Come Aboard
by Janette

Plymouth Sound. Bracegirdle smiled, taking in the sight from the quay. The one British Frigate and four prizes, gently swaying up and down on the waves. It was an intoxicating sight. The Papillon by far the largest, and the three French corvettes, one severely damaged as though it's magazine had been blown away. That battle must have been a sight to see!

He beamed as the boatmen behind him lifted his sea chest, ready to load it into the waiting shoreboat, and he tucked his edition of the Naval Chronicle back into his jacket pocket. Captain Pellew had certainly understated the battle to cut out the Papillon and bring her home. but then again maybe not so, he recalled the lost lives, and the lost ship as well. Justinian had gone down with her captain and almost all hands, and in the cutting out itself they had lost another two lieutenants. He frowned, what were their names? Ah yes, Eccleston and Chadd, as well as another two midshipman. Was there not something else rumoured about a duel as well, involving two of the midshipman? A rumour only. but the fleet stayed afloat on rumours.

His new posting had been because of those losses and he was not blind to that. The men there would depend on him to a degree, and it was his duty to get to know those men. And to be going to a frigate! It meant prize money, and looking at his old and poorly pressed uniform he admitted to himself that he needed the extra funds. A sloop of war, such as his last posting, meant very few prizes, and a lieutenant's pay only went so far.

The sea chest had now been loaded, and he stepped into the shoreboat.

On closer inspection he could see that the frigate had taken a fair bit of damage, expertly mended by the carpenter, but still there. The smell of new paint and tar wafted in the air towards the shoreboat.

"Shoreboat, ahoy!" he heard the call. Then the immediate reply from his hired boatmen.

He was alongside, and nimbly despite his size he climbed up the side. A tall gangly midshipman, his unruly dark curly hair at odds with his serious expression, stood there to greet him. Looking at the midshipman's uniform he could see that the cuffs were at least an inch above the wrist, and the uniform itself had seen better days. Another who could well use the prize money, he surmised.

"Lieutenant Bracegirdle, come aboard," he said as a way of greeting.

"Welcome aboard, sir," the young midshipman said with an almost imperceptible smile on the corner of his lips.

"Thankyou, Mr--?"

"Hornblower, sir."

"Very good," Bracegirdle said, smiling to put the man -- Hornblower had he said? -- at ease. "My dunnage is coming on aboard for'ard, if you would see to it."

"Yes, sir. Captain Pellew asked to see you when you came on board. I will show you the way."

He looked around the deck; some of the ratings were watching him out of the corner of their eyes. News of his arrival would be at the lower decks in less than ten minutes. He laughed inwardly, his eyes dancing, but otherwise keeping his amusement private, as he crossed the deck.

They stopped outside the captain's cabin and as Hornblower walked away, back to his duties, the sentry announced his presence.

He squared his shoulders as he got the signal to enter. He walked through the cabin entrance. A new ship, a new crew and a new captain. Bracegirdle tried hard to contain his excitement. Anything seemed possible.

The End.