DOVER Chapter 22
"Can you really believe this, sir?" Arvin asked, his face covered with astonishment.
"What else can I do, William? Written in French, for a French Colonel? It would seem very damning. I would be a fool not to take it at face value." Callum said.
"What of the other dispatches?" Arvin asked.
"I shall leave them sealed." Callum said. "Once we reach the squadron, I shall turn them over to Lord Fitzwarren, privately. If, it is true, then he will deal with it."
"I suppose you're right, sir." Arvin said, sitting back in the chair. Callum reached over and closed the log book as Carson came in, bearing another cup. He set it before Arvin, and reached for the pot to pour for him.
"Thank you, Carson." Callum said.
"Would you care for supper, sir?" Carson asked.
"I'm not hungry, thank you." Callum said. "Mr. Arvin?"
"I have lost my appetite, sir." Arvin sat up in his chair.
"This will do for now, Carson." Callum said. Carson looked worried at both of them. There was a knock at the door. "Enter." Callum said, looking at the door, as it opened. "Yes, Mr. Talon?"
"Mr. Tomlin's compliments, sir. We are under full sail, sir." Talon said, his hat under his arm. Carson stepped around behind him, and then out of the cabin.
"And the sloop?" Callum asked.
"Under way, sir. She is on a west northwest course back toward Portsmouth, sir."
"Very well. Thank you, Mr. Talon." Callum said.
"Sir." Talon said, tipping his hand, then opening the door, closing it behind him.
"Sir," Arvin said, leaning forward, resting an arm on the table, looking at Callum next to him. "if I may ask, Lt. Eddington, is not that experienced with sailing..."
"Why did I send him then?" Callum asked for Arvin. Arvin nodded. "If what I have interpreted is true, then Lt. Eddington, being from the Admiralty as well..."
"You suspect him as well?"
"It is at least a possibility." Callum said. "Think about it. He arrives on board, no orders, tells me in confidence that he knows that our orders have changed, and that Captain Anders large Marine force is known to him already, and that he intercepted dispatches from the Admiralty? Then we happen upon a French sloop, carrying dispatches that know of our plans. Is it mere coincidence? I think not." Callum breathed out heavily through his nose. "If I had left him on board, and he is part of all of this...treason, I would be an even bigger fool."
"I see your point, sir." Arvin said, picking up his cup. He sipped from it. "What do you think His Lordship will say?"
"If I know His Lordship, he will act accordingly. Justice will be swift, I assure you." Callum said, picking up the dispatches, looking them over again. "I pray that I am wrong about Lt. Eddington."
"Agreed, sir. I thought him to be a fine officer."
"As do I." Callum said softly. Arvin finished his coffee, and then stood.
"I shall take the deck from Mr. Tomlin, with your permission, sir."
"I think possibly you should get some rest first." Callum said.
"You should as well, sir."
"I shall, after we reach the squadron. There will be time before we reach La Rochelle." Callum said, standing. "No, you rest, I will take the deck from Mr. Tomlin. I have too much on my mind to rest anyway."
"As you say, sir." Arvin bowed his head slightly. He turned and walked out of the cabin. Callum slipped his tunic back on, and picked up his hat, he pulled out his tail from the collar. He walked out of the door, heading for the Quarterdeck. He saw Carson and Shem preparing to feed the crew, as the hour was drawing near for the change of the watch. Callum opened the door out onto the Main Deck. He walked over to the port stairs, and climbed them. He walked slowly toward Tomlin who was at the rail, standing rigid.
"Mr. Tomlin." Callum nodded.
"Sir." Tomlin tipped his hand to Callum. "We are under full sail, sir."
"So I see." Callum said, looking up overhead. "How is she doing?"
"Well, sir. I took a sounding a few minutes ago, sir, we are at four knots."
"Four knots? Well done, Mr. Tomlin."
"Thank you, sir."
"I shall take the deck. You may go below and have your supper."
Tomlin looked confused. "Is everything alright, sir?"
"Yes, of course. Are you suspect of something, Mr. Tomlin?"
"Uh, no, sir. I was..."
"It's quite alright, Mr. Tomlin. I wish to be on deck this evening, that's all."
"As you wish, sir." Tomlin replied sheepishly, tipping his hand, then walking away to the starboard stairs. Callum turned and walked over to the staunch at the Mizzen mast, looking at the compass direction. He looked back up as the stars were not out quite yet, as the dusk was beginning to cast long shadows across the deck.
Callum walked to the rail, looking out toward her bows, the men on deck seeing him there were slightly nervous as they went about their work, looking up at him from time to time. They all knowing that it was strange the Captain had the deck at this time of day, unless they were engaged in battle. Callum watched for any sign of sail, and saw none. He looked up seeing up on the Main, the watch was being kept, he could not tell who it was, but he could see, whoever he was, that he was looking ahead as well, scanning the horizon. Callum lowered his gaze and turned, walking the Quarterdeck, going toward the aft quarter. He stopped at the large rail, looking down at their wake. It did seem that they were moving well, heading north toward their rendezvous. The sooner, the better, Callum thought. He closed his eyes feeling the sway of the deck and the wind on his face.
"May I get you something, sir?" The voice behind him made Callum open his eyes and turn. Carson was standing there. "Coffee or tea, perhaps?"
"No. I believe I have had enough for now, thank you Carson." Callum looked aloft, not seeing any movement from the lookout. "I was wondering. Perhaps if you would fetch me a book, that might make the time pass more smoothly."
"Of course, sir. Anything in particular?"
"Whatever is close at hand." Callum said with a smile.
"I'll only be a moment, sir." Carson beamed, then turned and walked quickly away. Callum turned and looked at a storage locker that was at the aft rail. Callum walked over to it and sat on the lid, making himself comfortable. Callum looked up again. He could see the lookout from his seat, and then settled back. Within a couple of minutes, Carson returned carrying a book. He handed it to Callum. Callum smiled briefly as he took and looked at it. Carson waited for a moment as Callum opened it, reading it, and then looked up at Carson.
"Thomas Gray?" Callum asked.
"Yes, sir. It was a favorite of Captain Powers, sir."
"I didn't realize that Captain Powers appreciated poetry."
"Indeed he did, sir."
"Thank you, Carson. I will try it." Callum said, as he began to read it.
"You're welcome, sir." Carson said, and then walked away.
Callum settled on the chest lid, reading the poetry. He slowly started to enjoy it. The words took his mind away from what was foremost in his mind. He was getting lost in the reading, and as the day began to slip away, the sun setting lower on the horizon, Callum was turning the book to get more light to see the print. He was lost to the time, until he heard the sips bell signaling. Callum looked aloft as the watch was beginning to change. The rotation of the crew was at hand, and the lookout was replaced. Callum watched as he climbed the rigging going up the Main. The new man at the wheel, never looked at Callum, but maintained the course that was already set. Callum stood up for a minute and looked forward over the bow of the Dover. He settled back on the lid of the chest, opening the book to his place he had left.
"Deck there! Sail...off the starboard quarter!" Came the voice from above. Callum stood and looked but could see nothing. Callum strained his eyes, but couldn't make anything out from the dusk.
"Glass, sir." One of the hands said, handing Callum a glass. Callum set the book on the rail, and took the glass from him, pulling it open, he lifted it to his eye. He scanned side to side slowly moving, and then there they were, the squadron, all five ships, scattered about but close to one another.
"At last." Callum said, closing the glass. "Steady your helm." Callum said over his shoulder.
Callum was looking forward watching as he was beginning to see the outline of the squadron. He thought that at present speed and wind they would be nearing them within fifteen minutes or so. Callum backed up a few steps, to come next to the wheel and the helmsman there.
"Starboard your helm." Callum said quietly, as he knew he could be heard. Dover responded to the turn but slowly as they began to ease against the wind. Callum watched and waited for the turn to roll them out. He glanced aloft, seeing the canvas starting to back strain against the wind. "Ease your helm." He said.
"Aye sir." The wheel stopped its slow turning. Callum looked aloft again, gauging the canvas. He went back to the rail and picked up the book, walking it back to the chest, setting it on the lid. He turned and went back to the wheel. He looked forward again. The squadron was now in full view. The Valiant could be seen with the other ships around her. Callum could clearly see the Tarkington off the Valiant's bows.
"We will bring her in on the windward side." Callum said. "Starboard your helm, three points."
"Aye, sir. Three points." The wheel turned gradually. Callum looked aloft again, gauging the wind. Sails were dropping away. "Three points, sir."
"Keep her steady." Callum said, letting the momentum carry Dover now, as the wind was against them. Callum wanted to be out in the lead of the squadron, as per his orders to go on ahead of the squadron. "Steady now." Callum said quietly, looking ahead seeing the squadron drawing closer. Callum stepped to the rail. "Hands aloft! Standby to break sail!" Callum yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth. Men jumped and set about, going up the rigging. He looked up, watching them, and then looked forward again. "Now, port your helm. Bring us with the wind."
"Aye, sir." The wheel spun back in the other direction. The deck moaned and creaked as she started to turn, back with the wind, sails began to billow again, and she responded better now. Callum could see the squadron coming along the starboard side now.
"Strike sails!" Callum yelled. He looked aloft as the sails began to raise. He looked starboard, seeing the position of the squadron, and smiled as he was almost exactly where he wanted to be, almost in length side with the Tarkington. "Lively now!" Callum yelled. "Ease your helm."
"Aye, sir." The wheel rolled back. Callum looked aloft again, as he watched the sails all draw up. He brought his attention back to the squadron. He noted that all of the ships had dropped anchor. He thought it strange, if they were to be underway as soon as possible, perhaps that too had changed. Callum thought about it as he walked to the starboard rail, surveying the squadron clearly. The Valiant was hoisting flags. "Glass!" Callum called, holding out his hand. Callum extended his hand and the glass was placed in it. He pulled it and read the marks of the flags, smiling to himself, knowing what it said, but he became nervous over it. It would soon be time.
"Is that Captain report aboard, sir?" Callum knew the voice behind him.
"Yes, Mr. Arvin, it is." Callum turned seeing Arvin standing close behind him. "Would you have a boat lowered, please?"
"Very good, sir." Arvin said, turning away. "Break out the Captain's gig! Standby to lower over the side!" Arvin watched the men of the boat crew hurry about, pulling the canvas cover and untie the lines. Blocks and lines were set and readied.
"I shall be in my cabin for a minute, Mr. Arvin, if you will kindly take the deck?"
"Indeed I shall, sir." Arvin said, tipping his hand. Arvin knew what Callum was going for. He watched Callum walk down the stairs and go in through the door.
Callum walked through the galley to the Great Cabin, dropping his hat on the table. He went into the berth and grabbed his necktie off the peg. He slipped off his tunic. He looked into the small looking glass on the wall as he wrapped the tie around the collar of his shirt a couple of times and then began to tie the knot. He slipped the tunic back on, and went to the desk, picking up the dispatches, and slipped them into his inside pocket. He walked out quickly and picked up his hat off the table, going for the door. He could hear the clattering sounds of Carson and possibly Shem in the galley as he came through. Callum did not stop. He opened the door and went out on deck. Callum could see the gig being lowered. He grew even more anxious now. He went up onto the Quarterdeck.
"She's starting to drift, sir." Arvin said.
"Yes. It looks as though we may be here for a while, Mr. Arvin. Drop anchor, if you will."
"Aye, sir." Arvin said quietly, giving Callum a careful side glance. He went to the rail. "Drop anchor!" Arvin backed up a step to Callum.
"I am somewhat apprehensive about this, Mr. Arvin." Callum said in a low voice.
"I share it with you, sir." Arvin said, just as low.
"Well, best to get this over with. The ship is yours, Mr. Arvin." Callum gave a brief smile.
"Aye, sir." Arvin said. He stepped to the rail, as Callum went down the stairs. "Man the side!" Arvin yelled. The boat crew went over down to the gig. Greene, the bosun, and two others waited at the gunwale, standing at attention as Callum approached. Greene lifted the pipe to his lips. Callum stopped and looked back at the Quarterdeck, tipping his hand toward the wheel. Greene sounded the pipe as Callum stepped through, turned, and went down to the gig. Callum rested into the seat at the stern next to the tiller. He watched as lines were cast off and then oars were used to push off. The Coxswain ordered oars into the water and to pull. Callum sat in silence the entire time as they pulled toward the Valiant. The boat crew was ordered to ship oars, and then they tied off, letting Callum make the climb up the side. The Coxswain ordered the boat crew to push off, to join the other boats at the stern of the Valiant.
The pipe sounded as Callum stepped on the deck of the Valiant. A young Lieutenant stepped forward, tipping his hand to Callum, he nodded in return. He led Callum down and through the companionway to the Great Cabin. He tipped his hand to Callum, who nodded again, and removed his hat, tucking it under his arm. Callum knocked.
"Come in." Callum blew out a short breath and opened the door. "Ah, Callum, at last. Where the devil have you been?" Fitzwarren boomed.
"I regret our tardiness, My Lord, for having been delayed." Callum said, eyeing the room carefully. Smythe was standing near Fitzwarren.
"And what delay was that?"
"The arrival of the large Marine detachment, My Lord. Apparently there was trouble with their transport."
"Yes, I see." Fitzwarren said, raising an eyebrow. "Were you able to accommodate them then?"
"With little difficulty, My Lord." Callum bowed his head slightly.
"Yes, well...come and join us at the table, now that we are all assembled." Fitzwarren turned, and went to the head of the long table. He sat down, the other Captains followed suit. Callum sat directly across from Smythe, eyeing him carefully. Smythe gave Callum a side glance or two, seeing his look. "Gentlemen, as some of you know, the plan has changed slightly." Fitzwarren began, "Each of you carries a contingent of extra Marines. Our goal now is to land them at the fortress at La Rochelle and hold that position. We will still destroy the fleet that is there, however our primary goal is to hold that position. Once the fleet is destroyed, we will withdraw to give support to the Marines in the fortress. There will be three of us to secure and hold the bay. The others will return to England."
"My Lord," Smythe said, eyeballing Callum for a moment, and then looking at Fitzwarren, "your plan suggests invasion."
"It does indeed. The Duke of Wellington plans to use La Rochelle for his entry point to invade France, and put a stop to Napoleon."
"How soon, My Lord?" Smythe asked. Callum gritted his teeth at the question.
"That is up to the Duke, Smythe." Fitzwarren said, leaning on one arm of his chair. "Those not engaged in holding the bay and supporting the Marines are to return to England to refit and await the Duke." Fitzwarren looked about at his Captains. "I will inform you who is to stay after we engage the fleet and take the fortress. Any questions, gentlemen?" Fitzwarren looked about again. "We shall set sail at dawn. Smythe, Callum, the plan has not changed for you to proceed ahead of the rest of the squadron. Do your best to do as much damage as you can prior to our arrival."
"Yes, My Lord." Callum said, bowing his head slightly. Smythe only nodded.
"That will be all gentlemen. Pleasant evening to you." Fitzwarren said, as he stood. All of them got to their feet, bowing to him. Callum had a look in his eye, not paying attention to Smythe, but trying to get Fitzwarren's attention. Fitzwarren saw it, and narrowed his eyes. "Something wrong, Captain Callum?"
"I was wondering, My Lord, if I might have a private audience with you?"
"Hmmm, yes." Fitzwarren turned and walked over to a table against the wall. He opened a decanter and poured two glasses. Callum turned and looked toward the door, Smythe was looking back at Callum and then dropped his eyes and left the room. Fitzwarren turned with two glasses in his hand, holding one out toward Callum. Callum stepped closer and took it from Fitzwarren, waiting for Callum to say something. Callum held up the glass.
"The King." Callum said. Fitzwarren held his up as well.
"To the King." Fitzwarren said, putting the glass to his lips and sipped at it. Callum did the same. "Now, what is it, my lad?" Callum came up next to Fitzwarren and set his glass down, he had a look of urgency in his face now.
"My Lord, part of the reason that I was delayed was we captured a French sloop." Callum said, Fitzwarren's eyes widened. "Once we boarded her, we found several dispatches." Callum pulled them from his pocket, handing them to Fitzwarren. "I took the liberty of opening two of them. They were intended for the Colonel in command of the fortress at La Rochelle, My Lord."
"They are in French, of course. But, my translation of them was confirmed. Do you read French, My Lord?"
"No. But I know someone aboard who does." Fitzwarren said, as he started across the cabin.
"I hope you are not referring to Captain Smythe, My Lord?" Callum turned, as Fitzwarren went past him.
"Yes, I was. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know how to say this, My Lord, but Captain Smythe is named clearly in one of the dispatches."
"Dear God!" Fitzwarren went white. "He was with Nelson at the Nile, and Gibralter. What are saying, sir?"
"I imply nothing, My Lord. I simply am taking the dispatch at face value."
"Be careful, sir! What you speak of is treason." Fitzwarren stepped closer to Callum.
"I am aware of that, My Lord. It is troublesome to me as well." Callum looked at Fitzwarren with soft eyes. "Is there someone else aboard who can read French, My Lord?"
"One of my aides, I believe." Fitzwarren said, Callum just rolled his head slightly at him in reply. Fitzwarren turned and went to the door. He opened it. The Marines outside snapped to attention. "Pass the word for Lt. Collingwood." Fitzwarren closed the door, turning. He looked at the deck, then looked up at Callum. "Perhaps these dispatches were falsified."
"Perhaps, My Lord." Callum said. "I pray that they are."
"What is your opinion of Captain Smythe?"
"He is a legend, My Lord. His victories with Lord Nelson are renown. As a midshipman, we were taught his tactics in class. He is brilliant, and to be admired. I do so pray, My Lord, that I am wrong." There was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" Fitzwarren turned and looked at the door. "Ah, Collingwood, come in." The young Lieutenant closed the door and walked over toward Fitzwarren. He tipped his hand. "Can you read French?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"Very good." Fitzwarren cleared his throat, as Collingwood looked at Callum and then back to Fitzwarren. "I am going to have you translate something for me. You may not discuss it with another living soul. Am I clear?"
"Very clear, My Lord." Collingwood nodded.
"Lt. Collingwood, this is Captain Callum of the Dover. The Captain has intercepted some dispatches, that's what I need translated." Fitzwarren handed the dispatches to Collingwood. "Take a seat. Read them carefully, I want no mistakes."
"Yes, My Lord." Collingwood sat down at the table. Callum came to his side, standing next to him.
"This one first, if you wouldn't mind, Mr. Collingwood." Callum said, pointing at one of the open ones. Collingwood looked up at Callum and then back to the dispatch. He read it and his eyes opened wide at what he read. Fitzwarren drew near to his other side.
"Out loud, Collingwood."
"Uh, yes, My Lord." Collingwood swallowed hard as he began to read aloud. "Colonel Bonnaire, a squadron of six English are enroute to your fortress at La Rochelle, they are due on the evening of the 20th. Two ships will lead the attack, one will be identified by a second pennant, do not fire on that ship. Soldiers are to disembark to take the fortress."
"Dear God! They knew of everything!" Fitzwarren said loudly. "Does it say who wrote it?"
"Someone named Maupin, My Lord."
"Maupin. Never heard of him. Alright, read the second one."
"Bonnaire, fleet is sailing now...is confirmed....this should reach you...days to prepare...do not fire on second pennant...Smythe will take care of troops...destroy docks...Maupin." Collingwood gulped hard. "My Lord, his writing is very poor, there are a few words I cannot make out."
"I think I have the general idea." Fitzwarren said. "Open another one." Collingwood opened a sealed envelope. "Thirion, supplies aboard the sloop are for the fortress, do not let them go to other. Maupin"
"The next one."
Collingwood opened it. "Thirion, send sloop to Brest for additional, and then back to island. Maupin."
"Additional supplies, no doubt." Fitzwarren said, scratching his chin. "And then back to the island. Obviously back to England, but where? Next one."
"Bonnaire, confirmed one thousand troops aboard ships. Second pennant will fire upon docks and troops. Do not fire on second pennant, urgent you understand. Maupin."
"Damn the man!" Fitzwarren yelled, slamming his fist on the table. "I'll have him hanged before the night is up!"
"My Lord..." Callum said, "let us hear the last dispatch." Fitzwarren growled and turned and went and poured another glass. He downed it quickly and then poured another. "Collingwood."
"Bonnaire, hold fire until entire fleet is in bay. Send word to Captains to be ready for fleet. Maupin." Collingwood set the last one on the table, he felt ill. He sat back in his chair, barely believing what he just read. Callum put a hand to his shoulder and patted it, not knowing this young officer, but seeing the shocked look on his face was enough.
"I'll have him drawn and quartered." Fitzwarren said, draining his glass. "He won't get away with this." Fitzwarren turned and headed for the door. Callum stepped in front of him.
"My Lord." Callum said.
"Out of my way, sir." Fitzwarren growled.
"My Lord, if you please. We have intercepted the dispatches, they have no idea as of yet. This could work in our favor."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, My Lord, if they don't know yet, then our plan may still prevail."
"And what of the traitor?"
"He does not know yet either, My Lord. If he suspected, there might be other plans afoot. I suggest that we carry out the plan, but with a difference."
"And what would that be?"
"Smythe will have to communicate to me his intentions to take the fortress. As we sail into the bay, the fortress is in view first as it is on the north end of the bay. If I were in the lead, I could attack the fortress first, then swing into the fleet. He would have no choice but to follow or tip his hand. Either way, My Lord, we win the day."
"Bold. But what of Smythe? I cannot simply dismiss this."
"I understand that, My Lord, however the Tarkington and her crew would best be served if her Captain were intact. Not knowing Captain Smythe's first, I could not know if we were to be successful."
Fitzwarren narrowed his eyes at Callum. "Sound reasoning, Captain Callum. A traitor behind you, the enemy in your lap, and yet you wish to continue with this plan? You are either the bravest man I have ever met, or the biggest fool." Fitzwarren stared at Callum, then shook his head. "Your act of compassion has killed you, you realize that."
"Not necessarily, My Lord." Callum said, exhaling.
"I can end this right now. This evidence is damning, Smythe will hang." Fitzwarren said, cocking an eyebrow.
"And then what, My Lord? If we win the day, then Captain Smythe can be hanged for treason. If we do not, then it is possible that he would be killed. In either event, My Lord, justice will be served."
"It was a pleasure knowing you, Captain Callum." Fitzwarren held out his hand. Callum took it. "England could use more men like you to end this conflict."
"Thank you, sir." Callum smiled. "I have a favor to ask, My Lord."
"What is it?"
"If we survive, and when it comes time, I wish to be the one to arrest Captain Smythe."
"Very well. The honor will fall to you."
"Thank you, My Lord."
"Pleasant evening, Captain Callum." Fitzwarren said, nodding slightly. Callum bowed his head a little more. Callum walked to the door.
"Captain Callum," Collingwood called out, looking at Fitzwarren, "beg pardon, My Lord." Collingwood walked over to Callum. "Might I shake your hand, sir?"
"Quite." Callum said, with a half smile, reaching his hand out. Collingwood took it and clasped his other hand to it as well. "Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Collingwood."
"My pleasure, sir." Collingwood let him go, and watched him walk out.
"He is no fool, is he Collingwood?"
"No, My Lord, he is not." Collingwood turned and looked at him. "May I be of further service, My Lord?"
"Only your silence."
"As you wish, My Lord." Collingwood bowed his head slightly.
Callum walked out on deck, as the boat crew from the Dover was alerted that Callum was waiting. They began to row toward the Valiant. Callum stood and waited.
"Ah, there you are, Callum." Callum's eyes widened hearing the voice from behind him. He turned and there stood Smythe.
"Captain Smythe, I thought you had left for the Tarkington?"
"The evening is still young. Would you care to join me aboard the Tarkington for that drink?"
"I thought that was for after our victory?"
"Come now, there is much that we need to plan for, as we are taking the lead of the squadron."
"I think that we already have our orders. There is still so much to prepare for aboard the Dover, and we will be sailing at dawn."
"I insist." Smythe said.
"I intend no insult, sir, but I am afraid that I must decline. My ship is in need of tending."
"Very well, Captain, if you must. I will see you in the dawn."
"That you will, Captain." Callum said.
"Here's hoping that you can keep up with the Tarkington."
"We shall see, Captain, we shall see." Callum smiled at him, and then nodded. The Bosun piped his pipe, as Callum went through the gunwale and climbed down into his gig. Callum sat down at the tiller. "Let's go home lads." Callum said, and looked up, seeing Smythe looking down from the deck. The boat crew pushed off. Callum was silent on the trip back to the Dover. She was quite a sight all lit up in the evening darkness. Callum could make out all of her lines as she rocked in the water from the swell. As they drew nearer, Callum could hear the familiar sounds aboard her. Some voices were sounding familiar, and then he heard someone call out, that the boat was coming alongside. Soon, hands lined the side to assist with bringing the boat in. Callum stepped up, and climbed up the side, up through the gunwale as the pipe sounded, signaling his return to the ship. He tipped his hand toward the Quarterdeck. He looked up and saw Arvin standing there. Callum paused and nodded to him. Arvin understood as Callum went in through the door.
A knock on the Great cabin door. "Enter." Callum said. Arvin opened the door.
"Smythe knows that we know. I saw it in his eyes when I left the Valiant. Get Anders and the senior officers."
Arvin looked horrified. "Yes, sir."
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. "Enter." Callum looked up from the table, where he sat. The senior officers, filed in, Captain Anders was last. Carson opened the door a little wider.
"May I get you something, sir?"
"Yes, Carson, perhaps a little wine?" Callum smiled briefly. Carson nodded. "Please, gentlemen, be seated." They all took their seats, looking at Callum, who was only in his shirt,, and long pants. He had removed his necktie and tunic. He seemed drained to them all, tired, more exhausted than anything else. Carson reentered the door, carrying a large tray with a decanter and several glasses. He set it on the table, near Callum. "Thank you, Carson, we can manage." Arvin was seated to Callum's right. Anders was across the table from Callum, Tomlin and Middleboro were to each side. Callum picked up the decanter and opened it. He poured the five glasses, each of them watching him, as he was silent. They waited and watched as their Captain set the decanter down and handed out the glasses. Callum lifted his glass. They followed suit. "To the success of the mission."
"The mission." They all said. Callum drained his glass and set it down. The others sipped at it.
"I am not going to pretend that any of you don't know what it is that we are facing." Callum sat back in his chair. "And I know that some of you might feel that I am not equal to the task at hand. But, I will say this, that I can do this, and will do it. The reasons for our success are many, but for me, it is to a swift end to this war. I so hate this war, gentlemen." Callum poured another, and then set the decanter down. "Captain Anders, let us not dance about any longer." Callum said, holding his glass to his chest, looking directly into the eyes of his old friend. "You and I both know what is coming. You knew before you came aboard." Anders stared back at Callum, like he was trapped, his eyes flashing. "I would have thought you might have been able to tell me, in confidence, but that never happened."
"Uh, yes, sir. I was under orders."
"Blast your orders, sir!" Callum yelled. "Does not loyalty mean anything in the Marines?!"
Anders hung his head a little. "You and I have been through so much together over all this time, you couldn't trust me? This is my ship, damn you, sir! My men are in grave danger and you couldn't trust me?" The other officers had lowered their heads, as Callum glared at Anders. "So, it is time for truth between us, all of us." Callum took in a deep breath. "I believe that the more that you know, the more that all of you understand, the better our chances, for the success of this mission, and us coming through this alive. Mr. Arvin and I discovered that the French sloop was carrying dispatches to our final destination, the fortress at La Rochelle. Its commander, a Colonel Bonnaire, was to be given details of the entire squadron and attack on his fortress. I understand, Captain, that you and your men, along with the other nine hundred odd, were to take this fortress and hold it, to launch the invasion by the Duke of Wellington." Anders eyes went wide, as he looked about at the other officers, then back to Callum. "Oh, fear not, Captain, I am betraying no confidence whatsoever, as that has already been done. As you clearly know. And if you don't, for the sake of my other officers, let me enlighten you. We have a spy in our midst. The dispatches that we intercepted clearly name him, and yes, Mr. Arvin, we were right in assuming who it is."
"Surely, Mr. Eddington..."
"I don't know yet, nor did I discuss it with his Lordship."
"Is he, this person, still have..."
"Yes, he does, and yes, he is. At my suggestion."
"I see." Arvin said, as he turned and stared blankly at the table. The others were looking at Callum.
"You gentlemen seem confused. I will explain. However, none of this is to leave this room." Callum looked at each and every one of them, each nodded to him, their understanding. "Very good. The dispatches in question name Captain Smythe as the traitor." All of their eyes went wide. "It was hard for me to accept as well. Imagine me trying to explain this to His Lordship." Callum shook his head. "The proof was in the dispatches. They named him several times, and according to those dispatches, Captain Smythe will be identifying his ship with a second pennant. It should be raised as we enter the bay at La Rochelle, believe me when I say, I will be looking for it. Mr. Tomlin, Mr. Middleboro, as you will be undoubtedly busy on the gun deck, and unable to see, Mr. Arvin and I will be watching for it, and his possible treachery, you see gentlemen, as I met with Lord Fitzwarren, after our briefing, Captain Smythe did not return to the Tarkington as I thought he might have, instead he held back, and tried to lure me aboard, I can only assume in hopes of either trying to find out what I know, or possibly to have some accident befall me. Either way, he knows that we know, and our position is now that much more grave."
"Traitor behind us, and enemy all around us." Arvin said softly.
"Exactly what His Lordship said, yes." Callum said. "The plan remains the same, with one slight detail. As you know, when we come in for the attack, especially into a bay, we would come in under head sails only, to make each shot count. We will come in under full sail gentlemen, I mean to strike hard and fast, then swing out and do it again. The faster we are moving, the less likely a target we will be. I also want to reach the bay first before the Tarkington. If I'm wrong, if they already know that we are coming, they will be ready, and I am certain that Smythe will fire on us."
"He wouldn't, sir." Tomlin said.
"Put yourself in his position. Wouldn't you?"
"But his crew, sir, being ordered to fire on another English ship?"
"I am certain he is already fabricating some lie to tell his officers. Mark my words, they will fire on us."
"I suppose you're right, sir." Tomlin said, hanging his head.
"If they do, sir, do we fire back?" Middleboro asked.
"I would prefer not. If we do not return her fire, that would raise question with the officers and the crew, casting doubt toward Smythe, and I would think that we will have enough to deal with between the fortress and the fleet at bay. Remember, French gun crews can respond quickly when summoned. I am hoping that most of them are unaware and will be drunk by the time we get there, that's why I suggested the cover of darkness."
"You sir?" Middleboro asked.
"Yes, when this was all planned at the Admiralty, I suggested that we and the Tarkington take the lead, going in under the cover of darkness. Our primary objective at the time was to draw the fleet out, and lead them to the rest of the squadron. Fox to the hounds, as it were." Callum sipped from his glass.
"But, sir, if she does fire upon us...?"
"Ah, that's where our dear Captain Anders comes in. I would ask of you, Captain to have either you or one of your sharpshooters single out Captain Smythe,..." Callum paused, taking another sip, "and then cut him down. You will save his Lordship from having to hang him, and having a disgrace mark His Majesty's Navy." Callum swallowed the last of his wine. "So, gentlemen, I want a thorough inspection of the ship. I want everything readied for battle as soon as we set sail at dawn. All extra powder to be in place and standing by. Captain Anders, make sure your men are ready at a moments notice. I will leave nothing to chance, do I make myself clear?" Callum looked about the table. All of them nodded their understanding. Callum eased back again. "Good, let's try and get some rest." All of them got up except Anders, who remained seated. Arvin waited at the door, watching Callum and then stepped out.
Arvin went down the companionway toward his small cabin, he stopped at the door, seeing Tomlin and Middleboro standing there at the far end of the companionway. Arvin cocked his head slightly, as they approached him. Tomlin went to say something, but Arvin raised a hand to silence him, opening his door, he had them go in first and then went in after he looked about to see if anyone else was there.
"Alright, what is it?" Arvin asked, closing the door.
"Is it really true, sir?" Tomlin asked.
"What? About Captain Smythe?" Arvin sighed, sitting on his berth, dropping his hat on it. He undid his own necktie. "I'm afraid that it is."
"How can that be?"
"Obviously, there is something that drove him to it. I have no idea what it might have been, and I'm sure that the Captain doesn't know either. Regardless, we have our orders. I know that the Captain knows what he's doing, and he went way out on a limb to bring us into it, make no mistake. What he told us goes far over the line in regulations. He, himself, could be hanged for this." Tomlin and Middleboro gulp hard. "Now, we were ordered to get some rest. Mr. Middleboro, relieve Mr. Talon in two hours, Mr. Tomlin, two hours after that, then send word for me. The Captain hasn't slept in over two days, he shouldn't be disturbed. Good night, gentlemen." Tomlin and Middleboro tipped their hands and then walked out, closing the door and went down the companionway, to go below.
"Speak what is on your mind, Carl." Callum said. Anders was surprised that Callum called him by name, he hadn't done that in a very long time. "There are no ranks right now. You are in my room, as a friend."
"Quintan, you know that I could not say anything, even beyond orders."
"Carl, you and I know that's not true. Do you remember when we had to go on that scouting mission outside of Cadiz? We were both under different orders, I had mine from Captain Powers, you had yours from General Emery. We were trapped and hiding in that old barn?" Callum smiled.
Anders smiled wide at the memory. "I remember that young senorita wouldn't keep her hands off you."
"The point is, that we told each other what our orders were, we had no secrets."
"That was different. We thought we were going to be captured or killed. Soldiers all around us, looking for us."
"Don't you see? There is no difference. We may be dead by this time tomorrow. Why didn't you trust me?"
"It's not a matter of trust, Quintan."
"The hell it's not. Carl, I've known you what, almost ten years now? And something as important as this, and what bothers me most, is that you knew."
"You're right, Quintan, I knew. Oh, not exactly who he was, but I knew there was a spy. I was hoping it might have been Eddington."
"That may yet be true." Callum said, pouring another glass for Anders and then for himself.
"I thought it was damn clever of you to get him off the ship though."
Callum smiled. "I have my moments, I suppose."
"Like tonight, that was absolutely brilliant. You came up with most of that by yourself didn't you?" Anders picked up his glass. "I would have loved to see His Lordship's face when you explained it all to him." Anders began to chuckle.
"It wasn't pretty." Callum said, and they both began to laugh. "His face kept getting redder and redder." Callum was laughing, Anders was crying he was laughing so hard. They slowly brought themselves under control. "Carl, I'm serious about Smythe." Callum said as leaned on the table. "Can you do it, if it comes down to it?"
"Quintan...you're my commanding officer, and my friend. If it has to be done, I'll do it."
"I would rather arrest him, but I don't think I will get the chance, especially if he knows."
"I agree. You'll have to kill him." Anders emptied his glass. He stood, and held out his hand. Callum stood and took it. "I will never betray my loyalty to you again, Quintan."
"I know that, Carl." Callum took his hand back.
"Good night, Captain." Anders said as he opened the door.
"Good night." Callum said, as he watched the door close. He picked up the wine glasses, absentmindedly, putting them on the tray, all of a sudden he thought of Martha, she would be in bed right now, sleeping, he smiled thinking of her, her probably thinking of he and Dustin. Dustin, how Callum needed him right now. Not just wanting him, but needing to just be with him, to talk to him, to be near him. Callum sat back down in the chair. He folded his arms on the table and lay his head on them, closing his eyes, he could see Dustin walking through the tall grass with him, as they walked the stone fence at the house. Dustin laughing as they talked, his soft voice, his scent of cotton and cowslip. Callum wished this was over, all of it, this nightmare he was in. As he drifted off into sleep, he could see Dustin walking away from him, then turning as he walked looking back, smiling his little boy smile, the dimples and the soft eyes. Callum called to him, asking him to wait for him, but Callum couldn't move. Dustin was still walking away, getting farther and farther away. It slowly grew dark around him, and Dustin slow faded from sight. Callum turned round and round, but couldn't see Dustin anywhere, no matter how many times he called out. Slowly it started to become lighter around him, Callum turned and stopped as a dark figure came closer toward him, and then there appeared to be more of them drawing nearer, the first figure loomed closer, Callum braced himself, and then out of the shadow that surrounded the figure stood Smythe, with a leer on his face. You will die, was all he said. Callum saw the others emerging from the dark coming to join Smythe, as the leer became more, became a look of total evil to Callum sending a chill down his spine. Smythe drew his sword slowly, clearing the scabbard, raising it above his head, and then he swung at Callum. Callum jumped awake, taking in a deep breath, hearing the ship's bell marking the time. He looked about the cabin, he was alone. He got up and went in to his privy and poured water into the basin from the pitcher. He splashed water into his face and then grabbed the cloth. The dream was so real to Callum, it had to be a dream.
"No." Callum said out loud, through clenched teeth. "No more. You shall not have me." Callum hung the cloth on the peg and walked out of the cabin, through the galley, out through the door onto the Main Deck, he went up the starboard stairs two at a time, and looked out over the rail, seeing the lights aboard the Tarkington.
"Is there something wrong, sir?" Talon asked.
"Glass!" Callum said, holding out his hand. Talon turned and grabbed a glass and hurried back to his Captain, putting it in his hand. Callum pulled it out and held it to his eye. He could see a boat alongside the Tarkington. Callum collapsed the glass and turned to Talon. "No one comes aboard this ship, Mr. Talon, no one, do you understand? Not even if it's His Lordship."
"Aye, sir." Talon looked confused. Callum turned and went down the steps, going across the deck to the Main Rail.
"Marines, to me!" Callum said loudly. Those on deck snapped and turned and marched to Callum. "Which of you is in charge of the detail?"
"I am, sir. Corporal Clements, sir." He snapped.
"Are there only six of you on duty?"
"On deck, sir. There are three posted below, sir."
"Corporal, there is a boat getting ready to be launched from the Tarkington. I assume that they will be coming here. No one, absolutely no one is to board this ship. Is that clear?"
"Very clear, sir."
"Post your men, Corporal. If you feel you need more, I will see Captain Anders."
"We can handle it, sir."
"See that you do, Corporal." Callum said, and then turned away, he walked quickly back to the Quarterdeck.
"Glass, Mr. Talon." Callum said. Talon handed him the glass again. Callum could barely see in the dark, it looked like they were loading the longboat with something. "Damn the darkness." Callum said as collapsed the glass. Talon stepped to the rail, looking out toward the Tarkington.
"Can you see in the dark, Mr. Talon?" Callum asked. Talon strained his eyes, holding very still.
"It seems that they're loading something, sir, into the boat."
"I agree, Mr. Talon. Have that rail gun loaded with chain shot."
"Follow your orders, Mr. Talon." Talon turned and called to two of the hands, passing the order along. They quickly turned and had the gun loaded. Talon came back to stand with Callum. "As I said, Mr. Talon, no one gets aboard this ship, is that clear?"
"Very clear, sir."
"Watch that boat closely, sound off if it approaches us. I will return presently." Callum said, handing Talon the glass.
"Aye, aye, sir." Talon said, as tipped his hand. He opened the glass and watched the boat. Callum turned and went down the stairs quickly, seeing a couple of the hands near the Main Rail.
"I want you two lads, go below, into the storage locker, bring up as many extra lanterns as you can carry each. I want them placed, above the starboard rail twice head height, and then lit. Do you understand?" They nodded in reply. "Lively now." Callum turned and walked quickly back to the Great Cabin. He grabbed his tunic, hat, and sword. He turned and headed quickly back on deck. He went up to the Quarterdeck and came next to Talon. "Anything?" Callum asked quietly.
"Not yet, sir. Looks like they're done loading the boat though." Talon said, handing the glass to Callum, Callum took the glass, dropping his things to the deck. He put the glass to his eye.
"Yes, they're done loading. It must be heavy, the boat is sitting low in the water." Callum said quietly. "Is that rail gun loaded?"
"Very good, Mr. Talon." Callum pulled the glass away, speaking in a soft voice, and then put it back to his eye. "Take a hand, and one of the Marines, go below to the armory, draw out enough small arms to arm every man on deck, with extra shot each."
"I expect we might be boarded soon, Mr. Talon. And I will not be caught with my pants down."
"From the Tarkington, sir?" Talon asked with a surprised look on his face.
"That surprises you, Mr. Talon?" Callum asked quietly.
"It is a shock indeed, sir. English sailors, sir?"
""Mr. Talon, I am going to take you into my strictest confidence, do you understand?" Callum said quietly. Talon nodded, with wide eyes. "The Captain of the Tarkington, may not be who he says he is. And with this coming mission, we may be in more grave danger, sitting here with the squadron. Not a word of this, do you understand?" Talon nodded, then out toward the Tarkington. "Now, go below, carry out your orders. Time is of the essence."
"Aye, sir." Talon said, tipping his hand, racing down the stairs. Talon called a hand over and stopped at Corporal Clements. He signaled a Marine to join Talon. All three went below.
Callum dropped the glass from his eye, setting it down on his tunic. He picked up his sword and put it through the holder on his belt. He picked up the glass again, and looked out at the Tarkington. Callum saw hands going over the side, into the boat, it was a boat crew. He thought it would take them about half an hour to row to the Dover as heavy as they looked to Callum. He watched as lines were dropped and then oars were raised. Callum heard clattering on deck, he looked and the lads were carrying lanterns, four each. They quickly set about placing them all along the starboard rail, and then began tying them off to lines on blocks above in the rigging. Callum watched the boat as it approached, then went down the stairs. He went across the deck to where they were tying off.
"Light them as you go, lads." Callum said, as he went by them, Talon arrived back on deck, and he, the Marine, and the hand started passing out pistols to each deck hand. "Mr. Talon, you're with me." Callum said, tucking a pistol in his belt he turned, they went back up to the Quarterdeck. He handed Talon the glass. "They are on approach."
"I see them, sir." Talon said. "Looks like a boat crew of eight, sir. There is an officer at the tiller, sir. I can't make anything else out."
"Don't see any smoke or light, do you?"
"Well, at least they're not going to try and blow us up then." Callum said with a smirk.
"Sir?" Talon lowered the glass.
"Merely a jest."
"You've been with me, what almost two years now, Mr. Talon, and you still do not understand my sense of humor."
"Forgive me, sir, it's difficult with you, sir."
"Hmmm, really, I suppose I'll have to work on that." Callum said, taking the glass from Talon. Talon stood there, speechless, his mouth hanging open slightly. "I would estimate they will be here in about ten minutes." Callum said, handing the glass back over to Talon. "You remember your orders?"
"Yes, sir. No one is to come aboard, sir."
"Excellent, now you will greet them, as you have the deck. Find out what their intentions are. I shall remain here on the Quarterdeck out of sight."
"As you wish, sir."
"Can you do this?"
"Good lad." Callum said, patting Talon's upper arm. "Now, off with you." Callum smiled. "You lads, standby with that rail gun, but keep out of sight."
"Aye, sir." Callum smiled at them and looked over the rail as the boat approached silently. Callum backed away from the rail, picking up his tunic and hat, taking the glass over to the wheel. He stayed out of sight coming around the Mizzen Mast, on the backside. As they were anchored, there was no one manning the wheel. Callum diverted his eyes to the two hands crouched below the rail gun, nodding to them as they looked at him.
"Dover..." Came a voice from the dark, "ahoy, on deck...we are friends."
"State your business here." Talon said, standing at the gunwale.
"With our Captains compliments, provisions for your Captain and crew." The voice in the dark said.
"At this time of night?" Talon called out. There was no answer from the dark. Slowly the boat emerged into the new light from the lanterns strung higher in the rigging. "Hold fast." Talon said. "No one is coming aboard."
"But we have orders from our Captain, sir."
"And I have mine. Hold fast, I say. No one is coming aboard, Captain's orders." The boat came along side. "Do not tie off, keep your hands off those lines."
"Might I have your name, sir?"
"Talon, 3rd Lieutenant. Might I have yours, sir?"
"Steadman, 3rd Lieutenant, sir. I beg you, sir, I have my orders. These are gifts and provisions for your Captain and crew, in honor of the upcoming mission."
"Why would you bring gifts and provisions at this time of night? It does not seem to me to be to be the right thing to do. Perhaps, it would be better in the light of day."
"Mr. Talon, we will be under sail when it is light out, sir. I beg of you, let us carry out our orders, as one officer to another, please, sir."
"As one officer to another, you will understand, I have my orders as well, now push off and return to your ship." Talon sounded so forceful, Callum smiled wide hearing it from him. Callum slipped on his tunic and fluffed his tail, putting on his hat. He stood and started toward the stairs.
"Get your hands off those lines. You make another move to come aboard this ship, I will fire upon you." Talon said, drawing out his pistol, cocking the hammer back, holding it in the air with bent elbow.
"Mr. Talon, please, I beg you." Steadman said from the boat as he stood. Callum stepped into the light and view of the gunwale, he pulled his pistol as well, cocking it but pointed it directly at Steadman.
"My officer is carrying out my orders, Mr. Steadman. Return to your vessel...now." Steadman raised a hand to shield his eyes from the light.
"And who are you, sir?"
"I am Callum, master of this vessel. I left orders that no one is to come aboard. Tell your Captain that I do not require his gifts. You heard my officer, return to your vessel."
"I beg your pardon, Captain. We meant no offense, sir. I have my orders, sir.
"Marines! Make ready!" Callum said, "Standby on the rail gun!" Steadman looked about, seeing the Marines at the rail leveling their muskets, and the rail gun swinging about. "Now, get your hands off my ship, I will give you one minute to set oars and start pulling for your vessel."
"My Captain will take great insult with this, sir."
"Then your Captain can seek satisfaction with me face to face, in the light of day, not under the cover of darkness." Callum said clearly. "Thirty seconds. The rail gun is loaded with chain shot. I doubt any of you will survive."
"Push off!" Steadman said. "Set oars. Captain Callum, I will relay your message to my Captain."
"I look forward to it." Callum said, mostly under his breath. He looked over at young Talon. "You did well, Mr. Talon. I'm impressed. I wouldn't have tried to board myself, with you holding a pistol." Callum smiled.
"What do you think he really wanted, sir?"
"I'm not certain. All I know for sure is that we are truly alone in our mission. Stand your men down, Mr. Talon. You have the deck, and keep a watchful eye."
"I will, sir." Talon turned and called to the men to stand down.