section of museum: impressionism

name of artist: Claude Monet

title of the work of art: Sunrise

date created: 1874

source(s) used: Wikipedia, Mental Floss magazine, Andrew Forrester, NOAA’s website

writing prompt: You are a Naval sailor from 1870s Britain, docked in France. Write a letter to a loved one about the journey you’re returning from.

historical fiction: My dearest wife Evelyn,

I write to you this morning in a dazed state, as I am still half-rats from last evening. The boat docked in the Le Havre Harbor at around 12 am, after which we entered a tavern and began to unwind from our adventure. Oh, and what an adventure it was! After we entered the port at Boston, we were met by a fur trapper from a strange land known as “Cleveland”, as the Yankees call it. The man was very hairy yet clean, as if he was a rat with a bar of soap. I introduced myself to the man and offered to pay him 18 pounds for one of his luscious furs. He declined my offer, and requested instead 30 kilograms of our finest biscuits. I brought the offer to my commander, who did not take a liking to the man’s asking. The commander gave me a list of messages to send for the morning. I walked to the mail system and began tapping out the day's messages, as they would take at least 3 days to be fully received.

By the time I completed this lengthy process, the commander was finishing his discussion with the trapper. He looked angry, so I stayed back. I began to recollect the men and prepare the ship for departure when the commander called over to me. I was instructed to bring 8 kilograms of potatoes and not an ounce more. I did as was instructed, and upon returning found the commander to be in a pleasant mood for a change.

Relieved, I walked back to the steamer and began to give out commands. One sailor, Davidson’s the poor soul’s name, was preparing to repair a dented part of the hull. His knot for his harness was not quite up to dick, however, and he fell into the water. He began to sink, and soon had drowned. He was a bricky drunkard in his final hours. I shall miss the boy, as he never saw his 15th birthday.

We departed the harbor at 11 in the morning of March 19. Approximately 8 days later, we began to see storm clouds ahead of us. We were traveling at 14 knots, and the commander had predicted the storm would reach us by nightfall. He was incorrect in his judgement, and the storm was upon us by 2 in the afternoon. A light rain fell on us until around 2:30, and then all of the Devil’s fury was unleashed upon us. The rain fell as if it was in buckets. Great flashes of lightning crossed the sky. I could not see. Hailstones the size of cricket balls rain down upon us, forcing their way down through the deck of the ship and into the engine halls below. These halls became halfway filled with water and ice by 3:30 that afternoon.

The storm raged on for 13 hours as we steamed on. At 1:30 the next afternoon, the water was almost completely to the top of the storage halls, in spite of our best efforts. I was certain that my doom was pending, and began to pray loudly over the raucous din of the storm. At long last, the storm clouds parted and we began to recover. We celebrated, becoming drunk on the spirits of joy and of Russian gin.

The storm, however, returned with a vengeance. The ship flooded once again, nearly sinking. We are, indeed, quite lucky to have our privates and coopers, as they bailed out an unbelieveable amount of water from behind our walls. They, however, were doomed, as we were soon struck by a cyclone of water that looked like a large garden snake. Two of the coopers were swept out to sea by the violent storm, and only one survived after we put them back on the boat.

Now I am safe, and rowing back to you, my love. I purchased a boat in the square by the port, and am coming home. I survive, I wait, I live.

With all of the love that I can bear to write to you,

Henri Loftus, Lieutenant of Marines, HMS Trafalgar