DOVER Chapter 29
Callum concluded his business with Major Simmonds, but not before they had finalized details of what was to come tonight. Callum had ordered that the gig be lowered and take Simmonds back to the Valiant. Once done, Callum was able to rest in his berth, giving orders for Camden and his crew to commence work on the Great Cabin tomorrow. Right now, Callum needed to heed the advice of Dr. Crawford, and he knew it all too well, and felt it.
Carson had entered to check on Callum and Callum had woke hearing him. Callum sat up on the bunk in the berth and slowly got to his feet. He went out to the large table in the center of the cabin and sat, collecting his thoughts and trying to ignore the constant thumping of pain in his chest. Carson came in with some of his soup and placed it before Callum. Callum smiled at it and Carson and slowly took it in. Once he was done with it, Carson had helped Callum finish dressing, and Callum drew up his reserves and went out of the cabin out on deck. Darkness was now encircling Dover as Callum emerged.
"Captain on deck!" could be heard shouted from the Quarterdeck when Callum was quickly spotted. Callum looked about, and those hands that were near stopped and tipped their hands toward him in obedience. Callum nodded toward them as a group, and smiled to himself, feeling the breeze as it washed over him. The stuffiness of the cabin air was gone and he felt much better being out in the open air. He went up the port stairs, seeing that the railings had been repaired, but there were not looking as they had before their engagements. Dover was still wounded, but was coming back to her former self, if only in temporary condition. Callum saw the officer of the watch, but didn't recognize him and slowly came up to him. He tipped his hand toward Callum and was given a nod back.
"Lieutenant Morris, sir." The young man said to Callum.
"Lieutenant." Callum acknowledged. "What is our status?"
"Repairs are proceeding slowly, sir. All canvas has been repaired and is back in place. The surgeon has reported that more of the wounded have returned for duty with only nine left in the surgery, sir. The galley has been made functional again and the ship's carpenter reports less than a foot of water in the bilge, sir."
"Very good." Callum said, turning and looking further into the bay. He could see the glow of lanterns from the other ships of the squadron, and those of the captured French ships were in line for either towing or sailing under their own canvas. "Any signal from the Valiant?"
"No sir, nothing as of yet."
"I see." Callum turned and looked at the young officer. He was finely dressed in his new looking uniform. Callum knew that he was either very new to the service, or did not function as a deck officer aboard the Valiant. "Lieutenant, may I ask you a personal question?"
"What were your duties aboard the Valiant?"
"I am one of His Lordship's personal attendants, sir. I take dictation of orders for His Lordship, sir."
"I see." Callum smiled. "I mean no insult, Lieutenant, but have you ever taken the watch before?"
"Well I,...uh, no sir." Morris replied softly, looking slightly down toward the deck.
"It's quite alright, Lieutenant, we all have to start somewhere." Callum said just as soft, and then smiled.
"Yes, sir." Morris looked back up. "I have expressed my wishes to His Lordship for seeking active duty on deck, sir, and I suppose that's why he sent with the other officers."
"More than likely, Lieutenant." Callum continued to smile slightly. "There is a good experience to be had, in the safety of being anchored. I myself found that to be true once upon a time."
"Thank you, sir." Morris said, and Callum nodded toward him.
"Would you be so good as to have the boats lowered over the port side?"
"We will be conducting a slight exercise in...rowing in the dark."
"As you wish, sir." Morris gave him a questioning look, and went to go to the rail to shout out the order. Callum stopped him by touching his sleeve.
"I wish this to be done quietly, if you please, Lieutenant."
"I see, sir." Morris tipped his hand and went toward the stairs, heading down and across the deck. Callum waited and the hands on deck got to it as Morris had given the order. The men looked toward the Quarterdeck seeing their Captain there, knowing that something was going on, and jumped to it. The long boat and the gig were quickly lowered over the side and Greene the Boson came up to below the Quarterdeck, looking up at Callum.
"Mr. Greene, when the second dog watch is called, I shall need volunteers to fill in as hands for the boat crews." Callum said as he looked down.
"It will be done, sir." Greene said, as he tipped his hand. Morris was coming back up the port stairs and came before Callum, tipping his hand.
"Boats are lowered and standing by, sir."
"Very well, Lieutenant." Callum nodded. "You still have the deck. I will return when the second watch is called."
"Very good, sir." Morris tipped his hand, and Callum walked toward the starboard stairs. He went down and back in through the galley toward the Great Cabin. He opened the door and hung his hat on a peg, then went in to the berth and slipped out of his tunic, and slowly sat on the bunk, knowing he had a little time before the watch was called. He lay down and tried to rest, breathing in and out slowly.
Callum woke to the sound of the bell calling the second dog watch. He swung his legs slowly off the bunk and got to his feet. He felt a little better but was having to hold against his chest to ease the pain of deep breathing. He went and got his tunic, slipping it on, then flipped out his tail over the collar. He went out into the cabin itself and saw his sword, tucking it in the holder of his belt, and grabbed his hat. He went out of the cabin and through the galley to the deck. He looked up toward the Quarterdeck and saw Morris, who was getting ready to announce his presence on deck and stopped him by holding up a hand. Morris understood and let out the breath he had drawn in to yell. Callum saw the hands milling about, with Greene in their midst, calling for the volunteers. Each man of both watches had jumped for it, knowing their Captain was in need. Greene looked toward Callum and came toward him. Greene tipped his hand.
"Is there a problem, Greene?"
"Uh, yes sir, well the men, sir, they have all volunteered." Callum smiled softly, and looked out toward them, they were all looking back at him.
"Well, I'm not certain that the boats will hold them all." Callum said, and Greene understood Callum's jest. "Select twenty of them, then go below, draw small arms. Each man is to carry a sword and a pistol with three shots each." Greene's eyes went wide.
"Once they are armed, we will disembark." Callum nodded his head. "And, Greene, assure the men, we need someone left aboard to watch over the ship."
"Very good, sir." Greene said, tipping his hand, then turned back toward the men, pointing them out that were going. Callum went up the port stairs and walked toward Morris, who tipped his hand.
"Lieutenant, who is taking over for you?" Callum asked.
"That would be Lt. Dorland, sir. Here he comes now, sir." Morris said, looking out across the deck, as another young man was coming toward them, looking at all the activity on the deck, he came up the starboard stairs, and saw Callum standing there and his eyes went wide. He came quickly over tipping his hand toward Callum and Morris.
"Lt. Dorland, sir." The young man bowed his head slightly toward Callum.
"You're the officer of the deck?"
"I see." Callum said, looking him up and down seeing another young man that was finely dressed, obviously Fitzwarren had several younger officers tucked into his pockets keeping a seemingly unending supply. Callum turned and looked at Morris. "I shall require two officers to accompany me in the boats. Lt. Morris would you summon Mr. Middleboro for me?"
"Certainly, sir. I'd like to volunteer as well, sir."
"I thought you might." Callum smiled. "Now, if you please." Callum extended out a hand showing Morris the way. He tipped his hand and hurried off. Callum turned to the nervous looking Dorland. "Mr. Dorland, we shall be disembarking in the boats shortly. Maintain a close watch, and I want no orders shouted loudly. I want to give the appearance that we are having a peaceful night's sleep."
"I understand, sir."
"I expect that we shall be returning with the dawns light. If there is anything out of the ordinary, summon Mr. Tomlin, immediately." Callum said.
"I will, sir." Dorland said, nodding his head. He began to realize that there might be something that was not quite right with the situation, especially if the Captain was giving instruction such as this. Word was spreading quickly throughout the squadron that Callum was an outstanding officer and his reputation for extreme valor was rapidly becoming the stuff of legend. Dorland looked this man up and down, while Callum was looking out across the deck, seeing this man in front of him and was in complete awe just being this near to him. Dorland had to swallow hard and bring himself back into focus. If Callum was leaving, then the ship now rested in his hands.
"Are you clear in your orders, Mr. Dorland?" Callum asked, looking back at him now.
"Very clear, sir."
"Very well, you have the deck then." Callum said and walked away toward the port stairs, then went down them, slowly, coming to Greene, who was manning the side. Callum spoke to him for a moment, telling him not to pipe his exit. Greene nodded and tipped his hand. Middleboro came across the deck and stood before Callum. "Ah, Mr. Middleboro, I would ask that you accompany me, along with Mr. Morris."
"At you service, sir." Middleboro smiled and tipped his hand.
"Excellent. Draw small arms from Mr. Greene. You and Mr. Morris will take the long boat and follow me to the dock at the bow of the Valiant."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro nodded and turned toward Greene, being handed a pistol and small bag carrying shot and powder, then was handed a heavy sword. Middleboro tucked it into his belt. Greene offered a pistol to Callum, who looked at it for a moment and then smiled.
"I was beginning to wonder Mr. Greene if you were going to leave me with only my sword."
"Well, sir, I know that's all you really need sir, against any amount of enemy, sir." Greene smiled as Callum took the pistol from him.
"Quite right, but this may also come in handy, just in case." Callum returned the smile, and the others about them smiled as well. Callum tucked the pistol into his belt and looked over the side through the gunwale. He saw the gig was there and went through, turning, then climbing down. He settled into the bench after the aft end next to the tiller and waited as the boat crew came down as well. The lines were let go and hands pushed away from Dover. Oars were set out and began to dip as the long boat was led back into position. Middleboro and Morris went down and both settled at the tiller, as the boat crew went over the side, quietly, and then they pushed off, following the gig that was disappearing into the dark.
It was about a ten minute row from Dover to the dock, with the tide and swell in their favor. Callum directed the gig be placed off to the side allowing the long boat to have access to the end of the dock. The Coxswain swung around with the tiller pointing the gig's bow back toward Dover. The gig was secured and Callum got out and onto the dock. Major Simmonds was there to meet Callum.
"You seem to right on time, Captain." Simmonds said as he bowed slightly toward Callum.
"We try, Major." Callum smiled at him in the dark. "Is everything ready?"
"Yes, sir." Simmonds said looking back down the dock. "I have Captain Anders and a detachment of Marines already at the fortress, they will meet us. We can load barrels into your long boat and the rest into the boats from the Valiant."
"Very good." Callum said and then looked out into the bay, seeing the long boat approaching. "And here is our first transport for barrels." Callum and Simmonds watched as the long boat drew near and swung to the end of the dock and was stopped by hands grasping it. Two of the hands got out and secured lines to the end of the dock. "Make your lines tighter, lads," Callum said, "pull her in tightly to the dock." The pair tightened up the lines and the long boat groaned out wood against wood. "Mr. Middleboro, have your men fetch as many barrels here that will fit into the long boat and get them loaded."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said as he stepped onto the dock. He tipped his hand and then turned to the boat crew. "You heard the Captain, let's go."
"Quietly, lads. Let's not wake the town, shall we?" Callum said as they went by him.
Within a few minutes time, the long boat was loaded with eight barrels. The boat crew went about to get back in and into their positions. Callum nodded to Middleboro and Morris and they settled back into their places as well. Callum turned and looked at Simmonds. "I will see you at the fortress, Major." Callum said and then got back into the gig. He had them cast off and started to row toward the fortress that loomed off in the darkness, a great shadow against the night sky. Callum watched as they approached hearing the sounds of waves on the rocks at the base of the fortress. The gig finally came to a halt hitting the shore. Callum got to his feet and stepped forward and out of the gig. He stood out of the way as the boat crew came ashore as well. Callum took off his hat and tossed it back into the gig, waiting for the long boat. It came near and they could see it finally.
"Alright, lads, give them a hand. Secure the long boat, and let's get it unloaded." Callum said as he looked at the boat crew. They jumped to it and caught the long boat, pulling it in to the shore alongside the gig. The boat was tied off with an oar stuck into the sand and the mooring line. All hands passed the heavy barrels along and stacked them up on the beach. Both boat crews came together along with Middleboro and Morris, standing in front of Callum. Callum turned as heard something behind him, making him turn.
"It is good to see you, Captain." A familiar voice said. Callum smiled at hearing it.
"Captain Anders, a pleasure to see you as well." Callum said nodding after Anders had saluted. The two shook hands and smiled at each other.
"Are you well, sir?"
"I am upright." Callum said, Anders knowing he was still injured.
"Shall we get your supplies into the fortress?" Anders said, and Callum nodded. "I have extra hands to help." Anders said and motioned with his arm. Several Marines came out of the dark and stepped forward grabbing barrels. The boat crews took the rest and followed the Marines, carrying the barrels up the small beach to the base of the fortress. They walked a small path up to the left toward the face of the hill that the fortress was built into and came to a large doorway. There were sentries posted and the Marines went through followed by the boat crews.
Anders led the way, followed by Callum and the others. Anders came to a large heavy wooden door and opened it. Callum entered and saw the size of the room, it was massive. Its ceiling was timbered, appearing to support the large stones above. Torches lit the room as the others entered, carrying the barrels.
"I believe this where the Major felt the powder should be placed, sir." Anders said to Callum.
"I can see why. It looks to me that the whole place is held up by these beams."
"Yes, as well as the wooden columns along the walls, sir." Anders was pointing out the columns in the torch light. Callum saw they held up the ceiling.
"So, if we placed the barrels here, and one or two at the columns, the place should come down."
"I think that's what the Major was thinking as well, sir." Anders said. Callum nodded at him.
"You men, place the barrels in the center of the room, here. Mr. Middleboro, have a barrel placed at that column over at the far wall. Mr. Morris, take another and go over to the other side." Callum said, directing them with his hand.
"Aye, sir." The young officers said, and headed barrels off to where Callum had directed.
"Captain Anders, perhaps we should find some staves to keep the barrels from rolling about."
"Yes, sir." Anders said, and nodded once. He set off to find something as the Marines and the boat crews set their barrels in the center of the room. Anders returned, finding some old wood and a couple of rocks, propping them under the barrels. As the barrels were placed, Callum saw someone at the door and looked up. Simmonds came in, leading the way for the other barrels. Anders stood and saluted to Simmonds, who returned it briefly, then they joined Callum.
"It would appear that you found the perfect place, Major." Callum said, watching the barrels get stacked on each other, forming a large group, two high, and nestled tightly together, end to end. Finally all thirty were in place and set. "What is above us, Major?" Callum asked.
"The battery powder room is over there," Simmonds pointed toward the ceiling almost to the far wall, "above us is the forward battery and gun placements," Simmonds pointed directly up over their heads, then he pointed to the large door on the opposite wall, "through there is a stairwell that spirals up to the living areas where they probably housed the garrison. Our troops are there and in some of the other rooms as well."
"I see." Callum said, then looked at the amount of barrels in the center of the room. "I would think that we need to run fuse from all three locations to that door that we came through and then have a single point for escape, wouldn't you agree?"
"I do," Simmonds said, "but who will touch off the fuse?"
"I would think whomever can reach it first." Callum said. "We can leave these torches burning, so that will not be a problem, I would think it depends on what your scouting party comes back with, wouldn't you agree, Major?" Simmonds nodded in reply to Callum's question. "By the way, who is leading your scouting party?"
"Captain Emery is." Simmonds said. "He volunteered. I had suspicion that you would want Captain Anders here for his return to the Dover."
"I see, and you think well of Captain Emery?"
"He is very capable, and is eager to present himself." Simmonds said. "I saw no issue with allowing him to proceed."
"I understand he is General Emery's son?" Callum asked. Simmonds nodded.
"Do you know the General?"
"Yes, he and my previous commander, Captain Powers, were close friends actually. General Emery and I have met several times when he would visit aboard the Dover. Being assigned to Portsmouth, where his division headquarters are located."
"I see." Simmonds said. "Shall we proceed up the stairs? You may wish to see the rest of the fortress and what we may be destroying."
"After you, Major." Callum said, bowing his head and holding out a hand. Callum looked at Middleboro and Morris. Mr. Middleboro, have you and the boat crews return and standby at the beach. Mr. Morris, you will accompany me. We should return very shortly." Callum said to Middleboro.
"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, tipping his hand. He turned and had the crews file out of the room and return to the boats. Callum followed Simmonds and Anders, Morris was right behind Callum.
Major Simmonds felt it was necessary to show Callum what it was that they had discovered of the personal effects of the French garrison. Callum looked some of the items over, and looked at Simmonds.
"Major, and you said that there is shot and powder for field artillery?"
"Yes, the shot is of size that does not fit anything else here in the fortress. They must have taken it with them. That's what leads me to believe that they are returning."
"I would agree." Callum said. "Was there much of it?"
"Quite a bit, actually." Simmonds said. "That tells me that they were also going to be resupplied somewhere in the field."
"Yes, I would also agree with that. I wonder..." Callum was interrupted by a Marine coming in, looking slightly out of breath. He saluted to Simmonds.
"What is it?"
"Beg to report, sir. There seems to be someone coming from over the top of the hill, sir."
"What? Who is it?"
"We're not sure, sir." The young Marine said. Simmonds looked at Callum and Anders, they looked back at him.
"I suppose the rest of the tour will have to wait, Major." Callum said and they all headed for the door, following Simmonds. They all went up the winding spiral staircase and came up through an open doorway into the night sky at the top of the fortress. Simmonds went to the wall, where the Marines were gathered, looking out over the rough landscape below. Callum, Anders, and Morris were behind Simmonds.
"What do you see?" Simmonds asked.
"It's not what we see, sir, so much as what we hear." A young Marine Ensign said, saluting to Simmonds.
"Well then, what do you hear?"
"It sounds like equipment clattering about, sir. Listen." Everyone fell silent, Simmonds looked out, putting his hands on the stone wall, Callum came near him, doing the same.
"I don't hear anything." Simmonds said softly.
"Neither do I." Callum said, equally low. He looked out into the darkness. He thought he saw something glimmer in the pale moonlight out on the rough. He looked and listened. He saw it again, and Callum pointed without saying a word, tapping Simmonds on the shoulder. Simmonds followed Callum's finger and then he saw it as well. He turned and looked at Anders.
"Captain, take two squads and go to the lower door, prepare to lead them out to intercept whatever is out there." Simmonds said.
"Yes, sir." Anders said, saluted and went back down the stairs.
The Marines stood at the wall, watching over the battlements, muskets near their hands. Callum watched as well, and now Morris came to the wall. He was very nervous about what was happening. In his mind, the entire French army was out there in the dark, ready to spring on them. He gulped loudly and Callum looked over at him. Callum reached over and put a hand on his young well-dressed sleeve, while he still looked out over the wall.
"Steady, Lieutenant." Callum said in a soft voice, barely above a whisper.
"Aye, sir." Morris said in a trembling voice. They watched and waited, side by side with Marines.
"I think I see your intruders, Major." Callum said and pointed for Simmonds. Even in the dark, they could see from the vantage point, five men approaching, one to the rear, the other four were struggling to help one another, it appeared as though two were limping, being supported by the other two. The one at the rear appeared to have a musket in both hands, covering their retreat.
"My God." Simmonds said.
"How many were in the scouting party?" Callum asked.
"Sixteen." Simmonds said, as he turned and headed for the stairs. Callum was right behind him, as well as Morris. They went down, step after step, floor after floor, and Callum was beginning to feel the strain in his chest. He clutched his side with his hand and pushed in to help stop the pain. They reached a large area, and there against the far wall, was Anders, giving orders to the two squads, who were fixing bayonets. "Belay that, Captain." Simmonds said, he looked at four men, "Drop your muskets, go fetch two stretchers, quickly." They saluted him and hurried off. "Our scouting party has returned." Simmonds said. Anders narrowed his eyes. "Captain, set your squads to hold this position, and cover the parties retreat. Get me a perimeter."
"Yes, sir." Anders said, and formed two lines, to each side of the large door. One Marine held the large handle, and Anders nodded to him. Callum drew his sword and pistol, cocking it, and getting ready, standing in the middle between the two lines. The door opened, as Simmonds drew his sword as well, standing just in front and to one side of Callum. The Marines filed out the doorway, going left and right with each line, fanning out, as Anders pointed the way.
The wounded and struggling Marines were coming into view, seeing the fortress and their brother Marines, coming to their aide. Their faces were becoming smiles, as they drew nearer to their destination, the last Marine that was covering them was , as he had been the entire time, backing, watching, musket held in both hands, at the ready, in case.
Morris was standing behind to the left of Callum, watching with wide eyes, visibly shaking, seeing the Captain draw his sword, he knew he must as well, and he drew it slowly, as the first volley went off from the brush outside the fortress. Callum wheeled and put a foot into Morris chest, knocking him to the ground, out of the way, and Callum saw the first movement just outside the doorway. Two Marines from the squad also fell. Callum stepped forward around Simmonds and charged into the doorway as the next volley went off from the dark. Callum hit the wall and ducked a little as musket balls bounced close to his head. He looked back, seeing Simmonds wheeling and hitting the ground behind him. Callum looked forward as the Marines readied and leveled and Anders dropped his sword, signaling them to fire, the volley went off and shouting could be heard above them on the walls, and few screams in the dark as well.
Callum charged forward and grabbed one of the Marines who was being supported by another and helped him toward the doorway, getting him there quicker, Callum turned and went back toward the other two, as a French regular stepped out of the brush, bayonet pointed, arced, ready to strike the Marine that was limping along with the other, when Callum hit him with a body block, knocking the Frenchman off balance. Callum swung around, and stabbed into the soldier, making him scream out, and then Callum had a free hand on the boy, pulling at him with the other Marine, backing toward the door.
"Who is that last man out there?" Callum asked the two Marines.
"Captain Emery, sir." One Marine said, out of breath. Callum got them to the door, and went back. Callum came up behind Anders quickly.
"Emery is out there, Carl." Callum said, looking about in the dark. "We are all targets as the light is behind us. Get your men down."
"Marines!" Anders yelled, "Crouch!"
Then Callum saw him coming, backing his way toward the light, musket at the ready as two French regulars were advancing on him, their bayonets poised and ready. Callum charged forward, seeing that Emery was injured, and would not make it. Callum got up next to him and made a stand, side by side with him, keeping the French soldiers at bay. They backed more into the light, and then Callum heard it, the distinct sound of hammer to breach being locked back, he focused directly ahead on the two soldiers, sword out, point toward both, as Emery was fading, slowing down.
"Fire!" Came a voice in the dark, thunderous sounds of muskets, and the two French dropped in front of Callum. Callum turned and took one arm, getting it under Emery, and half carried him back toward the door. Anders ordered the Marines to fall back, covering Callum and Emery as they went inside. Callum got Emery out of the way of the door, and put him against the wall, letting him drop to the dirt floor. Callum saw he was alright, but exhausted. Callum turned seeing Simmonds getting to his feet with the assistance of two other Marines. Callum came up, seeing the uniform ripped with a nice new crease in the sleeve just below the shoulder. Callum knew Simmonds would be alright. Morris was on his feet and leaning against the wall, clutching his chest, trying to breathe. Callum walked up to him, looking at him.
"Lieutenant, are you alright?" Callum asked.
"Having a hard time catching my breath, sir." Morris looked pale.
"Yes, sorry about that, I might have broken a rib in you."
"Understandable, sir." Morris was trying to catch his breath, looking at Callum. "Thank you, sir. You might have saved my life."
"His Lordship said I had to return his officers that he loaned me. He might be displeased if I got you killed." Callum said, gripping the boy's arm, supporting him. "Do you think you can make it to the boats?"
"Aye, sir." Morris said.
"I'll have one of the Marines escort you. Get to the boats, tell Middleboro, I said to have Tomlin get Dover ready to sail. At dawn, have the boats return to the beach to take the Marines off. Do you understand?" Callum said, looking at Morris.
Dover ready to sail, boats at dawn, Marines." Morris wheezed. "Yes, sir, I've got it."
"Good." Callum looked at a Marine, who was standing nearby. He signaled to him to come over.
"Escort the Lieutenant to our boats if you would. Make sure he gets there and in, then return here."
"Yes, sir." The young Marine saluted. He helped Morris by putting an arm under his and started to turn him. Callum put his sword back in its scabbard.
"Captain..." Morris said softly, making Callum look up, "thank you, sir."
"My pleasure, Lieutenant." Callum smiled. "Carry out your orders."
"I will, sir." Morris tipped his hand and the two walked off. Callum turned back to Anders and looked at him.
"Another timely rescue, Captain Anders, my compliments, sir." Callum smiled at his old friend.
"Royal Marines, sir, not to be outdone." Anders bowed his head slightly.
"So I recall." Callum smiled, clutching his chest, then looked at Simmonds. "You alright, Major?"
"Just a scratch, Captain." Simmonds looked at his arm, then over at Emery on the floor. Simmonds walked over and kneelt in front of him. "Emery, can you hear me?"
"Yes, sir." Emery looked up. "My men, sir..."
"They are well and being looked after. Can you tell me what happened?" Simmonds asked, as Callum stepped up behind him, looking down at the young Captain.
"Yes, sir." Emery said, trying to get to his feet.
"Rest easy, Captain." Simmonds said. "It is understandable if you do not stand to give your report."
"Thank you, sir." Emery said, as he gulped. "We were about twelve miles out, to the northeast, we came over a large knoll and walked right into a large force of French regulars."
"Several thousand, sir, at least. They have cavalry and artillery, sir."
"Why did not the cavalry pursue you?"
"I'm not sure, sir. But as we were withdrawing, I saw the cavalry riding off to the east. The French regulars pursued us, after we were forced to withdraw. I lost most of the men, trying to hold position, sir. They, we, were cut down." Emery lowered his head. "I'm sorry, sir, I was not able to hold our position."
"Nonsense, you did most satisfactory bringing back this information, that was your primary objective."
"I lost most of my squad, sir."
"Regrettable, yes, but outnumbered a hundred to one at least, I would say you did quite well, Captain. And covering your men, single handed, a feat worthy of recognition to be certain. Your father will hear of this and be most pleased. How many were pursuing you?"
"Two, maybe three dozen, sir."
"And you held them at bay, while your men proceeded to withdraw and come back twelve miles?"
"Yes, sir. I had to do something to cover them and not lose any more, sir."
"My compliments to you sir." Simmonds said, looking at his young officer.
"Thank you, sir." Emery said.
"Now, let's have the surgeon have a look at you." Simmonds, said, and then nodded to two Marines that were nearby. They helped Emery to his feet and then walked away. Simmonds watched for a minute and then turned to Callum.
"We were right." Callum said.
"Indeed." Simmonds looked at Callum, "Captain, you never cease to amaze me. Your insight and valor, sir, is stuff of legend."
"Not near what that young man has accomplished. He is a credit to his uniform, sir."
"As are you, Captain."
"Thank you, Major." Callum gave a brief smile. "Do you think there are more out there?"
"There are more coming, we both know that to be true, and if they are only twelve miles off, I can only imagine, we will see them by tomorrow afternoon."
"Then we need to implement the plan, and evacuate the fortress." Callum said. "I shall ready with the Marines and Captain Anders."
"And I will withdraw the rest of our Marines." Simmonds said and nodded toward Callum. Callum returned the nod and turned to Anders, giving him the details. Anders knew what was expected now and formed his squads of Dover Marines, along with Sgt. McGuffin.
The fortress was emptying out of the forces of Marines, under the direction of Simmonds, the boats rowing to the dock at the bow of Valiant, dropping off Marines, and then heading back again to pick up more. Munitions were stacked in the large room, as a cache to increase the resulting explosion, that Callum hoped was enough, and Dover would not have to fire to finish off what remained. Captain Barrish would also be ready, Callum thought, as Marines would be embarking and loading up on the captured French ship that Barrish now had command of.
The dawn light was approaching and at the top of the tower, the watch was being kept and sharpshooters lined the battlements. Not a word was spoken, but fingers were pointed at French regulars trying to hide in the brush. McGuffin had been given orders not to fire into them, but to make it appear as though they were maintaining watch and guarding position. Anders had made a show, showing the French that an officer was actually there, checking that all was well. McGuffin played the part as well, giving the French the actual full Marine routine, snapping to attention, saluting, standing rigid, while Anders inspected McGuffin and those on duty that were visible.
Morris was in the surgery, and Doctor Crawford was wrapping his chest, pulling it tight, as indeed there were two broken ribs from Callum kicking him in the chest, knocking him out of the line of fire. Tomlin stood over him, asking him again, exactly, what the Captain had said. Morris said it again, relaying word for word. Tomlin turned and walked away. It was near dawn, and the Captain had ordered the boats back to the fortress.
"Mr. Greene," Tomlin said, Greene snapping to attention, "boat crews over the side."
"Very good, Mr. Tomlin." Greene tipped his hand, "Alright, lads over the side with you. Get the boats ready." The boat crews jumped to it, going over the side and down, getting in and making sure all was set.
"I need an officer to go along as well." Tomlin said. "Lt. Morris is in the surgery."
"I'd like to volunteer, sir." Dorland said, as he tipped his hand to Tomlin.
"Ever commanded a boat crew before, Mr. Dorland?" Tomlin asked.
"No, sir. But it doesn't seem to difficult, sir. We are only going over there, aren't we, sir?"
"Yes, that is correct, Mr. Dorland. Very well, if you wish to lead the boat crews, row to the beach below the fortress, wait for the Captain and the Marines. Those were the written orders he left."
"I understand, sir." Dorland said.
"We shall sail the ship around to the other side of the bay, and return here and wait."
"Very good, sir." Dorland said, and tipped his hand. He turned and left the Main Deck through the gunwale and climbed down to the gig, and settled in. Tomlin, and the other officers present watched as the gig pushed off and set oars and began to pull for the fortress.
"Weigh anchor." Tomlin said, "Get as many men on the capstan as possible. We have to get under way."
"Aye, sir." Collingwood said, tipping his hand and walking away quickly. Collingwood was becoming familiar with the ship and most of the crew even after only one day. It was his intention to ask the Captain to grant a transfer to Dover so he could serve under Callum, finding that Callum was indeed the officer to serve with, that would provide not only experience but adventure and giving his career meaning rather than pushing paper for His Lordship. Collingwood went down the Gun Deck and called out to the hands there to weigh anchor. He went to the hatch of the Storage Deck and did the same, and several of the men came up. Collingwood joined them at the capstan and he stayed with them, urged them and soon the great anchor lifted from the bottom of the bay.
Tomlin looked over the port side rail, watching the boats until they disappeared into the predawn light. Tomlin turned and saw one of the hands coming up on the Quarterdeck.
"Hennings, go forward and watch for the anchor, as soon as you see the tack arm, call out." Tomlin said.
"Aye, sir." The young man tipped his hand and went back down the stairs and across the deck to the fore deck above where the anchor was. Tomlin went to the fore rail, watching. He figured there was about a half hour, but wanted to waste no time. He waited for Hennings, and watched for him and his sign. Tomlin could barely see him in the predawn light. Middleboro came up the starboard stairs and came across the Quarterdeck to Tomlin, tipping his hand as he stopped. Tomlin looked at him with a questioning look on his face.
"Here, in case you're wondering, Isaac." Tomlin said, reaching into his tunic and pulling out a piece of folded parchment.
I am leading the party for munitions to the fortress. We will blow up the fortress if the French overrun our position. You are in command in my absence. Send the boat crews to the fortress to take away the Marines that are assigned to Dover.Get her ready for sailing to cover the squadron before dawn. Captain Barrish will also be in assistance with Dover. Watch for my signal to send for the boats.
If I should not return, you are in full command and hereby ordered to fire on the fortress bringing its complete destruction, thereby denying the enemy of its use. Captain Barrish will also fire upon this position and render what aide he can. Cover the withdrawl of the squadron and sail on to Portsmouth.
"My God. They're going to blow up the fort?" Middleboro said, looking at Tomlin as he held the orders in his hands. "What are we going to do?" Tomlin turned on him.
"We are going to carry out the Captain's orders and without question. Is that clear?" Tomlin almost snarled.
"Perfectly, sir." Middleboro snapped. He handed the written orders back to Tomlin, who folded them and put them back in his tunic.
"You are now 2nd Lieutenant, Mr. Middleboro, and Warrant Officer until we reach Portsmouth, or the Captain returns. All other officers will report to you, and you will be in charge of the gun crews."
"I understand, sir," Tomlin tipped his hand, "and thank you, sir."
"It's a big job, Isaac." Tomlin said with a softer look now.
"It will be fine, sir." Middleboro smiled.
"Have you heard about Talon?"
"The Doctor said he should be up and about in a few days." Middleboro said quietly, then looked down at the deck, "What about Lieutenant Holt?"
"The Doctor said he should be well in another week or so. The musket ball travelled mostly through him. He has no feeling to his right arm yet."
"Pity, he is a fine officer."
"Yes, he is," Tomlin said, looking out over the Main Deck again, "a credit to the Marines to be sure." Tomlin felt the wind on his face to his right, and looked beyond Middleboro. "We should have good wind in just a bit." Middleboro turned looking over toward the starboard rail. Tomlin looked forward for Hennings, not seeing anything yet. "Go forward and check on the anchor, if you would and then come back here and report."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand and walked away to the starboard stairs quickly, and then down and across the deck.
Tomlin looked skyward, seeing the light of the dawn approaching rapidly. It was almost time he thought. He began to pace the deck, his hands clasped behind his back. He went to the port rail, seeing the black looming shadow of the fortress, knowing that the Captain was there and that if the French were outside the fortress, God help them. Tomlin closed his eyes giving a silent prayer for all involved.
Callum stood on the battlement watching, as the light was beginning to grow. He thought he saw movement off in the distance but it could be a trick of the light as the sun signaled that it was on its way, casting shadows differently now, slowly. Callum felt someone behind him, and looked over his shoulder.
"See anything?" Simmonds asked in a soft voice.
"Shadows moving about. It's hard to tell yet." Callum turned and looked at the Major. "How are the preparations?"
"There is but another squad yet to depart for the Corsair. I shall have them drop me at the dock so I may join the Valiant." Simmonds said softly, looking about, seeing two Marines doing sentry duty, walking about back and forth. "Callum, are certain you wish to do this?"
"Major, we discussed this aboard Dover. The plan was set. The squadron should be ready to get underway in the event that we are right."
"Yes, but Captain Anders can see to it. Your place is on your ship."
"It is partly my plan, Major, or have you forgotten? No, I must see this through. I shall not burden my responsibility to someone else's shoulder, sir." Callum leaned against the stone battlement.
"I understand your devotion to duty, as I share it. But, surely sir, you are not well, with your wounds just starting to mend. You seem to be exhausted."
"I assure you, Major, there is still a bit of fight left to me." Callum smiled.
"As you say, I shall take my leave of you then." Simmonds said, "It has been an honor to serve with you, sir." He held out his hand toward Callum.
"I am of hopes that we will see one another again, Major. Do not count me out yet." Callum said, taking the Major's hand, squeezing it firmly.
"After what I have seen, sir, I would not count out anything in regards to you." Simmonds said, bowing his head slightly then smiling. Callum returned the smile, and took his hand back, watching Simmonds walk away.
Callum turned back and looked out across the shadowed landscape. He watched and waited for any movement or sign. His thoughts began to go toward Dustin. He saw images of him in his mind now, smiling at Callum, talking with him, walking, making love together in their bed. His boyish looks were all Callum could see in front of him. It wasn't until Callum felt a touch that he was brought back. Callum turned and looked over his shoulder.
"Didn't mean to give you a start, Captain." Anders said, handing Callum a cup. Callum looked down and saw it, then smiled at Anders. "Reminds me of an old barn we were once in, remember?" Callum put the cup to his lips, then sipped from it.
"Yes, I do. I remember that you also wished we had coffee that morning." Callum smiled. "I see you found a way to have part of it."
"Rank does have its privileges." Anders grinned softly.
"Sometimes." Callum said, standing there next to his old friend. "Do you think we should bring up a cannon?"
"That might not be a bad idea." Anders said looking out across the landscape. "You think they'll be here soon?"
"Not the main force, at least not until afternoon, I should think. Those that pursued Captain Emery were merely to snuff them out. You know the French, they have no stomach for fighting unless they have overwhelming odds."
"I certainly hope you're right." Anders said. "I'll have a nine pounder brought up."
"Make sure we're quiet about it." Callum said. "I'd like it be a surprise to them, Carl."
"I'm certain it will be, Quintan." Anders smiled and walked away. Callum resumed his vigil. The dawn was now upon them, and Callum could see the blue of uniform in some of the brush. He ducked lower watching them. Callum called over the two Marine sentries, using his hand to have them get down. They crouched and came over, Callum was pointing at the blue showing them the positions of the French, they both saw it, nodding and then were counting how many were actually there. They backed up and looked at Callum.
"We seem to be outnumbered, gentlemen." Callum said with a grin. The two Marines grinned back. "I think they need to get some more men to make it an even fight, wouldn't you agree?" They both smiled wide, knowing Callum and his ability to handle a fight. "Go about your sentry duties. I'll inform Captain Anders and the Sergeant when it becomes necessary, until then I shall keep an eye on them." The Marines nodded their understanding and went back to their sentry duty. Callum looked over the wall again, seeing nothing had changed. Another Marine came up the stairs.
"Sir, beg your pardon." He snapped to attention. Callum looked at him.
"Yes, what is it?" Callum asked.
"Boats on the beach, sir, from the Dover." The Marine said in a flat voice.
"Very well. Have a look over here." Callum said, and the Marine came closer. "Get down a little. See the blue in the brush below the wall?"
"Good, now you keep an eye on them, while I'm gone. Your fellows here also know, as I have shown them as well." Callum said and went to move away from the wall. "Just watch them, send word if you see anything else. I shall return shortly."
"Yes, sir." The young Marine said, and then looked back over the wall, and then out across the landscape. Callum went down the stairs quickly.
The spiral staircase widened the further he went down and it deposited him into the large room below the fortress where the powder had been stacked. Callum saw the torches were still burning to each side of the large doorway that led out into the dirt floored corridor they entered the fortress from. Callum went through the doors and out toward the other door to the outside. A sentry was there and stood at attention as Callum came up. He opened the door for Callum and walked outside. Callum looked down on the beach and there were his boats. He looked out and saw Dover was still there, waiting. Callum walked down through the rocks and finally came to the sand of the beach. Alll the hands of the boat crew saw him coming and gathered round the young Lt. Dorland. Dorland tipped his hand as did the men as Callum walked up.
"Lieutenant Dorland, is it?" Callum asked, not really remembering, hoping he got it right.
"Yes, sir." Dorland said. "Mr. Tomlin's compliments, sir, at your service, sir." Eager, Callum thought to himself, going to get himself killed.
"Most kind of you, Lieutenant," Callum said, "but I'm afraid that we're a bit early for the party. The French are not cooperating this morning, no doubt they haven't had their breakfast yet." The men all chuckled at what Callum said. Callum looked at all of them, seasoned men all, that had been with him for a long time. Callum saw Amos was amongst them. "Amos, I would have thought you'd have your eye on a gun sight at this time of day." Amos grinned, tipping his hand.
"I did, sir, before we left, as long as Mr. Tomlin doesn't move the ship, sir, she'll hit her target." Amos nodded.
"I'm certain of that, but I can't guarantee Mr. Tomlin." Callum smiled. The men laughed again.
"Lt. Dorland, I shall keep you and the gig crew here with me. The rest of you lads, row back to the Dover, Amos, tell Mr. Tomlin to carry out his orders, bring Dover around and point her toward the opening of the bay. Once the shooting starts, have the long boat sent to fetch the Marines. One of you lads, secure the gig, tie her off smartly, I don't wish to swim." Callum smiled. "Amos, do you understand that?"
"I do, sir." Amos said, tipping his hand.
"Good man." Callum smiled. "Alright, you lads shove off, and don't forget us now. The squadron should ready to sail shortly."
"Aye, aye, sir." They all said, tipping their hands. Callum nodded toward them, then turned to the gig crew and Dorland.
"Alright, gentlemen, follow me. We have a cannon to move and set up." Callum turned and walked back up to the fortress, the boat crew and Dorland following. They went along and went into the large powder room, Dorland looked about with wide eyes as he followed the Captain, and up a flight of stairs to the next level. Callum found Anders and the Marines hauling a nine pounder and Callum stopped them.
"Gentlemen, may we be of assistance?" Callum asked, looking at Anders, who saw the boat crew behind Callum and gave a sigh of relief. "No insult intended, but I fear the French will be upon us by the time you reached the tower roof. Captain Anders, we have far more experience in moving cannon about, as you well know, aboard ship." Callum smiled.
"We see that you have far more hands, Captain." Anders saluted, and smiled. "Whatever assistance you can give would be most welcomed."
"Alright," Callum said turning to his crew, "let's show them how the Royal Navy does it, lads. Lt. Dorland, up these stairs to the roof of the tower, if you please, lead the men up."
"Aye, sir." Dorland tipped his hand, and then pointed toward the gun to the crew.
"Captain Anders, the base might be handy to have as well, I should think, along with shot and powder." Callum asked cocking his head slightly.
"It will be done, sir." Anders snapped, he turned and looked at his Marines, "Alright lads, you heard the Captain, let's get to it. How many shot would you care for, sir?"
"Oh, let's make a good showing, shall we? A dozen I should think?" Callum said, and Anders nodded. As the crew had mustered the cannon up and on shoulders at the moment and all headed for the stairs. Anders and the Marines were wide eyed, and then set off for their tasks.
The cannon was hauled up and set to lean against one of the battlements, the crew huffing from their exertions. Callum came up the stairs and looked out and saw movement on the horizon, some mile off or so distant and waited. The young Marine was still there and looked up to the left seeing Callum there. Callum put a hand to his shoulder and put a finger to his lips to keep the young man quiet. The Marine eased at the touch with Callum there now. Callum looked below and had seen that some of the blue was now gone in the greenery. It was safe to talk. Callum looked down.
"Report." Callum said taking his hand away. The young Marine stood, covered by another battlement.
"They moved off about five minutes ago, sir. It seems that they are falling back."
"It would appear so, it seems that they are going to rejoin...that." Callum said looking out across the horizon, pointing. The young Marine followed Callum's finger and saw the large force coming over the hill of the horizon. An ocean of blue with white stripes was now coming toward them. The two Marines stopped their pacing of sentry duty and came up behind Callum, looking for themselves. Callum looked back over his shoulder at them. "It seems that it's now a fair fight, they brought some more men." Callum smiled. The two Marines smiled back at Callum. The boat crew looked through the battlements as well. Dorland stepped up behind Callum looking for himself and his eyes went wide. Callum looked at Dorland, seeing fear in his eyes. He turned and faced him.
"Lieutenant," Callum said, "I have something that I need you to do." Dorland gulped, Callum saw it. "Lieutenant?"
"Yes, sir." Dorland said, looking at Callum, and then back at the growing number coming over the hill, than back at Callum.
"Take the boat crew, row for the Valiant. Inform His Lordship that a large force is indeed on its way and is here. He needs to lead the squadron out of the bay. Do not board the Valiant, rather inform His Lordship from the gig. Return the gig to your landing point and then rejoin us." Callum said, looking at the young man. "Did you hear me, Lieutenant?"
"Time is of the essence, Lieutenant." Callum said and looked out toward the horizon. "They won't be here for some time yet. I promise there will be plenty of them to go around." Callum smiled.
"Yes, sir." Dorland said, then gulped again.
"Go...now." Callum said. Dorland tipped his hand, and turned, the boat crew following him. Callum nodded at them as they all looked at him tipping their hands.
A few minutes went by and then Callum heard something familiar coming from the stairs. He turned and looked and saw McGuffin's large frame coming up. He had a large box on one shoulder, almost the size of another Marine, and also carried a ramrod in the other hand.
"Quickly lads, we don't wish to be late." McGuffin said, and Callum smiled as he leaned against a battlement watching. McGuffin stepped to the two sentries and they reached up to take the box from the Sergeant's shoulder. They both grunted from the load and their eyes went wide. Callum chuckled.
"Good of you to join us, Sergeant." Callum said, with a smile. McGuffin turned and snapped.
"SIR!" McGuffin gave his famous gruff look. "At your service, sir."
"Indeed." Callum smiled, walking over to the Sergeant. "Where is our dear Captain Anders?"
"Below, sir, bringing up the rear." McGuffin said raising an eyebrow. Callum chuckled and McGuffin gave him a brief smile.
"The place the good Captain hates the most." Callum said as the Marines were carrying the base up the stairs.
"As soon as the lads are in position, sir, I shall go after more shot." McGuffin said. Callum looked at the box, as the two Marines opened it. Callum could see quite a few in the box already.
"How many are there, Sergeant?"
"Only twelve, sir."
"I would think that is plenty, Sergeant." Callum said looking up at McGuffin.
"One must give the appearance, sir, that we are in greater number. As we won't be firing into the bay, I would think that more might be better."
"Well, who am I to argue with sound military tactics? Quite right, Sergeant, let's give them something to talk about, shall we?"
"Exactly, sir." McGuffin said as the cannon base was finally brought up. "Over there, lads. Set it at the battlement, pointing out to give the clearing an open fire." McGuffin said, pointing, and the Marines went on and set it down. "Now, let's hoist up this cannon and get it strapped down."
Callum backed up and let McGuffin take charge as Anders came up the stairs out of breath from carrying a large bag of powder. One of the Marines took it from him. Anders let out a deep breath with a sigh.
"Don't tell me you're getting out of shape, Carl?"
"No, Quintan," Anders said, almost wheezing, "just older." Anders rolled his eyes. Callum laughed softly, and clutched his ribs on his right.
The boat crew in the gig approached the Valiant and the Officer of the Deck summoned Fitzwarren. He appeared as the boat approached the starboard side at the gunwale. Ropes and hands were standing by to bring the boat alongside and have them come aboard. Dorland saw it and had the Coxswain turn and pull away, as Callum had instructed.
"Dorland! Come aboard!" Fitzwarren said loudly.
"My Lord! Captain Callum sent me, a large French is coming into view! Captain Callum requests that you and the rest of the squadron set sail, My Lord!"
"The impertinence of the man!" Fitzwarren slapped his hand on the rail, "Giving me commands!" Fitzwarren turned and looked at the Officer of the Deck, "Weigh anchor, signal the squadron to get under way."
"Yes, My Lord." He bowed and tipped his hand and went about to give orders.
"Dorland, I will require your presence aboard the Valiant!"
"With regret, My Lord, I have my orders from Captain Callum! I am to return to the fortress and render assistance there with the boat crew, sir!"
"Damn the man." Fitzwarren slapped his hand again. "Very well, carry out your orders, Lt. Dorland! Tell Callum, Godspeed!"
"I will, My Lord!" Dorland tipped his hand, and the boat crew dug in their oars deeply, pulling for the fortress.
"Set and make all plain sail!" Tomlin said, seeing the gig at the Valiant, and then the Valiant starting to signal the fleet. Sails began to drop and billow out as Dover took the wind. She moved slowly at first heading out across the bay, but as they began to make progress, she responded more. Tomlin looked up and saw the sails set fully now, the men in the rigging, setting out. Tomlin looked over his shoulder at the wheel, Dustin was there. "Two points to starboard, Mr. Perkins."
"Aye, sir, two points." Dustin said and rolled the wheel a little. Dover responded to the wheel and the wind.
"We'll make a circular course and lay off the fortress." Tomlin said. Dustin nodded his reply. "We shall beat to Quarters!" Tomlin yelled and the drums started, all hands jumped to it, and the men in the rigging saw the course change and went to cut loose to let the sails roll out. "Starboard battery! Load and standby to run out!" Tomlin yelled. He looked up into the sails seeing the wind shifting in the canvas slightly. "Aloft! Adjust sail! Let the wind take her!" He watched as the hands set guideons and pulled the sails back around as Dover came into the wind, briefly dropping her tack and then the wind filled the canvas again as she rolled around. Tomlin looked over and saw the squadron was getting underway.
Reliant was the first to be under full sail and began to slide out toward the mouth of the bay, Corsair, began to follow Reliant, as Valiant was rolling to starboard away from the dock, and the Tarkington was now being pulled out by her boat crews, sails were set and rolled to her lee to catch the wind. Captain Barrish aboard the captured French sixty was sitting idle, as they should be until the squadron was underway. Dover rolled in and cut sail as they approached position off the fortress in the bay, bringing her to an almost dead stop now. Valiant was slowly making her way out into the bay, coming across the stern of Dover. Tomlin saw they were doing their best to run with what wind they had.
"Mr. Greene!" Tomlin called out from the fore rail. Greene looked up and tipped his hand, "Man the aft rail, we will render passing honors!" Tomlin said, and Greene smiled knowing Tomlin was showing respect and was taking charge of the situation and the bay.
"Aye, sir!" Greene said, and called for hands to man the aft rail. Quickly a large group came up the Quarterdeck and stood by in formation row at the rail. Greene had his whistle in hand as the Valiant was drawing near to them. Tomlin turned and stood at attention.
"Hands on deck!" Tomlin yelled, "Honors...full!" Tomlin barked. Greene lifted his whistle as Valiant began to pass, he blew the pipe of honors and the crew snapped, Tomlin took off his hat and put it over his chest. They stood rigid as Valiants' hands did the same, as well as her officers. Valiant sailed on and the hands were dismissed from the Quarterdeck.
"Captain Callum." A Marine said. Callum and Anders turned from the cannon and walked across the fortress rooftop to where he was. "The squadron, sir."
Callum and Anders stood at a battlement and looked out across the bay, seeing the squadron sailing out of the bay, Reliant and Corsair in the lead, Valiant following, and the Tarkington bring up the rear as lifted her boats and secured them, all of the French ships that Dover had taken in the engagement were being towed behind the squadron. Dover stood in the bay, sails up and tied off, waiting. Barrish and his captured French sixty were still across the bay, starting to get underway now to come up behind Dover to render assistance.
"It would seem that we are certainly on our own now, Carl." Callum said.
"It appears that way, Quintan." Anders said.
"Sir!" They both turned and walked back to where the cannon were, looking out across the horizon. Several squads of French regulars were in formation and heading their way.
"I see no artillery yet." Anders said.
"They probably don't want to damage their prize, Captain." Callum said, and Anders nodded. "They probably know as well of its poor construction, and don't wish to risk any damage I would think."
"You might be right." Anders said.
"And that's where we have the advantage. We can bombard them as long as we have shot and powder. I have no doubt they have seen the cannon by now, and are not too concerned about it as of yet. We have a bit of time." Callum said, thinking. "But, let us make use of it. Captain Anders, would you and Sergeant McGuffin go down to the powder store room, set the fuses and have them readied. I think we may be overrun before we know it."
"Reporting as ordered, Captain." Lt. Dorland said, tipping his hand. Callum turned and saw him and the boat crew behind him. Callum nodded and smiled.
"I see that you have returned. Your timing is impeccable, Lieutenant." Callum looked beyond him to the boat crew. "Alright lads, we need to get this cannon into shape. Quickly lads, set block and lines to run out. We haven't much time. Take your small arms and stack them off against the wall where you can get to them if need be." They all tipped their hands at him and set to it. Callum looked at Dorland.
"I trust you gave my compliments to His Lordship?"
"Rather in a round a bout way, sir. I...gave him more...of a directive, sir. I apologize." Dorland looked rather sheepish about it. Callum laughed.
"I suppose you have the devil to pay once we return home." Dorland lost all the color in his face at Callum's words.
"I did not even think of that, sir."
"Oh, I'm certain of that, my lad." Callum smiled, turning and put an arm around Dorland's shoulders. Callum chuckled, squeezing Dorland a bit, while he looked at Anders. "It looks like we have a new recruit for our little band of pirates and malcontents, Carl." Dorland looked horrified, as Callum held him. Anders laughed as well.
"I would think so, Quintan. It also looks like he's about to lose his breakfast." Anders chuckled.
"Stand tall, son." Callum said, "You'll be a fine addition here with us at hells gate." He let Dorland go. "Now, since the boat crew is under your command, why don't you keep an eye on them and see to it that they're doing the rigging correctly." Callum was watching the boat crew look at them the entire time, they knowing that Callum meant for them to keep an eye on the Lieutenant. They all smiled at him. He winked at them. "The Captain and I are going to see to the fuses to blow us all up." Callum smiled and Dorland was horrified again. Dorland tipped his hand with wide eyes as Callum and Anders walked toward the stairs. They both kept looking back and forth at each other smiling.
"You are such a devil, Quintan." Anders said.
"I don't get this opportunity very often, you know, Carl." Callum chuckled.
"As do I. My last was Lt. Holt. By the way, I have not had chance to ask, how is the lad? I did not see him in all of this." Callum stopped short on the stairs, feeling bad for not saying anything before.
"Carl, I..." Callum started to say something, and Anders stopped and turned.
"Oh dear God, he's not...dead, is he?" Anders had a deep concern and fear in his face.
"No, he was critically wounded however, the night we arrived here in the bay. He took a musket ball that was intended for me. I'm so sorry that I didn't speak of it before now. Dr. Crawford has taken very good care of him, and assures me that the Lieutenant will be on his feet in no time."
"Oh, thank God." Anders was relieved at hearing it. He turned and continued walking until they reached the large room where all the powder kegs were stored. Callum and Anders walked about the powder kegs, seeing the powder trail on the dirt floor leading from the two barrels at the two barrels at the columns and the stack in the center of the room out to the large wooden door that led out to the wide corridor. They followed the trail out and saw it continued on to into the corridor to the doorway that led to the outside.
"What is at the other end in that direction?" Callum asked as they walked along and stopped from time to time.
"There is another doorway that leads out. We have it braced with some timbers. It would take either explosives or a large battering ram to knock it in." Anders answered.
"So the only way in or out is through that doorway that leads down to the rocks and beach?" Callum asked.
"Exactly." Anders smiled as they comtinued on to the doorway there.
"Very good." Callum said with a slight smile. They saw a single sentry there at the door, and walked up to him.
"All quiet, I trust?" Anders asked the young Marine. He snapped seeing both officers in front of him.
"Yes, sir." He said, in a firm voice.
"Excellent. Do not open this door for anyone outside, no matter what you might hear. Only open it for us inside. Hold this position at all cost." Anders said.
"Understood, sir." He said, with flashing eyes in the torch light. Anders went to say something else to him, when the sound of cannon could be heard overhead. Callum and Anders looked at each other and then set off on a run toward the large room and the stairs.
They reached the top of the roof of the tower, Callum was clutching his chest, breathing hard as the smoke was drifting away toward the landscape. The boat crew was surrounding the cannon, and reloading as quick as they could. Marines were at the battlement and McGuffin was behind them, pacing back and forth looking out through the battlements. Dorland was standing at the rear of the cannon.
"Lt. Dorland, report." Callum said as he stepped up, catching his breath, as Anders went to McGuffin.
"Sir," Dorland said, turning, tipping his hand, "two columns, sir, they were coming down across our right flank. We thought it best to turn them." Callum looked seeing what Dorland was talking about.
"Well, Lieutenant, it seems that you have brought us the fight." Callum said, and Dorland was horrified.
"It's quite alright, Lieutenant," Callum said, looking at the young man, "you did the right thing, otherwise we might have them in our lap." Callum smiled, then looked at Anders, who nodded. "Muzzle point, right." Callum said to the men at the gun. "Give them another one, lads."
The men loaded and fired into the columns approaching toward the cliff bank above the town that led to the fortress. Men fell and screamed in the distance, and then musket fire pelted the battlements. The fight was on. McGuffin had Anders stand back as the Marines poured up the stairs and took their positions at the battlements, McGuffin pacing back and forth as the men set themselves, setting boxes of powder and musket ball down for all to share.
"In the greenery, Sergeant!" Callum said, pointing with his now drawn pistol. Musket fire came up from below and Callum ducked as rock and shale ricocheted from their impacts. "Shoot those bastards!" The volley went off from the Marines and smoke covered the battlements, clearing with the breeze. McGuffin stepped forward and looked down seeing the bodies below, and smiled to himself.
"Second line!" McGuffin said, stepping out of the way, Marines stepped up and took position, some standing in the rear, others in the first line kneeling, muskets leveled. "Draw your marks! In range!...Fire!" McGuffin barked and more French screamed and fell.
"Again, lads! They haven't got the message yet!" Callum said to the gun crew. "Ready! Fire!" The cannon went off, they watched as the shot hit at the front of the line, some of the French falling over the edge of the cliff, others screaming as they cut down as the shot rolled through them. "Again, lads! Reload! Take them all if we have to! We must cover that doorway below!"
"Sir, I don't understand." Dorland said.
"We need to turn them, Lieutenant, so they make their assault from this side on our left, coming in this way, they will pour into the doorway below, and we will trap them inside. That's when we blow up the fortress." Callum said, the men now knowing the plan and they set to it. Reloading quickly and with a new purpose, they ran out. "Fire!" Callum said, pushing Dorland back, then turned on him. "Take four men, go below to that door, secure that position for as long as you can, if you are compromised, send a shot up the stairway as a signal and a shout following, we'll hear you, head for the boats, we'll be right behind you." Callum said, then looked at some of the men. "Harris, Fitz, Casey, Posten, accompany the Lieutenant. You heard the orders."
"Aye, sir!" They all said, tipping their hands, and headed for the stairs. Dorland was right behind them.
"He worries me, Quintan." Anders said, stepping up behind Callum.
"He'll be fine, Carl, the lads will see him through." Callum turned as more musket fire came up through the battlements, ricocheting. "Another one, lads." Callum said, looking over the wall, seeing the column forming up again. "Stay on them! Keep it up!" Callum said as pulled back, patting a couple on the shoulder as he climbed back behind them. The cannon went off again, they reloaded, and ran her back out. "Muzzle point, left, just a slight point." Callum said, looking down the barrel, "Good. Fire!"
"Mr. Tomlin!" Middleboro said as he crossed the Quarterdeck, looking at the fortress.
"I know, Isaac, I can hear it." Tomlin said as he watched over the rail. Nothing could be seen from the position in the bay. Tomlin looked and could see the French ship under Captain Barrish coming toward them slowly.
"Shouldn't we lower the longboat?" Middleboro asked.
"You read the orders, I'm to wait for a signal."
"Thomas, don't you think that might be too late?" Middleboro asked, getting close to Tomlin. "The Captain might not have a chance to signal if he's engaged with the French."
"You might be right, Isaac. Alright, lower the longboat, have only half a boat crew though, so there is enough room for all of the Marines. They can help row back."
"Aye, aye, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand and hurried down the stairs. "Standby to lower the longboat! Boat crew to me!"
"Mr. Tomlin, shall I hold position, sir?" Dustin asked from the wheel. Tomlin looked over at him. "She's starting to drift, sir."
"Do what you can, Mr. Perkins." Tomlin said, and smiled at him. Dustin nodded in return, hearing the battle in the distance raging. "We need to keep an eye out for Captain Barrish, as well. Hopefully he won't draw too close to us."
"Agreed, sir." Dustin said and gave another nod.
Callum saw a few Marines get hit and fall on the stone floor. Anders and McGuffin were dragging them back, checking them, some were dead, only a few were wounded. Their forces were starting to dwindle. Callum could see that the constant bombardment they were giving the column was turning the tide in their favor, they were withdrawing. Callum went over and took stock of how many shot were left. He counted five. He looked up at Anders.
"It may be getting close to time, Captain." Callum said.
"You may be right." Anders answered. "How many shot do we have?"
"There are only five here. We have enough powder." Callum said as he looked over his shoulder and looked through a battlement. He saw a wave of blue coming on their left flank now, coming through the brush. "We have more company." Callum said. "Muzzle point left, lads! Fire when ready!" A fierce volley of musket fire below came up through the battlements, everyone ducked, but a few were still hit. Some marines and a couple of Callum's men, lay on the stones. Callum went over to them and checked them, one was dead, the other was bleeding from his head wound. Callum undid his necktie and put it in the crewmans hand, holding it up in place. The cannon went off and Marines fired from over the wall. "Hold it there. Keep pressing it. You'll be alright." Callum said, and ducked from more musket fire.
"Quintan, they're pressing at the door below." Anders said as he pulled back.
"Right." Callum said, and looked at his gun crew. "Let's give them a good show, lads. Fire again! On the left now." Callum moved the injured man out of the way, as the cannon went off to keep him from being crushed by the wheels. The sounds of pounding could be heard below them as the French were pounding on the door trying to break it down with their muskets butts. "I wish we had some hot oil to pour over."
"We have something better, sir." One of the men said. "Begging your pardon, sir." He ducked under a couple of musket balls.
"Well, what is it, Andy?" Callum asked.
"If I may, sir?"
"Good ahead." Callum watched as Andy, who was a good topman, went over and grabbed a bag of powder and some primer cord, wrapping it, and using a jackknife from his pocket stuck the bag and put one end of the primer cord in it. He lit the other end and as it smoked, he watched it and went to the wall above the door. More musket fire came through the battlements, rock and shale skipping around from the hail. Andy watched it, and then dropped it over the wall, and ducked. The sound of the boom was more like a thud, but men could heard screaming below.
"That got the bastards." Andy said as he looked at his Captain, who was all smiles at him.
"Well done, Andy." Callum said and looked about as everyone was hunkered down. A Marine stuck his head up to see what was happening.
"Captain, you'd better have a look, sir." The Marine said. Callum and Anders jumped over and looked through the battlement. They saw a large wagon with a large arm sticking out of the front being pushed toward the position of the door, coming across the green and headed for the trail.
"What the hell is that?" Anders asked.
"It's a battering ram." Callum said, "Their going to break down the door!" Callum turned and looked at his gun crew. "Buy us some more time lads! Take out that wagon!"
"Aye, sir." The crew moved the cannon a bit, dragging the rear wheels about on its base across the stone floor, as musket fire continued to pelt them. They pulled and the right rear wheel broke off. "Sir!" One of them said, and Callum looked back over, he went over, ducking musket balls as he went, as the Marines tried to fire back.
"Damn." Callum said, he looked at his men. "If this were an English cannon, it would have held together." They all smiled at him briefly. "Alright lads, is it loaded?" They nodded to him. "Alright, get it unstrapped, I have an idea." Callum said as he looked over the wall at the wagon. The crew tried to hurry to get it done. "We'll have to hurry it up, men, we only have one shot at this." Callum said, looking back and forth at them and the wagon. Marines fired at the wagon, some of the French pushing were falling. The French returned fire and a couple more Marines fell. Anders checked them, they were dead.
"Carl! It's time to go! Get your wounded down the stairs!" Callum yelled, then looked back at his gun crew and their progress. "Alright, lads. Now, the idea is to push the cannon over the wall and light it before it falls as the wagon reaches the door. It should blow everything apart." They all grinned at him, knowing what he wanted. "Emil," Callum said, looking over at the wounded man, "can you get down to the door and get Lt. Dorland? They need to fall back for I fear the door will be blown apart."
"Yes, sir." He said.
"Good man." Callum nodded and watched him head for the stairs. Callum looked about and saw the Marines trying to hold on at the wall, covering Anders and McGuffin and the others as they headed for the stairs as well. "It's up to us, lads." Callum said as he looked over the wall, "Once we do this, head for the stairs, all the way down and out to the boat."
"What about you, sir?"
"I'll be right behind you." Callum smiled. "We will see this through. You lads with me?" They all nodded and tipped their hands. "Good." Callum smiled at them. Callum looked over and saw the wagon getting closer. "You Marines, fire another volley if you will." Callum said. "Fire!" Muskets leveled and they fired, more French dropped but not enough to stop the wagons approach, but only slowed it. "Alright lads, let's heave it up and onto the wall." Callum got his hands on it as well, pulling. He felt it in his chest, pulling against the stitches and he groaned. The men were right there with him, pulling as the muzzle end went over the battlement and slid out, more musket fire rained on them, and they turned their heads from the ricochets. "Heave." Callum said as he groaned.
"We've got it, sir." One of the men said, gently pushing Callum out of the way. The cannon was over the wall and balanced now. The sparker was there waiting to touch it off, held in the hand of one of the men. Callum looked over and saw the wagon drawing near. He turned and looked at the Marines.
"Fix bayonets." Callum said, and they all drew it. "I'm afraid it's not over yet. We may have to fight our way to the boat." Callum said and they all nodded to him. Callum looked back and saw the solid wave of blue coming over the greenery now, he estimated at least three thousand strong if not more. The wagon was drawing closer, gaining speed as it rolled as more French were coming out of the brush to join in. Callum looked at the Marines. "Gentlemen, it's time for you to go. We have it from here." Callum nodded to them. "Get down the stairs and rejoin Captain Anders and Sgt. McGuffin." They saluted Callum and all filed down the stairs. Callum looked back at the wagon as more musket balls were bouncing off the cannon now. "Ready, three...two...one...touch it off, heave!" The cannon slid over and hooked on the wall for a moment and then the sound of screams and the crash as well as the thunderous explosion. Callum looked over the wall and saw dozens of dead soldiers on the ground and the cannon blown apart as well as the wagon. He couldn't really see the door, but he knew. "Time to go, lads, hurry now." Callum said as he drew his sword, letting the men go down the stairs, and then he followed.
Shouts and screams could be heard as they echoed through the stone corridors of the fortress, Callum was watching as he stepped, his chest was pounding and he hurt terribly from the exertion. Callum could hear the sound of French commands and knew the fortress had opened up for them. They reached the open room where the powder was, seeing Anders and McGuffin there.
"Everyone here?" Callum asked Anders.
"Dorland has everyone headed to the beach."
"All your Marines here?" Callum asked.
"Yes, Quintan. Hurry, we can't stay." Anders said.
"Sergeant, make sure everyone's out. I'll hold the door here. Carl, you get ready with the torch." Callum said. McGuffin turned, holding up a wounded Marine. He headed toward the large door and out. Anders went to the far wall, as Callum felt the pounding against the door. He braced it with a crossarm in the pockets with an oaken timber, as the door was to swing into the room. He pulled his pistol and backed up a couple of steps watching the door. Anders had a torch in his hand and was in the large corridor.
"Quintan, hurry the boats are here!" Anders yelled, looking down the corridor and then back at Callum. "Quintan?!" Callum turned and came across the room, getting close to Anders. Callum tucked his pistol back into his belt. "That door won't hold long."
"I know, give me the torch." Callum said. Anders handed it to him. "Go, make sure of the men, I'm right behind you." Callum smiled at Anders. Anders looked at him with a questioning look. "It's just like Cadiz." Callum said. And Anders knew, then sighed. "Go." Callum said softly. Anders turned and ran for the door to the outside. Callum watched for a second and then headed into the large room. He looked at the door and the pounding stopped, Callum knew they were headed around the other way. Callum touched off the fuses and went for the door, he looked back once, seeing them burning, and then started to hurry for the outside door. He stopped and his eyes went wide. Anders was on the ground at the door in a slump, the sword point was pulled from his chest and the figure who held it started to walk toward Callum.
"Ah, Captain Callum, I see you're still doing Fitzwarren's dirty work, aren't you?" The rich voice said, the figure was in the shadows of the walls. "I wanted to say, that I am still greatly insulted, Captain, that you refused my gifts that night. I only wished that you had accepted them, we might be on better terms. As it is, I will have to kill you, rather than turning you over to the Emperor. He will be very upset, as he was hoping that you might join us eventually."
"I told your man that night that I would give you satisfaction, if you so desired it." Callum said.
"Oh, my dear Callum, I do desire it. I desire it very much, and I am going to enjoy killing you, very slowly. You have been a thorn in my side for far too long. You caused me to lose my ship, my status, everything."
"You did that to yourself, sir, when you betrayed your King and your country. It is I that will have to kill you, sir, or see you hang at His Lordship's earliest convenience." Callum said, trying to count down how much longer the fuse needed before the powder went off. Smythe laughed softly.
"That pompous windbag. He didn't have enough courage to try and fight off the ships in the bay. You think that he might have the courage to have me hanged?"
"I might do it for him." Callum said, holding his sword up. Smythe chuckled softly.
"Put your sword down, boy, you're already beaten before it begins. I am the better swordsman, and I do not wish to kill you this way. I have something else in mind."
Callum was trying to circle to have his back toward the open door. Smythe was working with him at least on that point. Callum heard the fuses separate with the flame now, going in their three separate directions.
"Smythe, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you, but I have plans that I wish to see through. And they do not include being killed by a traitor." Callum said, Smythe's eyes flashed, and his sword was raised, Callum backed another step, Smythe pressed, Callum backed again, Smythe stayed with him. Callum estimated that he had about thirty feet or so to go before he reached the outside. Callum backed again, Smythe pressed, their blades touching, the steel flashed in the low light. Callum looked at Smythe, and struck, swinging, knocking the blade, Smythe blocked, and thrusted, Callum moved and cleared the point. He slammed his blade down quickly and then slashed and Smythe ducked.
"Not fighting like a gentleman, Captain." Smythe said with a devil grin.
"I'm not a gentleman." Callum thrust and then swung, catching Smythe across the arm. Smythe groaned and looked down, the blood coming now.
"That will cost you." Smythe said, then thrust at Callum, Callum parried and they went pommel to pommel. Callum balled up his free fist and swung, catching Smythe across the jaw, making him spin away from the blow. Smythe spun back, swinging, Callum ducked and lunged, catching Smythe through the side, making him groan deeply. Smythe grabbed Callum by the throat , clutching him tight, pushing him back. Callum staggered, at the force of the larger man, he shifted his eyes, seeing French regulars coming down the long hallway, muskets at the ready, as the soldiers stopped, they dropped to their knees, forming lines, and leveled, ready to fire.
Callum looked back at Smythe, then twisted his sword in Smythe, making Smythe's eyes flash and then his mouth opened. Callum used his weight and put Smythe fully between himself and the French regulars.
"Time to die, Captain." Smythe said in his deep voice which growled now. Callum felt the blast of air and heat as the concussion from the explosions threw him backwards through the air. All Callum could see as it happened in that instant was the face of Smythe as they travelled through the air together.