The Black Moon: A Novel of Cornwall, 1794-1795

The Black Moon: A Novel of Cornwall, 1794-1795

by Winston Graham


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The stunning fifth novel in Winston Graham's classic Poldark saga, the major TV series from Masterpiece on PBS.

When Ross Poldark’s former beloved gives birth to a son—with his enemy George Warleggan—Ross must face the pain of losing her all over again.

But soon they discover her cousin has fallen in love with Ross’s brother-in-law, and the two families become entangled in surprising new ways. As the rivalry between Ross and George reaches new heights, the families must face an uncertain future.

Filled with intrigue and secrets, and set against the romantic Cornwall backdrop, Winston Graham's The Black Moon will pull you in to the lives of these two very memorable families.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250124913
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/20/2016
Series: Poldark Series , #5
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 41,679
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

WINSTON GRAHAM is the author of more than forty novels, including Cordelia, Marnie, The Walking Stick, Stephanie, and the Poldark Series. His novels have been translated into seventeen languages. Six of his books have been made into films, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The first television adaptation of the Poldark series was enormously successful and the new adaptation is being shown widely around the world. Winston Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He died in 2003.

Read an Excerpt

The Black Moon

By Winston Graham

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1973 Winston Graham
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-12492-0



Chapter One

Elizabeth Warleggan was delivered of the first child of her new marriage at Trenwith House in the middle of February, 1794. It was an occasion of some tension and anxiety.

Throughout it had been understood and agreed between Elizabeth and her new husband that the confinement should take place at their town house, where the best medical attention was available; but Truro had been pestilential for months, first with summer cholera which had persisted right through to Christmas, and then more lately with influenza and measles. There had seemed no hurry. Dr Behenna, who rode out weekly to see his patient, assured them that there was no hurry.

And so possibly there would not have been, but on the evening of the thirteenth, which was a Thursday, Elizabeth slipped and fell while going to her room. The fine stone staircase leading up from the great hall ran into a typically dark Tudor corridor from which the two main bedrooms of the house were reached by a flight of five more steps. Elizabeth caught her foot in the rough edge of the top stair and fell to the bottom. No one saw her, though two of the servants heard her cry out and the noise of her fall; and one of them, hurrying along the corridor with a warming pan, came upon her mistress lying like a broken flower across the bottom step.

Immediately the house was in panic. George, fetched from the winter parlour, came heart in mouth, picked up his fainting wife and carried her to bed. As Dr Dwight Enys was still at sea, the only medical man within easy reach was old Thomas Choake, so he was summoned for lack of a better, while another servant was sent galloping to fetch Dr Behenna.

Except for a bruised elbow and a turned ankle, Elizabeth at first seemed no worse, and after a generous bleeding she was given a warm cordial and settled off to sleep. George disliked almost everything about Choake: his pompous conceit, his boasted prowess in the hunting field, his neck-or-nothing surgery, his simpering wife, and his Whig opinions; but he made the best of it, gave the old man supper and suggested he should stay the night. Choake, who had not been inside the house since Francis Poldark died, stiffly agreed.

It was a grey meal. Mrs Chynoweth, Elizabeth's mother, in spite of her blind eye, lame leg and stumbling tongue, had refused food and insisted on staying in her daughter's room to be there if she woke; so only old Jonathan Chynoweth joined the other two men at the table. Talk was of the war with France, which Choake, following his hero Fox, opposed, of Edward Pellew's exploits at sea, of the Duke of York's inept display in Flanders, of the reign of terror in Lyons, of the scarcity of corn, of the rising price of tin and copper. George despised both the men he sat with and was mainly silent listening to them wrangling, Choake's hoarse growl, Chynoweth's throaty tenor. For a time in his mind the anxiety had passed. Elizabeth had shaken herself, nothing more. But she must not be so abominably careless of herself. Often recently she had done what George considered foolhardy, reckless things, while carrying this precious burden, this first fruit of their marriage. One perhaps expected her to be depressed, temperamental, given to quick tears. One did not expect her to risk her life attempting to ride a horse which had been long in the stable and was unreliable at the best of times. One did not expect to find her lifting heavy books on to a high shelf. One did not expect ...

It was a new side to her personality. George was always discovering new sides to her; some fascinated, some, like this, disturbed. From the first moment he set eyes on her so many years ago, he had always wanted her, but perhaps wanted her most as a collector, as a connoisseur wants the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. Since their marriage possession had familiarized but not spoiled the image. On the contrary, he had come to know her for the first time. If real love was in his nature, then he loved his wife.

On these calm reflections, breaking them up like a stone cast in a pool, interrupting the two stupid old men and their ill-informed chatter, came a servant to say that the mistress was awake again and had a bad pain.

Dr Behenna arrived at midnight, having left his Truro patients to the blundering mercies of his assistant. Choake did not offer to leave, and George let him stay. His fee was unimportant.

Daniel Behenna was a youngish man, still the right side of forty, stout, short and authoritative, and had come to Truro only a few years ago. George Warleggan was a fairly shrewd judge, and he perceived that the wide demand for Dr Behenna's services in and around Truro might, at least in part, be a matter of personality and address. Nevertheless, he had had some startling successes with his new methods, and, above all, he had studied midwifery under one of the most distinguished of London physicians. He seemed far to be preferred to any other doctor within a day's ride.

After a short examination of the patient, he came out and told George that Mrs Warleggan's pains were certainly birth pangs. He described these as 'wandering' but otherwise normal. Quite clearly the child was now going to be premature, but it was still alive. Mrs Warleggan was standing the pains well and, although there would clearly be a greater risk now, he had every reason to be confident of the outcome.

At noon on the following day, in the worst of George's anxiety, his parents turned up, having nearly wrecked their coach traversing the winter tracks. They had been staying in town when the news reached them. Nicholas Warleggan said they felt it their duty to be with him at such a time. Trenwith, apart from its few splendid entertaining rooms, was not a big house by Elizabethan standards, and the secondary bedrooms were small and dark. George was barely polite to his parents and sent them off with a servant to settle in a cold room as best they could.

Elizabeth continued to have severe spasmodic pains, but at lengthy intervals, and the presentation, said Dr Behenna, although normal was far too slow. He took tea with the family at five and quoted from Galen, Hippocrates and Simon of Athens. The third stage of pregnancy had, he said, now begun, but if there was no issue shortly he had decided to use forceps since, he said, the mere irritation of these when applied to the child would be likely to stimulate the labour pains and provoke a natural birth.

But providence was on the mother's side and at six the pains became more frequent without stimulation. At a quarter after eight she was delivered of a baby boy, alive and well. There was a total eclipse of the moon at the time.

A little later George was allowed up to see his wife and son. Elizabeth lay in bed like a clipped angel, her fair hair streaming across the pillow, her face limp and linen-pale but her eyes – for the first time for weeks – smiling. Until then George had not realized how long it had been. He bent and kissed her damp forehead and then went across to peer at the wisp of humanity lying red-faced and trussed like a mummy in its cradle. His son. The fortune whose foundations Nicholas Warleggan had laid thirty-five years ago when he began tin smelting in the Idless valley had developed and multiplied until it included commercial, mining and banking interests which stretched as far as Plymouth and Barnstaple. George in the last ten years had been responsible for much of the later expansion. The child born today, if he survived the hazards of infancy, would inherit it all.

George knew well enough that his marriage to Elizabeth Poldark had been a great disappointment to his parents. Nicholas had married Mary Lashbrook, a miller's daughter with a nest-egg and no education – even today it showed plainly – but they had had very different ambitions for their son. He had had the education, he had the money, he was able to mix in circles completely closed to Nicholas as a young man – not entirely open to Nicholas even now. They had invited rich and eligible girls to their country seat at Cardew; they had risked snubs by holding parties for the titled and the well connected at their town house in Truro. They had asked questions and waited anxiously for the right name to drop from his lips, as they felt sure in the end it must. He had a strong personal eye to social advancement. A title would have been all. Even a small title. 'Mr George and the Hon Mrs Mary Warleggan.' How nice even that would have sounded. Instead, after remaining unmarried until he was thirty, the age of discretion surely for a man who had been discreet even as a youth; now a clever, calculating, able man with his every thought turned towards power and advancement, he had chosen to marry the delicate, impoverished widow of Francis Poldark.

Not, of course, that Elizabeth's pedigree was anything but impeccably ancient and carried a considerable prestige in the county. In the ninth century one, John Trevelizek, had given a third of his land to his younger son, who took the name of Chynoweth, which meant New House. The elder son had died without issue, so that all had come to the younger. This first known Chynoweth had died in AD 889. It was doubtful if the King of England could go back so far. But George knew how his father felt. The stock was exhausted: look only at Elizabeth's father to see that. And in spite of their long lineage the Chynoweths had never done much more than survive. They had never attained distinction nor even achieved the only worthwhile alternative available to mediocrity, the wealthy marriage. The nearest to eminence was an ancestor who had been a squire to Piers Gaveston, and that was not altogether a notable recommendation. Although always known to the great families of Cornwall, they had never had any personal or family link with them.

But Elizabeth was beautiful; and she had never seemed more so than now. Visited at discreet intervals by her various relations and friends, she looked as lovely, as frail and as unspotted by life as if she were twenty, not thirty, and as if this were her first marriage and her first confinement, not her second time round.

Among Elizabeth's first visitors was of course her father-in-law, and after he had kissed her and asked after her condition and admired his grandson, Nicholas Warleggan closed the heavy oak door of the bedroom behind him, carefully descended the almost-fatal five stairs, and walked heavily along the floor-creaking corridor to the main staircase and the great windowed hall. Perhaps, he thought, he should not be too unsatisfied. Here at least was the succession he had desired. His daughter-in-law had done all that could be asked of her. And perhaps the Warleggans now no longer needed, and in the future still less would need, powerful family connections. They need not woo the titled families of Cornwall: the families soon enough would be glad to accept them. They were strong enough in their own right. George's marriage to Elizabeth was already proving something of an asset – for she was definitely one of them – and a title might come their way by some other means: a seat in Parliament, large monetary gifts to one or other of the borough mongers ... This war would certainly help. Those middlemen owning and marketing the commodities could not fail to prosper. Banking facilities would be in ever greater demand. The price of tin had risen £5 a ton last week.

As he came to the bottom step Nicholas Warleggan reflected that, as an additional bonus to her patrician breeding, Elizabeth had brought this house into the family, the Poldark family house, begun in 1509, not completed until 1531, and since then scarcely touched until George undertook his repairs and renovations of last summer.

The turns and twists of life led to some strange results. Nicholas's first visit here eleven years ago had been to the reception and banquet following Elizabeth Chynoweth's marriage to the son of the house. Then the Poldarks, though impoverished enough, had seemed as securely settled here as they had been for the past hundred years, and the Trenwiths for another century and a half before them. Old Charles William had been alive, belching and stertorous but active enough, head of the house, of the district, of the clan, to be succeeded by Francis when the time came, a young and virile twenty-two – who was to guess at his untimely death? – then came daughter Verity, a plain little thing who'd later made a poor marriage and lived now in Falmouth. Besides this there were the cousins: William Alfred, that thin sanctimonious clergyman and his brood, now gone to a living in Devon. And Ross Poldark, who unfortunately was still around, and prospering by all accounts, not yet having fallen down a mineshaft or been imprisoned for debt or transported for inciting to riot, as he so well deserved. Sometimes the wicked and the arrogant flourished, against all reasonable probability.

As Nicholas Warleggan walked across to the splendid window one of George's new footmen came in to snuff the candles which had recently been lighted. The sky was still bright outside, with a frosty look against the butter-yellow of the candles. It had been a mild month, altogether a mild winter – fortunate for the many destitute, though not good for general health. Influenza, they said, was carried by the heavy clouds and spread by the humidity; it needed a cold snap to clear it away.

The fire hissed with new wood thrown on around a massive elm log which had been carried in yesterday. The footman finished his task and went silently out, leaving Nicholas Warleggan alone. That other time, that first time, eleven years ago, this fine hall had been far from silent. He remembered then how envious he had been of this house. Shortly afterwards he had bought one twice its size – Cardew, towards the other coast, in its own deer park, all in Palladian fashion and finished to the most modern style. Compared to it, this place was provincial and old-fashioned. Stonework showed inside everywhere, there was far too much black oak panelling in the bedrooms, many of the floorboards creaked and some of them had worm, the close-stools stank and were out of date compared to the chaises-perchées of Cardew, bedroom windows were ill-fitting and let in draughts. But it had style. Apart from the satisfaction that it had always belonged to the Poldarks.

Nicholas remembered too at that wedding how grey-faced and haggard young Ross Poldark had looked. George had known him before, but it was his first sight of the fellow, and he had wondered at his sour look, his lidded eyes and high cheek bones, his disfiguring scar – until George told him. They had all wanted Elizabeth, it seemed: Ross, Francis and George. Ross had thought himself enfeoffed, but Francis had moved in while his cousin was in America. Three young fools all at loggerheads, all for a pretty face. What else was there about this girl to make her so desirable? Nicholas shrugged and took a poker to stir the fire. The delicacy, he supposed, the frailty, the lovely ethereal quality; all men wanted to nurture, to protect, to be the strong man caring for the beautiful helpless woman, potential Launcelots looking for a Guinevere. Strange that his own son, so sane, so logical, in many ways almost too calculating, should have been one of them!

As he pushed at the fire one of the smaller logs fell out with a clatter, brightly burning and smoking at one end, and Nicholas stooped to pick up the tongs. As he did so something moved in the chair beside the fire. He started up sharply and dropped the poker. The chair had been in the half shadow but now he saw someone was sitting in it.

'Who's that?' said a thin voice, sexless in its age. 'Be that you, George? These damned servants ...'


Excerpted from The Black Moon by Winston Graham. Copyright © 1973 Winston Graham. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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