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Authors: Christopher Nicole

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HF - 01 - Caribee

BOOK: HF - 01 - Caribee
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'His backgrounds are vivid and the characters authentic . .. this is a book that packs everything into its covers as it traces the fortunes of a group of Englishmen who set off to the islands to found a new colony. There is jealousy, romance, lust, ba
tt
les galore, insurrection and murder, rebellion, torture and cannibalism ... It is a robust tale, vigorously told . . . If you like bloodcurdling tales, packed with excitement, I recommend this book. It is wri
tt
en with the deftness you would expect of an author with twelve books to his credit. There are still good storytellers about to stir the blood and Mr Nicole is one of them' -Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph

Caribee is the first of four novels in which Christopher Nicole plans to encompass the history of the West Indies from the founding of the first colony to Emancipation two centuries later in 1834.

Also by Christopher Nicole

lord of the golden fan

amyot's cay

blood amyot the amyot crime ratoon

the devil's own

and published by Corgi Books to be published by Corgi Books

Christopher Nicole

 

 

CARIBEE

CORGI BOOKS

A DIVISION OF TRANSWORLD PUBLISHERS LTD

CARIBEE

A CORGI BOOK 0 552 10097 8

Originally published in Great Britain by Cassell and Company Ltd.

printing history

Cassell edition published 1974 Corgi edition published 1976

Copyright © Christopher Nicole 1974

This low-priced Corgi Book has been completely reset in a type face designed for easy reading, and was printed from new plates. It contains the complete text of the original hard-cover edition.

Conditions of sale

1: This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise. be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

2: This book is sold subject to the Standard Conditions of Sale of Net Books and may not be re-sold in the U.K. below the net price fixed by the publishers for the book.

This book is set in 9

11 pt. Caledonia.

Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers Ltd.,

Century House. 61-63 Uxbridge Road,

Ealing, London, W.5.

Made and printed in Great Britain by

Hunt Barnard Printing Ltd. Aylesbury, Bucks.

Contents

1

The Tower

9

2

El Dorado

36

3

The Enchanted Isle

64

4

The King's Lieutenant

95

5

The Lovers

137

6

The River of Blood

173

7

The Revolution

208

8

The Guns of Spain

268

9

The Phoenix

291

10

The Crisis

322

11

The Carib

361

12

The Empire

387

 

CARIBEE

 

1

The Tower

 

Rebecca stirred, sighed, and raised herself on her elbow. It is dawn, Mr Warner.'

Thomas Warner rolled on his back, glad of the company, at last. After ten years of marriage she still called him Mr., still considered herself the fortunate, dutiful bride. Sarah had never been so. But then, Sarah had married a boy, a soldier in all the glory of a recent campaign; she had loved and laughed as an equal. Especially laughed. And she had died before the boy could reach manhood, still laughing. Her smile was the last thing he remembered of her.

And on days like this he remembered Sarah's smile above all else.
‘It
has been dawn for three hours, woman,' he grumbled. 'The month is June.' June, in the Year of Our Lord 1618. Fifteen years since the death of the Queen as it was twelve since the death of Sarah. An eternity, reaching back to when the world had been young, for it also meant that for fifteen years the country had endured the whims of the Scotchman.

Rebecca was not abashed. She had anticipated ill humour this morning. Now the bed creaked as she moved across it. No bed had ever creaked for Sarah; she had been light as a feather, a wisp of a girl. Rebecca would have made two of her; she very nearly made two of her husband.

‘I
did not know you were already awake, sir,' she said.
‘I
, too, have watched the light grow.' She lay against him. Heat welled from her body into his. Her legs, long and strong, trembled, eager to cross his. Her hands, dry and aided by powerful fingers, slid on to his belly, awaiting only the invitation to move lower. Her lips were close to his ear; they would be full mid red, and backed by a questing tongue; her hair, thick and straight, not dark enough to be brown and not pale enough to be gold, clung sweat-wet to her head and shoulders; her surprisingly small nose nuzzled his neck. What more could a man want from his wife? What more had he sought?

He turned his head, and her lips caught his for a moment. Still she was not distressed by his disinterest. After ten years, she knew she had but to be patient, and stay close to him in the naked warmth of the bed, and her day would yet begin as she wished.

What more, save fire in her eyes as well as her belly. He had been introduced to her by Rich. They had been friends as boys, when their fathers had been plain William Warner and Robert Rich. The Warners had remained gentlemen farmers; Rich had gone to court to serve his queen and be rewarded, but his son, however important a man the Earl of Warwick might have to be, had never forgo
tt
en his childhood playmate. He had rescued Tom Warner from the wreckage of Leicester's army and secured for him the most coveted position open to a penniless soldier, the captaincy of the King's Guard. And then he watched the young captain lose his confidence, at once in himself and in his future, with Sarah's dentil, and had pronounced judgement, as he was so fond of doing. 'You must marry again, Tom,' he had declared. 'And I know the very girl. You'll have met Payne, the Dorchester merchant? His daughter. She'll make you a good wife, Tom. She'll bear you strong sons.'

The future Earl of Warwick was never wrong, at least according to his lights.

Tom moved her hands, rolled out of the tent bed in the same movement, and shivered as his feet touched the stone floor. Only rushes, throughout the Tower of London. He would not have his chamber any different to those of the prisoners.

'Mr Warner?" Her voice was anxious.

‘I
could no more enter you this morning than I could fly, sweet.' He crossed the room, his nightshirt tickling his ankles; he was shorter than the average, but with thick shoulders and muscular legs; if be had given up active soldiering close on a decade ago he had made sure that he remained, at forty-one, physically able to embark upon a campaign at a moment's notice. His features were rounded, and at first sight even soft, but there was stubbornness in the flat mouth, and vigour in the blue eyes. Both hair and beard were worn short; the dark brown remained untouched by grey. He stood at the window to look down at the courtyard. His empire. The window itself was hardly more than an arrow slit, yet through it he could see the green where so many noble men and women had lost their heads, and behind, the bulk of the Beauchamp Tower. Already the sun was high in a cloudless sky, giving promise of a splendid summer's day. But there was no summer inside these bleak walls, not for prisoner, and not for gaoler. Another of Rich's pronunciamentos. To solve a situation he had not properly understood.

‘I
see you, Tom Warner,' he had said, 'Captain of the King's Guard. Can there be a higher summit to the ambition of any gentleman? Why, man, think of your predecessors. Your own grandfather, Tom Jerningham; Walter Raleigh.. .’

'Who now languishes in the Tower,' Tom had protested. 'And they guarded women with the hearts of men. I...'

Rich's finger had crept to his lips. 'You'll be speaking treason before you know it, Tom.'

'My lord, it will be forced upon me. To hear His Majesty gargle, to be sprayed with spit at a range of twelve feet, to watch his tongue ballooning, is an exercise in disgust. And by God, sir, should he ever seek to slip his hand inside my breeches...'

"Tis a fact you will never make a courtier, Tom, and that's a pity.' Robert Rich had commenced to pull his lip, a characteristic which some supposed had contributed to the narrow, conspiratorial cast of his features. 'Was there ever a monarch who lacked some fault? And I do not only speak of men, now. You worship Her late Majesty because you only knew her from afar. Ask Master Raleigh, indeed, what she was like at close range.'

‘I
am not likely to have that opportunity, my lord,' Tom had replied. 'As I am in Whitehall and he is in the Tower.'

"The Tower,' Rich had said, frowning, as he invariably did when there was some deep scheme boiling in his mind, 'Aye, Walter is in the Tower, to be sure. You'll have heard of the troubles there?'

'The Overbury murder? They say it will even bring down His Grace of Somerset'

'Her Grace, certainly, Tom. There have been many awaiting that day. But Elwes is involved. Make no mistake about that. There will be a vacant lieutenantship, soon enough. What say you, Tom? There is a world you can make your own. No dandies, no penis-pulling monarchs, no damsels who would tease you to distraction, no banal pronouncements given the accolade of genius because they happen to echo some long forgo
tt
en sentiment. There you would be king, Tom, forced to acknowledge only that there is a superior in Whitehall, much as you are forced to acknowledge that there is always a superior in Heaven.'

For Robert Rich, if no friend to Raleigh, had certainly imbibed too many of the atheistical opinions expressed by that wayward genius.

Rebecca stood at his shoulder, at twenty-eight a perfect statue of naked femininity, perhaps lifted from the very studio of Michelangelo. ‘You make too much of it, Mr. Warner, Mr Walkden is a traitor. Traitors must die.'

'To bed, woman,' Tom snapped. Even an arrow slit could allow a peeping gaze. In any event, he could hear feet on the corridor outside.

Rebecca heard them too, and scrambled back beneath the blanket, at the same time reaching for the shawl which lay across the foot of the bed and wrapping it around her shoulders. Thus the greater part of her breasts were left bare, but this was no more than was sported by Queen Anne herself.

And it was only Mother Elizabeth, with the boys, already dressed, and Berwicke.

'Mama,' Edward shouted. 'There's to be an execution.’ Nine years old, he was her son in every respect, already almost as tall as his father, with the promise of similarly broad shoulders and clear blue eyes, in his case well set off by the fair hair and big friendly features of the Paynes.

"Who told you that, boy?" Tom Warner demanded from the window.

Edward checked, and flushed, and glanced at Mother Elizabeth, to whose skirts li
tt
le Philip, only four, clung with both hands.

‘It
was my fault, Captain,' Berwicke said. But then, Berwicke would take the blame, knowing that Tom Warner would never hold a fault against him. Berwicke was almost an old man, now, with iron grey hair and the plainest of dress, not a ruffle nor a tie, not a trace of silk, nor even a sword, for all that he had soldiered with his master through Leland and Holland when they had both been young men.
‘I
gossiped before Mother Elizabeth.'

'Death is not a ma
tt
er for children, Ralph. You'll a
tt
end me.'

'Will you not breakfast, Mr Warner?' Rebecca said. The Lieutenant shook his head.
‘I
doubt I'd keep it down, madam. I'll take a glass of wine before I go.'

The oaken door closed, to shut out the whisper of the awakening prison. Mother Elizabeth freed herself from Philip's embrace and set the boy on the bed; imme
that
ely he crawled towards Rebecca.

'Captain Warner is too good a man to play the gaoler.' Having delivered both these lads, and the three stillbirths as well, Mother Elizabeth was as intimate with her mistress as Berwicke was with his master.

'He has hardly been himself since he came here, and there's the truth.' Rebecca closed her arms around Philip's head, pulled his face to her breasts. She loved to feel him gnaw at the teats. By now there should have been another toothless mouth to give her comfort. She craved it. But Tom was not the man he had been. And surely this gloomy pile of stone was to blame.

Traitors, traitors, traitors,' Edward shouted, jumping up and down at the window. 'Mama, is it true that when they took down Mr Trevalyan and a
tt
ended to his privies he spurted juice on them?"

'God's mercy, boy, but hush your mouth,' Rebecca cried.

'Were your father to hear you I doubt not he'd take his whip to us both. Begone with you and your foul tongue.' But as her gaze shifted from his face to Mother Elizabeth's, it was all she could do to prevent herself bursting out in laughter.

Edward scu
tt
led through the door, banged it shut behind him, and paused for breath. He stood in a wide, deep stone corridor which ended in a flight of steps leading down to the guardroom. From the window on this side he looked out at the Thames itself, brown and impatient, rushing towards the sea. Not fifty feet away he could see the steps at Traitors' Gate; often Berwicke would take him there to cast their lines, and wait for a careless bream, confused by the speed of the water and the increasing saltiness. Once, indeed, they had been there when a boat had arrived with a prisoner, the Duchess of Somerset, wife of the King's own favourite, and condemned for murder. 'Will her head be cut off?" Edward had whispered to Berwicke, as they had bowed low and doffed their hats.

Berwicke had chuckled. 'Not hers, lad. But it would make a pre
tt
y sight’

The Duchess had not given them a glance. She had arrived in a towering rage, and she had remained in a towering rage ever since; her apartments were the only part of the huge prison barred to the boy. But elsewhere he was permi
tt
ed to roam as he wished, to march the walls and pretend he was defending the castle against a horde of rebellious barons, to finger the weapons in the armoury, to talk with the prisoners when they were exercised, famous men and women, lords and ladies, who knew his father as Tom because of his years as Captain of the King's Guard, and who all had a word for the Lieutenant's son.

And he had explored the green, where stood the block. He had examined it the day after an execution, and found it hardly changed, save for the trampling of so many feet. But he had not been permi
tt
ed to witness the deed itself. On those dreadful days, when Father was never less than angry and often wild as a bull, the children were confined to their rooms, and the windows were shu
tt
ered. Edward could not understand why. To chop off people's heads, or to see that it was properly done, was the Lieutenant's responsibility. In the name of the King. And surely, as the Reverend said so solemnly, it was no more than a temporary inconvenience, as head and body would be mysteriously restored only seconds after the axe had fallen, up there in the vault of Heaven. It had occurred to Edward Warner more than once that Heaven must be scarcely less than an enormous workshop.

Nor had he ever been allowed downstairs into the chamber where lay the Duke of Exeter's daughter. This was one of his great ambitions. Indeed, up to but a year ago he had supposed that mysterious dungeon to contain a real woman, although as the duke in question had died more than a hundred years ago she must by now be a pre
tt
y hag. But now he knew be
tt
er. Down there were the instruments which procured the truth from the villainous traitors who were imprisoned here. And the rack was given the name of a woman because on it a man was placed as Father lay on Mama— Edward had watched them through the keyhole in their bedroom door.

But today there was no confinement, and as yet Berwicke had not gone to the schoolroom; he would be standing at the upper windows. Cautiously Edward tiptoed down the broad stone stairs, listening to the growing hubbub. Mr Walkden had no noble blood, and therefore was not to have his head chopped off, at least, not until sundry other things had been done to him. Things Edward had overheard Berwicke discussing with Mother Elizabeth. Horrible things, which made his juice fly. And thus Father was in more of a rage than ever.

BOOK: HF - 01 - Caribee
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