The year is 1862.
Within the seaborne nation known as the British Isles there exists the northern coast of Wales and its holdings of Denbigh and Caernarfon: maritime Counties bounded north by the Irish Sea. The mountains of the Clwydian Range rise 2500ft behind the hilly counties of the coastland. There is level ground along the coastal strip.....and on this coastal strip sloping towards its crescent wide beaches curves the Abergele Road.
It runs from the ancient sea village of Llandudno beside the Colwyn Bay to Pensam and tens of miles beyond...to Liverpool in England. Along this limestone and green coast are castles estates, farms and abbeys built centuries ago...marked by the towering point of Great Orme ....named by Vikings...appearing to them as a dragon's head in the fog.
Abandoned Llandudno castle on its point with the town at its foot...the Abergele road runs east towards the wilderness if the Welsh coast.
On that Abergele Road , under a quarter moon, a rider stood his mount across the cobbled road poised on the high ground with pistols brandished , rapier sheathed at his belt. he bade the carriage warning lest it proceed further and had its driver and guard sitting in the rockrose hedge before its passenger was noticed. trotting to its door, he leaned to its handle and demanded her exit. When she refused, the rider dismounted to forcibly remove a furious maiden amid a flurry of insults. Even in the night her eyes were fire, the flaxen hair spilling from beneath her shawl forswearing the righteous anger of her father and his men when this grievous assault was reported...."And surely it will be!" she pointed her finger, her spirit the epitome of a righteous indignation that only could come from her wealthy status.
She fell to silence when the cowled stranger threatened to take more than her jewels if she couldnt control herself yet more than the threat: the intonation of his voice was nothing like the northern Welsh of the county, and his words: English of an accent unfamiliar.
" You will still your tongue and relieve yourself of every jewel and ring, my lady. " he demanded while emptying a satchel of its monetary contents.
With a flourish, he separated the carriage and its occupants from their valuables, freed the horses from their tack, sent them galloping afield by a rump-slap with the flat of his sword, mounted and without turning back :rode the slope towards the darkened beach of Colwyn Bay, leaving them staring into darkness as the rider disappeared.
" We will HUNT HIM DOWN. I WILL HANG HIM IN THE ROAD!" her father stood and slammed both fists onto his table . He had sent his men across the counties to track down the highwayman...for weeks... to the frustration of the wealthy Landowner the bandit remained elusive. Had his beautiful daughter not kept her silence, Elam Raven might well have had the highwayman in his clutches in short order.
But Jenny, the only of the three who heard the bandit's voice, had also seen the dark mischief in the man's eyes...had felt his hand in her wrist, had sensed the man gently assisting her carriage exit with a hand placed on her lower back, had felt him brush lightly against her in the altercation...and knew his height and stone. Keeping her awake nights; she kept these memories in her heart. And when, weeks later, her father boarded ship for purchasing in Liverpool, she made it her duty to find him.
Without inquiries, her eyes searched the faces of her countrymen for strangers; for Llandudno couldn't have many. That sabbath she saw him...KNEW it was the same man... and the thrill that coursed through her veins both shamed and ruled her actions...unable to keep from it; she approached him there in the street.
" Sir, " she stopped him, her voice trembling. How with all the authority mustered at their last meeting, did her confidence fail her now in broad daylight?, " I know you, sir."
His eyes revealed everything.
"Jenny Raven." he said.
"You know who I am, then??" She was incredulous.
" I know you to be the daughter of the most wealthy man in these two counties...." he started. She interrupted forcefully yet quietly enough that no one else would hear.
"...and I know you to be nothing more than a common thief... a highwayman......a criminal......a..."
He hushed her by taking her hand....something unheard of in the strict sensibilities of this welsh community. What was said after that she neither knew nor remembered....except that he was a commoner.. a simple miner....troubling yet had he been gentry she would have known him ....and still he would have been a bandit.
Spring turned to Summer without another report of the highwayman. The couple been seen by those of no consequence together on horseback in the tormentil hills of sawgrass...or when she could slip away on the wide hard sand beaches of Colwyn Bay; riding.
The afternoon they'd walked the the path from the road across rich limestone grassland to a spot above the breakers marching in from the Irish Sea...she gave herself to him for the first time on a blanket spread amid the whispering grasses. There he swore his love to her.
" I have something to tell you, Jenny" he sat up, turned towards the sea and sighed.
........he told her ........In October of 1859 the ship Royal Charter, a 2,700 ton steam and sailing ship bound for Liverpool, was lost off Moelfre on the island of Anglesey. Jenny knew the place and remembered the wreck.................
"Almost at the end of voyage from Melbourne. ..it was an insufferably long voyage.... the ship was carrying four hundred passengers and crew and we were loaded with dust from the Australian goldfields. They say £320,000 of gold...and we sailed into the worst storm that had occurred in the Irish Sea in a century. The captain called for the Liverpool pilot, but the sea was too ferocious. The captain decided to shelter in the Bay.
but the ship's anchor chain broke under the strain and drove us stern first onto the rocks off Moelfre. The waves were so tumultuous that we struck the rocks fifty yards from the shore. The ship broke in half ...throwing many of us in the sea. All of us returning from the goldfields and to save our fortunes we were filling our bags and pockets with gold dust and leaping into the sea with beams, cork lifebelts......but the water was ice and the waves were as tall as two houses breaking on the rocks. some of us made it..but most drowned. Men came down to the beach...your father and his men. They carried the survivors away. I was unconscious after dragging myself up the sand. When I came to, your fathers men were rifling the pockets of the drowned...the dead... for their gold... friends I had labored with for two years...robbed..while your fathers men pulled chests and cases from the surf..... I was seen up on the sand by one of these thieves and if not for drawing my knife...I would have been robbed too. I saw it all. "
"Hawk, " having long surrendered a father's affections for that of this love, she whispered, "I am sorry."
"...from that day I swore revenge...revenge for my lost luck, revenge for the lives of my friends, revenge for the greed of Elam Raven......."
He turned to her eyes: blue searching his...her beautiful face surrounded by blonde hair ; its tufts wisping lightly in the breeze. Since he'd found her: the hate boiling for three years had evaporated like dew from grass.
" Jenny, I haven't the heart for anger anymore." he fell to her side and took her hands. She tilted her lips to his and took him in her arms.
" use the last of your revenge on me..." and in Gaelic, "Aros efo myfi fy cariad, Fy enaid arglo i'r carn."
Abide with me , my love. My soul is locked to yours.
From that Summers day, a passion was born in their lovemaking that surpassed anything they'd known. Unable to stay apart, Jenny had taken a stable boy in her confidence...and evenings when she could no longer bear the separation would slip away in the night to be with him. There was the sureity of a child now......., the intensity, the frequency...the long minutes of complete coupling , at their every stolen meeting....had assured his seed flooded the deepest parts of her...Jenny had welcomed it, urged....accepted and urged again. Hawk, no longer misguided, possessed her womb, turning it to butter in thorough, relentless.. delicate subjugation ....born of years alone and more years following his singleminded purposeful revenging heart . Each time she came to him; he'd taken her as if the tryst would be their last or until the fire consumed the last of their yearning..
He would take them both to Australia...marry aboard ship...return to Melbourne where they would have their child...and another and another. And never return to this Welsh North County.....amid the storm of their kisses came the plans and promises...dreams...of a land she'd never seen yet would follow him there...or anywhere to the ends of the earth. Their passage had been paid for with Australian gold: his last.
And so it came to be a September evening she'd risked her secret again and rode off through the night to him.
A powder-wigged Captain of the Redcoats lifted a crystal stemmed glass of sherry and clinked it to the glass held by the man across the table: Elam Raven.
There'd been formal dinner at Ravenwood two weeks earlier at which his daughter had arrived at the table in her finery; the pride of any giving father. He had fallen into a silence then. At his Jenny's lobes hung earrings he had given her, exquisite, imported from Paris....ones over which she had wept inconsolably at their loss at the hands of the highwayman. He said nothing.
Six horse mounted dragoons, veterans of the Sikh War, carried torches on the Abergele Road. They came with gags and muskets, joking, jesting in snickering banter fit but for those who'd delivered death with ghoulish pride . At a walk they rode towards the farmhouse Graig Fawr and turned towards the path and the light of its window.