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About the Author
Along the way, between having three children, she took a doctorate in English literature from Oxford. Her first novel, 'The Diamond of Drury Lane' (2006), won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Nestle Children's Book Prize. In the US, 'Secret of the Sirens' won the honor book medal of the Green Earth Book Award.
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Cat O' Nine Tails
A Cat Royal Adventure
By Julia Golding
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2008 Julia Golding
All rights reserved.
* * *
SCENE 1 — DANCING WITH BILLY
Frank, Pedro, and I agreed that same day to despatch Joseph to Bristol to make inquiries about Syd. After carefully preparing the ground to get Mr. Dixon used to the notion that a duke's son counted a boxing butcher as one of his closest friends, Frank took him into his confidence and asked for his advice. As Frank predicted, his cousin's response was immediate and generous: he promised that his own people in Bristol would help with the search. He advised us to start at the docks: if anyone went missing in that part of the world, this was the first place to look.
"Why is that, sir?" I asked. We were at dinner. I had been placed on Mr. Dixon's right hand and was enjoying his respectful attention at the table. It made a pleasant change. Frank was rather too inclined to treat me like a fellow, neglecting to refill my glass or offer me delicacies out of my reach. This was all right in Drury Lane, where it was every man (or woman) for themselves, but at Boxton Frank did not notice that his behavior often left me high and dry, with an empty glass and plate. I knew enough of table manners to be aware that it would have been unladylike to shove him aside to help myself. But Mr. Dixon was not Frank; he was very agreeably different.
Mr. Dixon poured a splash of wine into my crystal goblet, then watered it down. "It is because of the press gang, Miss Royal. When they have trouble filling up His Majesty's ships, they go looking for likely customers and persuade them to serve their country for a voyage or two."
I shook my head. "Not Syd Fletcher. He's got his life in London; he won't want to go sailing."
Mr. Dixon smiled grimly. "I'm afraid it does not matter what he wants once the press gang gets him. He'll be thrown on board and expected to do his duty, willing or no."
"But that's ... that's slavery."
"Not quite. He'll get paid and a discharge at the end if he survives. Who knows, he might even take to the life." Mr. Dixon must have noticed my shocked expression for he patted my hand. "Do not worry, Miss Royal, your friend might not have fallen into the hands of the press gang. He might be quite at liberty, enjoying the life of a — what was it? — itinerant boxer." He smiled at his cousin. "My, Frank, you have got to know some interesting people while I've been away. I'm not sure I totally approve." He quirked an eyebrow.
"I'm glad I've shocked you, Will," Frank laughed. "You never used to be so stuffy. My new friends will be good for you. They're all sterling fellows."
"If they are anything like Miss Royal, then I'm sure I will be charmed," said Mr. Dixon, raising his glass to me.
There was nothing more we could do for Syd until there was some news, so I did not feel too guilty about enjoying the preparations for my first appearance in Bath. We had fixed on the dress ball the following Monday at the Upper Rooms and — guess what, Reader — I was to have a new gown!
Now, I expect my gentlemen readers to skip a page at this point, but, ladies, can you imagine it — me, a new dress! Not a hand-me-down from Lizzie's wardrobe. Not one chosen by someone else. But a completely new outfit made for me. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the duchess offered the services of her personal dressmaker.
"Don't mention it, my dear," the duchess boomed when I had stammered my thanks to her. "We'll look on it as your coming out." Pausing for a moment, she tapped my cheek thoughtfully with her finger. "You may be a trifle young for Society, but then you tell us you do not know your exact age. I think we can allow ourselves a little latitude. There have to be some advantages to being a duchess." Returning to the game, she dealt me a card from the top of the pack, slapping it down on the table. "And after all, you will be representing the Avon family: we can't have you disgracing us in a shoddy muslin, can we?"
Frank put down an eight of hearts. "Sometimes, Cat, it's too easy to forget you're a girl just like any other. But after hearing you today go all giddy over bolts of silk, I won't forget."
"Is that the best you can do?" I asked a shade resentfully as I trumped his card with a ten.
"Forgive my cousin," said Mr. Dixon, laying a knave on the top of the pile and scooping up the lot. "I'm sure you'll do us all credit, Miss Royal."
I eyed Mr. Dixon as he gathered the winnings to his side of the table, already imagining myself on his arm, cutting a dash in the ballroom as we danced a cotillion.
And the finished dress was simply wonderful: made from a glorious patterned white silk, it had embroidered roses around the hem and delicate lace at the neck. Not too fussy. Elegant was what I was aiming for — and that was what I think I achieved as I examined myself in the mirror before leaving. I felt a twinge of guilt as I studied the exquisite needlework. I knew that a poor girl somewhere had probably slaved for hours over this — for very little pay. A number of my friends in Drury Lane had been seamstresses, and it is thankless, eye-wrecking work, believe me. But, just for one night, I was going to pretend I was above such concerns. I was going to be a proper lady going to a real ball, just as I had so often done in my imagination. Who knows, perhaps I might even meet the man of my dreams and be swept off my feet? Why not? It happens in fairy tales, and this evening it felt as if I was stepping into one.
I descended the stairs with the duchess to where the gentlemen were waiting. Her grace was robed in scarlet with a black feather nodding over her head, not unlike the costume of the Mogul prince Pedro had once worn at Drury Lane. Pedro caught my eye and grinned, knowing we were both thinking the same thing. Mr. Dixon, dressed in a coat of dark blue — a color that became him very well — stepped forward to take my hand.
"As I predicted, Miss Royal, you do us all credit."
Frank, for once also smartly turned out, cast a strange look at me, making me wonder if I had got something wrong.
"What's the matter?" I asked, glancing anxiously at my feet. Two white slippers peeped from beneath the roses. I couldn't spot anything amiss.
"No, Cat, you look ... you look very well." Frank's face flushed as if he'd said something embarrassing. He then moved away from me and climbed into the carriage without waiting. Mr. Dixon hurriedly covered for his cousin's ill manners by handing me into the coach as the duke escorted his wife. Frank was looking at his nails as I took my seat beside him.
"What's going on?" I whispered, completely baffled.
Seeing we were unobserved as his father made a fuss of settling the duchess's fur cape around her, Frank took my hand in its white silk glove and gave it a squeeze. "It's just ... you have to understand, Cat, I've seen you dressed as a boy, covered in bruises, as a ballerina, a Quaker, and all the time you looked like you. But tonight, you don't. You're someone else. It's ... it's just a lot to get used to. I'm sorry."
Suddenly I began to have doubts about the evening. Did I want to be this new person — this lady — who had shocked Frank more than any of my other guises?
But then the thought of my new finery bolstered my resolve. It wouldn't be like me to waste all this on a quiet night at home, now would it?
Mr. Dixon climbed in and took his place on the other side. Pedro remained on the front steps to wave us off.
"Aren't you coming?" I called.
"Heavens, no, Cat," he replied with a laugh.
"He's worried someone will ask him to dance," said Frank, returning to his old self.
"No, I'm worried someone would shove a tray of drinks in my hand and expect me to play waiter all evening. The Assembly Rooms are no place for me."
"But Pedro —" I began. The shine on my brilliant evening was already beginning to tarnish.
"It's nothing. You can't go shooting; I can't go to the ball. Fair's fair. You can tell me all about it tomorrow."
Mr. Dixon nodded his approval. "The young man is right," he said. "Sadly, he would only be despised for trying to move in circles above his station."
The carriage moved off. I was silent, my thoughts employed cursing the world that constantly threw up so many barriers in the way of Pedro and me. Why couldn't we just be allowed to be ourselves — not a black boy or a poor lower-class girl? It was almost as if we had labels around our necks proclaiming our inadequacy. Fittingly, it was at that moment that the duchess handed me a folded card on a ribbon.
"What's this?" I asked, turning it over.
"It's your price tag," said Frank, fastening it to my wrist for me. "All the single ladies carry them. Two thousand a year in bonds. Only child of ailing banker. Fifty pounds a year."
"Frank, don't tease Miss Royal," scolded the duke, frowning.
"It's your dance card," explained Mr. Dixon. "And I've no doubt, dressed as you are, it will be full by the end of the evening and you will have worn out those slippers of yours."
I was grateful to him for taking pity on my ignorance, but I also noted that neither he nor Frank rushed to be the first to be marked down on my card. Such depressing thoughts were pushed aside, however, as the carriage was beginning its steep descent of Lansdown Hill, giving me my first glimpse of Bath. Night had fallen but in many ways that only made it more exciting as the lights in the windows glimmered like a swarm of fireflies in the valley, allowing my imagination to fill in the details of the handsome houses and parades of shops I had heard so much about. The townsfolk had gone to a lot of trouble to build Bath to the heights of modern elegance, putting other cities to shame with their hodgepodge of styles. Where I come from in London, there has been only fitful planning for the city expansion, leaving many streets with the more decrepit buildings slumped against recent additions. In Bath, the citizens have not been so sentimental, clearing the way for construction on a scale never seen before. The grand houses either side of the carriage bore witness to this: honey-colored terraces clustered together to impress, somewhat like the chorus line in the ballet, all standing in identical costumes, following the same steps of the dance. Each house on its own would have not raised an eyebrow, but put them together and the effect was breathtaking.
Nearing the Assembly Rooms, the traffic began to build. We got stuck in a line of carriages, none of us going anywhere, but this did not prevent some trying, leading to much inventive cursing from the coachmen as the more audacious drivers tried to force their way in front. Two drivers started up a fist fight. Imagine it: fighting over something as stupid as bad manners on the road! I thought Bath would be more civilized, but apparently human nature does not change even if the architecture does. I stuck my head out the window to enjoy the show until the duchess pulled me into my seat by the back of my gown and gave me a reproving look.
I'm sorry, Reader, but sometimes my roots can't help getting the better of me.
Some sensible people had resorted to going on foot and were following the flambeaux of link boys as they led the way to the Rooms. I itched to get out and go the last few hundred yards in similar fashion, but no one seconded my suggestion. It appeared that ducal pride would be dented if we did so, which meant we had to sit for an unnecessary quarter of an hour waiting for the blockage to clear.
Finally, it was our turn at the door. Leaving hats and cloaks with the footmen, we entered a packed corridor leading to the rooms beyond. Our names were announced, starting in clarion tones with "His Grace, the Duke of Avon; Her Grace, the Duchess of Avon; His Lordship, the Earl of Arden"; until finally the footman tailed off with "Mr. Dixon, and, um, Miss Royal." Earl of Arden!? I'd never heard Frank introduced formally before. He'd kept very quiet about his impressive title.
An excited whisper rustled through the people gathered at the sides of the corridor, fans fluttered, spectacles pinched to noses to take a better look. The duke and duchess swept through with gracious nods to acquaintances. Frank offered me his arm with a quizzical smile. I accepted it and we did our best to glide along in their wake, but I would keep tripping on the hem of the duchess's gown.
We were lured onward by the sounds of an orchestra and the clink of glasses. My heart was beating fast with excitement as I took in the beautiful dresses, the glittering mirrors, and thousands of candles. Only as I entered the Octagonal Room adjacent to the ballroom did I remember the card on my wrist. It was as blank as when it had first been given to me. Indeed, the flimsy thing hung between us like a manacle, accusing Frank of neglect. He glanced at it once then fixed his eyes on something in the distance. I couldn't remember seeing him look so awkward before. And I sensed it too. It felt as though our friendship was about to move into a whole new territory that neither of us was ready to explore. A step beyond this room and we'd find ourselves in the middle of a dance.
Frank cleared his throat.
"Ah, Arden, you've finally decided to grace us with your presence!" A young man descended on him, a gaggle of ladies in tow. Somehow, with sharp elbows and simpering smiles, they managed to shoulder their way in between us. "I don't believe you've met my sisters?"
No sooner had these young ladies been introduced than a queue of other female contenders started to form. Matrons thrust me aside as their daughters fought to get to the front. It reminded me of a market crowd getting wind of a bargain, Frank — or should I say the Earl of Arden — being the item on sale. My feet were trodden on and my finery was in grave danger of being ripped in the scrum.
Frank gave me a rueful grin as he was buried under the bevy of giggling girls all wanting to curtsy to the duke's son. I raised my eyebrows in sympathy and turned to seek refuge with the rest of our party. It took a moment to locate them, as there were so many people. The room was built for easy passage from refreshment room to ballroom, designed with mingling in mind. Ladies and gentlemen were coming and going the whole time, swirling in their finery around those who had chosen to stand still for a moment. The duke was in earnest conversation with some elderly gentlemen by one of the fireplaces. The duchess had seated herself among four matrons who were all inspecting the finery on display with a critical eye. Mr. Dixon was closest. He was greeting a naval officer and a gentleman in a fine purple jacket standing with his back to me. I moved toward them, uncomfortable among all these people who seemed to know each other already.
"Miss Royal, I wondered where you had got to!" Mr. Dixon held out his arm and brought me forward. "May I introduce some acquaintances of mine? Lieutenant Belsize of His Majesty's ship Courageous." I curtsyed to the young man with ginger hair, resplendent in his dark blue uniform, white breeches, and buckled shoes. "And this gentleman is —"
"Shepherd, Mr. William Shepherd — and there is no need for an introduction: Miss Royal and I are old friends." The man in the purple jacket turned and gave me a grin.
My poise momentarily left me. "Billy! What the blazes are you doing here?"
Mr. Dixon and Lieutenant Belsize looked scandalized — as well they might. You don't normally hear language like this from a lady in a ballroom. But perhaps you will forgive me when you understand that Billy and I go all the way back to Covent Garden, beginning our acquaintance — if you can call it that — on the streets. If you have read my earlier adventures, you will know that he has tried to cut my throat twice, but rather spoiled his record by once saving my life.* Clawing his way up the social ladder through thieving, threats, and thuggery, he now controls one of the most dangerous parts of London and has expanded his interests into legitimate business, no doubt attempting to buy himself respectability. But Bath?
"Language, my dear! Remember where we are," laughed Billy, taking me by the elbow. I was surprised to hear that he had managed to lose much of his street accent, only detectable in his over-aspirated haitches. "Gentlemen, please excuse us: Miss Royal and I have a lot of catching up to do."
Still half in shock, I let Billy lead me into the refreshment room. He thrust a glass of punch into my hand.
"At least try and look as though you're enjoying yourself," he said with a wry smile as he raised his glass.
"Billy, why Bath?" I finally croaked.
"Mr. Shepherd to you, my dear." Billy stroked his magnificent embroidered waistcoat and gazed around the room with satisfaction. "I'm taking the waters and enjoying the innocent diversions of the place."
A horrible thought struck me. "Did you follow me down here?"
"Don't flatter yourself, Cat. That is all at an end." From the glint in his eye, I could tell we were both thinking back to our last meeting, when he had almost killed me for refusing to stay with him as part of his household fixtures and fittings. "Did you know I'm engaged to be maried?"
Excerpted from Cat O' Nine Tails by Julia Golding. Copyright © 2008 Julia Golding. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCat's Articles of War,
Map of America,
Prologue The Life of the Rich,
Act I Scene 1 Dancing with Billy,
Scene 2 Press Gang,
Act II Scene 1 Courageous,
Scene 2 Tattoo,
Scene 3 Fight,
Act III Scene 1 Nightmare,
Scene 2 Storm,
Scene 3 Fort Frederica,
Scene 4 Savages,
Act IV Scene 1 The Wind Clan,
Scene 2 Adoption,
Scene 3 White Men,
Act V Scene 1 Life or Death?,
Scene 2 Philadelphia,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
CAT 'O NINE TAILS IS THE SECOND BEST FICTION BOOK I HAVE EVER READ!! HERES MY CAT LIST: 1: Den of Thieves 2: Cat 'o nine tails 3: The Diamond of Drury Lane 4: Cat Among the Pigeons HOPE THIS HELPS!!!!!
Just the right amount of history and adventure put into a thrilling series. Recomend for young adult readers. This series may appear to be for the pre-teen audience but as a 15 and now 17 year old reader i find that i only seem to love the books more for the likable heroine with great friends and the great plot twists and settings that span continents.
Fantastic! Super! Amazing! Is there any words better then that to describe this book & the rest of the Cat Royal Series? I mean Cat Royal is probably, in my opinion, the strongest female heroine I have encounter so far in YA/MG fiction. She is smart, and isn't afraid to be herself, even with the time period. She is a great role model, and I look up to her in many ways. Julia Golding has this special talent about her to create books that are addictive and attractive to everyone who reads them, Cat Royal Adventures are no exception. If I had to rate all the Cat Royal books I would give each one a four stars, except maybe the third boo: Den Of Thieves. I haven't reviewed any of Julia Golding books on my site, but if you ever hear me talk about my favorite authors then you'll know that shes one of them. I can read any of her books, more then once. They're addicting.In this book Cat, Pedro, Syd and Frank get kidnapped and put on the ship, called the Courageous. Cat has to once again, dress up as a boy and pretend she is one. She goes all over the world from Bath, all the way to America. She even becomes a part of Creek Indian Family. When you read a Cat Royal book you learn a lot about the past, but also about different culture customs & racism.Why do I like this book, or any of the other books? I have no idea. Maybe because they're entertaining, not boring, or maybe it has something to do with Cat. You never get bored with Cat or get annoyed with her. You just simply adore her. I also love all the possible relationships she could have with guys (There's Frank, Syd, Billy, and maybe even Pedro). Though I root for Cat and Billy, I do have a soft spot for Syd :)But what I didn't like about this book is a) I thought some scenes could of been cut out, they were not really necessary. B) I thought that the person who betrayed Cat & her friends could have been better hinted at. C) I thought that the words, old words, that should have been in the glossary, weren't.My favorite scene? Is the ending when one of Cat's friend has a baby, and she has to watch. I love what she says afterwords,"Yes, she's fine now, though it was worse than a storm at sea giving life to that armful of trouble. Syd and Pedro looked at Lizzie in awe. 'Put me off having children, I can tell you," I added. (Page. 378)I cracked up when I heard her say that. Whenever you read a Cat Royal novel, you're in for: adventure, new knowledge, and a bunch of laughter. In all the fourth book in the series live up to the expectations of what I have for The Cat Royal Series.
Loved the books. The story grabs you and keeps you interested the whole time. I truly hope there are more to follow.
Ok so this is luke one of the best books i have ever read!!! I ordered the next two books of the series, black heart of jamaica and cats cradle, an i totally cant wait to get them!:)
I totally luv this series!!!the only prob i have with it is i think there needs to be a little more romance!!!!im going for Team pedro!!
omg this book was amazing. I was dissapointed by Den of theives, but this book totally made up for it. I was captured right away, and Cat came back cooler than ever before. When I read that frank wa overun by girls, I was like no way! Frank doesn't deserve those dirstbags. But then inoring Cat was the last straw, but when he walked in on Cat and Billy i was like "o Frank just got SERVED! I was lauighing real hard then. I thought it was terrible of him to go on ignoring Cat and be mad at her because it was basically his fault. Then I was glad the Pedro was introduced, but again i felt like he was missing from the story in some parts. I am so happy that there was some romance between Syd and our Cat! Hehehe the fight was funny between them but i am glad that Syd didn't want to hit her. That was my favorite part!!!! I can't go on spilling secrets, so i thought this book was amazing but you have to read to find out what happens next!
Fantastic! Super! Amazing! Is there any words better then that to describe this book & the rest of the Cat Royal Series? I mean Cat Royal is probably, in my opinion, the strongest female heroine I have encounter so far in YA/MG fiction. She is smart, and isn't afraid to be herself, even with the time period. She is a great role model, and I look up to her in many ways. Julia Golding has this special talent about her to create books that are addictive and attractive to everyone who reads them, Cat Royal Adventures are no exception. If I had to rate all the Cat Royal books I would give each one a four stars, except maybe the third boo: Den Of Thieves. I haven't reviewed any of Julia Golding books on my site, but if you ever hear me talk about my favorite authors then you'll know that shes one of them. I can read any of her books, more then once. They're addicting. In this book Cat, Pedro, Syd and Frank get kidnapped and put on the ship, called the Courageous. Cat has to once again, dress up as a boy and pretend she is one. She goes all over the world from Bath, all the way to America. She even becomes a part of Creek Indian Family. When you read a Cat Royal book you learn a lot about the past, but also about different culture customs & racism. Why do I like this book, or any of the other books? I have no idea. Maybe because they're entertaining, not boring, or maybe it has something to do with Cat. You never get bored with Cat or get annoyed with her. You just simply adore her. I also love all the possible relationships she could have with guys (There's Frank, Syd, Billy, and maybe even Pedro). Though I root for Cat and Billy, I do have a soft spot for Syd :) But what I didn't like about this book is a) I thought some scenes could of been cut out, they were not really necessary. B) I thought that the person who betrayed Cat & her friends could have been better hinted at. C) I thought that the words, old words, that should have been in the glossary, weren't. My favorite scene? Is the ending when one of Cat's friend has a baby, and she has to watch. I love what she says afterwords, "Yes, she's fine now, though it was worse than a storm at sea giving life to that armful of trouble. Syd and Pedro looked at Lizzie in awe. 'Put me off having children, I can tell you," I added. (Page. 378) I cracked up when I heard her say that. Whenever you read a Cat Royal novel, you're in for: adventure, new knowledge, and a bunch of laughter. In all the fourth book in the series live up to the expectations of what I have for The Cat Royal Series.
How is everything going in here.
He walked in.
She padded in with her three kits
Wakes up and sees steelkits eyes in front of his."good morning steelkit,good morning father he says back.