Dinner?

I spent most of the rest of the day up on deck, even thought my father would have disapproved of me being exposed to the sun for too long, either watching the sailors go about their jobs, or sketching.  Mr. Cartwright was the only other passenger I saw up on deck and wondered if there were only four passengers on board.  From what I had been told by Captain Donelly I had been led to believe there would be many more, but I supposed that there wasn’t as much room below decks as I had first thought.

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon, Captain Donelly approached me, a tired look on his face.

‘I hope you are well Miss Westin and not being too affected by the sea,’ he inquired politely.

‘I am feeling very well thank you Captain.  I think I like the sea a lot.’

‘I am glad to hear that.  There are so many young people who dislike the sea; they do not see the allure and beauty of it.  But you are an artist?’  He nodded at my sketchbook.

‘I draw a little, only what my governess taught me.’

‘May I?’  He held out his hand for the sketchbook, which I handed to him nervously.  He flicked through the pages, his eyes widening as he examined my work.  ‘This is excellent.  You have managed to capture the light and shade very well here, and the tone you have put into this section is exquisite.’  He must have seen the shocked look on my face as he smiled, handing me back my sketchbook.  ‘My brother is an art critic for The Times, so I have seen a lot of artwork in my time.’

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to look surprised, you just don’t-‘

‘I don’t seem like the type of person who goes to art galleries.’  His eyebrows slid up his forehead as he looked down at me, a kind smile on his face.  ‘Don’t worry about it Miss Westin, many people make the same judgment.  Why should a ship’s captain be interested in art?’  He began to walk away, bowing neatly before turning away from me, then stopped mid-stride and turned back to me.  ‘I forgot to mention something.  I am inviting a few of my special guests for dinner with my officers and myself tonight, and we would be honoured if you would join us.

‘I would consider it a pleasure,’ I said, curtsying deeply.  ‘I am delighted to accept your invitation.’

‘Then I will see you at sundown in my cabin, if you do not know where that is, ask any of the crew, they will be glad to direct you.’

‘Thank you sir, I am looking forward to it immensely.’

‘Don’t feel the need to dress specially for the occasion,’ the Captain said hastily.  ‘We are simple men of the sea so your fine taste would be lost on us.’

‘I am sure you are being far too modest Captain Donelly, but I will assure you I will not be dressing in my best for dinner this evening.  I am still in mourning.’

‘Of course!  How thoughtless of me,’ the Captain hastily apologized, making me more uncomfortable than I had been to start with.

‘It is fine Captain.  I am not the sort of girl to cry every time she remembers something ill or unpleasant that has happened to her.  Yes I loved my father but he is gone now, I must move on with my life.  It’s what he would have wanted.’

‘You are a remarkable young woman Miss Westin, and do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise.’

‘You are very kind,’ I said, putting my arm tenderly on his shoulder, ‘but I fear that sundown is growing closer and I need to prepare myself for dinner.  I shall see you soon.’  I kissed him on the cheek, which made the Captain’s face flush and cause him to mutter something along the lines of ‘very good, very good’ before walking away, a confused expression on his face.

I giggled as I watched him go, picking up my things and heading below deck.  Lucy was exactly where I had left her earlier, curled into a ball against the wall, but the older woman was nowhere to be seen.  I didn’t waste my time thinking about where she could be; instead I walked over to Lucy, opening my sketchbook.

‘Lucy,’ I said softly.  ‘Do you want to see the pictures I have drawn?’  I held out my open book, trying to tempt her out of her silence.  Her eyes appeared again from behind her hair, nervous and uncertain whether she could trust me.  After a few moments hesitation she reached out her hand and took the book, brushing her hair out of her face so she could see better.  Her eyes widened as she looked at the sketches.

‘You did these?’  She asked, her voice no louder than a whisper.  I nodded; scared I would speak too loudly and startle her.  ‘And this is what it’s like up there?’  I nodded again.  ‘You don’t make it look as scary as I thought,’ she said, running her hands over one of the pictures.

‘It isn’t scary,’ I said, sitting on the floor.  ‘The wind is quite strong and it makes the ropes bang against the wood of the mast, but it’s not strong enough to do any damage.  Once you get up there and you look at the birds and the sky, it’s very beautiful.’

‘There are birds?’

‘Yes,’ I carefully lean over, turning the pages until I find one of the gulls swooping close to the ship.

‘Can I go and see them?’

‘Not now, the sun is setting so they will have gone to find somewhere to sleep, but you can come up with me tomorrow.  If that’s what you would like of course.’  I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping Lucy’s verdict would be a positive one.

‘I think that would be nice,’ she said, a small, hesitant smile spreading across her face.

The End

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