How to Impress a Gentleman

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
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How to Impress a Gentleman

AllieBorne e-book/ June 2012

 

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 by Allie Borne

 

 

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my mother, who taught me that Love is the one true and lasting remedy for whatever ails us.
 

 

Prologue
Warwick, England
August 1768

 

 

“All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of women.”

~Voltaire, Eighteenth Century French Philosopher

 

Awesome terror burst through Lindsay Beaumont as she clung to the reigns of her father's black stallion. He was almost upon her! She must not let him close the distance or all would be lost. Leaning her raven head against Sable’s sleek neck, Lindsay whispered urgent encouragements. Straining every muscle and tendon, the lean steed lunged forward. Perhaps her smaller size and superior mount would be all the advantage needed to survive this debacle of a mission. Ahead, Lindsay could see the opening to the corral. She had but to reach it and her secret would be safe.

Pounding hooves and a breathless snort were the only warning that the young girl’s nemesis had overtaken her. Mere yards from the safe haven of her grandparent’s stable, the pursuing horseman plucked her from her stallion and whirled his horse around.

Screeching in vexation, Lindsay pummeled the young man with her tiny fists. Thrashing about in an attempt to escape, the boy’s cap fell, sending thick locks flowing about her face and adding blindness to her fury.

“Be still!” the youth’s voice commanded, exasperated by the trouble she had caused. Binding her hands with his horse’s reigns and tying them to the stirrup’s leather cinch, Charles Donovan dismounted, rushed the gate to the corral and shut in the foaming stallion.

Remounting, he shook his captive, furious at her daring. “You stupid, impetuous child! You could have been killed! I should turn you over this saddle and tan your hide for the fright you gave me! No, better yet, I will turn you over to your father and he can do the deed himself.”

Stilling, Lindsay straightened her spine and turned a narrowed blue gaze at her captor. “You will do no such thing, Charles Alexander Donovan. You promised that if I could make it to the corral before you, you would keep my secret.”

“Oh, for the love of...I was joking, trying to make a point. Linnie, do you realize that
that
horse is not safe for a ch-a young lady to ride? It is a stud horse. You need to ride your pony, on a side saddle, and with a companion.”

“I want to ride in the hunt, with the rest of the boys, Charlie. Please, you could convince my father. He listens to you. He knows that you know how well I can ride. You say you are my friend; we made a pact...Please!”

“Never.”

Yanking Simon’s reigns loose of the stirrup, Charlie headed up the lane towards the manor house. Lindsay’s thoughts swarmed, and then settled on a direct tact. “What if I could beat you? What if I could win in, in a bet? Tommy told me that you and the other boys are having a race about the grounds at the house party next week. I can race and win. Then, you will convince my father that I am just as good as any of you; that I can ride with him in the hunt. I will even promise to ride side saddle. In the hunt, not the race, that is.” Nodding at the evident sensibility of her plan, Lindsay looked up into Charlie’s handsome face expectantly.

“Lindsay,” Charlie sighed, “you are not a boy. You will never grow up to be a man. You are eight years old. It is time that you started focusing on a woman’s sphere. I can see that my brotherly attentions have only added to your improper behavior. Charlie’s whiskey-colored eyes assessed his young companion, and his heart constricted.

Her petite frame was clad in a pair of the stable lad, Tommy's, loose trousers and linen shirt. It was painful to watch her work so hard to gain her father’s attention the only way she knew how, by trying to be the boy she believed Sir Richard wanted her to be.

What a waste
, Charlie thought to himself.
Any man should be grateful to have such a talented daughter. Sir Richard barely suffers her presence. I will at least allow her time to scrub up and change her attire before presenting her to her father.

As they returned to the manor, Charlie wondered for not the first time, why it was that he felt so responsible for this pixie child. She was too young to be of any real interest as a friend, and yet, that is just what she was. She made him laugh. She kept the dull summer days interesting. She was so, so
real
. With Linnie, Charles did not have to pretend. He could show his true self and not worry about being judged lacking.

While he enjoyed her company, he also felt an overwhelming need to protect her, to fill the void that her family was unable or unwilling to fill. At the wise old age of fourteen, Charlie understood what it was like to ache for a parent’s love and affection. His own parents had been dead now for three long years and he knew he would give up much to feel their embrace once more. Unfortunately for Lindsay, her parents were very much alive. Any lack of adult guidance and affection was due to her parents’ complete self absorption.

That being said, she was a spirited lass. Taken in hand by her dominating grandmother, she would surely make a good match for herself. Unlike Charlie, Lindsay had a warm and happy future to anticipate. His would likely be spent serving others’ whims. Already he had made a deal with the devil to scrape together enough funds for Cambridge. The good Lord only knew how he would pay back his debts.

 

 

Chapter One- A Heedless Betrayal
October 1773,
Five Years Later

 

“Revenge is the act of passion, vengeance is an act of justice.”

~Samuel Johnson, 18th Century Philosopher

 

Charles struggled to wake from his dream of Lindsay. Head and heart pounding, he forced himself to roll over. Squinting to focus in the dim light, Charles could not make sense of his surroundings.
Where am I
?

Through the dark, he could make out the corrugated planks of a wooden enclosure. The smell of old sweat, urine, salt, and pitch assaulted his nostrils. His clothing felt rough. Charles looked down to see that he was without hose, without shoes, without a waist coat. Instead, he wore only a roughly spun linen shirt and loose breeches.

Running trembling fingers through his hair, normally tied back with a ribbon, he discovered it cut off at the back.
Have I been waylaid? Where am I?
Standing, he pitched to the side and caught himself by grabbing one of a dozen or more low-slung hammocks hanging about the space.
I am in the bowels of a ship. Have I been kidnapped?

But there was no door. Climbing the ladder, he made his way to the deck. Once there, he approached the senior officer, for the men he saw were in uniform. “Excuse me, Sir, but I am at a loss to explain my current position. The last I remember, I was dining in a pub with my neighbor and now I am in rags, upon a ship. Can you explain to me what has occurred?”

The lieutenant peered down his long nose at Charles, and then, returning his gaze to the horizon, replied, “Is that the best you can do, Steward? I have been apprised of your position. You are impressed into His Majesty’s Royal Navy for the duration of this voyage. You are to dress in the slops the good captain has provided and then set to helping the men tar the rigging.”

“Steward? I know not what you mean, Lieutenant. I am Charles Donovan of Warwick. I am of good family and a gentleman. I have no practical experience aboard a ship. This has been a mistake. I must disembark immediately.”

“You have the sound of gentry, but not the look. I was warned you’d try and talk yer way out of it. I know you cooked the books as steward at yer old post. Heard the gentleman himself say so to the Captain afore we set sail. You and I both know that’s what landed ye here. Now, get to work, as I say, or there will be a lashing for you,” the officer barked, his patience spent.

Shaking, Charles returned to the interior of the ship. Taking up his naval “uniform”, he slipped on the indigo breeches and loose-fitting shirt. A rope lanyard, with a knife attached went around his neck and, over that, a burgundy handkerchief to keep the sun and tar from coating the back of his neck. Charles felt awkward. Accustomed to being the best dressed man in the room, he was now forced to present himself as the lowliest.

Slowly stepping back up onto the deck, Charles approached the hunched and grizzled old seaman who was tending the pot of boiling tar. Somehow, it was as if another, more hardened version of himself, rose up from a long slumber to speak for the soft young man he had become. “I have been assigned the duty of helping you to coat the rigging,” this other Charles murmured.

“So you’re to be part of our mess o’ men, hey?” the whiskered sailor responded. “What experience have ye?”

“None, to speak of... I have rarely sailed on a sea vessel, much less worked on one.”

“Well, then, just take the brush here and coat the lower standin’ rigging. Jack, here’ll work on weaving the yarn to rope.”

Numb to all that was around him, Charles knelt next to the bucket of tar, grabbed the rag hanging limply across its lip and dipped it into the black mess. Spreading the sticky tar across the nearest section of rope, Charles’ mind turned inward. The last time he had been conscious, he was with Sir Richard. Now, Sir Richard was no where to be found.

By the time the crew was called in for supper, Charles was covered in sticky black flecks. His fingernails were encrusted and his fingertips had burnt to blisters beneath the scalding tar.

The other seamen ignored him, pushing their way onto the long table where they ate. “Weather should be a lady, keep’n the wind behind us all the way to the coast. Come January, we’ll be in for some rough squalls, I’d wager,” Old Jake, the experienced man of the crew told the new “recruits”.

“January!” Charles called out in alarm. “Why it is October now, when will this voyage be through?”

“Why, not till mid-February, at the earliest, but why does it matter? You’ll be owin’ five years of service as an impressed man...didn’t they tell you when they picked you up?”

Hanging his head, Charles refrained from responding. There was no point in alienating his mess, or assigned mates. They depended on one another to complete the duties on deck and he would rather suffer in silence than suffer alone. Picking up his ration of salted meat, Charles tore off a bite and chewed sullenly. He would survive this nightmare and Sir Richard would pay for his betrayal.

~ ~ ~

 

Warwick England

Two Years Prior

December 1771

 

Fat snow flakes fell in her ebony hair, creating a make shift halo. Charlie grinned at his young friend, enchanted with the picture she made, despite the sophistication that three years at University had wrought. Shyly, Linnie held out her hands from behind her back and proffered a neatly packaged gift. “Happy Christmas, Charlie.”

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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