My thanks to my beta jinxed100 for all her help in getting Sexby's thoughts into print.
As Sexby and Angelica rode towards London Sexby reflected on how far his life had turned in the space of less than a day. Yesterday he had been living in Wytham Woods, having almost died at Kineton Fight. Strung up in a tree, he had been rescued by Mistress Fanshawe. She who had once been the carefree young bride of Harry Fanshawe, but was now his widow and all because she was not tame. In truth, Sexby thought, the world is full of fools if it would have her tame.
He smiled as he remembered Angelica swimming in the lake. Who could fail to appreciate her body? And what had he offered her in return? His share of the money they had taken the night before? That was almost incidental. His heart? She wasn’t aware but she had that already, from the moment he first saw her.
So what had made him say “Swim naked with me”? It wasn’t as if he had any intention of swimming, since he couldn’t swim. No, it was more of a challenge – she had made it clear that she was no man’s whore. Had he forced himself on her the previous night he had no doubt that she would have shot him – she had already killed one man to protect herself. That man had friends who would seek to avenge his death. No-one would have known or cared if he, Sexby, were shot.
She had challenged him first. She had lost everything – her husband, her status, her whole way of life. She had said, ‘I thought Charles Stuart king, god and father once’. Yet here she was on her way to London to start a new life by taking up the fight with the Lillburnes. She had asked him, “What is your life? To laugh at hope, to live and die alone?” And he had realised that that was no longer the case, that between blood of birth and blood of death there was indeed life.
He had seen his opportunity when she had wanted to put on her skirts. He could offer himself to her and so he had started to undo his shirt. But she would have none of it and for the second time had drawn her pistol on him. Glancing at the lake he had said the first thing that had come into his head, “I mean only to swim”. And then the challenge. “All I ask is that you swim with me.” She would not take him – she was not yet the Leveller she had been accused of being the previous night. But she swam and laughed when she realised that he had misled her. And from now on the fight would be their fight and he would not be lost to the cause again.