Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours Presents…
A Modest Independence
By Mimi Matthews
He Needed Peace…
From Chapter 4
It was only a short distance to the pier. When they arrived, they were greeted by the prospect of a churning sea. A handful of travelers were gathered on the dock, all of them bundled up against the frigid weather.
Tom disembarked first. “Careful. Mind the step.”
Jenny clung to his hand as she stepped down from the carriage. The wind whipped at her skirts and at the ribbons of her bonnet. It was cold as ice, biting at her face and stinging her eyes.
After months of living on the North Devon coast with Helena and Mr. Thornhill, she was accustomed to the smell of sea air and the peculiar force of the wind as it blew in from over the water. But like everything else, this was different. The beach at Greyfriar’s Abbey was isolated. Lonely. Dover, by contrast, was teeming with industry.
A steamer ship was docked in the harbor, near to where the crowd of people were gathered. Men in rough coats and wool trousers moved up and down a narrow wooden gangplank, loading the ship with crates, leather cases, and great waterproof trunks like Jenny’s.
“The Onyx,” she said. “That’s my ship, isn’t it?”
Tom stood close at her side. “It is.” He cast her a look. “Scared?”
The carriage was stopped behind them, the driver hunched over on the box. He likely couldn’t hear them over the wind. And he certainly didn’t seem interested in what it was they were saying or doing.
Gathering her courage, Jenny turned to face Tom. “Please don’t walk me to the ship,” she said in a rush. “I’d rather say goodbye to you here.”
Tom’s expression was guarded. Almost unreadable. He cleared his throat. “As to that—”
“Please. I don’t think I could bear it if you were to stand on the dock waving me off. It’s difficult enough as it is.”
“Why should it be difficult?”
“I don’t know.” The wind blew the silk ribbon ties of her bonnet across her mouth. She brushed them away. “You and I are a puzzle, aren’t we? To me, anyway. I’ve resolved to chalk it up to one of those unfortunate pangs that we discussed last evening.”
Tom gave her an arrested look. “Longing, do you mean?”
“Yes. I suppose that’s it.”
She flushed. “Why not?” And then, before she could talk herself out of it, she stood up on the toes of her boots and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Goodbye, Tom. Perhaps, someday—if you ever have the inclination—you might write to me in India.”
Tom stared down at her, his Adam’s apple bobbing on a swallow. When at last he replied, his voice was deeper than usual. “I won’t be writing to you, Jenny.”
Her stomach dropped. “Oh.” She took a step back from him. A surge of embarrassment clogged her throat, making it difficult to speak. “Yes, of course. I perfectly understand.”
“No, you don’t. There won’t be any need to write because…I’m coming with you.”
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A Modest Independence
bestselling author Mimi Matthews (, ) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the and the , and are also syndicated weekly at . In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.