Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Another extract from THE LOVEDAY SECRETS
Here is another taster from THE LOVEDAY SECRETS. An old adversary returns and for Adam and Senara secrets could be uncovered from the past that could destroy their reputations.
An hour later Adam returned to Boscabel still unsettled by the visit from the lawyer. Since his last meeting with the excise officer he had not given Beaumont much thought, but with Sawle hanged and no longer a threat to Beaumont, it did now seem strange that he had not been seen patrolling these waters. Sawle had not been the only smuggler operating in the district.
Unwilling to upset Senara, he pushed his fears aside. His wife had enough worries with the arrival of the boy who had lost his memory. Yet it had never been easy keeping anything from his wife. She was incredibly perceptive at sensing a person’s moods, her gypsy blood giving her an uncanny intuition concerning people and their future. Her premonitions had been proved right on too many occasions for him to doubt her ability. She had always feared Beaumont’s vindictive nature, and had not the excise officer shot Edward Loveday when Beaumont had been in the pay of Harry Sawle.
Adam shuddered. He had thought the smuggler’s death would have freed him from the sinister shadow the man had cast over their lives. Then annoyed at the way his common sense had deserted him, Adam drew a sharp breath. He did not fear ghosts or any man alive. Yet he could have wished that his last meeting with Beaumont had been less acrimonious: that he had not lost his temper and threatened to run him through if he ever found him snooping on Loveday land again.
Beaumont had not been seen in the area for months when Adam had met him in a chance encounter close to his cousin Japhet’s land at Tor Farm. With Japhet out of the country, the farm had been rented to a tenant. Adam had been out returning from a visit to Sir Henry and as it was a fine afternoon had taken a detour to ride past Tor Farm and assure himself that all appeared in good order. Since a previous tenant of the farm had allowed contraband to be stored in the barn against the express instructions of the family, Adam kept a closer eye on his cousin’s property. He had been alerted by a flash of light coming from a small coppice. It could only have been caused by sunlight glinting off metal or glass. He had dismounted and approached on foot to see a lone figure crouched behind a tree with a spyglass to his eye, watching the farm from the cover of a small coppice. Across the fields the tenants twelve year old daughter Millie was standing at the water pump. From the state of her bodice and skirt she had slipped over and landed in horse droppings. Her mother was berating her and pulling at her skirt and top as she stripped it from her to soak in the water from the pump. Millie was crying and the water splashed over her petticoats moulding the linen to her budding figure.
‘Have you taken to spying on young girls?’ Adam had sneered.
Beaumont snapped shut the spyglass and glowered at him. ‘There was a landing on the coast last night. This farm has been used to store contraband in the past. I was checking whether anything looked suspicious. My men are searching other farms by the moor.’
‘I warned you to stay off our land?’ Adam challenged.
‘As an officer of the crown I have my duty to perform. The Loveday’s may proclaim their innocence but you have been hand in glove with smugglers in the past. With Sawle as a brother-in-law what else would we expect? You even built a ship for Sawle so he could outrun the revenue cutter. For all we know you are in partnership with him. It would not be the first time your land has been used.’ A head shorter than Adam, Beaumont’s thin face was now heavily scored with lines of debauchery and excess.
The insults plucked at Adam’s pride and his temper crashed through his reason like storm waves over a breakwater. ‘Or that you have acted too hastily against us. I have not forgotten that you murdered my father.’
‘I was doing my duty. He resisted arrest.’ Even though Beaumont had to tip back his head to look up at Adam, he glared along his hooked hose with arrogant disdain.
‘We both know that is a lie.’ Adam had closed the space between them, his fists bunched as his anger ground through him. He could see sweat glistening on Beaumont’s face.
‘Lay a hand on me and I’ll have you arrested for attacking an officer of the King about his duty.’ Beaumont blustered and fumbled to draw his sword.
Despite being unarmed, Adam challenged, ‘It could be worth it.’
Beaumont was backing away to where his horse was tethered, his sword held ready to counter an attack. His boot entangled in the knee-high bracken and he stumbled. Adam leapt forward and ducking the lunge of the blade landed a punch on the officer’s jaw. At the force of the blow Beaumont dropped the sword and Adam swiftly delivered two more blows to his head and body. Beaumont was knocked to the ground and covered his head with his hands.
Adam picked up the fallen sword and pointed it at his enemy.
‘Don’t kill me. I beg you. Don’t kill me!’
His cowardice disgusted Adam. Because of him his father had died. He did not deserve to live. Yet where was the honour in killing such a coward?
Breathing heavily, Adam had controlled his anger and stood back. ‘Any smuggler who uses our land to store their goods knows that we will summon the authorities.’ His voice was thick with warning. ‘Get on your way, Beaumont. This time I will not stain my hands with your craven blood. But if I ever catch you within a mile of our land again I will know your actions are intent upon dishonouring our name and I will kill you.’ He slashed the sword down on a granite boulder in the undergrowth and the steel snapped in two and he threw the hilt as far as he could.
Beaumont had staggered to his feet holding his hand to his bleeding face. ‘This assault and your threats will be reported to the authorities.’
Adam had turned from him and walked away. Yet for some days afterwards he had expected the militia to arrest him. Nothing had happened and he assumed that Beaumont had slithered away to lick his wounds on the other side of the county. It was not until he remembered the incident now that he recalled that at the time Beaumont had not been in his naval uniform. If he had not been on duty what had he been doing in the area?