‘Good news, Captain,’ came a smooth, polished voice, and both he and Corby turned to see the ship’s first officer Lieutenant Jon-Jolyon Letchworth- Crisp standing there, a suave smile on his lips. ‘Arthur’s managed to fix the bilge pump,’ he said. ‘At least, for the time being . . .’
‘Good news?’ said Captain Belvedere. ‘If you say so, Letchworth- Crisp, if you say so . . .’
The captain turned and walked slowly away. ‘I’ll be in my cabin if you need me,’ he added gloomily. ‘Though why anybody should need me, I don’t know . . .’
Jon-Jolyon turned to Corby and flashed a brittle smile. ‘And how is young Miss Corby Flood today?’ he asked.
‘Fine, thanks,’ said Corby.
‘And your delightful mother and father?’
‘And your four energetic brothers?’
Corby nodded. They both knew that there was only one person in the Flood family he was truly interested in. ‘The same as ever,’ she said. ‘And before you ask, so is my enchanting older sister, Serena.’
Jon-Jolyon grinned. ‘Glad to hear it. Do give her my very best regards, won’t you?’ he said, as he turned on his heels and strode off. ‘And I hope we shall all meet up at dinner,’ he called back over his shoulder.
Corby smiled — a smile which faded the moment she was sure the lieutenant had gone. She opened Hoffendinck’s Guide and, taking the pencil that dangled on a piece of string around her neck, she started writing . . .
H O F F E N D I N C K ’ S G U I D E
THE HERMIT ISLANDS
These tiny crags, several hundred in number, were occupied by hermit fishermen for many years and are ideal for an afternoon picnic if passing. Consult the captain for details of tides, and always have a stout rowing boat at the ready in case of emergencies.
Some of the more interesting islands are: Mortimer’s Crag — very rocky, but home to a legendary mermaid so hideous that she is said to frighten fishermen to death with one look. Stefan’s Pile — covered in soft, grey sea-moss up to five feet thick, and home to eider crabs.
The Old Man of Fub — famous for its nesting colony of blue-tailed goobies. Well worth a visit.
SIGHTS TO LOOK OUT FOR: De Witt’s Moonlight Flying Fish; a.k.a. Love Fish — on moonlit nights, these extraordinary fish can be seen swimming in large shoals close to the surface of the ocean. As the moonlight glints on the tops of the waves, the love fish engage in elaborate displays, leaping into the air in graceful arcs.
Legend has it that any who witness the flight of the love fish fall instantly in love.
Corby stopped writing for a moment and gazed reflectively out to sea. How strange, she thought, to be writing notes about the people she met on board, instead of notes about the interesting places mentioned in Hoffendinck’s Guide.
When they boarded the S.S. Euphonia, she’d been so excited by the prospect of all the fascinating sights she would see on her voyage home to Harbour Heights — not that Corby could call Harbour Heights ‘home’ exactly. The only home she had ever known was the large white bungalow in Dandoon where she had been born eight years earlier. And as for the sights, it wasn’t long before Corby had discovered that the closest she would ever get was peering at them on the distant horizon as the ship sailed past.
Still, at least she could read all about them in the guide. She squinted at a tiny black speck on the horizon.
Was that Mortimer’s Crag? she wondered. Or Stefan’s Pile? But she was too far away even to make a guess, she realized with a sigh.
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