A Royal Achievement
“DAVID!, JEREMY! “ Admiral Lord Montagu shouted.
“I know you’re there. Come in here, there’s work afoot!”
The boys scrambled to appear in the doorway.
“Jeremy, find the Master and then the Captain, send them to me. David, you find the bosun and the Captain of Marines. Tell the bosun… shortly I shall need as many boats in the water as possible, with his best oarsmen, men that he can trust. They’re to head for the nearest great ships. There, the captains are immediately to take a boat to come here for a meeting of the greatest importance.” He paused to allow the boy’s mind to catch up. “Before they leave, they are to send up flags telling the lesser rate ships’ captains to do the same… captains to me and flags to repeat the message, the message is to reach every ship in the fleet, and every captain to gather here, immediately! You understand?”
“Go, go… Master Pepys and I have work to do before the first of them arrive. Have them gather on the quarterdeck. David, set Saucy to arranging generous refreshments to keep them busy till I’m ready for them… small beer, I want them happy not drunk!””
“Aye aye Sir!” They chorused.
Silence reigned. Samuel was working fast. The document would be short and to the point. No room for misunderstanding, and plenty of room for signatures. Most of the space on the fine vellum was needed to allow for the signatures.
The Master arrived.
“Master, Great news, we have a King! Parliament has called him back from Holland and we are to fetch him. Prepare to set sail for Scheveningen. We leave as soon as all the captains have been informed. There will be a great meeting here shortly. When you see them return to their ships, have all hands gather in the waist and I shall announce matters to the crew. Keep this to yourself until we are ready.”
“Ah, Marines! Good man, There will be a great meeting here shortly. I shall announce to all the captains that Parliament has invited Charles Stuart to return to his late father’s throne, and we are ordered to Holland to fetch him. First… Can I rely on you? Are you for the King?”
“You can always rely on me, Sir! The Marines are yours to command. But, yes. I’m Old Navy.” There was a grin on his face, a mile wide. “It will be good to see an English King standing on your quarterdeck. Yes indeed it will Sir.”
“Now then, I can rely on you, but there may be one or two captains who prove more difficult. I want small groups of Marines scattered around the quarterdeck, the foc’sle and the waist. Make it subtle. They aren’t standing guard, but they may be needed.”
He thought for a moment. He had known the time would come, but he was still making this up as he went along.
“We shall need an honour guard for the stateroom… with bayonets! Your largest men, very smart… and… very large!” Then a worrying thought struck him. “Ah yes, and the boys, we have at least six sons of peers and government officers. The Young-Gentlemen should have a Marine guard to prevent them being taken hostage!”
“Aye aye Sir. Leave it all with me, I’ll secure the ship, protect the young-gentlemen and keep order for your meeting. I’ll also have someone in the crows-nest, to watch for approaching boats.”
“I can help with that…” Samuel said from where he was still writing. “Jeremy would be safe up there, and he can take Ezra, the youngest topman, with him. We know Ezra can be trusted, and he’s a sturdy lad if there’s trouble… he can take a belaying pin. Send Jeremy to me when he returns.”
Then he turned back to his document. He was listing the ships from memory.
Samuel was dusting the wet ink with sand just as Lawson arrived.
“My Lord! What’s this all about? I was busy. I trust this is a matter of some importance.”
“Indeed it is Vice-Admiral!” There was a slight edge to the word Vice. This was a day when seniority and authority needed to be clear. Today Lord Montagu represented the King once more.
“Parliament has decided. We have a king again… King Charles the Second. The Summer Fleet is ordered to Holland to bring him home.”
“You have proof of this?” Lawson sounded testy.
Montagu gestured at the documents on his desk.
“Parliament’s Act restoring the monarchy, and the Declaration signed by the King at Breda yesterday. Now do you have a problem?”
Lawson looked put out and said “Well you know my views…”
Montagu cut him off. “Yes, I know your views, but do you have a problem with the King’s return… enough of a problem to cause me to revise my plans to no longer include you in them?”
“No longer include… you mean to…”
“I mean to have you sign with myself and your fellow captains a document welcoming the Kings return and undertaking to protect him with your life.”
“Yes… your life.” Montagu was looking as if Lawson’s life hung by a thread.
“Now, will you sign when asked?”
“I have no choice… Parliament has decided and I see Marines everywhere.”
“Indeed you do. Including at the door to the brig. Now, answer me man… Will you sign?”
Lawson caved in quickly. Realistically he had no choice. He was either for the King or he had no future in the Navy.
Jeremy by this time was high in the crows-nest. His sharp eyes could see which ships had set flags as instructed and was keeping a list of the boats as they started towards the Naseby.
As he gathered news it was called down to Ezra who was seated in the fighting top at the head of the lower mast. A Marine stood at the foot of the mast, and carried messages to the Captain of Marines who was standing at the head of the ladder that the captains would come up. With Jeremy’s information the Marines would know who was arriving. They also had Samuel’s list of who might not be relied on!
The Captain of Marines ordered his men… “Just ship’s-captains are to come aboard. No-one is to bring a party of men with him. Escort each one to the quarterdeck. Don’t leave them free to wander about the ship. We need control today. The Admiral’s cook has set out some refreshments to keep them happy… Remember, respect, politeness, great celebration and total control. Call me if anyone argues. Any drawn weapons and they go straight to the brig… regardless of rank, Admiral’s orders. Understood?”
Within the hour, Jeremy was hoarse, Ezra was shifting about on his narrow ledge, complaining of a sore arse and the quarterdeck was getting crowded. Dozens of skiffs and rowing boats surrounded the Naseby while the Master tried to create some order.
At the hour, as men paused for the usual ship’s bells, Pepys called out…
“Gentlemen, His Lordship, Admiral Lord Montagu has an announcement to make. In order of seniority, please, make your way to his stateroom. We’ve cleared it for action, to accommodate as many as possible. If it isn’t possible to get everyone in, his Lordship will repeat the announcement later. Now gentlemen, to the stateroom. This is a great day… a day to remember and tell your grand-children.!”
Lord Montagu was revelling in the significance of the day, and his role in it. He had copies of both the Act that Parliament had passed, and the Declaration of Breda that the King had issued. The captains listened in silence. No-one yet knew quite what was about to happen.
“… and so gentlemen, we are ordered by Parliament and the Admiralty to make sail for Scheveningen, and wait there for King Charles to arrive. When he is aboard we are to make sail for London. It is our duty to ensure his safe arrival in his kingdom.”
“As a record of our loyalty, I have asked Mr Pepys here to draft a solemn, joyful and historic document. It states that we, the fleet’s officers, welcome the return of the King. We declare that he has our whole-hearted loyalty as officers of his Navy and that we shall defend his right to return to rule… with our lives if need be.”
I shall sign first as Admiral, then Mr Pepys on behalf of the Navy Board. Then I shall invite each and every one of you to sign, in order of seniority… Vice Admiral Lawson in the lead. Every one of you, from flagship to smallest pinnace!”
“Mr. Pepys, a pen if you will!”
Montagu signed and then Samuel. There was a slight pause while Lawson came to terms with reality, glancing at the two Marines standing at attention either side of his Admiral. He picked up the quill pen, tested it slowly on a scrap of paper, and most reluctantly signed his name.
The Rear-Admiral and senior captains followed, some enthusiastically, a few reluctantly. Either way, they all signed.
Then the reality of the smallness of the stateroom took over. Lawson grumbled about hanging about while the rag, tag and bobtail signed, so Lord Montagu released the senior captains to move to the quarterdeck with orders to return to their ships and repeat the announcement to their own crews. The junior captains crowded in, Montagu gave a brief summary of what he had said, and all his junior captains signed. No-one stood openly against him, though many did so with a hard face, just a few grumbled openly… those whose previous history as army officers made their retention by a Royalist Navy Board a distant Cromwellian dream. Their grumbling was noted by Samuel, and their retention became an even greater uncertainty.
As Samuel wrote in his diary that night Not one man seemed to say no to it though I am confident many in their heart were against it.
When all had signed, the vellum rolled and placed in a red velvet bag for safe keeping and the last captain departed, Lord Montagu led the way back onto the quarterdeck.
As instructed, the Master had gathered both watches on deck. Jeremy and Ezra shinned down the mainmast and took up their places, Ezra with the hands in the waist of the ship, and Jeremy standing proudly beside his uncle. He had played a greater part in the day than any eleven year old could reasonably have expected.
There was a much more festive mood on the maindeck than there had been in the stateroom. While the visiting officers stood to lose their posts if they had originated in the army, the men stood to gain from the new regime. They would hopefully now receive the year or more of back-pay that they were owed.
Lord Montagu made more or less the same speech that he had made for the captains. But, without the exhortation for loyalty to King and Navy, partly because it clearly wasn’t needed, their glowing upturned faces told him that… and, any man who did stand against him would find himself hanged or flogged around the fleet, whichever seemed more convenient.
Samuel read out the Declaration of Breda, and as he later told his diary…
…with the greatest joy imaginable they shouted God Bless King Charles.
Sailor’s hats were thrown in the air, and then there was another great cheer as the Captain announced an extra rum ration… splice the mainbrace !
Each man also received a pint of wine.
Between the rum and the wine, not to mention the prospect of receiving their back pay, the King’s return was greeted with warm good cheer.
While Montagu was confident that his captains would do as they were told, Sam Pepys was more of a cynic and feared that some could be swayed by their officers, or even that some captains, by lack of oratory would fail to get the story across clearly to their crew. So, perhaps over-ambitiously, he decided to visit every ship and, as Secretary to the Navy Board, read His Lordship’s address to both officers and crew. That meant a lot of sea crossings, but he felt it his duty. It was why the Navy Board had sent him to sea in the first place… and, he had developed a taste for it.
In fact, he enjoyed the experience. Being rowed from ship to ship in the early summer sun was enjoyable and relaxing. On each ship he read out both the documents, the Act and the Declaration, and then he summed the situation up in his version of Montagu’s appeal for support.
He need not have feared, by now both the inevitability of the situation and the chance of renewed funding for the Navy on the one hand, and the prospect of seeing their back-pay on the other, resulted in what his diary recalls as The sailors threw their hats into the air and loud Vive le Roy’s echoed from one ship to another.
The officers as always were a different matter. But, while they might not be as happy as the men, they were trained to obey Parliament, the Admiralty… and their Admiral.
When Samuel finally completed his round, the fleet set sail and was off Scheveningen on 13 May.
The King was nowhere to be seen. It takes a King longer to pack for a sea-voyage than it does a Secretary of the Navy, and infinitely longer than an eleven year old boy.
While they waited, the ships prepared for his arrival.
Naseby’s figurehead was an effigy of Cromwell, so it didn’t last long, better no figurehead than Crumbwell.
The Royal Coat of Arms was painted on every ship and the sailmakers modified their flags. The harp, symbol of the Commonwealth was cut away and in its place they sewed a crown and the letters CR… Carolus Rex.
England had a King again.
Then they waited. They would wait over a week.
The sailors needed to be found work, while the ships lay at anchor.
This was particularly easy on the Naseby. The flagship was where Charles Stuart would set foot on English oak, if not English soil.
Painting, cleaning and repairing went on everywhere. The sailors had never been so busy. But, finding work for sailors doesn’t necessarily keep the idle hands of young officers occupied.
That was a great pity, because with more to do, young David might not have fallen from grace quite so spectacularly.
David was on his way to the galley, visiting Saucy and hoping for some fun, as well as a pie. He was feeling frisky. He didn’t visit the cook quite as often as he had earlier in the voyage because Saucy now had young Jeremy in his sights. His bow-chaser had already scored a hit on Jeremy’s stern-castle, and now the cook was hoping to bring his main broadside to bear on the boy’s foc’sle.
Jeremy on the other hand, was as nimble as a frigate and knew exactly what Saucy was up to… because David had warned him. He was careful to keep him well astern.
He still wasn’t ready for the sort of thing that the cook had in mind. He wasn’t accepting such advances from David, who he loved like a brother. At his young age, more love than that he didn’t yet comprehend, or want.
He certainly wasn’t going to accept them from Saucy, even in exchange for pies.
He had been thinking seriously about it. He was a boy whose instinct was to think things through, even fun. He knew that he could only do what his father would approve, or at least smile on… wherever he now was. He believed in Heaven and that his father knew what he did. He concluded that he might well give himself to Saucy one day, because he actually liked him a lot, and the old man was kind. There weren’t many adults in his life who openly showed affection towards him.
He liked Saucy, and it might be fun… but not just for pies. He felt that selling himself that cheaply would have offended his father. Later, he mused, when he chose to and wanted to he could, with dignity, give himself to Saucy, but… a Pepys was not for sale.
David was visiting the galley, but Saucy wasn’t expecting him.
That was unfortunate.
It was why Saucy didn’t hear him coming when David crept up behind him him at his range in the galley. He was busy, concentrating on a large frying pan where he was preparing lunch. The pan was half full of fat, and there was a blue haze of smoke over it. If he was honest, and what ship’s cook ever was, he had forgotten it and now it needed to be moved quickly before it caught fire.
It was a pity that David was so light on his feet, a clumsier boy would have given better warning.
The first that Saucy knew was when David pinched his rolypoly waist with both hands and shouted “gotcha!”
A younger and fitter man would have kept his balance. As it was, Saucy dropped the frying pan. It landed on the edge of the range, teetered and tilted and spilled. Some of the fat hit the red hot brick and some went over the side. Saucy made a grab for it, but simply got badly burned for his efforts.
The fat ignited on the range and the fire ran down the side on the spilled fat and set fire to that which remained in and near the hot pan.
Suddenly there was fire everywhere. The force that had been the death of many a ship… and many a cook too, had come to the Naseby.
David realised what he had done as soon as his cry died away. He ran to the door and screamed for help. Toby the loblolly-boy came racing up from the orlop and collided in the doorway with Jeremy, who had been following David in search of pie.
Jeremy grabbed a bucket of water, that sat beside the range for almost this eventuality.
“No, no!” screamed Toby, “not on a fat fire… it’ll explode!”
He grabbed the large towel that Saucy used for putting over bread rolls while they proved. He dunked it in the bucket and threw it like Raleigh’s cloak onto the pan and the seat of the fire. The fire was licking at the woodwork too. Jeremy realising that there was no hot fat that far from the range, took a bucket of water and threw it at the wall. He aimed slightly high so that the water would run down, soaking the wood as it went. David had grabbed a besom broom and was beating the flames down.
Gradually they got the flames under control, and then out.
To make sure things were safe, Toby went to the deck and came back with two buckets of holy-stone sand and spread it liberally over the still smoking fat. Jeremy saw to the wetting of the wood and David knelt beside Saucy.
Saucy had terrible burns on his arms and was quietly sobbing with pain, while saying through the sobs “Not to worry son, not to worry… Saucy’s seen worse.”
There was in fact a great deal to worry about. The master’s-mate was the first to arrive. He was largely responsible for the day to day running of the ship, and swiftly realised that he was damned lucky to still have a ship to run. If the fire had reached the magazine there would have been nothing left of the ship, or its crew. He didn’t know how the fire started, nor did he see any reason to ask. There was a fire in a galley, and there was a cook nearby. What more did he need to know?
The master’s-mate shouted for a party of Marines. He told them to take Saucy to the brig and to lock him up.
“He’ll hang for this, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be whipped round the fleet. Cooks need to learn a lesson from this.”
“Belay that order! Take him to the orlop!” The shout came from David.
The master’s-mate reacted angrily. “Ignore the boy… Take the cook and lock him up!”
David drew himself up to his full four and a half feet, and roared at the Marines in a dangerously unstable treble…
“Ignore an officer’s order at your peril! Marines. The master’s-mate is a petty-officer. I’m a Young-Gentleman and a ship’s-officer. You can be sure that I shall have the Admiral’s support in looking after his cook when he’s injured.”
He calmed a little. “As for blame and fault. I witnessed the accident, and it most certainly was not the cook’s fault. It was someone else’s horseplay that caused the accident, and I shall be placing him under arrest myself.”
Pointing to where Saucy was still lying in obvious pain, he said.
“That man is under my command from this moment. Loblolly… get two more men and take him down to the orlop, Pepys, go find the surgeon!”
The situation now became more and more complicated, with senior and junior members of the company taking increasingly entrenched positions. There was a lot of debating about who was at fault and what should be done.
All this effort was wasted because the one person who knew who was at fault was busy, and in any case he had already decided who was to be punished.
David saw Saucy safely settled on a straw pallet in the orlop deck, with the surgeon dressing his burns with a soothing grease preparation.
The Masters-mate stormed off to find Vice-Admiral Lawson, ignoring his own chain of command through the Captain, one of Lord Montagu’s appointees.
As a result, when David found the Naseby’s captain, that poor man was not expecting bad news and was startled by a most strange conversation…
“Sir, permission to speak Sir?” David addressed the man into whose hands he was about to place his fate.
“Carry on Montagu.” The Captain replied equally formally, wondering what was going on.
“Sir, a member of the crew has caused a fire in the Admiral’s cook’s galley… The fire has been extinguished, but the cook has suffered burns.”
He took a deep breath and continued…
“I have arrested the culprit and am handing him into your custody, Sir”
“Well done, but… where is the prisoner?”
“Here Sir!… I caused the fire.”
Then he rather spoiled the effect by allowing a tear to roll down his cheek.
“Where is the cook now, and what is being done about the fire?”
The Captain had ignored the tear. Ship’s officers don’t cry, unless their Admiral is dying, and only then for effect and posterity.
“Saucy… I mean the Admiral’s cook is in the orlop being seen to by the surgeon. Young-Gentleman Pepys has a party of hands ensuring that the wood is kept wet for a day at least. The masters-mate is seeing the Vice-Admiral to arrange a hanging. I took the cook from his custody and the mate is not happy about that.”
He paused for a deep breath, and to gather his wits.
“Sir, I apologise for all the trouble I have caused… it was not intended.”
“Now then, go back to the beginning, and tell me exactly what happened.”
“Sir, it was mid-morning. Many of the young-gentlemen visit Saucy at that time for some bread and cheese or a piece of pie. It was quiet when I got there and Saucy had his back to the door, he was at work at his range.”
He paused again to compile a clear account.
“Go on.” Said the Captain. “What was it you did that caused the fire?… Keep it brief,
I don’t need to be told about the crews’ eating arrangements.”
“Sir, I played a prank on Saucy. I crept up behind him, tickled his waist and shouted.”
It seemed so silly as he described how a near disaster had been caused.
“ You’ll remember Saucy was wounded badly at Cadiz. He really isn’t very nimble. That’s why he tripped when I startled him. He was holding a pan of very hot fat, and when that spilled it burned him and caused a fire.”
“And the fire, what of the fire?”
“I called for assistance and Jeremy and Toby the loblolly boy responded very quickly. They used wet cloth and sand to extinguish the fire. I should say sir, they were very calm and efficient, I would like to commend them to you Sir.”
“And the masters-mate?”
“Well Sir, he arrived with a party of Marines when it was all over. He was intending to arrest the cook and throw him in the brig.” The anger was clear in David’s voice. “The only reason that the cook fell was because he has a weak leg from the injury he received as a gun-captain with Lord Montagu at Cadiz. He was so brave…”
David had to gather himself. He swallowed and continued. “He nearly died. Father, I mean the Admiral, had him trained as a cook when he was well enough… Hang him for falling over indeed!”
“You say the cook is in the orlop! Why isn’t he in the brig?”
“Because I was the senior officer present. I belayed the mate’s order and had the cook taken for treatment in the orlop… I was a reliable witness to his innocence.”
“I ensured that he was safe, that the fire was completely out, left a damage party under Young-Gentleman Pepys command, and then I arrested myself.”
“I deliver myself into your custody… Sir!”
“Good gracious me… you have been busy!” He paused for thought.
“Very well… Confine yourself to your quarters while I decide what to do with you!”
David stamped to attention, turned smartly and went to the space behind the panelling amongst the great guns… and burst into tears. That was where Jeremy found him a short while later.
“Where did you go? Saucy is going to be alright… The surgeon says that he will have some scars but he has every hope of having him back in his kitchen in a few weeks.” Jeremy reassured his friend. “So, stop crying… everything is going to be alright.”
“No, it isn’t! Saucy is hurt, the ship might have been lost… and the master’s-mate intends to see me hanged!”
“Hanged? He wants you hanged?” Jeremy was at a loss… “Let’s go to see your father!”
“I can’t leave here. I’m confined to my quarters… I’m under arrest for endangering the ship and causing a fire on board.”
“Under arrest? Who on earth arrested you?”
“I did!” David said… and promptly started crying again.
Jeremy cuddled his friend for a moment.
When he realised that sympathy wasn’t helping, he gave David his handkerchief and said…
“Come on. You really do have to stop crying. If the Captain sends for you it won’t look good for the crew to see you snivelling. I know it’s difficult, but you need to look like an officer!”
It was now Jeremy’s turn to play the officer. It was proving to be quite a day.
While his friend was left to get himself under control, Jeremy ran to find his uncle.
He told Samuel what had taken place, and that David was expecting to be hanged.
Together they went to find Lord Montagu. The Admiral was in his sea-cabin.
No-one had yet found either the time or the courage to tell his Lordship what was going on, so he was astonished as the story unfolded. He was concerned for his cook’s injuries. He was about to go to the orlop to ensure that the surgeon was sober when Jeremy insisted that he hear the rest of the story.
“Hear him out…” Samuel said gently.
When he heard that David had taken control of the situation, put the fire out, defied the masters-mate and seen to medical treatment for Saucy. How he had then taken the whole blame for the incident upon himself and even placed himself under arrest, the Admiral nodded with approval.
When Montagu heard from a now tearful Jeremy that the boys expected David to hang, he reacted with anger and stormed off to find the Captain.
“What’s this about hanging David?” He demanded.
“Hanging? Who said anything about hanging? Sir. I certainly didn’t!”
“Well someone has put the idea in the boys’ heads!”
“I think…” The Captain said judiciously. “I think that the Master’s-mate had that fate in mind for Saucy when he heard that a ship’s cook had started a fire onboard… But even that was only anger speaking.”
“Damn right it was!” The Admiral roared. “Hang my damn cook, because a boy played a silly trick on him? Send the mate ashore! Get the Master a new one, one that comes with some common-sense.”
He turned to a stunned Pepys. “Samuel, be a good fellow… Go and tell David that there is no question of him hanging… I assume that you concur, Captain?”
“Absolutely Sir. There never was… and there’s no question of punishing your cook either.”
“Good. Now, as to Young-Gentleman Montagu… He needs to be punished.” Lord Montagu said, still in full bluster. “He may be my son, but by God he needs to learn to be more sensible if he is ever to stand in my shoes… and I shall be damned disappointed if he doesn’t!”
“I had been thinking about the same question, before coming to tell you what he had perpetrated this morning. May I tell you my conclusion? That might be better… in the circumstances… than you telling me what should be done with your son… I think.”
“Yes, yes… of course. You are Captain on this ship… Just, a sense of proportion, no more talk of hanging!”
“I think,” the Captain said carefully, “We have to consider what we wish to achieve… He will one day, if he doesn’t get us all killed first, rise to Captain at least, perhaps…” He glanced at the Admiral, “I mean… probably Admiral.”
He went on, as much musing as speaking.
“We want him to learn that actions have consequences, that a ship is not the place for games and that fire is the absolute end of many a ship… He is in great need of a sharp lesson.”
The Admiral nodded in agreement.
“At the same time, we cannot allow him to be humiliated in front of the crew, nor should he be so treated as to become averse to punishment. One day it will be his turn to hand it out.” He smiled, “I think he is already averse to the threat of hanging.”
The Admiral didn’t smile, so the Captain hurried on.
“What I think he needs is to kiss the gunners daughter, a few strokes with a rope-end and a bosun with a light and careful arm. Enough of a sting to make him think twice in future but not enough to cause damage to him or create grudges. He needs to feel lucky in what happens to him. We don’t want him resentful or cowed. He may only be twelve but we want the bosun to be able to tell the crew afterwards that he stood there like a man.”
Lord Montagu nodded, thought about his options… “See to it”
“I’ll have the hands remove the panelling from the stateroom, he can kiss one of the guns in there. He can use his own hammock for padding. If he loses control, he can wash it himself, no-one need know”
The Captain sighed, this was a day he could have done without, but at least he still had a ship under him, rather than a cloud and celestial choir for company.
He sent for the Master.
An hour later the Master sent for the bosun.
“Bosun, you know you have a task in the stateroom?”
“Yes-sir. A sorry business too, Sir. A nice lad. The cane is it sir? or the pussy? How many strokes will it be?”
“Eight, and not the cane, nor the pussy. The boys-cat would never do for an Admiral’s son. We have a delicate problem to square away here. This is a lad of very gentle birth, and he is going to rise high in the navy. We can’t afford to break him today. This isn’t a normal flogging. This is to educate him, not to deter his fellows.”
“Aye-Aye Sir… a rope-end then, a nice new piece of a fat rope will hurt, but it wont do any real damage.”
“A rope-end… but not your starter, no splicing or twine binding the end, nothing that would cut. I want you to go to the rope store and cut yourself just twenty inches of new, untarred two and a half inch rope, and for god’s sake man use a light arm on him!”
“That’s hard to do sir, a swing is a swing.”
“Not this afternoon it isn’t… This afternoon you will swing so that it hurts, hurts a lot, but not enough to break him. Eight strokes will be declared, but provided he is well reddened by the fourth the Captain means to stop it there. The boy will have braced himself for eight and four will seem like a gift from God.”
“So, a light-hand then sir. A very light hand?”
“No, not a very light hand. This needs to be a real flogging, but not a cruel one. One that allows the Captain to stop it at four. It's stroke after stroke that breaks a boy. Four shouldn't break him if you do it right, and if you do it right the Captain will have a reason to call a halt. This is an important day for all of us.”
The Master thought… “The Captain told me a story today. You must never repeat it.”
“Aye aye Sir”
“When our Captain was a midshipman he did something equally foolish. His Captain was a hard man, and the bosun was harder. Our Captain received twenty lashes of the cane with all the force that the bosun could manage… He had disliked the boy for some time. Our Captain spent two weeks in the orlop.”
“But, he made it to Captain even so. Sir”
“Yes, he made it to Captain, and on his second ship as captain the bosun turned out to be the same one that had flogged him ten years before.”
“Did he still harbour a grudge? Sir.”
“That’s hard to tell, but a few weeks later the bosun was caught pilfering stores…”
The Master paused for emphasis.
“The Captain hanged him!”