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    Original Essays | July 14, 2015

    Joshua Mohr: IMG Your Imagination, Your Fingerprint



    When I was in grad school, a teacher told our workshop that if a published novel is 300 pages, the writer had to generate 1,200 along the way. I... Continue »
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      All This Life

      Joshua Mohr 9781593766030

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The Nightingale Legacy

by

The Nightingale Legacy Cover

 

 

Excerpt

ST. AGNES HEAD, CORNWALL

AUGUST 1814

FREDERIC NORTH NIGHTINGALE looked down at the huddled

woman at his feet. She was bowed in on herself, her knees

drawn nearly to her chest, her arms over her head, as if she’d

tried to protect herself as she fell from the cliff above. Her

once stylish pale blue muslin gown was ripped violently

beneath her arms, the bodice and skirt stained and filthy.

One blue slipper dangled by twisted and torn ribbons from

her right foot.

He came down to his knees beside her and gently pulled

her stiff arms away from her head. She’d been dead for

some time, at least eighteen hours, for her muscles were

beginning to slacken again, the rigor lessening. He lightly

pressed his fingers to her dirty neck, where the collar of her

gown was ripped away. He didn’t know why he was feeling

for a pulse, perhaps he was hoping for a miracle, but of

course, there was no beat, just cold flesh and death.

Her pale blue eyes stared up at him, not calm with acceptance,

but bulging with the terror, with the knowledge

that death was here and this was her last instant of life. Even

though he’d seen too many men die in battle or after battle

from infection, this touched him differently. She wasn’t a

soldier wielding a sword or a musket. She was a woman,

thus frail by a man’s standards, helpless in the face of a fall

as violent as this one. He closed her eyes then pressed

against her jaw to close her mouth, open wide on a last

scream. It wouldn’t close, and her terror was there to see if

not to hear. It would remain there until she was no more

than stripped white bone.

He rose slowly and stepped back, not too far back or else

he’d go careening off the narrow ledge into the Irish Sea

some forty feet below. The smell of the salt water was

strong, the sound of the waves striking against the ageless

tumbled black rocks was loud, but the rhythmic tumult was

still curiously soothing to him. It had been since he’d been

a boy, bent on escape.

She was no stranger to him. It had taken him a moment

to recognize her, but he’d soon realized it was Eleanor Penrose,

the widow of the now long-dead Squire Josiah Penrose

of Scrilady Hall, just three miles or so north, very near the

Trevaunance Cove. He’d known her since she’d arrived in

the area from somewhere in Dorset and married the squire

when North had been a boy of ten years or so. He remembered

her as a laughing young woman with big breasts and

a bigger smile, her soft brown hair falling in ringlets around

her face that bounced about when she jested and poked the

staid squire in his ribs, drawing a tortured smile even from

that pinched mouth. And now she was dead, drawn in like

a baby on a narrow ledge. He told himself she must have

fallen. It was a tragic accident, surely that was all that it

was, but he knew in his belly that it wasn’t possible. Eleanor

Penrose knew this land as well as he did. She wouldn’t have

been strolling out here by herself, far from home, and simply

slip and fall over the cliff. How had it happened?

He made his way slowly back up the cliff, some thirty

feet to the top, his fingers fitting into the familiar handholds,

his feet slipping only twice. He pulled himself over the top

onto the barren jagged edge of St. Agnes Head, rose and

looked down as he dusted off his breeches. From this height

she again became the patch of bright blue that had caught

his attention and drawn him down in the first place.

Suddenly a clod of loose earth crumbled beneath his

booted feet. He jerked back, arms flailing. His heart thudded

madly until he was back a good three feet from the cliff

edge. Perhaps that was what had happened to Eleanor Penrose.

She’d walked too close to the edge and the ground had

simply given beneath her and she’d not fallen all the way

to the spuming waves below but onto that protruding ledge

instead. And it had been enough to kill her. He dropped to

his knees and examined the ground. Only the chunk he’d

just dislodged seemed to have broken off. He just looked at

the ground, then down at the ledge, barely visible from his

vantage point. He rose and dusted off his hands.

North strode to his bay gelding, Treetop, a horse that

stood over seventeen hands high and thus his name, who

was standing motionless, watching his master’s approach.

Treetop didn’t even look up at the flock of lapwings that

wheeled low over them. A dragonfly lighted on his rump

and he gently waved his tail. North would have to ride to

see the magistrate. Then he realized he was the magistrate.

This wasn’t the army, no sergeants to do what he told them

to do, no rules or protocols. ‘‘Well,’’ he said as he swung

easily onto Tree’s broad back, ‘‘let’s ride to get Dr. Treath.

He should look at her before we move her. Do you think

she fell?’’

Tree didn’t snort but he did fling his mighty head from

side to side.

North said slowly as he looked back at the cliff where

she’d gone over, shading the brilliant noontime sun from his

eyes with his hand, ‘‘I don’t think she did either. I think

some son of a bitch killed her.’’

* * *

‘‘Lord Chilton! Good God, my boy, when did you return?

It’s been over a year since you’ve come home. Just here for

your father’s funeral, then back again to the interminable

war that’s finally over, thank God. Now all our fine English

lads can come home again. Come in, come in. You always

did knock at my surgery entrance, eh?’’

Dr. Treath, tall and straight as a sapling under a bright

sun, and slender as a boy of eighteen, and as smart a man

as North had ever known, pumped his hand and ushered

him through his small surgery replete with its shining metal

instruments and cabinets filled with carefully labeled bottles.

There was a mortar and pestle on the scrubbed table just

beneath the cabinets. He led North into the drawing room

of Perth Cottage, a cozy, warm room with a fireplace at one

end, too much furniture throughout and messy with strewn

newspapers and journals and now-empty cups on every surface

that, North remembered, had held tea liberally laced

with smuggled French brandy.

North smiled, remembering that when he was a boy Dr.

Treath had seemed a giant of a man. The doctor was very

tall, but now that North was a man full grown, Treath’s

height no longer seemed so extraordinary. Of course, North

was bred from a line of tall men, of a height to intimidate

if they were of a mind to do so.

Dr. Treath’s smile was warm and welcoming.

‘‘It has been a long time, sir. But now I’m home again,

to stay this time.’’

‘‘Sit down, North. Tea? A brandy?’’

‘‘No, sir. Actually I’m here as the magistrate to tell you

that I just found Eleanor Penrose on that outcropping ledge

beneath St. Agnes Head. She’s dead, and has been for some

time, at least a day, for her limbs were still rigid but were

relaxing again.’’

Dr. Benjamin Treath became rigid as Lot’s wife, becomTHE

ing pale and paler still until his face was as white as his

modest white cravat. He suddenly looked immeasurably

older, all the vitality sucked out of him in that single instant,

then, just as quickly, he was shaking his head. ‘‘No,’’ he

said, ‘‘no, that can’t be right. You’ve forgotten what Eleanor

looked like. No, not Eleanor. It’s some other woman who

resembles her. I’m sorry for the other woman but it isn’t

Eleanor, it can’t be Eleanor. Tell me you’ve made a mistake,

North.’’

‘‘I’m sorry, sir, but it was Eleanor Penrose.’’

But Dr. Treath was still shaking his head, violently now,

his eyes darkening, his pallor more marked. ‘‘Dead, you

say? No, North, you’re mistaken. I just dined with her two

evenings ago. She was in fine fettle, laughing as she always

does, you remember that, don’t you? We ate oysters at Scrilady

Hall and the candlelight was very soft and she laughed

at my stories about the Navy, particularly the one about how

we stole that bag of lemons from a Dutch ship in the Caribbean

near St. Thomas because our men had scurvy. No,

no, North, you’re wrong, you must be wrong. I can’t let

Eleanor be dead.’’

Damnation, North thought. ‘‘I’m sorry, sir, truly. Yes,

she’s dead.’’

Benjamin Treath turned away and walked slowly to the

French doors at the back of the sitting room that gave onto

a small enclosed garden, flowering wildly now in middle

August, roses interlaced with bougainvillea and hydrangeas,

the colors vivid reds and pinks and yellows. One old sessile

oak tree was so thick, its heavy leafed branches covered one

entire corner of the garden, and its trunk was wrapped round

and round with ivy. Blue agrion damselflies hovered over

the ivy, making it appear to shimmer and shift in the lazy

sunlight. North heard the croak of a bush cricket.

Dr. Treath just stood there, his shoulders rising and falling

Catherine Coulter 6

quickly, and North realized he was fighting down tears.

‘‘I’m very sorry, sir. I didn’t know you and Mrs. Penrose

were close. You must come with me, sir. Also, there’s

something more you must know.’’

Dr. Treath turned slowly to face him. ‘‘She’s dead, you

say. What else is there? Come, North, what is it?’’

‘‘I don’t think she just fell from the cliff. I think someone

pushed her. I didn’t examine her or touch her except to feel

for her pulse. You should do that.’’

‘‘Yes,’’ Dr. Treath said at last. ‘‘Yes, I’ll come. Wait,

what did you say? Someone pushed her? No, that’s not possible.

Everyone liked Eleanor, everyone. Oh Jesus. Yes, I’ll

come.’’ He called out, ‘‘Bess! Come down, please. I must

go out. Jack Marley is coming soon. Bess? Hurry, woman.’’

Bess Treath appeared suddenly in the doorway of the sitting

room, out of breath, her hand clutched to her chest. She

was a tall woman, slender, with hair darker even than

North’s. There was a great resemblance between brother and

sister. She saw North, quickly curtsied, and said with pleasure,

‘‘My lord, you’re home. How like your papa you look,

but then all Nightingale men resemble each other from father

to son and so it’s always been, at least that’s what Mrs.

Freely says and what her mother before her said. Oh dear,

something’s wrong, isn’t it? Why are you going out, Benjie?

What has happened? Someone at Mount Hawke is ill?’’

Dr. Treath just looked at her, actually beyond her, gone

from Perth Cottage, from his sister and North, who stood at

his side. He shook his head, as if to give himself direction.

‘‘Jack Marley has a boil on his neck. See to it if you want

to, if not, then tell him to come back. Be sure to use the

carbolic liberally to clean him up first. He never washes his

neck, you know.’’

‘‘Yes, I know, Benjie. I’ll deal with him.’’

North said only, ‘‘There’s been an accident, Miss Treath.

We must go now.’’

‘‘An accident? What happened? What’s wrong, Benjie?’’

Dr. Treath just kept shaking his head. He pushed past his

sister, head down, North following.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780515116243
Author:
Coulter, Catherine
Publisher:
Jove Books
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
England
Subject:
Romance - Historical
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Romance fiction
Subject:
Cornwall
Subject:
Cornwall (england: county)
Subject:
Romance - General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Jove ed.
Edition Description:
MM Picture Book
Series:
Legacy Series
Series Volume:
2
Publication Date:
19950931
Binding:
MASS MARKET
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
6.94x4.20x1.27 in. .49 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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The Nightingale Legacy Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$2.00 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Jove Books - English 9780515116243 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
An exhilarating Regency romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

The second novel in Catherine Coulter's acclaimed Legacy trilogy.

"Synopsis" by , Second in the historical trilogy, this is the story of Caroline Derwent-Jones, a feisty orphan who marries dark, brooding Frederic North Nightingale.
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