Chapter 34: Death

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The priest's body was untied from the gallows and it slumped into a pitiful pile of oozing broken flesh, on the blood soaked timber of the deck.

Charlotte immediately ran to the mauled body. A marine emptied a bucket of sea water over the bloody muck on the deck, dousing the shredded body with it at the same time. The priest's eyes fluttered open, the pupils turning like fish, belly side up, in their red orbs; the pain of the salt water on open cuts causing an involuntary shudder escalating into a full blown seizure which took hold of his body. "Make it stop!" Charlotte screamed. "He's dying Doctor Cooper, help him!" The Doctor retrieved a needle from his bag and injected the priest with it. The seizure stopped instantaneously. "It's a sedative Charlotte", he reassured her. "I'll give him some morphine for the pain as well when we get him to my quarters."

Charlotte cradled the priest's head on her lap, unwilling to let him go.

The Captain regarded the scene with discontent. This was not how he imagined the events of the morning would progress. He was never at more dis-ease, than when plans did not go according to expectations and he lost control over them. Now he had a potential martyr on his hands of all things! There were enough Irish political prisoners and Roman Catholics who had witnessed the disturbing spectacle of the priest's flogging, as to make the detestable Simmons, an unlikely hero. "For God's sake, get the convicts back to their holds marines!" he bellowed furiously. "Doctor Cooper, you will ensure that the priest survives this flogging or you will never practise medicine again – not in the new colony or London for that matter anyway!"

A drenched and blood-stained Charlotte looked up from where she sat with the priest's body in her arms on the deck. "Will you go back for Monsieur Le Bas, Captain Bennett? Please," she begged pitifully, eyes streaming with tears. But the Captain did not get the chance to respond. A groan came from the lips of the man she held and a voice like gravel, the words hardly discernible carried barely, to those nearby. "Le Bas . . . .dead, Charlotte. Letter for you . . . my shirt." Charlotte's face contorted with grief afresh. "No," she whispered, "it isn't true". Again the voice she had once known as Father Simmons grated, "Yes . . Charlotte. . . t'is true. He died . . . with peace . . in my arms." The wail when it came from her sounded inhuman and as the priest descended into blessed unconsciousness again, he was reminded of the cry that came from her the first time he laid eyes on her those long years ago.

The Captain had the decency to look ashamed. "Marines, carry Father Simmons for further treatment to Doctor Cooper's cabin. Doctor Cooper, I expect you will be busy with your patient", the Captain said, dismissing the doctor from his presence. "Lieutenant Buston, check the priest's clothing for a letter to the convict, Charlotte Caprice."

"Captain", the lieutenant called, after rifling through the clothes the priest had taken off his body and folded neatly before his flogging, "there's two letters here: one to the prisoner and one bearing Lord Watts' seal and addressed to yourself Sir."

"Well, hand them over lieutenant!"

Charlotte was helped to a standing position, by whom she did not know. She would later learn to her astonishment, that it had been Mrs Elizabeth MacAdam. The woman had insisted that the Captain allow Charlotte to be cared for by the MacAdam household on the Lady Juliana and that Charlotte have her old role of governess to the MacAdam children for the remainder of the voyage to New South Wales. Apparently Mrs MacAdam cared not a hoot that Charlotte had assaulted the Captain of the Fleet and soon to be Governor of the new colony. As she herself said to the Captain's face, Charlotte had only done what every person who had ever met the damnably frustrating man had fantasised about doing! To wit, the Captain had responded that he would have expected no better conduct from the wife of one such as Douglas MacAdam.

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