Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 3: An Officer and Gentleman

November 1798

Three days later, he received an invitation to attend a soiree at Admiralty House. He had a hard time finding a lieutenant’s uniform that could pass muster in time for this event. He knew that he would see Harriet Lambert again, but he was equally sure that there would be no chance for him to speak to her in private. There would be dozens of senior officers present who would have precedent over him in claiming a dance with the commander-in-chief’s daughter.

Indeed, all he saw of her during the evening was a short glimpse when he arrived. She gave him a smile, though, and this consoled him somewhat. He spent most of his time with the only other lieutenant in presence, the flag lieutenant of Sir Richard, who filled him in on all the gossip and rumours.

Shortly before midnight, he stepped out into the garden to cool off when he met a woman with whom he had shared a dance earlier. They took a stroll through the well groomed garden making light conversation. Mrs. Pendrake was the wife of a prominent Kingston merchant and ship chandler. He was absent though, and Mrs. Pendrake was bored. Tony soon realised that Mrs. Pendrake was flirting with him, and he began to see her in a different light. She was not that old, perhaps thirty, and nature had been generous to her, giving her womanly attributes in abundance. She also had an infectious laugh, and when she laughed, her ample bosom was a sight to behold.

Strolling through the barely illuminated gardens, she had taken his arm. The farther they walked from the house, the more she pressed Tony’s arm against her bosom. Standing in the dark, under a large magnolia tree, Tony finally made his move and kissed her. He was not prepared for her passionate response. Their lips glued together, they stumbled towards a stone bench in a dark corner of the garden. There was no subtlety, no pretence of romantic feelings, just a forceful coupling in the dark. When they were done, Mrs. Pendrake got up and rearranged her dress, taking care to put her magnificent breasts back into the confine of her dress whilst Tony cleaned himself as best he could with a handkerchief. They did not join the other guests. Tony escorted her to her carriage and she drove off after inviting him to tea for the next afternoon. He was watching the departing coach with a hollow feeling when an icy voice spoke to him at close quarters.

“Have you been easing poor Lucy Pendrake’s loneliness?”

He spun around only to look into Harriet Lambert’s face. She glared at him, full of contempt.

“I should have known that you would chase any skirt that comes across your path. To think that I harboured an interest in you! I never want to see you again!” she spat, her voice cracking with emotion. Dumbfounded, Tony tried to take her arm but she pulled it back violently and stormed back into the house. Aghast, he watched her running up the path when another bomb hit him.

“Mr. Carter, what did you do to my daughter?”, enquired Lady Lambert who had approached from the house.

“N-nothing, milady,” Tony stuttered. “I have not seen her the whole evening until she appeared here.”

“I see. You were with Mrs. Pendrake?”

Tony blushed and nodded.

“You see, Mr. Carter, Harriet is a young girl and has romantic ideas that have nothing to do with reality. She does not realise that it is impossible for her to have you. Before you could be eligible for an engagement with a young woman of her standing, you would have to reach commander’s rank at the least. That will likely take many years. It is a good thing that she is mad at you now. This will help her come to her senses. Do not take this too hard, Mr. Carter. It is probably the best for both of you. You show great promise, but the world is as it is.”

With a reassuring pat on his arm, she left Tony. He briefly thought about going into the house to find Harriet and apologise to her, but then he realised what Lady Lambert had told him: he was not eligible to pursue her daughter. He was just a lowly lieutenant, and before he reached his own command he was not worthy of any consideration. When this had sunk in, the elation that he had felt over his promotion was wiped out. Wearily, he walked back to the harbour and to his father’s house.

He did, however, visit Mrs. Pendrake for tea the next day, but with the servants present, nothing could develop. Not that he was sorry for it, as he was still in a depressed mood. Nevertheless, Lucy Pendrake proved herself a charming hostess and a much nicer woman than the evening before, and Tony put on his best behaviour. Luckily, he had to report for duty to oversee the repairs that Medusa was undergoing, and the work helped him to regain his balance.

Three weeks later, Medusa put to sea for a patrol again. Tony’s berth in the midshipmen’s quarters was taken by none other than young Andrew Lambert. He was now sixteen years of age and ready to start a Navy career, and he did it as a midshipman. He had letters showing him to have served in his father’s flagship for the last year, but also for over two years in other ships, a receiving ship and the port admiral’s flagship in the pool of London, thus nominally fulfilling the required three years of shipboard service. From Jeremy Masters, the second lieutenant, he learned that this was quite common for young gentlemen coming from Navy families.

Andrew cared little about his sister’s change of mind, and he still idolised Tony. He was put in Tony’s watch, which was fine with both of them. Tony liked the boy, and he also assumed that Admiral Lambert had sanctioned this arrangement. This was proof for him that he was still on the Admiral’s list of protégés, an important consideration since advancement in the service largely depended on connections and nepotism.

As had become their routine, Medusa first inspected the Caiman Islands before heading further to West, rounding Cabo San Antonio, to sail along the northern coast of Cuba. They passed Havana close enough to count the number of ships anchored in the harbour, or rather the number of masts, as the harbour was out of sight behind the city.

Crossing the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti, they continued along the coasts of Haiti and Hispaniola before sailing on to patrol Puerto Rico and its main port, San Juan. No French or Spanish ships were encountered in four weeks of sailing.

Continuing in south-eastern direction, they sailed past the French Guadeloupe first and then along the southern coast of Martinique. There, 40 miles west of Fort-de-France, the sighted their first ship. As they drew nearer, Mr. Pryce, who entered up into the foretop, identified her as a three-masted sloop. She was clearly heading for Fort-de-France, but Medusa was between her and the coast of Martinique.

When Captain Fanning had the White Ensign hoisted, the strange sloop went about immediately, confirming the suspicion that she was French or possibly Spanish. Even that last uncertainty was removed when the smaller ship showed her Tricolour flag, and Captain Fanning ordered to clear the ship for action.

Now the endless drills paid off. To an outsider, the hectic activity that ensued would have looked chaotic, but every Jack on board knew what to do and when, and within minutes, Medusa transformed from a home for 270 men into a fighting unit. The bulkheads were lowered, the guns were readied, the decks strewn with sand to give the crews a better footing, the pantry fire was thrown over the side, and the idlers — cook, stewards and cooper and their mates — readied the orlop deck as surgery.

Tony was responsible for the starboard guns on Medusa’s main deck whilst Jeremy Masters commanded the port side guns and held overall command over the gun deck. Both walked along the lines of twelve-pounder guns and made certain that the gun crews and their gear were complete.

Now the ship’s boys — the powder monkeys — emerged from the magazine with buckets filled with paper gunpowder bags, the cartridges, which they distributed to the gun crews. One after the other, the gun captains raised their arms to indicate readiness. Tony reported that to Masters, who in turn sent Midshipman Lambert to the quarterdeck to inform the captain of their readiness.

In the meantime, Medusa was chasing the French sloop under full sail and gaining slowly. The old 32-gun frigate was not the fastest sailor to begin with, and two years in the Caribbean had added much underwater growth to her hull. Still, she could bring more canvas to bear than the smaller ship in the lively breeze, and that made a difference.

It took them three hours still before they were in range for the bow chasers, and then, for another half hour, the discharges of the two long nine-pounders could be heard, with the lookouts singing out the results, hits and misses. Finally, one of the shots must have hit the sloop in her rigging, for her main top came tumbling down.

Whilst the top men struck the courses and then the topgallant sails, orders came from Captain Fanning to load and run out the guns. The gunports were opened, and the crews proceeded to insert powder cartridges, round shot and wadding into the muzzles and then rammed the charges home. The touch holes were filled with fine gun powder and the linstocks were lighted in the fire basins. Then the crews heaved the pulleys to run out the guns. Medusa was ready to fight.

Meanwhile, the French had apparently cleared the wreckage of their maintop and, realising that there was no escaping, ran out their own guns, likely the eight-pounders that were common in smaller French men-of-war. The French captain was resolved to fight.

From the open gun ports, Tony could see their adversary now, perhaps two cable lengths ahead and half a cable length to starboard. If both ships held their courses, they would fight at perhaps three or four pistol shot distance. On Tony’s order, wedges — the quoins — were inserted under the breeches of the guns to give them more elevation. Whilst British fighting doctrine was in favour of hitting enemy ships in the hull, Tony was aware that hitting the small ship under the water line might sink her, depriving them of prize money.

As they were drawing closer, a runner came from the captain. “Mister Masters, Sir! The Captain’s compliments and will you open fire as soon as your guns bear!”

“My compliments to the Captain, and we expect to have the enemy in our sights soon,” Masters answered stoically. He gave Tony a wink whilst the midshipman retreated. “Never waste the first broadside, Tony!”

Tony nodded to that and bent over to look through a gun port. “Can’t be much longer, Sir.”

Medusa was catching up quickly, now that the French reduced their own canvas in preparation for the engagement. Suddenly, Tony had to swallow hard realising that he might be dead or crippled a few minutes hence. He willed away the apprehension, reminding himself that he had stood that test already, just a few weeks ago.

Now their foremost gun ports were abreast of the French quarterdeck. Tony looked at Masters, who nodded. “Let them have it, Tony!”

“Gun captains! Take aim! Full broadside at my command! Wait! Show me those linstocks!”

The gun captains waved the linstocks making the ends glow. Medusa was wallowing just a little bit in the trough between two swells, and Tony waited until she was about to righten up. Then he took a deep breath.

“On my command! Fire!”

In a span of perhaps two seconds, the 13 guns of Medusa’s starboard broadside spat fire and thunder. Above them, the forecastle and quarterdeck guns fired almost simultaneously, and the ship laid over to fire lee. The smoke was too dense to see the enemy, but that did not matter.

“Swab out those breeches! Fresh charges! Ram home...”

Right into his commands crashed the French broadside. They had aimed high, probably hoping to cripple the bigger frigate to make their escape, and a few lines and stays were parted. Only one shot hit the hull, smashing the starboard companionway. Two men were injured by flying splinters, but that was all.

“Run out! Take aim! On my command — Fire!” Tony roared over the din.

This time, a fluke of the wind cleared the smoke quickly, and he could see that most of their shots had been hits. The small guns and carronades on forecastle and quarterdeck followed, and more damage was done to the hull of the French sloop.

The French sailors were undaunted though and retaliated with their smaller guns just as the starboard battery was reloading. Most of the damage was in the rigging, but one ball came flying though an open gunport and hit a port side 12-pounder carriage, disabling the gun and hitting three of her crew. Midshipman Wilder, Masters’s sidekick, caught a splinter in his arm and was carried down as well, whilst Medusa answered with another broadside.

The distance was shortening now and then orders came from the quarterdeck.

“The Captain’s compliments, Mister Masters! Will you please prepare the port side gun crews for boarding, Sir!”

Masters took a breath and nodded. “Can I borrow young Mister Lambert, Tony?”

Tony nodded back. “Just bring him back! You know who his father is,” he said under his breath.

Jeremy Masters grinned. “I’ll look out for him.” Louder, he ordered, “Mister Lambert, you’ll join the boarding party! Keep close to me, d’ye hear!”

“Aye-aye, Sir,” young Andrew Lambert rapped manfully, finding himself a cutlass in the weapons chest and checking the load of his pistol.

“We’re getting close, Tony. Let the lads put canister on top of the round shot for the next broadside!” Masters told Tony, who nodded and turned to his gun crews.

“Cease firing, cease firing! Gun captains! Load canister on top. Aim for the main deck!”

With all the din of the battle, Tony hoped that they could all hear him, but he could already see that the Nº2 men, the loaders, grabbed canister bags. Good men!

Now they were only half a pistol shot away from the French sloop.

“Starb’d guns, ready! Fire!”

The broadside roared out, different in sound due to the extra load, and the canister storm hit the already damaged breastwork of the French ship just before the ships touched.

“Up, you men! Let’s win some prize money!” Masters yelled, and almost seventy men swarmed up the side to enter the sloop, young Lambert with them. The French gun fire ceased immediately, and Tony turned to his men.

“You want them to brag how they took that sloop? Let’s show them how it’s done properly. Medusa hurrah!”

With that, the starboard crews also joined the boarding party, but Tony had barely reached the deck of the French sloop when her colours came down and her surviving crew struck their weapons. He looked around for young Andrew and saw him standing at Masters’s side who was accepting the French captain’s sword as sign of the surrender. All was well.

Everybody was elated when Medusa put into Kingston Harbour with a prize in her wake. With the prospect of prize money, Medusa’s officers went out to celebrate and, inevitably, ended up in the Blue Posts Inn. The midshipmen looked like children in a confectioner’s shop when they saw the pretty girls of the Blue Posts. Young Andrew Lambert was quickly led upstairs by a beautiful quadroon girl and, from all accounts, lost his virginity under her capable care.

Meanwhile, Tony asked for the girl Rose. He had partaken of her services whenever Medusa came to port over the last year, but he had not seen her when he had been ashore the last time. His promotion, the ball at Admiralty House and his fallout with Harriet Lambert had distracted him too much. To his astonishment, he heard that she had left the Blue Posts. One of the girls scornfully told him that stupid Rose had become pregnant and was now living in a home for unwed mothers.

Whilst his comrades were busy in the private rooms, Anthony left the Blue Posts and walked the short distance to that home. When he knocked on the front door, a stern looking woman opened and asked him his business. Whilst she was not openly unfriendly, Tony had the distinct feeling that she was not too happy to see him.

“I have heard that an acquaintance of mine has taken lodgings here. Her name is Rose Mulcahy. I was hoping to speak to her and to see whether I may assist her in her situation.”

“Acquaintance, right” the woman snorted, but she let him enter and bade him wait in the entrance hall. Tony had to wait for almost ten minutes before an obviously resisting Rose was shoved into the entrance hall.

“What do you want of me?” she asked bluntly.

“I’ve heard of your situation, Rose. Naturally, I came to offer you my help,” Tony replied.

“How can you help me? And why would you? I’m nothing but a whore you paid, and I can’t claim that the child is yours.”

“Don’t talk like that. I was too busy to visit you the last time we came to port, but now I’m here. Listen, you don’t want to stay here, do you?”

“They give me food. They will provide a midwife. They will find good parents for my child.”

“Is this what you want? Rose, do you want to give away your first born?”

“What else can I do? I cannot take care of a child whilst working as a whore.”

“Then you must find other work. Listen, you know my house here in Kingston. I have nobody to look after it whilst I’m at sea. Would you like to be my housekeeper? I can pay you a little and you will have a place to stay with your child. It does not take much work since I’ll be at sea most of the time. What say you?”

Rose knew the house since on a few occasions, he had taken her home for the night rather than using the upstairs rooms of the Blue Posts.

Rose looked at him quizzically. “Would I have to take care of you when you are at home?”

“Only if you want. I’ll not make it a condition.”

“And you would not mind the child?”

“No, I wouldn’t mind.” Tony answered.

A smile crept into Rose’s face. “I’d like to be out of here and have a home. When should I start?”

Tony smiled. “How about right now? Why don’t you pack your belongings and I’ll square things with your Mother Superior?”

Rose nodded and left the hall. Seconds later, the woman who had opened reappeared. It was obvious that she had listened in on them.

“So you’ll be taking the Mulcahy girl with you?” she asked.

“Indeed I shall. Is there a problem?”

“Well you see, Sir, the child has already been promised to a family. And they have made a substantial contribution to this house. We’d have to return that contribution.”

“You mean you have sold the unborn child, don’t you? Miss Mulcahy has been here, what, two months? I’ll give you twenty shilling;” he produced a pound note, “that should cover your expenses.”

“But Sir,...”

“Nothing of it! Do not try my patience, woman, or I shall alert the authorities to have a close look at your charity!”

The woman shrunk back, clearly alarmed. “Certainly Sir, please, I didn’t mean to say nothing, Sir. Have a good evening.” With that she vanished in a hurry.

Rose came back with a small bag carrying her scant belongings. Anthony smiled at her and, after taking her bag, offered her his arm. They left the house and walked towards his own home. Suddenly, Rose broke her silence.

“Do I look fat already?”

“Well, it’s obvious that you are with child, but I would not call you fat, Rose. To be honest, you are still very pretty. How far are you along anyway?”

“The midwife said it will be another four months yet.”

“Well, it’s good that you’re not disposed to fatness, Rose. You’ll soon be your old pretty self. And here we are.”

They had arrived at the small two story house Tony’s father had purchased 20 years ago. Inside, Tony showed her to a room on the ground floor, next to the kitchen.

“This will be your room. Whilst I’m at sea, you may use the living room at your leisure. But no changes, please.”

“Of course not,” the girl replied.

“Another thing, Rose. You are not to receive any visitors in my house, you understand?”

Rose blushed. “I promise, I shan’t. You can trust me. If I can help it, I’ll never work as a whore again in my life. I have not yet thanked you properly. I’ll be eternally grateful to you. Your generosity will allow me to keep my child.”

“Well, and I get a housekeeper out of it, so we are both lucky. Let us get some sleep now. We can sleep late tomorrow. Good night!”

“Good night,...” Rose hesitated, “how should I address you now?”

“Call me Tony when nobody is around. When I have visitors, it’ll have to be Mister Carter, of course.”

“Good night then, Tony!”

Tony waved and went up to his bedroom on the second floor.

When he awoke in the next morning and heard noise from the kitchen, he was confused for a moment. Then he remembered that he had a housekeeper now. He put a gown over his shirt and stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen. Rose was busy taking inventory of her new domain. When she heard him, she turned and looked at him accusingly.

“This place is a mess. You should’ve had somebody to look after it!”

“You’re probably right, Rose,” Tony sighed, “but take it easy. No admiral will visit in the near future. Just get the kitchen and the living room in order and make your own room comfortable. There’s a another small chamber next to your room. You can convert it into a sleeping chamber for your child.”

“That would be nice, Tony. And my room will be very nice, too, once I cleaned everything. Your bed linens are terrible, though.”

“Mr. Walters sells beddings just three doors down the street. Buy a half dozen. I have an account at his shop. And the Widow Herbert across the street sells victuals. The market, you know where to find. I shall arrange for a weekly allowance to be paid to you at Moore’s bank house during my absence.”

“It’s all right, Tony. I don’t complain. This is the best I’ve ever lived, and I shall take good care of your house. I promise. Now, what do you want for breakfast?”

“There’s a few eggs in the pantry, and some bacon. The goat milk is from yesterday, and there is oatmeal. Why not have ham and eggs and porridge?”

Rose smiled. “I’ll see to it whilst you go shave and dress.”

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