DOVER Chapter 21
Callum, standing at the aft rail, his hands clasped behind his back, the wind in his face which felt good to him, as he stood there with eyes closed. He could hear the faint cry of gulls now and then overhead, and the movement of the men, hearing calls and shouts now and then as they worked. He could hear and feel the deck as Dover rode the wind. He had given orders for a wide circular course. His orders were being carried out. He could feel her moving underneath him, feel the sway and dip of the bow as she broke over waves and rolls. He smiled to himself, knowing that he truly was in his element now.
"Excuse me, sir." Callum opened his eyes hearing the voice behind him.
"Yes, Mr. Arvin?" Callum asked, as he turned round. Arvin tipped his hand to him.
"I thought you'd like to know, the situation below has been handled with the Marines."
"Very well, Mr. Arvin." Callum had suggested that Arvin go below to ignite the progress as Callum and Arvin, both, wanted some practice with the guns before they were to rendezvous with the squadron. "I trust that we should be able to change course, in short order?"
"Yes, sir." Arvin said, staring at Callum. "I should have word in the next half hour or so, sir."
"Excellent, Mr. Arvin." Callum stepped forward past the Mizzen to next to the wheel. Amos still manned it. Callum wished that Dustin were here instead. "Maintain your course, helm."
"Aye, sir." Amos replied. Callum settled in, waiting, Mr. Arvin joined him.
Some time had passed when the ships belled tolled indicating the time of day, well into the second watch. Callum and Arvin were about to turn when the saw young Mr. Talon emerge from below and start heading toward the Quarterdeck. He seemed to have a smile on his face, as he reached the starboard stairs, coming up toward them, tipping his hand.
"All is set below, Mr. Arvin."
"Very good, Mr. Talon." Arvin turned and looked at Callum. "All is ready below, sir."
"Indeed, Mr. Arvin." Callum looked stern at his 1st, and smiled only to himself. "Should we take Mr. Talon at his word, or should we have a look for ourselves?"
"I believe that we can take Mr. Talon at his word, sir." Arvin said, giving an eye at Talon, who stood looking a little nervous.
"If you think so, Mr. Arvin." Callum said. "Then we shall beat to quarters." Arvin tipped his hand, Arvin went to the rail, Talon caught Callum's glance as Callum winked at Talon, making him take in a breath of relief.
"Beat to Quarters!" Arvin yelled.
It started all at once, the sound of a drum beating out rapidly, Marines on deck, snapping to attention, men hurrying to get to the gun deck below and some at the gun placements on the Main Deck. Talon had jumped into action and went below, hurrying to get to his gun crews on the port side. Callum could hear the movements of blocks and ropes, cannon being pulled back and readied. Callum stepped forward to the rail, watching what was happening below him. He was counting in his head.
"Mr. Arvin. Have those barrels put over the side." Callum nodded to the starboard side.
"Aye, sir. Deck there! Barrels over the side! Starboard side, lively now!" Men jumped at Arvin's voice, picking up the empty barrels and getting them over the side one after the other. When the last one went over, Callum looked back at the wheel.
"Hard to port, Amos."
"Aye, sir. Hard to port." Amos said and spun the wheel, until it stopped on its own. Men were already moving to the port side, getting ready to grab barrels. Arvin was watching them, and they, he. Arvin waited for word from his Captain. Minutes went by.
"Let them go, Mr. Arvin."
"Very good, sir. Deck there! Barrels over the side!" Arvin yelled, and the men responded, picking up barrels and sending them over one after the other.
"Steady your course, helm." Callum said.
"Aye, sir." Amos said, cranking the wheel back, bring Dover to another course change. Callum was watching forward as the bow came round. He looked overhead, watching the sails, still full of the wind, Dover tilting slightly to larboard in response to his command. Callum looked back to the deck, seeing the men were prepared and ready, guns loaded.
"Helm, bring us back around larboard, now." Callum said. Amos responded cranking the wheel over hard till it stopped, holding it tight. Callum watched the bow as she tilted to the right, continuing to come around, spray was coming into the air. Callum looked overhead and behind, seeing the Spanker full on, straining against her crossarm on the Mizzen Mast. He could hear the wood of the crossarm creaking and feeling the strain as well. He looked forward seeing the barrels off in the distance. The men waited.
"Open the gun ports, Mr. Arvin."
"Aye, sir. Open gun ports!" Arvin yelled. He and Callum could hear the order being repeated below decks, and they could the sound of the hinges, working to lift the heavy wood.
"Amos, ease your helm." Callum said. Callum watched the bow as slowly stopped the deep right turn. The deck was righting itself now. "Three points to larboard."
"Aye, sir. Three points." Callum watched for a minute and they were almost on top of the barrels, about a hundred yards distant now. He waited.
"Run out, Mr. Arvin."
"Aye, sir. Run out!" Arvin yelled. They could hear the guns being pulled to get the muzzles out, clear of the hull. Callum wanted to give the order himself, but he had given the honor to Arvin. He was not about to take it away from him now.
"Whenever you're ready, Mr. Arvin." Callum said in a deep tone.
"Aye, sir. Port side, fire as you bare!" Arvin looked, seeing they were there now. "FIRE!" The clap of thunder was deafening as most of the guns went off at the same. The smoke cleared the deck and Callum and Arvin looked over out of the six thrown over, only one remained. The men cheered below, seeing they were accurate. Callum frowned at the one barrel.
"Amos, six points to port." Callum said. He looked forward seeing the other barrels off in the distance. He watched the bow slowly turn, the barrels were now on the starboard beam, coming down toward that side. Callum waited another couple of minutes. "Another two points, Amos."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Callum watched for another minute, and then looked over at Arvin, nodding.
"Larboard battery! Fire as you bare!" Arvin called out. He looked seeing where they were now. It was getting close. Just another minute, wait, wait..."FIRE!" Arvin yelled. Again, the thunder was deafening, as all of the guns went off. The smoke cleared and wisped away slowly. Two were left out of six. Callum let out a breath.
"Mr. Arvin, if you will accompany me." Callum said. Callum walked to the port stairs and went down, Arvin was right behind him. Callum went to the rail that looked below onto the gun deck. "Mr. Tomlin!" Callum called out. Tomlin stepped into view, he was blackened on his face from smoke. "More barrels if you please?"
"Aye, sir." Tomlin pointed at a group standing about. He gave them orders to bring up more barrels. Callum would wait for them to get more and get ready, as the hands ran off to follow orders. Callum looked up and saw Anders and Holt on the other side of the rail.
"Mr. Arvin. Reverse course, run us back in between those remaining targets." Arvin tipped his hand and went back to the Quaterdeck. "Captain Anders, assemble your men on deck. Let us see if they can do as much damage as we did." Callum said.
"Yes, sir." Anders said, saluting. He turned. "Lt. Holt, assemble the men, on deck."
"Yes, sir." Holt snapped, and then went below.
Callum looked forward, seeing the change in course. The men were rolling empty barrels up now, then double teaming them, standing them on deck, after getting them up the stairs. It was coming together, but slow. Callum heard them coming, and then they came into sight, the Marines were filing up the gangways, two at a time, matching step with one another. They filed out on deck to each side, under Anders direction as he was pointing them out. Arvin leaned forward to Callum.
"Almost in range, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Arvin. Captain Anders, there are targets in the water to each side. If your men wish to indulge themselves in a bit of target practice?" Callum said. The Marines responded on their own.
"RAH!" They all yelled at once, snapping to attention. Callum looked back at Anders.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Callum smiled at Anders, who smiled back at Callum. "whenever you please, Captain."
"Lt. Holt! Have the men man the sides. Double lines!"
"Sir!" Holt snapped, saluting. "Sgt. McGuffin! Form the men, double lines along the sides."
"Very Good, SIR!" McGuffin snapped. He stepped toward the port rail, near his men. "Take position! Double lines! On Point!" McGuffin, yelled out. The Marines snapped and raised their muskets in front of them, and then neatly snapped and wheeled about, looking over the sides. "Make Ready! Front Line!" McGuffin roared in his deep voice. McGuffin turned, eyeing the target on his side. He paced across the deck to starboard, seeing the two barrels coming within range and then stepped back. He snapped to attention, facing aft. "Level!" Muskets lowered, pointing. "Fire!" Muskets went off and smoke was thick. "Second Line! Forward!" The first line stepped back two steps, and the second line went to the rail. "Make Ready! Level! Fire!"
Callum went to the port rail and looked over, as Arvin and Anders went to the starboard rail. Callum saw the devastation to the barrel on his side and was pleased, as it began to fall apart and sink, some pieces still floating on the surface. Arvin and Anders looked at each other and then turned back to look at Callum.
"Targets destroyed, sir." Anders said, with pride.
"As is this one, Captain Anders." Callum nodded. "My compliments, Captain."
"Thank you, sir." Anders was still beaming, his chest puffed out.
"It would seem it's our turn again, Mr. Arvin." Callum said.
"Very good, sir." Arvin tipped his hand.
"Just a moment, Mr. Arvin." Callum said. "Call the hands, if you will." Callum said.
"Aye, sir." Arvin said, as he stepped close to Callum. "All hands! Assemble at the rail!" Arvin yelled. The crew came together, standing below the rail, the officers of the gun crews in their midst. Those on deck came either forward or aft, coming around the Marines, who were standing at the rails, at full attention.
"Men! I have just witnessed what the Marines can do!" Callum said, "And I was impressed! With musket shot, they destroyed their targets completely! However, they wouldn't have had targets to shoot if we had not missed!" Callum looked about, scanning their faces. "We are to rendezvous with the squadron very shortly, and by this time tomorrow we are sailing alongside the Tarkington!" Callum could hear them grumbling conversation in and amongst themselves. "Now I know the reputation that Captain Smythe has! And it is warranted! But, I have served with most of you a good number of years! I know what you're capable of! I have seen it with my own eyes! And I say that we have the finest gunners in the fleet!" Callum said. The men cheered. "Where we are going, each and every shot will be critical and our very lives and the protection of England is at stake! I want to show the Tarkington and her Captain how it is done! Can you do that?!" The men cheered again. "Are you with me?!" Louder cheers. Callum looked up. He saw that some of the Marines were smiling as well. "Mr. Arvin!" Callum said loudly over the yelling and the cheers. Arvin stepped close. "Barrels over the side, if you please."
"Very good, sir!" Arvin said. "Barrels over the side, port side!" Men jumped for them.
"Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled, seeing him. Tomlin tipped his hand. "Have your gun crews reload!"
"Aye, sir! Gun crews! Reload!" Tomlin yelled. Callum nodded to Tomlin and then turned and walked aft to the Quarterdeck. Callum went to the larboard side going up the stairs. He stepped to the middle of the rail, clasping his hands behind his back. He watched as the last of the barrels went over the port side rail.
"Stand by on the larboard side!" Arvin yelled, and then turned and went up the port stairs. He walked over to join Callum at the rail, waiting. Callum wanted a few minutes apart this time, for maneuvers as well. He looked out over the deck, seeing the faces of his men below, looking very excited. He smiled inwardly to himself. He and Arvin were standing very close to each other.
"Captain Anders told me earlier that his new recruits have never been aloft before." Callum said quietly, as he watched Anders and Holt. Callum looked up overhead, seeing the wind and how it was dropping away a bit. "I think now might be a good time, don't you?"
"The wind is slipping a bit, sir." Arvin said, also looking aloft.
"Less motion." Callum grinned. "Probably a good time, wouldn't you say?"
"A perfect time, sir." Arvin grinned as well, both knowing the condition of Anders men and their sea sickness.
"Captain Anders!" Callum called out. Anders stood at attention. "Perhaps, some of your sharpshooters would care to take a turn aloft for more target practice?"
"Very good, sir!" Anders called back, against the wind. "Lt. Holt, form a detail. Have a dozen men go up to the platforms aloft and set up position."
"Yes, sir!" Holt said, saluting. "Sgt. McGuffin! Detail ranks! Set one dozen men up to the platforms!"
"Very good, SIR!" McGuffin yelled, saluting. He turned, wheeling. He walked to the port side, standing in front of the men assembled there. "You heard the officer! Six men! Step forward!"
Reluctantly, six stepped forward, without looking aloft, eyes front. "Good lads!" McGuffin wheeled and walked to the starboard side. "Six men! Step forward!" Mc Guffin yelled. Not to be outdone, more than six stepped forward in the lines. "Steady lads! Only six!" McGuffin watched as a few stepped back. He walked down, looking at the ones that stood out from the line. He counted off the first six out of nine. "Back in line! You'll have your turn!" McGuffin said, turning on his heel and stamping his feet back together. He saluted. "Detail formed, SIR!"
"Very good, Sergeant!" Holt said. He wheeled and looked at Anders. "Detail formed, sir!"
"Very good, Lieutenant." Anders said. "Send them aloft!"
"Yes, sir!" Holt spun back around. "Sergeant! Dispatch the men!"
"Yes, SIR!" McGuffin said. "Shoulder arms!" The marines snapped to and put their muskets over their left shoulders. "Four Front! Four Middle! Four Rear!" McGuffin yelled, and then snapped his feet again. "Double quick now!" McGuffin said, and the Marines broke out and started to climb the ringing as they reached each mast. The men that went aft at the Mizzen were last, but had the shortest distance to go up. Everyone watched as the men went up. Some froze and had to catch their breath, never having done this before. McGuffin was right there, urging them on, as if it were each and every one of them, individually. He seemed to be everywhere at once.
"If I were in a land engagement, I would want that man right there with me." Callum said quietly to Arvin.
"I couldn't agree more, sir." Arvin said softly back. "Captain Anders is most fortunate to have him with him."
"Indeed." Callum said, softly. It was a few minutes, and they struggled to get up on the platforms, but once there, they were entrenched. A few minutes later, Callum could see they were in position and ready to be called upon. Anders and Holt had come aft toward the Quarterdeck, looking aloft as they did. "Captain Anders," Callum said, Anders looking up to the rail. "an excellent display of bravery, sir, from your men, who have never been aloft before. My compliments."
"Thank you, sir." Anders bowed his head only toward the Quarterdeck. "Royal Marines, sir! They will not be undone, sir." Anders said, bowing his head and doffing his hat in a slight bow.
"I know that we can count on them when the time comes, Captain. I will be comforted knowing they can do their duty once we are engaged." Callum smiled wide, then looked aloft. "Mr. Arvin, the barrels, if you please."
"Deck there! Barrels over the side!" Arvin yelled, leaning over the rail. The men jumped and started to toss the barrels over the starboard rail. In a couple of minutes, Arvin looked at Callum.
"All targets away, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Arvin." Callum said, looking forward. "Helm, maintain course."
"Aye, sir." Amos said, keeping a steady hand on the wheel. Callum backed up a couple of steps toward the wheel. He so wished Dustin were here with him now. Callum just wanted to hear his voice, catch his scent in the breeze, that soft gentle scent that reminded him of cowslip and cotton. Callum closed his eyes.
"Sir?" Came Arvin's voice. "Gun crews standing by." Callum opened his eyes.
"Quite right, Mr. Arvin, I wanted a little more maneuvering room." Callum said. "Glass!" Callum called out. One of the hands on the aft guns grabbed the glass for Callum and handed it to him. He pulled the lenses out fully and turned, looking aft. He spied the barrels floating off in the distance. "Helm, awither!" Callum called out, Amos spun the wheel, sending Dover on a tight turn to starboard. "Mr. Arvin! Throw the Spanker!" Callum lowered the glass and looked aloft, as the wind was losing its grip on the canvas.
"Aye, sir! Set the driver to port!" Arvin cried out. Men jumped and grabbed lines on the Quarterdeck, unlashing and then laying the moveable sail over to port, catching the wind again. Dover responded to the new command and course change. Callum looked forward, watching her bow. She livened and came around nicely. Callum smiled and walked to the starboard rail. He lifted his glass again, spotting the closer barrels.
"Ease your helm." Callum said, and Amos wheeled her back to follow the new course. Callum watched and waited, dropping the glass from his eye now and then. He looked overhead and saw the Driver billowing, the Marines on the platform above, poised, ready, and waiting. Callum looked again, as Dover came around, almost pointing off on the targets that were bobbing about. Dover was lifting and falling now in heavier swells, going against the wind. Sails were laying over as she began to take her second breath of it. "Bring your helm starboard, Amos."
"Aye, sir." Amos said, rolling the wheel a little at a time, not knowing what exactly his Captain wanted.
"Little more. ...little more..." Caluum said, watching the bow, glass to his eye. "Now, ease your helm." Callum said, watching her carry by where Callum wanted. "Two points port." Callum watched. "Yes, that's right." Callum said, dropping the glass from his eye. "Standby...now maintain course."
"Aye, sir." Amos said, looking forward, barely seeing what Callum was looking at.
"Mr.Tomlin!" Callum called out." Run out your guns, port side!" Callum yelled to the Gun Deck. The men on the Main Deck, pulled their guns as well. The blocks being greased, it was very quick. Two pulls on the lines and they were there. Callum smiled as he saw how easy the guns operated now.
They overran the closer barrels as Callum wanted. Arvin saw it, knowing what Callum was doing, they were bearing down on the first set dropped over the side. Callum knew that the barrels would be drifting apart from each other in the swell. He counted on it. He lifted his glass. He saw his targets in sight now. It was only a matter of a few minutes now. Callum patiently waited, watching through the glass. Closer...closer...come on...closer...now!
"Gun Crews!" Callum yelled coming to the rail, "Think of them as French seventy-fours! Do your worst!" Callum yelled louder than he ever had in his life. He knew what they were capable of, each and every one. Callum looked forward, seeing targets clearly without the glass. "Helm, lay her over to larboard!" Callum yelled, as Amos spun the wheel. "Gun crews! Fire as you bare! Make each shot count! From the bow!" Callum yelled and looked as the Dover was turning starboard. "FIRE!" He yelled. Thunderous explosions went off, one after the other, as the Dover rolled starboard, giving the targets no chance at all, the volley went from gun to gun to gun, one after the other. The smoke was clearing. Arvin was at the port rail, looking out. He saw nothing but water. He turned back to Callum.
"All targets destroyed, sir!"
"You hear that, lads?!" Callum yelled, the cheers roard up. "Well done! Starboard battery! Standby!" Callum yelled, looking forward. The second set of barrels was coming into sight now. "Amos, ease your helm!"
"Aye, sir." Amos said, looking ahead. Callum looked back at Amos.
"Wish you were down there with them, lad?" Amos' eyes lit up, looking at Callum. "Well? What are you waiting for lad? Get to your gun." Amos looked confused. "Mr. Arvin! Take the wheel!"
"Aye, sir!" Arvin said, coming across the deck putting his hands on the wheel. Amos let go and ran to the starboard stairs. He stopped and turned, tipping his hand to his Captain. He turned and jumped down them and went a gun in the middle of the rail of the Main Deck, his crewmates patting him on the shoulders and back. Callum smiled and looked over at Arvin, who was struggling with the wheel. Callum looked aloft, the wind was returning now, the sails were filling. At last. Callum looked back at Arvin.
"Having trouble, Mr. Arvin?"
"Not exactly, sir." Arvin said, his voice straining to control the wheel. "I'm a bit out of practice is all, sir."
"It will come back to you, in short order." Callum chuckled to himself. He looked forward again, going to the rail. The barrels were off the port beam and spreading out as the swells took them. Callum was wanting more of a spread. He leaned forward on the rail. He put his hand to one side of his mouth and took a deep breath. "Picture a French ninety gunner, coming alongside, lads! From the bow! Once again!" Callum yelled with the wind now, carrying his voice to every part of the ship forward. Callum leaned back and looked at Arvin, "Hard to port, Mr. Arvin." Arvin nodded and spun the wheel. Callum looked forward as the Dover responded. "Starboard battery! Fire as you bare!" Callum looked forward as it was now, he put his hands around his mouth, "FIRE!" Thunderous sounds from the Main deck as the new bow gun went off, followed by each and every gun as the targets came into sight. Callum went to the starboard rail and looked, as the barrels were being disintegrated with the impacts of the cannon shot. Callum went back to the forward rail. "Well done, men! Well done! All targets destroyed!" Cheers rose up from below decks, all hands turned and looked at Callum on the Main Deck. They all raised right arms into the air, cheering. Callum patted the rail with one hand, looking back at them. "Ambrose!" Callum called to one of the men on the Quarterdeck. "Relieve Mr. Arvin."
"Aye, sir." He said and came over to the wheel. He put hands on it. Callum turned and looked at the compass in the stanch at the Mizzen.
"Set a course, east by noreast." Callum said.
"Aye, sir. East by noreast." Ambrose nodded.
Callum went back to the rail. "Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled. Callum waited for Tomlin to come up the gangway. He jumped and tipped his hand as he reached the Main Deck. "Your gun crews handled it with flourish, Mr. Tomlin! I approve!" Callum yelled. "Have your guns checked!"
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin yelled, and went below. He was smiling as he went down the gangway. Callum could hear the men cheer below.
"Mr. Arvin," Callum said with a glint in his eye, "you look a little winded."
"I'm alright, sir." Arvin said, standing there before Callum. "As I said, I am out of practice, sir."
"So I see." Callum smiled. "However, I feel you did quite well."
"Thank you, sir." Arvin smiled. He followed Callum up to the front rail, standing beside him. They looked out over the deck, seeing the men checking each of the guns.
"Captain Anders." Callum called below. Anders and Holt looked up him. "My most profound apologies! I seem to have left nothing for your men to shoot at. You might want to return them to the deck."
"Very good, sir." Anders smiled up at Callum, then looked at his young Lieutenant, and nodded at him. Holt saluted and turned and walked toward McGuffin. Callum turned after he raised a hand to his brim.
"Mr. Arvin. You have the deck. I shall be in my cabin. Send for me, when you sight the squadron." Callum said.
"Very good, sir." Arvin said, tipping his hand. As he watched Callum walk toward the stairs.
Callum walked through the galley, nodding toward Carson, who was preparing supper for the crew, and the Marines. Callum walked down the Companionway and opened the door to the Great Cabin, taking off his hat. He dropped it on the table, and then slipped out of his tunic, undoing the knot of his necktie, unwrapping it from around his neck, draping it over the tunic. He was tired, drained, and worried. Dustin was forefront in his mind. He missed him so, and with the result of what has happened to him, it was breaking his heart. This was not the way he wanted it to happen. He pushed those thoughts from his mind and began to focus on the mission and what was coming.
Callum sat the small desk in the berthing room of the cabin, that belonged to Captain Powers. He put his hands on the log book that lay upon the desk's surface, its bindings and covers were leather. Callum ran his fingers over it, feeling its texture. He slowly opened it, seeing the pages, writings and notations made by Powers hand. Callum had been aboard for everything that Powers wrote about in this book. He felt lucky, as some of the young midshipmen in his class were moved about to various vessels, most never really received the chance to know each vessel well, as they were transferred back and forth. Powers had kept Callum and Farrow, and kept them close to him. Powers had seen something in each of them, and even though he was firm, very firm in fact with them, he taught them, molded them into being good officers. Callum smiled to himself appreciating that fact, a fact that he thanked Powers for, only in his mind, as he was never able to voice before Powers was killed.
Callum did not want to read all of the entries, as he knew there would not be enough time to do that, and make his own first entry before they reached the squadron. As well, he wished to rest some before reaching them. He flipped the pages until he saw the last entry made by Powers. Callum reached for the quill in the inkwell, and pulled it.
I have had the unpleasant task of rendering punishment to able seaman Jarter for fighting with another crewman. We have set sail after some practice with the guns to meet the squadron. Ship and crew have performed admirably. Mr. Arvin has been made my 1st and I am most pleased with him. The coming mission is of grave concern to me.
Callum placed the quill back in the inkwell, leaving the book open to let the ink dry. He got up from the desk and moved to the berth, feeling the bunk for its possible comfort. Callum smiled as the last person to sleep in it was Dustin after that afternoon they visited the Dover. Callum sat on the edge and then settled onto it. He needed sleep after being up all night in the Wardroom with Dustin. But his mind wouldn't let him, thoughts of the mission kept invading him, playing out possible scenarios over and over. It was becoming maddening. He tried to get comfortable on the bunk, but the sound of the water against the bulkhead made it almost impossible. He listened to it, feeling it course through his entire body on the bunk. He put his hand to the bulkhead, the whitewashed oak was rough under his fingers, and the vibration was truly felt transcending through the wood. He smiled again to himself, thinking it would take some time to get used to it, to get used to sleeping here. There were too many ghosts to deal with.
"Beg pardon, sir." Carson said quietly, standing at the doorway, making Callum almost jump. Callum sat up and swung his legs off the bunk.
"What is it, Carson?" Callum asked.
"May I get you something, sir?"
"Thank you, Carson, I was just trying to relax for a bit, that's all."
"I know you haven't slept, sir. Would you care for some tea or coffee, perhaps?"
"I would imagine, coffee would be in order." Callum said, getting to his feet. "You might want to keep a pot ready for the duration of this mission." Callum feigned a smile, and walked toward the doorway, Carson stepped aside.
"Very good, sir. I made some more soup, for Mr. Perkins, sir." Callum went to the table, and took up a chair there, near the center.
"I was saying to Mr. Perkins earlier that your soup must contain magical properties. It seems to be doing him a world of good."
"Would you like me to bring you some, sir?" Carson said, putting his hands together in front of him.
"Provided there is enough," Callum said, "I would not wish to deprive Mr. Perkins of magic elixir." Callum smiled, leaning back in the chair.
"Believe me, sir. There is more than enough. I'll go and fetch some for you, sir."
"Thank you, Carson." Callum answered softly, watching him walk out of the cabin. Callum rubbed his thigh over his wound, it ached him this afternoon. He was becoming lost in thought again, as Carson reentered the cabin, carrying a tray. He came to Callum, setting it down and set a bowl of the soup in front of him. The smell of it hit Callum's nose, making him lean forward, as Carson poured coffee. Callum looked up from the soup to Carson.
"What is it?" Callum asked.
"An old family recipe, sir. My mothers, mothers recipe, sir." Carson said, stepping away from the table a step. Carson watched as Callum picked up the spoon and sampled the soup. Callum tried it again, and then looked up at Carson.
"You must pass on my compliments, Carson. I feel better already, thank you."
"You're most welcome, sir." Carson was positively beaming now, as he watched Callum turn back to it. Carson turned and walked out.
Callum finished the soup and began to feel rejuvenated, as he chuckled, knowing that the soup did not have magical properties, but that he needed something on his stomach. He picked up his coffee and walked to the aft windows, looking out over the wake behind them as Dover slid through the water. He sipped at the cup, until it was empty. He had heard Carson return and collect the bowl and spoon, but he never looked back over his shoulder. Callum watched the water, knowing the time was getting close. The squadron should be sighted soon enough. He turned and walked to the table, refilling his cup from the pot.
Callum scanned the backs of the chairs at the table. He had hung his tunic on one, now it was gone. What the devil did Carson do with it? He saw his hat on the peg under the shelf, but where the ...
"Deck there, ...sail...off the larboard bow." A faint voice, Callum had to perk his ears up just to hear it. He knew it was one the topmen, calling down to Arvin. Carson opened the door, his eyes were wide.
"Carson...?" Callum held up his hands as if to ask without speaking.
"In your berth sir." Carson replied, knowing what he wanted.
"You keep picking things up."
"Well, sir, you keep lying things about as it were. I was just trying to..."
"Yes, yes...it's quite alright." Callum said, stopping and looking at Carson. "I suppose we will figure each other out soon enough?" Callum smiled.
"I certainly hope so, sir." Carson beamed. "That was sail ho, sir."
"Yes, I heard. It looks like it's time." Callum turned to walk toward the berth doorway. He stepped in, Carson right behind him. Callum saw the tunic hanging on the wall, just inside. He saw his necktie, draped over it, and reached. Carson was also reaching. Callum sighed to himself. "Carson, I am quite capable." Callum said softly.
"Sorry, sir." Carson said, dropping his hand, lowering his eyes. Callum took it and put it around his neck, when they heard the knock.
"Beg pardon, sir."
"Yes?" Callum said, as he stepped out of the berth. Young Talon was there in the doorway. His eyes flashing with excitement, his face was pale, but his cheeks glowed.
"Mr. Arvin's compliments, sir. Sail off the larboard beam, sir."
"The squadron, Mr. Talon?"
"Uh, no, sir. It seems to be a Frenchman, sir, flying their colors."
"What?!" Callum asked, his eyes wide. He bolted for the door, Talon right behind him. Callum walked quickly through the galley and out on deck, Talon was almost trotting to keep up. Callum went to the starboard rail and looked forward, and then up the stairs quickly to the Quarterdeck. He turned and looked forward again, as Arvin stepped closer to him. "Glass!" Callum called out, holding his hand out. He took the glass that Arvin handed to him, and pulled it full open, lifting it to his eye.
"It seems to be a French sloop, sir." Arvin said.
"Yes." Callum said, watching the sails, then seeing the French flag. "What is she doing here? And now?" Callum asked out loud, lowering the glass from his eye. "Beat to quarters, Mr. Arvin."
"Very good, sir." Arvin tipped his hand, then stepped to the rail. "Beat to quarters!" Drums started, men moved quickly about, securing and began to man the guns. Arvin looked back at Callum for a moment and then stepped back a step. "Do you think she is carrying supplies, sir?"
"A possibility, Mr. Arvin. But, I think she is carrying more than just that."
"I am not a gambling man, Mr. Arvin, but I would wager that she carries information, regarding our squadron. Look at her carefully." Callum said, handing the glass back to Arvin. "She is at full tack, travelling south, in quite a hurry. I would wager that she knows of the squadron and is going to spread word of them setting sail."
"I would not wager against it, sir." Arvin said, as he looked forward with the glass. "She's seen us, sir. Looks like she running."
"Amos." Callum said. "Six points to starboard. I want to cut her off."
"Aye, sir. Six points."
"We will bring her under our lee, Mr. Arvin. I want to board that ship." Callum said, as Carson appeared with Callum's tunic. Carson held it, as Callum slipped his arms into the sleeves, and then put it up on his shoulders, and patted the fabric, brushing it off. "Thank you, Carson." Callum said, as Carson handed him his necktie. "That won't be necessary." Callum looked at Carson, fluffing out his tail from the collar.
"Very good, sir." Carson said, tipping his head slightly.
"Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled. The young man snapped up, near the bow. "Prepare a shot across her bow!"
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin yelled back, then turned to his men, getting them going.
"Almost in range, sir." Arvin said. He and Callum had been watching closely as they drew near the other ship. She had not dropped any sail yet.
"Quite so, Mr. Arvin." Callum moved to the center of the rail, watching her coming on toward them. "I think she is going try and make a run for it."
"I agree, sir."
"Well, let us show her that we mean business, Mr. Arvin. Fire a shot across her bows."
"Mr. Tomlin!" Arvin yelled. "Stand by to fire!" Arvin watched Tomlin, raise his hand in answer, as he waited for the order. "Fire!" Tomlin yelled to fire at his men, and then the cannon went off. All eyes looked forward as the ball hit the water on the far side ahead of the sloop. They waited a minute and then the flag began to lower. The men on deck of the Dover cheered.
"All hands!" Callum yelled. "Standby!" He wanted to keep the men quiet, and focused. "Mr. Arvin," Callum said, seeing the sloop starting to drop sail. "we shall swing around, bring her under our lee. Lower a boat over the side."
"Aye, sir. Prepare a boat! Standby to lower away!" Arvin yelled out. "Make ready your lines! Stand by on the port side! Run out your guns!"
"Amos, bring us around her." Callum said, as he stepped back to the wheel. "Cut across her bow and then swing us down her starboard side."
"Aye, aye, sir." Amos said, and began to work the wheel. Callum stepped forward to the rail, watching as they swung across the sloops bow, and then started up their port side. The Marines on deck were facing out, muskets at the ready. Callum glanced at Anders, Holt, and McGuffin, they too were at the ready. Callum shifted his glance to the sloop, watching their crew strike sail, looking themselves from time to time at what was coming. Callum could hear the Spanker over his head, shifting, to keep driving the Dover as they slid up and then began to come around the stern end of the sloop.
"Strike sail, Mr. Arvin." Callum said, as they rounded the stern of the sloop.
"Aye, sir. Strike sail!" Arvin yelled. He looked aloft as sails began to raise up, losing their furl in the wind. "Stand by to lower away!" Arvin yelled, as Dover began her slow turn, slowing in the water.
"Mr. Arvin, would you care to do the honors and board the sloop?"
"I would be happy to, sir." Arvin grinned, tipping his hand.
"Very well then. Take a boarding party, with six Marines. I want any dispatches you may find, and ascertain what cargo there may be. Take Mr. Talon with you."
"Very good, sir."
"And, Mr. Arvin, take no chances."
"I understand, sir." Arvin nodded toward Callum, tipped his hand and walked toward the port stairs. "Lower away!" Arvin yelled as he went down the stairs. He walked to the gunwale and stopped. "Captain Anders!" Arvin called out, Anders turned in his direction. "Might I have a detail of your Marines, if you please? Mr. Talon? You will accompany me as well."
"Very good, sir." Anders smiled. "Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir. Sergeant, detail six men to accompany Mr. Arvin."
"Very good, SIR!" McGuffin snapped, then spun to the men on the rail, calling out names, forming a detail.
Carson emerged on deck, quickly walking over and gave Arvin his sword and a pistol. Arvin took them from him, tucking them into place in his belt. Greene, the boson, came up from below, carrying a few small arms as well, and began to hand them out to the boat crew, giving a pistol to Talon. Callum watched as his officers and men responded, each knowing what they had to do, as Anders had his Marines refill the vacant positions on the rails. The boat crew went over the side, followed by the Marines, Talon, and Arvin went last, looking up at Callum, tipping his hand. Callum nodded back in reply. Callum stood there for a minute, as he was joined by Eddington and Middleboro, then they heard the order below to cast off. Everyone watched as the boat crew rowed, pulling deep to speed their way.
A few minutes later, the longboat pulled alongside the sloop and was tied off. A few of the boat crew went up and over the side of the sloop, to act as cover, and to secure the boat even further. Talon went up and over to the deck of the sloop, and then Marines went up as well, a minute after the boat crew, and set about securing the French, as Arvin made his way up. He approached the man at the stern, and was handed the pennant of the sloop, signifying surrender. Arvin and two Marines followed the man below and disappeared from Callum's sight. All Callum could do now was wait.
Minutes seemed like hours to Callum, as he watched the sloop less than one hundred yards away. The gun crews and the Marines held fast in their positions, waiting as well, for orders and any possible trouble. To Callum's relief, Arvin reappeared. He walked over to Talon, handing something to him, then Talon went back over the side, with some of the boat crew. They dropped lines and started rowing back to the Dover. Callum watched and waited. As the boat was secured to the side, Talon came up and through the gunwale. He walked quickly to the Quarterdeck, up the stairs. He walked swiftly to his waiting Captain, holding out a small satchel, tipping his hand to Callum.
"With Mr. Arvin's compliments, sir." Talon said. Callum opened the bag, removing several sealed envelopes. Callum read each, seeing the one addressed to a Colonel Bonnaire. Callum handed the satchel back to Talon, and opened it. It was in French, and Callum had some trouble with the writing.
"How's your French, Mr. Eddington?" Callum asked.
"Very good, sir." Eddington said, as he stepped up closer to Callum.
"Can you decipher this then?" Callum held it, as Eddington looked down at it.
"It gives details of the sailing of the squadron, sir. It speaks of our Marines and the landing at La Rochelle, sir, along with our planned date of arrival." Eddington looked up at Callum, their eyes meeting. "How...?"
"How indeed, Mr. Eddington, how indeed." Callum narrowed his eyes, then turned and looked at Talon. "Mr. Talon, how many men are aboard on that sloop?"
"Eleven, sir." Talon straightened.
"Very good. Form a prize crew, Mr. Talon, enough men to handle her back to Portsmouth."
"Aye, aye, sir." Talon's eyes flashed, grinning. He turned and went to carry out Callum's order.
"Mr. Eddington," Callum said, as he turned, "do you think you can sail her back to Portsmouth?"
"Yes, you. Do you think you can?"
"Why, yes, sir." Eddington looked confused. Callum leaned forward to him a little.
"Paul, it only makes sense that it would be you to sail her. My other officers are battle trained already, and now with this turn of events, I must reach the squadron immediately. It would appear we have a spy in the Admiralty."
"I understand." Eddington replied softly, but looking hurt and disappointed. Callum backed a half step.
"Turn the French crew over to the dock guard when you reach Portsmouth, and have the ship and cargo turned over as prize." Callum said loud enough for the others about them to hear. "And when we return to Portsmouth, after the mission, I will be happy to welcome you back aboard as one of my officers." Callum said, with a smile.
"Thank you, sir." Eddington still looked disappointed.
"Think of it as your first command." Callum said, holding out his hand, indicating the sloop. "Tell Mr. Arvin your orders, and have him return with all haste." Callum looked at Anders, who had come to the Quarterdeck." Captain Anders, I will require your men on the sloop to accompany Mr. Eddington back to Portsmouth. I do not mean to detract from your forces, however I feel it is necessary."
"I understand, Captain." Anders bowed his head slightly.
Callum looked back at Eddington. "Carry out your orders, Captain Eddington." Callum extended his hand to Eddington, Eddington took it. "And, Paul, if the French crew gives you any trouble, shoot them." Callum took his hand back.
"I will, sir. I will see you upon your return."
"Safe journey, Captain Eddington."
"And you, sir." Eddington said, tipping his hand. He walked to the stairs, then down to the Main Deck, over to the gunwale, speaking to Talon. The prize crew and the boat crew went over the side, then Talon went, and then Eddington turned, tipping his hand to Callum, and climbed down. Callum watched the boat row toward the sloop, and then looked at the other envelopes.
"Aye, sir?" Middleboro straightened.
"Summon Mr. Tomlin, if you please."
"Very good, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand and walked quickly toward the stairs. Callum opened and read another of the seized sealed envelopes. It was marked for the same Colonel Bonnaire, probably this Colonel had command of the fortress they were to engage. Callum opened it, but was having trouble with the writing. It was obviously written in haste. Tomlin came up to him and tipped his hand.
"Ah, Mr. Tomlin," Callum said, looking up, "take the deck. As soon as Mr. Arvin is aboard, have him report to me in the Great Cabin, and get the longboat secured. We need to get underway immediately."
"Aye, aye, sir." Tomlin straightened, and tipped his hand as Callum walked away.
"Carson," Callum said, as he walked through the galley, "would you bring more coffee please? It is going to be another long night."
"Very good, sir." Carson answered, watching Callum walk through toward the Great Cabin.
Callum sat at the table and read the two dispatches again, slowly and carefully, deciphering every word. He got up and went to the berth and picked up the inkwell and the log from the desk, taking them out to the table. He opened the log, and rewrote each word of the dispatches into the log. Carson brought in a tray with coffee and a cup, setting it down, trying not to look at the log as Callum wrote.
"Carson, bring another cup, will you? Mr. Arvin will be joining me as well."
"Very good, sir." Carson turned and opened the door, as Arvin was getting ready to knock. "Mr. Arvin is here, sir." Carson said, stepping aside, letting Arvin through the doorway.
"Thank you, Carson." Callum said, not looking up. "Have a seat, Mr. Arvin." Callum said, pointing to the chair next to him with the quill. Arvin set his hat down on the table and took the chair.
"Were they dispatches as you thought, sir?" Arvin asked softly. Callum lifted his head, and slid the log over in front of Arvin.
"This is what I have deciphered out of these two only." Callum said, equally as soft. Arvin read what Callum had written, and then looked up at Callum, his eyes were wide.
"Dear God." Arvin whispered.
"Exactly what I said." Callum said, sitting back lifting fingers of one hand to his lips.