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David O’Neil

W & B Publishers


Glory © 2017. All rights reserved by David O’Neil.

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ISBN: 9781635549430

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

Book Cover designed by Dubya

Printed in the United States of America


The period between 1750 and 1800 was one of confusion, of conflict, and awkward periods of peace. Spain, France, and Britain spent much of the time at odds, and fighting occurred on several occasions between the three maritime nations.

The limitations of communication made the task of identifying friend or foe more difficult, particularly at sea. In many cases actions occurred under the mistaken impression that a state of war existed, when in fact the news that the situation had changed did not reach the fighting ships until after the deed had been done.

This also made it possible for unscrupulous privateers to take advantage of this and attack trading ships, using the excuse that they were unaware of the cessation of hostilities. Thus piracy was endemic among the more cynical holders of Letters of Marque. This was also a period where opportunists were able to annex favoured territory, and, in the Caribbean, islands changed hands back and forth, on occasion.

By 1800 the increasing influence of the former American colony began to be felt in the Western Atlantic and the Caribbean. The islands settled under their existing rulers and the European protagonists concentrated most their efforts on local waters. Spain continued to vacillate between French and independent rule, and Portugal hovered between Spanish and French rule.

Britain encountered and dealt with enemies from France and Spain, allying herself with Portugal and aiding her where possible. The importance of the Royal Navy in all this conflict was always paramount. The British Government was, as it always appears to be, the greatest enemy to the control of the waters around Britain, taking every opportunity to reduce expenditure on ships and men wherever an excuse could be found. The recorded size of the Navy at the time included a large number of ships that were no longer fit for service as well as supplies that were years out of date.

Despite all the difficulties, it is a tribute to the dedication and talent of the Captains and crews of our navy who won through despite the odds, and maintained control of the seas around us, denying our enemies access to our shores.

Chapter one

Given that luck plays such a big part in everyone’s life, it could be said that Jonathon was a lucky lad. It could be even if your name was not Jonathon Hope.

The waterfront at Ajaccio was alive with the normal bustling mass of people selling fish, buying fish, and stealing fish. Crew members from the ships alongside mingled with the troops recently landed from the Spanish ships offshore.

Jonathon had heard about Spanish duplicity. As far as he was concerned it meant that the Spanish might go home and the British take over. To a slave this meant little, unless you were a slave still interested in making his escape.

He nudged his next-in-line, Andrew Fox-Gilbert, Midshipman RN, equally in rags and equally a slave.

This rope is frayed through. The next barrel we roll we follow over the edge and into the water.”

It’s no good for me. I cannot swim, as you well know.”

That will not matter. I will keep you afloat, never fear.”

As the next barrel came into the line, Jonathon gritted his teeth, jerked his hands apart.

The rope strands, weakened already, snapped and Jonathon was pushing the keg, as hard as he could at the low bulwark, which had been damaged during a gun action earlier that week. Without thinking, Andrew followed, pushing the barrel. The others in the line also joined in and suddenly the entire 70 barrels were rolling, gaining speed as they reached the weakened gunwale.

The barrels plunged down to the sea below. The slaves followed. Few could swim, but the barrels would float, and anything was better than the life they faced as slaves.

Jonathon looked out for his friend. It was difficult to see properly with the splashing and crashing of barrel upon barrel, and the shouts and shots from the soldiers on the quay. Andrew was hanging onto his barrel with fierce determination. Jonathon, released from his own barrel, dived and worked the rope loop around Andrew’s barrel over the end, loosening it from the ties that bound Andrew to it.

Andrew panicked when his support in the water suddenly disappeared. He gulped salt water and coughed and spluttered, while his friend took a hold of his collar and dragged him away from the struggling melee of men and barrels. Jonathon pulled his friend around the next craft moored and waiting for its turn alongside the quay. Out of sight, in the calmer water in the lee of the moored craft, he managed to hook Andrew to a fender hanging down the port side of what now was clearly to be seen, the captured RN cutter Margaret.

The prize crew were all leaning over the starboard side hauling in the escaping slaves, hooking them with boathooks, overcoming their weakening struggles and dumping them to be watched over by, two armed men.

Jonathon worked his way along the side of the cutter until he was screened by the mast. He then carefully scrambled onto the deck of the small warship. He waited until both guards were occupied hauling two new captives across the deck. Then, armed only with a belaying pin, he stepped out and swung, full-armed, catching the nearest guard across the back of his head. Not waiting to see the effect, he immediately swung onto the other guard, catching him across the throat as he turned to see what was happening to his companion. With both guards down, Jonathon took the knife from the belt of his first victim, and slashed the rope binding the nearest prisoner. Released, the man took the knife of the other guard and turned to release his nearest neighbour. Jonathon put his finger to his lips to keep the men quiet, passed the two firearms carried by the guards to two of the men and grabbed the cutlass from the belt of his first victim. When the next recovered prisoner was hauled over the side, the crew discovered that their prize had changed hands once more. Jonathon kept the crew at it but made sure the men in the water realised that they were in safe hands.

Having rescued Andrew and hauled him on board, Jonathon showed him the fifteen men recovered and the nine crewmen who were now prisoners.

Why are you telling me all this? You are the man that made this possible. It is you who led us to recapture Margaret.”

But I cannot command this vessel. I know a little of navigation, none of leading men. You are a ship’s officer. It is you who should take command.”

Andrew laughed, “It is simple really.” He turned to the assembled men. “Well, lads. Mr Hope here has brought us this far, and I for one would be happy to follow him out of this bloody harbour. What say ye?”

A big fellow stepped forward. “My name is Hazard, sir. I was Bo’sun in Intrepid. Sailing this tiddler is easy for the lads and me. Without Mr Hope, we’d be stuck on that Spanish bastard. So if it’s all right with you, sir, its fine with us.”

Andrew swung round to Jonathon, and touched his forelock. “What are your orders, sir?”

Jonathon shrugged, “Very good. Mr Fox-Gilbert, have the bo’sun,” he nodded to Hazard. “Have the men sweep the ship for supplies and weapons. Keep the activity at low level. After all we are supposed to be a prize crew. Check for any other prisoners below. I will be in the captain’s cabin meanwhile. Please join me there when the watch has been set and, by the way, see if any of the men can cook?”

Aye aye, sir.” Andrew turned to Hazard, “You heard the captain, bo’sun. Send a search party through the ship and join me at the quarterdeck to allocate watches.”


Jonathon sat in the chair in the stern cabin of the cutter. He had learned to read as cabin boy on the coaster Amy, and by the age of nine knew which way up to look at a chart.

His early days had been marked by the loss of his mother to illness. That had been the reason his uncle had taken him aboard ship under his command, coasting between Newcastle and London, and the ports between. He had shipped out on a foreign-going vessel when the Amy had sprung a plank in a storm off Norfolk. He had been the sole survivor, and at the age of 12 was only able to ship on as cabin boy, though, as soon as the Captain discovered he could read and write, he spent most of his time helping him with the purchase of cargo and more importantly the sale of the cargo.

The capture of the trading brig had been a bitter blow for the Captain, who did not survive the three months of captivity endured by Jonathon Hope. Andrew had joined the captives when his ship, attached to the fleet, had run aground on the Spanish coast during an attack on Toulon. The fact that the Spanish were supposed to be allies of the British at the time seemed to have passed the local commander by.

Jonathon, was now almost 17 and near 5 foot eight tall, still a little thin but deceptively wiry and muscular. He could handle a sword adequately and a pistol well. His fists had been well used ever since he discovered that there were men at sea who used boys from choice. Andrew Fox-Gilbert RN, Midshipman now also 16, slim fair-haired, the son of a Norfolk Squire, was adept at swordplay, adequate with a pistol, and lethal with a sporting gun. Their friendship had been forged in captivity, and they made a formidable pair working together.

Jonathon was still only half aware that he was sitting in the captain’s chair in command of his own ship. He grinned and opened the captain’s log. He entered his name and listed the names of the crew members passed to him by Andrew, who was now seated opposite him with a glass of the wine unearthed from the cabinet beside the desk.

The Spanish have not replaced the boom across the harbour entrance,” Andrew said, “If we make a run for it tonight, we should be able to clear Sardinia by mid-morning.”

It will be a case of where-to next? Do you have any idea where we may find the fleet?” Jonathon withdrew the chart for the Western Mediterranean and studied it.

Andrew was surprised, not having been aware that Jonathon could read.

Perhaps Sicily, though I would not be too sure.” He noticed Jonathon indicated the island with the dividers he was holding. “Otherwise, Gibraltar would seem to be the only safe target for us to aim for. How long do you think? One, two weeks perhaps?”

Probably the safest bet. This should be a lively sailor and, if we keep a good watch, we should be able to run if we spot trouble.”

We can set the prisoners ashore at the harbour mouth. Now, is there anything we’ve missed?”

We discovered clothes in the First’s cabin. I believe the occupant was a lady. With a maid. There was a made-up bed on the floor.”

“Where would they take her, I wonder?” Jonathon scratched his head.

I questioned our new crew. One of them was on this ship when she was captured. He said the lady was being brought to Gibraltar on their trip out from England. In Gibraltar it seems her son had been posted to Port Mahon in Minorca. The Margaret was taken off Ibiza and brought here as a prize. So where would she be now?”

A Lady and her maid? The Admiral’s residence, I presume, once the Governor’s mansion.” Andrew said. “We can always slip ashore and take a look. We have uniforms.”

Jonathon looked up sharply. Was Andrew joking? He looked very serious. “You think?”

Andrew shrugged. “This morning I was pushing barrels of wine up a sloping gangplank.”

“Let us speak with our prisoners.”

Ben Hazard was sent to fetch a prisoner who could speak English.

The man was worried and sweated a lot, until he realised that it was only information that they were after. It seemed the lady and her maid had been taken to the Admiral’s residence, and the man had seen that the lady at least was being treated properly.

At this time of year the nights were longer. The two young men dressed in the uniforms they found still hanging in the lockers from the officers of the Margaret. Thus Jonathon was now Lieutenant and Andrew Mid-shipman. They wore the uniforms as there was little difference especially at night between the officer’s uniforms in the Spanish, French and British Navies?

There was no security as such in the port. The uproar of the soldiery and the seamen was similar to that found in any seaport in the entire Mediterranean. The prostitutes plied their trade, the thieves and pickpockets operated and the others got drunk if they could afford it. The attitude of the two young men, carrying sword and pistol, carried them through the throng who parted to let them through without question. In the background, following within sight, unknown to the pair, three of the chosen seamen from their ship kept an eye on their progress. ‘Just in case’ Hazard decided.

As they approached the Government house the sound of music could be heard and it became apparent that an entertainment was in progress.

The doors of the ballroom were open, and couples were moving in and out to take the cooler night air, before returning to the dancing inside. It was not difficult for the two British Officers to hide their cloaks, hats, and Jonathon’s sword, to allow them to pass in the garden as guests, seeking, and eventually finding, a lady speaking English to a small group of Spanish officers. The group broke up leaving just one man who appeared to be able to converse in English well enough to carry a conversation. Andrew appeared behind the man and gestured to the lady. She looked, but it was not until he tapped the dirk at his waist, that she realised that he was British. If she was a Naval wife, Andrew gambled that she would recognise the uniform. The lady turned to her companion. “I wonder if I can be trusted while you find me a cordial. I would go back inside, but I confess it is so warm I would swoon were I to venture in my present state. If I promise to seat myself here, I will not stir until you return.”

The officer bowed. “Of course, Madam. I accept your word. I will return immediately.” He turned glanced briefly at Andrew and made his way into the ballroom.

The lady looked at Andrew. “Quickly now. You are British?”

Yes, Madam. Mid......!”

She shook her head impatiently. “Don’t interrupt. There is little time. I have documents for the Admiral in Gibraltar. Look up. The end window is mine. In one hour I will drop a package to you. You will deliver it with all speed to Gibraltar.” She paused, “You have a ship?”

Yes, Madam. Do you desire passage?”

She looked at him as if he was an idiot. “Why would I ask you to deliver my package if I wanted a passage? I can hardly gather information if I am not here. One hour! I can see well from my window. If you are trapped, call for Lydia, my maid. Do you understand?”

Andrew hesitated for a moment then stepped back and joined Jonathon behind some bushes, as the officer returned with the drink for the lady.

So she does not wish to come with us. She is a spy!” Jonathon looked at the watch he had taken from the Prize master. “If we make ourselves comfortable for the next hour, you can collect the package and we will be on our way.


The ball was still in progress when Andrew took his place beneath the window the lady had indicated. He stood there for a while before a girl looked over the balcony. She called quietly, “I’m Lydia. Did you call me?”

No, miss. I’m Andrew. I await your Lady.”

I was instructed to give this package to you. I have tied it to my scarf to lower it quietly.” There was an altercation at the other end of the garden, then the package descended attached to a silken scarf. As Andrew took it in his hand the scarf fluttered down, obviously released by the person above. Andrew gathered the scarf and the package and retreated into the bushes.

A man appeared on the balcony and looked down, “ I heard voices. Who were you talking to?”

There were people passing below. It must have been them you heard. I spoke to no one. I know no one here. Who would I speak to?”

The voices faded and the man withdrew. Andrew joined Jonathon, the scarf tucked under his tunic. Then he passed the package to Jonathon who thrust it into the front of his uniform jacket. Then, in cloak and hat once more, they made the stroll back to the quay and were rowed out to their ship.

Hazard greeted them as they boarded. “No ladies, sir?”

No ladies, bo’sun. I’ll be in my cabin. Prepare for sea. Rig the decoy lamp and call me when we are ready to leave.”

Aye aye, sir.” The bo’sun called quietly to the carpenter. “You heard the officer. Get moving!”

Below in the cabin, Jonathon examined the package, wondering how the lady had managed to conceal it from the Spanish. He shook his head and placed the package in the strongbox behind the desk.

Andrew stood awaiting comment. He was disappointed. “Let us have a quiet glass and await the Bo’sun’s call.”

Chapter two

The topsails of the cutter were drawing well and, with the mainsail and the foresail set, the Margaret was logging eight knots in a strong wind which lifted the waves to over a metre and showered the fore deck with spray as the bowsprit dipped and occasionally stabbed the face of the waves.

Jonathon looked along the deck at the guns, all lashed in place and the clean, neatly secure cordage, proud and pleased with the way the ship was handling. They were three days out from Ajaccio with no sign of pursuit. Their departure had gone off without a hitch. The raft with the riding light attached had deceived the other ships, and they had not, it appeared, been followed. He called to the lookout perched up the tall mast, “Any sail in sight?”

The lookout did another sweep of the horizon with his glass, “All clear, sir.”

Jonathon turned to Andrew. “Let us exercise the guns. I seem to recall we have sufficient powder and ball to waste a little on practice.”

Andrew grinned. “Aye aye, sir. Mr Hazard, gun crews, exercise the guns. Find us a few targets if you can.”

For the next two hours the intermittent banging of the guns disturbed the peace. The clouds of gunsmoke dispersed swiftly in the fresh windy conditions.

Andrew mentioned that the crew had performed well, despite being short handed. All the targets had been smashed. Speaking to Jonathon after the practice, Andrew said, “We have selected two gun crews. Having tried the men we found the best and teamed them for accuracy and speed of operation. They will stay as at team at action stations. With only these popguns ( 6lbs) to play with, it seemed the best solution.”

Jonathon smiled and nodded his head. “I have no doubt with a full crew we would soon find crews for all the guns. But, in the meantime, well done, Andrew. Let us hope we do not need them, on this voyage at least.”

Just when it seemed that the escapees would have an untroubled voyage, they spotted a pirate galley making for the Barbary coast. The Margaret was between the galley and the distant line of the North African coast. The lookout had been joined by Andrew who carried the big telescope with him. Calling from the masthead, Andrew reported, “She has been damaged and is short of oars. Her mast is frapped and she cannot carry much sail. I guess she took on more than she intended, and had to make a run for it.

Jonathon did not hesitate. “Load all guns, port and starboard. We will take a look and see if there is anything we can do to make life more difficult. Masthead! Any sign of support for the galley?”

No, sir. Though the galley is beginning to turn away. Looks like she is trying to run.”

Very good, Mr Fox-Gilbert. Join me on deck and we will give chase. Let us see just how fast our ship can go!”

With all sail set full and taut, there was not a wrinkle to be seen, just straining canvas in a great white cloud. It was almost frightening to feel the tension throughout the ship as she settled, heeling on course to chase and intercept the galley.

In normal circumstances this would not have been a recommended practice. The galley, fully manned, would be far too quick and agile for the cutter, and her one gun, mounted in the bows, would only need a single shot to sink any small ship foolish enough to get in range. Jonathon was depending on the damage already done to the galley to make the difference he needed in such an encounter.

The Margaret swiftly overtook the galley which did prove to have been damaged in a previous encounter. Under the threat of the guns, the captain of the galley surrendered, handing Jonathon the heavily jewelled and decorated scabbard with its finely damascened blade.

There were several wounded in the crew of the galley, and both dead and wounded among the slaves on the benches.

Andrew had the able-bodied crewmen and warriors replace the slaves at the oars. He assembled the surviving slaves on deck. Of the one hundred and twenty slaves they had set out with, sixty remained. He looked them over. The reek of the unwashed men seated for weeks in their own filth was choking. Calling for the sea water hoses to be rigged, he ordered the men to strip, and for the next half hour the startled men were battered by the cold waters of the sea and encouraged to scrub their filthy bodies clean. Those who decided to refuse were given no option, as the others turned on them and scrubbed them raw. With clothing taken from the galley and the cutter’s slop chest, the men were dressed once more. The British and Portuguese, numbering thirty-two men were taken into the crew of the cutter to ease the pressure on the escapees.

The remainder took over the running of the galley. The broken mast was braced with four of the unusable oars. Two days later, under sail – with occasional sessions of the oars – the prize galley, Osiris, under the command of Midshipman Fox-Gilbert, followed the Margaret into Gibraltar harbour.

The sight of a captured galley was unusual enough to raise considerable interest. The fact that it had been captured by an undermanned cutter raised even more. The final denouement, announcing that the cutter itself had been recovered from enemy hands under the nose of the Spanish Admiral, created the biggest stir of all.

In the Admiral’s office in Gibraltar, the two figures, Fox-Gilbert and Hope stood at attention awaiting the verdict on their conduct.

When the great man looked up he noted their rigid figures. “Be seated both of you. I have to see what this is all about.” He waved the letter from the lady spy in Ajaccio.

The two young men sat in the chairs provided, still tense to learn their fate.

Eventually, the Admiral sat back, “Do you know what this letter says?”

Both shook their heads. Jonathon volunteered, “The lady said to deliver it unopened and destroy it if we were taken, sir.”

Good. Well done, both of you. Now I have read your reports. I am surprised that you did not take command, Mr Fox-Gilbert. As the senior officer present, I would have expected it of you.”

In my report I mention that I was one of many rescued by Mr Hope, who acted upon his own initiative. Mr Hope suggested I should take command. I immediately placed myself under his orders. I already respected him for planning and executing our escape. And it was apparent that he already had the respect of my companions. He was immediately accepted by all the escaped men. In addition, he saved my life on two separate occasions.”

Jonathon was blushing at these effusive words and would have spoken, but the Admiral spoke first. “Well said, young man. I was just confirming that there had been no pressure placed upon you. I presume you would not find it difficult to continue to serve under Mr Hope?”

Not at all, sir. It would be my honour.”

Mr Hope, in view of the initiative you have shown in this matter and the fact that you not only recovered a valuable ship and returned it to the Royal Navy along with another prize. I have arranged to appoint you as Master’s Mate, dated from your 13th birthday. You will be entered for the Lieutenant’s examination on your 17th birthday. Since that is less than one year hence, it behoves you to study those subjects you are not already acquainted with. Mr Fox-Gilbert will probably face the same selection board. I suggest you help each other study for the occasion.”

He sat back in his chair. Admiral Hamilton was approaching the age where his wife was expecting to return to the estate they owned in Sussex. His daughter and her husband had been running things for the past seven years, and they were showing signs of restlessness.

He stirred and concentrated on the notes he had made when he first read the reports from the two young men before him. It was important he got this matter right.

Your acting rank of Lieutenant is confirmed, as is that for Midshipman Fox-Gilbert. You are appointed to take command of the Gloire currently lying in Port Mahon. She is a captured French corvette used as a smuggler. You may take any of the crew of the cutter that you wish, though I have appointed three Jerseymen who are all fluent French speakers. Your orders have been credited with your back pay, and you can obtain uniforms from the shop in the town to await you when you leave tomorrow on the mail ship. I have arranged for you to have credit. While I suggest they will be useful, most of your sea time will be spent in plain clothes.

He stood and stretched his back, aware of the ache that would no longer go away. His gaze at the two young men before him did not waver. For a moment he envied them their youth, and enthusiasm. “Your first task will be to deliver a message to the lady you met in Ajaccio. She will decide your use at that time. Otherwise you will find guidance in the orders from here. Remember the password ARGOSY. It indicates friend in our information network.

Later in the street, now clad in uniforms supplied by the outfitter from his ready-to-wear stocks, the two friends were seeking food and drink, befitting their comparative wealth gained by the recovery of the cutter, and the taking of the prize galley.

Captain Murray, the bluff Aide-de Camp for the Admiral, had advised them that the Gloire was a ship-rigged corvette 88 foot length overall. “When they realised how fast she was, smuggling and blockade running was her obvious fate. Her capture had netted 132 crew, plus a captain and a mate. Her twenty guns were proper weapons if served properly, and she had been fitted with an assortment of weapons, including three rifles.

The Captain lifted his hand to stop the question. “All three of your Jerseymen are trained sharpshooters with the rifles. They had settled in America when a raiding party of French and Huron Indians overran their home-stead. The men had been out hunting and returned in time to see their homes in flames and their families dead.

They trailed the party and killed every Frenchman involved. Only then did they decide to return.”

Why are they here and now, sir?” Andrew asked.

The Captain smiled grimly. “Home was no longer the place they were born.” He shrugged, “You will find out in time.”

Jonathon said, “What about the Hurons?”

They accepted that the Indians were savages and that was part of their way of life. The French had been born of civilised people; for them there was no excuse.”

Jonathon nodded slowly realising the logic but also marvelling at the self-control of the Jerseymen.

“You will find the three men very useful in many ways, but I doubt you will ever make them lose their temper. They are superb sharpshooters.”

Chapter two

Ben Hazard shielded his eyes and gazed across at the ship that lay alongside a quay on the far side of the harbour. There was a rakish look about her that stirred something inside him, an excitement, and he could not wait to get on board. He turned to the young midshipman standing next to him, “What do you think of our new home?”

The midshipman, Elliot Mason, jumped, startled out of his reverie by the Bo’sun’s question.

Why she looks a speedy craft, and she is bigger than I expected.” He spoke well though there was a slight accent. Mr Mason was an Alderney man who also spoke French, and happily, Spanish.

Jonathon and Andrew were also interested. Rightly so, since she was the only ship of her size in the harbour.

With the men landed and formed up under the command of the Bo’sun, Andrew, with the gear collected and loaded on a wagon took the party round to their new home.

Jonathon reported to the port Admiral. There he was introduced to the three Jerseymen who all carried hide packs and the long rifles brought from America. Jonathon noticed that the open barrel mouths were all wrapped in greasy rag to prevent the salt air entering and damaging the rifling.

All three men were little taller than their weapons, but lithe, competent-looking in their fringed leather jackets and breeches. All also wore soft-hide shoes. They moved without any observable sound, and Jonathon became aware of the menace that these men could be to an unwary opponent. The men introduced themselves as Campe, Marc and Henri.

Outside the Headquarters building Jonathon, stopped and shook each man by the hand. “I command, but I know little of command. You are all expert at your work. I depend upon you to teach both me, and others of the crew a little of that expertise. Our work in our new ship does not entail waving flags and roaring guns, rather the silent contact in the night, a ghost to be unseen or at best unnoticed. Do you understand that?

Marc smiled grimly. “You may depend on us, Captain.”

That was all that was said. They boarded the former corvette, and Jonathon read himself in before the assembled crew.

After three days of clearing up and overhauling the standing and running rigging, and with sails now replaced suitably weathered looking, the Gloire reported ready for sea.

To the crew that was when the ship became the Glory, the name on the transom did not change, nor on the documents, just in the mind and hearts of the men she would, from now on, always be Glory.

Chapter three

After two days, the crew had been shaken down in their tasks to the satisfaction of the bo’sun. Andrew had selected gun crews and the pattern of life was settling into a routine that suited their designated abilities. As he stood with Andrew by the wheel, the crack of the Baker rifles could be heard as the marksmen practiced their skill on the pieces of flotsam from the broken kegs used for the gun practice earlier.

As you know, Andrew. we will be seeking the lady who sent us on this path. I am informed that her name is Madeline Bellew. Her former husband died during the taking of the Margaret. Apparently, she was already an agent when she married her husband.

“Where are we likely to find her? Do we have any clue?” Andrew was looking concerned, as well he might. The Mediterranean covered a big area.

I have the names and locations of several informants who may be able to narrow the search for us. We can start at Ajaccio, though I realise the Spanish have been eased out of there now. From there onwards we will be in the hands of fate. Our secondary task is to gather what information we can in our travels, and seek a man called Simon Herriot, a particularly active spy for whoever pays the most. It seems he has been active over the past few years causing all sorts of trouble for our cause in particular.”

Jonathon took a last look around the busy deck and nodded to Midshipman Mason. “Take over, Mr Mason. I will be in my cabin. Call if you have a problem.”

Eliott Mason stepped up to take post beside the wheel while his Captain went below. The pride at being entrusted with the ship while his captain was elsewhere apparent in the squaring of his shoulders as he braced himself, and, in an aside to the helmsman said, “Watch your helm, man, you are weaving like a Liverpool doxy after a session with the bo’sun!”

The helmsman grinned as he adjusted the wheel. He would remember that one. Behind his ear he heard the voice, soft and gentle with a steel lining. “Just watch the course, lad. And keep what you hear to yourself.” The Bo’sun smiled to himself thinking, young Mason was growing into a proper naval officer, no mistake!

Poring over the map of the Mediterranean, Jonathon and Andrew were aware there were several problems to be solved by the captain as part of his preparation for the lieutenant’s selection next year. He was lucky that his knowledge of maths was proving useful in the study of navigation. Andrew had been well trained in the use of the instruments of the craft, but even he was surprised at Jonathon’s swift grasp of the mathematics involved. Taking sights demanded the ability to stand firm on deck and choose the moment to mark your results, Jonathon had mastered that skill on the way across to Gibraltar. The linking of the maths in working out dead reckoning, and the solving of the problems of tide current and wind was rapidly becoming a simple matter to Jonathon.

For Andrew, there was the task of slowing Jonathon down, as he had a habit of over-simplifying problems. This would not sit well with the sort of examination board who judged applicants for promotion.

The lessons between the two friends were strictly controlled for length. They worked for one hour in the morning, and a second hour after the noon sights. The other elements of instruction were completed in the interim periods.

Fencing lessons were shared between midshipman Mason, Andrew, Jonathon and, the Jerseyman Marc. Marc was adept with the rapier, thus bouts with the foil were an education to all three young men. The resultant improve-ment in their skills was soon apparent. Cutlass lessons were conducted by Bo’sun Hazard, who took sections of the crew in addition to the officers and ensured that everyone felt at least comfortable with a cutlass in his hand.

The days at sea passed swiftly with the crew busy learning to work together and perfecting their ship-handling skills. There were other ships spotted and they spoke to two separate frigates on the third and seventh day out from Gibraltar. Their orders from the Admiral were happily strongly worded and dissuaded both frigate captains from diverting the Glory from her scheduled task.

During the period which had started when Jonathon was a slave, the transition between boy and man had begun. He was filling out, growing taller and tougher. On Glory with the encouragement of Ben Hazard, he was learning the art of self-defence, and, along with Andrew, developing into a useful fighter. As Ben pointed out they may not always have swords and pistols to hand, and the port towns of the world were not the safest places to pass through, especially at night. It was a reason to make sure that, combined with their growing expertise with weapons, both friends would be able to look after themselves in just about any situation.

They spotted the schooner one week out. She was making heavy weather of it. The standing rigging for the mizzen mast on the starboard side had torn away from the chain plates. By maintaining the wind pressure on the port beam they kept the mast upright, but the crew were having problems grappling the chain plate, which was swinging erratically with the pitch and roll caused by the movement of the ship. As Glory approached the stricken ship, two of the Jerseymen came up from below with, what Jonathon realised, must have been bows used by the Indians.

Campe strung his bow and stretched it. Then, withdrawing an arrow from the quiver by his side, he attached a length of light line to it leaving the coils of extra line on the deck to run out smoothly. Henri approached Jonathon. “Please, sir. Run down her starboard side as close as possible. We fix!”

Marc was waiting for the ship to close the damaged schooner. As the ship came abreast of the schooner’s starboard side, Campe raised the bow and fired his arrow into the canted deck of the other ship. Marc had tied the other end of the line to his own arrow. He fired and the arrow flew true, carrying the light line to the other ship catching the swinging chain plate in the loop of line.

From the deck of the schooner came a cheer, as the line was hauled in and the chain plate secured to the bulwark close to its original position.

The people on the schooner dropped her sails now the mizzen was anchored in place. Andrew took the jollyboat and rowed over to the merchantman.

He was received on board by a subdued group of people. Marc, who had followed him over the side, said in English. “They do not want us on board. I think maybe they are pirates.” He stepped over to the arrows still stuck in the deck. He wrenched them loose and set one on the string of the bow, without stretching it far. He then stood back, eyes everywhere, just watching.

The man who seemed to be in charge was anxious to send Andrew back to the Glory. Andrew was in no hurry. “I’ll need to see your papers, captain.” He spoke in English.

The captain said with a shrug, “They are in the cabin below.”

He led the way, down to the main cabin in the stern of the ship. Andrew was already prepared, his hand on the butt of the pistol in his belt.

When the captain flung the door open and stepped aside, Andrew stepped aside also. The blunderbuss charge would have been fatal had it hit him. As it was his pistol bullet took the shooter in the chest and he dropped, already dead before he hit the deck. Andrew thrust the captain into the cabin ahead of him. A sword blade took him in the throat. Andrew pushed the dying man at his attacker, frustrating the attempt to withdraw the sword. He then whacked the swordsman with the butt of his pistol. The man collapsed with a sigh. And the resistance was overcome.

There was a woman tied to the gun in the rear of the cabin. By her dress she was a lady and, though a little battered, still proud and defiant. Andrew released her, cutting the ropes with his dirk. The lady promptly collapsed in his arms.

Like the gentleman he was, Andrew laid her on the bunk and drew the cover over her then left her to recover.

On deck, the pirates had been assembled by Jonathon under the threat of Glory’s guns and the physical presence of Bo’sun Hazard and his six man boarding party.

On the face of things they seemed a very small threat to twenty pirates, but their leader was already dead in his cabin and the men were a sorry bunch at best. They stacked their weapons and stood glumly as they were secured by the boarding party.

Andrew reported the finding of the lady, and Marc appeared with another woman. Discovered in the forecastle, she was the companion travelling with her employer on the hired ship. The schooner Gavotte had been commissioned to transport the lady and her entourage to Messina in Sicily. According to the companion, the gentlemen escorting the Contessa were led by her guardian, the Marquis, and three hired men.

In the stern cabin of Glory Jonathon seated himself. Present, already seated, were the Contessa and her companion, Elena.

Andrew, and a glum looking young man, who was apparently the only survivor of the three hired men, stood awaiting events, with Marc guarding the door.

Jonathon nodded to the Contessa, “Please, Madam. Can you tell us what happened?”

The Contessa, straightened in her chair, and in perfect English told her story. “My guardian and I discussed the matter of marriage. We were at the time on our estate in Mallorca.

Having selected a suitable husband, we were informed that he had been despatched to the Embassy in Sicily. Since I was already seventeen, we decided that, rather than await his return in three years time, in arrangements of this nature, it is important to arrange for the inheritance sooner rather than later. You understand?” She looked keenly at Jonathon, who did not understand at all, but who nodded as if he did.

Satisfied, the Contessa continued. “We hired a reputable ship for the voyage and three guards, and set out for Messina.

All was well until this morning. I was woken by the sound of a pistol shot and running feet on the deck. I heard the small cannon fire. Then the door burst open and Gerard, the senior guard, entered shouting that the Marquis had been shot and the men had mutinied.

He slammed and locked the door, locking me inside.

He returned later and made to attack me. I fought him, but he was too strong and I was nearly overcome when there was a crashing noise and the ship shuddered. Shouts of alarm from the deck made him lash me to the gun. “I will return.” he said. He slammed the door and left me alone once more. The next I knew was when the door was flung open my attacker came in, sword in hand, followed by a man with the blunderbuss, who slammed the door behind him. The man with the gun waited and when the door opened, he fired. There was another shot, and he dropped to the deck. Gerard turned to the doorway and thrust his sword out. The ship’s captain was in the way and was pierced by the blade, and as the man tried to free it, another man hit him with a pistol, and he collapsed. When I saw the uniform, I realised I was saved, and I admit, I collapsed.”

Jonathon nodded, “Thank you, Contessa.” He turned to Elena. “Now, please. What do you know of all this?”

Little, sir, I am afraid. I was on deck with some washing when I heard a pistol shot. I was grabbed by two of the men who hustled me below into the men’s quarters in the bow. They were not gentle and they took advantage, with their hands, sir.” Jonathon realised that he should understand this but, again uncertain, he nodded under-standingly and the woman continued.

While they argued who would have me first, there was loud crash, and shouts for all hands. They tied me up and left me. Next I knew that man came and released me.” She indicated Marc. “He was very gentle and kind.” She blushed, and Andrew noticed, so did Marc.

The hired man had little to say. He had been woken by the loud crash everyone else heard. His leader had ordered him to stay out of the way while he took care of business. Not knowing what was happening, he was astonished to see his leader shoot the other hired man, and then swing his sword across and slash the Marquis across the throat, killing him instantly. Then Andrew and his men appeared and that was that.”

Tell me. Did you have any idea that this mutiny was about to occur?”

No sir. Nor, I am sure, did most of the crew. They just followed orders. After all the chain-plate had torn away, and that was serious business for the sailors.”

Speaking to Andrew privately later, Jonathon asked, “What did the Contessa mean by arranging for inheritance sooner rather than later?”

Andrew grinned, “With arranged marriages among the nobility love does not come into it, unless you are particularly lucky. It is all about breeding. Thus, if you as a Baron marry at the age of forty perhaps, your bride being between sixteen and eighteen, the first priority is to ensure the succession. That means you bed the woman as soon as possible hoping for a son. If the first is a girl, then off you go again, until hopefully a son is borne. From then on you can return to your mistress and leave the bringing up to your wife. She will be delighted to rid her bed of the randy old goat she is saddled with and, if she is discrete she can mount the stable-boy if she feels the urge. If no son appears, often a stable boy or other servant is introduced to help nature with a strapping lad to occupy the place of the heir.”

Jonathon sat pale-faced at this explanation. He had not experienced contact with nobility and this cynical explanation was a shock to a young man who was so worldly in many ways.

“I noticed you wondered about the comment from Elena about the men groping her as they took her into the foc’sle. They would have raped her then and there. You do know what rape is?”

Jonathon nodded.

“As it was they were still arguing, and groping her when they were called away. So nothing worse happened to her. I have the feeling that Marc will receive a much friendlier reception from the lady.”

Well, it seems we are stuck with escorting this bloody ship to Messina. At least then we can get on with our mission.”

I suppose we will need to keep the ladies on board for their protection. Let young Mason take the schooner under his command. Better make sure he keeps us in sight for the rest of the journey.”

Chapter four

Jonathon Hope sat not actually reading the textbook on navigation. He was deep in thought over the situation facing him. How had he managed to finish up in the Captain’s cabin in command of his own ship? He had been looking after himself since he was ten years old and had grown up fast, but he was still in many ways the boy who missed his mother, and the uncle who had bothered to take him on.

There were plenty of occasions where he could have used help through the years that followed, but few where that help had been forthcoming. Andrew was the first real friend he had made over the past years. He admitted to himself, the reason he was seated in this chair was because of Andrew. He turned to the book in front of him, and added the rider: It is also the reason that I must pass for lieutenant or let the Admiral, Andrew, and Captain Murray down.

He smiled grimly. There was always the matter of his own feelings about his life, but it did not hurt to feel responsible for others for a change. One way and another, his responsibilities seemed to be extending over an ever-widening area. Now he had yet another ship to nursemaid and two more women to worry about.

A knock on the cabin door followed a slight altercation in the passage outside.

He called out, “Enter!”

The door was opened by Hector, the man selected to be his servant. “The Contessa asked to see you sir, I told her you should not be disturbed, but she insists.”

Jonathon sighed, “Please let her in.” He closed the book on navigation and rose to his feet to greet his visitor.

The Contessa swept into the cabin and stood trembling before the desk.

Please be seated,” Jonathon said quietly. To Hector, “A glass of wine for the Contessa, please. Then leave us.”

The lady seated herself almost before the chair was in place. By the time Jonathon himself was seated, she had calmed down and taken a sip of the wine placed before her by Hector.

As the door closed behind the servant she said quietly, “What I have to say must be for your ears only.”

Jonathon looked at her, aware of her determination in the set of her jaw and the steady look in her dark eyes. “I will make any decision that I think necessary after you tell me whatever you think I should know. That is the best I can promise.”

There was a few tense moments while she thought about this, then, “I am not who you think I am.”

Jonathon waited saying nothing seemed to be the best response at this time.

She continued. I was seized in Lyons by the French secret police. At that time I was employed by the French King’s First Minister, to report on the activities of the anarchist movement that had been growing in strength in the south, and threatened to join forces with the Jacobin movement rapidly expanding in the Pas-de-Calais region, in Paris specifically.

The choice offered to me was to work for the anarchists, or suffer degradation and death in the hands of the torturers prior to an interview with Madam Guillotine.

As you may have guessed I chose the option to survive, realising that the opportunity to turn the situation around could only happen if I remained alive. I am aware that war has broken out once more between Britain and France, but I am also aware that the rule of King Louis XV is endangered by forces he cannot control. His generals only fight the battles they select and more and more of the people are being downtrodden by his appointees, who take advantage of their privileged position to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. My purpose in explaining this to you is that I do not need to go to Messina. Rather a place on the coast of Italy.”

She sat back and regarded Jonathon with that steady look which had determined him to listen to what she had to say.

What about Elena? Is she a part of this arrangement?”

Elena was hired in Mallorca. She knows me only as the Contessa, an abused lady of Spain.” The cynical smile that accompanied this comment took the sting out of what could have been a bitter comment.

Why should I aid a ‘spy’ of an enemy of my country?” It was difficult for Jonathon to think in terms of friend or enemy about the woman seated opposite him. Her presence on Glory had been disturbing from the beginning. Young and beautiful, she was a breath of a life that had never been possible when he was struggling to survive. In many ways it was a brutal reminder that this girl, who was maybe two, perhaps three years older than he, was involved in events of state that could involve the removal of Kings, and war between nations.

He stirred and pulled the chart he had been using forward to remind himself of the ship’s present position. “I need to think about this. There is no reason to make a hasty decision now. I will decide later today. Meanwhile, I will re-examine my own orders, and decide if a change of destination will be necessary.

Jonathon kept his own counsel for the remainder of that day. Finally, he sent for the Contessa and Andrew and, when both were seated, he spoke. To the Contessa he said, “First, Madam, I wish to know your name? I refuse to refer to you as Contessa when I know the title is an assumed identity.”

Watched by the astonished Andrew, the Contessa thought for a moment and then said quietly, “My name is Catherine Ferrar and I was born in Gascony. I am the daughter of a Vicomte who lost our lands and home during the eternal struggle between the Valois and Bourbons. I was therefore at the mercy of fate and my own wits.

Having decided that the Bourbon cause was the best of a bad lot, I worked successfully for some three years, before the secret service of the military cadre managed to entrap me. They made me an offer I could not refuse at that time. The death of my parents has removed the hold they had over me, and I now am back in touch with my former friends. There is, of course, a problem. Because in the past year, serving both masters, I have realised that I am not trusted by either side and therefore vulnerable. My request to be dropped on the Italian Coast was to simply evade being forced to marry that stupid old man in Sicily. The arrangement was made before I was aware of the death of my parents. I still have a friend in Gascony which meant that I could keep contact with my parents, without the knowledge of my masters. I did not have the chance to escape before the ship sailed, though I was sure I would find a way of diverting the ship and escaping the clutches of my controller. The mutiny was not of my doing, but it worked out as fate often decrees, and here I am throwing myself on your mercy.”

Andrew sat through the story, without comment. He turned to Jonathon, “I believe you may have in mind what has occurred to me?”

“Madeline Bowen?”

Jonathon grinned, “Just to re-assure you, Madam Ferrar, I have, up to this moment, spoken to no one about your situation. I gave my word and kept it. Since you have decided to confide in Lieutenant Fox-Gilbert, then I take it I am released from my promise and we may discuss this matter freely between us?”

“If you think it might help, I agree. So who is this Madeline Bowen?”

The two men looked at each other, then Jonathon spoke. “Madeline Bowen is the widow of a naval Captain who was taken into the entourage of the Spanish Admiral who was responsible for her husband’s death. Unknown to him, we believe, she is in fact like you a secret agent. Employed by the British Government, and currently still retained in the household of the Spanish Admiral. Our current task is to contact her, and I believe she may well be the answer to your problem, and at the same time ours.”

“You are suggesting that I work for your British Government?”

Andrew broke in hurriedly, “No, Madam. For Mistress Bowen!”

Catherine Ferrar sat back, not really surprised at the suggestion, though pleasantly surprised at the way the suggestion had been put. Placing her loyalty in the hands of an individual was not the same as serving a Government. Individuals tended to have preferences that Governments ignore or crush or tell lies about.

Gentlemen, I believe I would like to meet Mistress Bowen, if it is possible. I am of the opinion that many of the principles I have fought for would be shared with such a lady.”

The two men exchanged glances. “Well, Miss,” Jonathon continued. “We will continue our voyage to Sicily without mentioning your presence upon our arrival. Our search for Mme Bowen will continue from there. Do we all agree?”

Catherine was left to inform her companion of the change in her situation, while Andrew had a quiet word with Mr Hazard for the information of the rest of the crew.

The straits of Messina are the passage between Italy and Sicily, the port of that name, being the second biggest on the island. Glory called at the port but rather than go alongside she lay offshore at anchor while Andrew Fox-Gilbert took a party ashore to enquire of the whereabouts of the lady, Madeline Bowen.

The voyage from Messina to Naples was a short one, or it would have been had there not been an interruption they could well have done without. The area of water in that part of the Tyrrhenian Sea was not renowned as a haunt of pirates. An encounter with a Tunisian galley demonstrated that travel by sea could always result in unexpected encounters. Captain Mustafa became the victim of a similar encounter to that of the galley captured by the cutter Margaret during her voyage to Gibraltar, now nearly two months ago.

Having sailed in company with a larger ship, captained by Mustafa’s brother in law, the enterprise was set fair by the taking of the Spanish merchantman Sofia Grande. Both of the galleys took part and the poorly-armed and captained Spaniard really had no chance against the agile galleys, and their excess of manpower.

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