DOVER Chapter 25
Arvin settled himself into the gig, and the boat crew pushed off. Arvin was lost in thought over everything that had happened aboard the Valiant, but more importantly to him was this heavy sense in his mind that he had betrayed Callum in revealing certain information to His Lordship. He remembered clearly what His Lordship had said about the 'unspoken' regulations and stripping Callum of his rank because of it.
Arvin believed, and firmly believed it, that Callum had made the right decision in informing Arvin, Anders, and the senior officers of the Dover about the treachery and disloyalty of Smythe. That bastard, Smythe, had been the cause of everything leading to the events up to now, Arvin thought. That thought consumed him, filled him, as Arvin knew that Callum lay in the surgery, either dying or was dead already, and Arvin had just not been informed as of yet. He had asked Tomlin to signal if there was any news, but as Arvin lifted his eyes toward Dover, as they drew nearer to her, there was no flag signal.
The gig pulled alongside below the port gunwale, and Arvin climbed up and through the railing. Greene, the Boson, blew the pipe whistle, Captain coming on aboard, and all hands were lining the sides, standing at attention. Arvin fought to swallow, at this deepest show of respect toward him, and turned and tipped his hand toward the Quarterdeck. As with tradition, Arvin was to go below, and then reappear later, but as Callum had begun to show him, to enlighten him in his ways and mannerisms, something that the officers and crew were becoming accustomed to, to respond well to, Arvin followed his fallen Captain's lead and broke with that tradition.
Arvin went to the port stairs and climbed the steps to the Quarterdeck, Tomlin was at what was left of the fore rail, Anders near his right side, and Arvin saw that Tomlin's eyes were wide in what Arvin was doing. Arvin stepped close to Tomlin, and Tomlin only nodded toward him. Arvin flashed a brief smile and stood next to his subordinate, facing forward, looking out of the faces of the crew, who were now gathering in the low light, coming aft toward the raised Quarterdeck. The crew watched him and waited for anything from him. And then Arvin clasped his hands behind his back, and cleared his throat.
"I have met with His Lordship, and given him a full account of our part of the mission to this point. His Lordship and the other Captains of the squadron were almost in disbelief of how well we did. I explained to His Lordship that it was from the guidance and leadership of one man, our Captain. And without that, I am certain we would have suffered a different fate." Arvin paused and cleared his throat. Arvin turned his head and looked at Tomlin. "Is there any news from Dr. Crawford yet?" Tomlin lowered his head slightly, and only shook it in reply. Arvin blinked his eyes and sighed softly, he looked forward into the men again. "I would ask for a moment of silence, in honor of the Captain, to speed whatever God has in His plan for him." Arvin lowered his head and fell silent, as the rest of the crew, officers, and Marines present followed suit. After a very long minute, Arvin opened his eyes and lifted his head.
"His Lordship has given new orders. He has made me Captain of the Dover, as our Captain has fallen. His Lordship has ordered us to follow the squadron back to La Rochelle to support the action to take the fortress and hold it for the coming invasion." The crew went wide eyed hearing of the word 'invasion'. "That was always part of the plan, but as other events have begun to unfold, I am certain that other things will change as well. Each of you knows your duty, to this ship, to your King. I expect nothing else, as did the Captain." Arvin paused for another moment, letting his words take hold, and they did, seeing the look of resolve in those below him on the deck. "Mr. Tomlin, dismiss the hands, have the first watch on deck, and then, we shall be underway after the second watch is called."
"Form a burial detail, and have the dead brought up on deck. We shall hold a service for them before we get underway."
"You have the deck, I'll be in my cabin for a while."
"As you wish, sir." Tomlin said, softly, then looked out, over the crew. He relayed the orders that Arvin had just given, as Arvin walked back toward the stairs of which he had come up from. He went through the doorway, and walked directly to the Great Cabin. He opened the door and found the gun crew, and Middleboro, standing by, still waiting for orders. Middleboro gave a sigh of relief that they had not been forgotten.
"Mr. Middleboro, my compliments to you, sir, and to your crew for holding this position for as long as you have. Now, if you gentlemen will return this cabin to the way that you found it, you are dismissed." Arvin gave a slight smile.
"Thank you, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand, smiling. He turned, "Alright, lads let's pull them back, reblock, and get it straightened out." Arvin turned, hearing Middleboro recite the orders, smiling at it, and walked out the door, closing it behind him. He met Carson on the gangway. Carson looked very worried and not his smiling self at all.
"Carson." Arvin said. Carson stopped, but stepping out of the way. Arvin knew that there was something that he wanted. "What is it?"
"I was wondering, sir. Are you going to see..."
"See the Captain?" Arvin sighed. "Yes, after I make a few notations in my logbook. Have you heard anything yet?"
"No, sir." Carson said quietly, hanging his head.
"Very well. If I know anything after I see the good Doctor, I will seek you out."
"Thank you, sir." Arvin put a hand to Carson's shoulder and touched him briefly, then walked toward his cabin. He opened the door and tossed his hat on the bunk, and then sat at the small desk in the corner, opening the logbook, he came to the last page he had written on, and pulled the quill from the inkwell, tapping the tip on the rim. He collected his thoughts and began to write.
Arvin finally rose from his chair after blotting the ink on the page, and closed the book. He opened the door, and walked toward the galley and went down the aft stairs to the Gun Deck, taking time to look forward, seeing some of the crew hanging their haversacks to get some needed sleep. They deserved it, Arvin thought to himself, he continued down the stairs next section and went onto the Storage Deck, opening a doorway that led into where the surgery was. Arvin saw that the table was empty, but lamps still hung above it. Arvin's heart sank, and then he looked over into the shadows of the bulkhead and saw movement. Arvin stepped closer, moving slowly, and recognized Finch first, his sheer size alone always gave him away, and then knelt below him was Dr. Crawford, and next to Crawford was a cot, and on that cot lay Arvin's Captain. Arvin looked at him, taking in as much detail as he could at once in the dim lamplight. Callum looked like he wasn't breathing at all, there didn't seem to be any movement from him whatsoever. Arvin could see his color, and it had not changed from the last time he had seen his Captain. He was extremely pale. Arvin's chest tightened, despite himself, having seen death before in its many forms over the years. This was different to him now though, this young man that earned his deepest respect, and had even dared to think of him as friend, seeing him like this, wrapped in white cloth bandages now about his chest and stomach, still in his long pants and buckled shoes. Arvin stepped closer, and Finch turned and just looked at him. Arvin lifted his gaze to meet Finch's, but there was nothing there, no clue at all as to what was happening. Arvin softly cleared his throat. Dr. Crawford looked back in Arvin's direction, and then slowly rose to his feet, Finch stood aside to let the Doctor by to go to Arvin.
"How is he, Doctor?" Arvin asked, looking into the exhausted face.
"I have no idea how he's still alive. In all my years of practice, I have never seen anything like it." Crawford looked back at the cot. "He just won't let go."
"You're saying he'll survive then?"
"He should have been dead hours ago." Crawford looked back at Arvin. "His heart beats strong in his chest. I have found and stopped the bleeding inside. He needs to let his body heal itself now. I gave him some Laudanum to keep him sleeping. But, he has lost so much blood."
"Do you or he require anything else?"
"I need to know, are we done with our mission?"
"No, we are to sail after the squadron and render support, while we make repairs. We will be getting underway when the second watch comes on deck."
"I see." Crawford said, lifting fingers to his lip, tapping them in thought, looking back at Callum again. "I think we should move him to the Great Cabin. Having him here, if we engage in battle again, might risk him moving or..."
"It's the men." Crawford looked back at Arvin, lowering his head. "They keep finding excuses and reasons to come back here, just to see him."
"I can understand that, Doctor, can't you?"
"I suppose, but,...I don't want them in the way, if something else happens, and he's still here."
"I see your point. When do you want to move him?"
"I would say, let's give it another hour or so, to let his body start its own work."
"That should be enough time for Middleboro to put the cabin back together and secure the guns."
"Can you tell me what's been going on? I have been here in the surgery and I would like to be brought up with everything."
"I will see about supper this evening in the Ward Room. I'll speak to Captain Anders about it. We can catch up then, if that's alright?"
"Very satisfactory." Crawford smiled briefly. "Oh, and by the way Mr. Arvin, well done, very well done."
"Just doing my duty, Doctor." Arvin smiled briefly and walked away, going forward. He came upon the Marines, Lt. Holt was with Sgt. McGuffin, discussing the men and rotations. They snapped as they saw Arvin approach them. The Marines themselves snapped as well.
"Thank you, gentlemen, at ease, please." Arvin said. Holt and McGuffin saluted Arvin, Arvin tipped his hand toward them. "Is everything alright here, Lieutenant?"
"Excellent. I was wondering, Lt., if I may borrow you for a discussion?"
"I am at your disposal, sir." Holt gave a slight bow.
"Then, would you join me in the Ward Room?"
"Of course, sir." Holt turned and looked at McGuffin, "Take over, Sergeant."
"Very good, SIR!" McGuffin snapped.
Arvin went up the gangway stairs, with young Holt behind him. They walked the Main Deck, men tipping their hands toward Arvin as he walked by, on their way aft. Arvin was surveying what the men were doing and was pleased that things, lines, blocks, railings were being set, replaced or repaired. Dover was coming back nicely to what she once was. Arvin thought Callum would be pleased. Arvin broke his thought as they approached the Quarterdeck, seeing Anders and Tomlin having a conversation, not being animated in any way, just speaking in quiet tones that he could not hear.
"Captain Anders." Arvin called up, making Anders turn and look down, seeing Holt with Arvin, Anders looked concerned as if something might be wrong. "I was wondering if you could join Lt. Holt and I in the Ward Room?"
"Is there a problem, sir?"
"I had a thought, and need to discuss something with you both, if you please?"
"Certainly, sir." Anders said, and came down the stairs. He walked quickly over and Holt gave him a salute as he approached. Anders gave him a sloppy one in return. They went through the galley and stopped, seeing Carson. "Carson," Arvin said, "I told you that I would bring news."
"Yes, sir?" Carson looked up and his eyes seemed to well.
"Fear not, I just left the Captain, and the good Doctor. The Doctor is amazed that he still lives. The Doctor wishes to move him to the quiet of the Great Cabin. Will you see to it that the Captain has every possible comfort and care?"
"Indeed I will, sir. And thank you, sir."
"You're welcome, Carson. Oh, and the Captain will possibly need constant tending. Can you think of someone that might be able to assist in that?"
"I think I can, sir." Carson tipped his hand, giving Arvin a half-smile.
"Excellent. We shall have supper this evening in the Ward Room, for five, if you please?"
"It will be done, sir." Carson tipped again, as the trio continued on.
Arvin stepped out of the way, as Anders opened the door for them, going through first, then Holt, then Arvin closing it behind them. Anders went to the far side of the table, and stood, while Holt moved about to the end, watching Arvin, as Arvin leaned on the table with the palms of his hands. Each of them was watching Arvin closely.
"First, let me say, that I apologize for volunteering your quarters to hold supper." Arvin said, Anders waved it off with a hand. "Secondly, and the main reason I asked you both here, is because of the information that you provided for the Captain, Lieutenant." Holt looked curiously at Arvin. "Captain, do you know the Major that is assigned to the Valiant?" Arvin asked Anders.
"Yes, Major Simmonds. I know him quite well, actually."
"Would you think that Major Simmonds might have use of the information that your young Lieutenant has so thoughtfully provided?" Arvin asked, and a smile crept forth across Anders lips.
"It might be very beneficial to him, sir, and to the success of the landing."
"And would you also say that our firsthand experience in seeing the fortress and the damage we exacted on it, might also be of benefit as well?"
"So, as the dawn is almost upon us, and the squadron is about to get underway, might I suggest that you and your young Lieutenant here, row over and have a conference with the Major, with map in hand, of course. It might bolster...something?"
"Indeed it would, Mr. Arvin, indeed." Anders grinned in the corner of his mouth.
"Well then, prepare yourselves, and I shall have a boat lowered immediately." Arvin smiled, and then winked at Holt. Arvin walked out on deck, into the predawn light, closing the door, he looked up seeing Tomlin on the Quarterdeck.
"Mr. Tomlin, assemble a boat crew and lower the Captains gig."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin replied, slightly confused, then barked out orders.
"Greene!" Arvin called out, and the Boson came quickly. "Signal the Valiant, 'coming aboard'."
"Aye, sir!" Greene turned and jumped for flags in the chest below the port stairs, pulling out the correct ones, and lashed them and ran them up quickly. Arvin was watching as they topped out, and then looked over at the Valiant, waiting. He could hear the boat being uncovered and unlashed, retied and hoisted. In another couple of minutes, the boat was swung out and lowered over the port side. Arvin watched and the signal was received by the Valiant and one was sent in return.
"Valiant signaling, sir."
"So I see." Arvin said.
"They signal all clear, sir." Greene said.
Very well." Arvin said, as he felt someone behind him, he turned and saw Anders and Holt there. "Boat crew is going over the side now, gentlemen. I apologize for not thinking of this before, but with everything else..."
"Understandable, very understandable." Anders said quietly.
"And, gentlemen, please don't forget to return before the Valiant gets underway. I think Sgt. McGuffin is quite capable, however, he might be a tad miffed if you do not return." Arvin smiled briefly. Anders chuckled at his jest, and walked toward the gunwale, turning and going over the side, Holt followed him, and Arvin watched him disappear.
"Is everything alright, Mr. Tomlin?" Arvin asked without looking up, as he stared out toward the Valiant.
"Aye, sir. No problems to report, sir."
"Very good, you still have the deck. I shall be in my cabin." Arvin said, feeling exhausted all of a sudden.
"Very good, sir." Tomlin watched as Arvin went through the door into the galley, closing it behind him, smiling briefly at Carson as he walked by, Carson seemingly going back to his happy self with the news of Callum. But Arvin sensed there was still worry there. Arvin turned down the gangway, and was met by Middleboro.
"Everything is set in the Great Cabin, Mr. Arvin." Middleboro tipped his hand.
"Excellent, Mr. Middleboro, good work. Dr. Crawford will be moving the Captain to his berth shortly. Take this time to rest yourself and your gun crew. There will be a service on the Main Deck at the change of the second watch. I will have you take the deck then, to relieve Mr. Tomlin, before we get underway."
"Very good, sir."
"I'll be here in my cabin if you need me." Arvin said as he opened the door, walked in, and closed it behind him. He picked up his hat off the bunk and hung it on a peg. He slipped out of his tunic, and draped it over the back of his chair at the little desk, and lay on the bunk, closing his eyes almost immediately and then was lost in the darkness of his own lids.
Tomlin had watched as the Captain's gig pulled for the Valiant, and as the swell had calmed slightly in the predawn hours, it was a rapid trip for the boat crew to reach alongside the Valiant. The gig was tied off and Anders came up the side and through the gunwale, he stepped forward, seeing the Boson there, along with another few crewmen. Anders waited just a moment and Holt joined him as well. Anders turned to the Boson.
"We are here to see Major Simmonds." He said plainly.
"The Major is below, sir. Shall I show you, sir, or would you like me to request him to join you on deck?"
"It would probably be best if he joined him below." Anders said, in his voice of authority.
"If you will follow me please, sir? This way." The Boson said, starting to walk. Anders and Holt followed and were led down several sets of stairs, coming into a companionway that was narrow, and dimly lit. The Boson knocked. He knocked again, and then there was reply from inside. The door opened and there was the Major, standing there with bleary eyes, holding the door.
"Beg pardon, sir. These officers need to see you, sir." The Boson said, and Simmonds stuck his head out, seeing Anders, with Holt behind him. Simmonds sighed and backed away from the door, letting them in. Simmonds closed the door behind Anders and Holt, after he turned up the lamp on the wall.
"What can I do for you, Anders?" Simmonds asked as he turned to face them.
"We have some information that might be of some assistance in coordinating our landing, sir."
"Information, what information?" Simmonds said in sleepy sounding voice.
"Lieutenant." Anders said. And Simmonds watched as Holt produced paper from his uniform inside pocket. He handed it to Simmonds, who unfolded it and scanned the sketch. He looked up at both of them, narrowing his eyes.
"The Lieutenant sketched it. Didn't General Emery tell you that is why the Lieutenant was selected to come on this mission, sir?"
"He did not." Simmonds was now wide awake. "And as I have been discovering very recently, there are several things about this mission that I had no idea of as well."
"Ah, you speak of the Tarkington, sir."
"You know of that obviously."
"More than you know perhaps, sir." Anders said, and Simmonds narrowed his eyes only at him.
"Perhaps we should compare information, Captain." Simmonds sounded perturbed.
"I wish there was time for that, sir. The Valiant and the rest of the squadron are preparing to get underway. Our ship commander does not wish for us to sail with you, leaving our contingent without an officer, sir."
"I can understand that. It wouldn't be regulation. You actually sketched this?" Simmonds asked Holt directly.
"Yes, sir, from memory, sir. I spent considerable time there as a boy."
"You're sure that this is accurate?"
"Yes, sir." Holt said, standing rigid. "Well, sir, I should correct that, sir, except for the damage done with our engagement, sir."
"I see." Simmonds said, "And what damage did you do?" Holt leaned forward and pointed to a few points on the sketch, also saying that they had seen some of the long guns collapse under the weight of the crumbling ramparts. Simmonds eyes were wide at this, and then Holt went on to explain about the docks that extended out into the bay, and the town itself that was separated from the fortress by only a small stone bridge, which was represented by two lines over another line, representing a creek that led into the bay. "And, all of this...sketching from memory?"
"Yes, sir." Holt said as he stood rigid again, and at attention.
"At ease, Lieutenant." Simmonds said. "Captain Anders, I am now wondering how much information that you are privy too."
"I am wondering myself, sir." Anders said. "I had several briefings from General Emery prior to the mission."
"I see." Simmonds looked him, narrowing his eyes again. "Then you are in a far better position than I to lead this mission, apparently, as I only received written orders to report to the Valiant, and assume command of the garrison, to land at La Rochelle, and hold the position at all costs."
"I see, sir." Anders looked hesitant. Simmonds could see his mind turning, knowing that there was far more information than he was given.
"Captain Anders, I feel that for the success of this mission, we need to have a lengthy discussion about it. Does our young Lieutenant here, also know anything more?"
"Uh, no, sir. Lt. Holt was assigned to me recently, sir, just prior to the mission." Anders had a nervous look in his eye all of a sudden. "He is a good officer, sir, and follows his orders, without question."
"Captain, I am going to press you to remain onboard the Valiant and to sail with me. We have no time, as you say, for a lengthy discussion, prior to sailing. I feel that you are the key to our success once we land our troops."
"But, sir, I..."
"Yes, I am aware that your ship commander gave instruction to you, but I will remind, sir, that I am a commanding officer of the Royal Marines, and as such, I have the authority to move Marines under my command to where I feel that they need to be moved. Ship commander or no, I am ordering you to join me here aboard the Valiant."
"Yes, sir." Anders stiffened.
"You hesitate, Captain. Are you concerned for the Lieutenant?"
"Well, sir, I..."
"I see," Simmonds folded his arms over his chest, cutting Anders off, "did you not just tell me that he is a good officer and can follow his orders?"
"Yes, sir." Anders knew he was trapped by his own words.
"Then, I would suggest, Captain, that you give him orders to follow." Simmonds had a reputation of being hard at times, and difficult to deal with, but was always fair. A reputation such as his had gotten him where he was, and Anders knew it, and had known him and of him for years. Anders turned and looked at his young Lieutenant, who had wide eyes now. Anders saw him as a scared boy standing before him, but Anders knew how to deal with it, to ease him, calm him.
"Lieutenant, you will take command of our forces aboard the Dover. Have Sgt. McGuffin assist you with the platoon leaders. Inform Mr. Arvin that I have been reassigned to the Valiant until our landing at the fortress. Once there, we shall reform, and I will reassume command."
"Yes, sir." Holt said, going rigid again.
"Remember, listen to the officers of the Dover, they will help you if needed. Listen to their council and learn from it. They are a fine group of officers, and I have learned over the years to trust their judgment."
"I'll remember, sir."
"Alright, take your leave, and return quickly in the Captain's gig."
"Yes, sir." Holt saluted to Anders. Anders returned it, and then stretched his hand. Holt looked at it, and shook it as well as he took it. "Thank you, sir." Anders nodded in reply.
"Permission to leave, sir." Holt said to Simmonds. Simmonds nodded and then returned the salute loosely, as he was only in his long underwear. Holt turned and walked out the door, leaving Anders and Simmonds alone. Anders kept his back to Simmonds, keeping his eyes closed, thinking about what his young Lieutenant was actually going to have to do, now that he was basically on his own. Anders knew he was bright and capable, but he also knew that he had no experience to lead on his own. It would be trial by fire for the youth. Anders clenched his teeth and turned to face Simmonds.
"There is a table in the galley, it is rather informal, but I think we can talk there over coffee. I shall dress, and then join you." Simmonds said, as he stood and started to gather his uniform. Anders saluted and turned for the door. He opened it and walked out, closing it behind him, Anders blew out a breath and then proceeded along the narrow companionway, heading for the galley.
Holt sat in the gig, and had told the boat crew that Anders would not be returning with them. They pushed off and Holt settled himself, thinking that he had just now had stepped into a much larger world. It frightened him, but he also knew he was very capable. He sat still with all these thoughts and more as he saw Dover coming closer into view. The boat crew shipped oars, and the Coxswain moved the tiller, as he sat next to Holt, to bring the gig alongside Dover. Hands grasped the sides and the ropes stopping the gig from further movement. Holt rose from the bench seat and climbed up the side and through the gunwale. He stepped on the deck as Greene, the Boson and another crewman were there manning the side, as custom, but no pipe was sounded. Holt looked up on the Quarterdeck and saw Tomlin standing there, one hand on the rail, watching Holt. Holt walked toward the stairs and went up.
"Mr. Tomlin, I need to report, sir."
"Where is Captain Anders?"
"He has been ordered to remain aboard the Valiant."
"What?" Tomlin's eyes went wide.
"Our division commander, Major Simmonds, ordered him to remain on the Valiant, sir." Holt said, in a plain tone, Tomlin looked past Holt toward the Valiant and blew out a short hard breath. His gaze shifted and looked back at Holt.
"You should report to Mr. Arvin. He needs to know, but he is resting in his cabin."
"Should I disturb him, sir?" Holt's eyes betrayed him, a look of softness, of needing help.
"I think you should." Tomlin said, looking at the young Lieutenant. "Have you ever seen Mr. Arvin angry?"
"No, sir." Holt said with a blank look now.
"It's something I wouldn't repeat." Tomlin said softly, with a raised eyebrow.
"I suppose you're right." Holt said and then gave an uncertain faint smile. Tomlin saw it and his heart went out to him immediately, as well as his outstretched hand. Holt looked at it for a moment and then took it in his own.
"Thomas." Tomlin said quietly.
"Christian." Holt answered. His eyes softened momentarily, as now knowing, making a friend.
"If you need help...do not hesitate." Tomlin said in a low voice.
"Thank you." Holt said, squeezing fingers more onto Tomlin's hand. Holt let go and turned and walked to go down below. He went through the Gun Deck and made his way to Arvin's cabin. He knocked softly, and waited, there was no answer. He knocked again, and then heard a voice from inside, Holt opened the door slowly, and stuck his head inside, taking off his hat.
"Lt. Holt?" Arvin's groggy voice came in the dark room.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr. Arvin. Mr. Tomlin said I should report to you, sir."
"What is it? What's happened, Lieutenant?" Arvin asked as he lifted up on one elbow on the bunk.
"It concerns Captain Anders, sir. He has been ordered to remain aboard the Valiant."
"What?" Arvin sat up in his bunk. "On whose authority?"
"That of Major Simmonds, sir." Holt said, as he stepped into the small cabin.
"Damn." Arvin said, swinging his legs off the bunk, and sitting up. "What happened?"
"We took the sketch and gave it to Major Simmonds, sir. We pointed out the damage that we saw last night, that the Dover inflicted and that was pointed out as well on the sketch. And then, well, sir,...they started to speak of knowledge of the mission, and..."
"Oh no..." Arvin said, rubbing his face with both hands, trying to wake up. Arvin got off his bunk, and went to the door, Holt standing aside. Arvin opened the door and stuck his head out into the companionway. "Carson!" Arvin yelled, and then shut the door, he went back to his bunk and sat down. "Alright, if I understand you correctly, Major Simmonds was given your sketch of the fortress."
"You described it for him, showing the sketch and the placements."
"Yes, sir, and the damage from the engagement."
"Alright, then their conversation turned to... more of a different nature?"
"Information that you are not privy to?"
"Yes, sir. I did not understand what it was they were speaking of. Major Simmonds explained that he had only received written orders to assume command of the garrison. While Captain Anders said he had several briefings from General Emery himself, sir. It's all very confusing to me, sir." A knock interrupted Holt and then the door opened, Carson stuck his head in.
"You called, sir?"
"Yes, Carson, coffee, please, lots of coffee." Arvin sighed.
"Right away, sir." Carson closed the door.
"Lieutenant, I understand your confusion in this matter, you must believe me, it is unfortunate that Captain Anders has been detained aboard the Valiant." Arvin took in a deep breath through his nose, and then let it out slowly. "I just need to know one thing from you." Holt knew what Arvin was going to ask, he knew it down to his very core. "Can you assume command of your Marines?"
"With absolute certainty, Mr. Arvin." Holt sounded strong, controlled, firm, in the darkness of the cabin. Carson opened the door, and brought in a tray, carrying a small pot and cups. Holt saw also a small bowl that had what looked like sugar in it as well on the tray from the dim light coming from the open door. Holt knew that Carson had remembered he liked a little sugar in his coffee.
"Thank you, Carson. Just right there on the seat of the chair, I suppose."
"Shall I get your breakfast, sir?" Carson asked as he stood. He reached for the lamp on the wall and turned it up to illuminate the small cabin.
"Give us a little bit of time, Carson. The young Lieutenant and I have a few things more to discuss. We shall have breakfast in the Ward Room then."
"Very good, sir. Just give a shout out again, sir."
"Thank you, Carson." Arvin said and stood, pouring coffee for Holt and handing it to him. Arvin poured for himself, and then returned to the bunk. "I apologize for the small size of my cabin, Lieutenant, and have no other place to offer you to sit, but you are welcome to join me here." Arvin patted the edge of the bunk. Holt added a little sugar and gave it a stir, then set the spoon on the tray, and joined Arvin on the bunk, just leaning against it.
"I am concerned for Captain Anders, Mr. Arvin." Holt said as he sipped at his cup.
"And why is that?"
"The Captain is under a very great strain, sir. He is more than concerned about the mission and its success."
"And how would you know that?" Arvin asked. "Has he spoken of this to you?"
"No, sir, not actually." Holt said, sipping more life giving coffee to the youth. "He talks in his sleep, sir." Arvin lowered his cup, thinking about it for a moment and then laughed out loud. Holt smiled at hearing Arvin laughing, and couldn't help but chuckle himself. After a minute of trying to contain himself, Arvin was reduced to just chuckles now and again.
"Oh, my word," Arvin snickered, "Lt. Holt, I do believe that you are a most welcome addition aboard this ship. You will find over time that the officers and men of this ship have become more like a family than most families that I have ever known. They help and support one another." Arvin paused and then sipped more of his coffee, as Holt did the same, "You have to understand that all you need do is ask, and assistance will be rendered without hesitation. You, my lad, seem to be a good fit, here with us, as Captain Anders found that as well, I'm certain."
"I thank you, sir. I truly appreciate that."
"You're most welcome." Arvin said, and then got off his bunk. He refilled his cup from the pot on the tray, setting the pot back down. "Now, may I press you to take that tray across to the Ward Room? I will dress and have Carson bring us some breakfast. Then we can speak of strategy and you can assume your duties taking command of your Marines."
"I would be happy to, Mr. Arvin." Holt got up from the bunk edge and set his cup on the tray. Holt picked it up and opened the cabin door. He balanced the tray and walked over and opened the Ward Room door, setting the tray on the table. He went back and closed Arvin's cabin door quietly and returned to the Ward Room.
Dr. Crawford was standing over Callum, just watching him breath in shallow breaths, the white bandages barely moving as his chest was constricted by the cloth, keeping it tight. Callum was groaning slightly, moving his head a little from side to side, Crawford knew that he was in pain as he was slowly regaining consciousness. Crawford let out a deep breath as he watched this young man on the cot, that was literally fighting for his own life inside of his own body. Crawford saw no rank, no posting, no privilege, only a young man who was struggling. Finch, who had stayed with the Doctor the entire time, and had watched his Captain be cut apart, literally, stood by silently waiting for instruction from the Doctor.
"I think we should move him before he regains his full wits." Crawford said. "He might move himself too much and begin to bleed again if we don't." Crawford paused for a minute, and then looked at Finch. "Find me a group of four hands so we can carry him out of here. Hurry now." Finch turned and hurried away, leaving Crawford alone with Callum.
"Quintan,...can you hear me?" Crawford asked as he knelt beside Callum. There was no reply. "Quintan?" Crawford tried again in an even tone. "Quintan?" Crawford asked again a little more loud.
"Yes?" Came the soft strained voice.
"Quintan, we are going to move you to your cabin. Do you understand?" Callum nodded his head slowly. "But before we do, I must tie you to this cot to keep you from moving. If you move you might start to bleed again. Do you understand?" Crawford asked. Callum nodded his head. "Alright. You will feel it as it tightens a little. Do not be alarmed." Crawford pulled some ropes out and began to secure them around Callum and the cot, tying the two together. The extra hands showed up with Finch in the lead. The hands remained silent, seeing their Captain, being lashed down, and looking so unlike his former self. They all grew very concerned, standing there, in total silence, in the low lamp light. There was no vibrancy, no shine or sparkle in him, only pale colorless skin that matched his long blonde hair. Crawford finally finished with the ropes, and Callum was secured to the cot. Crawford stood and looked at them all.
"We are taking him out of here and carrying him to the Great Cabin. I cannot say this enough, we must go slow and easy with him. When we reach the gangways, he will have to pass him up, trying to keep him as steady as possible. If we jar him too much, he may start to bleed again. And he has lost too much blood as it is. Are you gentlemen ready?" They all nodded, not taking their eyes off Callum once. "Alright, two in the lead at his feet, two of you in the middle Finch you take his head." Crawford got out onto the more open deck out of the way. "Nice and slow now. Alright, everyone lift." Crawford said.
It took some time, but Callum was carried out on the Storage Deck through the Marines. McGuffin was standing there and offered assistance with some of the Marines to work and get Callum up the Gangway Stairs, keeping him flat and not standing as Crawford thought might happen. The procession continued up through the next set of stairs and slowly, they made their way out on deck. Crawford knew the widest most direct route was through the galley, and they proceeded in that direction. Carson saw them come through the galley and got out of the way for the procession. Crawford led the way, and opened doors as he went, crew members carried their fallen Captain gently, with dignity and reverence, followed by McGuffin and a dozen Marines.
They reached the Great Cabin, Crawford opening the double set of doors, and Carson came in and had the bunk readied, and then they set the cot down on the deck. Crawford untied Callum now and got him ready to move. He examined the bandages for any leaking or soaking, but none was evident. Carefully, hands were set in place under Callum's body and he was gently lifted into the bunk and the cot was removed. The hands and the Marines were ushered out by Carson, thanking them for their assistance over and over. He returned to Crawford and the groaning Callum.
"Quintan? Can you hear me?" Callum nodded slowly. "Are you in pain?" Callum nodded again slowly. "Do you want something?" Callum shook his head slightly in reply. "Alright, I shall return with something later then. I want you to rest now. You are safe in your cabin. There will be someone with you at all times. Do not strain yourself. Do you understand?" Callum slowly nodded, keeping his eyes closed. "Very good, Captain." Crawford said softly, he touched Callum's exposed shoulder gently and then stood. Crawford went to the berth door and turned back, watching Callum breathe slightly. Crawford felt someone next to him, and looked, it was Carson. "Do you have someone that can stay with him?"
"Yes, sir." Carson said. "Would you like me to fetch him now?"
"That might be wise. I shall remain here while you do that." Crawford said as he went to the large table in the cabin, sitting down, so he could see into the berth. Crawford felt exhausted from all of his work on Callum.
"Very good, Doctor." Carson said and looked in the berth to see the still form of Callum, still glowing a pale color in the low lamplight, hanging from the wall. Carson wrung his hands together looking still very concerned. "Just hold on, sir. I have just the medicine you need." Carson whispered to himself. He turned and walked away out of the cabin.
Carson held the door open and Dustin walked into the Great Cabin. Carson closed the door behind Dustin and walked toward the berth, seeing that Crawford had fallen asleep in the chair at the table. Dustin knew the way, but was nervous, Carson being here with him, as well as the sleeping Doctor, but Dustin was more nervous about seeing Callum. He had heard everything on deck that the officers had said, had seen Callum being worked on by Dr. Crawford, but had not actually seen him yet. That fact was what made Dustin want to crawl out of his own skin. Carson stood at the berth doorway, watching Dustin for a moment, and then signaled to him with a gentle wave of his hand. Dustin walked over close to Carson and took in a breath before looking in. He slowly stuck his head around the corner, looking into the small room with the lamplight glowing.
"I shall refill the oil." Carson said in a whisper. "The Doctor does not wish him to be alone at all. I knew you would be the one to lend a hand." Carson smiled at Dustin, watching the boy stare inside the room.
Callum was breathing slowly, easily, and Dustin saw his chest barely rise and fall. He let out his own breath slowly, seeing it, thinking the worse, that Callum was actually dead, and had just been placed in the cabin in state, as Captain Powers had been. Dustin looked up at Carson, seeing those soft gentle eyes, leading Dustin, telling him to go in without speaking it aloud. Dustin looked back at Callum and entered the room, walking slowly to the bunk, looking down at his sleeping lover. Dustin could plainly see the color was gone from Callum and was as pale as the bandages that covered his chest and stomach. Dustin almost winced knowing that he was so injured, wanting to just hold him, comfort him, but knew he couldn't. Carson stepped up next to him.
"The Captain spoke of resuming your studies." Carson whispered, close to Dustin's ear. "Might I suggest that you read to him while he sleeps? I'm certain that it will give him comfort to hear your voice."
"You think so, Mr. Carson?" Dustin whispered.
"I do indeed, my lad." Carson smiled, whispering in return, while watching Callum. "The more you do, the quicker it will have him on his feet."
"But, I can't read, Mr. Carson, you know that."
"Read what you can, and then you can just tell him stories." Carson smiled at Dustin, "It's the sound of your voice that the Captain needs right now, lad."
"Alright, if you say so."
"I do." Carson pointed at the chair of the little desk, "Now, you take that chair and get comfortable, I'll fetch you a good book and you can get started. Place it so he can hear you easily." Carson looked over at Crawford at the table, still asleep. Carson walked over and touched Crawford's shoulder, waking him. "Doctor, I have someone here with the Captain. Why don't you get some rest, sir?" Crawford stretched his arms a bit, and then got up from the chair.
"I suppose you're right, Carson, thank you." Crawford looked into the berth, seeing Dustin, carrying the small chair to the bunk, smiling briefly and then walked to the door.
Dustin set the chair near Callum's head, and set himself on it. He watched Callum for a minute, as Carson returned with a book from Captain Powers' collection from the shelf. He handed it to Dustin, as Dustin looked at it and then opened it, seeing all of the words on the pages. Dustin struggled with the very first word.
"Make a go of it lad, you can do it." Carson was soft in his reassurance. Dustin looked at him and then back at the page. Dustin tried his best to read it but couldn't.
"Would it be alright if I just talked to him?" Dustin whispered as he closed the book.
"Certainly, my lad, just the sound of your voice will be the best medicine for him." Carson smiled. "Now, I have duties to attend. You go and do yours." Dustin nodded and tried to smile, but his jaw hurt. Carson returned the smile, then turned and walked away, leaving Dustin and Callum alone in the berth.
Dustin leaned close near to the side of Callum's face. "Quintan, I'm here with you, and I'm not leaving anytime soon." Dustin said softly, almost hissing through his clenched teeth. "I want you to know that you will be well once again. Dr. Crawford worked very hard. As I'm here, if you need anything, all you need do is ask." Dustin rested his forearms on his thighs and knees, folding his hands together, letting them hang. "Mr. Carson said I should read to you, but you know I can't. I will simply talk and you can just listen." Dustin paused for a moment, then continued, "I had not the chance to speak of it to you when I came aboard with your trunk. I had Owen drive me in the cart from Birmingham, he said that he was happy to do it, and would not accept the fare that I offered. Dear Martha, she charged me to have her sons return home to her safely, saying she would wait and count the days until our return. She kissed me as I left the house, asking me to promise that. I assured her I would." Dustin looked over a little, seeing the still form of Callum. "She made a jest of you being the new Squire to the lands about Callum's Cross. Mr. Bockman and his workers were near completing the stone walls as I left with Owen. They have done a fine job with it, and they seem very sound. He spoke of what they would do with the hen's roost, and he seems to be a trustworthy sort, a man of his word. I know that you think that as well." Dustin paused as he continued to look at Callum, being oh so still, just his gentle breathing giving the only outward sign of life. Dustin took in another deep breath and let it out slowly and then stopped when he saw something in the lamplight. Was it? Did he actually see it? Or was he, just wanting to see something? Dustin waited more and then it was...yes, it was...Callum was moving his fingers of his right hand as it lay next to his leg. Dustin smiled.
Camden came up on the Quarterdeck as the dawn was approaching, carrying tools with him. He lay them on the deck at the wheel. Tomlin was watching him, and knew that the wheel was about to be repaired. No replacement was aboard the Dover, but there were plenty of spare timbers and plankings that could be made into fashion and as Camden was a sound carpenter, he quickly went about his duties. Tomlin watched him as he worked, chiseling shards of the splintered material away, letting them fall to the deck. Camden looked down seeing that he needed to repair the deck where the crew had chopped it away where Callum had been trapped.
Tomlin stepped away, giving Camden more room, and as not to crowd him to continue his repairs. Tomlin turned his gaze forward and watched the hands resetting the last of the rigging crossarm blocks on the Main Mast, as the rails and gunnels were in good shape, the work was moving quickly in the approaching dawn light. Lines were reran through blocks and set for securement, and Dover was slowly becoming whole again. Tomlin could feel in the slight swell that they were about, the tightness from the Main to the decking. It was slight, but as he knew from all his time aboard her, that it was a good thing. He smiled to himself knowing that once underway, she would be her best in a full wind once again. Tomlin saw Camden leave and go down the starboard stairs, probably to get material from down below. Tomlin went back to his watching forward.
As the light of the dawn was getting better, making the ships of the squadron more visible, Tomlin could hear off in the distance, voices, shouts, that were faint from the wind that was now coming up. Tomlin walked over to the starboard rail, resting his hands on it, watching the Valiant, closest to them, running up flags for signal to the rest of the squadron. Tomlin read the signals, 'prepare to sail, follow flag ship' was what they read. Tomlin knew what the orders were, from Mr. Arvin, and he continued to watch.
The Tarkington was lowering sail on her Main, and the spanker was run out, as Tarkington was still laying off the bows of the Valiant. Slowly, the Tarkington took the wind and she started to move in a slightly curved course to port out of the way of the Valiant. Tomlin narrowed his eyes at the sight, looking behind the Valiant over the Dover's starboard aft quarter, seeing the other ships of the squadron off in the distance, starting to lower main sails only. Tomlin knew some of them, as there were two ships in the squadron that were Dover's class frigate, the Tarkington included, the others of the squadron were larger second class vessels, sixty gunners, but smaller than the Valiant herself. Tomlin knew it was more firepower than needed to take the French fortress and their fleet, and longed for a moment as they all began to move, wanting to join them, to get underway, to head back for a good fight. "Give them your worst." Tomlin whispered as the ships slowly began to move. Valiant signaled again, this time to Dover. Signal ran up and Tomlin read it quickly, 'carry out orders', then the flags went down, a minute later, more went up, 'follow to support'. Tomlin noted it to himself to relay it to Arvin.
"Mr. Greene, signal reply!" Tomlin called out.
"Aye, sir!" As Green was watching as well, heading for the chest under the stairs.
"Signal, acknowledgement." Tomlin said.
"Aye, sir!" The Boson said as he pulled hand over hand sending the flag. They waited and watched as Valiant let go more canvas now going under full sail. All hands on deck of the Dover watched as the Valiant went into her full majesty of taking the wind, leaning slightly to starboard, as the crew of the Valiant were hurrying about on their deck performing their duties, and men were in the rigging. A few hands of the Valiant waved from the rigging toward the Dover, as was custom, waving to a ship that was to be left behind.
"Mr. Greene!" Tomlin said, "Leave the acknowledgement in place under the squadron is clear."
"Go below, inform Mr. Arvin, that the squadron is under sail, with my compliments." Tomlin said.
"Aye, aye, sir!" Greene tipped his hand and hurried through the galley doorway. Greene found Carson and asked where Mr. Arvin was, Carson told him, and Greene hurried off down the companionway, knocking on the door. He heard the reply and opened it, seeing Arvin and Lt. Holt there at the table of the Ward Room. "Mr. Tomlin's compliments, Mr. Arvin, the squadron is getting underway, sir."
"Very good, Greene, inform Mr. Tomlin that I shall join him shortly." Arvin looked up and answered.
"Aye, sir." Greene said, tipping his hand, then closed the door.
"As we draw near the fortress, depending upon placement of the squadron, Lieutenant, I shall have the boats standing by to disembark you and your men."
"We will be ready, sir."
"Excellent." Arvin said, wiping the corners of his mouth and then dropping the napkin on the table. "I hope all goes well prior to our arrival for the squadron."
"I am hopeful as well, sir." Holt said, as he stood. "I should see to my men, sir."
"I agree. And, Lieutenant," Arvin said, as he stood as well, "thank you for your insights."
"I hope they will be of service to you, sir." Holt smiled, standing rigid.
"I'm certain they will." Arvin nodded. Holt saluted him, and turned for the door. Arvin waited a long moment, after Holt walked out, reflecting on what the young officer had told him. Arvin walked around the table, and went to his cabin across the way, and retrieved his hat, blowing out the lamp, and then closing the door. He walked down the companionway and stopped at the doors of the Great Cabin. He paused for a moment, then opened the door, closing it quietly behind him, seeing that the cabin was as it should be, and walked to the berth, looking in as he stepped to the doorway. Dustin was there, sitting in the chair, that had now been turned so Dustin had his back to the door, the chair close to the bunk. Dustin looked over his shoulder, seeing Arvin, and started to jump to his feet. Arvin quickly put up a hand to stop him, as Arvin stepped forward, Dustin eased himself. Arvin looked over the top of Dustin, seeing Callum still looking pale as death itself, but breathing. Arvin gently put a hand on Dustin's shoulder, easing him into the chair fully. Dustin looked up at him, and Arvin tilted his head telling him to follow him. Arvin turned and walked out of the berth to the table, Dustin following him.
"How is he?"
"He moved his fingers once, sir. I was speaking to him, and he let me know he could hear me."
"I suppose that's a good sign." Arvin said, looking at Callum through the door from the table. "Mr. Perkins, I will require you to be at the helm once we near at La Rochelle. Your hands at the wheel will be of great value to the ship and to the Captain."
"I understand, sir."
"I will send word for you as we draw near. Have you had rest?"
"Good. Is there anything that you require here?"
"Mr. Carson came in and said Dr. Crawford was going to return later, sir. To give the Captain something more if he should wake. I am to let the Doctor know if he stirs, sir."
"I see. Then it looks as if you have your orders from the good Doctor." Arvin smiled briefly, looking at Dustin. "We will set sail at the end of the second watch. There will be a service on deck, prior to that, I know that some of the dead were close shipmates. But, under the circumstances, perhaps it would be best to remain here."
"I understand, sir." Dustin said, with a sad look slowly creeping over his face. "I not sure that the rest of the crew might understand, sir."
"I will take care of the rest of the crew, you need not worry over them." Arvin said in a smooth voice. "You been asked to render assistance, to the Captain, and if they have a problem with that, or hold malice to that, then that will be dealt swiftly."
"I am not trying to place you in a difficult position, lad. Do you wish for me to have another replace you here?"
"Good lad. Then I am certain that the crew will understand." Arvin gave a brief smile.
"Now, tend your duties, and watch him closely."
"I will, sir. Thank you."
"Mr. Perkins, it is I, and the crew, that should be thanking you." Arvin said, putting a hand lightly on his shoulder. He let it go, and Dustin tipped his hand, turning, and going back to the berth to the chair. Arvin watched him for a moment and then walked out of the cabin.
Arvin walked out on deck, looking about and then went to the port stairs, climbing them slowly, seeing Tomlin at the starboard rail, hands spread, looking ahead over the side. Arvin looked at Camden, who was sculpting and fitting new crossarms for the wheel repair, seeing all of the tools about, Arvin stepped by them carefully, Camden looking up and tipping his hand, stopping his work momentarily. Arvin walked to where Tomlin was, looking over in the same direction, seeing the squadron sailing south, all ships in a line, bow to stern in formation. Tomlin jumped a little realizing Arvin was there and snapped straight.
"It's quite alright, Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said, with a smile out of the corner of his mouth, "I wish we were going with them, as well. It won't be long however."
"What is our status?"
"Repairs are coming along nicely, sir. Main Mast has been reblocked and rigged. Camden reports that he would like to rerig the Mizzen struts before we get underway, just to make sure, sir. He felt that the wheel had a priority and wished to proceed with that first. I can have a group of hands see to the Mizzen, if you'd like, sir?" Arvin turned and looked at the Mizzen, that had been patched near its base, as it had nearly shot in half in the engagement.
"I think we should heed the advice of Mr. Camden. I would hate to have further issue in a strong wind or if caught in a gale. Set a few hands to it, while Camden is here to oversee and make suggestion if necessary. I need to see Lt. Holt and how his Marines are doing. You still have the deck, Mr. Tomlin."
"As you say, sir." Tomlin tipped his hand and walked to Camden, relaying the order for the additional hands and Mizzen, as Arvin went down the starboard stairs and went to the gangway stairs. He went below on the Gun Deck, seeing some of the hands in the haversacks swinging as they slept, those that were of the last of the third dog watch. Other hands were about, checking the guns, one by one, stacking powder and shot, checking primes and fuse ports. Arvin went down again, the next set of gangway stairs to the Storage Deck and then into the midst of Marines. Arvin stayed back as young Holt was discussing what he wanted with McGuffin, who was at attention, and at a ninety degree angle to the platoon leaders, who were lined up. Holt was in front of them, as the other Marines, stood by, all at attention as well. Arvin watched and listened as the young officer was thorough, not gruff, and got his point across. Arvin had a side view of McGuffin's face from where he stood at the stairs, watching McGuffin's older, whiskered face wrinkle a slight smile in the lines of his eyes, and then his whiskers would move only slightly. Arvin waited and then Holt had McGuffin dismiss the platoon leaders, to have them carry out the new instructions to the rest of the men. Arvin walked over now, and Holt and McGuffin snapped straight.
"I don't wish to intrude, gentlemen. I came to see if everything was alright here with you and your men, Lieutenant." Arvin knew, saying it as if he was verifying and sanctioning Holt being in command. McGuffin appreciated Arvin for backing it up, bolstering the young officer's confidence.
"There is no intrusion at all, sir. We were merely discussing the landing, sir."
"Excellent." Arvin said, side glancing McGuffin, then back to Holt. "We shall be holding a service for those fallen. May I press you for an honor guard on deck?"
"I would be our honor, sir." Holt bowed his head slightly. Arvin did the same.
"I was neglectful in asking before, how many of your men did you lose?"
"Eight dead, sir. Three wounded with only minor wounds, sir. They should fit and ready for the landing." Holt just stared at him.
"If you wish, you may present for your fallen, as I will present over our fallen, or I offer to do it for you."
"I thank you, sir. I would like to present for our fallen, sir."
"Very well, Lieutenant, the honor is yours." Arvin bowed again. "You may have them brought up on deck when you are ready. The service shall be toward the end of the second watch, before we sail for the squadron."
"We shall be ready, sir." Holt said, nodding toward Arvin. His expression changed to one of being hardened for a moment, then slowly eased. Arvin turned and went back up on the Main Deck, walking toward the Quarterdeck. The sound of the ships bell could heard for the time. Arvin climbed the port stairs, seeing hands resetting the Mizzen struts, and relashing as other hands kept tension from the rigging to the rails to keep the mast straight. Camden continued to repair the wheel, and it was looking as if it was nearing completion. Camden was directing the hands as they went from time to time. Soon, the line extended up the mast to just over head height, well beyond the damaged section and near the support strut tops. Arvin watched as he came near Tomlin. Tomlin nodded as Arvin stepped near to him.
"I see that things are proceeding well, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Tomlin?"
"I do indeed, sir. Mr. Camden should be done with the wheel in about an hour so, sir."
"So, I see. The Mizzen looks to be straighter than it ever was before." Arvin said, Tomlin chuckled, and Arvin looked at him, lifting an eyebrow. Tomlin cleared his throat. Arvin snickered at him. Tomlin lowered his head, a little. "Once we return to Portsmouth, the dock master will want to replace it."
"Oh, I'm certain of that, sir." Tomlin said, looking aloft.
"Two weeks in berth, at least." Arvin shook his head. "Another delay." Arvin sighed, "I'm concerned about the ropes however. I'll suggest to Camden to hard wax it, so it won't stretch out with the sway of canvas."
"Sir?" Tomlin looked at him.
"Yes, you wax the ropes over, so the weaving stays stationary, in the twist." Arvin said, looking at Tomlin, lifting his eyebrow again. "You were not aware of that?"
"No, sir." Tomlin said, narrowing his eyes.
"Old shipwrights trick. Something the Royal Navy doesn't ordinarily do." Arvin leaned closer to Tomlin.
"I see, sir." Tomlin replied and walked with Arvin toward Camden.
"Camden," Arvin said, making the carpenter stand and turn. He tipped his hand toward Arvin and Tomlin. "I was thinking, just in talking to Mr. Tomlin, I think we should cast this line around the Mizzen."
"Cast it, sir?"
"Yes. Have a couple of the hands go below to ships stores and draw out some large candles. I want these coils to be cast." Camden looked slightly confused. "It helps with the sway of wind against canvas?" Arvin could see he was not getting through. "Just go draw a couple of large candles and have them brought up."
"Aye, sir." Camden tipped his hand, then turned, looking at a couple of the hands. He rolled his head toward the stairs, sending them off at a trot. Camden turned back to Arvin. "I was also thinking, sir, that it might be easier for the dock master once we reach Portsmouth, sir, if the lashing was not treated."
"I hate to counter you, Mr. Camden," Arvin gave him a look of irritation, "but we might be reengaged in battle when we join the squadron. I would not want to have to muster repairs again for the same thing?"
"I understand, sir."
"Good, then we're in agreement." Arvin said, now giving Camden the raised eyebrow. Camden blushed slightly, and went back to the wheel repairs. Arvin shook his head slightly behind Camden's back., walking to the fore rail. Tomlin watched Camden for a couple of more minutes, and then joined Arvin.
Callum took in a deeper breath than he ever had since Dustin had arrived. Dustin lifted his head, seeing the bandages stretch slightly. Dustin stood up out of the chair, looking down at Callum. Callum fluttered his eyes open and then closed them again. Callum raised his right hand, bending it slowly at the elbow. Dustin saw it and took it gently in his own fingers. Callum opened his eyes slowly, and then drew in another breath through his mouth, not as deep this time.
"Quintan, try not to move about, please." Dustin said softly through his clenched teeth. "Do you wish me to fetch the Doctor?" Callum blinked and looked about where he was. He licked his lips with the tip of his tongue. "Are you in pain?" Callum nodded his head slightly, then moved his eyes to see Dustin.
"When...when did we...get to Birmingham?" Callum sound hoarse and raspy to Dustin.
"We are aboard the Dover, Quintan." Dustin said, in his soft voice.
"Yes, you were injured during the battle."
"Where am ..."
"You're in the Great Cabin, in your berth."
"I'm here." Dustin whispered. Dustin pushed the hair back from Callum's left eye. "I will fetch the Doctor for you."
"Is there any...water?"
"Yes, I will get you some. Don't move yourself, stay very still." Dustin said, lowering Callum's hand and arm. He turned and went out to the side table on the berth outer wall round the corner from the doorway. Dustin poured from a small pitcher Carson had placed there into a metal cup. Dustin walked it back into the berth and came next to Callum. He lifted his head gently with one hand and held the cup to Callum's lips, tipping it gently and slowly. "Slowly," Dustin said, "just a little at a time." Dustin watched as it wet Callum's lips and tongue, then just a little more. Callum had to take a breath, Dustin backed the cup away. "Easy now, alright, a little more." Dustin smiled as soft as he could without hurting his own face. He took the cup away, and let Callum lower his head slowly to the pillow on the bunk. "There you are. I'll go and fetch the Doctor now. Stay there and do not move." Dustin sounded firm in his tone, holding the cup.
"Yes, Captain." Callum groaned, taking a breath. Dustin tried to smile, looking at Callum as he blinked hard a few times. Dustin walked out of the berth and put the cup down on the side table and opened the cabin door, leaving it open. He stepped quickly down to Dr. Crawford's cabin and knocked hard. Dustin heard something in reply, and opened the door.
"Doctor, the Captain, he's awake."
"Alright." Crawford said, trying to sit up in his bunk. "What is he doing?"
"He tried to get up. I gave him some water."
"Go back to him, lad. Stop him from moving, I know how he is." Crawford said, as he put his feet on the deck. "Sit on him if you have to. I'll be there directly."
"Yes, sir." Dustin said as he turned and went quickly out the door. Dustin hurried down the companionway and reached the Great Cabin, going in through the open door. He walked around the corner into the berth, seeing Callum sitting on the edge of the bed. Dustin's eyes went wide and he leaped next to Callum, gently grabbing his shoulders.
"You were told not to move." Dustin said, his eyes wide with a panic look. Callum looked at him with a blank stare and then focused.
"Are you the Captain of this ship?" Callum tried to smile out of the corner of his mouth. Dustin just frowned at him.
"No, sir, I am not. However, I have been charged to keep you in this bunk. I summoned the Doctor. He'll be here..."
"Captain, what the hell are you doing?" Crawford said, setting his bag down on the deck at the doorway. "Do you want those stitches to pull out of you? You're barely put back together." Crawford said as he stepped near, putting his hands on Callum's shoulders. "There had better be a good reason why you're up."
"Actually, Doctor, I wanted to use the privy." Callum said, as he lifted his head seeing Crawford and the glare from his eyes. Crawford just shook his head.
"Captain, if you stand, you could start to bleed again."
"Then I suggest we make this quick." Callum half smiled. Between Dustin and Crawford, they got Callum to his feet, walking him to the privy on the other side of the cabin. They got him in, and let him relieve himself, and then slowly walked across the cabin toward the berth. Callum was trying his best to be silent and breathe easy, but it was so difficult for him. Carson came in, seeing them passing the large table, and hurried to assist.
"Heavens, Captain." Carson said as he put his hands on Callum as well, trying not touch bandages. Carson looked at Crawford from time to time, as they slowly went into the berth. They got Callum to the edge and turned him around.
"Alright," Crawford said in an angry voice, "enough of this. You have forced my hand, Captain. Perkins, undo his pants, Carson help me hold him up." Crawford said, as Dustin worked the flap of the pants open. "Alright, get them down off of him, past his knees. Good, alright, now, Captain, we are going to sit you down on the bunk. Carson, turn it back so we can get him into it." Crawford waited until Carson worked the bedding out of the way. "Alright now, here we go, sit down slowly, Captain." Callum sat down on the edge. "Now, Perkins, get his shoes and pants off him." Dustin jumped into it, gently pulling the buckled shoes, tossing them out of the way, then the pants were worked off Callum's feet, leaving his stockings. Dustin looked up at Crawford and Crawford nodded his reply. Dustin went after them one by one, taking them off by rolling them down, then off the feet.
"Arthur, would it be possible if I could sit up for a while." Callum asked in a soft voice.
"You should lie as flat as possible, we can prop your head and shoulders a bit, but that's all. And there will be no getting up unless it's absolutely necessary." Crawford gave him his famous stern look. "Are you in pain?" Callum nodded. "Alright, I have some more Laudanum, I want you to take a little, and then relax."
"May I give him something to eat, Doctor?" Carson asked.
"I would think some soup, just broth for now, in case you spring a leak or something in your chest from moving about." Crawford was irritated, Callum could tell.
"Carson, send for Mr. Arvin, would you?" Callum asked.
"I'll go, sir." Dustin said.
"Alright, first, let's get him into bed." Crawford said. They all worked to get Callum into the bunk and settled slowly. Dustin backed away as Carson and Crawford stepped in, getting him set and propped slightly. Dustin ducked out and went up on deck.
"Mr. Arvin," Dustin said on the Quarterdeck, tipping his hand to Arvin and Tomlin, "the Captain, sir, he'd like to see you."
"He's awake, lad?" Arvin asked with wide eyes. Dustin nodded his reply. "Mr. Tomlin, you have the deck." Arvin walked quickly toward the stairs, and then down, Dustin right behind him. They went to the Great Cabin, and Arvin knocked and went right in. Dustin was met by Carson, who met him with hands on him, turning him about and walking him to the galley. Carson served out some of his soup into a bowl, and placed it on a tray, along with a spoon, napkin, and a little salt. Carson handed the tray to Dustin and sent him on his way with a smile.
"Sir, it is good to see you." Arvin said as he entered the berth.
"Mr. Arvin," Callum said in a soft voice, trying not to breathe too deeply. "What is our status?"
"Repairs are almost complete, sir, and we will be sailing to rendezvous with the squadron back at La Rochelle."
"What?" Callum asked. Crawford had administered the Laudanum already.
"Captain, you must refrain from getting excited." Crawford said, then looked at Arvin, giving him a look of caution.
"You're right, Doctor." Callum said, putting a hand over his chest and pushing in a little. "Make yourself comfortable, William, and we can have a talk. You can bring me up to the present."
"As you wish, sir." Arvin took the chair and moved it, to sit near Callum's legs,they were looking at one another carefully. Arvin noted that the color was not quite back yet in Callum, but he looked better than before in the surgery.
"So, why don't we start with the beginning, from what I remember and you can fill everything else in." Callum said, as Dustin appeared with the tray. Crawford turned and looked at him, smiling slightly, letting Dustin in. Crawford got out of the way, and then Dustin set about getting Callum ready to be fed. Dustin was under the eye of Arvin, and Crawford as he went about as if he had always done it for Callum. Dustin got to a knee as Arvin began to speak.
"What is the last thing you remember, sir?"
"The wreckage piling on me," Callum said softly, then was given a spoon full, he swallowed, "Then I recall some tension and pulling as we were firing. I remember hands on me, chopping, and sawing." Another spoonful went to his lips.
"I see." Arvin said.
"I remember you saying something of Smythe." Callum said, as another spoon went to his lips.
"Yes, sir. He got away. He must have suspected something. He somehow got off the Tarkington."
"They fired on us, didn't they?"
"Yes, sir, you were right, and you were also right about not firing back. That's when he disappeared." Arvin said. Callum nodded as another spoonful went to his lips. He swallowed.
"We fared well, sir. We took them by surprise and inflicted heavy damage to the fortress. There was a ninety gunner that gave us a bit of a run, but we were able to disable her, sir."
"You engaged a ninety gunner?"
"We had the weather gauge, sir." Arvin smiled briefly. "We were able to damage her forward guns and keep her from firing, and that's when we withdrew, sir."
"And the Tarkington?"
"We lost sight of her during the engagement, sir. It was only later when we reached the squadron that she came into view."
"Who's in command?"
"Knox, sir, Smythe's 1st. We were midshipman together, sir." Arvin was hesitant to continue as Dustin fed him some more. Callum kept looking at Arvin, as if to have him continue. "I made a full report to His Lordship, sir, in writing."
"And?" Callum asked softly, seeing the hesitation.
"His Lordship found out through interrogation that I had certain information that was questionable, sir." Arvin dropped his eyes. Callum knew what it meant.
"Certain information, that I would have been the only one to know, perhaps? Information, that saved the ship and the crew. I would imagine His Lordship was not happy at all."
"Indeed not, sir, to say the least." Arvin said softly. "He...said...eluded to you, sir..."
"Go on." Callum smiled slightly, then took another spoonful, and swallowed.
"Well, sir,...he said that is, if you have not been critically injured, he would strip your rank and have you put in irons." Dustin dropped the spoon, hearing it, giving Callum a wide eyed look that only he saw.
"I have no doubt." Callum said, and then looked up at Crawford, then Dustin, then back at Arvin. "So, I take it that I've been relieved of duty?"
"I..." Arvin said with wide eyes. Crawford gasped very clearly.
"Congratulations seem to be in order, Captain Arvin." Callum smiled softly.
"I think this is a poor jest." Crawford said, glaring at Callum.
"I assure you, Doctor, it is no jest, is it, Captain Arvin?"
"I wish it were only so, sir."
"You acted accordingly." Callum said.
"But, sir, I..."
"Nonsense, His Lordship is correct. I am critically injured, there is a traitor among us, and I violated regulations, unwritten, but nonetheless violated. His Lordship has no other choice clearly, only performing his duties, and you have yours."
"William, it's alright." Callum said, giving him a soft look. "This is your cabin now, and I seem to in your bed." Callum rolled his eyes. "That could be awkward, don't you agree?"
"Captain...William, please." Callum said, then looked at Crawford. "Doctor, how soon may I move to another berth?"
"I wouldn't recommend it for a few days at least."
"Come, come, Doctor." Callum scowled. "How soon can I move? The Captain needs to assume his full duties and all that comes with it."
"Quintan..." Crawford stammered.
"Arthur, Doctors always guard their patients. Answer the question, please."
"We can move you in another day, minimum. No exertion."
"There, that wasn't so hard, now was it?"
"You are an impossible man." Crawford said with a huff. "I spend all those hours working on you, and for what? So some over righteous pompous windbag will see you hanged? There are times that I wonder why I do..."
"Arthur, this is His Majesty's Navy, and a ship of war. There are rules and regulations, and they are to be upheld. We are not governed by anarchy, sir, we are governed by a King. I will not subvert those rules and regulations to simply suit me."
"Well, obviously someone else did. You spoke of a traitor, he does what suits him."
"And that is him, his choice, and now he is a hunted man. I will not be that, cannot be." Callum shook his head, looking a little foggy in the eyes.
"I think it is time for you to rest yourself, Captain." Crawford said. "Right now, sleep is your best medicine, as well as a double dose of Laudanum, which now that you have had something on your stomach, may not be a bad idea." Crawford said, and stepped toward his bag on the floor. Crawford pulled out a small brown bottle, uncorking it, and handing it to Callum. Callum carefully took it, and then put it to his lips, tipping it a little. Crawford lifted his hand, using his fingers to indicate for him to keep sipping from it. Crawford finally nodded and Callum pulled the bottle away, handing it back to Crawford, who put the cork in it, and placed it back in the bag. "Now, gentlemen, I think we should leave him to rest. Mr. Perkins, I will stay until you return from taking the tray back to the galley." Dustin nodded and picked up the tray.
"Captain Arvin," Callum said softly, making Arvin turn near the door, letting Dustin by with the tray, "we should have another discussion, very soon."
"I wish that were possible, sir. We sail at the end of the second watch. I have a burial service to perform on deck, and then we will be at La Rochelle. If there are no issues landing the Marines, and everything else goes well, then it will be in a day or so that we may have our discussion, sir."
"I see. I seem to be out of time." Callum said softly.
"We may all be that way as well, sir." Arvin tipped his hand and walked out of the Great Cabin, leaving Callum alone to think about everything that has transpired. Callum heard the bell, calling for the second watch.