Stolen Bride for Sale

by Lois Carroll

Stolen Bride for Sale by Lois Carroll In 1670, Lady Elizabeth and other women were kidnapped from the streets of London and shipped to Virginia Colony. The women who survived the voyage were sold to colonists seeking wives or unpaid household workers. Each one was given a piece of paper saying they were married to the man who bought them, but no ceremony was performed. Lady Elizabeth certainly never agreed to any marriage as she was engaged to a Lord back home. Unable to escape, she is auctioned to widower, Glen Maclean, who promises to send her home to England in the spring if she'll stay on his farm for the winter to cook and care for his young daughter. The fact that Liz's mother died young and Liz spent her childhood years playing in the kitchen where she learned to cook means she can do what he asks. She wants only to return home to England, but she has no option but to accept Glen's offer and pray he keeps his word to send her home in the spring.

Arriving at the farm, she is shocked to see the farmhouse has only two rooms…a kitchen and one bedroom. Given no choice, she must live in the sparse conditions so unlike living in her rich father's manor. She can only hope Glen will return her to England in the spring, or that her father will send someone to rescue her.


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Release Date: September 6, 2022
Genre: Historical Romance



Chapter One 

1670 London England, Late Summer

“Do hurry, Mary. We must get back home. Papa will not be happy if he finds out we've come so near the wharves to find lace for my wedding dress. You know he thinks it is too dangerous for us to be here.”

Mary bobbed a curtsey as her mistress, Lady Elizabeth Barclay, drew on her cape and walked toward the shop door. Instead of waiting for her maid, she continued out, thinking their carriage would be waiting in the street. Mary picked up the plump bundles of fabric as the store's owner finished wrapping the last one. Finally, with all in hand, she trailed her mistress out to the street.

She expected to see the Barclay coach was waiting close by, too, but the carriage was nowhere in sight. Turning left and right, she couldn't even see Lady Elizabeth until she looked far down the street toward the wharf. She recognized the sea blue color of her dress, but she couldn't believe her own eyes. Some ruffian was carrying Lady Elizabeth over one shoulder toward a small, dark colored cart. Lady Elizabeth was fighting valiantly with kicks and punches, but the thug was obviously strong enough to prevent her escape.

Mary screamed, drawing the assailant's attention to her as she ran in their direction. “Stop that. Release her at once,” she shouted, barely able to hold her packages as she ran.

Gaining a slight advantage when her captor was distracted, Lady Elizabeth twisted her face away from the palm that had kept her silent and screamed. The man immediately swung her off his shoulder and knocked her senseless with a blow to the side of her head. Mary kept running, but she could only watch as he and another man helped the first shove her mistress into the cart headfirst. One of them climbed in right behind her.

“Stop! Help! Someone help us! You must release her!” Mary screamed again as she ran after them, but no one in that district next to the wharf was about to come to her aid. The one or two people, who had been standing in a doorway watching, slipped inside and out of sight. No one would get involved to help.

With no regard to Lady Elizabeth's cape that still hung out the bottom of the closed door, the other ruffian leapt up to the driver's seat and reached for the reins as he shouted the horse into motion. The vehicle disappeared around the corner, heading in the direction of the piers just a short distance away.

Her throat sore from shouting and hardly able to drag in a breath from running, Mary staggered to a halt where the cart had been stopped. Frantic that no one around her was willing to help, she renewed her grip on the bundles of fabric and did her best to hurry back to get help from the shop owner.

Mary found the shop closed already, and the door locked. She pounded on the door and shouted. “Quick! We must get help,” she said, gasping for a breath between her words. “Lady Elizabeth was just kidnapped right before my very eyes. We must get word to her father at once.”

The shop owner unlocked the door and allowed Mary to come inside. “Oh, no, not another one. But I cannot believe they would take a Lady,” the woman cried, grabbing Mary's arm and dislodging one of the bundles. Trying first to hand the bundle back to Mary to hold with all the others in her full arms, she gave up and kept hold of that one.

“What do you mean, ‘not another one'?” Mary asked, still breathless from running.

“I hear of other young women taken away in this manner. They disappear into the air, some say. But I know they are stolen by sailors who carry them off to their ship.”

Mary couldn't believe what she was hearing. Lady Elizabeth couldn't possibly be in such trouble. She had to get help.

Lord Barclay's carriage, which should have been parked out front waiting for Lady Elizabeth and Mary to come out, pulled up in front of the shop just then and the footman jumped down. Mary hurried outside and thrust the packages into his hands with orders to put them in the carriage.

“Where is Lady Elizabeth?” the footman asked stupidly, looking from Mary to the other woman, standing in the shop doorway, and back again.

“She's been kidnapped. You must get word to her father as quickly as possible,” she told the carriage driver, who was leaning over from the box in order to hear the conversation.

Spurred into action by the startling news, the footman tossed the bundles onto the coach seat and slammed the door. “I'll stay with Mary to watch for Lady Elizabeth,” he called to the driver. “You get his Lordship here on the double. He'll know what to do to get her back.”

The driver slid back into his seat and wasted no time in whipping the horses into motion. The carriage disappeared around the corner in the opposite direction from that of the carriage with Lady Elizabeth inside.

Returning inside the shop with the footman, Mary felt better with him at her side. She marched straight to the shop owner. “And now you must tell us both all that you know about women disappearing here. We must find where Lady Elizabeth might be.”

Mary's best efforts to get help quickly from Lord Gerald Barclay, Elizabeth's father, failed. He did not arrive at the shop for nearly two hours. It was late and well past the closing hour. Though the shop owner had allowed Mary and the footman to wait inside her locked shop, it was not in a neighborhood in which any of them wanted to be found after dark.

“Where is my daughter?” Lord Barclay barked as he stepped down from the coach. “I'm not at all happy that she is still out so late, and in this area of the city. Why would she want to be here?”

Climbing down behind him was Lord William Whitton, Elizabeth's fiancé. “Where has she gotten herself to? That's what we need to know.”

“She's gone,” Mary cried. “She's been taken and we cannot find her anywhere.”

“Gone? Taken? What do you mean, girl? I don't understand,” Lord Barclay blustered.

“We'll get to the bottom of this,” Lord Whitton assured Lord Barclay. “It's good that I was present just as the carriage driver arrived with the garbled news of Lady Elizabeth's disappearance. Now tell us, girl, what is happening here? Where is Lady Elizabeth?”

Though twenty years older than nineteen-year-old Lady Elizabeth, Lord William Whitton appeared ready and able to fight for his intended's freedom. Mary hoped he would. Mary enjoyed working for Lady Elizabeth, and as she helped support her brothers and sisters younger than she was, she didn't want anything to threaten her employment.

At the same time, she truly didn't want anything or anyone to harm Lady Elizabeth. Beside herself with worry, she began at the beginning and hurriedly explained everything that had happened. She answered all the gentlemen's questions despite the fact that her tired legs were trembling with fright. She felt quite lightheaded, having eaten nothing all day since early that morning before the shopping excursion began.

“If Lady Elizabeth hadn't gone to the carriage alone before all the purchases were wrapped, I would have been with her,” Mary said, blotting her tears with the handkerchief that she had worried to shreds waiting for his Lordship.

“What was she doing in this area of town? She knows better than to come here where all sorts of ruffians hang out.”

“She wore a plain dress and cape so no one would guess who she was. She just wanted to go to this particular shop that has the best lace, your Lordship,” Mary explained. “She wanted it for her wedding dress.”

“You shouldn't have let her go,” Lord Whitton insisted as he glared at Lord Barclay.

“She's too strong minded for her own good. She made certain I didn't know where she was going, or I would have stopped her.” He turned to the footman, pointing at him and at Mary. “You'll both answer for this if anything happens to my daughter. You should have been with her.”

“No, no, your Lordship. Then Mary would have been taken too,” the shop owner insisted without thinking. One look at the red rising into his Lordship's face caused the shop owner to back away and lower her gaze, as she remained silent.

“Oh, no, not me too,” Mary replied in horror. That view of the situation was too much for her. She fainted dead away. Not used to coping with servants crumpling to the ground, the two men left her lying there on the shop floor. The shopkeeper, who kept them handy in her pocket for such occasions, finally revived her with odorous salts.

As soon as Mary was sitting up and able to speak again, Lord Barclay went right back to quizzing her about what happened to his daughter. “Now then, girl, I don't understand what Lady Elizabeth could have been thinking when she got into someone else's carriage. She had a perfectly good carriage waiting for her.”

“No, your Lordship,” Mary insisted. Tears ran down her cheeks as she tried again to explain. “Forgive me, but you don't understand. She didn't just climb in. I saw a man carrying her over his shoulder. Her skirts were flying as she kicked him and pounded on his back with her fists, but he didn't stop.”

“She was kicking him? Pounding on his back?” Lord William asked. “No, no, no. My daughter would never kick any man,” he insisted.

“No, please. I'll explain it all again.” Mary, with helpful comments from the footman and the shop owner, began the explanation all over yet again.

Finally comprehending what had happened, their Lordships were roused to action to recover the missing Lady Elizabeth. They couldn't send Mary home with only the one carriage that had brought them to the wharf, so the gentlemen reluctantly allowed her to sit inside the coach as they drove directly to the wharf after telling Lady Elizabeth's footman to stand on the back of the coach beside their footman. The appearance of the coach belonging to such obviously rich men on the wharf presented a great temptation to those in the habit of relieving such gents of their purses on the sly, but the pair of footmen on their coach provided the necessary protection.

Locating the harbormaster quickly, they explained their situation and inquired after every ship in port. Not hearing any helpful information from him about any ship that might contain a kidnapped woman, they interviewed everyone they found in the area who would talk of any such ship.

“Aye, I know the ship,” one vagrant told them. “I saw 'em take her on, but they ain't here now. Captain had no time to waste staying in port.”

“Not now. No time at all. The tide was going out, and besides, they had to get to sea before the storm hit,” the harbormaster added to his explanation. “Course, that captain always is in a hurry to get his ship away from somebody, if you ask me.”

“But it is my daughter who you saw taken aboard that ship. No matter who the captain is, the ship must be stopped, and my daughter returned to me,” Lord Barclay insisted.

“Ain't no way anybody can stop them now.” The harbormaster looked up at the sky that was darkening with night plus the storm coming on. “Their sails must be full now, with this wind picking up.”

The Lordships had not noticed the storm moving in, but they were not willing to give up trying to rescue Lady Elizabeth. They hailed another sailor lounging against the front of the bar closest to the wharf. “Did you see the ship that took on a woman before it left the port?” The man shook his head and went back into the bar rather than get more involved in the inquiry.

“I saw it,” a hapless wharf vagabond told the gentlemen. He was slouched on a bench in front of the tavern. “I be watching all day. I never see so many women go aboard one ship in me life. They sure didn't want to go. Why, you could hear their screaming and a carrying on all the way into the tavern.” He was grinning from ear to ear. “I tell you, it was a sight to see all them women carried onto one ship.”

A few other men had gathered to learn what was going on. They laughed in agreement with the vagabond. “It was like the Tobacco wives that my pa said they shipped to the colony, but that was years ago and them women went 'cause they wanted to,” he added. “The ones they loaded today didn't want to go.”

Lord Barclay stepped closer to the harbormaster. “Enough! Whose ship is it? I demand that you tell me, who is her captain?”

“Why, that's Captain Jack's ship.”

When the responses from the sailors and vagrants all agreed, their lordships came to a very sad conclusion. Lady Elizabeth had been kidnapped and taken aboard a ship that had already sailed west.

“They got to be heading for Virginia Colony,” one vagrant added.

“Captain is looking for new ways to make a few quid. He figured if ships full of kidnapped urchins off the streets could be sold in the colony, like they used to do here. Then he could likely make more money by taking women who could be brides,” a sailor from another ship answered with a laugh.

“Kidnap urchins to take to the colony?” Lord Barclay asked.

“Right you are! With the captain of a ship bragging about snatching 6000 urchins off the streets of London and selling them in the colony, Captain Jack said he would make more money taking women!” another sailor added.

The first sailor laughed. “He sailed with a shipload of women to sell to the lonely bachelors in the Virginia Colony,” he replied with a grin, exposing a lack of front teeth.

“But you said this Captain Jack has taken them as brides to wed the colonists? But…but Lady Elizabeth can't marry another man. She is to marry me,” Lord Whitton insisted.

The sailors just laughed.

“Lady Elizabeth, is it?” one of the sailors asked. “Well, I'm betting Captain Jack didn't know that. He'd never expect a real Lady to be near the wharf where he could get her.”

“No, and I can tell ya that he wouldn't want no Lady in the bunch. They is too much trouble,” his buddy assured him.

Hearing the missing woman was a Lady, the sailors began to disperse. Mistaking a lady as just a girl could mean serious trouble. One turned back after taking a few steps away and added, “If you want your Lady back, you'd best get a move on. They got a good head start.” He laughed more, as did his friend beside him.

“And if you catch up with Captain Jack, you'd better have some gold coin to offer,” another warned.

“Right you are. Jack ain't gonna give up a bride without getting paid well for her,” the sailor missing the teeth told him.

Lord Barclay groaned aloud at that announcement. He felt a sharp pain in the vicinity of his heart, a pain that didn't go away as he clutched his chest. His only child, his sole consolation since his dear wife had died giving her life, had been stolen from him, and in broad daylight.

“I'll have her home again, I tell you. And I won't allow her to be under the thumb of some ill-bred colonist,” he insisted further as he rubbed his upper left arm that now ached. “Whitton, you must sail on the next available ship from your fleet. You find her and bring her back. And I'll see to it that this Captain Jack will hang for what he's done.”

As he spoke, the skies opened up and heavy rain began to fall. The wind had already picked up, turning the dark water in the harbor into foam-capped waves that smashed over the end of the pier. As the sailors disappeared back in to the tavern to escape the rain, the Lords and their footmen ran to their carriage.

A new fear settled in Lord Barclay's heart. With this storm being so fierce already, how much worse would it get? Could a ship trying to sail through such a storm even succeed in staying above the giant waves? Or would it end up sinking with all hands and all the female passengers lost?

Lord Barclay felt light-headed, as he was forced to wonder if Lady Elizabeth would even make it to the Virginia Colony at all. He clutched his painful side and winced as they drove back to Barclay Manor just outside London.


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