Authors: Lydia M Sheridan
|Mr. Dalrymple Revealed|
|The Counterfeit Cavalier |
|Lydia M Sheridan|
|Lydia M. Sheridan (2012)|
In this second volume of the adventures of The Counterfeit Cavalier, we discover the true nature of Mr. Dalrymple and Lady Katherine begins to scheme anew.
The Counterfeit Cavalier is a sweet Regency romp in four parts. Volume Two is 7,718 words long, or about 21 pages.
THE COUNTERFEIT CAVALIER, VOLUME TWO:
MR. DALRYMPLE REVEALED
2012 Lydia M. Sheridan
This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an
additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not
purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to
amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the work of
THE COUNTERFEIT CAVALIER, VOLUME TWO:
MR. DALRYMPLE REVEALED
Her single candle barely illuminated the thick darkness of the
stairwell as Kate tip-toed down to the kitchen in stockinged feet. At the
landing, she paused, tapped an age-darkened door twice, twice more, then twice
again. The reply came: three soft knocks. Reassured, she eased on down the
stairs. At the scullery door, she blew out her candle, lifted the latch, and
slipped out. It closed without a sound on well-oiled hinges.
Her breath caught and held in the clear night, an unseasonable
coolness speaking of the coming autumn. Overhead, clouds obscured the moon and
another shiver of apprehension skittered down her spine. Every instinct told
her tonight was not a night to gamble, but if the mortgage payment wasn’t paid,
the house of cards she’d carefully built up would tumble down. Bertie wouldn’t
be able to go to school, Lucy would end up marrying Awful Adam, and Horrible
Uncle Oliver would split the children up and distribute them as charity cases
to various relatives. So despite her qualms, she pulled on a worn pair of
dancing slippers and trudged to the stables.
Luckily it’s no longer raining,
she thought. And just as if on cue, she heard an
ominous rumble of thunder in the distance.
Yes, someone was definitely trying to tell her something.
A smart woman would head back to bed.
However, Kate was also a desperate woman, and she did not allow her steps to
By the time she reached the stables, her natural good spirits
had reasserted themselves. She was a woman of the modern age, she assured
herself, not a believer of superstitions and black magic. She crossed her
fingers just in case and soldiered on.
The routine was so familiar Kate needed no other light than
the pale moon shining between scudding clouds to unearth her disguise from
underneath a loose board in the tack room. Silently, with the ease of much
practice, she pulled on the grey wool breeches, doublet and full-skirted coat,
and covered the whole with a grey wool cloak. The fabric was slightly
moth-eaten, but it covered her from chin to knee and had a way of swirling in
the wind which was both ghostly and sinister, a highly satisfactory effect.
With her height, so unfashionable in a female, combined with a
great deal of buckram wadding in the shoulders of the coat, most would take her
not for a highwayman, but a bruiser of considerable proportions. She gave her
red hair a quick tuck under a wig of blonde, shoulder-length curls, attached a
fake beard and moustache to her face with a smear of spirit gum, and clapped
upon her head an old-fashioned hat with dancing grey plumes.
There. Not even the closest of her acquaintance would know
her as the latest in a long line of Grey Cavaliers. For almost two centuries,
these men (and now woman) had been the scourge of the King’s Highway, the
despair of the local constabulary, and the romantic ideal of adolescent chits.
It was really a local tradition, Kate would often rationalize on those
occasions when her conscience pricked her.
In the flicker of a pig’s whisker, Kate saddled and bridled
her trusty mare, Diana, and smeared lamp black liberally over her three white
socks. Shoving two pistols in the saddle bag and a wicked-looking dagger in
her boot, Kate swung up into the saddle and they were off.
Horse and rider had lived near the village of Oaksley all
their lives. There was no wood, meadow, or cobbled street that they didn’t
know like the back of their hands (or hooves). Kate hardly had to guide the
big horse to the ancient oak near the river.
Now came the worst part of any job. Waiting and watching,
straining to hear the sound of the approaching carriage. It gave Kate too much
leisure to imagine the deadly consequences: a bullet to the heart, or worse, a
clap on the shoulder from the long arm of the law; being hauled off to gaol and
having to watch the looks on her family’s faces as the noose was placed around
her neck--.No, definitely a swift end would be preferable. Kate pulled her
cloak tightly about her neck and waited.
This night the wait seemed interminable because of the cold
On the one hand, it helped to muffle sounds. On the other,
the puddles reflected the moonlight, threatening the secrecy of her hiding
place, so that Kate wished for the nice, heavy rain to begin again. Still, on
the other hand--.
She was running out of hands.
As they waited, rigid with anticipation, the wind picked up,
lashing the branches of the huge old tree into a frenzy. A few crumpled leaves
swirled to the ground, black spots on the lighter mud. Her throat constricted
with fear. Dead leaves could not possibly be a good omen when one plans to rob
the next coach coming over the hill.
Kate’s nervousness increased, transferring to Diana. When an
owl screeched, screamingly loud in the silence, hear heart leapt into her
throat and she flinched, jerking at the reins. Diana shied, tossing her head.
She wasn’t used to such missish behavior from her mistress.
Neither was her mistress.
Trembling more than her horse, Kate reached forward to pat
her neck. “Easy, girl. Easy there." The sound of her voice, steady and
calm, insensibly reassured them both. Gradually, Kate’s fear began to subside,
replaced by a ripple of exhilaration up her spine, that thrill of anticipation
whetting her appetite for the danger she courted. It was at such moments as
this that she understood why men went to war.
Far in the distance the church bells tolled, crystal clear in
the cold air.
As her informant had promised, from far in the distance a
yellow glow appeared. After a time, the glow became two thin beams of light.
Diana pricked up her ears, pawing the ground excitedly. Kate leaned forward,
straining to hear the muffled clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the metallic
jingle of harness borne on the chilly wind. Another minute, Another gust
brought the faint creak of carriage wheels coming ever close, ever louder.
Her last bit of nervousness vanished. This was no game for
the chicken-hearted. All Kate felt was her heart pounding with exhilaration.
The light from the carriage lamps disappeared as the coach dipped down the
hill. They had two minutes.
With heightened calm, Kate drew two old pistols from the
saddle bag. Fashioned for dueling, they were silver-chased and perfectly
balanced. She hadn’t had to shoot anyone yet, thank heaven. So far, the mere
threat had been enough to keep her victims in line.
Thrusting one in her waistband, the other in the saddle
holster, she tied a grey silk scarf over her eyes and nose. With two holes cut
for her to see, the only part of her not disguised were her hands. Like
Diana’s socks, they were smeared with lamp-black. Despite the cold, Kate
needed her fingers free to control the pistols. Custom-made for her
grandfather, they were too large for her hands. One of these days she was going
to drop one during the middle of a robbery and then she really might shoot
Still as a couple of corpses, they waited, poised at the
ready. Through the blood thrumming in her ears, Kate could only just hear the
muffled clatter of hooves as the carriage drew ever closer to the top of the
With aching slowness, she urged Diana forward. Silently,
horse and rider crept up the incline behind the hedgerow just after the crest
of the hill. So single-minded was her purpose that not a tremble caused the
pearl-handled pistol in her hand to waver. Every nerve and muscle was poised
for the attack.
The heavy old coach creaked and ground up the final lap of the
hill, swinging ponderously around the last curve several hundred yards from
their hiding place.
Quickly, Kate clapped her heels to Diana’s flanks. Giving a
hoarse shout, she fired into the night sky and horse and rider sprang from the
bushes, galloping flat out toward the oncoming coach.
The crack of the shot was deafening in the silent night. The
coachman fought to keep control of the rearing team. In a fine flurry of
dancing plumes and swirling cape, Kate pulled up short barely a yard in front
of the plunging horses.
Diana reared, snorting and tossing her head, and the terrified
coachman gave up the battle. His eyes rolled back in his head as he slid
quietly to the ground in a dead faint. One of the leaders got a leg over a
trace and the team came to an uneasy halt.
With a practiced flourish, Kate pulled out the second pistol
from her saddle holster and shoved the spent pistol in its place.
"Stand and deliver, poltroon, lest ye welter in your own
blood this night!” Kate roared in her best highwayman voice.
“My dear--ah--felon,” lisped a refined tone. "Surely
this drama is all too--er--dramatic.”
And out of the coach stepped a very long leg, shod in the most
elegant of Hessian boots and tightest of breeches, followed languidly by as
overpowering a dandy as Kate had ever had the misfortune to encounter. Since
this afternoon, anyway. She rolled her eyes in disgust as she recognized the
impudent coxcomb from the Coffee Shoppe.
From the top of his brilliantly oiled locks to shirt points so
high they threatened his cheeks with impalement, to the wondrous arrangement of
his cravat, studded with a gaudy stickpin, to the greatcoat fluttery with
capes, his raiment screamed affiliation with the veriest Pinks of the ton.
Kate’s lip curled with contempt even as she leveled the barrel
of the pistol between his eyes. She’d have no trouble at all with this--this
mincing macaroni merchant.
"Quite unnecessary, too,” he went on, gazing
disinterestedly through a jewel-encrusted quizzing glass at the form of the
coachman sprawled inelegantly on the road. "The--um--poltroon went out
faster than a candle in a lightskirt’s bedroom.”
"Stubble it,” Kate ordered gruffly, gesturing with the
pistol, but the exquisite seemed not to notice. He was anxiously inspecting
the high gloss of his boots, visible even in the dark, for any speck of dirt,
or, horrid thought! a scratch.
A movement on the coach drew Kate’s attention and her pistol.
The guard, looking no more than a boy in the moonlight, peeked prudently over
the roof of the coach. Before he had time to point the heavy blunderbuss he
carried, he was staring down the muzzle of Kate’s gun.
“Unhand your weapon or your master sleeps with the angels this
The guard blinked. “Wha--?”
The gentleman sighed, gesturing with a fine lawn handkerchief.
“Dear me. I believe, my boy, this Knight of the Road desires
you to put down your weapon. At the risk of displaying a vulgar selfishness,
perhaps you might do as he asks.”
The boy laid down his old-fashioned gun and awaited further
"See to the horses,” Kate barked. Obediently, the
lad scrambled toward Diana. "Not mine, you idiot!"
The gentleman yawned delicately into soft, white fingers.
“What an excellent suggestion,” he approved. "Although
perhaps you are being overgenerous categorizing these gluepots as horses.” He
watched with sleepy eyes, so bored he seemed barely able to stay awake, as the
guard managed to untangle and calm the trembling animals. "Still, we are
all God’s creatures.”
“One more word out of you, my fine buck, and I shoot just for
the joy of it.”
"Such violence in the world today. It grieves me.” He
stifled another yawn and picked a speck of lint off his sleeve.
Thoroughly exasperated, Kate waved the pistol menacingly.
“Your glass. Your purse. Your watch and fobs. Hand them over and you shall
live to see the morrow!” she ordered, keeping one eye on the boy.
The dainty tulip adjusted the brim of his curled beaver just
so. “And if I refuse?”
Really, the man was beginning to try her patience.
"Then I shall shoot you down like the dog you are!” This
got his attention like nothing else she’d said.
“Good God!” he said severely. "That would ruin the set
of my jacket!”
Kate said nothing, merely jerking her head to the guard,
indicating he should climb back on the coach. Unlike the complaining dandy in
front of her, he complied instantly.
“I shall report this to the Regent himself. Such goings on
will not be tolerated,” the popinjay fussed.
Kate cocked the hammer on the pistol and took careful aim
between his eyes. This apparently decided him. Letting his quizzing glass
dangle from its ribbon, he turned out his pockets.
“Hurry,” she snapped. Her voice was becoming raspy from
shouting at the wrong pitch and her nerves were completely on edge. This was
fast turning into the strangest robbery she’d ever perpetrated.
With a murmur of slightly vexed boredom, the gentleman
obliged, offering Kate the booty in one large,
beautifully manicured hand.
His compliance rendered her one significant problem. To whit:
how to take the valuables without letting go of an unusually restive Diana, or
lowering the pistol. Usually, her victims were sufficiently cowed, or excited,
that the weapon was no longer necessary. Kate’s irritation intensified.
was a great deal easier,
she fumed inwardly,
to hold up a carriage when one’s prey stays inside the coach where
. Many even considered it an
honor and privilege to be robbed by so famous a highwayman. Kate eyed her
victim with increasing dislike.