The Yellow Admiral

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Stephen returns from a wonderous trip to Spain with Diana, Brigid and Mrs. Oakes where learns from Blaine that he was incredibly fortunate that he forgot the bank receipt needed to recover his fortune—Dutourd has denounced him in Spain for his activities in Peru, his fortune is impounded and himself subject to arrest when he tries to claim it.

Jack, now living at his late-father’s estate Woodcombe, home from the Brest blockade on Parliamentary leave, also has worries. Most immediately, his fortunes have been depleted by lawsuits from slavers. More importantly, Napoleon is nearing defeat and he fears the lack of posts in the peacetime navy will oblige him to become a “yellow” admiral when he reaches the top of the post captains list—that is, he won’t be assigned to a squadron. And finally, Griffiths, a wealthy land owner and fellow officer, is attempting to enclose Simmon’s Lea, a common bordering Woodcombe which Jack loves and the peasants need.

Griffiths conspires with his uncle, Admiral Lord Stranraer, commanding the Brest blockade, to have Jack recalled before he can object in Parliament (he is lord of the manor) but Diana, Clarissa and Stephen conspire to make sure the written order is never received and the enclosure is defeated and the peasants drive Griffiths out of the area.

However, Bonden loses his ten-year pigtail in a prize fight against Griffiths’s game-keeper. Additionally, a talented left-handed mid whom Jack and Stephen invite to play music with them is killed in a skylarking fall on the Bellona, and both seem rather bad omens to Jack.

Indeed, Stranraer has taken to insulting him and casting everything he does in a bad light, even when he takes a privateer which is attacking a merchantman. To make matters worse, Sophie finds out about his long ago liaison with Amanda Smith (in The Surgeon’s Mate) and at her mother’s goading threatens to bar him from the house despite profuse apology.

In the midst of all this, Stephen is set ashore in France along with a colleague from Spanish intelligence, Bernard, a Catalonian separatist who joined Spain’s intelligence services because he, like Stephen, felt Napoleon a bigger threat. Disillusioned when Spain followed Bonaparte, he has passed information to Stephen in the past. The mission is to meet some Chileans who are interested in independence and it goes well, but Stephen goes racing back to London when Bernard tells him that Don Diego Diaz, a prominent foreigner in London known to occasionally sell information on a freelance basis is actually an intelligence chief who sometimes carries out his own burglaries in the most important cases—including a planned intrusion in Sir Joseph’s house looking for documents. Stephen and Blaine have him arrested and sentenced to hang, knowing there’s no end of the favors they can get from the embarrassed Spanish government and Diaz’s father, a super rich grandee with only the one heir.

With his fortune thus restored, Stephen swings by Woodcombe where Diana and Clarissa have restored Sophie’s faith in Jack and given her a little more information on sex. Then he returns to the blockade, where he cures Stranraer’s heart problems with digitalis.

He tells Jack that he has learned from Sir Joseph that he has little chance of avoiding being yellowed in the peacetime navy—Stranraer controls nine important seats in the Commons through his wife’s family and the Admiralty needs his support. However, Stranraer is old and Griffiths will not inherit this influence, so Stephen suggests Jack temporarily retire and distinguish himself further in the Chilean service until he has risen to the top of the list. With luck this low profile and activity along with his friends’ influence will win him his flag, especially if the sickly Stranraer dies in the meantime.

Napoleon abdicates, the Bellona is paid off and put in drydock, along with much of the Royal Navy, and after attending to Jack’s temporary retirement, he and Stephen spend a glorious six months at Woodcombe with their families while the Surprise is overhauled for their voyage. They take their families on their first leg, to Madeira for a holiday. There they meet the Chileans, Stephen learns from the surgeon of the Pomone that Shranraer has mortally poisoned himself by self-medicating with digitalis and Jack receives a message from Lord Keith (First Lord of the Admiralty, Dundas’s brother, married to Jack’s long ago babysitter Queenie)—Napoleon has escaped from Elba and Jack must take command of Pomone, wait for other ships to arrive and proceed to Gibraltar as commodore. The war is on again! (1/24/07)