The Price of Glory

The Price of Glory by Seth Hunter

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Authors: Seth Hunter
worse. His hair hung lank and unpowdered, his jaw was unshaven and there was a hint of desperation in his eyes. Nathan was not at all surprised. Hardly a thing had gone right for him since the fog had lifted on the morning of the
Unicorn
’s arrival.
    If Sir John Borlase Warren had thought to find glory in his appointment his hopes had been cruelly dashed—and he must surely fear that he would be held accountable for the failure of the enterprise. It occurred to Nathan that his main concern must be to spread the blame as generously as possible and indeed, the commodore’s next words confirmed him in this opinion.
    â€œI have read your report on the venture into the Gulf of Morbihan. A pity. A great pity. Had we been able to hold on to Auray for a few days all this might have been avoided.” The commodore gestured vaguely towards the stern windows and the obscure view it provided of the chaos on the beaches. “However, it may not be too late to save the day, if we are prepared to put our duty before any other considerations. Now if I may draw your attention to the chart.” He returned his gaze to the object in question while Nathan considered how he might be held responsible for the fall of Auray. If there was a way, he was sure the commodore would find it. He was clearly out of favour with Mr. Finch, who had not bothered to rise from his chair at Nathan’s entrance or return his bow though now he looked more closely this appeared to be prompted by reasons other than discourtesy. Indeed, he rather thought the man was dead until he noted the sheen of sweat upon his pale countenance.
    â€œGood day to you, Mr. Finch,” he greeted him cheerfully as he made his way over to the table, and was rewarded with a glazed eye and something very like a death rattle.
    â€œHere is Penthièvre, or Fort Sans Culottes as the Republicans call it.” Warren indicated the fort at the narrow neck of the peninsula. “Its loss is a grave blow and I fear that until we receive the promised reinforcement from England we are in no position to take it back. Indeed, our main concern at present is that General Hoche will use the fort as a forward base to attack the Royalist lines here at Kerhostin.”
    He drew an imaginary line with his finger across the peninsula at a point a little south of the fort. As imaginary as the Royalist lines, so far as Nathan was concerned, for he had seen no physical sign of them.
    â€œI am assured by the Comte de Puisaye that he has sufficient men to mount a creditable defence,” the commodore continued, “and I have no reason to doubt his estimation.” Nathan blinked a little but said nothing in contradiction of this astonishing statement. “However, you will have noticed that at low tide a considerable amount of beach is exposed on the eastern side of the peninsula.” Nathan had. “The concern is that the French—the Republicans—will take advantage of this to outflank de Puisaye’s defences, just as they did at Penthièvre. And he has insufficient resource to extend his lines. So—we must provide cover from the sea.”
    Which made some sort of sense—if there had been any sea. But at low tide, as Warren must know, it retreated some considerable distance from the land. And with the shoals and rocks it would be impossible to sail a vessel of any size, or weight of broadside, to within a mile of the coast in that vicinity. Add to that the difficulty of operating so close to shore in a near gale and the impossibility of firing the guns with any degree of accuracy … Nathan began to point out some of these difficulties to the commodore but had scarcely begun when he was tersely interrupted.
    â€œWhat of the
Conquest
—and the squadron you led into Morbihan?” Nathan looked at the chart again, noting the depths of water at the landward end of the peninsula.
    â€œIt might be possible,” he conceded. “If the

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