The first thing I noticed as the train – clacking harshly along the frontier railroad – turned the final meandering corner that brought Belle Rock into view was the way the sea splashed up against the rocks. It was a kind of unforgiving glory that the pictures (paintings and photographs) just never quite seemed to capture. It had a natural quality to it which I think had, at least in part, been missing from my life in London.
Yes, the white horses mercilessly thundered their hooves against the greyish cliffsides with all the tempest fury behind them, and it was just as I stared blankly into those waves that had enticed so many into their depths that I caught sight of a little ship; while little it probably was not, from my own state as a vague watcher from behind the glass of the train window, it seemed that way. Perspective is a matter of infinite subjectivity, and for that – now, at least – I am grateful.
As the train clashed at such terrific speed into its resting place in this New World that never seemed to rest, I felt a sudden realisation that I was not in England anymore. While I had been aware that I was to make the voyage across the sea for some time now, the true calamity of its value had only reached me now. I was in New England. Whoever had named it couldn't have been the most imaginative of fellows, for I find new things (things that are new to me at least) on a near-daily basis and never do I invent a name for them which is just the name given to something else with an adjective slapped onto the front. Well, regardless of my opinions, this place was called New England, and I was here.
I took my time to disembark from this train, for outside the window, I could see a bustling town that did not seem quite ready for me to disturb it. The people came and went like moths among the salt that lingered in the air and the wooden boxes stacked high. A young man came to help me extract my trunks and boxes from the luggage carriage and lent me his hand to hop down the metallic steps of the train to the damp ground.
"Excuse me," I said, "tell me, how does one get from here to the Bradbury Estate?" I asked.
"Why, you just got to be walking a few minutes from where we is standing here, and now to that white teat you can just see there Miss, poking out above the hill." Said the young man who helped me from the train. "But Miss, if I may be so bold, why is you wanting to know?"
"It's my father's estate. He told me to take the train here from Boston this morning."
"Oh well then Miss, you must be Miss Lucinda Bradbury; your father has been talking of nothing else but your arrival since God knows when."
"Really?" I smiled. "And it's Miss Corbin-Bradbury now."
"Right you are Miss; he didn't tell me of that."
"And who might you be?" I asked, smiling at him.
"Stanley," he said, holding out his hand for me to shake ", Stanley Venture, I work as a first mate on your father's best ship."
"Oh? And which ship might that be?" I questioned.
"Why Miss, it's The Raven, of course." He smiled, distinct pride swimming across his face.
"Well, it's wonderful to meet you, Stanley –"I corrected myself ", Mr Venture, but I really must be going to Bradbury House now."
"Stanley will do just fine, Miss." He said, a smile creeping across his face. "I'm a-going down to see Sir Bradbury now myself; I can walk with you."
"Why, if you are so kind." I smiled. "He has his title as Sir now, does he?" I asked.
"Yes, Miss," he nodded ", he was knighted by Queen Victoria herself before he came out here."
"Was he really?" I smiled, knowing full well that when he had abandoned myself and my mother in London nearly a decade ago to set up his business, he was in no such possession of any rank of nobility. And yet, I remained silent. Stanley and I walked side by side down the dirt track that led from the railroad station and dipped down out of view to the house, and I couldn't help but notice him as a very attractive man. Though he was of a background clearly very different to my own, I couldn't help but look at his chestnut hair that clung to his head in waves that replicated the movement of the sea or his eyes of sapphire liveliness and not notice this man as handsome. I shook such improper thoughts from my head as immediately as they had entered it. "So, Mr Venture, have you caught any whales recently?" I asked.
"Why, why no, Miss, I'm not a harpooner, so I don't personally catch any whales, but the harpooner for The Raven has been catching a few on our last voyage out."
"Oh, well, you'll have to forgive my exceptionally limited knowledge of whaling, Mr Venture, but that sounds excellent."
"Yes, it really is, and Miss, may I ask, how come a lady such as yourself has come to a town such as Belle Rock?"
"The same reason any English lady does anything, a man told me to." I smiled.
"And which man would this be? A suitor, perhaps?" Stanley smirked.
"No. My father."
"Oh, forgive me then, you are already married?" he asked.
"No." I shook my head.
"Oh?" he smiled "may I ask why?"
"No, Mr Venture, I think you may not." I shook my head.
"I do apologise, Miss, we be almost at Bradbury Estate."
"Good." I said with finality, "Heels were not created to be worn in such wet terrain."
"'tis quite so, Miss." He smiled. In the final segment of the walk, Stanley and I barely interchanged words. He could tell that I did not want to talk of marriage, and I could tell that he felt he had offended me. And so, we walked in silence. We passed a white Puritan Church, a whole dockyard that seemed devoted to fixing ships and a few cottages which I could only assume belonged to the whalers and their wives. The wind whipped my hair and made my eyes water so much that I hardly even registered the colossal castle that I knew could only belong to my father bob in over the rolling hill. It was indeed huge, crystalline windowpanes, a huge wrought iron double gate and curving stone arches. Stanley pushed open the double gates and walked with me briskly up the driveway, rapping harshly on the blue door with its lion's head knocker. We head hard footsteps plod towards the porch.
Author Notes: Hello everyone! With Ceasebury now on sale at Waterstones, I have decided to start sharing a novel a started a few months ago. Its a historical romance, but more Dickensian than Ceasebury. Anyway, hope you enjoy chapter one!