The man was rough with her and deserved to be taught a lesson. And now, at Norwich gaol she kills time waiting for the turnkey.
She leaves the castle prison in the dead of night. The convicts chained together and ready to depart.
Anxiously she steps off the coach onto the sandy bank of the Thames. The writhing bundle in her arms squeals for milk.
The boatman remembers her. A year ago, he was a turnkey at the castle, they’d had fun in her cell and then when his job was no more, she gave him a copper coin.
Heaving his bulk of criminals to the moribund prison ship, the boatman’s jacket strains at the seams. She watches how his back folds and unfolds with each movement. He has the strength of an ox and the gentleness of a lamb. She loved him.
The short journey ends. He takes her hand and steadies her off his boat and onto the transport ship. The bawling baby struggles to free herself from the crook of her mother’s arm. She has the boatman’s eyes.
The wind lifts his curls to the heavens, she watches him steer his boat away and wonders if he read the inscription on the copper coin, Elizabeth Catchpole, May 1830, the date his daughter was born.