Behind the scenes of Rebellious Cargo
A LOOK AT JANE'S DIARY ABOUT HER FIRST DAYS SPENT ON THE HMS SERENA. THIS IS NOT IN THE MANUSCRIPT BUT SETS THE SCENE FOR THE JOURNEY TO COME.
Tursday 19th May 1803
I felt like one of the cheese barrels as I was taken aboard the naval frigate today. Except that I have the feeling the cheese is viewed by the ship’s Captain as a more welcome commodity.
Captain Marston has shown little respect, for my profession, my gender or my predicament and has made it clear I am a tiresome, interruption to his schedule. His irritation I suspect is partly because I have managed to outmanoeuvre his attempts to track me down for the last week. The possibility that I would know these waters better than he is an impossible concept for him to swallow.
But I want this journey over with as quickly he does, so he is not only one praying for a stiff breeze to fill the sails. The stench and sounds of the ship brings back such horrors from a year ago. However disagreeable this Captain is, I pray he runs a disciplined ship. The weasel in command the last time I was the guest on one of His Majesties ships, showed only concern for his position on the admirals list, causing him to turn a deaf ear to the conduct of the most prestigious of his company.
Captain Marston told me he has been diverted from his squadron to enlist my services and deliver me to a destination. But for now, I am not to be trusted with the information as to where that destination might be. I had presumed we would be going home to England but he tells me that is not the case.
Damn, Marston! How dare he treat with such disregard after bringing me orders form the Prime Minister himself requesting- no commanding my skills? But why me? I cannot fathom why they had to track me down. Surely they have other code breakers that could see to their needs.
I cannot sleep. The nightmares have returned and I lay staring at the ceiling as the ship’s bell rings out every half hou, punctuating the long dark night.
Friday 20th May
I found a dead rat in my bed, of the furry kind. I know who is to blame.
Juvenile midshipman like their jokes, tiresome as they are. Cross and Anderson are no more than boys thrown into a man’s world. Their leadership of hardened sailors almost comical to witness. Although, when the French attack, there will be nothing comical about it. Just tears, maimed bodies and talk of honourable conduct.
My cabin is adequate and I take comfort that Celine is installed next door.
Thank God, she had the common sense to masquerade as my maid – although the thought makes me smile. As an ex- slave her memories must also be stirred by the thought of sailing into the
unknown. She is much bolder and far more beautiful than I. But she is my responsibility and I must keep her safe. She has not the temperament for a servant. I found that out years ago when my father first rescued her from a life of hell.
The food is plenty, but challenging at times. I fear my teeth will loosen with the consistency of the beef and the ships biscuits. Although the latter with their unique texture and density are handy things to tuck away in ones reticule. There by turning it in to an effective cosh. I swear I may be tempted to land mine quite forcibly over a certain Captain’s head next time he casts that disdainful look my way.
Saturday 21 st May
I have just finished decoding a document that the Captain has given me to decipher .One which had been recovered form a French packet ship a week ago. It has taken me longer than normal I am out of practice. But the satisfaction of being able to deliver the results to the man who thinks I am such an encumbrance was most gratifying.
He was surprised at my results, I could tell he expected me to fail. He must finds it hard to believe that my late father’s skills as England’s top code breaker, has the temerity to pass on the family skill to a mere daughter. But he is still cold and uninformative about my future.
Now I have a new worry. Celine’s has encountered trouble, I am sure of it. I have never seen her eyes so cold her face so haunted, especially when she thinks I am not watching her. She has a secret and I feel saddened and alarmed she has not chosen me to share it with.. We have always confided in each other.
The Chaplain has taken a through dislike to me. Why? I have no idea. I do my best to keep out of his way, but I will not be cowed by the pompous oaf. God’s representative he might be, but he distributes little comfort to anyone. And he has selected Celine and I for unwarranted and unnatural disfavour. However I have no time to worry about him as I have been summoned to the Captain and from the sound of his voice it is not to discuss the view of the clear night sky.
© Susan Lodge