The Gathering Storm (The Jacobite Chronicles Book 3) (9 page)

BOOK: The Gathering Storm (The Jacobite Chronicles Book 3)
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“Really?” Lord Redburn said, looking at Anne with new interest. “And what means did you employ to relieve the symptoms?”

“Well, we found the milk and…” Anne began.

“Miss Maynard told me that briskly rubbing the affected limbs with a linen cloth was most efficacious,” Beth interrupted hurriedly.

“A woollen cloth,” Anne corrected timidly. “Yes, Papa found it brought him relief from the pain, as it helps to dissipate the humours, bunches and knots, which otherwise become fixed in the joints.”

“Really?” said Lord Redburn again, offering her his arm. “You must tell me more. Why don’t we take a stroll? The gardens are well lit, and I am sure you will not mind if we walk slowly.”

She took his arm.

“Oh, no, my lord,” she said. “I often used to accompany my father. A little exercise is of course good for the circulation, and…”

They wandered off sedately, arm in arm. Beth waited until she got home to do a triumphant and credible approximation of the Highland fling, if an amused Angus was to be believed.

The next morning the crested carriage of Lord Redburn was to be seen outside the London residence of Lord and Lady Winter. And again, two days later.

 

“They aren’t actually married yet,” Edwin protested. “Wasn’t the wager only if they married?”

“Stop splitting hairs, Edwin. You’re not at Westminster now,” Caroline said. “He’s proposed, she’s accepted. The wedding is in June. We won. Give in and pay up. Now.”

“Better do as she says,” Sir Anthony sighed. “I think we must accept defeat on this one, and seek a more sure thing for our next wager.”

“I will never make another bet with you two again,” said Edwin, depositing five sovereigns into his wife’s waiting hand. “I’m shocked by your deviousness, the pair of you. I don’t know why the king doesn’t pack you both off to Europe directly. Between you, I’m sure you could persuade Frederick of Prussia to give up his claim to Austria, and stop the war overnight.”

“I must confess though, that I am not sorry you won the bet, my dears,” Sir Anthony said to the two grinning women. “You were right. They are remarkably well suited.”

Edwin watched the victors as they retired with their spoils.

“Just pray they never let women into Parliament, Anthony,” he said. “The day they do, we men are doomed.”

“We are already, dear boy,” the baronet replied, eyeing his wife with admiration. “We let them into our hearts, and that’s a far more dangerous place.”

 

Sarah was also happy that her former mistress had won her bet, and that she had subtly spread the news that it was Miss Browne who had performed the amazing transformation of Anne Maynard. She was so inundated with customers that within a month she had to take on an assistant, and was contemplating the happy prospect of looking for larger premises.

CHAPTER THREE

August 1744

 

“Oh, that’s nice,” said Beth.

“What is?” asked Angus. “For God’s sake, if it’s something nice, share it with us. There’s no’ much that is at present.”

Angus’s uncharacteristic gloom was occasioned by the latest news filtering through from Paris, where Prince Charles was still resolutely residing against the wishes of the French King, who, as Charles’s cause was of no current use to him, wanted nothing more than to be rid of the embarrassing Stuart prince. Vague promises had been made and broken; Charles had initially been told that his requirement to remain incognito would be lifted in June, and then no later than the end of July, then that it must continue a while longer. The prince was not stupid: he no longer believed that he would be allowed to serve in Louis’ forces. Neither did he feel that he should bow his neck to the will of France, as his father’s frantic letters from Rome kept advising him to do. In his view he had been treated badly by Louis.

And not only in his view, but also in the view of most of the royal families of Europe, his followers in Scotland and elsewhere, and even the pope, who tried never to take sides between Catholic monarchs. Forced to negotiate with Louis through the minister least sympathetic to Jacobite affairs, Philibert Orry, Comte de Vignory, Charles expressed his frustration by attending a series of high-profile balls and parties in Paris, making almost no effort to mask his identity, eliciting sympathy for his plight among the elite of France, and generally getting up Louis’ duplicitous nose.

The reason for the current pessimism in the MacGregor household was because although the prince’s attitude was understandable, alienating the monarch of the country most likely to support your family’s restoration was not the best of ideas. The latest news was that John Murray of Broughton, who Alex and Beth had met briefly in Rome, had now gone to Paris to discuss the possibility of a Scottish rising, a plan to which Alex was vehemently opposed, unless it was accompanied by substantial French support, which did not seem likely at the moment.

Beth looked up from the letter she had been reading to see Angus, Iain and Maggie expectantly awaiting this ‘nice’ news. At that moment, Alex and Duncan joined them, Alex freshly scrubbed clean of makeup, and both of them stockingless and barefoot.

“What’s amiss?” said Alex immediately.

“Nothing,” replied Maggie. “Beth has received some good news, that’s all.”

“Have you?” said Alex, smiling and coming to squash himself between Angus and Maggie on the sofa. “What’s that, then?”

Beth felt awkward at the triviality of the news which had caused her earlier comment, in view of the eagerness now surrounding her.

“Em…well, it’s nothing important, only that Jane and Thomas have offered Mary and Joseph the use of their house for their wedding feast.”

“Better than a stable,” Duncan commented. Beth pulled a face.

“I don’t think they’d thank you for a comment like that,” she said. “They must have heard them all by now. It’s nice because they’re limited as to where they can go, with them and many of their guests being Catholics. Both Mary and Joseph’s landlords are Anglicans. They might turn a blind eye to their tenants’ faith, but they’d never agree to them holding a party. Particularly in the current climate.” The Act restricting the movements and activities of Catholics, revived the previous year, was still in force.

“Aren’t Jane and Thomas Anglicans?” Alex asked.

“Yes, but they’re very open-minded, I’ve already told you that. They know I’m Catholic. Graeme’s Episcopalian, and so is John. Grace and Martha are Presbyterian. We were a real mish-mash. It made for very interesting conversation. But I’m sorry, my news was only really nice for me. It doesn’t concern the rest of you at all. The wedding’s in two weeks, so I’ll have to leave next Wednesday if I’m to be sure of being there in time.”

“It concerns me,” said Alex. “I was included in the invitation too, was I no’?”

“Yes,” said Beth. “Or rather Sir Anthony was. But I didn’t think you’d want to come.”

“Why ever not, my dear?” he replied in the baronet’s affected tones. “Sir Anthony is well-known for his non-partisan attitudes. A Catholic wedding attended by Anglicans, Episcopalians and Presbyterians would be just the thing! In fact,” he continued, reverting to his own rich Scottish accent. “I was thinking, if it’s acceptable to everyone, tae combine a trip to the wedding wi’ a wee journey home. I’m after thinking it’s about time my wife became acquainted with her clan.”

“Whether that’s a good idea or no’ depends on who’s included on this wee journey home,” said Iain.

“Aye. Well, Sir Anthony will certainly need both his personal manservants,” he said, nodding to Duncan and Angus. “And a footman, in case any doors need opening. And it wouldna be fitting for my wife to travel wi’ only men for company, so I suppose Maggie’ll have to come along. We’ll shut the house up for a month or so. We can use the wedding as an excuse to leave, and once that’s over we can head officially north to somewhere near the border, and then Sir Anthony can disappear for a while. I can get news as well from home as here, maybe even easier, as there’s nae chance of an English invasion at the minute, but a considerable likelihood of a Scottish one.”

Angus leapt to his feet, dragging Maggie from the sofa and spinning her round the room in a joyous little dance.

“I think we can say that the news was nice for all of us after all, Beth,” he said, beaming.

“Aye, mebbe,” said Iain, trying unsuccessfully to scowl. “But it doesna give ye the right to make free with my wife, ye wee gomerel. Leave her be.”

Angus ignored him, completed his turn round the room, bowed formally and escorted Maggie courteously back to her seat.

“We’d best start packing, then, had we no’?” he said, blue eyes sparkling.

 

They set off the following week, Sir Anthony, Beth, and her maid Margaret in the coach, Iain acting as coachman, and Angus and Duncan following on behind with a cart laden with provisions and gifts, ostensibly for the lucky couple, but in reality destined to continue to Scotland. With one or two exceptions.

“Oh, I can’t believe it!” cried Mary, upon opening Sir Anthony and Beth’s wedding present. Folded carefully in layers of tissue was a full tea set in green and white Sevres porcelain. There were also more practical gifts; bedding, pans, and kitchen utensils. But this was the one Beth had chosen carefully, as a personal present for her friend, who loved the expensive beverage, but rarely got to drink it. At the bottom of the box was a pound of the finest Bohea tea. Mary gave a little cry of delight, and lifted a cup from its wrappings, handling it with the utmost reverence.

“Now you don’t have to borrow a tea set from your employer any more when guests call,” Beth said.

“I won’t have an employer from Monday,” Mary replied, her gaze still firmly fixed on the delicate cup. “Mrs Chesters believes most firmly that a married woman’s job is to stay at home and look after her husband.”

“Quite right too. I expect my meals on the table on the dot when I come home, or there’ll be trouble,” said Joseph with mock severity. Beth had met him for the first time earlier that day, and had liked him immediately, sensing that his affection for her friend was genuine. Mary pulled a face at her beloved.

“I told her that he was quite used to looking after himself, and that I could continue to work for her until I had my first child, but she wouldn’t change her mind. It’s ridiculous.”

“Will you be able to manage?” Beth asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Thanks to your generosity, my lord.” She smiled shyly at the baronet, quite overcome by the idea of having a titled personage at her wedding. Although she had invited him, she had not really thought he would condescend to actually attend her modest affair.

“Please, my dear, I am not a lord, and have no wish to be,” he replied. “And if you stand on ceremony with me all weekend, you will most certainly spoil your happy occasion, and mine. I intend to let my hair down a little at this merry affair, being far from the Capital and gossip, and would far prefer it if you stop reminding me of my title. Anthony is my name, and you will be doing me the utmost service if you address me by it.”

She tried. She really tried, but did not succeed fully until the following evening, when much the worse for several glasses of wine. The wedding service had been conducted clandestinely by Father Kendal, witnessed only by Mary and Joseph’s Catholic friends. Alex had declined to attend, pointing out that he would not be able to make the correct responses without arousing suspicion, and that Mary would be worried that he felt out of place.

“They’re a lovely couple,” he said. “I want them to enjoy the ceremony, without worrying about their pseudo-aristocratic guest.”

Instead he sat with his brothers and Iain, later joined by Graeme and Thomas, chatting and lending a hand to move tables, chairs and other furniture when required, while the non-Catholic women ran around preparing the substantial wedding feast, which was laid out in one of the two rarely used reception rooms.

The subsequent dancing was held in the other room, and was a very jolly, if somewhat cramped affair, with Sir Anthony and Beth demonstrating the menuet they had danced at Versailles, and Angus and Duncan later leading Beth and the blushing bride in a Scottish reel, while Iain scraped merrily away on the fiddle he had wrested from its owner, who was providing the music for the evening, but knew no Scottish numbers.

Wine flowed freely and Beth took Angus to one side, warning him that Grace, who was quietly falling under his spell, was a good girl and if he did any more than dance with her, she’d make sure he never did anything again, with anyone. He did not abandon her for alternative prey after this warning as he could have done, there being several unattached ladies present who would have laid all their favours willingly at his feet. Instead he continued to lavish attention on Grace, to her delight, behaving like a perfect gentleman and leaving her at the end of the evening feeling like the most beautiful woman in the world, but most definitely unsullied.

“Oh, I cannot remember when I have been so happy!” Mary said to Sir Anthony and Beth, as the evening drew to a close. She seemed unconcerned by the fact that there was little chance of her union being consummated this night, as the groom, brown hair tousled and handsome face flushed from dancing and wine, had unwisely embarked upon a drinking wager with Angus and Iain. Judging by the state of him at the present moment, and Angus’s reputation, Joseph would be spending his wedding night under the table. Still, the couple had many more nights to spend together, but the wager with Angus and Iain could not be repeated. They were leaving in the morning.

“It has been a wonderful occasion, my dear Mary,” agreed Sir Anthony. “And no doubt bodes well for your marriage. Joseph is an excellent fellow.”

“And thanks to you and Beth, Anthony, we have not had to wait any longer. I thought we would never be able to save enough to marry.”

“And I thought you would persist in treating me like the king all night. But at last you have addressed me as Anthony, without a Si..or my Lo…before it. Thank you, my dear.”

“Ah, now,” she said, swaying a little. “As for treating you like a king, that would depend on which king you are speaking of.”

BOOK: The Gathering Storm (The Jacobite Chronicles Book 3)
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