George Granger read the letter that had been delivered to him from the Inshore Squadron, then took the note and went in to see his irascible admiral.He arrived to find St. Vincent dictating a particularly unpleasant letter to the Portsmouth dockyard, bemoaning the poor quality of construction that had allowed Ville de Paris’s stern windows to be smashed in by that wave back in May.Granger had learned long ago that St. Vincent was loath to forgive or forget a slight or an error, so it was no surprise to him that he was still carping on about his damaged flagship.
In the end, the damage had ended up with a positive ending.St. Vincent had transferred over to the Royal Sovereign while Ville de Paris had returned to Portsmouth for repairs.During that time, St. Vincent had spent two weeks there thoroughly charming her officers.The Royal Sovereign had been Admiral Gardner’s flagship, so it was no surprise that the ship had remained a hotbed of antipathy toward St. Vincent.Granger had admired the way St. Vincent had turned the tables on those somewhat unpleasant officers with his generosity and praise, and was even more confident that Admiral Harvey appreciated it more.He’d arrived from England and hoisted his flag in Royal Sovereign as St. Vincent’s second in command at the same time St. Vincent had transferred back to this ship.
“What is it, Granger?” St. Vincent demanded, pausing at the end of his ranting communiqué.
“Sir, I have received an invitation to dine with Captain Pellew tomorrow,” Granger said.
“I did not realize you and Pellew were close friends,” St. Vincent said, the suspicion quite apparent in his voice.He’d been plagued by his captains gossiping about him behind his back, although that was relatively benign compared to their tendency to write to their friends and complain about their admiral.Most were fairly well connected, and Granger knew that the Lords of the Admiralty were individually the recipients of some scathing epistles on what an ogre St. Vincent was. He also knew that most captains had at least a friend or two who served in Parliament, and letters had also been hitting those legislators.Granger wondered again at the diplomacy Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, must have to display to calm all these people.
“I would not classify us as being close, sir.Sir Edward was most helpful when I was commissioning Valiant,” Granger said patiently.
St. Vincent nodded.“I suspect that his time in Indefatigable gave him some useful insights.”
“Indeed,” Granger agreed. “In addition to his own assistance, he had urged me to utilize the services of a young officer awaiting transit to his ship, Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower.He was quite useful, and impressed me.”
“I’ve heard of him,” St. Vincent mused.“Not every day the Dons let a man go with no exchange of prisoners.”
“Mr. Hornblower is inherently modest, sir, but you are correct.The feat of seamanship that resulted in his release must surely be much more incredible than he explained to me,” Granger said.He was a modest man himself, and he had appreciated the way Hornblower refused to trumpet his own achievements.
“An unusual trait for a Royal Navy officer,” St. Vincent grumbled, no doubt thinking of the considerable egos of the captains he was plagued to command.
“Yes, sir,” Granger agreed, which was usually a good idea when talking to St. Vincent.“After that, Captain Pellew and I had pledged to host each other to dinner should we find ourselves in the same fleet.”
“So this is merely a social call?” St. Vincent had become irritated, because he hated that his captains spent time visiting with each other for no purpose but, at least in his mind, to conspire against their irascible chief.
“It is also possible, sir, that Sir Edward has some information that he would like to convey to you informally,” Granger said, which was actually what Granger suspected was Pellew’s primary reason.
“You are referring to the recall of Impetueux by Admiral Berkeley,” St. Vincent said with a scowl.Impetueux had been chasing some French ships that had escaped from Brest, and Berkeley, the commander of the inshore squadron, had recalled her.Berkeley had claimed that the waters were too shallow for Impetueux, but Pellew had been incensed, at least according to fleet gossip.
“I think it is possible, sir,” Granger said.He was uncomfortable with this invitation, because he was worried that he was correct and that’s exactly what Pellew wanted to talk about.He was not friends with Rear Admiral the Honorable George Cranfield Berkeley, but they had encountered each other in social environments.Berkeley was the younger brother of the current Earl of Berkeley.Granger tried to avoid the political entanglements that inevitably came with his current position, and this was just the sort of thing to immerse him in such a situation. He was almost hoping St. Vincent would forbid him from accepting Pellew’s invitation.
“You have my permission to dine away from the flagship, Granger,” St. Vincent said.“You can carry my latest correspondence to Admiral Berkeley at the same time.”
“Aye aye sir,” Granger said.He went up to the quarterdeck and found Troubridge dutifully observing the fleet.
“How is the Admiral, my lord?” Troubridge asked.If anything, his job was harder than St. Vincent’s, because he had to be the middleman to deal with the fallout from St. Vincent’s decrees.He was a crusty man, and hard to know, but Granger had worked with him for a while now, and he and Troubridge had developed a good rapport.
“A bit cranky, Sir Thomas,” Granger said with a grin, getting a similar gesture, or as much of one as was possible from Troubridge, in return.“I’ve been ordered to take dispatches to the Mars, then I’m joining Captain Pellew for dinner.”
“I suspect Pellew will spend most of his time grumbling about Admiral Berkeley,” Troubridge said with dread.
“I suspect you’re correct, sir,” Granger agreed.
Midshipman Evans stood in front of them, trying to unobtrusively get their attention.It didn’t quite work, which was a mark against Evans, since as a member of St. Vincent’s staff, he should have mastered that skill by now.“Sir, we’ve sighted a ship.”
“Does this ship have a name?” Troubridge asked sarcastically.
“Yyyyes, sir,” Evans stammered.“Courser, 18 guns, Lieutenant Lord Barnfield, Master and Commander.”Granger smiled broadly.Lord Barnfield was known aboard Valiant as Mr. Clifton.He’d been removed from Valiant at the same time as Granger, and his powerful father had evidently engineered his promotion to command this brig.“She’s wearing the dispatch flag.”
“Make flag to Courser, captain to repair on board immediately,” Troubridge said to Evans.“Bleston, go inform the admiral,” he said, directing that at the other midshipman on their staff.
“Aye aye sir,” Evans and Bleston said almost in unison, then hurried off to do what Troubridge directed.Neither one of these young gentlemen had managed to impress Granger thus far, but they were keen enough to follow orders.
“I’m not quite sure what His Lordship will think of another one of your people joining the fleet, my lord,” Troubridge joked.St. Vincent was known for his dislike of aristocrats in the navy. Granger was proud to be one of the people who had managed to still impress the old admiral, despite his background.
“I think that he will be well pleased with this one, sir,” Granger said.“Her captain served with me for many years.”
“He’s a good officer?” Troubridge asked, as if to clarify.
“He is an excellent officer,” Granger confirmed.Evans relayed to Troubridge that Courser had acknowledged, and Granger used that interruption as an excuse to train his glass on the brig and watch how Barnfield handled her.The brig approached the ponderous flagship and wore ship so the two were running parallel, with the brig a bit ahead of the Ville de Paris.That would make the boat trip a bit easier for Barnfield.
“Not bad for a ship with a new crew,” Troubridge allowed, echoing Granger’s own thoughts.From Troubridge, that was fulsome praise.Before Granger could say anything, Troubridge was called away to deal with some other details, so Granger opted to go to the entry port and greet Barnfield personally.
Barnfield hauled himself through the entry port with ease, thanks to his youth and general agility.When he saw Granger, a huge smile burst across his previously stoic face, a smile returned just as enthusiastically by Granger.“Welcome aboard, Captain,” Granger said.He’d used the term ‘captain’ as referring to someone in command of a ship, even though Barnfield was nominally only a lieutenant. Granger felt the pride well within him, knowing that he’d been instrumental in helping Barnfield get to this level of his career.
“Thank you, sir,” Barnfield said.“It is good to see you!” Even as they were speaking, the sacks of mail for the fleet were being hoisted aboard the flagship.
“After you meet with His Lordship, you are to take me to Admiral Berkeley and then to Impetueux, so you will have time to tell me of your ship,” Granger said, as he led Barnfield aft to St. Vincent’s great cabin.
“She is a dream, sir,” Barnfield said wistfully, reminding Granger of how much he’d loved his first command, the Intrepid.The memories that threatened to spark were stifled by their entry into the sumptuous cabin of the admiral.
“What is it, Granger?” St. Vincent growled, barely deigning to look up from his desk.
“Sir, Lieutenant Lord Barnfield has just arrived with HM brig Courser, bringing dispatches,” Granger said.
St Vincent’s eyes narrowed in annoyance when he heard Barnfield’s title, but they relaxed when he beheld the young officer in front of him.“You were on Valiant.” It came out as an accusation; such was St. Vincent’s manner.
“Yes, sir,” Barnfield said.“And on Belvidera as well.”
Then his eyes narrowed again.“I remember you when you were a particularly difficult midshipman on board Victory.”Barnfield had been a very petulant and arrogant midshipman, one that St. Vincent had transferred to Belvidera, dumping the problematic young gentleman onto Granger’s shoulders.
Barnfield swallowed, a sign of weakness that Granger decided was permissible considering what a changed person he was since that incident, and in consideration of the person he was addressing.“Yes, sir. I am hoping, sir, that you will try to forget those initial memories.”
“I think your performance since then has merited such an indulgence on my part,” St. Vincent said in an unfriendly way that was largely offset by the slightest of grins.
“I am most appreciative, sir,” Barnfield said, and then handed St. Vincent a packet.“I have brought you dispatches.”
“Let us hope they are good ones,” St. Vincent grumbled, as if to imply poor Barnfield would be responsible for any bad news the Admiralty chose to dump on St. Vincent.
“Sir Thomas has ordered Courser to take me to Admiral Berkeley, sir,” Granger said, intervening.
“Then I will delay you gentlemen no longer,” St. Vincent said, dismissing them.
Granger paused to introduce Barnfield to Troubridge, and to collect Winkler along with a few items that may be necessary to maintain his appearance, then they descended into the boat for the brief trip to Courser.“Sir, I am delaying you from reading your mail.Allow me to tell you that the latest news I have of your family is that they are all well.”
“Thank you,” Granger said, genuinely appreciative of that information, even though he now found himself most curious as to what news those letters would entail.
“Lord Frederick Cavendish asked me to personally convey this letter to you, sir,” Barnfield said, handing Granger a small packet.“There is also a letter from Lady Granger and your father in there.”
“I am most grateful for that,” Granger said, even as he put the packet into his coat pocket.“And how is your ship?”
“She handles like a witch, sir,” Barnfield said.“She has a sliding keel, courtesy of Captain Schank, who sends his regards.”
“If you see him before I do, please return the courtesies,” Granger said.Schank, a Scotsman, was 60 years old now, and an accomplished naval engineer.Bad eyesight had resulted in his being employed ashore, but even there, he was much in demand, and was currently serving on the transport board.“I have not had the opportunity to see these sliding keels in person.”
“We will have to solve that problem shortly, sir,” Barnfield said.They arrived at the Courser, a lovely little vessel, one that was only a third the size of Valiant.Next to Ville de Paris, she looked like a glorified gig.Granger boarded her first, and found that they’d assembled the necessary honors for a post captain.He introduced himself to the master, while Barnfield boarded the ship, then Barnfield completed the introductions, although in such a small ship, they were quite brief.There were only two masters mates, who made up the watch keeping officers, and a midshipman to warrant his individual attention.Granger scanned the ship and noticed that the crew looked sharp enough. Granger was pleased to see that they were turned out well, so evidently Barnfield had adopted his methods of opening the slop chest for the men to make their own uniforms.It was both flattering and annoying that all of them stared at him in awe, some grinning shyly, at having this celebrity in their midst.Granger opted to be positive about it, hoping that his star power would somehow do a good deed and rub off on Barnfield.He stood apart from Barnfield, as if to give him space to maneuver his ship away from the giant flagship.
Granger watched in amazement as Courser surged confidently into the wind toward the Inshore Squadron.She’d have some 25 miles to traverse today before she got there.Barnfield joined him, smiling proudly.“She sails into the wind as if it were off her quarter,” Granger noted.
“Aye, sir,” Barnfield agreed.“It’s the sliding keel.Perhaps you’d like to come below and see them?”
“With pleasure,” Granger said.Barnfield gave the masters mate sailing instructions, then took Granger below for a brief introduction into how they worked.There were three of the things, boards that were lowered mechanically through the centerboard, which was in essence the keel of the ship.These long boards would then give the Courser more ‘bite’ underwater, and allow her to carry more sail when reaching to the windward.The hold where they were located seemed wetter than Granger would have expected, but otherwise, the ship seemed quite sound.
“When we get close inshore, we can raise them back up, sir,” Barnfield explained, and had one of the men show him how the contraption operated.
“That would give her a very shallow draft,” Granger noted, almost to himself.
“Yes, sir,” Barnfield replied.“It makes Courser a versatile ship.She can work off shore or inshore, as the need dictates.”
They went back on deck so Barnfield could supervise their final maneuvers as they approached Mars.“I shouldn’t wonder that such contraptions will someday be put in frigates,” Granger mused.
“Begging your pardon, sir, but I think that’s unlikely,” Barnfield said.Granger just looked at him, non-verbally asking him to explain.“The modifications to the keel to include the centerboards weaken that structure, or so I am told, and in addition, there’s a price to pay for our sliding keels.They leak prodigiously, so we are constantly manning the pumps.”
Granger nodded as he pondered that.“I can’t see that the tradeoffs would merit their installation in a frigate.”To his mind, the weakened keel would be the worst of the deal, since it was so integral to the overall strength of the vessel, but then the sound of Courser’s pumps reminded him of the manual labor required to keep a ship dry at sea, and he decided the leakage was just as bad.Granger paced the Courser’s small quarterdeck while Barnfield regaled him with all the latest court gossip, such that Granger was almost surprised when the Inshore Squadron loomed up.
Granger ignored the flurry of signals and took that opportunity to go below with Winkler to Barnfield’s small cabin and make sure his appearance was suitable for Admiral Berkeley.It was quite tastefully decorated.He arrived back on deck just in time to board the boat for the brief ride to the Mars.“Thank you for your conveyance, Captain,” Granger said.“I will probably have to impose upon you for a return trip after I have dined.”
“We are always glad to accommodate your Lordship,” Barnfield said.
Granger was thankful the seas were relatively calm, since Courser’s boat was smaller, as if to reflect her own size.Granger turned his attention away from the brig and focused on the Mars, admiring what a handsome ship she was.She was a 74-gun battleship, of which there were many, but she was one of the ‘large class’ of ships Britain had built.After the American War, there had been considerable admiration for the speed of the French ships the Royal Navy had fought against.Just as they’d done with their frigates, the French had acquired that speed by lengthening their ships, so the Admiralty had followed suit.Normal 74s were referred to as “Common Class” ships, while these lengthened, larger 74s were “Large Class” ships.They carried the same number of guns, although Large Class 74s had 24-pounders on their second gun deck instead of the 18-pounders carried by the Common Class.Mars had proven her worth a few years ago when she’d managed to intercept a new French Ship, the Hercule, and capture her in these very waters.
Granger scaled up her steep sides and hove himself through the entry port, to find himself greeted by Captain Monkton.He was a handsome man in his late 30s, one who had been serving with Berkeley for some 20 years now.“Welcome aboard, my lord,” he said pleasantly.
“It is good to see you again, sir,” Granger said in the same tone. Monkton was Granger’s senior by one day, having been made post on June 29, 1795.Officers often followed their favorite commanders from ship to ship; something Granger had experienced himself, and something he’d seen with Lord Nelson.He didn’t see Admiral Berkeley as the kind of officer to inspire such loyalty, but Monkton’s presence here indicated otherwise.
“I will take you to see the Admiral,” he said, and led Granger aft, to where the captain’s cabin had been partitioned to make space for both Berkeley and Monkton.Mars’ extra length made them seem less cramped than they would have been in a Common Class 74.
“Welcome, my lord,” Berkeley said in a friendly way.“What brings you inshore?” Berkeley was a nice enough man, but seemed to be the type who was organized but not a zealous leader.He reminded Granger a bit of Admiral Colpoys, although a much more cultured version of that man.
“Sir, I have dispatches for you, and I am to dine with Captain Pellew,” Granger said.Berkeley’s expression got considerably less pleasant when he heard that bit of news.“Captain Pellew was quite helpful when I was fitting out Valiant, and I am hoping to further tap into his knowledge of razees.”That last sentence didn’t really mollify Berkeley, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Well then, I shan’t keep you.I will send my dispatches over to Courser so you may return them to His Lordship when you return this evening,” he said coldly.It was hard to imagine a harsher transition from his friendly welcome to his curt dismissal.
“Thank you, sir,” Granger said.He left Mars feeling as if he’d handled the entire situation badly, but then again, he wasn’t sure how much more he could have done.He boarded Courser’s small boat for the brief trip to Impetueux.She was actually a bit narrower and longer than Mars, and that made her look sleek.
Pellew was waiting to greet him, and grasped his hand warmly as soon as he was through the entry port.“I am so glad you were able to accept my invitation, my lord!”
“I must thank you, Sir Edward, although it certainly wasn’t easy.It earned me dour looks from both of our admirals.”
Pellew laughed.“I will try to provide fare to offset their animosity, my lord.”He led Granger back to his cabin, which was decorated more elaborately than many an admiral could boast.It was a bit too ostentatious for Granger’s taste, but then again, Pellew was a bit boorish, so that made sense.The food was quite good, and Pellew chattered on amicably throughout the dinner.He conspicuously made a point of indicating which pieces of plate had been given him by various entities to celebrate his victories.Granger had received such items, including a beautiful platter from The City of London when he’d returned from France on parole, but he was never so gauche as to tell his guests about them.Pellew had no such qualms.
“This food is marvelous, Sir Edward,” Granger said appreciatively, as they finished up the final course.
“I have a good chef, although I hear that yours will give him some competition, my lord.”
“Yes, sir,” Granger said with a smile, thinking of Lefavre, who was resting in London while he was on this assignment.He told Pellew of Lefavre’s competition with Captain Johnstone Hope’s chef in Elba, and that sparked a series of sea stories from Pellew.
“I wish you would have been with us in Falmouth,” Pellew said wistfully, as he concluded a long-winded version of his destruction of the Droits de l’Homme.The Admiralty had established two frigate squadrons based in Falmouth to protect trade, and it had become a stable where Britain had put most of her best frigate captains, and most of her best frigates.They’d been quite successful, but the jealousy of the Channel Fleet Admirals, who didn’t share in their prize money, ultimately ended that experiment.
“I think I would have liked that, sir,” Granger said, “although I managed to stay busy enough.”
“You belonged there with us,” Pellew said, which was an amazing compliment.Granger found himself blushing at thinking that he deserved to be included with the likes of Pellew, Borlase Warren, and Strachan.
“I hardly deserve that,” Granger objected.Pellew led them over to his quarter gallery, where they drank more wine, and the conversation became even more casual.
“Instead of my Indefatigable, I find myself tied to the apron strings for the most boring fleet in the realm,” Pellew groused.“Not that this ship is a bad sailor.For a 74, she can sail almost as fast as a frigate.”
Granger smiled indulgently.“Lord Howe reminded me that with this station, with so much on the line in the defense of England, it is important to husband the best captains and be the most cautious.”
“Sadly, His Lordship was right,” Pellew said.“The Inshore Squadron is supposed to be the place for what little excitement there is, but Berkeley is nothing but an old woman who is afraid of his own shadow.”
That comment made Granger uncomfortable, but he tried to move beyond it.“Perhaps Admiral Berkeley is merely mindful of the awesome responsibility that Lord Howe alluded to.”Granger’s attempts to reason with Pellew’s frustration were a wasted effort.
“Granger, do you think I am a good enough seaman to know when my ship is in water that is too shallow for her?” Pellew demanded.
“I am not convinced there is a better seaman in the fleet than you,” Granger said honestly.Despite his various flaws, Pellew was well-known as an outstanding seaman.
“Now that is high praise,” Pellew said, and refilled their glasses.“That is what makes it so maddening.I had two privateers in my grips, with plenty of fathoms under me, and Berkeley recalled me.”
“That must have been frustrating,” Granger commiserated.
“I feel as if I am a caged lion here, where my captors tease me with a beefsteak only to pull it out of my grasp before I can eat it.”
Granger chose to treat that as a joke and laughed.“I can well imagine.I have not relished the thought of being tied to a fleet, especially this one.”
“This is where you must use those connections of yours to make sure that you are not sent here,” Pellew cautioned.“And if you have any leftover pull, save me as well.”
“I will certainly do my best, sir,” Granger said.
“By the way, I had a chance to meet up with Mr. Hornblower recently. He is serving aboard the Renown.He was singing your praises.”
“He proved himself to be an excellent officer.If I had had an opening in my wardroom, I would have appointed him to it,” Granger said.
“He would have appreciated that, especially since he is saddled with Sawyer,” Pellew said sadly.Granger agreed with him.Captain Sawyer was one of those captains that, given some time, St. Vincent would weed out of the service.
“I can’t see someone of his imagination and ability serving under Sawyer,” Granger allowed.
“It is not pleasant for him.Perhaps you can lure him away from Renown for a visit to the flagship.In the meantime, I have to commend you for introducing him to His Majesty,” Pellew said.
“I don’t think Mr. Hornblower appreciated it as much as you do,” Granger joked, since Hornblower was stiff as a rail, and had obviously found the atmosphere of a Royal court to be traumatic.
“I don’t suppose he did,” Pellew said.“I am so glad you chose to accept my invitation.”
“You must now return the favor when I ultimately have my ship back,” Granger said, even though he felt that familiar agony over being separated from Valiant.That served to end their dinner, and only as he made to climb down the sides of Impetueux did he realize how drunk he was.He was lucky he managed to climb into the boat and not fall headlong into it.A short trip back to Courser, then a longer trek back to the fleet managed to sober him up enough to climb up the sides of Ville de Paris with at least some decorum.
He went to his cabin, avoiding St. Vincent and Troubridge, and after Winkler helped him get ready for bed and left him, he pulled out the letters that Barnfield had brought him.The first, from Caroline, explained that she’d taken the children to Ryde for the summer months, and had found quite a coterie of court denizens there.Evidently they’d discovered the charms of the Isle of Wight in the steamy summer.She said they were all healthy, and quite enjoying their time away from the capital.His father had followed the King to Weymouth, so his letter was a bit more interesting from a court gossip standpoint.He gently alluded to the King’s health, and his words made Granger worry that his mind was becoming unstable again.Then he opened the letter from Cavendish.
I am taking the opportunity of Barnfield’s transit to you to draft you a more candid letter than I otherwise would have sent.You are probably mad at me for being absent during your return to England and for not being there to support you during all the controversy you had to deal with regarding the Guild.For that I am most sorry.I have been grappling with my own issues, and that has made me too selfish to think of your travails.And now, I find myself in a situation such that I don’t know whom to turn to for help or advice, so I am turning to you.
My father has arranged a marriage of me to a Miss Jane Barnett, a young woman whom you have probably not met.She reminds me of Lady Elgin, which should allow an accurate picture of her to form in your mind.Along with Miss Barnett, I would acquire a substantial amount of money from her dowry, and my father is convinced that with those financial resources and with my service to the Crown, my future would look bright.He has reminded me that, due to the regrettable loss of my leg, I am less marketable as a spouse, and assures me that this is the best match he could make for me.
She lives in the mid-country, so I went up to call on her, and my initial reaction was not good.I had hoped that by spending some time in her company, I would find some good things about her, but that did not happen.After a fortnight, I found her so repulsive that I abruptly left and went north, staying at one of my father’s estates near the Scottish border.My father discovered where I was and dispatched several letters, which went unanswered at first.When I responded, I first plead bad health, but in the end, there was no denying that I had fled from Miss Barnett and the potential marriage.
He is furious with me, and has threatened to disown me, but I cannot imagine a marriage to this woman he would link me to.I tried to envision a situation where we lived largely separate lives, but visions of Lord and Lady Daventry cloud my mind, and the bitter unhappiness their union has caused both of them is not something I want to replicate.It has been explained to me by my father that my behavior in this whole matter has been most ungentlemanly and boorish, and if I refuse this marriage I will likely remain single.I worry about what that will mean for my future, and I worry about what that will mean for my reputation.
I have decided to stay here in the north until my father forces me to leave, or until the Season starts, and then I plan to rent a flat in London.I have my income from the Crown, but my father will undoubtedly stop subsidizing me.That may cause me some financial embarrassment.When next you see me, I will probably not be as fashionably turned out.
I long to see you, and have you take my mind off this problem.I hope you will write to me, and I hope you will still allow me to call on you when you return.