Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

me. I was glad of those lessons yet again. Bill might have thought I’d been drowned, or speared, or snake- bit somewhere, if he hadn’t been able to read the note. I scribbled Back soon with a bit of charcoal on the note too. I prayed it would be soon. And then I prayed that it wouldn’t be soon, because it takes a long time to recover from typhus, and ‘soon’ would mean Elsie was … I couldn’t say the word, not even to God. I couldn’t think it. ‘Come on!’ I yelled to Whiskers. I ran down the hill to the boat tethered at my dock. It was small and colony made, with both oars and sail. The wind was with us, but I pulled at the oars too, till my hands would have blistered if they hadn’t been hardened from years of work. It had always been me and Elsie, ever since that day after Ma had died when I found her, starving and terrified. I’d thought she couldn’t speak back then. Now I knew she could speak, for I’d heard her say, ‘I love you, Barney,’ when I went off to sea, plus a couple of other words years back, though she’d never said another thing since. Elsie. The best cook in the colony, and the prettiest and kindest, but she could be stubborn too. She could read a book even faster than Mr Johnson …


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