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"Won't this ship ever stop its odious rocking?" Mrs. Howard said in her American accent. "There's not a soul alive who could possibly stomach food at a time like this."
Rosalie could have stomached food, but she refrained from saying so as she applied a cold compress to the older woman's forehead. She'd been on her way to the dining saloon when she'd received Mrs. Howard's summons, and she was still in her pink sarcenet dinner gown. "Perhaps if you lie very still "
Mrs. Howard pushed her hand away. "How I loathe sea voyages, and this ship is an absolute horror."
Rosalie suppressed a sigh. It was only the seasickness talking. Though she'd seen her share of disagreeable vessels and cramped quarters, for this voyage her father had been fortunate enough to secure passage on the Neptune's Fancy, a top-of-the-line packet ship catering to passengers willing to pay the princely sum of one hundred and forty American dollars for a comfortable crossing. The ship boasted twelve small passenger cabins, six on either side of the vessel, each equipped with its own compact dresser, looking glass and commode. Rosalie feared it had forever spoiled her for the slow, small brigs to which she was accustomed.
"You'll feel better once it's calm again." She gave Mrs. Howard a sympathetic smile. "Even my father chose not to go in to dinner tonight, and Papa almost never suffers from mal de mer."
Mrs. Howard closed her eyes. "Dear Lord Whitwell. It was good of him to spare you to me." She opened one eye to peer up at Rosalie. "But what about your young cousin? I hope he won't be cross with me for stealing you away just at the dinner hour."
"I doubt Charlie will miss me. He's so excited about joining the army, my company can't hold a candle to an officer's."
Mrs. Howard patted her hand. "What a dear child you are! But as for the colonel well, I hope you won't let him influence Mr. Templeton too much. You and your family are the only truly genteel passengers on this miserable voyage. The rest of the company is not quite up to our standardsmerchants and ex-military men, you know, and the less said about that sort, the better."
"There is Lord Deal "
Mrs. Howard snatched the wet cloth from her forehead to eye Rosalie as if she'd taken leave of her senses. "Lord Deal? But that man is the worst of the lot! I've never met any creature so rude. And don't tell me you disagree, Miss Whitwell, for I'm quite sure he's never given you so much as a civil word, however pretty you may be."
"He's never said anything uncivil." It was true enough, for the gentleman had yet to look in her direction, let alone speak a single word to her. The Marquess of Deal inhabited a rarefied sphere, far above Rosalie's touch. Her papa might be a baron, but constant travel had taken its toll, wearing away whatever thin veneer of polish she and her father had once possessed. They were more accustomed now to breaking bread with camel drivers and native guides than to hobnobbing with the haut monde. "Don't you worry that poor Lord Deal must feel out of place? No one ever speaks with him except the ship's captain."
"And little wonder! You see how he holds himself apart. The man considers himself too good for the rest of us."
"He is very quiet." Quiet, and so austerely elegant he looked as if he'd stepped out of a Flemish portrait from another century. "I sometimes wonder if he must have suffered some great loss in his life "