Chapter 2.5

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Ward spent the morning on deck. The sailors either ignored him or pushed him aside as they went about their business. He found an out-of-the-way place and watched the green water rush by and gazed out at the mainland. They had drawn closer to it in the night, and he could now see beaches and bays and rocky points, and from time to time a lonely shack with smoke climbing out of its chimney.

"Who lives there?" he asked a nearby sailor.

"Nobody. Wild men," the sailor said dismissively, and moved off. Ward watched the shack until it vanished around a point.

When the tempus in the wheelhouse read five to one he went to the stern and descended a ladder to the cabins.

The door opened immediately upon Ward knocking: it was as if Snapper had been waiting on the other side. He put his finger to his lips and ushered Ward in.

The cabin was large and luxurious. Everywhere Ward looked he saw tassels and fine filigree and porcelain and elaborate lamps and velvet cushions and gold-framed paintings of ships at sea. Ward chose the least ostentatious seat he could see (a purple Ottoman with mother of pearl buttons and a gold lace apron), and perched upon it feeling very small and grubby. Snapper lowered himself into a great winged armchair and poured two cups of blackleaf. An array of biscuits teetered on a plate; upon being offered them Ward took one, while Snapper settled for six or seven.

"Now, my boy. What were we going to discuss?"

"You've forgotten?"

"Quite," Snapper said, though the cup was shaking in his hand and his ruff was quivering, as if about to leap off at Ward like some bird of prey.

"You were going to show me something, Sir."

"Oh yes! Of course! How could I forget?"

"I'm not su -"

"It's not like me to forget anything, I'll have you know. Why, my pere (Lord Lionel Snapper) was forever remarking upon my singular memory. That boy, he would say, has a mind like a termite mound – by which I assume he meant that there was an awful lot going on inside it. But we all have our moments, don't we?"

"I forgot to feed the chickens once," Ward said.

"Did they die?"


"Oh." Snapper seemed disappointed.

"They didn't lay any eggs for a week though," Ward said.

"Ho ho!" Snapper said, brightening considerably. "That they wouldn't."

"So what did you want to show me, Sir?"

"Oh – yes. Ho ho. Well."

Ward waited, but nothing more came. Snapper peered at him in a peculiar sidelong calculating way, and sank further into his ruff.

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Forgetting to feed the chickens is understandable; forgetting to vote inexcusable.

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