Authors: Tania Crosse
Table of Contents
THE RIVER GIRL
CHERRYBROOK ROSE *
A BOUQUET OF THORNS *
*available from Severn House
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
First published in Great Britain 2008 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2009 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS of
110 East 59th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2008 by Tania Crosse.
The right of Tania Crosse to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Crosse, Tania Anne
A bouquet of thorns
1. Dartmoor (England) - Social life and customs - Fiction
2. Love stories
ISBN-13: 978-1-7801-0374-7 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6696-7 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-087-7 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
For my three wonderful children, James, Natasha and Michael and their respective spouses and partners.
And as ever for my dear husband for his love, his strength and his understanding.
Once again, I must thank my fantastic agent and everyone at Severn House for all their hard work in publishing this novel. As with all my books, my sincere thanks go to my good friend Paul Rendell, Dartmoor guide and historian and editor of
The Dartmoor News
, for checking the manuscript for any errors regarding our beloved moor. In particular I should like to express my gratitude to Dartmoor Prison historian, Trevor James, for all his detailed information, and to our dear friend Colin Skeen, barrister and magistrate, for his research into the history of the legal system and for explaining it to me in layman's terms. I should also like to thank local historian Gerry Woodcock for his information on Tavistock, Len March for his explanation of the nature in which gunpowder would explode, The British Army Museum and last but not least, retired physician Marshall Barr. My deepest thanks to you all.
h, Rose, my dear child, did you have a good ride?'
Henry Maddiford glanced up from his desk in the manager's office of the Cherrybrook Gunpowder Mills high up on Dartmoor, and beamed at his beloved daughter. Though in his fifties, he was still a handsome man, relatively tall, and strong and athletic from striding all over the factory site, which, for safety reasons, was strung out across the moor on either side of the bubbling Cherry Brook. His alert blue eyes crinkled at the corners as he allowed himself a few moments' break from his work to gaze lovingly on the child, a grown woman now, and an exact replica of his wife who had died giving birth to her.
Rose returned his smile, her full red mouth in a soft curve and her heart running over with devotion. She was passionate and untamed, but when it came to her father, she would sacrifice the world for him. She drew the image of him, the pride and the warmth, into her soul, feasting on the contentment, grasping at it, for even as the peace settled in her spirit, she felt something wasn't quite right. His face was blurring at the edges. Fading. Oh, please don't go. Father, come back.
. . .
Rose stirred as the child inside her kicked beneath her ribs. Reality clawed at her, but she tried to ignore it, to sink back down into the lulling cocoon of her dream where everything was calm and safe. To see her father again, to feel his presence â ah, what bliss . . .
She groaned, and despite all her efforts to remain in the security of sleep, her eyelids flickered open and she knew she was awake. She closed her eyes again, trying to hold on to the vision of her father, alive and well as he had been not so long ago. In that magical time before the explosion, a time she had imagined would go on for ever. A time before the damage to his spine had paralysed his legs, before his forehead was badly burnt. Before the moment, less than a year later, when a blood clot had lodged in his smoke-damaged lungs and there was nothing even good Dr Power from nearby Dartmoor Prison had been able to do to save him.
Tears welled in her eyes, and in that twilight world between sleeping and waking, she willed the dream to be real. But even her strong, impetuous determination could not succeed in the impossible, and in her misery she really didn't want to face the new day. If only she could turn back the clock, harness that momentary joy of having her father back. But she couldn't. He was dead. Buried in the graveyard of the prison settlement at Princetown, two miles away across the bleak, savage moor.
The prison. Oh, dear God. The horrific event out in the stable yard the previous day crashed into her mind like a sledgehammer. She sat bolt upright as the hideous clarity of it flashed into her stricken mind. Seth! All at once, her thoughts were a mangled torment of fury, sorrow and awestruck indignation. Sweet Jesus, he didn't deserve the barbaric cruelty that had been meted out to him by the sergeant from the Civil Guard, who had clearly relished the power he held over the escaped convict he had finally tracked down. Seth Collingwood â or Warrington as Rose alone knew his real name to be â was obviously desperately ill, weak, feverish, agonized as he coughed up blood. And as the two soldiers had held him securely between them, the sergeant had punched him hard in the stomach and then kicked him as he lay writhing in agony on the stable yard cobbles. Yet even then, Seth had come out with a blatant lie to help protect Rose, even though he knew he would be punished even more severely because of it.
Punished. God Almighty. They all knew exactly how he would be punished for his escape. Tied to the flogging frame and tortured with up to thirty-six lashes of the cat-o'-nine-tails, each frayed end stiffened in one of several ways to slice into the flesh until the felon's skin hung from his back in ribbons. Seth's beautiful back, which she had secretly admired as she had removed the six balls of lead shot from his muscled shoulder. Rose wanted to scream at the horrendous vision of what would happen to him as soon as he was considered fit enough â if he ever were. Unleashed rage flared in Rose's breast. This was 1877. Queen Victoria had been on the throne for forty years and was considered such a fair, just monarch, and yet she permitted such sadism to continue in her gaols and, so Rose believed, in her army and navy as well.
But sitting in bed, seething with bitterness and anger wouldn't help Seth. Yesterday, Charles, her husband, had promised to listen to Seth's story of how he had come to be wrongfully convicted of robbery with violence. Of how, in a moment of madness, he had run off in to the thick fog, taking advantage of his trusted position of feeding the prison farm animals, a privilege he had earned through his previous good behaviour.
The guard had fired at him. They were supposed to aim for the legs, to wound the escapee and prevent him from getting any further. But, for one reason or another, six of the thirteen lead pellets from the cartridge had penetrated Seth's shoulder, and though in pain, he had run on, disappearing into the dense, vaporous shroud, lost and having no clue where he was going. He had discarded and hidden his prison boots that left the telltale arrow footprint, and had sped on blindly over boulders and through streams, his feet raw and bleeding as his socks disintegrated. Breathless, disorientated, he had stumbled on until his foot caught in a rock and his ankle had snapped beneath him. In agony, he had limped on until he had come to the grand, isolated house and had slipped unseen into one of the loose boxes where Rose had discovered him.
And now Charles had promised to try to help him.
Rose could scarcely believe it. Charles Chadwick had always scorned his wife's sympathy over the vicious way in which the prisoners were treated. He disapproved of her association with her dear friend Molly, because her father was a prison warder and she was of working stock. Rose and Charles had fought like cat and dog, nearly coming to blows when he had discovered that she had sneaked off to Molly's wedding to Joe Tyler, the stable lad at the gunpowder mills who as a child had been rescued by Henry Maddiford from a cruel Plymouth master, and so had been like a younger brother to Rose.
There was so much Rose and Charles disagreed over, she refusing to bend to his will. But when the vile, sickening scene had unfolded before their very eyes in their own stable yard the previous day, Charles had apparently been moved by the convict's plight. He had been incensed at the sergeant's abject barbarity in front of his heavily pregnant wife, and when she had later begged him to listen to Seth's claims of innocence, he had agreed.
Perhaps, in her headstrong stubbornness, Rose had misjudged Charles, her opinion coloured by his insatiable demands in the bedroom. Their marriage could never be perfect and Charles would always be possessive and domineering in his love for her, but perhaps there was hope yet. And when their child was born, hopefully the son that Charles craved, they would find happiness at last.
Rose hauled herself to her feet, flinging on her dressing gown, and some vain, desperate hope drew her to the window. She couldn't actually see into the stable yard from there, but somewhere deep inside her a demented disbelief willed Seth to be safely hidden in Gospel's loose box. She recognized the horrible choking void, the emptiness of total, irrevocable loss. For in her heart was a similar pain to when her father had died.
She turned away from the window and, striding purposefully across the room, her hand closed on the doorknob. And there it stayed. For though the china sphere turned, she met with unyielding resistance. She tried again to no avail. Charles was always up before her, particularly since, to Rose's relief, Dr Seaton had advised him a little while ago to desist from their marital relationship from then until six weeks after the birth. In a distracted moment, his mind preoccupied with the problem of the prisoner perhaps, Charles must have locked the door by mistake. But no matter. Rose hurried into the bathroom. There was another door directly on to the landing so that the servants could bring up hot water and later empty the tub without disturbing the master and mistress in the bedroom. Rose's hand flew to the handle, tugged it, jerked it. But it was only ever locked from the inside, and the key was nowhere to be seen. She searched round in a panic, and then the truth drove into her heart like an arrow. Charles had locked her in.