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Authors: Lydia M Sheridan

A River Runs Through It

BOOK: A River Runs Through It
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A River Runs Through It
The Counterfeit Cavalier [3]
Lydia M Sheridan

Lady Katherine sets off on her quest for the reward, and Mr. Dalrymple seeks information.

The Counterfeit Cavalier is a traditional Regency novel in four volumes. Volume Three: A River Runs Through It, is 10,614 words, or 32 pages long.




Amazon Edition Copyright 2012 Lydia M. Sheridan


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work of this author.





“Lady Alice, Lady Katherine, Lady Lucy, Lady Carolyn Thoreau!”
announced Mr. Hubert Throgmorton, veteran of the war and, glory of glories!
new Master of Ceremonies, hired by the village elders to give the local
assemblies an elegant touch.

As Kate descended the three shallow stairs to the newly
refurbished hall, awash in gilt and ferns, she darted a sharp glance about for
Mr. Dalrymple. The rooms were already full to bursting even as more attendees
promenaded down the stairs. It seemed as though the whole county had come to
celebrate the opening of the assembly rooms, a testimony to the newly
refurbished village coffers. Even the highest sticklers, who last year would
have made an appearance for form’s sake only, believing the tourists made it
Too Vulgar for words, were in attendance. Though money was not spoken of
openly in their rarified atmosphere, they knew as well as anyone on which side
their bread was buttered and socialized accordingly.

Entry to the dance was a mere token for the locals, for no one
wanted to be left out of the fun. Hardworking trade folk mixed with yeoman
farmers, who rubbed shoulders with eager tourists and satin-clad nobility,
glittering with gems that usually saw the light of day only at the most
fashionable of London parties. All were gathered in the same cause: the
survival of Oaksley and the surrounding lands and estates.

In front of a stand of potted palms, Miss Belinda Dogget waved
frantically, pointing to four empty chairs between her and her mother. As the
Thoreau ladies slowly greeted their way through the crowd, Kate glanced
surreptitiously into the supper and card rooms. Satisfied her prey was not yet
present, she settled herself beside Mrs. Dogget on a chair as elegant as it was
uncomfortable, wondering how long it would be before she was able to claim a
megrim and go off in search of counterfeiters.

“Well, Kate, who were you looking for just now?” asked Mrs.
Dogget roguishly. “A new beau?”

"The Honorable Mr. Frederick Dalrymple!” trumpeted Mr.

The crowd glanced casually to the new arrival; a hush fell as
the gaggle of persons in the entry formed into a line and proceeded down the
stairs and into the room.

First came a parade of servants from the Lady and the Scamp,
carrying, respectively, an upholstered chair, cushions, more cushions, a
footstool, a small table, a decanter of brandy which had never paid duty at any
port, and a pillow. There was a brief pause as the servants arranged these
comforts in the corner across from Kate and her party. Then, missing only a
fanfare of trumpets, Mr. Frederick Dalrymple tottered down the stairs and
across the floor, kindly supported on either side by two stout young fellows
more usually seen in the inn’s stable.

Gently, the sufferer was escorted to the chair. Reverently,
he was eased down on the cushions. Tenderly, the footstool was placed beneath
his feet. The loving hands of a serving wench adjusted his pillow, her lavish
bosoms billowing in his face. Only a blind man could fail to glimpse the
charms she so generously shared, and Mr. Dalrymple certainly was not. To the
rest of the room, he appeared merely to wince and place a limp hand on his
forehead, but Kate, who knew, caught the gleam of mischief in his eye as he
looked her way.

“Why, Katherine, isn’t that your friend from London? The one
you introduced us to this afternoon?” asked Lady Alice, in all innocence.

The three girls took one look at the new arrival, another at
Kate, then tried politely to hide their laughter. Kate turned a fulminating
glance in their direction, which only served to send them into gales of
giggles. Even Lady Alice had to bite back a smile.

In truth, Kate couldn’t blame them. If she hadn’t been so
astounded by the ostentatious display, she would have joined them.

"No,” she lied.

One of the manservants from the inn came up to Kate and bowed.
“Your ladyship, Mr. Dalrymple has requested your company for the first dance.”

“Oh, I am sorry. Please inform Mr. Dalrymple my dance card is

Before the last words were out of her mouth, Carolyn had
whisked away Kate’s reticule and pulled out her dance card. The small
rectangle was innocent of any scribbled names of hopeful gentlemen.

“It doesn’t look full to me.” Carolyn smirked at her sister.
Kate knew that look of old, when Carol felt secure that any retribution would
come tomorrow, long after Caro had had time to enjoy her first grownup ball
without Kate hissing, “Behave,” if she, Caro, so much as she flirted with a

Kate rose with outward good grace, glaring a warning to her
sister over her shoulder as she walked to Mr. Dalrymple’s lair. On reaching
the invalid’s side, the servant pulled out the chair for Kate and fussed over
the disposition of the brandy glasses, then left with the other servants by the
back door. Now the couple was alone, but with everyone in the room watching
them avidly from the corners of their eyes, various degrees of envy, curiosity,
or unholy glee in their expressions.

Outwardly serene, Kate plastered a smile on her face as Mr.
Dalrymple, a vision all in black more suited to a funeral than a ball, lounged
back against the cushions. He made a dramatic picture, the only colour in his
toilette the crimson of the scarf tied around his head, which contrasted
hideously with his bruises. He signaled for a waiter.

“Unless you care for brandy,” he said, gesturing at the

“Certainly not!” Kate returned primly. “A lady, Mr.
Dalrymple, does not imbibe brandy, certainly not at a public function.”

Mr. Dalrymple waited until the waiter had placed a glass of
lemonade on the table next to Kate and left.

“I have it on the highest authority that ladies will do any
number of things when a gentleman’s back is turned.”

“How fortunate, then, that there is not one present.” Kate
glared at him frostily.

Mr. Dalrymple choked on his brandy. Kate reddened. “I meant,
that I am not addressing one. A gentleman, that is,” she added. “By the by, I
am so sorry to see how your condition has deteriorated since this morning.
Your greasepaint needs another coat of powder. It’s beginning to look a trifle

The sufferer lifted a limp hand to his brow, adjusting the
crimson silk to cover most of his cosmetically-enhanced contusion.

“Yes, I do seem to have had a relapse.” He allowed his head
to loll back against the pillow. “Would you care to know why?”

"Not in the least,” Kate fibbed, wondering furiously what
he was up to. Surely spies crept about under the cover of darkness and were at
pains to conceal their spy--er, activities.

The invalid, undeceived by her taradiddle, grinned. “If I
were well enough to dance and do the pretty, I’d have no time to investigate.
This way, people will go out of their way to entertain an invalid. “A

Behind her fan, Kate rolled her eyes in a way which would have
had caused Lady Alice to faint had she seen her niece.

Mr. Dalrymple continued smoothly, though his mouth quivered.
“I plan to know everything which is going on in this village by the supper

“It is news to me that a man who captures a criminal only to
be bashed on the head, allowing the criminal to escape, is a hero,” returned
Kate, feigning boredom. “Furthermore, people will be too busy dancing to have
time to coddle you.”

“In that case, I depend upon you to introduce me about.”

Kate’s fingers tightened on her glass. “Under no

“Lady Katherine, Lady Katherine,” twittered a voice in her
ear. “Oh, dear, have I interrupted?” Miss Barbara Radish appeared in front of
them, fluttering her handkerchief. “Please do excuse my poor manners, sir.”

"Such a charming lady as yourself could never be an
interruption,” Mr. Dalrymple returned gallantly. As Kate reluctantly performed
the introductions, he kissed the hand extended to him as the middle-aged
spinster giggled like a deb.

Never one to shirk her self-appointed duty as village gossip,
Miss Barbara wasted no time in coming to the heart of the matter. “Mr.
Dalrymple, a little bird told me,” she peeked coquettishly over her fan,
"That you were waylaid by the Grey Cavalier last night. So shocking!”

Here she paused for a moment to purse her lips and shake her
head that the rascal was not rotting in chains at that very moment. It was a
ritual much practiced in Oaksley by the more upright (or hypocritical)
citizens, and prefaced many conversations regarding the Cavalier. Homage thus
paid to morality and the law, Miss Radish felt free to discuss the Cavalier
with a clear conscience.

“Do tell us, Mr. Dalrymple, is it true you were able to fight
the villain off with only a hatpin? Did you really step in front of a blow
meant for the poor coachman? Did the Cavalier turn tail and run away like the
cowardly criminal he is?”

Kate listened to these idiocies with mounting ire. Beside
her, Mr. Dalrymple’s shoulders were shaking with ill-concealed laughter.

“Modesty forbids me admitting to any of those things, madam,”
he confided reluctantly, eyes carefully cast down with humility.

“Oh, for--I may be ill,” Kate muttered.

“I beg your pardon?” the warrior asked innocently. She glared
at him.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” Kate snapped her fan together.
"The Cavalier is a gentleman!”

“Are you sure? As to his sex, I mean.” Mr. Dalrymple winked at
the lace-trimmed woman taking up so much space in front of them.

Kate gasped. Miss Radish tittered gaily at his naughty joke.
With a daring Kate had never known the spinster to possess, she tapped him on
the wrist with her fan and rose in a swirl of lace and ruffles more suited to a
girl in her first Season than a woman of two score and ten.

“Mr. Dalrymple, you are dreadful! I shall send over a jar of
my special salve. Mother’s recipe. It never fails.” Chattering happily, Miss
Radish left and was soon seen flitting from group to group, spreading the
choice gossip.

Mr. Dalrymple smirked. “Perhaps I shall not need to impose
upon your good nature after all, my lady.”

“I told you this morning, Mr. Dalrymple, I will not be

"That was not blackmail, Lady Cava--Lady Katherine.
Merely an opportunity for you to save your pretty neck.”

“Precisely what is the point of this conversation?” she
snapped, eyes blazing.

"The point of this conversation was to make you angry
enough so your eyes would glow like sapphires in the moonlight,” he murmured
soulfully. Caught off guard, Kate gazed back, unable to look away. A tingle
ran up her spine. A blush stole over her face. Then her common sense returned
with a rush.

“My eyes are brown!”

Mr. Dalrymple grinned. "So they are.”

Kate’s bosom swelled with indignation. “I would have you know
that I have had sonnets written about my ears, odes to my eyelashes, and a
limerick dedicated to my flame-like tresses--”

“You have?”

She shot him a look of utter loathing. “Most certainly. Do
you believe your feeble attempts at flattery will grant you an introduction to
my underworld connections?”

The man in black sobered. "This is no game for amateurs,
Kate. I advise you to get out while you still can.”

"That’s 'Lady Katherine’ to you, and I’m no amateur.
I’ll have that reward, see if I don’t. Besides,” she added sweetly, “how can I
lead you to my felonious connections if I stay safely at home?”

Mr. Dalrymple grinned. "Touche. I’ll be sure to come to
your hanging.”

“And I’ll see you in Hell.” Kate stalked away, his chuckle
lingering in her ears long after he was out of earshot.




Two hours later, Kate gratefully accepted the hand of her
oldest friend, Tom Appleby, for the quadrille. Hoyden she might be, but Kate
would still rather dance than anything, including go on the bridle-lay. And it
was a treat to be partnered by a gentleman who would not tread on her toes,
gasp fragrantly into her face, or step-hop-step when he should be

But it was poor Tom’s toes which suffered, for as they
threaded their way down the line of couples, Kate overheard snatches of
conversation which filled her with foreboding. A quick glance over her
shoulder confirmed her fears. True to his plans, Mr. Dalrymple was holding
court and learning more about the local geography than any local knew.

Right foot, chasse, chasse

“—my boyhood fascination with the Royalists--”

Left foot, jete, assemble

“--as a Catholic stronghold, there must be numerous hides

Changemont de jambe

“--secret stairs and priest holes?”

Turn, turn
, balancez a vos dames

“--Wallingford Castle. That charming pile on the hill?”

Pirouette and crash!
Kate whipped around to stare openmouthed at her nemesis, landing full tilt into
Dr. Dogget, thus ending the set in good-natured disarray. Tom led Kate to the
open window near the card room.

BOOK: A River Runs Through It
7.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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