A Royal Achievement

by Solsticeman


monarch_coat-of-arms

Chapter Six

“The Captain told me a story today.”

The bosun was all ears.

“When our Captain was a midshipman his Captain was a hard man, and the bosun was even harder. Our Captain received twenty lashes of the cane with all the force that the bosun could manage… Later, on his second ship as Captain, its 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, the Captain hanged him!”

“So, a light hand,  Aye aye Sir! Message understood Sir.”

“Good man. It’s to be a difficult afternoon for us all. But… I didn’t say a light hand, a careful hand. Remember, the Captain needs to have a genuine reason to stop before the end, otherwise it must continue. You know your job… Give the Captain what he wants, and make sure the boy gets through with his career intact.”

“Aye-aye Sir!” But this time the bosun said it with less certainty.

The bosun went off to supervise the preparation of the cannon. The liar was sent for and given the task of polishing every last trace of dust and dried sea-spray off it. When the gun was gleaming black, the bosun looked round for the other things that were needed, a box would be needed for David to stand on… and Jeremy was told to find David’s hammock.

Jeremy being Jeremy and still curious even at the worst of times, asked what the hammock was for. He remembered rumours of burial at sea… sewn into your hammock, with a shot at your feet. Was that why it was needed for a flogging?… just in case? He shuddered, this was his best friend that they were preparing for. He was suddenly very afraid..

But no, the bosun assured him, with a lot of beating around the bush… The boy’s hammock was only needed to be folded over the rear of the gun.

It seemed to Jeremy that it was unlikely that it was for comfort, or because the metal was cold… Why make a boy comfortable if you were planning to shred his bottom? 

The bosun’s answers became more obscure, as he attempted to dignify his answer.

What it amounted to was that a boy in this predicament was going to bleed, and as likely as not would lose control of one or another bodily function. Bodily functions? Jeremy pursued matters. The bosun sighed and explained that many boys pissed themselves, and…. The bosun gave up… if old enough, boys had even been known to produce semen.

That wasn’t going to be a risk for David, Jeremy thought, but he kept the thought to himself.

So, that was what the hammock was there for, simply to catch accidents. The boy, or more likely his mess-mates by the time he was too injured to stand, would wash his bedding, the bosun said.

Jeremy concluded that particular task would be his and was to remind him of how degrading it had been. Meanwhile the hammock will have saved the blushes of the men who had officiated at the punishment. What hadn’t reached the deck hadn’t happened.

Jeremy returned with the hammock, and the bosun showed him how to fold and place it. Jeremy’s hands were shaking as he did it, and the bosun noticed.

“It has to be done, young-gentleman.” The bosun said gently.

“It does?” Jeremy snapped. “Does it? Would you do this to your own son?”

He stormed off, and that was when the bosun realised that the boy had been shaking with anger, not fear. He shook his head… This was indeed going to be a bad afternoon. He was already not happy, and the worst was yet to come.

As it happened the bosun’s only son had fallen from the rigging of his ship ten years before. Even topmen had accidents. But this wasn’t the time to tell Jeremy. He would feel badly enough about it when he found out. The bosun was not a vengeful man… fortunately.

An hour later, David was alone and sitting in the Captain’s sea cabin.

He was thinking about what he faced. He had absolutely no previous experience with which to guess how he was going to react. He knew he was to receive a flogging of some sort, Naval discipline offered few alternatives. It was too late for parental spanking from his father, far too late for that. His father had spanked him in the past, when he had been naughty, but not since they had been aboard. His father had been too busy to pay him that much attention.

He knew how much caning hurt. One of his private tutors had caned him, but Lord Montagu had dismissed the man. Not for caning David exactly, more because, if the only way he could keep the boy’s attention and obedience was to cane him, then he couldn’t be a very good teacher. Lord Montagu wanted the best for his son.

David knew that the correct way to flog a boy was the pussy, the boy’s-cat. Lighter than the cat-o-nine-tails used to flog a man, its five tails of smooth whip-cord did less damage. But, on tender young skin… it still did a lot of damage. It just didn’t kill.

No-one had spoken to him since the First Lieutenant had ordered him to remain in the Captain’s sea-cabin until he was sent for. No-one had actually thought to tell him what was going on. Everyone assumed that someone else had.

The sentence would be announced after David had been formally charged, and presumably had pleaded guilty. He was after all due to charge himself. Nothing could happen as to sentencing until the hearing actually started.

He had no idea how many strokes he was likely to receive. That was entirely for the Captain to decide.

He had heard horrific stories of boys cut to ribbons with dozens of strokes of the pussy. But of his own fate, he had no actual idea what was coming.

The fact that no-one had told him yet added to his terror at what was to happen.

All he really knew, because he had seen the panelling being carried out of the stateroom, was that it was the gunner’s-daughter that he faced, and that meant a flogging. A flogging at the hands of a burly bosun or the Master at Arms.

It wasn’t the actual pain that he feared most. What worried him more was how many strokes he could take before he broke. It was important to him to be able to take it like a man. How could he look men in the eye if he hadn’t been able to carry himself as a man when his turn had come.

How much punishment he should try to take before breaking down wasn’t something he could judge either. He had never seen a boy punished, and he and the other boys had been excluded from the deck when men were flogged. He really had no idea what was happening to him, or what was expected of him… and that unknown was worse than knowing.  Much worse!

He knew he stood no chance of grinning and bearing it.

The pussy could break all boys… eventually.

He couldn’t face the thought of breaking down too quickly, the humiliation of pleading with them to stop… His father would be there watching his disgrace. What if he burst into hysterical tears? What if they had to hold him down forcibly to finish the flogging? What if he wet himself? Or, God help him… messed himself with fear.

He knew that Naval regulations required that a boy be flogged on his bare-bottom. The embarrassment of being treated like a school-child was part of the punishment.

Men he admired were going to see his… It was all too much.

He wished a friendly face could be there, but he was sure that Jeremy wouldn’t want to see him hurt, and if he was an idiot and did want to be there, his uncle could be relied on to prevent him doing anything so silly.

It was going to be awful, embarrassing, humiliating, and in front of the very men that he had wanted to impress. They were going to see him reduced to a terrified, tearful child, with his bottom and privates on show for all to see.

How would he ever be able to face the Captain or… his father again?

How would he ever again be taken seriously by the bosun?

Perhaps the master’s-mate will have told the bosun to leave the flogging to him. The mate hated him. Perhaps…

David felt very alone, and scared witless. He now felt what he really was, a twelve year old boy with no-one looking out for him, with the worst fear any sailor could have. He faced a flogging.

He knew that at its worst, the men thought of a flogging as worse than hanging.

He was successfully working himself into a mounting state of complete panic, when a Marine appeared in the doorway.

He looked at the terrified boy with what appeared to be some sympathy.

“Now then lad… I’ll be there with you. I promise, you’re going to be alright.”

Sympathy from a Marine was the last thing David had expected. Without thinking, he smiled, and teared up… “Thank you Marine. I am a little nervous.”

Then the Marine remembered himself. He pulled himself together and became formal and firm…

“It’s time to be on your way lad. On your feet! Stand to attention and march into the Admiral’s stateroom… the Gunner’s-Daughter is waiting for you.”

Then…    “She’s never killed a boy yet.” Said with a softened tone.

Firmly again…

“Step lively now, let’s not keep them waiting!”

The Gunner’s-Daughter was indeed ready for him. The panelling was gone and the sinister shape of the huge gun was gleaming black… waiting for him. His hammock was folded over the breech-end and a box had been stood in front, it was the largest of the guns and he was rather little.

‘That’s nice of them’ He thought illogically. Afterwards he wondered why.

The Marine told David to stand on the box. He showed him how to lie forward along the length of the gun and told him to hold her tight.

He gave David a piece of leather to bite on.

“Hug her tight lad, it’ll be easier for you if you do… Bite on this. Now, stand up at attention. Face the Captain.”

David stood and turned to face the Captain and the crowded room.

Although it was a punishment that would take place in private because David was an officer, there was not much space to spare in the stateroom. The bosun would need room to swing, and the onlookers would need to be out of his way.

There was Lord Montagu, the Captain and the surgeon, the Marine who had fetched him and who would stay to control David if necessary… and the bosun who would carry out the punishment.

‘Oh, thank God,’ David gasped to himself. ‘It’s the bosun.’

He had always liked the bosun.

Samuel was there… originally because he believed that the Secretary to the Navy Board should know as much as possible of what went on in his Navy. That had not sat well with the Captain who had considered such supervision of his command to be a trifle heavy-handed… not a felicitous phrase in the circumstances.

Opposition only caused Samuel’s heels to dig in further. But, then his insistence became absolute… Jeremy declared that he was exercising his right to be there as the prisoner’s-friend. There was no way he would fail to support his friend.

David saw his friend, who gave a tearful smile and a small wave with the hand at his side. Jeremy was an ashen white. He too was barely in control of himself.

It had taken a lot of persuasion and mature anger for Jeremy to get his place in the room. “An officer is entitled to have a friend to support him… and I don’t see anyone else. His father is the one that authorised the flogging! David needs to know that there is at least one person there who actually loves him!”

That was when he blushed and Samuel smiled at his innocence and courage.

“ He’s only kissing the gunner’s-daughter” said Samuel gently… “It’s not really a flogging.”

“Kissing the gunner’s-daughter is a flogging… Giving it a silly name doesn’t alter what they are going to do to him!” He was too angry to cry by that stage.

“Gentlemen, let us make a start.”

The Captain looked at the Punishment Book on a table in front of him.

“Young-Gentleman Montagu. You charge yourself with misbehaviour such as to endanger the ship. How do you plead?”

“Guilty Sir, definitely guilty!”

“Good man. I award you eight strokes on your rear. According to Naval Regulations; as you are a boy, that shall be on your naked rear.” He spoke to the Marine…

“Take his breeches down.”

The Marine stepped forward smartly, and sharply tugged David’s pants down round his ankles.

There was a gasp of shock from Jeremy. He was suddenly faced with the sight of his friend’s very white and very bare bottom half… and his… well, it was obvious that this was still a little-boy.

David’s face was absolutely white with shock and fear as he dropped his hands to cover himself, a little too late. The sight of such a young boy, naked to the world and faced with a grim punishment caused the officers present to glance away. They knew that the perfectly smooth white surface was about to be utterly changed, as in all likelihood would be the boy.

The Captain stared at a point on the bulkhead above the gun port.

The Marine restored decorum. He said sharply… “Face the gun, lad!”

“Take up your position. Here, grip the gun!”

Jeremy was faced with the smooth round bottom of his friend, the bottom he had fondled and patted so many times… To his horror his member shifted in his pants.

He was overwrought with worry for his friend and his body was reacting with a will of its own. It reacted to distract him. It chose the only way it knew, other than crying.

Jeremy was determined to not break down. But he couldn’t stop shaking. As to shaking, anger had by now given place to fear for his friend.

David was stretched along the gun barrel. The Marine had taken his hands and was gently holding them.

The soft human contact comforted David for a moment. He managed a small smile for the Marine in front of him.

The Marine nodded approval, but didn’t smile back. He was watching the bosun.

The Captain said “One!”

The Marine’s grip suddenly tightened on David’s wrists.

The bosun’s rope end swung, and David’s bottom rippled violently under the impact.

He gasped quietly.

“Good lad.” The Marine said gently, loosening his grip. This one wasn’t going to run.

David was breathing heavily, but still had himself under control.

Jeremy watched with shock as a broad red line with a white centre developed across his friends bottom. To his own horror Jeremy was now fully erect. His body was shaking, and that was rubbing him against the coarse material of his breeches. He willed it to go away… it didn’t… He throbbed with nervous excitement.

The bosun took his time straightening up and readying himself. The ceremony was always slow. It allowed the prisoner time to anticipate that there was more to come.

For David, time had slowed down, maybe it could never go slowly enough. He opened his eyes to see the face of the Marine who held him, just for a moment he thought he saw tears, and then…

“Two!”

The rope swung, the Marine gripped tight, and the blow drove a hollow across the once beautiful bottom that was now spoiled by the two angry red pathways across it. There was already signs of broken skin where paths crossed. Blood seeped gently onto the soft white skin, not yet smeared by the next blow.

Jeremy’s body jerked in sympathy, and he felt himself rub again against the rough cloth. Against his will, he again felt the unwelcome arousal that he couldn’t explain.

David closed his eyes and waited; silence, time and then…

“Three!”

This time David let out a grunt. Blood sprayed onto the bosun’s white trousers.

Jeremy was visibly shaking with fear for his friend and his body trembled. That was when he saw the surgeon leering at him. The man, who should have been paying attention to David’s well-being was apparently fascinated by the visible state of arousal in Jeremy’s breeches. Jeremy angrily gestured towards where the surgeon should be paying attention.

Where the strokes crossed the skin was now torn and blood was bright where it ran on his thighs.

“Four!”

The Marine, knowing that David was no longer in any fit state to run, was gently holding his hands.

Knowing this was intended to be the one, the last one, the one that justified halting the punishment, the bosun brought the rope-end down more sharply, with all his considerable strength..

David was to learn a lesson today. This last blow was the lesson he was to learn.

It was what the others, all seven of them should have been. This time, even with just a rope-end the effect was complete.

Just once, with this stroke he would feel the full force of a Naval flogging.

David let out a small cry… jerked, flopped down limp… and lay still.

“Sir, I think that is enough… The boy has passed out, I believe Sir!.”

The surgeon was at least paying attention.

“I agree, set him down Marine.” The Captain was happy to declare an end.

The relief that swept over Jeremy did what fear had set him up for.

His body shook in three, no four, waves of relief and release, that almost caused his knees to collapse.

He held onto his uncle’s arm, and Samuel, himself in a state of shock, patted his back. Feeling the young boy’s body shuddering violently under his hand he assumed tears, and quietly hugged him. He felt a need to protect his nephew both from what he was seeing and from any thought of a career in his Navy.

The thought came to him that this was indeed his Navy. He was ultimately responsible for all that he had witnessed.

The surgeon meanwhile was continuing to observe Jeremy’s release of tension with considerable professional interest.

David was awake again but dazed. It took him a moment or two to recall what had happened, and a moment longer to believe that it was ended.

The Marine picked him up gently off the gun and set him on his feet. As he did so, he whispered… “It’s over son… You did well, Sir.” It penetrated David’s befuddled mind that both son and Sir seemed right… sincerely said.

He straightened up, stony-faced. With his pants still around his feet, he staggered slightly. The bosun took him by the shoulder to steady him. The shirt tucked up out of the way still exposed his extreme youth.

The swollen state, the redness of his bottom, the blood on his legs and bruising that entirely covered his buttocks were proof that a lesson had been given that would take a lifetime to forget.

“Pull your breeches up man…” The Captain said quietly.

David came out of his daze and realised that almost everyone in the room (the surgeon excluded) was trying to avoid seeing his indignity and injury. He quickly pulled his pants back into place, wincing as the rough cloth made contact with his injuries.

He straightened his back and turned to the bosun…

“Thank you bosun. You did your duty… Will you shake my hand?… Can we be friends still?”

The bosun was surprised and shaken…

“Young-Gentleman Montagu, Sir! I’m proud to shake your hand Sir, proud indeed. I would I had such a boy to call my son! I’m proud to call you Sir, You’re a Naval officer, Sir!”

His outburst took even him by surprise.

They shook hands. The bosun was also holding him by the shoulder. David was still very unsteady.

David gently removed the bosun’s hand and turned to the Marine who was still standing to attention beside the gun. He was waiting to be dismissed. The officers had not yet remembered him, and he would be left, standing to attention, until someone did.

David would. Still none too steady on his feet, he took a tentative step towards the Marine,.

“Stand easy Marine!” He ordered in a shaky but clear voice.

Then he said very quietly so that only the Marine should hear him. “Thank you Marine. I’m glad you were here. I could not have done it alone… without you.”

The Captain, who had overheard, turned away and blew his nose.

“Dismiss! Clear the cabin!” The Captain said loudly.

While the stateroom cleared, David was quick to react.

“Please Sir… Am I still confined to quarters? May I go down to the orlop to see how Saucy is getting on?”

“Come here boy…”   The Captain wanted the last word of the day.

When the Captain could speak to David, with only Samuel and Jeremy to overhear, he said…

“You’re free to go. The crew will have the story by now, and the story will be growing by the minute. If you are able, spend the afternoon on the quarterdeck in the sun, pacing if you can. The exercise will help, you must keep the muscles moving. The important thing is that you show the hands that you aren’t cowed by today. Show them a man up there.”

“First though,” He said more loudly. “by all means visit Saucy in the orlop… Get them to dress your wounds while you are there. It’s good that Saucy was your first thought… You have potential… Yes, indeed you have. I’m proud of you, young man. I’m pleased to have you in my crew.”

The Captain was looking happy for the first time all day.

Meanwhile, the Surgeon had sidled up to Jeremy…

“You found that exciting… I couldn’t help noticing.”

“Not exciting surgeon, disturbing… He’s my friend, and I was disturbed to see him thus. You misinterpret my discomfort. I admit that I was unmanned, but I assure you…  ”

The surgeon looked serious.

“Such a reaction is quite understandable… it’s a distraction.”

“No! It was not a distraction to be so unmanned. I was distracted for but a moment. Now if you will excuse me, I’m sure we both should forget this conversation. I certainly want to forget this whole day! Please don’t raise the subject again, and don’t think of speaking to David about it either… The Captain can make that a formal order… if you wish?”

He drew himself up to his full four feet… He was once more a young officer. His body was once more under control. He thanked his lucky stars that his youth had left no outward sign of his discomfort.

“Now surgeon, if you would be so kind… We ought to check on your patients.”

When the two of them reached the orlop they found a curious sight. David was lying face down on a pallet beside Saucy. The cook was holding his hand while David cried his heart out. Tears were running down Saucy’s face too as he patted and squeezed the hand he was holding. He was lost for words. He knew from experience that all that was in David’s mind at that moment was the humiliation, not the pain. The pain was for later.

David’s trousers were once more around his ankles… and Jeremy was presented with the sight of David’s rear, not white and perfectly smooth as he loved it, but red and raw. He hated the sight and sat down so that he could stroke David’s back without seeing the raw meat that was now his best-friend’s bottom.

Loblolly-boy Toby sat beside him and was making himself useful with a bowl of warm water and a pot of unguent that smelled of rosemary.

“Don’t tell the surgeon… He keeps this for senior officers… and the soft skin of the younger boys. I’m not supposed to use it.”

“Indeed you are not!” The surgeon said.

Toby jumped, dropping the pot.

Jeremy picked it up and handed it back… to Toby, not to the surgeon.

“Carry on lad!” To his surprise, Jeremy realised that he and the surgeon had said it in chorus.

Then he looked up, and glared at the surgeon. The man mellowed immediately.

“Poor David, he looks so sore, let me help.”

“Not David! Young-Gentleman Montagu, if you please!” David and Jeremy said, also as one.

The surgeon knelt, took the pot from Toby, dipped his fingers and went to spread the soothing ointment on David’s rear.

Then he paused, wiped his fingers clean on the edge of the pot and passed it to Jeremy…

“There you are, young sir. He’s your friend and needs your help. I’m sure you’d like to do him a service.”

The reaction was not what he had expected. Anger took over and Jeremy rose to his feet, and said in a treble roar…

“Thank you surgeon, that will be all. You are dismissed!”

“Dismissed? This is the orlop! This is my area… dismissed?”

Jeremy didn’t back down, he didn’t even pause for thought…

“Dismissed I say! In his Lordship’s name I dismiss you. If you wish we can take it to him and the Captain. I would be happy to explain what it is about your behaviour today that causes me to not want you anywhere near his Lordship’s son’s injuries!”

Knowing that was a conversation that could never happen, without another word, the surgeon left.

Saucy smiled and said “Well done lad, he needed telling. I’ve seen the mean bastard with young Toby here.”

Toby looked uncomfortable. It was bad enough having to accept the surgeon’s bad temper. It was quite another thing, and not at all pleasing, to have to accept well intentioned sympathy, or even equally well intentioned criticism of his master.

Criticism that curiously, he did not share.

Jeremy saw his discomfort, and thought about it. He didn’t fully understand the problem. Saucy made attempts on him, and he didn’t mind that… He liked Saucy, was fond of him even. But, the surgeon… he didn’t like the surgeon, he didn’t like the way he had assumed that he could intrude on Jeremy’s private matters. Yes, he could see why advances, made with persistence by the surgeon, could be very different to Saucy’s playfulness.

Then he grinned to himself for a moment…

‘The surgeon just became an anti-Royalist agitator. He needs to be sent ashore as soon as a replacement can be found.’ He thought.

Toby had finished cleaning up the crusted blood on David’s bottom and thighs, so Jeremy sat on the pallet beside his friend and proceeded to dispense liberally of the surgeon’s sweet smelling ointment.

Saucy observed and approved of the proof of his love for David that Jeremy’s trousers had grown to reveal.

Lying on his face, his head turned sideways on his folded arms, David said “Thank you for being there, today.” It was as if he needed to explain where and when he was grateful for. Later surgeons might have said that he was in a state of shock. Certainly his thinking was still unclear, and it would be half an hour after the last of the gentle ointment before he could stand and walk with any confidence.

Toby took Jeremy aside… “When bedtime comes there can be no question of a hammock tonight. I shall make up a pallet beside Saucy and you and I will need to hold David between us like a log and keep him straight while we lower him onto it, face down. By then he will be too stiff and painful to bend or kneel for himself. We may need to do that for a day or two. Tomorrow we can make his bed beside your hammock, but for tonight I’d prefer if he stayed here. You can stay with him if you wish, another pallet would be no trouble.”

“Please do that… Thank you.”

It was the First Lieutenant who solved the worst of  his problems. David's tight, tailored breeches were desperately painful. So, he was immensely grateful when the First Lieutenant's servant, another boy slightly older than David, and clearly awestruck to see him on his feet arrived with a gift...

“Please Sir, my master, Louey, offers you these...” He held out a pair of white duck trousers. “he says they are old and so washed that they are soft... He said that rolled at the waist and ankle they should fit, just about. Louey says that the seat is especially loose!” The boy smiled. “He also says to please return them when you have no need of them... they're a souvenir of his own time as a Young-Gentleman. Oh yes, and he asked me to present his respects, and to remember to say sir, Sir!”

As soon as David was sure that he wouldn’t stumble, and was able to ignore the pain induced by his trousers, a small amount of rum helped, he strode purposefully up the companion-way and onto the maindeck. He saluted the Officer of the Watch as he proceeded onto the quarterdeck. The officer smiled, and returned the salute.

“Welcome back... I seriously recommend that you keep walking, it really will help, a little grog too, in an hour or so. I shall arrange it. Carry on.”

David had achieved emotional stability again. While lying facedown in the orlop, Saucy holding one hand and Jeremy the other, he had eventually stopped feeling sorry for himself. He was also no longer embarrassed, now he felt that it was for the adults in the stateroom to feel embarrassed. He, himself had achieved a feeling of distance. It was almost as if it had happened in another life to another boy. As indeed it had.

He began to pace up and down, sometimes looking out to sea, but a lot of the time he spent staring unseeingly at the activity of the maindeck, his mind on other things, the world was a different place, so much had changed.

There were more men about in the waist today, more than usual. He suspected that a lot of them were there to see how the young-gentleman had taken his punishment. He paced up and down smartly, he couldn’t risk leaning against the rail yet… When he had experimentally rested he had found it was hard to get started again. Sitting would not be an option for some days.

Meanwhile, the men on the maindeck looked up at him. A few waved a sardonic salute. Whatever they chose by way of greeting seemed to be well meant. He suddenly felt a wave of warmth of feeling towards the men. There was a feeling of camaraderie that had not been there before, on his side or theirs. They had liked the young boy, but he hadn’t been real Navy, he hadn’t been one of them.

Now he was.

He thought about it as he walked, and it came to him. He was indeed now one of them. He was no longer the Admiral’s son. He no longer needed to depend on his father’s position for his place in the Navy.

When his father authorised the flogging, he had made his son part of the Navy rather than simply a commission-filling aristocrat.

In the future, when men obeyed his orders, it would not be because he was their new Captain or even Admiral Lord Montagu. It would be because he was the boy who took his flogging, and shook the bosun’s hand, and told the Marine guard to stand-easy. He was the boy who went to the orlop, not to have his wounds dressed, but to check on the injured cook.

He no longer felt humiliated by the flogging, and he no longer felt anything other than a sense of duty towards his father. He felt love for Jeremy and affection for Saucy and Toby, and something unspoken for the Marine.

The bosun? He already appreciated the care that the bosun had taken. It had come to him that the bosun must have paced the punishment to make it serve its purpose, ensuring that it did no lasting damage to him.

But, of all of them there that day, he felt a curious attachment to the Marine who had held him so gently and eased him through the ordeal. When he had said “good lad” with genuine approval, David had felt the purpose in what was happening. If it allowed him to show a battle-hardened Marine that he was more than his years and frame defined him… then the afternoon served a purpose for him. He could face the remaining blows.

The punishment had served to mark him out among men… tough men, brave men… men who now mattered to him. It had earned him something that all his father’s wealth could never have bought for him.

As always on the quarterdeck, there was a Marine on duty, and when the watch changed the new Marine was his. As he paced he caused their paths to meet.

“Good afternoon, Marine. It’s a fortunate wind. A good day all in all.”

Then he smiled. “It’s so nice a day, I wish I were in a position to climb the mast, but that will have to wait a few days yet.”

“I imagine it will, Sir.” The Marine said with a small smile, enough for it to register on David, too small to be seen from the maindeck.”

Then… “Are you sure you are the same young-gentleman that I met earlier?”

“No… I don’t think I am.” David replied thoughtfully.

“I really don’t think I am. But, it’s not been a bad day, taken as a whole.”

“I was proud to have been with your father at Cadiz.” The Marine said. “I’m just as proud to have served with his son today.”

David tipped his hat to the Marine.

“Thank you Marine. I’m pleased to have had you with me… at my Cadiz”

That was when David smiled… a beautiful, radiant smile.

solsticeman@yahoo.com

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