A Royal Achievement
“So, who is the wealthy relative that’s going to worry about you?” The slave dealer asked.
David still thought that naming the Admiral of the fleet that he’d been captured from might be unwise….
“My father, Baron St. Neots!” He said. The barony had been granted to his father by Charles Stuart in recognition of his role in restoring Charles to the throne. He was confident that the name would attract the same attention in London as would Lord Montagu.
“I’ll get a message to Malta then. Knowing a ransom is on the way will increase your price on the block and will keep you undamaged… just be nice.”
“Nice!” David thought. “I worried about the surgeon’s attention, and now some bastard’s going to buy my arse to play with… Well, bugger me!”
He was at least keeping his sense of humour. There was something about his situation that perversely appealed to his sense of the ridiculous. What’s more, he had the experience of the Gunner’s Daughter behind him. Nothing that the Pasha could do to him could be worse than that.
He’d already decided that the thing was simply to survive until he could escape.
Timothy had escaped, so why shouldn’t he?
There was also his father. He had a large fleet at his command. So long as he made the correct guess as to where David was, there was good chance of rescue. It was vital that the pirates didn’t realise that he was about to bring the fleet down around their ears… Being that much trouble to own would ruin his market value, and get him moved out of reach.
Fortunately there was no-one from the crew being sold in this sale. No-one to witness the indignity of it all, or tell them who he was. The crew were all older and uglier and fitter… ideal for field-hands. This sale he realised was for pretty young women, even prettier girls… and a few younger boys… like him.
‘Damn!’ He thought. ‘Being pretty may keep me alive and where Marines can find me… but I’m not sure I’m ready to be a plaything! They had better be quick, or I may need to reduce my value by hitting someone!’
That was when the auctioneer reached him… He chattered to the crowd in a patois that David didn’t recognise. Then David remembered Jeremy saying that the Pirate Republic of Salé had its own language.
‘Jeremy’ He thought. ‘I hope they listen to him, he knows more about pirates and this coast than anyone!’
The bidding was brisk, and then fell away as one bidder after another either reached his limit or realised that the man in rich clothing had no limit in mind.
As expected the wealthy man… or his representative won the bidding.
“You are a lucky boy… luxury and soft-cushions for you. That was the Pasha’s agent bidding for you. The Pasha’s men will be here in the morning to collect you from the Bagnio. Don’t worry, the Lazarenes will be told you have gone to be a guest of the Pasha in the Kasbah at Rabat. It will speed up your father… If he still wants you after he hears how you are earning your keep.”
That final quip did not sit well with David. That the Pasha should enjoy him was one thing. He knew he could survive that, it was no worse than he had enjoyed with Ezra when they ran ashore and met the sailors. Who knows, the Pasha might even be good at it. But, that his father should find out… be left in no doubt as to what had happened to him… that did not sit well, and he went into a very black mood indeed.
The slave dealer recognised that he had gone too far, and that he now had a young man on his hands who would stop at nothing to escape… David disappeared into an inner cell of the Bagnio. The door clanged behind him and the lock sounded depressingly strong as it clunked closed., then another bang and clunk as the outer door was secured. David was deeply and securely… in trouble.
David would have been cheered if he could have seen the activity on the flagship.
Men were preparing for darkness and the return to the estuary. The Marines were ready and armed, the blacksmith had sent for his tools from the Augustaine. He had volunteered, insisted that he would accompany the rescue party, to take out any locks or shackles. Surgeon was busily arranging pallets and bandages in the orlop. He had few illusions as to how well the night was going to go.
Timothy was insistent. Come hell or high-water, he was going to accompany the Marines. David had rescued him and now it was his turn to rescue his hero. Besides…
“I’m the only one who knows where the Bagnio is… and if the attack is tonight and David hasn’t been moved then that’s where he will be. It’s where they hold the unsold new slaves and the ones whose new owners don’t trust them yet or don’t have somewhere secure.”
“Really?” Lord Montagu said, realising that the child did indeed have insider knowledge of the slave market here. “I though a bagnio was a bath house in Turkey!”
“Yes, that’s what it was originally… their bagnios are solidly built with very small high windows, easy to guard, so it could double as a prison. Now they build special prisons for slaves that are just the same as a bath-house… the name stuck. But, that’s where he’ll be till his new master can get him locked up at home. After that we’ll, I mean you’ll, have to search the whole town, both towns. Please, we really must go tonight, and I must go with them. We shall only get one easy go at this. After tonight it will be much more difficult to locate him!”
“We really must? We? Young man you aren’t going anywhere!” Lord Montagu admired his enthusiasm but not his sense. “This is no time for adventure, my boy!”
“Adventure Sir? adventure! It’s not an adventure! He saved my life! And I’m the only one who knows exactly where the Bagnio is! I’m the only one in this ship who has ever set foot on that quayside. I’m the only one who knows what it means to be a slave in Salé!”
It was quite a speech and then he spoiled it by bursting into tears, although it must be said, they were more tears of frustration than anything else.
Jeremy, partly to distract the men from his friend’s tears, and partly sensing the mood of the room, cut in with…
“And I need to be there with them because my head has everything we know about pirates. I have read every one of Uncle Samuel’s books about the pirates of this coast. I even know a few of the words of their pirate-patois. Did you know that the pirates of Salé have their own language? You need me there too, by damn you do… Sir!”
Lord Montagu rested his face in his hands while he thought. These orphans might only be children, but they were right, they quite possibly held the key to a successful rescue of his son.
Could he risk the success of the rescue simply because of the age of these boys? He was a ruthless and pragmatic politician, a brave sailor… and a father!
The father won… not the father that would place another man’s child beyond harm, but the father who wanted his own son returned to safety… at any cost.
“Very well! Marines… Assign five of your best men to personally guard these two boys. Place Marine John Jenkins in charge of them. I trust him to see these two are safe. He’s to make best use of them to find David.”
Then the other father won…”And he’s to ensure that they return safely, all three of them. Oh, and make sure we get the rest of our men and the ketch’s crew as well. Leave no-one behind!”
The boys were preparing. Timothy was satisfied with a man’s dagger as his weapon for the attack. He could see that anything heavier was going to be more trouble than it was worth. He was confident that for protection he had the Marine party. The dagger was about as much as he could handle, or need. He told John proudly…
“I may not be able to fight a pirate with this, but I can make my life expensive! I don’t intend to be captured… my father gave his life to save me from that.”
He had pulled himself up to his full height… which was not very much.
Despite the seriousness of the occasion, John was having difficulty keeping a straight face.
Jeremy at a few years older, was a great deal heavier and fitter after nearly two years of climbing the rigging, so he was more fiercely equipped. He was taking the dress sword that he had brought with him from the Pepys home in Buckden, in Huntingdonshire. Technically, it was a court-sword. He refused to call it a small-sword, even if that was the other name that everyone else used.
A small-sword sounded far too much like a small sword. Small it was not!
From his point of view, this version of the rapier was anything but small. It was light but it was as long as he felt it practical to handle. For him it was a great deal more practical than the heavy naval cutlasses that the Marines were armed with. He didn’t have either the strength in his arms, or the years of practise that would make a cutlass useful. The problem was that to fight at all successfully with a rapier, Jeremy would need to be in the front row of the fight, with a good space to work in.
Jeremy loved his sword. He had felt quite the dandy with it at his side when the Royal James was greeting honoured guests. It had a beautifully worked hilt with a useful guard to protect his hand.
A gentleman’s education had demanded years of practise with it. His fencing master had been the late King’s choice for his own sons, until it was too late. After that the Royal fencing-master was reduced to teaching young aristocrats to duel.
None of this warlike posturing worried John. He had no intention of allowing the boys to get into a position where either rapier or dagger would be needed.
For Jeremy, the years of practise and training were going to come in useful. He was armed.. and he felt dangerous. The Marines with him certainly agreed that he was dangerous… but they kept that thought to themselves.
He remembered what he had said when Lord Montagu had asked him what he should do if faced with a Barbary pirate bent on killing him…
He had answered “Why Sir! I should die!”
He had accepted that he would have little chance of winning such an exchange, but his honour, and that of his father, demanded that he should not hide or run away… It wasn’t that he would die… that was simply inevitable. The thing was that, according to the values he had been taught by his father, if the choice was between hiding and dying then he should die, because… there was no honourable alternative.
He was of course grateful to Lord Montagu for thinking to provide such a strong escort party of Marines. He could see that the pirate-knowledge in his head required protection. It also, he thought, made it really very unlikely that he would meet a pirate in circumstances in which he would need to die.
But… if he did find himself needing to fight then his chosen weapon, the court-sword was light, and he was quick on his feet.
Like Timothy, he was determined that a pirate would find that his was an expensive life to take.
The way he felt was helping to sweep him into the attack that night with not a lot of fear. There was just enough to sharpen his reactions. The rest was in the hands of fate, and if all went wrong, well… his mother and father were waiting for him.
For himself, no, he was not afraid. His respect for his father’s memory and love for his friends didn’t leave room for personal fear.
He did fear for the safety of Timothy, and for the need to make a success of the attack to rescue David. To die held less fear than the fate of his friends in pirate hands.
He had no intention of being taken alive… if it came to that. If he was to fall, then he was determined that he would take a pirate down with him.
There were worse outcomes than an honourable death.
Anyway, surrounded by five Marines dying should not be necessary. He firmly believed that they would look after him. It sustained him as they prepared to leave.
He had his sword and, uniquely among the rescue party, he also carried a satchel.
He had received an urgent summons to the orlop just before they left. The surgeon was waiting with a satchel for him.
“You’ve watched me bandage and stitch enough… now it’s your turn. There’s enough bandages and sutures in there to patch up the worst of wounds, and some rope and leather to tourniquet anything you can’t bandage… Now what’s important about a tourniquet?”
“Release it regularly to avoid killing the limb.”
“Well, done, good luck… and bring David back to us.”
There were tears in Surgeon’s eye. Jeremy stepped forward, took the satchel, and then to the immense surprise of both of them, he hugged the surgeon, and as he did so… he kissed him.
At that, Surgeon burst into tears, said “Bring yourselves back safely!” and hurried off.
John was doing the right thing… He was treating the boys as men. He was not trying to jolly them along. He was giving orders to them in just the same way as he was to the escort party. The boys for their part were answering “Aye-aye, Sir”, accepting that John was, for this night, their commanding officer.
Lord Montagu had said “Now boys, you are to listen to Marine Jenkins and do exactly as he says. He has my personal commission to keep you safe. He speaks for me. You two know more about the target than anyone else. Stay safe, David needs you safe… Do as you are told. I want you boys to be heroic tonight, but no unnecessary heroics… You hear me?”
“Aye-aye Sir!” The boys replied, utterly serious.
That was the last time that night that anyone referred to them as boys.
They landed upstream, on the fish-quay as Jeremy had suggested, based on the description in Samuel’s book. It was quiet and dark as they slid ashore. As soon as they were landed the barges rowed quietly out into the darkness to wait. Jeremy led the Marines along the quay, from the area that smelled strongly of fish, to a better maintained area that smelled of meat and spices. Timothy expressed satisfaction… “I recognise this. It’s roughly where we ran into the sea. The Bagnio will be about two streets inland from here.”
The search continued. Timothy was confident that he knew where to go, and the moon had risen to aid them… and to make them more careful.
The pirate came out of nowhere. One minute they were moving silently through the dark alley, then they turned a corner and there he was. Jeremy saw him first and turned his blade to face him. The pirate charged, a huge edged-sword swinging. He hadn’t really taken the boy with his pretty little sword seriously. He was making a serious mistake. His cutlass required a bent elbow and that shortened its range. Jeremy’s court-sword… a rapier… was a thrusting weapon, and even in a boy’s size of blade and wielded by a boy, it had a reach that could get to the pirate before the pirate got to him.
It took the pirate in the bicep, a look of surprise crossed the man’s dark face as his own sword fell from his nerveless fingers. Jeremy stepped back and then in the very best duelling move with a straight left leg and bent knee at his right, thrust again… straight through the pirate’s heart. He just had time to swiftly withdraw his blade as his huge opponent crashed to the ground.
“Well done lad!” Came John’s gruff voice behind him. “But, stay behind me… I’m supposed to do the killing in this party!”
“Yes-sir, sorry Sir!” Jeremy croaked. The sight of the pirate’s eyes as they rolled up in the agony of violent death had taken him by surprise.
“That’s your first, young-Sir. You’ve a lifetime ahead of you. He won’t be your last!”
“Aye-aye Sir!” He had done it once… Would he be able to do it again? Now that he had seen a man die?
The night ahead would answer that.
Jeremy now stayed where he had been told to be… behind John Jenkins. He was not hiding, he was obeying orders. Besides, his mind was on the death he had just witnessed. He had the insight to realise that he needed John if they were to save his friend. He couldn’t do this on his own, he needed men. He needed John.
The Marines in the boys’ escort were now making their way down a narrow alley-way that Timothy said he recognised. Timothy was excited, they were only a few houses away from their target. He kept getting ahead of Marine John, only to be dragged back each time. John could hardly shout to him, and to be honest he admired the young chap’s enthusiasm… and courage. As they reached the end of the alley, Timothy ran ahead again, keen to see whether he was correct… and the Bagnio was in the next street. Jeremy realised what Tim was doing and hurried to drag him back behind John.
John chased after them, worried that the younger boy might do something foolish.
Timothy did exactly that.
He popped his blond head out of the alley… into the moonlight. He might as well have been carrying a lantern. That was the moment when a group of drunken pirates appeared out of a warehouse almost exactly opposite. A shout went up when they saw the small blond head.
Timothy withdrew instantly, but too late. Jeremy, who had been following him, grabbed him and thrust him behind him. When he turned back he found himself facing another pirate. Fortunately this one was drunk.
True to his word, that he would have Jeremy’s back, Timothy was behind Jeremy and had his dagger in his hand. In reality he was now between Jeremy and the help that John was attempting to bring to the party.
The pirate had gold ear-rings, Jeremy noticed that about him as the man attacked, his cutlass raised as he charged. Jeremy lunged and the man dodged. This time he made it past Jeremy’s sword-point. Jeremy leapt back, agility his friend. Unfortunately, Timothy his other friend, was in the way and was bowled over backward down the alley. Timothy was unhurt, but John fell over him and landed on hands and knees.
Jeremy faced the pirate on his own.
Distracted by the impact, he looked to see if Timothy was safe and turned back to find the pirate with his cutlass raised again. There was nothing Jeremy could do about it.
The thought raced through his head as the moment passed slowly, the heavy sword descending towards him… ‘Make father proud… I shall die… I’ll not run. Timmy can run.’
He shortened his grip on his sword. He couldn’t stop the pirate slicing him, but he should be able to make a final thrust, and he had a good chance that thrust would serve a purpose.
He waited for the pain to cue his thrust. The random thought ran through his head that it was just like school in Huntingdon, waiting for the birch to land. It was going to hurt but he was ready for that. His duty was clear…
All this ran swiftly through his head, while everything about him was in slow time…
Then… There was a huge bang in his right ear, that completely deafened him.
The pirate’s face disappeared in a red mist, and his huge body collapsed onto Jeremy, knocking him to the ground.
The next pirate behind him leapt into the gap.
Time continued to go slowly for Jeremy as he picked himself up. A strong hand grasped his collar and threw him back down the alley, landing on top of a winded Timothy. Everyone seemed to be landing on poor Timothy.
John jumped past them, shouldering his musket as he went, slipping on blood and attempting to draw his cutlass all at the same time. He managed to deflect the next pirate’s cutlass with the stock of the musket, but it continued its downward path and buried itself in his thigh.
As John fell and the pain began, he heard a scream… “No, you bastard, not John!”
An outraged Jeremy jumped into the fray, standing astride the fallen marine’s head. The pirate’s blow was spent and he hadn’t had time to swing the blade back, it had bounced off the wall at his first attempt.
Jeremy lunged, a move of a ferocity and speed that his fencing master would have been astonished and proud at.
The point entered the pirate high in his stomach, below the heart but near enough to do a lot of damage. Jeremy withdrew his rapier. The man dropped his sword and grasped his stomach. Then riposte! The court-sword entered above the pirate’s hands… exactly on target.
A voice from between his feet said… “Well done lad. That’s two!”
The pile of dead was now significantly blocking the alley, and Jeremy had the advantage of a long reach with his thrusting weapon. Standing on the bodies was causing the pirates to wobble about. It left them with problems when they tried to swing a cutlass, and they kept having to start again. Jeremy managed another thrust through a pirate’s family jewels, he followed up with a clean strike through his heart.
Jeremy smiled to himself. Perhaps he was good at this killing, after all.
At that moment there was a commotion behind him, but this time he refused to be distracted. Another pirate, another thrust. His strength was ebbing, and he couldn’t risk turning… “Run Timmy… get back… run!”
“Don’t worry lad, your mate’s safe!” Rough hands grabbed him, turned him and more or less threw him over the heads of a large party of Marines. The rest of the shore party had at last found them in the dark. The musket shot had drawn them in the right direction.
“Withdraw, orderly now!” The Marine who was taking charge shouted.
“Belay that!” Jeremy shouted. “Secure Marine Jenkins… then you can withdraw!”
“Jenkins? Where’s Jenkins?” The Marine growled.
“Under your bloody feet man… You’re standing on him!”
The marine looked down and then shouted… “Muskets, rapid fire!”
The noise in the small alley was appalling as the wall of pirates in front of them fell away. Marines with cutlasses leaped forward onto the piled bodies, giving their companions time and space to reload.
John was now surrounded by comrades who lifted him gently and performed the orderly retreat that had been called for.
The pirates meanwhile were largely dead and the ones who survived were in no mood to face another round of musket fire.
Jeremy retrieved a winded but still game Timothy from the overwhelmingly protective custody of a huge Marine.
“Right Timmy, where is the Bagnio?”
“There it is… we’re standing by it!”
At that moment another party of Marines arrived, followed by a third. There were now nearly fifty of them in the square in front of the prison.
“Right, who has the sledge-hammer?” Jeremy shouted.
“Here!” Said the blacksmith, wielding the tools of his trade.
“Good man! Take that lock off for me!”
The blacksmith, with his vast hammer in his hands took a massive swing and the padlock and staple on the door disappeared in a cloud of sparks. The door swung open.
Inside there were more doors, lighter this time.
When the first fell, Jeremy was disappointed not to see David.
A crowd of women crept out, unbelieving that the bloody and smoke-stained men could really be rescuers and not simply thieves out to take them to an unknown and even less savoury fate.
When they realised the truth there was such a disorganised hubbub that Jeremy nearly missed the opening of the second door. David… or the son of the Baron St Neots as he was still calling himself, came out into the night, unbelieving his luck. He had believed that his father would come after him, but not so quickly and accurately, and with such force… He was still in shock.
His next shock was to see his friends, covered in blood and looking fiercer than the Marines.
“What are you doing here?” A silly question.
“Rescuing you, you idiot!” Jeremy hugged him. Then…
“Quickly, everyone back to the boats, we’re done here!” It was Jeremy again.
A huge Marine asked… “Are you sure young-Sir?”
“Yes, this is the Bagnio, their holding prison. If Christians aren’t here then they’re already gone… They could be anywhere along the coast” He said “Now we need to get all these people and our wounded back to the ship before the other pirates get here”
“Aye-aye Sir!” The Marine said with a grin “You’d know Sir!”
At that moment, out of the darkness came the Captain of Marines with another twenty men.
“Right men, who’s in charge?” He asked quietly.
“You are Sir!” Came a cheery voice.
“Don’t be smart Marine Potts!”
Morale was good their officer thought.
A Marine spoke up… “We’ve got Young-Montagu Sir. The lads found the holding prison Sir. We’ve released the slaves… I mean Christian-prisoners, and they’re under escort to the barges with our wounded and one dead Sir!”
“David is safe? Thank the Lord for that! The Young-Gentlemen? His Lordship will have my commission off me if anything has happened to them!”
“Bless you Sir. You’d not have believed it. Marine Jenkins was down, wounded, Sir. Young-Gentleman Pepys here was standing astride him and fighting off pirates twice his size with that gentleman’s sword of his. Killed three, maybe more of them too before we came to help. Our muskets took out the rest of them. Just as well we got there. Pepys was about done in, but young Timothy was standing behind him ready to take over… Holding his dagger… he was going down fighting if it came to it… What a bloody sight those two made. They saved Jenkins Sir, no mistake, they damn well did Sir!” He paused for breath.
“Young Timmy here identified the jail and Mister Pepys organised the blacksmith to break in the doors and release the prisoners. I’ve never seen the like! We weren’t really needed!” He exaggerated with a broad grin
Marines turned to the boys.
“Well Young-Gentleman Pepys, now that I’ve arrived, a little late for the excitement, may I resume command?”
“Yes please Sir!… You have command, but please don’t ask me to stand to… just yet!”
“That’s exactly what you must do. Right men, make sure you have all the wounded, Marines and captives. Get Marine Jenkins in the fastest boat, take him direct to the Royal James surgeon. Kingsman, Pepys and Montagu go with your friend. Make sure he is given priority. Don’t let the civilians get in his way.”
“Permission to see to Jenkins first, Sir?” Jeremy was on his feet. “I’ve a medical kit from the surgeon. His wound needs dressings and the tourniquet needs seeing to.”
“Granted. Well done Pepys. Look after him.”
Turning to the skirmish line he asked… “Have we any captive pirates to question on board?”
“No Sir… Young Pepys took no captives… killed them all… well we killed some too. No captives Sir!”
The Captain of Marines pointed to a group of his men… “You, with me, I want to check the pirate dead, in case there is anyone alive enough to be questioned…Yes, I know they’re all dead, but let’s check anyway.”
Then to the rest of his men.
“Right, fall back to the quay-side and the barges, an orderly retreat now, no rushing, watch out for pirates at our rear. Watch for us too. Don’t shoot us when we return!”
Grim humour was all the humour to be had that night.
“Aye aye Sir!” His men chorused as they formed a protective screen between the last of the civilians and the pirate town.
The Marine Captain quickly checked the rooms of the Bagnio, and was shown where Jeremy and Timothy had made their stand in the alley. He shook his head in amazement at the heaped dead. Two of the pirates were lying so that he could see the wounds that had killed them. He turned a third over and saw the same thing… just a small round puncture wound from a rapier type sword, clearly not his men’s cutlasses.
Cutlasses would have sliced to the bone, and death if it came would be from bleeding. These wounds had not bled. Death had been instant. The puncture wounds had penetrated vital organs, as if delivered by a good fencing master.
They were an aristocrat’s handiwork.
He shook his head again in amazement. Before, he had been grateful that the boys had survived. Now, he could see that if anything the boys had been more lethal than his own men.
The skirmish line steadily moved backwards to the quayside, protecting the men and women from the Bagnio, who were now being loaded onto the barges. Three barges of the rescued pushed off and started to make their way towards the line of first-raters that were bombarding Rabat, Lord Montagu’s diversion to distract both towns and cover the noise of the goings on at the Bagnio.
The pirates of Salé had not yet noticed that their own numbers were depleted, they were too busy deciding whether or not they should set sail, and if so, should they run for the open sea to escape the Navy or cross the estuary to help their fellows in Rabat?
In fact they did neither… both options seemed a good way to get sunk or captured.
David had been on the first barge away. He wanted to stay, but the most important thing was for him to get John to the surgeon. Jeremy was with him, constantly checking on John’s tourniquet and changing the blood-drenched dressings.
The need to save his Marine drove David on!
“Harder men, harder… Jenkins needs the surgeon… Pull damn you, Pull!”
It would all have been slightly more impressive if he hadn’t had tears running down his face as he knelt beside the man that he thought of as his second father. The men at the oars understood exactly what he wanted and why and were fairly racing along.
Jeremy went to stand in the bows as they approached the Royal James, waving his arms and shouting. A Marine passed him a lantern to wave.
“Ahoy James, Ahoy! Surgeon at the ready! Surgeon! Lower a litter, a litter.”
He stopped shouting when he saw activity, a davit swung out and something started downwards.
“Thank God, they were ready for injured!” Jeremy said, looking over his shoulder at where John was lying..
David said. “When we get there, get him on the litter as fast as can be, every minute counts if we are to save his leg!”
A Marine patted him on the shoulder… “Don’t worry lad, he’ll be alright.”
David reacted most out of character… “Don’t lad me, just do as I damn well ordered! Get him ready for transfer. Bring the boat in… our starboard to their port, three men to Jenkin’s port side ready to lift him. Hands-on… Now!”
Men moved quickly, being shouted at by such a young officer didn’t sit that well, but they all knew his regard for John, and they felt the same. He was doing the shouting for all of them, and… he had them working as a well organised team.
As they pulled alongside, the litter was just above the waves and eager hands grabbed for it.
“I’ll run up and tell Surgeon what’s about. You stay with John.” Jeremy said to his friend. “You stay with the rescued.” He said to Timothy as he disappeared up a rope ladder that had been dropped to them.
The surgeon was waiting at the rail as Jeremy’s head appeared.
“What’s up young-Pepys? Who’s injured?”
“David’s John Jenkins! A cutlass to his thigh, just above the knee. It missed the artery, but he’s lost a lot of blood. We got it stopped about twenty minutes ago but it flowed a while maybe ten minutes before we had quiet enough to get a belt round his thigh. I’ve been releasing it, as ordered.”
“Well done, understood. How is David?”
“Uninjured but distraught, don’t take offence if he’s shouting!”
By this stage, the litter was approaching the rail, and David was keeping pace with it on the rope ladder. If he could have climbed the ladder and held John’s hand at the same time he would have, as it was he leapt onto the deck and started shouting.
“Four men to me! To me! Ready to take the litter!”
The surgeon glanced at Jeremy and risked a small smile… Of course his damaged face turned that into a much more appropriate grimace. Jeremy grimaced back, it would be hours yet before he was in a mood to smile.
Meanwhile Lord Montagu had appeared at the rail and went to hug his son.
“Stand away… Please Sir… stand clear, Wounded to care for!”
David was risking insubordination to ensure that his friend got the best of care.
“Jeremy! Who is it?” Lord Montagu asked as David and litter disappeared down the companionway towards the orlop.
“John, Sir. Marine John Jenkins. He got between us and the buccaneers. Got a cutlass stroke, just above the knee.”
Montagu’s face winced. “Oh no. Not Jenkins. Who saved him when he fell?”
It was the Captain of Marines who answered.
“Jeremy Pepys, Sir. He stood astride John’s body and fenced with the pirates until the Marines took over.”
“He fenced with them… with his small-sword?”
“His small-sword Sir… It killed three pirates and held off the rest till muskets fired past him. I think that’s why he’s shouting. He’ll be deaf for days.”
“But, he’s just a boy and his small-sword is for decoration… at court!”
“Well… I don’t think the pirates knew that. They had never seen someone fence with a rapier. When he lunged his reach was much greater than their cutlass. The cutlass was too heavy to parry the rapier fast enough. He skewered them, and their bodies made it difficult for them to reach my men. But… he was getting terribly tired… I’m told he was gasping as he lunged at the end. It was a good thing the rest of my men got to them when they did… Timothy’s little dagger wasn’t going to do much good if…”
Whatever if was Lord Montagu wasn’t going to ask. His son was back on board in one piece with nearly a hundred freed Christians, and that was an absolute miracle. His Chaplain was going to be busy later. He was going to have a big celebration, prayers and rum, but… not until David was able to be there, and that wouldn’t be before John had been seen to. He decided to visit the orlop.
There was a gaggle of Marines gathered at the orlop. They all wanted to know how things were going for their comrade.
Not too well it would appear. The surgeon was debating with Toby, thinking aloud between them whether the leg could be saved. “There’s a clean break in the femur where the cutlass hit the bone, the muscle attachment is severed and some blood vessels are sliced through. The only good thing is he’s unconscious.” Surgeon said.
“Well, how much of all that can we fix before he comes round?” Toby asked, quietly and calmly. Surgeon nodded approval.
“A lot more than we can if we wait until he’s conscious. We had better get started. The finest needles and fine gut, Toby. Keep them coming with short lengths of gut. Repairing the blood vessels will take a lot of single stitches. Can you trust a loblolly to help you?”
“Yes Surgeon, Andrew has nimble fingers for loading needles.” Timothy heard and rushed off to get them help.
Needles were loaded with gut and passed to the surgeon. He took the ends of the blood vessels and started to sew them end to end. It was fine work, and eventually he turned to Toby…
“My eyes are blurring up… can you take over?”
“Are you sure Sir?” Toby looked scared. “I’ve never done anything this delicate.”
“No, but you’ve watched! Get to it lad, times wasting!”
So the second-best surgeon in the fleet placed the last dozen or so stitches, and then they release the tourniquet. The lower leg that had been a ghastly waxen white suddenly became pink and the surgeon felt the ankle….
“I’ve a pulse! Circulations back in his foot… I think you’ve saved the leg! Well done Toby… very well done I say!”
He said this and glanced up.
The Admiral was standing in the doorway, quietly watching.