their way in close enough to shore to begin the bombardment. "Damn your impudence," he growled; but Perscitia only flipped her wings at him a little, and loftily went back to her pavilion.

It was mid-morning, the seventeenth of March. Some two weeks had passed since the battle and its immediate aftermath: lassitude and dull confusion over so great a triumph and disaster mingled. The survivors had man and beast sunk to the ground and slept where they stood, uneasily, listening to the chorus of the low sighs of the dying yet upon the field, men starting up with cries whenever a greater wave came crashing upon the rocky shore.

The next day, without direction, they had begun the immense effort of clearing away the dead. Temeraire and his cohort had attended to the dragons. Not all were dead; many lingered, broken and slowly bleeding out their lives, dull-eyed and surrounded by the shattered bodies of their crew. Some were coaxed with much nudging and support back onto their feet, to limp away over the ground to the surgeons' clearing; others, worse injured, could only be given a merciful end. Some of the aviators also had survived, shielded from the worst of the impact by their dragon's body, and had to be taken away to join the other prisoners.

Chalcedony's body lay stretched upon a green hill, a slash of white and yellow; whole, it seemed, until they turned him over and saw the shattered red ruin of his chest. The Yellow Reapers nudged their shoulders beneath him, and in a knot carefully lifted him up to carry off the field.

"But where will we take him?" Gladius said, much subdued.

"We will take him to the old quarantine-grounds," Temeraire said, "near Dover, where the sick dragons were buried."

They had laid Chalcedony and their other dead to rest in another of the great barrow-mounds rising in the valley of the quarantine: early green shoots were climbing valiantly out from the softening cover of snow, and the earth smelt richly moist as the dragons turned it over to raise the mound.

More from habit than any conscious thought, they had flown on to Dover looking for food; but habit served well enough: many dragons of the Corps had returned also to their own clearings, and the ground crews and herdsmen were bringing in what cattle could be rounded up and shared out. A week later, a grounds-keeper from the old Wales breeding ground, Lloyd, appeared at Temeraire's pavilion - bedraggled but plodding on, too stubbornly fixed in his course to alter it - with the beginning of a string of cattle.

"Why, Lloyd," Temeraire said, "where have you got these cows from?" He did not wait for an answer to begin eating.

"The pens in London," Lloyd said, accepting with gratitude a cup of tea, though he looked around first for spirits. "Well, and they were ours first, weren't they," he added with a self-righteous air, so perhaps their provenance was best not inquired after very far.

The dragons from Dover came every so often, and looked wistfully at the work going forward. "I do not see why we cannot have one at the covert, too," Maximus said, rumbling in dissatisfaction. "Iskierka does."

"Do I have a few thousand pounds to spare on erecting you a temple?" Berkley said. "Nonsense, all this complaining; you have slept outside all your life and never taken an ounce of harm from it," but shortly a collection had quietly been taken up, among the officers, and a friendly rivalry begun among the dragons to see whose should be completed first.

Through such visitors, Laurence had some word from London, what news anyone could scarcely avoid hearing: the King retired to Kensington, and the Prince of Wales made regent for him; Bonaparte successfully escaped to Paris, though with his tail between his legs. The newspapers were full of patriotic fervor and mourning for Nelson and the lost seamen, spoken of as martyrs for their nation.

All the while, no-one had sought to prevent their coming and going, nor paid them any official notice, but Laurence had known the situation an ephemeral one. The wheels of government might yet be some time restoring their course, after so great a disruption, but inevitably they would fall into the cart-tracks: treason could not be simply ignored.

Wellington's arrival had surprised him only that it was Wellington and not Jane sent to demand his surrender, or some lesser officer; but it did not encourage him. "Sir," Laurence said, "I trust you have sufficient demands upon your time you did not come for the purpose of inquiring after our work. If you want something of me, I hope you will speak freely."

"But Laurence is not going to prison, or to be hanged," Temeraire put in, "and if that is what you came for, you may go away again: come with an army and take him, and try if you can."

"We are not going to start a pitched battle against you and your pack of rogues, if that is what you mean," Wellington said. "I know damned well about your little pact - that Longwing and that Regal Copper, who are going about Dover telling everyone that if we should come against you, they will fight with you, and so should every other dragon, or their captains will be taken away next?"

Laurence looked at Temeraire, who had the grace to look abashed, but not very, and retorted, "You haven't any right to complain if I do not trust you; you have tried to take Laurence before, and now where is our pay, that we ought to have received? And the coverts, which you promised to open to us."

"That is enough," Wellington said. "You had my word, and my word is good; you will have your coverts and your pay, and no later than any other scoundrel who stood up under fire. It will be half a year before the Government can pay off all its arrears, and you will have to lump it until then. You are not starving, at least, which is more than many an Englishman can say."

"Well, then," Temeraire said, a little mollified, "I am sorry if I was rude, if you will keep your promises, and you do not mean to try and put Laurence in prison; then what do you want, after all?"

"What I want," Wellington said, " - or rather what His Majesty's Government wants, is to be shot of you. Submit to the King's justice, and your sentence will be commuted, to transportation and labor."

Temeraire snorted, at justice, and with much suspicion had to have the sentence explained to him, that the Government meant Laurence should be sent abroad to the colony of New South Wales. "But that is on the other side of the world; that is as bad as putting you in prison again," Temeraire protested. "I will certainly not let them send you so far away from me."

"No," Laurence said, watching Wellington's face. "That, I imagine, is not the intention. Sir, it cannot be wise to send Temeraire away, not when the French yet have Lien. Whatever you may think of me, it is too high a price."

"You are a little dull to-day, Laurence," Wellington said. "The price is giving you your life, and their Lordships think it cheap, as a way to be rid of a dragon who, if he takes it into his head, can sink half the shipping in Dover harbor."

Temeraire flared out his ruff. "That is very rude," he said. "I would never do anything so cruel to the fishermen, and the merchants; whyever would I?"

The story of Lien's feat had crossed the country entire at wild-fire speed, carried across the country with news of victory and Nelson's death by the victorious soldiers marching back to London and their homes. It had not gained much in the telling: there was not much to gain, either in horror or in amazement. But Laurence was dismayed to find the fear which it had whipped up, thus transferred to such irrational action, and said so. "If this is a dreadful weapon, the French possess it also; merely to ignore it ourselves does no good, any more than you would melt down your own cannon because the French had fired one upon you."

"When they have built a cannon which chooses, now and again, to turn around and fire into their faces instead, and means to persuade all their other cannon to do the same, I will gladly leave it to them," Wellington said. "No, Laurence, you see before you a convert: you have entirely convinced me that the beasts are sapient, and now I am damned if I will let you make them political. We can better support a defense against one solitary beast than your Whiggish rabblerousing among ten thousand of them."

"But if you agree we are intelligent, not that it is not perfectly obvious, then you cannot deny we have every right to be political," Temeraire said.

"I can and will deny you or any man or beast the right to tear apart the foundations of the state," Wellington said. "Rights be damned; we will never hear an end of anyone crying for their rights."

When he had gone, Temeraire looked sidelong at Laurence. "I am sure no-one can make us go, if we do not like," he said, "and I do not care what Wellesley thinks, or Wellington, even if he is a duke now."

Laurence put a hand on Temeraire's foreleg and looked out over the valley; it was a view improved over the last summer, with the verdant growth coming up over the undulating hills of the barrow-mounds, and the sheep and cattle Lloyd had gathered dotting the green hills as they browsed. It was all England and home laid out before him, creeping out from under the shadow; and now he must leave it, forever, for a distant, dry country. "We must go," he said.

"I AM SENDING a few eggs on your transport," Jane said. "They need some beasts in New South Wales, to forward the settlement." She sat down upon the edge of a boulder; they had walked a little way from the pavilion, to have some privacy, and up a hillside where they might have a view all the way to the sea: grey mist hanging over the water, and at its edges a little glitter of sunlight, a few white sails.

"Can they be spared?" Laurence asked.

"More easily than they can be kept," Jane said. "Before you brought us your cure, we thought we should have to replace the entire population of the Isles; now there are more eggs keeping warm than we will be able to feed in a year, after all this plundering and bad management. As for our friend across the way," she added, tossing a pebble over the side of the cliff, vaguely in the direction of France, "Bonaparte lost forty beasts in his adventures here. He will not come over again shortly, and we will be ready for him if he does."

He nodded and sat down beside her. Jane absently rubbed her hands together and blew upon them: there was still a chill in the air. Below, Excidium was inspecting the foundations with interest, Perscitia cajoling him to spray a channel for her in some of the stones, with his acid, so it should allow water to run off more easily.

"I am afraid, Laurence, you will officially be a prisoner; it is understood you shan't be put in irons, or anything which should distress Temeraire, but so far as formality - "

"I could expect nothing else."

She sighed. "At any rate, I have had some work to persuade their Lordships to do anything but the ungracious, but there will be crews for the new hatchlings going along, of course; so I have managed that you will have your handful also, among them."

"You will not send Emily, surely," Laurence said.

"I would not send anyone else, if I was not ready to send her," Jane said. "No; she is a sturdy creature, and any road I would rather risk her health than her spirit. She will do better to be as far away from my station as she can. I suppose you have not heard yet, they have named me Admiral of the Air," and she laughed. "Wellesley - Wellington, I must say now - is a damned hard-headed bastard, but do you know, he insisted on it; and that they create me a peer or some such nonsense, only they are still arguing over how to manage it, without they let me sit in the Lords."

"I congratulate you most heartily," Laurence said, and shook her hand. "But Jane, we will be halfway across the world - I do not even know what we will do, there - "

"They will find out some work for you, I have no doubt," Jane said. "They mean to find a way into the interior; dragons will make easy work of that, and if nothing else, you may help them clear land. It is a waste, of course," she added, "and I hope we do not have cause to regret it, but I will tell you honestly, Laurence, I am glad you will go. I have not liked to think what should happen if you did not."

"I would not raise civil war," he said.

"You would not; I am not so sanguine about him," Jane said, looking down at Temeraire, presently settling some sort of squabble arisen between Cantarella and Perscitia; of course half the Yellow Reapers had dived into the quarrel on Cantarella's side at once. "But as for Emily: I do not mean to give anyone opportunity to whisper of special treatment, or try to work on me through her, either for good or ill. With three or four beasts established, there will be enough scope for her to advance a while, and ships come and go often enough. I am only worried for Catherine."

Riley and the Allegiance would be their transport, as so often before; and Catherine of course could not be spared even if she had wished to go. "Only I do not know whatever to do about the boy," Catherine said. "I do not quite like to let him go - "

"I do not see why," Lily muttered, not very quietly.

" - but if he is to go to sea, I suppose he had better begin as he will go on; and if he should prefer the Corps someday, there will be dragons enough, and perhaps he ought to be with his father," Catherine finished, at dinner that evening; she and Berkley had come out to see him off, as of course Laurence could not come to the covert to dine while legally a prisoner. They sat together in the pavilion around a small convenient card-table, eating roast mutton and bread, sheltered from the wind by the dragons dozing comfortably around them.

Laurence with some reluctance said, "Harcourt, under ordinary circumstances, I would not presume to offer advice on such a point; but you must recall, she will be a prison-ship for the journey; she will be carrying prisoners." The ordinary transports ran twice a year; the Allegiance would go out of turn, but she was so vast that a great many convicts could be crammed into her between decks.

"I suppose they will not be let to wander the ship," she said, surprised, and he had to convey some sense of the natural order of a prison-ship: the dreadful frequency of scurvy and fever and dysentery, the misery and regular danger of rebellion.

He was sorry to find his descriptions borne out when they came to the Allegiance the next morning, at Sheerness Dockyard: it was not pleasant to see their familiar and faithful transport all at loose ends, her crew a sad and surly crowd of pressed landsmen, some of them not far removed from the poor wretches who could be heard - and smelled - down beneath, clanking restlessly in the irons which must restrain them, so close to shore. Nearly every able seaman had been plundered away by ships with nobler duties and captains with more influence than Riley, having perhaps been tainted by too much association with Laurence, could muster to keep them for such a mission. A grating was already rigged, and fresh bloodstains beneath showed it had lately seen use; the bo'sun and his mates were bodily shoving the men to their work.

Across the harbor, another vessel was making ready to go down the Thames, on the same wind which would keep the Allegiance in port a while longer. She made a stark contrast: a sailing barge, flat-bottomed and small next to the behemoth of the dragon transport, and manned to precision by a tiny handful of sailors all in black; even her sails were dyed black, and her sides had been freshly painted, so there was no waterline to mar her side. A great casket, black-and-gold-painted, was gently and respectfully being conveyed onto her, while her officers stood at attention.

"That is Nelson's coffin," Laurence said, when Temeraire quietly inquired; a hush had fallen over all the ship, and even the most bitter of the impressed landsmen had been silenced, by the fists of their fellows if not by a sense of decorum, while the casket was in view. Tears showed on hardened faces, and Laurence could hear one man sobbing like a child, somewhere up in the rigging. A confused prickling of tears stood in his own eyes.

Nelson had given Britain mastery of the sea at Trafalgar; from Copenhagen he had brought back eighteen prizes and secured the passages of the Baltic Sea. All the month before the battle at Shoe-buryness had been joined, he had with his fleet swept the Channel clean of French shipping and beaten away at the regular French flights, so Napoleon should have no reinforcements. The ships had concealed their flags and painted over their names, so no-one should realize he had returned, and for love of him not a man out of five thousand sailors and more had deserted, even while the ships hid in home ports.

His personal sins might have been excused, though Nelson had selfishly exposed his wife to the misery of his flagrant unfaithfulness, and his friend Lord Hamilton to the astonished censure of the world. If Lady Hamilton had rescued her reputation, by her heroic spy-work in the occupation, it did not redeem Nelson's choice; but if, for so much victory and sacrifice, all these venial matters should have been passed over, there were worse evils to Nelson's account. He had defended slavery, and without a qualm advocated the hideous murder of those thousands of dragons, allies and neutrals as well as their enemies, by the spreading of the plague: evils Laurence could never forgive, and whose consequence he would personally bear the rest of his life.

Yet for a moment, Laurence could feel nothing but the deepest wrenching misery, watching the barge heave off the dock and those black sails filling; a grief unburdened by judgment; a grief he might have felt wholeheartedly, in another life. Guns were firing as the barge passed away down the river: an impromptu thunder of salutes. A hurried struggle went forward on the deck behind them, and the Allegiance's ragged crew managed by simple weight of her massive thirty-twos to contribute a meaningful roar or two to the procession, though they could not yet fire a broadside in unison.

The barge vanished swiftly over the horizon, carried inland by wind and tide. Distantly the salutes went on, like a receding storm, and at last faded entirely. The Allegiance groaned softly at her anchors, and the unhappy life of the ship resumed behind him. Laurence breathed again. He had not wept, in the end.

Temeraire had watched the procession with interest; now he stretched his wings - cautiously, to keep them in line with the wind and not abreast of it - and asked, "Will we leave soon?"

"When the captain and the passengers are come aboard," Laurence said. "In a few days, perhaps, if the wind turns fair."

They, of course, had been required aboard earlier, as they were not passengers but prisoners; and if Laurence were disposed to forget their official status, the first lieutenant, Lord Purbeck, was not. A guard - a wholly useless guard, two Marines armed with muskets, whom Temeraire might accidentally have knocked over without noticing - had been placed on the steps to the dragondeck, and when Laurence looked for his things, they had been stowed in a small, dark cabin beside the stern ladderway, two decks down: as near to the gaol-deck as practical, without being right in it, and full of the stench. To this he was followed by the guard, and they looked as though they would have liked to keep him in it; until he said, "You may go up, then, and explain to Temeraire I am not allowed to come to him."

The aviators began to come aboard irregularly: they were not an assembled crew, of course, with their own dragon, but rather were drifting over from Dover covert, by twos and threes, including two of the captains Jane had sent: both of them older men lately dropped to earth by the death of their former dragons, in the dreadful epidemic, long before anyone had looked for such an event; experienced men, who might have looked for long careers ahead of them. Another man they would take aboard in Gibraltar; three eggs were to be sent with them.

These were delivered, with great care and attention, by a party of three dragons. The eggs, swaddled in cotton wadding and lowered down into a nest built for them over the galley, were not what anyone would call a real prize: one Yellow Reaper, and one unfortunate cross between a Chequered Nettle and a Parnassian, who had somehow produced a shockingly small egg that looked more likely to produce a Winchester than a heavy-weight. The third, delivered by Arkady himself, was his own: or so he smugly informed them, and had been lately produced by Wringe. He was not at all sorry to see the egg go, convinced it was an especial honor to have it sent to a wide-open and unclaimed territory; although he stayed a long time lecturing Temeraire sternly on his duty of oversight and care, and extracting promises Temeraire should be sure the egg was not touched by anyone at all, and that only someone very rich should be permitted to become the captain.

"I am glad to see you again, before we go," Laurence said, to Tharkay, awkwardly; they had not spoken, since that day in the camp, when Tharkay had so easily and so wrenchingly cut him to the bone; Laurence scarcely knew whether to apologize or to express gratitude.

"You need not bid me farewell, just yet; I am coming," Tharkay said. "Captain Riley has been good enough to invite me as his guest."

"I did not know you knew him," Laurence said, as near as he could come to questioning.

"I did not," Tharkay said, "but Captain Harcourt was good enough to introduce me. I am tolerably well in pocket, at present, thanks to your admiral's generosity," he added, seeing that Laurence was surprised, "and I have never been to Terra Australis; the journey tempts me."

Wanderlust might drive a man across the ocean or to the farther side of the world; it would not drive him aboard a ship with one he despised, when funds would have allowed him to choose his passage. "Then I am glad we shall be shipmates," Laurence said: as far as he could trust himself to express his feelings, without giving mortification to himself or any other.

Riley came aboard late, and grim, and alone, with the tide already making a noise against her sides; he did not come to greet Laurence, of course, but neither did he say anything to the two captains, or to Tharkay, technically at least his guest. He went instead directly to his cabin, and came out only to weigh anchor and make sail; before sequestering himself again. Purbeck knew his work, and managed despite the very awkward crew to get them out of the harbor, with only the least direction; and then the black waters of the Channel were slipping away behind them.

TEMERAIRE PUT HIS HEAD over the side and studied the waves, as they went, and said to Laurence, "I only wish I knew how she did it; I might practice, to work it out?" But Laurence with some energy dissuaded him, although Temeraire protested he would only make the waves go away from the ship; even so, Laurence did not think Riley or the sailors would like it.

Temeraire sighed, and settled himself again; it was bad enough to be facing so long a sea-journey again, when all his friends were building pavilions, and soon to have pay: it was worse yet to be sent to such a strange and unfriendly country, which had no dragons at all. He was sure if it were at all nice, some dragons would have gone there before; so it must be wholly dreadful, and he was particularly anxious for the eggs. Not that he would let anything happen to them, of course, but it was a heavy responsibility, and none of them even his own. It did not seem very fair.

"Will it be very long?" he asked Laurence, the next morning, already feeling rather discouraged by the monotony of the horizon; he was gloomily unsurprised to hear they should be sailing for seven months, or longer.

"We must put in at Gibraltar and then at St. Helena," Laurence said, "as we cannot put in at the Cape anymore; and then likely again at New Amsterdam."

"And you are sure we might not just as well go to China?" Temeraire asked. "We might fly there overland - " But Laurence did not wish to do it.

"I do not mean to be a martyr," he said, "but the law must be the law for everyone; and it has bent for me a great deal already, and for you; however grudgingly. Though our actions were just, I cannot easily forget that others, who had a claim on our loyalty and our service, have suffered by them, and that our enemies thereby have profited. We have left behind England safer than she was, and free, thank God; I need not reproach myself for that. But I would yet gladly do what honorable work I might find, in her service, to repay the debt I owe, even if I may only do it indirect."

Temeraire would have objected strongly if anyone else had suggested that Laurence owed any more than he had given; but he could not very well quarrel with Laurence himself on the subject, if he had liked to, when he owed Laurence a debt, too. Only, he wished they were not going so very far. Already the days had begun to drag intolerably.

"Wing, two points off the larboard stern," the lookout cried, and Temeraire roused hopefully: perhaps it would be a battle; or perhaps Volly, coming to call them back to England; or Maximus and Lily, come to bear him company, so they should all go together.

"But it is none of them; it is Iskierka," he said, disgruntledly, when she had come close enough he could see the thin cloud of steam trailing her; she was flying a little sluggishly and tired, and she thumped down upon the dragondeck in much disarray: she did not have even her full harness on, and none of her crew, only Granby latched on to her neck-strap.

"What are you doing here?" Temeraire demanded, while she thirstily drank up two barrels of his water.

She settled herself more comfortably, looping her massive coils in a very inconvenient way, half-sprawling over the deck and some of them dangling over the sides, so that Temeraire could not help but notice that in reaching her full length she had grown longer than he was, himself. "I am coming with you."

"No, you are not," Temeraire said. "We are transported, you are not; you had better go back at once."

"Well, I cannot," she said. "I am too tired to fly back now, and by tomorrow morning it will be too far; so we may as well go on."

"I do not see what you want to come for, anyway," Temeraire said.

"I told you that you might give me an egg, when we had won," Iskierka said, "so I have come to keep my promise."

"But I do not want to give you an egg, at all!" Temeraire said. "I do not want you aboard the ship, either: you take too much room, and you are damp."

"I do not take any more room than you; at least, not much more," Iskierka said, to add insult to injury, "and I am warmer; so you needn't quarrel."

"And," Temeraire said, "you are disobeying orders again, I am sure of it: Granby would never let you come."

"Oh, well," she said, "one cannot always be obeying orders. When will we be there?"

"IT IS THIS DRATTED EGG," Granby said to Laurence. "She is set on it having fire, and the divine wind; I have tried and tried to tell her it don't work so, but she will not listen, and now here we are."

"You may take her off at Gibraltar," Laurence suggested.

"Oh, yes, if she will choose to go," Granby said, and sat down upon an emptied cask of water, limp with defeat.

Iskierka, having been given a pig to eat, had already in satisfied complacence gone to sleep; her steadily issuing cloud of vapor went spilling over the bow and trailing away along either side of the ship, as though to illustrate their steady pace, farther away from England. Temeraire had pushed her mostly to one half the dragondeck, as best he could, and now sat coiled up and disgruntled, with his ruff flattened against his neck.

"You may be glad of the company, before we have crossed the line," Laurence said, by way of comfort.

"I will not, even if I am very bored; any more than I would be glad of a typhoon," Temeraire said, broodingly. "And I am sure she will be a bad influence upon the eggs."

Laurence looked at Iskierka, and at Granby, who was presently drowning his sorrow in a glass of rum; Tharkay had come on deck and prudently caught one of the runners, to send for a bottle. "At least you need not fear for their safety," he suggested.

"Unless she should set the ship on fire," Temeraire said; a good deal too loudly for the comfort of any sailor in ear-shot, which might have omitted those two decks below, or in the stern.

"Then I am afraid you must study philosophy," Laurence said, "and learn to bear the misfortune. I hope the arrangement is at least preferable to the breeding grounds."

"Oh! Anything might be better than that, and still be dreadful," Temeraire said, and with a sigh settled his head down forward. "Pray, Laurence; let us have the Principia Mathematica, as there is nothing better?"

"Again?" Laurence said, but sent Emily down for the book. She returned scowling, at the state of his quarters, but with a shake of his head he dissuaded her from any word to Temeraire. "Where shall I begin?" he asked, but he did not immediately hear the answer, as he looked down and put his hands on the book: his fingers caught on the delicate pages, and traced the embossed lines of the heavy cover, leather stamped with gilt. The same book under his hands, the salt wind in his face, Temeraire at his side; nothing changed outwardly, and yet in his essentials he felt as wholly altered as if he had been reborn, since the last time he had set foot upon the deck of a ship: a tide coming in, high and fast, which had swept clean the sand.

"Laurence?" Temeraire said. "Would you prefer another?"

"No, my dear," Laurence said. "I do very well."


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