Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 6: Love Lost and Found

May 1803

Tony reported to the Admiralty and, after waiting for four hours, was admitted to the office of the secretary, Mr. Nepean. For a nerve wrecking ten minutes, that gentleman read and reread the report. In the end, he looked at Tony over the top of the document.

“Obviously, somebody here at the Admiralty made a poor decision. Leaving behind parts of a convoy is usually not our policy.” He waved aside Tony’s attempt to explain. “As I said, you acted under direct orders and no blame attaches to you. It is to your credit that you smoked out that pirate’s lair. And a prize captured, too. Well done! Your prize can run dispatches. I shall recommend that the Navy Board will purchase her.

“In the meantime, Medusa will join the advance detachment of the Channel Fleet. At the moment, we only have the Hornet sloop under Captain Bugler to watch Brest, with the Clorinda frigate on her way, too. You will join both ships on that station, patrol the approached to Brest and report the preparations the French are making. I shall give you a week in harbour for repairs and victualling. There’s no telling when you will be back in port. Your orders will be written and signed by tomorrow. I am afraid that I have to bid you farewell, Captain. As you can appreciate, my time is scarce in these days. Continue your good service.”

“Aye aye, Sir. Thank you.” was Tony’s only possible reply to this rather cavalier dismissal. He took comfort in the knowledge that he would retain Medusa’s command

He next targeted his steps to Cavendish Square. A uniformed footman opened the door and informed him that the family was not residing in London at the moment. Then he stepped back. When he returned, he produced a sealed letter.

“This letter was left in my care, Sir, and my instructions are to hand it to you. I am most sorry that I cannot be of more help to you. Good day!”

With that, the door was closed and Tony stood in the street with the letter in his hands, none the wiser. Quickly, he opened the envelope. To his surprise, it was not written by Harriet, but by Lady Lambert.

My dear Captain Carter,

it is with deep regret that I have to inform you that my daughter agreed to marry the Honourable Rupert Palmer, eldest son and heir of Lord Brougham. The wedding took place on the 9th of August after a very brief engagement. My daughter has been ill for some time and I would ask you, for our old friendship’s sake, not to try and interview her. Harriet made it quite clear that she cannot talk to you, for reasons which I am not free to discuss. I ask you not to exacerbate an already highly embarrassing situation. Please be assured that my husband and I shall remain your friends.

With the best wishes for your future,

Eleanor Lambert

Completely aghast and trying to comprehend, Tony reread the letter twice before the impact settled in on him. His mood, already darkened by the haughty treatment he had received at the Admiralty, shifted into a cold fury. Harriet had betrayed him! Not only that, but she had humiliated him. Thoughts of seeking her out, challenging her husband to a duel, killing him, entered his enraged mind. He walked to the harbour in a brisk step, thinking of what to do and how, his mind a veritable maelstrom of dark thoughts.

Nevertheless, it was that walk that restored his sanity. Whilst stomping along his way, realisation set in. There was nothing he could do. Harriet’s marriage was a fait accompli. Nobody knew about their promises. If he, however, started a scene, the laugh would only be on him.

To keep his dignity he must show no hurt. He must not give Harriet the satisfaction of making a fool of himself. He would act unperturbed. It would be difficult, since thinking of her cut into his chest with a physical pain.

Another thought hit him. Andrew Lambert would know about this. He briefly contemplated a revenge by accusing his second lieutenant of dereliction of duty for the affair with Lucy Gutteridge. But he knew that he could not do this. He would not exact a revenge by ruining an innocent and loyal officer.

When he reached the harbour, he was thoroughly soaked in sweat with the exertion and the emotional uproar. His gig was waiting and he transferred to Medusa. After changing his soaked shirt, he called his officers to his cabin and informed them of their new orders. He was curt to the point of being abrasive. He delegated the tasks necessary for the refitting of the ship after a very long voyage. They needed to renew almost their entire supplies and they needed to do this fast. The week granted to them was barely enough. In the middle of the discussion, Lieutenant Carson spoke up.

“Sir, whilst you were ashore, I received orders to report to the Admiralty. They’ll make me Commander, Sir, and I have to take command of my new ship as soon as possible.”

Tony forced a smile on his face.

“Well, my sincere felicitations, Mr. Carson! Yet, I cannot allow you to leave this ship before we had a chance to toast you. Grimm! Three bottles of the Madeira and glasses, quickly!”

The wine appeared, and the officers toasted the newest commander and cheered him. Tony shook his hand and thanked him for his good and loyal service. Then Mr. Carson touched his hat.

“Permission to leave ship, Sir?”

“Permission granted. Good luck, Commander!”

When Carson had exited the cabin, Tony looked at Andrew Lambert significantly.

“Congratulations to the new Nº1! It’s always better to be promoted through an advancement, rather than a death. You’ll have a week in port to acquaint yourself with your new duties. I’ll rely on you to keep Medusa in good shape.”

Andrew Lambert swallowed hard.

“May I have a word with you in private, Sir?”

Tony nodded, and the other officers filed out of the after cabin.

“Sir, I have received a letter from my mother about, well, about my sister and what she did. I am truly mortified, Sir, and I would understand, if you wished for me to leave Medusa.”

“Andrew, let us not pretend that this matter did not hurt me,” Tony began in a strained voice, “but I need a loyal and competent Nº 1. You are as innocent of this unpleasant affair as any man in this ship. I trust you and I need you. So, unless you want to leave us for a different reason...?”

“No Sir. Your trust makes me proud, and I shall not disappoint you.”

“I am sure you won’t. Carry on, Mr. Lambert!”

“Aye aye, Sir!”

Perhaps it was a good thing that Tony and his crew had to work hard to ready Medusa for sea. After a few days, the feeling of loss had all but left his conscious thinking. Yet, the bitterness was only lurking under the surface, waiting to break through.

Perhaps it was fate, perhaps simple coincidence. Tony had visited the Admiralty to check for any last minute changes to his orders, and he was walking through Whitehall. Turning a corner he came face to face with Harriet Palmer. A portly young man was at her side. His red face and watery eyes bespoke an intimate acquaintance with good food and drink. He saw that his wife and the strange navy officer stared at each other.

“Do you know this gentleman, Harriet? Why don’t you introduce us?”

“I am Captain Anthony Carter, at your service,” Tony replied with a flat voice.

“I am The Honourable Rupert Palmer. It is nice to make your acquaintance, Captain. Do you know my wife?”

Harriet was still speechless, and her face was beyond pale. It was Tony who answered. He spoke in a barely audible voice for fear of letting his emotions show.

“Yes indeed, Mr. Palmer. I had the the privilege to be of assistance to Sir Richard’s family, back in ‘96 when he was Commander-in-Chief of the Kingston Station in Jamaica.”

Harriet found her voice again.

“Yes, he saved our lives when our ship foundered in a hurricane.”

Rupert Palmer looked at his wife with a fleeting expression of disgust on his face. This was not lost to Tony’s eyes. Add to that Harriet’s pale face and the pain in her eyes, and Tony realised that hers was not a marriage of love. Inwardly, he shrugged. Obviously, she had married her husband for his prospects.

“Is that so, Captain?” Palmer asked without much interest. “Then I have to thank you, too. Why don’t you visit us for tea? I am sure, my wife will love to talk about the old times, eh?”

The tone conveyed that Mr. Palmer was none too enthusiastic.

“I am most sorry, Mr. Palmer, but I am about to weigh anchor. I only just now received my final orders at the Admiralty. Perhaps in the future?”

“Pity. Maybe next time you’re in London, Captain. Been a pleasure. Have a safe journey and prize monies galore, eh!”

“Thank you, Mr. Palmer, Mrs. Palmer. Good day.”

The Palmers resumed their walk, but were stopped in their tracks when Tony hailed after them.

“Mrs. Palmer, have you lost this?”

Harriet Palmer turned, visibly shaken.

“What would that be?” she asked with a faltering voice.

“Oh, this medallion. It bears you image if I’m not mistaken.”

He held the medallion that Harriet had once given him as a token of her love.

“You may keep it,” she managed to say.

“Oh I couldn’t. That would not be in good taste. And now, if you will excuse me, fare well.”

The panic in Harriet’s face somehow pleased him and he turned to leave. Now, he was held back by Rupert Palmer.

“What is this business with this medallion, Captain? Is there anything I should know? I have never seen this medallion before and perhaps you can explain this.”

“I’m afraid that I cannot answer this. Have a good day!”

That would take some explaining for Harriet Palmer he thought grimly whilst he strode towards the harbour. She had it coming, he tried to convince himself. Still, the look of pain and hurt in her eyes followed him over the next days.

When Medusa left the Pool of London that afternoon, nobody on board knew that it would be a very brief detachment. They reached their station off Brest after five days and found the frigate Clorinda and the Hornet ship-sloop of 16 guns already patrolling the Goulet, the entrance to the port of Brest, the main French navy base on the Atlantic. They learned that hostilities had commenced already. Hornet had had a skirmish with a big French frigate, the Loire, but had been able to escape. Captain Hosier of the Clorinda was the senior officer at the station and he ordered that the three ships should take turns patrolling the narrow estuary.

Three days later, on a foggy morning, Medusa was running slowly up the Goulet against a strong ebb tide when the lookout spotted mast heads over the fog, approaching from Brest. It was good that Medusa was ready for action with her guns loaded and run out, as always when she patrolled the narrow waterway. Tony suspected that the French captain planned to surprise the small Hornet sloop which had patrolled the Goulet the day before, unaware that he would face a fifth-rate frigate with a seasoned crew instead.

There were only seconds to prepare for the encounter. Medusa tacked and then, as the French ship closed in, turned. Both ships were a pistol shot apart from each other, on parallel courses, when their broadsides exploded in fire and smoke.

The encounter had come about so suddenly that nobody felt any fear. On one hand, Tony was confident that his experienced crew would prevail. On the other hand, he felt a strange fatalism. So what if he fell today? Nobody cared about him anyway. With a conscious effort he forced those glum thoughts away. Walking the quarterdeck, he directed the crew of the carronades, but he was also their position in the midst of the navigational hazards in those narrow waters. The broadsides became ragged, since the better gun crews fired and loaded faster. The constant din made it hard for the officers on both sides to keep a cool head, and here, the seasoned British crews had an edge there over the less experienced adversaries.

Through the thick curtain of powder smoke, Tony could see the main mast of the enemy tumble and collapse. This was their opportunity! With the wreckage hanging over the gun ports, the French guns were momentarily out of the action.

Tony gave orders to shorten sail and close in on the enemy. A final broadside was fired with grapeshot, and when the ships bumped against each other, Medusa’s crew swarmed over the side to board the bigger French frigate.

Leading the charge, Tony immediately found himself in the thick of fighting. Finally, the fencing lessons and frequent practice paid off for him as he parried cutlasses and pikes, slashing and thrusting with his fine blade. Step by step, the attackers forced the decimated French crew back towards the quarter deck.

Now the French captain came forward to challenge Tony. He was a good swordsman, and they circled each other for minutes, attacking and counter attacking. At last, Tony saw his chance when the French captain lunged again. He side-stepped the thrust, and with his riposte fatally pierced the neck of his adversary.

Already, a wave of Royal Marines had boarded the French ship and joined in the fighting, and it was this final onslaught that broke the defences. The French, or what was left of them, surrendered and were herded into the ship’s hold to be guarded by the Marines. Meanwhile, the seamen in the boarding party made haste to get the prize under sail again.

They also found out which ship they had captured. It was the Loire, of 44 guns, a large, new Frigate shipping 24-pounder guns on her main deck. Tony could barely control his excitement and elation. This was a decisive victory against a superior adversary, for Medusa was shipping mere 12-pounders.

When the prize was under sail, they made for the open sea, and Tony was able to assess the damages. Medusa had suffered several shot holes under the waterline, and whilst they could be plugged provisionally, she needed a dry dock for permanent repairs. Therefore, after a brief exchange with Captain Hosier, Medusa sailed for Portsmouth, with her prize following her under Andrew Lambert’s command.

The wind was favourable, and they reached Portsmouth after just two days. It was a proud moment for Tony when the two frigates entered the harbour, with the Loire flying the Red Ensign over the Tricolour flag. The church bells were tolling, and the crews of the navy ships, which were still fitting out, cheered them.

The Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet, Admiral of the Blue Sir William Cornwallis was also still in port, and Tony was summoned to the flagship, HMS Ville de Paris, 110, one of the largest ships in the Royal Navy. As Tony’s gig drew nearer, he was awed by the sheer size of the first-rate. Climbing up the Jacob’s ladder from his gig was daunting, too; her sides were three times as high as Medusa’s. Still, upon entering through the port, he was received with the full honours due to a junior post-captain. A grizzled captain sporting side whiskers offered his hand.

“I’m Captain Sir Reginald Molineux. Welcome aboard, Captain Carter!”

“Thank you, Sir Reginald,” Tony answered.

“Let me show you the way,” Molineux offered, leading Tony aft on the upper gun deck where the admiral’s quarters were located. Two sentries stood to attention as Molineux opened the door for Tony, and they stepped into the largest cabin he had ever seen. Ville de Paris had a beam of 53 feet, and even here, on the upper gun deck, the cabin was still almost 40 feet wide, with sleeping chambers to both sides.

The man who sat at a table covered in sea charts was impressive, too. Billy Blue — the lower deck had named him for his large blue eyes — was a well built man in his late fifties. He had fought in three wars and was now preparing for a fourth. Tony also knew him to have lived in Kingston for some time during the Revolutionary War.

“Welcome, my dear Carter! You certainly wasted no time at all! Let me hear your report!”

Tony had his facts worked out since he had finished his report on the evening before. He briefly described his orders to advance through the Goulet to catch coasters trying to leave Brest and the surprise sighting of the Loire. The battle he described only briefly. The officers in the cabin had enough experience to fill in the gaps, and the full report was in his hands anyway. He concluded with an account of the losses and damages to both ships.

“Neatly done, Captain! I see that you have your report ready? Splendid! Why don’t you hand it over to Flags and we can have a glass of wine? Wonderful! Tierney! Glasses and a bottle of the ‘95 Madeira!”

Tony sat down on the edge of a chair feeling quite intimidated. The combined seafaring experience of the three senior officers in the cabin had to be a dozen times his own.

“At ease, Captain. We’re all on the same side, right Molineux?”

The flag captain chuckled. “Poor Captain Carter was awed from the moment he set foot on the upper deck. What was the largest ship in which you ever set foot, Captain?”

“The Victory, Sir. Sir Richard Lambert and Lord Desson also received me at Admiralty House in Kingston, and I believe it’s smaller than this cabin, Sir.” Tony answered with an attempt at levity.

There were chuckles all around. The chief of staff, Rear Admiral Sir John Helmont made a negligent gesture. “Believe me, Captain, each of us would much rather command a frigate again. Well, perhaps not your frigate, but that Frenchman you captured looks tempting. Forty-four guns?”

“Yes, Sir John. She’s shipping 24-pounders on her main deck, but only 8-pounders on the fo’c’sle and quarterdeck. Our carronades made the difference, Sir.”

“Captain, it’s the men behind the guns who make the difference! Never forget that!” Cornwallis corrected him. “I read that Medusa is due for an overhaul?”

“I believe we logged 36,000 miles since I joined Medusa in ‘97, Sir William. We also rounded the Horn returning from New South Wales, and she’s starting to leak.”

“We’ll better have both ships docked and inspected,” Helmont suggested.

Cornwallis nodded to this, but he had another question.

“How did young Mr. Lambert handle himself, pray?”

“Exemplarily, Sir William. He was a very good Nº2 during our circumnavigation, and I had no qualms accepting him as my Nº1.”

“D’ye think he could sail the Medusa?”

Tony took a deep breath considering the question and he nodded when he exhaled.

“He’s very conscientious, Sir William. He’d need an experienced Nº1 though. The wardroom is exceedingly junior.”

“I see, Captain. Let’s get your report into the Gazette, and then we’ll take it from there. The Ministry will love it. It’s the first victory after the hostilities resumed and one against a superior foe. In the meantime, prepare to take your ship into a dry dock.”

“Aye-aye, Sir William,” Tony replied as was proper. The admiral then shifted the topic of the conversation to Kingston where a young Captain Cornwallis seemingly had a grand time during the Revolutionary War and an extended romance with a “witch” or an Obeah, a healer named Cubah Cornwallis. Tony knew the woman who was a respected healer who had even treated his father for rheumatism once. He was much more at ease when he finally asked his leave and returned to his ship.

Three days later, after the wounded and the prisoners had been landed, both ships were docked for the necessary repairs. The local Navy Board commissioner also came to assess the Loire. She was a large frigate and almost new, and he determined her fair value at £25,900. One quarter of this was the captain’s share under the new regulations, almost £6,500.

Tony was a well-to-do man now, with his total fortune adding up to almost £13,000. He had the means to buy an estate in England, and his thoughts began to move in this direction when, a week later, he was ordered to London and to the Admiralty.

Andrew Lambert also received orders to report to the Admiralty, and the port admiral, Sir Charles “Dreadnought” Foster, provided them with passes for the post chaise to London.

Tony already had an idea of what awaited him, and he wore his Nº1 uniform when he reported at the Admiralty in the next morning. He was led before the First Lord with little delay, and the Earl of Saint Vincent was cordial and effusive in his praise.

“My dear Captain, you have already exceeded the high opinion that I formed of you at that tea at Eleanor Lambert’s. The Gazette with your report came out yesterday, and it does you a lot of credit!”

“Thank you, milord!” Tony answered quickly.

“His Royal Highness has been holding himself ready, Captain, so I’ll be brief. You will shift to that prize of yours and fit her out. We don’t have enough big frigates, so she’ll fill an urgent need. More of that later. Now, shall we go and see the Duke?”

“Yes, milord,” Tony almost squeaked. What was happening?

Admiral The Duke of Clarence, King George’s third son, held no official office but he was a member of the Royal House and an ardent supporter of the Royal Navy in which he had served honourably in his younger years. He was all friendliness when the Earl introduced Tony and shook his hand for almost a minute.

“My dear Captain, His Majesty is exceedingly satisfied with your service and commanded me to bestow on you the Royal Navy Gold Medal, for you to wear as a sign of the great esteem in which His Majesty holds you.” With that, the Duke slipped a silk band with a large gold medal over Tony’s head. “My sincerest felicitations, Captain!”

“Thank you, Your Highness!” Tony answered with an effort. He felt overwhelmed.

“No, my dear Captain, we thank you for your brave and loyal service!”

Tony caught the Earl’s eyes and realised that his time allotment with the Duke was over, and after a few more mutual expressions of gratitude, the Earl led him back to his own offices. Once there, he was offered a glass of Sherry, and then the Earl gave Tony the first pointers.

“You will assume the command of that Frenchman you captured, Captain. She’ll be renamed the Clyde. We’ll rate her at 44 guns, too, and she’s given priority for the necessary refit and repairs. We estimate her to be ready in four week’s time.

“You will then sail her for San Domingo. Boney’s brother-in-law has left a mess there. His expedition force no longer exists and the Blacks own the island again. I want you to contact the Black leaders and find out to what they are up. Offer them a non-aggression treaty. If they don’t bother us, neither will we bother them. Have them know, however, that we shan’t allow piracy or any funny business in Jamaica. You will hear more at the Foreign Office this afternoon.”

Tony perked his ears at that. This would be an important mission, no doubt.

“You can transfer your crew to your new ship. The reports from the dockyard say that Medusa has to undergo a more lengthy repair. She’s been in continuous service for over seven years, and she urgently needs a full revision, not just some repairs. We do not have the time to wait that long. Besides, that Frenchman is the better ship and will be your reward. We shall send you some replacements for the officers and crews you lost.”

“Milord, I did not lose officers,” Tony interjected.

“Yes, but you will,” the Earl smiled. “Young Lambert will be posted as Captain in the Medusa. On the surface, it’s a compliment to you, but we also have to make our old friend, Sir Richard Lambert, happy, eh?”

Tony sighed.

“I am sure, Andrew Lambert will be a good captain for the Medusa, Sir. Yet, I need at least one experienced officer, milord. I lost two Nº1s in the last month.”

“We have the right man for you, Lieutenant Mr. Fortescue, commissioned in ‘98.”

“Sounds rich, milord,” Tony remarked.

“Indeed. A sprig of the nobility. Has experience, though. His last appointment was flag lieutenant under Sir James Saumarez. They did not get along, and Sir James wanted to get shot of him. First lieutenant in a frigate will be a splendid new start for the young man, and that will please his uncle, Lord Parry.”

“Who is one of the Civil Lords, milord.”

“Precisely, Carter. Isn’t it amazing how flawlessly the cogs of nepotism interact.”

St. Vincent’s cynicism was blatant.

Tony’s head was whirling already, but when Saint Vincent dismissed him, he was whisked away by a succession of admirals and secretaries who gave him instructions, written and oral. Then, he was sent to the Foreign Office where a real Undersecretary of State took time out of his schedule to give Tony information about the political situation on San Domingue and the aims His Majesty’s Government were pursuing. His Lordship was delighted to hear that Tony spoke a little French and Spanish and was knowledgeable of the overall situation in the Caribbean.

It was early evening when a tired and famished Tony Carter left Whitehall. Some clerk at the Admiralty had secured a room for him at the Royal George inn where the post chaise to Portsmouth would pick him up in the next morning. After changing his shirt and uniform coat, he returned to the guest room and ordered a dinner worthy of the occasion. He was delighted when Andrew Lambert entered the guest room.

“They told me that you are lodging here, and I wanted to offer my felicitations, Sir.”

“Well, my felicitations to you, Captain Lambert! Have a seat! We have a lot to celebrate.”

“Yes, indeed, thank you, Sir.”

It was a nice evening. Over wine and cheese they discussed and compared the qualities of Medusa and Clyde, née Loire. When the professional topics were exhausted, talk turned to personal matters.

“Harriet was terribly distressed over meeting you. At first I thought she had it all coming the way she treated you, but something is wrong, and I am worried about her. I have never seen her so subdued and listless.”

“I suppose it was stupid and petty of me to embarrass her,” Tony admitted. “I shouldn’t have done it. Well, there’s no use crying over spilt milk, is there. She’s married to that ... Rupert Palmer now, and I shall get over it. How’s the girl, Lucy?”

“Everything was cleared up,” Andrew beamed. “I asked my parent to offer her a place to live, but my sister surprised me by inviting her to stay with her. Father wrote to the judge in Winchester and her sentence was recanted. She is attending a finishing school to complete her education. I suppose, now that I am a Captain, we can become engaged.”

“You really fancy the girl, then?”

“Yes. You know her, Sir. She is a good girl, and very brave. Smart, too.”

“You know, I wish you all the luck. Should I be in England when you’ll marry her, I shall gladly attend the wedding. That is, if your family approves.”

“They will, of course, Sir. They are very proud of you. Mother would have liked you for her son in law. She is not enthusiastic about Rupert Palmer. He is supposed to be a gambler, and rumour has it that he squanders his allowance on cards and loose women. I think Harriet made a big mistake, if it was her decision at all.”

“Well, spilt milk again. Enough of her. Shall we order another bottle?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but I need to get on my way. I promised Lucy a late visit tonight.”

“Right. I had better turn in. It has been quite a demanding day. I shall finish this glass, but don’t let me keep you. Thank you for dropping by. I wish you all the best in your new command, but I expect to see you in Portsmouth!”

“Thank you, Sir. I am very grateful for all the things I learned from you. Good bye!”

When Andrew Lambert had left, Tony looked at his fob watch. It was nearly 8 o’clock. It was not yet time to turn in. Idly, he let his gaze sweep over the guest room.

Across from his own table, an elderly gentleman was sitting with a beautiful young woman. She was wearing expensive jewellery and an excellently tailored dress that drew attention to her trim figure. Although she was by no means flat chested, she had a body that did not need a corset. Her chestnut-coloured hair contrasted nicely with her creamy skin and bright blue eyes. A generously proportioned nose and full, red lips completed an attractive image.

The elderly gentleman was obviously trying to charm the young woman somewhat clumsily. Tony supposed her to be an actress on a night out with her benefactor. Whilst he watched the couple surreptitiously, the awkward tete a tete was suddenly interrupted when a stately lady entered the common room and confronted the pair.

“Well, what a surprise, Mortimer. And in charming company too? Why don’t you introduce me to the woman?” she asked belligerently, making woman sound like a swearword.

The young woman blushed pink with embarrassment, and the older man was literally squirming in his chair. When neither of them found words, Tony decided to interfere.

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