THE SOUL OF SHIPS
by Jas. Hook
email Jas via the Academy and
it will be forwarded
It rained again last night. Great torrents of water flowed from the gutters on my roof, mixing with the mud of the street below. The shutters shook from the wind as the storm passed through this port town.
I watched it from my wheelchair in the living room in front of the great bay windows. From there I can see all of the docks in Bristol, even the ships as they gather near the quay. I can watch the waves far out on the horizon, and see the clouds and lightning as the storm gathers over the city. I can watch for ships from the far east, from America, and from all over Europe. I can also watch for him.
As I watched the storm last night, I thought I could see a figure in the mist. Someone who couldn't feel the cold. Someone who didn't see the rain. Someone who I could see only in the midst of the lightning. Perhaps I was dreaming. But I don't think so. I think he's come back. I knew he would. He used to always come with the storms.
Matthew Lockhart, by which name I am known, is an old man now. His body is 79 years old. My spirit has grown tired in this body, using up a life that was not mine, should not have been mine. This vessel I once fought for I will now gladly leave when the opportunity presents itself. The fight begun so many years ago will draw soon to a close. Each morning it is more difficult to stir these limbs. Each cough or gasp disturbs the dust gathered on these covers, and prolongs the life that is now a daily agony. One day I shall simply stop gasping, and the dust that covers these limbs shall become six feet thick.
My true name is Lawrence Amberly. It is a name dead to me and to the world. Lawrence Amberly died at sea in a storm during the fall of 1819, some 55 years ago. What no one knows is...I survived.
I know the end will be soon. The rain is falling again, the clouds of electricity are gathering on the horizon, and my hand falters as I write. He is near. I can feel him. He knows I wish for freedom, and when I gain the end he shall begin his torment of my tired soul. All that remains to me is the confession of my crime. The gods will not be merciful to me. Perhaps another man, with his lust for his own life still deeply felt, will not judge me harshly.
As Lawrence Amberly I grew up in an Irish port city, with the blood of the ocean in my veins. My father was lost at sea when I was just five, and my mother dared not take me to watch the ships after that. She was a superstitious woman, and believed my father's spirit would rise from the waves and enter me, tempting me to my doom in the depths of Neptune's realm. But try as she might the ocean took hold of me, and I would spend hours on the piers, underfoot of the sailors, in awe of their rough language, raucous laughter, and strange talk of foreign lands. Finally when I had passed my twelfth winter my mother gave me my freedom, and her permission to sign on board a brig as a cabin boy.
My experience in the galley, serving meals to crew and officers, helped me learn the routine of the ship quickly. I knew what time breakfast was to be served, as did the other boys, but by listening to conversations among the men, I learned why it had to be served then. I learned quicker than any the names of the sails on a brig, the differences from a clipper, the workings of the sails, the constellations and how to steer by them. I learned the use of the glass and the astrolabe. In storms it was always one of my cabin mates that was sent scurrying with messages, while I was kept by the wheel for the navigator's use. By making myself useful to the officers, I was incurring the wrath of my bunk mates. A wrath that remained impotent when the captain gave word that I was now his personal cabin boy, and any bodily harm to my person would be repaid to the responsible party. In other words, they'd be tied to the mast and lashed.
By working hard, and following orders, I was able to pull myself up from cabin boy, and by the time I was 23 I was the boh s'n. I relayed orders from the captain to the crew, and often took the wheel in the evening when eight bells was sounded. No one but the navigator, the first mate, and the captain knew more about the ship and the sea than I did. I was always willing to listen to some older seaman spin yarns. Often I would discover at least a partial truth to his tales, and would learn something from him. Using this, and my natural seamanship, I ingratiated myself with the captain and crew. When my commander, Captain Stephen Hallihan, was hired to command the cargo clipper "Fairhaven" he insisted that the first mate and myself be hired with him. The owners, L & B Merchandising and Shipping, agreed.
"L & B" stood for Lockhart and Browning. Robert Lockhart ran the merchandising division, and Milo Browning ran the shipping. They began the company in 1801 in Bristol. By 1817 when the "Fairhaven" was built, the company had expanded to London. Lockhart now lived and worked in the landlocked city of royalty while Browning, an avid fisherman, lived in Bristol and ran affairs for that office.
The two of them were very different men. I believe that if Lockhart had been running the Bristol office, Captain Hallihan would not have signed on. But Browning was an affable man with a jolly smile and sense of humor. Often he would go with us to pick up cargo, even traveling with us as far away as the South American coast. On these trips, he and the crew would keep up a steady but harmless game of practical jokes. One had to be very careful when walking out of one's cabin due to the possibility of buckets of water crashing down on one. I was always prone to be a target and usually fell for the shower as I emerged from my quarters.
I never really had the chance to speak privately to Mr. Browning until the trip to South America. We dropped anchor just off the reef near the island of Haiti, and he invited me to go ashore with him. All of the other officers had gone ashore with him on previous voyages to help with all sorts of errands, and then had been treated to dinner at the best restaurant in the city. I expected nothing less, and accepted with anticipation.
The place we went could not exactly be called a restaurant, but the dining was exquisite. They served nothing but native dishes, and native drink. Exotic fruits dipped in whiskey and then lit on fire were served as appetizers. Breaded sweet meats dipped in wine, and a rich meaty broth become our second course. We were given heavy rich wine with a heady aroma to drink, and well before the main course was served, we were both listening to the pleasant buzz in our heads.
The evening's main course, as well as we could make out, was a roast of some kind. Both Mr. Browning and myself were amazed at the sweetness and tenderness of the meat. It was served rare, in a blood red sauce that had some slight smell of familiarity about it. There was no alcohol in that sauce, but since then I have become convinced that there was some other substance which caused the hallucinations that night.
We were both drunk by the time
they brought out the dancing girls, Mr. Browning wildly so. The exaggerated
gyrations of the brown-skinned hips made both of us rather excited, and being
men, it didn't take us long to show some reaction. I noticed Mr. Browning covering
himself with one hand while reaching for the leg of one of the dancers. I simply
sat there, in drunken bliss, with my knees up at my chin, and my eyes on the
anatomy of the half-naked girl in front of
By the time the dance ended, Mr. Browning had fallen into a stupor with a smile on his open lips. I was not yet ready for sleep, and one of the girls led me away to a room, where she rubbed my back and chest while I listened to the waves of the ocean and the wind in the trees. I was nearly ready to close my eyes when she left the tent, and another woman entered.
I was not sober enough to feel any fear of her. She came close enough for me to see the pores of her skin. Her breath had a coppery odor to it, and her eyes glowed gold in the dim firelight. She stroked the side of my face, whispering words to me. The rational side that normally controlled me could only scream that she was going to kill me, that I would be dead by morning. The comfortably drunk side of me was unaware of any danger, was unafraid.
"You have a strong spirit," she said. "Your spirit shall not die. When the body leave, the spirit shall continue. No man stand in the way of strong spirit."
She leaned back and held up a knife. It winked at me in the firelight. She rubbed a stone against it, chanting some words. Then she looked at me, placing the stone and knife on my chest.
"Have you heard of Berekea?"
"Berekea is bloodstone. It keeps soul in body. Lose stone, lose soul."
"I don't understand."
"You will. I will make Berekea. You keep stone. Keep soul."
I think I passed out after that.
I awoke in the sunlight the next morning with a leather pouch handing around my neck. In it was the stone, covered in a red paint substance. I noticed there was a cut across the heel of my hand. I didn't want to think about it. Instead I left the stone in its pouch, and retied the thong.
I joined Mr. Browning for the short ride back to the ship. He was rather quiet, and red in the face. He asked me if he had acted inappropriately. I said no, the situation excluded that possibility.
He laughed, the color in his face beginning to return to normal. Then he became serious again. "I would only have taken you there. You seemed the type of man that might understand, though I'm sure I don't know why. The place is what the natives call a "karyaku," where you can do what you would not normally do. As you may know, I am not a drinking man. But here I may do what I wish. Even that which might be...inappropriate in Bristol." He looked at me as though asking if I understood. I nodded. He watched me a moment longer, then clapped me on the back, laughing good-naturedly.
"Quite a night, eh?"
From then on, my relationship with Milo Browning was always rather friendly. We never openly spoke of what had happened to each of us, but once in a while I would catch his eye, and we would smile in secret. I often wondered if he was really asleep when I was led from the room, and if he wasn't, what had occurred after I left. I never asked.
For my part, the stone in the pouch remained around my neck. Milo Browning knew, as no one else did, that it came from my night at the "karyaku." He never asked anything about it.
I do not mean to say that Mr. Browning and I ever openly acknowledged each other. After all, I was a sailor, and he was my employer. I never presumed on our friendship, nor did we ever see each other outside of work. When at work, we never spoke of things outside that. I was simply someone who shared a secret with him. That made me more than an employee, but less than a friend.
Milo Browning died on March 17,
1819. His funeral was held in grand style in Bristol, and then his body, followed
by throngs of people, was carried down to the docks, and placed on the "Fairhaven."
The ship, with its flag at half mast, pointed its nose into the Atlantic. As
soon as the city of Bristol was hidden from sight, there was a private service
among the crew for Mr. Browning. As the crew gave a resounding cannonade salute
to the departed owner, the coffin
containing his body was sent into the water. From my station on the fohk s'l I stood in a salute to the man, watching the waves carry the coffin down to its final resting place. I believe he was the only man I ever thought on with sincere love in my heart. I would miss him dearly.
After the passing of Mr. Browning, the question that occupied everyone's mind was who would be sent from London to take his place. There were many qualified people in the Bristol office of L & B Merchandising and Shipping who could have taken over his duties with ease, but the word on the gossip line said that Robert Lockhart wanted someone else to control the business, and that there would be no promotion. When the appointment finally reached Bristol, and the docks, many people in the firm resigned. There was talk among the crew of quitting, and many took their dunnage on shore when they got their paychecks. The first mate, myself, and the captain, had signed contracts for at least two more years, but I overheard the mate talking of breaking his contract. The captain, a solid man for the book, told him that if he tried, he would throw him in the brig, and the mate quickly thought differently of his decision.
The appointment had gone to a young man by the name of Matthew Lockhart. He was the son of Robert Lockhart, and was known to be a hard young man, arrogant and strong-headed. He was also rumored to be the kind of man that believed only in employer's rights, not employee's. I was told of an incident where a man took a day off to be with his wife when she gave birth. The next day, Matthew Lockhart asked him why he hadn't been at work. The man proudly explained that he was a new father, the child had been a boy, and he was the exact image of his father. Lockhart smiled at the man, congratulated him, gave him a cigar to celebrate, and then fired the man for not coming to work the day before. He had no sympathy in his bones, it was said.
Not that I cared. I was simply the boh s'n on the ship. Even if Lockhart came to Bristol, I doubted he would come on board the "Fairhaven" except to give her the once over. After that I suspected that I would do my job at my same rate of pay, and he would do his, and never the two shall meet. Unfortunately I was dead wrong.
Matthew Lockhart turned out to be everything everyone said he was: arrogant, loud- mouthed, inconsiderate, heartless, and spoiled. He was 25 years old, and had the high-handed emotions of a 13 year old. If something didn't happen the way he wanted it to, he would throw a tantrum, yelling wildly at the offending person, or even at someone who had no idea what they were being accosted about.
I met him when he boarded the ship for the compulsory inspection. He asked me a question, and I answered. He flew into a rage when he heard my Irish accent, and demanded to know what a damned Irishman was doing on his ship. I think if he could have managed it he would have lifted me bodily and thrown me to the waves, but he was prevented from doing so.
Lockhart asked Captain Hallihan how he could have allowed an Irishman to board the ship, how he could have deigned to hire someone of such a damned race. The captain shrugged and answered, "Mr. Browning told me he wanted the best, and Amberly's got the best sea head I've ever known. If he goes, I go, it's as simple as that."
Lockhart's answer was, "Then perhaps you should seek employment elsewhere if you honestly think an Irishman can do half the job of an Englishman."
"Then I'll take my pay for the next two voyages, sir, as that's what I've been contracted for. The mate and Mr. Amberly will likely do the same."
This threw the young man into quite a frenzy and his assistant decided the visit to the ship was over. He gently guided the man from the deck, letting him rant as they went. Lockhart shouted back to us that "the Irishmen will burn in hell, and all those that help them." The captain shrugged and ordered the deck cleared. Six bells was sounded, and the cook sung out that supper would be served in ten minutes. The raving lunatic was dismissed, and the routine continued.
The captain clapped me on the shoulder. "Aye, lad, the Irish in you's finally surfaced, if only to the madman of London. Pay 'im no mind. He'll not set foot on the ship again, like as not, and ye'll never have to hear his foul mouth. Now you see," he leaned in and gave me a wink, "what living so long in a landlocked city can do to people." I winked back.
Captain Hallihan was right. Matthew Lockhart, after that first inspection, did not deign to set foot upon the ship again. For the most part his visit was a nuisance soon forgotten. The crew, disliking any land-living person, ignored his accusations and I continued in my post.
It was only when going about the town that I began to feel uncomfortable. Anti-Irish sentiment was very high. Lockhart had passed the word that I was Irish and implied that I was a spy. The bigots, and fear-feeding scum jumped on what he said and I soon became the butt of jests, insults, and at times assaults.
Captain Hallihan and the mate began to handle all of my business on shore. Even when the ship was anchored in port I would remain on board, letting the waves ease my discomfort. While on ship I heard nothing from or about Matthew Lockhart.
I had learned early in my career
that the sea knew nothing of nationality. She took no more Irishmen to her depths
than she did Englishmen. She let no more Americans pass over her waves unharmed
than she did Frenchmen. It was all the same to her. In the months after Matthew
Lockhart began his campaign against me, I relearned these things and came to
appreciate them. I could take comfort in the roll of the ship, and the creak
of her timbers in the dark of my watch. Even the flutter of the topsails would
make me glad I was on the sea, where all men were of the same nation, with salt
water in their veins.
It was about four months later that the captain came back from the office rather somber. His countenance became even more solemn every time he glanced my way. Moments after he spoke to the mate, I saw the mate's face crumble and he glanced my way with sympathy. I began to tremble, thinking perhaps there was bad news from home. I waited, worrying, until the captain called me to his cabin later that day.
He sat behind his desk, frowning, his fingers tapping on a piece of foolscap on his desk. For a moment he remained like that while I stood at attention. Then he glanced at me, absentmindedly, and told me to sit.
"Amberly, what I have to tell you is not good news. I'm afraid you'll not be able to avoid the man longer."
"Have I been let go, sir?"
"No, lad, no. He wouldn't do that. Contract might cause a problem, even it's just a small one. No, I think this could be worse for you."
The captain sighed. "He's boarding the ship, lad."
"No. Our next trip to France. He'll be sailing with us. Him and his fiance."
I felt a shiver up my spine. "May I be excused from this trip, Captain?"
He shook his head. "Lockhart has ordered that every man that intends to work hereafter on the "Fairhaven" must accompany this ship. She'll have a full crew, and a full cargo."
"And two passengers."
We were silent. Then he said, "Lad, if you choose to leave her, I'll guarantee you a reference for a berth on any ship out of Bristol."
"Nay, captain, I'll stay," I said. "It's just one passage, there and back, and I'll wager he'll be too sick to try it again. Besides, my watch is at night, at eight bells, and he'll be needing his beauty rest."
Hallihan grinned. "Good enough. You've a fine hand. I'd hate to lose ya', Amberly."
"Thank you, captain. Permission to return to my duties?"
I saluted and left.
But there remained a knot at the pit of my stomach. Lockhart would come on board. He would make this next trip hell for me. I could almost feel his presence on board already, his eyes on my back. The knot turned ice cold.
He boarded an hour before we were to set sail. First, his three trunks were stowed away in his quarters, then his secretary came on board to see that everything was ready. His fiance's handmaid struggled up the gangplank with two more suitcases and a satchel. At exactly six bells Matthew Lockhart had himself piped aboard the "Fairhaven," his fiance on his arm.
The crew had been muttering about the amount of luggage they'd brought, and the fact that the secretary would be bunking with them, but seeing a woman set foot on their ship was quite a bit more for them to take. Any sailor over 30 frowned in superstition and made the forked sign of the evil eye. All the young men were gaping at her, their mouths open. One of them near me whispered, "To think as lovely a lass as she would agree to be seen with a lily-livered cuss as him..."
An older hand whispered, "Don't care what she looks like, 'tis bad luck to bring a woman aboard ship."
Both of them were hushed by a fierce look from the mate. The captain bowed to the lady and shook hands with Lockhart. Lockhart went to the officers of the ship, one at a time, and introduced them to his fiance. They looked entranced, he looked bored, and she looked wonderful.
She was tall, nearly as tall
as Lockhart, and full-bodied beneath her lace and ruffles. Her brown hair was
swept back and pinned beneath her white velvet hat, with curls slipping out
on the sides and front, touching her shoulders in back. The blue quill-feather
on the side of her hat matched her eyes. She had dark eyebrows, high cheekbones,
and lips as red and as full as Cupid's. I suppose I wondered what she could
be doing with him, but I couldn't fault her for it.
A part of me thought her perfect.
I was looking forward to meeting her, but as Lockhart drew abreast of me, he stepped past without a word. He drew the young woman past me as he began the next introduction. She listened politely to the man's name, smiled lightly, and presented her hand to him. Then, with a curious expression, she glanced back at me, meeting my gaze for just a moment before moving on to the last officer. I felt a flush of heat rise in my face, and a touch of anger as well. It quickly passed though, when she turned her head slightly towards me and smiled. The flush of embarrassment turned quickly to pleasure.
But it was my only source of pleasure that day. The woman, Miss Amanda Redding, remained in the cabin, while Matthew Lockhart roamed the ship. He was escorted by the mate, but that didn't stop him from making comments. Upon being told that a woman on ship was bad luck, he replied that the same was true of Irishmen and he doubted that Amanda could bring any worse luck than the devil of a "boatswain."
To my thanks, the men kept their mouths quiet concerning me, and then winked at me behind the man's back. A few of them even clapped my shoulder and claimed, "The day an Irishman's bad luck is the day the sea runs dry." Their loyalty was heartening.
I tried my best that trip to avoid Lockhart. Often the rolling of the ship kept him in his cabin ill, and my duties kept me from his reach. If we did happen to run into each other, I would stand aside and let him pass, pointedly ignoring his ugly comments towards me. Seldom did I as much as flinch in his presence. It would have been too much to give him.
One evening, as I was headed on deck to my watch, I heard a woman's voice raised in anger and then Lockhart shouting. Almost unconsciously, I stepped closer to listen.
"You can't treat people that way."
"What way? I treat them as my employees."
"Even your employees are human."
"They deserve better than to be called dogs. They deserve as much respect as you do."
"Me? I own this ship."
"That doesn't mean much."
"I pay their salaries."
"Salaries? Peanuts. They could find better pay in a factory."
"With worse conditions."
"And fewer insults. Take that young man, the boh s'n from Ireland. He's--"
"He's a pagan Irishman, not worthy even to be alive."
I heard Lockhart roar, "You are not to speak of him!" Then there was a slap, the sound of flesh against flesh. I wondered who hit who.
There were footsteps towards the door and I went quickly up the companionway and onto the deck. The captain rounded on me for being late for watch, and then left me to the night, and my thoughts.
I said nothing of what I'd heard.
On watch that night, just after three bells, Amanda came on deck. She wore her hair free, the wind blowing it across her face. She made her way to the bow of the ship, leaning against the bowsprit, the jib fluttering over her head.
I handed the wheel to the deckmaster, telling him I wanted to check the tension of the foresail. He curled his lips around his pipe and grinned but said nothing as he reached for the wheel. I heard his muted chuckles as I went forward.
As I made my way towards the rigging near the jib, Amanda glanced my way. I nodded politely and smiled. She looked back at the water, but not before I saw the red hand print across the side of her face. A black heat rose inside of me.
I was silent as I tested the lines, checking the tension in all the ropes to the foresails. After a moment, she turned to watch me, but said nothing until I had finished my work.
"So, Mr. Amberly, is everything ship-shape, so to speak?"
"Yes, ma'am, everything's lookin' just right. Should be a fine night for letting her have her head."
"Much as you would a horse?"
"Aye. But with a little more guidance."
She turned back to the sea. I took her movement as a dismissal and began to move toward the stern.
"Did you enjoy what you heard in the hall, Mr. Amberly?"
I stopped and turned back toward her. "I don't know what you mean, ma'am."
"Below deck. By the door to Matthew's room. Or cabin as it's called on the sea."
I was silent, watching her hair as the wind helped it trace circles in the night air.
"Cabin's correct, ma'am. And companionway. Not hall." I didn't know what else to say.
"So? Did you like what you heard?"
"I suppose you didn't appreciate what he said about you."
"No. But it wasn't just that..."
She faced me. Her eyes were as deep as the sea. "Then what was it?"
"Just the way he spoke. Does he always talk that way?"
"Yes. He's not a very...soft man."
We just looked at each other.
"Why are you marrying him?"
"Do you really want him, forever and forever..."
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..."
"Nothing." She smiled and pulled her hair away from her face. "The marriage was arranged by our parents. Matthew Lockhart stands to inherit a fortune. I have almost nothing to go with the Redding name. A girl could do worse."
"And a girl could do better."
"Perhaps. I should go below. This salt spray is not good for my hair." She turned and carefully made her way toward the companionway to the lower deck.
"Good night, Miss Redding."
"Good night, Mr. Amberly."
I turned to watch the waves, the spray stinging my eyes.
"Oh, Mr. Amberly?"
I turned back.
"You may be an Irishman, but I don't think you're a devil." And she disappeared below.
The deckmaster was still chuckling when I returned to the quarter deck. A sharp look and he was silent, but his gold tooth still glinted in the lights as he grinned.
I believe in my heart I fell in love with her that night. I began to think of her in terms of perfection. I would dream of her at night, fantasizing of having a life with her. It was futile, she could never marry me, a lowly sailor, and she could never leave Lockhart. But I could dream, and I did.
Lockhart continued to insult me and I continued to ignore him. The crew often walked around behind him with mutinous looks, for there was hardly a day went by that he didn't tear strips from one of them for some infraction. The mate and I stayed on our toes, for we felt that the men might move against him.
We were days off the French coast when we hit the outskirts of the storm. At first the sky was simply dark with rain, and then the lightning began, crashing through the black depths of the sky with the fury of a god. The rain poured from the sky in torrents, the ship listing occasionally. The deck was awash with waves that came over the bow and rolled through the scuppers. The glass near the wheel said it was only to get worse.
At four bells, the captain called the officers to his quarters. Mr. Lockhart was there. The question on the table was whether to run with the gale and hope the leeway wouldn't pitch us to the drink, or come about and run leeward.
"How's the glass, Mr. Collins?"
"Looks bad, sir. She's falling, fast."
"Is the gear holding, Mr. Drake?"
"For now, cap'n. I can't guarantee, if those winds pick up, what those mizzen sails are going to do. You know what trouble those rigs are giving."
"If we lose mizzen, can we limp into France?"
"In this? We'd more like to crawl, sir."
"And the crew? Mr. Amberly, what do they say?"
"They say as you say. They'd follow you to Hades, sir, and think you'd lead them out."
"But do they want to go through?"
"No man likes to enter a typhoon, captain. But they'll not turn against you."
The captain sat behind his desk, a toothpick stuck between his teeth. He stared through the porthole as the waves crashed against it.
"But can we run it if we lose the mizzen sails?"
"Sir, I can get eight men on that rigging in ten minutes."
"Can they hold it?"
Mr. Drake ducked out of the cabin.
"An opinion, Mr. Collins?"
"I'd like to bring her about, sir. I've never seen the glass fall as quick. We might be able to run the gale, but...I'd rather not tempt old Neptune tonight."
"We're going though, captain." The voice was from Matthew Lockhart. Everyone had forgotten he was there. He was standing with his arms folded, his chest puffed out with self- importance. No one said a word.
"We're going through," he repeated.
"Mr. Lockhart, if the storm is too great..."
"Nonsense. The "Fairhaven" has been through worse; I've read about the storms in your logs. This ship has an appointment in France the day after tomorrow, gentlemen, and as owner of this vessel, I insist that you follow your orders and go forward." He stopped and looked at all of us. "Should any of you even suggest that we turn tail and run, I'll name him the yellow coward he is and toss him in the brig." His eyes caught mine. "Anything to say, Mr. Irish devil?"
"No sir," I strove to stay calm, but after he exited the cabin, I let go a stream of all the curses I'd ever heard. A couple of the men chuckled, but the captain remained silent.
"If you say to bring her about, sir, the crew will gladly do it."
"Aye, and be fired upon the French coast for mutinous behavior." Hallihan sighed. "We'll have to go through, lads. We'll trust to God and all the saints to bring us through. That's all. Dismissed."
We broke from the cabin and went up the companionway. The storm seemed to have worsened already. I watched the lightning with dread.
The waves began to crest over the top of the bulwarks, and anything not nailed, tied down, or hung up in the ropes was washed over the rails. Men on deck were certain of their holds on the ropes, and were careful to keep together in case a hand was needed. As the lightning lit the sky, I could see the mizzen mast against the storm clouds. A moment after the strike there was a snap as the rigging on the mizzen topgallant sail broke. The three men holding the line were swept away as the sail flapped loose in the wind.
The captain took the wheel from the deckmaster as we ran off. One of the cabin boys was climbing the stays in an effort to grab the snapping wires. Other men were tightening the gears on the rest of the mizzen sails. If they let go, the ship would lose all forward thrust, and she'd flounder and capsize.
There was a triumphant shout
from the boy on the rigging. We could hear his voice just a notch above the
wind. He'd gotten hold of the rope and was sliding quickly down the stays, towing
the line with him. One of the other lines snapped. As the wind caught it, the
end crossed over and slapped the boy across the face. I could see his head snap
back from the jolt, and the line slipped from his hand. He grabbed for it again,
but only dislodged himself from the stays. He
plunged screaming to the deck, and was washed across the scuppers before anyone could reach him. Another boy headed up the main rigging to take his place.
"Can we hold her, sir?" I had to scream above the storm.
Captain Hallihan was cut off by the roar of lightning. There was a great crack and when I looked up it seemed that a bright needle was touching the top of the main mast. Then the sound grew louder as the mast fell in two halves. One half landed off starboard amidships, the other crashed into the mizzen as it fell to port. As it did, the mizzen cracked near the deck and tumbled into the stern, crashing into the deck below. Water poured into the ship.
The deckmaster began to pray to himself as he groped for the ropes to the lifeboat. He and I grasped it about the same time, and then a wave caught us. The boat swung free, landing in the water. I could see the men swimming towards it already. The deckmaster was pulled away from me. His head hit the foremast, the only mast still standing. His eyes rolled back in his head and his body slumped.
I could hear the captain yelling for the men to abandon ship. I knew he would soon head to the bridge to get the glass and the compass. I grabbed them for him and made my way down to the foredeck. He saw me and nodded, then turned to go below. His last responsibility was to get the great ship's log, locked in a waterproof case. This was stored in the captain's quarters.
As captain Hallihan went below, I pulled myself to the bulwarks. Two other life boats had been set adrift, and men were striking out for them. I grabbed the rail and was about to jump when a hand grabbed my shoulder and yanked me backwards. I struck the batten with my back, and rolled back towards the scuppers as the ship pitched in the storm.
When I looked up, Matthew Lockhart stood over me, his face as furious as the storm. He was holding the sledge from the capstan above his head and I was able to roll away from him a moment before it struck. I rolled into a pair of bare feet, and small white hands reached out to steady me and help me up. When I was on my feet, I stepped between Amanda and Lockhart. He was still holding the sledge.
"You did this!" Lockhart was screaming at me. "You and your pagan gods! You did this and you'll pay for it! You'll pay for this, you Irish--"
The rest of his words were lost in the wind as he rushed towards me. I ducked beneath his blow and put my shoulder into his stomach. When we landed on the deck, I heard the air rush out of him. I threw myself over him and grabbed for Amanda's hand.
"Come! We must get off the ship."
"Can you swim?"
"I'll lift you over the rails, you strike out for that life boat. See?"
"Yes. What about you?"
"I'll follow. Go on."
When she was in the water, I
turned to look at Lockhart, only to see him after me again. The sledge glanced
off the side of my head as the ship listed all the way to her side. Lockhart
was thrown against me, and we both went over the side. I remember there was
pain in my head as I hit the water with Lockhart holding onto me. Then there
When I awoke, I was floating in the water, though I couldn't feel the cold or the wet. Wreckage from the ship was all about me. I reached for a log, something to hold onto, though I didn't seem to be having any trouble floating. A body drifted past me. I turned it over to see who it was.
And stared into my own face.
It was my body. The eyes were open, the skin white from the cold and water, and there was a great gash in the temple. It was me. I was dead.
But I was here. My spirit had survived. I tried to enter the body, and move the arms, but nothing happened. The body was inanimate, and there was nothing I could do.
I didn't want to stay in that limbo. It was the most horrible state of not being, not feeling, not anything. I dreaded staying that way.
Another body floated past me, and another. They were all around me. Then I noticed that one of them was moving slowly against the waves. Whoever it was, was alive. I could enter his body. I could live again. And I went for him.
I tried to enter him, pressing my soul against his, pushing and clawing at him. He fought back and whirled around to strike at me. As you've probably guessed by now, it was Matthew Lockhart.
We struggled for hours, each gaining and then losing possession of the body. Finally I was able to force him completely out, and he fled. I began to swim, out of sheer terror that he would come back. I spotted a lifeboat and hailed it, pulling myself through the water in this new body. But fatigue had set in, and I stopped to rest. As I did, I saw Lockhart's soul returning. It was a race to see if I could reach the lifeboat before he could reach me.
It was very close, but I made the boat before he found me. Many hands pulled me on board, tugging hard on my sodden clothes. I heard voices muttering that they should shove me back into the sea, then the mate's voice above all, ordering everyone back. He leaned over me concerned. As he did, I felt a smaller, softer hand touch my arm. When I managed to turn the head, I found myself looking into Amanda Redding's beautiful face.
"Mr. Lockhart? Can you hear me, sir?"
I managed to nod to the mate, and struggled to sit up. There was a body on the other side of the lifeboat. Somehow I knew it was mine and I leaned toward it.
The same hands held me back.
"He's dead, ye' can't hurt 'im no more. Let 'im be."
"I need to see him. I need to see him!" I began to scream at them over and over. Finally they let me go and I threw myself over across the boat, nearly capsizing it. I landed next to the body and rolled it over to receive that shock again.
It was me. That was my face and my nose; those were my arms and my hands. Someone had closed my eyes. I was dead, that body was dead.
But I was alive. And I intended to stay that way. I could sense Lockhart out there, somewhere in the water. But I wasn't about to let him win this fight.
I could feel the exhaustion overcoming
this new body. Quickly I dug under the collar of the now deceased Lawrence Amberly.
The pouch with the bloodstone was there. I pulled on it and the leather thong
snapped. I stuffed it deeply into a shirt pocket. I could hear the others calling,
"ship, ho!" Turning to find out what they had seen, I felt myself passing out.
There was a flash of panic as I slipped into unconsciousness.
What occurred after I passed out was told to me later. A ship that had skirted the storm rescued what was left of the crew from the "Fairhaven." There were nine of us: Amanda, myself, the first mate, the navigator, and five crew members. The body of Lawrence Amberly was given a proper burial at sea.
A search was instituted to find the other lifeboats. One was found upside down with no signs of life and the other simply vanished, as had the hull of the "Fairhaven."
We were taken to France, and there I was placed in a hospital until I regained my senses. The doctors told me when I awoke that I had suffered a severe shock to my system. Did I feel all right? Could I remember what had happened?
I told them no. I remembered nothing, not who I was, not what had occurred, nor anything from my past. They immediately stopped any questions and sent for Amanda, and my "father," Robert Lockhart.
I needed time to think. I was Lawrence Amberly, with his memories, but I was Matthew Lockhart with his looks, and his family. If I tried to tell them what had happened, I would remain in a hospital for the rest of my life, which would not be long. If I tried to be Matthew Lockhart, I could fail and end up presumed mad. However, if I claimed amnesia, I could learn about Lockhart, and still incorporate some of Lawrence Amberly. I decided to play the injured gentleman with the lost memory. But I had to be careful. I couldn't remember Lawrence Amberly or anything from his past. If I did, I would put suspicion upon myself. It would be a dangerous game.
Soon after I awoke, I found my clothes. Matthew's clothes. The stone was still there. I tied it around my neck and hid it beneath the night shirt. I suddenly felt much more comfortable and at ease.
I became Matthew Lockhart. Robert, my father, paid for my convalescence, and I spent the time studying the man who had been my enemy. I learned of his family history, and how the Lockhart's made their fortune. I learned how the business ran and I realized just how vast the Lockhart fortune was. I was now the heir to that wealth.
The most fascinating secret I discovered was the reason behind the Lockhart hatred of the Irish.
In the mid 1750's there was an English massacre of an Irish village called Kenlo. Every man, woman, and child was destroyed, many in an atrocious manner. Some Englishmen staying in Belfast went to the village to help. One of them was Robert Lockhart's grandfather. They stayed weeks in Kenlo, helping bury the dead. The surrounding countryside appreciated their help. But while returning to Belfast with others of their nationality, a group of Irish rebels caught them. They held them responsible for the raid in Kenlo. In order to send a message to London, the men were castrated, burned, skinned and left hanging upside down on trees that they had been nailed to. All this was done while they were still alive. Symbols left at the sight made the soldiers think that it had been a pagan ritual. It was really a revenge killing by some angry Irish rebels. But it gave Matthew Lockhart, his father Robert, and his grandfather Charles a reason to hate the Irish.
All this I heard from Amanda. I married her, as planned, though the wedding was postponed until the doctors thought me healthy enough. By that time Amanda had witnessed a change in Matthew Lockhart, and had professed love for him. For me. She helped me through many situations to maintain the illusion that Matthew Lockhart had regained his memory. I think at the end she guessed I wasn't really Matthew. She called me Lawrence twice.
We did well, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew
Lockhart. The business of L & B Merchandising and Shipping is now Lockhart
Enterprises. It is known as a solid industry with a reputation for employee
relations. It is the fastest growing company in London, stretching now to New
York City in the United States. Its owners are philanthropists, giving many
young people the opportunity to excel in their own lives. I was even given a
commendation by Queen Victoria for
services to the Empire.
The soul of the real Matthew Lockhart remained close to me at all times. Every time a storm closed around me, he would attack, trying to drive my soul from its sanctuary. He never succeeded, though he did come close.
I had taken the family across to Ireland, and the trip back was on the schooner "Victoria." A storm blew up. I urged the captain not to take any chances, but before he could do anything we were caught in its violent center. Matthew Lockhart made his attempt.
In the midst of our struggle, the stone which hung around my neck was pulled off. As it fell, I began to lose my hold on the body I was in. The stone contained my blood and it had sealed the spirit in the vessel. Lockhart, for a moment, forced me to give ground to him.
I managed to pull away and force the body to leap after the pouch. I caught hold of it, and kept the body, but Lockhart had his revenge. As my hand closed around the stone, I rolled over the canvas covered hatch to the cargo hold. It should have been battened down. It wasn't. I plunged 20 feet to the deck of the hold, landing amidst some barrels and debris. I broke my back in two places.
For the rest of the trip I hung in a fevered state, not aware of anything around me but the laughing soul of Matthew Lockhart. He very seldom left my side, and by the time we arrived on the English coast I thought for sure he meant to drive me insane with his laughter.
Instead, he left me on the night after they took me ashore. He bent close to me, so close I could see the blackness in his eyes. He told me he would let me be. My life would be useless, and I would waste away to nothing. He would come back when I was an old man, having had nothing but pain for many years, and he would come back to watch me die--again.
I don't believe my life has been meaningless. I have two sons to carry on the business. My third boy is apprentice to a navigator on one of these new iron ships. I am respected in my community. Royalty has come to call on me.
I don't pretend to know what would have happened had I really died. I can't say that I have lived this life better than he could have. But I have lived it, and enjoyed it, pain and all. I have made mistakes. I have caused other people pain as well. But I have lived.
My time is over. I can feel Matthew very near. He no longer wants his body, just my spirit. He intends to try and hold me here, forcing me to stay in this body even after the heart has ceased to beat. I pray that God will be somewhat merciful. Let Matthew torture me if He wills, but don't keep me in this body forever. Even Judas wanders the earth.
He has entered the room. He will wait with me for death. The pen falters, and the room grows dim. I will fight now to be free. I ask just one thing.
Bury the stone from the pouch around my neck in the sea. Perhaps it will find its way to my body. Perhaps someday so will I.
Bristol, England, 1874
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