Voyage Home

8

Callum collapsed the glass in his hands and placed it on the shelf in the wheelhouse and closed the door. He looked over the starboard side at the horizon and clasped his hands behind his back, pursing his lips for a moment.

“Can I do anything for you, sir?” Bateman asked as he watched the back of his Captain.

“Nothing for now, thank you, Bateman.” Callum said. Bateman and the young Marine, Lauder, looked at one another for a moment and then at the back of Callum again.

“Sir.” Jennings said as he tipped his hand coming up to the short rail and stopping. Callum looked over at him.

“Jennings?” Callum asked as he looked at him.

“We have all lines and sails trimmed, sir. What else would you like done, sir?”

“Idle hands.” Callum said, and then smiled briefly at the young face.

“Sir?”

“Idle hands can be the devil’s playthings.” Callum said softly and turned to look at the three that were there with him, “Gentlemen, what we have done tonight is perform nothing but a small miracle. No one will believe what we have been through this night. They will say it is exaggeration or purely a tale made up after several tankards of ale in a dark tavern corner somewhere.” Callum said and then smiled briefly, “We have survived this only by keeping our heads about us, and being experienced from our sailings aboard Dover. I for one am proud to sail with the likes of you gentlemen. You are a true credit to the service of His Majesty. If this were a ship of the line, there would no doubt be commendations that would be handed out as a result of your actions and the actions of the rest of the crew. I will put forth for those commendations to the Admiralty if we survive the rest of this and reach Portsmouth for me to do so.”

“Thank you, sir.” They all said quietly as they were stunned to hear Callum speaking this way.

“You have all earned it this night to be certain, and I have no doubt that there will be other nights that more actions such as tonight will take place before this is over.” Callum said.

“Then, sir,” Jennings said, “we are going to keep after this Frenchman?”

“I have been ordered to either capture him, bring him back for trial and hanging or to destroy him, either way to make certain that he is stopped once and for all. So, in answer to your question, Jennings, yes, we are going to keep after him. This time will be different to be sure.”

“How, sir?”

“I know where he is.” Callum said quietly and narrowed his eyes at Jennings, making his blood run cold seeing the look on Callum’s face, “He has much to answer for, and I assure you, I will have him, and justice will be done for a great many of those lost, and one that was close to me.”

“As you say, sir.”

“You gentlemen keep your heads and follow orders the way that you have, and we will be successful in this, I guarantee it.”

“We’re with you, sir.” Bateman said.

“I know I can count on each and every one of you.” Callum said. He turned back to look over the starboard side again, “There is nothing more to be done until Dover and Triborne arrive.” He sighed, “Then we will clubhaul at the stern and use Triborne to lift the bow out of the water and repair our damage. Once that is done, we will set sail for the French coast and find our shadow in the dark and see him undone. It may be a day or so before we are underway again.”

“As you say, sir.” Bateman said.

“Sail, sir.” Jennings said as he pointed toward the stern aft quarter. Callum looked over and saw it as the light was growing in the sky from the dawn.

“Triborne.” Callum said softly, “Thank God for Captain Stewart and his attention to duty.”

“Agreed, sir.” Bateman said as he was close to Callum’s shoulder and his ear.

“He should be here within the hour.” Callum said turning his head slightly, “Bateman, would you go to the galley and make some more coffee? The rest of the crew will probably be needing some as they will be rising soon.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Bateman said and tipped his hand behind Callum’s back, turned and headed around the short rail and went down the steps and out of sight. Callum watched Triborne coming toward them in the gaining light of the dawn sky.

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“Captain Callum! May we be of assistance?!” Captain Stewart stood on the Poop Deck of Triborne, one hand on the rail, the other cupped around his mouth. Triborne had come up from the stern of Windsong and was now on the windward side, a scant twenty yards away.

“That would be most welcomed, Captain Stewart! I have wounded here that require a surgeon!” Callum called back, both hands around his mouth, yelling into the wind. Callum watched Stewart turn and give orders and then the hands went forward and started to get a longboat ready to lower over the side. Stewart looked back at Callum.

“Do you have damage, Captain?!”

“Yes! We have made temporary repairs to the hull! We need to haul her out when Dover arrives! Where is Captain Renner?!”

“He will be coming, Captain Callum!” Stewart called back and Callum was angry at hearing his reply.

“Sir, he wasn’t coming at all to help us.” Jennings said as he was near Callum.

“Easy, Jennings.”

“Sir.”

“Tend to your duties, Jennings.” Callum said as he looked at the young face, “Standby to receive their boat. The wounded are more important right now.”

“Aye, sir.” The young man said quietly and turned away. Callum looked back at Captain Stewart and Triborne for a long moment, Callum’s attention turned to the longboat.

The boat was loaded with a few supplies as Callum watched , the boat crew went over the side and climbed in, lines were set and ready to cast off as Triborne’s ships surgeon climbed down and got in with his bag and settled in the center. Lines were cast off and they pushed off, oars were set into the water and they turned and came directly for Windsong. It wasn’t but a couple of minutes and the longboat was pulling up alongside and was grabbed and held fast by the hands on deck. The surgeon was helped up and onto the deck of Windsong. Callum stepped to him and put out his hand.

“Dr. Morton.” The older man said. Callum gave him a nod.

“Dr. Morton, I am Callum. You are most welcomed aboard, sir.”

“Thank you, sir. Where are your wounded?”

“They are below. Jennings, take Dr. Morton below to Carson.” Callum said taking his hand back.

“Aye, sir.” Jennings said, “Doctor, right this way.” Jennings said and led the Doctor off. Callum watched the few supplies being handed up and stacked off on the deck. The rest of the hands of Windsong came on deck along with Collingwood and Talon.

“Morning, sir.” Collingwood said as he came up next to Callum.

“Morning, Abel.”

“Is that Triborne, sir?”

“Yes, it is.” Callum said, “Darin, see to these stores being set below for Carson to go through later.”

“Aye, sir.” Talon said and tipped his hand. He turned away and directed the men to take them to the hatch to go below.

“Orders, sir?” Collingwood asked. Callum was watching the longboat pull away and head back to Triborne.

“When Dover arrives, have them come to our lee and lie off the port bow. We shall set to having the hull repaired. I want to be after this French bastard as soon as possible.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand. Callum turned and walked toward the steps to go below. He went through the door and by the galley, seeing Bateman there making clear the mess he had made, Callum gave him a nod as some of the hands had been in quickly to get some coffee and then be on their way to up on deck. Callum went to his cabin and retrieved the stick pencil and sextant with the compass to make marks on the chart at the wheelhouse now that the light was upon them. Callum carried them with him and went out of the cabin and then went back up on deck.

“Sir.” Collingwood said, tipping his hand and then pointed toward the bow, Callum looked in that direction and his heart skipped a beat. Dover was coming and was in full view, her sails filled with the wind, her bow rising and falling gracefully in the water, her sleek lines with her new paint and Callum felt a pang of jealously run through him that his friend Tomlin was in command of her and not him. He smiled softly at the sight of her for a moment and then went around the short rail.

“Go to the bow, Mr. Collingwood, carry out your orders, have her fall into position, and then I will greet Captain Tomlin.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, and nodded then tipped his hand and went forward.

Callum set to task with the chart. He used the sextant, finding the sun and then with the compass, set relative position and bearing as to where they were at this moment. He felt certain as to where they had been last night when the attack came and then followed the course that the Avion took to the south, southeast and followed a line bearing with the compass resting on the chart to and saw that it indeed lead to the Somme River and the portage there. He tapped his finger on the chart and looked in that direction narrowing his eyes.

“I will have you, you son-of-a-bitch, you can’t hide from me any longer.” Callum whispered through clenched teeth. Callum did not see Talon had come up beside him.

“He’s there, isn’t he, sir?” Talon asked softly as he looked down at the chart that Callum was pointing at. Callum looked to his right being broken from his thoughts at the moment.

“Yes, he is, Darin.” Callum whispered.

“You have a plan, sir?”

“I do. But it all hinges on what Captain Renner does, if he ever gets here.” Callum said with a hint of anger in his voice. Talon knew better than to say anything more, “Are those supplies stored?”

“Yes, sir. Carson asked if you have a minute to go below, sir, he’d like to see you, it’s about the wounded, sir.”

“Certainly. Take over here while I go below.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Talon said and watched his Captain walk away toward the hatch to go below.

Callum went down the gangway ladder and stopped in the midst of the Marines and saw McGuffin. They were organizing the dead, sewing them in their haversacks. All were quiet over the task at hand. Callum came up beside the large man, and softly cleared his throat.

“Sir.” McGuffin said without looking at Callum.

“Triborne and Dover have arrived, Sergeant. When you are ready, we can have a service for your brave men on deck.” Callum said softly.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll have the lads get into uniform, if that’s alright.”

“Indeed it is, Sergeant. I think our quarry knows who he is dealing with now, and there is no further point to masquerade ourselves.” Callum said.

“I quite agree, sir.”

“I need to see about the wounded. Would you care to join me?”

“Thank you, sir, I would.” McGuffin said and followed Callum further aft, going by the pump which was unmanned for the moment. They made their way through to see Dr. Morton working on one of the young Marines, tending his wounds, Callum stopped next to Carson who looked at him.

“Carson?” Callum asked.

“Sir, Dr. Morton is tending to a few, but suggests that we move them to get them aboard Triborne so he may treat them better.”

“There is hardly a place to stand let alone work, Captain.” Morton said without looking up from the young Marine he was tending.

“I agree, Doctor.” Callum said, “I’ll have lines set to pull us alongside Triborne. I take it you have a full surgery aboard?”

“I do, Captain. Some of these lads require surgery to remove the musket balls they have in them. We must act quickly before gangrene sets in.” Morton said as he looked over his shoulder.

“I can have Dr. Crawford from Dover join you as well.”

“That would be most welcomed.” Morton said.

“Carson, start getting them ready, Sergeant, can you have some of your men lend a hand as well?” Callum asked.

“Of course, sir.” McGuffin said and turned away. Callum put a hand to Carson’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze and then let it go. Callum turned and went back forward to the gangway ladder. He went up and stepped out on deck, Collingwood came to him.

“Dover is in position, sir.”

“Very good.” Callum said and looked over at Triborne, seeing Captain Stewart still on deck. Callum raised his hands and cupped them around his mouth, “Captain Stewart!”

“Aye, Captain Callum!”

“Dr. Morton wishes to remove my wounded and bring them aboard Triborne, may we come alongside?!”

“Of course, Captain! Standby to receive lines!” Stewart said and looked at his officers, giving them orders, they set off with their details and lines were tossed the scant twenty yards and were caught by hands aboard Windsong.

“Tie off!” Callum said, calling fore and aft to his men. The men tied off to what was secure with their damage and the hands aboard Triborne were pulling them in, bringing Windsong closer to the much taller Triborne. Callum watched the slow process and was grateful for the assistance that they were receiving from Captain Stewart. He looked over his shoulder and saw the Marines were starting to bring the wounded up the gangway ladder, he turned and went to help as well, “Some of you, lend a hand here!” Callum called to his crew, most jumped in and came quickly, stepping up close to their Captain as the haversacks were brought up, one by one through the large open hatchway. Once the first haversack was up and through, the wounded Marine was gently carried out of the way and set on the open deck.

Dr. Morton came up as well now, watching all of them being handled carefully and placed out of the way. He went to each and every one and checked on them as they were placed with the greatest of care, these brave young men that had been through so much in the night. Callum was in the center of it all, giving each of them a smile of reassurance as he put hands on the haversack to help get them to a better place for their care. The bump was felt, the two vessels coming together side by side.

“Their sending down lines, sir.” Collingwood said at Callum’s shoulder as he was at the edge of the hatch. Callum looked up.

“Excellent. Abel, ask Dr. Morton which Marine he wants first.” Callum said and Collingwood nodded and walked away quickly. Callum saw Capshaw being brought up now. He saw the ashen color that the young man had on his face and gave him that smile of reassurance when their eyes met.

“Sir.” Capshaw said weakly as Callum took the end of the haversack and helped carry him away from the edge of the hatch.

“Good to see you on deck, Capshaw.” Callum said, “The morning air might do you some good and give you some color back.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, you mind what the good Doctor tells you and don’t argue with him. He’ll have you back in no time, I’m sure.” Callum said, Capshaw smiled weakly back up at him as he was slowly laid down on the deck.

“I won’t give him any trouble, sir.” Capshaw said weakly and Callum gave him a nod and touched his good shoulder. Callum stood and looked up as one of the Marines had been rigged and was being hoisted slowly up to waiting hands aboard Triborne. Dr. Morton had climbed up the side and was back aboard his own ship.

“Sir.” Jennings said as he stepped close to Callum, tipping his hand, “Captain Tomlin is asking for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Jennings.” Callum said as he looked down at Capshaw again for a moment, and then walked quickly toward the bow. Callum reached the remains of the bowsprit and grabbed a line and hung on as he climbed up and looked at Dover, seeing all hands lining the side. Tomlin stood on the Quarterdeck, along with the officers and  Dr. Crawford.

“Captain Tomlin, thank you for joining us!” Callum called out, with a hand cupped next to his mouth.

“Our pleasure, sir! Do you need any further assistance?!” Tomlin called back. Callum was nodding broadly.

“Yes!” Callum called back, “Arthur, can you go aboard Triborne and assist Dr. Morton with our wounded?!” Crawford just waved a hand and turned away to get his bag, Tomlin looked at Summers, giving him an order to lower a boat. Callum watched as hands jumped to it, “Thomas, can you come aboard?!” He saw Tomlin nod in reply, “I want to meet with you and Captain Stewart!” Callum called out and then saw a wave in reply. Callum turned and saw Collingwood was on the deck behind him, Talon coming close as well. Callum stepped off the remains of the bowsprit onto the deck, he looked at both Collingwood and Talon, “I want to discuss our repairs and then strategy with all of us present. We will have a service for the fallen Marines and we will be in uniform. There is no point in hiding any longer who we really are.”

“As you say, sir.” Collingwood said as he stiffened, tipping his hand. Talon followed as well. Callum looked beyond them and saw Carson coming toward them and stopped just behind Talon.

“Carson, you should get some rest.” Callum said, Collingwood and Talon turned and looked at him as well.

“What of the crew, sir, and the Marines? None of you have eaten as of yet, sir.” Carson said, his face showed just how tired he really was in the morning light.

“We can manage, Carson.” Callum said as he stepped forward in between Collingwood and Talon, “Now, go below and get some rest.” Callum said, Carson turned and walked to the hatch and the gangway ladder, going down.

“You haven’t rested yet as well, sir.” Collingwood said softly at Callum’s shoulder.

“There is far too much to do right now, Abel, I’ll rest later.” Callum said.

“Dover is lowering a boat, sir.” Talon said as he looked forward and nodded in that direction, Callum turned and looked as well, he saw Crawford climbing down over the side.

“Sir, Captain Stewart.” Collingwood said, Callum turned back and looked seeing Stewart coming down the side of Triborne onto the deck of Windsong. Callum walked toward him. Stewart stepped onto the deck and turned, taking his hat off, waiting for Callum and his officers to come up.

“Permission to come aboard, sir.” Stewart said, bowing his head slightly.

“Permission granted, Captain. You are most welcomed into the ship, sir.” Callum said as he held out his hand. Stewart took it and gave it a firm grasp, “Captain Stewart, may I present my officers, Lt. Abel Collingwood, my 1st Lieutenant, and Lt. Darin Talon, my 2nd.” Callum said as he held out a hand to show his officers. Each of them shook hands.

“Gentlemen, it is an honor.” Stewart said, being very gracious and formal. Collingwood and Talon tipped their hands toward Stewart in reply.

“Captain Stewart, I wish to thank you on the behalf of my officers and men for your valuable assistance.” Callum said.

“Think nothing of it, Captain.” Stewart said, “I have come aboard as I heard you ask Captain Tomlin to come aboard as well.”

“Thank you,” Callum said, “I wish to discuss our damage and how to make our repairs. And then we can discuss a new strategy to deal with this Frenchman.”

“As you wish, Captain. I am at your disposal.” Stewart said, “I see your hull is skirted with canvas, were you fired upon?”

“No, he turned in front of us. There wasn’t time enough to lay over and we rammed him.” Callum said, “The impact split us open below the waterline.”

“Dear God.” Stewart said, “How do wish to repair the hull then?”

“We will clubhaul ourselves at the stern, using Dover as a lifting block and pull the bow out of the water just enough to get to the damaged section up and it can be repegged to secure the thrown section. There should be pitch in Dover’s hold and along with oakum, we can seal the splitting easily after that.”

“I see.” Stewart said, giving a nod, “Sounds easy enough, but it will require us to lay over for the night to have it dry.”

“Yes.” Callum said, “And I have a feeling that this bastard is going to return to finish what he started last night.”

“You think so?” Stewart asked, concern all over his face.

“Yes, I do. It would be a part of his madness to be sure, as we dealt him a very serious blow last night. He will need to destroy us now by any means.”

“You sound so certain of it.” Stewart said.

“There were many conversations held aboard the Avion over that fact last night, in the dark. All were in French of course, but I overheard most of them. He will return.” Callum said.

“Yet you wish to leave us vulnerable?”

“That is where Captain Renner comes into play, laying off nearby and at the ready when the darkness comes.” Callum said and gave Stewart a look of question. Stewart looked down for a moment and then took in a deep breath, lifting his eyes and looked back at Callum.

“Yes, about Captain Renner, I feel I must apologize for his not being here, Captain, I,…” Stewart began to say.

“Captain Stewart, you have nothing to apologize for. Captain Renner’s actions are his own and are not your responsibility, sir.” Callum said, “I understand that completely. He will have to answer for his decisions in this matter. We all know that there was no wind as of last night, and hopefully that is why he did not come to our aid. If there is something else to that, then you may offer it.”

“I’m sure that is why, Captain. You are being very gracious with this, I must say.” Stewart said.

“Thank you, Captain Stewart.” Callum said and bowed his head slightly, “But, that does not excuse his not being here as of now.”

“No, quite right.” Stewart said and wanted to drop the matter, seeing the look of anger that was growing in Callum’s face.

“Sir, boat coming alongside from Dover, sir.” Amos said. Callum looked over at him at the port rail.

“That would be Captain Tomlin then.” Callum said, “See to it, Amos.”

“Aye, sir.” Amos said, calling for a couple of the hands to help. Callum looked back at Stewart.

“Captain, would you care to have some of your officers join us in our discussion?” Callum asked.

“If you wish, Captain.” Stewart tilted his head a bit.

“I feel that the more that know, the better and smoother this will go, wouldn’t you agree?” Callum asked. Stewart nodded his answer. They looked over as Tomlin and Summers came up on deck.

“Permission to come aboard, sir.” Tomlin said and tipped his hand to his hat.

“Permission granted, sir.” Callum said and stepped toward his friend, “You and your officer are most welcomed into the ship, sir.” Callum smiled and then bowed his head slightly.

“Thank you, sir.” Tomlin said, and then took off his hat and tucked it under his left arm, Summers doing the same. Callum sent out his hand, Tomlin took it firmly.

“It’s good to see you, Thomas.” Callum said quietly with a wide smile.

“Thank God you’re alive, Quintan.” Tomlin said gripping the hand firmly, leaning close to him, “I would hate to think what I would have to say at home if you weren’t.”

“Perish the thought, Thomas.” Callum said and then winked. He took his hand back and reached out for Summers, “Welcome aboard Windsong, Cary.”

“Thank you, sir, it’s certainly good to see you.” Summers said with a smile.

“You as well.” Callum smiled in return and took back his hand, he stepped back once, “Gentlemen, I believe you know my officers? Allow me to introduce Captain Stewart of HMS Triborne.” Callum said formally, all bowed slightly toward each other.

“Captain Tomlin, it is a pleasure to see you again.” Stewart said.

“Likewise, Captain Stewart. May I present my 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Cary Summers.” Tomlin said, using a hand to indicate Summers. They again bowed their heads slightly toward one another.

“Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I will call my officers to join us.” Stewart said and turned away, going to the starboard side of Windsong. He called up and his officers responded and started toward the gunwale to climb down, Stewart turned and came back to the group of officers and waited until the two officers joined them all, “Gentlemen, may I present my 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Daniel Strathum,” Stewart said holding out his hand, “and my 2nd Lieutenant, Lt. Clarence Rawlings.”

“My great uncle, sir?” Andrew asked as he heard the name. He looked at the old man who nodded in reply.

“That was the first time we met, yes. He and I would cross paths many times over the years after that.”

“I had no idea that he served, sir, he never spoke of it.”

“I would think not. His service was not remarkable from my understanding even though he served under Captain Stewart.” The old man said.

“I don’t understand, Grandfather. What does Captain Stewart have to do with Andrew’s great uncle?” Dustin asked softly. The old man looked over at him.

“I have said it many times that I was full of myself, daring and whatnot, rush in where angels fear to tread and so forth. Captain Stewart was cut from the same cloth as I, truth be known, but he had to be motivated to do so. This mission brought that out of him, I witnessed it firsthand. Your great uncle, Andrew, held back in all things, and it was well known. I mean no insult, my boy, to his memory, you must understand that. I had great respect for him in all things later. There are just some people that are not meant for the service, I could see that in him, and he knew it as well, as did Captain Stewart.”

“I see.” Andrew said softly.

“Do not misunderstand me, he was no coward by any means.” The old man held up his hand, “As a matter of fact, he and I had quite a tossing once in The House chamber. He gave me quite a thrashing actually.” The old man said and grinned.

“He did, sir?”

“He did indeed, Andrew. And I hate to admit that I deserved it. I bullied him to try and sway his opinion, and he had enough of it and stood up for himself. He was quite a man.” The old man smiled as he looked at Andrew, “And as I have said before, I had great respect for him.”

“I see.” Andrew said again, “Thank you, sir.”

“What of the other Captain, Grandfather?” Dustin asked, “Did he ever show up?”

“Captain Renner,…” The old man said, “yes, he finally did.”

“What happened?”

“We discussed the repairs to be done to Windsong. We had to repair the hull or we were going to have to scuttle her. I was very much against that, even though Thomas and Captain Stewart felt that it needed to be done. I was of the opinion that the more vessels we had, the better to hunt this Frenchman down. I had a plan to do so and needed Windsong to do it even more now as I was certain I knew where he was hiding.”

“So there you have it, gentlemen.” Callum said, “Captain Tomlin, once we are in position and secured to Triborne at our stern, we will secure our anchor cable to yours and drop away, that will lift our bow up and out of the water. I would press you to have Camden set about with the repairs, if you please.” All eyes were fixed on him, the younger officers had never heard of such a thing being done at sea.

“Are you certain of this?” Tomlin asked, “Why not just let her go, she has served her purpose in this. You and your crew can come aboard Dover and we can continue to hunt him down.”

“No,…” Callum said, “we will need her still.”

“Captain Callum,” Stewart said, “surely you must see that you’re putting us all at risk with this. None of us will be able to defend ourselves very well should he return as you say he might.”

“Once Captain Renner arrives, he can defend our position. And there is also the possibility that this Frenchman won’t show as well. No, gentlemen, we will need Windsong to finish this as I know where he is porting.”

“And where is that, Captain?” Stewart asked.

“On the Somme River, Captain Stewart.”

“You know that for fact, Captain?” Stewart asked, looking skeptical of that statement.

“I believe I do, Captain Stewart. I know the French coast was searched, but how well? The Somme River has a deep channel and is curved, making the port town well hidden from view of the coast. After he attacked us last night, he took a heading of south, southeast directly for the Somme. It only makes sense.”

“I see. And what if you’re wrong, Captain Callum? You would have us engage the fortifications there at the mouth of the river needlessly?”

“That is why we need Windsong, Captain Stewart. We sail her up the river under the cover of no flag, in the dark, find him, pinpoint his location and set to destroy him or lure him out. Without his port staying hidden, he will lose himself in his madness and his end will be at hand. You three can stand by while we draw him out.” Callum said.

“Like we tried at La Rochelle.” Tomlin said softly.

“There are differences, Thomas, but yes, like La Rochelle.” Callum said, “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse us, we need to dress for our service for our fallen Marines.”

“Certainly, sir.” Tomlin said as he looked down at the chart on the top of the wheelhouse. Captain Stewart and his officers were looking as well as Callum, Collingwood, and Talon went below to get into their uniforms.

A door had been removed from it hinges to use as a sliding plank. It was placed at the port rail. McGuffin and his young Marines that were left aboard were in full uniform now and on deck in formation. They all stood silent as Callum, Collinwood, and Talon came out on deck now in uniform as well. Callum had Talon gather the crew, Amos and Brewer were at the rail with the plank, Windsong’s colors were ready to be used as a drape for those fallen Marines that were placed with care on the deck near the rail. Bateman and Rafkin were standing by those fallen to help lift and place them on the slide plank.

Dover’s crew, along with the Marines that were given to them that Windsong could not take, stood along their own port rail, watching and waiting. Triborne’s crew stood at their port rail as well and looked down at the proceedings that were starting. Tomlin and Stewart stood by at the wheel of Windsong, accompanied by their officers as Callum approached McGuffin and stood in front of him. McGuffin pulled out the list of names and handed it to Callum and then saluted crisply. Callum looked down at the folded piece of paper and stepped back once, turned, and went to the slide plank at the rail. He looked at the flag that was covering the plank and swallowed hard, then turned to face all of the ships company that was gathered.

“We gather together to pay honor to our fallen. These young men, these Royal Marines, who gave their lives in the line of duty, their bravery and sacrifice, shall always be remembered by us that had the honor and privilege to serve with them. These brave Royal Marines had never been under fire before last night, and in the face of overwhelming numbers, they held their ground and did much to save the rest of us. Let their uncommon valor be a guide for all of us in what might lie ahead, and give us the resolve to make certain that they did not die in vain.” Callum said in a voice of authority, but with a gentle tone to it, he opened the piece of paper and read it to himself, the names written on it and then cleared his throat, he looked up at the ships company gathered.

“Thomas Burkett, Leonard Jeffers, Alan Collins, Jeffry Sedgemore, Albert Pollock, Clive Alderson, all brave Royal Marine Corporals. Their names shall be entered into the official log and remembered as such.” Callum said and turned back to face the plank.

The first Marine in his sewn haversack was lifted and placed on the plank. The colors had been moved and then placed over the haversack as Amos and Brewer waited, holding it on its edges to tip it up.

“We commend the body of our fallen comrade to the deep, his soul held by God until the sea shall give up her dead.” Callum said and the plank was tipped, the haversack slid out from under the colors and it could be heard hitting the water. The plank was tipped back and then next haversack was placed on it, the colors draped over it. Callum spoke the same words again, over and over as each and every one of the brave young Marines was placed and sent to their final resting place. McGuffin and his Marines had stood at attention, saluting the entire time, as were the other Marines, both on Dover and Triborne.

The last Marine had been finally sent over. The plank was set on the deck, the colors were lifted and folded by both Amos and Brewer. Amos held it in his hands, Callum placed one hand on the folded colors, then turned back and looked at the ships company.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,…” He spoke and the entire companies of all ships began to follow him in the rest of The Lord’s Prayer. The Marines had lowered their hands from their salute. After the prayer was spoken, they stood in a moment of silence, and then Callum went across the deck and stood in front of McGuffin and gave him a formal salute, McGuffin’s eyes were misting and he returned it. Callum lowered his hand.

“Sergeant, you may dismiss your men.” Callum said softly.

“Yes, sir.” McGuffin said, turned sharply and looked at his Marines, “Company dismissed.” The young Marines slowly fell out of line, some started to go below, a few stayed on deck, McGuffin turned back to Callum, “Thank you, sir, for your kind words. I’m sure the lads appreciated it.”

“You’re quite welcome, Sergeant, it was an honor to speak over them.” Callum gave him a brief smile and bowed his head slightly, “I’m wondering if you want the other Marines that we could not accommodate brought over from Dover?”

“If you wish, sir.”

“If it is alright with you, then it is fine with me. I will speak with Captain Tomlin and then after the repairs are made, we can see to it.”

“Very good, sir.” McGuffin said and snapped to attention. Callum turned and headed toward the wheelhouse.

“Mr. Collingwood, Mr. Talon,” Callum said as he came toward them, “let us see to our repairs.”

“Aye, sir.” They both said and tipped their hands.

“Captain Tomlin,” Callum said as he stepped close to Tomlin and Stewart, “may I ask that you bring Dover around further to our lee?”

“Of course, sir. We shall see to it right away.” Tomlin said and tipped his hand to his hat. He and Summers walked away to get to their boat which had been placed at the port aft section.

“Captain Stewart, I would ask that we cast your line off your bow and secure us further at our stern.”

“Of course, Captain.” Stewart said, “Do you require any other assistance?”

“That remains to be seen. I am of hopes that this will work. As long as we can hold tension with you while Dover lifts us, we should be fine.” Callum said.

“How many lines do you want?”

“I would say a dozen at least, good stouts, we can run them through your gun ports and secure to our Mizzen.” Callum said.

“Your aft rail might buckle under the strain, Captain.” Stewart said.

“It might, but I am willing to take that chance.”

“As you wish, Captain.” Stewart said, “I suggest that we stand off about ten yards or so from each other to not damage either of us.”

“I agree, Captain.” Callum said and gave a brief smile and then gave a nod as well.

“I will take my leave then. Perhaps you and your officers would care to have supper aboard Triborne this evening, if this goes well?”

“We accept your gracious invitation, Captain Stewart, thank you.” Callum said and bowed his head slightly. Stewart and his officers walked away and climbed up the side of Triborne.

Dover set her headsails as soon as the boat was alongside. She made a slow turn to port and came parallel with Windsong, the boat came back and lines were taken from Windsong’s bow and were pulled over to Dover and brought up on deck. They were run through under her rails and the crew worked to pull Windsong around by the bow pointing her toward Dover’s port bow. The line that was still attached from Triborne at Windsong’s stern went taut. There was a groan that came from Windsong, her decking strained slightly.

Callum went to the bow and looked over gauging the distance between them, about five yards from the point of the bowsprit to Dover’s rail. Hands were watching from Dover, Callum looked up at them and gave them a brief smile and a nod, they all knew Callum was their true Captain, and even though they had the greatest respect for Tomlin, they trusted Callum knew what he was doing.

“Captain Tomlin!” Callum called out as he stood on the bowsprit, Tomlin lifted his chin slightly in reply as he stood at the rail of the Main Deck, “We will secure lines first from Triborne! Then we will send our anchor and tier line over to you!”

“We are standing by, Captain!” Tomlin called back. Callum waved and turned, going aft down the deck.

“You lads, come with me.” Callum said, all hands went with him past the short rail to the aft section. Callum looked over the rail and saw how close they were to Triborne, barely any water between them. Open gunports could be seen, the lowest ports above the waterline of the sixty gunner. He looked up the side of Triborne and saw Stewart and his crew looking down, “We are ready to take your lines, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, “We will leave slack in them, when Dover pulls there will be distance between us.”

“Very good, Captain.” Stewart said, “Below there, send out your lines!” Some of Triborne’s crew came through the ports with thin hand lines and reached up to the waiting hands on Windsong.

“Take those lines.” Callum said, “Run them around the base of the Mizzen opposite each other, and then pass them back through the ports.”

“Lively now.” Amos said as he took a line, Jennings took another from the port side, they were brought under the rail and all hands worked together, getting them around the Mizzenmast at its base, Callum watched and guided them back through the rails at the corners, the lines were set and started to pull, bringing the larger lines now and more of them, creating a circle of lashings between the Mizzen and the open gun ports. The work was hard and took a bit of time but was finally completed, slack in the lines dipped in the water between both vessels. Callum nodded up toward Captain Stewart, who returned the nod. Callum and his crew went forward to the bowsprit. McGuffin and his Marines were on deck there.

“May we be of assistance, sir?”

“If you’d like, that would be most welcomed, Sergeant, thank you.” Callum said, looking at all of the young Marines, most of whom were now out of uniform, “We will lift our anchor and send it over to Dover, once there, they will take it to their starboard side and send over, they will attach it to theirs and drop both, that will lift us out of the water.”

“We understand, sir.” McGuffin said, Callum nodded and looked back at Talon, “Mr. Talon, go to the galley, make sure the stove is secured, I don’t want hot coals all over the deck.”

“Aye, sir.” Talon said and turned quickly and headed away.

“Captain Tomlin!” Callum called out, “Send over two lines if you will.”

“Right away, sir.” Tomlin said and pointed out lines, two crewmen took them up and stood on the rail, Amos and Jennings went up on the bowsprit and waited, one at a time, the lines were tossed and caught and brought to the starboard bow.

“Make loops in each and hook the anchor to each side. Some of you, go below and standby to cast it off, keep tension on the cable line, I don’t want it getting away from us.”

“Aye, sir.” Dorfman said, tipping his hand, he, Patkin, and Hawkins went below.

The lines were hooked over the anchor points and the hands aboard Dover began to pull to keep tension. Callum saw it and waited and then he heard Dorfman call up through the anchor port that they were ready. Callum looked over at Dover and raised his hand and held it in place.

“Cast loose!” Callum called out, the anchor dropped but was held in the air by the lines, they started to pull and the anchor was sent away toward Dover slowly. All hands and the Marines watched as it traveled along until it reached the side of Dover. More hands reached and it was heaved up over the deck and carried away to the starboard side. “Take the cable line and run it under your rail, Captain Tomlin!” Callum called.

The anchor was set on the deck, the thick cable line was detached and brought back, hands worked it under Dover’s railings and brought it back across the deck and brought it through the starboard rail as well, it was reattached to the anchor of Windsong and then brought to the anchor of Dover. Hands went over the side and attached both anchors together, lashing them securely.

“We are ready here, sir!” Tomlin called out to Callum, who waved in reply, “Standby!”

“Whenever you’re ready, Captain!” Callum said, he turned and looked at his crew, “Be ready, this may be a bit of a jolt. You men below, get clear!” Callum yelled down at the anchor port.

“Cast loose!” Tomlin yelled. Everyone waited as the heavy anchor of Dover was cut loose, the thick cable line slid out of the anchor port of Windsong and went through the air and came to sudden stop, jerking Windsong suddenly, laying her over to her port side, heavy groans could be heard as some of them went to the deck, others grabbed lines and held on, Callum swung on a tight line from the Main as he braced himself. He looked aft and Triborne rolled a bit, all hands aboard her held on. Windsong lifted out of the water by the bow, the tilt of the deck made them all lean a bit, the curve of her keel could be seen clearly and the jib that covered the damaged hull was mostly out of the water.

“Get these lines off and pull the line from the port side. Get the canvas out of the water and on deck to dry out.” Callum said, Amos, Jennings, and Bateman jumped to it. Some of the Marines went to the port side and untied there, the canvas was pulled up and drug away, Callum looked back over at Dover, “Camden, are you ready?!”

“Aye, sir!” Camden called back and went over the side as the gig was being lowered. Tools and a keg were handed down along with a burlap bag containing the oakum. Camden and some of the hands settled into the gig and cast off, setting oars and pulled toward Windsong. Callum climbed over the remains of the rail and waited for them to come alongside.

“I’ll be damned, it worked.” Collingwood said mostly to himself and Callum looked at him.

“You seem surprised, Abel.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I guess I had my doubts.”

“It’s alright,” Callum said and leaned closer to him, “I did too.” He whispered and looked back over the side to the gig that had now pulled up. Camden was looking over the damage and then looked up at Callum, “Camden?”

“It’s bad, sir. I’m not sure.” He said and then looked back at the splits. Callum grabbed a loose line and went over the side, coming down into the gig as well. Hands reached out to help him as he stepped on a bench seat. He looked at the splits with Camden, “You see it here and here, sir?”

“I do. Bore in about there and peg it.” Callum pointed, “Then peg it higher. Keep moving up to secure it further. We can pitch over the seams and then fill it with oakum.”

“It may not hold, sir. The pressure may cause it split further.”

“Do you have any other suggestions, Camden?” Callum asked.

“We might have to replace them, sir.”

“Cut back at a rib and piece them in?”

“Yes, sir.” Camden said as he looked at Callum.

“If you think it best, then by all means. I need her to be sound for the remainder of this mission, Camden.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Camden said as he looked at Callum, “I will make her very sound, sir.”

“Good.” Callum said and then gave him a brief smile, “I am very glad to have you doing this, Camden.”

“Thank you, sir, I won’t let you down.” Camden said and smiled.

“I know you won’t.” Callum said. He used the line to climb back up and onto the deck of Windsong, “Abel, go to the aft rail, tell Captain Stewart that the hull section is going to be replaced.”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, Callum leaned over and looked down at Camden.

“How long, Camden?”

“The better part of the day, sir. I have to match the material, sir.”

“Very good, Camden, whatever you need.” Callum said and looked at Collingwood, who tipped his hand and nodded. He turned and walked away with the lean of the deck. Callum looked back down at Camden, “Will you tell Captain Tomlin, Camden?”

“Yes, sir.” Camden said as the oars were set and they pulled back for Dover. Callum watched him for a moment and then looked at his crew.

“You men, search the ship, go below and check for leaks or any other damage there might be. Darin, go to the galley and check it again, and then look at the cabins as well.”

“Aye, sir.” Talon said, all tipped their hands at Callum as he was looking over the side at the damaged hull section. The hands and the Marines spread out and started to search and check for further damage, leaving Callum alone for a minute. His thoughts were interrupted by Collingwood returning.

“Sir,” Collingwood said as he grabbed a line to stabilize himself on the leaning deck, Callum looked over at him, “Captain Stewart said they have seen sails coming from the east, sir. He thinks it’s Captain Renner and the Hunter.”

“Better late than never, I suppose.” Callum said, “I’ll deal with that when they arrive, Abel.”

“As you say, sir.” Collingwood said quietly and looked over the side. Callum looked over at Dover and saw the activity aboard her, the crew under the direction of the officers were moving about to bring up material from below to assist Camden. Callum watched as the boat crew climbed back down and the material was passed into the waiting gig. Callum watched as Collingwood remained close.

“Did Captain Stewart say anything about our wounded?” Callum asked.

“No, sir, he did not. Would you like me to go and ask about them, sir?”

“No, I’ll find out myself after I hear about what’s going on below.”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said.

“Sir, if I may ask,…” Andrew said as he stopped writing for a moment. The old man looked over at him.

“You’re wondering about the repairs.” The old man said, Andrew nodded in reply, “It was unheard of to say the least what we were doing. The damage was bad enough, but opening her up further to replace a section of the hull in the open sea could be seen as sheer madness. One large swell could have swamped us and endanger the other ships as well. It was a great risk, but I needed to have her sound to see my plan through. Too much had been lost already to have it fail, too many lives lost, not just the Marines that had died the night before, but the crews of the other ships that had been attacked, my friend, Eddington.”

“I can understand it, sir.” Andrew said softly.

“Are you getting hungry, Grandfather?” Dustin asked.

“Yes, I suppose I am.” The old man said.

“How about some coffee while I prepare supper for us?” Dustin asked.

“That would be fine, thank you, my boy.” The old man said and smiled. Dustin pat the back of the old hand and rose off the ottoman, going to the kitchen.

“Why did Captain Renner delay, sir?”

“Renner,…” The old man said and then shook his head a bit, “he had issues of his own, his own demons, if you will. The man was a drunkard, plain and simple. I was angered over his late arrival. I don’t think any one of my fellow Captains would have minded if I had put him out of his misery, but I didn’t. In thinking over it for a few following years, I came to look at him differently however after the events of the next few days.”

“Did something happen to him, sir?”

“The man was dying, killing himself slowly from his drinking. I suppose he had his reasons for it, and they were finally made clear to me, but only after we reached home.” The old man said.

“What were his reasons, sir?”

“He had suffered terrible loss in his life. I did not know at the time that he had a family. His sons, all three of them served in the Royal Navy. All of them had been lost in different engagements during the war. He was alone apparently and had nothing except his command.”

“That sounds very sad, sir.”

“It does, yes, but, it should have not been an excuse. It was my opinion that he should have given up his command long before this and what eventually would happen.” The old man said. He looked up as Dustin came back in with coffee.

“I have a leg of mutton, Grandfather, or would you care for a roasted hen for supper?” Dustin asked as he set the cup down on the side table next to the chair.

“I would think the hen might be a nice change for this evening, wouldn’t you agree, Andrew?” The old man asked.

“Yes, that would be fine.” Andrew said and gave Dustin a smile.

“Alright, I’ll get started on it then.” Dustin smiled at the two of them and turned back for the kitchen. The old man picked up the cup and sipped at the hot coffee.

“What was I saying?”

“Uh, you were speaking of Captain Renner, sir, his problem and his late arrival.”

“Yes. Repairs were started and the crew came back up on deck, they reported that there were no other leaks or damage. The Marines stayed below and began to organize the weapons and supplies,…”

“Mr. Collingwood, take over here, I’m going aft.” Callum said, as he came by Collingwood.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said as he watched his Captain go by him. Callum went to the aft rail and stood as some of the crew of Triborne saw him there, one of them summoned Captain Stewart for him. Stewart came to the rail and looked down.

“Captain Callum.”

“Captain Stewart, I was wondering about my wounded. Have you heard anything as of yet?” Callum asked.

“I was about to go below and ask myself, Captain. I wish I could have you aboard to see for yourself, sir.” Stewart said.

“I would like that, Captain, if you wouldn’t mind, sir.” Callum said.

“Shall I have a boat lowered, Captain?”

“Thank you, no, throw me a line, if you would.” Callum said. Talon and Hawkins came aft at that moment and stood there. Stewart looked down at Callum and seemed confused as Callum held up a hand. One of Triborne’s crew tossed over a line that was from the Mainmast, Callum caught and pulled it and looked over his shoulder at Talon and Hawkins, “Darin, tell Collingwood I went over to Triborne to see about the wounded.”

“Aye, sir.” Talon said as he was open mouthed. Callum swung on the line, going off the railing and swung to Triborne’s hull, his boots making a thud against her side. He climbed hand over hand up the side as hands were trying to help pull him as he went up. Callum reached the railing and climbed over.

“Welcome aboard, Captain.” Stewart said, looking at Callum with wide eyes.

“Thank you, Captain.” Callum said, “It is a pleasure to be here.” Callum handed the line to one of the crewmen standing there, they all looked at him for a moment and then at each other, then back to Callum. He stepped forward and reached out a hand to Stewart, who took it firmly.

“You are full of surprises, Captain Callum.” Stewart said. Callum bowed his head slightly and gave a brief smile, “Shall we go below?”

“Thank you, Captain, if you would lead the way?” Callum asked as he took his hand back. Stewart turned and walked to a doorway, Callum followed as they went through the companionway to a set of steep stairs, going down, they stepped into a large area that was being used as a surgery. Callum saw his wounded Marines and Capshaw, all being tended to by Dr. Morton and Callum’s friend, Dr. Crawford. Crawford had just finished sewing up one of the young Marines and looked up.

“Quintan, what are you doing here?” Crawford asked.

“I came to see about my wounded, Arthur. Are they well?”

“As well as can be expected. Dr. Morton is doing a splendid job, I must say. It is a pleasure to work alongside someone of his skill.”

“That is reassuring to hear, Arthur.” Callum said as he looked about, Stewart near him as well.

“Most of their wounds have been sewn, there is only one of them left that requires surgery, that young Marine there, Ashland, I think his name is. He has a ball in his side and another in the shoulder it seems. We wanted to get everyone taken care of before we both set to working on him together.” Crawford said. Callum stepped closer to Crawford and looked at the young Marine, “He’ll survive, fear not.” Crawford said.

“Good.”

“He was asking about you and the Sergeant. He said that you both had a terrible time of it last night. You’ll have to tell me what happened, Quintan, when this is all over.”

“I will, Arthur. May I speak to him?”

“Yes, of course.” Crawford said. Callum stepped closer to the young Marine. The soft eyes opened and looked up from the haversack.

“Sir.” The young man said. Callum wished at that moment that he had spoken to him before now, he didn’t really know his name or anything about him and he felt sick over it.

“Rest easy. You’re in the best of hands with Dr. Morton and Dr. Crawford.” Callum said, “I came to have a look at all of you for myself.” Callum gave him a soft smile and it was returned.

“Is everyone else alright, sir? I was worried last night when I saw you fall, sir.”

“Everyone else is fine. Do not worry yourself. We are making repairs to Windsong, with the help from Dover and Triborne. We should be ready to get underway by nightfall I would think. You need to concern yourself with just getting better.”

“The Sergeant, sir,…”

“He is fine and is busy with organizing the weapons with your fellows.” Callum said, “Now, ease yourself, let these doctors help you.”

“I will, sir.” The young man said softly and closed his eyes. Callum squeezed his hand gently and then let it go. He turned and looked at Crawford and received a brief smile from him.

“Quintan, before we begin, I wanted to ask you, are you serious about continuing in this mission of yours?” Crawford asked.

“Yes, Arthur, we are under orders to hunt this Frenchman down. You know that.” Callum said.

“Then perhaps, we should make a change, if case you are planning to take the lead in this again.”

“I don’t follow you, Arthur.”

“Simply this, had one of us been aboard with you, you might have had less casualties, Captain.” Crawford said and his expression changed.

“I see your point, Arthur, but, I have not the room aboard to accommodate a surgery.”

“Yes, your barge.” Crawford said and rolled his eyes, “Then perhaps we can gather some supplies together to help until we can reach you, should this happen again.”

“I said the same thing to Carson just this morning.” Callum said.

“He is quite capable, you know.”

“I know he is. Most of these men might have died last night had he not been aboard.” Callum said and looked at another young Marine that was sleeping next to him in a haversack, “Once our repairs are completed, we will see about it. I won’t keep you any longer, Arthur. Thank you for what you and Dr. Morton are doing.” Callum said and gave his friend a nod and walked to Stewart, who turned and walked away, leading Callum back to the stairs and up to the Main Deck.

“Let me have a boat lowered for you, Callum.” Stewart said. Callum gave him a smile.

“That won’t be necessary, Captain Stewart, but thank you. I will take my leave of you. I want to thank you again for all of your kindness.”

“You are most welcome, Captain, and it was no trouble at all, I assure you.”

“Sir.” Strathum, the 1st Lieutenant said as he stepped up, tipping his hand to both Captains, “Hunter is approaching, sir.” All of them looked over the starboard side. HMS Hunter was coming closer under Headsails only.

“Signal Hunter, Mr. Strathum, to come in at our stern and heave to.” Stewart said.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Strathum said and tipped his hand again, walking away, calling out orders to send up signaling flags. Stewart looked at Callum, bracing for the worst from him about Captain Renner.

“Thank you again, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, taking the line that he had used earlier and went over the side. He looked at Windsong, Collingwood, Talon and Hawkins were at the stern, looking up, watching their Captain come down the side and he looked over at them, “Hawkins, send me over a line.”

“Aye, sir.” Hawkins said with slightly wide eyes.

“Can he be serious about that?” Collingwood asked quietly to Talon.

“That’s how he got over to Triborne to begin with. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” Talon whispered back.

“If he gets injured,…” Collingwood said as Hawkins sent over the line, Callum caught it in one hand, turned and let go of the rope from Triborne, grabbing the line from Windsong with the other hand as well and swung to the aft rail and landed on the deck, all that were watching were wide eyed as Callum let go of the rope.

“Thank you, Hawkins.” Callum said as he walked by all of them.

“You were saying, sir?” Talon asked Collingwood quietly. Collingwood closed his mouth and followed his Captain forward on the leaning deck.

Callum came through the group of hands at the remains of the starboard rail above where Camden was working the damaged section of hull with another crewman from Dover. Callum looked over and watched the progress of chiseling out the damaged planking over a rib, Camden had a large open area now in the hull, new planks were laying behind him in the gig. Camden looked up at Callum above him.

“It’s slow going, sir, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Camden, do it right like we spoke of earlier to make her sound.”

“Aye, sir.” Camden said and went back to his chiseling.

“You men, get about to shoring up the bowsprit. Amos, I want it triple wrapped to be able to take both jibs to not give us any further worry.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand. He set to task with some of the hands. Callum turned and walked toward Collingwood a few steps away.

“Abel, I’m going to try and get a bit of sleep. Wake me if anything happens or in two hours. Keep a wary eye for leaks. Hammond and Patkin should get some rest as well.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand watching his Captain closely as he made his way to the door, going below.

Callum walked by the galley, seeing Carson there, trying to make do with what he could use to try and prepare something to eat for the crew and the Marines. Callum stopped at the door. Carson looked up.

“Set them to dry ration, Carson, until we can right ourselves after the repairs are made.” Callum said.

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Did you get some rest?”

“A bit, sir, thank you.”

“I spoke with Dr. Crawford aboard Triborne. He and Dr. Morton are of good opinion that everyone is going to be fine. They are preparing to do surgery on that young Marine that is carrying two musket balls. Crawford also said that they will gather some supplies for us to have in case they are needed.” Callum said.

“That’s good news, sir.”

“They are going to survive because of you and the boy, Carson, and what you both did. I will see to it that the Admiralty hears about it as well.” Callum said, “I’ll be in my cabin to get some sleep.”

“Thank you, sir. You do look tired, sir.” Carson said and Callum only nodded once. He walked away, using a hand to help hold him up against the lean. He opened the cabin door and went in, closing it behind him. He looked and the table and the chairs were against the wall as they had slid across the floor with the lean. Callum sat on a chair and pulled off his boots and dropped them on the deck, he got up off the chair and went to the haversack and climbed in with the lean, keeping his head high and closed his eyes. He heard the door open and opened his eyes and looked over, he saw the boy coming in and gave him a smile. Callum closed his eyes again, sleep took him quickly.

He awoke to the touch to his shoulder, he opened his eyes and focused seeing the face of Collingwood over him. He blinked hard a few times.

“It’s been two hours, sir.” Collingwood said softly, “You really should rest more, sir.”

“No, it’s alright, Abel.” Callum said as he lifted himself out of the haversack and swung his legs to the leaning deck. Collingwood backed away a step to give him room, “Anything to report?”

“Camden is placing the planking now, sir. He has it pegged on the rib and starting to attach to the keel.”

“Good. We may be upright before long then.”

“So it would seem, sir. I’ll be on deck if you need anything, sir.” Collingwood said and went for the door. Callum got out of the haversack and went over to the chair and picked up a boot, he sat down and slipped it on and then picked up the other and slipped it on as well. He stamped his feet one at a time and stood up off the chair and made his way for the door, opening it and ran into the boy.

“Hans.” Callum said. The boy smiled up at him.

“Kaptajn.” The boy ducked his head a bit. Callum smiled back at the boy and held the door for him, but he pointed toward the galley wall, “Carson.” He said slowly, working the name out. Callum nodded his understanding and closed the door of the cabin.

“Very good, go ahead.” Callum said and waved his fingers a bit to have the boy go first. Callum followed him, starting to go by the galley and stopped, seeing Carson there, “Everything alright, Carson?”

“Yes, sir.” Carson said as the boy turned and looked back at Callum.

“Very well, I’ll be on deck.”

“Yes, sir.” Carson said, Callum gave him a nod and opened the door and went up the steps. He looked about and went forward to where the hands and some of the Marines were. He came through them, the crew tipped their hands toward him. Callum looked over the side seeing the progress that Camden had made so far. The last plank was being set into place now. Callum smiled mostly to himself over it. Camden looked up at him, and nodded to him.

“I’d like to set it with pitch as well, sir.”

“Probably a good idea, Camden. Do we need to stay out of the water for a while longer?”

“Only a few minutes, sir, I should think. We can seal it from inside as well, sir.” Camden said.

“Excellent, Camden, most excellent. The only thing we seem to missing is paint to make it all match now.” Callum smirked, some of the hands chuckled.

“Yes, sir.” Camden said, missing the humor of his Captain all of a sudden, “I should have her ready to go in about an hour, sir.”

“Well before dark, Camden, my compliments.” Callum nodded.

“You’re welcome, sir.”

“Give me the high sign when you’re ready.”

“I will, sir.” Camden said and started to make a hole for another peg. Callum watched him for a minute and then looked over at Amos and the bowsprit.

“Is it ready to go, Amos?” Callum asked.

“Indeed, sir. We have it triple wrapped as you wanted, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand.

“Well done, well done, lads.” Callum said, “Now we can set both jibs and outrun Dover on her best day.” Callum said.

“If you say so, sir.” Amos said.

“We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.” Callum said looking at Amos, then at the crew about him, “Eh, lads?”

“Aye.” They all said. Callum nodded once toward Amos and then winked. Amos nodded back and smiled.

“I’ll be below with the Sergeant. Call me when Camden finishes up.”

“Aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand. Callum went to the hatch as they hands tipped their hands toward him. Callum went down the gangway ladder and saw the Marines about in the hold and saw McGuffin at the locker for the armory.

“Sergeant.” Callum said and McGuffin looked over at him and stood stiff.

“Sir.”

“If you have a moment.”

“At your service, sir.” McGuffin said, the remaining Marines were all about them.

“As you probably know, I went aboard Triborne a bit ago and saw about the wounded.”

“Yes, sir.”

“They are all doing well under the care of Dr. Morton, and Dr. Crawford. Ashland was the last one that required surgery, both of the doctors wanted to work on him together.” Callum said as he looked around at the young Marines, “I was told that he was going to be alright, and I have no reason to doubt that from Dr. Crawford. I spoke with Ashland myself, he was more concerned about all of you actually rather than himself, which tells me something about him. I told him that you were all well, but I did not speak of the service of this morning. I wanted to let you all know about them.”

“Thank you, sir. I know the lads were concerned about all of them.”

“They are in good hands, I assure you all. Dr. Crawford is one of the finest surgeons in the fleet,” Callum said and raised a finger, “but don’t let him hear that from me. It will make his head swell.” Callum said and winked at Lauder, who was standing next to McGuffin. Some of the Marines chuckled, Lauder smiled, “Now, how are the weapons, Sergeant?”

“All secured, sir. Powder is dry. All supplies are secured as well.”

“Excellent, thank you, Sergeant. I am wondering now, if I may take you up to the wheelhouse and discuss our next strategy? I have it on the chart there.”

“As you wish, sir.” McGuffin said. Callum turned and went up the gangway ladder and reached the deck, McGuffin following him. Callum saw Collingwood and Talon at the wheel, securing the wheelhouse and what it contained, pistols and signaling rockets.

“Gentlemen, a moment of your time if you please.” Callum said as he and McGuffin came around the short rail. Collingwood and Talon tipped their hands and closed the wheelhouse door, “Gentlemen, Camden has done an excellent job in securing our damage to the hull. We can be underway in about two hours’ time if we so choose. However, I wish to lay over here for the night, under the protection of our squadron. We can get our much needed rest and have the rest of our Marine contingent join us from Dover. Mr. Collingwood, Mr. Talon, we have been invited to join Captain Stewart for this evening. I am not sure if Captain Tomlin or Captain Renner have been invited as well, but this is why I wish to discuss my plan with the three of you, in case they do not join us this evening.”

“We understand, sir.” Collingwood said.

“Good. Now, tomorrow, I want to set sail following the same course that our Frenchman has taken, south, southeast. We should reach the French coast by nightfall at the Somme River. We will sail up the river and seek out our madman, while the squadron will remain just north of the fortification at the mouth of the river. Once we find our target, the Avion, we will send up rockets, giving up his position, then we will turn and head out of the river and wait for him to either follow or wait to be destroyed by the squadron, either way, he will be undone.” Callum said as his finger was on the chart at the Somme River, “Questions?”

“What if he’s not there, sir?” Collingwood asked.

“He has to be, Abel.” Callum said, “If he’s not, and if there are French regulars in the fortification, then they will have to be dealt with. Captain Stewart was concerned with that. I can’t say that I blame him, as the fortification is probably well armed, but as I said before, our last report was that Napoleon was to the east and pulling all of his resources with him.”

“I recall that, sir.” Collingwood said as he looked at Callum.

“Worst case, gentlemen, we will treat this as we treated it at La Rochelle. We will destroy the fortification. Who knows, we may even pave the way for The Duke to invade, giving him a new clear path. The portage town is a civilian population however, and we must take great care not to harm civilians, as you know.”

“Agreed, sir.” Talon said, McGuffin and Collingwood nodded as well.

“We will slip in under the cover of darkness, no flag, and no uniforms. We should pass under the nose of the fortification without drawing a second look, a vessel of our size. We find the Avion, alert the squadron and get out as fast as we can. Sergeant, you and your men will remain below until needed, uniforms are fine as long as they are out of sight.”

“I understand, sir.” McGuffin said.

“Excellent, then we are agreed?” Callum asked and all three nodded, “Alright. I’ll go forward and check on Camden’s progress, Sergeant, prepare your men for your additional men from Dover,” McGuffin nodded, “Mr. Collingwood, you’re with me, Darin, standby here at the wheel. If Camden’s about done, I’ll send hands back and we can get ready to pull lines back from Triborne.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Talon said softly. He watched as Callum, Collingwood, and McGuffin walked forward, leaving him there alone with the chart at the wheelhouse. He looked down and saw the Somme River staring back up at him, “I pray you’re right, sir.” He whispered at the chart.

 

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