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Authors: Rebecca Jenkins

Death of a Radical

BOOK: Death of a Radical
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An early fan of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, Rebecca Jenkins began collecting diaries and journals from Georgian England as a child. Her passion for the period led her to study history at Somerville College, Oxford, from where she went on to become an accomplished journalist and broadcaster.
Death of a Radical
is her second novel. She lives in County Durham.

Also by Rebecca Jenkins

The Duke's Agent

Fanny Kemble—the Reluctant Celebrity
The First London Olympics—1908


Rebecca Jenkins

New York • London

© 2010 by Rebecca Jenkins

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by reviewers, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of the same without the permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

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Street, 6
Floor, New York, NY 10019, or to
[email protected]

ISBN 978-1-62365-323-1

Distributed in the United States and Canada by Random House Publisher Services
c/o Random House, 1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For Bob and Gail Jordan—to Bob for sharing his
profound knowledge of the history of objects,
and Gail, the best of readers.




























Ancient walls rose up against an indigo sky. Ice frosted the pavement. In the deserted courtyard the merest sliver of a glow seeped out from between shuttered windows. At this time of the evening, in the depths of February, the college's inhabitants were huddled up within its thick walls. A slight figure lurched out of the shadows. One arm encumbered with a bundle, he carried a lantern shielded against his body.

Favian Vere Adley paused a moment, propping an elbow against the cold stone.

Favian was proud of his name. The father who burdened his offspring with such weight was a gentleman of means whose hobby was classical erudition. “Favian signifying a man of understanding,” he would rehearse to his only child. “And Vere—faithful and true. Worthy qualities in any man. Mind you live by them.”

Favian aspired to live up to his name. He was a sickly child; his world was narrow and confined, but amid the sweet smell of oiled leather in his father's library he
discovered the enchantment of words. He marveled at the truths they encompassed in neatly bound lines of print. Young Favian believed in the power of the word to reform the world and make men's souls sing.

So naturally he desired to give the world a poet.

As a boy he set out to instruct himself. He read
The Times
from the age of eight and later the
Manchester Guardian
when he could get it. He read Shakespeare and Hume, Wordsworth, Shelley and Godwin. He was eager to learn meaningful things. But to be honest (and Favian desired to be rigorously honest), he lacked direct experience of the world. Favian Adley had never felt the vital pulse of Life until one April day walking down Piccadilly. He was just a boy of sixteen, still in the care of his tutor. They rounded a corner to find themselves confronted by soldiers, big as life, riding down the pavement. The troopers were herding a crowd with drawn swords. It was not a mob of drunken rabble, as some reported. The boy saw ordinary folk, dressed cleanly—tradesmen and even women; citizens being ridden down by the soldiers of their own king.

They had lined the streets to protest the removal of the people's champion, Sir Francis Burdett, to the tower. Sir Francis was Favian's hero. He had followed the story avidly but newsprint had not prepared him for this: the shrill cries, the ominous percussion of hoof beats, the violence and fear sharpening the very air. A man pushed past him holding his bloodied head and moaning out loud. Favian was stunned and elated and terrified all at
once. He could feel his own blood humming under his skin.

His tutor gripped his arm and they were home before he knew it. Taking off his coat in the familiar confines of his own room, Favian found a smear of blood on his sleeve. He knew then, at the age of sixteen, that there were things—real things—to be said. And Favian Vere Adley swore to himself that he would say them.

For months he tumbled fervent words on to the page only to throw them into the fire. Then the day came when his father entered him as a gentleman commoner at Oxford University. Now, at last, he was ready to publish.

Throwing back the wings of his scholastic gown, Favian lowered one knee unsteadily to the frozen pavement. His icy fingers fumbling a little, he unfolded a toy balloon.

Fierce roars the …”

The words came out in an undignified croak. His thin back rounded over with a spasm of coughing. The cold was injurious to his chest but he was determined. He had copied his “Ode on Tyranny” out in his best hand on hot-pressed paper and signed it with a flourish “Fidel,” advocate of the people. He and Studdley had planned the little ritual together. But Studdley had succumbed to brandy punch and was snoring half off the sofa in the rooms they shared.

At the third attempt Favian succeeded in attaching the paper to the balloon.

Fierce roars the tyrant's ire, freedom's spirit to consume …”

That time the words came out with a pleasing cadence. What better publication for one's poetry than to send it up into the night trailing fire?

Favian was proud of his poem. At times, the scansion ran a little uneasily (Studdley assured him that the
carried it through) but it had true dramatic scope. His Muse of Freedom visited Sir Francis in the Tower and the journalist Peter Finnerty in the cell where he languished for telling the horrid truth about the Walcheren campaign. Favian was particularly fond of the stanza that began,

Wasted blood shed in Walcheren fields
With tyranny's destiny congeals
And an indignant people raised at last
Redeem their birth right …

His ink-smudged fingers held the wick to the lantern flame. It smoldered, then glowed. The paper sack bellied out delightfully. With a faltering lurch it rose into the dark, trailing its paper tail. Looking up, the notion of his poetical essay on the Existing State of Things floating past the Warden's very windows struck Favian as wonderfully ridiculous. His snort of laughter exploded in the disapproving silence of the frozen courtyard.

It was at that moment that he observed the open casement. For the first time he heard the muffled chime of silver on china and then, more clearly, a disembodied laugh. The balloon seemed to hesitate. With languid
malice it curved into the Warden's window and disappeared. There was a soft implosion, a flare, and a woman squawked. With a considerable turn of speed, Favian Adley snatched up the folds of his gown and scuttled away into the shadows.


Snow had come early to the moors that year. It came on an aching east wind that welded the moderate falls into a thing of torment. As February prepared to give way to March, the winds dropped, leaving curdles of snow in the hollows. Amid the brittle ochre straw new life grew pale green, pliant and vital. Jonas Farr was in good spirits. Thanks to a couple of days' work in the last town, he had a full stomach and his mind was at ease with itself. He was a young man—not yet twenty years old—with a strong, compact body and an open face. He strode over the rough ground, swinging out his staff.

Jonas caught movement against the dull colors of the damp moor. Some way off two boys appeared to be crouching on the edge of an overhang. One stretched up an arm, etching a vicious shape against the white sky. The arm snapped down. The boy's companion scrabbled to gather up more missiles.

The assailants were too preoccupied with their game to notice Farr's approach. “What's this then?” he
demanded, laying a hand on the collar of the nearest wretch. He looked down into a pinched, feral face and glanced over to see what the boys had caught.

Down below, a slight gentleman was cornered on a path running some ten feet beneath the overhang. Eyes peered up between the brim of a low-crowned hat and a mud-spattered scarf held close by a gloved hand.

With an explosion of energy that caught him unawares, the second boy was up and off. His companion twisted out of Jonas's grasp, delivering a painful kick as he rolled away to race after his accomplice. Cursing, Jonas loped a few paces, then stopped. It would be foolish to leave his pack and staff, and encumbered as he was, there was little chance of catching them.

“You are not hurt, sir?” he called out to the man below.

But the man had not stayed. His receding figure was hurrying across the moor toward the horizon.

Perhaps the poor daisy had been too ashamed to tarry. Held at bay by a couple of young ones hurling muck! Jonas surveyed the landscape about him. He was a stranger to these moors and the gentleman might have reassured him that he was traveling on the right road. His best option seemed to be the narrow causeway below.

Climbing down to the road he heard the tinkle of a harness bell. A chapman came into sight, trudging toward the overhang with a string of pack-horses, his lumpy outline mimicking his lead pony's swaying gait.

“Good-day!” Jonas called out.

The chapman cocked his head in acknowledgment
of the greeting without slacking the rhythm of his pace. A man with property had reason to be cautious of strangers met on the moor. Jonas stepped back to give him room.

BOOK: Death of a Radical
6.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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