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By Brian Freemantle

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Sample text

So he would earn the gratitude of all England, Bligh knew. Every landowner and person of importance in the country had a fortune invested in the sugar plantations of the West Indies. He’d seen the wealth for himself, after Betsy’s uncle, Duncan Campbell, had given him the merchant ship Britannia to command when the Admiralty had stood him down after the American war. Unimaginable riches, he reflected, sleepily. And dependent entirely upon slaves. It had been only natural for the British establishment to become worried after American independence because the colonies had supplied the food for the chained and shackled workers.

Bligh was not a tyrant, imposing the lash at the slightest infringement of regulations. He was an irascible nagger, certainly. He demanded a high standard aboard his ships and when it wasn’t achieved, the lash came from his tongue, not the cat-o’-nine-tails. Compared with other recorded punishments by contemporary captains, by eighteenth-century standards Bligh was soft-handed with his crew. When, on the outward voyage of the Bounty, the crew deck became soaked by the storms of Cape Horn, he turned his own quarters over to his men so they could sleep dry.

Only Quintal and Thompson remained below, moving towards the arms locker. The keys in Quintal’s hand jingled with the man’s nervousness. ‘Damn,’ said Quintal, softly. He stopped in the alley and Thompson stumbled into him. Sprawled over the arms store, asleep but completely securing it, lay fifteen-year-old John Hallett, the midshipman missing from Christian’s watch. ‘We must have weapons,’ muttered Thompson, his conviction immediately faltering. Quintal nodded. Mickoy had demanded the same, he recalled.

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