Chapter Two

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Despite Samson’s rejection of my offered help, the steward Ingersoll was more than willing to put an extra pair of hands to work over the next couple days. The hold was already stacked with huge barrels—casks of nearly 300 gallons apiece, filled with seawater to keep them from drying out, but waiting for whale oil. And thousands of gallons of fresh water, and literally tons of salted meat and hard tack bread. Casks of beer and rum. Firewood for the cookhouse and tryworks. Barrel staves for the cooper to make more casks for oil. Lumber for ship repairs. Spare sails and canvas.

The big barrels were already loaded and stacked, but the large number of smaller items had yet to be sorted and stowed. From harpoons to sewing needles, everything needed a place.

I had my pleasant surprises in those days. I’d been aware of the unpleasant privy overhanging the stern, but I hadn’t realized the captain had a head of his own. Of our own, now. Not that the accommodations were any better than those of the head the sailors shared, but I relished the privacy. And the unchallenged availability.

The captain’s cabin was also roomier than I had anticipated. Before we’d sailed I’d only seen the main cabin, with its wooden benches and its table pierced at one end by the mizzen mast rising from the ship’s keel to its visible heights above deck.

One side of the main cabin opened onto Rawley’s small room with the hinge-topped wooden writing-desk where he kept the ship’s log. At the other side, an equally small whitewashed cabin shared by the second and third mates. And aft of the shared cabin, the captain’s. Ours. Obadiah told me he’d had a wall knocked out that used to separate the “captain’s day room” from his berth—he preferred the open space and had no objection to mixing his living and sleeping spaces. Glass stretched across two windows in the stern—covered with a cross-hatched grate that would help dispel the force of breaking waves in a gale—giving us a clear view of the ship’s wake and the open sea behind us.

The gimballed bed held almost a full-sized mattress, and the wall was honeycombed with shelves and cupboards and cubbyholes holding charts, books, navigational instruments, and mementos. To my delight, I was even able to unpack my trunk into a built-in chest of drawers, cleverly fitted with catches to keep them from sliding open, reminding me of child-proofing locks from my own time.

After removing my drawing things and stowing them among Obadiah’s books and implements, I stashed my “lady-trunk” stubbornly under the bed, still packed. He entered the cabin as I folded shirts and stockings into a drawer, and he pulled the drawer fully open to look at what else it  contained.

“Have you brought no proper clothes, wife?”

Mouth set with determination, I pointed to the latched chest beneath the bed. And then realized I had mutely ceded the point that the skirts were the “proper” clothes. Damn. I was glad the door was closed for what followed.

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