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Heiress in Hiding 19-21

January 12, 2018 03:39PM
Chapter 19

The journey was a nightmare to Madelaine. Having nothing but fluids in her belly, plus the rocking of the coach, left her permanently nauseous, and the hunger which gripped at her after the first day was quite painful.
“I’m going to change my will and set up soup kitchens with my money,” she groaned.
“No you aren’t; when you are married to me, your money will be mine,” gloated Fournier. “Why would I want you to waste it on the poor? I am looking forward to seven thousand English pounds a year.”
“Why, whatever gave you any idea it was that much?” asked Madelaine.
He stared.
“That’s what your mother told me,” he said, “And everyone knows that Brandons set up settlements for their wives to get their dowry back when they are widowed.”
“Everyone is wrong, then,” said Madelaine. “Adam set up a trust fund with half my
,capital for me to have when he dies, but the rest he had to speculate with, with the intention of adding to my trust fund, but you have killed him before he could do so, so it will go with the rest of the estate to his nephew. And I don’t get all the income in any case.”
“Why not?” Fournier snapped.
“Because twelve hundred pounds of it a year goes to my mother for her lifetime,” said Madelaine. “And that cannot be broken, for Adam set it up that way.”
“Well, half the capital is better than nothing,” Fournier was furious. “And you will be a compliant wife or I have twelve hundred reasons every year to kill your mother.”
“Considering that you both plotted against me before, do you really think I would care about a falling out between thieves?” said Madelaine.
“You must love her or you would not give her so much,” said Fournier.
“It’s a bribe to stay out of my life,” said Madelaine, shrugging.
Fournier chewed his lip. He could believe that.
“You need not expect much in the way of pin money,” he sneered.
“Once I have my widow’s weeds, what more will I ever need?” said Madelaine.
“You will not be wearing black.”
“Then I’m not going to be compliant. I will mourn my husband and put up with you or I will not be allowed to mourn my husband and will scream all through the ceremony even if you find a vicar willing to marry an unwilling woman, and I will make sure you do not enjoy the marriage bed, and I will upset all your servants enough to leave, and I can’t cook. Mother couldn’t keep servants, so I know how to get rid of them, you know.”
“You virago! I will beat you.”
“And if I am starved and beaten I will soon die and will be with Adam.”
He flung himself back into the corner of the carriage.
“You may eat at the next stop if you do not make a fuss,” he said. Maybe bribery would work if threats did not; he did not want her dying yet, after all.
“Thank you,” said Madelaine.
Another letter left in the Jericho, there being no fortuitous maid this time, and another sixpence. Fortunately Adam insisted that she carry a reticule with plenty of small change to vail any who opened gates, or performed some other small service when they were out. She had no large sum as she had kept with her when she had fled from her mother, but she had ten guineas in cash, and her jewellery was valuable. Promises extracted under duress did not count, and if she found an opportunity to escape, Madelaine fully intended to take it.
She suspected that Beth would have already found many ways, especially when they had stayed in an inn overnight. Madelaine had dropped a letter and a whole shilling from the window to an ostler to take to the mail, but it would never have occurred to her that it was not so far a drop for herself, nor did it occur to her to bribe a maid to distract Fournier’s man, who slept outside her door, or give him a drugged drink, so she could slip out into the stable yard, and beg for help from one of the many people passing through a coaching inn. She had contemplated hitting the valet on the head with a pewter candlestick, but had shuddered at the thought. Doubtless Beth would think her very poor spirited, she reflected gloomily. It was all very well for women who were Brandons by birth, or at least related to that intrepid family. For an ordinary girl, gaining the spirit to do anything but obey a man was difficult, and her little rebellions already were trying her courage.
At least Fournier had brought her a clean gown and shift to the inn where they stayed overnight, a bustling place in the middle of a town. The inn was called ‘The Great White Horse’, and it was comfortable enough, for a prison. A couple of gowns and a valise for her would allay any suspicions that she was being abducted, and Madelaine was tempted to refuse to wear or bring the gowns, just to arouse suspicions, but she feared Fournier too much. A maid had also brushed her hair for her and told Madelaine how lucky it was that her guardian had been able to pick her up after so nasty a tumble from her horse. Madelaine had murmured some kind of agreement.
“I know, Mamzelle, you don’t speak much English, but I hopes you understands some,” said the maid, kindly.
So that was how he planned to gag her, by telling people her English was poor.
And she did not even know where she was, as the blinds in the carriage were kept down. She only knew that she had caught the word ‘Dover’ when he had spoken to the coachman when he had first taken her into the carriage, in the context of some kind of question. And now she was worried that he had been asking if another port would be better than Dover, having mentioned it in letters.
At least he had thrown her the Morning Post in the ‘Great White Horse’ with the comment that it took a lot to kill Brandons. Madelaine devoured the announcement that Adam, Lord Brandon, had been shot, presumably by some criminal scum he had sentenced as Justice of the Peace, and his wife was missing. The baron was said to be badly injured and at death’s door, but lingering. The editorial comment wondered whether Lady Brandon had been responsible for the shooting, and had fled the scene of the crime to some lover, or whether some dastardly poacher could not resist raping her, and had concealed her broken body. Either way, the editorial dripped with prurience and speculation.
Madelaine firmly believed that if Adam could survive twenty-four hours, Brandon stubbornness would keep him alive. Equally, Fournier plainly believed it was only a matter of time.
Madelaine planned to cling to hope.
Being permitted some food the next day was heartening, and Madelaine also managed to secrete a bread roll in her reticule. It might help if he planned to starve her again. Even if it went stale, she might perhaps ask for hot milk when she went to bed, and it could be crumbled into milk for a nursery meal of bread and milk.
Fournier had evidently decided that having a female fainting from hunger was more than he could cope with; the noises of her nausea, retching dry, and her stomach’s growls in the coach had revolted him. It was for his comfort that he permitted Madelaine to eat, though she had trouble choking down more than a piece of toast at breakfast time, she felt so sick. It had not occurred to Madelaine that it was more than the motion of the coach, and when Fournier asked brusquely,
“How long have you been sick?”
She answered indignantly,
“Why, you know that, for ‘tis your rough handling and the coach makes me so, I am always sick in coaches.”
He grunted. Her mother had complained that Madelaine was not a good traveller. Well, he would not have to beat her to make her miscarry, then.

Madelaine had lost all sensation of how much time had passed by the time the coach clattered to a stop. She could hear a lot of bustle, and the crying of sea birds.
They had reached the coast, then.
Exhausted and weak, Madelaine was easy for Fournier to manhandle into a waiting rowboat, to be taken out to a ship. Madelaine had no idea what sort of ship it was, and scarcely cared.
Confronted with a rope ladder to climb up the side she stared in horror.
“I cannot,” she declared, flatly.
“You will,” said Fournier. “I will go behind you and prick your feet and legs with my knife if you refuse.” He brandished a wicked-looking little knife.
“I cannot,” said Madelaine. “I will not. You can cut me to pieces but I cannot. Just knife me now and get it over with. If I try to climb that, I will fall off, you have starved me enough to make me weak, and I would have trouble with that ladder if I were at my full strength. Here, let me,” And she grabbed his arm to pull the knife towards her own throat.
It was a bluff, but it was an effective one. She was too weak to be successful, and he threw her back.
“One of you carry her,” he said to the oarsmen. “I will pay for it.”
“If Miss is unwilling to go aboard ...” said the coxswain.
“Miss dislikes sea travel, and does all she can to get out of it,” said Fournier. “She is my niece and I have promised, now the war is over, to take her home. She wants to be home, but not with the sea travel that is necessary. Women, eh?”
The sailors laughed.
The coxswain said,
“I’ll carry her myself; we’ll share out the extra.” He effortlessly laid Madelaine over one shoulder and started off up the swaying ladder. Madelaine gagged.
“You really don’t like the sea, do you, miss?” he asked. “Now we are private, do you need to say anything to me?”
“I never travelled on the sea before. That man is not my uncle, he has shot my husband, Adam, Lord Darsham, so he can get his hands on my wealth. I know my lord’s heir will help me, even if Adam dies. He will come looking, and when he does, I pray you that you tell him what manner of ship this is and the name, and anything else. He lets me have enough to drink on my parole that I will not try to escape, not that there has been an opportunity.”
“An abduction? Miss, I should alert the port authorities.”
“And I wager he will have papers to say I am his niece, with some Froggie name or other,” said Madelaine, bitterly. “He is not even a genuine comte, but a slipper maker who has got the papers to say he is the son of the former comte. Please, let Edward know, or Adam if he recovers.”
“Very well, miss, my lady, I mean,” said the coxswain. He was not sure if he believed the girl or not but she was certainly distressed, and if she was a niece trying to avoid sea travel, well then, would she not have wanted the port authorities alerted? There was no point asking him to pass on a message to someone who was not going to come, and he had read the newspaper, and recognised the name. And that the baroness was missing. It had a ring of truth, but this Frenchie was a nasty fellow, threatening to prick her feet and legs to make her climb.
And if she was indeed his niece, why wasn’t he speaking to her in French?
He completed the climb and set the lady lightly on the deck.
“Thank you,” said Madelaine, reaching into her reticule.
A suspicious French voice said something she did not understand.
“You’re welcome, miss,” said the coxswain.
“Something for your trouble,” said Madelaine, standing close enough to slip him a guinea before making a show of finding a shilling.
“Thank you, kindly, miss; have a good voyage.” He touched his forelock and was over the side again, and climbing agilely down the ladder, swinging round to the other side of it to avoid the laboriously climbing Fournier.
Madelaine was the centre of several Frenchmen, all talking at her.
“I don’t speak or understand what you jabbering monkeys are saying,” she said scornfully. Fournier heaved himself over the bulwark at this point.
“Do not insult my crew,” he said.
“Why not? They jabber like monkeys at a zoo in some heathen language, instead of speaking a civilised tongue,” she said.
He went purple.
“The French language is the most beautiful language in the world, and it will be your language, and you will be learning to speak it,” he said.
“You can’t make me,” said Madelaine. “Why you stupid foreigners don’t speak English I don’t know; you seem to manage it, and a slipper-maker isn’t going to be very clever. It seems quite pointless that you should turn your thoughts into some incomprehensible language to speak.”
“What? Do you seriously think that everyone thinks in English?”
“Well they must do, mustn’t they? It’s God’s language and it’s in the prayerbooks,” said Madelaine, with as vacuous a look as she could manage on her face.
“You stupid, ignorant wench!” screeched Fournier.
“Oh good, can I go home now?” Madelaine made for the side, and started to climb over the bulkhead.
She was pulled off.
“What on earth were you trying to do?” Fournier stared.
“I was going to jump into the sea,” said Madelaine. “Someone would have picked me up and would take me home.”
“Are you insane?”
“I don’t know. Yes, quite possibly, I am mad with grief and hunger and exhaustion and if I drown I don’t much care.”
Fournier dragged her across to a kind of stair and forced her down it, and into a cabin. There was a maid in there. He said something in French and the girl bobbed a curtsey. He thrust Madelaine forward and went out, slamming the door.
Madelaine lay on the floor where she had let herself fall. Annoying Fournier might not be the safest thing to do, but he wanted her alive to marry her. She might as well see if she could drive him to an apoplexy first. She ignored the maid’s concerned questions. The wench would be loyal to her master, and chosen to be so. If she had known enough French, it might have been worth seeing if the girl was romantic enough to be recruited to her side; but as it was, that was an exercise in futility. She would, then, treat the girl either with complete indifference, or with hostility.
The wretched creature probably had no idea she was assisting an abduction, so slapping her and berating her would be of no use. Madelaine decided to act as though she had no idea that the maid existed.
As it happened, Marie-France had been chosen because she had been a maid in Fournier’s household in England, and spoke English; and she was being paid to report back what her current mistress said. Her moral sense stretched as far as the gold she was paid. But she was worried when the lady she was to care for and spy on did not even attempt to get up off the deck, and she hastened to find her master.
“Leave her there,” said Fournier. “She’ll move in her own good time.”
While the maid was gone, Madelaine got to her feet, and found that there was a rudimentary lavatory at the side of the cabin, which she used, and quickly looked around. The maid had sewing scissors in a basket, but not big enough to use as a weapon. The blades were but an inch long for snipping ends, and unless one might guarantee to hit an assailant in the eye, they would do no more than irritate him. Her own, in her reticule, were longer. And the maid might notice if they were gone, and mention it. Best to leave them; she knew where they were. A further search revealed that there was no cutlery apparent. There was nowhere to hide. Madelaine sighed. She had her leather riding gloves; perhaps she might contrive to break one of the panes of the stern lights and use a shard of glass but it was not practical to do that yet.
It had been worth looking, and now she was not about to become increasingly uncomfortable, she was able to lie down hastily in the same position as soon as she heard the key in the lock of the door. Not doing what was expected of her was a small victory.

Chapter 20

The mail in the morning brought a missive in Madelaine’s hand for Miss Merritt, on cheap, dirty paper, written in pencil such as Madelaine had to hand for her ivory notebook.
Adam read it after Miss Merritt wordlessly passed it over, having quickly perused it herself.
“She has her wits with her, anyway, my poor love,” said Adam. “I could not tell her the wound was superficial, there was no time, and moreover, my throat was sufficiently abused it took a while ere I could talk. She will be worried.”
“Yes, indeed!” agreed Miss Merritt.
“We cannot look for Val before tomorrow at the earliest,” said Edward. “I could ride into Lowestoft and hire a fishing smack to take me to Dover to find out what news there might be.”
“No, send Obadiah Foulger. He’s quite capable, and he’s more expendable than you are. Actually, I have another thought. Did you bring any of your ruffians with you?”
“If you mean my needy soldiers, yes, I have Gamalial Grundy and his men,” huffed Edward.
“A good set of ruffians,” approved Adam. “You could send them on to Dover; we can pick them up there. Grundy will send others to Folkestone if he gets no joy in Dover, and they might even be in time to prevent her being carried aboard. And if he gives his name, well, I’ve read out letters from Daphne mentioning him, and it’s unusual enough that she would know it as the name of one of your men.”
Edward nodded.
“Sgt. Grundy is more than capable of using the brains God gave him,” he said.
“So I thought; and he’s quite adept at also using the evil genius trained into him by the British government, or the Devil, but I probably repeat myself.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Edward.
“Of course you don’t and it’s not a coincidence that there was only one incident of rick burning at Deepwells,” said Adam, genially.
The two men smirked at each other.
“I don’t know that I could sit here, if it was Beth,” said Edward.
“If it was Beth, you’d be justified in having people out looking all along the route, because I don’t doubt she’d have escaped, and the worst danger she might be in would be being taken up for murder, having killed him,” said Adam. “Madelaine is not a girl who is used to thinking for herself; her mother saw to that. I’m trying to teach her to do so, and to have the ability to make decisions, and in daily life, she’s doing very well. She’ll give Gaston an outline of what dinners she wants, a week in advance, and if she has any instructions for the leftovers, but put her in danger, and I’m sure she would find it very difficult to do anything but go back to scoring a few stubborn victories by using passive behaviour. She’s counting on me, or more likely on you, if she believes me at death’s door, to rescue her.”
Edward nodded.
“I’ll get Sgt. Grundy and his men on their way, though by the time they’ve got to Lowestoft, and find someone to hire, they might have missed the tide.”
“That’s a risk to be taken. It’s always going to be a long shot that they might be in time to rescue her, and I don’t really expect it; but they need to be given leeway to use their initiative.”
“No fears on that score,” said Edward.

It was a long day for Adam. His wife was at the mercy of a foul abductor, and she possibly believed herself to be a widow, or as good as a widow. She was probably with child, which would affect her moods, if his sisters were to be believed, making her more despondent than usual, and certainly making her sick. Adam could only hope that Fournier would believe her to be travel sick; goodness only knew what he might do if he suspected that Madelaine was with child. He tried to refrain from pacing up and down; he might not have been wounded badly, but any wound was tiring, and he had lain on the ground for some hours bleeding. He abruptly went to the nursery.
If he had to wait, the least he could do would be to entertain Lydia.
Lydia was happy to be entertained, though she was demanding and fretful,
“She knows something is not right,” said Adam to Polly, who bobbed a curtsey.
“Yes, my lord. Oh, my lord, we will get my lady back, won’t we? There’s such awful rumours in the servants’ quarters, and Mr. Moyse had to have two of the footmen throw one of the ostlers out for wanting to lynch Gaston for being French, and it being a French plot.”
Adam sighed.
“Run down to Moyse and tell him to assemble all indoor and outdoor servants in the vestibule; I will come down to explain to them exactly what is going on,” he said.
Polly bobbed another curtsey and ran off.
It killed some time, at least, thought Adam, having to explain to the servants what had happened, and he simplified matters by explaining that this particular Frenchman, whom Gaston had never met, was the person that milady had been fleeing from, and the reason she took the disguise of a governess.
There were many murmurs of enlightenment at this. A fortune hunter who happened to be French was a different proposition to the French wanting to abduct their baroness.
“Thank you, my lord, for making it clear,” said Gaston.
“I cannot have silly rumours circulating,” said Adam. “And although I look inactive, I am waiting for my nephew and his ship to arrive, so I might overtake my bride. I’m not happy about having to wait, so I apologise in advance if I snap at anyone. Now get back to work and stop gossiping like a bunch of Bath misses.”
That raised a laugh from his people.
“Our prayers and thoughts be with yew, milord, bor,” said an ostler, looking shamefaced, apparently being he who had caused the trouble. “And I be right sorry I got the wrong end o’ the stick about Gaston.”
“I’m sure an apology to him will work wonders,” said Adam, catching Gaston’s eye with a look that demanded, if not forgiveness, at least understanding.
Gaston shrugged.
He would accept the idiot’s apology, it was not as if the man was an indoor servant Gaston must deal with all the time. If it pleased milord, he would even smile.

Moyse approached Adam late in the afternoon.
“There is an individual who wishes to see you,” he said. “Under the circumstances, I thought it best to ask rather than seeing the person involved.”
“What manner of person?” asked Adam.
“A young person with a rather loud taste in dress,” said Moyse, in evident disapproval.
“A young male person or a young female person?” asked Adam.
“A young person of the male persuasion, my lord,” said Moyse.
“Very well; show him in,” said Adam.
The young man was indeed dressed rather loudly, with yellow pantaloons, silver, or more likely, pewter, tassels on his hessians, a striped blue and yellow waistcoat which did not quite ape the insignia of the Four Horse Club, and a slightly too bright blue coat. He had a silver-knobbed cane, and Adam mentally categorised him as the son of a clerk trying to cut a dash. He smiled kindly on the youth.
“Moyse tells me you have news for me,” he said.
“The lordly bloke is Moyse, is he? I thought he was the baron at first.”
“No, I am the baron, Adam, Lord Darsham.”
“Davey Rochester at your service,” said the youth. “I dunno if it’s a hum, but there was a letter left for you, and sixpence, and I figured, since I was coming this way anyway, I’d make a detour and bring it personal.” His eyes shone with curiosity.
“Aye, in an inn, the Red Lion at Ardleigh, just outside Colchester.”
“Ah!” said Adam. “You were, of course, wishful for a reward?”
“Oh no, my lord!” Rochester shook his head. “I was just hoping to be told what’s going on, if that ain’t too cheeky.” He handed over a similar piece of paper to the one received by post that morning.
Adam devoured it.
“Oh Adam, I have to write to you and hope you are alive, I hope one at least of my letters get to you. I do not know where I am, he keeps the blinds down, but I think from where the sun comes through the cracks that we are heading south. So Dover does seem a possibility and what I overheard no ruse. I love you, Adam. He is letting me eat some food now, and drink my fill in return for a promise not to escape. I know Edward will be able to rescue me, if you are kept abed by the wound. Please don’t be dead, Adam!
Your Lily maid.”

Adam felt tears in his eyes and blinked them away.
“You have done me a signal service, Mr. Rochester,” he said. “Pray furnish me with your address, so that I might invite you for a weekend shooting, or similar, as you look like a sporting gentleman. You may have saved my wife’s life; she has been abducted, and has plainly been able to leave a letter. Where was it?” He was interested in how much ingenuity Madelaine had been able to show; it would help when they came to rescue her to know if she was able to think clearly.
Rochester cleared his throat and blushed.
“In the Jericho at an inn,” he said.
“Ah, that was clever of her, a place she might be private. You will at least stay to dinner?”
“I ... very well, my lord, you are generous! I had intended to push on to Newmarket; there’s a wager race to be held there, and I wanted to get a place in an inn, but I’ve camped out before, and the weather is a bit better than the summer proper.”
“You won’t need an inn; I’ll give you an address.” Adam drew a sheet of paper towards him, and wrote a few incisive lines. “This is a trainer I know; he’ll put you up, and stable your horses. It’ll give your team a little while to rest, and I’ll have dinner brought forward to ensure you get there in the light.”
“Th ... thank you, sir,” said Rochester. “I ... I’m most tremendously grateful, especially the way, er, Moyse looked at me.”
“Well, my lad, you’re not quite the thing; trying a bit too hard,” said Adam. “But a young man with a lively curiosity will go far. And I’m more than happy to see to you given a few hints. Papa hates your clothing, I suppose?”
He got a cheeky smile which made Rochester look like a schoolboy.
“With a passion, sir! So I go to extremes ... you know!”
“Oh, I know, my sire disapproved of me most of the time,” said Adam. “I remember the rage he was in when I turned up for dinner, I must have been about your age, in one of the first cutaway coats in brown cord-du-roy, with yellow satin smallclothes and yellow striped stockings and waistcoat. I thought he was going to have a fit. I probably looked a total guy, but I was well pleased with myself!
“My goodness!” said Mr. Rochester, a little faintly.
“Indeed, yellow with yellow hair never answers,” said Adam. “Amusingly, the style was what my sire was wearing a few years later, but in more sober colours. Personally, I’d say either go for a coat of startling hue, or inexpressible. The two together are a little over the top, and I’d lose the waistcoat if I were you. You might run into some real members of the Four Horse Club, and they can be a little ... rowdy.”
Mr. Rochester paled.
“Thank you for the advice, sir,” he said. “Why can’t my father put it as plainly as that instead of just going off on a tirade?”
“Oh, I expect he’s forgotten being young,” said Adam. “Maybe he’s afraid it will upset those he associates with.”
“He’s a curate; he’s supposed to be charitable,” said Mr. Rochester. “I got a bit of a windfall from a great uncle.”
“Then my advice to you is to invest the greater part of it, and I don’t mean in gambling,” said Adam. “Go see my solicitor in London, Knightley, he’ll advise you.”
“Thank you, sir! I do mean to invest it, but I wanted to cut a bit of a dash too!”
“I quite understand,” said Adam, gravely. He rang for Moyse.
“Mr. Rochester will be staying for dinner, if Gaston can manage to bring it forward at all,” he said. “He has news of the baroness, and you may tell everyone that she was alive and safe .... when did you pick up this note, Mr. Rochester?”
“About ten this morning, my lord,” said Rochester.
Adam nodded.
“I don’t doubt that you found it fairly soon after she left it.”
“Are you going after her, sir?”
“No, I’d be afraid of missing her. I’m waiting to take ship to overtake her.”
“Goodness, that’s clever,” said Mr. Rochester.
Adam smiled on him; the boy might need some serious advice, but he was very much like so many of his nephews. And a curate’s son was nominally a gentleman; he certainly had the instincts of one, to deliver a note and not leave it to the vagaries of the mail. Mr. Rochester would be worth cultivating, and might be a useful addition to the family if any of his nieces liked him when he grew up enough to learn taste. Certainly far more promising that Moyse’s description of him had suggested.
Moyse broke into a smile, which Davey Rochester feared might break that austere face.
“The household is main greatful for the news, Mr. Rochester,” Moyse managed.
Moyse would welcome a Paphian to the dinner table if she had positive news of milady.

Chapter 21

Sgt. Grundy was most put out at how long it took to find a fisherman willing to take him and his men to Dover. He knew his men’s looks were against them, but it was still irritating, as he had offered to pay for any loss of a catch. At last however he managed to negotiate a deal and got a promise to sail on the tide. He and his men settled into the meagre hold of the fishing smack, used to waiting around in less than ideal conditions.
The conditions were extremely fishy, but that was hardly surprising. There were worse smells than fish, and most of the men had encountered them on the Peninsula. One of his men voiced this opinion.
“At least it smell better nor four day old corpse of donkey wiv a load o’ rotting garlic.”
“Which was worse, the donkey or the garlic?” asked one of the other men.
“The garlic,” declared the first speaker.
They slept through most of the trip, aware of weighing anchor without taking much notice of it, like the old campaigners they really were. Sgt. Grundy woke at dawn.
“Where are we?” he asked. “Avoiding bein’ blown onto a lee shore off of Aldeburgh,” said the fisherman who appeared to be in charge.
“Wind in the wrong quarter?” asked Grundy.
“Ar. Wes’ nor-wes’ ‘ass bin since May, and thass gone round tu nor-east. Thunderstorm comin’ up dew yew arst me,” he added.
Grundy sighed. He hadn’t asked him, but he’d suffered sea travel before.
“Break out the oilskins, me lads,” he said.
The thunderstorm held off until they were manoeuvring into Dover’s harbour, around midday, and then it burst with a vengeance. The fishermen were not displeased to be in a good harbour, with good gold for their trouble, and Grundy and his men decided to sit out the worst of it, and have a bite to eat, on the principle that nobody was likely to stop and chat about ships, French or otherwise, in the harbour until it cleared.
As it happened, Grundy and his men were lucky in choosing the same ordinary in which the boat crew who had been hired by Fournier were eating.
“What I want to know is,” said one of the oarsmen, “How is anyone from this here Lord Darsham going to know who to ask?”
Gamalial Grundy pushed back his plate and stood up.
“Did I hear someone mention my employer’s uncle?” he said.
“And who’s your employer?” asked the coxswain.
“Mr. Edward Brandon. He’s his lordship’s nevvy, and he’s sent us here to see if we can’t interceptify some counterfeitin’ Froggy count oo’s snaffled milady,” said Grundy.
“She did say Edward might come,” said the coxswain. “Would that be your Mr. Brandon?”
“Not to me it wouldn’t, nor to you, laddie,” said Grundy, “But to quality like her, well, she’d be using his first name, stand to reason, and being a friend of Mrs. Edward too. You have information for me?” he reached for the purse he had been given.
“Miss, or Milady, rather, paid us already,” said the coxswain. “To answer questions fully, and tell you what ship she were taken to.”
“If you can tell me that, reckon milord will be happy to have you paid twice,” said Grundy, who was happy to put a good vail the way of any honest man. “My name’s Gamalial Grundy; my men call me Sergeant.”
“Mine’s Joe Foxe. Well, it was the ‘Heloise’ out of Dieppe, and they went with the midday tide,” said the coxswain. “It’s a two-masted ship, built like a Dutchman more than a Froggy ship, all broad across the beam, and it’s painted in chocolate brown and blue. Wallows like a pig in mud, I should think. The lady ain’t having much of a time in the storm, Gawd bless her.”
“My thanks,” Grundy spread largesse. “I’ll have the hiring of you from now until the ‘Foam Dancer’ arrives to row us out afore she have to come right into the harbour.”
“’Foam Dancer? That’s Mr. Braidwood’s ship,” said the coxswain.
“Aye, and Mr. Edward is his cousin by marriage and friend,” said Grundy.
Enthusiasm over being hired to wait around increased even more. Val Braidwood had a lurid, and not entirely deserved, reputation with the sailors of the Cinque Ports, for his derring do against the French. Val would have been surprised to have known how many spies he was supposed to have intercepted, and English agents he was supposed to have rescued, never mind the number of daring raids he was supposed to have carried out. There was truth in the story of having taken down a French semaphore, which Grundy had heard about, but the tales of having manned it for three days sending false information to Paris was a story spun out of wishful thinking. Sgt Grundy smiled, and humoured the enthusiastic story tellers. Willing recruits were worth ten times as many pressed men, and if it enthused the matelots to believe fantastical stories about Mr. Braidwood, then so be it. Sgt Grundy was more impressed by Mr. Edward Brandon’s assessment that the man was an instinctive sailor, with a good nose for trouble and utter loyalty to his men. But Grundy felt he could work with these romantics.
In liaison with Foxe, Grundy organised relays of watchers, to go to a watch point with a telescope. The ‘Foam Dancer’ would be seen far enough out to sea for any watcher to return to his fellows and get them ready with the boat. Grundy did point out that the ‘Foam Dancer’ might not arrive until the morrow.
“She’ll soon catch that damned Frog, mate,” said Foxe. “Mr. Braidwood knows a thing or two about catching Frenchies.”
Grundy acknowledged that this was probably true, even if it was more likely that Mr. Braidwood knew a thing or two about avoiding Frenchies when carrying spies or despatches for spies. Or rescuing Mr. Brandon’s aunt after the Corsican monster returned to Paris.*

The storm broke shortly after the ‘Heloise’ was under way, and Madelaine was glad she was lying on the floor as she had no further to fall. She lost all of her last meal and drink in short order, and noted that the maid wailed about her being sick on the deck, with many gesticulations, because the girl looked rather green herself.
As the maid had reported to Fournier but had made no attempt to help Madelaine on her return, Madelaine judged, correctly enough, that the girl was as much a spy as the dresser her mother had engaged. Madelaine had learned a streak of slyness and an indifference to the troubles of others to evade too much humiliation at the hands of her mother. This had been eroded in a household where she felt valued, but she had not forgotten it entirely. And if the maid was queasy too, there was a touch of morose pleasure to be had in that. As Madelaine was actually feeling somewhat better for having cast up her accounts, she made horrible noises, and had the satisfaction of seeing the girl run to what Madelaine thought of as the ship’s Jericho. She had never heard the term ‘quarter gallery’, and would not have been interested enough to remember it if she had.
She remembered that the maid’s sewing basket had a man’s shirt in it, of fine quality and trimmed with delicate lace, so doubtless that of Fournier. She got it out and used it to mop up the vomit. She considered throwing it out of the window, but she was a little concerned that if she once opened a window, she might not get it closed again, and amusing as it was to think of it banging and worrying Fournier, the wind might suck out the whole of the glass and her with it. She sat on the floor and watched the storm instead.
Madelaine liked storms. One of the reason Madelaine liked storms was because they terrified her mother and left her prostrated, which was a time of freedom. The wild, untamed fury that nature could muster also seemed to Madelaine to be a symbol of something outside her humdrum existence before her marriage. She liked them even more since her marriage, since Adam, finding his wife happily watching a summer storm from the window, had bundled her into oilskins and took her out to watch it wandering up and down the River Yox, telling her that storms disliked crossing rivers. She had watched, wonderingly, that the electrical fluid of the lightning strikes did not flow down from the clouds, but crept like a racing snail trail in aching whiteness from the ground to the sky. Adam had not known why this was, but he promised to write to a Fellow of the Royal Society and ask.
They had not yet received any answer.
There was something even more primevally violent about a storm at sea. No landscape interfered with the view of the multiple lightning bolts, which turned the darkened sky to a garish hue. Thunder rolled without cease, grumbling and growling between crashes so loud that it sounded as though a house had fallen.
Fournier almost fell into the cabin.
“Got tired of lying on the deck?” he sneered.
“I was sick when the ship tossed,” said Madelaine. “I found a rag to mop it up with, though. I wasn’t sure if I could open the window to throw it out.”
He looked at where she indicated the rag and his eyes bulged.
“That’s my best shirt!” he cried.
Madelaine shrugged.
“It was a rag and it was available. The vomit was quite liquid, with some bits in and it was running around on the floor. Why does vomit always contain bits of carrot?” she asked, having seen him take on a greenish hue. He stumbled back out of the cabin, and Madelaine laughed gaily.
She preferred not to try standing up, as the motion of the deck was a little disturbing. The big waves she could see following the ship would probably account for that. However, watching them made her feel less queasy, and seeing the foam on their heads, from the passage of the ship, lit by the lightning, was a spectacular sight. Madelaine came to a decision.
She might not like the idea of standing, but if she could do it and be fairly active whilst the maid and Fournier were feeling miserable, it would be a moral victory.
She stood up slowly, watching the waves, looking upon them as her only friends, and began to move around. To her delight she could feel the waves through her feet, and anticipate the roll of the ship.
Marie-France staggered out of the quarter-cabin.
“Feeling better?” said Madelaine, bracingly. “Splendid little storm, pitching us around no end, the ship is rolling considerably.”
Marie-France went green again and retired hastily to the quarter-cabin once more.
Madelaine did not try too hard to suppress a chuckle.
She tried the door.
Fournier had forgotten to lock it when he had retreated so hastily. Madelaine hesitated. She could go and taunt him, or she could hide, which would certainly cause him some consternation. Either one tickled the imp of humour which had kept her from becoming totally cowed under her mother’s thumb. There were oilskins hung up; and being all-enveloping, they were moderately anonymous garb. And on deck would be the last place he might look for her. Madelaine pulled on one of the heavy, tar-scented garments, thinking wistfully of Adam, and set off up the companionway. She could hear Fournier retching and swearing in the cabin next to hers. He was not about to be on deck, then. Madelaine made her way forward. She found a mallet lying on the deck, or rather, sliding about on the deck, and picked it up. An anonymous figure with a tool in the hand might look as though the said figure was about some task.
It was also a weapon. She made her way right forward, and stood in appreciation of the beauty of the heavy seas. The sky forward was much brighter than the blackness aft, with touches of blue through the heavy, scudding cloud, copper-bottomed and lead-topped. The waves reflected the colours of the sky, with sudden touches of silver when the lightning flashed. Apparently the captain of the ship was riding the storm out, or trying to outrun it, Madelaine was not sure which. She had read of riding storms out, in newspaper reports, without having any idea what it meant, and she knew people ran for shelter in storms, so presumably ships did as well.
She contented herself with enjoying the majesty of the weather, and the elements. The rain was heavy, but she was well protected in the massive oilskin. Her feet were wet but it was not cold, and the rolling waves were, for now, interesting enough to keep her mind off any small discomforts. She wondered why some of the waves ahead had more white in them, more like the waves she had seen at the odd seaside excursion her mother had taken her on. She recalled that such waves were called ‘white horses’, but did not know why they occurred.
Thus, Madelaine was thrown off her feet like everyone else, when the ship ran aground. She watched the mast start to lean, slowly at first, then almost too fast to watch, with a horrible creaking noise which was even louder than the thunder. Madelaine scuttled up against the bulkhead as the mast fell forward; it would miss her, but she did not want to be caught up in the sail which had broken loose from its fixings, or the rigging.
With a splintering crash, the mast landed just to the other side of the prow to which Madelaine had gone, and the sky rained splinters, cordage and a flogging sail. Madelaine huddled in her oilskin, thankful for its protection. When the noise stopped, she turned round to assess her situation.
The sail had fallen, draped on the prow, hiding Madelaine from sight from the rest of the ship, and leaving her with a small tent. She could see over the bulkhead where the sail did not drape flat to it, pulled by ropes and bits of spar, so there was plenty of air. The canvas held rainwater in places, which would be something to drink at a pinch. Madelaine’s heart hammered. The sailors would be more interested in their ship than in a missing passenger; she might remain free and defiant here for hours! It might prove cold if they had not found her by nightfall, but she would be able to remain dry under the canvas, even if it came on to rain more, which would help.
And she still had her mallet and some useful bits of broken spar.

Heiress in Hiding 19-21

Sarah WaldockJanuary 12, 2018 03:39PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 19-21

AlidaJanuary 13, 2018 12:09AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 19-21

KarenteaJanuary 12, 2018 08:15PM


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