Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead (A Charles Hayden Novel)

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9780425277928: Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead (A Charles Hayden Novel)
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Master and Commander Charles Hayden sails into a lethal fray in this epic seafaring adventure by bestselling author S. Thomas Russell.

Under the command of Captain Charles Hayden, Royal Navy frigate HMS Themis is sent to counter the threat of the French forces in the West Indies. In the middle of the vast Atlantic, Hayden discovers two Spanish noblemen, castaway in a ship’s boat—a stroke of almost impossible good fortune. The Spaniards’ explanation for their plight seems so improbable that Hayden’s officers suspect them of being criminals or even spies. But they have secrets far more shocking than that—secrets which will haunt Hayden in his new posting.

Upon reaching the Barbados station, Hayden finds himself under the command of the vainglorious Sir William Jones, an impetuous and foolhardy officer. Refusing orders will cost Hayden his command. But accepting them might cost him his ship, his crew...and his life.
 

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About the Author:

S. Thomas Russell is a lifelong sailor whose passion for the sea inspired Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead, Take, Burn or Destroy, A Battle Won, and Under Enemy Colors.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

Lady Hattingale, accompanied by the physician, descended the great stair a few steps at a time, paused, her head inclined and nodding at the doctor’s words, and then undertook the next three steps. The butler awaited them at the bottom, a near-statue of discretion and deferment. When the physician and the noblewoman came near he whispered a few words and both physician and lady turned their attention to Charles Hayden, who waited ten paces distant.

“Captain Hayden,” she said, crossing towards him.

Hayden made a leg. “Lady Hattingale.”

“Dr Goodwin, our physician.”

“Sir.”

“You have come to enquire of Lord Arthur,” she said—it was not a question.

“And to speak with him if it is possible.”

Lady Hattingale glanced at the physician, who seemed to consider this request most seriously.

“I do not think it would do any great harm,” the doctor decreed. “Ten minutes, though, no more. Do not speak on any subject that might cause him distress.”

“Is he yet so fragile?” Hayden asked.

“He lost a great deal of blood. I am still somewhat surprised that he survived. But the young are full of surprises.”

“And his arm?”

“We will see. I think he will keep it, but he may never have full use of it again.”

“Thank you, Dr Goodwin,” Hayden said, “for all you have done.”

The man made a modest nod. “Who is your surgeon?”

“Obadiah Griffiths.”

“Carry him my compliments. I do not think Lord Arthur would have survived without his timely ministrations.”

“I will very gladly do so,” Hayden replied.

Lady Hattingale saw the doctor to the door and the butler took Hayden up to Lord Arthur. He was let into a large, sun-flooded room, where he found Wickham buried under a sea of white coverlets. The midshipman’s face beamed like a lighthouse upon seeing his shipmate.

“Captain Hayden, sir . . .”

“This is a cosy little cabin they have given you, Wickham. You must be an admiral now to have such a cot.” Hayden sat down upon a bedside chair. “You are pale as a cloud. I have seen fish bellies not half so white as you.”

“I am told I left half my allotment of blood upon the deck of our ship, sir.”

“Someone is always cleaning up after you reefers.”

Wickham smiled.

“Did you speak to Dr Goodwin, sir? Did he say when I might be allowed on my feet again?”

“He did not. All he said was that you are recovering apace and that you should be playing the fiddle again in a fortnight.”

“My mother will be most happy to hear it. I was a terrible disappointment as a musical prodigy.”

“Well, there, you see, one advantage already—a happy mother.”

Both fell silent a moment.

“Did we lose many men, sir?”

“We took losses, yes. But all our Themises came through unharmed, you excepted. Did I never tell you not to stand in the way of a musket ball?”

“You did, sir, but I forgot myself in all the excitement.”

“That is why you should listen to your elders, for I am four and twenty and you are but six and ten.”

Again a silence settled around them.

“I am told there is to be a medal, sir?”

“That is the rumour. All the captains Lord Howe saw fit to mention in his missives to the Admiralty are to receive a medal for their part in the battle on June first.”

“You must have been mentioned, sir.”

“By some miracle, I was. I did not think the admiral knew my name. He did not, however, mention a number of captains who I am certain shall feel they have been slighted. I expect there will be a great deal of resultant ill will.”

Wickham nodded, as there was nothing new in this; admirals always had their favourites. “Have you any news, sir? Are we given orders?”

I have been given orders. You are to rest and recover.”

Wickham nodded and glanced away, blinking.

“Where is Raisonnable bound, if a mere landsman may ask?”

“You are no landsman, Wickham, but only temporarily aground. The spring tide will float you off. I am the captain of Raisonnable no more, but have been given a new ship. One you are more than a little familiar with. Themis is her name—a fine frigate with a black character.”

Themis, sir!”

“Indeed, and we are sent on convoy duty into the Baltic, with most of your old shipmates aboard.”

“Why, sir, whenaway? Mayhap I will be recovered enough to take ship with you.”

“We sail within the week, but I expect you to buckle down and recover so you will be ship shape when we return. Mr Stephens has informed me that it is likely we will be sent to the West Indies after the hurricane season has passed.”

“November, sir?”

“Not before December, I should think. That gives you some goodly amount of time to complete your refit and resume your station aboard.”

“I shall set the dockyard hands to work on my ailing limb immediately, sir.”

“I am happy to hear it. The midshipmen’s berth has become a nursery, full of children who do not know which end is which—and I am talking about their person, not the ship. I need you back to instruct these boys in the finer points of being an officer in His Majesty’s Navy.”

Wickham grinned. “I remember, sir, when I first set foot aboard in my new rig with gleaming buttons and snow-white breeches.”

“Yes, I remember my first days as well. I could hardly comprehend a thing that went on around me.”

“I was the same, sir. And then a new, young lieutenant came aboard and taught us all what service meant.”

“You know those new lieutenants, all brash and thinking they know all.”

“I hope to be one myself, some day.”

“You were an excellent acting lieutenant, Wickham, and not in the least brash or all-knowing. Why, I should recommend you to any theatre company, you were so convincing.”

This almost put a hint of colour into the midshipman’s face, and he appeared to search for something to say.

“I have been reading the papers,” Wickham offered, “one-handed.” He tried to smile. “Do you think that Robespierre can survive the summer?”

“I do not know,” Hayden said, feeling his spirits sink. He had had no news of his family in France for many months. “The Committee is sending anyone to the guillotine, almost without trial—a mere accusation is enough to take a man’s head. It is a frightening time to be French. There must be a backlash against this—there must be a return to reason.”

The door opened then and Lady Hattingale entered. Immediately, Hayden rose to his feet.

“Please sit, Captain Hayden,” she said. “I am but a nursing sister here.”

“Your ministrations have worked a small miracle,” Hayden observed. “This midshipman appears well on his way to a full recovery.”

“He is doing splendidly, but forcing him to rest is my greatest contribution . . . which he resists at all times. Perhaps, Captain, you might order him to stay abed until the doctor allows him to quit it?”

“Mr Wickham, I hereby order you to rest until this good nurse and the physician allow you to rise. In fact, you are to follow their instructions in every detail. Do you comprehend what I am saying?”

Wickham nodded submissively. “Aye, sir. I shall do all within my power to be a better invalid . . . but it is not in my nature.”

“No,” Hayden responded, “it is not, but you will be back aboard ship the sooner for a little patience, I am certain.”

“Is it three o’clock already?” Lady Hattingale enquired as the mantel clock chimed. “You see, Lord Arthur, how quickly time speeds? You shall be on your feet in no time at all.”

Hayden took the hint and rose.

“I must bid you adieu, Lady Hattingale, and thank you again for all you have done for Lord Arthur. We all believe he will be an admiral one day, if he does not want to be Prime Minister.”

“He will make a better admiral, I think,” she answered, and rose as well. “Let me walk you out, Captain.” Then, to Wickham: “You have your orders, Lord Arthur. Rest. I shall find you another book to read.”

Hayden gave a nod to Wickham, who touched an invisible hat with his good hand.

“Thank you for coming, sir. Remember me to the others.”

“I do not think they have forgotten; they ask about you hourly. We will be back from our convoy in a few weeks and I will look in on you at that time. Be well.”

Wickham gave a nod, appearing suddenly unable to speak.

Hayden and Lady Hattingale went into the hallway beyond, and towards the stair. She was a very tall woman of perhaps fifty years, though she carried these lightly. She was elegantly but simply dressed and wore no jewellery—not even a ring. To Hayden she seemed a practical and steady woman—just the sort he would choose to nurse his unlucky midshipman.

“He appears thin as a whip,” Hayden observed.

“Yes, he very nearly did not survive,” Lady Hattingale replied, shaking her head but a little. “I thank God that he is on the mend and hope he does not take a sudden turn. Lord and Lady Sanstable will arrive presently.”

“I expected them here.”

“They were visiting in the north but I am certain set out the very instant they had word.”

“I am sorry not to have met them. Lord Sanstable has been a good friend to both me and my ship.”

“And well he should be,” she said, and smiled. “Lord Arthur worships the ground you walk upon—or perhaps I should say ‘deck.’”

“I cannot imagine that is true.”

“Lord Sanstable is convinced you have been a great and good influence upon his son.”

“I wonder if His Lordship will feel the same after he has seen his son so gravely hurt?”

“You could protect him only at the cost of his honour,” Lady Hattingale very wisely observed. “Lord Sanstable comprehends this.”

The final stair was reached and in a moment they arrived at the great entrance.

Hayden paused. “Thank you again, Lady Hattingale, for all you have done for Lord Arthur.”

“I have known him since the day his mother brought him into this world, Captain Hayden. I could not have done less and wish I might do more.”

Hayden was out the door, where a groom stood waiting with his hired horse. Portsmouth was but a short ride, and all the way there Hayden found himself overcome with the most morbid feelings and such tides of emotion that he could hardly keep his saddle. All of the midshipmen were his charges, given into his safekeeping by apprehensive parents. But the truth was he could not keep them safe. He could try to make them good sea officers, but they would ever face mortal danger. Wickham, he realised, had become something of a protégé—more like a nephew than a young gentleman. Of course, it flattered Hayden to think of himself somehow part of such a distinguished family—for he was of more modest stock. But musket balls did not care what colour blood they spilled—blue or red, it was all the same to them. That was the harsh truth of the sea officer’s life. Anyone who stood upon a quarterdeck was a target for enemy fire. Hayden, Archer, Wickham—they could all easily end their lives sewn up in a hammock, slipped over the side into a dark, watery grave . . . there to wait until the sea shall give up her dead.

Two

It began as an uneventful crossing—if crossing a vast and volatile ocean in the dead of winter could ever be construed as uneventful. A three-day gale in mid-December, however, changed all that and set in chain a series of “events” unlike any Hayden had ever known or even imagined.

To begin, three men were thrown down from aloft; two broke on the deck and departed this life upon that instant, but the third, beyond all odds, landed upon one of his fellows, who had not heard the cries, and now it appeared to be a question of which would live, for both lay in the sick-berth sorely hurt.

The next event was less dramatic but infinitely more sensitive. Hayden had been prevailed upon by Admiral Caldwell, the commander-in-chief of the Barbados station, to carry the admiral’s secretary out with him. The man, who was also a cousin to the admiral’s wife, was presently installed in a cabin in the Themis’ gunroom. And it was in regard to this particular gentleman that Lieutenant Benjamin Archer had approached his captain.

Beyond the gallery windows, night’s sullen tide gathered on the eastern horizon. Across the sky, however, quickly fading shades of pale purple, rose, and gold appeared to have been pastelled upon the clouds. Shortly, a servant would slip in to light the lamps. The frigate’s cabin, which had once seemed as grand as a ballroom to Hayden, now appeared cramped and dreary compared to the great cabin he had so recently vacated upon the sixty-four-gun ship Raisonnable. He had been too junior a captain to retain such a command and now he was back on the ship no other officer wanted, his rise and fall so rapid he had barely a moment to register either. At least, he reminded himself, he had retained his post. And he was not headed north into the Baltic on convoy duty, where he had so recently spent several cold, wet months, often fog bound and land-blind. Instead, he shaped his ship’s course towards the West Indies, and the warmth of those verdant islands had reached out to the crew of the Themis the previous week.

Archer stood in his usual post-somnolent state, uniform not quite dishevelled enough to provoke comment. In his hand he held a small square of cream-coloured paper, neatly folded. The young lieutenant was struggling to find some way to begin and looked sheepish or, perhaps, embarrassed, Hayden could not say which.

“And what is it, exactly, that Mr Percival has done to distress you so, Mr Archer?”

“Well, sir . . . he has given a poem to Mr Maxwell.”

“The cherub?”

“Yes, sir.”

Midshipman Maxwell had been dubbed “the cherub” the instant he had set foot on the deck, for no one aboard had ever seen a youngster who so resembled a seraph, from his curly, yellow locks and rosy cheeks to his rather angelic smile.

“That hardly seems a capital offence—unless it is a particularly bad poem.”

“It is rather good, sir, but then his claim to have written it is somewhat exaggerated, as I believe a player by the name of Shakespeare wrote a very similar poem some years past.” He held the poem out to the somewhat mystified Hayden.

Hayden unfolded the paper, and there, in a very beautiful hand, was written:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st.

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

“So Mr Percival gave this poem to Mr Maxwell, claiming it to be of his own making . . . to impress our young midsh...

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Book Description Berkley Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Master and Commander Charles Hayden sails into a lethal fray in this epic seafaring adventure by bestselling author S. Thomas Russell. Under the command of Captain Charles Hayden, Royal Navy frigate HMS Themis is sent to counter the threat of the French forces in the West Indies. In the middle of the vast Atlantic, Hayden discovers two Spanish noblemen, castaway in a ship s boat a stroke of almost impossible good fortune. The Spaniards explanation for their plight seems so improbable that Hayden s officers suspect them of being criminals or even spies. But they have secrets far more shocking than that secrets which will haunt Hayden in his new posting. Upon reaching the Barbados station, Hayden finds himself under the command of the vainglorious Sir William Jones, an impetuous and foolhardy officer. Refusing orders will cost Hayden his command. But accepting them might cost him his ship, his crew and his life. Seller Inventory # AAS9780425277928

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