It was a most peculiar scene that greeted Matthew Roving’s eyes as he stood on the deck of the Falmouth packet: the weather was sunny, the wind fair, the sea a scintillating mirror of the sky—and all around him men were lying on their backs, writhing, moaning, clawing their bodies with fevered hands. Even Master John Paul and Captain Jones had fallen at Matthew’s feet and were babbling deliriously. Every man was laid low, not because of a battle, but because he’d caught the measles—the same measles every kid back home had got over in third grade with the help of a diet of 7-Up floats and TV.
Meanwhile, the ship was adrift, and Matthew was discovering that a sailing vessel without a hand on the helm is an aimless, spooky, chattering presence. Waves slapped the hull around with impunity, winds whipped the sails to and fro as if to get even for all the hours they’d spent working without pay. It was so creepy he felt like diving over the side and just swimming away.
Someone had to take charge, and it sure wasn’t going to be any of the adults. But he did have Abby, asleep below decks—Abby would know what to do!