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1809 Ben Brown Rite of Passage

1809 Ben Brown Rite of Passage

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1809 Ben Brown Rite of Passage

610 pagine
13 ore
Feb 26, 2013


This book starts with our hero as an old man, an Admiral now thrust back into naval service due to the ongoing Russian war. He comes into contact with a new young Midshipman whose Grandfather just happened to be the Admiral’s mentor when he started in the service. On the long voyage out, our hero tries to befriend this grandson of his friend by explaining how he survived being a midshipman.
The reader is transported back to the French war and all the dangers that surround that period and not all from the French either. There are some nasty run ins with the Press gang and British Seamen, not forgetting their so-called wives.
His adventures, scrapes and later action as they unfold, take us initially to the Mediterranean and the French coast. His third ship was a captured Russian bomb vessel now equipped as a rocket ship. Quite an experimental design for that time and quite as dangerous to friend and foe alike.

Feb 26, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Bill Bertram has for the last forty years researched Britain’s late 18th and early 19th century Merchant and Royal Navy ships. At University, he specialised in the design and performance of wooden warships. He is now a maritime historian and writer living near Devonport Royal Naval Base, England. Bill’s work has been coloured by his historical knowledge and experience of seamanship, he has an unique approach to maritime history and has developed a dramatic style of writing that explores the brass tacks of historic maritime fiction. For him a good story must explain what is going on around the subject, it is extremely important that the background of the story is factually correct. Bill attended Plymouth University for his degree in Maritime History and Marine Technology. His dissertation on the sailing qualities of 19th century warships was rapidly accepted and broadcast on Television and Radio as well as being published in the New Scientist and in journals all around the world. During his time at University, he satisfied his academic curiosity and his need to eat, by becoming a guide at Plymouth Naval Base Museum and a receptionist at Fort Bovisand. For several years, he pursued this speciality further. The next years were fulfilling as a teacher, but retirement threatened and so Bill returned to his major academic love, maritime history, luckily he was in a city steeped in the past glories of her relationship with the sea. Now free from a profession, Bill again returned to his first love, the sea and writing historic novels. As a teenager, Bill loved the Hornblower novels by C. S. Forester and had always dreamed of writing books in that genre. It was at this point in Bill’s history that he decided to write books based on the history of Plymouth and its seafaring people. Resolving to write a mixture of factual and fiction books, his first three books progressed through several generations of the same family, he centred his rags to riches stories around the Brown family. Using factual evidence, he interwove the characters around Plymouth’s 18th century history and streets. This clearly involved many long days of research and fact-finding, however, eventually he wrote his first novel and swiftly followed it with two more in rapid succession. The first three books that Bill wrote are indeed based on an 18th century Plymouthian family who are clearly fictional, however, this can never be said of his novel’s backgrounds, here Bill has meticulously used old maps, drawings and records to build up an historic environment for his characters to exist in. Similarly with the three plays that have been also been composed, these also revolve about the same family, but are set in different centuries, but all involve the Plymouth Brown family and all deal with a period of historical significance. Bill Bertram has since published six books, He lives and writes from his home in Plymouth, for relaxation, Bill visits the sea daily and he is currently the owner of an Edwardian Steamboat in which he potters about.

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1809 Ben Brown Rite of Passage - William Bertram


Ben Brown’s Rite of Passage.


William Bertram.

Published by William Bertram at Smashwords

Copyright 2013 William Bertram

Discover other titles by William Bertram at


Let me know when we will be ready to sail Captain, I'll be in my cabin. Aye, aye Admiral, just as soon as we have steam up, exclaimed a troubled Captain Vincent, now thankful that the new Admiral was at last going below, however he quickly added, I'll send word. Seconds later the elderly Admiral was climbing down the steps towards the upper deck. Suddenly on looking up at the sudden noise above his head, the frail Admiral's feet stumbled on the last step or lack of a step, bastard! He cried as his feet failed to find the rung that should have been there, bloody too old for this game of sailors he mumbled.Steam up. Damn the steam, never had to wait for steam in my day, muttered the elderly Admiral as he made his way below. What the hell did they fetch me out of retirement for? Damn this Russian war. There was no doubt that this Admiral was indeed a worried man, but was he more concerned about this new technology than the Russian navy, or how he would command such a fleet of tin kettles after so many years on the shelf? Even he did not know the answer. Yet, somehow, he was also feeling very nostalgic, especially when his feet touched the upper deck and he inadvertently glanced around at the occupied sailors getting ready to sail. Savouring those two emotions he halted for a second, his brain instinctively remembered and replaced all those busy sailor's faces with ones who had once in his youth had sailed the seas with him and now were mostly sailing across heaven without him.

Conscious that he was daydreaming he shook himself by looking up at the black funnel, now spewing out clouds of black smoke, then at a nearby matelot, brick dusting the brass work. How in hells name can these sailors keep this ship clean with that thing spewing out all that soot, he turned instinctively when the sailor suddenly noticed the Admiral looking at him. What the hell do I know of steam propulsion? He looked aft and upwards, just look at the dirty sails on the dammed mizzen. Sorry Sir, did you say something? asked a passing petty officer who also stopped to stare up at the mizzen. Ermm. No sir, just thinking aloud. Carry on, the older man touched his hat in a nonchalant manner. Aye aye sir, replied the Petty Officer returning the salute, smarter than it was given. Yet just as soon as the Petty Officer had disappeared; the Admiral started to mutter again, but now he chided himself, this new Navy is very different to the one I left fifteen years ago, I must adapt, no more being on half pay now. He stroked his chin in thought as he started to walk aft towards his cabin.

Opening his door, he paused just for a second to see his servant finishing laying out his breakfast before walking in and sitting at the table. Breakfast that morning was taken in silence whilst his servant busied himself in the background. Yet the Admiral would not have noticed, his thoughts were back in his youth, sailing the seas of his memory. Suddenly he gave a little chuckle as he clearly remembered an amusing incident. This swiftly brought his servant towards the table again to inquire if the Admiral needed anything, but the Admiral waved him away, now slightly angry that his thoughts had been interrupted, yet truth to tell he was angrier with himself for allowing his normally alert brain to lapse into imagination. Sitting up straight in his chair, he swiftly looked around the room to find any object that would gain and hold his attention. Suddenly his gaze alighted on a map, which he knew was the Baltic. He pushed his chair back and stood, now walking over to the map he picked it up, unrolled it slightly and brought it back to the table. Clear these dishes away Stubbs. Quickly man. Right away Sir, replied Stubbs reaching for the hidden bucket in which he collected and cleaned the crockery. The Admiral stood there scrutinising the map while his servant noisily rushed to clear the crockery away in the bucket. Swiftly the table was cleared and the Admiral threw the map onto the lace tablecloth with a flourish, now using the saltcellar as a weight he looked around for another object to weigh down the other side. Pass me that book would you Stubbs, he exclaimed hastily. This one Sir? Inquired Stubbs. Aye man and quickly now, replied the Admiral has he manoeuvred himself around to the other un-weighted side, where he held down the wayward side until the book appeared. Now happy that his map was secure he started to examine the Russian coastline where any impending actions might take place, however since his eyesight was getting worse, he bent over the map until his nose was only inches off the print.

Stubbs now seeing his Admiral suffering asked, would you like your reading glass Sir? Damn you Stubbs, gasped the older man jokingly as he tried to stand upright again, his hands instinctively went to his now aching lower back. I think I am getting old too old for the sea, Oh no, not you Sir, answered Stubbs condescendingly. Sitting down again, he took the glass from Stubbs with a muttered thank you, just as someone knocked on his door. Come in, called the Admiral. Suddenly a young midshipman stuck his head around the door and said hesitatingly, 'begging your pardon Sir, but the Captain sends his complements and says we are ready to weigh. Steams up then, asked the Admiral. Aye Sir, answered the Midi, now stepping back slightly. Come in lad, I am not talking to you through the dammed door, the Admiral sounded slightly angry. Now removing his hat, the midi stepped into the room, his eyes were everywhere. Instantly as the young man stepped forward, the Admiral seemed to recognise the visitor. Glancing at the young man the Admiral asked under his breath, I know you don't I? However, before the Midi could answer he had put this passing thought aside with a curt no matter sir, changing it quickly to, Just how old are you Sir? The Midshipman looked at the deck, Fifteen Sir, my first voyage. Just the same as I when I joined the service, the Admiral paused for a second before adding, and what's your name lad? Clifford Sir, William Clifford, said the Midshipman, slightly scared at the Admiral's interest. Clifford. Clifford, the Admiral peered forward to see the midi's face again, I knew a Clifford once, Richard Clifford he was my Captain on the Tisiphone, he looked a bit like you. The midi smiled, I know Sir, he was my Grandfather, he told me of your friendship. Was? Master Clifford, was? Exclaimed the elder sailor sadly, he's gone then? Passed away last year, but he told me all about you Sir, answered the Midi smiling again. As the senior sailor looked at the familiar features again, unexpected tears started to well up in his eyes, another one gone then, we were great friends, he wiped his eyes, leave me please Sir, we'll talk later. Stubbs. Stubbs," He called for his servant.

However, there was no need, Stubbs on seeing his Admiral moved had already started to open the door for the young man and seconds later, he stepped through behind the midi, closing the door behind him, leaving the Admiral alone with his memories. Presently the Admiral composed himself and went up on deck where he found the whole fleet in a state of readiness to sail for the Baltic, to give the Russian Bear what the London papers called a drubbing. All eyes were upon him as the Captain approached and the Admiral nodded his consent. Really that was all that was required of the old man, for now the ship jumped instantly into life and the wooden deck vibrated under his feet as the giant engines slowly pulsated away whilst the anchor was shipped aboard. Then suddenly the deck vibrated madly as the engines started to drive the gigantic ship forward, this was a new sensation, he stood there transfixed, just aware of the new sensation creeping up through his shoe leather. Suddenly he was aware that they were moving away from the harbour and he looked back towards the shore, he could just see a great crowd of people waving. He now looked around the ship to see and hear the sailors shouting and waving back to their families and friends on the shore. Well at least something's never change, he muttered. Some of the midshipmen were also on the Quarterdeck, cheering and waving shoreward, well all except William Clifford, he was not even staring at the diminishing shoreline. He stood alone, his back leaning against the sides of his new home; it was obvious to the Admiral that he was feeling sad and afraid at leaving his family for the first time.

Meanwhile, he was intently watching the activity of the crew on the other side of the mizzenmast. Abruptly, after drawing the attention of the Admiral, he suddenly turned and now leaning forward over the sides of the ship, squinted through the bright sunlight straight at the Barbican and the citadel. Probably trying to identify his Mother from those other small specks milling about on the quayside, thought the older seaman. Presently, most sailors ceased cheering and waving and were now returning to their duties. The Admiral looked again at his friend's grandson, he was still there. The Admiral thought to himself. 'I expect he is full of anticipation and worry, I remember that feeling when I first sailed away, but he will soon get over it.' Deciding to take a more active part in the running of the ship the Admiral turned to consult with the Captain as to course, speed, fleet orders and a host of other matters he had forgotten or never knew in the first place. ‘Yes it was time he buckled down to his position.’ He thought.

Giving the lighthouse on the Eddystone a wide berth, the fleet steamed majestically past. The Admiral heard Captain Vincent casually remark to the group of officers around the binnacle about the range of the light, it now being up to 13 miles. Really thought the Admiral, I can remember when the candles could just be seen from 2 miles away, if you were lucky. Technology is moving faster than I can keep up, I must really improve my knowledge, else I am going to look a right doddery old bugger. All that day he subtly inquired of the improvements occasioned since he was first put on shore, to be honest his mind was so full with the improvements that when eventually he did try to sleep he could not, his mind full of new facts and responsibilities decided to keep him awake. This is stupid, he muttered to himself as he arose for the third time, I am going on deck. Quickly he dressed and made his way on to the Quarterdeck where all was now quiet. The watch officers were busy with their appointed tasks and apart from first asking if they could be assistance left him alone to feel the wind in his face and to look up at the star filled sky and the bobbing lights of his surrounding charges. Suddenly he was aware of a dark shadow sitting on the signal locker, as he approached the figure stood and he saw it was Master Clifford awaiting orders from the Lieutenant in charge. Your watch Master Clifford then? He spoke in a low voice, sit down Sir it may be a long while before you are given any tasks. The young man sat and the Admiral sat on the other locker, I remember this watch, dull as ditch water, I have been bored silly on many a night such as this. You were a Midshipman too, Grandfather told me, exclaimed the young man. Aye, and under his command too, strange how events replay themselves in time, answered the Admiral quietly adding, I saw you when we weighed, couldn't your family come to see you off. No, I said my good-byes in London, Father is busy in the city and Mother is not well. Answered the young man sadly. Nothing serious I hope? Inquired the elder. No, sir, it is hoped she will make a full recovery soon. I hope so. I do hope so, exclaimed the Admiral, I expect you are feeling; err shall we say, full of anticipation and worry. I was. The Midshipman now turned towards him, You were sir? Aye, more than you think, scared would be a better description, I remember joining my first ship, perhaps if I told you of my feelings it might help you adjust the quicker. He paused for a second to gauge the youngster's reaction, in any case, since I cannot sleep and you have this dull watch it might make the night pass the quicker. He could just make out the boy's turning head, If you please sir, I would like to hear, especially about the Tisiphone and my grandfather. Ah, sighed the older man, Captain Clifford my mentor and you shall sir, you shall, but first I must explain the method of my first stepping on board ship.

Chapter One.

A Fine Ship

On my first day, I also stood alone, my back leaning against the sides of my new home I was just feeling the gentle sway of the ship under my feet and trying hard not to listen to the incessant creaking timbers, they were trying to contest dominance with the ever present seagull’s vocal activity. The seagulls won, they are always the loudest. I, meanwhile, just like you earlier, was intently watching the activity of the crew on the other side of the foremast. Abruptly, after drawing the attention of the ugliest, I turned and now leaning forward over the sides of the ship, squinted through the bright sunlight straight at the Barbican and the citadel, trying to identify my Mother from those other small specks milling about below the Citadel. I also wondered, have I done the right thing? Would misery and death be my reward? My thoughts now unrestrained raced back to the series of events that caused me to be standing on this ship now preparing to leave my home, perhaps forever. Fear suddenly gripped me and in order to dispel the feelings, I concentrated my thought back to my childhood and the reasons why.

According to my Mother, for I have no recollection of the incident, it was on a fine spring day in the year of our Lord 1793, when at the beginning of the great French war that I first made my appearance on this earth, born into a strictly Methodist merchant family. I was therefore a few days later, to be found in Batter Street Chapel being baptised during a particular heavy thunderstorm. Now given the name Benjamin Brown by a particular pious preacher who brushing aside my vocal protests, insisted on making liberal use of God's holy water. Ironically, the Lord must have agreed with him for he decided to confirm the matter, for on our leaving the chapel he added a second total baptism. I in response, screeched in protest; showing that even at that early age, I could not control my mutterings against authority. My Grandfather, was a Ben also, as was my Great Grandfather, both were employed by the Revenue Service.

They had earlier fought a momentous sea battle with fearsome smugglers off the coast of Cornwall, arriving home with a Red Ruby. He never said from where he acquired this prize, only to say it always belonged to the family. However, this red ruby started our part of the family business of exporters and importers of trade goods, in the year of our Lord 1763. Along with his wife, (my grandmother) Sarah and his son also a William (my Father), he further built up this trade during the following years; until he was able to procure a large warehouse in order to sell his goods to the many clients who had similar businesses all over the world. He was also responsible for a fleet of ships, which would journey from far and wide to buy and sell his wares. When my Great Grandfather died suddenly in 1782, my Grandfather Ben and his son William took over the business and decided to marry William to a business acquaintance's daughter. This financially fortunate marriage to my Mother augmented the business, which on the demise of my maternal Grandfather, added a fine house complete with a ship's chandlers to his growing list of our processions.

Near the end of his life, my Father's character changed and he became sullen and not half the man he used to be. Many were the scolding I received from his hands, on account for this misdemeanour or that mistake. Likewise, unlike my Mother who was always ready to laugh and joke at the drop of a pin, my father at that time did not seem to have one ounce of enjoyment in him, no jokes, laughter or enjoyment was allowed in his presence, unless of course it originated from him and that happened very rarely in those days. However all things must end and in the year 1800 when I was seven years old, my Father died, closely followed by my Grandfather and Grandmother, who shrugged of these material possessions, leaving only my Mother to find and employ a manager to run our business. To me a child of seven, just released from the prospects of perpetual scolding, mostly I believe, given for just speaking my mind, what could have been achieved in a role model of manhood was trod asunder by the most disagreeable person one could hope never to meet.

However, it must be mentioned, he could indeed run the business very well and thankfully it did start to turn a pretty penny again, we soon expanded and began to invest in an East Indian venture. However, these talents were far outweighed by this manager's rotten nature and miserly habits, of the many characteristics that I did not like about him was his ability to make me feel unclean, his constant sycophantic demeanour towards those customers who had money, contrasted sharply with his rude and ignorant manner towards those that had little or none. This combined with his miserly and scrimping nature made Mr Peddler a more patronising parsimonious piece of humanity one could ever envisage. Moreover, much to my annoyance he fawned and fussed around my Mother ad-nauseam, who surprisingly did seem happy, both in his work and company, (but she was no judge, look at her last choice in men). However I felt no such joys, I found there was always this strange manner about the man, especially when it came to money. I detested his miserly ways and he responded in like manner, with his sneering, Your Mother shall hear of this waste of candles, or his threatening, If I was your father, you would have a good thrashing for wasting that food, and many more like phrases. I unintentionally gave as good as I received, yet my cheeky mutterings did nothing to heal the rift, how I wished I could control my impertinent nature and just despatch him to go and look for my Father. So after many months of verbal torment, I took the easy path and avoided his company whenever I could, which was not easy as he was always around, which was surprising as our house and our warehouse were only a few streets away.

On his advice, our ship's chandlery started to sell silks to the detriment of nautical equipment. Mr Peddler argued that chandlers were ten a penny in Plymouth, whereas silk sellers could be counted on one hand as well as attracting a better class of clientele. To further my future prospects and in the hope of governing my tongue, my Mother decided to employ a tutor, a Mr Loveman, who was given the gargantuan task of turning me into a gentleman. This learned tutor had been for the last decade developing a strong streak of socialism, taking his lead directly from the recent French revolution. During my lessons, he displayed more than a hint of those characteristics that pointed to a revolutionary. Fortunately for Mr Loveman this fact had escaped my Mother's notice and therefore I was taught that all men are equal and deserving, which in hindsight I found to be complete bunkum, but at that time and for a few years to come I accepted the proposition of one man being as good as another. Under Mr Loveman, I studied mathematics, science and literature, but to my infinite pleasure not French, Latin or any other language. My Mother realising this defect, was determined to employ another tutor for this gap in my education, but events or Mr Peddler's accountancy overtook her plans. Of course, the lack of a second tutor meant that I should have had a few moments of spare time for boyish games, but these precious moments were filled with studies that were more mathematical. When eventually on the days, I did have freedom from my books, I was sent to help, observe and learn how Mr Peddler conducted the business, so that one day it all would be mine. Nevertheless, during the odd hours I did manage to escape the tedium of books or business, I found myself on the Hoe watching the ships coming and going, just wallowing in the maritime atmosphere, or sometimes, John our servant would take both my new friend William and I out on his brother's fishing boat. However roaming the waterfront had an unfortunate side effect and I soon started to learn the language of the sea, much to the irritation of my Mother who would scold both John and I ad-nauseam.

Meanwhile the Weevil, my new name for the Peddler, was standing in the background his face radiating alternatively smirks of pleasure and disgust at my embarrassment, I hated him the more. My tenth birthday I remember well, for war had been renewed the year previously and down at Plymouth Dock, the Royal Navy were busy signing sailors for the new 74's just built over on the Hamoze. My friend William and I, were determined to join as cabin boys or whatever, just to rid ourselves of this bookish life and to seek adventure. Moreover, by this time our heads were filled with tales of the recent great battles, Copenhagen, Nile, Camperdown and so on, Nelson was on every one's lips and moral was really high, no harm could come to a British sailor faced by these cringing Frogs and lowly Degos. However, fate forgot two things, William's inability to keep secrets and his offensive Mother, who came straight away to inform my Mother in no uncertain words of my plans, not our plans you understand; mine alone, for I had somehow turned into the villain. Needless to say I never left either Mr Loveman's or the Weevil's sight again, well at least not until those fine ships had sailed to the Mediterranean.

I never forgave Billy and although we were still the best of friends, I never let him forget it. Yet more than not running away to sea was the lost possibility of avoiding the Weevil, whose increased instructions on book keeping and accounts necessitated me inhaling his bad breath over my shoulder, but worst than that I had to endure his increased and nauseating attention towards my Mother. How she could stand his presence was beyond me, given a choice I would have him standing downwind of me on all occasions and then a long way downwind to boot. Yet there I stayed, chapel was my only escape, that and my bed, of the two, bed held the better enjoyment. There could be no doubt however that I still yearned for the open sea or even the waterfront as a poor second. I vowed to sign aboard a foreign bound ship one day. My Mother sensing this and despondent of keeping me at home, enquired of her new acquaintance, the wife of a Captain Williams. Over tea that afternoon, my Mother asked directly whether her husband would enter my name as a Captains servant on board his ship, the Abercrombie, a fine East India man. Fortunately, Captain Williams always broke his voyage at Plymouth on his way to and from London, thus allowing him to visit his family and permitting them to accompany him to London and back. My Mother had asked just in time for the Captain was sailing the next day. Captain Williams on being informed of my Mother's request, agreed to have my name added to the ship's muster book as a Captain's servant, suggested further in his letter, that I might, on his return sign up as midshipman with the Honourable East India Company. This exciting prospect of exotic places kept me awake for quite a few hours that night and therefore, very early next morning I sneaked down to the Barbican to look over my new home.

There she was, bobbing in the swell with a host of small craft fluttering around her sides. I inquired further from a waterman and found out all I could about the ship, I knew her dimensions by heart, about 1200 tons, approximately 151 feet long and 42 feet beam, built in India of Hindustani oak or teak as it is called now and only two years ago too, this was her second trip. Of course, this matter of being a captain's servant did not mean that I was going to sea just yet; it just meant that I would have sea time to my credit and which would be of help when I was accepted as a midshipman in two year's time. 1805 and Nelson died; tragedy, the town was in mourning, but worse was to come, Mrs Peddler who was always ailing, (who could blame her) passed away, (following after Nelson) I mused and after a decent period my Mother, much to my great annoyance became the new Mrs Peddler, how that name rankles on my tongue. I will never forget the smirking streak of meanness telling me in front of my beaming Mother, to think of him as my new father. As far as I was concerned, the only father I wanted to think about him in context to me, was the farther he was away from me the better.

But wait, nine months later and I have a brother or rather a half brother, Robert Peddler, a screaming whinging son of a noxious father, both could depart this life tomorrow and I would not care. From that moment on, I was ready for running away in any bucket that would sign me aboard, but cowardice and ignorance prevailed. From the day of Weevil junior's entry into this world, my life changed, I was asked to do more and more labouring duties, bring that bolt of cloth, stack this, move that, we had servants to do this sort of work. Ah yes thinking about servants, our sometimes cook, sometimes butler and sometimes footman John was more of a father figure to me than either Weevil or my late father had ever been. John had time for me, an ex matelot he had been a sailor during the wars of the American colonies, nearly thirty years ago and now he filled my eager young ears with tales of adventure and excitement, prizes won and ladies rescued. According to him, the only ship worth shipping on is a frigate, for aboard that kind of ship, there is prospect of gaining a prize and therefore one's fortune.

1806 came and was nearly gone, when suddenly we heard from Mrs Williams that the French had captured the Warren Hastings, sister ship to the Abercrombie no less. The rumours spoke of casualties among Captain Larkin's crew who had evidently put up a devil of a good fight, that is, until the Mizzenmast fell over the upper deck guns and silenced them. This was not good news, Captain Williams was due home at any time and my Mother was having apoplexy about me leaving on a similar ship. She had forgotten about the ever-present dangers of fierce tropical storms, fire and shipwreck, not to mention disease, which kills more sailors than any other hazard, but seemingly this latest French triumph unnerved her. Evidently, I was not going yet, if at all, a great disappointment to both the Weevil and myself, which was about the only thing we ever agreed upon. A few weeks later and Captain Williams came home, bringing presents and tales of the orient, he was getting wealthier every trip due mainly to his own 30 tons of goods he was allowed to ship as Captain of the vessel and the number of passengers returning to England, some of whom he was allowed to charge personally. The Weevil, ever hopeful of a business deal, struck a bargain with the Captain that our, no, my warehouse would purchase as many bales of silks as he could bring on his next trip, no doubt he had negotiated a special price with the Captain. Needless to say, my Mother was also the recipient of a present, some fine Indian tea and sago, while I was given a fine bamboo cane. I had heard about this foreign wood but had never seen any and I really did not know what to do with the cane, I didn't mind, I expect it was really an afterthought on the Captain's part, but I enjoyed the tea and the love of it as stayed with me since that day. Yet no amount of persuasion by the Captain and Mrs Williams could part my Mother from me, I was staying at home for at least one more voyage, much to the Weevil's chagrin.

Nearly two years past, 1808 and the town was filled with soldiers off to the war in Portugal, bands played on every corner, drums were beaten in the hope of gaining recruits and it seemed as if there was a soldier billeted in every house except ours. By this time, Spain had thrown in the towel and was in open dispute with Boney, so our brave boys were off to the Peninsular to give him a drubbing. I fancied that I might go with them, Mr Peddler was all for it, go lad go, he leered, I was tempted at this attitude to say no I have changed my mind; I am stopping here with my business. With a little luck, it would have wiped the insincere smile off his countenance, but no, weak as ever, I gave in, I could see that my fortune had gone. Robert was now the heir to the profits looted from the large ruby and I was not required any more, in fact I was thought of in certain circumstances as a liability, someone who could stop the march of the Peddlers. Needless to say my Mother was heartbroken and implored me to stay, clutching on to any straw that would keep me a little longer, yet seeing the hopelessness of the situation she changed tack. Why not take advantage of your sea time was her new approach, after all you don't want to be a common soldier when you might be an officer at sea, of course this couldn't be argued against, naturally I wanted to be an officer, didn't everyone?

Therefore, the dye was set, how to accomplish the feat was the next problem, how to get to sea and whether it be merchant or the Royal Navy was another. John my mentor advised me to look for a fast frigate, prize money lad, prize money an officer gets the greater share; look to the horizon Laddie, scan for a fast frigate and jump aboard, said he with a longing gleam in his eye. All very well, but I had forgotten my canny Mother, whom unbeknown to me had enlisted Captain William's wife help in finding me a berth. Fortune smiled and the Abercrombie arrived back from India, she had docked temporally in Plymouth to pick up the Captain's wife again, before starting out on the last leg of the trip to London. He instantly, through his wife entreaties offered to take me on a trial trip to London and if the sea was to my liking, and help me enlist as midshipman aboard the Abercrombie at the East India Company's headquarters in Leadenhall street. I jumped at the opportunity, London, paved with gold, home of the King, to say that I was excited would be an understatement and if offered, I would have gone with him as captain of the heads.

However, this plan was not as straight forward as it first seemed, for unbeknown to me, two people were planning in the background, the first revealing itself while I was struggling to get my sea chest out of John brother's boat and into the Abercrombie. John alone was helping me aboard, I had already said my good-byes to Mother and the Weevil, leaving them on the jetty and now it was John's turn, no need for that Laddie, said he smiling. I be going with thee, do you think that I can stop with that privateer Peddler. He struggled with my chest before adding, the devil take him and all his kind. No it's the sea for me, giving the heavy chest a heave, puffing now he added, I have signed articles on board as the ship's cook. We lowered my sea chest to the deck. He sat on my chest while continuing to try to catch his breath, seems as though their cook deserted two nights ago; strange that, he added winking. Being a suspicious sort, I half believed my Mother had put him up to it and the truth was I was really glad, for I was sore afraid of the future. Take care of yourself John, shouted his brother as he threw John's kit bag into an open gun port and swiftly unhooked the painter and pushed off. You too lad, don't eat too much of his food, if you want to avoid the heads. Swiftly his words, like the small fishing boat was gone and a feeling of utter hopelessness and loneliness descended upon me, thank God for John, I thought and looked around, but John had gone forward.

Suddenly a hand landed on my shoulder breaking my thoughts of getting back ashore, I flinched in surprise, turning quickly around to look up at Captain William's face displaying a small snigger, made you jump lad, eh yes, yes! The voice seemed kindly enough but there was something not quite right in its tone, something one just cannot put one's finger on. The voice had emanated from a familiar tall man now wearing a bicorn hat and sporting a blue flock coat with white collars, cuffs and turn backs, the many brass buttons bore small anchors, this and the coat signified it was definitely Royal Navy. I had seen enough of them to know that. My brain raced ahead, but this is strange, this is a merchant ship is it not, yet I dismissed the thought as soon as it arrived. So here you are, Master Ben Brown, aboard my ship eh, my wife tells me you are a good lad, well let's hope so, he gave another small smile, by the way, I am expecting my wife to come aboard at any time, in saying that I think that might be her pulling away now. Can you see her Master Brown? He pointed towards the Barbican, I dare say your eyes are better than mine. Can you make her out? Indeed I can Sir, I replied sharply, adding quickly, and she has her sister with her too. God no answered the Captain, I expressly forbade that woman on my ship, mark my words Master Brown, mark that woman well, we will have trouble with the men, err we arrive in London. Really sir? I was intrigued. Yes indeed, remember this first piece of advice Master Brown, women and the sea don't mix, keep them separate at all times. He removed his hat to scratch his head, oh by the way, while on board say nothing about our wives being friends and you will have to call me sir at all times He smiled at me and patted me on the shoulder, It's a good life really, he added replacing his hat. I hope you enjoy your new profession, I have for this trip put you in your own cabin, but once accepted as a midshipman you will have to go with the tide. I nodded my acceptance.

Anyway, he sighed, I must away now to prepare the ship for sailing, do you see yonder man with the speaking trumpet, he said pointing at a tall lanky figure. Aye sir I exclaimed in my best nautical fashion looking in the direction of the Captain's finger. Well that be Mr Kittoe, go and give him my compliments and tell him that my wife and her SISTER, (he spit the word out) are coming aboard and would he be kind enough to see to the matter, you might also ask if he might see that you also are taken care of. Aye Aye Sir I responded, again in my best nautical manner. Going over to the tall lank figure also dressed in a blue coat but this time with blue turn backs and light gold braid, however I noticed that his waistcoat and breeches were a light yellow or buff colour and as I approached, I could see that Mr Kittoe's buttons bore the company's crest upon them. I started to speak, The Master asked me to. he listened as I continued, well I thought he did, but his eyes were everywhere and I could see that he was not impressed, either with the Captain's wife coming aboard, even less with her sister and even less still with having to take care of me. Well for a start, Mr Kittoe stated firmly sneering down at me as though I was a lump of dog dirt that had suddenly and without warning attached myself to his shoe, Although Captain Williams is the Master of a merchant ship; this is an East India Company ship so his title is Captain, not Master. Why then tell me in that manner? What a charming person, I thought as he continued with his priggish attitude. However, no doubt as you can gather from his coat he was a Captain in the Royal Navy and so doubly on this ship you must call him Captain, but normally other merchant men are run by their Masters. I thought to myself, what is this man ranting on about, I only told him what the Captain said.

Now, he pointed to the stern of the ship while sneering the words, do you see that lazy idle dog of a seaman over there, leaning on the fife-rail? I nodded, not daring to open my mouth again. Right well, his name is Barnes and a more idle workshy person you would be unlikely to meet, go directly to him and tell him specifically that he is to conduct both you and your belongings to your berth and then report instantly back to me? And I mean instantly. He looked down his nose at me again, manage that Master Brown can we, he added sarcastically. I can, but, I don't know about you, however? I muttered under my breath as I turned towards the stern of the ship. Just a minute. He roared after me, I cringed in fright; I stopped promptly, just in case he had heard me, Master Brown, he added neatly as if to re-enforce his position of authority. Please remember I am Chief Mate or First Officer of this handsome ship and you know or should know, ships are really run by their mates, so also report to me when you have your belongings stowed, now push off. I did not need telling twice, I was away. Snap to it lad, he bellowed after me. I just knew in my heart that given time, undoubtedly, we either would become firm friends or I would murder him first.

Oh, where's that blasted boat to take me back? I cast an eye over the ship's sides to look for a method of returning home, but flinging off this feeling of despair with a shudder, I slunk rapidly away from this self-important officer, over towards the stern of the ship. There I found Barnes or Barney as the lads were to call him among other things, deep in contemplation, still staring wide eyed at Plymouth and now just for a change of view leaning on the stern rail. Mr Barnes, I said raising my voice a little, he tuned round quickly, he was a giant of a man with a thick brown beard that concealed a weather beaten face with piercing blue eyes, he stared at me, it quite unnerved me. Mr Barnes I repeated, Mr Ki. . .? God, I had already forgotten the idiot's name, Erm Mr Barnes, that gentleman there, I pointed to the man I had not two minutes since left, asked if you would show me to my cabin. Which gentleman is that then, young fellow? As he talked, I noticed that he had a kind voice, quite unsuited to the rigours of the sea, Why that gentleman there, I answered pointing, there with the speaking trumpet, standing by the main mast, then adding quietly, making himself hot under the collar by trying to get those sailors to sort those ropes out. Just at that precise second, Mr Kittoe must have sensed we were talking about him and turning around noticed, that Barnes and I were still on the quarterdeck. He raised his speaking trumpet and bellowed, Barnes you lazy dog, if you do not move a thousand times faster, you will be using a holy stone as a bloody pillow, now look alive man. Oh him. God that is the Mate, Mr Kittoe, damn and blast his eyes, the man is a damnable beast, Master. Master errm? Brown I finished his words, Ben Brown, I am to go to London to sign on as a midshipman in the East India Office. Good for thee Master Brown, good luck to thee," and he grabbed my arm while still casting a glance at Mr Kittoe he directed me towards the stairs that led down from the quarterdeck.

Down past the wheel and through under the quarterdeck we went, down another flight of steep stairs with me trailing behind. Along the way, Barnes stopped for a second and turning exclaimed, I wonder what they will be calling you, everyone has a fo'c'sal name on board, whether they know it or not. I knew this from John and my time on the waterfront of Plymouth; I had often imagined what they would call me when I became a sailor so to speak. I had imagined, fearless Ben, or valiant Brown, but, at the moment, I imagined it would be more like worried Ben, but all this lay out of my hands far into the future. A few steps further and I was stopped and shown two rows of cabins all with doors facing onto a small passage That's the old man's, said Barnes pointing to the largest and finest. There's Mr Kittoe the Mate, Mr Sutton the Second Mate. There is the spare cabin for guests and passengers, that's Mr Jagoe the Purser's cabin and there is the Doctors, which leaves this one for you, he pointed to the last one, the smallest room, he added quietly. Normally you would be with the rest of the young men, exclaimed a voice, turning around suddenly, I saw a strange gaunt man appeared out of the gloom, but your Mother has paid for comfort this trip, I am Dr Miller by the way, said the figure. Have you done Barnes? He looked directly at the man. No Doctor, I am just going to get Master Brown's sea-chest and stow it in his cabin. Good, look lively then, ordered the doctor kindly, but even before the words left the doctor's lips Barnes had scurried away.

Good man that. But hellish lazy, added the Doctor. Still never mind, welcome aboard, I dare say we will have more time for conversation at dinner tonight. He offered his hand, we leave on the next tide. What time will that be? I asked shaking his hand. Oh in about two hours, answered the Doctor. Good, I should leave you now to get settled on board. Look around, see Mr Jagoe, find out about the trade and how the ship works. But, he leaned forward to utter, under no circumstances get in Mr Kittoe's way, he is just rigging up to slings in order to receive the Captain's wife and sister in law on board, he can't handle interruptions and we can't expect ladies to climb aboard, eh, yes, yes. He looked upwards and tutted, God I have said it again, I try so hard not to say those two words together. Picked it up off the Captain, says it all the time, it's really catching, but don't let the old man hear you say it, otherwise he will think that you are making fun of him. I started to feign a chuckle, I really did not know why or what he was talking about. Doctor Miller on seeing this smiled said quietly, incidentally do you know what the men call him? Apart from the obvious that is. He paused for a few seconds, I was not going to answer, it was obvious really. No, he shook his head slightly, well they call him old yes, yes, but you did not hear that from me," he added touching his nose with his left index finger and smiling. I thought, Oh God, is this to be sample of sea humour, and this from an educated Doctor too. However thinking about it, I had never noticed the Captain using a double yes at the end of a sentence, but I was to notice from now on and it would take all my self-control to stop sniggering or not to repeat it.

After the good Doctor left, I went to inspect my new home, slowly opening the door I was confronted by what in my house would be considered a cupboard and a small one at that. A small wooden cot was suspended from the beams above and ran the entire length of one side while an old upright chest complete with a few drawers stood on the other, yet there was hardly any space to open the drawers without first swinging the cot out of the way. At the end of the room was a gun port, which had the ability to be opened to let in the fresh sea air, thank god there was no gun in here as well, I thought, more to the point, where am I going to put my trunk in here? I looked around; did my Mother actually pay good money for this? I stood in the doorway flabbergasted and wondered where the Doctor meant that I would be sleeping normally if I was not a guest and would it be better than this? Just then Barnes returned with my sea-chest and it just fitted under the gun port, tell me Barnes, I asked, I came aboard with my servant John Templer, where will he be sleeping, I believe is going to be the new cook. Sorry Master Brown, I know not, but I imagine he will be in the Fo'c'sal with the rest of the men or with the petty officers in their quarters, I'll find out for thee, he answered, adding after a few seconds. But thank God we will have a new cook; the old one was hopeless, forever drunk. He made himself comfortable on my sea chest before continuing. You see Master Brown, on merchant ships the cook's job is normally given to the worst seaman, but on Royal navy ships, it is usually an old or injured seaman who has this duty and therefore their food is normally far better. Evidently Barnes was in no rush to leave my tiny cabin, lost for subjects to talk about, I asked him whether he had any family?

What a mistake, after that he never stopped talking, his wife and small child mainly being the subject, it seemed that they were his whole life. Forced by unemployment to separate from them, he had embarked on this, his first venture in order to build up their finances and in this objective, he had done well, being frugal with his advances, he was able to buy some opium that he would sell for a good price on his return. Later, I knew why he looked longingly landwards; moreover, I now knew everything about his family and in particular, his son who had just started to walk on the day that he left for this voyage. By now, I had passed my boredom factor and looked for ways of pushing him out of the door without being rude, I had first thought of the porthole but I dismissed this thought entirely. However instantly I remembered, I had to remind him to report to Mr Kittoe as soon as possible, Oh that's all right, he will have forgotten me by now, but thank you Master Brown, he replied continuing with his narrative. The Lord must have heard my silent prayer, for a few seconds later, a loud shout was heard from the companionway, Barnes, get your dammed lazy bones up on deck now, or I will have you flogged, by God I will. I gather that's Mr Kittoe, I said thankfully while stating the obvious. Barnes's face dropped, he nodded and quickly left. Which thankfully allowed me the chance to practice getting in and out of the cot, how anyone climbed in and out of these things was a miracle to me, the thing was built like a coffin and suspended three feet from the deck where it insisted on swinging away immediately one tried to climb into it. Getting a part of my leg over the side hurt dreadfully, from both the pressure of the wood on my leg and from the back of my head when I fell into the wall after hoping around on one leg for what seemed an age.

Determined not to be beat by the impossible dream, I next flung myself across it by grabbing the ropes that suspended one end, then heaving and manoeuvring myself into it, admittedly now I was the wrong way around, upside down and had a pain in my lower abdomen, but I was in. Now how to get out, actually I was not bothered about getting out just yet, the cot's motion was pleasant and I turned to stare at the deck above, but then I realised Barnes might be returning soon in order to escape Mr Kittoe and anyway I did not want anyone to see me like this. Manoeuvring myself the right way around had been difficult, but now that was complete I instantly threw my legs over the side. The weight of my legs tipped the cot and I slid out, mind you, the wood grazed my backside as it passed and now the cot once free, swung away to swiftly return and kick me in the back pushing me into the chest of drawers. I made sure I gave it a push too, just to return the favour, but the swine twisted away to instantaneously return and push me again into the chest of drawers. Giving up on all ideas of revenge, I gathering my thoughts together while brushing myself down.

After a few seconds, I decided to explore the ship, but in the back of my mind was Mr Kittoe, he wanted to see me too, but I was a guest and there was so much to see, I decided to look round first. However as those thoughts were entering my mind there was a distant cacophony of many male voices who had just been singing a slow melodic song, suddenly now changing into voices shouting in alarm. The impression of a disaster slowly filtered through the thick deck beams from the deck above, being an admitted nosey person, I straight away resolved to investigate. Retracing my steps, I soon arrived on deck to see a gang of seamen pulling on a rope slung from the main yard and supporting a sling complete with Mrs Williams. Who being no lightweight was swinging recklessly in mid air over the waterman's boat. First this way and then that, meanwhile two sailors who were perched precariously from the shrouds were trying to grab the trailing rope that unfortunately had been caught up beneath her, under her seat, this operation was all the time being directed by a more and more irritated Mr Kittoe. It seemed to me that Mrs Williams was too terrified by the prospect of being dumped in either the sea or on the deck by the supporting rope breaking to be able to help herself; unfortunately she could not be prevailed upon to free the snagged rope. Clasping both her hands firmly in an iron grip around the slings, a position she would not change under any circumstances, she turned a deaf ear at the many and varied entreaties emanating from the officers. Nevertheless, she could and did persevere in whimpering in a faint but ridiculous voice for her husband to save her, much to some of the men's amusement. On the other hand, the seamen were obviously straining under the weight and Mr Kittoe was getting more and more annoyed, directly he shouted at a group of amused seamen standing around behind him to steady that dammed rope.

A few moments later, he rounded on the men, Get her aboard you dogs, shouted the Mate. Start those idle men Bosun. My eyes were directed to a large brute of a man swinging a thick-knotted rope approaching those seamen who had just joined on the end of the rope. Grab her man, shouted Mr Kittoe at the man in the shrouds, or I'll swing for thee. Reaching farther than he should the seaman made a sudden grab at the swinging rope and nearly fell off his perch. Get it, you numskull! Shouted Mr Kittoe falling off his own perch, in disbelief, he turned to look away and raise his hands in frustration, crying, why did God send me these idiots. Having problems Mr Kittoe? Inquired Captain Williams who had just appeared at my side, giving the mate a slight look of panic, which was instantly returned fourfold by the Mate now he could see the Captain was watching.

Captain Williams had just emerged from under the quarterdeck and was now standing beside me. Mr Kittoe made his way quickly over to explain, but before he could open his mouth, the Captain turned to look down at me, saying quietly and without a hint of panic in his voice, lend a hand there Master Brown, there's a good gentleman. You're a young nibble fellow, get that swinging rope and save Mrs Williams from having apoplexy, will you? No sooner asked and there I was standing at the foot of the shrouds looking up at first the poor seaman who was having trouble getting the swinging rope's end. Then at Mrs Williams who by this time had relaxed her steel grip on the ropes and now by extending her arms around the supporting ropes was clasping her hands together in prayer. They both looked remarkably high and I was sore afraid, but I determined to attempt the operation, however being not full grown yet, I obviously needed the extra reach, so looking around, I found I was standing next to Barnes, below us was the waterman's boat with its boat crew and Mrs Williams' sister. However, what caught my eye was the six-foot boat hook held by the sailor in the bow. Get me a boat hook, Barnes and pass it up will you, I shouted over the din, swiftly climbing the ratlines. I drew level with the sailor. Hold on to my belt at the back, will you? I told him quickly. By this time, Barnes was passing me the boat hook and I swiftly hooked the swinging rope through the loop at the end, and by slowly pulling it from under Mrs William's posterior, I brought it towards me, just as quickly the second sailor caught the end of the rope and I was able to leave my precarious position.

No sooner were Mrs Williams' feet on the deck than was I clasped to her ample

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