A Royal Achievement
David was in his hammock. He was in, but so were his clothes. Meanwhile the chaos doubled as Jeremy arrived back. Not quite as drunk, he too fell into bed.
Lord Montagu looked at John, the two smiled conspiratorially, shook their heads.
“Well, they seem to be out of trouble for the day. Well done Marine.”
“Thank you Sir. After tonight, I think he’s due for a good night’s sleep.”
“You think there will be no dreams tonight?” David’s father asked.
“I hope not Sir, not tonight; maybe not tomorrow as well… I hope so anyway.”
“I don’t know what you’ve been up to, and I shan’t ask, but if you’ve pulled that off then I shall be in your debt, and so will he.”
“Thank you Sir. If I have, then I shall be mightily relieved as well.”
“Good night then Marine.”
“Good night Sir.”
When David woke the next morning the only good thing about his state was that his stomach was stable. Perhaps because it was totally empty. Of all the good food that the proprietor and a succession of landlords had placed before them, and the ale and wine that they had quaffed… none had made it back to the ship.
He skipped breakfast and made it to the quarterdeck on time. On the way, a number of crew asked solicitously as to his well-being. He began to wonder if anyone on the ship was unaware of the well-lubricated state in which he had returned.
There was no need to worry that they might be aware of how he came to be so drunk… He knew that he could trust the discretion of his Royal Marine.
As it happened both his father and John were on the quarterdeck when he got that far.
He held himself straight as he wobbled slightly. Going ashore had adversely affected his sea-legs. He presented himself to the Officer of the Watch.
“Reporting for duty, Sir!”
The Officer of the Watch, smiled and said “Carry on, Montagu.”
His father was vastly amused at the punishment the morning was wreaking on his boy.
“Ah, the young-reprobate has appeared… Treat him gently, the King’s Letter requires it of us!”
The Admiral, his father, was clearly in a good humour and the Officer of the Watch laughed appropriately, as junior officers do. Then he looked at the poor boy who was by now quite green again, and burst out laughing.
“Oh my, the young-gentleman will fall over if he doesn’t find something to hold onto… drape yourself on the rail to dry out, young man. I fear you have need of it. I’d recommend that you go to the quarter-gallery to die, if there was time for you to get there. As it is… to the rail, where it overhangs most. The liar will have another task!”
They were having such fun at his expense. His stomach was now protesting the roll of the ship, and his head was pounding.
He was rescued by John, who felt just a little responsible. He approached the Officer of the Watch…
“Sir, Do you think his Lordship would approve of me sending to the orlop for the surgeon to bring his sovereign remedy? The Young-Gentleman seems in sore need of a healing draught… or a tot of rum.”
“In my experience a tot of rum is just as effective, and creates a lot less gossip. Take the boy down to my cabin; have my servant give him two tots of rum. The first is to help him throw up, and the other will cure his headache.”
David reappeared half an hour later, looking a lot fresher, bathed and shaved… with help from the same source as the rum.
The Officer of the Watch was waiting for him…
“That’s good! You look a lot better. Now, you can clear your head by memorising the pilotage for Naples. I want you able to recite it for me, word perfect, at midday before you take lunch.” David flinched. “If you fancy lunch!” He smiled at the boy’s predicament.
The Admiral quietly intercepted his son as he approached the companionway.
“Have you thanked John for getting you back safely? Did you sleep well? That’s the main thing. How did you sleep?”
“Oh, I slept like a baby Sir… Father.”
“Sir will do on the quarter-deck!”
“But I did sleep well, Sir. It was the first undisturbed night’s sleep in well nigh a year.”
“The wine, do you think?”
“No, Sir, not the wine. More a miracle I think. I had forgotten what it was to sleep without fearing a dream.”
“Well done, good man… Carry-on! Go speak to the Marine.”
The last was overheard and the Officer of the Watch was caused to wonder exactly what the Marine needed to be thanked for that involved such a massive hangover.
David approached John who had moved to the rail, away from prying ears. The approach of a diminutive superior officer caused the Marine to crash to attention.
“Stand-easy Marine… and do try to make less noise.”
“Did you sleep well, Sir?”
“Beautifully, I dreamed of climbing trees and scrumping apples.”
“No, not of that… hopefully I shall never be troubled by that dream again.”
“I’m pleased Sir.”
“You can be more than pleased. How you knew what was needed, where to take me… I don’t know. But, I’m glad that you did…That poor old man… his bottom was…”
His eyes filled with tears, that only the Marine witnessed.
“You don’t need to worry about him Sir. I chose him carefully for you. I know you too well. I knew you would worry about him afterwards. He was the one person there who would best appreciate your youth. It brought a rare and pure pleasure to the harm you needed to do. You weren’t going to understand a beating until you had beaten someone yourself. You needed him, to get it out of your system, and he enjoyed every stroke… until that last one… you were getting into your stride just a little too well, even for him!”
“Well I’m grateful to him. Do me another favour if you will… Please, ask the proprietor to provide him with drink on my behalf…” He slipped two gold sovereigns in John’s hand.
“I’ll do that Sir. It’s a gentle act. He’ll appreciate your thought.”
During the afternoon, David found Jeremy in the quarter-gallery. He had been suffering too, but not nearly as badly.
“I just ate far too much. Saucy knew where all the best food was to be found. I don’t think he needs a compass, he simply navigates from cake shop to cake shop via the occasional inn, anywhere the food is good and the wine is sweet!”
Mention of sweet wine turned him a delicate shade of white.
“Oh God, not again, there can’t be anything left!”
When he reappeared, David asked him what sort of an evening he had with Saucy.
He hoped Saucy had been less adventurous than his Marine. He didn’t plan to tell Jeremy much about his own run ashore.
“Actually, it was a very pleasant and gentle evening… Just too much food and drink, rather than too much of anything worse.”
“What did Saucy find to fill the evening with? You can’t possibly have eaten and drunk for five hours!”
“It seemed that way at the time. Saucy took me to meet an old friend of his, and then the four of us went out to eat and drink. Afterwards we all went back to his friend’s place.
“Four of you… who was the fourth in the party, or were you too drunk to keep count? Are you sure you weren’t seeing double?”
“His name was Rodrigo, he was very pretty, with a lovely singing voice. Saucy’s friend Jethro had taught him sea songs, and we joined in the choruses.”
“Pretty, a lovely voice… how old was this miracle? You really were drunk!”
“He was about twelve, he had…” Jeremy blushed.
“He was twelve and had… what?” David ‘s voice had dropped to a whisper.
“Alright, he had dark curly hair and a lovely smile… and his voice was angelic… satisfied?”
“Were you? Did you?” David asked enigmatically.
“Yes, but that was later and didn’t have all that much to do with Saucy… or his friend.”
“I can only imagine what… !” David was intrigued. “I thought my evening was bad enough.”
That intrigued Jeremy, so as David showed no signs of volunteering an account of his evening he asked… “Well, what were you doing that was bad enough to be worse than what I might have done?”.
“John took me to get my bad dreams cured!” There it was said. He hadn’t intended to tell Jeremy, but he needed to tell someone.
There was a long silence, while Jeremy decided how he should respond.
“You’re still having bad dreams? I thought you were happier lately, when did the bad dreams start again?”
“Not like the bad dreams I had just after it happened. John talked me out of those. He persuaded me that feeling good about you watching me being beaten wasn’t a bad thing.”
“It wasn’t?” Jeremy was trying to make sense of all this. He had clearly missed out on what had been going on in his friend’s mind.
“No, it wasn’t. He said that knowing that you, and Father and Samuel, the Captain even… all loved me and wanted it to stop was… well, nice. It was nice that you were so worried about me, nice that you wanted me to be alright… it was nice that you loved me.”
“That was what I said to Uncle Samuel… that it was important that you knew someone who loved you was there to see you were alright. So you knew you weren’t alone.”
“Was that why he allowed you to be there?”
“Yes, He didn’t want me to see what happened, but even so, I don’t think he realised how bad it would be for you.”
“I’m told he had to hold you up at the end.”
“Yes, he did. But, it wasn’t quite how you think.”
Jeremy said it hesitantly. Was this the moment he needed?
“You weren’t fainting away like me?”
“No… I was so frightened… my body took over to save me from what was going on… That’s how the surgeon explained it… He said my body distracted me.”
He looked embarrassed, and his friend, who still didn’t understand, took his hand.
“Go on. How did it distract you… Did it make you feel faint?”
“No. It made me get hard. Then my breeches were rough and rubbed against me… and then I couldn’t stop what it was doing. I was shaking all over, with fear for you, and that only made it worse!”
“Made it worse?”
“When they stopped the beating so suddenly, I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy, so relieved… I came in my pants.” There… it was said. At last, he had told him.
“You came in your pants… ?”
“Yes, then my knees went… when I came… and Uncle Samuel had to grab my arm to stop me collapsing. He thought I had fainted.”
“Oh, good lord, and no-one noticed?”
“Only the surgeon, I thought he leered at me. He was trying for sympathy, but his scar got in the way. I was terribly upset!”
“And… I missed all that!… I must have been distracted too!”
“I think you were spark out for most of it!”
“So, when you dream… maybe you saw more than you remember… maybe you knew that your beating gave me a…” Jeremy couldn’t bring himself to say it. “I’ve been so ashamed that your beating did that to me. It seemed so… disloyal!”
He had tears running down his face by this time.
“Feeling that much love couldn’t possibly be disloyal! To come because the beating stopped proves that.” David could see that watching the beating had affected his brave young friend a lot more than he had realised.
“When did the dreams stop being nightmares about being beaten? What was so bad about them, that you couldn’t tell me?” Jeremy asked.
“In my dreams, the pain wasn’t what mattered anymore… I knew you loved me, and that made me hard. The worse the beating got, the more your love worked on me, and then… Then I had a wet dream.”
“I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop them, so I spoke to John.”
Jeremy broke in. “Well he’s a Marine, he must have seen more floggings than most.”
“Yes, he seemed to understand. He said that having wet-dreams about you standing there, loving me, wasn’t bad. So then I started having dreams in which I really was enjoying it… enjoying the flogging as well, because you were watching… with tears on your face!”
“Enjoying it? You were enjoying being beaten, and you had wet-dreams from being beaten. Oh my lord, no wonder you were worrying.”
“Yes, the only person I could tell was John. He knows everything about me. He knows things about me before I even tell him. He cares so much… his son was my age when they hanged him… for a loaf of bread!”
“Was John there? When they hanged him?” Jeremy was almost afraid to ask.
“No, his son was alone, and John can’t forget that. It’s why he was so nice when he held me. He hopes someone gentle was with his son when they tied his hands and put the rope round… around his neck.” He was sobbing uncontrollably.
At this point the Officer of the Watch appeared at the end of the gallery, looking for his junior officers.
“Are you two alright?”
“Yes Sir. It’s just caught up with David. Can we have a few more minutes, please?”
“Carry on. I’ll make sure you aren’t disturbed.” He moved away, to give them some privacy.
“So, you knew it was disturbing to feel enjoyment… But, how did he cure you last night?”
“He took me somewhere really weird. He arranged for me to flog an elderly bosun”
He said it very quietly and deliberately.
He could say it once, but he didn’t think he could repeat it.
“Good God!… You flogged a bosun? Can an officer flog a bosun?”
“Yes. No. Well I did… and he enjoyed it… He was even weirder than I was… He was old and I was hurting him… and he was enjoying it… like I did in my dreams.”
A feeling of shame took over.
“I went too far… They had to stop me… That was when I could see just how awful it was… That was when I realised it wasn’t how I wanted to be.”
His confession had clearly brought back a memory.
“John held me till I cried myself to sleep… Then we went out and he got me very, very drunk!”
“Getting you very drunk sounds like a perfectly sensible thing to have done.”
Now it was Jeremy’s turn to feel guilty.
“I’m so sorry Davy, I wish I’d known. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own problems… trying to cope with my own enjoyment… I didn’t realise your problems were so much worse.”
He took David in his arms and rocked him gently.
“Who else knows? Does your father?” He asked.
“No, only you and John. I’ve told Father that I think my dreams are gone. I think he believes John took me to some sort of folk-healer in town.”
“Well, let’s cross our fingers on that then.” Jeremy brightened.
“What, that Father believes it was a folk-healer?”
“No, that the bosun was a part-time folk-healer who needed a cure beaten out of him!” Jeremy grinned, David laughed, the sun came out and once again, all was well with their world.
“So… What’s all this about a singer named Rodrigo? You said he was pretty… Have you got a thing for dark-skinned curly-headed singers?” David smoothed his straight blond hair. “Oh, and I can’t sing either… my music tutor always said I had no ear for a tune.”
“Well, he was gorgeous, not just pretty. He was your age, just old enough to be handsome… lovely shoulders, and his stomach was…”
David cut in with…
“Shoulders, stomach... Just exactly how much of him did you get to admire? What about Stephanie? I thought you were with Toby on that score!”
“I still don’t know which I prefer, I just know that I like both. Anyway, I admired all of him… and before you embarrass both of us by asking… yes, he had some hair and yes, he could…!”
“Oh, gracious me, you were smitten! Go on then, tell me what happened. I can’t believe Saucy took you somewhere to be seduced by a street-urchin.”
“No indeed he didn’t, at least not deliberately. I don’t think Saucy planned any of it. He was actually asleep, well dozing, when things started to get out of control.”
“Well, what was he doing before that?” David was intrigued to discover what his innocent young friend had been up to?
“Rodrigo had been singing, and Saucy and Jethro were drinking. I was sitting on the arm of Saucy’s chair when he tipped me onto his lap. I was sprawled like a stranded fish. He hauled me up so I was sitting on him, and lying on his chest. My head was on his shoulder.”
“Then he groped you?”
“No, this was Saucy! No, he just cuddled me while Rodrigo sang. I was a bit drunk and a bit weepy, thinking of cuddles when I was small. I must have dozed off, because when I woke I realised Saucy had gone to sleep. It was nice to be cuddled, and I knew he wouldn’t try anything on, so I snuggled down and enjoyed the singing.”
“So, who got things out of control, if you were snuggled down and Saucy was asleep?”
“Rodrigo. He came and sat on the floor beside us and sang a love song to me.”
“His singing was irresistible?”
“That, and he had his hand on my knee… then my thigh.”
“He copped a feel?”
“No, he was too clever for that, he just stroked very lightly, and eventually I couldn’t take any more and I picked up his hand, and…” Jeremy fell silent.
“And… don’t stop there… what happened next?”
“I placed his hand…” Jeremy blushed… “I groped myself!”
“Oh, nicely done, you are growing up young Pepys!” David was vastly amused.
“Come along you two! You asked for a moment. You’ve had half an hour!”
The Officer of the Watch had messages for the Master and the Captain of Marines. It was time for his young-gentlemen to be doing something more useful than sobbing in a corner. In any case, smiles had returned to them and the green tint and pallor had been replaced by a flush that probably had more to do with their breeches than their stomachs or heads. Their excuse for idleness was at an end.
“Aye-aye Sir!” They chorused and raced to present themselves on the quarterdeck.
“The crows-nest, as soon as we are off-watch. I want to know what happened next!”
It was Jeremy that got the order to take a message to the Captain of Marines.
“Interesting…” Marines said when he had read the note. “The Admiral has prepared an instruction for the fleet. He says that in line with his Majesty’s letter, We are to ensure the safety of our young-gentlemen. When in port they should be accompanied by a Marine or petty officer, if none are available then the responsibility may be delegated to an able-seaman. He says that you and young Montagu should, for preference, be accompanied by my Marine John Jenkins.”
“Oh, that’s excellent Sir!”
“You are happy with Marine Jenkins? I don’t need to tell him to keep his hands to himself?” The Captain of Marines believed in cutting to the chase.
“Gracious, No Sir! Marine Jenkins lost his son in tragic circumstances. He is very protective of the pair of us. Honestly Sir, he is completely reliable.. Cross my heart and hope to die. Sir!”
The Captain of Marines grinned.
“I can hardly asked for a more sworn statement! Very well, let me know when you are going ashore and I’ll make him available.”
“Oh, Thank you Sir. That’s brilliant. David… I mean young-Montagu will be delighted.”
They saluted each other formally… they were on deck after all.
“Will that be all Sir?”
“Carry on Pepys.”
Meanwhile, David’s message, for the Master, was a request that he have someone check the ropes securing the top-yard of the main-mast. The Officer of the Watch said that he had swept it with his bring-em-near and thought that he could detect fraying, although the view through the glass was difficult because the image was upside down.
The Master suspected the message was a make-work exercise for young David, so…
“Well Young-Gentleman Montagu, all of my top-men are reefing the sails? If you can spare the time and would be so kind, could you run up the mainmast and check that the top yard is secure for the Officer of the Watch. He says that his bring-em-near is showing some fraying up there.”
“Aye-aye Master! That would be no trouble at all. I have some cobwebs that need to be blown away.”
“Aye, so I hear! Just remember, one hand for the Navy and one for yourself, and don’t get confused as to which is which this time… it’s a cold day for a swim.”
David wondered if news of his latest escapade always reached everyone on the ship within minutes of it happening. He hoped it had kept the crew happy, it had clearly amused the Master. So, while there was a good mood to trade on…
“Master, if you see young Pepys, could you send him to help me?”
For some reason this caused the Master to smile benignly… and adjust his pants.
“Certainly, I believe his sea-legs need exercise as much as yours do. Try not to get too distracted up there.”
‘Oh, dear.’ David thought. ‘Does everybody know?’
He ran up the ratlines to the top-yard and explored around it, checking that it was secure. He found what had been seen from the quarterdeck. The whipping on one of the lashings had come adrift and the end of the rope was fraying, but it would be a long time before it threatened the integrity of the yard. It looked as if there was enough good rope left for it to be re-whipped in place. No problem. The Master would be pleased.
Having done what he was sent up to do, he decided to go on up to the crows-nest and wait to see if Jeremy followed him.
He still had questions to ask Jeremy, about Rodrigo and Jethro… and in particular, had Saucy really behaved himself?
So on up he went, from the top-yard it was only a short distance until he had to swing outwards… unless he admitted to the day’s infirmity and used the lubber’s hole.
Decision made, his head gave him a moment’s trouble as he avoided the lubber’s-hole. This was no time to take risks on the futtock-shrouds. The ship was heeled well over and as he negotiated the riskier route he was looking straight down at the sea. He breathed an uncharacteristic sigh of relief as he tumbled into the crows nest.
It was about a quarter of an hour before Jeremy’s head appeared in the hole.
“The Master told me you were up here but I couldn’t see you, so I thought I’d check it was worth it before coming up the last bit. My head is still a bit rough and the mast is swinging a bit too much for comfort.”
“Come on up… I want to hear about Rodrigo.”
“I came past Saucy on my way, I hope this survived!” Jeremy delved inside his shirt. A large piece of pie appeared. He broke it in half and offered half to David.
“Best eat, it’ll help settle our stomachs… that’s what Saucy said anyway”
“So…” David launched in. “What did Rodrigo do when you…?”
“He carried on with what I had started for him.” Jeremy admitted.
“It was so nice. Saucy was warm and cuddly, Rodrigo was gentle and Jethro was smiling as if it was his idea… maybe it was.”
“That was all he did, fondle you?”
“Until I was really excited. I’d been trying to discourage him from doing anything… you know… too obvious.”
“But he persisted?”
“Oh yes, he persisted. I couldn’t stop him, and then I didn’t want to… stop him, I mean ”
“He played?” David asked in an excited whisper although there was no-one to hear.
“While Jethro watched?”
“I was too excited to worry about Jethro. It was heaven!” Jeremy said dreamily.
“I think he must have poked Saucy, because he woke up and started kissing my cheek.”
“Jethro started telling Saucy to do dirty things.” Jeremy said, with evident disapproval.
“And… did he?”
“No. He ignored him and just cuddled me and kissed me nicely, while Rodrigo… It really was heavenly. Poor old Saucy was so good, his kisses were gentle, kind of loving, not really sexy at all. Eventually it all got too much and Rodrigo finished me off. I wanted it to last but Jethro wanted him to come back to play with him, so Rodrigo said he was sorry and sped things up… I didn’t really mind. I had Saucy to cuddle me.”
Jeremy’s voice had become quiet, almost a whisper that David had difficulty hearing above the wind… “You’ve got John, and now I seem to have Saucy. They love us, but as… sons or grandsons… I think.”
“Gracious me!” Was all David could think to say.
They sat and pondered on their own thoughts for a few minutes, then Jeremy started again…
“It was a bit embarrassing having Jethro watching and commenting. I didn’t really like that. I think Saucy thought so too. He turned my face away from Jethro and what was going on. But, then he went back to sleep.”
“So, did you turn your face back again?… did you watch them?”
Jeremy looked shy… “Yes, it was interesting… Rodrigo and Jethro. Actually, I think I learnt a lot.”
“Actually? Young-Pepys, you are priceless!”
“ I ” said young-Pepys. “am actually a pearl beyond price… You just needed to poke about in a lot of oysters to find me.”
“Now that I have found you… my pearl… I shall mount you, and wear you on my finger!”
“Promises, promises!” Jeremy said with a smile.
David stood to look over the side of the crow’s-nest.
“There’s an Officer of the Watch standing alone on the quarterdeck who has waited long enough for news of the lashings. We don’t want any more thought of lashings now do we?”
He swung himself out and down by the outside route.
“Madness! He thinks he can fly!” Jeremy said, and followed him down, but via the lubber’s hole. The sight of his caution raised a few smiles amongst the crew. They all knew that the only reason he would use the lubber’s hole was a ferocious hangover.
The Officer of the Watch was indeed waiting…
“Just some frayed whipping on the rope work, Sir. The top-yard is perfectly safe, Sir”
“Why, thank you young-Montagu. I had quite forgotten I had sent you to the Master, that must have been a good two hours ago.” He smiled to take the sting out of the words.
“Yes-sir, quite right Sir. I apologise. It’s been quite a morning… I should have been quicker, Sir.”
“Yes, you should… Now, three times up the main-mast, just to the lubber’s hole, I don’t want to lose you into the crows nest again… you might miss dinner!”
“But, Sir, It’s barely lunch-time.”
”Yes, I know.” The Officer of the Watch said cryptically.
“Pepys, you stay here with me. Young-Montagu’ll have greater reason to return to the quarterdeck, if you stay here with me.”
“Oh dear, Jeremy thought… Does everybody know?”