Chapter 37: Last Days of the Voyage

1.7K 142 5
                                    


Charlotte found a salve to her grief for the passing of Monsieur Le Bas in her daily visits to Doctor Cooper's cabin. Here she ministered to the wounds of Father Simmons – cleaning and dressing them and generally staving off dreaded infection. The priest was heavily sedated with narcotics most of the time in the first weeks. Asleep, the priest's youthfulness was more apparent. Charlotte supposed it had something to do with the vulnerability of his full lips and long dark eyelashes, without the restless gaze and fierce energy of his wakeful self. Reading to him or singing quietly while he slept gave Charlotte the peace and time to heal as well after the tumultuous events of the past few months.

By the end of the second week, Father Simmons was awake and healing nicely. Charlotte no longer kept up her daily vigil but resumed her duties as governess to the MacAdam children. With an estimated time of only 2 weeks remaining before they reached their destination, Charlotte now redoubled her efforts at preparing them for life in a rural and distinctly unfamiliar setting. She was allowed only once to revisit the old cabin she had shared with Monsieur Le Bas. She had gathered together little mementos that reminded her so vividly of him – his pipe; a crude drawing he had sketched of her not long after they first met; and the little travelling French clock he kept beside his bunk. The manuscript she and Monsieur had laboured on for two years was missing from the cabin. It did not take long however for the thief to reveal his identity, along with his demands.

Charlotte now realised that she had vastly underestimated the young Hugh MacAdam. He had, as it transpired, not only reeked vengeance for Charlotte's humiliating rebuff and Monsieur's threatening warning by having Monsieur Le Bas arrested by the French at the Cape of Good Hope, but also, by stealing her newly completed manuscript the day Charlotte had been detained by the Captain for assault. He taunted her with it daily, promising that he would give the manuscript to her on condition that she showed greater "kindliness" and affection to him. Captain Bennett claimed he could not help her at all regarding Hugh MacAdam. For one thing, that Father Simmons claimed to see Hugh pointing Le Bas out to the French soldiers at the Cape was only Father Simmons' word against Hugh MacAdam's word and given Simmons' past history, unlikely to carry the day. As far as the missing manuscript was concerned, it would once again be Charlotte's word against a free settler's word and therefore, the Captain had no warrant for searching the MacAdam's quarters. Charlotte thought about enlisting the help of Elizabeth MacAdam but decided that it would be in vain given the great woman's passionate feelings regarding her children generally and her eldest son, her favourite, in particular.

It was proving more difficult to evade being alone with Hugh MacAdam living as she was, in the MacAdam family compound. Each night she locked her bedroom door, but during the day, Hugh was becoming adept at finding novel ways to get her on her own. If she was asked to go on an errand to the stores ship for provisions, Hugh would ask his mother if he might accompany Charlotte on the pretext of vouchsafing her personal security. If only Mrs MacAdam knew the number of times on one errand alone, Charlotte had to evade her son's amorous clutches or suffer the feel of his hands on her body. He sickened her.

Surprisingly, she found an unlikely ally in the maid, Pamela. Pamela was clearly feeling the effects of a cooling off in the romantic attentions she had previously been paid by Hugh MacAdam. Pamela was not stupid. She noticed the many and varied methods Hugh concocted to have Charlotte at his disposal, even walking in on some of the more desperately urgent of Hugh's needs to touch and try to kiss Charlotte. He was taking more and more risks to be with Charlotte and invariably, almost as if she was spying on them, it was Pamela who caught him out.

This silly dance between the three of them would have been laughable, did it not carry such dangerous risks for the women involved. Pamela was clearly lovesick for the boy. She pushed her ample breasts before him at every opportunity and brushed her body against his in corridors. Unfortunately, her attempts at recapturing his interest only drove Hugh further away. On one occasion, Charlotte witnessed Hugh strike Pamela across the cheek in the kitchen, when she rubbed his bottom with her hand as he was bent over a cupboard. "Get away from me you dirty whore! You are a fat, dumb pig and you disgust me!" Hugh had hissed as he slammed out of the kitchen. Pamela had burst into tears, holding her hand to her reddened cheek. When Charlotte had tried to comfort the maid, she had bitten back, "It's all your fault you brazen hussy! Throwing yourself at him at every opportunity! Using your clever wiles to get him to put me off! He loved me before you came along, he did – loved me!"

It was a small mercy that there was now only one more day to endure before the fleet docked at Sydney Cove. They were to arrive in port the following morning. The MacAdam compound had been in uproar for the past week, as all was packed and made ready for disembarkation. There had been one appointment long overdue that Charlotte had not yet made. Charlotte could not imagine making a fresh start on life in this new colony without being honest about her past. One last meeting with Father Simmons before they docked at Sydney Cove and whatever the result of the meeting, she knew she would have the answers she needed to start afresh.

Charlotte TrueWhere stories live. Discover now