Merry Christmas and welcome back! I have a surprise for you! Today, tomorrow and the day after, you will be getting a story part everyday! That's right! Three days in a row of Expected End!
Part 3: Bound for New York
James was completely unaware as he was lifted, stiff and shivering from the cell. Fremantle and Wellington carried James to a nearby tavern serving as the camps medical facilities. He awoke with a start as he was plopped down on a rough table.
Without a word, the doctor ripped open his shirt and began to poke and prod the bullet wound in his side. James sputtered as he tried to hold back a cry. He soon gave up trying. The doctor ignored him, neither bothered nor concerned by the apparent discomfort of his patient.
A scream burst through his teeth as the doctor dug after the bullet with a pair of pinchers. “Please,” he moaned, then cried out again as he dug deeper into this side. “PLEASE!”
The doctor muttered something under his breath, reached for a bottle of foul-smelling medicine. He popped off the lid and tilted the mouth to James’ lips. Liquid poured down his throat, making James cough and gag, gasping for breath. His vision blurred and in mere minutes, he was in a state of incoherence.
“That’s all I can do for the lad,” the doctor said half an hour later, tightening the bandage on the young man’s leg. “Move ‘em on now.”
James felt disoriented, dizzy and sick to his stomach. He knew he had been cared for; he had survived the night. But he had no clue what time of day it was or where he was or who these funny speaking men in red jackets were. He couldn’t think clear. Why was he here anyway? Why was he being treated by a doctor? Why did his stomach hurt so furiously? Where were Andrew and Gabriel? Where was Gen. Lafayette? And why did his throat burn and his head ache so furiously?
“Come, ye Rebel dog! Move along now!”
He felt himself being pushed forward. “The colonel reviewed yer case whist you were asleep, you lazy urchin.” Who was talking? Why was James’ ‘case’ being reviewed by Col. Potts? What had he done? “He’s decided you’re not a spy after all, against our better judgment. Looks like ye get to spend yer days on a man o’ war, Rebel.”
At last memory was restored to the poor confused soldier. His stomach churned. He’d never liked the water, and now he was to be surrounded by it for months… or weeks if his illness claimed him. The soldiers were laughing at his bewildered face. James was frightened, though he would probably have denied it.
Shackles were clasped about his wrists and ankles as he was prodded by bayonet to walk faster between the guards who helped him towards the wagon. He was lifted into the air and dropped with a dull thud into the wooden frame. He shook his groggy head as a whip snapped behind him, scaring the living daylights out of him. A mule protested, but the wagon slowly began to clop forward. The wind blew less forcefully than the night before but was every wit as cold. Snowflakes blew inside the wagon, chilling James, who was now left in only his shirt and breeches. His gear and outer coat and vest had been confiscated.
Every bump tugged at his injuries and caused James to moan. He sounds were rewarded with a butt from the musket against his injured leg, which only made matters worse. By the time they stopped to rest the mule and for the soldiers to have their afternoon tea, James’ leg had swollen so badly, he was sure it was now broken.
After three agonizing days of travel, James arrived, battered and bruised, at the Maryland port that would be the beginning of the end of his journey. New York was the final destination, where the ship would put in just off the coast for its prisoners to rot their lives away.
That very day, he was taken below deck in irons. The HMS Hawk was full of prisoner of war, each chained to the wall or floor, some in stocks. They couldn’t move around without the Brits knowing, for the chains were heavy and clanked with even small movements. This wasn’t a problem for James; he couldn’t move anyway.
The smell of waste and garbage caused him to lose what little food was still on his stomach within the first five minutes, which garnered him a blow from his new guard. As he finally left him to lie in his misery, another smell mingled with the putrid air… blood.
As the days slowly creaked by, James listened to the old timers talk. They were only allowed up on deck when they were to be interrogated or punished for something, neither being often, they said. That very day, three men were taken up top… and were returned, half dead. James dragged himself farther into his corner, as if doing so would help him to escape this horrible reality that was now his life. It wouldn’t be long before he was called up, he was sure. And he wouldn’t survive such a beating. Where was God in a place like this?
I will never leave thee nor forsake thee… Be still and know that I am God… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
An expected end? James thought, shivering in his corner, removed from everything and everyone he knew and loved. This is the expected end God has for me? Why God? If this is the expected end, why don’t You just let me die? Where are Your thoughts of peace for me in a place like this? It surely seems evil to me. God, I don’t understand!
Be still and know that I am God. Be still…
An unbidden sob escaped James and shook his limp frame. He didn’t even care who heard him. “God, please,” he whispered. “Please, help me be still! I need help, Father! Don’t you care anymore? God, please, help me!”
“Shh,” someone whispered, scooting over to him, dragging his chains with him. “There, now, lad, God hears you and He does care. He gives His hardest test to His strongest soldiers. Don’t forget that. He knows where you are and He cares about the pain you are going through. But He’s just trying to grow you, lad. And I don’t doubt but that you’ll bring Him honor and glory in suffering, if you’ll let Him use you for His purpose. But He’s not forsaken you, lad. Just be still now. Lie quiet and let the sweet Holy Spirit speak to your heart. There, that’s it, lie quiet.”
James’ sobs subsided into gasps and finally into silence as the man’s words took hold of him. God did care, or else He wouldn’t have sent His Son to save mankind. James knew that. Jesus had suffered far worse than this. Was he better than his Lord? No, of course not. But why did God seem so far away?
A few nights later, a prisoner tried to jump ship, having picked the lock on his bonds. He made it to shore but was picked up by a harbor patrol. Being returned to the ship, the soldier was flogged. He died that night. James didn’t dare try such a stunt, even if he could. He would never forget that poor man’s screams of pain and pleas for relief. “God, please don’t let me die like that,” James begged.
Hawk at last arrived off the coast of New York and the prisoners were given “generous” terms by a commander who interviewed them one at a time on shore: They could vow allegiance to the King and join the Royal Forces and he would forgive all their insurrection. Or they could remain in rebellion and return to the ghastly conditions of the warship.
James had never felt so conflicted in his life. As he sat shivering on the bench before the commander, he contemplated his options.
A corporal standing by stared hard at the young man, willing him to give it up. He was so weak, the commander had decided that if he did give up the fight, he would just release him to go home. Military service would be too taxing on him. He needed rest, good food and medical care. He was only a lad as it was and surely, he could see the wisdom of letting go of this foolish dream of Independence!
“Allegiance or the Ship?” his bailiff repeated to the young prisoner.
James shuddered at the word ship. The corporal winced at the terror shining in the young man’s eyes. Were ships really that bad? He had never been inside one, but when the wind blew just right a foul stench accosted all standing by the harbor. Perhaps he should visit the Hawk and find out for himself…
“My patience is wearing thin, young man,” the commander sighed.
James trembled as he stared at the floor, his shoulders hunched as he tried to keep from falling to the ground. “I… I… I can’t, sir. I love my country. I have no king… but…. But… King… Jesus.”
The corporal closed his eyes, aching for the poor young man as the commander said, “Then let your King Jesus release you, for King George will not. Have him away.”
James was pulled to his feet and dragged stumbling out the door and back out into the cold air. His body went limp just outside and the guards had to carry him the rest of the way to the little boat waiting to return him to the pit of woe anchored out to sea.
The commander turned to his corporal and remarked, “That lad has some courage. He won’t last three weeks.”
James felt sick to his stomach as they bound him below, once more shackled to the wall. If he could just live to see his home colony… just once more. He lay on the floor, listless and unheeding. He prayed for a miracle… a miracle he dared not share with anyone… one he only dared to hope would come true, just in time for Christmas.
What do you think of James' decision? Is he brave or foolish? What do you think his miracle is? Think it will come true? Guess you'll have to come back tomorrow for more clues!
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Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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