Callum awoke in his tiny cabin. His eyes fluttered open. It was dark about him. He focused on the lantern swinging above him, gently moving from side to side. It told him that they were underway. He sat up in his bunk. It caused his leg to go tight around the wound. He instinctively put a hand over the wound, drawing in a breath through clenched teeth, as he slowly rubbed it.
Slowly, he swung his legs out off the bunk, putting a little weight on it. It hurt terribly. He pulled back his weight, shifting it to his good leg. He looked about, seeing his clothes hanging on the hook on the wall of the cabin, near the door. He hopped on his good foot over to the wall, and pulled his clothes. He spun on his foot and hopped back, tossing the heavy clothes to the bunk. He spun back, and leaned and began to dress. There was a knock.
"Enter." He said, flatly. He looked over at the door as it opened. "What is it, Carson?"
"Beggin your pardon, sir. If the doctor finds out you're out of bed..."
"I'll deal with him, Carson." Callum half smiled. "I'm not an invalid, at least not yet. I need some air."
"Very good, sir. May I help you, sir?"
Callum was struggling to get his pantlets on. "That would be appreciated, Carson." Carson, stepped forward and assisted Callum in getting dressed. Once Callum was dressed, Carson slipped Callum's shoes on Callum's feet.
"How's the crew, Carson?"
"They are very well, sir." Carson replied. "Looking forward to returning to port, sir. They are in good spirits. Mr. Arvin has been busy with temporary repairs. You should find everything well, sir."
"Very well, then." Callum replied. "I will take some air and a look for myself."
"Very good, sir." Carson said, as he stood. "Are you hungry, sir? You haven't eaten for a couple of days, sir. Shall I prepare you something?"
"I think that can wait a while." Callum said, as he hobbled toward the cabin door. He opened it, and hopped out. He went out onto the gangway, hopping toward the main stairwell. He struggled to take the steep steps, hopping up one at a time, Carson was right behind him, waiting to render assistance if needed. Once up on the Main Deck, Callum was hit with the fresh salt air. It felt good to him, and he briefly closed his eyes, flaring his nostrils, taking in a deep breath. He opened his eyes, and looked about.
"Captain On Deck!" called out someone. All activity stopped, as Callum looked about him. Each man was giving their salute of obedience, bring their right hand in a loose fist to their foreheads.
"As you were, men." Callum said. The men slowly went back to their tasks, as Callum hobbled toward the Quarter Deck. Each man watched as their Captain went by them. Callum was giving it his best effort to reach the stairs, trying not to appear weak at all. He took the stairs, one at a time, and reached the deck. Perkins was at the wheel, Mr. Arvin was walking toward Callum.
"Mr. Arvin, report."
Arvin stepped up next to the Captain, both men looking out over the rail across the Main Deck. "Temporary repairs in place, sir. We should reach Portsmouth in the morning, sir. I have Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Sommers in charge of the frigates, sir. They are keeping a watchful eye on the French crews. The Valiant is bringing up the rear."
"And Captain Anders?"
"He and all of his Marines are aboard the frigates, sir. Just as a precaution, sir." Arvin said with a smile.
"Nicely done, Mr. Arvin, nicely done." Callum said, looking upward at the sails.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but shouldn't you be in your cabin, resting?"
Callum looked at Arvin. "I trust in your duties, Mr. Arvin. I'm not here to check on your progress. I required some air."
"Very good, sir."
Callum placed his hands on the rail, leaning forward to take the weight off his leg. He watched the men below him work. Some every now and then would look upward and smile slightly toward him. He did not return their smiles. He watched as they worked to repair rails, gun port hatches, and block rails for the sail rigging. Some of the men were block scraping the deck to removed the splintering, then placing cords of oakum in between the deck boards to seal the cracks. Callum turned his head and looked toward Perkins. He smiled at the youth, Perkins smiled back in reply. Callum pulled away from the rail and hobbled over near the wheel.
"How's the wind, Perkins?"
"It is well, sir. A good crosswind giving her good rise, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Perkins." Callum said, as he stood nearby, trying to put some weight on his throbbing leg. Callum watched as Carson, came up the stairs onto the deck, carrying a tray. "What's this, Carson?"
"Coffee, sir." Carson replied, stopping in front of the Captain. "I'm preparing some broth for you as well, sir, whenever you'd like it, sir."
"Thoughtful, Carson." Callum half smiled, taking the cup from the tray. He recognized the cup. It was from the Captain's stock of dishes. He frowned at the thought of his Captain, now dead. He sipped at the hot coffee, looking at Carson. "What's on your mind, Carson?"
"I was wondering, sir...shall I move your things into the Great Cabin?"
It hit Callum hard. Everything. He was now in command, fully. He would be required to be move into the Great Cabin, as the ships master. All he had known, since he had first come aboard, was his tiny cabin, used by junior officers since the ship was built. The tiny cabin was home for him. Now, he would have the Great Cabin. It was a shock. He hadn't given it any thought at all. He pulled himself together.
"That will not be necessary, Carson."
"After we reach port." Callum said, with a half smile.
"Aye, sir." Carson nodded his understanding. Callum set the coffee cup back on the tray. Carson turned and walked back toward the stairs and disappeared from view.
The pain was getting worse in Callum's leg. He shifted his weight again, but it didn't help. "Mr. Arvin?"
Arvin stepped forward. "Sir?"
"I'll be returning below. The ship is yours."
Arvin stood tall. "Aye, sir." Arvin watched Callum hobble toward the stairs. He took a few steps forward. "May I be of assistance, sir?"
Callum looked up at Arvin. "That won't be necessary, Mr. Arvin. See to your duties."
"Very well, sir." Arvin drew back his hands, standing tall again. He watched Callum get down the stairs, and then hobble across the deck to the main stairs, leading below. Arvin, turned and looked upward into the sails.
Below, Callum made his way down the gangway. He saw Carson, waiting for him, and then the Doctor appeared. Callum braced himself against a mast brace.
"I warned you Captain against getting out of bed." Doctor Crawford said, as he approached. "You're probably bleeding again."
"I needed some air, Doctor. I'm sure I'm not bleeding again."
"We'll have a look to make sure." Crawford said, as he swung under Callum's right arm, taking his weight. They continued down the gangway. "This was a foolish idea, Captain. I have half a mind to tie you into your bunk."
"Do not presume too much, Doctor." Callum said, dryly. "The best thing for me was to get out of that bunk."
"Now, it is you that presume too much, Captain." Crawford said, as he opened the cabin door. "I suppose you have some medical degree you haven't told me about?"
Callum was irritated now, as the Doctor leaned him against the bunk. The Doctor started to undress Callum, opening the flap of his pantlet. He pulled them down, then undid the tie lace of Callum's undergarment. He slid them down, seeing the dressing around Callum's thigh was red and large. The Doctor looked up in Callum's eyes and frowned.
"Let's get you on the bunk, Captain." Together, they both moved, turning and laying Callum onto the bunk. "Carson!" yelled the Doctor. The door opened. "Go and fetch my bag."
Crawford pulled off Callum's shoes and then worked the pants off of him, and then the undergarment. He slowly undid the bandage, unknotting it, then slowly unwrapped the bandage, while supporting the leg with his other hand. The wound was finally exposed. It was long, and wide, and was oozing blood slowly. Crawford lay the leg back down.
"I was hoping it would come back together on its own, but, you putting weight on it opened it back up. I'll have to sew it up now." Crawford said, as Carson entered, setting the bag at the end of the bunk. "Carson, would be so kind as give me a hand?"
Crawford looked at Callum. "I'm sorry Captain. I'm completely out of Ether. I'll have nothing to give you."
"It's quite all right, Doctor. As this is my fault, I'm sure you will enjoy yourself inflicting a little punishment upon me."
Crawford's eyes narrowed and his frown was deeper still. "I do not relish in giving pain, Captain."
"Of course you don't. Proceed, Doctor." Callum exhaled through gritted teeth, watching as Crawford dug through his bag, producing a rather nasty looking curved, thin hook of a needle. The Doctor threaded it with some black line, looking like thread. Crawford pulled out a bottle of a clear liquid from the bag. He popped the cork, and looked at Callum.
"Ready?" Crawford asked. Callum took a deep breath and nodded.
The liquid was poured on the gaping wound, making Callum grunt loudly. Carson, grabbed Callum's leg to hold him still, while Callum rested on his elbows on the bunk. The Doctor put his fingers around the wound and closed it up a little, forcing the wound to push upward as he began to sew. Each stick of the hooked needle into the skin caused Callum to moan and groan.
"You have to hold him still, Carson."
"I'm trying, Doctor." Carson said, as he was almost laying on Callum.
"Finch!" Yelled the Doctor.
A few moments later, another voice came the door. "Yes, Doctor?"
"Get in here, man. Help Carson hold the Captain down."
Finch, the Doctors assistant, an able bodied seaman, came in and to the Doctors right. He leaned over the Captain, placing his hands on Callum's thighs, pushing him down into the bunk. Carson was still laying across Callum's legs.
"Almost done, Captain. You're doing well." Crawford said, without looking at Callum. Another push into the skin and the feel of the thread tugging, making Callum groan. "Two more and I think we're there." Crawford muttered. Callum was still groaning. A couple of minutes later, and Crawford was done. He dobbed at the wound with a cloth, wiping up the blood, then poured a little more of the clear liquid over it, making Callum groan out again. "Now, Captain, perhaps you will heed my advice when I say to stay off your feet?"
"It appears, Doctor, that I have no choice." Callum groaned, as Crawford was wrapping the wound again. Callum watched as the Doctor was half smiling. "I think you did enjoy that, Doctor."
"I do enjoy my work, Captain." Crawford said with a smile, wiping his hands on another cloth. Crawford set the cloth down, and started to put his things back into his bag. "Carson, you should probably get the Captain some food."
"Yes, Doctor." Carson replied. "Some broth, sir?"
"That will be fine, Carson." Callum looked up at Finch. "Thank you, Finch."
"A pleasure, sir." Finch stood, softly saluting. He and Carson walked out of the cabin.
"I understand we should reach Portsmouth in the morning." Crawford said.
"It would appear so." Callum said, looking down at the bandage on his leg. "Doctor, am I to remain half naked for the remainder of the voyage?"
Crawford half smiled. "Let me cover you up. I want to check on the wound a little later to see if the bleeding has stopped." Crawford said as he pulled the blanket from under Callum and covered him. "Better?" Callum nodded. "Good. I shall return in a while. After you get something in your belly, I can give something for the pain."
"Thank you, Doctor." Callum said, watching the Doctor walk out.
Carson reentered the cabin, carrying a tray. He set it down at the foot of the bunk. He helped Callum slide up in the bed, then handed him the bowl of broth. Callum took it and began to take it in. It smelled wonderful and tasted even better to Callum. Carson left for a few minutes and then returned. He collected the bowl, and the tray.
"May I get you something else, sir?"
"No, that will be just fine for now. Thank you, Carson."
"You're welcome, sir." Carson went to the door. "Rest now, sir. I'll bring you some luncheon a little later." He walked out the door.
Callum woke some time later. He sat up a little, and then rubbed his eyes. The cabin was darker now. Callum watched the lantern swing gently back and forth. He knew that the ship was still under good wind from the sway. His leg felt stiff and nagged at him with complaint. He put his hand to it over the covering of the blanket, rubbing it gently. He felt something else in the cabin, and looked left. There, in the corner, on the floor, sat Perkins, smiling up at him.
"What are you doing, Perkins?"
"Watching over you, sir. The Doctor and Mr. Carson asked me to do it, sir." Perkins said, getting to his feet.
"Is that so?" Callum asked, sounding annoyed.
"Can I do anything for you, sir?"
"I feel the need to get up."
"The Doctor said, sir, you weren't suppose to."
"I'm aware of what the Doctor wants, Perkins."
"Yes, sir." Perkins whispered. Callum pulled back the blanket, exposing himself. Perkins eyes went wide at what he saw. Callum looked down at himself, and then back at young Perkins.
"Something wrong, Mr. Perkins?"
"Uh, no, nothing, nothing at all, sir." Perkins stammered. He reached out and took the Captain's arm, pulling very slowly and gently.
"Hand me my pantlets, will you?"
Perkins turned and picked up the pants, and handed them back to the Captain. Callum struggled to get them on. Perkins bent down and helped slip them on, one leg at a time. Callum got them up and in place. He buttoned them down across the panel.
"I need to get to the privy, if you wouldn't mind."
"Here, let me help you, sir." Perkins ducked under Callum's right arm, taking his weight. They reached and opened the door, and went out onto the gangway. The door across the way was the officers privy. It was opened and Callum hobbled inside, leaving Perkins in the gangway. In a couple of minutes, Callum hobbled back out. Perkins again got under his arm. They went back into the cabin and to the bunk.
"Damn this prison." Callum muttered under his breath. "I was wondering if I could ask you a favor, Mr. Perkins?" Callum asked, as he was lowered back onto the bunk.
"Would you ask Carson to open the Great Cabin. There are a great number of books that the Captain has. I need something to occupy my time."
"I would be happy to, sir." Perkins replied, making sure that Callum was in bed and was staying put. "I shall return, sir."
It was a little time before Perkins returned, he knocked and was beckoned to enter. He carried a single volume. He handed it to Callum. Callum took it and read the binding, and then looked up at Perkins.
"Shakespeare? Mr. Perkins, I had no idea you were such a romantic." Callum said, making Perkins blush. "With all of the books there, you chose this one, why?"
"Well, sir, the truth of the matter is...well, you see, sir."
Callum waited, watching the young man blush and struggle. "Well, out with it."
"I can't read, sir."
Callum looked at him, and then half smiled. "Would you like to learn?"
"I would, sir, very much."
"Can you write?"
"Only my name, sir."
"It's a start. I can teach you to do both, if you wish."
"Oh, sir. I thank you, but I couldn't take your time like that, sir."
"Nonsense. I'm sure if the Doctor had his way, I would be confined here for a month. Fetch Carson for me, would you?"
Once Carson arrived, Callum gave him instructions, to retrieve certain books, an ink well, a quill, and the Captain's log book. While everything was being retrieved, Callum sat up, making himself more comfortable. He rolled another blanket up, putting it behind him, as a pillow. Carson and Perkins finally made it back. Everything was set up. Carson lit the hanging lantern. A small stool was brought in for Perkins to sit on, next to the bunk. Callum began slowly, teaching Perkins his letters.
Evening came, seven bells rang throughout the ship. Mr. Arvin came to the cabin and gave the Captain a report on the ships status, telling the Captain that the young Third Lieutenant Middleboro was on watch. Callum smiled, as he liked the junior officers to get as much training as possible. Arvin said he would go and check up on him later, Callum agreed. Arvin bade good night and went to his own cabin down the gangway. Callum and Perkins went back to their studies.
It was getting late, Carson had brought in some supper for them earlier, and was now back to retrieve the tray. Perkins helped the Captain to the privy again, and then got him back into bed. Callum was settled now, and got comfortable. The Doctor came in about then, and rechecked the wound, discovering that it had stopped bleeding. Crawford rewrapped new linen around it, and retied the dressing. Perkins said good night to the Captain and the Doctor.
"If I may be so bold, Captain...I would be careful there with young Mr. Perkins."
"Oh? What is it that you mean, Doctor?"
"I mean, sir. I think he fancies you, sir."
"Oh, I don't know about that. I'm sure it's just hero envy or something like that."
"It's the way he looks at you, Captain."
"I hadn't noticed." Callum muttered. But, in truth, he had noticed. He liked the look of the young lad, and the way Perkins looked at him. He was at ease with Perkins. Everything seemed to be right when he was there with him. "Well, we will see." Crawford just looked at Callum and then walked out of the cabin, leaving Callum alone for the night. Callum settled in for the night. He read a little from the first volume that Perkins had brought him, A Mid Summer Nights Dream. He drifted off to sleep in no time.
The morning came, Callum was woke by the ships bell ringing, as a sight of land, and then the Bosen's pipe played. Callum got out of bed, and was struggling with his clothes as Carson entered the cabin.
"Sir, we're here, sir."
"Yes, I know Carson. Lend me a hand, man, will you?"
Within a few minutes, Callum was up the main stairwell, as under the watchful eye of Mr. Arvin, the Dover came into port. Callum hobbled by his men, standing at the gunnels, each giving his obedience to the Captain as he passed by them toward the Quarter Deck. Callum struggled with the stairs, and finally made it. He leaned against the rail with hands.
"Well done, Mr. Arvin." Callum said, looking over his shoulder.
"Thank you, sir." Arvin said, and stepped up next to the Captain. "Your orders, sir?"
"My orders, Mr. Arvin..." Callum stood up, putting weight on his leg for the first time. "My orders are, you've gotten us this far, Mr. Arvin, you can take us in the rest of the way, if you please."
"Very good, sir." Arvin stepped back a step. "Mr. Perkins, three points to port, lay toward Founders Key. Aloft there, stand by to break sail! All hands, stand by to strike canvas! Mr. Greene, signal the other ships to come up along side, if you please."
"Aye, sir." Replied the young man, stepping to the rail of the stern of the Dover. He began waving a flag, pointing out where to go for the following vessels.
"Founders Key, Mr. Arvin." Perkins called out.
"Very well, Mr. Perkins." Arvin stepped to the rail. "All hands, strike canvas! Drop anchor!" Arvin looked toward his Captain, and then back forward again. "Look alive, men! Let's show those Frenchman how we do it in the British Navy!" A roar went up with Arvin's words. Callum half smiled, then looked to his left.
"Nicely done, Mr. Arvin, nicely done."
"Thank you, sir."
As sails were rigged and trimmed, the anchor dropped, the men stood by, watching the French frigates run in beside the Dover. Callum's officers aboard those ships were barking order, in English, and in French. The crews were responding and soon the ships fell silent of activity. All eyes turned as the Valiant approached, and then sailed by farther into the harbor. Soon, long boats were being sent out from the docks. One boat approached the Dover.
Carson appeared on the Quarter Deck and delivered Callum his hat. Callum nodded his thanks and slipped it on his head, tucking his long hair in, as the boat rowed alongside. The Boson pipe rang out as an officer boarded the Dover. All hands stood at attention. The Boson pointed at the Quarter Deck to the officer and he made his way to the stairs. Each hand giving him a salute as he walked by. Once up the stairs, he crossed the deck to Callum. He stood at attention as he stopped.
"Are you in command of this vessel, sir?"
"I am." Callum answered.
"Lieutenant Eddington, at your service, sir." Eddington said, producing an envelope from his tunic pocket, handing it out to Callum. "Your orders, sir, from the Admiralty."
Callum took the envelope and opened it. He read it and then closed the envelope.
Arvin stepped forward. "Sir."
"Secure all stations. The crew is to disembark. We are to be refit and reassemble with replacements within a fortnight. The shipwrights will take her from here."
"Very good sir. Shall I have the boats lowered, sir?"
"Yes. See that all hands are dismissed. And that the wounded are taken to hospital."
"Very good, sir." Arvin set about, giving orders to the crew, while Callum turned and looked at the young Eddington.
"Mr. Eddington, am I to understand that you are to escort me to the Admiralty in London?"
"That is what my orders are, yes sir. We are to leave immediately, sir."
"Very well then. I do have some business to conduct though before we leave."
"There is a service to be arranged for Captain Powers, the previous master of this vessel. His body is below. I will see Lord Fitzwarren on the Valiant before we leave."
Eddingtons eyes were wide. "I understand, sir. It would be my pleasure to accompany you."
"As you wish." Callum turned back to Arvin. "Mr. Arvin, may I speak with you a moment?"
"Mr. Arvin, I have been called to London immediately. I will see Lord Fitzwarren before I leave to make arrangements for the Captain."
"Very good, sir."
"What I wanted to see you about was," Callum hobbled a step closer to Arvin. "I have come to rely on you and your abilities, Mr. Arvin. I know that you are more than capable, and would like to ask you,...well, if you would do me the honor, if they do indeed give me the Dover, of being my First Mate?"
Arvin smiled and reached out his hand. "It would be my honor, sir. I thank you, sir." Callum patted Arvin on the shoulder as he took his out stretched hand.
"I will take my leave of you now, Mr. Arvin. See to all hands, and the boats, then you may disembark as well."
"Very good, sir. I'll take good care of her."
"I know that you will." Callum smiled.
Arvin went to the rail, as Callum and Eddington made their way down the stairs. "Make way for Captain Callum!" Arvin yelled out. The crew turned and saluted as Callum hobbled by. Once to the lanyard rail, he slowly made his way down to the long boat, followed by Eddington. Cheers went out from the crew as the boat pulled away. Callum tipped his hat back toward them.
Once on the dock, Callum made his way to the gangway of the Valiant. He requested permission to board from the Boson, who granted his passage. Callum spoke with Fitzwarren, and was reassured that Captain Powers would be taken care of in the highest honor. Callum took Fitzwarren's hand and bade him farewell. He climbed into the waiting carriage and set off for London.
It was morning when they reached London. Callum had slept little on the drive there. Eddington was a snorer, keeping Callum awake. They were delivered to the Admiralty and made their way inside. They were told to wait in the great corridor and would be summoned soon. After some time, Callum was called inside. He was asked to sit in a chair facing a long table with six high back chairs at it. He watched as the various Admirals came in and took their seats.
"Mr. Callum...is it?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"We have received a dispatch from Lord Fitzwarren regarding your actions aboard the Dover."
"Yes, My Lord."
"Specifically, we would like to ask you about the events that took place after Captain Powers was killed. We do have the report you wrote to Lord Fitzwarren, but we would like to hear it in your own words, if you will."
Callum cleared his throat and began to recount the tale for the panel before him. He left out no detail. They all listened intently to what he said and then started looking back and forth at one another. Callum felt it was at an end, and then fell silent.
"Is that all, Mr. Callum?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"Well then." The Admiral waved Callum to stand with his fingers. "We hereby promote to Captain, with full rank and privilege. You are hereby given command of His Majesty's Ship, Dover. Once she has been refit, you will receive your precedent orders. Your vessel is assigned to Lord Fitzwarren's squadron."
"Thank you, My Lord." Callum bowed his head, then stood straight.
"Do not thank us, Captain Callum. It was your bravery that led to this decision. Your quick action, under fire, your brash actions to take two frigates of the enemies fleet. That is the stuff of legend, my lad. I only wish there were more officers like you in the service of His Majesty, that there would be a quick end to this war."
"Many thanks, My Lord."
"Oh, and by the way...your share in the prize money will be outside waiting for you."
"Again, with thanks, My Lord. But, my crew..."
"Their share will be forwarded to them shortly. They can collect it from the paymaster at Portsmouth."
"Very well, My Lord." Callum waited, a long moment as the Admirals got up from the table. A few of them came round and walked up to Callum, taking his hand, and patting his shoulder.
"So, my boy," began the Senior Admiral, "I believe this makes you the youngest Captain to ever serve? How old are you?"
"I am twenty-two, My Lord."
"Yes, yes...let me see now." He turned and looked at his fellows, "Wasn't Harper younger when he was promoted?"
"No," another Admiral said, "he was twenty-four."
"I believe you're right, yes." He said, scratching his chin. "Well, at any rate, congratulations, my boy. Very well done, very well." He shook Callum's hand again. "How's the leg?"
"I'm sure it will be fine, My Lord."
"Nonsense. See our Doctor here before you go on your leave. He's the best in the fleet."
"Thank you, My Lord, I will."
"Now, off with you. Collect your earnings outside. Eddington!" Called out the senior. Eddington opened the door. "Show the Captain here to our Doctor, will you?"
"Yes, My Lord."
"Take care, Callum." Called out the senior. Callum bowed at them and turned and hobbled toward the door and the waiting Eddington. Callum was escorted to the Doctor and was examined. The stitches were cleaned and redressed. Callum saw the paymaster before they left the Admiralty. He was given three thousand pounds in currency, wrapped in a leather satchel, for the prize on both ships that he captured. The paymaster required a signature on his book, which Callum gladly signed. He noted other names in the register above his, famous names of legendary officers. He smiled that he had now joined their ranks.
"Where to, Captain Callum?"
"Home." Callum sighed, then looked at Eddington. "Birmingham."
Callum climbed into the carriage, and Eddington signaled the driver, who had overheard the destination.