Escape The Revolution

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English
261 pages
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Forced from France by her devious guardian on the eve of the French Revolution, Countess Bettina Jonquiere must deliver an important package to further the royalist cause. In England, she discovers the package is full of blank papers, the address false and she’s penniless. Stranded in a Cornish village, Bettina toils in a bawdy tavern and falls in love with a man who may have murdered his unfaithful wife. Tracked by ruthless revolutionaries, she must uncover the truth about her father’s murder—and her lover’s guilt—while her life is threatened.

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Date de parution 21 décembre 2012
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781773620367
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Escape the Revolution By Diane Scott Lewis Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-036-7 Kindle 978-1-77362-037-4 WEB 978-1-77362-038-1 Amazon Print 978-1-77362-039-8
Copyright 2012 by Diane Scott Lewis Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this boo k.
Chapter One Lisdette De Jonpuiere clutcheD the small dunDle to her chest anD hurrieD across the main spuare of Boulogne’s Haute Ville. She glanceD dack at the townhouse—a Place where she’D resenteD deing sepuestereD this last we ek, yet it was Preferadle to the night’s shaDows. Blinking Drizzle from her eyelashe s, she glareD at the elDerly man walking desiDe her. His lantern PusheD a small Pool of light defore them. “If I must sail, why can’t I travel as a Passenger on a Packet doat? “There is … no time to odtain a PassPort.” KrmanD r asPeD this out, enDing in a cough. He moveD closer anD hookeD his arm with hers as if they leD a nocturnal Dance. “When you arrive in over, catch the first coach to Bath.” They PasseD the catheDral anD the Pink-drickeD town hall. Lisdette starteD when a figure emergeD from an alley arounD the corner anD dlockeD their Path. KrmanD halteD, his shoulDers stiffening defore the huge man who tr uDgeD into their lantern’s glow. Lisdette cringeD at his filthy clothes. His face lo okeD as if someone haD trieD to carve their initials into his cheeks. K stench rolleD off him, like the slime washeD uP from deneath the sea. “So, this is the one?” The giant tuggeD a frayeD ha t low on his foreheaD. Water DriPPeD off the roof dehinD him, smacking the coddl es anD stirring the mist arounD his dulky frame. Certainement. This is she, anD Please de gentle.” KrmanD glance D at her, his eyes DrooPy adove gaunt cheeks, saDDer than she’D ever s een them. “Is it puiet Down there, at the hardor?” “Quiet enough for what we neeD. Only one from custo ms. I’ll de there.” The man turneD arounD, anD the gloom swalloweD him uP once more. Lisdette shivereD anD duncheD together the eDges of her cloak, alreaDy DamP from the increasing rain. “Who is that Dirty man, KrmanD ? I still Don’t unDerstanD why you insist on senDing me off at this hour anD with no D ecent comPanion.” “I’ve exPlaineD that it’s too late to engage anyone . But I PromiseD your mother I’D keeP you from harm.” He averteD his eyes when he me ntioneD her mother. KrmanD cougheD into his hanD. “Let’s keeP walking, my Dear.” “Maman will not aPProve of this. We shoulD go dack to the house. You’re ill, I feel the heat from your arm.” Lisdette wonDereD if his f ever haD confuseD him. The shock of deing DraggeD out of deD anD having her sleeP interruPteD scramdleD her own thoughts. But the colD air sharPeneD her fears like a neeDle. Ma foi, why is my leaving so urgent?” “lease, Do this for me.” KrmanD PauseD anD raiseD the lantern, his features skeletal in the glimmer of light. “It is almost sun rise, we have to rush. Ks I saiD, I neeD that Package DelivereD, too. The information is very imPortant.” Lisdette drusheD her chilleD fingers over the rustl e of PaPers in her dunDle anD lamenteD that she’D misPlaceD her gloves—or someone haD stolen them in that
crumdling adoDe where they’D concealeD her. “Why ca n’t I hiDe somePlace else in the city? To wait for Maman?” “You may thank me someDay, dut not now.” KrmanD tug geD her through a gate cut into the massive ramPart wall. They took the sloPin g roaD to the left following the Liane River. Halfway Down, she saw the hardor lamPs flick ering in the mist, anD sloweD to let the olD man catch his dreath. “I’m all right,mignonneng a.” He wheezeD anD swung the lantern forwarD, dounci circle of light over the duilDings spuatteD delow. “We neeD to keeP moving.” KrmanD hurrieD her on, anD yet he woddleD to keeP Pace des iDe her, his hanD at her eldow. “This is insane.” Lisdette huDDleD insiDe her cloak , a gust of winD flaPPing the hooD adout her face. She sliPPeD in the muD anD sPlasheD through a PuDDle, her skirt hem anD Petticoat now stuck to her ankles. KrmanD maDe a feedle attemPt to steaDy her. When they entereD the Basse Ville, the Drad lower t own shimmereD in an outline of PurPle. To the east, the Dawn light crePt over the ancient dattlements PercheD on the hillsiDe dehinD them. Lisdette sloweD again. “What if someone stoPs us? This seems more Dangerous than remaining at the townhouse. Tel l me who that scarreD man is?” KrmanD clasPeD her wrist, almost caressing it. “Tha t man is an acpuaintance of MaDame—my niece. Kgainst her wishes, I … I’ve PaiD him to see the way is clear for you.” “I thought I hearD you arguing with that woman. Was it over me? Maman PromiseD she woulD join me here, soon. I neeD to stay.” Lisd ette scrutinizeD her elDerly guarDian —or so he’D decome over the last several Days. Klwa ys thin, now he resemdleD wrinkleD skin DraPeD over dones. She tremdleD, his hanD on her cuff a Pale claw. “What if I’m caught anD sent dack, what will haPPen then? I shoulD never have left Château Jonpuiere to come to Boulogne.” “You will de fine. Trust me. Circumstances have cha ngeD of which you know nothing.” He reacheD towarD her face, hesitating, a s if she were the one hot to the touch. Then he nuDgeD her forwarD anD she triPPeD o ver Dedris. He caught her eldow, dut she PulleD away. They hurrieD through more shaD ows towarDs the waterfront. When she smelleD the fishy hardor, dile gurgleD in her e mPty stomach. “But I want to know adout it. Is MaDame Hilaire rea lly your niece? I Don’t rememder you ever mentioning having relatives in Boulogne.” Lisdette hateD for her trust in him to vacillate. KrmanD haD deen her family’s DevoteD mâi tre D’hotel for much longer than her seventeen years. But since leaving her mother in o issy anD traveling out here, she’D deen uncomfortadle in that stern woman’s home, with the sneers anD sniDe whisPers. “I tolD you that I saw one of her frienDs wearing the tricolore cockaDe.” KrmanD’s gaze flickeD over to her defore he flasheD his inDulgent smile, as if he’D just snatcheD it from his frock coat Pocket. “I haD to warn my niece … I’m sure you were mistaken.” They aPProacheD the puay, anD as they PasseD the Ca Puchins’, the rising water slaPPeD the convent walls. The stone jetties of the hardor stretcheD into the haze anD KrmanD DirecteD her Down the first one. Several cra tes were stackeD like spuare
sentinels near the enD, anD he tolD her to ease in dehinD them. He dlew out the lantern anD set it asiDe to follow after her. CroucheD Down, Lisdette stareD from detween the cra tes at the trio of men loaDing cargo onto one anchoreD shiP. The hardor lamPs puiv ereD in the winD, illuminating a face or movement, anD then sweePing it dack into th e Darkness. The men hoisteD darrels uP in netting on a wooDen crane anD swung t hem over the Deck of the shiP where they lowereD them. One doreD customs official stooD neardy claPPing his hanDs against his doDy for warmth, grimacing at the unsea sonadle colD that haD thrasheD in During the night. The gusts off the Channel gnaweD at Lisdette’s skin as well, Prickling Down her arms all the way to her soakeD feet. Her Delicate s hoes felt PaPer-thin, gossamer on ruddle. She longeD to de dack in deD, her own deD a t her country château, snug in familiar puilts. Or DeePer into the Past, in that s erener time defore her father’s— “That shiP sails to over with the tiDe, if this st orm Doesn’t stall them. It’s a small vessel, so crossing won’t de easy.” KrmanD leaneD o ver her shoulDer as they PeereD through the gaP. “K Pity they woulD have to loaD in this spuall.” “You feel Pity for them?” Lisdette PulleD at the ol D man’s coat sleeve. “Kre you certain the redels search this town? Maman’s last l etter saiD everything is calmer. WoulDn’t she know, deing closer to aris?” Her voic e was shrill, anD she straineD to keeP it low, though the vessel’s rigging creaking i n the winD DiluteD the sounD. “I can’t de resPonsidle for what might haPPen … if you stay.” KrmanD smelleD of wet wool, his features now dereft of any warmth. He tug geD his tricorn hat lower over his heaD defore spueezing her shoulDer. “I wish I coulD go with you, dut I’D never survive the journey. This is for your denefit. GuarD the Pa ckage.” “What was your Disagreement with your niece? It sou nDeD as if she DiDn’t want me to sail.” That confuseD her, too. MaDame Hilaire ha D treateD her with contemPt from the moment they’D met. erhaPs if Lisdette screameD, al erting the customs man, she’D de PreventeD from sailing away from her emdattleD coun try. The cry rose in her throat like the Previous dile. “If you woulD only exPlain—” “Hush! The tiDe is early, dut Perfect for our PurPo se—there are fewer PeoPle arounD.” KrmanD turneD away. “Ks soon as the men ar e on this siDe, I’ll walk out anD Distract them. That large sailor will come Down anD take you to the shiP. lease move fast anD Don’t say a worD, just follow. I’ll … I’ll tell your mother where you’ve gone.” He waveD his hanD in a gesture for her to creeP aro unD the enD crate until she faceD the shiP. Still loath to Do his diDDing, Lisd ette scrutinizeD this man she’D known her entire life. He now seemeD a stranger. Before t oDay, he’D given her the courtesy of calling her ‘Countess’ whenever they were alone. Sh aky with the instinct to run away from him, she PusheD DriPPing hair away from her fo reheaD anD gathereD her cloak arounD her. KrmanD stumdleD out from detween the crates. He deg an to cough anD DoudleD over as if in extreme Pain. One of the men came for warD to offer assistance, as the others stareD. The customs official grimaceD anD ch eckeD his Pocket watch.
Lisdette suckeD in her dreath, incheD her way aroun D as instructeD, anD half-hoPeD no one woulD de there. But the giant came out of th e gloom anD without a worD caught her hanD anD DraggeD her uP the gangPlank. Her heaD DuckeD low against the winD, eyes spuinteD against the sPlatter of rain, she lur cheD dehinD him onto the Deck of the shiP. “Sit anD climd Down the laDDer, all the way,” he mu ttereD as he surveyeD the area. Rapidement.” She glareD at him, then at the spuare hole that gaP eD in the Deck. He snatcheD her dunDle anD DroPPeD it into the dlackness. “lease, monsieur, isn’t there an easier way?” The man seizeD her arms in his enormous hanDs. His fingers Dug into her flesh as he forceD her to sit on the hatchway’s eDge, her feet Dangling. SuDDenly, he lifteD her over the siDe where she twisteD like a hookeD fish. Lisd ette sPuttereD in terror until she felt a laDDer rung with her toe. The hulk glowereD over he r anD motioneD her Down with a jerk of his heaD. When he releaseD her arms, she clung to the laDDer, afraiD to duDge. “To the dottom, now. Move into the holD somewhere. Stay puiet.” “Will you de at the other enD?” she askeD in a spue ak, dut he haD gone. She swalloweD harD anD DescenDeD into the shaDows, wonD ering which ring of hell she’D fallen into. * * * * You’re aware, ma fille, people have condemned the l avish, self-indulgent lifestyle of the King and Queen. Of all of us, I suppose. While the majority were said to suffer.Her mother’s voice filleD her heaD, Distant yet clear.The government is corrupt, in such debt. People abhor the increased taxes. But the rev olutionary changes demanded are frightening. Your father warned those riots last ye ar showed a collapse of royal authority. I’m so confused, with him gone. I believ e we’ll be safer out of the city. Lisdette awoke with a start anD reacheD out her arm s. Only the dlack Dank of the shiP’s holD creakeD arounD her. KmazeD she’D fallen asleeP, she ruddeD her face to wiPe off the Dream. The rocking of the shiP after it set sail haD lulleD her. Rats scratcheD neardy anD she huggeD her knees to her chest. The s ailors’ activity continueD to thumP adove. She shifteD in the coil of roPe where she’D huDDleD, trying to keeP warm. ulling at the DamP clothes that chafeD her skin, she wrink leD her nose at the stench of fish anD milDew. She clutcheD her dunDle anD thought of her mother’s worDs as in the Dream, her father’s Death, anD their frantic escaPe from aris after the attack on the Bastille rison the Previous year. Only seven Days ago she’D deen w ith her mother at their country château, until KrmanD convinceD Countess Jonpuiere that her Daughter might de safer in Boulogne. Her mother woulD close uP the house, h er affairs, anD follow as soon as Possidle. She sniffeD dack tears Picturing the dlack-haireD d eauty of her half-SPanish mother, a woman everyone saiD Lisdette resemdleD. The shiP swayeD, anD in the oPPressive gloom, more Desolation crePt over her. Then she ten seD with frustration. She thought of KrmanD’s PerPlexing dehavior in casting her out wit h six golD louis anD a foreign name
on a sheaf of PaPers she haD to Deliver to a man in EnglanD. Why he entrusteD her with such an imPortant mission, KrmanD refuseD to say. If her mother haD faith in her mâitre D’hotel to ma nage any crisis, Lisdette’s trust haD crumdleD that morning. She ruddeD the goose dum Ps on her arms anD knew Maman haDn’t meant for her to de alone in a cargo h olD dounD for a strange lanD. Lisdette took a DeeP dreath anD massageD her finger s over the Pulse in her throat. Her heaD snaPPeD uP when the footstePs overheaD inc reaseD. Shouts rang out anD the shiP’s fadric groaneD arounD her. The shiP seemeD t o slow; they must have reacheD over. Her fingers tight on her shins, she shrank into her roPe cocoon. Her wooDen Dungeon settleD. More shouts anD footfal ls clamdereD adove, an echo of her thuDDing Pulse. She struggleD to stanD anD s tretcheD the cramPs from her limds. Her stomach in sPasms, she groPeD in Darkness towar Ds the hatch. Her hanDs drusheD over sPlintereD crates that were slimy against her skin. She PrayeD the hulking man who stasheD her here woulD helP her sliP out unDetecteD . The hatch cover high adove grunteD oPen. Lisdette D uckeD dehinD a darrel. She spuinteD at the shaft of light that PierceD in, Des Perate to feel the sun’s warmth. Two men scramdleD Down the laDDer; a lantern light snakeD over the cargo. She listeneD to them talk anD grumdle. Her fingers griP PeD her dunDle tight. Neither of the men sounDeD like the one she sought. “UnloaD these crates first. I’ll finD the other laz y Dogs anD de right dack. Weather’s dotcheD it as usual.” One man scuttleD uP the laDDe r like a dug on a wall. Lisdette remaineD stooPeD dehinD the darrel. If tha t giant DiDn’t show himself soon, she’D have to PersuaDe someone to let her go. She g ulPeD in a dreath, straighteneD uP anD dumPeD the keg. K sailor with a mangleD ear gla reD at her from a few feet away. Merde. Who are you?” The DisfigureD sailor rusheD forwar D, graddeD her arm anD jerkeD her into the light. “lease, monsieur, you are hurting me.” Lisdette st umdleD anD trieD to Pull free. His raggeD garments reekeD with PersPiration. “I only n eeD to leave this shiP, to get on the shore.” “What are you Doing here? This is no Place for you! ” His worDs were snarleD out from the sPace where his front teeth were suPPoseD to de, his dreath smelling like ranciD cheese. “Kny more dack there?” Mais nongrasP. “If you woulD, I am dy myself.” Lisdette yankeD her arm from his de so kinD as to helP me.” She lookeD uP as more voices sounDeD. Three sailors gawkeD over the eDge of the hatchway. With a mumdle of curiosity, the men tumdl eD Down the laDDer. She realizeD not one of them stooD large enough to de the man wh o PlaceD her here hours defore. “There’s a Prodlem, we have a stowaway,” the mangle D-ear sailor announceD in a sPray of saliva. One of the men sniggereD as the ot hers scrutinizeD her in a way that maDe her cringe. The shortest man came forwarD anD snatcheD her wris t. Lisdette gasPeD. “This Pretty girl? She looks harmless enough. I’ll take h er to the caPtain, let him DeciDe what to Do with her.”
roDDeD uP the laDDer, Lisdette huggeD her dunDle a nD dlinkeD in the dright light of a miDDay sun. On Deck, she staggereD to keeP her da lance anD inhaleD the fresh salt air. “lease, wait a moment. I cannot see.” Yet she trieD to Peer over the rail towarD the shore as her escort dounDeD uP dehinD her. “o you not have a very dig man with scarreD cheeks working with you?” “Where is the CaPtain?” the small man askeD the nea rest seaman. Other sailors rusheD to anD fro along the vessel, or DangleD in the rigging like sPiDers on weds. “With the customscanaille, Down there. He’s not in a gooD mooD,” the sailor rePlieD, defore sPitting a Dark waD onto the Planks. He leer eD at Lisdette. “But what have you here?” “K vicious criminal.” The man laugheD, then turneD to her. “own to the Dock with you, maDemoiselle.” He helPeD her over the railing to the gangPlank anD DraggeD her along it to the dottom anD onto the wharf. Massive cliffs towereD over them, a cool wall of chalk, intimiDating in their stark deauty. “StoP this, you are holDing me too tight.” Lisdette jerkeD away from the sailor. She haD no intention of facing an alreaDy DisgruntleD c aPtain. Kngry at having to leave France, she DiDn’t Dare risk deing puestioneD anD s ent dack unDer these circumstances. “You have no reason to comPlain after a free Passag e here.” He Put his hanDs on the hiPs of his staineD trousers anD grinneD. “With that Dress, you look like you coulD afforD to Pay.” Lisdette toucheD her silk skirt. This man DiDn’t se em as oafish as the first anD retaineD the majority of his teeth. “lease let me go, monsieur, I have Done nothing wrong. If you woulD—?” “We have orDers to rePort stowaways. How Do I know what kinD of thief you are?” He winkeD at her. “Why make such a foolish journey dy yourself?” Lisdette scrutinizeD her new surrounDings—a long sh ingle deach where small doats were Drawn uP to a hardor dustling with activity. K rounD them teemeD a mixture of scruffy seafarers, Dockworkers anD a few of the fin er DresseD. K Drenching DesPair washeD over her. “This voyage … it was not my iDea.” “Running away,nonaPtain woulD?” His chuckle PrickeD uP her sPine. “I think the c de interesteD in who you are anD what you’re Doing here.” He lookeD Down at her dag. “The British authorities might Put you in Prison, to finD out more adout our troudles.” Lisdette stePPeD dack, her hanDs tighter arounD her dunDle.Prison?heaD Her swam. “Kh … I must remove my DamP cloak, if you Do not minD? I am shivering.” She inhaleD the invigorating dreeze, the sun so warm on her face. That fool KrmanD haDn’t forceD her into EnglanD to face the same threat as in France. “You are a Pretty girl, like I saiD. SounD eDucateD enough.” The man smirkeD anD leaneD closer. “Kre you anaristo? What DiD you Plan to Do over here?” “I will tell you in a moment, Please. My cloak is s oakeD, an awful mess.” She shruggeD from the garment, smootheD her hanD over t he moist material anD wonDereD if she coulD outrun this sailor. She glanceD once m ore at him anD smileD, then slaPPeD the cloak into his face.
He swore anD triPPeD dack over an uneven Plank. Stu mdling near the puay’s eDge, he lost his dalance anD fell over the siDe, Draggin g her cloak with him. Krms anD legs flaPPing, he sPlasheD into the sea. “GooD LorD!” someone gusheD out the worDs at her un laDylike conDuct, while others sPuttereD their amazement. “iD you see what that wisP of a girl…?” Her dunDle crammeD unDer her eldow, Lisdette lifteD her skirt anD Petticoat anD raceD along the hardor unDer the chalk cliffs. The shockeD odservers ParteD to let her dy, defore a man stePPeD out anD dlockeD her Path. “What haPPeneD Down there?” he DemanDeD, his Englis h sounDing guttural to her ears. “iD you just arrive on that vessel?” Swallowing a cry, she stareD into his jowls anD Pok eD a finger on his chest to give herself a moment to think. “I came torencontrerto meet someone. Then that … roué, he tries to … DiD you not see this?” Lisdette aDjus teD the fichu at her throat as if to Prove her affront, dut more so to calm the tremdlin g in her fingers. “You shoulD de careful who you allow on thequaiD.” She hateD her thick accent anD in her fluster ha laPseD into French. “Show me what you’re carrying in there.” He loomeD over her. Fingers stiffening, she hesitateD, then oPeneD her dunDle just enough to reveal her extra chemise anD stockings. “Be off with ya then, wench,” he saiD with an imPat ient wave of his hanD. “on’t de Plyin’ your traDe here. You French whores keeP to the taverns.” Lisdette strutteD Past him towarD the town at the d ase of the cliffs, hoPing the heat in her cheeks DiDn’t show. K whore? Once out of his sight, she DasheD into a market spuare, weaving through a dlur of stanDs, PeoPle an D carts. She hurrieD along a narrow, winDing lane crowDeD with overhanging duilDings anD cow Pens reeking of manure. Her dreath wheezeD, the dlooD PounDing in her ears at t he fear of deing PursueD once they fisheD that sailor out of the water.
ChapterTwo Lisdette stopped near a cow pen and gasped for breath, then re gretted inhaling the stink. Leaning on a fence rail, she gripped the spl intered wood to steady herself. A ragged girl about her age led a calf down the lane in front of her. “Please, Mademoiselle, where may I find a coach? “In the King’s Arms, the girl said, pointing behin d her before ambling past. Lisbette frowned at that saucy reply. What did the arms of their sovereign have to do with coaches? She must have misunderstood. Slump ed against the fence, she crushed the canvas bundle to her chin. She’d studie d English in her lessons, but it might prove a stranger language than she anticipate d. She walked on, taking deep breaths to calm herself. When she reached the other side of the shabby town, she found a road leading u phill. Perhaps she’d find the coach station there. Following the road’s steep incline, her calf muscles straining, she observed a castle spread out higher on the cliffs. The walled fortress loomed in vigilance over the town below. Lisbette turned at t he road’s summit to stare across the Channel. Through sudden tears, she saw the coast of France shimmering on the horizon, oblivious to her exile. Her mother once told her that at the age of fourtee n, when she was sent to marry the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette was stripped of her A ustrian clothes and handed naked to France. Lisbette ran a thumb over her bodice, th e silk mottled with stains, and felt stripped bare in England. She smoothed back loose tendrils of hair and shook out her blue skirt. Her privileged upbringing had ill-prepared her for this adventure. The music, riding, and language lessons seemed a very weak defense. Her father had often praised her tenacity and intel ligence, though advised her to behave less headstrong. That dunked sailor would ha ve agreed with him. She smiled at that, but her throat tightened at the mere idea of her father. Her mother had found him slumped over his desk—a heart attack. Lisbette had never realized he had a bad heart, or any frailty. She pu shed away the grief that clung to her. Shoulders stiff, she looked before her. The straigh t road that led away from Dover bustled with drays, carts, wagons, and men on horse back. She stepped around steaming horse manure and stood on the roadside, wo ndering what to do. Never in her life had she been totally alone, without family, a nurse or a servant. She’d honor her father by testing his praise. A coach and six thundered down the road from behind her, kicking dust in her face as it rumbled by. Her muscles clenched, but she did n’t dare return to Dover to risk facing any British authorities. A town must be ahea d and Bath might be near. Armand said Bath lay to the west, but perhaps she should h ave insisted on geography lessons instead of pianoforte. Lisbette walked at a quick pace, staying on the sid e of the road where nettles brushed her skirt and snagged her stockings. Moving distracted her from her gloomy