The Caroline

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The First Stirrings of Jealousy

The river above Vicksburg meandered much more than it had for the first few days of their journey and had more sandbars and snags, so Wyatt was able to spend less time socializing with her during the day, and more time in the pilot house going over the charts and observing changes for himself as he and the steersman conversed and exchanged knowledge with each other.

He was able to join her that evening as he had for most others but spent little time with her relative to other evenings. She had got over most of her embarrassment at the way she had behaved in Vicksburg, thinking to go along to his bedroom and join him, and especially the relaxed state she had been in after drinking that wine with dinner and imbibing even more after that. She had been careful this evening to have no more than half a glass of wine with her dinner.

She had been relieved to see him approach and to dare associate with her again, but he did not refer to the previous evening in any way to embarrass her. As they sat conversing about nothing in particular again, after that most enlightening evening where they had both been able to confide in each other, she was surprised to see the young Creole woman, Leonie, that she had fleetingly seen with him several times, approach them. She had never approached them before but had seemingly taken pains not to be seen with him.

When she had seen them together before, she had noted that they appeared to exchange peasantries briefly and to part almost guiltily, as though they should not be seen together. This time, the young woman, Leonie, approached and begged to be excused for interrupting but that she had something very important that she needed to discuss with Wyatt, and she had little time at her disposal. It seemed urgent. Caroline could not refuse, of course.

He excused himself with various apologies and went off with her.

She was suddenly curious, as well as a little annoyed to have had promise of a pleasant evening interrupted in that way. If she moved her seat back a little, she could see quite far down the deck at that side of the boat. She saw Wyatt produce a key from his pocket and let them both into a cabin. She thought it might be his cabin.

Why could they not have spoken at one of the tables? They were mostly empty. She did not understand and began to feel the first faint stirrings of jealousy, that Leonie had been so readily invited into his own personal and private world where she had not, but for what reason she did not know. He had told her, however, that he had known Leonie for several years and that they had done each other a service at one time. She remembered that he had told her of saving her and her sister from an awkward encounter with a man, and that she, in turn, had saved his life.

There was a history there that she would like to have known more about, but he had been careful what he had said about Leonie when she had asked him. It seemed that there were emotional ties on both sides despite him denying it. She had to ask herself if she was being jealous, that another woman had so easily taken him away from her company, but decided that she had no right to any such feelings. His association with her would have been only fleeting once she left the boat at Helena, though she knew now that she would have liked to have known him better before they parted. Those who became good friends because of adversity and having so much in common, should never drift apart so easily.

She waited for half an hour. As they had not appeared and it was getting late, she decided to retire with her various thoughts and feelings as her imagination began to play tricks with her mind over what they could be doing together.

It was none of her business, but she would have liked to have known more about their relationship and what the nature of it might be. She had no right to feel either envy or jealousy, but she recognized that she felt both. She had not had feelings like that for many years, if ever, that she could recall.

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