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17. Chapter 17 From Odyssey

Mark Arbour%s's Photo   Mark Arbour, 19 Aug 2012

 

June 7, 1797

           

            While Bacchante sailed south, safe under the control of her first lieutenant, George Granger sat at his desk and reviewed the final correspondence that the guard boat had left him.  There was a letter from Caroline, assuring him of her love, and talking of how she would miss him.  There was a note from Freddie, wishing him well, and informing him that the King had seen fit to let him and Davina stay in England.  Granger decided to think that was a good thing, if only for the health of the heir to Bridgemont, even though he was nervous about having them in England where they could potentially cause problems.  Thinking of the child in Davina’s womb made him wonder yet again if the child would be his, or if it would be Freddie’s.  Since they were brothers, would there be any way to tell?  Physically, he and Freddie were much different.  Granger was fit and muscular, while his brother was more effete. Granger had blond hair and blue eyes, while Freddie’s hair was brown, although his eyes were blue as well.  And Granger was taller than him by about two or three inches.  Physically, George Granger was much more like Bertie; but for Bertie’s wider face and strawberry blond hair, they would almost look alike.  Granger decided that it would make no difference if he was the father of Davina’s baby, as the child would have Granger blood regardless.

            Granger pushed those ruminations aside and focused his attention on the third piece of correspondence.  It wasn’t a letter, it was more of a note, and it was from Cavendish.

George,

I have just this moment learned that Conway is to be posted to Bacchante as her master.  I am not sure if it has meaning, but you should be aware that he has been in the employ of Sir Tobias Maidstone, and they are considered to be associates, if not friends.  I tell you this only that you may be more aware of his possible motives. 

Freddy.

            Granger stared at the letter, wanting to blame Cavendish for giving him bad news, while at the same time knowing that it was better to be aware of Conway’s relationship with Maidstone than to be in blissful ignorance.  Still, the thought of having a spy aboard, for that may very well be what Conway was, destroyed Granger’s good mood.  The exhilaration he felt from putting to sea was washed away by the knowledge that he’d have to worry about Conway, at least when they got closer to Amboyna. 

            “My lord,” Winkler said, breaking into his thoughts.  “Dinner is ready.” 

            “Thank you, Winkler,” Granger said.  He walked out into his great cabin to be a good host and greet his officers as they arrived.  They were all there except one of the master’s mates, Mr. Broom, who was a bit stiff in social situations, and had gallantly agreed to take the watch.  Granger would invite him down after his watch and feed him to make up for having him miss this feast.  He pondered how Lieutenant Carslake had often filled that role before, and missed the reliable lieutenant.  His death had been one of many that Granger had been forced to deal with on his last voyage. 

            Dinner turned out to be a festive affair, and was so much fun that Granger was able to emerge from his emotional doldrums and truly enjoy these officers of his.  He turned a stern eye onto Scropes, who was the junior officer present.  There had been some confusion as to whether he was more junior than Kingsdale, but Granger decided that since Kingsdale was a peer that should tip the scales in his favor, so Scropes had ended up as the one with the least seniority.  Scropes seemed oblivious to Granger’s look for a minute, but then the young man finally got the meaning of his gesture. 

            “Gentlemen, the King,” Scropes said as he stood up and proposed the toast to their sovereign.  Everyone else stood as well, of course, and some uttered words of acclamation, the volume of their expressions increasing in relationship to the amount of wine they’d consumed. 

            “My lord, this beef ragout is truly fantastic,” Conway said.  Granger smiled at him, deftly hiding the irritation he felt at having one of Maidstone’s stooges aboard.

            “I have been lucky in many things,” Granger said, “but finding Monsieur Lefavre stowed away aboard Aurore was definitely a stroke of good fortune.” 

            “He was stowed away, my lord?” Eastwyck asked.  He was much like his cousin, Somers, with a pleasant and outgoing personality. 

            “He was.  It was during the occupation of Toulon.  I was tasked by Lord Hood to fit out a frigate to bombard the French positions, and I chose Aurore.  When we went aboard to prepare her, we found Lefavre there.  He was the cook, and he’d evidently opted to stay aboard when the rest of the crew abandoned their ship.” 

            “I have to agree with you, my lord,” Somers said.  “It was amazingly good luck on your lordship’s part.  And I have certainly enjoyed benefiting from his skills.”  Somers gave Granger his lopsided grin, the one that was so sexy and would be almost irresistible if Calvert weren’t sitting next to him. 

            “I want to welcome Mr. Conway and Mr. Gatling aboard,” Granger said, introducing them.  “While Mr. Conway was in London, doing everything in his power to avoid this posting, Mr. Gatling was camped out in a tavern, stalking me.” 

            They laughed, as they usually did when their captain cracked a joke.  “I must accuse your lordship of exaggerating,” Conway said, making them laugh even harder.  “In fact, it was my lust for gold that drove me here.” 

            “Hear, hear!” several said, making them all laugh again. 

            “Well gentlemen,” Granger continued, “it seems that we are to be thrown in the path of riches, so we must see if our luck holds.”  They all got quiet when he said that, so curious were they.  

            “Our path leads us to El Dorado, my lord?” Calvert asked, referring to the mythical land.

            “If stories are to be believed, you are not too far off,” Granger said.  “Winkler, would you have them hang up the map for me?”

            “Certainly, my lord,” he said.  A couple of cabin boys came in with the large canvas map and attached it to the bulkhead, and then all the servants left the cabin. 

            “I usually do not require visual assistance to explain things, but as we are travelling around the world, in this instance it is helpful,” Granger said, as he stood and positioned himself in front of the map.  “We are destined for the island of Amboyna,” he said, pointing at it.  

            “That’s in the Dutch East Indies, isn’t it, my lord?” Andrews asked. 

            “It is,” Granger said.  “It was captured from the Dutch shortly after we went to war.  We are going there to facilitate the possible transfer of power of the governorship.” 

            “A possible change, my lord?” Somers asked.  He had good political instincts, so he’d picked up on that right away. 

            “A possible change,” Granger said, smiling.  “The man sent out to replace my brother as governor is Sir Tobias Maidstone, the man who attempted to deprive us of Dr. Jackson’s charming company.”  Granger watched Conway carefully, but the man showed no sign of recognition when Granger mentioned Maidstone’s name.  It disturbed Granger that Conway was so stoic; it would make figuring him out just that much harder. 

            “Despite his success at many things, I am most glad he failed in that mission, my lord,” Jackson said. 

            “I share your relief,” Granger said, getting more chuckles.  “Sir Tobias has already left England, so it is a good thing we are scheduled to arrive after he should.”  They laughed harder. 

            “If he arrives before us, my lord, how are we to facilitate the change in governorship?” Conway asked. 

            “We, Mr. Conway?” Granger teased.  “They are my orders.” 

            “I must beg your pardon, my lord,” Conway said, embarrassed.  Granger let him ruminate on that, while Granger himself noted that Conway had certainly shown interest in Maidstone’s affairs. 

            Granger changed the topic.  “En route, we have an additional task to accomplish.” 

            “My lord?” Calvert asked.

            “Normally, we would sail around the Cape of Good Hope, much as if we were going to India, but once in the Indian Ocean, we would sail along the southern regions on a more direct course to Amboyna.”  Granger outlined the course for them with his finger on the canvas.  “Instead, we are going to round Cape Horn, and come at Amboyna from the east.” 

            “So we will indeed be sailing around the world, my lord,” Weston observed.  He had such a pleasant demeanor; it was almost inevitable that one would find Weston likeable. 

            “We will indeed,” Granger said.  “When we arrive in the Pacific, we are tasked with hunting down some French privateers that have been harassing British and American whalers.” 

            “Do you know what port they are based out of, my lord?” Conway asked. 

            “The Admiralty thinks they are using Valparaiso, but that is merely speculation.” 

            “That is a reasonably well-defended port, my lord.” 

            “We are tasked with wreaking havoc as we cruise up the coast.  Are there other ports that represent significant obstacles?” Granger asked.

            “The two biggest cities, and the best defended, will be Lima and Panama,” Conway said.  “With your permission, my lord?” he asked, as he got up.  Granger nodded his assent, so Conway pointed to their relative position on the chart.

            “I am not sure we will sail as far north as Panama, but I plan for us to at least traverse as far north as Lima,” Granger noted.  “After we have spent a few months harassing the Spaniards, we will catch the trade winds and currents for our voyage west to Amboyna.” 

            “That route is like a highway on the ocean, my lord,” Conway said.  “We should make excellent time on that leg of our trip.” 

            “That is good to hear, Mr. Conway.  Perhaps we will have more time to spend in South America.” 

            “That would be a good thing, my lord.  Lima is the center for the entire Peruvian silver trade.”  Granger could see their eyes light up at that.  “It is also the point of embarkation for the Manila galleon.”  Now visions of greed invaded their brains, the thought of capturing one of the famed Spanish galleons with enough money to make all of them rich beyond their dreams. 

            “I don’t believe a galleon has been captured since Anson did it, my lord,” Andrews said. 

            “I believe you are correct.  That is not our stated purpose, but I would personally not be opposed to capturing such a vessel,” Granger joked, getting more laughter. 

            “I thought the galleons sailed out of Acapulco?” Weston asked Conway. 

            “Sometimes they do, Mr. Weston, but it is more likely these days for them to stop in Callao before they sail for Manila.” 

            “Then we will keep our eyes open,” Granger noted. 

            “Once we arrive in Amboyna, will we be stationed there, my lord?” Robey asked. 

            “No, and I expect to keep our stay there as short as possible,” Granger said.  “In the meantime, we have a lot of sea to traverse, and we will definitely get to know each other much better.” 

            “My lord, I am anxious to begin drilling the hands at the guns,” Robey said.  As the second lieutenant, gunnery was his chief responsibility. 

            “I will accommodate you, beginning tomorrow,” Granger said with a smile.  “Most of you know of my methods and requirements, but it is important that you understand clearly, especially since we are to be on such a long voyage.”  He really had their attention now.  “I am unwilling to tolerate any breach of discipline, but I am equally unwilling to use the lash unnecessarily.” 

            “You don’t believe in flogging, my lord?” Conway asked. 

            “I am not opposed to flogging if it is necessary, but in the past, I have had to use it only sparingly.  It can set an example to the other men, and to the offender, but it can also harm an otherwise able seaman.  And to use it too much can destroy the morale of even a good crew.”  He smiled.  “Besides, there are usually enough unpleasant tasks aboard that we can award to miscreants.” 

            “We won’t have cleaning the bilges as such a deterrent on this voyage, my lord,” Robey noted.  “It is almost pleasant in the hold without that smell.”

            “Almost,” Granger said, smiling.  “I am also adamant that this ship, and her officers and men, remain exceptionally clean.  That is why I have established standing orders that all of us, including the men, bathe at least weekly.” 

            “An unusual policy, my lord,” Conway noted.  A scowl from Granger changed his attitude quickly.  “I fear that I will have to experience that myself tomorrow.” 

            “I think you will find it refreshing,” Granger allowed.  “And now I would like to know how you all plan to entertain me on this long voyage.  I know that Captain Somers plays the violin, as does Mr. Scropes, although I have not had the pleasure of hearing him yet.”  The young midshipman blushed and nodded.  “Mr. Kingsdale plays the pipes.  Mr. Weston, Mr. Gatling, and Mr. Eastwyck allege that they can carry a tune.” 

            “I can carry a tune as well, my lord,” Conway said. 

            “Excellent.  Then I propose that you and Mr. Weston organize those of you who are vocalists and prepare to entertain us.  Captain Somers can occupy himself with those of us who purport to play musical instruments.” 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston, Conway, and Somers said.  After that, the conversation became lighter until a change in the watch served to break up their gathering. 

 

 

            Granger eyed the boats as they hung secure from their davits.  “They appear to be tied down well enough.” 

            “They do indeed, my lord,” Calvert agreed.  They’d had to wait until they’d been out of Plymouth for a week before the seas were calm enough for them to experiment with the davits, and it had taken even more time to train the new men how to use them.  The men and the officers were frustrated and tired from the drills, but Granger suspected that they’d see quite a few boat actions on this voyage, and wanted to make sure they were prepared.  They’d just completed a full ‘boats away’ evolution, finally to Granger’s satisfaction.

            “It gives us a lot more visibility on the deck, my lord,” Conway observed.  “It would seem almost empty if the launch weren’t there.”  

            “I suspect you are right.  We found on Belvidera that widening the gang planks made traversing the waist much easier.  I have instructed the carpenter to make a similar change to Bacchante.”

            “My lord, I have a suggestion for you, if you don’t find it impertinent,” Conway said.

            “I am always open to ideas on how to improve my ship, Mr. Conway,” Granger said.  He was finding it difficult to deal with Conway, not because the man was unpleasant, but because Granger genuinely liked and respected him.  That made his relationship with Maidstone just that much harder to stomach. 

            “It is a rare passage through the Horn that is not stormy, and sometimes dangerously so, my lord,” Conway observed.  “It would perhaps be a good idea to develop a plan to deal with storms, similar to how the ship goes to quarters when battle is imminent.” 

            Granger pondered that, and glanced at Calvert to see him doing the same thing.  “That is an interesting approach, Mr. Conway.  If we rigged for a storm, what would that entail?”

            “In addition to the usual precautions, my lord, such as sending down the topmasts, I was thinking that we could rig a hatch to cover the waist.” 

            “The entire waist?” Calvert asked, surprised.  That was a big expanse of deck. 

            “Yes, Mr. Calvert,” Conway answered.  “We will ship much less water that way, I’m thinking, and we’ll keep the ship much drier for her inhabitants.” 

            “It may also serve to prolong the life of my carpets,” Granger joked, getting a laugh from them. 

            “That is, of course, a paramount concern, my lord,” Conway said. 

            “I will leave it to you two to formalize such a plan,” Granger said to Calvert and Conway.  “You can then show me what you come up with and I will decide whether to implement it.”  Granger liked the idea.  Anything they could do to reduce the amount of water they shipped would make life immeasurably better for all of them.  The ship would be drier, she would be safer, and she would require less labor on her pumps.  That seemed a trifling thing, but that labor was most in demand during a storm, and that was when the men would be their most fatigued to begin with. 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Calvert said, answering for both of them. 

            “Sail ho!” cried the lookout, breaking into their thoughts.  “Off the larboard bow!” 

            “Time for some exercise,” Granger said with a smile.  He grabbed his glass and headed for the foremast, then climbed up to the crosstrees.  He found Eastwyck there, using his sharp eyes to supplement those of the lookout.

            “It looks like a fleet, my lord,” Eastwyck observed. 

            “Before we clear for action, let us see whose fleet it is,” Granger said jovially.  He was in a good mood, and found that he was enjoying being at sea.  He trained his glass on the ships arrayed before him and smiled.  “That is our Mediterranean Fleet.” 

            “Then we won’t need to clear for action, my lord?” Eastwyck joked. 

            Granger smiled.  “I am not that unpopular in the fleet, Mr. Eastwyck.”  The lookout chuckled with them.  “I am returning to the deck.  Please notify me of any changes.” 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Eastwyck said crisply. 

            Granger slid down to the deck using a backstay, looking as agile as he had when he was a midshipman.  “We have sighted the Mediterranean Fleet.  Please have my gig swayed out and brought alongside.  I will be below.” 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, as officer of the watch.  Granger went below to put on his best uniform, and found that he had nothing else to take with him.  He wasn’t carrying dispatches this time.  He wasn’t attached to this fleet anymore. 

            He strode back on deck in time to direct his ship as she approached the fleet.  “Make our number, Mr. Gatling.” 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Gatling chirped.  Eastwyck had descended from the tops and was assisting him.  “Flag to Bacchante, captain to repair on board.” 

            “Very well, Mr. Gatling.  Acknowledge.”  He turned to Calvert.  “I will be aboard the flagship.”  Granger had himself rowed over to the Britannia, where he was received by Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson.  Thompson had assumed temporary command while St. Vincent was in London.  Granger studied the admiral, who was almost 60 years old, younger than St. Vincent, but he seemed older.  His cabin was stark for that of an admiral, but what furnishings were there were tasteful enough.

            “I see you’ve returned, and this time with a bigger ship, Granger,” Thompson said.  His tone was almost disrespectful, but Granger knew Thompson, and he was just a bit gruff.  That was his way. 

            “After I banged up the old one, sir, they gave me this one.  Sadly, I am not rejoining the fleet.” 

            “No?  And where are you off to?” 

            “I fear I was not charming enough when I was in London, so they are shipping me off to the Indies, sir,” Granger said. 

            “I find that hard to believe.  You are talented, charming, and perhaps most importantly, you are lucky.” 

            Granger smiled. “Thank you, sir.  I must agree with you, and for this voyage, I must hope most fervently that my luck holds.” 

            “Well, I won’t detain you,” Thompson said.  Granger was rather surprised, envisioning that the admiral would want news from London.  He’d been all but certain that he’d be asked to dine aboard the flagship.  He shrugged it off.  He had better ways to use his time here anyway.

            “I had planned to call on Admiral Nelson before I departed, sir,” Granger said cautiously.  “I trust that meets with your approval.”  Granger was careful about such things, because St. Vincent was known to become annoyed when his officers socialized between ships. 

            “That’s your affair, not mine,” Thompson growled.  He evidently had no sensitivities to officers fraternizing.  Granger nodded, and then left the admiral alone.

            “Take me to the Theseus, Phillips,” Granger said as soon as he was aboard his gig. 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” he said.  They hoisted the lugsail and conned the ship through the fleet.  Granger watched Bacchante, and noticed that Calvert maneuvered her so she shadowed her captain, as if she were chasing after his gig. 

            His gig hooked on to the Theseus, and Granger hauled himself up to her entry port.  She was a standard 74 gun ship of the line, unlike the towering Britannia, so hauling himself aboard was a little easier for Granger. 

            “Welcome aboard, my lord,” Captain Miller said in his normal, friendly manner.  Of course he would be Nelson’s flag captain.  Granger liked the warm Canadian, and could see how having him around would be pleasant.

            “It is good to see you, Captain,” Granger said affably.  “I hope you will forgive me for intruding upon you uninvited.” 

            “You do not require an invitation,” Miller said, mirroring Granger’s friendly demeanor.  “I suspect the admiral is waiting impatiently for you.  Let me show you aft.” 

            “Patience is not one of his virtues,” Granger joked.

            Miller laughed.  “I fear the same can be said of you.”  

            “True,” Granger agreed.  Miller led him past the sentry and into Nelson’s cabin.  When a two-decker like Theseus served as a flagship, what was normally the captain’s cabin was split into two parts, to make a cabin for both the admiral and the captain.  It made things appear a bit cramped, at least to Granger’s eye.

            All of those thoughts were eradicated when Granger saw Nelson standing there, beaming at him.  “Granger!  How absolutely splendid to see you!  We’ve missed having you around!” 

            “Thank you, Sir Horatio,” Granger said, remembering to use his title.  He’d received his knighthood after the Battle of St. Vincent.  “I fear I am not going to be here longer than it takes to greet you, then take my leave.” 

            “They’ve not sent you back here to join us?” 

            “No, sir,” Granger said.  “It seems I am dispatched to the Indies, to help facilitate the transfer of power to a new governor on the island of Amboyna.  My brother is the current governor.” 

            “That’s dashed bad luck,” Nelson said, sympathizing with him.  He directed Granger to be seated and poured them both a glass of wine. 

            “I share your assessment, sir,” Granger said morosely. 

            “Who is to replace your brother?” 

            “Sir Tobias Maidstone is the primary candidate, sir.  He has already taken a company vessel and departed, so he should beat us there.  We are ordered to take the long way around, traversing Cape Horn.” 

            “That is a challenge,” Nelson mused, “but nothing you’re not capable of.  I have had some dealings with Sir Tobias.  I found him to be a shrewd, if not unscrupulous merchant.” 

            “He is determined to see that Dr. Jackson exits this earth as soon as possible, and that has created some tension between us, even though I have never met the man, sir,” Granger said. 

            “That will make you cautious, and that is probably most wise where Sir Tobias is concerned,” Nelson said shrewdly.  “St. Vincent won’t be happy to find you spirited away on this fool’s errand.” 

            “I met with him in London, and he was less than pleased, sir,” Granger agreed.  “I am glad I was able to tell him myself, so he knows this mission was not of my own choosing.” 

            “How did Thompson receive you?” Nelson asked. 

            “A bit cold and distant, sir,” Granger said, opening up to this man.  It was completely out of character for Granger to do that, yet he felt so drawn to Nelson, it was almost inevitable.  “I was most surprised that he didn’t even ask me to join him for dinner.” 

            “That is a mistake I won’t make,” Nelson said.  “I will see if I can put on a spread that will seem adequate, but I fear you are spoiled by your chef.” 

            “Your company will more than make up for it, sir,” Granger said. 

            Nelson laughed.  “You did not lose your charm in London.  Thompson and St. Vincent have had a falling out.  You are known to be one of St. Vincent’s favorites, so it is reasonable that Thompson would view you with some degree of suspicion.” 

            Granger was surprised by that.  “I was not even aware of their problems, sir.”  Granger was relieved that he was not going to have to deal with the politics of the fleet on this voyage.  The politics with his brother and Maidstone were quite enough. 

            “Flag officers always think that captains spend all of their time talking about them.  It is our way,” Nelson joked.  He led Granger over to the dining table, where his steward began to lay out a prodigious dinner.  “I have not yet congratulated you on your advancement to the peerage.  I have been most disrespectful in addressing you, my lord.” 

            “I have also been remiss in congratulating you on your knighthood and your promotion, sir.  Despite our new exalted statuses, I truly do treasure the more familiar forms of address we have used in the past.” 

            “You are kind to say so, Granger.  I, too, value your friendship.”  That shocked Granger, not because he didn’t consider Nelson a friend, but because the admiral would acknowledge him as one.  “It seems you are always one step ahead of me.” 

            “Then that should excite you, sir, since I have just been made a viscount.  I would like to note, though, that a rear-admiral’s flag comes with much better trappings.  All I got were ermine robes.”  They both laughed at Granger’s joke.

            “We’ll see if my latest venture will help catapult me higher.  I am hoping it at least makes me wealthier.” 

            “Sir?” Granger asked curiously.

            “I am going to lead a force to attack Tenerife.  It would make a good base for ships traveling to India, and it would eliminate a base that the Spanish can use to harass our convoys.”  Nelson got a big grin on his face.  “It is also rumored that there are treasure ships docked there, so that is an added incentive.” 

            “I wish you luck, sir,” Granger said genuinely.  “I will try to avoid Tenerife on my travels, and will also try not to capture any of your treasure ships.” 

            Nelson laughed.  “That’s probably not a bad thing.  With your luck, you’ll simply sail into the harbor and the whole island will surrender and deposit its riches into your hands.” 

            “If you think that is possible, it may be worth a try, sir,” Granger joked back.  “I fear I will be in the Pacific, hunting for Peruvian silver and Manila galleons.” 

            “To our good fortune,” Nelson said, proposing a toast.  They had a nice dinner after that, mostly gossiping about people in London, and at Court.  After the meal was over, Granger deftly took his leave, making sure not to overstay his welcome. 

            “I fear I must continue my trek, sir,” he said to Nelson.

            “It is unlikely that I will see you for at least a year, probably more.  Good luck to you, Granger.  When you return to the Mediterranean, we will be happy to welcome you.” 

            “Thank you, sir,” Granger said.  Nelson extended both of his hands and Granger held them warmly, a sign of affection and of friendship.  Then he took his leave.  He returned to Bacchante in an unsettled mood.  Leaving this fleet behind, this fleet he’d become part of, was almost as disturbing as leaving England. 

            “Square away, Mr. Calvert.  Let’s get back on course.” 

            “Aye aye, my lord,” Calvert said.  And their odyssey continued.  


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