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Authors: Ann Victoria Roberts

Moon Rising

BOOK: Moon Rising
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MOON RISING

Who was Bram Stoker – and why did he write
Dracula
? Through the words of Damaris Sterne, daughter of an old seafaring family, we meet a man escaping from the pressures of his life in London. As the two become involved in an intense, dangerous affair, he is introduced to the wild sea, the wrecks, and Whitby's local legends – while she is shown glimpses of the wider world beyond. Evocative and mysterious, Moon Rising opens out to become not only the gripping story of a tragic love-affair, but a revealing commentary on the genesis of an immortal classic.

‘Shamelessly enjoyable... shades of the late Mrs Cookson and a dash of Anne Rice.'
Independent

‘An engaging tale... The star of the book is the locale of Whitby, its bustling harbour and brigantines, its damp cottages and smoky inns, its winding stone steps and alleyways, its abbey and windy clifftops are all wonderfully evoked.'
The Times

Ann Victoria Roberts

Moon Rising

ARNWOOD

~~ PRESS ~~

About the author

Ann Victoria Roberts hit the national headlines as
‘The Housewife Who Wrote a Bestseller,'
when her first historical novels,
Louisa Elliott
and
Liam's Story
sold in the USA for just short of a million dollars. Published by Chatto & Windus in the UK,
Louisa Elliott
was shortlisted in 1989 for the prestigious RNA award, while Ann's fifth novel,
The Master's Tale
, based on the life of Capt EJ Smith of the
Titanic
,
gained the Rubery Award for independently published fiction in 2012. Born in York, Ann wrote
Moon Rising
while living in Whitby. She is married to Captain Peter Roberts, Master of the National Heritage Steamship,
Shieldhall
, and now lives in Southampton.

Louisa Elliott

Liam's Story

Dagger Lane

The Master's Tale

First published by Chatto & Windus UK in 2000

Also by St Martin's Press New York, and

Belfond France, as
Les Amants de la Pleine Lune,

translated by Françoise du Sorbier, 2001

This eBook edition published by Arnwood press 2015

Copyright © Ann Victoria Roberts 2000, 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction.

The characters and incidents portrayed here are largely the product of the author's imagination, and not intended to be regarded as factual in any way.

eBook ISBN: 978-17830-1818-5

Arnwood Press

98 Hamble Lane

Southampton

SO31 4HU

The map of Whitby town and harbour, c.1885, is by the author and based on an old map. ©Ann Victoria Roberts

Contents

About the author

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Thirty-one

Thirty-two

Thirty-three

Thirty-four

Thirty-five

Thirty-six

Thirty-seven

Thirty-eight

Thirty-nine

Forty

Forty-one

Forty-two

Forty-three

Forty-four

Forty-five

Forty-six

Forty-seven

Forty-eight

Forty-nine

Fifty

Fifty-one

Fifty-two

Fifty-three

Author's Note

The wind suddenly shifted to the north-east, and the remnant of the sea-fog melted in the blast; and then,
mirabile dictu,
between the piers, leaping from wave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner with all sail set . . .

Bram Stoker,
Dracula

One

After years of promising to return, in the end I was called back to Whitby by the coincidence of two deaths. It seemed strange that my second cousin, Bella Firth, and my great-uncle, Thaddeus Sterne, with more than fifty years separating them in age, should quit the world within days of each other, the former unnoticed by the world at large, the latter, as befitting a well-known local personage, with considerable public grief.

Although I'd known at heart there was no choice, I'd debated briefly about sending my condolences from London, telling myself that the Firths would understand, and that no one was likely to notice one mourner less amongst the crowd at Old Uncle Thaddeus's funeral. Or even to recognise me after so many years. Besides, the journey was not one I would normally have chosen to make in the first week of January.

With the short afternoon closing in, I closed my eyes and dozed, waking with a sudden jolt to find that the train had stopped. It took me a moment to identify the sounds, but somewhere in the darkness ahead the engine was releasing regular gouts of steam; enough to suggest to my sleeping mind the rush of waves across a sandy beach and a buffeting wind along the piers. Even so, I shivered. Rubbing at the window with my glove, I saw that in the last half-hour a few dancing flakes of snow had become a misty blur of white.

Alice, my maid, compressed her lips in what was more of a grimace than a smile. ‘We'll be lucky to reach York at this rate, ma'am, never mind Whitby.'

Acknowledging the truth of that, I opened my gold pendant to see the tiny clock-face inside. It was one of the first presents ever given to me by my late husband, Henry, and could still arouse a smile whenever I paused to think of it. A man whose hobby was collecting timepieces was bound to be concerned by punctuality and, as I had been brought up amongst people who navigated their lives as well as their ships by the sun, misunderstandings were to be expected. There had been plenty, although I think most of them were eventually smoothed out. I worked hard to make up for my shortcomings, but if he did not always appreciate my eccentricities, at least Henry Lindsey was good to me. I was fond of him always, but it was not until I was widowed that I realised how much I'd loved him too.

After his death, the business had become my sole responsibility, and I was thankful that Henry and I had worked together, since without that experience everything would have ground to a halt. I'd have been lost, an innocent in the marketplace, at the mercy of grief and loneliness and the packs of wily, marauding males. Now, almost two years later, with a pair of reliable partners installed, I was able to think about taking time off before time took care of me. I was still a year under forty, but felt older by a decade.

Recently, as my grief for Henry found its proper place, I'd begun to feel that I should take stock of my life before I moved on, assess the value of things I had too long accepted as natural or immutable laws. I thought those two deaths in Whitby might show me where to start.

But the weather seemed intent on holding everything up. It was past six already and impossible in the darkness to say where we were. As I peered through the murky glass there came a sudden groan, the train lurched forward with a muffled clanking of chains and buffers and, startled, I felt my heart lurch with it. Once more under way, we could hear and feel the difficulties ahead, locomotive wheels biting and failing on snow-covered tracks, with corresponding gasps from the engine. If tedium had already given way to irritation, here was the point where it turned to anxiety. In normal circumstances it would not have mattered to me what time we arrived, since there were several connections to Whitby throughout the evening; but if heavy snow was already falling north and east of York, it was doubtful whether the line across the moors would be open.

I had to be in Whitby by noon the next day. The knowledge pressed me, while the snow threatened to make a nonsense of this journey and everything connected with it. Half an hour later, when the train finally crawled into the station at York, I made an effort to be one of the first on to the platform. Leaving Alice to deal with the luggage, I hailed a porter, then strode off to the enquiry office. All trains were at a standstill because of the blizzard, although the main lines north and south would be cleared as soon as possible; with luck, the clerk said, it should take no more than a few hours. But when I mentioned Whitby and the North York Moors, he grimaced and shook his head. Not even twentieth-century wonders could overcome the weather and Whitby's geographic isolation.

As I hastened away, I was vaguely aware of a tall, heavily built man standing to one side of me in the crowd. I moved past him and hurried off to find Alice. A few minutes later, with the porter in tow, we made our way to the hotel, only to find the place unbearably crowded. People jostled and elbowed their way to the front desk, where it seemed the prize of a room might be had for those who pushed hardest. The atmosphere was that of a racetrack or auction-sale, but the reception staff were impassive, refusing to be intimidated, or indeed to catch anyone's eye until each traveller was properly attended to. Having drawn myself up to my full height, I managed to secure some attention, and the use of a room at the back of the hotel. Alice was unimpressed, but with an easy chair as well as a wash-stand and military-style bed, it was better than nothing.

Since there was barely room for two people to move about, I glanced in the glass, secured a few recalcitrant curls and adjusted my raven's-wing hat. Leaving Alice to arrange our overnight things, I headed back through the foyer to the station concourse.

Cold though it was, I felt in need of fresh air and exercise after all those hours cooped up on the train. Head down against the swirl of snowflakes coming in from the left, I almost cannoned into a large man, well muffled against the weather, who was approaching from the right. With an apology and a quick side-step I managed to avoid his steadying arms, and only as I continued on my way did I question a sudden sense of familiarity. From his height and build he was possibly one of my innumerable cousins, a distant member of the Sterne clan returning home for Old Uncle Thaddeus's funeral and thus better avoided. But when I turned to look again, he was no longer to be seen.

The air was acrid with soot and sulphur, alive with the chuntering of engines and sudden, echoing bursts of steam; perhaps not the ideal place to go walking, but infinitely preferable to the fug of overcrowded public rooms. Evidently I was not alone in my opinion, since the platforms were by no means deserted, despite the icy wind funnelling through that great arcade. It was dark between the iron pillars, with dazzling pools of light here and there, shadows moving and flickering with the wind, and, at the far end of the platform, an extraordinary display which had drawn quite a crowd. Illuminated by electric lights just within the arch, snow was whirling and falling in an endless cascade, like goose-down at Christmas, to lie as invitingly as a freshly made bed across the tracks.

At least it seemed that way to me, but then I was thinking longingly of featherbeds and soft white linen. The fall of flakes was mesmeric. The crowd grew and we stood gazing up at the station's proscenium arch like an audience at a first night. Strangers were talking to one another, and I was aware but not listening, when a man behind me said with gruff amusement: ‘If one could only reproduce that effect on stage, the show would be a sell-out for the season!'

BOOK: Moon Rising
13.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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