From the author of Suitors and Sabotage comes a suspenseful and enthralling new Regency novel, perfect for readers who like their Jane Austen classics with a side of mystery and murder.
1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.
Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.
With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.
Fans of Cindy Anstey's previous novels won't want to miss The Hummingbird Dagger, a dark and twisty new offering that blends romance, danger and mystery.
Praise for The Hummingbird Dagger:
"A blend of Jane Austen, Jack the Ripper, and your favorite cozy mystery. ... The romance was lovely, sweet and a perfect subplot to the darker tones of murder, mystery and mayhem." —Isabel Ibañez, author of Woven in Moonlight
"Quite fun. ... There is a softness when it comes to Cindy Antsey’s historical novels ... it calms me somewhat while still letting me enjoy the twists and turns." —Whatever You Can Still Betray
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|File size:||6 MB|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Cindy Anstey spends her days painting with words, flowers, threads, and acrylics. After many years living as an expat in Singapore, Memphis, and Belgium, Cindy now resides with her husband and energetic chocolate Labrador, Chester, in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is the author of Love, Lies and Spies; Duels&Deception; Suitors and Sabotage; Carols and Chaos; The Hummingbird Dagger; and Deadly Curious.
Read an Excerpt
Welford Mills, 1833
Guiding his horse to the top of a grassy knoll, young Lord James Ellerby toured Hardwick Manor and its grounds. The baron hadn't gone far when he heard the scraping of wheels against stone, and he jerked around to witness a curricle emerge from the stable yard in a rush.
Walter, James' younger brother, stood on the flimsy bouncing floorboard of a carriage, urging his horses from a trot to a run as he dashed pell-mell toward the manor's gate. Walter wasn't thinking of his safety or oncoming traffic. His friend Henry Thompson clung to the side rail, looking anything but confident.
"Walter, stop!" James yelled, though he was certain the noise of the racing curricle prevented his words from carrying to the fourteen-year-old boys. James' heart pounded as he watched, fearing dire consequences. Had Walter learned nothing from their father's accident and death a year ago?
Then James heard the jiggling equipage and thundering hooves of an approaching coach coming down the London road. He turned to stare down the hill at the large vehicle as it sped toward the Torrin Bridge — and Walter's emerging lightweight carriage.
James shouted again, but to no avail. He was too far away.
As Walter's carriage and the lumbering coach disappeared behind the trees, a great cacophony of crashes and screams rent the air. Heeling Tetley to a gallop, James' heart pounded in double time. Within moments, he jerked to a stop in front of the bridge.
The road was empty, though the wind was filled with the high-pitched terror of the horses. Snippets of foul memories flashed through James' mind. He saw the ruined body of his father in the wreckage of a different accident, his neck bent at an impossible angle.
In near panic, James called again. "Walter! Henry?" Guiding Tetley to the edge of the road, he looked down into the gully.
Walter's curricle sat to the left of the bridge at an awkward angle, but still on its wheels. The boys were wide-eyed and motionless on the bench, but otherwise appeared unharmed. The horses stood at the edge of the river. The shrill sounds of their distress abated as Henry crooned soothing words of comfort from his seat.
Walter looked up, meeting James' gaze. The color slowly drained from his brother's face and he swallowed convulsively. "I ... umm ... I ..." James exhaled a tortured breath and then huffed in relief. He wanted to shout at, pummel, and hug his brother all at the same time. Instead, he turned Tetley to the opposite, considerably steeper, bank of the Torrin.
The momentum of the near collision had propelled the larger carriage down the slope on an angle. It had almost overturned and now hung precariously. Mire covered the doors. The coach's horses were knee-deep in water, but other than being spooked, looked fine.
And then, James saw a figure on the ground — a very still figure. His stomach clenched and he jumped from Tetley, scrambling and slipping down the muddy slope in his haste.
A young woman lay on her back in the shallows of the river. Her face was pale, and long strands of brown hair floated beside her. James' view was partially obstructed by two squatting men at her side. One was only visible from the back. His great coat dropped from his broad shoulders to blanket the mud. The other man had a smudge of blood smeared across his cheek; his face was unremarkable except for a scar on his chin.
As he stepped forward, James' path was suddenly blocked by the coachman. The man's pockmarked face was flushed with anger, and his black-and-gray peppered head jerked in agitation.
"Is she all right?" James asked, indicating the figure in the water.
The coachman stared past James to where Walter and Henry watched from the roadside. His eyes narrowed. "Not to worry, sir. Her'll be right as rain in a tick." His harsh tone contrasted sharply with the reassuring words; he didn't even look toward the unconscious young woman. It left James unconvinced. "I needs 'elp rightin' me coach," the man said. "The sooner we gets this here coach of mine up, the sooner I can gets her to a doctor."
Glancing at the figures by the water, James frowned and then nodded. "Time is of the essence." He turned back to his brother and his friend. "Get down here!" he shouted, trying to instill authority in his tone. He pointed to the far end of the coach deeply embedded in the mud. "When I say so, push. And push hard!" It was no surprise that Henry was the first to move, rushing through the mire, though Walter joined him quickly enough.
"Hitch your horses to the back," James told the coachman. A lord expected compliance, even if he was only twenty years old and newly endowed with authority. "And get her out of the water!" he shouted to the men by the river.
At first, the men showed no signs of hearing. Then, without rising, one leaned over and slowly pulled her closer to the shore, into the mud.
"Are you sure she is all right?" James asked again. The words almost stuck in his throat. Memories of his father's broken body churned his mind yet again.
"A' course, sir," one of the passengers said. His cheek was red and bruised.
"Who is she?"
"Don't know." The man stood. "She got on at the Ivy in Ellingham. Didn't exactly introduce herself." He turned to the coachman. "Hurry up, man."
The coachman bristled. He had already unhitched the horses and rigged a line to the back of the coach. "You could always get your arses up here an' 'elp!" The bruised man looked at the coachman with something akin to disgust, though he did take a position opposite to James, behind the coach door. The other man stayed by the water, nominally watching over the injured young woman.
James anchored his hands and shoved his shoulder against the filthy coach. His face was so close to the wood that he could almost taste the paint. Sweat trickled down his nose. He took a deep breath as much from disquiet as to prepare for the weight of the large coach. He shouted and the four men pushed while the coachman bellowed and pulled at his horses.
The coach was old and top-heavy; bandboxes and trunks clung to the back, adding to the burden. The horses, nervous and fatigued, were almost at their limit. Then James felt a budge, a slight movement upward. James strained further and yelled to the others to push harder until, at last, the coach defied gravity and came to a standstill on the crest of the road.
Leaning over, hands resting on his knees, James gulped at the air, trying to regulate his breathing. Suddenly, the road was a hive of activity as half a dozen field hands converged on them.
"You needs 'elp, Lord Ellerby?"
"Yes, Sam." James nodded as he straightened. "Could you get the team hitched? They need to get to a doctor."
The coachman frowned at the good Samaritans and yanked the reins from Sam's hands when the laborer picked up the leathers. Incensed, James was about to deliver a set down, when he was distracted by the sound of wheels on gravel. A grocer's cart appeared on the far side of the bridge.
"Lud, Mr. Haines, am I glad to see you," James said as the small wagon drew up beside him. He leaned over the edge, assessing. Not big, but big enough. "Might we ask your help?" At Mr. Haines' nod, James motioned to Sam and another hand, Ned. "Clear room in the cart."
The coachman tried to block their way. "No, sir. I be almost done."
James sidestepped, slid back down the riverbank, and elbowed the ineffectual men out of the way. With one arm behind the injured woman's knees and the other under her shoulders, James lifted slowly and gently. She was no weight at all. James noted the dark red stain growing in her hair and across her forehead. It flowed freely, dripping on his boots.
His belly clenched. This did not bode well.
The bruised passenger dogged James' heels. "We will take her now."
James ignored the man, brushing past him without a glance, and carried his burden up the bank. Lifting the young woman over the side rail of the grocer's cart, James gently laid her down among the carrots and cabbages. Shucking off his coat, he covered as much of her as he could. "Take her up to the manor, if you would, Mr. Haines. I will be right there."
He turned back to the boys. "Walter, ride over to Kirkstead-on-Hill. Get Dr. Brant."
Brant was the only person James would trust with this dire a situation, someone trained as a physician and a surgeon. It didn't matter that Brant had only been in practice for a year; he knew what he was about and he was a good friend.
Walter jumped onto the seat of his curricle. Henry, mud and all, leapt up beside him. Walter turned the grays and hurried down the London road.
"Drive sensibly!" James shouted after them, likely to no avail.
The coachman was livid. "Y've no right, sir! To take away me fare."
"Your fare could die before your next stop. She needs immediate medical attention." James tossed a sovereign at the callous man. "That should cover the remainder of her fees."
The coachman caught the coin easily enough, but looked far from pleased.
"Sam, you and Ned get her trunks off the coach," James instructed, "and bring them up to the manor."
James mounted his horse and galloped after the wagon. He quickly caught up to the lumbering cart as Mr. Haines negotiated the drive with diligent care.
James pulled Tetley to a walk.
In the full sun, he could now see the woman more clearly — she was young, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. Her face was smudged with dirt and covered with cuts and bruises, so much so that it was hard to discern what she really looked like. Her dress was ripped and soiled beyond repair. Her bodice was soaked, adding the possibility of a chill to their worries.
James sighed with impatience and concern — a contrary combination. He reached over and tucked the corner of his coat under her side. She did not look well.
"I will ride ahead, Mr. Haines, and get the household ready for her." James nudged Tetley with his heels. He didn't need to get the household ready as much as he needed to solicit his sister's help.
* * *
AT THE MANOR James tossed his reins to the groom and headed into the main hall.
"Where might I find my sister, Robert?" he asked the footman as the door opened. Feeling besieged, James almost wished his mother were here to consult ... almost. The Dowager Lady Ellerby had not yet regained her equilibrium, which was tenuous at the best of times, since his father's passing. Fortunately, she was in Bath visiting her sister and not due to return until the end of June.
"Miss Ellerby is in the garden, sir. I believe she took her colors out there," Robert replied.
James nodded and quickly walked to the back of the hall and into the saloon. His wide gait sped him across the floor of the large room, and then through the French doors to the patio.
At eighteen, Caroline was two years his junior and was, unlike Walter or his lady mother, of a steady, if somewhat unconventional, character. James had always relied on Caroline's good sense, never more so than his first year as Lord Ellerby. Just out of mourning, in her yellow gown, Caroline was easy to spot through the misty green lace of the new foliage. She was at her easel, not far from the sheltered arch of the conservatory.
"There was an accident on the London road," James said bluntly when he finally reached her side.
Caroline put down her brush and turned toward him. If she was surprised to see him covered in mud and without a coat, she showed no signs of it. "Was anyone hurt?"
"Yes, a young woman riding the London coach. With," he added in a tight voice, "no one to see to her welfare." The soiled, sodden face came to mind once again, constricting his breathing.
Caroline frowned. "Badly? Was she hurt badly?"
"I do not know. Mr. Haines is bringing her in his cart and Walter is fetching Brant."
"Is Walter involved?" Caroline stood and started toward the manor.
James followed. "I am afraid so. But he is fine. Even his ridiculous curricle is undamaged."
"That is almost too bad."
James chewed at his lip and nodded as he stepped through the door directly behind his sister.
Mrs. Fogel and Daisy were in the main hall observing the mud tracked across the tiled floor when Caroline interrupted their conversation. "Mrs. Fogel, Mr. Haines will be arriving at any moment with a casualty — a passenger from the London mail coach. Could you prepare one of the maid's rooms? Perhaps, Daisy, you could move in with Betty for a few days. Yes, I'm sure that's what Mother would recommend ... if she were here."
No sooner had Mrs. Fogel rushed away to carry out her instructions, when James heard the squeak and rattle of the cart as it pulled up to the kitchen door. Help ran from every direction. Caroline shooed all but Robert and Paul, the groom, back to work.
"Poor girl. She does not look good," Caroline said as the men carried the young woman up the back stairs and placed her carefully on the bed in Daisy's room.
Caroline sat on the edge of the bed and lifted a lock of hair that had fallen over the young woman's bruised and bloody face. "Do not worry, dear. We will have you to rights in no time. Dr. Brant is an excellent physician." She patted the motionless hand as if the young woman could hear her.
James watched silently from the doorway, praying his sister was right.
* * *
BY THE TIME Caroline heard activity on the stairs, she had begun to clean the young woman's rough, bruised hands. She could only imagine the difficult life this girl had had to live. When Dr. Adam Brant entered the room, he hurried past James with a perfunctory nod, almost filling what little space remained. A tall young man, he bent over to accommodate the slant of the roof.
Caroline backed away from the bed to give him room. "Thank you for coming so quickly, Doctor."
"She does not appear to have broken anything," Dr. Brant said after performing his examination. He opened his mouth as if about to speak and then closed it, shaking his head at some internal thought. Finally, he spoke. "While this," he indicated a cut on the young woman's right jaw, "looks nasty, this," he pointed to the wound on the side of her head, "might be a greater concern."
Caroline swallowed against the sudden lump in her throat and turned to meet James' troubled gaze. She offered him a tepid smile of reassurance and then turned back to watch as the doctor dressed the patient's gashed jaw. From the corner of her eye, Caroline watched James slip from the room, his expression grim and determined.
"I don't believe she has a broken head," Dr. Brant told her, "but we will not know for certain for a few more hours. Her pupils seem to be reacting to light, though it is hard to tell in this bright room." He looked over at Caroline. "I can wait with you, if you wish."
Caroline left Daisy to tend the patient and led Dr. Brant downstairs to the front of the manor. As they neared the central hall, they could hear a loud voice issuing from the library. Although James' words were indiscernible, his tone was not. Walter was being taken to task in no uncertain terms.
Embarrassed by the emotional display, Caroline steered Dr. Brant toward the drawing room. "Perhaps we should wait in here." She turned to the footman. "Robert, let Lord Ellerby know where we are, please. When he is free." She quickly closed the doors. The heavy oak did its job; the echoes of anger were now muffled and almost inaudible.
"James will be here in a moment," Caroline said needlessly. She led the physician to the settee and perched on the seat of an adjacent chair, pretending to be oblivious to the tension emanating from the library.
She sighed, feeling sorry for her brother ... her older brother. Being the disciplinarian was a new role for James — one in which he took no delight. But Walter had to be reined in, held accountable for his actions. For too long, he had run amok, coddled by their mother.
Caroline was certain that James would not lose the argument this time when their mother returned. Come September, Walter would be returning to Eton.
* * *
"WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" James demanded. His words and tone might have been a tad loud as the question echoed around the room. Doing his best to temper his anger, James took a deep breath. While relaxing his stance, he tried to emulate his father's most severe expression. "There was no sensibility in the way you were driving, no propriety or modest behavior. All of which you promised!" "Give over, James. It wasn't my fault ... not really. The road is seldom traveled. How was I to know that the London coach was there?" "Right," James said with more than a hint of sarcasm. "It's only lumbered down the road at the same time every day since before your birth ... But how could you have guessed that today, of all days, it would do so again."
"I couldn't!" Walter glared at his brother for some minutes.
James stared back, giving no quarter. If he were not stern and unyielding, Walter would take advantage, pushing the limits, denying James' authority again.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Hummingbird Dagger"
Copyright © 2019 Cynthia Ann Anstey.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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
Chapter One: Disastrous Encounter,
Chapter Two: The Enigma Awakens,
Chapter Three: A Proclivity for Melodrama,
Chapter Four: Puppies and Impatience,
Chapter Five: Fellow Confederate,
Chapter Six: Introducing Miss Dobbins,
Chapter Seven: Conspicuously Absent,
Chapter Eight: Warning Signs,
Chapter Nine: Flights of Fancy,
Chapter Ten: The Post,
Chapter Eleven: The Familiar Stranger,
Chapter Twelve: Leave Taking,
Chapter Thirteen: Fluff and Feathers,
Chapter Fourteen: Walter's Lament,
Chapter Fifteen: Change of Scenery,
Chapter Sixteen: Magnetic Forces,
Chapter Seventeen: Announcements,
Chapter Eighteen: Renewed Hope,
Chapter Nineteen: Much to Know,
Chapter Twenty: Kickin' up a Lark,
Chapter Twenty-One: Nightmare Revelations,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Trapped,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Dungeons and Daggers,
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Aftermath,
Historical Note: Separating Fact from Fiction,
By Cindy Anstey,
About the Author,