Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jungle-eyes-lindsay-marie-miller/1123014573?ean=2940152479263
The party totaled twenty-six men, with the youngest being of noble breed and family, as he was the eldest heir of Philip Rochester, a descendant of British royalty, whose ancestors had traveled to the New World and later triumphed in their victory over the red coats. His name was Henry Rochester, and at the age of twenty-five, he had yet to marry, nor express a desire to do so. In fact, the women he had come in contact with often bored him first, then drove him to leave the room without saying a word. His mother had made a point of arranging several young beauties to call upon the family nearly every week. In response, Henry made sure to have prescheduled fishing and hunting trips with his close companion, Charles Gallagher.
Charles was nearly thirty, though also remained a bachelor. With his red-orange curls and honey brown eyes, he looked exotic, his face bearing the resemblance of a striking wild fox. It was this mysterious, attractive aesthetic of Charles’s appearance that allowed him to persuade many others so very easily, which had been the exact method he used when convincing Henry to join him in the first place.
“Let’s go on this grand adventure,” he beckoned to Henry, while they shared a bottle of wine after dinner on the eve of the Atlantic voyage.
“What’s the point, Charlie?” Henry placed his fingers around the wine glass, bringing the red liquid to his lips, merely because there was nothing else better to do.
“Oh, are you too busy? Some prior engagement holding you back?” Charles rose from the table and began to pace the floor. Henry rolled his eyes, swallowing the drink in his mouth.
It had been often said that when Henry sat still on a night such as this, that he looked remarkably similar to a painting. His dark, smooth hair hung down, nearly touching the length of his neck, to better frame his face. He had a strong jawline, high cheekbones, and altogether a face which looked as though it had been sculpted by an artist instead of being the natural result of procreation. A painting he was, indeed.
“I just think it will be a waste of time, that’s all.” Henry studied the playing cards spread out on the table before him. What was first intended to be a game of poker, now seemed more akin to solitaire, as it was Henry, sitting alone with the ace of spades, while Charles spoke just to hear himself talk.
“A waste of time?” Charles shot back. “What has ever been so important to keep you in this place every minute of every day? New York will be right here when you return, just as you left it.” He filled another glass of wine, sipping at it cheerfully, as he surveyed the fine globe sitting on the table nearest the window.
“And if there is no me to return?” Henry relaxed into his chair, pressing his back against its soft cushioning. Eyeing his friend very carefully, Henry held a strong gaze, though the older companion, more equipped with skills of persuasion, had won from the very start.
Charles placed his free hand on the globe, a golden ring shining on his shortest finger. “Men all over this world have given their lives dying,” he spun the globe around, as he went on, “not afraid to sacrifice for the cause.” Charles looked out the window into the night. “And all of their lives have meant something, because they were noble enough to be remembered.”
“And they’re all dead now too,” Henry retorted.
Charles turned away from the window, facing Henry with a look of disappointment. The globe continued to spin behind him in the background. “Do you mock the men whose blood was shed just so people like you could have a chance?” His face had turned red, matching the curly tendrils of his hair, which shared the same hue.
“No, sir,” Henry replied, remembering his place by the older fellow.
“Then don’t speak of such people as if you never knew them,” Charles commanded.
“But I didn’t know them,” Henry grew bold enough to say. “Besides, this is no war you’re speaking of. You just want to go abroad.” Henry collected the cards on the table and shuffled them into one large deck.
“The men who embark on this voyage will be remembered in history, for all time.”
“I don’t believe it,” Henry interrupted with a sly smile. “The New World has already been discovered. Whatever minuscule territories you collect from the sea are of no importance. It is land, vast undivided land. That is what matters now.” Henry stood, finishing the last bit of wine from his glass. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’ll call it an evening.”
Charles nodded towards him and set his wine glass down on the table. “Fine then. Remember, I won’t be able to go fishing with you for some time, nor hunting neither.” He approached Henry, taking his hand to shake when it was offered to him. “If you should change your mind,” Charles said on his way towards the door.
“I won’t.” Henry was firm, growing aggravated with the current degree of tension between the two friends.
“I must tell you, dear Henry, I fear that you are making a mistake.”
“No,” Henry said, “you are.”
With an apathetic glance, Henry nodded at Charles, asking for his departure. Charles shrugged, placing a top hat over his head before stepping through the door. He walked the length of the vast floor that led him to the front entrance. There, he stepped across the threshold and into the warm night, leaving Henry at the family estate to think for himself.
The next morning, Henry woke to find his mother bombarding him with inquiries about his present disposition. “Abigail Ellis is a fine girl. Perhaps you should call on her today.” She spoke like a mother bird feeding her biddies, wanting the words in her mouth to suddenly appear in his.
“No, Mother.” Henry only looked at the plate before him, his main focus to eat the meal at hand.
“Oh, what about Emmaline Winters? She was quite lovely when I saw her last.” Mrs. Rochester always behaved in such a manner when Henry’s father was out of town on business, as he was presently.
“No, Mother,” he repeated, inhaling his tea with one resounding gulp.
“Henry,” Mrs. Rochester scolded, “I do not know what is the matter with you. Are none of the ladies to please you in New York? What’s wrong with Emmaline?”
“She is too pretty,” he quickly rebutted, without even meeting her eyes.
“Too plain.” He smirked at her, the light golden color of his eyes brightening at the small victory.
Mrs. Rochester threw her cloth napkin down, covering her plate of uneaten food. “Why you take pleasure in defying me, I will never know. My only son!” She threw her hands in the air, lifting her face to the ceiling in disgust. “If only I’d had another.”
Henry smiled at his mother without showing any teeth, for although their family fortune was large, indeed, it was up to the sole discretion of his father as to how it should be allocated. And since Mr. Rochester had been in no hurry to enter into holy matrimony when he was a young man, he saw no need in pushing Henry towards a woman he did not love, nor wish to hear speak.
“Find me a lady who will disagree, and I’ll call on her every day.” Henry rose from the table, acknowledging Mrs. Rochester. “Mother.” He nodded, then headed upstairs to his room.
“Uh,” she whined to the servants, fussing at them about matters which were of no importance to Henry.
Upstairs, he looked through the long, sweeping view of the town offered by his bedroom window. Down below, he saw Charles and the others headed for the docks. His eyes followed them with curiosity, as he had imagined them to have left hours ago. He had never anticipated the opportunity to still be alive.
When he heard his mother shouting at him from downstairs, Henry left his bedroom just for the sake of his own amusement. But Henry froze when he reached the banister at the top of the staircase, for both Abigail and Emmaline were standing in the doorway. His eyes widened in terror, as his mother made playful, nice conversation with the girls.
Abigail was sixteen, with soft, white blonde curls, powder blue eyes, and a fine complexion, though her wit could be equated to that of a frog’s. He had yet to have a single conversation with the girl, without her snorting at his remarks, even when they were not funny. Emmaline, on the other hand, was two years older, with a much lovelier face and figure. Her features were dark where Abigail’s were light, as Emmaline’s hair and eyes were a shade of dark brown. With the exception of their ivory toned skin, the two girls looked nothing alike, and even though Emmaline was the fairer of the two, she was much too agreeable to be really so.
Instead of laughing at every word Henry said, Emmaline agreed with it wholly, so that an entire conversation would pass without her uttering a single thought of her own, other than, “You are so right. I agree with you immensely.” She often interchanged the two phrases, every now and then adding, “I never thought of it that way before,” to soften the monotony. It rarely helped.
“Oh, Henry.” Mrs. Rochester smiled when she saw his figure nearing the staircase. “Come down, you have visitors.” She winked at Abigail, causing the girl to snort with giggling laughter.
“Give me just a moment, Mother.” Henry quickly turned on his heel and scurried into his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him, startling his mother when he did so.
“Come now, girls.” Mrs. Rochester grinned, directing the ladies into one of the sitting rooms. “Let us have tea.” She eyed Henry’s bedroom door, suspicious of what he could be up to in there.
In his room, Henry had begun hurriedly packing a trunk with clothing and toiletries. With his father away on business and his younger sister, Louisa, traveling abroad, Henry knew that there was no way he could endure staying with his mother alone. She was determined to have him married off by the season’s end, but Henry would have nothing of it.
Checking the window, Henry noticed that the party of men bound to go island hunting was preparing to depart. Quickly sliding into his overcoat, Henry grabbed the well-packed trunk and barreled down the staircase. Once at the front door, he grabbed his hat and placed it over his head.
“My Henry, good God!” Mrs. Rochester shouted from the bordering room where she was seated with Abigail and Emmaline, having tea. “Where are you going?”
“With Charlie, we’re headed out across the Atlantic.” Henry felt the chains unbinding as he said the words.
“With that party of men? That’s dangerous to be out there at sea so long. Something could happen to you,” she added, just to be melodramatic. “What if I never see you again?”
Henry looked at the two girls, who were in such a state of shock, that for the first time in his presence, Abigail was incapable of snorting. Then, turning to his mother, Henry quipped, “So be it.” With a devilish smile on his face, he offered a modest bow. “Good morning.”
And so he left the women crying over their tea as he raced out into the street, arriving at the vessel just in time. “Charlie!” he yelled out, noticing his good friend loading from the docks.
“Henry!” Charles was exceedingly glad that his young friend had arrived. “So, you decided to join the party after all?” The two hugged, slapping each other on the back.
“I’m afraid so.” Henry smiled, glad to be so well-received.
“Hey, Worthing!” Charles yelled across the way at the gray-haired man who had orchestrated the whole affair and was overseeing the entire party for the duration of the voyage. “Look who decided to show up.” Charles grinned, wrapping his arm around Henry’s shoulder.
“Glad you finally decided to join us, Henry,” Worthing spoke. “I know this one will be more content with you around.” He nodded towards Charles.
“Thank you, sir.” Henry let go of his luggage as Charles took it from him, moving it below deck where he was storing his own belongings. “How long can I expect to be gone on this grand adventure?” Henry looked out at the blue sea and breathed in her fresh, salty air.
“One year,” was Worthing’s cold reply, while he shuffled past Henry, giving orders to remove the anchors and untie the ropes.
Suddenly, it dawned on Henry that he may very well never see New York again. He had not anticipated the journey to last so long. Looking out from the harbor, Henry began to wonder if he had made a terrible mistake, all out of rash desperation and longing. He had not even been able to tell his father goodbye, nor his sister, Louisa, for that matter. Swallowing his fear, Henry turned his back on the harbor and looked out on the shining waters instead. He could only hope that this voyage would not end as others he had heard of in the past had – with a watery grave.