Wednesday, July 12, 1705: A Cheerless Discharge
Wednesday, July 12, 1705 
 
O the horror. The wretched horror of it all. I cannot face Susannah, or even myself. 

The motion of the sea has turned most violent, and I am most violently ill. 

 Lord help me, I cannot even stand up without… O Lor…  
 
 
 
Friday, July 14, 1705 
Dear Journal, 

 There was never a fellow in the whole world half as sick as I have been. It began Tuesday morning, and it was wretched. All of a sudden I felt a fever coming on, and then the chills, and then my fingertips began to quiver. 

 Then I’m afraid I did the most ungentlemanly thing a fellow could do right there on the deck. It was disgusting, and seemed to be made of everything I’d eaten the day before.  

 Mr. Lourdburton yelled at me to “do that over the side and not on the deck, ye dolt!”  
I went to the sally port (that little doorway cut in the side of the ship),lay down on the deck, and hung my head out over the side. The wind felt good, but the motion was worse, and I believe I cast out my very stomach.  

 I felt delirious, and wondered what the people in Duxbury think of the duel. I knew they thought I’d run away. Perhaps my mother told them I was dragged off to sea by my drunken uncle, swaggering and frothing at the mouth, although that sounded uncouth. In either case, I think I would rather have had Alfred’s ball lodged in my chest rather than face this wretched illness! 
I don’t remember yesterday, and today seems something of a blur as well. Mr. Duffy told me not to work for him in the kitchen… galley… until I could stand up and keep my food inside my body.  

 The view from the ship is most amazing… nothing but water as far as the eye can see. The sky has been a clear blue, as has been the sea, except for where I change the color somewhat with my cheerless discharge. 

 Cheerless. That’s it. I am woefully sick, and feel the urge to spew returning at this very moment… oh dear…  

 I have the honor,etc 
PC 

 


Monday, July 17, 1705 

 Dear Journal 
 

 I must apologize for my lack of diligence in maintaining this written record. I know this will someday be a vital part of some historian's research into the life and times of Sir Benjamin Penworthy, landed Governor of the Americas, and he shall wonder "whatever happened on July 16th?" 

 Well, I shall tell you he spent a very uncomfortable day spewing out things he had not eaten over the side of the ship. One sailor told me I would feel better once I saw a pink ball the size of my doubled fists come up. 

 "That'll be your gizzard coming out - you'll have hit bottom!!" He roared with laughter and went on his merry way, cackling like an old woman. Gizzard indeed. The worst part is that I think I actually saw it. 

 Well, despite that idiotic joke, two other things happened while I lay on the deck.  

 One was that Mr. Lourdburton came by and asked me to move out of the sally port for a moment. With the greatest of effort I dragged myself to my knees and out of the little doorway.  

 He knelt down on the deck and dragged out a board with a pistol mounted on it. A small dismembered clock, with a length of wire stretched between it and the pistol’s trigger, was mounted next to it. 

 He set the device in the sally port and pointed the gun over the side. He then carefully moved the hands of the watch around and released them. The watch ticked for a brief moment, until the minute hand hit the twelve. The pistol went off with a loud crack,bucked violently, and tossed itself, along with the board and the clock, right over the side of the ship. 

 “Drat,” he said, quietly. He then looked at me and smiled. 

 “You may regain your post,” he said, and pointed at the sally port. 

 I tell you, under normal circumstances I would have had a spanking good joke about that pistol going over the side just like that O’Brian fellow, but I was so sick that I really appreciated being allowed to just hang my head over the side again. I crumpled to the deck and lay face down with my head sticking through the sally port. 

 Mr. Lourdburton then gently told me that this sort of sickness grabs most sailors, first time out. I say, that was a deucedly decent thing for him to do, going out of his way like that to make me feel better. I tell you, I cannot figure him out.  

 Although my guts didn't feel one whit better, I certainly wasn't as embarrassed by the whole wretched event. Pun intended, of course.
Ahh, you've got it, Penworthy.  

 Another thing that happened while I lay on deck was that I made a friend. Remember that fellow Swede I mentioned earlier? He helped me with my dunnage (that's the sailor's term for luggage) back in Duxbury. Well, you won't believe it, but he got sick, too!  

 "Ya, I am getting the sick, too," he said in his thick foreign accent. He's from Sweden, has been sailing with Uncle Neville for four years, and is twenty five years old. He’s short and wiry, and he's what they call a topman.  

 He is one of those fellows that climbs out on the yards, those massive branch-like wooden beams that hang off the masts and hold the sails. He climbs out there, fifty, a hundred feet above the deck and manhandles those huge sails. Day or night, rain, snow or blazing sun he must hang up there to do his work. He's like an African monkey, skipping from one rope to the next. 

 At twenty-five, he said, he's already starting to get a little old for the job. What a daring job that is, eh?  

 He and I leaned over the side together early on in my discomfort, although I will admit he recovered far more quickly than I. Even though we Penworthys are made of stern stuff, I believe he recovered the quicker as his constitution was more accustomed to this abuse. 

 I told him this was just one more thing that made me want to be a landed gentleman, as landowners don’t have to barf before they go to work, and I think I may have offended him somewhat. He told me, rather stiffly, that being a sailor was one of the noblest things a man could do. "Traditions of de zee, goes pack t'ousands of jeer. Don't forget wass the sailor vhat discovers the land, ja?" he said in his quaint accent 

 I hesitated to point out that working the land went back even farther than sailing the seas. He seemed rather enthusiastic about this sailing thing. 

 At any rate, I now have a friend amongst the crew.  

 As you can tell, I have made a miraculous recovery from my illness. I awoke this morning with a clear head and a ravenous hunger. 
The day was an exquisitely beautiful blue - the sky, the sea, even the air seemed to have a lovely blue hue.  

 I heard the toll of that dreadfully cheerful little bell eight times… ting-ting, ting-ting, ting-ting, ting-ting. On board ships, I’ve been told, they don’t use clocks. Instead the man at the wheel has an hourglass that he turns over every time it empties… it takes half an hour for the sand to run out. He turns the glass and rings the little bell… once for each time he turns the glass. So, if you’ve been standing there at the wheel for seven of those turnings, you would hit the bell seven times. Seems frightfully complicated and idiotic to me at the same time. I remembered that Uncle Neville told me I was supposed to be in the galley at eight bells, so I figured I’d best get a move on. 

 I hopped out of my cot to land on legs that were not wobbly for the first time in ages. As I opened the cabin door, greeted as I was by a gust of fresh blue air travelling up the 'tween decks (you see, I haven't frittered away my ill time: the space below the quarterdeck over my head and above the main deck, upon which I stand, is called the 'tween decks. Benjamin Penworthy, master of the sea and all her terminology, at your service!), I had this most brilliant idea that I planned run past Duffy. Perhaps we could abandon the term "cabin boy" in favor of "assistant chef." 

 I pitched the idea to Mr. Duffy in the galley, which is in the ‘tween decks at the front of the ship, underneath the foredeck, on the left side… port, as we sailors say. It’s a gloomy little place, even though there are two cannons along the wall. The wall is painted white, but there are only two lanterns in there, and a big black stove hunches in the middle, making the overall effect quite gloomy. Mr. Duffy's countenance didn’t help at all. 

 He looked at me sourly and shook his head. 

 “You’re late,” he said.  

 “Late?” I couldn’t believe it.  

 “Mr. Penworthy,” he said without smiling. He really looked mad, and he spoke in a low, harsh voice. “A ship runs on a very demanding schedule. How would it be if we all just ambled off to our jobs, showing up when we jolly well felt like it? Chaos! Now as this is your first day on your watch, we’ll overlook this infraction.”  

 The way he said “infraction” scared me, like he was going to have me flogged or something. And the look on his face told me he really might. 

 “But let us be clear: your shift is the forenoon watch, from eight bells in the morning watch to the eight bells signaling the day watch. If you wish to eat breakfast, I recommend you rise at seven bells in the morning watch, not eight, and make your way up here post haste.” 

 He pulled some potatoes out of a small box and thrust them at me.  

 "Peel these, please." 

 I took them, of course. I don’t mind telling you that after that shameful dressing-down my cheeks had a rather embarrassed burn to them for the rest of the day. I thought this would be more like Mother’s house, where I might do the chores when I was ready, not like a job or something. Duffy was so serious about it he reminded of old Cuthbert at school. 

 “Your uncle’s rule is ‘no passengers’ on this ship,” he said, a little more softly, “which means that each of us must do his job. That includes you. Tell me what you think would happen when it came time to set the sails and the men assigned the job didn’t show up for their work. How far would we get, eh? If they must be on time, you must be on time.” 

 He then handed me a small knife and pointed me toward a little table, which was actually a wooden board set between the two cannons. Cannons!  

 “Now,” he said from the stove, “as this is your first day, we shall relent, and I shall fix you a breakfast forthwith. In future, however, please be on time." 

 Well, now, that was a little better. I set about my task with a diligence that would have done my mother proud. 

 He handed me a thin wooden platter with a dollop of oatmeal and a small piece of crude bread. He gave me a small cup full of a watery tea with which to wash it down. 

 “Had you been here on time there might have been a piece of ham on there as well,” he said, drily. I could see that this Mr. Duffy was one grumpy character. 

 I had to eat it while I worked – Mr. Duffy was quite clear about that, too. Even so, there has never been a more sumptuous repast enjoyed more thoroughly by a seasoned sailor before or since. 

 I worked for Mr. Duffy for the first half of the day, slicing carrots, dumping "the slops" (sailor language for the garbage) over the side, and stirring the thickening stew to be served at noontime. 

 That fellow rang the bell six or seven times… I didn’t bother to count, when all of the sailors on the ship lined up on the main deck, just outside the galley. At first I was a trifle alarmed… what were they doing there? 

 The first man in line was Swede, and he held out a wooden tray towards me. I gave a questioning look at Mister Duffy. 

 “Fill it, lad,” he said, officiously, as if I didn’t know what to do. I was merely checking for authorization, that’s all.  

 I took the big wooden ladle out of the iron pot full of stew and splopped a dollop of it onto Swede’s plate. 

 “T’ank yew,” he nodded in that quaint dialect of his. The next man, a short, stout fellow named Camembert or Gruyere or some other French cheese word, held out his wooden tray. I splopped more stew on his.  

 And so it went until all twenty two of the crew members were served by my able sailor’s hands. It was actually rather fun to be the fellow in charge of serving the food. 

 When I was done, Mr. Duffy showed me how to dunk the ladle into a bucket of water to rinse it off, and where to hang it on a peg stuck in the wall of the ship. Stow it, that’s what we sailors would say, on the wall.  

 My next task was to feed the chickens, the goats, and the pig. Yes, this ship actually has a downright barnyard way up at the front end of the deck. Each animal has its own pen, thank goodness, but I can safely tell you it reeks up there. 

 Apparently my job is to feed some of the slops to the poor things and to clean up their… well, their excrement. If you've never smelled chicken… excrement… trust me, you've never smelled anything bad. 

 I mentioned the odor to Mr. Duffy in passing, not meaning to complain or anything like that. 

 “I'd have thought a farm boy like you would be used to that,” he replied, cheerfully. 

 Well, I'm afraid that rather cut it. I don't mind being upbraided for being late, I don't mind ladling slop to sailors, I don't even mind cleaning up chicken excrement, but I will not in any way allow myself to be referred to as “farm boy.” My temper shot to the stars 

 “Forgive me, Mr. Duffy,” I said rather sharply, “I believe the appropriate term is 'Landed Gentleman'.” 

 Mr. Duffy chuckled as he turned back to his ladles and tureens.  

 I do think I rather won that round. 

 He released me from my duties at noon, just after that fellow on the quarterdeck rang that annoying bell another eight times. 

 Annoying though that bell is, does appear to be the only method for keeping time at all. In thinking about it, I seem to recall that Father once told me that the swaying motion of a ship rather undoes the pendulum motion of a clock, rendering it unreliable. Now that I know I’ll be flogged for being late, I imagine I shall keep a better count. 

 I spent the balance of the day exploring my seagoing prison. In fact, I find it a most interesting contrivance.  

 At the center of the main deck… that’s the one in the middle of the ship, between the two balconies… there’s a big wooden screen that lies over a hatchway in the middle of the deck. It’s called the grating. Well, there is a ladder next to it that leads you down into the bottom of the ship - the hold, says Mr. Duffy. 

 It's dark and mysterious down in the gloomy hold. If O'Brian haunts this ship, I'm sure his ghost must live down there. I kind of had the creepies for awhile, thinking I might see the Ghost of O’Brian down there, wandering about moaning “where be the lad to whom I gave the stone?”  

 The hold is an amazing place, even if it is dark. You can see the very skeleton of the ship - her massive beams and planks nailed and pegged and wedged together to keep the sea out. You can hear the ocean sluicing alongside from down there. When the ship's timbers groan, you can feel it right through your bones.  

 And it’s packed up with an endless ocean of crates and kegs and boxes and coils of rope and bundles I can’t even begin to describe.
It’s dark down there, with only two lanterns and the sunlight that strays in through the grating. What an amazing place. 

 Oh, I forgot to mention that it stinks down there, too. It smells of wood and tar of course, but there's a harsher smell of garbage and, how shall I put this, human waste of the liquid kind. 

 I was investigating about down there when my foot slipped off one of the massive beams that make up the floor and splashed into a deep puddle. It went halfway up my calf. At first I was disgusted to have that water in my fine stockings.  

 But then a wave of panic swept over me. I thought of that blown up ship, and realized that water this deep at the bottom of our ship could mean only one thing: we were SINKING! 

 My brilliant Penworthy mind leapt into action. I knew that every life aboard was now in my hands. If I didn't act immediately we'd all sink straight to the bottom of the sea like O'Brian. It was up to me to rescue every man jack aboard. 

 I thundered up the ladder as fast as ever I could, across the main deck and up the companion-ladder, and dashed over to Mr. Lourdburton standing by the ship's wheel. 

 "Mr. Lourdburton," I shouted breathlessly - that was a lot of running, after all - "the ship is sinking!" 

 His passive gaze turned towards me, as if I'd told him that the sky was blue. 

 "Is it, now?" he asked. "And how do you come by this knowledge?" 

 I could detect a little smirky superiority behind his calm eyes, and it made me just the slightest bit furious. How could he be so superior and smug in this emergency? I'm afraid I rather popped off. 

 "For your information," I huffed, "there's a pool of water forming at the bottom of the ship." For emphasis, I raised my left foot to show him the water dripping off of my silver buckle patent leather shoe. 

 I was certain this would get him. But his face remained passive.  

 "It's already six inches deep!" I added for effect. 

 "Just six inches," he said, calmly, "I'd have thought we’d be over a foot by now."  

 He sighed gently and looked up at the rigging and turned the wheel slightly with his metal hand. He was so cavalier about it, so darned smug, that I got really mad. 

 “Mr. Lourdburton,” I rather bellowed, “all of lives are at stake here! We must turn around immediately, before the ship sinks to the bottom and kills us all!” 

 "All ships leak, Benjamin. The water you see in the hold seeps in over time. We call it the bilges." He sighed again. "When it reaches a foot we'll pump it out." 

 He said it so matter-of-factly, so pat-me-on-the-headishly, that I, frankly, felt just the slightest bit foolish. I don't mind telling you I somewhat regretted my alarmist attitude. I tried my best to dig myself out by taking a higher tone. 

 “I see,” I said, clearing my throat, “very well, then, uhm, carry on. Uhm, thank you very much.”  

 As I turned to retreat, I realized that I didn’t know the slightest thing about ships. I reminded myself that all the times I’d called Putnam a “foul bilge rat” when we were playing pirates, I thought a bilge rat was a separate species. 

 "Thank you for pointing it out, however," he smiled. "Tomorrow, if you feel up to it, report to me immediately - excuse me… "  

 He reached into the small cabinet in front of the wheel and turned over the hourglass. Then he pulled the little cord attached to the small brass bell on top of the cabinet, ringing it three times.  

 "Report to me here tomorrow after your shift with Mr. Duffy and I'll show you how to make your sightings." 

 I thanked him, promising to do so, and took my cheeky attitude elsewhere. 

 I tell you, he is the most curious fellow. One moment he’s all formal and Navy-like, and the next he’s rather warm – almost friendly.

Just like Mr. Duffy. It’s hard for me to believe that these two men murdered O’Brian. It seems more and more like a dream. I have to go back and look at that entry to remind myself that it really happened.  

 It's late now, and I just looked at the stone one more time. If you look at it in the dim candlelight it almost glows of its own accord, almost as if it holds O'Brian's soul. 

 Egad, that's a creepy thought, isn't it? 

 I wonder what this stone is? And who is this Aramoca fellow? Certainly not an Englishman, what with only one name and all. And this Huracán thing that's supposed to pluck out my eyeballs… that's a cheery thought upon which to go to sleep! 

 Well, mine is a tired soul, and I shall cease to write. I shall put away my quill, sand this page, close the book, blow out my candle, and pull up the covers on my cot.  
Here, in this gently swaying cot, I shall look out the big windows at the moonlight playing upon the sea in the darkness and I shall think of Susannah, sweet Susannah, and shall dream of the day when I return as the landed gentleman I was meant to be.  
To that end, then, I have the honor to be your most humble and loyal servant. 
Benjamin Penworthy, ESQ