Sand was strewn on the wooden decks below as the surgeon pulled out his tools. Saws, knives, and tourniquets were placed in reach of the table which just minutes before served as a dining table. Drums were beating as the shouts “Beat to quarters!” were shouted above and below decks. Chairs and any other wooden items were stowed in the lower decks of the HMS Glory, lest they become flying splinters that could cause injury. Cannons were run out. Then, silence. The surgeon, Dr. Murphy, prayed; please let this not be as bloody. A quick check of his instruments and he knew he was ready. Fate was waiting.
“FIRE!” shouted an order followed by the boom of the guns breaking the silence. Smoke bellowed through the decks as powder monkeys, young boys of about 8 or 9 ran to the powder magazines below to fetch new powder bags and bring them up to the gun decks.
The answer from Napoleon’s ships came crashing through the wood of the ship sending splinters flying like deadly arrows. There were now new sounds to the commotion, yells, shouts, scared, angry cries for the doctor; some were calling for their mother, calling on God, some cursing.
The surgeon’s gruesome work began. Men and boys were hauled onto his table as he applied his skills and knowledge, mixed with a once of prayer. His mate helped with the writhing, painful bodies on the table. Red stained their shirts and bare hands as they applied their craft, new rivers of life flowed on the undulating floor. The cook and others who were not involved in the fighting began helping with the growing number of patients as the endless fight prevailed.
James, a 12 year old midshipman was lying on the floor, near the surgeon’s table. Blood stained his shirt and there was a large hole in the right sleeve of his shirt. His disfigured arm lay on his stomach as he waited for his turn on the table. More than likely, he knew, he would loose his arm. Next to James was his pal, Patrick, a 9 year old powder monkey. A stray musket ball had slipped through one of the cannon ports, ricocheting of the breach of the cannon sending it on a strange path down a hatch way where it struck Patrick in the head as he climbed the stairs with a bag of powder.
Soon, the battle was over, Patrick was wrapped in his hammock and after a few prayers; he was slipped into the ocean, burial at sea. James was getting better as he was getting used to having only one arm, yet he pined for his friend. The HMS Glory was now patrolling in the Sea of Biscay, looking for some fool hardy Frogs to come out of their safety in French harbors.
One day when the crew was allowed to rest, Dr. Murphy and James read books as they had in the past. James began asking why was he spared and others not. Dr. Murphy found it hard to come up with an answer. “Only God knows” he replied as James was looking at a carved elephant that Patrick had made. Yet, James’ questions persisted.
“I dun ‘no know why Patrick died, or why one would die and not another. But this I do know, it is not God’s will for any of us to die short of our expected years. Aye Laddy, all will eventually die, this be true. Yet, because of the sin nature of man, we have wars, which result in the untimely deaths of hundreds like Patrick. We serve God and country here on earth. Those who are in authority over us, like Capt, Jack Briscoe, or even King George his’ self, have been placed there by God for such a time as this. Our death will come sooner or later, just pray me boy that ye be ready to meet God and that ye die with honor.”
“Thanks, Doctor.” James said with a slight smile. “But I still miss him.”
“Aye yes, we all do for sure. It is painful when a loved one departs, this be true. It’s okay to weep and then let him go.”
“Sail ho!” was the cry from the crows nest. The Capt. ran to the port side of the quarter deck drawing his glass. A French frigate!
“Beat to quarters!” shouted the Capt.
Again, sand was thrown on the floor, and fate would take its course again.
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