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Stephen's Mission

'Richard, I had no idea you were in Halifax! What a joy to see you.'

'And you, Jack: although I confess I am come to beg a favor from you.'

'Anything – name it.'

'I am given to understand that you are here in company with a natural philosopher, Stephen Maturin.'

'Indeed, we escaped Boston together.'

'May I beg an introduction? I have need of help, and I believe he may be the only man who can provide it.'

Stephen left with Captain Stands. He returned five days later, clearly exhausted, yet with the air of one who has succeeded.

'Well, brother, I hope your mission was a success.'

'It was, Jack. Shall I tell you all about it?'

'I should like that of all things.'

'Captain Stands had had intelligence that agents for the Americans were passing messages by carrier pigeon to American ships, which would sail past the harbor to collect them; yet he could not perceive how it was done. I studied the pigeons for several days, and soon saw that they had been trained to recognize the American flag, and to fly toward any ship that flew it.'

'Very well, but what then?'

'Why, the captain then sailed his vessel, the Republic, near the harbor, raised the American colors, the pigeons flew to his ship and were captured.'

'What a prodigious feat, Stephen, to be sure! Ain't you proud?'

' I confess I am, brother, for I led the pigeons to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for Richard Stands.'

© 2005 Rosemary Davis