Authors: Colette Gale
ENTWINED © 2012 Colette Gale
All rights reserved.
During the late 19
century, the British indulged in much exploration of Africa, searching not only for gold and gemstones, but also for knowledge of this fascinating Dark Continent.
Professor Everett Clemons, the famous lepidopterist, and his daughter Jane were two of the most famous British citizens to embark on these travels, and although Jane published a book of her drawings and notations about the butterflies her father studied during these trips, there remained little information about her own thoughts and adventures—until now.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to come across an old trunk filled with Professor Clemons’s journals and butterfly specimens, and there, within, I also found the treasure of Miss Jane Clemons’s personal journals.
Because there were so many volumes of her journals, I have chosen to publish a series of short segments over time in order to make them publicly available as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I do hope you’ll indulge my decision to follow the popular form of literature from this era and publish Jane’s journals as a serialized collection. And, I must warn you: also in the tradition of the times, each episode ends on a cliffhanger.
I hope you find Jane’s adventures enlightening, exciting, and titillating as we follow her adventures as a young woman in the Madagascar jungle.
— I —
The Coast of Madagascar
Miss Jane Clemons walked
quickly and nimbly down the ship’s gangplank that led to a sandy shore. Her skirts billowed and buffeted in the wind and strands of strawberry-blond hair whipped about her face as she looked at the land that would be her home for the next month.
A generous swath of pearly-white sand ranged before her, stretching from one side to the other as far as she could see. The blue ocean, laced with foam, surged onto the beach in a roar of wave after wave. Beyond the flat expanse of sand loomed a lush green jungle. Even from here, she could see brightly colored flowers, thick hanging vines and sturdy lianas, ferns and palms and numerous other unidentifiable flora and fauna. Everything gave the impression of being cool and thick and both dangerous and welcoming.
“It’s beautiful!” she said, turning to look over her shoulder at her father, Professor Everett Clemons, as he clumped along behind her.
“Mr. Darkdale has told me that he is certain I shall find a great assortment of butterfly specimens here,” puffed Professor Clemons. “I can hardly contain my excitement at seeing all the little beasties in their natural habitat!”
In addition to being short and rotund, he was also carrying a large satchel which Jane knew contained some of his journals and other equipment. The rest of their belongings—trunks of books, scientific implements, household goods, and clothing—would be despatched by the crew-members of
before that ship set sail.
Other than their two companions, Jane and her father wouldn’t see another human—at least, another English speaking one; there could be natives living in the vicinity—for almost a month.
“Lordy, that’ere place looks right gloomy and dark,” rumbled Efremina, Jane’s maid, as she lumbered down the gangplank. It shook violently, for she was a large, round woman with a loud voice and kind heart. “There be wild animals creepin’ through there, and they’ll be attackin’ us in our beds!”
“Now Miss Efremina, and Miss Clemons,” said Kellan Darkdale in his cultured voice, “there’s not a thing to worry about as long as I’m here.” His stride was long and sure, and he brandished a large shotgun that he’d boasted would fell an elephant with one bullet. “Our quarters will be nearby and high off the ground, for there is an old treehouse made by some survivors of a shipwreck. It’ll want for some cleaning,” he said, stepping onto the sand and looking meaningfully at Efremina, “but I don’t believe it’s in too much disrepair.”
“Is that where you stayed when Jonathan was here with you?” asked Jane, shielding her eyes against the sun as she looked up at him. “Was it in good repair then?”
“I’m afraid not, Miss Clemons. At that time, we stayed on the ship and came ashore everyday, but we did notice the treehouse. I am certain it still stands, for it was very well-built by those who lived there. They used strong bamboo as well as lumber, along with strips of liana bark and vines to lash the walls together.” His gaze lingered on Jane as it often did, traveling down over her buttoned-up bodice and lower. This time, however, his attention strayed longer and heavier and he stood much closer to her than usual.
His regard made her feel a combination of heat and discomfort, for she never knew quite what to make of the way he looked at her. It wasn’t the same way Jonathan had gazed upon her—with tenderness and affection.
Jane turned away and wiped her eyes, pretending she’d gotten seaspray in them. It had been three years since Jonathan, her fiance and lover, had disappeared while on an expedition in this very jungle with Kellan Darkdale.
Though she was only twenty at the time, Jane had lost interest in meeting other young men in London after the loss of her love. It had taken her two years to convince her father that he should undertake a butterfly-hunting expedition to the very same place Jonathan had disappeared, and several more months that she should accompany her father. She was determined to find something that would answer her question of what had happened to Jonathan once and for all.
Professor Clemons was never one to deny his only daughter anything that she begged from him, and thus he was completely helpless in the face of her blue-eyed pleadings—especially when she offered to illustrate his studies. Against his better judgment, he’d agreed to allow her to come with him to Africa where he intended to capture and categorize a variety of butterflies.
“My God! Is that a black-tailed pipsqueak?” Professor Clemons exclaimed, pushing past them and dashing off on his short legs.
With an affectionate smile at her parent, Jane stepped past Mr. Darkdale. She enjoyed the way her feet sank into the soft beach and wondered what it would be like to remove her buttoned-up shoes and silk stockings and dig her feet into the warm grains of sand. Her corset, though she wore one, had not been laced tightly since they left London, despite Efremina’s grumblings. And, Jane had secretly thought, perhaps once the ship and its crew left and there were only the four of them, she might be able to even unbutton the top of her shirtwaist.
After all, who was here to see her in this vast, remote jungle?
High above, his darkly tanned muscular arm curled easily around the smooth trunk of a tree, a man looked down at the people as they disembarked from the large
that sat floating in the ocean.
It had been a long time since he’d seen others like himself come from the ocean. There were many who lived deep in the jungle, with skin the color of soil and bumpy, coarse hair. But these people came from a different place. They were like the people in the picture books left by some long-ago inhabitant who’d made the odd nest in the trees.
He watched the short, round man with pale skin and sparse white hair as he tripped and nearly fell due to the weight of the bag he carried over one shoulder and the fact that he was too busy looking up and around than to pay attention to where his feet were going. And there was another man, taller and younger, with light skin—skin nearly as light as his own. He carried a long, metal object that gleamed evilly in the sunlight.
There were two other creatures. Women. He remembered the word, for he’d studied the picture books. The two women were as different from each other as the two men were: one was nearly as large and muscular as a young ape, also with pale skin and dark hair. But the other one…she was slender and lithe…and her hair was like golden fire.
The watcher in the trees was immediately fascinated by the second woman, his attention drawn to that fiery beacon of hair. He wondered if it would be warm to the touch, if it would burn his fingers.
He found a thick vine and swung easily and silently, high in the treetops, following the group of people as they made their way along the beach. They spoke to each other in some language that sounded vaguely familiar to him; so much so that it made his head hurt when he tried to listen. And so he stopped listening and simply followed them as they made their way to the strange nest in the trees…the place where he’d found so many fascinating things.
He perched high above, just off to the side and looked down as they made their way into the nest. He was glad he’d removed all of the interesting items over the years, tucking them away in his own nest that had been fashioned similarly to this one. They were his treasures, and he didn’t want anyone seeing them.
Even the woman with the burning hair.
His hand opened and closed, as if he were to touch her right now. He imagined what it would feel like—that smooth, warm, burning covering on her head.
He’d have to wait until night.
— II —
Jane found the treehouse
surprisingly comfortable. It was constructed of bamboo, palm fronds, timber and vines, and was settled in the branches of a massive tree. Due to space constraints among said branches, the dwelling consisted of several levels, with chambers built atop each other like a messy stack of square or rectangle blocks. Ladders or ramps connected each level, with the main floor being kitchen and parlor combined into one large space. Pieces of the walls moved like massive sliding doors to open or close against the weather, and smaller doors allotted privacy to the bedchambers.