Gunpowder
by Olivia

**********

Bush and Kennedy go to the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection
against Cruelty to Animals) to pick out a dog for Sawyer's 67th
birthday that will suit his temperament and personality.

"How about a Dalmatian?" suggests Bush.

Kennedy shakes his head. "Too friendly" he replies.

"A Labrador?"

"Too intelligent."

"A Congo Bush dog?"

"Too quiet."

Finally, they settle on a Rottweiler on the basis that it is vicious,
unpredictable, and calm only around certain humans.

The dog is indeed very vicious and hard to handle as they load it
onto the barge. Only Bush seems to have the right tone of voice to
keep it under control. "Sit! Stay!" bellows Bush, and the Rottweiler
obeys his every command for the remainder of the journey back to the
Renown.

Sawyer is thrilled to bits with the dog when it is presented to him,
and he promptly names it Gunpowder. Within half an hour Gunpowder
chases Buckland around the deck, causing him to betray his tendency
to run like a girl in front of the entire crew, who emit gales of
laughter at his predicament.

Gunpowder also doesn't like Mr Wellard and on one occasion he chases
him around a deserted deck. Wellard finally takes refuge in the
rigging and desperately starts to climb up, but not before Gunpowder
has taken hold of his white duck trouser leg and shakes his leg
violently. Wellard is about to lose his grip when Bush comes up on
deck and spots Wellard in trouble.

"Gunpowder!" yells Bush. "Leave the boy! Run! Run!" Gunpowder runs
over to Bush, who kneels down and lovingly rubs the dog behind his
ears. "Good boy!" praises Bush to the dog. Then Bush remembers Mr
Wellard. "Are you alright Mr Wellard?" he calls out to the
lad, "you're shaking."

"Quite well, Sir, considering" replies Wellard, though he is
definitely shaken by very nearly having lost his life to the
Captain's dog.

********

One night, Gunpowder notices Hornblower fast asleep on watch.
Gunpowder begins growling, poised to attack. Hornblower wakes up to
the sound of a snarling Rottweiler and immediately recoils from his
predator. He thinks about using a pistol for self defence.

At the last minute Sawyer shouts an order and Gunpowder runs back to
his master. Sawyer leaves Hornblower with this warning: "The next
time I catch you asleep on watch, Mr Hawn-blower, you can be sure
Gunpowder will take care of you. Yes by God he will."

*********

Hobbs is wary of the influence Gunpowder is having on Captain Sawyer.
Sawyer just doesn't need Hobbs as often as he used to.

"Shall I bring your newspaper and your slippers for you Sir?" asks
Hobbs.

"Thank you Mr Hobbs, but Gunpowder has already brought those for me"
replies Sawyer before falling asleep in his hammock. It just isn't
the same anymore, thinks Hobbs.

Hobbs goes back to his own hammock only to find Gunpowder has already
made himself a bed in it. Hobbs tries aggression: "Get out!" he yells
and reaches to pull the dog by the collar but Gunpowder sits up and
barks sharply at Mr Hobbs. Hobbs takes one look at the size of
Gunpowder's glistening sharp teeth, raises his hands in a gesture of
surrender and tiptoes backwards out the room. Gunpowder doesn't stop
barking until Hobbs has made a complete retreat.

Once out of the room Hobbs has to find another part of the deck in
which to sleep. It is unfortunate for him that he has to spend a most
uncomfortable night on deck in freezing conditions. He is about to
get his pea-jacket...when he remembers he left it in his room. By
morning he is barely able to wake up from his frostbitten hands, lips
and face, all cruelly scarred by the blade of razor sharp ice.

***********

Later that morning Bush issues orders to his officers. "Row row row
your boat!" he growls.

Bush's attention is momentarily distracted by a series of barks from
Gunpowder, who replies to Bush's pronunciation of "Row row row."

"What are you implying, Gunpowder?" Bush demands, his lips curling
into a snarl.

Gunpowder barks some more, oblivious to Mr Bush's growing irritation.

"Well Gunpowder!" replies Bush "I don't think I care much for your
tone! GET AWAY!!" he bellows, thrusting a pointed finger toward the
far end of the deck.

Gunpowder gives a little whine at this reprimand and turns away, its
head and tail hanging low in shame.

*****

That evening Hobbs creeps down the hold and begins tinkering with
things he shouldn't be, when he senses Gunpowder behind him, blocking
his exit.

As Hobbs turns around Gunpowder begins barking loudly in accusation.

"Nice doggy! Nice doggy!" says Hobbs, his nerves causing him to use
the diminutive.

He tries to pat the dog but gets bitten savagely instead. The dog is
visibly aggressive and barks even louder at Hobbs, and poises himself
to pounce on him. Hobbs now starts to panic and tries to fend off the
dog with anything he can find, his hand nervously clutching at
various objects, but this only provokes the dog further.

********

Mr Wellard begins his duties at six o'clock the next morning because
Mr Kennedy has requested it so. The first person he meets on deck is
Mr Bush and they briefly exchange greetings.

Bush goes back down to the gun decks to begin the routine of early
morning firing practice. When it becomes apparent that Hobbs is 30
minutes late, Bush goes back upon deck to look for him, and sees
Hobbs swaying aft, sporting a rather nasty head wound along with his
uniform in tatters. Bush looks him over at his derelict appearance.

"God, what happened to you man?" asks Bush.

Hobbs doesn't have much of an imagination and thus offers the only
reasonable explanation he can think of.

"I fell over a barrel of gunpowder whilst in the hold" he replies
with diffidence.

This sounds plausible enough given Hobbs is the gunner, except for
the visible teeth marks in his uniform and the fact that gunpowder is
never EVER kept in the hold.

"What the DEVIL is a barrel of gunpowder doing in the hold?!" demands
Bush, and instead of waiting for an explanation he strides past Hobbs
to go look for himself.

"Wait! Wait!" pleads Hobbs "it isn't safe!" but Bush is determined.
He swings the door of the hold wide open and goes inside. Only the
faintest glimmer of light illuminates the outline of a badly beaten
dog, with a heavy club at its side. And objects scattered everywhere.

Bush looks over the sad scene and his lips begin to tremble. Yet
instincts won't allow him to show any sorrow. "How did this happen?"
he asks quietly.

"I didn't notice the beaten dog when I first came in here, Sir" says
Hobbs. "I was in the process of carrying the barrel of gunpowder away
when I fell over the Captain's dog, causing myself to collide with
those shelves. Somebody must have beaten the dog senseless but when I
fell over I realised what had happened and that nothing could be done
to save it. I then picked myself up and pulled the barrel to the
handling chamber where the barrels of gunpowder are kept, and came on
deck to report to the first senior officer I could find that the
Captain's dog had been beaten to death."

Again Bush feels his lips trembling. Finally, he manages to say "Very
good, Mr Hobbs, please inform the Captain."

******

Captain Sawyer was devastated by the news and immediately called
every man and every officer in every division on deck so that he
could conduct a public inquiry into the matter. Sawyer promised that
no man would know greater wrath than on this day when the guilty
party were punished for this heinous crime. He then addressed Mr
Bush: "Mr Bush, I know you are honest a man please be so good as to
make your report as to what you saw."

Mr Bush cleared his throat and made his public report:

"At six hundred hours I made my way up onto the quarterdeck where I
exchanged felicitations with Mr Wellard. Then after issuing an order
for the top gallant sails to be set, I went back down to the gun
decks to begin our routine early morning firing practice. The time
was now 10 minutes past the hour and Mr Hobbs had not as yet arrived
to commence firing practice, which was most uncustomary for him to be
late. Also, the carronades that he was to have mounted on the stern
castles at least one hour beforehand were not in position, and so the
firing practice had to be delayed until the gunner had arrived to
carry out his duties. I thought he might still be down in the
handling chamber, making up cartridges and passing them out the
powder monkeys through the wet curtains. So I gave word to one of the
crewmen to go down to the handling chamber and tell Mr Hobbs to
immediately come to the gun deck to man his crew to set the
carronades in place. The crewman arrived back at 30 minutes past the
hour to inform me that the lantern was on at the window but the
gunner was nowhere to be found in the handling chamber. By now I had
become quite irritated at the unnecessary delay caused by Mr Hobbs'
absence and so I decided to search for him myself. I came up on the
main deck and espied Mr Hobbs laying or swaying, I should say aft
towards me. The first thing that caught my attention was the bloody
head wound on his forehead and his uniform in absolute ruin chewed
to bits, you could say. I enquired as to what had happened and he
informed me that he had fallen over a barrel of gunpowder in the
hold. This news alarmed me as it is strictly forbidden to keep
gunpowder in the hold, and the fact that Mr Hobbs was NOT wearing
felt slippers, which, as you also know, is compulsory to prevent
stray sparks from igniting the powder. I rushed down into the hold to
investigate the situation for myself...that is when I
discovered...when I discovered...the unfortunate finding. Mr Hobbs
here maintains that the incident had already happened before his
arrival in the hold, his discovery which was made by his supposed
tripping over...tripping over the poor beast, which led to his severe
head wound."

It would not have been politic of Mr Bush to give his opinion on who
he thought was guilty just a recountenance of the facts is all that
he was asked for. Sawyer listened to Bush make his report without
interruption, all the while maintaining a stony countenance. When Mr
Bush had finished, Sawyer appeared to mediate briefly on Bush's
report before giving his verdict: "You say you caught sight of Mr
Wellard at six hundred hours? When his shift should have started at
seven? Thankyou, Mr Bush, for this damning piece of evidence, that
will be all." Sawyer turned on Wellard. "You! Get below! I'll teach
you to wrangle Captains' dogs with yer own bare hands! Your
punishment shall commence with a dozen lashings!" Sawyer then ordered
the Bosun's Mate to carry out this punishment.

Kennedy intervened: "Sir! Mr Wellard commenced his shift early only
because I told him to do so."

Sawyer retracted the order to the Bosun's Mate: "Belay that order for
a dozen lashings...make that TWO dozen lashings." As an afterthought
he added "AND a flogging around the fleet."

Kennedy and Bush watched the unfortunate lad creep down the ladder to
his fate. The two of them gazed down at the spot for some time.
Kennedy then spoke.

"If only we could intervene. We could put an end to the pain that is
being inflicted."

Bush replied: "I know how you feel, Mr Kennedy. I don't envy that
poor Rottweiler at all. Imagine being susceptible to so much
suffering."

Kennedy opened his mouth wildly and was about to express his
annoyance at Mr Bush for not knowing he wasn't talking about the
dog's feelings at all, but Mr Wellard's. But Kennedy shut his mouth
again quickly and figured (with much disdain) that there really were
people in this world who thought animals were deserving of better
treatment than humans. But in Mr Bush's mind, people were superior to
animals in that they were masters of their own destiny and therefore
could control the elements needed to maintain good order and
discipline (or at least, an appearance of it). If they couldn't
control those elements then they were deserving of punishment subject
to the most rigorous penalties of the articles of war. And he knew
perfectly well what that was.