A Royal Achievement
Jeremy was only five streets away from David’s dinner with Alfred and Joseph, but he was a world and a half away emotionally.
It had all started out as a strange conversation that he found himself having with Toby. Conversations with Toby could lead you in some very strange directions. Jeremy now knew more than he really needed or wanted to know about how to deliver a baby. Toby assured him that it was a useful thing to know. Jeremy wasn’t quite so sure.
But I digress… It came about when he had gone down to the orlop to check that all was still well between Toby and his master, the surgeon. Surgeon was ashore in Malaga, doing heaven knew what. So, it was a good opportunity to talk. At the same time, Toby could continue to teach Jeremy the basics of how to stop a major bleed and how to strap and splint wounds. Jeremy intended to be the quarterdeck’s loblolly in case of sea-battle.
Just in passing, and out of idle curiosity, Jeremy asked Toby if he knew what his master got up to during his runs ashore.
“To be honest, I have no real idea. He always seems much more relaxed when he returns, so whatever it is that he does, it seems to give him relief.”
“Well, whatever it is, it wouldn’t be to your taste. It’s a pity… a run ashore, with him paying, would be attractive otherwise.” Jeremy said with a sardonic smile.
“Well, you’re welcome to take my place!” was Toby’s rejoinder.
They both laughed at that, but Jeremy stopped laughing and looked quietly puzzled.
“You look bothered by the idea of sharing the surgeon’s fun…I’d have thought you’d be curious, after all those times with David and Ezra…” Toby said.
He looked concerned. What was worrying his young friend?
“That’s the thing, in all honesty very little has happened between me and David. I love him, but mostly like a brother. Anyway, since his… um… incident, his behaviour has been so much more careful than before. We only get to play at bedtime, and that was pretty limited in the cold weather. We did cuddle a lot in Saucy’s galley, mostly while he was out.”
“Mostly?” Toby smiled.
“Well… we could snuggle up like a pair of puppies as Saucy put it. But, anything else while he was about was out of the question. We needed to behave like officers. Imagine what the master’s-mate would make of finding us canoodling in the galley!”
He looked serious.
“I’ve no desire to meet the gunner’s daughter, and you can be certain that’s how David feels too.”
“What about someone else’s daughter? Or have you decided that such pleasures aren’t for you?… like Ezra decided?”
“I think…” Jeremy hesitated, it was a question that worried him a lot. “I think that I don’t know… I really don’t. I’ve had no chance to discover whether girls are to my fancy… or not. I’ve… never really spoken to a girl… like that.”
Toby thought for a moment. “That’s right I suppose. Since you’ve been of an age to wonder about them, there’ve been no girls around for you to wonder about. The men have popsies come aboard to pass around, but dockyard popsies are pretty rough.”
Jeremy shuddered visibly.
“I’m looking forward to my run ashore.” Toby said. “The men have promised to tell me where pretty young girls are to be found, safely, that is. Now that they see Surgeon taking my training seriously, they’re beginning to be nice to me… The men think that it’s as well to be nice to the orlop, they don’t know when they’ll need us.”
Jeremy brightened up. “Oh you lucky thing… Lucky you!”
Toby grinned. “Well, why don’t you join me? You won’t know if you like it until you’ve tried it!”
“Tried it?” Jeremy giggled. “I’d be thrilled to just see what’s on offer. I can always dream about trying it later. At the moment I’ve no idea what I’d like.”
There was a long pause, that Toby chose not to interrupt, then Jeremy looked serious, and said. “Not since Mama died… I’ve never been cuddled by a woman. Cook and the housekeeper hugged me occasionally, even kissed me, but that was praise for a small boy, and to help me not to think about my parents… It wasn’t really because they loved me.” Actually he was wrong, but never mind, it’s only what we believe that matters.
Toby thought Jeremy needed straightening out. “If you pay a girl to be nice to you, then that’s what she’ll be. Their business is to offer you exactly and only what you want.”
“What if I found it was what I didn’t want?” Jeremy asked nervously.
“They’d be nice anyway.” Toby reassured him. “If a cuddle turned out to be all you wanted at your age, then I’m sure they’d be happy with that. It’s less work for them after all, money for old rope.”
His clinching argument was… “The thing is they’re bound to want to send you away happy, so that you’ll come back when you are ready!”
“You think so?”
“Yes, the girls I met in Tangiers were really nice. You’d never have guessed what they did for a living.”
There was a brief pause while Toby decided that a loblolly-boy really could say to an officer what he was about to say next. Perhaps it was having spent a week helping to rub ointment into this officer’s best-friend’s scourged bottom that gave him the right.
“You’d be doing me a favour. We could split the cost.” That wasn’t exactly selfless on Toby’s part. He was pretty certain that Jeremy wasn’t going to run up much of a tab in a brothel.
He went on. “The thing is, I don’t want to go alone, and I really don’t want to go with the bosun again. He was very nice about it, and I’m sure that he’s not gossiped about what I got up to, but it was still a bit like being taken to a brothel by your father! Someone you look up to knowing exactly which girl you dipped your wick in… I wouldn’t want my Dad to know, and the bosun’s knowing wasn’t much better.”
“Would that have been so bad?” Jeremy mused. “I wonder. My father taught me everything else I know about being a man… how to live and how to die… I wonder. How to love, maybe…. “
He paused for serious thought… What his father would think really did matter to him…
“I’d have felt safer and maybe more confident if he could have held my hand… at least until a girl was holding the other one. I think I’d have liked to be introduced to growing up by my father. But, I don’t suppose the girls see many fathers and sons. I doubt fathers are that welcome.”
He smiled, it was an amusing thought, perhaps being amused by thinking of his father’s reaction was what made him sympathetic to the idea.
“Well, let’s sleep on it. See what the men say when they get back.” Toby said.
“Yes, lets. I must admit, it does sound fun. Growing up has been quite strange. It seems odd to be a Naval officer who has never kissed a lady, or even had a proper conversation with one.” He mused. “I hadn’t thought about it until you raised it but, I’ve had so little to do with pretty women. It’s hard to know whether I’d like them… or not.”
“Fun is all it needs to be!” Toby said with a grin. “You can decide whether you want fun or need fun after you know it is fun!”
Two nights later, briefed by the bosun, the two boys found themselves walking down ever darker and quieter streets. The night was warm, and the air smelt of hibiscus and garlic.
By this time Jeremy was getting quite hungry.
“Will they feed us? Do they do food?”
“Yes, of course, the bosun said that they sell everything that men could want. Ask for anything you fancy… they will have a price for it.”
“That sounds very calculating!” Jeremy objected.
“Don’t you see?” Toby answered. “It’s being calculating that’s the best thing about them. It’s what makes them so good at what they do… They aim to make it all seem so natural for us. It’s what they do… they give you exactly what you want and make it seem the most natural thing in the world.”
He was feeling philosophical…
“If we were at home in Blighty, you would have a girlfriend to walk out with, and I’d be married by now. So for us to be looking for a lady’s company is the most natural thing in the world… really it is.”
“But, why don’t they just let us do it?” Jeremy was puzzled still. “Why do they need to make more of it than that?”
Toby thought for a moment…
“If they just lay there, said nothing and let you do what you want, well most men might as well be at home with their wife. The girls know men have desires that can sometimes be unusual, even strange. Men can want things that they can’t bring themselves to ask of their wife. The girls become very clever at guessing what is wanted… guessing what you need to make you happy, and then they bring you round to asking for it.”
“What could be strange?” This was still a puzzle for the younger boy. What could be stranger than sex?… everything about sex was pretty weird.
“Oh, I don’t know…” A moment of inspiration. “What if when they were young like you, a pretty lady had fed them a very fine bouillabaisse, after taking them to bed… for the first and best time they ever had. Maybe a man like that would always after want that special food to be ready for afterwards. Knowing that it was being prepared would make the bedding seem that little bit extra special, reminding him of that first time when he was young, and it was all so very new.. The lady wouldn’t need to understand why he wanted bouillabaisse to make his evening special, would she? She would just have to find out that he wanted it, and have it made ready, while they were at it!” Toby was rather pleased with himself.
“Well, I don’t know about that… I’m just hungry, and I don’t intend to get into the habit of needing to be hungry before lying with a women!”
Jeremy laughed at the expression on his friend’s face. Toby was never quite sure when his young friend was being serious.
He was quick to be reassuring, just in case. “Look, just don’t worry about it, the moment they see that you are hungry or thirsty, food and drink will arrive. The bill will equally magically increase.”
“The bill I can cope with, I just wish that I hadn’t been too nervous to eat all day.”
Jeremy wasn’t getting any calmer. If anything he was enduring the same uncertainties with which David had faced the gunner’s daughter… a fear of the unknown.
Like David he worried, about many of the same things… Would he behave like a man when the time came? Would he be able to get through it without something silly happening? Would he have what was needed when he needed it? Would he already have it when they arrived? To walk in with a bulge in his breeches would be so undignified.
Then another thought crossed his mind…
Would they even allow him in? Just think how odd a pair they made, him standing there in an officer’s uniform, with a loblolly boy! He thought, how silly he would feel, if the madam invites Toby in… but refuses his companion entrance… because he’s only a boy!
Or, what if she refuses both of them because Jeremy is too young… Or, what if…
Toby sensed that his companion was tensing up. “What’s worrying you? What you want to do really is the most natural thing in the world. It’s probably the only really natural thing any man ever wants to do.”
“What if I mess up?” Jeremy squeaked, his voice unreliable. “I could make such a fool of myself tonight. I’ve never done anything remotely like this.”
“I think you have.” Toby said quietly.
“When you insisted on staying with David for his flogging… You had no real idea what was going to happen. You didn’t know if you’d be man enough to go through with standing beside him. But… you did! You were magnificent!”
“You know I came in my pants?” Jeremy said dryly.
“No, I didn’t and I doubt anyone else noticed either… and, I’m not going to tell anyone, about that or anything else that happens tonight.”
“Surgeon knew! I hated it when he leered, or at least that’s what I thought. Actually, he just smiled his sympathy… but I didn’t know that at the time.”
“Well, honestly, there’s nothing to be nervous about. Look at it this way… You perform perfectly for David and he hasn’t got nice breasts, a cute bottom or a pretty face to get you ready.”
“I agree… He doesn’t have nice breasts!” Jeremy was recovering his sense of humour.
“In fairness his bottom isn’t what it used to be either. There are scars on his bottom now. It’s a shame… it isn’t as smooth as it was.” Jeremy said sadly.
“That’s true.” Toby said sadly, and then he laughed. “But, it isn’t for lack of hard work on your part. You rubbed ointment into it three times a day, for a week. Mind you, I think that after the first couple of days it was doing more for you than it did for David.”
Then he ran!
Jeremy chased him up the road, threatening murder, until Toby stopped outside a door and checked his piece of paper.
“This is it. If it isn’t, we’re stuffed. Let’s hope I’ve got it right. Bosun told them to expect us, so we’ll soon know.”
He knocked and the door opened almost immediately. Customers weren’t kept waiting.
“Come in gentlemen.” She obviously recognised what was left of Jeremy’s uniform because she addressed them in accented but perfectly understandable English. The speaker was an older lady, who reminded Jeremy of the Pepys’ housekeeper. Her accent seemed more French than Spanish.
“She speaks English!” Jeremy whispered to Toby.
“A lot of English sailors come here in Malaga… They come here, to come here!”
“And then they come here again to come again?” Jeremy was doing his best to show a sense of humour, while inside… he was terrified.
Toby grinned at Jeremy who smiled… a trifle weakly.
The madam led them into a reception room. She sat them down and asked which ship they came from. Toby told her the Royal James, she professed to be impressed.
“Your friend is an officer. He is very young.” She said quietly to Toby.
“Yes, his warship has yet to be launched.” He said, with a smile. He didn’t want Jeremy to feel that he was being talked about in other than a friendly way.
Understanding the reference to his state of virginity, Jeremy had the grace to blush, and then to say…
“There aren’t often any ladies on the James, and when there are none of them are unattached!”
Jeremy was fairly sure that they were having fun at his expense.
“You can’t have a launch without a slipway, so it really isn’t his fault… He’s been practising enough!.” Toby said and grinned at his friend.
Jeremy blushed again. He looked rather charming when he blushed. He began to relax. They were laughing at his predicament, but he took satisfaction in the fact that they were laughing with him, not at him.
The madam laughed. “So, it’s not his fault then! Practise makes perfect. Young man, what are you going to call your warship when it has been launched?”
“The Royal Achievement, ma’am… assuming the launch is successful!” Jeremy was regaining his poise. His father would have been proud of him. Worried, but proud.
“An achievement certainly but why a royal one? ” She asked.
“Because its only on a Royal Achievement… the Royal coat of arms I mean, that the helmet looks to the front, everyone else the helmet looks away. A Royal Achievement looks you in the eye… as my father raised me! Always look men in the eye.” He said it firmly. “And a pretty lady too!” He added with an engaging grin, and looking her firmly in the eye.
Toby disgraced himself of course, solemnity wasn’t a loblolly skill…
“If it isn’t a success it won’t be his fault… With all his dry runs it should be perfect. Just make sure the slipway is well greased.” Toby said, roaring with laughter at his own joke.
This time Jeremy decided that it was safer to join in the laughter. What’s more, this time his laughter was genuine, he was beginning to relax. The situation was frankly ridiculous, but he had concluded long ago that everything to do with sex was pretty farcical, whether making David happy, or… making babies.
All this time, the madam had been sizing them up. Jeremy might well be a child but he was obviously the officer, and had the poise of a young aristocrat. His friend was much his junior in rank but older and she thought more experienced. The friend, she guessed, was out for a serious romp… but the young one was more of a puzzle.
From what they had said, he was clearly a virgin, but at his age that was to be expected. She felt sympathy for him. He must feel terribly out of place on a ship, where the crew’s conversation would be obsessively concerned with the women they had already had, and ones they planned to have next. A ship-of-war was not a place that a boy could feel comfortable to be that inexperienced, even if his age justified it.
She decided to play the game carefully in his case. He clearly needed to lose his precious but unwanted status before he left the house. It would require care if the boy was to get the most out of an experience that needed to be got right first time.
It was her job to make sure that he succeeded and that he enjoyed it. Then perhaps, he would return each time his ship made port. Nostalgia draws the older man almost as strongly as need drives his junior.
But above all, as a mother herself, she wanted the poor child to leave her house happy.
She poured each of them a small glass of tea, with no milk, and disappeared behind a curtain.
Madam re-appeared with a rather pretty but muscular girl. She was clearly going to be a handful. Jeremy looked apprehensive, treating her as he might a rather boisterous puppy that clearly meant well, but seemed quite unpredictable.
The girl had a tray of sweetmeats that she coquettishly offered to a startled Jeremy. The madam, seeing the alarm on Jeremy’s face, quickly re-directed her to feed them to Toby.
Jeremy looked relieved, relaxed again, and nodded his appreciation at the madam. She recognised the poise with which he had responded and smiled reassuringly, as if to say ‘relax my child, I shan’t allow anything to harm you.’
He began to enjoy himself, took some sweetmeats and accepted a second glass of the most un-English tea, He didn’t even miss the milk that he felt should have been offered with the first glass, and who ever heard of tea in a glass?
Two more women came in.
One was a young, decidedly timid and unthreatening girl. She was carrying glasses of a dark brown wine that she brought to Jeremy who took one and thanked her politely. His eyes didn’t follow her as she went to stand by the madam, the madam noticed… She missed nothing.
The other woman was older, in her late teens or early twenties. Of the two of them the older woman was much more beautiful. The madam noted that Jeremy’s eyes were following her.
The younger girl appeared to be about fourteen. Toby was appraising her… she was prettier than the girl that had brought sweetmeats, slimmer and quieter. The madam noticed, and a small wave sent the original girl out, leaving Toby with his obvious choice… his freshly laundered white trousers showed that he approved.
Madam said quietly in Spanish to the older girl… “He looks like he needs a mother more than he needs a girl… be gentle with him!” as she introduced Jeremy to her.
Jeremy heard the kindness in her voice. Fortunately for his dignity, and self-respect, the Spanish language had not been part of his father’s tutoring of him.
“Good evening ma’am. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” His father had taught him to be polite, and it was serving him well. The girl, with deep dark eyes, the most bosom he had ever seen, and the least gown… smiled.
“What a handsome young man!” She said in English. “It’s my lucky evening… It’s my great pleasure to meet you, young sir. I am Stephanie, how should I address you?”
Jeremy was still functioning on paternal training… Never run, never show fear, always be polite in all circumstances. He didn’t need to think, he just did each of them in turn.
“I’m sorry ma’am, forgive me. My name is Jeremy… Jeremy Pepys. I’m a junior officer on the Royal James. It’s a pleasure to meet you too ma’am, I mean… Stephanie. You are undoubtedly the most beautiful lady I have met…”
He paused. “These three years past.” He concluded.
Stephanie smiled. “Since you have been at sea? Your mother outshines me I expect.”
Jeremy looked at his feet. “She was indeed very beautiful, but please, I don’t want to speak of her.”
Before he could cry, she swept him into her arms. “Come, let’s go and talk of other things then.”
She gathered the glasses of wine with one hand, took Jeremy’s hand in her other and swept him out of the room, before he could lose his nerve. She led him up some stairs and into a pleasant room that was lit by a warm fire and a few candles.
As well as a bed there was a large chaise-longue. She put the drinks on a small table that stood beside it.
Turning to Jeremy she took him into her arms. She didn’t kiss or do anything sexual that might startle him… just a hug. Jeremy’s face was level with her breasts and she rested his head, and stroked his back and neck. That was how his mother had gentled him as a child, when he was upset. Like sympathetic magic, upset rose in him, and before he even had a reason for it, Jeremy was crying.
She had been half expecting it.
“You loved your mama, a lot, I think.” He nodded.
“Are there no women in your life?” He shook his head.
“Is there no-one for you to love? Someone who loves you?”
“My friend David, we serve together on Royal James.”
“How old is David?”
“Thirteen” She smiled to herself.
“David… You play with David?”
“Yes, play…” She touched where his member would be if it ever decided to show its head again.
“Yes, we play. He needs to play, he is older. I just enjoy it… and I like it when it makes him happy.”
“Is he handsome… like you?”
“Oh yes, I think so… You think me handsome?” Stephanie smiled and nodded. “Yes, very handsome!”
She sat on the chaise, her light gown opening slightly.
“Come… sit with me. First lets lose your uniform jacket, you look so formal!”
Somehow, in losing the jacket he also lost his shirt. It was hot in Malaga so he had no undershirt, and suddenly was aware of his naked chest.
Sensing that nakedness with a woman was something he was not used to, she drew him down beside her and folded him into her arms, drawing her gown around his shoulders. That hid their nakedness from him, but placed the soft skin of his chest against her even softer and smoother skin.
“Just lie still my pet.” She reached to the table and picked up the glass of sack, and held it to Jeremy’s lips. “Taste this… it’s delightfully sweet, boys always like it. Sack is like Stephanie, one taste and you will want more.”
“I will? Stephanie?”
“Yes, I think you will.”
They rested quietly, and then she said… “Playing with David brings you pleasure?”
He nodded. “Yes, It was David who showed me how… what boys could do.”
“But, you do it more to please David than for yourself?”
“Yes. .. I think I’m too young, yet. Toby my friend… with the other lady… he says that I wont need it… need it badly I mean, until I have hair… down there. Is that right?”
He was asking the questions that he had no-one else to ask, an adult whose answers he could rely on for accuracy. She was a little nonplussed.
“I think he’s probably right. At the moment you can do it for enjoyment, but you don’t need it the way a grown man does… Yes, that makes sense. You are a clever young man, as well as a handsome one.”
“That’s good. I was a bit worried that I had no great need like the men have… But, playing with David is nice.”
“Like this?” Her hand drifted south and Jeremy felt a soft warm hand on him… He jumped.”
“Shh, sweet one, just close your eyes and think about David.”
“But… That wouldn’t be polite… I’m with you!”
“Yes, and when that begins to matter, you can decide whether to think about David or Stephanie. I shall be happy for you either way.”
“Will you want me to…?”
“Sweetness, that’s the wrong question. You have to ask yourself if you want to. I’m here to make you happy. If you would like to just sit and talk about David, Mama and your ship, well that’s fine. But, if we cuddle and you decide you want to… then that will make me very happy. I shall be happy for you, like you are for David.” She paused to look at him seriously, but with a gentle smile… “It’s always a pleasure for us when we can help a boy to become a man.”
She sat him up for a moment. Without exposing his nakedness she undid the waist of his white breeches and drew them down, together with his drawers. She pulled her gown across him more completely, and drew him into her arms. They lay back on the chaise, her head on the arm and David lying on his side between her legs.
David felt something tickle, and thinking it a spider reached to brush it away.
That was when he first came to realise that ladies had hair. Without thinking he said.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise there was hair, all the girls at home in Buckden were smooth.”
“Smooth like you? Young too?”
“Oh, yes. That was silly of me. If I grow hair then so will they.”
“Yes my pet… I can just remember when I was as smooth as you.” She caressed the relevant smooth skin.
David sighed contentedly and snuggled closer.
He day-dreamt of David, of David’s hand.
She smiled to herself as he became excited in her hand. She went so very slowly, she wanted no sudden accident to spoil this young boys evening.
Gently, as she felt his cheek warming, she lifted his head and moved it slightly.
“Kiss me sweety…” She moved his lips to her shoulder blade. He complied, soft kisses.
Then, he opened his eyes. “Stephanie?”
“Yes, my handsome? I am no longer David?”
“David is still there, but I just thought…”
“That it might be nice to become a man tonight?”
He blushed, paused and then nodded.
“Yes please, if I may. If I can.”
“Of course you can, you always could… you just needed to want to.”
Stephanie changed position slightly… “Let me get comfortable… We don’t want to roll off while we play.”
“Play?” He asked.
“Yes play my love, becoming a man is just a game. David has shown you one version of it, now Stephanie will show you another.”
She rolled him onto his stomach. With her hands under his shoulders she drew him up until the inevitable happened… She had done this so many times that there was little chance that she, or he, would miss.
His eyes snapped open… “Oh my goodness, oh yes… David’s… wasn’t… your… Oh gracious.”
She moved her hands to his bottom and drew him in.
Then, with gentle pressures established a rhythm.
“My little man… ”
He grinned shyly. “My birthday seems to have come early!”
Stephanie cuddled him… and then as she sensed a change “David will be so proud of you! You’ll have so much to tell him. Has he done this, do you think?”
“No… certain… not” Jeremy panted.
“My little man! I’m so proud of you!”
Jeremy’s breathing became ragged, his body tensed up and then released.
There was a long pause, while Jeremy got his breath back, and started breathing normally
“Well done, you really are a man now. Was that what you hoped it would be?”
But, her question came too late… He had gone to sleep!
He woke ten minutes later, with a jerk.
“Did I dream that?”
“Was it a nice dream?”
She said it gently, and was genuinely interested. It wasn’t often that this happened so beautifully, so romantically. Often there was a raucous bunch of men doing their best to humiliate their young companion.
This was a situation so gentle as to leave her quite emotional.
“Yes, it was a Christmas-Eve and birthdays dream all rolled into one.”
“Good, it was supposed to be.”
He was drawn into a cuddle and slept until Madam knocked on the door. She reminded them that if they wished to eat they ought to place their orders soon, to allow time for them to eat and return to the ship.
“Gracious me yes,” Jeremy said sitting up, in the process of which Stephanie’s gown, that preserved their modesty, slid to the ground. He blushed and grabbed for it. “ Yes, please I’m really very hungry!” Then… “Stephanie, would you care to join me?” His father had won again.
“What would the young gentleman like to eat? You can have almost anything you wish… We are near the sea, so the fish is excellent and my cook is of the best.”
“What would I like?… I know what I would like… Bouillabaisse Madame, is that possible?”
“Yes certainly, it takes a little while to prepare, but we have the basic sauce ready.” She smiled. “When you are ready, come and join your friend downstairs, you can help him to avoid returning to your ship sober.”
“Madame, a small request. Could you tell my companion what I have requested to eat?”
“Certainly… actually that is why we have the sauce ready… he already asked for the same dish.”
Jeremy had difficulty explaining to Stephanie why he was laughing.
Two hours later their food eaten and a great deal more sack drunk, it was time they returned to the ship. Madam produced the reckoning, Jeremy had asked her to be sure to include his companion’s total in his, and paid as if in a dream. His mind was still floating, and only part of it was due to the drink.
Madam was vastly amused to see the young man swaying as if at sea, and asked…
“Did everything go to plan? Is His Majesty’s Ship Royal Achievement successfully commissioned?”
“Yes, Madam, indeed it did, and indeed she is.” He rolled slightly and his speech was more careful than coherent. “She may have been launched a little earlier than her makers would have approved of… but, launched she is.”
Jeremy bowed courteously and deeply, which was nearly his undoing.
Three very happy ladies saw them off at the door. Stephanie had received a quite handsome gratuity, that Jeremy, with more maturity than his years belied, tucked into her bosom. She smiled and kissed him, then gave him a hug that was more motherly than professional, more passionate than chaste. It really had been a delightfully confusing evening. Sometimes her charge had been younger than his acts required and sometimes older than his smooth cheeks suggested. That it had been a success was obvious, and that he had more to thank her for… well that was obvious from his reluctance to finally take his farewell.
Thirty years later Toby would tell anyone who didn’t openly scoff…
“I was there the night that Admiral Pepys became a man. You have never seen a happier King’s Letter Boy! Mind you, it was an exceptional Spanish beauty that helped him launch his ship. I’d taken him to a brothel in Malaga, during his first voyage to the Barbary Coast. He was so happy that he paid my tab as well as his own.”
Admiral Sir Jeremy Pepys was famously careful with money, so no one believed that last bit. However, those who already knew, assured the sceptics that you really ought to be able to believe the best surgeon in the Navy.