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They had been travelling for seven days and the women had been ill for six of them, Miss Martin caring for her mother and the maid. Richard had decided it was time to intervene. He knocked on the women’s cabin door, with his doctor, Duncan, beside him. Mark had told them Miss Martin was now also looking ill. She’d been shut up in the cabin for an entire week, refusing to leave the others alone. She needed to take some air, Richard would insist upon it.
When the cabin door opened slowly, just by a crack, and the girl peered out, he could smell the stale air escape. He decided then, no matter what, all the women needed to get out. Their cabin needed airing, it was foul, no wonder they were still ill.
“Miss Martin.” He bowed slightly as her blue eyes mistrustfully observed him. It was strange, he’d only dined with her that one evening and yet always knowing she was beyond the day cabin’s wall, he’d grown used to the idea of having her there. Often in the day time the women could be heard, the maid occasionally wailing and Miss Martin whispering assurances. He supposed he liked her more for the fact she was willing to care for the others. The women had caused little disturbance to the rest of the ship, thanks to Emma Martin’s steadfastness. From Mark’s and Duncan’s reports she had never once complained. Grudgingly Richard admitted she had earned his respect. “Dr Steel has come to relieve you for a while. We both agree you should get some air. He shall sit with Catherine and your maid, if you will walk with me?”
Her eyebrows lifted and her eyes opened wider, clearly surprised and querying his motives. She did not argue, though, but grasped at the chance he gave her.
“Come in, Dr Steel,” she said to Duncan; then less certainly to him, “If you will wait a moment, Mr Farrow, may I fetch a bonnet and shawl?”
Giving her another shallow bow, he said. “Of course, Miss Martin.”
When the door shut he looked out across the deck with a sigh. The sails were billowing, the wind strong, they were making a good pace. They’d already cut three days off their expected time. Yet in a few weeks they would hit rougher water as they slipped paths between trade winds. He wondered how the women would cope.
Still the faster they got to England, the better. There was little else he could do to help but get them there. The sea was the sea, you could learn to manage it but no man would ever tame it.
The door opened behind him and he turned. Emma Martin wore a broad, flimsy rimmed straw bonnet, meant for Indian summers not an ocean breeze, and her fingers gripped the edges of her shawl over her small bosom. His gaze slipped across her face. If before her pale skin had been an element of her beauty now she just looked pasty. The poor girl had hollow dark rims beneath her eyes.
She’d been sleeping on the pallet on the floor, having given the maid her bed, so Duncan had said, and clearly she’d had little sleep.
Her fingers clutched her shawl so tightly he assumed she did not wish to take his arm, so he did not offer it, but held out his hand, encouraging her to walk to the edge of the deck, by the rail. She nodded briskly and moved forward, but he could see her hands trembling. Today she was less angered by him and more afraid of him, those eyes that had challenged him days ago now avoided looking at him.
She’d not been eating properly either but denied Mark’s concerns, hence Richard taking on this task himself. He would not take no as an answer from the girl.
When they reached the rail she stopped and looked out at the sea, letting go of her shawl with one hand so she could hold the rail. He couldn’t see her face, it was hidden behind the brim of her bonnet. Silent, he stood beside her, looking at the horizon as salt air blew against his skin. The sky above was blue, the sea below a deep blue-green, touched by white crests on the swells.
They stood thus for a long while, neither speaking, though he could hear her breaths and see her bosom lift as she sucked in the fresh air.
“Dr Steel said your mother is at least eating a little now,” he said eventually, to break the ice.
She turned then, looking at him directly, intelligence shining in her blue eyes. His mind compared those eyes to June’s brown ones, which were always bright, full of life and laughter, and human needs. There was something much deeper, far more intense in this girl’s. Her emotions, thoughts and questions played out behind the eyes that looked at him.
“I hoped both my mother and Rita would be better by now. Dr Steel said they might be. But Rita, our maid, is still frequently sick. My mother nibbles on dry bread but she is weak and listless and in no mood to rise.”
“I think we should insist upon it,” he stated, gently touching her elbow in reassurance to reduce the worry he heard in her voice. “I think your mother and your maid could do with an hour, at least, on deck. I will have chairs set up for them tomorrow and they may sit wrapped in blankets if they wish, but your cabin should be aired. The air itself is putrid. And you, Miss Martin, should eat.”
Her eyes, which had looked to his men scrubbing the ship’s deck beyond his shoulder, turned back to him.
“I can hardly eat in front of them when they are ill, Mr Farrow.” Her ire and dislike struck him. Her fear and humility had already been swept away. He lifted his lips into a smile, to make peace. Clearly she was no more amicable towards him now than she had been when she’d boarded his ship. She’d earned his respect. He’d done nothing to win hers.
“Do you wish to be ill too?”
She looked outraged.
He smiled more, lifting one eyebrow in a punctuation to his challenge; as an exclamation mark.
“I wish them well,” she snapped, her elbow lifting from his touch.
He’d forgotten he was touching her. “A wish you’ll not achieve if you are too ill to care for them.”
Her chin tipped up but she did not look away, she held his gaze as many women he knew would not.
Both his eyebrows rose. But he knew she had a strong desire to please her parents. “What do you think your father would say, Miss Martin, if he knew you were not taking care of yourself?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but an instant later her lips closed on her words. His argument was irrefutable, she doted on her father and her father doted upon her. It was an anomaly he’d always secretly admired in the Governor, though barely understood.
She turned away and walked further along the deck. He followed, lowering his pitch. “This evening you will dine with us. The five of us together, including Dr Steel who you must feel that you know well enough, he usually dines at my table. It will not harm your reputation. Besides I shall threaten to cut out my men’s tongues if anyone dares speak of you dining alone amidst my senior crew, beyond the confines of the ship.” It was a joke, but having only walked a few paces, she turned back and her eyes flashed with a heated anger.
She thought he’d really do it.
He wanted to laugh. He’d always been deliberately distant in his business dealings; he didn’t like people knowing him too well. Hell and the devil, he avoided knowing himself, why would he wish others to know the truth about him. Hence, all sorts of rumours about him and his business dealings circulated Calcutta. But he had not realized she would know them. It was true he had few morals where western society was concerned. He’d undercut prices to carve his niche and now he paid for exclusivity to get his deals, and in general he let his associates and society think and say what they pleased. He rather liked the fact they feared him, it helped keep people at a distance.
He lifted his eyebrows again, mockingly, and dared her to speak against him, watching her think about it and decide not. She disappointed him, he’d thought for a moment she would actually argue, but it seemed she did fear him as much as the rest of society in Calcutta. Instead she turned away and walked ahead of him, slowly, gracefully. “I will speak to my mother about it,” she answered, her stiff back to him, her bonnet’s brim blocking his view of her face.
He smiled slightly, genuinely amused by the girl.
They circuited the ship’s quarterdeck once, in silence, Richard walking one pace behind her, staring at his men as they passed them, warning them to keep their eyes averted. Then they reached the flight of steps to the poop-deck and more to begin a conversation between them again than because he wished to make the offer, he said, “Would you like to see the upper-deck?”
Her head turned. He could see her face. She looked surprised then nodded, without saying a word.
He lifted his hand, indicating for her to climb up. The stairs were steep, and one hand gripping the rail, while her other held her skirt, she progressed. He ascended behind her by a couple of steps, his eyes on her slender derriere. When she stepped from the top onto the poop-deck he caught a flash of a neatly turned ankle.
Mr Prichard, who was at the helm, grinned as they alighted, nodding at Miss Martin while clutching the ship’s wheel. In a position to see her face now, Richard saw her echo Philip’s smile. Richard’s lieutenant was not cast in the same light as himself. She crossed the deck and began asking Philip questions. Philip answered, explaining to her how they directed the ship, using a mixture of the stars, the sun and a compass, and Richard left them to speak. He walked to the rail facing the quarterdeck and looked out across his ship, noticing several of his men looking up. He would have to ask Mark to give them another warning tonight.
The breeze swept at his face and he listened to the lap of water and the wind in the sails, letting the pleasure of being back at sea sink in. He did not often come up here, either Phillip, one of the experienced crewmen or Joseph steered the vessel. Richard usually stayed below.
After about twenty minutes he turned back to see Miss Martin nodding and smiling animatedly at Philip. Colour shone in her cheeks, where the wind had been whipping at them and one hand held her flimsy bonnet brim to stop it blowing in her face, while her other held her shawl. He smiled, smiled, rather than lifted his lips; glad his intervention had had some success, even if her relief was not found in him. He did not feel like interrupting her pleasure and yet really Philip ought to focus on his task.
The skirt of her dress was suddenly caught by a gust of wind sweeping the light muslin and her petticoats against her legs, framing her slim figure.
A sharp pain of lust clasped in his gut; a feeling he’d never known before. He was a man with strong appetites, but he was not normally impulsive and the girl was not even physically appealing––not in a sexual way––with her small breasts, long thin legs and slender hips.
Lifting his gaze to her face again, he said, “Miss Martin.” drawing her eyes to him. Her smile fell. “Are you ready to go back to your cabin?”
She hated his subtle orders. You will come on deck now because I deem it necessary and now I command you to go below. Her eyes narrowed, and a frown pinched her forehead. Her mother had often warned her it was an unattractive expression and it would form a wrinkle if she did not cease it. But Mr Prichard had been amiable and open. He was easy to talk to, as was Mr Bishop and Dr Steel. Yet Mr Farrow… He was still an anomaly she could not understand. How did one decipher a man who kept himself so hidden. He was cold and blank––unapproachable––and yet he’d knocked to insist she took some air and she did feel better for it. If Mr Bishop or Dr Steel had asked she’d have said, no. But when he’d said it, she’d known he would not take, no, for an answer and so she’d agreed rather than disturb her mother or Rita more. Had he known that? Was that why he’d come himself?
Ignoring Mr Farrow’s assistance, through the offer of his hand, she nodded her thanks to Mr Prichard and turned back to the stairs, which were much harder to navigate in long skirts going down than coming up. She gripped the rail, lifted her skirt well away from her shoes and looked down, taking each step with great care as the wind wrapped her shawl about her arms.
On the lower-deck she stepped out of the way and glanced up to see Mr Farrow grip the rail on each side of the steps, then he used his grip on the rails to hold his weight and lifted his feet to the outside plank running down the steps and slid down, showing off with what appeared pleasure. She turned away, unwilling to be in charity with him and not even really understanding why.
When she reached her cabin door she gave Mr Farrow a brisk begrudging, “Thank you,” and a slight bobbed curtsy, then left him and slipped inside, immediately stripping off her bonnet and looking at Dr Steel.
“No harm done,” Dr Steel stated, rising from the chair which faced the desk. “They are no better I’m afraid but neither are they worse. Did Mr Farrow ask you to dine?”
At his words Emerald heard her mother’s indrawn breath. Her eyes were open and she leant up on one elbow, turning greyer as she did so. “Yes, you must, my dear, you cannot stay in here forever. You are not ill. You should eat.”
Emerald dropped her bonnet on top of a trunk and went to the bedside, encouraging her mother to lie back.
“I will collect you myself, with Mr Bishop, Miss Martin,” Dr Steel interceded.
This was more of Mr Farrow’s manoeuvring.
“Very well, I accept, Dr Steel,” Emerald responded, looking back. They would not take no for an answer on this either. There seemed little point in fighting it.
“Good,” he stated, rising. Then he looked at her mother, “and we shall have you better soon too, ma’am. Tomorrow we shall get you both,” he glanced at Rita, before looking back at her mother, “on deck for some fresh air and sweep away the cobwebs from this cabin. Good-day, Mrs Martin, Miss Martin.”
To be continued…
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