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Excerpt from Stowaway by Karen Hesse, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Stowaway

by Karen Hesse
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  • First Published:
  • Aug 1, 2000
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2002
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Print Excerpt

Chapter One
Stowaway

August 1768

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."

Copyright © 2000 by Karen Hesse

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