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CLUE: More Pages from Perdita's Diary

Wednesday, December 25, 1833. Father gathered all the company at six bells, and the pageant was performed. Father and Mother assumed their usual roles, and Canby, Carlotto and McAvoy attempted the Three Wise Men. I played the part of the Angel, who "hath good news for all mankind," and afterwards Riordan chided me: "Do not be bringin' tears to our eyes, lass, for they freeze over and keep us blind for half a watch."

Thursday, December 26, 1833. Boxing Day. There is no magician more astounding than the common seaman, who can transform a stick of wood into a treasure and conjure a wrap and a ribbon out of thin air.

The gifts were simple and thoughtful. The generosity in such dire circumstance struck straight to the heart. Mr. Dermot gave away six of his coats (retaining three). Tabot gave Pierce his prized Pendleton wool cap and blanket, and took for himself those that had belonged to a man who died of fever early in the voyage. Father had a present for each man, if only a tin of kippers or a square of chocolate. Mother's gift for the ailing Mr. Grigg, her warmest shawl, brought three cheers from the crew.

In return, Eddington astonished and delighted Father with a meteorite Harper had found in the ice. Of course the discussion turned to meteors and their properties and remained there for many hours. As I expected, Lt Harding presented me with the scrimshaw comb that he has laboured over lo these many months. And a fine one it is, showing the hills of England rolling down to a placid sea.

Friday, December 27, 1833. None witnessed the exchange, but Mr Yates now sports the woolen mittens woven by Sarah Byers lo these many weeks. I grant he is a gentle soul, but how his pockmarked face can kindle love is beyond my ken.

Sunday, December 29, 1833. The days (though I hesitate to call them that, as there is no sun) grow colder. I shuffle with Mother in endless laps inside the tent.

Wednesday, January 1, 1834. We begin the new year with the most ominous of portents: a raging fever in Mr Tabot. The doctor believes that quick and decisive bloodletting will...

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Sunday, January 19, 1834. Although the fever crisis seems to have passed, Father is moving the camp. Lt Harding says the new location will be more visible to passing ships. I of course asked him sweetly how many ships he expected to sail past atop the ice, and he blushed in an entirely satisfactory way. Jakkelson persists in his potions and tonics twice a day for all the company.

Tuesday, January 21, 1834. Horror today written on the face of poor Mr Harper. And Mr Carlotto is being consumed by the deadly fever. The sailors in a panic approached Father. The circumstances being what they are, he was forced to order a separate camp to be prepared.

Despite a clumsy manner Mr Yates is of course the obvious choice to care for Mr Harper. Mr Jakkelson objected, claiming he had been inoculated and the job by rights fell to him. But my father did not relent, much to the relief of all.

To everyone's surprise our maid Sarah also stated her determination to go into the quarantine tent. Mr Jakkelson protested but after hearing her story and examining her forearms, with the greatest reluctance he permitted her to accompany Mr Yates. Mother was astonished, saying only...

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...insisted that the infernal stone go along with the sick into the quarantine tent. It can be a measure of Father's prostrating shock that he allowed it to be so.


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