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Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Author:Hope Adams [Adams, Hope]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781405943178
Google: snr8DwAAQBAJ
Publisher: Penguin UK
Published: 2021-03-04T00:00:00+00:00


21

THEN

Cotton piece: Turkey red ground with yellow ferns widely spaced

May 1841

HATTIE

At first Hattie wondered what Emily was doing, peering behind a stack of wooden boxes, then retreating, peering over again—as though she’d lost something and was searching for it. From this distance it was hard to tell what was happening, but as she came closer she heard a child’s voice and Bertie emerged, giggling.

He and the other children were sitting on some wooden crates and boxes that the sailors had found somewhere aboard the ship. They’d brought them into the living quarters and arranged them in a short row in a corner, from which the belongings of several women had been moved, amid much grumbling.

“Oh, shut your noise,” another woman shouted. “You can push the boxes away when they’re not using them. D’you fancy brats running about freely every minute of the day? Let them be schooled while there’s someone crazed enough to try—give the rest of us some peace.”

Some of the children on board the Rajah were too young for lessons. Those little ones clung to their mothers’ skirts, and when their own flesh and blood grew weary of looking after them, plenty of others were willing to cradle and play with them, either because they were missing their own children, or because they’d never had care of an infant for more than a few hours and relished the novelty.

“I don’t mind looking after them, doing lessons with them,” said Emily, who had come up to stand next to Hattie, as the children took their places.

Emily seemed always to be at Hattie’s side. Was she currying favor? She seemed to like Hattie more than any other woman. I was kind to her, Hattie thought. Or perhaps she thinks I’m grand in some way, and wants to be my friend for reasons that have more to do with bettering herself than any real liking.

“I saw at once,” Emily said, “when I spotted you both coming aboard this ship, that the two of you were . . . superior to everyone else. Better. More respectable than most. Prettier than the rest of us. And your Bertie’s a clever child. I could see you were . . .” She searched for the right words. “I could see you weren’t brought low by being among convicts. By being labeled a criminal.”

“Emily,” said Hattie, “you’re very kind to speak so, but I must correct you. I am a criminal. Unlike many here, I don’t protest my innocence. I’m guilty of the things I was charged with and won’t deny it. And thank you for what you say about Bertie.”

Hattie wouldn’t have confessed it to anyone, but part of the pride she took in Bertie was pride in herself. Her own mother had taught her to read and write, and she was determined that Bertie would have all the advantages she could possibly give him. The Whitings, when she went to work for them, were startled by her proficiency and Hattie felt sure that her education had helped her in life almost as much as her physical charms.



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