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 04th May; Letter of Introduction, Stephen Maturin, Arthur Wellesley
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 12:12 PM
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Stephen sat on a bench in the huge corridor, holding his travel bag. He had a letter of introduction from Sir Joseph Blaine, sealed with the black wax and anchor seal of the Admiralty; he had a general understanding of what the letter contained - no doubt some vague and glowing descriptions of past accomplishments, which in his weariness he could not remember. There were accomplishments, sure, but the one constant factor in all the endeavours he felt true passion for was defeat - total, humiliating, shameful, exquisitely painful defeat. Catalonia, Ireland, Diana- officers bedecked in gold and lace and polished metal sniffed and glared as they strode past him, the small, damp, shabby man, whose hideous, unpowdered wig was slipping, nodding off on the bench, clutching a letter and a sackcloth bag.

He wanted to be called in soon - then he could find an inn, dose himself and sink into sleep, or find a ship back to England. With these men ten years younger than him, with their expensive uniforms and their far more expensive commissions, looking down their noses at him - some tittering, for God's love - he felt presented with a choice between apathy, anger and melancholy.

He cheered slightly when he thought of the young man who had guided him to the building - Private Williams, of the 27th, was it? - some small comfort in the kindness of strangers. Jack was looking after his 'cello, as he'd been advised to travel light. Would it be raining in Boston, where Diana was? Was she in Boston? There was a hole at the knee of his left stocking, and it was growing wider. He still had half a biscuit in his pocket- he would save it for a while though. Wandering, unrelated thoughts streamed through his head in the reverie he found so easy to slip into as the minutes crept by and he waited.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:02 PM
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On the other side of the door Sir Arthur sat at his desk in the room which had been commandeered as his office and bedroom. The building had long been given over to the British as their headquarters, but judging by the somewhat feminine décor and the strange lacy object that had been found languishing under the bed when his orderly had been putting cases away, he surmised that this not so long ago had been a lady's suite of rooms. Whether to be embarrassed by this fact he had not yet decided.

He rubbed his eyes. It was late, it had been a long day and an even longer dinner to sit through with his new officers, the Portuguese and Spanish officials. And it was not over yet. Worse was still to come. As if Soult getting reinforcements was not bad enough, he had just received note that Henry Paget was soon to arrive to take command of the cavalry. Paget. It was adding insult to injury, and his blood boiled at the very thought of that... that shameless fop coming here... To think, he would have to work closely with him, to remain professional whilst all the time he would be staring into the face of the man who not only was responsible for breaking his youngest brother's marriage, but also betraying his friendship and trust. It was not a good beginning by any stretch of the imagination, and Wellesley prayed to God that it would get better from here on. It had to.

"Who's still out there?" he asked, meaning the outer office.

"Sir?" The aide sprinkling sand onto documents beside his chair looked up.

"Anybody still waiting or is that it for the day?"

"I will check, sir."

The aide placed the pile of papers down on the corner of the desk, strode over to the door and stepped into the next room.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:02 PM
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Stephen, having long eaten his biscuit, was dozing outside the door, his chin on his chest. He had tucked the letter into his breast pocket, and had looped the strap on his bag around his wrist. He was jerked out of his doze by the door beside him finally opening - his wig slipped over his eyes and he quickly pushed it back. An aide poked his head around the door and stared at him.

Stephen stared back.

The aide shut the door, finding it hard to pull his gaze from Stephen's reptilian one. He turned back to Sir Arthur, clearing his throat. "There is one more, sir."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:03 PM
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Sir Arthur blinked.

"Who?"

"A civilian, sir," The aide hastily racked his brains. "Doctor Maturin. He has a letter of recommendation from the Admiralty."

Good God. An he had been sitting out there all this time? He gave a hefty sigh.

"Very well, show him in."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:03 PM
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"He looked like a civilian, sir. Should I ask him his name?"
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:04 PM
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The General glared at the aide.

"Did I not just say so?"

[OOC: Sorry - not quick enough with the edit. :S]
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:04 PM
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[OOC: No worries! http://files.jcink.net/uploads/showthecolours/Emoticons/biggrin.gif Poor aide.]

The aide opened the door for him, and Stephen quickly straightened his wig and rubbed at his eyes. He walked into the room, a little nervously. He recognised Sir Arthur Wellesley, looking up at him from behind a huge desk, covered in papers, from a party years ago in Dublin, though he very much doubted he would be remembered himself. He was glad anyway - reluctance to hand over his letter to an aide might not have gone down well. He bowed. "Doctor Stephen Maturin, at your service." He did not know the correct etiquette for this situation, so he simply held out the letter. "Sir Joseph Blaine asked me to give you his regards."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:05 PM
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The General rose from his desk and took the letter from the doctor. Although the name was not familiar to him he felt as if he had met this man before; but he kept his face impassive, not letting any hint of his suspicions or curiosity show.

"Good day to you, sir. I apologise for keeping you waiting so long, but today has been rather fraught. Indeed, I did not look to your arrival so soon."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:07 PM
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"Not at all, sir." He smiled. "I was grateful for the chance to rest my legs and to think on the skeleton of the Pterodroma hasitata, some of which have been sighted the European side of the Atlantic."

He wondered if he should leave and allow the general some time to peruse the letter, but decided that the general would have no qualms in asking for privacy if he wanted it - he stood still, his hands folded behind his back. He was not surprised by the huge difference to Arthur Wellesley - as a young man in Ireland he had been known for his carousing and gambling, which had been the impression the even younger Maturin had also gleaned from their brief meeting - but his reputation had preceded him. Maturin doubted that the same applied to him, which might add an element of difficulty to the meeting.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:08 PM
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Sir Arthur blinked.

"Quite," he said mildly, deciding not to enquire further what Pterodroma was. "Will you not sit down, doctor? I take it you should like the opportunity to rest your legs further. Simpson - a chair for Doctor Maturin."

He watched as the young officer fetched a chair and set it down on the opposite side of the desk, then proceeded to break open the seal on the letter.

"Your pardon, sir, whilst I read this. I shall be with you shortly."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:08 PM
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"Thank you, sir." Stephen sat down, stretching his legs out. The Angelus bell rang somewhere in the city - it was late then - Stephen made the Sign of the Cross and began to mentally recite the Latin. He was careful to look out of the window, but he watched the General's face from the corner of his eye.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:09 PM
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Sir Arthur read through the letter swiftly, but kept half an eye on Maturin as he read. This way he caught the sign of the cross as the Angelus struck. So, an Irish Catholic, though the doctor looked nor sounded anything but Irish, which in this country would be of great use. The General had only met Sir Joseph once or twice, but knew him to be a man of good sense and the glowing report of Doctor Maturin's qualities penned on thwe paper before him made interesting reading. Apparently this odd little man was to no small degree responsible for the success of the diplomatic side of the Mauritius campaign...

Having finished reading he carefully put the letter aside, then turned to the aide.

"Thank you, Simpson, that will be all."

"Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir."

Somewhat perplexed at his curt dismissal, the aide left the room. Once he was gone and the General had heard the door click shut he turned back to the doctor.

"You come with a very impressive recommendation, sir, and I trust Sir Joseph to be a good judge of character. However, he did not in his letter make any reference to the purpose of your visit here - something of a wise precaution. Perhaps you would care to enlighten me?"
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:10 PM
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Stephen bowed at the compliment. "I will speak plainly. My usefulness will increase the further east we go. I know many of the Spanish guerrilleros personally, especially those in Catalonia, but also ones spread throughout Spain, as well as intelligence contacts. The overall aim of my mission is an alliance between Britain and Spain against Buonaparte, and Catalonian independence. However, I have little experience of the British army, and therefore Sir Joseph suggested that I offer my services to Major Hogan - I have some moderate experience in intelligence gathering and cryptography. If no use can be found for me, I am to report back to England - but considering the renewed presence of the British in the Peninsula, I would be reluctant to continue my own independent missions in this area without some sort of accord." He smiled. "I am also a physician, sir, and something of an amateur natural philosopher. This would give me an excuse to meet with the contacts I have in Iberia, as well as to perform whatever, if any, service you wish to put me to."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:11 PM
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"Indeed."

Sir Arthur leaned back in his chair and fixed Maturin with his blue gaze, scrutinising him closely. He was certain he had seen him somewhere before...

"It may well serve, sir," he said, speaking his thoughts aloud as they came to him. "It may do. Major Hogan will be glad of any assistance you could provide him - though if I might suggest an alternative arrangement? Although your status as a notable physician and natural philosopher may allow you some freedom of movement that is otherwise denied to other men in wartime, that protection only goes so far, am I not correct?" He did not wait for the doctor to reply, but continued. "Therefore it would perhaps be better if you were to for the present attach yourself to James McGrigor, my Surgeon-General. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you would be a far less suspicious character if you were here in an official capacity to advise Dr. McGrigor than as an unofficial physician whose role is not clear."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:11 PM
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Stephen considered Wellesley's words, and he answered him carefully. "My being a physician and a naturalist offers little 'protection', only the excuse to move about the countryside with more freedom than an average soldier, or even officer. When I make these trips, I rarely travel under the name of Stephen Maturin, you understand, and so the most beneficial place will be one where I will not be readily missed, or, if I am missed, where no questions will be asked. If you believe that being officially attached to your Surgeon-General - officially - will raise any less suspicion, while retaining the same amount of flexibility, then I would be happy to follow your advice."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:12 PM
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"There are ways of achieving it," the General said, reaching for the inkstand and a fresh sheet of paper. "But that shall be set down once we have had a chance to further discuss particulars. Unfortunately it is too late in the evening for you to meet Hogan, so introductions will have to be postponed until tomorrow morning. Have you had the chance to find yourself a billet yet?"
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:12 PM
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"Not yet, Sir Arthur." Stephen stifled a yawn - he'd been woken at 5 bells of the middle watch by a broken clavicle. He had no idea where to start looking either. "May I ask you to suggest a suitable place?"
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:13 PM
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A smile twitched at the corners of Sir Arthur's mouth, but he quickly suppressed it.

"I am afraid that it is also too late of an evening to go looking for rooms," he said evenly. "Not only is Lisbon a dangerous place to be, but we had another regiment arrive today - the city is already bursting at the seams with soldiers - and it is most likely that any available rooms will have been taken. I suggest that you spend the night here at headquarters, and then I shall send one of my aides out with you tomorrow to see if you can find some satisfactory accommodation."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:14 PM
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"Ah. I see." Arthur Wellesley was almost impossible to read; he quickly covered any signs of emotion with a masterfully impassive mask, but Stephen could swear that the General was amused... He wondered if there was any genuine respect or concern in Wellesley, or if this meeting was being conducted under a façade, and as soon as the door shut behind Maturin he would be mocked as the latest Admiralty idiot to think himself useful in the Peninsula, to be passed as diplomatically as possible to where he would be of the least nuisance. Under this irritation, Stephen suddenly felt irrationally worried that he had been recognised - the painful introduction had been the fault of a drunk, cruel jackeen, and not of the adolescent just off the boat, struggling to remember his English, but the feeling was remarkably similar to the weary embarrassment creeping over him now, and he felt as small, shabby and travel-worn, as alone in an unfamiliar place, as when he had first greeted Ireland's rising star.

He coughed, and thinking it impolite to inquire as to whether the danger came from the local populace or the army, he looked down and said "Thank you, sir - I would be much obliged." A bed would be bliss - any relatively soft horizontal surface - Eden would not compare, and all the more glorious if he lay in it with a full stomach.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:15 PM
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"I shall have you a room prepared then."

Sir Arthur rose from his desk and pulled the bell cord next to the fireplace. Barely a few minutes a servant in a powdered wig and gaudy livery entered the room.

"Be so good as to prepare a room for Dr. Maturin..." Sir Arthur paused, suddenly recollecting himself. If the doctor had not yet had time to find lodgings then it was more than likely that he had not eaten. He knew that men of a scientific nature were usually hopeless at taking proper care of themselves - and judging by his appearance Dr. Maturin seemed to be no different. Cursing silently, he turned back to the little man. "Forgive me, doctor, I neglected to enquire whether you had dined."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:16 PM
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Stephen managed a sheepish smile. "I'm afraid I have not, sir." Thinking he was coming across as more incompetent every second - invaluable among enemies, no doubt, but he was loath to appear so in front of Sir Arthur Wellesley - he forced more confidence into his voice than he felt when he said "I am certain I will be able to find some local tavern that will not be too dangerous. And I am truly most grateful for the room."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:17 PM
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But Sir Arthur ignored he doctor's statement that he would find his own dinner.

"And bring the doctor some supper - something hot." He turned back to Maturin. "Anything in particular you would like, sir? The kitchen fires are still lit."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:17 PM
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Stephen smiled, genuinely. "Anything would be grand, but something hot would be even more treasured. I must thank you for all your kindness." He began to rise from his chair, wondering if this was an amiable prelude to a dismissal.
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:17 PM
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Sir Arthur nodded, then turned back to the waiting servant.

"Some of those lamb cutlets, then. Have them taken to the doctor's room. That we be all."

"Si, senhor," the man said, bowing and then withdrawing, closing the door behind him. Sir Arthur sneered at the wood panelling.

"Ghastly liveries they have in this country. I wonder if half the aristocracy are not colour-blind."
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 Posted: Jun 1 2018, 02:18 PM
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"The liveries...?" Stephen had not noticed, but he felt that he might be able to say the same about many of the British military uniforms. "Sure, they are not the most elegant liveries I have seen." He was more interested in the sneer - unconscious, deliberate, an indication that Arthur Wellesley was not so different from Arthur Wesley...? "Hush, Maturin, he has been charity itself - do not seek out worries when you have so many already," he said to himself, standing up as Sir Arthur sat down again. He wouldn't have minded talking for a moment longer in an attempt to find his bearings, but Wellesley had been most benevolent - far more so than Stephen had been led to believe - and he did not wish to be a nuisance to him, looking as weighed down as he did.

He bowed. "Thank you, Sir Arthur, for your time and for your kindness."
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