I arose Saturday with the sun and with of course Bingley, the little dog, who alerted me to his desire for breakfast by stepping quite unceremoniously on my abdomen, his sweet little face right before mine until my eyes opened. I can say at least he was polite enough to give his little tail a wag in his way of a morning greeting. Since I heard not another soul awake around, I stole as quietly as I could into my dressing gown and out of the tent, lest I awaken Mr. and Mrs. Tumbusch, and fed Bingley his breakfast.
The camp was silent and peaceful, though I knew I would not have very much longer to enjoy the dawn as there were faint sounds of life coming from nearby tents, and unclad as I was in my dressing gown, cap, and nightgown; I could not remain so before strangers when they decided to rise.
Somewhere by the misty shore I heard a loon call mournfully, followed shortly by the uncouth squawk of a heron. The little waves stirred by the breeze knocked the longboats tethered to the dock against one another with a hollow thud and clang. I closed my eyes and relished these last peaceful moments for I knew within an hour there would be no such thing as silence and tranquility. In the distance I heard seven chimes of a ship’s bell mounted in a camp calling the time. I can be relatively assured it denoted 6:30 in the morning, though I have a loose grasp at best of Naval time.
I did not have to wait too much longer before I heard Mrs. Tumbusch softly call for me, as I am sure she saw I was not in my bed. Bingley and I took refuge back in our canvas home whilst I helped Mrs. Tumbusch dress and she I. Before breakfast I took a moment to pen a letter to my dearest friend Ms. Tattman. Mr. Tumbusch took that opportunity to make use of his newest purchase – his campaign shaving box to make himself presentable before we went to the fort. My nerves completely prevented my eating anything of real substance, and I drank only some orange juice. The Doctor was to arrive in port later, and I was most anxious to meet him there. Word had gotten back to me of his being healthy and in one piece by way of Mr. Ramsey when last they encountered one another, as the Doctor is not in any way a reliable correspondent, but understandably I wanted to make sure of this with my own eyes.
After breakfast I dressed for the rest of the day in my finest new things, my white dotted muslin and my red silk spencer, an outfit I knew the Doctor would be fond of; though it was not in his favorite shade of Olive Green. Carefully did I arrange my hair, and very prominently did I display the Doctor’s portrait upon my spencer jacket for all to see. At last we were at leisure to promenade about.
The day dragged on in an insufferable manner, though Mr. and Mrs. Tumbusch were most attentive to me. I feel I did not return their great kindness to me in my distracted distress, and feel the sting of guilt even now most acutely. At last it was time to go and observe the Naval and Military tactics, to keep all involved as sharp as possible, I can only assume. Perhaps these men think it fun, and perhaps those unmarried of the lot find it a time to flex and show for the suitable women they wish to snap up who came out to see. For my part I kept my small spyglass the Doctor left in my care trained on the ships, straining to see his striking figure hauling ropes, or whatever it is he would do in the guise of a sailor. It was perhaps that very garb that prevented me from picking him out of the rest of the rabble. I finally was obliged to give up the search, as the mass of people were too much to bear, and I could not find comfort in the heat being so very much pressed in the crowd.
I could not find Mr. or Mrs. Tumbusch among the sea of heads, but having given them my word to send for them should I need them before I set off, I was at liberty to go in search of where the ships may dock; there being many and no one with any exact knowledge or firm information on the subject.
I spent near two hours in the stifling heat walking from one place to another, asking any person who might know what to do, standing upon a rock with my spyglass watching the sister ships and trying to discern where they might end up. I watched longboats row past my perch, and as the wind picked up off the water I could make out one sailor hailing me as a Siren, and to spare him to not dash them all upon the rocks. Vexed as I was by my tiring hunt to find my Doctor, I laughed merrily at this thought, and waving to him I promise I was not an accomplished enough singer to distract him into certain demise. All of the men laughed heartily in response to this and I was revived in spirits.
Finally I caught up with Mrs. Shifferdecker, the very beautiful wife of one Lt. Shifferdecker who I knew to be with the Doctor, and she informed me that in but a moment they would allow the public access to the dock where all the ships would unload their crew destined for York. I spent a few moments speaking with her before I entered the area where both the Playfair and the Pathfinder were pulled up side-by-side. Instantly I caught sight of the Doctor, looking very amusing and shockingly underdressed to my eye, and throwing all propriety to the wind gathered my skirts to run the last few yards before I tripped into view, my cheeks flushed from the heat and upon seeing him again, a smile on my face I found I could not control.
I like to think it is not my vanity that speaks but honest truth when I say his face seemed to brighten upon seeing me. He looked tired and sun-weary, but smiled at me in response, though certainly with a more dignified manner. He had, long before he left, promised me access aboard whichever ship he found himself and stepping forward offered his hand to help me aboard as Lt. Shifferdecker, also in sailor’s slops, held the ropes aside. We took a few silent moments to smile at one another again, before shyly looking across the water in opposite directions. I asked after his journey, after his health, and informed him I was glad to see him alright. I thanked Lt. Shifferdecker in jest for looking after the Doctor, and he smiled at me archly, but did not respond.
My stay aboard the ship was not long in duration, for just the small waves coming from the various passing craft made me feel rather ill. I was handed down with all polite alacrity, and in but a moment the Doctor and I were off to make our way back to camp.
Our conversation was light and familiar, though inside I was anxious. After such a long absence I had hoped for something more like affection; but it was just as it was before. I had not time to dwell on it for we were back at the camp in what seemed like no time at all, and no longer at liberty to wholly enjoy one another’s company. Mr. and Mrs. Tumbusch were overjoyed to see him again, being old friends, and we all made quite merry.
Lt. Shifferdecker, having changed like the Doctor, into the proper uniform of his station invited us very graciously to his camp to enjoy some port and some sweet things his steward had made. It was a little taste of civilization in a place that seemed to be so far removed from it. I was introduced by the Doctor to Mr. Midshipman Bartgis (who pronounced his name as Barges), and upon only a few minutes discourse he asked me boldly to have a dance with him in Navy hall where they were holding a small country dance. Being quite keen on dancing myself at any opportunity I readily assented, giving a brief glance at the Doctor who seemed undisturbed by the request. Mr. Bartgis was quite light on his feet and a fine dancer. I laughed with him readily, and enjoyed his conversation thoroughly.
Eleven O’clock came too early for me, and though my heart and spirits were more than alive, my body felt very much the early hour in which I rose. After we made our goodnights to the Doctor and Lt. Shifferdecker I stated to Mrs. Tumbusch that I should never rest this night for my mind was terribly active and full. My dear friend laughed at me and promised the day would catch me and I would sleep well enough. I confess she was quite correct, and I dreamt of sails and the vast open ocean; and of the Doctor who was as dear to me now as he ever was.