An Earl, a Cart, and a Midnight Journey

The original Chapter 42 from The Larkspur Legacy

Continuing my theme of publishing never-before-seen sections of the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries, here is the original draft of Chapter 42 of The Larkspur Legacy. If you’ve read the book, you will know when this section was meant to go; if you haven’t, it comes after a storm and before the climax.

Realising the book was running at over 175,000 words, I had to make cuts, and this scene, although fun to imagine, didn’t serve much of a purpose. There’s a fair amount of internal thought/exposition in it which I later took out and placed in pieces elsewhere, and the adventure could quite easily happen off-stage. In other words, it wasn’t necessary and was something of a filler, so it had to go.

As with the other cuts and unused parts of my novels I present here, this is a first draft and hasn’t been proofread. Let’s call it An Earl, a Cart, and a Midnight Journey…

A man and his horse deliver the mail by cart, Stock Photo – credit: AgeFotoStock


Prussia Cove

Archer was woken from a fitful sleep by someone shaking his arm. Opening bleary eyes, it took him a moment to remember where he was and the name of the pink-cheeked, blond man crouching at his side.

‘It is dark, Sir,’ Clem said. ‘We can leave as soon as you be ready. It be a fair way, so the sooner we’re on the road, the better it be.’

‘I am at your command, Mr Carter. Give me five minutes.’

‘I’ve loaded the cart with some straw and some blankets,’ Clem said, standing and stretching his back. ‘You be best with your coat. It be dried by the fire now. If ye be hungry, there be bread and such beneath the canvas.’

‘Canvas? Are we to sail to Bodmin?’

‘Would it were that easy,’ Clem said, and took a rain cape from a peg. ‘Mr Hawkins said plain there were a chance of you being followed or watched, and them as might be doing it weren’t a be trusted. I made arrangements to get you there without being seen, but it ain’t a be pleasant. Only other way be to risk the night train and the chance of a cab at the other end, but that won’t be safe enough. Be quick now, Sir, we’ve many miles a cover tonight.’

Archer gathered what few things he had, and when they were both ready, Clem extinguished the lanterns bar one and led the way outside. The wind had dropped, but the night air remained cold, and was penetrated by an overriding smell of damp grass. There were few stars between the mottled clouds, themselves fading to black as the last of the dusk withered behind hills, and to the south, there were only a few lights from passing ships.

‘You best be in the back, Sir,’ Clem said, lifting his lantern to show Archer where he was to travel.

It was a cart drawn by two horses that were merely shapes in the gloom. Archer regarded the rough boards, the crates and boxes, and the canvas, secured at the sides but open at the back.

‘It’ll cover you, but you’ll have a be laying down.’

‘I see.’

It was not the way the earl was accustomed to travelling, and for the first time on his journey, he silently cursed Lady Marshall for setting him the challenge. Being at sea had, at first, revived his passion for being aboard ship, but later, once boredom and the storm set in, his enthusiasm had waned. Now, clambering into the back of a delivery man’s cart and taking up a position he was to keep for several hours, he wondered why the old ladies couldn’t have come up with something less tiresome.

‘Just bang the backboard if ye needs anything,’ Clem said. ‘I’ll tie this lose so it won’t blow about, and you can undo it if ye must. I got a change the horses outside Truro and agin at Lanivet, but everything be in order fur that.’

‘How long?’

‘Will have to see what the livery gives us, but I be reckoning on six or seven hours, Sir. I’ll take them as fast as I can, but don’t want a draw no attention. Mr Hawkins wrote there be someone watching Larkspur, so we’ll not be coming up the drive when we get there.’


‘You’ll see, Sir. Right, head down. Get back to sleep if ye can.’

Surprisingly, Archer could. He’d dozed during the afternoon, warmed by the fire until his insides no longer felt like ice, but after three days weathering the storm, his body was more tired than he realised.

Waking when the cart stopped, he had no idea where they were until he heard Clem’s voice on the other side of the canvas.

‘They’s not as sturdy as this team. They be the best you got, Denzel?’

‘Aye, me ’ansome, that’s the best I can be giving ye.’

‘I seen more meat on dead dog. Ah, well if this be it, then this be it.’

The cart dropped, and Archer became squashed against the backboard, until, grunting and swearing, Clem and his livery man lifted the stocks, and another pair of horses shuffled into place with their brasses clanking.

‘Be off, then, I will,’ Clem said at length. ‘I’ll have them back in a day or so.’


The journey began again, and when Archer judged they were away from the stable, he kicked the crates away, and resumed his position. There was no chance of sleep after that. Not only were the new horses slow, but they were also cumbersome, and he could tell Clem was having difficulty keeping them straight. It would have been much easier to take a train, or even ride home, but Silas’ warning had been clear. At least, it had been clear to Archer. To anyone else, the prose printed in the Egyptian newspaper would read as nonsense.

Vanished be the one who once wore ‘Amore Salvat’ like a dream, the message said. It was a reference to the ring Simon Harrington had given Archer when they were lovers, and the same as the one he had gifted Silas. For what’s left behind may not here come with thee. A hidden legacy was what his mother had left behind, and thus, the ship could not land with Archer aboard. The part about dust to dust meant that Archer could pretend to be lost at sea if that was necessary, and Silas would tell the others it was a pretence. But know this: the crew has oiled the wheels, and those wheels are turning. Silas had put in place a plan, and everyone knew, including Clem, now singing to himself as though happy to be driving through the night in December.

The rest of the strange publication suggested Silas intended to put a stop to Kingsclere before Archer returned, and that was the part that concerned him most. There was no way of telling what Kingsclere would do to steal the treasure, and as that was not yet found, there was no way of knowing how desperate or frustrated the earl had become. With madmen like Tripp and who knew who else working against them, Silas might put himself in danger without thinking of the consequences.

‘No might about it,’ Archer said, his mind now turning to what he would find when he was home.

The crew would have reached Larkspur by the early evening, and Mario Ricci would now be back aboard the Legacy with Captain Kent. There was work to do, and he would be with Bertie Tucker again, for a short while at least. What happened when the ship was ready to sail, and Kent had decided what to do with her, was an unknown, but the Legacy probably wouldn’t put to sea again until after winter.

Silas, meanwhile, would be waiting at Larkspur, ready to bring Archer up to date on events. Where was Jimmy? He and Andino had had plenty of time to get to Athens and back, and what of Tom?

There was much to contemplate, and by doing so, he hoped he might again induce sleep. It was creeping towards him some hours later when the cart turned and stopped.

‘I hope you know what time it is,’ a disgruntled voice said.

‘Aye, be coming on three. You’ll get your money.’

‘But I won’t get me sleep, will I?’

‘You know what me grandfader use a say, Mr Nance?’

‘No, and I don’t care to, neither.’

‘He used to say you can sleep when you be dead. Now, help me get this tack off, and I hope you got a better team than these two scragabouts. Taken hours here from Denzel’s.’

‘That ain’t surprising. What you want a be using him fur?’

The discussion about horses, liveries and midnight journeys continued as the harnesses clattered, the cart tipped, Archer suffered laying in a silent heap while Clem went off and, by the sound of it, relieved himself. The smell of wet canvas started to get the better of him, and he was on the verge of giving himself away with a sneeze, when the cart tipped back, and the men tethered the next team. The noise gave him a cover, but it still wasn’t a quiet a sneeze as he would have liked.

‘What were that?’

‘One of your nags letting air,’ Clem said. ‘I be back wi’e, in a few days, like I said.’

‘Aye, and make sure it ain’t three o’clock in the fucking morning, Carter. Be on yer way, and don’t give them too much feed. These two blow chronic.’

‘Wouldn’t expect nothing better, Mr Nance. God be with’e.’

The trundling, clattering and repetitive clomping began again, and Archer tried to think of things other than what he might find at home.

It proved an impossible task. Andrej should now be with Lucy, but there had been no news of her condition. There was a wedding coming up, assuming the poor woman had recovered from whatever ailment she suffered, and there would be a child in the house, assuming it had survived. As Mr Tanner had confirmed his translation while abord the Legacy, there should be three new leads on the chalkboard, but still the fourth clue to understand, unless Silas or Tom had had any luck. Silas might not be there. Jimmy might have taken on Kingsclere hand-to-hand and been…

Sleep overcame him, and when he woke, he was grateful for it, because his thoughts had been straying to the worst, but once more awake, he directed them to the point of his godmother’s quest.

‘To give you the grand tour you never took,’ someone had said, and it might have been Tom.

‘Because she and your mother liked puzzles and knew you do too,’ had been another suggestion, but there was a deeper reason, and it had something to do with Lady Marshall’s original letter.

To distract himself from the numbing in his legs and the pain in his back, the stink of canvas and flatulent horses, he though back and strained his memory.

The letter had called it his mother’s ‘hidden treasure’, but his godmother had not told him what it was, even though she could have done so in five words.

‘A stash of Romanian gold,’ he mused counting the words on his fingers. ‘The crown jewels of Hungary.’ Unlikely. ‘Complete ownership of Rasnov Castle.’ What would he want with that, and why keep it a secret?

No, it had to be something darker than that, and, being transported in darkness like a tea chest had not put him in the mood for dark thoughts. They could stay at the back of his mind, but they were hammering to be released.

There was too much to think about, too many unknowns, and pondering them would do him no good.

Without a lamp, he was unable to see the time, and not wanting to annoy Clem, he daren’t ask, but he wasn’t even sure what day it was, let alone how far they were from Larkspur.

‘Well, this is a fine kettle of fish,’ he whispered, because talking kept him amused. ‘The Earl of Clearwater discovered packed in with crates, being delivered to his home in style… There is a good reason.’

There was. His safety, and it was not only at the front of Silas’ mind when he wrote his coded prose, but also in the minds of the academy men and his friends. Even cherishing what his crew of young, loyal men, and Mrs Norwood, had done for him was not enough to keep the dark thoughts from escaping their metaphorical cage.

Hard though it was to imagine one of Kingsclere’s men lying in wait for him at the Hall, it was easier to imagine Adelaide. Discovering Archer ‘lost at sea’ or in some other way not aboard the ship that was no longer his, the inspector would have flown into a rage of frustration. Hopefully, Andrej had taken the advice and blustered as Archer had shown him how, and Kent had stood his ground. Even if not, Adelaide would still be after Archer’s blood. What little news had made it to the Egyptian papers had suggested as much, and the inspector’s desire for arrest had been compounded, no doubt, by Kingsclere’s determination to destroy Archer’s good name.

That was another dark thought to be shoved in the cage at the edge of his mind. The bars were bulging, and the lock in danger of cracking when the sound of the cartwheels changed, the horses slowed, and he heard Clem call them to a halt, before he said, ‘What you doing here?’

‘Morning, Mr Carter,’ was the reply, and it was a voice Archer recognised. ‘We thought it better if I showed him the way. Besides, Trevik has to get to his fields.’

‘Aye. Been some damage. You be lucky you missed the worst of it.’

‘I didn’t. I be fair freezing, Trevik. Be there a chance of cocoa from your mother’s stove.’

A laugh was followed by. ‘Always fur you, Carter. Get unloaded, and I’ll take ye inside. Art can do the rest. You brought your delivery, have’e?’

Archer was starting to think he’d been forgotten, but the canvas was whipped away revealing a sky glittering with a million stars, and, when he struggled to sit up and looked over the edge, Clem, Trevik Pascoe and his second footman, Art, were gawping at him by lanternlight.

‘Good morning, gentlemen,’ he said, trying to summon a sense of normality. ‘I assume I am at Far Farm.’

‘Aye, here you be, My Lord,’ Pascoe said. ‘And glad we are a see ye. I’ve hot water on if you be in need.’

‘Let me help you, Your Lordship.’

Art, to his credit, said nothing about Archer’s scraggy appearance, his crumpled overcoat, straggly beard and smell, as he helped him from the back of the cart, but he did suggest Mr Holt was already up and about and would have a hot bath ready.

‘That is kind of you,’ Archer said, his feet stinging when they hit the ground and his legs weak from lack of blood. ‘I assume we are to walk?’

‘After you’ve had a cup of tea,’ the young footman replied.

‘Aye, Sir, come inside and be warm a while. It’s a fair clamber through them tunnels to your cellar.’

‘Ah yes,’ Archer said, remembering how Pascoe used to take them to visit Art in secret. ‘You really are following in your ancestors’ footsteps, Mr Carter. Smuggling me into my own home.’

‘Best be safe, Sir,’ Pascoe said. ‘There’s been a stranger on the moor many nights, and Art says he means you harm. Quick. Inside now.’

‘I’ll have you home before dawn, Sir,’ Art said, taking Archer’s arm to guide him. ‘There’s lot to tell you.’