The system refuses to include my footnotes. I'll explain later.
About three weeks after Mark’s accident, John, Dameon’s son, was on watch in the crow’s nest, with a spyglass at his eye, when he spotted a strange sail on the horizon which appeared to be set on a course to meet the Ricer. Alerting the deck, he shouted down “Ahoy the deck! Strange sail bearing straight for our bow! They’re coming up fast!”
Gauging the direction of the wind as he spoke, Dameon called back “Can you make out their colors yet?”
“No, Sir! I can’t, yet!”
“Then we must be careful, for most ships don’t run up their true colors until they’re about to fire. The wind seems to be coming from their direction.” Lowering his tone to a normal level, he called “All hands to tack Port-side!” In moments, the crew, who had become better seamen every day, had begun the maneuver without any further orders from Dameon. A minute later, Dameon shouted to David, whose watch was on deck at the time. “Bring her about to give our friends the full broadside!”
“Aye, Sir!” David called back, turning the wheel until the full Port-side battery was facing the approaching ship.
“Hold it there! Beat to quarters! Beat to quarters!” Dameon called when this had been done. Finally, he called up to John once more. “You should be able to make out the colors now! What do you make of them?”
“Spanish, Sir! I can see it’s the Spanish colors!”
“Spanish colors, eh? You hear that, crew? We’ve a battle on our hands! John! What do you make of the Spaniards’ firepower?”
John was slow to answer this inquiry. “Can’t tell. They’re still beating to quarters!”
“Still beating to quarters? We can’t sit here all day! Give ‘em a taste of our rice!” A moment later, a gun went off. Dameon watched the track of the ball. “Much too high, but it’ll get them set more quickly. Now?” The last word was addressed to John once more.
“They’re running their guns out one at a time! I can count them! That’s five, six, seven…” He trailed off as he began to concentrate harder on the opposing ship. About two minutes later, when he had reached the final gun, he called down “Thirty-seven on one side alone!” His voice had begun to show a hint of fright. “They’re bigger then we are! How are we going to win?”
“Come down now, that’s an order!” Turning to David, Dameon continued “A seventy-four, eh? Haven’t we survived a seventy-four before today?”
“You did? It must have been after we captured this one and I left. How did you fare that time?”
Remembering the event brought Dameon to the edge. He spat out something in Gaelic before replying “The Spanish were cowards. They refused to fight. Instead they held off and boarded us after dark. It appears that this commander though, prefers to stand and fight like a man.”
“Or, as the case may be, like a true ship of the line.” David answered, drawing a sarcastic laugh from Dameon.
At that moment, one of the men standing by the guns called out “Captain! They’re changing their position. They’re coming in closer!”
“What are you waiting for? Fire at will! It’s a seventy four, men! A broadside now from us would be within the rules of fair combat, as we’re only a sixty! Knock her masts away!”
Within two minutes, the Ricer’s full Port broadside had fired at the oncoming enemy. Several shots fell short or landed on the other side of the foe, but at least twenty found their marks. Dameon watched in satisfaction as two of the opponent’s masts began to fall. He could still see the Spanish captain standing on his quarterdeck, though. The sight almost reduced his mood to bitterness. “I guess we’ll have to fire again.”
As he turned to say this, the Spaniards’ broadside returned his fire. David pulled him down not a moment too soon. The Spaniards had loaded with grapeshot and swept the deck. Dead and wounded men lay all over. The Starboard battery rushed out to move the bodies and take their places. By this time, the guns had been reloaded. “Hole them!” Dameon shouted from his position flat on the deck.
The Ricer returned fire, causing massive casualties to the Spaniards. After this was done, Dameon stood to see that the Spanish captain appeared to have had enough; he was holding up a white flag and having his launch, which had miraculously survived Dameon’s fire, lowered to row across.
At this, Dameon called to his gunners “Hold your fire. It appears that we’re to get a truce.”
Unfortunately, one gunner who appeared to believe he would earn something extra for finishing the opposing captain fired a moment too late. Noticing the action and the result, Dameon exclaimed “Put that man under guard! Firing at a white flag is unspeakable cowardice!”
The Ricer’s crew watched the Spanish Captain swim toward their ship from the fragments of his launch. When he had reached the side, they threw him a lifeline, leveling pistols at him as climbed on to the deck. Still watched by an armed guard, the Spaniard made straight for Dameon. Stopping only a foot away from him, the Spaniard swept off his hat, pushed his long bangs out of his eyes, leaned in, and said slowly “I- am – the- Phantom.” Leaning back once more, he said with a laugh “Nice way to greet a good friend like me, isn’t it? Firing on me because I’m sailing under my crew’s colors!”
Dameon began to reply, saying “Spain is at war with America-“ Then the truth hit him like a knockout punch from his nephew, nearly causing him to stagger. “Joseph Sponsler the Spymaster! How did you survive?! And what did you mean by firing on me?!”
Joseph shrugged off Dameon’s surprise. “Long story. I stopped as soon as I recognized you. Are you, by any chance, able to take me home? I’ve been away for six years; I’m desperate to see my boys.”
“Then you won’t have to go far.” David replied. “I brought them along. Pass the word for Matt.” He added to a crew member standing by, who appeared to be in shock.
Dameon turned back to Joseph. “So how did you survive? Last time I saw you, it was at least three years ago, and your ship had just been disabled by a British broadside. The mizzenmast fell on you, you remember?”
“Yes, I do remember. How did I survive, you ask? It was like this. You may have thought you saw the mast fall on me, but the truth is that as the mast was falling, it got caught in the sail, which had not been reefed, leaving the whole expanse of it to come down with the mast. Anyhow, the sail was dragging the whole mast down, even though it was still tied on. This caused the mast to catch in the rigging of the next one, which allowed me to dive underneath and keep out of sight. I collected four of my crew who had survived, and we lowered the launch. I borrowed a man’s spare outfit, and we rowed around to the extreme outward edge of the battle. From there, we later joined Gabriel’s attack, even to the extent of dressing ourselves as Britons and boarding to your rescue. After the battle was won, I worked before the mast under your command, having sworn the lower deck to secrecy, until we reached Boston, where I disembarked by night and immediately took passage aboard the next ship for France.”
“Then how is that you are now the Captain of a Spanish ship of the line?”
“Master spies have their own way of doing such things. I need not elaborate.”
“Fine. Be that way if you wish, oh superior Spymaster Joseph.” Dameon replied with a hint of sarcasm. “Your son has arrived.”
Upon hearing this last statement, Joseph turned to see Matt coming out of Dameon’s cabin. As he approached, he was speaking. “Apologies, sir. I was visiting with Mark. Apparently, your men did not think of looking there for me.”
“That makes no difference now. A man you should meet has just arrived by way of the Spanish ship.”
“But I thought warships didn’t take passengers?”
“They don’t normally do so. And this man was the Captain of that ship.”
At this point, Joseph decided to speak. He began in Spanish. “Hola, mi amigo joven. Mi nombre es Joseph y tu y su hermano Mark estan mi hijos. Yo soy muy feliz es mir tu. (Hello, my young friend. My name is Joseph and you and your brother Mark are my sons. I am very happy to see you.)”
Matt looked at Dameon with confusion written on his face. Dameon translated the introduction bluntly. “He’s your father, boy. Didn’t you understand that?”
Returning to English, Joseph explained “Well, actually, he doesn’t know any Spanish yet because I had forgotten to teach him before I asked David to take him. Go get your brother, son.”
David spoke up. “He can’t. Mark sprained his ankle three weeks ago and has not yet been cleared for action.”
“Three weeks, already! If I remember Mark at all, he’s wasting away! I had best go see him. Matt, run ahead and let him know.” Joseph answered.
As Joseph was speaking, Matt had run ahead to tell Mark of his appearance. Joseph could hear Matt’s excited cries through the closed door. Motioning for Dameon to come with him, Joseph strode over to the cabin door. Leaning on it casually, they listened.
“Mark! Wake up! Have you heard what happened after the fight stopped?”
“No. You were only in here a minute ago telling me about the battle.”
“ You remember that I was watching out the window at the time? Well, after the firing was halted, it appears that the Spanish Captain crossed over in his launch, but somebody tried to sink him, so he swam to our ship, climbed aboard, walked straight to the Captain, and said something that sent him into shock. Then they sent for me. When I arrived, the Spanish captain spoke to me, but since I didn’t understand, our captain turned to me and said…”
Taking his weight off the door, Joseph whispered “This is where I appear.” When Dameon had moved aside to let him through, Joseph opened the door and said “Your father, Mark. I’m your father. If you don’t remember me, I haven’t seen you boys since you were twelve. That might explain it.
Rather than the excitement of Matt, Mark displayed more of the cool reserve he had shown at his first meeting with Dameon. “So you are my father? I was told that you had died. In fact, I suspected it for a year before my Godfather came to confirm the belief. In the extremely unlikely case that you had survived, and they were mistaken, I did not expect that I would be faced with a Spanish captain who appears to be fluent in several languages.”
“So you doubt me? What was the first thing your father taught you to do?”
“Why do you ask? If I tell you, you will only say that you knew the answer. I must hear you say it yourself.”
Suddenly, Joseph was laughing. “Mark, Mark! You remember me! Just say so! I can see it in your eyes! You know that your first real lesson with your father was when I taught you to read “I am a spy. Destroy this message.” in Gaelic, Spanish, and French! Didn’t I?”
“Yes. I remember that. You’ve proved yourself. I believe you’re wanted on the deck, though. They’re calling for you.”
It was true. A moment after Mark had told him, Joseph could hear David shouting for him to come out, followed by the distinctive sound of a cannon going off. “Joseph! Joseph! What did you tell those Spaniards when you left?!”
Leaving the cabin, Joseph replied “I told them to cease fire and make repairs to the ship!”
“You need to do something, because they’re disregarding your orders!” David shouted back as a ball sailed overhead.
Walking quickly over to Dameon once more, Joseph whispered something in his ear. David then heard Dameon reply “Are you popular enough to make this work?”
“I believe so. It’s the best thing you can do short of beating to quarters under fire and trying to fight it out, which you don’t want to try.”
“You’re right about that.” Suddenly, Dameon pulled a gun from his belt and pointed it at Joseph, marching him to the rail. Once there, Joseph began shouting emphatically in Spanish, waving his arms to attract the attention of the mate with the glass. A moment later, they saw with relief that the mate had put down his glass and appeared to be shouting at the Spanish crew himself. Soon afterwards, the guns which had been run out disappeared as the gunports were closed.
“Well. It appears that you were correct on that score.” Dameon remarked to Joseph after the Spaniards had stopped firing. “Now, you’d best return to them now, for if you stay any longer, they will suspect us of treachery and open fire once more.”
“That’s true. Tell my boys I will come home as soon as the war is over. I’ll charter my own ship if I have to.” With that, Joseph leapt overboard and began to swim back to the Spanish ship.
Watching Joseph’s progress toward the other ship, Dameon said to himself “There goes a brave man and a good friend. The Lord only knows if I’ll ever see him again, but his boys will return home if it costs me my life.” Turning away from the rail, he continued “David! What’s the damage?”
“Surprisingly, nothing but a few sliced ropes and four killed, five wounded.”
“That many? And Joseph never even offered to replace them!”
“No doubt he didn’t want to force you to force hostile men to work together. The problems could have ruined you.”
“You think so? Forget that. Tell Gabriel I want the course set two points north.”
“Aye. Where are we making for?”
“Spain. We’ll leave the Brits to the Admiral.”