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Captain Blood

Captain Blood

4.1 86
by Rafael Sabatini

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Physician and country gentleman Peter Blood is forced to turn from medicine to piracy in this swashbuckling classic brimming with stolen treasure, adventure on the high seas, and romance.


Physician and country gentleman Peter Blood is forced to turn from medicine to piracy in this swashbuckling classic brimming with stolen treasure, adventure on the high seas, and romance.

Editorial Reviews

George MacDonald Fraser
One of the great unrecognized novels of the twentieth century, and as close as any modern writer has come to a prose epic.
Library Journal
This title is immediately recognizable as the basis for Michael Curtiz's 1935 film starring Errol Flynn. At the time of its 1922 debut, however, the book was a smash hit and was followed up with additional adventures of swashbuckler Peter Blood in numerous sequels. A salty dose of high-seas adventure for all fiction collections, this is the most affordable edition currently available.
From the Publisher
"Glorious...I never enjoyed a novel more than Captain Blood." —Norman Mailer

"One of the great unrecognized novels of the twentieth century, and as close as any modern writer has come to a prose epic." —George MacDonald Fraser

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt



Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides, smoked a pipe and tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his window above Water Lane in the town of Bridgewater.

Sternly disapproving eyes considered him from a window opposite, but went disregarded. Mr. Blood's attention was divided between his task and the stream of humanity in the narrow street below; a stream which poured for the second time that day towards Castle Field, where earlier in the afternoon Ferguson, the Duke's chaplain, had preached a sermon containing more treason than divinity.

These straggling, excited groups were mainly composed of men with green boughs in their hats and the most ludicrous of weapons in their hands. Some, it is true, shouldered fowling pieces, and here and there a sword was brandished; but more of them were armed with clubs, and most of them trailed the mammoth pikes fashioned out of scythes, as formidable to the eye as they were clumsy to the hand. There were weavers, brewers, carpenters, smiths, masons, bricklayers, cobblers, and representatives of every other of the trades of peace among these improvised men of war. Bridgewater, like Taunton, had yielded so generously of its manhood to the service of the bastard Duke that for any to abstain whose age and strength admitted of his bearing arms was to brand himself a coward or a papist.

Yet Peter Blood, who was not only able to bear arms, but trained and skilled in their use, who was certainly no coward, and a papist only when it suited him, tended his geraniums and smoked his pipe on that warm July evening as indifferently as if nothing were afoot. One other thing he did. Heflung after those war-fevered enthusiasts a line of Horace--a poet for whose work he had early conceived an inordinate affection:

"Quo, quo, scaliest, radios?"

And now perhaps you guess why the hot, intrepid blood inherited from the roving sires of his Somersetshire mother remained cool amidst all this frenzied fanatical heat of rebellion; why the turbulent spirit which had forced him once from the sedate academical bonds his father would have imposed upon him, should now remain quiet in the very midst of turbulence. You realize how he regarded these men who were rallying to the banners of liberty--the banners woven by the virgins of Taunton, the girls from the seminaries of Miss Blake and Mrs. Musgrove, who--as the ballad runs--had ripped open their silk petticoats to make colors for King Monmouth's army. That Latin line, contemptuously flung after them as they clattered down the cobbled street, reveals his mind. To him they were fools rushing in wicked frenzy upon their ruin.

You see, he knew too much about this fellow Monmouth and the pretty brown slut who had borne him, to be deceived by the legend of legitimacy, on the strength of which this standard of rebellion had been raised. He had read the absurd proclamation posted at the Cross at Bridgewater--as it bad been posted also at Taunton and elsewhere--setting forth that "upon the decease of our Sovereign Lord Charles the Second, the right of succession to the Crown of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, with the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, did legally descend and devolve upon the most illustrious and high-born Prince James, Duke of Monmouth, son and heir apparent to the said King Charles the Second."

It had moved him to laughter, as had the further announcement that "James Duke of York did first cause the said late King to be poisoned, and immediately thereupon did usurp and invade the Crown."

He knew not which was the greater lie. For Mr. Blood had spent a third of his life in the Netherlands, where this same James Scott--who now proclaimed himself James the Second, by the grace of God, King, et cetera--first saw the light some six-and-thirty years ago, and he was acquainted with the story current there of the fellow's real paternity. Far from being legitimate--by virtue of a pretended secret marriage between Charles Stuart and Lucy Walter--it was possible that this Monmouth who now proclaimed himself King of England was not even the illegitimate child of the late sovereign. What but ruin and disaster could be the end of this grotesque pretension? How could it be hoped that England would ever swallow such a Perkin? And it was on his behalf, to uphold his fantastic claim, that these West Country clods, led by a few armigerous Whigs, had been seduced into rebellion!

"Quo, quo, scaliest, radios?"

He laughed and sighed in one; but the laugh dominated the sigh, for Mr. Blood was unsympathetic, as are most self-sufficient men; and he was very self-sufficient; adversity had taught him so to be. A more tender-hearted man, possessing his vision and his knowledge, might have found cause for tears in the contemplation of these ardent, simple, Nonconformist sheep going forth to the shambles--escorted to the rallying ground on Castle Field by wives and daughters, sweethearts and mothers, sustained by the delusion that they were to take the field in defense of Right, of Liberty, and of Religion. For he knew, as all Bridgewater knew and had known now for some hours, that it was Monmouth's intention to deliver battle that same night. The Duke was to lead a surprise attack upon the Royalist army under Feversham that was now encamped on Sedgemoor. Mr. Blood assumed that Lord Feversham would be equally well-informed, and if in this assumption he was wrong, at least he was justified of it. He was not to suppose the Royalist commander so indifferently skilled in the trade he followed.

Mr. Blood knocked the ashes from his pipe, and drew back to close his window. As he did so, his glance traveling straight across the street met at last the glance of those hostile eyes that watched him. There were two pairs, and they belonged to the Misses Pitt, two amiable, sentimental maiden ladies who yielded to none in Bridgewater in their worship of the handsome Monmouth.

Mr. Blood smiled and inclined his head, for he was on friendly terms with these ladies, one of whom, indeed, had been for a little while his patient. But there was no response to his greeting. Instead, the eyes gave him back a stare of cold disdain. The smile on his thin lips grew a little broader, a little less pleasant. He understood the reason of that hostility, which had been daily growing in this past week since Monmouth had come to turn the brains of women of all ages. The Misses Pitt, he apprehended, contemned him that he, a young and vigorous man, of a military training which might now be valuable to the Cause, should stand aloof; that he should placidly smoke his pipe and tend his geraniums on this evening of all evenings, when men of spirit were rallying to the Protestant Champion, offering their blood to place him on the throne where he belonged.

If Mr. Blood had condescended to debate the matter with these ladies, he might have urged that having had his fill of wandering and adventuring, he was now embarked upon the career for which he had been originally intended and for which his studies had equipped him; that he was a man of medicine and not of war; a healer, not a slayer. But they would have answered him, he knew, that in such a cause it behooved every man who deemed himself a man to take up arms. They would have pointed out that their own nephew Jeremiah, who was by trade a sailor, the master of a ship--which by an ill-chance for that young man had come to anchor at this season in Bridgewater Bay--had quitted the helm to snatch up a musket in defense of Right. But Mr. Blood was not of those who argue. As I have said, he was a self-sufficient man.

He closed the window, drew the curtains, and turned to the pleasant, candle-lighted room, and the table on which Mrs. Barlow, his housekeeper, was in the very act of spreading supper. To her, however, he spoke aloud his thought.

"It's out of favor I am with the vinegary virgins over the way."

He had a pleasant, vibrant voice, whose metallic ring was softened and muted by the Irish accent which in all his wanderings he had never lost. It was a voice that could woo seductively and caressingly, or command in such a way as to compel obedience. Indeed, the man's whole nature was in that voice of his. For the rest of him, he was tall and spare, swarthy of tint as a gipsy, with eyes that were startlingly blue in that dark face and under those level black brows. In their glance those eyes, flanking a high-bridged, intrepid nose, were of singular penetration and of a=20steady haughtiness that went well with his firm lips. Though dressed in black as became his calling, yet it was with an elegance derived from the love of clothes that is peculiar to the adventurer he had been, rather than to the staid medic he now was. His coat was of fine camlet, and it was laced with silver; there were ruffles of Mechlin at his wrists and a Mechlin cravat encased his throat. His great black periwig was as sedulously curled as any at Whitehall.

Seeing him thus, and perceiving his real nature, which was plain upon him, you might have been tempted to speculate how long such a man would be content to lie by in this little backwater of the world into which chance had swept him some six months ago; how long he would continue to pursue the trade for which he had qualified himself before he had begun to live. Difficult of belief though it may be when you know his history, previous and subsequent, yet it is possible that but for the trick that Fate was about to play him, he might have continued this peaceful existence, settling down completely to the life of a doctor in this Somersetshire haven. It is possible, but not probable.

He was the son of an Irish medic, by a Somersetshire lady in whose veins ran the rover blood of the Frobishers, which may account for a certain wildness that had early manifested itself in his disposition. This wildness had profoundly alarmed his father, who for an Irishman was of a singularly peace-loving nature. He had early resolved that the boy should follow his own honorable profession, and Peter Blood, being quick to learn and oddly greedy of knowledge, had satisfied his parent by receiving at the age of twenty the degree of baccalaureus medicinae at Trinity College, Dublin. His father survived that satisfaction by three months only. His mother had then been dead some years already. Thus Peter Blood came into an inheritance of some few hundred pounds, with which he had set out to see the world and give for a season a free rein to that restless spirit by which he was imbued. A set of curious chances led him to take service with the Dutch, then at war with France; and a predilection for the sea made him elect that this service should be upon that element. He had the advantage of a commission under the famous de Ruyter, and fought in the Mediterranean engagement in which that great Dutch admiral lost his life.

After the Peace of Nimeguen his movements are obscure. But we know that he spent two years in a Spanish prison, though we do not know how he contrived to get there. It may be due to this that upon his release he took his sword to France, and saw service with the French in their warring upon the Spanish Netherlands. Having reached, at last, the age of thirty-two, his appetite for adventure surfeited, his health having grown indifferent as the result of a neglected wound, he was suddenly overwhelmed by homesickness. He took ship from Nantes with intent to cross to Ireland. But the vessel being driven by stress of weather into Bridgewater Bay, and Blood's health having grown worse during the voyage, he decided to go ashore there, additionally urged to it by the fact that it was his mother's native soil.

Thus in January of that year 1685 he had come to Bridgewater, possessor of a fortune that was approximately the same as that with which he had originally set out from Dublin eleven years ago.

Because he liked the place, in which his health was rapidly restored to him, and because he conceived that he had passed through adventures enough for a man's lifetime, he determined to settle there, and take up at last the profession of medicine from which he had, with so little profit, broken away.

That is all his story, or so much of it as matters up to that night, six months later, when the battle of Sedgemoor was fought.

Deeming the impending action no affair of his, as indeed it was not, and indifferent to the activity with which Bridgewater was that night agog, Mr. Blood closed his ears to the sounds of it, and went early to bed. He was peacefully asleep long before eleven o'clock, at which hour, as you know, Monmouth rode but with his rebel host along the Bristol Road, circuitously to avoid the marshland that lay directly between himself and the Royal Army. You also know that his numerical advantage--possibly counter-balanced by the greater steadiness of the regular troops on the other side--and the advantages he derived from falling by surprise upon an army that was more or less asleep, were all lost to him by blundering and bad leadership before ever he was at grips with Feversham.

The armies came into collision in the neighborhood of two o'clock in the morning. Mr. Blood slept undisturbed through the distant boom of cannon. Not until four o'clock, when the sun was rising to dispel the last wisps of mist over that stricken field of battle, did he awaken from his tranquil slumbers.

He sat up in bed, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and collected himself. Blows were thundering upon the door of his house, and a voice was calling incoherently. This was the noise that had aroused him. Conceiving that he had to do with some urgent obstetrical case, he reached for bedgown and slippers, to go below. On the landing he almost collided with Mrs. Barlow, new-risen and unsightly, in a state of panic. He quieted her cluckings with a word of reassurance, and went himself to open.

There in slanting golden light of the new-risen sun stood a breathless, wild-eyed man and a steaming horse. Smothered in dust and grime, his clothes in disarray, the left sleeve of his doublet hanging in rags, this young man opened his lips to speak, yet for a long moment remained speechless.

In that moment Mr. Blood recognized him for the young shipmaster, Jeremiah Pitt, the nephew of the maiden ladies opposite, one who had been drawn by the general enthusiasm into the vortex of that rebellion. The street was rousing, awakened by the sailor's noisy advent; doors were opening, and lattices were being unlatched for the protrusion of anxious, inquisitive heads.

"Take your time, now," said Mr. Blood. "I never knew speed made by overhaste."

But the wild-eyed lad paid no heed to the admonition. He plunged, headlong, into speech, gasping, breathless.

"It is Lord Gildoy," he panted. "He is sore wounded ... at Oglethorpe's Farm by the river. I bore him thither ... and ... =20 and he sent me for you. Come away! Come away!"

He would have clutched the doctor, and haled him forth by force in bedgown and slippers as he was. But the doctor eluded that too eager hand.

"To be sure, I'll come," said he. He was distressed. Gildoy had been a very friendly, generous patron to him since his settling in these parts. And Mr. Blood was eager enough to do what he now could to discharge the debt, grieved that the occasion should have arisen, and in such a manner--for he knew quite well that the rash young nobleman had been an active agent of the Duke's. "To be sure, I'll come. But first give me leave to get some clothes and other things that I may need."

"There's no time to lose."

"Be easy now. I'll lose none. I tell ye again, ye'll go quickest by going leisurely. Come in ... take a chair..." He threw open the door of a parlour.

Young Pitt waved aside the invitation.

"I'll wait here. Make haste, in God's name." Mr. Blood went off to dress and to fetch a case of instruments.

Questions concerning the precise nature of Lord Gildoy's hurt could wait until they were on their way. Whilst he pulled on his boots, he gave Mrs. Barlow instructions for the day, which included the matter of a dinner he was not destined to eat.

When at last he went forth again, Mrs. Barlow clucking after him like a disgruntled fowl, he found young Pitt smothered in a crowd of scared, half-dressed townsfolk--mostly women--who had come hastening for news of how the battle had sped. The news he gave them was to be read in the lamentations with which they disturbed the morning air.

At sight of the doctor, dressed and booted, the case of instruments tucked under his arm, the messenger disengaged himself from those who pressed about, shook off his weariness and the two tearful aunts that clung most closely, and seizing the bridle of his horse, he climbed to the saddle.

"Come along, sir," he cried."Mount behind me."

Mr. Blood, without wasting words, did as he was bidden. Pitt touched the horse with his spur. The little crowd gave way, and thus, upon the crupper of that doubly-laden horse, clinging to the belt of his companion, Peter Blood set out upon his Odyssey. For this Pitt, in whom he beheld no more than the messenger of a wounded rebel gentleman, was indeed the very messenger of Fate.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Glorious...I never enjoyed a novel more than Captain Blood." —Norman Mailer

"One of the great unrecognized novels of the twentieth century, and as close as any modern writer has come to a prose epic." —George MacDonald Fraser

Meet the Author

Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950), of Italian and English parentage, was a prolific and best-selling author. He wrote in English, his adopted language.

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Captain Blood (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd been planning on reading this oldie classic for several years, but truth be told I was expecting a shallow dime novel type story. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. As far as I can make out, Captain Blood is a fictional character, but based on several true life historical figures. It is also the first of three Peter Blood books. Apparently, the second two books are not sequels, but are accounts of Blood's adventures that chronologically occurred within the story of the first book. Several movies have been based on this old classic. This was a totally fun read. It has all the melodrama of an early black and white movie. You'll love the sarcastic wit and humor of the main character, Peter Blood, M.D. The book also has one of the cutest romances I've ever read written by a man. I thought it was interesting how Blood remained a gentleman and kept himself from turning a cold-blooded killer by the memory of a woman he knew was impossible to win. There really wasn't anything I disliked about the book. With all the swashbuckling adventures, it never gets boring. The last chapter left me with a grin and a sigh, and as I closed the cover I said, "That was a good book!" So I was thrilled to find there are more in the series. I had a little trouble trying to picture how Blood should look, though. Finally about midway through the story, I settled on an image of Richard Chamberlain from the old 1977 "Man in the Iron Mask" movie-- he's the only one I know who can look good in a black periwig!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Peter Blood, an Irish physician recently settled in Bridgewater, England after serving in the Dutch navy, goes out to attend a patient and finds himself thrown into prison for his trouble. Blood's patient was fighting on the Duke of Monmouth's side in rebellion against King James, and that makes Blood equally guilty of treason in the law's eyes. Instead of being sentenced to execution, he's 'lucky' enough to be shipped off into slavery. In the British colony of Barbados, Colonel Bishop buys him and sets him to work as a physician rather than as a field hand. That gives Blood a great deal easier life, but slavery is still slavery so he still takes the opportunity for escape when it comes. As a fugitive slave, he cannot return to England. Blood, who served the Dutch as a sea officer in wartime rather than as a ship's surgeon, bases himself in the pirate haven of Tortuga. He's soon known throughout the Caribbean as Captain Blood, the most feared and yet most curiously honorable of pirates. Whose flagship is called the Arabella, which happens to be the given name of his owner Colonel Bishop's niece. I'm told that this novel defined its genre when it was first published, well over 80 years ago. I can well believe this. It's historical fiction solidly researched and accurately written, a rousing adventure tale, and a romance in the best old-fashioned sense of that word, all rolled into one. Tremendous fun to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Easily one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. Sabatini's knack for combinging historical fact with a carefully woven fiction is a marvel to witness on the page. Here, historical personages like Henry Morgan are realized and idealized through the character and story of Peter Blood. I am torn over which part of him I admire more his sheer cleverness, or his strict moral code. Peter Blood is a rebel in the finest sense of the word one who values truth and holds the welfare of others above his own. I can't guarantee that this book will make you a better person, but it will certainly make you think about being one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was really dubious about the book at first, but then I read and I absolutely loved it! It was so thrilling and suspenseful, I couldn't put it down! It's just as good as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Scarlet Pimpernel. If you loved those books, then you'll love this one!
Davidthemightytexan More than 1 year ago
i was looking for a book of fiction to take me far from modern day stress. this book languished on my library shelf for about a year before i picked it up. it certainly has the desired effect.sabatini writes a picturesque novel about peter blood, a doctor who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. it has almost hitchcock like qualities in that way.
the reader will enjoy sabatini's ship discriptions from the seventeenth century.and the carribean descriptions are fun.
crazydragongirl More than 1 year ago
I did not have any expectations before reading this book, but as soon as I'd read the first page, it sucked me in. I literally could not put it down. The writing style is amazing, the plot is thrilling, and the main character is so amazing that you really wish you could have met him. It is a literary masterpiece, and is one of my favorite books.
theokester More than 1 year ago
The adventure of Captain Blood is amazing. The writing is beautiful and captivating. Peter Blood's wit and logic are wonderful and help create him as an amazing hero, pirate and gentleman. His resolve is indefatigable. His creativity and persistence are superb. His adventures are tense and exciting while also being well crafted and believable. Sabatini creates in the world of Captain Blood, a vision of 17th century Caribbean that falls right in line with everything that encapsulates my visions of buccaneering pirates sailing the seas. The characters are vivid and believable. There are certainly stereotypical typed characters, but even with these, Sabatini adds subtle nuances to create some depth. To the central character of Blood, I found myself sympathizing and relating to intimately. At times he felt a little too cool and collected, so I was glad that, as we reached the climax and started to wrap things up, his personality took on a harder edge based on the trials and his even keeled personality took on a cynicism worth exploring. He became a truly n-dimensional swashbuckler that I'll hold up for examination when diving into other pirate adventures. While this story was filled with tons of wonderful adventure, excruciating tension, and exciting scenes of ingenuity, there were also some passages that slowed the pace down considerably through historical narrative and exposition on the nature of things in this time and place of history. In spite of slowing things down, these passages were still very interesting and added a wealth of depth to the story. I merely point this out to warn potential readers who are looking for a non-stop adventure that there will be moments of expository narrative as you sail the seas with Blood. In addition to these historical interludes, readers should also be aware that a budding romance adventure lurks beneath the surface here. This certainly isn't a romance of the Victorian style such as you might find with Jane Austen, but there is a romantic feel.both in terms of romanticizing the life and times and in terms of an actual romantic relationship between Blood and another character. To those adverse to romance in their adventures.don't worry, the romantic scenes are short enough that you should survive discussions of culture, civility and the nature of man while Blood 'chews the fat' with the girl of his dreams. I actually found the romance a delightful addition to the narrative. Like the adventure itself, the romance was well constructed and full of tension and problems. In fact, I sometimes found myself more frustrated at the perils of romance than at the perils of the battles. So, if you have any inkling towards historical adventures, particularly pirate adventures, I definitely recommend you pick up Captain Blood. He'll swash your buckle and plunder your adventuring spirit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like nothing I'd listened to before! This is not a group of people reading lines from a book - this is true theater! sound affects, orchestra - just amazing. My kids learned a valuable lesson - listening to this show, they discovered their own imaginations could exceed any movie's widescreen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book for the first time when I was ten and I absolutely loved it. I have read it at least 20 times since then and it's as exciting every time as it was the very first time. The story is absolutely amazing and captain Blood is a caracter that I admire - he is a real gentelman and a corsar at the same time. How many times I have imagined myself to be Arabela Bishop - the most wonderful and charming lady taht Peter Blood was in love with. I definetely recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent book for teenagers and older about the romantic life of a pirate in the Carribian during the 17th century. The author did an awsome job developing the characters. The naval battles are described so well, you feel like you've been there. According to the foreword in my Russian languache edition of the book, the battle scenes are done so well, the book was a required read at some British Naval academies. Don't know if its true, but I could believe that.
nausetsunriseKR More than 1 year ago
This book is written in another time from modern day, which gives it a richness in addition to the story itself. This is a classic adventure story. It is relatively short, yet a good read.
MrFlok More than 1 year ago
Great story, terrible format. I loved this book but the formatting errors and chopped up words made it hard to follow and understand at some points. I would recommend paying for this story because it will be a lot easier to read.
Margie_Reads More than 1 year ago
I love the energy and flow of this book, and the story. This is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read, and I read a lot. This is no dry classic; it is an armchair adventure. Captain Blood is a great character. Do not miss out, read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't think I would like Captain Blood, but boy was I wrong. I got it as a gift for a friend and then read it before giving it to him. It was very good, with a well-balanced combination of adventure, moral, and romance. I also loved the happy ending. I plan on reading other books by Sabatini.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great story of an idealist. This book can't help but make the reader question himself and help him become more individualistic, more self-confident.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Captain Blood reads just like an old pirate movie. And almost exactly like the movie Captain Blood. WATCH IT! It's fun and very relaxing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was 8 years old. I have been reading it once a year ever since.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Loved this book
crochetgal More than 1 year ago
This book needs to be reintroduced to this generation. There is so much to love about it - rich history, pirates, romance, unforgettable characters...so much to love. This is what the art of writing looks like. I highly recommend this book.
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
The book has an awesome title, no? And awesome pages that fill it too. Peter Blood was a doctor, a simple Irish doctor living in a quiet village. He's convicted of helping the enemy, even though he was only performing a doctor's duty. As punishment, the law sends him to the Barbados to be a plantation slave. A life spent now owned by another person. It was a thrill reading that part of the story, but it got even better as he became a pirate –- a good pirate though. Everyone knew him for his gentlemanly attitude, in wide contrast to the other thieving pirates he could be compared to. In places it could be considered a harder book to read with its old vocabulary, but these are the kind of books I live for. My only complaint pertains to some of the certain words that the author chose to write. Captain Blood is definitely a favorite!
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