The rain increased through the night, drumming insistently on the slate roof above our heads. I would normally have found the sound soothing and soporific; under the circumstances, the low thrum seemed threatening, not peaceful.
Despite Jared’s substantial dinner and the excellent wines that accompanied it, I found myself unable to sleep, my mind summoning images of rain-soaked canvas and the swell of heavy seas. At least my morbid imaginings were keeping only myself awake; Jamie had not come up with me but had stayed to talk with Jared about the arrangements for the upcoming voyage.
Jared was willing to risk a ship and a captain to help in the search. In return, Jamie would sail as supercargo.
“As what?” I had said, hearing this proposal.
“The supercargo,” Jared had explained patiently. “That’s the man whose duty it is to oversee the loading, the unloading, and the sale and disposition of the cargo. The captain and the crew merely sail the ship; someone’s got to look after the contents. In a case where the welfare of the cargo will be affected, the supercargo’s orders may override even the captain’s authority.”
And so it was arranged. While Jared was more than willing to go to some risk in order to help a kinsman, he saw no reason not to profit from the arrangement. He had therefore made quick provision for a miscellaneous cargo to be loaded from Bilbao and Le Havre; we would sail to Jamaica to upload the bulk of it, and would arrange for the reloading of the Artemis with rum produced by the sugarcane plantation of Fraser et Cie on Jamaica, for the return trip.
The Artemis was a tidy ship, as ships go, but when you cram thirty-two men—and two women—into a space eighty feet long and twenty-five wide, together with six tons of rough-cured hides, forty-two barrels of sulfur, and enough sheets of copper and tin to sheathe the Queen Mary, basic hygiene is bound to suffer.
By the second day, I had already flushed a rat—a small rat, as Fergus pointed out, but still a rat—in the hold where I went to retrieve my large medicine box, packed away there by mistake during the loading. There was a soft shuffling noise in my cabin at night, which when the lantern was lit proved to be the footsteps of several dozen middling-size cockroaches, all fleeing frantically for the shelter of the shadows.
The heads, two small quarter-galleries on either side of the ship toward the bow, were nothing more than a pair of boards—with a strategic slot between them—suspended over the bounding waves eight feet below, so that the user was likely to get an unexpected dash of cold seawater at some highly inopportune moment. I suspected that this, coupled with a diet of salt pork and hardtack, likely caused constipation to be epidemic among seamen.
Mr. Warren, the ship’s master, proudly informed me that the decks were swabbed regularly every morning, the brass polished, and everything generally made shipshape, which seemed a desirable state of affairs, given that we were in fact aboard a ship. Still, all the holystoning in the world could not disguise the fact that thirty-four human beings occupied this limited space, and only one of us bathed.
Given such circumstances, I was more than startled when I opened the door of the galley on the second morning, in search of boiling water.
I had expected the same dim and grubby conditions that obtained in the cabins and holds, and was dazzled by the glitter of sunlight through the overhead lattice on a rank of copper pans, so scrubbed that the metal of their bottoms shone pink. I blinked against the dazzle, my eyes adjusting, and saw that the walls of the galley were solid with built-in racks and cupboards, so constructed as to be proof against the roughest seas.
Blue and green glass bottles of spice, each tenderly jacketed in felt against injury, vibrated softly in their rack above the pots. Knives, cleavers, and skewers gleamed in deadly array, in a quantity sufficient to deal with a whale carcass, should one present itself. A rimmed double shelf hung from the bulkhead, thick with bulb glasses and shallow plates, on which a quantity of fresh-cut turnip tops were set to sprout for greens. An enormous pot bubbled softly over the stove, emitting a fragrant steam. And in the midst of all this spotless splendor stood the cook, surveying me with baleful eye.
“Out,” he said.
“Good morning,” I said, as cordially as possible. “My name is Claire Fraser.”
“Out,” he repeated, in the same graveled tones.
“I am Mrs. Fraser, the wife of the supercargo, and ship’s surgeon for this voyage,” I said, giving him eyeball for eyeball. “I require six gallons of boiling water, when convenient, for cleaning of the head.”
His small, bright blue eyes grew somewhat smaller and brighter, the black pupils of them training on me like gunbarrels.
“I am Aloysius O’Shaughnessy Murphy,” he said. “Ship’s cook. And I require ye to take yer feet off my fresh-washed deck. I do not allow women in my galley.” He glowered at me under the edge of the black cotton kerchief that swathed his head. He was several inches shorter than I, but made up for it by measuring about three feet more in circumference, with a wrestler’s shoulders and a head like a cannonball, set upon them without apparent benefit of an intervening neck. A wooden leg completed the ensemble.
I took one step back, with dignity, and spoke to him from the relative safety of the passageway.
“In that case,” I said, “you may send up the hot water by the messboy.”
“I may,” he agreed. “And then again, I may not.” He turned his broad back on me in dismissal, busying himself with a chopping block, a cleaver, and a joint of mutton.
I stood in the passageway for a moment, thinking. The thud of the cleaver sounded regularly against the wood. Mr. Murphy reached up to his spice rack, grasped a bottle without looking, and sprinkled a good quantity of the contents over the diced meat. The dusty scent of sage filled the air, superseded at once by the pungency of an onion, whacked in two with a casual swipe of the cleaver and tossed into the mixture.
Evidently the crew of the Artemis did not subsist entirely upon salt pork and hardtack, then. I began to understand the reasons for Captain Raines’s rather pear-shaped physique. I poked my head back through the door, taking care to stand outside.
“Cardamom,” I said firmly. “Nutmeg, whole. Dried this year. Fresh extract of anise. Ginger root, two large ones, with no blemishes.” I paused. Mr. Murphy had stopped chopping, cleaver poised motionless above the block.
“And,” I added, “half a dozen whole vanilla beans. From Ceylon.”
He turned slowly, wiping his hands upon his leather apron. Unlike his surroundings, neither the apron nor his other apparel was spotless.
He had a broad, florid face, edged with stiff sandy whiskers like a scrubbing brush, which quivered slightly as he looked at me, like the antennae of some large insect. His tongue darted out to lick pursed lips.
“Saffron?” he asked hoarsely.
“Half an ounce,” I said promptly, taking care to conceal any trace of triumph in my manner.
He breathed in deeply, lust gleaming bright in his small blue eyes.
“Ye’ll find a mat just outside, ma’am, should ye care to wipe yer boots and come in.”
I was just rereading voyager and I can’t help wondering what John Grey’s reaction would have been to meeting Faith along with realising Claire is Jamie's presumably dead wife or even what John would have thought at meeting Faith for the first time.
So I wasn’t looking to write any more Faith prompts until I was further along in my Faith Restored fic - I don’t want things to overlap with plot points or scenes I’m planning for that one. But this prompt is just too good.
This ficlet contains allusions to events/information that appear in Voyager (including small excerpts of dialogue)and could therefore be considered vaguely spoilery.
Christoph Schwarz took the opportunity to come on a container vessel to a residency programme in Shanghai. As a ship steward on the “MS Confidence” – operating in a “semi-automatic routine” – he was the only person on board for the longest parts of the voyage. To overcome isolation and boredom he began to document his trip on video.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS LIKED AND/OR REBLOGGED MY WORK.
You all give me LIFE and MOTIVATION to keep taking my word-vomit and editing it into a semi-coherent form.
This is Chapter 2 of my 3-part series around the prompt for more about the photographs of Brianna. Please go HERE for Chapter 1 of this series.
(I might be able to put together a chapter 1B if anyone wanted a more direct continuation of Chapter 1 - just message, reply, ask, etc.)
As I mentioned in part 1, I’ll be making artwork to go with each of these and reposting it all together.
Anyone have suggestions as to good places to put these more permanently? Perhaps Archive of our Own Or AO3 (not familiar with either- or are they the same thing)?
Spoilers for Voyager.
The following takes place within Voyager after Jamie, Claire, Fergus and Marsali are all aboard The Artemis.
Too Little, Too Late - Chapter 2
The Artemis - Day 10 of the voyage
Feeling appropriately frustrated, Claire found her errant Supercargo on deck in the shadow of the mainmast, looking down at his left palm as if it held the secrets of the universe.
“Jamie, there’s a Mister McFinney that is looking for you. I can barely understand his Irish Gaelic, but I think he might be looking for a barrel of squid?”
“Aye. He likely means the squid INK I keep in the Captain’s quarters. McAllen is helping me with inventory.”
Claire sidled up to her raggedy husband, hoping to see what was in his hand. He had seemed distracted earlier when giving out orders for the day to the crew and she was determined to stick her nose in and find out why. He put his hand back in his pocket before she could see what had his focus.
Neither of them had fully bathed in quite a while, and with all the work with rope, tackle and steering, not to mention writing, she was convinced that Jamie had at least a few blisters on his hands that he was trying to hide from her, possibly burst and infected ones. That simply wouldn’t do.
“What have you got there?”, she said as she snatched at his hand. She missed it and grabbed him by the wrist and dragged it forcibly out of his pocket with a glare at him.
Instead of finding a furtive open wound however, Claire suppressed a smile at seeing one of Brianna’s photographs in Jamie’s hand, curled up there like a student’s cheat sheet. It was the one of her by the fire, with the wind fanning her hair out echoing the flames she looked upon, the colors vivid on the paper in his palm. She leaned in to his ear and whispered, “Is there any particular reason you’ve got that out and about on deck where anyone could see it?”
“Oh, aye. I was thinking about where on earth I might be able to find a priest once we get to land. The last thing I want is to have to keep those two separate for months when it’s just the four of us again.” She followed Jamie’s gaze towards the starboard side to see Marsali and Fergus side by side, looking out at the rising and falling horizon, hands clasped on the railing.
“Enforcing separate berthing is simple enough with doors and witnesses on board. But once we hit the islands and jungles… Well, I dinna expect you’d want to continue that arrangement for too much longer, Sassenach,” he said with a sly grin.
“It seems strange to have my foster son wishing to marry my… stepdaughter. I intend to walk her down the aisle, as I should, but it got me to thinking. What about Brianna?” He looked down at Claire with a squint against the sun and yet behind the squint was a deeper sadness she hadn’t expected to see on his face in this context.
She paused for a second, unsure of where he was going with this. “What do you mean? What about Brianna?”
“Well… I’m here.”
“And she’s… out there,” he gestured at the open sea beyond the deck. “You said she’ll decide on her own when and even IF she marries,” he said with a chuckle. “But I canna be there to walk her down the aisle.”
Claire realized with a shock that the same applied to her as well. Unless some catastrophe occurred, to which she made a hasty sign of the cross in her mind, she would remain in the past with Jamie. Where she belonged. But she would never see her daughter marry and the fact that she hadn’t even thought of that before leaving the 1960s suddenly infuriated her.
Too bloody little, too bloody late, Beauchamp.
“And so, I’ve been carrying that fool picture with me all day trying to… to see her. As she would be on her wedding day. To paint on the years that I dinna get to be there for.”
Claire cleared her throat to sweep away the lump and the angry tears that threatened to begin. She could cry in private later, but the ache for her daughter flowed through her veins.
“Well, if it’s purely a visual you’re looking for, I might be able to help with that. You see, in…,” she did some quick calculations, “…eighty years or so, it became very fashionable, and not too much later it was actually expected that the bride wear specifically a white dress for her wedding.”
“White? All white?”
“Well that’s hardly very practical,” he scoffed.
“Yes, and a veil to cover her face, too, but usually made of a thin tulle so you can see through it. The white of the dress was to symbolize innocence and purity… and virginity.”
Jamie grinned at this and bent to whisper in her ear.
“So it should ha’ been me wearing all white on our wedding day, eh Sassenach?”
Claire had to clap her hand over her mouth to stifle a guffaw at the mental image of her proud Highland warrior husband with a fistful of daisies, wearing a white, lacy, shift dress, which had been the latest fashion when she left Boston in 1968.
After taking a moment to get herself under control, she whispered back between fits of giggles, “Oh, no one cared whether the MEN were virgins or not.” She stopped to take a deeper breath to calm her clenched diaphragm. “Not that they do now, either, come to that.”
Jamie continued to squint down at his wife, unsure of what exactly she thought was so funny about a man leaving himself unsullied for his bride. After all, Claire certainly didn’t seem amused at the prospect when they wed years earlier.
“So… a white dress.”
“Yes,” she said, taking a final deep breath in and out.
“And a veil.”
“Thank you, Mo Ghraid.”
He bent to kiss her quickly before tucking the photo back in his coat pocket, then headed towards the bridge to intercept Mister McAllen and his search for squid.