Here is Part 1 of The Lieutenant’s Logbook, the new story, as suggested by Annabelle I hope you enjoy reading it; and as always please feel free to make your own suggestions as the story unfolds!
The year of Our Lord 1804.
Correspondence to Commodore Danby and Rear Admiral Dux of the Blue flag from Captain Quaid of HMS Forsaken.
I have, as you requested, dispatched the logbook of the Forsaken, a ship of 78 guns bearing 323 1/2 souls, for your perusal that you might better understand all that came to pass aboard that vessel.
However afore I did so I decided to review the log myself and I believe some elucidation as to the prose of the piece may be required. T’was August of one year previous and we had survived a skirmish with the French ship the Lâcheté, a frigate which was undoubtedly sent by Napoleon Bonaparte himself, for he was endeavouring to conquer whichever seas he could. We had come upon her after a lengthy pursuit and the ensuing battle was ferocious. We suffered the loss of several souls and a dozen men were injured, I myself was among them. The mast came loose, sending burning spillikins into my palm. While I was not mortally wounded it was my quill hand that was harmed. Rendering it nigh on impossible for me to keep that worthy book, the log.
Thus I entrusted the task to my lieutenant Mr Matelot, and you will find his own introduction is a true description of his personage. He is amiable gentleman and an able seaman; however I have, as I surveyed the record of our journey, discovered that Matelot believes himself to be something of a wordsmith, and it would seem that he confused this naval record with a novel and wrote it in the stye of the latter rather than the former. While I believe that young Mr Matelot displays a surprising aptitude for descriptive flair, I am sure you will enjoy his account as much as I did for it proves to be positively sensational in parts. I fear you may find it shows a wanton neglect of nautical terms, coordinates, distances travelled, and anything of that nature, although it certainly captures the sprits of the men and there is some very pretty poetry composed in the month of November.
Despite it’s author’s aptitude for romantic recounting it shall provide you with a true account of our voyage and shall explain the origin of the fantastical narratives and gossip that have gripped the men of the Royal Navy since our return to British shores.
Your Humble Servant,
HMS Forsaken Logbook.
August 23rd Year of Our Lord 1803.
This twenty four hours, light and hazy weather at 1/2 past three pm we sighted the Lâcheté, SSW from our position.
Messrs Burns and Smith altered our course in pursuit.
Caught up to the Lâcheté at 1/4 past 4pm. Winds now NNW and moderate, now raining, heavy. Intention to engage her and sink her, burn her or take her for a prize.
August 24th Year of Our Lord 1803.
We have just survived a dreadful affray with the French Frigate, during which Captain Quaid was cruelly injured as fell prey to the splintering shards of the falling mast; and thus wounded, he assigned the task of composing the opus of this journal to me.
I am acutely aware, gentlemen of the admiralty, that you are all acquainted with Captain Quaid and are indubitably familiar with his qualities. However I am a stranger to your eyes. And how, in all good conscience, can men such as yourselves trust the account of a man who is wholly an outlander? Therefore you must allow me to introduce myself.
I am Lieutenant William Matelot, the youngest son of Lord James Matelot of -Shire. I am five and twenty years of age and have been serving aboard the Forsaken under captain Quaid for nigh on two years. Although I have never been called a well looking man, I have never, to my knowledge been described as ill looking one. My coiffure is of a somewhat unusual brown, though my height is everything usual for a gentleman such myself. I play the fiddle most pleasingly and have a great fondness for a novel.
Gentlemen, now that your are agreeably acquainted with the author of this log I shall endeavour to continue with the retelling of the day’s occurrences. We had caught up to the Lâcheté, however just as we beheld her crew within our sights the weather changed, where once it had been calm and clement, now the winds now came at us from I know not where, bringing with it rain as I have ne’er seen. It fell sideways, blinding each of us as it lashed at our faces. I know not how Messrs Burns and Smith managed to keep the vessel on course, for I could scarce open my eyes, and indeed remained for most of the battle with only one eye open askance.
As the Fugitive drew along side that frigate, the order to fight was heard all about the decks, and all manner of devilry was unleashed. Canons fired hither and thither. Men drew muskets and pistols and swiftly began to fire at whichever unhappy Frenchman, hap’t to cross within our sights, it was akin to a brawl amongst the most ill mannered merchant sailors.
I stepped forth into the furore, all about me sailors endeavoured to master the sails as the tempestuous gusts threatened to seize control of the ship from us. Our vessel caught in the grip of the rolling ocean below, pitched with alarming velocity on the starboard side and above one man, I know not which, was cast asunder into the raging sea, never to be seen again. Indeed I myself was within precarious proximity of losing all balance, yet I did not.
From over my left shoulder I heard Captain Quaid cry out to me in fearful desperation; “Lieutenant Matelot, stay fast that rope.”
I glanced through my own sodden, yet abundant, eyelashes to where he indicated and saw that the jib rope was come loose, if it were not soon tethered all could well be lost. I drew my boat cloak close about me and stood fast where I was.
I surveyed the horizon as the last light of dusk dispersed and the sky became darksome, save for the savage illuminations of canon fire that persisted betwixt the two vessels.
The battle waged across the decks for upwards several hours, yet still I stood fast, until it was possible to tell from the clamour of the men all about me that we now had the advantage over the Lâcheté. Her hull was aflame and quite assailed by holes. Her crew soon revealed themselves to be true Frenchmen in nature as they hastily disembarked to their lifeboats and began, with their captain at their helm, to row themselves to safety with a zealous zeal for cowardice, to which I have never seen an equal.
Despite our apparent victory no opportunity for celebrations presented itself, there was not time to raise our broad swords above our heads, and cry Hazar, nor to display an elegant lightness of foot in a spontaneous hornpipe, accompanied by a rousing sea chanty. For afore they had all quite fled from the ship, one miserable fellow, who had the coiffure of an admiral but the eyes and the comportment of a lowly midshipman, lighted one final canon, before launching himself, with pleasing agility through the gun window and into the sea below.
Unhappily for the HMS Forsaken, and all who sail on her, the French fiend’s aim was true and the canon ball struck the mast with a hearty explosion of powder. As we turned our eyes to the sky our main sail began to fall. As it did smithereens of fiery wood burst forth and struck many a fellow across their visages. Not even our noble captain was spared such a fate, as with an enraged cry of “Forsooth, nay not my hand, curses it all not my hand. Nay t’is my quill hand!” he fell to the boards of the deck clasping his wounded hand to his chest and weeping in tones of agony, that did not, in all honesty, befit a man of his rank nor breeding.
As the mast fell from our vessel and joined the burning wreckage of the frigate, the Forsaken’s decks fell wholly silent, and all that could be heard was the wind and shouts of;
“Non, non, je suis mouillet, au se cours!”, from the French. (I know not how accomplished you are at the modern languages, thus you will permit to transliterate it, it reads as: Nay, nay, I am quite wet through! Save me, pray save me!)
It was Frank, a powder monkey of no more than eight years of age who spake first,
” Damnation to it all! We be damned to the deuce now! Those wretched sons of sea dogs have cut our sail, we ought to have cut their throats!” Frank cursed a good deal more, for he speaks with surprising vulgarity for one of such insignificant rank and stature. Although I do not feel it proper to write the boys speech in it’s entirety in a sea fairing journal that is destined for the admiralty, young Frank did indeed voice the despair we all felt. For the Forsaken was now entirely sans a mast, and lord knows how many miles and perils separated us from friendly waters and land.
To be continued …