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Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

January 15, 2018 11:31AM
Chapter 22

“Adam, one of my men has just ridden in, by the time we get to Blythborough the ‘Foam Dancer’ will be there,” said Edward, who had been called away from the last dish of dinner.
Adam employed a napkin to wipe his mouth.
“Excellent, ahead of schedule,” he said. “Mr. Rochester, will you think me too rude if I get ready to leave to rescue my wife? Obviously, do not feel that you have to hurry over the rest of dinner.”
“By Jupiter, sir, if you’ll have me, I’ll go along; sounds better sport than racing, which may be had at almost any time,” said Davey Rochester. “I’m fairly handy with my fives, and with a fowling piece. Do what I can for a plucky lady, what?”
“Well, if you’ve a mind to join us, I won’t say no to another man,” said Adam. “Just do anything my nephew Val tells you on his ship; the ways of sailors are strange and arcane, and I never interfere in the wizardry and cantrips of their ropework and so on.”
Mr. Rochester chuckled.
“An excellent way to describe it, sir; the way sailors all work together to make a ship go looks like a kind of magic,” he said. “I’ll stay out of the way of the sailors. Especially since the weather has worstened.”
“Yes, we’re going to get wet, but if you don’t mind looking a quiz, I have oilskins,” said Adam.
“I’d as soon look a quiz than be wet through,” said Mr. Rochester. “Er, I have buckskins and more comfortable clothes with me, would it be in order ....”
“My dear fellow, of course! I was going to put on riding clothes myself, much more comfortable.”
Edward might have raised an eyebrow about Mr. Rochester at first, but conversation over dinner had revealed that this hopeful youth was nominally at Oxford studying law, something which bored him, and he was down for the holidays, and not permitted to help with the harvest had decided to take a trip to Newmarket instead before he lost his temper.
“I never turn down help with the harvest, and I help, myself,” Adam had told him. “I think your pater might be excessively nice about what he expects of you.”
Once changed and getting ready to ride out, Mr. Rochester asked,
“I say, my lord, did you mean it about not turning down help with the harvest? I’d as soon learn about the land as the law.”
“If you’re willing, lad, I’ll take your help,” said Adam. “You should be able to look into land law, which would help you if you’d as soon look for a job as a steward rather than stew all summer and freeze all winter in a poky little office at Grays Inns. But you need to work on that degree as well. Show me you can pass it, and I’ll let you get the practical experience.”
“Thank you, sir!” said Mr. Rochester, delighted to be throwing up the dubious delights of racing for the chance to do something he really wanted with his life.

“I might as well have had Grundy wait and ship with us,” said Edward, apologetically. “I wasn’t expecting Val before mid morning tomorrow at the earliest.”
“Let’s hope your man didn’t make a mistake, and sight the wrong ship,” said Adam.
“If he did, he’ll wish to be more careful in the future,” said Edward. “I’ll find him the dullest and most repetitive makework I can imagine until he’s begging to be given another chance.”
“Well, we can always wait at the White Hart,” said Adam. “Without Val there to animadvert about smugglers we can pretend that its very excellent brandy paid duty and ask no questions.”
“As Val’s worked with the Blytheborough smugglers that would be a bit rich,” said Edward.
“He didn’t have to like it though,” said Adam. “Mr. Rochester, you have not really fallen in with villains, my nephew acted for the government during the war, using his ship.”
“I say, your family really is exciting,” said Mr. Rochester, much enthused by the idea of carrying letters from spies and mixing with smugglers.
The observer was wrong; had he but known it, he had identified the fishing smack in which Gamalial Grundy and his men were sailing. Berated as a fool, and smarting under comments about using the eyes G-d gave him instead of damaging them by abusing himself when he should have been on watch, he returned, chastened, to his lookout point. The horses were stabled at the White Hart, for the time being, rather than being returned by the lookout to the Hall, since there was no immediate embarkation. The three gentlemen partook of brandy, which emboldened Mr. Rochester enough to challenge the local bowling champion to a game.
“Are you any good?” asked Edward.
“Well, I play a lot at Oxford,” said Rochester. “I win most of the time.”
The two gentlemen bet on their new friend as a matter of form, of course, and when he had shown the local champion how to play, asked for their winnings to be put into the poor box of the magnificent church which overlooked the village.
It was excellent timing, as the watchman came into the inn.
“It be the ‘Foam Dancer’ this time,” he said, a little truculently.
“Well, if it is, you’re forgiven,” said Edward. “If it isn’t, I’ll start to become irritated.”
“It is,” asseverated his man.
Fortunately for him, it was indeed the ‘Foam Dancer’ and a boat was being rowed into the estuary to take on passengers.
Once on board, Val raised an eyebrow to see a stranger, but did not bother to ask until they were under way. The Adam gave him a full report of the circumstances.
Val nodded, and sketched a bow in Mr. Rochester’s direction in acknowledgement of his aid.
“Had you any plans beyond sailing for France, riding like the wind until you catch up with her and running the fellow through?” asked Val.
“Other than stopping off in Dover to see what Edward’s villains have found out so we know what part of France to sail for, no, not really,” said Adam. “I was going to wait and see what, if anything, I found out.”
“Oh well, plans can always be adapted,” said Val.

Val scowled at the stormclouds which were forming to the north and west. They were getting closer, clearly visible in the light of the almost full moon. At least the wind was more or less at their back, though it was wanting to take them directly to France. Val had argued that with a fast ship, going to France, and riding fast to Boisvallonné made tactical sense, as the rescuers would then be there waiting when Fournier turned up with his unwilling bride.
“And what happens if he decides to stay somewhere like Calais waiting for news of my death, planning on a quick civil ceremony?” demanded Adam.
“Surely he’d want to have a wedding for the benefit of his people?” said Val.
“You’re assuming that he has so much as a gill of proper feeling and noblesse oblige, Val,” said Adam. “Which he hasn’t. It’s not because he’s a slipper maker, it’s because he’s ignoble and has not got the soul of a gentleman. I’d not object to the fellow’s imposture if he only lived up to the title. A man who tries to murder another man for his wife, however, is not a gentleman, and he would not be a gentleman had he been born a duke. He wants the money, and that’s all he’s interested in, and if he is married in Calais, he can have a copy of the marriage certificate on its way to England, to Child’s Bank immediately afterwards, and may expect to draw a draught upon the bank inside the week.”
“There are people that base, Mr. Braidwood,” said Davey, gloomily. He had rapidly become Davey now he was part of the expedition, though he was a little too much in awe of his fellow adventurers to use their first names yet.”
“I wish you will call me Val,” said Val. “I suppose so. I must have led a sheltered life.”
The hilarity of a government agent having led a sheltered life had Edward in whoops of laughter, and Val glared at him.
“You led this sheltered life while you were racketing about France during the war, pretending to be a priest I suppose,” said Edward.
“I did not racket about France! I was only travelling in France three times, one of which was rescuing Letty, which was the only time I was disguised as a priest!” said Val, indignantly. “The other two times I was claiming to be a member of the gendarmerie.”
“Well, I’m sure being a gendarme was as sheltered as being a priest,” said Edward.
Val laughed.
“You have me there,” he said. “I just haven’t met anyone as cold-bloodedly venal as this Fournier, not excluding the inept villains who were trying to get their hands on Marjorie’s money. They’d have balked at killing.”
“Might have paid someone to do it for them, though,” said Adam. “So long as they could pretend to themselves it wasn’t really what they meant. However, Davey is right, and such people appear in every walk of life from time to time, which is how I can say that I am sure that I know what he would do. I remember some of the members of the Hellfire Club, and some of them would have sold their mothers.”
“Not very pleasant,” said Edward.
“And the sea is damp,” said Val, dryly. “And so might we be, gentlemen, there’s a storm chasing us and I’m hoping to get into Dover before it hits.”


The storm hit as they were rounding the coast of Kent. The men had already shortened sail, and took it right in just before the storm hit. The winds were not storm force, fortunately, and Val was muttering about the gusts being no more than level six on Admiral Beaufort’s scale, but it was dark and unpleasant.
“And just as well I persuaded Diana to stay at home,” said Val.”She’s a damned good sailor but cross as crabs in the wet. I swear she’s half ship’s cat.”
“That could account for Brandons having nine lives,” said Adam, cheerfully. “And that we usually fall on our feet.”
“If you’d had names like Lionel and Felicity in the family at regular intervals, evoking the thought of lions, and felis, the latin name for cat, I might even have believed it,” said Val, cheerfully. “Or Tybalt and Catherine, for Tibbles and Kitty.”
“Far too obvious a suggestion of our feline bent,” said Adam, cheerfully.
“Captain, sir! Message on the Starboard Bow, Braidwood signals!” called a sailor.
“What’s it say?” Val moved forward.
“Permission to come aboard,” said the sailor.
“Send ‘permission granted, heave to and wait’,” said Val.
“I think it’s a rowing boat, sir.
“Stand by tackles; the sea is getting rougher, we’ll bring the whole boat inboard,” said Val.

The signals turned out to have come from Gamalial Grundy, rowed out bravely by cox’n Joe Foxe and his crew. Grundy and Foxe drank a welcome tot of rum in tea kept hot in a hay box, and told their story. It was Foxe’s story really, but Sgt. Grundy disliked being left out of anything. He was glad he had learned the signals, and had had the forethought to purchase a dark lantern with which to send them. The storm had seemed to largely pass, but then the waves had got bigger when they were out on the sea, like the treacherous jade the sea was. Sgt. Grundy was not a devotee of sea travel. This nice sized ship was, at least, a sight more civilised than anything he had been on before, and less uncomfortable. Adam had promptly hired the crew of the jolly boat for the week, and they were drinking their rum and tea below with Grundy’s men, and regaling the crew of the ‘Foam Dancer’ with their adventures in the hopes of getting some true stories to carry back to Dover.
Val listened to their story.
“Would you say the ‘Heloise’ is Weatherly enough to do much more than run before this muck?” asked Val.
Foxe shook his head.
“They don’t steer close enough to the wind to come up more than a couple of points. Besides, we watched it leave, and I’m thinking the bottom and the rudder are foul with growths, it was wallowing like a washing-tub in a trough of pigswill.”
“She won’t make a run for Calais then?” asked Adam.
“She could try, but it wasn’t fifteen minutes after she left that the storm hit, and I don’t suppose it was long after that it caught up with her,” said Foxe. “The wind is pretty close on due north, with eastings in the gusts.”
“Yes it’s come round a good three points,” said Val. “Any west in the wind and she’d be in Calais harbour like a rabbit into a hole, especially if she has any idea this ferret is on her tail. I should think a sensible master will let her run before the wind now it’s picking up to an eight. I think we’ll run into harbour and let the worst of it blow out.”
He looked a little warily at Adam.
“You’re the captain, Val,” said Adam. “I’d be a fool not to listen to you, and I’m not about to let my wife down by drowning after a miraculous survival of being shot.”
Val smiled, relieved.
“I’m glad of that, Adam. I don’t know you well enough yet; but I’m glad you feel as I would. Though,” he added, “If it had been Diana who had been snatched, I’d lay money on her finding a way to sabotage the rudder or something.”
“Give Madelaine a chance to learn how to be a Brandon, do,” said Edward.


Chapter 23

Fournier stumbled onto deck. He felt ill.
“What is happening?” he demanded, staring in horror at the scene of carnage. “Surely the English have not attacked us?”
“We did not need the English, our drunken idiot of a captain managed to run us onto a sandbank on his own,” said the second in command.
“It’s this geitenneuker rudder,” grumbled the captain, a Belgian who resorted to Flemish oaths on occasion. “I saw the breakers, but not in time to give the verdommet ship time to go around the sand bank. I say it’s the fault of the thrice-dammed French klootzak for bringing women on board.”
“If he gives you any trouble, confine him and just get things sorted out,” said Fournier to the second.
“What’s to sort out, aristo? We can cut the masts away. If we had the supplies and an adequate carpenter, we might jury rig one or more masts, not that it would do us much good. We’re firmly on the sandbank, and we don’t have the manpower to tow her off with boats.”
“Won’t she float off on her own with a high tide?”
The second officer spat.
“Maybe. We’re on an ebb tide, so it’ll be worse before it’s better. She might heel over when the tide is right out, which isn’t going to be helpful for getting her floated again. We’ll see if she’ll float in eleven hours or so.”
“Eleven hours? Are you crazy? I need to get to France as soon as possible!” Fournier almost screamed.
The officer shrugged and spat again.
“It’s that way if you feel like swimming,” he said, indicating the direction with his thumb.
“You took my gold to deliver us to Calais!”
“No, he took your gold. Makes no odds to me, I’m on a fixed salary,” shrugged the second, indicating the captain. “I couldn’t care less one way or the other. I lost a good chance in the navy as a lieutenant de vaisseau when you damned aristos returned. I’m sorry they missed guillotining some of you. You’d be better looking a head shorter.”
He turned on his heel and went to shout at some of the seamen to start cutting away the cordage. The Belgian captain just shrugged.
“Act of G-d,” he said.
“Act of damned incompetence,” said Fournier.
The Belgian shrugged again.
“I was planning on getting some loyal men to row me to the nearest shore once the storm abates,” he said. “Pay me enough to forget my scruples about women and I’ll take you and your drab with me.”
“I’ll do that,” growled Fournier. He flung back down the ladder and into the cabin where he had left Madelaine. He found Marie-France having hysterics.
“Where’s your mistress?” he demanded.
“Oh, oh, oh! It is true that the English are all devils!” cried Marie-France.
“Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry over,” said Fournier. “Where is she?”
“She has turned into a seagull and flown out of the window,” said Marie-France.
Fournier shook her, viciously.
“Speak sense,” he said.
“Oh, but it is the only explanation! She was walking about, dancing almost! And she taunted me about how the ship rolled, and I had to flee to empty myself again, and when I returned, she was gone. What else am I to think?”
“Possibly thinking might be beyond a stupid girl like you,” snarled Fournier. “She must have found the door unlocked, which is undoubtedly your fault.”
“I locked it when I returned,” said Marie-France, sullenly.
“You cannot have done it properly,” said Fournier, conveniently forgetting that he had been through the door after Marie-France. “Well, don’t just stand there; help me search for the wench, she cannot have gone far. She must be on one of the lower decks, she will never have ventured on deck in this awful storm. I have had enough difficulty,” he added.
He went back on deck.
“The wench is out of her cabin; tell your men to stop what they are doing immediately and help me to locate her,” he said.
“In your pox-ridden dreams,” said the second officer. “We need to clear the wreckage before the tide goes out enough for the aftermast, which has fallen over side, to drag the ship over. It is already putting the survival of everyone aboard at risk, and I have lost two good men from the rigging. Your sheet-warmer is of no interest to me at the moment, and I would not waste my men’s time even if you offered her to me to warm my bed for a week.”
“How dare you! Madame is a lady, who is my future wife, not some trollop!”
“Well, if you’d treated her like a milady, that might be believable,” sneered the officer. “You can ask the cook to help you.”

Under her sail, Madelaine heard Fournier screeching something, and shivered. But then he was probably angry to have lost her, which was the whole point of having hidden in the first place. She managed to find a hole she could peek out of. There was a lot of arm-waving going on at the other end of the ship, Fournier amongst those waving his arms. Then he went below again, and there were sailors moving about, methodically chopping at ropes. Fournier came back up, and there seemed to be an altercation.
His hirelings did not seem to give him much respect, Madelaine thought. Not like Adam’s people, or even casual labour hired to walk horses, who seemed to adore him, and performed extra services. It was because Adam’s manner expected obedience, she realised, but he always made a request of his orders, and thanked people. Fournier barked orders, and appeared half on the defensive; just like her mother. And doubtless, like her mother, he considered that thanking underlings was a waste of breath and unnecessary.
Maybe rather than driving all his servants away she should take them from him by making them love her. If, that is, they were ever to be rescued from this shipwreck.

Marie-France had no intention of dragging around below decks, in the smelly regions the sailors lived. She let Fournier forge ahead and then crept back to the relative comfort of the cabin. If he asked she would explain that she had been ill, oh, but so ill! It was no more than the truth after all, thanks to that evil English female. With luck the English woman had fallen overboard. Talking about pitching and rolling like that! Marie-France found that the thought, even though the ship was no longer tossing, was enough to take her back to the quarter-cabin. The English were inhuman.
She did not really believe that Madelaine had turned into a seagull and flown away, well probably not. But then ... she was English, and they had all sold their souls to the Devil. Marie-France crossed herself. A good, superstitious country Catholic, despite the vagaries of the abolishment of God by the Terror, she preferred not to dwell on what an Englishwoman with such ugly, evil-looking eyebrows might do.

Fournier searched from end to end of the ship, on both the decks below the main deck. The sailors would later curse him for pulling their possessions about, as he searched in the hammock rolls, and poked about anywhere a malnourished six-year-old might hide, because he was becoming quite desperate. He even poked a knife into the spare suit of sails, in case Madelaine was hidden in its rolls. He gave warning before doing so, but nothing wriggled. The rents in a valuable sail would have infuriated the captain of the ship had it not already mildewed and would be claimed by that worthy against insurance in any case. Fournier had no idea what the roll of canvas was, and would not have comprehended that such a spare sail might save the ship’s company if a sail tore in a storm. And if he had comprehended, he would not have cared, since he had no intention of staying aboard longer than he had to. He was getting very frustrated by the time he had been chased from the galley by the cook, who wielded a cleaver, and was threatened with being shot by the spotty youth who guarded the small powder room.
“I wouldn’t let no woman in there, are you mad? Women have scissors and needles and who knows what else on them to make sparks, do you think I want the ship to blow sky high?” said the powder guard. “We ain’t got rid of it for our protection since the war ended, and if you come any closer, I’d rather kill you than me.”
The sincerity of raw fear was something which Fournier recognised and acknowledged. He backed away carefully.
Where the devil could Madelaine be? Surely she had not ventured onto deck? He went up again.
“Did she come up here? The woman with dark hair?” he asked.
The sailor he spoke to shrugged and spat.
“No woman has come up here,” he said. “Not since the storm started to abate, and certainly not during the storm, what woman could?”
Fournier nodded. This agreed with his own beliefs.
Maybe she had come to the top of the ladder and had been carried away by a freak wave, or had gone out of the stern lights on to the gallery and had fallen overboard. She could not have fallen through the tube of easement in the quarter gallery, could she?
He was beginning to get worried.
He had borrowed heavily on the expectations of having an heiress to pay off his debts. And he had mislaid her. How could you mislay a woman on a ship which was just a small merchantman, no great ship of the line? It was too bad that the wretched lieutenant or whatever he was would not let him have the men to search; they would surely soon sniff her out. That slut, Marie-France was no use, she had deserted him. Surely things were not supposed to be so difficult? Killing the husband was the hard part, and surely he was dead by now. Fournier chafed to be somewhere where he might see an English newspaper. It would be a shame to spoil things by marrying the wench whilst the stubborn fool hung on to life by a thread. But to marry her, he had to have her.
Surely she could not have fallen overboard?
He clutched his head; his thoughts kept going round and round. She had not been on deck, she could not have fallen over. The stern lights had not been opened. The quarter cabin’s hole was too small for her to fall through. She had to be on board somewhere.

“Don’t move that sail,” the second in command called. “We need to rig it if we can get this poxy, thrice-cursed wallowing pig-dog of a Spanish cow off the sandbank. It’ll be full moon in two days, we’ll have the chance of a higher tide then. Don’t spoil things by hurrying it. Save the foremast that fell inboard. We can lash most of it to the stump of the mainmast. We’ll need new spars for it, just cut away the gaskets on the sail, and see if we can fish the spar together long enough to get us into port. The sail will wait until we have somewhere to put it.”
Madelaine had no idea what might be said, but the two sailors who had taken hold of the edge of the sail let go, and went back to cutting things apart. It was actually quite fascinating to watch them work, fast but methodically, clearing the doomed main mast, and freeing the foremast as the light of the day faded. The moon rose, and judging by the orders, they were to work on in the moonlight.
A French sailor obviously objected to this regime of hard work, and snuck away to creep under the sail out of sight.
Mon dieu!” he said, as he caught sight of Madelaine.
Madelaine hit him with the mallet, more or less by reflex, and grabbed some cord to tie him up by tying one elbow to the other behind his back, with the rope’s end tied to the carriage of the forechaser cannon. The man had a chunk of cheese, some sausage, and a piece of bread in his hand, and a bottle of wine in his pocket. Madelaine decided to leave the wine, and divided the food into two. She left that within reach of his trammelled hands. If she treated him well, he might not give her away.
She added a sovereign to the food as a bribe and to pay for his sore head.
She had done the right thing. The sailor groaned, looked at the sovereign and the divided food.
He grinned with horribly blackened teeth.
“English gold, good, no?” he said. “Lady hide?”
“I have been abducted; stolen,” said Madelaine. “Fournier is bad.”
The Frenchman dragged the cork out of the wine bottle with his teeth, and took a long swig.
“Pig-dog,” he agreed, amicably, holding the wine towards her.
“Thank you, I am sick with wine,” said Madelaine, holding her belly to indicate being unwell.”
“Ah, enceinte,” he said. Madelaine smiled, having no idea what he had said. She drank water from her hand, and finished nibbling on the bread, cheese and sausage. Mercifully the sausage was not too pungent with garlic. “You have le mari? the husband?” he added.
Madelaine’s eyes filled with tears.
“I hope so,” she said. “Fournier ... she put two fingers together and jerked back. “Bang! Shot my husband.”
The sailor shook his head.
“These aristos,” he said. “Was good with Bonaparte. Your husband, he live, and he find and then Fournier ...” he made a graphic gesture with his thumb across his throat.
“Oh I hope so,” said Madelaine, fervently.
Finally she had an ally of sorts.
“You untie, I not be missed. I bring food,” said the sailor. “When you free, you remember.”
Madelaine hesitated. She had, however seen how Fournier snarled in contempt at the sailors.
Then she nodded and undid her clumsy knots. He flashed her his horrible grin again, and slid out from under the sail, and back to join the others at work.
There was the promise of a bribe, but if Edward arrived, he would honour her promises.


Chapter 24

The storm blew itself out as the sun headed for the horizon, and Val left the safety of the harbour. The ‘Foam Dancer’ was swiftly under way, heading south and east.
“What’s your plan?” Adam asked Val.
“I’ve got Foxe aloft with a bring-em-near, and a nightglass so he don’t have to come down and go up when it gets dark. I did some quick projections on a chart based on Foxe’s assessment of the speed he reckons ‘Heloise’ would go at on reduced sail before the wind, and we’re heading down towards Brittany. She may have managed to put into port south of her original destination, or she may be beating back. In which case, a shot across her bows and a demand to stand to for contraband inspection should be in order. I have the papers of a revenue officer.” He gave a cheeky smirk. “I have the papers of a French revenue officer as well, which I was issued once when I was pretending to be a gendarme with some sailing experience,” he added. “Signed by the Emperor, no less, and nobody is going to question it, they don’t have the infrastructure to re-issue all the papers Napoleon and his officers signed.”
“You have the impudence of the devil,” said Adam.
“It kept me alive,” said Val. “Thing is, it’s enough to negotiate with, or rather, bully, and that’s all it needs. Once we’ve boarded, you can do your thing with the fellow, we can get her ladyship on board and be on our way. I can bully the captain. I’ve made a study of how best to irritate French nationals from all parts of the Empire up to and including the French Netherlands.”
“You have led an adventurous life.”
“I wanted to do something for the war effort; but as an only son, I couldn’t really join up. The pater was insistent about that. So I did my bit, and any risks were of my own making, and my own wits to get me out of them.”
“And as necessary, if not more so, than messing about on a horse telling a sergeant to do what he already knows,” said Adam.
“Oh, the sergeant needs the officer to tell him when to do what he knows how to do,” said Val.
“At least you know what to do as well as when, in searching for a ship on the sea, a bit like a needle in a haystack.”
“This is why the navy considers itself superior to the army. I’m hoping they won’t have gone past the Cap Griz Nez; if they have they could end up almost anywhere, even back in England if there was enough east in the wind.”
“Do you think it’s likely?”
“Not hardly. If she was wallowing that much, I suspect she’d aim at the cape and hope to be protected enough from the wind by it not to fetch up on rocks.”
They sailed on, the moon riding up into the sky, easily bright enough to see by using the night glass.
The cry,
“Deck there!” had Val put his speaking trumpet to his ear to hear better. Foxe continued, “Not exactly sail ho, sir, there’s a ship, I believe, no sails set, fine on the larboard bow. Breakers! She’s a hulk!” he added.
“Steer fine,” said Val to the man at the wheel, and put his trumpet to his mouth.
“Well spotted, Foxe! Keep your eyes on those breakers. I think G-d was outraged enough to make him heave-to without needing a shot across his bows,” he added.
There was laughter.
“If it is our quarry,” said Adam.
“If it isn’t, I’m not leaving a ship on those shoals without giving assistance,” said Val. “Some of them have rocks in them; the Breton coast is stiff with rocks. And they won’t get off a sandbank without assistance unless they are not holed and can get off at the high spring tides. Sorry, Adam, but the rule of the sea is that the sea is the first enemy and you always render assistance.”
“I am not disagreeing,” said Adam. “And a rescue takes as long as it takes. Part of me will be frustrated.”
“Understood.”


The French sailor slid under the sail.
“Bread, cheese, and I take bowl and spoon of dead man to get pea soup.” He brandished a bottle as well. “L’eau, water, good water.” He also had a blanket.
“G-d bless you!” said Madelaine. “What is your name? How do you know English?”
“Paul Duplessis. I was, how you say, prisoner of war. No more Navy for Paul Duplessis! I join merchant ship. Bad choice; captain ... trop de vin, I not know word.”
“Drunkard?” Madelaine hazarded a guess, digging into the pea soup. It was tepid, but she did not care, it was relatively warm, and it was well made.
“Oui, yes, that is the word. Drunkard,” said Duplessis. “And he has gone, taking the bateau de sauvetage, the boat for saving people, and his favourites.”
“Lifeboat? That is not good for a captain.”
Non, ce canaille est un lâche ... a coward.”
“I suppose it is too much to hope that Fournier is with him?”
Duplessis laughed softly.
“He take his gold, and leave him anyway,” he said. “We hope for rescue. Citoyen Lebois is ... it is like your word, furious, you say it. Cannot float off at high tide. The ... du govournail,it makes the ship change direction, it is broken.”
“It sounds inconvenient,” said Madelaine.
“It makes sailing to safety impossible,” shrugged Duplessis. “And no boat to escape. But is busy with shipping. We wait. Your husband come, peur-être?”
“I hope so,” said Madelaine. “Thank you so much.”
“I want job with English milord as landsman,” said Duplessis. “No aristos like ours, no Jacobins. Only English phlegm and quiet life.”
“I am sure Adam will find you somewhere,” said Madelaine.
There was a shout from the other end of the ship.
“It is another ship,” said Duplessis. “Whoever is in ship, we tell them you are English milady. I am your man, hidden aboard. We tell same lie, until truth shown, yes?”
“I understand,” said Madelaine. “My husband is the Baron Darsham. You would know this.”
“Yes, Madame la Baronne,” said Duplessis. “Eh bien, I am your gardener. I like to be gardener.”
“Tending my lilies,” said Madelaine.
Oui, beaucoup des lis,” he agreed.
There was much shouting.
“The ship looks French, they say,” said Duplessis. “They cheer. Non, they say it fly the English flag! And they are hailing, I cannot catch it.”

Val had no intention of hurrying; the hulk on what seemed to be a sand bar was going nowhere. He had a man in the chains, sounding the bottom with the lead. He had ordered wax in the hole of the lead, to check the bottom was sandy.
“Stand by to come about and prepare to anchor,” Val said. The men ran up the rigging, and some to the capstan, ready for the order. Having the seven extra men from the rowing boat was handy. They were all navy-trained, how they had managed to escape the navy to set up in the business of ferrying people about, Val did not know, and he did not intend to ask.
“Are we puttin’ a spring on the anchor, cap’n?” asked Bates, Val’s coxswain and valet.
“I think we can just bring her about and let her come to a full halt before we hit the sandbank,” said Val. “Then we can leap down onto her quarterdeck without a problem, her stern seems to be in deeper water. We can always rig a line for a bosun’s chair for any ladies. We’re bigger than they are, even a little brig-sloop.”
Bates nodded. Any warship, and the Foam Dancer was essentially a warship, tended to be larger than most merchantmen. Sixty feet of sleek killing power would reduce the merchantman to matchwood if she put a broadside through the stern, though Val had no intention of doing that. He could read the name ‘Heloise’ on the stern of the ship now, and he did not want to risk Madelaine. There was a female in the after cabin, peering out of the stern lights in terror to be faced directly by the mouth of a cannon, but she was a yellow-haired wench. Madelaine might, of course, be too ill to show herself.
The ‘Foam Dancer’ completed her evolutions, and dropped anchor.
“Stand by to be boarded,” called Val, repeating the instructions in French. The crew of the ‘Heloise’ seemed to be completely apathetic, and did not appear to be enough to man her. Val wondered whether they had lost so many men when the masts went by the board, though there appeared to be efforts made to make the mainmast safe by cutting it away, and preparing what was left of the foremast to jury rig it.
Val leaped over the gap fearlessly, followed by Bates, and a selection of other sailors. Adam swallowed hard, and followed.
A sailor saluted.
“I am René Martin, second in command of this vessel,” he said, in formal French. “What may poor merchantmen do for the British Royal Navy?”
“Well, apart from our intention to render you assistance in your plight, we are looking for certain contraband,” said Val, in his own rapid, faultless French. “Was your captain killed in the accident?”
“No, captain, he and his favourites fled in an open boat, our only boat, taking the most valuable small packets of the cargo and doubtless preparing to file a claim since there are insufficient of us left to have a chance to rescue the vessel.”
“Be of good cheer; we shall salvage your ship, which may not bring you wealth, but you will have your share of the remaining cargo, and your erstwhile captain unable to claim its value, or the ship’s, and on charges of barratry if he tries.”
“That would make me happy,” said Martin. “But what is the contraband of which you speak? We have shipped no illegal goods.”
“You did not take on board the slipper-maker, Fournier who calls himself M. le Comte de BoisVallonné and my cousin by marriage whom he had abducted?”
Martin went a dirty shade of grey.
“I regret, monseigneur, that I have no knowledge of the crimes of the so-called comte, for I speak no English. The lady has no French.”
“Where is my wife?” Adam hissed. His French was not as beautifully polished as Val’s, but he had a good working knowledge of the language.
“She has disappeared, monsieur,” said Martin.
“You may address M. le baron as ‘milord’,” said Val. “And what do you mean, ‘disappeared’?”
Martin passed out.


Madelaine was peering through the rent in the sail.
“That’s my husband!” she gasped.
“Are you sure, milady? It is dark ...”
“I would know his walk anywhere,” said Madelaine. “We can test it if I call ...”
“You will be found ...”
“It is an English ship, you said they carried the English flag. I can explain to someone.”
“Bon, but I will have my knife ready.”
Madelaine put her mouth to the hole in the sail.
Adam!” she shouted.
My Elaine!” Adam shouted back.
“It is indeed le bon mari” said Duplessis, with satisfaction. He lifted the canvas to help Madelaine to get out. With a quick word of thanks, she fought herself free, and was running towards the stern of the ship.
Adam took the stairs to the small quarterdeck in one bound, and swept his wife into his arms, kissing her with a passion and longing which made even the French matelots cheer.
“Oh, Adam, I hardly expected to see you alive and so hale!” sobbed Madelaine.
“Bullet hit the jewel in my cravat pin,” said Adam. “Knocked the stuffing out of me falling off the horse. But I had to wait for Val; it was too late to pursue you by horse.”
“Lydia?”
“Missing you but unharmed.”
“Thank G-d!”
“And thank G-d that you seem unharmed, my lily maid! Did he lay lewd hands on you?”
“No, I pointed out that if he did anything I would use it to say that he was an adulterer when he tried to marry me, and he has been fretting not to see a notice of your death but only that you were hanging on.”
“I had Knightley insert notices of me being at death’s door to keep him from suspecting. Edward’s men went to Dover to see what word they could get of you; and well done, indeed, my love, for sending word to me. And we have a new family friend, a youth who carried one of your letters personally in case it was important.”
“I hoped and hoped that you would get word, that you were not dead, and that you could send Edward, even if you were badly injured.”
“As I would have done, my love, and he would have come even had I died.”
“I cannot bear to think of it! Oh, my love, we have a new gardener, he helped me, but oh, Adam, Fournier has come on deck!”
“Then be brave, my love, while I deal with him,” said Adam, grimly.




Chapter 25

Fournier came on deck, to find out why there was a war ship with some very frightening cannons pointed at his cabin. His mouth fell open at the sight of Madelaine, and in the arms of .... Surely it could not be? All Brandons were as alike as peas in a pod, it could not be the Baron.
“You are dead!” he managed. It came out as a squeak.
“I am sent by the Devil for a reckoning,” said Adam, with a nasty smile. “To my dear friend, Monsieur le con de Pantouffle, if I recall correctly.”
Fournier went purple, as well he might.
“Very well, I will meet you, and shoot you again,” he said, angrily.
“Oh, no, my fine fellow. You claim to be a gentleman; a gentleman fights with swords,” said Adam. “I brought a pair of good blades.”
Fournier went a dirty grey colour.
“I ... I never learned. The revolution ...”
“Come, man, you were born, according to the entries in la Gazette de France, in 1763, if you are indeed the youngest son of M. le Comte. I personally believe that a certain Louis Fournier was born earlier, but I give you the benefit of the doubt. And the Revolution did not begin until the early 1790s, and any gentleman learns swordplay as soon as he is breeched, and would practise at university even if he never used it in anger. So do not tell me that the revolution caused you to miss out on your education.”
Fournier flushed.
“I will not fight you with swords,” he said.
“Then I will fight you with my sword and cut you into pieces, for the entertainment of my wife,” said Adam.
“Madame la Baronne will dislike seeing bloodshed,” said Fournier, glancing at Madelaine. “She is sickly ...”
“I would like to see you fillet him and turn him into steaks, and feed him to his coachman and valet and the slatternly maid he got to spy on me,” said Madelaine.
“I’m not sure that King’s Regulations permit the feeding of food that substandard, my dear,” said Adam, mildly. “Davey, my lad, my swords.”
Mr. Rochester stepped forward and made a rather schoolboy leg to Madelaine, who curtsied in return, and passed Adam a pair of rapiers.
“Do you choose, M. Fournier, or do I just fillet you according to my wife’s instructions?” asked Adam.
“You are on a Royal Navy ship, the captain cannot permit you to do this,” said Fournier.
“You have kidnapped my wife, and you have tried to kill me. Why should I not kill you?” Adam did not clarify that the ‘Foam Dancer’ was technically a private ship.
“You British have the rule of law!” squealed Fournier.
“I’m afraid we do, Adam,” said Val. Adam raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“You’re going to insist?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Val. “However, since he has been discovered at sea having stolen a virtuous woman for lewd purposes there can be no doubt he is a pirate. Tie him up, boys; there’s nothing to hang him from here, you’ll have to make do with our own mizzen.”
Several sailors leaped on Fournier, who was still screaming as they manhandled him none too gently across to the ‘Foam Dancer.’

Madelaine threw herself into Adam’s arms.
“I hope you’re not too disappointed, my lily maid,” said Adam.
“Oh, Adam, I am glad you do not have to carve him up, but I did not want to show fear or any kind of squeamishness, and I wanted to make unhappy,” said Madelaine. “Did you and the captain decide all that between you?”
“It was a scenario we discussed,” said Adam. “I was ready to permit him to redeem his honour through a sword fight.”
“What if he had been any good?”
“My dear Madelaine! I am a Brandon of Darsham; we have martial blood in our veins going back at least to the time of Richard the Lionheart. I also spar regularly with sundry relatives, to help me keep fit, and I take a week or so each year in the city for Angelo to abuse me about any bad habits I may have. I would not have lost against so paltry a fellow; have you not noticed the way he moves? He is slow.”
“He is, and he is still seasick, and I made him sicker,” said Madelaine with satisfaction.
“Now introduce me to our new gardener; I don’t think you will like to watch Fournier being strung up,” said Adam.
“Is ... is it legal? Will there not be trouble?”
“There will be trouble all right, and I will be making it. A strongly worded protest to the French government and a demand to know why a man who has admitted to being no true count was acknowledged as such, and permitted to abduct an English milady. Countries have gone to war for less, though obviously we do not want that!”
“I am no Helen of Sparta,” said Madelaine, with the ghost of a smile. “And the launching of one ship to rescue me will suit me very well.”
“Good. Val is a good planner. You will meet him, presently, but he is presiding over a hanging. And yes, it is legal. Pirates may expect to meet summary justice, and it can be argued that he came to England just to make a raid and take a slave, and returned to his ship. It’s perhaps at the edge of legal, but it is also a judgement call. Val might get his wrist slapped, metaphorically, by the government for precipitate actions. But once he’s hanged, he can’t be brought back. And if he had money or powerful friends which would make the French king care about him, he wouldn’t be after your widow’s portion, would he?”
“So they will ignore the matter?”
“They had better not. I plan to demand heavy reparations for the upset to my wife, and the risk to my succession.”
“Adam, will people say that any child I might have might be his?”
“Not considering that Mrs. Eade and I had both remarked that you were pregnant with my child before you were abducted.”
“I am? How can you know?”
“My dear, you have been delicate in the mornings for a few days, and were queasy the day you were taken. The signs are clear enough.”
“Oh, Adam!” Madelaine’s face lit up. “I am with child?”
“You are, my dear, and it is only the best of luck and G-d’s good will that your privations have not caused you to lose our baby. Have you been very sick on this lumbering hippopotamus of a tub?”
“Oh, no, I was sick once and then I was much better,” said Madelaine.
“Splendid; if you are a good sailor, we might take pleasure trips with Val and his Diana,” said Adam. “Where is my gardener?”
Madelaine quickly introduced Paul Duplessis to Adam, who chatted easily to the man in his own language, and clapped him on the shoulder,
“I owe M. Duplessis a great debt of gratitude,” said Adam. “Now Val is about to explain to the rest of the crew that if they abandon this ship and sign on temporarily with him, he will tow it to port and they will receive a portion of the value of both ship and goods carried. He won’t be signing on Fournier’s servants, of course.”
Duplessis grinned.
The second in command Martin, was inclined to argue.
“If I stay on board, I will get ownership of the ship,” he said.
“And can you afford to have her done up?”asked Val. “If we play it my way, you will have an officer’s share, and I will buy her out and have her made good. She’s a well-found ship, despite her problems, and could be profitable. And I will make you captain, on a share, because I can see your competence from the way you went about sorting out the mess of losing your masts. And you can then bite your thumb at the former captain.”
Martin considered.
“Very well,” he said. “I get my crew back?”
“If you want them,” said Val.
The rowing crew would have their share too, and Grundy and his men. It would not be fabulous wealth, but the salvage would be a welcome extra to all the men. Val planned to give his share to the crew, and gain his increase in wealth in buying his first merchant ship. It might wallow now, but with a clean bottom and new rudder it would do very well indeed.

The Frenchmen were ushered off the ship, and it turned out that Fournier’s valet and coachman were returning to France on another ship, as there was no room for them, so it was only Marie-France to be placed in the brig for being a knowing participant in kidnap. She set up a screech until Val asked her brutally if she wanted to be considered a female pirate to be hung. Marie-France was a survivor, and she sobbed her prettiest sobs, and swore that M. le Comte had told her that Madame La Baronne had come with him willingly as an elopement, and that she knew nothing, but nothing, of any murderous attack.
Val did not believe a word, since she had peeked at him sideways through her lashes to see how appealing her tears were, so he told her to be a good girl, and if a jury believed her story she would be free to return to France.
Marie-France subsided to work on being winsome and appealing, lost in a foreign land and deceived by a villain.

Bates was in charge of the salvaged vessel, with a picked crew, and cables were attached. These also allowed a bosun’s chair to be rigged for Madelaine; Marie-France had been unceremoniously tossed across the gap by one brawny seaman, to be caught by another.
“Oh, please, Adam, I do not like the look of that chair; will you toss me to Edward, if you please?” said Madelaine.
“Are you sure, Elaine?” asked Adam.
“Oh yes! I do not think I can jump it without help, but if you can count me down and toss as I jump, Edward will catch me,” said Madelaine.
Val smiled to himself, thinking that Diana could probably jump it; but Beth might not, so he said nothing in Edward’s hearing either.
With such assistance, Madelaine found herself across the gap and being applauded by the sailors, who appreciated the plucky Brandon women.
The body had been taken down before Madelaine went aboard ‘Foam Dancer’. Val had noticed her looking in some trepidation at the shadowy figure dangling against the sky, and creaking ominously. Val called to get that fellow down as he was using good cordage which was needed. His men understood.
And then it was just up to the ‘Foam Dancer’ to take up a convenient position to tow the ‘Heloise’ off the sand bank. Val wanted it done at high water if possible, or at least at slack water. And if it did not come, then the cargo would be transferred and the hulk left.
The more powerful ‘Foam Dancer’, however, using every stitch of canvas she could carry, might soon be seen to be easing the merchantman off the sand, and the sailors gave a cheer at the first quiver of movement. Slowly, slowly the ship was drawn backwards, the way she had come, and the sand relinquishing its prize as the motion swirled it beneath the ship. And then it was free! The towing cable was transferred to the bows, and Bates and his men continued with the jury rigging which Martin had started so that they might give some propulsion to assist the ‘Foam Dancer’.
What Bates said when he found the slashes in the spare suit of sails is probably best left unrecorded. However, he had them on deck to air and mend as best possible. Bates did not know the meaning of the word ‘waste’. The salvage would be as much as Bates could make it.
It would be inconvenient for the sailors, but Val intended to return Adam and Madelaine to Blytheborough. They had to beat up the coast, but it was still faster and less uncomfortable than having to drive home from Kent.


Madelaine slept through most of the sea journey, clinging to her husband in Val’s great cabin. When she awoke, she told him brokenly all that had occurred.
“He cannot hurt you again,” said Adam grimly. “Though part of me could have wished to have cut him into steaks to feed the lobsters. You are mine, my love, and we shall not be parted again.”
Madelaine was most contented with this promise, and went back to sleep, hardly rousing to be carried to Adam’s carriage, sent for to come to Blytheborough. Once home, in Darsham, Mrs. Eade put her to bed with hot chocolate, and Madelaine relaxed totally.
She was home, in her husband’s bed, and she was going to have his baby!
And when Lydia came running to her the next day, she could truly believe that she was home! The little girl’s soft arms around her neck, as she crooned “Mama! Mama!” into Madelaine’s neck was sweet.
Soon she was up and about again, able to thank Davey Rochester for his aid, and chatting to Duplessis about the bright lilies Adam had bought for her.
The nightmare was over.



Epilogue

Exhausted from giving birth, but totally elated, Madelaine looked down adoringly at her offspring. Outside, prolific blossom promised a good fruit harvest later in the year, and the birds sang enthusiastically to please potential mates. Spring had come to Darsham Hall in more ways than one, despite the many late frosts and frequent dry fogs.
“Edward is going to be pleased,” she said. “He’s been hoping we’d manage a boy.”
“So is Lydia; she wanted a sister,” said Adam.
“And Val is going to clean up having laid money on us having twins,” laughed Madelaine. “We shall have to use both the names we had considered!”
“Indeed, both Peter and Anne.” Adam gazed in wonder at his children. After so many years childless, he now had two at once, as well as Lydia having become a dear daughter.
“I am glad that Gaffer Pirate was named Peter after his sire, and that I told him our son was to be named after him. The vicar told me that he died with a grin on his face, saying that the next baron was to be named after him. I only wish he might have lived to see his namesake.”
“I am sure the Good Lord will permit him to see his little relative,” said Adam. “One hundred and two is a good age. Even for a Brandon.”
Madelaine laughed, a little shakily.
“Well, they seem to know what they are doing about feeding,” she said.
“You are following Mrs. Eade’s advice to feed them for a week before giving them over to a wet-nurse?”
“I always follow Mrs. Eade’s advice, and she’s never failed me yet,” said Madelaine. “Besides, I am here for a month until I am Churched, so why should I not enjoy my babies? I might give them a feed a day until the month is up; there’s something very satisfying about it, you know.”
Adam kissed her tenderly, taking care not to disturb small Peter and Anne.
“As long as Mrs. Eade things it suitable,” he teased her.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

Sarah WaldockJanuary 15, 2018 11:31AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

MayaJanuary 29, 2018 08:15PM

Re: Stoat

Sarah WaldockFebruary 02, 2018 10:21AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

Teresa DouglasJanuary 23, 2018 10:23AM

Re: BS: the next generation

Sarah WaldockJanuary 27, 2018 12:10PM

Re: BS: the next generation

Teresa DouglasJanuary 27, 2018 04:00PM

Re: BS: the next generation

Sarah WaldockJanuary 27, 2018 09:18PM

Re: BS: the next generation

Teresa DouglasJanuary 29, 2018 11:02AM

Re: BS: the next generation and Cousin Prudence

Sarah WaldockFebruary 02, 2018 10:26AM

Re: BS: the next generation

NickiJanuary 27, 2018 11:11PM

Re: more charity school to follow...

Sarah WaldockJanuary 29, 2018 10:20AM

Re: more charity school to follow...

Agnes BeatrixFebruary 02, 2018 08:10PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 22 to end (spoilers)

Agnes BeatrixJanuary 18, 2018 07:17PM

Re: YES....

Sarah WaldockJanuary 27, 2018 12:02PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

AlidaJanuary 16, 2018 07:37AM

Re: I googled 'Swearing in Flemish'

Sarah WaldockJanuary 16, 2018 12:11PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 22 to end

KarenteaJanuary 15, 2018 11:24PM



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