Authors: Lee Rowan
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Regency, #Gay, #Military
Linden Bay Romance, LLC
Copyright ©2006 by JM Linder
First published in www.lindenbayromance.com, 2006
TRILOGY NO. 109: SAIL AWAY
Published by Linden Bay Romance, 2006
Linden Bay Romance, LLC, U.S.
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Copyright © J.M. LINDNER, 2006
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The work is protected by copyright and should not be copied without permission. Linden Bay Romance, LLC reserves all rights. Re-use or re-distribution of any and all materials is prohibited under law.
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events or locales is coincidental.
Cover art by Beverly Maxwell
"Here you go, my dear,” Edward Lancaster delivered his daughter to the milliner's shop as though she had never seen the place before. “Two bonnets of sturdy stuff—you know best on that account—and a good warm cape with a hood and fur lining. Nova Scotia is very far north, you know!"
"Yes, Papa, I know.” She wondered if this was how her deceased mother had felt when Mr. Lancaster announced that the family was leaving their comfortable home in Southampton and taking ship for America. Did he really think a new bonnet would console her for the loss of all that she must leave behind?
"Will half an hour be time enough for you?"
"Indeed it will, sir. Thank you.” Cynthia Lancaster escaped into the warmth of the milliner's and exchanged a distracted greeting with Mistress Bracegirdle, the proprietress. “Something for the vast frozen reaches, if you please."
"Oh, my dear girl—is he truly set on leaving Trenton, then?"
"It seems so.” Cynthia sighed. “When my father makes up his mind, it's no good wishing otherwise. Do you have anything to flatter this silly moon-face?"
"Miss Lancaster, you would not speak so meanly of yourself if you saw how sad some girls look in a bonnet. Narrow-faced as a bony pony.” Comfortably plump herself, Mrs. Bracegirdle truly pitied the less generously endowed. “And you have such a fine complexion. I believe there is a grey wool that would be just lovely with your eyes!"
Cynthia took the well-meaning compliments with a grain of salt. She did have a good complexion, and though her eyes were of a nondescript blue-grey, her vision was clear and keen. But Cynthia had no illusions about her own beauty. Her face was round, her skin soft and rosy, her hair long, thick, and golden—but like her elder brother, she more closely resembled her sturdy John Bull of a father than her angelically beautiful mother. The long straight nose that had looked so elegant on her mother's face was out of place on her own. All the beauty in the family had gone to her youngest brother Geoffrey, and her only consolation for that was that he was apparently unaware of his own attractiveness.
Mrs. Bracegirdle bustled out of the back room of her shop. “Here you are. Now, isn't that fine? Very neat and ladylike, I'm sure. And I have a bit of black lambswool that will make it snug as ever you could wish, even in the wilds of Nova Scotia."
"Thank you, that will suit me exactly.” It really would; the fabric was a cool blue-grey, much better for her coloring than a warmer shade. “My father would like me to have something with a hood, as well—a cape, perhaps, short enough to fall clear of mud and snow."
"Oh, my. It makes me shiver just to think of it.” And shiver she did, though the September weather had not yet brought a frost. “Still, it is handsome of your father to be sure you have warm clothing! Many men would never think of it."
"He enjoyed buying beautiful things for my mother. He is very generous,” Cynthia admitted. “Though I would forgo a hundred bonnets if only I did not have to leave!"
"And you have only been here for a few years,” Mrs. Bracegirdle said regretfully. “I suppose it seems a long time to you."
"Nine years,” she said. “I was nearly eleven when we left England. I believe my father enjoys new beginnings much more than I do myself."
"I had hoped to make your wedding dress,” Mrs. Bracegirdle said. “Mrs. Humboldt hinted, when I last saw her, that you and her son Evelyn...” A mistress of suggestive pauses, Mrs. B let the sentence trail off, obviously hoping for some further information.
Cynthia chose her words carefully. Mrs. B was a font of information for every woman who visited her shop, which meant that anything uttered to her might as well be posted on a hand-bill. “My father has suggested that young Mr. Humboldt might be a good choice for me,” she said. “Very good for the family business, too, since he already works for Father."
"He's a solid lad, I must say."
"Yes, he is that,” Cynthia said honestly. She refrained from adding that a plank table was solid, too, and considerably more interesting. Evelyn was a good man, sober and hard-working, and he would make some lucky young woman a fine husband. However, Cynthia did not intend to be that young woman.
A streak of mischief tempted her. “I do wonder if my father has ever noticed how much Mrs. Humboldt seems to admire him. It must be difficult for her, being a widow with her only son a man grown. I think she and my father would suit one another.” They really would; Evelyn was more like her father than her brother Geoffrey was, and Mrs. Humboldt did get cow-eyed every time Cynthia's father was nearby.
She must give that some thought in the little time she had left. A bit of match-making might bring Evelyn into the family firm in a way that would leave all of them much happier.
"You could be right, my dear. I had not thought of it, but Mrs. Humboldt did say how much she would enjoy having the two families joined in marriage. I'm sure I could produce whatever you might need if you were to have a double wedding.” She turned to a cedar-chest and took out a roll of heavy fabric, dark blue but with a lighter thread woven through it, something that would not show every speck of dust. “This would do for the cape, I believe. Wedding-clothes might require a special order, unless your father's ship is bringing finer stuff."
"I—” She stopped herself from saying “I shouldn't be surprised.” It would be just like her father to order a wedding-dress made up for her, assuming that she would placidly consent to his choice of bridegroom. “I hardly think so,” Cynthia said finally. “Since no one has proposed to anyone as yet, this is all idle speculation.” She felt the soft folds of the new material. “Oh, yes! If this were lined, it would be wonderfully warm. And what a lovely blue! You have such excellent taste, Mrs. B—I shall miss your shop particularly."
"When will you need these finished?” Mrs. Bracegirdle asked. She was a seamstress as well as a hat-maker, and was training up her two daughters in the crafts. When the three of them worked in concert, they could perform miracles of speed. “Surely you will stay until spring?"
"I fear not. We are to be out by the end of the month. My father wishes to remove before winter locks us in or out. I have never been so far north as Nova Scotia, though they do say the climate in the Maritimes is much like what we know here."
"Thank heavens your brother has gone on ahead so you are sure of a place to live!"
"Yes, I suppose that is fortunate.” Winston had established the family import business in Nova Scotia a year earlier, as more Loyalist families began sensing that the colonies of New England were becoming so divided in their feelings as to make life quite unpleasant for those who simply wanted to get on with their lives. He had written that the warehouse was full of furs, just waiting for the ship to take them back to England. He had joined the Loyalist Society as well, and stood ready (he said) to repel any colonial Patriots who dared venture north.
But if Winston was an unquestioning Loyalist, her younger brother had all the earmarks of a Patriot. When her father announced that they were going to remove from the New England colonies, there had been harsh words between them—and by the next morning, Geoffrey had packed a few things and disappeared. That had been a week ago, and Cynthia had received no word from him.
She finished her business with Mrs. Bracegirdle, ordering a second bonnet in a lighter grey with a bit of ribbon for trim. For lining, she asked only for linen—surely there was some sort of summer, even in Nova Scotia!
Homesickness for England overwhelmed her as she left the shop, a pang worse than any she had felt since her mother's death.
Oh, Papa, if America is so dangerous, why can we not return to England?
She glanced up the street and saw her father striding toward her, his hat pulled down over his ears and his shoulders slightly hunched. Two younger men were walking on either side of him; she could hear the loud tone of their voices but not the words. “Papa!"
She vaguely recognized the two men as folk she'd seen in town from time to time; they hesitated as she approached, but as she took her father's arm and fell into step, one of them resumed his argument. “How can you side with the Crown? Your own son fought beside me against the French, you quartered troops as I did—and now Parliament says we slacked off on pulling our weight and must pay more. You know that to be untrue! Can the money you take from us make you deaf to that injustice?"
"His Majesty does not answer to me, sir! Nor to you!” Lancaster set Cynthia carefully to one side. “Your speech is traitorous—"
"You call us traitors! With your ships coming in with tea covered in exorbitant taxes? And what can you say in defense of the Stamp Act? If His Majesty thought half as much of his colonies as he does his East India Company, we'd not be paying once for tea and twice for the India Company's bad management!"
The second man began shouting before the first had finished, and her father shouted back. He even began brandishing his stick, a sure sign of trouble. Cynthia looked around for aid. Although a few people were in earshot, it seemed no one wanted to get involved in the argument. She did not think the men would come to blows, but her father was no longer young and such conflict could not be good for his heart.
"Sir—” She reached for the coatsleeve of one of the young Patriots. He shook her off impatiently, with such force that she stumbled backward and would have fallen if not for a pair of strong hands that caught her elbows and gently set her upright.
"Excuse me,” said a deep voice just above her head. “If you gentlemen are anxious for an affray, I would be happy to oblige either or both of you."
The two Patriots left off haranguing her father and looked up, startled. “Ah, so the Army is not enough?” one snarled at Lancaster. Then they both stalked off, and Cynthia's rescuer did not pursue them.
"Are you all right, Papa?"
"Of course, my dear.” Lancaster raised his hat from his head and held his hand out to the new arrival. “Edward Lancaster, sir. I appreciate your intervention, though I was in no real danger."
"I'm pleased to hear it, sir. I had just left your office and was coming in search of you. Commander Paul Andrew Smith, at your service."
"Commander! I have been expecting you, sir! Is your ship at Sandy Hook, then?"
"Not yet; I will be informed when it arrives."
Cynthia had restrained her curiosity with both hands, but since the gentleman was engaged in the courtesies with her father, she could at least get a look at him. Commander Smith stood well over six feet tall in his blue naval uniform. His dark brown hair, brushed into a neat queue, topped a broad, intelligent forehead that continued down into strong features and a pair of brown eyes as dark and shining as his hair. His manner and bearing radiated masculine vitality. Cynthia gave her father's arm a quick squeeze to remind him of his social duties.
"Ah, Commander, I forget myself. May I present my daughter Cynthia?"
She curtseyed. Smith removed his hat and bowed. “I am honored, Miss Lancaster."
"Thank you for your timely arrival, sir.” Cynthia met his eyes and felt dizzy; she had to look down before she lost her balance. Whatever was happening to her?
"It was my pleasure."
"We were just on the way home, sir,” Lancaster said, oblivious to his daughter's confusion. “We shall dine soon. Would you care to join us at table?"
"I would, thank you.” As they proceeded along the walk, Smith conversed with Cynthia's father on the plan to move his family. The Commander revealed that he had just been promoted to his present rank (for which they both congratulated him) and given his first command—a sixteen-gun sloop that would be one of the vessels sent along to guard the convoy to Nova Scotia, which would include Lancaster's cargo ship
The reason Smith was here, not out in the harbor at Sandy Hook, was that his sloop was still en route from Quebec. “I suspect if the
commander knew a brig lies waiting for him,” Smith said, “he would have been here by now."