CHAPTER EIGHT Continues ….
He stood ramrod straight in shock of her brazenness. He had no idea her hair was that long or that thick. It covered her back and licked at the tops of her thighs. Then she was pulling it up out of the chemise that she was pulling down over her and it gave him a full glance at her posterior. Then before her hair could fall she sat on the edge of the bed. It was as if a switch had turned off and he fell forward onto his fists and exhaled loudly.
She looked over her shoulder at him.
‘Are you all right?’
‘I will be when I’ve wedded you and bedded you and can keep you away from all the opportunistic men … except for myself.’
‘When you’re lucky.’ She laughed at him and he wanted her right then more than ever before. ‘Go find me someone to help me dress.’
‘I could … I’m a dab hand at …’ her glare at him made him consider his words were better left unsaid and without another one he left her.
It was half an our later when they left the amazing house the four of them finding walking back down the hill much easier than their hike up it. And it being right on day break the views were even more spectacular.
‘Do these people know what fog is?’ Rhiannan asked glorying in the brightness of the new day.
The men laughed.
‘Probably not.’ Gavin told her.
‘Definitely not London’s pea-soup-er’s.’ Maloney certified.
‘Oh yes I remember those.’ She turned to him her face glowing ‘They were so scary, so exhilarating.’ She turned back to the trail, her feet dancing down more than merely walking; it helped her keep up with their longer strides.
‘How are you going to keep up with her?’ Maloney asked Michael.
‘Easily, my old friend, easily.’ Michael laughed slapping Maloney on the shoulder
‘Hey hey, less of the old aye?’ Maloney replied but even so he too promoted high spirits.
He always felt high in spirits when leaving Madame Roulade’s establishment, they all did. It was as if she gave them all a new lease on life, which was why they always visited. He’d often wondered if he could survive living there on a permanent basis. He’d stayed a week once and it had nearly killed him, but when he left he could run down this hill and swim out to his ship!
As they turned the hill they could see the bay and not only was there the Italian’s Spanish tub but two others one flying the British flag and off almost to the horizon even more sails. The men looked at each other and increased their pace.
‘Why are we running now?’ Rhiannan asked slowly running between Michael and Gavin. ‘Oh look at all the ships.’ She cried spying all the sails the men were frowning at. ‘They couldn’t all be here for us. Are they planning a huge party at Madame Roulade’s?’
‘Rhiannan save your breath.’ Michael told her ‘If you can’t keep up I’ll have to carry you.’
‘I’ll keep up.’ She vowed not liking the idea of being carried through the streets of Rio.
‘All the same if we’re separated go back to Roulade. Trust no one but her. I’ll come back for you.’
Suddenly fear gave Rhiannan more life. Fear of the obvious seriousness of their situation, coupled with the two more basic fears; the first at being back in the presence of the weasel and the leach, no matter Roulade’s assumption of command she did not trust either man, but overall of loosing Michael. She set her face and her pace and jogged along with them.
As they approached the docks Gavin and Michael both suddenly grabbed her arms and ran up a side road carrying her between them. They skirted round a corner into a lane and slid sideways in the gap between two walls, putting their backs against the wall of the house they’d just run past. Michael’s free hand clamped over Rhiannan’s mouth and they waited. Across the lane Maloney hid in similar fashion in a doorway.
To Rhiannan’s horror she could then hear the tromping sound of multiple feet running in unison. She held her breath and hid in Michael’s shoulder, her hands fiddling with her skirts. Michael looked down as did Gavin. Her bright blue dress stuck out like a beacon, the hoops pushed up making her white petticoats wave like a surrender flag. The two men stared at each other and Rhiannan saw the fear raw in their eyes and she wished the ground would open up and swallow her. Why hadn’t she come dressed as a sailor? Franticly the men tried to push the cane hoops flat. Finally daringly she stepped forward. The pursuers were just feet from her and there was no time to hide another way so daringly she walked out into the laneway straightening her skirts.
‘Oh!’ she said giving it all her imitation of feminine surprise as she could, as the patrol of redcoats stumbled to a sudden halt before her. Luck was on their side, these men were young and probably green and all of them were smiling towards her. She smiled back realising Madame Roulade was very accurate in her assumptions of the male population of the world; opportunistic every last one of them.
‘Ma’am?’ the corporal saluted her. ‘Are you lost?’
‘A little.’ She smiled at them walking them back down the lane way away from her men. The redcoats followed like drooling puppies. ‘I was certain my uncle said he was going up this way. He said he was visiting a friend up the hill. But I don’t think it was this quarter afterall.’
‘Do you live here then ma’am?’
‘No just visiting.’
‘Is that your ship then ma’am?’
‘The “Mary-Lou”? Yes she’s mine.’ She smiled ‘Well she belongs to my uncle. We’re going to Australia. Me, my brothers and my poor widowed uncle.’
‘What? You have no husband?’ one dared to ask and received a cuff about his head from his mate for his trouble.
‘No, not as yet.’ She smiled at the lad and the boy nearly fainted.
‘Well perhaps we could escort you back to your vessel then ma’am.’ The corporal offered doffing his hat and offering her his arm. ‘These streets are not safe for fine ladies such as yourself.’
‘Why thank you fine sir.’ She told him and taking his arm led them all back down the street like a gaggle of men around a lady on a picnic in Hyde Park.
Stunned at her command of the situation the three men stepped out of their hiding place and brazenly standing hands on hips, watched their pursuers leave with their woman without another glance back in their direction.
‘That makes you two her brothers.’ Maloney said.
‘That makes you her poor widowed uncle.’ Gavin teased back.
‘Why were they chasing us?’ Michael asked taking a step and beginning their walk back down following the others.
They strode down the hill at a safe distance should one happen to glance back after all. Turning a corner they saw redcoats streaming up the gangway of the Spanish ship.
‘It’s the Italian’s tub. What is he carrying?’ Michael said curiosity eating at him.
‘Typhoid probably.’ Gavin gave them.
Maloney looked at him. ‘You sound like a doctor. What did you do again before coming aboard?’
‘I’m not a doctor.’ Gavin laughed ‘But I’ve been about a bit.’
At the dock gate Rhiannan spied them striding out into the sunshine.
‘Oh there they are!’ she announced ‘Uncle!’ She waved prettily ‘Uncle! Uncle Patrick! Here I am, over here! ’ She smiled back at the men gathered about her ‘Poor dear is a bit deaf of late.’ She told them making them laugh as though she’d told the funniest joke.
‘Oh Samantha, my dear!’ Maloney gushed, half shuffling-semi trotting-semi limping over to them as if he were indeed old and feeble like his old father used to be. ‘There you are. We have been looking all over why didn’t you call out to me?’ he asked finally reaching her, the other two men hanging back happy to let these two actors take the heat.
‘I did uncle I did. I was calling and calling!’ she replied catching her uncle and patting his shirt down; grateful they’d all warn their Sunday best to go visiting. ‘Never mind you’re back now and this morning the mate assured me that if we left before noon we could go out on the tide. It must nearly be that now. We have to hurry. Come on Ralph, Harry, you know uncle needs you to carry him up the gang plank, he can’t manage that.’
Stunned Gavin and Michael, now answering to Ralph and Harry although they weren’t sure which was which, came and collected Maloney up between them. For effect Maloney started slapping at them insisting he could board his own ship, that the gang plank was only as wide as his knees and as long as his arm! It made Rhiannan laugh covering her fear and the redcoats laughed with her. Unfortunately that made them the attraction on an otherwise boring dock.
‘Oh do be careful, we don’t want uncle to fall in.’ she implored them and the redcoats laughed more. ‘Could you just get aboard without one of you getting wet, just this once please!’ again the redcoats laughed, in their high spirits they urged the men to fall in.
She looked about and saw coming off the third ship a string of people all roped together; men women children. Redcoats were organising the exodus. And on the other ship more redcoats were looking in their direction. She knew it wasn’t the British ship for the other men around them wore the most amazingly outdated silver breast plates and helmets. The British ship was cleaner, the paintwork un-scuffed, the woodwork and brass fittings all highly polished and the crew all wore matching red and white or blue and white striped shirts and blue or white trousers.
On the helm stood a captain in navy uniform so resplendent she was fascinated. Never had she seen a man that looked almost more handsome than Michael. He was older however and she surmised he would therefore be married. Mentally she shook herself. She was promised to marry Michael, she reminded herself severely; whatever made her consider that naval peacock in any way a possible suitor for her affections?
☼To be continued ….
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living. But in the mid 1800s it was normal for the children of the poor to see the activities of their parents – good & bad; generally they weren’t sheltered … that came in soon after when everyone wanted to live like the well to do did & hide or ignore the brutality of the ugly side of life.
Remember in Australia, Corporal Punishment was only outlawed 35 years ago! Child abuse is still being fought & wives could not testify against their husbands for anything including marital rape until recent times also.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼