A Ship for The King

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

Book: A Ship for The King by Richard Woodman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Woodman
Majesty. But you will know that some of our present business has related to the fitting-out of a squadron intended to proceed to Spain to bring home Their Highnesses.’
    â€˜Yes, of course.’
    â€˜But you will not know,’ Mainwaring went on, the fingers of his left hand tapping the King’s letter with a slight and portentous rustle, ‘that I am appointed to command the Prince Royal in which the Earl of Rutland will shortly hoist his flag and take command of the fleet destined for Spain. Moreover, you will not know that I shall appoint you among my lieutenants.’ Mainwaring paused to let the import of his words sink in. Then, looking at Faulkner, he added: ‘By God, this is a long way from foraging for apple cores, Mr Rat!’
    And he was pleased when the lad smiled.

    The Prince Royal
    Summer 1623
    Mainwaring had joined the Prince Royal at Chatham, leaving Faulkner in London to attend to some domestic affairs relating to their departure. The ship had sailed to Spithead from where, early in July 1623, Faulkner was summoned ‘before the middle of the month’.
    With that attention to detail that marked all his dealings, Mainwaring had given Faulkner a list of instructions enabling him to prepare himself for his new role. These had arrived along with his orders to join Sir Henry in the ship and included an inventory of personal effects with which Faulkner should equip himself. Studying the list made the young man aware of the daunting nature of his new life, and while he had learned to conduct himself with an assumed confidence, he was astute enough to know that in the close company of courtiers he would be found wanting. In his solicitude Mainwaring had addressed this, writing,
    Get thyself a new doublet, some decent boots and some goodish lace. Nothing ostentatious, but of sober and undoubted quality. Match this with some small clothes, for you shall have a servant and none tittle-tattles more. Do not acquire a new sword, that will mark you too obviously, but take mine which I left purposefully for you. Buy also a red sash that will mark you as a new lieutenant – your commission I have with me over the King’s Sign Manual – for there is no dishonour in promotion. Purchase also a decent cuirass; half-armour will be beyond the means I left in your charge, but there will be sufficient funds for a b’plate . . .
    Faulkner hefted the purse Mainwaring had left with him ‘for contingent and other expenses such as I shall advise you of soon’, and smiled grimly to himself.
    â€˜Well,’ he muttered, ‘there is nothing for it, then,’ and picking up his hat he made to leave upon an expedition to acquire the necessary additions to the stock of his belongings. Pausing on the threshold of his lodgings he regarded his hat and its bedraggled feather. ‘And perhaps a new hat and,’ he added sensibly to himself, ‘a portmanteau of sufficient capacity.’
    Halfway down the stairs he paused again. ‘God’s blood – a servant!’ and with that he strolled out on to the street, whistling softly to himself and mightily pleased.
    Faulkner had only ever seen a King’s ship at a distance and she had been half the size of the Prince Royal . Now, as the hired boat pulled him from the Sally Port towards the anchorage at Spithead, reality bore down heavily upon him as he sat in the boat’s stern sheets, his feet tucked to one side of his portmanteau and his left hand about the satchel containing Mainwaring’s correspondence. The euphoria of the four days begun with the making of his purchases and preparations in London, and ending with his journey in some style (an inside seat in the coach), were whipped away in the breeze that even on a day of brilliant sunshine in high summer, had something of the chill of the distant waters whence it blew. To his disgust, Faulkner’s stomach reminded him it was some time since he

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