Cover art for my second book a bit farther along than the last time I posted an excerpt from the first.
The first dog watch was nearly over. Pierce was glad for a two-hour rather a four-hour round of duty. Duties were split in the late afternoon and early evening to allow all hands a chance at supper and other evening activities. It also allowed an odd number of watches each day and a variance in when each watch was on deck. Pierce’s duty as officer of the watch came in rotation and its frequency depended upon the number qualified to stand the watch. Currently, the three ship’s lieutenants and the master shared the duty. The senior midshipman took a turn when it would not interfere with his duties as midshipman of the watch. On most King’s ships, the first lieutenant did not stand watch in rotation, but alternated time on deck with the captain. Aboard Theadora, however, Lieutenant Forrest had a better feel for the ship if he stood watch regularly, and had inserted himself into the rotation. Captain Jackson had not faulted the idea and occasionally took the duty for a surprised and grateful junior. He once said he needed to occasionally refresh his memory of being a watch-standing officer.
Sollars and Andrews arrived to assume their duties as officer and midshipman of the watch. The turnovers were complete and as Pierce turned to leave, he heard the captain call out, “Mr. Andrews!”
“I shall require Mr. Sollars’ presence below. You are qualified to have the deck?”
Taken aback, Andrews stammered, “Y-Yes sir!”
“Your opinion, Mr. Sollars?” asked the captain.
“As any of the midshipmen, sir.” Sollars was noncommittal.
“Undoubtedly, sir. Indeed more than many of the young gentlemen.”
“Very well then,” said Jackson. “Mr. Sollars, pass on to Mr. Andrews any instructions you would have for him, and join us below.”
“Aye aye, sir!”
“Mr. Andrews,” continued the captain, “You know the standing orders. I am to be called should you need to alter course or shorten sail. I do tend to overlook that requirement if you must act hastily to prevent loss or damage to the ship.”
“Aye aye, sir!” responded Midshipman Andrews.
“Now gentlemen,” he said to Pierce and Sollars. “My cabin in ten minutes.”
“Aye aye, sir!”
Pierce went below, glad at last to be out of the biting cold wind. He hung up his muffler and pea jacket and ensured his good gloves were safely tucked in the pockets. He made a final unsuccessful attempt to put his cocked hat in decent form, and left for the captain’s cabin.
Jackson welcomed and bade him be seated. Shortly the other officers, as well as Midshipman Small, arrived. He was the senior midshipman, and for many weeks had been assigned duties and responsibilities more suited to a lieutenant. He was in all ways, except actual pronouncement of the fact, an acting lieutenant.
“I hope you do not expect a great feast at the captain’s table tonight,” began Jackson.