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Catherine’s ill-luck remained until the end––she was not given a swift death. She had survived for three more days, living but not living, her breathing and her heart gradually becoming weaker and weaker. Emma suffered with her, Duncan described each night how she was sitting beside her mother in silence, whispering comforting words or reading aloud, always holding her mother’s hand.
It caused a strange becalmed atmosphere to fall over the ship. Richard’s entire crew became quieter, their conversations hushed and their enthusiasm dulled. In the evening his senior crew ate without conversation, none of them knowing what to say and all of them feeling Emma Martin’s pain emanating from the cabin on the other side of the wooden paneling. Even the wind had died leaving the ship hobbling along and Joseph seeking any small breeze to capture in the sails.
It was probably the strangest period of Richard’s life––to feel so much for Emma and to be able to do so little. He could not protect her from this. He could not even openly comfort her as he wished. In fact he had withdrawn from her once more. If he could not protect her from this pain, he could protect her reputation. Her only security from ruin was now one maid. If London society heard any rumour of indiscretion on his ship she would be cut before she even met her family. A family whom she’d never known and would now have to rely upon to support her until her father could come and take her home. Any thought of marriage now must surely be forgotten… Emma would be in deep mourning.
He had not even stepped inside the women’s cabin since the first morning of Catherine’s final days, when he’d held Emma. Now he deliberately distanced himself so she would not turn to him for physical comfort. She in turn was refusing verbal comfort. When he saw her on the deck, if she stepped out for a moment to request something, or breathe some fresher air, when he asked how she faired, her answers were single syllables. She spoke to no one unless it was necessary. Then she would disappear again. She was enduring this; breathing, sleeping and eating, but she was no more alive than her mother.
On the fourth morning, there was a knock on Richard’s door. It was Duncan. Richard was busy shaving, leaning over a bowl of water. “Come in!” he shouted so Duncan would hear.
“She has passed,” Duncan said.
The razor hovered beside Richard’s throat. She’s passed––a light––a life––a soul, snuffed out, just like that––Catherine was gone.
“Thank you for telling me,” Richard answered, turning back to face himself in the mirror. Richard Farrow, all powerful, all mighty, but his money nor his power, not even his status, could control fate and do anything to change this.
He did not curse Catherine for making this journey anymore. If she had not, he would never have known Emma as he did now. He would not have fallen in love with her. He would be groundless still, greedy. He was not now. He cared nothing for things. He cared for Emma. She was the foundation he wanted to build the next stage of his life upon, but now he would have to be very patient, sensible and sympathetic of her loss.
He was hollow inside as he finished his ablutions and dressed, then headed for the women’s cabin. No words were in his head, only silence. What could he say to give Emma comfort? There was no comfort.
Mark stood holding the cabin door open. Duncan was within. Like himself, Duncan would not risk Emma’s reputation, hence why Mark waited at the open door. The maid was outside kneeling on the deck wailing. It was customary in India to make such a noise to show your grief, his crew had given her the space to grieve as she wished.
Emma knelt inside, silent, beside her mother’s body, head bowed in prayer, her fingers clasped together, while Duncan watched; grieving in the western way.
God’s teeth, what prepared a man to deal with moments like this? Nothing. Richard lifted his eyebrows, meeting Duncan’s gaze, asking if he should intervene. But then Emma lifted her head and looked back. “Mr Farrow…” Her voice merely acknowledged him, there was no hint of emotion within it.
He did not step into the room but stayed at the open door, taking the door’s weight from Mark’s hand, so that he could step away. “Miss Martin.” No words to follow her name came, no words would suffice, words would not explain the depth of his feeling for her or how much his heart ached for her. “I’m sorry.” Another silence, but nothing more came, and so he said, “you realise we will have to bury your mother at sea? We cannot keep the body onboard because of the risk of disease. I’m sorry,” he repeated.
Emma stood, she had become the stiff well-bred young woman who had arrived on his ship. The woman he had seen in Calcutta, assumed shallow, and mostly ignored. “I understand,” was all she said. There were no tears––there was no outburst––no sign of grief––just acceptance. He wanted to go to her and hold her and tell her all would be well, that he loved her and would protect her. That he would take her home to her father. But he would not. She would have to marry him then, and he would not force her hand while she was grieving, it would be wrong.
As there was nothing more he could say, he said nothing more and turned away leaving her with Duncan.
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