JANE AUSTEN'S FIGHTING MEN by Jack Caldwell


Persuaded to Sail
a sequel to Persuasion

After an eight-year separation and a tumultuous reunion, Anne Elliot finally marries her dashing Captain Frederick Wentworth. After their wedding, Frederick goes against his long-held belief and invites his bride to journey with him on his beloved HMS Laconia.

But there is trouble in the air. Napoleon has escaped from Elba and the Admiralty sends Frederick on a secret mission--secret from Anne and the crew. A mysterious passenger adds to the intrigue.

What dangers will Anne Wentworth face on her maiden voyage?

(Excerpt from Chapter 2:)

A stray sunbeam caught Anne Wentworth's eye, awaking her from a most satisfied slumber. She stretched beneath the sheets of the rented bed, naked as a jaybird, smelling some wonderful aroma, enjoying her recollections of the night before. She had suspected she would enjoy the more physical aspects of marriage with Frederick, and last night did not disappoint.

The first time was lovely, but the second time…oh my…

"Anne?"

Anne's eyes popped right open. She turned her head to see her husband, fully dressed sitting on his side of the wedding bed, enjoying a cup of (now that she was fully awake, her mind could understand what her nose was trying to tell her) coffee. He had a small smirk on his lips.

"Good morning, dear."

"Good morning to you, sir. Are you already out of bed?"

"As you see. There is coffee on the night table for you."

"Thank you. Is this a special occasion?"

"No, my dear, just the habit of a lifetime. I cannot abide lying in bed whist the sun is up."

"Is that so?" She sat up, not troubling to cover herself as the sheet fell away from her torso. She took the cup from the night stand and began to sip. "Ah…" she breathed.

"Teasing wench…" Frederick's eyes grew dark. "I should answer your challenge as you deserve, but…" he leaned close, "time and tide waits for no man -- or rented coach neither. A bit of breakfast and we should be away." A light kiss. "But I shall keep this lovely vision in my mind…" another kiss, "and put paid to you at a more appropriate time…"

"I shall depend upon that, my rhyming Lord and Master."

***

The couple journeyed though Wiltshire throughout that day, stopping only a few miles from Hampshire for the night. There, to Mrs. Wentworth's delight, Captain Wentworth kept to his promise of revenge. The next morning the coach entered the county and crossed over to Portsea Island and Portsmouth by mid day.

"Where to, sir?" asked the driver.

"The Navy docks, if you please," returned Wentworth. Soon the carriage was driving along the docks. Frederick looked intently out the window, which was a source of amusement to his wife. But before Anne would utter some witty remark, Frederick cried, "Here! Stop here, driver!"

Before the carriage could lurch to a stop Frederick threw open the door and leapt out. Startled, Anne leaned over to see her husband's fate when he stuck his head back in.

"Mrs. Wentworth," he grinned, "would you like to see your new home?"

"With all my heart, Captain."

Frederick helped Anne out of the carriage. There before them, hard against the dock, lay HMS Laconia. About one hundred forty feet long, not counting the bow-sprit, it had three masts and a single deck of main guns. Much lower to the water than the great line-of-battle ships, like the Victory, it appeared fast and deadly.

Or at least it should; for at the time Anne first beheld the craft it was an unholy mess. The masts were struck down to the deck, rope and cordage were everywhere, several cannons were unfastened, sails nowhere to be seen, and crawling over the mass, like ants, were at least a hundred men. A din of hammers and saws and curses filled the air.

Anne shuddered -- was she to go to sea in that? She could not expect the ship to even leave the harbor and remain dry. She turned to her husband to ask what had happened to his command -- had the French attacked? -- when she saw a singular look on his face.

She had seen it only once before -- on their wedding night. It was at that moment that Mrs. Wentworth knew she had a rival for her husband's affections. Frederick was in love with the Laconia.

"Is she not beautiful, my dear?" he cried.

"Oh yes…" she lied, "I have never seen the like." She? Oh yes, of course. Sailors refer to their ships as a female, for some reason.

"To be sure, she looks a bit shabby, with her yards all which way -- but see her lines! She will do fifteen knots, ballast set right, or I am a Spaniard. Not any leeway to speak of. And dry as a bone -- and she being near twenty years on! Get her trim and ship-shape, with a spot of paint and a shine on her brass, why she would be the Beauty of the Ocean!"

"Ahoy, Captain!" called a voice from the chaos.

"Ahoy, Mr. Price!" Frederick returned. "Report, sir!"

From the Laconia a tall, well-looking young officer crossed over the gangplank and walked towards them. He wore a worn blue coat, with one epaulette on the right shoulder, and trousers. About five and twenty, his open face wore what was to prove a habitual grin. He wore his longish hair tied behind him.

"My dear," said Frederick, "allow me to present to you the First Lieutenant of the Laconia, Mr. William Price. Mr. Price, Mrs. Wentworth."

Lt. Price bowed. "Your servant, madam. Allow me to wish you joy."

"Thank you Mr. Price. You are very busy, I see."

"Oh, yes ma'am. Captain, the guns are all aboard and the powder and shot, too."

"Excellent, William. I see you got the long twelves for the quarterdeck."

"Yes, sir. They wanted to give me smashers, but I recalled your preference and held out."

"Good, good. I have no desire to fight from pistol-range with a lot of scurvy pirates. You got the extra powder?"

"Yes sir -- enough to practice from here to St. George."

"Make sure the bill goes to my agent. What is the matter with the fore topgallant mast?"

"Carpenter says she's sprung. Would you come take a look?"

"Yes, yes. I beg your pardon, dear. Please excuse us. We should not be a minute."

The minute turned into a quarter-hour, but it did not signify to Anne. She was still attempting to clear her head -- the nautical terms thrown around by the two gentlemen had quite confused her. Long twelves? Smashers? Fore topgallant? She had no idea if they were important or not. Soon her husband and his subordinate were leaving the ship.

"I would like to see that mast set right before sunset tomorrow, Mr. Price."

"Aye aye, sir -- as long as the supply yard comes through with the replacement."

"Any trouble, use Admiral Croft's name -- he will be here in four days."

Price grinned. "It is handy to have an admiral in the family, sir -- if you do not mind me saying so."

Wentworth actually did mind, but chose not to correct his very able lieutenant. "Well done, Mr. Price. I will see you in the morning. Carry on."

Price touched his forelock, the naval version of a salute. "Yes sir. My complements, Mrs. Wentworth."

Anne was replying to Lt. Price when a Marine rider pulled up beside the party. "Excuse me, but is Captain Wentworth aboard?"

"I am Captain Wentworth," replied Frederick.

The Marine dismounted, pulled an envelope from his saddlebag and saluted. "This dispatch is for you, sir."

Frederick thanked the Marine and then looked at the outside of the envelope. "Please excuse me, my dear," he mumbled as he turned to read the communication. He stared at it for a moment before turning back to the Marine.

"Any reply, sir?" the Marine asked.

"Only that I shall be there at the appointed time."

"Yes, sir." The Marine mounted his horse and rode away.

Frederick turned to his companions, who were looking at him expectantly. "A dispatch from London. I am to report to the Admiralty."

Lt. Price's face lost all good humor. "Is it urgent, sir?"

Frederick shook his head. "No, that is the strange thing about it. I am to report a week hence."

Price hesitated before responding. "Singular, sir." It was obvious he felt stronger than that about the mysterious order.

"Singular indeed, William." Why an express if there was no emergency? The Navy wasn't one to send riders all over the countryside for its own amusement. What is this all about? "Very well -- until the morrow, Mr. Price. Come, my dear."

All writings and web site Copyright © 2005, 2010 by Jack Caldwell.
All rights reserved.
E-mail may be sent to
info@cajuncheesehead.com