PO'BMC Homepage
About UsCurrent GameArchive

Letters of Mark
An epistolary round. The rules stated that each episode should be in the form of a letter to another character, making clear from the salutation and the signature from and to whom the letter was sent. Each player could write one letter only from each character during the game, either introding a new character or taking over one from another player's earlier move.

The Game

By the Right Honorable Lord Keith, Knight of the Bathtub, Admiral of the Red, White and Blue, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels employed and to be employed in the Atlantic, etc., etc.

Whereas Captain Bramwell is heading off to parts unknown, and Captain Behemoth is going to the Orkneys to partake of the stomach of the Sheep, and Captain Skinner has work to do:

You are hereby required and directed to proceed on board the Surprise and take upon you the Charge and Command of Rear Admiral of the Blue, flying your broad pennant from her Mizzen, willing and requiring all the Officers and Company belonging to said Surprise to behave themselves in their several Employments; and you are to take under your Command the ships crayonned in the margin.

You will proceed to the Coast of Chile to pursue His Majesty's interests, and to convoy to that vicinity the Physician, Dr. Maturin, and you will accommodate his particular needs as His Majesty's representative. You will receive further, more specific instructions in a further letter.

Hereof nor you nor any of you may fail, as you will answer the contrary at your Peril.

And for so doing this shall be your Order.

Given on board the Gonorrhoea at Sea, 1st April, 1815.

To: Jno Aubrey, Esqr,
Hereby appointed Rear Admiral of the Blue
By command of the Admiral Richard Patrick Russ

My dear -

This time is so very different from all the previous times. Then I had the knowledge, or at least the hope, an unnameable, indefinite, seemingly-infinitely delayed hope, sure, but a hope, for the future; and for seeing you again. Not a comfortable hope, however: your absence was too tangible; a persistent, internal, invisible lacuna.

Now that hope, once so dreaded, is gone, and is replaced by ... what? Nothing so pervasive, nothing so numbing, nothing so common, and yet nothing from which I can escape, or detach myself. No; this is far, far deeper; deeper than flesh or bone or heart; I know not its internal causus.

Then this morning I was struggling with some small thing, entirely absorbed in irritaton and frustration, and when I looked up, you stood there, in your old place. You were happy; glowing; you were a young woman, perhaps twentyone: absurd, because of course I didn't know you then; perhaps what is attractive in youth is beauty in maturity. You were looking off: horses? We did not speak.


Note, written on the back of a page from a pamphlet entitled A Short Discourse on the Noble Arts of Polishing and Making Things Shiny; With Particular Applications to Nautical Life, which was found attached to a coffee pot.

The page was folded in two, and on the visible side was written in a crabbed hand:
"To SW which he is an idle grasscombing LUBBER"

The other side read:
"The way certain people is carrying on and I name no names but you know who I mean Salathiel Wenger the poor bleedin Barky wont get out of the Channel let alone as far as Chilly -- because why? Because some wicked scrub of a gunroom steward has been using the ADMIRAL's Private Store of coffee beans on mere lieutenants thats why and if the supply of beans runs out I wont be answerable for the consequences if we has to use chickory again. The ADMIRAL has enough to try his patience already what with Mister Wilson the Master the way he is God pity him and which they are still scrubbing the decks after bringing that Strange Party of the Doctor's aboard.

From a Nameless Shipmate"

Surprise, at sea

My dearest Sophie,

The captured Portuguese banker Caranguejos parts company within the hour, carrying our stragglers and women, and the post back to Portsmouth as the remainder of our little squadron stands away to the south. I cannot bear the prospect of so long a separation from you and the children without taking this last chance to say goodbye--I will not say farewell--and to wish that you shall remain well and contented for the duration of my absence. It pains me more than I can say to be gone from dear Ashcroft once again, the more so since this commission has every chance of requiring my diligent attention for so many, many months, or even years. You must know that you are ever in my thoughts and the subject of my fondest recollections every day we are apart. Never fear for my safety: there is little danger in facing down a pack of overstuffed Chilean woondogs, I'd stake a dozen of the '84 Cote d' Venteux (the one with the maroon seal) on't.

Your very affectionate, &cet., husband,


P.S. I am much pained that we were not able before parting to repair the rift--mine own fault entirely, I do freely admit--occasioned by the overly fond attentions paid to Lady B. at luncheon on Thursday last. I do assure you it had little to do with any unseemly intentions on my part, and everything to do with the wine--the very fine Pauillac, the best I ever tasted--poured by our generous host, Lord B. Can you not find it in your heart to forgive me?

(A packet of letters arriving simultaneously aboard HMS Surprise)


Ashgrove Cottage,
Dear Sir,

Please do not trouble yourself to write me any more. My bankers are Hoares, my Counsillors are Sluttes. You shall be hearing from both shortly.

Truly, but not Yours,

Sophia Williams

Oh, how I cried when I wrote the last, and I so wish I'd retrieved it before the postman took it away. I do love you deeply, deeply, and that is why I am so often so very pained at your behaviour. Please forgive me the intemperance of the last letter.

P.S. The roof is leaking again, please send money so I might have it fixed.

Yr. loving and obedt wife,


Ashgrove Cottage
Dearest Jack,

I would be most grateful if you would have a word with young Critchley, your midshipman. The letters he sends to Fanny and Charlotte are most inappropriate. I am sending along some plum preserves, and I do hope they will reach you intact.

All my love,



Surrprize, At Sea

Ho Cousin!
     I have time for meerly a breef epissel before we Part Company with our Prize, a Portugee Man o' war, which will carry this back to England. And I take this opporttunity to a-sure you that I, yr loving coz, Mr Midshipman Mark Antony Blockhead, am well. Nay, Thriving, after having been reyther closely involved with said Prize.

     We raised her Courses just at Dawn - the Best Time for Surrprizing Prizes (Ha!) -- as there is no Danger of being back-lighted by the Aurora -- and we set all Sneer, as we Mariners say. I made the Men of my Division move Pretty Smart, I can tell you: the Gangway was Swabbed, Holystoned and Flogged dry in double time. Just in time, too, to Board the Portugee. I am compellled to relate to you, dear coz -- there never can be any seecrets between us -- that yr loving coz Led the Boarding Party. By the time were done, Runnels of Blood were porring through her Scuppers, I do assure you. In fact, the blood ran ever before we captured her, as she had been fishing, and her decks were in the most Abizmal state of filth. My No 1 Coat -- my only coat -- is quite ruinned after I was tripped up by a Slab-Line and fell during the Action. No shots were Fired, however: it was clear even to the mean minds of the Dons that Rezistanse was quite Useless. We were Pleased to spare, in exchange for their Parole, the lives of the Master and his crew, both of them.

     What exactly this Prize means for my Fortune I am uncertain, though I dessay we will Puzzle it out in the Midshipmen's Birth soon enough. The seamen and Officers seem strangely unmoved by our Victory. I dessay I will soon be used to this Sort of Thing as well, if we continue gathering Garlands at this rate. My only regret is my Dirk, which I think I dropped going Up the Side. Perhaps it will be replaced by the Patriotic Fund.

     Give my best to Pookie and Clare, you mamma and pappa, and know that
I remain
yr most obd't humble
yr old Mark
Mr Midshipman Blockhead
Surrprize, At Sea

[A message decoded and translated from the Spanish.]

To: Don XXX de YYY, Holy Office of the Informers, Camino del Wombattos, Madrid
From: Agente Salathielo Wengerez

Esteemed sir: I send this via the master of a Portugese fishing smack, who is shortly to be exchanged. He is to be given one and a quarter Reals and a statuette of the Blessed and Miraculous Prophesying Toad of Seville.

My disguise remains undetected, though my Castilian blood boils as I play the subservient Gunroom steward and deceive these British fools. It amazes me that a race that consumes so much suet and thinks that the fifth repetition of the joke about the Empress Josephine and the chimpanzee is as funny as the first can rule the seas.

I continue with my plans. Our Chilean colonies face the gravest danger; my study of outgoing correspondence confirms all our fears regarding this expedition. I am currently endeavouring to ascertain -- with some urgency -- the exact nature of "woondogs".

[Handwritten note found stuffed inside a ship's biscuit by Jack during his first breakfast; somewhat stained by the strong, the very strong coffee (tainted with chicory, alas) in which he'd been dipping the biscuit.]

Capitao -

Don't trust no one. Thees sheep fool of spizes. Can pleese to ask gunroom steward make coffee wiz no ozzer tings but coffee in? We dying here.

Um amigo

(a sodden packet of letters arrived, blurry postmarks suggesting months, months, months of being handed off from one ship at sea to another)

My dearest Stephen,

How fondly I do miss you when you are away. We got on so well when you were home, I believe we are growing together like an old married couple, at last; finally accepting each other for what we are, no longer trying to shape each other into our own image. I do regret extremely the difficult times I've caused you in the past, and swear to you that I love you deeply, long to be with you every minute for the rest of our lives. As soon as you come home, I'll take you to my bed, and you shall never again leave it to go to sea, or to stay anywhere but close to me, my sweet.

When I have word that your ship is arriving, I shall come myself to pick you up in the carriage. Have no fear of the Maiden Oscott bridge, I'll have Colonel Cholmondeley with me to guide me past the turn, and the horses know well my touch. I give you my solemn oath that I shall not allow Brigid on the coach-box, although she handles horses very well, seems to have your gift with them, not at all fazed by the heavy-handed instruction she received from dear Jack. I hope dear Jack is well, and is not over-indulging.

I hope you will be as pleased and delighted as I am to know that I am again in bloom, despite the doctor's assurances that it could not happen again, and I am very, very happy, although somewhat under the lee for a few minutes after each meal. With your approval, of course, I plan to name him Domanova.

Must run, Mother Williams is most impatient with me for holding up the post. She asks me to add a line for her, asking you most discreetly (on behalf of Sophie, of course), who was the elegant young woman at the very end of the mole, waving, waving, waving

All my dearest love



Jack -

Forgive this note: I do not wish to wake you: pray do not expect me to breakfast. I am preparing some letters for the Portugese master to take away with him. First, however, they must be written and hidden in the coffee sack; may I beg that you will set Killick to some other task this morning, quite some distance from the coffee? On the poop, or in the foxhole of which we hear so much? And also, dear Jack, that, just this once, you drink tea or cocoa with your breakfast, for the good of the service. I must away; there is not a moment to lose.


Added shortly afterwards to Mr Midshipman Blockhead's letter:

PS Prodidgeous Good News! I have Relocated my Dirk! I am Greatly Releaved that I will not have to trouble Papa for the Necessary Expense of procuring a Replacement (for we Millitary Heroes must have Arms in Battle!) I was Strolling past Sick Bay when I espeyed the Gunroom Steward standing outside the Doctors cubbyhole -- Our Doctor is a wonderful Learned Cove, a Phizician no Less, who was once kind enough to Inform me that he did not Think I was Capable of Improvement. The Steward -- a swarthy Chap by the name of Wenger -- was holding my Dirk! I recognized It by the Old Rope tied around the Handle which got Worn Out as we threw it so offen at Young Critchley's Hat for Target Practice (hardly ever when he was Wearing It). Mr Wenger said that he had found the Dirk just Lying About and was waiting to Borrow the Doctors Wetstone which he uses for his Scalples to Sharpen the Blade before Returning it. Mr Wenger works very hard -- he has so many Stores he must be Running out of Space for I earlier saw him putting Foodstuff in one of the Ships Boats -- and is a good Fellow in spite of his Unfortunate Complexion.

Yrs M.A. Blockhead

[Excerpt from Jack Aubrey's private journal]

23 June; 22* 46' 30" N, 15* 16' 15" W

Fair skies, topsail breeze NW by N; steering SW by S on starboard tack with the wind abaft the beam, under all plain sail. The people seem pleased with our last seven days' run. It has been prodigious fine sailing since we parted company with the Caranguejos and were able to stretch our legs a bit. The dear Surprise has been able to loaf along--with reefed courses and slackened sheets, straining neither her rigging nor her people in the slightest--in order to keep station with the squadron's less gifted sailors, the game but bluff-bowed Thunderunderer '74, and our heavily-laden store ship, the Perishable. Ringle capers around and amongst the others, with Mowett clearly delighting in the little schooner's sailing qualities.

Today was convened a shipboard court martial to try, in absentia,, Salathiel Wenger, who was reported missing at the end of the midwatch two nights since. Accused of violating Article 33-1/3 for his alleged misappropriation of the King's property; convicted, and sentenced to flogging around the fleet, should we ever see his sorry ass again. No one stood up for him during the proceedings; none of his messmates seem the least bit sorry to have him turn up missing, and Killick was positively gleeful at the prospect of polishing the gunroom's silver service, which had been sadly neglected under Wenger's care.

As distasteful as I usually find flogging, in this instance Wenger had clearly gone well beyond the use and custom of the service, as when his things were searched following his disappearance (and presumed drowning), the officers found a dozen sacks of coffee beans, fourteen casks of salt beef, six of dried peas, thirty-one slabs of the Doctor's portable soup, and the missing best bower (cut into several pieces so as to pass through the door of his cabin; though quite how he managed to creep into that small space amongst this cornucopia one is hard-pressed to imagine). Perhaps in the end he fell overboard whilst trying to sleep above decks; the weather has quite been delightful enough for it in recent days.

Stephen is uncommon cheerful these last few days; even the court martial did not seem to affect his spirits, as such affairs have tended to do on other occasions, in my recollection. I put this improvement in his demeanor down to the fine weather, salt air, agreeable sailing and good English beef; time and distance from his woes on land have begun to work their accustomed good offices. I wonder at his ghoulish insistence in carving the mutton at dinner today, which he did with a particularly gruesome-looking surgical instrument produced from his outside breeches pocket, and which instrument he sharpened at table for quite ten minutes during the fish, whistling and grinning in the most alarming manner.

about us  |  current game  |  archive  |  home