Chapter - Twenty four

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Clara looked at the pencil and paper in her hand and back up at Redgrave

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Clara looked at the pencil and paper in her hand and back up at Redgrave. Sudden anger flashed in her eyes, "How dare he question her, her loyalty?" She scribbled furiously upon the page and thrust it back at him.

To Redgrave, Claremont looked nervous but only for a second before he jabbed him in the chest with the notebook. Now, Claremont just looked fit to be tied. Redgrave glanced at the page and read ...

What more must I do to prove myself to you?

Claremont's face was scarlet when Redgrave's eye looked up. True the boy had risked life and limb to rescue his crew but how would he even venture to know HOW to do such a thing, that it was even possible?

"It is not a matter of proof, Claremont. What you have done for my men is a debt I cannot repay, but you must admit for a cabin boy...valet... who's never been on the sea, to pull off such a grand plan, hell to even think of such a scheme... who are you really?"

Clara took back the pad that Redgrave held out to her. Her hand shook, her head pounded. She was scared and angry, and knowing that Redgrave was justified in his suspicions of her, only made matters worse.

She again quickly wrote her response. Her heart pounded in her ears and she handed the notebook to back to the Commander.

Redgrave glanced at the page and sighed. He was beginning to feel like a heel putting poor Claremont through this inquisition, and the boy's response only made it worse. Two words stared back at him.

A Friend.

Redgrave closed his eyes for a moment and took a second to collect himself. "Claremont, I do not mean to question your loyalty, or your devotion to this crew. I am only searching for answers. There are blanks... which only you can fill."

Clara reached out for the pad again. He held her gaze when she took it from him. She guessed she owed him some sort of explanation, but she wasn't sure what would suffice. She thought for a moment and started to write. She was acutely aware that his eyes never left her face.

Redgrave noticed Claremont took longer to write this time. Here may finally be the truth.

Clara wasn't sure if she was doing the right thing as she handed him back the notebook.

Redgrave's eyes widen in surprise as he read what was written. When he looked up searching for some sort of validity to this astonishing statement, he'd seen Claremont suddenly waver, eyes roll back, and all color drain before nearly collapsing on the spot.

Redgrave dropped the notebook and pencil and reached out. With one quick swoop, he lifted Claremont up and onto the bed. 

"What have you done?"

"That's what I would like to know?" Doc Nelson asked.

Startled, Redgrave looked up to see the very angry face of his surgeon. "I told you to take it easy Commander. You realize what this boy has been through? What trauma he has received?"

Redgrave stooped down to pick up the pencil and paper and placed them in his inside coat pocket. "No, but I'm starting to."

"Well, see to it you remember it. I do not wish him to be taxed any further while he's recovering."

Redgrave nodded. "You have my word."

Doc started fussing over Claremont again. Redgrave turned back, upon reaching the door. He's never felt this confused or conflicted. He had much to consider.

He'd seen Sturgis in the hall and he noticed he was counting. "Sturgis?"

Sturgis looked over to him, following the sound of his voice. "How is Claremont, Sir?"

"Resting," Redgrave said. "Why were you counting?"

"I've been memorizing the ship, Sir. Claremont would lead me wherever I needed to go but now that he's been injured... I thought I'd best take matters into my own hands. There are 246 steps between my bunk and where Claremont is."

"You care much for him," Redgrave said, more as a statement then a question.

"Yes, Sir. He's my...friend."

"I'll leave you to it then." Sturgis nodded and carried on his way.

Redgrave got to his cabin and sat at his desk. He pulled out the note and stared at it. Wondering what it could all mean. What had happened? What would make Claremont to make such a drastic decision to accept this position upon his ship?

All good questions, all better saved for another day. He stowed the notebook in his locker and locked it with his key.

There was a knock on his door and it was Lord Fitton. He appeared to be healing up nicely from his ordeal with the impressment gang. "May I...come in?" Lord Fitton asked.

"Of course. How may I assist you, Lord Fitton?"

"I was just wondering now that Claremont has been injured and it may be some time before he will be able to assume his regular duties onboard, if I could borrow him for my research?"

The idea had merit. "I see no reason why not," Redgrave said. 

"I also want you to know that I have sent the letter to the Queen that you asked. I hope to have a response waiting for me at the next port.

"Thank you for that, Lord Fitton. I would hate to be hung for treason." Redgrave gave a short laugh but it was no laughing matter.

"It is good to have him back isn't it, Commander?" Lord Fitton asked.

Redgrave thought of Claremont and smiled, "Yes. Yes, it is."

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