Authors: Christopher Nicole
Tags: #Historical Novel
Christopher Nicole was born in 1930 and spent his early years in British Guiana and the West Indies,
His output has been prolific, and many of his fifty novels are historical with a West Indian background. In a series of five novels,
Caribee, The Devil's Own, Mistress of Darkness, Black Dawn
he covered the entire history of the British West I
cy, from its foundation in the early seventeenth century to its collapse at the beginning of the twentieth. In
he begins a saga revealing the other aspect of the subject, telling of those West Indian 'nabobs' who returned to England. Christopher Nicole's previous book,
Lord of Sin,
was a brilliant recreation of Byron's roguish life.
Christopher Nicole devotes almost his entire time to writing, though he is also a keen sailor. He lives in Guernsey with his wife Jean, and they have two sons and two daughters.
Also by Christopher Nicole
MISTRESS OF DARKNESS
LORD OF SIN
and published by Corgi Books
A DIVISION OF TRANSWORLD PUBLISHERS ITD
A CORGI BOOK 0 552 11717 X
Originally published in Great Britain by Michael Joseph Ltd.
Michael Joseph edition published 1980 Corgi edition published 1981
Copyright © Christopher Nicole 1980
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and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
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
Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers Ltd., Century House, 61-63 Uxbridge Road. Ealing, London, W5 5SA
Made and printed in the United States of America by Offset Paperbacks, Dallas, Pensylvania.
Book The First
Book The Second
Book The First
'Haggard,' chanted the men, 'Haggard, Haggard, Haggard.'
They formed a circle in the centre of the highly polished parquet which up to a few minutes ago had served as a dance door. Even with the great french windows wide to allow the trade wind to sweep into the plantation house, the Barbadian evening was close, and the men's faces, reddened at once by the sun which was their daily enemy and the drink which poisoned them at night, gleamed with sweat; white cravats had been pulled loose and lay damply against dripping throats; black tailcoats clung to perspiring shoulders as if there was no layer of cambric between, "
And now they clapped, as one of their number stepped into the centre of the ring, a sword in his hand. In his middle twenties, his hair was black and lank, his body tall and muscular. His face was aquiline, robbed of handsomeness by the long nose and the jutting chin, saved from ugliness by the high forehead and the wide mouth, rendered interesting and a little disturbing by the intensity of the pale blue eyes. He settled his dancing pumps as well as he could on the slippery floor, tilted his head back to gaze above him at the glowing chandelier which hung from the high ceiling. He fell in his pocket, found a silver coin, and carefully placed this on his chin. Then, with even more care, holding the sword in both hands, he raised it above his head and brought the point slowly down to rest on the coin.
'Haggard,' chanted the onlookers.
'How absurd,' commented one of the ladies seated against the wall.
They're drunk,' remarked another.
'But how stupid, to risk disfigurement over a wager,' said a third.
I wonder what the blacks think of it?
Adelaide Bolton glanced at the red-liveried men-servants, standing impassively against the far wall, their trays of sangaree poised, waiting to circulate the moment the excitement was over, and beyond them, at the orchestra—free black men these, from the capital town of Bridgetown—still sweating from their last endeavours, also watching the white men at play, and waiting. She knew that in the darkness beyond the french windows, where the fireflies winked and the sandflies seethed, there would be several hundred more black people, peering into the lighted house, enjoying as vicariously as they could their masters
and mistresses' pleasures. What did they think
But then, what did
think of it all? She was a slight young woman, twenty-three years of age. Her pale brown hair was rendered almost white by the powder which clustered over the carefully dressed rolls that descended to either side of her ears. Despite the difficulties presented by the American colonists in revolt, the Boltons were amongst the leading Barbadian planters —as they exemplified by throwing a ball such as this—and the daughter
the house must display the latest fashion. Thus her gown, ballooning over its hoop, was in pink silk, as was her bodice, tightly constricted by the corset beneath, and her underskirt; her embroidery, a sprig pattern, was in grass green, matched by her fan, and there was a gold necklace round her throat. Her clothes enhanced the essential plainness of her features, the sallowness
complexion, just as the corset did little to enlarge the small white breasts thrust so high. But she was the most attractive woman in the room. Looks had very little to do with it, as few girls born and bred in the heat and humidity of the West Indies could be described as beautiful. Here was wealth and breeding and confidence, and purpose, too, as she regarded Haggard, watched the sword point come to rest in the centre of the coin, watched his hands slowly leave the blade.
He has courage,' she murmured. 'No one can deny that.
The room was so silent her soft voice almost reached the slowly circling man.
'So does Malcolm,' objected Annette Manning, beside her. 'He did it first,
There was a gasp from the onlookers as the sword appeared about to slip, but Haggard, eyes wide, face rigid with concentration, regained his balance immediately.
Two of a kind,' Adelaide Bolton observed, watching her brother. Of course the idea of the madcap wager had been his. No one else had quite such a devilish mind, such a will to self-destruction, as Malcolm Bolton. But Haggard was the only man to have taken him up. Haggard! Four years a widower now, and not a prospective bride in sight. Not even a flirtation. Of course he would not be every woman's choice, save for his money. John Haggard was reputed to be the wealthiest planter in Barbados, and that made him the wealthiest planter in all the West Indies, and that in turn made him one of the wealthiest men in the entire world. And he was attractive, no denying that. And every inch a man. But he was not like her other friends. For one thing, he had not had a proper education. Old Roger Haggard had had peculiar ideas, and instead of sending his son to England,
Eton and then Oxford, had kept him in Barbados, and imported a governess and then a tutor.
This Adelaide did not only consider a social weakness, although money or no, it would be a considerable sacrifice for any girl to tie herself for life to a man who had never been to Drury Lane or walked in Vauxhall Gardens, had never danced at Almack's or read the latest novel. More important was the insularity which clouded Haggard's outlook. He regarded Barbados as the richest island in the world—with some justification, in terms of wealth per head of property-owning gentlemen—and as he topped that mound of wealth was not even disposed to regard the King as greatly his superior.
And then he
a widower, and Susan Haggard had been one of those very rare birds, a beautiful West Indian. Nor could anyone who had seen them together doubt the genuineness of his love for her, which had often been displayed with an extravagance disturbing to the rigidly ruled
propriety of the planting commu
nity. She would be difficult to follow as mistress of Haggard's. While all Barbados gossiped about what an odd fellow her husband had become, how the deaths, in rapid succession, of his father and his wife, which had pitchforked him into wealth and power at twenty-three, a dozen years before he should have been forced to accept such responsibility, had had an adverse effect on his personality. How he drank too much and was given
moods of black depression, when he would strike his best friend. How, at the same time, and quite incredibly, he was far too lenient a master—almost a Quaker, Papa Bolton called him—who used the lash sparingly and had been known to shake a slave by the hand. Such points of view only encouraged the blacks
ideas above their stations—again Papa Bolton. But a point of view which could be changed by a loving and forceful wife.
Ten seconds,' shouted fat Billy Ferguson, Haggard's head bookkeeper, who was timekeeper for this occasion. 'Enough John, enough.'
Haggard jerked his head away from the gleaming sword point, and caught the blade as the weapon came down. He smiled, an unholy widening of the gash of a mouth. 'Well, Malcolm?
The horse is yours.' Malcolm Bolton's mouth resembled a steel trap.
'Then give me your hand on it,' Haggard said.
Bolton hesitated, glanced from left to right at the men around him, then extended his hand, had it tightly gripped.
'It was only a wager,' Haggard said, gently.
'And well won it was,' said Papa Bolton. 'Sangaree for these bold lads. By God, sir, but we lacked such temerity in my youth.'
The men were lost to sight as their friends crowded round, to congratulate Haggard, to commiserate with Bolton. Adelaide Bolton raised her fan, and the Negro butler hurried over, to stoop beside her chair.
Tell them to recommence playing,' Adelaide said. 'Now that the men have had their sport.'
'Yes, ma'am. Miss Adelaide.' He hurried off again.
'You have a gleam in your eye,' Annette Manning suggested.
'I was but considering masculine stupidity.'
'You were considering the sound of Adelaide Haggard.'
Adelaide glanced at her, mentally cursing the flush she could feel in her cheeks. Sometimes best friends were worst enemies. But why, she wondered, take offence at the truth? It had been in prospect for some time, however little Haggard seemed aware of it. Only Haggard's was superior to Bolton's. Unite the two —supposing John Haggard and Malcolm Bolton could ever agree to work together. But the next generation, the generation of her children . . . her flush deepened, and she got up to prevent Annette noticing. Adelaide Haggard. If he could ever be convinced that was what he really wanted, really needed. But all it required was courage, and opportunity. Both had been lacking unlit now. But surely opportunity would never be more available. As for courage . . . she squared her shoulders as the music started, moved toward the men, seized her brother by the arm as he would have left the throng.
'Visit me in the summer house, in ten minutes.
She spoke s
'Eh? Really, Addy, I am not in the mood for games.'
. But ten minutes. Not a second sooner.' She released him, found herself surrounded by black coated young men, like a swarm of bees, she supposed.
'My dance, Adelaide.'
'No, mine. Miss Bolton."
'Miss Bolton, you promised . . .'
To the victor the spoils, surely,' she said, keeping her temper under control. The lout had not even looked at her, had continued drinking an entire tumbler of sangaree.
But he looked at her now, replacing the glass on the tray held at his elbow, and immediately taking another.
'Do you not agree, John?' she asked, keeping her tone seductive.
tread on your toes,' he pointed out.
shaking like a babe.' He drank half of the second glass. 'You, John Haggard? Afraid?'
'Of a sword through the throat? Oh, I was afraid, Addy. I'm just about to recover, with the help of this good fellow.' The slave had three tumblers left on the tray.
'You'll fall down,' she pointed out. 'And I said nothing of dancing.' She took the half empty glass from his hand, placed it on the tray, linked her arm through his. 'A walk in the cool will do you more good than all of that wine.'
Haggard seemed about to scrat
ch his head with his free hand, but changed his mind. 'I had never suspected such
Addy.' he said bant
eringly. But he allowed himself
be carried along, towards the open door, while behind them the room filled with dancing couples.
'Don't you suppose a woman is capable of decision?'
sure she is. It is merely beyond my experience.' He stood on the terrace, inhaled deeply, honeysuckle and night blooming jasmine, gently disengaged himself. 'You are right. Fresh air. There's the ticket. And I
afraid, you know.'
'But you did it anyway. That is true courage.'
He glanced at her and frowned. 'Decision, and flattery. Whatever next?
'Or did you only wish to get the better of
? Why must you two always rival each other?'
Haggard shrugged. 'Because we are rivals,
suppose. At planting, at horse racing, at the mere business of being men.'
'Men.' She walked down the steps. She was placing her faith entirely in the fact that whatever his moods, however odd some of his attitudes, Haggard was a gentleman. Thus he would surely follow. And after a moment he did. She allowed herself a sigh of relief.
think you did it because you do not really care whether you win or lose, live or die.'
'Decision, and flattery, and perception. I feel as if, having regarded a closed book for several years,
have suddenly opened the first page.'
Still she led him into the darkness, between the hibiscus hedges which bordered the lawn. 'Now
It is merely that we are such good friends, have been such friends for so long, that
worry about you. I think of you, sitting all alone in that great house . . .'
'All alone?' Haggard gave a brief laugh. 'There are forty-three house slaves
'Oh, bah. You cannot possibly count slaves as company.'