DOVER Chapter 27
Tomlin stood on the Quarterdeck, the wind rustled the long hair of his ponytail as it hung down over his back off the collar of his tunic. He was watching the flashes as they drew closer toward them, knowing it was cannon, but not knowing for sure what was going on. He kept focusing as the crew, below him were making noise as they went about their repairs and duties. Tomlin lifted his eyes, briefly, looking at the furrow of the canvas overhead, seeing the sails as they took the wind. Tomlin watched the flashes again, as they caught his eye, and he estimated that they were about an hour or more with the way Dover was responding. He clasped his hands behind his back and spread his feet a little further apart feeling the sway of the deck under him.
Tomlin could feel eyes on him, knowing it was the men, but concentrated on what was ahead, rather than meeting their gaze. Tomlin remembered something that Captain Powers had taught him, to stand fast, and pay attention to the central issue, no matter what was happening about you, the men will see it, and will draw strength from it, and will carry out their duties. Tomlin knew it to be true, as it was happening right now. That memory, and those thoughts, gave Tomlin a firmer resolve, as he took in a slow deep breath. He knew that this ship and her crew could see them through just about any difficulty.
The French sixty gunner, that had attacked and boarded Dover, had been left behind, had faded off in the distance, and Tomlin knew she was sinking. Callum had made sure of that before he collapsed into Tomlin's arms on the deck. Tomlin was not one to question his Captain, would never even think of it, but Tomlin was disturbed by what had happened, as Callum had been vicious, callous, and very brutal in leading the defense of Dover. It gave him a new perspective of his Captain certainly, and Tomlin did not care for the way Callum had gone about it. As a sailor, Tomlin could see it, but as an officer, it appalled him, shocked him, at the shear brutality behind it, the disregard for life, even though they were the enemy, they were fellow sailors. Tomlin also knew that if Callum had not been there, that Dover would have been taken as a prize. More flashes came from ahead, clearing Tomlin's mind of those thoughts, bringing back the moment.
"Lookout!" Tomlin yelled aloft, cupping his hands to his mouth, "What do you see?!" Tomlin waited a long moment for the reply, looking aloft.
"Sails, sir!" Came the voice from above. "Grouped together!" Tomlin leveled his eyes forward again, with more flashes happening now. A tightening was gripping inside Tomlin's chest.
Middleboro had come across the Main Deck and started up the starboard stairs onto the Quarterdeck, watching forward as he walked to come near Tomlin. He stopped as they were near shoulder to shoulder. He glanced at Tomlin, seeing his face was tight and firm in his gaze forward, and Middleboro looked back toward the flashes.
"I know it's the squadron," Tomlin said quietly, "but something just isn't right about this." More flashes happened off against the horizon. Tomlin turned his head slightly to the right, "Mr. Perkins, make your course three points to starboard." Tomlin said over his shoulder. Middleboro looked at Tomlin.
"What are you doing?" Middleboro asked softly.
"I have an idea." Tomlin said, quietly as well. He looked at Middleboro, "We'll swing out and then come in for the bay. I want to avoid those rocks, and we should be nearing them about now." Middleboro looked forward again, as Dover started to make her course change. Tomlin waited and watched as the flashes were now seen off the port beam. Tomlin watched as Dover was continuing her course change, the flashes more toward the port quarter now. "Ease your helm, Mr. Perkins." Tomlin said over his shoulder. Dustin eased the wheel to keep Dover going in this new line now.
"Once we draw near, we'll take her to port and swing into the bay, if it is the squadron, we will render whatever assistance they require."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, giving him a nod.
"Isaac," Tomlin said, looking at him, "I feel that this will be bad for us. We must stand to see this through."
"We will, Thomas." Middleboro said, looking at his friend, "We have a fine ship and a good crew."
"That we do, but we are going to require assistance. Call for Mr. Greene and Amos to join us here, and ask Lt. Holt as well."
"Alright." Middleboro said. The looks between them gave them both pause to drop ranks for a moment, and speak as friends, knowing each other as long as they had, and well. Middleboro nodded as he walked to the stairs, rather than barking out to carry out Tomlin's request, a sign of respect to Tomlin, not to have the crew raise question. A few minutes later, they assembled on the Quarterdeck, Tomlin looking very firm in his stance in front of them.
"Mr. Greene," Tomlin said, looking into the older man's face, Tomlin knowing his experience of many years at sea and several battles, "I would ask that you assist Mr. Middleboro on the Gun Deck in taking charge with the gun crews." Greene nodded and tipped his hand, "Amos, I would have the same of you here on the Main Deck, as we are in short supply of officers." Amos tipped his hand as well. "Lt. Holt, as we approach the bay, I would ask that you assemble your Marines and have them man the sides at the ready. I fear that we have another fight on our hands, gentlemen. I wish to be prepared for any possibility." Holt nodded as well, seeing his new found friend's face filled with worry and concern. Holt drew himself up, wanting to help him as much as possible.
"Would you like sharpshooters aloft, Mr. Tomlin?" Holt asked.
"That would be a comfort, Lieutenant, thank you." Holt nodded slightly to Tomlin and his reply. Tomlin nodded to them all and they all left the Quarterdeck but Holt, he remained, waiting. "Is there something else, Lieutenant?" Tomlin asked.
"I was wondering, sir,..." Holt paused for a long moment, "Is there anything else I might do to assist you?"
Tomlin smiled a brief smile, then lowered his voice. "I was wondering if I should ask the same of you?" Holt returned the smile.
"No,...Thomas," Holt said quietly, "thank you, but as you have command now, I want you to know that I am at your service."
"Thank you, Christian." Tomlin sighed softly, "I feel less alone now in my duty." They looked at one another for a long minute, then Holt snapped a salute and turned and walked away, as Tomlin tipped his hand in return. Tomlin watched him walk away and go down the port stairs and out across the deck toward the gangway, obviously in search of McGuffin. Tomlin looked over his shoulder and saw Dustin at the wheel, Dustin giving him a nod and a smile. Tomlin returned it.
"Deck there!" The voice from above called out. Tomlin looked upward. "Sail from beyond the bay! Coming north, sir!"
Tomlin looked forward not able to see from the darkness. "How many?!"
"Two, sir!" Tomlin sighed with a growl in his throat, looking forward again, seeing Middleboro coming across the deck quickly toward the Quarterdeck. Middleboro came up the stairs and came up to Tomlin with wide eyes. Tomlin was focusing forward, trying to see. The flashes were off to the port side now. They were starting to hear the rumble sounds of the shots after the flashes. "Three, sir! Three sails now, sir!"
"Damn." Tomlin said. "If they're French, we're in over our heads." He mumbled. "Mr. Perkins, that will be enough southing, put your helm to port, make for those flashes." Tomlin said over his shoulder, then looked forward again.
"Aye, sir." Dustin answered.
"You think they may be French, Thomas?"
"With the luck we've had, Isaac?" Tomlin looked at him with a side glance. "Take the deck, Mr. Middleboro, I need to visit the surgery. I will return shortly."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro replied and watched Tomlin hurry away.
The surgery was crowded, as Tomlin knew it would be. He had one goal in mind, and that was finding out the fate of Arvin and his condition. Tomlin was not doubting himself or his own capabilities as an officer, but rather wanted simply advice as the situation looked like it was deteriorating very rapidly, and Tomlin felt comfortable in asking it of Arvin, having great respect for the man and his abilities, his experience.
Tomlin saw Carson and Finch tending to the wounded, applying bandages and dressings, as he walked slowly through the group as they were everywhere on the deck, or about in recesses of the bulkheads of the hull itself. Tomlin could see Crawford bent over the table at the far end from him, working in the swinging lamp light on a member of the crew. Marines were in a group, keeping close to each other, looking after themselves as best they could. Hands were being lifted and tipped in obedience as Tomlin walked through, seeing Arvin finally. Tomlin hadn't known where he had been placed originally, but now Tomlin saw him, against the starboard bulkhead, his leg up, as he sat on the deck, a piece of timber strapped to his leg.
"Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said with foggy eyes, seeing the young officer. Tomlin knelt getting as close as he could, but as Arvin was flanked on both sides by wounded crew, Tomlin could only get close to Arvin's feet.
"Mr. Arvin, sir." Tomlin smiled faintly at him. "I understand you suffer only a broken leg, sir."
"Yes," Arvin said, his voice was shaky sounding, almost a low growl. It was obvious Arvin was in great pain, "Dr. Crawford thinks he might have to take it now." Arvin feigned a smile. "Too bad, actually, I had grown rather fond of it." Arvin smiled wide at his own jest, even though Tomlin found it in poor taste. "What is our status?" Arvin asked.
"We are on approach and in sight of La Rochelle, sir. We're mustering as many repairs as possible." Tomlin, seeing Arvin in such a state and his condition, didn't have the heart to ask his advice now.
"You obviously did not come here to make a survey of the surgery." Arvin groaned, he took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. "There is something else, isn't there?"
"You needn't worry, sir, we can handle it." Tomlin smiled.
"With only you and Middleboro at the helm?" Arvin shook his head, "Mr. Tomlin, I mean no insult to you, sir, or your capabilities but I know you are the only two officers that remain on deck. Tell me." Tomlin hesitated, and looked down. "Before the good Doctor, cuts my leg off, lad." Tomlin looked up and their eyes met. Arvin's looked vacant from the pain he was in obviously.
"We are still too far away yet, sir, however there seems to be a battle, the squadron must be engaged, and there are three more vessels that have been seen approaching from the south."
"Oh, dear God." Arvin said, as he put his hands on the bulkhead, trying to get up. Tomlin went to reach out to stop him.
"Mr. Arvin, sir, you can't get up."
"The ship will be outnumbered, even with the squadron, and if they are engaged with the French fleet and the fortress, they will require our assistance." Arvin was grunting as he struggled to get to his feet. He was able to stand on one leg, and lean against the bulkhead. "Get me to the Quarterdeck, Mr. Tomlin. How soon before we are there?"
"Less than an hour, sir." Tomlin said.
"Then we have no time to lose." Arvin said, reaching out a hand. Tomlin took it and threw Arvin's arm over his shoulder and drug him out of the little area he was in.
"Mr. Arvin, where do you think you are going?" Crawford's voice was behind them. Tomlin stopped as Arvin looked over his shoulder.
"I am required on the Quarterdeck, Doctor." Arvin said. "Send for me when you're done with the men and the Captain."
"Mr. Arvin," Crawford called to him, making he and Tomlin stop, "Sir, I cannot let you leave, it may do you serious harm or kill you."
"Doctor, this ship is in grave peril, sir. You tend to your duties, and I shall tend to mine. I will be on the Quarterdeck. Come, Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said firmly, and loud as he had his arm about Tomlin's shoulder for support. Tomlin helped Arvin limp toward the gangway and up. A great struggle began for Arvin to reach the Quarterdeck, every hop on his good foot sent shockwaves of pain through his injured leg. He kept blinking hard to suppress the pain he was going through, and even with the timber that was strapped to him, it was not supporting him well. Tomlin was working hard to get him there, not what he wanted from Arvin, as he had only sought him out for advice, but he was not about to argue with the older superior officer, knowing what might be coming as they sailed on. Middleboro saw them coming and went to assist Arvin and Tomlin at the stairs. Arvin accepted the assistance, and together, the three made it, and got Arvin to the rail.
Arvin asked for a glass, and waited as he looked forward. One was handed to him, and he extended it, lifting it to his eye.
"Dear God." Arvin said aloud, then dropped the glass from his eye. "Beat to Quarters!" Arvin turned, as Tomlin stepped forward and yelled. Drums started to beat, men started to move quickly and the guns were being loaded by those on the Main Deck. "Did you have a plan, Mr. Tomlin?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. Middleboro and Mr. Greene were going to take the Gun Deck, sir. I was going to take the Quarterdeck and have Amos help lead the gun crews as well."
"Very good, Mr. Tomlin." Arvin said taking in a deep breath and gritting his teeth being racked with pain, "Carry out your plan. I will take the Quarterdeck, and with Mr. Perkins assistance, hopefully, we shall prevail." Arvin handed the glass to Tomlin.
"What did you see, sir?" Tomlin asked.
"Have a look for yourself." Arvin clenched his teeth again. "Mr. Middleboro, get something to prop me here at the rail." Middleboro ran off quickly going for the stairs. Arvin heard Tomlin gasp as he looked through the glass. "What do you see?"
"They look to be Frenchmen, sir," Tomlin said. "but,..."
"Do you not see anything else?"
"It is dark, sir, I..." Tomlin said, then he saw it, and lowered the glass, then lifted it back up a moment later, as Middleboro returned with a sturdy looking wooden box. He set it at the rail, just behind Arvin, who sat upon it, propping his leg on the lower part of the rail. Arvin sighed, nodding to Middleboro his thanks. "Sir, they have the squadron...bottled up in the bay."
"Very good, Mr. Tomlin." Arvin exhaled heavily. "Notice anything else?"
Tomlin lifted the glass again to his eye. "There is a ship that is...looks like..." Then Tomlin almost gasped again, lowering the glass and looking at Arvin, "it's a Spaniard, sir. I can see their flag."
"Yes." Arvin looked forward toward the flashes.
"They are supposed to be our allies, sir, against Napoleon."
"War brings strange bed fellows, Mr. Tomlin. They could be allied with Napoleon again for all we know, or they may be just mercenary. It is apparent that His Lordship has been outflanked and is trapped. It is up to us to change that now."
"Mr. Arvin, we're in no shape..." Middleboro started to say, but Arvin cut him off with a growl and a glare.
"That is our squadron! And those are English ships requiring our assistance, sir, and we are going to engage the enemy at all cost! Do I make myself clear?!"
"Very clear, sir." Middleboro snapped.
"Deck there!" Came the voice from aloft. All eyes lifted toward the sky. "Sail! Off the starboard rail!"
"Those would be the other ships, sir, coming up from the south." Tomlin said, as he swung the glass. The image looked like small squares to him, and he knew they more than two hours off at least, as La Rochelle was drawing closer. "Two hours or more, sir, at least." Tomlin said, wondering why the lookout called, as he had alerted them earlier about their approach. Tomlin wondered and lifted his head. "Lookout?!"
"They went dark, sir!" He yelled back down.
"They think we haven't spotted them yet, Mr. Tomlin. They are going to sneak in under the cover of darkness. Order lights out." Arvin grunted.
"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, he turned. "Lights out! Marines on deck! Cover the hatch on the Storage Deck!" Tomlin was watching as the flashes were still going off but the booming was getting closer to the flashes. "Mr. Middleboro, take Green and join your gun crews, load and stand by to run out."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, as he tipped his hand toward Tomlin, then Arvin. He hurried away.
"Mr. Perkins," Arvin said, looking at Dustin, "give us two points to port, we will swing in on them to windward."
"Aye, sir." Dustin cranked the wheel over, and Dover responded to the new course. All eyes watched the bow, the flashes went off again, and then the booming was heard, as Dover went into darkness on her decks. A few more flashes and then booming, and all eyes saw the splashes in the water in their direction.
"Ranging shots." Arvin said quietly. Tomlin nodded. "Join your gun crews, Mr. Tomlin, I have the deck."
"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, handing the glass to Arvin, tipped his hand and headed for the starboard stairs. He went down them quickly and saw Amos, Tomlin directing him to oversee the starboard guns, while he took the port side. The flashes increased into the bay and then the booming could be heard. Tomlin knew they were close, very close, and almost in range. Tomlin looked over the starboard rail, seeing the Spaniard as Dover was coming up on her starboard aft quarter now, still distant, yet the Spaniard could not get a shot off in their direction. Tomlin knew what Arvin was going to do and grinned.
The view into the bay was getting clearer now, as the hands and the remaining officers of the Dover saw what was actually going on. The French and the Spanish ship did indeed have the squadron in the bay bottled up, the bows of the squadron pointed toward the mouth of the bay, and it was clear that Fitzwarren and the others had been outflanked. The French and the Spaniard were holding position out in the bay and were just lobbing shot into each member of the squadron, and the squadron itself was not in any position in which to fire back and be effective. The French knew it was only a matter of time before the English would surrender or their ships would be matchwood and burned, like the Eleanor had been.
"Mr. Tomlin, I will give the course, the action on deck is yours!" Arvin yelled.
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin answered and tipped his hand, as he stood port side amidships. "Port battery, run out!"
"Mr. Perkins, hard to starboard! Bring us along for a broadside!"
Aye, sir!" Dustin replied, as they came near the stern of the Spaniard, Dustin cranked the wheel and Dover took a new wind and responded to the course change. Yelling in Spanish could now be heard as Dover lay over, about fifty yards off the Spaniard, far enough to get their attention and do damage.
"Fire as you bear!" Tomlin yelled as he pivoted himself for the entire deck to hear him as well as below, "FIRE!"
Callum's eyes opened as the guns went off over his head. He looked around without moving, only his eyes, looking about in the low lamplight as it was swinging, making the shadows of the framing of the hull move and almost dance. Callum felt the vibration of the thunderous volley going through the deck up the short stretcher legs and even vibrated the canvas under him. He could hear the clanging of instruments and realized that he was in the surgery on the Storage Deck. Callum felt his chest hurt and tighten as he tried to breathe. He went to sit up.
"Easy, sir," A voice came and he felt a hand on his skin, Callum rolled his eyes toward the voice, "you shouldn't move, sir." Their eyes met and Callum recognized him after a few moments, as there were bandages that half covered the face and head.
"Hammond, what's happening?" Callum asked, feeling it difficult to talk.
"We seem to be fighting, sir." Hammond said as got closer to Callum's face.
"Are you hurt?"
"It's only a scratch, sir." Hammond tried to smile, as Callum tried to sit up again, seeing Hammond was half covered in bandages, his head, his chest, one arm.
"Well, my lad," Callum exhaled, then groaned, 'if that's a scratch,...I would hate to see what a real wound is then." He put a hand to his ribs on his chest and pushed in, then slowly sat up.
"Sir, you must not move." Hammond said, putting his good hand out. Callum smiled, and felt someone else next to him, and lifted his head and looked left, there was Carson, giving him a deeply worried face.
"Sir, Hammond is right, you must not get up. You'll bleed again."
"Carson, get that back door open." Callum said and started to get up off the cot.
"Captain?" Crawford looked up from the table and his current patient, "where in God's name do you think you're going?" More thunder from over their heads, making the crew look up knowing, and then the smoke came through open cracks and drifted about.
"My ship is engaged in battle, Doctor." Callum wheezed and then coughed, spitting blood on the deck. Jarter turned away from the table, as he was assisting Crawford and looked at him, and Callum met his eyes. There was something deep in Jarter's eyes that Callum did not recognize, and Callum diverted his eyes toward Crawford, seeing him glaring at Callum. "I must tend to it, while I still have breath."
"Please, do not relay to me about your duty, Captain, I have heard enough of that from Mr. Arvin as it is." Callum looked puzzled by the Doctor's words and then looked about, but he didn't see Arvin anywhere, knowing he was injured as well..
"Where is Mr. Arvin, Doctor?" Callum asked as he gave him his own glare.
"He said he was going to the Quarterdeck. He is in same condition as you, Captain, and not fit for duty. Young Tomlin had to practically carry him out of here." Callum was shocked hearing Crawford. Callum turned and staggered toward the aft door, hands stood up holding out their hands to try and support him as he walked despite their own wounds. They watched him with awe and wonder as he went by them, all with wide eyes, and then as he made it out the door and was out of sight, all eyes shifted back to Crawford, "Those of you who wish to join him, I will not stop you, if you are able-bodied." Crawford said, as he bent back down to the man on the table, going back to his work.
Most of the crew limped or staggered after Callum as the hatch for the gangway had been sealed to shun the light from below. Callum went up the steep stairs, almost like a ladder, trying to breathe as easy as he could, going through the Gun Deck to reach the Main Deck. He needed another shirt from the cabin, as he did not want to out on the deck half naked, not that he minded, but it just wasn't proper to him, and as he made his way, the cannons kept going off, volley after volley, and then he felt it, a rocking and heavy vibrations, they were now being fired upon, the element of surprise had been lost.
Callum hit the door and staggered through it, as it wasn't completely closed. He caught himself on the edge of the table as the sound of splintering wood came at him from his right, the crushing vibration of impact as two cannon balls ripped through the cabin, one hitting the bulkhead to his left and the other passing through. It was very apparent that Dover was near point blank range to whoever was shooting back. Callum staggered for his truck and got the lid open, grabbing a shirt and pulled it with difficulty over his head, tucking it in as he staggered back for the doors, Callum saw it, standing in the corner of the berth and the wall of the cabin, his sword. He staggered to it and grabbed the pommel as he was rocked by another cannon shot hitting Dover. He swung the sword again, as he had done the last time, throwing the scabbard off, it bouncing and clattering to the deck as he went through the door. There he was met by a few of the crew, most barely able to stand themselves, bandaged, bleeding, but each had a look of determination and true resolve, he nodded at them all, and they followed him through the galley out onto the deck. Callum stepped through the wreckage that was the wall under the Quarterdeck, and looked over his shoulder, Arvin was clutching what was left of the fore rail, propped on a wooden box, trying to hang on.
"FIRE!" Tomlin yelled, and Callum saw him leading the port gun crews. Thunderous volleys went off, and then smoke filled the deck. Callum turned to his crew behind him.
"Do what you can, lads." Callum wheezed and clutched his chest with his free hands. Callum nodded again and then went for the starboard stairs. He slowly climbed them, and came to the Quarterdeck, hearing muskets going off under the voice of McGuffin, giving the order. Callum walked through the smoke and emerged seeing Dustin at the wheel. Dustin caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye, and then looked at him fully, his eyes going wide, and welling.
"Captain..." Dustin whispered, as Callum walked toward Arvin, slowly, but he was doing it under his own power, and now here on the Quarterdeck he felt bold, strong, and proud. His ship was doing its best to take an enemy that was twice her size once again. Callum could hear yelling in Spanish, as he came to a wide eyed Arvin.
"Captain...what...?" Arvin asked as he tried to stand. Callum put his hand on Arvin's shoulder to stop him. Callum was surveying what was going on, seeing and hearing the battle in the bay and ship position.
"We seem to be in another rather tight spot, Captain Arvin. If you had wanted target practice, I would have suggested the south shoals off the Thames." Callum feigned a smile, looking down at him.
"You may blame young Tomlin there, sir. Apparently one French sixty gunner wasn't enough for him, he wanted to take on the fleet, sir, while you and I were having a...rest." Arvin smiled and put a hand to Callum's elbow to steady Callum.
"Well,... perhaps we should go to my cabin for coffee, William?" Callum said as he looked over the port aft quarter, as Dover slid by the Spaniard. More orders in Spanish were being yelled, Callum could see their gun crews running out. Arvin had his back to what was happening, and couldn't see. "Captain Arvin, with your permission, sir, I would like to..." Arvin tightened his grip on Callum's elbow.
"Quintan,..." Arvin said, pulling his hand bringing Callum to him, Callum's eyes narrowed as Arvin had never used his first name, ever, "she's still your ship, she always will be. Do what you must, as only you can." Callum had a chill run down his spine. He righted himself away from Arvin, but squeezed his fingers into Arvin's shoulder, he looked left to his love, the love of his life, at the wheel.
"Hard starboard, Mr. Perkins!" Callum said and then winked at Dustin. Dustin smiled and cranked the wheel hard over. Callum turned, "Mr. Tomlin! Starboard battery! Ready the bow guns!"
"Aye, sir." Tomlin replied as he looked up, seeing Callum on the Quarterdeck. Tomlin's eyes went wide, he couldn't believe it at first, then he jumped about.
"Lt.Holt!" Callum yelled, "Take your men, form ranks near the bow! Make your targets their gun crews!"
"Yes, sir!" Holt said at the Main Rail, he saluted and then went to turn.
"And, Lieutenant!" Callum called out as he wheezed, leaning on a section of rail, "tell Sergeant McGuffin not to waste ammunition!" Callum gave a grin, even though he knew Holt couldn't see it in the dark.
"I will, sir!"
Callum spun a little and saw the Spaniard coming back into view over the starboard mid rail now, its shadow looming as Dover was making the turn and coming back toward her. Callum clutched his chest as he saw her coming into full view. Spanish could be heard in the distance, Callum knew they were preparing for the onslaught that was about to happen. The bow of Dover was getting closer to the bow of the Spaniard, about thirty yards distant, and now.
"Two points to port." Callum said as he had backed up near the wheel, speaking to Dustin over his shoulder, then looking forward again. Dover was dropping speed as they headed into the wind now, Callum knew they were about to make or break themselves as the Spaniard was going to give them hell as they moved slowly by. "We'll rake her as we did the French sixty." Callum said, as he had turned and looked at Dustin. Dustin remembered all too clearly. "Then swing her around her stern, we'll take the wind and come into the bay."
"What of the rest of the French fleet?" Dustin asked softly, looking into Callum's eyes.
"God help them, because when we're through,..." Callum was interrupted by cannon going off from the Spaniard. He spun. They were just shooting. Typical Spanish, Callum thought, can't hold themselves. He staggered to the rail, leaning against it. "Mr. Tomlin! Let's show them how to hit their target, shall we?! Starting from the bow,...fire as you bear! Full raking broadside! You lads, reload as fast as you can now! Record time! There might be five times the prize money! At the ready?!, "Callum paused, watching..."FIRE!" He screamed.
Gun after gun went off as Dover started down the side of the Spaniard. Hit upon hit was exacting into the hull of the Spanish, as the gun crews were spot on. Screams could be heard coming from, orders being given in Spanish, and then Spanish guns from her upper Main Deck started to fire. Being a taller ship, the Spanish had to block their rear wheels to get their guns to point down at Dover, and they cut loose on them, shot for shot, pounding each other as Dover passed. Callum could feel and hear Dover being ripped apart as they became enveloped in smoke across the deck. Men of the Dover screamed as they fell, all Callum could do was wait. As the smoke thinned a little, Callum saw it.
"Reload!" He yelled. "Make it count!" Callum leaned on the rail, and used it for balance, still carrying his sword in one hand, he started toward the starboard rail. Yes, he was right, he did see it. The Spanish were unblocking their wheels to have to reload their upper deck guns. "Lt. Holt! The gun crews!"
"At the ready!" McGuffin cried out through Dover's cannon fire. "Steady now! Fire!" McGuffin could be heard over all of it, the thunderous booming, the screams of the injured and dying from both ships. The volley from the Marines went off and Callum could see the Spanish falling on the upper deck, but more took their place.
"Lt. Holt! Send a detachment to me!" Callum yelled. The Quaterdeck being higher, the Marines would have better advantage. Then the shots came from above, Callum was pelted from musket fire from the Spanish. He looked up as musket balls were splintering wood about him, and he heard a cry from behind him, he looked over his shoulder as Arvin was on the deck, his splinted leg sticking up in the air propped up by the wooden box he had been sitting on. Callum looked over at the wheel. "Dustin, get down!" Dustin crouched behind the wheel for cover. Marines were coming up the stairs, starting to line up, Holt was following them. Callum turned and went towards the fallen Arvin. Arvin was grimacing in a new pain and clutching his shoulder with a hand. "William?" Callum asked. Arvin nodded towards him. Callum enraged, spun about, sword tip up.
"Marines! Use the rail for balance!" Callum yelled as they all looked him. He pointed up into the rigging of the Spaniard, "Shoot those bastards!" Then shots could be heard over their own heads. Men screamed from the Spanish ship. Callum looked aloft. The Marines on deck turned and used the starboard rail for cover and balance and started to fire, dropping Spanish sharpshooters one after the other. Holt came up to Callum, and saluted.
"I sent a few men aloft, sir," The young Holt dropped his arm, ""Sgt. McGuffin has the deck," Musket fire could be heard from both ships, "I am here at your service..." Holt slumped as his eyes rolled. Callum caught him with one arm, and groaned at the strain. He brought Holt slowly to the deck, Dustin was wide eyed, as musket balls were ripping through the wheel and the Mizzen Mast behind him.
"Dustin, stay down." Callum said, as he looked at Dustin. Callum struggled to roll Holt over onto his back. "Lieutenant..." Callum said, "Lieutenant..." Holt slowly opened his eyes.
"Captain..." Holt said softly. Callum took his hand into his.
"Hold on, lad." Callum said, and then gave him a smile. "Stay with me now. We'll get you taken care of." Callum let his hand go, and got to his feet, groaning. "Sgt. McGuffin!" Callum yelled and looked at the Marines, who were seeing their fallen officer at Callum's feet. "Marines! Stay with your duty! Fire into them! Take the sharpshooters!" Callum watched as they turned back to the rail, firing, taking out their targets, reloading, and firing again. Callum went to the rail, "Mr. Tomlin! Keep firing into them!" McGuffin was coming up the starboard stairs quickly, as Callum went toward Arvin.
"Sir!" McGuffin looked at Callum as he went toward the fallen Holt.
"He's alive, Sergeant, get him below to the surgery!" Callum said as McGuffin knelt next to Holt, putting his hand on his shoulder, gently, and then gave it a gentle squeeze.
"Your officer, sir?" McGuffin asked as Callum knelt beside Arvin.
"I'll see to Mr. Arvin, Sergeant." Callum said as he looked into the unconscious face of Arvin. Callum knew he was breathing at least. "Have the Doctor send Finch up on deck to help with our wounded here."
"Very good, sir." McGuffin said, as he had scooped up the young Holt, he turned and walked with him toward the starboard stairs as musket balls were hitting the deck and the rail now and again. Holt's arms were hanging out and his head was dropped back. McGuffin stopped for a moment, looking down at the Marines, "You lads, take your orders from the Captain. Now, one at a time, shoot them out of the rigging." McGuffin nodded at them and they went about it, firing up into the rigging of the Spaniard as McGuffin went down the stairs, carrying Holt. Men were screaming as they fell to the deck. The Marines were motivated and wreaking heavy casualties. Callum stood and saw what there was as Dover's guns were going off one after the other, the gun crews were working as fast as they could to reload and run out and fire, doing it all over again. Dover was sliding slowly by and was her bows had cleared the Spaniard's stern.
"Keep firing, lads!" Callum yelled, as Callum staggered over toward the Marines at the starboard rail. He stood behind them, and swayed a little to try and keep his balance. He stuck his sword tip in the deck to lean on it as well. Callum gauged the distance, watching as Dover continued her slow passing. Callum looked aloft, seeing the wind was pushing the sails back against the masts and crossarms. He waited another minute, as the firing of the guns kept going off, smoke covering the deck, then washing away in the breeze. He was choking from the smoke, but he did his best not to cough, for he knew he would bleed even more if he did.
"Now, Dustin, bring us to starboard, around her stern." Callum said as he turned halfway back toward the wheel. "Not to sharp now, give me a little room." Dustin was cranking the wheel. Callum turned and looked forward, "Mr. Tomlin, take her rudder!" Callum yelled over cannon fire.
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin yelled back in reply. "You heard the Captain, take out her rudder! Fire as you bear!" Tomlin yelled as he was moving along the deck, lining himself up with a cannon as he bent over behind one at midships. "FIRE!" Cannon went off in front of him, and then to each side of him. The Spaniard was being ripped apart. Tomlin was grinning as the gun crews were spot on, the rudder was dangling off her hinge points. The gun crews could see it and they were cheering as each shot brought more and more damage.
Callum was at the rail, watching as Dover was catching the wind again, bring her around the stern of the Spaniard. Dover's bow was clearing around the port aft quarter of the damaged ship, and Callum knew that the Spanish gun crews on her port side would be ready for them, ready to bring their own type of destruction. Callum had an idea flash across his mind and saw Amos on deck.
"Amos!" Callum called. Amos turned and looked up. "Take a hand, go and fetch a pail of coal oil from the galley, and two empty pails as well. Be quick about it!" Callum said, and Amos tipped his hand, grabbing one of the men closest to him. "Mr. Tomlin! To me!" Callum said, seeing Tomlin coming toward him quickly, and then Callum saw Finch up near the bow. "Finch! Up here!"
Tomlin hit the stairs, and stopped below Callum. "Amos went to fetch coal oil from the galley, with extra pails, divide it, take it to your guns, roll your shot in the oil and load. We'll give the Spanish something else to contend with."
"Exactly, Mr. Tomlin," Callum said, "make it quick. Their powder should be stored like ours in the aft sections. As we come round, we will give them Hellfire!" Callum had that look, that look of determination and drive that Tomlin knew that there was no stopping him now. Amos and the other hand came back out on deck. "Hurry, lads, hurry!" Callum said, and they started to turn away, following Tomlin. "Have the powder monkeys bring up water as the guns might flame!"
Aye, sir!" Tomlin said over his shoulder. Tomlin pointed at three cannon to set as Hellfire. They quickly divided the oil, and shot was dropped in the pails and rolled to cover the balls, then the three cannon were quickly loaded, and run out.
"Let them fly, Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled. Tomlin raised an arm in reply as Dover came round the stern of the Spaniard coming toward her port side.
"FIRE!" Tomlin yelled and the three guns were touched off. Streaking trails of flame were sent into the Spaniard and ripped through her side. Screams could be heard from the Spanish, and Dover erupted into cheers. Callum looked forward as they were now coming into the bay, and Callum narrowed his eyes as there were three French ships that been hidden from view by the Spaniard. The French ships were angled off and firing into the trapped squadron near the long docks.
"Again, Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled. Finch came up the stairs, watching Callum as he came up, their eyes met. "Finch, see to Mr. Arvin, he's been shot." Callum said as he pointed across the Quarterdeck and then looked forward again, as the guns went off once more. Callum looked starboard toward the Spaniard as the flaming streaks went through her hull. Orders could be heard in Spanish and then screams and a glow began to come from the ship. More screams and Callum knew they had hit into the powder stores. It was only a matter of time now, they had to get away from her. Callum spun and looked toward Dustin at the wheel, as the Marines rose up from where they had been crouched, watching the Spaniard as well. "Dustin, bring us to port! Get me some distance!" Callum said, then looked back at the Spaniard, seeing men working on the upper deck running out their guns. "Marines! Take out those gun crews!" Callum said loudly. The Marines leveled and fired at their selected targets at the aft quarter. Men could be heard screaming as they fell.
Callum focused on what was ahead, the French ships, set at angles toward Dover as she approached, now taking the wind fully, they gained in speed. The bows of the French were laid off so as the French were in perfect firing position against Dover. Callum saw it but he didn't care, his only thought was to do as much damage as he could to free the squadron. Callum could see the French running their guns out on their starboard sides, as they were still firing from time to time against the squadron from their port sides.
"Bring us to starboard two points." Callum said, looking at Dustin. "Make us headlong into them." Callum nodded toward Dustin, and Dustin returned the nod. Callum looked forward again, as there was a thunderous explosion behind Dover. The Spaniard erupted from there powder stores. Men could be heard screaming. Callum did not look back.
"Dear God!" Fitzwarren said, as he stood in front of the wheel of the Valiant, seeing the massive explosion from the Spanish ship. The firing from the French stopped, as all eyes, from every ship in the bay, looked at the sight. Dover was illuminated by the glow, as she was at full sail, her flag was illuminated by the glow, and Fitzwarren put a glass to his eye, seeing Dover coming to their aid. Cheers erupted from the Valiant, as well as the rest of the squadron. Fitzwarren could see that Dover was going to press an attack against the three French ships, and only shook his head, he knew it was more than just daring, he knew it was sheer folly, and that Dover was about to be destroyed by the French and there was nothing that Fitzwarren could do about it. The wind was against them, and they could not come to the aid of the would be rescuer. "You're a brave man, Captain Arvin." Fitzwarren said mostly to himself.
"Beg pardon, My Lord..." Collingwood said, as he stood in the shadow of Fitzwarren, holding up his own glass to his eye.
"What is it, Collingwood?" Fitzwarren asked, not looking back.
"I do not believe that that is Captain Arvin, My Lord." Collingwood said.
"What?" Fitzwarren asked and raised his glass again. "I gave Arvin command of the Dover. Who the devil do you think it is?"
"I would say, My Lord, from here it appears to be...Captain Callum."
"What?" Fitzwarren asked again, moving the glass about as he was not seeing what Collingwood was seeing. "Are you certain?"
"Reasonably, My Lord." Collingwood said. "Captain Callum has blonde hair, does he not?"
"Yes." Fitzwarren boomed as he looked at Collingwood.
"And Captain Arvin has dark hair?"
"Yes, yes." Fitzwarren spit out. "You have much better eyes than I. What do you see, Collingwood?"
"I see Captain Callum, My Lord, on the Quarterdeck." Collingwood lowered his glass, and looked forward using only his eyes. "He appears to be giving orders, My Lord."
"He was critically injured, according to Arvin."
At that moment, firing started from the lead French ship toward Dover, Dover started to make a turn toward starboard on a roll out. Fitzwarren stepped forward a step and watched as Dover began to fire back still illuminated by the burning Spaniard. Several flaming streaks came from Dover and struck the lead French vessel. Fitzwarren could clearly see it, but did not understand what was happening. Dover was under full sail, her canvas was at full billow and clearly she moving quickly as the next French ship in line fired and Dover responded likewise, firing more flaming streaks.
"What the devil is she firing?" Fitzwarren asked.
"I'm not certain, My Lord." Collingwood said as he used his glass. "I see no flame aboard Dover." Collingwood lowered his glass slightly. The first French ship started to burst into flames on her deck. Fitzwarren stepped to the fore rail and put his hands on it.
"Whatever that devil is doing, he's doing it correctly." Fitzwarren slapped his hand on the rail, turning to his other officers that were there behind him. "Dover has come to our aid, and now it's time to act ourselves. Lower the boats over the side! Rig us for towing! Signal the other ships of the squadron! Quickly!" Fitzwarren turned and watched as Dover was countering against the third French ship now as she still fired on the second. The first Frenchman was now battling flames over one third of her deck.
Men rushed about on the deck of the Valiant, boats were being hoisted and put over her starboard side. Slowly they were being lowered. Fitzwarren watched and it wasn't happening fast enough for him, but he knew however, they were moving as fast as they could. Signal flags were raised up from the Valiant to the other ships of the squadron.
"Load the port guns! Standby to run out! Get the boat crews over the side!" Fitzwarren called out and his officers responded, reissuing the orders as they received them. The boats were lowered into the water, and rigged. Fitzwarren called out orders to have Valiants' bows pulled away from the dock by the boats giving them the ability to fire their guns. Fitzwarren looked and saw Reliant off across the bay trying to do the same, even though she was badly damaged, her boats were being lowered. The Tarkington was on the other side of the dock, slightly behind Valiant, but she was not responding yet.
Dover rode the wind and fired the last volley into the third Frenchman and was rolling out and away from the line of fire. Fitzwarren looked as the second French ship was now dealing with flames. He looked up and out across the bay as the Spanish ship exploded again, and was continuing to burn. Fitzwarren could feel the pull of the boats as Valiant began to move, slowly, oh so slowly. Fitzwarren went to the starboard rail and looked over.
"Pull, lads! Pull for our lives!" Fitzwarren yelled and the Coxswains of the three long boats had the crews dig in and pull harder. Fitzwarren watched for a minute and saw Valiant beginning to roll with them as the lines began to get taught, Valiant moved only inches at a time. Fitzwarren left the rail and walked across the deck, looking forward, seeing Dover roll out and away showing her heels now, still illuminated by the fire aboard the Spaniard. Fitzwarren could see men spilling over the side of the Spaniard as their Mizzen was in flames now. Fitzwarren reached the port rail and looked over, down at the dock, as Valiant was pulling away from the bow now. There were two lines mooring lines that were still attached to the dock to keep Valiant from drifting.
"Release those lines!" Fitzwarren yelled, pointing, and hands jumped to it. The mooring lines were cut and Valiant seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as she rolled away by the bow. Fitzwarren looked forward as the French ships were starting to line up with the bow guns. "Port battery, run out!" Fitzwarren yelled, seeing the closest French ship was in flames over half her deck now. "Marines! Take position at the rail!" Fitzwarren yelled out, as he could see men going over the side on the first French ship. Fitzwarren saw Major Simmonds on deck along with two other Marine Captains now. "Major, if any sailors from those ships reach the docks, take them prisoner of shoot them down!"
"Yes, My Lord!" Simmonds said, and turned giving orders to his Captains who went off to join the Marines.
Fitzwarren looked up and scanned for Dover, but she was not there. "Collingwood, where did Dover go?"
"I have lost her, My Lord." Collingwood said as he scanned about with his glass, then at the south end of the bay, he caught sight of something. He stopped and watched, as it was dark, but he thought he saw movement for a moment, and then he saw it clearly, the first sail. "My Lord, I believe I found her."
"Where?" Fitzwarren looked in the same direction as Collingwood's glass. "What do you see? Is it Dover?"
"I believe so, My Lord, she is at the south end of the bay."
"How is that possible? She was just turning out to sea but a minute ago." Fitzwarren said putting a hand on the fore rail. "If it is Callum, that devil is full of surprises then."
"A moment, My Lord." Collingwood said. He stayed very still and then lowered his glass. "That is not the Dover, My Lord, there are three more ships coming into the bay, on the leeward side."
"What flag?" Fitzwarren asked as he gripped the rail tighter.
"I'm not certain, My Lord. It is too dark to...," Collingwood lowered his glass again, seeing what he needed to see, "they fly a French flag, My Lord."
"What?" Fitzwarren narrowed his eyes. "What the devil?" Fitzwarren went to the port rail and looked over, seeing their progress. It was not much. Fitzwarren went to the starboard rail and looked over, seeing the boats and their crews pulling with everything they had. "Hurry, lads, hurry." Fitzwarren said to himself, as he slapped the rail with his palm, then looked over his shoulder out toward the south end of the bay, He could make out the square of sails now in the dark against the horizon. "Damn it all. They will swing in and take Reliant first if something isn't done, and soon." Fitzwarren could see that Valiants' bow was coming more in line with the furthest of the French ships. "Port battery!" Fitzwarren yelled as he went to the fore rail. "From the bow, give us a ranging shot! Fire when ready!" Fitzwarren waited for a long moment and then the bow gun went off from the Main Deck. It fell short. "Again! Reload! Set your elevation! Fire when ready!" Again, Fitzwarren waited a long moment, and the gun was run out and lifted higher. It was touched off and all eyes watched as the shot hit. He clenched his fists and grinned. "Reload! Now you have your range! Fire when ready!" Valiant was still pulling away from the dock, but another gun was coming into line of sight now. "Fire!" Fitzwarren yelled. The gun was touched off and then another. Again, all eyes watched and the shots hit the third French ship. Cheers went up from the decks. "Alright, my lads! Do your worst! Fire as you bear!" Fitzwarren yelled. Gun crews responded and guns were reloaded as Valiant was rolling out to starboard more. Guns fired one after the other, and smoke was swept away as the wind was picking up now. Every shot was hitting the French ship and she was trying to pull herself together to fight back.
"My Lord!" Collingwood called out. His glass raised to his eye. Fitzwarren turned and looked at him.
"What is it, Collingwood?"
"The Dover,...My Lord, she is coming around the Spanish ship!" Collingwood said as he lowered his glass and pointed. Fitzwarren spun and looked forward out across the bay. Dover rolled around the stern of the Spaniard, illuminated as it burned, sails set at full billow, taking and using the wind to her advantage as she had before. She swung wide of the burning ship and set a direct course for the three oncoming French ships that were on their way toward Reliant. "Do you think she's going to defend the Reliant, My Lord?"
"It would appear so, Collingwood." Fitzwarren said as he watched Dover start her run, as the French began to break formation, heading for the severely wounded Reliant.
"Mr. Tomlin, run out!" Callum yelled cupping his hands over his mouth.
"Dustin give me another point to starboard." Callum said looking over his shoulder.
"Men in the water, sir!" Tomlin yelled. Callum knew they were the Spanish, and ignored Tomlin. "Sir!"
"Never mind them, Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled.
"Sir?!" Tomlin asked as he started back toward the Quarterdeck. Callum glared at him.
"Need I remind you that our goal is to assist our squadron, Mr. Tomlin? We will not render aid to those that attacked us, sir!" Callum said loudly, as he wheezed, and then coughed, spitting blood. Tomlin gave him a look of shock.
"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, and turned back to his gun crews. They all looked away from him as they felt the same as the Captain, but respected Tomlin for trying to save fellow sailors enemy or no. Tomlin knew that Dover was crushing some of the Spanish in the water as they went on with their present course. Tomlin also knew there was no stopping Callum now. He had become driven and relentless.
From Callum's position on the Quarterdeck, he could see the three ships breaking formation, one heading for the struggling Reliant, her boat crews rowing in the water to get her to a position where they could catch the wind, the other two were coming toward them across the bay. Callum could see from the glow from behind him that was lighting up the bay, that these new ships were indeed French, and he was angry, angry that the French had bottled up the squadron, had almost ruin the plan, angry that he had become injured and had not been able to be there to fight against this turn of events, angry that Fitzwarren had allowed himself to be put in this position. Callum knew it was up to Dover alone to stop this new threat.
Callum knew the French and their tactics, and he knew that that one French ship would single out Reliant and go for the easy targets, Reliant's boat crews in the water, trying to get her moved. The French were not cowards by any means, but they always fell to doing the easy, and that meant that those boats crews were in danger of being destroyed. Callum stepped back to the wheel.
"Dustin," Callum said softly to him, "Bring us over to port, heading for Reliant, I want to draw the fire of that Frenchman before they reach the boat crews, then we will cut across her bows and head into the others."
"That will take us into the wind, when we turn." Dustin said.
"I know." Callum said, "But we have to give Reliant more time, and she is in danger. Captain Tewles would do the same for us."
"Aye, sir." Dustin said, with a nod, and started to make the turn. Callum watched him for a minute, wanting to take him and kiss him so bad while there was still breath in his own body. Callum stepped toward the fore rail. Resting on it with his hand, his other still clutching his sword. Callum coughed and spit again.
"Mr. Tomlin! Port battery at the ready?!"
"Aye, sir, port battery standing by!"
"Very well! Sergeant?! Have your men take the rail on the port side! Do not hesitate in your fire, Sergeant, officers and men alike, we have to stop that ship!"
"SIR!" McGuffin said, snapping straight and saluting. He wheeled about and the Marines were already on it, moving to position in and about the gun crews on the port side. Callum looked forward, as the Frenchman was looming closer, only her bow guns were in any kind of position to fire, and she remained silent. Callum looked over, and Reliant was in full view now, her boat crews pulling to get her to swing, and Callum could see officers as well as men watching Dover as she approached rapidly. Callum shook his head.
"Tewles, you are wasting time!" Callum growled to himself, "Act! Get your headsails up!"
"Now, Dustin! Lay her over to starboard, start you turn!" Callum said over his shoulder.
"Aye, sir." Dustin cranked the wheel in the opposite direction from his last turn, and Dover under her speed from the wind, started the turn. Dustin knew that Callum wanted to pivot on their heels, and give the French a full broadside, while their momentum carried them out into the bay. And as Dover responded, that's exactly what happened.
"Fire as you bear!" Callum yelled, close enough to see faces of the French crew, but not detail.
"At the ready!" McGuffin yelled, hand in the air, muskets leveled and cocked, "Fire!" He said sharply and muskets went off. Screams came from the French ship. "Reload!"
"Port battery!" Tomlin yelled, "Fire as you bear! FIRE!" Thunderous volley went off, smoke fill ing the decks. And then the wind took it, sweeping it away, the sounds of screaming men and splintering wood filled the air. "Reload!" Tomlin yelled, and watched as the gun crews were spot on again, most of them wounded in some sort or another, working quickly as a team, as one, "Run out!" Tomlin yelled. The gun crews pulled and Dover was set, as she proceeded alongside the French ship. Her own gun crews were trying to get into position. McGuffin and the Marines were on the move, proceeding further aft as Dover was moving quickly up the side of the French ship.
"At the ready!" McGuffin yelled, stopping the Marines, making them all turn and level muskets again. "Fire!" He barked out and the volley of muskets went off. Tomlin looked at his gun crews, sweeping his head as he crouched slightly, "FIRE!" He yelled and the guns of Dover went off from the Main Deck as well as from the Gun Deck. Callum watched from the Quarterdeck, the devastation to the French ship as she rolled herself starboard trying to get away from Dover.
"Reload!" Tomlin and McGuffin yelled at the same time, Marines and gun crews went to their taskes and McGuffin broke off some of the Marines and sent them to the Quarterdeck on the double to cover Callum. "Run out!" Tomlin yelled, and the guns were pulled back out, as the French ship was trying to pull away. Tomlin could see her rudder coming into view amidships now. "Take her rudder!" Tomlin crouched a little, resting his hands on his knees. "FIRE!" and the volley went off. Smoke filled the air, but was washed away from the wind.
"Adjust sail!" Callum yelled up, cupping his hands, "Cut her loose!" and the hands aloft let the sails angle off to take the wind. Callum spun back and saw the spanker was fighting itself against the wind. "Throw the driver over! Take the wind!" Callum yelled.
Tomlin saw that the rudder was heavily damaged but still useable, he jumped for the Main Rail , and bent over it. "Mr. Middleboro, port aft battery! Take the rudder!"
"Aye, sir!" Middleboro yelled back. "Port aft battery! Fire as you bear! FIRE!" Tomlin turned and went back, seeing the Frenchman clearly, and hearing the guns go off and the rudder destroyed. The Frenchman was now on a course that they could not correct toward the beach at the south end of the bay, her sails taking the wind fully, and it was only a matter of time now before she was wrecked.
"Well done, Mr. Middleboro! Reload!" Tomlin yelled and looked up forward, seeing the next two ships coming into view and Dover was rapidly coming, taking the wind as her sails were cut loose and angled. Tomlin smiled to himself as he knew Callum knew how to handle her, better than any man aboard. The cannons started to go off from the French now, Dover was coming under fire, the French were silhouetted against the burning Spanish ship. Tomlin looked back to the Quarterdeck, he saw Callum standing at the fore rail, wind in his hair, his shirt and sleeves billowed from the wind, and Callum was staring intently on what was coming, his face locked in a firm grimace, his sword, in hand, flashed from the glow of the burning ships off to their starboard, the three Frenchmen, burning from the Hellfire that Callum had wrought upon them, and Tomlin seemed to breathe easier, seeing Callum there, in command, knowing everything was now under control. God help the French, Tomlin thought, then turned back to his gun crews.
"Ease your helm, Dustin." Callum said, as he looked over his shoulder, then back, looking forward toward the bow. Dustin kept her steady, seeing what Callum saw, as they were maneuvering to swing in behind the French now. Dover seemed to be moving faster, being of more shallow draft then the ships they were now pursuing, Dustin smiled openly, seeing that Callum was outmaneuvering them, getting behind them. "Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled and Tomlin looked toward him. "Starboard battery! From the bow!" Callum yelled and pointed with his sword.
"Aye, sir!", and Tomlin moved, and a few hands joined to assist the thin numbers at the forward guns. They were ready and waiting as Tomlin stood behind them. The French were firing, but their shots did not reach Dover as their angle was not right. Splashes were rising in the water from the misses behind Dover on her starboard side. "Starboard battery! At the ready! Standby to fire!" Tomlin yelled as the gun crews waited for the order now, watching through the ports behind the guns.
Callum could see that the aft guns of the closest French ship were being run out now, as Dover was reaching near the point to make her turn. Callum waited for the clear of the shot, knowing his gun crews were primed and ready, each and every one of them waiting for the order, seeing, knowing what was expected of them.
"Fire as you bear! On the up roll!" Callum yelled.
"FIRE!" Tomlin yelled, and the guns were touched off. Eight shots in all, eight shots ripping through the French aft section, men screamed, glass shattered, wood splintered. Smoke drifted away. "Reload!" Tomlin yelled, and the men were about it quickly as they had been taught and had now very practiced, time was not an issue at all. "Run out!" Tomlin yelled, and the guns were quickly pulled with the ropes through the greased blocks. "Steady lads! Standby!" Tomlin said loudly with a calm tone. Dover sailed just beyond the French ship now, as Callum watched over the starboard rail.
"Now Dustin, starboard your helm!" Callum said over his shoulder. Dustin cranked the wheel and Dover responded, her bow coming right, giving Dover clear sight with a full broadside, the perfect angle was on them now. "Fire!"
"FIRE!" Tomlin screamed and all the guns from the starboard side erupted, smoke wafting, screams filling the thick air, Callum coughed and choked for a moment until the wind took the smoke away, Callum spit more blood on the deck, and looked at the French ship.
"Ease you helm." Callum said and spit again on the deck. Dover was starting up the port side of the French ship, Callum could see men rushing about trying to get guns back into their places, and the French began to fire back. Only a few guns went off. She was still dangerous and every man aboard Dover knew it.
"Reload!" Tomlin yelled, and the hands went at it quickly. "Run out!" Tomlin yelled, looking up and down the deck, seeing the guns moving out. "Fire as you bear! FIRE!" He screamed.
"Sergeant!" Callum yelled, "Level the field!"
"At the ready!" McGuffin boomed in his graveled voice, "Fire!" He barked. Muskets fired and French dropped, some screaming, others just falling.'Reload!" Callum wanted sharpshooters on the platforms of the masts, but there wasn't time or enough of the Marines now. They all could hear orders being given in French, as men on the other ship moved about.
"Reload!" Tomlin yelled, as French guns were going off hitting Dover in her starboard rails and Foremast. Some men of the forward guns crumpled to the deck or were tossed back and away slamming to the deck. Tomlin saw what was happening. He called to the port gun crews, "Get the wounded below! Get those guns back into action! Standby to fire!"
"Marines, at the ready!" McGuffin called out, and the Marines leveled their muskets, selecting their targets, "Fire!" McGuffin barked again. Muskets went off and more Frenchmen fell with the volley. "Reload!" McGuffin barked.
"FIRE!" Tomlin yelled as Dover's guns went off again, smoke, screams, wood ripping and splintering, massive damage was being done as Dover was sailing by the now severely wounded French ship. As the smoke cleared, a deep moan came from the Frenchman, a creaking, and then the crew of the Dover saw it as the smoke rolled out wafting across the deck of the French ship, the Main Mast of the Frenchman was tilting and falling away over her starboard side, ropes pulling, going under extreme tension, then snapping and giving way. Men screamed that were up in the rigging as they were thrown from it and either to their deaths on the deck below or into the bay on the starboard side.
"Mr.Tomlin!" Callum yelled, "Give her another before we pass from her!"
"Aye, sir!" Tomlin answered, then spun back to his gun crews, "Fire as you bear! FIRE!" Guns went off again from both decks amidships to the aft section! More smoke, screams, and wood splintering. Dover was sailing by the Frenchman now, almost clearing the bow of the heavily damaged ship.
"Well done, Mr. Tomlin!" Callum yelled out, then coughed, spitting more blood on the deck. All eyes had turned toward him, seeing him weaving a little at the fore rail. Tomlin nodded toward his Captain, seeing him in full light from the burning Spanish ship on their port side. "Bring us in on the leeward side of the other ship, Dustin." Callum said over his shoulder.
"Aye, sir." Dustin said, watching Callum very closely, seeing him begin to falter in his strength.
Callum looked forward seeing the French sixty gunner, running now, knowing that they had seen what Dover had done to her sister ship, and Callum knew that she was ready for Dover to take her on, if necessary, but Callum saw them actually trying to make a run for it, showing her heels. Tomlin had seen it as well, and hurried to the Quarterdeck, coming up beside Callum, looking at him.
"Sir, you did it, she's running away."
"Let us make certain, Mr. Tomlin. I don't her doubling back on us. We'll pursue her out to the mouth of the bay, then return to the squadron, render what assistance we can."
"Very good, sir." Tomlin said, holding out a hand, seeing Callum weaving a bit, ready to catch him again if necessary. "Mr. Perkins, keep on that Frenchman." Callum said, looking toward Dustin, then back to Tomlin. "Sir, may I be of assistance?" Tomlin had concern all over his face, seeing the color draining from Callum.
"Most kind of you, Mr. Tomlin," Callum coughed and then spat more blood on the deck, "could I press you to help me to the chest at the aft rail?"
"Certainly, sir." Tomlin said, putting his arm around Callum's waist, using his own body to move Callum across the deck to the chest at the aft rail. Once they were there, Tomlin helped him to sit down slowly, gently, and Callum took in a slight breath and nodded his head, and smiled briefly up at Tomlin.
"Best to check the guns, Mr. Tomlin, in case she decides to turn and fight." Callum said, putting his hand on Tomlin's arm. "Leave nothing to chance. If she turns, we will not have the weather gauge."
"I understand, sir. Rest yourself, sir, I'll see to it." Tomlin said, and turned and left the deck, getting the gun crews prepared. Dustin turned and looked at Callum, and Callum feigned a slight smile toward him and leaned back against the bulkhead behind him and closed his eyes.
Callum heard something, he wasn't quite sure what it was, it sounded like a familiar voice, but he wasn't sure. He slowly opened his eyes, and saw through foggy vision a broad hat, with gold trim about it, then as his eyes began to clear and his vision slowly came to focus, he recognized the face. He tried to sit up to get to his feet but couldn't move, as he felt not only pain, but increased pressure from hands on him, holding him down.
"Ah, there you are, Callum, back from the dead I see." Fitzwarren boomed, his hands on his hips, his uniform was one of full dress, sash over his tunic, medals all over his left breast. "Steady yourself, lad. The surgeons are tending to you."
"My Lord." Callum licked dry lips and tried to speak clearly.
"I had thought you dead, Captain Callum, and it appears, sir, I was very much mistaken, and about a great number of things as well."
"My Lord?" Callum asked, trying to get more focused, Callum looked down as Crawford and another man were tending to his wounds. "I trust Doctor, that you didn't cut my shirt, as it seems to be my last one."
"Fear not, Captain, I save your shirt for you." Crawford said as he was trying to sew up the pulled stitches on Callum as the other man, clearly a Doctor as well, was working on another part of Callum's chest. The odd thing to Callum was that he didn't feel it, like he knew he should.
"Callum, you have performed a true miracle, sir. We are truly in your debt." Fitzwarren said in his booming tone.
"I was only performing my duty, My Lord."
"I would say you went far beyond your duty, my good man. If I had not been here to witness it, I would have never believed it. Incredible seamanship, sir, and your battle tactics, truly unbelievable. All England will go wild in hearing of this engagement."
"My Lord,..." Callum said, trying to get a breath.
"Captain Callum, I am hereby returning command of HMS Dover back to you, not that you were ever truly not in command. I have spoken to Arvin, and your officers, sir. They all think quite highly of you, and I should think are all quite prepared to die for you, if necessary. You command their highest respect, sir,...as well as mine." Fitzwarren said. "We will hold position here, for a few days' time. That will give you time to muster repairs from your battle damage, and you and your officers and men time to rest. After that, you will return to Portsmouth and shall be set to berth for full repair of your gallant ship. Your prize ships will either be towed or sailed back."
"Prize ships, My Lord?"
"Captain Callum, do you not know of the all the prize ships that you have gathered, sir? You will be a very wealthy man, my lad."
"But, we did not take them, My Lord..."
"Nonsense, Captain. The other Captains and I have discussed it at great length, you single handedly saved the entire squadron, why your act of valor to save Reliant alone, taking on a sixty gunner, twice your own size, has earned the deepest admiration of Captain Tewles. Very impressive, my lad, very impressive indeed. So, with that said, all prize ships have been awarded to Dover and in your name, sir. And, upon your return to England, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a knighthood in it for you as well."
"That is all well and good, My Lord, but..."
"I know, you seem to think that there are duties to perform, yes, quite right, very admirable, Captain. In the absence of Arvin, I have taken the liberty of temporarily promoting one of your young officers, Tomlin, I believe it is? He was of valuable insight to what actually happened."
"Where are my officers...? Callum was trying to breath in and out evenly.
"I sent them off to their berths for a much needed rest. It appears that you are several officers short. So I am giving you loan of a few of mine. Lt. Collingwood will lead the group of my officers while your rest and are tended to. Collingwood has the deck now, and when you are able, you may return them before we set sail for England."
"My thanks, My Lord." Callum said, trying to nod, but received a strong look from both Doctors knelt in front of him.
"I shall take my leave of you, Captain. We shall speak again in a couple of days' time, I'm certain."
"As you wish, My Lord." Callum choked. Fitzwarren turned and walked away.
"Captain, we need to get you somewhere we can best tend to you." Crawford said. "I fear that it will be difficult to get you down to the surgery."
"May I suggest my cabin, Doctor? There seems to be a fine table there, if you wish to stretch me out." Callum croaked out, as he tried to sit forward.
"If you don't mind having a little blood on your deck, that would do fine." Crawford said, and then looked over his shoulder, seeing officers and men about on the deck. "Fetch me a stretcher and some hands. We need to get him to the Great Cabin. Quickly now!" Hands jumped to it, and the officers stood nearby. Callum looked at them, only recognizing one.
"Collingwood?" Callum asked narrowing his eyes.
"Here, sir." The young man stepped forward, tipping his hand toward Callum.
"I trust that you have the deck?"
"At your service, sir." Collingwood bowed his head slightly. He looked over his shoulder, seeing the men returning with a stretcher. They set it on the deck and Together with the Doctors, several sets of hands slowly, carefully moved Callum onto it. Under Crawford's direction, they lifted Callum gently and began to move toward the stairs, then slowly down, and then through the destroyed galley, and then into the Great Cabin itself, setting Callum on the table. They lifted him gently and got the stretcher out from under him. The Doctors went about setting the bags on the table and pulling out their instruments. Finch came in and whispered something to the Crawford and Crawford nodded, then Finch left. Callum was staring up at the ceiling of his cabin, the underside of the Quarterdeck, waiting for the Doctors to begin on him again. Callum felt numb in his chest, a strange kind of burning that was happening, not painful just nagging at him. Finch returned and handed something to Crawford and Crawford came to the head of the table.
"Here, drink this, Captain. It will help you to sleep. We will begin when you do so." Crawford held the bottle Callum's lips while he held Callum's head and Callum let the liquid into his mouth, then swallowed. Crawford let Callum's head back down on the table. "Finch, get a pillow off the Captain's bunk, let's get it under his neck so we tilt his head back a little." Callum was blinking hard, feeling strange for a moment, and Finch came back, tucking the pillow under Callum's neck. Crawford adjusted it a little. "Feeling better?" Callum tried to speak, but couldn't, he tried to nod, but was finding it difficult to move, his arms felt like they were dead weight, and his legs were in the same condition. Callum's eyes begin to get heavy, his breathing slowed and he felt himself slipping away, wanting to fight it, but couldn't it. Finally, he surrendered.
Callum opened his eyes trying to focus on where he was, the room about him was dark. He could gulls in the distance and the sound of the sea, and feel the rocking and swaying of the ship in the swells. It felt as if they were stationary, not like the swells while under sail. He knew they were at anchor, but he still didn't know where he was. He looked about and it was not familiar to him. But he heard something else and it sounded like breathing, soft and gentle, but it was breathing. He looked and could not make it out. He tried to sit up, and there was great pain, and he could not get his breath. He lay still for a moment and his breathing came to him. Better. He rolled his head and saw a table, and looked further and saw a door. This was the Ward Room. How...? The door opened slowly, and a figure came into the dim light of the room, going around the table the other way to the other end of the room. The figure knelt down and did something there, and then stood again, and was quiet coming toward Callum, and then leant over him.
"Sir, you're awake, thank heavens you're alright." The voice said in the darkness.
"Carson. Why am I here? I remember Dr. Crawford..."
"They have been working on your cabin, sir. The hull and bulkheads were badly damaged, sir. This was the best place for you." Carson whispered.
"Who is there? I can hear them breathing."
"That is young Lt. Holt, sir."
"Barely, sir. Dr. Crawford and the other surgeons of the Valiant have been trying, sir. They still aren't sure about him." Carson whispered, looking back in the darkness at where Holt must be laying.
"Where is Dr. Crawford?"
"He is below, sir, in the surgery." Carson whispered. "Are you pain, sir? I can fetch him, sir."
"No, I'll be alright, thank you. Is Lt. Holt comfortable?"
"I should think so, sir. We made him a soft pallet, sir, he should be comfortable."
"Very well. Help me to sit up, will you?"
"You shouldn't move, sir. The Doctor will be most displeased, sir. He threatened to have you tied to the bed, sir."
"Well, then where is my sword, I feel I might have to defend myself." Callum said, as Carson pulled him gently, getting Callum to a sitting position. Callum realized that besides the bandages, he was totally nude. "Where are my clothes?"
"I have them, sir. It was all of the blood on them. I have been boiling them to get out the stains, sir." Carson whispered.
"I see. The good Doctors idea, no doubt." Callum said, resting on his hands to each side of his legs, trying to catch his breath. "He probably thought that if I was in the raw, I wouldn't move much."
"That thought probably crossed his mind, sir."
"No doubt. He can be a devious man when he wishes to be."
"Indeed he can, sir." Carson said, and sat back away from Callum a little. "May I get you something, sir?"
"How are the repairs coming?"
"Well, sir. His Lordship has sent many of the hands from the Valiant, sir. They have mustered quite a repair party. The ship's almost as good as new."
"How is Mr. Arvin?"
"He is in his cabin, sir, resting comfortably. I will check in on him, and then report to Doctor, sir."
"I see. So we seem to be in an infirmary of some type here on the Main Deck."
"I wouldn't say that, sir, more of a wing, sir." Callum knew Carson was smiling his famous smile, even though he couldn't see it.
"Would you be a good man, and fetch me some clothes out of my trunk?"
"It's just clothing, Carson, possibly some undergarments at least?" Callum asked. "It's not very dignified sitting just around in the raw."
"I suppose it will be alright, sir."
"I'll tell the Doctor I made it an order to keep you out of it."
"Most generous of you, sir." Carson said, and there was a tone to it. Callum smiled. "I'll be back in a minute, sir." Carson got up and walked out quietly. Callum looked around, he could see the lamp over the table in the center of the room glowing, but not giving much light, and stood. He had a hard time breathing and clutched at his chest on the right side. He staggered over to the table and turned up the lamp a little, bathing the room in a soft glow of light. Callum looked over saw young Holt, lying on a pallet on the floor. Carson reentered the room, carrying clothing. It was a struggle, but Callum got dressed in a pair of pantlets and a shirt. He was surprised by the shirt having thought he didn't have any more left. Callum looked over at his roommate, who was sleeping soundly, breathing softly.
"Do you require anything else, sir?"
"No, I shall be quite alright, Carson, thank you. You should probably tend to your other duties."
"Very good, sir." Carson said, then turned to leave and went to the door. "I'll speak to the doctor about something to eat for you, sir."
"That would be fine, Carson. Give my respects to Mr. Arvin, if he's awake."
"I will, sir." Carson walked out the door, closing it quietly. Callum looked back over at young Holt. Callum settled back on the make shift bunk, trying to get comfortable, there was a soft knock on the door. The door opened slowly, and Callum looked seeing Tomlin peeking his head in.
"Come in, Mr. Tomlin." Callum said softly. Tomlin almost gulped and then came in, tipping his hand, and then closing the door behind him. "I trust you are rested?"
"Yes, sir." Tomlin said, "You're looking well, sir."
"Thank you. What brings you here?"
"I came to look in on Lt. Holt, sir."
"I see. He seems to be resting comfortably"
"Yes, he does." Tomlin said softly, and Callum began to see him in a new light. Tomlin had come around the table and watched his friend, sleeping peacefully. Tomlin stared at Holt for the longest time, with Callum just staying silent the entire time. "Hang on." Tomlin said, looking down at Holt.
"Thomas." Callum said softly softly, finally bringing sound to the room other than Holt's soft breathing. Tomlin shook his head of it, Holt's hold on him, and turned to look at Callum.
"Quite understandable," Callum said softly, "come, join me, here at the table." Callum smiled at his young officer. Tomlin sat down on one of the benches at the table, still staring at the sleeping Holt. Callum leaned against the makeshift bunk he was on. "How well do you know the young Lieutenant?"
"Not well, sir. It was after you were injured, and Mr. Arvin had taken over, that he and Captain Anders went aboard the Valiant, sir. Captain Anders had been ordered to stay aboard with their Division Commander, Lt. Holt was told to return here to the Dover, sir. He looked like he needed...a friend, sir."
"I see." Callum smiled, "There are times when we all could use a good friend , I suppose. I, myself, have been in that need over the years, and have found it...difficult to find someone to lean on or to hear you out. Our young Lieutenant is fortunate to find someone such as you in that respect."
"Thank you, sir. And I must apologize to you, sir." Tomlin said, and Callum looked puzzled. "I found myself questioning some of your decisions during our engagement, sir. It will not happen again."
"I'm not quite sure what you mean?"
"I was concerned, sir, as we came across the bay to engage the three French ships, sir, the sailors from the Spanish ship were in the water..."
"And you question my not wishing to help them?" Tomlin nodded. "Thomas, let me say that I regret that decision myself, fellow sailors in the water and all, enemy or no, my thoughts were of saving the Reliant and her crew, and Dover, being the only ship capable of movement at the time, I saw no other course of action. I was also thinking of this ship and its crew, and had I ordered our stopping to render aid to fellow sailors, we, ourselves might have been lost as well as the rest of the squadron. Lord Nelson said it best I think, 'Let your actions speak to those around you, King and Country and your duty will see you through'. Would you not agree?"
"I understand, sir, and yes, I do agree." Tomlin said.
"I'm sure you do. Understand this as well, had we picked them up, we might have had an enemy try and take this ship from us. Enemy in front of us, enemy in our lap." Callum said, "Better they in the water, than us."
"Agreed, sir." Tomlin nodded and gave a slight smile.
"Now, bring me up to date with what is going on." Callum said, as he tried to get comfortable. Tomlin began to speak of all events that had happened from their engagement till now. Callum knew it was only a matter of time before Dr. Crawford came in to chastise him for being up and dressed.
In the dark of the tunnel under the bridge, leading into the town, he waited, staying in the shadows, not moving, blending in with his surroundings, his long hooded cloak helping to keep him hidden. He could hear the gulls off in the distance, and the sounds of the surf on the beach, the smell of salt water in the air. He waited and watched, looking out, seeing the ships lined up along the long dock, each flying an English flag. He knew the ships very well, especially the two furthest away from him. One anchored in the bay, the other, moored to the far end of the dock. They could be sister ships he thought, their lines were almost identical even though he knew that they had been built at different times, and at different shipyards. His eyes narrowed as he heard something behind him, he turned on his heels and held out the pistol, swinging it out of his cloak, pointing it at who approached.
"Ah, Mon Ami, you seem to be very...nervous? Oui?"
"On the contrary, cautious is more like it. And we are not friends." The figure in the cloak said, as he lowered his pistol. "Do you have information?"
"Oui. There are three thousand troops and artillery on their way. They will be here in four days. The English are supposed to sail in two days, leaving their small force of Marines in the fortress,...alone and unprotected. La Rochelle will be back in our hands and the Duke of Wellington will be destroyed when he lands. The Emperor will be here in two weeks with his army of fifty thousand."
"Excellent. The plan begins to unfold." The figure in the cloak said and slowly stepped out of the shadows and into the soft light of the tunnel in front of the French Colonel. He reached up and pulled off the hood, revealing his strikingly handsome features and his jet black hair. "With the Duke destroyed, England will fall next." He smiled out of the corner of his mouth.
"And then you can return home?"
"England was never my home, my dear Bonnaire, it was always the sea."
"Well, Capitaine Smythe, I am certain that the Emperor will reward you with a ship that is more suited to you than what you commanded before."
"That remains to be seen, Colonel." Smythe said as he turned and looked out at the Tarkington, and smiled again out of the corner of his mouth.