Drums that had been beating in a tight roll now had fallen silent as Arvin had stood at the head of the slide plank with two of the hands to each side as the last member of the fallen crew had been slid over the starboard rail out from under the Dover's flag. Arvin fell silent for a minute, as he had for each of the others before, the rest of the hands had bowed their heads as well. The burial service had been long as each fallen member of the crew had had their name called out by Arvin, and the Seamen's Verse had been read over each one. Lt. Holt had been given the honor to bury his men first, by Arvin, so that there was an Honor Guard on deck for the remainder of the service. Once the last crewman was buried at sea, Arvin turned and led the crew and the Marines in the Lord's Prayer, which was tradition aboard ship. Arvin had the hands dismissed.
There was no conversation or grumbling as the order was given to set sail. All of the crew knew what was to happen, and what they might be heading for, as Arvin had told him when he had returned from the Valiant. As Arvin went up to the Quarterdeck to take his place, sails were let go and the wind began to fill the canvas. Dover creaked and moaned with the strain of the wind, but everyone aboard knew that was what she wanted most, wanting to run with the wind, even though she was still wounded, and had lost some of her children to the sea and its depths, it was the wind, the wind that made her, made her live.
Arvin stepped to the battle damaged fore rail, and put a hand on a smooth portion, looking aloft. He saw some of the men in the rigging setting sail and tying down, getting ready for the run of it. Arvin could see by the wind in the sails, that is was a stiff breeze, but not as firm as he'd like to carry them quickly to the rendezvous of the squadron. Arvin took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, the fresh crisp salt air was everything to him, and he loved it so. At this wind and its gauge, Arvin knew that La Rochelle was about five hours away or more. The bell sounded for the call of the third watch. Hands began to come up from below and some went into the rigging, trading places with the ones that were already there, letting them come back down. Arvin looked on deck and saw young Talon, giving some orders to a few crew members and they went off to obviously carry out the instructions. Talon approached the port stairs of the Quarterdeck and moved up them quickly, tipping his hand to Arvin, and Middleboro, who was the Officer of the Deck. Middleboro gave Talon their status and turned the deck over to him, Middleboro tipping his hand to Arvin and then leaving to get ready for supper in the Ward Room, invited by Arvin now. Arvin gave his respects to Talon and told him he was leaving as well. Talon was alone, the sole officer on watch and on deck.
Talon looked up into the canvas aloft and saw the sails rolling, as the wind that she needed was coming and going. Dover was responding, slightly leaning to port, as they headed south along the coastline, but not in sight of it, on their way to the rendezvous with the squadron. Talon noted that the wheel was repaired to a certain point, not as it was originally but it would do. He saw the Mizzen Mast was shored up, and noted the condition of the fore rail and the deck about, all of the battle damage still evident but repaired as well as could be. Talon knew this was where Callum had fallen during the engagement, and the deck still had some blood spots on it. Talon bit his bottom lip knowing it was Callum's blood.
Arvin sat at the head of the table in the Ward Room, Holt to his left, Middleboro next to Holt. Doctor Crawford sat at Arvin's right, and Tomlin was next to the Doctor. Carson came in and set about to serve them from trays, Shem helped Carson as well. Wine was poured and the room was devoid of conversation as they slowly ate their supper. Tradition clearly spoke that it was the senior officer that would spark conversation, if any, and everyone knew at the table that Arvin was not up to it. Arvin was a religious man of sorts, his beliefs were firm in him, but while at sea, he would only have the opportunity to read his Bible and prayer done in the privacy of his cabin. Arvin was also a husband and a father of three. His family lived in Chelmsford outside of London, in a simple house, Arvin's oldest son also served in the Royal Navy and was a midshipman. The officers of the Dover knew this of Arvin, as he had a reputation, a good one, when he came on board as Sailing Master some three years ago under Captain Powers. Arvin looked up from his supper and scanned about the table, seeing Crawford eyeing him as well.
"So, Doctor," Arvin said putting his fork down on the plate, "you wish to be brought up with the current events?" Crawford stopped eating, giving Arvin a side glance.
"I believe that I have been given enough of an explanation when we were in the Great Cabin, thank you." Crawford said in a low tone that showed his feelings about it. Arvin nodded a little his understanding.
"Well then, I felt..." Arvin started to say, but Crawford stopped him.
"Mr. Arvin, I mean no disrespect here at your table, sir, and I hold you in the highest regard as you well know, but I am a physician, and not a line officer in His Majesty's Navy. I do not agree, sir, with what has happened and you know that." Crawford scooted his chair back and stood. He bowed his head slightly toward Arvin. "If you'll forgive me, I have a patient that needs attending, and I shall take my leave of you." Crawford looked at everyone else who was wide eyed, staring back at him. "Gentlemen, a pleasant evening to you." Crawford said and turned for the door. He opened it and left, closing it behind him. Arvin sighed and lowered his head slightly.
Dustin sat in the chair at Callum's head, watching Callum sleep in the low lamplight of the berth. Callum's breathing was easy and barely noticeable under the bedding. Dustin leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs and knees, clasping his hands together. Dustin knew that the Laudanum was doing its job, keeping Callum under, and slowly the color was returning to Callum's face.
"I wish you hadn't tried to save me, Quintan." Dustin said quietly, knowing Callum couldn't hear him in his sleep. "I should be the one injured and not you. Dover needs you right now, and so does the crew. Mr. Arvin is a good officer, but he's not you. I feel that something is going to go terribly wrong when we get there, I don't know why, I just do." Dustin looked up, seeing Crawford standing in the doorway of the berth. Dustin went to get up with wide eyes. Crawford put up a hand as he walked in and came closer. Crawford looked down at Callum, then pulled back the bedding, looking at the bandages but not touching them. He put the bedding back, covering Callum again. Crawford reached over and put fingers on Dustin's shoulder.
"I feel it to, my lad." Crawford said, smiling out of the corner of his mouth at Dustin. Dustin was looking up at him with almost pleading eyes. "Has he moved or said anything?"
"No, sir." Dustin whispered.
"That's probably best for now." Crawford said, patting fingers on the shoulder. "I shall be in my quarters, and will return later. Have you had rest and something to eat?"
"Yes, sir." Dustin smiled slightly trying not to move his jaw.
"Do you still hurt?" Crawford asked. Dustin nodded slightly. "You will for a couple of days yet. You're young and strong and it will heal quickly for you." Dustin smiled again at his words. "His will take longer however." Crawford looked back over at Callum. "Rest easy, but call me if he comes round. I will return later." Crawford said and walked out of the berth. Dustin heard the door open and close. He sighed softly as he sat back in the chair, watching Callum sleep. Dustin knew that Crawford had heard him talking to Callum and it worried him. Dustin liked Dr. Crawford, and trusted him completely, thinking of what the Doctor had done for him as well, as Dustin lifted a hand up and touched his own stitches over his eye and face. Those didn't hurt any longer, it was the bone of the jaw that ached. Dustin lowered his hand and thought about Callum, knowing his wounds were far worse and that they must hurt even more. Dustin shifted in the chair, and got comfortable.
"Mr. Tomlin," Arvin said, looking at his now right hand, "Once we reach La Rochelle and the squadron, I want the boats readied for Lt. Holt and the Marines. I am of hopes that the dock in the bay will be readied."
"I estimate that we should reach our destination by the beginning of the next watch, if the wind holds."
"Agreed, sir." Tomlin nodded toward him.
"Lt. Holt, it might be wise to have your supplies readied and loaded in the Captain's gig, that will leave the long boat for you and your men. It will require a second trip, and possibly a third."
"I understand, sir." Holt said. Arvin looked up as the lamp over the table was shifting, leaning a little more with a slight swing to it.
"Looks like the wind is increasing." Arvin said in a low voice. The other officers looked up at the lamp as well. Arvin looked back at the officers around him and smiled slightly.
"Would you like me to have a look, sir?" Middleboro asked Arvin.
"I think that Mr. Talon is capable, don't you?"
" Indeed, sir."
"If he needs anything, I'm certain he will send word." Arvin said, Middleboro nodded in reply.
Carson came in and started to gather plates and put them on the tray he had. He looked about not seeing Crawford, and noticing that his place had not been touched much. Carson gave a nervous look toward Arvin, and then kept going with his duties. "Would you care for anything else, sir?"
Carson asked before he picked up the tray. "I have a pudding if you would like, sir?"
"I wouldn't care for any, thank you, but you may bring some for everyone else. Is there any coffee, Carson?"
"Yes, sir. I'll fetch that as well, sir." Carson said and picked up the tray, he managed to get the door open and close it behind him.
"Mr. Arvin, sir." Middleboro said, sounding hesitant. Arvin looked at him. "Shouldn't we support the Marines with docking, sir?"
"I should think not, Mr. Middleboro." Arvin sat back in the chair, "The squadron will hopefully have the French fleet bottled up or destroyed by the time we arrive, considering what has already occurred from our prior engagement." Arvin paused for a moment, and looked about at all of them. "I would think that the real danger is still the fortress itself. If they have had the time to get their guns back into action, we may still have quite a fight on our hands." Middleboro nodded his understanding.
Carson came back in with another tray, setting it down on the table, he unloaded a coffee pot and cups, also setting out a little sugar, and smiled at Holt, who blushed slightly from Carson remembering yet once again. Carson took the tray and left the room. Arvin set himself to pour coffee, pouring for himself first, and then holding up the pot in offer to those about him. He set it down and Tomlin reached and began to pour, sliding a cup over for Holt, and then Middleboro, then himself. Carson returned with the tray, and set it down, small plates each holding a dark pudding was set before each of the juniors, along with spoons. Carson looked at Arvin and was given a nod. Carson left the room again. Arvin watched as those about him slowly started to eat, some of them made slight faces but continued. Arvin wanted to smile, knowing that the pudding wasn't very good at all, but bless Carson for trying at least. Arvin sipped his coffee. He heard something over his head, muffled shouts it sounded like, and then he heard Talon's voice over head, as they sat just under the lead edge of the Quarterdeck. Arvin set his cup down quietly, trying to hear. A knock at the door, and it opened. Greene the Boson was standing there.
"Mr. Talon's compliments, Mr. Arvin," Greene said, tipping his hand, "he requests you join him on the Quarterdeck, sir."
"Is there a problem?"
"He thinks so, sir." Greene said and tipped his hand, looking wide eyed. Arvin knew that Greene was not given to fear, as he was very seasoned and able-bodied. Arvin got to his feet and reached for his hat, Greene stood out of the way, to let him pass, as the juniors also rose up from the table, following Arvin out. The group made their way quickly out on deck, and Arvin started up the port stairs, seeing Talon with a glass at the rail.
"What is Mr. Talon?" Arvin asked, as Talon pulled the glass away from his eye and looked at Arvin. Talon tipped his hand toward him.
"I'm not sure, sir, but there is a glow off to port, about four points, sir." Talon was pointing, Arvin looked as the others moved about behind Arvin and Talon. Talon handed the glass to Arvin, he put it to his eye, scanning, then lowered it a little and then put it back up. He watched it for a minute.
"Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said handing the glass over. Tomlin took it and lifted it and scanned for it, finding it finally. He surveying it as Middleboro got close to Talon, they looked at each other for a moment and back out over the rail. "Your opinion, Mr. Tomlin?" Arvin asked.
"It's possibly a...fire, sir. The glow keeps changing, moving."
"I agree," Arvin said, "a ship I would think. It's too far from shore."
"Yes, sir. I would think that as well." Tomlin said, lowering the glass. Arvin backed up a step, and looked up aloft.
"Lookout!" He cupped his hands to his mouth "What can you see?!"
"Ship, sir! It's burning! Masts are on fire, sir!"
"Mr. Talon, change course, let us have a closer look." Arvin said. Talon turned and gave the order. The wheel spun, and Dover quickly responded, her bows rolling in the swell like she was digging in her heels. Arvin took the glass as he leaned against the rail, looking toward the bow now. "We should see it better in about ten minutes, I would think." Arvin said aloud, more to himself than to the others. Arvin lowered the glass, collapsing it, and handing it to Talon. He looked at the young officer, who had a strong face, and confidence in his eye. "You did well, Mr. Talon." Arvin said, nodding toward him. "You're still Officer of the Deck, it's your watch."
"Aye, sir." Talon snapped, "Shall I beat to quarters, sir?"
"Not yet." Arvin said. "We are still some time away. Let the lads continue their rest. I should think that we may need to get the boats ready in case there are men in the water however."
"Very good, sir." Talon said, stiffening. He went to the fore rail and called the orders to get the boats prepared for possible rescue.
"Gentlemen, if you care to retire to your berths, it may be awhile before we're there." Arvin said.
Tomlin looked at Middleboro and then back at Arvin. "We would like to stay, sir, perhaps we may be of assistance in preparations, sir."
"Very well, Mr. Tomlin, I'm sure Mr. Talon appreciates that. I would suggest we send someone forward with a glass to keep watch."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin tipped his hand, and then turned to Talon, who was actually in charge of the deck. Tomlin was following proper protocol in giving Talon that respect. "At your service, Mr. Talon."
"As am I." Middleboro said, stepping up as well. Talon looked at both of them, knowing that Middleboro had better eyes, especially in the dark.
"Mr. Middleboro, may I press you to go forward with a glass, and call back reports?"
"My pleasure, sir." Middleboro said with a snap, he walked toward the port stairs, and pulled an extra glass for the little locker at the rail. He went down the stairs and hurried off forward to the bowsprit.
"Mr. Tomlin, may I press you to double check the boats?" Talon asked.
"Sir." Tomlin said, giving Talon a wink. Tomlin being the senior, he had a soft spot in his heart for Talon, and helped him whenever he could as Talon was becoming a fine officer and would do well as his career went along. This would be one of those times. Talon was well liked by the other officers and by the crew. The crew always responded well to him, as he was firm but not pushy, they respected him for that. Tomlin smiled softly as he walked away to carry out the Officer of the Deck's request.
"Ease your helm." Talon said over his shoulder to the helmsman.
Arvin was at the port rail, with the glass to his eye, looking forward. The wind was good and stiff now, and Dover seemed to have a sense of urgency to get there, it was like she was trying to fly now, there was not much roll felt in the deck as the course had now changed, as they were headed almost directly toward the coastline. Arvin was starting to see the outline of the shore on the horizon, just faintly as a thin line, he swung the glass back to the glow in the distance, he was just starting to make out image, blurry in the lens of the glass, but it was there. He could see indeed now it was a ship, three masts on fire as the flames were high in the air. He collapsed the glass, looking with eyes only, it was still way off in the distance. Arvin rapped his knuckles on the railing as he watched.
Tomlin walked back up the port stairs, as Talon was watching him, Tomlin came up next to Talon, and simply nodded, and Talon knew the boats were readied. They both looked over toward Arvin and watched him for a long minute. Arvin turned and put his hands behind his back, bowing his head, he slowly stepped toward Talon and Tomlin, as he was lost in thought. They watched and waited as they knew what was going through Arvin's mind.
What ship was it? Was it a Frenchman? Could it be one of the squadron? If so, where were the others? Why was it burning? Had there been a battle? Worse yet, was it sabotage? Another spy? Everything was going through their minds, all thinking the same thing.
"Deck there!" The voice from above called out. Arvin looked up to his left, Tomlin and Talon looked up as well. "Sail, sir!"
"Where away?!" Arvin yelled back.
"Directly ahead!" The voice called out. Arvin looked but couldn't see. He went down the stairs and walked quickly forward, Tomlin was behind him, coming as fast up the port side. Tomlin had Talon stay at his post before he bolted for the stairs. Arvin and Tomlin reached the bowsprit at the same time, as Middleboro was there with his glass out, scanning.
"I can't see it yet, sir. It's too dark, sir."
"Very well." Arvin pursed his lips, and walked back toward the Main Mast, looking up, cupping his hands again. "Lookout! How far away?!"
"Twice over, sir!" He called back. Arvin spun and looked forward, the glow was getting brighter, and lines were now coming into view. From what the lookout said, they would reach the burning ship long before whatever was coming would reach them. Arvin prayed it was a member of the squadron.
"Mr. Middleboro, keep close watch ahead, look for men in the water!"
"Mr. Tomlin, to me." Arvin said and headed for the Quarterdeck, Tomlin was right behind him.
Arvin came up the steps on the starboard side, Talon was watching him. "Mr. Talon, beat to quarters! Another six hundred yards, shorten sail!"
"Aye, sir!" Talon said, and stepped forward to the rail "Beat to Quarters! Hands aloft, standby to shorten sail! On deck, reset and ready the boats!" Talon yelled in a voice that Arvin didn't know that he had, and was impressed. Tomlin raised an eyebrow at his young junior, and then looked at Arvin. Arvin shrugged his shoulders slightly. Drums from the Marines were beating, and hands poured up from the gangways and out on deck.
"Might also be a good idea to run up some extra lights, just in case there are men in the water, Mr. Talon."
Aye, aye, sir." Talon looked down at the deck, seeing some of the hands going to stations, "Jennings, Finney!" They stopped and looked up, "Go below to stores, bring up the extra lamps to get them rigged." They tipped their hands and jumped to it quickly. Talon turned and knew what his duty now was and according to protocol, he had to do it. He stepped to Arvin, and tipped his hand toward him. "Mr. Arvin, would care to take the deck, sir?"
"It's your watch, Mr. Talon."
"Yes, sir, but as the senior officer on the deck, it is your honor, sir."
"I thank you, Mr. Talon. I shall keep my place and try and stay out of your way." Arvin smiled.
"As you say, sir." Talon felt a new confidence inside himself, just like that night with Callum, when they might have possibly been boarded. Arvin was showing his trust in Talon, and Talon knew it and appreciated it more. He turned and saw that the burning ship was clearly in view now, and looked up. "Shorten sail!" Talon barked loudly. "Helm, bring us three points to port."
They watched as Dover made the slight turn, the burning ship crossed the bows and was coming into view on the starboard side. Talon looked up and the sails were being pulled up quickly. Talon looked forward again, gauging distance, seeing it very clearly now.
"Mr. Arvin! Mr. Arvin!" Middleboro was screaming from the bowsprit. "It's the Eleanor, sir!"
"Dear God." Arvin said as he stepped forward a step, his eyes wide. The Eleanor was one of the ships of the squadron. "Anyone in the water?!" Arvin screamed as he put his hands on the fore rail.
"Not yet, sir!"
"Starboard your helm." Talon said over his shoulder, "Bring us to windward."
"Aye, sir." They watched as the new turn took, and Dover lay over, crossing the stern, about one hundred fifty yards off. The name, Eleanor, clearly above the windows of the Great Cabin.
"What do you think happened, sir?" Tomlin asked as he was nearest Arvin.
"I wish I knew" Arvin answered. "Captain Barrish is not one to abandon his ship, unless she is sinking around him. No, it looks to me, that they knew she was going to burn. Do you see any indications of cannon shot?"
"It's hard to tell, sir. There's too much flame." Tomlin answered. And he was right, the flames were leaping into the air from the masts and mast tips, licking at the wind that drove the dancing flames, the decks aboard her were fully engulfed, and the only thing that was containing all of it was the hull itself. They watched as the turn was still commencing to port, slowing Dover in her approach, but keeping her distance. They looked as the windows of the Great Cabin blew out from the heat, flames shot out of the now open areas and they increased in their strength and color.
"Ease your helm." Talon said, as Dover was now running along in the same course line as the Eleanor, still distant for safety. All eyes were on her as she burned, every sailors worst nightmare was happening in front of them at this moment. There was not a sound from the crew of the Dover as they slowly moved along. It was agony for most of them to watch as the Eleanor was going into death throws, her bow was dropping slightly, and then the sounds of the decks collapsing, the cannon falling through to the deck and debris below, the flames reaching higher as each of the cannon dropped. Then a great moan rose up from her, the Main Mast was not supported any longer, and it fell forward, like a great burning tree, hitting the Fore Mast, resting for a long minute, together, the flames dancing about them leaping from one to the other and then back again. Another long groan and the Fore Mast could not carry the weight of its larger brother any longer, and it too fell forward down to what was left of the Fore Deck, and the bowsprit, flames leaped out of empty gun ports now, climbing up the sides of the hull. It wouldn't be long now, her suffering would soon be over, as the flames were opening weak spots in the hull at or near the waterline. With her rocking and swaying in the swell, she would soon be taking in the sea, the hull would surrender against that what it had so long held out and against.
"God rest her." Arvin said.
"Deck there!" The voice from above, "Sail, she flies a French flag!" Arvin's eyes narrowed.
"Load the guns, Mr. Talon! Prepare the gun crews!" Arvin said. Talon stepped forward again.
"Gun crews! To your stations! Load the guns, standby to run out!" Talon turned, "Mr. Arvin, I must press you take the deck, sir, I must join my gun crews!"
"Very well, Mr. Talon, if you insist, I will take the deck." Arvin nodded to Talon.
"Thank you, sir."
"Oh, and by the way, nicely done, Mr. Talon." Arvin said, and then leaned toward him a little. "The Captain would have been proud of you." Talon widened his eyes as they welled, Arvin speaking of Callum as such.
"Thank you, sir." Talon said, he tipped his hand and turned and went quickly to the stairs.
"Mr. Middleboro, anyone in the water?!" Arvin yelled forward.
"Get to your gun crews! Lookout?!" Arvin called up.
"Sixty gunner, sir!" Arvin growled a sigh, narrowing his eyes.
"Send for Lt. Holt! Starboard side! Prepare to run out!" Arvin said as he stepped to the fore rail. He watched as Holt came up the gangway onto the deck. "Lieutenant, bring all your men up!" Arvin yelled, "Man the side! We'll even the odds with muskets!"
"Yes, sir!" Holt shouted and flew down the gangway out of sight. Within a minute, he charged back up, McGuffin behind him, followed by a small sea of red, Marines poured out on the deck, going into different direction, fore and aft, lining up near or at gun stations.
"Run out! Set sail! Run out the Spanker! Helm, give us to points to starboard, run us at her nose!" Arvin yelled.
"Aye, sir! Two points!" The wheel rolled and as the sails dropped again, Dover took the wind and she responded, now rolling nose to nose with a ship that was twice her size. Arvin could see that the Frenchman was lagging, now almost losing the wind, with slopping sails, as she was being mishandled by her master. Arvin knew now they had the weather gauge on them. They were drawing near one another, hundred yards, ninety, eighty, "Port your helm! Run us down her side! Starboard battery, rake her sides! Point blank!" Arvin screamed. Forty, thirty, ten, as Dover lifted from the swell of the larger ship, and then threw herself down, "Fire on the uproll! FIRE!"
Callum was lying in the bunk, his eyes were fluttering as he was slowly waking. The Laudanum was wearing off of him, he ached from the all of the dozens of stitches. There was something in his mind that was driving him to wake, he kept hearing voices, shouting, they seemed to be so distant, yet so close. He felt a hand on his bare shoulder, he rolled his eyes, and then his head, and there was his Dustin, in the low lamplight, standing near him, smiling at him with those warm eyes.
"Dustin." Callum said in a soft voice.
"Quintan." Dustin smiled a little wider till it hurt him. "Are you in pain?" Callum nodded and tried to move. "No, don't move. The Doctor told you not to, remember?"
"We seem to engaging a ship." Dustin said as he looked upward toward the ceiling, the underside of the Quarterdeck. "I'm not sure."
"Go up on deck, have a look and then come back." Callum said, as he tossed the bedding back.
"Quintan." Dustin said, putting hands on his shoulders to hold him in place.
"Go, and then return. I have to know what's happening to my ship." Callum said, with that fire in his eyes.
"Quintan, she's not your ship any longer. You must remain here."
"As long as I breathe, she's my ship. Now, will you go?" Callum said as if he was out of breath.
Dustin looked at him, and then scowled for a moment. He turned and hurried out of the berth and out the door of the cabin, closing it behind him. Callum sat up on the edge of the bed for a minute, and then put a hand to his left side and pushed in, so he could get through the pain and breathe, he got to his feet and steadied himself, he walked over to the doorway of the berth and hung onto the doorframe for a moment and then spied his trunk, next to Powers, he went to it, and bent a little, lifting the lid, he saw one of his shirts and pulled it out and dropped the lid, walking back, he had to lean against the doorway again to steady himself, as he felt the deck sway under him, knowing that Dover was in a deep swell, then she righted herself. Callum made it to the bunk, and sat, grabbing his long pants and stockings, with great difficulty, he got the stockings on, and then started to put the pants on, getting them up over his hips. He put the shirt on over his head and slowly worked his arms into the sleeves, then dropped it down over his bandages. He took in a deep breath and stood, tucking the shirt and buttoning the flap of his long pants. He saw his shoes and used his foot to get them pushed to him, and then slipped them on. He pushed his hand in his chest and took a deep breath again, and then slowly let it out. Callum heard the thunderous volley of the cannons from Dover, his eyes went wide.
Dustin opened the door to the Main Deck, and stepped out, He heard Arvin over his head, barking the last order to fire. Dustin shut the door, and saw the Frenchman to his right, his eyes wide as they were literally side by side. The cannons started going off in thunderous volleys, smoke covered the deck and then the cannon from the Frenchman opened up, Dustin was thrown to the deck by a shot that ripped along the wall behind him under the Quarterdeck. Men screamed and moaned as Dustin tried to get up, resting himself on one arm, shaking his head, more and more shot was going on, the sounds of ripping and splintering wood all around him, more screams of men, orders being shouted and echoed out because of all the noise. Dustin rolled to his feet and caught sight of Arvin, who looked down seeing Dustin there, and then there was another thunderous volley from the Frenchman, and Arvin disappeared for a moment in thick smoke and splintering and flying wood. Screams were heard from the Quarterdeck and Dustin went to move, when Arvin came sailing through the air, over the fore rail and landed on the Main Deck below in a heap. Dustin leaped for him. He knelt beside him quickly, finding him alive, but very dazed, and struggling to breathe.
"The wheel." Arvin whispered as Dustin knelt closer, "Get us away." Arvin closed his eyes and slumped in Dustin's arms. Dustin lay him down on the deck and looked up to the Quarterdeck, he stood and went to the port stairs and dashed up them. He saw the helmsman who had been there, dead on the deck, almost cut in half. Dustin knew him very well, and they had been berth mates once. He reached down and drug him away as best he could. Dustin leaped back for the wheel, rolling Dover out to port, trying to get her away from the larger vessel. Dustin looked to his right at the Frenchman as he heard orders being called out in French. The Marines were firing as fast as they could and Dustin saw the hooks and ropes coming over the side, hooking the rails, sometimes catching a crewman, and pulling him, the hook spearing and killing him instantly. Marines were falling in groups as the Frenchman was firing grape shot from their small rail guns.
"Dover! We are boarded!" Dustin screamed with everything that he had, the pain racked his eyes in his head. Another thunderous volley came from the Frenchman. Dustin let go of the wheel and ducked.
Callum was sitting on the bunk, trying to catch his breath, hearing and feeling the cannon going off all around him, he went to stand when the last volley was fired by the Frenchman, tore through the walls of the bulkhead behind him, and with splintered wood, knocking him to the deck, the shots went through the berth walls and into the walls on the far side of the Great Cabin. Callum put a hand to his chest and got to his knees, holding his breath. He heard voices behind him, they were speaking French, he turned and looked seeing faces in the dark through French gun ports looking at him. Callum became enraged. He got to his feet and went out of the berth, grabbing walls and wood as he went to steady himself. He came around the corner of the berth and saw his sword, lying on the deck, he bent down, groaning, and grabbed it, he picked it up by the pommel, and slung it, throwing the scabbard away across the cabin. He put a hand on the door, and threw it open, and walked out as quick as he could, which was more like a stagger. He was met by a wide eyed Crawford on the companionway, they both looked at each other for a moment and then nodded to one another. Callum looked down and saw a cutlass in Crawford's hand. They went their separate ways quickly, Crawford headed for the stairs to go below.
Callum went through the galley, which partial destroyed. He found Carson on the deck near the stoves. Callum bent down and put a hand on Carson's shoulder, and was relieved when Carson looked up at him.
"Are you alright, Carson?" Callum asked looking down at him, his long hair hanging down around his face.
"Yes, sir, just dazed, sir." Carson said, as he got to his feet, Callum was trying to pull him up.
"Good, alright. Get below and help Doctor Crawford with the wounded, there are probably a lot of them. Defend yourself and them as we are boarded." Callum was breathing in short breaths.
"Yes, sir." Carson said, knowing Callum was trying to protect him from what might be coming. Carson reached into his pocket, pulling out Callum's black hair tie, the one that Martha had given him. Carson quickly got behind Callum and gathered his long hair, and tied it. "I'll be alright, sir." Callum smiled at him and walked, staggered toward where the door should have been to the deck, it was open to everything now as half the wall was ripped apart.
Callum held his sword up, as he came out on the deck, he looked left seeing Arvin on the deck in a heap, he moved toward him as he surveyed what was happening on deck, several French sailors were pouring over the side onto the deck of the Dover, the crew and the Marines were trying their best to repel them, but it was obvious that they were outnumbered two to one. Callum reached Arvin and then before he knelt down, he looked up and saw Dustin at the wheel, trying to hold her steady. Callum spun on his heel and looked up, they were at full sail and they were billowed. Callum spun back and looked at Dustin.
"Dustin! Lay her over to full port, lash the wheel there!" Callum yelled, while he held his chest. He heard something behind him and spun, two Frenchmen were running toward him, one with a boat hook, the other with a sword, Callum turned to face them, lunging into the first with the boat hook, he pulled his tip back, and the Frenchman screamed and fell, the other slashed his sword at Callum, who leaned back out of its swing, and then Callum advanced, thrusting, then parried the counter strike, the Frenchman having a heavier blade, metal clanging, singing as it hit blow after blow, and the Frenchman was joined by another, Callum was taking two at a time, the first Frenchman made an error that was fatal, as Callum thrust under his over hand lift, piecing him through the heart, he dropped him and turned to the next. The Frenchman was scared as he saw Callum was gritting his teeth and went after him with fierce swings and thrusts. Callum dispatched him in another minute. He looked about quickly and returned to Arvin, kneeling next to him.
"William, can you hear me?" Callum asked as he put a hand to Arvin's shoulder.
"Yes." Arvin gulped, he rolled as he recognized the voice. "Oh, sir...I have given them your ship."
"Not yet." Callum said, as he looked up at the chaos about him. "I'll be back." Callum said as he squeezed Arvin's shoulder and then got to his feet, he went halfway across the deck, slashing and stabbing Frenchmen who either weren't paying attention or were engaged in hand to hand with Dover crew. "Marines!" Callum yelled, "Form ranks! Bayonets!" Callum coughed once deeply and spat blood. He had four crewman standing beside and behind him, all with swords, pointed out, reenergized as their Captain was there fighting with them now. "Dover! Repel borders!" Callum yelled and went at the French, cutting, slashing, stabbing, thrusting deeper, French were dropping as the group that was with Callum worked as a team, cutting a line through the French line, trying to get to the Marines. Callum looked over and saw the French crews reloading rail guns.
"Sergeant!" Callum yelled, seeing McGuffin, "The gun crews!" Callum was pointing at the French ship. McGuffin saw it, and snatched a musket, he leveled and aimed shooting a Frenchman at a rail gun through the head, dropping him.
"Now lads!" McGuffin yelled, "Take the gun crews! Ready now! Fire!" The volley went off as McGuffin was fighting three Frenchman at the same time, with an empty musket. He head butted the first with the stock, uplifted the second under the chin with barrel middle and the breech handle, and the third received the barrel end in the eye, knocking him back, and then once again into the throat crushing his wind pipe, killing him. McGuffin fixed bayonet, as the Captain ordered, and started to work down the line taking one after the other. Callum and his group were coming from the other way. The Marines regrouped seeing their Sergeant fighting like a one man army, bodies were stacking up on the deck, and McGuffin was moving forward and the French were either dying or falling back. The French had been pouring down the gangways as well to get to the Gun Deck. Callum knew that his officers below were into the fight as well.
Holt was trapped at the bowsprit trying to hold his own against eight French at the same time. Only with his sword, slashing, back and forth as they were advancing on him, closing tighter and tighter, some had swords, others boathooks or pikes. Holt got lucky every now and then, making a slash, and then a thrust, one would fall, but the others kept closing in on him. Holt's young eyes flashed as he saw his end coming all too quickly, knowing it was only a matter of seconds before he was done by one of them. Then after his last slash, exhaustion taking him from exertion, hands came out of nowhere, bodies were being tossed aside, stabbed, hit, smashed as they flew away, and Holt was almost in the clear. He looked up and saw McGuffin, his towering massive body, grabbing French sailors from behind and throwing them like they were discarded clothing. Holt thrust into another Frenchman, and then sank to his own knees, gasping for air. McGuffin came before him, and took him up from under his arm, getting him back to his feet.
"Not in front of the men, sir." McGuffin said into Holt's face.
"Quite right, Sergeant. Carry on." Holt said, huffing out a breath. McGuffin turned and took out another two Frenchman and then worked his way back to the Marines. Holt was doing his best to cover the Sergeant's back.
Callum and his group had been clearing a path forward to reach the Marines, but the French kept pouring over the side bring more and more behind Callum's group, which were now fighting back to back, trying to protect each other and their Captain. The Marines were about half a deck length away from joining them, and Callum was weakening, he could feel himself pulling apart literally at the seams, he knew he must be bleeding again. He was breathing harder and harder, not only from the strain of the fight, but from what was happening inside him, and he spat blood again.
Callum could now feel Dover was straining with the full sail overhead and he could hear the strain of the boat ropes used to link the two ships together. He looked past the Frenchman he was fighting and saw the ropes tight.
"Cut those lines!" Callum ordered, and then thrust into the Frenchman, making him crumble to the deck. He moved again, and Callum stabbed him to finish him, he stepped forward and saw some of the hands that were in single hand to hand with a Frenchman each. "Hurry now! Dispatch them and get those lines cut! Amos!" Callum yelled, Amos was a large powerful man, a gunner, who could pick the end of a cannon by himself, Callum had seen that before. "Throw him over the side, quite toying with him!" Callum yelled, dispatching another Frenchman himself with a strong deep thrust. Callum looked up and saw Amos pick the Frenchman up over his head and toss him over in between the two ships. "That's better! Grab an axe, cut those lines so we can roll out!"
Callum turned aft and saw more French coming but some were heading toward the Quarterdeck and the wheel. Dustin was there with only two others of the crew, they were outnumbered five to one. Callum started that way, fighting back the way he and his group had come. Muskets were firing and Callum felt a sudden burning across his right shoulder, he turned, shook his head and saw French were lining the sides of their ship, reloading muskets. Callum staggered from the burn of the musket ball.
"Marines!" Callum yelled, pointing his sword toward the French musketmen."Fire into them!" Callum spun and saw Dustin was fighting two Frenchman by himself, with no weapon at all, trying to use his fists only, one had a boat hook, the other a belaying pin from a rail, using it like a club. Dustin was doing his best to get in a hit to a face now and then but they were backing him toward the port rail.
Callum became enraged, growling in his throat, he bolted through his own group and charged across the deck, going for the starboard stairs. He was cutting and slashing as he went, knocking some down, but stunning others, as he made the stairs, climbing them three at a time, to the deck, Callum dispatched two from behind as they attacked one of the hands, then Callum moved to cover Dustin, Callum reached the one who had the boat hook, slashing across his back, making him scream and turn, Callum stabbed him through his throat, dropping him, then pulling out his sword, he glared at the Frenchman who was wielding the club, he arced his hand in the air to swing, and Callum slashed with his sword, cutting the man's hand off completely, dropping it to the deck, still clutching the club. He screamed and looked at Callum, rage consumed Callum and he slashed, cutting the man's stomach, blood started to pour from him, he went to his knees, Callum stood before him, and the Frenchman went to scream again, Callum slashed his throat, letting him fall to the deck, Callum spun as other Frenchmen had come up on the Quarterdeck, they were all wide eyed seeing what Callum had just done, their hacked up crewmate lying there on the deck. Callum held up his sword in defense against them, pulling Dustin behind him with the other hand, to give him cover. Callum stepped toward them, they all backed away, Callum stepped forward again, they all backed up, Callum was joined by the other two crewmen on the Quarterdeck, flanking him, holding out their swords as well.
"Descendez de mon bateau." Callum growled, and they all went wide eyed.
"Le Capitaine." One of them said. They were backing to the stairs, but not fast enough. Callum reached out and grabbed the closest, one, dragging him to deck on his knees, he looked him in the eye, and then thrust his sword through him to the pommel, staring into his eyes the entire way. He crumbled, as muskets were going off from the Marines, Callum looked at the other Frenchmen, as they were wide eyed and horrified, Callum put a foot to the dead man's face and pulled his sword, and stepped toward them.
"Descendez de mon bateau, maintenant!" Callum screamed. They turned and ran. He watched as they clamored over the rail and climbed across lines to get back to the French ship. They were screaming at their shipmates to return, saying the Captain was insane and a murderer. The other Frenchmen looked up, seeing Callum coming down the stairs, sword tip up, his own crew getting out of the way, French were trying to scramble to get back, and as Callum encountered them, he cut them down viciously, without mercy or thought. They were falling and the crew was backing away from him, just letting him go. Callum went through about eight of them, as he reached the Marines singlehanded, The Marines in the front of the line were amazed and wide eyed. Callum could hear fighting below on the Gun Deck, and the struggle continued. The last of the French were going back to their ship.
"Cut the rest of those damned lines! Marines! To me! Amos, take charge here, get these guns ready!" Callum yelled, as he went for the gangway, they all went below, seeing what was going on, scattered fighting, the French trying to get control of the guns, so as not to fire on the French ship. Callum looked quickly seeing what was going on, he started to slash and hack his way through the French, as he saw Tomlin near the aft section trying to hold his own against four. Callum reached them and cut two of them down from behind, spun another and ran him through, pulled out and slashed the last ones throat. Tomlin was in shock, wide eyed looking at his Captain, back from the dead, with a wild look in his eye.
"You alright?" Callum growled. Tomlin nodded. "Get these guns ready to fire, I want that bastard blown out of the water!" Callum yelled and turned, seeing McGuffin snap the neck of a Frenchman with his bare hands, Callum walked up, seeing the dead man on the deck, looking up at McGuffin, "Excellent work, Sergeant." Callum wheezed.
"Thank you, SIR!" McGuffin snapped. Then reached over and punched another one so hard in the face, the man crumbled to the deck. Callum went wide eyed. "Excuse me, sir!"
"Sergeant, you're with me."
"At your service, sir." Together they went across the deck, Callum with his sword, McGuffin with his hands, and sometimes fists, they cut, slashed, and beat their way through to meet the other Marines and crew, French were falling, as the cannon fire started above on the Main Deck. Callum had reached Holt and pulled him out of a nasty spot with three French, the rest were beginning to surrender, but it wasn't enough for Callum.
"Get these filthy Frogs up on deck, now!" Callum screamed, and the crew and the Marines pushed the French along, Callum went up the gangway first and saw, the French were countering and reloading their guns. Callum saw the lines had been cut and Dover was going free, turning hard to port, but giving the French a clear shot of their rudder. Callum had to move quickly.
"Dustin!" Callum screamed, seeing Dustin look toward him, "Cut loose the wheel, bring us back to starboard! Quickly!" Callum saw him move and turned, "Run out! Standby to fire!" Callum saw the French being led up on deck. "Throw them all over the side!" Callum saw hesitation in his men, it was not heard of to do this to prisoners, they would be crushed between the two ships. "NOW!" Callum screamed and the men jumped pushing the French to the rail, making them either jump or be thrown over. The crew jumped to run out the guns. "Quickly now!" Callum yelled, and he went to the Main Rail, "Mr. Tomlin, ready to fire?!"
"Starboard battery! FIRE!" Callum yelled, and Dover's guns went off almost in unison. The French were screaming and crying out. "Get us closer! Bring her around their stern! Reload!" Callum yelled and watched as the crew set to it quickly as he had taught them, Callum looked up and saw the stern coming into view of midships now. "A keg of ale to the man who takes their rudder completely! On the uproll! FIRE!" Callum yelled and the guns went off , more screams and yelling from the French. Dover cleared the French ship without another shot from them. "Bring us back around to port for another broadside! Lively now! Ready the port guns!" Callum went back to the rail, "Mr. Tomlin, ready the port guns!"
"Captain, you're injured, sir." Holt said from behind him, seeing the cut through his shirt and the blood from the rip from the musket ball. Callum turned and looked at him.
"Lt. Holt, may I press you to send some of your men to the Storage Deck to check on the surgery? I fear for the Doctors safety, in case any of the French are about. Then, I would ask that you make a search of the ship, every corner, nook, and cranny, if you find any French, thrown them overboard or kill them where they stand!"
"Of course, sir." Holt turned wide eyed and sent six Marines below to secure the surgery, Holt went to McGuffin and relayed what the Captain wished, McGuffin sent a detachment, then placed the rest of the men around the rails on deck, reloaded and standing by on the port side. Callum walked as best he could, stepping over dead bodies, to get to the port side as the turn was underway. He looked up and saw the Frenchman was still foundering as her stern was in clear view now.
"Port battery ready!" Callum yelled, trying to draw strength, as he leaned against the Main Rail, using his sword tip in the deck to balance himself, the other hand on the rail. Hurry, he thought to himself, a little more...little more...now! "FIRE!" The guns went off in another thunderous volley, smoke covering the deck, and Callum lost sight of the Frenchman, but could hear wood splintering and men screaming in the distance. Callum gritted his teeth, and drew another deep breath. "Reload!" The smoke was starting to clear, and the ship was coming back into view, Callum blinked hard, trying to focus, his strength almost gone from him, he spat blood on the deck again. "Full broadside! Aim for the waterline!" Callum yelled as loud as he could, his chest was beginning to heave and the pain was becoming blinding to him. "Ease your helm!" Callum yelled toward Dustin, and Dustin knew what Callum wanted, a diagonal course cutting across the Frenchman rolling out away from the stern, not giving them a good shot against the Dover. "Now! Lay her to starboard! FIRE!" As Dustin rolled the wheel, Dover responded as did the gun crews, firing one after the other, ripping into the hull of the French at their waterline. They could hear men yelling in French, as there was a great moan coming from the other ship. "Reload!" Callum yelled. "Quickly! Run out!" Callum watched as everything was happening, guns readied and pulled quickly as he had taught them. "On the down roll!" Callum waited for Dover to dip into the bottom of the next swell, and then,..."FIRE!" The guns fired together and smoke filled around them again, Callum coughed again, and spat more blood, he waited as the smoke slowly cleared around him, and the Frenchman began to list. "Hard to starboard, full point!" Callum saw the turn, as she pivoted and then he went to his knees on the deck. Several of the hands jumped to him to support him.
"Send for Mr. Tomlin," Callum said, trying to catch his breath, blood covered his lips.
"Mr.Tomlin! Mr. Tomlin!" One of the hands cried out over the rail down to the Gun Deck. Tomlin came into view. "The Captain, sir!" And he turned back and put hands back on him to support him, as some of the others were still there as well. Tomlin bolted up the gangway, and rushed to Callum, going to his knees in front of him, the hands getting out of the way. Callum's head was weaving slightly, as he looked at his young officer. Tomlin put his hands on Callum's shoulders to hold him up.
"Take the deck." Callum said in almost a whisper. Tomlin was looking his face over, seeing all of the blood. "Get Mr. Arvin below, see to the hands."
"I have it, sir." Tomlin said, as fear was gripping him now, seeing Callum this way.
"Ship is yours. Sail for the squadron." Callum eyes went blank, he took in a deep breath, and tried to focus but couldn't, "Get the dead...French...off my...ship." Callum growled and then fell forward into Tomlin's shoulder. Tomlin held him for a minute, wrapping his arms around his shoulders to hold him up.
"You heard the Captain." Tomlin said looking up into the eyes of the men about him. "Get Mr. Arvin below, see to the wounded, clear the decks!" The hands jumped to it. Tomlin sat there, holding Callum for another minute, slowly looking toward the Quarterdeck, and Dustin at the wheel, manning his post. Their eyes met. Tomlin shook his head slowly at him. Dustin lowered his head, tears dropping from his eyes.
Marines surrounded Tomlin, as he held Callum still. McGuffin stepped in, and helped lay Callum on the deck, gently. McGuffin told two Marines to get a litter, and they sped off. McGuffin looked at Tomlin for a moment, and then narrowed his eyes.
"Sir, beg pardon, sir. We'll take him in charge, sir, while you tend duties." McGuffin said quietly. Tomlin was staring into his eyes, seeing the resolve of the man, hearing him, Tomlin knowing he was right.
"Thank you, Sergeant." Tomlin said, and nodded. He looked down at Callum, and then stood. Tomlin leaned over the rail, "Mr. Middleboro! To me!" Tomlin yelled, then turned and to the port stairs, looking down at Arvin, who was being tended to by some of the men. Tomlin could see that Arvin was now conscious and their eyes met for a brief moment, as Tomlin proceeded up the stairs, he went to the wheel, and Dustin. Tomlin could see his face was wet from the tears.
"Mr. Perkins, lay us into a course south, we need to reach the squadron." Tomlin said, with care in voice, but also a firmness giving Dustin focus. Dustin lay the wheel over, turning away from the Frenchman.
"Aye, sir." Dustin said, and his voice was clear now, no mumbling through gritted teeth. Tomlin looked over at him for a moment and then back forward. Middleboro came up the starboard stairs, seeing the dead French being tossed overboard like rubbish. He was wide eyed with horror.
"Mr. Tomlin..., sir,...the dead..."
"Captain's orders." Tomlin said in a curt tone.
"What of the Frenchman, sir?" Looking back as she listing and starting to sink, "Shouldn't we...?
"Let them sink. They can swim for shore if they are able."
"Mr. Tomlin!" Middleboro was wide eyed again. "They'll not make it, sir, it's too far."
"Then they'll drown." Tomlin said, glaring at Middleboro. "Get your men to clear the Gun Deck, we need to be ready when we reach the squadron. What of Mr. Talon?"
"He was taken to the surgery, sir." Middleboro looked out on the Main Deck, seeing what was going on, Arvin being carried away, the Marines lifting and taking Callum as well. "Mr. Arvin?"
"I don't know. He seems to be in a bad way though."
Tomlin, rolled his eyes toward Dustin, then back to Middleboro. "I'm not certain." He said softly.
"He was incredible." Middleboro said softly.
"Yes." Tomlin replied. "See to your duties. Let us not disappoint him."
"No, sir, we won't." Middleboro drew himself up, pulling in a tight breath, he tipped his hand to Tomlin and walked away.
The surgery on the Storage Deck was jamb packed with wounded, littered with the crew and Marines. Crawford was working as fast as he could on one of the crew on the table. Finch was throwing more sand on the deck at Crawford's feet for the blood that was dripping off the table. Jarter was there as well, trying to do what he could to assist Crawford at the table. Carson was putting dressings on slight wounds, binding them and stopping some that were bleeding.
Three crewman carried Arvin in, as Carson looked up seeing them. He stopped what he was doing and came over quickly. Carson had them put Arvin on a long bench in the middle of the deck, looking at him, his leg was twisted and out of sort, and Carson knew it was broken. Carson had the leg on the bench and ran his hand up it, until Arvin winced from being touched, the break was up high in mid -thigh. Arvin had been placed so his back was to the table and Crawford, and Arvin could see at thirty or more lay about around him, waiting to be tended as well. Arvin looked up over Carson as he was kneeling beside the bench and saw Callum being carried in by the Marines on a litter, feet first. They came about a halfway point and stopped, but would not set him down, they went rigid, as McGuffin stepped around them, coming to stand at attention, seeing Arvin, blocking his view of Callum from the bench.
"Doctor!" Arvin called. Arvin did not get a reply. The crew who were about on the bulkheads, got to their feet if they could stand, all of them tipping their hands at the same tip toward Callum on the litter. "Doctor! The Captain!" Arvin called out in the silence of the surgery. Crawford looked up and turned, seeing the Marines.
"Oh, dear God." Crawford said, handing the instrument he was holding to Jarter. Crawford walked quickly over looking down at Callum, checking for a pulse, seeing all the blood on his lips, and the red in his shirt now, and at his right shoulder. Crawford pulled the shirt up out of his pants looking at the bandages as they were colored now and not white. "He's ripped himself open." Crawford sighed. "I'll see what I can do with him, after I finish on the table. Might as well set him down." Crawford said to the Marines.
"We'll standby with him, sir." McGuffin said. Crawford went wide eyed, looking at McGuffin.
"It will be a bit."
"We'll wait, sir." McGuffin said. Crawford looked at Callum and then McGuffin and felt it best not to argue with the large man, he turned and went back to the table.
"Carson," Crawford said, as he went back to working on the crewman, "get his shirt off him, leave the bandages."
"Yes, Doctor." Carson said and went to it, cutting Callum's shirt. The crew stood there, silently watching as Carson cut the shirt away, revealing Callum's chest. Carson examined Callum, seeing his breathing was slight but there. Carson lifted his eyes, looking McGuffin, who had turned and was looking at Carson, the look said everything to McGuffin.
"Finch, help me sew up this man's arm." Crawford said, "Jarter hold him here, hold him steady." Crawford said as he started to sew up the end of the stump of the arm he had just amputated. The crewman was silent as he had passed out on the table. It took only a few minutes to seal up and secure the stump, and then he backed up. "Alright, get him over there and get him laid out." Crawford waited for Jarter and Finch to move him off the table, then Crawford picked up a bucket and poured out some water on the table and used a hand to smear off the blood, he set the bucket back down. Crawford walked over to Arvin, and looked down at him. "Is it broken?" Crawford asked, Arvin nodded and pointed to where it was. Crawford put a hand to his foot, on the sole. "Can you push? It will hurt, but I need to see if I have to take it off." Arvin knew, knew he had to do it to keep his leg. Arvin gave it everything and wanted to scream as he pushed against Crawford's hand. "Good, you can move it. I'll set the bone, and splint it. You can keep your leg for now, Mr. Arvin."
"Thank you, Doctor." Arvin said through gritted teeth.
"Do not thank me yet. I still may have to take it from you, if it doesn't set right." Crawford said, with a frown. Arvin nodded his understanding, then stared back down at his leg, grimacing. "Who else is in here?" Arvin asked. Crawford looked about, not knowing where everyone was placed.
"Talon is over there." Crawford said, as he pointed, Arvin looked over his shoulder, seeing the boy on a narrow bench, his arms crossed over his chest. "I have the bleeding under control for now. I'll sew him up in a bit," Crawford said as he turned and looked at the Marines, "alright bring him." Crawford went back to the head of the table. The Marines, lifted Callum to their shoulders and carried him over Arvin, Carson following them. They carefully spun Callum in midair to put his head at the other end of the table. They gently set him down and Crawford went to it. He cut the bandages away as the Marines backed up out of the way, Callum still on the litter. Crawford peeled back the bandages and saw that some of the stitches over the deepest wound in his chest had reopened. It seemed simple enough to Crawford, as there was probably a group of stitches reopened at the damaged lung as well, why there blood on his lips and in his mouth. Crawford pushed against the wound and it oozed blood, but he bent his head to hear Callum breathe. There were sounds but not as bad as he thought they might be. Crawford nodded. He looked at the shoulder, and rolled Callum a little seeing the deep channel from the musket ball. Jarter and Finch were on the other side of the table. "Alright he'll live, I don't understand how, but he will. He'll require several hours of sewing though. Carson get some more bandages, let's wrap him back up to get the bleeding stopped. Finch, you and Jarter put him over there, and Carson, make the bandages tight."
"Yes, Doctor." The Marines stepped forward again, to help move Callum off the table, and put him on a bunk of sorts near the bulkhead. McGuffin stood just staring at the Doctor. Crawford saw it, and narrowed his eyes.
"Sergeant, I need to take care of these other men as well, and yours. The Captain will occupy all of my time, and these others will suffer. Rest assured he will receive my full attention before the night is out."
"Very good, sir." McGuffin snapped. He waited for his Marines to finish assisting in the moving of Callum, and then led them out of the surgery. Walking by Arvin, not saying another word or even acknowledging him. McGuffin led the Marines up on deck and found Holt, giving him the full report of the Captain and his condition according to the Doctor. Holt was clearly relieved by the news, and felt he should inform Tomlin. Holt left McGuffin to deal with Marines, and approached the Quarterdeck. He saluted Tomlin as he walked up to him. Tomlin tipped his hand in return.
"Sgt. McGuffin has informed me that the Captain will survive, according to the Doctor, Mr. Tomlin. He also tells me that Mr. Arvin has suffered a broken leg, the Doctor said it should be set, without amputating it."
"Thank you, Lieutenant, for informing me. I usually am not informed until it is over." Tomlin gave a brief smile.
"You're welcome, sir." Holt said, bowing his head slightly. He caught sight of Dustin and saw the tears dropping from his eyes, hearing the news as well. Tomlin looked over, seeing Dustin, then looked back at Holt. "When should we be reaching the squadron, sir?"
"Another two hours, I should think. The dawn may be upon us."
"Excellent, sir. Shall I prepare our supplies then?"
"According to what Mr. Arvin ordered?" Tomlin sighed slightly, "It might be best to be prepared. God knows we don't need much more."
"Agreed, sir." Holt said, he bowed his head slightly again, "If you'll excuse me then?" Holt turned and walked away. Tomlin watched him walk away.
"He's a good officer, don't you think, sir?" Dustin asked wiping an eye with back of his hand, then grasping the wheel again. Tomlin turned and looked at him.
"I do indeed, Mr. Perkins." Tomlin said. "You seem to have found your voice again."
"It must have been when I got hit, sir. My jawbone feels much better, sir."
"Really? We have to give that little bit of information to Doctor Crawford to treat a similar injury in future." Tomlin smiled.
"Well, hopefully there won't be a Frenchman that needs taking again to do it, sir." Dustin said, looking forward and Tomlin chuckled. Dustin was able to smile without pain now, just stiffness. Middleboro was coming up the gangway, and started across the Main Deck toward the Quarterdeck. He came up the starboard stairs and walked to Tomlin, tipping his hand. Tomlin nodded.
"Gun Deck is secured and cleared away, sir." Middleboro said.
"I didn't see hardly any of the French sailors brought up."
"I..." Middleboro hesitated for a moment, then firmed himself with resolve, "beg to report, that I gave the hands a...free rein in that, sir."
"They put them out through the pun ports, sir." Middleboro said. "With great dispatch I might add."
"I see. They are obviously still considering what the Captain ordered." Tomlin said with narrow eyes, he was upset with the treatment of the dead, enemy or no.
"Indeed, sir." Middleboro said. He looked forward, thinking he saw something. "Did you see that?"
"No." Tomlin said, looking forward, narrowing his eyes slightly. "What did you see?"
"I thought I saw...there!" Middleboro pointed forward, "Another one!"
"I see it." Tomlin said, as he stepped forward a step. "Lightening?"
"Low to the horizon?" Middleboro asked, "With everything else that has happened? You think it's the squadron?"
"Has to be, but by now...it must be nearly over, they've had all this time." Tomlin said in a low voice.
"What about the Eleanor? She was burning, and there are flashes now? I think possibly..."
"I think, we shall wait and see as we draw closer, Mr. Middleboro, and we can stop the assumptions."
"Yes, sir." Middleboro hung his head a little, and then looked back forward, as another flash went off.
"Mr. Perkins, maintain your course. Mr. Middleboro, would you check the deck, make sure the guns are ready forward?"
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, but Tomlin stopped him with a hand as he went to turn. His eyes went back to Tomlin.
"Isaac, we're the only two officers left, if we need to clear for action, you will need to lead the Gun Deck on your own." Tomlin said, quietly.
"I know, Thomas." Middleboro said, "We'll make it." Middleboro nodded, and then walked toward the stairs.
Tomlin watched as Middleboro made an inspection of the Main Deck, and the guns. He spoke to a few of the hands, and they all kept looking forward from time to time. He knew the crew were asking questions of Middleboro, and Tomlin also knew, he was a good officer, and would calm the men, having them focus on their work. And he did, and they did as well. Tomlin continued to watch forward as flashes occurred now and then, but there was nothing of a fury of them. The thought came to him, that possibly the squadron was making a siege of the fortress, that the French would not surrender it. Perhaps His Lordship felt it necessary to besiege it rather than take it by force, sacrificing the Marines. Tomlin wondered, wondered and worried. He looked aloft, the wind was holding steady, the sails billowed, and he looked forward again. There had been two hundred men aboard this ship. They were down from the start two officers, Sommers, and Lt. Eddington, sailing the captured sloop back to Portsmouth, and then the Captain, critically injured and then showing himself like a madman when they had been boarded, Mr. Arvin injured, and his true fate was unknown yet, and then there was young Talon, cut down by a French sword on the Gun Deck. Tomlin felt alone, the weight of the ship itself seemed to be on his very shoulders. Yes, indeed, he had Middleboro with him, and Isaac was a good officer and knew his duty, but he was slow to respond and thought too much before he acted. Tomlin knew down deep that this was going to go bad, very bad. More flashes ahead. He had to maintain his resolve, his essence, to save the ship and the crew, for the one man, the one man only, that mattered in all of this, Callum.