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Stitch in Time

Ninety minutes after defeating the French brig in a brief and bloody battle, Jack and Stephen were in the captain's cabin.

"Hold firm, my dear, I beg of you," said Stephen arranging his surgical thread and needle on the table. "You're dripping blood on the tablecloth."

"Damn that Killick!" roared Jack Aubrey in a sour temper. "I sent him to fetch my brandy an hour ago."

"Tut, my dear, it's been no more than twenty minutes. Drink your soup."

Jack slurped up a spoonful.

"Now hold steady and quit your bellowing while I wipe clean these nasty powder burns and dried blood. This may smart a bit."

"Ow! Damn your clumsy hands!" barked Jack as his severed ear plopped into his bowl of soup. Jack fished it out and wiped it dry on the tablecloth. "Damned nuisance, this," and handed it to Stephen.

"It's a marvel you found it on deck during the fighting."

"It WAS a struggle, wrestling it from O'Reilly's mongrel--the scurvy cur."

"There's hardly a tooth mark on it," said Stephen examining the ear closely as if it were a piece of wormy gristle. "Good thing it's only the top half."

"Necessary though if I'm to hear the high notes. Haw, haw!"

Stephen ignored the jest and with a calm hand and steady eye, he stitched a section of Jack's ear. "You'll never be able to hear without your ear, my dear."

Jack laughed and slapped his thigh, causing Stephen to pause in his surgery. "Ever the humorist poet physician. Bless you, Stephen, you slay me and keep my spirits high."

"I haven't the vaguest notion what you mean," said Stephen humorously. He resumed sewing for some time without further wince from Jack who tried eating his soup without bending his head.

Killick appeared carrying a tray with a brandy balanced upon it.

"At last! You're a lifesaver." Jack took a healthy swig.

"Will that be all sir?" asked Killick.

Jack dismissed him. "Hurry, Stephen and we may yet get in a duet before last bell."

"There, good as new," said Stephen.

"Eh? What's that you say?" said Jack playfully. "Eh?"

"This time I didn't hear you." Stephen bandaged the right side of Jack's head. "Mind your ear and don't pick at the bandage."

"Now, go fetch your violin so we may lay bow to string," ordered Jack.

"Gladly. Right now your voice is not music to my ears."

© 2004 Timothy Karter