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Authors: Erika Robuck

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BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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“First of all, you are not a
stranger,” said Catherine.
 
“You spent a
great deal of time at Eden,
and because my father is an abysmal judge of character, he trusts you
completely.
 
Second, we would have a
chaperone in our carriage driver.
 
Finally, standards of decorum on the islands are quite different from
those in England.
 
We are a liberal society as you have well
noticed.”

           
James considered her arguments and
shook his head as she led him toward the carriages parked in front of the
hotel.
 

           
“I cannot believe I am going to be a
party to this,” mumbled James.

 

           

The
pub was a rickety structure of wind-beaten wood situated overlooking Gallows Bay.
 
Music spilled out of the shuttered doors into the street where the
carriage came to a stop.
 
James helped Catherine
down from the carriage and into the dark paneled interior of the pub.
 
Candles flickered and danced to the lively
beat of the instruments as James led Catherine to a well-shadowed table near
the musicians.
 
 
Several people glanced at Catherine with mild interest, but her
appearance went widely unnoticed.
 
James
brushed off her seat before allowing her to sit, and then ordered drinks.

     
     
The
pub provided a stark contrast to the stuffy and elegant setting from which they
had just come, and James looked into Catherine’s face to see if she regretted
venturing to the pub.
 
His eyes were
greeted with Catherine’s glowing face and total ease of posture.
 
He smiled, shook his head, and turned back to
the music.

           
“Do you know why the bay is called Gallows Bay?” asked Catherine.

           
“I can only assume it’s to do with
hangings.”

           
“Pirate hangings.
 
Centuries ago pirates could be regularly seen
dangling over the bay—hanged for their misdeeds.
 
Pirates are still a bit of a problem
throughout the Caribbean, though less so now
than years ago.”

           
“You are a wealth of island lore.”

           
Catherine smiled and then turned to
watch the dancers.
 
Several couples
weaved in and out of one another.
 
The
women’s clothing was dirty and scant, and the men looked and smelled as if they
needed baths.
 
One particularly grimy and
diffident young man approached Catherine and solicited her hand to join in the
dance.
 
She joined him while James looked
on with amusement, until he slipped onto the dance floor and joined the group.

           
After a few circles around the dance
floor with the young man, Catherine found herself pushed into James.
 
He smiled and moved back like a gentleman,
but Catherine pulled him closer.
 
Unlike
her dance with Edward, Catherine had no wish to pull away.

           
“I think I like your liberal society,”
said James.

           
“Then stay.”

           
“Don’t tempt me.”
 

           
The time passed quickly and
Catherine knew they must take leave of the pub.
 
She gave her small bouquet to the young man and bade the pub’s patrons
farewell as she boarded the carriage and set off with James back toward the
Bath Hotel.
 
They didn’t speak on the
ride back, but instead let their hands fall together on the seat between them.

           

 

The
wind blew the stench of pub smoke, alcohol, and perspiration from Catherine and
James, and the two were purified by the time they arrived back at the
hotel.
 
They snuck in and found their
fathers who were engaged in amiable conversation near the rear of the
ballroom.
 

           
“Catherine!” exclaimed Cecil.
 
“We had lost you in the crowd for a spell.”

           
“We lost ourselves in the crowd,
Father,” smiled Catherine.
 
“And we had
to step out for a bit of fresh air.”

           
“It is rather stuffy in here.”

           
“It was a lovely ball,” remarked Albert.
 
“The entertainment and food rivaled that of
the London
society.”

           
As the crowd began to disperse, the
Dalls and Silwells exchanged farewells.
 
Catherine was glad that she was able to enjoy the evening, but the road
back to Eden
reminded her of her troubles, and her mood again blackened.
 
She reached into her evening bag and ran her
fingers over the small slip of paper that James had given her, mentally
weighing the consequences of being found attending the meeting named on its
surface.

 

 

A
series of thunderous knocks on the heavy oak front door of Eden awoke Catherine and her father.
 
She and Cecil stumbled down the stairs,
holding candles—Catherine in her dressing gown and Cecil in the rumpled clothes
in which he had passed out earlier that evening.
 
Thomas emerged from his room behind the
stairs and met them in the foyer.
 
Cecil
commanded Catherine to stand back in the parlor as he cocked his musket and
pointed it at the door.
 
Thomas loosened
the locks, and as the heavy bolts slid out of their restraints, Edward Ewing
announced himself through the door.
 
Cecil put down the gun and allowed him entrance.

           
Edward was winded and covered in
perspiration.
 
His normally meticulous
appearance was disheveled from the hurried manner in which he must have dressed.
His horse stood panting on the crushed shells of the drive next to Bartholomew
and several of their slaves on horseback.
 
The group looked strange and ghostly white in the moonlight.
 
           

“It’s the Hall plantation,” said Edward.
 
“The mills, the boiling house, the
storehouse—it’s all on fire.
 
We need you
and every able-bodied male on the plantation.”

           
Catherine gasped, and Edward, just
noticing her in the shadows, nodded his head.

           
“I’ll be right there,” said Cecil.
 
“I must fetch Phinneas and the rest.
 
Thomas will stay with Catherine.”

           
Edward again looked at Catherine and
nodded.
 
As quickly as he’d arrived, he
was gone.

           
“Catherine, take the musket and keep
it with you at all times,” said Cecil.
 
“I
suspect foul play is at work here.
 
The
Council’s ruling on thatched houses was made law on Friday, and many small
planters are angry.”
 

           
“Please let me go with you, Father.”

           
“You must be out of your mind,
Catherine.
 
You must learn that there are
situations that simply aren’t suitable for your attendance.”

           
“Father, I will be safer near you
than at Eden by
myself.
 
Besides, the Hall women may need
support.”

           
Cecil considered his daughter’s
words.

           
“You raise a good point,” he said.
 
“If there was foul play, you would not be
safe here with most of the able-bodied men gone.
 
Dress quickly, there isn’t time to spare.”

           
Catherine ran up the stairs,
dressed, and again ran down the great staircase.
 
She collided with Phinneas in the foyer, and
had to remove herself from his clammy hands.
  
He was thick with the odors of stale tobacco,
sweat, and old rum.
 
His shirt clung to
his body in sticky patches.

           
“Where do you think you’re going?”

           
“Father said I could accompany him
to the Hall plantation.”

           
Phinneas eyed Catherine as if she
were mad.

           
“I will be able to comfort the Hall
women, and I’ll be safer there.”

           
Phinneas was about to protest when
Cecil rounded the corner and confirmed what Catherine had reported.
 
He ushered them all outside where three
horses were waiting, along with twenty slaves on horseback, two-by-two.

           
“Is this all you summoned,
Phinneas?” asked Cecil.
 

           
“I wanted the others to remain at Eden and guard the
mills.
 
If foul play is at work we cannot
afford to leave the buildings unguarded.”

           
“Excellent, Phinneas.”

           
The riders made a swift exit, and
clopped down the dirt road under the quarter moon at a rapid pace.
  
Catherine was charged with adrenaline as she
raced to the Hall plantation.
 
The moist,
tropical air filled her lungs and her heart pounded with fear and excitement.
 

The group quickly arrived at the Hall
plantation.
 
Cecil commanded Catherine to
enter the plantation from the front as he and the others took the path down to
the mills, and she veered toward the palm tree lined drive alone.
 
As the horses were swallowed by the path,
Catherine was left to venture to the house in solitude.
 
The acrid smell of the burning buildings
reached her as she dismounted her horse and tied him to a nearby post. She
patted his mane and whispered in his ear as he found his breath, considering
what she would do next.
 

BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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