“A Wolf in Captain’s Clothing”
Summary: Roger learns what being a seaman means. It’s tougher and lonelier than he expected. His goodness and love for others cannot be helped. He must do what he must when others are in trouble. His good Samaritan ways are found out. The good Captain shows his teeth. The coin is flipped. Roger lives to see another day.
Inside the Chapters:
Chapter 37 Gloriana
Roger is quickly disabused of the idea his physical health and prowess pose an advantage over the less nourished crew members. By the end of one shift he is exceedingly hungry, bone weary with hands chapped and chaffed, and muscles incredibly sore. The work conditions were hard and difficult though others didn’t seem to take much heed of it. On the second day, his size proved to be useful (p630, Nook). Once the cargo was loaded, the passengers came aboard. Many had indenture contracts the Captain would sell once they reached the Colonies. They would be given passage, but only fed if they could pay for it during the voyage.
Roger helped passengers board. He was struck by the women layered with all the clothing they owned. The people had all their earthly possessions desperate to find a better life for their children and families across the ocean. He notices one young family of a man, woman, and baby. The woman has something different about her that tells Roger she is a fighter. His pondering is disturbed by the call to get the last of the cargo aboard.
After the initial weather departing from Scotland, the weeks passed with a smooth voyage and rhythm. Many of the passengers had been seasick. The smell of vomit comingled with all the other scents aboard the Gloriana. Roger is thankful he was able to acclimate his keen sense of smell quickly. Our 21st-century sensibilities for cleanliness are unlike any other time in history. We’re so obsessed that we over clean and disrupt proper good bacterial levels on our skin and surfaces that are there to combat the bad or dangerous bacteria. Just the body odor and bad breath might fell a modern-day person. Though Diana writes it that the travelers all have some form of illness or disease immunity, it’s not true. They likely would cause mass illness among everyone they met until their biome changed to something more like those of the period. They would all be veritable plague carriers.
He notes his crewmates are leery of him though not hostile. It could be his accent or size that keeps them slightly away from him. With the shipmates at a distance, Roger had plenty of time to think outside of his expected work. The captain is hard but fair and always turns a profit. Roger ignored the reputation of the captain and Gloriana before signing on (p633, Nook). He noticed the invisible barrier that seemed to surround the Captain. Only two crew members directly spoke to him. The other crew members did their best not to be noticed by him. Regardless of the disposition of the Captain, Roger is more interested in the passengers who came up top to the deck only a couple of times per day (p634, Nook). He fondly remembers Mrs. Graham having used dried toad as a treatment for a wart he’d once had.
A passenger asks if her children may touch the iron horseshoe. Roger agrees. He knows there is a belief to gain luck and to help heal illnesses or disease. There is a lucky iron fish that heals anemia in parts of the world where iron-rich foods are in short supply. It’s an economical and easy way for families in need to get enough iron. Roger thinks the intake of iron would prove more useful than touching the horseshoe. The limited diet offered to the passengers resulted in loose teeth, itching boils, and fever. I expect their immune systems to quite low with the living conditions, stress, lack of fresh foods, and malnourishment. The passengers did not complain about the food and water given; it was enough. Though the crew was fed somewhat better, Roger noticed the impact of vitamin deficiency because of the lack of fresh vegetables was having on his gums.
Manning the water line and doling out the provision to passengers, Morag, the young woman he noticed on the quay before she boarded at Inverness came up in line. They discussed the weather before she went to go back below. Another woman prods her to ask for more water rations since she is nursing a baby. Morag was deeply embarrassed by the public nature of the request. With the extra provision in her bucket, she gave him a warm smile in appreciation before going below. When the water line concluded, Roger was sad to see the passengers go. He envies the connectedness they seem to share. He misses Brianna each minute of each day.
He chooses the illusion of solitude after eating in the mess hall. He had the second watch, so he inhabits his small hammock inches away from the next seaman. His hammock was near the bulkhead, so he only had one other person to deal with. He reflects on the musical sounds of the ship drowning out everything else while he conjures up Brianna. He thinks of his peace of mind being taken away when she went through the stones. He remains in a state of fear, anger, and betrayal (p638, Nook). He thinks Claire understands the loneliness and made sure Brianna wouldn’t be left alone and to be loved well. He tried to love her well. Thinking of her made his body grow uncomfortable in response. His need for her ever-present. He didn’t hesitate when he realized she had gone through the stones and he had to follow her (p639, Nook).
The rhythmic sounds on the other side of the bulkhead resumed. Whoever the couple was, they had sex nearly every night after everyone else was thought to be asleep. At first, the sounds made him feel isolated because he had no access to such physical or emotional warmth. Eventually, the sounds of tender words or furtive affirmations brought him a sense of not being a voyeur, but as a participant in some way. Not knowing who it was, he liked to think it was the fair-haired man and his wife Morag because of the way they looked at each other. “He would have sold his soul to know such certainty.”
Ah, poor Roger. Having Brianna leave without word or explanation after putting off his proposal brings up his insecurities in their relationship. He is without a doubt risking everything following her. To know he was doing the right thing. To know she would be happy to see him. To know she would accept his love and return love to him. He isn’t sure at all, yet he followed her anyway. After the years of being an only child, then losing the Reverend, Roger understood the connection love could bring. He felt that with Brianna. He is a good man.
Chapter 38 For Those in Peril on the Sea
Roger is utterly exhausted. His muscles quivered heaving the cask of water to the deck. He splashed precious water on his face fearing he wouldn’t be able to ladle the water rations without falling in. The boat rocked and pitched in the post-storm seas. The passengers coming to fill their jars and buckets looked worse off than him. The young girl he helped aboard, came to deck skipping and singing without any ill effects from the movement of the boat. She starts a conversation about the storm and the cirein-croin with Roger (p641, Nook). The girl shrieks thinking she sees a sea monster in the water, Roger assures it nothing but a shark like they ate last week. The girl calms down and must leave Roger to do chores as her mother call for her. For the most part, Roger can forget the Gloriana is merely inhabiting the surface of the vast sea that could destroy her in moments if it chose to. He worries that the Phillip Alonso didn’t arrive safely. He thinks of the prayer, “for those in peril on the deep, Lord, have mercy.” It’s meaning quite vivid in understanding to Roger now.
As he finishes water duty, a mother asks him if the captain would rub his ring on the poor baby’s sore eyes. He hesitated because he liked to steer clear of the Captain, but he takes her anyway knowing the captain had offered such a blessing before. He found the Captain in conversation about some spoiled tea and how to salvage the rest. The Captain obliged the request rubbing the gold ring over the baby’s eyes. The ring seemed smaller than a men’s ring to Roger. Perhaps a woman’s ring. It seemed odd to see a love token on such a man’s finger. Dixon, the mate, thinks the baby is ill even though the mother says it’s milk fever and nothing of concern.
Roger grows concerned over the length of time it might take to get to Wilmington because of the many stops Bonnet would want to make to make the most of selling his cargo. He hopes they would make North Carolina in 8 weeks because they’ve been making good progress. Roger would disembark at the first stop. Since he wouldn’t be taking wages, he thinks not finishing the offload would be a fair trade-off. Roger still had hours to go on his shift, and his exhaustion hadn’t waned. He thinks of the cargo, and something about it makes him uneasy. There was something about the smell that reinforced his desire to be off the ship at the earliest opportunity.
He was woken out of a deep sleep two nights later by shouting above. Dixon kept him from going up the ladder. Roger wonders if they’ve been boarded, but Dixon says to stay below because there are passengers with the pox. To the horror of the others, Roger insists on going above to see what is happening. He is immune and cannot become ill, so his curiosity wins out. He discovers there is no other ship and there is no mutiny. Roger is ordered below, but he stays having had pox as a child. There is the threat of throwing an ill child overboard. A row between the shipman and the mother ensues with Roger grabbing the child. It was the baby from two days earlier who Dixon swore was ill. Someone rammed into Roger causing him to fall as men from below deck came up to join the fight. Sheer confusion and chaos overcame the deck.
Finally, after taking an injury, Roger is helped up by some of the crewmen. Roger promptly vomited over the side of the rail. He made his way below, refusing to answer questions, covering his head in his bunk. One of the men spoke to Roger (p648, Nook). The ill were being thrown overboard. Roger couldn’t stand knowing this.
Roger went down to the hold at his first opportunity. He made up a reason in case anyone asked. He was compelled to look for someone hiding out down there. There was someone there; it was Morag and her baby. Roger has no idea who Morag is, but her husband is a MacKenzie. She is frightened and fearful he’s going to kill her baby (p651, Nook). He follows her when the baby starts to cry hungrily. He tells her he will not harm them and wants to know what she’s doing down there. The baby has a rash. She’s sure it’s not the pox but is in terrible fear for his life after the prior event. She stabbed Roger when he reaches for the baby. It was life or death in her mind. They plan for Roger to help her while the baby’s rash improves. Roger examines the baby, and he doesn’t seem sick, but he does have a rash with pustules on his cheeks. She tells him a few days, and it will pass. He helps her to her feet and asks her age (p654, Nook). Roger has taken on a huge and dangerous responsibility. He cannot help himself, the son of a reverend. He must help people. This is like Brianna taking on Lizzie because of the desperation of the situation.
Chapter 39 A Gambling Man
It was a foggy morning. It seemed the Gloriana floated rather than sailed through the sunless day. Roger used the fog to his advantage to visit the hold bringing necessaries to Morag. Diana’s description of the fog brings it to life. The baby is red-faced with pustules though not fevered and appears overall healthy. Morag looked too thin, pasty, and worn from the strain. She needed only a couple more days for the child to be completely well. Roger was sure Morag was right. The baby did not have the pox. He returned to the deck unseen.
As Roger moved toward the stern, he heard the whoosh of a whale in the water. Someone yelled whale and heard the sound again. Roger wondered how big the whales were. Again, a whale jolted the ship. Cries of fear could be heard. The voice of the Captain rang clear to Roger (p657, Nook). Roger worries Bonnet could have seen his subversive activities. He asks if the whales won’t harm the ship. Bonnet doesn’t know whether they will or not. He’d seen a ship smashed to bit from an angry whale. Bonnet refuses to worry about such things (p657, Nook). Bonnet is in full command of his ship and everyone on it. His grip tightens on Roger’s wrist. Roger breaks free, but he knows he could die right there (p659, Nook). The exchange coolly escalates. Roger waits for a punch to be thrown. Instead, Bonnet pulls a coin from his pocket (p659, Nook).
Roger’s mind goes sharp and clear. He sizes up how he would move quickly to throw Bonnet overboard. The coin is flipped (p660, Nook). Somehow, he stayed upright and walked with Bonnet. Roger drifts back to his senses realizing Bonnet is telling his life story. The Captain was orphaned in Sligo and worked as a cabin boy on trading ships. During one winter he found work in Inverness digging the foundation of a grand house (p660, Nook). He was not popular with the other workers until it was the day to lay the foundation. Suddenly he was invited to drink with them. He became drunk quickly, and they tossed him over the wall into the cellar (p661, Nook). Bonnet realized they meant to kill him (p662, Nook). Roger felt ill for the telling. Bonnet continued (p662, Nook). Bonnet survived that day with wages in hand along with the coin. Bonnet found them all one by one and made the men pay for what they did to him. Bonnet asked Roger again if it is a fair chance (p663, Nook). Roger realized he was standing alone. Luck was with him once again.
Holy hell poor Roger Mac. He helps someone in need because he cannot help himself. He put his life in jeopardy for being kind. Twice he missed the hand of death. Bonnet is not safe in any regard. He’s the most kind of dangerous person. He has his code. He is mercenary and merciless. He’s a wolf in Captain’s clothing that Bonnet.
What’s Coming up? Chapter 40 Drums of Autumn (DOA).
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