The Secret of Willow Cottage (part two – prequel: The Tale of the Jilted Lover) by Jane Risdon

 

 

 

In fear for his life and the well-being of his family Sebastian Nugent dare not return home following his duel with Serena’s husband.  He was certain he had struck a death blow to the old man and tried in vain to find Serena afterwards, but there was no sign of her.  Her new family had most likely spirited her away so she couldn’t flee to her lover, so cruelly jilted in favour of a rich elderly widower.

Despair took hold. He rode through the night to the coast where he took a room in a quayside Inn, waiting for the dawn.  Sebastian knew that if the old man died he would be a wanted man; whatever happened now, Serena was lost to him forever. She was better off without him.

As planned he located the Master of a vessel headed for Venezuela who had reserved passage for two people as requested.  He didn’t show his surprise when only one passenger arrived.  He had seen it all before.  Young lovers seeking their fortune overseas, fleeing disapproving parents and the girl oftentimes got cold feet.

Sebastian planned to make his fortune in South America, there was money to be made in Cocoa and Gold he heard and he was prepared to work hard.  Sometimes he dreamed of returning home, rich and powerful, able to help his family and find Serena, but deep down he knew that would never happen.

He’d been in Caracas just two days when the earthquake struck.  Terrified he had managed to scramble into the street, buildings crashing down around him, all his possessions lost. Death and destruction all around him, he made his way back to the coast in search of another ship and that is how he came to join Jacques Dubois and his brother Philippe, buccaneers operating out of Puerto Rica, plundering the gold cargo-carrying ships of the East and Gulf coasts of Northern America.  Their ship had put into port for repairs following a big battle in the Caribbean Sea with the Americans.  Sebastian had asked for work aboard the ship, not realising it was a privateer.  Too late to change his mind they set sail and so began his adventures aboard ‘The Swallow.’

For five years Sebastian sailed the Caribbean Seas and Maracaibo Islands with the Dubois brothers, raiding American ships and sometimes carrying slaves, cocoa and gold for auction, though often they freed the slaves who joined them in their plundering.  He learned to speak Spanish and later when the DuBois brothers began spying for the Spanish, he worked alongside them, passing details of the American ships and receiving huge rewards from the Spanish in return.  He dreamed of Serena often and longed to be reunited with her.

Later he joined another privateer, ‘The Endeavour.’ By this time he was Second Mate and privy to secret meetings his Master held with the British who wanted his services.  His Master declined and Sebastian and his crew continued to plunder the Gulf of Mexico under the Mexican flag this time. 

‘The Endeavour’ was now operating out of the Pirate Colony, Campeche, on Galveston Island Texas,  where he was living with a Karankawa woman who had been kidnapped by one of his ship-mates, who later died during a battle.  Members of her tribe raided the colony soon after, however, and managed to rescue her after killing nearly all the pirates living there. Once again Sebastian escaped and was in need of a new ship. 

Sebastian knew he could never go home, especially after the meetings with the British, who knew his name and would soon discover his past and probably arrest him if he ever set foot in England again, so he found another Privateer, ‘The Warrior,’ run out of Texas by Jean Pierre Lafitte.  He cast all thoughts of Serena out of his mind, he never stopped loving her, but he knew they would never be reunited which saddened him greatly now that he was on the way to great wealth by way of his buccaneering.

The battle with the American ship had been raging for three hours, their cannons blasting the sides of ‘The Warrior,’ relentlessly. The crew were suffering greatly from lack of sophisticated weaponry and it was taking in water.  It soon became apparent that the privateer was in danger of being boarded and the buccaneers taken prisoner.  The Master gathered his officers around him and they discussed surrender or fighting on to the death.  The prospect of an American prison was unthinkable and they decided they would fight to the death; there was always the outside chance they might prevail.

And so the bloody battle raged as ‘The Warrior,’ slowly began to sink.  Sebastian fought bravely and managed to kill seven Americans before he received a sword thrust to his neck.  He fell behind empty gunpowder barrels, clutching his wound.  He knew he was finished and as his lifeblood ebbed away his thoughts returned to Serena when last he saw her, in her wedding gown, inside the chapel waiting for her groom.

She was so beautiful and so young.  His heart yearned for her.  In his imagination he was her groom and it was to him she turned when the Priest pronounced them man and wife.  He lifted her veil, gazed lovingly into her shining eyes, and then kissed her soft lips with his dying breath.

Two hundred years later when Serena had been found and laid to rest and the Secret of Willow Cottage had been uncovered, the mystery of what happened to Sebastian, her lost lover, remained unsolved. No-one ever heard of him again and despite endless research by the De Grouchy family and the local Historical Society, nothing was discovered.  But he was always remembered when flowers were laid upon Serena’s grave – the family somehow knew that his love for her had never died.

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