Authors: Richard Woodman
Table of Contents
A SHIP FOR THE KING
FOR KING OR COMMONWEALTH
DEAD MAN TALKING
THE EAST INDIAMAN
THE ICE MASK
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First world edition published 2012
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2012 by Richard Woodman.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Woodman, Richard, 1944â
For King or Commonwealth.
1. Great Britain â History â Civil War, 1642â1649 â
Fiction. 2. Historical fiction.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-283-2 (Epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8172-4 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-427-1 (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
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Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
âThey say there is plague in London.'
âThere is a Parliament in London, that is plague enough,' the younger man responded off-handedly as he worked over some books and papers. After a moment's silence, he put down his quill-pen with a sigh, rubbed his hands together and blew on them in an attempt to warm his fingers and looked across the room to where Sir Henry Mainwaring sat by the window, smoking his pipe, wrapped in his cloak and staring down at the street below. Even with the wind-rattled casement shut, the noise of the vendor's guttural Dutch could be heard bawling his wares. After a short pause the younger man asked, âYou are not thinking the unthinkable, are you?'
Mainwaring turned shivering from the window. âGod's teeth, but it's cold.' His flesh hung from his once handsome features, the weathered skin fallen with age and anxiety. He removed the pipe from his mouth, blew a plume of fragrant smoke into the room and nodded, his mouth curling in a sad smile. âI am old, Kit, and likely to die soon. I would make my peace with the world.'
âAre you not at peace here? These solid Dutch folk have tolerated us, I'd have said.'
âPerhaps, but they are not my people . . .' Mainwaring said, his voice thick with sudden emotion, his meaning vague.
Captain Christopher Faulkner sighed and shook his head, returning his attention to his papers. There was a long silence and then Mainwaring spoke again.
âYou give too much notice to those damned documents, Kit.'
âIf I do not,' the younger man said, his eyes and attention firmly on the bills and manifests before him, âno one else will. Good God!' he said, gesturing around the room. âThere is little enough money as it is and few among this remnant court seem minded to pay the matter the attention it is due . . .'
âIt is trade, Kit,' Mainwaring said, his tone ironic, his expression full of mock disparagement.
âNonsense; it is war, even if of a kind the Prince's followers misapprehend. At least these Dutchmen comprehend it, thank Heavens . . .'
âTrue,' Mainwaring nodded, âbut perhaps you should set it aside, even for a while.'
Faulkner sighed again and pushed aside the heavy ledger before him. âIf I do not attend to these matters, when the time comes, nothing will be ready for His Majesty's service . . .'
âTo which Majesty do you refer?'
âWhat?' Faulkner looked up, faintly exasperated.
âTo which Majesty? The King is in the hands of the rebels and unlikely to require either your services or those of your ships.' Having delivered this final summary of the political situation in London, Mainwaring stuck his pipe back in his mouth and surrendered his attention to the street again.
Irritated and diverted from his work, Faulkner remarked, âI thought the purpose of monarchy was to ensure succession and stability. We have a Prince here in The Hague that would be King if anything ill befell his father.'
âStability? Hah!' Mainwaring removed his pipe, but did not turn his head. âKing Charles has lost the throne of his father; that is scarcely stability.'
âI would caution you against such talk, Sir Henry. There are those who would call it treason.'
âThere are those who would call it common sense too,' Mainwaring said wearily. âI am an old man and the future has only one thing in store for me, but men like you, men with a wife and family in London â' Faulkner swore. Mainwaring was looking directly at him now and added with a hint of remorselessness â âand a mistress in The Hague, had best look to their future.'
âYou know, Sir Henry,' Faulkner said, his tone as icy as the wind outside, âas my dearly beloved benefactor and a man whom I esteem above all others, whose skill as a seaman I have stood in awe of for more years than I care to count, I have never had the gall to ask you why, in your youth, you turned pirate.'
Mainwaring smiled. Faulkner, his protÃ©gÃ©, possessed all the attributes he could wish for. Even the chill in his voice Mainwaring admired as evidence of the iron soul of the man, and this was indeed a time for iron in the soul. âWe are,' he responded with a matching edge, âdebating your morals, not mine, Captain Faulkner. May I remind you that I am an admiral and deserving of your respect.'
âWhich you well know you have, but I divine in your discourse, Admiral Mainwaring, a distinct prejudice against the cause we have spentâ'
âWasted . . .'
Faulkner ignored the interruption. â
the last several years â what, four or five? â supporting. Even now I am attempting to muster a squadron capable of bearing your illustrious flag, with all honour due to it, in order to cruise against the King's enemies.'
âA squadron,' Mainwaring said, his tone reflective, and ending with a prolonged sigh. âA squadron of worn-out armed merchantmen . . . Oh, Kit, do you not see the hopelessness of it? With the King in the hands of Parliament our cause will wither. He will be held prisoner, Parliament will rule in his name and our young gadfly, clever though he is, will succumb to women and, in consequence, the pox. If nothing else those Puritan souls in Westminster know the workings of indulgence and excess; they have only to bide their time. England will prosper and find it is possible to live without a king.' Mainwaring paused then went on, âI thought that all this would happen years ago and if you ask me why I turned pirate it was out of disgust. I thought the wheel would turn in King James's time but it did not. I came home and made my peace and served the King,
his catamite Buckingham,
his son whose future lies in the hands of his enemies, but what have I got for it, eh? The empty dignity of admiral, unable to fly his flag over an insignificant squadron, which rots in Dutch mud and is, in any case, under the nominal command of Batten . . .'
âBatten! Do not speak of that treacherous villain William Batten! Why, he is the self-same man that harried His Highness off the coast of Cornwall and I hear he has been made knight for abandoning the Parliament and burying his head in Prince Charles's under-breeches, God rot him!'
âForget Batten, Kit. His Highness has replaced him with his kinsman Rupert and he is likely to set me aside in Rupert's favour . . .'
âRupert,' scoffed Faulkner. âA courtier general of cavalry with scant understanding of the usage of the sea . . .'
âBut a doughty name, a tenacity of purpose and the high birth that this world requires of those to whom it bows the knee.'
âHuh! That is not what is happening in England,' Faulkner remarked. âThere matters are increasingly governed differently.'
âPrecisely,' Mainwaring snapped, but before Faulkner perceived the way the conversation was drifting, he lowered his voice. âBut I am tired, Kit, tired and sick of it all. And, above all, I wish to die in England.'
âYou are not going to die,' Faulkner said drily, resuming work at the table. âAnd our few ships are not going to rot in Dutch mud, or any other mud, if I have my way. We have nine men-of-war at Helvoetsluys . . .'
âAnd how many seamen?'
âNot for a dozen men-of-war.'
âFive good ships. I can make a competent squadron of five ships and command the Strait
the Thames . . .'
Mainwaring shook his head. âYou would sting them, Kit, like a bee may sting a horse, but the horse will still stand and gallop while the bee dies. Do you not see the utter hopelessness of it all? Besides, the decision will not be yours. Prince Rupertâ'
âSuppose they kill the King?' Faulkner said abruptly, interrupting.
? They would not
!' Mainwaring was outraged.
âSuppose that they did dare. You said yourself his future lay in the hands of his enemies; they have his body and may take his head. I'm damned if I know what there is to stop them.'
Mainwaring expelled his breath in a long, wheezy sigh at Faulkner's proposition. âIt would alter the case,' he said solemnly.
âIt would indeed.'
âBut surely . . .?' Mainwaring hesitated and gave Faulkner a shrewd look. âYou have heard something?'
Faulkner nodded. âI have. Nothing but a rumour, but a rumour of such portent that I cannot think it a fabrication. We had it from a fishing boat off the Haak Sand. He had come from Yarmouth market where the talk was of an arraignment of the King on charges of treason.'
âTreason? Treason! For God's sake! How is that possible? How can a King be charged with treason? Why, 'tis like accusing the Pope of being holy! Pah! Preposterous!'
âBut Sir Henry, if the court can persuade itself that a king can be charged with treason it can persuade itself of his guilt and, having assumed a legitimacy on behalf of the people, or Parliament, or whatever else these Puritans call upon â God Almighty, I imagine â to justify their actions, then they can condemn him . . .'
âTo execution, d'you mean?'
âI think that possible, yes.'
Mainwaring let his breath out in a long, sibilant and despairing hiss, shaking his head and neglecting his pipe. âI had thought,' he said reflectively, âthat all this talk of Parliament acting on behalf of the kingdom was clear intent that they would mew him up securely and rule in his name.'