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    Mark Arbour
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Northern Exposure - 20. Chapter 20

October 29, 1800

HMS Valiant

The Gulf of Finland

 

“It would appear that we have arrived here just in time,” Daventry said, as he looked at the ice that had already begun to form on the Gulf of Finland.

“I fear we have faced nothing but foul winds on this entire voyage,” Granger grumbled.

“Perhaps all of this poor luck will ultimately be repaid with fair winds at some later date,” Daventry mused.

“Perhaps,” Granger said skeptically. Three days back, Valiant had passed by Revel, one of Russia’s major naval bases, the one that primarily housed her Archipelago fleet. They’d found it to be largely inactive, as that fleet had clearly gone into hibernation for the winter. There had only been one ship that appeared even close to being ready for sea, but based on her appearance it would take a few weeks for her to leave port if she was so inclined. They’d been able to identify her as the Boleslav thanks to a merchant ship they’d met near that port. She was one of Russia’s 66-gun line-of-battle ships, and her presence there had not been a major concern for Granger. After his encounter with the two Russian frigates, he was less concerned about Russian ships of the line, or at least one of them. The day after that, they’d sailed by Sveaborg, where they could see Sweden’s Archipelago fleet neatly buttoned down until spring. And now, at long last, they were approaching Kronstadt, beyond which lay one of Russia’s capitals: St. Petersburg.

Kronstadt was Russia’s biggest naval base, and its primary naval arsenal. On paper, the Russians had nine first rate battleships of 100 guns, some 36 third rates of 66-74 guns, and 10 frigates of 40 guns or more. Despite MacDougal’s gloomy predictions that most of those ships weren’t battle-ready, all it would take was one of their first rates or a couple of their third rates to blow Valiant out of the water. It was understandable that Granger approached this naval base with trepidation.

Granger strolled forward to the rail and gazed ahead at the fortress of Kronstadt, which loomed imposingly in front of them, ignoring the piercingly cold wind that blew almost directly toward them. The fortress itself was a big enough obstacle, even if there weren’t over 40 Russian battleships to augment it. A pinnace was putting off from the pier; Granger glanced aft to make sure that Valiant had a parley flag flying over her own flag, and then looked at Kronstadt, where the Russian colors flew boldly in the wind, with no corresponding parley flag above it.

Daventry joined him at the rail. “They have not acknowledged our request for a parley.”

“They have not,” Granger confirmed. “It appears they are sending some sort of delegation to meet us.”

“All I can see is gold lace at this point,” Daventry said.

“Mr. Weston, heave to,” Granger ordered, unwilling to get any closer to Kronstadt’s batteries, which at this point were seemingly hostile.

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, and executed Granger’s order. Valiant ceased her forward movement and seemed to hover in place, waiting for this pinnace to arrive. Granger grimaced again at the cold, and pondered that if the Russians had been a little more hospitable and had permitted a formal parley, those men would not have so far to row in an open boat in this frigid weather.

Granger studied the men in the pinnace, but was unable to determine their rank. “Mr. Weston, let’s assume they’ve sent an admiral to treat with us.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and gathered enough sideboys and bosun’s mates to welcome a flag officer. The pinnace was hailed, and then tied on to Valiant’s main chains. Two men hauled themselves aboard without the need for a bosun’s chair. The first was tall and thin, and wore clothes that suggested he was a court official of sorts. The second, who was shorter and stouter, appeared to be a Russian admiral.

“Welcome,” Granger said affably in French. He introduced himself and Daventry, while the two Russian men merely stared at him with dour expressions.

“I am Count Sergei Rostov, aide to His Imperial Majesty Tsar Paul,” the tall man said. “This is Admiral Khankykov, of His Imperial Majesty’s navy.”

“Won’t you gentlemen come below and join us for some refreshments?” Granger asked politely.

“There is no time for that,” Rostov said abruptly. “His Imperial Majesty is surprised and offended to find you in his waters. He directs you to leave at once.”

“I have come to speak with His Imperial Majesty, to see if there is not a way to solve the problems that have separated our two nations,” Daventry said smoothly.

“His Imperial Majesty has made it clear that he will not receive emissaries from His Britannic Majesty,” Rostov said. His tone was so curt it could only be rude. “Your ships prey on weaker powers, such that His Imperial Majesty thinks you are no better than pirates.”

“His Imperial Majesty is further offended that you have attacked and severely damaged two of his vessels, and killed and wounded several of His Imperial Majesty’s subjects,” Khankykov said, speaking for the first time, and referring to Granger’s battle with the two Russian frigates. His tone was no more amiable than Rostov’s.

“Those vessels were captured while they were in the midst of seizing His Britannic Majesty’s merchant vessels,” Granger asserted.

“The vessels they seized were apprehended by orders of His Imperial Majesty, because they had violated His Imperial Majesty’s directives and had conducted illegal trading operations,” Khankykov said, and actually let his anger show.

“The merchant vessels were seized in neutral waters, and in this case, it is His Imperial Majesty’s navy that were acting like pirates, preying on merchant men innocently going about their business,” Granger said acidly, even as he chided himself for arguing with this Russian admiral.

“You would question the decisions of His Imperial Majesty?” Rostov demanded, outraged.

“I am concerned that whoever reported these incidents to His Imperial Majesty did not convey truthfully what had happened, and that is why His Imperial Majesty has a wrong impression,” Granger corrected. His diplomatic efforts were wasted on these Russians.

“Deck there!” cried the lookout. “Sails rounding the fortress. Looks to be two sail of the line!”

“One moment, gentlemen,” Granger said, using this sighting to allow tempers to cool, and to ascertain what was happening. He strode to the ladder and up to the poop deck, with Daventry in tow, and stared at the two Russian battleships through his glass. They were both 74-gun ships, and looked to be in good repair, even if their sail handling was atrocious. They had their courses and topsails set, and were approaching Valiant very quickly. “They do not appear to be friendly.”

Daventry smiled. “Indeed they do not. It appears that it is time to extricate ourselves from this trap.”

Granger strode back to the annoyed Russians. “It appears that there are two Russian ships approaching us.”

“His Imperial Majesty has ordered the battleships Pyotr and Vsevolod to sail at once to ensure you leave His Imperial Majesty’s domains,” Khankykov said with a sinister look. “If they find you in His Imperial Majesty’s waters, they will sink you.”

“They can try,” Granger said, grinning at Khankykov in what could only be considered a taunt. He turned to Weston and spoke in English. “Mr. Weston, please get us back on course, due west. Topsails and courses.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, and began belting out orders. Valiant turned away from Kronstadt and began to pick up speed, dragging the pinnace along with her like an undisciplined dog pulling its master on a leash.

“You gentlemen are welcome to remain with us, but if you are planning to depart, I would recommend that you do so now,” Granger said to the Russians. They glared at him, as if to further convey how unwelcome he was.

“Here are His Imperial Majesty’s directives to you,” Rostov said, handing Granger an envelope and one to Daventry. He then turned on his heel and went over the side, followed by Khankykov. Granger reviewed his letter from the Tsar, which was identical to Daventry’s, and simply mirrored what the two Russians had already told him. They were banned from His Imperial Majesty’s domains, and informed that their presence in said domains would be met with a hostile response.

“I would not call that our most successful diplomatic mission,” Granger said to Daventry ruefully.

“I am not surprised,” Daventry said. “It was worth a try, and it was possible that Paul had interpreted your actions with the two Russian frigates in such a way as to be in a better mood.”

“Unfortunately, he did not,” Granger said. “In any event, we must try to extricate ourselves from this situation.”

“Surely we should be able to outsail those Russian ships?” Daventry asked.

““Indeed we should, but being this close to two hostile Russian battleships demands a certain level of caution, nonetheless,” Granger said. “In addition, when night falls in about six hours or so, it is possible they could gain on us.”

“Why would they gain on us at night?” Daventry asked.

“I would suspect that while we will have to reduce sail, they will not,” Granger noted. They would have pilots who knew these waters as well as he knew the Thames estuary.

“Begging your pardon, my lord, but that is very unlikely,” Schein said, inserting him into their conversation.

“Indeed?” Granger challenged.

“Aye, my lord,” Schein said. “It is almost unheard of for a Russian ship to risk travel in the Gulf during the night without a very good reason.”

They heard the sound of a cannon, followed by a crash as a ball from one of the Russian battleships hit Valiant’s quarter. “That was good shooting,” Daventry said.

Granger evaluated the range and decided that the shot that hit them had no business traveling that far and that true. “It was lucky. They are still out of effective range.” His words were calm, but he was enraged that the Russians would fire on him almost immediately after he’d let their emissaries escape unmolested. The Russians, buoyed by their success, began to fire more quickly, but their other shots all went well wide of the mark. Valiant was gaining on them at any rate, so there was no immediate danger.

“Sail ho! Dead ahead!” the lookout shouted. Granger turned his glass away from the Russians and trained it forward and saw a small merchant brig evidently making for St. Petersburg.

“Mr. Weston, have the cutter lowered,” Granger ordered.

“You mean to capture her?” Daventry asked, amazed.

“I do,” Granger said. He would show these Russians to mind their manners by snapping up one of their ships under their very noses. “You have no objection to that?”

Daventry chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to risk angering your admiral by failing to capture a prize.”

Granger smiled briefly, then turned back to his officers. “Mr. Kingsdale, take a large boarding party and take control of that brig. It is imperative that you get her underway and stay out of range of those battleships, lest you end up relaxing in a Russian prison.”

“Aye aye, sir,” Kingsdale said with a smile.

“Just set a course to follow us,” Granger said.

“Aye aye, sir,” Kingsdale repeated. The cutter had been lowered and men scrambled into it, with Kingsdale following them.

“Mr. Weston, fire a shot at that brig, then you may clear for action,” Granger ordered.

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. Valiant convulsed herself in preparing for battle, even as her cutter sped toward the unsuspecting brig. A shot from Valiant, combined with Kingsdale’s strong boarding party, was more than enough to overawe the small crew of the merchant brig. The repeated shots from the Russian battleships seemed to indicate how incredibly irritated they were at seeing one of their ships seized within fifty miles of their capital.

“I think you have vexed them,” Daventry said with a smile.

“They should have been more polite,” Granger countered playfully.

Kingsdale did a superb job of getting the brig underway quickly. In no time at all, the small vessel was following Valiant quite closely, with both of them staying out of range of the Russian ships. Granger strode up to the poop deck and hailed Kingsdale, asking for a report.

“Sir, this ship is carrying powder,” Kingsdale hailed back. “There is also a goodly amount of tar.”

“Maintain your course,” Granger shouted, getting a wave in acknowledgement from Kingsdale.

Granger strode back to the quarterdeck and surveyed Valiant’s spread of canvas. “My lord, we took a bearing, and we appear to be gaining, albeit slowly, on the Russian battleships,” Meurice said.

“Excellent. Please take bearings every half hour and keep me apprised,” Granger said. “Mr. Weston, keep us cleared for action, but you may relight the galley fire and send the hands to dinner.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.

There was a reasonable amount of traffic in this busy waterway, and Granger took the opportunity to seize two more Russian merchant ships and appointed small prize crews to man them and keep them close to Valiant. The Russian battleships began to fire again, as if to punctuate their outrage over having Russian ships seized this close to the Russian capital, and within their range.

“One of the merchants is carrying grain, my lord, while the other has luxury items,” Weston reported.

“Luxury items?” Granger asked curiously.

“It seems that there are rugs, furniture, and other items that are mostly from Britain. There is also a stove similar to the one in your quarters, my lord,” Weston said.

“A Russian admiral must have sent for it specifically from England,” Granger mused, smiling at the misfortune of that unlucky individual who would now spend very cold nights aboard his ship. “Make sure to bring that aboard. We will put it on the lower deck to warm up our lads.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. “That may improve morale.”

“Let us hope,” Granger said. “I will trust you to salvage anything we can use from those ships and bring it aboard. After we have accomplished that, you can release the crews of those three ships in a boat and let them row back to the Russian battleships.

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said.

Granger began to pace, with Daventry accompanying him. “After we are free from this gulf, what do you plan to do?”

“I must go to Riga,” Daventry said. “After that, you are free to return to England. I am not sure what more you can do to assist me.”

“I am wondering if it would be beneficial for Valiant to remain in these waters, harassing the Russians, Danes, and Germans,” Granger mused.

“I am worried that if you do, they will ultimately corner you and destroy you,” Daventry said.

“It is a risk,” Granger acknowledged. “I would otherwise have to brave the Danes on my way out of the Baltic.”

“It is certainly your decision,” he said.

“Another benefit to me being here is that I will be closer if you need assistance,” Granger noted.

“I will find that comforting, but not enough to risk you and your men,” Daventry said. Granger noticed the considerable activity with the ship’s boats plying between the merchant vessel with the luxuries and Valiant until his attention was interrupted by Winkler, who alerted him that dinner was ready. Winkler had improvised a table on the main deck so he and Daventry went below to eat, enjoying the relative warmth of being out of the wind.

Granger went back up on deck at 3:00 and found that the wind that had pierced them to the bone before had died down to a slight breeze, causing the sails to flap noisily from time to time. The seas themselves were as smooth as glass, and the whole effect was rather surreal. “Sail ho, fine off the larboard bow!” shouted the lookout.

“What do you make of her?” Granger shouted.

“Looks to be a ship, my lord, but I can’t tell what kind,” he replied.

“I’ll be aloft,” Granger said. He strode to the foremast, slipping on his gloves as he did; then grabbing the frigid shrouds, he climbed to the foretop. Granger didn’t say anything, he just pointed his glass in the direction the lookout was pointing his. There was a sail, but it was too far to make out what kind.

“Let’s go higher,” Granger said, and climbed up to the topsail yard, with the lookout joining him. There the view was much better. “What do you make of her?”

“I’d say she’s a ship of the line, probably a 64, my lord,” he said.

“That was my read on it as well,” Granger said, even though he felt his insides roil with anguish. He was sure that ship was the Boleslav. “Keep an eye on that vessel.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” he said, while Granger grabbed a backstay and slid to the deck, tearing his gloves in the process. He decided it was better to lose a pair of gloves than the skin off his hands. “We have another Russian battleship heading toward us from the west.”

“Could this be just a coincidence?” Daventry asked.

“No,” Granger said. “I am almost certain that ship is the Boleslav, the one who was in Revel. They must have laid a trap for us. They made her look unready to sail, and then after we were gone, they hurriedly got her to sea to seal off our exit.” Granger was irritated beyond measure at falling into this Russian trap.

“So the two battleships behind us are like beaters, driving the prey to the waiting hunters, my lord?” Weston asked.

“In a sense. I think that they are envisioning we would be easy prey to the ship in front of us, but just in case, the Pyotr and Vsevolod are here to make sure of things,” Granger noted.

“What will you do?” Daventry asked. Granger glanced aft toward the Russian battleships and saw the captured brig trailing after them, and that sparked an idea.

“We will need to discourage the ships that are trailing us,” Granger said. “Mr. Weston, is that merchant with the luxury items unloaded yet?”

“She is, my lord,” he said.

“I would like you to prepare to fire her, as well as the other ship carrying grain,” Granger said. “Please see to that at once.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said, and began belting out orders and sending parties over to the captured Russian ships. Granger watched the activity in his aloof manner until Weston reported back to him. “The ships are ready to be fired.”

“Fire one of them now and allow her to drift toward the Russians,” Granger ordered. Weston acknowledged his order, then hurried to do as he was instructed. The merchant ship took in her sails, while a wisp of smoke began to funnel up from her hold. A boat pushed off and began to row toward Valiant, bringing back the prize crew. The smoke was probably not visible to the Russians trailing them, so they must be confused at seeing this ship suddenly being abandoned. Within five minutes, the smoke was more visible, and the Russian ships began to maneuver urgently to avoid the merchant.

“Did you think that ship would burn them?” Daventry asked dubiously.

“No, I am trying to make them nervous,” Granger noted.

“I am wondering if it is working,” Daventry asked, as they stared at the Russian ships which had been forced to change course and display their horrible sail handling.

“I am wondering if the Russian ships had not maneuvered out of the way of that burning ship, if she would have run into them,” Granger mused to the deck at large.

“I think she would have, my lord,” Meurice opined, and got nods from the others.

“Perfect,” Granger said, smiling internally at the confused expressions of his officers on the quarterdeck. “Pass the word for Hercule.” Word was passed, and the large bosun came ambling back to the quarterdeck.

“You sent for me, my lord?” he asked.

“I did,” Granger replied, and then gathered the other officers around him. “We need to get rid of those two Russian battleships that are trailing us. Conveniently enough, I have in my possession a brig filled with powder and tar, and we have seas that allow anything we put in the water to seemingly float toward our Russian stalkers.”

“You are planning to blow them up, my lord?” Weston asked.

“I am not that optimistic,” Granger said with a smile. “I think that if we could rig some casks of powder such that they floated, and devised a long fuse, we could arrange it such that the casks exploded when they were near the Russians.”

“Would that deter them?” Daventry asked.

“I think it would confuse them, and they would at the minimum change course. We have but to delay them enough to give us time to engage the ship in front of us and hopefully move beyond her,” Granger said.

“It is probable that engaging a ship of the line will result in some damage, my lord,” Meurice cautioned.

“Which is why delaying our friends behind us is even more crucial,” Granger said.

“My lord, I have done some work with slow matches in the past, which should serve well as fuses. I think it is possible to configure a floating bomb such as you imagine,” Grenfell said. He had shown himself to be innovative, so this was a perfect project for him.

“Then I will put developing our floating bombs under your command,” Granger pronounced. “I will leave it to you to determine who you will need to draft to assist you.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Grenfell replied.

“You will take command the brig, and you can send Mr. Kingsdale back here to tend to your guns in the meantime,” Granger said.

“Thank you, my lord,” Grenfell said.

“If this plan is to succeed, we must begin configuring our casks at once, and I’ll need calculations on how much time it will take for those casks to reach those Russian ships.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston and Grenfell said.

“You may dismiss the hands, but keep the ship cleared for action,” Granger said to Weston, then turned to Grenfell. “I will visit you on the brig at nightfall and you can update me on your progress.” They acknowledged his orders, and then Grenfell took his party and went over to the brig.

“What of the other merchants, my lord?” Weston asked.

“After our bombs are launched, we will fire the merchant that contains grain and let her drift after them as well,” Granger said. “I plan to save the brig that Mr. Grenfell commands in case we have further use of her.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston acknowledged.

The ship in front of them was much closer such that they could see her from the deck. “I think that as night falls, my lord, we are about midway between these two groups of ships,” Schein said.

“That is a good thing,” Granger said, then gestured at the battleship to the west of them. “Tell me what you know of this ship”

“She is one of their 66-gun ships of the line, my lord,” Schein replied. “She would be similar to one of our 64’s.”

“So much as Valiant used to be,” Granger mused.

“Indeed, my lord. She would most likely have 24 24-pounders on her main deck, with a pair of 60-pound edinorogs. Then on her upper deck, she would have 22 12-pounders, with a pair of 24-pound edinorogs. The quarterdeck and focs’l will have mostly 6-pounders, with perhaps a couple of 32-pound carronades.”

“I would suspect that our broadside is still 100 pounds heavier than hers,” Granger noted, doing the math in his head quickly.

“That is true, my lord, but there is another important difference,” he said. Granger just looked at him, waiting for his response. “Their 24-pound guns will be lighter and shorter, but will have the ability to fire more rapidly.”

“I suspect that we will still be able to beat their rate of fire,” Granger said, with a grin. “If we double-shotted our guns, we would also more than make up for that with extra broadside weight.”

“My lord, that is not only true, it is probably wise. That ship was almost certainly built in Archangelsk, and we have already seen what her construction and timber would be like,” Schein said.

“Thank you again for enlightening me, Mr. Schein,” Granger said affably.

“It is most certainly my pleasure, my lord,” the large man said, with a respectful bow, and then they both gazed over the side as the sun set and the last bits of light began to fade. “It appears we are going to get some mist.”

“That may work to our advantage,” Granger noted.

“My lord, the Russians are heaving to,” Weston told him. “They appear to be anchoring.”

“Heave to as well, and prepare to lower our anchor,” Granger said. “Mr Schein, do you think they will suddenly decide to sail in the middle of the light?”

“I think that is highly unlikely, my lord,” Schein said. “Russian naval forces are not known for innovative and risky maneuvers, and those ships and captains that are game for such an approach usually have much better trained crews than we have seen.” Granger was hoping Schein was right. He ordered Weston to anchor Valiant.

As evening came so too did a misty blanket, one that seemed to inveigle Valiant and isolate her. The Russian ships were almost out of sight even before the sun went down. “Call away my gig, Mr. Weston,” Granger ordered.

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. Granger’s gig was swung out, and he gave Weston control of Valiant and boarded his gig for the short trip to the brig. They greeted him with appropriate honors for a post captain, as was right and proper.

“Welcome aboard, my lord,” Grenfell said. There were several men hoisting kegs up to the deck, kegs that were blackened with tar. “These are our bombs.”

“Indeed?” Granger asked curiously.

“Mr. Meurice and Hercule have helped me develop them, my lord,” Grenfell said, giving his subordinates credit for their help, something that Granger appreciated. “They are half-full of powder, with a wooden separator between the powder and the slow match. Once we light the slow match, we will seal them quickly and drop them over the side.”

“And they will float?” Granger asked.

“We are hoping, my lord,” Grenfell said with a smile. “We have tested one, but we were reluctant to do too much work in the open. We were concerned that it stay out of sight of the Russians, so we were more careful than we would have otherwise been. The weight of the powder keeps the keg from tilting over.”

“If it does not, they will tilt over and most likely explode, my lord,” Meurice said.

“Well then we will hope you gentlemen will have calculated correctly for stability,” Granger said jovially. “My intention is to launch our bombs such that they hit the Russians starting around midnight. How many do we have?”

“My lord, I think that allowing for the vagaries of range and the burning time of the slow match, we should begin launching them at midnight. That would probably get them there at two in the morning, but we could adjust the fuses such that they are spread out quite well,” Grenfell said. “It is quite possible they could go off much earlier than that.”

Grenfell was telling him that by varying the launch times and fuses, the sea behind them would be blanketed with floating bombs. That would disturb the Russians more than anything. “That is an excellent suggestion.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Grenfell said. “By then, we should have 20 of them.”

“Then we should launch 5 throughout each hour, and that way we will bother them for the greater part of the early morning,” Granger said. “After that, plan to light the other brig on fire and send her off as well, just to further discommode them.”

“We will start launching the bombs as you have ordered, my lord,” Grenfell said.

“Excellent. Then when you have completed that, alert me,” Granger said, then had another inspiration. “I wonder if it would be possible to craft fuses to delay lighting the brig on fire as well?”

“I think we can work on that, my lord,” Grenfell said.

“Then I will leave you gentlemen to implement your plans. I will see you back aboard Valiant before dawn. You will leave charge of this ship to a master’s mate when you have finished your projects. We are expecting to tangle with a Russian 66-gun ship of the line as soon as the sun rises.”

“We appear to be busy, my lord,” Grenfell said, with a grin.

“Indeed,” Granger agreed, and then boarded his gig for the brief trip back to Valiant. He had supper with his officers while his men were fed as well, and updated them on his plans with the brig and on Schein’s guesses as to whom their opponent would be in the morning.

“Do you have any orders, my lord?” Weston asked after dinner.

“Dismiss the men on the upper deck, quarterdeck and focs’l below to get what sleep they can. Those on the main deck may sleep at their stations,” Granger ordered. It was far too cold for the men to sleep at stations above the main deck. “Double the lookouts, but relieve them every thirty minutes.”

“Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. With most of the men below, Valiant’s upper deck looked like it was deserted, being staffed only by those required for basic operations. It was a risky approach, for if a boarding party appeared out of the mist, they would be challenged to respond, but Granger felt that increasing the lookouts was an adequate deterrent in addition to the boarding nets that were in place, and in any event, these men would be asked to fight a battle in the morning, and he did not want them to begin it exhausted. After that, he made his way around the ship, inspecting her preparations for battle, and chatting with the men who were awake in a friendly way.

At two in the morning, Granger ordered all the men back to their stations. It was entirely possible that Boleslav would come looming out of the mist, and it was important to be ready. Granger looked at the determined faces of his crew as they waited by their guns to tangle with this Russian ship that would try to entrap them. He strode up to the poop with Daventry following and gazed aft, waiting for the first of their bombs to go off.

“I thought they were to begin detonating?” Daventry asked, as the ship’s bell announced that it was fifteen minutes after 2am.

“There are many variables, so it is impossible to be that precise,” Granger said, even though he was apprehensive that the idea would even work, much less work on time.

They waited, the tension rising, until they heard an explosion and saw a bright flash off in the distance. The light from the explosion was diffused by the mist, so even though it lit up the night, there was little to see. A few minutes later, another one went off, although it was in an entirely different area, a testament to the unpredictability of just allowing the things to drift. And so it continued, every few minutes or so, until Granger had counted ten explosions. “I thought I heard a larger crash,” Daventry said.

“It is hard to tell,” Granger noted, although he had heard something like that as well. A boat was hailed, and that prompted the two of them to hurry down to the quarterdeck, even as another bomb exploded behind them.

“We just set the brig loose, my lord,” Grenfell said excitedly. Granger was initially irritated, because he’d told Grenfell to ask his permission to do that first, but he opted not to raise it as an issue, since the man seemed to have performed most splendidly on his primary task.

“We have been listening and watching your bombs go off,” Granger said with a grin. “It appears we have been successful.”

“I suspect dawn will reveal whether that is true,” Daventry said, being practical.

“That was good work, Mr. Grenfell. Please congratulate your team for me. I fear you will have no time to write your report, as we must get ready to engage that other Russian ship.

“Aye aye, my lord,” Grenfell said, and with that his men were absorbed back into Valiant’s crew, and joined their fellow sailors in peering through the misty darkness, awaiting their next challenge.

 


Copyright © 2017 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.
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Does the work cliff hanger come to mind.  If anyone can get out of this it is George. Thanks for this great chapter, Mark. Today there are so few heros we all need Granger to brighten our lives. 

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1 hour ago, Mark Arbour said:

Sadly, it will be a bit.  The next chapter is only half-written, but I caved to pressure (smile) and published this one now (I usually like to wait until I have the next chapter written before I publish the prior chapter).

Well, you know me.  As far as lm concerned you  will never be able write  about lord Granger cast  enough.

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As usual Granger is showing his genius with alternative forms of naval warfare.  Floating mines , indeed. I am going to be researching my history books to determine what the relations between His Britanic Majesty and the Czar of all the Russias was in this era. Looking forward to the next chapter a usual, excellent work, Mark.

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9 minutes ago, Will Hawkins said:

As usual Granger is showing his genius with alternative forms of naval warfare.  Floating mines , indeed. I am going to be researching my history books to determine what the relations between His Britanic Majesty and the Czar of all the Russias was in this era. Looking forward to the next chapter a usual, excellent work, Mark.

I think you'll find that at this time they were quite fractured, and that the Czar was quite mad. 

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Great chapter, what a truly innovative idea from Granger with the floating  bombs; luckily he has a crew that is able to understand his vision and help him attain it.  Czar Paul was viewed by many as insane in the last years of his life but I personally don't believe this to be accurate.  He was certainly capricious and after coming to power reversed his mother's position of armed conquest as a means to expand the Empire.  He believed that a more defensive posture was called for and moved to implement it.  His alliance with both Austria and Great Britain broke down more because of their actions and lack of action than his instability.  He attempted to reform the nobility in Russia and the army as well.  His moves to reform the army lead to a great deal of unrest and was probably the principal reason for his murder.  While some argue that the British played a part in his assassination no proof of this exist.  His son, Alexander I, at less silently sanctioned the removal of his father and did little to punish those responsible.  HIs removal benefitted the British at the time but had many of his reforms been able to take hold; the later assassination of Nicholas the II and his family might well have been avoided. 

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So the next installment for us Grainger whores ... fanatics, is in "a bit" . Being a mere Canadian/Australian, I am unaccustomed to this measure of time. I can all but hope it is akin to the Australian "bloody soon"....😁

Love the ingenuous, cunning, sexy bastard! 

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Thanks for our Bridgemont fix! I've been reading up on British naval history. I don't think I'm spoiling too much if I say I wish the story skips quickly to 6 months from now!

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George's attempt at diplomacy may have failed but he more than made up for it with skill and ingenuity. Can't wait to learn the outcome! 

Thanks, hon!  

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On 8/23/2019 at 11:39 PM, centexhairysub said:

Great chapter, what a truly innovative idea from Granger with the floating  bombs; luckily he has a crew that is able to understand his vision and help him attain it.  Czar Paul was viewed by many as insane in the last years of his life but I personally don't believe this to be accurate.  He was certainly capricious and after coming to power reversed his mother's position of armed conquest as a means to expand the Empire.  He believed that a more defensive posture was called for and moved to implement it.  His alliance with both Austria and Great Britain broke down more because of their actions and lack of action than his instability.  He attempted to reform the nobility in Russia and the army as well.  His moves to reform the army lead to a great deal of unrest and was probably the principal reason for his murder.  While some argue that the British played a part in his assassination no proof of this exist.  His son, Alexander I, at less silently sanctioned the removal of his father and did little to punish those responsible.  HIs removal benefitted the British at the time but had many of his reforms been able to take hold; the later assassination of Nicholas the II and his family might well have been avoided. 

I think that Paul would have led the Russian Empire to ruin much more quickly than eventually happened.  While he acknowledged the need for reforms, those he introduced were ineffective and, in the case of the army and the nobility, a big backward step.  I interpret most of his initial actions as being directed at doing the opposite of what his mother had done, and in a petulant way that is perhaps a predecessor of how Trump tries to rip down all that Obama accomplished, simply because it was he who did it.  It is almost comical, though, how the relationship between the Tsar and the Tsarevitch in this era were no more harmonious than that between King George III and the Prince of Wales. 

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Is there a notification list via email when the next chapter is released?  Just finished reading entire series, from Book1,  Chapter 1 to this  Chapter 20....just plain fascinating! 

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2 hours ago, PhilippeFV said:

Is there a notification list via email when the next chapter is released?  Just finished reading entire series, from Book1,  Chapter 1 to this  Chapter 20....just plain fascinating! 

Thanks. 

To get notifications go to the home page for the story and click on Follow

 

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OH! How I've missed this. Thanks so very much Mark. I SO needed a fix. And it was like a fatman in a donut shop. Absolute nirvana!

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On ‎8‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 12:23 AM, Will Hawkins said:

As usual Granger is showing his genius with alternative forms of naval warfare.  Floating mines , indeed. I am going to be researching my history books to determine what the relations between His Britanic Majesty and the Czar of all the Russias was in this era. Looking forward to the next chapter a usual, excellent work, Mark.

Granger has the luxury of having Hercule and some of his expertise in and willingness to learn new was in armaments and munitions! Granger has had the foresight to experiment and venture into new and cutting edge idea's of his own and some of the trusted men he has had the pleasure of accumulating since he became a sailor. Admiralty should be quicker to follow his lead on some of his accomplishments in making his ship more efficient and comfortable for himself and his men.   

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I’m beginning to believe that the next chapter begins with a visit from the admiralty. “I am very sorry to tell you Mrs. Granger, but the letter you received two months ago was the last news we have of your husband his ship and his crew. The Baltic is completely iced up and unless a message comes overland we can’t possibly find out more till spring. We know he was well provisioned. Beyond that we can say no more.”

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1 hour ago, Kaimuki said:

I’m beginning to believe that the next chapter begins with a visit from the admiralty. “I am very sorry to tell you Mrs. Granger, but the letter you received two months ago was the last news we have of your husband his ship and his crew. The Baltic is completely iced up and unless a message comes overland we can’t possibly find out more till spring. We know he was well provisioned. Beyond that we can say no more.”

Such a cynic.  🙂  Actually, the next chapter is in editing.  I actually found time to get some writing done. 

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57 minutes ago, Mark Arbour said:

Such a cynic.  🙂  Actually, the next chapter is in editing.  I actually found time to get some writing done. 

Thank You! I was about to give up hope. I had only found the Bridgemont Series about 3 months ago and was breezing right thru it without having to wait any. I actually thought it was completed when I started reading since I saw it was started in early 2011. But it is really a Great Story. I hope it goes on for many more books.

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