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Captain Rundel III: Bend on a Sail and Watch Me Fly

Captain Rundel III: Bend on a Sail and Watch Me Fly

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Captain Rundel III: Bend on a Sail and Watch Me Fly

Lunghezza:
392 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2011
ISBN:
9781458133274
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Napoleon’s army of 600,000 has decided not to invade England and is headed to Russia. The Admiralty want to know what happens to Napoleon and his man in Russia. If they survive, they may return to France with over a million fighting men to attack England. If they fail, then England will be safe for a time. News travels slowly by land but faster by sea.

Ben and his ship are sent to the White Sea to the Solovetsky Islands to rendezvous with an English spy. Ben is warned to return as soon as possible to avoid the frozen Arctic seas. When the spy does not appear on time, Ben sets out towards Moscow with two trusted men. He watches Moscow burn and sees the long trail of Frenchmen, now starving, setting out on the long, bitter cold trek back to France. Only a few thousand of them ever make it, the rest starving or freezing on the way.

Ben heads back to his ship. He and his men are waylaid by brigands and he is injured, the rest killed. Ben struggles back to his ship on badly frost bitten feet. He finds his ship quickly freezing into the sea. His surgeon amputates some toes. Then they are off to England with the news of the French army.

Once he recovers, Ben is sent to the Caribbean to escort refugees from the colonies to safer places. War is already in progress over the seizure of American seamen by the British. On one trip, Ben is frustrated by the number of new babies that are born aboard ship. He takes part in the maneuvers at Plattsburg and is court martialled for using his medical skills to save American sailors. He is sent back on blockade duty. Later, he sees Washington burn and has to deal with spies among his own men.

Ben is injured again at New Orleans and Tom is captured by pirates and forced to serve with them. Eventually both men are sent home to recover. American and British history come together in these pages and light a fire to guide men in future so that they do not destroy all that has happened in the past that made them brothers.

Pubblicato:
Jun 15, 2011
ISBN:
9781458133274
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Nellie Beetham Stark was born November 20, 1933, in Norwich, Connecticut to Theodore and Dorothy Pendleton Beetham. She attended the Norwich Free Academy and later Connecticut College in New London, CT before graduating with a MA and a Ph.D. degree in Botany (Ecology) from Duke University. Stark worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a botanist for six years and then joined the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada where she worked on desert and forest ecology and later tropical nutrient cycling. She has consulted in many countries, working for some time in Russia, Australia and South America. She developed the theory that explains why tropical white sand soils cannot grow good food crops and described the decline processes of soils. She has also developed a science of surethology, or survival behavior which describes how humans must adapt to their environments if they hope to survive long term. She has 96 professional publications and has published in four languages. Her life long hobby has been English history, with emphasis on naval history. Her family came originally from Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic in the early 1900’s. Her grandfather was a whale ship captain for a time which spurred her interest in naval history. She also paints pictures of sailing ships which she has used as covers for her historical novels. She has built several scale models of sailing ships and does extensive research on ships and naval history, traveling to England once yearly. Stark was awarded the Connecticut Medal by Connecticut College in 1986 and the Distinguished Native Daughter Award for South Eastern Connecticut in 1985. She was named outstanding Forestry Professor three times by the students of the University of Montana, School of Forestry. Today she writes historical novels, mostly set in England. She has published some 21 novels in the past twenty years, mostly on the internet. She lives on a farm in Oregon and raises hay and cows. Stark's two most popular book series are: Early Irish-English History 1. The Twins of Torsh, 44 A.D. to 90 A.D. 1. Rolf "The Red" MacCanna, 796-846 2. An Irishman's Revenge, 1066-1112 4. Brothers 4, 1180-1216 5. Edward's Right Hand, 1272-1307 6. We Three Kings, 1377-1422 The Napoleonic Wars at Sea (Benjamin Rundel) 1. Humble Launching - A Story of a Little Boy Growing Up at Sea, 1787 2. Midshipman Rundel - The Wandering Midshipman, 1795 3. Mediterranean Madness - The Luckless Leftenant Rundel, 1797 4. The Adventures of Leftenant Rundel, 1797-1799 5. Forever Leftenant Rundel, 1800-1803 6. Captain Rundel I – Trafalgar and Beyond, 1803-1806 7. Captain Rundel II – Give Me a Fair Wind, 1806-1809 8. Captain Rundel III – Bend Me a Sail, 1810-1813 9. Admiral Rundel – 1814-1846

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Captain Rundel III - N. Beetham Stark

Captain Rundel III

Bend on a Sail and Watch Me Fly

An Historical Novel of the Sea

by N. Beetham Stark

* * * * *

Discover other titles by N. Beetham Stark at

Smashwords.com or at NBeethamStark.com.

Captain Rundel III: Bend on a Sail and Watch Me Fly

Book 8 in the Benjamin Rundel Series

Written by N. Beetham Stark

Copyright 2010 by N. Beetham Stark

Cover art by N. Beetham Stark

Smashwords Edition

ISBN 978-1-4581-3327-4

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form

without the written permission of the author or trust agents.

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

* * * * *

Dedication: This book is dedicated to Tintagon, Tarsie and Picotso and our mutual friend, P.P.

History forms a bridge from the past to the future which we dare not burn lest we fall into an abyss of ignorance.

N. Beetham Stark

Acknowledgments

The author is indebted to the Royal Naval Museum, the National Maritime Museum, The Maritime Trust and the Lancaster Maritime Museum for information used in reconstructing the historical events in this novel. Authors such as C.S. Forester, Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent and Patrick O’Brien stirred my interest in stories of naval adventures. Nelson’s Captains by Ludovic Kennedy, Nelson by David Walder, The Illustrated Companion to Nelson’s Navy by Nicholas Blake and Richard Lawrence, and Nelson’s Battles by Nicholas Tracy were all invaluable in providing insights into the life of seamen of the times. Much of the insights into the War of 1812 came from The War of 1812 by D. R. Hickey (1989), The British At The Gates (1974) by Robin Reilly and others.

The Benjamin Rundel Series by N. Beetham Stark

This is the eighth in a series of nine books centered around the life of an orphan, Benjamin Rundel, a fictitious character who relates history to the reader as he might have experienced it himself. The complete series includes:

1. Humble Launching - A Story of a Little Boy Growing Up at Sea, 1793

2. Midshipman Rundel - The Wandering Midshipman, 1795-1802

3. Mediterranean Madness - The Luckless Leftenant Rundel, 1797-1801

4. The Adventures of Leftenant Rundel, 1797-1799

5. Forever Leftenant Rundel, 1800-1803

6. Captain Rundel I – Trafalgar and Beyond, 1803-1806

7. Captain Rundel II – Give Me a Fair Wind, 1806-1809

8. Captain Rundel III – Bend Me a Sail, 1810-1813

9. Admiral Rundel – 1814-1846

See NBeethamStark.com for information on how to find all of the books in the Rundel series, as well as Stark’s other works.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1 – Russia and the White Sea in Winter

Chapter 2 – Aground and Grounded

Chapter 3 – They Cried All the Way to Jamaica

Chapter 4 – The Other Kingston and Lake Erie Spies

Chapter 5 – The Fiasco at Plattsburgh

Chapter 6 – Court-martialed

Chapter 7 – Blockade Duty – Thieves in the Night

Chapter 8 – Deceit!

Chapter 9 – Dancing in a Dead Man’s Shoes

Chapter 10 – Fire in the Hold – A Murderer at Large

Chapter 11 – Crazy Horse and Black Bird

Chapter 12 – A Nation with Heart Burn

Chapter 13 – Tom and the Pirates

Chapter 14 – Darned Traitorous Irishman

Chapter 15 – Battered in New Orleans and the Long Wake Home

About the Author

About the Book

Introduction

"I am retired now, an old and broken man. I live in a house much like the one where I was born. It overlooks the English Channel and has a fine garden. I brought my steward, Stuart Gibbs, with me when I left my last ship. He has long been a friend. Katie Curran, the cook, lives with us too and Tom Murphy lives with us much of the time.

A few years ago Gibbs urged me to write the story of my life. I finally weakened and consented. After all, what else is there to do in the late afternoon of life but to sit by the sea and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. Now I sit and talk about my life, which is quite unlike that of any other person who has ever lived. I was drawn into too many adventures because I liked to live dangerously. It is a miracle that I reached reproductive age. But when I could not find trouble on my own, King George III, rather, the Admiralty, seemed able to oblige my needs.

I dictate the events of my life to Gibbs who sits dutifully scribbling away. I have cautioned him that there are some events in my life which can only be told adequately in my own words. He was not with me in my early years, and so, I often tell my story my own way. He joined me first aboard the Hawk but I did not know him then. I only met him when I joined the Agamemnon. But much of the time, he tells my story as an observer. As steward, he would never be allowed to be more than an observer, standing on the sidelines and offering a clean, dry shirt here, a warm meal there. Such were his duties. He was once a clerk at a large warehouse for the firm of Biggam and Biggam. Now he is my constant companion and it is he who will relate most of the events of my life."

Author’s Note: Benjamin Rundel is completely fictitious, but I have woven him into the fabric of history that covers the wars with France during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Most of the battles and historic events are portrayed with reasonable accuracy. Mr. Rundel is the hero who never was recognized as a hero. No hero could ever outshine Admiral Lord Nelson. Many fine heroes lived in Britain at that time and many have been forgotten because they could not rise above England’s greatest naval officer. In a way, this is their story too. It was all of those unsung heroes who helped to make this particular era the most exciting and challenging in all of history at sea. Ben is a commoner who fights his way almost to the top, but is cut down in his greatest glory. Some adventures, such as the White Sea in Winter, and some of the American adventures probably never happened and were recruited as possible and logical directions for the story to take.

Chapter 1 – Russia and the White Sea in Winter

Ben handed the First Lord of the Sea, Robert Dundas, his report on his time on land. He realized that no such report was expected, but he had seen a great deal while in Europe and he felt that the Admiralty could benefit from his information, even though he was not serving as a spy. He wrote of the poverty, of false hopes, broken families, fear, starvation, death and destruction.

Well, I see that you made good use of your free time on land, young man. Hardly another officer would bother to go to such ends to serve his country. I thank you for your information. This will be most useful. But what you’re about to do will be even more useful. I’m sorry that you spent time in prison, but your delay in returning is more than compensated for by the intelligence that you have brought me. Spring is late this year in the Arctic, so your delay in sailing may be propitious. You see we think that Napoleon has given up his idea of invading England for the time being, but now plans to move east on Russia. Given the great expanses of country between England and Russia, we have found it difficult to get word overland on the happenings there. Three of our agents who set out to report on the conditions in Russia four months ago have perished and we still have no word. The Cossacks will shoot and kill anyone that they even expect to be remotely connected with the war. If the Russians defeat Napoleon and his 600,000 soldiers, we need to know in advance so that we can attack his weakened army when he returns to France. But you realize that if Napoleon manages to win over the Russians, he can return with 500,000 extra soldiers and all is lost for us. We could never fight them and win.

He pulled out a map and began to trace a route. I think that a man with a good ship could sail through the North Sea, north to the Norwegian Sea, thence east to the Barents Sea and into the White Sea. There is a small group of islands just here, as he pointed with a stubby finger, that are known as the ‘‘Solovetsky Islands. There are few people there and the main island sets some seventy miles from the main land. There is a Russian Orthodox Monastery there and a Father Dmitri Baranov who is one of our agents. He is unable to get free to deliver messages to us, but he keeps his ear to the ground for happenings on the mainland. You are to sail to the Solovetsky Islands and contact Father Baranov. By the time you get there, which should be sometime in summer, he will have information from another agent, Eugenie Sarnoff. Whatever happens, you are to contact Sarnoff at Kem, a tiny village on the mainland. He will come straight from Moscow to the Monastery to meet you and he will have invaluable information about the progress of the war there. I hope that the Russians will put up a good fight and will be able to drive Napoleon and his troops back west. That will be the ideal time to attack them, when they are beaten and weakened. Lad, we need to end this bloody war. It’s draining our country of money and men."

I see, sir. At this time of year I will encounter icebergs in the northern most waters. I will have to come to anchor at night for the safety of my ship. It will take a long time to make that voyage.

I suggest that you follow coastlines as closely as you can and anchor each night. Once you have your information, it should be early enough in the year that you can still sail back quickly with the news.

I’ll need to see to provisions and to special clothing for the men, Sir. I have had some experience with cold weather and know that my men will suffer severely if I cannot provide them with warm gloves and woolen caps as well as heavy coats.

You were chosen for this duty because I understand that you speak a little Russian and have had experience with icebergs and cold weather. I have taken the liberty of securing a Russian lexicon for you, but I can’t see how anyone could pronounce those words. You may contact the royal purser and withdraw whatever funds might be needed to prepare your men and your ship. I wish you all the best sir, and a speedy return with good news.

Ben saluted and replied, Thank you sir. He knew that there would be several dozen questions in his mind the second he had time to think about it, but just then he was numb from the surprise and daring of his assignment. It was one of his typical assignments where success would go unnoticed and failure wouldn’t throw any noble titles or fat in the fire. A good job for no body from nowhere, he thought. He saluted, turned and left.

Oh, Captain Rundel. I expect you to sail in two days.

Two days! How can I possibly make all preparations in only two days?

But he knew that he would and that he would complete the assignment, in spite of doubting admirals and Naval Board members. He went directly to the Bank of London and withdrew enough money to repay Admiral Layton Smith, the Port Admiral at Plymouth. He sent the money off directly. Then he withdrew enough to see him through any crisis on the coming voyage.

By the time he reached the ship, it was nearly dark. Tom stood waiting there for him, his glass in hand as was custom and a smile as wide as the Irish Sea on his face.

Gor, sir! I thought that ye had perished fer good in some Frenchie prison! What took you so long? You’re over two weeks late in returning.

It’s a very long story, lad and I’ll tell all at supper tonight, if you will join me.

With pleasure, sir. But did you find her, your Annie, that is?

No, lad, I traveled all over Europe and found not a single solid lead. I have come to the conclusion that she has died, perhaps so suddenly that she couldn’t get word to me. That’s the only reasonable explanation for her disappearance. She would never have left me otherwise. A woman like that cannot long hide in any country on earth. And how are your Mary and little Tom?

Oh fine, sir, fine. Me boy is so full of energy that he drives Mary to exasperation. We had a little girl stillborn about three months ago. I doubt now that we’ll have any more, he said with a definite sadness in his voice.

Ben said, Best find you some long woolies. We are headed for cold country again. This time it’s Russia.

The two men parted and Ben went to examine his personal supplies in the lazarette. I’ll have to lay out some extra pounds if Tom, Bridger, O’Rourke and the others are going to eat well on this voyage, he thought.

That night at supper, the two men exchanged stories of what had happened during their shore leave. Tom’s time at home had been tranquil, and a little sad with the recent loss of a child. Otherwise, he had eaten well and it showed around his midships, which used to be trim, and he rested and enjoyed playing with his son. They went fishing, hiking and even spent some time on a farm together.

Ben told of his travels and frustrations and of the conditions in Europe, which varied from the splendor of the French salons to the abject poverty in some of the conquered countries. Then he told Tom of their mission and why they were being sent there.

But sir, we just returned from freezing our buns off in the Antarctic and Iceland. Now we’re being sent to the Arctic?

Aye lad, and it will be a tricky bit of sailing as I see it. Our charts are good as far as the Norwegian Sea, but after that, we haven’t a clue as to where the reefs and shoals are. We’ll have to get started in the morning early. I will ask you and Mr. Royce, the sailing master, to accompany me. We need to inspect every inch of this ship and get our requests in for supplies and repairs by early morning the day after. We should sail on 30 May, with luck. We’ll need to stay at the Solovetsky Islands until early September when the First Lord expects that news will come from the mainland. But we must weigh anchor before the seas can begin to freeze over. The White Sea freezes solid in winter and we cannot risk so long a delay in returning. For one, we will not have enough supplies to last a long arctic winter.

They parted and agreed to an early start the next morning. Tom sent word to Mr. Royce by Little Timas to be on hand early the next morning.

After a hasty breakfast, the three men began first by examining every inch of the ship. The sailors had returned as requested and every last man was now aboard. Some, who lived far away, had returned to the shore when they learned that the captain was delayed in returning. But each man was good to his word. They were there, ready and willing. Ben could find no serious flaws in the condition of the ship or his crew. The ship had received minor repairs from the shipyard while he was gone. The men too, looked to be in good condition, most fatter and more contented than ever. But examination of the stores showed that they had too little firewood. Ben expected that they might have to burn the brazier in the drying room again if the men became extremely cold. He ordered firewood crammed into every nook and cranny of the ship’s hold. But not before they had on-loaded more tubs of butter, oil, barrels of salt beef and pork and a goodly supply of fresh vegetables and citrus juice.

When Ben examined the slop chest, he found that they were lacking warm clothing, warm woolen trousers, caps, gloves, waxed canvas rain gear and long woolen underwear. He spoke to the purser and ordered a complete winter outfit for each man. The purser advised that it might take a few days to get these supplies since they were entering summer and there was no call for such gear.

They finally set sail on 1 June, 1812 and headed north to the North Sea. Both Ben and Tom remarked how beautiful the spring sun rises were as they sailed north. Mr. Bridger and Tom O’Rourke, both lieutenants, spent hours gazing into the far north. For the first week, there was no sign of icebergs. Then, by the third week, Ben ordered the ship to come to anchor at night. They were hugging the coast of Norway and they began to see glaciers calving off into the sea and icebergs floating not far off. The trip was slow at best. Normally they could make 5 knots an hour day and night, but now they were making only four knots and coming to anchor as soon as the light began to dim. But as they moved further north, it remained light longer each day, giving them more sailing time, but also increasing their exposure to icebergs. Ben was determined to navigate around icebergs and not get trapped as they had in the Antarctic.

Soon it was light all day long, but they found that the night time was still hazardous because frequent rains froze on the yards and sails and they couldn’t stay aloft at night to look for icebergs. Each night they anchored and then spent hours in the morning beating ice from the rigging. Heavy, icy fogs were the worst curse that they faced. These slipped in late in the day and cloyed about the rigging, coating everything with ice or rime. It was an unusually wet summer and they had rain almost every day. They began to see sparkling fjords, narrow inlets from glaciers carving their way down to the sea and the surrounding land soon turned to snowy slopes of mighty mountains. They saw not another ship in all of their voyage to the White Sea.

Ben called all hands to the waist by the time they were abreast of Bergen. Men, you might as well know that we are headed on a long journey to Russia and the White Sea. I can’t tell you why we are going there, but we will spend several months in the White Sea during summer. It will grow colder as we go north above the Arctic Circle. You may want to obtain warmer clothing from the slop chest. Most of all, we will have to be extremely alert to the presence of icebergs. You know what happened in the Antarctic. Well, I don’t want that to happen here, so be on your guard day and night.

Ben invited his officers and the surgeon to supper at least once a week. During their first supper together, he noted that the new surgeon, Mr. Stephen Barrow, seemed to reach for the wine decanter frequently and eagerly. This will bear some watching, thought Ben. All I need is an alcoholic surgeon on this voyage! We may all need his services before this voyage is over. He has to be in top shape. I can’t afford to have a man with a shaky hand and unclear vision!

By the second supper the situation had deteriorated further. The surgeon appeared for supper, unkempt and dirty and already three sheets to the wind. Ben tolerated his presence for only half an hour before he ordered the man escorted below to his bunk. Ben began to think of how he might cure the man. His situation was quite different from that of the first lieutenant whom he had cured of alcoholism aboard the Hawk many years earlier when he was serving as acting ship’s surgeon. He could order a first lieutenant to serve on duty watch on watch, or to keep moving the whole time he was on deck, but he couldn’t order a surgeon to ‘do your duty’ twelve hours a day. The surgeon was a warrant officer and his duty was only on demand. He couldn’t be asked to perform menial tasks aboard ship either. Ben had a problem.

Normally, they would carry one surgeon’s mate, but typically the Sick Board reacted to Ben’s request for surgeon’s mates by saying that he was a surgeon in his own right and didn’t need an added medical man aboard. As a result, if anything happened to Mr. Barrow, they were in trouble. Ben expected frost bite, and late in the trip possible malnutrition to show up in the crew, along with the usual colds, exposure and possible agues.

By the third supper, Mr. Barrow was unable to appear for supper and remained confined to his bunk in his cabin. Now Ben had to act now, no matter what. Ben went to the surgeon’s cabin after supper. There lay the man, wearing his new issue blue, eight-buttoned single-breasted full- dress coat with its gold embroidered collar. He lay in his own vomit and looked at Ben with bleary, bloodshot eyes. Ben grabbed the man, pulled him from his bunk, and thrust him out the door, yelling for his steward. Here, clean this man up, get him sober and bring him to me as soon as he can stand on his own feet. And mind you, see that he gets no alcohol!

Ben returned to his cabin to think. He could be called to account if he did anything too violent to Barrow. He had to tread carefully and have his plans laid out so that no one could criticize his actions.

When Barrow appeared in Ben’s cabin the next morning, he was just able to stand. He had thin yellow hair and his face was a pale white. He had been handsome once, but that had passed with the years. Paunch had set in to his midsection and he walked like an old man, not like a man of thirty eight. He still fancied himself quite a lady’s man, but there was no way to use that to cure him here at sea with a ship full of men.

Mr. Barrow, do you know where we are going?

No thir, but it sure doesn’t feel like the Caribbean.

I told you and the crew two weeks ago that we were headed for Russia and the White Sea. Do you know what that means?

No thir.

It means that we need a competent surgeon and we need him sober and ready to help when men come in with frozen limbs and serious coughs. What ails you to sit about half sotted all day?

Don’t know, thir.

Well you must have some hobbies. Do you play whist or some other games, maybe chess?

No thir, I have never learned any games. I can dance though.

We can’t help you much with dancing here. Come, you must have some interests?

I always liked the ladies, thir.

Very well. If you have no hobbies, I’ll give you one. You are a surgeon and should be adept with a knife. I am assigning you to a duty aboard this ship. I’ll find you a good piece of wood and I want you to carve something useful or beautiful from it. You will get the sailor’s usual tot of rum twice a day, when they get theirs, but no other liquor. I have asked Mr. Phipps to remove all alcohol from your possessions and the purser will not share any alcohol with you. I have also taken the liberty of removing all alcohol from the sick bay. If you need alcohol, you will have to come to me and ask for it. Is that clear?

Aye thir, but I don’t know how to carve.

You’ll learn soon enough when you receive a drink for every piece that you carve that passes my inspection. Now repair below and I will send you a carving knife and block of wood directly. Oh, and save the chips for the galley stove.

Aye thir.

Ben sent Little Timas to the surgeon with a sizable block of wood. It was the shaved end of a spar and had no other use. Ben waited. A week later, the surgeon was walking the deck, the piece of wood in his hand, still wondering what to do with it. He squawked and complained when he was given his daily two tots, but he could do nothing about it. Finally, ten days later, he appeared at Ben’s cabin door.

Begging your pardon, sir, but would you pass judgment on my carving?

Ben arose and came to the door. It was blowing and snowing and blustery, so he invited Barrow into his cabin. I desperately need my extra drink, sir. It’s so cold, he said as he shivered.

Ben passed his eye over the work, his hand caressing the smooth wood thoughtfully. "It’s a fruit dish ornamented with carved grapes and cherries around the handles. A small bunch of grapes draped over one lip. Why, Mr. Barrow, this is extremely fine work. It has taken you some time, but the work does pass inspection and I urge you to carve some more. No! I order you to continue carving until such time that your other duties require your attention. I shall cherish this. He showed it to Mr. Gibbs, his steward who had just come in with a warm drink.

Fetch Mr. Barrow some wine, Stewart, please.

Aye sir. That is surely a fine piece that he has carved.

The flattery seemed to work. Barrow set about carving other things, a miniature sailor and even a copy of Tephra, the captain’s cat. His problem was solved, for the time being at least.

They were approaching the many scattered and treacherous northern islands of Lofoten Vesterhalen. Soon they were close to Finnmark and the Lapp country. Ben longed to go ashore for a brief visit, but dared not. He had orders to sail directly to the Solovetsky Islands and so he would. Even though it was summer now, the men were happy to don knitted woolen hats and gloves. They were still getting freezing rain all too regularly. Sailing was slow, but they were approaching the Kola Peninsula of Russia, a vast Arctic plain with low hills and scattered clumps of dwarfed trees and low huckleberry brush. Wild flowers abounded. Ben couldn’t resist the temptation to make one quick trip ashore to gather dead trees for firewood. He came to anchor just off Port Vladimir not far northwest of Murmansk. He took a large number of men and they scouted the scattered groups of trees for deadfall. Ben was the first to find the tiny sweet fruits of the Bilberry and he tried a handful. They were superb! They reminded him of miniatures of the wild fruit he had eaten while in Aragon on the Pacific. He set his men to picking fruit to take onboard. Most of them ate their fill there. It was tiring work because the tiny bushes were not more than six inches tall, but the fruit was extremely good and set the men to smacking their lips and fighting over their portions at mess. Ben managed to take a barrel on shore and filled it with sweet fruit. It lasted over a week. Salty made a tasty pudding with the last of the fruit.

They weighed anchor and set sail around the huge hump of the Kola Peninsula for the Solovetsky Islands. The endless light caused problems with sleeping. It never did get dark. They spotted a few icebergs and Ben ordered the ship set on a course to avoid floating bergs. He tripled the watches and set officers with each watch to look for icebergs as well. Midshipmen Turvey, Starr, Bolger and Riordan all spent many cold hours freezing on the forecastle, watching the endless seas ahead. Morale began to deteriorate. It seemed that they would never arrive at their destination.

Finally, on the first of August, they spotted the low form of the islands. The water was still white with small hunks of ice which had just broken up from the fierce winter. Ben ordered the ship brought to anchor just about half a mile from the shore. There was a monastery which looked like a small well fortified castle. That must be where I will meet Father Baranov. I must bring him a present of silver as an offering of friendship.

Ben ordered his launch run out and he set Tom in charge of the Explorer. I’m going ashore to see what lies there. Remember that just a few years ago we were enemies with the Russians. Remember the Battle of Copenhagen? Well, it was the Russians who really started all that fuss about the Northern Alliance. I can’t guess what sort of welcome I may get. I’m taking some marines with me but will leave them in the boat. If I’m not back in two days, weigh anchor and head for England."

Aye sir, but you know that I’d never leave you stranded on a hostile shore.

You have your orders, Mr. Murphy.

Aye sir.

Ben was rowed to the shore. Their ship had been spotted long ago and a deputation of monks clad in brown cloaks stood on the shore to greet them. He turned to Mr. Pierce, the colonel of Marines. Stay with the boat. If you hear any commotion, you may come to seek me out. If I’m not back in six hours, row back to the ship.

Aye, aye sir.

It was a fine sunny day when Ben stepped ashore. The weather had warmed some and it was in the mid fifties.

Ben had rehearsed his greeting to the Russians. He spoke slowly and as carefully as he could. But he didn’t miss the strange smile on the faces of the clerics. He had apparently said that he came to meet grandfather Baranov instead of Father Baranov.

Father Baranov advanced and bowed. Ben returned the bow. Ben could have laughed out loud when he heard the good father say in English,

Welcome to Solovetsky. I wait for you long.

The fellow speaks English. What a boon!

Father Baranov took Ben up a small hill to the monastery while explaining that he had spent a few months in England as a young man. The monastery was impressive up close. He took him to the prayer rooms, the dormitory, the refectory, the kitchens and to the cattle and feed pens. There was even a small lake where they captured fish and kept them there alive for use in the winter. They had ingeniously engineered the holding pond so that fresh sea water filled the tank regularly, keeping it from freezing clear to the bottom. Ben looked down into the clear water and saw huge fish swimming about, as contented as if they were at sea.

Father Baranov explained, Several years ago, when you fight at Copenhagen, you English sent a frigate here to capture these islands. The ship set about where yours is now for a full three days, pounding our walls with cannon fire, but was unable to dislodge even a single stone. These walls are over fifteen feet thick.

Ben was impressed at the fine construction and workmanship. The refectory was built above the bread ovens which were fired up once a week. With the thick walls, the refectory was comfortably warm any time of year, no matter how cold it got outside. He was told that Eugenie Sarnoff had not appeared yet, but that he would send word to Ben as soon as he appeared. He expected him within the month. Ben was invited to eat that night with the monks. He sent word to his ship’s boat that he would be detained. They were to return to pick him up in four hours. Before supper the fathers took him through the monastery and showed him many aged and treasured icons. Father Baranov explained how and why icons were painted and what made them so special. He dined that night on a heavy black bread which contained several local grains, a fish soup, complete with bones and bits of cabbage and lamb doused with gobs of butter. Ben had the feeling that the normal meal would have ended with the soup, but he was being treated tonight as a guest and ally.

Ben returned to his ship. He never did like waiting and now that was all he could do. He set his men to fishing. Fresh fish would help their food supply and it gave the men something to do. Then he turned it into a contest to see who could catch the largest fish. Some of the crew were set to salting the fish and storing it in barrels. But who would catch the largest fish? None other than old Tom Murphy himself.

A week went by then two, three. Ben decided to visit Father Baranov again. The old

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