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It was early evening a week later when they hit the rough water. Mr Bishop rapped on their door an hour before the sea became choppier, telling them to stay in their cabin. They were to sleep in their clothes, he’d said, just in case the ship fell into trouble and everything which was moveable should be secured. He’d even given them leather straps to secure themselves into their bunks. He had knocked at four in the afternoon, by five the ship was rising and falling to the point it was impossible to stand. By six, Rita was kneeling at the end of Emerald’s bunk, gripping its edge and praying in a quiet chant. The leather strap secured about her middle tied her to the frame of the bunk . Emerald sat at its head the leather strap across her middle as she gripped the bunks edges and watched her mother.
Her mother was lying flat, secured by three leather straps and her teeth were gritted, as though she fought pain or a desire to be sick every time the ship rocked .
The ship was being tossed about on the sea like a matchstick.
The aft of the boat rose up suddenly tipping Emerald back, while her mother slid further up the bed and Rita squealed. Then the ship went over the wave’s crest, rocking forward, casting them all the other way, before almost immediately tipping to the portside and then rocking starboard.
Her mother was pale and Rita was a sickly grey.
Mr Bishop had said it could be hours or days before they passed about The Cape, it depended on the winds and waves. At the mercy of nature they could do no more than run the course.
Emerald started praying too, it was the second occasion on this journey she’d called upon a deity she’d never fully believed in. If there was a God, he was obtaining her attention in the style of Jonah.
The aft suddenly dropped away. Rita screamed and Emerald’s gaze spun to the window. The ship plunged downward into the trough of a wave, as though the swirling sea would swallow them up.
The men on this ship travelled this route time and again. How could they bear it? Why would they return?
“We are coming back via Egypt, Mama, on a steamship.” Emerald cast at her mother as the ship swept up and over the crest of the wave.
Her mother’s answer was a weak smile. Prostrate, her fingers gripped at the top leather strap.
“I am going to be sick!”Rita cried. She scrabbled loose from the leather strap and grasped hold of the bucket that had been hung from the wall. The moment she did so the ship rocked portside and tossed Rita to the floor.
She lay there unmoving.
Emerald slipped free of her strap too, reached for the bucket and pulled at the knot which held it. Once it was loose, she slid off the bed, holding the end of the bunk with one hand and the bucket in the other as the boat rocked back. Their trunks were secured below decks and the drawers locked. Rita did not even try to rise from the floor, but braced her back against one bunk and pressed her feet on the other while Emerald leant over and held the bucket out. Rita grasped it and was horribly sick.
Emerald looked at her mother.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” her mother whispered in apology, “I feel ill too.” Weakly, she began struggling with the first strap.
Emerald moved to undo it. There was another bucket secured near her mother and as the buckle slid free her mother sat up, gripping it as though she had been trying not to be sick for the last hour and could hold it no longer. Placing an arm about her shoulders, Emerald felt a sudden wave of nausea herself as they rocked sideways again.
Oh she wished this journey over. They had weeks to go yet. “I am never doing this journey again,” she whispered to her mother.
“Nor I,” her mother answered on a half laugh, pressing her wrist to her mouth.
“I’ll fetch you a handkerchief.” Emerald whispered, letting go of all support and bending to unlock the drawer which contained them as the ship righted itself for a moment. But then the aft dropped downward into a deep trough again and Emerald went with it, falling backward. There was nothing she could do, she had no time to clasp anything, the ship whipped her back and she fell hard, her bottom hitting the floor first, but even as it did the boat tipped sideward and unable to get her arm down in time to stop her fall, her head hit the wooden frame of her bunk. Everything went dark.
When Emerald’s eyes opened, Rita was leaning over her. The smell of sickness hung in the air and nausea twisted through Emerald’s stomach. “Miss?” Rita stroked back Emerald’s hair. It was a strange thing for her to do. But then the cloth touched Emerald’s forehead and she realised Rita was pressing a handkerchief against her head. The ship rocked, casting them both against the end of the bunk.
Emerald banged her shoulder. “I shall be black and blue,” she whispered.
“You’re head will not stop bleeding, Miss.”
Emerald’s fingers lifted to her forehead. She felt a large damp gash. When she looked at her fingers they were covered in scarlet blood. She felt sick again. Rita pushed the handkerchief into Emerald’s hand and was sick.
“Emma, darling,” her mother leant over the edge of her bunk. “You will need stitches in that wound.”
Emerald clasped the handkerchief near her head, it was damp and red, and now it no longer pressed against the wound, blood ran down Emerald’s face, dripping onto her dress and onto the floor. She wiped it away with the handkerchief, her thoughts spinning, unraveling, fraying. She took a deep breath, fighting the nausea. “I’ll find Dr Steel.”
“You should not go on deck!” Rita cried as Emerald struggled to her feet. The room span as well as rocked.
Dr Steel would help her. He would mend her head and send help. “I’ll find him and come back,” she said swaying towards the door as the boat tossed her from side to side.
“Emerald!” her mother shouted, gripping the rope her bucket hung from as she twisted around trying to catch hold of Emerald’s arm. She could not reach her though and Emerald did not stop. Her thoughts were focused solely on finding Dr Steel and bringing help.
When Emerald pulled open the cabin door she was immediately struck by a wave cresting and breaking over the rail near her. Blood and stinging salt water smeared her vision, as she turned and shut the door.
When she turned around she saw men everywhere. Four men had a rope tied about their middles, the other end secured to the jib of a sail as they fought to strengthen its grip against the wind. They had furled the highest sails and were just sailing under the lowest and the largest as the wind caught it one way and then the other. Mr Bishop was across the deck, yelling orders over the noise of the wind and waves, as three men were descending from the rigging.
The ship rocked to port again as a wave hit on the starboard, throwing spume across the ship. Emerald lost her balance and fell sideways, landing sharply on her hip and skidding across the soaked deck.
“Miss Martin!” Mr Bishop’s eyes had been brought from the rigging to her.
“Miss Martin!” he yelled again.
He was wearing a calf length oiled leather coat. When he came towards her his movement was slowed by the swaying of the ship, casting him one way then the other. “Miss Martin?” He said more urgently as he neared and then he looked back over his shoulder at one of the men on the deck behind him. “Tell Mr Swallow I have Miss Martin on deck, I’ll be back in a moment.” The man behind him moved instantly, half running, half sliding to the poop-deck steps.
Mr Swallow must be up above. She couldn’t see from her position.
“Miss Martin?” Mr Bishop said again, bending over her and clasping her arm.
It was not only sea-water and blood in her eyes but tears too. Another wave threw itself onto the deck, sweeping over them both, the spume engulfing her. She hung on to Mr Bishop’s forearm as the wave swept away. “I cut my head. I need Dr Steel,” she shouted over the noise of the wind in the sails, as his face loomed near.
His eyes looked at her wound.
“Come, I’ll get you below decks.”
The tight grip on her arm helped her struggle to her feet, dizzy and disorientated.
Mr Bishop’s arm came about her shoulders and continued to hold her up as he urged her to walk across the deck, in the opposite direction from her cabin. Together they swayed across the ship.
“Mr Bishop!” Someone yelled from the poop-deck. Emerald looked up, her vision was blurred but she could see Mr Swallow leaning on the rail, yelling orders at the men on the quarterdeck. Mr Prichard was at the wheel, with two men beside him putting their weight into holding the ship steady. Then she saw Mr Farrow, standing to the other side, observing everything, his feet planted wide, one hand gripping the rail, steadying himself. His shin length leather coat was unbuttoned and it caught the wind, sweeping about his legs. The look on his face was a mask of determination and his eyes were on her. “Mr Bishop! Get that woman off the damned deck!” He yelled, gesturing with his hand.
She’d been dismissed.
Mr Bishop’s grip on her shoulder and her arm tightened and he half dragged her towards a door that must lead to the lower decks.
Like the steps to the poop-deck, those going down were steep, almost sheer. A wave swept onto the deck behind her, and onto the first step. Emerald slipped. The wave washed her down and stole Mr Bishop’s grip from her arm. She tried to grasp the rail, but forgot her hand was clutching the handkerchief so she was unable to catch it. She slid down the rest of the stairs, her bottom bumping on each step, and landed on crumpled legs in a heap on the floor. More sea-water swilled down on top of her before Mr Bishop pulled the door shut behind them.
Emerald feebly pressed the bloodstained handkerchief against her head and wept. This ship and this journey had defeated her.
“Miss Martin…” Mr Bishop was beside her, squatting on his haunches, his back pressed to the wall in the narrow passage way. “What happened?” His arm was about her once more but he did not urge her to stand.
She looked at him through blood and tears, the scarlet covered handkerchief slipping to her cheek. “My mother and Rita are sick. I tried to help. I fell. I was unconscious. I–.” Her words ran dry.
“Come, we’ll get you to Dr Steel. Can you stand?”
“Yes, I did not hurt my legs.” But even so she was glad that he helped her rise. “What about my mother and Rita?”
His arm about her shoulders, he pressed her onward. “Let us get you to Dr Steel and then I shall worry about Mrs Martin and your maid.”
The two of them swayed along the passage, bumping into one side and then the other, but Dr Steel’s cabin was not far, in the fore of the ship, at the end of the passage.
“Miss Martin?” Dr Steel stated, looking up as the door swung inward. He stood over a seated crewman and was wrapping a bandage about splints on the man’s forearm. The man’s teeth were gritted.
“Miss Martin needs stitches, as you can see, Dr Steel,” Mr Bishop stated.
“Sit her down, Mr Bishop.” Dr Steel looked back at his task, speaking while he worked. “Can you stay with her a moment, she looks faint. I’ve nearly finished Gibbs here.”
“Aye, I’ll stay.”
Emerald sat, willingly letting the men take control. Her thoughts were muddled and her heart raced as blood still streamed down her forehead.
“May I use this cloth,” Mr Bishop said to Dr Steel. “I can start cleaning the wound.”
“Yes, yes indeed,” Dr Steel replied, glancing back.
Mr Bishop’s fingers were under her chin, lifting up her face, his other hand dabbing the damp cloth against her skin. “The bleeding is slowing,” he said to her. Emerald shivered as a chill seeped through her damp clothes.
She caught hold of Mr Bishop’s forearm. “My mother? Rita?”
“We will get you sorted and then I’ll go back and bring them down.”
Both men balanced easily no matter that the ship rocked back and forth and sideways as they worked. With their legs braced wide they moved with it, shifting their balance.
“I want to go home,” she whispered to Mr Bishop as he worked, the cloth patting softly against the wound, wiping away the blood, his touch soothing her nerves.
He laughed, “Sadly that’s not a possibility, Miss Martin, but we’ll be about The Cape soon enough, the winds good, and then you’ll forget the experience.”
“I’ll never forget it,” she whispered in answer.
The door crashed open, swinging inward suddenly. It made Emerald jump with shock, then clasped Mr Bishop’s forearm.
“What the hell are you doing out of your cabin! On the bloody deck, for Christ’s sake! Have you no sense!”
Mr Farrow filled the aperture of the open door with a God like appearance. The anger in his eyes, and the rage in posture, awed her in a away that was part fear and part admiration. He was dressed in an open shirt without a neckcloth or waistcoat and his long oiled leather coat hung loose.
Perhaps was more pirate than God.
But in either case she was duly afraid.
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 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