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

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

    Tuesday 10 August 1779

    “...So we put a last broadside into her and broke off to answer Vanessa’s request for my surgeon’s assistance. Arronbourge disappeared back into the gun smoke then later in the afternoon another fogbank rolled in. When it lifted yesterday morning she was gone. Escaped or on the bottom I’ve no way of knowing, although there was plenty of wreckage floating nearby we couldn’t tell whether it came from Arronbourge or Queen of France. We re-formed into convoy with the Mason ships and proceeded here.”

    I sat in the Admiral’s day cabin aboard the 98-gun HMS St. George as the great second rate swung at her anchor cable off the Naval Yard where the workers were already swarming over Vanessa, putting to rights the damage she had suffered. We had only dropped anchor two hours ago but the dockyard here at Halifax seemed to have different ideas about what constituted ‘a timely manner’ than they did back in England. Of course being right in the forefront of the action probably gave them a more accurate perception of the need for urgency.

    Sitting back in his chair the Vice-Admiral regarded me through steepled fingers. It was the first time that we’d ever met although in a service the size of the Royal Navy that was hardly unusual. Victor Ernest Eisenbeck, Vice-Admiral of the White, was a man of moderate height tending toward the softness in the middle that claims most senior officers. His hair was completely hidden by the powdered wig that he wore and the eyes that looked back at me were a deep blue. I knew that his family had come to Britain during the reign of George I drawn here by a sense of fierce loyalty to the former German Prince who had then sat on the English throne. Now it was his great-grandson that sat on that throne and the Eisenbecks were still here and likely here they would remain. At least until the next civil war that ousted the current Royal family.

    “And what is your personal belief regarding Arronbourge, Commodore?” He asked. I frowned and stared at the deck for a moment; calling up images of the shattered fifth-rate, running over in my head the damages that she’d sustained. Was there anything there that was likely to prove immediately fatal to her?

    “I think that assuming that she has sunk is unwarranted at this time, sir.” I answered. “Although her damage was quite severe and I don’t even want to think about what her casualties must have been like, the lack of sufficient wreckage and more importantly, sufficient dead in the water lead me to believe that she escaped.”

    “Are you of the opinion that she poses an immediate threat?” I shook my head at this one.

    “Although I’m reluctant to rule anything out yet I think it unlikely. Her mizzen was gone at the level of the main deck she’d also lost her foretop and much of her running and standing rigging. We had put at least a dozen of her guns out of action, perhaps even a score. She was severely holed including several shots near the waterline and I believe that her steering had carried away. No, in her current condition I’d say that even a sloop with a half-way competent captain would stand a better than even chance of taking her.”

    Eisenbeck nodded sagely as he stroked his chin absent-mindedly.

    “From your description of the damage I would guess that even a major dockyard, such as we have here in Halifax, would be three months or more setting her to rights again. To my knowledge the Yankees have no such facilities. Of course the French do but...”

    “...But not on this side of the Atlantic.” I finished for him.

    “Quite so.” He said with a smile. “The facilities that the enemy do have available will take far longer to do the job. At least six months I would imagine possibly as many as ten.”

    “That’s assuming that they don’t decide to hulk her, sir.” Eisenbeck shook his head at this.

    “Unlikely, a 40-gun frigate like Arronbourge is worth its weight in gold out here. Even if it takes a year to put her back into service it will be worthwhile to the enemy. Still there are very few places that can even attempt such a job so this time we shan’t have any problem finding her. Once we do I can send a team of agents in and put her to the torch. I’ve a colourful team of rogues to take care of that sort of work. Probably get the gaol in peacetime but quite useful in war.”

    “Then my mission is finished, sir.”

    “Oh quite so. You did a fine job, Commodore, damned fine job. But my rogues can handle what clean up is left. We’ll have your damages set to rights and then send you back to England. It’s possible that you’ll lose your broad pendant but I don’t think so, this flying squadron idea seems to have worked out very well indeed. One of Sir Malcolm Parker’s ideas you know. We shan’t be able to employ many of them, not with our chronic shortages of frigates, so there’ll most likely only be two or three. If that’s the case St. John will want the best frigate men he can find to serve in them and to lead them and well ... let us be honest Commodore, your reputation precedes you.”

    “You flatter me, sir.”

    “Not a bit. Do you consider it flattery to tell a subordinate who’s done a good job that he’s done a good job? Hmm… well neither do I.”

    There was nothing that I could say about that so I opted to remain silent. The Admiral smiled over at my discomfort but let the matter drop and turned his attention to another matter.

    “Now about these prizes that you took I understand that you wish to take Magicien into your squadron to replace Predator so I’ll have the Prize Court go aboard and make their examination as soon as she arrives so that we can get her into the dockyard as quickly as possible. Of course Captain Franklin will have to undergo court martial over the loss of Predator, but as she was scuttled at your orders that’s just a formality. We have more than sufficient Captains here to make up the Board so we’ll get it out of the way as quickly as possible and Franklin can be about his repairs and recruiting.”

    “I’m sure that Captain Franklin will appreciate that Admiral.” I responded.

    “Doubtless,” he said. “Now you said that you had something special in mind for Lexington as well?”

    “Yes, sir. I’d like the Prize Court to examine her but only to determine her value for the crew’s prize money. I intend to buy her myself.”

    “You what?” He said startled.

    “I intend to buy her.” I repeated. “You see, sir, that ship was stolen from Mason Shipping three years ago when her captain sided with the rebels. They’ve been looking for her ever since and as it was Captain Mason that captured her I wish to return her to his family. As I understand it Richard Mason the younger has been thinking of outfitting several privateers to aid our cause. Brave Star, as she once was, would be a good start.”

    “If anyone else had come to me with that scheme…” His voice tailed off for a moment then he looked at me with sudden determination. “Is it true that you don’t take any of the prize money from your captures?”

    “Not exactly, sir.” I answered. “I take one of the three eighths that I’m entitled to, for ... well pride I suppose or what the Chinese call face. I do earn it after all. But I give the rest back to the hands, they get little enough as it is.”

    “Well I suppose a man who owns six privateers can afford to.” Now it was my turn to look incredulous. As far as I knew no one was aware of my privateering interests. I was more than a bit surprised to find that the Admiral knew about them. Not that there was anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t something I had told anyone about.

    “Surprised you did I?” Eisenbeck said with a grin. “Your friend Sir David isn’t the only one with ties to Intelligence. Well I’ll send the Prize Court over to Lexington in the morning. But I’m sure you want to visit your good lady so I’ll keep you no longer.”

    Shortly thereafter I was down St. George’s side and on my way to the Mason Pier and Tara.
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  2. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Wednesday 11 August 1779

    With my wife safely ashore as a guest of Father’s business partner Mr. Keith Preston and my brother Robert receiving care for his maimed right arm, I could turn my attention to getting my ship into the hands of the dockyard for necessary repairs. Halifax boasts the largest and most extensive facilities north of Bermuda, complete with a careening wharf, watering wharf, anchor wharf and all the specialised shops needed for rebuilding and repair of capital ships – the capstan house, hawser stores, mast house, oil store, cooperage and so on. Defended by gun emplacements at Fort Coote and Fort Needham, the artificers can work in efficient security, and their reputation for speed and competence is well known. My ship will require some repairs thanks to the pounding the enemy squadron gave us, but that is nothing to the work Pat will need for his new prize, the former Frenchman Magicien, given that I put a full broadside through her stern windows while she was still in French hands. The dockyard workers had already begun to swarm over my decks when a signal called me over to HMS Sapphire. Leaving the ship in Jack Robertson’s more than capable hands, I had Stewart and his crew row me over.

    James Kent met me at the entry port and conducted me to the Commodore’s presence. I knew he had gone aboard HMS St. George to report to Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck shortly after our convoy had arrived yesterday, but I had not seen him since, duty having claimed the lion’s share of my time. He welcomed me with a warm handshake and offered me a chair and coffee.

    “I’ve sent a message to your brother Dick asking him to join us, Will,” he said, in partial explanation for his summons. “There are several matters I need to discuss with him, now that I’ve seen Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck. Ah, here he is.”

    “Hello, John. I got your note and came right over. Hello, Will. I see you already have the dockyard hard at work on Vanessa, little brother.” He shook hands all around, accepted a seat and nodded a smiling acceptance when Bailey appeared with the coffee pot again.

    “What can I do for you, John?” he asked, after he had allowed the rich brew to explore his insides.

    “I have a couple of things, Dick – and they affect Will, either directly or indirectly, which is why I asked you both here,” my sister’s betrothed said as he put his own coffee cup aside.

    “First of all, I want to tell you both that I have cleared my plan to buy back Brave Star with the Vice-Admiral. He was a bit surprised, but he made no objections. Once she has been valued, I will transfer the appropriate funds and she will once again become a capital asset of Mason Shipping, yours to do with as you and Richard deem best.”

    “Sir – John” Dick and I both began to speak at once. I stopped and waved to my older brother to go on.

    “John, that’s wonderfully generous of you, but I really can’t...”

    Sinclair cut him off. “You can’t accept such a valuable gift? Why not? She used to belong to you, Will got her back, and I am part of the family, you know, or near as makes no difference,” he said with a grin. “No arguments, brothers. I want to do this, I have the funds to do this, and do it I shall.”

    Seeing that we were defeated, we acquiesced.

    “There, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” He said with a grin before going on. “I understand you want to put her into service as a privateer, perhaps, Dick?”

    “I had planned on converting one of our smaller ships, Star of Courage, to privateer service if Father agreed, but this would be even better, John. She’s already armed and easily repaired, even if Will did try to pound her to splinters,” he said with a grin and a glance at me. I knew he was teasing, so I only grinned back.

    “Not all my doing, Dick. Bart did his fair share of the pounding. If not for him, I’m not sure she would be ours today,” I said sobering as I remembered the fierce battle we had waged for mastery of the ship that day.

    We were silent for a few minutes as we remembered that action – the one that had cost Robert his right forearm and almost cost Stephen his life, if not for Rob’s quick action. As if clairvoyant, John Sinclair said quietly, “How is Robert, Dick?”

    “Doing better each day, John. Of course, between Steve and the ladies he has constant nursing care, and Father has spent quite a bit of time with him as well. I think we’re all still amazed at how wonderfully he has changed. I know he’s in pain, but he never complains, never asks for rum to dull the ache, just thanks us all for our kindness.”

    “And this despite the fact that his career is over, at least in the Navy,” Sinclair said quietly. Something in his voice alerted me and I looked at him sharply.

    “You said in the Navy, John,” I said, using his first name as I knew he preferred when we were alone amongst the family. “Have you an idea, perhaps?”

    “I do. I think that as soon as he is able to do so we need to find Robert useful employment, something to convince him that he’s not just a burden on his family. If he can be doing something to repay the family for their kindness to him, perhaps?”

    “And what did you have in mind, John?” Dick asked curiously.

    “Once he’s well enough, I’m sure Fred can arrange to have him fitted with a hook to replace that right hand and teach him how to use it. If he works hard it might be no more than two or three months, perhaps less, until he is able to use it effectively. Once that is done, suppose you were to offer him a berth on your privateer, Dick? He’ll have prize money coming, plus I intend to settle a thousand pounds on him as a sort of pension for his naval service. He could buy a share of the ship, if you and Richard agree, and serve as your first mate.”

    Dick and I looked at each other. He had informed us that he was planning to buy the ship and settle a very large sum of money on Robert as casually as if he were ordering kippers for breakfast. The Masons are wealthy, and we knew John Sinclair is even wealthier, but this...

    “John, that is an excellent idea. I will broach it to Father as soon as possible, though I have no doubt he will endorse it heartily. And may I tell Robert that it was your idea, sir? You see, I think that he feels guilty even now for his previous behaviour to Tara, and to know that you proposed him for this lucrative employment is the best possible proof that you have accepted his change of heart,” Dick said.

    “By all means, do so, if you wish. Robert’s action in saving Stephen from almost certain death removed any last lingering doubts I may have had about him, you see,” John agreed. “Besides, I have watched him with Tara, and she no longer shuns his presence. That, too, is proof of his reformation. Now, speaking of Tara, we have another matter of business to discuss, gentlemen. Andrew, if you would ask your cousin to join us?”

    A moment later Ian MacGregor, John’s mountainous cox’n, stepped into the cabin and greeted us all respectfully.

    “Dick, Will, you know that the Mackenzie family has done us all great harm with their malicious gossip, not to mention that incident years ago with Miss Thorne, Will. It was Mrs. Mackenzie’s letter that sent Tara out into the night in New York last June, making her an easy target for Montaigne and his hired thugs. The thugs are dead and Montaigne is at present beyond my reach, but I intend to call the Mackenzie family to account for their actions. Will you go with me?”

    Dick and I looked at each other. My problem with Miss Thorne was ancient history, but the woman Mackenzie had hurt our precious sister, and we understood John’s anger completely.

    “Your servant, sir,” Dick said formally, speaking for both of us. “Say the word only.”

    “Then we will go now. She will have heard that the Masons are in town, but will not be expecting us so soon, I trust,” John replied grimly.

    With the mountainous MacGregor behind us, three determined men strode up to the two-storey wooden structure that Dick and I knew as the Mackenzie home. Almost immediately, we noticed something amiss. There was no activity about the place, no servants sweeping the steps or sound of horses in the stables. All seemed quiet – too quiet. It was then we noticed a small placard in a front window and the absence of a knocker on the door.

    “It says the house is for sale or lease and gives the name of an attorney on Prince Street,” Dick said upon investigation. So they were gone – but when, and where?

    Just then a small boy came along, and seeing us, remarked, “They ain’t nobody there no more, sir.”

    John reached into his pocket for a silver shilling and held it between his fingers where the boy could see it.

    “Where did they go?” he asked.

    “Took ship for England, sir, the whole lot of em,’ the boy replied, eyeing the riches in this tall man’s fingers. A shilling, all for himself – it was a fortune.

    “When? When did they leave?” John went on.

    “Lemme think. Er - -- June, sir. That’s it, cause it were just getting warm when they called the carters an’ had all their trunks taken down to the wharf. I fetched the carter for ‘em, sir, but they only give me a penny, and it were a long way down that hill and an even longer one back up it,” he said, remembering their stinginess with some resentment.

    “When in June? Early, late?”

    “Pretty late, sir. Toward the middle of the month, it were,” the boy replied. He got his silver shilling, thanked us all profusely, and sped off to rejoice in his new-found riches.

    “So as soon as word of Tara’s abduction reached Halifax they decided to leave,” John said grimly. “They probably had some idea of how you would react, Dick. What they don’t know, of course, is that compared to me, your reaction would look like a Sunday school picnic in the park. Well, if they are in England, I will find them – and they will answer to me.”

    “Will you call Mackenzie out, John?” I asked as we started back.

    “Possibly,” he replied. “It will depend upon their contrition. I will insist on a full apology in writing from Gertrude Mackenzie and her husband as well as requiring them to keep a civil tongue in their heads in the future. And of course to never darken our doors again.

    “If they refuse then, yes, I will call Frederick Mackenzie out. Possibly the son Chauncey as well, from what Tara has told me he has behaved in a ‘questionable’ manner to her in the past.”

    Dick’s eyes hardened at this and my fists balled up, both of us remembering what we had so recently learnt of Reginald Trent’s actions. John noticed it immediately and dispelled our fears at once. “No, brothers, to nowhere near the extent of Trent. Chauncey Mortimer Mackenzie’s style was more to simply treat her as though she was his for the sole reason that he desired her and what she thought about it was immaterial. Apparently he boasted that she was his for the asking to his circle of layabouts.”

    “Did Tara know what he was saying, John” Dick asked quietly. The Commodore shook his head.

    “No, at least not until recently. Laura heard of it from one of her older sisters whose husband is distantly related to one of Mackenzie’s chums. She told Tara after she’d recovered from Pollepel Island and Tara told me last month.”

    “I’ve half a mind to run him through if I ever see him again!” I ground out.

    “I’m with you there, little brother.” Dick said through clenched teeth. “I’d like to tear him limb from limb.”

    “I have to agree with Dick on this, Will.” John joined in. “In this case the more brutal combat of fisticuffs would be rather more satisfying than a simple sword thrust or pistol shot. It’s too bad that we can’t deal thus with Gertrude for she is the real cause of our problems. I firmly believe that there is no excuse for mistreating a lady, but I must confess that in her case I am sorely tempted.”

    “Will said it back in February, John. That whole family is bad news and make no mistake about it.”

    “I just thank God that James was able to get out of that sham of an engagement.” I said.

    “Quite true, Will.” The Commodore responded. “Gertrude overplayed her hand drastically on that one. But enough of unpleasant matters, brothers, we have other things to discuss. First off do you intend to refit Brave Star here or in England, Dick? Here you could make a start right away but if you wait until we get to England I think I can shake a pair of those new heavy carronades loose for you. Coupled with Brave Star’s speed and manoeuvrability they should give you a real edge.”

    “That sounds perfect, John. And I have to go to England for my privateering licence in any case. I’d like to have my guns fitted with flintlocks as well, the best place to do that is England.”

    “Actually I’d suggest Scotland, or rather Edinburgh to be more precise. There are some excellent armourers there, Cameron is probably the best, I’ve used them before and know the quality of their work. You’ll also need a good prize agent. Your best choice there is Braun & Sons of Southampton; they have agents in just about every major port and work hard to get their clients the best prices for their captures. While they do charge a slightly larger commission I think you’ll find that the quality of their services is more than worth the expense. Many prize agents try to hang onto the money for a while to use in their own deals, not so with Braun; they see that you get it as quickly as possible.

    “Of course even Braun can only work as fast as the Prize Courts will let them and that will vary from place to place. Under no circumstances send a prize to Port Royal, that den of thieves has had the most corrupt officials in the world since Bloody Morgan’s time more than a century ago and it hasn’t gotten any better. You’ll wait years to get your due from them even with Braun & Sons. A naval vessel gets a bit better treatment but not much we still are frequently waiting a year or more for our prize money. Antigua is a far better choice in the West Indies. In North America go with Halifax over New York but I’m sure you know that. In the East Indies Madras is a good choice for you as they tend give preferential treatment to privateers over the Navy. In the Mediterranean you’re pretty much stuck with Gibraltar but fortunately the Prize Courts there are fairly honest. In Britain the best three ports for privateers are Bristol, Southampton and Edinburgh. Try to avoid sending anything to The Nore, it’s not that they’re corrupt but they take Royal Navy prizes first and those of privateers a very distant second. They’ll get around to examining your prizes when there are no more Navy ones to examine and that can take a while.

    “Now you’re also going to want to carry extra officers and men for the sole purpose of sailing your prizes back home. As a merchant vessel Brave Star would have had a crew of what? Fifty or so, seventy-five at most. As a rebel frigate she carried perhaps one hundred and fifty, but as a privateer she’ll need two hundred. Her frigate strength company and five 8-man prize crews each with a reliable officer and petty officer skilled in getting a damaged ship safely into port.”

    I had never before considered the problems that privateer captains faced and from the look on Dick’s face I could tell that John had brought up some points that were new to him as well. But I had been wondering about something and decided to just ask away.

    “Forgive the way I’m putting this, John, but how do you know so much about privateers?” He threw his head back and gave a great shout of laughter. Behind us the Great Hebridean Mountain chuckled deeply.

    “Have ye ever heard of a privateer called the Lady Catherine, Cap’n Mason?” He asked.

    “Of course,” I quickly replied. “Lady Catherine’s a big ship-rigged privateer commanded by an ex-collier master by the name of Alexander with over a score of prizes to her credit. I’ve heard she mounts some thirty-eight guns.”

    “Thirty actually,” John said with a wry grin. “I own Lady Catherine and five others beside her.” Both Dick’s jaw and my own dropped at the same instant bringing another laugh from Sinclair before he continued.

    “Back at the start of the rebellion it looked like the Admiralty intended to leave me on the beach so I commissioned the building of six privateers ranging in size from 16-gun schooners to Lady Catherine. They were almost finished when Earl St. John became Second Lord of the Admiralty and offered me Goshawk. I hired good crews under captains that I could trust and sent them to sea in the Spring of ’76. My friend Sir David runs them for me. And yes, Braun & Sons are my prize agents.”

    “Sir David?” Dick asked. It was then that I realized that although I’d heard much about Sir David and his intriguing inventions I had no idea who he was and in fact had never even thought to ask. Unlike my older brother.

    “Sir David Rothburne.”

    “The Baronet of Denham?” Dick asked incredulously, John just nodded.

    “You know him, Dick?” I asked.

    “Not exactly, Little Brother.” I must have looked confused because John stepped in and explained.

    “Sir David is... oh Quartermaster is the best title I suppose, to Earl St. John’s intelligence network. He designs and builds the intriguing little devices that help them do their work and keep them safe. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that you have several of his devices in your sea-chest Dick.”

    “Well as a matter of fact...”

    The four of us enjoyed a hearty laugh as we proceeded into town.
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  3. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    From the Remembrances of Mrs. Lucy Mason

    Thursday 12 August 1779

    We arrived here in Halifax two days since, and we have been staying in the home of Mr. Mason’s friend and business partner, Mr. Keith Preston, here in town. Though the house is spacious, there are a lot of us, and I know Papa does not wish to inconvenience his friend any more than is necessary, despite all Mr. Preston’s insistence that we are welcome to stay as long as we like. Our main reason for staying in town was to make sure that it was medically safe to move Dick’s brother Robert, who is still in some considerable pain following the amputation of his right arm just below the elbow. Following a consultation among Doctor Bassingford, Eric Harmon, and Enchanted’s surgeon Mr. Daniel Humphreys, it was determined that it was safe to move Rob up to the Mason home provided he was transported in a well-sprung wagon with plenty of feather-ticking to cushion the ride and a cover to keep off the wind – rather like an ambulance, but much nicer than any now in use by His Majesty’s forces. Mr. Mason used his many contacts in the city to obtain such a vehicle and off we went up the road to the Bedford Basin house, a veritable caravan of coaches, men on horseback, baggage carts, and Rob’s ‘ambulance.’

    The weather held fine for the entire trip, which I found absolutely fascinating. Dense forest surrounded us on each side of the road, which had been literally carved out of the wilderness in the earliest days of the colony. Laura and James had elected to remain behind with Mr. Preston, so the party included Papa Mason, Dick and I, Jennifer, Mary Stewart, Tara and my faithful Reese, as well as Robert and his ‘shadow’ Steve. John Sinclair and Will had indicated that they would join us as soon as duty permitted, hopefully within the next few days, but Stephen had been released from his naval duties to accompany his brother. It seemed that Robert rested more easily when Steve was nearby, so Doctor Bassingford recommended the move on medical grounds.

    The carriages came to a halt and Dick bent down from his saddle to look into our coach window. “We’re at Scott’s, Taree. Papa thinks a rest for Rob might be in order, so we’re stopping for a bit.”

    Tara nodded and explained to the rest of us, “Mr. Joseph Scott is our nearest neighbour. He was one of the original colonists, arriving here in 1749 with Lord Cornwallis. He’s quite the most prosperous man in this area – he has a store, gristmill and a sawmill and he’s the local surveyor of lumber. It’s his job to find the best trees for the navy, you see. Any tree more than eighteen inches in diameter is automatically marked with a broad arrow as Crown property and these are later harvested and used as mast timbers,” she explained.

    “That was what you were bringing over to England the first time we met, wasn’t it, Tara?” Jennifer asked.

    “It was indeed, and some of those great trunks came from Mr. Scott’s preserves, right here. He has 8000 acres or more, you see. He and Papa are quite good friends as well as business associates. Mrs. Scott is the second of that name and he has two young children, Michael and Elizabeth,” Tara told us. No sooner had she said this than a handsome young woman and her much older husband came to the carriage door to greet us.

    “Tara, my dear, how lovely to see you again. I’m so sorry that your brother was wounded. Mr. Scott is seeing to his removal to one of the most comfortable chambers on the first floor – and is that Steve with him? My stars, but the lad has grown into a man since last I met him in the Spring! And you are looking so much better, my dear. We were quite worried about you.”

    “Thank you, Margaret,” Tara said with a genuine smile. This was no civil acquaintance – this was a real friend; that much was evident. We climbed down from the carriage with assistance from a Scott family servant and looked to where Dick, Papa and Mr. Scott were already deep in some discussion or other.

    Margaret Scott sighed. “Business already. I understand that gentlemen like to talk business, but sometimes... ah well; we will just amuse ourselves, won’t we? Now, Tara, will you make me known to your friends?”

    “Not just my friends, ma’am. My sisters – or sisters-in-law, if one must be precise. This is Lucy, who is married to Dick,” I began. Before I could continue, the vivacious Mrs. Scott broke in:

    “Really? When did this happen? The ladies of Halifax have quite despaired of ever matching Dick Mason, blond Adonis that he is, with any of our young ladies. My heartiest felicitations, my dear! Is this recent?”

    “We met in London last December while Dick was in town on business and married in May,” I said, giving her the ‘official’ story Dick and I had agreed upon.

    “Indeed so? So when Dick went to London to look for Steve he also renewed his addresses to you?” Margaret Scott said, smelling a story of true romance.
    “Yes, ma’am. My father was a merchant sea captain, just like Papa Mason,” I said. In actual fact Al Gillis had been a drunken, loutish blacksmith, but with a little embellishment and a change of vocation we had turned him into a respectable tradesman. Lucinda Graydon had been declared dead in February, and we were determined to make sure that all but a handful of people, most of them in the family, went right on believing she was dead.

    “Mrs. Scott, may I also present Mrs. Jennifer Mason, who met William at a reception in Bristol three years ago and married him when he was promoted Commander in 1777. She is also English, the daughter of a wool merchant from Cirencester. Her parents were carried off by fever last February so we have full claim to her now,” Tara said, putting an arm around Jennifer’s slender shoulders and squeezing affectionately. “The two other women who went up with Steve and Robert are Mrs. Mary Stewart, who is married to Will’s cox’n Nicholas Stewart, and Lucy’s friend and companion Reese.”

    By now Mrs. Scott had escorted us all into the drawing room and had rung for tea, “Oh, you must stay for dinner and the night, Tara – I know your home is close by but surely a rest will be better for your brother. Will Stephen be joining us later, do you think?” When Tara replied that Steve would hardly leave the brother whose quick action had literally saved his life unless required to do so, she nodded her approval and went on:

    “Mrs. Mason, as the wife of the oldest son, you must help me convince our dear Tara to stay. If she stays, then Mr. Richard Mason will too, and we will have time for a comfortable coze. We have more than ample room, you know - eleven bedrooms, and all of them well aired and ready for occupancy at a moment’s notice. Mr. Scott has a large acquaintance, you know, business associates, military men on their way to Fort Sackville – it’s right next door, you see,” she explained for my benefit and Jennifer’s - “and so on. Most of them don’t bring ladies, though, so when they do come I simply insist that they stay at least for dinner and preferably overnight.”

    She looked up as the door opened and two young children came in, attended by another servant. “Ah, there you are, my dears. Thank you, Polly, that will be all.” The servant bobbed a curtsey and left the room without a sound as the children came forward shyly to greet their mother.

    “Michael, Elizabeth, these ladies are Mrs. Lucy Mason, Mrs. Jennifer Mason. I’m sure you both remember our dear friend Miss Tara Mason. Make your curtsey, Elizabeth. Now, Michael, a proper bow, if you please, there’s my sweet darlings. Now, you may sit here and if you are very quiet you may each have a tea cake.”

    After a few minutes the children’s nurse returned for them and they made their farewells.

    “They are good children. They are educated here, of course, I teach them. In a few years we shall have to see about hiring a governess for Elizabeth, though Michael can go to school in Halifax and board there,” their mother said fondly as they left the room. No sooner had they gone out than Dick, Papa, and Mr. Scott came in. The gentlemen accepted cups of tea and conversation became general.

    “Mr. Scott, are we to have guests for dinner?” His wife asked, carrying her campaign for overnight company onto a different tack. Her husband obviously knew his wife well, for he smiled and said,

    “For dinner, my dear, and for the night. I have much to say to Richard and Dick both and I am sure you ladies will not be idle either,” Scott replied. His wife clapped her hands in delight.

    “Oh, wonderful. Well, ladies, I will show you to your rooms. I am sure you will want a chance to rest before you change for dinner.”

    We dined in some considerable state, with a number of courses and removes. It was obvious from the variety of foods offered that Scott was indeed a very wealthy man, though much of the produce would have come from his own kitchen garden and the nearby orchards. After dinner, Mrs. Scott suggested we take advantage of the fine weather and take a walk about the estate, and she was successful in persuading the gentlemen to lend us their escort, telling her husband that there would be plenty of chances to talk business later in the evening.

    We strolled up the hill to Fort Sackville, built years before as a defence against the Mik’maq, and there met the officer commanding the small garrison, a Lieutenant Oglesby. Faced with three such beautiful newcomers in one place, he was quite overwhelmed, though visibly disappointed when he learned all of us were either married or engaged. “Can’t offer you much in the way of hospitality, ladies,” he apologized. “I’m the only officer here, so unless I am invited to dine at Scott Manor, which is often the case, thanks to Mrs. Scott’s kindness, I dine in solitary state. No officers’ mess, you see.” He offered a tour of the fortifications and gun emplacements, pointing out that the fort guarded both the Sackville River, a favourite war avenue of the Mik’maq, and the Pisiquid Trail, which had been used by the old French settlers, the Acadians.

    “Never been threatened, you see, but vigilance must be maintained. Still and all, it’s good to have visitors,” he concluded. As we were making our farewells, he looked at my face very closely as he bent over my hand.

    “Excuse my impertinence, ma’am, but I’ve been trying to think who you remind me of – and I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

    “I’ve been told that I bear some passing resemblance to the late Miss Lucinda Graydon, the famous London actress,” I said, careful not to look at Dick. I knew that if I did the devilish gleam in his eye would make me start giggling and all would be lost.

    “That’s it. Lucinda Graydon! Saw her perform once as Desdemona, back last February, just before she was killed. Such a tragic waste. Did they ever catch the malefactors?”

    “I believe they did,” Dick said quietly, as calmly as if he had not been one of the primary causes of Benjamin Willis’s demise. I shot Jennifer a glance, but she was calm enough. Perhaps Will and Dick between them have finally convinced her that her entire family is not responsible for her cousin’s treachery.

    “Oh, capital. Glad to hear that, though it won’t bring her back, more’s the pity. Well, ladies, I won’t keep you.” He waved us off and we returned to the Scott home.

    After a light supper at nine, there was music and even dancing, with Jennifer and Mrs. Scott taking turns at the harpsichord. Out of breath from a vigorous country dance, we welcomed the tea tray, and then it was time for to seek our beds. Tomorrow would be soon enough to continue on to my new home, temporary though it will be.

    From the Diaries of Mrs. Jennifer Mason

    Thursday 12 August 1779

    The Scott family may have eleven bedrooms in their home, but some of them are quite frankly rather small, so Mrs. Scott asked if Tara and I would consider sharing a room and a four-poster bed. Of course, we agreed readily. Reese and Mary were given beds up in the attics where the servants sleep, but close enough to be able to reach Robert’s room if necessary, though with his faithful shadow, Stephen, in attendance they hardly thought they would be needed. When we stopped by to kiss Robert good night before we sought our beds last evening we saw that he had been installed in what was originally a sort of sitting room or ladies’ parlour upstairs, with Steve in an adjacent bedroom, though after the spacious rooms of the Lennox estate it seemed little more than a cupboard under the eaves. Steve, however, said that compared to the midshipmen’s berth on a frigate it was “a palace” and he seemed quite happy with his accommodation.

    This is hardly the first time Tara and I have shared a room – or even a bed, given the size of the first apartment we occupied in New York last spring. It was a time for feminine confidences among two very good friends who are effectively sisters, and we enjoyed it thoroughly, though Tara teased me about wishing she were down the hall and her brother in her place.

    “Do you think you’ll have word of your sister Winifred’s baby soon, Jen?”

    “I hope so,” I told her. “She was to be brought to bed the middle of last month, and I wrote to her to ask her to send word both to the Mason Shipping offices in New York and to the main office here. The last letter I had she said she was doing as well as could be expected and had been over to Thornbury to visit Captain Franklin’s Lady Cristina and his Aunt Julie for a few days. Michael Gilmore has been so busy moving the Mason Shipping offices to Bristol and finding a home for them that she stays in Cirencester with Bill and Helen most of the time, but on this occasion she made the trip down with him and stopped at the cottage in Thornbury while he went on into Bristol. She said that she had a wonderful visit, most of it spent comparing notes about their pregnancies, that Lady Cristina’s English is improving every day and that she is a delightful young woman. I mentioned what she said to Captain Franklin and he said he had received a letter to that effect from his lady also, and thanked me for my sister’s kindness to her. Winnie always was kind.”

    “Just like her baby sister,” Tara said with an affectionate hug. “So Winifred’s baby is the first for the captains in our little ‘Band of Brothers.’”
    “Do you think the Commodore includes Michael Gilmore in that number?” I said curiously. “He knows him only by reputation, after all.”

    “Yes, but it’s a good reputation, you see. John was most favourably impressed by how Captain Gilmore stepped in to help save the mill from ruin.” I knew she was carefully avoiding mention of my brother in law’s other action in bringing my treacherous cousin, Benjamin Willis, to justice for his part in Lucy’s attempted murder and the death of her unborn child.

    “It’s all right, Tara. You won’t hurt my feelings by mentioning what evil things my cousin did. You can’t say anything about him that I haven’t said myself, you see. I’m only glad that Papa and Mama weren’t alive to have to bear the shame. I’m sure they would have blamed themselves, though it wasn’t their fault, just as Papa Mason blamed himself when Robert was at his worst.” I assured her as we drifted off to sleep.

    This morning after a full breakfast, we bid farewell to our host and hostess and started up the road once more. The Mason home sits on the shores of the Bedford Basin just a mile or two away from last night’s resting place.

    “You probably wondered why we stopped when we had so short a ways to go,” Tara remarked when my face reflected my surprise. “With us gone so much of the time, Mrs. Scott has few opportunities to socialize unless she goes into town and stays with friends. I am sure it was to please her that Papa agreed to stop.”

    Since William and I left England last December I have seen his family’s former home in Annapolis, the flat in New York, and of course the estate Papa rented for us all earlier this summer. This house was nowhere near as grand as either of the other two homes, though certainly larger than the flat. Constructed in much the same style as the Scott home, with a hipped gambrel roof and wide, spacious rooms downstairs, it boasts only six bedrooms, but they are larger than the ones in the Scott home.

    “I wanted to have a house where Vanessa and I could welcome all our children home at once, you see,” Papa explained as he helped us down from the carriage. “The chances of all seven of them coming here as adults with their wives – or husband, in your case, Tara dear – were quite slim, though, so we settled for fewer bedrooms than we have children, which allowed us to make them somewhat larger. Mrs. Robertson, our housekeeper, has a suite just off the kitchens, and the rest of the servants sleep upstairs, just as they do in the Scott home. Scott built his place a few years before we came here in 1776 and I liked the style so much I copied it, essentially. And of course he was very helpful when it came to finding the lumber to build the place – it all came from his sawmill. None of it from trees marked for the Crown, I might add. You won’t find a board wider than 17 inches anywhere in this house,” he said, leading me to believe that others in Halifax were not so scrupulous about leaving the best trees for the Crown. I am sure it is because Papa is not only honest and loyal to the Crown, but because he has sons in the Navy and knows just how important those trees are to the construction and maintenance of England’s ‘wooden walls.’

    Mrs. Robertson, a plump, cheerful body with a rolling burr, welcomed us warmly. “I thought ye’d be here last night, sir, so I’ve the rooms all aired,” she said, “And then yon Joseph fra’ Scotts’ rode over to say that ye were bid to dine and stay there for the night. But all is in readiness, come along in, if ye please.”

    Papa introduced Lucy and me to the household staff and then Mrs. Robertson bustled her way up the stairs to our rooms, with us close behind her.

    “Now, Mr. Dick, you’re in your old room, and it’s plenty big enow’ for a man and his wife, ma’am. Miss Jennifer, ye and Mr. Will are here, in his room, and as for you, young Stephen, ye know where you’re to stay.”

    “Yes, of course, and Rob will be with me, so I can help him if he needs anything,” Steve said, directing the servants who were carrying Rob’s litter into the room that had been his up until his unscheduled departure last spring. “Right, Rob?”

    “That’s right, brother Steve,” Rob said weakly. It was clear that the journey up from Halifax, even with the stopover at Scott’s, had tired him, despite the provisions for his comfort that we had made.

    We followed Steve and Rob into the room that was still furnished with the things that were important to a boy of thirteen – his books, his fishing rods, a collection of seashells and unusual samples of rock, and some of the finest model ships I have ever seen.

    “Steve, did you build those?” Rob said, looking around him from his viewpoint against the pillows.

    Steve looked abashed. “Yes. It was a way to pass the time,” he said modestly.

    “Why, they’re just exquisite – that one over there, that’s obviously Resolute Star, but what about the one in the corner, there?” Rob asked, genuinely interested. Steve picked it up and put it in his brother’s remaining hand without saying a word.

    “It’s Will’s Paladin!” Rob said in awe. “Right down to the guns and the rigging. And look at that capstan, and the wheel – Steve, this is artistry and no mistake!”

    “I started on it last fall,” Steve said. “I went down to the docks and found a sloop of war and sketched it to make sure I had the details right. It wasn’t Paladin, but it was from the same class, and one day I actually got to go aboard her. The lieutenant saw me sketching and came over to speak to me and when he saw it was his ship and I told him my brother had one just like it he invited me aboard to meet the captain and get the tour,” he finished, all in one breath. He stopped to breathe and went on:

    “One day maybe I’ll be a commander and have a sloop like that. She’s a beautiful little ship. I’m working on our Vanessa now, and when that’s finished, and it nearly is now, I want to build Sapphire, Tara.”

    “I believe you will have a sloop of your own, Steve, I believe you will,” Rob said. “Did you know about this hobby, Father?”

    “Yes, although I hadn’t seen Paladin, of course,” Papa replied. “I’m afraid I wasn’t paying much attention to Steve after Vanessa died, you see, or to his hobbies. “

    “You were wounded, Father, I understood that,” Steve said quietly. “Just as wounded in spirit as Rob is in body right now. That’s part of why I left, you see. I know it was wrong to leave without telling you all – and I got a dickens of a caning from Will to reinforce how wrong it was – but I felt so helpless. Dick was busy – and worried about you, Lucy, though of course he couldn’t say anything – Tara was wasting away to a shadow of herself, and James was caught in Miss Mackenzie’s trap, or so it seemed at the time. I thought I was a – well, a burden, one more thing to worry about, so I left. Not very bright, but...”

    “But you are only thirteen, son.” Papa Mason said, squeezing his growing son’s shoulders affectionately. “And looking back on it, it worked out very well in the end. Though you’ll never get to Oxford at this rate, my boy.”

    “Oh, who cares about that? What do they do at Oxford but read and attend lectures? I can get books enough, and as for lectures, I’ve learned more from Mr. Boyd, and Mr. Robertson, and Will, of course, than any don locked in his ivory tower could teach me. Since my dream in life is to command a ship in Admiral Sinclair’s fleet,” he shot a glance at Tara and winked, and she smiled back, “that kind of education suits me right down to the ground. But I can see you’re tired, Rob, so I’m sure you won’t mind if we excuse ourselves,” he hinted strongly. The older ones among us looked at each other and swallowed grins. We were being gently chivvied out of the room by a thirteen-year-old boy, but such an extraordinary boy! We took the hint and left to seek our own rooms.
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  4. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    From the Diaries of Richard Mason the elder

    Friday 13 August 1779

    Shaking my head at the amazing changes that have come over my sons Robert and Steve just since I left this house in June - though I suppose Steve’s began before then even if I did not know of them – I left the rest of the family to themselves and sought my study. There was sure to be a stack of mail, even though Mrs. Robertson had instructions to forward anything that looked important – or any personal letters – until just before we left New York at the beginning of this month. Sitting on top of the stack was a letter from my son David, one of his rare missives. David is not inconsiderate, but he is a very lackadaisical correspondent, and writing letters is simply not high on his list of things to do in his free time. At the age of twenty-three – he will have his next birthday on the twentieth of February – he seems to have taken to the military life like a duck to water. When he was seventeen he persuaded me to buy him a cornetcy in a regiment of foot, and for the last six years that regiment has been assigned to the garrison at Port Royal, Jamaica. He writes about twice a year, usually at Christmas and on the occasion of my wedding anniversary in August. The last letter I had from him dealt with his mother’s death in February, and there was another to wish me a Happy Birthday in June, so this one was an added bonus. What news had he?

    I read the letter and then read it again in growing excitement. This was wonderful news, news I must share with the family at dinner this afternoon. Like our neighbours the Scotts, we keep Halifax hours, and that means that dinner would be served at three. I dealt with the rest of the letters quickly enough and glanced up as the long-case clock in the corner reminded me it was time to change for dinner.

    When we were all assembled – even Stephen, Mary Stewart having volunteered to sit with Robert and help him with his meal so that the family could gather around our table together – I waited until the soup course was served and then tapped on my wine glass for attention.

    “My dears, I have here a letter from David, one that I shall read to you in full so that you may share my excitement at his good fortune,” I began.

    Annapolis, Maryland, 1st July 1779

    Dear Father,

    As you can see from the superscription, I am once more in our home city, though I find it sadly changed. The vicissitudes of war have not been kind to this city, positioned as it is between two opposing armies in this horrible civil war we find ourselves in. Our forces hold the city nevertheless, and we are hoping that in time we will subdue the rest of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania as well. General Landon’s Continentals fight well, but there is no substitute for the training we receive in British regiments.

    I have been to the house, which I understood you and Dick sold last March shortly before you left. It is now the residence of Sir Lucius Warringham, as I believe it was when you were last here, his own residence having been burned. As a member of the Mason family, I was allowed above stairs to see my old room, now occupied by one of Sir Lucius’ military aides. I thought of all the history, both past and recent, that has taken place in the corridors of that house, but I could not stay long as my guide was becoming impatient. Afterwards, I went to the churchyard to say a prayer over Mother’s grave. Some kind soul, perhaps the Vicar’s wife, has planted a wild rose near the headstone, and it is flourishing, even in the summer heat. I enclose a pressed bloom for you, Father, though I know you need no such temporal reminders of the wonderful woman we all love so much.”

    I stopped and cleared my throat. The pressed flower, a pale and faded pink, was already carefully wrapped in a handkerchief and resting in my inside pocket near my heart. I put the letter down and made a great business of tasting my soup, even as my family ate theirs in loving silence. After I had taken a few spoonfuls, I went on with David’s letter:

    We had not been long in Annapolis when we were ordered out to meet General Landon’s men at Fairfax, Virginia, an area that I am sure you are more than familiar with as grandfather’s old tobacco plantation is nearby in Woodbridge. After a hard-fought battle, we repulsed the Continental Forces, securing still another foothold in our march toward Richmond. Once the battle was won, our armies went into summer quarters for the months of July and August, the heat being some of the most oppressive in recent memory. Even I, though raised in this country and inured to the heat and humidity of Jamaica, find it tiresome, and our Hessian allies, used to the wintry climes of the Germanies, are especially vulnerable. Nor do the Continentals wish to fight either, for that matter. By mutual agreement we have chosen to break off operations until the weather moderates, and that gave me the time to pursue the inquiries that form the main reason for this letter.

    Fighting alongside us at Fairfax were the men of the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons, better known to the man on the street as the Scots Greys. Because of my superior equestrian ability, I was seconded to this unit for the duration of the campaign, and had an opportunity to distinguish myself in the eyes of the Colonel in Chief. I had made inquiries previously as to the possibility of purchasing a captaincy in this regiment, but everyone I asked told me it was a hopeless case – that the Greys would not take a non-Scot into their officer corps. You can imagine my surprise when, shortly before we left Virginia to return to summer quarters, the Colonel sent an aide to find me and bring me to his tent. During the resulting interview, he asked what a man with such skills was doing in an undistinguished regiment of foot. Having received permission to speak freely, I replied that all my colonial origins had barred me from admittance to a more prestigious regiment at the time I entered service six years ago, it then being peacetime.

    He nodded. “Well,” he said, “I have a proposition to put before you, Mason. One of our captains was killed in the battle, as you know. Now, we don’t normally accept non-Scots officers, but in your case I think we could make an exception. I’ve seen the quality of your work, Mason, and I’m quite impressed, quite impressed.”

    I was stunned. A captaincy in the Greys? It was a dream come true, but then I began to mentally count the cost, even as I thanked the Colonel for his kind words.

    It’s not cheap, lad, but if your family can help you out – I know your father had to move his shipping operation north at the start of the war, but I hear he’s done quite well now that he’s back on his feet financially.”

    Yes, sir. How much money are we talking about, sir?” I asked, dreading his answer. I wanted this appointment, Father, but I wanted to earn it and pay for it on my own, to stand on my own two feet. He named the price – and I breathed a sigh of relief. You see, father, I not only ride well, I play cards well. I never play with men who can’t afford to lose and I won’t play with cardsharps or men of questionable reputation, but I find that I can approach the game as a problem in mathematics – one that earns me a tidy sum of money. I have avoided spending money on what I don’t need, and if I combined my savings, my winnings, and the proceeds from the sale of my current commission – and there are plenty of takers for that, I assure you – I could manage it, just barely. Within a week or two I expect the arrangements to be finalized, and then the regiment will be leaving for Scotland to recruit and refit, and I with them. It seems we are destined to be always a continent or even an ocean apart, but I hope you will write to me in care of regimental headquarters and send me your blessing. Give my love to everyone there and to my brothers at sea when next you write to them.

    I remain, dear sir, your loving son,

    There was silence for a bit then everyone began to talk at once. We knew we were only here for a few weeks to refit the ships and close up the house – then we would be bound for England, our new permanent home. Perhaps David could get leave to attend Tara and John’s wedding, and if so I would have my entire family together under one roof.

    We finished the meal in joyful pandemonium.

    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Friday 13 August 1779

    I know John Sinclair and I are looking forward to the weekend and a chance to spend some time with our ladies, who are at present up at the Bedford Basin house with the rest of the family, Laura and James being the only exceptions. The dockyard workers continue to make good progress on setting Vanessa to rights, though, and so far all is going well. I was on my way back to the ship from my morning meeting with the dockyard supervisor when Stewart, as ever by my side, said, “Unless I miss my guess, Captain, that’s Magicien or Jaguar as the men are now calling her, and Sandfly on the way in.”

    I followed his pointing finger. “Since you hardly ever miss your guess, Stewart, I suspect you are right. I hope Sandfly does not come bearing bad news- Commander Boothroyd’s condition was very poor when we left Machias Bay.”

    We stepped aboard my ship to Robertson’s salute. “I trust the interview went well, sir?”

    “Yes, quite well. These fellows know their business, and they do it with remarkable efficiency. We noticed inbound ships while we were walking back down here.”

    “Aye, sir. We’ve had the glass on them. It’s Jaguar and Sandfly, all right. They seem to be doing fairly well, which speaks well for Captain Franklin’s carpenter and his mates.”

    “So it does. Well, I’m going to tackle the inevitable paperwork, Jack, but let me know as soon as they drop anchor. I want to see how Boothroyd is doing.”

    I learned almost as soon as I took command of the little sloop Paladin that paperwork, if put off, only multiplies, and at an astounding rate. I wonder if papers somehow manage to breed if left alone on a captain’s desk – it’s the only explanation I can think of, quite frankly. Even a few minutes will suffice to deal with some of it, and an hour or two of uninterrupted concentration – oh fond hope – is even better. Despite the inevitable interruptions I managed to work through quite a bit before the sentry announced,

    “Midshipman of the watch, sir!” and admitted Henry O’Connor. He came to attention, touched his hat and reported, “Sir, first lieutenant’s respects and the ships have dropped anchor just now. You requested to be kept informed, sir.”

    “Indeed I did. My compliments to Mr. Robertson, Mr. O’Connor, and I’ll have my gig, if you please.”

    A few minutes later we were hooking onto Jaguar’s main chains and I was up and through the entry port of the former Frenchman. Jeffery Gordon misses very little –I am sure he had the side party mustered almost as soon as Stewart called the first stroke. Through the screech of Spithead nightingales and the slap of marine hands on muskets, I returned his salute and then extended a hand,

    “Welcome to Halifax, Gordon. I trust I see you well?”

    “Very well, sir. Captain Franklin asked me to bring you below, sir. He’s down in the cockpit with Mr. Bryce and Commander Boothroyd.”

    “So Boothroyd is still with us? That’s good news. But why aboard your ship and not his own?”

    “Rather a long story, sir. If you’d come with me?”

    I followed him down into the bowels of the sturdy thirty-two, noticing along the way the signs of repairs and the smell of fresh paint. In a moment, Gordon opened a screen door and announced, “Captain Mason, sir.”

    Pat and his surgeon, Bryce, looked up from where they were talking to a bedridden but still obviously very much alive James Boothroyd and smiled.

    “Thank you, Jeffery. If you will see to getting our prisoners ashore?”

    “The boats are being lowered even now, sir,” Gordon said, and then left us alone with a nod from my friend. I shook hands with Pat and Joseph Bryce, and then turned to Boothroyd.

    “So you’re still in the land of the living, eh Jamie? I always said you Scots were a stubborn lot.”

    “Och aye, we are, though nae sae stubborn as men fra’ the colonies, fra’ what I hear,” he said with a weak smile.

    “Perhaps not. So how come you’re here, then?”

    “Perhaps I can answer that best, sir,” Joseph Bryce said, glancing down at his patient and upon receiving a nod from Pat Franklin. “Last Tuesday Lieutenant Pritchard, now in temporary command, sent for me because Harris, Sandfly’s surgeon, was ‘indisposed’. When I got over there, I found the captain’s cabin a filthy shambles and evidence that his bandages had not been changed for a least a day. I later found out that Commander Boothroyd’s cox’n had attempted to care for him, but had been ordered out of the cabin by Harris in a drunken rage. As Harris is a warrant officer and the man Wallace – a fellow Scot, not surprisingly – a junior petty officer, he had no choice but to go.

    “Shortly after this incident Harris returned to his quarters and began to drink himself insensible, whereupon Lieutenant Pritchard called for my aid. While I was attempting to salvage the utter mess Harris had made of the case, Harris learned of my presence and stormed into the cabin, cursing and railing like a madman. When he took a swing at me, sir, I naturally fought back and he went down in a heap. The ruckus brought Lieutenant Pritchard, who was already disgusted with Harris’ behaviour, and he ordered Harris placed under arrest and sent for Captain Franklin. The upshot is that Harris is under arrest with several charges laid against him. Since Boothroyd was still in very poor condition, Captain Franklin ordered him brought aboard as soon as he could be moved so I could care for him properly,” he concluded.

    “I see. Well, I know we are all glad you took the actions you did, aren’t we, Jamie?”

    “I wouldna’ be here the noo if he hadna’,” Boothroyd said. “Captain Franklin brought the original charges, but I hae’ signed them. Yon drunken butcher will kill nae mair o’ my men if I can help it.”

    “What exactly is he charged with, just out of curiosity, Pat?”

    “Articles Two, Eighteen, Twenty-two, and Twenty-seven, and I hope we can get a conviction on every damned one of them,” Pat said grimly. “He won’t be the only one facing a court, of course. I did lose Predator, after all.”

    “Yes, but that’s just a formality and you know it, Pat, since you were ordered to scuttle her by the Commodore. I understand that the Vice-Admiral intends to convene the court as quickly as possible so that you can get about the business of getting this ship ready for sea. Our mission is accomplished and we’re for England as soon as we can make the necessary preparations. It is to be hoped that Harris’ court-martial will not hold us up too much, since you, Bryce and Pritchard are material witnesses.”

    “You can’t possibly hope that more than I do, Will,” Pat said as he walked me back up the companion ladder to the main deck. “I have twins due at the end of next month, after all.”

    “The Commodore and I are going out to the old homeplace this weekend for a few days. Would you like to join us? You might end up on a camp bed in Father’s study, though if I know him he’ll take the camp bed and give you his room, and no protests allowed, Gordon can handle whatever arises for a day or so.”

    “Indeed he can, and none better. Yes, I think I’ll do that, Will, thank you.”

    He saw me over the side just as another hail brought the answer “Sapphire!” So John Sinclair was on his way in too? That wasn’t surprising. I saluted my sister’s beloved as we passed and continued back to my ship – and the endless paperwork.
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  5. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Third Week

    From the Remembrances of Miss Tara Mason

    Sunday, 15 August 1779

    I doubt the parishioners of St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, have ever seen so many Masons together at one time. We caused quite a stir when the line of carriages Papa had arranged to carry us all came up Argyle Street and stopped alongside the Parade Ground and we began to step down. Even Stephen was with us, Stewart and Mary having volunteered to stay with Robert so that my youngest brother could greet his friends. The curate who was tutoring Steve has moved down to New York, but the Reverend Mr. Breynton is still very much with us and we knew he would be eager to see how his former chorister had grown.

    In the lead carriage were Papa, Steve, Dick and Lucy, followed by Will, Jennifer, John and I in the next, then James and his Laura, Bart Jones and Pat Franklin in the last. Before they came up to Bedford, Will and Pat had arranged James Boothroyd’s transfer to the Naval Hospital, where the surgeon-in-chief was delighted to discover that Sapphire’s surgeon is none other than our dear Doctor Fred Bassingford. Fred, Joseph Bryce and Eric Harmon had been staying with him for the past few days, delighting I am sure in all sorts of medical discussions, but we expected to see them at service today.

    The citizens of Halifax knew we were in town, of course, so our arrival en masse was not unexpected, but as soon as the carriages stopped and we all started to climb down the knots of people who had been standing on the Parade chatting before service turned in our direction, and smiles broke across many of their faces. By the time we were all out and onto the Parade ourselves, there was quite a crowd gathered to greet us.

    “Richard Mason!” A voice called, and I recognized Richard Bulkeley, founding colonist and Provincial Secretary, as he advanced with an outstretched hand, his lady on his arm. “Well met, sir, well met indeed. We heard you were home, of course, and gone up to your Bedford estate. I trust we will be seeing a great deal more of you and your charming family in the coming months?”

    By now the rest of us had reached the two men and were waiting to greet him in our turn.

    “I’m afraid not, Richard. I’m closing the house and putting it up for sale and moving the shipping concern to England lock, stock and barrel. I’ve been offered a permanent home there and much as I appreciate all Halifax has done for our family, my heart will be there, because my children are there. Of course I’m sure I shall be back from time to time on business.”

    “I understand completely,” Bulkeley nodded. “And it seems that all of those children are assembled right here. Some I recognize, of course – Miss Tara, your servant, ma’am – and some I don’t. Will you make Mrs. Bulkeley and me known to them?”

    “Of course. Dick you know, of course, but this is his bride, Lucy, a native Londoner who joined our growing family in May, and perhaps you recall my youngest, Stephen?”

    “Great God, lad, you’ve grown half a foot since last I saw you – and a midshipman, too? Congratulations, lad. Of course, with a family like yours, the Navy was almost inevitable, wasn’t it?”

    “Aye, sir, I am very pleased to be wearing the King’s uniform, you may be sure,” Steve said with a poise that surprised even us.

    Next Papa introduced John to Mr and Mrs. Bulkeley, prompting the query: “John Sinclair? As in the Battle of the Ladies, sir?”

    “The very same, Mr. Bulkeley,” John said with a smile. He had been eliciting that reaction for so long that it was no surprise by now.

    “An honour, sir, an honour, to meet one of England’s greatest naval heroes. And you are shortly to be married our Miss Tara? Well, congratulations, Commodore, because I can tell you that you have won the heart of the fairest young lady in Halifax. Our young bucks will be quite green with envy, sir, quite green. Are you to be married here, I hope? Because then, Miss Tara, as Provincial Secretary I will have the honour of signing your marriage certificate.”

    “I have an estate, White Oaks, not far from Bristol in sight of the Sevren Estuary,” John said. “We will be holding the ceremony there. Of course, if you happened to be going across to conduct provincial business or to buy Mrs. Bulkeley the latest fashions, we would welcome your presence.”

    “Alas, no. We have no such plans – but I know you will want to ask Tara about those London fashions all the same, won’t you, my dear?”

    “Oh, yes, Mr. Bulkeley, especially if that yellow gown is any indication of the latest styles. Tara, dear, you must come with me to Graham’s Warehouse tomorrow. They have the most wonderful new shipment of silks, satins and laces, just come from China on a Dutch East Indiaman. Ells and ells of white silk satin, dear girl, perfect for the most beautiful wedding gown in the world. Oh, if only you were to be married here...”

    “Can’t be helped, m’ dear. Now, Richard, re-acquaint us with the rest of your family, though there’s no need to introduce me to James Mason or his lovely bride Laura,” he smiled. “That’s one marriage certificate I was privileged to sign!”

    “Richard, you might remember my son Will? He’s commanding HMS Vanessa now, and this lady is his wife Jennifer, a daughter of Thomas Willis of Cirencester. And with us as our guests are two of the captains from the squadron, Patrick Franklin of HMS Jaguar and Bartholomew Jones of HMS Enchanted.” Papa told him.

    Just then, our trio of medical men came up, and they were introduced in their turn, and then it was time to go into the church for the service.

    “I don’t see how you’re going to fit everyone in your pew, Richard. Commodore, perhaps you and Miss Tara might join us in our pew? We’ll have to watch the ladies, though, or they’ll be gossiping all through the sermon!” he teased.

    The Reverend Mr. Breynton remarked upon our attendance and welcomed us back, the sermon was one of his shorter and better ones, and as soon as the benediction was spoken the aisle was crowded with fellow Haligonians, all talking at once, or so it seemed.

    We were carried along on a tide of humanity into the August sunshine, although Mrs. Bulkeley and our neighbour Mrs. Scott had attached themselves to me and showed no signs of letting me out of their sight. The men, upon recognizing John’s name, were eager to speak to him about the conduct of the war and his past exploits, so I found myself bracketed by two very kind and very determined ladies.

    “I have just been telling our dear Tara about the new shipment of silks at Graham’s, Mrs. Scott.” Amy Bulkeley said. “And you simply must convince your dear father to let us host a small reception in your honour, since we will be unable to attend your wedding. In fact, you must come home with us at least for dinner, and perhaps longer. I will speak to Mr. Bulkeley about it.”

    Bulkeley, when approached, said, “I have already issued the invitation to Richard, my dear, and he has accepted on behalf of his entire family. They must return home this evening to pack, of course, but beginning tomorrow they are to be our guests for several days. You should certainly be able to do all the talking, shopping and party-giving you like, should you not?”

    “Indeed we can, Mr. Bulkeley, indeed we can.” Amy Bulkeley drew me aside and again and said, “Tara, dear, did you know the Mackenzies were gone?”

    “Yes, I had heard that,” I said quietly. John had of course told me of the visit he, Will and Dick had made to the former Mackenzie residence almost as soon as they had arrived.

    “In a great hurry, it was, my dear, and not long after Amelia broke her engagement to your brother. We heard rumours that Mrs. Mackenzie had been – unkind – to you, too, and quite frankly I was glad to see her go. A pushing, querulous, managing sort, and Amelia bidding fair to become just like her. And as for the son, Chauncey, I never much liked the way he looked at you, my dear, when your attention was elsewhere. I am so glad you have found your perfect match – why, the very thought of a fribble like Chauncey face to face with a man like John Sinclair! He’d faint clean away!” She finished with a most un-matronly giggle. “Well, your carriage is waiting, I see, and so is mine. We’ll see you tomorrow at home, my dear.”

    From the Remembrances of Miss Tara Mason

    Wednesday 18 August 1779

    We are back in Halifax, at the Bulkeleys’ invitation, staying at their more than spacious home and attending a round of parties and receptions. Now that the word is out that our fellow Haligonians have three weddings – Dick’s, Will’s, and James’ – and an engagement – mine to John of course – to celebrate our social calendar has become quite full. It’s odd, really – when we left this city last fall bound for London, I believed I would come back in the spring as a new, if long delayed, debutante, and I remember hoping that by the time I returned there would a new face in the community, one more like my poor Tim rather than the frivolous Chaunceys and the stolid Georges that seemed to make up the city’s eligible bachelors.

    Last night at one of those receptions we finished a dance and started off the floor toward the supper tables and I found myself being steered toward the tall open windows and out onto the terrace. The night was soft, with just a hint of coolness that was a refreshing change from the overheated room we had just come from. We were alone on the terrace, and without saying a word John turned me into his arms and lowered his head for a passionate kiss.

    “Did you know that the Germans have a dance that allows couples to embrace one another, mistress of my heart? It’s called a waltz, I believe. Too bad it would be considered much too shocking for polite English society,” he said when he lifted his head from my eager mouth and pressed a kiss onto my temple. “I’m of two minds about it though. The idea of holding you, my beloved in my arms on a public dance floor, looking into your eyes and knowing that very soon you shall be mine, and I yours, forever, in every sense of the word. But perhaps it’s best to leave that dance in Germany - the thought of another man holding you in his arms - no. I’ve seen the way they look at you, my love. You were a pretty girl, young and just coming into your own, when you left last year. Now, you are the most beautiful woman in the world, and they look at you and they want you. I’ve intercepted quite a few rather - hungry - looks just this evening, and they haven’t all been young, single men, either. Each of them only looked once, though.” He had finished matter-of-factly, but I could see the glint of steel in his eyes and new that he was very serious about any unwelcome interest that might come my way.

    “Well, if you think you’ve been fending off hot-blooded young bucks – or old ones, for that matter, I’m in the same situation. Did you see Mrs. Westmoreland? I swear, the woman practically pulled her bodice down and invited you to ogle her bosom, and she must be fifty if she’s a day, with grown children!” I giggled.

    “Really? I only have a clear recollection of your friend Mrs. Scott, a charming young lady. Mrs. Westmoreland you say? Which one was she?” he asked blankly, to my utter delight. “Why women will persist in wearing styles that show off bosoms that are better left decently covered I cannot fathom,” he said in an aggrieved tone. “Now if they had a bosom as magnificent as yours, I could perhaps understand it, not that you would wear such a garment.” I looked down at the low bodice of my own gown, the same one that I had been so concerned about back in May, then back up at John’s mischievous grin which was soon matched by my own.

    “John Sinclair, I love you!”

    “And I am daily thankful for that love, mistress of my heart,” he whispered, bringing his lips to mine once more.

    This morning our hostess, Amy Bulkeley, assembled us all for a grand shopping expedition to see those China silks she had heard off. Jennifer, Lucy, Laura and I all piled into the carriage with her, squeezing our wide skirts to make room for everyone and chattering like so many magpies. Once we got to the warehouse, the owner himself came out to hand us down and escort us into his shop. A murmured word and we were swept into a private parlour, offered tea, and then his assistants began to produce bolts and bolts of the most gorgeous fabric I have seen in months.

    “I understand Miss Mason is to be married, and shortly, to Commodore Sinclair?” Graham said. “We’ve set aside the best of the white silk satin, Miss Mason.”

    He waved a hand and his senior assistant vanished into the stockroom, reappearing shortly with the most beautiful fabric I think I have ever seen.

    “Finest China silk, satin finish, tightly woven, Miss Mason. Feel the weight – this gown will be something you can pass down to your granddaughters, ma’am, so superior is the quality.”

    He wasn’t exaggerating. It was the finest fabric I had ever seen, finer even than the silk of the blue ball gown I had worn the previous evening. I was simply at a loss for words, so much so that Graham became uneasy.

    “Miss Mason? If it isn’t to your liking?”

    “No, no, Mr. Graham. It’s – wonderful. How many ells do you think we’ll need?”

    “Depends on the style you choose of course, ma’am,” he said. “Once that decision is made, the rest is quite simple.”

    Lucy looked at the satin and said, “If you choose a style similar to the blue silk, Tara, with an overskirt, inset bodice, elbow sleeves.” She thought a moment and named a figure.

    Graham looked surprised, but no doubt just thought of her as an inveterate shopper. Little did he know that her expertise in such matters had been gained years of having costumes made for her various acting roles. Lucy was continuing to speak:

    “In fact, Reese can make it up for you. She does better work that most of the seamstresses in the big London fashion houses. My maid,” she explained for Mrs. Bulkeley’s benefit. She didn’t bother to mention that Reese had sewn most of Lucinda Graydon’s costumes as well as dressing her mistress each night for her theatrical performances. She continued, “Mr. Graham, have you a sketch block and pencil, perhaps?”

    Graham had everything. The necessary materials were produced and Lucy began to sketch rapidly. Under our very eyes we watched a magnificent gown take shape.

    “Lace insets on the bodice, and falling from the elbows, with just a touch at the neckline. Satin banding on the sleeves, here, and for the underskirt white silk taffeta with just a veiling of silk chiffon, I think. Down at the bottom, embroidered on either side of the overskirt, a nosegay of forget-me-nots, just the shade of the violet in your eyes. Add that gorgeous necklace John gave you last May to set off the neckline and you are complete,” She said, putting the finishing touches on the sketch.

    “What about a hat, Lucy, and slippers?” I managed to ask when I got my breath back at the vision she had created.

    “Satin for the hat, the slippers we’ll go to London for. I know just the place. Nothing against your establishment, Mr. Graham,” she said with the famous Graydon smile.

    “Not at all, ma’am, Miss Mason must have the best, and our resources are limited. This was a lucky windfall, quite frankly. I don’t get fabric like this very often,” he replied.

    Lucy nodded and went back to the hat: “Just the slightest hint of lace veiling to soften the crown, a shallow crown, like this, I think,” she was sketching again, “and a wide brim.”

    “No ribbons? How will it stay on my head?” I asked.

    “Hatpin. Tell John you want a pearl and diamond hatpin and let him surprise you. The man does have good taste in jewellery, after all,” she commented dryly, glancing at my gorgeous heirloom engagement ring. “Now, do you like this style, Tara?”

    “Like it? It’s exquisite, wonderful and breathtaking,” I said, embracing her with happy tears in my eyes.

    “That is the general idea, darling girl. Dick and I were married quietly, so were these two,” she smiled at Jennifer and Laura “but you, Mistress Tara, are going to have a wedding that people will be talking about for years – and more importantly, will literally take John Sinclair’s breath away the first time he sees you in this gown. Now, here’s what we’ll need, Mr. Graham,” she began, once more all business.

    The satin, the taffeta, the finest Belgian lace, the silk chiffon, the embroidery silks for the flowers – all of it was brought out, carefully measured twice to ensure accuracy, and cut to order. I didn’t even ask the price – I knew Papa would want me to have whatever I wanted, even though he might have a bit of a tussle with John over who was to pay for all this.

    Graham saw the fabric wrapped up carefully in tissue and then brown paper and promised to hold it for us until Papa could send someone to pick it up and take it aboard Resolute Star.

    “We’ll all help with the sewing, dear,” Laura said. “Mama always said my needlework was the best of all the girls in my family.”

    “And I won a prize at school in Bath for the most even, tiny stitches, Tara love,” Jennifer said. “Lucy’s designed it, Reese will be in overall charge of construction, and all you have to do is stand still for fittings. Which reminds me, Mr. Graham. Pins. We’ll need several papers of pins.”

    He smiled and produced a smaller bundle. “All here, Mrs. Mason. Embroidery silks and needles, silk thread for the gown, pins – everything. In fact,” he reached under the counter and produced a gleaming scissors. “Finest Sheffield steel, Mrs. Mason. Your woman will love cutting with these. Compliments of the house to a beautiful bride.”

    We thanked him and left the premises, still chattering like magpies.
    StarCruiser likes this.
  6. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    From the Journals of Doctor Alfred Bassingford

    Wednesday 18 August 1779

    While the ladies are enjoying a round of teas, coffee mornings and shopping expeditions with the most prominent ladies of Halifax, we men are working flat out to get our ships ready to sail back to England. Thanks to John’s intervention the captured rebel frigate Lexington has been valued in record time and is now back in the hands of the Mason family. I understand that, after consultation with his father, his brothers James and William, and his wife Lucy, Dick Mason has decided to put her into service as a privateer, to be re-christened Firebrand. While the family was wrapping up their affairs here in Halifax and re-provisioning the big flagship of the Mason shipping line, Resolute Star, the officers of the Flying Squadron have not been idle either. Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck put a word in the ear of the already efficient dockyard master and the damage that Sapphire, Vanessa, Enchanted and Sandfly sustained has been repaired in record time. Most heavily damaged, of course, is the former French frigate Magicien, now known in the squadron as Pat Franklin’s HMS Jaguar. In order to defeat her during the recent battle at Machias Bay Will had to put a broadside through her stern galleries, and even the repairs Pat’s crew were able to make before he brought her in were only a temporary exigent measure. Thanks to Eisenbeck’s assistance, though, the dockyard superintendent has been overseeing the refitting of this prize – she has been bought in, so she is now officially a part of His Britannic Majesty’s Navy – and great strides have been made.

    Robert Mason continues to regain his strength and is now able to sit out in a chair with his wounded arm in a sling for a few hours each day. The surgeons and surgeon’s mates at the naval hospital here, conveniently located adjacent to the dockyard, are good fellows, but we of the Flying Squadron take care of our own. At any given time one might find me, Will’s surgeon Eric Harmon, Pat’s Joseph Bryce, or Bart’s Daniel Humphreys in our young friend’s room, making sure he is well and that his spirits are good. The ladies and his father have been frequent visitors as well, and young Stephen Mason spends every minute that Will or Jack Robertson can spare him from duty with his older brother. The bond that has been forged between them as a result of Rob’s action in saving Steve’s life is still a wonder to those of us who remember how things were only a month ago – before Rob’s miraculous transformation from sneering, sullen drunkard to model officer.

    One surgeon who is notable by his absence is Harris, the drunken butcher who is currently confined in a guardhouse cell under charges of drunkenness, fighting, insubordination to a superior officer and dereliction of duty. This man, formerly ship’s surgeon aboard HM Sloop Sandfly, was relieved of duty by Pat Franklin about a week ago when he struck Surgeon Bryce while Joseph was attempting to treat Commander Boothroyd for a wound that Harris’ neglect and incompetence had allowed to fester. When Boothroyd’s lieutenant, Pritchard, who was then in acting command of Sandfly, attempted to intervene, Harris became insolent and insubordinate. Called over to deal with the crisis, Pat assessed the situation and promptly had Harris manacled and placed under close arrest. I understand that Harris’ court martial will be convened as quickly as possible in order to allow the squadron to leave as soon as Pat, Eric Harmon, Pritchard and James Boothroyd, now well on the road to recovery, have given their testimony as witnesses for the prosecution. Pat has his own set of troubles just now – he is facing a court for the loss of the little sixth-rate – HMS Predator, his new ship is still in the hands of the dockyard, and every day that goes by with him on the other side of the Atlantic brings him a bit closer to the day when his beloved Lady Cristina will be brought to bed of what my old friend and medical colleague Alexander Fleming believes are twin babies. I was well pleased to hear that Pat had engaged Alexander as I know him to be one of the finest physicians to be practicing in the south of England.

    Harris has been without access to wine or strong drink since he was taken ashore, and his body is feeling the effects of the abrupt withdrawal from this potentially mind-altering drug. As a doctor, I have studied many men over the years, and I often wonder what it is that makes it possible for one man to have a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey without craving more, while others, like Harris, take one glass and then must have another, and another and another, until their bodies are so dependent on the alcohol that they cannot function without it. Rob Mason was on his way to becoming like that until his brother Will, John and ‘Preacher’ Boyd intervened, and he had only been drinking for half a dozen years or so, since he was a young midshipman. Harris is over forty, so he could have as much as thirty years of alcohol abuse behind him. A few days ago I stopped by the guardhouse in my capacity as the squadron’s senior surgeon and what I saw shocked even me, with years of medical practice behind me. Harris had, had to be restrained, tied to his narrow cell cot with strong ropes, to keep him from dashing his head against the stones of the cell and beating his brains out. He was screaming in terror, deep in the throes of delirium tremens, seeing hallucinations of evil monsters come to rip out his throat, gouge out his eyes and sever his head from his body.

    The marine lieutenant in charge of the guard detail looked to me in desperation.

    “Isn’t there anything you can do, Doctor Bassingford? He won’t be quiet, if we gag him we’re afraid he’ll stop breathing or vomit and suffocate himself. It’s horrible, listening to him rave on so. I hear those screams even when I’m off duty in the barracks.”

    “I’m afraid not, Lieutenant. His body is trying to free itself of decades of poison, and that is not going to be easy, or happen overnight. Obviously, no surgeon would certify him fit to stand trial until this is past. We shall just have to wait it out.”

    This morning the court-martial gun boomed from the deck of Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck’s big second rate, the 98-gun HMS St. George, with its massive figurehead of an armoured knight about to slay the dragon with a raised broadsword. Thanks to the recent arrival of a ship that is very familiar to my friend Will Mason, HMS Ardent, 64, there are enough post-captains on the station to convene a court-martial without John, Will or Bart, all of whom are called as material witnesses and therefore unable to sit on the court.

    I slipped into the blue surgeon’s dress coat I only wear on special occasions and joined John in his stern cabin.
    “Uniform, Fred? The last time you wore that coat was when we left New York to rescue Tara from that French bastard Montaigne.”

    “Yes, it was a battle situation then, and in a way it is now. Not that I am not confident Pat will be cleared, given the testimony you are about to give, John, but he is only twenty-five and this is his first court. He needs to know that the men of the squadron are backing him to the hilt. And on that note, if I might borrow a dress sword again?”

    He signed to MacGregor and the massive Scot took down the same sword I had borrowed on that dark night in June and helped me buckle it on. I followed John out of the cabin and down into the boat for the trip over to St. George.

    The great stern cabin of the ship had been cleared of the luxurious furnishings that normally grace an admiral’s day cabin, all but the massive dining table, its polished mahogany gleaming with a rich red shine. With its accompanying chairs, this was one article of furniture that would never be struck into the hold when the ship cleared for action, thank goodness. John’s furniture has to be easily moved because his cabin becomes part of the gun deck in action, but admirals have no such disturbances to their lives. The table had been moved back against the huge stern windows, so that the officers of the court had their backs to the light and the prisoner would be facing it. Chairs and wooden forms from the wardroom and the gun decks had been brought in for the witnesses and spectators, and at one side one could see the admiral’s clerk with his block of foolscap, clutch of sharpened quills, and extra bottles of ink. Eisenbeck’s flag captain, Wittenburg, would be acting as prosecutor, and Pat had chosen to present his own defence. Normally the second ranking officer on the station would preside in the admiral’s stead, but since that happened to be John Sinclair, Eisenbeck had little choice but to perform the duty himself. I took a seat among the spectators while John took a chair behind the prosecutor’s desk, soon to be joined by Will Mason and Bart Jones. The rest of the chairs and forms began to fill up with men – Jack Robertson and Nathaniel Valdez from Vanessa, Pat’s own Jeffery Gordon, who was also a possible witness, Pritchard from Sandfly, and others. The dress sword Pat had received as a gift from his father, retired Captain James Franklin, lay athwart the long table in the ‘neutral’ position.

    At a sharp command, all of us rose while the members of the court filed in. They came in reverse order of seniority – James Turpin, the thirty-ish captain of HMS Boston, frigate of 32-guns, then Captain Robert Morell of HMS Arrogant, 74, Captain Joseph Geer of HMS Marlborough, 74, and Captain Sir Arthur White KB of HMS Vengeance, also a 74. All these were ships assigned to Eisenbeck’s fleet and known to him well, but behind them came a man who stopped in Halifax on his way back to New York to repair storm damage and found himself called to a court martial – Captain Raymond E. Monroe, at forty-eight the most senior of the captains present and an old warhorse who had been Will Mason’s commanding officer only two years ago. Will had told us a bit about him: Monroe had got his first command, a brig, at the age of 26 during the last war. He had distinguished himself on several occasions and had been posted at 33, and for the last ten years he had held his present command. His third rate, the 64-gun HMS Ardent, had been in action in these waters since the beginning of the rebellion, but she was a veteran of many a long voyage prior to that, having been laid down in 1764 not long after the close of the last war. She was Monroe’s pride and joy and, in a way, his mistress, as he had been widowed while still a young post-captain. Any young officer who had the good fortune to be sent to Monroe as a young lieutenant soon learned that he was a gruff, no-nonsense taskmaster, capable of flaying a man verbally while never raising his voice, but when a man did well, he was unstinting in his praise. Monroe did not drive, he led, and the men who served under him viewed him with an awe approaching worship.

    I knew all this because when his ship was sighted on its way in I happened to be on HMS Vanessa on a consultation with Eric Harmon. Afterwards, Will Mason invited me up to his cabin for a glass of Madeira and it was while we were chatting that she came in, guns booming and flags flying. Will’s face split into a smile that lit the room, and it was then that he told me about the man who had mentored him in the ways of effective leadership.

    Big, burly, his body muscular rather than fat, with his head topped by the old-fashioned curled wig he wore only on formal occasions - Will had said that most of the time his officers saw his closely-cropped, greying hair instead - Monroe strode in, checked his stride just for a split-second when he saw Will Mason, and then continued on. He took his place just right of the centre of the long table and then Vice-Admiral Victor Eisenbeck walked in, followed by his flag lieutenant. He took the place at the centre, facing the witness chair and the rest of the cabin across its polished surface.

    “Good morning, Gentlemen. You may be seated.”

    We all sat down. Eisenbeck was going on: “Thank you all for coming. I intend to conduct this court martial quickly and efficiently, so that we can all be about His Majesty’s business, which is winning this war. I have no time for pettifogging or speechifying, and so I warn all present. If I feel that a witness or a member of this court has strayed from the matter at hand I will not hesitate to interrupt him. Now, if that is understood, I believe we are ready to proceed.”

    He nodded to Captain Wittenburg and the flag captain, said, “Bring in the accused.”

    A Marine captain escorted Pat Franklin smartly attired in his best dress uniform, minus the sword that lay athwart the table, into the room and over to a chair opposite the prosecutor’s desk.

    “Gentlemen, this court is now in session. The clerk will now swear in the members of the court.”

    One by one the senior post captains placed their hands on the Bible the clerk held and swore to administer justice according to the best of their understanding and the custom of the Navy in like cases. Once this was done, Eisenbeck spoke again:

    “The accused will please rise while the charges are read.”

    Pat stood up as the clerk, acting as deputy judge advocate, began to read the boilerplate language that told us, essentially, that Captain Patrick Franklin, commanding HMS Predator, frigate of twenty guns, stood accused under Article Twenty-five of the Articles of War of hazarding his ship and subsequently sinking it.

    “Thank you. Captain Wittenberg, are your witnesses present?”

    “Aye, sir. They are.”

    “Captain Franklin, are you witnesses present?”

    “Aye, sir. They are.” Pat said formally.

    “Then, Captain Wittenberg, you may call your first witness.”

    “Aye, sir. I call Captain John Sinclair, Commodore commanding the Flying Squadron, Halifax, to the stand.”

    “Very well. All other witnesses leave the court,” Eisenbeck directed. Will and Bart filed out and then the clerk swore John in to give his testimony.

    Wittenberg stood up. “Commodore Sinclair, describe, if you will, sir, the events of the 8th and 9th of August, 1779, that led to the loss of HM Frigate Predator while she was under Captain Franklin’s command.”

    Briefly, speaking slowly and clearly so that the clerk could take down his words, John recounted the events of the Battle of Machias Bay. Throughout the testimony, he made it clear that Pat was acting under his orders, that Predator had been so damaged by her encounter with Magicien that she was un-seaworthy and a hazard to her crew and other ships in the squadron.

    “I ordered Captain Franklin to take all his men off Predator, remove all useable Navy property except the guns, and scuttle her at the harbour mouth to discourage further rebel intrusions into the area.”

    “And what of the guns?” Wittenberg asked.

    “Those I ordered spiked for good measure and sent to the bottom along with the hull. Even if the rebels were to raise Predator, the guns are ruined by now.” John replied, making sure that the court understood that no act of negligence that would allow precious cannon to fall into the hands of the enemy in a useable state had taken place.

    “Thank you, Commodore. You may step down. Call Captain William Mason to the stand,” Wittenburg said.

    Will and Bart only confirmed what John had said; using words just different enough that no one could suspect a pre-trial ‘rehearsal’ or collusion. Once Bart was excused, Wittenburg turned to Pat.

    “Captain Franklin, have you any witnesses in your defence?”

    “Sir, the testimony given by Commodore Sinclair, Captain Mason and Captain Jones will suffice for my purposes,” Pat said. “I have nothing further to add.”

    “Very well. Sir,” Wittenberg said to Eisenbeck, “the prosecution rests its case.”

    “Captain Franklin,” Eisenbeck said, “Do you rest your case?”

    “Sir, I do.” Pat said quietly.

    “Very well, the court will be cleared while deliberations take place. Escort the accused out, if you please, Captain.” Eisenbeck told his marine officer.

    We all filed out. Pat was taken to a small cabin off the side while the rest of us milled about, talking quietly. Less than ten minutes later – just time enough for Eisenbeck to formally ask each member of the court to vote on the charge, we were summoned back to the cabin and told to be seated. The sword had been moved - now the hilt would face toward Pat, a clear indication that he had been completely exonerated of the charge. John glanced at me and the others and we exchanged smiles. It had been a formality, it was true, and the outcome almost assured, but it still must have been nerve-wracking for our young friend.

    “Bring in the accused,” Eisenbeck ordered, and in a few moments, Pat stepped through the cabin door with his marine escort to see the hilt facing him. His shoulders seemed to relax just for a second or two, and then he was back in command of himself, his face impassive and his carriage erect.

    “Captain Patrick Franklin, you have been found innocent of the charges laid against you under Article Twenty-five of the Articles of War. Further this court finds the actions undertaken by you in the battle at Machias Bay to have been both honourable and commendable; and in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Navy. Congratulations, young man.” Eisenbeck said, dotting the last legal ‘I’ and crossing the last procedural ‘T’. He stood up, walked to the front of the table and formally handed Pat back his sword, waited until Pat buckled it back on, and then accepted his salute.

    “This court is adjourned, gentlemen.” Eisenbeck said crisply.

    Everyone began talking at once. Pat’s carefully impassive face broke into a huge smile even as John strode over to shake his hand and congratulate him.

    “Thank you for your testimony, sir,” Pat said.

    “Don’t thank me for telling the truth or seeing that justice was done, Pat. That’s my duty to God and my King. I did no more than what was right,” John said quietly.

    “Aye, sir, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say,” Pat said in some confusion, and in that moment he looked so incredibly young – younger even than twenty-five.

    “I understand. Well, here are some others who want to congratulate you, but let’s be quick about it so the Vice-Admiral can have his cabin back. I’m inviting all of you over to Sapphire for a celebratory toast to Pat’s favourable decision,” John stated.

    Captain Monroe had been waiting patiently while Will congratulated his friend, but now he stepped into the circle, “Don’t be in such a hurry, Commodore. I have a bit of catching up to with this young man here,” he indicated Will, “and I can’t do that if you spirit him away. Raymond E. Monroe, at your service, sir.”

    The two exchanged formal salutes and handshakes and then John said, “I have heard a great deal about you, Captain Monroe. Would you be able to join us for that toast perhaps?”

    “I would, and thank you. I have good news for you, Will, and for your lady, regarding her sister Winifred. Just before I left England I had an express from Michael Gilmore announcing that Winifred had been brought to bed of a son and heir, Peter John, on the seventh of July. Mother and son are doing well and your former senior is over the moon with joy at his new son.”

    “Not just his former senior, Captain Monroe,” Pat said. “My former captain and a dear friend as well. Now we have two reasons to celebrate – my exoneration and a new baby, one I know will be only the first of many born to our little ‘Band of Brothers.’

    We were on our way out of the cabin when a messenger arrived from the shore with a note for Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck. He broke the seal, scanned the note and then beckoned John over.

    “You might want to read this, Sinclair, since it has direct bearing on your situation.”

    Puzzled, John took the note, read it, and then looked up. “Indeed it does, sir, it makes our lives quite a bit less complicated to be sure. Gentlemen, I read in this letter than Harris has hanged himself in his cell. He left a note behind saying that he realized that his addiction to strong drink had caused him to commit a capital crime and that he could not face the shame of court-martial and public execution. Apparently one of the ropes that was used to restrain him while he was in the throes of withdrawal was accidentally left behind under his cot and he used that to hang himself. It’s over, Pat. As soon as our ships are ready and our affairs in order we can go home.”

    If I thought Pat was happy before, it was nothing to the way he looked when John gave him the news. The others crowded around him again, slapping him on the back and teasing him about rushing home to England only to pace the floor while Cristina delivered.

    To England, then,” John quoted with a smile. “But first, that drink. Coming, gentlemen?”
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  7. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    Friday 20 August 1779

    To England then’ - my brother William, knowing how appropriate that snatch of a line from Henry V is to our circumstances, told me the story of how John had quoted it after he and the others had received the news that Pat Franklin had been cleared of negligence in the loss of HMS Predator, followed hard on its heels by the news that Harris, overcome with remorse and realizing he was almost certainly doomed to hang for his crimes, had done away with himself in his cell, freeing Pat and the other witnesses against him to leave Halifax.

    My beloved, my brother and their fellow captains have done what some would have said was impossible – finding and defeating a powerful French/Continental squadron that had been harassing British shipping for months, but had always managed to elude capture. Like Henry at Agincourt, they had faced the French with the odds against them, and they had won. And now it was time to go home. Strange how I already think of White Oaks as home, though I have never seen it except through John’s eyes during the long days and evenings we have spent talking, especially when we were recovering from various wounds this summer.

    Two days ago we were all in the drawing room of Carleton House, where we are spending a few days as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bulkeley, when five very jubilant captains came striding into the room behind the footman who had opened the door. I could see at once that they had good news – the very fact that Pat Franklin was here, wearing his father’s old dress sword, was proof that he had been cleared of all charges against him.

    Impulsively, I dropped the book I was reading and swept across the room to John’s side, grasping the lapels of his dress coat I pulled his lips against mine for a deep kiss without a trace of self-consciousness while the others looked on benevolently. Turning in the security of his embracing arm, I looked up at Pat Franklin.

    “Congratulations, Pat. I knew you would be vindicated,” I said warmly, then tiptoed to brush a feather light kiss across one cheek. He blushed. Twenty-five years old, a frigate captain, and about to become the father of twins, and he blushed.

    “I mustn’t do that too often, or Lady Cristina will become jealous,” I teased, “I don’t want to run afoul of her Spanish temper, you know. I’ve heard she can be quite - volatile.”

    “Spare a thought for my feelings, madam,” John growled in mock indignation. “Such conduct is hardly becoming the woman who is shortly to be my bride.”

    If anyone else had said that, it would have sounded pompous and arrogant – but I knew John understood my motives and could not resist a bit of raillery. He pulled me tighter against his side and leaned down to whisper, “I’ll have my own back tonight in the garden, mistress of my heart.” The heat in his eyes left me with no question as to his meaning, and I veiled my own eyes quickly, lest everyone in the room see the passion burning in them in response.

    Once everyone was seated and refreshments served, John turned to Papa.

    “Can you be ready to leave by Friday, Saturday at the latest, Richard?”

    “Yes. Dick, James and I have been working flat out to get our ships ready to sail, John.”

    “What of the Bedford house?”

    “Richard Bulkeley and I have been in consultation about that, and he believes we can find a buyer, someone who wants a country retreat, very quickly. We’ll be leaving the furnishings, all but a few family treasures that we brought here from Maryland. I’ll give Richard power to act for me in the matter of the sale and we can leave at any time.”

    “Then all you have to do is send a carter up after you’ve packed your personal belongings, a few small items of furniture, and your books?” John asked.

    “That’s all. It will all fit easily into the hold of Resolute Star and still leave room for a cargo of furs. I’ll be leaving Star of Honour here for Keith’s use in the coastal trade and Dick will be taking Brave Star – or Firebrand, as I suppose she will be soon – back to England.” Papa told him.

    “Then, if everyone works quickly and efficiently, I think we can sail according to my timetable,” John said approvingly.

    It has been a hectic two days since then. Taking our leave of Mrs. Bulkeley, we went back to the Bedford House the following morning and set to work to oversee the packing. Tea chests and straw filled the rooms as china, silver and porcelain, some of it almost a hundred years old, was packed carefully for shipping. Books came off shelves and disappeared into crates, furniture was covered with straw so that it looked like it was growing out of a cornfield, and clothes were folded into trunks once more. Into another chest went Stephen’s lovely ship models, and everywhere we turned there seemed to be something we had forgotten to pack, but finally it was all done. With one last glance we bid Mrs. Robertson goodbye, thanking her for her faithful service. She would be remaining to care for the house, her employment being a condition of the sale. Father was determined that she would not be without means or an income, since she had declined an offer to come to England with us, saying that she was ‘too old’ to pick up and move across the sea again.

    That was early this morning. We came back down to Halifax and immediately went aboard Resolute Star, settling back into our old cabins with familiar ease. We would not be idle for the next three weeks – we had a wedding gown to make and a ceremony to plan. Lucy is the only one of us who has actually seen White Oaks, so we plan to rely heavily on her suggestions, though John has told me that with the number of guests we would like to have, a marquee on the lawn is the only really practical solution – no single room in the house will hold them all, either for the ceremony or for the wedding breakfast. Short of moving the nuptials to someplace like Salisbury Cathedral, which we do not want to do, a marquee seems inevitable – and that means we need to have the ceremony while the weather is still fairly warm.

    “We’re aiming for Friday the 24th of September,” I told them. “The date has a sentimental meaning for him as it will be the twentieth anniversary of his posting as a captain. If we arrive in Bristol by the 12th, which happens to be John’s birthday, by the way, we will have just under two weeks to prepare. It will be a challenge, but I know we can do it.”

    “Of course we can,” Lucy said. “I’ve put three act plays together from first read-through to performance in less than three weeks. A wedding for four or five hundred guests, that’s child’s play.”

    “Oh yes, Lucy, I’ve helped both Winnie and Helen plan their weddings to Michael and Bill so I’m an old hand at this now.” Jennifer remarked. “Now Tara, what do you think, marry in September, baby in the summer?”

    We were all women in the room, and all married but me. A few weeks ago I would have blushed at her slightly bawdy comment, but this time I only smiled.

    “She looks like the cat that’s got at the cream,” Lucy teased. “Ladies, I think we can safely say that the girl is in love!”

    Papa swore he could hear us giggling all the way up on deck. Chuckling to himself, he came into the Grand Salon to tell us we were about to weigh anchor and inviting us up on deck to see the spectacle.

    There were crowds of people on shore to see us off as one by one our ships broke their anchors free of the harbour bottom and began to stand for sea. John and Bart Jones would be in the van in Sapphire and Enchanted, respectively, followed by Resolute Star with Brave Star and Vanessa on either side, and Sandfly and Jaguar bringing up the rear. My brother Dick had taken John’s suggestion and had asked Robert to come aboard Brave Star as his first mate, even though Rob is not completely recovered as yet.

    “He’ll go stir crazy as a passenger, and you know your father doesn’t need him on Resolute Star,” John had pointed out, “not with James to back him up. I know he’s limited as to what he can do and there may be times he’ll need to go below and rest, but he’ll recover much faster if he has something to do, a goal to work toward. He’s a damn fine officer, Dick, Bart can attest to that, though I never thought I’d be saying it after the problems he caused Tara years ago, but we all know that was a different Robert Mason than the man we know today.”

    When Dick broke the news to him Rob could not speak for several minutes, so overcome with emotion was he. Then he looked at Dick and said, “With all my heart, Dick, and thank you. I will do my best to be worthy of your confidence.”

    Slowly the trees of Pleasant Point faded into the distance behind us, and ahead of us was the open sea. “To England, then.
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  8. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Fourth Week

    From the Remembrances of Robert Mason

    Thursday 26 August 1779

    It has been two and half weeks since the battle off Cape Sable Island that cost me my right hand and part of my forearm. Doctor Bassingford did a superb job with the amputation – much better than any other surgeon I know could have done, but instead of the hand I used to write with, salute with, and do most other things with, I have a bandaged stump, and my career as a King’s officer is over forever. A captain can keep his job with his right hand or arm missing, at least during wartime, and it if had been my left hand I could have stayed on as a lieutenant, but for me this war is over – or so I thought until just over a week ago.

    I still have quite a bit of pain, but I am learning to live with it, determined not to seek oblivion in rum lest I become once again the wretched excuse for a human being I was little more than a month ago. What is odd is that my right hand aches, and my wrist – and neither of them are present any more. Doctor Bassingford warned me about these ‘phantom limb’ pains, though, and it has helped to talk to others aboard my new ship, which has variously been known as Brave Star, Lexington and will soon be renamed the privateer Firebrand. One them is missing his left hand and other was fitted with a peg leg after a 32-pounder ran amok and crushed his right foot aboard his last ship. We are a privateer so that the division between officers and crew is much less defined than in a King’s ship – I would never dare try to discuss subjects like these with the men if I were still Lieutenant Mason, not plain old ‘Mr. Mason, First Mate.’ In a King’s ship, if the lines of command and responsibility become blurred, the ship will suffer. The men do not respect a man who tries too hard to be a ‘friend’ when what they need is a man who can lead them into battle and bring them out alive, and an officer who becomes too close to one of his crew runs the risk of being thought a soft touch and easy to take advantage of. Even my brother William’s cox’n, Stewart, knows that there are certain lines he cannot and should not cross, even though he practically raised Will and is nearly twice his age.

    But this is a different kind of ship. Yes, there is a chain of command, beginning with my brother Dick and continuing down through me to the second mate, Atchison, the bosun, Davis, and the gunner, Rainville and down to the ordinary seaman standing watch or making sail, but we are all in this together, with one goal – prize money and the harrying of enemy merchant shipping, whether it be French, Spanish or American, as they are calling themselves now. Unlike a King’s ship where the prize money is distributed very unequally, with the ordinary sailorman getting very little, our crew knows that each prize will bring something to his pocket, no matter how low he sits in the scheme of things. Those of us who have shares in the ship – who are part owners – will gain even more. Thanks to prize money, some savings, and the thousand pounds Commodore Sinclair gave me when I was invalided out of the Navy, I have enough money to buy a fifteen percent share of this ship, with Dick holding sixty percent and my father the other twenty-five.

    When Dick came to me not long before we left Halifax and told me what he intended to do - take our old ship Brave Star, remove all evidences that she had ever been the rebel frigate Lexington, and refit her as the heavily armed privateer Firebrand, I was happy to have the ship back in the Mason family fold. When he told me that Sinclair, of all people, had recommended me for a position as Dick’s second in command I was astounded. I still remember with shame the scorn and disgust on Sinclair’s face, not to mention the thundering terrifying fury from the night before, when he came aboard HMS Vanessa that day in July to give me the beating I deserved for my behaviour, especially to my own sister. That he would recommend me first to Captain Jones as a lieutenant and then to Dick as his first mate... I still could not quite believe I was not dreaming. It was all true, though. I am part owner of this ship and once again I have a reason to go on living. My navy career is over but my life is not, and for that I am daily thankful.

    Dick is going back to England to apply for his letter of marque and to see Tara married to John Sinclair before he settles his wife Lucy someplace near family and friends and goes back to sea. If it were not for these family events, he could have stayed on the western side of the Atlantic, obtaining a letter of marque from the Provincial Governor at Halifax and wreaking havoc on shipping all up and down the coast of the rebellious colonies. But family business calls, and we are bound for England in convoy with my father’s big Indiaman, Resolute Star, and five ships of His Majesty’s Navy.

    We have a remarkable crew. Many of them are excellent seamen, and how they managed to avoid being pressed onto one of the warships in Vice-Admiral Eisenbeck’s squadron - or as replacements for those lost in battle from Sinclair’s squadron, for that matter - is still a bit of a mystery. Many if not most of them are fellow colonials like Dick and me, most of them New Englanders, with a few from our old Chesapeake Bay region. Finding themselves on the wrong side of the political fence when the war began to escalate after Saratoga in 1777, they moved north to Halifax, and there they remained, dozens if not hundreds of them. Oh, we have the occasional Briton, in fact our best lookout, Taprill, is from Perthshire, but most of our men speak in the accents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and they find Dick’s easy drawl quite remarkable.

    “Could I ask ye a question, Mr. Mason?” One of them, a leather-skinned Irish former fisherman from Marblehead named O’Steen said just today.

    “What is it, O’Steen?”

    “Well, I notice Captain Mason talks like the Virginia folk down toward the Southern colonies do, kinda slow and drawling, but ye don’t. You’re his brother, why don’t ye talk that way?”

    “I did, years ago. When I joined the Navy the other midshipmen made fun of my colonial accent and called me a hayseed. They’d mock my accent, making it sound much more pronounced than it was. So I taught myself to speak with an English accent, all clipped and brisk. I’ve been doing it for so long I just do it automatically.”

    “But ye can talk like the Captain does, the Virginia way?”

    “If I think about, yes I can,” I drawled in demonstration.

    “I like that better, Mr. Mason. Don’t sound so... toffee-nosed, if ye’ll pardon the expression.”

    “Well, O’Steen, I spent way too many years acting toffee-nosed, so maybe it’s time I dropped the accent along with the attitude. Besides, if we’re going to trick enemy ships into believing we’re still the Continental Frigate Lexington, we’ll need to pay attention to little things like accents.”

    “True enough, Brother Rob,” Dick said, having overheard the last of this conversation. “Flying enemy colours is a legitimate ruse de guerre, as long as we haul them down and put up our own before we open fire. I suspect there will be many occasions to ‘fool’ other masters – and perhaps even the commanders of some of the small rebel national ships – into believing we are still the Lexington. People see what they expect to see, after all. We’re American built, flying an American flag, with an American captain and crew, ergo, we must be American. We should have them dead to rights before they find out any differently. Remind me to make sure we have American uniforms, too. I’d borrow one of Will’s coats but the facings on the lapels are the wrong colour.

    “A first lieutenant missing his right hand, Dick?” I asked. “Hadn’t I better keep out of sight in case they smell a rat?”

    “They won’t, Rob. The Continental Navy can’t afford to be as choosey regarding officers as the Royal Navy is. As long as an officer can do the job the rebels will take him with one hand or two,” Dick said. “In any case I think that they’ll see what they expect to see.”
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  9. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    September 1779

    Second Week

    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Friday 10 September 1779

    Just yesterday evening as the light was beginning to fade in the eastern sky our masthead lookouts reported sighting Mizen Head off to the north of the squadron. This tip of land on the southern coast of Ireland marks a return to home waters. It has been almost six months since we last past the Irish coast back in March, it was early Spring then, now Autumn is not far away. When I left England those many months ago I was alone in the world as I had been since my beloved Angelique’s murder, now I am linked mind, heart and soul with my dear Tara. And just two weeks from now we will be wed on the grounds of White Oaks, beginning what we both are sure will be a long and happy life together. The voyage home from Halifax has been a pleasant one but I look forward to its end all the same. With luck and fair winds we should be in Bristol by Sunday.

    This morning found us under partially cloudy skies quarter-reaching to a light south-westerly at about seven knots. Looking aft I could see Resolute Star flanked by Brave Star and Vanessa behind us plunging through the swells of St. George Channel. The motion was an easy one and I was sure that all aboard Richard Mason’s big Indiaman were completely untroubled by it. It would be a fairly easy pull over to her for MacGregor and the crew of my gig and I was debating the prospect of visiting Tara and the rest of the family when a hail from the masthead interrupted my thoughts.

    “Deck there!” came the cry. It was Jeremiah Leland, at thirteen years old our youngest midshipman, whom I had accepted as a favour to his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Bulkeley, before departing Halifax three weeks ago. The boy had been sentenced to 24 hours at the masthead as punishment for skylarking on watch. “Sail two points off the starboard bow!”

    “Mr. Shea, signal Sandfly to investigate.” I ordered. The flags raced up the halyards and in short order the little sloop had tacked on more canvas and was rapidly sallying forth to seek out this new-comer.

    Dunkin meowed loudly from his perch on my shoulder as she passed us by. I reached up and caressed the cat’s cheek with a finger, he purred softly and rubbed his muzzle against my cocked hat in response.

    “I heard young Leland from the masthead.” It was Fred who had come up beside me. On his shoulder sat Midnight in a perfect mirror image to his father’s perch on mine. “A patrol do you think?”

    “Possibly,” I replied. “Or perhaps a fishing vessel. The channel has always been a prime fishing area.”

    “Do you remember when we were ten... ” he started.

    “And we accompanied my father on that trip to Dyfed, then came out here in that little dinghy.” I interrupted with a grin. He nodded back at me and I continued. “I really hadn’t intended to go that far you know. But the wind came up and caught us so suddenly that I had no idea what to do other than ride it out.”

    “I damned near died when I saw the lights from the shore fade behind us.” Fred remarked. “I was sure that we were done for, all through the night I saw us falling into the open maw of a whale or being dragged to the bottom by a giant octopus. Then dawn came, the wind veered and you sailed us right back up the Bristol Channel to the waiting arms of your father.”

    “Who promptly caned us both,” I finished with a wry grin that brought a hearty laugh from my old friend.

    “You know you never lost your composure throughout the whole ordeal,” he remarked. “I have always wondered how you managed it.”

    “Well someone had to keep a clear head and I saw that it certainly wasn’t going to be you.”

    “I beg your pardon!” Fred replied, drawing himself up in righteous indignation. “It was my idea to use the anchor to keep from going further out to sea you know.”

    “Yes and you very nearly fell overboard in the attempt.” I said with a chuckle. “In addition to losing the anchor.”

    “Oh... that’s right. I did do that didn’t I?”

    “Deck there!” came another hail. “Three more ships behind the first.”

    Curiouser and curiouser. Were they civilian vessels, perhaps a small convoy under escort, or naval ships? And if navy then whose? It could be a Frenchie being chased by one of our squadrons but it also might be one of our squadrons heading for America or even Ireland. But somehow I knew that it wasn’t that innocent. Before I could think further on it Shea called out from the starboard shrouds to which he clung, with a powerful glass trained on our distant sloop.

    Sandfly’s signalling, sir. ‘Enemy in Sight!’”

    So at least one of the approaching vessels was an enemy. But that still left the questions of who and what. Looking behind I glanced at the Indiaman astern that was even now carrying my beloved into harm’s way.

    “Mr. Shea, signal Resolute Star and Brave Star to alter course southeast by south.” The signal flags soared to the mizzen yards and in short order the merchantmen with the former Rebel frigate and future privateer as escort veered south and out of danger. “Be safe my beloved.” I quietly prayed as I watched them go.

    Now here was James Kent pulling on his coat as he climbed the quarterdeck companionway. He nodded to Zachery who was officer of the watch before taking his position alongside Jamie Dunne near the big ship’s wheel.

    “Mr. Dunne, starboard a point if you please.” I ordered. “Mr. Shea, general signal: ‘Alter course east southeast’ and then ‘Prepare for battle’.”

    “Shall we clear for action, sir?” Kent asked. I nodded at him then glanced over at the horizon where the still unknown enemy ships lay.

    “I’m going to the masthead, Mr. Kent. Take charge here.”

    “Aye aye, sir” he replied as Dunkin hopped from my shoulder to his, as if signalling a change of command.

    Taking the large glass that Shea held out to me I slung it over my shoulder and began my climb to the sounds of the drums rapping out the beat to quarters and the ordered pandemonium that followed it. Up the ratlines I went making the difficult outward climb up the futtock shrouds, hanging by fingers and toes over the deck. Past the mizzen top and all the way up to the mizzen t’gallant masthead where the easy swell of the deck had given way to the wild swaying of the mast over one hundred feet above Sapphire’s quarterdeck. Clinging to the masthead I unslung the glass and doing my best to compensate for the sway of the masts, trained it on the rapidly approaching ships.

    “I think there’s some more ships behind the first bunch, sir” Leland called down to me from the main t’gallant masthead. “Can’t rightly make ‘em out though as the first ones are in the way.”

    Slowly I was able to steady the motion enough to bring the image in the glass into clear focus. The story it told was not a good one.

    “Mr. Leland,” I called up. “My compliments to the first lieutenant. Tell him that an English brig-of-war is being chased by three large Spanish frigates with three other vessels trailing behind. I will join him on deck shortly. Then you may take up your post with Mr. Talbot.”

    “Aye aye, sir.” He called down and reached for the backstay.

    “And Mr. Leland...”


    “No more skylarking on watch. Understood?”

    “Aye aye, sir.”

    “Off with you then.” I said and he swiftly slid hand over hand down the backstay towards the deck below.

    Putting the glass back to my eye I continued to examine the distant ships. The little brig was only a mile or so away by now with the three frigates, one of them wearing a rear admiral’s flag at her mizzen, trailing two miles behind her and the remaining ships a good two miles at least beyond them. Slowly they came into focus in the glass, the double row of gunports just becoming visible. All three were small two-deckers, fourth rates if I was any judge. But as I looked more closely I could see that no gun muzzles protruded from the ports. I blinked and rubbed my eyes to clear them before looking again, no, I hadn’t been mistaken. No captain worth his commission would fail to come to action stations in a situation like this. Certainly any Admiral would order it done at least.

    I carefully examined the waterline as an idea came to me. Yes they were riding low in the water and thus heavily laden. They must be armed en flute with their guns removed to make room for cargo and passengers and plenty of both from the look of things. I had my answers now. I knew who they were, what they were doing and where they were heading. It was the only possible answer. Slinging the glass I reached for the backstay and made my descent. When I got to the quarterdeck I handed Cutler the glass and accepted my sword and pistols from MacGregor with murmured thanks. Fred and the two cats had disappeared below.

    “Ship cleared for action, sir.” Kent reported as I clipped the presentation sword to my belt and draped the brace of pistols across my chest. “9 minutes 42 seconds. Guns loaded but not run out, boats hoisted out and towing astern, ready to cast off at your order and I’ve ordered the men fed at stations. Just apples, cheese and hardtack but with the galley fire doused I’m afraid that’s all we have available.”

    “Very good, James. See to it that Mr. Ford issues a short tot to all hands as well. It’ll be hot work this day.” Kent passed the necessary orders to young Cutler who touched his hat and walked calmly to the companionway before turning back to me.

    “Do you know what the other three ships are, sir?”

    “Fourth rates en flute,” I answered.

    “Troop ships.” He immediately replied.

    “You were always quick off the mark, James.” I said with a smile. “Yes, I believe that’s exactly what they are. Probably loaded with muskets and powder as well as Spanish Regulars.”

    “Then they could only be heading for Ireland, sir. A second revolt, this one in our own back yard, would do our cause untold harm.”

    He was right of course. Ireland was already a hotbed of sympathy for the rebels as well as hatred for what many saw as foreign rule. If the Spanish could land in secret they could vanish into the countryside to equip and train an army. Then pop up again in six months with that army and attack. England would have no choice but to take men and resources away from other areas to fight them. Men and resources that might be desperately needed elsewhere. Of course thousands of innocent people would be killed or maimed uselessly but the Irish patriots would see that as a justifiable sacrifice and the Dons, with their usual contempt for human life, just wouldn’t give a damn.

    “Well we are not going to let that happen, Mr. Kent.” I said. “The Dons are going to be stopped here and now. Mr. Cutler, signal the brig to pass within hail, I wish to speak with her captain. Who is she by the way, I saw her hoist her number from the masthead?”

    “She’s Vesper, sir.” Cutler answered. “14 guns under Lieutenant Thomas Harrington.”

    “Well well.” I said half to myself as MacGregor grinned at me.

    “You know him, sir?” Kent asked.

    “Oh yes, Mr. Kent. He was one of my master’s mates on Arethusa. I recommended that he take his examination for lieutenant back in ‘74. And as it happens he looks very much like a slightly smaller version of this Great Hebridean Mountain over here.”

    We watched as the brig approached. It was easy to spot Harrington standing almost a head taller than anyone else on the little vessel’s quarterdeck. Assisted only by the two master’s mates, bosun and two midshipmen that were standard on such a small vessel he easily brought her alongside Sapphire.

    “When did you meet up with them, Mr. Harrington?” I called.

    “Yesterday morning, sir,” he shouted back. “About twenty-five miles north of Land’s End. I followed ‘em all day but during the night they doubled back an’ cut me off from the Bristol Channel. It’s been a stern case since about five bells in the morning watch. No one knows they’re here, Commodore, an’ those two-deckers are packed with troops, I could hear ‘em. They mean to stir up trouble in the old sod, I’m sure of it.”

    “Not if we can help it.” I called down understanding completely what he was feeling. “Take station on me, Mr. Harrington.”

    “Aye aye, sir.” He called back, then saluted smartly and snapped out the orders that had his small command slip into position astern of Sapphire.

    “Mr. Cutler signal the squadron to form into divisions. Sandfly is to take station on Jaguar and Enchanted on Vanessa.”

    The flags raced up the halyards and were quickly acknowledged. As I watched the squadron formed into three short columns about a cable apart. Then a hail came from the masthead.

    “Deck there! The fourth rates are falling back.”

    Snatching up a glass I trained it on the enemy. It was true. The three two-deckers had reduced sail and had altered course so as to maintain their current range of about three miles. The frigates on the other hand, had formed into a line abreast with about half a cable between each. Carefully I counted the gun muzzles that protruded like black teeth from her ports. Two forties and a thirty-four. The later were a standard Spanish class of frigate, the former however were brand new. The first of them still under construction in February, or so Sir Malcolm had told me during my intelligence briefings at the time. The Dons must be placing considerable importance on this mission to assign two such vessels to it.

    “Mr. Cutler, signal Sandfly and Vesper: Harass Enemy Rear Squadron.” I ordered without lowering the glass. I had intended to keep both close by but with the two-deckers so obviously unarmed it made more sense to release them to snipe at the troop ships than to face the broadsides of the fully armed frigates. Acknowledgements soared up the yards of the smaller vessels as they set more canvas and broke away from the rest of the squadron. Altering course to the sou’east they swung wide to avoid the oncoming frigates but were still positioned so as to easily close with the transports.

    With a surprising display of precision for the Dons the enemy frigates altered course to northward presenting their larboard broadsides to us. The range was still long but as was their habit the Spanish preferred to begin firing from long range. The frigates vanished in an obscuring cloud of gun smoke and the sea about us creamed as the broadsides blasted out. There were a few thuds as some shots struck home but the Don’s opening broadside had been largely ineffective.

    “Reduce to fighting sail, Mr. Kent, and cast off the boats.” I ordered. “Mr. Cutler signal the squadron to do likewise.”

    I watched as our topmen swarmed aloft and the great press of canvas was reduced to naught but reefed tops’ls, spanker and jib. Swift enough for a frigate’s needs but slow enough to provide for excellent manoeuvring and a stable gun platform. With the smooth efficiency that I have come to expect of them the rest of the squadron followed suit and had just completed the evolution when a second enemy broadside, this one much more ragged, crashed out sending a ball through our fore tops’l and another smashing into the bow.

    “Mr. Cutler, signal Jaguar: Engage Enemy Van.” The flags soared up the yards.

    “She’s acknowledged, sir.” Cutler reported a moment later.

    “Very good. Now signal Vanessa and Enchanted: Engage Enemy Rear.” After a moment they also acknowledged their orders. A third broadside crashed out from the Spanish line and I felt the balls thud into the ship, four this time. Their aim was improving. The range was down to a bit over three cables by now, it was time.

    “And that leaves the flagship for Sapphire. Mr. Dunne, alter course nor’ west by north.” I ordered before raising my voice enough to carry to the lads on the gundeck below. “Run out your guns, Mr. Kent. These damned Dagoes have had their way for long enough. Let’s show the bastards what English frigates can do!”

    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Friday 10 September 1779

    Jennifer and I stood at the waist and watched as Resolute Star drew away from my beloved John’s squadron and made for safety. A safety that we both knew those most dear to us would not share. The day had started so well, we were so close to England and our wedding day that everything had seemed assured. But in what seemed to be the blink of an eye all that had changed.

    I thought back to that last time I had, had to watch the man I love more than life itself take his ship into harm’s way at the battle off Cape Sable Island. That had cost my brother Robert his right hand and his naval career; I feared greatly the results of this one. Would this battle call upon one of those I hold dear to make the ultimate sacrifice for King and Country? Perhaps Stephen whose life had been spared when Robert had taken the ball meant for him, or Will the dearest of my brothers closer to me in mind and spirit than the rest, or our dear Doctor Fred although that was unlikely as he would be below decks in his sickbay and thus out of the line of fire. Most of all I feared for my beloved John for he would be exposed on deck directing his squadron and rallying his men when need be. Unprotected from the indiscriminate killer that is the broadside.

    With an almost physical effort I tamped down my rising fears. John would survive as he always had and so would all our dear ones as well. The Spanish were notoriously poorly led and trained, quite unlike the Royal Navy, which demanded excellence. The Dons wasted their efforts dreaming of past glories from the last century while their vaunted Armada and the men who commanded it grew rotten with corruption from within. They tried to make up for their deficiencies by mounting more and heavier cannons than their enemies. I could almost hear John’s voice in my mind, “It’s not how many shots you fire, Tara. It’s how many balls you put into your target that matters.” He had said that when he had been teaching me to shoot back in June. It applied just as well here.

    Looking over I could see our passenger, Mr. Soames, pad and pencil in hand sketching madly a short distance away. He had arrived in Halifax shortly before we sailed with the new family portrait that he had been commissioned to paint and an unusual request of Papa: in place of a cash payment passage back to England. “You see, Mr. Mason, with the war going on there are precious few commissions to be had in New York,” he had said. “And in any case I find myself rather homesick for England these days. I’ve lived in America for many years but England will always be home for me.” Papa had readily accepted and throughout the voyage it had become commonplace to see Soames with his pad and pencils sketching the men at their tasks and the ships of John’s squadron. Once back on dry land and in the new studio that John insisted on providing for him those sketches would be used to create the most marvellous series of paintings, paintings that I am sure will be in high demand.

    Seeing me looking over he remarked: “This will be a first Miss Mason. No artist has ever before managed to create accurate paintings of one of your future husband’s victories you know.”

    “And what will you call your masterpiece, Mr. Soames?” Jennifer asked.

    “Why ‘The Battle of St. George Channel’, of course, Ma’am,” he replied.

    We were interrupted by a hail from the masthead lookout. “Deck there, Brave Star’s alterin’ course to larboard!” We turned back to the rail as my brother Dick completed his manoeuvre and settled his ship on a new course that would take him back to the scene of the action. Without my having noticed his approach Papa was at my side watching as Brave Star sailed slowly northward.

    “He’s seen us to safety,” Papa said. “None of the enemy are heading our way, so now he’s off to support John and the squadron.”

    The rumble of a broadside sounded and I saw the wall of smoke that obscured the sight of John’s ships. In spite of my best efforts my fears of a few moments ago returned and all I could do was watch and pray.
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  10. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    Friday 10 September 1779 (continued)

    Private Hutchins screamed in agony as a great spear of a splinter, thrown up by the last Spanish broadside, plunged into his left eye and he fell kicking to the deck. His pitiful screams were cut short as MacGregor’s huge fist rendered him mercifully unconscious before Fred’s lob-lolly boys arrived on the quarterdeck to carry him below.

    “Another man here.” Captain Tremaine snapped out as the hole left in the line of marines was immediately filled by another private. “Keep up your fire, Lads!”

    I turned away from the drama being played out a few feet away as the larger picture drew my attention. Separated by less than a cable’s distance Sapphire was trading broadsides with the Spanish flagship. The approach had not been without cost and we had lost both sprit yards during our advance as well as taking several balls through our sails and rigging but we were fundamentally sound and our casualties had been light thus far.

    Now that we were broadside to broadside our long weeks of drill were giving Sapphire a decided edge over her heavier opponent. Gun by gun the maindeck 18-pounders hurled themselves inboard on their tackles as a fresh broadside roared out. The heavy iron crashing into the Spaniard’s side was joined a moment later by a further thunderstorm as the carronades blasted out, the massive balls sending a lethal hail of splinters to follow through the jagged holes torn into the enemy bulwarks.

    “Stop yer vents!” cried Talbot, “sponge out... load!” With the smooth precision that only hour after hour of drill can produce our gun crews swiftly reloaded the broadside, each gun captain holding aloft a balled fist to signify his gun ready. It was amazing when you thought of how many of these same men had been raw landsmen but seven months ago who had never even seen a cannon close up let alone worked one. Now I would stake their skill, speed and professionalism against any crew on earth.

    “Steady, lads... steady...” I called down, cupping my hands before my mouth in a makeshift speaking trumpet. “Fire!”

    As one every gun fired, the recoil causing Sapphire to stagger as though she had driven onto an unseen reef, the enemy blotted out by a billowing cloud of gun smoke. To Talbot’s sharply called commands the crews rushed forward with sponge, rammer and handspike to ready the smoking guns for the next broadside. The tiny powder monkeys, ship’s boys of no more than eleven years, delivering the flannel-wrapped powder charges that the rammer would tamp home before following them with the heavy eighteen-pound balls.

    The ship staggered again as the Spaniard delivered his sixth broadside of the battle and I saw a ball come in through one of the ports dismounting an eighteen pounder and crushing two men beneath its weight. But our guns were once again reloaded by now and once again discharged into the Spaniard, battering into her sides and wrecking a fearsome vengeance.

    “There goes her fore!” Someone cried out. Looking up through the obscuring gun smoke I saw the flagship’s fore topgallant slowly topple over and hang above the deck, still held in place by her rigging. Then the carronades fired once more, the heavy thirty-two pounder balls fired on the downroll this time blasting five huge star-shaped scars into the Spaniard’s hull at the level of her gundeck. The almost inhuman shriek of agony that followed telling the tale of the frightful toll that they had taken. In my mind I could picture the murderous devastation that those five balls and their accompanying cloud of razor-barbed splinters must have caused on the Don’s packed gundeck.

    Slowly the big fifth rate frigate’s bow came around as she made to open the range once more and escape from the murderous power of the carronades. A further broadside, a small one and extremely ragged, crashed out from the Spaniard. But close as she was it was nearly impossible to miss and I felt Sapphire’s hull shudder beneath my feet as more balls punched deep into her. So desperate was the Spanish Captain to escape that he had taken the chance that we would be unable to sail close enough to the wind to cross his stern without being taken aback. Or perhaps he was hoping that we would try and fail. Either way he did not know my crew or me.

    “Starboard your helm, Mr. Dunne,” I ordered. “Bring her as close to the wind as she’ll lie.” With a smooth transition Sapphire came around, her bowsprit narrowly avoiding spearing into the Don’s spanker as she settled on the larboard tack slowly sailing past the enemy stern. I could see the ship’s name in bright gold leaf across the frigate’s broad counter, Bilbao. On her quarterdeck I saw her officers desperately shouting commands to swing her stern around and away from Sapphire’s thus far unfired larboard broadside, but it was far too late for that.

    “Mr. Zachery!” I called down, “Broadside!”

    From the Papers of Patrick Franklin

    Friday 10 September 1779

    “Cut that wreckage away, Mr. Keane,” I cried. “And heave it over the side!”

    Moments before the fore t’gallant yard had come crashing to the deck, crushing three of our gallant lads as it fell. A lucky shot or unseen damage left from the battle of Buck’s Harbour it was impossible to say. The dead aside we had yet to be seriously damaged and even now our own guns were hitting back at the big Spanish frigate Alicante.

    With a loud bang one of the quarterdeck six-pounders hurled itself inboard on its tackles as the ball smacked into the Spanish bulwark and sent a quiver of arrow-sharp splinters scything across her deck. Lewis, the old gun captain, gave a short sharp laugh before calling out “That’ll learn ‘em, lads! Now let’s make ‘em dance a proper jig!” Then he turned and selected another ball from the shot-garlands as the gun was made ready to fire once more.

    So far the battle had been one of manoeuvre punctuated by brief moments of gunfire as the two of us had sought the advantage. This Spanish Captain knew his business well, as might be expected of the commander of one of Spain’s most modern frigates and it was all that I could do to keep him from delivering a killing strike to Jaguar. He reacted to our manoeuvres with almost unbelievable speed and it was only Jaguar’s greater agility that had kept him from fully exploiting his skills.

    I was suddenly brought up short as the realization hit me - He was reacting to our moves. Like a firestorm in my brain the plan burst upon me, it was fraught with risk but if I had read the Spanish Captain correctly it had every chance of succeeding. I looked up at our commissioning pennant gauging the wind’s strength and direction, then over at Alicante as my mind rapidly went through the calculations. Finding the numbers acceptable I called down to the gundeck where Lieutenant Duncan MacMillian, his uniform grimy with gun smoke, stood urging his gun crews on.

    “Mr. MacMillian, I’ll have your next broadside double-shotted and hold it until I give you the word if you please.”

    “Aye aye, sir,” he yelled back. Turning to where the Sailing Master stood by the wheel that two of his quartermasters were manning I ordered:

    “On the next enemy broadside I want you lads to fall away from the wheel, just let her go completely. And Mr. Nolan I want you to call out that her steering has carried away.” Nolan looked at me with a puzzled expression on his ruddy features. “Yes, I know that it won’t have, but I want our Spanish friends to think us in irons and drifting down towards them.”

    “What if he tries to board, Captain?” Jeffery Gordon asked, having immediately understood my plan and seeing the one possible flaw in it.

    “I don’t believe he will,” I replied. “He’s made no attempts to get close enough to even think about boarding. I suspect that he’s short-handed, it happens to the Royal Navy often enough. Why shouldn’t it happen to the Dons as well?”

    Looking down at the gundeck I watched as the crews swiftly loaded a second round shot into the twelve-pounders. I knew that there was a considerable trade-off involved here and I was giving up most of the long gun’s range to double the weight of metal that the broadside would throw. But this broadside would have to be a telling one and double-shot was the best choice for this job.

    A slow broadside crashed out from Alicante, nearly half of the powerful eighteen-pounder balls punching deep into Jaguar’s hull. I tried to keep my heart from thudding out of my chest as Nolan and his mates went into their performances. The wheel spun madly as the spokes were released and the ship lost headway as she was driven towards the Spaniard.

    “Mr. Gordon,” I snapped, “take charge below and rig jury steering at once!”

    “Aye aye, sir” Gordon replied then disappearing below in order to carry out the charade to the end.

    Just as I’d hoped the big Spanish fifth rate had altered course to starboard so as to rake our stern before we were under command again. I waited just until he was fully committed before shouting out my orders.

    “Larboard your helm, Mr. Nolan!” I cried and threw my own weight onto the spokes. The taut rigging vibrated and the hull groaned in protest as we fought to bring Jaguar back under control. Despite the strain to the rigging nothing carried away and the ship swiftly came around to bring MacMillian’s larboard battery into a perfect rake of Alicante’s bow at a range of little more than a cable.

    “As you bear, Mr. MacMillian!” I shouted once the enemy’s bow was solidly in our arc of fire.

    In a roll of thunder the broadside crashed out ponderously, gun-by-gun from stern to bow as the double-shotted balls smashed into the Spaniard’s bow. The ship’s gilded figurehead was obliterated as the broadside went on and on fragmenting the bow like so much boxwood. As a final blow the big twenty-four-pounder carronade on the larboard bow blasted its mighty charge directly into the Don’s fore. Like a puppet with its strings cut the mast tumbled down, crashing to the deck before rolling over the side to splash into the sea. Still attached by the wire-taut rigging the mast hung over the side, its great weight and bulk acting like a sea anchor holding the frigate fast. Until the mast was cut free Alicante was meat on the table for Jaguar’s guns.

    “Again, Mr. MacMillian,” I cried, “lively now!”

    With the gun captains firing as soon as their guns were reloaded this broadside was much more ragged but even more effective. The great gashes torn into her hull allowed many of the balls to travel the length of the frigate’s gundeck turning it into a slaughterhouse. Those balls that struck solid timbers only served to send up cloud after cloud lethal splinters. The swivels cracked out, sending their packed charges of canister into the party of Spanish sailors that was trying to cut the hindering foremast free. One moment they were there and the next there was naught to be seen of them but a great smear of red where they had been standing. Blood ran unimpeded from the scuppers in scarlet tendrils.

    Picking a speaking trumpet I climbed the nettings and called over to the shattered frigate asking her to surrender. Through the thick gun smoke I could see the Spanish Captain from my vantage point. I could well understand what he was feeling for I myself had been in his position not so very long ago. Shock, disbelief, dismay all these and more would be running through him. He looked about at the shattered remains of his once proud command, the bright patches of blood on the deck were men had died, his men. I saw him speak briefly to someone I could not see, presumably a lieutenant, then a moment later, as I’d prayed it would, Alicante’s flag fluttered down from the main-top. She had struck her colours.

    From the Personal Log of Bartholomew Jones

    Friday 10 September 1779

    With an ear-splitting roar Enchanted’s twelve-pounders hurled themselves inboard on their tackles as another broadside crashed out. As Will and I had decided, in a hasty hailed conference during our approach, to try to take the Spaniard intact our fire, after the first broadsides, had been directed high against her sails and rigging. As a result of that the sails of the Spanish frigate Zamora had been reduced to little more than tattered rags and many of her yards hung at awkward angles, the rigging that held and largely controlled them having been shot to pieces.

    “Stop your vents... Sponge out... Load!” cried Lieutenant Allen Ramsey from his position on the gundeck where he, aided only by Midshipmen Ellis and Coggins, controlled the twenty-two 12-pounders that made up the bulk of our armament, supplemented only by the six 6-pounders of the quarterdeck battery and the pair of 24-pounder carronades that we mounted on either bow. I watched as the gun crews swiftly readied their charges for a fresh broadside. Although we had only been together as a unit for less than two months we had already fought in two important battles and the experience that we had gained in them had proved invaluable. Already we had the confidence of veterans, confidence for which we had paid the price in blood.

    Looking off in the distance to where Sandfly and Vesper continued to snipe at the three troop-laden fourth rates, shooting away a spar here or sprinkling the deck with grape there, I was reminded of how high the stakes had become in this battle. Under no circumstances could the Spanish be allowed to land in Ireland, the uprising that they would ferment would be devastating to us. They had to be stopped here and only this squadron could do it. We hadn’t even known for certain that we were at war with them this morning, although all of us had known that war with Spain was coming. This plan against Ireland however had settled that once and for all, if the Dons hadn’t declared yet then once news of this reached London, and it would shortly after Resolute Star arrived in Bristol, His Majesty’s Government would.

    To the southeast I could see Brave Star’s approach as she made for the troop ships to add her broadsides to the efforts of the two smaller vessels. Doubtless Dick Mason had been anxious to see what his ship and crew could do and once he had seen Resolute Star safely away he had tacked on all sail back to the scene of the battle. The Indiaman herself was now hove-to to the south, far enough away that she would easily make Bristol and safety should one of the enemy move against her but close enough to see all that was occurring.

    By now Zamora had passed astern of us and Vanessa was coming up on her bow preparing to deliver her next broadside. So far the Spanish Captain had not surrendered although we had been circling him like sharks for some time and I had heard Nicholas Stewart, who spoke fluent Spanish, calling upon him to strike in Will’s name.

    “Wear ship if you please, Mr. Coughlin,” I commanded.

    “Aye aye, sir.” The first lieutenant replied before raising his speaking trumpet to his lips and shouting the orders to the hands that stood ready to carry them out. Watching the sails I gauged the moment then nodded to Nicholas Daltry, the sailing master, where he stood by the wheel. With a snapped command the quartermasters threw their weight onto the spokes and Enchanted responded easily.

    Confident in Thomas Coughlin’s ability to carry out the manoeuvre I turned my attention back to Zamora as Vanessa’s broadside crashed out. With a loud crack the Spaniard’s mainyard split in two, shot through the centre, and plunged down to the deck taking a half-dozen or so men with it. Her sails popped and her rigging shredded as the broadside fired on the uproll took its toll on the Spanish frigate. As Vanessa sailed past the Spaniard’s bow a heavy grapple went sailing over to snare itself in the sixth rate’s mizzen shrouds near the chains. The line grew taut and slowed Vanessa’s progress but could do little else. ‘Now what could they hope to accomplish by that?’ I wondered. They couldn’t hope to bring her to a halt, indeed already the Spaniard was being towed slowly behind as Vanessa’s movement began to bring the Don’s bow around. Then as I watched I realized that Spaniard’s starboard broadside was coming around to bear on our unprotected stern. The Spanish Captain was using Vanessa to tow him about so that he could rake us.

    “Starboard your helm, Mr. Daltry,” I cried, “hard as you can!” The men threw their weight onto the wheel and Enchanted’s stern began to slowly slide away from Zamora even as the Spanish guns began to belch out their long orange tongues of flame. The balls punched into our stern and suddenly I was flying through the air as searing pain radiated from my right arm. I landed hard, rolling on the deck before striking my head on something solid. An incredibly bright light seemed to explode in my head, then it faded and blackness enveloped me.
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  11. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Excerpt from the Diary of William Mason

    Friday 10 September 1779

    “Private Morton,” I snapped, “your musket if you please!”

    Taking the Brown Bess from the marine I walked to the taffrail, raised the musket, aimed carefully and fired. The ball parted Zamora’s makeshift towline and the Spaniard fell away behind us.

    “Starboard your helm, Mr Boyd,” I ordered as I handed Morton back his weapon. “Mr. Robertson, bring us directly across her bow and see that we stay there. Mr. Valdez, double-shot your guns if you please. Then stand by to fire on my order. And Stewart get that damned grapple out of our rigging.”

    I wondered how I could sound so calm when in truth I was livid at what had just happened. To be used by that contemptible bastard to help him put a broadside through Enchanted’s stern. I had seen Bart Jones fall even as he had been desperately trying to manoeuvre his ship’s stern away from that deadly hail. Whether he was alive or dead I had no idea but I was sure that many aboard Enchanted had been cut down by the unexpected broadside.

    The grapple splashed into the sea as Vanessa came around. Over on the Spaniard’s deck I could see one of her officers gesturing wildly at us. The Captain, resplendent in his gold-laced coat and hat, looked over to see the yawning black muzzles of Vanessa’s twelve-pounders as they poked through the gun-ports, ready to claim their vengeance.

    “No more tricks, Senor el Capitan,” I ground out in a voice that was low and deadly. “No more calls for surrender. You want a fight to the last man I’ll oblige you.” Then raising my voice so it would carry to the gun deck, “Mr. Valdez, you will maintain your fire on the enemy until I order otherwise. Is that understood, sir?”

    “Aye aye, Captain.”

    “Then you may commence firing, Mr. Valdez.” I said coldly.

    “Starboard Battery, fire as your guns bear!” Valdez shouted.

    Almost as one the broadside crashed out, completely obscuring the enemy in a choking cloud of gun smoke. Although I could see nothing I could hear the screams of the men and solid crunch of the hull as the double-shotted charges blasted into the Spaniard. Above the smoke the foremast slowly dipped low before crashing down to Zamora’s deck. Working swiftly the gun crews reloaded and fired twice more into that cloud of smoke below the point where the Spaniard’s masts emerged. Then there was a crack not unlike a nearby crack of thunder as the Spanish frigate’s mainmast tumbled backwards against the mizzen. The two hung there for a moment, like two drunkards propping each other up, before a splintering crash sent both plunging into the sea alongside with a loud splash.

    Finally the wind pushed the gun smoke aside to reveal the Spaniard. Her beakhead had been almost completely shot away, the shot holes in her bow large enough for a man to walk through. The bowsprit had been shot through and hung down into the sea like the broken branch of a maple sapling. The rest of her masts were also over the side and their weight had given the ship a pronounced list to larboard. Her bulwarks had been shattered and fragmented by Vanessa’s fearsome cannonade and her decks seemed to have been painted red with the blood of her dead and wounded. Blood which, even as I watched, was running into the sea about her.

    On the enemy quarterdeck the shattered wheel, tangle of severed cordage and stump of her mizzen stood in mute testimony to the savagery of our broadsides. Miraculously the Spanish Captain stood seemingly untouched by it all as he stared blankly about at the remains of his command. Through it all our guns had continued to fire, the balls punching into her list-exposed waterline. The impacts seemed to shake the Spaniard out of his lethargy and he cupped his hands and shouted over in heavily accent English.

    “Senor Capitan, we surrender. Do you hear me, Senor? We surrender.”

    I stood on the quarterdeck unmoving. I could feel the eyes of my crew on me but all I could see was Bart flying through the air to land in a broken heap on his own quarterdeck, the Spanish grapple in our rigging. All I could hear was our ceaseless calls on the Spanish Captain to surrender, calls which he had blithely ignored and the endless roll of his broadside as he raked Enchanted. Once more one of the quarterdeck nine-pounders belched out a long orange tongue of flame. The ball smashed into the fo’c’sle rail shattering it and cutting one of the Spanish seamen in half while sending quiver of arrow-barbed splinters across Zamora’s deck.

    “Madre del dios, we surrender!” the Spanish Captain cried out frantically. His eyes were pleading but mine bore in on him like two implacable gun barrels as the gun trucks rumbled beneath my feet and the black muzzles poked through the ports once more.

    “Stop!” he screamed. “In the name of God, please stop!”

    “Captain... ” It was Stewart standing beside me, I hadn’t even heard him approach. “They’ve surrendered,” he said quietly. I looked at him then back at the Spanish Captain. The spell had been broken and the monster was back in his cage were he belonged.

    “Mr. Valdez, cease firing,” I called. Valdez echoed the command to his crews and Vanessa’s guns fell silent.

    “Deck there!” Came a cry from Neville at the masthead.

    “Deck here,” Robertson answered, “What do you see, Neville?”

    “Off the larboard bow, Brave Star’s engagin’ one of the two-deckers!”

    Snatching up a glass I leapt to the mizzen shrouds and clung there as I trained the glass on the distant scene. What I didn’t know then but subsequently learned was that while we had been engaged with Zamora, Boothroyd’s Sandfly and the little brig Vesper had been dashing about snapping at the heels of the troopships. During a mistimed rake Sandfly had been hit hard by the eight-pounders of the Spanish troopship Montellano’s quarterdeck battery, one of the balls bringing down her foremast. Boothroyd had stepped in quickly to rally his men and get the wreckage cut away but as he had been doing it Montellano had reloaded, this time with grapeshot. Jamie and seventeen of his men had been cut down in a single murderous hail of iron. It had looked like Pritchard, Jamie’s senior, would have no choice but to haul down his colours when Dick and Brave Star had come swooping in. As I watched a broadside crashed out, blasting into the Spaniard’s unprotected stern. She fell away as Dick closed with Sandfly, grapples flew and Brave Star began to tow her out of the line of fire.

    “Sir! Sapphire’s grappled the enemy flagship!” Steve cried out, pointing astern as another gust of wind blew the last of the gun smoke aside. Although my first instinct was to tack to larboard and go to assist, I suppressed it. We were too far away and had both Enchanted and Zamora to see to. And in the latter case time was of the essence as she was already beginning to settle deeper into the water. In any case I had every confidence that the Commodore would have the situation well in hand.

    From the Personal Log of John Sinclair

    Friday 10 September 1779 (continued)

    Slowly we circled each other, swords held at guard, as we studied the other’s stance and balance. Around us the fighting had come to a standstill as our crews watched the drama that was finding its climax before them.

    The last broadside had crashed through Bilbao’s stern galleries in a shrieking whirlwind of iron, tearing through men and timbers alike. The galleries had been smashed to fragments, which had then gone on to add to the carnage on the Don’s gun deck. Steering had completely carried away as an eighteen-pounder ball had struck the top of the rudder, shattering the tiller-head and ripping apart the tackles as well. The Spanish frigate had been driven down-wind and with a smart command to Dunne as he stood by the big ship’s wheel Sapphire had come hard to larboard to follow her and run along side. From both quarterdeck and fo’c’sle grapples had sailed across and drawn the two frigates together in a splintering crash. Then nimble-footed topmen had run across the yards to lash us to one another.

    As they had been doing that the side-mounted swivels had fired, their whip-like cracks sending charges of packed musket balls scything across Bilbao’s deck, cutting down the Spaniards that had been running to their own guns intending to fire a last broadside into our boarding parties as they prepared to launch themselves onto the Spaniard’s decks. With four careful shots from the .50 calibre Griffins I had severed the halyards of the Spanish boarding nets, bringing them tumbling down. To my cry of “Boarders Away!” we were over the bulwarks and blade to blade.

    MacGregor’s huge claymore took a dreadful toll on the Spaniards, laying several open from crotch to throat while lopping arms and heads off others. Tremaine and his marines had swarmed aboard in a tide of scarlet and white, the light glinting off the steel of their bayonets. Through it all I had been in the forefront, Griffin in one hand and presentation smallsword in the other as we battled our way to the frigate’s quarterdeck. A Spanish petty officer had come at me in a rush; I could smell the stink of garlic on his breath as we’d grappled. As I’d been taught a lifetime ago I parried his cutlass away, then with a swift thrust my blade had pierced his chest. I had seen his face crumple in agony as the sword plunged into his body and he had fallen to the deck. Dead or wounded I didn’t know but I could spare no time for him as I was once again in the thick of the battle clubbing down a Spanish seaman with the heavy barrel of the Griffin, while Tremaine finished it with a slash from his sabre.

    The clash of steel had been punctuated by the occasional crack of gunfire so I was not surprised when I saw a Spanish soldier in the frigate’s rigging aiming to mark me down. In an instant the Griffin in my hand was centred on his chest, we had both fired simultaneously. My shot had struck home and a smear of red seemed to explode from his chest as he’d tumbled from the rigging and into the sea. I’d felt his ball fan past my face and smack into the man behind me, I glanced behind and was shocked to see that it was my sailing master Jamie Dunne, the ball had taken him through the head ploughing through his brain before exploding out the back of his skull in a geyser of red. Dunne had been more than thirty years in His Majesty’s Navy and was one of the finest navigators that I had ever served with. His loss would be keenly felt both to myself and the rest of the squadron.

    The press of action however had left me with no time to mourn and so we fought on. We had reached the quarterdeck by now and I found myself face to face with the Spanish admiral who stood near the wheel surrounded by a cordon of soldiers. He was a man of moderate height and weight somewhere in his late-thirties wearing an immaculately tailored uniform festooned with gold lace. His eyes and hair were both dark brown and he wore a neatly trimmed beard and moustache. It was a handsome face, or it would have been had the man’s features not possessed what I tend to call a permanent aristocrat’s sneer.

    “I am Commodore John Sinclair of his Britannic Majesty’s Navy,” I said to him in fluent Spanish. “Your ship and squadron have been beaten, Contralmirante. I call upon you to have your men lay down their arms and surrender. I give you my word as a gentleman that you will be treated honourably.”

    “I am Contralmirante Don Alfonso de Orduno of His Most Catholic Majesty’s Navy,” he responded. “I do not surrender to English pigs. If you want me, Comandante, you will have to take me at sword’s point, unless you chose to have me shot down like the coward that I am sure you are.” Then he drew an expensive presentation rapier of fine Toledo steel from its scabbard and held it pointing at me as his cordon of troops parted and stood by the taffrail aft.

    The challenge in his voice was unmistakable to all about us, even those who spoke not a word of Spanish. I removed the brace of pistols that hung across my chest and handed them to MacGregor before stepping forward.

    “Very well, Senor.”

    In a lightning fast move he had launched into an immediate flurry of attacks. I had expected it and had simply parried them easily aside. This had been a fairly standard opening designed to end a duel quickly if the opponent was a novice swordsman. Having seen that I was not, Orduno, had settled down to a slow, almost leisurely circling as we had probed each other’s defences.

    He was a good swordsman; of that there was no doubt, expert in the style of swordsmanship that the Spanish preferred. This graceful, almost ballet-like, style that was known as the ‘Mystic Circle’ emphasized footwork and movement within an imaginary circle drawn in the duellist’s mind. It was a difficult style to master but I had learnt it years ago and had since gone on to master several more styles beyond. It’s said that the best swordsman in the world does not fear the second best, but rather the worst; because he can’t predict what the fool will do. After studying him for several moments I could see that Orduno would provide me with a challenge but would not stretch my skills very far, I knew what he would do. When I saw him reach the same conclusion and switch to a more defensive stance I knew that it was time.

    Steel rang on steel as I went on the offensive. Without uttering a word we went back and forth for several minutes. Thrust and parry, cut and dodge. Then I sent my sword slithering through his guard, nicking his hand and catching the tip of my blade on the quillions of his hilt, with a flick of my wrist I sent the rapier flying out of his hand. It arced high overhead before falling, hilt first, toward the deck. My sword was at Orduno’s throat as I reached out with my left hand and with seeming negligent ease caught the rapier on its descent.

    Pressing forward my point dimpled his skin more deeply and slowly began to draw blood. Forced back further and further on his heels to relieve the pressure the Spaniard over extended himself and fell to the deck in an unceremonious heap. Looking up he saw that my blade was once more at his throat and that my eyes were boring in upon him. His perpetual sneer faded and was replaced by a gulp of fear as I stared mercilessly down at him. I held his gaze for almost a full minute before speaking.

    “Perhaps next time you’ll be more careful who you call a pig, Don Alfonso.” I said coldly then withdrew my sword and turned to where the Swede stood by the mizzen halyards, his blood stained boarding axe resting on his shoulder.

    “Lower the Spanish flag, Mr. Helstrom,” I ordered. But before he could comply, MacGregor cried out:

    “Look out, Cap’n!”

    Orduno, his eyes wild with anger, had snatched up a fallen cutlass and charged toward me, intent on running the heavy blade through my back. In a flash I spun on my heel and with the smallsword in my right hand parried the deadly blade aside, then continued the motion and thrust with the razor-edged rapier in my left. Driven by the force of his lunge the Toledo steel blade plunged into the Spanish admiral’s chest almost to the hilt, piercing his heart and emerging between his shoulder blades. He gave out an almost silent gasp as the breath escaped his punctured left lung. His eyes had gone momentarily wide as he barely had time to comprehend what had occurred before they glazed over in death. I released my grip on the rapier and he collapsed to the deck, the blade still piercing his corpse. Bilbao’s flag fluttered down from the mainmast and the remaining Spaniards threw down their arms.

    “Take charge here, Mr. Talbot,” I ordered, “keep thirty hands as a prize crew. See what repairs she needs and report that information to me in an hour. I want to be underway again before nightfall. If Bilbao is not fit to sail by then she’ll have to be scuttled and I need to know which it is to be as soon as possible.” Talbot saluted smartly and with a cheerful “aye aye, sir” set about his task.

    James Kent was waiting for me when I returned to Sapphire. Already the work parties were setting our damages to rights.

    “Well, Mr. Kent?”

    “Signals from all ships, sir. Captain Franklin has taken Alicante, he thinks that she should be able to make Bristol unless the weather gets up. Vanessa and Enchanted took Zamora but she was totally dismasted and badly holed at the waterline. Captain Mason says she’s done for but he’s confident he can evacuate her before she goes down. The three troopships struck just a few moments ago.”

    “Casualties?” I asked, dreading the answer as always.

    “You know about, Mr. Dunne, sir?” I nodded. “We had 17 killed and 24 wounded. Jaguar came through the lightest of the frigates 8 dead and 16 wounded. Vanessa had 15 dead and 22 wounded including Mr. Midshipman Kennedy and a master’s mate both dead. Enchanted got the worst of it I’m afraid 36 dead and 42 wounded. Captain Jones was one of the wounded but his senior, Mr. Coughlin, reports that he’s expected to fully recover. Vesper only lost 2 killed and 3 wounded but Sandfly lost her fore and then was raked with grapeshot, Commander Boothroyd and 18 other men were killed and 17 more wounded. Oh and Brave Star had 3 wounded.”

    Brave Star!” I said more than a little alarmed, but Kent hastened to re-assure me.

    “Not to worry, sir, Resolute Star is fine. Once he’d seen her to safety, Captain Mason swung Brave Star back up this way and engaged the troopships. He swept in when Sandfly’d been hit, put a broadside through the stern of the ship that hit her, brought down the enemy mizzen in fact, and then towed Sandfly out of danger.”

    “Remind me to thank, Captain Mason, then.” I said, the relief evident in my voice. “But I still want this squadron in Bristol by Sunday and we have ships to repair and prizes to man before we can manage it, Mr. Kent. So let’s be about it shall we?”
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
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  12. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    From the Diaries of Richard Mason the elder

    Sunday 12 September 1779

    “Let go!” I called. The anchor splashed into the waters of the Bristol Channel within easy rowing distance of the shore. To our south lay the wide mouth of the River Avon which wound its way through the city itself, while to the east lay the port district of Avonmouth. Normally we would have gone upriver to Bristol itself but the winds were not favourable so John had anchored the squadron here and we had followed suit.

    Behind us the salutes had already begun to crash out from the ships of the Flying Squadron as they paid their respects to the flag of Rear-Admiral Miles Billington, the port admiral, flying from the elderly two-decker HMS Madras of 50 guns. In time the last of the echoes died away and a barge put off from the flagship heading for Sapphire. No doubt the Admiral had more than a few questions for John as I could see that a man in the uniform of a post captain was sitting patiently in the boat’s sternsheets.

    Yancy, the first mate when a Mason was aboard and acting captain when one wasn’t, was already seeing to it that the boats were hoisted out in preparation for offloading our personal effects as well as the cargo of Canadian furs that we were carrying for the English markets. Over by the starboard bulwark and gazing out at the shore stood my dear ones, their baggage already packed and stacked by the entry port so as to go ashore in the first boats.

    “It’s good to be home again,” I heard Jennifer say contentedly. A sentiment that was echoed by Lucy. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Halifax, Tara,” she hastened to add, “But after all the - excitement - of New York and the sea battles it’s just a comfort to be back on familiar ground.”

    “That’s alright, Jen, I understand,” Tara replied. “Although Halifax was very good to us and we shall always be grateful for that, this is my home now as well.”

    As they sorted themselves out and made ready to disembark I turned my attention to the five captured Spanish vessels that had anchored under the guns of the squadron. There were over two thousand soldiers in addition to their crews aboard the three two-deckers with a full general, no less, in command. John had taken no chances with them and had made them well aware that he would not hesitate to sink any of them at the first sign of an attempt to overwhelm the prize crews. As proof of it he had kept at least one ship of the squadron cleared for action with guns loaded and run out at all times. Driving home the point that such an attempt would be tantamount to committing suicide. The Spaniards had shown no inclination to test his resolve but he had maintained his vigilance none the less.

    After the last shots had been fired two days ago we had rendezvoused quickly and it was with much relief that we had learned that our dear ones had emerged unharmed although Bart Jones had been wounded in the arm by a fragment of Spanish iron and also had been rendered unconscious when his head had struck Enchanted’s wheel. Humphreys, the frigate’s surgeon, had treated him promptly and efficiently extracting the metal and cloth fragments, cleansing the wound and suturing it closed before Jones had regained consciousness. Although he would be incapacitated for several weeks he was expected to make a full recovery.

    Anchored closer inshore was the little brig Vesper, which John had sent along ahead with his report. Presumably she had dropped anchor several hours earlier and John’s report was even now on its way to the Admiralty by a fast express rider. A copy had also been drafted for Rear-Admiral Billington; which would account for the swiftness with which an officer, most likely the Admiral’s Flag Captain, had gone out to Sapphire and troops had gathered at the wharves to take charge of the prisoners.

    “Captain?” I turned away from the ships to where Yancy stood by the side with an open signal book. “The Port Admiral has signalled all the captains of the squadron to report to him ashore at once. Thought you’d want to know, sir.”

    “Thank you, Mr. Yancy. Get our belongings ashore, land the cargo and then see to our repairs. After that’s taken care of you may give the crew leave ashore but see that they stay in groups and make sure that they all have their exemptions, the last thing we need is to loose our prime hands to some press gang. Then go and see Captain Gilmore in Bristol and see if he has cargo ready for you.”

    “Understood, sir,” he replied. Then I stepped over to where my family stood by the entry port.

    “Well, my dears, let’s be off shall we?” One by one the bosun’s chair lowered the ladies into the longboat where James waited to make them comfortable. Once they were seated Soames and I climbed down into the boat, the bowman pushed us off and at a command from James, who was acting as cox’n, we went skimming rapidly over to the low boat wharf. We had only just come ashore when an elderly - for his rank at least - lieutenant stepped over to us.

    “Captain Richard Mason?” he asked, once I had confirmed that it was I that he sought he continued. “Havergill, sir, Rear-Admiral Billington’s flag lieutenant. The Admiral asks if you might spare him a few moments of your time, you and your party, as it’s a matter of some urgency I’ve been sent to collect you.”

    “There’s nothing wrong I trust?”

    “Oh no, sir, not a thing. Actually it should be quite pleasant, but as time is of the essence I’ve taken the liberty of bringing along a pair of carriages,” he responded, pointing out the two large coaches emblazoned with the Royal Navy seal that stood nearby.

    As we boarded the carriages Mr. Soames made to part company with us but I would not hear of it. “No, Soames, you’ve been with us through so much, sir. You must see this latest mystery through to the end. Besides you are bound for White Oaks anyway to create the wedding portrait.” Graciously the wizened little man acquiesced and we were off.

    As the coach lurched over the cobbled streets Tara asked, “What do you think is going on, Papa?”

    “I’m not sure, Taree. I have my suspicions, but perhaps it would be best to wait and see.” I could plainly see that my daughter was not happy with my answer but she accepted it none the less and we lapsed into silence; soon the trip ended and we were escorted into the port admiral’s office and into the presence of royalty.

    For standing in the middle of the chamber was the King’s younger brother: His Royal Highness Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester. To his left stood an elderly man in a rear-admiral’s dress uniform that could only be Miles Billington, while on his right a man that I took to be a courtier stood holding a small hinged wooden box, richly finished and beautifully adorned with scrollwork. In front of His Highness stood John Sinclair, also in dress uniform, his cocked hat tucked under one arm. A few paces away were Will, Pat Franklin, Lieutenant Pritchard; Sandfly’s acting-captain since Commander Boothroyd’s death, and Bart Jones, his right arm in a sling and obviously in pain but determined to be here none the less.

    “...Excellent work, Commodore, just outstanding.” His Highness was saying as he shook John’s hand firmly. “I shudder to think what the result would have been had the Spanish actually succeeded in landing their army in Ireland.”

    “I merely did my duty, Your Highness,” John replied modestly. “Any other officer would have done the same. And I was very fortunate to command four of the finest young captains in His Majesty’s Navy, one of whom lost his life and another of who was grievously wounded giving us this victory. They deserve any honours...”

    “And they shall receive them as well, Commodore,” His Highness said cutting John off. “But they shan’t be alone.” John looked concerned, almost like a little boy with his hand caught in the candy tray, before the Prince rolled mercilessly on. “Thrice before my noble brother has tried to honour you for your actions and in all three instances you have managed to wiggle out of it by deflecting the credit to others. Which is exactly what you tried to do a moment ago isn’t it?”

    John took a deep breath before answering, “Your Highness, with all possible respect, I do not feel that I am worthy of...”

    “I do!” His Highness snapped, “and so does His Majesty. And you are not permitted to argue with us. Is that clear, sir?” Then softening his tone and beckoning to where we stood he called, “Miss Mason attend me please,” before pointing to a spot to John’s left in front of the courtier.

    Tara gave a gulp but moved over to where he had directed and gave a deep curtsey to which His Highness replied with a nod and a smile. Beside me I noticed that Soames had taken out his pad and was sketching away like a man possessed. Another portrait was coming out of this I knew; but now His Highness was speaking again.

    “You know this fiancée of yours is really a stubborn fellow, my dear, refusing to accept the honours we would bestow upon him.” He said with a twinkle in his eye that quickly put Tara at her ease. “I shall be able to count upon you to make him see reason, shan’t I?”

    “Of course, Your Highness.” She answered with a smile, “I’ll do all I can.”

    “There’s a good girl.” He said, and then turned back to John. “Kneel, sir.” John Sinclair sank to one knee, His Highness drew the jewelled sword of state that he wore and laid the blade upon John’s shoulder. He spoke the time-honoured words that changed John Sinclair forever dubbing him into the exalted ranks of the English aristocracy. He was now Sir John Sinclair, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Nodding to the courtier the box containing the glittering Star and crimson Ribbon was opened.

    “If you would, my dear.” His Highness said. Tara took the Ribbon first and draped it across her beloved’s chest, then pinned the Star to his breast before stepping back, her eyes shining with unshed tears of joy and pride.

    “Rise, Sir John.” His Highness commanded and waited for John to face him before continuing in a quieter tone. “I know that you feel unworthy, Sir John, that you are being honoured but it is your dead who have paid the price. Your face tells me that I have guessed correctly. You are a King’s Officer in the middle of a war; some, perhaps even many, of the men you lead will die, it is the way of things and you cannot change it no matter what you do. You lead and thus yours is the task of spending those lives and it is a difficult task indeed, but imagine how many more lives would have been lost had you failed. Wear your honours proudly, sir, both for yourself and for all those who gave their lives in exchange for victory.”

    John nodded solemnly, “Thank you, Your Highness, I shall do my best to honour their sacrifice.” Then he stepped back and saluted first His Highness then the Rear-Admiral.

    “Good, very good. Now I suggest that you kiss this lovely young lady and be quick about it, sir.” The Prince said with a smile, John took Tara in his arms and I was reminded once again of my dear Vanessa and the deep love that we shared. Love that I see mirrored in their eyes. Slowly they broke apart as we smiled on.

    Rear-Admiral Billington spoke up for the first time, “Your Highness, Sir John, Ladies and Gentlemen if you would please come this way we have a small reception arranged,” and led us from the room.
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  13. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Third Week

    From the Remembrances of Tara Mason

    Friday 17 September 1779

    It has been four days since we arrived in Thornbury. We quickly settled into the old Tudor Manor house that had been last used by my brother Dick and his Lucy while she recovered from the treacherous attack that nearly killed her. John has given this impressive house, which though nearly three hundred years old is still in fine condition, over to the Mason family for so long as they have need of it. I will be staying there until the wedding just one week away while Papa has decided to remain in residence until December or John is recalled to sea whichever comes first “In order to give the Newlyweds some privacy” before moving into the suite of rooms that have been earmarked for his exclusive use in the north-west corner of the ground floor at the Main House.

    We had not been here for even an hour before we had our first visitors in the form of Pat Franklin’s Dona Cristina and his Aunt Juliette. I was quite taken with both; Tina, as Pat calls her, is a lovely young woman a bit older than I am and now very obviously in the last month of her pregnancy; while Juliette is a very handsome woman in her early forties. The visit was a short one but while they were here something that I can only describe as magical occurred. Our dear Doctor Fred came over to see how we were settling in and met Julie Franklin. Within a few moments the rest of us had been forgotten for all practical purposes as they discovered similar interests and outlooks. Pat has since told me how much Fred reminded him of Julie and seeing the two of them together I can well understand it. It may seem a very bold prediction on so short an acquaintance but I truly believe that Doctor Fred’s wandering ways are about to come to an end and the emptiness in Julie’s heart since the death of Martyn Graves will finally be filled.

    Since then I have spent hours touring the village and meeting people as it seems as though everyone in the entire county either works for John or knows him and that doesn’t take into account all the people from outside the county. I have begun to become more familiar with the household staff and find that I like them very much, the Sommersbys in particular are fine people and very obviously devoted to John. Of course Jack and Ida Sommersby have served the family since before John’s brother, Robert, died more than twenty-five years ago; but they also have children who are part of the White Oaks family and one, their eldest son, Nicholas, who is commanding one of John’s privateers. It was Mrs. Sommersby that took me on a tour of the Main House which had been built in 1712 by John’s grandfather, Sir Thomas, as the new family home after he had taken a Spanish treasure ship loaded with pearls off the coast of Florida. That one capture had revitalized the family fortune that had been at an extremely low ebb after twenty years of Lewis Sinclair’s spendthrift ways at the turn of the century. But that was then and this is now, and now has become very different indeed.

    This lovely old estate of White Oaks is now in what can only be described as an orderly uproar, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. I use the phrase because, while it looks like chaos and pandemonium to the casual observer, everyone has an assigned task and all of them are carrying out those tasks quickly and efficiently. After all, we arrived in England five days ago with twelve days to prepare for a wedding for several hundred guests, and even with John’s almost unlimited resources and my father’s not inconsiderable wealth, that is a tall order on such short notice. I have learned, however, that with enough money one can hire anything done. The invitation cards, for example. Somewhere in London there is a tiny workroom where several clerks had very carefully written out our invitations and prepared them for posting, and all we had to do is supply the list of names and addresses which we had already prepared on the voyage, the wording having been sent on ahead in the same dispatch vessel that had carried John’s report to the Admiralty and preliminary instructions for the staff here at White Oaks. Mother and I always written out our invitation cards when she was alive, but then we never wanted to invite several hundred people to an event, either. Whoever those busy clerks are, I am thankful for their labours.

    Really, I haven’t had to do very much at all – or rather, I haven’t been allowed to do very much at all. Mrs. Sommersby is a tower of strength, John knows all the right tradesmen in Bristol and London, and I have three sisters-in-law plus Mary Stewart who seem determined that all the bride is going to do from now until the wedding is think peaceful thoughts and dream of happiness. When I do try to do something, one of them shoos me out of the room and tells me to take a walk, or go for a horseback ride, or go read a book. Today, it was a bit blustery and damp, so I chose the ‘book’ option, and since the best selection of books is at White Oaks itself, I walked the short distance over there and was soon installed in the library with a cup of tea at my elbow, thanks to Mrs. Sommersby.

    John’s library is a very unusual room, cylindrical in shape and extending all the way through the floor above it to a glass cupola on top, with an open gallery on the next floor up. A spiral staircase goes up to the gallery and down to the sports room where my brother Stephen spent many hours practicing his fencing techniques last spring, and where John has promised to also instruct me. Against these cylindrical walls rest over twenty thousand books in rich leather bindings, some hand-copied illuminated manuscripts so old that I dare not touch them for fear of damaging them.

    There are books in Latin, books in Greek, books in French and German, books in English on every possible subject from architecture to zoology, books of plays and poetry, satires and sermons, all neatly shelved by subject and all here for anyone with the run of the library – and certainly, as the promised bride of the owner, I have the run of the library – to enjoy. There are comfortable chairs, one of them so large that it quite swallows me up every time I sink into its butter-soft oxblood leather depths. It has a matching footstool for comfort and it is tucked away in a curve of the room nearest the fireplace, perfect for reading on dreary afternoons.

    Today I found myself becoming bored with the volume of Pope’s poems that I was reading and decided to see what I could find tucked away on the bottom shelves. I sat down on the floor in a rustle of skirts and petticoats. Indecorous, perhaps, but perfect for finding that elusive volume that no one had taken down for years, perhaps decades. The Sinclairs have been in this area for centuries, though this house is relatively recent, and the book collection is very old, John tells me, having grown to its present size over time.

    One by one I took out the volumes – I seemed to have come to the ‘miscellaneous’ section. There was a volume in what looked like German but proved to be Dutch, printed at Leiden in 1650; another was in Spanish that seemed to have something to do with the Armada, printed in Madrid in 1590, and other odd works. At the very end of the row, its gilt title faded almost to illegibility, was a fairly thick book, quarto sized. Curious, I picked it up and opened to the title page. It proclaimed itself, in old-fashioned type, to be ‘Happiness in Marriage, Being a Guide for Young Men of Good Breeding.’ It was published in London in 1626 and was written by ‘The Very Reverend James Beaumont, D.D., Chaplain to His Grace the Duke of York and Doctor Simon Keyes, M.D., Medical Advisor to His Late Majesty King James, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. etc.’ A doctor and an archdeacon of the Church of England writing a book on happiness in marriage for ‘young men of good breeding?’ Prosy stuff, no doubt, full of pompous advice on how to manage a household and reminding the readers of their duties to ‘increase and multiply’.

    Well, it dealt with ‘increasing and multiplying’ all right, but only indirectly. As I turned the pages and started to read I realized that the reason why it had been hidden down on this bottom shelf all these years was because it was a very frank, earthy, explicit treatise on sexual relationships between men and woman, complete with procedural instructions and engraved illustrations. Clearly the sort of book Cromwell and his Puritans would have banned and ordered burned, this copy had been sitting quietly in a private library for over a century and a half, undisturbed except by six or seven generations of curious family members and guests who happened upon it – and given its location that would have been seldom. I wondered who had hidden it away in plain sight, but the mystery of its location would probably never be solved.

    Far from being prosy, pompous or boring, the two authors reminded their readers of the Scriptural injunction to ‘rejoice in the wife of thy youth’ and of the promise each had made at marriage to worship his wife with his body - and then they proceeded to tell the uninitiated exactly how to go about doing just that.

    “Oh my... Oh my,” I murmured, as I turned page after page, unable to put the book down.

    “Tara?” It was John’s voice, and I looked up, alarmed, and hastily tried to thrust the book between the cushions of the big chair.

    “There you are. Mrs. Sommersby said you’d come over here not long ago and she’d served you tea in the library.”

    He came over to the chair and bent down to give me a warm, thorough kiss, bracing his arms on the sides of the chair as he bent over my upturned face.

    “A warm, wonderful welcome, mistress of my heart. Perhaps I could entice you out for a bit of a walk? The mist has stopped and the sun is trying to come out. We’ll need to stay on the paths because the grass is so wet, but will you come?”

    “Of course. I just need to change back into the half-boots I wore to walk over here from the Manor House,” I said, pointing to the soft kid slippers I had put on for indoor wear.
    “Very well.” He went over to the door, called to a passing footman, and gave him orders to bring me my outdoor shoes and us our cloaks. While we were waiting, he came back over to where I was sitting and looked down at the side of the chair. “What’s this, then?”

    Before I could answer, or even think, he had the book out of its hiding place and was paging through it.

    “Tara, where did you find this?” he asked. He didn’t look angry that I was reading such ‘improper’ material, just curious.

    “Over there, between a book in Dutch and one in Spanish,” I said, pointing.

    “So that’s where it got to! I always wondered, but I never had time to go looking for it, not with so many shelves to search. It wasn’t worth the time.”

    “John, you’re not – angry?”

    “About what, mistress of my heart?” He asked, genuinely puzzled.

    “That I was reading it. Obviously you know what’s in it, how –“

    “Graphic? Explicit? Sensuous?” he suggested, smiling down at me.

    “All of those,” I said, and this time I could not contain a blush. I looked at the floor, at least until a gentle hand came up to lift my chin and my eyes to his. They were laughing and tender, but behind them burned a very hot fire.
    “Why would I be angry? The title is ‘Happiness in Marriage’, you are going to be married in exactly one week, no more, my love, and I certainly want our marriage to be happy. What could be more appropriate? The good doctor and the reverend gentleman give good advice, you’ll find.”

    “Yes, I did wonder. An archdeacon, writing a book like this?”

    “The first quarter of the last century was a much more unrestrained age. Think of all the sexual references in Shakespeare, after all. It was only later, during Cromwell’s time, that this sort of book would have been banned and the theatres closed. This may be one of the few copies of this work to survive the ravages of the Civil War, as a matter of fact.”

    “But it tells how... what... ” I blundered to a halt.

    “Yes, it does,” he replied with a grin. “Generations of Sinclair sons – and daughters too, I suspect, though they likely did it in secret – have found this volume most informative, I certainly did. It’s probably where it is because Mother caught my younger brother Robert with it one day and decided to hide it in plain sight until he was older, at which time it would reappear in its rightful place. He was only eight years old when he died, eight years younger than I was, so I would have already been at sea when all this happened. Hardly suitable reading for an eight-year-old boy, but Robert always was a curious one, so I’m guessing he was exploring the shelves one rainy day, found it, and was caught red-handed. It belongs over there, with the rest of the books on child-rearing, household management, cookery and so on. If I know that mischievous rascal who was my brother, he would have searched all over the house for it after Mother hid it, but never have thought of looking for it down here, not next to a biography of William the Silent in Dutch no less! Once he was dead, Mother probably forgot she had moved it, and here it’s sat for twenty-five years. She only survived him by two years, you know.”

    “Yes, you told me – and your father was gone only four years after that, heartbroken over the deaths of his wife and one of his children.”

    “This house has seen a lot of weeping and sadness, Tara my love. First my grandparents, then Robert, Mother, Uncle Henry and Father, then Angelique’s death and most recently my Aunt Ashley not quite a year ago. It’s time for some laughter, some joy, and a houseful of children, if we are so blessed.”

    “Well, if I go by what’s in this book I don’t see how we can fail,” I said daringly.

    “Do you want to take it and finish it?”

    “May I?”

    “Tara, I’m not your father. I’m your lover, your husband and your best friend. You don’t have to ask permission like a little child. Everything here belongs to you, or will in a few days. Take it. Enjoy it. But after our walk, I think.”

    The footman arrived with my half boots and the cloaks. “Take this book, wrap it in oiled paper so it doesn’t get wet, and deliver it to the Manor House for Miss Tara,” he directed.

    With a murmured, “At once, Sir John,” the footman bowed himself out of the room.

    “Don’t worry, love, he won’t read it. He can read, but only just barely, and he knows better than to pry into our private business. It may as well be a brick for all the attention he’ll pay it,” he reassured me.

    “Now, for that walk. You can get back to your book later, after I’ve had some time alone with you,” he murmured, slipping one great arm around my woollen-covered shoulders.

    “And while you’re reading, just remember, practice is much more fulfilling than theory.”

    I blushed again, and he put back his handsome head and roared with joyous laughter as he led me out of the room.
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  14. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Fourth Week

    From the Remembrances of Mrs. Lucy Mason

    Wednesday 22 September 1779

    It is now but two days until John and Tara’s wedding and all is very nearly in readiness. The half-shell platform on which they will take their vows has been completed and painted a pristine white, the seats for the five hundred plus guests are laid out in a series of concentric rings around it; really the only way to accommodate them all in the space available and still let them actually view the proceedings. The invitations went out by express messengers eight days ago and almost all of the replies that we’ve received have been in the affirmative. Already the guests are beginning to arrive and fill the inns and hostels of Thornbury and the neighbouring towns. Even these will not be quite enough however and so the owners of the surrounding estates have stepped forward and agreed to play host to the overflow.

    Yesterday Captain David Mason arrived, having ridden down from Scotland where his new regiment, the prestigious Scots Greys, are recruiting. Though no stranger to fine surroundings he was visibly awed by the grandeur of this magnificent estate. John immediately put him at his ease however, talking to him about the new regiment, horsemanship and the rigours of military life then taking him out for a tour of the grounds on horseback. I have had the opportunity to speak with him and could tell immediately that although not a seaman like Dick, Will and the rest of his brothers he is a Mason through and through. Today however a far more daunting presence entered our lives and I fear that things shall never be quite the same again.

    We had been invited over to the Main House for tea and coffee and soon all the family, save Robert who has been resting as much as possible, were in attendance and had gathered in little knots of conversation in the library. John and Richard were deep into a discussion near one of the windows whilst Tara was pointing out several volumes to Jennifer and Will; Stephen, James and David were talking near the spiral staircase that led down to the Sports Room. Dick and I were taking the opportunity to discuss my pregnancy with Doctor Bassingford when suddenly the door leading to the Dining Room burst open to a cry of “Johnny!” In the doorway stood the most incredible woman I’ve ever seen.

    She was tall, nearly as tall as Mary Stewart in fact, slim and graceful, if I had to guess her age I would put her at a well-preserved fifty although I subsequently learnt that I was off by well over ten years. Her hair was a deep chestnut, though shot through with considerable silver, done up in a fashion that was at once both simple and extremely becoming and her eyes were the bright green of springtime in Ireland. Her dark green silk gown was stunning; beautifully cut, daring in appearance and yet no less decent than anything I might wear; even though it might appear to be far more risqué than it actually was. Those qualities of daring seemed to come more from the woman’s manner than anything else. Well, that and the fact that the firm-bosomed slim-waisted figure the gown was worn over was clearly the very idea of perfection for most men, even Dick, long accustomed to beautiful women, was clearly stunned by her. Nor did the woman’s face disappoint any who tore their eyes from her figure. She had fine high cheekbones, full red lips, and bright white teeth; besides the silver in her hair the only signs of age were a fine network of crows feet at the corners of her eyes and a sag of the skin at her jaw line.

    John Sinclair was across the room in a flash, his big arms drawing her into an embrace as he let out a shout of joy. Obviously the two were old and dear friends for she returned it with equal vigour. After a moment there was a cough behind them and they parted to reveal Sommersby, John’s butler, standing in the doorway.

    “I would have announced you, Your Ladyship,” he said in what was clearly a friendly chiding, “if you’d given me the chance to do so.” The woman took it in stride and replied,

    “No need to stand on ceremony, Jack. I used to live here remember? But do be a dear and have my things taken upstairs, put me in the Green Room that way I shall be able to hear all sorts of interesting things in two nights time,” she finished outrageously. I was shocked, the Green Room was right next to the Master Suite that John and Tara would be occupying.

    “Oh no you won’t,” John replied. “Put her in the White Room, Jack.”

    “At once, Sir John.” Sommersby answered and took himself off to carry out his instructions. The woman looked over at John with a pouting smile and said,


    “Yes, in this instance I’m going to be a prude. Do you have a problem with that?”

    “Just a bit,” she replied saucily and then sighed, “but I suppose it’s a battle that I can’t win.”

    “No, you can’t.” She just smiled back at him,

    “But I’ll win the next one.”

    “You’ll try,” John answered with a sly grin.

    Quietly I asked Doctor Fred who seemed to know what was going on even though the rest of us were alternately mystified or mesmerized, “Who is she?”

    “John’s Aunt Gwendolyne.”

    “Her face is very familiar. I know I’ve seen her somewhere.”

    “She is more well known by her married name: Lady Dandridge.”

    My eyes flew open wide in shock. Lady Dandridge? John Sinclair’s aunt was the infamous Lady Dandridge. Anyone who spent more than a few months in London had heard of Lord and Lady Dandridge. They were irrepressible bon vivant hedonists who ignored society’s conventions and lived life on their own terms and no apologies about it. Lord Dandridge had died, of syphilis so it was rumoured although that was unlikely considering his widow’s obvious good health, some four years ago. Lady Dandridge had gone into mourning for a year before emerging from seclusion more outrageously flamboyant than ever. She’d had a permanent box at the London theatre where I had most often performed as Lucinda Graydon. I could recall being introduced to her years ago by Earl St. John. She’d even given me a piece of advice that long ago evening: “Don’t hide from your image, my dear, flaunt it! These stuffed shirts could use a bit of pricking.” But then I was pulled from my memories as John began speaking again.

    “What are you doing here anyway? Your letter said that you wouldn’t be able to make it. Something about a cotillion that you simply had to attend.”

    “Did I say that?” She responded lightly, “I lied. You know how I enjoy surprising people.” Then she became serious and I could see how very much she truly cares for her nephew. “Besides how could I possibly miss this? I’m so very happy for you, Johnny.” Then she lightly kissed him on the cheek.

    “Thank you, Aunt Gwen.”

    By this time Tara had left Will and Jen and come over to where John and Gwendolyne were standing.


    John turned and made the introductions. The two women sized each other up carefully but Tara was wearing an odd expression on her face, as though she was trying to remember something. Was she trying to recall what she might have heard of Lady Dandridge’s reputation I wondered? But then Gwendolyne smiled and nodding at Tara’s gown said,

    “The pale peach, I told you it would look wonderful on you.” Tara’s eyes went wide.

    “It is you!” She exclaimed. Now it was John’s turn to look shocked.

    “You two know each other?”

    “We met at the modiste’s in London last winter.” Gwendolyne explained before turning back to Tara. “I was so sorry to hear about your mother, dear.” Tara nodded.

    “Thank you, Your Ladyship.”

    “Ladyship? I’m Aunt Gwen,” the older woman admonished her, “or I will be in two more days and that’s close enough as far as I’m concerned.” Then she swept Tara up in an affectionate embrace that the younger woman quickly returned. “Welcome home, Tara.”

    From the Journals of Doctor Alfred Bassingford

    Thursday 23 September 1779

    No one can ever claim that life around my best friend John Sinclair is boring. Just since I rejoined his ship in February we have had enough excitement to last most ordinary men a lifetime – but then John Sinclair is hardly an ‘ordinary’ sort of man.

    Let me explain what I mean, using today as a case in point. Early last May John walked into a small flat above an office in New York and fell overwhelmingly, wonderfully in love with a beautiful young woman some twenty-four years his junior – Miss Tara Mason. In June he asked her to marry him, and they began to plan a wedding here at John’s estate near Thornbury, at the mouth of the Sevren.

    John and Tara chose to have the ceremony here at the estate simply because the little church in Thornbury would not accommodate everyone who had been invited – and the list was extensive. All the men of HMS Sapphire, the captains and officers of the ships in John’s squadron and their families, the entire (very large) extended Mason family, John’s relatives – including his Aunt Gwendolyne - the infamous Lady Dandridge whose romantic escapades make my own pale by comparison, a number of friends – and John has dozens of them, right up to Lord St. John himself - were all invited and most of them have responded in the affirmative. I would estimate that there will easily be five hundred people gathered by the lake when Mr. Richard Mason brings his lovely daughter down the veranda staircase, with the little Willis children – Jennifer Mason’s niece and nephew – trailing behind her as bridesmaid and page boy tomorrow. Today was the final rehearsal to be followed by a pre-nuptial dinner. I was standing next to Pat Franklin’s Aunt Juliette as John, attended by his best man, Tara’s brother William, watched his bride come down the stairs.

    “That man is head over heels,” Julie whispered, as she dabbed an uncharacteristic tear away with a fine lace handkerchief. What an extraordinary woman she is, although we have only met less than two weeks ago we are already so perfectly in synchronization with one another that there is little doubt in my mind that before very long we shall be following John and Tara to the alter.

    “Yes, he is. I never thought I would ever see him this happy, not after Angelique was killed all those years ago,” I whispered back.

    “He is a good man, I like him,” Dona Cristina Avila de Ontiveros said from her seat beside us, smiling up at her beloved ‘Patrico’. Pat Franklin’s Spanish condessa had been permitted to attend only after she had thrown a temper tantrum of epic proportions, as only hot-blooded Latins can do, insisting that she must be present to see ‘El Almirante’ as she insists on calling him, despite the fact that he has not hoisted his flag yet, married to his ‘Dona Tarita’. Pat is usually able to stand firm on most things, but he was no match for a very determined Cristina, so we worked out a compromise. She would come over to White Oaks a day or two early, rest in one of the guest rooms, be carried down the stairs to attend the ceremony and other events, and retire at the slightest sign of fatigue or trouble. Her primary physician, the eminent consultant Doctor Alexander Fleming, would be in attendance, and I would be here to back him up. So far, there had been no sign of any problems.

    Tara and Richard reached the raised dais where John and Will, joined by Canon James Lindsey, an uncle of Jennifer’s, were waiting. The choir from Thornbury sang an anthem, and then it was time for the happy couple to go over their vows.

    We had just reached the point where John would slip a exquisitely crafted wedding band, bought from Valdez and Sons and hand delivered by Will’s second lieutenant, Nathaniel Valdez, whose father had made it to John’s specifications – onto Tara’s ring finger to match the heirloom diamond and sapphire ring his ancestor Sir Thomas Sinclair had bespoken from an earlier Valdez at the beginning of the century when there was a low gasp from Lady Cristina. Concerned, Julie and I turned to see Cristina clasped tightly in Pat’s anxious arms even as a pool of straw-coloured water spread at her feet.

    The Reverend Doctor Lindsey was just beginning the prayer of blessing when ordered pandemonium broke loose. Pat scooped Tina up in his arms and headed for the stairs at the double, calling for Fleming to attend her. Julie was right behind him, and I was right behind Julie, since Fleming and I had already agreed that the case would probably require both of us, even with Julie standing by as a very competent nurse.

    In short order we had Cristina upstairs and out of the loose gown she had been wearing – on her tiny form it looked more like a tent than anything else, but with that inbred sense of style and sophistication that seems to be born in Continental woman, no matter their age – or state of pregnancy – she wore it with as much panache as if it had been the latest London fashion. We knew there was a chance the children would come quickly – after all, this was not Cristina’s first pregnancy, although it is her first since she left her ageing and abusive Spanish husband to seek refuge in England with Pat Franklin. Fleming had taken her history down very carefully when Pat first called him in on the case and had shared his notes with me out of professional courtesy, so I knew that the two earlier children, both boys, had come very quickly as well, and with very little difficulty. For all the fact that she looks like she is made of Dresden china, Cristina Avila de Ontiveros has the constitution of one of the donkeys so prevalent in her native land – otherwise she would never have survived the ordeal she endured earlier in the year, nor would her children.

    Questioning by Fleming – in Spanish, Cristina’s English having deserted her – yielded the information that the Condessa had been in labour for several hours, but had concealed the fact from everyone because ‘she did not want to spoil the evening.’

    Pat was outraged at the risks she had taken, and he cut loose with a mixture of Spanish and English curses that had the rest of us dumbstruck with awe at his ‘talent’.

    As Cristina progressed in labour, Pat became more and more anxious, until finally Fleming had to take action. With impeccable timing, his attention seemingly only on his patient, he remarked casually, “There’s some that willna allow the man in the room when the time comes.”

    “Are you going to throw me out?” Pat demanded. “You and whose Navy?”

    “I said naught aboot throwin’ ye oot, lad. I merely mentioned that there’s some that willna allow such goings-on.” Fleming said with a secret wink at me and Julie. His comment had had the desired effect - Pat settled down nicely, switched into Spanish - well, something besides Spanish curses, that is - and began calming his lady as well. Four hours after she so dramatically brought John and Tara’s wedding rehearsal to an abrupt close, Cristina gave a huge push and out came a healthy, squalling little boy, rapidly followed about five minutes later by a tiny little girl.
    “There, ye’ve done it, lassie. See yon bairns - healthy and happy, and wantin’ to find the dinner table, I’ll be bound.”

    We shooed Pat out of the room while we delivered the afterbirth and did all that was needful for Lady Cristina; he went off to tell the assembled guests, who had come for a wedding rehearsal but had been treated to much, much more, that his children, John Patrick Franklin and Barbara Cristina Franklin - soon to be legitimatized and legally adopted according to the laws of the Kingdom of Great Britain, since their parents are still not yet able to marry - had arrived.
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  15. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    Friday 24 September 1779

    The day had dawned like any other, the sky slowly brightening as the sun drew closer and closer to the horizon before finally peeking over to bathe White Oaks and the surrounding countryside in golden hues. I had risen before dawn, the habits of a lifetime at sea being not easily broken, and had dressed simply in trousers and a loose-fitting shirt to go out and take my exercise.

    Barefoot I raced a half dozen times around the Main House, a distance of about a mile, before settling down to a more leisurely trot for a dozen more circuits. Fred had told me years ago that running was excellent for the heart, lungs and so on and thus I had become accustomed to exercising whilst ashore. Finished with that I went down to the Sports Room and spent the next half hour in muscular exercise with the bars and weights that I had ordered made for that purpose. Using weights ranging from twenty-five to two hundred pounds I exercised various groups of muscles in rapid section - arms, legs, shoulders, stomach and back - for nearly forty minutes before finishing my regimen with a series of deep breathing exercises intended to slow my pounding heart back down to normal and stretches to keep my muscles from knotting up.

    Returning to the master suite I found that Sommersby had already drawn my bath and set out the articles of my toilet. Once the night’s growth of beard and the clinging sweat of my exertion had been attended to I returned to the bedchamber for a fresh suit of clothes. Not a uniform now but merely a well made suit of dark green broadcloth. Before leaving I glanced at the big four poster that dominated the room. I had slept alone in that bed for the last time. When I returned to it this night it would be with Tara at my side and more than sixteen years of solitude would come to an end. The final painting of Angelique had been taken down and moved to a new place of honour in the master study directly below this suite, “Home is the Sailor” now hung in its place. I supposed that I should say something profound but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything. And so with a last look I bid farewell to solitude and strode to the staircase.

    There was no one in the dining room when I arrived but Sommersby had already set out my usual breakfast of coffee, eggs, ham and toast spread with Jersey butter; all still piping hot even though there was no sign of him. I sat down at the head of the table to eat and read the morning post. The first letter was from Herman Braun and informed me that the captured Spanish warships had all been bought into the navy. The fourth-rates would be only partially re-armed and continue to be used as troop transports, this had reduced their value slightly to eighteen thousand two hundred pounds each whilst the frigates Bilbao and Alicante would be retained as warships and after being subjected to a thorough examination by the Navy Board would be sent out to feed the fleet’s ever increasing appetite for frigates. All told the sum of three thousand seven hundred and thirty-three pounds had been forwarded to my account as well as that of each of the squadron’s captains. In addition a sum of thirteen thousand pounds had been forwarded to Dick as master of Brave Star for his part in the battle and which he, as the senior owner, would distribute to his crew and partners.

    The second letter was from Rear-Admiral Sir George Pennington, Kt, an old friend writing to send his best wishes and apologies for being unable to attend the wedding. Sir George had just been posted as port admiral at Gibraltar replacing old Horatio Peacock, a good man twenty-five years ago but whom time had passed by. With the war with Spain now fully three months old and showing every sign of growing bitterly contested Earl St. John had decided that a firmer hand was needed at this key anchorage and had dispatched George Pennington to take over whilst the superannuated Rear-Admiral Peacock returned home to honourable retirement. Certainly Peacock had earned the rest and Sir George was a far better choice for the command in any case. And thus two days previously he had taken passage aboard a fast sixth rate for The Rock, which would be his home for the next several years. I was saddened that he would not be here as we were old friends having served together as midshipmen aboard the old Tyche, but I was consoled by the knowledge that England would have an officer of his calibre commanding such an important station.

    The remaining letters were routine correspondence from the managers of several of my business ventures reporting the state of their affairs. I had been receiving similar letters ever since the squadron had dropped anchor. About the estate all was in readiness, the guests were all ensconced in their lodgings. My Uncle Joseph had arrived the night before at the last moment, irascible as ever he’d remarked: ‘Why couldn’t you have a wedding on the weekend? I’m missing the start of the school year you know.’ I had simply laughed, the professor would never change. St. John had arrived shortly after Aunt Gwen and had been installed in the suite of rooms that Richard would be occupying in a few months time as they were large enough to house several lieutenants who would be running messages betwixt White Oaks and London for the duration of his stay. Actually I was a bit surprised that he was not down here, as I knew from my days as one of his midshipmen that St. John was an early riser as well.

    I had just turned my attention to the latest copy of the Naval Gazette when the door opened and Sir David walked in. “Good morning, John,” he said as he took a seat at the table. He had hardly settled himself in when Jack Sommersby appeared, seemingly from nowhere, placed a cup tea and plate of toast before him, then promptly vanished again.

    “Good morning, David.” I replied as he sipped his tea. A year older than I was Sir David and I had met when we had both been attending Cambridge over a quarter century ago. He the inventive, if highly unorthodox, son of a baronet and I a young naval officer between postings.

    “No second thoughts, I trust?” he asked as he peered over the rim of his cup at me.

    “None,” I answered with a smile. “No, the only thing that concerns me is what I’m going to do until the ceremony this afternoon.”

    “Oh you needn’t worry about that, John. We have plans to keep you occupied. So finish your newspaper whilst I enjoy some toast and Mrs. Sommersby’s excellent tea and then we’ll be off.” I lowered the Gazette and looked at him through narrowed eyes.

    “What have you got in mind, David? And who exactly is ‘we’?” He bit off a piece of toast, chewed thoroughly, swallowed then followed it with another sip of tea before answering nonchalantly.

    “You’ll find out when we get there.”

    I scowled at him briefly but decided not to press the issue. Whatever it was that he was hinting at was likely to keep me busy at least.

    **** ******** ****

    The doors that led to the veranda from White Oaks’ state room opened even as the organist began to play, and on her father’s arm, Tara stepped out into the early autumn sunshine. Her gown, designed by Lucy and a joint effort of all her friends was exquisite. Constructed of the finest China silk and Belgian lace it practically took my breath away. It was the first time I had seen it as they had been careful to keep it from me and I made a mental note to thank them for their efforts after the ceremony.

    Wearing my best dress uniform, complete with its ribbon and star of a Knight of the Bath, and with Will at my side I watched them descend the veranda steps and trailed by the little Willis children slowly make their way to the platform where we, along with a beaming Canon James Lindsey, were waiting. I briefly swept my gaze over the onlookers. In the front centre were the Masons, Aunt Gwen, and Uncle Joseph with Nicolas and Mary Stewart behind. To their left sat Fred along with Julie Franklin, Pat and Dona Christina, she confined to a bath chair after yesterday’s surprise delivery, and MacGregor and his Jenny. On the right were St John, Sir David and his Lady Margret, Bart Jones and Captain Mainwaring, he now a respected magistrate in Cornwall.

    I had been very pleased that the captain had accepted the invitation to come as it showed me that he was well recovered from the emotional as well as physical wounds that he had suffered over the years. He had been part of the riding party that awaited Sir David and I this morning on our long but very pleasant ride along the Sevren. He, Fred, Will, Dick, MacGregor and St. John had been waiting for us on the hilltop that overlooked the estuary. It had been good to see Phillip, as he insisted that I call him, again and I had been brought up to date on the goings on within his family. His wife Rachel had passed away in 1775 of a fever but he had four children. His daughters were married, one to a dragoon lieutenant and the other to the son of a local landowner. The boys had entered the King’s Navy, the elder was the senior of a frigate in the Channel Fleet while the younger, against all odds, had been promoted commander and given a sloop-of-war in the West Indies after shipping out as fifth lieutenant aboard Gregory Archer’s 74-gun HMS Spartan more than four years ago. There was trouble in there somewhere if I was reading the signs correctly.

    I was called back to the moment as Tara and Richard mounted the platform. ‘My God but she is so very beautiful.’ I thought as my lovely Tara took her place at my side. I longed to reach out and take her into my arms then and there, and despite fine lace of her veil I could see the same desire mirrored in her violet eyes. But now was not yet the time so we slowly turned to face Canon Lindsey as he beamed at us then clearing his throat began the ceremony.

    “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
    "First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
    "Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
    "Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can show any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” He paused and looked out at our assembled friends and family but was greeted by only silence. Taking this as his answer the Canon turned to Tara and I and solemnly said.

    “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.” Again only silence greeted him.

    “John Sinclair,” he said turning to me. “Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”

    “I will.” I answered feeling more like a giddy schoolboy than a professional naval officer. He then turned to Tara.

    “Tara Mason, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

    For a moment there was silence and then in a voice choked with emotion Tara responded “I will.”

    “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?”

    “I do.” Richard answered, as he placed Tara’s hand in mine before turning to take his seat next to Jennifer in the front row. Facing my beloved it was now my turn to speak.

    “I, John, take thee, Tara, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

    Then reversing our touch at the Canon’s direction and she taking my hand in her’s Tara looked up at me. “I, Tara, take thee, John, to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.”

    Canon Lindsey looked over to where Will stood beside me and took from him the ring that Lieutenant Valdez had rushed down from his father’s Jewellers in London but two days ago. Made of white gold flanked by slim bands of yellow gold and inlaid with a spiral of platinum it was truly an exquisite piece. Laying it upon his Bible Lindsey murmured a blessing over it before nodding to me. I picked it up and taking Tara’s hand slid it gently onto her finger, stopping only when it was along side the heirloom diamond and sapphire engagement ring that she already wore.

    “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” Then parting our hands we knelt as the Canon once more began to speak.

    “Let us pray. O Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this Ring given and received is a token and pledge, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Stopping he reached down and joined our hands once more before continuing. “Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”

    Hand in hand we stood as the Reverend Lindsey announced: “Forasmuch as John and Tara have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be Man and Wife together, Sir John and Lady Sinclair, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

    Then waiting just a moment he said, “Sir John, you may kiss your bride.”

    In a heartbeat my Beloved was in my arms and even as I lowered my face to meet her lips she was grasping the back of my head to pull my mouth down onto hers. After all that we had endured; Montaigne, Courtenay, the Mackenzies and more besides; we were finally together forever.
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  16. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England

    Friday 24 September 1779

    Tara, Lady Sinclair – who had borne that name for all of three hours – looked up from where she was chatting with a knot of her wedding guests as she felt her new husband’s eyes on her. There were literally hundreds of people in attendance, but Tara was so attuned to her John that it seemed they could communicate almost telepathically. She met his eyes over the heads of the small knot of women who had gathered round her to admire her gown, white satin embroidered with forget-me-nots in a blue so deep as to almost match the violet of her lovely eyes, and one eyebrow quirked up in inquiry.

    Sir John Sinclair, Knight of the Bath, Commodore in His Britannic Majesty’s Navy and captain of HMS Sapphire, frigate of 36 guns, lifted a hand almost imperceptibly and beckoned her to his side. Smiling, she excused herself to her guests with a smile and a sweet, “Excuse me please, ladies, but I believe John wants to speak to me. Thank you all for coming today and enjoy the rest of the festivities.”

    Her guests sent her on her way with fond smiles and a few comments about not standing in the way of true love, and she moved gracefully across the drawing room floor to her husband’s side. When she reached him, he bent to kiss first her hand, now with its specially designed wedding ring from Valdez and Sons as well as the heirloom sapphire and diamond ring he had given her in June, and then her upturned mouth.

    “This party could go on for hours, my love, and I fear I am becoming impatient. Do you suppose we could slip away upstairs?”

    The heat in his dark green eyes left no doubt of his meaning, and she answered it with heat of her own. John had been so careful to respect the proprieties for all the time they had been courting, though he had seen her in her nightrail and had helped care for her after that horrible ordeal on Pollepel Island last spring. They had never gone beyond kissing and a few restrained caresses, but unless Tara missed her guess that was about to change. She looked around at the guests, and he noticed her hesitation.

    “We’ll slip out quietly, my love, just down the hall to the master study. I doubt if anyone will see us go, and if they do they will certainly not think us rude to do so. We are newly wed, after all. If we were going on a bride trip it would be different, but as we are staying here, we can simply leave the party in your father’s capable hands and no one will be the wiser. Well, hardly anyone,” he amended, thinking of the knowing glances that would pass among his guests once they realized the happy couple had vanished, seemingly into thin air.

    They affected their escape, reaching the master study without meeting anyone but the servants, who knew better than to question their employers’ movements. Once they were inside the room, John led Tara to the master stairs, a private staircase that terminated in the Master Bedroom – their bedroom. Tara had seen the room when she first came to White Oaks a few weeks before, of course, as she had seen all the rooms in the house, but being taken on a tour of one’s future home by even as fine a woman as Mrs. Sommersby, and stepping into what was to be her bedroom - and John’s - as a new bride were two entirely different things.

    The huge four-poster, with its rich brocaded hangings, dominated the room, though there were chairs, a huge bureau over which hung ‘Home is the Sailor’, a lovely little escritoire, a vanity table and stool, and a chaise lounge as well. A door led into a very up to date bathroom, complete with that wonderful invention the WC and a tub so large it seemed one could float a whole flotilla of toy boats in the water. John closed the door behind them, made sure the door to the main corridor was closed and locked as well, and then turned to where his lady was sitting on the chaise, taking off her high-heeled shoes.

    “I broke these in, I know I did,” she said, as she massaged her toes. “Why do they pinch my feet, then?” she complained to the room at large. She was still wearing the wide satin hat with its wisp of veiling perched on top of her blonde curls, and John could see the top of the hat as she bent over to examine her abused feet in their gossamer silk stockings.

    He reached for the diamond and pearl hatpin that was holding the shallow crown in her hair and removed the hat, sailing it deftly across the room to land atop one of the chairs. Then he went to work on the pins that held her hair piled high atop her head, pulling them out one by one and slipping them into one of the large front pockets of his best dress uniform coat. As the golden curls cascaded down over her ivory shoulders and down her back, Tara looked up at him and smiled.

    “First the shoes, then the hair – and will you do the corset next?” She inquired, her breathing starting to come more quickly as the flame in his eyes grew hotter.

    “I will do any service you wish me to perform, madam wife,” he said gallantly, raising her to her stocking feet and pulling her into his arms. The gown was cut just low enough to show off her shoulders and the top third of her magnificent breasts, but not low enough to show more than was proper - by Tara’s definition of proper. Oh, she knew that there were women who appeared at parties and balls with little more than their nipples covered, but such was not her way. Her body was for John alone, and she saw no reason to display much more than a hint of it to the lustful gaze of any man who happened to be in the same room.

    She pivoted lightly in his arms, presenting the gown with its dozens of tiny hooks to his hands. His hands brushed her skin and she shivered, though the September evening was unseasonably warm.

    “Are you cold, mistress of my heart?” he murmured, as he bent to drop a searing kiss on a shoulder that had been bared by the work of his hands.

    “Cold? No. Not cold.” She stopped, but he seemed to understand. His own hands trembled just a tiny bit as he worked, and her mind noted the motion. John, nervous? But why?

    She reached up a hand and pulled his handsome head down to hers for a kiss, opening her lips to his questing tongue even as her nipples tightened in response to his caress. Long, passionate moments later, he broke the kiss, his breathing rapid.

    “The hooks, my love,” she whispered. “It’s a lovely gown, but for right now I want to get out of it.”

    He dispensed with the rest of the fiddly things with amazing speed and helped her step out of the gown and its matching satin underskirt, leaving her in her under petticoats, stays, shift and underdrawers. Soon the petticoats were gone too, then the stays.

    “My love, there seems to be a problem. I am fully clothed, while you stand here in glorious dishabille. Don’t you think you should correct this... imbalance?”

    Off came the coat, the cravat, the waistcoat, and the boots. Her nipples were now hard buds as she ran her hands across his chest and began to unbutton his shirt, revealing the arrow of dark hair that ran down his chest and disappeared into his breeches – breeches that were now obviously much too tight. His hands slipped her shift down over her shoulders, revealing the full beauty of her magnificent breasts for the first time. Even on that awful day when he had been present after he shot a would-be rapist off her at Pollepel, he had studiously avoided looking at her body when Fred treated her many injuries and reset her dislocated right shoulder. There had been hints of how lush those breasts were under her shift, but the reality was beyond his wildest imaginings, and he bent to take each rosy tip in his mouth in turn, caressing them with his lips and tongue, even as she writhed in his arms and forced his mouth down even harder. Finally he broke away returning to her face to shower it with kisses.

    “Sixteen years, mistress of my heart,” he whispered into her ear. “I’ve been celibate for sixteen years, since Angelique was taken from me. I never wanted another woman, you see. She was always there in spirit, in the forefront of my mind and heart, and to take anyone else would have been an act of infidelity for me. But now I have found you, and oh, my darling wife, it feels so good, so... right.”

    Casting aside his shirt he reached down and lifted her into his arms, her mouth clinging to his as he carried her across to the four-poster bed that was now theirs. Discarding the last of their clothing their embraces became more feverish as the passion that both had so long kept tightly in check burst upon them. They gave in to it freely now, knowing for the first time the wonders of each other’s bodies. Through their passion, both realized that an elemental change had come over their relationship, a change that was much more than the simple physical act of union. From now on, this new intimacy would be something that they would always hunger for in a way that made what they had felt prior seem a pale and flimsy thing in comparison.

    Finally, their passions temporarily sated, they relaxed. Taking his weight on his elbows Sinclair continued to shower kisses over any portion of her sweat-soaked body he could reach. She ran delicate fingernails down his own sweat-dewed spine and he shuddered at her touch.

    “John? Are you?” She questioned.

    “Not just yet, my love. I am forty-four, after all. Give me some time. But I promise you that when you are ready again, I will be too. You obviously learned your lessons well, Tara Sinclair.” He said referring the tome on ‘Happiness in Marriage’ that she had taken from the library a week earlier. “Did you actually read the whole book?”

    “Three times. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” she said with an impish grin, as she cradled her blonde head on his broad shoulder and began to drift off to sleep.

    “Was it good, my love?” he asked, even as her breath became slow and steady.

    “Um. But next time will be better.”

    “I don’t know if I can keep up with you, my sweet. But if I can’t, I will certainly retire from the lists a very happy man,” he said, chuckling, but she was already asleep. Gently kissing her lips he wrapped her in a protective embrace and followed suit.

    **** ******** ****

    In the great drawing room on the floor below a small knot of closest friends and family had gathered when it had become apparent that the bride and groom had slipped away. Fred Bassingford and Juliette Franklin, Will and Jennifer, Dick and Lucy, James and Laura, Richard, David, Robert and Stephen Mason. Pat Franklin and Dona Cristina, although she was confined to a bath chair after interrupting the rehearsal with the unexpectedly sudden birth of her twins, no one felt ready to challenge her fiery Spanish temper in the face of her insistence on attending the wedding. Lady Dandridge stood between Earl St. John and her younger brother, Joseph Sinclair, Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. To the right of the Earl stood Sir David Rothburne and Bart Jones, his left arm still in a sling from the wound he had taken in the battle of St. George Channel, as well as the gigantic form of the Great Hebridean Mountain, Ian MacGregor.

    Bassingford raised his glass.

    “To John and Tara.”

    Series Epilogue

    Saturday, 30 October, 1852

    The musty smell of old paper filled his nostrils as the tall gentleman with eyes of dark green and iron grey hair that was beginning to overwhelm the original brown slowly opened the leather-bound book that lay on the reading table. The writing on those pages was now faded and the pages themselves had turned yellow with age. How often had he read those words he wondered? The answer eluded him as always.

    Outside the crisp autumn wind was blowing dry crackling leaves across the rolling countryside that surrounded the estate of White Oaks. Low scudding clouds had darkened the skies bringing evening even earlier than was usual. Old Dick Sommersby had already made sure that a warming fire was crackling in the library’s hearth before his master had come home from his afternoon ride along the Sevren estuary.

    His Grace the Most Noble Lord Sir Thomas Sinclair, GCB, 2nd Duke of Avon, former Vice Admiral of the Red in the service of Her Majesty Queen Victoria looked up from the book and gazed over at the portrait that hung over the hearth, it too was beginning to show its age. ‘Like me,’ he thought wryly. The Soames was almost exactly one year older than his own seventy-three years. His gaze lingered for a brief moment on each face that had been frozen in time that long ago day. They were all gone now as were many of their children. Masons, like Sinclairs, lived dangerous lives. Take his Uncle David, for instance, he had been added to the portrait several months later after he had ridden down from Scotland where the Greys had been recruiting. David Mason had risen to the rank of Brigadier before his death during the Peninsular campaign in 1808, leaving behind a wife and daughter.

    Another face claimed the Duke’s attention, the tall handsome auburn-haired woman who was then five months pregnant with his old friend and playmate Richard. Standing next to Mary Stewart had been her husband Nicholas, his Uncle Will’s cox’n. Stewart had been badly wounded in action with the Dutch in 1781 and been forced to leave the sea to take over the running of William Mason’s little estate of Birch Grove in Cirencester. From there the Duke’s gaze naturally moved to William and Jennifer Mason, his uncle had been a young Junior Post Captain then, just twenty-five years old and still in the early stages of a career that would span some sixty-two years leaving him as Admiral of the Red and winning him a knighthood and peerage both until his retirement in 1829 and death nearly twelve years later. Aunt Jennifer had gone nine years before him. Next to Will and Jennifer stood James and Laura Mason, James who had taken over the running of the MGR Mills at his brother’s request, and had built them even larger and more respected than ever before, had moved into the old Willis manor house in 1780, he and his wife had remained there all the days of their lives.

    Standing above Will and Jennifer were Stephen and Robert Mason, the later having also been added to the painting after the fact as was shown by the bright steel hook that replaced the hand he had lost at Cape Sable Island, a battle that had yet to occur at the time. ‘Strange business with Uncle Rob,’ Sinclair thought. ‘How could anyone have guessed how he would turn out?’ A perfect bastard as a King’s officer whilst under the influence of the hated Reginald Trent, he had turned his life completely around when the loss of his hand had seen him discharged from the Navy, then he had served for two years as first mate of his older brother Dick’s privateer before taking his own ship to sea in the last year of the American revolution. Once a general peace had been declared Rob had attended Oxford emerging years later as a D.D. and Professor of Theology, a post he had held until his death in 1836.

    Next to Rob was a very young Stephen Mason, it hadn’t been long after that that Stephen had remarked that his dream was to one day command a ship in the fleet of Admiral Sinclair, or so the story went. Well he had certainly achieved that dream, Sir Stephen Mason, Knight of the Bath, Senior Post Captain in His Majesty’s Navy had gone on to command six such vessels starting with the tiny schooner HMS Starling and ending with the 110-gun Queen Elizabeth, he had died during an engagement with the French forty years ago.

    In the middle of the first step of the grand staircase that had been the backdrop of the portrait stood the patriarch, his grandfather Richard Mason junior looking very pleased to have his family about him, only very recently widowed at the time he would re-marry three years later to one of the most notorious women of the 18th century, Gwendolyne Sinclair Lady Dandridge a woman who was six years his senior. They had died within days of one another in 1792 with Gwendolyne going first and Richard following, he had always said he would not live to see her buried and so he had not. To his left were his eldest son and namesake Richard Mason III and his beautiful wife Lucy, the one-time celebrated London actress Miss Lucinda Graydon. They had first met years earlier when Lucy had trained her future husband in intelligence work. Although Lucy had retired by this time Dick would continue his work as an agent until 1789 when he was finally able to capture the traitorous operative named Lloyd who had tried to have Lucy assassinated ten years earlier. Following a brief period of retirement from espionage he had been asked to take over His Majesty’s Secret Service after the death of Earl St. John in 1794, he’d accepted the position and had served through 1827 when he’d finally retired to live his remaining years in peace and comfort.

    To the right of his grandfather stood a tall handsome man sporting a pencil-thin moustache with dark brown hair marked with but a touch of silver at the temples and lovely young woman with violet eyes whose golden blonde hair fell in cascades down below her shoulders. His parents John and Tara Sinclair, just two months before their wedding in late September of 1779. What a life they had had together, full of love and honour, triumph and tragedy, romance and adventure. From the moment they’d first laid eyes upon one another in 1779 to their final farewell forty-six years later the fires of their love had burnt unbelievably bright. Already a hero to many both in and out of the navy John Sinclair had gone on to become second only to the public’s darling, Lord Nelson, as the greatest naval officer of his time. In his rise to become Admiral of the Fleet and later First Sea Lord he had battled both the enemy and incompetent superiors alike winning three peerages as Viscount, Earl and finally Duke as well as rising to the highest ranks of the Order of the Bath, the prestigious Grand Cross. Never faltering in spite of the best efforts of his enemies.

    Standing in front of Sinclair with his powerful arms wrapped protectively about her was Miss Tara Mason, as she was then known, the future Duchess of Avon. Soames had managed to perfectly capture the delighted happiness in her violet eyes from that long ago day when the family had been re-united and her beloved John had first hoisted his broad pendant as a commodore. She too had faced adversity and triumphed. The union of a girl of nineteen and a man of forty-four had to be unusually strong not to be rent asunder by the weight of rumour and the petty jealousies of small minds. Tara Sinclair had borne much of that weight herself, everything from the determined if futile seductions of that hussy in New York when her husband had been Ambassador to attempts at rape and murder by the hated Reginald Trent, ‘and while she had been pregnant with me at that,’ the Duke thought wryly. Most of his fellows had been shocked to learn that it had been his mother who had given him his initial instruction in fencing. Of course she had learnt from his father shortly after their wedding, quickly becoming proficient with rapier and sabre in addition to her preferred delicately honed stiletto, which she had used to defeat and emasculate Trent in 1780. ‘He’d certainly been hoist by his own petard,’ Sinclair thought with a chuckle.

    “What’s so funny, Father?” The Duke turned to see his eldest son Captain the Most Honourable Lord Sir John Sinclair, KCB, 2nd Marquis of Severn and Captain of Her Majesty’s Screw-frigate Hephaestus of 51 guns regarding him with some curiosity from the doorway to the dining room. With his ship in the dockyard’s hands for routine maintenance John had come home for a few days. These new-fangled steam-powered ships spent entirely too much time in the dockyard rather than at sea for his tastes although he supposed that that was only to be expected with any new invention of such complexity. Once all the troubles had been worked out things would return to normal, at least the ships were being built, that was something after all.

    “Just a memory, John,” the duke answered. John Sinclair glanced over at the open book on the table before returning his father’s smile and asking.

    “Which one this time?”

    “Your grandmother’s final encounter with Reginald Trent.”

    “Ah yes,” the Captain said joining in his father’s chuckle. “Poetic justice in that if you ask me.” He slowly walked over to the shelves and ran a hand over the leather-bound volumes, each the diary of one family member or another and all old and cherished friends to the children who’d grown up in this house.

    “I went down to the grave this morning,” he said without looking up. “I seem to do that whenever I have something that needs thinking through. It seems to help clear away the driftwood. Almost as if they’re standing beside me – helping me.”

    “And what do you need to think through this time?” His father asked, he himself had been spending time down at his parent’s gravesite. Particularly his mother’s, Thomas Sinclair had had a long time to get used to his father’s passing but his mother’s only three years ago was still hard on him. The younger man took a deep breath then turned and looked the duke in the eye.

    “I’m going to ask Lady Anna to marry me tomorrow.” The Duke broke into a wide grin, striding across the library to shake his son’s hand.

    “That’s the best news I’ve heard in months, my boy.”

    “You approve then? I know that there won’t be a dowry, not after her father was practically cleaned out following the last stock collapse but…”

    “Sinclairs marry for love, John,” the duke said cutting his son off. “Not money. I did, your grandparents did and so did your great-grandparents. Anna is a fine girl, I’m certain that you’ll be very happy together. Here, let’s go and tell your mother the news she’ll be thrilled I’m sure.”

    Together the two walked from the library leaving the first volume of the assembled family diaries still open on the table. After a few moments Dick Sommersby came in, picked the book up and returned it to its proper place. As he turned to leave out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a tall man with dark hair and a pencil thin moustache lowering his head to cover the mouth of a lovely young woman with long blonde hair by the window next to the hearth. But when he turned to look more closely the apparition had vanished leaving behind naught but a faint scent of perfume and a whisper on the winds that if one tried very hard could just be made out as ‘Mistress of my Heart.’
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  17. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Final Fates

    John Sinclair – remained in the Navy hoisting his flag as Rear-Admiral in 1782, Vice-Admiral in 1793, Admiral in 1801 and Admiral of the Fleet by 1810; briefly served as British Ambassador to the United States in 1785. Became Viscount Thornbury in 1783, Earl of Sevren in 1795 and Duke of Avon in 1808. Named First Sea Lord in 1813. Fought numerous major actions particularly against the French prompting Napoleon to target him directly, advancing Sebastien Allais, a talented young frigate captain, to the special rank of Maréchal suprême de la mer to do so and very nearly succeeding. The pair fought for several years, however in their final engagement in the Mediterranean in 1812 the French fleet was smashed although at considerable cost. Died 27 March 1825 at the age of 89.

    Tara (Mason) Sinclair – became patron of many worthy causes. Bore nine children all of whom survived to adulthood: Thomas (1780), Andrew (1781), twins Vanessa & Alfred (1782), Robert (1786), William (1788), Gwendolyne (1789), Richard (1793) and Catherine (1800). The Sinclair matriarch from the 1780s onward, her force of personality kept her family together through all that came after. Died 19 November 1849 at the age of 89.

    Alfred Bassingford – continued as both a Naval Physician and the Sinclair family Doctor, married Juliette Franklin on 7 October 1779. Encouraged several of his fellow surgeons to further their educations and become physicians. Knighted in 1789. Died on 15 January 1818 at the age of 82.

    Juliette ‘Julie’ Franklin – married Alfred Bassingford, became patron of Mr. Reverend Boyd’s Orphanage. Adopted two children Martyn age two and Tara a newborn in 1779 bore her husband one child: James (1780). Died on 22 August 1814 age the age of 81.

    Bartholomew Jones – remained in the Navy eventually rising to the rank of Vice-Admiral of the Blue before his retirement in 1814. Married Miss Maria Robertson on 5 May 1783 they had four children: Anne (1784), Franklin (1785), Olivia (1788) and Christine (1792). Made Knight Bachelor in 1800 and a Knight of the Bath two years later, died 30 September 1829 at the age of 78.

    James Kent – remained in the Navy and relocated his family following the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Knighted in 1805 he commanded seven ships including eight years as captain of HMS Heracles, eventually rose to become Rear-Admiral of the White before retiring in 1820. Never married and died on 1 May 1822 at the age of 69.

    Ian MacGregor – remained at John Sinclair’s side until 1809 when he was killed by Henri-Albere Montaigne’s agents. Married Jennie Uxbridge in 1783 they had two children: Sean (1785) and Nancy (1790).

    George Therrien – remained in the British Army eventually joining Cornwallis’s forces. Killed in action trying to break the army out of Yorktown on 27 February 1781 at the age of 47.

    William Mason – remained in the Navy, served as Sinclair’s Flag Captain for several years before reaching Flag rank in 1804. Knighted in 1794 and granted a peerage as Baron Cirencester in 1809; eventually rose to Admiral of the Red before his retirement in 1829. Died on 9 August 1841 at the age of 87.

    Jennifer (Willis) Mason – became un-official mother to the midshipmen of the squadron. Suffered through two miscarriages in 1780 and 1781 before finally carrying her daughter Susanne to term in 1783 then bore two additional children: John (1784) and Jolene (1788). In her later years she became an accomplished painter. Died on 16 June 1832 at the age of 73.

    Richard Mason III – had Brave Star re-fitted as the privateer Firebrand and took her into action disrupting trade in the Atlantic while at the same time continuing his intelligence-gathering activities. He was instrumental in the defeat of a joint French/Spanish plot against the Sinclairs in 1782. When the war ended he expanded his search for Lloyd eventually tracking him down in the Baltic during the war between Russia and Sweden. Although he retired from intelligence work shortly thereafter he returned to head His Majesty’s Secret Service following the death of Earl St. John in 1794. He served in that capacity throughout the wars that followed the French Revolution and during their aftermath before retiring in 1827. Quietly knighted in 1795. Died on 29 April 1838 at the age of 86.

    Lucy (Gillis) Mason aka Lucinda Graydon – became a major patron of the arts in the Bristol area bringing several theatre troupes to the area and establishing theatres and music halls throughout the neighbouring counties. Although retired from espionage she continued to advise her husband in his intelligence work. Bore only one child: Richard Mason IV (1780). Died on 22 March 1830 at the age of 81.

    Richard Mason junior – continued the running of Mason Shipping until his final retirement in 1783 at the end of the war. Married Lady Dandridge in May of 1782 moving to her estate south of London but still visiting White Oaks on a regular basis. Died on 10 November 1792 at the age of 71 three days after his wife.

    Robert Mason – was First Mate of Firebrand for two years followed by a year as Captain of the privateer Pandora. Married Elijah Boyd’s daughter Ruth in March of 1783 they had 3 children: Abraham (1784), David (1786) and Hannah (1789). Attended Oxford’s Magdalen College where he earned a degree as a Doctor of Divinity. Remained at the school as a Professor and friend and mentor to students and faculty alike until his death on 31 August 1836 at the age of 78.

    Stephen Mason – continued to serve in the Navy being commissioned lieutenant in 1783 and receiving his first command five years later. Knighted in 1807 he eventually served as William Mason’s flag captain aboard the first rate HMS Queen Elizabeth. Married Elizabeth Hill after he found her horribly mistreated in a penal colony in 1784 her injuries made it impossible for her to have children and eventually her despair led her to commit suicide in 1793, later he re-married to Alice Anne Willis in 1795 she bore him four children: Melissa (1796), George (1798) and the twins Robert and Kenneth (1800). Killed in action in the Mediterranean on 22 October 1812 at the age of 47.

    James Mason – took over the running of the MGR Mills at his brother’s request moving to Cirencester in 1780. In 1782 he bought half of Will’s interest in the company and five years later the rest of it. Expanded the mills in 1791 in anticipation of war with France allowing him to obtain a lucrative contract to provide wool for army uniforms. He and his Laura became pillars of the community and well respected by all. They had three children: Keith (1780), Lynda (1783) and Basil (1785). He died on 30 June 1829 and she followed him eleven years later on 5 November 1840 at the ages of 76 and 79 respectively.

    David Mason – continued in the British Army rising to the rank of Brigadier by 1805. Married Miss Grace Campbell in 1794 she bore him a daughter Allison two years later. Killed in the line of duty during the Peninsular campaign on 29 December 1808 at the age of 52.

    Nicolas Stewart – remained as William Mason’s cox’n until he was badly wounded in action with the Dutch in 1781. At Will’s insistence he retired from the sea to serve as manager of Mason’s estate of Birch Grove. He stayed there acting as a second father to Will and Jennifer’s children for the rest of his days. Died on 10 January 1809 at the age of 76.

    Mary Stewart – became friend and advisor to the young ladies of Cirencester supplementing their education with more practical matters. She bore only one child: Richard (1779) who followed his best friend Thomas Sinclair into the Navy. When Will Mason acquired Birch Grove she took over as de facto head of the household staff continuing as such for the rest of her life. Died on 10 January 1822, thirteen years to the day after Nicolas, at the age of 78.

    Patrick Franklin – remained in the Navy serving as captain of Jaguar, the 64-gun Avon and 74-gun Conqueror before hoisting his flag as Rear-Admiral of the Blue in 1801. He was able to rescue Christina’s little boys from the filthy house of sin they had been sold to by their vile half brothers in 1780, bringing them home to England and raising them as his own. Made Knight Bachelor in 1794 and advanced to Knight of the Bath eighteen months later. Killed in action aboard his flagship on 3 March 1802 during an engagement with the French in the Aegean at the age of 48.

    Dona Cristina Avila de Ontiveros, Condessa de Ontiveros – married Patrick Franklin in February of 1780 after it was learned that El Conde had died the previous October. Taught music, dancing and Spanish to the children of her friends. Eventually became headmistress to a group of Spanish émigrés. Murdered on 7 January 1805 at the age of 45 she was avenged by her son John later that year.

    Michael Gilmore – stayed on as European manager for Mason Shipping until 1781 when he was recalled to the Navy and given a small elderly fourth rate. After a stretch on the beach at the end of the war was given the 64-gun Eagle in 1788 as part of Rear-Admiral Sinclair’s Baltic flotilla. He and his wife had two more children: Arthur (1782) and Rose (1784). Killed in action on 13 May 1794 at the age of 43.

    Joseph Bryce – remained with Patrick Franklin for the rest of the war before attending Oxford at Fred Bassingford’s urging. Graduated in 1787 and was accepted into the Royal College of Physicians the same year. Returned to sea as Franklin’s Doctor less than a month later. Retired from the Navy following Franklin’s death. Married Miss Michele Wittburn in 1786 they had two daughters: Nicole (1788) and Meryl (1790). Died 24 March 1831 at the age of 76.

    Nathaniel Valdez – remained as a lieutenant aboard Vanessa until 1782 having risen to first lieutenant after Jack Robertson was made Commander a year earlier. Became Rear-Admiral Sinclair’s flag lieutenant at that time and remaining in that post for the rest of the war and beyond. Was with Sinclair as Ambassador and then again in the Baltic. Killed in battle with the French on 2 April 1789 at the age of 33.

    Eric Harmon – remained as William Mason’s surgeon through the end of the war and into the next. Attended Edinburgh between wars and was accepted into the Royal College of Physicians in 1787 at the same time as Joseph Bryce. Married Alice (Gilmore) Willis in 1781 adopting her three children, she bore him one daughter: Patricia (1783). Retired from the sea in 1815 to his London townhouse. Died on 17 November 1839 at the age of 84.

    Reginald Trent – abducted Lady Tara Sinclair and attempted to rape and murder her at Montaigne’s orders. She escaped from the room she had been imprisoned in, and then defeated him in a sword fight, emasculating him and leaving him to bleed to death in March of 1780.

    Henri-Albere Montaigne – with his career as a naval officer over he turned to espionage taking the place of the dead Gerard Leveque. Continued to plague the Sinclairs for years variously allied with Trent and Don Felipe Jose de Ontiveros, El Duc de Ontiveros. His final plot resulted in Ian MacGregor’s death in 1809. He was slain in a duel with John Sinclair shortly thereafter.
    StarCruiser likes this.
  18. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    And that's pretty much it. I hope those who have been reading along have enjoyed the story, and thank the mods for allowing me to post it here.

    I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have, either here in the thread or by pm if you prefer.
    StarCruiser likes this.
  19. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Dec 26, 2002
    Houston, we have a problem...
    Kinda hard to "clap" in a thread but...

    :beer: :techman:
  20. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 24, 2002
    New England
    Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.