Wednesday, July 19, 1705: Captain Tenet and the Fair Morning
Wednesday, July 19, 1705 
 
Dear Journal,  

Something utterly astounding happened today. 

 This afternoon Mr. Lourdburton espied a fishing boat… we’ve seen several on this voyage… but for some reason he and Mr. Duffy were quite agitated about this one particular boat. 

 I had just finished my watch in the galley, serving glop to the sailors and cleaning up the wretched, wretched droppings of those dreadful chickens. I swear to you that I shall never again eat a hen's egg, knowing as I do where they come from. Why had Mother never told me? 

 I crossed the main deck and was about halfway up the companion ladder… every single ladder in the ship is called a ladder except the one that goes up to the quarterdeck, which is for some reason called the companion ladder… perhaps the captain is supposed to be companionable or something. I shall have to research that one.  

 Anyway,I was stopped halfway up by the sound of Mr. Lourdburton’s unbelievably loud voice booming out over the ship. 

 “Mr. Duffy! It’s the Fair Morning!” 

Quick as a flash Mr. Duffy came scurrying out from under the foredeck. 

 “Grand, grand,” he said, wiping his hands on a rag. He pointed right at me again. 

 “Mr. Penworthy, let us get ourselves some fresh fishes!” 

 “Boat ahoy!” bellowed Mr. Lourdburton towards the little fishing boat. I looked at the fishing boat more carefully. 

 She was a pretty little craft, with bluff, squared off ends and a single mast rising out of the center. She had a nice little deck over the front half of the boat, with a little cabin rising out of that, but the back half of the boat was open, and I could see right down inside her.

 It was something of a mess, with kegs and ropes and sacks piled all over everywhere. Her name, Fair Morning, was painted in a neat script across her bluff rear end. There was a big, rough looking man dressed in drab clothes standing at the tiller at the back of the boat. He kept a hand on the tiller bar while a thinner, dark skinned man at the center of the boat stood on top of the little cabin and fiddled with the ropes that held up Fair Morning’s sails. The little fishing boat seemed to be about half our length, perhaps fifty feet or so. 

All of a sudden there was a great squeaking and rattling of the ropes in the masts above us as Mr. Lourdburton gave the orders to stop the ship… “heave to” was the term he used over and over again. Our motion suddenly changed from that gentle heave and surge over the waves to a sickly corkscrewing, rather like a cork in a bathtub. 

 I instantly felt tinges of my old friend, Mr. Seasickness, as he came knocking at the door. I was still perched halfway up the companion ladder. It seemed the ideal place from which to watch the events on the quarterdeck and on the main deck at the same time, and from which to look over the side at the little Fair Morning. I began to wonder with dread if there was coming that moment when I might have to visit the side of the ship again.  

 Uncle Neville thundered angrily into the waist from below the quarterdeck.  

 “What’s this?” he roared. “Why has this ship hove to?” 

 All thoughts of seasickness instantly dashed from my brain – here was intrigue! He’s normally not an excitable fellow… slow to anger one might say. But this clearly had gotten his goat. I thought it was rather comical to see him all red and irritated. 

 “Mr. Lourdburton! What are you about?” 

 Lourdburton thundered down the companion ladder, pushing past me without so much as a how do you do. I must admit that I was so wrapped up in the drama I didn’t even notice the slight until thinking about it just now. 

 “Captain,” he said quickly, “I thought I had cleared this with you first… ” Mr. Lourdburton’s face had turned a deep red color underneath his tan. It was just a trifle unsettling to see this confident man suddenly embarrassed over his actions. 

 “You have cleared nothing with me, sir… ” 

 “Captain,” Mr. Duffy said, smoothly, “this is all my fault. I had meant to ask you if we might waylay a fishing boat and acquire some fresh fish. In explaining myself to Mr. Lourdburton I must have communicated that we had your permission. I am most terribly sorry.” 

 Uncle Neville stared down his nose at the two men for a long moment, his chin raised, turning his head to look from the embarrassed, red-faced Mr. Lourdburton over to the handsome, sheepishly smiling Mr. Duffy. This would be good! He had come on deck so furiously, he was going to give these men the dressing-down of their lives! This was going to be something to watch. 

 “Simple mistake,” he muttered softly. He then cleared his throat and stood up more erectly. “Well, no harm done. In future, Mr. Duffy, please make sure you check with me before making any alteration in this ship’s routine.” He pointed at Mr. Lourdburton. “And you, Arthur. I’m surprised you would accept an order from me via second hand, especially through the ship's’ cook! I know he’s your friend and all… ” 

 “A simple miscommunication,” Mr. Lourdburton said, quickly. “It shan’t happen again.” He turned around and headed for the companion ladder to regain the quarterdeck. 

 I couldn’t believe it! Here these two men had actually taken command of his ship, even changed her course, and Uncle Neville was going to just let it go. 

 “I meself could do with some fresh fish,” he suddenly said, cheerfully. “Maybe some smackey, or some nice turbot…” 

 Ah hah! Now I understood. Perhaps Uncle Neville is guided more by his stomach for food than by his stomach for propriety! 

 Mr. Duffy then hurried over to the sally port. It’s really just a U-shaped opening in the side through which you walk to get off the ship. Or, in my case, in which you lie down to lose the contents of your guts over the side. In O’Brian’s case, I suppose, it was the last thing of the ship that he saw. 

 Thinking of O'Brian reminded me of the stone, and I instinctively checked my pocket to make sure it was there. I didn't dare take it out and look at it, of course, for fear of it being seen. But I could feel it there, reminding me of the strange beginning of this strange voyage.  

 I jumped down onto the deck from the companion ladder and ran over to the sally port, watching with interest as Duffy scrambled down the wooden ladder built into the side of the ship and hopped onto the back of the little fishing boat which had in the meantime drifted alongside of us.  

 The rough looking fellow at the tiller shook hands warmly with Mr. Duffy, and I, for one, was quite convinced that these two gentlemen knew each other. It struck me as most odd that we should run into a friend of Mr. Duffy’s out here in the middle of the deep blue sea. 

 “Deck there,” came a yell from somewhere up in the masts. It was Swede’s voice. “Sail fine on the port quarter!” Because it was Swede, he pronounced it “k-varter”, but we all knew what he meant.  

 “What do you make her?” Mr. Lourdburton bellowed back in that unnaturally loud voice of his. 

 “Big, sir, maybe a varship!” Swede called back. “I tink she might be the Spanish!” 

 “Mr. Duffy,” Mr. Lourdburton suddenly bellowed in that unnaturally loud voice of his, “you’ll have to cut that short! We must be away!” 

 I ran up the companion ladder and up to the rear corner of the quarterdeck to look at the other ship. All I could see was the dark mass of land that Mr. Duffy had said was Spanish Florida.  

 “That’s the starboard quarter, lad,” Mr. Lourdburton said, softly. “She’s off the port quarter.” 

 “Oh,” I said sheepishly. At least I had known that the quarters are the back corners of the ship. I gazed out over the sea and saw, there in the hazy distance, the dark triangular shape of a ship’s sails. A Spanish ship of war. Right there was the War of Spanish Succession. Suddenly I was part of the war.  

 “She’s bearing tovards us,” Swede yelled from the top of the mast. 

 “Oh, good heavens,” Uncle Neville huffed as he climbed the companion ladder. “That’s deucedly bad luck.” 

 “Isn’t it exciting?” I asked from the corner. 

 Mr. Lourdburton rolled his eyes and began giving orders to get the ship moving again.  

 “I don’t need this kind of excitement,” Uncle Neville said, hoarsely. He turned nervously to Mr. Lourdburton. “Will she chase us, do ye think?” 

 “Chase and take us, I imagine,” he replied. “Probably just burn us.” 

 Burn us? BURN us? Chase us and take us and burn us? What kind of sea adventure had my uncle gotten me into? Murder? Seasickness? And now chase us and take us and BURN us? My head swam, and I turned to look at the Spanish ship again.  

 She was much, much larger. I could make out the shape of her hull beneath the pyramid of sails. She was coming for us very quickly. 

 “Mr. Duffy,” roared Mr. Lourdburton, “we must be away!” 

 It seemed to take an hour for Mr. Duffy to finally reappear in the sally port. 

 “Let GO!” roared Mr. Lourdburton, and the men up in the yards dropped the edges of the big sails, and the Kathryn B leapt with life. Gone was that odd corkscrewing motion, instantly replaced by the graceful rise and fall to which I, and my rather sensitive innards, had become accustomed.  

We shot past the Fair Morning, which bobbed in the sea behind us. The big fellow stood next to the tiller and waved a greasy hat towards us.  

The sea around the Fair Morning suddenly erupted in jets of white spray, and we could hear the distant roll of thunder. 


 “My God,” said Uncle Neville, quietly, “she’s firing at us!” 

 “24-Pounders,” Mr. Duffy called from the sally port. He must have jumped aboard from the Fair Morning.“Those are 24-pounder bow chasers or I'm Neptune's daughter!” 

I looked at these two men, suddenly gone ashen-faced. I wondered what 24-pounder bow chasers were. 

 “It is a rarity, sir,” Mr. Lourdburton said to Mr. Duffy. “I’d never thought to see the like!” 

 “I’d never thought to see a Spanish man-o-war up here, that’s for certain,” Duffy replied. 

 “Is she after us?” I asked. Even as I said it I knew that was a stupid question. Was she shooting at us? Was she bearing down on us? Well, Benjamin, what do you think? 

 “After you, I imagine,” Mr. Lourdburton said to Mr. Duffy. Duffy shook his head quietly. 

 The sea erupted around the Fair Morning in great white splashes again, but this time, mixed in with the sound of distant thunder we heard the distinct cracking and splintering of wood.  

“Hands to the braces!” roared Mr. Lourdburton, urgently. The ship surged forward beneath our feet. 

 Half of the Fair Morning had disappeared. Only the front end stuck up out of the sea, her mast rising up out of the water itself. She was surrounded by a mat of junk and broken ship pieces. There was no sign of either of the two men. 

Mr. Duffy clucked beside me at the after rail. I hadn’t even heard him approach.  

 “Poor Hervé,” he said, quietly. He turned and walked over to Mr. Lourdburton.  

 The sea behind us erupted in four great white geysers of water. They were shooting at us now. 

 “Did you get what you needed?” Mr. Lourdburton asked, quietly. 

 “Aye, in spades,” Mr. Duffy replied softly. “Bimini is correct.” 

 “I should say not!” Uncle Neville quickly replied sharply. “I see empty hands, sir! I see no smackey, no turbot! I believe I distinctly requested that you acquire these fish!” 

 “There wasn’t time, Captain,” Mr. Duffy said, quickly. “Yon Spaniard rather truncated my bartering time. Oh, I had my eye on a fine flounder that would have served us well… ” 

 I looked back at the wreck of the Fair Morning, now mostly sunk. There was no sign of that rough looking fellow or his friend. Just like O’Brian. Gone.  

The Spanish ship was much larger still, and bearing down on us with all of her sails drawing. I saw two bright flashes at her front, quickly followed by two more. 

 Four immense geysers suddenly erupted right in front of me, not ten feet from where we had just been! Cold sea water rained down on us as if from a terrible thunderstorm, and was accompanied by the deep roar of those Spanish guns. 

 “Deck there!” bellowed Swede. “Sail dead astern!”  

 We all looked up at Swede there at the top of the mast. 

 “Varship, Captain! I tink is Yenglish!” 

 “What the devil did he say?” muttered Uncle Neville. 

 “Captain, we must strike our colours right now. This very second,” Mr. Lourdburton stated. He said it flatly, as if he were saying the sky was blue, but there was an intensity behind his eyes that made the statement most urgent.  

 “What? Strike?” Uncle Neville rather stared at him in incomprehension. “But she'll take us and burn us… ” 

 “Aye,” Mr. Lourdburton said, quickly, “that Spaniard will knock us to matchsticks if we don’t, which means we ain’t got no choice. But if that is an English warship, that’ll be the Juno, under Captain Tenet. He’s a bulldog.” 

 “You mean we have to surrender?” I asked. I know I was quite out of my bounds in popping off like that, but I couldn’t believe this fellow was telling the captain to just give up! 

 “Only for the moment,” Mr. Lourdburton said, urgently. “And that moment must be now!” 

 As if underscoring his remark the ship suddenly shook violently. I threw myself flat on the deck in surprise and terror. Gone was my outrage at Lourdburton giving up the ship. The shaking scared me so much I was ready to tear down the flag myself!  

 “Good God!” screamed Mr. Sturgis from somewhere down below. “The bugger’s hit us!” 

 “Are you certain?” Uncle Neville looked suspiciously at Mr. Lourdburton. 

 “I guarantee the Spanish will never set foot aboard us. The Juno’ll be on top of her long before she can get a boat off to us!” 

 The sea erupted alongside the ship, and a buckets of water gushed all around us. It splattered all over me, and I thought sure we were simply going to blow up like the Fair Morning. I clung as tightly to the deck as I could. 

 “Well, then strike, by all means!” yelled Uncle Neville. “I’ll do it!” 

 “All hands, stand by to heave to!” bellowed Mr. Lourdburton. He turned to face me, a look of compassion on his face. “And for heaven's sake, Benjamin, stand up.” 

 I felt a trifle awkward after that, and slowly got to my feet. I daren't look Lourdburton in the eye – you know, until I could find a way to explain...  

 Uncle Neville pulled on the ropes that lowered the British flag that had been flapping along above us all this time. The fellow at the wheel turned the Kathryn B to the left, I reckon that would be the port, changing our motion yet again as the sails were bunched up against their yards.  

 My intense fear rapidly intensified. What would happen if the Spanish ship didn't honor our surrender? Or if the Juno didn’t get there in time?  

 Our little ship, once so jaunty, now waddled lifelessly between the waves, her colorful ensign taken down, he sails flapping uselessly. It was almost more than I could bear. 

The Spanish ship bore down on us relentlessly, a beautiful vision of a warship, painted all gold and red, carrying every sail, and looking positively magical, like those paintings one sees hanging in the houses of rich people. She had plenty of cannons pointing out of her sides… little black stubs sticking out of square holes. I tried to count them, but the motion of the two ships, and, frankly, the terror of the moment was simply overwhelming.
 
Most of her sails rose like curtains up their masts, causing her to slow most dramatically. She turned sideways, so that most of cannons would bear on us. I was finally able to count them; 27 cannons, mounted in two long rows, one over the other. A magnificently carved golden prancing horse gilded her front end, and the entire length of her railings was carved in beautiful golden shapes of wreaths and dolphins. A most dashing scarlet red red stripe lay beneath that railing. Below that was a golden stripe, and then black bands that ran the length of the gun decks. She was a masterpiece. A masterpiece come to kill us. 

 Men ran along her upper decks, and a boat was lifted off her deck and swung out over the water on a large beam. Men scrambled down her side and jumped into the boat. Its oars worked like the legs of water beetles as the boat skipped through the waves towards us. 

 Well, that was more than I could bear. The Juno was not coming in time, and the Spaniards had gotten their boat into the water – something Lourdburton said they would not be able to do. 

“Come on,” Mr. Lourdburton said, urgently. 

 The anxiety on Mr. Lourdburton’s face reinforced the depth of trouble we were in. A tear escaped my eye - please do not repeat that. 

 The boatload of Spanish sailors was about halfway to us when a cannon on the Spanish ship roared out, and someone bellowed over her railing.  

 I ducked below the railing, fully expecting the cannonball to smash through our ship, but it didn't come. 

 I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, although I could hear him quite plainly. Then it occurred to me he was speaking Spanish. Obviously. 

 The Spanish boat was suddenly transformed into an island of confusion. The oars that just seconds ago swept out from her sides like the skeletons of bird wings suddenly splashed and bashed against one another, and the boat spun around like a drowning opossum. As quickly as they had been coming for us they were now rowing back to their own ship.  

 “Huzzah, lad!” roared Mr. Lourdburton! “Here’s Juno!” 

 I followed Mr. Lourdburton’s pointing finger, noting that it was the rather extended first finger on his metal hand that was pointing over the back of our ship. I had been so taken with despair and terror of the Spanish ship that I had failed to notice the stealthy approach of the English ship behind us, boiling towards us at an astonishing rate. 

As the Spanish ship had done a moment ago, the Juno now surged towards us at a breathtaking rate. Her black-painted sides suddenly erupted in great orange-yellow flashes, and her guns positively shook us from stem to stern. 

 The Spanish men in the boat yelled, and the Spanish men on the ship yelled, and our men all yelled, and I do believe I let out quite a yell myself, so relieved was I to see this turn of events.  

 The sea boiled around the boat, and a trio of their oars flipped into the air, causing even more confusion. The great Spanish ship, meanwhile, he let go her sails, and turned away from us, and those poor fellows in the boat. 

 “Mr. Sturgis,” roared Mr. Lourdburton. “Clear the number three portside battery for action!” 

 He turned towards me with a big grin on his face.  

 “We’ll see if we can do our part for the war effort!” 

 He then thundered down the companion ladder and disappeared into the ‘tween decks beneath us. Mr. Duffy laid a hand on my right shoulder and he stepped up next to me. 

 “This will be something to see,” he said, quietly. 

 The Spanish ship had turned now so that her back end was pointing at us. I could see her name, San Cristobal, clearly painted underneath the beautiful windows of her aft cabin.  

The fellows in the boat yelled and swore as they clattered their oars around until they had an even number on each side, and then off they went, rowing furiously toward the San Cristobal. But the ship simply sailed away, leaving them to their fate. 

The Juno swept past us with breathtaking speed. A man stood on her after railings and cupped his hands to yell to us.  

“Good afternoon, Sir Edward!” he bellowed across the water. “Thank you for delaying our catch!” 

 Mr. Duffy colored deeply and meekly raised his hat.  

 “Who’s Sir Edward?” I asked. 

 “I certainly don’t know,” Mr. Duffy said quickly. “They must have us confused with another ship.” 

 An enormous cracking sound, so loud that I almost threw myself onto the deck again, roared out directly beneath my feet. I glanced at Duffy, who shook his head at me very slightly. I stood up from my half-crouching position sheepishly.  

Our little ship had fired a cannon - a plume of spray rose about twenty feet behind the Spanish men in the boat. The men in the ‘tween decks below us roared and bellowed and called to each other like a bunch of bears re-aligned our cannon to try again.  

 I watched the little boat in horror. It was bad enough for those fellows to be abandoned by their shipmates, but now we were actually shooting at them. It seemed so unfair. Mr. Duffy seemed to sense my outrage. 

 “Be clear, boyo,” he said quietly, “that those men are Spanish sailors, and as like to cut your throat as shake your hand. Weep not for those who were abandoned by their own friends.” 

 I imagine that made some deal of sense, although it still seemed deucedly unfair. Secretly, I made a wish that we would miss with every shot. 

 The Juno swept past us and turned away, following almost the same path as the San Cristobal.  

The gun beneath my feet suddenly roared out again, making the deck buck, and pushing up another enormous plume of spray rose, just inches behind the Spanish boat. A cheer rose from our ship, and I could hear the men below us reloading the gun.  

 The poor devils in the boat paddled even more frantically, but there was truly nowhere for them to go. Farther out to sea, two ships hammered away at one another, the San Cristobal oblivious to the fact that she'd left some fellows behind. Great clouds of smoke rose and drifted off downwind to the sound of a deep, echoing thunder from the heavy guns. Again and again the ships tore at one another, side by side. 

 Our little gun roared out again, and my heart sank. The Spanish boat shattered, throwing her sailors like dolls in the air. They must have hit her dead center. The poor devils that survived all of that splashed helplessly in the waves. 

 “Huzzah, lads!” I heard Mr. Lourdburton bellow on the deck below us! 

 “Oh,” said Mr. Duffy, “that’s bad! She won’t survive that!” 

 I looked up at the two ships again. The central mast on the San Cristobal, the main, I believe, had fallen over the side, and had pulled down hundreds of ropes with it. Her speed has slowed, of course, and she seemed to be swinging around the fallen mast, which must have been like an anchor. The Juno was sailing across her front end, pouring in a shattering broadside. 

 “It won’t be long now,” Mr. Duffy said, quietly. 

 Mr. Lourdburton thumped onto the quarterdeck and joined us by the after rail.  

 “That was neatly done,” he said, referring to the San Cristobal’s predicament. 

 Mr. Duffy turned quickly to Mr. Lourdburton. 

 “We must away immediately,” he said, urgently.  

 “I rather thought we’d say hello to Tenet and his men… ” Mr. Lourdburton said with an obvious disappointment.  

 “He knows more than we’d like,” Mr. Duffy said, again using an urgent tone. “We cannot meet with him.” 

 Mr. Lourdburton’s brow clouded, and then suddenly he stood erect, as if finally grasping what Mr. Duffy meant. I certainly didn’t grasp what he meant, spoken as it was in the strange half-sentences these two men use to communicate. But I did get some degree of collusion between misters Lourdburton and Duffy, and it made me nervous. 

 “All hands, all hands, prepare to make sail!”  

 Men ran from all over the ship to lower the great sails and get us under way again.  

 I looked over the side to see what had happened to those fellows in the the boat, but they were mostly gone. A few heads bobbed in the waves amid the pieces of shattered wood, but most of them had simply disappeared – drowned I expect. It was quite sad, actually. It made me feel cold inside, and I suddenly, urgently missed Mother. Another tear, I'm afraid, rather made its way out of my eye. 

 Mr. Duffy clapped me on the back and pointed at the battle going on out of sea. I don't know if he saw that I wept for those poor souls. 

 “That didn’t take long, did it?” he asked. “Tenet is surely a bulldog!” 

 The Spanish ship had lost another mast, and now her flag had been lowered. She had surrendered. The Juno circled around her, guns still pointing at her but not firing, and started lowering her boats.  

 “Do you know that Tenet fellow?” I asked. Duffy looked at me in surprise. 

 “Huh? You are a quick one, Benjamin. I know him only by, uh, reputation,” he said, quickly. This fellow had my attention, I can tell you. He seemed to be ordering Mr. Lourdburton about, and he took part in the murder of that O’Brian fellow, and seemed to rather know more about things Naval than a sea cook should. I decided to make it my business to keep my eye upon him. 

 Well, we had to clean up from the day’s adventures. The number three gun in the portside battery was put away, along with all of its required hardware. Mr. Sturgis went to work on patching the hole where the Spanish ship had hit us. He expressed himself most excitedly about that hole, gabbling endlessly to anyone who would listen about the size of the hole, the amount of timber he needed to patch it, and how he only had so many two pound nails with which to put the patch in place. I know because he caught me twice, once going and once coming, and repeated almost the same story word for word the second time, as if he had forgotten he’d already told me. 

 Well, it’s quiet now, and we’re sailing through the darkness along the east coast of Spanish Florida. I believe we’ll be entering the Caribbean Sea tomorrow.  
Those men in the Fair Morning, and those Spanish sailors in their boat, they all went into the sea, but none ever came out. Just like O’Brian. This is turning out to be quite the deadly voyage – it makes me nervous. 

 Those were beautiful ships, I can tell you. Particularly that San Cristobal. There is an elegance and sophistication about these large warships you just don’t see in the Kathyrin B. Ours is a fine ship, mind you, but she’s so workaday compared to the grand San Cristobal and Juno. Perhaps someday, before I become a staid, landed gentleman, I shall command one of those ships, looking dashing in the blue of the Navy, with the gold braid and the white lace and fine buckled shoes and one of those cocked hats like father has, and I shall knock down a ship as quickly as Tenet did the San Cristobal.  

Listen to me, I’ll almost there! I refer to him as Tenet, not Captain Tenet, the way you landlubbers do! “Welcome aboard, Susannah… careful, my dear, those are 24-pounder bow chasers! Shall we knock down a ship or two like old Tenet?” 
 
I have the honor to be your most humble and loyal servant, 

Benjamin B Penworthy, soon to be Naval Hero (like Tenet)