Read The Pirate's Widow Online

Authors: Sandra DuBay

The Pirate's Widow

 
 
 

The Pirate’s
Widow

 

By

 

Sandra DuBay

 
 
 

© 2014 All Rights Reserved

 
 

Also by Sandra DuBay:

Beneath
A Smuggler’s Moon

By
Love Betrayed

Nightrider

Quicksilver

Tempest

Wilder
Shores of Love

Scarlet
Surrender

Burn
On, Sweet Fire

By
Love Beguiled

Where
Passion Dwells

In
Passion’s Shadow

Whispers
of Passion

Fidelity’s
Flight

Flame
of Fidelity

Mistress
of the Sun King

The
Claverleigh Curse

Writing as Caroline
Chase:

Scoundrel’s
Caress

Writing as J.K. Crane:

Catherine’s
Curl

Graves’
Landing

 
 
 
 
 

Chapter One

Hyacinth Cottage

St. Swithin, Cornwall

1721

 

  
The sea was wild that night.
 
Caroline Llewellyn called Callie by those who
knew and loved her, could hear it crashing on the shore at the base of the
cliff on which her cottage stood.
 
And
even though she was snug in her bed, if she closed her eyes she could almost
believe she was once more on the deck of the
Crimson Vengeance
, the notorious pirate ship captained by Kit
Llewellyn, her husband.

  
But those days were long past.
 
Kit Llewellyn was dead, hanged in London at
Execution Dock with his crew and left dangling at the end of a rope until three
tides had washed over that once-handsome face.
 
Callie should have been there beside him; she had been tried, found
guilty, and sentenced to death and but for the melee that had broken out on the
way to the gallows, she would have been the first woman hanged for piracy in
living memory.
 
Anne Bonney and Mary Read
had been convicted the year before but both had pleaded their bellies and so
escaped the hangman’s noose.

  
The crowds had been enormous that day when
the procession left Marchalsea Prison heading for Wapping and Execution
Dock.
 
Callie wondered if it was vain of
her to think that their numbers were swelled because of her.
 
Pirate executions were not uncommon but to
see a female pirate hanged, the paramour of the infamous Kit Llewellyn no less,
she thought that might have been something to draw jaded Londoners out of their
homes on a gloomy summer day.

  
The procession left Marchalsea at mid-morning
led by the High Court Marshal mounted on a fine black horse, the silver oar
that bespoke the authority of the Admiralty prominently displayed.
 
Two deputy marshals followed just in front of
the cart that carried Callie, Kit, and five of Kit’s crewmen.
 
A chaplain accompanied them but no one
availed themselves of his services.
 
They
were surrounded by guards but even so, the cart stopped at a public house along
the way to allow the prisoners to have the customary quart of ale to which all
those on their way to the gallows were entitled.

  
It was as they were nearing Execution Dock
that the explosion came.
 
A barrel of
gunpowder exploded with no warning on a nearby dock.
 
The jeers of the crowd became screams of
panic.
 
The horses reared and plunged;
several spectators were trampled beneath their hooves and the motley gathering
of those who had come to bid farewell to the infamous Kit Llewellyn and his
raven-haired doxy, scattered, running this way and that, unsure if they were
under attack.

  
While pandemonium reigned, Callie found
herself thrown from the cart.
 
The rope
binding her wrists was cut, she did not know by whom, but she was free.
 
She looked up at Kit, still bound in the
cart, so tall and handsome.
 
She tried to
fight her way to him.
 
If she could reach
him, she thought, she could free him as well and they could lose themselves in
the fracas.
 
But he shook his head.

  
“Run, damn you!”
 
His deep voice was barely audible above the
screams of the crowd.
 
“Run!”

  
The crowd was calming, the marshals
reforming the procession, bringing order out of the chaos.
 
Callie had one chance, only one, to make good
her escape.
 
With a last look at the man
to whom she’d pledged herself body and soul, with whom she’d sailed the oceans,
the scourge of seafarers the world over, she pushed her way into the milling
throng and disappeared.

  
She was a few streets away when someone
seized her skirts.
 
Panicking, she tried
to jerk them away but they were held fast and a voice cried:
 
“Callie, Callie stop, it’s Jem.”

  
She looked down into the bright blue eyes
and freckled face of young Jem Wicke.
 
He’d been a passenger on a merchant ship Kit had taken, traveling with
his mother to take up residence with his stepfather, a planter in Jamaica.
 
He’d begged Kit to allow him to join the
crew, swearing that his stepfather beat him and his mother cared little about
him.
 
The mother did not seem overly
alarmed at the thought of her boy running away to become a buccaneer and so Kit
had agreed, though the boy was but eight years old at the time.
 
He’d been with them aboard the
Crimson Vengeance
for nearly two years
acting as Kit’s cabin boy and as a powder monkey when they went into
battle.
 
He’d been ashore when the
Crimson Vengeance
had been captured by
the British Navy and so had escaped the gallows.
 
Callie had never thought to see him again and
yet, here he was.

  
“We’ve got to get the captain!” he cried,
still holding onto her skirt.
 
“We’ve got
to save him.”

  
“We can’t, Jem,” she told him.
 
“If we go back there, they’ll just hang us
too.”

  
“We can’t just leave him,” he insisted,
tears filling his blue eyes.

  
Callie took him by the narrow
shoulders.
 
“We have to, Jem.
 
Kit told me to run when I was thrown from the
wagon.
 
He wanted me to get away.
 
He’d want you to get away as well.
 
Come on, they’ll be looking for us.
 
You were known to be a member of Kit’s crew,
you know.
 
They condemned you in
absentia.
 
We’ve got to get out of
London.”

  
Callie heard later that Kit died a good
death.
 
Proud and unrepentant, he took
his turn on the gallows with his men and was left for the tides to wash
over.
 
They looked for Callie for days,
searching the London slums even using bloodhounds to try and track her to no
avail.
 
The superstitious said the Devil
himself had come up from Hell to take her soul away.
 
The truth was less divine . . . she stole a
cloak and Jem lifted a purse of gold from a man insensible with drink in a
public house and they boarded a mail coach.
 
They were out of London before Kit’s body had been taken down from the
gibbet where he’d met his end.

  
They made their way to Cornwall where, in
the crypt of an ancient, ruined chapel overlooking the sea, Callie filled a bag
with gold from the treasure Kit had hidden there, took a brace of pistols, a
pair of swords and a dirk for herself and one for Jem.

  
“Do you know where all Kit’s treasure caches
are?” Jem asked, tucking the sharp dagger into his belt.

  
“No,” she replied, dropping a pair of pearl
earbobs and a string of black pearls into her bag.
 
“Only Kit knew where they all were.
 
He wrote them all down in the journal he kept
on the
Vengeance
.
 
I hope the navy doesn’t find it when they
start tearing the ship apart.”

  
“Thievin’ bastards,” Jem muttered,
forgetting no doubt that the
Crimson
Vengeance
itself had once been a merchantman called the
Seabird
until Kit had captured it and,
deciding that it was superior to his own ship, had taken it for himself.
 
“What will we do, Callie?”

 
“Start a new life.”

  
“Here?”

  
She nodded.
 
“We can’t go back to the sea now, Jem.
 
I don’t want to go back without Kit and you . . . well, they’ve hanged
boys younger than you, you know.
 
Someday, when you’re grown, I will give you your share of Kit’s treasure
and you can do what you like, go where you will, be whatever you want.
 
But for now, we need to remake ourselves,
swathe ourselves in respectability and let the world forget that Jem Wicke and
Callie Llewellyn exist.”

  
“Forget Kit?” Jem asked.

  
Callie smiled and touched his cheek.
 
“We’ll never forget Kit. We’ll keep him in
our hearts.”

  
Jem nodded silently but she knew he was
loathe to leave the past behind with its adventure and danger and wild
excitement.

  
For herself, had Kit not gone to the
gallows, she would still be at his side, and he would still be striding across
the deck of his ship.
 
It had taken an
Admiralty noose to end Kit’s love affair with the sea.
 
Willingly she would have gone with him but he
had told her to run and she had obeyed and now, she knew, he would approve of
her taking young Jem to the furthermost reaches of Cornwall and shielding them
both from the judging world with its harsh and deadly justice.

 

Chapter Two

  
The village of St. Swithin lay on the
Cornish coast not far from Penzance. The cottage which the Misses Bates, a pair
of middle aged spinsters, had to let stood on a rocky promontory overlooking
the sea.
 
The two ladies, similarly
short, plump, and rosy cheeked, arrived to welcome Callie and Jem as their few
possessions were being carried inside.

  
“Welcome to Hyacinth Cottage,” the rounder
of the two said brightly as they entered the cottage.
 
“I am Sophie Bates and this is my sister,
Penelope.”

  
“How do you do,” Callie replied,
smiling.
 
“I am Caroline Jenkins.
 
My son, Jem, is there, on the beach.”

  
“You are in mourning,” Miss Penelope
observed.
 
“How long has it been since
the reverend was taken to his reward, my dear?”

  
In the letters they’d exchanged with regard
to the cottage, Callie had portrayed herself as a recent widow, her husband,
the Reverend Mr. Jenkins, having died a few months previously and his living
gone to another, so she was in need of a home on modest terms for herself and
her young son.

  
“Nearly a year,” she answered, wondering
what Kit would think if he knew she was passing herself off as the widow of a
man of the cloth.
 
“He was some years my
senior.”

  
“Are you certain you and your son will not
be too lonely out here?” Miss Sophie asked.

 
“Not at all,” Callie answered solemnly.
 
“A peaceful and quiet life, that’s all we
desire.”

It
seemed in the stillness she could hear Kit’s amused chuckle.

  
“Well that’s what you’ll have, to be sure,”
Miss Sophie assured her.
 
“But I hope you
won’t keep too much to yourself.
 
I’m
certain your husband was a wonderful man, but you are young and you must not
think your life is over.”

  
“I’m sure you are right.”

  
“And who is this young gentleman?” Miss
Penelope asked, as Jem approached, the sword he’d chosen from among Kit’s
treasure in his hand.

  
“This is Jem,” Callie told the ladies, “my
son.”

  
“How do you do, young master Jem,” Miss
Sophie said, ruffling Jem’s red hair.

  
“How do you do, ma’am,” Jem replied.
 

  
“I see you are prepared, young sir, to
protect your mother,” Miss Penelope said.
 
“There are smugglers hereabouts.
 
These cliffs are honeycombed with tunnels that have been used for
centuries by smugglers and pirates, and all manner of rogues.”

  
“If they try to trouble me, I’ll run the
poxy bastards through,” Jem vowed.

 
“Oh my!” Miss Sophie and Miss Penelope both
laughed and Miss Sophie patted Jem’s cheek.
 
“That’s the spirit, my lad.
 
You’ll look after your mother, won’t you?”

  
“That I will, ma’am,” he agreed, “or my
name’s not Jem . . .” Callie held her breath.
 
“. . . Jenkins,” he finished.

  
“That’s fine, Jem,” Miss Sophie said.
 
She watched him fondly as he disappeared into
the cottage.
 
“He’s a fine lad.”

  
“That he is,” Callie agreed.

  
“Now, Penelope and I will go away and leave
you to settle in, but you must be sure to let us know if there is anything we
can do for you.
 
And you will ride to
church with us on Sunday, won’t you?”

  
“Oh. . ,” Callie hadn’t been inside a church
in years, but she knew it was an important part of village life and it would go
easier for Jem and her if they were to take part in all the village
activities.
 
“Thank you, we’d be happy to
go with you.”

 

  
The Misses Bates took their leave and Callie
and Jem settled in to their new home.
 
Along the way from London, they had purchased a small wardrobe for each
of them from dressmakers and tailors shops, though Callie needed little in the
way of variety, being a newly-minted widow, after all.
 
It would be some months before she would have
to worry about clothing.
 

  
After a simple supper of cold ham and bread,
Jem left to explore his new surroundings and Callie walked out onto the jutting
promontory that ended in a rocky cliff overlooking the beach.
 
The endless ocean stretched out before her
but, without Kit, it held no attraction.
 
She was not a sailor; she had lived aboard ship only because that was
the life the man she loved had chosen.
 
Had he been a hermit or a tailor she should have been happy in a cave or
a haberdashery.

  
She shielded her eyes against the glare of
the setting sun but as she did a movement captured her attention.
 
Down the beach, the rocky promontory curved
toward a point that sheltered the harbor around which the village of St.
Swithin lay.
 
It was there, in that
curve, that a man suddenly appeared as if he’d emerged from the solid rock
itself.

  
The rippling of her black skirts in the
brisk wind must have captured his attention as well, for he suddenly looked
toward her.
 
She could not precisely make
out his features but had the impression of a strong jaw and heavy brows beneath
a head of dark brown hair.
 
He had a dog
with him, a large, shaggy creature of no determinate breed.

  
As she watched, Jem appeared in the
distance, rounding the furthermost point of the promontory.
 
The man’s dog barked and ran toward him and
she lifted her skirts to run to Jem’s aid though she could never have reached
them before the dog got to him.

  
“Cyrus!”
 
The word was like the crack of a whip and the dog immediately stopped
and returned to his place at the man’s side.

  
Jem, however, kept advancing and he was soon
beside the man, sword still clasped in his hand.
 
The two were quickly in conversation and,
from the way their eyes turned toward her, Callie had no doubt she was the
topic of their discussion.

  
After a few moments, the man went on his way
down the beach and Jem returned to the cottage.

  
“Who was that?” Callie asked him, her eyes
still following the man until he disappeared around the rocky point.

  
“Finn,” Jem told her.
 
“And his dog is named Cyrus.”

  
“Finn?
 
Is that his Christian name or surname?”

  
Jem shrugged as he brushed sand from the
gleaming blade.
 
“I dunno.
 
He just said his name was Finn.”

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