Amber by Deborah Challinor

Book: Amber by Deborah Challinor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deborah Challinor
her a lesson on their first voyage together from Paihia to Sydney. But Daniel completed them all expertly and with good grace, until even Hawk had to admit he would be better doing something more relevant to the day-to-day running of the schooner. By their fifth day at sea Daniel was up the ratlines and working on the masts, demonstrating that he was an unexpectedly skilled seaman. When Rian asked him where he had attained those skills, Daniel explained that he had gone to sea with his uncle from the age of fourteen to eighteen, before he decided to settle in Sydney and join the armed constabulary.
    However, Gideon, Ropata and Mick began to thaw towards Daniel only when they saw that he shared their affinity for the sea, that he was keeping as far away from Kitty as was physically possible, and after Rian had told them in no uncertain terms that they had to stop treating Daniel as though he had leprosy.
    From the outset, though, Pierre couldn’t bring himself to ostracise Daniel. He toyed briefly with the idea of serving him only the scraggiest cuts of meat and the dregs from the bottomof the coffee-pot, but, try as he might, he couldn’t really see anything wrong with having Daniel Royce on board. What could a man say? Pierre thought it a splendidly honourable and gallant thing to do, to slit the throat of a scoundrel who had besmirched the name of your beloved, even if your beloved was married to someone else. And anyway, Kitty would never consider dallying with Daniel Royce, Pierre knew that or his name wasn’t Pierre Babineaux. And if Royce did behave improperly towards Kitty, then Rian could kill him. It was as simple as that.
    The tension eased as the days passed, and on the tenth night Daniel was invited to join the crew after supper on deck for a pipe. He didn’t say much, but the others addressed him from time to time, and he seemed happy with that. The only crew member who continued to pillory Daniel was Bodie. He had been allocated Sharkey’s old bunk, and on the very first night she piddled on his blanket. The next evening he discovered a reeking fish-head from the galley stuffed under his pillow, and the day after that a small, fresh turd in his boot. At first he’d assumed that one of the crew was responsible, but no human could be capable of producing such compact yet eye-wateringly noxious ordure, surely? Pierre took pity on him after that and suggested that the culprit was almost certainly Bodie, told him to keep the door to his cabin shut at all times, and regaled him with various other Bodie stories. Daniel laughed politely, but privately dreaded what the cat might do next. The crew found it all very entertaining.
    By the time the Katipo had passed through Cook Strait then turned north-east to sail up the eastern coastline of New Zealand’s North Island, the calendar on the mess-room wall read 21 December. They continued on all that day and throughout the following night, aiming to reach harbour at the Bay of Islands by early morning.
    Rian’s timing was perfect: just as they passed through thestretch of calmer seas between Waitangi and Waihihi Bay, the sun began to bleach the eastern horizon. As a mark of respect, and to alert those on shore to the fact that they were arriving with a body on board, Rian gave the order to lower his ensigns to half-mast. He flew two—the orange, white and green flag of Ireland, and the green ensign featuring a golden harp, which had been used widely during the Irish rebellion almost fifty years before, and which Rian belligerently insisted on flying even in English ports.
    The anchor clanked loudly in the muffled silence as it was lowered, and the crew waited patiently for the Paihia shoreline to be revealed as the sun climbed higher in the sky and burned off the heavy sea mist.
    But, as Rian gave the order to launch the rowboat twenty minutes later, Hawk pointed towards the shore and said, ‘Look.’
    At first all Kitty could see were the blue-green hills above

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