Loveday Pride (extract)



The Loveday family

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Cornwall, May 1796

The morning mist that drifted inland along the inlet from the River Fowey cast a gloomy veil over the shipyard at Trevowan Hard.  Senara Loveday wrapped a shawl over her night robe as she stood by the bedroom window of Mariner’s House. Her earthy brown hair hung loose to her waist.As she contemplated the mist she could not suppress a shiver of unease and placed a hand protectively over her stomach that was rounded from the fifth month of her pregnancy.It was too early for the shipwrights to be at work but the silence of the yard was eerie.There was no sound of voices, or of stirrings from the dozen cottages, not even a bird sang or twittered in the enshrouding mist.

‘It was a new moon last night,’ she announced to her husband, who sat on the edge of the tester bed pulling on his boots.‘A time that manifests changes. This mist does not bode well.

Adam Loveday rose and tucked his shirt into the waistband of his breeches, his long dark hair falling free over his shoulders. He came to stand behind her and slid his arms around her waist, his lips brushing the nape of his neck. ‘A gypsy superstition,’ he chuckled. ‘The mist is often heavy this time of year.’

Senara shrugged and smiled up into her husband’s handsome face. In his late twenties and with his dark features and chiselled cheekbones he could pass for a gypsy himself – or the bold sea adventurer that he had once been. His skin was swarthy from his long hours of work in the shipyard and his sharp, intelligent eyes were the colour of the sea that he adored.Her love for him sharpened her alarm. They had faced many dangers and overcome many adversities together. Let her be mistaken and the mist not be an omen that the family would face further upheaval or disaster.

Her gypsy blood gave her a strong intuition about such matters and superstition was not to be mocked. She knew what the mist portended and her skin was clammy with deepening fear.

Senara had spoken aloud without thinking but her husband had burdens enough without her premonitions adding to them. Then a cry from the nursery had her hurrying to tend her children.

Adam was too preoccupied with the work he needed to tackle that day to pay much heed to Senara’s warning. Although he knew that his wife was rarely wrong about such matters, he chose to believe that it could be her pregnancy that made her over-fanciful.

A half-hour later he left the house to enter the cottage that had been his late father’s office in the yard. The mist was beginning to lift, outlining the dark forms of the cottages, forge, and work sheds and the jagged outline of the partly built cutter. The air was cold and damp; beads of moisture hung on reeds by the riverbank and dripped from the slate roofs. A patch of fading bluebells by the entrance to Mariner’s House was the only splash of colour amongst the grey gloom.

Half a dozen children, too young to be apprenticed at the yard, appeared carrying bundles of faggots they had collected from the wood to be burned on the kitchen ranges. They were singing and walking in a snake formation. Adam suppressed a grin. It was good to be young and carefree; he almost envied them. The responsibilities of the yard weighed heavy on his conscience. He was beginning to realise how great had been his father’s obligations. Not only was there the yard, but the estate Adam had purchased at Boscabel required constant attention too. He would have to ride to Boscabel later that morning to supervise the work needed in the fields. The old house was no longer a ruin but it would have to be further renovated before his family could make it their home. And it was his intention to be living there, finances permitting, by the time his fourth child was born at the end of summer.

He suppressed a sigh. Lack of finances was a constant problem every quarter-day when he needed to find the resources to pay the wages of farmhands and shipwrights. Two swans flew past the office to land on the river. This side of the river the ground was flat but across the narrow waterway the bank rose steeply and was overhung with trees.

He turned his attention to the yard. The dry dock built at great expense by his father was empty and a depressing sight. He then surveyed the outline of the cutter. The outer frame was built but it would be many weeks before the decks and fittings were finished. Only when it was launched and the sea trials completed to his satisfaction would the final payment be received. Further along the riverbank a keel for a brigantine rested in its cradle of scaffolding. The timbers were darkening with age and work had stopped on her. To make the yard appear more prosperous, when there had been no orders on their books, Adam had ordered the keel to be laid down but no customer had been found for her.

The order for the cutter had saved the shipyard from ruin. But at what cost? The client was the smuggler Harry Sawle. A man Adam had little liking or respect for, and a man who had been partly responsible for the death of Adam’s father. He had wanted no dealings with Sawle, feeling it would be a betrayal of Edward Loveday’s memory. But without the commission for the cutter the shipyard would have had to close. It had been in the family for four generations and that would have been a greater betrayal of his ancestors. In the circumstances he believed his father would understand.

Another contact of Sawle’s, the agent from Guernsey who supplied his contraband, had also ordered a cutter. Some years earlier the yard had built a cutter Challenger on the same lines, for the excise office to sail in these waters, and her speed had captured many smugglers’ sloops or prevented them from landing their cargoes.

His morning work completed, Adam returned to the house and found his wife in the kitchen. She was holding his younger son, Joel, and both of them were smeared with flour. The year-old toddler looked like a ghostly spectre; flour was in his dark curly hair and covered his clothing. The sight of them restored his humour and he laughed.

‘Joel has been up to mischief again,’ he observed grinning broadly. ‘Was it him alone or did he embroil Nathan and his twin?’

‘This monster toddled into the kitchen and tipped over the flour bin and smeared it all over the floor before I could stop him. Of course Nathan joined in but Rhianne showed her usual good sense by staying out of the kitchen as she has been told. I can hardly blame Nathan, who is not much more than a toddler himself.’Characteristically, she laughed. ‘What am I to do with Joel? He is into everything and he leads Nathan into trouble.’

‘The boys have the Loveday blood,’ Adam said with pride. ‘My great-grandfather was a buccaneer and you are half-gypsy. We cannot expect them to be saints.’

Joel kicked and wriggled to be free of his mother’s hold. Senara lowered him to the ground but kept a firm clasp of his hand.With her free hand she rubbed her stomach. ‘Then I pray that when this baby is born it will take after Rhianne, or I shall grow grey before my time.’ It was said with laughter in her voice. Then as she stared lovingly into her husband’s eyes, her expression became serious. ‘You look worried, my love. I should not have spoken my thoughts to you this morning. The mist has dispersed.’ She glanced out of the window at the overcast sky.

Adam shrugged. ‘It is not that. Fate has dealt our family many blows in recent years and we have surmounted them. There is much to be done. I ride now to Boscabel.’

‘Must you drive yourself so hard? I am content living here in the yard.’

You and the children deserve better.’ His eyes hardened with resolve. ‘The new baby will be born at Boscabel.’

There was a harshness to his tone that dismayed Senara. Adam was driven by his rivalry with his twin St John. On Edward’s death Adam had become master of the shipyard and St John had inherited the estate and family home at Trevowan… the home that he adored… The home that Adam had not visited since his twin had become its master and the old rivalry between them had reignited. The twins had not spoken in months.

Boscabel would only ever be a replacement to Adam for Trevowan, but it had become an obsession to him that his new home would surpass Trevowan in every way. Until the death of Edward Loveday the estate and yard had always passed to the eldest son – and St John had come into the world three minutes before Adam. But St John was no shipwright, whilst Adam loved the sea and ships. His designs for the brigantine and cutter had saved the yard from ruin several years ago. St John was a dissolute and would have sold the yard to pay his gambling debts. In his resentment St John believed that it was his birthright and that Adam had stolen it from him by inveigling his way into their father’s favour with his ship designs.

St John now hated Adam. The yard had supported the estate in times of bad harvest. With Trevowan also facing financial problems St John must work as hard on the land as any common labourer to ensure that it prospered.

When Adam rode to Boscabel Senara did not accompany him, as one of the carpentry apprentices had cut his hand on a saw and required her attention. The hand had needed several stitches and despite a tisane to dull the pain the lad had passed out. He would be unable to use his hand for some days and Senara had bandaged it and put his arm in a sling.

As she walked the apprentice to the door of her room where she tended her patients, which had been built on to the side of Mariner’s House, she heard a voice hailing the yard from a sloop on the inlet of the River Fowey. The single-masted vessel was furling its sail as it glided towards the jetty of Trevowan Hard. A well-dressed man in a powdered wig stood with two women ready to disembark.

Senara did not recognise them, but in Adam’s absence she pulled off her apron and ran a hand over her hair coiled in a chignon to ensure that it was tidy. If their visitors were an important customer and his family she would have to welcome and entertain them until her husband returned.

The man stepped on to the jetty and assisted his two companions.He was elderly and one of the women had grey hair. The second woman was blonde and beautiful. She stared around the yard with a haughty air and undisguised impatience.

Ben Mumford, the master shipwright, hurried to greet them. Two sailors on the sloop carried several valises on to the jetty, then returned to the sloop which pulled away into the mid-channel of the inlet, sailing back towards Fowey.

Puzzled, Senara walked towards their visitors. The man removed his hat and bowed to her.

Ben Mumford straightened his stooped shoulders, and scratched his wide side-whiskers, his craggy face deferential although his eyes were shadowed and wary. ‘Mr Penhaligan, this be Mrs Senara Loveday.’

‘It is a pleasure to meet you at last, my dear cousin. Garfield Penhaligan at your service,’ he drawled in an unfamiliar accent, and it took a moment for Senara to recall that this was Adam’s father’s cousin, whom her husband and St John had visited in Virginia. Adam had returned from the voyage with much needed contracts to transport tobacco to England on his ship Pegasus. St John had spent another year in Virginia to allow the scandal to die down following his trial for the suspected murder of a smuggler. He had been found innocent but his trial had lost them customers for new ships.

Senara recovered from her surprise. They had received no word that the Penhaligans were to visit England.

This is an unexpected pleasure, sir. Adam is away from home at the moment but I am anticipating his return within the hour.’

‘We thought to surprise you.’ Mr Penhaligan raised her hand to his lips. ‘We will of course be staying at Trevowan.’ He smiled broadly. ‘Permit me to introduce my sister Susannah and this is my niece Desiree Richmond.’

The older woman returned Senara’s smile but Desiree’s stare was assessing, her smile false. Her travelling outfit was of the finest burgundy velvet edged with gold braid, and diamonds glittered on her fingers and ears. Senara felt a tingle of apprehension, sensing this woman could cause trouble within the family. She brushed her foreboding aside, aware of her duties as hostess.

‘Welcome to Trevowan Hard. Please come to the house. I will send word to Trevowan for St John to send a carriage for you. Though I am not sure whether he is in residence. He spends much of his time in Truro or Bodmin. You find us ill prepared for guests.'

At Mr Penhaligan’s frown, she hastily explained. ‘Not that this is not a great pleasure. Unfortunately, Amelia, Edward’s widow, is presently in London but Aunt Elspeth is at Trevowan.’

‘It would be a cruel disappointment if St John is from home,’ Garfield said smoothly. ‘I am sure you will appreciate that Desiree is eager to be reunited with her fiancé.’

Senara paled at the shock of his words. Her fears that disaster was about to strike the family were realised. She was relieved that Ben Mumford had left them to resume his work and that none of the other workers in the yard had overheard Garfield.

Even she was not sure that she had heard him correctly. St John had done many foolish and irresponsible things in the past. But surely he would not have risked such dishonour? How could this young woman be St John’s fiancée when he was already married and his wife still living?