Sails Across the Sea: A Tim Phillips Novel (War at Sea Book 8)

BOOK: Sails Across the Sea: A Tim Phillips Novel (War at Sea Book 8)
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub















Richard Testrake
















Copyright©2014 Richard Testrake

All rights reserved















This book dedicated to my wife Peggy, my daughter Lisa and my son Charles.

















Sir Roger Curtis greeted Commander Timothy Phillips as he came through the entrance of his Portsmouth shore-side office. A servant was doing something at a sideboard involving a spirit lamp, and the admiral asked Phillips if he would like to try a mug of hot spiced grog on this frigid winter day.

“My servant Simmons got the recipe from the proprietor of the George Inn, who warrants it will keep the ague from your bones in this weather.”

Admiral Curtis had a pile of reports spread across his desk, some of which appeared to be a portion of the voluminous mass of papers Phillips had delivered to a port official a few days previously.


The servant gave each man a large mug of the steaming drink and placed a mahogany container of cigars between the men. The admiral confided, “These came from a Spanish prize shortly before they came over to our side. I have to remember to put them away when I am entertaining representatives of our new allies, the new Spanish government.”

After the cigars were trimmed and the drinks pronounced excellent, the servant retired and the men got to business.


“This report from your carpenter reports rot in some of the Aurora’s knees right aft starboard. My dockyard superintendent should be inspecting that now, as well as determining the over-all condition of the ship.”

“As I recall, she was rushed out of ordinary after years of lying in a mud berth without much attention. From your reports, it appears she had seen some hard service on this last commission and it is time she is looked over carefully.”


“It is planned she will be out of service for at least a month, so we will be sending most of your crew to the receiving ship, leaving your standing officers aboard to supervise the work crews. You, yourself, may go on leave if you wish, but I have been informed the Lord Viscount Eckersley of the Admiralty wishes to see you at your earliest convenience. At any rate, you are required to leave an officer on board to assume command while you are absent.”

“Sir, during the latter phase of my commission Admiral Saumarez sent me on a cruise to create mischief in the Baltic. We managed to take a few prizes and I sent many of my people onto those prizes to take them in. None of them have returned yet, at the moment, I am afraid all I have left aboard to supervise the crew are a pair of young mids and a master’s mate. I might add that I would be reluctant to leave any of them in command for an extended period.”


Curtis thought about the matter. “That does put a different light on things. However, if there is one thing I do have, it is a surplus of eager young officers. I have in mind a young lad, Lieutenant Perkins. His father is a retired admiral, an old acquaintance who has asked me to find a command for the lad. Perkins has only been a lieutenant for half a watch, and I have been reluctant to give him command at this early stage of his career. But, perhaps a stint as caretaker captain of Aurora while she is undergoing her indignities in the dockyard will be just what the lad needs.”

“I will send him aboard this day, and you may proceed to London with the assurance your ship and crew will be well cared for.”

“Now, Captain, here it is almost noon, and I have little of my work done for the day. Feel free to depart as soon as you and Lieutenant Perkins have made your arrangements. Make sure you make your visit with Lord Eckersley in London.


The first new officer came aboard that afternoon with a boatload of luggage and a pair of midshipmen. All three were dressed as if they were going to a ball rather than about to do real work in a ship about to enter the dockyard.

Phillips led the new officer through the ship, pointing out the areas that especially needed to be addressed and gave Perkins a list noting the men who could be expected to have specialized knowledge of the ship’s problems.

Lieutenant Perkins waved off Phillips concerns and assured him he could handle any difficulties.

With that, Phillips went over the side into the launch waiting for him with his sea chest already stowed aboard. On shore, he hired a chaise to take him to the nearby inn where he would board a coach for London. A lengthy session with a clerk outside Admiral Curtis’ office had produced a warrant to pay for the trip, since it had been ordered by an admiralty official.







After an uncomfortable, long ride, he arrived in London the next day and immediately reported to the Admiralty. There, he found Viscount Eckersley wished a detailed verbal report of his activities in the Baltic. Phillips spent much of the afternoon going over this and answering the official’s questions. When finished, Eckersley said he regretted there had been such a rush about the wedding that no one had thought to relate the news to him.

“Wedding, Milord?”

“Yes, that delightful young Danish woman you brought us. She married a dashing young hussar just last month. It seems there was rather a hurry for the wedding. All went well though, and the happy young couple are now at the lad’s posting in Wales.”

Phillips was astonished. For a time he had had some thoughts about Hilda himself. However, he had realized as a very young and newly commissioned officer, he had no business to think about acquiring a wife.

Still, he had a few weeks away from the navy and an attractive woman to squire around would not be amiss. He remembered Susanne Wilder whom he had met before. They had had a brief acquaintance on a previous visit. Much of that visit had involved fielding her veiled suggestions of marriage. He thought about sending his card to her address but then remembered the problems of the past. Not wishing to spend the rest of his leave listening to the woman’s nagging, he decided to go on to the Essex estate and see what pickings there were these days in the nearby village.


A visit to the London office of his prize agent found a few of his prizes had been adjudicated and he was flush with funds. With the thought he might wish to purchase an estate of his own back home, he took a large portion of the money with him in an old leather covered box.

The agent attempted to dissuade him, saying that highwaymen were still a problem and there was the possibility of loss by other means. Timothy assured the agent, as an armed naval officer, he was perfectly capable of defending himself against any road agents and signed the receipt for the funds.

At a nearby livery, he planned to hire a vehicle and a team, but ended by purchasing a well-build chaise with a fresh coat of enamel. A matched team of bay geldings were also taken, and Phillips thought he had done rather well by himself. He would have the equipage available at all times, and when finishing his leave, could leave them at home for other members of the family to enjoy. A dozen miles down the road though found one of the bays developing a limp, and he stopped in a village to make inquiries for someone to care for the animal.

A cow-leach emerged from the pub and examined the beast’s foot. “Fix it for a shillin’ Your Honor.”


Timothy pulled out the silver coin and watched the man pull out a slim blade from a box of tools he took from a box. Picking up the animal’s right forefoot, he jabbed with the blade at the frog. A vast amount of liquid shot out as the horse started.

“There now, Your Honor. I think he will be fine in a few days. You won’t be able to work him for a spell, though.”

“Well, what in the devil am I to do. I am going on this road almost to the coast, nearly another day’s drive.”

“Well, sir, I own a livery here in the village. I could rent you another beast to replace this one for say, a week?”

“Done and done!” The liveryman walked the gelding toward a nearby stable and brought out a mare of nearly the same size. He harnessed her and warned Phillips. “I’d appreciate it if you would not run Alice, sir. She will get you home if you treat her reasonable.”


Handing the man money for the rental, as well as a sum for his horse’s care, Phillips clucked at the team and had to resolve a little conflict between the two animals. The mare was very displeased to have to share the traces with an uncouth gelding. Eventually, a touch of the whip brought her to her duty, and the pair settled down.


It had been a long day, and as the sun approached the horizon they pulled up at a roadside inn at a crossroads.

Giving the animals over to a hostler, he gave instructions for their care and stabling and went inside. The innkeeper could put him up for the night but he must share a bed with another traveler. He had missed supper, but could have the cook heat up a plate of beef and gravy.

Another pair of late diners seated close by at the long table sidled over and began to discuss the naval war with him. These were civilians and not well versed on such matters, but were not ignorant and soon a lively discussion developed.

The pair purchased a bottle of gin from the innkeeper and treated the young officer to more than his share of it. When that bottle was empty, they bought another. He woke next morning with little remembrance of the previous evening. He was lying in a bed next to a huge man still wearing his dirty work clothing from the day before. He quickly got up and into his clothing.


An increasingly frantic search for his belongings developed. There was no sign of them in the room. A dash downstairs to the common room did not reveal any of the people he had spent last evening with. A woman behind the bar assured him the cook had just started the fire and breakfast would not be served for another hour yet. She assured him she had not seen any sign of his belongings and he should learn to take better care of them.

Heartsick at the probable loss of his funds and his kit, he wandered out to the stable. The hostler was up and said the men he was looking for had already left, an hour before. Phillips asked him to prepare the horses as he needed to catch up with the men. The man got the horses and chaise ready, becoming increasingly hostile when it appeared his palm was not about to be crossed by any silver.

The grim man did point out Phillips missing sea-chest in the stable corner under a pile of harness. Timothy rushed over and swung open the lid. There, right where he had left it, was the leather case, still filled with currency. His mind refreshed, he plucked out the first note that came to hand and pressed it into the hand of the astonished hostler. The note would equal half of the man’s monthly pay.

“I am very sorry for neglecting to remember you, sir. My mind has been occupied this morning.”

“Well, all’s well that ends well, sir but you should learn to take better care of your kit. Leaving that money out all night is a sin, to say the least! I am a God-fearing man myself and wouldn’t take advantage, but others would do so in a heartbeat. ”


BOOK: Sails Across the Sea: A Tim Phillips Novel (War at Sea Book 8)
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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