Granger boarded his ship, greeted by the standard honors he had become used to.“Welcome back, my lord,” Weston said cheerfully.Granger found his sadness at leaving home and his frustration with the mob vanish as he returned to this familiar milieu, and he was hit with Weston’s ever-present cheerfulness.
“Thank you, Mr. Weston,” Granger responded.He looked beyond Weston and noticed another officer standing there, looking quite nervous.As he was wearing a lieutenant’s uniform, Granger gathered that this was his new second lieutenant, Edward Grenfell.It was impossible not to appreciate how handsome he was.He was about the same height as Granger, and as slim as Daventry, with a uniform cut in a very stylish way.His hair was a darker brown, almost as dark as Calvert’s, but without the reddish tints, and he had a long face with very engaging blue eyes.
Without withering under Granger’s eye, the man stepped forward.“My lord, I’m Edward Grenfell.I’ve been appointed to Valiant.”
“I was aware of your appointment, Mr. Grenfell, but I had expected you to arrive sooner,” Granger said severely.
“I must beg your pardon for that, my lord.I arrived yesterday. I was up north, in Northumberland, and when my new orders caught up to me I made as much haste as possible,” the man said.He seemed truly contrite, so Granger relented.
“As we are to sail shortly, your tales of your travels to Northumberland will have to wait for another time,” Granger said jovially, getting a smile from Grenfell.
“I will be happy to entertain Your Lordship with tales of my journeys,” Grenfell said.
Another man moved forward to introduce himself, but this man wasn’t nearly as attractive as Grenfell, and in fact he wasn’t attractive at all.He looked to be at least 50 years old, and was carrying about twice as much weight on his body as it had been designed to accommodate.His skin was leathery, and his face grizzled, giving him the look of an experienced mariner.“My lord, I’m Erasmus Schein,” he said, in an accent that seemed Germanic.
“Welcome aboard Mr. Schein,” Granger said.“I am told that you know the Baltic like the back of your hand.”
“I am not sure who told you that, my lord, but in that case, I don’t know the back of my hand all that well,” he said modestly, a characteristic Granger appreciated.
“Well, in any event, you know it better than I do,” Granger said.“Welcome aboard.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Schein said.
“My lord, I’ve familiarized Mr. Grenfell and Mr. Schein with the ship, and they’ve both settled into the Wardroom,” Weston said.
“I am glad to hear your good manners have not deserted you, Mr. Weston,” Granger said pleasantly.“As the tide will change in an hour, we will be sailing when that happens, provided our passengers manage to make it on board by then.”
“You have but to give the order, my lord,” Weston said, which was as it should be.
“Then I will leave you to make final preparations, while I go and see how well Winkler has organized my cabin,” Granger said.He walked directly aft, through the door that sealed off his world from the quarterdeck, and found his quarters set up much as they’d been when he’d originally sailed with Lord and Lady Elgin.On either side of the deck, two compartments had been created, while at the rear, the entire cabin was open, containing his huge dining table and hutch.
“We’ve got things set up, my lord,” Winkler said, looking mildly exasperated.“I’ve set your cabin up here on the same side as Lord Frederick Cavendish, while I’ve put Lords Daventry and Whitworth on the opposite side.”
“That’s excellent, Winkler,” Granger said.He walked into his sleeping cabin and noticed that there was a door there, the same one that was normally there when this other compartment served as his office.That made him smile, and fueled his libido, as he thought of Cavendish on just the other side of that door.He knocked, and when he heard Cavendish say “enter”, he did.
“From the commotion, I figured you’d come aboard,” Cavendish said in a decidedly unfriendly way.
“I have,” Granger said, somewhat surprised by his attitude.
“Have you gotten orders to release me yet?” Cavendish asked.
“I have not, and as we are to sail shortly, it seems you are to be stuck with us,” Granger said.“Quite frankly, I would have thought you would be happy to be sailing with us.”
“This is no longer my life,” Cavendish said, referring to the world of the Navy.
“You were not happy with your life ashore, yet when you were aboard one of His Majesty’s ships, I remember that your moods were much better.Perhaps you are exactly where you belong, you are just too short-sighted to see it,” Granger said, his tone progressing from factual to almost nasty.“I will leave you to mull it over.”
He left Cavendish’s cabin, pausing briefly in his own to get his visage back to its previously cheerful demeanor.He really thought Cavendish would be happier about leaving London for a bit, and he really thought Cavendish would be happy to spend time with him at sea.As Granger saw it, he had saved Cavendish’s life and whisked him off to safety, risking some relatively nasty political repercussions for his efforts, and he’d done this even though Cavendish had avoided him as if he had the plague. He shook off his annoyance and puzzlement over Cavendish and went back on deck to see to their departure.No sooner had he arrived on the quarterdeck than Lord Whitworth pulled himself through the entry port.
“Welcome aboard,” Granger said cheerfully, even as he went forward to greet him.
“Thank you, Granger,” Whitworth said.“This is a damned convenient set up,” he said, referring to the gangway.
“Indeed it is, and we have His Majesty to thank for it,” Granger said, remembering the party they’d thrown to host their sovereign.
“Then once again, I am grateful for the favors he has done for me,” Whitworth said.He looked at the trunks that were being hauled aboard.“I fear I have brought a good deal of baggage with me Granger.”
“We will find a place for it,” Granger said with a smile.“This ship’s design and modifications make storing things much easier.”
“Indeed?” Whitworth asked curiously.
“We have fitted iron water tanks into the ship, tanks that are designed to match her curved hull.Not only do they allow us to store our water in a much more efficient and compact way, they create a flat floor on which to stack things,” Granger said. “That has allowed us to dispense with iron shingles for ballast and stowage, and those two things have given Valiant much more space for stores.”
“It appears I have indeed picked the right ship to take me to Copenhagen,” he said with a smile.
“I hope that is true,” Granger said pleasantly. He looked at his watch and noticed that it was almost time for their departure, then looked up to see Daventry climbing through the entry port, followed by his two aides.“Welcome aboard,” Granger said.
“I am glad to be here,” Daventry said then paused to greet Whitworth.
“It is good to see you gentlemen again,” Granger said to Boles and McGillivray, Daventry’s assistants.
“As it is to see you, my lord,” Boles replied for both of them.
“While they are stowing your baggage, allow me to show you to your quarters,” Granger said to Daventry and Whitworth.He led them into Valiant’s great cabin, which was all-too-familiar to Daventry, and explained their sleeping and dining arrangements.“It was my intention for us to dine together this afternoon, and then we can sup with my officers and explain our mission.”
“That would seem to be a reasonable plan,” Whitworth agreed.
“Then while you gentlemen settle in, I will see to getting us underway,” Granger noted.
“I will retire to my spacious cabin and luxuriate in the room you have provided me,” Daventry said with a grin.
Granger strolled out onto the deck to find that Weston had things well in hand, and that he’d brought all the gear aboard.Stowing it would take a bit longer.Granger was impressed yet again by Weston, and what a competent officer he was.“We will sail immediately,” Granger announced.“I will give you the honor of conning us out of port,” he said to Weston.
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said, and was slightly stunned.Granger was placing quite a bit of confidence in his first lieutenant, and it was nice that Weston understood that.
“Do try to keep us from running aground,” Granger teased.“Major Treadway, some music for our lads to work to!”
“Aye aye, my lord,” Treadway said.He’d anticipated Granger’s order, and had his band assembled on the poop deck, so he had but to give the order for them to begin serenading Valiant’s crew and those ashore who paused to listen.
Granger strode over to the side of the ship and gazed off at the city and the Tower of London, even as Valiant cast off her lines and was warped out into the channel.He acted disinterested as Weston conned the large ship slowly down the Thames, even though he was mentally noting every maneuver.Whitworth and Daventry kept him company, chatting about nothing of substance, as Valiant made her way down the Thames.Cavendish still hadn’t made an appearance; he’d remained sequestered in his cabin all by himself.It wasn’t until they reached the Nore that Granger was able to tear himself away to go dine with his esteemed guests.
“That was well done, Mr. Weston,” Granger said, his voice emphasizing the praise in his words.
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said, grinning.
“After we are off Margate, set a course east north-east,” Granger ordered.
“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston responded.
“Now that we are on our way, gentlemen, perhaps you would care to join me for dinner,” Granger said to Whitworth and Daventry.
“With pleasure,” Whitworth answered for all of them.They went into the great cabin and found the dining room table set, and found Cavendish already waiting for them.
“Cavendish!” Daventry said enthusiastically.“The last I heard, you were tempting bullets in duels.”
“I seem to be a hard man to kill,” Cavendish said, trying to be upbeat.
“A foolish man tempts fate too often,” Whitworth said in a scolding way. “As I recall, your duel precluded a very important meeting, one that we must now revisit.”
“I did not ask for the intervention that interrupted your meeting, so I surely cannot be held accountable for that,” Cavendish said boldly, unwilling to be browbeaten by this distinguished diplomat.
“Sometimes there is a silver lining to an evil event, and I think that in this case, we are fortunate that this whole affair has ended up with Cavendish on board, joining us for this mission,” Granger said, sticking up for Cavendish, even though he was annoyed with him.
“That is your silver lining?” Whitworth challenged.
“It is,” Granger said firmly.“I remember a few years back, after we had all but destroyed the Leopard off Imperia, I was so full of our success I hadn’t seen the obvious, that the French were trying to keep us engaged so they could bring superior forces to bear. Cavendish was the only one to keep a clear head, and but for him, I would probably still be languishing in a French jail somewhere.”
“And His Most Catholic Majesty would be significantly richer,” Daventry joked, thinking that if Granger had been locked in a French jail he wouldn’t have captured the Galleon, or intercepted the Spanish Treasure Fleet.
“Possibly,” Granger said, chuckling with him.“So I am happy to have such a cool and clear head to assist us, lest we let our own self-importance cloud our judgment.”His obvious jab at Whitworth infuriated the man, but Granger was following Cavendish’s lead, and standing up to him, suspecting that if he did not do so now, he would have a much more difficult time of things later on in their mission.
“Thank you for your kind words,” Cavendish said to Granger in a friendly way, the first such interaction they’d had in months.“I am even more thankful that you have retained the services of Lefavre.”
“Hear hear,” Daventry said.“Your chef is truly exceptional.”
“I must agree,” Whitworth said, and in the way that often happened, Lefavre’s excellent cooking helped these four men work themselves into good cheer.After dinner Granger went back on deck to see to their progress, and stayed there until it was time for supper.It was strange to Granger that Cavendish was still sequestered below in his cabin, especially since the weather was so pleasant.
He began to pace, even as he thought about the situation with Cavendish. He tried to figure the man out, and tried to decipher why he was so unhappy to be here.He had seemed miserable in England, and his letters had been all but despondent, yet now that he was gone, he was evidently more unhappy.He would trade potential death in a duel to be there?What would make him so determined to remain at home?Granger thought about Caroline’s revelation to him, about how politics was like a drug for her, but he didn’t think Cavendish was as engaged in that world as she was.It was also possible that he was worried about the King and his moods, and wanted to stay and support him.That motive had some merit, but Cavendish would be significantly wounded in the eyes of the King over this duel, so that alone would indicate that he wasn’t acting only to help his sovereign.
“My lord, supper is ready,” Winkler said, interrupting Granger in the midst of his walk.Granger blinked once in surprise at being jarred out of his thoughts, then put his façade back on.
“Quite so,” he said crisply.He returned to his cabin to await the arrival of his officers.They filed in at the prescribed time, and sat at the table, where Granger had put place cards to avoid the standard process where everyone sat in order of seniority and rank.He’d put his Sicilian midshipman, Prince Genarro, next to Whitworth, which had the effect of taming the arrogance of that sometimes haughty diplomat.
“I fear that if we eat this well on the entire voyage, I will grow too fat for my breeches,” Whitworth said.
“I will convey your compliments to my chef,” Granger said graciously.
“Yet having a good chef is only part of the equation, Granger,” Daventry said with a smile.“The other part of that is having a charming host.In that regard, you would make the King’s fare seem pleasant.”
“Hear hear!” said several of the men.
“I fear you give me too much credit,” Granger said uncomfortably, “and I would worry that by taking away from his results, you would irritate my chef.”That got predictable laughs from most of them, since they were very aware of Lefavre’s temperament.“I usually host these events after sailing to inform you of our orders, and this occasion is no exception.”
“I have deduced, based on our course, my lord, that we are not destined for India,” Weston said.His cheerful manner was such a tonic.
“We are not,” Granger said, “and I applaud your ability to read maps.”That got a predictable laugh.
“Thank you, my lord,” Weston said.
“We are destined for the Baltic,” Granger said.“We are first tasked to deposit Lord Whitworth at Copenhagen.”
“You make me sound like so much unwanted cargo,” Whitworth grumbled, pretending to be annoyed.
“Your lordship is certainly not unwanted, but you have a bit of cargo with you,” Granger said, joking about Whitworth’s baggage.
“As I am not sure how long I will be there, it seemed wise to arrive well equipped,” Whitworth said.
“A prudent precaution and one we would expect from your lordship,” Granger said to Whitworth, making the man smile slightly.“After that, we are to convey Lord Daventry to St. Petersburg.”
“Unless the Swedes or Germans have captured it, St. Petersburg is still part of Russia,” Granger said with a smile.
“So we are to be nothing more than a glorified transport, my lord?” Weston asked.
“And now I am feeling like cargo,” Daventry joked.
Granger waited until the laughter died down.“Perhaps that is a more appropriate term to describe you than Lord Whitworth,” Granger joked, getting more laughter.“In fact, our mission may be quite hazardous.”
“Sir?” Genarro asked, and then looked nervous for saying anything at this gathering. Granger gave him a supportive smile to let him know he was doing fine.
“The Swedes, Danes, Russians, and many of the Northern German states have reconstituted their League of Armed Neutrality,” Granger informed them.“That means that we must consider any ship we encounter as probably hostile.”
“How will we know which ships are hostile and which are not, my lord?” Weston asked.
“You will have to approach them under a flag of truce,” Whitworth said, answering the question for Granger.“If they agree to parley, they will parley.If they do not, you will have to fight them.”
“The fleets of those countries are quite significant, are they not, my lord?” Grenfell asked.
“Indeed they are, so we must hope we can accomplish our goals without getting blown out of the water,” Granger joked.
“When you are in Russia, especially if you have been admitted to a port, you will be safe,” Whitworth said.“At sea, it will be largely up to the admiral in charge as to how he handles you.Individual captains will be reluctant to risk a battle that could result in their being sanctioned.”
“I can see why your lordship said this may be hazardous, my lord,” Treadway said.
“Mr. Schein is here to help guide us through the navigational perils we face, and I suspect those will be more dangerous than enemy ships,” Granger said.
“Sadly, my lord, you are correct,” Schein said.“The Baltic is a sea full of shoals, shallows, and sandbars, and it is made even more challenging by the fact that the sandbars shift around a bit.”
“So a sandbar that was in one position last year, may now have moved into a different position this year?” Granger asked, unable to hide how much that worried him.
“I think the shifts are not that dramatic, but over a period of years they most definitely change, my lord,” Schein said.“That makes charts that are more than a few years old somewhat unreliable.”
“Then I am even more glad you are with us,” Granger said, then turned to Grenfell.“I am wondering, since all of your relatives and connections were mercilessly assaulting the Admiralty begging them to appoint you to a ship, why you were gallivanting about in Northumberland?”
“Despite their efforts, I had feared my reputation with the Admiralty was so low that there was no hope for an immediate appointment, my lord,” Grenfells said.
“You are woefully uninformed as to the Admiralty’s true opinion of you, Lieutenant,” Cavendish said, the first contribution he’d made to the conversation.
“Indeed, my lord?” Grenfell asked.“I feared after my problems aboard Sceptre, my stock with Their Lordships had sunk to new lows.”
“The Admiralty thinks that you are a talented and innovative officer,” Granger said.“You were posted to this ship because I am more tolerant of such progressive ideas.”That got a laugh from the table, since it was only too true.
“His Lordship’s observation is quite accurate,” Cavendish said.Granger found that annoying, as if he required support in his arguments.As the captain of Valiant, he was the de facto autocratic ruler of this ship and her men.His word should be the definitive statement on a topic.“I would further note that your report on carronades, and how their aim is off, was taken quite seriously by Their Lordships.”
“What did you discover about carronades?” Granger asked.
“My lord, I did some testing, and found that the way carronades are aimed, they invariably fire low,” Grenfell said.
“Indeed?” Granger asked curiously.
“Now that you mention it, I remember when we last fired the smasher, our shot seemed to veer down,” Treadway mused.
“So what is the solution to this problem?” Granger asked.
“I developed a gun sight for the carronades aboard Sceptre, my lord,” Grenfell said.“The captain would not allow me to deploy them, but he did allow a limited test.”
“Did they work?” Granger asked curiously.
“They did.Since I’ve been ashore, I’ve done some more testing, my lord,” Grenfell said.“In fact, that’s why I was in Northumberland.There was a facility I could use. The sights worked well, but I was able to modify them to make them more accurate.”
“Could you fit sights to our carronades?”
“I could, my lord, if you would allow me to work with the gunner,” Grenfell said, smiling happily.
“Then I would like you to do that, and then we can test them ourselves,” Granger said.
“Experimenting with new-fangled technology is surely best left to those ashore or safely in port?” Whitworth asked.
“On the contrary, at sea, when we are in action, that is when we need to have an edge the most,” Granger said.“And those are the times when we are best able to evaluate the performance of such a device.”
“What happens if such an idea is dangerous and causes the loss of one of His Majesty’s ships and crews?” Whitworth challenged.
“That is why the Admiralty gives some captains and admirals more discretion on this issue than others,” Cavendish said.“And that is one of the reasons why Lieutenant Grenfell serves on this ship and not a ship captained by an unimaginative man who will not open his mind to new ideas.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Grenfell said, mostly to keep Whitworth from really lashing out at Cavendish.
“As it is, we have been fortunate in that our experiments have been universally positive,” Granger said soothingly.“In this situation, we really do not have much to lose.If the sights do not work as planned, we can easily disregard them or remove them.”
“How long will it take us to get to Copenhagen?” Whitworth asked, as if he were so annoyed he could not wait to land.
“That will largely depend on the wind,” Granger said.Conversation became general and pleasant after that, but Granger was quite happy to see them go back to their cabins or their duties.He avoided further conversation with Whitworth by going on deck to inspect Valiant’s progress.
He had been on deck for less than a minute when his mood began to change.It was a beautiful night, with balmy weather the likes of which one would expect to find in the Caribbean.The sky was clear, and the moon and stars were so bright it was almost like Granger could reach up and touch them.The calm seas lapped against Valiant’s sides as she made steady progress through the water, progress that was slow because the winds were so light.Yet it was those same light winds that made it so pleasant.
“I had forgotten how pleasant a night at sea could be,” Cavendish said, as he came up and stood next to Granger.
“Such beauty is deceptive, as a storm could be brewing just over the horizon,” Granger said with a smile.
“I remember that weather as well,” Cavendish said with a grimace.“I sometimes long for this, for a ship of my own, to be able to be free of London and its entanglements.”
“I find myself the most conflicted when I am getting ready for sea and when I am returning home,” Granger said.“Those are the times when the choices I make by leading this life come fully into play.”
“I found coming home from a voyage to be the most disconcerting,” Cavendish admitted.
“It is as if you went to see a play with four acts, and you saw the first act, but missed the second act, and then you return while the third act is in progress,” he said.“And then, when the fourth act starts, you are expected to be a full participant, when you are still trying to decipher what you missed.”
“I feel the same way, but I have never heard it put into such a comprehensible way,” Granger said.They walked over to the rail and gazed off toward the coast.“If I am not mistaken, that is Suffolk.”
“It is ironic that your father owns so much land in Derbyshire, yet his dukedom is in Suffolk, where to my knowledge, he has limited holdings,” Cavendish joked.
“And your father draws his title from a rock in the South Seas, and I would daresay he spends little time there,” Granger joked, getting a chuckle from Cavendish, one that ended abruptly.
“He refuses to so much as talk to me,” Cavendish said sadly.“He is incensed that I have defied him by refusing to marry Miss Barnett.”
“I was quite stunned by that news, that His Grace would wish to tie his family to a member of the Guild,” Granger said, letting his irritation show through.
“It would appear that he places little value on my skills, and my person,” Cavendish said bitterly.
“He is usually a very shrewd man, so it is strange to see him make such a huge error in judgment,” Granger said, smiling at Cavendish slightly to try to nudge him out of his bad mood.
“If only he would see that he has made such an error,” Cavendish said morosely.“If His Majesty were his normal self, he could probably have helped smooth things over.”
“He is not well?” Granger asked nervously.
“The government and the gentlemen who surround the King would have everyone believe he is just fine, but he is showing signs of his sickness,” Cavendish said.“When I approached him on this topic, he suggested I confer with Lord Hertford.”
“Lord Hertford?” Granger asked, surprised.The current Marquess of Hertford was a politician and a nice enough man, but Granger did not see why Cavendish should seek him out for advice.
“He was referring to Lord Hertford’s father, who died in 1794, and was at one time the Lord Chamberlain,” Cavendish said.
“That was under Lord North’s government, wasn’t it?” Granger asked.
“When I last saw him, he became agitated and asked me to send for Lord North,” Granger said.“It would seem that his mind has warped back some twenty years or so.”
“Yet we are not back in the 1780s, so that makes things just a bit difficult,” Cavendish said cynically.“His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was less helpful.”
“He did not step in and try to improve things with you and your father?” Granger asked, truly surprised.The Prince was known to be lazy and self-absorbed, but Granger had always thought, or perhaps hoped, that he’d step up and do better when it was his turn to wear the Crown.
“He did not,” Cavendish said.“He told me he would, told me not to worry, and promised that he would speak to my father, but then he did nothing.”
“Where does that leave you?” Granger asked.
“I have been scrambling to try and figure out what I am to do, and where I am to live,” Cavendish said.“I got a letter from my father’s agent, informing me that I will no longer be receiving my allowance.That was substantially larger than my income from the Crown, so that has meant I must relinquish my rooms in the City and it means I will have to endeavor to still look spruce, even with worn clothes.”
“You are always welcome in my home,” Granger asserted.“Why didn’t you go there?”
“With all the drama we had, and the scandalous rumors that were flying around, I could not risk my reputation, or yours, or Caroline’s,” he said.He was referring to the nightmare where Caroline had seduced him and Treadway in the baths.
“I would suspect that rumor has largely died off,” Granger said.He had encountered no evidence of it when he was home.
“That is true, but if I move into your townhouse, and when you are gone I am there alone with Caroline, the wags will begin talking again.It will not require any facts, merely innuendo,” he said.Granger could readily see how that would happen.
“Then I will help you lease suitable rooms,” Granger promised.
“George, I cannot rely on your charity,” he said.“John Ward has allowed me to stay with him.”Those words flew through Granger’s psyche with the same force as if he’d been hit by lightning.So that’s why Cavendish didn’t want to leave England.He didn’t want to leave Ward.
“That was very nice of him, to take you in when you had nowhere to go,” Granger said stoically.Before Cavendish could respond, Granger called to Grenfell, the officer of the watch.“Mr. Grenfell, can you explain why the foretopsail is so slack?”He used that comment to walk over to where Grenfell was standing.
“I’ll attend to it immediately, my lord,” Grenfell said, horrified at being found wanting in his duties, even though the foretopsail hadn’t been so slack as to warrant a public censure.Granger waited until the sail was drawing as it should be, then went to his cabin, ignoring Cavendish who was still standing on the deck, where he could torture himself in solitude.