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A doctor’s letters from the front

From her pocket, she withdrew the note he’d left for her with Doctor Bliss. Mrs. McBride had been scrawled across the front. Was this a farewell? He’d kissed her twice and held her while she cried. Did he care for her the way Major Carlton did? Were his parting words a declaration of his affections?

Turning the letter over, she ran her finger across the bumps and ridges of the blue wax seal. The letters C-P framed a larger letter E. She slid her finger under the edge of the paper careful not to break the wax. Drawing a breath, she unfolded the note. A few, nearly illegible lines had been scribbled across the center of the page.

My grandfather is sending a box from his hotel. When it arrives could you care for the contents? I will write again when I better know my situation.

In disbelief she stared at the note. She read it again, just to see if she’d misunderstood the inked lines, curls, and bumps. Did he mean more than he was saying?

No. There was no other way to interpret the handwriting. After working closely for a month, after life and death, tears and kisses, he wanted her to keep a box?

Her fingers tightened, crinkling the sides of the paper. No goodbye, just a box. She lifted her gaze to the river. A breeze carried in the salty scent of the distant ocean over the river where it blended with the smell of  muck and dead fish.

She sighed. A box. At least he hadn’t declared any amorous affections. She certainly did not want that, but a goodbye would have been nice.

For a moment she wondered what kind of note Charles Ellard would pen if he ever fell in love. Would it be as blunt and socially inept? Did he even know the niceties of courtship?

He removed a blank sheet of paper from his stationery box, picked up his pen and held it poised over the paper.

Taking a deep breath, he wrote—

Dear Gracie McBride,

Frowning, he slashed a line straight through the center of the salutation.

My dearest Grace,

No. Another line.

Dear Mrs. Grace McBride,

Line.

My dear Mrs. William McBride,

No.

My dear friend Gracie…

Dear Mrs. McBride,

I trust you received the box from my grandfather. Thank you for keeping it.

Sincerely,

Charles P. Ellard, Capt.

Assistant Surgeon

69th Pennsylvania, Second Division

Gracie turned the paper over. Blank. Then again, why was she surprised? This brief note, obviously written when he was busy, was just like him—quick, to the point, and dismissive. At least now she knew where to write, to reassure him his box of childhood toys was indeed in her possession. And if she included a few anecdotes about life here at Armory Square, that only meant she was being friendly.

Charles pulled a twig from the bundle of fagots, lit the end, then used it to light the candle which stood in its own wax in the center of the hardtack box they used as a table.

He pulled off his muddy boots and stripped down to his shirt and drawers. After a quick wash, he climbed into bed. Using his haversack as his lap desk, he withdrew paper, pen, and ink. He opened the ink, filled his pen, and set the bottle on the hardtack box between the beds. He wanted to write to Gracie but had no idea what to include in the letter. She’d yet to respond to his last missive. Perhaps she was so busy she thought of him only in passing. Perhaps he thought about her more than she thought about him.

He reached behind him to adjust his pillow. The thin straw mattress crunched beneath his shifting weight. Mail was notoriously slow, he reminded himself. Until he knew for certain that she wasn’t receptive to further communication, she might find news of the President’s review of the army exciting. Except Charles hadn’t gone. After all, what was there to see among a hundred and thirty thousand men?

Women enjoyed talk of fashion, but he had no idea what sort of dress Mrs. Lincoln wore or even what kind of pony their little boy rode.

Weather was generally considered an appropriate topic for conversation with a lady, and it had rained today. Rather a lot lately. However, the weather patterns here no doubt encompassed Washington, which was only fifty miles away. Most likely, Gracie was also being rained upon.

She might find it interesting that he and the rest of the medical department had been busy moving the division hospitals to Potomac Creek near the railroad line. However, by the time she received his letter, she would have more than likely receive at Armory Square, many of the sick and disabled of the division.

He pressed the tip of his pen against the blank sheet of paper. So what should he write? That the regimental surgeon and the whole medical department hated him? That he was lonely? That he was terrified he’d suffer another of his spells? Perhaps he should try harder to focus on other things.

Monday past, thirteen thousand cavalry had moved out, off on some sort of mission. Would she worry if he wrote that now they were all under orders to pack their haversacks with eight days’ rations and leave out their clothes?

No, it would be best not to include maudlin sentiments. After all she was mere woman. Talk of impeding battle might tax her emotions. He would keep the tone of his missive bright and happy.

Dear Mrs. McBride,

“A physican, having written out a prescription, enjoined his patient to swallow the whole of it in the morning. The patient understood him literally, swallowed the written prescription, and got well.”

I understand some people might find the patient’s literal interpretation of the physician’s less than specific instruction to be humorous. That the patient also became well, subsequently made the need for the actual medication moot.

I hope you found the brief anecdote to be amusing.

Surg. Chas. P. Ellard, Captain

69th Pennsylvania

A smile tugged at the corners of Gracie’s mouth. While the joke was mildly amusing, it was the endearing awkwardness of his explanation and his strange need to share it with her that warmed her heart.

She gave her head a shake then refolded the letter and tucked it carefully into one of the inside pockets of her carpet bag.

A Place In Your Heart:

Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.

Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.

But, Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.

Excerpt, rated G

“No. I want you to go home before the death of that ten-year-old boy becomes so ordinary that one day you wake up and realize you no longer have the ability to feel.”

She squared her shoulders and stepped toward him. “Me own husband was a doctor, sir. I’ve birthed babies and stitched wounds. I stood by William’s side during surgeries and passed him instruments. I helped him clean the intestines of a man gored by a bull, before putting it all back inside that man’s belly. Me delicate sensibilities did not send me into a swoon then nor will they here. I thank ye for yer concern, Doctor Ellard, but ’tis who I am. And by the saints, as long as I have breath in me body, I will feel, and I will care.”

Their gazes locked in that moment and something flickered in his icy depths, overshadowing his usual cynicism with what she suspected might be admiration. The harsh lines of his face softened.

“Saint Jude must indeed be watching over you, Mrs. McBride.”

“That he is, Doctor Ellard, that he is.”

He gave her a brisk nod and opened the door. “You’re not going home then, are you?”

She turned. “Ye know us Irish, Doctor Ellard. We don’t know what we want, but we’ll fight to the death to get it.”

A Place In Your Heart is available at Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Place-Your-Heart-Kathy-Otten-ebook/dp/B07CKYZ61M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1528925171&sr=1-1&keywords=Kathy+Otten

Meet Kathy Otten:

Kathy Otten is the published author of multiple historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories. She is also published in contemporary romance and historical fiction. She is a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner and Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. A Place In Your Heart is her fourth full-length novel. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary young adult novel.

She teaches fiction writing online and at a local adult education center, and is a regular presenter at area events. Kathy also does manuscript assessments and editing. She lives in the rolling farmland of western New York where she can often be found walking her dog through the woods and fields. She has been married for thirty-four years and is the mother of three grown children and one grandson.

Kathy can be contacted at kathy@kathyotten.com

Web site https://www.kathyottenauthor.com

Face Book www.facebook.com/kathyottenauthor.com

Could you wow the Teatime Tattler audience? Contact us if you think you can.

“But how did this happen?” Sam asks. “Again!” The Wednesday article has failed to arrive, and Sam Clemens is not happy. “I blame Mrs. Knight,” he grumbled. “She didn’t send out a reminder. But still, people are usually excellent at remembering for themselves.”

“Look!” he declares, waving at the old editions of the Teatime Tattler scattered across his desk. “People love it. Have you seen the numbers of readers for these posts? We regularly have over a thousand views a month. And we have fans; people who say they read the Teatime Tattler twice a week, as soon as the edition comes out. We have bookings through to Christmas.”

“But,” he frowns sternly at the gathered staff members: printers, correspondents, ink boys, paper sellers, “we still have gaps. Get out there, and find us more authors who want to write for the Teatime Tattler. Great articles like the ones here.”

Read the high-performing articles below to find out what Sam loves to see in the Teatime Tattler, or sign up to write your own, and to advertise your book (new or one from your backlist).

The Mistress and the WifeThe Soldier’s Return, by Laura Libritz

A base-born son, a hasty marriageThe Bastard’s Iberian Bride, by Alina K. Field

Mrs Bingham tries againThe Rake and His Honour, by Beth Elliott

Be Careful What You Ask a Hero — Only a Hero Will Do, by Alanna Lucas

Duke in Disguise — To Dodge a Duke, by Naomi Bloom

Overheard at the Courtesan’s Ball — The Pleasure House Ball, by Suzi Love

Heir to Textile Empire Journeys West — But Why?

In a shocking turn of events, we have discovered that the young heir to the Gardiner textile empire has departed London on a ship bound to parts far distant, and in the company of a man thought to be an agent of the King!

Yes, if reports are to be believed, it is true. Whilst most of the Ton would not socialize with the merchant-class Gardiners, their influence in London’s society cannot be neglected, for they dress the elite, and whatever fine fabrics Gardiner brings into his warehouses are sure to be the latest fashion amongst those who set the mode for the coming season.  Not a duke or earl in Town has not been seen gracing the showrooms at Gardiner’s warehouse, choosing the finest cloth England has to offer for his wife, daughter, or unnamed female companion.

But now, our sources reveal, young Edward Gardiner has absconded with little warning on a ship bound for the colonies, a ship owned by none other than George Darcy, whose influence is felt at the highest levels of Society.  Furthermore, Gardiner was reportedly joined by a gentleman whose name we dare not print, but who has been known to be part of His Majesty’s intimate circle, and who has been rumoured to be in possession of the King’s confidence—and perhaps employ—for matters clandestine and of importance to the Realm.

The questions this unlikely happening raises are many. Does this sudden departure have anything to do with a near-fatal accident in the vicinity of Gardiner Warehouses just last week? Is it related at all to the recent disappearance of Gardiner’s young assistant, whose mathematical prowess has tongues wagging across London? Or to the fate of a young lady from the north whose name has been whispered in the same breath as Gardiners? Or is there any connection with the rumours that this same lady’s brother, long thought missing, has been found in Nova Scotia—the exact destination of Darcy’s ship?

One matter is certain, however: the Gardiners might be deemed below the Ton in terms of social standing and place in life, but they keep company many of their betters would fall over themselves to enjoy. Perhaps there is more to the Gardiners’ empire than mere fabric!

 

Excerpt from The Assistant

Sherrington now stood and moved to look out the window. “My local informants tell me that a ship left London’s harbour this morning, bound for the colonies. If Grant hoped to send any directives, they would be in a letter on that ship.” Edward jerked upright and staggered to the fireplace. Sherrington still spoke. “My informants tell me further that a young lad begged passage on that ship moments before it sailed. This young lad matched the description of your assistant.”

Now Edward had stopped all motion and was staring at Sherrington, scarcely able to breathe. “You don’t mean—?” he began.

The older man nodded. “Yes, I do. It seems, in all likelihood, that your brave young assistant has taken it upon himself to gallivant off to the wilds of Nova Scotia to rescue his friend.”

James Gardiner now addressed his friend. “Jeremiah, what can this mean? Would the boy really do such a thing? He did not seem the adventurous sort.”

“Perhaps not, James, or not under normal circumstances. But recollect: people will go to great lengths to protect those they love. I recall, just this morning, a certain young man willing to sell his soul to protect the woman he loves.”

Edward blushed, desperately hoping his father’s eyes were directed elsewhere. When he felt himself able to speak steadily, he ventured to ask, “And what of Miss Grant? Did she travel with him?”

“That I cannot ascertain. My informants did not hear talk of a lady, but she may have gone on ahead, or come later. There were, perhaps a few too many trunks for a lone youth, but more than that I cannot say.”

“So what are we able to do? What are our choices? Certainly we must act!”

“Yes, we must. And act we shall. My friend Darcy—you must have heard me speak of him, have you not, James? Big landowner up in Derbyshire—has interest in a ship leaving next week, taking farmers and tea and hoping to bring back timber and furs. There can be a cabin available if you wish it.”

“What?” Edward had not expected this. “Return to Nova Scotia? I never believed I would make that journey again.”

“Do you not wish it? The ship is destined for Saint John, in New Brunswick, but will stop in at Halifax Harbour to let you off. Darcy is a powerful man and can make this so.”

Both Gardiners stared at him. It was James who eventually spoke. “By gum, that’s quite the claim. Do you know what that extra port of call would cost?”

“Yes, James. But it’s Darcy’s ship, and as Edward knows, he is as eager to see an end to Grant’s machinations as any of us. Are you in, son?”

Edward looked to his father for some sort of response, not certain whether he was hoping for permission or denial. Sherrington nodded once, and James turned to Edward. “Go. Go and save your young woman.”

“Thank you. Both of you,” Edward stated as he turned to leave the room. Before he moved through the doorway, however, Sherrington proclaimed, “I shall make the arrangements and call for you at first light on Monday of next week. If the ship’s planned departure changes, I will let you know. I have long since wished to see Halifax.”

“You… you are coming as well?” Edward turned in the door and gaped at his friend.

Sherrington smiled. “This is an adventure I would not miss for the world!” Then, “James, I would love a game of chess and cup of tea. Might that be arranged?”

The Assistant

A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart? Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

About the Author

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

Links

Universal book link: https://www.books2read.com/theassistant

If you want store-specific links for Amazon, they are as follows.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Assistant-Before-Pride-Prejudice-ebook/dp/B07B3NFMQ4
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Assistant-Before-Pride-Prejudice-ebook/dp/B07B3NFMQ4
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Assistant-Before-Pride-Prejudice-ebook/dp/B07B3NFMQ4/

Social Media Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RianaEverly
Website – https://rianaeverly.com/
Twitter – @RianaEverly

Castle Stirred by Masquerade Mystery

Tongues have been flapping at the castle all morning. All because of what happened at the masked ball last night. Of course everyone has their version of how events unfolded, but they are all in agreement about one thing.

It all started with the appearance of the mystery woman in a stunning blue velvet gown bordering on scandalous. She got everyone’s attention. Even handsome Sir Griffin, the man who only attended Lord John’s galas because he was seneschal.

You can imagine the surprise when he asked her to dance. Evidently, Lady Mierla’s reaction was priceless. Everyone said she was furious. Fit to be tied. Some even compared her to a fire-eating dragon.

No surprise. She’s been trying to get her hooks into Sir Griffin for ages. Will not take no for an answer. But there’s telling what might have happened if it hadn’t been for the screams.

When we get to this part of the story, everyone starts glancing over their shoulders and crossing themselves. A common occurrence for folks around here whenever speaking of the supernatural. They lower their voices to a whisper and continue.

It seems that Mawde Paisley, the cook at the castle for many years, was startled by someone on her way from the kitchen. The spitting image of Lord John’s son, Trevin. A man who’d been dead for years. Nothing like an uninvited guest to bring the party to an untimely end. Especially when it’s a ghost.

The castle was searched from top to bottom, and guests were not permitted to leave until everyone was questioned. In all the excitement, the mystery lady disappeared. Into thin air.

But I know a little secret. She’s still at the castle. She never left.

Not Long Ago

Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times–somewhere around 600 years.

Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something is not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. However, Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.

Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as a squire for Sir Griffin.  She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Only she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.

Excerpt

I’ve chosen this passage to post because I wanted everyone to see Not Long Ago is not just about time travel, nor is it just a love story between two very different people.  I tried to make it an adventure that will take the reader to another time and allow them to experience life there as seen through the main character’s eyes.  This part was an especially emotional scene for me to write.  I attempted to portray some of the emotions each of us experience when we’re faced with losing someone we care about, whether it be father, mentor or friend.  

Late the next day, everyone gathered on the banks of the river under a clear sky. On a hill above us, archers waited. Beside them men-at-arms from the castle stood at attention. Clustered below were the castle servants and townspeople. Lady Isobeil, Lady Gwyneth and Kat positioned themselves on opposite sides of Lord John, as far away from each other as possible. He stood at one end of a long, shallow wooden boat filled with brush. Sir Maldwyn’s body had been wrapped in linen and placed inside, his belongings next to him. Water lapped against the boat, a strangely calming sound.

The pain on Sir Griffin’s face was almost more than I could bear. He clenched his jaw and gripped the hilt of his sword until I thought it would break. Faces stoic, the other knights huddled together with their squires. No doubt each of them remembered Sir Maldwyn in his own way.

After all, he’d been in service at the castle long enough to train most of the knights when they were still squires. I thought of my parent’s death and the emptiness I felt knowing I’d never see them again. People everywhere stared at the ground, trying to hold back tears.

All except for Deroc. I can think of nothing more poignant than the sight of him standing over his father’s body while tears ran down his face. Over and over, the boy repeated the same words. “I am sorry Father, I am so sorry.” The overbearing bully who confronted me in the paddock had vanished. All that remained was a pitiful little boy, one who mourned a relationship with his father he’d never had, and now, one he would never experience.

Sir Maldwyn’s body lay on the funeral pyre, in the custom of the Vikings, while Father Alford conducted the service in Latin in a calm and soothing monotone, appearing completely undisturbed by all the pagan customs surrounding him. When he said his last amen, Lord John nodded at Sir Griffin. He began to ease the boat into the water. When it resisted, first Sir Edevane and then the other knights joined him. Together, they gave one last push, and the boat floated free.

Sir Sion remained on the bank, alone in his guilt. He didn’t join the rest, likely because he knew they held him responsible for Sir Maldwyn’s death. Sir Sion’s decision made in haste and in anger had ended someone’s life. No wonder he couldn’t bear to meet anyone’s eyes.

When the boat reached the middle of the river, each archer touched his arrow to flame, notched and loosed it. Their arrows arched upwards in perfect unison, only losing sight of them when they passed between us and the setting sun, briefly dazzling our eyes. In the fading light of day, they struck the raft holding Sir Maldwyn’s body like driving rain. Flames shot high into the air and swallowed up everything. Sir Maldwyn was making his journey home to Valhalla in the manner he had wanted. Not a sound could be heard among those of us watching from the banks, except for Deroc’s quiet sobbing. A north wind began to blow, and I thought I heard a faint noise. Somehow, the wind seemed to bring with it the echo of horns in the far distance. I know it couldn’t have been so, but it sounded as though those ancestors who’d gone before him were welcoming a fellow warrior home.

 

Meet Susan Royal

Susan A. Royal takes her readers on adventures to other worlds where anything can happen and frequently does. She shares a 100 year old house in east Texas with a ghost who likes to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar. She writes SciFi/Fantasy with action, adventure and liberal doses of romance. She is currently working on the third in her time travel series, It’s About Time. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N. Want to know more? Visit susanaroyal.wordpress.com or susanaroyal.com for a peek inside this writer’s mind. You never know what you might discover.

Too Spirited to Wed?

Dear Readers,

Word has reached us this morning of a possible rift in the happy march toward marital bliss that we recently reported on between Lord M. of B-upon-Sea and the young and beautiful Miss T.

The difficulty, we are told, arose during an evening soiree at the home of Miss T. Tuesday last, when Lord M. recounted watching the execution of the Cato Street Conspirators outside the Old Bailey. The event was not attended by any of the ladies at the soiree, but a degree of interest was expressed in hearing Lord M.’s account of the hangings and subsequent beheadings of the notorious traitors. Lord M. provided a most colourful recital, we are told, and initially failed to observe some agitation on the behalf of his betrothed. When her discomfort did reach his notice, the couple removed themselves to the rear of the salon and held a heated exchange over a table of fancy cakes and sandwiches.

To the surprise of Lord M., Miss T. revealed an interest in politics and current events, that had hitherto been hidden from him. In a heated whisper, she expressed an aversion toward public executions in general and reservations about the efficacy of our court system, with particular regard to the evidence required in treason proceedings. Lord M., we can confidently report, was quite astonished. Our informant tells us that he left Miss T.’s side shortly thereafter and, with only a brisk farewell to the young lady’s mother, hurried away.

At this time we can only speculate on the cause for Miss T.’s unusual outburst. Although not a family of standing on a par with Lord M.’s lineage, the T. family has a long and respected history within the City of London, going back through several generations. One of Miss T.’s most noted forebears, it is true, was very much involved in the pursuit of justice in the case of the Popish Plot in the late 1600’s and it is said that this gentleman and his wife did great service to the country, at no little cost to themselves.

We are left to wonder, then, what strength of spirit and independence has passed down through the family to Miss T. and, most importantly, whether Lord M. is looking for such spirit in his future wife.

Expect further updates in due course.

The Road to Newgate

London 1678. Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real.

Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.

When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.

Excerpt

London, 1678

1 Nathaniel Thompson

“All the world has been to the Bartholomew Fair! What do you mean you’ve never been here?”

“What do you suppose I mean?” Anne says, arching two fine, black brush strokes – eyebrows in a more commonplace face.

It is a genuine surprise. My wife has lived all her life in London. I’m astonished that she has never experienced one of the most famous attractions in the city.

“Well, look about you, Nathaniel,” she says, tucking her arm back into mine. “It is not exactly genteel. Why did you think I was so keen to come?”

She smiles, a dimple playing in her cheek, but I suppress a groan. Of course, her family would not have stooped to visit such a place. Various choice answers spring to mind, but I wind my fingers in hers and hold my tongue. This is our holiday; not to be spoiled by awkward thoughts of Anne’s relations. Instead, I kiss her smooth dark hair.

She is right about the fair. It is a storm of activity, and much of it far from decorous. Thankfully, we’re here in the late afternoon, not the evening, but even so, there are few families present. Instead, the fair attracts courting couples, scrubby urchins chasing rats, and saucy girls up for a lark during a few hours excused from sewing work or service. Working men, their bellies warm with ale, crowd around stalls to trade insults and roar out wagers. We pass a trio of buxom dames, glorious to behold in citrus satin stripes and sweating under their wigs. One drops her purse and bends to retrieve it. When she stands, we are treated to the sight of her ample flesh escaping the confines of her corset. Her friends squeal and point as Anne clutches my arm. She has to dip her head to hide her laughter.

After that, we take our time strolling past stalls selling lucky charms, playing cards, fans, dice, snuff boxes, trinkets, all manner of things. My wife is entranced. She stops to pick up goods, quizzes traders on their prices, gasps at a troupe of acrobats, and teases me to win her a prize. I keep a firm hand on my purse and an eye out for any pocket-pickers, otherwise content to watch her enjoy it all.

We have been married for just over four months. Without taking anything away from my love for Anne, I will admit that married life is rather trying. When contemplating the changes that matrimony would involve, I failed to anticipate that the wonderful physical freedom to be with her all night long would also impact on my comings and goings during daylight hours. Perhaps I came to this marriage business a little late. I was more set in my ways and routines than I knew.

At any rate, I am thirty and she is ten years younger. Anne has a young witch’s smile, silken skin, and bright, challenging eyes. I saw her and wanted her. I let go years of cautious bachelorhood and sneaked Anne to the altar when her family was not looking. It goes without saying that I have never been happier. But I’m a busy man, and while she does not complain, I’ve this curious guilt – an unaccustomed itch of responsibility, you might say – when I think about her sitting quietly at home when I am at work. After a neglectful week when I’d been out in Sam’s Coffee House until the small hours and quartered in my office above Henry’s print shop as soon as light broke each morning, I promised her this outing.

Kate Braithwaite

Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

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