It is the summer of 1806. Frederick Wentworth, who has yet to meet Anne Elliot, is visiting with his brother Edward, a curate in Somerset, while waiting for a ship to command. “Frederick found a home for half a year at Monkford.” – Persuasion
“You are restless, Frederick,” Edward Wentworth said to his brother, and the younger sibling acknowledged as much. “How do you manage all your energy when you are on a ship with no land in sight?”
“There is always something to do when you are at sea. Even if there is no French ship in sight, Poseidon is a temperamental neighbor. Just when you think you have smooth sailing, he uses his trident to stir up the waters, and you find yourself in the midst of a hurricane.”
“Tell me about Santo Domingo?” Edward said, eager for more stories about British ships of the line and the men who commanded them.
Frederick was happy to oblige as it was very possible that the Battle of Santo Domingo would be the making of him.
“The stage was set in the Azores where the French had suffered much damage from a storm. Having managed to sail across the Atlantic undetected by our ships, it was at Santo Domingo where Vice-Admiral Leissegues sought to regroup and repair his ships. But it was there that Vice-Admiral Duckworth found them,” Frederick said, leaping to his feet.
“By the time the French lookouts saw us, it was too late. They immediately separated into two divisions, and in doing so, we were able to isolate and capture three ships before concentrating our efforts on Leissegues and the 120-gun Imperial. Badly damaged from our cannons, we surrounded the flagship. Desperate to avoid capture, Leissegues drove the ship on shore. The Diomede, the sole remaining French ship of the line, followed the floundering flagship to its sandy berth. Our boarding parties were soon ashore and finished what we had begun, setting them ablaze and providing a proper bonfire for all to enjoy.”
“And the French crews?”
“They were last seen running for the hills.”
Edward retrieved several newspapers from a chest his brother had bought for him in Cadiz and pointed to Frederick’s name in the lists. “You returned as a hero to a grateful nation. The House of Commons and the House of Lords voted their thanks. Here are Lord Grenville and Charles Grey’s speeches if you wish to read them.”
Frederick dismissed his brother’s offer. “Although accolades are always welcome, it is the prize money that truly captures the imagination of the crew,” Frederick said, laughing.
“According to the paper, in addition to the bounties paid, additional prize money was disbursed for the captured Jupiter.”
“And don’t forget the ceremonial plate and ornate swords made by the patriotic societies, and Admiral Louis got a baronetcy out of it as well.”
“What will you do with your prize money?”
“Having no wife, I shall spend it freely. I have always been lucky, and I have no doubt my luck will hold. There is more prize money in my future.”
“Your confidence amazes me, Frederick,” the more timid of the two brothers stated.
“I have chosen a profession fraught with uncertainty. If I am to succeed, I must be bold, but the rewards for commanding a fighting ship are considerable. And I am already seeing the results. After all, I went to Santo Domingo a lieutenant and returned a commander, and as soon as a ship is available, I shall be back at it.”
“You mentioned a wife. Has anyone in particular caught your fancy?”
Frederick laughed. “I talk of being bold, but capturing a French frigate is less of a challenge than trying to find the perfect wife for a sailing man. I have been in the company of many women. Some were extraordinarily beautiful, many were accomplished, and most were light on their feet. But only a few were truly aware of what the Royal Navy does to keep them safe. Fewer still were genuinely kind—a virtue I prize above all others. And of all the females I have met in Deal, Portsmouth, and even in London, not one combined all of those attributes in the same person. But I am young, Edward,” he said, slapping his brother’s knee, “and in no hurry. For the right woman, I am willing to wait as long as necessary.”
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