Prologue from Book 1 of the Darkes of Penzance series
by K. R. Richards
Penzance, Cornwall 1845
Every other Thursday for the past three years Captain Jonas Darke took a phaeton from his fine gentleman’s residence, Trevena House, just outside Penzance, into the town proper to number four Regent Square. He called upon the young widow, Mrs. Loveday there. On a fine day, the couple would walk along Chapel Street, maybe even the Promenade. They might pause for an ice or stop in at the Book Sellers. Afterward, they would return to Regent Square where Captain Darke, now eight years maimed and able to walk only with the use of a cane would take tea or an early supper with the widow then take his leave and return alone to Trevena House.
On a cold, bleak, winter’s day, such as this, the residents of Penzance were left to wonder what the widow and the Captain did with their afternoons. Mrs. Loveday, a widow for four years past, in her younger years was considered quite the loveliest young woman in Penzance, with dark blue eyes the color of the Cornish sea during a storm, dark brown hair and fair, unblemished skin. When she came out, she was rumored to have been called a diamond of the first water her first months in London, before her father arranged her marriage to Henry Loveday.
Captain Darke, considered quite a catch in his day, was still quite handsome with dark hair, eyes, and a fit figure, excepting for his crushed leg. Though still involved with shipping and ship building as all the Darkes were, his days as a daring sea Captain and rake about London were long behind him. In truth, he was now more of a recluse.
One rarely saw Captain Darke in Penzance proper, unless it was to see him enter the offices of Darke, Darke & Co or on a Thursday with the young widow on his arm. The same could be said for the widow, Louisa Loveday, although she did visit the unfortunate women at the almshouse weekly and attended services at the church. She shopped at the market occasionally, but mostly her butler or cook performed such tasks.
There were whispers that residents of Regent Square were more attentive to the goings on in the Square every other Thursday. Some even made a point to stay home on those days and tended to remain near the front windows so they might have a good view of the street and number four. None could ever say they saw anything untoward taking place in the front parlour of Mrs. Loveday’s house. Occasionally, there was a glimpse of the misfit couple sitting across the small tea table from one another. Those Regent Square residents with very sharp sight might see the widow passing the Captain a cup of tea.
He was a man cut down in his prime, after all, who had no prospects of marriage after the horrible accident that left him crippled. He was no doubt lonely living in his grand and spacious gentleman’s residence outside of town. His elegant home offered lush gardens and land, but no companionship save that of his Uncle, Aunt, and cousins when they visited.
Poor Louisa Loveday, widowed as practically a new bride, was married just a few years really. Loveday left her childless, with only a small, yet neat and fashionable house on Regent Square. It was rumored Mr. Loveday left very little money behind, scarcely enough to pay for a cook, butler and allow much for her to live on. There had been many whispers, even before his death, that Henry Loveday, handsome though he was, was a gamester and womanizer.
So on this cold and dreary morning, Mr. and Mrs. Leake in number three Regent Square, and the Misses Symonds in number five were not paying particular attention when the Captain’s carriage, not his phaeton as was the custom, rolled into the square. However, once they realized it was the Captain indeed arriving at number four, they were instantly attentive. Other neighbors took note as well.
It was exactly two hours earlier than his normal arrival time, which gave the Misses Symonds some cause for concern. True, it was a windy, drizzly day and the Captain did sometimes arrive in a carriage when the weather was foul, but it was not the Captain’s habit to call during the morning hours.
The inhabitants of Regent Square thought the deviation from the normal quite odd. That he was in a carriage, not a phaeton was one thing, but it was another thing entirely that Captain Darke was indisputably early.
The suspense increased when he did not step down, but sent his footman to the door in his stead. Those who were at home on this particular Thursday morning, were now at their parlour windows, eagerly watching this extraordinary event unfold.
The growing number of residents congregating at the front windows about Regent Square were left open-mouthed when she, Louisa Loveday, exited number four in a slate blue gown. More than one lady remarked that the young widow wore only dark somber colors. Even more shocking, the Captain’s footman stepped into the foyer of number four and brought a small trunk with him, placing it into the boot of Captain Darke’s carriage.
What was this? What could this mean? The buzzing of excited voices could nearly be heard travelling aloft from house to house throughout the Square.
As the fine carriage left the terraced houses of Regent Square behind and turned onto Abbey Street, heading toward Chapel Street, practically all of the residents had witnessed the widow and the Captain sitting side by side in the carriage, not across from one another as they usually did.
The inhabitants rushed into their narrow front gardens and excitedly speculated amongst themselves what it all could mean.
By the time they took their evening meals in the small but fashionable dining rooms in Regent Square, all of Penzance Society knew that Captain Darke and Mrs. Loveday had stopped by the church and exchanged their vows. It was reported that a quarter of an hour after the ceremony concluded, Captain Darke’s carriage took them to the gloriously modern and fashionable residence, Trevena House, atop the bluff outside of town.
Many remarked the next day that the conversation at every table in Penzance that evening was of Captain and Mrs. Darke.
Penzance was abuzz. There hadn’t been such excitement in the town since Melissa Emonds eloped with Jory Davis five years before; excepting of course when the Davis’s babe was born a mere seven months later. (Calendars were duly marked in the event the new Mrs. Darke should have a child soon.)
The Captain and the Widow must have been in love! Perhaps all this time he was romancing her. It could be they were so lonely, they simply married for company, to ease the boredom of their dark and dreary days that stretched endlessly before them? Neither one had any other prospects really.
The ladies tended to romanticize everything while the gentlemen might remark to one another in the public houses or one of the clubs in the evening that the Captain was a man, maimed leg or no, and the widow had always been, and still was, quite handsome with a fine figure.
Yet, as the days passed, the ladies and even the gentlemen in Penzance wondered what really happened between Captain Jonas Darke and Mrs. Louisa Loveday. No one knew exactly what it was that brought the couple together. Wouldn’t it be just dreadful if they never knew the reason? Well, they certainly couldn’t allow that happen.
Book 1 of the Darkes of Penzance series will be released late 2014.
Lords of Atonement, the final installment of the Lords of Avalon series will be released in Summer 2014!