Joseph Shepherd

Chapter 4
Captain Braden seemed to be resting comfortably as I approached his bed
in the infirmary. His neck seemed to be less swollen, and the purple patches on
his body seemed to be smaller and less colorful. He looked even older than his
years, and he was now near his sixties. Until this voyage he had kept his age
well. Now his stubbled gray beard just made him look even more feeble. I spoke
to the Captain, and he stirred somewhat upon hearing my voice.
“Captain Braden,” I called, “can I get you some water?”
“Dr. Greene,” he said, “what medicine did you give to me?”
“I gave you no medicine,” I replied. Captain Braden looked at me
quizzically.
“Well, it must have been a dream,” he said. “I was floating on a large,
beautiful ship, heading west toward a spectacular sunset. I could feel no more
pain. In fact, I seemed to be as healthy as a child. I felt a tremendous sensation
of warmth as we neared the horizon, but the sun did not set. The sun kept getting
brighter and larger, becoming more brilliant. I was about to give the order to
keep heading toward the sun to see what would happen when I heard someone
give the order to turn about away from the sun. I tried to countermand the order,
but I was unable to speak. I must have fallen asleep at that point, but I was filled
with a feeling of warmth and peace like I have never felt. I did not awaken until
I heard your voice.”
I believed that the Captain had simply been in a fever-induced delirium,
and I was glad to hear that he seemed to be calm and peaceful. Death by plague
is an awful thing, and I felt that God must have given him this dream to calm
him before such a horrible death. I then noticed that Captain Braden seemed
cooler to the touch, and that his eyes appeared to be clearer. His breathing, while
somewhat shallow, was steady and not really labored. In fact, I felt that he did
not look like a man dying of the plague.
“Get some rest now captain,” I advised. “You will have a ship to
command in a few days.”
Captain Braden replied, “Thank you for saving me, Dr. Greene.
Whatever medicine you gave me saved me.”
I smiled at the Captain and walked away. He was convinced that I had
saved his life. Indeed, his life may have been saved, but not by my efforts.
I went to report the news of the Captain’s turn for the better to Mr. North.
North met me as I hastened on deck to tell him about the Captain.


“Dr. Greene,” he began, “can you tell me what happened to Mr. Kelley?
The men tell me that some very strange things happened while they were with
you and Shepherd.”
“Yes, I think that would be true to say,” I replied. “I cannot explain all
that happened during that surgery, but Mr. Kelley has benefited from the new
techniques I saw demonstrated by Joseph Shepherd.”
North flashed a look of anger as he asked, “Why does the ship’s surgeon
allow some stranger to assist in the surgery of a seaman on my ship?”
There was no mistaking his emphasis on the words “my ship.” The
Intrepid now apparently belonged to Mr. North.
“Mr. North” I said, rising to his anger, “may I remind you that surgery
on this ship is under my command. I have no need to answer to you about how
medical procedures are carried out on this ship!”
My bluster seemed to have taken North by surprise. He was not used to
having someone under his command talk to him in such a manner. Indeed, I
would not have done so had I not really believed that people like North must not
be given the idea that they can dominate others by such intimidation. Mr. North
had no business in medical affairs, and he needed to be so reminded. I believed
at the same time that he would find a way to destroy me if he could. I was now
entering dangerous ground. Further, I began to see that he would not welcome
the news of the recovery of Captain Braden. North was convinced that the
Intrepid was his ship, and the crew, after a victory, his also. God save us from
those who would rather command than lead.
I left the top deck and went below to my quarters somewhat shaken from
my encounter with Mr. North. As I was lost in my thoughts, Joseph Shepherd
approached me.
“Dr. Greene” he said softly, “may I speak to you about Captain Braden?”
“Why, yes indeed,” I said, “in fact, I meant to ask you about him. He
appears to be improving. Can that be true?”
Shepherd looked at me and nodded.
“Yes,” he replied, “not only can it be true, I believe it is true. Captain
Braden is recovering. And he has the plague; I am convinced of it,” he continued.
I had to sit down as I began to think about this latest turn of events. I had
heard of people recovering from the plague, but I had never seen it before. I was
again seeing a medical cure that I had not experienced before. Why was this
happening? How was this happening?
“Mr. Shepherd,” I said, “you have been a part of some amazing things
aboard this ship in the past day. How do you explain it?”
Shepherd paused briefly and then replied, “There are many things that
we do not know about healing and the human body. I have seen many things
which have puzzled me over the years, and I have come to understand that I will
never know the answers. I have also come to see that the body can heal itself if
given the chance. As physicians, we are only able to help the body to heal itself.”

Shepherd paused again and said, “I myself have been a witness to the fact that
the body heals itself. I had all the symptoms of the plague, and I was near death
at one time. I recovered, perhaps only by the grace of God, but I recovered.”
“Is that why you were cast aside from your last ship?” I asked.
“Well, I do not know that, Dr. Greene,” he said. “Perhaps,” he mused.
“Those memories are still a little hazy.”
“I did not mean to pry,” I apologized, “it just might explain some
things.”
No one else on board the Intrepid knew of the diagnosis of Captain
Braden’s plague except Shepherd and myself. Should he recover and be able to
assume command of the Intrepid again, this whole amazing voyage could be
concluded favorably. But I had not fully understood the depth of Mr. North’s
frenzy to command the Intrepid.
Mr. North bounded into my quarters and demanded to discuss the
medical condition of Captain Braden.
“I am told,” North said, “that Captain Braden is dying of the plague. Is
that true?”
“No,” I replied, “Captain Braden is not dying of the plague.”
“Don’t lie to me, Dr. Greene,” North said, “I have been told that there
were purple marks on him. He has the plague, and I will not have my whole ship
die for one man, even if he is a Captain!
“He is not dying,” interrupted Shepherd.
“Throw him in irons!” said North. “I will have no more of this stranger’s
interference. All of our problems began with his appearance on this ship.”
I stepped forward to defend Mr. Shepherd, but I was met by Mr. Kent
and Mr. Dooley, who restrained me and gagged me. While Kent was a man of
somewhat low intelligence, and low moral character as well, Dooley was a bit
brighter, but strange in his thinking and actions. Dooley was one who the other
sailors avoided. He believed himself to be special, gifted, and above the other
sailors. Many of the sailors had told me that Dooley would talk to himself,
grimace angrily for no reason, and threaten to kill anyone who looked directly at
his face. Fortunately, most of the crew happily avoided looking into the
contorted grimace of Mr. Dooley.
Shepherd was also attacked and thrown to the ground. He was
immediately shackled and led away. This entire sordid event was planned by
North and several crewmen who had now become thugs and brigands. The ship
was being overcome with a very ugly mutiny led by Mr. North and a few of his
closest commanders, and it appeared that no one could stem the tide. Mr. North
was now “Captain” North, and I feared that Captain Braden would be killed in
the process of the mutiny – all in the name of saving the ship.
North was now working quickly. He ordered Mr. Kent and Mr. Pratt to
take Captain Braden and set him adrift in a small boat with enough provisions
for three days. He reasoned that the Captain would be dead in that period of time,

but North would not be directly responsible for his death. The plague would do
its ugly work out of the sight of the Intrepid’s crew, and Mr. North could be the
savior of the crew if the plague did not spread to the rest of the ship.
Pratt and Kent picked up Captain Braden who, though weak, was
becoming more alert. North had ordered them to lift him into the same small
boat that had been the rescue vessel of Joseph Shepherd. When Captain Braden
realized that he was to be set adrift, he saw it as the act of mutiny it was. North
had cautioned Pratt and Kent to do their deed quickly and quietly so as to not
frighten the rest of the crew. He had explained that such a rumor would cause a
riot. The sooner Braden was adrift, the better. There would be no debating or
arguing over the order; it would simply be accomplished, his reason being the
very safety of his men.
The rest of the Intrepid’s crew was starting to realize that Mr. North was
now in total command of the ship. Pratt and Kent had managed to load poor
Captain Braden into the small craft that had served to save Joseph Shepherd.
That same little boat would now be the last command of Captain Braden.
Mr. North gathered the crew of the Intrepid and informed them of the
events of the past day. He proceeded to remind them of their glorious victory
over the pirate vessel, and he told them of the mutinous behavior of the ship’s
surgeon and the newly arrived “Jonah,” Joseph Shepherd. He told the crew of
the strange behavior of Dr. Greene, who had allowed the stranger, Joseph
Shepherd, to assist in the surgery of Seaman Kelley. North added that but for the
intervention of himself, Seaman Kelley might not be alive today. Finally, he
sadly told the tale of poor Captain Braden, who had indeed come down with the
plague. He added that, because of the quick response of their new Captain, and
the unselfishness of Captain Braden, who had given his last order to have himself
set adrift to protect the crew of the Intrepid, the ship was now safe and on its
way back to England.
The crew let out a thunderous cheer for “Captain” North. Mr. Shepherd
and I were now companions in the brig, bound and gagged, and awaiting transfer
to England where we would undoubtedly be hanged as mutineers. While I was
pondering the unfairness of my plight, Shepherd appeared to be calm. I started
to feel ashamed of my own self-pity when I began to consider what Shepherd
had gone through in the space of the past several days. He had been set adrift
himself, suffering from exposure and various wounds. He had been instrumental
in ministering to Captain Braden and Seaman Kelley, and found himself labeled
as a “Jonah,” awaiting his death in England. He had done no wrong on this ship,
yet he was awaiting a criminal’s death. Shepherd had said that he believed in
God, but no God I could think of would allow such suffering for having only
done good.
The next few days were very uncomfortable. We were allowed to have
the gags removed only to eat. Two seamen were assigned to feed us and to
accompany us to toilet. We were strictly forbidden to talk. When we did speak

we were cuffed in the mouth with the back of a rough seaman’s hand. We were
told that the next infraction would end in a flogging.
The brig was damp and dark, and we lost track of time. I was cramping
due to the rough confinement of the shackles, and I found myself hearing and
seeing things which were both frightening and beautiful. I was near complete
breakdown within the first three days of this confinement. If Shepherd were
experiencing the same things as I, one could not tell it. He appeared to be lost in
thought much of the time, but his eyes were not as frantic and full of fear as mine
must have been. His calm demeanor amazed me.
It must have been about the fourth day of confinement that Mr. Kent
came to see us. “Greene,” he barked roughly, “I am going to take that gag out of
your mouth and I am going to take your shackles off. If you say one word that I
don’t like, or Captain North don’t like, I’ll have you flogged.”
I nodded that I understood and he began to loosen the shackles and he
removed the gag.
“Why are you setting me free?” I asked.
“You ain’t free. You’re still a prisoner who started a mutiny. I’m taking
you to see Captain North, and you better keep that tongue of yours respectful to
him!”
My heart raced as I was taken to see North. He held my life in his evil
hands, and he could easily find a reason to have me set adrift or hanged, just as
he had treated Captain Braden. He had no reason that I could see to keep me
alive, especially since he knew that I knew the truth.
“Dr. Greene,” North began, “sit down over here.” He beckoned for me
to sit next to him. “Dr. Greene, you were treating Captain Braden for the plague
– I know that. You lied to me when you said he was not dying of the plague,
didn’t you?”
“No, Mr. North, I…”
“Captain North,” he interrupted. “I am Captain of His Majesty’s Ship
Intrepid.”
“No, Mr. North,” I said, “I was not lying to you. Yes, Captain Braden
had the plague, but he was not dying. He was starting to recover when you had
him set adrift.”
“How do you know that?” he asked sharply. “He looked very sick to me
– like I’ve seen men before, ready to die of the plague.”
I was now again getting angry at the insolence of this pompous windbag.
I began to get flushed, and I tried to calm the rage that had been building the past
few days.
“Mr. North, I can tell, too, when a man is about to die. I have seen more
dying men than you have, and Captain Braden was going to live until you set
him out to die!”

North did not respond as I thought he might. I figured that he might have
me flogged for my own insolence, but he softened as I finished my accusation
of him.
“Dr. Greene,” he said, “I have two men who are sick, and I think that
they have the plague. That is why I called you up here. I need you to examine
them and see if it is the plague.”
I sank in my chair. Mr. Shepherd and I had feared that this might happen,
hoping against hope that Captain Braden’s case was isolated.
“Yes,” I responded, “of course I will examine them. But I will only do
so if you also free Mr. Shepherd.”
I could hardly believe that I had said such a thing. I was duty-bound to
treat those seamen whether or not Mr. Shepherd were freed, yet I somehow made
that a bargaining point to North. Perhaps when in the presence of evil, I
responded in kind. Perhaps I was still not thinking clearly after my days of
confinement.
North looked at me and said calmly, “Can he be of help to you?”
“Yes,” I said, “he is a physician of the first order. I have already learned
from him.”
“Then he will be allowed to assist you,” North said. “But if you begin to
say anything that could incite a mutiny, I’ll throw you overboard myself.”
North said this almost matter-of-factly, with little discernible anger. He
seemed to be shaken by the idea of plague on his ship, and all he wanted was
medical help. He seemed to acknowledge the risk of having Shepherd and me
about on the ship and in contact with the crew, but he also made it clear that he
would have us killed if he felt it necessary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s