Chapter 5: Loaded to the Gunwales

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  • Dedicated to Tim

Now that we’re out of danger, reality hits me: I haven’t slept in over a day. I struggle to keep my eyes open and my legs can hardly support me. I’m so tired all I want to do is fall face first into bed and not get up until tomorrow. I notice Mister Smythe limping, however, and offer to look at his injury.

“Oh, it’s nothing, miss. The lads out there have it much worse,” he points toward the deck.

Following the stout little man in his trusty red cap outside, I’m ill prepared for what I see.

The ship is littered with the remnants of the battle. Broken crates and barrels have spilled their contents, mixing wheat and spices with molasses and rum. Their sweet smell combined with that of blood and gunpowder, turns my stomach.

I breathe through my mouth as I descend from the quarterdeck. It’s only when I reach the main level when I see the full extent of the damage.

The able-bodied men are placing their worse-off mates in a row on one side of the ship. On the other side, one unlucky man has been tasked with placing the dead into sacks in preparation for interment. The body closest to me is Petey.

I cover my mouth and run to the railings. I lean overboard and wretch, but only a bitter liquid comes up.

“You really should go back inside,” Smythe kindly advises from behind.

Turning around, I wipe my mouth with my sleeve before I answer. “No. I want to help. Do you have a surgeon on board?”

The old man points toward the dead. “Second from the end.”

“Well, they’re making it worse,” I point to the men moving the injured. “It’s too hot up here. You have to get them below deck.”

With my head clearing, I look over the scene again. My attention focuses on a man who’s vainly using a dirty rag to stop the bleeding from another’s thigh. I run to them, remove my belt, and kneel on the sticky planks before grabbing the blood-soaked material away.

“Give me that!” I throw it behind me, all the while tightly wrapping the belt around the man’s leg above the wound. “Have someone boil sea-water and soak all the rags you can find in the still scalding liquid. Only then can you use it to wipe the blood away, do you understand?” I ask the surprised looking sailor.

He nods, but remains motionless.

“Well, go on!” Smythe instructs him, affirming my command. “What else can we do, miss?”

I try to remember what the doctor did with my knee and everything I learned about medicine back home. “Get me the clean rags and a pot of hot water as soon as possible. I’ll need needle and some sturdy thread, as well.”

“You heard the lady! Get ‘er anything she needs,” Smythe yells at someone, but I’m now focused on my patient.

“What’s you name?” I ask, ripping his trousers to get a better view of his wound.

“Butler,” he whispers. His face is soaked with perspiration, making his light hair stick to his forehead.

“Butler? You’re the lookout, aren’t you?” I remember the Captain addressing him last night.

“Yes, miss.”

“Okay, Mister Butler. You don’t need to talk any more. I’m going to fix you all up, all right?” I smile, but he’s already closed his eyes.

“Can I help?” Henry asks from behind me.

I look around again. The remaining crew is dutifully taking the injured below deck, and I think Smythe’s gone to find the supplies I requested. “Yes, there’s actually something very important I’ll need you to do, Henry.”

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