© Jane Lark Publishing rights belong to Jane Lark,
this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
As Emerald walked into the day cabin beside her mother, the gentlemen within the room stood.
Her mother leant heavily on Mr Bishop’s arm. Her skin was white. She was still not well enough to rise yet Emerald had selfishly let her struggle to do so––because she wanted to believe that her mother could get better. When her mother had dressed with both Emerald and Rita helping, her breathing had kept catching as though she experienced a sharp pain. Several times Emerald had considered telling her mother stay in the cabin, but she had not spoken. She wanted her mother to fight her illness. She had to get better. She had to reach London and return home, and she would be travelling alone on the return journey.
But the strain on her mother’s face as she walked slowly into the cabin, struck Emerald with a lance of guilt, which pierced right through her heart.
Emerald lowered her gaze, too embarrassed to look at the men, as she held her mother’s other arm, helping her the last few feet to the chair.
“Good evening, gentlemen.” Her mother smiled as though she was entirely well and not struggling.
“Good evening,” the men all answered as Mr Farrow walked around the table and withdrew the closest chair. The men moved about the table to accommodate the change in seating.
Emerald glanced at him and met a look of understanding. She smiled a shallow half-hearted thank you. He smiled too, then walked away to return to his seat.
Mr Bishop helped her mother sit and Mr Prichard moved from the next seat so Emerald might have it, and once again the seating was juggled.
Her heart thundered as Emerald sat while Mr Prichard held the chair for her then slid it in beneath her. Nervousness hovered over her in a dark storm cloud.
They were served soup first and her mother ate a few spoonfuls, but the effort it took to lift the spoon was visible as her hand trembled. The men kept up a lively conversation, politely ignoring her struggles. But it seemed so false. Even Mr Farrow laughed and joked, which he did not often do, as though deliberately overlooking her mother’s difficulties.
Emerald did not participate in the conversation, she could neither listen nor speak, her concentration was wrapped about her mother, and laughter was not within when her mother was so ill.
I should not have made her come. I should not have pushed her.
When the next course arrived, a fish terrine, in the periphery of Emerald’s vision, she watched her mother slowly lift each forkful. She was silent too, concentrating on her food, and the effort it took to eat.
“Miss Martin, tell us what you expect of London? You have never been there, I know. How do you imagine it?” Mr Farrow asked suddenly, as though deliberately trying to draw her attention away from her mother. It was done out of kindness, and yet nothing would succeed in distracting her from her mother’s plight.
She answered in a dry, halting tone. Then her mother’s fork fell on to her plate with a clatter. Her hand had dropped to rest on the table. Emerald heartbeat and her voice faltered. She felt like weeping, like hiding away, and pretending the world was not here and letting tears overwhelm her. But she looked at Mr Farrow, holding his gaze and kept talking, even though she saw nothing and spoke drivel, recounting things her father had told her.
God, how she longed for her father.
When her words dried up, Mr Swallow stepped in and changed the subject. Beneath the table Emerald reached over and laid her hand in her mother’s lap. Her mother held it and they sat like that, holding hands, listening to the men talk and waiting for the next course. It was a curry, the hot spice in it covering the fact that the meat had tainted in the weeks since they’d first set sail. But Emerald had grown up on curry, it was a wonderful taste of home and she relished it. The smell took her back to the streets of Calcutta, and standing in the kitchen in her father’s house watching the cook grinding spices with a pestle and mortar. She had a vision of sitting with her father and mother at the dinning table, too, the two of them smiling at one another. Homesickness swept over her like a wave.
“You shall have to forgive me gentlemen, I can eat no more.”
The words ripped Emerald from her memories as her mother stood.
“I think I am too tired to sit at the table for very long. Mr Bishop, if you would help me back to our cabin, I would be very grateful?”
Mr Bishop had already risen to help her stand.
Shock, fear and guilt swiped Emerald’s feet out from beneath her. There was a sense of the world being something that she looked at in the reflection of a mirror. It was not real,. It was untouchable.
Emerald rose too, leaving her knife and fork on the plate, not placed together as they should be, but just left as they were, with her dinner half eaten.
Her mother’s dinner was virtually untouched.
“There is no need for you to come too, Emma, stay here,” her mother urged, in a voice weighted by fatigue.
“No. I will walk you back.” She did not look at anyone else about the table. She had embarrassed her mother by making her choose to do this. “I’m sorry,” Emerald whispered, taking her mother’s arm on one side, as Mr Bishop held the other. The pressure of her mother’s grip implied she would be unable to walk unaided.
“Miss Martin…” Emerald looked back at Mr Farrow. “Will you return?”
When she had boarded his ship,if it was what he wished, it would not have been an order, but it was a definite question this evening, though, his pitch encouraged her to say yes.
Emerald’s answer was a tight smile. She wanted to come back, but she was torn. How could she leave her mother when she was so weak?
She no longer wanted to hide and cry, she wanted to scream and rail at a life that had become too difficult. She said and did nothing but help her mother .
“Go back, Emma,” her mother insisted as Emerald and Mr Bishop helped her sit on the edge of the bunk in their cabin.
Mr Bishop turned to leave.
“Do not spoil your evening, darling. Rita can help me into bed.”
Emerald did not move for a moment, as Mr Bishop left and the door closed behind him, and Rita began unbuttoning her mother’s dress. She watched. Uncertain, and yet… “I will go.” She turned away. She did not know what else to do. She was falling to pieces, breaking apart, she could not bear to stay. Yet as she walked out, with a sense that she had run away, shame lunged it’s dagger into her chest.
Mr Bishop was a few paces ahead of her. He turned and looked back. “Miss Martin…” Concern expressed itself in his eyes.
“Please, do not fuss, Mr Bishop, it is not I who needs help,” she snapped unfairly. She could not face this, her mother’s illness or the responsibility of it. She did want to run––to India. She longed to be a child again, swimming in the pool near the house in the sunshine, with no burdens.
Yet she was not a child, she was a woman, and she must face this. Just not tonight––let her have an hour to escape.
All the men rose when she walked back into the cabin in front of Mr Bishop, as he held the door open for her. The warmth of a blush lifted in her skin as her eyes focused on the place where her mother had sat, the plate had been removed, but her half eaten plate of food remained. Mr Bishop came about her and withdrew the chair, then pushed it in for her before taking his seat. She looked directly at Dr Steel. “Will you look at my mother again tomorrow? You have seen how she is, it is not normal.”
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
The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75 now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks) 😉
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