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Land of Hope (Paperback)

Book Three of The Huguenot Chronicles, A Historical Fiction Series

"A gripping tale of faith, perseverance, and the unyielding pursuit of freedom."
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A family torn apart by persecution. A country's global power play.
Will England's ruler turn their reunion attempt into a desperate bid for survival?

New York, 1689. Jacob Delpech thinks day and night about his wife and child. He's determined to reunite with his family in London, but New York’s brutal winter deep-freeze has ruined his carefully laid plans. With transport across the Atlantic at a standstill and European politics on the verge of upheaval, his chances of ever making it home grow slimmer by the day…

Snowbound in Switzerland, Jeanne Delpech’s heart aches for a loving reunion with her husband. To make it back to London, she and her son must travel across extremely treacherous terrain. But the biggest obstacle between her and Jacob's embrace may be the journey through dangerous enemy territory…

When England’s new king triggers fresh battles with France and her allies, the family’s plan to reunite falls into ruin. As both husband and wife begin their hazardous trek to London, war creates an impossible chasm between them. Will Jacob and Jeanne reunite, or will religious persecution tear their family asunder forever?

Land of Hope continues the riveting journey of the Huguenot Chronicles historical fiction series. If you enjoy rich, bustling history, fast-paced action, and characters overcoming brutal hardships, then you'll love this compelling instalment.

 

Book Details:

  • Number of pages: 317
  • Series: The Huguenot Chronicles, Book 3
  • Format: Paperback
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Chapter 1 of Land of Hope

‘After a number of setbacks, at last I find myself travelling aboard a merchant ship a free man. My only regret, my dear wife, is that I asked you to join me in London, since I am still on the other side of the world.

‘As I sail along the North American coast to New York, where I plan to secure my passage to London, I have heard it said many a time that there is great unrest in England.

‘I pray that this unrest between the Catholic king and his subjects does not turn to civil war, should William of Orange, as I have heard it suggested, claim the throne of England for himself and his English wife. Should war there be, I pray to God that you, my dear wife, and our children will find refuge, and that it pleaseth God to soon bring us together in this world gone mad.’


In cadence with the gentle pitch of the ship, Jacob Delpech lifted his quill off the paper, which he had placed atop a barrel of odorous ginger loaves.

He knew very well that the letter in all probability would not reach Jeanne before he arrived in the English capital. Nevertheless, setting down on paper his gravest thoughts gave him a vent for his regretted demand. He let the plume tickle the stubble beneath his nose as his cold fingers took refuge inside the sleeve of his fur coat, purchased off Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, from a gentleman travelling south.

The captain’s roar above deck interrupted Jacob’s train of thought. ‘Lay low the mainsails, lads! Keep her easy, keep her well east o’ them Oyster Islands!’

The base of the mainmast gave a groan as the crew set his orders into action.

Picking up the thread of his thoughts, Delpech glanced at the young woman opposite him, asleep on the floor in the dim light, her young daughter curled into her body and a cape wrapped around them both. The English ship he had boarded in Nassau had put into port to water and to trade in Carolina, where the woman had pleaded for passage. She had promised the captain that her husband would pay on arrival, he having ventured ahead some months past.

Jacob had since overheard her saying to a neighbouring passenger that she could no longer bear the midges and mosquitoes in Charles Town, having already lost two of her children to fever.

The captain blasted out further orders, and the sleeping huddle began to stir. Clawing her shawl away from her face, the woman found herself locking eyes with the gentleman opposite, and instinctively trying to decipher the meaning of his furrowed brow. Was there a good soul behind that stern, unshaven façade? She had previously decided to believe that there was, so she allowed the corner of her mouth to twitch into a half smile.

Before Jacob realised he was staring at the object of his inner conversation, he caught the searching, anxious look that accompanied the woman’s timid smile. He offered a nod in greeting as he put down his quill and then returned his writing material and letter to his leather pouch. Suppressing his worrying thoughts, he strode to the steps leading to the upper deck, before social convention required that words be exchanged between them. His mind was crowded enough without having to dwell on other people’s struggles.

As a man of southern skies, Jacob could never fathom why people had to submit themselves to the rigours of the cold northern winter when there was plenty of room down south. However, there he was, and thankful indeed for his warm overcoat as he stiffly climbed the mid-deck steps and showed his face to the breaking, dingy December morning. Raising a hand to the cold sea spray, he turned his gaze towards the ship’s wheel, where there stood a heavily dressed man watching the crew tying back sails.

‘New York Bay, Captain?’ called Jacob, making an extra effort to articulate through the bitter cold as he climbed the few steps to the quarterdeck.

‘Ah, M’sieur Delpech,’ belched the captain, hat pulled down tight and greatcoat buttoned to the chin. Flicking his head to starboard, he continued with gruff geniality: ‘Aye, Sir, that be Long Island. Gives protection to the harbour, see? And over there, that’s Staten.’

Jacob’s eyes now followed the captain’s nod port side, where, through the thinning swags of mist, he perceived clusters of modest dwellings scattered along the coast, some already smoking from their chimneys.

After a moment’s scrutiny, Jacob declared: ‘No city walls there, Captain Stevens, far as I can see.’ It was a statement carried forward from a previous conversation which had raised the issue of safety in these northern settlements. They had not only suffered Native Indian raids but, more importantly to Jacob, attacks by French forces from New France, whose leaders were keen to secure fur trade routes. Jacob wondered if he should have waited for passage aboard a ship headed directly to London from the Antilles, rather than jump at his first opportunity to head back to Europe via New York. But he had been impatient to remove himself from the treacherous pirate haven of Nassau, where Captain de Graaf had dropped him off.

‘’Tis also an island, Sir,’ said a loud voice coming from Jacob’s right.

Delpech turned from the seascape view to face the large person of Mr van Pel, a Dutchman who had long since settled in the flourishing trading post. He had climbed the mid-deck steps and now joined Jacob at the quarterdeck balustrade. He said: ‘Folk of your persuasion have settled and built their homes there in the way of your homeland, you know.’

Where Jacob was from, houses were not made of stone. They were made of peach-pink brick, but he said nothing, just let the fleeting picture of the fertile plain where he was born flash past his mind’s eye. He said: ‘So they are French Protestants?’

‘That they are,’ replied the Dutchman, ‘and Quakers too. No doubt you’ll be able to find a plot there for yourself . . .’

‘And a wife to boot, if that be your inclination,’ added the captain, having sauntered over to join them.

‘Oh, I already have a wife, Captain,’ returned Jacob soberly, ‘and my intention is not to stay here. For she and my children await my return in . . .’ It suddenly occurred to him that he could not say with certainty where they were—London, Geneva, France? ‘In Europe,’ he finished.

The Dutch-built merchantman sailed at half sail on an even keel through the placid waters of the natural harbour. Within the hour, she was rounding the small isle that van Pel called Nutten—in reference, according to the Dutchman, to the thriving population of nut trees growing there. At last Jacob began to see through the patchy mist, thicker at this point, to the battery at the tip of the Manhattan trading post.

‘New Amsterdam,’ said the Dutchman in an ironic tone.

‘New York, Sir!’ blasted the English captain, placing a heavy, consoling hand on the Dutchman’s shoulder before swaggering back up to his command station.

‘I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets another name change before long, though,’ said van Pel to Jacob. Then, as if to plumb the depths of his counterpart’s thoughts, he added: ‘Or will it go back to being as it was?’

‘Haven’t the foggiest, my good fellow,’ said Jacob, not without some pride in his mastery of the English language, acquired from his travels in the midst of the damnedest devils of the deep blue sea. But he preferred not to enter into a political debate. He did not need to let anyone know his deepest thoughts. Either side of the fence could lead to danger in these times of upheaval, he thought, what with the conflict with New France.

The ship entered smoother waters while Jacob leaned on the balustrade, trying to peer through the dissipating mist at the configuration of New York.

It was composed of a mismatch of Dutch-style buildings made of stone and brick, the windmill that presently stood as still as a sentinel on the west side of the promontory, and an assortment of vessels moored along the eastern side. Jacob thought it more reminiscent of the port of Amsterdam than anything English.

The merchant ship continued her course slowly into the roadstead to the east of the promontory. Leaning with forearms on the bulwark and loosely clasping his hands, Jacob was soon able to more closely make out the influence of visiting cultures and the resulting mix of architectural styles inserted between the crenelated Dutch-built edifices. It was an odd blend, he thought, as odd as the English brick houses built among the white-washed Spanish haciendas and one-storey houses of Port Royale in Jamaica. But this was the New World, after all, a new world he was growing accustomed to. It was a land of many nations where people were thrown together in the mutual hopes of a fresh start and a fair chance of success. He only hoped the sins of the Old World had not washed up on the shores of New York as they had done on the spit of land occupied by Port Royale.

Mr van Pel pointed out City Hall, where the battery was peopled with stevedores hoisting a winch, market sellers carting their produce, oystermen pushing carts, and small clusters of merchants who Jacob imagined were talking business. But if he could hear their muffled voices through the morning mist, he would find that the dwindling fur and tobacco trade due to border troubles was not the only talk of the New England township. The eighty-tonner lying at the wharf, just in from England, had not only brought linens, woollens, tools, and wine. It had also brought unofficial news of a probable invasion of England by the Prince of Orange and his Dutch army. Would the navigation rights now be reviewed to better suit the colonists’ activities? Would New York regain its former status as a province? Would the Catholic king leave England in peace?

But even if he could hear the gossip, it would not have clouded his mind much. His one thought now was to get back to his family; the world could go mad without him. He would take some rest on firm ground, before setting out on another gruelling voyage across the ocean on as solid an ocean-going vessel as he could find. And judging by the size of the English ship at the slip, he was relieved that he had found one that would do the trick.

As he scoured the harbour, it struck him that the colony settlement, though well established, was not exactly as large as Bordeaux or even Marseille. It would surely not be too much of a task, he thought, to locate Daniel Darlington, the Englishman in whose hands he had left Marianne and her grandmother.

He was keen to pay a social visit to the young lady he had watched and cared for during their detention and their escape from Hispaniola. It would tie a loose end in his mind and set him at ease to know that she had found comfort and satisfaction, that neither she nor young Darlington had been accused of involvement in the tragic accident that had caused the death of a drunken soldier, and had forced Delpech to part ways or face trial and execution.

A blast from the captain, followed by the thunderous clanking of running chains, brought the vessel to a timber-creaking halt. The ship came to anchor at a gunshot from Coenties Slip, situated at the mouth of East River. It was, according to van Pel, less prone there to oyster reefs than the Hudson River that flowed along the west side, all the way up to Albany.

The West Indies merchantman—with its delivery of molasses, rum, and ginger—would have to lay in wait for a loading bay to become vacant. But the captain allowed all the passengers to be rowed ashore. All, that is, except for two.

As the travellers excitedly brushed down clothes, straightened hair, and gathered their effects in the dim light of mid-deck, the captain motioned to a lady fastening her daughter’s bonnet.

‘Madame Blancfort,’ he said, standing on the hatch steps. ‘With all due respect, I’ll have to ask you to remain aboard till yer husband comes to pay ya fare.’

Jacob, now standing at the ginger barrel where he had recovered his meagre effects, could not ignore the ball of indignation that surged in his chest. ‘But Captain Stevens, Sir,’ he protested, placing his leather pouch back down on the barrel of ginger. ‘That is wholly unfair. She can hardly run away from the island. Indeed, I will vouch for her and her child.’

‘Then I must ask you to do so with coin, Monsieur Delpech,’ said the captain affably enough, though standing erect and formal to match the Huguenot’s posture.

‘It is all right, M’sieur,’ said the lady in French. ‘I will wait here. We have waited to come to New York for so long, another hour or so will do us no harm.’

‘As you wish, Madame,’ said Jacob, secretly relieved to opt out of the potentially embarrassing situation, for he did not have the means to spend his money needlessly. He really ought to learn to put the reins on his acute sense of injustice.

‘But please, Sir,’ continued the woman, ‘if you would be so kind as to enquire after my husband. His name is Jeremy Blancfort. Please tell him his wife and daughter are here. He will come immediately, so please do not fret, Sir. What’s an hour more compared to a month-long voyage?’

Delpech and the French-speaking wives of the other families aboard assured her they would do as she asked and arranged to meet again in church. Then they proceeded to the upper deck, where they could climb into the boat which would take them to their new lives.

It occurred to Jacob that he would not have left his wife without monies to pay her fare, even if it were to scout for an adequate settlement. Was the husband not conscious of the dangers that could befall a lone woman? At least, he would not have left her entirely without means; for he had seen what became of penniless women in Port Royale. But then, was his situation so very different? Could Jeanne have suffered similarly in Amsterdam, in the hope that her husband would be able to pay her fare on arrival in London?

*

Half an hour later, Jacob Delpech was standing on the timber boardwalk of the cold and foggy wharf with his fellow travellers. These consisted of Irish, Dutch, German, and Huguenot individuals and families who had boarded the ship as it sailed from port to port up the North American coast. Some had relatives in New York. Others spoke of Staten Island, where they planned to purchase land now that their indenture was ended. Jacob glanced around at these hopeful colonists, all looking slightly bewildered. But it was a welcome change from the privateers, pirates, soldiers, and profiteers he had become accustomed to.

The sight of small parties of would-be settlers had long since become an integral part of the New York portscape, and welcoming them had been set up as a procedure. The patrolling town constable who came to greet them invited them to make their presence known in an official capacity, something they would need to do should they wish to apply for denizenship.

‘City Hall is over there, Ladies and Gentlemen,’ he said in a Dutch accent, pointing across the battery to a fine five-storey brick building. He then waved to a cartman to come and carry their effects while Jacob bade farewell to Mr van Pel.

‘Godspeed, and good luck in your endeavours, Sir,’ said the Dutchman. Then he sauntered, with stick in hand and sack slung over shoulder, along the wharf and into the busy market street with other returning passengers.

After being at sea for so long, climbing the sturdy stone steps of City Hall without having to counter any pitch or sway brought a secret feeling of security and permanence to more than a few. The petty constable, the cartman, the registration process, and the solidity of the building all enhanced the impression that this township, be it but a speck in the vastness of the American continent, constituted a sure foothold, made to last. However, they pushed the doors into a spacious lobby where furrowed brows and concerned undertones contrasted radically with any feeling of optimism.

They were met by a tall gentleman, in simple but elegant blue attire and a white frilled necktie, who spoke words of welcome in English.

‘Sir,’ said Jacob, making a slight bow, ‘I am sure I will be forgiven if I speak on behalf of my fellow travellers in thanking you for your warm welcome. However, before we begin the process of registering our presence, I have been asked to enquire after a certain Monsieur Blancfort, Jeremy Blancfort.’

The gentleman looked squarely at the somewhat ragged though evidently high-born Huguenot. ‘I see,’ he said in a subdued tone, as if to prepare the way for some bad news. ‘A friend of yours, Sir?’

‘No, Sir, I am but a messenger for his wife.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said the clerk, adjusting his horn-rimmed nose glasses. ‘His wife in Carolina, if I am not mistaken. We wrote to her only last week.’

‘She was in Carolina,’ said Jacob. ‘She is at present with her daughter on board the merchant ship that brought them here from Charles Town. She is waiting for her husband to liberate her of her debt to the captain, who requires full payment of her fare.’

‘Oh,’ said the clerk, raising a hand and pinching his chin, ‘I am sorry to say, and equally sorry to inform you, that he has met with his maker.’

In truth, having seen so many deaths of late, Jacob was more irked than moved, for who would take responsibility for the poor woman without means now?

In a grave tone befitting the sad news, Jacob said: ‘Did he leave any instructions?’

But before the clerk could answer, a red-haired woman stepped forward from the pack and said bluntly: ‘Did he leave any money?’

Delpech did not have to turn to his side to recognise the voice of the Irishwoman who had been Mrs Blancfort’s neighbour throughout the sea journey. Jacob was almost embarrassed at his own superfluous question, but relieved that someone else had joined the conversation.

‘I regret he did not,’ said the clerk. ‘The money he had was used towards his burial.’

‘If you don’t mind me saying,’ said the forthright Irishwoman, ‘surely to God it would have been put to better use sending it to his family! No use to a dead man, is it now? If you’ll beg me pardon.’

The clerk paused a moment for thought, looked towards the wide staircase that resonated with the mutterings of voices and footsteps tripping down the steps. Then, looking back at the woman, he said: ’Well, er, what can I say? I can only hope she finds a new husband, Madam.’

‘But she has a child,’ said the woman.

‘That is not an obstacle in these parts, you’ll find,’ said the clerk encouragingly. ‘We lack children for the future of our colony. She will find a husband soon enough, and all the more so as she has living proof that she is not barren. Provided, of course, that she is not past mothering age . . .’

‘No,’ said the woman, ‘she’s certainly got a few more baby-making years in her yet.’

‘There we are then,’ said the registry agent with a note of triumph, as if he had solved the widow’s problems.

The rest of the little group also seemed to be won over by Mrs Blancfort’s hypothetical prospects, and let out interjections of relief. It became evident to Jacob that he was not the only one who had neither means nor time for another burden. Nevertheless, looking at the Irish lady, then at the clerk, he said: ‘But someone is going to have to break the news to her. And what about her present predicament?’

‘I suggest we deal with the matter once we have entered your names into the register,’ said the clerk with a winning smile, while moving into step. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, now if you would care to come this way—it won’t take long.’

Meanwhile, the approaching footsteps and male voices now resonated more loudly as a cluster of half a dozen men descended into the lobby.

‘As I said, Sir,’ continued Jacob, walking beside the clerk past the stairway, ‘personally, I am only in transit. My plan is to travel to—’

But before Jacob could finish his sentence, a young man broke from the cluster of gentlemen dressed in long, sober cloaks and Brandenburgs. He stopped in front of Jacob and said cheerily: ‘Why, it is! Monsieur Delpech, Sir, how good to see you again! I was not expecting you until next week.’

*

‘I would personally welcome William as king,’ said Daniel Darlington, who had been telling Jacob how he had been summoned that morning to City Hall to discuss the news just in of the possible takeover of England by the Dutch prince.

The two men were walking westward along Pearl Street, and now they crossed Fish Bridge that straddled the narrow canalised river where fishermen brought in their catch. Despite the foul stench of low tide, Jacob felt enlivened by the smell of land air, and by being in the thick of people going about their daily business. Turning to Darlington, he said: ‘I only hope it does not end in war.’

‘For the moment, I gather this is yet to be confirmed. And God only knows what has been happening across the ocean. But what really gets my goat is when England sneezes, we catch the flu . . . three months later! And I will add, Monsieur Delpech, that I find it revolting and insulting to be tutored by men who know not an Iroquois from an Abenaki Indian.’

The subject impassioned the young New Yorker, born and bred. But Jacob’s polite smile made him see that he was preaching to the choir, and that he was probably guilty of being pedantic to a man who had just walked off a ship from Nassau. ‘But here you are, dear Monsieur Delpech,’ he said. ‘Your presence brings a welcome change. Marianne has been so looking forward to seeing you,’ he said as they continued along a narrow street flanked on either side by neatly arranged dwellings of brick, stone, and timber. A fascinating blend of cultures, mused Jacob, though surprised he was to encounter free-roaming poultry and pigs along the way.

However, in truth his thoughts were elsewhere, neither on the high spheres of European leadership nor on the gutter where the pigs foraged. His thoughts were with the woman and child on the ship. How easy it was to fall into debt and ruin, well did he know. But he did his best to tuck the thought away for the time being. ‘And I shall be glad to see her!’ he said.

‘I dare say you will find her somewhat changed, though,’ pursued Darlington with a secret smile. Jacob turned away as the young man coloured slightly, the very thought of publicising his intimacy in the street striking him. He touched his ear and let out a puff of vapour with a little cough. ‘This is Broadway,’ he then said as they turned into a wide thoroughfare. It led past the governor’s residence and continued straight past high houses and walled ornamental gardens that had already suffered from the frost. ‘Our house is not far from Wall Street,’ said Daniel, pointing towards the wall that gave the street its name, ‘precisely on the other side of the palisade outside the city gates. Too many rules and regulations to build a house of decent size within.’

They followed the broad thoroughfare through the city gate into a vast countryside that opened with a row of well-kept gardened houses to their right, and a pretty burial ground to their left. The rutted earth road, growing busy with country carters returning from market, rolled on through green pastures to the edge of a distant forest which, according to Darlington, populated the length and breadth of Manhattan. Jacob halted his stride to admire the distant haze of reds, greens, and golds. Sunbeams now shone between purple-bellied clouds onto nearby furrowed fields of dark brown that sloped gently up to a windmill, stationed on higher ground.

From the stillness of a solitary leafless elm tree came the caaw-caaw of a crow. A slight variation, thought Jacob, to the call of the ones that used to nest in the lime trees outside his country house in France. But still, the smell of the earth, of mushrooms, of the reinvigorating winter chill, all filled him with the same inner peace he used to experience in Verlhac. It was the smell of the northern hemisphere. It was the smell of home.

‘Pleasant, isn’t it?’ said Darlington, tipping his hat to a carter and his wife as they passed.

‘Indeed, Sir, indeed it is,’ said Jacob amid the sudden chatter of jays from a cluster of trees in the graveyard. After another beat, Jacob said: ‘Do you know how he died? Blancfort, I mean.’

‘I do. I believe he contracted an illness,’ said Darlington, moving back into step and inviting Jacob to do likewise. ‘He was found one day dead in his bed. It was quite the talk of the town. Folk were fearful to know what illness it was that took him away. But it seems to have been a solitary strain.’

Solitary indeed, thought Jacob as they took a right onto a narrow hard-earth track. How cruel the accidents of life could be. ‘But his wife and daughter are aboard the ship.’

‘I expect the ladies will tell her. Better it be a lady, and I expect the town intendant will see to them. There is nothing you can do to bring the man back. He was buried two weeks ago. Anyway, here we are.’

Before them stood a large stone house, a charming two-storey building with a ground-floor section that jutted out on the right side as the visitor went in. Darlington pushed a wooden gate into the grassy court, where a goat was attached to a piquet to keep the grass trim. Cupping his hand to his mouth, he called out in a sing-song voice. ‘Marianne! Madame de Fontenay! We have an important visitor! Marianne . . .’

A face soon appeared at the glazed window that looked out onto the elevated porch. Seconds later, the porch door was pulled open, and Marianne stood on the threshold bearing the bump of pregnancy, her searching eyes showing concern. She was closely followed by her grandmother, who stood as dignified as when Jacob had left her at Cow Island.

*

Marianne sensed Jacob had undergone traumatic experiences in the short time that had separated them.

Even before she had greeted him with open arms and set him down at the dining-room table, she had noted how gaunt he had become, and that the melancholy in his eyes had grown deeper. And she longed to reach out to him, to return the help he had given her in her times of need. Had he not protected her honour when she had been disarmed? Saved her life from a drunken soldier and put himself at risk of execution? How could she draw him out of his affable carapace?

‘Before receiving your message, I expected you to be in Europe by now, my uncle,’ she said, placing a cup before him and filling it with hot coffee to go with the fresh bread, goat’s butter, and jam to restore him until dinnertime. They kept mostly to English for the benefit of Daniel.

Jacob appreciated her keeping up the uncle-niece act that they had played during their forced exile from France. He knew it stemmed from a genuine affection, but he recognised too her gift for unlocking unsayable secrets from the confines of one’s memory.

He had caught her concern at his current physical condition in the pleat of her brow, before her smile broadened in an effort to hide it. It was the same pleat of concern he had seen when, while in confinement in Marseille the previous year, she told him he had only suffered a scratch to his eye when he had collapsed on being told of his daughter’s tragic death. But the gash to his eye was deep, and she, with her grandmother, had helped it heal. And she had shined her gentle light when he dreamt of nothing but blackness.

But he was not going to recount to a young mother-to-be, over twenty years his junior, how he had been shipwrecked, taken ill, robbed, and sold to a privateer, and had sided with pirates to capture and ransom a Cuban township.

Turning his gaze from the glowing embers of the wide hearth, he smiled cheerily and said: ‘I have had a tumultuous journey to get this far, but do not fret on my account, my dear niece. I am a little fatigued, but well, and I am here in one piece, and very glad to see you looking so well!’

But Marianne, obstinate as ever, said: ‘Tumultuous journey, my uncle?’

He would have to concede some ground, so he said: ‘Well, in short, I became indentured as a ship’s surgeon-barber to a privateer captain, although the term buccaneer would be more appropriate.’ He let out a false laugh.

‘My goodness!’ exclaimed Marianne in an attempt to coax more out of him. But Jacob was not ready to say more.

After a pause for another sip of coffee, Daniel Darlington said: ‘What was his name, Sir?’

‘Brook, Captain Brook, and I wish never to hear it again.’

‘I have heard the name before. I remember de Graaf mentioning it a few times. I have also heard since that he came to a bitter end . . .’

Jacob said nothing of de Graaf, the Dutch-French privateer turned major, who had in fact led the Cuban campaign, but who nevertheless had delivered him from servitude and helped him secure a passage northward from Nassau. But there was one man Jacob did want to know more about. He said: ‘Do you know what became of his crew?’

‘I do not.’

It was Ducamp who Delpech now wondered about, the faithless, battle-hardened lieutenant who he had left with the hope of redemption. But he feared yet another hope dashed, another fissure in his already weakened faith—not his faith in God, but in humanity. So he said nothing more on it.

Glancing sidelong at her husband, Marianne pressed Jacob’s hand and said: ‘You must stay here as long as it takes for you to get stronger, my uncle.’

Jacob was not aware that he needed to get stronger. Did he look so worn? He thought not. He just needed to be removed from his immediate past memories and to draw nearer to recovering his family. Was that so difficult to understand?

‘There is no need to put yourselves out on my behalf. I shall stay at the tavern we passed in town and be off by the turn of the tide tomorrow, God willing, if not by the end of the week.’

‘Ah,’ said Darlington, ‘the season here has been exceptionally clement so far, but I fear it is about to turn nasty for sea travel. You would do better to hole up until February, Sir. Moreover, I would be surprised if any ship sets out across the ocean before winter’s end, Monsieur Delpech. So, please accept our hospitality, not because I owe you the lives of my wife and future child, but because I offer you my friendship, Sir.’

Seeing Jacob still on the fence, Marianne insisted winningly: ‘I will not sleep knowing that my only living uncle is alone at a stranger’s tavern!’

But it was the old lady, knitting in her chair near the fireplace with a cat on her lap, who at last won him over. Having spent her married life with a French officer, she well knew the look of a man who had been to war. And once all the battle fanfare was over and he was home with his family, she knew of the need to divert thoughts by day and ease nightmares by night, and of the impression of the futility of life, and of disillusionment with God.

‘You will stay here, Monsieur Delpech, and nothing more will be said of your piratical adventures!’ she said, flitting her eyes at Marianne and Daniel.

Marianne, who had absolute faith in her grandmother’s wisdom and was not slow on the uptake, followed up by saying: ‘Instead, I will tell you of our plans to build a new house further along the east coast with some French settlers from La Rochelle. Daniel agrees, don’t you, darling?’

‘The land is good there,’ said Darlington, taking up his pipe, ‘and if it allows my wife and her grandmother to feel more at home, then that is where we shall live. For I made a promise to a gentleman and a friend, that I would look after them, do you remember, Monsieur Delpech?’

Jacob gave a nod and a smile of approbation. ‘I do, Monsieur Darlington, I do.’ Marianne, standing between them with a hand on her waist, looked affably cross while her grandmother looked up with a sardonic grin. But before they could say anything, Jacob continued: ‘And I believe my dear niece and her grandmother made a promise to look after a certain gifted but impetuous loose cannon in danger of losing his life at sea.’

After a moment’s silence for the penny to drop, Daniel burst out into laughter. ‘Oh, and they do, and they do,’ he said in good fellowship. Then he slung his arm around his wife’s waist and brought her to gently perch on his knee. Marianne patted him playfully on the head and topped off his coffee while her grandmother, after an eyebrow raised to Jacob in complicity, continued with her knitting.

‘And by the way, I could do with some advice on land management, tobacco to be precise,’ continued Darlington as Marianne took away his pipe. ‘My guess is there’ll be a large market for it, now that His Royal Highness has deprived us of the Delaware country against our wishes.’

He was referring to King James II’s order which joined the province of New York to the Dominion of New England. It did not sit well with New Yorkers because it meant depriving them of their constitutional and property rights.

But Jacob was only half listening. His plan was still to leave for Europe at the first opportunity, and never mind the weather. Besides that, with all this talk of promises, a pang of guilt reminded him of one he had made recently. ‘I would be glad to be of assistance if I can,’ he said. ‘But speaking of promises, the lady on the ship . . .’ Jacob then explained about the poor woman’s predicament to the female company. ‘I do hope she has found accommodation,’ he concluded.

‘She will be cared for, I dare say,’ said Marianne.

‘You cannot lay down your cloak for every damsel in distress, Monsieur Delpech,’ said Darlington.

‘No, but I would not want my own wife and child to suffer such humiliation. Would you?’

‘Well said!’ exclaimed Madame de Fontenay in a confidential voice.

The New Yorker gave a slow, penitent nod of the head. His grey eyes then locked on Jacob’s. ‘Then I shall enquire after her,’ he said with new conviction.

*

Jacob almost regretted watching Darlington—dressed in leathers, beaver hat firmly pulled over his head—mount his steed and canter off amid eddying leaves into the afternoon turned colder and blustery.

‘He has to go back to town anyway,’ said Marianne a few moments later, turning from the window, ‘to meet some French acquaintances whom he promised to introduce to a friend who can assist them with the purchase of land. The land we told you about.’

‘Oh, he’s always hopping on his horse,’ said Madame de Fontenay. ‘It is one of the disadvantages of living outside the city walls.’ Marianne shook her head in feigned exasperation.

Though far from what Marianne and her grandmother had been used to in her mother country, Jacob could see that the young woman had certainly settled into home life and had made a cosy abode. French dressers, silverware and glasses in a rack, quality furniture, and rugs on the waxed parquet gave the place a positively French appeal that allowed Jacob to feel quite at home.

He sat in an armchair by the fireplace, cracking walnuts. Madame de Fontenay was still seated opposite and still wrestling with another dropped stitch. ‘Over the strand and off the needle,’ she muttered. It was something she had decided to take up in order to while away the winter evenings, especially now since she had a little someone to knit for. She told Jacob of their voyage from Cow Island, where Delpech had been obliged to leave them with Darlington. ‘The last sea voyage I shall endure in this world—knitwise and slide across—and the next, God willing,’ she said between stitches, with a mirthful glow in her eyes.

Marianne, meanwhile, anxious to show her command of home management, proposed to Jacob to set her maid to heating water for the tub, there being no public baths in New York. Jacob, despite the risk of bathing in winter, accepted her offer, remembering the polite turn of her head when they had embraced on the porch, and recalling his wife’s heightened sense of smell during her pregnancies. Indeed, he admitted he must stink to high heaven, he said once the black servant girl had positioned the brass tub before the hearth.

‘Don’t worry, Martha is not a slave, Jacob,’ said Marianne, reading his thoughts. ‘She gets a wage, food, and a room next to Grandmother’s.’

‘As you can see, we have moved up in the world!’ added Madame de Fontenay with a drop of irony.

‘I would not, for a minute, imagine that you could become a supporter of slavery,’ said Jacob, flinging a handful of walnut shells into the fire. ‘But what about the plantation your husband spoke of?’

‘Oh, I will talk him out of it should the notion blossom in his mind, and he will listen to me, have no fear.’

‘And he certainly does that, all right,’ seconded Madame de Fontenay. ‘Why, he will do anything for her, just like my husband used to . . . in the early days. But slaves or no slaves, my dears, what is worrying is being so close to New France. It is bad enough living in the sticks with the wolves!’

‘We are not living amid the wolves, Grandmother, rather the squirrels.’

‘And the rats! And what if the French invade and capture Manhattan? What will happen to us?’

‘That is why those from La Rochelle have chosen the east side, Grandmother. You need not worry, Daniel already told you. And we shall have a splendid house, more land, and people with whom you can speak in French.’

‘Oh, I am past worrying about myself, my dear. The French and the Indians wouldn’t roast an old timer like me, far too nervy,’ said the old woman, as plucky as ever. ‘And I am not worried about a splendid house either. I’m quite all right with Martha next door; at least she doesn’t keep telling me how to knit properly! I was thinking about you two and the baby.’

‘Daniel says there will be a boat moored in the bay in case we need to escape to New York, or to Brooklyn. Besides, if the French attack, which they won’t, it would be from the west. They would come down the Hudson River from Albany.’

The old lady gave no answer. Instead, she placed a finger on her lips and nodded towards the opposite armchair.

Perhaps it was the coffee and nuts, or the warmth of the fire, or maybe something else, but Jacob at last had given in to an irrepressible urge to close his eyes. He had fallen into a snorting slumber, stirred only by the intermittent pouring of hot water from a ewer.

*

Half an hour later, he was transported back to his country estate in France, fields golden with wheat and orchards laden with fat fruit. He was standing in the reservoir he had devised for irrigation purposes, where his children and his farmhands sometimes bathed after a long summer day’s picking.

He suddenly found himself standing underwater with a crowd of babbling people, fully dressed and having fun, bounding from the shallow lake bed to the surface. He looked around and saw his son Paul kicking away from the stony bottom with a gleeful smile. But as the boy reached the end of his thrust, the water’s surface seemed to inch agonisingly further away.

‘I need to breathe now,’ Jacob heard the boy say calmly after landing back down on the lake bed, eyes beginning to bulge. Jacob seized him by the waist, thrust him upward, but again the boy only broke the surface with his outstretched hands. Jacob propelled the boy upward again with all his might. Again, only the boy’s hands reached out of the water.

But suddenly, as the lad began to sink back down, an anonymous hand plunged into the water, clasped the boy’s arm, and pulled him out of the lake.

The next instant, Jacob was standing on the grassy shore. Paul was standing, eyes reddened, lips violet with cold, but alive. There came a sudden loud pop, and Jacob, fearing musket fire, threw his arms around his son protectively as a company of dead Spanish cadets came walking, weapons in hands, from out of the black waters of the lake.

‘No!’ cried Jacob. ‘No! Go away!’

Jacob awoke to an insistent knocking at the lounge door.

‘Are you all right, Monsieur Delpech?’ called the voice of the old lady.

The fire crackled in the grate as he sat up in the bathtub in a cold sweat, burdened by thoughts of his wife stranded in London, burdened by the thought of the woman on the ship drowned in grief and debt.

‘All is well, just fell asleep in the tub, ha,’ he called out, surprised at the thickness of his voice.

*

The following morning, Jacob ached all over and could barely stand, let alone walk. The bone-chilling cold and muffled silence, the bleak light seeping through the window, and the echoey caw of the crow gave an atmosphere of stillness.

Half-frozen and trembling, he managed to slip his arms into his overcoat and stagger from the bedpost to the dresser near the second-floor window. His gaze fell upon a spectacular surprise. A glistening blanket of pure white snow lay over land, rooftops, and trees. He placed an eye to the cold brass telescope mounted on a tripod near the window box and pointed it towards the East River estuary. ‘Good God,’ he croaked to himself as a cold droplet dripped from his nose. ‘The river has frozen over!’

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The series includes intense themes such as persecution, hardship, war, forced isolation, and significant grief due to loss. It also contains mild swearing in the dialogue, with words typically used to express frustration or surprise.

What is the intimacy rating of the series?

The Huguenot Chronicles includes moderate sexual content, with some explicit references.

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Hi, I'm Paul C.R. Monk.
Thanks for diving into my books.
As a linguist, teacher, and a game writer turned novelist, I've always been fascinated by history and storytelling.
My series, the Huguenot Chronicles, takes you on a dramatic journey through 17th century Europe, the Caribbean, and beyond.
My experiences living across various cultures fuel my writing, bringing diverse historical settings to life. I'm thrilled to share these stories, rooted in historical events, and I hope they ignite your imagination as much as they did mine.

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