After Nell Fraser breaks her rogue of a brother from a Scottish prison, she leads him to a settlers' ship bound for the New World. There among the hardships and triumphs, she builds a life for herself, and even falls in love with a wealthy Englishman. Then tragedy strikes. Nell's hotheaded brother has joined with rebel spies and is on the run again--headed for a British trap. Nell races across the wilderness to warn him and smacks headlong into heartbreak. Clayton, the man she loves, commands the detachment sent to hunt down her brother.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Lynn M. Turner is an award-winning author and screenwriter who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She's an avid gardener, an amateur painter, and she and her husband, Greg Turner, enjoy poking around lakes in their old fiberglass boat.
"The novel's strength lies in its descriptions of life in early Halifax and the Canadian wilderness. Like a rough-cut gemstone, this story is beautiful ...."The Historical Novels Review
"Lynn M. Turner's book captures the angst our ancestors must have felt, divided by loyalties . . . a beautiful book and a thoroughly enjoyable read."Patty Mintz -- The Regional Magazine
"Lynn's ingenuity and fertility of invention continues to astound me. This is a high calibre romance/mystery."Susan Haley -- author of A Nest of Singing Birds and Getting Married in Buffalo Jump
"I DON'T THINK anyone here knows our faces," Rory said.
Nell wished she had her brother's confidence. Despite the crowds and chaos, she felt as if eyes followed her. The cobbled walk and wooden wharves thronged with settlers guarding mounds of scuffed trunks and baskets while their children ran around them in frenzied circles. Seagulls screeched hoarsely and fought over the herring guts that two fishermen flicked over the side as they worked.
Nearby a long line of Scottish settlers inched their way up the plank to the deck of a squat collier. The name, Northern Star was painted in a pretty scroll on its bow. Her black topsides were outlined in an odd toothed way that, Nell supposed, was meant to look like gunports from far off.
"Will all those people go on the ship? It's no verra big."
Rory patted her shoulder. "Big enough."
"We'd best get a ticket before there's no more room."
"There's some lads from Ullapool," Rory said happily. He pointed to a group of men dressed in loose blue pants, vests, and shirts that were probably once white.
Nell opened the money pouch. "Here, take your fare and go join them."
"What? And leave you?"
"They'll be looking for two of us. It's better we separate."
With a nod, he palmed his coins and jogged to the gangplank. A crowd very quickly filled in behind him. Nell took off her shawl and rolled it around the food to look as though she had a bit of luggage. When she judged there would be enough people between her and Rory, she joined the column. She wanted to look part of a family -- and not a woman alone -- so she smiled at a matron in a starched blue bonnet. The woman glared suspiciously back.
All around her, anxious passengers complained and worried in high-pitched voices, and shoved and pushed closer. Nell would have lost her place had she not grabbed the thick hemp on the gangplank and held firm. Never before had she seen such a pack of people moving though such a narrow space. If the boards gave way, they'd all land in the drink. Someone else had thought of that, she realized noting the fishnet slung below.
Ten minutes later, she leaned out over the rope to look ahead, and saw two burly sailors motioning Rory to come forward. He hurried up to a desk where a clerk collected the fares and signed passengers on board. Grinning and swaggering, he slapped his money down and said something to the clerk who scooped up the coins, dropped them in a metal box, then scratched something in his massive ledger.
Rory took his numbered, leather strip and kissed it. Then he swung to the gangplank and sought out Nell with his eyes. He grinned and held the passage tag where she could see it.
So much for their plan to hide their acquaintance! Nell made an angry face at him, but Rory shrugged and moved to lean against the ship's gunnels. He had no fear. He was a wanted man -- under the death penalty even -- and there he stood bold and happy, not caring who saw him. Nell loved her brother but he exasperated her.
A few yards from where Nell stood, a couple of sailors chatted with passengers. They said the clerk's name was John Rispin and the ferocious-looking man who stood behind the desk with his legs akimbo and his fists planted on his hips was Captain John Robinson. Robinson's his hair was powdered into a metal-gray and pulled back severely from his face. His bulbous nose, which hung over thin lips, had red, chapped skin. He wore a blue velvet jacket with gold braid around the cuffs and stand-up collar, and his knee breeches had five gold buttons up each leg.
Nell suddenly realized that she gawked at Robinson, and worse, that he saw her do it. She flushed and looked quickly away. When she found the courage to glance back, she saw that Captain Robinson now stared at Rory. Her gut clenched.
A family at the head on the gangplank, suddenly released from the queue, rushed toward the clerk. Nell inched forward. She was now high up, almost level with the deck. She kneaded her hands together, wishing the clerk would hurry. But apparently his Gaelic was poor. She considered translating, but realized that it would only draw attention to herself.
As it was, she was getting more than enough attention from the Captain who brazenly looked her up and down. Nell shifted to check if Rory had noticed. He had. Rory glared at Captain Robinson but so far he stayed put.
The crowd of people on the deck suddenly turned toward the waterfront where yelling rose above the hubbub. Six red-coated soldiers, scattering children before them, rode toward the ship. Nell jerked back out of sight. Soldiers. Suddenly light-headed, she squeezed her eyes shut and fought for her equilibrium. If she hadn't been so tightly packed in, she would have fallen. When the ringing in her ears abated, she opened her eyes and searched for Rory.
He had moved back from the gunnels and she could see, when his eyes met hers, that he felt trapped. There was no getting off the ship, not when they were packed like salt cod in a barrel.
Nell knew she was reasonably safe, if she could conceal her name, but Rory had to hide. The soldiers would know his face. She prayed that, with all the melee on board, he would find a spot to conceal himself.
Suddenly, she realized Captain Robinson stared at her again. When their eyes locked, she felt as though he could smell her terror. Oh God! Did he know who they were? But how could he?
Behind her, there were hoarse grunts and yells as the soldiers tried to board. Thankfully, the passengers who had waited long hours in the line, refused to budge.
Mr. Rispin finished signing the family on board, and the man directly in front of Nell was released. Cap in hand, he marched to the table and opened his money pouch.
"Three pounds, five shillings," Rispin said loudly.
The man counted out the money. Every muscle in Nell poised to spring forward. It was almost her turn. The settler lingered to ask a question.
Someone shoved her shoulder. She knew by the blur of red at the edge of her vision, that it was a soldier. She couldn't breathe. As he pushed his way past the burly sailors, she stumbled forward. The soldier stood ahead, not quite facing away from her. Nell fixed her eyes on the edge of his tunic, where the woolen broadcloth had worn to pink. "A word with you Captain," he said in English. "We're searching for a young man and his sister. His name is Rory Fraser and--"
Captain Robinson barked, "In a moment."
The soldier sounded taken aback. "Sir! His face is well known to my men. We need to search your ship."
"And you will," Robinson said. Then he turned to the clerk. "See to this passenger."
Rispin, looking confused, beckoned Nell forward. Her fingers shook as she opened the money pouch and upended it on the ledger. She breathed more easily when the soldier moved to the railing to call to his men.
Rispin nodded. "Three pounds, five shillings."
The Captain slapped his hand over her money. "Ten Pounds."
"Sir?" Rispin looked up.
But Captain Robinson smirked at Nell. "If you haven't the fare, I'll buy your bond."
Her mouth hardly worked. "The fare's three pounds, five," she gasped, afraid to raise her voice and attract the soldier. "I've seen others pay that."
"Yours is ten, or I buy your bond."
"What do you mean?"
Rispin answered, "You'll be indentured for three years."
"To him?" she cried, looking at the Captain.
Rispin explained, "He'll resell it in Halifax."
She saw Rory's fists rising to his chest. Any second he'd start swinging. The soldier turned from the railing. Rory stepped forward. Oh God!
"Yes! All right!" She stopped Rory with an urgent look. "You can buy my bond."
Rispin scooped up her coins and handed them back to her. "Come and find me when we're well underway. I'll have your papers." His eyes were full of pity.
Captain Robinson snickered.
"All right men," the soldier ordered, "Fan out."
Betsy Campbell watched Nell shoulder her way through the crowd. It was clear what had happened. The captain saw Nell was in trouble, and took unjust advantage of her. Betsy didn't think that he appreciated exactly whom he had just bought, but she did. She had recognized Rory Fraser the moment he stepped on board. He was a wild lad, she knew, but he had the heart of the true Highlander. She wouldn't see him caught.
She strode over to her short, wiry husband. "Hamish," she whispered. "That's Rory Fraser."
"Aye," he agreed.
"We'll hide him." Hamish looked frightened but she continued, "I'll go clear a spot in our trunks. You bring him around."
The arrogant-looking soldier was in conference with the captain, and his men had finally gained the deck. With one last glance at them, Betsy herded her three children to the port side of the ship. They clambered over luggage and coils of hemp until stopping before their own things. Because they were leaving Horse Island for good, they had brought a mountain of belongings: three trunks, six baskets, and a pile of sacks. Now Betsy fell on them, shifting and pushing, until a hole cleared in the middle.
Hamish and Rory appeared.
"Get in," she ordered Rory.
Once Rory wiggled in, she hoisted a long rolled carpet, and plopped it over the hole. Her wee bairn, Katrin, tugged at her skirts so she scooped her up and dropped her, giggling, on top of it all.
"You people! You there!" a soldier called. "Have you seen Rory Fraser?"
Betsy exhaled. The soldier hadn't seen her hide Rory. Neither Betsy nor Hamish spoke English well, but the soldier's question was clear enough. Still, they stared blankly at him.
The soldier's nostrils flared. "Answer me. Have you seen Rory Fraser or his sister, Nell?" Nothing. He curled his lip in disgust. "You wouldn't tell me anyway, would you?"