Thank you, Linda, always. I couldn't complete this story without your big help.

The Glass Horse

Spoiler: The Locket, Blackbirding, Fool's Gold, Rock of Ages, Grief and the Lepers, Compass and the Killer, the End of Jenny

prologue

The sunken wreck wasn't very big. Several lemon-sharks passed over the deck. They didn't stop for the dead bodies which were tied at the main mast. Instead many kinds of small colourful fishes pecked at them.

A lump-fish drifted into the empty hold.

Charles V sat on the bottom surrounded by the natural creatures of the South Seas.

1-1

The dream about her ex-lover was bittersweet but when she awoke, it faded quickly without trace, and she forgot all of it.

It was very early morning. Isabelle Reed stretched like a cat in her warm, comfortable, tiny bed, half opening her green eyes, smiling at the pleasure of waking up in her own place.

"Well, not completely my place yet, but some day-." She jumped out of her bed and started to prepare for her daily chores. The sun hadn't risen yet. Everything outside was shades of dark blue. But it wasn't too dark to do her work.

She was cleaning stalls humming an old song without thinking. Dante nudged at her back with his warm wet nose. The air was still cool and smelt of fresh hay.

She was in a good mood. She felt like everything would go smoothly and well today. Something, maybe a lingering piece of her dream whispered to her, and she suddenly thought about her ex-lover.

If I hadn't met Marcel, then I never would have come here. And now, I'm here by myself. Life is strange.

Isabelle never had had her dream before Matavai. Since her childhood she had been too busy trying to survive her life to dream, so she had known only to fulfill her desire any way she could. She might be greedy. She would like to have power and fortune, of course. But those things were desires, not a dream. While she had been with Marcel, when he had planned to steal that gold, she had thought about gems, a rich voyage to America with him. But it had been only a desire.

She had never thought about her life, what she really wanted to do, what she really wanted in her life.

She had a dream for the first time in her life. Her stables.

After she finished cleaning the last stall, she looked over her stables. She could see the new horses which she had bought from Pinon standing silently and swinging their long tails peacefully.

The sound of their grazing felt so cheerful to her.

Isabelle smiled at the sight and left for her own breakfast.

She cracked two eggs into a small bowl and added a little milk. After making quick work of scrambling the eggs, she glanced through her very small kitchen.

She really ought to have settled in by now. But even now, after she had spent longer than a year in this small building, still she had only one pan, a few unmatched dishes, and cutlery of various designs. And an old small cooking stove that was one that someone who had lived before her had left behind along with a huge, ugly, useless copper kettle. The kitchen symbolized the whole of this residence, the minimum, plain -too plain. It didn't look like someone's home but a temporary residence.

She usually had lunch or supper, or both in Lavinia's, and she thought it would stop once she had set her horse business on its way.

With only one sauce-pan, Isabelle couldn't cook eggs and make her coffee at the same time.

So she had to have cool eggs and hot coffee, or warm eggs and cool coffee in her morning.

She knew that she should cook the eggs last. An omelet or scrambled egg was quick, but brewing coffee took time.

However she wanted very hot coffee in her morning, so her only choice was 'cool egg' or 'without egg' and have a mango instead.

I swear I'll buy another pan soon! And I need a coffee pot, and cutlery, too. -And a big cooking stove someday.

She quickly but carefully filled some ground deep-roasted coffee beans in a small flannel bag. The aroma was so nice in early morning air. But the scrambled egg was already cool.

1-2

Clare Devon was searching in her belongings for a book which she hadn't already read. From one glance at the beginning of the novel she had decided it didn't look so good, but at least it was new. She was always starving for new prints since she had come to Matavai. New books were rare here. She would read willingly even old newspapers and cheap novels if she could get them now.

No it's not here. It must be in my office.

She had recently received a package of several books which her aunt had sent from London with a few small pretty things that women like - scented soaps, silk ribbons and a small silver comb with engravings of workmanship. Packages from her young rich aunt didn't come as often now, but still there was no place for them in her small room at Lavinia's. So her possessions were now stocked separated at two places; in her room in Lavinia's and in the office of the Matavai Messenger.

Aunt Beryl was the only relative who was very rich and who hadn't shown any disapproval at Clare's adventure. She even seemed amused by it. On the other hand, her own brothers hadn't changed their opinion; a young woman traveling to Tahiti, without chaperone, using her small property from her grandmother for such a thing, they hadn't liked any of it.

And they had said if their mother had been alive, she would have convinced her to stop her silliness. Clare had thought if their father had still been alive, he would stand for her only in her mind.

The young owner and only reporter of the Matavai Messenger didn't often think about her aunt these days. When she was a teenager, she had admired her young aunt; -Beryl was only seven years older.

But Clare had found she was not like her aunt; beautiful and eccentric. Her aunt had been always different from her plain relatives even when she had been still a girl in a not particularly rich family in the district. Beryl had left her family to marry a much older American ignoring her whole family's disagreement. Her husband made a fortune with a coal mine, two years after their marriage. And he had died a very rich man. After her husband's death, Beryl hadn't come back to her family and had chosen instead to live in London. She had sponsored young artists in London. Many newly-discovered artists and writers surrounded her in her salon. Once Clare had been invited to her salon and Clare had thought to herself how ordinary she was in comparison!

She wanted to be independent. But she couldn't be eccentric and she didn't want to be the one of those unusual people. They were too avant-garde. And she had no regrets about it. That kind of atmosphere wasn't really to her liking. And yet Clare had not been able to stop admiring her young beautiful aunt

On the other hand, she didn't feel she fit among her cousins and friends in her age, either. She could enjoy being with them. She had always liked to talk about pretty things and share small harmless gossip with them. But also she had often wondered what she was doing there during cheerful chatting or girls talk. Sometimes she had had to save what she wanted to say in front of her beloved brothers. And her father, one of the few people to whom she could speak almost freely, -he had been a rare person in his generation, had gone several years ago. Since then her oldest brother had ruled the family including her father's printing office, and frankly her brother had never understood her even though he loved his sister in his way.

Clare had been looking for her place always –until she started the Matavai Messenger. And the opportunity had made by a fake - a man whom she had thought that she had admired and had wanted to see; back then she had thought that her actions might made her like aunt Beryl. However there had been no-one like the man Clare had expected there. Instead there was only a drunken sailor.

She set about building her own independent life here in Tahiti. And the opportunity had been given by a man who had pretended to be a completely different man than he really was!

Completely different? Is he, really? Jack?

There is a clever and gentle young man who loves literature as much as I hiding in that shabby seaman.

And now, she started to like him –very much. Even his dangling earring which had annoyed her before, looked not odd to her; it's like a part of him.

What would Beryl say if she knew?

She picked up a small set of china which was from her aunt. She might bring it to her office for tea. –But even with beautiful tea cups, she would likely make poor tea.

She had frowned when she took a sip from her cup and mumbled 'what's wrong with my tea?' when her friend, Isabelle had joined her for tea in her office last week. Isabelle said she only needed to wait two or three minutes more until the tea leaf opened. But Clare couldn't find that few minutes of patience somehow.

On the other hand, Isabelle who seemed to always be a person in action could make wonderful tea as well as her strong, aromatic coffee. But the woman didn't even have a proper tea-set or even two cups the same.

Clare thought about tea time at Isabelle's; she often shared a drink with her friend at her stables. Tasty coffee with a simple white cup for Clare and a tin cup for Isabelle in front of Isabelle's stable yard. The aroma of tropical flowers and the sea breeze mixed with the coffee aroma. If she was lucky, there were a few coconut-flavored pancakes which Isabelle made using 'her only pan'. Clare had spoke about many of her interests and a bit of Jack McGonnigal. Isabelle listened and sometimes commented with short, simple, and straight-forward expressions. Clare had never needed to worry that Isabelle would think about her as a strange woman whose head was filled with strange things like she had been back in England.

Isabelle often told Clare about her plan for her horse business which she might not have told anyone other than her. Oh, they were so different, and yet they were such good friends.

Clare smiled to herself thinking about her life in Matavai.

I'm building my beautiful life here finally. Life is strange. I went on a voyage for the first time in my life; it'd taken more than five months from Liverpool. And began my real life.

1-3

"Bebelle!"

Isabelle stunned, looked back over her shoulder.

She and Captain Grief were at the wharf to see Pinon's departure. One young man was running toward a family. A slender girl was waving her hand to call the man, parting a few meters from her family.

"You thought he was calling you?" David looked down Isabelle who was still looking at the young man and the girl.

Bebelle -Was that a childhood nickname -or perhaps a pet name used by some lover?

She glanced at her tall partner and shrugged, but didn't answer his question.

Still looking at her David thought, did Marcel Pinnette used to call Isabelle, Bebelle?.

"Look, David. There's Pinon. Is that woman his wife?"

"Looks like it," he replied, turning to look at the big group of European families.

Pinon was leaving Tahiti for his young wife's sake. Isabelle couldn't remember if she had seen her before. Mrs. Pinon was a small blonde woman. She'd never liked Tahiti, so Isabelle had heard.

Pinon - he was so good at business. I can't believe he could lose it over his wife.

Isabelle frowned thinking how she herself had borrowed money for the Rattler -for David's sake. She had known it hadn't been a wise choice. But she hadn't hesitated.

The two looked at Pinon's departure from afar. When Pinon recognized Isabelle, he nodded at her beyond his friends and acquaintances before he got on board leading his wife.

"I heard Pinon's return to France is all for his wife. Did you know that?" David asked.

"Yeah." She turned to leave. "We can have your breakfast and my coffee before we go to see Winston."

The tall captain didn't follow her.

"David?"

"I have a lot of mending to do on the Rattler today, you know. Perhaps you can bring something for my breakfast from Lavinia's. See you later." With that he hastily left.

Isabelle knew that they had mending that had to get done in a hurry, but that wasn't the real reason. Mauriri - David was avoiding him –as usual.

Isabelle could imagine how horrible it was when old acquaintances ignored him. Even Mauriri's wife who used to think David was part of her family never talked to him when they saw each other on the street or in the market or anywhere. She just nodded to Isabelle alone and went on ignoring her husband's former best friend.

Leani Lepau adored her husband very much. And she knew how her beloved husband had been hurt by David Grief! She would never forgive David until Mo forgave him. Isabelle felt so sorry for David. But after all he couldn't avoid his situation forever.

At least some of his friends and acquaintances didn't exclude David. Instead it was him, David who excluded them. He seemed to be avoiding every old friend. And he had talked with his acquaintances only when he had to.

Isabelle had never really believed that David enjoyed her company. She did feel she and David could trust each other. They could laugh together sometimes. But it didn't mean he wanted to be with her. He always missed his ex-partner, Mauriri.

Isabelle asked Mauriri to crew on the Rattler almost every voyage, and he rejected her every time.

She kept offering, just businesslike. She had never pushed hard. Just asked, and got his rejection, then left, and came again the next time.

Since David and Mauriri's partnership had broken up, whenever David came to Lavinia's with her, it was because he didn't have anyone except her. That's what she thought, anyway.

The high spirits she'd felt when she woke up had already gone.