Excerpt for The Apothecary's Wife by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Sara Hammond

Copyright ©2017 by Sara Hammond

Smashwords Edition

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28

Chapter 1

Anne Parker looked down the length of the ship. A tent of ropes angled above her head. As she passed under them, she could see a handful of sailors working on the dock as they prepared to launch. Among them was a tall blond man who seemed to be in charge, passing on orders given to him by the captain in what sounded to Anne like a foreign language. The ballet of activities in which these men engaged had been performed many times, and Anne knew they were familiar with the steps as she watched a dance that was so unfamiliar to her. Though her view of the busy scene preoccupied her mind for a moment, the reality of the present came back to her with a burst of emotion.

“I will not cry,” she told herself. Saying good-byes were coming too quickly to her liking. Anne prepared to once again be separated from all she knew. Well, she must be brave. She took a big breath and another step up the gangplank onto the huge ship.

Just a year ago she had been left at the doorstep of the artist, Mary Moser, with some of the same trepidation she felt now. This time, however, she would not be alone. She had to keep reminding herself that this was all real, and she was about to sail to America from England across the huge Atlantic Ocean with her new husband, the apothecary, John Parker. A great adventure awaited them as they would study the medicinal uses of some of the less known plants to be found within the boundaries of the new country’s vast boundaries.

She pulled her cape closer around her shoulders as a sudden gust of misty wind blew across her face. Looking at the splashes of waves knocking against the side of the ship, she could only imagine how cold the water would be if she fell in. Not comforting thoughts, she chided herself.

Raising her face skyward, Anne’s long, dark auburn curls covered her back as she let her eyes traced the profile of the soaring main mast that disappeared into the fog. As she scanned forward along the rails, she saw two other masts. Wooden arms stretched out from the masts holding the sails which for now were tightly curled and tied to the horizontal beams. The structure wiggled, teased by gusts of wind like an animal ready to run. Ropes and rope ladders were tied in several locations between the layers of sails and at points along the side of the deck. The ropes were black with a coat of freshly applied tar, preserving them from the seawater’s caustic decay. Each one had its special spot ready to control the wooden structure that held the sails.

Anne’s mind whirred with an amazing combination of excitement, concern, and anxiety. This voyage with her husband had been postponed a week as the captain of the ship wished for a completely full cargo before sailing. He had allowed the inclusion of passengers, and as such they were merely commodities that the captain allowed to accompany the other goods he delivered for a price. The delay had given Anne seven more days of imagining this moment and the weeks of shipboard life ahead to which they had committed. The newly married Parkers were headed to Philadelphia. The ship would continue south into the Caribbean for more goods to take back to England, completing the third side of the triangle many of the commercial sailing ships were following on the Atlantic in the spring of 1810.

Anne felt her husband’s arm curled around her back, both bracing her against falling backwards on the steep plank as they climbed to the deck of the ship, but also urging her forward with the flow of other passengers that they followed onto the vessel. Another line of passengers marched up a gangplank at the other end of the ship. Just as Anne was curious as to who might join them on this journey, she recognized a young woman clumsily carrying a bundle of belongings up the ramp. A shudder of fear traveled down Anne’s body; a reaction beyond her control. It was not the gait of this passenger that drew Anne to look closer, but the tangle of red hair she identified first.

She pushed back against her husband’s arm enough to catch another glimpse of the red-headed passenger as she watched the girl turn to speak to the taller boy behind her. Anne verified her initial reaction was correct. It was indeed Becky, the downstairs maid at Lord Greville’s estate where Anne had come to live with her father at the end of his life. Becky, the one who had burned the drawings in the library fireplace that Anne had completed for Lord Greville. If she continued to think of Becky, Anne was sure her thoughts would bring her to memories she had no desire to visit at this moment when she was about to embark on a most exciting voyage across the ocean with her new husband.

Even as she pushed back thoughts of Becky, she realized that she would be forced to not only reunite with Becky, but share living quarters with her. Anne’s stomach churned and once again uneasiness seeped into her excitement. She would not tell John until they were underway. She would just have to make do. Perhaps Becky had changed or even felt some remorse for what she had done. At best, it would be well if they could start again as if they had no history with one another at all.

As Anne took her last steps up the gangplank, she began to see across the horizon of the deck that opened before her. She carefully walked down the step that cleared the railing to stand on the main deck for the first time. With the quarterdeck and the captain’s cabin extending up another story, and the forecastle where the crew slept taking up the other end of the ship, the remaining middle was small compared to the view of the ship from the outside.

“Well, here we are,” she said encouragingly to her husband.

“Yes, our new home,” he answered. His voice quavered.

In the center of the deck, two doors had been thrown open to reveal a gaping hole with a steep ladder descending down into complete darkness. Not the most inviting destination, and yet Anne knew that was exactly where they were headed. Though she had spent some time speaking with her husband about the accommodations on the ship, he had made the decision that instead of taking one of the cabins in the forecastle, he had wished to save their money toward their residence when they landed in Philadelphia. It was one of the first decisions of their married life, and though Anne thought of the crowded and public room he was choosing, she did not continue to argue for a more private accommodation. He was her husband, and she would respect his opinion and support his decisions wholeheartedly.

Still, Anne dreaded the descent into the steerage and wished only to stay above to watch the harbor as they drifted out to sea. She saw two sailors carry her trunk and then John’s to the hole in the middle of the deck and disappear below. They returned within moments and carried the heaviest of her husband’s trunks full of medicines and books down the steep entrance to the dark interior of the ship. Time and time again they returned, hauling down the larger baggage into the lower deck. Several of the passengers also descended below to find their bunk and leave off their belongings before returning to wave their last good-byes. Anne could not help watching for Becky.

“Should we go below to check on our bunk assignment?”John urged. Anne knew his curiosity had the best of him. He wanted to see where they would live for the next fifty days. He led Anne to the opening.

Making her way down the ladder, Anne hung onto the rail tightly, hoping she would not fall down the steep rungs. John waited for her at the bottom. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust. There were small lanterns here and there where passengers were settling in, unrolling bedding, engaging in quiet conversations, and moving around in the shadowy corners. As they stepped over the doorway and into the area, they made their way down the narrow gap between the bunks, Anne met the glance of an older couple.

“Excuse us, we will remove ourselves in just a moment,” he said in a jolly fashion. “Trying to spread this blanket, and then we will move,” the elderly man said. He had a collar that indicated he was a minister of some sort. Anne was glad to think of a man of God being one of their fellow passengers.

“It is quite alright,” John answered. “We are trying to locate our bunks.”

“What is your name, Sir?”


“Oh, you are our neighbors. This is Mr. Parker,” he said excitedly to his wife. The woman looked up from the other side of the bunk and gave John a sweet smile. “And this must be your lovely wife, hello dear.” Anne stepped forward and bowed a little as they faced each other. “Anne Parker,” she said, giving the man her hand. He took it and bowed back. Once again, his wife smiled at Anne, but returned to the spreading of the blankets over their bed.

“Your bunk is down one and in the corner. I am Reverend Arthur Grier and my wife is Bess. The Perrys are across from you, and the Ash family just past them. That is all I know of our fellow passengers, and now you have joined our ranks.”

John moved past the minister to the bunk he had indicated, allowing Anne to go first. The wooden plank beds stacked one on top of another made for a tight space with little head room and barely room for storage underneath. The trunks they had brought would not fit, but Anne’s neatly packed, waxed leather crates were already tucked under the bed. She was glad she had insisted on these smaller cases for some of their personal belongings now that they understood how small their compartment would be.

John sat down on the edge of the bunk. Anne could tell he was disappointed in the accommodations and may have been reckoning with his decision about purchasing a cabin no matter what the cost would have been. They were fortunate to be the last in the row, so the corner was theirs. A small opening in the side of the ship let a little light into the otherwise dark corner.

“Any larger items are stowed at the back end, there,” the reverend said, pointing.

“That would be where our trunks are.” John said.

As Anne stood wondering if she should remove her cloak and get to work on making their bed, she looked into the darkness to the third row of bunks. The row on that side was narrower and the beds were made for one rather than two. The space was even tighter and must have been less money to reserve. Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard the bump her husband’s head made as he got up from the bunk to stand next to her.

The elderly Reverend Grier heard the bump also and was quick to say, “Hit my head a time or two already,” he chuckled. John was embarrassed, but smiled at the clergyman as he sat back down on the edge of the bed, rubbing his head.

Anne sat down next to him, patting his hand as if to say “it will be alright”. She cocked her head as she asked, “Would you like me to begin making the bed, or might I go back on deck to watch as we leave the harbor?”

“No, certainly. You go watch. I just want to make sure I can locate our trunks and that our boxes are secure.” He answered. Anne leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek which he returned, but then turned his attention to their boxes tucked under the bed. Anne hurried to the shaft of light that indicated the stairway back up to the deck.

The last of the passengers and baggage arrived on the ship. The gangplanks were being taken up. Anne could see that the tide had come up and the angle of the gangplank was no longer a steep climb. Several more sailors appeared from beside the ladder that led to the forecastle, the cabin that sat on the deck at the one end. The sailors were gathering in small groups at the bottom of the front mast, the foremast as it was called. They were waiting to receive further orders. Anne could see three other men wrestling to secure the anchor as the mooring hook gave way; the sticky silt of the harbor coated the rope and dripped back down the line into the water like wax down the side of a candle. The boat began to list side to side in its freedom.

Anne grabbed the rail and hung on until she became accustomed to the sway. She moved her body to counter the swinging motion. The tidal current turned the ship into the flow, slowly pulling the vessel out to sea. All rocking stopped. It amazed Anne that the tide, the gravity created by the moon as Lord Greville had once explained to her, could control the movement of this large an object from so far away. She knew men drowned regularly. Now she could understand how dangerous it was; dangerous and thrilling as they were swept along to the open sea. There, the giant sails would at last be lowered and the wind would take control. As the boat jostled into its place, the harbor grew smaller. John returned to Anne’s side and smiled warily. “Here we go,” he said.

“Yes, now our adventure begins,” Anne answered, all but overcome with the excitement of the moment. She felt her knees shaking as the boat began to move even more quickly towards the open water they were about to cross. She turned to look back at the sailors who took their places on the deck in a well rehearsed drill, knowing full well what was expected of them. Only the sails furthest to the stern were hooked to the other sails for control. Small triangular sails were set below the larger masts of sails, three in the front, two midship, and one at the rear. These were set to control the turn out of the harbor and into the open water. Just beyond them, Anne could see the captain standing at the back of the ship on the quarterdeck behind the main mast.

Mary, their vessel, was Captain Stefan Enman’s ship. They knew nothing else about the man. He made an impressive display, standing on the foredeck, looking back over the ship. The sunlight reflected off the gold brocade and buttons on his coat. He wore no hat and Anne could see his black hair showed grey edges along his temples. His dark eyes were intense even from this distance as she stood at what was called “the waist”, which to Anne made much sense. She would guess the captain to be at least forty years old, but perhaps younger and worn by the sea. Though the image of him standing on the deck as the king of this ship was one she might like to try to sketch, she at the same time had a sense of foreboding. His look was that of the devil himself when she thought he looked straight at her. They viewed each other for only seconds, but in that time, the exchange was not pleasant.

The first mate shouted orders as given to him by the captain. With those commands men began to climb the rope ladders and used the foot ropes, loops that allowed them to move along the horizontal beams that held the wrapped up sails. There were several layers of sails, and Anne almost lost her balance trying to see the ropes to the very top one. She counted four cross beams, each one shorter than the one under it. Men waited on the lines ready to untie the ropes that held the sheets of grey canvas.

The men who had continued to climb to each layer of sails now crawled across the highest beam, preparing to let these sails down. She heard a shout that must have been the order led and they were waiting for, because in unison the sails unfurled, making the boat lurch slightly as it turned away from the wind that pushed it forward. Sailors scurried to uncoil dozens of ropes coiled along the gunwale. Other men quickly pulled the ropes tight, yanking them hand over hand and then tying them to pegs along the left side of the deck, the port side. Anne could see their actions controlled the angle of the sails and the effect of the wind. They did not allow the full strength of the wind to fill the sails, but left them somewhat flaccid as the other sails were let loose. Then gradually, the boat turned away from the wind and began a steady course forward as the ropes were set, and the sails arched with bellies full of air. Anne looked up once more to the highest point of the tallest mast. Oh how frightened she would be if she had such a climb as her duty.

Anne shuddered, dropped her head, and returned her attention to what was in front of her. John came to stand beside her once again. His gaze joined hers as the harbor gave way to the coast and figures of dock workers became difficult to make out. The first mate yelled orders to his crew in a language Anne did not understand. Though it may have been a foreign tongue, she was sure some of it was simply unfamiliar terms. She reasoned that in the next weeks, she would come to understand every word. It was then she heard the clear and understandable instruction, “Passengers prepare to go below deck!”

Everyone began to shuffle to the stairs to go below. Anne dreaded leaving the open view for the dark that waited for them below deck. She paused to look back at the coastline one last time. A fisherman on the rocky beach was sorting his nets. Anne wondered if she had made the right decision about this momentous change. So much was unknown, yet in the past she had faced such uncertain futures, and all had turned out well.

She did not doubt her choice of John as her husband. She had come to know John these last few weeks as they planned their departure. He held a superior intellect that Anne knew challenged her in a way only Lord Greville ever had. She was constantly amazed at the depth of her husband’s knowledge of a wide variety of subjects. What her husband lacked, she understood, was the practical experience of making use of what he knew.

John Parker had enjoyed a comfortable life. Never did he have a worry about money or his next meal. He had never worked for anyone other than his father. He had suffered no lean times nor had he ever been forced to make any sacrifices for that matter. Anne did not reason how this might be a disadvantage to his future, only that he had been fortunate in his upbringing for which she was happy and proud.

The Parker family had accepted her readily into their fold, and she had gained a sense of how others of this level of society lived rather than the nobility because she had worked for a Duke and lived at the estate of the son of an Earl, she had little experience with those of the merchant class. Anne found they were not so quick to judge or exclude as those of the “upper crust”. To be in the presence of a family had been her great joy, and she looked forward to a future of home and children once they returned to England.

Anne wondered how life might have been had they stayed in London. Just thinking of the possibility of their life with his family and the apothecary shop and staying on to help her mentor, Miss Moser, made her a little forlorn. The weak roots of the connection to her father and his employers, the Duke and Lord Greville, were to be displaced once again. Those roots wound back to a time when her mother and brother were still alive. Anne felt the detachment as the coast continued to become smaller; the same melancholy she felt when she first arrived at Miss Moser’s studio only a year ago.

She remembered that day clearly; the look on Lord Greville’s face that told her of his reluctance to send her away, the cheerful demeanor with which her new teacher received her, and the misunderstanding that she was not to be a maid but a student. Coming back to the present, Anne looked up noticing abandoned ships in varying degrees of decay were parked along the river as it became wider and opened to a bay. The smell of the ocean was sweeter than the more stagnant, over-used waters of the harbor.

“Passengers will go below deck.” Anne heard the first mate call, but she did not move. She wished they could stay to watch until England was a dot on the horizon. She wondered if she would return in a year’s time. She wondered if she would ever return at all. She turned to look at the shoreline on the other side of the ship as they eased along the coast. Her gaze drifted once more to the upper deck where the captain stood. As her thoughts made her dawdle at the rail, she was torn out of her daydream by the captain’s shout.

“Now!” The captain yelled again as his gaze met hers. His look penetrated her innocent stare. He singled her out, and she didn’t understand why.

Chapter 2

Anne and John made their way to the ladder down to their berth in the steerage below. Anne eased her way down the rail still shaking off the unsettling feeling that the captain’s look had given her. She swayed as she balanced herself against the slow rocking motion. Looking into the darkness, she could only see dots of light, lanterns hung on the bunks of the other passengers. John took her hand and led her past one gentleman who squeezed his body flat against his bed for them to pass.

“Good day,” he said politely. They would learn his name later. James MacQuerie traveled to America to set up his barrel making business. He had sent his son ahead to buy a warehouse and hire workers. They chose to locate in Trenton. He would prove to be a quiet passenger, keeping to himself most of their journey.

“Sorry,” Anne murmured as they interrupted his unpacking. Anne tried not to touch the man as she made her way around him, but found it was impossible. His rough wool jacket ground against the sheared wool of her pelisse. She hoped no dirt had transferred in the passing. As soon as she had that thought she put it away, realizing how petty and snobbish her concerns were. She knew much more important considerations awaited her. The smell of her new home came at her as the warm, humid air wafted past trying to escape up the hatch. It was a strange mixture of manly body odor, female perfume, soggy wood, and lamp oil. Once more, she put away all judgment. It would be of no use to be displeased with the odor that was sure to intensify with the journey.

Once Anne’s eyes adjusted to the lack of light, she could see passengers standing by, sitting, or leaning over their bunks, organizing their belongings. Others talked in low voices, sounds of introductions and small talk came to Anne’s ears. The mood was giddy and nervous. Some were already resting in their assigned spots. Anne knew that Becky was somewhere in the group of what she guessed to be at least twelve people that filled the rows of bunks in front of her.

John continued down the center aisle to where the minister sat on the edge of his bed. He was a large man and took up the entire space between the bunks as he sat on the edge. He was talking with another man of a much slighter build who appeared to be sitting next to the minister even though he sat on his own bunk. John led Anne around to the row of bunks against the side of the ship.

“Oh, here come the Parkers,” the clergyman announced to his new friend.

John smiled as he ducked into their bunk on the other side of the two men’s conversation. Anne did the same though she landed rather clumsily on the wooden deck. She was glad they had not been required to pass the men as there would have been no room to do so without nudging both men. She turned to sit properly, arranging her skirts that already showed a damp dirt stain. Once again she reminded herself that this was apt to be the norm and not to concern her thoughts with a little smudge on the skirt of her dress. The thought that soon she would need to use the onboard outhouse loomed as a much larger challenge to be met in the near future.

Before she could speak to her husband, the reverend began to introduce John to their “neighbor” in the bunk one up and across the aisle. “This is Mr. Joshua Perry,” he said. He comes with quite a brood,” he chuckled. Anne could not tell if Mr. Perry took kindly to the man’s remark or not. She could see what appeared to be Mrs. Perry, rocking one small child asleep in her arms while she told a memorized story to two others just a little older.

“And this is Mrs. Parker,” Reverend Grier continued, looking Anne’s way.

John put his arm around his wife’s shoulder, leaning back to expose a view of her to Mr. Perry and answered, “Yes, my wife, Anne.” Anne just smiled, still taking in her surroundings and the close proximity to these members of their ocean voyage.

As John spoke to Mr. Perry and answered just a few more questions the reverend put forth, he turned away saying he felt he should help his wife get settled. Anne appreciated that she did not need to wait too long for the men’s conversation to end as she was anxious to spread their bedding, which was tightly rolled together at the end of the bed. Anne also wanted to put away some of their belongings in a way that would make them easy to reach under the bunk. She had watched the minister’s wife piling sets of clothing together in such a manner.

After their bed was made, John went to locate their trunks. The rocking of the boat was not as severe as up on deck. Of course, they were not on the open sea, yet. The ship hugged the coast south until it would leave England behind, dipping south as it started its journey across the Atlantic. Anne began to organize the clothing in the first crate under the bed trying to keep her nerves at bay.

Down the one side of this first box were Anne’s underwear; stockings and chemises. She would leave them right where they were; embarrassed to expose them under their bunk. On the other side were John’s shirts, two cotton day dresses, a heavier wool dress, and two pairs of John’s trousers at the bottom. They had decided to keep their clothing for the trip separate from those clothes they thought they might wear upon landing in the city of Philadelphia. Those clothes were packed in one of the two trunks now stored in the dark recess at the back of the ship. This first crate held all the clothes they would wear for the next several weeks. Anne did not complain as there had been a time when she owned less than this box held.

She separated her husband’s pants and shirts, alternating them for as many day’s use as would be possible. Depending on their life on the ship, Anne knew they would not be able to wear freshly cleaned clothes each day. If rain water became scant, washing their clothes with sea water would be another challenge Anne could foresee. Bathing, shaving, and washing hair were no doubt going to become luxuries rather than the norm as part of their new life on this voyage. Anne could adjust, she felt, but she worried about her husband and his ability to do without.

As the bell rang to note another half hour into the forenoon watch, Anne heard a giggle from the opposite corner of their low ceiled area. It was Becky’s giggle, she knew. Had the maid seen her? Anne knew that in the next day, she would come face to face with Becky. She could not worry herself about seeing her now as she made her way to the privy in the dark corner of the stern.

She had prepared herself for this part of the journey, and though they were just beginning, nothing could prepare her for the cramped feeling of the privy and the knowledge that all of them would be using this same facility. She loathed closing the door on the small compartment, but privacy necessitated doing so. She had not brought a lantern, preferring to approach the room anonymously. She sat down carefully. The smell was not unexpected, but the sloshing and mist that hung in the hole where she sat made the use of the room difficult at first. She had failed to bring a rag of any sort and was forced to sit in the dark a little longer. She escaped the room back into the bunk room. They had thought of bringing a chamber pot though there was little privacy in which to use one.

Meals would be served on a large table at the bottom of the ladder to the deck. The passengers had a stove to use above deck for hot water as well as some supplies; tea, coffee, molasses, dishes and utensils. Food choices would be meager, but the Parkers had brought along goods to supplement the fare. They had been warned to protect their food stuffs as the rodents would chew through most any manner of packaging. The other problem would be insects. Bugs would eventually hatch from the grains and crackers. The cook onboard would do his best to keep bugs out of their food; the shipping agent explained when he had spoken to the couple as they reserved their spots. Fleas could also be a problem, and for that Anne had brought a large bag of lavender to sprinkle on the floor and in their bedding. Their clothes would also repel the insects to some extent as she had packed the trunks with sachets of the herb.

The ship’s carpenters had constructed bunks for this voyage. This sleeping area would be dismantled once the passengers disembarked, unless of course, there were passengers looking to be transported to ports south or the Caribbean where they were headed next. The boat would carry only goods when the crew made their way east again across the Atlantic and every bit of space accounted for money to be made. Their bedroom would be stacked with goods at that time.

Upon exiting the small room with a hole in the seat and nothing more, Anne reminded herself that she was not any better than the rest and should not consider herself to be so. She could dot rose water on her sleeve for her next visit. She might have one or two of her monthlies while on board. She would need to make use of the facility then. They had been informed that all rubbish was to be thrown overboard. She shuddered and quickly straightened her dress.

Anne closed the door to the privy, the light from a lantern hanging there reached back into the space beyond. Two yellow-green eyes shone back at her. She was startled as she wondered if it might be a rat, but she realized they were set far too wide to be a rat unless of course the rat was of an unusually enormous size. As the eyes turned and she could make out the shape, she realized the animal was a cat. Undoubtedly they kept cats on board to control the rodent population. She had been warned that rats would be joining them for their ocean journey.

She watched the cat slink along the wall and then disappear under a sheet of canvas that stretched across several items stored in the far reaches of the stern. Perhaps the smell of cat urine was in the mix of scents that met her in this part of the ship, but it was certainly not the worst. She remembered Miss Moser’s cat, Edward, and the portrait she had painted of him. His life was so far removed from the life of this feline, there was little to compare except that they were both cats with four legs and whiskers.

Anne helped John hang canvas along two sides of their bunk. This and the fortunate location of their corner bunk gave them a small room of their own. No one would pass their bed on the way to anywhere else in the boat. The privy was in the opposite corner, but far enough away to not be a path of travel by other passengers, but easy access for them.

John delayed his visit and was told that men did relieve themselves from the stern of the boat, but Anne was not sure this option made any difference to her husband. She knew him to be a private and modest man. She had yet to see much of his body, certainly not completely nude.

Anne sat on her newly made bed, still wearing her coat and bonnet, not quite ready to accept the home they would inhabit for the next few weeks. Her husband sat next to her and took her hand. “We will face this together,” was all he said.

Chapter 3

Their first night aboard ship was long and though not sleepless, Anne was awakened by John’s tossing and turning throughout the night. He complained of the hardness of the bed almost at once. Anne had offered to add another quilt under them, but John dismissed it as little help. He simply missed his bed and he “would adjust”, he told her. Anne felt she might have slipped into a deep sleep if it had not been for her husband’s movements. The excitement of the day and her concern about Becky and their past together had worn on her nerves. Only once did she wake up and wonder where she was. Mostly the night gave her short dreams and stiff bones.

In the morning, everyone was slow to rise. Breakfast was served only for a short period of time, but coffee and tea were available for the entire morning. The cook had made some sort of porridge which the sailors felt was a special treat. Anne ate a bowl with some molasses, but John held back on the ‘sticky soup” of thin gruel as he defended his choice to Anne saying they had plenty of dried fruit, cheese, and bread from their own stores. Anne agreed while aware that some of their supplies would only last a few weeks and not the entire voyage. Eventually her husband would be forced to eat what was made available to them.

The day was temperate and the wind steady from one direction which made for long lines of sailing, “tacks”, in one direction, south, as they made their way away from the last of the islands and into a landless stretch of sea. Anne and John visited their fellow passengers up on the deck. They strolled around the small area and sat in the shadow of the sails as the captain directed the ship to keep the wind pulling it along the ocean’s surface. It was quite pleasant, and Anne felt at ease until she saw Becky walking with her siblings on ship’s topside, laughing too loudly and making no effort to meet any of the other people with whom they made the journey.

Becky’s brother was tall and lanky. He looked as if he could use a good meal. Anne tried not to stare at him, but she was curious about his relationship with his sister. He walked a few paces back, if that told Anne anything. Becky’s sister was fair; light brown hair, hazel eyes, pale complexion. She was also exceptionally thin. Her wrists stuck out past the arms of her coat. They were so thin that the bones showed as knobby protrusions. Anne wondered if she could lift any kind of a load. The girl was probably a year or two younger, but she looked more worn. Her face was long and her cheeks sunken. Even across the deck, Anne could see that her eyes were circled with light purple underneath. Had she been in a better situation, Anne thought she might have been very pretty. As the three came around the corner to where Anne sat with John, Becky pranced by without looking their way. The boy looked at them only briefly, moving his gaze to the series of ropes that ran just over their heads. The sister met Anne’s glance. Anne smiled and the girl gave a shy smile, noting that Becky was enough ahead not to see her meet Anne’s gaze. It was a relief their first encounter had occurred without a disturbance. Anne hoped their shipboard meetings would continue in this fashion.

The sailors came and went as the bells announced the passing of time in half hour increments. There seemed to be two separate groups of men who came on or off work every four hours. The group she first noticed on the afternoon of their departure was led by the tall blond man named “Sven”, but was referred to as “The Viking”. A sailor named Jarvis was in charge of the other group or “watch” of men. He had a thick accent Anne knew to be Scottish, though no one called him “The Scotsman”. The other sailors moved quickly by, and she made no eye contact with any of them so they remained anonymous. They never stood by for a conversation. Mr. Perry made numerous inquiries about the stations of the ropes and the direction of the wind. He carried a notebook with him and took pages and pages of notes. Anne saw him make several sketches. Mr. Jarvis had been very kind about answering his various questions while working.

When Mr. Perry’s notebook was closed, he sat with a length of rope to practice several of the knots he had seen the boatmen using. Anne thought his interest noble and felt she, too, might sketch some views of their new life, but as of yet had not been inclined to do so. Many days lay ahead, and entertainment of that sort would become more important as the newness wore off.

Captain Enman also made his rounds of the decks. He was constantly examining the sails, ropes, and the sky ahead. Anne was relieved that no angry looks came from the man during these first days at sea. Perhaps she had been mistaken about his expression or was too sensitive. At any rate, with the first meeting with Becky and no negative reactions from the crew, Anne was beginning to believe this journey would be a wonderful start to her life with her husband.

On the second day, when porridge was not served and a hard dry bread and molasses were the only offerings for breakfast, Anne worried for John’s mental state. He complained that there was so little choice of fare. He said he might offer to share some of their cheese or dried apples with the others. Anne did not disagree with his benevolence, but reminded him they were only two days into the trip that could take as long as ten weeks. Perhaps, by being frugal, such offerings might be relished even more at a later date on the journey. Compared to other passengers, the Parkers were well off. They had prepared well for the journey and as they had enough money to provide for food and lodging when they arrived, they did not face the journey with fear as some immigrants might. Still, the trip could last longer than average and they had prepared for a very much longer trip than the expected seven weeks.

When lunch was much the same as breakfast, her husband understood that he should be careful with the use of their stores. By dinner, which was served early, John was hungry. He had remarked to Anne, “I look forward to our dinner as it will certainly include meat and perhaps a portion of beans.” He was correct in his guess at the contents of their dinner, and other than a spoon of rice, that was the entirety of their meal. When Anne came to lie next to him in the bunk that night, he complained immediately.

“It is shameful that our portions are so small. I fear I will arrive in American so starving it will take months before I will be able to exert myself at all.”

“Calm yourself.” Anne said, as she rubbed his back and shoulders. “We were aware this would be a challenge. The amount of food may be scant, but it will surely be enough as we are idle most of the day. We have no reason to eat so much as if we were the ones running up the ropes into the sails. Let us hope it is the sailors who have enough to eat.”

By the end of the third day, Anne had established a bit of a routine. Taking care of John took up much of her time. Though she urged him to join her above deck, he seldom stayed there for long. He said the sway of the ship and the bobbing of the horizon made him feel ill. He preferred to stay below, lying on their bunk and reading. She felt the queasiness of seasickness when she tried to read. She felt better in the open away from the overused air of the lower level. She found several places to sit where she was not in the way and able to avoid most of the spray of the waves that had become larger as the weather seemed to be changing. Rougher seas and a duller sky were clues to an impending storm.

Though the sailors would be careful in the higher winds, they profited from their increase by using them to their best advantage. The other benefit to a storm was the collection of fresh water. Rain barrels were set at key locations where they would catch the best runoff from the sails, trestle trees, and the corners of the upper decks. The supply of water they had been offered so far was already brackish and without the addition of coffee or strong teas, undrinkable even to Anne. She had found their dried mint in the chest of medicines and brought it out for their afternoon tea. Black tea did not hide the flavor of the water as well as the mint was able to. Still, John complained of the taste, adding his full portion of molasses to just one cup. Anne forfeited her portion of sweetener to him in an effort to keep liquids going in. He had vomited for one afternoon already, but he seemed to be resting easy now.

Chapter 4

Anne stood facing the open sea. The mist from the waves wetted the curls that escaped the hood of her cape. The wind slapped them across her face, where they stuck as if glued. She flicked the hair away from her eyes and tasted the salty moisture at the edges of her cheeks with her tongue. She loved standing at the rail, holding on as the ship glided through the waves, cutting the white foam from their pyramid tops.

Her husband stayed below deck. They were five days on the open seas and a week into their journey with no further sight of land. They had left the southernmost tip of England, the Lizard, the men called it, days ago. Now with the full force of the sea, John had become ill. What started with symptoms of nausea and dizziness had progressed to painful cramping. Her husband preferred the dark belly of the ship with their room of canvas walls and the one little window that let in a small breeze of fresh air. For Anne, below decks was torture. She wished to watch the sea and prepare for the next wave’s rise and fall. She did not like to stay below, but her husband longed for her company, so she would return soon.

“She blows from the South, Ma’am. You best get below deck.” It was the large Norwegian sailor who spoke. The name, “Viking”, was fitting as he was tall and muscular with straw colored hair and arms the size of Anne’s thighs. It was his smile that drew Anne in. He reminded her of the dairyman’s son she had known at Paddington, but this was a grown man, and Peter had been but a boy.

“Yes, the waves grow larger and I can see a dark band approaches.”

The Norwegian sailor looked off to the navy blue band of a storm front approaching. Anne shivered as the clouds covered the sun, and the cold wind came with stronger and stronger gusts. Right before her eyes she saw the clouds come down closer to the surface of the water with their ominous threat.

“We may be in for a rough night. Already, your husband does not fare well,” he said.

Anne did not need to be reminded of her husband’s condition, and surprised this busy sailor knew of his condition. She hoped John had recovered after the first afternoon of vomiting when she believed it was seasickness. Her fellow passengers agreed he would mend. For the last day, however, he had not been able to eat. He had sent Anne to their trunks with a list of medicines.

“The bael, get the bael, and some fenugreek to cool this stomach of mine, ginger, dill, and coriander seed. I must drink the bael three times a day. Add some honey; it is bitter.” It had exhausted him to speak. He laid back with a grimace and moan, drawing his legs up into his stomach. Digging through their trunk she finally found the medicines he spoke of. She had helped John harvest the fruits of the bael from a hothouse of a friend. They looked much like lemons, but the wood apples were much harder and as astringent as a quince. Perhaps it would jell the liquids of the stomach as it did the juice of fruit when making jam, the one use she knew of for quince fruits. They had ground the fruit and dried it into a powder from which to make a lemonade-like drink. Her husband had mentioned dysentery at that point. Was that what had taken him ill? Did the water they had been drinking make him sick? Why were none of the others ill?

Anne had insisted he drink the bael mix three times a day though he was reluctant and pushed her hand away. She reminded him he had instructed her to do so. Even this was rejected by his churning stomach. She left him curled in a small ball, the muscles of his stomach short and tight. In the early morning, she had given him a strong tea of ginger, valerian, and lemon balm, hoping it would let him sleep. He had retched most of the night, vomiting what was no longer there. She had left him sleeping, but now, a bell had wrung once and would soon ring again to announce the hour of the morning and time for her to return below.

“Yes, He has not fared well on the seas so far, but he should take a turn for the better soon. We have many herbs to quiet his stomach.” She said this with an assurance she heard with her ears, but did not feel in her heart. She would not consider the alternative, not yet.

“Sailors treat the sickness with a taste of the ocean itself,” the Norwegian said.

“How is that?” Anne asked as she gathered her cloak around her to make her way back below deck.

“They drink sea water.” With that he turned his attention to the knot in his hand. Anne could not imagine her husband being able to stomach sea water. She thought about the idea and how it might make sense, but it did not. Surely, a taste of the ocean’s water was not a cure for the sickness brought on by the movement of the sea even if it was given credence by seamen.

As Anne finished her thoughts and turned to leave, she came face to face with the captain.

“Get below deck, Mrs. Parker. This is no place to be in such a gale. Do not disturb my men, there will be much to execute with the arrival of the storm, and I do not need you to distract them.”

Anne heard his haughty tone of voice. It was unsettling that he delighted in making her uncomfortable. She returned to the ladder as she looked out to the horizon over an agitated sea one last time before descending into the darkness. The waves were forming triangles with white tops whipped up by wind. She felt the captain’s eyes upon her even though she did not turn to see him observing her departure.

Anne hurried down the steps and back to their corner. John was awake. Anne poured a cup of tea and came to sit beside him.

“Come lie down beside, me, Anne,” he said in a husky, dry voice. “I feel so much better when you are here.” Anne removed her dress and hung it from a peg at the end of the bunk.

Anne lifted the canvas side and crawled onto the bed as the two arranged their bodies together. John fell back asleep, curled into a fetal position against Anne. He was cold and clammy, almost shivering. Anne could feel the warmth of her skin neutralize the cold on his. She moved slightly to warm another place on his cold leg. He stirred but did not come awake. His breath was shallow and quick. Anne tried to control his pulse by breathing slowly in his ear. She imagined having the power to calm him and make him well.

The waves of the gale had begun to swing the ship from side to side. When steered into the waves, the ship slanted upward from front to rear and then on the back side of the wave it dove down into the sea. Anne knew she should not fight against this movement if she was to keep from feeling ill. With her arm around her husband, she allowed the rocking to shift their bodies together. Soon her fatigue let her fall into a deep sleep.

When Anne woke up some hours later, John was no longer cold. His cheeks were hot, his body flushed and his skin dry. His lips were parted, and she could hear how shallow his breathing had become. She could feel the pulse in his arm was quick. Fear swept over her as she recalled the night her father had succumbed to the congestion that filled his lungs. He had died in her arms after fighting a high fever for hours. Now, her husband ran a fever in the same way, but she suspected the heat to have come from not enough liquids. She had not been able to get John to drink since the early afternoon.

Fear of a fever had caused Anne to prepare a tea for her husband that morning. She had made one for his stomach and sleeping, and one for fever just in case. She was heart sick at the reality of the battle she was losing. Anne slipped from under the covers. The wind that blew above deck chilled the air below. She took a clean rag from atop the teapot and let it soak in the liquid. Sitting on the edge of the bunk, she nudged her husband, trying to bring him awake. He began to murmur and then louder, loud enough to wake others, “No, don’t let her die! No!”

Anne patted his hand and spoke to him softly. She feared he had awakened fellow passengers. “John, John, I am here. Wake, my sweet,” He still murmured, but there was no more shouting. “John, you need to drink this tea. I will let it drip into your mouth, but you must swallow. Please.” Anne positioned her body behind him and propped his head up on the edge of her leg.

She took the dripping rag and lowered it to his lips. She had seen her mother use this technique when patients were in a state beyond sipping, but still able to swallow. As she allowed the liquid to flow between his lips, she could tell his tongue was swollen. She saw his eyes fluttered as the liquid continued to descend down the rag into his mouth.

She was encouraged, but then he gurgled and sputtered, allowing the tea to escape from the side of his mouth. She could hear he was choking, unable to struggle for air. Anne propped him up further, but he was unresponsive. Anne swabbed his brow with the tea to cool it. She removed his shirt and opened the blanket to cool him. When he began to shake, she covered him back up. Laying him back down, she climbed into the bunk with him. Tears slowly traveled down her cheeks as she feared she would lose this battle by morning.

There was no doctor, no better help than she to save her husband. The cook, the closest thing the ship had to a physician, had come once to see her, but he said she was doing all the same things that he knew to do. He insisted her husband would be well when his body accustomed to the movement, still believing he suffered from seasickness. He offered a tincture from his cabinet, but Anne declined. Anne knew it was graver than his assessment. She had done what she knew to do. She could only pray for a change. And so she did.

Her most recent prayers had been for a safe crossing for them all. She had not thought to single out her husband as the one who needed the prayer. Now she feared it might be too late to change her request, but she humbly asked for God to let her husband live.

Despite all the precautions John Parker had packed in the trunks, by morning his breathing gurgled to a stop. Anne wondered how would she ever make this trip alone. What would she do at the other side of this ocean? So many considerations his death now required her to make. Yet, her thoughts blurred like her vision filled with tears. She had worried about the crossing, but never, ever imagined he would die and she would live. She had only considered a storm that would take down the ship and all the passengers and sailors as well.

Reverend Grier gave a blessing to her husband and went off to find the first mate. Anne sat with his wife who held her while quietly reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm.

“… my cup runneth over…,” Mrs. Grier whispered.

Most of the passengers ate their meal on deck that morning while the sailors dealt with her husband’s body. Anne felt tied to her bed, weighted by the unknown. She sat there numb while she was tended to by Mrs. Grier and Mrs. Perry. They took turns sitting with her, reading the Bible, and talking about anything they could to get Anne to respond. It was all fuzzy to Anne. She was only half there; the body half, not the soul half.

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