Discovery: The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.
Discovery: An epic tale of love, loss and courage When Elizabeth Gharsia’s headstrong nephew, Gabriel, joins Samuel Champlain’s 1608 expedition to establish a settlement at Quebec, he soon becomes embroiled in a complicated tribal conflict. As months turn into years, Gabriel appears lost to his family.
Meanwhile at home in France the death of her father, Luis, adds to Elizabeth’s anguish. Devastated by her loss, she struggles to make sense of his final words. Could her mother’s journals, found hidden among Luis’s possessions, provide the key to the mystery?
The arrival of Pedro Torres disrupts Elizabeth’s world even further. Rescued from starvation on the streets of Marseille by her brother, Pedro is a victim of the brutal expulsion of his people from Spain. Initially antagonistic, will Elizabeth come to appreciate Pedro’s qualities and to understand the complexity of her family?
Ch 22 Extract from DISCOVERY (Greig)
Someone was holding a candle high above his head and the smell of melting wax was nectar to his battled senses. He opened his eyes slowly to see Elizabeth Gharsia peering down at him, her glorious hair tumbling loose around her face. Her voice when she spoke was loud and slightly accusatory, as if she was embarrassed by her concern. “You screamed loud enough to wake the dead.” In the circumstances it was an unfortunate choice of words, but he was too relieved to find that he was alive to be offended.
Pedro pulled himself upright. His nightgown, borrowed and too big, fell away from his right shoulder and Elizabeth’s gasp had escaped her lips before he had time to recover it. There was a pregnant pause. Elizabeth, with only a glimpse of his back, waited for his reaction; her eyes fixed on the place where criss-cross scars had briefly shone silver in the candlelight. She had never seen the like before, but she knew instinctively what they were. Pedro refused to meet her eyes and eventually said, almost nonchalantly, “They are very old.”
“More than twenty years.”
“You were but a youth!”
The silence dragged out. “Why?” she asked.
“The Holy Office.”
“You were tried for heresy?”
He nodded, his eyes still averted, and stated flatly, “I was fortunate.” Elizabeth placed the candle carefully on the bedside table and sat at the end of the bed directly in his line of vision. Their eyes met. “Others were not.”
“My brother, Bartolomé.”
Elizabeth kept very still, her joined hands resting in her lap. She would not pry, nor was she ready to leave him, so she continued to sit silently on the end of his bed: all thoughts of impropriety negated by the anguish in his eyes. At last, cocooned in the warm glow of the candle, he opened up to her, as images, forever seared in his mind, surfaced. “We were in Saragossa visiting my mother’s family. Someone must have denounced us. We never knew who it was. The familiars of the Holy Office are everywhere acting as informers and spies. Moriscos are hunted down intensely but we thought we had been so careful.”
“Bartolomé and I were arrested and taken to the Inquisitor’s prison. I was kept alone in a cell and never spoke to my brother again.”
“You were tortured?”
“They used the strappado – but not enough to endanger my life. I did not confess. As Moriscos, Bartolomé and I were considered to have relapsed, which would mean we would burn.”
“You never saw your brother again?”
“I did see him – at the auto-da-fé – that great spectacle where the accused are publicly brought before the Inquisitor. But I could not speak to him. All the condemned, including me, were seated in tiers according to the gravity of our offences. I was on a lower tier and when I saw Bartolomé being led to a higher one I knew he had confessed to practising Islam. We all wore the sambenito, but his tunic showed he had refused to recant. I could do nothing. All I could do was wait for my turn to be led to the centre of the platform, with my candle in hand, and await my sentence. I denied relapsing and was sentenced to scourging – fifty lashes. I think my brother had saved my life by swearing that I did not do as he did. I escaped prison and the galleys, which were both death sentences in their own way.”
Elizabeth almost dared not ask. “What happened to your brother?”
“He was passed to the authorities to be put to death.” A brittle laugh followed. “The Holy Office does not dirty its hands with executions.”
“My uncle went to the flames in England, during the reign of Queen Mary. He was a Protestant.”
“That explains something about your brother, Thomas. My brother did not burn. He died in prison. When the day of execution came he was burnt in effigy. I did not see it as by then I lay between life and death, but a neighbour of my aunt witnessed it.”
Pedro shuddered, the recollection of his dream so vivid. “And now all the Moriscos are being expelled from the Spanish kingdoms.”
“What ails you?” Elizabeth asked. Her face wore an expression he was unfamiliar with; one of genuine sympathy, and her tone possessed a gentle quality which elicited confidences.
“This night I had a terrifying dream.”
“That is why you screamed?”
“What did you dream?”
“My aunt, and many others, were thrown overboard on the voyage to Algiers.”
“You have told me rumours of such unspeakable acts.”
“Yes – I fear mightily for my aunt and cousin. I did not want them to make the journey.”
“It is but a nightmare.”
He looked at her long and hard. “What if it is a premonition?”
She held his gaze. “Were you there in your dream?”
“Therefore, it cannot foretell what is to come for you are here.” She almost added ‘with me’ but stopped herself. To conceal her thoughts Elizabeth glanced down at the coverlet and traced the outline of stitching, very aware of what she must say. “I have done you a great injustice.”
Under normal circumstances Pedro would have enjoyed her discomfort but within the intimate circle of light, he was just curious. “Why?”
“I called you ‘some beggar’ my brother picked up in Marshila. It was unworthy of me.”
He wanted to be gracious. “I was not begging but I was destitute.”
Elizabeth raised her head. “I have come to know you and I apologise. My words have troubled me for some time.”
Pedro wished he could prolong the moment, as her contriteness was so engaging, but he found that he did not want to toy with her. He leaned forward and took her clasped hands in his. “Do not dwell on it. You were upset.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
Unsettled by her closeness Pedro released Elizabeth’s hands and asked, “What brought you to this end of the house in the middle of the night?”
Available on Kindle Unlimited.
Barbara Greig was born in Sunderland and lived in Roker until her family moved to Teesdale. An avid reader, she also discovered the joy of history at an early age. A last-minute change of heart, in the sixth form, caused her to alter her university application form. Instead of English, Barbara read Modern and Ancient History at Sheffield University. It was a decision she never regretted.
Barbara worked for twenty years in sixth form colleges, teaching History and Classical Civilisation. Eventually, although enjoying a role in management, she found there was less time for teaching and historical study. A change of focus was required. With her children having flown the nest, she was able to pursue her love of writing and story-telling. She has a passion for hiking, and dancing, the perfect antidotes to long hours of historical research and writing, as well as for travel and, wherever possible, she walks in the footsteps of her characters.
Discovery is Barbara’s second novel. Her debut novel Secret Lives was published in 2016 (Sacristy Press).
Social Media Links: