Archive for October, 2015

I think many of us often fail to celebrate the little gains, successes and occasions that come along every day even on rainy days.  Meeting an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years, shedding one pound of belly fat, finding an unforeseen bargain at the store things like that all seem so insignificant in the scheme of the universe.  Thinking about this I decided to celebrate today.  I just learned that my new novel Storms Over Hawking Manor was accepted into the eBook “Premium Catalogue” at Smashwords.  This means the novel will be distributed to Kobo, Barns and Noble, Amazon and all companies that sell eBooks.  A first for me, and reason to celebrate is that I managed to get the book listed as “pre-order”.  It will be in these company’s catalogues before October 15th when it will be released.  I’ve also decided to start it off with a great special of $2.99 seeing we’re approaching the Christmas season and it’s the season of giving.
Storms_copy (1 use)Storms Over Hawking Manor is a continuation or sequel of Secrets of Hawking Manor.  I had a lot of fun writing it and had decided to give it a surprise ending.  For anyone wishing to get a feel for what the story is about I’ll include the first few pages of the novel.

Part of Chapter 1: The Trial

The momentary silence in the courtroom hung like a swollen cloud over the men seated opposite the prisoner’s box.  A battle raged within Henry Carstairs’ heart.  He sat near the front of the room next to his brother, Benjamin, and Simon Lawson, Christopher’s father.  Henry stared across to the man, his former friend, seated in the prisoner’s box.  This man had poached for months in the woods of Eagleridge, part of Hawking Manor’s estate, and he had shot Christopher, Eagleridge’s manager’s young son.  The youth had been Benjamin and Henry’s dear friend.  He had come upon this poacher suddenly not realizing who he was.

Henry, along with Christopher and Simon his father, had set out on a cold, wet day a year before this trial to catch the unknown man who had come regularly into the Eagleridge woods to poach.  It was Christopher who had sighted the poacher first.  He had wounded the man who was in the act of gutting a deer.  The thief had refused to heed the youth’s warning.  Not knowing the poacher was Eugene, a former Dragoon, an expert with various weapons; Christopher did not realize how dangerous this thief was.  Although the poacher bled profusely from Christopher’s bullet, he had fired a shot in return that had mortally wounded Christopher before Henry and Simon had been able to come to assist the youth.

Now, seated in the courtroom all the grief that day, now months past, had brought into his life crowded back into Henry’s heart.  As he had done many times he wondered again, if he had not planned the capture of the thief carefully enough back then and was in part to blame for Christopher’s demise.  He recalled again the hours he had sat with Simon and Christopher and mapped out strategies to catch the poacher.  “What could I have done differently?” he silently lamented again.

Henry and Benjamin had expected the judge to pronounce Eugene Fairham guilty as charged.  But hearing the judge’s words, “An eye for an eye, a life for a life, Eugene Fairham this day of our Lord, the fifth day of November 1854, I condemn you three days hence to hang by the neck until you are dead,” chilled both young men to the core.  Henry glanced at his former friend.  He saw none of the man’s prior spirited energy, his disdain for problems other men deemed insurmountable, his unbridled, sometimes callous humor, nor his unveiled love for life.  Now he sat in the prisoner’s box and appeared to be a man drained of self and bare of the will to live.  He sat motionless with his eyes cast to the floor.  For a moment Henry wondered if Eugene was cunning enough in that fashion to try to gain the court’s mercy.  “He’s play acted persuasively many times,” Henry murmured silently, but slowly shaking his head he banished the thought.

Muffled coughs in the back of the room and the suppressed sobs of a woman seated behind the prisoner’s box broke the silence.  It was then that Simon turned to Henry and Benjamin and whispered, “It will not bring my son back, men.  Your former friend, Henry, also is the son of a mother.  I ask you to plead for your former comrade in arms.”

Simon’s words touched Henry.  He and Benjamin had testified against Eugene, but after hearing the sentence pronounced, he wanted to shout out, “No, Your Honor, not that!”  But the remembrance of holding the mortally wounded Christopher in his arms and hearing his last words again, “I saw his face,” as the youth had dreamed the night before losing his life had sealed Henry’s mouth.  Now pity for his former friend welled up inside of him.

Henry saw Eugene turn to glance at the sobbing woman seated behind him.  He stared at her for a long moment.  Then in the stillness of the room the people heard him whisper painfully, “Mother – please don’t cry for me.”

Seated near the entrance to the courtroom and hidden from Eugene’s view Benjamin noticed a young woman, elegantly dressed in black, her face hidden by a dark veil, weeping silently.  Benjamin wondered who she might be and why the verdict touched her so deeply.

Henry saw Eugene turn and face the judge again.  He looked at a defeated man, one without hope, a man he had known to be full of life and energy, willing to lay down his life in the service of Her Majesty and his country.  He also noticed the woman dressed in black holding a white handkerchief in her hand weeping silently.  He too wondered who she might be.  She wore a veil, and he could not see her face.

Slowly Henry rose from his seat, “Your Honor,” he stammered.  “On behalf of the father of the youth who lost his young life by the hand Eugene Fairham, the condemned man, I plead for mercy for the prisoner.  My former friend and comrade in arms in our monarch’s service once served this nation with valor and distinction.  The horsemen had none more fearless than he was.”  Henry’s eyes fixed on the judge were filled with sadness.  He repeated once more almost in a whisper, “I plead for mercy for him.”

The judge, who was Samuel Carstairs, Benjamin and Henry’s father’s, friend was also a distant relative of Rebecca’s mother, Lady Lydia.  He stared at Henry for a long moment.  He muttered words Henry could not understand.  Turning quickly and casting a stern glance at Eugene the judge accidently dislodged his wig.  Righting it he turned his eyes to Benjamin.  His Lordship held Benjamin in high esteem.  He had met him at the christening of Henry’s son at Hawking Manor.  At that meeting with Benjamin he had learned of the young Carstairs’ years in North America, and how he had come to be on that faraway continent.  The story had intrigued him.  He, therefore, had sought Benjamin out during the christening festivities to learn all he could about the New World.  Now he commanded, “Stand, Benjamin Carstairs.”  Benjamin stood up quickly.  With his blue eyes, blonde hair, tall and trim youthful figure he looked handsome and strong.  “How say you?” his lordship demanded.

“Thank you for hearing my brother, Your Honor,” Benjamin began.  “The father of my friend, forever young, wishes that the blood of the one who took his son’s life will not be laid at the feet of his departed son.  Like my brother, I too plead for mercy for Eugene Fairham.”

“What would you have the sentence be then,” the judge called out leaning forward toward Benjamin from the bench above.

“Banish him, Your Honor,” Benjamin replied respectfully.

Mumbling to himself the judge addressed Henry again after considering what he had heard for a considerable time silently.  “At your behest it shall be done,” he finally said to Henry, and he banished Christopher’s murderer to the far away continent of Australia with this warning.  “Eugene Fairham, murderer of Christopher Lawson, should you ever set foot on Brittan’s fair soil, henceforth know you this, you shall receive mercy no more.”

Once Eugene had been led away the three men made their way from the courthouse to the market square and the nearby inn where they had quartered their horses while they were at the courthouse witnessing the trial.  They had stayed each night with Henry and Benjamin’s relative, Hannah, and Sydney, her husband, at their estate on the outskirts of Nottingham.  The men had said their goodbyes in the morning wishing to ride homeward soon after the end of the trial.  Once they were ready to depart from the inn and make for home, one of the stable hands approached them cautiously.  He gave a cough and began, “If I may be so bold gentlemen to give ye a warning, ye may do well to keep a sharp eye out fer a pack of knaves hereabouts.  Dey robbed travelers in de forests of the county.  The sheriff and his men been looking for de robbers fer days now.”

With their coats drawn tightly around them to keep out the chill of the wind the three men set out through the streets of Nottingham.  Five Oaks lay more than seven hours away by horse.  Leaving the city behind, they rode into the countryside silently.  Each man appeared occupied with his own thoughts, thoughts they all deemed too private to broadcast or share.  Beads of water slowly dripped from the fur of the animals from the rain falling mist-like from the darkened sky.

Simon, for much of the time, thought of Christopher, his beloved son that Eugene had taken ruthlessly from him.  But with the sight of the countryside before him his thoughts in time turned to his wife.  She had been his strength in the days following of his son’s murder.  He could almost feel her hand on his cheek again when she came to stand beside him at the window from where he had often watched Christopher teach his dog new tricks.  Before departing from Eagleridge to ride to the trial he had stopped and had stood there for a long moment, as if to see his son appear in the yard again.  His wife had placed an arm around him, stroked his cheek with the other hand and had whispered to him that she was sure she was with child again.  In his thoughts he heard her words again, “I pray to God, my dear husband, that when the sun shines hot again, I will be able to make you a present of a son who will be as dear to you as our Christopher was.”  A fleeting smile crossed his face.  In his heart he knew a son or another daughter would be a delight to him.

Henry’s heart and mind had been in turmoil during the trial.  Leaving the city his thoughts still remained greatly troubled.  He recalled holding Christopher’s lifeless body in his arms.  He saw again the hopelessness in Eugene’s face once the judge had condemned him to the gallows.  Sylvia’s words scribbled on a small piece of paper, “I was delivered of your daughter some few days ago,” punched into his thoughts also.  The knowledge that Louisa had fled from Hawking Manor, because of his unfaithfulness cried out in his heart and tormented him.  He longed to take his wife into his arms, to kiss her lips and neck tenderly, to caress her, to beg her to forgive him and wipe away his guilt.

He had dreamed on many now lonely nights of holding his son in his arms again.  He recalled the words of his father.  They still echoed in his thoughts and tore at his heart.  “Your wife and son have left you, but you may take some comfort in seeing your daughter and the woman who bore her.”  He remembered too that now on his return to Hawking Manor he might have to face David, Sylvia’s husband.  For a moment he wondered what David would do, if he found out that he, Henry, was the father of Sylvia’s, his wife’s, second child.  Having to look into David’s eyes weighed heavily on Henry’s thoughts.  He was numb to the cold of the day, but his thoughts chilled him to his core.  He glanced over to his brother riding silently besides him.  Benjamin’s nearness seemed like the only ray of light in his life at the moment, but even that light shone dimly within him, as he briefly recalled how as a youth he had often tormented him making his brother’s life unpleasant.

Unlike Henry’s face no clouds stood stamped on Benjamin’s mien.  He still rejoiced in his long sought after homecoming from the endlessness of the North American continent.  The nearness he now felt to all his loved ones that he had missed greatly while searching for Clarissa, his uncle’s daughter, among many tribes in the New World for several years still delighted him every waking moment.  That Clarissa and his friend Albert had discovered special feelings for each other pleased him greatly.  Most of all Rebecca and Willowdowne Park occupied his thoughts and started him dreaming.  In his mind he saw Rebecca ones more in Hawking Manor’s garden stretching up to a branch of the tree under which she stood attempting to reach some of its pink blossoms.  She had been a girl when he had been taken away from home by the ship the Fortune Four.  That day in the garden after his return, when he came upon her he saw a beautiful young woman.  He had realized at that moment, when he had greeted her, had run to her and had embraced her tenderly, that he now loved her not only as a young friend, but also as a man loved a woman.

“I love you, Rebecca,” he silently whispered riding along.  Her sweetly angelic face swept into his daydream.  Smiling to himself he wished he could touch her soft lips with his own.  He had never done so, but it had not been from lack of wishing for it.  He thought of the day when Lady Lydia with Rebecca and Victoria had come to Hawking Manor, and Rebecca had hoped to go riding with him alone, but on the spur of the moment many others had decided to accompany them.  To Rebecca’s chagrin Anne, Louisa’s sister, had ridden along Benjamin’s side glued to him from the outset.  To change her fortunes Rebecca had spurred on the horse she rode and wildly bolted past Benjamin.  He could not help but see the mare charge away with her.  He had feared for her safety.  Galloping after her in an attempt to rescue her, he quickly found that she had planned the horse’s flight.  Thinking of it Benjamin’s smile widened and inwardly his heart sang.  “Sweet and angelic with a touch of mischief thrown in she is.”

For a moment his thoughts turned to Nelson the good friend he had left at the American River where they had mined gold together.  They had travelled on a clipper ship from Boston to San Francisco.  From there they had ridden horses to the river where Nelson’s uncle had claimed gold could be found.

Benjamin had not only found gold at the American River, but at a chance meeting with Lord Chandler’s son, Reginald, he had acquired that family’s estate, Willowdowne Park a beautiful, old estate only hours removed from Hawking Manor.  Reginald had inherited the estate, but found it a burden.  He had come to the New World to seek adventure, and had offered to sell the estate to Benjamin.  Thinking of Willowdowne brought another smile to his lips.  “One day it will be home to Rebecca and me,” he whispered.

As the three riders rode along in the countryside in silence the rain lessened, but the clouds remained swollen.  Late in the afternoon the three men stopped at an inn in the small village they had entered.  A sign much blighted by the sun and weather announced the establishment to be the Fair Country Inn. There they intended to rest the horses and refresh themselves for an hour.  Seven other horses were tethered under the roof extending out from the inn.  Two surreys stood not far removed from them.  “We shall not be alone here,” Simon remarked as they dismounted and secured their animals.

Inside the inn five rowdy and unruly fellows came immediately to their attention.  Three small groups of other patrons appeared to have distanced themselves from these men.  These five were giving the innkeeper a great deal of trouble with their boisterous demands.  They also took liberties with the two barmaids. The women tried to keep out of their way, but the scoundrels grabbed at them every time they came near or past them.

Henry, who at first had advised Benjamin not to interfere, finally grew weary of the men’s mistreatment of the females and of their coarse speech.  He rose and slowly made his way to the table where the five sat.  The tallest and loudest of the bunch had reached out his big hand to the barmaid passing his table, and catching her pulled her onto his lap before Henry arrived.  Disregarding her squeals for freedom from his roving fingers he was about to slip his free hand into the top of her dress.

“My good man,” Henry began, “you will do well to give the damsel her freedom.  Her shrieks will rouse the dead and bring the sheriff before long.”

The tall man bared a grin that showed several of his teeth missing.  Those remaining were stained an ugly brown.  “Men, did yer ‘ear the gentleman?  A noble man ‘e is.  ‘E wants to rescue the wench,” he snarled.

While all five of the unruly group of men grinned at Henry, their eyes remained cold with distain.  “Yer might show ‘im, Tom, ‘ow we deal with gents,” one of the men growled.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: