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Emerald’s mother was too weak to rise the next morning, but she ate breakfast, sipped some sweet tea and let Rita plump some pillows and set them behind her back so she could sit upright and read.
“Mama, you are worrying me?” Emerald said quietly as she straightened the sheet over her mother’s lap and tucked it in.
“I shall be fine in a day or two. The sea-sickness has just knocked me a little. Give me time, Emma dear.”
And yet Rita had been much sicker, she’d been sick for days, her mother had only been physically sick for a day. Rita had recovered.
Emerald straightened-up as her mother said again quietly, “Give me time.” It was a disconcerting whisper, almost spoken to herself.
Emerald sighed and turned away, not knowing what to say, or ask. Her mother’s illness no longer seemed like sea-sickness. Fluid made Emerald’s vision hazy, she blinked until it cleared. She would not cry. If she became teary her mother would feel the need to comfort her, when it was her mother who needed comfort. Emerald folded her nightdress, when it had already been folded once. But she had to have something to do to busy her hands for a moment, she needed a reason not to look at her mother. She breathed slowly, calming herself. She would give her mother a week, another week, and then if she was no better, Emerald would insist Dr Steel look at her mother more thoroughly, and consider if it might be something more.
A knock struck the door. Emerald jumped slightly. “Miss Martin. Mrs Martin.” Mr Bishop’s acknowledgement seeped through the door. “I wondered if you wished to come on deck?”
Emerald did not look at her mother for an answer, the answer was obvious. She turned and opened the door to form a narrow gap through which she could speak with Mr Bishop. “My mother is not feeling well enough this morning, but I am sure Rita will wish to sit on deck and I should love to take a walk if we may promenade.” She desperately wished to be outside of the cabin. Too much pressure hung in the air in their small quarters.
“We may certainly promenade.” He bowed, smiling broadly when he rose.
“I will fetch my bonnet.” Emerald looked over her shoulder, back into the cabin, “Rita, are you ready?”
“Yes, Miss.” Rita stood up, and set her sewing aside.
A few minutes later, Emerald circulated the quarterdeck, slowly, gripping Mr Bishop’s arm while about them sailors scrubbed the decks, checked the rigging and greased the runners and brackets which held the ropes. Above them, on the poop-deck, Mr Prichard was at the wheel. As usual Mr Farrow was nowhere in sight, but nor was Mr Swallow and so Emerald presumed they were together.
“How long have you worked for Mr Farrow?” she asked.
Mr Bishop looked at her. “Since I was sixteen, I joined one of his first ships when it was docked in Bristol, as a sailor. He noticed my willingness to work and promoted me. One day I hope to captain one of his ships.”
“Does Mr Farrow travel with you often?”
“Rarely. When the business was smaller, yes, but not now; to keep an eye on all his ships he must stay in one place. He develops trade and finds cargo. We transport it.”
“You like him?”
He smiled. “I’ve never known a man not to. He’s easy to work for, fair with you, if you are fair with him, though, he’ll not accept false play. Mr Swallow is under strict orders not to tolerate theft or insubordination. Mr Farrow does not stand for drunkenness and brawling aboard either. But that is a good thing, to my mind.”
Emerald looked into his blue eyes, seeking the truth. “What happens if the men do not obey his rules?”
“They are flogged, Miss Martin, but I’ve rarely seen it on his ships. Mr Farrow’s men work for him because they are well paid and well looked after, that’s what makes them loyal. Not a fear of the lash, as it is on some ships. The crew respect him.”
People in India respected him too. They were in awe of him. Was it the same on his ships then? And yet last night at table his senior staff hadn’t seemed in awe, they’d seemed on friendly terms.
“You are not afraid of him…”
“Heavens no. Why should I be? Mr Farrow rewards men who work well, so all of his men work well. Mr Swallow set up his first ship with him -”
He would have said more but the subject of their conversation appeared on deck through the day cabin door. “Miss Martin!” he called, as Mr Swallow walked out from the cabin behind him and crossed to the poop-deck ladder, nodding at Emerald when he passed. “Did you wish to look at the charts?”
The offer Mr Farrow had made last night. He’d not forgotten.
Mr Bishop’s arm fell from beneath her fingers, clearly expecting her to accept.
She glanced at Rita, who watched her from a chair across the deck. She rose, and set her sewing aside once more.
It would look odd if Emerald did not go and the funny feeling in her stomach did not dislike the thought of speaking with him and being in his company. It was the opposite, excitement clasped. But there was so little of any difference to do on board the ship, and she wanted to know more about him. Numerous questions spun through her head.
She nodded nervously at Mr Farrow, then looked at Mr Bishop, “Thank you.” She turned to the day cabin and crossed the deck. Rita joined her when she reached the day cabin door, and Mr Farrow.
“Miss Martin. Rita.” Mr Farrow stepped back inside and held the door as she, then Rita, entered.
Rita occupied the seat she’d used the night before, becoming an invisible chaperon. A woman should not be in a room alone with a man–God forbid.
Emerald did not think Mr Farrow very likely to ravish her. The thought pulled a smile up onto her lips.
“Did your father show you our route?” Mr Farrow asked, as he crossed to the table they dined at. The chairs were drawn back and a large chart was spread across it–the world, laid flat.
The mention of her father struck Emerald in the chest, stirring tears again. She looked at the chart when she answered, her voice weak as she pictured her father waving from the dock in India, gone for ever to her, if she never returned there. “No–I never had a chance to ask… He was too busy…”
The words ebbed away, and she swallowed back the emotion in her throat.
“I’m sorry, that was tactless of me, you are missing him and I’ve brought him back to mind. But no matter, I’ll show you.”
She glanced up, there was nothing in Mr Farrow’s rigid expression that showed compassion and yet his words had implied it.
Bemused, as she’d been by his other moments of kindness, she watched him bend over the map. “Calcutta,” he stated pointing it out. “We have come down here,” he continued, following the route marked on the map in dots and lines, with his finger, it ran towards an island called Madagascar. “We’re here,” he said, pointing to a place in the ocean, when his finger reached the end of the last line, “or rather this is where we were when the sun rose.”
She leant over beside him, pressing her palms onto the chart, over South America. It meant she was very close to him. The skin on her shoulder tingled.
“We will see the coast of Madagascar in a few days,” he continued, indicating their intended route. He wore no gloves and she noted that his fingernails were manicured. She wondered if he kept a valet in India. He hadn’t brought a man aboard. Again, leaving a valet behind, if he even had one, did not indicate arrogance or self-importance – just self-confidence. “Once we are past Madagascar, we will be sailing about The Cape of Good Hope, here, at the point of Africa.” He looked at her, his face inches from hers. She looked into his brown eyes. The room was suddenly airless. She sucked in a deep breath and her breasts felt tight against her bodice. His brown eyes glittered with notes of honey amidst the coffee when a ray of the morning sunlight shone through the window which ran the length of the day cabin, illuminating the map and them both. The dark eyelashes surrounding his brown eyes were long and almost effeminate, except nothing about Mr Farrow could be considered anything but masculine.
Yet a lock of his brown hair had fallen forward and it soothed his severity and made him appear approachable.
Her heart thundered.
He didn’t speak for a moment, his eyes just looked into hers, then suddenly he stood upright. She did too. “The sea’s a bit choppy at The Cape, to put it mildly. Two flows of water striking each other is never going to be an easy thing to sail. I anticipate that Catherine and your maid will be ill again when we reach it. The Atlantic is also more volatile. I’d get them eating as much as you can before then. It will give them the energy to fight the sickness off.”
Emerald nodded, noticing the lack of emotion in his voice, like his set expression, despite the sentiment of his words. Was he incapable of human feeling but had trained himself to do, and say, what he ought to?
Then there was another, quieter thought. Had something made him into this hard-hearted man?
“Have you family, Mr Farrow?” she suddenly said, not thinking before she spoke, just feeling the urge to peel away his hard layer. Then she added to excuse her inquisitive question. “It is just you spoke of the others’ families last night but not your own.”
His eyebrows lifted, as though he considered the question impertinent, or odd, but he answered, “None to speak of, Miss Martin.” Then he turned away from her and leant back over the map.
“Once we are about The Cape,” he progressed, turning the conversation back to the charts, “we will sail up the east coast of Africa, past southern Europe.”
Emerald bent over the map again too and pointed out the channel of the red sea. “Is this not a route you use, isn’t this much faster?”
“Much faster,” he agreed, his voice light. But he did not look at her, in the way most people would as they made conversation, his gaze remained on the map, yet she saw his lips pull into a closed smile as his finger moved to point at somewhere else. It was as though he hid the smile. She wished to smile too for a moment. “But much more difficult if you have a large Cargo,” he continued, “to unload and take overland on carts, there is a plan to build a canal there, but until then I’m afraid we must take the long route.”
She stood upright then, looking down at his back. She wished to spur him into showing something more of himself. “What drives you Mr Farrow? What do you wish to achieve?” It was a very rude question, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. She had suddenly moved from his exclusion into the radiance of his orbit and she’d been absorbed by the strange aura he had about him, which everyone else saw. He was speaking to her as he spoke to his crew with no deference for her femininity. As her father did.
He straightened up and faced her, the curve still in his lips. She could tell, through the look in his eyes, that he was weighing up whether to answer or not. “What do you think drives me, Miss Martin?” He threw the question back at her. It was not a fair thing to do, but very him.
“Money,” she replied, unable to hold back.
His smile opened and lifted briefly into the same genuine expression she’d seen last night, and it caught in the creases beside his eyes. He is likeable, she thought momentarily, when his guard is down, there is something charming about him. “Money, power, status, all of those.” He was mocking himself she realised, not mocking her.
Her lips sent him a swift smile too, before she answered, “But do you never wish for more?”
“More, what more is there, Miss Martin?”
This mocking denial did not make her smile. His eyes might still look as though he teased, yet his tone had flattened again.
Her forehead twisted into a frown, because to her the answer was obvious. “Happiness.”
“Happiness is overrated,” was his answer, as he looked her directly in the eyes. His eyes had become shuttered, they refused to tell her anything of himself any longer.
And love, what of love? He did not seem like a man capable of it, but people needed it. She could not imagine not having love in her life. “Happiness is a blessing, Mr Farrow,” she responded.
“And it is happiness that drives you, I suppose, Miss Martin,” he cast back. Those words did mock her. But then he added, “Then why the anger?”
“What anger?” She did not understand.
“You were not happy about leaving Calcutta, and yet you left.”
She had thought herself beneath his observation, clearly she had not been, and he had been as observant in watching her as he had in watching her mother. She held the gaze that challenged her, as she had just challenged him, and wondered how to answer. She chose to tell him the truth. “I do not wish to marry.”
“But you will do so to please your parents. So what drives you cannot really be, happiness, if you are planning on giving it up when you marry. It makes a lie of what you said.” There was an odd light in his eyes when he spoke, his mocking had become sarcasm. But she was not certain she’d read any of his expressions right at all. He could be thinking of something about himself, or thinking of her.
She swallowed back the new pain in her throat, at the thought of leaving her mother and accepting the hand of the stranger she was travelling to meet. But then she lifted her chin a little, defying Mr Farrow’s judgement and pushing those thoughts away, as she had done ever since they had sailed away from India and her fate had been set. “I might wish for more than marriage. I imagine the life dull and myself unfitted for it. Yet I cannot picture the man I am to marry when I reach England, so I cannot know if I will be happy or not. But I know I love my parents, and their happiness is my happiness, and so I will be happy. No matter what I find when I reach this journey’s end.” She looked down at the map, turned and leant over it once more, then changed the subject.
It was not only his physical proximity that disturbed her, it was his mental proximity. He was too intuitive, too invading, of both her space and her thoughts. “Is this America? Have you been there?” She pointed.
As the conversation turned back to the geographical, Richard felt slightly numb. Happiness? He wanted to laugh. She did not deem him happy then… Probably because he did not smile and laugh all the time like her foolish young friends in Calcutta. But he was nearly a man of thirty, a business man with influence, not barely twenty and living off a father, without a care. He had never been that. There was more to life than happiness.
Yet as he had told her, her view was twisted, she was not fully content with the path life was forcing upon her anyway. Again he felt that echo of similarity between them, recalling himself as a restless youth arriving in India, hungry for experiences and achievement not the sedate life he had left behind.
He smiled to himself, as he’d done earlier, when she had begun asking questions about the map.
Regardless of their conversation he was currently happy, and he was happy because she was leaning down beside him, her shoulder almost touching his, while her soft, intelligent voice questioned him further about their route and her delicate, slender finger pointed at the chart. She intrigued him – and he would do much to ensure she was happy on his ship, he preferred her smiles and laughter, to her frowns and her sorrowful looks.
His mind thrust the image of his dream into his head, of her beneath him, her slender legs about his naked hips–but written over the image now was the knowledge of a calm, intelligent, resilient woman, and that look was embedded in her eyes and expression as she let him make violent love to her. He sighed, trying to recall her last question. If June were here, she’d tell him to stop pawing over the charts and come to bed. He could imagine her pouting and purring from the door to his cabin, begging for attention, vivacious and buxom–the antithesis of the serene, slender and enigmatic, intuitive and inquisitive, Miss Martin. If Miss Martin had been born a man, he could imagine her being eager to seek achievements and adventure – just like him. Then she could not have been persuaded to travel half way about the world to wed a stranger, because from what little she had told him, that sounded like it was her father’s and mother’s plan.
It was definitely not good then, that he was becoming more and more attracted to her. His fascination was beyond a mental level, it was physical too. It was her difference to any other woman he’d known that he found captivating. He had an itch to try a woman like her, to get to know her and bed her, body and mind. God what would it be like to bed an intelligent woman, her eyes sparking at him as he took her?
He stopped the thought before it could progress running the tip of his finger beneath his neckcloth as it tightened and the air in the room grew short.
Unfortunately though the thought grew like a pearl in an oyster and dining with her that evening, meeting her gaze across the table, was akin to the painful endurance of torture. He prayed her mother would be fit to dine the following day. The novelty of having a living work of art at his table had lost its appeal.Tomorrow he would sit her out of his eye-line again. There was no pleasure in wanting what he could not have.
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 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