Tanley's boring life on Saint Michael's Mount gets a lot more complicated when a man is washed up on the beach. With her father dead, the neighbor smuggling, and a knife wound in the man's shoulder she's all alone with a whole lot of trouble.
At least she's not stuck getting rid of a body when he wakes up at long last, but delivering papers for the government to help pay the debt after the war with Napoleon makes the stakes higher than just a little smuggling. Alone with James though temptation is hard to resist, if only getting caught didn't bring up a whole new set of problems.
Tanley pushed out of her small stone house after being trapped by a storm for three days. Storms hit hard on the coast of Cornwall. Even more when she lived on an isle off its coast and the cold of winter still filled the air. St. Michael’s Mount home of three hundred souls and no more. They could walk across to the mainland when the tide was low, but that was when the sea was not tossed high by a storm. St. Aubyns’ castle stood up on the peak of the tiny island, lending them much distinction from a fishing rock. But not a tree stood about the 53 houses on four streets and the far side only boasted some steep banks of hard stone. It was the remaining shore where she walked when able, a rocky beach but flat. The waves were high, but she walked without shoes letting the cold water wash over her feet. Not a soul was in sight. Not a ship on the sea. Tanley knew it was only a lull, but staying in the house for much longer would make her daft. A school, a chapel, and three public houses used by the visiting sailors who her father used to do business with, that was her life. She’d not been further than five miles from that island since she was born. Tales of faraway lands and fights with the sea filled her ears around the fire. A driftwood log brought in by the storm blocked her way. Stepping around it, she stopped hard when she found a man there.
“Damnation.” Rushing down, she pushed him over and he groaned.
His eyes didn’t open and he was cold as ice. Running back to the houses, she found a wheelbarrow that Hellyer left out. No one even seemed to notice her as they too huddled around their fires. One wheel fell over several times in her rush to get back. Staring at him, her uncertainty left. He looked done for, clothes all but falling off him. One arm seemed to be at an odd angle. She couldn’t dump him out of the wheelbarrow, she might kill him. He groaned again and tried to push himself up, but his eyes were closed. The man couldn’t know she was there. He moved enough to get under his arm, then fell into the wheelbarrow without moving again.
“Careful Tanley.” She said to herself and took a deep breath. Slowly, she balanced him on one wheel and pushed with all her might. Barely two feet and she came to a stop, almost dropping him to the ground. Tanley set him down and pulled several rocks out of the way. She made the entire trip a few feet at a time. It was not far, but it seemed forever. Her feet were freezing by the time she got to her house. Blessed heat tumbled out with the open door. Tanley’s heart stopped as the wheelbarrow tipped precariously, catching on the threshold. She’d tried rushing, feeling safe at home. When he was inside, Tanley just collapsed as she pulled on stockings and a pair of her father’s heavy socks. The major thing was that he was inside. Her freezing would not help anything.
Building the fire high in her father’s old room she pushed the wheelbarrow to the bed. Not sure if his arm was indeed broken, she only wanted to move him once. He was soaked though. Biting her lip, Tanley pulled his tattered clothes off. Buckskin breeches and linen shirt, at least he wore drawers. Still, trying to get him from the wheelbarrow to the bed he was too heavy to hold long. She collapsed on him as he fell to the bed. His eyes flew open for only a moment. Brilliant blue, grey and green like the sea that tried to kill him. By the time she sat back to get her weight off him, they were closed again. A bed warmer under the covers, a pot of tea cooled somewhat, Tanley forced him to drink to get some warmth in him and it hardly helped.
Tanley poured a bowl of water from the kettle and washed the salt from what skin was bare. Hopefully, the warm water was doing more than cleaning him. She felt more than saw the nasty bump on his head. Her father had a life before he settled there, a whaler. Around her stood treasures left from his days on a ship. Scrimshawed pieces of ivory, games handmade while he was on a ship, and sailors trunks stood in their rooms instead of other furniture. There were curios from several continents there as well. Her father had seen South America and Africa. Never had he rounded Cape Horn to see the wonders on the other side. He’d never seen Asia and the islands full of cannibals the stories told of. Since settling down, he had spent months, if not years, making intricate ships models. Ships he’d sailed on two decades or more before and he could recreate it perfectly from his memory alone. Tanley rolled the man over, she knew a sailor when she saw one, even if he has a handsome face to distract her. A pool of blood stained the sheets.
“Tell your people to pray for you.” Tanley muttered, as she rushed for supplies. Pressing it tight with bandages, she looked him over carefully. It was not a broken arm. His shoulder was wounded. The cold had stemmed the flow until she started to warm him up again or was it her landing on him? His soak in the sea had washed most of the blood away. Somehow she was the one that became the islands’ doctor and nurse. She’d never delivered a baby, but more times than she wanted to count her father had come running from his evenings at the public houses dragging her back to patch a man in his cups. Most used an embroidery basket for coverlets, hers was a joking name for surgeon’s tools. She would never once claim she had skill for something serious though.