Authors: Julian Stockwin
Also by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, Inc.
Ithaca, New York
Published by McBooks Press 2008
Published simultaneously in Great Britain by Hodder and Stoughton
Copyright Â© 2008 Julian Stockwin
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the publisher. Requests for such permissions should be addressed to McBooks Press, Inc., ID Booth Building, 520 North Meadow St., Ithaca, NY 14850.
Cover painting by Geoff Hunt RSMA.
Â Â Represented by Artist Partners Ltd.,
Dust jacket and interior design by Panda Musgrove.
Â Â Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Â Â The privateer's revenge : a Kydd sea adventure / by Julian Stockwin.
Â Â Â Â Â p. cm.
Â Â Â ISBN 978-1-59013-165-7 (alk. paper)
Â Â Â 1. Kydd, Thomas (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. Great BritainâHistory, Navalâ18th centuryâFiction. 3. Seafaring lifeâFiction. 4. Sailorsâ Fiction. I. Title.
Â Â Â PR6119.T66P75 2008
Â Â Â 823'.92--dc22
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9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Admiral Sir James Saumarez
eased sheets and came round prettily for the last leg of the short passage from Polperro eastwards to Plymouth Sound. The ship's clerk knocked softly at the captain's cabin door. There was no reply so, from long friendship, Nicholas Renzi entered quietly. Commander Thomas Kydd was sitting rigid at the stern windows staring out. He turned, his face a bleak mask. “Tom, dear fellow? I've brought you this,” Renzi said, proffering a glass. “The natives hereabouts do swear by its power to lay demons and recruit the spirit.”
Kydd accepted the offering but it remained untouched in his hand. “Fine nor'-westerly blow,” Renzi went on brightly. “We should raise the Sound on this tack, I'd venture.” There was no response from the fine and ambitious sea officer, who had made the incredible journey from the fo'c'sle to the quarterdeck, then achieved his own command, now brought so low.
It had been so sudden. Returning triumphant after a rousing cruise, Kydd had decided to snatch a few moments in Polperro, the home of his newly betrothed, Rosalynd. There, he had learned of her tragic death, just days before.
Renzi drew a chair close. There was little to be saidâgrief was such a private thing, but in this Renzi knew guilt. His closest friend had stood alone when he had followed his heart and asked a country lass to be his bride, not Persephone Lockwood, the admiral's daughter. There had never been a formal understanding between Kydd and Miss Lockwood, but societyâand Renziâhad been outraged nevertheless.
“You should know this, dear friend, IâI own myself shamed by my actions, you must understand,” Renzi said, in a low voice. “It was unpardonable not to recognise that it wasâthat your sentiments sprang from the noblest and purest . . .”
His words went unheard but he vowed that whatever lay ahead for Kydd he would be at his side. Especially when he tried to reenter the world that had turned its back on him. But there were more pressing concerns now. “We dock in so little time I have to ask, shall you prepare to take the deck again?”
Kydd's face turned slowly. His eyes filled as he tried to speak and his fists clenched.
Renzi knew for the sake of the future that Kydd should be the one to take
to her rest. “You are the captain still, and duty is a stern mistress. Shall I . . . ?” He let it hang.
As the words penetrated, Kydd rose from his chair like an old man and made his way to his inner cabin. After a few minutes he emerged and took a last long look through the windows at the receding wake.
“I have th' ship, Mr Standish,” Kydd mumbled to his first lieutenant, and stood alone, face set and pale, staring ahead. Rame Head passed abeam;
hauled her wind for the Sound and home. Hands went to stations for mooring ship and she came gently to single anchor at Barn Pool.
The early autumn sunshine had a fragile, poignant quality as the sloop's gig pulled across the short distance to the dockyard; at Kydd's side, Renzi held ship's papers. The boat nuzzled into the landing stage and Kydd stepped out, seeming lost and bewildered. “This way, old fellow,” Renzi said, glaring at passers-by, who stopped to gape at the subject of the so-recent scandal.
It was not far to the offices; the flag-lieutenant hurried away to inform the port admiral of their arrival. Lockwood himself came stalking out to the waiting room but halted in surprise at the sight of Kydd's ashen face. News of the tragedy had apparently not yet reached him. “I'm astonished you have the temerity to cut short your cruise, Mr Kydd. There are matters, it seemsâ”
“Sir, I beg t' report m' full success in y'r mission.”
's report,” Renzi said, handing over the details of Kydd's twin victoriesâsuccess against the notorious Bloody Jacques, the renegade privateer who had terrorised the Devon and Cornish coasts, and the unmasking of Zephaniah Job as the man behind the smuggling ring.
The admiral flicked through the papers. “I, er . . . it would appear I must offer my congratulations, Commander,” he said, and looked up, but Kydd had left.
When the news was broken at number eighteen Durnford Street, the residence Kydd and Renzi shared, a pall of silence descended. Shocked, Mrs Bargus, the housekeeper, cast about for things to do that might in some little way comfort her employer. A cheerful fire was soon ablaze and the cook was set to prepare his favourite braised duck. Becky, the maid, came in timidly to light the candles but departed quickly, leaving Kydd and Renzi alone.
“If there's anything . . .” Renzi started hesitantly, but stopped as racking sobs seized his friend.
He waited patiently until they eased.
“I never reckoned it could hurt s' much,” Kydd choked.
“Yes, brother,” Renzi murmured.
“Rosalynd's gone. F'r ever. So innocent an' young, an' sheâshe never knewâ”
“I have to return to the ship, Tom,” Renzi said gently. “There's things will need . . . arranging.” Unless someone was there to head off troubles arising in a temporarily captainless vessel chaos might ensure: the ambitious Standish would probably not see it as in his best interest to take a firm hand.
“Do remain here, dear fellow, and I'll be back when I can.” Renzi found the brandy and placed a glass before Kydd.
It was no easy matter but a flow of fictitious captain's orders relayed by Renzi saw the larboard watch stream happily ashore and a suspicious Standish set to turning up the hands for restowing the hold. It was dark before Renzi could make his way ashore again, and he hurried to Durnford Street.
Mrs Bargus answered the door, flustered and apprehensive. “Oh, Mr Renzi! I'm s' glad you're here! It's the captainâhe's in such a state! All those things he's saying, it's not right, Mr Renzi . . .”
Kydd was slumped in the same chair in his shirtsleeves, gazing fixedly into the fire, the brandy bottle nearly empty beside him. He jerked round when Renzi entered. “Ahoy there, ol' shipmate!” he called bitterly. “Bring y'r arse t' anchor an' let y'r logic tell me whyâwhy scrovy bastards like Lockwood still strut abou' while my Rosalynd . . . while she's . . .” His face crumpled.
Renzi went to him and touched his arm. “I'm going to the apothecary, my friend. He'll have much more efficacious medicines for your pain.” It was chilling to witness: never in all their years together had he seen Kydd in such a conditionâsave, perhaps, in the early days in the old
“No!” Kydd's hoarse cry pierced him. “St-stay wi' me, Nicholas.”
“Of course, brother.” Renzi stoked the fire and drew up his chair. With a forced laugh he went on, “You should have no care for
old fellow. There's half the ship's company rollicking ashore and Kit Standish believing you gravely concerned with the stowage of the hold.”
Kydd took no notice. Instead he turned to Renzi and said hollowly, “It'sâit's that I can't face it, Nicholasâlife wi'out her.” His hands writhed. “I saw all m' days in the future wi' her, plans an' course all set fair, an' nowâthere's . . . no point.”
Carefully, Renzi replied, “Not at all! I see a fine officer who is captain of a ship that needs him, one with the most illustrious of sea careers to come.”
Kydd grabbed his arm and leered at him. “Don't y' see, Nicholas,” he slurred, “it's th' sea right enough. It's taken m' Rosalynd as it can't abide a rival!”
“What? Such nonsense.”
Kydd slumped in his chair. “I knew ye'd not unnerstan' it,” he said, almost inaudibly, and closed his eyes before Renzi could continue. “No point,” he mumbled, “no point a-tall.”
“Tom, I have to slip out for a space,” Renzi said. “I'll be back directly.”
For a long minute Kydd said nothing. Then, with his eyes still closed, he said, with intense weariness, “As y' have to, m' frien'.”
“Why, Nicholas! What a surprise!” Sensing the gravity of the visit, Cecilia added hastily, “Do come in. Mrs Mullins is engaged at the momentâthe drawing room will be available to us, I believe.”
Renzi followed Kydd's sister into the home of her old friend, whom she was visiting. She turned to face him. “It's Thomas, isn't it?”
“Yes . . .” Renzi hesitated. “I'm truly sorry to have to say that Rosalynd . . . has been taken from us. She was drowned when a packet boat overset on the way to Plymouth.”
Cecilia gasped. “No! It can't be! Andâand poor Thomas. Heâ he must be feeling . . .”
“I rather believe it is worse than that. His intellects are perturbed. He's not seeing the point of life without Rosalynd and I fear for his future.”
“Then I must go to him this instant, poor lamb. Pray wait for me, sir, I shall accompany you presently.”
“No! That is to say, it might not be suitable, Miss Cecilia. You see, he is at this moment, er, disguised in drink and heâ”
“He might be, um, flustered, Nicholas, but he needs us. I shall go to him,” she said, with unanswerable determination.
The night was cool as they hurried through the streets, but when they reached number eighteen they were met outside by a distraught Mrs Bargus and a wide-eyed Becky clutching her from behind. “I didn't know what t' do, Mr Renzi! All of a sudden I hears this great roar fr'm upstairsâfair set m' heart a-flutter, it did. I goes up t' see, an' then down comes th' captain in a pelt. He pushes past me an' out on the street. An' he just in his shirt-sleeves an' all.”
It was past enduring: the shock of the news had given way to the spreading desolation of grief, then the firming certainty that he wanted no part of a world that did not include Rosalynd. Whichever way Kydd faced there was pain and mockery, heartbreak and futility. Blind hopelessness had demanded release, and exploded into an overwhelming compulsion to escape the prison of his hurt.
He stumbled on into the night; some instinct had made him snatch up his sea-worn grego as he left, which kept him warm and anonymous over his shirtsleeves. Setting his path away from the sea, his thoughts tumbled on, a tiny thread of reason struggling against the maudlin embrace of the liquor.
Suddenly he had a theory: every mortal had a measure of happiness allotted to them and his had just run out. Did this mean he should resign himself to dreariness for what remained of his days? Was this something to do with the Fates? Renzi always set his face against them, something to do with . . . with 'terminismâdeter . . . something . . . Damn it! Who cared about Renzi and his high ideas? Tears stung and no answers came.
A gentleman of age saw him and frostily made much of crossing the street to avoid him. Kydd glared drunkenly at him: how he'd suffered at the hands of so-called gentle society. In the hard days as a newly promoted officer from before the mast he had been ignored until he had learned their fancy ways. There had been ill-disguised scorn for his origins even in far Nova Scotia until he had earned admiration in a social coup when he had unwittingly invited the mistress of Prince Edward to a ball. It had been seen as a cunning move for advancement in high society, and here in England they had been ready enough to see him court one of their own but could not accept that his heart had finally been taken . . . by another.
Bitterness welled. Now when he so needed those who cared and understood to rally to his support there was no one. Not a soul. Cecilia could not be seen with him for the social stigma and Renzi, well, he had been so disapproving about Rosalynd in the past . . . Be damned to itâbe damned to all of them! When he had been a common foremast jack it had never been like thisâhe remembered the comradely understanding, the rough kindnesses . . . Then there had been no judgements, and all was plain speaking, square playing. The memories flooded his brain fuzzily, the drink in him only intensifying his loneliness. He yearned to exchange his hard-won status for the careless warmth of the fo'c'sle. But never again would heâ
A sudden thought cameâseductive, challenging and glorious. He had lost everything, was alone in the world now and nobody cared. What if he left Commander Thomas Kydd to his misery and became once more Tom Kydd, carefree mariner, shipping out on a deep-sea voyage to the other side of the world? There were ocean-going merchantmen a-plenty in Plymouth, taking on last stores and cargoâthey would snap up a prime hand.
Such a voyage would give him time to heal, find a new self. He gulped at the thought. After all these years, would he be able to hand a staysail, tuck a long-splice, stomach the burgoo and hard tack? He knew the answer instantly.
He tried to focus on the details, muzzily aware that he was in no fit state to walk the mile or two back to Plymouth. He drew himself up with drunken dignity and hailed an approaching public diligence. The only other occupant stared in astonishment at his worn, tar-smelling grego over the lace-trimmed shirt and stylish breeches, then averted his head.
He was deposited outside the King's Arms in Old Town Street, on the heights above Sutton Cove and well clear of the insalubrious sailors' hauntsâbut that was where he was headed, down the narrow streets, alleys and passageways into the jumble of rickety buildings around the waterfront. He knew that Cockside on the opposite side of the Pool was most favoured by the merchant seamen so he made his way there, spurred on by the roars of jollity from a nearby taphouse.