Chapter Twelve

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Sturgis leaned back on his bunk and let out a long slow whistle

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Sturgis leaned back on his bunk and let out a long slow whistle. "That is quite a story, Claremont."

Clara shrugged, even though she knew the gesture could not be seen. "It is the truth."

"So, you killed someone and then ran away from home?"

"Yes. The person in question was trying to hurt my family. Family is ... everything to me." It struck her how now she was completely alone. In deserting Benjamin she had walked away from them all. It was a great loss and the pain threatened to drown her so she pushed the thought down deep.

"You and I aren't so different. I left in the hopes to protect my family, also. My father took ill and my mother has no means to support us. I being the oldest of my siblings chose to sign on with the EIC. I send most of my wages home. I keep just enough to get me by while on voyage. I was hoping for a promotion as it would mean a significant increase in pay." Sturgis frowned. "You think Lord Fitton is on the level?"

"I do," Clara said. "He strikes me as a noble man. More than just by title. He is passionate about his work and if he thinks you can be educated, then that education will open doors for you."

"Still there is one thing I do not understand." Sturgis asked, "Why no voice? It has to make everything harder for you. It makes no sense."

Clara bit her bottom lip. It did not make sense and it did make everything harder but how to put it in a way that would not alarm Sturgis or send him running to Redgrave. Since they were already at port. She made her decision. If she got booted from the ship now, at least she could navigate her way until another opportunity presented itself. If she were marooned on an island she would remain stranded.

"Claremont?"

"I'm here."

"You got so quiet I thought perhaps you left the room."

"No, Sturgis. My voice it sounds..."

"Feminine... I know," Sturgis said, "but that does not explain..."

"It sounds feminine because it is," Clara said cutting off his statement, watching his face for his reaction.

Sturgis slowly sat up. He would be looking directly at her if he could see. He braced himself by gripping the bed on either side him. He said nothing. The longer he was silent the more Clara regretted saying anything. Then... 

"A girl?"

"A Woman," Clara corrected.

"How old?"

"I am a woman in my twenties."

"Good Lord! Are you being straight with me? I am sharing my bunk with an older woman."

Clara suddenly wanted to laugh. "Yes."

He moved over to her side of the room and she reached out and took his hand guiding him to sit next to her. "What is your name?"

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