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Emma’s stoic resolve was disturbing, after the outpouring of emotion she’d shown the other day her silent acceptance had a sense of the absurd. But there was nothing he could do beyond comply to her request. “Use the day cabin, Miss Martin, I shall ask my men to give you space.”
And in the meantime he would consider what must be done now.
“Mark,” he said, turning, “help Miss Martin find what she needs to write a letter in the day cabin and have the maid accompany her. Then join me on the poop-deck.”
It was on the poop-deck, above where Emma wrote her morbid letter, that he Joseph and Philip decided her fate. Catherine had asked him to take Emma to her family, he would continue on to England and do so. But they all agreed Charles Martin ought be told as soon as possible and therefore they would dock in Gibraltar and leave Catherine’s letter and the letter Emma was writing now, to be passed on to a ship returning to Calcutta, and he would send a man with them to ensure they reached Charles.
Richard also decided to write a letter to Emma’s family in England and pass it on, along with Catherine’s letter, to be sent ahead of them on a smaller faster boat. In the hope her family would receive some notice of Emma’s arrival and the change in her circumstances. It would reduce the risk to her reputation, too, if he was seen to do all he could.
Emma dined with them later, her maid sitting to one side of the room as she’d done while Emma’s mother was ill but, as at luncheon, Emma hardly ate.
“Miss Martin,” he said, when their second course was served. “We will be docking in Gibraltar. It is less than a week away. We will be able to find a ship there which will take the letters to your father.”
“Letters?” Her expression looked suddenly arrested.
“Yes.” Duncan took over the conversation, in the conciliatory tone he saved for distressed patients. “Your mother left letters for your father, your family in England and yourself.”
A frown creased Emma’s pretty brow, touching the the scar that she’d acquired in the storms at the cape, questioning Duncan’s statement. “Why? How did she leave letters?”
“Would you like yours after you have eaten?” Richard interjected. “I am sure you would prefer to read it alone.” She ignored him, staring at Duncan with a look of shock and disbelief.
“Forgive me, I do not understand. What letters? Why would she have written a letter to me, Dr Steel?”
“Your mother knew she was dying, Miss Martin––,” Duncan began. He got no farther. Emma recoiled as though she’d been struck.
Duncan lifted his hand to silence the sound of Emma’s dismay. “Your mother knew she was ill when she boarded, Miss Martin, she did not realise how ill, I believe, until afterwards.”
Emma’s gaze fell to the food she’d left untouched, and she gently put down her knife and fork, together, in a gesture that said she had finished eating. Then she looked up and stared at them all, her gaze passing about the table; he guessed that she looked for who had known. But her control scared him; it was like the moments in the eye of a storm when the wind died entirely.
Emma looked back up at Duncan as her hands dropped into her lap. “When did you know this, Dr Steel?”
“When I spoke to her a few days after she was first sick. She had a lump in her breast and she knew whatever had caused the tumour was spreading.”
“You knew that, and yet, when I asked you what was wrong again and again, you did not tell me?” The frown was back, a thin line between her brows which fanned outward.
“Your mother asked me not to. There was no certainty how fast or slowly the illness would take her.”
“Except that had I known, I would have had a chance to say goodbye. You took that away.” It was not an outburst, but it was an accusation that silenced the rest of them. “On every occasion I have sat here and asked what was wrong, what could be done, you knew the answer and did not speak. Do not fret you said; when you knew she was dying. She was dying and you did not tell me the truth!” The last was shouted, as she stood up, thrusting her napkin down on the table as she looked scornfully at Duncan.
They had all stopped eating, and now they all let their cutlery lie and stood too.
Her gaze spun about each of his men as though she looked for who should bear the guilt as much as Duncan. Then she focused back on Duncan.
Duncan tried to answer her accusations, “You could have done nothing if you had known, Miss Martin.”
“I could have said goodbye!” she repeated. “I could have given her comfort and support instead of hounding her to eat!” She spoke more quietly as she turned away from the table, as if it was for herself, “I could have become accustomed to it.” She glanced back, suddenly, her gaze darting about them again. “I’m sorry. I am not good company tonight. I am retiring. Rita.”
“The devil be damned,” Richard whispered as the door shut behind her, Mark had not even moved to follow and walk her across the deck. They were all too stunned. “Hell” He said more audibly, before turning away from the table. More curses ran through his head as he found out her letter from a drawer, then he turned and held it out to Mark. “Take this to her, she should have it now.”
Emma had needed all the support they could give her to endure this. Now she would not trust any of them.
When Mark left, Richard retook his seat, as the others did, but no one spoke.
To be continued…
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