Chapter 18: Seeds of Malcontent

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Doctor Cooper could not believe his good fortune. He was sure Charlotte was an honest to goodness virgin – clean of disease, spotless of character, young, good family stock and with wit! Rare fish indeed – and as a convict, she would be wholly within his control. The voyage to Sydney Cove was going to be a far less boring proposition than he had thought. He rounded the corner and nearly collided with the cabin boy delivering the bath of hot steaming water to his own quarters. "Sorry sir!" chirped the boy. The doctor smiled good-humouredly.

"Never mind Duncan. Make sure you leave my cabin promptly after delivery would you? Your discretion in this matter would be greatly appreciated my boy."

"Aye Doc!" replied the boy, though not without a passing curiosity as to what the nature of the discretion required would take.

On entering the ship's Wardroom, the doctor was surprised to be met, not only by the Ship's Master – Master Duggan, but the Captain of the Fleet and soon to be governor of the colony of New South Wales, Captain Bennett, as well. Edward knew of Bennett by reputation of course – who in all of England did not, after he spectacularly crossed half of the globe in a small boat and without navigational instrumentation to return to England after an infamous mutiny on his ship in the South Pacific off the Coast of Tahiti. Captain Bennett was as physically commanding as his reputed character: taller by a head than any other man in the salon; resplendent in military ceremonial dress, perfectly turned out with not a hair out of place, stylised moustache waxed to pronounced points as was the London fashion; and brown hair greying at the temples, sleekly combed back.

Unfortunately for Edward, his entry into the salon coincided with a rather heated exchange between the Captain and a man, also known to the doctor by reputation and whose acquaintance he was anxious to make – Douglas MacAdam. MacAdam was a Scottish businessman, ex Royal Naval Lieutenant and well connected amongst the British political and military elite. His plans to develop a substantial pastoral enterprise in the new colony had been well publicised by the British press attracting praise and criticism alike, not least for his decision to take his wife and five young children with him to live in a penal colony at the end of the world.

"Surely, the government's best option for securing a safe and orderly society conducive to the flourishing of business in the new colony Captain, is to forge a strong and lasting bond between the leadership of the new colony and the military", MacAdam was saying.

"Good God man" exploded the Captain in patronising response, "it is the military's duty to serve their superiors. Commanding an army is the same anywhere sir – spare the rod and you spoil the soldier. Marines cannot be mollycoddled! Strict obedience is an absolute necessity – especially in isolated situations. Start bending the rules here and there and what do you end up with? Anarchy!" The Captain's raised voice was matched by the heightened colour of his face.

The Scotsman raised his glass of sherry and tipped it in acknowledgement of the Captain, "Well now Captain, we all know from your previous experience that you have no lack of knowledge about mutiny and anarchy."

The silence after MacAdam's utterance was one of incredulous shock; even the stewards waiting with drinks froze to the spot, eyes cast upwards unblinking and anxiously awaiting the Captain's response. No-one, least of all Captain Bennett it seemed, could believe that MacAdam had said what he had in fact said.

Into the pregnant moment, Master Duggan remembered his role as host and hoping to save the situation, (if not Douglas MacAdam), announced rather irrelevantly - "This is our doctor, Edward Cooper - Captain Bennett". A startled Edward looked at the Master askance. Bennett's eyes did not move from MacAdam's face. The mood in the room was dour. All looked at MacAdam as if at a damned man. And then Bennett did something unexpected. He smiled at MacAdam– an unnatural and terrible smile that did not reach his eyes and tipped his Scotch in a return gesture. 

'MacAdam is doomed', Edward immediately thought to himself.

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