The Castle (6)
'Well, well – look over there' said Cadwaller Jones nodding towards the harbour toll house. 'A friend of the English king. And he looks to be in a hurry.'
Arent turned and saw a man in a red doublet edging his way uncertainly through the crowd. He was accompanied by two other men - rough types, offering protection. Arent knew the man as Sir Paul Pindar, an agent for the English Prince of Wales. This was who he had been waiting for.
'Well spotted, Cadwaller' Arent said. 'Our powder barrels seem to be on their way at last. We may well make sail this evening after all.'
Arent walked through the crowd towards Pindar. Tall and somewhat gaunt, the stench of the wharf did not agree with the agent's delicate sensibilities. He was holding a scented handkerchief to his nose as if his life depended on it.
Arent caught Pindar’s eye and introduced himself. A moment of hesitation followed as Sir Paul stood with a look of surprise, as if expecting Arent to either bow or kiss his hand.
‘This really is too, too much’ Pindar said taking deep scented breaths from his improvised nosebag.
‘Trade in Rotterdam blossoms’ said Arent. ‘And it takes many forms. This, sir, is my ship, the Adventurer.’ He extended his hand as if offering Pindar the opportunity to gaze upon a great work of art.
'Yes, yes’ snapped Pindar. ‘You will be well rewarded for your work on successful completion of the task in hand.'
Arent, irritated at the man's haughty tone, said: 'We've been waiting all morning for powder. I hope you're not going to waste my time, sir, with excuses.'
Pindar began to sway like a mast in heavy wind. 'I cannot speak. I can barely breathe' said Sir Paul. 'My senses are awash with foul odours.'
'That'll be the fish guts and pig offal and such like' said Cadwaller Jones with a mischievous grin. 'There's good money to be made shipping it east.'
Sir Paul grimaced. The two roughs stared at Arent and Jones, as if concerned that their charge had been poisoned on the sly. 'Perhaps it is best if we discuss our business on board' said Arent. Sir Paul gave a sickly nod and the five men made their way across the gang plank onto the ship.
Only Sir Paul and Dan Arent settled themselves in the captain's quarters. The roughs remained on deck while Cadwaller returned to the hold. Sir Paul laid down his kerchief and began to stroke his sharp beard and thin moustache. 'The powder has been subject to delay but is now en route. I expect it to arrive within the hour.'
Arent nodded. 'In that case we will be at our destination tomorrow morning.'
Sir Paul took out a map from his shoulder bag and unfurled it on the small table, fussing as he looked for something to weigh down the corners. 'The situation in our kingdom has, alas, deteriorated. The king’s enemy, Fairfax, sweeps all before him. My current information is that Falmouth remains in Royalist hands and the approaches to the castle are unhampered by Parliamentary ships. There are guns in place to ensure the garrison retains the upper hand. Controlling the approaches to Falmouth harbour is key if the king is to retain a foothold in the south-west.'
'I have heard there have been many setbacks of late' Arent said.
Sir Paul nodded in agreement. 'The Cornish stand with the king. Our saving grace is that Parliament cannot impose sentiment upon such a loyal body. It is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings once again in His Royal Highness's favour.'
Arent studied the map. The great castle of Pendennis, the depository for the Adventurer’s cargo, sat some two hundred feet above sea level on a rocky, tree-covered isthmus. Remaining at anchor while supplies were ferried to shore was a dangerous prospect.
'Surprise will be key' Sir Paul said. 'And the governor has plans in hand to seal the mouth of the harbour approach.'
Falmouth, said Pindar, was blessed with a busy, deep-water harbour where ships engaged in trade to the east frequently put in. ‘The castle’s governor is a patriot, a man of honour who will remain steadfast in his service to the king.’
Arent nodded. 'We will not fail you' said Arent. 'All that is required is our payment.'
‘Perhaps first’ said Sir Paul ‘I may be offered a nip of courage in order to settle my constitution ?’
Arent went to a cabinet and took out a cut glass decanter and two glasses. As he did so Sir Paul upturned his bag. Several light brown leather pouches, each filled with gold coin, tumbled onto the table. 'Half of what we have agreed' he said forming the pouches into a neat line. 'The rest to be paid upon completion of your mission.'
Arent checked each bag. He knew the king's supporters in exile were having difficulty raising money for their cause. The English queen, Henrietta, had been reduced to exchanging silver plate for weapons. But the much-heralded European army she had put her faith in was proving harder to raise. Few of Henrietta’s backers seemed convinced that her husband Charles would return to the throne. The tide of England’s civil war had turned against the monarch. Pindar and his band of exiled Royalists were contaminated with an air of desperation.
Arent completed his counting. The amount tallied. He and his crew would make a tidy sum from delivering supplies to Pendennis castle. 'All is in order' he said and suggested they raise their glasses to a successful voyage.
As Pindar and Arent were about to take a sip of their dark medicinal rum a breathless Cadwaller Jones appeared at the door with news. 'The gunpowder has arrived, captain' he said. Arent thanked his friend for his timely information. 'Your good health, Sir Paul’ he said. Pindar pinched his nose and drank.