''Now!'' bellowed Captain Aubrey as he leapt sword-first below the decks of the Acheron. Calamy quickly followed his Captain, his mind racing and heart pounding.
''Whalers down below! Mr Hogg!'' he cried decisively, ''Follow me! Quickly now!'' Clambering down towards the hold, Calamy encountered a Frenchman emerging from below decks. Raising his pistol, Calamy braced himself and fired, sending the enemy sailor hurtling backwards.
''Albatrosses!'' called out Hogg, ''Do you hear me?''
Following the cries of the captured crew, the party reached the French frigate's brig and the Albatross's Sailing Master smashed the lock and released his shipmates, as Calamy provided them with arms.
''Now do your worst!'' bayed Hogg, and the newly liberated whalers charged up the steps and into the heart of the battle.
Calamy felt a momentary surge of pride before quickly returning to the task at hand – there was still much to be done. As he reached the top of the steps himself and dashed toward the gun deck, a movement on his left caught Calamy's attention. The young lieutenant raised his pistol once again -
The French sailor seized the opportunity in an instant, swiftly plunging his cutlass into Calamy's chest, before withdrawing the blade and disappearing. Numbness flooded his body as Calamy's strength ebbed away and he collapsed to the deck. He tried to get up, tried to call out for help, tried to do anything at all, but he could not move and no sound escaped him. His breathing slowed as the blood escaped his heart and the darkness began to surround him. Within moments, the decks of the Acheron faded away as Peter Calamy's life came to an end at the age of sixteen.
Not long afterward, the rush of battle began to slow, and as the action concluded and the crew of the Surprise stood down, a cry went up through the gallery of the Acheron.
''Doctor!'' called Barrett Bonden, shirt caked with blood, ''We need the doctor!'' The coxswain knelt alongside the fallen Calamy and shook him gently.
''Sir,'' he said urgently ,''Mr Calamy, sir.''
''The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,'' muttered old Joe Plaice, shaking his head.
Those gathered parted as Dr Maturin rushed to Calamy's side, his face ashen as he took in the scene. His immediate instinct was that Calamy was already gone, and yet he felt he had to be sure. Maturin hastily tore open the lieutenant's waistcoat and shirt to find his chest swimming in blood. Wiping it away as best he could, the doctor discovered a sharp, nasty wound. Still, he lowered his ear to Calamy's chest, listening for any sign of life. There was only silence. Maturin concluded that the blade had gone straight through Calamy's heart, and that death had likely been quick.
''Can't you help him, Doctor?'' Bonden asked, wide-eyed.
''I'm afraid not,'' Maturin replied with a shake of his head, ''Mr Calamy is gone.''
A hush fell over the assembly, and it was at that moment that Captain Aubrey appeared, looking quite pleased over the Surprise's victory. All thoughts of his prize disappeared as he caught sight of his young officer, stricken and motionless, his once lively blue eyes devoid of life. Midshipman Williamson, trailing behind the Captain, froze in his tracks as he looked on in horror.
''I'm sorry, Jack.'' Maturin said with chagrin, ''There was nothing I could do.''
Elsewhere on the Acheron, Will Blakeney was ecstatic. He had taken command of the Surprise, then led a boarding party to prevent the enemy ship from firing its cannons - he had proven himself, despite his significant disadvantages. As Blakeney surveyed the scene around him, hoping that not too many lives had been lost, Midshipman Williamson appeared looking positively ill. The young man tried to speak but no words came.
''What is it, what's happened?'' Blakeney questioned anxiously.
''Peter,'' Williamson replied shakily, and it was all he could say. Terror shot through Blakeney's body and soul. He rushed toward the Acheron's gun decks to find two seamen carrying the lifeless body of Peter Calamy toward the gangway.
''Stop!'' Blakeney cried, ''Stop at once! What are you doing?'' The men lowered Calamy's body to the deck, and Will fell to his knees alongside his friend.
''No,'' he whispered in disbelief, ''It can't be. It can't.'' Dr Maturin appeared and Blakeney called out to him, ''Can you not help him? You must try!''
Maturin approached the young man and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. ''I have tried, Mr Blakeney,'' he said gently, ''I'm afraid that nothing could be done. I'm so very sorry.''
The two sailors watched Blakeney in silence, awaiting their orders with a mixture of discomfort and empathy. Sudden realization struck the midshipman, and he reminded himself of who and where he was. He reached out to Calamy, gently closed his friend's eyes, and brushed the dark hair from his forehead. Then he stood resolutely and addressed the men in an even tone.
''Carry on.'' The seamen saluted the young officer, then carefully picked up the body of his dear friend and carried him away.
''Come,'' said Maturin, with a quiet kindness, ''Let us return to our ship. There are dead and wounded to care for.'' Blakeney could only nod. Together they crossed the plank and returned to the familiar decks of the Surprise.
The dead had been committed to the deep, and Captain Pullings had set sail for Valparaiso on the captured Acheron. It had not been the joyful victory the crew had hoped for, with the lives of so many of their shipmates being a high price to pay. In particular, the deaths of the popular Carpenter's Mate Nagle, stalwart Sailing Master Allen, and the highly-regarded Calamy left a gaping hole in the ship's company. Even the Captain had been particularly shaken by the loss of his promising young lieutenant. Still, the Surprise was beginning to return to normal, with work to be done and the sentiment that life in the Navy went on, even when such losses were suffered.
Blakeney struggled to carry on as usual, as everywhere he turned, the absence of Peter Calamy was tangible. To Will, the midshipmen's berth felt cold and the quarterdeck empty without Calamy's reassuring presence. Williamson had accompanied Pullings to the Acheron, while Boyle seemed to be trying to block out the incident and move on as quickly as possible, though it was questionable as to whether he was actually succeeding. Blakeney did not feel close enough to the older boy to discuss it, and so they let it lie. As heavily as Calamy's death weighed on Blakeney, and as heartbroken as he was to lose his closest friend, he had yet to shed a tear. The numbness that had struck him the moment he'd seen Peter's lifeless body had remained as the days passed; he felt as though he was swimming in a fog.
Finishing his watch one afternoon, Blakeney found himself dreading a return to the bleak midshipman's berth. He wandered the decks aimlessly before finding himself in the medical quarters. Dr Maturin had become something of a friend over the past few weeks, and as the man who had both taken Blakeney's arm and tried to save Calamy's life, Blakeney felt the doctor had some perspective on his losses.
He found Maturin, as he'd expected, studying samples they'd collected in the Galapagos. Hesitating to make his presence known, Blakeney leaned against the door frame to collect his thoughts. It was only a moment before the doctor looked up from his work, and gave him an compassionate smile. Will hesitated, unsure of what to say, but the doctor knew why the midshipman was there without him speaking a word. Maturin picked up the small Galapagos beetle Blakeney had found for him on the decks of the Surprise, and offered it to him.
''Our old friend,'' he said kindly, inviting his young shipmate in.
Blakeney smiled weakly in return and made his way into the room. He took a seat next to the doctor, who handed him his pad filled with notes and placed the beetle on top. Taking up a pencil in his left hand, Blakeney began to sketch in silence. He had so much to say, and yet didn't know where to begin. He wanted to know why Peter died, why he couldn't cry for him, and how he could move on. If anyone on the Surprise had the answers, it was Dr Maturin, but at the same time, Blakeney felt unable to find the words. So, he drew. A head and thorax appeared, then the wings, legs and antenna. As he drew, he thought only of the beetle and his time on the Galapagos, where he'd discovered new landscapes and stood steps from incredible creatures most of the world had never seen.
''Do you think Peter knew he was dying?'' Blakeney asked at last, ''Do you think he was afraid?''
Maturin laid his instruments aside and regarded the midshipman with a thoughtful empathy. ''I am certain he did not suffer,'' he said sincerely, ''The blade was sharp and it met its mark swiftly. He would have died quickly. Whether he was afraid or not, I cannot say. I would like to think that there is a certain peace one feels when leaving this life.''
''I was certain I would die,'' Blakeney told the doctor, ''when you took my arm. I could feel myself drifting away from this world, and yet I did not depart it.''
''Life is unpredictable, Mr Blakeney, and so is the human body. But there are some things it can withstand and some it cannot. Mr Calamy's wound was regrettably the latter.''
''When I believed I was dying,'' Will recounted, ''Peter stayed by my side. I could not see him, but I knew he was there. His presence comforted me a great deal, as did yours. If I had left this world, it would have been with friends beside me. But Peter – he was alone. No one saw him fall, no one saw him die. And perhaps it is that which continues to disturb me so.''
''There is nothing you could have done,'' Maturin assured him, ''And I am certain Peter knew the regard in which you held him, and that you would have been there if you could. You were a true and loyal friend to him, and continue to be one, as you mourn him.''
''But that's just it,'' Blakeney said, ''I haven't been able to grieve for him, not properly. There have been no tears, no outpouring of sorrow. Even Williamson wept for Peter, and they were not close.''
''Mr Williamson had quite the shock, and I suspect his tears are as much for fear of his own mortality as Mr Calamy's loss. That is not to say he is not impacted by it, but often it is easier to openly mourn those more distant from your affections. You should not concern yourself, Mr Blakeney. You know what it is in your heart, and you cannot force your pain to the surface. I predict it will reveal itself when you least expect it. And perhaps then you can begin to move forward.''
Returning to his quarters at last, Blakeney sat at the empty table and thought back to only a few months before when the berth was full of life, as the voyage's five midshipmen conversed, argued, and laughed. They played dominos and cards, bickered over trivialities, talked of home, and debated the ins and outs of seamanship. None of them had an inkling on those ordinary days of the turn their lives would take, and how it would end for two of them in only a few short weeks. Hollom, at twenty-nine, had sunken into a mire of mediocrity and shame, while Calamy displayed proficiency and courage at only sixteen, yet they had met the same end, though in highly disparate fashions. Blakeney could not make sense of it all.
He stood and crossed the berth to Calamy's sea chest, which had sat untouched since his death. When the ship returned to Portsmouth, it would be sent to his mother, but for now it here it sat, a reminder of what the ship had lost. Blakeney ran his palm along the surface of the chest, a lump in his throat as he contemplated whether he wanted to open it. At last, he did. Inside, Calamy's uniforms sat, neatly folded, alongside his seafaring notebooks and a letter from a Mrs Edward Calamy, which Blakeney assumed to be Peter's mother. Will left the personal letter untouched, and removed the topmost blotter from the chest. Flipping through, he scanned Calamy's notes on wind direction, knots, and longitude until he reached the final page. Peter Miles Calamy, the young officer had written tidily the day of his death, Acting 3rd Lieutenant, HMS Surprise. Blakeney smiled as he imagined the pride with which Calamy had made that final entry. He had been recognized for his abilities, his determination and leadership, and he had proven himself in his final act of duty. Perhaps it was that, Blakeney mused, of which Peter thought in the fleeting moments he lay dying. If Calamy's number had to come up, Will knew that this was the way his friend would have preferred to meet his end. It was a small consolation, but a consolation all the same. He carefully returned the notebook to its rightful place in the sea chest, and gently closed the lid.
Blakeney removed his shoes, coat, and neck cloth, extinguished the lantern, and climbed into his hammock. As he waited for sleep to claim him, Blakeney found that his mind had cleared considerably. The sadness still lingered, and yet he no longer considered the absence of his tears a betrayal of his friend's memory. The grief he felt over Peter Calamy's death would catch up to him sooner rather than later, he knew. When it did, he would welcome it, but until then he would simply continue on as best he could. Blakeney's eyes fluttered shut, and for the first time since he'd suffered his devastating loss, Will slept soundly, as his hammock gently swayed with the rolling of the waves.