Chapter Forty-eight

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Benjamin held her close and Clara lightly dozed. She must be exhausted from all the emotional turmoil she has been through these last few days. The carriage had come to a halt and Benjamin could see the Black Star looming from the window. Soon they would be onboard. Soon, they could put this entire affair behind them.

He gently roused Clara. "Awake my Dove. We have arrived."

Clara blinked a few times to clear the fog. Benjamin helped her from the carriage and took a moment to pay the driver. The Black Star was quite an impressive ship but not nearly as large and foreboding as the Whispering Wind, which she could still see it docked further up a ways. Clara wondered how it's Captain and crew were fairing.

"Shall we?" Benjamin said when he rejoined her. It felt like a lifetime ago since she'd set foot onboard a ship, but in essence it had only been a few short weeks. Benjamin gave her his arm and she had to lift her dress so not to trip on their journey up the gangplank, another reminder that this will be a quite different voyage back.

Clara could feel Benjamin's eyes on her several times as they climbed to the deck. She knew she must have him worried about her. She did not mean to be so subdued but she was finding it difficult to break free of her melancholy mood.

When they reached the top, they were immediately approached by a sailor on board. Without the men wearing uniforms it was difficult to decipher their rank. 

"Mr. McAlister. I trust your mission was successful?"

"Yes, very. Is Captain McCullen onboard?" Benjamin asked.

"No, Sir but he is due to return within the hour."

"Very good. Have my trunks arrived?"

"Yes, Sir. One came from the Center about mid-day and another reached us from Fort Kochi about an hour ago," the sailor informed him.

"Perfect. Let Captain McCullen know upon his return that he may set sail for home as soon as it is possible."

Clara felt the man staring at her though she stood still, not saying a word, her eyes downcast.

"Excuse me, Sir but is not Lord Fitton joining us for the journey home?"

"No, my wife will be taking his place," Benjamin clarified. "She is his assistant. She will be taking his research back to the Queen, for presentation. We have all that we need. The professor will be staying on here in India. He still believes there may be a cure to be found."

"Very well then. I will notify the Captain promptly upon his return."

"Thank you. My wife and I will be below deck in my quarters, should he need to speak with us. It has been a long journey and I would prefer her to rest. I would appreciate it if we are not disturbed for next few hours, unless it is an emergency."

"Of course," the man said, "Welcome aboard the Black Star, miss."

Clara nodded and Benjamin once again took her by the arm and led her below deck. The small cabin, which was his room, had become increasingly more cramped with two large trunks now stuffed into them. Clara sat on the edge of one of the small beds and fidgeted with her clothes. The sea air caused them to feel damp and clingy.

She now saw the great benefit to dressing like she had aboard the Whispering Wind as the cotton shirt allowed air to circulate and keep her cool as opposed to the dress, corset and chemise she now wore that felt like a limp damp rag hanging off her body after only a few minutes in the sea air. She sighed with frustration.

"What is it, Dove?" Benjamin's expression was one of concern.

"Nothing." Clara tried to smile at her husband. Surely if she has managed everything she has braved so far she handle a few months in discomfort over her dress.

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