[bat] Captain Horatio Hornblower strode rapidly back and forth along the quarterdeck of HMS Lydia Pinkham, masking his agitation beneath a stonily stoic facade. The situation was intolerable. Orders from the Admiralty had directed him to this lonely spot in the Western Atlantic to rendezvous with Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey, for what purpose he knew not. Perhaps there was to be an operation to be carried out along the American coast. His cheeks burned at the thought that his fellow officers must be laughing at him, a Royal Navy captain born on the Americans' Fourth of July. The humiliation ate at him. But Hornblower thrust these thoughts aside as his fertile imagination again summoned visions of the hell his life would soon be, once he came under that senior captain's command, every maneuver made under the watchful eye of a superior, his every decision double- and triple-guessed. Intolerable, simply and absolutely intolerable.
Midshipman Weswell-Bramley, the youngest squeaker aboard, approached respectfully and removed his hat before addressing his exalted superior. "Captain, sir, if you please. Lieutenant Bush presents his compliments and says that the special supplies have been stowed in the barge as ordered, sir."
Hornblower, his mind distracted by the unwelcome thoughts of the impending rendezvous, brusquely answered, "Very well." Immediately, he condemned himself for this unaccustomed loquacity. Why, oh why, could he not have met the midshipman's words with his usual stern, cold silence? By replying with words, actual spoken words, he may well have led the youngster to believe that his captain was soliciting his approval and good feelings, seeking to ingratiate himself with the boy's titled relatives. Intolerable, totally intolerable. Such an impression could not be permitted. He must restore his image of forbidding remoteness. "Lieutenant Bush," Hornblower barked. "Take this youngster to the gunner and have him whipped for excessive squalidness."
As the first lieutenant dragged away the now pale boy for his punishment, Hornblower glanced up to see the shadow of a smirk on the face of Baker, one of the larboard watch. Consternation coursed through Hornblower's veins. The seaman must think that he, the captain, was siding with the crew against the officers. Intolerable, wholly intolerable. "And, Bush," Hornblower continued, "give that man twenty-four!" as he pointed at the now pale sailor. "Lashes," he quickly added, having calculated the balance between being too verbose and permitting a possible misunderstanding. Perhaps the men would think he had meant something else, maybe twenty-four candles for Baker's birthday cake, and Hornblower could not allow them to think that. The seaman might well be twenty-five or even twenty-six and the crew of the "Pink Lady" should never be allowed to believe that he had erred. He must maintain this veneer of Olympian perfection, regardless of the cost.
Hornblower felt his blood quicken at the thought of the flogging he had just ordered. How he longed to be rid of such an animal reaction. Silently cursing his weakness, he resolved to flog two - no, three! - more seamen after supper, just to demonstrate to others his imperturbable stoicism, if not to himself. Damnation, if necessary he would flog the entire crew to teach himself control over this frailty of nervous excitement whenever the cat-o-nine-tails was loosed from its bag.
"Ahoy on deck!" came a cry from the foretopmast. "On the starboard bow, there's a - something."
"What do you see?" Bush called up. "Is it a sail?"
"No, sir," yelled down the lookout. "I can't rightly say it is. Begging
your pardon, sir, but it looks like a
[gdf] "...a large piece of stern wreckage, a quarter gallery Sir!" Hornblower swore silently as he raised his telescope in order to view the object. Could he make out the lettering as HMS Surprise just above where the rudder pintles should have been, or was this just wishful thinking and deceitful pride upon his part? After a few moments of reflection and indecision he ordered the watch to reduce sail and asked the first lieutenant to bring the ship alongside. Hornblower then retreated to his cabin with his face rigidly set in a serious frown to better supress the multitude of thoughts and feelings that coursed through his mind. To calm his mind he cleaned and prepared his brace of pistols- never knew when they might be needed with this damned crew.
In the privacy of his tastefully decorated greatcabin he could relax and permit his mind to consider the possibilities. The most likely was that Lucky Jack Aubrey's luck had run out: a fierce storm or perhaps a violent, bloody and possible fatal encounter with the Constitution or another of those damned large American super frigates. Hornblower's heart skipped a beat at the mere thought of this. The Royal Navy's shame would be terrible to behold! The commander reporting such an inglorious outcome would surely have his own chances mired by such evil news; there would be no further chances of glory or special operations with a chance to distinguish himself and advance his claims up the greasy pole of the ever lengthening Post Captains' list. The prospect of facing Admiral Critchley in far off wintery Halifax was not a pleasant prospect. Those craggy features, large bristling eyebrows that concealed the cold piercing grey eyes of one of the hardest disciplinarians in the service. What a daunting prospect- had he, Horatio Hornblower the calm presence of mind and facial countenance to withstand such an awesomely penetrating gaze and the dogged questioning? Of course he had, or would have to for the sake of his career. How could he have done anything to prevent such an outcome with his ship's puny 12 pounders? Damn Aubrey for placing him in this position! Damn Aubrey for the gung ho death or glory cove that he was! Damn! Damn!! Damn!!!
Midshipman Weswell didn't willing clamber aboard the peculiarly stable floating wreckage. He didn't know exactly what his Captain expected him to find there. That it was from the Surprise, there was no doubt. He peered through some glass and saw a little light. The dim flickering illuminated a strangely pale and bearded face. To the young man's astonishment and consternation the face moved of its own accord and looked straight at him- it was the cold, reptilian stare that made him scream in horror!
"What the devil are you playing at Mr Weswell," bellowed Hornblower from the safety of the barge, "Remember that you're supposed to be an King's Officer! English phlegm and stiff upper lips are to be maintained at all times! Do you hear me?"
Behind the fleeing Midshipman a small hatch opened. Amidst the sepulchral fumes that eminated from within the hatchway, the bearded head arose and looked straight at Hornblower and his men in the boat.
"Captain Hornblower, I presume?" asked the shabby form dressed in a well
used black naval surgeon's coat, "Pray tell your men to take particular
care of fending off. These ocean going diving bells are so shockingly
costly to have to account for every scratch to the Royal Society's accountants!"
[sdw] Mr Skinner, the president of the wardroom, was prime specimen of his type; a fine round-headed officer-like lieutenant whose sense of professionalism extended to deep, warm hospitality for his guests. This, as well as the fact that guests were always few and unexpected at sea, ensured that Dr Maturin was soon warmed from without by dry woollen clothing and from within by prodigious quantities of boiled pork, Prince Edward Island potatoes, plum duff, wardroom port, and coffee. He was even moved to speech, a habit unusual with him at dinners. Taking in the pleased, convivial faces around the little table, he pronounced with great satisfaction: "You may say what you like, but there is nothing for raising a man's appetite like urinating."
The pause that followed compelled him to continue, by way of avoiding awkwardness.
"How the bell came to be fastened to the false stern I really cannot say. Apparently the Surprise was being pursued by one of the American heavy frigates we hear so much about, and Captain Aubrey thought to divert her last night. I was just beginning my observations of the luminous Scyphozoa and did not attend all of the details. And when I signalled to come up I found the little rope adrifting."
Expressions of concern, amazement. Mr Skinner overcame his reluctance to talk shop, one of the little perquisites of his presidency, and asked "Was the name of the American mentioned at all?"
"I am sure it was," said Stephen, rapidly turning over in his mind a
list of possible wild democratical names. The Congress? The Philadelphia?
The Representation? "Yes," he said. "I believe it was the
[srz] ...Consternation, or so our foremast jacks call it. Should you like me to recount the seamen's assessment of her strengths and liabilities?"
Vigorous assent, expressed in the strongest possible terms concomitant with the bounds of genteel dinner conversation; Stephen weighed the unfocused impressions of the previous evening -- his recollections were somewhat confused, to be sure, by the lack of attention he had paid, his mind having been occupied by considerations of the planned descent in his diving bell, to collect specimens of the undoubted nondescript Coronatae and other invertebrates to be found in the frigid deep waters below the Surprise.
"Here, Mr Skinner, just hold this commodious glass jar. Pray, do not spill its contents, I beg; it contains what your unschooled seaman calls a jellyfish. The creature looks insubstantial, but it can deliver a nasty nettlesome sting; quite incapacitates a man for days." Skinner, an experienced and competent officer, shrank from accepting the container; he gave every appearance of preferring to be elsewhere, and seemed to be casting about for a suitable excuse to slip up on deck.
Stephen ignored him, continued, "But, wait, let me see... Jack -- Captain Aubrey -- was describing the manner in which the American frigate got her name. It refers, so he reports, to the emotions expected to arise in the bosoms of Consternation's unfortunate quarry when they come to realize there is no chance of outrunning her, nor yet of outmaneuvering her -- she is reputed to exhibit speed and agility to a remarkable degree -- hardly been touched by our gunnery in several bloody engagements. Bloody, that is, to her foes. As to weaknesses, they say her captain prefers to dance just out of range of our long guns, and cannot be enticed to engage unless he believes the outcome is all but predetermined in his favor. Captain Aubrey essays to entice him into a foolish dart at Surprise, by the ruse of disguising her warlike nature under painted canvas sides and a surprising amount of filth ."
A small ship's boy crept into the comfortable fug of the wardroom and addressed Stephen. "Captain Hornblower's compliments, sir, and requests your presence in his cabin; at your leisure, sir, no hurry at all I was particularly directed to say, since..."
"Come, child; I will not delay the meeting a moment longer. Tell your
Captain I shall be along to see him directly. And now, gentlemen, I take
my leave of you, and please allow me to express my warm gratitude for
your hospitality." Stephen raised his glass and tossed off the remainder
with every appearance of relish. "A most estimable beverage, your
[dac] Grace" said Henage Dundas to his brother Lord Melville (several weeks previously) as they sat in the Cabinet room drinking claret with the Minister of War. "But you still have neglected to tell me why I am here"
"Consternation" said the Minister of War darkly.
"Not overly "replied Dundas airily who was getting tired of these word games.
"No idiot the frigate " replied his brother. "Blaine reports she's been seen leaving New York harbour. A fairly normal action for an American frigate I grant you" he added quickly before Henage could bait him further "But in this instance very inconvenient since it almost certainly will come across Surprise."
Henage looked grave, I would like to know Sir" he said turning to the Minister of War "why you saw fit to sent such a light frigate into American waters unaccompanied"
"That's an intelligence matter Henage" broke in Melville, "Suffice to say we have Aubrey sailing with a battalion of the Rifle Regiment on board under a Major Sharpe, trying to rendevous with Hornblower in the Pinkham (when they'll both open sealed orders). They will land somewhere in the vicinity of Washington and meet up with a KGL heavy dragoon regiment that is currently sailing up the Tupperware".
"Delaware " said Henage absently whilst staring in disbelief at the maps they had in front of them, "How long have the KGL got ?". He could see the problem, It was no use talking to them about map scales. It was obvious that his brother and his political cronies had worked out this plan over dinner on a set of charts of such differing scales that North America had appeared to them to be the size of Scotland.
"Never mind that Henage" his brother replied testily "Just fly your broad pennant on Shannon, take Indefatigable and Hyperion with you. Find Hornblower and go and back up Aubrey".
Henage rose to go but before he reached the door the Minister of War called him back. "Commodore Dundas, if you find Surprise and decide the objective is still viable you may need this" he said holding out his hand. Henage took the small brass rectangle offered him and stared at the inscription "ZIPPO Inc." he read.
[Back in the present on the Pinkham]
Bush found Hornblower taciturnly staring at Shannon, Indefatigable and Hyperion as they gained on his position, and at the signal "Captain to repair on board" that was being hoisted aboard Shannon.
"Have my barge readied Mr Bush" he said without turning around. He could
see Dundas now clearly visible on the quarterdeck of the Shannon in his
rear admirals coat. The Prime Minister's brother in his finery whilst
he a humble parsons son was stuck commanding one of the "forty thieves".
It left a bitter taste in his mouth.
[bab] From The Watertown Monitor and Free Trade Bulletin
Tues, 12th September 1814
Governor's son proves worthy of Salmon name
It is with no small sensation of pride that the Monitor prints these extracts describing the recent confused Naval Action on the Delaware in August of this year and prised by your editor from the reluctant hands of a loving parent - our own Governor Salmon - True Patriot and Defender of Free Trade.
"...then Captain Hornblower roared with horrid violence, his face very red and foaming at the mouth - 'Damn Yankee! You shall rue the day you came aboard of me !!! Rascal! I shall have your lights and liver!!!' I should not like to tell you and mama the language he really used, it was something shocking but I did not flinch and with a cry of 'Sailors' Rights and Free Trade'! I fought my way onto the quarter deck of the Lydia Pinkham till the cowardly swine was sobbing for mercy at my dirk's end and had he not kicked me in the .... Mama, the weather here in Halifax is not what you could wish for your son and the Limey midshipmen have stolen my peajacket ... distinctly heard Weswell-Bramley utter an oath... table manners dreadful...doubt he says his prayers..."
[several years previously]
[gdf] It had turned out to be another anonymous grey day with a moderate atlantic swell and strengthening winds. The Consternation had been the hunter, but was now the hunted. Captain Trinque of the Consternation paced his quarter deck with all the natural authority of command. He paused every now and then to observe the pursuing enemy with his telescope, and bark his orders through his speaking trumpet to the subdued crew. The nightwatchmen had been the target of his utmost displeasure when he had come on deck shortly after dawn to find that their quarry had eluded them and could be seen upon their windward quarter. The guilty nightwatchmen were now to be found pumping and attempting to fix two sprung butts in the hold. He was not unduly concerned with the threat posed by the close presence of the British frigate which continued to sit to windward just out of range of his main armament. His air of confidence masked the vital question that weighed so heavily upon his mind. Would he be faced with having to run the gauntlet of a blockading squadron patrolling off the Delaware with this infernal small frigate dogging his steps with all the persistance of a relentless terrier?
There were few things that Jack Aubrey liked better than a good breakfast
and the prospect of a good long sea chase in a moderate swell. Jack knew
perfectly well that Surprise couldn't possibly take on a heavy frigate
armed with twenty four pounders and with scantlings like a ship of the
line...but there was always the possibility of a lucky decisive shot which
would change the balence in his favour. Lord! What a coup that would be!
Something to wipe Hornblower's eye with and no mistake. Summoning his
midshipmen to his highly prized brass nine pounders, he explained the
finer points of playing long bowls with a superior heavy American frigate.
At first the youngsters were full of a keen sense of anticipation, which
was heightened by the smell of the slowmatches in their tubs, the crash
of the chaser, the smoke and the sight of the occasional richochet striking
home under the enemy's waterline. Each eagerly watched to spot the fall
of shot, each anxious to crew the chaser. Latterly the midshipmen changed
their opinions somewhat as they too experienced incoming rounds. Bravado
was all very well, but their courage would have been reinforced had they
been allowed to partcipate rather than stand behind as mere observers.
Yet they all stood to attention for fear of being the first to flinch
if a ball hit the barky, or the last to cheer if the Captain succeeded
in striking the American's mizzen or rudder. After a while, Jack altered
course slightly by two degrees to bring the other bowchaser to bear when
[bat] ...lookout cried out that six ships were emerging from a line of rain showers to windward. Instantly, the big Yankee frigate swung away, her captain well aware that such a squadron in these waters must be Royal Navy warships. Now, a hit on any spar would ensure her capture, but Jack's exhilarated mood was broken by the appearance of Midshipman Finlay, the signals book clutched in one small hand. 'They're making our number, sir," the squeaker gasped. "Heave to and report aboard immediately."
Jack Aubrey's face flushed a deep crimson. "Who the devil ..." he began.
Finlay licked his lips nervously. "The signal is signed 'Sir Richard Bolitho, Vice Admiral of the Red, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, Colonel of Marines, Twice Winner of the Naval Chronicle Sailor of the Year Award, Best- Selling Author, and Past President of the South Cornwall Society for the Preservation of Historic Hedges'."
Jack was piped aboard HMS Sycophant, a cluster of blue-coated officers awaiting him at the railing. "Thomas Herrick, Flag Captain to Sir Richard and an honor it is to be such," a solidly-built officer introduced himself.
"Valentine Keen, Captain of the Sycophant and pleased as punch to have Sir Richard on my ship," a second officer informed Jack.
Lieutenant Adam Bolitho, aide to Sir Richard and, I am delighted to say, his identical twin nephew," a young, tall, dark-haired man simpered, one rebellious lock of hair curling down across his forehead.
"And I'm AlIday, Sir Richard's coxswain and personal trainer, may the Almighty bless the deck upon which he walks." A chorus of "amen's" followed the coxswain's remark.
"You're especially fortunate to be aboard today, Aubrey," Thomas Herrick continued. "We're having a party later. This is the third anniversary of Sir Richard's promotion to Rear Admiral of the Blue for his victory over two Frenchie ships of the line, Sir Richard having only a small frigate against them."
"And it's the third anniversary of Sir Richard's promotion to Rear Admiral of the White," Keen added, "for his victory over three Spanish ships of the line, Sir Richard having only a brig."
"As well as being the third anniversary of Sir Richard's promotion to Rear Admiral of the Red," Adam Bolitho averred, "for his victory over four Dutch ships of the line, my uncle having only a cutter."
"And it should have been the third anniversary of Sir Richard's promotion to Vice Admiral," AlIday sobbed, "for his victory over five Danish ships of the line with Sir Richard in his jolly boat alone, but the jealous Admiralty dogs waited a whole two days before promoting him!"
"Jealous of his bravery," Herrick muttered.
"Jealous of the love his men have for him," Keen growled.
"Jealous of the hot honey my uncle is bedding," Adam Bolitho intoned.
The officers and men of the Sycophant - known throughout the service
as the "Sick Fannies" - drew back in awe as a tall, dark-haired figure
in a vice admiral's uniform, one rebellious lock of hair curling down
across his forehead, strode forward from the quarterdeck, holding a telescope
to his blind eye. "Ah, Jack Aubrey, we meet at last. As I often told Nelson,
pass the salt and go straight at 'em. It's a shame you let that Yankee
[dac] "Why I have just heard that Commodore Dundas and Captain Hornblower have captured all three of her sister ships Constipation, Conurbation and Contagion."
Jack looked at Bolitho and wondered whether he knew his traitorous brother had been in command of Consternation under an assumed name, and opened his mouth to reply when a loud crunching sound made him grin inwardly. Major Sharpe had come aboard.
Sharpe insolently but heavily walked across the deck, his hobnailed boots kicking up splinters as he came, the scabbard of his old heavy cavalry sword cutting an uneven furrow in the deck as it dragged along behind him. With a guardsman's precision he slammed to attention, a further shower of splinters rose as his Baker rifle butt followed suit with a crunch.
Valentine Keen looked at the devastation he had left in his wake and whimpered quietly to himself. "Major Sharpe reporting Sarrrh" Sharpe bellowed in a voice he had honed to perfection as a drill sergeant.
"Er pleased to meet you, Richard is it?" replied Bolitho (who'd done his homework) glancing sympathetically at Keen and handing him a handkerchief,... a handkerchief that had been pressed by the fair hand of the Lady Catherine, that still bore a trace of her perfume, the warmth of her touch, the.....
"Gentlemen may I suggest we take a glass of spring water below" he said more sharply than he intended as he came out of his daydream. "And discuss our rendezvous with Commodore Dundas, then on to Washington".
"That was fun" Sharpe commented to Aubrey later as they left in the barge
to the sounds of scraping holystones and a slightly panicky voiced Keen.
Jack grunted "Just wear those bloody slippers Bonden made for you when
you climb aboard Surprise Richard" he said "Or you'll answer to Killick".
[pgb-w] Jack Aubrey paced his Great Cabin, pondering the orders given him by Vice-Admiral Bolitho. A brilliant sea officer, Jack mused, and a tactical genius in dealings with the Admiralty: but was he sound? Or was he like one of those players at the Strand halls --- all front and show, but painted, not solid? No matter.
Jack stooped over the table and read his orders once more. "You are to rendezvous with Shannon 74, Captain Henage, and join with his squadron under Captain Heneage's orders. The accompanying chart shows the rendezvous."
Jack spread the chart across the table. The rendezvous was hopelessly far from his present position. It was beyond even his consummate ability as a ship handler to drive the Surprise so far so fast. Now, if the chart had been the other way up, he chuckled to himself, he could have done it.
Jack straightened sharply, striking his head on the overhead beams. 'Of course, if the chart were to be misinterpreted, genuine error, landlubbers failure to mark the compass rose on't, etc etc.'
Two days sailing brought Surprise a few miles off the mouth of the Tupperware. There she lay, shrouded from time to time in fog, but with the keenest eyes at the mastheads.
"Deck below! Two points on the starboard bow. Cutter, making all sail."
Jack watched the little boat fly away from the shore, dodging in and out of fog banks, seeing it grow in his telescope until he could make out a lean, somewhat aged figure at the tiller, a figure seeming to be alone on aboard.
With deft and economical handling the cutter was brought alongside, its helmsman relinquishing the vessel for a leap at the side chains, and a scramble onto the deck.
A lean and worn figure, the remains of what had once been a Royal Navy Captain's coat hanging from his spare frame drew itself up stiffly to salute the quarterdeck.
"Captain Nathaniel Drinkwater, RN. And mightily glad you made the agreed
rendezvous to pick me up, Captain!"
[sdw] "Not at all my dear fellow," cried Jack, shaking his hand and beckoning him to th break of the quarterdeck. "Killick, there! Coffee and madeira for Captain Drinkwater in the great cabin.You will oblige me extremely, sir, by taking some refreshment. I will join you at once. Ah, Pullings: you will oblige me by picking a crew to follow you in the blue cutter: just enough hands to row in as many of the jollies as we can carry. I will accompany Major Sharpe and as many soldiers as we can fit in the red cutter. Babbington will start a carronade -- Mr Babbington will oblige us by starting the usual noises and flashes -- rockets, blue lights -- on the east side of the town while we land in the west. It would never answer in the Mediterranean any more, of course, but I flatter myself that our American friends will be amused by this caper."
* * *
Peter Salmon, newly exchanged from Halifax, considered the arm of the lady to whom he was talking. The party was well-attended by ladies, and their arms, basking golden in the flattering glow of candles. Fashions had changed while Salmon had been in Halifax. What had swept Paris and the more outre parts of London society had now arrived in Washington, and by alternating his eyes between the curve of her arm and her sparkling brown eyes, Salmon found that he could keep his own eyes, if not his mind, off the creamy expanse of bosom enhanced by a covering of material more ethereal by several degrees than he had hitherto conceived possible. He found his mind called to the surface by the end of her question: "...don't you think so, Mr Salmon?"
Salmon considered his toes for an instant, smiled as warmly as he could,
and saw the night outside light up in along, irregular flash. The glass
in the windows rattled to the deep growl of gunfire carried over the Tupperware.
In an instant the men had run out of the house, leaving the ladies clustered
at the east-facing windows.
[bab] From The Watertown Monitor and Free Trade Bulletin Tues, 26th September 1814
Our readers reply:
I am certainly no friend of King George and no lover of his countrymen
but I do not toady to any man, Governor or no, and I continue to question
the reliability of Mr Midshipmen Peter Salmon, a youth of some 14 summers,
in his account of the action on the Delaware and the Burning of the Washington,
viz., his taking of a whole squadron of British frigates in the name of
these United States. I append the list of enemy vessels said by Mr Salmon
to have been captured or re-captured by him:
The only survivors of Midshipman Salmon's patriotic zeal were, it seems, HMS Pinkham itself which conveyed Mr Salmon to Halifax and the elderly 28 gun frigate, HMS Surprise, which, discreditably disguised as a Portuguese cod boat, has been incontrovertibly proven to have grounded on a sandbank in the estuary of the Delaware and to have found it inconvenient to take part in any engagement.
I must protest at Watertowniensis's scandalous remarks about the veracity of Mr Peter Salmon - surely an ill-disguised fling at Governor Salmon himself by a well-known scoundrel and aspiring politician of dubious background and dangerous leveling tendencies. Free Trade and a Free Press go together and nobody has been more active in our Trade and in our Press than Governor Salmon.
There is no truth in the vile rumour that Mr Peter Salmon was confused in his intellect as a result of the enemy's devious use of pyrotechnics - a thing never seen before in any civilised theatre of war - to gain an advantage over our brave but honest boys.
I have, sir, the honour to be etc.
As an officer in His Britannic Majesty's Ship Lydia Pinkham, and one whose conduct during the recent carnage on the Delaware and elsewhere has excited universal admiration, I take offense at Mr Salmon's portrayal of me as deficient in good breeding, Christian conduct and table manners.
Patrick Weswell-Bramley, esq.
I am to be found any evening at The Goat in Boots, Halifax.
[This correspondence is now closed. Ed.]
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