Date: 11-th of June 1719
Place: Aboard HMS"Rose", anchored in Kingston, Jamaica
The news spread rapidly on board, but Marina learnt them directly from the involved person: Doc Kemble came to bid good bye and to tell her that he had been seconded to the fort. They needed a good doctor too, and the number of his future patients would be higher than here: if the Army men were roughly similar in number with the crew of HMS “Rose”, there were higher ups and their families to be treated too… Honestly, he was happy to make a change in his life and settle ashore for a while. Age and bad habits had started taking over…
His devoted helper, rather discontented with the news, doubted that life in Kingston could be kinder for a man prone to excesses. There, opportunities to long nights of feasting in good company and overdrinking would be more often than aboard the ship. ”But who is coming here in your place? Do you know him?”
Marina asked on a contraried tone.”Doctor Shepard is a good man and an experienced doctor too. I have met him already a few times and it has been a great pleasure to talk to him. He will come soon to take over from me, so I’ll introduce you to him and I’ll tell him that he can rely on you for everything I taught you.”
Until then, if talking about “helping”, Marina started cleaning the medical equipment, so that the new doctor would find everything in place, while Doc was packing his luggage.
The day had now dawned where Mark would once again step onto the never still wooden planks of a navy ship. This time in a different errand though than that day more than 30 years ago when he had been assigned to his first ship as a sailor. Now he was stepping on board in the role of a doctor, in fact the doctor who would be the chief medical warrant officer on board the ship for the next long period of time. Unless something went wrong of course or that the ship had bad luck in battle, but it was always better to be an optimist and not consider what the future might bring.
It couldn’t be denied that he was a fairly bit excited about being in the Service of the King once more and over the past years he had only his old seaman stories to keep the old fire in his heart for the sea alive. But now he was getting back and even with a job that was quite important. He couldn’t have asked for more. He only felt bad about leaving his daughter alone at home to handle the estate. But she was a grown woman now and certainly was capable of handling herself.
With two gentle knocks on the door to sickbay, Mark stepped inside and quickly found Dr. Kemble there and he nodded politely to the man. “Good day Dr. Kemble” He said and extended his hand to greet the man. “How do you do?” Then shortly after he noticed the boy who was also present in the room. Perhaps a helper or something of that sort, Mark thought to himself as he offered the young boy a smile and a nod.
Marina looked at the man who entered the sickbay, greeting Doc so amiably. A bit older than Doc – or so he seemed – definitely fitter and with a noble poise, his hair completely white… They exchanged greetings, and for Marina these took the place of a proper introduction:
“Hello, Doctor Shepard! I was just telling Martin, my loblolly boy, that you would come soon.”
Two men of still close age, of similar knowledge and position, and still radically different one from the other.
“Doctor Shepard, Martin Costa is a topman, but he had shown a knack for the medical work and I can trust his help with dressing wounds, applying poultices, giving medicine in time… I fully recommend him to you too,” he added warmly.
”Glad to make your acquaintance, Dr. Shepard! Any time I am free from duty, I am glad to be here and help the ones who need to be taken care of,” she answered, with a friendly smile, looking at the newcomer.
His eyes were the shade of the green acorn, not quite hazel, not quite green, and despite the solemn, official posture, so different than Dr. Kemble’s, one could read kindness in his eyes.
“We don’t have anymore people in the sickbay now. There has been almost one month since the last battle, so, they were mostly healed – at least partially - and sent back before the mast. Some of them are on light duty or unable to work yet, still.”
”And unfortunately natural selection took its course with the others. Those damn splinters after the cannonade get infected so quickly, and not all bodies are able to fight infection. ”
Taking a big leather bound notebook from the table, he showed the doctor:
“Their names are written here, and so are all the cases of this year. Let me show you around!”
Mark nodded as Dr. Kemble introduced the young sailor and recommended his help. Once the former doctor had explained all the things that Mr. Costa was able to do, he smiled to the boy and said: “I see, excellent” and in response to the boy’s own comment and introduction he added: “And your help will certainly be appreciated Mr. Costa” He then proceeded to follow Dr. Kemble on the quick tour around sickbay. It was quite a relief to Mark that he didn’t have any patients when he began as he knew all too well how one doctor was different from another and the sudden change in treatment was certainly not was a patient needed.
But he took a good look through the book he was showed. He definitely had to look closer into that. It would be a good way to determine who was most likely to fall ill and if anyone had received plenty of treatments for something. He gave another polite nod and followed Dr. Kemble as he wanted to show him the ship. It had certainly been a while since he had been a sailor, and sure the ships had changed a bit since then but everything still seemed so familiar.
At the new doctor’s kind answer, Marina answered promptly, blushing a little at the compliment:”Thank you very much, Sir. Anytime you need me, I would come immediately.”
Then she continued the cleaning and the packing up. Doc’s leaving was definitely no good news at all, but she had to be happy for him, because it would be definitely better. And she would make sure that he didn’t forget anything belonging to him aboard.
It remained to be seen how she would get along with the new doctor – Doctor Shepard, as he had been introduced. But he seemed a nice man, so she didn’t worry about this anymore.
– THE END –