Joseph Shepherd Chs. 8-10

                                                   Chapter 8

The sea was beginning to get a little rough as the weather turned quickly. It appeared that another storm had popped up, nothing unusual for August, but such storms cause sailors to act in strange ways. The men aboard the Intrepid, reacted quickly to the rising wind and waves. They trimmed the sails to minimize damage, and they began to lash down everything on deck that moved. As the rains began to pelt the ship, winds tossed her about the waves. Between curses and oaths, some again remembered the presence of Joseph Shepherd, who had brought no luck at all, save his uncanny knowledge of the medical arts. Some of the sailors began to accuse Shepherd of using the power of the devil himself. He did not practice medical arts, they surmised, he practiced the black arts of Satan himself. The storm was raging now, so there was no time to worry about Joseph Shepherd. Let him and Dr. Greene rot below, they probably figured. 

This storm seemed particularly cruel. Rain was coming down in sheets, bent sideways by the wind. The ropes on the masts were singing with the wind, and the ship was pitching wildly. Lightning was piercing the sky in every direction, and the moon, which had previously been the sky’s light, was now obscured by storm clouds. As the Intrepid was pitching in the sea, one of the lightning bolts struck the already damaged main mast, splitting it from top to bottom. The sound of the splitting wood and the sight of the blue and orange flames shook the crew. Panic spread through even the toughest of sailors, and they huddled below deck, tossed by the storm. Fear is usually masked by anger in such men, so the rage turned to anyone available.

Joseph Shepherd once again became the target of their wrath. Bouncing in the lower deck of the ship, Mr. Kent began to berate Shepherd. “We’ve had nothing but disaster since we took on Shepherd”, began Kent. Others joined in the railing. People have a need to find reasons for their misfortune, and Mr. Shepherd was an easy target. A foreigner, not prone to fit in with the coarseness of the crew, Shepherd did not even try to raise his voice in his own defense. Instead, he looked aside and fixed his gaze away from the gathering din of discontent. Several of the men took this as arrogance, and became even more enraged. “Thinks he’s better than us, he does”, said Kent. Others followed, and I began to sense that they might take him up to the deck and push him overboard. The only thing that may have prevented this was the continued rolling of the ship, which restricted much of the possibility of upright movement at the moment.

Suddenly, Mr. Kent lunged at Shepherd with a knife. Before anyone could make a response, Kent was on Dr. Shepherd, and he plunged the knife into Shepherd’s side. Shepherd made no attempt to move away as Kent came at him again. As Kent drew back for another attack, the ship heaved violently, throwing Kent backwards into a barrel of black powder. Kent seemed to bend in half at the waist as his lower back crashed with a sickening thud on the barrel rim. I heard his spine crack as he let out a muted scream. The knife fell from his hand, and a muffled groan followed. As I got over to him, I saw his eyes rolling back in his head. He could barely breathe for the pain he was suffering. While I was getting ready to offer some assistance, I saw someone pick up the knife and drive it into Kent’s neck. Blood squirted all over me, and covered those who had gotten near to Kent. He was dead in seconds. I looked up to see Mr. Kelley kneeling over Kent with a knife dripping blood. “He was a dead man anyway”, said Kelley, “I just moved it along a little quicker, saved him the pain.”

Sailors were quieted by this grisly scene, and attention was no longer on Joseph Shepherd. Shepherd was now my main concern. It looked as if the wound he received was not as deep as I had feared. It appeared that Mr. Kent had missed his aim because of the rolling ship, and he had delivered a glancing blow to Shepherd. The knife skimmed off of one of Shepherd’s ribs, opening his side, but leaving no serious damage.

Kelley had made a show of ending Kent’s suffering with his swift stab to Kent’s neck, but I thought it to be something different. I believed that Mr. Kelley was just returning a favor to Dr. Shepherd, and Kent was the recipient of some seagoing justice, swift and sure.

Mr. North came bounding down to the mob of sailors. He saw blood pouring out of Mr. Kent, and a group of rather quiet sailors. “What happened here!” he shouted.  “Attempted murder” I said more softly than I had expected given my excited state. “Looks like actual murder to me, Dr. Greene” countered North. “Mr. Kent went after Joseph Shepherd”, I said,” and he paid the price for doing so.” “Well then”, said North, “who killed Mr. Kent?”  “Actually, I believe that Mr. Kent was close to death when Mr. Kelley took compassion on him and finished the deed”, I said. While I did not believe that to be quite so true, I did not want Mr. Kelley hanged for taking the life of the worthless scum Kent.

As the conversation continued, a heavy crash broke through the deck. The remainder of the main mast finally succumbed to the wind and crashed down into the ship. Water poured in, the mast fell onto two sailors, and confusion ruled the hour. The ship was reeling about in the heavy seas, and I was convinced that we could not take much more pounding from this storm. If the storm did not abate soon, we were doomed. 

Joseph Shepherd, bleeding from his wound, began to speak to the men assembled in the chaos of the lower deck. “This storm will pass soon”, he said calmly, “you need not fear.”  With that he raised his arms and prayed in a language we did not understand. His white shirt now drenched in blood, he looked gruesome and tortured, yet strangely calm and in control. He stood amidst the rocking of the ship and was able to maintain his balance. Soon, the wind died down, and the squall passed. The hole in the deck where the mast had crashed through now gave us a view of the heavens, which were filled with stars. The black clouds were gone and calm was restored.

“Don’t be telling me that the storm calmed just because he prayed”, said Mr. North. “I don’t know why the storm calmed”, I said, “let us just be glad it is over.” The rest of the men slowly returned to their duties, the first of which was to extricate the bodies of seamen David and Michael Clark who had been crushed by the mast. They were twin brothers, just 17 years old. They had signed onto the ship together, and they died together in her service. Some of the men saw this as another omen of ill fate for the Intrepid.  They had believed it to be bad luck to have twins on the ship. This was proof enough for them that God was punishing them for the foolishness of allowing twins to serve on the ship.

I began to tend to Joseph Shepherd, wrapping his side tightly with clean strips of  bandage. “Dr. Shepherd”, I whispered, “do you believe that your prayers really calmed this storm?” I could hardly believe that I was even asking the question. Shepherd answered, “I have no special powers, if that is what you are asking”, he replied. “I simply trust in the Father, and He supplies our needs. You decide if it was an answered prayer. I am also certain that I was not the only one praying a few moments ago”, he smiled. I had to agree with that statement, because even this unbeliever was crying to God in that situation.   

                                                       Chapter 9

The sun rose brilliantly beside the Elizabeth on her starboard side as she began to turn north again. The open Atlantic spread before them and this turn caused some discussion on board the Elizabeth. The Spanish had grown wealthy with New World plunder, and Captain Carr began to speak with Captain Braden about his encounters with the Spanish.

“The Spaniards”, began Braden, “are a greedy lot.” “I have heard stories of how they stole gold from the people they found in the New World, then simply murdered them. I think they baptized them first to be sure that they would go to heaven, then they sent them on their way there pretty quickly.” Braden spoke like a veteran of Spanish wars. He hated the Spaniards, their greed, their religion, their sense of superiority.

“Well, said Captain Carr, “I do not care one way or another about the Spanish as long as they leave my ship alone. Do you think that they are using pirates to raid commercial ships such as ours?”

Braden hesitated, then replied, “No, I do not think that the Spanish are really enlisting pirates to raid shipping. Pirates may well be preying on some ships, they always have, but the Spanish are too arrogant to use the pirates that way. And most pirates do not want any connection with any civilized government, not that I consider the Spanish civilized.”

Carr pushed further. “Wasn’t the Intrepid attacked by pirates, and didn’t you say that Spanish ships were nearby?”  Braden replied, “If a pirate ship engaged the Elizabeth, and Spanish vessels were nearby, they would do nothing to help or hinder the action. As far as they care, one less load of cargo to England probably helps the Spaniards. But the Spanish fleet does not care to tangle with England again. Your worry is pirates, not the Spanish.”

Captain Carr asked directly, “What course should we take to avoid those pirates who attacked the Intrepid?” “There is no proper course,” said Braden. Speed is what you want. Get back to Plymouth as fast as you can. The only thing on your side is luck. Luck and good speed,” Braden said.

Carr had already decided that traveling further west to avoid pirates off the Spanish coast was futile. He would heed Captain Braden’s advice, and he would take the fastest route back home. Good weather had been aiding the Elizabeth all along, and he would take advantage of it by looking for the best winds to get him back to Plymouth.

Aboard the Intrepid, the crew was trying to make repairs as best they could. The storm had completely wrecked the main mast and much rigging on the other sails. The top deck was splintered with the remains of the mast, and a gaping hole stared clear below decks. The crew was now jettisoning any cargo deemed unnecessary. There was very little powder for cannons, and the Intrepid was now nearly defenseless. We had been less than 10 days out from Plymouth, but with this sail damage, who knew how long it may now take. Further, the food supply was dwindling and we would need to catch fish to live. Fishing took time, but we would live on whatever fish the men caught. There was a good deal of rainwater captured and stored in casks. The trip back home would be slow with only mizzenmast and aft sails available for the little wind they would encounter. If the pirate ships they fought in the past week came back, the Intrepid would be completely incapable of defense.

The Elizabeth was making good time now, plowing north with the coast of Spain receding to the east.  Captain Braden seemed to be completely recovered from his illness. William Harvey, enjoying the time to himself, was reading voraciously. He was fascinated by the action of the human heart, and he was reading books by the ancient authors, all the while wondering what new learning could be done through experimentation on human corpses. This practice, while known, was disdained by most scholars, and it was forbidden by the Church. Harvey was also fascinated by the recovery of Captain Braden. He had heard from Braden about the efforts of me and Joseph Shepherd to save his life. When Braden talked about the treatment, Harvey discounted it as the recollections of a man in delirium. The treatment with moldy bread and rum was bizarre at best, but Harvey continued to keep an open mind. If Harvey had any outstanding attributes, it was that he kept an open mind to everything. Such is the inquisitive nature of a true scientist. 

Several days after Captain Carr had his conversation with Captain Braden, and had decided to plot the fastest course as his safest course back to England, the Elizabeth encountered a ship to her north. Dusk was turning into night as the ship came into sight, and what a sight it was. The ship was lacking her main mast, and much of the rigging was in tatters. The ship was barely moving, and it appeared that it was in trouble.

Captain Carr hailed Braden and asked him to join him by the helm. Braden shuddered as he squinted into the eyeglass offered by Carr. It was the Intrepid. “Did you call me up here to verify that this ship is the Intrepid?” asked Braden. “That was my suspicion”, said Carr. “What do you suggest Captain Braden?” said Carr, continuing to show deference and respect to the senior captain. “I suggest that we sail by her as quickly as possible!” said Braden. If Mr. North is in command, we do not know what he may do, especially if he would have any idea that I was on board. He led a mutiny and set me adrift. If he does get back to England, I’ll see that he hangs!”

“There is another reason to get away from that ship”, interrupted William Harvey. “I must apologize for the intrusion”, he offered, but that ship looks like she is just adrift herself. Who knows but that she is now a ghost ship with bodies of plague victims on board.  Even if the ship does have survivors, we cannot afford to offer help lest we expose our people to plague.”

Carr did not need to think long about his decision. He would stay clear of the Intrepid at all costs. It was quite evident that the Elizabeth would be long past the Intrepid by morning.  As the evening deepened into night’s darkness, the moon exposed an eerie outline of the Intrepid. The Elizabeth got as close as 1000 yards to the doomed ship. Lights did appear on the ship, so Carr knew that the crew was not all dead. He would take no chances. His crew worked all night to secure the light wind from the lee side, and the Elizabeth quickly moved well past the stricken Intrepid.  By morning, there was no sight of the Intrepid. It was now time, Carr hoped, for a clear and uneventful trip home. He should reach Plymouth in less than a week.

                                                    Chapter 10

The Plymouth, England toward which Captains Carr and North were headed was a bristling seaport. It also was abuzz with political foment and discussion. A group of Puritans were heading toward Plymouth from Holland, with a final destination of the New World. The New World for them would be more than the opportunity for wealth, it would be a haven of religious freedom. It would also be an escape from a land, or perhaps just a king, which no longer supported such ideals. Religious freedom was tied to a philosophy of simplicity of life and worship. Basic values of available land, and economic, and religious freedom burned in the hearts of this simple but determined people.

John Ward, a spokesman for this group, was in London, meeting with King James for one last time to plead the case of his people. Ward was a strong and idealistic leader. Integrity was his life theme, and so was a steadfast determination to do the right thing, and to tolerate nothing less. He was single-minded and unshakeable in his zeal. He was not particularly tolerant of anyone who had less vigor than himself in such matters.

“Your majesty”, began Ward, “I beg you hear our concerns about our freedom to worship God without the interference of the crown.”

“Interference of the crown?” James thundered. “Mr. Ward, the crown is ordained of God for the protection and direction of the people of England”, James continued. “How dare you make accusations about God’s appointed leader of your country!”

“With all due respect your majesty”, countered Ward, “my only Lord is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, appointed for my salvation and the salvation of His people. We worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and with no vestige of papist ceremony. He is the King of Kings, and you would do well to heed Him also.”

At this point James was willing to tolerate no more from Ward. “Do you intend to preach to your king?” inquired James. “Indeed, even calling your divinely appointed king a Papist! Take him to the Tower, and let him find time to learn respect for the king of the realm!” At that, Ward was led away by two royal guardsmen. Ward did not protest, and he did not seem surprised. It was almost as if he had provoked such a response, and now had found the conclusion he had anticipated.

Word quickly spread through the Puritan and Nonconformist communities. Other leaders, not of any particular religious persuasion, also took note and spread the word- the king had banished a leader of the people who dared to request a simple freedom long a part of English tradition. Freedom of dissent and limits on royal authority were well established English principles. Ward had simply provoked this diffident king to an action which could foment trouble down the road. Right now, it simply sent a message to his people that Ward was willing to die for his faith. Let the king be the one who starts the flames of rebellion.

It was a hot day for London, and the crowds, which had gathered at the Boar’s Head Tavern, were in a restive mood. “Ward’s in the Tower!” yelled one of the runners on the street, “Ward’s in the Tower!” he repeated. Several of the men gathered in the tavern resolved to use this as a reason to cause some mischief. “Tonight”, they whispered to one another, “tonight the king feels the bite of the snake.”

Jacob Carr was one of the crowd at the Boar’s Head that day. He had no particular concern or sympathy for John Ward or the Puritans. He was an opportunist. King James’ popularity was waning, and there were those who had a mind for revolt. They had a need for financial backing, and Jacob Carr might be able to secure some funds for the right favors.

 The economy of much of Europe was in shock due to the loads of gold and silver coming from the New World. Prices were rising, and wages were not keeping up. This was causing a greater and greater gulf between the rising commercial and industrial class and the workers. Peasants had no standing whatsoever, nor even any actual money. They survived one day at a time scraping what they could from the land, begging for food, and stealing if they must. Poverty was an increasing problem for those who came to the cities to find work of any type. The restlessness of poor men, unskilled and uneducated, was displayed in shocking acts of crime. Public executions of common thieves were a regular occurrence. Debtor’s prisons were overflowing, to the point that King James was willing to send these debtors overseas to the New World, or to remote places in the kingdom. He had little use for those who could not pay their debts. Some religious people saw this as the hand of God’s judgment on those who were not “elect”. Therefore, some of these “religious people” were content to let them starve and attributed it to God’s plan.

Jacob Carr was not a poor man. He also did not believe that hard work was a value that he wanted to endure. His brother, Edwin, was the captain of the Elizabeth, and Jacob would find a way to sell some of the cargo, which had not totally been accounted for by the ship’s log. He and some dock workers knew that markets existed for the fine Italian wines and Tuscan olive oil that may have escaped the East India Company’s inventory. That inventory often could get distorted by a few well-placed guineas in the hands of the right people. Jacob Carr knew the right people.

Parliament had not been meeting regularly because King James had simply ignored them. English history had long recognized the right of the people to limit royal power, but James seemed immune to such thought, and disdainful of the people who proclaimed it. He had no real idea of English political realities, having come from Scotland to assume the throne upon the beloved Elizabeth’s death. The Puritans and other pietist movements were only interested in having the freedom to worship their God. Others in England believed that royal authority had simply grown too much.

That night, Oliver Craft met with Jacob Carr by the royal stable. It was a rather warm evening, and the fog was beginning to become formidable. Torches around the stable had large, hazy orange halos around them. Cricket songs were just picking up volume, and bats were screeching hunting sounds as they gorged themselves on the numerous bugs in the air.  “Good evening”, hailed Craft to one of the royal guards. “What’s your business here?” the guard replied. “Why I’m here to make sure you have a nice evening”, said Craft. He handed the guard a bottle of Madeira, the kind the guard was not used to seeing. “What do you want!” demanded the guard. “Do you want my gift?” asked Carr. “Looks like I’ve got it now doesn’t it?’ he grinned. “Now get out of here and let me enjoy your little gift!”

Carr signaled to several men in the shadows, and in a moment, the guard was knocked to the ground with a blow from a club. Two of the men uncorked the wine and drizzled a fair amount around the face and clothes of the guard. “I believe he would rather have been conscious to enjoy that wine. Pity it is too, that is too fine a wine to be wasted on such a lout.”

Craft then grabbed a torch nearby and threw it into the stables. Several others of the mob did the same, and soon the stable was ablaze. Frantic horses, awakened by the smoke, strove at their collars and shrieked into the night. Fire was the most feared event in the town. Watchmen nearby raised the sound of alarm, and townspeople, guards, and passersby joined in the impromptu fire fight. Water buckets were secured, and a line to the nearby canal was formed. This would be a fight for life. If the blaze could not be contained, the western part of the town, at least, was doomed.

People were now running to the scene to help fight the fire. Young boys, excited by the adventure, ran to help. In the midst of the growing excitement, Craft’s mob, which now included Jacob Carr, roved into the merchant’s section of the town, and helped themselves to some prizes. A nice gold watch from Tarleton’s Shoppe, a couple of fine firearms from the blacksmith, and expensive perfume from the trading company agent’s private larder. He had always kept some back for his mistresses, and Jacob Carr knew such secrets, and the places where they were kept.

The townspeople were successful in fighting back the blaze in a short time. They had become accustomed to such drills, and had become proficient at protecting their city from deadly fires. Nonetheless, Craft’s mob had been able to disrupt the town long enough to secure what they wanted. Carr could have bought all these things, had he not wanted something even more- to cause trouble for the king.

Early the next morning, the stable guard, having survived the fire, and the nasty blow to the head, was hauled in front of his commander. “Mister Key”, barked the royal army’s commander, “you are a disgrace. Asleep at guard, drunk, and unable to protect the royal stables. You are not fit for service to his majesty!”

Key was still reeling from the concussion he had sustained, and the previous evening’s activities were not registering to him. The last thing he remembered was holding a fine bottle of Madeira, then his world became dark.

“Drunk again?” chimed Jacob Carr. Carr knew most of the royal guard, and he was acquainted with commander Mills through some exchanges of fine goods. “Yes”, said Mills, he smelled like he drank a whole bottle of wine. “Passed out, and he didn’t notice that the stable was on fire. He probably fell down drunk and got that nasty lump on his head.”

Carr then said, “I understand that there was some mischief in town last night. Tarleton told me he lost some watches. “There was more than watches stole last night, Jacob. This is not the first time that we have had some mysterious things going on.”

“Well,” said Carr, “there is a lot of unrest in whole kingdom. If the king would not be bowing to the papists, and putting men like John Ward into the tower, perhaps there would be less mischief.” Mills looked quizzically at Carr. “When is it that you became interested in religious affairs and affairs of the kingdom?” asked Mills. “When it involves the amount of money that I can make”, said Carr. “I think you are doing well just the way things are”, replied Mills. “A man can always do better if he is close to power”, said Carr, “and that is my aim.” “And just what does that mean?” asked Mills. “Someday, you will see, Commander Mills,” said Carr.

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