Historical Nautical Fiction: The Uncommon Valour duology

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Duncan MacLeod, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    June 1779


    First Week


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Tuesday 1 June 1779

    Jennifer and Mary had taken the carriage John hired and had gone off, over Mary’s protests, to a dressmaker’s shop for new clothes. The gowns Stewart bought for his new wife in February were not only too heavy for the summer in New York, but they also no longer fit comfortably, given her growing child. It took some doing, but Jennifer can be very persuasive when she needs to be, and she wanted Mary to have something new, cool and pretty that fit comfortably. I was expecting Doctor Fred with John’s latest letter, so I begged off from the outing. Fred appeared right on schedule, asked after my friends, and said with a grin, “Well, I will be sure to tell ‘Brother Ian’ that Mary is going everywhere in the carriage these days, then, and I shall look forward to seeing her new gowns. Jennifer has excellent taste in clothes so I know they will be very flattering to our dear Mary. Now, I have your letter to John, precious girl, and I will see you tomorrow at about this same time.”

    He kissed my hand and off he went, mentioning that he had a few errands to run in town before he returned to the ship. After he left, I had an idea. I looked down at the gown I was wearing - the sprigged muslin, one of John’s favourites, so no reason to change. My mind was made up. I found the straw hat that went with it, located a pair of gloves and a reticule, and dashed off a quick note to Jennifer so she wouldn’t worry about me. If I went out the front door there would be time lost in explanations to Prewitt, so I slipped out the back and cut over to William Street. Fred would be going down Broadway to Wall Street and then cutting over to where the gig would be waiting – I would simply walk on a parallel course until I reached Wall and go down to Murray’s Wharf. If I hurried, I might still catch him.

    I was in luck. I am sure I caused some raised eyebrows, a young woman dashing down the streets to the wharves in something of a hurry, but I didn’t care. I was going to see John, and that was all that mattered. I arrived at the gig almost at the same instant Doctor Fred did, and the look of surprise on his face was priceless.

    “Miss Tara, did you forget something, or did I?”

    “Neither. May I go with you, Doctor Fred? Just to deliver my letter in person? I promise I won’t interrupt the running of the ship, but if I could just see him again…”

    He studied me for a long moment and for that long moment I was afraid he would refuse. Politely, regretfully, but it would be a refusal all the same. He seemed to come to a decision, though, and to my relief it was in my favour. “I think that is an excellent idea. Good for morale – and not just his. The men will enjoy having you aboard, I’m sure.” Without further ado he handed me down into the gig and off we went.

    I settled into the sternsheets beside MacGregor, holding onto my hat with one hand as the fresh breeze tried to carry it away despite its ribbon bow. We pulled up to the main chains and the bowman hooked on. Someone – Bart Jones probably – must have had a glass on the gig, because the bosun’s chair was lowered smartly toward the gig almost as soon as we hooked on. I remembered the story John had told me in his first letter about how Fred had ordered the chair for him when he first came back a few days before, and how he had refused it – rather emphatically. As the chair descended I looked up and there was John smiling down at me from the entry port. He reached up to doff his hat to me but only clutched empty air as he had apparently left it in his cabin. I couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on his handsome face. Then tucking my very full skirts about me, I climbed into the chair and held on as it was hoisted high into the air and swayed inboard – and I am very sure that whoever was on the end of the rope was making sure that there were no possible problems, since he would hardly be one of John’s favourite people if he let me take an unexpected dunking. I think every man on the ship – and the ones in the gig below, waiting to come up – breathed a sigh of relief when the chair neared the deck and I was able to step down and run headlong into John’s waiting arms for a kiss that seemed to go on forever – and yet was much too short.



    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Tuesday 1 June 1779

    Feeling almost normal again after my first bath in weeks I had been enjoying coffee while reading through the reports concerning Arronbourge when a commotion from the skylight drew my attention.

    “Mr. Helstrom, rig the Bosun’s chair if you please.” I heard Jones order. “And have all hands muster at the side. Mr. Cutler, My respects to the Captain and he might want to come on deck.”

    Then I heard a boat being challenged and the usual response of “Aye aye.” Not another Captain come to call then nor the Admiral. Who then? It might be Fred returning, for he had gone to check on Mary Stewart and deliver my letter to Tara about an hour ago. But why have all hands man the side for him. Then it hit me, Tara. Tara was in the boat with him.

    Snatching up my coat I was through the door in an instant, almost cannoning into Cutler as I went and calling out quickly to him, “I heard,” before he could so much as open his mouth. Throwing the coat on hastily I ignored the twinges in my shoulder and dashed out to the entry port on the main deck.

    Emerging from beneath the quarterdeck just as the Swede called out, “Lower avay!” to the hands on the tackles, I strode to the port and looked down to the most wonderful sight I had seen in days. There was Tara sitting next to Fred in the sternsheets and wearing the lovely sprigged muslin that she knew was one of my favourites.

    She looked up at me and smiled brightly, her eyes full of delight. I reached up to doff my hat to her and realized that in my haste I’d left it in my cabin. She laughed at what I’m sure was a quite comical expression on my face. Then quickly addressed herself to seating herself easily in the Bosun’s chair as if she'd been doing it for years, which as the only daughter of a prominent merchant captain she probably had.

    Up the chair soared above the bulkhead then down once more to the deck not three feet away from where I stood. Then she was out of it and in my arms again. Our lips met. The kiss was quite long and by the time we parted again we were both breathless. We still had yet to say a word when from behind us Fred’s voice sounded.

    “Are you planning to do that all afternoon?”

    “And what if we are, Fred? Do you have a problem with that?”

    “Not at all.” He laughed. “But I might suggest that you not do it on deck for the whole world to see.”

    “He has a point you know.” Tara said still in my loving embrace. “But you know that it’s bad manners to interrupt when a woman is greeting the man she loves, Doctor Fred.”

    “Perhaps he’ll understand when we find him that nice widow to take care of him.” I said brightly.

    Bart smothered a laugh and Fred glared at him.

    “We’ll see if you still find it funny when they start conspiring about you, Bartholomew Jones!” Fred remarked indignantly. Jones was unfazed however.

    “If the lady they find for me is even half as lovely as Miss Mason then I would be pleased to have her, Doctor.” He said gallantly. Tara smiled at him and dropped to a small curtsey.

    “You’re such a gentleman, Mr. Jones. No wonder William likes you so much.”

    “How long can you stay, my love?” I asked her as we walked to the cabin.

    “Not long I'm afraid. I just left a note for Jennifer and snuck out the back to show up at the dock when MacGregor was about to take Doctor Fred back.”

    “Then we’ll make the most of the time.” I said as I closed the door behind us.


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Tuesday 1 June 1779

    All too soon I had to leave. John and I had spent a few precious moments together in the privacy of his cabin, but I didn’t want Jennifer to worry unnecessarily. I delivered my letter and was rewarded with another kiss - or several of them - and I had my first chance to look about the cabin, but a tour of the ship would have to wait for another day.

    “Do you think Fred will be happier that we’re down here, kissing, instead of on the deck?” I asked as one of those kisses ended.

    “Fred’s just jealous because I have someone as beautiful to kiss as you and he doesn’t, my love.” He murmured as he watched my bosom rise and fall with the exertion of our activities. “Did anyone ever tell you that that gown looks lovely on you? Of course… ” The rest was murmured outrageously in my ear, provoking the slight flush that has come to replace the full-scale blush I used to be prone to. I have spent too many weeks in company with this very vital, very virile man who loves me with every fibre of his being to blush quite as much as I used to, but he can still provoke a response with his comments.

    “They’re going to wonder what we’re doing down here.”

    “Oh, they know. The same thing we were doing up there, only with no prying eyes. But I suppose I must get you back to the gig, and back to Jennifer. Thank you for coming, my sweet. You really brightened my day.” John said between tiny kisses.

    “Even if you did go on deck without your hat. A grievous breach of naval etiquette, I’m sure. You know the punishment for that, don’t you?” I teased.

    “What? Am I to be clapped in irons? Sent to the masthead like an errant midshipman? Sentenced to kiss the gunner’s daughter over the breech of a gun?”
    “No, but you might be sentenced to kiss the Captain’s daughter,” I said, referring to my father’s career as a ship owner.

    “I don’t think we’ll muster the hands to witness punishment, though,” he said, as he surrendered himself for his ‘sentence.’ “We’ll just take care of that privately, don’t you think?”


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Thursday 3 June 1779

    John went back to his ship a week ago and I am missing him terribly, even though he writes every day and we have been aboard Sapphire to visit once already. Still, it’s not the same as being able to pop into his room almost anytime I want to share a letter, or something in a book I’m reading, or the day’s events as reported in the local newspapers, such as they are. Still, the life of a sea officer’s lady is one of waiting and patience, and I must take a page from Jennifer’s book and begin to practice these virtues. This morning was scheduled to be one of our visiting days among the soldiers’ wives, but I simply did not feel like going. In fact, I did not feel like getting out of bed, my stomach hurt so bad. Mary came in to check on me when Jennifer reported this fact at breakfast, her face concerned.

    “What’s the problem, child?” she asked as she felt my forehead with one work-worn, gentle hand. “No sign of fever, I don’t think. Do you feel sick to your stomach?”

    “No, it just - hurts.” I gasped. “I tried to stand up and the pain almost doubled me over.”

    “Sharp pain?” She asked, her voice calm but her eyes anxious, as she moved her hands over my belly, probing gently. “Does it hurt worse when I press here?”

    “No, it’s dull and it’s everywhere. What is it, Mary?”

    “Don’t know yet, child. Let me get you some herb tea and a hot water bottle. That will help, I think.”

    “One of your Indian teas?”

    “Yes’m. Learned it from an old Cherokee herb woman. Good people, the Cherokee. Their medical practices make more sense than this endless cycle of bleeding and purging some of our ‘university trained’ doctors believe in.”

    “I’m not sure Doctor Fred would appreciate your saying that, Mary,” I remarked but she just laughed.

    “Oh yes he would, Miss Tara. Doctor Fred’s a good man who doesn’t care where an idea came from as long as it makes sick people well. He picked up a lot of medicine that established doctors would frown on when he and the Captain were in China seven years ago. Didn’t matter to him that the Chinese were heathen, just that their medicine worked. Now you lay down and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

    She was back ten minutes later with both the tea and the bottle. “Now, I’ve wrapped the hot water bottle in towels so it won’t burn you, and here’s the tea. Do you want anything to eat?”

    “Not now. Maybe later.”

    I dozed fitfully for most of the morning. Mary, who had stayed home to be with me, came in to change out the cold hot water bottle for a fresh one occasionally, but otherwise she busied herself in the house while Jennifer and Maisie were out on their calls. Just before noon Fred Bassingford arrived with his daily missive from John. When he heard that I had been in bed all morning, he came in to check on me. He checked the same area Mary did, asked the same questions Mary did, and then he asked even more questions.

    “Do you usually react this way, dear girl?”

    “I hardly remember. It’s been so long. But yes, I think I do. The last few months have been a welcome relief, in that way.”

    “But you know this is a sign that you are healing, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. I want to see three complete cycles from you between now and August, that will tell us your body is fully healed. Does the tea Mary gave you help? It does? Good. Well, keep drinking it, and I shall be back to check on you tomorrow. How much do I tell John?”

    “If I tell him how much it hurts right now he’ll be over here like a shot, won’t he?”

    “Part of loving, my dear.”

    “And yet I don’t want to keep secrets from him. Use your best judgment, Doctor Fred.”

    “Good girl.” He kissed my hand and turned to Mary.

    “Now, my dear Mrs. Stewart, if I am correct your first three months are up, or near as makes no difference, and young Master or Miss Stewart is still very much with us. I am guardedly optimistic that all will continue to go well, now that we are past this all-important milestone. How do you feel?”

    “Very well. The nausea is gone, has been for several weeks, and I’m not as sleepy as I was at first,” she said.

    “No, that will come back later on, as the time draws closer. When Jennifer got her letter from Will the other day, was there one for you as well?”

    “Yessir. Nicolas says he is well, just still trying to take it all in. He’s forty-six now, you know, and never married before, and if he has children by any other woman he doesn’t know it. If he had he would have married her – he’s a good man.”

    “A very good man, I knew that five minutes after I met him, and one I look forward to getting to know better later on. Well, I shall slip my winged cap back on,” he said, referred to his role as Mercury, the messenger, “and be on my way. Miss Tara, even though it hurts, think of it this way – one down, and two to go.”

    He tucked the letters into his coat pockets and took himself off.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Thursday 3 June 1779

    “What’s wrong?” I said abruptly.

    Fred had just handed me Tara’s letter and something in his manner had been off. Nothing I could put my finger on but somehow I just knew that there was a problem ashore.

    “What makes you think that anything’s wrong?” Fred responded attempting to avoid the question.

    My eyes bored into him as I flatly repeated my question. He sighed heavily before answering. Once he’d finished his explanation I rapped sharply on the skylight above my head.

    “Officer of the Watch!” Talbot appeared in the open skylight.

    “Sir.”

    “Call away my gig. I’m going ashore.”

    “Aye aye, sir”

    “John, there is nothing you can do for her. Monthlies are just part of being a healthy young woman, Tara’s are more painful than most, that’s all.” Fred interjected as Andrew helped me into my coat. “There is nothing anyone can do except make her comfortable and let time take its course.”

    “I know that, Fred.” I answered as I picked up my hat. “But I can be with her as she was with me when I needed her. At least for a few hours.”

    “And what if you’re attacked again?”

    “I’ll take MacGregor with me. Any other objections?”

    “Yes.” He answered. “I do not like your climbing up and down the side so much, I do not like it all!”

    “Well if you don’t like that you’re going to positively hate this. Starting tomorrow morning I’m climbing the masts.”

    Fred looked at me as if those three heads that I’d seemed to sprout last February had all suddenly popped up again. He stood there in shock for a moment before finally erupting in a fountain of language that he’d learnt in the better part of twenty years at sea. He was profane, colourful and quite imaginative in his exclamations. But at length he tired and finally wound down and I was able to respond.

    “Look, Fred,” I began. “I’m climbing the masts tomorrow. Now you can work with me to set up a reasonable programme of exercise to get me back into fighting trim within a reasonable period of time or I can ignore you and do it myself. Which is it to be?”

    He glared at me for several minutes as I calmly gazed back at him then finally spoke.

    “If we were in England… ”

    “You’d post St. John and have me declared unfit for duty.” I completed for him. “But we aren’t in England and you can’t do that so which is it?”

    “If I agree to this do you give me your word that you shall make this a gradual regimen at my direction?”

    “As long as you don’t try to drag it out.”

    “Alright.” He said with resignation. “We will start you tomorrow climbing the mizzen once and see how you look afterwards.”

    “You see, Fred, that wasn’t so hard now was it.” I said cheerfully, then walked to the door and the gig that would take me to Tara.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Saturday 5 June 1779

    “It looks like he escaped sometime between midnight and two in the morning.” Collins said from his chair in my day cabin. “The guard was found with his throat cut at that time.”

    “He must have had help.” I replied. “Someone had to get the blade to him.”

    “Capitaine Montaigne has only had two visitors in the last forty-eight hours. You were one of them, sir. I’m afraid I must ask you why you were there.”

    “Well as you know I had captured Montaigne a bit over two months ago. When he learnt that he was not to be exchanged he wrote me and asked, demanded really, that I do something. I received the messages once I’d returned aboard Sapphire last week and spoke to both Sir Avery Canning and Sir George Collier. They were sympathetic but they didn't have the authority to overturn Sir Henry’s decision. I went to see Capitaine Montaigne to explain the situation.”

    Collins nodded, his eyes focused on the deck as he took the information in.

    “How did he take the news?” He asked slowly.

    “Poorly at best, Major. He insisted that it was my fault for having waited so long. That I had purposely delayed just to keep him prisoner. When I asked him why he thought I would do such a thing he said it was because I was afraid to meet him at sea. I backhanded him, told him that I would be happy to face him anytime and anywhere. Then I left.”

    “And I understand that Lieutenant Nash, the Officer of the Guard, was with you the entire time?”

    “Yes, he was. Who was the other visitor?”

    Collins shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t tell you at this time. Regulations. I’m sure you understand.”

    “I have a bad feeling about this, Major Collins. A very bad feeling. Montaigne was practically frothing at the mouth when I talked to him. Do everything you can to apprehend him as soon as possible. A man like him is capable of just about anything.”
     
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  2. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Interlude – Halifax, Canada

    Sunday 6 June 1779

    Richard Mason, the second of that name and a resident of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, woke up bright and early on a lovely June Sunday morning, trying to remember what was special about today. His memory, never very reliable in the past few months since his beloved Vanessa had died just weeks short of her forty-fifth birthday, failed him once more, and he sighed in frustration. Over the past weeks since his only daughter Tara had left for New York to visit her friend and sister-in-law Jennifer, he had finally begun to come out of the fog that had overcome him over three months before, but there were times when he simply could not function in the real world, the pain of his loss was so great.

    Mrs. Robertson, his plump, cheerful dumpling of a housekeeper, knocked on his door and bustled into his room. Richard had gotten up, washed and dressed simply in a suit of black broadcloth, as befitted his position as a wealthy merchant ship owner.

    “Guid mornin’ to ye, Mr. Mason,” she said, the echoes of her native Scotland still very evident in her voice. “May I be the first to wish ye mony happy returns o’ the day, sir.”

    That was it – today was his birthday. He did some mental math. “Thank you, Mrs. R.” he said in his soft Virginia drawl. "I am fifty-eight years of age today. “

    “Aye, I ken weel, sir, and I hae ordered a special breakfast for ye.” She brought it in and served him herself, making sure it was to his taste before leaving him alone. As she left, she thanked God that she could leave him with a knife and fork without fear – there had been a time, in the worst of his grief, when he might have attempted to do himself an injury with even such simple utensils.

    Mr. Mason had just finished his excellent breakfast and was reading a weeks-old London newspaper, his spectacles perched on the end of his handsome nose, when there was another tap on the door and three more visitors arrived. They were not as welcome – well, two of them weren’t. The third was his son, James, a good enough fellow, if a bit too dull for Richard Mason’s taste. With him were James’ young lady, Miss Amelia Mackenzie, and her mother, Mrs. Gertrude Mackenzie, a woman Mason positively loathed, though he was too polite to show it. He rose to his feet as the two women entered the room, hoping their visit would be short.

    Mrs. Mackenzie gushed and cooed, treating him like some addlepated child who hadn’t enough sense to come in out of a shower of rain. Amelia echoed everything she said, or murmured, “Yes, mama” at the correct intervals, like some mechanical doll. “No wonder Tara can’t stand her,” Richard thought. “Girl hasn’t an original thought in her head.” He tuned them out, the best policy in such cases, and was only brought back to the present when he heard Mrs. Mackenzie say, “And I have written to dear Tara to tell her that such behaviour is sadly wanting in conduct in such a gently bred lady, and advising her to leave those low people and come home immediately, so that I may advise her, our dear Vanessa, God rest her soul, having been so tragically taken from us at such a crucial time in a young girl’s life.”

    Richard remembered that his wife had barely tolerated Mrs. Mackenzie, dealing with her only on necessary social occasions and only with the civility demanded by good breeding – something Gertrude Mackenzie seemed to be sadly lacking.

    “Madam,” he said coldly, with all the authority that had accrued to him from nearly four decades in command of his own merchant ships, “you presume too much. Tara is in New York with my permission, lodging with my son’s wife and another good friend, Mrs. Stewart, with my permission, and her behaviour is no business of yours.”

    Mrs. Mackenzie looked offended. “I only wished to help. If my help is not welcomed, I will leave.”

    “By all means, do so. I will have Mrs. Robertson show you out.” Mason said, ringing for the housekeeper.

    Outrage exuding from every pore, Mrs. Mackenzie stood up to leave. “Come along, Amelia, James.”
    “Madam, my son is not under your thumb – at least not yet. God willing, he never will be. James, stand up to her, for God’s sake! She’s had her own way long enough,” he urged his son.

    Caught between the two, James Mason, just turned twenty-six, looked uncertain. Everyone waited. James had never been one to make waves, so the chances were good that he would just go along with Mrs. Mackenzie. In fact, Richard suspected that was how he got engaged in the first place - Amelia and her mother had more or less dragooned him into it, and he had gone along.

    But this time Gertrude Mackenzie had gone too far. “Mrs. Mackenzie, Father is right. You had no right to speak to Tara like that. It is a Mason family matter, and a Mason family matter only.”

    “Huzza, James, I knew you had it in you!” The older gentleman said, clapping him on the back.

    Well! I can see that I have made a grievous error in judgment in this matter. You are not at all what I thought you to be, young man. Amelia, give Mr. Mason the ring. This engagement is at an end.”

    “But Mama,” Amelia protested.

    “Give him back the ring. We will not associate with those who treat us with such a sad want of conduct.” This seemed to be a favourite phrase with her.

    Amelia pulled the expensive diamond ring off her wedding finger and handed it back to James. “I am sorry, Mr. Mason, but I think that we shall not suit after all.”

    “Your servant, Miss Mackenzie,” James said, as his father watched the mother carefully. Her eyes reflected dismay. She had gambled and lost – gambled that James would abase himself to Amelia or her mother, would plead to be given another chance, no doubt as the weak-willed Frederick Mackenzie had done for most of his married life.

    Mrs. Mackenzie looked like she was about to burst and had turned an alarming shade of purple, but finally she gathered the shreds of her dignity about her and stalked out, pulling Amelia along like a recalcitrant donkey. “But, mama,” she wailed as her mother dragged her down the stairs. “You said I could… ” “Oh, shut up!” her mother snapped, demonstrating a sad want of conduct.

    The front door slammed behind them and James, with the first real smile he had shown in months, turned to his father and almost shouted, “Huzza! I’m free. Thank you, sir, from the bottom of my heart. I’m only sorry you had to do that for me, instead of trusting me to have the backbone to do it myself.”

    “You wouldn’t be the first man caught in a silken trap, James. When did you first realize she was wrong for you?”

    “About a month after I gave her the ring, sir, when I realized every other sentence began with - Mama says. But by then I was committed, and an honourable man keeps his promises.

    “Unless he can manage to get the other party to break theirs,” his father said with a dash of the humour that they had all missed so much.

    “Just so, sir. Just wait ‘til I tell Laura!”

    “Laura Preston, Keith’s girl?” Keith Preston was the senior employee in the Mason Shipping offices in Halifax and a longtime family friend. His daughter Laura, just eighteen, was Tara Mason’s closest friend in the city.

    “The very same, sir. About the time I realized I had made a terrible mistake in proposing to Miss Mackenzie, I also realized why - I love Laura Preston, and I think she is not indifferent to me. It started off with just seeing her at company social events, and of course she is Tara’s good friend, but now… But I need a ring. This - thing - is not at all in Laura’s style, but it was what Mrs. Mackenzie wanted to show that her baby had landed a Mason. I’ll see if the jeweler can take it back.”

    “Wait, James. I might be able to help you. Mother gave her rings to Dick before she died, you know,” he said, “Yes, I know she’s gone. I will never quite be without her, but she is gone, and I’ve neglected my family shamefully, leaving so much to you and to Dick – and poor Tara, she was right to leave when she did. Dick gave the rings to Will, and I believe your sister Jennifer is wearing them now. But somewhere in your mother’s things – come with me.”

    They searched in Mrs. Mason’s jewel case, untouched, at her husband’s insistence, since her things were unpacked after the family had come home in March. “Ah, here it is. It was your grandmother Quinn’s, and I believe she had it from your Grandmere Martise. It’s nearly a hundred years old, James, but I think it will suit young Laura admirably. Go and try it, son. I’ll know you’ve succeeded if I see you in church together this morning.”

    The congregation of St. Paul’s, Halifax, was treated to the sight of James Mason escorting the lovely Laura Preston into matins that day – and the Mackenzies were nowhere in sight. This was a nine - days’ wonder, to be sure.

    After a congenial dinner at the Mason home, in celebration of Mr. Mason’s birthday, Mason turned to his business associate and said, “Well, Keith, do you think you can run the office alone for a bit? Because if you and these young people agree, I propose to take them with me to New York to see my daughter and my daughter-in-law - as Mr. and Mrs. James Mason, of course. Laura, my dear, can you have your bride clothes ready by Tuesday morning? We’ll have a special license to dispense with the banns and all is done.”

    “Mr. Mason, to marry your son, I’ll have my bride clothes ready by Monday morning!” Laura said, jumping up to run and kiss the top of his snow-white head.

    “You are a dear, sweet girl, and James is very lucky to have you.”

    “I know. I shall tell him that every day that we are married,” she said impishly.

    “And I shall agree with you, my love,” James replied, a broad smile making his rather unremarkable features almost handsome.

    “Then it is done, and with your consent, Keith, tomorrow is the day. Just the family, our faithful servants, and a few close friends in attendance, I think. On Tuesday evening we will take Star of Honour to New York, and by the end of the week we will be re-united with our dear girls.”

    The two young lovers excused themselves to the drawing room to be alone, and the two fathers passed the evening in perfect amity.


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Monday 7 June 1779

    In the past few days both Jennifer and I have gotten letters from my brother Will, and there has even been one from my brother Steve, telling all about his latest adventures. Of course, mine were sent down from Halifax, as both my brothers believe that I am still there taking care of Papa. I have come to look forward to visits from Mr. Coleman, the Mason Shipping office manager here in New York, but today he brought a letter that was not welcome at all. This one was from a woman I would be hard pressed to be civil to if I were to meet her on the street - my brother James’ future mother-in-law, Mrs. Gertrude MacKenzie. Her daughter Amelia is not a bad sort, only empty-headed and easily swayed. She has been raised to be everything I scorn to be - a pretty ornament for some man’s drawing room, concerned only with the latest fashion, the latest bits of slightly scandalous gossip, and that most important mission in life, persuading a wealthy man to make her an offer of marriage. Well, James is certainly well enough off; he is running Mason Shipping while my father is unwell and Dick is gone to England in search of the men who killed his beloved Lucy, and of all my brothers he is the most dull. Frankly, I cannot approve of his choice of bride, but at twenty-six I must assume he knows his own mind. There is no doubt that Amelia Mackenzie is skilled in all the arts of flattering a man into making her an offer, so I do wonder sometimes just how enthusiastic my brother is about this match. Unfortunately, since he talks to me very little and never about anything important, I have no way of knowing.

    Unless James is able to leave Halifax, I fear he will spend the rest of his life under the thumb of his wife’s mother - and eventually that of his wife, who will no doubt become just like her. Even as maddening as they are, though, they are still easier to deal with than Amelia’s brother, Chauncey. He made a distinct play for me last year after I had just turned eighteen, but frankly he makes my flesh crawl.

    Compared to my John, Chauncey is the worst sort of fribble, a useless fellow with more money than sense, and not too much of that either, and very few redeeming qualities that I can discern, but of course he is the apple of his mother’s eye and can do no wrong in her sight. I read the letter once, hardly believing that the woman would have the audacity to speak to me so, and in such saccharine terms, while still conveying her message of malicious gossip and innuendo. I read it again, to be sure I had not misunderstood. I had not.

    ‘My Dear Tara,’ she began. I have never been close enough to her for her to address me that way, so that offended me to begin with. But it got worse.

    ‘I hesitate to say anything to you on this very delicate matter, but as your own dear mother is no longer with us and you have no aunts or older sisters to advise you’ - well, that wasn’t technically true, I do have aunts and uncles in Williamsburg, but they stopped speaking to us when we chose the Loyalist path and they sided with most of their fellows in favouring independence from the Crown. She is correct, though, in stating that I have no aunts or uncles that would be in a position to advise me.

    As you have no aunts or older sisters to advise you, I hope that you will not hesitate to turn to me for the assistance that every young, unfledged young girl needs if she is to make her way in the world without mishap or damage to her precious reputation.’

    My reaction to that one was a very unladylike phrase that I had picked up from John - ‘not bloody likely!’ and I giggled at the thought of the look of shock she would wear were I to say it to her face. She would probably look like she had just caught scent of something dead or decaying. She went on:

    ‘It has come to my attention that your stay in New York, which we supposed to be only of one or two weeks duration when you left, has now extended for six weeks or more. Not only that, but I have been told, though I hardly liked to believe it, that you have sent for your trunks, intending to come out of mourning and into colours before your dear mother has been dead six months. My dear Tara, I would not have believed this at all had not your brother confirmed that the housekeeper did in fact ship your trunks last month, without his knowledge or consent. I have spoken to her very sternly, you may be sure. Servants have no concept of the proprieties and must be given specific direction, and they certainly should not use their own initiative in cases such as these. I have warned your Mrs. Robertson that another such transgression will result in very serious consequences.’

    I fumed. Mrs. Robertson, a wonderful middle-aged, comfortable body who had been with us since we moved to Halifax three years ago, has more kindness, compassion and understanding of what is right in one plump hand than Mrs. Mackenzie has in her entire stout, carefully corseted body. Besides, Mrs. R. works for the Masons, not for the
    overbearing Mrs. Mackenzie.

    ‘I have also received reports that I hesitate to even mention, for I know that they cannot be true, that no young lady of good breeding could possibly have done what you are said to have done. My darling Amelia is, as you know, a bosom bow of your old school friend Laura Preston. She had occasion to read a letter you had written to dear Laura in which you described your recent behaviour regarding Captain Sinclair - and so shocked was I that I had to apply to Laura for confirmation. The foolish girl had the audacity to accuse my darling Amelia of snooping, of reading her private mail, which only served to confirm my suspicions. My dear girl, surely it cannot be true that you attended at the sickbed of a man you hardly know, a man some quarter of a century your senior! I am sorry that the Captain, a gallant national hero to all accounts, was so grievously wounded, but for a young innocent girl to see him even partially unclothed or to do more than lay a soothing hand upon his fevered brow is unconscionable. I understand that you are chaperoned only by a girl less than a year your senior, your brother William’s wife, and by a low sailor’s wife whom your brother has sent to live with his bride. Under these circumstances, I cannot imagine why your brother Richard would allow you to go and live in New York, virtually alone and certainly inadequately chaperoned. Since he has not returned to Halifax, we must consider that he might even be lost at sea. Your dear Father continues to be unwell. I have attempted to convince him to give up this illusion that dear Vanessa will ever return, but the last time I went to give comfort to him he became irate and ordered me out in the most shocking language.’

    “Well, good for you, Papa. You at least have the sense to see her for what she is.” I commented, as my anger grew. She went on.

    ‘Under all these distressing circumstances, my dear, I consider it is my Christian duty to strongly urge - nay, in your dear mother’s place, command - you to leave the dubious society of those who have so corrupted you - for I cannot think that my dear sweet friend Tara would have behaved in a way so lost to propriety unless she had been wrongly influenced by low people who are not the sort we would wish to know - and come home so that you may be restored to the bosom of your loving family. Amelia says that she will be your best friend as well as your sister-in-law, and my darling Chauncey says that he will ask you to dance at the first cotillion of the season - once your are out of mourning and can go into company, of course. I enclose a listing of ships leaving New York for Halifax for your consideration. I know you will not fail me or your family and friends.

    I am, dear girl,
    Your loving “Aunt” Mackenzie’


    By the time I finished the letter twice - and no, my eyes had not deceived me - I was so angry and frustrated I was in tears. I desperately needed to see John and talk to him. I love Jennifer as a sister, and Mary is a good friend, but I could not let them see what this vicious woman had said about them - and I just needed John. Somehow I made myself behave ‘normally’ through the evening meal, but as soon as it was over, I excused myself.

    “I’m going out to the garden for a breath of fresh air, Jen,” I told her.

    “That’s fine, lovey.” She agreed. Bless her, she knew something was bothering me but was too sensitive to pry.

    After a time pacing in the little garden wasn’t enough. I was fuming and I needed to walk off my anger. Without even thinking, really, I set off down the street for the wharf where the boats usually tied up. I had a few coins in my pocket - maybe I could hire a boat to take me out to Sapphire, and then I could talk to John. Around me, darkness was beginning to fall, but I was heedless of any possible danger.

    On and on I strode, making for the tip of the island and the wharf. I passed men who called out to me, but I did not really hear them, so fixed was my intent to reach the ship and pour my heart out to the man who means more to me than my own life. I turned a corner - I was almost there. The wharf was only a few yards away. A large, brawny arm caught me around the waist and arrested my movement.

    “Now, then, here’s a pretty one. Down here, all alone, at this time of night - why she must be looking for someone to keep her company, don’t you think, Joe?”

    I struggled, I kicked, I screamed, but he clamped a large, filthy, nauseating hand over my mouth and nose until I could hardly breathe. For the first time in my life I felt truly helpless. This was more frightening than confronting Reginald Trent, more frightening than the thugs who attacked Will at Christmas. I remembered the story of how John had found Angelique and what would have happened to her had he not come at just the right time - would rape and murder be my fate too?

    From the darkness another voice spoke, in heavily accented English.

    “Well, well. Who is it we ‘ave ‘ere? I do believe it is the demoiselle who is the doxy of the oh so valiant Capitaine Sinclair, the man to whom I owe all the trouble I am in. Bring her into the light. And you may drop your ‘and, my friend. You may scream all you like, slut, but it will do you no good.”

    The ruffians complied, pushing me towards the Frenchman so hard that I stumbled and fell the to ground, abrading most of the skin off the palms of my hands as I tried to catch myself.

    “Ah, how very fitting. She is at my feet, cowering, like the low wretch she is. Yes, yes, it is the lovely Miss Mason, who is so devoted to Sinclair – who ‘as been seen kissing him openly on the deck of ‘is ship, like a common tart.”

    “I wasn’t cowering,” I said furiously as I got to my feet, trying not to wince at the pain in my bruised and bleeding hands. “I don’t cower. I was pushed down by your bully-boys there. And I don’t know who you are or what the hell you think you’re doing with me, but I’m going to walk away, right now, and you’d better not try to stop me.”

    He gave a sign and the bruiser put an arm around my waist and arrested my forward motion. My assailant went on.

    “Ah, she is like a little cat, this Miss Tart, spitting and hissing so very bravely. A woman of such spirit would be most enjoyable in the bed - I would take pleasure in subduing her. Tell me, mademoiselle, ‘ow much does he pay for your – favours - eh? Or are you ‘oping that perhaps ‘e will marry you? Did he buy you that gown? It is very lovely, but not so lovely as the body inside it.”

    He stared at me insultingly, his gaze openly lascivious, while behind him, the bully-boys clamored to be given a chance as well, or so I gathered. Their language was so foully obscene that I could not understand more than a few words of what they said, but I caught the meaning quickly enough.

    I know their words were intended to humiliate and frighten me, but instead they had the opposite effect. A rush of anger propelled me forward and I spat full in the man’s face.
    “Tell your bully boys to shut their damned mouths.” I ground out, and received a vicious backhanded blow across the face for my pains. My nose began to bleed and I knew that my lip had split as well.

    “Putain!” He swore viciously as he wiped the spittle from his face with a handkerchief.

    “If I did not need you as the bait for a trap, I would ‘and you over to those two right ‘ere and now, and see how brave you were when they ‘ad finished with you! But they will have their chance, be very certain. Once the trap for your lover is sprung, he will go to his grave knowing that they have taken their pleasure of you. ‘ow that will torment ‘im, as ‘e ‘as tormented me, Henri-Albere Montaigne!”

    “This is an English city, and you are French. You will be arrested. Your plans cannot succeed.” I said defiantly, through bruised and bleeding lips.

    “Hah! These British, they are imbeciles! They will do anything for money, even commit treason! I will not be caught, so you need not hope for that. No, slut, I am taking you up the river, to a prison camp the Americans have near the place they call West Point. It is on an island, and no one gets on or off unless he knows the way. The current in the river, it is very swift, you see. The wrong approach and – disaster! I will tell these stupid Americans, who believe anything I say because I am a nephew of His Excellency the Comte de Vergennes, that you are a traitor, a spy. You are American, yet you live with an English girl in a ‘ouse owned by an Englishman – the same man who is your lover. You have come ‘ere, not because your family is ‘ere, but to learn what you can about the forces of General Washington and report this to your lover.”

    He gave a quick command and I was blindfolded, bound and gagged, then thrown roughly into the back of a wagon. I hit my head on something hard and then I knew no more.
     
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  3. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Diary of Jennifer Mason

    Monday 7 June 1779

    Tara had a letter today that obviously upset her, but I did not like to pry, even as much as I care about her. She said she was going to take a turn in the garden and left the house. As darkness fell, I am afraid that the unexpected arrival of Colonel George Therrien distracted me. I have come to respect this good, honourable man very much, as I see in him many of the same qualities I admired in my own dear Papa, who was so tragically taken from us earlier this year. We had settled down to tea and a chat when he remarked, “Is Miss Tara not feeling well, Mrs. Mason?”

    “No she just stepped out for a walk in the garden – my goodness, that was over an hour ago, and it’s become quite dark!” I said, alarmed.

    “Perhaps she is merely somewhere in the house; she may have retired with a headache.” He suggested.

    We searched and called – nothing. She was not outside, inside or up in the attics. Just as we came back down the attic stairs there was a crash and the sound of shattering glass, followed by a pounding on the door.

    “Mrs. Mason? Mrs. Stewart? It’s Hollis, let me in.”

    Therrien pulled the door open to admit our friend Sergeant Hollis.

    “Sir, I tried to catch ‘im but ‘e was too quick for me,” he reported with a salute.

    “Catch whom?”

    “The bloke what threw the rock, sir. I hopes none of the ladies was hurt?”

    “So that’s what it was.” Therrien went into the sitting room, his boot crunching on broken glass.

    “Stay out here, ladies. This glass will go right through the soles of your slippers,” he cautioned. He picked up the offending rock. There was a piece of paper tied to it, and he unwrapped it and read it quickly.

    “Oh, my God! It’s from that French bastard Montaigne. He’s got Tara somehow. He says that he’s taking her up the river to the Continental prison camp near West Point and if John hurries he’ll be just in time to see her executed as a traitor and a spy.”

    I screamed and only Mary’s steely grip on my arm kept me from fainting.

    “I’ve got my horse here, thank God. I’m going for John. Hollis, get to Colonel Jenkinson and Major Collins and tell them what’s going on. I’m sure that Captain Sinclair will want to leave as soon as possible, but we’ll need reinforcements to follow us on foot, from my regiment or Jenkinson’s, doesn’t matter. And I’ll need my pistols and horses for Captain Sinclair and his men – say half a dozen fast, fresh mounts.”

    Hollis, good soldier that he is, heard these orders, repeated them to be sure he understood, saluted, and went away at a lope.

    “Mrs. Mason, try not to worry. He can’t have more than an hour’s start on us. I would suggest that you not stay in this house with this window broken, though. I’m sure Mrs. Jenkinson will be able to accommodate you for as long as you need to stay.”

    “Yessir. I was thinkin’ the same thing myself,” Mary said. “Miss Jennifer, I’ll pack us a portmanteau and we’ll go.”

    He nodded and hastened away.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Monday 7 June 1779

    Abducted! The word was like a dagger to my heart. All the uneasy fears that had possessed me since Montaigne’s escape two days ago coalesced into a vicious spike of dread that pierced my soul. I stood, unable to do anything, for nearly a full minute before a lifetime’s training came into play.

    “Pass the word for Fred, Tremaine, Calhoun and Harrison.” I snapped to Jones who stood there slack jawed at the news before calling out to the sentry.

    “My pistols, Andrew.” I said to Bailey who began to lay out the brace of six holster pistols I’d purchased from Griffin of London, their powder flask and the pouch of .50 calibre balls. Out of the lower drawer of my cabinet I took the ornate box that contained two magnificent rifled pistols specially made for me by Sean McDermott of Dublin. They were big saw-handled weapons with heavy octagonal barrels that fired a .40 calibre ball that had been specially cast for them. They had sights at both the front and rear and the trajectory held true for almost 50 yards.

    “I’ve sent word to Jenkinson.” George said as he helped me load the pistols. “There’ll be half a dozen fast horses waiting for us at the wharf. My own is already there and well rested for the ride.”

    I just nodded and reached over to take my hanger from the rack on the bulkhead and buckle it on. I had no sooner finished than MacGregor came into the cabin carrying his huge claymore slung across his back in an equally large scabbard, and a .50 calibre marksman’s musket from Griffin in his hands, while a powder horn and pouch of balls hung from his shoulder.

    “Borrowed this from one o’ the bullocks.” He said simply, then set the musket down and helped Andrew finish loading the pistols.

    Now here was Jones back with the rest hurrying into the increasingly crowded cabin.

    “Have you told them?” I asked Jones but it was Fred who jumped in with the answer.

    “We know, John.”

    “I can have my lads ready to go in ten minutes, sir.” Tremaine said.

    “No. Colonel Jenkinson will follow with the footsloggers. We’re riding as soon as we get ashore. You and Calhoun take what weapons and supplies we’ll need and meet me in the long boat as soon as you can.” They saluted crisply and were off. I turned to Harrison.

    “Joseph I need you most of all. I know of that part of the river. We can’t get Sapphire up it, the wind is wrong and it’s far too narrow at places and even if we could the rebels have placed a great boom across it. To make matters worse there is the treacherous current to consider. But you’ve been on that river before the war. Can you get us across?"

    “Aye, Captain. I can get you there. It’ll be tricky in the dark but I’ve done it before. I’ll get my cutlass and a musket and meet you in the long boat.” I reached out and grasped him by the shoulder.

    “Thank you, Joseph.”

    “You’ve always trusted me Captain, time for me to repay that trust.” And then he saluted and dashed from the cabin.

    Fred reached into his black bag, removed his two prized blunderbuss pistols meticulously crafted by Clark & Son of London and began to load them.

    “I thought you swore you’d never fire those again.” I said to him. Years ago there had been an accident on a grouse shoot on the grounds at Sir David’s Pinetree House and a young stable boy had been shot when he’d wandered into the shoot. In spite of Fred’s best efforts the boy had died a few hours later. Fred had sworn never to use those guns again although he had kept them to remind him of his vow.

    “I am not going to stand there pretending that I’m above it and let that precious girl or you die!” He replied without looking up until he had finished his task. “Might I trouble you for one of your swords as well, I seem to have left mine at White Oaks?”

    I nodded and George reached over and handed Fred the old presentation hanger that I had been given as a lieutenant more than twenty years ago. As Fred made to take it George stopped him with a glance.

    “Are you sure, Fred?” He said, the concern very evident in his voice. “I mean really sure?”

    “More than anything in my life, George.” Fred answered as he clipped the blade to his belt. It was then that I realized that he wasn’t wearing his customary coat of brown broadcloth but instead the naval surgeon’s coat that he almost never put on unless ordered to. A symbol of his resolve to no longer pretend to be above it but to be fully involved come what may. George had noticed it as well.

    MacGregor stepped up and passed over the brace of Griffins and the McDermotts. I draped the former across my chest and then slipped the belt hooks of the later through my sword-belt while Fred did the same with his Clarks.

    The four of us stood there for a moment in silence then turned toward the cabin door and strode purposely toward the entry port and the long boat. Hold on, Tara my love. I’m coming.
     
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  4. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Location:
    Houston, we have a problem...
    Well, there is a war on, after all!

    Seriously, you might want to start playing with an outline or two on at least one book covering the earlier history. I suspect it would be another good one...
     
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  5. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Second Week


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    Willie and Joe certainly took my abductor at his word and did not spare the horses. We traveled for what seemed like hours in the darkness, over rough roads, bouncing and careening so that at times I thought the vehicle would surely overturn. Once we pulled up and Montaigne shouted,

    “Why are we stopping? Go on, you stupid fool!”

    His henchmen let him know, in rather crude terms, that they had business by the side of the road, and that reminded me that I had the same problem. I drummed my heels on the floor and cried out, although it was muffled by the gag.

    “Silence!” He ordered, and kicked me with the toe of his boot. I gasped from the pain, but I kept up the clamour. Finally, exasperated, he untied the gag. “What do you want, slut? Be careful I do not knock you out next time you annoy me so.”

    “Privy. I need the privy,” I managed to whisper through parched and sore lips.

    “I should let you soil yourself, like the animal you are, but these Americans are too nice in their ideas of how a woman should be treated, even a woman who is a whore and traitor. Very well, but be quick. Willie!” He called the larger of the two ruffians over.

    “Miss Tart has to go in the bushes. Untie her, but make sure she does not run away.”

    Willie made an obscene remark, but he untied my hands and feet as directed. When we reached the side of the road, I was thankful for the cover of darkness, as my ‘escort’ was standing only a few feet away.

    “Hurry up, will ya? He wants to get to this island and we don’t get paid until he does. And once we’re there, we can have some fun with you, eh?” Willie laughed maliciously and I bit my already swollen lips to keep back a cry of distress and fear. I would not let these men see me cry, or cower. I would not.

    Tied again and pushed roughly back onto the floor of the wagon, I felt the vehicle begin to move once more. On and on we drove, with the only sounds the jangling of harness, the thunder of hooves and the crack of the whip as Willie and Joe pushed the beasts to the limit. It seemed we would be driving forever when the careening coach must have hit a rock or a large rut, because there was a sharp crack as the rear axle broke in two like a dry stick. The coach overturned and all of us were spilled out onto the road and into the brambles beside it. I felt the sharp sting of thorns as they tore the skin of my hands and face, and then my head hit the ground and I passed out.

    When I regained consciousness, some minutes later, my head was pounding and my stomach threatening to revolt – and I was still gagged. Montaigne was swearing steadily, obscenely, in gutter French. I knew a few of the words, but curses had not been part of the vocabulary my grandmother had taught me as a child, so much of it was blessedly incomprehensible. There was very little light – the full moon was still several days away – but I could just make out the wreck of the coach and the body of one of the thugs lying beside the road, unmoving. The one called Joe roused from his stupor at about this time and staggered over to his friend, calling for him to wake up.

    “Idiot, can you not see ‘e is dead? The fall ‘as broken ‘is neck!” Montaigne said scornfully.

    “I don’t believe you. He’s just knocked out, that’s all, like I was. Willie, wake up!”

    “ ‘e is dead. You are an idiot, a fool not to see this. And now we have no more carriage and the horses – what of the horses?”

    “I dunno. I just woke up. And don’t talk to me like that, Mr. Frenchie. Yer money don’t give ya the right to call me names. I’ve had just about enough. I’m sick of you an’ yer hoity-toity ways, see? An’ I ain’t gonna stand for it no more.”

    “You will do as I say or you will die.” Montaigne said threateningly. “Now, see to the horses. Perhaps we can unhitch them and ride them.”

    “No deal. I just quit. I’m walking away from here, right now.” Joe said stubbornly, finally accepting that his friend Willie really was dead.

    “You do not walk away from me, you cur! Do as you are told!”

    “Din’t ya hear me? I said I just quit. Try an’ stop me, why don’t ya?”

    Joe turned his back and started down the road, back the way we had come, back to New York. Montaigne simply pulled out a pistol and shot him, without warning or calling for him to halt. He crumpled to the ground and lay still after a moment.

    “Now, slut, we must make our way on our own.” He dragged me out of the brambles, heedless of my involuntary cries of pain, and tied me to the wrecked carriage with a piece of rope he took from the boot. Then he went to the horses. Two sharp shots told the story – both of them were of no use to him, and at least he had the decency to destroy them rather than let them suffer. He untied the rope, released my feet just enough to allow me to hobble, and we started up the road.

    Fortunately for me, the accident had happened not far from the narrow spot in the river called West Point. Even still, by the time we reached the small fort that had been built overlooking the great chain of logs that stretched across the river and was anchored on a sort of island on the other side, my feet, clad only in thin kid slippers suitable for the drawing room but not for walking on rough roads, were bruised, blistered and bleeding. Every step was agony, but I refused to give this brutal man the satisfaction of knowing that I was hurt no matter what.

    Montaigne encountered a sentry on the outskirts of the fort and demanded to be taken to the garrison commander. A sleepy captain in the Continental army finally appeared, though not soon enough for my captor.

    “Are you the commander?”

    “No, he’s down in New Jersey just now. My name’s Dickinson, Captain, Continental Army. Who might you be?”

    “I am Capitiane de Vaisseau Montaigne, of the French navy, and I have captured a spy. I require a boat and a pilot to take me to the prison camp on the island.

    “At this hour? Why not wait until morning?” The captain protested, but Montaigne soon intimidated him into agreeing.

    “Oh, very well. You’ll get your boat, and a man who can steer through those currents up there. It’s treacherous. Just go away and leave me alone.” Dickinson said tiredly.

    Montaigne put a pistol to my back and pushed me down to the shore of the river, passing the point where the great chain was anchored into the rocks, and shoved me roughly into a boat. When one of the soldiers assigned to row us out to the island protested such treatment, he was told that he had better be quiet or he would be considered to be in sympathy with a traitor and his own future would be questionable. We rowed for quite some time, working our way around the island to the cove where we could beach the boat, and finally reached our destination. Once again I was hauled up like so much baggage and pushed at gunpoint up the rough path to the clearing in the centre of the island that seemed to be the prison camp. There was a palisade of rough-hewn logs, a few crude one-room huts that seemed to be offices or officers’ quarters, some even cruder if larger huts for the prisoners and a few tents for the men.

    Montaigne explained his business to the sentry, who took us to the largest of the wooden cabins- obviously the headquarters building, though it hardly merited the name. Once again a sleepy captain came out to greet us, and once again Montaigne told his story.

    “You say she’s a spy? Why bring her up here? You were down in New York, General Washington’s headquarters in New Jersey would have been closer,” the commander pointed out.

    “She is dangerous. I wanted her someplace she could not coax her way out of, and what better place than this island. She is a spy, and do not you Americans hang spies?”

    “Yes, after a proper trial.”

    “Did the British give your man Nathan Hale a fair trial before they hanged him?” Montaigne countered, seeing that the man was loath to follow his suggestion that an immediate execution take place.

    “No, no they didn’t. Listen here, girl, are you an American? Untie the gag, I want to ask her some questions.”

    I managed to whisper, “Water” and he got me a dipper of water from a bucket outside the door. It was warm and slightly brackish, but it was nectar to my abused throat.

    “Now. Answer the questions, girl.”

    “I was born in Annapolis, Maryland. I am a loyalist.” I said quietly.

    “See, by her own words she convicts herself,” Montaigne cried. “Do you need more?”

    “Being a loyalist don’t make her a spy, Monsieur,” the captain said stubbornly, but once again Montaigne overwhelmed him with threats and intimidation. “Think of Hale. Did you know him?”

    “I went to Yale with him. He was a good man. And the dam’ British wouldn’t even let him have the comfort of a minister when he died.” The captain said, now beginning to waver in Montaigne’s direction. Seizing this advantage, Montaigne pressed it home. He talked about how the captain, one Landrum, would be a hero, how he would share the credit for apprehending and executing such a dangerous spy, and so on. He appealed to the man’s vanity, his desire for fame, and his hatred of the British and those who sided with them, and he won.

    “Right. She’s a spy. She hangs, but not tonight. I’ve missed enough sleep already. Lock her in that hut over there,” he told one of the others, and I was pushed over to a tiny hut and in through the door. It was low, with no room to stand up, and barely room to sit down. A bucket in the corner proclaimed its purpose by its foul odour.

    “Untie her hands and feet. She ain’t going nowhere,” the sergeant of the guard - or that is what I assumed he was - remarked as soon as his superiors had moved away. “Kinda pretty, too, under all that dirt and all those scratches. Since she’s going to die before the day is out, might be fun to have a little sport with her, eh? See what’s under that gown. Used to be nice gown, once upon a time. Wish my wife could afford a gown like that. Things are bad when decent patriotic women have to wear homespun while traitor bitches walk around in silk and lace. Well, we’ll just see how proud she is when we’re through with her, won’t we, boys?”

    There was more in the same vein, but I tried to shut it out, lest terror overtake me. It was pitch dark in the hut, but not as black as my future seemed. “Oh, John.” I whispered to myself, and then I gave way to despair.



    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    The first faint glimmers of dawn could be seen on the eastern horizon as George, Fred, MacGregor, Harrison and I stood concealed by the tree line overlooking the Hudson River. About two hundred yards from shore lay the dark shape of Pollepel Island and the rebel prison that Tara had been taken to. The ride had been long and hard with more than a few detours around enemy forces but we had arrived on the bluff overlooking the river about fifteen minutes ago. Our exhausted horses were even now getting the rest they needed so desperately after the journey from New York.

    Sergeant Calhoun, who had been a gamekeeper a lifetime ago before joining the Marines, had picked up the trail of a single wagon traveling at a high rate of speed and in the correct direction almost as soon as we’d left the city behind. Montaigne was making no efforts to hide his trail. That could have been because he didn’t know any better, because he wanted to be followed or because he was in too much of a hurry to be bothered. We learned that it was the latter when we came upon the wreck of the wagon an hour and a half ago. The rear axle had broken on one of the many ruts in the road putting the wagon on its side. There were two dead men nearby, both common thugs from their manner of dress. The bigger of the two had, had his neck broken, probably when the wagon overturned. The other however had been shot in the back. George had found the horses nearby, likewise shot dead and with limbs that were quite obviously broken. Then Calhoun had called out that he had found the trail again.

    “They’re on foot now. Just two of them Montaigne an’ Miss Tara. He’s got her feet tied, so she doesn’t make a run for it more ‘n likely. Not that she’ll be able to, those are kid slippers she’s wearin’. They'll no’ stand up to this back country for long. I’m sorry, sir, but she’ll be hurting something fierce ‘afore long.”

    And on we had ridden until Calhoun said that the trail veered toward the river again. Then he and Tremaine had gone forward on foot until they came across a sentry half asleep at his post. Taking him quietly we had confirmed that Tara and Montaigne had been this way and that Montaigne had insisted that they be taken out to the island and that they’d gone over about two hours ago. We had left the man unconscious and tied up a goodly distance from his post where he wouldn’t be discovered too quickly, then made our way to this bluff where we could just make out the boats used to take people across to the island. Tremaine and Calhoun had gone out to scout the area and take the pilot prisoner if possible. I doubted that he would be willing to steer us across but he would know what had happened on the island.

    There was a faint rustle of the bushes nearby to indicate the return of the two marines. They did not look optimistic and they were alone.

    “We found a path to right near where the boats are moored, sir, and there are only two sentries.” Tremaine reported. “No sign of the pilot but from the way they were talking he has a hut on the outskirts of the rebel encampment about a quarter mile from the river.”

    “Surely that is good news.” Fred chimed in.

    “There’s more isn’t there?” I said. Tremaine took a deep breath.

    “Aye, sir. From what we overheard them say it appears Miss Mason is to be hanged at dawn, less than an hour from now.”

    “But she only got here two hours ago at most!” Fred exclaimed. “They cannot have had a trial that quickly.”

    “There isn’t going to be one Doctor. That French bastard has them all worked up over there. Something about avenging that rebel spy Hale.”

    “Then we have no time to spare.” I said cutting off any further discussion. “Take us to this trail.”

    “Aye aye, sir.”

    Creeping down to the river’s edge with as much stealth as possible we arrived at the wharf in about five minutes. As Tremaine had reported there were two sentries, muskets shouldered they stood near a fire and I could smell coffee brewing as they talked quietly. The snap and crackle of the fire helped mask the sound of Calhoun and MacGregor’s approach and soon the two lay dead on the ground.

    Quickly we climbed into the boat each of us taking an oar but for Harrison who grasped the tiller ready to steer us through the obstacles ahead. By memory and his sailor’s instincts the Gloucester-born colonial steered us around every obstacle from half-sunken rocks and the rotting hulks of less fortunate vessels to sand bars and the treacherous current itself. As we approached from the north side we beached the small boat among the reeds out of sight and away from the island’s own wharf.

    Climbing ashore quietly we moved swiftly up to the rough-hewn barricade that was the prison wall. I listened for the telltale footfalls of a sentry but heard none. Apparently the Rebels felt safe enough with the river doing that job for them. Calhoun climbed up on MacGregor’s powerful shoulders then followed by Tremaine climbing on his to reach the top of the wall. He peered carefully over taking stock of the situation before looping a rope over the top of one of the spiked logs that formed the barricade and securing it. After one last look he climbed back down, the human ladder disassembling as smoothly and silently as it had gone up.

    “There’s a sentry up by the gate, sir.” Tremaine quietly reported. “And a few men standing guard. One in front of the largest cabin about twenty yards or so to our right and alongside the rear palisade and one each in front of three other smaller cabins along the opposite wall. About forty yards away I’d say and from the stink coming from them I’d say that’s where they keep most of the prisoners. There are also about a half dozen tents and smaller cabins along this side and stretching from about here to right near the gate. No guards at any of them."

    “Any sign of Miss Mason?” George whispered. Tremaine nodded.

    “I was just getting to that, sir. There are also two very small cabins; cells really, not even room to stand up in them. Along the far palisade near the main prisoners huts. Three guards in front of one of them.”

    “Montaigne?” I asked. Tremaine shook his head.

    “No sign of him, sir. Could be asleep in one of the huts along this side though. No lights showing anywhere except for a campfire in the center of the place. And that’s mostly burned down to embers. Guards look half asleep too except for the three near the little cells.”

    Taking stock of the situation I worked out a plan of action in my head. It was crude and inelegant but I had no time for refinements. Looking up at the eastern horizon I could see that the sky was noticeably brighter. There was very little time left before dawn found us.

    “Listen carefully, my friends, for this is what I propose… ”


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    Exhaustion and hopelessness overtook me and I fell asleep, cramped in a sitting position in the tiny cell-like hut that would, if Montaigne had his way, be the last dwelling I would see this side of Heaven. Once during the night I had to get up to use the bucket, and the odour so overwhelmed me that I could no longer control my stomach. Exhausted still further, I crept back into a far corner of the hut and tried to concentrate on anything but what was certain to be my fate – violation and then death at the end of hangman’s noose. I must have been asleep for several hours, because dawn was just beginning to break when I heard the camp begin to stir. Soon Montaigne would insist that I be executed and the Yankee captain, intimidated and flattered in turns, would comply. I thought of my father - this news would almost certainly kill him. I thought of my favourite brothers, Will and Dick, and how the news would devastate them, coming on the heels of Lucy’s death not very long ago. I thought of my friends, Jennifer and Mary, who had been so good to me. Mostly, though, I thought of John. I had found a woman’s love only a month ago - and now I was to be denied the life I had dreamed of with this strong, yet gentle, man. There would be no children, and as for John himself…

    There was a scrape of metal on metal and the door to my cell swung open. In the early dawn light the sergeant of the guard - it must have been he - loomed over me like a giant, terrifying monster. I stifled a scream, biting my already bruised lips to keep from letting him see my terror. He had made his intent clear last night.

    “Get up, bitch,” he said roughly, reaching out to grab my arm and jerk me to my feet. I came up involuntarily, striking my head painfully on the rough logs that formed the hut’s ceiling. I could not stifle a cry of pain and my punishment was a vicious blow to the face. “Shut your mouth, bitch.” I realized then that he was acting alone, that he had come out while his fellows were still asleep with the intent of having me to himself. He hauled me out of the hut, my head still reeling from two blows in as many moments, and began to drag me towards the row of tents that served as accommodation for the enlisted men. I tried to stall by just refusing to move, but he merely pulled all the harder. A shaft of almost unbearable pain told me that he had dislocated my right shoulder, and I screamed involuntarily. Another blow to the mouth was my reward, and I think I may have lost consciousness for a few moments, because when I came to there were more men around, all roused by the scream.

    “Here, now, Sarn’t Polk, you wasn’t thinking of keeping her all to yourself, was you?” One of them asked, as he leered down at me. Tears of pain were streaming down my face as I lay crumpled on the dusty ground, my right arm hanging uselessly by my side.

    “Oh, look,” he jeered. “She’s crying. She don’t want to lose her virtue. Like she has any anyway, the filthy whore” He kicked me and I could not suppress another cry of pain.

    Polk took over. “Listen here, Tucker, you’ll have your chance. I’m first.” He went on to suggest, most obscenely, that I should be stripped and exposed to public humiliation, beginning with my bosom. I struggled to sit up and tried to defend myself, but with only one arm it was impossible, and my strength was almost gone. Sergeant Polk stepped over and put one filthy paw down the front of my dress, leering and cursing most obscenely all the while. The soldiers were so intent on their mischief they did not notice what I could see behind them - the blessed figures of John, Ian MacGregor, and George Therrien, weapons aimed at my persecutors. If they were here, there would be others as well. I froze. John needed a clear shot, and any movement would put me in danger.

    Time seemed to stand still for a few agonizing moments as the bizarre drama was played out before my eyes. I could feel the man’s sour breath on my face, and the invasion of his hand against my skin. He began to pull - and a shot echoed in the stillness of the morning, following by a fusillade of several others. My assailant crumpled, falling headlong over my body, even as his fellows fell victim to other shots. The man who had been about to strip me lay across my body, but the back of his head was no longer there - instead, blood and gore flowed freely, spattering and staining my already wrecked gown. Trapped beneath his corpse, I gave way to hysteria and began to scream, even as the sounds of an ongoing battle echoed around me. John threw a command to the others, holstered the still-smoking pistol and ran to my side, tossing the soldier’s corpse aside like so much refuse. He gathered me into his arms, but even this welcome action caused more pain from my shoulder, and I screamed shrilly then fainted again, but not before I heard the hoarse shout of fear as he called Doctor Fred to my side.
     
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  6. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    Climbing hand over hand we each had gone up the wall and down the other side. Gathered together we swiftly primed the firing pans of our weapons before I motioned for Calhoun and Tremaine to begin their allotted missions to deal with the sentry at the gate and the guard in front of the big cabin that we assumed to be a headquarters. As they crept around to their objectives Harrison and Fred moved into position to bring the tents and smaller huts that we believed housed the islands small population of guards under fire from Fred’s two Clarks and the musket that Harrison carried. Meanwhile George, MacGregor and I slipped around the back of the huts heading for a position from which we could see when the Marines had completed their tasks.

    We hadn’t gone far when there sounded a terrible scream of pain. Abandoning all planning we raced as one for the main yard. Coming round the corner of one of the huts we were faced with the terrible sight of Tara helpless on the ground surrounded by eight grinning men in the blue and buff uniforms favoured by the Continental Army. One of the men said something and kicked her viciously in the side. My blood was roaring in my ears as the fighting madness came upon me but I forced it down and controlled it rather than letting it control me.

    Swiftly but stealthily we advanced on them. Then I heard the man I took to be the leader say something about him being first and reach for the bodice of the tattered rags that had once been one of her beautiful London gowns. His intent was clear now and involuntarily my mind flashed back to the day more than twenty years ago when I’d shot a filthy would-be rapist off my beloved Angelique. As I had then once again I drew my pistol, this time instinctively going for one of the more accurate McDermotts with Tara so close. Halting I dropped to one knee and brought the weapon up. Praying that Tara would stay down I drew back the hammer with my left hand and extended the pistol to arm’s length. The sights merged with the back of the man’s head as I gently squeezed the trigger. Sparks flew as the weapon fired and the back of the leader’s head exploded in a geyser of blood and gore.

    Tara screamed as shots from George and MacGregor felled two more of them and then we were on our feet dashing across the yard. Slipping the spent McDermott back into my belt and drawing one of the Griffins as we went, I aimed quickly and pulled the trigger. The pistol exploded and a fourth animal went down as a scarlet rose of blood blossomed in his chest. Then we were there.

    “Kill them all.” I ordered hotly then turned to where Tara lay on the ground pinned by the corpse of the beast that had meant to violate her. As I flung him off of her, George and MacGregor were on the remaining four, blade to musket butt. George easily slipped the swung musket and took the first through the heart with his sabre. As he fell MacGregor was on the rest, his great Claymore tearing through them like a giant axe through a stand of saplings.

    Gathering Tara’s battered and abused form in my arms I made to comfort her but once more she emitted a shriek of agony before fainting in my arms.

    “Fred!” I cried fear rising in my throat. “Get over here! Quickly! Tara’s hurt!”

    Fred dashed across the yard emptying one of his Clarks into a pair of soldiers emerging from one of the tents as he went. As he bent to her side I drew two of the Griffins and stood guard over them both.

    “To arms men!” Shouted a partially dressed officer that charged from the headquarters cabin pistol in one hand and sword in the other. “Kill the English bastards and their whore of a spy as well! For Nathan!”

    He saw me and his pistol fired, the ball plucking at my sleeve no more insistently than a child’s fingers. Then Sergeant Calhoun was on him, the marine’s bayoneted musket taking him square in the belly.

    “I’ll be sein’ y’ in hell first, y’ bloody bastard!” He growled as the blade stuck a good half-foot out the American’s back. What he hadn’t seen however was Montaigne who came out of the cabin a few seconds later.

    The treacherous Frenchman plunged his rapier into Calhoun’s back with a vile curse before withdrawing it as the sergeant fell to one side. The Griffins in my hands cracked out but at near thirty yards the range was too long for accuracy and both balls smacked into the woodwork. He ducked back looking about and seeing me as I stood over Tara, smoking pistols in my hands.

    “So you came after all, Capitaine.” He shouted in French as he picked up the American’s pistol and stuck it in his belt before drawing his own. “How much do you pay the slut for her favours, eh? She must be more skilled than she looks for you to come all this way for her.”

    “By the Lord God I’ll kill you for this you filthy bastard!” I cursed.

    “The Englishman has yet to be born who could beat a Montaigne.” He laughed at me. “Perhaps I will not hang your little whore just yet. Not until I have sampled her delights for myself at least. But first I shall attend to you, Goodbye Englishman.”

    The pistol cracked in his hand but the range was just as bad for him as it had been for me and the shot went wide to the left. Gunfire still thundered and steel rang on steel as we fought on. But for all the luck that had gone our way so far we were too few and in too exposed a position to hold out for much longer. Unless something drastic happened we were doomed to fall here in this place.

    “At ‘em, Lads!”

    The voice was Tremaine’s and to my left I could see a mass of men dressed in rags, most armed only with stones, charge across the yard from the prisoner’s huts. Snatching up weapons of the fallen rebels as they went and plunging into the fight with the guards.

    Seeing the tide of battle turn against him so suddenly, Montaigne broke and ran for the gate calling to the guards to follow him. As they dashed through the gate I drew my remaining loaded McDermott, dropped to one knee, aimed and fired. I heard the Frenchman cry out and saw him fall as the ball struck home but to my disappointment he got back up and made it through the gate and into the woods.

    Harrison and Tremaine quickly closed the gate locking them out for now at least. George and I looked at one another we both knew that all we had won this morning was a reprieve. All we could do now was hold out until Colonel Jenkinson arrived with the reinforcements to break us out of here.

    Picking up my beloved Tara I carried her into the headquarters cabin at Fred’s direction while he checked to see what could be done for the softly moaning Calhoun. As I lay her down on one of the two empty camp beds I gently kissed her lips.

    “It’s all right, my love.” I murmured to her. “You’re safe now. I’m here.” But even as I said the words I had to wonder how true they were. We were now in a state of siege far behind enemy lines. This was far from over.


    From the Remembrances of Doctor Alfred Bassingford

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    We are under siege on this tiny island in the middle of the North River. I have converted the headquarters building of what used to be a Yankee prison into a makeshift hospital, although I have only the supplies that I was able to carry in my medical bag and a few things that I have found in the camp. My patients are mostly former prisoners of war from various British regiments, but I also have our Marine Sergeant, Jock Calhoun, who sustained a serious sabre thrust to the back but has surprised us all by refusing to die, and of course I have Tara, Miss Tara Mason that is, the precious girl who has come to mean so much to me and to my best friend John Sinclair, though in vastly differing ways. Tara is like the daughter I never had, or never knew if I did have, but to John she is much, much more. She is his lifeline, his love, and his chess partner. In a few short weeks she has become more important to him than anyone else on this earth.

    Tara survived an ordeal that would have either killed or driven mad a young woman of lesser mettle, proving that she is more than an equal match for the man who loves her more than his own life. I have watched the drama unfold over the past month or so – has it really been only a month? It seems much longer, because so much has happened in that short time. I have laboured over John’s wounded and bleeding body after the vicious attack on him last month, and now I have laboured over this precious girl as well. Her shoulder has been reset, her poor abused feet washed and bound up, and the scratches on her hands, arms, and face cleaned, but nothing but time will heal the bruises caused by the beating she sustained at the hand of Montaigne and his confederates.

    As soon as John brought her into this building I set to work, taking advantage of her unconscious state to reset her dislocated shoulder. I watched John’s face while I did this necessary procedure, and it became more grim and set as each second passed. He is not long over his own wounds, and though he will not admit it, the long ride has tired him. He looks grey under the healthy tan he acquired at sea this spring, and there are new lines in his face that were not there before. Once the shoulder was reset, I looked up at him and said quietly, “Do you want me to see if she was violated, John?”

    “It won’t make a damn bit of difference in how much I love her, but we need to know so we can care for her properly. Go ahead, Fred.”

    “Then let us get the gown and petticoats off so I can do a complete examination.”

    Working together, John and I removed the wreck of the lovely spring ensemble she had put on a lifetime ago at the little house in New York where so much of this drama has unfolded. We still do not know why she left the house so suddenly, and at night, without an escort, but I know that she will never be allowed to do so again.

    “Such a lovely gown,” he said as I used a scissors to cut it off rather than cause her further discomfort. “She was so proud of gaining the weight back so that she could wear this one. She liked it almost as much as the sprigged muslin, and she told me the story of how her mother helped her choose the fabric and pattern at the modiste’s in London,” he remembered.

    Next came the petticoats, also cut away, and then I had John roll her onto the left side so I could cut the lacings and remove her stays. She was left with her cotton shift, which barely contained her glorious bosom, her fine linen underdrawers, and the remains of what had been a pair of finely knit cotton stockings. Her shoes were long since gone, in fact we had found one, torn and bloodstained, on that rough trail to West Point.

    Now came the moment we had both been dreading – but there was good news.

    “No sign of bruising or blood, John. Thank God, you were in time.”

    “I almost wasn’t. If I hadn’t shot that animal off her…”
    “But you did, John, and with love and care she will recover. Now let us deal with her poor feet. They are probably the worst of her injuries. You know what Calhoun said – the bastard dragged her over some very rough roads, and she may as well have been barefoot for all the protection her slippers gave her. Do you want to take the stockings off, or shall I?”

    He answered by his actions, cursing when he saw the battered and bruised condition her feet were in. Dried blood had glued the scraps of her stockings to the soles of her feet, and when we tried to remove them, even after soaking them in warm, clean water, we removed skin as well and the blood began to flow freely. I think I have only seen John this coldly, homicidally angry once before in my life – when he vowed to bring Gerard Leveque to justice for the murder of his lovely Angelique, so many years ago. Henri-Albere Montaigne has no idea of the firestorm he has just brought down on his own head.

    We bandaged her feet, though it was obvious that it would be days if not weeks before she would be able to walk without pain, then turned to the other wounds – the scratches on her hands and face, the bruise to her side, which proved to be less serious than I thought, as I had feared that the blow might have broken a rib. Through it all, John was my faithful surgeon’s mate, handing me bandages, sponging away blood, and ripping the clean sheets we found into still more bandages. I thought of the many times I had patched him up to fight another day – now he was experiencing it all from the other side.

    When it was over, he sat down beside the crude camp bed and possessed himself of her hand. “Nobody comes into this room but the two of us, Fred. Not even good men like MacGregor or George. Nobody sees her like this, do you understand? We’ll find a way to take care of her personal needs without letting anyone else see her, at least until we can find her some clothes, or contrive some.”

    “I understand, John,” I said quietly, pulling one of the few sheets we had not torn up for bandages over her slender form, and I did understand. This was his Tara, and only my medical training permitted me to be in the room and to examine her as intimately as I had, had to do only a short time earlier. Other men would not see her in a state of undress, not as long as he had breath in his body to prevent it, especially after what she had so narrowly escaped. “I shall work on the clothes, too. We might be able to find a shirt that we could adapt to a bodice, and sew a sort of skirt. It will not be pretty, but it will cover her decently.”

    “Not good enough, not without her petticoats and stays. I will not have other men looking at her and lusting – and you know what men are, Fred.”

    It did not seem the time to point out to him that he was being mulish and condemning all men for the actions of the animals that we had just shot off her, so I merely replied, “My coat? I hardly ever wear it, after all. It would cover her quite well, I think.” After a moment he nodded.

    “All right. Just until we find her a proper gown and petticoats, then. But keep her in bed for at least a week, Fred.”

    “A week? You wanted to be up and about in less than that, and you were much more seriously wounded,” I reminded him. “You gave me nothing but trouble every step of the way, and you expect me to repay your disobedience by insisting this girl stay in bed for a week?”

    “Yes, I do expect that, Fred, and I expect you use those same tactics you used on me.”

    “I do not think Tara will take kindly to being sworn at or called a gold-plated idiot, John.”

    A look of complete exasperation was my only reply, then a terse, “Just do it, Fred. And right now I’m sure you have other patients, don’t you?”

    “I have been dismissed from my own patient,” I said ruefully.

    “Damn right. She may be your patient, but she’s my… she’s mine.”

    On that note, I bowed myself out of the room.


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Tuesday 8 June 1779

    When I came to I was lying on a camp bed in what looked like an inner office of the prison camp’s headquarters. Doctor Fred had folded his great length into a straight chair and was watching me anxiously. My shoulder still hurt, but not as badly, and the wreck of my gown was gone. I was lying in my shift and my underdrawers, with a rough cotton sheet pulled over me for modesty’s sake. Everything else – gown, petticoats, shoes, stockings and stays – had been removed.

    Fred saw my eyes flutter open and some of the anxious lines in his face eased. He got up from his chair and went to the doorway of the tiny office, and called for John. Within moments the man I love was there, kneeling beside the camp bed with my left hand clasped in his. He held onto it as if it were the lifeline of a drowning man, even as he searched my face anxiously.

    “Tara my love, you’re safe. That bastard who was – he’s dead.” He said bluntly. I think even he could not voice the words, lest the horror overwhelm him. “And Fred reset your shoulder. That was what hurt so much when we heard you scream, wasn’t it? The brute dislocated your shoulder. And we’ve bathed and dressed the rest of your wounds as best we could. Darling, you won’t be able to walk for a few days until your feet heal, but heal they will. I’m just glad we were in time. I wish we had been sooner, that’s all.”

    “John, how… ”

    “Ssshhh. Don’t try to talk. Let me get you some water.” He propped me up and let me take a few sips before he said, “Not too much, your stomach is too unwell.”

    “That horrible man – that sergeant, he … ” Weak tears began again and he gathered me into his arms and let me cry, soothing me with gentle, loving words and tender kisses.

    “He’s dead. You were so brave, darling, resisting him and staying still so I could get the shot off. I’m sorry he died right on top of you. You’ve been having nightmares about it while you were delirious. The screams … as God is my witness, Tara, I will never let a man hurt you again. Fred checked you over. He says they didn’t … you weren’t violated.”

    “No. They said they were going to - the men Montaigne hired, one of them was killed when the wagon wrecked and then the other made Montaigne mad so he shot him. Just shot him in the back like he would kill a mad dog or - or a snake. And then those soldiers, they said I was a traitor bitch and that I didn’t deserve to have pretty clothes and they were going to … going to …”

    How long I cried I do not know. Eventually, exhausted and still weak from the pain, I fell asleep.


    From the Memoirs of Josephus Dickinson
    Captain, Continental Army

    Morning on the 8th of June 1779 found our encampment in a terrible uproar. I was awakened by the sound of gunfire coming from the military prison on Pollepel Island. Ordering the company to arms I had the pilot row me and the first detachment of twenty men over to the island where I was greeted by an astonishing sight. A British flag was flying from the prison’s flagstaff and what remained of the guard force were on the outside looking in.

    From one of the Corporals I learned the story of how a small English force had captured the prison. The details were sketchy in the confusion but somehow they’d gained access to the compound and a fight had broken out. Captain Landrum had tried to rally his men only to be struck down by a redcoat’s bayonet. Then the prisoners had somehow been freed and there had been a call to retreat. The outnumbered garrison had taken to their heels but the Brits hadn’t followed. Instead they had closed the gate.

    “Where’s Sergeant Polk?” I asked him.

    “Dunno, Cap’n. I ain’t seen him since he was ordered to guard the spy that that Frog caught. I think he might be dead. I heard the feller I think was the leader call out to another one that the girl was hurt. I guess he must’ve killed the sergeant to get to her.”

    “He knew her then?”

    “Called her by name, sir. Tara I think. Sounded like… Well, he sounded like a man would if he found his wife in that condition, sir. Then…”

    “Go on.” I prompted him.

    “Well, Cap’n Landrum comes out of headquarters and calls us to arms. He sees this English officer and fires at him with his pistol but he missed. Right after that a redcoat charged and bayoneted him. Then that Frenchie comes out and gives the redcoat a poke through the back. The leader, he fired at the Frenchie but it was a good twenty-five maybe thirty yards and he missed him. Well the Frog, he sees him and shouts over to him. Dunno what he said on account of it was in french. But the Brit yells back at him - By the Lord God I’ll kill you for this you filthy bastard! The Frenchie he just laughs and says something else in french then he takes a shot at him but he misses too. ‘Bout that time the prisoners was released by one of ‘em. We were only a bit more ‘n a dozen by then so somebody, I think it was the Frenchie, calls retreat and we hightailed it out and the Brits just slammed the gate shut. The flag went up about five minutes ago.”

    “The men who attacked, were they all redcoats?” I asked, he didn’t hesitate a moment before answering.

    “That’s the funny part, sir, no they wasn’t. Three of ‘em were redcoats, a sergeant a lieutenant and a colonel. The others was Navy I think. A captain, he was the leader, another officer in a coat I didn’t recognize but I think he might have been a doctor, leastways he was the one that ran over when the captain said that the girl was hurt. An’ there was this giant carryin’ the biggest sword I’ve ever seen, he practically cut Brian Norton in two with one swing. I think there may have been more but I never saw them.”

    “Where’s that French officer?”

    “Gettin’ his arm looked after. Took a ball through it, looks like a clean wound. I’ll take you to him, sir.”

    When we reached the French Captain he was gingerly slipping his left arm into a sling aided by one of the guards. He looked up at the sound of my approach.

    “You came very quickly, Monsieur. Good. Bring your men ovair so that we may deal with this rabble just as swiftly.”

    “Before I do anything, Monseer, I’ve got some questions for you. An’ I want straight answers this time, that last ones you gave me were about as straight as a dog’s hind leg.”

    He exploded in a jabbering of french complete with expansive gestures but I cut him off.

    “Speak a language that people around here can understand damn it. None a’ your french gobbledygook.”

    “We must not delay, Capitaine. Every minute we wait gives them more time to fortify themselves within the walls!”

    “Let ‘em!” I snapped. “Now who are those people in there and this time I want the truth. You can start with that girl. They came looking for her. One of them knew her by name so don’t try to tell me that they’re just a lost patrol or something.”

    He stood there for a moment glaring at me, a glare that I returned stoically, before finally opening his mouth to reply.

    “You leave me with little choice, Capitaine. I can only ‘ope that my superiors will understand why I must reveal this to you. The girl is Tara Mason a young protégé of one of the most diabolically clevair English spies ever born. ‘E is in there with her now. The men with ‘im are also spies ‘oo he directs at the orders of the English spymaster San’ John.”

    “And what's the name of this clever spy then?”

    “Sinclair, Capitaine John Sinclair.”

    “You’re mad!” I said with a snort. “Captain Sinclair is one of the most honorable Sea Officers in the Royal Navy. He fought alongside us right here in America during the last war.”

    “That was merely ‘is ‘ow you say - cover story. We ‘ave been adversaries for many years ‘e and I. Now that I finally ‘ave him trapped we must not let him escape. We must attack as soon as possible.”

    “Even if what you say is true, Monseer, how would he know to come here? Unless … You told him!” I exploded at him. “You son of a bitch! You told him where to find her and got a bunch of my men killed!”

    “That is why we must see that ‘e does not get away. So that you’ brave soldiers will not ‘ave died in vain.”

    “The only way off this island is through us he’s not going anywhere. I’ll have a couple of my field pieces moved to the bluff over there. I’ll sink any boat that tries to leave without my permission.”

    “But they will strengthen the palisades with earthen battlements if we give them the time.” He protested.

    “Let ‘em. There’s no well in there. The only source of water on this island is the river and I’ll have a company of Continentals over here within an hour, they’ll never get to it.”

    “So you intend to simply sit ‘ere and do nothing?”

    “Not at all, Monseer.” I replied then raised my voice to call out to the men. “I need a volunteer!” Sergeant Clay snapped to attention in front of me.

    “Suh!”

    “Can you ride, Clay?” I asked him, knowing the answer the Carolina born and bred Clay was likely to give.

    “Ah kin ride lak th’ wind, Suh!”

    “Go across and get your mount ready then.” I ordered. “I’m sendin’ you to the Continental Headquarters in New Jersey with a dispatch for the Major.”

    “That’s all you intend, Capitaine?” the Frenchie protested.

    “My orders don’t cover spies, Monseer, so under the circumstances requesting further orders is the only smart thing to do. It’ll only be a matter of three or four days. In the meantime we’ll keep the enemy contained where they are. But come across with me if you would. I want to make sure that I correctly relate your story for the Major and we can have the doctor take a look at that arm.”

    He shrugged his shoulders in the way that Frenchmen do and walked somewhat stiffly toward the wharf. I took a moment to give instructions to Lieutenant Peters before following him.
     
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  7. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Wednesday 9 June 1779

    The last time I woke up the sun was full overhead – now it was midday again, so I must have slept the clock around. I looked over for John, but it was Fred Bassingford’s dear face I saw instead.

    “He had to check on the others, precious girl. We are under siege here, you see. Montaigne and the Continentals cannot get in, but we cannot get out, either. We are just waiting for Colonel Jenkinson to bring his men and George Therrien’s up to relieve us. You have been asleep – genuinely asleep, not unconscious or restless, for a full day. Now let’s see to your needs, eh? No fancy water closet, I’m afraid, but this was the commander’s office and living quarters, such as they were, so we have adapted them to allow you some privacy. You cannot put weight on those feet, so I shall have to carry you to your ‘water closet.’

    “No, I will” John said from the doorway, coming over to scoop me into his arms and drop a kiss on my nose.

    “John, did you sleep at all in the last twenty-four hours while I was dead to the world?” He gave an involuntary shudder at my poor choice of words and I hastened to rephrase. “While I was asleep, I mean?”

    “I can answer that, he did – under protest, but even Iron Man Sinclair cannot go without rest forever,” Fred said. “Across that doorway on a pallet, but he slept.”

    A few minutes later, my chore complete, John carried me back to my cot and made sure I was lying comfortably. “How do you feel, love? Any pain?” He asked.
    “I feel much better, except for my feet - and the shoulder’s still a bit tender and swollen. Doctor Fred, can I get up today?”

    “My dear, I bow to a higher authority, and I believe the answer is no,” he said with a grin as he glanced over at John.

    “John?”

    “You were dehydrated, you lost a lot of blood from the wounds, especially those on your feet, Tara. You need to rest. You can’t make me believe you don’t feel discomfort, especially from your shoulder.”

    “Yes, but how will that keep me from sitting in a chair?”

    “If we had good chairs, maybe. But a camp stool or that medieval torture device over there” - he pointed to a very uncomfortable ladder-back chair - “hardly qualify as good chairs. Bed is the best place for you, my love.”

    “But… I feel fine. Well, not fine, but… John Sinclair, less than a week after you were very seriously wounded, you were up and on the way to the water closet. And now you tell me I have to stay in bed.”

    I saw Fred shoot John a look of something like triumphant amusement, but neither of them explained.

    “I’m merely saying that Fred ought to enforce his rules impartially. If I can’t get up, then neither can you.” John said patiently.

    “But you did get up, and you started climbing the masts over his protests. So how is my case different?” I protested.

    “I think she’s got you there, John.” Fred put in helpfully.

    “There was nothing wrong with my feet, Tara, and I did wait four weeks before climbing the masts.” He insisted. “Keep out of this, Fred.”

    “I am merely giving my medical opinion when asked to do so,” Fred said somewhat huffily.

    “Medical opinion, my… You change your opinion to suit the case and the patient!” John shot back.

    “Well of course I do, John, every case is different and every patient unique.” Fred explained, his manner one of someone addressing someone slow of understanding.

    Lest the discussion deteriorate still further, I brought these two wonderful men back to the situation at hand.

    “John, I feel fine. In fact, I feel so fine I want to see what I can do to help those men in there. I know there have to be more of them, even if it’s just the other prisoners. Who came with you, John?

    “Fred of course, George and MacGregor you saw, Jock Calhoun and Tremaine from my marine detachment, and a Yankee master’s mate named Harrison who knew the river well enough to get us here just in time.”

    “And were any of them hurt?”

    “Calhoun took a sabre thrust to the back, from Montaigne, but not before he dispatched that damned bastard Landrum who was going to hang you on Montaigne’s flimsy excuse for a charge. Jock will be out of action for a while, but Fred says he’ll live. He’s tough as old boots, is Calhoun.”

    “Could I go see him? Calhoun, I mean? And maybe talk to him a while?”

    “In your shift? Not bloody likely!” John said unrelentingly.

    “Well, then I can put on your coat, or Fred’s coat, or something.”

    “I did offer my coat earlier, John,” Fred said, as if reminding my beloved of something.

    “Then the problem is solved.” I said.

    “No, the problem is not solved, you are not going out there in your shift, with or without the coat, and that’s final.” John insisted.

    “John Sinclair, sometimes you can be so… stubborn,” I said in frustration.

    “Finally, someone else who realizes the truth!” Fred put in with a grin. “Will wonders never cease? This is a memorable day indeed!”

    John growled something I don’t think I wanted to hear in Fred’s general direction, but it seemed to have the general meaning of - Mind your own business. Then he turned to Fred, pointed to the door and commanded “Out,” telling him, in no uncertain terms, to leave the room.

    “Sent away again. I do not know why I stand for it, I really, really do not.” Fred said with a sigh, but he left - and he closed the door behind him.

    John sat down on the camp bed and gathered me into his arms, careful not to put any pressure on my right shoulder. My back was against his chest, with both of his arms crossed just above my waist. I felt a kiss brush my tumbled hair.

    “Sweetheart, you have to take care of yourself. You had a very narrow escape. If you push it too much you’ll just slow down your recovery.” I could see that he was determined, and a glance up at his face showed me that there were strands of grey at his temples that had not been there even a week before.

    “All right, John. I’ll stay in bed and rest. I just wanted to help, that’s all.”

    “I know, and I love you for it, Tara, but this time, let us take care of you.” We sat in silence for a few moments until John said, “Tara, why did you go out that night? I’m not accusing you or saying that you brought your trouble on yourself, there’s no excuse for violence against a woman, but you’re normally so level-headed.”

    “I got letter, John, a very upsetting one.”

    “Your father’s not worse, is he?”

    “No, it wasn’t that. No, this was from Mrs. Mackenzie. She said such spiteful, nasty things – how I was bad because I wanted to wear colours, how I was bad because I took care of you and nursed you after you were hurt, how I was wrong to stay in the same house with you with only Jennifer and Mary for chaperones. She called Mary a ‘low sailor’s wife.’ I don’t remember all of it, I was too upset. I just had to talk to you and I just – started walking toward the docks. I’m sorry, John.”

    “Don’t be. You didn’t cause this. Montaigne caused this to strike at me. If you hadn’t been taken at the docks he would have come to the house, even though we have guards - guards I plan to have tripled, by the way. But how did this woman find out all this?”

    “She set her daughter Amelia - the one who’s engaged to my brother - to snooping on my good friend Laura Preston. I didn’t tell Laura everything, John, just that I was helping take care of you, and then she found out that I had sent for my trunks somehow. The rest was just venom.”

    “I think your brother had better break his engagement immediately, unless he wants to be involved in a very nasty family squabble. The damned battleaxe has a lot to answer for, and as for her husband, where was he while she was doing all this mischief?”

    “Mr. Mackenzie is very mild mannered. He mostly lives in his library and lets her run things, I think. I don’t think I‘ve spoken to him more than a dozen times since we moved three years ago.”

    “Then he ought to come out of his ivory tower and get his wife and daughter under control before he finds himself at the wrong end of dueling pistol. A man is responsible for the actions of his family. Abdicating that responsibility through weakness of character is no excuse,” he said grimly. There were a few moments of silence while he brought his anger under control, then he said, “Thank you for telling me, Tara. I just needed to know who was responsible, that’s all. I knew it wasn’t you. Now, despite all your protestations about feeling fine, you’re tired already, aren’t you? And you’ve had nothing to eat. We don’t have much, but I’ll get you something. Go easy with the water - there’s only what we have in the barrels here in the stockade, and we dare not go down to the river for

    more.”

    A few minutes later I had the first solid food I had tasted in almost forty-eight hours - and it tasted like the nectar of the gods.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Wednesday 9 June 1779

    I watched as Tara ate and forced myself to appear calm but in reality my mind was racing. I’d told her that Montaigne and this Mackenzie woman were to blame but in truth the blame lay with me and what I had nearly caused was eating me up inside.

    She finished the last of the beans and dried beef that were all we had to offer her and I took her plate and set it on the desk before returning to her side.

    “I’m sorry, Tara, this was all my fault.” I confessed.

    “That’s not true, John. How can you say such a thing?” She replied but I just hung my head in shame.

    “Because it is true, my love. Oh I didn’t write that damnable letter but I provided the grist for the hateful thing. It was my idea that you go back into colours so early and there you were nursing me, a man twenty-four years your senior that you were neither married or engaged to. Oh how the gossips must have spread that one. I know how country gossip gets magnified Tara. Thornbury is really a little place after all. By the time the story reached Halifax it would have had us having drunken orgies every night and engaging in every sort of reprehensible behavior. All because I was afraid.”

    “John Sinclair you’ve never been afraid in your life.” Tara reproached me.

    “You’re wrong, Love. Only a fool knows no fear. I’ve been afraid many times. I was damn all terrified from the moment George showed me the note that Montaigne’s man pitched through the window. And I was afraid that you did not really love me, but were just humouring an old man.” She made to object but I plunged ahead. “I know. I know it was foolish. But you are so lovely and bright and so young that I couldn’t believe that you could want me and so I waited. I waited too damned long and this is the result. I can’t change what has already happened, Tara, but I can make certain that it won’t happen again.”

    “This isn’t how I’d hoped to do this, my love, but still… ” I dropped to one knee and took my beloved’s hand in mine as I gazed directly into those beautiful violet eyes that were wide with surprise as she realized what was about to happen.

    “Tara, my beloved, I adore you with every fibre of my being. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. You are truly the Mistress of my Heart, will you marry me?”


    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Wednesday 9 June 1779

    You are truly the mistress of my heart; will you marry me?”

    He was on one knee beside me, his gaze fastened on mine. He was holding my hand, and there was just the tiniest tremor – imperceptible to all but the most sensitive. Nervous? John Sinclair, nervous, when he had just laid his heart and the world at my feet?

    Tears sprang to my eyes. He looked alarmed “Tara? I…”

    “Hush, John. Haven’t you ever heard of tears of joy? I have never been happier in my life than I am at this moment, and the only moments that could ever possibly equal or surpass it are the moments when I make my vows of marriage to you in front of God and our family and friends - and the moment when I give you your first son. You called me the Mistress of your heart - you are truly the King of mine. Yes, I will marry you; yes, I will share your life, your home and your bed. I can’t come to you, John. Will you come to me?

    “Oh God yes, Tara, with all my heart and soul.” He said as he rose from his knee to enfold me in his arms, bending his handsome head to kiss me passionately in confirmation of the promises we had just made.

    I took one of his hands - so big, so fascinating, so much a picture in miniature of who John Sinclair is - and placed it over my heart - over my left breast. In all the time we had been together, John had been so careful never to touch me intimately, though I knew his feelings were deep and passionate. Now, I needed his touch on my body - and he needed to feel my heart beating under his fingertips. My body began to respond to his touch and I saw his eyes darken as passion rose behind them.

    “My heart beats for you, John, and because of you it has not been stilled forever. It beats only for you, and always for you. Can you feel it beating for you?”

    Long, wonderful, passionate moments passed, full of kisses, caresses and murmured endearments. At length he disengaged himself and reached into the pocket of his coat, which was draped over the ‘medieval torture device’ that passed for a chair in the office. He pulled out a tiny pouch made of worn velvet, so old that most of the nap had rubbed away. From inside, he produced a lovely old ring, white gold set with a perfect sapphire surrounded by diamonds. He reached for my left hand and slid the ring onto my finger, kissing each finger in turn before he leaned over to take my mouth under his again. The tears started again, but this time he was no longer alarmed. He merely kissed them away.

    “This wedding had better be soon. I don’t know how much longer I can live without you in my life and in my bed.”

    Eventually, regretfully, we had to break apart, if only to breathe. “There’s a story behind this ring, isn’t there, John?”

    “Indeed there is, my love. It belonged to Lady Catherine Sinclair, my grandmother. Her husband was Sir Thomas Sinclair. I told you about him I think.”

    “Yes, the dashing pirate,” I said with a smile. John nodded.

    “He gave her this ring in 1710 when he asked her to marry him. She was sixteen, and they married only with her parents’ reluctant consent. She was the precious only daughter of her father, Lord Montagu, and he did not want to part with her, but she knew her own mind and Sir Thomas had won her heart. My grandfather journeyed to London to have this ring made up just for her. He took her stone, the Sapphire - for she was born in September too, you see, though it was September of 1694 - and surrounded it with diamonds, the hardest stone of all. He told her that he would be her diamond - that he would protect her from all harm and wrong. They had five children, and my father was the first. I still remember her, a little. She died in 1745, when I was a lad of ten. She was a wonderful woman, so full of life and love. Sir Thomas never really recovered from her death of a fever that Christmas. He lived almost ten years longer, but as a frail, lonely old man.

    “Tara, when I gave you that necklace last month I wanted you to understand that you are the diamond and I am the sapphire, and that I will always be beside you to protect you. Now, I am asking you to take this ring as a symbol of our love, because this time the sapphire is in the centre. I need to be protected by the strength of your love, Mistress of my Heart. I am strong, as the world counts strength, but without you beside me I will falter and fall.” I took a few moments before speaking, I wanted to be sure that I had the right words to match the love in my heart, but then:

    “John, I will be your strength, as you are mine. I will love you always and care for you without reservation. Make my happiness - I will make yours.”


    From the Personal Log of Bartholomew Jones,
    Lieutenant RN

    Thursday 10 June 1779

    It has now been three days since the Captain, Doctor Bassingford, Lieutenant Tremaine, Sergeant Calhoun, Harrison and MacGregor rode north along with Colonel Therrien to rescue Miss Mason from her captor. It seems far longer to those of us that had to remain behind. We have had no word at all in those three days and everyone aboard ship goes about his duties in a state of perpetual worry.

    The one time that Miss Tara, as the Captain calls her, came aboard she immediately captured the hearts of all of us. Even the most hard-bitten characters aboard could not help but to have been moved by her grace, beauty and the deep abiding the love that she so obviously has for Captain Sinclair. As for the Captain although we all know quite well his strength, skill and determination how can even he challenge a rebel garrison that has to number at least a hundred men with but the tiny handful that rode with him.

    Colonel Jenkinson was bogged down with skirmishers only a few miles north of the city and even now has been able to advance a mere one quarter of the distance to West Point even with his own 28th and Colonel Therrien’s 16th Regiments of Foot. More than thirty good men have been cut down by the American’s long rifles and three times that number wounded. The horrifying picture to emerge is that Miss Tara, the Captain and the rest may well already be dead.

    As if this wasn’t enough bad news just yesterday there was another capture of a merchantman on the approaches to Sandy Hook. Not the big Frenchie Arronbourge this time but a smaller Yankee frigate called Lexington that seems to have joined her. To all accounts she is a former merchantman herself; a small, well-built Indiamen mounting twenty-two guns. If these reports are true then we are indeed in for a bad time. The heavy men of war of the Fleet here in New York are well-nigh useless against such a foe for they will barely have time to weigh anchor before these swift frigates will have vanished to heaven knows where. Our own frigates patrol constantly but are stretched increasingly thinly and still find nothing. Sir Avery Canning has sent a pair of commandeered schooners out to search but it could take months to poke into every cove and inlet that could hide the enemy. In any case if one of the schooners did find them it is far more likely that she would be sunk before being allowed to report back her findings.

    The Captain had believed that Sapphire would eventually be called to deal with this matter and so I shall continue to acquire information regarding both Arronbourge and now this new threat. But I must admit that the conclusions that the information points to fill me with considerable apprehension. For it appears the enemy, both the French and the Americans are assembling a squadron of raiding vessels in the area of New York right where they will be able to intercept the numerous convoys bound for this continent. Such a squadron will be well able to overwhelm the escorts and cut out vessels at will, fuelling the rebel cause while greatly hindering our own efforts. Would even the Captain, if indeed he were still alive as we all prayed, be able to stop them?
     
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  8. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Volume One - The Frigate Captain will be concluding tomorrow. On Friday I'll start posting Volume Two - Broad Pendant.

    As you may have noticed the action in England ended back in May, Broad Pendant will pick things up there and will eventually catch up with things in America in June.

    I probably should have posted the cast list at the beginning but it slipped my mind. So here it is now, better late than never.

    The Frigate Captain
    Cast of Characters


    />/> = leading character
    /> = major character
    }} = minor character
    } = walk-on character

    (in order of speaking appearance)

    John Sinclair – Captain, HMS Sapphire, 36 />/>
    Admiralty Clerk, Lieutenant }
    Lieutenant Fanshaw – Admiralty clerk }
    Joseph Milton – Lord St. John’s private secretary }
    Lord St. John – 2nd Lord of the Admiralty }}
    Sir Malcolm Parker – Rear-Admiral, St. John’s chief strategist }
    Giles Humbarton – Captain, Chief of Staff to the Portsmouth port admiral }
    Bron Helstrom – Bosun, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Alfred Bassingford, MD – Surgeon, HMS Sapphire, 36 />
    Bartholomew Jones – 1st Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 />
    Ford – Purser, HMS Sapphire, 36 }
    Ian MacGregor – Captain Sinclair’s cox’n />
    Oliver Simpson – Portsmouth Victualling Superintendent }
    Walter Cutler – Senior Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    William Tremaine – Marine Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Jock Calhoun – Marine Sergeant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Gregory Archer – Captain, HMS Spartan, 74 }
    William Mason – Master & Commander, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 />/>
    Nicolas Stewart – Commander Mason’s cox’n />
    Ronald Scarboro – Major, Royal Marines & senior British agent }}
    Teague – Seaman, ex-poacher, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }
    Gerard Leveque – French Spy }
    Jennifer Willis Mason – Neophyte British agent, wife of William Mason />/>
    Mary Stewart – Jennifer Mason’s friend and bodyguard, wife of Nicolas Stewart />
    James Ravenwood – Printer & Suspected Yankee Spy }}
    Quimby – Chief Clerk at Ravenwood’s bookstore }
    Jack Robertson – 1st Lieutenant, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 />
    O’Connor – Junior Midshipman, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }}
    Richard Mason III – Merchant Captain & senior British agent />
    Liam Talbot – 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Reginald Shea – Junior Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Andrew Bailey – Captain Sinclair’s steward }}
    Thomas O’Rourke – Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    The Honourable Charles Courtenay – Colonel, 70th Regiment of Foot }}
    George Therrien – Colonel, 16th Regiment of Foot />
    Maisie Hollis – A soldier’s wife who works for Jennifer Mason }}
    Dunkin – Ship’s Cat, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Nathan Zachary – 3rd Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Neville – Masthead lookout, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }}
    Elijah Boyd – Sailing Master, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }}
    Thomas Kennedy – Senior Midshipman, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }}
    Eric Harmon – Surgeon, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 />
    Oakley – Commander Mason’s steward }}
    Georgia – Ship’s Cat, HM Sloop-of-War Paladin, 18 }}
    Jacob Coleman – Chief Clerk at Mason Shipping’s New York office }}
    Albert Prewitt – General handyman & bodyguard for Jennifer Mason }}
    Randall Jenkinson – Colonel, 28th Regiment of Foot }}
    Hollis – Sergeant, 28th Regiment of Foot, Maisie’s husband }}
    Jamie Dunne – Sailing Master, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Tara Mason – William Mason’s sister />/>
    Sir Edmund Halliwell – Vice-Admiral, Portsmouth port admiral }
    Stephen Mason – William Mason’s 13-year-old brother />
    Carter – Bosun’s mate, HMS Avenger, 74 }
    Henri-Albere Montaigne – Captain of the French frigate Enchante />
    Joan Lindsey – Jennifer Mason’s aunt, wife of the Canon of Salisbury }
    Will Sommersby – Proprietor of the Crown & Castle Inn in Thornbury }
    Jack Sommersby – Will’s brother, Captain Sinclair’s butler at White Oaks }}
    Ida Sommersby – Jack’s wife, Captain Sinclair’s senior housekeeper at White Oaks }}
    Michael Gilmore – Captain, RN, William Mason’s brother-in-law />
    Alice Gilmore Willis – Michael Gilmore’s sister }}
    Alice Anne Willis – Daughter of Alice and Benjamin Willis }}
    William Willis – Son of Alice and Benjamin Willis }}
    Bill Rolland – Solicitor for Willis Woolen Mill }}
    Helen Willis Rolland – Bill’s wife, sister of Jennifer and Winifred }
    Winifred Willis Gilmore – Wife of Michael, sister of Jennifer and Helen }}
    Nanny Bates – Nanny to William, Alice Anne & Peter Willis }
    Andrew Cross – Master’s Mate, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Elizabeth Hill – Maid at White Oaks }
    Stokes – Saville Row tailor that William Mason patronizes }
    Sir Avery Canning – Rear-Admiral, New York’s Inshore Squadron }}
    Reese – Lucinda Graydon’s dresser and friend }
    Lucy Mason aka Lucinda Graydon – Actress & British agent, wife of Richard Mason III }}
    Collins – Major from the New York Provost Marshal’s office }}
    Nathaniel Valdez – Former 5th Lieutenant, HMS Triumph, 74 }}
    Robert Mason – Former 6th Lieutenant, HMS Invincible, 74, William Mason’s younger brother }}
    Reginald Trent – Former 5th Lieutenant, HMS Invincible, 74, friend of Robert Mason }
    Benjamin Willis – Embezzler, thief and adulterer, husband of Alice Gilmore Willis }
    Sally Hill – Thief, mistress and accomplice of Benjamin Willis }
    Richard Mason Jr. – Patriarch of the Mason family & Head of Mason Shipping }}
    Mrs. Robertson – The Mason’s Scottish housekeeper }
    James Mason – William Mason’s older brother, a director of Mason Shipping }}
    Gertrude Mackenzie – Overbearing harpy out to snare a Mason for her daughter}
    Amelia Mackenzie – Gertrude’s attractive but empty-headed daughter }
    Keith Preston – Manager of Mason Shipping’s Halifax Office}
    Laura Preston – Keith’s daughter, in love with James Mason }}
    Joe & Willie – Henchmen hired by Montaigne }}
    Joseph Harrison – Senior Master’s Mate, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Josephus Dickenson – Continental Army Captain, West Point garrison }}
    Landrum – Captain, Pollepel Island prison camp }}
    Polk – Sergeant of the Guard, Pollepel Island prison camp }
    Tucker – Guard, Pollepel Island prison camp }
    Clay – Carolina born Sergeant, West Point garrison }
    Mrs. Jenkinson – Colonel Jenkinson’s wife }
    George Washington – General, Continental Army }
     
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  9. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Diary of Jennifer Mason

    Friday 11 June 1779

    It has been five days since Tara was abducted and John Sinclair rode after her with a handful of picked men. Mary and I continue as the guests of Mrs. Jenkinson, a plump, comfortable woman who has been a tower of strength. A soldier’s daughter before she was a soldier’s wife, she always seems to know just what to say when Mary or I am feeling that we might never seen our dear friend again.

    Today we were sitting in the drawing room trying to concentrate on our needlework, though without much success when Mrs. Jenkinson’s maid introduced some new arrivals:

    “Mr. Richard Mason and Mr. and Mrs. James Mason, ma’am.”

    Tara’s father? Here? And with James Mason and his wife? I was immediately confused, since James was not supposed to be married until September.

    “Jennifer, my dear girl, I am glad to see you well,” he said, striding into the room to bow over my hand. “And Mary, a pleasure. I understand that you and my old friend Nicolas expect a child in the fall? Wonderful news, and I know you are very happy. Jennifer and Mary may I reacquaint you with my son James, the second oldest you know, and make you known to his new bride Laura Preston Mason. Laura is a dear friend of Tara’s.”

    This was a mystery. Only a few days before, James had been engaged to Amelia Mackenzie, whose mother’s spiteful letter we had found crumpled on Tara’s dresser and we surmised had sent her out into the night and into the clutches of Montaigne and his men.

    “Mr. Mason, you had my letter? But how – I only sent it on Tuesday, and surely you could not have had time to receive it and come down so quickly, not from Halifax.”

    “No, my dear, I came for different reasons, but I know the terrible situation we are all in just now. I went immediately to the house on John Street, of course, and found it empty. The guard directed me here, but along the way I stopped in at the Mason Shipping offices and Mr. Coleman told me what had happened. I understand that Captain Sinclair has gone after her, with men from two crack regiments following, led by your husband, Mrs. Jenkinson. I am confident of their success, and you must not worry overmuch.”

    He sounded so confident, so calm, that the strain of the last few days overwhelmed me, and I gave way to tears. He simply gathered me into his arms as if he were my own dear Papa and held me, looking down from his great height – I had forgotten that he is actually taller even than his son Dick - with those piercing blue eyes so like William’s.

    “You’ve had so much to bear, sweet girl. First your own parents, then my dear Vanessa, then being separated from William and worrying about Lucy – oh, yes, I know all about it. I spent the voyage down here re-reading every letter I could get my hands on that might give news of the family. I’ve lost nearly four months of my life, but I don’t intend to live in a fog any longer. Cry. You’ll feel so much better.”

    After a few moments he produced a snowy white handkerchief and, as if I had been a tiny girl, put it to my nose. “Blow”. I managed a watery chuckle. My papa had done the same thing so many times.

    “Oh, that’s a good sound. Now, come and sit by me and tell me how this came about. You’ll feel better if you tell me. Mary, I know you will have something to say, too.”

    He listened carefully, he asked questions, all the while holding my hand in his two. “Now you must not worry, my dear. I am on my way to General Headquarters to make some inquiries on my own. I have some influence in these circles, and I am confident of finding out something that is not generally known. And once that is done, I will see to taking a house for us all. Mrs. Jenkinson, do you know of any houses that would be large enough for all of us? I am hopeful that my sons Dick and Will - and young Steve too, of course, will be coming back to New York before very long.”

    “As it happens, I do, Mr. Mason. There’s a large estate up on the north side of the island, near the Murray place. It’s owned by a supporter of the Congress who found the climate in New York unfavorable – the political climate, that is. It’s been available for some weeks, but it’s too large for most people to afford and too far north to make a good military headquarters. Here is the advertisement from the newspaper.”

    Papa Mason read it carefully and nodded his approval. “It sounds perfect for us, then, and we can certainly afford it. Well, my dears, shall we go house-hunting? If I decide to take the place for the summer we can all pick out rooms. I appreciate Captain Sinclair’s offer of his house but it’s a honeymoon cottage really and since we can’t all fit in it, I know he will not mind that we are moving to a larger and more comfortable place. When Tara comes back, we will be able to say, ‘This is our new house.’ Imagine what fun that will be.”

    His optimism was catching. By the time he took himself off to try to see Sir Henry Clinton, leaving James and Laura to get acquainted with us, I felt better than I had in days.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Friday 11 June 1779

    The afternoon sunshine was warm on my shoulders as George and I inspected the earthen battlements that had been dug to supplement the rough-hewn wooden logs of the prison’s palisades. For almost four days we had been trapped within these walls awaiting relief from two regiments of Foot that Colonel Jenkinson was bringing north. We both knew that something must have happened to delay them for they should have arrived a good two days ago at the most.

    As I was more than confident that George could handle things out here I had been spending most of my time with Tara. The news that we were now engaged had gone through the place like wildfire. Fred had been the first to know when he’d come in to check on Tara’s condition and had seen the ring that had been my grandmother’s on her finger. I haven’t seen Fred smile that broadly in a very long time as he’d congratulated us both. Wednesday MacGregor had finished sewing a makeshift but serviceable bodice and skirt out of sheets and shirts that we’d found in the cabins. Clad in that and Fred’s coat I had permitted the others in to meet her and offer their best wishes. I know that Tara chafes at my being so restrictive with her but understands that after what nearly happened to her Tuesday morning I just cannot help myself. Once we are out of this hellhole and back to the house in New York I’m sure I shall feel better about it although I still want her to stay off her feet for at least seven days, perhaps ten.

    The former prisoners continue to improve as well as can be expected and although Fred has found it necessary to amputate twice he believes that all will recover provided of course we can get them out of here. All are officers from the various regiments that have been fighting here, some since 1776, private soldiers it seems are not considered worth keeping in such a highly secure prison. The senior, a Major from the 4th Welsh Volunteers named Gruffudd is now acting as our ‘Sergeant of the Guard.’ He knows the forty-one men that make up our makeshift garrison best making him a better choice than Tremaine who is still worried about Sergeant Calhoun.

    We have found sufficient food to last for several weeks in one of two storage sheds. Apparently it was intended for the guards. It is simple, nourishing if unappetizing fare and it will do for now. Of much more immediate concern is the shortage of water. Even with rations of but one cup per day we face an imminent shortage within four more days. If relief does not come soon I shall have no choice but to cut even that small ration in half. If only it would rain we could lay out sheets to channel as much of the water as possible into the barrels but the sky remains clear and dry.

    We were just turning back toward the headquarters building when suddenly a rifle shot parted the stillness. I looked up and saw that the flag which Calhoun had brought with him, a favoured target, had acquired yet another new hole. This was one of the rebels’ latest tactics. They were firing off a few shots from their Kentucky rifles every half hour or so to keep us from getting any sleep. Often followed by taunting, that came a moment later.

    “Hello Capitaine did I wake you up?”

    Montaigne. To most of us his voice was merely more noise. Unfortunately I was one of the few here, Fred and Tara being the others, who understood him. Tara had been surprised for she remembered the day in the attic when she’d showed me Angelique’s picture. ‘I can’t read French, Tara, but I’ve learned speak it fairly well’ I’d explained to her. A second shot cracked out.

    “Wake up, Englishman. I am speaking to you.” He waited a moment before continuing. “Maybe you can’t answer because your throat is too dry? We don’t have that problem you see. We have plenty of water out here. Why don’t you surrender then you can have some nice cool clear water before we hang you.” He waited a moment before continuing.

    “You know that you will have to eventually. You have no water but what was already in the barrels. All we need do is wait until you are so weak from thirst that we can walk in and take you all. And your little whore as well of course. I have promised myself that I will sample her pleasures, I look forward to doing so.”

    “You’ll never get your filthy hands on Tara, you bastard!” I shouted back through gritted teeth.

    “And how are you going to stop it?” He laughed viciously. “Charge out and kill me, with a full company of men out here who would make that suicide? Perhaps you will kill her yourself and save me the trouble. Then I will feed her body to the dogs, saving her head for the most vicious one and perhaps the more interesting parts as well.”

    “You perverted bastard!” I cried, sick to my very core at the thought of what he had threatened to do to my beloved.

    “Are you hoping to be rescued? By the two regiments that are marching north perhaps? It may take them some time to arrive here. The Americans have several companies of skirmishers making things very difficult for them. They are very good at that, these Americans. Your friends may get here by July if they are fortunate.”

    “Sooner or later, Montaigne, these poor fools that you’ve somehow duped will see through you! And see your words as the lies they really are.”

    “Hah, this band of peasant rabble? I think not. I am great nephew of his Excellency the Comte de Vergennes, most of these simpletons are all too willing to believe every word I say. As for the rest all I have to do is wave the name of Nathan Hale under their noses. Would you like to know what I told them about you, Capitaine? I told them that you were a master spy, that I have been chasing for many years and that your little tart is your protégé. Amusing, no? And they believed all of it. Even now with them listening to every word I am saying I can tell you everything and it does not matter for none of these peasant soldiers can speak the civilized language that it French!”

    But he had drastically overplayed his hand, this vile French bastard who was the epitome of everything that was cruel and vicious among the French Aristocracy. He had assumed that because that had been true when he arrived, it would always be true and that had just changed.

    “Perhaps they can not. But I assure, sir, I can!”

    Together George and I peeked over the top of the palisade to the clearing before the gate. Three men stood in that clearing all in the blue and buff of the Continental Army, one I didn’t know and the second was Dickinson the temporary commander of the West Point Garrison. The third however, even though I hadn’t seen him in nearly twenty years I recognized him instantly. He possessed the kind of bearing and demeanor that is unmistakable.

    “John, is that who I think it is?” George asked. I nodded.

    “It is if you think it’s Washington.”

    Then we said no more but watched as Montaigne tried without success to climb out of the grave that he’d dug for himself. In the end Washington simply stated tersely. “You will be taken, under guard by Continental Officers, to Boston where you will be placed aboard the very next ship bound for France. Do not return, sir, for you do so at your own peril. A full report of your actions will be forwarded to His Majesty King Louis. Your kind of assistance these Thirteen Colonies do not need!”

    Then Dickinson and two other soldiers marched him down to the wharf and into the waiting boat. Somehow I knew that I’d be seeing him again but for now at least Tara was no longer in danger.

    “What now do you think?” George asked.

    “Unless I miss my guess, a flag of truce and a parley.” I answered. Sure enough I was right and moments later Washington and I stood face to face in the main Yard in front of the wide-open gate.

    Washington had changed in the years since we’d last met. An inch or so taller than I was he was slim nearly to the point of being gaunt. His hair was almost completely grey now with very little of the brown that he’d had when we’d first met. It had been in 1760, Penelope had just been assigned to the North American Station and he had recently returned from service in the western frontier under General John Forbes following the capture of Fort Duquesne on the Allegheny River. Our contact was fairly brief as he had been elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and Penelope had been under repair following the Battle of the Ladies but quite cordial and I had been left with a very favourable impression of the Frontier Colonel from Virginia.

    “Captain Sinclair.” He said by way of greeting.

    “General Washington.” I replied. His somewhat guarded expression softened.

    “Thank you for that. Most British officers continue to address me as colonel, when they aren’t employing a more colourful appellation.”

    “Unfortunately many of the soldiers that have been sent here to fight are not the best that Britain has to offer, as that lack of common courtesy demonstrates. Might I introduce you to one who is? This is my old friend Colonel George Therrien newly appointed to command the 16th Regiment of Foot.” Washington turned to George and extended his hand.

    “Although I wish the circumstances had been different, sir, I am pleased to meet you. The Bedfordshires are a fine regiment with a proud history and I can recall reading of your exploits during the last war as well.”

    “Thank you, sir.” He replied as they shook hands. “I’m familiar with your own efforts during that war. You did quite well in the campaign against the French in the west.”

    We made polite small talk for a few more minutes before Washington came to the point.

    “As you doubtless heard I’ve ordered that Frenchman sent home in disgrace. But that still leaves the problem of what to do regarding all of you.”

    “We haven’t surrendered, George.” I answered, the unspoken ‘yet’ hanging in the air.

    “I do not require you to, John. I had originally intended to ask you to do exactly that. Under the circumstances however I am willing to have you escorted back to New York City under a flag of truce. Provided that you all agree not to take up arms against Continental Forces for a period of thirty days, that is to say until the 11th of July. Is that acceptable to you?”

    “It sounds very reasonable, George. But there is the question of the prisoners that we freed here. I’m not willing to just leave them behind.”

    “Hmmm, A difficult subject, those men are legitimate prisoners of war.” He replied his head bent in thought. “However, I’m prepared to offer them parole under the usual restrictions; they are to return home and not to take up arms or military duties again until exchanged.”

    “Agreed.”

    “Excellent.” He said permitting himself a satisfied smile. “Then may I be permitted to make the acquaintance of your lady? I assume she’s your wife.”

    “Close, my fiancée actually. But yes I think that would be alright.” I replied then turned to lead the way into the Headquarters building.

    We went in and I made the necessary introductions and explanations of what had transpired outside. Tara could not help but give a cry of delight when she heard that we were going home.

    “Miss Mason.” Washington said, dropping to one knee beside her cot. “Please accept my sincere apologies for the shameful way in which you were mis-treated. I can assure you that the men who assaulted you will be punished for their actions.”

    “Thank you, General.” Tara, ever the gracious lady, replied. “But that won’t be necessary. John has already done that in every case except that of Captain Montaigne and I understand that there is little that can be done to him under the circumstances.”

    “Perhaps not,” Washington admitted, “but I have ordered him sent home in disgrace and I shall see to it King Louis is fully appraised of his dreadful conduct. I feel certain that at the very least Montaigne will never wear his country’s uniform again.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Perhaps when the present hostilities are ended you and your husband, I trust he will be your husband by then, will visit us at Mount Vernon? You will be more than welcome.”

    “We would be delighted. I know I speak for both of us when I ask that you and Mrs. Washington also visit John and me at White Oaks.”

    “I thank you for the offer ma’am, but I fear my presence in Britain would set up as big a firestorm as Lord North’s would here. At least at first, but perhaps after a few years… Right now this war has torn us apart, but time has a way of healing all wounds, and someday Americans and Britons will be brothers again.”

    “How strange. John said much the same only a few weeks ago.” Tara remarked. Washington looked over at me for a moment before turning back to Tara.

    “That gives me considerable hope for the future, Miss Mason, considerable hope indeed. It’s a pity you’re not in Parliament, John, this whole war might have been avoided by a few voices of reason in those august halls.”

    “Not bloody likely.” I snorted. “Would have been a lone voice in the wilderness more like. Even if we had managed to hang on to the Earldom after Bosworth Field.”

    “Don’t discount yourself, sir.” He said standing back up. “A single strong voice may be the start of a great choir. I’ll have the wagons ready for you in half an hour. By nightfall you should be at an empty hostel about fifteen miles down the Albany road. It should provide far better accommodations.” Then shaking my and Fred’s hand and bowing over Tara he took his leave.

    “I wonder what he was doing up here?” Fred remarked.

    “He received word that I was here and came up to negotiate our surrender”

    “Why on earth would he do that?” Fred replied the puzzlement evident in his voice.

    “We met during the last war.”

    “Did you meet everyone in the last war?” Fred cried out in exasperation.

    “I don’t think I met Wolfe.” I responded playfully teasing him just a bit. “Why do you ask?” He rolled his eyes heavenward with an expression of utter helpless frustration on his face.

    “Oh I do not know, it just seemed like the thing to ask that’s all.”

    Tara laughed from the cot and I sat down next to her, gathering her hand in mine.

    “Stop teasing poor Doctor Fred, John, and tell him the truth.”

    “Your wish is my command, my sweet. After the Ladies many people made a point of meeting me. Most were entirely forgettable but some weren’t. George Washington was one of them. It seems that he felt the same about me.”

    “Wait a moment, I was there and I do not remember that at all.” Fred commented.

    “You were busy saving Duncan Shaunnessy’s life at the time as I recall.” I replied, naming Penelope’s first lieutenant.

    “Oh, that’s right now that I think of it. Well, will wonders never cease?” He remarked before going into the next room to prepare his patients for their journey. I paid him no mind. Tara was in my arms, she had survived this harrowing ordeal and we were going home. That was all that mattered.
     
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  10. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Diary of Jennifer Mason

    Saturday 12 June 1779

    Mr. Mason – Papa, as he insists we call him - proved yesterday why he is the man who took a coastal trading sloop in Williamsburg and built it up into a shipping line with a sterling reputation across the Empire. First it was the trip to headquarters, where he adamantly refused to leave until Sir Henry Clinton granted him an interview and gave him a full report of what was being done to recover Tara and the rescue party, then it was on to the solicitor who was handling the rental of the Lennox estate. There was a bit of canny horse- trading, as Papa described it to us over dinner last night.

    “I pointed out to the fellow that given the fact that it was rebel property, he was lucky that it hadn’t been confiscated, just as our home in Annapolis was confiscated. Besides, the price he was asking was much too high. We came to a meeting of the minds, especially when he was presented with the first three months’ rent in gold. Amazing how specie will alter a man’s perspective. Faced with a choice of renting the place for a bit less, but for hard cash money, he took the gold. It is fully furnished, so all we need move are our personal effects. By noon tomorrow we will be in our new home, my dears.”

    And so it was. Papa organized men from his ship to cart our trunks, organized some of the soldier’s wives to help us pack - all amply rewarded, of course - and away we went. The Lennox estate is situated on the Albany post road, the main road north out of Manhattan, but set back from the road in its own grounds, which include a home farm, a pond, and some of the few mature trees still standing in New York, the rest having been cut down for firewood during the harsh winter just past. The house was large, beautifully furnished, and very comfortable. I had seen the newspaper advertisement and I knew how much the owners were asking; even with some careful bargaining this place was well beyond the means of all but the most wealthy, and I realized anew just how much money Mason Shipping brings in every year. No wonder the malicious Mrs. Mackenzie had tried to ensnare a Mason for her daughter - any Mason would be a prize catch indeed. Just in the short time she has been with us I have discovered why Laura Preston - Laura Mason, as of just a few days ago - was such a good friend of Tara’s. She is bright, lively, articulate and kind - and obviously head over heels in love with her new husband. Within the first hour of meeting we were talking like old school chums who had known each other forever. She told me the story of how Amelia Mackenzie, spurred on by her mother, had used flattery and outright scheming to bring James Mason up to a proposal. “It made me so mad, and not just because I’ve been in love with him for donkey’s years. It was so - cold and calculating. But what do you expect from the Mackenzies, after all. I mean, look what they tried to do to your own husband - future husband, then - when he was only sixteen.”

    I looked blank. “Oh, it was hushed up, of course, and I’m not surprised he didn’t tell you. It’s not the sort of thing a man tells his young bride. We were never sure if she seduced him or not, though we thought it very likely.” She went on to explain how a niece of Mrs. Mackenzie, a Miss Thorne, had been sent out from England because of her wild behaviour, and then set out to catch William and thus land a Mason.

    “Thank God he saw her for what she was and went to Frederick Mackenzie, demanding the truth. For once in his life the old man had the gumption to do what was right and send the girl home in disgrace. I was only eleven at the time, but my older sisters talked about it endlessly, usually unaware that I could hear them.”

    After dinner last night, Papa called me into the library he has taken for his study and rang for a tea tray. “Now, Jennifer my dear, I want you to tell me, as Tara’s dear friend, what you think about her friendship with Captain Sinclair.”

    “It’s more than a friendship, Papa. She loves him, and he loves her. I watched them fall in love only six weeks ago, and it’s just grown. I know there’s the age difference, but… ”

    “Immaterial, in my opinion, if the love is there. I was twelve years older than my dear Vanessa, you know. Twenty-four years might be a bit more than is usually seen, but it can be an advantage, for both parties. She can keep him young and give him the children an older woman could not, and he will be a steadying influence on her. I know there are girls who set out to snare a much older man because of his wealth and social position, both of which Sinclair has in abundance, but Tara is not like that. I have followed Sinclair’s career for many years now - he’s less than sixteen years younger than I am, you know - and I know he would not marry for reasons that are questionable either.”

    “He’s not looking for a beautiful young girl to rekindle his lost youth, you mean.”

    “No. From all accounts he was quite faithful to his dead wife’s memory up until now. That is not the behaviour of a profligate or dissolute man. He’s had many chances to remarry or form less - formal - liaisons since Mrs. Sinclair’s death many years ago. He has chosen instead to pour himself into his work and into building up his estates. I have friends all over England, you see, my dear, and I maintain a wide correspondence, or did until a few months ago. I probably know considerably more about John Sinclair than he does about me, and I like what I know. If he and Tara are truly in love, he has only to ask me for her.”

    This afternoon James, Laura, Papa and I were walking in the grounds, the day being cooler than usual with a lovely fresh breeze to ripple our skirts and tug at our hat ribbons, when we heard a commotion coming from the Post Road. A few moments later the porter Papa hired to monitor visitors came running up, almost breathless.

    “Sir, sir, the party from West Point, they’re coming down the road now! The road is full of people, shouting and cheering, it’s like a parade, sir!

    We did not wait for further explanations, but broke into a run, skirts hoisted clear of the ground with one hand, and holding onto our escorts - James with Laura and Papa with me - to keep from falling. For a man closer to sixty than fifty, Papa proved he is still in very good shape. We arrived at the gates to the Lennox estate just as the first rank of soldiers came into view.

    “That’s Colonel Jenkinson and his North Gloucestershires!” I cried, as they marched in orderly ranks past the cheering crowds. Behind them was a line of wagons. Next to the first wagon, on horseback, were four very familiar figures - John Sinclair, Fred Bassingford, strangely attired only in his shirtsleeves and waistcoat, Ian MacGregor, and a man I recognized as Lieutenant Tremaine, John’s Marine officer. That meant that inside that wagon, screened from view, was our beloved Tara. How ill was she? Had she been badly wounded? Was it a corpse they were escorting to her final rest? I looked up at my new ‘Papa’ and I could see that the same thoughts were going through his mind. Laura edged closer to James and he put an arm around her to steady her.

    Just at that moment, John Sinclair saw me. The others he did not know, of course, but he leaned down to say something to someone in the wagon. Then she was alive – ill or wounded perhaps, but alive and in her right senses. John gave a quick command, the column came to a halt, and he waved me over.

    “That’s John, he says to come over, Papa. Come on, let’s go.” I told him.

    The crowd parted to let us through, as speculation as to our identity swept their ranks. Then we were up to the wagon and the wonderful sight that I saw only through a mist of tears - Tara, oddly attired in what looked like a skirt made from a bedsheet and what must be Fred Bassingford’s coat, her feet heavily bandaged and her face bruised, but smiling and then shouting in delight, “Papa!” even as my dear new friend strode to the wagon and gathered her into his arms, his body heaving with sobs. Only now did the stress of the last twenty-four hours show on his face and in his manner. He had been holding back fear with an iron hand, so as not to discourage the rest of us - now he could let his relief show. The crowd stepped back respectfully, though there were murmurs of ‘her father, her father came to meet her - he must have been out of his mind with worry - I’m so glad she is safe… ’ and more in the same vein. After a few moments, Papa used his white handkerchief, first on Tara’s tears and then on his own - James Mason had supplied the necessary article for Laura, who handed it to me. There was a brief exchange and John Sinclair beckoned us forward, and it was our turn to be embraced and kissed.

    “Laura? And James? Oh, I’m so glad to see you together. I knew you were right for each other all along.” Tara said, laughing. “And Jennifer. You’re well? Mary?”

    “Is in the house, she’s fine. We were out for a walk when we heard the cheering.”

    “Mr. Mason, I think we should get Tara out of this wind as soon as possible. This is your house now?” John Sinclair suggested.

    “For the life of my tenancy, yes, it is, Captain.”

    “Sir, my name is John. I’d be honored if you’d use it. Shall we go in? George?” He turned to George Therrien, who had been riding behind with the rear escort, the men of the 16th, but had come up to see why the column had halted.

    “Colonel George Therrien, may I present Mr. Richard Mason, Tara’s father, and her brother James Mason and his wife Laura,” I said quickly. We exchanged courtesies and John Sinclair said, “I’m turning off here, George. Thank you for everything, you and Jenkinson both.” George, who had been with us when the first horrible alarm sounded, nodded, saluted us all, and gave a quick order to the driver, obviously one of his men. As the crowd cheered, the wagon made a sharp left turn into our driveway and in a few minutes we were alone on the grassy drive up to the house. John Sinclair dismounted and said, “Sir, I think it only fitting that you carry your sweet girl back to the house. If you would accept the loan of my mount, as soon as you’re ready, I’ll hand her up to you.”

    With the energy of a much younger man – it seemed that ten years had dropped off his face in the last ten minutes – Papa shook John’s hand, swung easily into the saddle, and leaned down to accept the precious burden. He settled her across the front of his saddle, her legs hanging down to one side in the narrow ‘skirt’ she wore. Two strong arms went around her waist to grasp the reins, he clucked to the horse, and off they went.


    From the Rememberances of Tara Mason

    Sunday 13 June 1779

    The sun was trying to peek through the heavy velvet draperies of my room when there was a tap on my door and my father’s snowy head peered around the jamb. “Taree? Baby girl? Are you awake?”

    “Good morning, Papa. Yes, come on in. I’m awake. You’re up early today. What time is it?”

    “Half-past seven, but you know I’ve spent too many years at sea to waste a beautiful summer day. Can I help you with anything? Ring for a tray of tea or chocolate?”

    “Actually, Papa, I need to… ” I stopped. It was a bit embarrassing, but since it still hurt to walk thanks to the abuse my feet had taken when Montaigne dragged me all that way after the wagon broke down, I was limited in what I could do. I had seen the condition of my feet when Fred changed the bandages – they looked like slabs of raw meat, and I can only imagine the horror John felt when he saw them for the first time. Fred told me quietly, out of John’s hearing, that another day or so with the sores untreated and exposed to the filth in the prison cell Montaigne had flung me into might have resulted in an infection that could have proved fatal, with amputation the only remedy. “I know you’re anxious to be active, sweet girl, but I’ve never seen John so frightened in all my life, though I doubt anyone who doesn’t know him as well as I do would recognize it as that. Be gentle with him. Humour him. He may seem overprotective, but you are his life.”

    “I understand, Doctor Fred. I may chafe at the restrictions - it’s almost a given that I will - but I won’t cause him any more worry than I can possibly avoid, just to have my own way.”

    Papa understood. He lifted me into his arms for the trip to the dressing room next door, which contained my bathing and toilet facilities. Imagine my surprise when I got into the room for the first time the previous day to find a water closet. Obviously, Lennox, the builder of the house who had fled when the British came, had learned of Sir David’s creation and had spared no expense to have them installed in the house. So John’s wasn’t the only house in New York with this modern convenience, after all. The previous evening Mary had presided over the first bath I had had in almost a week, washing my hair and bathing me like a tiny child, since it still hurts to move my right arm very far. After my chore was done, Papa carried me back to the bed and then sat down to take both hands in his own.

    “What would my best girl like to do today?”

    “I wish I could go for a walk and see the flowers in the park. I know we must have passed masses of them on the way in yesterday. To keep myself from going mad during that long night before John came, I planned an entire garden, Papa. Flowers, trees, shrubs, even the kitchen garden - everything. But I can’t walk, so I guess it will have to wait.”

    “Who says?” The voice was John’s, and it came from the doorway. He came over to drop a quick kiss on my willing lips, then brushed kisses over the bruises Montaigne and his men had caused when they had struck me. “I see the bruises are fading a bit more. Your black eye is now yellow and green,” he teased.

    “Yes, I’m thinking of having a gown made up to coordinate with it,” I grinned back. “I’ll set a new fashion trend.”

    Anyone listening to us might have thought such levity crass, but we knew that it was our way of healing the emotional wounds caused by the ordeal we had suffered together. My father looked on benevolently even as all this passed. He had seen the ring on my finger and knew its significance, but he knew that certain formalities had yet to take place, so he was observing the conventions to the letter. Still, he was willing to grant us the freedom of an engaged couple, though considering that John had helped Fred bathe and dress my wounds in that horrible prison camp, an insistence on the proprieties would have seemed rather pointless.

    Returning to our earlier topic, John said again, “Who says you can’t go out for a walk - well, not a walk, but at least a tour. We have a carriage, don’t we, Richard?”

    “Indeed we do. Are you hungry, Taree?”

    “Ravenous. But what I most want is a very large, very cold glass of fresh milk”

    John smiled at me approvingly. He had been the one who had made sure I ate enough first to stay alive and then to gain back all the weight I had lost with worry over Papa.

    “And she is a magnificent trencherwoman, Richard, as I have reason to know.”

    “It’s a good thing you are a wealthy man, John. Food in such quantities comes dear.”

    “No better way to spend my prize money, sir. Now, Taree” he said, picking up the pet name Papa had used and employing it with great relish, “what else besides milk? Eggs, rashers, toast, porridge - name it and it shall be yours.”

    “Papa, do you know what I want more than anything else, what I craved when I was so hungry in that cell?”
    “What, baby girl?”

    “A big stack of hotcakes with butter and just swimming in maple syrup.”

    “Then hotcakes and maple syrup it’ll be,” Papa said as he and John smiled down at me, “Even if I have go out and tap a maple tree myself.”

    An hour later, stuffed with all sorts of culinary delights and wearing a clean nightgown, one of Papa’s lovely brocaded dressing gowns and a pair of his carpet slippers over my freshly-bandaged feet, I lifted my arms so that John could pick me up for the trip downstairs. We stepped out onto the front porch and there, at the foot of the stone steps, was my transportation for the day - not the carriage I had been expecting, but a large, high-backed chair on wheels, although without the traditional hood usually found on such things.

    “A Bath chair? Papa, where did you find this?”
    “When I went down to order the carriage while you were eating, sweet girl, the coachman mentioned he’d seen one. Lennox must have had gout and couldn’t walk, so he had to be wheeled. When he left it was stored in the stables, but it works quite well. Most of the paths are metalled, so we should have no difficulty. I’m sure John will be happy to push you anywhere the chair will go.”

    “Indeed so. Not quite as good exercise as climbing the masts, but much more enjoyable.” John grinned.

    And so we set out.


    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Sunday 13 June 1779

    The sun had been warm on my face when I’d awoken this morning after nearly fifteen hours of sleep, which is only a bit less than what I usually get for three days. Yesterday after we’d arrived here at this splendid estate that Richard Mason had engaged for the duration of his stay in New York, Fred had issued his proclamation. That everyone who had come from Pollepel Island go to bed straightaway and sleep for at least ten hours. I had protested but that was more because I knew that Fred would expect it before giving in graciously and sending a note to Bart aboard Sapphire that I would be spending the next few days ashore. After which I had politely reminded Fred that he too had been at Pollepel Island and insisted that he follow his own instructions. The look on his face had everyone laughing but he accepted the order with good grace.

    Tara’s father had insisted that we stay with them at Lennox House and truth to tell I had been too tired to argue with him in any case. So it was that I’d woken to find my uniform freshly laundered and hung in the bedroom closet and Andrew Bailey waiting for me with a bath already drawn. Now cleaned, shaved, properly attired and breakfasted I was pushing Tara along the garden paths in the Bath chair that had been found in the carriage house while her father walked alongside. The talk had been small for the most part but we had something that needed to be said and there seemed to be no point to waiting any longer so after seeing Tara safely back to her bed for a short nap, I broached the subject.

    “As you’re probably aware, Richard, Tara and I are very much in love.”

    “I should have to be quite blind not to see that, John.” He said with a chuckle.

    “I suppose so,” I replied. “We have made no secret of it. But what you do not know is that four days ago I asked her to marry me and she said yes. We’re willing to wait if you want us to but we would very much like your blessing.”

    “I’m not surprised you know. I could tell just by the way the two of you look at one another that we would soon be having this discussion. Under normal circumstances I would ask you what your prospects for the future are but that would seem rather redundant.”

    “Nevertheless I shall tell you. To start I expect to hoist my flag within five years time. Between my estates, investments and prize money I earn about twenty-five thousand a year so I shall have no troubles caring for Tara properly. I’ve been a sea officer for over thirty years and a frigate captain for the last twenty. My family is an old one that has been in Britain for well over fifteen hundred years. If the stories are to be believed we are descended from a Roman Praetor who came to Britain during the Emperor Hadrian’s time and married the daughter of a Pictish Chief. Since then we have had warriors and sailors; scholars and priests; and knights and nobles in the family along with a smattering of royal ministers and even an occasional pirate. I know that my age makes me hardly a perfect match for your daughter and I’m well aware of the potential problems that lie in store for us. But I give you my solemn word that I shall do everything within my power to protect and care for Tara and to give her the happiness that she so richly deserves."

    “Of that, I had no doubt, John. I’m quite aware of your reputation as a sea officer, of course, I’ve been following your career from some time. And I know that your family history is a good one. The only concern that I had was whether or not your love would be strong enough to withstand the problems that are bound to crop up because of the differences in your ages. Having seen the two of you together I know that it is. The way Taree looks at you and you at her is exactly as it was for Vanessa and I. You said you would wait if I asked you to, but I see no need for that. I have never seen my daughter as radiantly happy as when the two of you are together, so of course you have my blessing and I know that had she lived you would have had Vanessa’s as well.”

    Then he stuck his hand out and I grasped it firmly.

    “Welcome to the family, John.”
     
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  11. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Epilogue

    Whitehall, London

    Four weeks earlier, Tuesday, 18 May 1779

    The tick of the clock seemed to echo in the quiet of the office. It was nearly four bells in the first watch, ten in the evening London time, and the Admiralty House was nearly empty. Earl St. John liked to work at such hours for just that reason. It seemed that he always got far more of his planning and strategy done during the quiet hours than at any other time.

    St. John looked down at the latest report sitting on his desk. It told of a second capture in sight of the New York shore for that damned Arronbourge. This brought the French rascal’s total for six months up sixteen ships, all loaded with supplies or ordinance, and badly needed by His Majesty’s Forces. But this last capture had been the worst of all. She was a slovenly old barque with patched sails, frayed rigging, a grime-streaked hull, and pitted antique brass guns that would probably split if loaded with a full powder charge, all of which made it look as though she would sink if someone kicked her too hard. A most unattractive target to any privateer, not worth the effort of capturing in and of herself, and hardly likely to be carrying anything worth the effort either.

    But looks could be, and in this case, were, deceiving. For the canvas beneath the patches was pristine, the fraying was mere horsehair tarred to the rigging, the grime was painted on, as were the pits on the newly made iron cannons that had been covered in a thin layer of brass to give the appearance of age. And deep within the vessel’s hull lay a triple strengthened lazarette disguised to appear to be part of the shot locker. The whole ship was a carefully crafted forgery, designed to secretly transport high priority cargoes through enemy infested waters, right under the very noses of those same enemies.

    In this case, however, it had failed. The disguise had been penetrated. Arronbourge, in company with the Yankee frigate Lexington and a brigantine, had intercepted the barque just off the Delaware in early April. Against three enemy warships, all working together, the outcome had been a forgone conclusion, and in spite of what was by all accounts a gallant and spirited defence she was overwhelmed and captured. She had been carrying the payroll for the British Army in New York. Twelve thousand pounds in gold and silver. It was a devastating blow. All the more so because it was gold that the rebels, whose desperation for specie was well-known, would have, or at least have a good deal of it.

    In addition it had confirmed what St. John had long suspected – that the rebels and French were operating a squadron of frigates in the area of New York as a raiding unit. It perfectly accounted for the sustained shipping losses in that area since late in 1778.

    It had also broken the deadlock that he had, had with his nominal superior, Earl Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty. After much convincing St. John had managed to get Sandwich to agree to the creation of three flying squadrons of fast frigates, one each for European, Indian, and American waters. It was a pilot programme, intended to see how the idea would work in practical application, but St. John was confident it would prove successful. Even if it did however, there was simply no way that Britain could deploy many of them. The Navy’s shortage of frigates was just too acute for that. But if they were going to be few in number then the flying squadrons would contain the best ships and officers that the Royal Navy had.

    St. John knew just who he wanted for those squadrons, in particular, who he wanted for the Halifax squadron.

    There would be Commander James Boothroyd and his sloop-of-war Sandfly. A fellow Scot, Boothroyd was a talented and tenacious young commander. Not quite ready for his post captaincy, but very close. His Sandfly was one of the big 18-gun ship-rigged sloops. Purposely built as a warship rather than a merchantmen bought into the Navy and adapted as the smaller 14 and 16 gunners were. Her thicker timbers gave her hull an added natural strength that the others lacked, strength enough to mount 9-pounder cannon in place of the sixes of the smaller sloops.

    William Mason would be next. Newly promoted to post captain after a year and a half commanding the 18-gun, Paladin. Mason had recently returned from a mission in America where he had acquitted himself to St. John’s complete satisfaction, capturing the key French agent Gerard Leveque. Currently on convalescent leave in South Gloustershire, Mason was posted to command the 26-gun frigate Vanessa, just now outfitting at Plymouth, a ship that he had helped capture last autumn. He was a bright young officer with a sharp mind and the recommendation of a man that the Earl greatly respected. He would do splendidly.

    HMS Predator and Patrick Franklin, recently promoted from his ship’s senior lieutenant to her captain, would be third. St. John was not entirely comfortable with the wisdom of leaving him in the little 20-gun frigate. Admiralty policy was to transfer a new commanding officer away from the ship he had been a lieutenant in. But the decision had been made by one of St. John’s subordinates, and the Earl believed in supporting his officers whenever possible. He had no qualms regarding Franklin’s competence. It was merely that the officers aboard Predator were his friends, and a captain had to maintain a certain level of detachment, not easy to do when, seniority aside, you had once been equals. Still, Franklin was an exemplary young officer who had been well trained by his father, also a Royal Navy officer. Captain James Franklin had been invalided out of the navy following a disabling wound suffered against pirates in the Great South Sea. Patrick had been with him as a midshipman and had even saved his father’s life in that action. Most recently Franklin had rescued a Spanish lady from an aging and abusive husband in Gibraltar, winning her love and bringing her here to England. Definitely a man of skill and determination.

    Then would come Enchanted, a 28-gun French frigate captured only months ago she didn’t even have a captain yet, although St. John suspected he knew who her captain would turn out to be. He had given the squadron commander the authority to post a likely young officer to command her. Crewing her would be a bit of a problem, but the Admiralty would be sending out a strong backbone of commission, warrant, and petty officers as well as, as many hands as they could scrape up on short notice.

    Last was the flagship and the squadron commander. This was where the deadlock had been. St. John was determined to have John Sinclair and his 36-gun Sapphire. Sandwich was adamantly against the idea. To say that he and Sinclair were not friends was putting it very mildly indeed. Sandwich loathed the very ground Sinclair walked upon and more than once had used his political position to cause the younger man trouble. Sinclair denouncing the dilapidated state of the fleet in a letter to Lord George Germain four years ago, a state, the blame for which, could only be laid at Sandwich’s feet, had not helped matters.

    But with the loss of the payroll, Sandwich had folded his hand and opted to fight another day. He might have hated Sinclair, but he was not blind to the man’s talents, and in this situation John Sinclair was clearly the best man for the job.

    None the less St. John knew that if anything went wrong he would be hard pressed to do anything to help the man that had first gone to sea as one of his midshipmen thirty years earlier.

    ‘Nor would he want me to,’ the Earl thought with a grimace. Malcolm had been right about that.

    After staring at them for several long minutes St. John finally dipped his quill into the inkwell and dashed his signature on the orders.

    There. It was done.
     
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  12. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Uncommon Valour
    Volume Two

    Broad Pendant
    Cast of Characters

    />/> = leading character
    /> = major character
    }} = minor character
    } = walk-on character

    (in order of speaking appearance)

    Richard Mason Jr. – Patriarch of the Mason family & Head of Mason Shipping />
    Vanessa Quinn Mason – Richard’s wife of 28 years, recently passed way }
    Mrs Wilson – Jabez’s wife }
    Jabez Wilson – Richard Mason’s agent in Williamsburg }
    William Mason – Captain, HMS Vanessa, 26, Richard’s son />/>
    Michael Gilmore – Captain, RN, Manager of Mason Shipping’s Bristol Office }}
    Stephen Mason – Midshipman, HMS Vanessa, 26, youngest of the Mason children />
    Patrick Franklin – Captain, HMS Predator, 20 />/>
    Dona Cristina Avila de Ontiveros – Captain Franklin’s lady }}
    Juliette Franklin – Captain Franklin’s out-spoken aunt }}
    Richard Mason III – Merchant Captain & senior British agent, William’s eldest brother />
    Will Sommersby – Proprietor of the Crown & Castle Inn in Thornbury }
    Jack Sommersby – Will’s brother, Captain Sinclair’s butler at White Oaks }}
    Duncan MacMillian – 3rd Lieutenant, HMS Predator, 20 }}
    Jeffery Gordon – 1st Lieutenant, HMS Predator, 20 />
    Nicolas Stewart – Captain Mason’s cox’n />
    Jack Robertson – 1st Lieutenant, HMS Vanessa, 26 />
    Lucy Gillis Mason aka Lucinda Graydon – Actress & former British agent, wife of Richard Mason III }}
    Lord Charles Cornwallis – Lieutenant-General, British Army }}
    Dunkin – Ship’s Cat, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Georgia – Ship’s Cat, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Leach – Senior Midshipman, HMS Predator, 20 }}
    Sir Edmund Halliwell – Vice-Admiral, Portsmouth port admiral }
    James Boothroyd – Master & Commander, HM Sloop-of-War Sandfly, 18 }}
    Henry O’Connor – Midshipman, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Thomas Kennedy – Senior Midshipman, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Robert Mason – Former lieutenant now Master’s Mate, HMS Vanessa, 26, younger brother of William Mason />
    Nathaniel Valdez – 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Andrew Cross – 3rd Lieutenant, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Bledsoe – Able Seaman, HMS Vanessa, 26 }
    Elijah Boyd – Sailing Master, HMS Vanessa, 26 />
    John Sinclair – Captain, HMS Sapphire, 36 />/>
    Bartholomew Jones – 1st Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 />
    Tara Mason – John Sinclair’s fiancée, William Mason’s only sister />/>
    Laura Preston Mason – Wife of James Mason }}
    Eric Harmon – Surgeon, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Christopher Soames – Hampshire born Artist living in New York }}
    Maisie Hollis – A soldier’s wife who works for Jennifer Mason }
    Hollis – Sergeant, 28th Regiment of Foot, Maisie’s husband }
    Mary Stewart – Friend and bodyguard to Tara and Jennifer Mason, wife of Nicolas Stewart />
    Ian MacGregor – Captain Sinclair’s cox’n, clansman of Mary Stewart />
    Mrs. Jenkinson – Wife of Colonel Randall Jenkinson }}
    Mrs. Grayson – Wife of Major Grayson }
    Alfred Bassingford, MD – Surgeon, HMS Sapphire, 36 />
    Randall Jenkinson – Colonel of the 28th Regiment of Foot }}
    Jacob Coleman – Chief Clerk at Mason Shipping’s New York office }
    Collins – Major from the New York Provost Marshal’s office }}
    George Therrien – Colonel, 16th Regiment of Foot }}
    Reginald Shea – Junior Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Long – Sergeant of the Guard New York Stockade }}
    The Honourable Charles Courtenay – Colonel, 70th Regiment of Foot }}
    Jennifer Willis Mason – Wife of William Mason />
    Joseph Harrison – Senior Master’s Mate, HMS Sapphire, 36 }
    James Kent – Lieutenant, RN, formerly Sinclair’s second on HMS Goshawk, 32 }}
    Sir Avery Canning – Rear-Admiral, New York’s Inshore Squadron }
    Sir George Collier – Vice-Admiral, North American Squadron }
    James Mason – William Mason’s older brother, a director of Mason Shipping }}
    Liam Talbot – 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Charles Oxley – Junior Midshipman, HMS Predator, 20 }
    Joseph Bryce – Surgeon, HMS Predator, 20 }}
    Daltry – Midshipman, HMS Predator, 20 }
    Rieger – Carpenter, HMS Predator, 20 }
    Norman Fraser – Captain Franklin’s cox’n }
    Neville – Masthead lookout, HMS Vanessa, 26 }}
    Walter Cutler – Senior Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Nathan Zachary – 3rd Lieutenant, HMS Sapphire, 36 }}
    Enrico Vecci – Gun captain, HMS Sapphire, 36 }
    Bron Helstrom – Bosun, HMS Sapphire,36 }}
    Geoff Quinn – Captain, Continental frigate Lexington, 22 }
    Lewis Evers, Midshipman, HM Sloop-of-War Sandfly, 18 }
    Pritchard, 1st Lieutenant, HM Sloop-of-War Sandfly, 18 }
    Lawrence Harris, Surgeon, HM Sloop-of-War Sandfly, 18 }
    Victor Ernest Eisenbeck – Vice-Admiral, Halifax Squadron }
    Boy – Unnamed local boy at Halifax }
    Joseph Scott – a prominent Halifax citizen }
    Margaret Scott – Joseph’s second wife }
    Oglesby – Lieutenant, Fort Sackville outpost, Nova Scotia }
    Mrs. Robertson – The Mason’s Scottish housekeeper }
    Richard Bulkeley – Halifax Provincial Secretary }
    Amy Bulkeley – Richard’s wife }
    Graham – Proprietor of the Graham general store in Halifax }
    Wittenberg – Vice Admiral Eisenbeck’s Flag Captain, HMS St. George, 98 }
    Raymond E. Monroe – Captain, HMS Ardent, 64, William Mason’s old captain }
    O’Steen – Seaman, Privateer Firebrand, 22 }
    Jeremiah Leland – Midshipman, HMS Sapphire, 36}
    Thomas Harrington – Lieutenant-in-charge, HM Brig Vesper, 14 }
    William Tremaine – Marine Captain, HMS Sapphire, 36 }
    Lewis – Gun captain, HMS Jaguar, 32 }
    Allen Ramsey – 2nd Lieutenant, HMS Enchanted, 28 }
    Thomas Coughlin – 1st Lieutenant, HMS Enchanted, 28 }
    Don Alfonso de Orduno – Contralmirante of His Most Catholic Majesty’s Navy }
    Yancey – 1st Mate of the Mason flagship Resolute Star }
    Havergill – Flag Lieutenant to the Bristol port admiral }
    His Royal Highness Prince Edward Henry, Duke of Gloucester – George III’s younger brother }
    Miles Billington – Rear-Admiral, Bristol port admiral }
    Gwendolyne Lady Dandridge – John Sinclair’s beloved and outrageous Aunt Gwen }
    Alexander Fleming, MD – Dona Cristina’s doctor, a friend of Fred Bassingford }
    Sir David Rothburne – John Sinclair’s old friend and business partner }
    Phillip Mainwaring – Sinclair’s former captain, now a magistrate in Cornwall }
    James Lindsey – Canon of Salisbury, Jennifer Mason’s uncle }



     
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  13. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    What Has Come Before:

    Lieutenant Bartholomew Jones, Royal Navy
    Bartholomew Jones was born on 3 December 1750, the son of Thaddeus Jones, a brewer of fine ales and his lovely young bride Jennifer (Leigh) Jones the only child of the local constable in the coastal town of Folkestone in the south-eastern corner of County Kent.

    Jones entered the King’s Navy on 21 April 1762 by signing on as a cabin servant and powder monkey for Captain Willard Sykes aboard the 50-gun fourth rate HMS Hermes. He served well and used this time to learn basic seamanship and gunnery under the tutelage of the ship’s officers. In time Jones moved on to advanced lessons in mathematics and the basics of navigation. On 11 March 1764 Captain Sykes rated Jones a Midshipman and his career as a King’s officer truly began. Unfortunately a bare five months later Hermes paid off and young Jones found himself back at his father’s brewery.

    He continued to interview but in the slashed peacetime Navy he had considerable trouble as a young man of no great experience and with no influence either. Finally on 30 April 1765 Jones was able to obtain an appointment aboard the third rate HMS Chimera of seventy-four guns under Captain Bruce Hobbes and slowly began working his way up the seniority ladder. As Hobbes considered it his duty to urge his Young Gentleman forward to their commissions, or out of the Navy if they failed to meet his exacting standards, his was a teaching ship and the turnover rate among midshipmen was high.

    By 1767 Jones was senior midshipman and working to the day of his commissioning by helping the new lads in Chimera’s gunroom. One such was an earnest young middy newly appointed by the name of William Mason. The colonial from Maryland and the Kentish born and bred Jones developed a strong friendship during the two years that they were together and continued to keep in touch even after they had gone their separate ways.

    On 20 September 1769 Jones passed his examination for lieutenant before a board of Captains at Gibraltar. He was immediately assigned as a replacement officer aboard the 28-gun frigate HMS Argo under the command of Captain John Sinclair, a man well known as one of the Navy’s finest captains. After damage that she had sustained in her recent battles in the Mediterranean had been repaired Argo set sail for Far Eastern waters to protect England’s interests among the heathen Chinese. When they returned two years later Jones was a veteran officer that any captain would be proud to accept, a far cry from the midshipman who had begged his way into Chimera’s gunroom six years earlier.

    As it turned out he never had to test that however. Argo paid off at Plymouth on 20 March 1771, the very next day Captain Sinclair was posted to a new command, the 32-gun Arethusa. Most of his old Argos followed him to the new frigate, in fact many were asked to by Captain Sinclair, among them was Lieutenant Bartholomew Jones as the ship’s second lieutenant.

    Three years they spent in Indian waters but then following the terrible fight against four French pirates that sent Arethusa’s senior to his grave and the political aftermath that saw the Captain removed Jones found himself appointed to take the ship home to England. He had intended to refuse but Captain Sinclair convinced him to do it for the sake of the men who had signed on with him. Upon reaching England the frigate was given over to the dockyard and Jones found himself appointed Lieutenant-in-Charge of the little 8-gun cutter Terrier and seconded to the Revenue Service.

    In action with smugglers off The Lizard on 7 August 1775 Terrier was sunk, however Jones was able to get his people safely ashore before the tiny cutter took her final plunge. Spying the sheltered inlet that the smugglers had been using as a base Jones lay in wait and attacked the next night, capturing many of the smugglers and burning their ships with the aid of a company of Dragoons. In spite of his victory he must still undergo court martial for the loss of Terrier. Jones was acquitted on 17 August but found it nigh on impossible to find a new posting as ‘friends’ of the smugglers had mounted a smear campaign against him. Finally in December he received a letter from Captain Sinclair who had just been posted to the frigate Goshawk and asked Jones to be his senior. Jones reported aboard the 32-gunner on the day after Christmas.

    Following the Battle of Erris Head in July of 1778 in which Sinclair had been almost fatally wounded and the ship pounded to a near wreck Jones was ordered to oversee Goshawk’s repairs. Only six weeks later, once the full extent of her damage had become apparent, the Admiralty reconsidered and the decision was made to hulk the frigate, Jones was placed on half-pay in September. His accumulated prize money under Captain Sinclair allowed Jones the luxury of being selective regarding his next assignment, thus he opted to wait for his Captain’s recovery over his other choices including the possible command of a brig.

    On 15 February 1779 Jones accepted Captain Sinclair’s offer to be his senior once again, this time aboard the brand new Gemstone class frigate HMS Sapphire, 36. While crossing the North Atlantic Jones renewed his friendship with William Mason, now Commander of the sloop-of-war Paladin. When they reached New York he also became friends with Mason’s wife Jennifer and sister Tara. Jones served as acting-captain of Sapphire after Captain Sinclair was wounded during an assault that took place in May and then again in early June when the Captain rode to rescue his lady, Miss Tara, from the enemy.


    Captain Patrick Franklin, Royal Navy
    Patrick Franklin was born on 20 October 1753 the surviving child of a set of twins born to Captain James Franklin and his wife Elaine (Hollings) Franklin in the coastal town of Blackpool in county Lancashire. After the stillbirth of his twin sister Franklin’s mother, never a physically strong woman, had nearly died herself. This prompted his parents to decide not to risk Elaine’s health with another pregnancy, thus it was that Patrick Franklin was fated to be an only child, although a much loved one.

    As his father was at sea much of the time Franklin was raised by his mother and his father’s twin sister, Juliette. Having gone through her own misfortune when her betrothed was killed at Minorca in 1756 Julie threw all her efforts and more into caring for little Patrick. James was there as often as possible but as war was raging he was away with his ship more often than not. Patrick Franklin was educated at the parish school where he proved to have a sharp mind, particularly for practical matters. Although initially weak at mathematics, Franklin applied himself with extra diligence and soon mastered the subject. He had already decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and was well aware that a strong grounding in the subject was an absolute necessity for navigation.

    After much urging Captain Franklin agreed to take his son on as a midshipman aboard his 50-gun fourth rate HMS Berwick on 11 July 1767. Determined that no charges of favouritism be attached to the boy James Franklin demanded especially high standards from his son, but Patrick rose to the challenge in a manner that brought nothing but pride to his father’s heart. Although the glory days of the 50-gunners were fading fast the small two-deckers were still well regarded by those that served in them and Berwick was considered to be one of the finest. As such she was frequently at sea even as most of the Royal Navy was laid up in ordinary. Dispatched to the Dutch East Indies to protect Britain’s interests in those pirate-infested waters after seventeen months in the Irish and North Seas, Franklin found that action awaited them on that distant station.

    Controlled by the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch East Indies was a huge relatively lawless area where the nearest friendly port was a thousand miles away and that was home to some of the most vicious cutthroats on Earth. An area that any smart merchantman would steer well clear of. However it was also the source of goods desired in English markets and the Honourable East India Company was challenging the monopoly enjoyed by their Dutch rivals. The Dutch were fighting back but covertly through the use of the pirates. It was up to Berwick to put a halt to it.

    After a brief stop to replenish supplies at Madras Berwick sailed into the witch’s cauldron to do what needed doing. In a series of actions fought across a thousand miles of pirate infested waters she brought the buccaneers to battle both at sea and on land before finally breaking the pirate Zhang Ng in a decisive battle off the coast of Malaya. But it was a battle that was won at considerable cost for Captain Franklin was badly wounded saving his son’s life from Ng, taking the ball that had been meant for Patrick. Just as the pirate had been about to deliver the killing blow to James however young Patrick snatched up a pistol and shot him dead. Although the wound to his right arm did not require amputation neither did it heal correctly and when Berwick returned home Captain Franklin was invalided out of the Royal Navy, although the East India Company did see to it that a generous pension was awarded him. Berwick was sent to the dockyard following her long journey and after a month’s leave Patrick was able to manage a new berth in the 64-gun HMS Inflexible under the command of Captain Roald Trask.

    Franklin served aboard the third rate for four years and grew into a fine young officer. While on a mission in the Pacific in April of 1773 he was appointed acting-lieutenant when Lieutenant Loghrie was dispatched to take a prize home to England with important dispatches that had been captured detailing Spanish silver caravan routes in the Americas. He was to remain in that limbo for nearly a year and a half. It was not that he was considered incompetent, far from it in fact. It was simply that with the Navy at peacetime levels every ship was kept busy and thus Franklin kept missing the few examination boards that had been assembled. Captain Trask could have accepted a new lieutenant aboard but that would have cost Franklin either his post or his acting-lieutenancy, something he didn’t wish to happen, so he allowed things to remain as they were.

    Finally on 18 October 1774 Franklin stood before a board of captains and passed his examination with flying colours. His acting-lieutenancy was confirmed with seniority dating from the previous April. He began interviewing immediately and within two months had been accepted into the wardroom of HMS Predator, a little post-ship of twenty guns under the command of Captain Thompson C. Henry. The little ship was kept very busy running dispatches when she wasn’t on patrol or chasing smugglers, pirates and other riff-raff. Franklin had risen from third lieutenant to second by 1776 and it was a year later that tragedy struck the little sixth rate. In a battle with a Yankee privateer both the captain and first lieutenant were mortally wounded, Lieutenant Franklin took command and sent the rebel ship to the bottom then sailed Predator home to England.

    There was some talk of giving Franklin the ship but Earl St. John, a shrewd judge of professional ability, felt that another year or two as a lieutenant was in order and gave the little frigate to the newly posted Captain Michael Gilmore, Franklin would remain with the ship as first lieutenant. As it turned out this was the wisest course for Gilmore was not only a fine captain but an excellent teacher as well. Within a very short time the two officers were good friends and Predator was a model ship under their leadership. It was during one cruise into West African waters a year later that Patrick Franklin’s life changed forever.

    It was in December of 1778 when Predator ran down and captured the big French corvette Foudre, Franklin was assigned as prize master and ordered to sail the ship to Gibraltar, Captain Gilmore would join him there after making one last sweep along the coast. On 21 December, shortly after arriving at The Rock, Franklin went to the aid of Dona Christina Avila de Ontiveros who had been slighting injured in a coaching accident. She was a tiny little thing, young and lovely with black hair and dark flashing eyes, he took one look at her and he was lost. For her part the raven-haired girl fell madly, impossibly in love with this tall handsome Englishman the moment she’d laid eyes upon him. Impossibly for she was married to Don Antonio Alejandro de Ontiveros, El Conde de Ontiveros. Being a man of honour Franklin escorted the lady home where he was given a cold reception from her husband, a man of more than sixty whom Cristina had been married to four years earlier at the age of fifteen and whom she has borne two sons. Almost instantly the two began meeting in secret at a little used chapel in the cathedral at Gibraltar. In spite of his earlier dalliances and her marriage it was the first time either had been in love and although they knew that they were playing with fire they could not stop.

    By the holidays Predator had arrived and was having the damage she’d suffered taking Foudre set to rights. A few days later new orders reached them from London. Franklin had been promoted to junior post captain and given command of Predator; Captain Gilmore was to return to England to assume command of the newly constructed 28-gun frigate Nightingale. On the evening of the 31st just before he was to leave for the West Indies, Franklin and Cristina spent the night together while the rest of the household was at a fiesta and El Conde was visiting his mistress. Though it broke his heart to leave Franklin knew that he must and on New Year’s Day set sail for Antigua.

    When he returned to England in March, having battled and defeated a French warship before being ordered to carry dispatches home for the port admiral, Franklin found a pregnant and terribly mistreated Dona Cristina waiting for him at his parents Blackpool home. By mid-February she had realized that she was pregnant and resolved to flee for her life to England. El Conde had already begun to threaten to send her into the country, where she knew she would almost certainly meet with an accidental death. Suspecting that she had fallen in love with Franklin he had attempted to beat and starve her into submission without success. With great difficulty she left her two sons behind, knowing that she could not take them with her, however much she loved them. Using money Franklin had given her in secret, she arranged passage to England. By the 4th of March she was in Blackpool, at the home of James and Elaine Franklin.

    A week after they were re-united Franklin decided to move them to Portsmouth to be closer to his homeport where his family doctor’s son, Bruce Fleming, was in practice. He first hired a full time bodyguard for Cristina, not believing that El Conde would give up on her so easily, then leased a townhouse and saw the household comfortably established there. Shortly after he was sent on a mission to capture the renegade Colonel Sean McHenry in Ireland.

    The household consisted of Dona Cristina, Pat’s Aunt Julie, and Samuel Pasco the ex-marine who was to be Cristina’s bodyguard, her Spanish maid Maria Sanchez, a cook and a housemaid. They had not been there for more than two weeks when Spanish agents, disguised as English seamen attacked the house. While they were occupied with Pasco’s spirited defence St. John and the marines from HMS Vanguard arrived to block the retreat. The Spaniards were taken into custody and the captured English brig they’d arrived in was retaken. A guard was placed on Dona Cristina at St. John’s orders but upon his return from Ireland Franklin decided to move them further inland.
     
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  14. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Doctor Alfred Bassingford, M.D.
    Alfred Bassingford was born on 21 August 1735 the first of three children born to Martyn and Frances (Norwood) Bassingford at their comfortable townhouse in Thornbury where his father oversaw a growing law practice. Martyn Bassingford’s most important clients were the prestigious and extremely well regarded Sinclair family led by the one-time pirate Sir Thomas Sinclair. As the Bassingford’s were often guests at White Oaks, the huge Sinclair estate just outside of town young Fred became close friends with Sir Thomas’ grandson John. It was the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime for the two of them.

    Fred and John did everything together. They ran and played together, defending the honour of the old castle keep on the grounds of White Oaks from all comers, usually imaginary Viking Raiders. As they grew older they learned to ride, fence and shoot together. When the time came for more formal schooling John insisted that Fred join him in his lessons, both fathers consented and thus the tutors that Andrew Sinclair had hired for his son found themselves teaching Fred as well.

    Then a tragedy struck the Bassingford household. Frances Bassingford fell ill with a fever; the doctor diagnosed her as having unhealthy blood and proceeded to bleed her every day. Before his eyes Fred watched as his mother rapidly lost strength from this treatment. Within a week she was gone, the doctor insisted that his treatment had been correct and there was nothing more that could have been done. Although Martyn Bassingford accepted this young Fred never did. It seemed to him to be complete lunacy that someone who was already sick should be weakened further by bleeding. Then and there Alfred Bassingford decided that he would do everything in his power to see that no other was deprived of a loved one due to nonsensical medical treatment.

    When his friend John Sinclair went off to sea at the age of thirteen Fred continued his schooling for two more years concentrating on all things relating to medicine. In September of 1750 Alfred Bassingford became a student at Oxford’s Pembroke College. He was a very popular student with both the faculty and his fellow students and found that the academic life suited him well although he never lost sight of his goals. It was while he was in attendance that he had the first in what would turn out to be a long line of affairs. He had made the mistake of becoming involved with the still-young widow of a professor whom the college Master also had his eye on. Although Bassingford managed to juggle things for a while it was only a matter of time before their affair became public knowledge. Thus it was that with the ink on his degree still wet he was forced to leave Oxford to continue his studies elsewhere.

    After a brief visit home Bassingford was off to Edinburgh where he enrolled in their highly regarded medical programme in August of 1756. He remained there until May of 1758. Although he was now quite qualified to open or buy a practice Bassingford felt that study abroad would prove useful to him. His first choice was the prestigious University of Paris but as England and France were once again at war this option was not available to him. He chose instead the University of Venice another highly regarded institution of learning. Most of the classes there were taught in Latin but this was not a problem as he was already completely fluent in the language and while attending the school he broadened his knowledge of languages by becoming fluent in Italian as well.

    But once more his affairs of the heart caused him trouble when he became involved with the lovely sister of a fellow student, the enchanting Contessa Rachele and her brother the fiery young Count Savino Pillarella. Savino demanded satisfaction of the ‘English Dog’ that dared to touch his sister, the affair ended with Savino dead in the University courtyard and Bassingford’s midnight flight to avoid arrest for murder.

    Once he arrived home in Thornbury Bassingford immediately applied for admission to the Royal College of Physicians, with his impeccable academic qualifications he was quickly accepted. While mulling over his options a letter came for him from his old friend John Sinclair. By this time Sinclair was captain of the little 24-gun frigate Penelope and asked Bassingford to be his surgeon. This was just what he had wanted; the opportunity to both practice his profession and at the same time visit other lands and continue the studies that had been interrupted by the duel with Savino. Bassingford packed his kit and took passage on a Royal Packet for the Americas the next day. Two months later, in March of 1760, he stepped aboard HMS Penelope as her surgeon and Sinclair’s personal physician.

    For twenty-nine months Bassingford more than proved his worth aboard the sixth rate and tempered by the fire of battle his friendship with John Sinclair grew stronger. When Sinclair wed his lovely Angelique on 11 April 1761 Fred Bassingford stood beside him as his best man. Likewise it was Bassingford that helped put his friend back together again after Angelique’s brutal murder two years later.

    When Sinclair returned to sea as captain of HMS Argo in 1764 Bassingford went with him. He had felt that the sea was the best medicine his friend could have and indeed he was right although at times it seemed not, for there was a new darker side to John Sinclair that emerged at this time. A man of reckless, almost insane, courage; Sinclair had always been brave but this went far beyond mere bravery. At first Bassingford thought that his friend was reacting to the guilt of not being able to save his lovely young wife but after a while he discarded this idea as a new theory came to him, one that gave him no comfort at all. John Sinclair was actually courting death. Most times he seemed normal but when danger threatened he almost seemed to be daring the fates to kill him. He was wounded on over a dozen occasions and sometimes quite seriously. As time went on however, this recklessness seemed to lessen but it never completely went away.

    After they returned home from a cruise to the Far East and Argo paid off Bassingford hoped that a period ashore would prove stabilizing but such was not to be. Within a week a new commission had come and once again they were off to sea. Three more years away from England’s green hills this time in the East Indies where the heat and humidity seemed to conspire to sap every man of his strength. It was a station that was constantly consuming men from fever, smallpox and half a dozen other ailments. Fortunately Bassingford had used his time well and while in the Far East aboard Argo had learned much from the Chinese including how inoculate the people against the great ravager of men know as smallpox and a few treatments that had some effect upon Yellow Fever. Thus HMS Arethusa suffered far less than other ships had.

    After Sinclair was removed from command of Arethusa in 1774 the pair returned to Thornbury and Bassingford opened a practice as a simple country physician. For a time he seemed happy but then an accident at Sir David Rothburne’s Denham estate shook him badly. He accidentally shot a young stable boy who’d wandered into a grouse shoot. Hours he’d laboured over the youngster but to no avail, the boy had died that evening. In order to occupy his mind Bassingford had thrown himself into the task of writing a series of monographs on native remedies and medical techniques that he had encountered in his travels. In time his old cheerfulness re-asserted itself, as did his eye for the ladies and he became involved with Lady Alicia Rotheringham, the wife of a North Country Member of Parliament. Fortunately they’d broken off the affair before her husband had found out and for once one of his affairs had ended quietly although Bassingford was later to remark that he’d rather enjoyed all the sneaking about that they’d done.

    Eventually John Sinclair was called back to sea and Alfred Bassingford with him. Off they went in January of 1776 aboard the 32-gun frigate HMS Goshawk on a mission to the West Indies for Earl St. John. Following that they were assigned to Sir Bryan Sommervell’s Inshore Squadron in the North battling rebels and soon Frenchmen alike. Then while they were conveying one of St. John’s desk admirals home in 1778 they were set upon by a pair of French frigates that appeared out of a fogbank off the northern coast of Ireland. Once again Sinclair’s reckless courage surfaced, in spite of having been severely wounded in the opening exchange of fire he refused to quit the deck, remaining on the quarterdeck and fighting off the enemy even as the lifeblood was running out of him. As he forced the last frigate aground Sinclair collapsed into a bloody heap on the deck.

    Carried below by his cox’n, the Great Hebridean Mountain, Ian MacGregor; Fred immediately set to work on him. Never before had Sinclair been this badly injured, in addition to five terrible splinter wounds his right side had been laid open by what could only have been a fragment of a French cannonball. Working like a machine Alfred Bassingford cut into his friend’s body, drew out the iron and splinters, probed for fragments left behind, then extracted them as well before cutting away destroyed tissue, cleansing the wounds, suturing them closed and binding them. Then after John had been carried to his cabin Alfred Bassingford broke down and with tears streaming from his eyes he prayed for his friend’s life, all the while fearful that between the hideous wounds and the terrible blood loss that not even John Sinclair could survive.

    But against all odds Sinclair had lived where so many of his crew had not. At Rear-Admiral Parker’s direction they had made for Bristol and Bassingford had taken his friend home to White Oaks. It took nearly seven months for Sinclair to recover from the dreadful injuries with Bassingford at his side all the while. Finally in February of 1779 Sinclair could stand the inactivity no longer and travelled to London without Fred’s knowledge to ask for a new ship. In spite of Alfred Bassingford’s strong objections Earl St. John had given him HMS Sapphire a brand-new thirty-six of the Gemstone class.

    But in this case Fred had been wrong, a new ship was exactly what Sinclair had needed to pave the way to full recovery. For enroute to New York they had encountered the little sloop-of-war Paladin under Commander William Mason. Aboard and under heavy guard he had the French spy Gerard Leveque, Angelique Sinclair’s half-brother and murderer, bound for England and the King’s Justice. It had been the beginning of what showed every sign of being a close friendship between the two sea officers.

    When Sapphire had reached New York Sinclair and Bassingford had visited Mason’s wife Jennifer and there had gotten the shock of their lives. William Mason’s nineteen year-old sister Tara was visiting from Halifax, hearing the three of them talking she’d entered the sitting room from the bedroom where she’d been resting. She was the very mirror image of Angelique Sinclair. Once they’d recovered from their shock Sinclair had invited them to dinner at the house he’d bought for Angelique all those years ago. Shortly thereafter Sinclair had been set upon by three thugs intent upon the murder of a King’s officer, he’d defeated them but had been once more badly wounded in the process. Bassingford had watched as over the period of his convalescence John Sinclair and Tara Mason had fallen in love. The road had been a rocky one especially when the Frenchman Henri-Albere Montaigne had abducted Tara intending to have the Rebels hang her as a spy. But Sinclair, Bassingford and a small picked force had given chase and rescued her. For the first time in years Bassingford is seeing some light at the end of the long tunnel of solitude that his friend has been travelling.
     
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  15. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Prologue


    Williamsburg, Virginia

    Thursday 7 May 1750

    Richard Mason, less than a month shy of his twenty-ninth birthday, had anchored his barque, North Star, on the James River west of Hampton Roads and had come ashore in the capitol of Williamsburg for a well-earned rest. He had been up and down the coast of the southern colonies for weeks, picking up sacks of rice and bales of tobacco, cotton and indigo from planters in the area and then making his way to New York with his cargo, where it would be trans-shipped to English markets. It was a voyage he had made dozens of times since he had first convinced his father, who himself had been one of those tobacco planters, to let him go to sea. His father, also called Richard Mason, had sent him to a distant relative of his mother’s who lived in Williamsburg with three pounds and ten shillings in his pocket and a letter asking his cousin to take him on as an apprentice. It had been a rude awakening, but the boy had flourished, and when his childless cousin had died three years later he had left his little 80-ton single-masted trading sloop to the young man, then aged seventeen. In the twelve years since, the ship had been exchanged first for a schooner of 140 tons, then a larger one of 200, until he now owned the 400-ton North Star, three-masted and capable of carrying both cargo and passengers.

    Mason had an open invitation from his agent, Mr. Jabez Wilson, to stay at Wilson’s house at any time. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement, as thanks to Mason’s canny ability to judge quality – or the lack of it – at a glance, Wilson had become a very wealthy man. Added to this was Mason’s incredibly accurate ability to predict the weather, an ability that had saved both lives and cargo many times over, and the older man quickly learned that Richard Mason possessed what was surely a Midas touch. Wilson had a large home on Francis Street, built a generation or so before by his father at a time when pirates were still a very real threat to the peace and safety of the city’s residents. The large house, at 15 Francis, was part fortress and part home, with stout walls, a main entrance set well away from the street and guarded on all sides by a high stone wall.

    Mason had just turned off South England Street onto Francis when he heard what sounded like a shot, then the sound of horses in harness moving at great speed. Behind him, no more than thirty or so yards away, a runaway wagon was making straight for a small pony trap further down Francis and driven by a young woman, who seemed frozen and unable to move out of the way. Putting on a burst of speed, Mason dashed to the speeding wagon and seizing a handrail threw himself into the empty driver’s seat. He grasped the reins in one hand and the brake lever with the other and applying all his strength just managed to miss the trap with scant inches to spare, avoiding a collision that could well have proved fatal, before bringing the runaway vehicle to a halt near twenty yards down the road. When it was over, he looked over at the woman, no more than seventeen or eighteen at a guess, with masses of blonde curls and bright blue eyes. Hopping down once more he strode over to the still motionless pony trap.
    “Why didn’t you get out of the way? You saw they were headed right for you,” he demanded, his fear for her safety sharpening his tone. Perhaps spurred on by her own near disaster she took immediate offence to his words, speaking English with a barely detectable French accent she snapped out,

    “I was frozen. It happened too fast.”

    “Well, you almost got yourself killed.”

    “And I suppose you expect me to be grateful that you jumped up and saved me, like some brave knight-errant?” She shot back, put on the defensive and resenting it.

    “No, madam, I do not. I expect nothing at all from you. I will leave you to go your own way, since you seem to be so intent on doing so,” Mason said coldly, then spun on his heel to continue his journey to the Wilson home.

    “Wait! I don’t even know your name!”

    He turned and swept her a low, courteous bow. “Richard Mason, Junior, of the ship North Star, and your servant.” He said, and then turned to leave.
    “Mister Mason?” She called anxiously, nervously.

    “Madam?” He said, both his voice and bearing still stiff.

    “Could we begin anew? My name is Vanessa Quinn and I live on Prince George Street. I was on my way to call on Mrs. Wilson, just down there.” He hesitated a moment before nodding to her and allowing himself a small smile.

    “I should like that, thank you, Miss Quinn. An intriguing coincidence also I might say, you see I was on my way to call on Mr. Wilson, who is my agent.”

    “May I offer you like a ride, Mr. Mason?”

    “Thank you, ma’am, I would appreciate that. Shall I drive?”

    “I don’t seem to be having much success with that today, do I? Yes, I think that would be best, thank you.”

    “Surely you would normally be driven by a servant, ma’am?” He asked after having climbed into the trap and taken the reins from her.

    “Yes, but Maurice, who normally drives me, is ill, and the others were all so busy, so Papa agreed to let me drive myself. He’s not likely ever to do so again,” she said ruefully.

    By the time the pair reached their destination, perhaps a half-mile away at most, they were both aware of more than casual interest in the other. Mrs. Wilson made the formal introductions polite society’s conventions required, then left them to a corner of her drawing room while she embroidered a fire screen in near total silence. “Smelling of April and May, they were, and them only just met,” she told her husband as they dressed for dinner that night. “There’s a match there, or I miss my guess.”

    “You hardly ever do, my dear,” Wilson said affectionately. “Always said that Richard had an eye for quality. I just never realized that it applied to ladies as well as goods.”

    Richard Mason and Vanessa Quinn were married not quite four months later, at the end of August, 1750, and their first son, the third Richard Mason, arrived the following June.



    May 1779


    Fourth Week


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason,
    Junior Post Captain, RN

    Monday 24 May 1779

    Michael Gilmore, my youngest brother Stephen and I went out for a morning ride today, my elder brother Dick having begged off to spend more time with his wife Lucy, hardly surprising considering he thought he had lost her forever only a few weeks ago. The spring air on the magnificent White Oaks estate was a welcome change from the noisome sights we had faced in London dealing with the vile Benjamin Willis – my wife’s cheating cousin and Lucy’s would be murderer, and we were finding the contrast most pleasant.

    “I really do have to take Winifred and go home this afternoon, Will, much as I love this place,” he was saying regarding his dear wife, now only a few short months from delivering their first child, as a strange carriage came up the drive.

    “Looks like we have company. Are you expecting anyone?” He asked.

    “No, and Admiralty messengers with orders don’t travel in coaches as nice as that. Perhaps it’s someone who wishes to walk through the gardens. This is quite a showplace, after all. If no one is in residence Mrs. Sommersby sometimes even gives tours of the public rooms, she says.”

    We met the carriage as it pulled to halt before us and a dark-haired junior post captain about my age stuck his head out the window.

    “Captain?” he said incredulously.

    “Pat Franklin, now this is a surprise, what are you doing here? I thought you were in Ireland chasing rebels!” Michael replied, identifying the visitor as his former first lieutenant and good friend.

    The coach door opened and Franklin unfolded his long length from the coach as we dismounted and handed our reins to the groom who had accompanied us.

    Our visitor turned and lifted down a tiny young woman, very pregnant, and then helped out a handsome woman of about forty or so whose face proclaimed her to be a Franklin relation of some sort. There was much shaking of hands, slapping of backs, and bowing over the ladies’ hands as Michael introduced Stephen and myself to his friend and we were introduced in turn to the Lady Cristina and to Miss Juliette Franklin, Pat’s spinster aunt.

    “So you are Lady Cristina. Welcome to England, my dear,” Michael said with a smile.

    “Oh, I am so glad to meet the man who is such a good friend to my Patrico and help him so much. You are well now? I am sorry you were so ill,” Cristina said charmingly.

    “I am not able to go back to sea like your ‘Patrico’ here, but I am well enough, thank you. But my wife will scold if I keep you standing in your condition, Lady Cristina. She is to have a child too, you know, in July, and she is always telling me that ladies who are expecting must be treated with special care.”

    “I know you do this anyway, you are a good man. But I will come and meet her, please?”

    “We would be honoured, ma’am.”

    Our guests were shortly shown into the small drawing room where Winifred, Helen and Alice were chatting over their needlework, Michael made the introductions, and the women were soon talking together as if they had been friends for years.

    “They’ll be hours talking about babies and children,” Michael said with an affectionate glance at his vivacious young wife as she served the others coffee or chocolate. “I suggest we go outside. You don’t mind a chance to stretch your legs, do you, Pat?”

    “Not at all, sir.”

    “Pat, my name is Michael. I’m not your commanding officer any more.”

    “Funny, I had to say the same thing to Joseph Bryce. He started calling me ‘sir’ even in private, when he and I have been friends for years,” Franklin recalled. “My surgeon aboard Predator,” he explained for my benefit.

    As we walked along, Franklin said, “Have you seen your orders yet, Will?”

    “No. My ship is just now out of the hands of the dockyard. I plan to go down to Plymouth to read myself in on Thursday. Why do you ask? You sound like you know something I don’t.”

    “I do. I spent the end of last week with Lord Cornwallis. We’re escorting him back to America.”

    “On your ship? Or mine?” I thought of trying to fit a peer of the realm into my stern cabin on Vanessa – and how Pat would find the task even more daunting, since Predator’s cabin is certainly little larger than the one on my little Paladin, the eighteen-gun sloop-of-war that I had previously commanded. His next words relieved some of my anxiety.

    “Neither. Earls don’t travel light. He’s chartered a big merchantman for himself and his entourage. But to make sure that he doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, he’s going to be hiding in plain sight, so to speak, in the middle of a convoy, with the two of us, plus a sloop called Sandfly as escorts. I don’t know the name of the merchantman, though.”

    “I do.” This was my brother Dick, who had come out to join us. “Captain Franklin, I believe? Richard Mason. His Lordship’s host, as it were,” he said as he offered a hand.

    “Dick? You’re taking Lord Cornwallis back to America?” I asked.

    “Yes, the arrangements were made when I was in London earlier this month. I just didn’t tell you.”

    “Because I didn’t have a need to know,” I said with a grin. “Pat, my brother here kept a career as an intelligence operative secret from me for five years because I ‘didn’t have a need to know.’ I think he’s still doing it.”

    Dick just smiled. “I told Lucy, of course. She thinks he will be charming company; she’s read a lot of good things about him.”

    “I found him quite approachable, really. Obviously devoted to his children – he made a point of showing me their portraits.” Franklin remarked. “Lucy is your wife?”

    “Yes. Lucinda Graydon to the rest of the world.”

    “But... she died! It was in all the London papers.”

    “Long story, but she actually survived the attack. We’re just not telling anyone who... ”

    “ ...Doesn’t have a need to know!” Dick and I finished in unison.

    The rest of the morning passed all too quickly. We heard how Franklin, advised by his doctor, had chosen to move Lady Cristina to a place of safety, conveniently close by the doctor’s brother who has a practice in Bath, following the attack upon her last month. We learned how they had found a cottage and would be moving in shortly, with their servants and Miss Franklin.

    “I have this enormous Cornishman named Pasco, an old marine sergeant who moves faster on a peg leg than many men do on two sound limbs, to take care of her. He was the one who sounded the alarm when the Dons attacked the house they were staying at in Portsmouth last month. And held them off until help arrived!”

    “Then he should get along just fine with my man Cord. He was one of my marines on Wasp until he lost a leg too. He’s a tiger when it comes to taking care of Winifred. Added to that, he's sweet on her maid, Betty. Is Fraser still your cox’n, then?”

    “How could I hurt his feelings and promote someone else, even if he does look like a pirate with that eye patch?” Franklin answered jokingly. “And Sam Pasco is quite fond of Cristina’s maid, Maria. He picked up Spanish as a prisoner of the Dons in the last war, which makes communicating with her much easier. She’s got a husband somewhere in Spain, she thinks, or they’d get married.”

    “Cord is still trying to get up the nerve to pop the question to Betty. Maybe one of these days she’ll just lose patience and ask him!” Michael said with a laugh. “Well, thanks to Dick here we will be moving to Bristol very soon, so you can be sure we will keep a good eye on your Cristina, Pat.”

    “Thank you, Michael. You have no idea how much that means to me. I know she’ll be well cared for. Now this estate, I understand that it belongs to Captain John Sinclair, but how do you all come to be here?” he asked.

    “It all started in America with a French spy named Leveque... ” I began.


    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin,
    Junior Post Captain, RN

    Monday 24 May 1779

    Early this morning the three of us went out to look over the cottage and make arrangements for its purchase from the agent. It is by no means palatial, but it is comfortable and better yet, within my means, thanks to my prize money from my last voyage. This done, we had the rest of the day at leisure, so we decided to take the advice of our host at the inn, one Sommersby, and pay a visit to the White Oaks estate.

    “M’ brother Jack is butler there, Captain. There’s folks staying there, a sea captain friend of Captain Sinclair’s, but if you was to ask at the house I’m sure you’d be allowed to walk through the gardens. They’re at their peak this time of year. Make a nice outing for the ladies, I think. Ladies loves gardens.”

    “Well, I know I do,” Aunt Julie said. “Cristina my dear, would you like to go see the gardens?”

    “Oh yes, I like to see English gardens. They are so green, not like the ones in Espain. I think it is because it rains so much more here,” she said sagely.

    “Most likely,” I answered, hiding a smile at this bit of wisdom. “Well, since we have the coach at our disposal, thanks to Doctor Fleming, I propose an outing to White Oaks as soon as we have breakfasted.”

    So it was that we drove to White Oaks. We were on the way up the main drive to the house when we saw three men and on horseback, obviously out for a morning ride. As we drew nearer, intending to ask permission to visit the gardens, I recognized Michael Gilmore. With him was the man Lord Cornwallis had mentioned only a day or so before, William Mason and Mason’s younger brother Stephen.

    It seems that Gilmore and Mason are related by marriage, their wives being sisters. They greeted us warmly, and nothing would do but that we should come into the house and meet everyone there. While Tina and Aunt Julie were getting acquainted with Winifred Willis Gilmore, Michael's sister Alice Willis, and Helen Willis Rolland, Will and Michael invited me for a walk in the grounds. There, I met Richard Mason, the oldest of the Mason sons and the managing director of Mason Shipping – and the man who will be transporting Lord Cornwallis to New York under our escort.

    Curious as to how they came to be at the Sinclair family estate I politely inquired and was told the story of how Will Mason, his cox’n Stewart, Major Ronald Scarboro - who was one of Earl St. John’s top agents - and the crew of Mason’s 18-gun HMS Paladin had earlier this year tracked down and captured a highly placed French spy in America by the name of Leveque. Of their meeting with HMS Sapphire near Iceland and how Sinclair had told them that Leveque had in fact murdered the Captain’s wife, his own half-sister, in 1763 when she had refused to betray her husband. Captain Sinclair had been searching for him ever since and had been more than gratified at the man’s capture and subsequent execution. As a result William Mason had been given the run of the estate and the Captain had written St. John advising that Mason be made post. Just a few weeks ago he had received the orders that sent him to take command of the 26-gun Vanessa as a junior post captain. Following his narrative Mason asked,

    “Where are you staying, anyway, Pat?”

    “At the Crown and Castle in the town.”

    “Ah, Sommersby’s place. Well, if you don’t mind shifting yet again, we’d love to have you here with us. We’ve plenty of room, and this way the ladies can have a comfortable coze to their hearts’ content. In fact, if your servants can pack up your things from the Portsmouth house, you can stay here until the cottage is ready.”

    “You’re too kind. I wouldn’t like to impose.”

    “Nonsense. It’s no imposition. The Sommersbys have orders to extend the run of the house to any friends or family, and thanks to Michael here you certainly fall into that first category.”

    “Well, then, we will be pleased at accept, and thank you. You’re both certainly making the transition easier.”

    “We like to have good neighbours.” Will said with a grin.

    “Well, I think we’re going to be more than neighbours, because according to my orders you’re not only part of the convoy escort with me, you’re going to be assigned to Sinclair’s squadron with me once we get across the Atlantic, you and Captain Boothroyd of the Sandfly.”

    “Captain Sinclair is getting his broad pendant? Well, it’s about time, I must say,” Will said approvingly. “And you can’t ask for a better man to serve under, Pat. Just in the short time I spent with him I came away very impressed. Are you sure you don’t want to go back to sea, Michael? You could join us too!”

    “No, thank you, Will. Dick here has offered me the perfect job as his European director. If the war expands and my country calls, I’ll go, but until then I’ll be a grocery captain and proud of it,” my old commander said with a smile. He looks much better than when I saw him last, but he is still too pale, and I know that the rigours of sea life would not be good for him.

    “We need good grocery captains. Some of the ones I’ve met would drive a saint to distraction. Remember that time Captain Monroe was assigned convoy duty between here and New York, Michael, and the masters kept getting out of line, reducing sail at night, complaining when the Captain tried to keep them in order even for their own
    protection?” Will asked.

    “Oh, yes. I don’t envy either one of you your duty,” Michael said with a wry smile.

    “But we have an advantage over most convoy escorts. Our distinguished guest wants to get to America quickly to take up his post there. I suspect he can be very - persuasive - when he needs to be,” I replied.

    “Well, if he can help you keep those Bristol merchant captains in line, I say God Bless Him for it!” Dick Mason remarked.

    “The problem is that they want to save money by not keeping their ships in proper working order. They don’t replace cordage when necessary; they don’t carry replacement canvas, things like that. All that’s done in the name of economy, but they mean that a strong gale will leave them in dire straits, and it’s really more cost effective to keep things in tip-top shape. You can move faster, you get the better cargoes because the merchants know that the goods are more likely to get there intact, and you have a better chance of good Admiralty contracts. But I agree, it’s going to be an interesting voyage,” he finished.

    “The ladies will be wondering where we’ve got to,” Michael remarked with a glance at his watch. “Let’s go back and see how they’re getting on.”

    We walked back to the house in perfect amity, four sea captains who bid fair to become the best of friends.
     
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  16. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Tuesday 25 May 1779

    I left Doctor Alexander Fleming’s address with Gordon, my senior, in case he needed to reach me with any urgent messages, and I am glad that I did. This morning after breakfast I was walking over the grounds of our new cottage with Aunt Julie and Cristina when an express rider came dashing up the lane. He handed over a letter from Fleming that told me that the enclosed urgent dispatch had come for me early that morning, and thinking it might be important, he had sent the rider to find me. I tipped the man handsomely and broke the seal. Gordon told me that he had taken the liberty of opening a letter from Mr. Thayer, my third lieutenant, as it seemed to be official business rather than personal correspondence, and found its contents to be worth forwarding – so there was still another letter enclosed with his. Thayer informed me that his family situation was such that he would be unable to make the upcoming voyage to America with us and was giving up his place in my wardroom. He hoped that he might be able to serve with me or with Captain Gilmore at a later time, he had learned a great deal from both of us, he was my very obedient, etc, etc. Here was a coil. I was about to leave for America with a very important ‘cargo’, in a manner of speaking, and I had no third lieutenant. Michael had gone with Will and the rest of the family to be present for the grand re-opening of the family business in Cirencester, so I could not ask him for advice. Almost as soon as I digested this piece of information, though, a solution presented itself, and I learned anew just how many unemployed lieutenants there are in His Majesty’s Navy – and how popular duty on a frigate, even a small one like mine, really is. We had returned to the house at White Oaks, the cottage still not being ready for occupancy just yet, so that I could write some letters and also because Cristina was beginning to become tired. Julie had taken her up to our room to rest and I had sought the library, which Will and Michael had turned into an office during their stay at this lovely estate, both having been reluctant to disturb Captain Sinclair’s in the master study.

    Sommersby tapped on the door. “Captain Franklin, there is a young man, a Lieutenant MacMillian, to see you. He says he has a letter from your Mr. Gordon.”

    “Very well, show him in.”

    A few seconds later a tall, slender young man in his late teens, with black hair and snapping, lively black eyes, walked in and saluted smartly.

    “Captain Franklin, I am Duncan MacMillian, late senior midshipman aboard HMS Victory. I passed ma lieutenant’s examinations just last Friday, sir, and whilst I was on ma way through the town I met Mr. Gordon, whom I’d known afore in ma old ship, ye see, sir. He told me that there might be a vacancy in your wardroom, sir, and so I’ve come to enquire. I would ha’ been here sooner, bu’ I had to ask leave of ma’ old captain and see to ma’ uniforms, and I didna’ like to travel on the Sabbath,” he explained simply.

    I returned his salute and offered him a chair, then rang for a tea tray. “Unless you’d like something stronger?” I asked.

    “Nay, sir, not this early in the mornin’. I enjoy a drap now an’ again, bu’ na’ so early. Tea is fine.”

    This was my first experience at interviewing new officers, but I found it a good one. MacMillian, a native of Kirkcaldy – “just across the Firth fra’ Edinburgh, sir” had gone to sea at ten as a captain’s servant.

    “Ma’ uncle got me the berth, ye see, sir. Uncle Alexander is rather prominent in the kirk - he is assigned to St. Giles, our cathedral, ye ken, so he has a wide acquaintance amang men fra’ a’ walks of life. Then after twa years I was taken on as junior midshipman. I’m aichteen, sir, in case ye’re wonderin’.”

    “You’ll find life aboard a small frigate quite a bit different from a first rate, I suspect,” I told him. “Mr. Gordon speaks very highly of you, MacMillian. If he troubled to send you along he must have confidence in your abilities. We are a young company – your next senior is only twenty-one, Mr. Gordon is twenty-three, and I will not be twenty-six until this fall.”

    “If ye accept me, I will do ma best to give guid service ta ye and ta the King, sir.”

    “Well, then, I think that’s all I need. Let me write out a letter giving Mr. Gordon the news and you can be on your way.”

    “Would ye like me to write to your dictation, sir? I write a fair hand, by a’ accounts.”

    “Yes, thank you.” I dictated, he wrote – and very clearly, I could see – and all I had to do was sign the letter and see him out. Once again Jeffery Gordon had proved that he is worth his weight in gold. I found myself wondering if any other young men who had ‘heard about the vacancy’ had gone to see him aboard the ship to enquire for a job – I would have to remember to ask him when I got back.


    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Thursday, 27 May 1779

    I knew I was leaving Cristina in good hands, thanks to my friend Michael Gilmore, so it was with an easy mind, at least in that respect, that I accepted a place in the coach bound for Portsmouth and our respective ships with Richard and Lucy Mason. Leaving Tina again, perhaps for months, was damned difficult. We needed to make an early start yesterday morning, so I crept out while she was still asleep, my last sight of her as a tiny mound under the covers, her black hair spread over the pillows in glorious confusion and an instinctively protective hand on the growing mound of her belly. I hope to be back in this country before my children are born, but who knows what will happen in the intervening months? We had said our goodbyes tenderly and passionately the night before, so perhaps this was best. I paused for a final, long look, storing up memories, and then it was time to descend the stairs and walk out into the faint light of dawn, where the coach was waiting.

    Lucy still tires easily, so we stopped in Salisbury, where Winifred Gilmore has an Aunt, the wife of a Canon of the Cathedral. Canon and Mrs. Lindsey made us welcome as if we were family, asking as the price of their hospitality only that we give them all the news from Cirencester. Early this morning we resumed our journey, reaching Portsmouth by lunchtime in the well-sprung coach. I parted from my new friends at the Sally Port after accepting a dinner invitation from them and turned to greet my newest lieutenant, Duncan MacMillian, who was waiting with Fraser and the gig.

    “Good afternoon, Mr. MacMillian,” I said as he saluted. “And have you begun to find your feet aboard our little ship?”

    “Oh, aye, sir, I have that. Even in a ship this sma’ I have more room to maself the noo than ever I did in the berth aboard the Victory. There were twelve of us, ye see, sir.”

    “So I understand. I was never in anything larger than a sixty-four as a midshipman, but I had friends who served in first-rates.”

    Gordon had the side party mustered and ready by the time I climbed aboard and removed my hat to the quarterdeck and the ensign that broke to the wind from the mizzen peak.

    “Welcome back, Captain.” He said with just the hint of a smile.

    “It’s good to be back, Jeffery. I have much to tell you, you and all my officers. Muster them in my day cabin in half an hour’s time, if you please?”

    “Aye aye, sir. I trust the Lady Cristina is well?”

    “Very well. Very pregnant. I have news of that, too, which I will share at the proper time. I’m going below.”

    I was back, and shortly the adventure would begin.


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Thursday 27 May 1779

    On Tuesday our party from Thornbury went over to Cirencester for the reopening of the new Mason-Gilmore-Rolland Mill. It was time of great celebration for all of us. Not only have we saved the business, that Mr. Willis worked so hard to build up, from bankruptcy, but we have also seen his murderous nephew and the trollop Sally Hill brought to justice. Alice Willis is free to marry again when she is ready, and I suspect that Eric Harmon will be the first to call when the wounds Willis inflicted on her spirit have had time to heal. Once the celebrations were over, it was time to get back to sea. Dick spent some time briefing Michael on his new job with Mason Shipping, but even he had to leave to go down to Portsmouth and make sure the ship was ready for His Lordship to come on board. Since Lucy is finally well enough to travel, she opted to go with him, and they offered Pat Franklin a place in the coach. At the same time they left for Portsmouth, I took Stephen and Stewart and off we went towards Plymouth. We arrived last night and spent the night at the Golden Lion, perhaps our last night ashore for a very long time.

    Early this morning Stewart went across to warn Robertson that I was ready to come aboard, and that I would formally take command of the ship at noon, which is the beginning of the new day aboard ship. He took Stephen with him, Harmon having reported aboard last week to begin his duties as surgeon. One last check of the uniform in the glass, a slight adjustment to my hat, and I was ready. Stewart reappeared a few minutes before noon, proudly sporting the blue jacket with its brass buttons that proclaimed him a post-captain’s cox’n.

    “A proud day, Captain,” he said with a grin, and I think he was looking back to that day in Annapolis so long ago when he saw me off to my first ship as a boy of twelve.

    “Indeed, old friend, and you’ve been with me for most of those days, and I trust you’ll be with me for many more to come.”

    “No plans to leave, Captain. Sort of made Miss Jennifer a promise, you see.”

    “One you were not loath to give, I’m sure. Well, let’s be about it, then.”

    Down to the Sally Port, where Stewart had the gig waiting, with Stephen at the tiller.

    He saluted. “Good day, sir. A fine day for it, I must say.”

    “Indeed, Mr. Mason.” He and Stewart took their places, I took mine, and Stewart ordered, “Out oars! Give way together! Put your backs into it, lads!”

    We made our progress across the harbour, coming up to the ship as Robertson gave the challenge: “Boat ahoy?”

    Stewart looked at me with the sort of pride that a man feels when his son has done well, and cupped his big hands to magnify the sound of “Vanessa!” After weeks of refitting, HMS Vanessa’s Lord and Master was finally arriving.

    A squeal of pipes, the slap of muskets as the new marine lieutenant, Addington, brought his men to present arms, clouds of pipe clay in the air, white side ropes held out to ease my passage onto the main deck. A pause, a salute to the ensign as it broke to the wind, and an acknowledgement of Robertson’s salute – all the pomp and ceremony that goes with a captain’s arrival for the first time.

    “Sharply done, Mr. Robertson, my compliments. You have all been working very hard, that is evident.”

    “Thank you, sir. I will inform the men. Sir, what are your orders?”

    “Have the hands muster aft, if you please.”

    A squeal of pipes, the shouts of bosun’s mates and the pounding of running feet, and my compliment of nearly one hundred eighty men - we are still a dozen or so short - took their places in complete silence. A few steps up to the quarterdeck and I could see them all - sharply outfitted in blue and white striped shirts and white canvas trousers, with neckerchiefs in varying colours. Uniformity, but yet enough room for the men to be themselves – a different neckerchief, trousers of a slightly different design, stripes a bit narrower or a bit wider than his fellows. Only my gig's crew were in exactly the same uniform, at my direction, and according to Stewart the eight slots were always manned, with hands competing for any vacancies that might arise for one reason or another. I suppose they were just grateful I did not dress them in harlequin outfits like one captain I’d heard of did.

    Robertson gave a sharp command – “Off hats!” and the men came to attention for the reading of my orders. I unfolded the commission I had received from St. John several weeks before and began to read. By doing so I was notifying all aboard that I was now in charge – and now responsible for all their lives. Many of these same men were present in October of ‘77 when I read myself into Paladin for the first time; perhaps they were recalling that time. Others were new, hands from Valdez’s old ship, HMS Triumph, or from HMS Invincible, where Robert had served before. I wondered again how he was adjusting to his demotion to the lower decks. I scanned the crowd. Yes, there he was. His face was a careful mask, but his eyes were hostile. I had discussed his situation with Dick and with Michael Gilmore, and both had agreed I was doing the right thing, but knowing that didn’t make his hostility any less painful. Stephen, on the other hand, was smiling from ear to ear. He seemed to be fitting in well with Kennedy and O’Connor and was already looking even more fit and tanned. Mr. Boyd, my mainstay, was standing as solid as the Rock of Ages, his white beard fluttering in the breeze, and next to him Jack Robertson, my senior and good friend since that day over a year and a half ago when I had taken my first ship as Master and Commander. Then the others: Mr. Valdez, the dark, handsome man whose history had so fascinated me, and Mr. Cross, my most junior lieutenant but a fine officer already thanks to his training at the hands of Captain Sinclair.

    “ ...Take upon you the charge and command of her” ... “willing and requiring all the officers and company belonging to the said ship to behave themselves”... “as you will answer the contrary at your peril”... “given at the Admiralty on this 23rd day of April 1779.”

    It was done. I was officially in command. I replaced my hat, the others replaced theirs, and the official business was done. I spoke only a few words to them, telling them that I was proud of the work they had done so far, that I hoped to get to know the new men in the coming weeks and months, and encouraging them to think of themselves as a fighting unit, knowing that sort of bonding can only come with time and hard work.

    “That is all. Mr. Robertson, you may dismiss the off duty watch below.”

    He saluted and turned to issue the order, but before he could do so he was forestalled by one of the petty officers, one of my old Paladins: “Three cheers for the ‘Naughty Nessa’ and Captain Mason! Hip, hip... Huzza!”

    I wish Mother had lived to see this day.
     
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  17. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Thursday 27 May 1779 (continued)

    His Lordship’s entourage and his dunnage arrived aboard Resolute Star yesterday, and today the man himself, smartly turned out in a masterfully tailored red coat and a curled wig, arrived on board.

    Dick sent over His Lordship’s compliments and an invitation to dinner, which I accepted gladly, talking Jeffery Gordon with me. It was a happy choice – Jeffery comes of a wealthy merchant banking family in London and was thus able to exchange bits of London gossip with Lucy and Cornwallis, after he got over the shock of learning that the most famous star of the London stage was alive and doing fairly well under the name of Mrs. Lucy Mason. This gave Dick and myself a chance to talk about our plans for the convoy, and the more I talk to him the more I find myself wishing that he were one of our Royal Navy captains, not just a merchant sea captain. I asked him about this at one point, and he explained that as the oldest son, he was the heir apparent to his father’s business from the day he was born and was trained to take over whenever it became necessary. This had happened in February when his dear mother, who had been failing for some time, died of congestive heart failure, leaving his father lost, confused and unable to function in the workaday world.

    “I’m sorry to hear it. Is there any hope that he might recover?”

    “I don’t know. I hope that eventually he will. I had to get my sister Tara - but for Stephen, whom you have met, she would be the youngest of us all - away before the strain caused her to make herself ill or starve herself to death. It seems that while she has been staying with Will’s wife Jennifer they have become good friends with Captain
    Sinclair, your future commodore. Reading between the lines, I think we are looking at the prospect of a match there.”

    “Your sister? And Sinclair? How old is she? I know that he was posted at a young age but that was nearly two decades ago, he must be over forty by now.”

    “Tara just turned nineteen, and he’s forty-three. Twenty-four years difference in ages is a large gap, but I know my little sister. She’s always had an old head on young shoulders and she’s been through the crucible with a lost love. She rejected all the young blades in Halifax as being too frivolous, too immature, and too petty, so I’m not surprised, really. We Masons tend to fall in love at first sight. Lucy and I did, Will and Jennifer did, and so did my parents.
    “Father was a promising merchant sea captain and plantation owner of twenty-nine when he went to call on some family friends in Williamsburg and met Miss Vanessa Quinn, who was only just seventeen. They were married within three months and I arrived almost exactly nine months later,” he finished with a grin. “There are seven of us children still living, and two more who died. It was obvious right up until the time of her last illness that the fires were still burning bright.”

    “And Will’s ship is the Vanessa. How appropriate. She must have been a very great lady, and I’m sorry not to have met her.”

    Just then one of Mason’s crew brought in a letter. “This just came from shore, Captain, and as it’s from America I thought it might be urgent. Pardon the interruption.”

    “That’s all right, Menzies. You did well. Will you pardon me, Pat?” I nodded and he broke the seal, scanned the contents, and gave a soundless whistle. “It’s from Will’s wife, Jennifer and dated the 9th. She’s written to him, too, of course, but she writes to say that Captain Sinclair was set upon by thugs last night and seriously wounded – a knife cut along his left leg, a ball to the chest that cracked a rib, and a deep knife cut to the right shoulder. He’s lost a lot of blood, but his physician Doctor Bassingford reached him in time, got the ball out and sutured the other wounds, so all that remains is to wait. Tara won’t leave him. Apparently he gave her a belated birthday gift the night before – a diamond and sapphire necklace.”

    “That sounds more like an engagement gift to me, of course I don’t have Captain Sinclair’s resources, I hear tell that he’s one of the wealthiest men in England. Still and all it’s hardly a casual gift which certainly seems to confirm your theories.”

    “I agree. This letter came across in incredibly quick time – another day or so and it might have missed us, unless we happened to meet the packet at sea. I hope that by the time we reach New York your new commander will be recovered from these wounds.” Dick commented.

    “So do I. I will say this – if what I hear about John Sinclair is correct, there had to be more than one of them, and I have no doubt he sent several of them to hell before he was through.” I replied.

    “What is it, Dick?” Lucy asked, noticing the letter in her husband’s hand for the first time. He explained and she looked concerned. The conversation spread to the others. His Lordship himself came over, heard the news, and remarked, “I am sorry this happened. I am sure the military authorities will be looking into it, though, and I shall make some inquiries myself, if necessary, once we arrive. Sinclair is a very good man.”

    “Have you met him, my lord?” I asked, but Cornwallis shook his head. “I have not had the privilege, although I am familiar with his exploits of course. However I am acquainted with his uncle, Joseph Sinclair, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge you know, a most irascible fellow but quite brilliant in his own way. He was one of my tutors as a boy. So I shall look into things once we arrive in New York.”

    “Thank you, my lord. I know Sinclair’s friends will appreciate it.” Dick Mason said courteously, and his noble guest moved away again, turning to address Lucy Mason.

    “Now, Mrs. Mason, you promised me a rubber of whist. If we can persuade two of these gentlemen to join us, we shall be well entertained indeed.”


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Friday 28 May 1779

    Our ship’s company is nearly complete - very few ships sail with all of the men they are allowed, but we are only about a dozen short, which is much better than the situation many captains find themselves in - and the ship is ready for sea, so all that remains is a short sea trial. I need to see how these men, coming from so many different ships as they have, would meld into a cohesive unit. I do not expect to see it happen overnight, but I know that I have my core of former Paladins to anchor the company, and Robertson assures me that the Triumphs and Invincibles are good men as well. The Triumphs greeted Lieutenant Valdez with obvious respect and admiration, which speaks very well of him, and they have turned to with a will. Scuttlebutt says that the Invincibles, many of whom had cause to fear Reginald Trent’s caprice and Robert’s with it, are relieved that he no longer has so much authority over them. As always, Stewart keeps me informed. Each morning when he brings in my shaving water he brings with it a situation report of what is going on below decks.

    If my fellow captains wonder why I have so little trouble on my ships, it is because Stewart lets me know when a problem is developing before it has a chance to reach unmanageable proportions.

    We are to spend three days out at sea doing gun drill and sail drill. At the end of those three days we will return to Plymouth, where we are to meet the 18-gun sloop Sandfly, under Commander James Boothroyd.

    Shortly after noon today the sentry announced, “Midshipman o’ the Watch, sir!” and admitted Stephen. He is working out very well so far, which is more than I can say for Robert, who does just enough work to get by and keep himself out of the path of Mr. Boyd’s thundering wrath at a job poorly done. I wonder sometimes if I made a mistake taking Rob on, but I couldn’t stand by and see him degenerate still further under the influence of men such as Trent. Perhaps one day he will thank me for intervening to save him from himself, but I doubt it.

    “Yes, Steve, what it is? You’re quite bursting with news.”

    “It’s the kittens, sir; they’re here – six of them, three males and three females. Georgia had them in the cable tier last night, we think. We were on deck for noon sights with Mr. Boyd when she came up the companion ladder with them, one at a time, six times across the deck and back down the other ladder to the cockpit. Mr. Harmon is now the host of six kittens!”

    “Well, if anyone can take good care of them, the surgeon can, if she’ll let him near them. Let’s go see what we’ve got.”

    I led the way down into Eric Harmon’s domain, where Georgia, our stowaway from Savannah who had come with us in Paladin, had established her hopeful little family on a bit of old sailcloth Harmon had provided for her. Beside her sat Captain Sinclair’s Dunkin, looking very pleased with himself.

    “Well, you old rascal, six of them, eh? And Pat Franklin thought he was doing well to sire two at the time!” I said as Dunkin leaped onto my shoulder and began to purr.

    “Once they're weaned we’ll have to share them out, eh?” I dropped to one knee and picked up the tiny balls of fur in turn, confirming the sexes as Steve had told me. There were two black ones, a calico, one that was all white, and two tortoiseshells. “Very good work, Georgia.” She opened one eye and rumbled even as the kittens, their eyes still closed, felt their way to her side and dinner. Dunkin purred even louder.

    “I don’t see why you’re bragging, she did all the work, you just had all the fun, you tomcat,” I scolded Dunkin with a grin. He jumped down and went toward Georgia, but she hissed at him, causing him to beat a hasty retreat.

    “It’s all right, old fellow. Sometimes the ladies just want to be left alone. You just keep bringing her nice juicy rats to keep her strength up and eventually she’ll be more – receptive.”

    With this experience in male bonding behind us, we left the mother cat to her new offspring.
     
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  18. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Fifth Week


    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Saturday 29 May 1779

    The company aboard Resolute Star was so congenial that I was loath to tear myself away last night, but I knew that today would be full of activity. I find that the more I see of Dick Mason the more I like him, and I am looking forward to working closely with his brother William as well. They are very much alike, and not just in their physical appearance, which is so similar that they could easily pass for twins despite the four years’ difference in their ages.

    Early this morning Mr. Leach, my signals midshipman, came down to the cabin with a message. “First lieutenant’s respects, sir, and the Port Admiral has signalled for you. Report in one hour’s time.”

    “Very well. My compliments to Mr. Gordon and have my gig swayed out at the proper time.”

    What could Sir Edmund want with me? I had my orders from the Admiralty about the convoy, I had made sure Lord Cornwallis was comfortable in his frankly luxurious cabin aboard Resolute Star, and all seemed to be in order. What then? I was not kept in suspense for long. The Admiral’s flag lieutenant showed me into the inner office almost immediately, where Vice-Admiral Sir Edmund Halliwell, Knight of the Bath, rose to return my salute and offer a hand and a chair. The Admiral wore an old-fashioned powdered wig from beneath which his dark brown eyes gazed out at me. I knew him to be in his early sixties and to have served as a Post Captain with a 64-gun ship of the line at Pondicherry during the last war, a campaign that had given him his knighthood.

    “Good morning, Franklin. I trust all is well aboard your ship – and that of your charge?”

    “Quite well, Sir Edmund, thank you. I passed a very pleasant evening with His Lordship and his host, who is a sort of family friend, Richard Mason.”

    “That would be Richard Mason III, the oldest son? I know the father, of course - built a shipping business out of nothing, you know. He’s one of our best and most loyal colonials – such a pity about his lady wife. How do you come to know them?”

    I explained briefly and he nodded understanding before coming to the reason for my summons. “But I didn’t call you in here to make small talk, Franklin. You know you and Mason – Captain William Mason, that is – are to be part of a new squadron under John Sinclair? Finally getting his broad pendant, been too damned long in coming if you ask me but... well let’s just say he’s made an enemy or two and leave it at that. But the man did me a great favour earlier this year – discovered that my Dockyard Superintendent, Simpson, had been stealing the victuals he was supposed to have been distributing and exposed him for the damned thief he was. Good man is Sinclair, very good man.

    “Well, now, on his way to America Sinclair captured a French frigate, a twenty-eight called Enchanté. She’s been bought in and is being refitted in New York, though we’re calling her Enchanted, of course, none of this silly Frenchified nonsense you know, and she’s to become part of the new squadron. Sinclair has the authority to post a likely young fellow and put him in command, but that young fellow will need a crew - and that’s where you and your friend Mason come in. We’re sending him that crew – not a full complement, he’ll have to do some recruiting, but all the key personnel and as many of the hands as we can muster.”

    “And how are they to be transported, Sir Edmund?” I asked, thinking of trying to cram them all onto my little sixth-rate.
    “Not on your ship, or at least not all of them,” he said with a slight smile, as if he was reading my mind. “Or at least not for very long. No, share them out among the escort ships. If you are short men to work ship, or Mason is, or whatever, use these men to take up the slack, and send the rest to the merchant ships in the convoy. That will make the grocery captains happy, eh? Extra hands that they don’t have to pay, just feed. Should eliminate any excuses they have about being short-handed. God knows I hear enough complaints from them about how the Navy is always pressing their best men. Well, this time we’re giving them back – at least for a few weeks. Oh, and I’ve arranged for Enchanted to get a couple of ‘smashers’, twenty-four pounders like the ones you have, as well. They’re being taken out to Resolute Star and stowed in the hold even as we speak.”

    “And when will the replacements be coming aboard, Sir Edmund?”

    “Later on today, that’s why I sent for you early. If you don’t have room for all of them to berth even for the short run to Plymouth and on to Cork, put some of them aboard Resolute Star. I suggest you leave the Marines aboard her for the voyage anyway, as an extra precaution. For His Lordship, you know, sort of a personal lifeguard, courtesy His Britannic Majesty’s Navy. Lord Cornwallis has the ear of both His Majesty and Lord George Germain, and we are taking no chances with him. The Frogs would love to snatch such a high-profile commander.”

    “Aye, aye, sir.”

    “It’s all in the written orders, here, Franklin, but I wanted to see you about it instead of just sending them out.”

    “Thank you, Sir Edmund.”

    “Any further questions, Franklin?”

    “No, Sir Edmund.”

    “Very well then, carry on. You’ll be weighing tomorrow, eh? Well, good luck and Godspeed.” We exchanged salutes and I left the office, already puzzling over how I would share out the new men.


    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Sunday 30 May 1779

    We are crammed to the gun’ls with men for Enchanted, although at least the Marines and a few of the seamen are aboard Resolute Star, and it is only for a short time. I will be keeping half a dozen of them to replace the men who were killed on our recent abortive mission to Ireland, and I suspect that Will Mason will welcome the loan of a few more, but most of them will be shared out among the merchant captains once we reach Cork. I am sure they are a bit cramped down in the wardroom, with three extra lieutenants and the Enchanted’s warrant officers sharing the space, but we are an adaptable lot in the Navy – we have to be, or we would not survive for very long.

    We weighed anchor on the evening tide yesterday, our destination a rendezvous point off the Lizard where we would join our two other escorts, HMS Vanessa and HM Sloop Sandfly. We had a good nor’ easterly to push us down the Channel once we cleared St. Catherine’s Point, and a beautiful late spring evening to begin our voyage. Once we were well underway, I left the ship in the more than capable hands of Mr. Nolan, my sailing master, and went below. I am still having to work at letting my men do their jobs instead of being everywhere at once as I was as first lieutenant. After a few moments my sentry announced Jeffery Gordon.

    “Come in and make yourself comfortable, Jeffery. I was just about to send for you, now that we’re well out in the Channel and we can relax a bit.”

    “I thought as much, sir, so I thought I’d report in and save you the trouble. We’ve had no time to discuss the changes in the wardroom, after all.”

    “You must have some sort of sixth sense, Jeffery. I may never let you leave this ship, if you prove yourself so invaluable. You’ll be a lieutenant forever!” I joked.

    “There are worse fates to be contemplated, Captain,” he said, knowing that I would never hold him back from the chance of a command of his own when the opportunity arose.

    “Thank you. Now, you did very well in finding and sending me MacMillian. I think he will do very nicely. I’m curious, though – were there other applicants, perhaps, others not as well qualified?”

    “There were several, sir. I had each of them give me a brief summary of his background and history so I could ‘report the information to the Captain’, and thus I was able to winnow them out one by one. There were two or three who might have done, but I knew young MacMillian personally and I know the kind of work he can do, so that tipped the scales in his favour.”

    “And was there anyone who stood out for all the wrong reasons in the group?”

    “One, sir. I know him by reputation and I know a bit of his family history, so I wasn’t likely to give him more than a cursory hearing. A young man named Trent, Reginald Trent. He was fifth in HMS Invincible, but she’s refitting at Plymouth just now, and so far he’s not been able to find another job.”

    “Interesting. What do you know about him? I’d be interested to learn what made you reject him, for all I trust your judgment.”

    “His mother is distantly related to the Earl of Devonshire - a third cousin, I believe - and he tends to rely more on that connection than on anything else. You know my father is in banking, sir. As such, he is in a position to know things that are not common knowledge.”

    Without being indiscreet or betraying a confidence, Gordon was letting me know that all was not well financially with the Trent family. Was it gambling, or women, or drink? Who knew, and at this point, it didn’t really matter. The man had an unsavoury reputation among those who were in a position to know.

    “And with your contacts in London’s influential circles, have you heard - other things?” I asked.

    “Yes. Trent’s mother has prevailed upon her noble cousin to help her boy out of scrapes on more than one occasion. No public scandal, it was carefully hushed up thanks to some judicious greasing of palms, but one hears things.”

    “Such as?”

    “He has a violent temper, does Reginald. He tends to take it out on whoever can’t fight back, notably animals, servants, and others he considers... inferior.”

    “That young actress who was found beaten to death in Whitechapel last year.” I said, as his carefully couched words sank in. “The case was never solved. Are you saying?”

    He gave me a long, steady look and I had my answer.

    “Well, such a man wouldn’t last two weeks on this ship, Jeffery. I will not permit any officer to abuse a man who can’t fight back. Thank you for saving me the trouble of dealing with him.”

    “I was saving myself the trouble as well, sir. I doubt he’ll find a job very quickly, though I must say he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard, either. Eventually, however, interest will win out, and some captain will be pressured into taking him on or orders will be sent from the Admiralty.”

    “Yes, more’s the pity. Well, as long as it isn’t me, or my friend Will Mason, or anyone else in our little squadron. I notice he didn’t make it into the group for the Enchanted, either. Thank you, Jeffery, that will be all.”

    He saluted and left my cabin and I turned back to the bane of every Royal Navy captain's existence - paperwork.


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Monday 31 May 1779

    Late yesterday evening I had a visitor – Commander James ‘Jamie’ Boothroyd of the 18-gun sloop Sandfly. He came aboard to pay his respects and to inform me that he was the third member of the escort group led by Pat Franklin in his Predator. I found him to be a redheaded, stocky young man of my age; with a Scots burr so thick I could hardly understand him at times.

    “Ma father was a Sassenach, you see, sir, but he died when I was only a wee bairn, and we went back to Kirkcudbright to ma mother’s people. She remarried, to the minister o’ the kirk, a member of her own clan, the Crichtons, although verra distantly related. I was raised on the Solway an’ always wanted to go to sea, so when I was a lad o’ twelve ma’ stepfather found me a place and - here I am,” he finished cheerfully. “I must say, sir, I've heard some accents in ma time, but yours is the first from the Colonies.”

    “Well, between your burr and my drawl, we should make for an interesting conversation. I was married by a Presbyterian, by the way.”

    “Oh, aye? And are your people Scots by heritage, then? I know there’s mony that left here after ‘45 and went to America.”

    “No, English and French Huguenot, but the Reverend MacDonald was on the spot and willing to oblige two young people who were in love and wanted to be married right then, Church of England or no. You see I had just been made Commander and was under orders to sail within a few days so time was short. His burr was so broad I had to listen carefully or I would have missed the most important part – you know, where he says, ‘You may kiss the bride.’”

    He laughed, a deep sound that rose from the depths of his body and rolled out into the room. “And our senior captain, sir? Do ye ken him at a’?”

    “Pat Franklin and I had a mutual mentor, Captain Michael Gilmore. Franklin is from Lancashire, and he doesn’t have an accent, or only an English one. You’ll like him, though. He’s less than a year older than I am, and has had his frigate since December. He set the cat among the pigeons earlier this year by making off with the beautiful young wife of an ageing Spanish grandee. He tells me that she’s going to have twins, or so their doctor - a Scot, by the way - thinks.”

    “He sounds like my sort of fellow, and if a Doctor fra’ the University at Edinburgh says there’s to be twins, then twins there will be.” He said with obvious national pride. “Are ye sure he’s not Scots too, somewhere?”

    “I have no idea, and your men aren’t the only ones with an appreciation for beautiful women, you know,” I countered, liking this young man more and more.

    “Oh aye, I ken that weel, but the question is, would a Sassenach have the audacity to make off with a Spanish grandee’s wumman without he had a Scot’s blood in his veins? I dinna think so, sir.”

    “You can take that up with Captain Franklin, Boothroyd. I assume you aren’t married?”

    “Nay, more’s the pity. I havna’ ha’ the time to look about me sufficiently. I seem to be at sea most o’ the time!” He said dryly.

    “Well, perhaps this voyage will be the charm. After New York we are bound for Halifax, where there is a large Scots enclave. If I recall, many of the young ladies there are very lovely.”

    “I shall look forward to that with great anticipation, sir,” he grinned.

    He returned to his ship and we set out for the Lizard, on the coast of Cornwall. Robertson was watching him through the glass as he got underway and commented,

    “Very nicely done, sir. He knows his business.”

    “I agree. He’ll be a real asset to the convoy and to the squadron, I think. Well, signal him to fall in behind us, if you please, and let's go see if we can find Captain Franklin and my brother.”


    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Monday 31 May 1779

    We agreed that we would meet our two other escorts, HMS Vanessa, commanded by Captain William Mason, and HM Sloop Sandfly, under Commander James Boothroyd, off the Lizard on the Cornish coast. We arrived at the rendezvous point to find our consorts, both of which had come out from Plymouth, waiting for us patiently. We exchanged recognition signals and then I asked the other two captains to join me on board in an hour’s time. His Lordship had asked to meet the other two, so I sent Mr. Martel, my second, across with Fraser and the gig to bring him over. He was sitting in my best chair sipping claret when the sentry announced the other two. Obviously, they had had a man with a glass watching the comings and goings too, because they both came to attention and saluted Cornwallis before rendering the same courtesy to me.

    “Thank you for coming, Captain Mason, Commander Boothroyd. His Lordship wished to meet both of you before we join the rest of the convoy at Cork.”

    After a brief conversation, His Lordship excused himself. “I’m sure you have naval matters to discuss, gentlemen, so I’ll take myself off.” Another round of salutes and he was gone, back to his comfortable cabin aboard Resolute Star and the company of Lucy Mason.

    Once he was gone, Will Mason reached out a hand and shook mine warmly. “The adventure begins, eh, Pat? Let me introduce you to Commander James Boothroyd. He hates ‘James’ so everyone calls him Jamie.”

    Boothroyd is a rather stocky man of medium height, with flaming red hair that betokens Scottish or Irish ancestry somewhere. The moment he opened his mouth it became clear that he had more than a little acquaintance with Scotland - he sounds very much like my Mr. MacMillian. He hails from a tiny village on the Solway, and seems to be about the same age as we are- early to mid-twenties. I told Boothroyd what I had told Will earlier - that we were to be attached to a new squadron forming under the broad pendant of John Sinclair, and explained about the men I was carrying for the new British frigate Enchanted.

    “So I have an entire crew, or most of one, for you to choose from, gentlemen, with the exception of her captain, of course, and the Marines, who are on board Resolute Star as a lifeguard for His Lordship. Tell me what you require and it is yours, at least for this voyage.”

    “Ah would nae turn doon a chance at anither lieutenant, Captain. I ha’ the ae, o’ course, and m’ sailing master, Mr. Boyd, is a guid mon, bu’ anither to help wi’ the load would nae come amiss.”

    “Consider it done. Will, what are your requirements?”

    “I’ll take another dozen or so men to fill out my compliment and any commission or warrant officers you like. I do have a bit more room for them, after all. Vanessa is French-built and you know they always carry large crews.”

    “Very good. That will help quite a bit. We’ll send the petty officers out with the men when we divide them among the merchant ships – just so they don’t forget they are still in His Majesty’s Navy! But Jamie, I thought Boyd was Will’s sailing master.” I asked, going back to an earlier conversation.

    “He is,” Will answered. “I have Mr. Elijah Boyd. This is his uncle - more like an older brother, really, given the age difference - Mr. Elisha Boyd. He’s about fifty, I’d say. Actually, I have his son aboard my ship as well, as an able seaman. He came over from HMS Triumph. He’s about twenty-five and has already applied for and got a place in my gig’s crew. Stewart speaks very highly of him.”

    “I see. But back to Captain Sinclair - have you heard about his misadventure, Will?”

    “Yes, I had a letter from Jennifer. She said she was writing to Dick as well so I suppose that’s how you learned of the matter.”

    “Correct. What do you think about your sister’s attachment to our future Commodore?”

    “Tara always has known her own mind. And you couldn’t ask for a better man than Sinclair, the weeks I spent at White Oaks more than proved that. And as long as he makes her happy, the age difference really doesn’t matter, I don't think.”

    “That’s what Dick said. Well, gentlemen, shall we go to Ireland? The sooner we get this convoy under way the sooner we will be in New York, and the sooner you and Stewart will see your wives, eh, Will?”

    His only response was a grin and quick salute before he led Boothroyd out of my cabin.
     
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  19. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    June 1779


    First Week


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Friday 4 June 1779

    In company with the little sloop Sandfly and Pat Franklin’s frigate HMS Predator and her ‘charge,’ Resolute Star, with Lord Cornwallis and his suite aboard we made our way to Cork, in Ireland. There the convoy we are to escort had already begun to assemble, though it was by no means complete. Over the past several days the eighteen ships - counting Resolute Star - have finally come in, and last night Pat Franklin held a captains’ conference with all of their masters, taking advantage of the roomy grand salon aboard Resolute Star to gather them all in one place in relative comfort. Dick made sure that his steward served them all drinks and a light supper and then invited them to take their places in chairs he had set up at one end of the salon.

    Pat stood up and introduced first himself and then me and Commander Boothroyd of the Sandfly.

    “If each of you men would do us the courtesy of returning the favour? Just your name, your vessel and your home port would be sufficient.”

    One by one they did so, until everyone in the room had been introduced - except the short, stout gentleman in the powdered wig and red coat, who was sitting quietly in the last chair on the front row, starboard side. The masters glanced at him curiously, but probably assumed he was my marine officer, or Pat’s, given the red coat.

    Once the introductions were over, Pat called on his clerk, Hayes, to pass out instructions for each master.

    “You will see that your name and the name of your vessel are at the top of the page. The next line down is your position in the convoy. There are three columns: larboard, centre and starboard. I will be on the starboard side, Captain Mason and his Vanessa will be on the larboard side, and Commander Boothroyd will be bringing up the rear. So if your sheet says ‘Centre Three’ as Captain Richard Mason’s does, that means you are in the number three spot in the centre column and so on. And yes, my second-in-command and the master of the Resolute Star are brothers, as you no doubt will have guessed by now, given the strong family resemblance. The rest of the sheet gives you my standing orders for the convoy. Let me go over just a few of the points with you briefly.”

    He went on to emphasize the importance of keeping in formation, not reducing sail at night, and watching the escort ships for signals - all the possible causes of trouble we had discussed during our time together at White Oaks the previous month. He was very polite, but firm, but his manner must have irritated some of the men, because they seemed ready to challenge his authority almost immediately. They seemed to resent being told what to do by a man who was easily half their age, and several protests were lodged. Pat answered the questions patiently, more patiently than I think I would have, but still they seemed dissatisfied. I honestly think they believed they could intimidate him into letting them do anything they wanted, while still expecting him to provide protection against all comers. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lord Cornwallis raise one finger as a signal that he wished to speak. I moved over and pointed this out to Pat in a whisper, who nodded and said,

    “My Lord, you wished to address the meeting?”

    Right away he had everyone’s attention. My Lord? Which Lord? No one had introduced a lord. One could almost see the thoughts churning through their minds. I noticed that Dick kept his face a deliberate blank, though I could tell he was looking forward to what was about to happen.

    Cornwallis stood up. “My name is Cornwallis,” he said tersely, and waited for recognition to dawn. It was not long in coming. Judging the moment to the second, he went on.

    “I see that strikes a chord with most of you. I am the reason for this convoy. You are simply being allowed to come along for the ride. I have duties to take up in America, and I do not intend to be three months getting there. This convoy will keep up with my ship, Resolute Star, and the escorts, or I will know the reason why. If any of you feel that you cannot do that, you are welcome to wait for the next convoy. Thanks to the Royal Navy you have all been given extra men to help you work your ships, men you do not have to pay, I might add. There is no excuse for lagging behind unless your ship is un-seaworthy, in which case you should not be here at all. These captains have been wonderfully patient with your damfool questions and petty carping complaints. Were I in their shoes, I’d have told you to do what you’re told or go to hell long before this. There’s not a man in this room I don’t outrank, since none of you introduced yourself as a Marquis or a Duke. That being the case, you’ll do what you’re told to do, when you’re told to do it. Do I make myself quite clear?”
    There was a general murmur of “Aye, m’lord” from the assembled masters, now thoroughly cowed, and he nodded in satisfaction.

    “Very well. You have given your word as Britons, and I expect you to keep it. I will be watching all of you, make no mistake about it. Captain Franklin, have you anything further to say to these men?”

    “No, m’lord,” Pat said, his face a careful blank.

    “Captain Mason, Captain Boothroyd?” His Lordship turned to us with the same question.

    “No, m’lord,” Jamie and I echoed.

    “Very well, then, gentlemen. You are dismissed.” As if they were in military formation, they rose to their feet and stood at attention as he exchanged salutes with the three of us and then left the room. In remarkable contrast to the chattering way they had come into the salon, the assembled masters left quietly, leaving the three of us alone with my brother Dick. We grinned like co-conspirators as we shook hands all around, then the irrepressible Jamison remarked,

    “Ah ken weel why yon Laird is sae popular wi’ his troops. He’s a soldier’s soldier to be sure.”

    “Quite so. And thanks to him, we may actually get to New York in six weeks’ time, the winds being favourable. It won’t be soon enough for me. I left my wife there at the beginning of March and I haven't seen her since.” I said.

    “Well, that’s easy for you to say, Mason, I’m leaving my lady behind. Dick here is the lucky one – he’s taking his with him!” Pat countered.

    “An’ I have nae got one at all!” Boothroyd said with a mock frown, causing laughter from the rest of us.

    “Dinna fash yersel’, Jamie,” I teased him in imitation of his Scots burr. “Ye’ll find yer ain lassie soon enough.”

    “It canna be soon enough for me. I havna vocation for the religious life, ye ken!”

    Laughing, we adjourned to Dick’s private stateroom for a drink and some good conversation.



    Interlude – HMS Vanessa, at sea

    Monday 7 June 1779

    Stephen Mason, the most junior midshipman aboard HMS Vanessa, his elder brother William’s frigate of 26 guns, finished his noontime calculations under the steady eye of the sailing master, Mr. Elijah Boyd. Each day the ‘young gentlemen’ gathered to practise the use of the sextant, their purpose being to determine the ship’s position by latitude and longitude. This involved the use of the formulae of spherical trigonometry, and more than one young man had been tripped up by it if mathematics was not his strong suit.

    Fortunately for Stephen, his father, the ship owner Richard Mason, had made sure the lad had good tutors, first as a small boy in Annapolis, and then at the family’s new home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Usually, the tutor was the local curate of the parish church or an impoverished younger son of some genteel family, sent out to make his fortune in the New World. Mr. Mason had always made sure that the tutor was competent to teach all the subjects he thought most important, so while Latin and Greek certainly figured in Stephen’s education, as they did in that of every boy of good family, there was also instruction in history, geography, mathematics and the sciences. Mrs. Mason’s French Huguenot ancestry also meant that the children had at least a basic grounding in that language, although Stephen was by no means fluent, unlike his sister Tara, who seemed to take to languages like a duck to water.

    Stephen’s work had been praised for its neatness and accuracy, and he left the Master’s ‘classroom’ feeling in charity with the world. He was doing what he always had dreamed of doing, he was on a ship commanded by an elder brother whom he both loved and respected, and they were on their way to America to join a squadron commanded by the man who stood at the top of Stephen’s personal pantheon of modern heroes – Captain John Sinclair, a man who, if Stephen’s dreams came true, might someday be his brother-in-law. Certainly Sinclair, a just and honourable man by all accounts, would be better for Steve’s beloved only sister Tara than most of the men she had met. He thought of Lieutenant Reginald Trent, who had offended her somehow four years before, though she had never given any details, and that led to thoughts of the man who had brought Trent with him to Annapolis - Steve’s own brother, Robert, once a lieutenant aboard HMS Invincible, now a mere master’s mate in this ship, and then only on sufferance. A midshipman of fifteen or more would not be outranked by a master’s mate and would have nothing to fear – but Stephen was only thirteen, and his brother, eight years older, had never seen him as more than a pest and nuisance. From the moment Stephen had arrived with his brother William to join Vanessa’s company, Robert had been a thorn in Stephen’s side. There was nothing that he could really complain of to Mr. Robertson, the first lieutenant, and he certainly did not want to take advantage of his relationship to complain to the Captain, but Robert seemed determined to make Stephen’s life a misery.

    Tall and well-built, looking sixteen instead of his actual thirteen, Stephen was no stranger to hard work or even harsh taskmasters. After all, he had run away from home a few months before and had joined the crew of an outbound merchantman headed to Portsmouth from Halifax, his family’s home. The mate aboard the Dartmouth Lass had been tough as old boots, extremely profane, and determined to make this young man from what was so obviously a wealthy background prove his mettle – but for all that, he had not been capricious, malicious or unprofessional. Robert Mason had proved himself to be all three over the last ten days, and Stephen sometimes wondered how he was going to endure six weeks or more of such treatment. Conversations with the other midshipmen, Henry O’Connor and Thomas Kennedy, had shown that Mr. Mason was careful not to single his little brother out for such treatment – at least not noticeably.

    “Of course, as a master’s mate there’s not much he can do to us, Steve,” Henry had said, “We’re both old enough to equal him in rank, although he seems to be having trouble remembering he’s not a lieutenant any more. But you’re only thirteen and this is your first ship, so he’s leaning on you much harder than he dares with us.”

    “It’s the little things, I think,” Tom Kennedy added thoughtfully. “Making Steve do things over and over because they ‘aren’t done right’, sending him on unnecessary errands, that time he ‘accidentally’ upset the ink bottle all over your work and you had to start your calculations all over again, sending you to the masthead on the slightest pretext...” The list went on and on. Mostly it was just verbal harassment – sneering comments, deprecating remarks, and regular cursing, but once it had turned violent - Steve had been on the way down the companion ladder as Robert had been coming up, and the older brother had deliberately tripped the younger. Although Steve was bruised and sore for a few days, he had not broken any bones- but the next time he might not be so lucky. But how could he prove it was not an accident? Robert would deny it, for certain. He had called Steve a clumsy oaf at the time, and it was his word against Steve’s.

    Stephen went down the companion ladder toward the frigate’s tiny gunroom, looking forward to his noon meal and a chat with Tom and Henry. Both were veterans of nearly eighteen months’ service with his brother while William was commanding the sloop HMS Paladin. They had accepted him readily, and seemed to find his soft colonial drawl as fascinating as he found their Irish brogues. He was almost at his destination when he encountered the one person he least wanted to see aboard.

    “Well, Mr. Midshipman Mason, what are you about? Why aren’t you working? There’s no room for slackness on this ship. Mr. Boyd says so,” Robert Mason sneered.

    “Sir, I have been dismissed to my meal, sir.” Stephen said, careful to use the formula his brother insisted on, though his statement rankled. He had learned that even the slightest sign of annoyance or distaste would earn him a long, profane tongue-lashing, so he was careful not to court disaster.

    “You still can’t get it right, can you, Dumb-arse? It’s ‘I have been dismissed to my meal, Mr. Mason, sir’. How many times do I have to tell you, you little snot?” Robert said, coming up to Stephen threateningly. Even at twenty Rob was no taller than his brother at thirteen. Both Mr. and Mrs. Mason were tall and blond, but three of the boys – James, Robert and David - had inherited dark hair, dark eyes and shorter stature from their paternal grandmother, while Dick, Will, Steve and Tara all looked more like their parents.

    “Sir, I have been dismissed to my meal, Mr. Mason, Sir,” Stephen said obediently, though it irritated him that his brother demanded respect instead of earning it as Will, the captain, did.

    Robert went on in the same vein for several minutes, becoming increasingly more and more abusive and profane. Stephen stood quietly, braced at attention, fuming inside but determined not to give this most disliked of his brothers an excuse to report him for insolence or disobedience. Finally, Rob wound down and left abruptly – and in a moment Stephen saw why. Lieutenant Nathaniel Valdez, the second aboard Vanessa and a tall, handsome, swarthy young man of Spanish and English extraction, had just come into view.

    “Mr. Mason? Is there a problem?” Valdez asked.

    “No, sir. Mr. Robert Mason was questioning me as to the proper performance of my duties, sir.”

    “Was he indeed? How very… interesting. Well, Mr. Mason, I think it is time and past for your meal. I believe the others are waiting for you, so you are dismissed to that meal. Carry on.”

    “Aye, aye, sir. Right away, sir.” Stephen snapped a salute and went on his way, leaving Valdez to stare thoughtfully after him. There was something young Mason wasn’t saying, of that he was certain. Perhaps it might be a good idea to keep an eye on Mr. Robert Mason for the next few days. It seemed that he was not making the transition from lieutenant to master’s mate well.
     
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  20. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Second Week


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Wednesday 9 June 1779

    We left Cork on Saturday, escorting a convoy of merchant ships that includes my brother's ship Resolute Star, with Lord Cornwallis and his servants aboard. His Lordship’s words to the masters seem to have had a salutary effect - so far they are behaving remarkably well, with none of the tricks that we were warned to watch out for - reducing sail at night, lagging behind the rest of the convoy, getting out of their places in the column, ignoring signals, and so on. Pat and his Predator are to starboard and in the lead, I am positioned to larboard and about halfway down the column, and Boothroyd is the ‘whipper-in’ to make sure that no one straggles.

    Squarely in the centre of the column is Resolute Star, which gives both Dick and His Lordship a perfect vantage point over the rest of their fellows, and the masters know it. Whether or not Cornwallis has a glass on them I do not know, but I suspect that they believe he does, and this has made all the difference. No one wants to anger or offend a man with so much influence and power. With good winds and the continued cooperation of these merchantmen, we should be in New York in six weeks’ time.

    This morning Jack Robertson came to my cabin to make his daily report, including the men for punishment for various minor offences - no major ones, so far, praise be. I scanned the sheet he handed me, stopping when I came to one name - my own brother Robert’s. ‘Insolence to a commission officer,’ it said.

    “Jack? What exactly happened with Mr. Mason?”

    “He was insolent to Mr. Cross, Captain.”

    “I see. My compliments to Mr. Cross and Mason and I’ll see them immediately.”

    “Aye, aye, sir.”

    He passed the word and in a minute or two both were standing in front of my desk - but what a contrast. Robert’s idea of attention was more of a slouch, while Cross was trim, precise and attentive.

    “Mr. Cross. You have reported Master’s Mate Robert Mason as being insolent. May I have details, if you please?”

    “Aye, sir. Last night, about four bells of the middle watch, Mr. Mason was on the wheel as quartermaster. I noticed the wind had shifted and gave orders to bring her up a point. He did not comply. Thinking he had not heard me, I repeated the order. He said, ‘I heard you the first time, Sir,’ and then he obeyed the order.”

    “Were there witnesses to this incident?”

    “Aye, sir. Bledsoe was also in the vicinity and heard the entire exchange.”

    “Send for him, please.”

    Bledsoe appeared. “Now, Bledsoe, tell me, in your own words, what happened in the exchange between Mr. Cross and Mr. Mason last night during the middle watch,” I directed.

    “Mr. Mason was on the wheel, sir, an’ after a bit Mr. Cross noticed the wind ‘ad shifted a bit, so ‘e says to Mr. Mason, ‘Bring her up a point’ but Mr. Mason din’t do nothin’. So Mr. Cross, ‘e repeats the order, sir, very polite-like, and Mr. Mason says, ‘I ‘eard you the first time, Sir.’ Very insolent an’ rude ‘e were, sir. If ‘e ‘eard the first time, why din’t he do what ‘e was told, I’d loike to know?”

    “But he did comply with the order?” I asked

    “ ‘e did, then. Not when it were given, though, sir.” Bledsoe replied.

    “Very well, thank you, Bledsoe. That will be all. You may return to your duties.”

    He knuckled his forehead and was gone.

    “Mr. Mason, what have you to say for yourself?”

    “Nothing, sir,” he mumbled sullenly.

    “No defence?”

    “None, sir.” The aura of his resentment seemed to fill the cabin. I stood looking at him for several minutes. I had known that this – or something similar – was bound to happen when I’d accepted Robert aboard but I hadn’t expected it so soon. He had to be punished – to maintain Cross’s authority if for no other reason – and my every instinct as a naval officer told me to come down hard on what was barely half a step away from technical - if not outright – mutiny. But he was my brother so I shoved those instincts aside and tried a different – less harsh – punishment.

    “Very well. By the testimony of witnesses you have been found guilty of failure to obey the order of a superior officer in a timely manner, and insolence to that same officer. Under Section Eleven of the Articles of War you could be court-martialed for this offence. However, as it is your first offence, and because you did obey the order somewhat tardily, I sentence you to reduction of your grog ration by one half for the next two weeks. That will be all. Dismiss.”

    He saluted and walked out, his face a careful blank but his eyes bitter and resentful.

    “Permission to speak freely, sir?” Cross asked. He took my nod for the permission it was and went on. “I hated to do it, sir, I know he’s in an awkward position, but I simply couldn’t overlook it, not with Bledsoe standing right there.”

    “You did right, Mr. Cross. The Articles of War are no respecter of persons – or family members. Discipline must be enforced or the whole ship will founder.”

    “Thank you, sir. I realize that he probably resents that fact that I am wearing this coat,” he gestured to his lieutenant’s uniform, “and he is not.”

    “No doubt. Nevertheless, he must learn to accord that coat the respect it deserves, though he may resent the man inside it. That will be all, Mr. Cross. Carry on.”

    He saluted and was gone, leaving me alone but for Stewart, who had sent Coleman, my clerk, out with a jerk of his head. My cox’n - my surrogate father, if truth were told - searched my face sympathetically.

    “Hell, isn’t it, Captain?”

    “Amen to that. I never thought I’d have to do that to my own brother. Reginald Trent and his ilk have a lot to answer for.” I said bitterly. “I hope this knocks some sense into him. He’s been drinking too much, I think. Maybe cutting him off will make him see the error of his ways.”

    “Hope so too, Captain,” Stewart said dubiously, with twenty more years’ experience of the depravity of man behind him.

    “You aren’t optimistic.” It was a statement, not a question. I went on, “But I had to try it. The alternative would have been to have him flogged,” I said. He nodded again, still silent. He knew that I consider having to flog a man, except for the most blatant and egregious offences, to be a failure on my part - a failure to catch the problem before it became so huge that flogging was the only answer. Surely my brother was not that far gone?

    Stewart slipped out, tactfully leaving me alone, and I stared into space for several minutes. Command has its privileges, to be sure - but at times it is damned lonely in this cabin. At times like this I realize why men turn to drink, or promiscuity, or become sadistic beasts. I miss Jennifer now more than ever.


    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Monday 14 June 1779

    A few days ago I brought my brother Robert up on charges of insolence to a commission officer and cut his grog ration in half as a punishment. Today, bad news came in the cabin door with my shaving water. I rely on Stewart to keep me informed on what is going on in that ‘other world’ outside my cabin door, and he has never failed me yet.

    “Something’s not right with Steve, Captain.” He said as he skilfully removed a day’s growth of beard. I can’t talk while this is going on, so he doesn’t expect or wait for replies.

    “Can’t put my finger on it, and when I pass him on deck and ask him how things are going all he will say is ‘fine, Stewart, thank you.’ But I know it ain’t so. Can’t get much out of the other young gentlemen either. I don’t like it, sir.”

    He finished the last stroke and handed me a hot, wet towel to clean the lather off my face.

    “Steve is doing very well; Robertson and Boyd have nothing but praise for his efforts, and the men respect him because he made a voyage as a common seaman before I took him on as a midshipman. They know he can do just about any job on this lady of ours, or is willing to learn how if he can’t.” I replied, now that I could talk safely.

    “Aye, captain, and that may be the source of his troubles. He’s strong, he’s intelligent, he works hard, he treats the men like human beings and not slaves or animals, and he’s willing to learn. In other words, he’s gone an’ modelled himself on his favourite captain in this man’s Navy.” Stewart said quietly.

    “Captain Sinclair, you mean? Well, I can’t think of a better role model, frankly.”

    “Him too. But the problem is, he makes others who should be doing better - and aren’t - look bad, and they don’t take kindly to it.”

    “Stewart, stop pussyfooting around and say it straight out. I’ve got two of my own brothers in this company and right now I feel like I’m caught in the middle of a civil war!”

    “Always knew you were quick off the mark, Captain, ever since you were a nipper,” he said approvingly.

    “All right. Robert is causing trouble for Stephen because he, Robert, can’t seem to accept that that he is no longer a lieutenant, though he was a damned poor excuse for a lieutenant by all accounts. He’s tried taking his anger out on Cross and been punished for it. Now he’s taking it out on Stephen, but Stephen won’t talk and Rob will deny everything. Damn!”

    I walked to the stern windows, open to catch the breeze as we made our way across the North Atlantic. The convoy had been moving along well, no doubt due to Lord Cornwallis’ influence on the masters of the merchant ships we were escorting, so that worry was minimized. We have a total of sixty-four guns in the three escorts combined, not counting any aboard the merchantmen, and so far, though we have kept a sharp lookout for enemy ships, nothing has appeared as more than sails in the distance that rapidly made away. Once again, I wondered at the wisdom of taking Robert on at all. There was no question that Stephen was fitting in well – the problem seemed to be all on Robert’s shoulders.

    Just about then, the sentry rapped his musket sharply on the deck and announced, “Sailing master, sir!” as Elijah Boyd – ‘Preacher’ to those who know and respect him, because of his deeply held nonconformist beliefs and his familiarity with the Scriptures - came in, saluted and was waved to the big chair that was the only one in the cabin capable of supporting both his weight and his bulk. He is not fat, but he is massive - I sometimes wonder if his parents erred in not naming him Samson, since he is incredibly strong as well. Boyd only very rarely drinks spirits or wine, so I ordered coffee and settled down for a visit. Boyd will get to his topic when he gets to it, and I learned very early in my command of the little sloop Paladin that rushing him does no good and only leads the ‘rusher’ to frustration.

    “Mr. Robert Mason, sir,” he rumbled, after taking a sip of the hot black coffee and putting the cup back down on the sideboard. I waited. There was a ritual to this, and it had to be played out to the letter.

    “Mr. Mason has not taken well to being made a master’s mate.” Well, we knew that, but the old man - I say old, but he is younger than Stewart and younger than Captain Sinclair, so perhaps it is only the prematurely white beard that makes him seem so ancient – was stating the problem as he saw it.

    Now it was my turn. “I believe you are correct, Mr. Boyd.” He nodded. I had shown great wisdom in agreeing with him, and he was proud of me.

    “His previous life as a lieutenant was not spent in good company.” That also was true, given what I knew of Reginald Trent.

    “Nevertheless, I believe that at heart he has not completely abandoned the good teachings of his childhood. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it’”, he quoted.

    “Then you are more optimistic than I, Mr. Boyd, for I see very little that is admirable in him.”

    “He is kicking against the pricks, Captain. He knows what is right, yet he is resisting doing it. He sees his young brother doing what is right and just and it infuriates him further. He is Cain.”

    “Well, I certainly intend to put a stop to his behaviour before murder is done, Mr. Boyd. Steve seems to have had more than his fair share of accidents lately, given that he is no clumsier than the average thirteen-year-old who is big for his age. I would be grateful if you would keep an eye on your charge – and an eye out for young Steve as well.”

    “It shall be done, sir.”

    It was not the perfect solution, but it was all we could devise at the moment, and with that I had to be content.
     
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