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Local Thief Spots Apparition

Your humble correspondent, journalist for The Teatime Tattler, begs leave to draw notice to Mr. Algernon Cuffy, sometime resident of St. James’s Square, as he describes an alarming encounter with a strange apparition on the night of London’s latest fog.

apparition
Pissarro, Place du Theatre, 1897

“I’m a thief. Write that down, plain and simple. Poverty might have driven some other poor blighters to a life on the hop but I have, you might say, a natural bent.”

Though a bit of a Renaissance man in all the arts of financial misappropriation, Mr. Cuffy likes housebreaking the most.

“Pickpocketing is for children and women—pathetic types who can look sorrowful like Mother Mary or an orphaned lamb. But I got this here,” he said, tracing a finger down a four inch scar running to his left ear, part of which was missing. “Don’t look harmless enough for work at close quarters, now, do I? Anyone with any brains would know to steer clear of me.”

Your humble correspondent backed away as he continued.

“An’ then there’s highway robbery. You’ve got travel and horse fairs and boxing mills and lonely moors—all well and good,” he said, detailing his interests. “But you’d be surprised how few coves are worth getting hung for.”

Your humble correspondent could not but agree.

“The night in question—” your correspondent began, hopeful that Mr. Cuffy would return to ghosts and spirits.

“There’s an art to housebreaking,” Mr. Cuffy continued, warming to his subject. “Liking the name of a street, following a likely looking coach home to its roost… Best to stay clear of the poshest squares. That night, conditions were perfect,” he said, tugging his cap on.

Your humble correspondent dared a question and he obliged with an answer.

“Dark. Dark as coal. An’ fog like soup. I was on the damp roof tiles of Lord Fox’s establishment—”

Readers will imagine an elegant white house in the Georgian style.

“—full to the gills with lacquered snuff boxes and jeweled tie pins, and like most bachelor’s quarters, lax about the housekeeping. I was preparing to ease myself into the empty bedroom of the recently dismissed second footman. That’s when I saw her.”

“What?” your correspondent exclaimed. 

“Pretty young thing. Loose hair, white dress. I dashed near dropped forty feet to the pavement when she rose up out of mist. I could see clear as day that she wasn’t a ghost.”

“She must have been a ghost,” I insisted. “People do not fly.”

Apparition
Russolo, The Solidity of Fog. 1912

“She wasn’t flying,” Mr. Cuffy said, his look quite insulting to the junior correspondent of London’s seventh most popular daily newspaper. “Just sort of floated for a while. Took a good look towards Westminster on the river and another over towards St. Paul’s.”

“And then?” I asked, scribbling hastily.

“Then there was a shout from below and she disappeared into the fog again.”

“Where you drunk?” I asked.

Mr. Cuffy gave no proper answer but resorted to his fists. Thus concluded our interview.

About the Book: Her Caprice

A MOST PRIVATE BATTLE

Since Beatrice Thornton was 13 years old she’s been living with a secret that could ruin her family forever. Her parents are the only ones who know, and now, seven years later, they are forced to put on a sham for Beatrice’s late first Season. The plan, make Beatrice as mousy and ill-clothed as possible so no suitor would consider her. Then they can all escape back to their country home in Dorset to keep the terrible secret safe. But the unthinkable happens… Beatrice meets a man who gives her hope of a normal life, and Beatrice dares to love with horrible consequences.

Captain Henry Gracechurch has resigned his commission after living through the horrors and waste of war. Recently returned from Spain, he is cajoled by his formidable godmother to make an appearance at one of her famous balls. When he sees a young woman abandoned on the dance floor, honour commands him to save the day. Nothing could have prepared him for meeting the person who is a balm to his soul and gives wings to his heart. But winning Beatrice Thornton will take every ounce of courage he has, and this is a war he will win, no matter the cost.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07N9B81QR

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130437723?ean=2940155962496

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/920856

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/her-caprice

Her Caprice, Excerpt:

Beatrice was left alone to take in the whole scene. It was familiar to her, in a way. She had seen illustrations of balloons before, studied them closely from books and newspapers. The flying machine could do what she did, and yet there were reasons for it, purposes, a whole science, explanations of the mechanics.

“It’s magical,” a deep voice intoned at her side. She looked up to find Henry standing next to her as if he had always been there. Beatrice felt the solid ground she stood on almost melt away.

Quarry stone, the involuntary thought flitted through her mind, and she blinked, feeling herself grow heavy and pressed more firmly into the grass. That was strange. It was not as though she had been about to float away at the mere sight of him in the middle of a bustling London crowd. What a silly thing to think. She shook her head and met his eyes.

There was the usual delight she felt each time she saw him that sent her insides spinning, but it was tempered by the knowledge that he had not called. It was the merest chance that brought him here.

“It’s not magic,” she retorted, swallowing deeply. Six days since she’d last seen him. He had no right to look like he hadn’t been wasting away. Drat. “It’s hydrogen. The gas is produced when sulphuric acid is poured over scrap iron. How did you happen across me in this crowd?” she asked, thankful for the cool morning air, which would be a plausible reason for her pink cheeks.

“Magic,” he asserted, offering her an arm, which she took. He did not lead her anywhere but stood, gazing up at the activity on the rise. “Have you been busy these past days?”

Busy? She felt the shame of returning home each afternoon, her eyes hungry for some sign that he had come. “This and that,” she answered, hoping with all her heart that her tone conveyed a calendar too full for waiting and longing.

He looked down at her. “You’ve not been at home,” he stated.

It wasn’t a question. The damp ground at the bottom of the hill began to seep through her slippers, but she would not move for anything. “No. My mother had a sudden enthusiasm to see everything in Town. I am not sure the carriage horses can take much more. You?”

“I passed your door, hoping that—”

“You called?” The surprise of it made her yelp.

“I said I would.”

Beatrice looked up at him. “You left no sign,” she stated while feeling great relief. Forgetting to leave a card—it was endearing, though it had cost her the enjoyment of racing through the maze at Hampton Court, of savouring the ice at Gunter’s.

His head cocked to the side and his brows came down. “But I—” And then his lips shut into a firm line.

Beatrice waited for him to finish and then, finally, when it was clear he would say no more, the wheels in her mind began to turn. She looked up the hill again to where the balloonist had given Penny a small parcel, some silk fabric full of hydrogen. Her sister let it go and, as it drifted up and up, it moved in easy state, tossed lightly by sudden currents of wind. The crowd let out a great cheer, and in that clamour, Beatrice whispered, “You did leave a card, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

Penny waved to her as she dashed down the hill and away toward the carriage.

Beatrice lowered her brows. She might have missed the card in her meticulous search of the entry hall, when she had turned each paper over and over, upending the tray and running her fingers along the back of the table, and then closely questioned the townhouse staff. It would not be so amazing if she lost— “Just the one?”

“One each time I visited.”

“Each? What do you mean? How many times was it?” she asked, her words tripping over themselves.

His look was keen. “Seven,” he answered and then his mouth lifted. “I’m almost out of cards.”

She answered quickly. “But it’s been six days.”

“Exactly six? Has it?” he asked, his eyes narrowing like a cat on the trail of a limping mouse. “How clever you are to know the precise number. I came twice on Wednesday.”

Beatrice put a hand to her pelisse, fastening and unfastening the button. Seven cards. Seven messages scrawled on the back. Seven times he had come. Seven times. She couldn’t let the number go. A girl might have her head turned by a thing like that.

Henry didn’t say another word, and merely waited for her to work it out—though the way his eyes studied her face wasn’t helping her concentration at all. It set her blood to warming and her mind to wondering if the world really would come crashing to an end if she leaned up on her tiptoes and kissed him on those firm lips.

About the Author

Keira Dominguez graduated from BYU with a B.A. in Humanities and lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. When she is not busy avoiding volunteerism at her kids’ schools like it is the literal plague, she writes sweet romance novels.

https://www.keiradominguez.com/

Doings Near Hadrian’s Wall

A report from the Vindolanda excavations.

Dear Mr. Clemens,

I trust that you remember me from your visit to Hadrian’s Wall last summer. You expressed much interest in the diggings, and despite the severe cold you caught (t’was but a summer squall) invited me to share updates on the excavations. I do so with great delight, we have uncovered many items that in combination, allow us to paint a vivid picture of a time lost to us for two thousand years.

Vindolanda discoveries

The site of Vindolanda is a treasure of ancient artefacts. The site conditions can at times be grim – there is no winter season, and the Summer season is brief and intense. The colder months are devoted to cleaning and recording our finds.

The fort itself was manned from around 85AD to 370AD, thus spanning much of the early days of Roman occupation. The fort was manned by a troop from Gaul. The site so far consists of a bathhouse, many layers of wooden structures, the stone buildings of the fort and a larger town to the west, where many native Britons would have lived, and the families of the garrisoned soldiers.

The site is fascinating. It is buried deep in rank muds, but that is its glory. The mud is low in oxygen, which is the enemy of preservation of objects. So many things have emerged from this mud that it staggers the imagination. There would be few sites indeed that allow us to get a glimpse into the day to day lives of people two thousand years past.

The town itself would have been a hive of activity, perhaps typical for the towns along the Wall, close to the forts – where the money and markets were. We have uncovered spinning whorls in great quantity, a business important for textile manufacture. The town – or vicus – as it is known in latin, also had an animal butchery, with excellent drainage. We know that the soldiers consumed vast quantities of bacon, sheep and used goat hides for their tents. There is also a bathhouse, which would have been heated, and used by locals and soldiers.

But the finds are what has made Vindolanda famous. Hundreds of leather sandals have been uncovered, and of all sizes – from children shoes, to the dainty lattice patterned ladies sandals, and rugged soldiers foot wear. Other leather goods include goathide tents, the neat lines of stiches joining the hides still intact.

Wooden objects such as combs, and many pieces of horse harness, game pieces, weaponry, arrowheads, and textile fragments are also well preserved. You will pardon the personal nature of the following, but we also found the first known wooden toilet seat, its design similar to the ones in use today.

The most fascinating of all has been the Vindolanda tablets. Written on thin sheets of oak, and a similar size to a modern postcard, many tablets have been uncovered, and to our joy, the writing (in a blackish mix of ink gall) is still readable. While many are like a modern shopping list one might give a servant, some are letters home from soldiers complaining about the weather, and one is a party invitation from a young lady.

Vindolanda

I will finish up, Mr Clemens, in the hopes that you will find this of sufficient interest to publish in your newspaper. We trust that should you visit England again, you will pay us a visit, and perhaps participate in the diggings yourself.

I have taken the liberty of enclosing some photographs of the finds.

About the Druid’s Portal Series

The Druid’s Portal series is a genre blend of action, adventure, romance, time travel and magical historical fantasy. Set in Roman Britain in the Hadrian’s Wall and Northumberland region.

On the First Journey, travel back in time with modern day archaeologist Janet and meet Roman soldier Trajan. Described as the book the writers of Indiana Jones wanted to write, and a runner up in the Raven awards for dark fantasy.

The Second Journey is now out on Amazon. Join Ethan, son of Janet and Trajan as he follows his heart into danger and an alternate history that will lead him from Hadrian’s Wall to the dark past of Stonehenge.

Available on Amazon https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel

Vindolanda

 Druid’s Portal: The Second Journey

A love that can never be.
Ethan—latest guardian of the Arwen pendant—finds his heritage of time travel a burden he can scarcely endure. Rowena—last of the line of Daman—is a soldier in the Celtic army, forced to perform deeds that haunt her. Both tormented by visions of the other, separated by barriers of time.
A time that should not exist.
Rowena flees the catastrophic end of her time but is trapped by an ancient family pact with an evil goddess. Desperate to save her, Ethan crosses over into her timeline, where his parents never met, and Daman—their greatest enemy—rules.

The past is ruled by a man who knows the future.
Thirty days to stop a goddess taking over her body. Thirty days to save his timeline. Together they will fight their way through an altered history to the dark past of Stonehenge.

Time is running out – for everyone.

Vindolanda

An excerpt from Druid’s Portal: The Second Journey

Then a sound… soft laughter… and he gazed at the woman with hair the colour of moonlight and eyes as dark as the night. Coloured mist wrapped around her, tight woven as destiny. Dark threads of death and red banners of danger – all centred around and surrounding the woman.

His love.

She filled a hole in his heart he had always known was there, but had never known the shape of it was her. The sense of completeness hit him like a blow.

“I will find you… ” he shouted as she faded. “I will protect you, always… ”

But she was gone, leaving nothing but a ghostly fragrance of flowers, and he was alone once more.

Read a preview: https://tinyurl.com/DruidsPortal2

or buy on Amazon: http://getbook.at/DruidsPortal2

About the Author

Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre writer. Escape the everyday with time travel action adventure novels, scifi and fantasy stories or tranquil scenes for relaxation.

Find a world where the heroines don’t wait to be rescued, and the heroes earn that title the hard way.

Contact Cindy on

Website: http://www.cindytomamichel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyTomamichelAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CindyTomamichel

Amazon Author page: https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel

Servants Shock the Neighborhood

Number 50, Dudley Crescent, London

July 15, 1821

Dearest Lucinda,

I write to you today to share my outrage at occurrences in Dudley Crescent. I simply cannot abide the recent changes and must have your advice.

Servants Shock

Two years ago, a murder occurred at Number 10. The horrid matter was quickly resolved when the culprit was identified and put away from fine society.  But the greater scandal was that the widowed lady of the house had intimate relations with her butler! Then last year, a noted member of society hired a young woman as ward to his child…and later, did marry the woman! She was far below his station, though, I do understand, an heiress of considerable worth. I must tell you the man is one of our finest gentlemen with a spotless reputation and high military honors. Yet, I worry.

Another event occurring last week causes me to question my presence here!

I understand that one noble gentleman has paid attentions to one of his servants! This time, said woman is not a governess. No, indeed, she is his maid-of-all-work! Can you imagine? I’ve been inconsolable, riddled with a nervous stomach and headaches. My usual little dose of laudanum is simply not enough to calm me.

This causes me to ask you if you think I should move to a better part of town. Is there a curse on the Crescent? Must I expect more servants who will climb above their station to enthrall their masters or mistresses? Worse, will such an affliction affect my own house? I must tell you, quite confidentially, that my only daughter, Lady Mary, seems far too taken with one of our own servants. The new…dear me, I can barely write this…stable boy. Yes! He is most definitely not a boy. Not by any means. He is thirty years of age or more. Tall, taller than my dear departed husband. And devilishly handsome with hair the color of coal and eyes like lavender. He is quite ethereal.

I do rattle on!

Advise me, please!

Most sincerely,

Catherine, the Viscountess of Trelawny

Dudley Crescent is a verdant parcel of land in London, granted by King Charles II to the Earl of Dudley who was one of his staunchest supporters. With gold he’d stolen as a highwayman during Charles’s exile on the Continent, Dudley put his ill-gotten gains to good use and built the finest town homes in the capital. Renting the land in perpetuity to certain Royalist friends quadrupled his fortune.

Today, those who have townhomes surrounding the verdant park are a few of the wealthiest and most influential lords and ladies in the kingdom. But scandals abound on Dudley Crescent. You can find them here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cerise-DeLand/e/B0089DS2N2/

Or here: http://cerisedeland.com/delightful-doings-in-dudley-crescent/

The Mysterious Fellow Traveler

Letter posted from Cheltenham, England, to Morristown, New Jersey, 1832 leaked to The Teatime Tattler

My darling Earnestine,

We arrived in Bristol Wednesday, two days behind schedule, much the worse for weather, and happy to be back on solid ground. My darling Howard’s brother sent a carriage to convey us from the harbor, and we couldn’t leave swiftly enough for my nerves I tell you. If England has a less salubrious port than this one, I don’t want to encounter it. Nefarious appearing individuals lurked along the docks and at every corner where seedy and disreputable establishments abounded. One has heard frightening stories of civil unrest about the place as well, but we saw nothing of that sort. Once quit of the place, England’s green hills unfolded in front of us and I was able to put my fears aside.

traveler
(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The voyage proved as tedious as I anticipated. Howard devoted himself to cards in the common room leaving my Ellie and I to our own devices. Not far into the journey a new acquaintance alleviated our boredom—thank goodness.

Mrs. Gordon Melrose, the sister-in-law of an actual baronet, regaled us with tales of society and the sites of London, whetting our appetite for the capital I can tell you. She also enlightened us about one of our more mysterious fellow passengers.

Ellie pointed the man out almost as soon as we embarked from New York. The girl does have an eye for a fine specimen of manhood! Tall and lean with thick auburn hair, he had the air of one of those frontier types young girls find so romantic, yet he dressed like a gentleman. Oddly, he carried a three-legged cat. We rarely saw him without the beast. When Howard complained to the captain about the presence of a feline, he was told that having a predator to keep vermin from the hold was in fact good luck. Ellie pronounced it adorable, though I could not see how a deformed cat could hunt.

In any case our mystery man proved to have more to his credit than good looks. Mr. Melrose informed us that Randolph Wheatly—the man’s name so she said—possesses important connections. His sister, the Countess of Chadbourn holds sway in the highest reaches of society, and is a friend of two Duchesses no less. Think of it Earnestine, a countess! (That is the wife of an earl in case you aren’t as  fully informed as we are).

I thought it prudent to encourage Ellie’s interest in the man, but the girl was profoundly disappointed by his curt refusal of any social overtures. Quite reclusive, he moped in solitude and scowled at all who approached, as if his troubles weighed him down. Ellie of course found his brooding good looks irresistibly attractive, poor girl. When we docked he moved rapidly off the ship and disappeared into the unsavory streets of Bristol, as though the horrid place had been his final destination, something I cannot believe.

Oh well. Perhaps we will encounter him in London. Perhaps he’ll introduce us to his sister, the countess. Think of it Earnestine!

Your loving sister,

Eunice

About the Book

Rand has good reason to brood on the voyage and to hurray away. He has a people to rescue, and family conflict to face.

Two hearts betrayed by love…

Desperate and afraid, Meggy Blair will do whatever it takes to protect her children. She’d hoped to find sanctuary from her abusive husband with her Ojibwa grandmother, but can’t locate her. When her children fall ill, she finds shelter in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. But when the owner unexpectedly returns, he’s furious to find squatters disrupting his self-imposed solitude.

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly had good reason to put an ocean between himself and the family that deceived him. He just wants the intrusive woman gone, yet it isn’t long before Meggy and the children start breaking down the defensive walls he’s built. His heart isn’t as hard as he thought. But their fragile interlude is shattered when Meggy’s husband appears to claim his children, threatening to have Rand jailed.

The only way for Meggy to protect Rand is to leave him. When her husband takes her and the children to England, Meggy discovers he’s far more than an abuser; what he’s involved in endangers all their lives. To rescue the woman who has stolen his heart, Rand must follow her and do what he swore he’d never do: reconcile with his aristocratic family and finally uncover the truth behind all the lies. But time is running out for them all.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LY7IRT6/

Excerpt: https://www.carolinewarfield.com/the-renegade-wife-excerpt/

About the Author

Award winning author of historical romance usually set in the Regency and Victorian eras, Caroline Warfield reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the world. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Links:

Web http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

LibraryThing http://www.librarything.com/profile/CaroWarfield

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/caroline-warfield

SOPHIE’S JOURNAL

From the journal of Sophie Hartford – the Tattler has received her PRIVATE Journal from Chateau de Fontanes, the Pyranees, 1818

Tuesday, 28th April. We returned to the chateau today. I was sorry to say goodbye to my friends in Ax-les-Thermes but the marquise assures me we’ll go back there soon. For now, we’re going to spend a quiet few days here in the mountains, and I’m going to be watching my sister closely. I sense she’s attracted to Joachim. Indeed, who wouldn’t be, so handsome and warmhearted as he is. With those big brown eyes and that smile like sunshine, he’s most alluring. But Nell is Nell and she hides her feelings behind a cool composure. On the other hand, Joachim is making it plain he likes and admires her.

Journal

            This afternoon we went down to the stables and the two of them started talking together. I may be four years younger than Nell, but I’m grown up enough to see that Joachim only had eyes for her. So I dawdled around, stroking my horse, petting the stable cat, and then sat down on a bench. Joachim’s lurcher dog, Flocon, came and sat by me. They didn’t notice they were alone as they wandered off down the paddock, talking all the time. At several points they stopped, I could see them waving their arms around as they discussed something. Surely they must be coming to an agreement. Indeed, all the stableboys and grooms found excuses to come out and watch them as well.

             My romantic hopes were sadly dashed when they returned, and I found they’d spent the entire time talking about educating the poor children of the estate. But tomorrow is another day and I’ll think up a scheme to bring them together. Why is my 22 year old sister resisting such charm?

 Wednesday 29th April. This morning Nell was in the music room, helping a little boy with his lesson. I casually told Joachim of this and soon I saw him rush along to the music room. The little boy came out, and I pretended to be arranging flowers in a vase in the corridor, so as to keep an eye on the door, in case anyone else tried to go in. Flocon has become attached to me and he sat watching as I fiddled with the flowers. A rather long time went by and I began to worry that our kind hostess might come in search of us. So I tiptoed up to the door, which wasn’t quite shut.

private journal entries
The Chateau de Fontanes

Somehow I stifled a gasp on seeing them locked in a very passionate embrace on the windowseat.  As I peeped, they slid down until Joachim was lying almost on top of her. Oh, my stars! What lightning progress from yesterday’s formal behaviour. But I had to stop them before they forgot themselves utterly. Suddenly I had a brainwave. I nudged the door a little further open and pushed Flocon into the room. He started barking and ran to jump up at his master. I saw Joachim jerk his head up, so I pulled the door shut again and fled.  

This evening. At dinner I was expecting an Announcement but they both behaved as usual. Such a disappointment. And later, when we came up to go to bed, Nell didn’t say a word about her relationship with Joachim. She’s being very sly but tomorrow I shall tell her that I KNOW!

About the book: The Outcasts

 Joachim is the youngest of the three Montailhac brothers. Always close to the land, he now manages his father’s estates and livestock. Athletic and handsome, Joachim seems to have an ideal existence. But he has a guilty secret and it suddenly reappears to cause havoc. His life is further complicated by dealing with an accident at the iron mine on the estate just as visitors arrive, bringing yet more problems.

Nell and Sophie Hartford are cousins of Joachim’s sister-in-law, Olivia [see Scandalous Lady]. In the Spring of 1818 they find themselves outcasts from their officer father’s home in Paris, and are forced to accept Olivia’s assurance that her mother-in-law, the Marquise de Fontanes, will make them welcome. After all, says Olivia, life in the family chateau in the Pyrenees will be a tonic for them. Two unhappy girls struggle to fit into the very different lifestyle of the large and slightly exotic Montailhac family. At the same time, danger threatens from a deranged criminal bent on vengeance against their hosts.

Read an excerpt from The Outcasts     

Nell seemed to have grown even prettier while he was away. Joachim joined his family in the Assembly Rooms and gazed appreciatively at her while she exchanged greetings with several of her new friends. Her primrose yellow dress brought out the russet gleams in her hair. She looked elegant and appealing. Glancing towards his mother he found her watching him with a twinkle in her eyes. She raised an eyebrow and he stepped close.

‘Mother, you’ve wrought a miracle. When she first arrived, dressed all in grey, I called her ‘Miss Dismal’ to myself. Now, I wonder if even her own father would recognise her.’

The marquise squeezed his hand. ‘Poor girls. Cast out as they were, no wonder they were so dejected. It is a pleasure to see them thrive here.’ She smiled at the buzz of light hearted chatter coming from the group. ‘Now you can keep an eye on them. I want to talk to my friends for a while.’

‘Hey, Joachim,’ one of the young men greeted him with a horrified air, ‘Did you know what’s in store this evening? Old Deschamps is going to recite one of his endless poems.’

There was a general muttering and some groans.

Nell gave a choke of laughter and looked enquiringly at Joachim.

He crossed his eyes at her, which made her laugh aloud. He sobered suddenly, staring into her green-grey eyes. She really was lovely, especially with that wash of pink colouring her cheeks. He wanted to get her away from the others.

 ‘Do you play cards? Then we could escape to the card room.’

‘No, neither of us plays.’ She looked round for her sister, but Sophie had disappeared.

‘She doesn’t like poetry recitals, I take it?’ said Joachim, amused.

‘No, but this is rude. I must find her.’

‘I’ll come with you.’ They slipped off towards the other room. ‘Well,’ said Joachim, ‘it seems we don’t care for poetry recitals either.’

She gave him a glance full of mischief, and laughed again, making him want to get her right away from everyone. ‘Let’s hope we don’t find Sophie too quickly, then.’

However, ten minutes later, Sophie was nowhere to be seen and Nell was showing signs of alarm.

‘I’d better see if she’s returned to the recital,’ she decided. They stood in the doorway, peering in. The marquise saw them and beckoned. Nell went to her and sat down. The poet was in full flow, and Joachim shook his head at his mother, who shrugged. He turned back into the card room and came face to face with Sophie. She smiled naughtily.

‘I saw you looking for me,’ she told him. ‘Bertrand spotted me but he didn’t say anything.’

‘Bad girl.’

She tossed her head. ‘You had more fun looking for me with Nell than being bored to death in there. Let’s play cards.’ She spun away, towards a table at the back of the room, where Bertrand was shuffling a pack of cards. He rose to his feet and pulled out a chair. Sophie sat down, casting a look of triumph at Joachim.

‘Nell said you don’t play,’ he protested.

She bit her lip, looking shamefaced suddenly. ‘Not really,’ she mumbled, ‘but I can watch you.’

A few of the older players were casting disapproving looks their way, although there were other ladies in the room. It was simply that Sophie was so very young. His mother would give him an earful later but until the poet finished his recitation, they would stay here.

‘Vingt-et-un?’ suggested Bertrand, dealing. The luck went against him for several games. He slammed his cards down. ‘Let’s have a drink. It might turn the luck in my favour.’ He beckoned to a waiter and held up three fingers.

‘Have they still not finished next door?’ he asked. He smiled at Sophie. ‘There’ll be some folk-songs later. You’ll enjoy that.’

She agreed and glanced at the approaching waiter. She stared for a moment and gave a gasp of surprise.

Joachim heard her and looked up. It was that toothy lad, and something was wrong. He saw the boy’s face change as he looked at Sophie. He set the tray down awkwardly, keeping his head bent down.

Bertrand picked up a glass and offered it to Sophie.

‘Er, no, no, sir,’ spluttered the waiter, jerking his hand out, but Sophie had already raised the glass to her lips.

‘Don’t drink,’ said Joachim sharply. Too late.

She set the empty glass down and tossed her head. ‘I’m old enough to drink wine, you know.’ Then the blood drained from her face. She put a hand to her throat. ‘Aargh,’ she croaked.

Both young men were on their feet. Joachim seized Sophie by the arm. ‘Get Nell,’ he shot at Bertrand and pulling Sophie’s arm round his shoulders he half-walked, half-dragged her towards the back door, which was close by.

‘Open it, you,’ he panted.

The rabbit-toothed waiter darted to obey.

They barely made it outside before Sophie began to retch. Joachim pulled out his handkerchief and was turning to look for some water when something struck him on the back of his head. He saw a mighty flash of red and then nothing more.

About the Author

Beth Elliott

Beth Elliott loves speaking different languages and traveling to out of the way places. A Welsh mother and a Lancashire father mean she has a complicated mix of imagination and practical common sense. After a teaching career in several countries, she settled in the Thames Valley. Settled, that is, except when the traveling bug takes her. An excuse for this is that she has published a number of travel articles, and of course, she can use the settings for her novels.

Her Regency Tales are stories of intrigue, adventure and romance, with a few real people in among the cast of characters who find themselves caught up in events that rather upset their normal lives. She hasn’t yet put Napoleon himself in a story, but he’s on the waiting list. On the principle of ladies first, especially in the Regency era, Lady Hester Stanhope played a small but vital role in ‘Scandalous Lady.’

From her own experience of life in Turkey, Beth likes to add a touch of exotic to some of her stories. But adventure and romance can – and do – occur just as easily in London, Bath or Brighton as in Constantinople.

For more information, visit her at the following links.

Website:  https://www.regencytales.co.uk/

Blog:  https://regencytales.blogspot.com/

Facebook    http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Beth-Elliott/1128803291

Twitter  https://twitter.com/BethElliott

Her Regency Tales are available as paperbacks or e-books at  

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beth-Elliott/e/B002QM5RGM/

and

https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Elliott/e/B002QM5RGM/

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