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Dewey Lambdin

H.M.S. COCKEREL

(Lewrie – 06)

Once again,

For my father,

Lt. Comdr. Dewey Lambdin, USN

With thanks:

to the U.S. Naval Institute for many reference works; to MacKenzie of the Maritime Information Centre, at the Iain National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England; to Doug Cantrell at Nashville Tech Community College for his excellent map of Toulon; to Genevieve and her books Merde and Merde, Encore where I garnered such wonderfully feelthy phrases; and thanks to Genoa and Foozle, who cat-napped long enough for me to get a good day's work in, now and then.

I

Quid facial laetas segetes, quo sidere terrain

vertere, Maecenas, ulmisque adiungere vites

conveniat, quae cura bourn, qui cultis

habendo sit peccori, apibus quanta

experientia partis, hinc canere incipiam.

What makes the crops joyous, beneath

what star, Maecenas, it is well to turn

the soil, and wed vines to elms, what

tending the kine need, what care the

herd in breeding, what skill the thrifty

bees-hence shall I beginmy song.

– Virgil

Georgics, Book 1,1-5

Chapter 1

Ooh, sir, wawtch out f'r the…'

Wherever I go lately, Alan Lewrie mused, rather resignedly, I seem to be arse-deep in shit. Oh, well.

He waved off the towheaded young 'daisy-kicker' at the Olde Ploughman Public House's hitching rail, who stood with silent offer to towel the offending matter from his glossy top boots.

'No use, lad,' Lewrie said as he swung up into the saddle. 'There's plenty more where I'm going.'

'Oh, aye, sir, so they bel' The lad chirped, letting go the reins he held. Lewrie dug ha'pence from his wash-leather purse and flipped it to the daisy-kicker, who whooped with glee, as if the coin were the first he'd ever earned, as if Lewrie did not reward his chore each time he departed from the Olde Ploughman.

' 'Ta, yer honour, sir!' the boy called as Lewrie turned his horse west on the High Street.' 'Night, Squire Lewrie!'

Lewrie touched the wide brim of his hat with a riding crop in reply as he clucked his tongue and kneed his mount to a brisk walk.

Squire, Alan sighed with a snort; not exactly true, was it? Squires were freeholders who rented land to others, while he was only a tenant, a rent payer himself. Now if I sublet, he thought: perhaps to a well-off hermit (and was there such a creature as an eremite with the 'blunt,' he wondered?) who wished half an acre down by the creek, where he could pile himself up a grotto and become Lewrie's tenant. Performing, perhaps, the odd Jeremiad-thrice on Market Days-talking in tongues or dancing like a Dervish, or old St. Vitus, would I then be a squire at last? Or even less welcome in the parish? Might be worth doing, at that-it'd drive Caroline's uncle Phineas batty!

His horse paced through the village of Anglesgreen, heading west for the vale between the rolling hills, hooves clopping on the icy earthen road, as candles and lanterns were lit in the windows of the homes alongside, and lights were extinguished as shopkeepers at last shut, after long hours of sparse winter trade. Very few villagers were out now that the brief stint of cloud-occluded sun had all but gone, and the winds blew foul and cold. Without the casual labourers of the sowing or harvesting seasons, Anglesgreen was an even more tedious and empty a place than ever he had experienced, now Christmas and Epiphany were come and gone. And cold. As cold as Parish Poor's Rate charity. And about as unattractive.

Arse-deep in it, he told himself again, glum with rum and ennui. Up to my nose in acres of it… and that, so bloody boresome!

There were, to Alan's lights-much like the descending levels of Hell in Dante's Inferno-distinct gradations to the shit existing in the world. And the quality and quantity of it a body had to abide. Uncle Phineas, his lessor, for instance; his sternal, sneering, stultifying monologues, his miserly few suppers or 'dos' (which formed the bulk of a bleak Lewrie social life)-now there was shit from the lowest Nether-Pit itself! And totally unabidable, in quality and amount.

In contrast, the literal item (such as the horse droppings le'd just stepped in)-some of those he didn't mind half so Mich. Horses were noble beasts, beautiful in form and notion. Their stalings were abidable, for they bore convivial folk together, astride or by coach, eased a traveller's burden, jleased with their speed, heart and endurance, livened hunts, 'airs, social occasions… or elated one with the order of their inish at a race.

No, truth be told, Alan Lewrie, like all good English gentlemen, rather enjoyed horse poop. It had a redolence of lospitality, of congeniality, of freedom, excitement… and far lorizons!

The by-products of the lesser beasts necessary to a farm, hough; even his inept, clueless style of gentleman farming, of vhich folks said he did little but raise his hat-now they were)dious in the extreme. He knew little after four years, and was forced to depend upon the knowledge of Governour Chiswick, his brother-in-law, or of the vile old Phineas Chiswick; they both dropped their jaws and whinnied at his questions, making him feel as out of place, even after four years of applying himself, as he had aboard Ariadne back in '80 on his first day as a callow midshipman.

Or, even more discouraging, to have to 'talk things over' with dearest Caroline in private, being coached on what orders to give that particular day to the few permanent farmhands, or the hired day workers. To be such a humble know-nothing in his wife's eyes!

Truth be told again, Alan Lewrie thought the life of the rural gentleman farmer stank, in more ways than one,

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