Assassin's creed : Black flag, стр. 72

The footman and the tall man gaped as they became aware of the many guns pointing in their direction. By accident or design, they’d placed themselves in the middle: the guns of the soldiers on one side, the carriage-guns and muskets of the Jackdaw on the other, and me on the rigging, ready with a flaming torch to drop to the deck below.

The portly gentleman moved his mouth as though exercising it in readiness to speak. He laced his hands across his chest, rocked back on his heels, and called up to me, “Do I have the pleasure of addressing Captain Edward Kenway?”

“And who might you be?” I called back.

That produced a shudder of amusement from the soldiers on the harbour wall.

The portly man smiled.

“You’ve been away a long time, Captain Kenway.”

I agreed I had.

His lips smacked and rearranged themselves into a smile. “Then you are forgiven for not knowing who I am. I think, however, that you will know my name. It is Walpole. Sir Robert Walpole. I am the First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons.”

I was thinking what an impressive title that was, and how he must be one of the most powerful men in the land when . . . Walpole. It couldn’t be.

But he was nodding. “Yes, indeed, Captain Kenway. Duncan Walpole, the man whose life and identity you took as your own, was my cousin.”

I felt myself tense even more. What game was he playing? Who was the tall man by his side? It struck me that he had a family resemblance to Matthew Hague. Was this his father, Sir Aubrey Hague?

Walpole was waving a reassuring hand. “It is quite all right. Not only was my cousin involved in affairs I keep at a distance, but he was a treacherous man, a man blessed, I’m afraid, with few principles. A man prepared to sell the secrets of those who trusted him to the highest bidder. I was ashamed to see him bear the Walpole name. I think perhaps in many ways you have done my family a good turn.”

“I see,” I called, “and that’s why you’re here, is it? To thank me for killing your cousin?”

“Oh no, not at all.”

“Then to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? As you can see, I have other matters to attend to.”

The torch grumbled as I waved it for effect. From the wedged cabin of the Charlotte came a banging sound as Hague tried to get free. Otherwise, there was a tense hush as the soldiers and the sailors peered at one another along the barrels of their weapons, both sets of men awaiting their orders.

“Well, Captain Kenway, it’s exactly those matters that exercise us, I’m afraid,” called Walpole, “for I cannot allow you to continue on your present course of action. As a matter of fact, I’m going to have to ask you to toss the torch in the sea and come down from there right away. Or, alas, I shall have the men shoot you.”

I chortled. “You shoot me and my men return fire, Sir Robert. I fear even you yourself might get caught in the cross fire. Not to mention your friend—Sir Aubrey Hague, is it?”

“It is indeed, sir,” said the tall man stepping forward. “I come to plead clemency for my son.”

His son had been a disappointment to him, I could see.

“Let me see your fingers,” I demanded.

Hague raised his hands. A Templar ring glittered. My heart hardened.

“And you, Sir Robert.”

His hands remained laced across his stomach. “You’ll see no ring on me, Captain Kenway.”

“Why does the idea tickle you? From what I’ve seen, the Templars enjoy rank and status. How am I to know that I am not addressing their Grand Master?”

He smiled. “Because no power is absolute, Captain Kenway, and my purpose here is not to act as ambassador for one side or indeed the other. My purpose here is to prevent an act of barbarism.”

I scoffed. Barbarism? It didn’t seem to bother them when they were burning my parents’ home. Where was Sir Robert Walpole then? Sipping port, perhaps, with his Templar friends? Congratulating himself on abstaining from their schemes. He could afford to, of course. His wealth and power was already assured.

From the cabin Matthew Hague snivelled and whimpered.

“You have returned to these shores on a mission of vengeance, I take it?” called Walpole.

“There are those with whom I have scores to settle, yes.”

Walpole nodded. “Woodes Rogers being one of them?”

I gave a short, surprised laugh. “Yes. He would be one of them.”

“Would it make a difference if I told you that Rogers currently languishes in debtor’s prison? That the wounds you inflicted on him have left his health in a terrible state of disrepair? That his Order has disowned him? His hot temper, his continued slave trading. He is a broken man, Captain Kenway. I wonder if perhaps you might consider that matter settled?”

He was right. What more harm could my blade do to Rogers other than to put him out of his misery? Either way . . .

“He is not my immediate concern,” I called. “That honour belongs to the man in the cabin below.”

Walpole gave a sad smile. “A silly, shallow boy, influenced by others. You must believe me when I tell you, Captain Kenway, that the principal malefactors in that particular episode are already dead at your hands. Rest assured that Matthew’s current shame is punishment enough for his wrongdoing.”

I took a deep breath. I thought of my mother asking me how many I’d killed. I thought of Black Bart’s cruelty. I thought of Mary Read’s spirit and Adewale’s courage and Blackbeard’s generosity.

And I thought of you. Torres had been wrong when he said I had nobody. I did have somebody. I had you. You, who shone with hope.

“Today I should like to make you an offer, Captain Kenway,” continued Walpole. “An offer I hope you will find favourable, that will finally draw a curtain across this whole sorry affair.”

He outlined his proposals. I listened. When he was finished, I told him my answer and dropped the torch.

SEVENTY-THREE

Except, of course, I dropped it into the sea.

Because he offered pardons for my men and me, and I saw their faces turn expectantly to me, every one of them a wanted man with the chance of having his slate wiped clean. He offered us all, every man-jack of us, a new life.

And Walpole had offered much more besides. Property. The chance to make something of myself, with business contacts in London. When I’d finally climbed down from the rigging, the soldiers had put down their muskets and the crew of the Jackdaw relaxed; when Matthew Hague had been released and run to his father and offered me tearful apologies, Walpole took my arm and led me away, speaking of who I would be introduced to in London: the Stephenson-Oakley family, a lawyer, an assistant by the name of Birch to help me in my new business dealings.

My mercy would be handsomely rewarded, he assured me. In return he would see to it that I became the man I always wanted to be: a man of quality.

Of course, I had since gained greater expectations of myself. But money, business and a house in London would be a fine foundation on which to build a new and richer life. A fine foundation indeed.

A place I could use to attend to my other business. My Assassin business.

Shall we go, my darling? Shall we set sail for London?

LIST OF CHARACTERS

×