Sunday, January 19, 2014

Excerpt -- THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE

Richard left Robert and headed to St. John’s Wood to his friend Davingdale’s home. Davingdale and William had begun trading business at Tattersall’s and housed their animals at Davingdale’s estate, Merrit
Captain Richard Gaines
Manor. Richard thought to leave Morpheus there while on his journey.
            Richard found Davingdale in the barn. “What ho, Thomas?”
            Thomas Merrit, Earl of Davingdale, labored in a stall mucking manure. He straightened and leaned against his pitchfork. “Richard, what brings you to my humble abode? Have you finally come to your senses and allowed us the privilege of Morpheus’ stud services?”
            Richard smiled. “Of a sort. I must away and have no desire to keep Morpheus in the mews. If he has a care to impregnate your mares whilst here, I’m sure there is nothing I could do to stop him.”
Thomas Merritt,
 Earl of Davingdale
            


Thomas leaned his fork against the wall and came out of the stall. “Where are you headed?”
            “Runcorn to pick up cargo for Robert. He’s invested in a cotton mill in Manchester and has piece goods he wishes to London.” Richard followed Davingdale to the small office at the back of the barn.
            “I do not understand,” Thomas said. He proffered a well-worn chair to Richard and then sat in the other. “If you are traveling to Runcorn, surely you shall need a decent mount.”
            “I am traveling by ship, Thomas. Robert has asked me to captain his vessel, the Lady Joanna.”
     “This is a surprise. I thought you had sworn off the sea.”
            Richard grinned. “You have not seen the Joanna. I do not think a landlubber like yourself could appreciate her.” Richard rubbed his hands together. “I fear I feel like a lover with my first virgin.” His strong, positive feelings about this new enterprise surprised him.
            “Well, I must say old man, if a pretty new ship is all it will take to put a smile on your face, then have at her. I declare, in all the years I’ve known you, I have never seen you thus.”
            Richard laughed. “And you may very well never again. A virgin vessel is something that only comes around once in a lifetime. I could not refuse.” But there was so much more to this trip than just the sailing aspect. He would find Amanda Wood.
            “Thomas?” a voice called from the depths of the barn.
            “Back here.”
            William Smith, Earl of Westerly, now the newly titled Duke of Caymore stepped into the office. “Richard? I thought that was your  Brabant in the field. What are you doing here?”
            “He is begging us to house Morpheus while he travels to Runcorn for Robert,” Thomas said.
William Smith,
Earl of Westerly
            “Runcorn? What the devil has my cousin going in Runcorn of all places?” William leaned against the door casing.
            “Cotton stuffs from Manchester,” Richard said. “He’s invested in a mill up there and needs someone to captain his ketch.”
            “Ketch?”
            As Richard explained what the late Duke of Cantin had done for his wife, William let out a low whistle.
            “And now, Robert wants to use it to ship his piece goods to London,” Richard finished.
            “And you are going to captain her.” William looked at his friend.
            “He’s as giddy as a goat with his first virgin,” Thomas said.
            Richard laughed. “Your use of the metaphor is highly entertaining.” He looked at William. “Yes, I am as giddy as a goat. However, there is another, rather serious reason for me to embark on the trip.” He lowered his voice. “I met a woman.”
            William whistled again. “First a return to the sea and now a woman. What is to become of you?”
            “I do not know. I cannot explain it. I only know she is in Manchester and I must find her.”
            “Find her?” Thomas asked. “Is she lost?”
            “Of a sort. She is married…”
            “Married? Are you daft?” William asked. “What are you doing chasing after a married woman?”
            “It is not like that,” Richard said. “I met her in front of the Lamb and Lion one night. Her despicable husband left her alone on the street to deal with the trunks and sleeping child after he departed the hired hack. We spoke very briefly, but it seems the woman is a witch. She’s cast a spell over me and I cannot seem to get her out of my mind. Therefore, I will travel to Manchester to find her and break the spell.”
            Thomas and William exchanged glances.
            “Does this sorceress have a name?” Thomas asked.
            “Amanda Wood.”
            “What did you say?” William asked.
            “Amanda Wood,” Richard repeated.
            “I heard you the first time.” William raked a hand through his hair. “I think there may be something to your spell-weaving after all. Penny has just received a letter from her long-time friend Amanda Wood who has just returned from…”
            “America,” Richard said. William and Penny’s wedding had been where he had heard Amanda Wood’s name mentioned. Lady Pen was saddened that her friend could not attend. Lady Pen must have been the person that Amanda wished to see in London.
            “Yes, America.” William shook his head. “Penny is overset that we remained in Trilling. Mrs. Wood was only in London a day before she headed to Manchester. Penny begged me to take her up country. It seems Mr. Wood is somewhat of a cad and Pen fears for her friend’s well-being. She wishes to reassure herself her worries are groundless.” He stared at Richard.
            “Truthfully, Will, that is also one of the reasons I am taking on this job for Robert. In only the span of three seconds, I could see Mrs. Wood was afraid of the man. There is more than enough room on the Lady Joanna if you should like to travel with me.”
            William put up his hand. “Do not put the notion into Penny’s head. As much as an adventure as this might be, we were on our way to Westerly to continue our honeymoon. One I do not wish to share with you or Mrs. Wood.”
            “Westerly?” Richard asked.
            “Yes, the estate my grandparents left to Ellis and me. Formerly known as Easterly, but as Ellis gave it to us as a wedding gift, I decided to change its name to Westerly.”
            “Why do you not change it to Caymore? Better suits your title.”
            “The title is only mine until I have a son. I have no wish to be a duke. To get back to the other matter, I dare say when Penny finds you will be sailing to Runcorn, I’m sure she will ask you to take Mrs. Wood a letter or two. Would you care to stop at Caymore House? She would be most distressed if you do not.”
            Richard nodded. “Of course. One would not wish to have Lady Pen angry.”
            Thomas laughed. “No. Especially not at us.” The three men were great friends of longstanding.
            “Very well,” Richard said. “I must away to the Seamen’s home for my crew and then I shall stop at Caymore House.” He shook Thomas’ hand. “And if your mares refuse Morpheus, do not say I did not warn you. His reputation precedes him.”

            Thomas smiled. “I’m sure there will be a contented filly in the meadow before too long.”

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