DOVER Chapter 18

Callum smiled as he approached Tomlin, standing there at attention. Tomlin, too, was smiling seeing the approach of his Captain.

"Morning, Mr. Tomlin."

"Morning, sir." Tomlin lifted his hand, touching his brim.

"I seem to have misplaced a ship. Might you be able to find it for me?"

"Indeed I can, sir." Tomlin grinned behind Callum, as Callum walked down the steps. The men in the boat were watching as Callum approached. "Captain coming aboard!" Tomlin said loudly right behind Callum, making Callum cringe slightly. Callum looked over his shoulder at Tomlin, with narrow eyes. "Oh, sorry, sir."

"It must be your enthusiasm to be underway, Mr. Tomlin."

"Indeed, sir." Tomlin stood on the steps as Callum stepped into the gig, sitting down next to the tiller. Callum looked up at him.

"Are you coming aboard, or are you waiting for the next boat, Mr. Tomlin?" Callum asked, the men laughed, looking at the young officer.

"I was waiting to see if you were in, sir, and comfortable."

"I will be more comfortable once I'm aboard my ship. Mr. Tomlin, if you please." Callum held out a hand, indicating Tomlin to join him. Tomlin stepped off the step and into the gig, sitting next to his Captain.

"Push off, lads." Tomlin said, taking the tiller in one hand. Tomlin watched the men push away from the steps. "Set oars!" Tomlin watched as the oars slid out. "Alright, boys, set to it. We have a ship to catch." Callum chuckled softly to himself, seeing how Tomlin was excited about running the gig crew.

"How far out is she, Mr. Tomlin?"

"At the mouth of the bay, sir. Mr. Arvin wanted to check her for leaks in deep water, sir."

"Leave it to Mr. Arvin to be very efficient, Mr. Tomlin."

"Yes, sir."

"Everything alright on board?"

"I believe so, sir. I saw no problems at all, sir. Except with the resupply from the Harbor Master, sir."

"Are all provisions loaded, Mr. Tomlin?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Mr. Arvin dealt swiftly with the Harbor Master, sir."

"I am certain he did. I will have to speak to Mr. Arvin regarding that. So, is everything stowed?"

"Mr. Carson was seeing to that, sir. And, sir, if I may ask, don't you have a trunk or chest with you, sir?"

"Very insightful, Mr. Tomlin. My trunk will arrive tomorrow, in due course. Are all the crew on board?"

"We are missing a few hands, sir. They should be here later today or tomorrow. Captain Anders and the Marines are to be here first thing in the morning, sir."

"Very good." Callum said, looking forward, trying to find the Dover. Several other anchored vessels blocked his sight of her. Tomlin was steering a roundabout course through the other vessels. Callum could plainly see it. He looked skyward, thin clouds moved slowly, the gulls overhead were crying out. He could hear the oars moving the water as they dipped in and pulled. He looked forward again as they came round a sloop anchored near them, still he could not see the Dover. He sighed silently to himself, as they approached the Clarkson, a fifth class vessel that Callum knew of and her Captain. It was said that he drank far too much for the likes of the Admiralty, and as a result was held back from various duties, except for transporting Marines or other supplies to various ships of the line.

Tomlin steered around the Clarkson, coming down her starboard side. Several of the men of the Clarkson looked over their rail at the passing gig, some poking at each other and then pointing at the gig, talking softly amongst themselves. Callum paid them no mind. He knew his crew, and was proud of them, had been with them as he moved his way up through the ranks. He looked about at the faces of his men that strained at the oars of the gig, smiling to himself, knowing that they were the ones bringing him to his true home.

Once they cleared the Clarkson, Callum could see her, off in the distance, anchored, as Tomlin had said, in deeper water of the mouth of the bay. Callum sat up straighter to get a better look at her, where she belonged, out in the water. Callum could barely see over the heads of his men as they rowed. He stood and looked, watching as she rose and fell with the movement of the water that she rested in. Callum stepped forward and started to move to the front of the gig. Tomlin smiled openly, as did the men as Callum passed them by, putting his hands on their shoulders to steady himself as he went toward the bow of the gig. The front step seat was small, enough to put one foot on, and that is what Callum did. His right foot, his wound in his thigh had been bothering him the past few days, was resting on the seat, his left straight, and as he steadied himself with the dip and sway of the gig, Callum watched as the Dover grew larger with every stroke of the oars. He smiled openly at seeing her, her lines, her rigging, and the crew milling about, some pointing toward the approaching gig. Callum couldn't wait to be aboard now. He waited for what seemed to be an eternity, as if the men were intentionally slowing their pace, making him wait longer. He looked over his shoulder once, seeing that in fact they were pulling with all their might. It was the current that was slowing their progress, the water surging into the open bay.

Once they were pulling alongside the Dover, Callum heard Tomlin give the order to ship oars. The gig glided up alongside, as the Boson's pipe could be heard. Callum climbed the ladder up the side and then stepped over the rail.

"Captain coming aboard!" The Boson yelled. All was silent aboard. Callum knew his duty and what was expected of him. He tipped his hat toward the Quarterdeck and then went below on the Companionway stairs. He, according to tradition, was to go directly to the Great Cabin without saying a word to anyone. Once there, then he could start giving orders and receive the officers.

Once inside the Great Cabin, Callum left the door open, and walked over to the large table in the center of the room. He placed his hat on it, and ran his fingers over the wood. All sorts of memories came flooding back to him from past events in this room. Captain Powers talking to him, he and the officers dining in here together with the Captain, and most recently, he and Dustin in here, being together, that day that Callum was too forceful with his young love, hurting him, pounding him mercilessly over one of the cannon that stood at the rear of the cabin. Callum suddenly felt that he wasn't alone. He turned and there stood Carson, the only person on the ship that didn't have to knock before entering the Captain's cabin.

"Carson. So good to see you." Callum smiled weakly.

"Captain Callum, sir." Carson almost squealed. "Glad to have you on board, sir."

"Thank you, Carson. It is good to be back aboard."

"May I get you something, sir?"

"Yes, thank you. I'd like some coffee, if you please."

"And if you would pass the word for Mr. Arvin and the senior officers, please?"

"Certainly, sir." Carson said, picking up Callum's hat and hanging it up. Carson walked out the door, closing it behind him. Callum turned and walked over to the windows of the aft of the cabin. He folded his hands behind his back. He could see the other ships at anchor behind them, resting in the bay. A few moments later, there was a knock at the door.

"Enter." Callum said. He heard the door open and the sounds of shoes on the deck behind him. He did not turn around. "Morning, gentlemen."

"Morning." They all chimed in reply. Callum turned and looked at them all.

"Mr. Arvin. What is the ship's status?"

"We are provisioned for six weeks at sea, sir. Extra shot and powder has been stowed. All provisions have been catalogued, sir."

"Very well." Callum said, as he took a few steps forward toward his officers. "Mr. Tomlin reported that Captain Anders and the Marines are due here in the morning?"

"Yes, sir." Arvin said, holding his hat under his arm.

"I see. Do you know why the delay?"

"Apparently, sir, there is a new company under Captain Anders that was being brought in from the north, sir. A delay in transport, I believe."

"Very well." Callum said, reaching into his tunic, pulling out his orders from the Admiralty. Each of them watched as Callum opened the envelope and removed the parchment. "These are our orders, gentlemen. We set sail tomorrow to rendezvous with the squadron in the Channel. I am in hopes that our mission will be brief, and that we can return to Portsmouth in short order. Mr. Tomlin, Mr. Sommers, I want to set up target practice once we are out in the Channel prior to the arrival of the squadron. I want all gun crews to be on their full mark."

"Aye, sir." They both chimed. Carson opened the door, carrying a tray. He worked his way about the officers and set it on the table.

"Coffee, gentlemen?" Callum asked. Carson was setting cups on the table from the tray, as well as a pot. He tucked the tray under one arm and then lifted the pot, pouring a cup for Callum. Callum half smiled, and then picked it up. "Thank you, Carson, that will be all."

"Yes, sir." Carson said, as he stepped out of the cabin. The other officers poured coffee for themselves, Arvin was first.

"I cannot divulge where we are bound, not until we are to sea, but I will tell you, that there will be six in total in the squadron rather than the regular four."

"Who else will be joining us, sir?" Arvin asked.

"Captain Smythe and the Tarkington, and Captain Renders of the Resolute." Callum said, sipping his coffee. All of the officers eyes went wide hearing the name Smythe.

"Distinguished company, sir." Arvin said, softly, as he sipped his coffee. "And a lot of fire power, sir." Arvin said, looking over the top of his cup. Callum knew that Arvin had the idea.

"Quite." Callum said. "Mr. Tomlin, Mr. Sommers, I want to make a good showing in our practice."

"That we will, sir." Sommers said, snapping to attention. Callum set his cup down on the table.

"That will be all, gentlemen." Callum said, the officers set their cups on the table and turned toward the door. "Mr. Arvin, a moment, if you will?" Callum said, as he sat down at the table. Arvin watched the other officers file out, and then turned back to face Callum. Callum held out a hand, indicating to have Arvin sit with him. Arvin pulled out a chair and sat nearby.

"Congratulations on your promotion, sir." Arvin knowing that the extra epaulette meant Callum had actually been posted.

"Thank you, Mr. Arvin." Callum looked to his left shoulder, and then back at Arvin. "A token from Lord Fitzwarren, I should think."

"Hardly that, sir. I should think His Lordship knows you are most capable."

Callum smiled briefly at the compliment. "I wished to speak with you alone about this mission."

"Yes, sir?" Arvin said, leaning on the table.

"It is most vital for England, and possibly for the swift end to this war. I know that I can rely on your discretion."

"Of course, sir."

Callum put his hands on the table, folding them together, looking at Arvin. "We are to stop a French fleet at La Rochelle. They will be carrying troops bound for the south to rendezvous with the Spanish, we think."

"There is also a fortress at La Rochelle, sir."

"Yes. Which is why we and the Tarkington are going in ahead of the squadron under the cover of darkness. We will try and draw them out or do as much damage as possible to stop them. The rest of the squadron will arrive and finish what we are to start."

"A daring plan, sir." Arvin said with wide eyes. "With a man like Captain Smythe, it might be possible, sir."

"He is...formidable, to say the least."

"What type of man is he, sir?"

"You have never met him?" Callum asked, Arvin shook his head in reply. "He is...outspoken." Callum smiled. "And he certainly is a tower of a man, to say the least." Arvin smiled at Callum's words. "With his reputation for tenacity, I want the Dover to be prepared to give a good accounting." Arvin stood up from the table, Callum following him up with his eyes.

"I can assure you, sir, that we shall."

"I am certain." Callum said, also getting to his feet. Carson opened the door, but did not enter.

"Excuse me, sir. There is a launch coming alongside."

Arvin looked at Carson, and then back at Callum. "I'll see to it, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Arvin." Callum said, watching Arvin turn and walk out. "Carson, would you bring me the charts, please?"

"Right away, sir." Carson ducked out, closing the door. Callum walked over toward the sleeping compartment of the cabin, seeing that the bed was turned back. He smiled to himself seeing the figure in his minds eye of Dustin sleeping in his bunk after that day. Callum realized that he missed him so. He felt empty inside. He heard the door open, and looked over seeing Carson, carrying charts, laying them out on the table.

"I assumed that you wanted the charts of the main coast, sir?" Carson asked.

"Yes, thank you." Callum said. He turned and looked at the smiling Carson. "Carson, I had purchased some things in Portsmouth when we returned."

"Yes, sir. They were delivered, and I put them away, sir. They are in the window seat, sir." Callum smiled, looking where Carson was pointing. "I made up your bunk, sir, with the new linens. You should be comfortable, sir."

Callum smiled. "Thoughtful of you, Carson." Callum moved back to the table. "I was meaning to ask, was everything taken care of with Captain Powers?"

Carson dropped his smile. "Yes, sir. It was a bonnie service, sir."

"You attended?"

"Yes, sir." Carson replied, looking down at the deck.

"I'm sorry I was not there." Callum said in a soft voice.

"The Captain's wife wished me to express to you her thanks, sir."

"Oh? For what?"

"For bringing him home, sir, and not giving him a burial at sea. She said it was a comfort to know that she could visit him, sir."

"I see."

"She also asked me to return most of his items to you, sir."

"What items?"

"Things of his that he used aboard ship, sir. She said that they had no practical value to her, sir." Carson said, in a low voice. "They are in a trunk, sir, in the Wardroom. Shall I fetch it in for you, sir?" Callum was surprised by this. He wasn't sure what to do with Powers' things now. Usually family would keep things as mementos to the life that had passed. "Sir?"

"Yes, yes...why don't you bring it in then." Callum smiled briefly at Carson. Carson nodded at Callum and then walked out of the cabin. Callum snapped back to the task at hand. He unrolled the charts, spreading them out on the table. He went through a few of them, till he found the one he wanted. He scanned it very carefully, noting the detail of rock formations that were basically put on the large chart as inkblots, the writing on the chart was very, very small. He leaned closer trying to read it. Most of the writing was depth readings that had been noted as soundings had taken place. Callum scanned slowly, wanting to memorize every possible detail on the chart. He had sailed here before, but not under circumstances such as these, and it had been daylight. Callum remembered the fortress that stood on the rocky outcropping of the bay, the way it was built, the way it faced across the bay, hidden from the rocky corner it was built from. Callum smiled, knowing it had a blind side, from the north. They could use that to their advantage. What worried Callum the most was the number of ships, the way they might be positioned in the bay. If it was right, the way he knew the French sailed, then all of the sterns should be vulnerable to them as they approached, if he was right.

The door opened and Carson opened the second door as well. Callum did not look up, knowing it was Carson. He heard another voice, grunting and lifted his eyes. Carson had enlisted help with the trunk, Shem, Carson's assistant steward. Shem was a quiet hand who Callum had rarely heard speak. Shem was average height, black as night, but was very muscular. There were several hoops in his ears. Shem had a formidable appearance Callum had always thought.

"Where would you like it, sir?" Carson asked as the pair stopped near the table.

"Wherever you think best." Callum turned. "Somewhere out of the way, I would think." Carson walked backward, as he carried the one end, Shem carrying the other end. They carried their burden over to the bulkhead wall, setting it down near a spare chair from the table.

"Beg your pardon, sir." Carson said, standing near the trunk. "But I think you will find something in the trunk to help you with the charts."

"Oh?" Callum said, as he stood, looking over at the pair.

"Yes, sir." Carson said, with another of his famous smiles. Callum walked over to the pair and the trunk, knowing Carson would not let it rest. Callum really didn't want to do this right now, but it seemed that he had no other choice.

Callum stopped in front of the chest, looking down on its curved lid, seeing the hardware, and the leather straps. He reached down and touched the name that was carved into the edge of the lid, 'Powers'. He slowly ran his fingers over it, as Carson and Shem looked at each other and then back down at Callum, as he knelt down on the deck.

Callum opened the lid and pushed it up and back as it leaned against the bulkhead wall. Inside Callum saw all things that were Powers, instant reminders of the man. Callum saw some linens, neatly folded, running his fingers over them. A sextant lay on top, Callum picked it up, smiling at it, handing it to Carson.

"You know where he kept this." Callum said softly.

"Indeed, sir."

"Then return it to its rightful place then." Callum said, as Carson took it and walked over to a shelf near the doors, setting the sextant where it had always been. Carson walked up next to Callum again, as Callum was moving a few items, finding what he thought Carson had thought might help with the charts. Callum smiled as he lifted the glass in its stand out of the trunk. It was ornate in decoration with all the fretwork in the metal of the base with its three short legs.

"I remember when the Captain purchased that, sir. He was always extremely pleased with it, as he was struggling with his sight toward the end."

"He was?" Callum asked, still looking at the glass. "I did not realize that."

"He would never have mentioned it, sir. It was between only us, sir."

"Well, he hid it very well, Carson."

"Yes, sir."

Callum stood and walked with the glass over to the chart at the table, setting it carefully on the chart. He saw how it magnified the writing very well, and Callum smiled openly, not having to bend over and strain to see any longer. Callum looked back at Carson, smiling.

"An excellent suggestion, Carson. I thank you."

"With pleasure, sir." Carson looked back down at the trunk and then back at Callum. "What about the rest of the items, sir?"

"Why don't you see to it, Carson. You know better where everything should go."

"Yes, sir." Carson hesitated for a moment.

"Is there a problem?"

"Uh, no sir. I just thought perhaps..."

"You wish me to see what is all there, I take it. Very well." Callum sighed and walked back over to the trunk, kneeling down on the deck again. He reached back inside, rummaging through various items, some pieces of china that were wrapped in cloth, some books, and then Callum saw it near the bottom. He now knew why Carson wanted him to do it. Callum slowly lifted it out of the trunk, standing up as it emerged. He had seen this before hundreds of times, but knew it had never been used.

Callum grasped the pommel of the sword as he held the scabbard with the other hand. He looked it over carefully, noting all of the fine etching of the pommel. Callum slowly pulled the sword from the scabbard. It was a heavy bladed rapier, not quite a cutlass, not like a sabre that most other officers carried. It was an elegant weapon, and shined in the filtered light from the windows aft. Callum could see the writing that was etched into the metal of the blade, but he could not read it as it was not English or French.

"Spanish." Shem said in almost a whisper. Callum shifted his eyes toward him.

"You know what it says?" Callum asked. Shem read it, and then looked at Callum. He nodded. "What does it say, man?"

"May my hand always be steady." Shem said in a whisper. Callum looked back at the blade.

"I know he wanted you to have it, sir." Carson said. "He said it to me, more than once, sir."

Callum was stunned, and still captivated by the sword and its beauty. He drew it fully from the scabbard, holding it point up, looking the blade over carefully. He leaned the scabbard against the trunk, and ran a finger across the edge. Callum could feel it was razor sharp. His eyes lifted to the point of the blade, it being narrow and pointed. He was very pleased with it. He reached down for the scabbard and slowly, carefully slid the blade back in.

"Can you take care of the rest of the items, Carson?"

"I will indeed, sir." Carson said, as Callum turned, stopping to look at Shem.

"Thank you for the interpretation." Callum smiled briefly. Shem nodded, and then waited for Carson, as Callum went back to the table, setting the sword on the top, next to the charts. Callum heard the knock at the door. "Enter."

"Mr. Arvin's compliments, sir." Middleboro said.

"Yes?"

"A launch has come along side, carrying most of the crew that had left to report in."

"And?" Callum asked, knowing Dustin was not with them, Callum was still empty in that knowing.

"But, there is another officer with them, sir." Middleboro hesitated. "Mr. Arvin asked if you would join him on deck, sir."

"Very well. Tell Mr. Arvin I shall be up presently." Callum said, looking back at the chart, then at the sword.

"Aye, sir." Middleboro closed the door behind him.

Callum picked up the sword and put it down through the holder in his waist belt on his pantlet. He looked over and saw his hat, and walked around the table to get it. He went to the door and looked back at Carson and Shem, seeing them unpacking Powers trunk. Callum smiled briefly toward them and then opened the door.

Callum emerged from the doorway below the Quarterdeck as he had come through the Wardroom and the Galley. He closed the door behind him and walked toward the center of the Main Deck, seeing his group of officers standing there. Tomlin saw Callum approaching and stood at attention, the others saw him snap up, and then turned.

"Captain on deck!" Tomlin said loudly.

Callum walked up, seeing Arvin step forward toward him. "What is it, Mr. Arvin?" Callum looked about, seeing various crewmen about, tipping their hands toward Callum.

"Sorry to bother you, sir." Arvin said. "Most of the crew has arrived, sir. But I thought you should be made aware of another officer, sir." Callum was looking at Arvin, and then looked over to where Arvin was leading with his hand. The other officers moved out of the way, as they were blocking Callum's view of...

"Eddington." Callum said, with his eyes wide.

"Good afternoon, Captain." Eddington said, taking off his hat, giving Callum a slight bow.

"More news from the Admiralty?" Callum asked, as he stepped closer.

"Not exactly, sir." Eddington said, moving his eyes back and forth between all of the officers, and then back to Callum.

"Then, I..."

"Reporting, on board, sir, for duty, sir."

"What?" Callum asked.

"I requested a transfer, sir. And remembering what you said on the journey to Portsmouth, I took the liberty of requesting a transfer to the Dover, sir." Callum looked about at his officers, they were all either looking down at the deck or toward the upper rigging of the masts.

"I see." Callum narrowed his eyes. "Mr. Arvin."

"Sir?" Arvin stepped up beside Callum.

"You and Mr. Sommers escort Mr. Eddington to the Great Cabin. Bring the log book as well."

"Aye, sir." Arvin answered. "Mr. Eddington, if you please?"

"Mr. Tomlin." Callum said, Tomlin snapping to attention, again. "I wish for you, Mr. Middleboro, and Mr. Talon to conduct a series of drills. I want the gun crews to practice loading, running out, and then run in. I want the practice to be timed over and over until we are proficient gentlemen." Callum said it loud enough for those crewmen standing near could hear him very clearly. "Our liberty is now over, gentlemen. I want our gun crews to be the best in His Majesties Navy. Am I clear, gentlemen?"

"Very clear, sir."

"You have the deck, Mr. Tomlin. Carry out your orders."

"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, with a smile and then tipped his hand. He turned round, looking forward. "We shall beat to quarters!" The drum started pounding as the men jumped and started clamoring to the gun deck. Callum walked toward the door below the Quarterdeck.

Opening the Great Cabin door, Callum stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He looked over at Carson and Shem as they were still working on the chest and its contents. Carson saw Callum and the look he had. He set the items he had in his hands back down in the chest.

"That can wait for a while longer, Carson." Callum said. Carson tapped Shem to do the same, and they both left the cabin. Callum waited until they were gone. "First, let me begin by saying that there is no possible way that the Admiralty knows that you are here."

"Beg your pardon, Captain," Eddington said, "but I have dispatched a messenger to the Admiralty."

"That may all be well and good, but what of Lord Fitzwarren? What would he say, I wonder?"

"I am certain that His Lordship is already aboard the Valiant. And by the time that my transfer request arrives at the Admiralty, and then is sent to the Valiant, that we shall all be underway." Arvin and Sommers both smiled, bowing their heads listening to Eddington.

"I see." Callum said, trying his best not to join his officers. He was doing his best to keep a straight face. "Then, you have us all, join you as coconspirators in your spiriting away from your duties?"

"I should say not, Captain." Eddington replied, standing straight. "I am an officer of His Majesties Navy. I will carry out my duty, sir, to you, and to this ship."

"Rest easy." Callum said, holding out a hand to ease Eddington, then he turned it, holding it out. Eddington took it in his own. "A little... revolution, can be a healthy thing. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Arvin?"

"Indeed, sir."

"So, where shall we post you, Mr. Eddington?" Callum said, reaching down, turning the log book. He opened it.

"I was hoping, sir, that you would post me on one of the gun crews." Eddington said. Callum lifted one eyebrow.

"What posting did you have aboard the Victory?"

"I had the privilege of being in command of the port gun crew, sir."

"I see. And not to belittle the subject, how long has it been since you were at sea, Mr. Eddington?"

"Six years, sir."

"A long time."

"Indeed it is, sir. Too long."

"I agree." Callum was almost frowning, scratching his chin. "Well, if you think you are up to the task..."

"Beg pardon, sir." Arvin spoke up, making Callum shift his eyes.

"Yes, Mr. Arvin?"

"We don't exactly have a Warrant Officer, sir."

"We are not exactly a forty or seventy two gunner, Mr. Arvin."

"I understand that, sir. But, I was thinking more for the efficiency of the other officers, sir. That is, if Mr. Eddington would lend us his experience in that manner, sir. The rest of the officers would not have to do double duty, so to speak, sir."

"I see. Perhaps you're right, Mr. Arvin. We may not be a forty gunner, but we can certainly act like one, if I take your meaning."

"You do, sir."

"Very good, Mr. Arvin. A fine suggestion, if Mr. Eddington has no objection."

"I think not, sir." Eddington said. "And I thank you for taking me into the ship, sir."

"You may yet come to regret it, Mr. Eddington." Callum said with a slight smile. "Mr. Arvin, log Mr. Eddington into the ships registry, please. And then you can show him his duties."

"Aye, sir."

"And then, gentlemen, if you would do me the honor of your company tonight for dinner? Mr. Sommers, if you would extend the invitation to Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Middleboro as well? I believe Mr. Talon has the watch this evening?"

"Thank you, sir." They all said together. "Yes, sir, he does." Arvin said.

Callum stepped to the door, opening it. He called out for Carson, leaving it open. Carson stuck his head inside the door of the cabin.

"Yes, sir?"

"There will be six for dinner in the cabin tonight."

"Very good, sir." Carson said with his smile. He ducked back out, closing the door.

"Mr. Mistlin." Came the deep voice.

"Sir?"

"How are we doing on deck?" Smythe asked as he came up beside his 3rd Lieutenant.

"All is well, sir." The young man said with confidence.

"Very good." Smythe said. "Call the second dog watch, if you please."

"Aye, sir." The young man answered, shifting his eyes, looking confused.

Smythe turned and ascended the port side stairs to the Quarterdeck as the watch bell clanged furiously. Smythe stood at the rail, his hands behind him, watching the men pour out from below.

"Mr. Knox?" Smythe's 1st Lieutenant stepped forward.

"Sir?"

"Weigh anchor."

"Sir?"

"That was plain enough wasn't, sir?" Smythe looked at him. "Weigh anchor."

"Aye, sir." Knox stepped up to the rail. "Weigh anchor!" He yelled out at the top of his lungs.

"I want us out of the Thames and out into the Channel. We shall have some practice with the guns."

"Very good, sir."

"And if I were to venture a guess, I would say that Callum is doing so as well."

"Beg pardon, sir?"

"Nothing." Smythe said. "Mind your duties, Mr. Knox."

"Aye, aye, sir." Knox watched as the men began to labor over the Capstain, cranking up the anchor. His Captain was certainly in a mood. Knox knew it was going to be a long afternoon.

A knock on the door. Callum looked up. "Enter." Talon opened the door and stepped in, taking off his hat, tucking in under his arm.

"Mr. Tomlin's compliments, sir. He asked to relay to you that the men have it practiced to seven minutes, sir." Callum looked at the young Mr. Talon. He reminded Callum of Dustin in so many ways, his youth, his looks, his manner.

"Does Mr. Tomlin think that there is room for improvement?" Callum asked, folding his arms across his chest.

"Well, sir, there's always room for improvement, isn't there, sir?"

"Well said, Mr. Talon, well said. Give Mr. Tomlin my compliments, and tell him I shall join him on the gun deck presently."

"You, sir?" Talon's eyes went wide.

"Is there someone else in here with us?" Callum asked, looking about the cabin.

"Uh, no, sir."

"Well then?" Callum asked.

"Very good, sir. I will, sir." Talon tipped his hand and slipped out the door. Callum could hear Talon running away on the Companionway. Callum smiled wide at the young boy, shaking his head. Callum walked over and slipped his tunic on, pulling out his tail, fluffing it, and then walked out of the cabin. He came through the Wardroom and stopped in the galley, looking at Carson, as he rolled out dough on a board.

"When I return from the Gun Deck, would you join me in the Great Cabin, when you have a moment?" Carson's eyes went wide at Callum's words. He had never heard a ship's master make a request in such a way.

"Certainly, sir." Carson smiled faintly. Callum nodded and went on his way. He walked out of the doorway below the Quarterdeck, closing it behind him.

"Captain on deck!" Came from above him. Callum continued to the rail of the large grating, looking below to the Gun Deck. Callum put his hands on the rail, looking down.

"Mr. Tomlin!" Callum called out. Tomlin appeared and stood at attention, the men about him looked up, watching Callum.

"Sir?"

"Mr. Talon reports to me you have accomplished reloading in seven minutes. Is this true?"

"Yes, sir." Tomlin said, as he gulped.

"Gun crews! To me!" Callum called out, loudly. Arvin had drawn near, coming up beside his Captain. Callum saw all of the men coming into view, crowding together, looking up. "Lads, Mr. Tomlin reports reloading at seven minutes! I say to him, and to you, well done!" Cheers went up from the men, Tomlin looking around. "But, I say...we can do it faster than that...am I right?!" Some grumbling could be heard amongst them. "Well?! Am I?!" Some of the men were leaning together and talking to themselves. "Our very lives depend on it! I know that we can do it! Willing to give it try?!" Callum looked around at all of them. "Want me to show you how?!"

"Aye." Most of the men called out.

"Very well!" Callum said, as he took his tunic off and draped it over the rail, all the men's eyes went wide watching him. Callum walked quickly around to the stairs and came down to the deck. He turned and looked about, seeing faces that he had known for years. There was a determined look on his face and he began to roll up his sleeves.

"Sinclair, Eddy, Murray, Mr. Tomlin, if you please." Callum said as the other men backed up. Callum looked up top, seeing Arvin standing there. "Mr. Arvin, time us, if you will."

"Aye, sir." Arvin said, having a small hour glass brought to him.

"Now, remember lads, practice, practice, practice. It will save all of our lives. Eddy, man the fuse, Sinclair, ready the powder, Murray, the shot, Mr. Tomlin and I will set and ram. Everyone ready?" Callum said as he went to the rope, Tomlin followed his lead on the other side. Eddy stood at the rear with the glow torch. "Go!" Callum yelled, "Run her in!" As the ropes were pulled, bringing the nine pounder back onto the deck, "Powder!", Sinclair jumped to the muzzle pretending to shove a powder bag inside, Callum grabbed the ram, pushing Sinclair out of the way, sending it down to the end of the muzzle, and hitting the end a second time, "Shot!", Murray acted like he was placing a ball in and pushed, Callum jumped again, ramming the muzzle, then pulled it out, "Run her out!", the group jumped to the ropes and pulled, bringing the cannon all the way out through the cannon port, "Fire!", Callum yelled, and Eddy dropped the glow rod to the fuse port. "Bang!" Callum screamed. He turned and looked up at Arvin. "Time, Mr. Arvin?"

"Four minutes and one half, sir!" Cheers went up throughout the entire deck. Callum looked over at Tomlin, reaching out his hand. A blushing Tomlin took his Captains hand tightly. As the cheers died down, Callum looked about him at the crew. As they quieted down, Callum looked back at Tomlin.

"Now, tell me Mr. Tomlin, is there room for improvement?"

"Without a doubt, sir." Tomlin puffed up his chest.

"And we can do something to make it more efficient. Set the powder monkeys to greasing the blocks to make them faster on the pull. That will shave a few seconds."

"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, realizing that it would. Callum looked up at Arvin, who had been joined by Eddington.

"Mr. Arvin, pass the word for Camden."

"Aye, sir." Arvin replied, looking over his shoulder. "Pass the word for Mr. Camden!"

Callum looked back at Tomlin, smiling. "I had another thought." Callum said. "She's a fine ship, but she was built following old principles and on the design of another type of ship." Camden stepped forward moving through the men around Callum. "Ah, Camden, there you are."

"Sir." Camden tipped his hand.

"I need to speed up the loading of the guns. The stakes in the deck," Callum was pointing at the framework, that held the shot, that was nailed to the deck. "I need it to be changed. I want them to be narrower, three shot across and twelve shot long, then one the other side, I want powder bags to be brought forward as well. That can be done on the narrow as well, leaving room for stepping about."

"Aye, sir." Camden looked confused.

"Problem?"

"Well, sir, that's the way all ships have them configured, sir."

"I am aware of that, Camden. But we are going to change that, make it better, eh? What say you?"

"If you wish, sir."

Callum half turned and looked back at Tomlin. "I want us to able to match shot for shot with a seventy-four, if necessary. Once we have the time shaved, and the new frameworks, I believe we can do it, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Tomlin?"

Tomlin's eyes couldn't get any wider. "A seventy-four, sir?"

"Think of the prize money, lad." Callum said, putting a hand on Tomlin's shoulder. The crew roared hearing Callum. The crew was beginning to die down, Callum looked at Tomlin who had gone pale, and then at Camden. "Any questions, gentlemen?"

"Now, sir?" Camden asked.

"Now, Mr. Camden. Draw whatever men you need from Mr. Tomlin. I want this done before we sail tomorrow afternoon." Callum said, looking back at Tomlin. "Questions, Mr. Tomlin?"

"No, sir."

"Carry on then." Callum turned and looked at all the men. "Carry on, lads." Cheers went up again, as Callum walked toward the stairs. He climbed up to the Main Deck toward his tunic. Arvin had picked it up and held it so that Callum only had to turn round. He dropped his arms into the sleeves and Arvin let it go. Callum pulled out his ponytail and fluffed it.

"Most impressive, sir." Arvin said, looking over the rail, as the men began to set about to practice again.

"If only you had been at the Nile, Captain. It would have been a complete victory." Eddington said.

"Thank you, gentlemen." Callum said, looking at both of them and then smiled. "If you'll excuse me, I need to see Carson a moment." Callum walked away.

"Damndest thing I've ever seen, in all my years." Arvin said in a low voice, Eddington moving closer to him. "God help the French when the Captain arrives."

"Amen to that, Mr. Arvin."

"Anchor secured, sir!" Called out a voice from the bow.

"Very Good." Smythe sneered. "Mr. Knox, take us out."

"Set the Headsails!" Knox yelled out, stepping forward to the rail.

"Mr. Mistlin." Smythe said.

"Sir?"

"Find me some targets to shoot at."

"Aye, sir. What would you suggest, sir?"

"There are some old empty casks below on the storage deck. Have them readied."

"Aye, aye, sir." Mistlin said and then walked away.

"More canvas, Mr. Knox."

"Sir?"

"I want to shoot our targets on the run, Mr. Knox, under full sail."

"Very good, sir." Knox sighed. "Set the Main Sails!" Knox looked up seeing the rest of the sails unfurling, they filled with the wind and snapped as they caught full billow.

"A nice wind, Mr. Knox." Smythe said stepping up to the rail.

"Indeed, sir." Knox said, in his droll tone.

Callum walked through the galley, onto the Companionway and reached the doors of the Great Cabin. He opened them and stepped in, leaving the door open. He started to slip out of his tunic, but felt something else as well, he looked over his shoulder and there was Carson helping him to get out of it. Carson walked the tunic over to a set of pegs below the shelf with the sextant on it and hung up the tunic. Carson closed the door, and looked at Callum.

"How long have we known each other, Carson?"

"About six years, sir. Since you first came on board as a midshipman, sir." Carson had a confused look on his face.

"That is what I thought as well." Callum said, as he sat down at the table. "You know, I am not Captain Powers, Carson."

"Yes, sir."

"And you know that I would never blacken his memory."

"Yes, sir." Carson smiled.

"And I want you to know, that in here, when we are alone, you may speak your mind, as I know you did with Captain Powers."

"Thank you, sir."

"You know what goes on, on board this ship, more than any other man, I dare say."

"Well..."

"Come man, there's no denying it. It is simply the truth of it."

"Yes, sir. It is."

"So, tell me then. How are the men?"

"The crew is... anxious, sir."

"Oh? Over what?"

"Well, sir...to be honest, sir, most of them feel that you were simply lucky in our capture of the two frigates, sir. They, some, don't think that you can do it again, sir."

"I see." Callum said.

"May I get you something, sir?"

"Possibly some wine, in a bit." Callum shifted in his chair. "You know that my first concern is to the ship and the crew."

"Yes, sir."

"So, with that being said, I wish for you to prepare meals that will take them first in consideration."

"Sir?"

"Simply said, I want you to cook for them as you would cook for myself and the officers." Callum waited, watching Carson. "It can be simple faire, but well done as they are working very hard. I wish to show them that I appreciate their efforts greatly."

"I see, sir." Carson said. He looked almost hurt.

"What is it, Carson?"

"Permission to speak freely, sir?"

"Of course."

"Well, sir, that's not what the men would want, sir."

"Oh?"

"They would expect, sir, that...well...you would uphold to tradition, sir. They would not be as happy, sir." Carson looked as if he was almost fighting tears back. "They expect and need discipline, sir, to be led, and well, if that also means bad food, well then, so be it."

"I understand your point, Carson." Callum thought for a long moment. "You know of this mission?"

"Well, sir..."

"Come, come, Carson. Let us not pretend."

"Yes, sir. I think that I do, sir."

"Then you might also understand that we might not return in one piece from it."

"Yes, sir." Carson said, hanging his head slightly.

"Then you understand my reasoning."

"I do, sir. But, sir, it will take up a great deal of the ships stores to do what you ask."

Callum nodded, "I think we have stores on board for six weeks, do we not?"

"Yes, sir."

"We shall be at sea less than a week, returning here to Portsmouth, if we survive that is."

"I understand, sir."

"Thank you, Carson, for letting me know about the crew."

"With pleasure, sir. I'll get your wine now, sir." Carson smiled, opening the door.

The barrels were dropped one by one over the side as the Tarkington was rising and falling into the waves of the Channel. Smythe watched as the last one was thrown overboard on the port side.

"Hard to starboard, Mr. Knox."

"Aye, sir. Helm, hard to starboard."

"Give a few minutes and we shall be having our target practice. I want every shot on its mark, Mr. Knox, no excuses."

"Aye, sir." Knox said, in his droll tone. "We shall beat to quarters!"

Smythe smiled a smile of confidence. He wanted to be sure to show this new upstart of a Captain, what being a Captain was truly about, what marksmanship was all about, and that his luck had truly run out.

 

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