A Ship for The King

A Ship for The King by Richard Woodman Read Free Book Online

Book: A Ship for The King by Richard Woodman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Woodman
of King James, he sometimes pined to go to sea again. There the chores and daily round allowed him to stand upon his own two feet, a watch-keeping officer directing others. Now he was continually subservient, ever on his guard, not against Mainwaring, but wary of some of those among whom his master moved. Mainwaring’s duties were many and varied. He attended and conferred regularly with Lord Zouch, the Governor of Dover Castle with whom he maintained a fractious relationship. Faulkner was involved with arrangements for ordnance, powder and ammunition to be supplied from London, then followed his master to the Assize Court to try French fishermen caught fishing illegally in English waters. But, once having had ambition awakened, Faulkner chafed increasingly at the constraints necessary to his life. If he had been turned into a quasi-gentleman, was apparelled accordingly and spoke with a certain witty and ready tongue, he was yet a whelp to Mainwaring, the old hound and a man of indefatigable energy.
    Sir Henry rarely seemed to take pleasure in anything other than work, having made himself almost indispensable to the King’s service and, paradoxically, it was this that suddenly ended the stasis in which the irked Faulkner found himself.
    The variety of Mainwaring’s involvement in public affairs led him to make enemies within the castle and he was accused by Lord Zouch of neglect of duty. Hints that he slept outside the castle in order to lie with a woman brought about a heavier suggestion that his resignation would be pleasing to His Lordship. Much amazed, and declaring the charge trumped-up, Mainwaring asserted he indeed sought the company of a woman, but not on the occasion in question. He had, he responded, been assaulted by a troublemaker and afterwards spent the night with an old friend, one Captain Wilsford. It was also true that he was then also raising men for a squadron fitting out for foreign service and therefore his absence from Dover was legitimate. Taking Faulkner with him, he had also waited upon the King at Windsor to discuss with His Majesty the issue of impressments, but Lord Zouch dismissed him, nonetheless, remarking that a man, even a man of Mainwaring’s acknowledged talents, could not properly serve two masters.
    Aware of this furore, Faulkner was apprehensive for Mainwaring’s future as much as for his own. Despite his misgivings, his youthful sights had been raised considerably and he had slowly but inevitably become a victim of his own self-conceit. In due course, his head turned, he had abandoned any idea of returning to his old life sailing out of Bristol, increasingly enamoured of the notion of serving in a King’s ship-of-war.
    In the event Mainwaring had lost nothing in the King’s eyes during his altercations with Lord Zouch. Having made representations to the Earl of Rutland, Mainwaring found himself in receipt of a letter in the King’s own hand. He and Faulkner were lodging in London when it was delivered and, aware of its origin and fearful of its content, the latter watched his master anxiously as Mainwaring cracked open the royal seal. Without looking up and before he had finished reading, he ordered Faulkner to pour two cups of wine. As Faulkner set them on the table, Mainwaring laid the letter down and picked up the wine.
    â€˜You are aware that the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Buckingham are in Spain, seeking a Spanish Infanta as a bride for Prince Charles, are you not?’
    â€˜Indeed, Sir Henry. There has been much talk of it and the fear of Their Highnesses being held hostage by His Most Catholic Majesty.’
    Mainwaring smiled. ‘I should have known better than to have asked,’ he laughed, pleased at his protégé’s grasp of affairs of state. ‘Though the whole affair is a mad-cap adventure wherein the impetuous Buckingham has imperilled the Prince, undone much diplomacy and made something of a fool of the King’s

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