A Slice of Reality and a Dash of Fantasy
17 Feb'y 1795
Edward Pellew knew this request, as had most of the others
he had fired off
to the Admiralty and the Portsmouth Yard, had been refused. Crushing the paper
between his hands and forming it into a light replica of a three-pound shot he
threw it toward the door of his rented rooms. That door cracked open slightly
and Lady Susannah Pellew peered around the edge.
"Edward, are you quite all right?"
"Yes, Susan, my orders have come at last."
"No more skulking about with the dockyard?"
He shook his head, "No."
"Where are you headed?"
"I can't tell you that. Come over here, dear youth."
When he had her wrapped
securely in his arms he whispered in her ear. "Brest, keeping the blockade. I
have to visit Gieves and Hawke today."
She pulled back, one hand on his chest, her eyes bright, "It's come!"
"Yes. But it means I have to leave."
"I know. It's the life I signed on for."
"And I love you for it!" He closed the door behind her and led her away.
The Arethusa rode to her anchor just even with the victualling
could see her commissioning pendant was gone from the mainmast, 'It makes her
look a little sad.' He thought, as he and Susan made their way from the hotel
to the dock. The Arethusa had been his until he had been given the
Indefatigable. Soon Charlie Hammond would take her over and she would be alive with men
and her masthead would no longer be naked.
Indefatigable needed more men than Arethusa. The Admiralty
had allowed him to
transfer most of his crew to the new ship, but he had to raise two hundred
men above that number. He had taken from Winchelsea, Windsor Castle....and
Justinian. That ship's sides were a bustle with men going into her jolly boat and
launch. One particularly gangly midshipman seemed to be having some problems
with his hat and dirk. Edward had to smile at him. They all were so young and
full of promise.
He turned to look over his shoulder; his children were following
ducklings with Pownall and Emma serving as rear guard. Susan held George
securely on her hip, the youngest lad out of swaddlings but still in long clothes
leaned back to see the ships in the harbor.
"Give the boy here, Susan." He reached for the tow headed toddler.
"He will soil your whites."
"I don't care. It could be months before I can see you
all again." They had
reached the hard and his gig waited with oars pointing at the sun. A touch of
the lips to forehead for Emma, a handshake for Pownall, who had declared
himself too old for kissing, the rest of the children in order received a hug and a
kiss, even little George who reached for papa's very big hat with one slobbery
Wresting the bicorn from his youngest and using a cuff to wipe
at the drool,
he caressed Susannah's cheek. Their farewells had been said much earlier and
very privately. This was goodbye and possibly for a long time.
He turned from his family with a hardening of face. It wouldn't
do to be seen
as soft. His mistress waited in the harbor and his wife knew it.
The Indefatigable. Her name was too long, but she was his and
she was the
most powerful lithe warship afloat at the time. She was not as small as Arethusa,
nor was she as big as a fourth rate, she carried 46 guns. Enough to make any
French corvette or frigate think twice about an attack.
His cox'n pulled at his forelock as Pellew climbed into the
stern sheets of
the gig. He glanced around to wave at Susan, but she had already turned back to
the town and was herding the children ahead of her. "Port admiral, Soames."
It was an hour before the admiral let him go. He carried a
of orders and a folded piece of blue cloth under his arm. He smiled as he
ordered the gig to make way to the Indy. 'Yes, that's as good a name as any, Indy.
Even though I shall never say it aloud.' He thought as the oars cut the water
and each stroke took him closer to his love.
The new dress uniform coat rode across with him in his chest.
He would not
wear it unless it was needed for some formal occasion. He knew, better than
most, that this was temporary. Secretly, he was glad. Being independent was better
but this command might not be too hard a punishment. It was a job to be
borne, a stepping-stone to advancement.
Gaining the deck, he touched his hat to the quarterdeck then
handed off the
packet and blue cloth to the signal midshipman, the cloth was taken immediately
to the main mast. He made his way to the stern and turned to his first
"You may assemble the crew." The drums rang out sharply;
the beat matched the
pulsing of his heart. Divisions formed between the rows of cannon and on the
forecastle. The men in the rigging slid down the backstays and joined their
To his left, not more than a hundred feet away lay La Concorde,
Captain Hunt and further still and just visible through La Concorde's ropes
and masts was Jason. He could see the bustle on the Concorde's decks as the
gunner stirred his crews to load their charges. The Indy's gunner was doing the
same with seven of the guns on the larboard side.
He stepped to the rail, gazing down into the sea of faces.
He found two that
intrigued him. One, a tall lanky fellow, the same one that had problems coming
over the side from Justinian, he had brown hair and fine lips, the other
standing close by with unruly blond hair and amused blue eyes. This pair would be
worth watching. He placed his hands on his hips and took a step forward.
A nod to the signal midshipman, a tug on a rope at the mainmast
and the flag
broke open at the head. Not the long single commission pendant, but a broad
pendant, blue with a white ball on the bridle near the mast. The La Concorde's
guns began to sound and the cannon ashore, when they were silent his own ship
answered. Seven guns only, but they were for him, and for those who served
He gazed up into the sunshine. It was just a commodore's command
captain under him. But it was his reward come at last after twenty years of hard
service. It was his flag, his broad pendant! He turned his eyes back to his
assembled crew and began to speak.
"My name is Captain Sir Edward Pellew. And I'm here to
tell you your days of
idling are over! You have a mind to fight! That is well! For you shall have