Sunday Snippet, A Familiar Face

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. The morning after she gave thanks for her deliverance she writes to let her friends know where she is. Things, however, are afoot and the game is on.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


Rachel finished her letter the next morning. She folded the letter in thirds and thirds again; then looked up from her desk. “Oh, Elizabeth, I didn’t see you. Is there a wafer?”

Elizabeth rather shyly indicated where the coloured wafers were. “What is his favourite colour?”

“I don’t know … but this will do.” She chose a pale red one and sealed the letter with it. While she addressed the other side, she asked, “Will a servant take these to the post?”

“I thought … if you might … well, maybe we could walk together.” When Rachel studied her face, Elizabeth quickly, all too quickly, added, “I’d like to show you Hook.”

I’d wager a monkey to a farthing you have another reason. “Sure, it would be my pleasure, but I will need to borrow a bonnet.”

Elizabeth gushed her agreement and pranced upstairs to retrieve a spare bonnet and pelisse from her closet.

“Are you ready?”

“I’ve just finished the address.”

“Then what are you waiting for? Let’s go.”

Rachel followed Elizabeth out of the house as she raced off. It’s only a letter, what could be so important?

“Elizabeth, please slow down. I haven’t even had time to adjust this pelisse or properly tie my bonnet.”

“Yes, yes, it’s just.”

“Let me guess, a letter from an admirer, one that Dr Fowler does not approve?”

Elizabeth slowly nodded, “You won’t tell him?”

A clandestine communication, how improper … I sound just like an aunt. “No, but please remember your decorum. If anyone saw you racing off like this, they’d know what you were about.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought that.”

It seems to me you hadn’t thought much at all. “Tell me about him, while we walk to the posting inn.”

“He’s tall, handsome.”

Aren’t they all?

“And he’s working as a spy. To uncover those awful rebels and machine breakers.”

What? Rachel interrupted her, “His name wouldn’t be William Oliver?”

“William’s his first name, William Richards. William J Richards, my sweet William.”

Stunned, Rachel stopped where she stood. I know that name, Richards, that was the other alias.

Elizabeth asked, “What’s wrong, do you know him?”

“Maybe. Is he an older man, about 35?”

“Why yes, I’m so proud to have conquered such an accomplished man. It was when we, my mother and I, visited Leeds last month. To shop and dance at the assembly. He visited two weeks ago.”

“Does your mother approve of him?”

“It’s my father who objects. He’s just being stubborn. That’s what fathers are for, isn’t it?”

I’d say wise, a good judge of character. “I’m sure he only wants the best for you.” Damn, now I am going to have to tell your parents.

“I know what I want. My darling William.”

When they arrived at the inn, just off High Street in the centre of the village, Elizabeth found a letter waiting for her. She gladly paid her shilling, quickly gave it a kiss and went off to read it, alone.

Rachel asked, “Is there a pen I can use? I need to add a line to my letter.”

“Might have one.” The innkeeper replied, “Don’t know that it’s a good one.”

“I just need to add a small note to the back of the letter. Only a sentence.”

He led her to the back of the inn and showed her a desk. “You can try.” He was right, the pen had a poorly sharpened point and the ink had dried bits floating in it. Still Rachel managed to scratch out, “Come at once, Mr O. is here.”

Finished with the letter, Rachel stopped on her way back to the front when she heard a voice, the last one she wanted to hear, right this instant or for that matter, ever again. “Is Miss Fowler here?”

It was Mr Oliver, or Harding or Richards.

“I’ll see sir.” Rachel heard the innkeeper say. “She picked up a letter this morning. Should be in the garden.”

“Excellent.” The man said, “I’ll find my own way.”

Rachel did her best to step back into the shadows, to blend into the wall. After the man passed by, Rachel brought her letter to the innkeeper. “This is for the next post, to Leeds.”

“Ah, Wakefield,” the man said, “On the way. Be there tomorrow.”

I hope that’s in time.

“Would you tell my friend, Miss Fowler, that I’ve returned to the vicarage?”

“Of course, Miss. Anything else?”

“That man who was just here, did he give you a name?”

“A Mr Harding, he said.”

Rachel nodded, “It would be just as well, if you didn’t mention my name to him.”

The innkeeper nodded, “Good thing I don’t know it. Avoiding an old acquaintance?”

“You might say that. He’s not the most honourable of men. Do you have a maid who can chaperone Miss Fowler?”

“Ah, I see. Seemed dashed odd when she picked up that letter of hers. I’ll have my Elaine watch them. Can’t have the Vicar’s daughter get in trouble, now can we.”

“Thank you.” Now to warn Dr Fowler.

Rachel’s resolve to warn her host grew as she walked back to the vicarage. When she opened the door, the sound of two familiar voices greeted her. Dr Fowler and

“George! You’re here.”


It’s been more than 200 years since Waterloo and people tend to forget just how wrenching the Napoleonic wars were. It truly was a world war with the same dislocations and disruptions that occurred in the 20th century. To support this effort the British government re-organized in ways that would have been unbelievable in the 18th century. Clerks had to pass civil service exams – no longer could you be appointed based on who you (or your father or uncle) knew. You actually had to be literate. Supporting a world war required minimizing (although not eliminating) a great deal of graft and jobbery. Reforming “purchase” would take another 60 years or so, but the reforms made the British soldiers and sailors the best fed and supported fighting men that the world had seen. It showed when the tide turned against that dastardly Corsican.

This Gilray cartoon shows the political storm – figuratively bees fighting wasps (and other creatures) to preserve good governance.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

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Sunday Snippet, Psalm 23

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. This week she gives thanks for her deliverance.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


The ceremony proceeded, and when it came time to read a verse or psalm, Dr Fowler cleared his voice; then said, “In light of our visitor’s harrowing experience, I thought a different psalm might be appropriate. Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me.”

Now everyone really did turn and look at her. The shuffling noise drowned Dr Fowler’s voice. Rachel smiled back, weakly.

“Yeah though I walk the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for” for I’m the toughest woman in that valley.  “Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” Could have used that staff or that rod. Would have been very handy.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:” Like I did, Thank you Lord for the Calomel. “thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” Rachel smiled, Their bowels certainly did.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

I was lucky. May not be next time.

“Amen.”

The service over, Dr Fowler waited at the church door, and after talking with all the other parishioners caught Rachel. “I am glad to see you’ve recovered Miss.”

“Mostly.”

“That preventive said you were a heroine, but he didn’t know your name.”

“I’m sorry. Rachel, Lady Hayforth. My fiancé is Lord Hartshorne from Oulten Hall, near Wakefield.”

Dr Fowler bowed, “I’m honoured to have you share my humble vicarage.”

“No, I’m honoured that you found a room and a dress for me. Can we send a letter to my fiancé? He’ll be worried.” I hope so. Charity won’t.

“Yes, but I should tell you that the preventive officer caught the post to Selby. There’s a good chance Lord Hartshorne already knows. The officer said they were tearing up the town to find some gentlewoman.”

“Even better, still I should write.”

“Certainly. We should dine first.” Dr Fowler turned and introduced another young woman to her. “This is my daughter Elizabeth. One brother is at Cambridge and the other.” He paused; then glanced at the churchyard. A sad expression flickered across his face.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes. The ways of the Lord are mysterious. It’s kept me from seeking preferment, but then I like Hook.” He continued to gaze across the graves.

“Father,” Elizabeth said, “I’m sure Lady Hayforth is famished, and I, for one, would like to hear her story.”

“Oh. Yes, of course.”


There is an echo of more recent experience in Rachel’s interpretation of the 23rd psalm. (not mine I must add, being to young for the pleasure.)

Speaking of sheep and shepherds.
One of the joys of walking in the English countryside is the presence of livestock. Sheep, here ewes and their nearly grown lambs, contribute their own … distinctive ambience to the experience.

I shouldn’t complain, however, as cattle contribute a similar ambience too. At least the sheep won’t chase you. One actually has to be careful around cattle. If they’re not used to human contact they can be surprisingly dangerous. They’ve been known to trample incautious walkers. Still, if you didn’t have farmers, you wouldn’t have footpaths – so it’s a worthwhile bargain. Just be careful around the stock.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, Let us give thanks.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. This week she gives thanks for her deliverance.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

Rachel stirred in bed, woken by the ringing of the none too distant church bells. She sat up, blinked, and fought back the panicked feeling that she was in a strange room. The late afternoon sun flooded in and filled the room with an amber light. She wasn’t in that boat, this was a room. Not her room, but a nice one nonetheless.

A maid, one she didn’t recognize, asked her, “Ma’am, it’s compline. If you hurry, you could still make the prayers.”

Prayers?”

Dr Fowler would appreciate it, and Ma’am.”

Yes?”

You’ve a fair bit to be thankful for, don’t you Ma’am?”

Yes, I do. I’m alive. “Dr Fowler’s the vicar?”

Yes Ma’am. Miss Fowler left a dress for you. Your old one being torn and muddy.”

Then I’d best hurry.”

The bell had finished tolling and the congregation was halfway through the first hymn when Rachel tried to slip unnoticed into the back of St. Mary’s. Even though the singing continued, it felt to her as if everyone in the room turned to stare. I can’t run. Rachel curtsied, and then found a seat in a pew in the back.

The vicar, who Rachel could almost recognize from the night before, addressed the congregation, “Let us confess our sins to God.”

As everyone started to recite, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father.” Rachel thought, I must have been exhausted to sleep this late.

Forgive us our sins,” the prayer continued, “In what I have done,” What I had to do, “and what I failed to do.” They may have survived. Hope not.

Forgive us, O Lord.” Should I ask forgiveness for hoping they didn’t?

The ceremony proceeded, and when it came time to read a verse or psalm, Dr Fowler cleared his voice; then said, “In light of our visitor’s harrowing experience, I thought a different psalm might be appropriate. Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me.”

Now everyone really did turn and look at her. The shuffling noise drowned Dr Fowler’s voice. Rachel smiled back, weakly.


I’m walking.  As my ankle recovers I’m discovering the muscles that haven’t been used as much in the last few months. I’d been warned about back pain and did a fair number of leg lifts. That worked, but the long muscles that connect the thigh to the big toe are letting me know they don’t like the situation. Fortunately stretching makes a big difference. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.  It hasn’t stopped me from field research this summer.

Bits of folk religion show up in the oddest places.  This little statue, at the Devil’s pulpit above Tintern Abbey on Offa’s dyke, seems to represent some forest spirit or old goddess. There’s a large pile of offerings on the stump beside her.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, Going for a Swim.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect this week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


The preventive officer lay there, staring at her. She put her hand to her lips, signalling silence, and then cut his bonds. “Quiet.”

What about the crew?”

Sick.” She smiled, “They didn’t like my cooking. Can you move?”

The man rubbed his hands and stretched his legs, “I think so.”

Good, we have to get off of this boat.”

Ship.” The officer paused for a moment, “Where are the crew?”

Hanging over the side of the boat. I laced their dinner with calomel, the wine with tartar emetic.”

Good lass.” The officer stifled a laugh.

****

Henri heard something behind him and looked up from the dark black water below. The water that carried what was left of his dinner downstream. The moonlight, while bright enough to tow the ship, didn’t give enough light to see the brown colour and floating debris that he knew was there. “What did you put in that food, Woman?”

Moments later, he joined the debris in the river, followed shortly by his compatriots. The boy, who led this stage of horses, didn’t bother to look back at the splashing. He’d been warned and well paid to ignore anything the ship dropped over the side. Besides, ships always dumped their slops overboard. It wasn’t until he reached Hook and stopped to change teams that he noticed anything amiss.

Where’s that Frenchie?”

The preventive officer shouted back, “Gone bathing, for his health. We’ll tie up here.” Then he turned to Rachel, “Ma’am, I think it best we find the local militia.”


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.  It hasn’t stopped me from field research this summer.


A sunken path in Exmoor. I expect Exmoor will feature in one or the other of our next works.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, Sometimes I take a calomel for my headache.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Last week, Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge).

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


“Vive L’Emporer.” Lars and the other hand snapped to attention.

“Is that why you want Rupert’s notes, his help?”

The man smiled. “Précisément. We must equalize the odds.”

Rachel said, “Untie me. I’ll behave.” Until I get a chance. Something tells me I’m due for a swim soon enough in any case.

“Bon.  See to it Lars. I’ll arrange for the tow. She should stay below until we’re away.”

The preventive officer groaned as his consciousness returned. “And see that he’s bound, No need to be gentle.”

****

Rachel, as directed, stayed below until the ship was cast loose from the harbour. She felt it gently sway as a team of horses pulled the bow around, and then along the bank.

She called, “Can I come up?”

“Nichts, not yet.”

The barge stopped, tied to the side of the first lock on the Ouse. Rachel felt it slowly sink. A sinking feeling that matched her worries. Then she heard the gates open, the boy on the horse team call, and they were off. Down the twisty Ouse river and toward the North Sea.

By the time they allowed Rachel on deck, the sky had darkened into night. Not that it stopped the tow.

She scanned the countryside, the low flat farmland that was so different from her home. “Where are we?”

Lars laughed, “I shouldn’t tell you, but sweetie, you won’t get away. The Ouse, downstream from Selby.”

“Selby?”

“Several kilometres east of Wakefield.”

It might as well have been on the moon.

Lars continued, “Komm. Mit mir. Time to earn your keep.” He led her to the galley. “You can cook, can’t you?”

“A little.”

“Wir have some fresh braut, sausage. Can you cook that?”

“Yes.”

“Gut.” He tossed some coal onto the stove and stirred it. “When that heats. The pans – behind you.”

“I see.” Rachel studied the contents of the galley. “You don’t believe in cleaning them, do you?”

“Nein. Adds flavour.”

“I see. I prefer clean pans. Do you mind if I see what you have, find my way around your galley?”

“Just cook something good for us to eat.” He turned and left her alone.

Don’t worry, I will.

****

Henri spat out his mouthful, then swore, “Mon Dieu woman, Can’t you cook?”

“Yes I can. What’s wrong with it?”

“You English. This is execrable. Mais what can you expect from an Englishwoman?”

“I don’t know. Looks good to me, and what’s wrong with boiled sausage? I put the peas in it too. Mashed nicely, good mushy peas.”

Lars growled, “Henri, this is worse than mine. Are you sure you want this minou to cook for us?”

The Frenchman stood. “This is disgusting. Alors madam. Je vais teach you the art of preparing the food.”

“If you insist. What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s foul.” Henri took a swig of wine to wash the taste from his mouth. “Even this execrable sweet English wine can’t hide the taste.”

He took a couple of steps towards the galley, “Follow me.” Then he grabbed his stomach. “After I return from the head.”

Moments later Lars and the other hand joined him. They hung over the edge of the gunnel, alternately squirting from both ends of their digestive tracks.

Rachel smiled to herself. So that bottle really was calomel, good. Then she grabbed a knife from the table and ran, unnoticed, to the front of the hold.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

English food is something of a running joke to the French. It’s not that bad. Actually, it’s excellent when properly prepared. The thing is, the Brits do not complain. Well, they do, but very moderately. “I’m not exactly keen on this,” means “I loath and detest it.” So you can survive cooking awful food in a British restaurant – at least for a while.

I’ve had both some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in the UK and some of the worst (Boiled sausages at the University of Reading.)


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, A fine and private place.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger last week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

Rachel awoke to gentle rocking, a splitting headache and in damp dark panic. A panic that having her hands and feet bound did not help. The smell of the bilge rose up to greet her. She retched onto the deck, and that only improved the smell.

“Awake, my pretty?” Somewhere behind her, one of the sailors noticed her stirring. His heavy accent suggested he was from the Baltics, and not the nice parts of the Baltic coast.

“What?” words came slowly to her mind. She’d been grabbed, something forced into her mouth, then nothing. She wanted to scream, but the sound wouldn’t come.

“What happened, precious?” the man laughed, “You’re supposed to be a smart one, figure it out.”

He turned her over, “and I must add a pretty one. They’ll pay well to get you back. Or,” and here he leered at her. She couldn’t help but notice his stubble and missing teeth. She didn’t miss that the few teeth that remained in his mouth were decidedly dirty, “Or … well, we’ll find a way to make you pay your own way.”

“I’m not very wealthy myself, but my fiancé is Lord.”

“It’s not money we want Liebchen.” The man chuckled, “Not money. Not yours or his anyway. That book … not complete it is. Poor Fridhis found that the hard way.” The man crossed himself, “Rest in peace … pieces anyway.” He laughed at his little joke, “No lass, it’s the complete book, your precious fiancé’s book.”

“Lars!” Someone called from above deck.

“Was?”

“They’re coming. Inspecting the grain barges.”

“Gott verdampt es. … Sorry Miss.” Lars pulled a dirty rag from his pocket and shoved it in Rachel’s mouth. Then he dragged a cloth over her. “Should keep you quiet.”

In the process, despite her tied feet, Rachel made a creditable attempt at kicking him.

“Showing some spirit, ha. I begin to hope they don’t pay for you. More amusing when they struggle.” Then he clumped back up the ladder to the deck and shouted to someone. “She’ll keep.”

Rachel gagged on the rag Lars shoved in her mouth. The best thing it tasted of was pine tar from the spars they shipped from the Baltic. The worst things were unmentionable. Slowly, with her tongue she pushed it forward, eventually out. The horrible taste washed the panicky fear from her mind. There’ll be time to panic when I’m free.

She wanted to scream, but without anyone bar the sailors there, next time Lars would tie the gag in firmly. If she made a noise, it would have to be heard by someone who could help her.

There was a thump as the coast guard, the preventive officer’s boat knocked against hers. She heard, faint voices, “Ahoy.”

“Was ist es?” Lars, pretending he didn’t know English.

“Damn and blast. Another bloody Balt … Papers … documents … papieren?”

“Ach. Ich verstehe. Kommt.”

More clumping noises as the officer hoisted himself aboard; then followed Lars to the other end of the ship, the captain’s quarters in the stern. A few minutes later, she heard the officer. “Seems in order. Spars and stores unloaded. They’re waiting for corn and wool for the return. They’ll sail once it’s loaded.”

He turned to climb down to his boat; then stopped. Rachel heard him say, “Sorry, I forgot; so many ships. I need to see your cargo areas. Some blighted woman’s gone astray. Up in Wakefield, but they’ve told us to look for her here in Selby. Search the ships.”

“Nicht sehen.”

When the hatch opened, Rachel saw the light at the far end of the hull. The man clambered down and peered toward her. “I say,” he said, “What’s under that mass of cloth?”

“A spare sail.”

“So you do speak English. Thought as much.”

“Ja, never sure when the coast guard ist hier.”

“Fine. Do you mind if I check? They’re tearing the damned town apart for her. Wouldn’t do if I don’t check the hold. Have to be thorough about it.”

“Ja.”

“I say, did it just move?”

“Rats.”

“Perhaps. I’d best check.”

Rachel heard them approach. The officer’s boots in front, Lars’ softer shoes behind. Then she heard a thump, followed by the slumping noise of a body sliding to the deck. Lars chuckled. Then he climbed out of the hold and she heard him say. “Captain Lewis has accepted my invitation for a drink and some dinner. I’ll see that he ist back this evening.”

“Lucky sod.”

Her heart sank when she heard the preventive’s boat rowing away. It plummeted even further when she heard Lars and his companion walk over. They argued, loudly and strenuously, but mostly in a combination of languages she didn’t understand. Finally, a third man joined them, and said, with a heavy French accent, “Quiet. We’ll sail with the tide this evening. Tie this man. You can release l’femme.”

“What? Warum?”

He pulled the covers off Rachel. “Ma’am. Your friend. We’ll kill him if you try to escape, and I’m sick of Lars’ cooking. It needs a woman’s touch.”

“I see. And the alternative?”

“We leave you both bound until we don’t need you.”

Lars objected, “Without the corn? We’ll sail without the cargo?”

“We’ll pick up our real cargo in Brittany. Meet the ship off the coast and then to Saint Helena.”

Vive L’Emporer.” Lars and the other hand snapped to attention.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

Saint Helena is a small volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic. Almost literally the most remote place on Earth (I suppose the south pole and Easter Island are more remote, but not by much.) Since Napoleon could not be trusted to stay put, it became his final abode. The Xkcd comic is appropriate here. It must have seemed like this to the British..

 


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, and come to a boil

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discover why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger this week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

“Sir Roger is downstairs. Says you’re needed. This very instant.”

Rupert rose, “If you’ll pardon me.” Then he followed the innkeeper downstairs.

Rachel looked around, “Well?” Seeing that Charity looked away from her, she continued, “Lucy, look after Miss Deacon. I’ll see what’s happening to my, my fiancé.”

She arrived downstairs just in time to see Sir Roger lead Rupert out of the building. Something was amiss, but Rupert went with him voluntarily. She followed, equally willingly, and with even more curiosity.

They hadn’t proceeded far down the street before Rupert turned around and saw Rachel. “Lady Hayforth, go back to the Hart.”

“No, I’m coming with you.”

“I’m not in trouble.”

“Not yet,” Sir Roger said.

“I assure you, Sir Roger, if I wanted to make explosives, I’d do it myself, and they would not explode until I wanted them to. I wouldn’t hire someone off the docks.”

“Rupert,” Rachel asked, “Why would they think you were involved?”

“Apparently my missing notebook,” He gave a nervous laugh, “It’s been found, or at least fragments of it have.”

“Who is your solicitor, or should I send an express for your uncle. Have your dashing Uncle George get you out of trouble, again?”

“That won’t be needed, Ma’am.” Sir Roger bowed, “But the scene … no place for a woman.”

Rachel laughed, “Depends on the woman.”

“Charity, will she be well? Please don’t neglect her.”

“Miss Holloway is there. Lucy won’t let anything harm the darling Miss Deacon.”

“You should be there as well, with your companion.”

“No.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I should be here, with you. Keep you out of mischief.”

Sir Roger gave a nervous laugh, all he was up to, and said, “Strong willed chit, ain’t she? I’ll see that she stays safe.”

They didn’t walk far before they came to the broken remains of what once had been a handsome half-timbered building near the shipyards. A constable, with the help of several soldiers, who had been on leave, held back the interested bystanders.

“I still don’t see, Sir Roger, what this has to do with me?” Rupert said.

“Here My Lord. This was in the street.” The constable bowed and handed him a tattered book. The cover bore his name.

“My notebook. No, this is a copy, another copy.” Rupert paged through it. “Looks like it was open, held open with a brick, here.”

Rachel pushed her way forward and examined it from Rupert’s side. “I know that writing. Mr”

“My Lady, please. That’s evidence.” Sir Roger quieted her.

Rupert gave a quick giggle. “Whoever copied it missed a few critical details. No wonder it exploded.”

Sir Roger said, “Details?”

“Purity of the acid, keeping the temperature in control … copper, lead, or silver impurities. Don’t let it dry in a copper pot, especially if it’s not purified. There’s a reason it’s taken more than fifteen years to move from the first scent-bottle locks to something the army could use. Still not there, in truth. My friends and I were getting close when that Corsican bandit was finally chained to his kennel.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. It was before my time, but I heard they nearly levelled the Tower of London.”

Rachel asked a more practical question, “What about the man in the building?”

“Poor fellow,” Sir Roger replied, “Not much left of him, but from what I can find out, a sailor … from the Baltic. Maybe Denmark or Danzig.”

“Not a Luddite?”

“Definitely not. Not an Englishman at all. Shame.” Sir Roger waited, cleared his throat, and finally said, “Lord Hartshorne, do you know how to destroy what’s left? Safely, I mean. Can’t have another explosion.”

Rupert laughed, “That’s the rub. I wish I knew. It’s safer when wet, but we’d just burn the residues. Carefully, mind you. It could get exciting.” He smiled at the memory, “We’d have fun with it in the evening.”

Sir Roger had his doubts but said, “I suppose we could wait for it to rain.”

“Unlikely there’s much left. Tricky stuff, tends to all go off at the same time. Do you want me to take a look?”

“If you think you’d be safe.”

Rupert shrugged, “Should be.”

“Rupert, please don’t.” Rachel felt the breath sucked from her body. “I’d. I don’t know … what.”

“My love,” he replied, “I’ve seen too many accidents to be reckless.” Then addressing Sir Roger he added, “You might want everyone to move back.”

He walked forward, and peered over the wall at the red mess that had once been a sailor from Denmark or Danzig or somewhere. “Poor fellow. Looks like he tried to make a large batch and it, ah, got away from him.”

Focused on this, he missed what happened to Rachel. A maid, claiming to be from the Hart, accosted her. “Lady Hayforth?”

“Yes?”

“Miss Holloway, your companion, she’s fallen ill. She needs you at once.”

“Lord no!”

“I’m sorry Ma’am. I was sent to find you.”

Rachel apologized to Sir Roger, “I must see to my friend. At the Hart, tell Lord Hartshorne where I’ll be.”

He nodded, unwilling to take his eyes off Rupert.

Rachel followed the maid towards the Hart. She never arrived.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

The part about nearly leveling the Tower of London is true. It did not take very long (less than four years – he patented the pill-bottle lock in 1807 and the synthesis of fulminate was published in 1803) for Alexander Forsyth to invent a reliable firing mechanism that used mercury fulminate. It was, and like modern percussion caps is, a far more reliable way to fire a gun than a flintlock. Having actually fired both percussion and flintlock rifles, the flash in the flintlock pan (it will burn your face and makes safety goggles a must – unless you don’t mind wearing an eyepatch) and its propensity to hangfire if you don’t do everything exactly right makes the flintlock only suitable if you don’t have anything better.  The British Army agreed and hired him immediately. It was then, while he worked at the Tower armoury that they discovered the fulminate’s untoward propensity for going off in an interesting and energetic way did not diminish when you had pounds rather than ounces of it.

Forsyth turned down an offer of L20,000 pounds from Napoleon for his discovery. I guess he wasn’t a member of the SNP (snark).

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.