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“Mama, what were you talking to Mr Farrow about?” Emerald had asked the question once on deck only to be interrupted by a polite intrusion from Mr Prichard who’d descended from the poop-deck to commandeer the conversation.
But now, alone in their cabin again, her mother answered. “Nothing of any importance, sweetheart, he was merely asking after my health.”
Emerald sighed, the needle for her embroidery poised in midair, her other hand gripping the frame.
He’d drawn up a chair and touched her mother’s arm. She had gripped his hand. It had looked as though they were having an intimate conversation. It did not appear a passing enquiry about her health.
Her mother had been equally silent about speaking with Dr Steel yesterday. But he had said nothing new, just told Emerald not to worry, that her mother was enduring.
Emerald worried regardless. Her mother had become quieter since yesterday–sorrowful.
But defying Emerald’s fears, when Emerald began dressing for dinner, her mother announced she would join her.
Rita looked surprised.
“No do not make a fuss,” her mother said, “I can manage to sit at a table and eat a meal. I am not an invalid.” She seemed like an invalid, though, when she dressed–moving slowly, her breathing shallow, and she sat down regularly.
“Mama, you need not come. I will dine in here if you wish?”
“Nonsense, there is little enough to do on this ship. You need entertainment and variety. We will dine with the men.”
Rita chose to stay in the cabin and therefore it was Emerald who offered her arm. Her mother leaned heavily on it. “Mama are you sure you are well enough to sit at a table? I am not asking it of you?”
“No, my dear, but I ask it of myself. I am not a fragile thing, I never have been, your father will be disappointed with me if he knew I have lain abed.”
“He would be worried,” Emerald chastised, “nothing else.”
“Well I would have neither you nor him worry over me. I shall muddle on and you will be happy.”
Emerald did feel brighter having her mother there again. They were seated as they’d been the first night, sitting either side of Mr Farrow, who spent most of the evening speaking with her mother as he’d done then. Though one thing had changed, her mother was using his Christian name.
While her mother and Mr Farrow talked the other men kept up an animated conversation, regularly ensuring Emerald was included with one question or another.
She realized she felt comfortable among them. Mr Farrow’s senior crew were becoming a second family to her and the confines of the ship–home.
When the meal was over, Mr Prichard proposed a game of cards.
But her mother shook her head, looking very pale. “I’m sorry gentlemen, you will have to excuse us, perhaps another night, but I am still a little too tired this evening. Emma, darling, would you help me?”
Emerald rose to take her mother’s arm but Mr Farrow had already done so and was helping her rise.
“Shall I escort you to your door, Catherine?”
Her mother glanced up at him. “Yes, indeed, I would be grateful.”
Emerald walked the few steps to their cabin in silence behind them. But when they reached it she passed them, opening the door, looking at Mr Farrow as Rita came to help Emerald’s mother. “May I stay on deck a moment and get some air, Mr Farrow?”
He looked at Emerald when her mother let go of his arm, a question hanging in his eyes. She did not understand the look, though. “Yes, of course, Miss Martin. Goodnight, Catherine.” He bowed to her mother, then offered Emerald his arm. She accepted it and her fingers surrounded firm muscle beneath his evening-coat as the door shut behind them.
Anxiety pulsed through her. He confused her. She had disliked him. She was scared of him, of his officious nature. But then there had been his moments of kindness. And all her feelings were surrounded with a physical awareness of his close proximity.
She did not have the same reaction when she took Mr Bishop’s muscular arm.
“A stroll about the deck, Miss Martin?” he offered, patting her gloved hand with his before commencing walking.
“Thank you.” Her fingers clutched his arm in a way which was not ladylike, in response to the panic she suddenly felt in her stomach. She had asked him to accompany her with a single intent. In a rush of words she simply asked him what she must, “What did you discuss with my mother today?”
He looked at her, one half of his face illuminated by an oil lamp hanging from the poop-deck, the other in darkness, his expression cloaked.
A pain struck her in the chest. He is not going to say. And if he would not tell her and nor would her mother, what did that mean? She felt like weeping and screaming all at once. “Mr Farrow, please tell me what is going on?”
“It is private, Miss Martin,” was all he said as they reached the far rail. Then he stopped and pointed out into the darkness. “Out there, is Madagascar,” he progressed, blatantly changing the subject, “too far away to see in the darkness, but we are passing it now.”
Sighing, she let go of his arm, then gripped the rail, looking out across the sea. It was never-ending black, swelling beneath them, rocking the boat like a mother rocking her child’s cradle, inky fluid rolling and rising, glistening in the moonlight, while above them the breeze billowed the sails. It toyed with the curls Rita had set in Emerald’s hair too, brushing them across her shoulders in a soft caress.
“Do not fret over it,” he said then, his tone stiff but kindly. But immediately afterward, before she could ask any questions, he pointed up at the stars, a million pinpricks in the sky, “See there, that is Orion, it will help guide us home,” changing the subject again
He went on to point out groups of stars and name them, the signs of the zodiac, but she did not really listen. She was not going home. India was home; she’d left it behind her. Her happiness over dinner faded. The ship was not home. She wanted to be with her father, she loved her mother but she wished they had never left. She wanted to go home. The thought of the marriage she faced in England became an intolerable threat of torture. Perhaps if she could not love this man, or if he decided he could not love her –her father would welcome her home in Calcutta and let her carve a life out for herself there instead. Of course she could not work, never that, but something–.
“Miss Martin.” Mr Farrow touched her shoulder to recapture her attention. She could tell he knew she had not been listening. He did not bother to recommence his explanations but looked at her directly, his eyes dark, his face illuminated by only the silver moonlight. “I should warn you, in a few days we shall reach The Cape. The seas will be very rough as we pass about it. I expect your mother and your maid to become ill again. All the men will be on deck. You must keep to your cabin until we are through the worst.” He stopped speaking, but his eyes did not look away from hers, “I’m sorry, Miss Martin,” he said. They were heartfelt words.
She shook her head, not understanding anything it appeared anymore. “I’m sure we will manage.” She turned away and walked towards her cabin, leaving him to follow. She did not stop to say goodnight to him but slipped inside the cabin before he caught up. Inside, her mother was already lying down and asleep. Rita was busy tidying clothes.
To be continued… (Sorry for the couple of weeks absence unfortunately I was unwell 🙂 ) I hope you are all having a good Christmas holiday!
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 paperbackand, 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