Authors: Richard Woodman
THE BOMB VESSEL
Mariner's Library Fiction Classics
Voyage: A Novel of 1896
The Celtic Ring
The Shadow in the Sands
The Darkening Sea
The Nathaniel Drinkwater Novels
(in chronological order):
An Eye of the Fleet
A King's Cutter
A Brig of War
The Bomb Vessel
In Distant Waters
A Private Revenge
Under False Colours
The Flying Squadron
Beneath the Aurora
The Shadow of the Eagle
This edition first published 2000
by Sheridan House Inc.
145 Palisade Street
Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522
Copyright Â© 1984 by Richard Woodman
First published in Great Britain 1984
by John Murray (Publishers) Ltd
First published in the U.S. 1986
by Walker and Co.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of Sheridan House.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Woodman, Richard, 1944-
The bomb vessel / Richard Woodman.
p. cm. â (Mariner's library fiction classics)
ISBN 1-57409-099-2 (alk. paper)
1. Drinkwater, Nathaniel (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. Great BritainâHistory, Navalâ19
3. Copenhagen, Battle of, 1801âFiction. 4. Napoleonic
Wars, 1800-1815âFiction. I. Title. II. Series.
PR6073.0618 B6 2000
Printed in the United States of America
“Whenever I see a man who knows how to govern, my heart goes out to him. I write to you of my feelings about England, the country thatÂ .Â .Â .Â is ruled by greed and selfishness. I wish to ally myself with you in order to end that Government's injustices.”
TSAR PAUL TO BONAPARTE, 1800
Nathaniel Drinkwater did not see the carriage. He was standing disconsolate and preoccupied outside the bow windows of the dress-shop as the coach entered Petersfield from the direction of Portsmouth. The coachman was whipping up his horses as he approached the Red Lion.
Drinkwater was suddenly aware of the jingle and creak of harness, the stink of horse-sweat, then a spinning of wheels, a glimpse of armorial bearings and shower of filth as the hurrying carriage lurched through a puddle at his feet. For a second he stared outraged at his plum coloured coat and ruined breeches before giving vent to his feelings.
âHey! Goddamn you, you whoreson knave! Can you not drive on the crown of the road?' The coachman looked back, his ruddy face cracking into a grin, though the bellow had surprised him, particularly in Petersfield High Street.
Drinkwater did not see the face that peered from the rear window of the coach.
âGod's bones,' he muttered, feeling the damp upon his thighs. He shot an uneasy glance through the shop window. He had a vague feeling that the incident was retribution for abandoning his wife and Louise Quilhampton, and seeking the invigorating freshness of the street where the shower had passed, leaving the cobbles gleaming in the sudden sunshine. Water still ran in the gutters and tinkled down drainpipes. And dripped from the points of his new tail-coat, God damn it!
He brushed the stained breeches ineffectually, fervently wishing he could exchange the stiff high collar for the soft lapels of a sea-officer's undress uniform. He regarded his muddied hands with distaste.
âNathaniel!' He looked up. Forty yards away the carriage had pulled up. The passenger had waved the coach on and was walking back towards him. Drinkwater frowned uncertainly. The man was older than himself, wore bottle-green velvet over silk breeches with a cream cravat at his throat and his elegance redoubled Drinkwater's annoyance at the spoiling of his own
finery. He was about to open his mouth intemperately for the second time that morning when he recognised the engaging smile and penetrating hazel eyes of Lord Dungarth, former first lieutenant of the frigate
and a man currently engaged in certain government operations of a clandestine nature. The earl approached, his hand extended.
âMy dear fellow, I am most fearfully sorryÂ .Â .Â .' he indicated Drinkwater's state.
Drinkwater flushed, then clasped the outstretched hand. âIt's of no account, my lord.'
Dungarth laughed. âHa! You lie most damnably. Come with me to the Red Lion and allow me to make amends over a glass while my horses are changed.'
Drinkwater cast a final look at the women in the shop. They seemed not to have noticed the events outside, or were ignoring his brutish outburst. He fell gratefully into step beside the earl.
âYou are bound for London, my lord?'
Dungarth nodded. âAye, the Admiralty to wait upon Spencer. But what of you? I learned of the death of old Griffiths. Your report found its way onto my desk along with papers from Wrinch at Mocha. I was delighted to hear
had been purchased into the Service, though more than sorry you lost Santhonax. You got your swab?'
Drinkwater shook his head. âThe epaulette went to our old friend Morris, my lord. He turned up like a bad penny in the Red SeaÂ .Â .Â .' he paused, then added resignedly, âI left Commander Morris in a hospital bed at the Cape, but it seems his letters poisoned their Lordships against further application for a ship by your humble servant.'
âAhhh. Letters to his sister, no doubt, a venomous bitch who still wields influence through the ghost of Jemmy Twitcher.' They walked on in silence, turning into the yard of the Red Lion where the landlord, apprised of his lordship's imminent arrival by the emblazoned coach, ushered them into a private room.
âA jug of kill-devil, I think landlord, and look lively if you please. Well, Nathaniel, you are a shade darker from the Arabian sun, but otherwise unchanged. You will be interested to know that Santhonax has arrived back in Paris. A report reached me that he had been appointed lieutenant-colonel in a regiment of marines. Bonaparte is busy papering over the cracks of his oriental fiasco.'
Drinkwater gave a bitter laugh. âHe is fortunate to find employmentÂ .Â .Â .' He stopped and looked sharply at the earl, wondering if he might not have been unintentionally importunate. Colouring he hurried on: âTruth to tell, my lord, I'm confounded irked to be without a ship. Living here astride the Portsmouth Road I see the johnnies daily posting down to their frigates. Damn it all, my lord,' he blundered on, too far advanced for retreat, âit is against my nature to solicit interest, but surely there must be a cutter somewhereÂ .Â .Â .'