The launch quickly covered the short distance to shore, where it was easy enough to find a cab to the British Embassy in downtown Honolulu. The area was busy; it was near to Chinatown and drays and lorries were carrying things up and down all of the streets to the many shops and markets in the area. A light drizzle had begun, a warm rain that no one on the streets seemed to even bother to notice.
First Mate O’Connor announced the arrival of Admiral Grey and his party to the clerk at the reception desk in the front of the Embassy building lobby. It was hardly an imposing structure, and very much more like something you’d expect to see in a faraway location such as the Kingdom of Hawai`i. Small as it was, though, and even in an old and not especially elegant building, it was still the Crown’s representation.
There was a short delay as a messenger was sent inside the Embassy proper, and then the Sovereign party was ushered into the Ambassador’s office. They were not, however, greeted by the Ambassador. Instead, his Deputy, one Reginald Thorpe, stood to meet them.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “very nice to see you.” His words, however, were somewhat belied by his glance at the armed sailors accompanying the Admiral and the First Mate. “Please be seated. I imagine I owe this visit as perhaps a call to show your respects to our five unfortunately lost Navy men?”
Strange words, Admiral Grey thought, and rather than taking the proferred seat, he said, “We have paid our respects to our Navy men by giving them an immediate and proper burial at sea, in a ceremony at which the British Ambassador was not present. Nor did he even send a representative. I would say, Mr. Thorpe, that your office is the one that still is in need of paying proper respects.”
“Well, really, Admiral, under the circumstances …”
Admiral Grey remained standing, and took a step closer to Thorpe. “Please explain these circumstances,” he said, “and while you are doing so, also tell me where the Marauder happens to be, as I did not see her in the harbor. I was told that she was stationed in Honolulu harbor.”
Thorpe’s expression grew tight. “Your news is old, Admiral,” he said, his voice a bit tense. “No doubt that is what you were told when you sailed from England … how long ago? Months, at least. Well, the Marauder with the Ambassador aboard, left here about eight weeks ago, to return to England via Cape of Good Hope. She should arrive there in perhaps another month.”
“Why did she leave her station without being relieved? I brought no such orders with me, and it isn’t possible that prior orders would have been sent. Mine is the only ship from England to come here recently.”
“The only Naval ship, Admiral, but other ships do land here that fly the British flag.”
“None of them would have carried orders to the Marauder.”
“That is where you are mistaken, or I should say, at least misdirected. The Ambassador has been … unwell … lately. He has had certain … delusions, shall we say? I sent word of this back to England, and orders came by way of a trader ship. The orders were from the Naval Secretary himself. The Marauder was to sail with the Ambassador, who was being recalled, and I was to take charge until another permanent Ambassador was appointed.”
“I see.” But Admiral Grey didn’t see. “Very well then, we shall return to our ship for the moment. But I will wish to meet with you again on the morrow to discuss certain matters.”
“What matters might they be?” Thorpe asked.
The tension in the room was palpable. The armed escort was on full alert, and O’Connor seemed on the verge of speaking, but Admiral Grey held up a hand. “First Mate, we shall depart.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
“Mr. Thorpe,” the Admiral continued, “we shall see you again soon.”
Without further discussion, the Admiral turned and led his party out of the Embassy.
Acting Ambassador Thorpe— that was what he called himself, at least— watched through his street-facing window and waited until he saw the Admiral’s party depart in a cab, presumably to return to the docks. Then he went over to his desk and wrote out a brief message on a sheet of paper. He folded it, sealed it inside an envelope, and then thought to call for a messenger.
No, this was too sensitive. He had better do this in person, although that could be tricky as he didn’t want to risk being seen. But there was no real option. He put on his hat and linen jacket, told his secretary he had a meeting to go to, and departed the building.
The secretary, Rogers, didn’t have any sort of meeting marked on Thorpe’s calendar. But it wasn’t his place to say anything. Still, odd things were going on, and even though it wasn’t Rogers’ business, he was wondering.
First Mate O’Connor didn’t say anything until everyone was back in the cab.
“Shall I have that man Thorpe arrested, sir?”
“Much as I would like you to do that, Mr. O’Connor, we have neither evidence nor jurisdiction.”
“But sir, his story was obviously a tissue of lies.”
“Indeed. Orders would not come by merchant ship, and there is no way such orders would have arrived ahead of us. Yet for some reason the Marauder is gone and the Ambassador with it. Or at least presumably so.”
“How do you mean, sir?”
“Thorpe’s story probably has no accurate elements in it whatsoever. Yes, the Marauder sailed, and there must have been a reason, either orders which the captain thought to be legitimate, or for reasons of the captain’s own. As to the Ambassador, I’m afraid we know nothing. He could be on the Marauder but somehow I don’t think so.”
“Where would he be, then?” But O’Connor knew that there was no ready answer.
“We shall have to determine our next moves,” the Admiral said. “We were sent here because the Ambassador thought things were very wrong. That has turned out to be the case. Now, we need to find people who can answer some questions truthfully. That may not be an easy task.”
“Where do you plan to start, sir?”
“I think we need to speak with lower-level staff in the Embassy. And I do believe it would be helpful to visit the Royal Palace. King Kalākaua was undoubtedly told some stories, and I’d like to hear what they were.”
“How do you get an audience with the King?”
“I have an idea about that.”
The cab rode on the short distance to the docks. Admiral Grey would not elaborate further, and the party rode back to the Sovereign on the launch in silence.
“It’s time to see the King,” Admiral Grey repeated the next morning.
The First Mate again looked skeptical. “Begging your pardon, sir, but you still haven’t said just how you planned to get an audience.”
“We won’t go directly,” the Admiral said, dodging the question. “First, we’ll go back to the Embassy and see what we can find out from the staff.”
“The Embassy is pretty small, sir,” O’Connor said. “Not a lot in the way of staff.”
“That’s where you come in,” Admiral Grey replied.
“Sir?” O’Connor looked genuinely puzzled.
“What does an Englishman like most for lunch?” Admiral Grey was smiling.
“For lunch … why …” O’Connor returned the smile. “A pint, sir!”
“Exactly. And when someone buys that pint for him …”
“He’s a mate forever, isn’t he?”
“So now you know what to do.”
“Yes, Admiral, I surely do.”
Admiral Grey had ship’s business to conduct in seeing to refueling, resupply and a certain amount of refitting. He also wanted to think over the chain of past events. He ticked things off in his mind as he sat with tea in his cabin. A nice Darjeeling, always good for serious contemplation.
First, the urgent and frightening despatches sent by the Ambassador, and his being told his crew was recalled and that he was being sent off on short notice.
Then, the flaming rock at his hotel in London.
The strange appearance of the phony First Mate with forged orders. The seeming disappearance of the real First Mate.
The near deadly catastrophic failure of the rudder linkage upon crossing Cape Horn, and the later discovery that it was clearly sabotage.
The false British crew in the launch, and their attempt to carry him off upon his arrival.
The dead British naval men in their hut by the docks.
The Ambassador having gone missing and the departure of the Marauder, and the so-called Deputy Ambassador’s very unlikely story about orders being sent via a merchant ship.
Things were seriously wrong. The magnitude of it was overwhelming. Events happened in both England and Hawai`i, and there could be little doubt that they were closely connected.
Who would have such a reach? How could things have happened so quickly? The attack in London was on the very day that the Admiral had been given new orders and had received the despatches to read over.
Monticello, the phony First Mate, had appeared at the Admiral’s ship the very next evening. And, presumably, was responsible for the sabotage to the rudder linkage, although there was really no proof of that.
The phony British sailors in the launch appeared at the moment of the Admiral’s arrival in Honolulu.
And even earlier than that, the Marauder had been sent off. The Admiral didn’t know exactly when that would have been, but it certainly was well ahead of his arrival.
It just wasn’t possible. Communication with England was by ship only, and the Sovereign was a fast ship. How could word have gotten back and forth so rapidly?
It seemed almost as if there were some sort of black magic in play. Or something well beyond the comprehension of a mortal man in the year 1885.
The three men in the little office weren’t happy, and their discontent could be read in every line of their faces.
The eldest, clearly the leader, said, “How can so many things have gone wrong? Who is this Admiral Grey, that he is able to escape our clutches so easily?”
The middle one shrugged his shoulders, and the younger said, “They are not happy upline.”
“You don’t say?” eldest said. “As if I need you to tell me that.” He paused and stroked his chin.
They were sitting around a battered wooden table which, with a few chairs, made up nearly all of the contents of the little office. “Maybe he’s just been lucky,” eldest said.
“But this is supposed to be our base,” middle said. “We were supposed to get established here, so we can prevent …”
“Don’t say it aloud,” youngest said.
“No one is listening, and we’re protected …”
“Follow the rules,” eldest said. “We need to stay with the plan, even if this meddlesome Navy man is around. If we can’t take him out, we simply go ahead. If he tries to interfere, we’ll deal with him on the spot, as it happens.”
“You need to call upline, clear things,” middle said.
“No,” eldest said, “we’ll run this independently. We have leeway to do that. You know how up there they don’t like to hear about things going wrong. They only want to hear ‘mission accomplished.’ Remember we’re just one team of many, spread out all across the four dimensions.”
“When do we act?” youngest asked.
“You are always so eager,” eldest replied. “I was like you once, and it held me back until I learned to control my impulses. We will act at the right time. But that will be soon, I think, perhaps as early as tomorrow.”
He turned to middle. “Get hold of our agent in the Palace. Find out the King’s schedule for the next few days. We’ll meet again tonight and we’ll see what’s in the offing.”
The final episode of Season Two will appear in late May, 2020.
Our hero, Admiral Grey, enjoys a variety of teas in the afternoon, and often chooses a fine Darjeeling. It helps him relax, relieve stress, and even to focus on the problems at hand.
Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling
Tea Trader offers a variety of Darjeelings. We’ve previous featured Hoopoe Choice as a refreshing and economical everyday blend. But at times the Admiral reaches into his supply of Margaret’s Hope. It’s been popular down through the years. Subtle vegetal notes lie beneath the bright, floral character of this second flush offering. It brews a light, amber-gold cup with a honey finish. The tea is named after a historical Lady Margaret. Click on the links above to learn more about this and other Tea Trader teas, and, if you wish, to place an on-line order.