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Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

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Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:44 am

They had been out at sea for three days, and that was when Fletcher made his decision.

Standing aft that morning on deck Simon Fletcher looked up consideringly at the mizzen mast towering above him, a moderate spread of canvas aloft. For one so short the challenge of ascending to such great physical heights had always seemed daunting to the young midshipman (Even at home he had not been one for climbing trees much) and so far during this, his first voyage aboard ship, he had carefully arranged matters so that it seemed by pure accident that he had so far not had cause to go aloft - and for a long time no one had noticed, which Simon had been perfectly happy with.

However, one person had noticed in this last month. Peter Yates had noticed, and had been kind enough to take Simon aloft with him. Fletcher felt a little well of misery open up in his heart as he remembered the other midshipman. Peter had been kind to him, the closest Fletcher had ever had to a genuine friend, and he had been happier than anything and not scared at all to go up the mizzenmast under Peter's protection...

But Peter was not here now. Peter had told him that very afternoon, whilst they were up the mast, that he was leaving the Terpsichore and the navy. There was no friend to look after him now; no one he could confide in or rely on in the midshipmen's berth to look out for or help him - all were much older or experienced boys, and were not interested in small, awkward and silent Simon Fletcher, save to tease him now and again. In a ship of nearly 200 souls Fletcher found himself alone.

And so he decided that he must endeavour to learn this duty alone.

Swallowing the nervousness that had been welling up within him Fletcher steeled himself, crossed to the mizzenmast ratlines and began to climb.

What was it that Peter had told him? Pull yourself up with your arms, don't push with your legs... It had been hard then as it was hard now, but Fletcher clamped his jaw together and steadily progressed upwards. He had chosen the mizzenmast as it was the less busy of the Terspy's three, meaning he was less likely to be knocked aside by seamen rushing to a yard and plunging to his doom... No, he must not think about that! Peter would not think of such a thing - and nor would Chandos, Kinsella or Slater, for that fact. So he must not.

He climbed on, ascending to the mizzen sail yard, which marked the first of three milestones of his upward journey. He had made it this far without incident, but it was hardly any height at all and he must go further. Careful of his footing Fletcher forced himself to focus only on his self-appointed task, knowing that to let his mind wander or look downwards would spell disaster. Up now, and he felt more the heel and roll of the ship as she rode the waves, the masts moving together in their crazy circular motion.

Up and up, up and up, and he was at the mizzen topsail yard. Here he moved onto the small platform where yard met mast, and clung to the trunk of the mast for all he was worth. Above him he stared up at the mizzen topgallant yard, gauging its distance for his final destination - or maybe up to the crosstrees...? But the upper portion of the mast seemed to be moving in such a wild, frantic way that he felt his legs turning to water just looking at it, his arms convulsively tightening around the mast. He had been up there with Peter; if Peter had been with him he would not be afraid. Peter would have encouraging him on, shown him where to put his feet and place his hands, smiled and thought it fun - but now Simon Fletcher was scared beyond movement, his muscles freezing and locking up with fear so they felt as heavy and immovable as lead.

With wild, wide eyes he stared out at the masts in front, at the Terpsichore's plunging bow wave as she shied away like a horse through the sea. Over on the other masts and yards he could see sailors working, carefree and easy as was the way of all those who were braver than he. Here on the mizzen mast he was just a small, frightened figure, hidden by the huge, taught masses of canvas and jungle of sheets, shrouds and ratlines; stuck between worlds, unable to go any higher or any lower.

Frozen beyond all movement or ability to call out, Fletcher held on for dear life.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:32 am



Terry Button felt as though he'd been chased from pillar to post and back again, running around fetching and carrying and generally running errands for the purser. He'd finally been able to get away and decided that the best place to get away from him was to go aloft.

He didn't particularly want to go up the foremast, though, and the Marines seemed to be doing something near the mainmast. Which left the mizzen... which meant he'd have to cross the quarterdeck to get there. Still, he could always say he was on duty or something - that gave anyone a valid excuse. And once he was in the shrouds, it wouldn't matter anyway.

Still. He swung into the shrouds and finally managed to swallow the lump in his throat, scrambling up to the mizzentop with the ease of a monkey in the trees. He frowned, looking up. There seemed to be another boy up in the topmast shrouds, but he couldn't work out who it was. He looked as though he'd frozen and Terry couldn't place him - all the other boys were just as nimble aloft as he was. He adjusted his hat, which didn't make the slightest bit of difference - the lad was silhouetted against the sun and about the only details Terry could make out was that he was wearing a blue jacket and a round hat... and that told him precisely nothing.

He started up the shrouds to see who it was.

"You all right there?" he asked, coming level with the lad, who looked scared stiff. And registered a second too late that it was one of the midshipmen. He swallowed, hoping the other boy wouldn't think he'd been rude. "I mean, you all right, sir?" he said, adjusting his grip on the shrouds a little in case the other boy decided he was being impertinent and that he didn't need any help or anything of the sort

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:49 am

Startled by the sudden voice next to him, Fletcher tore his eyes away from the horizon to stare at the boy who had just appeared. Button would have found a pale, horrified face and wide, frightened eyes staring at him.

The boy had asked him if he was alright, and Fletcher was somewhat mindful that being this boy's superior he should reply with dignity. If he could bring himself to reply at all.

"P..." He was finding it hard to unlock his jaw enough to speak. "Please..."

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:58 am



Oh. Oh, boy.

He looked just as scared as ever. Terry grinned at him encouragingly. He remembered his own first time aloft - he'd been just as white and scared, and the older boys hadn't helped. At all.

"Here, you got a good grip there, m... sir," he said. 'Good grip' was putting it mildly - the young middy's knuckles were whiter than his face. His thoughts were racing. How could he help - the middy was about the same age as him, which meant that Terry couldn't offer the same sort of help that any of the tars could. "It's... You only move one hand or foot at a time, sir," he said, a little hesitantly, and shrugged. "You goin' up, or down, sir?"

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:11 am

The only movement in Fletcher's posture was for him to blink briefly. He did not know if this boy was offering to help him or not.

"Up!" he blurted out. "Got to go... up!"

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Keiju on Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:40 am



He was supposed to be helping the gunner down in the magazine, but instead Fingers was sunning himself beside the boat tier, a tangle of old hemp in his lap to lend the appearance that he was gainfully employed. It was good to be back at sea.

The duty watch ignored him, for the most part. They were typically blind to the comings and goings of the ship's boys anyway. Fingers hummed an off-key, nameless ditty and shifted his position to best catch the sun's warmth. This was how days ought to be spent.

Another boy - Terry Button - ghosted past, and Fingers perked up. What was he doing topside? Wasn't he supposed to be below too? A grin came onto his dirty face. Obviously he was, but he was probably, like Fingers, ducking his duty. Maybe he could be convinced to get up to mischief. Fingers loved little else more than stirring up mischief.

He followed Button toward the mizzen shrouds, though he chose a different route up. It was easier for him anyway, being one of the smallest boys aboard. Skipping over the hammock nettings and making his way quickly along the rail before scampering up the shrouds wasn't perhaps the wisest way to go about it, but the officers seldom noticed ship's boys either. Except for Mister Bush anyway - but he could see through deck beams.

Button was going up pretty high. What was up there? Fingers paused at the mizzen yard to sweep some hair away from his eyes. Not that it did any good. His hair stuck out every which way, even with a hat. Fingers didn't like hats anyway. Up, before a boatswain's mate or Mister Bush spotted him so close to the deck.

"Whazz 'is?" He asked, peering up at the two boys above him when he got closer.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:02 am



"Hoi, Fingers!" Terry couldn't believe his luck, though what Fingers was doing topside, he didn't know. Skiving, probably, the same as he was. Still, he could make himself useful - and maybe get on the good side of Mister... Mister... He couldn't remember the middy's name, but decided it didn't matter. "We's goin' up," he said, hoping the other boy would figure the situation out and see that the young gentleman needed help to get there.

"Arright, sir," he said, looking back to the midshipman. "You got to move your foot. Jus' your foot, sir, think you c'n do that?"

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:04 am

From the expression of Fletcher's face Button could well have just told the midshipman to jump off the yardarm and flap his arms. One hand or foot at a time... one hand or foot at a time... move a foot... just a foot...

There was another boy up with them now, one that Fletcher recognised, though he did not know his name. 'Fingers' the first boy had called him.

"W-Where to?" Fletcher asked. Where was there to go from here?

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Keiju on Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:11 am



Fingers blinked. A middie? Clinging to the mast like a lubber? Had he not been so disbelieving, he might have giggled.

"Jes' a bit here, sir," he said, scuttling aside and pointing toward the next set of shrouds. The middie wanted to go up, or something, and there was only one way to do that.

He swiped a stained sleeve at his nose and grinned toothily. To him, this was as easy as breathing.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:36 am



Where to? Terry nearly goggled at him. He couldn't be serious. "Up, 'o course, sir," he said. "Next horse o' the shrouds - the bit that goes crost 'em, to stand on, sir. Like... like climbin' a ladder."

Were they supposed to slip down and move his hands and feet for him, or something? Because if he wanted to get up to the crosstrees - the smaller platform above the mizzentop - they'd take till the next watch, doing it that way.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:09 am

Fletcher looked between Fingers and Button, the explanation of how to climb the rigging stinging him a fraction towards sensibility again. He was supposed to be their superior, after all - and making a very poor show of it. None of the others would have been so stupid as to be caught short in such a fashion.

"I d-do know what a h-horse is!" he stammered in his defence, though it would not do him much good. He looked to where Fingers had indicated he should put his foot, and forced himself to move it, gingerly stretching his leg out, but still holding tightly onto the mast. "H-here?"

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Keiju on Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:15 am



"Horse's the thing what you stan' on, on the yard," Fingers told him patiently. " 'S good, sir. T'ain't far, coupla steps's all. Like 'is."

He crossed to the shrouds and swung himself up them a little to demonstrate.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:17 am



Terry nodded. "Only, don't look down, whatever you do," he said feelingly, belatedly adding, "sir." He grinned again. "Look, sir, if you ain't sure what to look at, just look at the cordage - the rope - of the shrouds. It'll stop you lookin' down. An', well, sir, lookin' at the air ain't no help at all."

He glanced across at Fingers, trying to think of something else that might help. If this middy was like some he'd met, he'd take it out on them later for seeing him at such a disadvantage.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:52 am

Fletcher stared at Button again, his leg extended in this ridiculous manner, his balance not settled on one foot or the other. He could not remain like this; he would have to move sooner rather than later - before anybody else came! Already there were a crowd of three boys up here; somebody on another mast or on deck was bound to notice, and then there would be a scene! Oh Heavens, and should one of the lieutenants find out...!

"W-Where do I put my hands?" he asked urgently. Any sudden lurch from the ship could have him falling through the air...


Last edited by Simon Fletcher on Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:21 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Keiju on Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:14 am



Fingers draped himself half-through the square of cordage and reached for one of the midshipman's hands. "Jes' here, sir," he directed, realising at last the poor fellow was in earnest and not having a joke.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Sharpiefan on Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:21 am



Terry was about to show the young middy, only Fingers got there first, which made him relax a bit. "We'll see you right, sir," he said. "You jus'... you jus gotta keep movin', see?" If he was bigger, like Cob Chase or Mister Evans or someone, he'd climb behind the midshipman and keep him on the shrouds that way. Only he wasn't and he couldn't. "Now, step up and move your other foot, up a bit, sir. Then your other hand. We'll be up there afore you knows it, sir."

And then there'd be the coming back down to think about. "You's doin' good, sir," he said instead, and looped one arm through the rigging so he could adjust his hat a bit, grinning at Fingers' wild mane.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:49 am

Fletcher looked between the two boys frantically again, then forced one of his arms to uncurl from the mast and seize the section of rigging Fingers hand indicated. It was a wild, hurried move that may have had him falling had he not been balanced - but his hand gripped rope again, and he found himself anchored on all four appendages; if perhaps not very gracefully. Where to now?

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Fingers Smith on Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:26 am

"Easy sir," Fingers said, sliding back so he could grip the shrouds properly. "Both hands now, easy-like."

If the middie wasn't careful, he'd knock himself off the platform. That would be no fun at all.
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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:48 am

Easy. It wasn't easy at all, Fletcher thought. It had taken an enormous amount of effort just to pursuade one foot and hand to unfreeze and move.

I can't, I can't I can't!

He moved his other foot, taking it over to joing the other. He did not trust his feet - that was the problem. What was between him and death but a few thin ropes?

Let go with his other hand.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Fingers Smith on Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:10 am

Poor bloke, Fingers thought and held out one hand toward the middie in case he needed it. "Nearly gottit, sir." Just don't look down, sir.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Terry Button on Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:45 am

"You can do it, mate," Terry said encouragingly, and could've smacked himself. The boy he was helping was a midshipman. Well, a Volunteer First Class, which amounted to the same thing in the end. "One hand at a time. You's doin' real good, sir."

He spared a quick glance down at the quarterdeck. They'd be fine if the officer of the watch, whoever it was, didn't look up and spot them.

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:08 am

Urged on by the other boys, Fletcher risked everything and removed his last grasp fromn the mast... and surprisingly didn't fall. He had successfully moved onto the shrouds again, and was feeling astoundingly secure in his grip for all the ship's wild movements.

He turned and gave a watery smile of thanks to Fingers and Button. Glancing upwards he saw that there was still quite a way to go; but now that he had moved once (for all his legs still felt as wobbly as one of Mrs. Badley's jellies) perhaps he would be able to move again?

"And... up now?" he asked, fighting to banish the nervous stutter from his voice. There was no need, now. No need. He had made enough of a fool of himself already, and heaven knew he would have to work hard to claw back even a scrap of the dignity he had lost today.

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Simon Fletcher
Midshipman

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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Fingers Smith on Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:27 am

The middie was safely perched on the shrouds now. Fingers grinned and swiped some hair futilely out of his face.

"Aye. Up!"

Feeling excited by the prospect of a possible skylark, midshipman or no, Fingers scampered up some way before pausing to glance back. "Best place onna ship," he called down gleefully.

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Fingers Smith
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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Terry Button on Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:32 am

"Oh, don't mind 'im, sir," Terry said, grinning. "Best thing - easiest thing - is to keep movin'. Hardest thing to do is start once you's stopped. C'mon, sir, the view from up here's jus' grand." And there might be a chance for a bit of a skylarking too, if the young gentleman didn't object.

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Terry Button
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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

Post  Simon Fletcher on Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:48 am

Fletcher nodded his understanding, the expression in his wide blue eyes serious, and turned his attention to Fingers as he scampered up the mast. A small frown wrinkled the midshipman's brow as he studied the boy's progress, taking careful note of where he placed his hands and feet and in what order. He looked on in envy; Fingers seemed to move as if he had been born several hundred feet above the ground... But perhaps, one day, he might be good enough to do that himself?

But not for a while. Small steps, Simon repeated to himself. He had yet to get up here first.

With stiff movements, Fletcher began his slow ascent. He was horribly afraid still, but he took Button's advice and forced himself to keep going; not letting himself pause for one instance.

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Simon Fletcher
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Re: Midshipman Fletcher Goes Up In The World

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