Beschreibung

London, 1732: Nora Reed, the daughter of a merchant, falls hopelessly in love with her father's clerk, Simon. Despite their differing social class, the star-crossed lovers dream of a future on a tropical island - until tragedy strikes, and Nora must face a life without her soulmate. Hopeless, Nora enters a marriage of convenience with Elias Fortnam, a widower and sugar planter in Jamaica. Even without Simon, she is determined to somehow fulfill their tropical fantasy. But life in the Caribbean doesn't turn out as Nora had dreamt. Nora is deeply shocked by the way plantation owners treat the slaves and decides to shake things up on her own sugar cane plantation - for the better. Surprisingly, her adult stepson Doug supports her in this endeavor when he arrives from Europe. However, his return also puts things into a state of turmoil - especially Nora's feelings. Just as Nora seems to be settling into her role as lady of the house, one harrowing event rips everything from her but her life ... A gripping tale of love and hate, trust and betrayal, and a thrilling destiny set against the pristine beaches and swaying palmtrees of the tropics. For fans of Kathleen Grissom,THE KITCHEN HOUSE, Alex Haley, ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY, and Sue Monk Kidd, THE INVENTION OF WINGS.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Titlepage

Copyright

Map Jamaica

Young Love

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

The Island

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Magic

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Betrayal

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Love

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Revenge

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Afterword

About the Book

A new saga from best-selling author Sarah Lark: original, captivating, superb

London, 1732: Nora Reed, the daughter of a merchant, falls hopelessly in love with her father’s clerk, Simon. Despite their differing social class, the star-crossed lovers dream of a future on a tropical island – until tragedy strikes, and Nora must face a life without her soulmate. Hopeless, Nora enters a marriage of convenience with Elias Fortnam, a widower and sugar planter in Jamaica. Even without Simon, she is determined to somehow fulfill their tropical fantasy. But life in the Caribbean doesn’t turn out as Nora had dreamt.

Nora is deeply shocked by the way plantation owners treat the slaves and decides to shake things up on her own sugar cane plantation – for the better. Surprisingly, her adult stepson Doug supports her in this endeavor when he arrives from Europe. However, his return also puts things into a state of turmoil – especially Nora’s feelings.

Just as Nora seems to be settling into her role as lady of the house, one harrowing event rips everything from her but her life … A gripping tale of love and hate, trust and betrayal, and a thrilling destiny set against the pristine beaches and swaying palmtrees of the tropics.

About the Author

Sarah Lark, born in 1958, studied psychology and completed her doctorate on the subject of “daydreams.” She also worked as a tour guide for many years and was always fascinated by the paradisiacal places of the world. Her captivating novels set in New Zealand immediately gained a large readership and have a longstanding position on the bestseller list in Germany.

Sarah Lark is a pseudonym of a successful German writer. She lives in Spain and is currently working on her next novel. Under the pen name Ricarda Jordan, she takes her readers away on a journey into the colourful middle ages.

SARAH LARK

ISLAND OFA THOUSANDSPRINGS

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

October 2014

Digital original edition

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

This title was acquired through the literary agency Thomas Schlück GmbH, 30827 Garbsen, Germany

Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Cologne, Germany

Written by Sarah Lark

Translated by Sharmila Cohen

Edited by Victoria Pepe

Cover design and photo illustration by Travis Harvey

Map © 2014 by Reinhard Borner, Wipperfürth

Project management by Lori Herber

E-Book-Production: le-tex publishing services GmbH, Leipzig

ISBN 978-3-8387-5321-8

www.bastei-entertainment.de

www.lesejury.de

YOUNG LOVE

London Late summer to fall 1729

CHAPTER 1

“Just look at the weather!”

Nora Reed shivered before stepping out of her father’s house and hurrying to the carriage that awaited her. The old coachman smiled as she hopped over the puddles in her high-heeled silk shoes in order to keep her dress from getting dirty. The voluminous farthingale revealed more of her ankles and calves than was seemly, but Nora had no inhibitions in front of Peppers. He had driven Nora to her baptism and had been in her family’s service for many years before that.

“Where are we off to?”

Smiling, the coachman held open the door of the high, black-painted vehicle for Nora. The doors were adorned with a sort of crest: elaborately intertwined initials — T and R for Thomas Reed, Nora’s father.

Nora quickly slid into the dryness and immediately let the hood of her large cloak fall back. This morning, her maid had braided her auburn hair with dark green ribbons that matched Nora’s eyes and her emerald-colored, open-front coatdress. Luckily the rain hadn’t disturbed the wide braid that fell across her back. Nora was not in the habit of powdering her hair white as fashion had dictated. Instead, she preferred it natural and was pleased when Simon compared her tresses to liquid amber. The young woman smiled dreamily at the thought of her beloved. Maybe she should stop by her father’s office before visiting Lady Wentworth.

“Down to the Thames first, please,” she gave Peppers rather vague directions. “I want to go to the Wentworths’… you know, the large house in the business district.”

Lord Wentworth had settled near the offices and trading companies along the Thames. Apparently, close contact with the merchants and sugar importers was more important to him than a residence in one of the more distinguished residential neighborhoods.

Peppers nodded. “You wouldn’t like to visit your father?” he inquired.

The old servant knew Nora well enough to read her slender, expressive face. In the last few weeks, she had requested remarkably often that he drive her down to the Reed offices — even when it was a detour and she had no real need to go there. Of course, the urge was not so much to see her father, but instead, Simon Greenborough, the youngest of his clerks. Peppers suspected that Nora also met the young man when she went out for a walk or ride, but he had no intention of interfering. Undoubtedly, his master would be displeased if his own daughter had a dalliance with one of his employees, but Peppers liked his young mistress — Nora had always known how to wrap her father’s staff around her finger — and so he indulged her infatuation with the handsome, dark-haired clerk. Thus far, Nora had never kept real secrets from her father. Thomas Reed had practically raised her alone after her mother had died many years before, and the two had a close, warm relationship. Peppers didn’t think that she would jeopardize it for a mere flirtation.

“Let’s see,” Nora said and her face took on a mischievous expression. “It couldn’t hurt if we’re passing by anyway. We’ll just have a little drive!”

Peppers nodded, shut the door behind her, and climbed onto the box, with some reluctance. With all due respect to Nora’s young love, this certainly was not very inviting weather to go for a drive in. It was pouring rain, and water rushed through the city, dragging refuse and waste along with it. The rain and filth from the streets combined to form a foul-smelling sludge, which gurgled under the carriage wheels. Additionally, it wasn’t uncommon for signs that had been torn from storefronts, or even animal carcasses, to get caught in the spokes.

Peppers drove slowly to avoid risking an accident and to spare the footboys and passers-by, who were walking despite the weather. They fled from the spraying water when a carriage passed, but didn’t always manage to escape the stinking shower. Regardless, Peppers didn’t have to rein in his horses in this weather. The animals moved onwards with reluctance — much like the slender, young man, apparently an errand boy, who was leaving Thomas Reed’s office as Peppers steered his carriage past. Peppers felt sympathy for him, but was now distracted by Nora, who was pounding on the window between the coach and the box.

“Peppers! Stop here, Peppers!”

Simon Greenborough had hoped that the weather would improve, but when he stepped out onto the street from the semidarkness of the office, the sight of soaking wet horses pulling covered coaches disabused him of the notion. Simon tried to pull up the collar of his threadbare coat to protect the lace trimming of his last acceptable shirt. He was in the habit of pressing it himself every evening in order to keep it at least partly in the right shape. Now it was immediately soaked through, along with Simon’s powdered hair. The water ran down his short, thick, dark braid. Simon longed for a headdress, but had to go without because he wasn’t quite sure what was proper for his new position as a clerk. Certainly not the young nobleman’s three-cornered hat, even if his own were still presentable, and not the elaborate style of wig that his father — and the bailiff — had worn …

Simon tried not to think about it any further. He coughed as water ran down his back. If he didn’t get out of the downpour soon, his coat and breeches would be completely soaked. The sodden leather of his old buckled shoes squeaked with every step. Simon tried to take longer strides. He was close to Thames Street, and maybe he could just wait for the answer to the letter that he had offered to deliver. Hopefully the rain would subside by then …

Simon first noticed the carriage approaching from behind when he heard Nora’s bright voice.

“Simon! What on earth are you doing out there? You’ll catch your death of cold in this weather! What was my father thinking, letting you play errand boy?”

The young woman didn’t wait for Peppers to leave his seat to open the door for her. Instead, she spiritedly pushed open the door from inside and invitingly patted the seat beside her.

“Get in, Simon, quickly! The wind is blowing all the rain onto the cushions.”

Simon looked indecisively into the carriage, while Peppers looked awkwardly at the young man, who was standing like a wet cat on the curb. “Your father surely wouldn’t like it—”

“Your father surely wouldn’t like it, Miss Reed—”

Simon and the coachman said the words at almost the same time and looked equally indignant when Nora responded with a light-hearted laugh.

“Now be sensible, Simon! No matter where you want to go, my father also wouldn’t like it if his delivery boy arrived looking as if he’d just swum through the Thames. And Peppers won’t say anything, will you?”

Nora eagerly smiled at her coachman. Peppers sighed.

“If you please, mister … uh … milord.” It ruffled Peppers’s feathers to have to address this unfortunate figure with the correct title of nobility.

Simon Greenborough shrugged. “‘Mister’ is fine. The seat in the House of Lords is sold anyway, regardless of if I call myself lord, or viscount, or anything else.”

It sounded bitter, and Simon scolded himself for having given the servant insight into his family circumstances. Then again, perhaps he already knew too much about him anyway. Nora considered the staff in her house to be like her extended family; who knew what she’d told her lady’s maids or any of the others?

Simon took a deep breath as he slid onto the cushion beside her. He coughed again — this weather really got to his lungs. Nora looked at the young man, partly with reproach and partly with concern. Then she decidedly grabbed her scarf and rubbed his hair dry. Of course, traces of powder were left on the wool. Nora looked at it, shaking her head.

“You always use this stuff!” she reprimanded him. “It’s a stupid fashion and you have such beautiful dark hair, why color it white like an old man? Thank God you still haven’t come up with the idea of putting on a wig …”

Simon smiled. He couldn’t have afforded a wig even if he’d wanted one, but Nora consistently refused to notice his poverty, just as she denied all of the other differences between her own station in life and Simon’s. To her, it was all the same if he was titled and she was not, if he was completely destitute, while her father was among the richest merchants in the empire, or if he lived in a palace or served as a poorly paid clerk in her father’s offices. Nora Reed loved Simon Greenborough and she had no doubt that this love would eventually find fulfillment. Now she leaned, guileless and wide-eyed, on his shoulder, as the carriage rumbled over London’s cobblestone streets.

In contrast, Simon took a nervous glance in the direction of the coachman’s box before happily taking her in his arms and kissing her. Naturally, Nora had chosen a closed carriage on such a rainy day. The window that allowed her to speak to Peppers was tiny and completely fogged over. The coachman wouldn’t notice anything. Nora returned Simon’s kiss without any inhibition.

“I missed you so much,” she whispered and nestled up to him, without regard to the fact that it would make her cloak wet and crumple the lace at the neckline of her dress. “How long has it been?”

“Two days,” Simon replied immediately and gently stroked her hair and temple. He could never tire of looking at the graceful young woman’s smile and delicate features. The days they spent apart had seemed just as dark and dreary to him as they did her. Nora and her father had spent the weekend at the country residence of friends, although it had also been continuously raining there. So, the lovers couldn’t have met secretly anyway. In fact, there was no public or even private space where such an incongruous pair could have spoken to each other unnoticed — not to mention participate in any exchange of affection. When the weather was fair, they met in St. James’s Park, although even that was not without its risks. On the crowded paths, they could be seen by Nora’s friends and acquaintances, and in the hidden niches behind dark hedges, there were also dark figures lurking around … and now it was almost fall on top of all that.

“We really must speak to Father!” Nora exclaimed. Apparently, similar thoughts had been running through her head, too. “The walks in the park won’t do now that the weather is getting worse. Father must allow you to openly court me! If only because I’d like to show you around. My wonderful lord …”

She smiled mischievously at Simon and, as was often the case, he lost himself in the sight of her slender, intelligent face with her green eyes, which seemed like a kaleidoscope of brighter and darker lights that flashed when Nora was excited. He loved her auburn hair, especially when she adorned it with flowers. Orange blossoms … Neither Simon nor Nora had ever seen an orange tree, but they knew the flowers from illustrations, and they dreamed of one day picking them together.

“Your father will never allow it.” Simon pessimistically replied, and pulled Nora in closer. It was nice to feel her; to imagine that this was his own carriage; that he was bringing his beloved home to a beautiful manor in the sun …

“Where is it you actually wanted to go?”

Peppers’ terse question made the lovers quickly pull away from each other. It was unlikely that he had seen much. He had only turned around to his passengers, and the traffic on the London streets required all of his attention, especially in this weather.

“To … to Thames Street,” Simon answered. “To the office of Mr. Roundbottom!”

Nora happily smiled. “Oh, we’re practically going there anyway!” she delighted. “I’m on my way to see Lady Wentworth to return this.”

She pulled a small, beautifully bound book from her lace-trimmed bag and held it towards Simon.

“Barbados,” the wrinkle that invariably appeared on Simon’s forehead when he was worried smoothed itself out at the sight of the book, “I would’ve liked to read it, too.”

Nora nodded. “I know, but I have to bring it back. The Wentworths are leaving for the Virgin Islands tomorrow. They have a plantation there, you know. They were just here to …”

Simon wasn’t listening any longer, but instead, was flipping through the book. He could imagine why the Wentworths were in England. They probably just had to leave their West Indian properties to buy a seat in Parliament, or to look after one that already belonged to their family. The sugar cane growers from Jamaica, Barbados, and other growing regions of the Caribbean jealously guarded the resale-price maintenance of their products and the import embargos from other countries. To this end, they consolidated their power through the acquisition of seats in the House of Lords, which were offered up by impoverished nobles such as Simon’s own family. As far as Simon knew, the representatives of Greenborough County now included a member from the Codrington family, who owned a large part of the small Caribbean island of Barbuda.

Nora didn’t linger on the Wentworth family for long. Instead, she looked again at the book that she’d already read several times.

“Isn’t it lovely?” she commented on a drawing.

Simon had just turned to a page that illustrated an etching of a shore in Barbados. Palm trees and a sandy beach which seemed to then go directly into the dense jungle … Nora leaned eagerly over the book and Simon was then so close to her that he could take in the scent of her hair: not talcum powder, but rose water.

“And there is our hut!” she fantasized and pointed to a sort of clearing. “Covered with palm branches …”

Simon smiled. “As far as that goes, you’ll have to decide sometime,” he teased her. “Do you want to live with the natives in their huts or run a tobacco plantation for your father?”

Nora and Simon were in agreement that England in general, and London in particular, was not where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives.

Nora devoured all of the literature about the colonies that she could find, and Simon dreamed of the letters that he’d written for her father regarding Jamaica, Barbados, or Cooper Island. Thomas Reed imported sugar cane, tobacco, and cotton from all parts of the British Empire. He maintained frequent contact with the local growers and, as such, Nora already had her own plan for realizing her desires. All the better, as in England there was perhaps no future for her and Simon … but, if they opened a branch of the Reed business somewhere in the colonies … Currently, Barbados was her dream location.

Even so, she would have settled anywhere where the sun shone daily.

“Here we are … Miss Nora, sir,” Peppers halted the carriage and got ready to open the door for Simon.

“48 Thames Street.”

Beside the entrance to the townhouse there was a golden sign indicating that Mr. Roundbottom’s office was located inside. Simon shut the book with disappointment and stepped out into the rain.

“Thank you very much for the ride, Miss Reed,” he politely parted ways. “I hope to see you again soon.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Viscount Greenborough,” Nora replied just as courteously. “But do wait in the office until it stops raining. I wouldn’t want you to catch a chill on your way back.”

Peppers expressively rolled his eyes. Until now, he had found Nora’s flirtation rather more amusing than worrisome, but if this continued as such, his young mistress was maneuvering her way into a story that could not end happily. Thomas Reed would never allow his daughter to marry a clerk, regardless of whether he, at some point, had carried a title of nobility, or even if he still possessed it.

Simon was tormented by similar thoughts when he finally went back to work. The rain had subsided, but his clothes were still wet and, to make matters worse, the corridor where Mr. Roundbottom had him wait was drafty and cold. Simon was frozen to the core — the persistent cold he had caught that spring in the tiny, vermin-infested room he had rented in London’s East End would torment him for some time to come. It was quite a descent from Greenborough Manor.

Thomas Reed didn’t pay his clerks vast sums, but he also didn’t exploit them. Usually, Simon’s earnings would have sufficed for a small, clean apartment — the older clerks could even support a family with it — modest, but reasonable. However, Simon couldn’t even hope to start a family some day. Unless a miracle happened, he would be forced to work the rest of his life to pay off the debts that his father had accumulated, even though every last piece of the family valuables had already been sold.

The family’s downfall had come as a complete surprise to Simon’s mother, sister, and himself. Of course, the family knew that Lord Greenborough’s finances were not entirely sound. The sale of the seat in Parliament had been debated over many weeks, and Simon had privately come to the conclusion that it could only serve to help the decision-making ability of the House of Lords. His father had but rarely taken his seat, and when he did, it was said that he was able to follow the debates just as little as he could the tirades of his wife. She had never tired of reproaching him for his drinking and extravagance. John Peter Greenborough had been drunk far more often than he’d been sober — but his family had no idea that he had also been trying to resolve his already shaky finances at the card table.

When he finally died — officially from a fall while horseback hunting, although, in fact, he had been too drunk to even stay on the horse at a walking pace — various creditors came forth with their demands. Lady Greenborough sold the parliamentary seat and, in principle, her land and her son’s title went along with it. She parted with her jewelry and silver, mortgaged her house, and then eventually had to sell it. Out of pure mercy, the Codrington family left the Greenboroughs a cottage on the outskirts of the village that still bore their name, but Simon couldn’t earn money there. Meanwhile, his father’s debts also included a dowry for his sister, who had — thank the Lord — been able to marry at least halfway within her social class. Simon’s future, on the other hand, had been destroyed. In his darkest hours, he wondered if the love of Nora — as beautiful as she was wealthy — should be considered a stroke of luck or if it represented yet another test for him to overcome.

Nora Reed was convinced that it would only be a matter of time before their dreams of being together were realized. She had hoped that Thomas Reed would accept Simon with open arms as a son-in-law, but was, at the moment, in no position to be open with her father about her wishes. On the contrary, he would more likely send him away as a dowry hunter. Simon was prepared to work very hard for the realization of his dreams. He was a serious young man who had always wanted an appointment in one of the colonies, and tried to prepare for that as much as possible. Simon was no great rider, hunter, or swordsman. He displayed no particular talents or inclinations towards the amusements of the nobility, even apart from the financial situation of his family, but he was intelligent and highly educated. Simon spoke several languages, was engaging and polite, and, unlike most of his peers, was also good with numbers. In any case, he would have certainly been capable of representing a trading house somewhere overseas. Simon was prepared to work his way up and any arrogance was completely foreign to him. He needed only be given the chance! But would Thomas Reed take that as the reason for his love for Nora? He would probably be rather suspicious that Simon wanted to use his daughter as a springboard for his career.

In any case, Simon doubted that it was appropriate to open up to Thomas Reed so soon. It would be better to wait until he had earned his respect and climbed to a higher position anyway. Nora was just seventeen, and so far, her father had made no arrangements for her to be married. Simon certainly had a few years in which to establish himself enough to perhaps be considered for the son-in-law of the merchant.

If only he knew how!

CHAPTER 2

“What is there for work other than planting sugar cane or tobacco?” Nora asked.

She sat on Lady Wentworth’s chaise lounge and daintily balanced a teacup between her thumb and forefinger. Ever since Queen Anne had made the hot drink popular a few decades ago, it was being served in every upmarket parlor in England. Like most ladies, Nora had stirred in plenty of sugar — much to the pleasure of her hostess, who saw every sweetened cup of tea in England as a contribution towards preserving her wealth.

“Well, tobacco has not proved to be particularly successful,” Lady Wentworth replied patiently.

The questions from the young merchant’s daughter amused her. Nora seemed set on seeing her future in the colonies. Lady Wentworth regretted that her sons were just eight and ten. The young Reed would make a great match, and the fact that she was untitled hardly bothered the woman. After all, her own husband had purchased his title. One no longer needed to be married or extravagantly knighted by the king to belong to the noblemen of England. Although, even the latter was viable for the sugar barons. In exchange for contributions — gifts, supporting the fleet, or other service to the Crown — the king recognized how diligently one worked for the prosperity of the kingdom at the other end of the world …

“Regarding tobacco, Virginia and the other colonies in the New World cultivate a better quality. But sugar cane doesn’t grow as well anywhere as it does on our islands. Of course, one incurs expenses …” Lady Wentworth remembered that she had a merchant’s daughter in front of her. If she raved about how easy it was to cultivate sugar cane in Jamaica, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands, Nora’s father would surely try to drive down the prices. “The slaves alone!”

“Well, we wouldn’t actually keep slaves,” Nora remarked quietly, but honestly. She had even already discussed it with Simon and the two were of the same opinion. “That … that’s unchristian.”

Lady Wentworth, a determined woman in her thirties, whose voluptuous figure was nearly bursting out of her corset and farthingale, let out a boisterous laugh. “Oh, child,” she responded, “you have no idea. But fortunately the church sees it quite realistically: if God hadn’t wanted the blacks to work for us, then he wouldn’t have created them. And when you are overseas for the first time, Miss Reed, you will also be able to see that. The climate is not for white people. Too hot, too humid. None of us can work there long. For the Negroes, however, it’s quite normal. And we treat them well, we feed them and provide them with clothing, they—” Lady Wentworth stopped short. It didn’t seem that much more regarding the well-being of the slaves had come to mind. “The reverend even preaches the Gospel to them!” she finally exclaimed triumphantly, as if that alone were worth an entire lifetime of labor. “Although they don’t always appreciate it; their ways are rife with dreadful rituals, child! If they conjure their old gods … well, it is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord that we restrict such behavior. But let’s speak of more pleasant things, Miss Reed.” Lady Wentworth reached for a teacake. “Are there perhaps already concrete plans for you to be married at one of our beautiful islands? What does your father have to say about your plans to emigrate?”

Nora didn’t want to discuss the subject. Instead, she tried to return to exploring alternatives.

“How is it for merchants on the island?” she asked.

“There aren’t any … hmm … intermediaries or people such as that,” Lady Wentworth made a dismissive gesture. “At least not enough to mention, child. A few captains import well on their own accord, but otherwise we always negotiate directly with the country of origin.”

Which posed no further difficulty, since most growers maintained one or more residences in England. The Wentworths, for example, were not only in possession of this grand townhouse, but also a country home in Essex. With larger families, there was almost always a male member who’d remained in the mother country and could negotiate with the distributors if the cartel hadn’t already set the same binding fixed prices for everyone.

Nora remained quiet. The lady was right — trading houses were not necessary in Jamaica or Barbados.

“Naturally, there are a few merchants,” Lady Wentworth then added. “Especially on the larger islands, in the cities. Of course, our sort stock up on the most important goods,” with a brief gesture, she took in the valuable furniture in her house, which was equally as fine at the plantation, the paintings on the walls, and not least, her gorgeous housedress, whose voluminous ruffles billowed out over the arm of her chair. “But on the island there are, of course, tailors, bakers, shopkeepers …” Lady Wentworth’s expression betrayed what she thought of this class of people. “Nothing at all like one of your father’s trading houses, of course!” she hastened to add.

Nora suppressed a sigh. These were poor prospects for her and Simon — especially since her lover wasn’t suited to be a baker, tailor, or the industrious owner of a general store. If need be, Nora could imagine herself standing behind the counter and chatting with the women of Kingston or Bridgetown while she presented her wares. But shy, extremely proper Simon? He would retire indignantly at the first really juicy piece of gossip.

Simon took a deep breath as he returned to the venerable offices of Thomas Reed on the northern bank of the Thames. It was rather gloomy, especially in the small rooms where the writers and clerks worked at poorly lit desks. The older employees often found it difficult to decipher the numbers in the company records. The only tall windows with a view of the river were in Thomas Reed’s private office, which had comfortable seating for visitors and customers. Reed appeared to be receiving someone on this day. As he fought his way out of his coat in the corridor outside of Reed’s office, Simon heard the merchant’s booming voice and an equally loud Scottish accent replying.

“God, Reed, now don’t come at me with moral concerns! What we do is moderate; on other islands the rules are much stricter. The Danes are even permitted to burn unruly Negroes alive! Such a thing is, of course, not the way of the upstanding British. But there must be discipline. Even as a slave, Barbados is bearable.” The man speaking laughed. “After all, I would know, having been one myself.”

Simon furrowed his brow. That sounded interesting. He had never heard of white slaves on the islands. And he’d been able to identify the visitor from his crest, which adorned a bag that had been set aside in the corridor: Angus McArrow, Lord of Fennyloch as of recent. Simon remembered that Thomas Reed had arranged for the purchase of the man’s seat in Parliament. Now the Scot, who had a plantation of his own in Barbados, seemed to be returning the gesture. The bag contained a few bottles of the best dark rum, and the mens’ voices sounded as if they had already opened one of them.

“Might I be permitted to go in there now?” Simon nervously asked one of the older office servants, waving the letter of reply he needed to give to Mr. Reed.

The man nodded to him. “Doesn’t sound like they’re trading secrets,” he muttered.

Simon cautiously knocked, which the men inside didn’t hear at first, since Reed had just burst out laughing.

“You, McArrow? A slave in the sugar fields? Among nothing but black men?” he said in disbelief.

“That’s what I’m telling you!”

Simon heard glasses clinking. Apparently, they had been refilled.

“Of course it wasn’t called that at the time; then they said front-line workers. And we weren’t among the Negroes, they only came later. But it amounted to the same thing: I slaved away for five years for one of the first planters, and in the end I received a piece of land in exchange for my work. Many people did the same thing at the time, before they brought blacks to the islands on a large scale. Believe me, many a modern sugar baron today began as a poor wretch. Most won’t confess to it anymore, especially not to their descendants. They were hard times and on your own land it continued that way. Many only did it for a few years until the sugar cane grew and the children were big. Then they were finished. Worked to the death in the truest sense of the phrase. But the grandchildren now behave like kings!”

“That’s interesting,” Reed said. “I had no idea … just a moment, please. Come in!”

Simon’s third knock was finally heard. The young man timidly entered the room and bowed to Mr. Reed and Angus McArrow.

“Milord,” he said politely.

A light went on in McArrow’s bright red face.

“Good day, young man! Simon Green-something, isn’t it? You wrote up my inaugural speech in court, didn’t you? Splendid, just splendid young man! Come, you have a drink, too! You look as if you could use it. What did you do, were you out swimming?” He laughed at his own joke.

Simon’s hair was still wet, and the limp, sagging ruffles on the front of the shirt that he’d so carefully pressed the previous evening created a perfect image of misery.

“You were at Roundbottom’s, Mr. Simon, were you not?” Thomas Reed recalled his order. “But heavens, did you walk in this weather? My boy, you could have taken a hackney!”

Thomas Reed, a tall heavy man with surprisingly sensitive features gave his young clerk a look that was both sympathetic and disapproving. To him, Simon sometimes seemed unable to handle his daily life — he was well-bred, certainly, and a first-rate writer and bookkeeper — but otherwise, there was something off about the way he walked, and he could without doubt do with some new clothes! And not to take a coach when it rains, well it made it look as if Reed wasn’t reasonably paying his people!

Simon lowered his eyes from the indignant glare in Reed’s green eyes. They were as attentive as his daughter Nora’s, but more searching than gentle, and they also weren’t surrounded by smile lines. Nora would certainly develop laugh lines later …

Simon smiled dreamily when he thought about how it would be to watch her age. At some point, white streaks would creep into her amber-golden tresses, as they already had in her father’s thick hair. And he would continue to love her …

“What are you staring at, Simon? Do you have the response letter from Mr. Roundbottom? What are you waiting for? Hand it over!” Thomas Reed held out his hand.

“Take a sip first!” McArrow comforted him and handed Simon, much to his dismay, an entire glass of tantalising smelling amber-colored liquid. Rum from Barbados — undoubtedly excellent. But Simon couldn’t drink with Thomas Reed as if they were equals! And during work hours at that. He hesitated and fumbled around for the letter. He had kept it in the innermost pocket of his coat, to protect it from the rain.

Thomas Reed took the letter and solved Simon’s dilemma with a slight inclination of his head towards McArrow and the glass that he held out for Simon. Of course, it was not proper to offer his clerk a drink, but he didn’t want to displease the Scot. Simon took a small sip. He felt warmth penetrate his body as the strong, almost sweet-tasting drink ran down his throat. Very rich, very good, and with a smoother flavor than rum typically possessed.

“Could almost pass for brandy, don’t you think?” McArrow asked, looking for praise. “It’s from my plantation. A special brewing process, we—”

“None of that, tell me again about your strange method of land acquisition, McArrow,” Reed interrupted. Much to the delight of Simon, who found the “enslavement” of the Scots substantially more interesting than the production of rum. “Is it still being done?”

“Wage slavery?” McArrow asked, reaching for his own glass again. “Well, there isn’t much to tell. It was usually pretty fair; the planters really weren’t such bad men. Naturally, they took what they could get. It was not easy, those five years on the plantation. Although, I was lucky. After three years, the first Negroes came, and then I could train and supervise, which wasn’t quite such hard work as at the start. And I was also fortunate with the plantation owner. He gave me good land and two slaves, and allowed me to sell my harvest along with his. Only in the beginning, of course, and now I have more land than he does — or rather, than his sons. Unfortunately, they’re not very good and so now I’ve also had to step in with the parliamentary seat. The young Drews are driving their father’s life’s work into bankruptcy.”

“And is it still going on today?”

Simon blurted out the same question that Reed had already asked. He immediately bit his tongue. It already wasn’t appropriate for him to be at this private conversation between business partners, let alone participating. But Reed listened to McArrow’s reply with just as much interest as his clerk.

“It doesn’t exist much these days,” he said. “If only because no one has any interest in plantations coming about. If the supply becomes too great, then the prices will drop — sorry, Reed, but of course we planters want to keep that from happening. It’s rare to hear of such arrangements, and even when you do, the masters expect at least a seven-year commitment — and people often still end up being exploited. No, no, that was taken care of when the Negroes came. They’re lucky really — we’re good to them, and they don’t work any harder than we did at the time.”

Simon refrained from saying it, but the thought occurred to him that while McArrow had only worked for a few years, they had to toil for their entire lives, without so much as a foot of land to call their own at the end. He would have liked to press McArrow further, but Reed had already signed off the response letter and was now holding it out to Simon. A clear invitation to leave. The letter had to be filed away and the contract be drafted.

Simon thanked McArrow for the rum and left the room, ready to return to his desk. Nevertheless, he listened in on the voices in the next room, and slid out into the corridor when the Scot finally decided to go.

“Mr. McArrow, milord … may I … may I ask you another question?”

“You may ask ten if you’d like, young man!” McArrow laughed, jovially. Simon gathered his courage. “If you would … well, if a young man wanted to … move to the islands, somewhere overseas, Jamaica, Barbados perhaps … well, if you wanted to make something of yourself there … are there really no prospects?” Simon gathered his courage. McArrow looked at the young man searchingly, made a face, and then returned to smiling. “You’re weary of the rain?” he asked sympathetically. “I can understand that, I’ve already had enough of it. But the islands … well, of course you can be hired at one of the plantations. We don’t take on whites as fieldworkers any longer, but we need overseers. I wonder, however, whether you would be appropriate for it? A lad such as yourself; you look as if you’d be blown over by every little breeze!”

Simon blushed. He had never been a very strong man, but the difficulty of the last few months had made him lose even more weight. He ate too little, and the persistent cough had also been draining his strength. But if he were just in a warm place … and surely the planters provided the accommodation to their overseers. The money that he now spent on the insect-infested room in the East End could be spent in food.

“That is perhaps … deceiving, milord,” he explained. “I can work, I—”

“But you don’t look as if you could even swing the whip, laddy!” Simon was startled by the casual tone McArrow adopted when speaking to him, although he understood that as a worker on a plantation, he could not insist on being treated like a gentleman. “And you must do so with the Negroes,” McArrow continued unrepentantly. “If things become really severe, you might even have to hang one. And you couldn’t do that, my boy!”

McArrow had probably wanted to take some of the sting out of his words with a good-natured pat on Simon’s shoulder, but the young nobleman looked at him with confusion: Whipping? Hanging? That sounded a little too much like the work of an executioner!

“No, at most you could do something for the administration. But appointments from the Crown don’t come for free, you have to buy your way in, or at least know someone who knows someone.” McArrow shook his head when he saw Simon’s disappointed expression.

“Of course, you could also try as a seaman,” he finally said. “But I’m just as pessimistic about that. They want strong men, not young lads like yourself. No, you’d do good to stay here and write up your accounts. And maybe another speech for old McArrow! It was splendid, son … almost as if you yourself were a gentleman!”

At that, the planter grabbed his tricorne, considered it a moment, and instead of putting it on top of his voluminous wig, held it stylishly under his arm before stepping into the rain. A carriage with his coat of arms was ready and waiting. The newly minted lord would not get wet.

CHAPTER 3

“It’s no use, we must tell father!” Nora said.

The weather had cleared and it was a perfect fall evening, with the leaves in St. James’s Park already changing color. The light was beginning to fade though, and it had almost been too late when Nora finally recognized the two ladies of her acquaintance energetically chatting away as they approached them on the rather secluded path. She pulled Simon behind a hedge just in time — before Lady Pentwood and her friend caught sight of them.

Nora giggled as they passed, but Simon was worried. He found no adventure in their secret love to be overcome. He unhappily told Nora of his discouraging conversation with McArrow. She was not especially surprised. She added what she had heard from Lady Wentworth.

“McArrow is right,” she then said, shivering; a good reason to nestle up closer to Simon, who had protectively put his arm around her and was kissing her hair. “Of course you can’t beat any Negro! Wouldn’t that be something — what kind of people are these, calling themselves lords, ladies, and gentlemen? I don’t believe that God has made the Negro to grow sugar cane for us. Then he surely would have also sent them to the islands and they wouldn’t have to be brought over from Africa! My father says it’s also quite terrible on the ships. They chain them up!”

Thomas Reed did not participate in the slave trade — even if he did indirectly benefit from black labor. After all, he dealt in sugar, tobacco, and other products from the colonies — and without slaves, there would be no plantations. But people buy and sell, capture them, force them into the hulls of ships, imprison, and beat them, even though a court had never sentenced them. Thomas Reed did not find that compatible with his Christian faith, regardless of whether others shared his opinion.

“But there is no other work,” Simon said dispiritedly.

“Well then we must tell Father that we love each other. You must openly court me and only after that will we find a solution. I am convinced that Father will think of something. If I say that I want to go to the colonies, then he will also make that happen!”

Nora not only had complete confidence in the possibilities, but also in her father’s willingness to fulfill her every wish. She was undoubtedly a spoiled child. After the untimely death of his wife, Thomas Reed had focused all of his love onto her.

“Let’s do it tomorrow! You should buy some flowers … they aren’t so expensive in Cheapside, and if you don’t have the money …”

Simon smiled tenderly at Nora’s practical assertions. If he could not afford romance, she would do without and never complain. She would undoubtedly even be able to pick out her own bridal bouquet. He pulled her closer to him.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!