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Trivial Matters

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"Handsomely, now."

Jack hovered like a mother hen. Stephen shot him a dark look, but to no avail; Jack remained focused on overseeing his progress into the longboat, passed down by the hands like a child.

The pain in his forearm was acute, but sending him off was unnecessary: clean bandages, laudanum for the pain and a sharp eye for gangrene were all he needed. The surgeons in this port could not do a more competent job than he could do himself, and truly there was not much to do. “This is a lot of fuss for nothing.”

“We shall see in the morning,” said Jack.

“But your orders are to leave now,” Stephen called from the boat.

“The tide is against us, my dear. We are forced to stay a bit longer.”

The oars dipped and plunged, carrying him rapidly away from the Surprise. Stephen watched the faces of the officers contemplating sky or deck rather than attending to their duties in overseeing the ship. If that had not been enough to convince him of Jack’s lie, Jack’s earlier insistence that there was not a moment to lose was plenty on its own.

“Your soul to the devil, Jack,” muttered Stephen, but he could not stop the curl of warmth that spread throughout his body: core to fingertips. When Bonden leaned in to remind him that perhaps the shops would still be open and he might be able to replace his shattered instruments -- the same instruments that had caused his injury -- a brief anger swelled in him at being put ashore over such a trivial thing, as well as anger at himself for having insisted to Jack throughout their voyage that the instruments were of vital scientific value. But the warmth soon returned and Stephen allowed himself a smile.