Lady in Waiting Part 2
Lady in Waiting Part 2
Charlotte and Anna board the ship that is taking her brother to Portugal. Anna catches the eye of a young midshipman and romance blossoms at the same time Charlotte starts to teach Anna her letters and numbers as to be a Ladies Companion Anna needs some education.
It was with a strange sense of foreboding that I watched the flimsy chair being lowered to the pitching boat.
The closer it got the stronger it looked so by the time came for me to sit in it and get hoisted onto the ship I was a bit more confident.
Edward told me how to sit in the contraption adding somewhat unnecessarily, “Hold on tight Charlotte” I certainly held very tightly on as in one rapid movement I was some 10’ above the small rowing boat and heading skywards at what seemed to me an alarming rate.
As I cleared the rail of the ship I could see that there were six brawny seamen hauling me I landed on the ship as light as a feather just as my brother reached the deck (how he had climbed that ladder with just one arm I simply don’t know)
He turned and saluted the back of the boat and was greeted by an impressive looking man of about 30 who was the captain of the Hydra.
An officer escorted me any I was introduced to the Captain - just as a very scared looking Anna was landed onto the deck of the frigate.
I looked around with interest the ship was about 150 feet long and quite narrow I would guess about 40 feet there were a row of black cannon down each side I counted 14 then at the front of the ship there were 2 smaller guns and 2 huge guns.
These black guns were in stark contrast to the snowy white of the floor (decks) it looked very crowded with people and there was a mass of rope to control the sails.
I was awestruck thinking that if I had remained a boy this would have been my life – but here I was, an attractive young lady in awe of the complexities of this ship.
We were taken to a small cabin where Anna and I were to sleep my brother was shown an even smaller cabin. We were told that we would dine with the Captain and that a marine sentry would be posted at our door.
Then the captain left us saying that he now had to put to sea. I looked around with Anna then somewhat worriedly she said, “Mistress Charlotte I can’t sleep in the same room t’aint right.”
“Sit down Anna” I told her then taking her hand I explained, “Anna we have known each other for over 5 years, from today you are no longer my maid but my companion.
We will help each other dress but you have such a lot to learn and we are going to start teaching you how to act like a gentlewoman!”
“But mistress” I stopped her with a wave of my hand, “From now on please address me as Miss Charlotte or even Charlotte!”
Anna looked aghast at this stammering, “B, b, but t’aint right mistress!” “Anna! What have I just told you to call me?” I asked patiently as I knew that these next few weeks would be hard for her.
“Sorry Miss Charlotte but--------“ “No buts Anna” I told her and we are going to have to work on your speech luckily we will have some time while we are at sea. In the meantime try and talk like Miss M as I have heard you imitating her! Also when we dine copy what I do.”
Anna blushed when she heard this as at home a maid could get dismissed just for imitating her ‘betters’.
Just then the ship heeled and the two of us clutched each other as we had nearly fell off the truckle beds we were sitting on.
There was a knock on the door and my brother told us, “The captain has given permission for you two ladies to come on deck and watch the ship leaving harbour.”
I felt we had been in this cabin long enough so I answered through the door, “We’ll just get our cloaks Edward then we will be with you.” Then I whispered to Anna, “From now on you speak like you do when imitating Miss M – understand Anna?”
In a voice that resembled a young Miss M Anna answered, “Yes Miss Charlotte.” This caused me to giggle which set Anna off giggling.
I managed to tell her, “Absolutely perfect Miss Anna absolutely perfect.”
Then huddled in our cloaks we followed Edward on to the deck and observed the activity from a safe and out of the way place on the poop deck.
This is what Edward called it and as we stood there watching the sailors swarm over the masts like ants he told us what was happening.
We found out that a Frigate is a very fast fighting ship that masts are there to hang the yards on which in turn have the sails attached.
The mast pointing out of the front is called the ‘bowsprit’ and the front is called the bow while the back of the boat is the stern!
On a ship anything you stand on is a deck! And anything that is a ceiling is a deck head! Ropes are stays and halliards and every sail has a name! All very confusing to a young lady such as I!
The ship steadied on its course out of Plymouth and the captain came over to my brother. “Sir Edward now we are underway would you come below so we can discuss your mission.”
Now this made me prick my ears ‘mission’? What was my brother doing?
The captain then shouted, “Mr Newsome please be so good as to escort these ladies and show them the ship.” A young man approached and introduced himself as John Newsome midshipman.
I could see that this task he had been given pleased him greatly and glancing at Anna I could see she was pleased. He was the very same young man that had been in charge of the barge.
I enjoyed the tour of the ship everything was explained to us but most of the things we did not understand.
Anna was perfect her speech was very lady like and she acted like a young Miss M!
John was infatuated with her and this made me smile and reflect that with training anyone could act the part of a Lady.
Finally we went to our cabin once inside I grinned at Anna saying, “Well how does it feel to be a gentlewoman?”
Anna gave me a beaming grin answering, “Oh Charlotte it was wonderful thank you so much isn’t John attentive?” then she clapped her hand to her mouth, “I’m so sorry Miss Charlotte it b’aint happen again.”
Automatically I corrected her, “It will not happen again Anna. And what will not happen again pray?”
Blushing furiously Anna whispered, “I called you by your given name I’m so sorry Mistress.”
I gave an exasperated sigh, “Anna I told you earlier to what to call me. Charlotte is my name! So please when we are alone call me by my name. When we are in company if it is easier for you then Miss Charlotte.”
“Yes Mi------ sorry Charlotte I’ll try and remember.” I smiled encouragingly, “Good remember you are no longer a maid but a companion you must speak like Miss M all the time it really needs to be second nature to you – oh and while I remember can you read and write?”
She hung her head and whispered, “No Mi----- Charlotte, sorry” Briskly I answered, “No problem I will have to teach you.”
So this is how we whiled away the time for the ten days it took for us to reach Lisbon Anna was very bright as she picked up things very quickly.
So I set off teaching Anna how to use knives and forks correctly I also started to teach her the alphabet and simple mathematics also making sure she spoke correctly.
AND I noticed that her and Mr Newsome saw a lot of each other. The day before we were due to reach Lisbon Anna entered the cabin is some distress,
“Oh Miss Charlotte; John wants to write to me! How do I tell him that I cannot read or write?”
I put down the sewing I was doing and commented, “You don’t! It will be a spur for you to learn to read and write faster. I’ll read you any letters and until you have a good script I will also write your reply.”
“Oh Miss thank you,” she cried as she hugged me in gratitude then she realised what she had done and started stammering her apology at touching me. I embraced her telling her not to worry we are companions now.
“Miss I have a question” I looked at her answering, “Go on.” She took a deep breath then gathering her courage she asked, “What will her ladyship say about me being your companion?”
This was a good question and one, which I wasn’t sure about. Yes mama is a progressive woman but had I progressed too much?
I looked at Anna and honestly answered, “I simply don’t know.” And we left it at that.
The next morning Anna and I were on deck looking at the dark smudge on the horizon. I felt a presence and Edward was stood behind us. “Portugal” he commented continuing, “The wind is fair we should make land before nightfall – the Captain assures me.”
The weather was warmer so Anna and I went below to change into lighter clothes I selected a cotton lilac skirt adorned in flowers with a contrasting linen top of cream with small dots that fastened down the front I had a bonnet that matching my skirt.
For Anna I selected a lemon cotton dress simple but it really suited her colouring it gathered under her bust and had short floaty sleeves; it too had a matching bonnet.
Underneath we had the minimum underwear light cotton drawers and a light corset our stockings were of the finest cotton and we had leather button up shoes.
Anna packed our clothes away ready for going ashore with us. Then we went for breakfast after which we both went on deck and watched the coast approach.
We made sure that we were in a part of the poop deck that didn’t interfere with the working of the ship.
The coast slowly turned from a dark smudge into something where colours could be seen first the browns then greens then buildings could be seen along with the red tiles of their roofs.
The ship entered the River Tagus and land was now on both sides of us!
The ship moved slowly as the wind was very light and the sun very hot the river was arrow straight then suddenly it widened out into the most beautiful bay I would estimate a mile across this I found out was called the Mar de Palha or in English the Sea of Straw.
I could see why it was called this as with the sun and ripples on the water it looked like a field of mown straw.
The bay was beautiful surrounded by hills and the scenery was spectacular but we were still some distance from the city but we could see the city of Lisbon in all its glory basking in the midday sun I put up my parasol and the two of us sheltered under it keeping the worst of the sun at bay.
As we approached; the ship was suddenly turned and the huge sails cracked as they went dead at a shout the large anchor was cut free and soon the vessel was anchored swinging gently seemingly in a field of straw.
Lisbon is on the North side of the River Tagus the poets refer to the Tagus as Lisbon’s Lover as it embraces the city. The city itself is built on hills similar to the pictures I had seen of Rome.
Apparently in the 1750’s an earthquake had destroyed much of the city but now 60 years later it had been rebuilt most splendidly.
I gave a sigh and said to Anna, “It would seem that we are going to be lifted in that chair thing again.” A gasp escaped from Anna but she straightened up saying, “Well Miss Charlotte we’ve done it before and no harm came to us!” I smiled at her answering, “Indeed Anna, Indeed.”
Over the last week it had become quite natural for her to speak in a refined manner. At first she sounded like a young Miss M but now her voice sounded natural for her age I reflected that she would make a very good companion, as she was willing and quick to learn.
Things happened very quickly after this like a well-oiled machine the chair was rigged from the yardarm and the cutter was launched our trunks appeared on deck and were loaded into a smaller rowing boat.
Then it was our turn as we approached the chair Anna whispered, “May I go first Miss – to make sure it’s safe.”
Smiling I replied, “Certainly Anna – thank you.” Neither of us really liked this contraption so her offer was welcome. Though I knew that it was safe to use, as the sailors were meticulous in everything they did.
As I was lifted through the air to the waiting cutter I saw that it was Mr Newsome at the helm and smiled wondering how he had managed this and resolving to give him and Anna time to say goodbye.
After I was seated safely in the cutter I reached into my reticule and passed Anna a piece of paper with the address for his letters so they would find her.
I told her what was on the paper and she looked so very grateful thanking me profusely.
With that the cutter left the side of the Hydra and set off into the gentle swell heading for the port of Lisbon.
Historical Note: HMS Hydra was commissioned in April 1797 she weighted 1,024 tons; length 148 feet with a beam of 39’ 6”. She had a draft of 12’ 8” with a crew of 284 men at times 315 men.
The armament was Upper Deck 28 x 18-pounder guns: Quarter deck 12 x 32 pounder carronade’s: Forecastle Head 2 x 12 pounder guns and 2 x 32 pounder carronades
The carronade is a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, which was used by the Royal Navy and first produced by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland, UK. It was used from the 1770s to the 1850s. Its main function was to serve as a powerful, short-range anti-ship and anti-crew weapon.
After Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleets at the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, four French frigates and the brig Furet took refuge at Cadiz, where they remained into February 1806. To try to lure them out, Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood pulled his ships-of-the-line ten leagues out to sea, leaving only Hydra, under the Captain George Mundy, and the brig-sloop Moselle in close blockade. On 23 February a strong easterly wind drove the British off their station, which led the French commander, Captain Louis-Charles-Auguste Delamarre de Lamellerie, to seize the opportunity to escape. On the evening of 26 February Hydra and Moselle were three leagues west of the Cadiz lighthouse when they sighted the French vessels. Mundy began firing rockets and alarm guns to alert Collingwood, while sailing parallel to the escaping French squadron. Mundy then sent Carden in Moselle to try and locate the British fleet. On the morning of 27 February Moselle reached Collingwood, who despatched three frigates to try to catch the French.
In the meantime, Hydra had managed to isolate the French brig from her companions, and after a two-hour chase, captured the Furet. The French frigates did not come to their brig's aid, and after firing a pro forma broadside, Furet surrendered. Furet was armed with eighteen long 9-pounder guns, and had a crew of 130 men under the command of lieutenant de Vaisseau Demay.
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