© Jane Lark Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark,
this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
The sailors immediately began climbing the rigging, like spiders climbing across webs all over the ship. The sails unfurled in a whoosh of canvas as she watched her father standing on the dock, speaking with an official from the port.
Her mother’s hand gripped Emerald’s and drew her to the rail out of the way as more sailors ran across the deck, hauling ropes or tying them off. Emerald’s heart thumped hard in her chest. Shouts passed across the ship, orders and confirmation as Mr Farrow, the captain and his lieutenant moved to the upper-deck where the giant steering wheel loomed.
The steady sound of the winding mechanism hauling up the chain which held the anchor, trembled through the air.
They were really going, leaving India. Forever.
She looked at her father again and gripped the rail which ran at waist-height the length of the deck. He was still talking with the port-official. She drank in the sight of her father, his portly figure and his dear face, trying to cut it so deep into her memory the image would never be lost. Then she lifted her gaze to Calcutta to the high wall surrounding the colony and the brightly painted roofs within, the bulbous pointed towers in reds, yellows and blues. She soaked the sight up, all of it, and the sounds, the smells of sea, salt and spices which infused the warm air.
“Ladies, may I show you to your cabin?” It was Mr Bishop, the quartermaster.
Emerald glanced back at him, as her mother did. She saw Mr Farrow watching from the upper-deck. He wished them stowed away like his cargo, like tea, tobacco or silk.
“No, thank you, Mr Bishop, not yet,” Emerald’s mother answered. “We would rather say goodbye to India.” Having refused, Emerald’s mother looked back at the dock. A breeze caught the fine silk of her ochre coloured shawl, whipping at its fringe and a loose strand of her pale blonde hair; her beauty defied years. Emerald had always admired it, along with her mother’s strength of character. Emerald wished to be like her and not disappoint her, and yet the longing for more than a subservient marriage to her English cousin was undeniable.
Her mother looked sideways and smiled, offering Emerald reassurance – the comfort Emerald silently longed for, though it did not go deep enough. Emerald had longed for a reprieve. She wished to come back.
She said nothing, as she had not done before. There was always a weariness in her mother’s eyes these days, that said she was too tired and worn down by life to face challenge or arguments from a contrary, stubborn daughter. Emerald hugged her mother, instead, briefly, it was suddenly clear to her that leaving India was hard for her mother too.
They turned back to the rail together, one hand gripping each others’ but as Emerald moved she noticed Mr Farrow once more, on the upper-deck, holding the rail and looking down at them. He smiled, or rather lifted his lips. It was an acknowledgement, nothing more. She had never seen him smile genuinely, or laugh, or show any sign of natural emotion. She looked away, at the dock. Her father had ceased speaking and was watching them. He lifted his hand. Her mother’s fingers squeezed Emerald’s and they both raised their other hands in answer, her father’s handkerchief gripped in Emerald’s.
The sound of the winding anchor stopped and the rigging above creaked as the sails caught the wind. There were smaller steamboats linked to the ship by ropes to pilot them out of port. The ship began to pull away, water swishing about the hull, shallow waves slapping at the ship as the tide pulled out and took the ship with it. Emerald lifted her hand higher. As the ship turned, she turned in an opposing movement to keep sight of her father. Her mother did too, her fingers gripping Emerald’s tighter, both of them waving more keenly. Emerald fluttered his handkerchief like a flag so he would clearly see. He was smiling. Emerald let go of her mother’s hand and pressed a kiss to her fingertips, then blew it to him. He caught it in a fist as he’d done when she was a child, then pressed it to his cheek, before sending her one in return. It may be the last thing they ever shared.
“Papa! I love you!” she shouted, knowing as the ship slipped through the water he could not hear, they were already too far out of reach, but she did not lower her hand she kept waving, as did her mother. Her father stood there, unmoving, his hand in the air, shrinking and shrinking until he became no more than a dot, but she still saw the moment his arm descended and knew with a dreadful certainty, it was the end–the end of happiness. She was leaving her life behind.
Richard looked at Mark who stood beside the women on the quarterdeck below. Mark nodded back. Richard had been watching Catherine and her daughter from the vantage point of the poop-deck. He gripped the rail more firmly and wondered what this journey would bring. Ill-luck probably with the women on board; women always brought bad luck. Mark had been asked to steer them into their cabin out of the way as they sailed. But Richard had seen Catherine refuse and her daughter’s tears. When Mark had looked up querying their refusal, Richard had agreed to let them stay. He could see their parting was painful, though, he’d no idea what that pain felt like.
He was embarking on a journey to be reunited with his family. The two images could not be more starkly opposing.
She was leaving her father’s love behind–he was returning to his father’s hatred.
The inverse parallel amused him.
While he watched, Mark coughed to gain the ladies’ attention and Mrs Martin looked back at the quartermaster. Her daughter’s eyes remained on the distant dock, though she could not possibly see anything clearly, bar the grey line of the harbour wall and the coloured roofs of the town behind, they were already too far out.
Richard breathed out heavily. The Governor’s daughter had an intensely feminine, fragile, appearance. She was in profile to him, had been most of the time, and he’d been absorbed in the delicacy of her features. The girl was a beauty. He’d already given one signal for his crew to keep their eyes averted but it was going to be hard for them not to look. Locks of pale blonde hair had slipped loose when her bonnet had been knocked off and tumbled down her back, to hang by its ribbons, and now those strands of hair brushed her neck as the wind played with them. It was an artistic beauty, not sexual, not to his usual taste. Richard thought of June, the mistress he had left behind in Calcutta this morning, dark haired and voluptuous. That was his taste; a woman who knew how to handle and entertain a man, a woman who he did not feel he might break. Yet the fact he was even thinking of sex as he looked at Miss Martin named his thoughts as a lie, there must be something more than outer beauty that attracted him.
She was not as he’d thought previously, though, not a pretty, shallow, shell of beauty. He had only needed to look into her eyes to know there was an intelligent vibrant woman within. She’d been rumoured wild in her childhood, and it was still there, albeit tamed. It was there when you scratched her lady-like surface. Spirit oozed from the girl and his men could see it too. Her delicate figure and perfect beauty may imply serenity and fragility. But the glimmer in her eyes, the way she moved, the passion in her gaze, the words for her father and the look, which even now she cast back to the dock, spoke of a determination and fire beneath. Every man aboard his ship would willingly have the girl in bed, he did not doubt it, and he was not immune.
However he did not think the feeling was mutual. When the girl’s mother passed on Mark’s words, Miss Martin’s gaze snapped up to look at Richard. It said, she did not like being ordered out of the way. And, if he judged her look correctly, nor did she like him.
His lips lifted in a slight acknowledgement and he nodded as he’d done before when she’d glanced up and like before she looked away. He did not. He watched Mr Bishop herd her and her mother, like sheep or geese, across the quarterdeck and into their cabin underneath where he stood. It was the largest, usually the captain’s cabin and when he came onboard, Richard’s. The whole damned ship was disturbed by their presence.
As the women disappeared he looked up at the men hanging in the rigging. Their eyes had been on the women too. “Look to your tasks!” he yelled up at them, casting his gaze across them all and then glaring at those on deck. They looked away and increased their pace. He’d have to reinforce his order with his senior crew over dinner. He did not want his men ogling the women all day, lack of concentration was dangerous–a loose sail or a slack knot could kill, if a sail swung back or a rope flew free.
He watched the activity for a while longer and listened to the familiar sounds as the ship cut through the waves and the wind whipped at the sails. He loved the sea–loved the exhilaration of mastering the forces of wind and water. His first three years in business he’d spent on his first vessel; establishing trade routes, shipping any cargo for profit, carving his niche as an alternative to the East India Company; fighting the elements and never knowing if he’d win. It was the thrill of winning he loved; the elation of sailing a cargo into port having brought it through vicious storms and traversed hundreds of miles of sea. His heart thumped at the thought of facing a storm again. Better that than what awaited him in England.
To be continued…
If you cannot wait until next week for more of Jane Lark’s writing there’s plenty to read right now.
To read the Marlow Intrigues series, you can start anywhere, but the actual order is listed below ~ and click like to follow my Facebook Page not to miss anything…
The Marlow Intrigues
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come 🙂
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark