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Emerald smiled when Rita looked up from her work, although Rita’s gaze remained low, turned to Emerald’s feet. Rita was kneeling on the floor lifting their items from trunks and setting them into drawers beneath the two narrow bunks within the room. Rita had been the Indian girl her mother had selected and trained from the age of fifteen to become a personal maid. As Rita looked back down, Emerald’s gaze cast out about the cabin. There was a closed door in the side wall. Emerald’s mother saw it too, lifted her hand and turned to Mr Bishop. “Where does this lead?”
“To the captain’s day cabin, ma’am. This is the captain’s cabin. The door has been locked and will remain locked during your stay aboard.”
Emerald hadn’t realised they were displacing the crew. “There are no guest cabins?” she asked of Mr Bishop.
“None, Miss Martin, this is a merchant vessel. She’s not designed for passengers.”
“Then where is Mr Farrow sleeping?” It was a very inappropriate question and yet she could not imagine him settling for second best.
“In the Lieutenant’s cabin on the far side of the day cabin, Miss Martin.”
He had given up his cabin. “And the Captain?”
“Has taken mine, Miss.”
“And yourself and Mr Pritchard, Mr Bishop?”
“Have moved below decks, it is comfortable enough and a pleasure to accommodate you, Miss Martin, Mrs Martin.” As he bowed to them both, Emerald looked about the room again, doubting Mr Farrow thought it a pleasure to accommodate them. “Is there anything you wish for, anything I may fetch you, before I leave you to unpack?”
“The key to that door,” her mother stated. “I would feel far more comfortable if it is in my hands, Mr Bishop, would it be possible to have it? And we shall need a pallet for our maid also. She can hardly sleep below deck among the men.”
Emerald glanced at Rita. She was a year younger than Emerald, head down she continued to work, ignoring the conversation that progressed above her. Ten years ago they had played together with Emerald’s dolls. Now they’d both learnt to fit the mould life had cast them, what other choice did they have. Rita was born into service. Emerald was a gentlewoman whose path was carved into marriage, bound by the restraints of her gender and birth. Her heart cried out for more. Had she been a boy her father would have found her a place in the East India Company and she might… The thought died. What could she have done? Something. Something other than sitting at home and bearing the children of a stranger.
“I believe Mr Farrow has the key, ma’am, I will ask him to give it to you, and in the meantime send up a pallet for your maid. Would you care for refreshments?”
“Emma?” her mother’s question was to ask if Emerald had any needs. She had none. The memory of her father and India – left behind – burned inside her too strongly, the uncertainty of her future and the destiny she despised made her feel sick not hungry. She shook her head.
“No, thank you, Mr Bishop, we will wait until the evening meal.”
With that Mr Bishop disappeared, but he returned a short while later with a crewman bearing a rolled mattress. While the crewman passed it over to their maid, bowing, Mr Bishop cordially invited them to dine with Mr Farrow and the captain that evening.
Emerald’s mother accepted, and then again Mr Bishop left them to unpack – shut away, out of sight, as Mr Farrow willed.
Emerald had asked to remain on deck for longer, to watch India slip away, but Mr Bishop had advised they would be following the coastline for hours before setting into the open sea, and besides Mr Farrow had particularly instructed his preference for them to remain off the deck.
Were they supposed to spend the entire journey cramped inside their cabin? Was she to be physically imprisoned now as well as emotionally restrained? It was enough to have to deny her will for more excitement than sewing and reading, and parlour talk, but to lose all opportunity to explore even the confines of the ship. She was quite likely to go mad during this journey.
At least a wide rectangular window stretched across the far end of their cabin, looking aft, so they could see the horizon. Although the view would be endless sea and sky, at least it would not be bars. The only furniture was a single narrow table with a chair before it. An unlit lantern hung above it. It must be where the Captain wrote his nightly log. She wondered if Mr Farrow had ever sat there.
She imagined him, his cold, callous expression fixed on his face as he worked. Then she looked at the bunks. Which had he slept on? A shiver ran through her body, to think she may be sharing his bed, even if not in the biblical sense. Some of her friends would have palpitations at the thought. He was idolised in Calcutta, the bachelor who was the premier catch. Yet if Richard Farrow ever took a wife it would be for his gain and Emerald would pity her.
At least that fate would not be hers. Perhaps it would not be so bad to marry a stranger, any man would be better than a hard, arrogant tyrant like Richard Farrow. If she must endure the restraints of obeying a husband at least let it be a husband she might like.
Turning to her mother, Emerald saw the tiredness she’d seen in her mother’s eyes earlier and forgot Mr Farrow.
She touched her mother’s shoulder. “Lie down and rest, Mama, you look exhausted, Rita and I will unpack.”
Unusually she did not argue but sat on the bunk opposite.
Emerald knelt and began helping Rita fill the drawers beneath the bunks. Emerald’s mother must genuinely be exhausted to concede so easily, the fear already twisting sharp knives around in Lizzie’s heart was now also for her mother.
As if hearing her thoughts, her mother said, to Emerald’s back, “I did not sleep very well last night. I was concerned we might have forgotten something. I will feel better in a while.”
Emerald looked around. Her mother had lain down, her head resting on a soft pillow, and closed her eyes. Emerald remained silent and turned back to her work. A moment later she could hear her mother’s calm breathing. She glanced back. Her mother had gone to sleep.
When Emerald focused on her task again she smiled at Rita. Rita’s eyes looked at Emerald through the veil of her eyelashes, meeting Emerald’s gaze for the first time in years. “Are you sad to be leaving your family?” Emerald whispered.
Their conversation then progressed in whispers, reacquainting themselves after years of distance, speaking of their expectations of England and the things they’d left behind.
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