Chapter 4

Penzance, Cornwall

Compared to Mousehole, Penzance harbour was an easy place to sail into. It was an interesting place too, with St Michael's Mount sitting off in the distance. It used to be a monastery perched up on the rock, Jory had told Will, but when old King Harry had got rid of those, it had been turned into a house. The St Aubyn family lived there, a baronet's family, Jory said. The sort of people Will would have kept company with, if he was indeed a gentleman. He realised with a start that he might even be a knight or a baronet or a lord, rather than a gentleman. This was an overwhelming thought, so he turned his focus back to the lugger.

Jory had agreed readily to this trip, but in his usual way had not agreed that Will should offer up some of the money from his coat as a sort of compensation for losing the day's catch. They were doing quite fine enough to take the day off, Jory assured him.

Will was not feeling assured. He had been deeply unsettled ever since the lady had appeared in his dreams, and he was grateful to Jory for making this trip with him. He only hoped they would make some progress, find something that might help Will learn who he was – who the woman was.

They tied the lugger up and stepped up onto the pier, walking towards the town. Will was wearing the old boots and breeches, and had even gone so far as to hang the silver watch from its fob at his hip. It felt a little ridiculous to wear such clothes with his woollen gansey up top, but he had been right that the coat would no longer fit him.

"The shops where the fancy folk go are up this way," stated Jory.

They walked up the hill until a bootmaker's sign could be seen. Will pointed to it and said, "I'd like to try there, first."

When they walked into the shop, the man there looked them both up and down and narrowed his eyes, much as the lady in the riding habit had done. The shopkeeper's eyes halted on Will's boots.

"Got yourself a pair of old Hessians, hmm? I can replace the tassels and clean them up."

"Yes, please." The man had not named a price, and Will expected that his usual customers did not care what the price for such work would be. While he had a sense of what new boots would cost, Will did not think he had ever learned the cost for repair. He had all of his guineas in a purse, so Will felt certain he would have the money to pay, but he was loath to spend a large amount on such a frivolous thing.

The man motioned to a chair and Will sat, glad of the help as he had learned he could not remove these boots by himself. Then the man carried them off to a room in the back of the shop, leaving Will and Jory to wait, awkwardly.

Eventually, the man returned, holding two highly polished Hessian boots, new black tassels dangling from them. "That will be ten shillings."

Will swallowed. It was not as bad as he had feared, but nor was it as good as he had hoped. He reached into his purse and pulled out a guinea, handing it to the man.

"The boots – were they made here?" Will asked, casually, as the man gave him his change. "I bought them off a friend."

The look on the man's countenance made clear that he had expected the boots were on at least their second owner. "Not here. Looks like London work, I'd say. They'll last you some years, if you care for them better than your friend."

Will nodded and thanked the man, then he and Jory exited the shop. Jory did not say anything as they continued along the street, but he kept looking down at Will's boots. Will kept looking down at the boots, too. They were nicer than he had expected, now that they were restored to something closer to what they must have looked like before Will had wound up in that skiff. For the first time, he allowed himself to believe that it was likelier he was a gentleman than a smuggler. He looked about him, trying to see if anything seemed familiar, but it did not. They came here sometimes to market Eseld's kippers, but they had never walked this deep into the town.

Jory had warned Will that he was aware of no watchmaker, but they were of the hopes that a jeweller might be able to tell Will something about the watch, and they entered the first jeweller's shop they saw, receiving a look much like the one from the man in the bootmaker's shop. Will felt he must have looked like even more of an oddity, with his Hessians polished so well he could nearly see his face in them, but a fishman's gansey warming his torso.

"Good morning." Will removed the watch and fob, handing them to the jeweller, then giving the lie he had planned on, "I recently inherited this, and I was wondering if you might be able to tell me where it was made."

The man gave him another sceptical gaze, but said, "I'll take it back and see. Do you want it repaired?"

"Yes – if possible."

The repair of the watch took even longer than that of the boots, and Will and Jory's awkward waiting was made still more awkward when a gentleman and a lady entered the shop, looking wholly like they belonged there. They were looking for a necklace for the lady, and Will watched their interaction with the shop's assistant, hoping the jeweller in the back was near-finished with the watch.

Eventually, an old, grey man stumped out from a room at the back, exchanged a few words with his assistant, and then approached Will.

"Took some doing, but I got her working again." He opened his palm, so that Will could see two pieces of the watch: the now-ticking timepiece, and the back. Then he turned the watch over, exposing the finely engraved word: "Hartley."

"Hartley – is he a London watchmaker, do you think?" Will asked.

"Aye," said the old man, snapping the two pieces back together so that Hartley's name was once again hidden. "I knew it were London work as soon as I saw it, just a question of who. Now, this is a fine piece your relation gave you – don't you go getting it wet again. Damp is a fine watch's worst enemy. If it does by chance get wet, give it a soaking in sweet oil, as soon as you can."

Will nodded. Seeing his assistant was still waiting on the man and woman, the jeweller named a price for the repair and Will handed it over, realising he had spent almost an entire guinea already that day. It was a strange, dizzying thought. At least he had a functioning timepiece now, and Will thought that more useful than a shining pair of boots. Still more, he had a tangible connection to his past: at some time, either he or someone known to him had purchased a watch from Hartley, in London.

They walked back outside, continuing on up the hill even though they had already accomplished the two things Will had wished to come here for.

"You talk different," Jory observed, as they approached the crest of the hill. "With the men in the shop, and even with that lady back at the Arms. You called her madam. I'd have said ma'am."

"D'ye think so?"

"Aye. I'm wonderin' now if that's how you really talk, but that you got used to hearin' me an' Eseld while ye was healin', so ye started talkin' like us."

Will contemplated this, and suddenly his mind felt so muddled he could not think of how he should speak, to respond to Jory. Thankfully, Jory seemed to understand this. He laid his hand on Will's shoulder, squeezing gently.

They turned to go back down the hill at Chapel Street, before them an imposing façade – for Penzance, at least. Will felt a vague awareness that he had seen far more impressive structures. "The Union Hotel" read the words atop the building, and it showed every sign of being a busy hostelry, a yellow post-chaise halting in front of the door, one of the hotel's footmen coming around to see to the steps. A gentleman stepped out, followed by a lady, and there was something about the scene that felt achingly familiar. Surely Will had helped a lady out of a carriage before – very likely the lady from his dreams.

"Watch – he will keep himself on the street side, to protect her," Will stated.

True to Will's word, when the gentleman offered the lady his arm, it was his right arm, so that he was between her and the street. Will and Jory stood there, watching the gentleman and lady until they entered the hotel, then Jory said,

"Union Hotel'd surely hire out horses – ridin' horses. Why don't ye hire one for an hour, see what ye know? Stables are 'round back, I think."

They walked around on the street, rather than passing through the hotel, which was for the best, Will thought, for the ostler gave him a look even more sceptical than the bootmaker or the jeweller's assistant, although he did agree to hire a horse out to Will for an hour.

The animal was a common hack, and once again Will had the sense that he had seen far finer. He hoped this shelf was as full as he had thought it was, for he understood the degree of embarrassment he must face with the ostler if it turned out he had hired the horse and could not ride it. Yet instead, every moment from his taking the reins and leading the gelding over to the mounting block felt familiar, and it was still more so when he was finally seated within the saddle. The stirrups were too short, but he knew how to lengthen them, knew just where the irons should strike against a particular bone in his ancle.

"I'll be 'round the alehouse on Chapel Street," said Jory. "Take yer time, Will."

Will held the horse to a walk as he navigated the streets of the town, simply getting a feel for what it was like to ride – again. Unbidden, it seemed, knowledge about horses came welling up in his consciousness – horsemanship when riding, how to care for them, what comprised the confirmation of a good horse. When he reached the Alverton road he urged the gelding up into a trot, recalling now what it was to post, how to change diagonals when he came to a bend in the road. He urged the horse into a canter, next, a rough gait on a horse of this quality. The horse was uninclined to go any faster, but Will felt certain he had galloped before, and often. Certain now that he had far more experience in riding than in sailing.

He turned around when he reached the toll-gate, not wishing to spend any more of his money when he already understood what he had come to Penzance to understand. So he returned the horse, recalled that he did need to spend a little more money in vails for the ostler, and then decided he ought to be brave, ought to go back to Chapel Street through the hotel. His hand on the door, he experienced a strong moment's trepidation – certain someone in the yard was going to tell him he did not belong inside. Will stepped in, and as he had for the building's exterior, he had the sense that although this was the grandest space he could remember seeing, he had seen far grander. There were a few people in the hall, gentry and the middling sort, some milling about, others clearly moving apace towards whatever their purpose of the hour was. Will's eye travelled up the staircase, both unimpressed and discomfited by how unimpressed he was. Then he noticed a newspaper upon a side table, and picked it up.

Will had always been aware that he could read some words – more than Jory and Eseld, for certain. But his encounters with the written word were few, generally comprised of names upon buildings and markers on roads. The Trevillses had little need for reading, and in settling into their life, Will hadn't much needed to read himself. Examining the newspaper now, he saw that he knew every word, from "Royal Cornwall Gazette" at the top through the finer print of the articles.

Will set the newspaper down and took a deep breath. He could also read the words "Booking Office" on a sign above a door across the hall. He felt his stomach lurch as he opened the door, revealing a young man seated behind a desk.

"What d'ye want?" asked the man.

"I – I'd like to book a place on a stagecoach. To London."

The man rifled through the papers on his desk. "I can put ye on the Machine, on Friday. Outside."

That was three days hence. Will nodded, a strange sort of dizzy anticipation welling up within him. He parted with still more of the money in his purse, in exchange for the man's writing "Will Trevills" in his book for Friday, and a slip of paper that confirmed the portion of the journey Will had been required to pay for upfront. If he had ever ridden a stagecoach, he did not recall it, and Will wondered if he had been so genteel as to have his own carriage. For at some point on the back of that hack horse, Will had concluded that he was from a much higher class than he had always presumed.

He left the Union Hotel and walked down the hill to the alehouse, a little stone building with beams holding up the low-slung ceiling, dim on the inside but warm from the fire. It was the sort of place Jory was far more comfortable in, and before the revelations of the past few days, Will would have said the same applied for him. Jory was seated at a table by the fire, nursing a mug of ale.

"An' how was it?" he asked, upon sighting Will.

"It – it's clear to me I know more about riding than sailing," Will said. "I booked a place on the Machine, for Friday. I need to go to London, Jory."

Jory nodded. "Aye, Will. I reckon you do."

Both Jory and Eseld sailed over, to see Will off that Friday. He was worried about leaving them, and had attempted to leave some of his guineas behind to make up for the loss of his labour. They had brushed aside his concerns, Jory saying they'd manage well enough and he'd hire on someone to help on the lugger, if need be; London was bound to be expensive and Will should take all of the money, in chance he needed it.

Will was wearing the same clothes he had worn to Penzance earlier in the week. The shirt fit – barely – and he could recall how to tie a cravat, but there was little purpose in it when he was just going to wear his woollen gansey over top of them. At least today the gansey was partially obscured, for Eseld had insisted he wear a boat cloak atop the rest of his clothes, fearing he might catch cold. Eseld had also sewn him a sailcloth knapsack, and this was slung over his shoulder, containing his nankeen trousers, the rougher shirts she had sewn him over the years, and his usual shoes. Most of the weight, though, was from the tremendous amount of food and drink Eseld had insisted he take: pastys, kippers, potted whiting, bread, bottles of ale. "It's such a long journey – I don't want ye going hungry," she'd said.

The Machine was waiting there in front of the hotel, steam coming from the horses' nostrils on such a cold morning. They were a mixed group; one of the wheelers was bobbing his head and stamping his foot, plainly desirous of being off, but he could not manage to convince the leaders of this, for they stood, complacent and still.

Will embraced his dearest friends in the world in turn, Jory and then Eseld, and with tears in his eyes and the ale bottles clinking at his back, he climbed up to an open space on the top of the stagecoach. His stomach churned in anticipation, and yet he knew he had a long ride ahead of him – three days at least, and very likely more. His journey was beginning, though, and that was something.

A lady climbed inside the coach, a last parcel was strapped on the back, and then the guard was blowing his horn and the frustrated wheeler was finally allowed to move. Will waved good-bye to his friends, and then they were out of sight.

Will felt very alone. The lumbering motion of the stagecoach seemed somewhat familiar, and Will was aware of much preferring sailing over this. He was also grateful to Eseld: he usually only needed his boat cloak in foul weather, his work keeping him warm. Here, though, seated and unmoving atop the stagecoach, he felt the chill more strongly and pulled the garment tighter about him. The roads were rough, but at least the scenery was interesting; if Will had ever travelled this road before, he could not recall it. Beyond the expense, he was glad he had booked an outside place, for the thought of travelling inside over such a distance made him feel tense and constricted.

They quickly fell into a rhythm, stopping at coaching inns along the route to change horses, and sometimes deposit a passenger or pick one up. They stopped for a meal just beyond Plymouth, but rather than going in, Will stayed on the coach and ate one of the pastys – whiting, leeks, and mustard – and drank a little of his ale. At the next inn after this, the man who had been sitting beside Will left the stagecoach, and a young man took his place. He was dressed as – as a buck, not a dandy, Will thought, suddenly recalling the terms.

The top of the stagecoach had not, thus far, proven to be a talkative place, and so Will turned his focus back to the countryside in the waning light. He thought about the lady from his dreams; she had not reappeared since that night, but he could still recall what she looked like, could recall every word she had spoken to him.

"What's got you so melancholy? A lady?"

It took Will a moment to realise the young man was speaking to him, and he nodded.

"Knew it had to be a lady." The young man chuckled, and then added:

"Never seek to tell thy love,

"Love that never told can be;

"For the gentle wind does move

"Silently, invisibly."

Will realised he knew the words, knew what the young man was going to say as he continued:

"I told my love, I told my love,

"I told her all my heart;

"Trembling, cold, in ghastly fears,

"Ah! she did depart!"

With a strange feeling of confidence, Will joined the young man in reciting the third stanza:

"Soon as she was gone from me,

"A traveller came by,

"Silently, invisibly

"He took her with a sigh."

They were both smiling by the end, and the young man said, "You know Blake, then? How remarkable."

Darcy had not known the poem was Blake. He had not known the poem was there, hiding away on a shelf in the cellar of his mind.

"What about Keats?" asked the young man, moving immediately into:

"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —

"Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

"And watching, with eternal lids apart,

"Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,

"The moving waters at their priestlike task

"Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,

"Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

"Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —

"No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

"Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,

"To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,

"Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

"Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

"And so live ever — or else swoon to death."

Will did not know this one, although he liked it very much, and told his new friend this.

"'Tis fairly new, that one. Just came out last year," the young man said, explaining Will's lack of knowing that poem. He held out his hand. "Name is James, by the way."

Will shook the young man's hand. "I am Will."

"Glad to meet you, Will." James reached into his greatcoat and pulled out a flask, offering it to Will. He took a sip and knew immediately that it was French brandy, perhaps legal with the war over, but just as likely to have been smuggled into the country by the sort of people Will had long feared he was. It brought a nice, pleasant warmth to his belly, although after some minutes of passing the flask back and forth and conversing on poetry, Will realised it was much stronger than what he had been used to and he was growing sleepy.

This was a fast stagecoach – or as fast as was possible in Cornwall – and so they would not stop for the night. As Will began to doze, he thought he ought to be grateful to his new friend, for he had not thought sleep would come so easily atop a moving stagecoach.

And there she was, all by herself this time, no boy with her. He asked her about the boy, and she said he should not worry, for the child was safe.

"And what of you – are you safe?" asked Will.

She said nothing in response. Will took a step closer, and saw she was standing on the edge of an abyss, those dark, mournful eyes staring at him.

He woke with a start, the carriage trundling along, its path lit by the moon and its own meagre lights. Most of Will's fellow passengers were asleep, including James, but he was too unsettled to return to that state soon, even as he felt a certain remnant grogginess from the brandy.

I am coming to you, he promised the lady. I am coming to you, but it may take me some time to find you.

The next morning, Will learned James was travelling all the way to London too, and he was grateful to have some manner of companionship for the rest of his journey. They had both awakened quite famished, and Will shared his kippers with his new friend, James pronouncing them to be delicious and Will feeling some sharp pangs of homesickness as he ate the fish, so reminiscent of the scents arising from Eseld's smokehouse.

They were allotted a twenty-minute stop for dinner that evening, and James convinced Will to come inside the inn. Will purchased a pork pie and two more bottles of ale to replace what he had drank, just barely eating the pie before they were all called out to regain the stagecoach. It was strange to eat pork, Will thought, when his palate had been so attuned to fish for all these years. Gentlemen ate meat like venison and mutton, Will thought, and no sooner had he thought it than he could recall the flavour of each.

James laid an excited hand upon Will's arm. "Did you see that?"

Will had not seen whatever that was, but James explained that he had seen a partridge on the side of the road, and with still more excitement in his tone, he pointed out another, and another. Then, to Will's astonishment, he called out that there was five guineas in it each for the driver and the guard if they stopped the coach and let him have a go at those partridges. To his even greater astonishment, they agreed: the driver brought the stagecoach to a halt, the guard produced a gun from the baggage, and James rose and began climbing down from the coach.

"You want to come?" he asked Will.

"I – I am not eligible to shoot game."

"Ah. Well, come for a walk, then."

Will climbed down, and some of the other passengers followed; half of the stagecoach seemed happy enough with the opportunity to stretch their legs, while the other half stayed seated, looking rather perturbed over this delay in the journey.

James began loading the gun, his motions familiar to Will. It felt equally familiar when they walked towards some movement in the fields and a partridge took flight, the sound of a shot and a puff of smoke coming from James's gun, and the partridge falling towards the field. Will could almost feel it, the gun in his own hands, the way he would track the bird, the strange but certain knowledge that he would have successfully shot it as well. James was an excellent shot; he bagged three birds in quick succession, and then everyone regained the stagecoach and it lumbered back into motion. Will sat quietly, absorbing what he had learned about himself: he was eligible to shoot game, or rather had been.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, until the buildings began to change from those found in rural villages and towns to terrace houses of palatial size. They were entering London, and Will looked about him, hoping to see something that might help him discover another shelf, another room. Nothing looked familiar, though, and after his years in Mousehole, the bustling chaos of the city overwhelmed Will.

The yard of the Swan With Two Necks bustled just as much as the city, with ostlers, horses, and carriages everywhere, a guard's horn sounding, a child crying somewhere within the galleries. Will stepped down onto the dirt and then heard James say beside him,

"Good travelling with you, Will."

"Aye – yes. It was good travelling with you."

James directed a porter as to where his trunk should be sent, and then he was striding off. Will watched him go and felt strangely bereft. He recognised their brief friendship for what it had been, a means of occupation and camaraderie during a long trip. After all, they had never even exchanged proper names – not that Will had a true proper name to give. Yet James was the only person Will knew in this city, and he had just made clear that their brief acquaintance was over.

Will walked over to as quiet a corner of the yard as could be found and seated himself on a cask, trying to decide what to do, now that he was finally here. He ate the last of Eseld's pastys, more for the comforts of home than because he was hungry, then he rose, brushed the crumbs from his fingers, and began walking. Nothing looked familiar until he turned the corner onto Gracechurch Street – there, he felt a strong sense that he had been down the street before, but he could not think of why. There was another coaching inn here, the Spread Eagle, and Will thought perhaps he had utilised the inn at some point in the past.

He would need somewhere to stay for the night, and Will thought he might return here and take a room at the Spread Eagle if nothing spurred his memory more substantially. For now, though, he thought he should go west – that was where the genteel lived, and where they shopped. Somewhere there, Will hoped, would be Hartley the watchmaker, and somewhere within their records might be him.