The Journey of Misella Cross
The prisoners huddled together in two groups on the deck of the Seaflower, the men, in irons, separated from the unfettered women. When the ship lurched away from the Blackfriars dock, some of the men slipped, taking their chained partners with them as they tumbled to the wet boards. The clanging of the ship’s bell signaled the launch, muffling the curses of the fallen men, their shackled wrists bleeding anew.
The first mate, Amos Bristol, lunged toward them. “Get up,” he screamed, “and stand quiet or you’ll feel the rope’s end before we reach the ocean.” The cold April wind whipped the pages of the open ledger he held. “When I call your names, follow Flinty down to the hold.” A scowling troll of a man in dirty muslin britches and unbuttoned shirt released the bell rope, grabbed his sawn-off musket, and limped to a square opening in the deck floor.
Some of the women wept quietly into their bunched up shawls, knowing they would never see England again and fearing what they would find in the New World. Misella Cross shed no tears, though she shivered in her torn garments. Her attention was drawn to the young girl cowering next to her, pale as death, her eyes red from weeping. She appeared to be no older than twelve and even in her brown serge convict dress, she looked angelic: her face flawless as sculptured marble, her gold-tinged hair a mass of ringlets, her delicate lips compressed in an effort to control her sobs. She looks like me, Misella thought, with a painful stab of recognition, six long years ago when I, too, was forsaken.
Misella slipped her arm around the girl’s thin shoulders. “You have a friend,” she whispered. “Stay next to me.” The girl did not respond, her hands hanging limp, her eyes downcast.