Though weeks had gone by, Julianna thought often about John, her Admiral Grey, and the note from her that he never received. She had risen early on the day of his sailing, after the disastrous scene at her home the prior evening, to pen a note of apology and to express her deep and abiding love. She forgave him for cancelling their plans for some time in the country, admitting and accepting that he had duties to perform and that it was not within his control. She didn’t press him, at least not in this letter, about an engagement, only saying that she would await his return and would be happy to see him then. She stated that she thought her parents might mellow in their opinions with her having months to work toward that end, although privately, she wasn’t sure. Still, she knew how to get what she wanted, as so many an only child did.
But the messenger that she had hired at some considerable expense returned with her letter, saying that he had been only minutes too late. Julianna had railed at him until the boy quivered with fear, but then realized that he had done what he could and he too was not to blame for circumstances beyond his control. She gave him some extra money and sent him on his way smiling.
She hated it that John would be gone for months and months, wondering about the state of their relationship, and she knew he would do just that. She thought to write to him, but where? And in any case a letter would take so long in transit that John would likely be gone from wherever he was before the letter arrived. If only there were some way to send him her thoughts. But that was impossible.
It would be a long winter for both of them. She would try to busy herself with reading, charity work, the occasional concert or play with her parents. But time would pass ever so slowly.
Paulie worked uneasily with Kate until the shop closed at five, wondering what was bothering her about the new employee. Joan, the other assistant, also seemed wary, but Paulie didn’t get a chance to discuss it with her, and didn’t know in any event if that would be quite the right thing to do.
Paulie took the bus home as always. On the way, she thought about Ray, wishing he would call or send a text or at least something. But he so often didn’t, and when Paulie asked him about it, he had little to say other than that his business occupied him nearly full-time, and he barely had time to sleep. It all sounded a little strange to her.
But there was little she could do. She accepted Ray as he was, loved him all the same, but couldn’t he be a little more considerate? Didn’t he know how much she missed him?
Things had become so strange since she started to read the logbook …
There it lay, on her bedroom floor, as she entered to change out of her work clothes.
The apartment felt suddenly cold.
Some tea before her dinner. A pot of Hoopoe Choice Darjeeling, that should warm her and cheer her.
She made to go to the kitchen, but then the logbook was in her hands and she was sitting on her bed and the logbook was open and she began to read …
With repairs to the helm completed, but with no further clues as to why someone forged orders to impersonate the First Mate and commit an act of sabotage, the Sovereign continued to sail toward its destination, the port of Honolulu. There were still weeks to go, and they were already behind schedule. The Admiral could do no more than hope that whatever was happening in that remote place, it hadn’t yet reached a point of no return.
At least the Pacific was calm and the sailing smooth. They encountered no Pacific storms, the new rudder linkage held up well, and the ship’s crew were even able, with some time and effort, to restore the old linkage for use as a replacement spare. All seemed well, and the routine of shipboard life went on without anything more than the small, ordinary disturbances that came from living at sea for an extended period in close quarters.
And then at long last they began to approach the chain of islands that makes up Hawai`i, beginning from the south with Hawai`i Island, Admiral Grey thought of sailing along the eastern side and putting in at the port of Hilo for resupply and brief repairs before sailing further north to Honolulu, on the island of O`ahu. He wanted the ship ready for all events, including a rapid sailing, if necessary. But he decided against the delay, and opted to take his chances by continuing to Honolulu directly.
One more day, and they would reach the Honolulu harbor. On they sailed, up the west side of Hawai`i Island, then through the channel between the islands of Maui and Lana`i, past the island of Moloka`i, until the south shore of Oahu came into view.
Most of the sailors had never made port at Honolulu, and the Admiral allowed them brief leave on deck to view the sights in groups. There was much to see. From the beaches spread out along the south shore, to the volcanic mountains looming behind, lush green, sharply edged, seeming to rise out of nowhere; the abundant shore birds, flying over and behind the ship and everywhere over the island; the leaping fish and occasional dolphin or whale; and the blue, blue skies and deep blue water. Admiral Grey, and no doubt much of the crew, marveled at the presence of an independent kingdom, much visited and its favor much sought after by mighty world powers, here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so far from anything else, thousands of miles from any major land mass, isolated, alone, and yet still free.
But as they drew nearer, the time for gaping and wondering drew to a swift end, as the men were ordered to stations. Final preparations had to be made.
Honolulu’s port didn’t feature docks and slips as did the major naval port in London. Ships anchored in more or less assigned spaces off shore, and launches carried men and material back and forth from ship to land. The Admiral wouldn’t, though, have to deploy any of the Sovereign’s boats. British personnel on shore would observe the arrival of the Sovereign and send out a British launch to meet the ship.
“Ahead slow,” Admiral Grey said from the bridge. They would dock next to the other British ship on station, the Marauder. “We should be able to find her here somewhere.”
They sailed along the mouth of the port, the lookout above searching with his glasses for the British frigate. “Anything, Mr. Parker?” the First Mate called from outside.
“No sir, it’s rather strange,” Parker replied. “There is a French ship or two, an American ship, a lot of other small craft, but no sign of the Marauder.”
O’Connor relayed the message to Admiral Grey.
“Very well then,” the Admiral said, but it wasn’t well in the least. “Find an open space and we’ll drop anchor, go ashore, and make enquiries.”
The First Mate directed the helmsman and before long, the Sovereign was at rest inside the harbor, a safe distance from the other vessels but still not so far off shore.
“Launch a ship’s boat, sir?” O’Connor asked.
“No, let’s wait, although I’m no longer certain of anything.”
It was nearly an hour before a launch pulled alongside and hailed the Sovereign.
“Prepare a landing party, sir?” the First Mate asked.
“No, Mr. O’Connor. Let me go aboard the launch and see what I might learn. No one will be going ashore, not even you nor I, until I have some answers.”
A rope ladder was extended and the crew of the launch pulled it over their gunwale. Admiral Grey clambered down with the agility born of long experience.
He turned about on the deck when suddenly, one of the sailors cast off the ladder and the launch quickly pulled away.
“What is the meaning of this?” Admiral Grey demanded. “Where is the commanding officer? I did not give an order to take me to shore!”
But the launch was now headed at full speed parallel to the shore, with an apparent heading that would take it out of the harbor. And then the Admiral noticed that the sailors wore British uniforms that were ill-fitting and soiled.
One of them produced a pistol and pointed it directly at Admiral Grey’s midsection. “Go below,” he commanded, pointing his other hand at the stairway. “Do as you’re told and quickly. I’d have no qualms about shooting an Admiral. Might even like it.”
To be continued on or about March 25, 2020
Paulie was going to enjoy some Hoopoe Choice Darjeeling but never seemed to quite get to it. Hoopoe Choice is Tea Trader’s house Darjeeling selection. Subtle floral notes underlie a smooth, fruity, aromatic cup with good color and sweetness. You can get it, of course, from Tea Trader, either online or, if you’re in Calgary, by dropping in at the shop. Just don’t let magical ship’s logs distract you.