“We were just concluding a meeting of the Assembly, sir.” Walrond examined Winston icily, then glanced toward the men of the Council. “When these rogues tried to commandeer the room, claiming they’d come to seize the governor, to ‘protect’ him.
I take it you’re part of this conspiracy.” “I’m here to protect my interests.
Which gives me as much right as you have to be here.
I don’t recall that you’re elected to this body.” “I’m here tonight in an advisory capacity, Captain, not that it’s any of your concern.” Walrond glanced back at the others, all warily holding pistols. “To offer my views regarding the situation in England.” As he spoke Dalby Bedford emerged from the crowd.
Walking behind him was Katherine. Winston turned to watch, thinking she was even more beautiful than he had realized before.
Her face was radiant, self- assured as she moved through the dim torchlight in a glistening skirt and full sleeves.
She smiled and pushed toward him. “Captain Winston, are you to be thanked for all this confusion?” “Only a part of it, Miss Bedford.
I merely stopped by to enquire about my indentures, since I got the idea some of your Assemblymen were shooting at them.” Anthony Walrond stared at Katherine. “May I take it you know this man? It does you no credit, madam, I warrant you.” Then he turned and moved down the path, directly toward Briggs and the members of the Council. “And I can tell all of you this night is far from finished.
There’ll be an accounting here, sirs, you may depend on it.
Laws have been violated.” “You, sir, should know that best of all.” Briggs stepped forward and dropped his hand to the pistol still in his belt. “Since you and this pack of royalist agitators that calls itself an Assembly would unlawfully steer this island to ruin.
The Council of Barbados holds that this body deserves to be dissolved forthwith, and new elections held, to represent the interests of the island against those who’d lead us into a fool’s war with the Commonwealth of England.” “You, sir, speak now in the very same voice as the rebels there.
I presume you’d have this island bow to the criminals in Parliament who’re now threatening to behead our lawful king.” “Gentlemen, please.” Dalby Bedford moved between them and raised his hand. “I won’t stand for this wrangling.
We all have to try to settle our differences like Englishmen.
I, for one, would have no objection to inviting the Council to sit with us in the Assembly, have a joint session, and try to reason out what’s the wisest course now.” “I see no reason this body need share a table with a crowd of rebels who’ll not bend a knee to the rightful sovereign of England.” Walrond turned back to the members of the Assembly. “I say you should this very night draw up a loyalty oath for Barbados.
Any man who refuses to swear fealty to His Majesty should be deported back to England, to join the traitors who would unlawfully destroy the monarchy.” “No!” Katherine abruptly pushed in front of him. “This island stayed neutral all through the Civil War.
We never took a part, either for king or Parliament.
Why should we take sides now, with the war over and finished?” Walrond looked down at her, startled. “Because the time has come to stand and be counted, Katherine.
Why do you suppose? The rebels may have seized England for now, but that’s no reason we in the Americas have to turn our back on the king.” “But there’s another choice.” She drew a deep breath.
Winston saw determination in her eyes as she turned to face the men of the Assembly. “Think about it.
We never belonged to England; we belonged to the Crown.
But the monarchy’s been abolished and the king’s patents invalidated.
I say we should join with the other English settlements and declare the Americas a new nation.
Barbados should lead the way and declare our own independence.” “That’s the damnedest idea I’ve ever heard.” Briggs moved forward, shaking away the indentures who still crowded around him menacingly. “If we did that, there’d be war for sure.
We’ve got to stay English, or Cromwell’ll send the army to burn us out.” He turned to Walrond. “Rebel or no, Cromwell represents the might of England.
We’d be fools to try to stand against him.
Either for king or for some fool dream of independence.” He looked back at Katherine. “Where’d you get such an idea, girl? It’d be the end of our hopes for prosperity if we tried going to war with England.
There’d be no room to negotiate.” “You, sir, have no say in this.
You’re apt to be on trial for treason before the week’s out.” Walrond waved his pistol at Briggs, then turned back to Katherine. “What are you talking about? England is beholden to her king, madam, much the way, I might remind you, a wife is to her husband.
Or don’t you yet understand that? It’s our place to revere and serve the monarchy.” “As far as I’m concerned, the king’s only a man.
And so’s a husband, sir.” “A wife takes an oath in marriage, madam, to obey her husband.
You’d best remember that.” He turned and motioned the members of the Assembly to gather around him as he stepped over to a large log and mounted it. “On the subject of obedience, I say again an oath of loyalty to His Majesty King Charles should be voted in the Barbados Assembly this very morning.
We need to know where this island stands.” He stared back at Dalby Bedford. “Much as a husband would do well to know what he can expect when he takes a wife.” “You’ve got no authority to call a vote by the Assembly,” Briggs sputtered. “You’re not elected to it.” He looked at Walrond, then at Bedford. “This, by God, was the very thing we came here tonight to head off.” “You, sir, have no authority to interfere in the lawful processes of this body.” Walrond turned back to the Assembly members, now huddled in conference. Winston looked at Katherine and found himself admiring her idealism—and her brass, openly defying the man she was supposed to marry.
She wanted independence for the Americas, he now realized, while all Anthony Walrond wanted was to turn Barbados into a government in exile for the king, maybe to someday restore his fortune in England.
She was an independent woman herself too, make no mistaking.
Sir Anthony Walrond was going to have himself a handful in the future, with the Commonwealth and with her. Come to think of it, though, independence wasn’t all that bad an idea.
Why the hell not? Damned to England. “I think there’ve been enough high-handed attempts to take over this island for one night.” He moved to confront Walrond. “You have your brass, Captain, to even show your face here.” He inspected Winston with his good eye. “When you pillaged a ship of mine off Nevis Island, broadcloth and muskets, no more than two years past.” “Now that you’ve brought it up, what I did was save the lives of some fifty men who were about to drown for want of a seaworthy longboat.
Since you saved so much money on equipage, I figured you could afford to compensate me for my pains.”
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