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When the cabin boy came to collect their breakfast things, Mr Bishop was with him, and he told Emerald that Dr Steel would be there directly and offered to stroll about the deck with Emerald so that Dr Steel could speak with her mother privately. She accepted, glad she had no need to press Dr Steel again and knowing her mother would wish to speak with him alone.
Emerald put on her bonnet and shawl, her heart beating hard as she left her mother with Rita and stepped out into the sunshine. On the deck, she gripped the crook of Mr Bishop’s arm and let him lead her along the port side, by the rail.
“Do you feel better this morning, Miss Martin, I am aware you were upset last night?”
She looked about the rim of her bonnet, at him. “I am less emotional, Mr Bishop, but we are speaking of my mother––of course I am upset. Would you not be upset if it was your mother at table last night?”
He did not reply. Instead he looked ahead and changed the subject.
She longed to knock the men’s heads together. None of them would speak of her mother’s illness. None of them were taking it seriously. She was fighting a losing battle, and fighting it alone. All they did was change the subject.
Then she saw Dr Steel exit the lower deck with Mr Farrow following, striding briskly they headed for her cabin, looking determined. Emerald watched them as she and Mr Bishop reached the corner of the quarterdeck and turned toward starboard.
When Dr Steel knocked, the cabin door opened and then Mr Farrow walked into the cabin with him.
She looked at Mr Bishop. “Why is Mr Farrow accompanying Dr Steel?”
He looked nonchalantly down at her with the air of a man who was lying through his teeth, “I don’t know, Miss Martin, but I should think Mr Farrow would wish to see how Mrs Martin is fairing after last evening.”
He knew, she would swear he knew. She let go of his arm and turned back. Something was going on.
“Catherine, I shan’t stay. But I have come to beg you to tell Miss Martin the truth. Not knowing it is tearing her apart. At least if she knew she could begin to come to terms––.”
The door was thrust open when Richard had barely begun the speech he had been crafting all night as he’d lain in his bunk unable to sleep.
It was Emma.
Her eyes looked to her mother then to Duncan and then to him as she stood with the door handle still in her hand. “Why are you here, Mr Farrow?” There was suspicion in her pitch.
Mark, whom Richard could see standing behind her, mouthed, “Sorry.”
Richard rose and smiled at her. He’d sat on Emma’s bunk to avoid towering over Catherine. “I am merely expressing my concern for your mother’s health, Miss Martin. Would you like me to keep you company while Duncan speaks with Catherine?” Catherine knew Richard’s opinion now anyway.
Emma’s skin turned a vivid scarlet, as she nodded. The poor woman was uncertain of everything due to her mother’s worsening health.
A deep breath left his lungs as Richard turned back to Catherine. “Catherine, pray listen to Duncan, he is a wise man. He’ll have you well again.”
She met his gaze. They both knew she would never be well again. Richard turned back to her daughter. “Miss Martin,” he stated, walking forward and lifting his forearm for her to hold, forgetting caution, or rather casting it a drift. She needed him.
Her slender fingers curled tightly about his arm as they passed through the cabin door. It reminded him of the hours he’d sat beside her in the darkness when her bare hand had grasped his.
He sent Mark off to do his work with a nod and then began their promenade along the side of the deck.
“Well tell me what you think?” she said looking up at him with her intent challenging gaze. No one else was close enough to hear.
“Miss Martin, what do you expect me to say to you? She is ill. I can say no more.”
Sighing, she looked away, frustrated and looking careworn. The gloved fingers of his free hand covered hers on his arm. “Emma,” she looked back, “forgive me, I mean, Miss Martin. I do understand, believe me. I know you are afraid for her. I am here if you need me, as are the others. You need not bear this by yourself.”
“You may call me, Emma, if you wish,” she whispered, her soul reaching out to him through her eyes. She was in need of comfort.
He pressed his hand harder over her fingers, walking slowly on. “Then I’d be honoured if you would call me, Richard.”
She smiled, but it did not touch the sadness in her eyes. He’d lay odds on the fact she’d not slept again last night, there were dark shadows beneath those beautiful eyes.
“Emma,” he said, then, “Let me repeat. You are not alone. Do you understand? I have watched you carrying this concern for your mother and I know it is difficult. You must share it with me, I will help willingly.”
“I don’t know what to do,” she said then, as they turned at the corner of the quarterdeck. “I just wish I knew what was wrong? What to do? What can I do?”
Forgetting the crewmen scattered about the deck and Philip at the wheel, and Mark who was currently sending a man up the rigging, Richard curved his fingers about those gripping his arm and held them. “You are doing what you can, Emma. You are being a comfort to her, encouraging her to eat and ensuring Dr Steel is watching over her, you can do no more than that.”
Her bright blue eyes glittered, with gratitude in their depths. He could see she felt out of her depth. He squeezed her hand again. “Whatever happens, Emma, just remember you are not alone.”
She nodded then, clearly too emotional to speak. He felt a lump catch in his throat then realised they’d stopped walking and noted some of the crew staring. With determination he looked away from her and walked on, relaxing his fingers over hers and letting his hand fall away.
“What will you do when you reach London?” he asked to change the subject, noting the women’s cabin door open and Duncan signal the cabin boy. He turned his shoulder, facing Emma a little more, in the hope that Emma would not notice the activity from her cabin, and kept her talking and walking. A few moments later the boy returned to the women’s cabin with the writing desk from the day cabin.
“Why would Dr Steel need the writing desk,” Emma asked as she saw that.
“To make a note of your mother’s symptoms, I should think, so he may consider the details.” Lies tripped too easily from Richard’s tongue he was sure, but most of the morals of western society had deserted him long ago.
They’d walked about the deck ten times, talking all the while, before Duncan reappeared from the cabin.
Immediately Emma chose to desert Richard––proving he had not distracted her mind at all.
It suited him though. He wanted to speak to Duncan.
Emma let go of Richard’s arm outside the cabin door and bobbed a slight curtsy. Before she could turn away though, he caught hold of her hand then bowed over it, just as slightly as she had curtsied, but he then lifted her fingers to his lips to kiss the back of them. Her cotton glove was warm from the heat of her skin.
There was another blush tinting her skin when she turned away and disappeared into the cabin.
He smiled, a closed lipped, heart-sore smile. Now he knew why poets often classed love as tragic, it felt tragic to him, to be forced to watch her suffering and be unable to help.
When he reached his surgeon’s cabin he tapped the door then pushed it open without waiting for an answer. “What did she say?” he asked as he walked in.
Duncan looked up, he was sitting at his desk and in the middle of making a balm. “She said, she will think about tell Miss Martin.” He pushed the bottles he’d been using aside. “She is worse though. Her pulse is weaker and her breathing shallower, the disease is in her lungs. She has written a letter to her husband today and one to her relatives in England. She has asked you to send them should she die. She has also written a letter for her daughter. She said you have promised to take Miss Martin to her family and her future husband. She has given the letters to me.”
“She thinks she is near death then?”
“You need not be a doctor to know that.”
Richard stepped farther into the room and pushed the door shut behind him. Then his hand lifted and run over his face, as he took the seat Duncan’s patients usually occupied.
Duncan’s hand fell on to Richard’s shoulder. “What did you say to Miss Martin?”
“I simply told her she is doing all she can and she should not carry her fears alone.”
“So you wish to carry them for her?”
There was understanding in Duncan’s eyes when Richard looked up. He smiled. He’d told no one yet, he might as well tell someone. “I am going to offer her marriage.”
Duncan’s hand lifted from Richard’s shoulder and one eyebrow lifted too. “The noose, Richard? I never thought to see the day you’d let yourself be caught.”
Richard laughed. He’d never thought to want a wife. He did not need one. He never cared about siring sons. He’d had no value for a wife. He did want Emma. She had cast the noose about his neck. “I’m sorry to say, the day has come, Duncan.”
“Well I am glad for you. I suppose she will accept.”
“I hope she will accept. I am not so arrogant as to be certain of it. There is this cousin she is promised to in London. I shall give her time in London and court her, then make my position known. I cannot do so now, with things as they are. But I hope she and her mother, God-willing she is still here, will forget about the cousin and come home with us. ”
When Richard stood on the poop-deck later, the decision inside him was questioned a hundred times. Was he mad? He was three-and-thirty, she was just approaching twenty. Was he being realistic or dreaming? She’d smiled at him often, shared looks of understanding, gripped his hand––did that imply his affection was returned? Or had he simply fallen for the charm of her youth, beauty and intelligence, and she felt nothing in return?
He sighed, leaning onto the rail as he looked out at the waves sweeping outward in the wake of the ship. He could make a damned fool of himself over the woman. But regardless, he knew he would not return to June. Emma Martin had captured him in her siren’s call, if he drowned, he drowned. He no longer cared.
The image of her face this morning as they’d walked about the deck, came to his mind, helpless––needing him. She was all. She was the only thing important to him now. He no longer craved fortune or success, his wealth and his status were meaningless.
I crave her.
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