Jump to content

Mark Arbour

Author: Signature Author
  • Content Count

    8,342
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    65

Mark Arbour last won the day on August 4 2014

Mark Arbour had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

34,203 There Can Be Only One!

About Mark Arbour

  • Rank
    Elite Member

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Male
  • Sexuality
    Bisexual, leaning male
  • Location
    Missouri

Recent Profile Visitors

159,055 profile views
  1. Hi Mark,

    Getting a little worried about you. Are you OK?

    Give us a little update if you're up to it.

    Tx. Tom

  2. miss the cap series and Bridgemont series as well as you hope you post soon.

    Spoiler
    Spoiler

     

     

     

  3. Hi Marc, When is an update expected on the black widow? 4th of May was latest:-)

  4. Mark Arbour

    A Game: Find the hidden modern reference

    The Norwegian Pavilion at Epcot had a ride called "Maelstrom", which has since been turned into a ride for Frozen 😡 Either before or after the ride, a Norwegian voice that pelted out that "to know Norway is to know the sea." It stuck in my memory.
  5. Mark Arbour

    A Game: Find the hidden modern reference

    Very good! I don't know if you're the only one playing, but you're the person who won!
  6. Mark Arbour

    A Game: Find the hidden modern reference

    I had to double check to make sure Chapter 13 was within the last five chapters.
  7. Mark Arbour

    A Game: Find the hidden modern reference

    No, it's within the last 5 chapters.
  8. Mark Arbour

    A Game: Find the hidden modern reference

    I don’t think I was clear. It’s at least a sentence long. And here’s a hint: Disney
  9. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 17

    September, 1800 HMS Valiant, The Baltic “Mr. Llewellyn, signal the convoy to heave to,” Granger ordered, even as he grappled with the dilemma in front of him. He had to take possession of two captured ships, and he still had four merchants that he needed to chase down and recapture. “Aye aye, my lord,” he acknowledged. “Mr. Weston, I want you to go take possession of the smaller frigate and assess the damage,” Granger ordered. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said. Granger waited impatiently for the launch and the longboat to arrive at the Russian frigates, and then waited to make sure that there was no immediate duplicity as his men took possession. Satisfied that his officers had things well in hand, Granger decided it was time to chase after the four captured merchant vessels. “Mr. Kingsdale, you find yourself as the first lieutenant,” Granger said jovially. “I have big shoes to fill, sir,” he said diplomatically. Granger took control of the ship, setting off after the four merchant ships with her mains, even as the sailmaker worked to fix damage to her topsails. “I’ll want my gig ready to launch,” he ordered. “Major Treadway, I’ll trust you to board each merchant ship with a squad of your men to make sure that the original crew resumes control. You can bring the Russian prize crews back with you.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Treadway replied, and then both he and Kingsdale worked to get the boat ready. The merchants were slow and unwieldy, so Valiant was easily able to catch up with them, but it still took time. By the time she had recaptured the merchant ships and escorted them back to the convoy and the captured Russian frigates, the sun was starting to set. “Signal Mr. Weston and Mr. Grenfell to come aboard,” Granger ordered. Valiant was well beyond boat range at that point, but he wanted to send up the signal before it was dark. “We’ll also need lanterns for night stations, so no one runs into us.” “Aye aye sir,” Kingsdale said, and made sure his orders were executed. “It looks like at least most of the convoy has obeyed your orders to heave to.” “Most of them,” Granger grumbled, noting that probably 25 ships had opted to ignore him and continue on with their voyage, although it was difficult to discern in the fading light. Granger let Kingsdale handle Valiant and smiled approvingly as he hove her to half a cable from the captured Russian frigates. “That was well done,” he said to the young lieutenant. “Thank you, sir,” Kingsdale said. “You may return the ship to normal, and then please send the hands to supper,” he ordered. He passed the word for Winkler and gave orders for his own meal. Winkler briefly looked at him in frustration, contemplating all that he had to accomplish while also restoring Granger’s quarters, but then acknowledged his orders and went off to get things ready. “When Mr. Weston and Mr. Grenfell arrive, I would like it if you would join us for dinner,” he said to Kingsdale. “You can have one of the Master’s mates take the watch.” “Aye aye, sir,” he confirmed. Daventry had largely stayed in the background during all this activity, but now that there was a lull, he walked over to join Granger. “It is a beautiful night, although a bit chilly,” Daventry commented. “I suspect it will get much cooler before we are done with this mission,” Granger said. “I continue to be amazed at how busy you are, and how that contrasts to the sedate lives most of your contemporaries seem to have,” Daventry joked. “I suspect many of them are busy too,” Granger said, thinking of Borlase Warren, Nelson, and Pellew. “At least we are lucky in that the weather is calm.” “For now,” Daventry said ruefully. Even though it was a little cold, the Baltic was smooth, with just slight swells, and a large moon highlighted the evening, illuminating this mass of ships that was all around Valiant, even though their lanterns twinkled brightly, like some of those strange bugs Granger had seen in the tropics who illuminated themselves sporadically at night. “Why did you send Mr. Weston to command the smaller ship?” “The larger frigate appeared to be in poor condition, and I am skeptical that we’ll be able to salvage her,” Granger explained. “The smaller one took much less damage, and thus may be worth saving.” “And you are thinking that if you give Weston command of her and send her back to England that may be his ticket to promotion?” Daventry asked. “That was on my mind,” Granger said. “I must compliment you on how you work diligently to foster the careers of those officers who serve you. I would expect it is difficult to part with an experienced officer once you have developed a good rapport, such as you have with Mr. Weston,” Daventry said. “It is actually quite easy to part with them under such circumstances. I think it is my obligation to them and to the service to see that their talents are rewarded,” Granger said. “When Lord Hood was speaking to me prior to supporting me in my admission to the Lords, he told me that the true value of an officer is not what he achieves, but whom he leaves behind to succeed him.” “A noble goal,” Daventry agreed. “Unfortunately, in this case, I think you would be doing Mr. Weston a disservice.” “And why is that?” Granger asked curiously. “We are not at war with Russia, even though their actions certainly seem warlike,” Daventry noted. “Up until this latest conflict, we have largely had a good relationship with Russia, and we have usually found ourselves allied with them. I would remind you that over the past five years, Russian ships have served alongside the North Sea fleet in support of our war aims.” “Such as what war aims we have can be identified,” Granger said in frustration, venting about the lack of strategic direction of Pitt and his Cabinet. “Indeed,” Daventry agreed ruefully. “Russia, despite her sizeable but decrepit navy, is a continental power, and her focus is on the land. That is bound to bring her into conflict with France. The only thing propelling her into French orbit right now is the purported insanity of the Tsar.” Granger continued to be impressed with how well Daventry knew about this region, and pondered how much studying and consulting he must have done prior to this mission. “You are trying to tell me that this strange non-war we have with Russia is an aberration, and that we are most likely going to be allied with them in the future,” Granger concluded. “That is exactly what I am telling you. And in that case, I am almost sure that any unpleasant actions we may have will be swept under the rug so as not to impair that relationship.” “So if I send Weston home with this captured Russian frigate, rather than returning to accolades, the whole issue would likely be hushed up, and he would probably find himself posted to a different ship and sent off in short order?” Granger asked cynically. There would be no rewards for Weston in that situation, as the desire would be to have him be as inconspicuous as possible. “I am willing to wager that is what happens,” Daventry said. Granger stood there with Daventry, staring out at the sea, enjoying a moment of relative quiet to ponder his words, until the tranquility was broken by the pealing of bosun’s whistles. Granger was surprised at that, since as lieutenants Weston and Grenfell wouldn’t warrant such honors. He turned to see a man climbing through the entry port, wearing that dark green uniform he’d seen the Russian officers wearing. Before he could say anything, Weston boarded the ship behind him. “My lord, this is Captain Ian McDougal, of His Imperial Majesty’s ship Patrikii,” Weston said. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Captain,” Granger said politely. “The pleasure is most certainly mine, my lord,” McDougal said, returning Granger’s bow. He had a Scottish brogue, and Granger surmised he must be one of those Royal Navy officers who had opted to serve in the Tsar’s navy rather than exist in England, hoping for a ship or promotion, while eking out a living on half-pay. As Granger witnessed every time he visited the Admiralty, while there was an acute shortage of seamen, there was a large surplus of officers. “I hope you don’t mind me inviting Captain McDougal to join me, my lord,” Weston said. “I thought he may be able to provide additional insight on this situation.” “I’m sure you are right,” Granger said. Grenfell boarded the ship and greeted everyone. “I understand you were in charge of the guns that ravaged us,” McDougal said to him, but in a pleasant way. “I had that honor, sir,” Grenfell said. “You are to be complimented on your rate of fire and your accuracy,” McDougal told Grenfell. “I could not agree more,” Granger said. “Gentlemen, I am of a mind to have our discussion over supper.” “A good meal would not come amiss, my lord,” McDougal said with a grin. He was a handsome man, probably in his thirties, with the look of someone who had seen hard living, probably both ashore and at sea. Granger led them back to his cabin, which had miraculously been restored, at least as far as Granger’s guests could see. McDougal’s eyes grew a bit wider as he noted the luxurious surroundings that constituted Granger’s home at sea, while Granger turned into the perfect host, pointing out some of his pictures and then guiding them to the table. They took their seats and began eating. “This food is truly wondrous, my lord!” McDougal exclaimed. “Thank you, Captain,” Granger said, smiling at him. “I will convey your compliments to my chef.” “It smells quite good, and it is deliciously warm as well in here, my lord,” he said. “I received a stove as a gift, designed for shipboard use,” Granger said. “It is also useful for light cooking and baking. The scent you smell is undoubtedly fresh bread.” “Incredible,” McDougal said, then applied himself to eating. As polite as he seemed, his table manners were horrendous, and the fact that he didn’t seem to realize that he was uniquely being boorish was even more intriguing. The rest of them continued on with their meal as if he weren’t eating like a primitive savage, and politely ignored his conduct. “Tell me of the ships we captured,” Granger said to Weston. “My lord, Mr. Grenfell can brief you on the status of Podrazhislav, since that is the ship he has been commanding,” Weston said. Granger turned his attention to Grenfell. “Unfortunately, the Commodore, Captain, and most of her officers were killed, my lord,” Grenfell said. “The ship is in a sad state, with half of her crew dead or wounded.” Granger was stunned that they’d done so much damage after such a short fight. “I would not have expected such a high casualty rate.” “That ship belonged at the breaker’s yard, not at sea,” McDougal said, almost to himself. “Can you explain that Captain?” Granger asked. “Certainly, begging your pardon, my lord,” he said, and stopped eating long enough to answer Granger’s question. “She was built in Archangelsk, and ships from there are lucky to make it around Norway to Kronstadt to begin with.” “Why is that?” Weston asked. “They’re made of local timber up there, pine of some sort, and they transport it to the shipyard by floating it down the river. They don’t give it time to dry or age, like you should, and like I said, it’s pine to begin with,” McDougal said. “She appears to be falling apart,” Grenfell commented. “Planks are loose, and her knees are sagging.” “She was like that before the action,” McDougal told him. “Russians don’t worry too much about the quality of construction, because they have enough lumber and labor to just build more ships, but the worst of the lot come from Archangelsk.” “I have heard His Majesty’s ministers talk about building ships from fir or other soft woods because it could be done quickly and cheaply, but those ships would be lucky to be in service for ten years,” Daventry commented. “Aye, my lord, but for the Russians, that works, because the usual enemy is Sweden, so all they really need is enough ships to deal with the initial attack, and then after that, they can out build the Swedes by a large margin and overwhelm them,” McDougal said. “You gentlemen are suggesting that it will be nigh on impossible for this ship to serve in the King’s navy?” Granger asked. “I think that is certain, my lord,” Grenfell said, even as McDougal chuckled at the idea. “She’s not even fit to be a hulk,” McDougal said, shaking his head, and then refocused on eating. “Pass the word for Dr. Jackson,” Granger called to the sentry. They continued to dine while waiting for Valiant’s surgeon to arrive, and when he did, Granger sent him, along with some of his mates, over to the damaged Russian flagship to help with the wounded. “That was most kind of you, my lord,” McDougal said. Granger just smiled and changed the subject. “So the Russians build temporary vessels, knowing they will have a short career,” Granger concluded, burning that into his memory. “Aye, my lord, and because of that, they don’t think that maintaining them is very important at all,” McDougal said. “If you were to go to Kronstadt, you’d see about eight first-rates that look an awful lot like the Victory. Some say the Russians stole the plans to her, and it’s hard to argue with that when you see those ships.” “The Victory is a splendid first rate,” Granger opined strongly, since he was especially fond of that ship. “That may be, my lord, but those eight first-rate copies of her in Kronstadt aren’t a one of them fit to put to sea,” he said. “They build them with timber that isn’t seasoned and rots much too quickly, then they don’t do anything to maintain them. Then ten years later, they are all but falling apart.” “Fascinating,” Granger said as he digested that. “You must understand, my lord, that the Russians have an almost inexhaustible supply of raw materials. They have unlimited timber, iron, and men. The problem with all three of them is the quality of those materials.” “The men we captured did not appear to be in the best of health,” Granger noted, thinking of the Russian prize crews that were being housed on the main deck, amongst the 24-pounders. “You will pardon me for noting, my lord, that is because they came from Podrazhislav,” McDougal said with no small amount of scorn. “I am familiar with your career, and I know you have been aboard a Spanish ship or two.” “One or two,” Granger said with a smile, getting a laugh from the others. “My experience is that the Spaniards have gentlemen to command them, a core of professional petty officers and seamen to sail the ship, but the bulk of the crew are nothing more than peasants, my lord,” McDougal said. “That is an apt description,” Granger agreed. “If you will think about the typical Russian ship, and magnify that difference, such that the crews are even more unskilled than Spanish peasants, then Your Lordship will have a view of how things operate,” McDougal said. “And what of the Patrikii?” Granger asked, referring to the smaller frigate. “Patrikii was built in St. Petersburg, made with Kazan Oak, and is only five years old,” McDougal said proudly. “I’ve worked hard to train my men, so you’ll find her a bit different than the typical Russian ship.” “That is admirable,” Granger said, and watched McDougal grow a little bit from his praise. McDougal clearly did not have a problem with excessive modesty. “How bad are your casualties?” “We had five men wounded, my lord,” McDougal said proudly. “That contrast with your Commodore’s ship is quite stunning,” Granger noted. “My lord, I knew that you would not fall for the Commodore’s ploy, but I was compelled to follow orders,” McDougal said in frustration. “Explain that,” Granger said, with evident curiosity. “My lord, the Commodore was using the same tactic he’d implemented to fool some Swedes in the last war,” McDougal explained. “Podrazhislav was supposed to attract your attention with her steady fire, such that Patrikii was able to then slide out of line and cross your stern. After that, presumably one of our ships would be able to maintain a raking fire while the other exchanged broadsides with you.” Granger digested that. “The Swedes are that easily fooled?” McDougal laughed. “Evidently the one that the Commodore vanquished was, my lord.” “I had wondered why Podrazhislav opened fire so early, and from such a distant range,” Granger mused. “And now you know, begging your pardon, my lord,” McDougal said. “I knew when you kept your ports closed and didn’t return fire that you would exploit the biggest weakness in the Commodore’s plan, that you would rake Patrikii as she wore ship. Our casualties were so low because I ordered everyone on board to lie down on the deck.” “That was a very smart move on your part, Captain,” Granger said, and watched McDougal beam in pride at his own cleverness. “Thank you, my lord,” he said. “My lord, Captain McDougal and his men have been working with us to repair the foremast and the bow of Patrikii,” Weston said. “We expect she’ll be ready to sail by the morning.” “That is excellent work, gentlemen,” Granger pronounced, then shifted back to McDougal. “Captain, but for your capture of four of His Britannic Majesty’s merchant vessels, I cannot see that this battle would have been necessary.” “My lord, you must surely realize that I was merely following orders,” McDougal said defensively. “I did not mean to accuse you of any malfeasance, Captain,” Granger said soothingly. “I am just trying to ascertain whether a state of war exists between our two nations.” “My understanding, my lord, is that His Imperial Majesty issued orders to impound all British ships, crews, and merchandise,” McDougal said. “I believe the intention was that this impound order would remain in effect until the issues with the Northern League and His Britannic Majesty were resolved.” “That is a most belligerent action on the part of His Imperial Majesty,” Granger noted. “I would submit, my lord, that it sounds worse than it is,” McDougal said. “Most of the merchant ships are already outward bound, so this will only catch those laggards who didn’t sail in time. I am also fairly certain that the Commodore did not interpret the instructions as His Imperial Majesty intended.” “And how is that, Captain?” Daventry asked. “I think that His Imperial Majesty intended that those ships would be impounded if in port, while the Commodore took that to mean that ships could be captured and impounded if they were found in or near His Imperial Majesty’s waters.” “We’re a bit far from Russia,” Daventry noted. “Most Russians consider the Baltic Sea to be His Imperial Majesty’s waters, my lord,” McDougal said with a grin. “I daresay the Swedes, Danes, and Prussians would have some objection to that,” Daventry joked. “I do not think His Imperial Majesty is overly worried about their perceptions,” McDougal said. “Are there other ships, or groups of ships such as yours, that may be patrolling the Baltic?” Granger asked. McDougal got uncomfortable. “I am not trying to get you to divulge information you are uncomfortable sharing, I am merely trying to ascertain whether this convoy faces further threats.” “There are a few other groups of ships, my lord,” McDougal said, but did not elaborate on what those groups consisted of. “I would think that is most unusual,” Daventry noted. “Don’t most ships of His Imperial Majesty’s navy stand down around this time of year?” “They do, as do the Swedes and Danes,” McDougal noted. “Baltic winters can be cold and unpleasant, and there is no reason for anyone to brave them unnecessarily.” “Yet there are some groups of ships out there doing just that,” Granger said, but it was more of a question. “The decommissioning process is gradual, my lord,” McDougal said. “By the end of October, we will all be ashore.” They finished dining, made the appropriate toasts to their respective sovereigns. Things were a bit tense, since Granger had not discussed what was to happen yet, and all of them, Daventry included, were curious as to how Granger would resolve this situation. “Captain, I am of a mind to release you, contingent on your pledge that you will not further impede His Britannic Majesty’s ships until you return to Revel or Kronstadt.” That would not unduly burden McDougal, but it would make sure that he knew clearly the duration of his period of neutrality, such as it was. “My lord, I am more than willing to make that pledge,” McDougal said. “As I have explained to you, I do not think the initial orders we received were intended to give us permission to capture British ships.” “I am concerned lest those other groups are as confused as your Commodore was,” Granger observed. As it had been relayed to him, it seemed as if the Tsar was giving aggressive officers carte blanche to attack and capture British ships, while giving himself the ability to plausibly deny such an intention, much as McDougal was doing now. “I cannot speak to their intentions, my lord,” McDougal said. “Nor would I expect you to,” Granger said soothingly. “I would like to visit both Podrazhislav and Patrikii in the morning.” “It would be an honor to be able to return your hospitality, perhaps for breakfast, my lord?” McDougal asked. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” Granger said. “After that, I will give you leave to take your ships and return to whichever of His Imperial Majesty’s ports you deem appropriate.” McDougal stared at him, surprised that Granger would release not just him, but the two frigates as well. That shocked expression was mirrored by the other officers at the table. “Thank you, my lord. I will look forward to hosting you and as many of these gentlemen who would also like to attend.” “Excellent,” Granger said. “I was hoping to allow Mr. Grenfell and Mr. Weston to return to Podrazhislav and Patrikii so they can continue to help repair those vessels.” “They will be welcome, my lord,” he said. “Then I will see you gentlemen in the morning,” he said, and then escorted them to the entry port and back to their ships. Granger was not surprised to find Daventry waiting for him. “You handled that masterfully,” Daventry said, even as they both took seats in the quarter gallery. “Thank you,” Granger said uncomfortably. “I think it is important that we escort this convoy to the Sound.” Daventry stared at him, preparing to object, then thought otherwise. “Why?” “There are two reasons,” Granger said. “I think that, as you noted, any incidents would be unappreciated at this point, and if we are with these ships, I would speculate that a Russian force would think twice before interfering with it.” “That makes sense, but it will delay our arrival in St. Petersburg,” Daventry noted. “Which leads me to our second reason. I think that it would be better if those Russian ships were to return to St. Petersburg and for a little time to pass before you arrived as well,” Granger explained. “I was actually thinking that I could merely go back with Captain McDougal and then release you to sail home,” Daventry said. Granger stared temptation in the face, wanting desperately to agree with him, even though he knew he shouldn’t. “I will do that if you want me to, but I would first ask you to consider the impression you want to give on your arrival in Russia,” Granger said. Granger poured them both a glass of port, and they sipped on it for a while, even as they both pondered the situation. “I think if I arrive on board ships that have been mauled by Valiant, I will find a most chilly reception,” Daventry said, breaking their silence. “I am even more concerned that, if I am unwelcome there, I will end up in some less-than-pleasant accommodations, and will find myself unable to get to Riga.” “I will leave you to fully consider your options and advise me as to your plan in the morning,” Granger said. “In the meantime, I am going to get some rest.” Granger went to his sleeping cabin while Daventry stayed in the quarter gallery for some time, contemplating what his next move should be. “I’ll have my gig swayed out and brought around,” Granger ordered. It was not quite dawn yet, so he heard the commotion of the gig being lowered from its davits, and of the gig’s crew descending into the boat, even though he didn’t actually see them. “I opted to join you, if you have no objection,” Daventry said, appearing on deck looking quite spruce, if a little plain compared to Granger. Granger had decided that visiting the Russian ships warranted his full-dress uniform, complete with his various decorations. “I also thought I would go on this tour with you, my lord,” Treadway said. “I am delighted to have your company,” Granger said. “I was planning to remain aboard, sir,” Kingsdale said, as was proper since he was the temporary first lieutenant. “I will trust you to see that the men have breakfast, and that my gig’s crew is also fed when they return,” Granger said. “Of course, sir,” Kingsdale said. They watched as the sky lightened enough to see that there were no appreciable changes since last night, and then made to leave the vessel. “You have the ship, Mr. Kingsdale. I would be obliged if you would dispatch a boat with a message to the convoy that we will be escorting them to the Sound shortly,” Granger said. “Aye aye, sir,” Kingsdale said, even as Treadway and Daventry preceded Granger into the boat. “Patrikii,” Granger said to Jacobs, then sat back and studied the small Russian frigate. She was rated for some 28 guns, although he had learned that she carried 18-pounders. They were hailed in the barbaric language Granger suspected was Russian. Jacobs looked at Granger, a bit confused, then shrugged and called out “Valiant!” It seemed to suffice. The gig pulled up alongside Patrikii and Granger could see evidence of her poor construction even from this point. The oak, such as it was, already looked to be rotting, and it was clear the Russians hadn’t thought to invest in coppering her hull. He pulled himself aboard and was welcomed by the standard honors for a Post Captain, then greeted by McDougal and Weston. “I thought we would take you on a tour of the ship, and then we would break our fast, if that meets with your approval, my lord,” McDougal said. “That sounds marvelous,” Granger said. McDougal introduced him to his officers, who seemed competent enough, then took him around the upper deck, explaining Russian rigging. It was quite similar to that used by the Royal Navy, which was no surprise, since the Russians had primarily emulated Britain when it came to their ships. They descended the ladder and the stench all but assaulted Granger’s senses. It seemed that the Russians were worse than the Spaniards when it came to cleanliness. The gun deck was familiar as well, but for two very odd weapons located in the center of the ship. “What are these?” “Those are edinorogs, my lord,” McDougal said. “They are designed to shoot a combustible shell, or conversely solid shot.” “A shell?” Granger asked curiously, and not without a little apprehension. He was not aware that other navies were using explosive cannon balls, but if they were, and they were effective, that would make such weapons very lethal. “Yes, my lord,” he said. “They are not terribly effective, the shells anyway, but they are good weapons when firing standard solid shot.” “Interesting,” Granger said. He noticed the evidence of Patriiki’s decay, and that her knees were not holding up well at all, and then had a nice breakfast with McDougal. Still, he knew the convoy would be anxious to be on its way, so he was relieved to note they had finished dining rather quickly. “My lord, thank you for visiting us, and for releasing us to return to Russia,” McDougal said. “I think it is I who must thank you for the tour of your ship, and the delicious breakfast,” Granger said, and handed McDougal an envelope. He’d gotten a bit of sleep last night, and then spent the rest of his time on correspondence. “I would like to ask that you take this letter to His Imperial Majesty. I have attempted to explain my actions, so as not to further anger him.” “I will convey this to him, my lord,” McDougal said. Granger left Patrikii in his gig, while Weston loaded his men into the launch and headed back to Valiant. They arrived aboard Podrazhislav and found it to be almost a different world. Grenfell welcomed him aboard and showed him around briefly, and while Granger had thought Patrikii had been decaying, compared to Podrazhislav, it was like she was new. Her timbers were so rotten that Valiant’s shot had blown whole sections away, which would explain the high casualty rate. The crew seemed dull and unresponsive, as if they were mere animals waiting for orders. Granger was used to a more animated crew, and found these stolid Russian sailors disturbing. It was with relief that he gathered Grenfell, Dr. Jackson, and his men and returned to Valiant.
  10. Sometimes, just for fun, I'll put a modern term into a historical story. A good example would be in "Master and Commander", when Granger is approaching Port St. Louis, they must hoist the recognition signal, which is 4-20. There's one in Northern Exposure. Did you find it?
  11. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 16

    September, 1800 HMS Valiant, Near Bornholm Granger paced the deck with Daventry, pondering the action they’d had yesterday with the French privateer, and further pondering their next steps. “I slept quite happily last night,” Daventry said. “Indeed?” Granger asked. “Whenever my mind shifted to unpleasant thoughts, I had but to imagine Lord Whitworth trying to untangle this latest mess you’ve tossed in his lap to make me smile most broadly,” he said. Granger chuckled. “While I certainly didn’t conduct myself in that situation in order to purposely vex Whitworth, I must say that has been a positive side effect.” “How long do you think it will take us to get to St. Petersburg?” Daventry asked. “As you are no doubt accustomed, for a trip at sea, that is largely dependent on the winds,” Granger explained. “That is even more important here in the Baltic, since there are no tides to impact us.” “Will we be able to sail at night?” he asked, which was a strange question under normal circumstances, but it made sense in this case. In what was a rarity for Valiant, she had hove to last night. “I am largely relying on Mr. Schein’s guidance, as these are waters he is familiar with and I have never been here,” Granger said. “Let us consult with him. Mr. Schein!” Schein had been standing by the binnacle with Meurice. Granger had been apprehensive about their relationship, since having two men who could claim the role of master on a ship was normally a recipe for a series of conflicts, but the two of them got along remarkably well. Granger allowed himself a moment of personal frustration as he noted that those relationships that he thought would be smooth, like with Whitworth and Dickson, turned out to be stormy, but then there was this situation, where a problem he had anticipated had never arose. “My lord?” Schein asked. “I would be obliged if you and Mr. Meurice would join Lord Daventry and me in the chartroom,” Granger said. Granger’s cabin was set up such that there was an entry in the center of the bulkhead behind the quarterdeck, and that led to a small anteroom where Winkler slept, beyond which were his quarters. On either side of that anteroom were two other rooms, one for Meurice, and the other for Granger’s charts. “Of course, my lord,” Schein said, and then he and Meurice followed Granger directly aft into his chartroom. With Schein’s big bulk in the room, it was quite crowded. “Lord Daventry asked me about our trip, and whether we would need to heave to at night, so I thought this was a good opportunity to ascertain our sailing plan,” Granger said, as they stared at the map of the Baltic. “I would not recommend that we heave to every night, my lord,” Schein said, “but there are some locations where it makes sense, especially when we near islands.” “Like this one?” Daventry asked, gesturing at Bornholm on the map, the same island they were now skirting. They were traversing it to the south, presumably to stay toward the center of the Baltic where the water was deeper. “Yes, my lord,” Schein said. “I am curious, and feel reticent, for not asking you before about your knowledge of the Baltic,” Granger said. “Are there areas where you are more comfortable, and other areas that are more of a mystery?” “I suspect you’ve been busy, my lord, and I didn’t want to bother you with something like that,” Schein said with a smile. He was quite engaging, a bit of a jolly old man. “I am very comfortable with the coast of Germany and Courland, all the way into Kronstadt. I sailed to Memel and Kronstadt many times, and even stopped in Reval occasionally.” “Since that is where we are bound, I would submit that is a good thing,” Granger said pleasantly. “Yes, my lord,” Schein said. “I am also familiar with the islands in the Baltic, but I have no knowledge, really, of the Swedish coast, or of the seas north of St. Petersburg, including the Gulf of Bothnia.” “Well, our mission is to take Lord Daventry to St. Petersburg, so I am glad to think that means your lack of knowledge of Finland and its surrounding waters will not be a hindrance,” Granger said. “Those waters will freeze first, so we will indeed have to hope so, my lord,” Schein said. “Will your lordship want to look in at Karlskrona?” “Why would we need to look into Karlskrona?” Daventry asked. “Sweden has two naval forces, my lord,” Schein explained. “The deep water navy, meaning the bigger ships, is based at Karlskrona. The archipelago fleet is based in Sveaborg.” “Archipelago?” Daventry asked, even though Granger was curious about that as well. “Yes, my lord,” Schein said. “The coasts of Sweden and Finland in the Gulf of Bothnia, I am told, consist of shallow shores with a multitude of small islands; in essence, it is a large archipelago. The Russians and the Swedes both have specialty fleets designed to fight in those conditions.” “What kind of craft would these fleets consist of?” Granger asked. “Small craft probably similar to what one would find in the Mediterranean, my lord,” Schein said. Granger briefly cringed at the thought that there would be xebecks here as well, but relaxed when he pondered that the crews that manned them would presumably be much more civilized, and that no fight would be a contest to the death. “Can you describe these vessels?” Granger asked. “Certainly, my lord,” Schein said pleasantly. “All of the smaller ships are nothing more than glorified rowboats, usually mounting a 24-pounder in the bow. They all have drafts shallow enough to float in a yard of water. The smallest are the gun longboats, the gun yawls are a little bigger, and the gun sloops a bit bigger again.” Swedish Mortar Longboat “Not much different than our own longboat or launch,” Granger noted. “No, my lord,” Schein agreed. “The archipelago fleet is considered an extension of the army.” “So these small craft constitute what we may think of as moving piece of artillery, only instead of being mounted on limbers and carried by horses, they’re mounted on boats and rowed,” Granger said, getting clarity. “That’s right, my lord,” Schein said. “The gun prams are much larger. They are equipped with three masts and seven pairs of oars placed between the gun ports. They usually have a draft of less than 3 yards, and carry up to 24 12-pounders and 16 3-pounder swivel guns. They can carry crews of 200 men or so.” “Those sound somewhat analogous to a larger chebeck or perhaps a sloop of war,” Granger mused. “A good comparison, my lord,” Schein said. “The biggest ships of the archipelago fleet are the archipelago frigates.” “Frigates?” Granger asked, since these would be much more likely to be a direct threat to Valiant. “Aye, my lord,” Schein said. “The Swedes have about ten of them, but I don’t know how many the Russians have. They have three masts, two decks and they are also designed to sail with oars. The crew is about the same size as a pram. They’ll be fitted out with around 24 heavy guns, with another 24 swivels for close combat.” Swedish Turuma, or Archipelago Frigate “That would be an interesting challenge,” Granger mused, visualizing a large fleet of these strange frigates ranged against him. “Your lordship would be at a disadvantage because of their shallow draft, but you will find them to be less sturdily built than this ship,” Schein noted. “I suppose the deep water navy would be a bigger threat to us,” Granger mused. “You will please pardon me for disagreeing with you, my lord,” Schein said. “While the Swedish ships of the line are at Karlskrona, their ships and crews are not very good. On the other hand, their coastal navy has a very good reputation for efficiency and effectiveness. That is why they are in Finland, where they are positioned to stop the Russians, who are their usual enemy.” “I did not know that, Mr. Schein,” Granger admitted. “I thank you for sharing what is obviously a wealth of knowledge.” “I am not sure about that, my lord, but I am happy to tell you what I know,” he said modestly. “It is almost the time of year when the deep water navy would stand down for the winter. In that case, the crews will be let go, and the ships will be put in ordinary, with their ballast removed.” “You are suggesting that by sailing by Karlskrona, we could peek in and see if those preparations have been made, so we will know how many Swedish battleships are lurking around behind us as we go on to Russia,” Granger said. “I would think it would be a wise precaution, my lord,” he replied. “It is on our way, so that makes sense,” Granger agreed. “I will trust you gentlemen to lay in a course for Karlskrona.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Meurice and Schein said, and then left the chartroom to go attend to that. “I fear I know little of the people and ships in this part of the world,” Granger said to Daventry. “You should have been more selective when you chose someone to transport you.” “I have no complaints,” Daventry said. “I wanted you and your brains in charge of this part of our mission. We have people like Schein to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.” “We will hope that is the case,” Granger agreed. “What do you think our reception will be like when we get to Russia?” “I think we will either be received coldly, or told to leave immediately,” Daventry said. “So this is a bit like going home for you,” Granger teased, since Daventry was in a notoriously unhappy marriage. “Yes, but I think even then the Tsar would be happier to see me,” Daventry said. “You are hoping that the Tsar will allow you to stay, and that he will ultimately learn to appreciate your charm and you will then be able to lure him away from France?” Granger asked in a jocular way. “And why is that so hard to imagine?” Daventry said, chuckling. “I am hoping that he lets me stay, as that will save me a considerable amount of effort.” “And what is your plan should he opt to boot us out of Russia?” Granger asked. “Then instead we will go to Riga,” Daventry said. He pointed at that city on the map. “It appears I am to get quite the tour of the Baltic,” Granger said ruefully. A knock at the door was followed by that device opening to reveal Winkler’s face peering in at him. “My lords, dinner is ready.” “You are the bearer of good tidings,” Daventry said. Granger and Daventry followed Winkler back to his cabin for dinner. “You attribute my selection of you and your vessel as my transport to some grand plan designed to enhance my chances of success.” “And that is not your reason?” Granger asked as they took their seats. “It is also possible that I am here solely because of your fabulously talented chef.” “That would be a much more credible reason than the others you have cited,” Granger joked. “It seems to me that when we had returned from the Mediterranean, I counseled you to repair your relationship with your wife,” Daventry said. Granger could not hide his alarm at that topic. “You are suggesting I did not do that?” He thought that he and Caroline had fully worked things out, and he’d been incredibly happy as a result. Fear gripped him lest all that was mere self-delusion. “I am suggesting no such thing. From what I can tell, it looks as if you achieved that goal, and you both seem marvelously happy,” Daventry noted. “Thank you,” Granger said, even as he exhaled with relief. “I raised the issue to tell you that I made an effort to do the same thing with my wife,” Daventry said, confiding in him. “You are telling me that you are now wholly in love with your wife, and pine for her on a constant basis?” Granger asked with a grin. “I fear our reconciliation was nothing so advanced as that,” Daventry said as he dabbed his mouth with his napkin. “One must work within the realm of what is possible.” “And that was not possible?” “It was not, nor was it desirable,” Daventry said. “We were dining together, much like this, all but snarling at each other, and I simply asked her what would make her happy.” Granger raised an eyebrow. “And her response did not involve you immediately committing suicide?” Daventry chuckled. “Surprisingly, it did not. She is from Cumberland, a rigid and dreary place, not unlike our Duke who took that title as his namesake.” “You do not get along with Prince Ernest Augustus?” Granger asked. He was the fifth son of the King, and a man Granger was completely unable to like. “I do not,” he said, shaking his head. “He is as rigid and conservative as the Duke of York, but without his intelligence and basic good nature.” “My understanding is that he likes nothing better than to launch schemes and spread gossip,” Granger said ruefully. He was one of those people who could enter a group of people and almost immediately they would end up fighting and bickering with each other. “He is most petty,” Daventry agreed. “Do you associate much with the other Princes?” “I tend to spend most of my time with The Prince of Wales or The Duke of Clarence,” Granger said, trying not to blush when he thought about how he spent his time with the Duke. “The Duke of York is civil but haughty, so I haven’t much to do with him.” “Unless you can talk about horses or the army, York won’t have much use for you,” Daventry said. “Clarence is a good enough bloke, if not a bit loud and crass.” He was quite right, as the Duke of Clarence could be quite boisterous, and seemed to delight in telling off-color stories in front of ladies. “I suspect his affinity for me stems from his affinity for the Navy,” Granger said. “And perhaps that is also why he is a bit crass and loud. One must often shout to be heard from the tops.” “Yet you do not exhibit such a want of manners as His Royal Highness often does in public,” Daventry asserted. “He is usually on his best behavior around His Majesty, which is where I usually see him,” Granger said, referring at least to his public encounters with the Duke. “That is true of all the Princes,” Daventry said. “What about Kent and the others?” “I have never met the Duke of Kent,” Granger said honestly. “He has been in Canada since we were in school.” “I have not met him yet either,” Daventry said. “Augustus is a bit of the intellectual, so that makes it difficult for me to converse with him,” Granger joked. “I find him to be amiable enough.” “It makes sense that since I was better at my studies than you that I would like Augustus better,” Daventry joked. “If you say so,” Granger said, rolling his eyes. “I have only met Prince Adolphus once. I found him to be every inch a soldier.” “He is most definitely that,” Daventry agreed. “He is also quite devoted to Hanover.” “But you have yet to tie our mutual distaste for the Duke of Cumberland into how you restored your relationship with your wife,” Granger pointed out, bringing them back on topic. “I will satisfy your curiosity this minute,” he replied. “She said that she would like to live in Cumberland, near her family and childhood friends. She has grown tired of London and society, and gets no joy from it.” “That arrangement sounds like it would be most convenient for you,” Granger noted. “Indeed, it is, with one exception. His Majesty is most displeased with me for how I have handled my marriage. I can see it in the looks he gives me, and the way he treats me. Her Majesty is much more vocal, but fortunately she has directed her comments to my wife, albeit indirectly for the most part.” “I cannot imagine Caroline attempting to emulate Her Majesty and giving birth to some 16 children,” Granger said, wondering at what torture that would be. “I suspect that Her Majesty envisioned that bearing the child and giving birth would be the biggest challenge, yet they have found raising them to be much harder,” Daventry said. “I have not had the problems they have experienced,” Granger said. “That is because your children have not reached their twelfth birthday yet, the age I am told at which all hell breaks out,” Daventry said. “In any event, I used the money we acquired in the Mediterranean to buy an estate for my wife in Cumberland, and settled an additional sum on her so she could modify it however she wanted.” “And that has made her happy?” “I was able to have dinner with her and actually enjoy our conversation,” Daventry said. “I would call that a significant breakthrough,” Granger said, grinning. “And she has no issue with your various women?” “I do not have as many women trailing after me as you would make it seem, a fact which surprises me greatly, but I think we understand each other,” he said, then swallowed nervously. “I had to make one great concession.” “Only one?” Granger joked, to help him relax. “She would like to have a child,” he said. “And who is to father this child?” Granger asked. “Evidently that is my job,” he said. Granger started laughing, which made Daventry laugh as well. “This is certainly not a problem we had anticipated when we were at school,” Granger said, making them both remember those crazed adolescent days. “It is not, and I must admit that as apprehensive as I was, it was not as unpleasant as I thought it would be,” he said. Granger could only stare at him in shock. “Truly that is a monumental change in your affairs,” Granger said. “When did this miraculous copulation take place?” “This event happened while you were with the Channel Fleet, and it appears that it may in fact be miraculous,” Daventry said. “She is with child.” Granger grinned, then filled their glasses and toasted Daventry’s good fortune. “I am most interested to see what this child is like when he or she is 17 years of age,” Granger joked. “We had best accumulate a substantial amount of prize money lest this child runs up debt as you did when you were that age.” “That is usually a good idea, in any event,” he said. “I wanted to share this with you, but we have not had a moment to really have such a conversation.” Granger recognized that this was a very intimate moment between them, and felt himself get choked up with emotion. “I am both honored and flattered that you chose to tell me this news,” Granger said sincerely. “I think I will go on deck and see if we have left that island behind,” Daventry said, to end their somewhat maudlin moment. “Let us see,” Granger said, and they went to see if Bornholm was behind them. “My lord, we took the route to the south of Bornholm, and we must now head north to Karlskrona,” Schein told him. That annoyed Granger, since if Schein had suggested going to Karlskrona before they’d sailed south of Bornholm, they could have taken the much more direct northern route, but he opted not to be peevish. “Please advise me when we are clear of the island, then we’ll go about and head north on the larboard tack,” Granger said. “Aye aye, my lord,” Schein said. “Sail ho!” came a cry from the foretop lookout. There were a lot of sails in the Baltic, so this was not unusual. “What do you make of this sail, Carter?” Granger called through his speaking trumpet. “Looks to be a fleet, my lord,” he called back. Granger looked at Weston, who raised an eyebrow at that rather odd report. “It looks as if I’ll be aloft, trying to ascertain just whose fleet is in our vicinity,” Granger said in a pleasant manner. “Mr. Weston, you have the ship.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston replied. Granger took his glass and strode to the foremast and agilely scaled up the shrouds to the foretop. “They’re dead ahead, my lord,” Carter said, as soon as he got to the foretop. Granger got himself positioned, took out his glass, and looked ahead. There, sprawling to the south and east of him, was a disordered mass of merchant ships heading westward. “How many are there?” Granger asked Carter, even as he began to count himself. These weren’t massive ships like East Indiamen; rather they were the type of craft typical of the Baltic, with broad beams and shallow drafts. Those two characteristics did much to explain their evidently poor sailing qualities as they struggled to sail into a wind off their starboard bows. “I count 200 my lord, although I may not be right about that,” Carter said nervously. “If they were a bit more organized, it would be easier,” Granger said, getting a chuckle from Carter. “They appear to be mostly British.” “That’s what I see too, begging your pardon, my lord,” Carter said. “Keep an eye on them,” Granger told the lookout, then slid smoothly back to the deck. He strode aft to the quarterdeck. “We appear to have stumbled upon a relatively large fleet of mostly British merchant vessels,” Granger said. “A fleet?” Daventry asked. “Some 200 vessels,” Granger said. “I am of a mind to close with them and see if we can acquire information.” “That seems to be wise,” Daventry agreed. It would delay them, but not that long. “My lord, I can see them now,” Llewellyn said, as he gazed through his glass. “I’ll have an ensign raised on the foremast, so they know we’re friendly, or at least they will when they eventually spot us,” Granger said. “Aye aye, my lord,” Llewellyn said, and dispatched a group to raise a large union flag to the top of the foremast. They continued to close with the merchant fleet, watching the ships get larger from the deck as they did. “My lord, the lead ship is signaling to us!” “And what does she say?” Granger asked. “I think it’s enemy in sight, my lord,” Llewellyn said. Granger grabbed his speaking trumpet. “Carter, is that fleet under attack?” There was a pause, which Granger appreciated, since it showed Carter was taking time to evaluate the situation. “My lord, it looks like there’s a pair of frigates chasing after the fleet. I think they just captured one of the merchies!” “What flag do those frigates fly?” Granger demanded of Carter. “Can’t rightly make it out, my lord,” he replied. “Almost looks like a Scottish flag, but it’s blue where that’s white, and white where that’s blue.” “Most likely Russian,” Daventry said. “Mr. Weston, beat to quarters,” Granger ordered. “Let’s get the topgallants on her.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, trying to hide the skepticism in his voice. Valiant would be pushing her rigging to the limits. The sails were set, even as the ship engulfed herself in pandemonium by clearing for action. The topgallants were not as big as the course or the topsails, but their addition seemed to propel Valiant on at an exponentially faster speed. Granger could feel the whole ship straining, from her rigging to her guns, which were being readied for action. This was much like the battle with the French privateer, in that the convoy parted for him as if he were Moses parting the Red Sea, giving him a direct route straight to the two Russian frigates. “The one wearing a broad pennant looks to be a 38, my lord,” Weston said, referring to the number of guns they carried. “I think the other is either a 32, or maybe even a 28.” “It looks as if they’ve captured about four ships,” Granger noted ruefully, as he saw those four merchantmen sailing east with Russian flags over British colors. The Russian ships seemed to be taken off guard by Valiant’s arrival, which was not overly surprising, since with the tensions in this sea no one would expect a single British frigate to be patrolling about. “Are they challenging us to battle, my lord?” Weston asked, amazed. The two Russian frigates had recalled their boats, presumably the ones they’d sent off to board merchant ships they captured, and were standing toward Valiant under topsails only, which was what virtually all ships preferred when fighting. “That appears to be their intent,” Granger said. He would not have expected them to so readily seek action against Valiant’s formidable broadsides. “What will you do?” Daventry asked. “Mr. Weston, get us down to topsails,” Granger ordered before answering his fellow peer. “I intend to close with them and exchange broadsides before coming about and finishing them off.” “Do you think we should try and talk to them first?” Daventry asked. “No,” Granger said definitively. “Those ships were clearly capturing His Majesty’s vessels, and as such, that makes them hostile. If we had sighted them before they attacked this merchant fleet, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt, but now that they’ve taken that action, the only response must be battle.” “Thank you for explaining it to me,” Daventry said, which was also his way of giving Granger his approval of the proposed course of action. “Although I must say this will make us less welcome at St. Petersburg.” “If you demand that we not engage those ships, I will agree to your request,” Granger said to him, a statement that required all of his restraint. To back down in the face of these Russian marauders would be maddening, but Granger had learned that it was paramount to focus on one’s mission. “I do not think it will matter one way or the other, and it may do some good for the Russians to know that they’ve picked on a stronger adversary than the Swedish navy,” Daventry said. The lead frigate fired a shot, the sound attracting their attention in a flash. The ball flew across Valiant’s bow, some distance away. “We are still out of range,” Granger noted. They continued to close with the Russian ships, even as their leader fired shot after shot from her bowchaser. “We will hold our fire.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston responded. The Russian blazed away with her bowchaser until finally there was a crash forward, indicating she’d gotten a hit. “They’re altering course, my lord,” Kingsdale said enthusiastically. Valiant had been closing on them, heading southeast, while the Russians had been sailing in a northeast way such that the ships would intercept at a right angle at some point ahead, only now that they’d finally hit Valiant with a ranging shot, both ships altered course so their broadsides would bear on Valiant. The lead ship loosed her first broadside, the smoke billowing around her as she did. They had fired that first, all-important broadside from much too far away, such that the only damage was a hole in their foretopsail. “Sounds like 12-pounders, my lord,” the gunner said thoughtfully. “Indeed they do,” Granger agreed. “Mr. Grenfell, see that the guns are run in and that the ports are firmly closed.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and gave those orders. “I don’t understand,” Daventry said, but it was more of a question, since it looked as if Valiant were all but declining battle by running her guns in. “As we close, their 12-pound shot will most likely fail to penetrate through Valiant’s thick timbers,” Granger told him. “If we leave our ports open, there is nothing to stop those shots which may find the opening and otherwise wreak havoc.” And so Valiant and the larger Russian frigate continued to close the range, with the Russian firing slowly but steadily, and Valiant holding her fire. Oddly enough, the smaller frigate merely followed the larger frigate, and did not attempt to add her broadsides to those of her cohort. Valiant had taken quite a pounding, as 12-pound shot slammed into her sides, but so far the damage had been minor. A lucky Russian shot swept across the quarterdeck, hitting a marine in the leg, a leg that was now nothing more than a mangled mass. “Get that man below to the surgeon,” Weston ordered. “It’s almost time,” Granger said to Weston, more to steady the men than to steady the officers. Granger studied the Russian’s quarterdeck and saw her officers, wearing uniforms that were a dark greenish gray, and were surprisingly bereft of gold lace, but were unsurprisingly cut in an old-fashioned style. Most importantly, Granger noticed that the Russian frigate had no carronades, only long guns. Russian Naval Uniforms “My lord, it looks like that second frigate is preparing to try to rake us,” Meurice said. Granger watched as she turned to the larboard, preparing to sail past Valiant’s stern as she engaged the larger Russian ship. “Mr. Grenfell, run out the starboard battery,” Granger ordered. He’d been saving his first broadside for the Russian flagship, but the small frigate had given him a golden opportunity. Grenfell acknowledged his order, but his words were followed by the more tangible sound of the dull rumble of Valiant’s artillery being hauled into position. “Helm, two points to starboard. Easy now.” “Aye aye, my lord,” the quartermaster said, and Valiant began to turn slowly, until her broadside was aimed right at the bow of the smaller frigate. “Fire!” Granger ordered. Valiant’s broadside roared and smoke enveloped them briefly until the breeze blew it away. That first broadside, prepared with care and double-shotted, had smashed into the small frigate’s unprotected bow. The smoke cleared in time for them to see her foremast swaying about before collapsing. It must have been severed below her deck. She would cause them no further problems. “Helm, larboard two points. Bring us alongside that other Russian.” The other Russian fired, and from the shouts and screams below, Granger knew that some of her shots must have made contact. “Ready, my lord,” Grenfell said. “Fire!” Granger ordered, and this time Valiant’s mass of metal slammed into the lead Russian ship. “Fire as your guns bear!” Granger ordered, giving the gunners the ability to fire as soon as their guns were reloaded. A ball hit the rail next to them, sending splinters spraying across the deck, splinters which miraculously missed all of them. “My lord, I am wondering at her construction,” Meurice said, gesturing at the Russian ship. “What are you thinking?” Granger asked. “Notice how our shots seem to penetrate her sides much more easily than we would expect,” he said. “You think she is made of fir?” Granger asked, even as he contemplated the damage the Russian was taking. Fir was a relatively broad term used to describe ships that were made of softer wood as opposed to the oak that the Royal Navy preferred. “I think it is likely, my lord,” Meurice said. They were having this calm conversation even as guns blazed around them, and enemy shots flew over their heads. “There goes her main mast!” one of the men shouted. They watched as it collapsed, hampering the rest of her rigging, and acting as a massive sea anchor. She began to turn away from Valiant as she came into the wind. “Mr. Weston, luff the main topsail,” Granger ordered. “Mr. Grenfell, you will shortly have a chance to rake the Russian. Double shot your guns and await my order.” He didn’t hear them acknowledge his order, he merely watched as the Russian’s ornamental stern came into view, the strange Cyrillic letters announcing her name to those who could read that alphabet. “Fire!” Valiant’s broadside blasted out again, pouring almost a thousand pounds of metal into the stern of the Russian frigate, all but blowing out her quarter windows and gallery, and bringing down her mizzen as well. Granger detected activity at her taffrail. “Hold your fire,” he ordered. It took no more than two minutes for the Russians to hang a white flag from the aft part of her hull, indicating that she’d surrendered. “Mr. Grenfell, take a boarding party to take possession of that ship,” Granger ordered. He gave orders to turn Valiant about to deal with the smaller frigate, which was wallowing about, trying desperately to repair her damage, but when she saw Valiant bearing down on her, she surrendered as well.
  12. Mark Arbour

    Black Widow (Story Discussion)

    My initial thoughts on Dillon are that he's a rebound, but then again, that's quite subject to change. 😉
  13. Mark Arbour

    Chapter 15

    September, 1800 HMS Valiant, Copenhagen Harbor “My lord, the Danish ships give us a good beacon,” Schein said. “They are moored at the start of the middle ground.” “Could we take this channel and avoid them entirely?” Daventry asked, pointing at the King’s Channel. “We could, my lord,” Schein answered. “It may not be as well buoyed, and it is not as well known.” His answer meant nothing to Granger, who had already decided on his course of action. “Set a course to pass to the north of those Danish ships,” Granger ordered Weston. “Once we are past them, we will wear ship and then sail down the Hollander Channel.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, and took control of the ship. The wind was from the Northwest, so they were clawing into it as they headed for the Danish ships, but once beyond them, they would be running before it. “You are going to challenge them?” Daventry asked Granger. “I am,” Granger replied. “I am recalling my conversation with the Crown Prince. It seemed that his main motive was to intimidate me into not going into the Baltic, and that became even more clear when we had our discussion with Cavendish. I think that he may be trying to bluff us into doing what he wants.” “I reached the same conclusion,” Daventry agreed, still not following Granger’s rationale. “These two ships are clearly here to do the same thing,” Granger said. “So I am, in essence, calling his bluff.” “And you are not worried about facing those ships in battle?” Daventry asked. “I think that at most we will have to exchange a few broadsides with the battleship, and while we would incur some damage, I am confident we would inflict more on that Danish ship,” Granger said. “But she is a battleship, and I have seen what happens when a battleship attacks a frigate,” Daventry objected, remembering how the Success had been pulverized in her battle with Généreux. “That is true, but Valiant was once a battleship quite similar to that vessel, and has the scantlings to stand up to her in battle,” Granger said confidently. “In addition, while she has some 20 extra guns, our carronades are considerably more powerful at close range. I am confident that we can more than hold our own against that vessel.” Granger did feel that confident, but he was hoping that the Danish ship would hold her fire, because a pitched battle with Valiant would create a lot of damage and casualties on both sides, and Granger still had a mission to accomplish. “So you think a show of confidence at this point would be helpful?” Daventry asked. “I do, and I think it will cause Whitworth some problems, and that makes it an even more compelling course of action,” Granger joked. “And now you know why I would only go on this mission if you were my captain,” Daventry said smugly. “I am flattered,” Granger lied. “I will be aloft.” That last sentence was directed to Weston. Granger strode to the main shrouds and climbed up to the maintop. “Lot of traffic, my lord,” the lookout said respectfully. He was a seaman named Soames, an older man who had originally served with Granger aboard Bacchante. He wasn’t very good with most shipboard tasks, but he was an excellent lookout. Granger trained his glass toward the Sound and saw a relatively large group of ships working their way upwind, making slow progress. Some of the ships had their decks piled high with lumber, while even those who weren’t were quite low in the water. “They appear to be a mixed bag,” Granger said, noticing that the flags they flew were almost all neutral. “How many are there?” “I make 20 ships, my lord, ten American, three Swedes, two Danes, two Prussians, and three of ours,” Soames said. “That’s my read on it as well,” Granger said. “Looks like one of the ships is trying to catch up to the convoy, my lord,” Soames noted. He’d called it a convoy, which was a convenient enough term, but they didn’t have a warship escort. “Maybe she fell behind over the night.” “Maybe,” Granger said, even as he trained his glass farther down the Sound. Even then, it was difficult to get a feel for that ship from the maintop. “I think we’ll need to go up to the main topgallant.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Soames said. Granger began to climb up higher, while Soames mirrored his moves on the opposite shrouds. They reached the crosstrees and secured themselves, then refocused on this stray ship. As Granger studied the vessel, he felt his blood begin to race, as if it were not already moving fast enough due to their impending encounter with the Danish warships. “That is no merchant,” Granger said. “And if I’m not mistaken, she’s flying French colors.” “That’s what I see too, begging your pardon my lord,” he said. “I’d say she’s a privateer, pierced for ten guns a side.” Granger glanced ahead and saw that they were nearing the Danish ships, and saw a boat preparing to put off from the Danish ship of the line with an officer aboard. He would be needed on the quarterdeck. “Keep your eye on that French ship,” Granger ordered. “As she draws closer, you may remove yourself back down to the maintop.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Soames said. He watched the French privateer until he saw the boat push off from the Danish ship. Granger grabbed a backstay, and took more care with his descent since he usually didn’t have to climb quite this high, and sliding down on a rope was always a dodgy business. He landed on the deck with a light thud and addressed the officers gathered there. “There’s a group of some 20 merchants working their way through the Sound, with three of our ships included in that number,” he explained. “There’s a French privateer chasing after them.” “It seems we are to be busy today, my lord,” Weston said with his usual cheerfulness. They hailed the Danish boat, and then prepared to receive the officer she carried. A young lieutenant hauled himself aboard and smartly saluted the quarterdeck. “Welcome, Lieutenant,” Granger said in English, hoping the man spoke that language. “I am Viscount Granger, captain of His Britannic Majesty’s ship Valiant.” “It is a pleasure to meet your lordship,” the lieutenant replied in English that was quite good but accented. “I am Lieutenant Willemoes, of His Danish Majesty’s ship Holsteen.” “The pleasure is most certainly mine,” Granger said, bowing in a courtly way. “Captain Arenfelt, the commander of Holsteen, has sent me to tell your lordship that he has been ordered to dissuade your lordship from traveling through the Hollander channel,” Willemoes said. He had clearly rehearsed those words, at least in his mind, from the definitive way that he said them. “That is most unfortunate, since I am tasked to do just that,” Granger said. “That is indeed most unfortunate, my lord, but those are the orders Captain Arenfelt has been issued,” Willemoes replied. “When I left Copenhagen a few days ago, my understanding was that our two countries had negotiated a treaty to maintain the peace,” Granger said. “Does a state of war now exist between His Britannic Majesty and His Danish Majesty?” “The situation is tenuous, as you must realize, my lord,” Willemoes said, grappling with the strange diplomatic status quo. “I would ask you to convey my compliments to Captain Arenfelt and inform him that I intend to sail through the Hollander Channel,” Granger said firmly. “If he fires on this vessel, then a state of war will exist between our two countries. If he does not, then things will remain as they are.” Willemoes stared at him, as if he were planning to argue, but the steely resolve was visible in Granger’s eyes, and Willemoes must have realized there was nothing to be gained by further discussion. “I will convey your message to Captain Arenfelt, my lord.” “Thank you, Lieutenant,” Granger said. Willemoes bowed briefly, then exited over the side, back into his boat, which rowed quickly back toward Holsteen. “And the attempts at bluff continue,” Daventry said to Granger with an amused smile. “If they aren’t bluffing, we will soon have some iron about our heads,” Granger commented. Willemoes reboarded his ship, and the result of his return was soon heard as her drums began to beat. They watched as Holsteen, and the frigate beyond her, beat to quarters and then ran out their guns. “Mr. Grenfell,” Granger said loudly, into the waist. Grenfell was below with the main batteries. He moved so he could look up at Granger. “My lord?” “I think it unlikely that we will receive any fire from these Danish ships, but just in case, have your men lie down on the deck,” Granger ordered. That would at least let the men working the 24-pounders on Valiant’s main deck avoid some flying splinters if they were to receive Danish fire. Those on the quarterdeck and forecastle would be much more vulnerable. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said crisply. “Tell them not to get too comfortable,” Granger joked. “If that happens, they’ll be required to jump up and return fire.” “I’ll let them know, my lord,” Grenfell said, grinning. They drew closer and closer to the Holsteen, and with each inch, so too did the tension increase. “We’ll know soon enough,” Daventry observed. “Indeed we will,” Granger said. Holsteen would see that Valiant had not run out her guns, which lay ready but waiting behind sealed ports, but she would also be able to easily see that Valiant had cleared for action and that her men were standing ready at their guns. The Danes would know they were ready to respond. Granger stood on the deck like a statue, with Weston and Daventry on either side of him, acting as if they were impervious to Danish cannonballs, as Valiant drew parallel to Holsteen. Granger removed his hat to salute the Danish ship, his moves matched by Weston and Daventry, while Travers dipped their flag in salute. The Danish officers did not remove their hats, and their ship did not dip her flag, but she did not fire either. Valiant sailed placidly by the Holsteen, then they repeated their salutes as they passed the frigate, which responded in the same way as her flagship by not responding at all. Flags began to fly up from the Trekroner Fort, followed by flags from the Holsteen as Captain Arenfelt evidently tried to explain what had happened, but that mattered little to Valiant as she sailed beyond them. “My lord, I recommend that we wear ship and enter the Hollander Channel,” Schein suggested. “Excellent, Mr. Schein,” Granger said. “Hands to wear ship!” Enough men left their guns to handle the sails, and Granger turned Valiant neatly so she was running before the wind on a southeast course. “Permission to report, my lord!” Soames shouted. “Come on down,” Granger replied through his speaking trumpet. Soames grabbed a backstay and slid down to the deck. Granger hid his annoyance that Soames landed more gracefully than he had. “Well?” “My lord, the ships of the convoy have surrounded the British ships,” Soames said. “They have formed a shield of sorts about them?” Daventry asked. “Yes, my lord,” Soames said nervously, as he talked to these exalted men. “That is not unusual, for merchant vessels to assist each other, my lord,” Schein added. “That will not discommode the privateer unduly,” Weston noted. “She will just force her way past them.” “But it will accomplish two things that may be helpful to us,” Granger said. “It will distract the Frenchman, so maybe she won’t see us heading down the channel, and it will delay her and give us time.” “What will you do?” Daventry asked. “I will remain under topsails, just as we are, so we are less conspicuous, until she sights us, then we will pour on sail and hope we can catch her,” Granger said. In these seas and winds Valiant could not hope to outrun that French ship. They would have to draw the privateer in or she would merely turn about and sail away from them. “While we are approaching the convoy, see if the cook can put together a quick breakfast for our lads.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. “I’ll be aloft,” Granger announced. He climbed back to the maintop with Soames, pausing to glance down at the Valiant. She looked like a beehive of activity as her crew tried to dine in a speedy manner. “That Frog is getting awful close to the convoy, my lord,” Soames noted. “She is,” Granger agreed, but was nervous, because she was still too far away for Granger to catch her. The smell of food wafted up to Granger. “Soames, go eat.” “I wouldn’t want to leave you alone, my lord,” Soames said thoughtfully. Granger glared at him, since Soames knew better than to question orders. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and obeyed Granger’s order immediately. Granger sat up there by himself, enjoying the solitude, as he watched the Frenchman catch up to the convoy. He’d thought about lowering their flag and any other bunting that would prove that Valiant was a British ship, but there were very few razees in the world, and the only ones in operation were Royal Navy ships. Valiant’s strange evolution to a frigate damned her to be unique and thus easily identified for what she was. The Frenchman encountered an American ship between her and an English merchantman, but the American was so good at blocking, the Frenchman put a cannonball into her hull to persuade her to get out of the way. That was a good enough incentive for the Yankee, who swung out of the way, exposing the British ship to the privateer. Then disaster, at least as Granger saw it, struck. The lead ship of the convoy spotted Valiant and signaled to her consorts, and that in turn must have awakened the French ship’s lookouts. She luffed, and prepared to wear ship to escape. “Mr. Weston!” Granger hailed. “I’ll have the courses and topgallants on her!” “Aye aye, my lord,” he replied. Whistles blew, and men rushed up the masts to the yards. Those on the main yard smiled at him as they headed out to the ends of the yard to loose the gaskets that held the sails in place. The French ship had just completed her turn to put her into the wind when the American ship she’d holed decided to tack, and rammed right into her. Granger smiled, and almost laughed, as he watched the irate Frenchmen waving their fists and yelling at the American ship. Soames chose that time to return, so Granger pointed out what had happened, and then returned back to the quarterdeck. “An American ship has done our work for us,” Granger said. “She has indeed, my lord,” Weston agreed. Valiant heeled over with her increased sail, tearing down toward the privateer. She came up to the convoy, and the ships wisely formed two organized columns to the larboard and starboard sides, all but clearing a path straight toward the privateer. “You can reduce us down to topsails, Mr. Weston,” Granger said. The Frenchman was just now disentangling herself from the merchant vessel. She frantically tried to trim her sails and get enough speed to escape, but she was already in range. Her fate was already sealed, even if she didn’t know it. “My lord, those Danes are coming down channel,” the mizzen lookout hailed. “They will not arrive in time to save their French comrades,” Granger said. “Mr. Grenfell, a ball across her bow.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he responded. He went forward to personally supervise their long 9-pounder in the bow, the most accurate long gun in the Navy. It only took a few minutes for the gun to fire, and they saw the ball fly through the air and land easily across her bow. “They don’t seem to be too worried, my lord,” Weston said. “They should be,” Granger said. Valiant gained quickly on the privateer even as she struggled to pick up speed. He paused to doff his hat to the merchant ship who had made the capture of this ship a possibility, then focused on the Frenchman. “Mr. Grenfell, run out your larboard battery.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said. Valiant rumbled and shook as her guns were run out, but the foolish privateer was still not daunted. “Mr. Weston, we’ll yaw to starboard so the guns will bear,” Granger ordered. “Make that happen.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. He began to maneuver Valiant to the right. Granger waited until the privateer was perpendicular to Valiant then gave the order: “Fire!” As soon as the guns had fired, Weston adeptly put her back on her original course. The smoke billowed about them briefly, but as the wind blew it away, it exposed the French ship. She’d been a beautiful vessel, but that one broadside had shattered her. She had lost her foremast, and it was possible to see the huge holes that had been punctured in her side. Still the tricolor flag flew jauntily from her mizzen. Granger assumed that was merely because she hadn’t had a chance to lower it, and he was prepared to cease firing, until two of her guns fired. One of the balls punched a hole in their fore topsail. “Yaw again, Mr. Weston,” Granger ordered. “Mr. Grenfell, fire as your guns bear!” Valiant turned and this time, her gunners took their time and fired more deliberately. Granger watched as the massive 24- and 42-pound balls slammed into the pretty little ship. He cringed as he thought about how many men would be killed or wounded, since privateers usually carried large crews to give them the extra hands to man their prizes. They were almost up to her now, and that compelled the Frenchman in charge to finally lower their flag. “The Frog’s surrendered, my lord,” the lookout shouted unnecessarily. “Mr. Weston, take a party and board the privateer. Make sure to take a large squad of marines with you,” Granger ordered. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and began to organize a party of men, even as they lowered the longboat. Granger hove the ship to when they were half a cable’s length away from the shattered ship, and then watched carefully as Weston’s boat pushed off and headed toward the French ship. “She looks to be in a bad way, my lord,” Meurice noted, and indeed he was right. He’d first been focused on capturing her, but now that he took stock of the situation, it seemed as if their prize was on the verge of sinking. “Let’s get the launch and my gig swung out and manned,” Granger ordered. “Aye aye, my lord,” Grenfell said. He was a very efficient officer. With Weston’s departure, he’d seamlessly stepped right into his shoes and taken over the first lieutenant’s role. “My lord,” Weston’s voice hailed him from across the water. “This ship is sinking.” “She cannot be saved?” Granger asked. “No, my lord,” Weston responded. Weston was a good seaman, so he would be able to assess the privateer’s viability as well as he could. “There are a lot of wounded men here.” “My lord,” Grenfell said, distracting him. “The Danish ships should be up to us within a quarter of an hour.” He looked at the Danish ships and they were heading toward them under full sail. “I doubt they’ll be in a better mood this time,” Daventry noted. “I fear you are correct,” Granger said. “Mr. Weston, I need you and your men back here at once. We’ll return to help the Frenchmen in a bit.” There was a pause, as Weston struggled to wrap his mind around Granger’s order, and how he was being compelled to leave this ship he’d just been given responsibility for. In the end, though, there was only one response, and Weston uttered it. “Aye aye, my lord.” “Mr. Grenfell, leave the other boats in the water, but bring the men back aboard,” Granger ordered. “We’ll tow them astern for the time being.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and went to attend to that. Granger waited anxiously as Weston and his boarding party cast off and headed back to Valiant, as he wanted to have his entire crew here to face the Danes. “Will they attack us?” Daventry asked Granger. “Not yet,” Granger said, “The frigate is in the lead, and she would not be in that position if they were going to start firing.” Weston hauled himself aboard, followed by his crew, who diligently returned to their stations. “That ship is the Juin, sailing from Dunkerque, my lord. She was holed badly below the waterline,” Weston said. “I told them to man the pumps, but there is little chance they’ll be able to keep up with the flooding.” Granger looked over to the French ship and could see the water cascading out of her, courtesy of her pumps. “How many wounded?” “My lord, it was like bedlam,” Weston said, shaking his head. “They had no business fighting. They had 200 men aboard, and half of them are dead or will be shortly.” “That is unfortunate,” Granger said, shaking his head at the idiocy of her captain who had not immediately surrendered. “Of the remaining 100, 50 are badly wounded. She probably has only 30 fully fit men left at this point, my lord,” Weston said. “Well, we cannot help her until we deal with our Danish friends,” Granger said, gesturing at the two Danish ships that closed in on them. They hove to, the frigate off Valiant’s larboard stern and the Holsteen off her larboard bow. “Allow us to drift forward,” he said to the helm, which would move Valiant forward enough to cross the Holsteen’s bow. “They’re sending another boat, my lord,” a lookout called. Granger saw Willemoes in the boat, along with an officer who was probably his senior. “They’re sending us a post-captain this time, sir,” Kingsdale said with a smile. “We are evidently now in bigger trouble,” Granger joked back, getting a chuckle from the officers within earshot. Weston hurried to assemble the sideboys and bosun’s mates to properly welcome the Danish captain aboard. He was an older man, but still managed to haul himself up on his own without the need for a bosun’s chair. His entire expression and posture was one of a man who was enraged. Willemoes followed immediately behind him and introduced Granger to the captain of the Holsteen. Arenfelt had no use for such niceties, and began all but shouting at Granger. “Captain Arenfelt has come here to express his outrage that you would attack a ship in His Danish Majesty’s waters, especially after you were expressly forbidden from traversing them,” Willemoes said. “Please explain to Captain Arenfelt that we intercepted the French privateer Juin as she was attempting to seize a British merchant vessel,” Granger responded. “If he wishes to express outrage, he should address it to the French who would allow their privateers to prey on British ships in His Danish Majesty’s waters.” This was interpreted to Arenfelt, who blustered some more. “That does not excuse your seizure of that vessel, my lord,” Willemoes said. Granger had a feeling the young Danish lieutenant was significantly editing the comments his chief was making, based on how long it took Arenfelt to articulate points that Willemoes clipped down to a simple sentence. “In fact, it does,” Granger said. “His Britannic Majesty’s warships are well within their rights to protect and defend His Britannic Majesty’s merchant ships from attack and seizure in any waters. Further, His Britannic Majesty has the right to expect that when those merchant ships are peacefully engaged in trade in His Danish Majesty’s waters, His Danish Majesty’s ships should work to ensure they are not attacked or seized by other ships. Please point out to Captain Arenfelt that I was doing the job he was supposed to be doing, since he had failed in accomplishing his duty.” Willemoes swallowed hard before interpreting that. It was amusing to watch Arenfelt’s eyes bulge larger and larger as Granger’s words were explained to him. It seemed as if he must surely explode, but instead, he stood there, fuming for a few seconds, then became remarkably calm. He muttered something to Willemoes, who seemed surprised, the turned to Granger. “Captain Arenfelt suggests that the best resolution to this issue is for you to leave His Danish Majesty’s waters as soon as possible, and that you leave behind this French ship.” Granger glanced over at the French ship, which was already substantially lower in the water. “That is acceptable,” he said. “As soon as you have left our ship, we will re-stow our boats and continue on our voyage.” They both bowed, although Arenfelt’s gesture was perfunctory at best, and went over the side. “Mr. Weston, please get us on a course south-southeast, then I will thank you to retrieve the boats.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. Valiant came into the wind smoothly as she spread her mains and topgallants, leaving the Danes and the Frenchman behind. “We seem to have lost another prize,” Daventry joked. “I fear Admiral Dickson will be even more vexed with you.” “I think the Danes think they have acquired something of value,” Granger said, gesturing to where boats from the two Danish ships hurried toward the French privateer. “It is possible they could salvage her, isn’t it?” Daventry asked. “It is possible, but I cannot see where they would benefit from the effort,” Granger responded. “They will also have to handle quite a few wounded Frenchmen, and I am quite sure they did not plan on that.” “Well, it is a most auspicious beginning to our voyage, but we certainly aren’t making any friends,” Daventry quipped. “I did not think any of these people were pre-disposed to be our friends anyway,” Granger observed. His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he had not yet had breakfast and it was past dinner time. “Pass the word for Winkler!” It took almost no time for Winkler to appear. “You sent for me, my lord?” “I am almost starving now that I am in your care again,” Granger said, but less pleasantly than normal, because he was indeed quite hungry. “And as with most things, my lord, I have anticipated your wishes,” he said in that slightly insubordinate way that only he could get away with. “Since your cabin is not yet restored, we are setting up a table on the poop deck for you to dine.” Granger looked beyond him to see Jacobs and another man lugging up a table and two chairs, clearly including Daventry in their equation. “I will make allowances for the fact that we all but sank a Frenchman.” “I am most obliged, my lord,” Winkler said, even as he went to bring Granger’s food up to him. “Mr. Weston, you may return the ship to her normal state and pipe the hands to dinner,” Granger ordered. “Lord Daventry, would you care to join me?” “It would be my pleasure,” he said, and followed Granger up to the poop deck. “I think we should enjoy this weather, as it most definitely will not last,” Granger said, appreciating the warm breeze that blew past them. “I daresay you’re right,” he said, as he took his seat, then resumed their previous conversation. “I am not concerned about making friends with these Northern Countries, but I have taken Cavendish’s words to heart, and I would note that they mirrored what I had heard in England before we left, and that is that Sweden is most likely to be friendly to us.” “I would imagine that all four of these allied powers - Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia – will be eying each other with considerable suspicion and distrust,” Granger said. “Any overt help the Swedes or Prussians give us would infuriate the Russians or Danes.” “My information suggests that it is a bit more focused than that,” Daventry said. “Russia is the giant in the room, as it were, and has an oversized influence on her neighbors. So even if the other three disagree, they will still make an effort to go along with her.” “You make her seem much like the school bully,” Granger said. “An apt description,” Daventry confirmed.
×

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..