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A Royal Achievement

by Solsticeman

Chapter 9

The King took over the stateroom for a banquet. David and Jeremy were among the pages who attended the table. Samuel took the opportunity to point them out to the King and remarked that they had performed significant service for the Crown. He said that without the boys it might have taken some fighting to reach Holland. The King graciously asked him to remember to tell him more when they had a private audience next day to discuss the future of the Navy.

Lord Montagu was listening to their conversation. As Secretary to the Navy, it was perfectly reasonable for Samuel to speak to the King privately about Naval matters. But, that didn't stop Admiral Lord Montagu looking put out at missing such intimacy with the monarch… a private audience indeed. His expression made Samuel smile to himself. Jeremy was delighted to see his uncle in such a good mood. It wasn't quite the same as having a father, but he really did love his Uncle Samuel.

The King noticed Lord Montagu's reaction, and he too smiled to himself. The margins of the Declaration of Breda were already stretching.

After the dinner was ended, Charles Stuart regaled his guests with the extended, exciting and heroic version of his escape from the Commonwealth army to the continent in 1651. Then, the King and his party returned ashore. There was still much to organise in The Hague. There were farewells to take… and sleep to be had.

One of the great problems in the fleet was the large number of Earls, Dukes and especially their ladies who were crammed into every corner, no matter how small the corner of how small the ship. They all wanted to be there when the King was returned, and for that they were willing to suffer whatever discomfort came their way.

But… the King? There was no good reason for the King to share their discomfort. There was a fluffy featherbed awaiting him, back at The Hague.

His departure was marked by just about as much smoke and noise as had attended his arrival. He would return in two days, for the final voyage to London.

Lord Montagu spent those two days lobbying Samuel for all the things that an Admiral considers important in the future of his Navy: ships and men, and the money to pay for more ships and men.

Samuel on the other hand was clear that what was wrong was not the money or the ships, but the way that one was turned into the other. The whole system of Naval procurement was corrupt and had been for centuries. The list was endless; nepotism, peculation and cronyism, the buying and selling of contracts was rife.

He didn't yet see the irony of his own collection of fees in exchange for commissions.

However, he was determined to do something about the management of the Navy Board, and that was what he intended to discuss with the King. It would be a private discussion and his cousin's wishes didn't enter into it. Although… he did note a few good arguments that Montagu put forward.

Two days later the fleet gathered again in Scheveningen Bay.

The great and mighty, the Lords and Ladies of Holland, came to say farewell at the quay-side, as their long-suffered guest made his departure. His Lordship's Admiral's Barge was again bedecked in flags and bunting at the quayside. Montagu had also sent an escort of Marines, to see Charles Stuart safely onto the Royal Charles.

His brother James, Duke of York headed for the Swiftsure, Vice Admiral of the fleet, while His Grace the Duke of Gloucester went to join the Rear Admiral.

More guns and muskets greeted them.

There was a great re-naming of ships. The Richard (Crumbwell's son) was re-named the James. Many ships had the names of towns that had stood against the King's father, they too were re-named.

Clearly, the King was not in a forgiving mood…

Would the terms of the settlement that brought him home be sufficient protection for those who had deposed and killed his father? Time alone would tell, and as it isn't an important part of this tale I will tell you now… they weren't.

He was, in victory, as vengeful as any boy would be who had needed to wait eleven years to avenge his father's walk to the scaffold.

He even had them dig up Cromwell's body, and hang what was left of it.

It was not a good time to be one of those who had signed the death-warrant.

It took three days for the fleet to reach the Thames. During that time two meetings took place, well three really.

The day after he came aboard, the King sent for Samuel for the first of many meetings to discuss the reform of the Navy Board.

When that meeting was coming to an end. His Majesty was pleased to remember that there was something that Samuel was to tell him about the boys. His Majesty asked after them most graciously, remembering that they had performed notable deeds that he ought to reward in some way..

"Yes indeed, Your Majesty, the two boys, Jeremy Pepys and David Montagu, at their own initiative, performed valuable service to aid your Majesty's return."

The King nodded graciously, as kings do.

"When we came aboard, just over a month ago, many of the Summer Fleet's officers and captains were Cromwell appointees and were opposed to your Majesty's return. There was a dangerous risk of conflict and mutiny. To avoid problems later, Lord Montagu and I started to compile a list of those who posed the greatest danger. We then made moves to transfer them to distant postings where they could do no harm."

His Majesty nodded. "All done discreetly, I imagine."

"Yes, Sire. We intended it to be secret, But, the boys, Lord Montagu's pages, were bright enough to realise what was happening, and were determined to help. That's when they started creating their own lists."

"They were in a position to?" The King was intrigued.

"Their position was in fact ideal Your Majesty. As young boys they were inconspicuous, they could eavesdrop on officers and men… and no-one noticed. The lists they created formed the basis for our second wave of transfers, the less obvious threats to your return. Less obvious and therefore more dangerous. Men disappeared with no knowledge that two small boys had been the source of the intelligence that was their downfall."

"The boys went on to create a network of informants among the crew, with a few on the Vice Admiral as well. Boys could meet boys in quiet corners with no-one thinking they were other than boys seeking privacy for boyish mischief."

The King was fascinated, and asked Samuel to continue.

"Their greatest achievement was to secrete themselves behind the panelling of this stateroom. There they were able to listen to a meeting of captains, where they discussed your return. They heard who was pro and who was con. They made notes of who spoke up on your behalf and who intended to refuse the order to aid the return. The notes they took were detailed, naming officers and ships that could not be relied upon."

"At great risk to themselves they performed a master-stroke of espionage."

His Majesty thought for a moment. "Jeremy is your son?"

"No, Sire. Jeremy is my nephew, the orphan son of my brother. His father died last year… from injuries originally won fighting for your father at Naseby."

"Ah, I see. So, as a charity you have apprenticed him, to give him a trade?"

"No Sire, not exactly, he is a Young-Gentleman, a Naval officer. He is attached as a page to Lord Montagu. Officially he is a sailor, and subject to Naval discipline."

"As an officer?… Does he carry a Commission, or a Warrant?"

"No Sire, no warrant or commission."

"He is not apprenticed then?" Charles looked puzzled. There are moments when even Kings are at a loss.

He tried to understand… "So, he is subject to discipline but has no apprentice contract, no warrant and no commission?"

"Indeed Sire, his position is completely informal. If his Captain chose he could be transferred to another officer, even to another ship, or… just put ashore."

The King was not impressed. "Informal, with no guarantee of fair treatment?

"No Sire." Samuel thought it time to let the King think about this.

After a pause, the King mused…

"So, he has no rights, the officers and Navy have no obligations… and he is subject to discipline… harsh discipline?

"In principle, a Captain could hang him, or flog him." Samuel said bluntly.

"Hang! or flog him! A small boy? Good God man, I can't believe such a thing happens in truth! In my Navy?"

"In truth Sire, I have seen a twelve year old Young-Gentleman, a Lord's son, flogged until he lost consciousness. I planned a naval career for Jeremy, but I now intend to remove him from this bizarre system, at the end of this voyage. Until then I shall stay close, to ensure his safety."

"Are you asking me to investigate this outrage?" The King was used to people wanting something of him, and beating around the bush. He could see that Pepys had an agenda, but didn't yet know quite what it was.

"No, Sire! Indeed not! The Navy that I am trying to build as Secretary doesn't need scandal at this stage… But you might, if you were minded, be gracious to create a new career structure, to reduce the abuse of these young boys' enthusiasm."

"Ah… yes, and… I was more immediately looking for a way to reward the two boys… Can you see how we might do both? Protecting their futures would be a significant reward, one that they seem in great need of."

The King clearly had the germ of an idea, and Samuel hoped that it was the one he had been aiming him towards.

"Well, your Majesty, In terms of praise for the boys, I was thinking originally of a simple letter on vellum with your seal, thanking each of them for his efforts."

Pepys paused, for effect, this letter was what he really wanted.

"To incorporate your gracious idea of a reward, perhaps it might go on to commend the boys to Captains whose command they enter. With a requirement that they be treated as gentlemen, fed, and housed according to their station in life and be trained systematically for a career as a naval officer."

Samuel subtly moved from just the boys to boy-officers in general, he warmed to his theme…

"Such a letter would make Captains directly answerable to their King for the boys' well-being… There should be no hanging or flogging of them, except under the very worst of Captains… and those would soon find themselves with no boy-officer entrants, and… risking an irate King who could terminate their right to accept boy entrants, or even cancel their commission. Without boy-entrants, they and their officers would have no personal servants of gentle birth."

"What about pay? The boys should be paid." The King asked.

"Boys don't need much. They already have their board, and they have no dependents. So, perhaps we might pay them the same as a midshipman, that would make them equal in pay to the lowest of adult officers."

One day such entrants would themselves be known as midshipmen, but at this time midshipmen were simply those junior officers who served amid-ship.

"So, you propose that such boys should carry a King's Letter, to protect them, just like an apprentice's indentures, but issued by their King?" The King clearly approved.

"Yes, Sire. But rather more effective at seeing them fed and taught than any set of indentures I've come across. These boys are often the sons of Earls and Lords. They aren't rough youths to be taught harsh ways. One day some of them will be members of your Court or Admirals in your navy. They should be raised as gentlemen, and trained as officers. That's why I've brought this to your attention, as a long-term investment."

"And there I was thinking that I had brought the subject up myself." The King said with a laugh. Samuel had the grace to go a little pink.

"Never mind, I jest. You have done well, I am most grateful for your attention to detail." The King was bringing matters to a conclusion.

"Draw up a suitable pair of letters, praising them for their initiative and loyalty, and so on, and exhorting their Captains as we just said… as a mark of my particular appreciation. Do it before we land and I'll present them to the boys before I leave the ship. Make sure they are to hand and that there is time for me to speak to them properly."

"I also require you to create a proper system of King's Letters, to regularise what strikes me as a most pernicious system.

"This boy who was injured… why didn't someone intervene?"

"Perhaps because it was his father who felt it necessary to order it?"

"My God man! It does need attention! I can see why you might fear a scandal!"

"The boy didn't complain?"

Pepys thought honesty would be more shocking.

"The boy had originally feared that he would be hanged Sire. He was quite pleased to only be flogged!"

"Good God! Get a system into place as quickly as you can."

The King thought what appeared to be dark thoughts for a moment.

"In your view, does one of these boys need particular protection?

Pepys smiled a conspiratorial smile, if you can conspire with your King.

"Let's say that I will word your letter to provide all the protection that a good father would provide."

"To cover the possibility of a Naval father with strange views on discipline?"

"Precisely Sire."

Samuel spent much of the next day drafting and re-drafting the letters. It was a little difficult to concentrate, the stateroom had been cleared for action. The great guns were to be fired all the way to Dover in celebration.

Eventually the letters were as he wanted, they were letters of Royal-appointment, worded just less than a King's Warrant. He was pleased with it. The letter instructed Admirals and Captains that the bearer was to be shown "such kindness as you shall judge fit for a gentleman, both in accommodating him in your ship and in furthering his improvement". He, or rather the King, instructed that the boys' official rating was to be volunteer-per-order.

Samuel would introduce the wider scheme in 1661. For a century they would be known as King's letter boys, to distinguish their higher social class. Eventually, when adults ceased to be appointed midshipmen, that would become the rank for boy-officer entrants to the British Navy… and many other navies that aspired to greatness and tradition.

It was another two days of sound and celebration before the Royal Charles and its royal passenger reached the English coast at Dover. More cannon, a lot more cannon.

Parliament had sent out a brigantine to meet them, it was being rowed like a galley with twelve oarsmen. It had galley-sails and three small brass guns on the prow, galley fashion. It met the fleet off the South Foreland.

The galley managed a whisp of a salute, three small brass guns do not make for much of a celebration, so the Royal Charles just fired one gun in reply. Jeremy was of the opinion that one gun was simply to avoid completely upstaging Parliament's offering.

The King refused to use Parliament's transport, preferring to use the Admiral's Barge. Perhaps he preferred to be in command of his Navys barge rather than a passenger in Parliament's galley. Either way, Lord Montagu was very pleased at the compliment, he was rather fond of his barge.

The King set out for Dover, with all the lords and ladies, and earls and their ladies following in an armada of small boats. No-one wanted to be left behind.

Meanwhile the ships fired broadsides and salutes, the continuous roar being reflected back off the White Cliffs in what Edward Barlow described in his journal as a harmony of echo that was heard forty miles inland.

When the King was ready to depart, he appeared on the quarterdeck, and asked Lord Montagu to present the two boys that had done the Crown such service.

"I believe them to be your son, and the nephew of Mr Pepys here."

"That is correct Sire." Montagu puffed his chest out. "They were smart lads, though the risk they ran was perhaps more than their years called for."

"Yes, I hear it's dangerous to be a small boy on one of these ships. Still, your son has his father to protect him." The King said it without a smile, and his Lordship had the grace to blush.

Clearly, word of David's mating with the gunner's daughter had reached the King, and equally clearly he didn't approve. Someone had obviously spoken out of turn. As everyone in the fleet probably knew by now, it could be anyone who had contact with the Royal party. He did not suspect cousin-Samuel… fortunately.

The boys appeared totally overawed by the summons to meet the King. They saluted and dropped to one knee. It seemed the right thing to do, maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Either way, His Majesty leaned down and graciously took an arm of each and raised them back to their feet.

"Stand boys, stand! It's your King who needs to thank you and you are a long way down there." He paused to smile, hoping to relax them. He wanted them to take in what he was about to say. He wanted the ships'officers to hear him, and hoped word would spread. "I hear that it was your espionage in particular that allowed your elders to sort the wheat from the chaff amongst the fleet. Without your courage and intelligence it might have needed the deaths of many to bring us to this point. Well done boys! Well done, I say."

The pair stood there stunned… the King knew of their efforts… and had taken time to stop and thank them!

To their eternal regret the pair were quite speechless. They stared in surprise and then their faces lit up, with grins that warmed their King's heart, and royal hearts are seldom warm.

The King put a hand out and his chamberlain gave him a red velvet bag. He took from it two vellum scrolls. "These letters from your King express his gratitude for your efforts. They also may serve to advance your careers. I ask your future Captains to treat you with the care and respect that young boys of such tender age should expect when they take the risk of volunteering for my Navy. I require my Captains to feed and house you well, teach you their skill and treat you kindly, as boys of gentle birth should expect." He cast a meaningful glance at Lord Montagu.

"Now, well done, and come see me to my barge. England, my England waits for me."

So it was David and Jeremy, and not their father and uncle, that had the place of honour. It was the two boys who stood at the top of the ladder and said goodbye as their King descended to the waiting Admiral's Barge.

Lord Montagu had the feeling that his day had gone somewhat astray.

He was pleased and proud of David.

It was just a pity that he failed to use the ideal opportunity to say so.

The King departed for London and the ships of the fleet sailed to anchor at The Downs once again.

The excitement was not entirely over. Two or three days later, every man and boy on the Royal Charles received a gold piece worth nine shillings and sixpence, about a fortnight's wages and a great souvenir… provided you got to keep it!

Edward Barlow later complained to his friend Toby, that his master in London, the one who had sub-let him to the Master's-mate, had taken it off him. Later, when the City of London presented each of the crew of the three Admiral-ships with a full month's pay, eighteen shillings in Barlow's case, his master got to keep that too!

"I hid it in the trunk, but he searched high and low till he found it. Still, I had spent sixpence of it on pears, apples and cherries… so it wasn't all lost."

Toby looked sorry for him, and didn't tell him that his own master, the surgeon had allowed him to keep his presents. They were getting on much better now.

Only a few days later there was further excitement, David and Jeremy were in the crows-nest when they saw a ship sailing towards them. It carried the Duke of York. He wished to be taken to meet a ship coming in from Holland that was carrying his aunt the Queen of Bohemia.

They waited in the mouth of the Thames for her to arrive, but before that could happen a small frigate appeared, in full sail, making good speed from the opposite direction, from London.

Jeremy looked carefully at signal flags as they ran up the mast of the frigate…

"Oh my goodness," He said as he disappeared down the lubber's hole. "Gloucester is dead!"

He hit the deck running, Samuel ran to meet him and together they went to where the Duke was taking the air on the quarterdeck. No-one else would want to bring the Duke the bad news. So Samuel took it upon himself to be the bearer.

"Your Grace, if we read the signal correctly, I fear that the frigate bears bad news…"

He hedged his bets.

"We should wait until they confirm it, but we fear that your brother, the Duke of Gloucester has died."

The Duke looked grim, but then he saw the stricken look on the face of the small boy who was standing behind the men. He had seen the boy a few minutes before when he had more fallen than descended the mast, shocked by the news he bore…

He turned to the small face that stared up at him in sympathy.

"Young-gentleman, I thank you for the haste with which you brought the news. Thank you for not shouting it from the mast-top. Now… let's hope your eyesight failed you… but I fear not. Well done young man. You continue to do my family service."

It was nice of him, and Jeremy felt so very sorry for him; the Duke was standing firm but had tears in his eyes. He and his brother had been very close. They had been together in exile for so many years.

The news was indeed as bad as expected.

Shortly, a small ship, the Drake Galley arrived to take the Royal party to barges that waited for them at Gravesend. The galley's oarsmen could make good time back to Gravesend, a galley didn't need to tack against the prevailing westerly-wind.

The barges took them in haste to Whitehall, where the celebrations for the King's return had been dampened by the sudden death.

Eventually, the Queen of Bohemia did turn up, and the Duke of York returned to greet her and escort her to Whitehall in a fleet of pleasure barges. But, for her too it was all overshadowed by the loss of the King's brother.

Even royalty could feel sad it would appear. The brothers had waited over twenty years to return to London, and the Duke of Gloucester had less than a month enjoyment of that success, but at least he had lived to see it.

Shortly after, a month later, the Royal Charles moved to Chatham. Having removed her rigging, she was moored at Gillingham for the winter with just a maintenance crew.

For the officers who stayed aboard, life went on as usual. But for the crew it was different, they found themselves reduced to Petty Warrant rations, or Peter Warren as they called it.

David and Jeremy were able to smuggle small quantities of better food to their particular friends among the crew… David to Ezra, and Jeremy looked after Toby. Saucy was happy, in his element, purveyor of good food among the ever hungry boys. He was, in these days of Peter Warren, the most popular person aboard… although the newly refurbished surgeon was also happily looking after his loblollies, with food he brought from ashore… They were equally happily looking after him.

With nothing more serious to occupy them, the devil was finding work for idle hands.

It was the activity of those idle hands that left the surgeon and cook with perpetual smiles.

David and Jeremy, with the masts removed and a winter wind, had nowhere to find privacy. It was either enjoy themselves under the benevolent eye of Saucy in his warm galley, or wait for a rather cold and draughty bedtime.

The boys rationalised that their acts, cuddles, snuggles and discreet fumbles, weren't unacceptable… After all, it was only Saucy who saw them, and he was a good friend… What two young officers could get up to while a cook watched was still strictly limited. David's new-found seriousness saw to that.

Winter and Christmas over, the spring was taken with preparing the ship for the shipwrights who would get her ready for sea again. Everything loose, particularly the heavy guns, needed to be secured, because as soon as weather permitted the shipwrights would careen her, rolling her on her side on the beach, so that the hull below the waterline could be scraped of barnacles and re-caulked to make her watertight. She had a long way to go on her next voyage and it would be a while before the opportunity would come round again.

As it was, they were not to see the careening. Jeremy in particular was most disappointed, he had been looking forward to seeing the ship careened, if only to see if the guns stayed where they had been put. If the gun that had served for his best-friend's execution had torn free and wrecked the stateroom, there would he thought, have been some romantic justice. If there was, then he was not to see it. In fact it would be quite a while before the boys set foot on the Royal Charles again.

Orders arrived for them to move to the Royal James. Lord Montagu had moved his flag. The James was now a 78 gun first-rate ship.

Lord Montagu took with him his personal staff, of men and boys. As well as his son and Jeremy, he took Saucy and also the best surgeon in the fleet together with Toby and his senior loblollies, they should keep him happy. Toby of course was rapidly becoming a highly valued prize for any ship's captain. He just lacked the piece of vellum from Barber Surgeons Hall that would let him loose on a ship's company.

Ezra managed to take passage on the James as well, but it was almost a matter of luck. They do say that we make our own luck, and he had spent all his free time patrolling places where a likely Master or even bosun might pass by. His problem had been that sailors were paid off at the end of each voyage, and then it was up to them to find themselves a new berth. Having spent Christmas with his family he had met David "by accident" in the dockyard at Chatham. David happily agreed to have a word with the master's-mate of the James, to have him added to the complement.

Now, the friends were all together again. Jeremy had David, David could have Ezra whenever he wanted, and Toby was having the time of his life, up to his elbows in gore. God was in his heaven and all was well with the world.

There would be seventeen ships in the new fleet. Lord Montague's Admiral's flag in the James, Swiftsure was Vice-Admiral and the Mary (the Speaker under Crumbwell) was Rear-Admiral.

By now it was June 1661. The fleet waited at anchor for a few days, waiting for a fair wind. Then the Admiral loosed his fore topsail, and fired a signal gun. The fleet weighed anchor, and off they went, setting a south-westerly course for Cape St Vincent, the Southward Cape, being the southernmost point of Europe.

From there to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar was a week's slow sail, allowing the slowest and least able of the fleet to keep up. She was the Augustaine, the fleet's supply ship, Flemish built, badly built and overloaded.

They may have had a supply ship, but there was not much in the way of supplies for the crews of the fleet. The bulk of her cargo consisted of masts and spars, cordage and sail. Food was not high on the list of priorities. Food was perishable and needed to be gathered ashore, as and when (and maybe if) the opportunity arose. But, at the moment, they had other and more pressing priorities.

That was why the pleasure of being at sea again didn't last long. Soon the reality of facing a long voyage was felt… in the crew's bellies. The fleet went to short rations, food for two having to make do for three. It would be a long time before they next met a reliable and friendly source of victuals and supplies. Most coasts and ports were going to be more or less hostile. It was better to be slightly hungry for a long time now, than risk running out completely.

Some appetites might be unrequited, but others, just as important to a young man, were making themselves felt.

Ezra had asked David a simple question, but the latter was having difficulty sorting out the complexities of his answer. Ezra had asked…

"When are we going to fuck? We've been doing what we do, everything but fucking, for nearly two years. It's time you wanted to. I promise you, you're tackle is ready."

David's reply was where the mystery came in…

"I'll do it with you when I've done it with someone I don't care about."

"Isn't the idea that you should want to do it with someone you do care about… Isn't that what it's for… isn't that what it's all about?" Ezra had a simple view of life. In his mind, if you liked someone enough then you should want to fuck them… if you were an officer. He would love to do it with David either way, but fucking an officer seemed wrong, so he assumed that it was his bottom that was to receive the rogering.

"Oh, I think that it's much more complicated than that." David said seriously.

It saddened Ezra that David had become so serious since the beating.

The men liked and approved of the way he now carried himself, but Ezra could feel the sadness deep within his friend. David's childhood had been taken from him that day. He had lost his innocence, and he had lost his father.

If you secretly loved him, as Ezra did, then the fact that your friend was a better officer, didn't make up for what they had both lost that afternoon.

Ezra would never be able to say that he loved David, not even in bed, or in secret or when drunk… never!

It was something that a simple sailor could never say to an officer.

David went on to elaborate his problem.

"I need to practise first, on somebody that doesn't matter. I need to get it right. The first time I do it I shall probably get it wrong. If I'm clumsy or careless I may hurt whoever I'm with, and… if it were you then I would feel terrible."

Ezra looked startled. "But I don't matter. You're a Lord, and an Admiral's son! A topman is the very person you should use to learn on. If you were reluctant to hurt Jeremy I could understand it! His gentle birth would make the hurt matter so much more."

David looked sadder than ever. "You Ezra are a great deal more to me than just a topman. You're my friend. Before Jeremy came aboard I'd have said you were my only friend." He looked seriously at the young seaman. "I can't do it to you… partly because you are a friend but also… because I'm an officer. To hurt you for my own pleasure, would upset me, and for an officer to hurt a hand for private gain would be absolutely unacceptable."

"But, what about Jeremy? Wouldn't you ever want to make love to him… I don't mean just fuck, I mean something much more gentle." Ezra seemed genuinely interested in how far David could carry this altruism, without becoming a monk.

"Of course I want to take Jeremy to bed… to do everything. He's gorgeous and I love him dearly. But, look at him, he obviously isn't ready. I think it would shock him terribly if I hurt him and… what if I couldn't stop?" Just the thought terrified him. "To do something that put him off for life would be totally wrong."

"Well what ideas do you have? You can't last forever on hand-shandies!" Ezra asked, with something approaching exasperation in his voice.

He went on, pressing the point.

"Who's going to let you do it? That you wouldn't mind hurting?"

"The surgeon would!" David smiled, no, he grinned. It wasn't often that he grinned these days.

Ezra laughed… "I think the surgeon prefers to do the work himself. So you could find out what it is to be on the receiving end." He paused for serious reflection. "The problem with that is… I don't think it's in you to be on the receiving end of his efforts."

David looked serious again, and summed it up…

"He's much too old for me… and maybe I'm a bit too old for him." He was half right, but that wasn't enough.

"So if I understand aright… There are no friends on board that you would risk hurting, or that you would want to risk hurting you. For you, no enlisted man ought to be touched in that way. Though, in the long run, I hope that doesn't include me and Saucy?"

Ezra might have almost looked worried, except that he thought he had the measure of David's growing needs… his needs for both fun and extreme discretion.

"That rules out everyone on board. So…" He grinned at his young-gentleman friend.

"We need to take you ashore… and Malaga is just the place!"

So Malaga it was.

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