DOVER Chapter 24
Anders came quickly to the wreckage behind the wheel. Some of it was draped over it, stopping the wheel from turning or being turned. Block and tackle intertwined with ropes, in a large pile, all still attached to a section of the crossarm that had snapped from above on the downed Mizzen. Anders was doing his best to free it from the wheel, and move it away as fast as possible.
"Mr. Arvin!" Anders yelled over cannon firing, "Mr. Arvin! The Captain! He's pinned!" Anders was screaming now, as Dustin got up from the deck where Callum had pushed him, and had moved in to try and help Anders. Together they were undoing and dropping ropes out of the way, and then Dustin was trying pull out block and tackle. "Hurry lad, we've got to get to him." Anders said heaving from deep in his chest.
"I need a few hands!" Arvin yelled over his shoulder, as he reached the top of the stairs seeing what Anders and Dustin were doing. "Lively now!" As a few of the hands rushed to get to the pile, going around Arvin. Together they all began to work furiously, and then they saw cloth as the ropes were being cleared. The section of crossarm was lying over Callum's back, pinning him directly to the deck.
"Easy lads." Anders said. The hands lifted the crossarm off their fallen Captain and carried it out of the way, laying it near the aft rail. One of the hands came over and felt Callum seeing if he was dead. He looked over at Arvin for a moment and smiled and nodded his head. Arvin was relieved by the silent word. Dustin was stunned by seeing Callum lying there, that he had frozen in place.
"Mr. Perkins!" Arvin called out over cannon fire, snapping Dustin out of it, looking back at Arvin. "Did the Captain give you orders?"
"Aye, sir." Dustin said as loud as he could through gritted teeth. "He wanted us to roll to port, sir."
"The wheel is clear, do so, Mr. Perkins!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin nodded and began the turn as Callum had instructed prior to being struck down, Dustin turning the wheel from the front side, looking over his shoulder toward the bow, as Callum was behind it, and Dustin could not bear to just stand over him. Most of the outer parts of the wheel had been shot away by the Tarkington gun crews, and Dustin was struggling to put his hands on what was left, catching slinters in his palms as he turned it. Dustin looked aft, and saw the Tarkington bearing down on them out of the darkness, his eyes went wide. "Mr. Arvin," Dustin called out, "The Tarkington, sir!" Arvin spun around from the fore rail and saw her bows. His eyes went wide.
"Dear God...hard to port, Mr. Perkins! Lay her over now!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin cranked as hard and as fast as he could, and Dover responded, even being as wounded as she was, it was as if she knew what he wanted from her, and as if she were a live being, she started to answer to the call. The wheel stopped cranking as the rudder reached full point over. They all watched, holding their breath, as Dover swung into the wind, sails dropped their billow as the Tarkington started to slide by.
"I think it's time, Captain Anders!" Arvin yelled, looking toward him, Anders meeting his look, "The Captains orders, now Captain Anders!" Arvin yelled. And then he looked back over at the Tarkington, her port gun ports were starting to open, and they were running out to give Dover a full broadside across her stern.
Anders leaped for the aft rail, and picked up a fallen Marine musket, as he moved, and ran for the port aft rail. He looked up aloft to his sharpshooters, who were in position, seeing what was going on below.
"Marines! Sharps, order three!" Anders yelled aloft, "Standby! When your mark is on!" Anders screamed, Arvin knowing that Anders had briefed and selected the sharpshooters that had been sent aloft, waiting for the Tarkington to slide by. Anders waited, and there was nothing. The cannon had stopped from the fortress and the Frenchman at the dock, the smell of gunpowder permeated the air of the Dover, but in looking at the Tarkington, there was no one at all on the Quarterdeck of the, save the helmsman, manning the wheel. The gun crews were standing by aboard her, but no one was giving orders to fire. Arvin and Anders continued to hold their breath for a long minute, as she slid by silently, Dover, was still turning in a tight circle to port as best she could without wind. "Mr. Arvin..." Anders said in an uneasy tone.
"I see it, Captain Anders, I see it." Arvin replied, not taking his eyes off the Tarkington. "Have your men keep standing by, Captain."
"Aye, sir. Marines, stand by!" Anders yelled aloft.
"The coward knew." Arvin said almost to himself. "He left his post and the coward knew!" He slapped the rail. "Mr. Perkins, follow the turn, bring us in with the wind!" Arvin said. Dustin nodded and kept the wheel where it was. "Starboard battery, standby to fire!" Arvin turned and walked over to the pile, seeing Callum lying on the deck, ropes still around near him. "Get it away from him, lads, clear this out." Arvin said. "Send for Dr. Crawford!"
Arvin knelt beside Callum, feeling him on his back. He could barely feel the breath rising and falling from his chest, Dustin was stealing glances at Callum now and again, but with Arvin on his knees, he blocked Dustin's view. Arvin rose to his feet, glancing at Dustin, giving him that look, Dustin knew it was not good. Dustin fought tears, but focused on his duty, he knew Callum would want that right now, and he tilted his head, looking aloft for the wind.
Arvin looked at the Mizzen as it was lying over, but somehow was still attached at the base being shot halfway through. He called out for rigging to be backset to pull the Mizzen upright and spare struts to be put in place and lashed to keep it upright. The hands jumped to it quickly, trying to stay away from Callum as they had left him there on the deck, waiting for Crawford to arrive.
It wasn't long before Crawford came up the stairs and quickly came to Callum, he tried to move him, but couldn't. He seemed to be stuck in place somehow. Crawford started to gently shake his shoulder talking to him as he gently shook him, and Callum groaned under him.
"Captain, can you hear me?" Crawford asked, as he got closer to Callum's ear.
"Doctor..." Callum said, as he groaned.
"Can you move?"
"No..." Callum said, and then turning his head toward Crawford, Callum went to put an arm under him to push up off the deck. "Something is holding me. I feel it tightening in...my chest." Callum groaned and lay his face on the deck.
"Quickly, someone fetch a light!" Crawford yelled over his shoulder. He turned back to Callum. "Let's try and get your tunic off of you so I may see well." Crawford said as he knelt closer to Callum's face again. He worked and slid it gently off Callum as he groaned from the pulling of it off his shoulders, then Callum coughed and spat blood on the deck. The lamp was brought and set down next to Crawford.
"Is it bad, Doctor?" Arvin asked as he stood nearby.
"I don't know yet." Crawford mumbled. He started to move Callum's shirt, but could see it was red under him, in the lamplight, the more that he pulled it out. Crawford realized that Callum must be impaled on shards from the deck, but he couldn't tell how bad it really was. Arvin saw it as well. He called out for some tools to be brought. As Callum coughed again, and spat more blood. Crawford knew it was very bad. "Captain, we are going to have to cut you off the deck, to get you to the surgery." Callum looked over at Crawford with glassy eyes.
"Doctor,... you know that I will not make it...to the surgery. I am lost. See to the men." Callum said weakly with a groan.
"Captain, the men are well. Everyone below is only minor injury for now. You are the important one at the moment. We will free you. Stay with me now." Crawford said in a low voice, putting a hand gently on Callum's shoulder. "Try and breathe easy, sir." Crawford turned and saw that Finch was standing by. "Go to the surgery; fetch my bag and my instruments. Quickly!" Finch turned and hurried away. Some of the hands came to Crawford with hatchets and chisels and mallets. Crawford looked at them all. "This needs to be with great care. It's not chopping firewood or stray rigging, great care, understand?" They all nodded at him. Crawford backed up, and the hands went to work. Callum could feel the vibrations of them cutting and chopping and was doing his best not to groan or cry out at all. He coughed now and then, spitting more blood. Crawford saw that it was getting pinker rather than the deeper red. "Hurry men." He urged them gently. "Careful now." Crawford was blocking Dustin's view, and Arvin was looking now and again as he was taking in everything else about him. "Captain," Crawford asked, "can you hear me?" Callum nodded his reply. "Good, they're almost there. It won't be long now." Callum lowered his head back on the deck and closed his eyes, as Finch returned. "Finch, put it over there." Crawford pointed toward the aft rail. "Mr. Arvin, I will need some more light, and a space to work on him."
"You will have to do with the light you have, Doctor. I cannot risk our position in the dark, the Captain would agree." Arvin looked at a couple of the hands that were standing by. "You men, get those men below, clear a space for the Doctor." Arvin said, pointing at the dead lying on the deck. They moved and drug their dead shipmates out of the way.
"I think he's free now, Doctor." One of the men said working on the deck without looking up.
"Right, let's get ready to move him. This will have to be quick or he'll bleed to death. Finch, hold the lamp." Crawford joined in, and they slowly began to roll Callum to his back. Crawford's eyes went wide, seeing several large splinters from chunks of decking embedded deeply in Callum's chest and upper stomach. "Easy now, the more hands on him, the better, keep him as straight as possible. Ready now,... lift." Crawford said, and they all lifted at once, "This way around toward me, that's right, slowly, slowly," Crawford was guiding them carefully and they took a few more steps toward the aft rail. "That's good, now let's put him down on the deck, easy, easy. Finch, get water, quickly! Make sure it comes from the galley, tell Carson to boil more." Crawford looked over and opened his bag, pulling out his instruments, laying them in a heap on a cloth from his bag. "One of you, hold the lamp up a bit." Crawford said as he began to open Callum's shirts with a hooked scalpel. He lay the shirt back exposing Callum's chest. Callum was breathing, but very faintly, his head was turned to his right, as if he was looking out across the deck toward the bow. Finch returned with a pale of water.
"Mr. Carson said it was boiled, Doctor. He is boiling more as well."
"Good." Crawford mumbled, as he set about cutting into Callum's chest. "This one seems to be in his lung, it went in between his ribs here." Crawford was still mumbling, more to himself than anyone else, he was working rapidly with the knife, and had a pair of what looked like long forceps in his other hand, then lay them on Callum's chest for easy reach . "Almost there. Finch wet a cloth from my bag, make it good and wet, and then wring it out." Crawford was watching what he was doing rather than looking at Finch, but heard the water as it hit the deck.
"Mr. Arvin, sir." One of the hands working on the Mizzen said. Arvin turned and looked at him. "It's the best we can do for now, sir."
"Very well." Arvin said looking at the lashing job. "Grab another span from below, and rig the spanker. I need steering control quickly."
"Aye, sir." The man tipped his hand, and those working on the Mizzen, went below to pull spare timber from the Storage Deck.
Arvin looked back at Crawford, his view of Callum was blocked by Crawford as he was knelt down, his face very close to Callum's chest, Finch and a couple of the hands, were there to assist Crawford if needed. Arvin looked up seeing the wind was beginning to run in. The turn to port in a circle was taking too long, as Arvin looked toward the fortress, seeing and hearing men moving in the moonlight, shouting and yelling in French. Arvin knew they would be firing at the Dover soon, if they couldn't get the wind. Arvin came up behind Dustin who still held his position, facing aft on the wheel.
"How's she doing, Mr. Perkins?"
"She fighting the strain, sir." Dustin grumbled through his clenched teeth.
"Hang on, lad." Arvin said, looking aloft, and not at Dustin, seeing as the canvas was starting to come alive, "we've almost got it." Arvin was walking toward the aft rail. He saw Crawford examine a piece of decking pulled from Callum's chest and tossed it over his shoulder.
"Aye, sir." Dustin grumbled through his clenched teeth.
"We'll be in range of their cannon soon, Doctor." Arvin said over Crawford's shoulder, Crawford didn't look up.
"If I move him now, it will surely kill him." Crawford mumbled, sewing as fast as he could. "Hold that lamp steady now." Arvin turned away, hearing Crawford, and started to walk toward the fore rail.
"Mr. Arvin!" Someone cried from forward. Arvin looked in the voices direction. "The Frenchman, sir, she's getting underway!" Arvin jumped to the port rail as Dover was still making her turn. The fortress was coming into clear sight of their bows, which Arvin knew, but as the wind was coming in, Dover was rolling about in her port circle, Arvin could see the Frenchman was clearing the dock that stretched out into the bay. "All hands, man your guns! Mr. Perkins! Ease your helm, line us with her, and then bring us across her bows!" Arvin yelled, as he watched.
The hands brought up the spare timber and set about trying to get it rigged to rerun the spanker. Arvin let them go by him, as they had climbed up the stairs. Several booms and flashes of light went off from the French ship from her bows. All of the shots sailed through high, some catching the canvas, ripping holes in the Mainsail overhead. Arvin watched it fly through, and smiled to himself hearing only the canvas ripping, but, knowing that their gun crews would reset and get their bearings in the next volley. Arvin watched as the bow of the Dover was now running closer to line up with the length of the Frenchman.
"Now, Mr. Perkins, port your helm! Cut across her bows!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin answered and spun the wheel again. Dover had the wind and was running and Dustin could feel it, making the turn easier for him. She responded and started to turn quickly.
"Starboard battery! Fire as you bear!" Arvin yelled. He looked as Dover ran with the wind now, getting her sails up and filled. She was crossing the Frenchman's bows...now. "Aim for the gun ports! Cripple her shot! FIRE!" One after the other, the guns went off, smoke filling the decks. Arvin watched as the Frenchman was hit and hit and hit again, every shot reaching out and doing major damage not only to the French guns, but to the hull of the ship as well. "Reload! Port battery, standby!" Arvin turned and looked at Dustin, "Get us clear of her!" Arvin said, as he could hear the screams and cries of French sailors. "Bring us around to port, again, Mr. Perkins! We'll cut back across her bows, once again!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin cranked the wheel, as he got behind it this time. He looked down at the deck, and in the moonlight, he could see the spots of blood in the wood, knowing full well, it was Callum's. It made his heart sick to think that he might be laying there dying behind him and he couldn't even touch him. A tear dropped from Dustin's eye, as he tried to focus on the task at hand.
"Adjust sail!" Arvin ordered, men went up quickly up into the rigging to unset lines to turn the sails to catch more wind as the Dover started to come around. Arvin looked and was trying to watch the Frenchman. Callum had said to cut and run if it was becoming too much. Arvin was watching as some of the frigates in the bay were also preparing to get underway, but Arvin could make out in the moonlight that Callum had also been right about how some of the French sail, most of their rudders were in full view, prime targets, but Dover was outgunned three to one with this ninety gunner bearing down on them, and there was the fortress to contend with as well. If Frenchman were to gain on them, they would be nothing but matchwood before too long against her. Their only chance was to try and cripple her before the French gun crews could get their forward guns back into action.
Middleboro came up the Quarterdeck stairs, looking at what was going on with Dr. Crawford, seeing legs in long pants on the deck in front of the Doctor. Rumor was running rampant below that the Captain was dead. Middleboro felt it was best if he saw for himself, to quiet the rumors.
"Mr. Middleboro?" Arvin asked, a frown on his face.
"The Captain, sir? The men know, sir. Is he...?"
"Mind your gun crews and your post, Mr. Middleboro. Now is not the time. Control your men." Arvin said sternly, and then looked over his shoulder. "Dr. Crawford is doing his best to save him." Arvin looked back at the young officer. "Let us do our duty, and save the ship for the Captain. Keep your men focused and at the ready."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, tipping his hand. Arvin reached out and touched his sleeve, stopping him.
"I'll send word if anything should happen." Arvin said in a low voice.
"Thank you, sir." Middleboro answered just as soft, then looked over at the scene with only his eyes. He turned and went back down the stairs, heading quickly back down below.
Arvin looked aloft seeing the men resetting lines, and Dover was taking the wind through her port turn now. Arvin looked back and saw Dustin was gauging the wheel through the turn, not fighting against it. Arvin nodded at him, as he walked toward Crawford and Callum. Arvin looked over Crawford's shoulder as another chunk of the deck was removed, inspected and tossed over Crawford's shoulder, hitting Arvin on the leg, the chunk sticking to his pantlet, splatting him with a blood stain.
"Doctor?' Arvin asked, standing behind Crawford, watching him work feverishly, "We are about to come under fire any minute now. Can you move him yet?"
"I wouldn't advise it." Crawford said, without looking up, "He is still in the same shape as before a few minutes ago when you asked." Arvin heard the irritation in Crawford's voice.
"I cannot guarantee his or your safety once we are under fire."
"I understand Mr. Arvin," Crawford said as he continued sewing furiously again on Callum, "You tend to your affairs of battle, sir, and I shall tend to mine." Arvin looked down and stared at his Captain, looking very pale in the lamplight, as if he were dead already. Arvin sighed to himself, watching, then heard Crawford speak. "He is a very brave man, our Captain," Crawford was saying mostly to himself, "I have never seen anyone hang on as he is. Most men would have died by now." Crawford stopped his sewing for a moment and looked over his shoulder at Arvin with intense eyes. "You must not disappoint him, Mr. Arvin, you must see us through this. We owe him that much at least."
"I will do everything in my power, Doctor." Arvin said and turned away, looking to the port rail, seeing the French ship off the port quarter, Arvin could see in the moonlight, the men of the Frenchman getting their guns ready other ports were being opened, guns starting to roll out. Arvin stepped closer to Dustin.
"Follow your present course, Mr. Perkins. In another few moments, I shall have you roll her out starboard so we can give a raking broadside, if this wind holds."
"Aye, sir." Dustin grinned and nodded toward him, knowing that Mr. Arvin was as fierce in battle as Callum.
"Port gun crews, at the ready!" Arvin yelled, watching the Frenchman closely, stepping to the fore rail. They were getting so close now that Arvin could almost make out their faces in the moonlight. "Fire as you bear! Now, Mr. Perkins, take us to starboard!" Arvin yelled over his shoulder, seeing Dustin start to turn. Arvin looked forward, "FIRE!" Again, the guns began to fire, some of them in unison, others one at a time. The volley was fierce, smoke was thick, and Arvin saw the devastation that they were causing, wood splintering and men screaming in agony. "Reload!" Arvin yelled. The gun crews, now in full swing, were reloading in record time, as Callum had showed them to do the previous day. All guns were run out. "Ease your helm, Mr. Perkins! Bring us around her bows!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin cranked the wheel back to port, giving the gun crews a better target.
"Fire as you bear!" Arvin yelled, cupping his hands over his mouth. "FIRE!" And another thunderous volley erupted mostly in complete unison this time. More screams could be heard from the Frenchman. "Reload!" Arvin yelled again. "Starboard your helm, Mr. Perkins!"
"Aye, sir." Dustin mumbled.
"Port battery! Stand by to fire on the fortress! Aim for their guns!" Arvin yelled. Arvin looked aloft seeing the sails were near full billow from angled positions. "The wind seems to be favoring us." Arvin said aloud and looked forward. "Mr. Tomlin!" Arvin yelled, and the young officer looked up.
"Give us a shot to point the way at the fortress!"
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin answered and gave orders chock under to raise the gun on the Main Deck. "Fire!" The gun was touched off and everyone watched as the shot hit the upper tower just below their flag stand, raining stone and rubble on the men below on the rampart. Screams could be heard in distance, and the crew of the Dover gave a thunderous cheer.
"Now lads!" Arvin yelled. "Show the Frogs what we can do! Fire as you bear! FIRE!" Arvin yelled again. Another thunderous volley was sent out from the Dover. Arvin watched as the fortress was crumbling in different areas, some cannon were tumbling as ramparts were collapsing. Cheers went out again. "Now, Mr. Perkins, starboard your helm, let us run like the wind and make for the squadron!"
"Aye, sir!" Dustin cranked the wheel. Arvin walked back toward the Doctor and his fallen Captain. He looked down on them for a moment as Crawford was cutting more wood out of Callum and then sewing. Arvin looked over the aft rail back at the Frenchman, seeing them still coming, but there were others that were also now underway as well. The plan was working, the original plan, they were drawing them out of the bay. Arvin turned and looked up toward the canvas, it was slacking a bit. Anders came up next to Arvin, as he walked by Crawford and Callum looking down at them.
"Will we make it to the squadron, Mr. Arvin?"
"I have my doubts, Captain," Arvin said, "the wind is dropping away too quickly. They might be on us soon."
"Surely they have the same issue, sir."
"That ninety gunner has a much longer reach with her guns than we do. It is unfortunate that we were unable to land you as intended, Captain."
"That may yet happen, on the morrow." Anders said softly, looking at Crawford and Callum.
"Pray we sight the squadron soon then." Arvin said quietly.
"What of the Captain?"
"I have never seen Dr. Crawford work so hard or so fast." Arvin sighed slightly. "The Captain is young and strong, but some of the shards the Doctor pulled out were like daggers." Arvin said softly. Anders was looking down at them on the deck.
"What of the Tarkington and the traitor?"
"I lost sight of them. Hopefully the French will deal with that for us. However, I feel for your fellow Marines."
"And what of her crew?"
"They follow a traitor, sir. Their fate is in his hands. Most unfortunate." Arvin shook his head, then spoke softly. "This was handled poorly. I am beginning to think the Captain made a grievous error in that."
"Mr. Arvin." Anders said in a shocked tone.
"I know." Arvin said, hanging his head for a moment. Arvin lifted his head as he looked up at the canvas. It was fluttering slightly. Arvin looked back at the Frenchman as she was looming behind them. He turned and went to the fore rail. "Mr. Tomlin!" Arvin yelled. Arvin saw Tomlin coming quickly down the deck, looking up.
"Pass the word," Arvin said as he put a hand on part of the fore rail that was left intact, "your gun crews performed with superb form, sir. They are to be commended. The Captain would be very, very proud."
"Thank you, sir, I will pass that along." Tomlin answered and tipped his hand toward Arvin.
"Now, form your gun crews to the Great Cabin. Set and ready the guns aft. That Frenchman is on our heels. We shall aim for the waterline if and when she comes into range."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Tomlin tipped his hand again and turned away. Arvin looked at Anders.
"I shall take every precaution, just as the Captain would. Form a detail of your men, Captain, here at the aft rail. Perhaps they might have target practice on French gun crews if they draw near enough to us."
"With pleasure, sir." Anders said, standing proudly, as he nodded and went to the stairs. Anders started calling out orders to Lt. Holt down on the deck. Within a couple of minutes, Marines were coming up the stairs both port and starboard, lining up on the aft rail.
Arvin could hear the sound beneath his feet of the blocks and panels of the Great Cabin being knocked apart and opened to run out the guns in the cabin. Aft gun ports on the Gun Deck were being opened as well and the guns being run out. Arvin looked aloft again, gauging the wind as he stepped near to Dustin at the wheel.
"Are you alright, lad?" Arvin asked, not looking at him.
"I'm alright, sir." Dustin answered, mumbling through his clenched teeth, wanting to look over his shoulder, but didn't.
"I'm sure he'll pull through, Mr. Perkins."
"I certainly hope so, sir." Dustin mumbled through gritted teeth. Dustin looked up, seeing the sails barely fluttering in the breeze. "Wish there was more wind, sir."
"As do I, Mr. Perkins." Arvin looked aloft again as well.
"Deck there!" A voice from above called down. Arvin stepped forward. "More sail from astern!"
"How many?" Arvin called back.
"Four sets!" Came the voice again. Arvin turned and went to the aft rail, crowding in with the Marines, who gave him room. Arvin was scanning, but could only see the ninety gunner, that was falling behind a little more. She still loomed large, but thankfully still out of range of them.
"Mr. Arvin!" Came a voice from the deck. Arvin turned and went to the fore rail. "I hear breakers, sir!"
"Those rocks." Arvin muttered and slapped the rail. "Lookout! Do you see any breakers?" Arvin yelled aloft.
"Aye sir! Off the starboard quarter!"
"Mr. Perkins, give me two points to port."
"Aye, sir." Dustin rolled the wheel over.
"Standby now!" Arvin was looking forward, not seeing them yet. "Lookout, where away?!"
"Starboard quarter, sir! One hundred yards!"
"Then we've got them." Arvin turned, "Ease your helm, Mr. Perkins." Arvin went to Crawford and stood over his shoulder. "Doctor, your lamp is acting as a beacon to that Frenchman directly behind us. We need to do something about it quickly." Arvin's voice was intent and firm.
"What would you have me do, Mr. Arvin? Fumble around only in the moonlight?"
"We need to move him, Doctor. We need to get him somewhere where you can have better light to render your care."
"And I told you that if we move him, it might kill him."
"If we don't, Doctor, then we might all be dead. I am trying to save the ship and this crew. The Captain would do the same. I am in command, Doctor, and I'm telling you that we must move him...now."
"Very well, Mr. Arvin." Crawford got to his feet, looking at Arvin with a serious face. "If he dies, it is because of you."
"I am willing to accept that responsibility, Doctor."
"Alright lads, we need to lift him again, and carrying him to the surgery, as gently as possible, as many hands on him as possible." Crawford said, as he hurredly put his instruments back in his bag. "Everybody ready?" Crawford looked as hands scooped up the lifeless body delicately. "Alright, lift him." Crawford said. "Keep him as straight as possible."
They all carried Callum to the stairs and slowly went down. Arvin stood at the rail, watching their progress as they carefully crossed the deck. Arvin watched as all the men on deck turned and tipped their obedience to their fallen Captain, showing their concern and deepest respect to him, then went back to what they were doing to prepare for what may come next. A few of them lingered in watching the group proceed down the gangway stairs and then out of sight. There was a somber silence from the men now, and all that could heard were the breakers on the rocks and the wind in the sails. Arvin turned back from the rail and watched the French ninety as it still approached from behind.
"Deck there!" Came the voice again from aloft. Arvin looked up. "Flash, sir! Looks like from the farthest ship!" Arvin looked back astern but could not see anything from here. He turned back cupping his hands to his mouth.
"Are you sure?!"
"Aye, sir. It's cannon alright, sir!" The voice said from above. Arvin turned back.
"What in God's name?" Arvin asked aloud. "Are they firing on themselves perhaps?" Arvin watched but still could not see. He turned and had an idea. "Shorten sail!" The men looked up at him, thinking he had gone mad. He saw their looks at him. "Carry out the order! We will lure them into the rocks!" And then the men understood and jumped to it. Arvin looked back at Dustin. "Watch your bearing, Mr. Perkins. I don't want us too close." Dustin nodded at him in reply. Arvin watched as some of the sails were raised, losing more of the wind now. "Stand by to set sails, as they draw near enough! Keep a watch for more rocks!"
"Sir!" Tomlin said as he came out on deck. "Guns standing by in the Great Cabin, Mr. Arvin!"
"Very well. Have Mr. Middleboro take charge of that gun crew. I want you out here on deck."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin replied and set off to carry out the order and summoned Middleboro. A couple of minutes later, Tomlin joined Arvin on the Quarterdeck, tipping his hand, and then nodding to Dustin. Dustin nodded in reply as he held what was left of the wheel. All eyes shifted to the stairs as Carson came up quickly rushing toward Arvin.
"Dr. Crawford's respects, Mr. Arvin. The Captain, sir..."
"Yes?" Arvin's eyes were wide.
"He is near death, sir. He is awake and wishes to speak with you, sir." Carson said softly, wringing his hands, then looking down at the deck.
"Mr. Tomlin, take the deck. I'll be in the surgery." Arvin said as he walked away quickly, Carson following him.
"Aye, sir." Tomlin choked, then looked over at Dustin, who was dropping tears down his cheeks. Tomlin backed up and stood next to him.
Arvin went down the gangway stairs and then hurried to the next one, and went down, Carson struggling to keep up with him. On the Storage Deck, Marines were cleaning their muskets and getting out of the way for Arvin as he tried to hurry through them. Arvin walked quickly through supplies and then into the lamplight near the stern end of the deck, seeing the long table there, Callum lying on it, Crawford to one side, standing, and Finch to the other, watching Crawford. He could hear strained coughing as he walked up coming around Crawford. Arvin looked down as Callum was blinking glassy eyes, pale in color, his beautiful tanned tone was lost now, blending more with his blonde hair. Arvin looked at Crawford, whose face was grim looking, and Crawford shook his head slightly to Arvin.
"I've done what I can for him. He has lost a considerable amount of blood." Crawford spoke in a hushed tone. "His lung was collapsed. I have brought it back out to where he can breathe but he is still bleeding inside. All I can do now is make him comfortable. If there was more time for me to find the bleeding and get it stopped..."
"You have the time, Doctor." Arvin said, putting a hand on Crawford's sleeve. "We are out of danger and on our way to the squadron. We will withdraw under their protection."
Crawford had been thinking the worst, that they would be under another attack shortly, and that the wounded would be pouring in around him. This news from Arvin changed Crawford's perspective. He looked up at Finch.
"Go to my cabin. Draw out the bottle of Laudanum, it's the brown one on the shelf. There is another bottle upon my desk next to the inkwell, fetch that as well." Crawford tilted his head to make Finch go. Finch hurried away. "Why did you not speak of this before?"
"Turn of events, Doctor," Arvin said, "can you save him?"
"With God's help."
"Then, pray hard, Doctor, as will I." Arvin turned and looked back at Callum.
"William," Callum whispered, trying to lift his head.
"Rest easy, sir. All is well, I assure you." Arvin said, taking the hand that Callum was offering. "We are meeting the squadron, sir. We did well."
"Captain, please...try not to talk." Crawford said.
"Arthur..." Callum blinked. "Do not...waste your ministrations...on me."
"Captain, you are my primary duty. And I am not wasting anything. Now...really you must not talk."
"He knew, sir, or at least suspected. We lost sight of him, sir. Now...rest yourself, let the Doctor do his job. As I said, all is well, your ship is safe." Arvin smiled, not knowing if Callum could see it or not with his glassed over eyes. Callum coughed again, and this time there was blood on his lips.
"No more talking now." Crawford said, as Finch came rushing up to the table, holding the bottles. Crawford looked them over and took the clear one. "Captain, I want you to drink this. It will make you sleep so I can open you up again." Crawford said, as he uncorked the small bottle, putting it to Callum's lips. Crawford held the back of Callum's head with his other hand, tilting the bottle. Callum gulped hard and choked. "Just a little more, sir." Crawford said, then pulled the bottle away, handing it back to Finch. Crawford let Callum's head down easy. "It should take hold in a few minutes, then we can begin." Crawford touched Callum's bare shoulder. He looked at Arvin. "I will need more sand on the deck. Assign me another hand, someone of good constitution." Arvin nodded to his request and looked at Callum one more time, as he seemed to be fading away. Arvin walked off. He went up to the Gun Deck, and looked about and saw young Talon there, directing men to double check guns, and the young powder monkeys were restacking fuse and charges.
"Mr. Talon," Arvin said. "Dr. Crawford is trying to operate on the Captain. He will require more sand, and set of extra hands. He requests someone of good constitution. See to it."
"I'd like to volunteer, sir." Arvin heard the voice behind him, and turned. It was the topman, Jarter. Arvin narrowed his eyes at him.
"I served in the surgery, sir, at the prison for a time." Jarter said, tipping his hand.
"I wasn't aware of that." Arvin said, looking Jarter up and down for a moment. "Then I suppose that you will be of great assistance to the Doctor."
"And I have a very strong pair of hands, sir."
"That, I do know." Arvin gave him an eye. "Very well, assist the Doctor then."
"Aye, sir!" Jarter tipped his hand and went below toward the surgery. Arvin looked at young Talon for a moment, and Arvin saw a fearful look in the young man's eyes. Arvin walked up the Gangway stairs onto the Main Deck and proceeded at a brisk pace back to the Quarterdeck.
"Mr. Tomlin, what is our situation?" Arvin asked, taking the deck back.
"Breakers to starboard, sir, nothing else spotted ahead, as of yet. Aft gun crews standing by and an order relay is in place, sir." Tomlin tipped his hand.
"Excellent. Well done, Mr. Tomlin."
"I beg to ask, sir," Tomlin lowered his head slightly, "the Captain, sir."
"Dr. Crawford is opening him up again." Arvin said, as he looked aloft at the shortened sail. "I only hope and pray all will go well."
"Agreed, sir." Tomlin replied softly, keeping his attention forward.
"Mr. Arvin!" Anders called out from the aft rail. Arvin turned and walked toward him. Arvin looked aft following Anders gaze. The Frenchman was clearly gaining on Dover now. "Looks like they are setting full sail, sir." Anders said.
"Exactly what I was counting on, Captain."
"You want them to catch us?" Anders asked, keeping his voice low.
"Notice how when she is under full sail?" Arvin asked, leaning next to Anders.
"Her bow dips deeply into the water in the swell."
"Precisely, Captain." Arvin answered. "I might make a sailor of you yet." Arvin gave him a side glance.
"So they're riding deeper in the water," And then Anders realized it, widening his eyes, "and then she'll hit the rocks! Well done, Mr. Arvin!"
"Steady, Captain," Arvin said, "we have to make sure they follow in our wake first. The game is far from over."
"I certainly hope you're right, Mr. Arvin." Anders said, but with a half-smile.
"Deck there!" The voice from above came. Arvin spun around and walked to the fore rail. "More flashes!" Arvin looked back and walked back to Anders, looking over the aft rail.
"What is going on, you think?"
"I wish I knew." Arvin said. "I can't imagine them just firing shot. It doesn't make sense."
"They are French, after all, Mr. Arvin." Anders grinned.
"Be that as it may, Captain, no Captain is going to just waste powder."
"I suppose not." Anders huffed, his jest failing.
"Deck there! More and more flashes, sir!" Arvin looked over the rail, barely able to see past the ninety gunner, but could see parts of the flashes now. "Damn." Arvin said.
"What do you think?"
"They're firing on one another." Arvin said, then turned and went to the rail, cupping his hands. "Lookout! How close to one another?!"
"Side by side from here, sir!" Arvin looked back to the aft rail and watched. Now they could see small flashes beyond the starboard side of the ninety gunner, but still well off in the distance. Arvin shook his head and pursed his lips.
Arvin turned back and looked up, cupping his hands again. "Lookout! Where are the breakers?!"
"Starboard aft quarter!"
"All clear ahead!" Came the voice a few moments later in reply.
"Stay sharp!" Arvin yelled upward.
Arvin turned and looked at the aft rail, seeing the looming figure of the Frenchman in the moonlight behind them, now gaining at full sail. Arvin could not see any movement of what the French crew was doing from the dark and the distance, but he had a very good idea what it was. He knew in the back of his mind that he was taking a big risk, the largest of his life, and also was risking the crew, and the Dover. Arvin looked over at the wheel, seeing Dustin tending his duties, but also had a blank stare, as if he were somewhere else. Arvin was not without compassion, as he had demonstrated that many times before, and he knew of Callum and Dustin, not understanding the depth of their relationship, nor did he want to, but he knew. And Arvin also knew that this boy was struggling, deep in turmoil inside, as Arvin was as well. The growing concern over Callum and if he would survive.
Arvin stepped closer to what was left of the wheel, nearer to the starboard side of the patched Mizzen, still watching the Frenchman. Tomlin was standing in his same spot, near Dustin on the port side. Tomlin was not crowding him, just being there was a comfort, perhaps to both.
"Looks like she's getting closer, Mr. Arvin!" Anders said over his shoulder.
"I have eyes, Captain." Arvin replied, still watching.
"Shouldn't we do something..."
"You may be right, Captain, we should do something, but if they have their forward guns back into position, they could blow holes through us before we could get a shot to even reach them." Arvin said in an even tone, and Anders turned back and just watched as the Frenchman loomed in the moonlight.
At that moment, all eyes went wide as there a flash from the Frenchman, and then there was the boom. The shot came from a bow gun that had apparently been put back into position. Everyone could hear it coming as it lobbed toward them, but finally the shot fell off to starboard amidships in the water. Eyes had turned and watched it hit the water. Arvin sigh a slight breath of relief, and turned.
"Set sail!" He yelled loudly, and then turned to see Anders looking at him.
"Do you think..." Anders started to say.
"It's a ranging shot. It wasn't a warning. They'll be on shortly." Arvin said, as he looked up, seeing all sails catching and taking the full wind in their angled positions now. Arvin could hear the Mizzen moaning with its lashings to keep it supported under the new strain of the wind pushing against canvas. "Our only hope now is to reach the squadron." Arvin's voice was grim sounding to Anders. Anders looked back at the Frenchman again, another flash from it, then the boom following. Everyone held their breath. Arvin could hear it, knew it, eyes went wide.
"Hands down!" He screamed. He turned himself as slightly crouched as the shot impacted into the port aft quarter, ripping and splintering another section of the railing and hull just below it. Pieces of it came through the air, pelting some of the crew and the Marines that were lined up. A few men cried out from being hit, as Arvin turned back and stood tall. He looked toward the Frenchman, narrowing his eyes, and then looked at the deck, seeing some of the men and the Marines trying to get back to their feet or helping one another.
"Captain, check your men! Get the wounded below!" Arvin said, focusing back on the Frenchman. Anders moved about his men, pulling a few up to their feet as he went, as some of the crew began checking over their own. No one was serious hurt or injured, just battered, bruised, and stunned. Arvin looked over his shoulder, aloft, checking the wind. Sails were set full now, and Dover was well riding what wind she had. Another flash caught the corner of Arvin's eye and he looked back quickly, the boom, but something else was heard. Arvin stepped forward once, and widened his eyes, straining to hear over the noise of the men on the deck. "Quiet now!" He said, and all sound fell away. The shot that had been fired sail and whistled by, and Arvin knew there was no danger from it, as it hit the water to the starboard side. Arvin heard it again behind them. He went to the rail, pushing into the men and the Marines and looked as he leaned against the rail section. Grinding and groaning, wood against rock, faint, yes, but obvious.
"Did they...?" Anders started to ask.
"It sounds as if they have." Arvin said, looking at him briefly and then looking toward the figure in the dark behind.
"You've done it, Mr. Arvin."
"That remains to be seen." Arvin said, then turned, leaving Anders to keep watch. Arvin walked up next to the port side of the Mizzen at the wheel. "Port your helm, Mr. Perkins, let's get her out a little. I want to get more away from the shoreline."
"Aye, sir." Dustin said softly, as he turned the damaged wheel a little. Dustin was doing his duty but his thoughts were obviously elsewhere. He was doing everything he could to hold himself together, as he knew the danger from the Frenchman behind was over for the most part.
"Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said.
"Sir." Tomlin turned.
"Go below, assess the damage from that last shot, if you please. Check on Mr. Middleboro's status as well. I want a full report."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin tipped his hand and walked away quickly. Arvin looked over at Dustin.
"You've been at the wheel for quite a while, Mr. Perkins. Would you care to be relieved?" Dustin looked at him with wide eyes, knowing that Arvin was only asking out of concern, but was nonetheless surprised. It was a uncommon practice, and Dustin knew it full well. He eased a bit in his stance.
"I'm fine here, sir, thank you." Dustin said through his gritted teeth, and looked forward toward the bow. "Once we reach the squadron, sir."
"Good lad." Arvin said softly, nodding, and then half-smiled. "Now, ease your helm. We'll hopefully sight them soon."
"Yes, sir." Dustin answered and breathed easier, relaxing with Arvin just being there. It helped, taking Dustin's mind off his deeper worry and fears.
There was some activity on the Main Deck as the men were about doing their duties, still on guard for possible danger in the darkness, but remained focused. Arvin looked aloft, seeing the sails billowing full as Dover was leaning slightly to starboard under the power from the wind in the topsails. Arvin had watched over his shoulder from time to time seeing the Frenchman had fallen further and further away in the distance and now was completely fading out of sight.
"Deck there!" Came the voice from above in the sails. Arvin looked up. "Sails!"
"Where away?" Arvin yelled up.
"The squadron. Thank God." Arvin said softly, as he looked forward toward the bow. He did not see anything himself yet. "You have younger eyes, Mr. Perkins, see anything?"
"No, sir." Dustin replied as he was straining himself to see in the moonlight, across the horizon.
Minutes began to pass, as Arvin still watched and waited near the wheel, staying still, letting his eyes take in everything else about him. He looked to the starboard stairs, seeing Tomlin coming up, and then looked directly at him. Tomlin came up, in front of the wheel, close to Arvin, tipping his hand.
"Sir, only minor damage done with that last shot. Mr. Camden is making repairs. Mr. Middleboro reports all is at ready on the aft guns, and the crews are standing by, sir."
"Excellent, Mr. Tomlin, thank you." Arvin nodded.
"Mr. Arvin, sir." Dustin said, as he nodded forward when Arvin looked his way. "The squadron, sir." Arvin looked forward and saw them off in the distance, sails only above the dark horizon, but the squadron nonetheless.
"So I see, Mr. Perkins, very good. Port your helm, we'll come in on the windward side of them."
"Aye, sir." Dustin said softly, turning the wheel a couple of turns. He watched as Dover was coming into the wind slightly now, and he knew that their speed was going to start to drop away. Arvin looked aloft again, as he knew it as well.
"Deck there!" The voice from aloft called out again. "Sail!"
"We know that already." Tomlin said, looking aloft.
"Where away?!" Arvin yelled back.
"Astern!" The voice screamed. Arvin and Tomlin spun on their heels and looked back with wide eyes. They didn't see anything yet. Anders was there at the rail and put his hands on it, looking out as well. Arvin stepped closer and off in the distance, above the horizon, something faint. Arvin knew it was a sail.
"I was certain they ran aground on those rocks." Anders said, "We heard it."
"That we did, Captain." Arvin answered. "Glass!" Arvin said, holding out a hand behind him. One of the hands brought him one, as Tomlin stepped up as well behind Arvin. "I don't think it's that ninety gunner though." Arvin said, looking through the long glass. He handed it over to Tomlin, who put it to his eye. "What do you think, Mr. Tomlin?" Arvin asked.
"I think it might be a frigate, sir." Tomlin said, straining to see better through the glass. "She seems narrow, sir, with luff lines to her." Tomlin said, lowering the glass and collapsing it.
"Well, at least the squadron is close." Arvin said in a soft voice. He turned and looked forward seeing the sails of the squadron as they came nearer, now off the starboard beam. Their turn to port was giving them better position. Arvin took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Seeing the squadron approaching, Arvin knew that His Lordship would want a full report on their part of the mission. "Mr. Tomlin, you have the deck. I need to go to my cabin to prepare for the report. Maintain your course. We should reach them in about a half hour or so, I would think."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, tipping his hand as Arvin walked toward the stairs. Dustin was watching the squadron closely, and then looked quickly over his shoulder toward the aft rail. He looked forward again.
"Don't give it a second thought, Perkins," Tomlin said. "If it is a French frigate, they won't be able to get away fast enough." Tomlin smiled.
"As you say, sir." Dustin said, minding the wheel again.
Some time had passed as Dover was brought in on the windward side of the squadron. Arvin had just returned to the Quarterdeck, looking starboard as the ships of the squadron were shortening sail to reduce speed. Arvin saw flags being run up on the Valiant, signaling Dover to slow her approach and to fall into line of the formation. Valiant was in the lead of the group, and then the next set of signals was 'Captain to report aboard'. Arvin ordered the gig to be lowered over the side after Dover completed her turn to fall into line with the other ships.
"Mr. Tomlin, you are in command while I am on board the Valiant." Tomlin stood straight as Arvin spoke. "I shall make sure His Lordship is informed of all action taken by us. You are to keep a wary eye on that ship coming from astern. At the first sign of any trouble if it draws near, you shall beat to quarters and be ready. I will then return immediately."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin nodded. Arvin leaned a little closer to him.
"And if there is any...word," Arvin looked at Dustin, then back to Tomlin, "of the Captain, signal immediately. Do you understand?"
"Clearly, sir." Tomlin said, and tipped his hand. "Good luck, sir." Tomlin said softly. Arvin nodded. Tomlin stepped forward to the fore rail. "Pipe the side!" Tomlin yelled. Greene the Boson and two others stepped up and Greene blew the whistle signaling Captain leaving the ship, as Arvin went through the port gunwale and down to the gig. Men watched as the gig pulled away and the boat crew pulled as if there were urgency to it. The gig was soon almost from sight in the setting moonlight.
"Come in." The voice boomed inside the Great Cabin of the Valiant, and Arvin was shown in. He had never met His Lordship formally before, but knew him on sight. The other Captains of the squadron were surrounding Fitzwarren as Arvin had his hat under his arm, bowing slightly at seeing the shear spectacle of the Cabin itself, fine furniture in its center, eight guns were at the aft windows, standing as if on guard just over the room itself, two guns were along each bulkhead, port and starboard and pointed at blank walls. Arvin knew that the fine panels of the room had gun ports behind them, and had to be knocked out when the guns were to be engaged.
"Who the devil are you?" Fitzwarren asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I am Arvin, My Lord, 1st Lieutenant of the Dover."
"Where the devil is Callum?" Fitzwarren boomed.
"I beg to report, My Lord, that the Captain is critically wounded. Our surgeon is doing his best to save him, sir."
"Damn it!" Fitzwarren slammed a palm on the tabletop. "I knew I shouldn't have let him go off with his plan. Damned fool!" Fitzwarren huffed. He looked about at his Captains about him, shaking his head. "Oh, to be young again, and foolhardy." Fitzwarren turned and walked to a table against the bulkhead, pouring a drink from a decanter.
"I have a full accounting prepared for you, My Lord." Arvin said, pulling out folded paper from his tunic pocket.
"Quite." Fitzwarren said. He slowly turned to holding his glass, he looked at Arvin. "What of...the Tarkington?"
"It is in my report, My Lord. We lost sight of her while we were engaged with a ninety gunner."
Fitzwarren's eyes went wide. "You engaged a ninety gunner?" Arvin nodded once to reply. "What of the fortress?"
"We were able to damage their ramparts and some of their long guns before being forced to withdraw, My Lord."
"Unbelievable." One of the Captains said. Fitzwarren shifted his eyes to him, and then back to Arvin.
"Tell me, Arvin, how much damage have you sustained in this...engagement?" Fiztwarren asked, putting a fist on his hip, while holding the glass with his other hand.
"Minor damage, My Lord. Our Mizzen has been reshored, and some of our rails are missing. We have lost a few of the hands and Marines." Arvin smiled briefly, seeing the looks of the senior Captains about him, they, standing there in utter disbelief of what was being said. "As I said, My Lord, there is a full accounting in this." Arvin extended it out stepping toward Fitzwarren. Fitzwarren took it, setting his glass on the table. He opened it and began to read it quickly, he flipped to the second page as Arvin was being scrutinized by the Captains in the room. Arvin stood in place just glancing back at them from time to time, trying not to make eye contact. Fitzwarren lowered the papers and looked at Arvin with narrowed eyes.
"It would seem to me, Mr. Arvin, that congratulations are indeed in order. You and your Captain should be regaled as heroes." Arvin blushed at his words, then regrouped.
"Hardly that, My Lord. It is from the direction of the Captain, and his insights that carried the engagement, My Lord. The honor is his alone."
"I see." Fitzwarren picked up the glass and held it in the air. "To Callum, Captain of HMS Dover. God grant him mercy." All others nodded in reply to Fitzwarren's toast, as none had glasses themselves. Fitzwarren drained the glass and set it down "So, Mr. Arvin, as I have read this report quickly, rather too quickly, enlighten these gentlemen on some of the details. Perhaps they can take some of your good Captain's ideas back to their own vessels and put them into implementation." Fitwarren seated himself at the head of the table, as a steward entered the Cabin, Fitzwarren silently pointed to his glass, and then indicated that the rest be served as well. The steward went about his duty and everyone began to hear Arvin tell them in detail of the events of the engagement. Again, most of their eyes were wide in hearing of how the surprise and rapid fire of the Dover had taken the French by surprise. Arvin spoke of the Tarkington, and how they fired on Dover, and Arvin revealed to His Lordship the counterplan that Callum had devised in the event of treachery. The other Captains were appalled hearing about Smthye and him being slandered and branded a traitor but they calmed themselves as Fitzwarren did not rebuke any of Arvin's words. They slowly became aware that Smythe was indeed disloyal. All events spoken of were clear and concise and Fitzwarren was feeling crushed by losing or might lose a very valuable officer in Callum, and one that he had become fond of as well. A knock on the door of the cabin interrupted Arvin and the last of his account, which was the leading up to of the ship that was coming up from the south.
"Come in!" Fitzwarren said, and the young Lt. Collingwood opened the door and tipped his hand toward Fitzwarren. "What is it?"
"Sail approaching, My Lord. Coming very quickly." Collingwood said. Fitzwarren got to his feet, the other Captains rose as well. All followed Fitzwarren out and up on deck. They climbed the stairs to the Poop Deck, and stood at the fore rail looking out, seeing the silhouette shape of sails against the dark horizon.
"If that Frenchman thinks he can try and take us, then he must be mad." Fitzwarren turned and looked at one of the Lieutenants. "Beat to quarters." The young officer went to give orders, but Arvin spoke.
"Beg pardon, My Lord, but..."
"What?" Fitzwarren said, putting a hand quickly on the young officer that was ordered, stopping him.
"Those lights, My Lord." Arvin said, watching two tiny lights, swinging to and from each other, opposite in their arc of swing. It was constant movement swinging, seemingly to try and gain attention. Fitzwarren looked at them for a minute, and then looked at Arvin.
"What is it?"
"A signal, My Lord."
"Yes, My Lord." Arvin said, not taking his eyes off it. "Midshipman used to signal such as that in Channel fog. They are telling us that..." Arvin's words drifted, as his eyes narrowed. "It must be the Tarkington, My Lord." Anger flashed in Fitzwarren's eyes. He clenched the young officer of the deck's tunic sleeve, pulling him close.
"Beat to quarters. Have the Marines readied; we are going to board that ship when it arrives." Fitzwarren spat out, and let the sleeve go. Arvin heard drums beating in the distance from the direction of Dover, seeing her against the dark horizon. He knew that Tomlin was beating to quarters as well, carrying out his last orders. Arvin's eyes flashed.
"Beg pardon, My Lord," Arvin said quickly, "I gave orders to one of my officers to prepare..."
"Quite right." Fitzwarren said, and then turned. "Signal Dover. Have them stand down!"
"Aye, My Lord." A voice said from behind.
"We shall search every inch of that ship, and if that traitor is aboard, they'll all hang." Fitzwarren said as he gripped the fore rail making his knuckles go white. He looked over his shoulder at the Captains gathered around him. "You gentlemen had best return to your vessels. We shall sail at dawn." They all nodded toward his as they started to walk away. "Mr. Arvin, I would ask you to remain with me for a moment."
"As you wish, My Lord." Arvin bowed his head slightly. He looked forward watching the signal lamps still moving together, then away from each other, together, then away again. Arvin could see the Marines pouring out on the deck, even in the darkness of the now dim moonlight, as the dawn was still a few more hours, you could tell the red of their uniforms, their muskets and belt gear clattered as they came up steps.
"Lower the boats." Fitzwarren said. One of the junior officers stepped forward and shouted out the command. Boat crews jumped and very quickly, long boats were being hoisted, and set over the rails. An older Marine officer came up the stairs to join Fitwarren and Arvin, saluting Fitzwarren as he snapped to attention.
"Major." Fitzwarren nodded. "I want that ship," Fitzwarren was pointing, "I want every inch of it searched down to its keel. If you find it's Captain aboard, you will clap him in irons and return him here to me."
"And the Crew, My Lord?"
"They are to secure station and hold fast. If their Captain is not found, bring me the officer that is in command." Fitzwarren, looked back at Arvin for a brief moment, then back at the Major. "If it's a trap, if this is not what it appears to be, you are authorized to use whatever force necessary to take the ship completely. Do I make myself clear?"
"Very clear, My Lord." The Major snapped his heels and saluted again, and walked away to join his men. Fitzwarren and Arvin watched as the long boats were loaded with boat crews and Marines. They looked up as the ship approaching was shortening sail, and slowly turning to starboard, pointing her bows off away from the Valiant, but not in such a way that she could fire a broadside, it was an act of submission and surrender.
"I'll be damned." Fitzwarren muttered, seeing it happen before him, and then lamp after lamp was being lit aboard the ship, as if to say, 'we have nothing to hide', another act of total submission. It was the Tarkington, and Arvin shook his head. Lamps were being sent up into the rigging, illuminating the deck fully. Men were about the crossarms of the masts, tying up the last of the sails, and the Tarkington was at a complete standstill, only drifting in the swells. The longboats rowed and rowed quickly toward her, Arvin and Fitwarren could see Marines actually standing in the boats, at the ready. The first of the boats pulled alongside and tied off. The Tarkington was only about one hundred plus yards off the bows of the Valiant. Fitzwarren moved and went down the stairs, Arvin followed him, as well as a group of other officers, leaving the officer of the deck near the wheel. The group made it to the bows of the Valiant as the Marines were swarming over the Main Deck of the Tarkington. Marines were pushing the crew into a large group and then surrounding them. Marines waited at the bottom of the rigging, pointing their muskets upward, waiting for the men to come down. Once they were back on deck, they were ushered into the growing group of the crew.
Fitzwarren, Arvin, and the other officers of the Valiant, stood silent in the bow of the Valiant waited and watched, as Marines were joined by other Marines, the contingent that was assigned to the Tarkington. Fitzwarren could recognize the Major with his hat, and he was greeted and saluted by another Marine on the Main Deck of the Tarkington. They appeared to talk to one another for a short time, and then the contingent was going over the side to the first long boat, the boat untied and pulled for the Valiant.
"What the devil is he doing?" Fitzwarren asked softly, more to himself. Arvin watched wondering himself. Then the second contingent went over and into the next long boat. It started to pull away from the Tarkington and rowed quickly for the Valiant. They watched as it approached and then saw that the first long boat was coming down the port side now. Fitzwarren turned and started walking toward the middle of the Main Deck to see what was happening. He came to a halt as the first of the Marines came up and through the gunwale. The other officers gathered around Fitzwarren, and Arvin knowing his place, stood back from the rest. Fitzwarren stood, hand balled into a fist resting on his hip, waiting, as the young Marine officer saw him and snapped to attention, saluting him.
"Captain Emery." The young officer said, still saluting and waiting. Fitzwarren just waved his other hand in the air slightly toward him. Of course, Emery knew exactly who the man in the grand looking uniform was, and then saw recognition creep into Fitzwarren's face.
"I say, isn't your father, Franklin Emery?"
"Yes, My Lord." The young man said, dropping his salute with a snap.
"Quite." Fitzwarren said. "What the devil is going on?"
"Beg pardon, My Lord, the Major thought it best to bring my men aboard the Valiant, while he secures the Tarkington."
"I see." Fitzwarren said, looking the youth up and down for a moment. "Very well, Captain, assemble your men. We shall wait for the Major's return."
"As you wish, My Lord." Emery snapped a quick salute and set about forming his men, into a tight and deep formation, not to take a vast amount of room of the deck. Fitzwarren looked over his shoulder at his officers, and started walking, they followed. As they reached the rear of the Main Deck, Fitzwarren stopped and issued orders to his officers to get the ship ready to sail in a couple of hours' time. They nodded and then tipped their hands and walked off. Arvin remained and Fitzwarren told him to accompany him. They walked into the Great Cabin and Fitzwarren had him sit at the end of the large table. The steward came and brought coffee, which was a relief to Arvin, though he remained silent. Fitzwarren picked up Arvin's report off the table and reread it. Arvin watched, as Fitzwarren would move his lips and his eyes narrowed at some points of it. And then Fitzwarren looked up at him.
"Mr. Arvin, I have some question about your report. I will ask for some further explanation of you."
"Anything, My Lord." Arvin setting his cup down.
"You seem to have written this with great thought to present the facts. That is all well and good, but however, I am...concerned how you apparently know of the traitor. How were you able to ascertain that knowledge after your Captain had been struck down?"
Arvin hestitated, not wanting to betray his Captain for violating regulations, also knowing full well that Callum was not to speak of this outside of his own senior ranking officers. Callum's junior officers, Arvin included, were to simply follow his orders to the letter. Arvin thought about his choice of words as Fitzwarren started to wait for his answer, he wanted to proceed carefully, and not tarnish Callum's reputation or memory, if he indeed died.
"Well?" Fitzwarren asked, resting his elbows on the padded arms of the chair he occupied, folding his fingers together, and bringing them to rest against his lips. Fitzwarren's eyes narrowed.
"My Lord," Arvin said, looking at the table for a moment, and then lifting his eyes to see the look on Fitzwarren's face, "my Captain is a man of deep thought and compassion. This entire situation had...plagued him." Fitzwarren slowly raised an eyebrow, knowing what Arvin was going to say. "After much thought, I know, that the Captain felt it best to divulge certain information, in case..."
"Something were to befall him."
"Yes, My Lord."
"I see." Fitzwarren said, moving only his eyes only to look down at the report. "That makes your Captain a man of foresight." Fitzwarren smirked, and then lowered his hands, putting them on the table, resting his fingers on the report. "I have seen that as well, twice before in him. I am, however concerned over this breach of unspoken regulation. I do not condone it, sir, and if your Captain were here right now, I would be tempted to strip him of his rank and possibly have him in irons." Fitzwarren sat back against the padded back of the chair. "But, his foresight, gave you the opportunity to act, and from you have said, and what I read here, you acted accordingly. You saved your ship and crew, and carried out, I must say, one of the most daring and bravest things I have ever heard of."
"My thanks, My Lord." Arvin bowed his head slightly toward him.
"Do you think he will survive?" Fitzwarren asked softly.
"I pray so, sir." Arvin almost whispered in answer. Fitzwarren looked down at his hands for a moment and then looked back at Arvin. "Dr. Crawford is quite skilled, My Lord."
"I'm certain he is." Fitzwarren pursed his lips together for a moment. "Mr. Arvin, I'm going to give you new orders. You and the Dover are to remain behind while the squadron proceeds on to La Rochelle. Repair what damage you have and then you are to join us in support by late afternoon. I am hereby giving you command of the Dover, field commission to Captain from this time forward."
"My Lord?" Arvin asked with a look that surprised Fitzwarren.
"I am promoting you, Arvin."
"With thanks, My Lord, but..."
"You share your Captain's insight, and obviously his deepest trust. I need Captains that I can trust as well. I see you hesitate because the fate of your Captain is still unknown." Arvin nodded slightly. "Be that as it may, you are now in command. Your actions up to this point have almost handed us full and complete success of this mission." Arvin nodded in thanks. There was knock at the door, interrupting Fitzwarren.
"Come in!" Fitzwarren watched the door open, and the Marine Major stepped in, leaving the door open. "Ah, Major! Did you find him?" Fitzwarren gave him a glare.
"We searched every part of the ship, My Lord. He is not aboard. As per your orders, I have brought the officer that assumed command."
"Assumed command?" Fitzwarren asked. The Major stepped out of the way of the door, letting the officer step into the Great Cabin. Arvin had turned in his chair, and stood as he saw who it was.
"Knox." Arvin said softly. Knox, hearing Arvin, and then recognizing him, looked briefly in his direction, then back toward Fitzwarren.
"You, sir, assumed command of the Tarkington?" Fitzwarren asked. Knox nodded slightly in reply, and then Fitzwarren looked at Arvin, seeing the recognition on Arvin's face. "You know him, Arvin?" Arvin turned and looked back at for a brief moment and then back at Knox.
"My Lord, might I present Samuel Knox. We served together as midshipman aboard the Quall."
Knox bowed his head slightly at being remembered and recognized by Arvin.
"I trust you can explain what has happened to your Captain, Knox? Where the devil is he?"
"I am not exactly certain, My Lord, to be truthful. He seemed to have vanished after the engagement began."
"When did you assume command of the Tarkington?"
"Almost immediately after we fired upon the Dover, My Lord."
"And where was your Captain when this...firing took place?"
"He left me with the deck, after giving orders to fire on the Dover."
"Good God...and you let that proceed? Firing on a fellow ship? An English ship of the line?"
"The Captain had convinced us, My Lord, that the Dover was not as she appeared and was under the control of a French crew."
"And you believed that?!"
"The Captain is a very...convincing man, My Lord. Also, there was incident prior the night before we set sail that lent credence to what the Captain had said."
"Incident? What incident?" Fitzwarren looked between Knox and Arvin. "What is he talking about Arvin?"
"I think he refers to an incident involving a long boat and some supplies, if I'm not mistaken, My Lord." Arvin was staring at Knox, who nodded back in silent answer. "I did not witness this action myself, as the Captain had dealt with it personally, along with the officer of the deck. I was below. I learned of it later when I assumed the deck. Captain Callum and I discussed it briefly, but we were both somewhat mystified by the event. Now it makes sense to me." Arvin had full realization now. "It was you that had the gun crews halt their fire, it was you that signaled your approach to the squadron." Arvin then realized that he was stepping out of line, as he took control of the interrogation. Arvin looked at Fitzwarren with wide apologetic eyes. Fitzwarren simply waved a hand and took up his chair again. Arvin turned and looked at Knox. "What prompted you to stop firing?"
"You did not return it." Knox said simply, "At that moment, with your position to us, you could have done heavy damage to the Tarkington, you did not. That's when I assumed command, as the Captain had left the deck, and you maintained your fire on the fortress. It cast grave doubt to the Captain's word."
"You speak of mutiny, sir. I urge you to choose your words carefully." Fitzwarren cautioned.
"I beg to differ, My Lord, I speak of ill action taken, and orders given by a commander that is not who he says he is, and has his own agenda." Knox looked back at Fitzwarren with a dead stare.
"I see that you begin to fully understand the situation." Fitzwarren said quietly.
"I do indeed , My Lord, my only regret is that it was too late."
"What happened to your Marines?"
"I found out later, unfortunately much later, that the Captain had them below and trapped on the Storage Deck. It took some time to get them freed, My Lord." Fitzwarren eyes widened slightly.
"Major. Send for that officer, uh...Emery." Fitzwarren said, the Major snapped and then nodded and walked out.
"That is why you were not on deck when we made our turn." Arvin said softly, Knox hearing him, just looking at him with his eyes. "And then you sailed on, leaving us to face the engagement alone."
"I regret that very much as well." Knox said in a voice that gave no hint of emotion. Arvin angered, and balled up a fist.
"Your inaction has caused grave consequences. My Captain is critically wounded and may not survive." Arvin almost had a growl in his voice. "Your inaction, sir, has left a trail of..."
"Ease yourself, Arvin." Fitzwarren said in a calming tone. "Knox, I would have you take a seat." Fitzwarren said as he adjusted himself in his. Knox sat the table, in the middle of its length, as Arvin returned to his at the other end, glaring at his old shipmate. The Major returned and the Emery snapped as he entered behind the Major. "Close the door, if you will, Major. Captain Emery, Mr. Knox here has given some account of the events onboard the Tarkington. Perhaps you can add some light into it?" Emery stood rigid, not even breathing. "What happened to you and your men?"
"Captain Smythe had ordered the Marines that were on deck to accompany him below, My Lord. The Captain happened across me as I was on my way up, as the engagement had begun. We were on the Gun Deck. The Captain had my men and myself return to the Storage Deck to pull our munitions and supplies to be disembarked, as we knew that was near at hand. While we were all below, gathering supplies, the gangway hatch was grated over and secured, then it was covered leaving us with no access out."
"What of another access route?"
"I sent men to the aft access hatchway but it also was secured and could not be forced. I realized that we were trapped and no one could hear our cries for assistance. We made constant attempts to try and secure our release. It was sometime later, that Mr. Knox was able to have some of the crew release us."
"I see. Did Captain Smythe say anything else or leave any hint?"
"No, My Lord, he did not."
"I see." Fitzwarren said. "Very good, Captain. Rejoin your men." Fitzwarren watched as the young officer snapped, saluted, turned and walked out the door, closing it behind him. Fitzwarren's eyes fell on Knox again. "This is most regrettable." He simply said, shaking his head slightly. "Arvin, return to the Dover. Carry out your orders." Arvin stood and nodded to Fitzwarren. "Knox, you will remain here with me and the Major." Arvin raised an eyebrow slightly, looking at Knox briefly, then turned and walked to the door, that the Major had opened for him. Arvin nodded slightly in thanks.