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.
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 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.