For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance
Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rough draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.
The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter 18 continued,
Copyright Lily Silver, 2013
Zara’s heart stopped. She was being probed, tested. Did St. John know her secret? Did he suspect she was the very same gypsy woman wanted for questioning over in Lexford? If he did, he was not making too much of it, just hinting that she might have Romany blood. Still, she couldn’t seem to breathe for a moment, as she waited for his response to Maggie’s outburst.
“So they do.” He said, flippantly, and without rancor. “But so do the Mullatos and Quadroons of the Indies, Maggie my girl. They learn fortunetelling from their African ancestors. Along with Voodoo spells and nonesuch. Now, I bid you ladies goodnight.”
He made a courtly bow to Zara, once more making her wonder at his behavior. Kind and respectful one moment, and cunning as a fox with his clever speech the next.
“Thank you, sir.” She said, relieved to have moved on from the subject of gypsy fortune telling to the traditions of the West Indian peoples. “I assure you, I’ve not learned any such magic as Voodoo, my maman strictly forbade such practices in our home. Even the servants were not permitted to practice their pagan ways under our roof.”
“I beg your pardon?” Zara murmured, taken aback by his odd turn of phrase. It sounded like an accusation. “I do not know what you are implying, sir?”
“Papist, your French relations in Martinique were of Catholic persuasion, I presume.”
“Ah . . . . yes. Yes.” Zara responded, fearing she’d just given up the game with her blunder. “Of course. I thought you said Pacifists, sir.”
He made an odd wave of his hand. “Papist, Pacifist. Yes, I do see the confusion.”
His words, while strong and clear, lacked a certain confidence, giving her to believe that he was not fooled by her mistake.
“The islands are astir with rebellion, sir.” Zara added, quoting Jason Leeds, the widow’s nephew, who gave it as his reason for fleeing the Indies recently in the hope of residing with his Aunt Kendall. She hoped that her knowledge of the situation, knowledge gleaned by listening to another’s conversation, would strengthen her claim in his mind of being recently arrived from the Indies. “There are those among the colonists who seek to defend of the slave trade while slaves, freed Negroes and abolitionists are planning rebellions in every colony. People such as my aunt and uncle are caught in the middle. They detest slavery but seek a peaceful end instead of violent means. My aunt and uncle wanted me safely away in England in the event another brutal uprising took place in our area as it did in Demerara this past summer.”
“I read of it in the newspapers. A brutal event. Most unfortunate that it occurred mere months after a resolution was introduced in the House of Commons condemning slavery as repugnant to the principles of the British constitution and calling for its abolition throughout the British colonies.” St. John conceded. “Your relations were wise to send you away as a precaution. I wager that many islands will seek to emulate the Haitian and the Demerain uprisings. I understand that Demerara is still under marshal law. However, you are from a French colony, are you not? Martinique?”
His pointed question, along with his raised brows, unsettled her. “Yes.” She replied, determined not to let his exacting questions confound her, at least not on the surface. “If you have been to the Indies, sir, you would know the islands are clustered together, mere miles apart, despite the mix of nations. One island teeming with unrest affects the neighboring ones.”
“Ah, you speak the truth.” St. John conceded in an odd tone. His words confirmed his belief in her reply, and yet . . . and yet . . . the tone of them was not comforting. There was a peculiar lilt in his voice that made her uneasy. “Good night, my fair one. Sleep well in my fortress, far from the stirrings of mob revolt.” He bowed again to Zara, and then withdrew.
* * *
The morning light filtering through her window looked frosty. The trees were draped in white. The snow came in the night, a heavy snow she gathered as she studied the black tree limbs contrasted by a layer of glaring white. Downy, feather-like flakes continued to fall from the cold grey skies. The window panes were trimmed in white drifts.
Zara shivered as she thought of the cold north wind and the wetness of the snow as it would cling to her skirts and dampen them if she were still trying to run from the villagers. She was grateful to be inside a stone fortress, tucked in a warm bed, with a fire crackling in the hearth. Maggie bustled about the room with a youthful energy that Zara envied. The medicine the doctor left for her had made her feel dull and tired. She disliked the feeling, as it hindered her ability to remain alert to her surroundings. Still, the ache in her ankle was enough that to go without the medicine brought a different distraction of the mind.
“The snowfall is exciting, isn’t it!” Maggie exclaimed, bouncing happily about the room with her flaming red braid flapping behind her back. She dashed from one window to the next, gazing out with a joy that was mystifying to Zara. “I just love the first snowfall, don’t you?” The freckled face turned to her from the frosty window, and Maggie’s eyes grew large. “Oh, sorry, Miss.”
Zara couldn’t help but smile in return. Maggie was a cheerful girl, even as a servant, she brought with her a fresh sense of wonder to everything she did. “I have seen snow before.”
Maggie’s lips formed a perfect O shape. She continued to gape at Zara with amazement.
“Why does the first snowfall excite you?”
“It’s near Christmastide, that’s why!” Maggie jumped down from her perch at the stone window casement. “And that means all kinds of good things coming our way. Special baked treats, decorating the house, and family . . .” The red head bowed and the girl became silent as she looked down at her shoes, her lips trembling.
“What is it?” Zara asked gently, seeing the mistiness in the girl’s eyes. “Christmastide brings sadness to families?” It hardly seemed a reason to cheer.
“No, Miss.” Maggie mumbled, crossing the room to stab at the fire in the hearth with a poker. “This is the first Christmas I should be without family. Mama’s been gone for a few years, but my father, he was always there.”
“Your father has passed away?” Zara asked, careful in her wording as she knew it was a painful question to ask the girl.
“I don’t know. He’s missing, they aren’t sure if he’s dead or just . . . . lost.”
“Tell me more of this Christmastide you speak of. A winter festival of some sort?”
The shoulders raised little, and the head bent so low rose just inches. Wide blue eyes of astonishment. “You’ve never had a Christmas?” Copyright Lily Silver, 2013