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Emily was up early the next morning, hoping to be the first to catch sight of the coast of Nova Scotia. She was relieved to see no sign of the Captain, unwilling to risk another unpleasant scene. Like many of the sea-going men she had met throughout the years, McAllister was a bully, and a lout. Exactly the sort she hoped to escape by marrying a gentleman like Mr. Withers. An educated person who could speak of art and music, with aspirations to something beyond a bulging hold of stinking fish or a profitable cargo of potatoes and lard.
She had been on deck for only a few minutes when McAllister appeared at the helm, in the company of two other men, one of whom she recognized as the Elizabeth B. Portman's First Officer. She made quickly for the hatch, but McAllister saw her, and approached.
"Miss Fowler, a moment of your time, if I may?"
Emily threw her hair back and attempted a haughty look, with only mild success.
"What is it, Captain? I have things to do before we land, if you don't mind."
"Please. This will take only a moment. I had intended to apologize when we last spoke, before you became so suddenly ill, but, with your permission, I would like to do it now. It has come to my attention, Miss Fowler, that you are somewhat older than I had reason to surmise, by your ... your diminutive height and demeanor. Had I known your true age, I surely would not have ... I would not have treated you, or your person, in the indiscreet manner in which I did. Without the intention of doing so, I'm afraid I've been guilty of an act of unforgivable disrespect."
Emily cast a cold eye on him. Without realizing it, Ethan McAllister had just offendedher pride almost as hatefully as he had in chastising her so publicly. Throughout her adulthood, Emily had been teased relentlessly about her small stature and youthful appearance, and she did not find it flattering, especially as she prepared to begin life as a married woman.
"You are suggesting, as I understand it, Captain, that I look like a child?"
McAllister flushed. "No, not at all. I simply mistook your size and lack of..." He stopped. The conversation was not going as he had intended.
"Lack of what?" she demanded. "You are an intolerable boor, Captain, in addition to being a very poor judge of either age or maturity. No apology is necessary, however, since I do not make it a practice to hold persons of low intelligence, such as yourself, to normal standards of etiquette or decency. I am twenty-seven years of age, and unaccustomed to being treated like a..." She stopped, unable to think of a word that wasn't vulgar.
McAllister was smiling again, in that irritating and superior manner she had observed at their first disagreeable encounter.
"Treated like ... Excuse me, but what was it you were about to say, Miss?"
"You know perfectly well what I meant, sir! Or, could it be that you are as slow-witted as you are rude?"
McAllister's smile faded, and he clasped his hands behind his back, unable to trust himself. He would have liked nothing better at this moment than to throw this unendurable little wretch across the rail and use Mr. Johnson's wide strap on her obnoxious ass.
"Fortunately for both of us," he said grimly, "this voyage is nearing its end. If I am extremely lucky, and obey each and every Commandment, and if I am very, very generous to the poor, perhaps God will grant my sincere wish that I never lay eyes on you again. Closely seen, Miss Fowler, I would now have to confess that you look every day of your twenty-seven years, and it is only your appalling behavior that makes you seem a child. Children as insufferable as yourself usually profit from being soundly and frequently spanked, and were I your sainted mother or your unfortunate intended spouse, you would have your drawers lowered and your insolent backside blistered at least once a day and twice on Sundays, until you had learned some manners. Good day, Madam!"
For perhaps the first time in the twenty-six years since she had learned to speak, Emily was speechless.
Posted September 16, 2010
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Posted December 16, 2010
No text was provided for this review.