SUNDAY 7th TO FRIDAY 19th [Plymouth] With the help of Seamen Francis Haite, John Ramsay, and Samuel Evans, I have managed to keep my presence aboard Endeavour secret. She's a small Bark, and her Company over eighty in number. It's a wonder I've not been discovered, with all the coming and going of the men aboard, but I have not. The three seamen I paid to get me on bring biscuit and water. They make certain I exercise each night during middle watch, when there are fewer hands on deck. But there is little to relieve my situation till Endeavour sails.
It's a good hiding place I've got, in the aft of what Samuel Evans calls the Pinnace, a small boat Endeavour carries aboard her. I can look over the edge and see the deck without being noticed. But it is difficult, lying still, day and night. Sometimes the urge to cry out nearly gets the better of me. I haven't yet. It would go hard on the men who have helped me if I did. And I would be returned to the Butcher, who would take it out of my hide, if Father didn't kill me first.
Endeavour creaks without rest as she sits at anchor. The breeze chatters her ropes against the masts. The ship's bell clangs on the hour and half hour, and the bosun's whistle ever pierces the air with its piped orders. With all the din of London, I thought it could never be so noisy on a ship. But it is.
I've chickens for neighbours, and pigs, and a goat. They snort and cluck and bleat day and night, in pens on deck. I'm glad of their company and wish I might go near them more often. I've had milk out of the goat, straight from her teat. John Ramsay says she's aboard for the Gentlemen and Officers, so they might have fresh cream when they please.
Today, the 19th, Captain Cook gathered the Ship's Company on deck and read the Articles of War aloud. Captain is a clean-shaven man, strict and stern, with cold eyes. The Articles he read stated there would be no swearing of oaths on board, no drunkenness, nor uncleanness. Good thing Captain hasn't had a whiff of me. The Articles declare cowardice, mutiny, and desertion to be punishable acts. They say naught of stowaways, but Francis Haite, John Ramsay, and Samuel Evans each glanced my way during Captain's reading.
SATURDAY 20th [Plymouth] Rain, rain, rain. Even with the cover pulled over me, I am thoroughly wet.
SUNDAY 21st [Plymouth] We toss at anchor. My stomach heaves and cramps and heaves again. And I'm bruised from head to toe.
I half wish Father would come aboard and take me home. I'm tired of being wet and hungry. Father knows by my letter that I've run out on the Butcher. But I did not write where I meant to go, nor what I meant to do, for when I sent the letter, I hardly knew my plans myself. Even if he knew, he would not come. I am a disappointment to Father. All my brothers are scholars. Only I could not settle to my studies. Father has no use for a son who will not learn his Latin.
MONDAY 22nd [Plymouth] A storm has made the sea sorely troubled beneath us, even as we sit at anchor. This noon a servant boy saw me heaving out of the Pinnace as he ran to be sick himself over the side. I pray he was too much in his own misery to take notice of me and mine.
TUESDAY 23rd [Plymouth] Last night the servant boy came right to my hiding place. "Lad," he whispered, "are you still alive in there?"
I held silent. After a moment he poked his head into the Pinnace and stared straight at me. I stared straight back. He looked to be fifteen or sixteen years of age. When he made out I was well, he smiled. Blisters, I have never seen such a beaming smile.
Samuel Evans called out from the forward of the ship, "Hey, there. You, boy. Get away from the Pinnace."
The servant boy was gone in an instant, but not before he'd dropped some hardtack and a piece of junk into my hand.
WEDNESDAY 24th TO THURSDAY 25th [Plymouth] More wind and rain, and the air thick and heavy on my chest. I stink worse than a London gutter. I wish I could just shut my eyes and sleep until everything was right again.
I told Francis Haite about the servant boy who found me.
"That would be John Charlton," Francis Haite said. "He's a good lad. He won't give you up."
Francis Haite is an old man, older than the Captain, with crooked and missing teeth and a face well lined. He clasped my shoulder for a moment. "Be patient, lad," he said.
I shall be patient. Father thinks me worthless when it comes to sticking with a plan. He says I run from everything. Well, I did run from Reverend Smythe's school. And from the Butcher. But I had good cause on both counts. And unhappy as I am, cramped in the hard confines of the Pinnace, I am better off than I was with the Butcher. And so I shall remain, recording my trials in this journal. I shall prove to Father that I am not a quitter. That I am good for something. That I am more than a Butcher's boy.
Finally, the rain has stopped. Empty casks taken off. Fresh supplies of Beer and Water brought on. This afternoon, at last, we weighed anchor. Now there are new sounds to join with the others. The wind clapping the sails, the men singing out in the rigging, the water churned by Endeavour's prow. Fine sounds. Sailing sounds.
FRIDAY 26th [Off the Coast of England] Samuel Evans, who has the largest hands I have ever seen, larger even than the Butcher's, found me at my journal, which has suffered from the damp despite its wrappings. He cannot read nor write and thinks it wondrous that a boy of eleven can do what a grown man cannot. "I could teach you," I told him. "When I am out of hiding."
He laughed and nodded his large head. "Time does sit heavy on a seaman some days. It'd be a blessing to read away the hours."
SATURDAY 27th [Off the Coast, North Atlantic] Fair-haired John Ramsay, the youngest of the three men helping me, shipped out the first time when he was but eight.
There are several Gentlemen aboard. I often hear the name of Mr. Banks called. He's a very educated man from the sound of him. His brown hair goes wild in the wind, and his dark eyes are lit with an eager curiosity. Mr. Banks's Company watched porpoises off the side this afternoon. From my hiding place I could hear their remarks and see the pleasure the Gentlemen took in their sightings. I only wish I might have stood at the rail beside them and seen what they saw.
As I write, the sea is ever in my ears and in my bones. Endeavour creaks and groans and sighs as she goes. I creak and groan and sigh, as well, but I must do it all in silence.
SUNDAY 28th [Off the Coast, North Atlantic] Gale in the night. But today the rain gave way to haze and a light breeze, and I dried out a bit. Mr. Banks and his Gentlemen dipped up some seawater and discussed the creatures found swimming in it. The Gentlemen were full of exclamation and wonder.
MONDAY 29th to Tuesday 30th [Off the Coast, North Atlantic] The weather has turned foul again, and the ship heaves and tosses. I am sick. The Gentlemen have been sick, too. Been at the side regularly. I can say now that Gentlemen heave the contents of their stomach same as eleven-year-old stowaways.
WEDNESDAY 31st TO THURSDAY 1st SEPTEMBER [Lat. 44°56' N, Long. 9°9' W] All day the sea rose, breaking over the deck. Captain had the men everywhere in the rigging, trying to save the ship from being torn to pieces by the wind.
Just before first watch the Bosun staggered to the side and shook his fist at the sea, cursing it for stealing his skiff. But ship's cook, Mr. Thompson, was angrier still. A dozen of his hens drowned in the storm. Mr. Thompson kept muttering how he was never to feed the entire Company if the sea kept killing his livestock. I'd never seen ship's cook so close before. He has but one hand!
The storm, at last, is blown out and Endeavour floats easy in the sea again. The servant boy, John Charlton, comes past when he can, leaving bits to eat. He also brings with him good cheer with that kind face of his and that beaming smile. I don't know much about him but that he is from London, has a friendly nature, and at fifteen years of age has spent his last three years at sea. He says my red hair reminds him of his mother. He knows his way about, John Charlton does, and he knows the men who brought me aboard. They can be trusted, he said. They're good men.
The men at night sing songs of Spain, and John Charlton says soon we are passing there. He brought me the latitude and longitude readings so I might enter them in my journal and has promised to do so whenever he can. I asked John what I should do about coming out.
"Stay hidden," he said. "If you are discovered now," he said, "Captain may yet put you off on land and see you returned to England."
FRIDAY 2nd [Between Cape Finisterre and Cape Ortegal] Spain! I cannot see it from my hiding place, but I heard the cry. The Gentlemen brought their casting nets out and fetched in such creatures I can only imagine. Great were their exclamations of wonder. Their excitement makes my hiding so much more difficult to bear. That and the dampness of it all.
SATURDAY 3rd [Off the Coast of Spain] Saw little of the Gentlemen on deck today. At times they are careless and leave a morsel, spiced meat or cheese. Mr. Parkinson, one of the artists Mr. Banks brought aboard to draw the plants and animals we shall see on this voyage, is particularly forgetful with his food. He is a young man with a woman's hands. I am always interested to hear his observations. He speaks in a clear, light voice unlike any other on board.
I have seen much in my imagination, listening to Mr. Parkinson's reflections.
SUNDAY 4th [Off the Coast of Spain] As the sun was setting, the Gentlemen spied an endless field of little crabs feeding upon the surface of the sea. They cast their net and brought in a dripping lot of the little scuttlers. On deck the crabs glistened in the last rays of sunlight, clicking and slipping over one another. The Gentlemen exclaimed excitedly, and Mr. Banks could not gather the creatures fast enough.
MONDAY 5th [Off Cape Finisterre] Mr. Banks received a bird from one of the sailors this morning. It had been tangled in the rigging. The bird died in Mr. Banks's hands. He had one of his servants rush it to Mr. Parkinson to be drawn. I like all animals, but birds are my favourites. The year after Mother died, when I lived with Grandmother, I would climb trees and watch the birds in their nests. I learned to imitate their calls, so that they would come almost to my hand.
Mr. Banks has two greyhound dogs aboard. They sniff at my hiding place in the shelter of the Pinnace. Ordinarily the sight of them would gladden me, but I fear the bad turn they could do me now if they should give me away. But with the pens of livestock around me, no one questions their excitement. Must be the pigs making them act so, Mr. Banks says.
TUESDAY 6th [Off the Coast of Spain] Spain retreats and the Gentlemen gather species from the sea with a wonderful worship. They exclaim at their finds, calling them sparkling jewels. Could these creatures possibly be as rich as my mind imagines? Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Buchan, the other artist aboard, must be very busy men, to draw all the creatures Mr. Banks discovers. He says no sailor has ever troubled before to make such a record. Now his discoveries are forever recorded in Mr. Parkinson's and Mr. Buchan's pictures. I listen and imagine what everything looks like.
WEDNESDAY 7th [Lat. 40°29' N, Long. 10°11' W] Captain and crew sailed with a spirit of happy speed. Mr. Banks looked out to sea a good part of the day. His posture suggested he was prepared to walk directly upon the water. I think he would ask Captain please to slow down so he might not miss a single fish swimming in his path. But John Charlton says Captain would not listen to such a request. Endeavour goes with the wind.
I asked Francis Haite as he coiled rigging nearby if I might come out soon. He swung his old head no.
I shall rot here. It smells as if I've already begun.
THURSDAY 8th [Off the Coast of Spain] John Ramsay says, "We are pulling away from Cape Saint Vincent, lad, the last of Europe. And soon you shall come out."
It's difficult deciding what to do first. A wash -- what with the fleas and a coat of saltwater on my skin, I itch like mad -- or dinner. I think it shall be dinner.
FRIDAY 9th [Off the Coast, North Atlantic] We are fairly flying over the sea.
SATURDAY 10th [Off the Coast, North Atlantic] In the night I dreamed of the Butcher and woke with a start. My back burned, remembering the bite of his whip. Silently, I slipped out of the Pinnace and crept over to Goat. She nodded, looked me over with a single golden eye, and leaned her weight comfortingly against me.
SUNDAY 11th [Lat. 34°1' N, Long. 14°29' W] John Charlton says, "Wait until we leave Madeira, Nick. Only that much longer."
I don't wish a quick end to our voyage. In fact, I'd like to go on a very long time. The men assure me we shall, as they did that first day I approached them in Deptford Yard. But how much longer can I last in hiding?
MONDAY 12th TO TUESDAY 13th [Isle of Madeira] I've wondered how John Charlton knew so much about Captain. Well, it seems John is the Captain's own underservant and has sailed with him before. The bits he brings me to eat come from the Captain's own table.
John Charlton checked on me as he tended the livestock pens. "We're heading from here to Brasil, Nick. Then round Cape Horn to King George's Land. We've orders from the Lord High Admiral himself. We're to observe the Planet Venus whilst we're there. It's very important, this observation, Nick. Captain says it will tell us how far the Earth is from the Sun and help all men who go to sea ever after."
I only wanted a long voyage. I did not know I had stowed away on such an important one.
WEDNESDAY 14th [Isle of Madeira] A terrible accident today. Captain moved Endeavour to a new berth this morning. The anchor did not hold fast on the first attempt and required to be set again. It was brought up and hove out, but this time Mr. Weir, the Quartermaster, found his leg entangled in the anchor rope. In a heartbeat Mr. Weir was over the side along with the anchor. It was a desperate work to bring him back up. The men hove up the line with the greatest urgency. But despite their efforts they were too late. Mr. Weir was drowned.
I want only to sleep, but when I close my eyes, I see the Butcher at work on Mr. Weir.
Copyright © 2000 by Karen Hesse
Newbery winner Karen Hesse re-creates Cook's momentous voyage through the eyes of this remarkable boy, creating a fictional journal filled with fierce hurricanes, warring natives, and disease, as Nick discovers new lands, incredible creatures, and lifelong friends.
- Margaret K. McElderry Books |
- 320 pages |
- ISBN 9780689839894 |
- June 2002 |
- Grades 5 - 9