Hello, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.
As you may know, I’m working on ROSINGS PARK, my sequel to THE THREE COLONELS. Unfortunately, it’s been a slow process and I appreciate your patience.
(It doesn’t help that I’m also editing my Persuasion sequel, PERSUADED TO SAIL, at the same time!)
Anyhow, there’s an interlude in ROSINGS PARK that fits this month’s theme. Readers of THE THREE COLONELS will remember Thomas Tucker, husband of the former Mary Bennet. Be warned – there’s a couple of spoilers for both PERSUADED TO SAIL and ROSINGS PARK in what follows. Enjoy!
December, 1816 – London
Mr. Darcy descended from his carriage directly before the law offices of Tucker & Phillips. As usual, he was before his time. The warmth of the outer office was a welcome refuge from the cold December day. A clerk—a Mr. Price, Darcy recalled—took his hat and overcoat.
“Mr. Tucker is with another client, sir,” the young man explained apologetically. “He will see you as soon as may be. Pray, take your ease by the fire. May I offer you some coffee?”
Declining any refreshment, Darcy eased himself into a chair. It was new and well-made, as was most of the furniture in the room, an indication of his brother-in-law’s success in building Elizabeth’s Uncle Phillips’ practice. Thomas Tucker was intelligent and hard-working, but Darcy knew many clever, industrious men who did not rise so fast. It was no insult to Mr. Tucker to recall that having the Darcy and Fitzwilliam families among his clients gave the ambitious solicitor enormous prestige for one so young.
Darcy stared at the glowing coals in the grate, not really seeing them. His thoughts again turned to his late Uncle Hugh, as had been his wont this last month. He was surprised how greatly he missed the affectionate, interfering old goat. Lord Matlock had tried to act as a second father to Darcy after George Darcy’s death, and while Darcy would never grant him that office, he quietly appreciated the earl’s efforts. In fact, he made few decisions without first canvasing his uncle’s opinion.
Of course, Uncle Hugh would provide his advice, requested or not. In that he was much like Aunt Catherine, Darcy recalled with a small smile. The earl’s passing had left a small hole in Darcy’s heart, one that could never be filled.
Darcy’s musings were interrupted by the sound of the inner door opening, and he rose from the chair. His brother-in-law was shaking the hand of an unknown man and caught his eye at the same time.
“Ah, Mr. Darcy! Allow me to introduce this gentleman to you.”
The stranger was tall, of a height with Darcy. He stood perfectly straight, broad shoulders straining at his blue coat, a rather simple cravat at his throat. His weather-beaten face was long and chiseled, his eyes penetrating. This was no dandy. Darcy judged him a military man.
“This is Captain Wentworth of the navy,” Tucker continued. “Captain, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir.” Captain Wentworth’s handshake was as firm as his voice was rough. A result of yelling at the top of his lungs, no doubt, Darcy reasoned.
“Mr. Darcy, I shall be with you as soon as I finish a small matter,” said Mr. Tucker. “I shan’t be a minute. Captain Wentworth, I bid you good day.”
After Mr. Tucker retreated into his office, Darcy asked the tall naval officer, “Do I have the privilege of speaking to the famous Captain Wentworth of the Laconia?”
Wentworth bowed. “I did have the honor of commanding her.”
“But no longer.”
A small smile danced on his leathery face. “The Lords of the Admiralty entertain themselves by moving their post-captains about. I have been posted to a new command while another has Laconia.”
“I hope you do not suffer any disappointment over the change.”
“Not at all. Laconia was as sweet a little frigate as one would wish, but I do not repine. I am honored to be entrusted with His Majesty’s newest 40-gun frigate, HMS Fearless.”
“A proper name for a warship. I trust you will continue to distinguish yourself with the Fearless as you did with the Laconia.”
Wentworth smiled. “I thank you, sir, but the wars are over, and so is any chance of accolades from battle. It is just as well. My wife is pleased with that, I can assure you. No, any recognition for my ship must now come from spit and polish. A far safer means of fame, but no less difficult.” He glanced at the clock in the corner. “I beg you to forgive me, Mr. Darcy, but I must be away. An old shipmate, Captain Harville, is to meet me at my club.”
Darcy’s eyebrows rose. “Captain Timothy Harville? I know the gentleman. He is employed by my wife’s uncle, Mr. Gardiner.”
Wentworth’s long face lit up. “It is a small world! You’ll find no better man than Harville, sir.”
“That is Mr. Gardiner’s opinion, as well.”
“Perhaps you can join us later.”
“I wish I could, Captain, but I have business before me today. Besides…” Darcy gestured with his chin at the black armband adorning his right sleeve.
Wentworth was taken aback. “Forgive me, but I was not attending! My condolences, sir.”
“I thank you. Are you in Town long?”
“I leave tomorrow for Portsmouth.”
“Pray send your card around next time you are in London,” Darcy said as he handed Wentworth his card. “I would like to introduce you to my wife. Bring your wife, too, if she is with you.”
The captain was clearly surprised and pleased with Darcy’s affability. “I shall certainly do so, but I have not the least idea when I shall return to Town. My time belongs to the navy. I thank you and hope to meet again soon.”
The two men shook hands and Wentworth left the building.
Until next time, this has been the Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles.
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story…