By the time I could remember anything, there were four of us, Mr Quancy, me, Stephen, and Miss Fanny. I’d thought there were others, recalled there were others, but Stephen said no, I’d been knocked in the head, and these memories were of double-vision. That was all.
“Are you sure?” I asked Stephen. “Your accent is strange.”
“I’m from the wilds of Africa,” Stephen said, then looked down at his shoes, which he still had. I’d lost mine, apparently. I only had woollen socks covering my toes, tops hanging down lower than my ankles. “Not really though. Pretoria. You know about the Boers?” he asked me.
I must have given him a look that suggested I did, because he shrugged his shoulders and muttered “Just asking” to himself in that queer accent of his.
I lifted up my arms, but they were tied to my ankles, so I could just about sit up, provided I put my elbows on my knees and rested my chin in my hands. The ends of my ropes had been tied fast to a ring bolted to the floor of the boat and under my bench.
“How necessary is this?” I asked to none of the others in particular. As no one but Stephen could hear me over the wind, he was the one who answered.
“You were quite agitated,” Stephen told me, a reminder of the amount of liquor I’d been consuming both before and after being put in the boat. I had gotten into the caskets of rum that Mr Quancy had tied to the side of the boat and was now trussed up to ensure that I could no longer misbehave. “See.” He pointed to Miss Fanny and Mr Quancy who squeezed themselves as far away from where I sat as they could while still remaining on the boat themselves.
“It’s merely a safety precaution,” Stephen said, and I started to wonder if the lack of other passengers had less to do with my cleared vision and more to do with what I might have done before my vision cleared. But what words should I use to ask that?
“We were talking earlier, before you came to, about the mind. She,” he pointed and motioned for Miss Fanny to come closer, which she refused with a haughty shake of her head. “She studies the mind,” he said, “in Vienna with the Jews. She said with the amount of liquor you imbibed, plus your injuries, and the stress of the ship going down, you may never remember what happened here. You might not even be remembering this right now.”
I hardly wanted the three of them discussing me when I could not participate, but, as that had happened in the past, I decided to not worry myself about it.
“The two of them think we should cut these casks loose, especially since …” but Stephen trailed off. “But I think they might be useful in a medical emergency. You never know.” He leans over and taps their tops. “They’re likely all sea water by this point anyway. Ballast I suppose.”
I then unintentionally stuck my feet in a puddle that had formed. The water lapped at me, viscous and dark. I moved my feet out of the puddle and tried again to rearrange myself.
“Do you remember the boat?” Stephen asked me.
“This boat? The one under my own feet. Of course I remember.” I stomped my foot hard enough that we rocked a little.
“Maybe I should go back to the others,” Stephen said, and, when the wind broke for a moment, he wobbled along to the other end of the boat to confer with Mr Quancy and Miss Fanny, all of them keeping their backs to me except, every now and then, turning to look straight at me as if I couldn’t see them trying to spy on me without me noticing.
I decided I must remember more of the boat than I realised, for I knew the names Stephen, Mr Quancy, and Miss Fanny without anyone having told me, unless my mind was just filling in the blanks the best it could given the circumstances. For instance, I had a cousin named Stephen who married a Hun girl who was a Catholic and wore a large gold cross around her neck, the same as Miss Fanny does, hers catching the light now and then when the sun breaks through the clouds. Vienna’s a Hun city I supposed.
Then I reconsidered: perhaps my mind was making up my cousin Stephen and the German girl. I couldn’t put a face to Cousin Stephen’s name, nor recall any sort of papist nonsense at a wedding. And all this still gave me nothing about Mr Quancy, who looked toward me before turning away again without saying a word.