The Josephine B. Trilogy

The Josephine B. Trilogy by Sandra Gulland Read Free Book Online

Book: The Josephine B. Trilogy by Sandra Gulland Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sandra Gulland
Tags: Fiction, Historical
him this morning. “And then where will we be?”
    “It’s my only hope. Those doctors in Paris know things,” he said, coughing.
    What if Mother is right? What if Father dies?
    July 28.
    We leave in two weeks. Mother has had the two big sea chests hauled up to the parlour and there are stacks of clothing everywhere. There is so much to be done, deciding what to take, what to leave behind.
    Mother is intent on sending Da Gertrude with me, but Da Gertrude begs to stay. The journey would kill her, she says.
    “It’s Lasyrenn that scares her,” Mimi whispered.
    Lasyrenn, the voodoo spirit of the sea, the mermaid with the long black hair. Lasyrenn just below the surface of the water, calling.
    July 29.
    Mimi’s coming with me!
    Sunday, August 8.
    We leave for Fort-Royal day after tomorrow, and the day after that we sail. At Saint-Domingue we will change over to the Ile de France, a naval store ship which Father warns might not be too comfortable. The frigate La Pomone will accompany us all the way to France, to defend us in case we’re attacked by the English at sea.
    “I don’t like sailing when there’s a war on,” Father told me, “but if we wait for peace, we will never get there.”
    It’s scary, but thrilling—what if we were in a battle!
    1:00 P.M.
    A wind rises, bending the palms. The hot air rushes at my skirts, pulling my plaits loose, my dangling silver earrings. It is midday, but dark asmidnight. Inside, in my room, I fasten the wooden shutters with some effort and light a wax taper on my toilette table. I scribble over the pages, seeking a path to my heart, one word, one name: William.
    From somewhere a breeze catches the flame and snuffs it out, plunging me into dark.
    August 9.
    Dawn was breaking when I got up. I slipped on my clothes and went out into the fields. Sucre was hard to catch. I had to use a custard apple to tempt her. Finally I got a bridle on her and headed off toward the river, my petticoats up around my thighs, my pony’s warm body between my legs.
    I waited by the stone bridge. Before long William came poking along the trace on his donkey, reading a book. He was surprised when he saw me.
    “Come up the mountain with me,” I said.
    “You’re betrothed.”
    “I’m leaving tomorrow!”
    That seemed to startle him.
    I took the lead going up the slope. At the top of the path, where it opens onto a clearing, I stopped. “This is a good place.” I slid off Sucre.
    “Good as any.” William tied his donkey to a coconut tree.
    “You’re not the only one who—”
    “Who what? What is it that you feel, Rose?” He turned away. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I know it can’t be helped.”
    I pressed my forehead into his back. “Do you think it possible we will always love one another?”
    “Do not speak of love, I beg you,” he said, his voice full of tears.
    We stayed on the hill until the mosquitoes began to swarm. He kissed me on my cheek. I longed for more, much more, but I no longer had the right.
    We rode down the mountain, through the long shadows. At the bottom he turned to me. “We never saw the green flash.”
    I’d forgotten.
    “Some other day,” he said, shading his eyes against the sun.
    August 11—Fort-Royal.
    We were eight of us in the covered wagon—myself, Father and Mimi, plus Mother, Manette, Grandmother Sannois, even Da Gertrude. And Sylvester driving. Plus the two big sea trunks. So it was a wonder the horses could pull us at all. More than once we were up to the hub in mud and had to walk.
    It was dangerously after dusk by the time we pulled into Uncle Tascher’s courtyard. His wife came running down to greet us, her hair let down and looking wild, Uncle Tascher behind her all red in the face.
    We were all of us put in two rooms on the second floor. Uncle Tascher’s waiting woman brought us cassava bread with sugar syrup and a saucepan of hot chocolate, to which Father added brandy from his casebottle. We ate and made ready for bed. As we said our

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