Drummer Boy Vol 2

by Arthur

Chapter 21

With the two groups joined up, the ride for their camp at Braganza became more lively. Although Thomas had taken notice of how tired and worn the newcomers looked he tried his best to maintain a light hearted atmosphere as he was very glad to finally have them all on the way home again with no losses.

Dusk was approaching just as the group arrived at the camp; immediately Thomas called for the cauldrons to be filled and placed on the fires for Maketja and his men to bathe; it had been a long time for them since the last good bath and he wanted them to have a little light pleasure before the rigors of reporting their travels took place.

While Maketja led his small troop of guides to find a place to unwind while they waited for the water to heat; Carmelo took over and went to the kitchen to find some extra food for them.

The rest of the evening was spent resting while Thomas put on his thinking cap and began to work on the problem of what to do next. During dinner that evening Thomas asked for Major Jones to join him in his tent where he had new orders for him to carry out. Next Thomas told all the men present that there would be a full meeting of everyone the next day after lunch where he had a number of important decisions for them to think over and some final decisions to be made for their future.

After dinner Thomas returned to his tent and began to work on a long list of things he would now have to take care of; he was soon joined not only by Major Jones but also his three closest friends and Senior Officers. Thomas began to throw out some ideas of what he wanted to do and asked for any suggestions the others may have.

It was far later than he thought it would be when the meeting finally broke up for the night; the plans and decisions had now all been made and it was time to put things into practice just as soon as the sun rose the next morning. Major Jones had been given the responsibility to organise things in Oporto and would take Sergio and Carlito with him to help as well as two of the mules laden with some of the treasure from the ten wagons.

Carmelo and Estaban would see to organising the movement of the camp from their present position to one they would have selected by Major Jones in or just outside Oporto. The two old friends were also charged with making sure everything was ready for the move by the 10th of September when it was hoped Pablo would finally be back from his escapades further north.

Now that the final decision had been made that the small army had no further need to prepare for a fight, Thomas allowed the men to begin to look forward to a different life after the war. Most of the mornings were spent by the men in relaxing or inspecting their equipment, the first three hours of the afternoons were spent with the many preparations that would be needed once they began the return to the west and the final stop in Oporto.

Thomas had received two reports from Pablo in the north, the first was just after Viscount Wellington had been pushed back by Marshal Soult at Maya, and the second was about how the Viscount had then turned the tables on the erstwhile Marshal Soult at Sorauren on the 28th of July and was once again on the advance towards France.

Thomas sent a message back with the rider for Pablo to have his scouts back before he moved the army out to Oporto during the month of September; all was now ready for their last long push back to safety at Oporto and the final assembly of his loyal troops; he hoped the plans he had made would be appreciated and remembered by those who had for so long fought beside him.

When the time finally arrived for them to leave their camp north west of Braganza and Pablo had returned with his force of twenty, Thomas set the pace much slower than they normally would have moved; he was happy for the column to make a mere twenty miles a day and, even with the increased number of wagons they now had, the column moved in a good and orderly fashion; even the two Companies of Infantry did not mind the slower pace.

As the outskirts of Oporto came into view on the 8th of October, Thomas saw the three black clad figures waiting for him on the side of the road. Major Jones and the two boys had been keeping watch every day for the last week as they waited for their friends to arrive; everything that had been asked of Major Jones was now put in place and ready for the big day that Thomas had planned.

The three waiting men sat straighter in their saddles as Thomas and the others drew up beside them; Thomas was the first to speak as was only proper.

"Major, Lieutenants, has everything been arranged?"

"Yes Sir." Replied Major Jones before he continued. "I have managed to procure the lease on some land just a little further along this road; it is about two miles from the outskirts of Oporto so we should not be disturbed during the parade or while we are in camp."

"Good, well done Major; and is the owner happy with the arrangements?"

"Yes Sir although he would only accept half the payment offered, he said his duty to the Patron would not allow him to take more. He has vacated his house for you to use during your stay and there are barns the men can use and plenty of open fields for the animals. At the front of the main house there is an area large enough for you to hold the last parade without congestion."

"Thank you again Major, and is everything else arranged as we wanted?"

"Yes Sir, Senor Forsca and his sons have been most helpful; he was able to find a good foundry for our use and the owners put their entire workforce at our disposal. Senor Forsca's sons also helped to make up the wages for the men and have double checked to make sure none are short changed according to my records."

"Good Major and what of the ships? Did they arrive on time and what has Senor Forsca arranged for them?"

"Yes Sir, the ships are at anchor except for one of them which is undergoing work in the dock but Senor Forsca would like you to call on him for further information on that matter Sir."

"Very good Major, well let's get the men to their new home so they can settle in. Lead the way Major."

Major Jones turned his horse and began to lead the way to their new home; it was only about three miles away and it was not long before the long column of men and wagons were beginning to find places on the open farmland to settle for their stay. While the Officers of each corps found a place for their men, Major Jones led Thomas, Carmelo, Estaban and Lorenco up to the house where the rooms had been readied for their use over the next few weeks by Sergio and Carlito.

The large front room had been set aside to use as the main office where it was far easier to greet anyone looking for Thomas or the others. Within minutes, the ever hovering Fairley had selected the best room for Thomas and was already seeing to his many bags and cases while Thomas looked for somewhere to sit while he waited for the other three to find their own room before going out to inspect the rest of the men.

By mid afternoon the kitchen in the house was filled with the rattle of pots and pans and the general noise of boys working on the evening meal for the Officers. Out by the two barns the scullery boys had set up the large mess marquee with the help of a number of the Infantrymen and were now working hard over the freshly dug fire pits with a number of sheep now cooking on them.

By early evening and only about a half hour before meal time, the camp had quietened down and the men were sitting around in their groups as they talked about the end of their war and what they would now do when the time came to leave all of the last five years behind. Many had already decided that their friendships within the small guerrilla army had to be maintained at all costs; they were all brothers of spilt blood and all had lost good friends to the French.

The next morning Thomas called for Major Jones once again; there were still a few minor details he wanted to check over before he left the new camp to visit Senor Forsca. When Major Jones had arrived, Thomas and the others were seated in the early morning sun and enjoying their cafe; Thomas indicated for Major Jones to tale a spare chair and join them.

When Major Jones was comfortably seated and was given a fresh hot cafe by Fairley, Thomas began.

"So Major how are things going?"

"Everything is on time Sir; there are only a few minor details I have to finish with concerning the parade."

"And what would they be Major?"

"Nothing of real importance Sir; I have had a few requests by others to be allowed to be present for the parade and was working on something or somewhere for them to stand and view the proceedings."

"Do you wish to enlarge on that statement Major?"

"Not at this time Sir, there are still arrangements to be made."

"I had not allowed for guests Major, this was to be a small and final parade before we disband."

"And so it will be Sir, these are just small and minor points I wished to take care of before that time comes."

"Very well Major, but I do hope there will be no disruptions to our plans."

"I will see to it Sir, now is there anything else that has you concerned Sir?"

"I just wish to check that all is going well. Are the foundries on time?"

"Yes Sir, I have it on good authority they are well within the time span."

"What of the carpenters and seamstresses? Are they also on time?"

"Yes Sir, in fact the seamstresses are almost finished with all their goods and the carpenters will be finished well ahead of time. The only ones having to take a little extra time are the engravers but they have extra personnel working day and night to finish everything we ordered."

"Good and what about printers? Were you able to find one that could do the work we needed?"

"Yes Sir, Senor Forsca had knowledge of a good print shop and they are attending to everything needed; with luck they should also be done by the end of this week. If you wished for my opinion Sir, I would suggest the parade be held in about a week; say about the 15th of October?"

"Yes that sounds good Major; you can inform everyone who needs to know that we will be on parade on that date. Now would you also inform the men of the date and that in the mean time I would like at least two hours a day set aside for practice, the rest of the day they may use to rest or look to their equipment; anything that needs replacing I will leave in your hands Major."

"Very good Sir, I will see to it."

"Thank you Major, now all I have to do is go and visit with Senor Forsca. Colonels Colosio and Grey will remain here if anything is needed while Colonel Lorenco accompanies me to Oporto town."

Carmelo was the first to speak up as the Major disappeared to carry out his projects.

"Patron, we have been talking and all three of us think you should plan to spend three or four days with Senor Forsca; you need a break away from us and a place to just sit back and rest. There is little more to do here that we cannot take care of and all of the planning for the parade is now done. Besides, perhaps you can leave Sergeant Fairley here to watch over us so he too can have a small break from your continued desire to keep moving and planning. I swear Patron the poor Sergeant must be nearly on his last legs the way he watches over you day and night."

Thomas looked at Carmelo as his friend tried so hard to look innocent while Estaban took great care to look up and watch the cloudless sky while pretending to whistle silently as he twiddled his thumbs in his lap.

"What the bloody hell are you two up to? And don't go telling me it's nothing; you both look about as innocent as a five year old with a stolen plum in his hand."

"Ah Patron, you wound me deeply; would I, your brother, truly lead you astray."

"Yes Carmelo you bloody well would if you thought you could get away with it."

"Oh Patron now I am wounded deeply, we only want for you to get away and rest without worrying about the small day to day things of the Regimiento; everyone must have a break from the daily grind of leadership; even the great El Toro."

"Bull dust Carmelo, you and the others are up to something but I suppose you will never tell so I will just get out of your hair for a few days and enjoy the company of a man who will not tell me tall tales."

"That is good Patron; do not fear, all will be ready for the parade when you return."

"It's not the parade I'm worried about Carmelo, but I will do as you advise and take a few days in Oporto; perhaps I will stay in a tavern instead of riding back here each day."

"A very good idea Patron; we, your brothers will take good care of your army while you relax in the town."

"Alright Carmelo, I get the hint you don't want me around for some reason but; I warn you I will find out what you are all up too sooner than later."

"Of course you will Patron that is if we are actually doing anything."

"Oh you are doing something, of that there is little doubt; I just don't know what yet."

"Have no fear Patron, we will take care of everything for you. Go now and enjoy your holiday from the rigors of command; your brothers have full control."

"That's what I'm bloody afraid of. Very good Carmelo you can call for Fairley to bring my horse and that of Lorenco, we will get out of your hair immediately and leave the rest to your machinations."

It did not surprise Thomas in the least to see Fairley walking around the side of the villa leading Thomas's horse while another of the younger Cavalrymen was leading Lorenco's; the fact that Thomas's panniers were also tied to his saddle told Thomas this had been well planned in advance; all it did was raise his suspicions that his friends were up to something.

While the trip to the main dock in Oporto did not take all that long and Thomas knew he could return to the camp within an hour; it also gave him a sense of freedom from the rigors of command, just as Carmelo had said. On arrival at the dock, it did not take long to find Senor Forsca and his sons working hard in the main warehouse office; what did surprise Thomas was the sight of three large ships of war anchored in the stream not far away from the dock itself.

Thomas gazed open mouthed at the three large and heavily armed ships as he tried to think of a reason they would be there, the war had moved far to the north and for Thomas there was no earthly reason for ships of war to be there. Thomas dismounted at the large doors along with Lorenco; he did not miss the new painted sign over the door.

It was painted in large letters on a pale blue background, the design looked very familiar and almost brought a smile to Thomas's lips; at the centre in black was the stylised bulls head and between the two horns were the letters, M.S.C. When the two friends walked inside the warehouse they were quick to spy Senor Forsca with a ledger in his hands as he counted baled goods on the floor.

Senor Forsca looked up as he heard the two pairs of boots walking over the wooden floor of the warehouse towards him. Senor Forsca stopped his work and, with a wide smile greeted his visitors.

"Patron, it is so good to see you once again after so long; what is it I can do for you?"

"Senor Forsca, it is also good to see you again, how goes the warehouse and the ships?"

"Excellent Patron, with the war moving north there has been a great increase in trade for us but, alas for others it is not so good; the fact you have your own ships has been a real boon for us."

"How so Senor Forsca?"

"Well Patron, the other dock owners are struggling now that the war effort has moved to Spanish ports; it has left them with very little business. I was fortunate to be able to make an offer on three other docks so now your company has the full length of these docks for our use."

"Do we really need so many; after all we only have a small fleet; how can we keep the supplies coming in to warrant buying the other docks?"

"A small fleet Patron? With the arrival of the extra ten ships you now have a sea going fleet of fifteen ships but it is not only those we cater for. There are now other companies that make use of our docks and labour, of course they have to pay a small fee for that use but they must also take anchor if one of our ships needs the dock. There are also the dock workers; they all work for us under a contract so the foreign ships must also pay for their work. The end result Patron is that you are now very wealthy and I have had to have constructed a second currency house at my home; soon I will have to find some trustworthy men to keep guard as my sons are becoming more and more involved with the running of the four docks."

"I think you will have no problems in that direction Senor Forsca, I am sure I have some men who would like nothing better than an honest day's work with the company. Now I must ask you of those war ships; for the life of me I can see no reason for them to be anchored so far from any battle lines or naval action with the French?"

"Ah yes Patron, the three forty gun Frigates; well Patron it is up to you as to what happens to them."

"Me?"

"Yes Patron, you. The ten ships you bought from the Prince Pimentel included those three Frigates. They are fine French ships; one is less than two years old and would make a fine company flag ship with a little refit."

"Flag ship? I have no intentions of becoming an Admiral and certainly not going looking for a war with them."

"I did not think you would Patron but the ship would make a fine flag ship for you to go wherever you desired. I have spoken to some of the shipwrights and they say they can do the work in less than two months to make it liveable for the owners use. I thought the other two could be used as escorts for some of your new fleet when they go far afield in search of cargo."

"That sounds like a good idea, where were you thinking they should go?"

"There are many places Patron. The Dutch are opening many places in the Mir Pacifica and are carrying spices and other valuable cargo to the continent at great cost, perhaps you could have some of your ships journey in that direction. There is also the huge trade now coming from the new world and the demand for tobacco and cotton is very much in demand; another smaller fleet could be sent there."

"Thank you Senor Forsca, it is something for me to think on. What of the other ships sent by Prince Pimentel?"

"They also need a little work to turn them into good cargo vessels but it can all be done in good time. You have three good and solid Sloops and four Brigantines that will convert nicely. I did think that perhaps the three Sloops could be used in the Mediterranean; there are many countries that abound it and we could make fine use of their trade. The Brigantines and one of the Frigates could be well used in the Mir Pacifica, I am told there are many pirates that operate in those wild seas but one of your Frigates should soon put them to flight; forty guns is a very good persuader Patron."

"Yes Senor Forsca, a very good deterrent as you say, not then I must go and find a tavern for us to stay, I have been told by my Officers not to return for a few days and can take my ease away from the army. There are one or two things I would like to discuss further with you but I would like to find accommodations first."

"There is a very good tavern not far from the end of the docks Patron and I would also like to extend an invitation to once again dine with my family later tonight if you are not otherwise employed."

"Thank you Senor Forsca, I would look forward to the pleasure and to once again meeting your generous wife. Shall we say seven of the clock, I hope by then to be settled at the tavern and could really do with a good homely meal after my boy's cooking for so long."

"Seven of the clock would be fine Patron, I will tell my wife of the arrangement and look forward to seeing you both then."

"Thank you again Senor Forsca; seven of the clock it shall be, I bid you a good day for now and will look forward to the dinner with great anticipation."

The two friends shook hands and Thomas led Lorenco outside to reclaim their horses and go in search of the tavern recommended to them. As they turned to walk their horses along the busy docks, Thomas noted that the next three warehouses all carried the newly painted sign which he had not taken notice of when first arriving. Along the dock were five ships being either loaded or unloaded. Thomas noted that there was a mixture of ships and their flags denoted their country of origin; the first two were Dutch, the next was Spanish and the last two flew flags that Thomas did not recognise but assumed they were not of any country he was aware of.

As he looked out into the main stream of the docks to where his newly purchased ships lay at anchor; Thomas saw movement on the deck of the newest looking Frigate. With some concern Thomas turned his horse back to the warehouse where Senor Forsca was at work. He had to tell the man that their ships were being raided; what affected Thomas the most was that the thieves were doing it in broad daylight and seemingly without fear of any retribution.

Thomas was soon back at the doors of the warehouse and caught sight of Senor Forsca who was once again busy with his ledger and also looked to be instructing one of his sons at the same time. Thomas jumped from his horse and raced to Senor Forsca's side, he then quickly reported what he had just seen on his new ships. Much to Thomas's surprise, Senor Forsca turned around smiling and completely unfazed by Thomas's report.

"Ah yes Patron, the men on your ships; forgive me I should have told you sooner but I thought this evening at dinner would be in time; I had no idea you would notice them right now."

"But who are they Senor Forsca? From the dock they looked to be armed and were not in the least afraid of being seen."

"They are some men I hired to protect your ships while they are at anchor. I was very fortunate that a cousin of my wife's sister's husband had a friend who said he could find enough men to guard your ships. I have found out since that he was once a navy man but was wounded so grievous that he now has to stay ashore but he does know how to control the ruffians he has watching over your ships, I have to give him that much."

"Where does he come from?"

"A small village just across the northern border with France; he is not a Frenchman but the man who recommended him has traded with my family for three generations and I trust his word. So far the man has proved to be more than adequate to the task, he has shot one man for trying to steal and another he hung from the main brace so every man in the harbour could see him; his charge was for attempting to murder a fellow guard over a dispute. I shall organise a meeting with him if you wish, I am sure he will fit your needs for a good guard on the ships while they await refitting."

"Thank you Senor Forsca, once more you have gone far above my expectations; I look forward to meeting the man, perhaps he may even take a permanent place once the ships are ready for sea."

"Of that I do not know Patron but he does carry some grave wounds, perhaps he may not want to take ship again."

"Well I can only ask him I suppose, any man who can bring order with a bunch of ruffians deserves to be asked if nothing else."

"I agree Patron; I shall set up a meeting on the morrow with the man so you may ask him for yourself."

"Thank you Senor Forsca, perhaps we can be taken out to the ship so I can see what condition they are in at the same time. What is the man's name Senor Forsca?"

"He calls himself Pierre, Patron."

"Just Pierre? Nothing else, no other surname?"

"No Patron, he only answers to Pierre although his accent is a little strange but that could be because of his injuries, they are quite bad."

"Well Thank you again Senor Forsca, tomorrow will tell us all we need to know about him and then I can get on with my relaxing just as my Officers want me to do."

"I am sure they have only your best interests at heart Patron, now if there is nothing else where I can be of assistance I will set about arranging the meeting with your guards."

"Thank you again Senor Forsca, I will leave you to your business and find that tavern you recommended. I shall see you again for your kind invitation to dinner."

Thomas turned back to where Lorenco sat his horse and was holding the reins of Thomas's. Within a few seconds the two old friends were riding slowly towards the tavern where they planned to stay while in Oporto. After finding a pair of good clean rooms for themselves and a good stable for their horses, Thomas and Lorenco set about sorting their clothes and organising for a good hot bath before having to go to Senor Forsca's house for dinner.

Thomas and Lorenco decided to walk to Senor Forsca's house as it was not that far away. As they strolled through the darkening streets, the two friends could smell the salty air and hear the sounds of the night-watch as they kept watch on the docks so that no thieves could take advantage of the vacant warehouses.

It was only minutes before seven of the clock when Thomas and Lorenco arrived at the gate to Senor Forsca's house; his youngest son was waiting for them as they arrived.

"Good evening Patron, my father waits for you in the front room."

"Thank you, would you please lead the way, as you can see we decided to walk so there are no horses to attend to."

The youngest son bowed and led them through the gate and back into the house where Senor Forsca and his family were waiting for them. It did not take long for everyone to get comfortable and the rest of the evening was one of laughter and relaxation as the two visitors were regaled with small stories by the men of the house. It had been silently agreed that no business would be discussed until after dinner and when the small group of business friends could relax with a fine Oporto wine.

With dinner done and the lady of the house seeing to the clean up; Senor Forsca took his guests into the front room where his sons joined him for an hour or two of business talk. By the end of the evening Thomas had been brought up to date with everything that had been going on since his last visit so long ago.

The business of war had been a real boon for the new company and Senor Forsca had been more than wise with his dealings and decisions; he had even had to build a second vault for their combined wealth. At this stage Thomas had not mentioned to Senor Forsca the fortunate capture of the ten wagons and what it could mean for their ever burgeoning finances.

At the end of the evening, Senor Forsca told Thomas that he had arranged a dory to take the two men out to the anchored Frigate where they could meet the man in charge of the guards; it was decided to catch the morning tide at 10 of the clock which would give Thomas and Lorenco time to sleep a little later than usual. After their good nights the two friends slowly made their way back to the tavern where they soon took to their beds for what they thought of as a good night's sleep.

The next morning was slightly overcast and reminded Thomas that the full force of winter was not far away. There was a distinct damp chill in the air but as yet the raging winds and heavy rain had not made their usual appearance much to Thomas's delight.

By ten of the clock, Thomas and Lorenco were standing on the dock with senor Forsca as they watched a small six man dory tie up to the landing below them. The two men at the oars looked to be old sea hands in the way they manoeuvred the dory and placed it at the dock side with the ease and familiarity of those born to the sea.

The three men stepped down into the dory without a word being spoken and the two oarsmen released the dory and turned for the closest Frigate; it was to be a trip of ten minutes before they came under the high side of the Frigate's gunnels. Above them Thomas could see that the two decks of guns had been run out and it was obvious the Frigate had been built not too long ago as the woodwork looked to be undamaged in any way and the furled sails looked to still be white and clean.

A rope ladder had been hung from the side and far above them Thomas could see the heads of some men standing in line waiting for their guests to arrive. It was now plainly obvious the men were used to the traditions of the navy in the way they had assembled and were standing steady. Once Thomas had clambered up the rope ladder he could see that at the end of the line of men stood the one in charge. Thomas could immediately see that the man had been well and truly in the wars at some stage. The man stood erect but with difficulty as it was obvious he had once been badly wounded in his left leg by the way he stood with a little more weight on his right leg.

The man was dressed in a mish-mash of clothing which was nothing really unusual for this country. He wore what appeared to be a very old and faded blues jacket which may or may not have had brass buttons at some time in the past. His shirt was the typical red striped shirt of sailors worldwide and his white canvas trousers he wore right down to his black shoes although from what Thomas could make out, the man may have been wearing boots of some description.

Around the man's waist was a wide black leather belt which carried a brace of pistols with both their butts facing to the right fort ease of use by the man's single useable arm; on his head was a worn felt hat with a wide floppy brim in the style of the northern peasants of Spain; only the lower part of the man's face could be seen and Thomas could just make out some bad scarring around the man's lips. The left sleeve of his worn and faded jacket was folded back at the elbow where his forearm had once been.

In the man's right hand he held a wide mouthed blunderbuss that had been shortened for the man to be able to carry in his single hand; Thomas had little doubt the man could make good use of the evil looking musket. Thomas turned his back and looked over the side of the ship to watch both Lorenco and Senor Forsca climb the ladder to the deck. As he watched he heard the sound of footsteps behind him and turned around.

Limping towards him was the disabled man and as he came closer the man halted, brought himself to a form of attention and then after resting the strange musket under his left armpit; removed his floppy brimmed hat with his right hand. As the man swept the hat off his head to reveal his face, Thomas suddenly felt queasiness in his stomach as his legs threatened to give way on him just as the man spoke.

"Hello Mister Marking, I was wondering when we would meet again; I hope you will forgive my appearance but I had a little bother with a French Man-O-War."

"SCULLY! What...how...Oh my God we thought you were dead, even the navy told us so."

"Yes it was a bit of a bother and I'm sorry if I was the cause of any distress to you but I have not been myself for more than a few years and by then things had changed a lot."

"Bother be damned, what happened? All we got was a report from the navy that you had died and gone down with your ship."

"Well rather than stand out here, let me take you down to the Captain's cabin where I can assure you there is some very fine French brandy; after all this was a French ship. Alfredo, the men can stand down and return to their duties, I will be in the Captain's cabin if I'm needed."

One of the young men standing in line stepped forward and touched his forelock before replying in Spanish.

"Yes Sir, is there anything you will need Sir?"

"No thank you Alfredo not for now, I will let you know what the plans are after I have spoken with Mister Marking."

The young man turned and gave the order for the others to dismiss and see to their duties as Mister Scully led Thomas and the other two through to where the Captain's cabin was situated. The three old friends along with Senor Forsca were soon seated in the large cabin set aside for the Captain of the ship and Mister Scully was in the process of pouring a good measure of brandy into four glasses.

After the four had taken a hefty gulp of the French brandy, Thomas looked at Scully and said.

"Alright Mister Scully, what the hell happened and why didn't you try to make contact with us; there was not a dry eye in the camp when we heard of your demise. I still have your possessions and have valued them because of whom they belonged to. I can only say I will be well pleased to return them all to you at the earliest opportunity if you are willing."

"Are you saying I have a position with your company then?"

"A position with my company? Are you mad Mister Scully, you will damn well take command of this ship as its Captain and will be the Commander of the Companies fleet or by all that's holy I will have you strung up higher than any mast in this harbour before the sun is set, and I brook no arguments about it Mister Scully."

"The rope will probably break Mister Marking; if the French could not finish me then there is little hope of anyone else getting me to the pearly gates before I'm ready; now then let's get down to tin tacks. What do you want to know?"

"Every bloody thing, after the tears I lost over you I want every detail of how you managed to walk away from certain death."

"It's a long story Mister Marking so we had better top up our glasses before I get started or we will all have parched throats."

Scully passed the bottle around the table once more and waited until everyone had a full glass before starting his story.

"Well on the day the Man-O-War came after the convoy and I decided to try to slow it so the others could escape, I thought we had done enough damage to it to make the ship turn back to port; unfortunately it seemed to have other ideas and I promise Thomas, I had no idea what or why I did what I did but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. When I got the few men off the ship that I could spare and the two men on the forward guns refused to leave the ship, all I could do was set course to ram the Man-O-War and hope for the best. When we got to within distance I raised your battle flag and tied off the wheel; it was then that they fired their first broadside. The guns killed the two men on the forward guns and I felt myself hit with something and thrown high into the air, the next thing I knew I was in the water with bits and pieces of the ship falling around me. I suppose it was the shock but at that time I did not know I was injured until I tried to grasp onto a broken spar that landed in the water just yards from me. When the pain finally caught up I had managed to somehow tie myself to the spar with my one good hand. The last thing I remember seeing was the Man-O-War turning for the French coast, it was then I knew we had been successful in saving the convoy but don't really remember much after that until I felt someone pulling me from the water."

Scully paused to take a large gulp of brandy before continuing, the others stayed silent as they waited for him to drink and then get his thoughts straight so he could continue with his story.

"The men that saved me were fishermen, they had seen the battle and were trying to stay well out of the way until after the Man-O-War left, they then came forward to find any salvage and instead found me. The flash had damaged my face and a large splinter had gone through my leg and something large had torn my arm to shreds. The fishermen did what they could to stop the bleeding and turned their boat to shore. When we arrived at the small town of St Jean De Luz which was their home, they found someone with medical knowledge and set about repairing what they could. The Medicante had to take my lower arm off but managed to save my leg; he said it was the salt water that saved my face from further damage from the burns but it left me with no memories for a long time. The villagers although living in France did in fact have close ties with families over the border in Spain. We did hear about the war and how the English were making great advances so the villagers kept me well hidden from anyone who may give me up to the French authorities. For some time I worked as a fisherman mending nets with the men that had saved me and it was not until a request from Portugal came asking for help with guarding some captured ships that I decided to return to Portugal; not in the hope of once again joining you as I did not know the Company belonged to you but as a means to earning enough coin to return to England one day."

"Well you will return to England one day but it will be as Captain of this ship and no other way."

"My, my Thomas, you have become bossy since I last saw you; did you make Major or are you still a lowly Captain?"

"Neither, for the next few weeks I am a General and don't you bloody forget it Captain Scully or I will have every man of the Regiment down here rattling their drums when you are trying to sleep."

Scully laughed as he lifted his glass to take another sip while he watched the smile broaden on Thomas's face; the old comradery was settling in once again as the two friends began to relax into a long lost familiarity. Thomas could only think of all those who had been lost over the last five plus years and now, here was one that had returned from the dead, it gave him hope that all the fighting would perhaps have some happy moments after all.

After a short pause for everyone to let the harrowing tale of Mister Scully's return sink in, Senor Forsca raised the question of renaming and crewing all the new ships; it was suddenly time to get down to the practicalities of a shipping company. Thomas was the first to speak and was to set the tone of the meeting.

"Well firstly I think as to renaming the ships; I have given a lot of thought to this just as soon as I found out the Frigates were part of my purchase, however, with the sudden appearance of Mister Scully in the flesh I may be the cause of a little embarrassment to him but I am going to proceed as I originally thought. The two older Frigates are to be named after my two adopted sons so they will be the M.S.C. Sergio and the M.S.C. Carlito. Now this ship being as it will be the flag ship of our fleet and the newest of them all shall now be known as the M.S.C. Scully; and Captain Scully there will be no arguments; it is the name I had settled on before your revelation. Anyone with other thoughts?"

"Yes but I'm sure you won't listen to me about it all." Scully replied with a smile.

"Probably not Captain, this is one discussion where you don't get to choose. Now then I have something else for you to do to get your mind off the naming of the ship. With ten new and unmanned ships we will need full crews and I have no idea how or where to find them. The English navy has taken most of the men from shore so we may be hard pressed to get the men we want. Captain! Do you have any suggestions?"

"Yes General." The using of Thomas's rank was said with a wide smile which Thomas could only put down to his own insistence in using Scully's new rank and was his way of getting a little revenge. "You have a lot of contacts both here and in England, or have you forgotten the cane you carry? There is also the fact that the war is winding down and very soon there will be more sailors ashore than asea, we can wait and take our pick. With the winter coming and work still needed on the new ships there is time yet before we will need them."

"A good idea Mister Scully, let's work on that and I will get a message off to Captain Morgan about looking for good honest Captains for the other ships and perhaps putting the word out that there will be crews needed for the ships here. Now then Senor Forsca, I plan to find some land to build a home here in Portugal; is there some way it can be done?"

"It would depend on what you were looking for Patron and where you wished to have the land."

"I was hoping we could find somewhere close to our old bay near Vimeiro, the one the boys called Toro Bay; we already have a good dock built there and the bay could easily take the Frigate and perhaps one or two other smaller ships. What do you think Senor Forsca? Is there any chance we can purchase some land for a small house there; perhaps overlooking the bay or at least close by."

"Leave it all in my hands Patron, if it can be found then I will see it is done; I should have an answer for you within a week if I move quickly now."

"Well gentlemen I think there is only one thing left to do. Colonel Lorenco, I would ask you to accompany Captain Scully to the nearest tailor and have him completely fitted out with all the necessary clothing and uniforms that would now be fitting for his new position as Commander of the Company Fleet. I will get with Senor Forsca and see what victualling needs we will have to purchase for the new ships once they are refitted to our standards and purposes. Mister Scully is there anything you will need for this ship?"

"Yes General, most everything was stripped from the ship that would have been used on a daily basis, they left most of the shot but we have no powder and the food stocks are nonexistent as is most of the plate wear and cooking utensils and bedding; practically everything that could be carried off has been done so; it's going to cost a pretty penny to refit it completely."

"Don't worry Mister Scully, that's my problem not yours and I can assure you it is little of a problem as you will one day find out. Now then the last thing I have to mention is that we are having a small parade to disband the Guerrillas; it's the only way we can give the men a little hope of a future without being hunted down once the Spanish King has returned. Mister Scully I would appreciate it if you would also appear for the parade, it is after all your one time home and the men would be overjoyed to see you alive and kicking. Senor Forsca perhaps you may wish to also join us for the day; your invaluable help throughout our campaign should be recognised; perhaps your sons would like to join you also?"

"Thank you Patron, you do us a great honour to include my humble family; I shall see that my sons are present for the honour."

"Good, thank you Senor Forsca. Mister Scully, your Answer?"

"I suppose I had better turn up or you will hound me to the grave although I must admit there are a couple I would like to see again so when and where?"

"Our camp is about two miles to the east of town, you can't miss it; we plan to hold the parade on the 15th of October and would like to see you at about nine of the clock."

"Thank you Thomas, for everything; I'll not let you down and I will also be there to watch the men parade out on the 15th . Now then let's get off this ship and do some long needed shopping Colonel Lorenco or this may turn into a morbid recounting of past mistakes."

The four friends rose and left the cabin; once on deck Scully called for the oarsmen to ready the dory to take the small group back to land, there was a lot to do and it was better to get an early start. Thomas sat facing the scarred face of Scully with a wide and very contented smile as the two men worked hard on the oars as they rowed against the tide to make the steps of the dock; once the four men were ashore the dory would make the return journey back to the ship while the four friends went about their day.

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