Chapter 38: Becoming Charlotte True

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Charlotte retired to her bedroom early the eve of their arrival in Port Jackson, Sydney Cove.  She locked her bedroom door as was her custom, but slept fitfully.  Before the first dusky hues of dawn brushed the skyline, she arose, dressed and slipped from the Lady Juliana on the little boat tied behind it, for the purpose of visiting the Fortuna.

Hugh MacAdam had noticed a light on in Charlotte's bedroom.  Finding her door unusually unlocked, Hugh opened it and padded inside to find the room curiously empty.  'Now where could she have gone at this hour of the morning?' Hugh wondered.  He was interrupted in his thoughts by the sound of the door re-opening and before he had time to hide, Pamela walked in.

"Oh, I see", said Pamela shutting the door, voice raised in accusation, "it's like this now between the two of you is it?"

"You stupid cow!" Hugh erupted.  "It's none of your business what Charlotte and I get up to now is it?"

"Oh come on Hughie", Pamela insisted, changing her tack to a more affectionately clingy tone and unbuttoning her nightdress, "I remember what you like".  Walking over to where he stood beside Charlotte's bed, she placed her hand between his legs.  Without thinking and in a sheer rage, Hugh picked up a heavy candleholder beside Charlotte's bed and cracked the poor and unsuspecting maid over the head with it.  "Get off me!" Hugh exploded and with each word, he hit the maid again and again with the candleholder, "When-will-you-get-it-into-your-thick-head!  I-don't-want-you-any-more!"

Hugh stood dumbstruck at the sight before him.  Pamela's head was pulp, almost unrecognisable.  He hadn't meant for that to happen, he thought desperately to himself.  His clothes were soaked with her blood.  He removed them, wrapped the candleholder in them and threw the parcel over the ship's rail and into the sea.  Creeping back to his own room, he dressed in his day attire and waited as dawn began to streak across the sky.

Charlotte climbed the side of the Fortuna and made for Doctor Cooper's cabin.  The doctor was still sharing his cabin with Father Sean Simmons.  "Charlotte?" the doctor said startled to see her upon opening the cabin door.  "I was just going to do my rounds but I have time to chat if you like?" the doctor added, a hint of hopefulness in his voice.

"Thank you Dr Cooper, but it is Father Simmons I have come to speak with."  Charlotte could see the priest from the cabin threshold.  He sat straddling a stool, bare chested and facing Charlotte as she stood in the doorway.  His position on the stool no doubt saved the scored flesh of the priest's buttocks from the pain of being pressed against the seat.  The doctor looked disappointed and stood away from the door so she could enter the cabin.  "Oh, well then, you better come in.  I was just going to clean and redress Sean's wounds.  Perhaps you would like to do it and I could leave you both to talk alone?"  The doctor said all this in a tone and with a hesitancy which implied quite the opposite;  plainly, he would prefer to be asked by Charlotte to stay.  Instead, she nodded her head saying, "Thank you doctor, you are very kind."  The doctor blustered out of the room, taking his bag but not before giving the priest a quick, stern look.  "Be good then!" he farewelled them.  As the door closed, both Father Sean and Charlotte couldn't help but laugh.

"You look well Father."

"Call me Sean, please Charlotte.  I think you're long past the l'il lassie I remember, even though it was only nearly three years ago.  And I've hardly been acting in any priestly function while I've been on this ship – more patient than anything else!"

She looked at his face – it had filled out in the last two weeks.  His hair had grown too.  He had it tied up in a cue at the back of his head.  His chest was bare of any hair, more sinewy and muscly than she would ever have imagined existed under the priestly garb of the soutane which, prior to the voyage, was the only dress she had ever seen the priest wear.  But then, Sean had explained that he had been one of the crew on the Dorothea in his voyage from England to the Cape of Good Hope, and as such, expected to haul rope, row and do all other manner of hard physical work that goes into making a clipper like the Dorothea one of the fastest sailing boats in all of Britain.

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