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Delayed - Coming 2021: editing the best tale in these times of delays is progressing, slower than projected but progressing.
It's 1688 AD, in the midst of the British "Glorious Revolution" and a Dutch invasion to take the throne, as wealthy widow Rebecca DuMaurier, an African British royal court favorite of King Charles II, runs from a forced marriage with a famous general, a white-haired English earl, and into a infamous pirate troubling and walking the shores of her Cornwall home.
Cornwall's rocky, treacherous coast is but a stepping stone for lively Becca, her tenacious soldier fiancé, and her intriguing, brown-skinned, Irish Catholic pirate of many faces.
Historical Romantic Adventure Fiction
Blasted irksome it was! Lord Padraic’s infuriating maxims kept darting ’round the bare ankles of Lady Becca’s thoughts; like housecats startled, fur standing on end, the apprehensive felines’ claws unsheathed; piercing into her mind—demanding to not be ignored.
“ ‘May you live in an interesting age,’ he’d spoken so agreeably years ago, and “May you leave without returning,” she finished in a murmur now, chiding her adult shadowed reflection in a whisper; so her lower lady’s maids, in their room beside hers, could not hear.
Both sayings were Lord Padraic’s, overheard by a mostly forgotten little brown-skinned girl at supper during an ambassadorial gathering of several ambassadors. He’d later told her that “interesting times” was not a good thing and too often dangerous, and that “leaving without returning,” meant you’d never come back, which was quite bad, if you left your home and wanted to return!
When Becca had learned the rather polite curse from His Lordship, her young escort was sitting higher at table, according to his noble born rank and esteemed favor, while she, a “common little wench” of the gentry, and the Irish Counselor had been seated just at salt; meaning they were neither favored to sit above it, nor disgraced or ignored enough to sit at table below salt.
Their position at supper said neither was of true importance; but were not to be fully ignored, either, even if, technically, he a full Lord was seating at elbow and below a Common Girl Child of no Wealth nor Power. Lord Padraic’s goals, both his Irish ones and Catholic ones, were in disfavor; but he was a nobleman born and powerful in his own right and endured the humiliation of this disrespect.
Little Mistress Rebecca DeLann, however, well, no one had known what to do with her that entire first year, when she’d abruptly come from “nowhere” and moved into the Royal Court. Her presence had frustrated, sometimes infuriated, and utterly confused Courtiers, both noble and political; especially since none could fully dismiss her because of her Royal Patron.
She still remembered Her Feelings at that long-gone meal; of Lord Padraic’s Frustration in communicating his People’s Needs, whilst being situated too below Power to be heard, and too close to a foolish low courtier bloated on currying higher favor by being malicious, spiteful, and scornful—yes, Becca knew these words all meant the same, but a Child’s Feelings are a Child’s Feelings.
His Lordship had clearly not appreciated being seated so low, nor being partnered with the youngest and only commoner at table, who was not either an adult nor of significance to Government or Court, as a Parliamentarian or Political Minister, or even the Significant Wife or Powerful Mistress of one. His Lordship had been seated next to “the King’s new little pet” and, unfortunately, even her glorious patron, Charles II of the Royal House of Stuarts, hadn’t yet known fully what to do with her in those early public situations, as she’d begun her Life at Court.
Becca’s eyes had grown round and large, as Lord Padraic had stated each Irish curse, in complimentary tones, and loudly in English, confusing the Low Courtier and ceasing his ignorant chatter so abruptly, that the man had gaped like a fish, whilst little Becca had giggled in a child’s delight, for she was yet not fully schooled in her Court Manners. Her highly inappropriate but highly affective, and infectious, laughter not only captured an inquisitive glance from His Majesty and a frown from Her Majesty on his left far away at the head of table; but caused the Irish Lord to finally acknowledge little Becca’s existence in a positive fashion; he winked down at her.
Lord Padraic had ignored Sir Low Courtier, Sir Gape Fish, as she renamed him in her retelling to her noble escort, young Marcus, and from that collusive moment of humor, Lord Padraic had spoken exclusively with her, little Mistress Common Nobody; making it quite apparent to all the “important people” dining there, that he was “giving up the fight, clearly killing his career and ambitions.”
“Where are you from, Mistress Rebecca?”
“Cornwall near Tintagel, I usually say, for more have heard of it or can find it upon a map. Oh! I can see the sea from atop our home!”
“That must be delightful. May I ask, what do you like most here?”
“His Majesty, Her Majesty, and all the colors of the Court. And my Tutor, who teaches me much; including the proper use of the new letters of our alphabet.”
“But, what of the people, these lords and ladies? What is wrong, dear girl?”
“I am told I am not to say my mind, for I am a child, a common child, and an uncommonly brown one at that. I must have no opinion about anything,” she said blandly, as having learned it by rote.
“Who has told you that? And you must tell me because I am your lord friend.”
“Lady Crawford—one of the poorer Crawfords, the other Crawfords do not care for,” she added in a discreet whisper. “She was displeased with me for the King had made her my maid, although she was born a Lady, and I was not.” He laughed, and heads turned. “And when she burned my hair and my neck with the curling irons he said he would send her to the Tower.”
“How shameful of her! Did he?”
“No. I begged that he not do so. She hated that, too, that I had begged for her; although she was terrified she would be sent there. It is one of her great nightmares I knew. He sent her from Court which ceased her funds as my servant. The Crawfords said their late brother, her husband, was gone and she was no longer one of them.”
And Becca whispered more softly, “Because she had no wealth or property or connection to power, except a gentry child, me, and she has lost that. Even her birth family would not help her, and I’d thought, then, that it served her right; until I heard her legs were hurting her more and that she had so little income, with little to nothing else to sell; so, I and my Betrothed, Lord Marcus—.”
“Your...? So that is true?!”
“Not officially, but for us it is.”
He’d smiled at that.
“What happened to Lady Crawford?”
“She pretends anger that she was a 'sentimental fool' when I went to her and begged that she come back, as my Governess not my maid, to teach me things I must know as a Courtier. His Majesty would no longer pay her way, for he was still displeased with her; but I pay it from my small income he gives me, although he has given me an increase as 'a gift'. My Lady Crawford says I am ‘a horrible child’ but when I take her hand, she no longer pulls away. She tells me important things she knows, even the most smallest of things that are quite useful here; because it is very complicated here. Don’t you think so?”
“Yes, I do. However, lass, would you give me examples of useful things she’s taught you, Little Mistress?”
She did and then they discussed the English in Ireland, and the Irish Situation, well, situations, for she had many questions.
“I know I cannot know all but your mission here, my Lord; but what can you tell me? I want to understand, for the gossip seems all lies and ... bigotry. Oh, if I may be allowed to say.”
“I jest not when I say, Mistress Rebecca, you are remarkable.”
“Thank you, Your Lordship,” she said, through blushes. Then, he told her. Uncle Charles, far up the table, noticed, and afterwards he asked, she told His Majesty, and he listened at her experience with the Irish lord.
Lord Padraic’s ... eventual courtesy to “a common girl, who should never have been at a king’s table,” changed a painfully, long supper, that was making her stomach sour and hurt, into a warm, long-Treasured Memory. That supper marked the first time she had truly felt accepted and belonging at His Majesty’s Royal Court, beyond he who had invited her to stay.
Lady Becca always had a loving smile for her memories with Lord Padraic, for he was the first adult nobleman to take her hand and bow respectfully, with affection, to her, over her little tan hand.
Belonging is such a powerful feeling.
Also, he’d told her something else important.
“Remember, my Precious Girl, life is simple; you live, merely exist, or you die; it is people who are complicated.
Lady Becca sighed.
But, this place isn’t my home anymore, not with all my Sweet Loves gone, Lady Becca thought, whilst discarding the diamond and gold-hearted betrothal ring upon a side table. She did keep her Marcus’ wedding ring as the lone jewel on her finger in her fisted hand, where it alone would always remain.
She scowled, as she leaned to be gone but warily stood still, tugging on her gloves, to listen for any stirrings from her maids’ or from the corridor before her apartment, as she thought.
Maybe Lord Padraic’s curses will prove a blessing. After all. These are such interesting times. Too interesting, by far.
“And it will be a delicious pleasure to leave these times far, far behind me. And never return,” she whispered, in satisfaction.
Becca smirked into the dark eyes of her mirrored image, before slipping a lady’s full vizard mask upon her face, clenching the bead holder in her side teeth. The mask obscured her vibrant coloring, as she pulled her hood forward, entirely veiling her swarthy tresses, prior to tipping forth from this luxurious coffin and into….
Long corridors, abbreviated corridors, halls crossing galleries within meandering corridors. She recalled with annoyance someone proudly stating, “White Hall Palace has over fifteen hundred rooms!”
“ ‘Over’? What’s the exact count?” Little Becca had blurted, and that Someone had sputtered, red-faced, “I-I’m not ... really ... certain.”
Becca had stopped herself from precociously asking had he gotten lost in his counts or in the palace’s damnable rabbit warren of passageways, or both. But, she had refrained; which had been a major accomplishment for an inquisitive ten-year-old to do on her own, even after two years at Court.
Blasted, she mentally cursed now, abruptly pausing, yet again, at more passing footsteps, before continuing her attempt to escape her home within a royal palace. In this time of ... fleeing, it was perversely without end, as she repeatedly froze to not show movement, or was ever slipping into dark nooks to conceal her passage. And, to make it all the corridors worse, there really were far too many a late-night sly fox or ravenous wolf sneaking about upon their trails of prey. Wild night life was everywhere! There was even a cowering dog or two and at least one weasel, slinking off across her path in a pack. Probably to gamble whether King James the Catholic would—.
Oh, now they’re dawdling, arguing about to whose apartment or salon to retire. Their interfering in her escape was bloody exhausting!
“Life at Court is much like the Royal Zoo, Mistress Rebecca; be wary of your path and what, or who, crosses it, so nothing may claw or devour you, my tender Darkling,” her now supposed betrothed had first instructed her long ago, and again since, with his sharp Voice of Command intimately warm, filled with unwanted fondness and ... warning. For her.
Who was he to warn her about anything!
Damnably unfortunate, though, he’d been quite right about this being like the Tower Zoo.
Lord Jon may have given her good advice, and he was a great man, for everyone said so; but, for her part, Becca still did not want to be neither Mistress nor Wife to Great Britain’s “our great White Wolf.”
“Bloody Od’s Bod’kin!” she softly cursed again at an all too familiar sound in this palace. She slinked aside from the main corridor into a dark alcove, then held still a long, long whilst in its murk, as the elder Lady Ashmore and a rakish, hardy soldier—who wasn’t even an officer, let alone of noble name—were committing intimacies Lord Ashmore would have been highly livid about, had he been able to run and catch them up with his gouty foot.
Blasted, I’ll be right here all night, Becca moaned in thought. If I had paints and brush, I’ll have time to paint their portrait of Lovers in Adultery.
Lady Ashmore threw her head back against the wall in hard surprise as the soldier’s rough-hewn fingers found something pleasant under her skirts.
The younger Ashmore, Lady Jane, would have been appalled at her mother’s preposterous assignation; being “too old for such frivolity,” and married to her father; especially with a soldier, who wasn’t even an officer! “Mother! At your age!” And especially with this redcoat, for he’d already had his fingers and other manly bits under daughter Lady Jane’s skirts.
Obviously, he’s quite fond of the Ashmores.
These considerations weren’t mere gossip, either; because it was remarkable what Lady Becca knew, saw, heard and overheard, without even trying to pry or spy. Ofttimes, others confided in her, or had told Marcus, who had told her nearly everything. She gently numbed any thoughts of him, as she presently remained in a recessed shadow, waiting. And waiting.
The amorous lady was in her forties with grown children, as the strong soldier lifted her and she straddled him, but slipped off, twice. Lady Ashmore wasn’t known for being well-seated, when mounting ... horse. And this ... strong mount wanted ... deep purchase.
Denton!, Becca thought his name might be. Denton turned the lady to face the wall, as he hiked her ladyship’s skirts, making her giggle like a girl, before she commented.
“Ah, so it’s a dog you want to be, eh, Denton?”
Ah, I had the right of his name.
“And you my randy bitch,” he chuckled darkly, then took the thickness of his eager member in hand, stroking its full length like a favored pet, whilst turning his head and staring into the patch of darkness which hid Becca, before slowly sliding his long, fat eagerness into the Lady wife of a Lord of Parliament, and thus began their illicit dance in earnest.
First, Becca praised herself for recalling the rather obscure soldier’s name. The High Ladies had been whispering and giggling about him ever since his arrival, and Becca had met him briefly, in passing. “Deadly attractive for a commoner” or not, he’d held her hand for far too long; like Cook at market whilst appraising ripeness in something to be later devoured.
Second, Becca did a quick inventory of her anonymity: her face was well hidden by the full vizard mask and deep hood, her tan hands inside long gloves, and no one had seen her wear either the gown, glove, or shoes before. In fact, she had had a long heartfelt talk when last visiting with Evadne, and not long after Becca’s return to White Hall, the gown had arrived, with a note in an unfamiliar hand, but marked with a sign that stated friend; she should open all when alone.
The gift card had read: “A lady never knows when she will need a change of guise. It is not your color, nor fashion, use your actress skills. And be safe, my Sweet Little Sister.” Her own sister never called her that, only Evadne in their times alone together.
Sergeant Denton! If memory served her well, and it usually did. He was ... had been a lieutenant, or captain? Briefly. But had been demoted, for ... Oh!, lying abed with his lord superior’s wife! It was gossiped that she was spoiled for anyone else ’twixt her thighs, including her husband! Wasn’t that errant wife in a locked convent in France now, or just cast off to the gutter, or was it a deep country backwater with a dense, treacherous marsh all about her?
Becca really couldn’t recall just now. They weren’t very important people and she was impatient to be away. Plus, Lady Ashmore and Sergeant Denton’s ... movements were ... hypnotic; causing an unwanted fancy to clench in her own abandoned loins, in memory of long, strong thighs, and a hardening groin against hers, when locked in an overlong and disturbing betrothal kiss.
No. No. No. No. NO! Clear that congestion away, woman! Oh, God, Marcus, don’t step aside for your old friend, in your stead, when I push you away!
She refocused from memory to the public lovers. Oh, yes, the perverse cur was definitely gazing in her direction, making her recall strange discussions about those who liked an audience, when becoming heatedly engrossed in their ... ride.
Lady Becca stepped forth.
The entire ... action before her, to use a military term, didn’t make Becca grimace, for she was no longer a child of the gentry; but a full Courtier and a Peeress of the Realm, in her own name. And, really, such a thing was so common to the point of being utterly, well, Common. Lady Ashmore was utterly engrossed in her redcoated paramour’s ... movements, that Becca went unnoticed by the lady as she slipped silently around them with barely a soft whispering rustle of skirts.
’Twas eerie, though, Sergeant Denton watching her pass, riding more wildly for his audience, as he enjoyed a Parliamental House of Lord’s Lady, who panted against the stones, leaving smears of her makeup upon them, her hairpieces falling askew. Becca was past them, and nearly resisted; but gave into some curious feeling. She glanced back to find Denton’s head turned, his gaze following her exit, a lolling grin upon his face, as he drove his borrowed lady into the wall, with heightened, hard enthusiasm.
You are quite welcome, you dangerous common cur. And you, too, naughty Lady Public Assignation.
There were ... feminine shrieks of Breathless Delight and male grunts of ... Completion, as vague wonderings of whether he’d get both ladies with child passed quickly, after Becca turned the corner.
_continues in the novel "Becca DuMaurier"
The bottom of the ship left her feet just as—.
Becca fell securely back into the Present.
The Hawk was hard in the grip of a heaving tempestous sea as the assaulted little ship reverberated with bone-jarring intensity, bespoiled by cannon shot and quick turns as The Hawk snaked down along the sickening edges of swells to briefly hide at the bottom of them, before nauseatingly rising up, like sliding up a wall, as all clung to whatever they could and water sloshed everywhere and many a thing not secured ended everywhere upon the floor with Her Ladyship.
Out of nowhere, Ezekiah helped her back onto her feet, then led her foreward by hand, through the dancing chaos of cannon, whilst the flooring heaved out from underfoot and the walls tilted in to strike you.
“He needs you safe, Lady ... March….” He stopped talking, not certain about her titles or how to address her, whilst under duress himself.
He dragged her across the deck lined on both sides with open ports and loaded cannon, and someone opined:
“That woman’s a Jonah. Throw her over for the Dutch to fish out and be their plague!”
She looked about to see who’d said that or the shocked reaction of the men, and saw only men and powder boys at their posts.
“This is the safest place.”
Ezekiah left her in the medico’s tiny cabin, adjacent to the surgery, from where hard smells and sounds came. Men moaned. One shrieked in terrible pain, fear, or both. Becca understood the man having fear, because she was feeling her own coursing through her. She even feared that her fear was about to be terror soon, as the scents of frightened men undermined her control.
Watch the physician, not phantasms in your mind!
He seemed an appropriate fellow, this medicine man; but whether he was a full physician or even trained in any formal or useful surgical skills, Becca could not tell, from this distance; and didn’t recall anyone saying he was. Actually, she hadn’t known there was one aboard, had not seen him, as far as she could tell, at this angle; but, no one had mentioned him in his medical capacity, nor had she been formally introduced to him. However, since few to none of the men had conversed congenially with her, nor volunteered appropriate introductions, her ignorance was quite the obvious thing.
She was abruptly distracted from her offended thoughts on a lack of basic, common civility, when the ship heaved in a great roll, and the Marchioness did likewise; emptying her stomach more than once in a Heaven-sent bucket, perhaps placed for her, in that area so densely fetid with a mix of cold fear’s musk, hot blood, pungent urine, and excrement.
Disgusted with herself, Becca proclaimed her intention, “I will not be useless here, not now, not when there is need.” Thankfully, the storm was softening its rage, the sea settling from angry swells to less nauseating ones.
She rinsed her mouth, ate a bit of salt she’d found by a neglected meal, to angrily force her stomach to settle by salt and by Will, then stepped from her shelter into the main space.
“Hold still, Liam,” the medico commanded. “Hold still, man!
“How can I be of help to you, sir?” Becca said clearly to be heard above the battling above between Pirates and Dutchmen.
The medico looked up and stared at her as if not knowing what she was or from where she’d come; then he ignored her, whilst fully engrossing in Liam’s concerns. She now recalled the Medico’s face, one of many men, to whom she’d not been introduced. He had had the appearance and manner of a gentlema—.
Wait. She abruptly recalled someone saying his name. She must have cataloged it, without thinking much on it; it was a necessity at Court. Watching him handle this chaos in a competent fashion, and how the men sought his help, she had her answer; he had true education as a physician.
And whether he liked her or not he needed another pair of hands.
“Crace, isn’t it? Doctor Crace, how can—?”
“Ignatius Crace, Lady Cornwall. If you truly want to help, bring over that ointment there. In the blue jar,” he commanded. “Please,” he added, self-consciously.
She obeyed, whilst both Crace and the injured pirate seamen watched her, in disbelief. She held the jar out to him for his use, Crace said nothing, only continued staring, as the injured man, Liam—she recalled Liam’s face now as well. Plus, he was just “Liam” to her now, they all were, not merely a sailor … nor pirate even, any longer, but a frightened-eyed, injured man needing help, like all the others here.
“Shall I open it for you?” she queried, and her voice, her gentle questioning manner roused Crace from his stunned reverie.
“Yes, my lady. But, wrap this around you.”
He handed her a length of sturdy clean-ish canvas, well, it was clean until his fingers left bloody finger marks. She tucked a corner of the fabric into her busom and wrapped it around her clothing, and thus Lady Cornwall entered Dr. Crace’s medical service; helping him pull blood-stained finger-long splinters. For some time, she had her own line of injured; dabbing ointment on burns from the hot cannon, cannon tapers and one from a coal brazier that had made searing contact with a man’s face, then his bared foot. Becca had gingerly swathed that handsome man’s face then tended his singed foot with the soft aromatic goose grease ointment from the blue jar.
“Lady Cornwall I need you. Talk to him,” Crace commanded her, when he began preparing to cut upon a man’s messy adominal wound.
“What?” she said, in utter incomprehension.
“Distract him, my lady. Say anything, please. Look at the Marchioness, Diurmid. When surrounded by dark ugliness, man, look to beauty and its light.”
“Mm. Oh. Well...,” she stuttered, before spewing forth her first thought, an introduction. “Well, Diurmid, I … wasn’t born noble, merely Mistress Rebecca DeLann. In formal precedence in our … in the Queen’s presence, I, as the lowest born, untitled, and newest at Court, especially as a child, I normally came last, despite being of the landed gentry and receiving our yearly family income from the traditional pursuits of farming and mining. Oh, from the nontraditional income of my father’s professional gambling and the DeLann family concerns in Bristol, of the port and the spas.
“Erm. At the time, only my father was titled, he is a Knight of the Realm. My dear friend Lady Merchant is also common born, although, if we had arrived at court the same time, I would have had precedence before her, although she is a few years older than I.
“Lady Merchant, as you can tell by her title, was born of a merchant family, who are so often frowned upon for working in trade business; but so often sought for their wealth. Evadne’s … Merchant’s Christian name is Evadne, she’s … my best friend, and like an older sister to me, to the consternation of my actual older sister.
“Like me, Lady Evadne is now a Countess in her own name; but, by marriage, she is….”
Becca prattled on for hours, distracting the men, whilst she helped and adapted to all the exhausting and raucous activity above, below, and around her; whether distant explosions, not so distant explosions; sounds of destruction and of repair, and of frustrating uncertainty as they bobbed about in God’s Huge Hands.
“Sing a song, my lady, please.”
“Oh! Erm.” She wanted to say no but could not, the asker had been in such earnestness, and was so young, not more than ten, and all were instantly expectant of her. “I warn you, gentlemen, you are in enough pain.” Most chuckled, but the one who’d made his request still waited. “As you wish, my good young sir. Well, Master Purcell, said I had a fair voice, for a female, and taught me his and Master Cowley’s I came, I saw, and was undone for a Valentine Court Masque.”
She normally wasn’t afraid of an audience when singing or acting in a masque; but, today, she stared at a swirling design in the wood hull before her, instead of so many earnest and frightened men covered in sweat, fear, blood, and more scents than she knew, whilst getting her breath settled and Henry Purcell’s tune and Alexander Cowley’s words properly recalled to mind, and also the emotions, the emotions she always felt were imbued into this lovely thing, this living song two men had created.
Marcus had said she did not “sing it as an angel but like a lost human desperately seeking Heaven.” And he’d said it was a compliment.
Bloody Bollocks, this performance is hard. This is not home and the friends, family, familiar enemies of Court with….
Without looking at her injured pirates, and blocking the side view of them waiting for her, she closed her eyes and sang:
I came, I saw, and was undone;
Lightning did thro’ my bones and marrow run;
A pointed pain pierc’d deep my heart,
A swift cold trembling siez’d on ev’ry part;
My head turn’d round, nor could it hear
The poison that was enter’d there.
So a destroying angel’s breath
Blows in the plague and with it hasty Death;
Such was the pain did so begin,
To the poor wretch when Legion enter’d in,
“Forgive me, God,” I cry’d, for I
Flatter’d myself I was to die.
But quickly to my cost I found
‘Twas cruel Love, not Death had made the wound;
Death a more gen’rous rage does use,
Quarter to all he conquers does refuse,
Whilst Love with barbarous mercy saves
The vanquish’d lives to make them slaves.
I am thy slave, then let me know,
Hard master, the great task I have to do;
Who pride and scorn do undergo,
In tempests and rough seas thy galleys row,
They pant, and groan, and sigh, but find
Their sighs increase the angry wind.
Like an Egyptian tyrant, some
Thou weariest out in building but a tomb;
Other with sad and tedious art
Labour i’ the quarries of a stony heart.
Of all the works thou dost assign
To all the sev’ral slaves of thine,
Employ me, mighty Love, to dig the mine.
When Lady Becca finished, she took a deep breath and looked around and all were silent, introspective, a few sniffling. Dr. Crace looked … truly pleased with her for the first time.
And then, someone noted in surprised relief, “Wait! It’s easing.”
“What?” she said in distraction, then listened.
It was. The storm was passing, the waters calming significantly, and all the cannon quiet! Abruptly, an order was passed down in hisses.
“Silence! Kill all lights!”
All the lights were covered or blown out; so no light showed through any hole nor chink in the wood hull alerted all the enemy eyes in search for them. One closely shielded light was kept near for any surgeon’s emergency; but Death was too close for emergencies. And Becca realized the predatory Dutchman’s cannons were quiet, in muted search for an accurate sighting of The Hawk.
There were whispers of “the storm pushed them from us; but they’re still too near.”
“Quiet!” Dr. Crace hissed.
All remained in the dark, unmoving, ears straining until hers rang with silence, hurting to to hear what eyes could not see and no muted voice could explain, without threat of betraying them all to their enemy’s own ears.
“Ah!” Becca started quietly when a large hand fumbled at her skirts, groping at her!
_continues in the novel "Becca DuMaurier"
The unrelenting stench struck her nose, along with the cacophony of voices, which swelled and ebbed, and shrieked.
This must be what Death’s Wake smells like.
The jostling, unwashed crowd was too coarse, too vulgar, and too loud with its maggot-like teeming of thousands of grubby bodies. They had come for their cruel entertainment, their victory over Rome, and it sickened Becca. The very emotional feel of the crowd made her scowl in upset discontent, despite her elevation above them — all the better to see, and be seen.
“Compose your face, Lady DuMaurier; you represent me,” he spoke gently for her ears alone, but it was still a command. Becca glanced up at him, so tall above her and mirrored Her King’s own bland expression. She’d become so upset with all around her that it must’ve shown upon her visage, all her displeasure and disconcerting fear for her People’s Souls; so much so that she’d forgotten where she was — by the side of her Uncle Charles — and who she was — a reflection of him.
The King had come to witness, as they all had; from the most common of men to His Most Royal Majesty.
Marcus was away, again, on the king’s affairs, traveling with Eccleston to discuss important matters with their allies of the moment, and to implement growth changes in her husband’s intelligence network. Allies changed, constantly; both abroad and at home; plus, true information gathered swiftly was always a premium product.
Lady DuMaurier felt nauseous and earnestly wanted to express to His Majesty that she wished to, no, needed to leave; but knew he would not let her. He had requested her presence, in particular, not his queen’s, not any of his mistresses’, or any of his children, not even his eldest, the bastard Monmouth, who so desired to be king, and never could be.
The entire place smelled of offal, rot, and death; a mixed offense to nose and taste and eardrum, as this pathetic farce passed as a holiday for stony-hearted apprentices away from work and amusing themselves as the lives of the unfortunate condemned were extinguished through capital punishment, weekly. The condemned’s chance to have the crowd stop their death trundle and let them “fall off the wagon” for a final pint of ale with their audience, before getting “back on the wagon” was a condemned prisoner’s second to last privilege.
Their final privilege was to speak their Final Words.
This tainted place was the Place of Punishment, at the crossroads—Tyburn. Criminals and traitors, and the occasional martyr voiced their final farewells and exited here; sometimes quietly with insouciance, sometimes with heartrending screams, but never prettily.
Sometimes even a ripened corpse, like that of the late Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell himself, was disinterred to be posthumously “executed” by a Traitor’s Hanging in Chains for his Treasonous Crimes, by order of King Charles II; Cromwell’s head was yet on display on a pole before Westminster Abbey’s Parliament. His was a belated humiliation for successfully usurping and “murdering” by humiliating public beheading England’s lawful king with Divine Right as Ordained by God, Charles I, before Cromwell ascended his own type of throne; a commoner ascended to mock king, but usurper king just the same.
But that this was 1681, in the tangled ends of the confused and convoluted debacle of The Popish Plot; both the lie it was, the lives it was destroying, and the souls it stained and ruined.
“There were things One does not want to do, and appearances One has to make. For them. For the People,” Her King had said.
Things one did for the continuation and security of the established hierarchy. All Traitors to it, whether royal, noble, or common, suffered and died, publicly, because Treachery was an Insult to every Soul in the State.
“We watch with neutral faces as Witnesses of Justice, Witnesses of this Wheel that cannot be stopped, and that We cannot change, though We struggle against it and pray for Divine Intervention and Human Clarity and yet are undermined by our own true and loyal councillors and allies,” Uncle Charles had bitterly concluded.
She would always remember his voice, the sadness in it, the exhaustion from both the Frustration and … the Outrage; knowing he was surrounded by those “barren of Faith and Rightness” forcing him to be “too impotent to defend and protect a true Saint of Innocence.”
Becca’s face remained apparently aloof to all the vicious mockings, the pleading tears, and the disgusting cajolings and exhortations for and against. The entire “ceremony” was an affront to God, man, woman, and King, as she stood close enough to him for he to feel her and he her; that was their only comfort in this trial.
The horrible day had finally gone, the harrowing night to come with its feverish nightmares in disjointed dreams embellishing the day’s workings. His Majesty had asked for her and she stood by him still in the Banqueting Hall of White Hall overlooking the balcony where his father had died; Murdered, by ignominious public execution on the order signed by the usurper Cromwell.
No candles were lit in the Hall, and no fire was in its hearths. King and Courtier were covered in Darkness, hiding in its obscurity.
“This was a bad thing, Becca, my little dear.”
“I am no monarch this day and night. Perhaps on the morrow; but not this sad Day of Evil Done.”
“Yes, Uncle Charles.”
She had hugged him, tightly; and cried for her own soul and for his. And he had held her, tightly, taking innocent physical and emotional comfort in a young soul who loved him utterly. Her Loyal Ardent Love made him smile a little, but she did not see it for her eyes were closed and she listened to the strong heart of her Monarch and was glad she knew what others did not—for their blindness, deafness, or Uncle Charlie’s consummate verisimilitudes.
She hadn’t known in full as a child, but as a woman, now, she’d had time to ... reconsider, and love even more with perfect perspicacity a man who was flawed. Charles Stuart was a good man in most extraordinary circumstances, a tall man who could see far, but was always blinded and hobbled by those grasping at his heels, and his own ineptitudes.
He had often told her his truths, though she had been only a child, but a discreet counsel, she, more so, in her adulthood; oftimes it was just a look, unguarded, just for her to see his true thoughts and feelings, which she reported back to Her Majesty in those times when their Queen was not healthy enough to accompany him, or living in separation.
The execution pamphlets were out, more being printed and the severed pieces of the famous now infamously deceased scattered as a lesson in criminality or to be cherished and suredly used in sacred blessings to cure most things incurable; from scabies to impotence to God only knew what.
“This day, Britain had created a saint,” His Majesty bemoaned, in sorrow for a priest accused of “high treason” and “for promoting the Roman faith,” by no less than the Chief Justice of all England.
“That blackguard Titus Oates’ fictitious conspiracy, his ‘Popish Plot’ has betrayed and murdered the last innocent in my name and those of my Great Britain, made by my grandfather’s own hands. Three years of this anti-Catholic hysteria and arguments of the ‘true religion.’
“Where was this man’s bitter tongue when true assassins were sent from the pope to murder Elizabeth. Or when no man could save my great grandmother, Mary, of the Scots.
“This unfortunate ... ‘Traitor’ makes twenty-two by my reckoning, whilst others try to codify in law the religious exclusion of my brother as my heir presumptive because he is an avowed Roman Catholic.”
“It is a thing most hideous, Uncle Charles; but you spoke numerous pleas for Christian Mercy, for most of them, who came before, and most especially for this man.”
Charles stepped forward nearly to stepping out upon the balcony, where his father had breathed his last, wearing an extra shirt so he would not tremble in the winter cold and others believe it was his Fear.
It was a long while before Charles spoke.
“ ‘Mercy’. Words too few and too late, lost to deaf hearts and cold souls. This religious intolerance will beggar this nation’s Spirit, arguing to the death what is the one true and only path to God’s Loving Grace. And whether a Scottish tongue or English tongue, or even Irish tongue is the way to….”
He sighed greatly, and spoke his true heart to Becca.
“Why is there such hate for the Innocence of Spirit, for a different view of worshipping God? We English are so ... terrified that any neighbors’ different Faith, whether Quaker, Puritan, and especially Catholic will drag us all inexorably to Hell or, worse, back into Rome’s Catholic embrace, half a continent away? My English People’s fear is so palpable that I am too fearful that this man’s life is too politically dangerous to spare his life with a Royal Pardon. That they man come for my brother—.
“But I care not anymore! My heart and soul are aggrieved with this weighted stain.” He paused, breathing heavily, until he was more contained. “Becca…?”
“If you or Marcus should ever come to have to make a decision of who dies and who does not; if there is any question as to innocence against guilt, Vote for Innocence. But if the Evil is clear, be Ruthless, Becca dear, and rejoice in clean work under the unflinching gaze of God and His Judges. For this was not ... clean.
“Perhaps it is time I let you return to your little children, they must be eager for your hugs and kisses, and have missed you this....”
He didn’t finish and looked exhausted.
“What will you do, now, Uncle?” He didn’t answer her and now how he looked even more than exhausted; he looked … old, fragile, and weary.
He finally kissed her forehead and cheek with gentle affection, then retired from the dark-filled room for Somerset House and his sweet Queen’s gentle comfort; comfort of a different kind than he had with his many mistresses, a comfort only his Queen Catarina could give. Charles was many things; but he was also loyal to this woman who had produced no heir for his throne, and nearly died in her failure.
And unlike Henry Tudor, the eighth of that name, Charles Stuart, the second of his name, never petitioned for divorcement or annulment, even whilst knowing he was a confirmed and strong sire of children.
Left alone, in the dark, with Marcus far from her and her small ones fast asleep, Becca’s emotions went back to the day, whilst composing a letter to her faraway love.
“How do you say a man ‘dies well’ when he is Betrayed, Vilely Abused, and Displayed; his body and mind, if not his very heart and soul were ripped apart, Marcus.”
_continues in the novel "Becca DuMaurier"
Neale Sourna; 1688; Glorious Revolution; British civil war; Protestant; Catholic; religious war; England; Great Britain; English king; James II; James Stuart; James II of England; duke of York; throne; invading force; sailing ship; royal favorite; Charles II; Charles Stuart; Charles II of England; charles ii of great britain; charles ii of britain; 1660; historical period British Restoration; historical English Restoration; royal; brown-skinned; black; African; African British; African Brit; African English; British courtier; british peeress; African peeress; black peeress; Lady Rebecca; Lady Becca; becca dumaurier; becca; dumaurier; du maurier; black baroness; black marchioness; black duchess; African English countess; Buccaneeress Becca; Black Rogues Novel; on the run; a forced marriage; forced marriage; Cornwall; Cornish; pirates; Catherine of Braganza; black pirate; black pirates; black noble; black nobles; runaway bride
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