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“Cinematographic with escapes, kidnapping, galloping sword play, and a breathless elopement.” —The Times Literary Supplement
The most daring, dashing hero of all
“Mad Nicholas” to his friends, “Scourge of Spain” to his enemies, Sir Nicholas Beauvallet is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most dashing buccaneers and has never been known to resist a challenge.
A Spanish lady all fire and heart
When Beauvallet captures the galleon carrying Doña Dominica de Rada y Sylvan and her father, he vows to return them safely to the shores of Spain. But he has no sooner done so than he proposes a venture more reckless than any of his exploits on the high seas—he will return to Spain, where there’s a price on his head, and claim Dominica as his bride....
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Georgette Heyer wrote over fifty novels, including Regency romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. She was known as the Queen of Regency romance, and was legendary for her research, historical accuracy, and her extraordinary plots and characterizations.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Excerpt from Chapter One
The deck was a shambles. Men lay dead and dying; there was split woodwork, a welter of broken mizzen and sagging sail, dust and grime, and the reek of powder. A ball screamed through the rigging overhead; another tore the sea into wild foam beneath the galleon's stern. She seemed to stagger, to reel, to list heavily to port. From his quarterdeck Don Juan de Narvaez gave a sharp order; his lieutenant went running down the companion into the waist of the ship.
Soldiers crowded there in steel breastplates and chased morions. They had halberds and pikes, and some held long double-edged swords. They looked out to sea, to where the smaller ship came steadily on, the Red Cross of St George flying at her mainmast head. They were sure now that it would end in a hand to hand fight; they were even glad of it: they knew themselves to be the finest soldiers in Christendom. What chance could these bold English have against them at close quarters? The English ship had held off beyond reach of the Spanish guns this past hour, ceaselessly bombarding the Santa Maria with her longer-reached cannons. The soldiers in the waist did not know how serious was the damage she had wreaked, but they were fretting and nervous from their impotence, and their forced inaction. Now the English ship drew nearer, the wind filling her white sails, and bearing her on like a bird through the scudding waves.
Don Juan watched her come, and saw his guns belch fire upon her. But she was close, and there was little damage done, full half of the Spanish guns shooting above her from the over-tall sides of the galleon. The Venture – and he knew now beyond all doubt that it was the Venture herself – bore down upon them undaunted.
She came up alongside, discharging her fire into the galleon's waist, and passed on unscathed. Drawing a little ahead of the Spaniard she wore suddenly, came sailing across the galleon's bows, and raked her cruelly fore and aft.
The Santa Maria was riddled and groaning; there was panic aboard, and a hopeless confusion. Don Juan knew his ship was crippled and cursed softly in his beard. But he had cool courage enough, and he knew how to rally his men. The Venture was coming round, and it was evident that she meant to grapple the larger galleon now. Well, therein lay hope. Let her come: the Santa Maria was doomed, but aboard the Venture was El Beauvallet – Beauvallet the mocker of Spain, the freebooter, the madman! His capture would be worth even the loss of so noble a galleon as the Santa Maria: ay, and more than that! There was not a Spanish admiral who had not that capture for his ambition. Don Juan drew in his breath on the thought. El Beauvallet who bit his thumb at Spain! If it should fall to his lot to take this man of a charmed life prisoner for King Philip he thought he would ask no more of life.
It had been with this in mind that Don Juan had challenged the ship when she hove into sight that afternoon. He had known that El Beauvallet was sailing in these waters; at Santiago he had seen Perinat who had sailed forth to punish the Venture not a fortnight ago. Perinat had come back to Santiago in his own long boat, biting his nails, a beaten man. He had talked wildly of witchcraft, of a devil of a man who threw back his head and laughed. Don Juan had sneered at that. The bungler Perinat!
Now it seemed that he too stood in danger of having bungled. He had thrown down the gauntlet to Beauvallet, who never refused a challenge, and Beauvallet had picked it up, and flirted his dainty craft forward through the sparkling sea.
There had been some desire to show a lady what a Narvaez could accomplish. Don Juan chewed his lip, and knew a pang of remorse. Below, in the panelled stateroom, was no less a personage than Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, late Governor of Santiago, with his daughter Dominica. Don Juan knew only too well in what peril they now stood. But when it came to hand to hand fighting the tables might still be turned.
The soldiers were armed and ready in the waist and on the forecastle. There were gunners, grimed and stained with sweat, standing by their culverins; the brief panic had been swiftly quelled. Let the Venture come!
She was near, standing the fire from the long basiliscos; she drew nearer, and through the smoke one might see the men on her with boarding axes and swords, ready for the order to board the Spaniard. Then, suddenly, there was a crack and a roar, the bursting flame and the black smoke of a score of swivel-guns on her decks, all trained upon the waist of the Santa Maria. There was havoc wrought among the Spanish soldiery; cries, groans, and oaths rent the air, and swiftly, while havoc lasted, the Venture crept up, and grappled the tall galleon.
Men swarmed up the sides, using their boarding axes to form scaling ladders. From the spritsail yard they sprang down upon the deck of the Santa Maria, daggers between their teeth, and long swords in hand. No might of Spanish soldiery, maimed as it was by the wicked fire, could stop them. They came on, and the fight was desperate over the slippery decks: sword to sword, slash and cut, and the quick stab of daggers.
Don Juan stood at the head of the companion, sword in hand, a tall figure in breastplate and tassets of fluted steel. He sought in the press for a leader amongst the boarders, but could see none in that hurly-burly.
It was hard fighting, frenzied fighting, over wounded and dead, with ever and again the crack of a dag fired at close range. The pandemonium was intense; no single voice could be distinguished amongst the hubbub of groans, shouted orders, sharp cries, and clash of arms. One could not tell for a while who had the advantage: the fight swayed and eddied, and the Santa Maria lay helpless under all.
A man seemed to spring up out of the mob below, and gained the companion. A moment he stood with his foot upon the first step, looking up at Don Juan, a red sword in his hand, a cloak twisted about his left arm, and a black pointed beard upthrust. A chased morion shaded the upper part of his face, but Don Juan saw white teeth agleam, and crouched for the stroke that should send this stranger to perdition. ‘Down, perro!' he snarled.
The stranger laughed, and answered him in pure Castilian. ‘Nay, señor, the dog comes up.'
Don Juan peered to see more closely into the upturned face. ‘Come up and die, dog,' he said softly, ‘for I think you are he whom I seek.'(20100212)
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Book Description Pan, 1969. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0330102540