The Smuggler Returns
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by Kate Allan
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: When Daniel Locke returns to Penhaven, the Cornish village of his childhood, he is intent on revenge against the smuggling gang who betrayed him. What he doesn't count upon is the distraction of beautiful Jane Tregarron, who has become involved with the local smugglers to save her penniless family. Can Daniel still inflict his revenge or will his plans be disrupted by love? Regency Romance Novella by Kate Allan; original published by D C Thomson [London]
eBook Publisher: Belgrave House, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [134 KB]
Reading time: 85-119 min.
'Headstrong! Foolish! Selfish!' Each word shouted by her mother was like a dart being thrown across the parlour, piercing her and hurting her.
Yet still Jane fought back. She stood close to the door, resisting the urge to flee. Her voice was raised though she tried to moderate it. 'I will not marry him! You cannot force me! You cannot make me!'
'Has your good sense completely deserted you?' Mama shook her head. Jane noticed tears in her eyes and felt ashamed at her own behaviour.
It did not prevent her asking, 'But have you no thought for my happiness?'
'You will speak with your father when he returns and that will be the end of it.'
Jane's heart thudded in her chest. Her breathing was quick. Her bones felt like lead. There had been so many times when Papa had indulged her. This would not be such a time, she knew.
She was beaten.
Her mother, stood in front of the fireplace watching her, remained silent. The only sounds were the calm crackle of the fire and the soft pad of the rain against the window panes. The rest of the house was quiet though each of her three sisters had to be somewhere indoors and listening!
Anger welled up inside her stoked by hurt and humiliation, and a little fear. She knew the fear would grow. Jane Tregarron had no wish to become the wife of John Mandrake. Not ever.
The need to get away rose up with her anger. It became all consuming. She ran out of the parlour, snatched her cloak and bonnet from the cupboard off the hall, and went straight through the front door and into the rain.
The cold, damp air filled her lungs.
She would not marry him! She would not. Never!
Jane clutched her cloak tightly at her neck and held her felt bonnet to her head. The wind bit and tore at her matching her anger with its own, making it hard to tie the ribbons. She started to run, away from the house, towards the town and the sea.
She would not marry him. She'd been foolish even to consider that she could be mistress of John Mandrake's household. Do her wifely duties as Mama had called it. Keep his bed warm.... She shuddered as she glanced forward towards the harbour.
The front doors of the whitewashed stone cottages that faced the sea were barred shut. The criss-cross of streets surrounding the crescent-shaped harbour were empty. At the high point of the town the Mandrake's grand house stood proud, yet apart from it, like a magnificent jewel in a royal crown yet haughty and forbidding. It was the only house in Penhaven to have a separate entrance for tradesmen.
She would never be mistress of that terrible place. Never! Not while she still breathed! Not while she still had spirit left in her to fight it. The picture could not be as black as Mama had painted. She did not believe it. Mama simply wanted her married and thought the Mandrakes a good family. When she saw her father, she would ask him for the truth.
Penhaven cove's sweep of pale beach billowed with sand. Waves pushed up to and raced over the stone walls and jetty. The coasters and fishing vessels bobbed up and down. Dark waves chopped at their hulls, smashing themselves into white spray. The wind swept in over the sea from France and the ocean beyond. Yet the boats clung to their anchors and moorings.
Folks might do well to stick to what they know, as their housekeeper Mrs Beresford was wont to say. Jane Tregarron would stick to what she knew. Clinging to the fringes of gentility, that's what she knew, nothing higher. A better prepared lady could have the pleasure of John Mandrake's icy hand and frosty bed, and be welcome to it.
Jane felt the cold start to penetrate her woollen cloak as heavier drops of rain began to fall from the leaden sky. She turned back to face the Tregarron House standing above her on the cliff top.
Mines and a good marriage pushed the Tregarrons up to the ten-roomed house built by her grandfather. It was apart from the town and the only house that overlooked a small little-used cove known as Smith's Cove. They ate off Wedgwood china ordered from an illustrated catalogue. They were schooled in reading and writing. The females of the family played the pianoforte. Her father made sure her brother Thom practised his arithmetic.
Yet, Jane needed new boots! They had been patched and mended but wet seeped through to her feet. She and her mother and three sisters all made lace but it was long hours of work for little reward. And now in winter less was done as it was impossible to work by candlelight.
And it was fortunate that Thom had paid attention to his arithmetic as Papa and he had gone today to Falmouth to see about employment for Thom as a clerk to one of the shipping merchants. Thom needed to work because money was so short. And she and her sisters needed to marry.
Marriage to John Mandrake would mean a house where she would be mistress. Comforts! Once she wed it would clear the way for her sisters. That times were hard, Jane could see: from the food they ate to the fact that all their servants had been dismissed except one, their housekeeper, Mrs Beresford.
No reason was compelling enough to allow John Mandrake to take her as his bride.
Oh! If only he would show some consideration or kindness towards her! Then she might be reconciled to the fate they had decided for her. Why was she fated to have stirred the interest of such a cold, unfeeling man? He will make a good husband, Mama had said.
Jane shivered. She could not be joined to such a man.
Nor could she return home, yet. Not until the rain and the wind had chilled her anger.
She fixed her gaze down onto the rocky path and trod carefully, avoiding the slippery stones. She pushed forward into the rain as it drove into her, stinging her cheeks and plastering loose tendrils of her hair to her face.
The path sloped downhill and twisted to the left. One of the steepest parts, Jane knew she had to take care for the next few yards until she was past the corner. The raindrops stung her eyes. Her view blurred. She put her hand on a rock to steady herself. She blinked hard to try and clear the water from her eyes.
She stepped on a loose stone. It slid away downhill carrying her foot some inches. Her balance wavered. She tried to grip the rock better. She fell, backwards.
Shock tremors from hitting the ground hard coursed up her spine, and then a sharp pain. Jane heard herself crying out. The gulls screeched their cries in return. She was falling somewhere else, too fast into blackness.
Yet, the gulls were still screeching. No, she was not in bed. It was too hard, cold. Her face was wet. Jane opened her eyes and found herself looking up at lead-heavy clouds. Rain pelted her cheeks, chin, nose, forehead.
She took deep breaths and willed the pain to go away. It did not. It shot up her back in waves; waves that did not subside.
Time must have passed. She remembered falling on the path. How long had she lain here? How could she be able to move?
After some moments she managed to turn enough to be able to take hold of two tufts of hardy grass from the bank beside her. Jane clenched her teeth together. Tears pushed through as she tried to haul herself to her feet. The pain seemed hardly bearable.
She managed to pull herself up somehow before she fell back unable to sustain the effort. She lay back on the damp grass. She shut her eyes.
She would be soaked to the skin. And then perhaps develop a fever. She'd had fever before. A terrifying time when she seemed to have lost half her senses and her whole being seemed to be burning up.
It hardly mattered if tears joined the other water on her face. At least her tears were warm.
On the southern coast of Cornwall, less than a day's ride away from the most westerly point of England at Land's End, lay the small town of Penhaven, trapped between the sea and tall cliffs.
This was Daniel Locke's description of the town to an American gentleman he met quite by chance in Lisbon. Grey-whiskered and of middling years, the gentleman's intent appeared uncertain. He paced the harbour-side, an agitated look in his eyes, asking the persons who passed him by whether they might tell him which ship was next bound for England.
'The Portobello, sir,' Daniel called over.
'Come here, young man, if you please.' The gentleman looked him up and down as he approached, squinting to keep the sun out of his eyes. 'Well, you're respectable-looking enough, I daresay.'
'I have a letter I wish to send home to England, to my sister.' He raised his bushy eyebrows. 'Tell me, whereabouts in England are you from?'
Daniel told him.
'Ah Cornwall.' The gentleman smiled. 'The Cornish are smugglers, fishermen, miners or pirates. Which are you?'
'His Majesty's Navy, sir.'
'Yet of low rank, I perceive. Can I trust you?'
'I am a gunner, sir. His Majesty's Navy trusts me with its powder. However, I'll show you to HMS Portobello and you can hand your letter over to the Master in person, sir.'
'No, no.' The gentleman drew a thick missal bound with string and wax from his pocket in his coat and passed it directly into Daniel's hands. 'You take it for me. And should you ever leave the service and want to come to the land of opportunity, come and find me, Galen King, Plymouth, Massachusetts.'
Mr King opened his purse to find the customary coin for the errand.
'My pleasure, sir.' Daniel backed away. He walked swiftly. The gentleman called after him. 'Galen King, Merchant. Plymouth, Massachusetts.'
Daniel did not turn around.
It was warm. The air was still. Quiet enough that a man might hear the click of his own boots. Damn foolish pride! Who was he, Daniel Locke, to turn away from an honest-earned coin?
It was a supreme effort of will, like none he had known hitherto, but he did turn back. And how that seemingly insignificant decision had altered the course of his life again! This time for the better.
He could hear his heart beating in his ears, but all his eyes could see now was a velvety black. It was cold. The wind howled, rattling the window casements.
He was no longer in Portugal, not even in his mind.
Daniel opened his eyes and stared at the plain distempered wall. Beneath his hands were the cool sheets of the bed. He lay in the small upstairs chamber in the cottage he'd once called home.
Outside raged a storm, pelting shards at the window panes. The rain distorted the pale light of late afternoon into a darker grey. Thunder rumbled.
The wind would be pulling slates from the cottage's roof, no doubt. They'd always picked up the smashed remains from the ground after a storm as fierce as this.
Yet, all felt still.
He lay in a bed, not a bunk. A house did not pitch and heave. He was not aboard ship.
When he had arrived at his aunt's cottage this very feather bed had reminded his bones how weary they were, tempted him into long slumbers. When he'd woken it had been to wholesome food, and then he'd slept the more. It was only now, two full days later that he had began to feel vigour again, but he had begun pacing up and down until he had noticed that his steps played the floorboards like fingers on a pianoforte's keys: a creaking melody that irritated him, and he had lain down again on the bed. He had tried to cast his mind towards other things: what his aunt downstairs might be doing. Baking or sewing, or some other household task? What might be cooking on the stove for their supper?
His mind was not wont to linger on themes domestic. He recalled portions of voyages he'd long forgotten. Tiny episodes of memory that held no individual significance, but as a whole perhaps they meant something in his history.
He'd taken the letter from the Mr King in Lisbon aboard the Portobello, but when he saw it bore an address in Portsmouth, where they were bound, he kept it. He would deliver it in person, and overrule his foolish pride when the gentleman's sister offered to pay him for his trouble.
She paid him handsomely. Not in coin, but in employment after he got his discharge. Her husband was also a merchant. He stayed in Portsmouth for nigh on a year, assisting her man of business with every errand he was too important to run himself.
Outside, the storm had grown quickly, its violence forcing him back to the present.
And with that returned the questions he had not yet considered fully, questions he did not yet have an answer to. He had stayed in Portsmouth long enough. The time he had waited these long years for had arrived.
Daniel got up and pulled the wooden box from under the bed. He drew out the brace of pistols and held them as if they were a pair of new-born pups.
He would have a fortnight to think on it they had said, before he should come back to them with his decision. Was it really a desire for justice that moved him now, or a baser motivation for revenge? Did it matter? In the meantime he had this pair of pistols, handed over to him without the asking of any kind of surety.
Daniel cocked one pistol, feeling the smooth metal of the lock hard against his thumb. It was unloaded yet he still found himself pointing the weapon towards the window.
Old habits die hard.
He had not yet gone down into the town where he would be seen, and recognised, and some would say, look thee at that Daniel Locke, the smuggler returns. His name would be forever tarnished here, though there were others who had got away who lived here. One man in particular.
He placed the pistols back in the box and the box under the bed. He walked downstairs and paused only long enough to pick up his hat and pull his boots on.
'Daniel?' His aunt bustled out of the kitchen. She wiped her hands on her apron. 'Daniel, mercy me! Art thou venturing abroad in this weather?'
He draw back the bolt on the front door and lifted the latch.
'Take your greatcoat, Daniel,' she said. 'Tis only on the peg there, see.'
Daniel shut the front door behind him.
His greatcoat remained indoors safe on its wooden peg. He wanted to be out here and feel the wind, and rain against him. Not be cosseted from it any more.
If any from Penhaven saw him, so be it.
Jane started. A shadow appeared over her.
'Miss?' the voice repeated. It was smooth, calm but with an understandable veneer of concern. But he was someone she did not recognize. Who could it be?
'Miss? Are you all right?' A hand touched her forearm.
Jane turned her head. A young man crouched beside her, the wind tussling his damp, ash-coloured hair. He looked a tall man with an aquiline nose. Something in the strong line of his jaw was familiar. His high cheekbones? His nose?
There was little chance of a real stranger being here. No one came to Penhaven without reason. Had she lost her memory? Who was he?
'I slipped,' Jane said. 'I'm all right, thank you.'
His eyes regarded at her closely. 'Can I assist you?'
'Thank you....' A wave of pain came and went, interrupting her thoughts.
'You plan to lie here awhile and admire the sky?'
Jane couldn't help smiling. 'There are enough grey clouds passing across above me to be entertainment, I think.'
'Ah. And there was I about to offer you some company.' He leaned back, resting his elbows on his crouched knees. He wore drab woollen breeches, calf-high brown leather boots and a high-crowned hat with a buckle. His boots were highly polished. New boots, she was sure.
'You know this ground is thoroughly wet?' he said.
'I didn't chose to fall over,' Jane heard herself day before she had the wherewithal to bite her tongue. She had no reason to be piqued with him. Perhaps if she had been less hasty, she would not have fallen.
'I think, if you can stand, I should help you up. Let us at least find somewhere dry for you to recover?'
'I'm sorry.' Jane swallowed. 'I'm not feeling completely all right. When I fell, it hurt and it's still painful.'
'Here.' He stood up. The swallow-tails of his dark grey coat flapped in the breeze. He leant her his arm. Rain splashed down onto the stones of the path behind him.
He gripped her under both her arms and pulled. Strong arms; muscles like rock beneath her touch, Jane suddenly felt shy about holding onto him. He was a stranger, after all.
Jane put her weight again on her feet. Her ankle felt as if someone was trying to press a red-hot iron rod into it. She clenched her teeth. 'M... My ankle!'
She found herself sagging against him unable to force her feet to stand. The front of her cloak was brushing the front of his jacket. She swayed backwards, to get her balance, failed and fell forward so that her chest pressed into his.
'I'm all right.' Jane caught her breath and tried to ignore the pain. 'I can walk.'
'Are you sure?'
Still he held her.
'Yes....' She did not dare test her ankle again. 'No.'
'Will you let me carry you?' he said. 'There is no shelter here.' No, the cliff tops were barren; wind wrestled over the grass.
'Y... Yes.' Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. All Jane could think was that she could lie on a soft bed until the pain subsided.
He reached down and picked her up, putting one arm beneath her legs and the other around her back. As effortlessly as she was a feather pillow, or so it seemed. It felt safe to be in his strong arms. She tried to forget that he was a stranger as it made her feel uneasy although her instincts told her he was someone she could trust.