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Path of the Waves: The Tale of Caleb Morrings
Aboard the Governor, a ship in the British Navy, 1806
The waves crashed upon the wooden sides of the ship,
“Hey! Hey!” a voice cried defiantly “Let me out! I am an American, I tell you!”
Heavy footsteps resounded overhead. A trapdoor was opened and the head of a British sailor looked down.
“Enough already!” He exclaimed, “I've 'ad enough of your yellin'. You, you and all the other filthy deserters are goin' back where you belong. And I can assure you that Captain won't be pleased to hear any more of your squallin'!
The sailor disappeared. Frustrated, the young man below folded his arms across his chest and plopped onto the deck. His loose brown shirt was soaked with spray from the ocean and his tall boots were stained from the salt. He had tussled oaken-colored hair and eyes the color of stone.
Muttering, the man glanced about him. He was in the bottom of a large wooden ship, one of the British navy. A few barrels were tried down in a corner along with a number of crates full of food and other supplies. A single lantern hung from the ceiling and cast a little light onto the faces of the other men with him. One man in particular, a light-haired sailor sitting near the young man, stared blankly off into space.
A sudden wave rocked the ship. One of the ropes holding the barrels snapped and a large barrel thudded to the ground and rolled towards the sailor. The young man leapt to his feet and grabbed the barrel just before it hit the man. The sailor blinked. He looked up at the young man and nodded quickly. The young man shoved the barrel aside. He looked at the man and waited. Conscious of his presence, the sailor awkwardly met his eyes.
“Well, what do you want?” he asked with a British accent.
“I was hoping for a 'thank you',” the young man said. The sailor nodded. “Thank you.” he said brusquely. The young man smiled and sat down beside him. The sailer looked at him curiously.
“American?” he asked.
The young man nodded. “They didn't believe me when I told them. Now I'm stuck here, in the bottom of a British boat, heading to Great Britain herself.” he said contemptuously.
“Watch it now!” the sailor interceded, “You may be American, but I quite like my Great Britain, even if she has a rotten commander leadin' her navy. I think I could like you, so don't make me hurt you for another remark like that!”
The two man looked at one another. Both were smiling. The sailor extended his hand, “William Calen's my name, by the way.” The American shook his hand, “Caleb. Caleb Morrings. American Navy-man.”
Caleb and his new-found companion, William, soon found that they had plenty of time to get to know one another. Besides the continuous rocking of the ship, there were no other movements on the boat. The ocean provided the endless ambience but the other men in the hold made no sounds.
During this time, they exchanged life stories: William was a born-and-raised Englander whose family had made their home on the ocean shore, where his father ran a fishing company. “That is,” he had told Caleb, “until Da died. Then Mam and the others packed up and moved to the city. They knew we couldn't keep up the business and, honestly, I didn't want to. So I joined a couple of my mates in the Navy.” He grimaced, “That was possibly the biggest mistake I've ever made.”
“I've heard tales about the British navy. Just never thought I'd be drafted into it.” Caleb said. William nodded, “It's hard. The commanders aren't too keen on any encouragement other than that of pain, I can tell you that. That's why I left. Thought I'd try out this new country of yours. I didn't make it very far, that's for sure.”
“You sure didn't. I was on my way back home on leave from the American Navy. Last place I though I'd end up was England.”
“At least the Frenchies didn't get ya.” William smiled, “That would be a fate worse than death, right there!” They laughed merrily. Caleb leaned his head against the crate behind him. This wasn't so bad. Once he got to England, he could just explain to the commanders his predicament and they'd be sure to let him return home. As William started off on another story about 'Good old England', he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, rocked by the waves of the sea.
A few hours later, the trap door suddenly lifted, sending sunlight pouring onto the men below. The British sailor from the previous day appeared again. “Rise and shine everybody.” he shouted, “We're close enough to Britain now that we can trust you all out on deck again.” As Caleb scrambled awkwardly to his feet, he smacked William, who was still asleep. He grunted and partially opened one eye. “Let me alone.” He muttered, “Maybe they'll forget about me down here.” Caleb grinned. He liked this man, British or not. Leaving William sprawled out on the ground, he followed the other men up the ladder to the upper deck.
Before him, the island of Great Britain was spread out. He could see the towns and ports, many of the ships docked there bearing the enigma of the renowned British Navy. Blue waves crashed on the shore, sending mists of droplets cascading into the breeze. A warm summer breeze drafted though the air. Caleb almost smiled. This was the first foreign shore he had set eyes on and if his conditions had been a bit different, he might have enjoyed getting to see the beautiful island country of Great Britain. But under the circumstances, there was nothing he wanted to do in England besides get out of it.
Soon, the ship was docked in one of the ports and the deserters were being led to the commander to be punished for their disloyalty and be reassigned to their ships.
Caleb stared around at the winding, stone streets and tall buildings. The town was not too different from what he was used to back home. The style of the buildings was a little different, but the busy streets and scrambling shop owners were the same no matter which country.
Soon, the small group stopped in front of a huge brick building. The quarters of the commander of the Navy. Caleb sighed with relief. Now he could settle all this and head back home. England was nice, but he still could not wait to get out of there.
“What's your name, sailor?”
“Caleb, sir. Caleb Morring.”
The commander's quarters were spacious and comfortable. Paintings of ships and landscapes hung on the china blue walls and in the center of the room sat a huge oaken desk. There were many windows, large ones, in the latest English fashion. Behind the desk, the commander shifted through some papers, seeming to forget Caleb's presence. Caleb glanced around, unsure of what to do.”
Quietly, the commander stood. He glanced at Caleb. “Well, I can seem to find your papers. Where you from?”
Caleb stood straighter, “Georgia, sir.”
The man stared at him quizzically.
“I'm from Georgia.” He repeated, looking the man straight in the eye.
Suddenly, the British commander laughed. He leaned on the desk, peering closer at Caleb. His eyes were mocking. “Georgia, huh?” He asked jeeringly. “And where exactly in England would that be?”
“It's not in Britain, sir. Like I told your captain, I'm an American.”
The commander stopped laughing. He glared straight into Caleb's eyes. After a moment of silence, he leaned back off the desk. Turning his back to Caleb his gazed absently out of the large window behind him.
“So is every Englishman who deserts his post. Suddenly, they're not meant to be in the British Navy at all.” He turned slowly, “They become 'American'. Why should you be any different?”
Caleb raised his head higher. He reached inside his coat and pulled out a salt-stained letter. He handed it to the commander, who took it suspiciously. The commander slowly opened the envelope.
“It's marked to a Caleb Morring of ___ Georgia. Enlistment papers for the American Navy. They're mine.”
The commander handed back the letter slowly. He raised his eyebrows slightly and nodded.
“You have proven to me that you are indeed American.” He stated, sitting back down at the desk, “Now, moving on to the matter of your deployment -”
Caleb stepped closer to the commander's desk. “What! Deployment!”
The commander nodded, “Yes. I don’t think you understand my predicament here -”
“I don't think you understand my predicament! I'm not supposed to be here!” Caleb interrupted, seething. The British commander stood, anger filling his eyes.
“Watch your tongue, boy! Your being American doesn't mean that you are excused from having manners or being deployed in the British Navy. We need sailors. We just simply don’t have enough men to fight sea battles against France and America at the same time. And that is what it seemed to be coming to. I'm afraid,” he said, “That you have no say in this matter. Report to the HMS Leopard in one hour.”
Caleb bit his lip, hard, to keep his anger from exploding. He nodded brusquely and turned on his heel. He heard the commander stand and clear his throat.
“Oh, and sailor,” He paused and turned to face his new leader, “Good luck on the open main.”
The warm air that blew off the sea slipped its fingers through Caleb's hair. He breathed in deeply, trying to expel some of his anger. He was glad to be out of the commander's office. Too much longer in there and he might have said or done some things that he would live to regret. He clenched his hands into fists by his sides. A sailor in the British Navy. He could think of few worst fates.
All in all, however, he told himself, at least he would be on the sea. And England wasn't currently at war with America, at least for now. He would die before he fired against his own countrymen.
“Ahoy! You, with the strange face!” a familiar voice called.
Caleb turned. A smile almost flew across his face when he saw William striding confidently down the dock. He waved, calling out to him.
“Hello there, sailor! People will think you mad, you know, if you don't stop talking to yourself!”
William laughed, clapping Caleb on the back.
“It's good to see you again, friend. Though I have to admit, you're the last person I'd think to meet here. I thought you'd be back in America by now!”
“So did I,” Caleb crossed his arms, “But that commander of yours told me I'm now part of the British Navy, American or not.”
William smiled slightly.
“Better watch what you say, there!” He shook his finger at Caleb, “He's your commander too now.”
“Don't remind me. I never thought he enlist me. I mean, I've heard stories of sailors being pressed into service but I never really wanted to believe them.” He sighed. “What ship are you stationed to?”
“The Leopard. You?”
“Same! What are the odds?” The two men smiled and William put his arm about Caleb shoulders as they made their way to the HMS Leopard. Caleb turned and took one last look at England. With luck, it would be the last he ever saw of the country, he thought to himself, with luck.
Caleb had spent much of his life near the sea. His family lived in a shoreline village when he was a boy. Out of all his five siblings, Caleb had always been closest to his brother Thomas. Both of them loved the sea, were drawn to its mystery and the promise of adventure on the open main. They would spend hours playing sailor on the beach or building tiny ships out of bark and leaves and setting them off into the sea. They were the closest in age, only two years apart, and were constant playmates when they were small, and great friends as they got older.
His father, a trader, nurtured this love for sailing and sea travel by taking him along on trips when he was old enough to be of some help. Sometimes, Thomas would join them and those trips were among Caleb fondest memories of his youth. His father dreamed of the day when Caleb, his eldest son, would take over his merchant ships and continue in the work he himself had labored at for so many years.
Still, Caleb could never stop thinking of the adventures he had hoped for as a child. His heart still longed for the feeling of sailing to distant lands. When he was seventeen, he left home and enlisted in the American Navy. Never would he have guessed that now, at twenty, he would be standing on the deck of a British warship, a sailor in the English Navy.
“Hey, Daniel!” William called out, “Watch that knot, there! You'll be in a heap of trouble if that rope comes undone!” Caleb glanced down at the rope in his hands. He had been tying a rather sloppy knot that would have come undone with any substantial pressure. Shaking his head to clear it of his wandering thoughts, he redid the knot and pulled the rope taunt. On the port side, William was inspecting the cannons and giving them a good oiling. The other sailors ran about the ship, scrubbing, cleaning, and tarring the deck.
Caleb and William had been on the Leopard for almost a year. Born a sailor, Caleb could have loved every minute of his enlistment, except for the harsh discipline. He was a fast learner, and soon realized that if you did everything you Captain told you quickly and silently, you would be alright. He had already witnessed a few other men who had dared to show their displeasure at the hardly-edible rations and back-breaking work. All of these men were either whipped or given smaller food rations. If it hadn’t been for this strict and hard leadership, Caleb could have enjoyed his time. After all, he was on the sea. But the voices of the men around his constantly reminded his that he was sailing under a British flag.
“Hey, Will!” he called, “Lend me a hand over here for a second.”
“Yes, sir!” William sang out, standing straight at attention and snapping his hand quickly to his forehead in an exaggerate salute, “Right away, sir!” Caleb laughed and rolled his eyes.
“What is it, Commander Morrings? How can a simple sailor like me-self aid such a man as you?”
“First of all, you can start by holding this rope taunt while I tie. Then you may shine my boots and press my uniform.” Caleb said haughtily, struggling to keep a straight face. William looked at him steadily.
“Oh no, sir,” he shook his head slowly, “I couldn't do that. Why, I'd make such a mess with your pretty boots and all. And I know how much you love to play with the boot-shine. Painting pictures in it and such!”
“Fine then. Just the rope. But hurry up with it! Captain should be coming around for inspection anytime now.”
Just then, heavy boot-steps echoed on the deck behind Caleb. He spun around and came face to face with the Captain. The tall, heavy-set man frowned beneath his thick brown beard, his heavy eyebrows coming together and merging to make one long, bushy line.
“What is going on here, sailors?” He asked, leaning closer to Caleb. William shifted his weight from one leg to the other.
“Just having a bit of fun, Captain, sir. We didn't mean no harm in it.”
The Captain raised his eyebrows. He nodded and continued his inspection of the ship. Caleb exhaled quickly and nodded his thanks to William. Even after a year, the Captain still managed to strike fear into his heart.
The Captain paced from cannon to cannon, inspecting each one. Suddenly, he stopped. Stooping, he reached behind a tar bucket and picked up a small, brown book. He fingered its salt-stained leather cover, his eyes sweeping the crowd of sailors. One young sailor seemed abnormally fidgety. He clenched his hands together behind his back and stood rigid, his eyes on the book.
Caleb saw the Captain look around and slowly open the book in his hands. The sailor in front of him shifted, blocking Caleb's view. He made a face in annoyance and quickly side-stepped around the man. Something was wrong, and he wanted to know what was going on. The Captain's eyebrows peaked. He slammed the book shut and faced the sailors.
“Whose is this?” His voice rang out over the men. The sailors were silent. The Captain's eyes burned.
“Answer me!” he shouted, “Whose book is t-”
“It's mine.” The young sailor interrupted him. The skinny lad stood tall, but his hands shook a little as he stepped forward towards the Captain. “The book is mine.” He obviously struggled to keep his voice steady.
The Captain's eyes narrowed. He glared at the sailor before him and pointed to the book.
“Your journal?” he asked mockingly, “Obviously there were somethings that you didn't feel comfortable telling me to my face.” His voice and face suddenly darkened. “You think I'm too harsh on men? You think I'm tyrannical?” The last word made the sailor blench. His lower lip trembled slightly as he straightened his shoulders. The kid's got courage, Caleb thought to himself, I'll give him that.
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, I'll show you harsh.” He pulled a short whip from the back of his wide belt and stretched his arm back for the first blow. The sailor winced and clenched his teeth as the lash bit into his right shoulder. Caleb could see tears spring to his eyes as the whip snapped against him again, and again.
Caleb clenched his hands into fists by his side. He could hardly bear to watch. The sailor was so young, yet so brave. He took the lashes like a man, but Caleb could see his resolve weakening.
Finally, as the whip sang for the tenth time, the sailor gave out. His legs crashed out from underneath him and he fell on his face to the deck. The Captain stopped and bent onto one knee to address the sailor, his face inches from the bloodied young man's. Caleb could barely hear the Captain whisper savagely. “ Now do you think I'm too harsh?”
This time, the Captain made no effort to conceal his anger. He leapt to his feet and raised the whip to the sky. Shouting, he brought it down upon the sailor's exposed back. The man screamed. Caleb could not take it any longer.
“Stop it!” He shoved the man in front of him aside and rushed in between the Captain and the bloodied sailor. He instinctively threw his arm in front of his face as the lash came down. The whip wrapped around his right shoulder and he bit his lip to keep from screaming in pain. The Captain started, surprised. His face darkened as he realized what Caleb had said.
“With all due respect, Captain,” Caleb tightened his fists again, “This man had had enough.”
The Captain laughed quickly. He tossed his head and glared at the rest of the watching men.
“Anyone else agree?” he asked. No one moved. William bit his lip. Caleb knew his friend was willing him to step down.
The Captain turned back to face Caleb.
“I guess you are alone, then,” he said, his eyes darkening. He jerked his hand quickly upwards, yanking the whip off of Caleb's arm. Caleb cried out slightly as the burning pain seared though his shoulder. He set his jaw and closed his eyes as he felt the lash bite into him again and again and again.
Caleb groaned as he lowered himself slowly into his hammock. The wounds from the Captain's lashes were still fresh and he could feel them pulse in time with his heart. His shirt had been torn to shreds and he was sure his back matched. He laid gently on his stomach, careful not to rub his shoulder against any of the roping.
He had never seen the Captain so furious. If I hadn't intervened, the Captain might have injured that sailor even more grievously, he told himself, trying to vindicate his actions to himself. Myles, the young man he had protected, was lying in a pile of old blankets that William and another sailor had gathered. He was flickering in and out of consciousness, moaning whenever the rocking of the waves awoke him. He had barely managed to thank Caleb before he had passed out. Caleb winced as the ship hit a rough spot and the hammock shifted and thew him onto his shoulder. He clenched his teeth and rolled over slightly. The burning pain of the lash-marks brought tears to his eyes and he imagined the agony that Myles felt.
Footsteps echoed from behind him. He did not bother to turn and face whomever it was approching him. He heard William stop next to his hammock and pause, unsure of what to say.
“Caleb?” he said softly, “You awake, mate?” Caleb grunted his reply. “Look, I'm sorry for earlier. I should have 'elped you, with the Cap'n and all... I'm real sorry.”
Caleb sucked in his breath and gathered the strength to turn and face William.
“I understand. I did not really expect anyone to stand with me.” You can't help it if you are all cowards, he struggled to keep from saying, I should have expected this to happen. “Don't worry about it.”
William smiled weakly. “Sure.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot, uncomfortable with the circumstances. “Well, I need to get up deck; I'm supposed to relieve Leker at the helm for a couple a' hours. I'll come check on ya' when I'm off.” Caleb nodded, then winced as the movement shoot forks of pain up from his shoulder. He rolled back to his former position and closed his eyes. The sound of the waves as they slapped against the sides of the ship were a comforting sound, familiar and steady. The sound grew fainter as he slipped off to sleep.
The brisk salt air bit at Caleb's face as he stood upon the bow of the HMS Leopard. Two more years had passed since his incident with the Captain. As evidence of this clash, he wore a long, jagged scar that ran from the front of his right shoulder to a few inches down his back. Since that day, his relationship with the Captain had evolved to one of mutual respect. Things still had not changed radically on the ship, but now the Captain knew where Caleb stood. He squinted his eyes against the bright sun and sighed. Days He had turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. Caleb had no idea when, or if, he would ever get off this ship. All of the sailors were getting restless, waiting for chance to get onto the land and off of the constant rocking of the waves. Soon, he told himself soon we will have to dock. Then I'll be able to find an American ship and get back home. I know that's deserting is wrong, but doing it from a Navy you didn't enlist it doesn't seem half bad.
“Unknown vessel at 3 o'clock!” Caleb jumped at the sound of the sailor's voice as it rang down from the crow's nest. “Repeat: ship at 3 o'clock!” Men scurried to their positions and the Captain strode quickly over to the edge. He pulled a long, slim telescope from within his outer coat. As he placed it to his eye, a scowl came over his face.
He jerked it away from his face, slamming the instrument into the arms of the sailor next to him. The man jumped and scrambled to grip the telescope. When the Captain turned and stormed to the lower deck, the sailor lifted it and stared through the lens.
“Hey, Morrings,” the sailor called out suddenly, “Take a gander: They're flying 'merican colours.”
“What?” He cried, running forward and snatching the telescope from the man's hands. The sailor made a face at him as he gazed through it, twisting the lens to focus his view. His heart sank as he recognized the bold red, white, and blue of the American flag dancing brazenly at the fore mast.
He bit his lower lip. He did not turn as he heard someone approach him and place a hand on his shoulder.
“What are you going to do?” William asked, leaning closer. Caleb shook his head.
“What can I do?”
The Leopard picked up speed as the foremast was lowered. Caleb strained his eyes to catch at glimpse of the men aboard the American ship. It was a heavy frigate, her deck laden with supplies for a long journey. The name upon her prow read: USS Chesapeake.
The Leopard drew closer to the Chesapeake. Caleb and William could now see tiny figures standing upon the deck of the American ship, pointing at them and yelling at one another.
Captain Humphreys sent Lieutenant Pines over to the Chesapeake. Caleb finished tying off his knot and strode over to William.
“You know what's going on?” Caleb asked him. William heaved on the rope in his hands and didn't answer. He nodded for Caleb to help him. After they secured the rope, William turned to Caleb and pointed to Pines, who by this time had nearly reached the Americans.
“Looks like he's delivering a message of some sort... I guess we'll find out soon.” William said.
The sailors returned to their duties, each keeping an eye on the American ship. Suddenly, Caleb ran to the edge.
“Lieutenant Pines is on his way back!” Caleb strained his eyes to the water. William joined him by the side. Sure enough, Pines was making his way back the the Leopard, a scowl across his face. As soon as he reached the Leopard, he headed straight for the Captain. The two men spoke rapidly, and soon Captain Humphrey's face matched Pines'. The Captain strode across the deck until he reached Caleb, William, and the other sailors.
“Prepare to fire.” He commanded. Caleb glanced at William. Something must have gone wrong. William turned to the sailor next to him and whispered something. The sailor whispered back and William faced Caleb, worry written on his face.
“Caleb, they wouldn't allow Lieutenant Pines to search the ship.”
Caleb watched the receding figure of Captain Humphreys.
“So we are going to attack? William, these are my fellow countrymen!” Caleb spoke quietly, fearing to be heard by the others, “I can't fight against them. I won't.”
William placed a hand on his shoulder, “You might not have a choice.”
The two ships drew closer. Caleb could make out the faces of the American sailors. Suddenly, he cried out and clutched at William's arm.
“William,” He cried desperately, “William, thats's- that's my brother, Thomas.”
William turned to look at him. “What?” he exclaimed. Caleb could not tear his eyes away from the figure on the Chesapeake's deck. “That's Thomas!” he began to scream, “Thomas! Thomas!”
William grabbed his friend to silence him. “Quiet! You can't do anything. Not yet.”
Caleb continued to stare at his younger brother. If anyone saw them together, the resemblance would be plain. They had the same dark hair, the same steady grey eyes, and the same flashing smile. Why was he here? He must have joined the Navy during the years Caleb had been gone. He hadn't see Thomas in over two and half years. He was so close! If only he could speak to him...
The Captain called out a warning to the Chesapeake, “Surrender now, and we will hold our fire!” The American commander, a Commodore by his uniform, replied impertinently, “I don't hear what you say! Care to repeat that?” The men on the American ship snickered and jostled one another.
Captain Humphreys signaled for the cannoneers to fire. The sound of cannon fire rent the air. Caleb instinctively threw himself to the deck, covering his head with his hands. The sailors on the Leopard fired readily. A few shots resounded, then the air was silent.
Caleb stood cautiously. There were no signs of trauma to the Leopard. It seemed that the Chesapeake had only been able to fire one cannon before the Leopard fired all hers.
Suddenly, Captain Humphreys appeared behind Caleb.
“Morrings,” he said, startling Caleb, “Go over to the ship with Pines and search the ship for deserters.”
Caleb saluted. “Yes, sir.” he nodded. The Captain turned to go. Caleb saw Lieutenant Pines beckoning to him and strode across the deck to join him and a few other sailors. They piled into on of the longboats and Caleb and one other man each took up an oar and began to row.
Thoughts were roaring though Caleb's head. He prayed silently, pleading with God that Thomas be alright and that he might be able to speak with him. He didn't know what he would do if anything happened to Thomas, his parents' only other son. Just a few more oar strokes, he told himself, and I'll see him again. Just a few more strokes.
The longboat reached the Chesapeake. Pines lead the way up the rope ladder to the deck of the ship. The other sailors followed, Caleb bringing up the rear. His heart pounded as he drew himself up onto the deck. There were at least fifteen sailors laying on the deck, wounded or dead Caleb could not tell. The American sailors stood silently, anger filling the eyes of some. The Commodore stepped forward, towards the British sailors. He stared hard at Lieutenant Pines, who walked past him to the lower decks of the ship. The other sailors followed him, but Caleb lingered behind glancing about, trying desperately to find Thomas.
Suddenly, he saw him. Thomas lay on his face on the hard, wood deck, his uniform torn and bloodied. He was dead, killed by the shrapnel of the British cannons.
Caleb couldn't breathe. He stood rigid, staring at the body of his brother. One of the Americans noticed him and walked over to him.
“Are you alright?” the sailor asked him, placing a hand on his shoulder. At his touch, Caleb regained his senses.
“No!” he shouted, rushing to Thomas's side, “Thomas! No, not Thomas!”
The sailor glanced at his Commodore, who stood watching Caleb, a sorrowful expression on his face. Caleb began to weep, hiding his face in his hands and sobbing.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. He glanced up to see the Commodore standing beside him.
“You knew this man?” He asked Caleb. Caleb nodded.
“He was my brother.” Caleb managed to say.
The Commodore leaned closer to him, “Then you are American.” Again, Caleb nodded.
The Commodore stood and glanced at his lieutenant, who nodded. He smiled tensely and leaned down to whisper to Caleb.
“Hide. Behind that cannon when the British come back up.” he told him, “I doubt they'll miss you.”
Caleb stared at him. After a pause, he nodded. “Thank you.” he whispered.
The Commodore motioned to the other sailors. They immediately turned away from Caleb, ignoring his presence as if he was not even there. Caleb awkwardly regained his feet and slumped behind the cannon the Commodore had referred to. He was completely obscured from view by both the cannon and various supplies that were stacked all around it. He realized now why the Chesapeake had only fired one shot. The supplies on her deck had obstructed the cannons and the American sailors had only been able to access one.
Lieutenant Pines and the others returned from below the deck. They had with them three sailors, their faces filled with anger. Pines walked over to the American Commodore, his head held high.
“Well, Commodore,” he smirked, “It seems that you and your ship are guilty of harboring deserters from the British Navy. It is my duty to return them to their ships. I trust that you do not object to my doing so?”
The Commodore glared at him. He nodded slowly.
“Of course you must do your duty. The deserter will be returned.”
The Lieutenant cocked his head.
“Deserter? I said deserters. We found three that I shall take with me back to the Leopard.”
He motioned to the men standing behind him. The Commodore's eyes flared, but he said nothing as Pines and the others led the sailors back into the longboat. He and the other American sailors watched silently as they rowed back to the Leopard.
Once they were out of hearing, one of the sailors approached the Commodore.
“ Commodore Barron, those were our men! Only one of them was British.” he addressed him. The Commodore turned to the man, his face grim and his jaw set.
“I know. So did they,” he frowned, “I didn't dare resist. They've already proved that they outgun us. I couldn't risk more bloodshed.”
The sailor scowled and stared defiantly at the receding longboat. “Just wait 'til the mainland hears about this. They'll be furious.” he muttered.
The Commodore turned away and strode to where Caleb hid. He bent down and saw that Celeb had collapsed, fast asleep, exhausted from his traumatic day. Commodore Barron smiled slightly and instructed one of the sailors to move him to his quarters.
When Caleb awoke, he was laying in a bed in the Commodore's quarters. Sitting up quickly, he glanced around. A knock sounded on the wooden door. As it opened, an American sailor holding a plate appeared in the doorway. He smiled and strode toward Caleb.
“Good, you're awake! The rumors about how hard the British Navy is must be true for you to sleep like you did. I've never seen someone sleep for so long!”
Caleb normally would have smiled at this good-natured teasing, but the pain from Thomas' death was still fresh. He did not answer the sailor, but stared blankly at the wall. Slowly, he slid back down into the bed. The sailor smiled sadly and placed the plate in front of Caleb.
“Hungry? It may not be be the best tasting, but it'll help restore some of your strength.”
Caleb again did not answer. He slowly turned and looked at the plate. On it was a slice of hard-looking bread and a piece of dried pork. He ignored the food. Grief had numbed his body and he felt no desire to eat. He wanted only to sleep, hoping that, maybe, he would wake up and realize that this was all a bad dream.
“By the way,” The voice of the sailor startled him. He had forgotten that he was there. “My name is Daniel.” he finished. Caleb nodded and managed a slight smile. The sailor was young, even younger than him. His wide smile and tousled hair reminded him of Thomas and tears filled his eyes. Daniel seemed to see this and stood to leave him alone. As he turned to leave, Caleb called out to him.
“Wait,” he said, pulling himself up onto one arm, “What have they done with my brother?”
Daniel paused and turned to face Caleb.
“They waited to find out what you wanted done. He can be buried at sea with the others or wait until we make port. It's up to you.”
Caleb gazed into the distance. “At sea. It's what he would have wanted.” he smiled slightly. He stared out the window dreamily, reminiscing of the days of his and Thomas' youth. Daniel stood silently, waiting for Caleb to collect his thoughts. He seemed in no hurry to leave, so Caleb voiced his memories aloud.
“He loved the sea. Both of us did... Our father was a sailor, a merchant. Thomas and I always begged him to take us with him on his travels, but we were too small to be anything but a nuisance. We would make 'ships' out of old driftwood we found instead, and play sailor all the day long, no matter what the weather,” he paused, “I left when I was seventeen to find some adventure in the Navy. I never knew he did the same.”
Daniel nodded. “I knew him well. He was my best friend on the Chesapeake. He talked about you a lot.” a wave of grief washed over his face. He blinked, then straightened. “Well, I need to go tell the Captain your decision. He'll come talk to you later, I think.” He walked briskly to the door and Caleb was once again alone.