David Judson, Midshipman - 9 & 10
Chapter Nine: Portsmouth
From then on, David would rise an hour or two before breakfast. He would dress quickly, then spend time in the Bible and in prayer. After breakfast, he and Captain Bristow would plough through page after page of geography, mathematics, and David’s other studies, which, among others, included astronomy, navigation, and history. And then Captain Bristow would tell him to close his books. They would eat lunch together, after which David would go to the dockyard. In his first months in Portsmouth, David would seek answers to questions Captain Bristow gave him, study the ships, and talk to the men working at the port. In the summer, David would spend that time working aboard trade ships that stopped at the docks. But whatever he was doing, he would be there, rain or shine, from lunch until dinner. After dinner, David struggled to keep awake as he did odd jobs for the Captain. Some days this meant organizing the library, doing accounting work, and others it meant studying more so he could run errands in the morning instead of doing his academics then. Every night, David went to bed as soon as Captain Bristow dismissed him, and fell asleep before he had time to think about it.
Sunday was David’s day off, and after he attended church, he would write letters home, sleep, or spend more time in the Word. Every so often, a family for church would invite him over for a meal and he would spend the evening in fellowship with them.
Each day seemed long and tedious, but the weeks and months seemed to fly by. In September, rumors began that Spain was preparing to enter the war, which was a change from the static news of Nelson keeping the French holed up in Toulon. But nothing more happened until breakfast on the thirteenth of December.
Captain Bristow grunted as he read the letter Fischer had brought in. David looked up from his food and raised an eyebrow, but the Captain paid no attention. After a few minutes, he put the letter down and returned to his breakfast. When he finished, he leaned back in his chair.
“Well, David, the world of Portsmouth seems so still on a cold winter morning like this. But the warfront may not be so still from now on.”
David stopped eating. “What’s happened?”
“We’ve been ordered – some time ago – not to let the Spanish leave the harbor. The vice-admiral – what’s his name, David?”
“Sir John Orde,” David replied.
“Good lad. He took command of a new squadron at Cadiz, and has orders to seize any Spanish treasure or warships. If my intuition is correct, Spain will be in the war before the New Year.”
“Does that mean we may be doing more than waiting for France to make a move?”
“Aye, it should. Which means we must speed up your studies so we can put you on a ship sooner!”
David bit his lip. He did long to be aboard a ship, but he was planning to ask Captain Bristow if he might go home for Christmas.
“But, it’s high time you had a holiday. So I’m going to pack you off to London for Christmas, so long as you’re back for New Year’s.”
So David spent another quiet, joyful Christmas in London. Less was said that year of the Judson’s financial situation; since Patrick could read, work was less scarce. No one worried in the holidays of 1804. Patrick had work, their income was stable and enough to pay their bills, and the whole family was thriving spiritually since Patrick had begun to lead them again.
“It’s harder to leave you this year than ever before,” David said when they walked to the stagecoach. “I love you all more than ever.”
“Will you be back for the summer?” Harry asked.
“Not unless Captain Bristow sends me home hopeless of my being a Midshipman. So as much as I’d like to see you, it wouldn’t be a good thing if I’m home in the next few months.”
“When do you expect to be at sea?” Nan wondered.
“As soon as the Captain feels I’m ready and can get me a place on board a ship. I’m apprehensive about it all, but I know the Lord is in control.”
Beth wrapped her arms around David’s waist. “And He is good, so none of us will worry – but we will pray for you.”
David kissed the top of her head. “Thank you, Beth. I shall need as many prayers as can be got.”
“The Spanish declared war on us half a month ago,” Captain Bristow said when David walked in the door on New Year’s day. “What a start to 1805.”
“What now?” David asked, setting down his trunk.
“We wait to see what comes next, and start finding you a place on a ship.”
“That’s ‘really, sir,’ young lad, but aye, I mean it.”
“I didn’t know I was anywhere near ready.”
“You’re more ready than the boys that come out of the college, and many other midshipmen. I’ll see what I can do. You don’t want to miss the action.”
“No, sir,” David said, but his stomach was tying itself in knots. With the possibility of battle so close, a new fear gripped him.
While Captain Bristow sought a midshipman’s post for David, David worked as hard as he could. He felt himself lagging as time went on, and often wrote home to ask that everyone pray for his stamina. It became harder to concentrate, and as the work became more difficult, he found himself struggling to grasp the concepts. The Captain watched David’s struggles in silence, wanting to help the boy but also wanting David to come through on his own. It didn’t help that by mid-February there was still no word on a ship for David.
He woke earlier than usual one morning and though it was still pitch black outside, he rose and knelt by his window. There, he poured out his soul before God. He spoke aloud of his lack of focus, his despair, the hardships he was facing – “Oh God, I fall so far short! I cannot meet these problems alone, and they are only of a material nature. Mathematics has never given me trouble before, and now I find myself confused on basic problems! And will I never receive a place on a ship? Will all of this come to nothing?”
The streets below him were beginning to wake when he rose from his knees and opened his Bible. But he could not concentrate on the Word, and returned to prayer, wrestling with his soul to trust in God.
The bell rang for breakfast, and David descended the stairs, taking his time. He feared that day would be like the ones before it, and it was, though he was more determined to, with God’s help, work through its trials. But apart from that, there seemed no breakthrough.
Suppertime brought news of Nelson and his fleet. He had taken eleven ships to Sardinia, leaving two frigates at Toulon. The French broke out and Nelson returned to France, only to find four vessels of his fleet disabled.
“I understand what Admiral Nelson must be feeling,” David said, pushing his food around on his plate. “To be working so hard and have Admiral Villeneuve escape, then to come back and find your fleet in poor shape – he’s got to feel worse than I have in the last month when things haven’t been going so well.”
“There’s always hope,” Captain Bristow said.
“Not always for Admiral Nelson,” David said. “Someone has to lose the war. It could be him. Aye, there’s hope for me yet, but day to day it doesn’t seem like that.”
“I’m sure we’ll hear soon about your place.”
David shrugged. “I’ve almost stopped hoping it will be soon. That way I’m not expecting it every day.”
“David, your work is good. You’re well-equipped for this position. Things in the Royal Navy take time, and I’m sure many lads want a place in the Navy with a war on. This isn’t the end of it yet.”
“I know that, but it’s hard to remember. And then to add failures in my studies on top of that is only more frustrating. I’m realizing now how wrong I was to think that the Navy would make me enjoy doing things I dislike doing. I thought it would be different because I’d be in the Navy.”
Captain Bristow smiled. “Many young men think so. I was one of them. But I didn’t realize my fantasy until I was already in, so it was much harder to deal with. I wish you could gain sea time while we’re waiting around, as you’re gaining other knowledge. As far as what you know, you’ll be well ahead of many of the other Midshipmen. But you’ll have catching up to do when it comes to the practical end of things.”
“If I get in,” David mumbled.
“I won’t have any of that in my house, David Judson. There’s still hope, and we’re not going to give up for a while yet, not after we’ve invested so much.”
At the end of March, the French Admiral Villeneuve stole out of Toulon again, taking seventeen ships with him. David brought the news from the port to the Captain.
“Lord Nelson will be beating himself up over this,” Captain Bristow muttered. “He’s got the weight of his country on his shoulders and the French have outsmarted him twice now.”
While I wish I knew my future with regard to the Navy, David thought, I’m very glad I’m not in Admiral Nelson’s shoes.
In April, Captain Bristow arranged for David to go home for a few weeks. David was glad to go home again, but even at home the question of his fate weighed on his mind. His brothers would call him from his thoughts to come play or read with them, and he often would not reply. Every day, he and Beth walked to the port, hungry for news of the war. All they could learn was that Nelson was headed for Gibraltar.
For David, everything seemed to hang in the air. He slept little at night, often lying awake praying or sitting by the window in the light of the moon. Patrick and Susannah worried about him, and prayed for him, but could do nothing to ease his mind.
May came, and David returned to Portsmouth. The journey seemed longer and more tedious than ever before, and it took every effort David had to just take the next step.
I wish I could go to sleep for a month or two, until I hear from the Navy. Whatever can be taking them so long? I know we’re in the middle of a war, but still!
Captain Bristow shook his head when David asked for news. There was none of either a ship for him or word of Nelson.
“Soon we’ll hear of both, I’m sure.”
David shrugged. He was so tired of waiting he almost didn’t care anymore. All he wanted was answers. His prayers were long, and he spent as much time as he could in the scriptures. The Captain continued to give David work to do, and they kept up their lessons until David knew everything forwards and backwards.
In May, they learned that Nelson, after waiting in Lagos Bay, was en route across the Atlantic, chasing the French. Many of his battleships were in poor condition, but they still expected to catch up to their enemy.
David hoped to hear news of a battle any day when May turned into June. The weather began to warm, and days of sunshine became more frequent. He found a job at the dockyard, since he and the Captain were studying less.
July came, and with it there was news for David at last. A place for him had been secured aboard the H.M.S. Belleisle, a ship that had once belonged to the French. Then called the Formidable, she was captured in 1795 and renamed by the British Navy. The details of his joining up were yet unclear, but it lightened David’s load to know his place in the Navy was sure. He left his job at the dockyard and returned to studying with Captain Bristow. They also set about getting David’s uniform and everything else he would need.
In August, everything seemed to happen at once. It became clear that Nelson was on his way back across the Atlantic, as Villeneuve had retreated. On August 18, he arrived in Portsmouth. David and Captain Bristow went to the dockyard to greet the Victory, but had to rush off soon after, for David’s orders had come. He would go to Plymouth to board the Belleisle. He wrote a quick letter home, sending his love and regrets that he could not see them before he left, but would they please pray for him often? Then he was being jostled along the road in a public coach to Plymouth.
Chapter Ten: Aboard the Belleisle
Fear crept over his whole being as they neared Plymouth. There was no face, familiar or unfamiliar, there to greet him or welcome him. He would have to find Belleisle on his own and report for duty. He adjusted the buttons on his uniform. It seemed so stiff and uncomfortable – the only reason he could believe that this was real. But discomfort aside, he felt rather good in his uniform. It made him feel mature and distinguished, a true midshipman of the Royal Navy.
The next day, the stage coach left him at the docks, his trunk at his feet. A tremor ran through his body, but he couldn’t tell if it was fear or excitement. There, before him, was the Belleisle – his ship. What would his captain be like? Captain Bristow had said his name was William Hargood – Captain Hargood. And David would be Mr. Midshipman Judson. It seemed like a fairy-tale for the moment, but David knew it would be a fairy-tale with blood, sweat, and dirt mixed in to the moments of bliss.
He saw a lieutenant standing near the ship, and picked up his trunk, heading in the officer’s direction.
“Excuse me, sir – I’m Mr. Judson, Midshipman. I have orders to be aboard the Belleisle.” It wasn’t exactly what Captain Bristow had told him to say, but he couldn’t remember the proper wording. Their parting days had been so busy; David couldn’t remember everything.
“Captain Hargood has been expecting you. There’s a longboat waiting here to take you aboard. Is there anything you’ll need on shore beforehand?”
The lieutenant motioned to a seaman, who put David’s trunk aboard the longboat. Then David climbed aboard, steadying himself in the rocking boat.
“Don’t worry, lad, the ship’s not like this,” a kind voice said behind him.
David settled down onto a seat and folded his hands in his lap. He watched as the distance between them and the land grew, and then turned his gaze to the large ship beyond them.
She’s beautiful, David thought. He named each sail and counted the guns. Seventy-four! The black and gold paint glistened in the summer sunshine, and the waves gently rocked the ship from side to side. The White Ensign trailed in the breeze, and David’s heart swelled with pride. I’m going to protect this land, and my family, and serve aboard this beauty. Father, my heart is overflowing!
When they reached the Belleisle, David climbed a rope ladder to the deck, and what he saw there took his breath away. The flurry of seamen, the mess of sails and rigging, the orderly way everything was in its place, the bright red uniforms of the Marines, and the dark blue trimmed with black and gold that marked the Naval officers. His own two feet were planted among them, and he had a part in their work.
“Welcome to the Belleisle,” a voice said beside him.
David turned. “Mr. David Judson, Midshipman,” he said.
“I’m Mr. Henderson – a fellow Midshipman. We’re all very eager to meet you, but I’ve been instructed to see that you report to Captain Hargood first thing. The men will make sure your belongings are taken to the Midshipmen’s quarters – you can join us there for a bite to eat whenever you’re ready.”
“Thank you, Mr. Henderson.”
David followed Henderson to the back of the ship. Henderson knocked on the door of the Captain’s cabin.
“Mr. Henderson, sir, bringing Mr. Judson as you requested.”
“Thank you, Mr. Henderson.”
David entered the cabin behind Henderson, and saw his captain for the first time.
“You may leave us, Mr. Henderson.”
After Henderson left, David scrutinized Captain Hargood. He had a congenial look and air about him, thought David knew that like Captain Bristow, he would not let anything slip by him.
“Welcome aboard the Belleisle, Mr. Judson. I was informed that you rushed over to Plymouth just after seeing the Victory arrive in Portsmouth. I’m sorry you had to leave so quickly; all we’re doing here is being refitted, so nothing very exciting will happen in the next few weeks. But we’re glad to have you with us, and I’m sure you’ll be glad for the time to get adjusted to the ship before we set out, possibly for battle. Bristow tells me you’ve had very little experience aboard a vessel.”
“Aye, sir. Sometimes I worked on trade ships when they were in port in London, and also on a few in Portsmouth.”
“But he also told me you’re a very hard worker and very bright when it comes to your studies, and he has no doubt you’ll do very well.”
Hargood sat down. “You know, when I heard you were going to be under my command, and then heard your story, I was reminded of myself. I come from a poor family as well, although my family was in the Navy already – my father was a purser. My first ship was the Triumph, where I began to serve at thirteen. I’m not unfamiliar with your circumstances, Mr. Judson, and hope on hard days that can be hope and consolation to you.
“Now, until further orders, you may get yourself acquainted with our lady, Belleisle.”
“Thank you, sir.”
David replaced his hat as he left the room, closing the door behind him. For the next hour, he walked around the ship, greeting people, naming what he could, trying not to get in the way or get lost.
His stomach rumbled when he passed above the seamen’s mess, and he turned to find some food, descending the ladder to the dining area. David’s foot slipped, and before he could catch himself, he was tumbling down the ladder. His shoulder collided with the hard, wood floor and he let out a sharp cry. Before he could regain his composure, there were seamen all around him. Amidst all the strange faces, a hand reached out. David took it. Once on his feet, he looked at the man who had helped him up.
“That was a nasty tumble, sir,” the man said. It was the man who had spoken to David in the longboat.
“Aye,” David said. “Thank you.” He looked at the man.
His hair was close-cropped and grey, but flecks of black revealed its true color. His eyes were the color of a stormy sea, and his skin was wrinkled and weather beaten from years in the sun and wind.
“I haven’t met you yet,” David said. “I’m David Judson.”
“That your full name?” David asked.
“Nay, but no one ever uses my good name, sir.” He had a thick brogue to match his name, and it took David a moment to decipher what the man had said.
David shrugged. “Doesn’t hurt to know it just the same.”
David touched the brim of his hat. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. McAlister. I’m sure I’ll see you later – but now I really must get something to eat.”
“Where you planning on eating, lad?” Moses said. His voice was gruff, but quiet and gentle so no one else could hear.
“Why, down here, of course, with everyone else.”
Moses’s grey eyes twinkled. “Not you, sir. You’re an officer. This is the seamen’s mess.”
David felt the heat rise to his face, and he looked down at his shoes. “Once again, thank you, Mr. McAlister.”
“Glad to have saved you further embarrassment – and don’t worry, no one shall ‘ear of this from me. Falling down hatch is enough trouble for a day.”
David shook his head. “I’ve so much to learn. I don’t just mean about sailing – I mean all this new etiquette. My family’s poor and from London – though I have learned some from my Uncle.”
“I’m from Glasgow. Not much etiquette there sometimes, but then a seamen don’t need much. Well, Mr. Judson, I’ll see you later. I’ve duties to attend to in the focs’ul. You know where to eat?”
David nodded. “Aye. Once you’d mentioned it, I remembered Mr. Henderson telling me.” David journeyed to the Midshipmen’s quarters. He knew he was in the right place by the noise coming from inside. He shook his head. I hope they’re not like this once we’re at sea.
He pushed open the door and saw the other midshipmen gathered around the table. Some had cards out, one man was playing the fiddle, and others were eating.
“Well, look who’s decided to join us at last,” a midshipman said.
David sat at the table. “Aye. It’s about time I got some food in my stomach.”
“Tell us about yourself while you do so, Mr. Judson,” Henderson said.
“What do you want to know?”
“Where you’re from, where you’ve studied, what you’re family’s like, what interests you – anything.”
“I’m from London. I studied in the country with my Uncle and then in Portsmouth with a retired captain. I have three brothers and two sisters, all very wonderful. I like to fish and read.”
“How old are you?”
“You have funds to put in our mess?”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“What is there?”
“Coffee? A bottle of spirits?”
“Don’t like either,” David said.
The men all laughed.
“You’d better get used to them if you’re going to be in the Navy long, Mr. Judson.”
“You’ve some Irish in you, haven’t you?” A midshipman asked. His name was Henry Parker.
“Aye – my father’s Irish.”
Parker nodded. “I can tell – I’m from County Cork myself. Born and raised.”
“Dublin,” David said. “Though I’ve never been there. I’d never been outside of London until three years ago – and then just the countryside and Portsmouth.”
“Then you’re in for it – I hear we’re going back to France as soon as we’re refit.”
“Hey, you were in Portsmouth?” Parker cried.
“Aye – I left two days ago.”
“We’ve been hearing that Nelson and the Victory were due to come in there!”
“They did! But, alas, I couldn’t stay to see more of them than in their grand entry, since I had to come here. The little I did see was marvelous!”
“If all goes as we hope, we’ll soon be back on the warfront with her,” Henderson said. He raised his cup. “A toast – to Admiral Nelson, to victory over the French – and may we have a part in the fray!”
September came, and the Belleisle was still in Plymouth. By now, David was accustomed to the ship, and had been involved in normal duties for some time. He would keep watch, relay messages, supervise drills, and had taken on command of a sub-division under the Lieutenant he had met on shore his first morning in Plymouth. The Lieutenant’s name was Fife, and he reminded David of Peters. Some days, David and the other midshipmen would have lessons in mathematics, navigation, and sailing lore. David found himself well-equipped for these lessons and, unlike most of the other midshipmen, found great delight in them.
Not so easy were his relations with the other midshipmen. The troubles had started with a pack of cards.
“Do you play cards, Mr. Judson?” A midshipman named Thomas had asked.
“I’ve never had the time to,” David answered.
“You’ve the time right now, if you’d care to join us,” Parker said, waving a handful of cards.
David looked up from the letter he was writing home. “I may have discretionary time at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I’ve the time to,” he said sharply. “I think time spent in cards is often wasted, not to mention I don’t agree with gambling.”
“Come now, Mr. Judson, you don’t think you’re too good for us, do you?”
David bit his lip. “No, Mr. Redwood, I do not. But my life has been bought with the blood of Christ, a precious price, and I do not desire to waste it on trivial pursuits. If you’ll excuse me.” David stood and gathered up his finished letter, shoving it into his pocket. He ran up to the deck, hoping to clear his mind in the fresh air.
“Pardon me for saying so, Mr. Judson, but I’ve never seen ye stand idle before.”
David turned to see Moses standing beside him. “I could say the same of you, Mr. McAlister. I suppose we both are off-duty and have some time to do as we please.”
“I’d expect you to be with the other midshipmen.”
“I’ve little taste for their past times. I can’t waste time on cards when there are great things to do for God, and when there’s more to learn of Him.”
“So you’re a Christian, then?”
“Aye,” David said, expecting to receive mockery from Moses as well.
“I’m glad to hear it. There’s not enough of us in his Majesty’s service – I mean that not enough Christians and not enough in the Navy. But I’ll warn ye, it’s not easy being in the Navy and being a disciple of Christ. There’s many here opposed to us, and the lifestyle of men in port is not commendable. But you’ll not see as much of that, being with the officers. They’re a more noble lot, though not by much.”
“How long have you been in the Navy, Mr. McAlister?”
“Nigh on ten years, now.” He squinted at the sun, but seemed to be chasing away a bad memory.
“Why’d you join?”
“No choice. I was pressed, taken away from my wife and wee ones with no notice. I worked at the port, and was walking home one night when I was stopped and asked to volunteer. I said no, thinking of my family, but the next thing I knew I was knocked out and taken aboard. I haven’t been able to see my Jane or wee ones all these years, but I write them as often as I can.”
David said nothing. He had not seen or heard the dark side of the Navy before the past few days, and he was struggling to understand it.
A seaman walked behind them and muttered something to Moses.
“Did you hear what ‘e said?” Moses asked.
David shook his head.
“Good. It wasn’t fit for anyone’s ears, even such a sinner as myself.”
“Who was he?”
Moses nodded at the man. “His name’s Thornton. Simon Thornton, if you take everyone’s names as ye did mine. ‘E’s also a pressed man, but knows not the Lord and has taken it bitterly. Steer clear of him if you can; he’ll only make trouble, especially once ‘e knows you’re a disciple of Christ. Ye’ll have enough trouble with that with some of the midshipmen. Thornton is my own rank, and I’ll be the one to care for ‘im.”
The ship’s bell rang.
“How long do you have until you’re back to work?” David asked.
“Another hour yet. I came up here to paint – not much to paint below decks, and it’s hard to see what I’m doing sometimes. Here, let me show you.” He set a small bag on the rail of the ship and pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket. David watched as his friend unpacked the bag, taking out bottles of paint and a paintbrush.
Moses’s eyes roved the sea beyond them. He held the paintbrush between two fingers and traced the lines of the waves and ships. It was hard to paint on the deck of the 74-gun frigate, but Moses had almost mastered the art after ten years. He cast a glance at David, who watched eagerly.
“What are you going to paint?” David asked.
“I often paint Jane as I remember her, or places I came into port, so she can see them. Sometimes I remember things from the scriptures and put them into picture. I only have what I remember.”
“I have a Bible,” David said. “You can borrow it when you want it.”
Moses shook his head and looked at the blank paper that lay before him. “I cannae read, lad. But I’d be grateful any time you’d read it to me. But I’ll wager that I know more than you do by heart, and it’s been enough to keep me feeding on the Lord these past years.”
“I can teach you to read,” David said.
“There’s no time for that, lad, else I’d have learned long ago. But the Lord is good, whether we read or not, so I ‘ave no fears about my literacy.”
Brush laden with paint stroked the paper. The sway of the ship seemed rougher today than it had been in days past.
Moses chuckled. “Sometimes rough seas help me get the motion of the waves better.”
“When do you think we’ll be out to sea?” David asked.
“Ye’d know that better than I; you’re with the officers. I’d say we’ll be sailing out as fast as we can as soon as we’re refit. Shouldn’t be too much longer. Ye aching for battle?”
“Not battle. It’s a nasty thing – I know that and I’ve never been in the midst of it. But I can’t wait to be on the open sea.”
“You’ll do well here, lad, if you stay close to our Lord. Ye’ve enough daydreaming to keep ye in when times get hard, but I think enough realism to keep a balance and work hard.”
“Thank you, Mr. McAlister. I’ve enjoyed talking with you – but now my mind has cleared and I aim to go back to the midshipmen – pray for me, that I might speak to them of Christ, at least sometime. And may I seek you out whenever I need counsel?”
Moses’s eyes softened. “Aye, lad. Remember to speak the truth in love – and that to the Jew Paul became a Jew – so if your only problem with cards is time – you might play, that you might win some to Christ. God go with you, now.”
In the next few days, David struggled to find balance. His years of study had not prepared him for relational aspects of the Navy. He tried not to waste time, but was realizing how difficult it was to speak the truth in love, and that many won’t listen to a stranger, but might to a friend. Thomas was the most opposed to David’s faith, and most of the other midshipmen sided with him. Yet David had found a loyal friend in Henry Parker. When the others mocked David and tried to make him falter in his duties or studies, Parker put in a good word for David. There were some midshipmen who remained silent, not wanting to get involved, but Parker became angry when a bad word was spoken against anyone, especially David.
When David left the company of his peers, Thomas would often sneer, “Going to spend time with the Captain, snotty? Too far above us, are you?”
Most days, David ignored Thomas’s remarks, but would speak to Moses about them.
“Tell him the gospel of Christ,” Moses said one day. “Else he’ll always believe you think ye’re higher than him.”
David bit his lip. “It’s hard enough to speak to people dear to me in love, Mr. McAlister! How am I to do it with someone who hates me?”
“By the Holy Ghost working in you. He dwells in ye, if ye’re a child of God. We must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. I cannae think of a higher good than telling him how he might be saved.”
“I can’t do it yet – but I will pray and wrestle my flesh until I am ready.”
“I’ll be praying for ye, lad.”
“Thank you.” David smiled at his friend. Theirs was an odd and somewhat awkward relationship. Most of the midshipmen and officers associated very little with the seamen, and never more than was necessary. David and Moses’s friendship was a rare one. Yet it was also hard for them, as the Navy required them to keep formality between them, a formality they wished gone. David longed for Moses to call him by his first name, and could tell Moses sometimes struggled to speak so openly to someone of higher rank than himself, even if David was many years younger. They spoke of family, home, disobeying orders if against the scriptures, and anything else that came to mind. In David’s letters home, his friendship with Moses was one of few bright stars the field of trials. The relative ease of his studies was overshadowed by the difficulties of his relationship with his peers.