1660 London is a time of transition between the Commonwealth and the Restoration. It causes uncertainty with the rules of marriage. Viola is a victim of this confusion.
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Viola lives in a time when a woman must be under a man's care, but is suddenly left on her own devices when her husband, Roger, abandons her without a backward glance.
Not enough, before long, she learns he is a bigamist.
Having thought Roger is dead, his brother, Horatio, joins Viola to destroy the man who has ruined both their lives.
The wherry rushed down stream far enough so the deep shadow of the Bridge was behind them, the sun marking their way. Clustered ships with tall masts bobbed and pushed together. Water swooshed between the hulls as rigging creaked, decks moaned, and bells clanged. Rubbish sped by, some banging against the wherry and the sides of the ships to veer off and rush away, again.
Viola narrowed her eyes in an attempt to find her papa amongst the swirling water and debris.
As the sun dipped lower and the Bridge shadow moved down river, water and flotsam turned dark. It was hard to distinguish what was what.
Everything looked the same, forcing Viola to close her eyes and listen to the sounds above the crashing water and creaking ships.
And then she heard it, her papa’s cry.
Opening her eyes, she turned in its direction, searching for him. Viola leaned against the edge of the boat, concentrating on the sound.
Pall asked, “What do you see?”
Viola waved her sister away. “Shhh. I think I hear him.”
Pall went quiet, and then with a shout, she pointed. “Oiy, over there. I see something against the rear of that ship.”
Viola squinted and tried to see what Pall saw. It was getting dark. Rubbish bobbed in an eddy near the aft of a ship, making it near impossible to pick out her papa.
“Over here,” he cried. “I’m drowning.”
Pall leapt to her feet and hollered, “Do you still have the dead head?”
Standing up, Viola swatted her sister. “Blast it, not now.”
The wherriman slapped the water with an oar, sending a cascade into the boat. “You’re vexing me straight to the gut, you are. Sit down the both of you. Do you want to be tossed overboard?”
In unison, they pointed and cried, “He’s over there. Quick, now.”
“Hang me, not afore the both of you sit the bloody hell down. I ain’t about to toss us overboard while you’re a raving and pitching us about like lunatics. I’ve got a reputation to keep. I ain’t drowned no one yet, and I ain’t about to, you ken?”
Viola grabbed her sister’s wrist, and forced her down as she sank to the seat, praying the man would hurry to their papa before he disappeared in the dim waters. The sun was sinking fast on the other side of the Bridge. Once down, it would cast all into pitch night, and her papa’s voice sounded dim.
The boatman pulled hard right, his strength turning the wherry around, and he rowed up stream toward the ship. A piece of rigging had snapped from one of the ships, snagging under the ship next to it, and trapping anything that coursed too close them.
Their papa held tight to the rope with one hand, the dead head in the other. He gasped and spat water as debris bobbed around him. Both Viola and her sister leaned over the edge of the wherry as they drew near, their arms outstretched to grasp him before he went under.
The wherriman sucked in his breath. “By God I shall forsake you both if you don’t get back in this here boat. As I do all right imaginable in saving the damned blockhead, I shall not have the two of you pitch us into the drink.”
Viola clamped her mouth shut, and squeezed Pall’s wrist to keep her quiet.
The wherriman grunted and rowed against the tide to the aft of the ship. Viola and her sister stretched their arms over the side, Pall grabbing hold of the snagged cable while Viola swept aside the rubbish with her hands.
The water was very cold.
The wherry edged toward the ship, the boatman heaving from the effort. “Pox on it, grab him afore I lose hold and we spin away.”