India Heaton presents A Cornish Rebellion; a tale of adventure, mystery and excitement from Cornwall’s murky past.
Loveday stretched and turned over in bed. Treve snored gently beside her, not even stirring. Through the window, the moon was in its final quarter and clouds were drifting across it, thick enough to cast a shadow, but not enough that the light was completely extinguished.
She got up quietly and pulled the covers back over Treve, tucking him in like a child.
Loveday bundled her outdoor clothes under her arm and, with one last look at her sleeping husband, closed the bedroom door and stepped into the parlour. The room was bitterly cold, and she shivered as she pulled her nightgown over her head. Loveday dragged on her petticoat, fastening her dress and cloak as quickly as she could. She pinned up her hair, tucking every red strand under a cap and securing it in place by tying a scarf over it.
Finally, she tugged on her boots and slid a small roll of cloth inside one of them. The cloth didn’t stop the knife inside it from chafing against her ankle bone, but she felt reassured. Even a small weapon was better than no weapon. She lit the oil lamp on the table, picked it up and with one final glance towards her bedroom and her sleeping husband, she left the house, latching the door behind her.
Within a few minutes, she was on the edge of the woods. Looking over her shoulder, she could just see her cottage, simply an outline on the horizon. She stared at her home, wondering what was possessing her to do this. Treve was a good man and she was betraying him. But Loveday was determined to go, and she turned and plunged into the woods along the narrow path that zig-zagged towards the stream.
She heard the dry leaves on the woodland floor rustling ahead of her and stopped. There was no point in hiding – the lamp would already have given her away. She stopped, frowning, trying to listen more closely. The rustling became a scrabbling and the light from the lamp picked out a badger, heading back to its sett embedded in the hillside. Relieved, yet shaken by how much the noise had alarmed her, Loveday moved faster along the path until she crossed the stream and reached the edge of Mawgan.
Keeping close to the hedge, she climbed the steep path that lead into the village and, having checked the track through the village was in darkness, she crossed the path and continued up to Garroe Ridge Farm where a light glowed from the barn. Loveday tapped on the shutter of the barn window, and a woman’s voice called loudly, ‘Who is it? I’m dealing with a sick animal in here.’
‘It’s Loveday. Karenza, let me in’
The shutter opened and a face appeared.
‘About time, too. These creatures are getting restless.’
‘Which one’s sick? What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing,’ said Karenza scoffing. ‘I only said that in case someone from the village had noticed the barn light and come up for a look. It’s alright. Don’t worry.’
‘Let me in then.’
Karenza disappeared and a moment later the barn doors swung open, revealing two horses, tacked and shaking their heads in impatience.
Loveday grinned. She’d married Treve five years ago, moving into Trengwidden Cottage with him. New to the village, she hadn’t known anyone, but Karenza Pascoe had befriended her and introduced Loveday to her neighbours. Karenza was twenty years older, but she soon became Loveday’s closest friend, visiting her at Trengwidden, sharing the latest gossip, and gradually pulling Loveday out of her shell. Nothing scared Karenza. Nobody scared Karenza. And she always had time for Loveday.
But for all Karenza’s good acts, it didn’t stop tragedy befalling her. Eighteen months ago, Karenza’s roguish husband, Michael, had died, leaving Karenza with everything to do during the day and alone at night. Or so Loveday presumed.
It was during Mawgan’s Feast Week celebrations that Loveday learned how Karenza spent her nights. Each day had been filled with glorious sunshine and the village had eaten, danced, raced and drunk its way through the annual event. On the final day, happy and content, Loveday and Karenza stretched out on the grass to watch the closing dances.
‘Are you not bored?’ Karenza had asked.
‘I’m happy to watch the others having fun. Why are you bored? You could find some way to join in, I’m sure.’
Karenza had grinned and replied quietly, ‘I don’t mean the dancing! I mean life with Treve. Is life in that cottage as good as you thought it would be?’
Loveday was confused and it was obvious Karenza was building up to tell her something.
In the days that followed, Loveday couldn’t get it out of her head. It was illegal. Immoral, even? She should report it. She should report her friend. But she didn’t; instead Loveday found herself knocking on Karenza’s door, asking if she could join her and Karenza was perfectly happy to oblige.
Now, in the barn doorway, Karenza was looking Loveday up and down.
‘You can’t wear those clothes, Loveday. I told you. You need to change.’
Karenza pushed a pair of breeches, a shirt and thick jacket into Loveday’s arms before leading the horses out into the cobbled yard in front of the barn. She threw the reins of one horse over a wooden post and moved the larger horse even further from the barn. Karenza put one foot in a stirrup and bounced up into the saddle, gathering her reins and securing a bag in front of her.
Loveday emerged from the barn, blew out the lamp and freed her horse, leading him to the mounting block at the farm gate. Once on her horse, she found her stirrups and gathered her reins. She felt as though just changing clothes had transformed her too. They were Michael’s old clothes, but she felt as though his spirit was still in them, leading her astray.Although still afraid, she felt a sense of purpose with Karenza at her side and they set off, directing their horses across the fields to avoid the village roads.
The horses showed no fear of riding through the darkness, but Loveday found herself clinging to her horse’s neck as they plummeted down Rosevear Hill. As they reached the ford and the water from the stream was thrown up onto her face, she screamed. She heard Karenza laugh at her and Loveday clutched the saddle tightly as they raced up the steep hill, the horses carrying them up and across the fields towards Gunwalloe.
They brought the horses to rest above a small cove; the village below was hidden by the darkness. For a few seconds, the clouds drifted away from the moon and they could see it all – the curve of the beach, the tiny church and graveyard and, finally, the unforgiving rocks leading out of the cove. Close to the shoreline, they could see the rigging of a ship and Karenza grinned.
‘I’m going to find Michael’s men down in the dunes. Stay here and watch for any lights from the village or on the coast path. Keep a firm grasp on the horses and do not move unless you absolutely have to. You hear me? Unless you absolutely have to.’
Loveday nodded. She felt as though any sound that she made would be heard across Cornwall.
‘Don’t worry, Loveday. You’ll soon be back in bed alongside your Treve. Meanwhile, we’ll make better use of what that ship’s carrying than they ever could.’
With that, she turned, leaving Loveday alone.
The clouds covered the moon, and everything returned to shadow.
© India Heaton 2019
If you enjoyed A Cornish Rebellion, you can find more Cornish themed fiction in our short stories category.
Title image: George Morland; The Wreckers; Nottingham City Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-wreckers-46833. This image is available for selected re-use under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence.