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Dewey Lambdin - The King`s Commission

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  • Название:
    The King`s Commission
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1782 First officer on brig o'war . . . Fresh from duty on the frigate Desperate in her fight with the French Capricieuse off St. Kitts, Midshipman Alan Lewrie passes his examination board for Lieutenancy and finds himself commissioned first officer of the brig o'war Shrike. There's time for some dalliance with the fair sex, and then Lieutenant Lewrie must be off to patrol the North American coast and attempt to bring the Muskogees and Seminoles onto the British side against the American rebels (dalliance with an Indian maiden is just part of the mission). Then it's back to the Caribbean, to sail beside Captain Horatio Nelson in the Battle for Turks Island. . . .Naval officer and rogue, Alan Lewrie is a man of his times and a hero for all times. His equals are Hornblower, Aubrey, and Maturin--sailors beloved by readers all over the world.

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The King`s Commission - читать книгу онлайн бесплатно, автор Dewey Lambdin

"Thought I'd shift yer dunnage, sir," Cony said, entering the cabins with loose bedding and linen under his aims. Alan could hear a couple of seamen struggling with his heavy sea chest.

"Oh, there 'e be, sir. That damn cat," Cony snapped.

"Hmm?" Alan replied, coming out of his inventory of expenses. "Oh, him."

"Over the side with 'im, sir?" Cony asked.

William Pitt was stretched out on his side on the bare, straw-filled mattress of the hanging bed-box, tail curling lazily and supremely at ease, washing himself, as if he had won the space for himself with his claws. The kitten Belinda was huddled as far away as she could get on the sill of the transom windows, bottled up and sitting ready to pounce in flight. Between hisses, she licked her lips and chops nervously, for fear of what the bigger male cat would do.

"You mangy young bastard," Alan said, walking up to the bed. "Think you earned the right to stay aft just 'cause you did for that Lieutenant Sharpe, hey? Think I'm grateful to you or something?"

Pitt did not bristle up as he usually did when Alan got anywhere near him, but rolled to his stomach with his front paws stretched out, looking up with his yellow eyes. Alan put out a tentative hand, half expecting to get his fingers ripped off, but was surprised that William Pitt allowed him to actually touch the top of his wide, battle-scarred head and gently rub him between the ears.

"Well, I'm damned, sir," Cony whispered.

It didn't last long, of course; after a few too many rubs, Pitt had claws out and ready to swat, shaking his head vigorously.

Alan realized that it was probably not going to be one of those affectionate relationships between man and animal, such as the young cat Belinda offered; more like adopting a wild beast with whom one could maintain a wary but grudging regard.

"Well, maybe I should be grateful," Alan relented. "Sweetling."

William Pitt made his disgust plain by laying back his ears and assuming a most pained expression.

"Chuck 'im out an' over the side, sir?" Cony asked.

"No, let him be for now, Cony. There's room to spare."

CRASH! went the Marine's musket on the deck. "Sailin' master, SAH!" he bellowed.

"Enter."

"We're about two cables off Bedford now, sir, ready to fetch-to to receive her boat," Caldwell reported.

"Very good, Mister Caldwell, I shall be on deck directly."

He followed Caldwell out onto the quarterdeck-his quarterdeck, where the warrants and others allowed the use of the deck headed down to leeward to leave him the captain's prerogative of the windward side.

I suppose I can pull this off, Alan told himself. I had a good set of teachers-Railsford and Lilycrop. Even Kenyon, God rot the sodomite. If it's peace soon, how bad can it be? And then I can go home with honor. Who knows, they might even be daft enough to give me another commission, or another command? If I'm careful, this could be all cruising and claret!

But a second after boastful musing, he felt a tiny shiver of presentiment. Things had gone too well lately, and from hard experience he knew that every time he felt the slightest bit smug and satisfied, something always went disastrously wrong in his life. The ancient gods had always taken umbrage with satisfied mortals, had they not?

Afterword

"Turne, quod optanti divum promittere nemo,

auderet, volvenda dies en attulit ultro."

"Turnus, what none of the gods would have

dared promise to your prayers, see what rolling

time has brought unasked."

Aeneid IX 6-7

– Virgil


On April 6, 1783, Admiral Hood, whilst cruising off Cape Francois, received intelligence that a preliminary peace had been signed at Versailles in January. M. de Bellecombe, French governor of the Cape, sent a ship to his squadron, inviting Admiral Hood and His Royal Highness Prince William Henry, then serving as a midshipman aboard Barfleur, to enter the port and receive the honors due them.

Hood declined, though he did despatch the Bloodhound sloop into harbor to take the salute of the French. Schomberg's Naval Chronology does not tell us what thrilling deed, or, given-the feeling against the French at the time, what egregious screw-up Bloodhound had committed to give her this dubious honor.

British agents were quite active among the Creek, or Muskogean, Indians, and their relatives the Seminoles, as well as with the Cherokee, trying to inflame all the Southeastern tribes to side with the Crown in the Rebellion to take pressure off Charleston, their last remaining port south of New York. What the members of the expedition feared would happen to the Indians did indeed occur; they became more "civilized" after the Revolution until they dressed, lived and acted much like white settlers, with wagons, farms, carriages, plantations and mansions for some, and even black slaves of their own. And they were still dispossessed, kicked off the land by armed bands, and resettled in the Oklahoma Territory by the Andrew Jackson administration in one of the great, un-mentioned shames of American history.

There was a real Muskogean/Scots student who left his studies in Charleston and went back to aid his people in 1779, one Alexander McGillivray, on whom I based my character. Unfortunately, he backed the Spanish under Governor Galvez and kept his people out of the Revolution, though he hoped for much the same settlements and agreements as my fictional McGilliveray did. The problem was that no matter which horse they backed, the Indians would lose their bet, for no one was prepared to live in harmony with them.

Captain Horatio Nelson's encounter at Turk's Island took place pretty much as described. Nelson was repulsed and forced to sail away with his tail between his legs. This event has rarely, if ever, been mentioned by any of his biographers. Contemporary accounts such as Schomberg's Naval Chronology and Beatson's Naval And Military Memoirs give the impression that Captain King of Resistance was senior officer present and never mention Nelson at all! And Nelson must not have been very proud of it, for even his Sketches of My Life, published before he died at Trafalgar in 1805, failed to make note of it. Why Captain King deputed himself to a lower-ranking upstart has never been explained. Perhaps Nelson cowed him by dint of over-powering personality and the urge for action.

Nelson was indeed lucky he kept his commission. He rushed in rashly, throwing 167 sailors and Marines with no field artillery against 530-550 troops and talented naval gunners, with artillery, and antiship batteries heavier than anything his frigates mounted-the 18th Century equivalent of a reinforced battalion.

It was recorded by Midshipman Prince William Henry that Adml. Sir Samuel Hood tore a rather large strip of hide off Nelson's backside in private for not reporting to the fleet first, for assuming a position of "acting commodore" which he had no right to, and, finally, for failing to retake the island. Perhaps mollified by the fact that Nelson hadn't suffered any major casualties, and had known when to fold his tents and quit, Hood didn't break his career, as he had other officers' who hacked him off. The famous Nelson luck was acting overtime.

The Jemmy (James) Trevenen mentioned just before the conference aboard Albemarle was first officer of Resistance. He wrote his sister Betsy later that the whole affair was a "… ridiculous expedition, undertaken by a young man merely from the hope of seeing his name in the papers, ill-depicted at the first, carried on without a plan afterward, attempted to be carried into execution rashly… and hastily abandoned for the… reason that it ought not to have been undertaken at all."

Trevenen was another of Captain Cook's officers from the Voyages of Discovery. Like King, he was a real tarry-handed tarpaulin man of no mean skill as a seaman and navigator, but was forced to work his way up through the Royal Navy slowly, while people like Nelson (and Alan Lewrie) seem to lead charmed lives of "interest" and quick advancement. He was a bit miffed that Resistance had captured two French warships off Turk's Island (which started the whole thing) and no one, least of all himself, benefited from their capture in promotion or command. And since the war ended weeks later, their value in prize-money wasn't a tenth of what it would have been earlier, so one can understand his frustrations.

Captain, later Admiral Lord Nelson, never had a scintilla of luck on land. He came close in Nicaragua, but the expedition failed due to sickness among the troops and a lack of drive on the part of the Army. Nelson lost an eye and an arm on land, or so close to it as to make no difference. And he was always a little touchy when it came to criticism. According to Clenell Wilkinson's biography, Nelson was vain, open to flattery, and liable to over-react when his actions were questioned. No wonder he never mentioned the Turk's Island defeat in his putative autobiography.

So, there we are, then. Through no fault of his own, and by a series of fortunate flukes, our young hero is now master and commander into a small brig of war, but the war is over. What shall his future be? Shall he take heed of past warnings and behave himself for a change? Shall he stay up to windward of nubile young ladies with well-armed daddies; eschew the charms of "willing widows"; stay sober and industrious and make the most of his career opportunities in the Navy?

Perhaps Shrike will pay off and he will finally get a chance to go home and live the sort of life he's been looking forward to. Or will Soft Rabbit and a young master Lewrie pop up? And just where do William Pitt and Belinda figure into this?

I'm afraid you'll simply have to wait to find out, as do I when dealing with an impetuous fellow. Wherever Alan Lewrie shows up, though, we all know that nothing will ever be the same.





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