Part 2 Captain Braithwaite’s wonderful machine
After breakfast Mrs Bennet made her way to the library, as she expected it was not just a place for reading books, but was also a shop selling newspapers, prints and souvenirs. The young man behind the counter was eager to give information, as the wreck of the East Indiaman Earl of Abergavenny and its subsequent salvage was one of the most exciting events to happen in the town since the King last visited. He brought out a large print showing the ship on the seabed, and a man walking around it inside a strange device.
“Though one of the sailors tells me that the actual machine is nothing like that, but he would say no more and I cannot find out what it really is like.”
“I suppose Captain Braithwaite needs to keep his machine secret, if it can do what you say it must be worth a lot of money?”
The young man nodded.
“Though you can see the machine from a distance, but you will need a telescope.” Then added eagerly, “we have several that can be hired if you would like one.”
He was disappointed that she refused, her late husband’s glass was in her hotel room, but cheered up when she bought two guide books to the town.
That afternoon she set off with her maid. Susan had discovered the address of the ‘Abergavenny Store’ where the goods raised from the ship were kept, before being sold or sent back to the East India Company in London. It was not far from the Assembly Rooms, down by the harbour. Here she left a letter for Captain Braithwaite, then they continued towards the grassy peninsula of the Nothe. Several of the men touched their hats to her as they walked by, Charlotte was surprised.
“It’s as though they know who I am.” She paused and looked at her maid. “Susan, have you been saying something?”
“Yes, you. Tell me the truth.”
“Well,” She spoke nervously, “I was listening to some of the other servants in the hotel. They had realised that you were a rich widow, and were wondering how long before men came after you for your money. I knew that you wouldn’t want talk like that going around, so to stop it I told them that you were not long widowed and that your husband had died valiantly saving his ship from the French. So if ever you were to marry again it would be to a man just as gallant, and that you were only in Weymouth because of business that your husband had had with Captain Braithwaite.”
“But why are the sailors saluting me?”
“Because one of the servants called you the ‘Gallant Captain’s Lady’, and the name seems to have spread. I am very sorry madam”
Charlotte smiled to her maid.
“Don’t worry, I am glad you have done something to keep the fortune hunters off, I had forgotten that such men would be found here. And I rather like the sound of the ‘Gallant Captain’s Lady’, Charles was very brave.”
She was silent until they came to the end of the Nothe, the bare grassy peninsula that formed the southern side of the harbour. There they found a brick building manned by a few sailors who kept a watch over the bay, and a small crowd of holidaymakers. They were all looking at the same thing, a boat moored a little distance offshore. It had no sails, indeed no spars, set and was surrounded by several other boats, one of which seemed to be keeping some of the other vessels away from the moored craft.
The lieutenant stepped out of the lookout and saluted Mrs Bennet, clearly her identity had reached the sailors here.
“She’s keeping people away from the Endeavour, they have begun raising part of the cargo. Look.”
He pointed, several of the crowd had lifted small telescopes, just like the ones she had been shown in the library. Her maid took her husband’s telescope from her reticule and handed it to her. She expertly focussed it on the vessel, just in time to see a large bundle break the surface and be hoisted on board.
“What is it?” she asked the officer,
“Cloth I think, there was a large amount of it on board. I understand that it will be taken back to the store and washed.”
There was a sudden shout from the crowd.
“It’s coming up.”
She looked back at the ship, the water at the stern of the ship was bubbling, the sailors were straining at a windlass on the deck. Suddenly a shape broke the surface, a massive, black, truncated cone, as it rose above the surface ropes pulled it to one side and lowered it onto a raft moored by the Endeavour. It settled on timber blocks, there was a moments calm then suddenly two men scrambled out from under the edge of the cone. Charlotte gasped, this was Captain Bennet’s wonderful machine. Those men had been to the bottom of the sea and returned!
“Oh Madam, that was amazing, who would have thought that you could go to the bottom of the sea like that. I was terrified, I wouldn’t like to do that would you?” Susan couldn’t stop talking about it.
Charlotte just smiled, “I don’t know about that, but you are right it is amazing.”
That evening Charlotte looked in more detail at the papers her lawyer had given her. If she understood the agreement between her late husband and Captain Braithwaite correctly, she was actually part owner of that wonderful machine!
To be continued