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The Post Captain's HMS Surprise and His Reverse of the Medal Wine Dark Surgeon's Mate

He was expecting the thunderous knock on the door that brought him out of his contemplative state.

"Sooner than I had expected, though" he mused to himself before shouting out enter to the unknown person on the other side of the cabin door.

He peered out through the stern windows to see a lead gray sky that seemed to disappear at intervals as the sea kicked up higher and higher.

The door was flung open, admitting a torrent of water and a tall blond figure in a blue, streaming coat. The figure was close to panic. "The wind has backed and the sea is cutting up something fierce. What shall we do?" he cried.

"Pray compose yourself sir, do you not recall reading Figgins on Seamanship? You must put the ship about and bring the wind onto the other quarter. We have a prodigious amount of sea room therefore we have no concerns regarding the lee shore, which you expressed to me during the last watch."

The big figure in blue nodded, and then paused. "How shall I know when to put the ship about", he asked.

"I shall come on deck and provide you with a signal."

"What will the signal be?"

"The signal that we have employed in the past will suffice, I am sure."

"Oh, yes, of course, thank you. I do feel somewhat calmer in myself now that I have some guidance".

Blue Figure exited. The occupant of the cabin settled down in front of his desk and reapplied himself to the dissertation that he had been considering before the entrance of Blue Figure and what seemed to be most of the North Atlantic.

Blockade duty was not very enjoyable to most people, but the occupant relished it, as it provided time for consideration of the finer points of philosophy, as it applied to mankind.

"Beside", he thought to himself", "a man of war is a wondrous microcosm of humanity".

He considered what would likely be the next visitor to his cabin. When the sea became as rough as it seemed now, he knew that a visit was inevitable. The knock came, as he knew it would.

"Pray step in" he called out. In came a small, dirty man, hair cut to a stubble and dressed in an altogether haphazard manner.

"Morrow has fallen down the stairs again", he announced in a panicked air.

"Dear me", said The Occupant.

"Yes, and he has banged his head something awful".

"Is he conscious?" asked the occupant.

"What?" replied Small Man.

"Is he awake?"

"No, and he's snoring something awful".

"I see, in this case then trepanning is called for. I have a sketch prepared and will ask you to take this to the armourer to fabricate. You will then follow these directions and carry out the procedure. Read them carefully in my presence and if you do not understand, then ask."

Small Man read slowly and with what seemed to be great difficulty. Several times his lips moved over the same word two or three times as he sought to grasp its meaning. Once he asked the occupant the meaning of a Latinate term.

"You are fully aware of the methodology to be applied during this procedure?" The Occupant asked Small Man. Small Man nodded. "Yus", he replied. "I have seen this once or twice done on sheep, back home".

"Very well", replied The Occupant. "As to the Spanish question, we shall have to address this at a later time, as I believe that I am required on deck immediately".

Small Man left the cabin. The Occupant reached up for his tarred jacket. Putting this on he opened the cabin door and stepped onto the quarterdeck to see the backs of a huddled, anxious group. Stepping forward he caught the attention of the most anxious of the group, Blue Figure.

Gesturing with his thumb, The Occupant announced, "Wittles is up". These words were immediately out of his mouth when Blue Figure shouted in a loud voice" stand by to wear ship" before turning to The Occupant, now returning to his cabin.

"Thank you, Killick."

"Which you are welcome, Captain A", said The Occupant.


© 2003 Andrew Williams