When Leviathans sailed the briny seas, racing from port to port carrying the desperate in their slimy holds and the affluent in silky splendor; it was often not readily apparent who, in truth, lived in quiet desperation. For Arrabelle Roquefort de la Fortunée, the voyage from Marseille to Sydney was three months of hell. She suffered from crippling mal de mar during high seas, but even under calm conditions, could only tolerate mash and light spirits. No dining at the Captain’s table for her.
Far worse though than constant queasiness was the harsh treatment dealt from the fists of her brute of a husband, the Duc de Vervin-Chacout; and a worse specimen of male would have been hard to find. He was portly, profusely be-whiskered, overly fond of brandy [both the libation and the Ambassador’s wife] and an inferiority complex that was quick to kindle violent outbursts. In an age not that far distant, he would have long since been buried due to dueling. A lost duel, natch. The Duc was a bully, who pretended prowess in swivving to his sycophantic circle. They were primarily interested in his gold.
On the night the Duc vanished none could recall – so sworn before the Board of Inquiry – witnessing anything untoward. No, Madam de la Fortunée was not at table. No, Le Duc was not excessively imbibed. Yes, it was brisk weather, and yes the seas were running high. No, there was no abnormal sounds of struggle nor evidence of broken railings or frayed ropes. Yes, a tragedy of course. One of the many perils of sailing the Antipodes. Yes, his widow is desolate. Poor thing, sick and now in mourning for her beloved.
Had anyone else been on the fantail that fateful morning well past midnight, they would have seen the soon-to-be widow enthusiastically blowing a kiss outwards to a be-whiskered object first bobbing, then sinking beneath the luminescent wake. Forever.