tephen opened his eyes, feeling the familiar swinging that had been strangely absent these many weeks. His mind slowly caught up with his present surroundings that seemed more like the distant past than the here and now. 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph,' he whispered when he at last arrived at the £75,000 that would be his; may be his depending on his intelligence sources, the Royal Navy and wind and wave. A treacherous voice in his head asked, 'What would Diana do if I had £75,000?' and the painful memory of the theatre a few nights before jerked him wide awake.
He lurched out of his hammock and gazed bitterly at the spot where his bees, his valuable bees, had bred; where he had eagerly studied the effect of their introduction into their strange nautical environment. All that met his sour look was a stack of mail, preserved for his return by Jack and which he'd been too tired to read the previous night.
The topmost envelope was made out in a vaguely familiar, neat hand to S. Maturin and he opened it to satisfy his curiousity.
Dear Dr. Maturin,
I write this letter to you hoping to explain, if not excuse, my actions the last night we saw each other. You were kind and I feel it is the least I owe you.
You know a bit of my history and that I am a weak man. I have failed at everything I have ever done, even at the lowest of occupations, a thief. My writing the advertisement for Captain Aubrey's command of the Polychrest was the first time in months that I was of use to anyone.
I will not hide the fact that I care not for Captain Aubrey. He is a powerful, authoritative man with an authority that has rotted his humanity. The kind of man that would never understand the deprivation that I've felt, although he deserves the same none the less. I hated him, but I feared him too. I knew that he would require me to go aboard that vile vessel and be killed for a country that despises me. I knew that even if I was not murdered in battle my somewhat delicate constitution would never survive the hardships of the sea. I had to escape.
I am sorry that my betrayal of Captain Aubrey to the sheriff's men will be perceived by you as weak; odious, even. I hope that you can forgive me. However, at least know that the money I received for the betrayal has helped to buy my passage to India, where I hope to start anew. I will be boarding Earl of Abergavenny captained I will add by John Wordsworth, brother of the poet William Wordsworth. We are to depart in October, although they say we may be delayed.
God be with you,
'Jack,' Stephen said, at the broad epaulette-covered shoulders filling the doorway, 'How much does it cost for passage to India on an Indiaman?'
'About 30 silver pieces, and don't some people sell their soul to get a passage. Why do you ask?'
'Oh, no reason. No reason. Have you left any coffee at all?'
© 2004 Nathan Varnum