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Authors: Winston Graham

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The Black Moon

Table of Contents

 

WINSTON GRAHAM

The
Black Moon

 

A Novel of Cornwall

1794-5

First published in 1973 by William Collins Sons & Co Ltd
First issued in Fontana Books '1975

 

Copyright
© Winston Graham,
1973

 

Made` and printed in Great Britain by ; William Collins Sons
& Co
Ltd Glasgow

BOOK ONE
CHAPTER ONE

 

Elizabeth Warleggan was delivered of the first child of her new marriage at
Trenwith
House
in
the middle
of February, 1794. It was an occasion of some tension and anxiety.

Throughout it had been understood and agreed between Elizabeth and her new husband that the confinement should take place at their town house, where the best me
dical attention wags available; but Truro had been
pestilentia
l for months, first with summer
cholera which had persisted right through to Christmas, and then; more lately with influenza and measles. There ha
d seemed no hurry. Dr Behenna,
who, rode out weekly to see-his patient, assured them that there was no
hurry.

 

And so possibly there would not have been, but on the evening of the thirteenth, which was a Thursday, Elizabeth slipped
and fell
while going to her
room. The fine stone staircase
leading up from the great hall ran into a typically dark Tudor corridor from which the two main bedrooms of the house were reached by a flight of five more steps. Elizabeth
caught her
foot in the rough edge of the top stair and fell to the bottom. No one saw her, though two of the servants heard her cry out and the noise of her fall; and one of them, hurrying along the corridor with a
warming pan,
came upon her mistress lying like a broken flower across the bottom step.

Immediately
-
the house
was
in
panic.
George, fetched from the winter parlour, came heart in mouth, picked up his fainting wife and carried her to bed. As Dr Dwight Enys was still at sea, the only medical man within easy reach was old Thomas Choake, so he was, summoned for lack of a better, while another servant
was sent galloping to fetch Dr
Behenna.

Except for a bruised elbow and a turned ankle, Elizabeth at first
seemed no worse, and after
a generous bleeding she was gi
ven a warm
cordial and settled off to sleep. George disliked almost everything about Choake: his pompous conceit, his boasted prowess
in the hunting field, his neck-or—
nothing surgery, his simpering wife, and his Whig opinions; but he
made the best of it, gave the old man supper and suggested he, should stay the night. Choake, who had not been inside the house since Francis Poldark died, stiffly agreed.

It was a grey meal. Mrs Chynoweth, Elizabeth's mother, in spite of her blind eye, lame leg and stumbling tongue, had refused food and insisted on staying in her daughter's room to be there if she woke; so only old Jonathan Chynoweth joined the other two men at the table. Talk was of the war with France, which Choake, following his hero Fox, opposed, of Edward Pellew's exploits at sea, of the Duke of York's' inept display in Flanders, of the reign of terror in Lyons, of
the scarcity of
corn, of the rising price of tin and copp
er. George despised both the m
en he sat with and was mainly silent listening to them wrangling, Choake's hoarse growl,
Chynoweth's throaty tenor. For
a time, in his
mind
the anxiety had passed. Elizabeth had shaken herself, nothing more. But she must no
t be so abominably careless of
herself. Often recently she had done what George considered foolhardy, reckless things, while carrying this precious burden, this first fruit of their
marri
age. One perhaps expected her to be depressed, temperamental, given to quick tears. One did not expect her to risk her life attempting to ride a hors
e which had been long
in the stable and was unreliable at the best of times. One did not expect
to find her
lifting heavy books
on to a high shelf.
One did
not expect . .

It was a new side to her personality. George was always discovering new sides to h
er; some fascinated, some, like
this, disturbed. Fr
om the first moment he set eyes
on her so many years ago, he had always wanted her, but perhaps wanted her most as a co
llector, as a connoisseur wants
the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. Since their marriage possession had familiarized but not spoiled the image. On the contrary, he had come to know her for the first time. If real love was in his nature, then he loved his wife.

On these calm reflections, breaking them up like a stone cast in a pool, interrupting the two stupid old men and their, ill-informed chatter, came a servant to say that the mistress was awake again and had a bad pain.

Dr Behenna arrived at
midnight, having left his Truro
pat
ients to the blundering mercies
of his assistant. Choake did not offer to leave, and George let him stay. His fee was unimportant.

Daniel Behenna was a youngish man, still the right side of
forty, stout, short and authoritative, and had come to Truro only a few
years ago.
George Warleggan was a fairly shrewd judge, and he perceived that the wide demand for Dr Behenna's services in and around Truro might, at least in part, be a matter of personality and address. Nevertheless, he had had some startling successes with his new methods, and, above all, he had studied midwifery under one of the most distinguished of London p
hysicians. He seemed far to be
preferred to any other doctor within a day's ride.

After a short examination, of the patient, he came
out and told George that Mrs
Warleggan's pains were certainly birth pangs. He described these as `wandering' but otherwise normal. Quite clearly the, child was now going to be premature, but it was still alive. Mrs Warleggan was standing the pains well and, although
there would clearly be
a greater risk now, he had every reason to be confident of
the
outcome.

At noon on the following
days in the worst o
f George's anxiety, his parents
turned up, having nearly wrecked their coach traversing the winter tracks. They had been staying in town when th
e news reached, them. Nicholas Warleggan said they
felt it their duty to be with him at such a time. Trenwith, apart from,
its few splendid
entertaining rooms, was not a big house by Elizabethan standards, and the secondary bedrooms were small and dark. George was barely polite to his parents and sent them off with a servant to settle in a cold room as best they could.

Elizabeth continued to have severe spasmodic pa
ins, but at lengthy intervals,
and the, presentation, said D
r Behenna, although normal was
far too slow. He took tea, with the family at five and quoted from Galen, Hlppocrates and Simon of Athens. The third, stage of pregnancy had, he said,
now begun, but if there was no issue shortly he
had decided to use forceps since, he said, the mere irritation of these when applied, to the child would be likely to, stimulate
the labour pains and provoke a natural
birth.

But providence was on the mother's side, and at six the pains became more fr
equent without stimulation. At
a quarter after eight she was delivered of a baby boy, alive and well. There was a total eclipse of the moon at the time.

 

A little later George was allowed up to see his wife and son. Elizabeth lay in bed like a clipped angel, her fair hair streaming across the pillow, her fa
ce limp and linen-pale but her eyes
for the first time for weeks - smiling, Until then George
had not realized how long it had been. He bent and kissed her damp forehead and then went across to peer at the wisp of humanity lying red-faced and trussed like a mummy in its cradle. His son. The fortune whose foundations Nicholas Warleggan had laid thirty-five years ago when he began tin smelting in the Idless valley had developed and multiplied until it included commercial, mining and banking interests which stretched as far as Plymouth and Barnstaple. George in the last ten years had been responsible for much of the later expansion. The child born today; if, he survived the hazards of infancy, would inherit it all.

George knew well enough that his marriage to Elizabeth Poldark had been a great disappointment to his parents: Nicholas had married Mary Lashbrook, a miller's daughter with a nest-egg and no education - even today it showed plainly
-
but they had had very different ambitions for their son. He had had the education, he had the money; he was able to mix in circles completely closed to Nicholas as a young man
- not entirely open to Nicholas even now. They had invited r
ich and eligible girls to their
country seat at Cardew; they had risked snubs by holding, parties for the titled and the well connected at their town house in Truro. They had asked questions and waited anxiously for the right name to drop
from, his lips;
as they felt sure in the end it mus
t. He had a strong personal eye
to social advancement. A title wo
uld have been all. Even a small title. `Mr George'
and the Hon. Mrs Mary Warleggan.' How nice even that would have sounded. Instead, after remaining unmarried until he was thirty, the age of discretion surely for a ma
n who had been discreet even as
a youth; now a 'clever, calculating, able man with his ever
y thought, turned towards power
and advancement, he had chosen to marry the delicate, impoverished widow of Francis Poldark:

Not, of course, that Elizabeth's pedig
ree was anything but impeccably
ancient and carried a considerable, prestige in the county. In the ninth century one, John Trevelizek, had given a third of his, land to his, younger son, who took the name of Chynoweth, which meant New House. The elder son had died without issue, so that all had come to the younger. This first known Chynoweth had died in AD 889. It was doubtful, if
the King of England could, go
back so far. But George knew how his father felt. The stock was exhausted: look only at Elizabeth's father to see that. And in spite of their long lineage the Chynoweths had never
done much more than survive. They had
never attained distinction, nor even achieved the only worthwhile alternative available to mediocrity, the wealthy marriage. The nearest to eminence was an ancestor who had been a squire to Piers Gavesto
n, and that was not altogether
a notable recommendation. Although always known to the great families of Cornwall, they had never had any personal or family link with them.

But Elizabeth was
beautiful; and she had never seemed more so than now. Visited at discreet intervals by her various relations and friends, she looked as lovely, as frail, and as unspotted, by life as if she were twenty, not thirty, and as if this were her first marriage and her first confinement, not her second time round.

Among Elizabeth's first visitors was of course her fatherin-law, and after, he had kissed her and asked after her condition and admired his, grandson, Nicholas Warleggan, closed the heavy oak door of the bedroom behind him,
carefully descended the almost
fatal five stairs, and walked heavily along the floor-creaking corridor to the main staircas
e and the great windowed hall. Perhaps, he thought, he should
not be too unsatisfied. Here at least was the
succession he had desired, His daughter-in-law
had done, all that could be asked of her. And perhap
s the Warleggans now no, longer
needed, and in the future still less would need, powerful family connections. They need not woo
the titled families of Cornwall
: the families soon enough would be glad to accept them. They were strong enough in their own right. George's marriage to Elizabeth was already proving something of an asset - for she was definitely, one of them - and a title mig
ht come their way by some other
means:
a seat in Parliam
ent, large, monetary, gifts, to
one or oth
er of the borough mongers ....
.. This war would certainly help. Those middl
emen owning and, marketing the
commodities could not fail to prosper, Bankin
g facilities would be in ever,
greater demand. The
price of tin had risen £5 a ton
last week:

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