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Duncan smiled, in a consoling way. “Do not fret, Miss Martin, it will do you no good to worry.”
It was Duncan’s standard answer when the subject of Catherine’s health was raised, he was avoiding lying, but every man at the table knew the truth.
Emerald was not to be fobbed off tonight, however.
Her eyebrows lifted, her direct gaze challenging Duncan, as she whispered harshly, “I am going to fret, Dr Steel.” Her voice lowering so it would not pass through the cabin wall. “She is my mother. What I wish to know is what is wrong with her, and what can be done to help her?” The strain of her mother’s illness was cracking her ladylike veneer. Leaning a little forward and lifting her knife she pointed its tip at Duncan. “She hardly eats. You have seen how weak she is and she is getting weaker by the day. There is something wrong, Dr Steel, and she will never get well if she cannot eat. Please stop treating me like a child and find out what it is, and help her to eat.”
So that had been the argument they’d heard through the wall last night, Emma insisting her mother ate, and, Richard presumed, the reason for Catherine’s appearance at the dining table tonight.
“Miss Martin,” he interjected. Her gaze spun from Duncan to him. “I trust Duncan’s judgment. If there is anything he can do to help, he will.” It was another platitude. He was no better than Duncan, trying to distract her fears without speaking either the truth or a lie. Tomorrow he would try and persuade Catherine to tell Emma. Emma should know. Not knowing was hurting her as much as the truth would.
Her gaze condemned him with anger and frustration. She did not appreciate him siding with Duncan.
“Eat, Miss Martin,” Richard said, more kindly, urging her to let this pass. “Your dinner is becoming cold.”
Sorrow suddenly flooded her eyes, in place of the anger. There was no more she could do, there was no more any of them could do.
She looked down at her plate and did eat.
She was silent then, eating her food and ignoring their attempts to make her talk, apparently lost in thought.
As soon as the meal was finished she excused herself. None of them pressed her to stay. The atmosphere was affected even as she rose to leave and Richard heard her ask Mark, just as the cabin door shut behind them. “Please tell me you agree that something is very wrong? She is seriously ill, isn’t she? Why does Dr Steel not see it?”
Richard looked at Duncan and Duncan looked at him, as Joseph and Philip shared glances too.
There was no easy end to this.
“I will try to persuade Mrs Martin to tell her daughter tomorrow,” Duncan said.
“I will come with you,” Richard answered. “This cannot continue.”
“No, it cannot,” Duncan agreed.
None of them stayed at table then, no one was in the mood for merriment after that torturous meal. But when Duncan rose with the others to leave, Richard caught his arm and held him back. “Tell me, how long she is likely to live?”
Duncan frowned, “I cannot say, Richard, days, weeks, hours, who knows? I have to say that Miss Martin is right, though, if her mother ate she is likely to live longer. Mrs Martin needs energy to maintain her fight against this illness, as the days pass I am more and more convinced she has ceased trying to live.”
Richard had no idea what to say. He let Duncan leave and turned to the decanters to pour a drink. His old self––the man who’d boarded this ship––who didn’t know how to feel empathy––would have felt concern, nothing more, he would not have been moved by this in the least. The man standing here, now, a brandy in his hand, could not determine why he felt the emotion of empathy so deeply. It seemed that falling in love with someone meant you felt what they felt. To watch Emma in pain was intolerable, her pain echoed through him.
But that pain convinced him. He had tumbled for the woman. I am in love. Callous, cold hearted Richard Farrow––sour faced business man––debonair adventurer–wastrel son… He had been called so many names over the years, and not one of those that had called him names would have believed him capable of love.
He sighed out. But this pain, screamed the truth, and he was in no position to comfort the woman to take away her suffering, he could only suffer alongside her.
He shut his eyes and sipped the liquid in the glass. It burned down his throat. The words in his throat wanted to be spoken, I love you, you have become dear to me. I want you... But he could not speak of such selfish things now. She was promised to a cousin in England, and worried about her mother, the declaration of his feelings and desire would have to be managed with judgement.
When he docked he’d only intended staying a week or two in England, the thought of enduring the reunion with his family a burden he did not seek to prolong. But now he’d stay. He’d spend the season there and watch over her. With her mother so ill, Emma would need someone and he would make his offer before any final agreement could be made with her cousin.
He had hope of being accepted and her cousin being cast aside because he knew of her love for India, if she married him she could return there and he could show her the world. No other man in England would offer her that. He could give her ‘the something different’ she craved and let her fulfil her parents’ wish to see her married to an English Peer.
He also hoped that she had feelings for him. The way she looked at him at times had implied it.
* * *
In the dark cabin, Emerald wept quietly, sitting on the edge of her bunk, her feet on the floor and her palms covering her face. What was there to do? She had become powerless. There was nothing she could do to help her mother.
In the morning, as Rita helped her sit up in the bed, Emerald’s mother apologised for leaving Emerald alone at the table.
Emerald dismissed it. The time for berating had passed. Distressing her mother would not help. Instead she held her mother’s hand and apologised for her anger the night before last, then she said, ‘I love you.’
Her mother’s thin fingers closed tighter about Emerald’s. “I know dear. I love you too. But you must promise me, when we reach England, you will go to your cousin, the Earl’s. It is all arranged, I want you to be happy. This is your legacy, this life, you should have this opportunity. Swear to me you will do as we have agreed, dear?”
Emotion clasped at the back of Emerald’s throat, a clump of tears. She nodded rose and turned away, but her mother held her hand still and pulled to make her turn back. “Promise me.” She spoke as though Emerald would be going alone.
“Of course, Mama, it is what you wish. It is why we are here.” Her mother’s family had turned their backs on the daughter who had eloped with a clerk in the East India Company. The marriage she had managed to arrange for Emerald was an acceptance her mother had craved for years.
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