Chapter Thirty

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Clara stared frowning at Lord Fitton for several seconds. Fitton began to worry it was something quite serious. He could take her silence no longer. "How ill are you?"

"I misspoke perhaps when I said, I wished them to cure me though I am at a loss as to what else I can say."

Lord Fitton shook his head in confusion. "I don't understand. So you are not ill?"

"I am..." Clara struggled trying to will the right word to come to mind. "I am... broken."

"Broken? Clara you are speaking nonsense. I've seen you in the rigging of this ship you are as agile as a gibbon." Then he paused wondering... "Or do you speak of your mental state, the trauma that lead to the loss of your voice," he dared to ask. 

Clara realized as with most lies this one as well has come back to haunt her. "No, I lied to you. Commander Redgrave asked that I tell no one that I'm a woman. I..."

"Redgrave knows the truth."

Clara nodded.

"What is he going to do about it?"

"I convinced him to let me get to India and he can be done with me. I will stay there until I have achieved my goal. He will no longer be responsible for me."

"And he... agreed with this?"

For a price that Clara was not about to mention, so she just nodded her head, yes.

"I can't lie to you Clara that his decision to keep you on surprises me. I would have thought his first reaction would be to drop you off at the Cape."

Clara shrugged. "I will count it among my blessing this evening before bed that he chose otherwise."

"So, then how are you... broken?"

Clara still found it difficult to say the real reason but began her explanation with,  "I am married."

"Not widowed?" Lord Fitton asked shocked by the notion. "What man in his right mind would allow you to take such risks?"

"He doesn't know I am taking them."

"You ran from him then? Does he harm you? Clara, if that is the case..." Fitton's words came out in a flurry, not giving Clara a chance to speak.  "my offer still stands. I will protect you. You can continue to travel with me. I would be grateful for you services as an artist and your continuation to assist me in my work."

"No!" Clara said vehemently. "He would never lay a hand on me. He would nary speak to me in anger. Whenever, we argued he keep his voice soft and calm and if I pushed him too far, he would remove himself from the room. No, Benjamin would never hurt me."

"Benjamin," Lord Fitton smiled sadly. "So that is why you have come to have that name?"

"Yes," Clara said. "It was the first name that sprung to mind when Commander Redgrave asked me for mine."

"So, why are you running away from him then?" Lord Fitton asked not wishing to pry but wanting to understand.

"I..." Clara eyes shown with pain. "I wish to have children. I have tried but I am a miserable failure. I hope... no, I pray that the Masters can tell me what is wrong with me. I have been with child on more than occasion but I have lost them all." Just saying the words out loud caused the devastation of those moments to come rushing back to her, the pain forcing the tears from her eyes. 

"I am so sorry, Clara." Lord Fitton said, taking a hanker kerchief from his pocket and handing it to her.

"Thank you," Clara said dabbing lightly at her eyes.

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