Victory, p.1Susan Cooper
LIVING CENTURIES APART, BUT JOINED IN AN EPIC BATTLE.
Sam Robbins is a farm boy, kidnapped to serve on HMS Victory, the ship on which Lord Nelson will die a hero’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Molly Jennings is a twenty-first-century English girl transplanted to the United States by her stepfather’s job, who’s fighting her own battle against loss and loneliness.
Two lives that couldn’t be more different, two hundred years apart, are linked by a tiny scrap of fraying cloth, tucked into an old book. It draws Molly into Sam’s world, to a moment in time that changed history—a frightening shared moment that holds the key to secrets from the past and hope for the future.
“A vivid historical tale within the framework of a compelling modern story.” —Booklist, starred review
“[A] compelling, tautly rigged tale.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
ANOTHER PAGE-TURNING, TIME-SHIFTING ADVENTURE FROM SUSAN COOPER
Also by Susan Cooper
THE DARK IS RISING SEQUENCE
Over Sea, Under Stone
The Dark Is Rising
The Grey King
Silver on the Tree
King of Shadows
Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor
The Boggart and the Monster
Dawn of Fear
The Magician’s Boy
illustrated by Serena Riglietti
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Copyright © 2006 by Susan Cooper
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
ALADDIN PAPERBACKS and related logo are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Also available in a Margaret K. McElderry Books hardcover edition. Designed by Ann Zeak
The text of this book was set in Fournier. First Aladdin Paperbacks edition December 2007
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Cooper, Susan, 1935— Victory / Susan Cooper.—1st ed.
Summary: A high-seas adventure that follows the stories of an eleven-year-old girl in the present day, and an eleven-year-old boy in 1803 serving in the English Royal Navy aboard the HMS Victory, commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-1477-8 (hc)
ISBN-10: 1-4169-1477-3 (hc)
1. Great Britain—History, Naval—19th century—Juvenile fiction. [1. Great Britain— History, Naval—19th century—Fiction. 2. Victory (Man-of-war). 3. Sea stories.] I. Title.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-1478-5 (pbk)
ISBN-10: 1-4169-1478-1 (pbk)
eISBN-13: 978-1-4424-5897-0 (eBook)
in affectionate memory
and in return for
Chapter 1: Molly August 2006
Chapter 2: Sam January 1803
Chapter 3: Molly 2006
Chapter 4: Sam 1803
Chapter 5: Molly In Connecticut
Chapter 6: Sam 1803 – 1805
Chapter 7: Molly In England
Chapter 8: Sam 1805
Chapter 9: Molly Aboard HMS Victory
Chapter 10: Sam 21 October 1805
Chapter 11: Molly In England
Chapter 12: Sam January 1806
Chapter 13: Molly In Connecticut
Chapter 14: Sam 1832
Chapter 15: Molly In Connecticut
About the Author
Engraving from a portrait by John Hoppner, 1801, used as a frontispiece in The Life of Nelson by Robert Southey. National Portrait Gallery, London
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange. . . .
The sound of the drums was like the beating of a great slow heart. Muffled drums, they were, with black cloth over them. Everything was muffled that day, even the grey clouded sky. All of England was mourning the death of one man, and all the people of London were out on the streets leading to St. Paul’s, and all the air filled with the slow beat of those drums and the unending slow march of thousands of feet.
Ten thousand soldiers marched in procession that day, before and behind us, in that long step that they keep for funerals, with the hesitation in it that breaks your heart. Marines were marching too, and the cavalry regiments trotting their horses slow, with a soft jingle of harness, and artillery with horses pulling the creaking gun carriages. Every man of us wore black stockings, with black crepe on our hats, and black ribbons hung from the horses’ heads. Over the beat of the drums, sometimes you would hear the wailing lament of a pipe band, like London weeping.
And there were we, forty-eight of us from the crew of his flagship HMS Victory, walking in pairs: forty-eight seamen and marines, with the senior men up front carrying our poor flag, the tattered white ensign that had flown from the masthead at the Battle of Trafalgar and been shot through and through. The men held it up sometimes to show it to the people lining the streets, and some said you could hear a rustle like the sound of the sea as hundreds and hundreds of men took off their hats in respect. Me, all I could hear was the drums, and the feet, and the boom of the minute guns.
Dozens of carriages creaked along behind us, drawn by more jingling horses, filled with noblemen and officers. Thirty-two admirals in full dress uniform there were at the Admiral’s funeral, and a hundred captains. There never was a funeral like it, not even for a king. The Prince of Wales rode in his crested carriage just in front of the funeral car, a long gun carriage made to look like our Victory, with high prow and stern, and a canopy swaying above our Admiral’s coffin.
With music and high words the funeral service lasted for hours, inside St. Paul’s Cathedral. A great blaze of candles hung from the huge domed roof. At the very end, when the coffin was to be lowered into the ground, we seamen had been told to fold our ensign in ceremony, and lay it on the top. But when Will Wilmet the bosun and three of the older men took up that shredded white cloth, Will gave a kind of sob—and suddenly all the men were reaching for our sad flag and it came apart, and they stuffed pieces of it into their jackets. And the coffin went down into the crypt, under the stone floor, forever.
He was a good man, Wilmet. He gave me a scrap of the flag for my own, afterward, outside the Cathedral, when we were gathering to march back through the streets of London without our Admiral.
“Here, young Sam,” he said. “Here’s a bit for you. Keep it till you die, and have it buried with you. Your own little bit of Nelson.”
Molly sits in a Connecticut garden with her book, under a towering maple tree. “Cheeoo, cheeoo, cheeoo,” sings a cardinal from the branches above her, a high clear call, and somewhere far off another bird answers him. Then the bird flies, swooping down and across the
But this is home now, she tries to remind herself.
Never, says a rebellious small voice silently in her brain.
Something drops past her nose in a blur, and she looks down and sees a hairy caterpillar moving smartly across the page, rippling, hasty. Now she knows what that litter of tiny black dots on the arm of her chair must be: droppings from hairy caterpillars.
“Yuck!” says Molly and shakes the caterpillar down onto the grass. Maybe the singing bird will come back and have it for tea.
There’s no such meal as tea, here, says the small silent voice.
Molly is an English city girl. All her eleven years until this one have been spent in London—though London is greener than most cities, full of parks and trees, and squares with gardens in the middle. Molly and her mother had lived in one such, in Merton Square. The Victorian terraced houses on all four sides of the square had long been divided into apartments, and theirs was on the top floor. In the center of the square was a garden the size of a football field, set about with trees and flowerbeds and small lawns. The whole garden was enclosed behind wrought-iron fencing, with two big iron gates to which every family who lived in the square—but nobody else—had a key. Though Molly was a city girl, her bedroom looked out over treetops.
But that was then. This is now, in Connecticut, four thousand miles away. Molly brushes a few new black dots off the page of her book, and sighs. The book is part of her summer reading for the school she will go to in September. It is a novel about Paul Revere, hero of the Revolutionary War, the war in which the noble American patriots wrested their freedom from the tyrannical British. Molly finds Paul Revere boringly virtuous. She misses King Alfred who burned the cakes, King Canute who vainly told the sea to go back, King Charles who lost his head; she misses two thousand years of imperfect British heroes.
“Molly!” It is her mother’s voice calling from the house, over the new-cut, sweet-smelling lawn. She sounds harassed. “Moll! Come and give me a hand, love!”
Molly runs indoors. The air-conditioned house is cold, after the soft heat of the sunlit garden. In the big white kitchen her baby brother Donald is clamped into his high chair, picking up bits of avocado with amazing delicacy between finger and thumb. He catches sight of her, and beams. “Mowy!” he cries, and whacks a chubby hand down on his plastic table, smashing the avocado into a gooey mess.
“Feed him, darling, would you?” Kate Hibbert says, handing her daughter the bowl of baby-sized bits of chicken and vegetables. “I’m making sandwiches—Carl and Russell are coming home for lunch. They’ve put the boat in the water, they’re all cock-a-hoop, they want to take you for a sail.”
Molly’s heart sinks, but she makes a happy face at Donald and slips a morsel of chicken into his birdlike open mouth. “I have to finish Paul Revere,” she says.
Kate glances at her, as she opens the refrigerator for bread, mayonnaise, ham, sliced cheese. She understands, and at the same time she’s making a demand. “Be nice, darling,” she says.
The wind is blowing briskly off Long Island Sound, and the sailboat heels sharply to the right. Carl hauls at the mainsheet to hold her closer into the wind, and the boat creams through the water, the waves going slap-slap-slap against her sides. Tilted sideways and jolted up and down, Molly presses her bottom against the edge of the boat’s side where Carl has put her, on the left.
Port, she says to herself silently. Port is left. Starboard is right. The edge is the gunwale. When he says “Ready about,” get over the other side. To starboard. Right.
Next to her, her stepbrother Russell grips the jib-sheet, his tanned face tipped up to the sky and the wind. He’s loving it all; he’s been doing this since he was a baby. He glances at her sideways. “You okay?” he says.
Carl says, “Ready about!”
“Duck your head!” says Russell, and in an uneasy scramble Molly gets herself under the boom, as the mainsail swings across the boat with a flapping rattle of canvas and line. She bangs her elbow against the mast, she gets in Russell’s way as he pulls the jib to the other side. Scuffling her feet, clutching at the gunwale, she tries dutifully, desperately to lean backward as the deck tilts away from her. The boat is alive, strong, swift as a galloping horse in this noisy companionship with the wind. Molly has a hollow feeling at the pit of her stomach; it is not seasickness, it is fear. She longs to be back on dry land.
Carl yells to her, “Want to take the tiller?”
“Noooo!” Molly says in appalled honesty, and he laughs. He looks totally happy, like his son. Carl is a lean, tall man with a face creased by smiling, and thinning hair flattened against his head now by the wind. He has been her stepfather for two years, yet she feels she does not know him very well.
Molly scarcely remembers her real father; he died in a plane crash when she was four years old. All her life after that, she and Kate were a two-person team, coping with the balance between Kate’s job and Molly’s school, times with Granny and Grandad and times with friends, all in the embrace of London’s brick and stone and trees. This lasted until the day when Kate took up with smiling American Carl Hibbert, the widower with the son five years older than Molly—Russell, who still treats her like a baby even now, two years after their parents stunned them both by getting married.
In the beginning, they all four lived in London, where Carl ran the European office of the big American company for which he works. Kate became pregnant and had Donald, whom Molly adores and Russell tries to ignore. Molly still went to her Kensington school, Russell to the American School in London, and they all led a fairly amiable two-pronged life, these two Brits and two Yanks. Until another day, when Carl’s company moved him back to the United States, and his family had to go too, and Molly’s life fell apart.
“Ready about!” Carl calls unexpectedly, and Molly is suddenly at a loss, forgetting what she should do. Russell is busy with the jib, shifting himself and the sail to the other side of the boat. Carl is juggling tiller and mainsheet. So nobody yells a warning to Molly to duck, as the tall sail on the heavy boom swings across and a wave tips the boat, and the boom catches her off balance and knocks her over the side, into the sea.
Panic fills her like a scream as the cold water closes over her head. She comes up gasping, flailing; a wave smacks her face, she can see nothing but green water. Her sneakers are like lead weights on her feet, dragging her legs down when she tries to kick. She gasps and gasps and makes terrible sounds as the sea forces water into her lungs. She is sure she is about to drown.
Someone is behind her, hands under her arms, yelling words she cannot hear. Russell is in the water with her. Frantic, Molly tries to clutch at him; he forces her to turn away from him. A wave breaks over them both. Molly is gurgling, choking, but the hands holding her from behind are keeping her head up out of the water. She glimpses the side of the boat nearby, tossing, enormous; hears the loud flapping of the sail, sees Carl moving fast, reaching a hand down toward her.
Somehow, pulling, pushing, they get her over the side of the tossing boat and she lies there coughing up water, drawing in whistling breaths. She is a mess of terror and relief and misery, dripping, cold. Russell drags himself into the boat and drops almost on top of her. He pushes wet dark hair out of his eyes. He grins at her.
“Thank—you—” Molly croaks, and throws up seawater, and weeps.
Russell’s still grinning. “You’ve had your turn!” he yells over the noise of the sails.
“Get the jib!” Carl snaps. He is pushing at the tiller, fighting with the other hand to haul in the mainsail, to get this prancing disorderly racehorse back to its frightening smooth speed.
Russell grabs the flapping line and hauls the jib into stillness, in line with the big sail as it steadies and fills. Even now he is clearly enjoying himself. He yells to Molly, “Everyone goes over once! You’ll never do it again!”
So they sail on, carried fast through the choppy water by the pressure of the wind fighting the sail. Russell and his father are both feeling vaguely guilty that they did not take time for the extra moment of caution that would have saved Molly from being knocked into the water. At the same time they are resenting her a little for being so wet and unhappy that they must cut short their sail and take her back to shore. As for Molly, she is simply miserable.
Carl reaches forward and pats her wet leg, awkwardly, apologetically. “Sorry you went over, Moll,” he says. “Cheer up. We’ll have you warm soon.”
Molly looks up at him, unsmiling. “I want to go home,” she says. And it is not the Connecticut house that she is talking about.
In the big kitchen Molly is huddled inside a sweater and jeans, though the sun still shines brightly outdoors and Russell and his friend Jack are splashing merrily in the pool. From the baby monitor on the kitchen table she can hear small snuffling noises, as Donald, upstairs in his crib, tries to resist falling asleep. Kate is at the sink tipping a pot of green beans into a colander. Molly pulls eight hamburger buns from a plastic bag and mounds them on a tray, beside bottles of ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, and a jar of her grandmother’s green tomato chutney.
“Tell me if Carl’s ready to cook,” says Kate, and Molly takes her tray outside to the imposing gas grill, set into a granite counter on a specially built pillar of carved stone blocks. American husbands can indeed cook, she has learned, but they only do it outdoors, on grills, in the summer. Carl is standing beside the grill with a long fork in one hand and a cell phone in the other; he is talking into the phone.
“Okay then,” he says. “Fax it to me tonight. I’ll check it first thing, and get back to you. But Tuesday I go to Italy for three days. Okay. Ciao.” He clicks the little phone shut, and smiles his eye-crinkling smile at Molly.
Victory by Susan Cooper / Young Adult / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes