Edward, Earl of Chalcombe, walking home, is attacked. He attempts to defend himself but is bludgeoned to the ground. Death seems inevitable when a beautiful young lady and her servant rescue him. Refusing any reward they leave no address, But Edward, fascinated by both Madelaine’s beauty and swordsmanship, intends to pursue the acquaintance. Edward seeks his rescuers and the culprits who wish to terminate his life. He offers the elusive Madelaine marriage but she repeatedly declines. Her father accepts an invitation to visit his estate with her, over Christmas as he takes a liking to Edward. As Edward pursues Madelaine, the attempts on his life continue. The mystery intertwines as their romance progresses and Madelaine eventually reveals the secret making her refuse to marry him.
After the attempts upon Edward’s life several of his staff had been offered bribes for information about his movements. Both a stable lad and a maid reported being offered half guineas, but they had given a prompt refusal and withdrawn from the contact. The third attempt at bribery occurred when two of Edward’s footmen were having a heavy wet in the public room of the Running Horse in Davies Street.
Peter Firth and young John Pennywise had been allowed the evening off, as the earl and her ladyship were attending a select evening party in town and were not expected to return to the early hours. They were standing at the bar chewing the bacon together when a foreign sounding gentleman, dressed in black attempted to buy them a pint of beer.
John was considering accepting, but Peter remembered the warning and squeezed his shoulder. John and Peter politely said “No thank you, sir.”
The man tried again.
“Please let me buy you both a drink, lads, what’s your pleasure? Another pint of mine host’s best or maybe something stronger?” The stranger continued unctuously.
“No thank you, sir,” repeated Peter and drew John away to sit in the furthest corner of the tavern. They sat down and continued their conversation. “Do you think it’s true that the Corsican monster has to retreat from Russia?” John asked Peter as he had been reading the earl’s paper before he ironed it.
“Sounds like Bonaparte got badly whipped this time.”
“About time I think. Do you want another Peter? My round isn’t it?” As John went to get up, the stranger in black brought over two tankards of beer for them.
“Do you mind if I join you?” he said as he sat beside them. “I don’t know many people in London.”
John was a little embarrassed about the man’s intrusion. “Thank you for the beer,” he said and Peter echoed him.
“I’m only in town on some business, where do you work?” asked the stranger. Peter said nothing, but thought their footmen’s uniform with their master’s crest on their chest should have been a pretty good indicator.
“We work as footmen for the earl of Chalcombe,”John said proud of his position, and Peter kicked him under the table.
“Is he a good employer? I suppose you can always do with a few extra guineas,” he smoothly suggested.
“What would you want in return for these guineas?” Peter asked suspiciously.
“Only a little information…oof” the foreigner replied, but was cut short by Peter’s fist connecting with his gut.
“Try to make us spy on his lordship, will you, Take that!” Peter declared slightly late but he followed up with a flourishing left to the chin. Peter was a well-developed lad and the interloper went down hard. The man scrabbled back to his feet quickly, but shook his head as if his wits had gone begging.
John had also stood and both footmen were advancing menacingly towards their adversary.
“He’s the one Jenkins was warning us about. He tried to murder my lord!” Peter declared.
“Now boys, take it outside or I’ll have to call the watch on you,” interrupted mine host.
Peter reached for the man’s arm, grabbing it with a brawny fist, then his other hand connected this time with the man’s nose.
“Take it outside, I said,” repeated the innkeeper.
“We’re going, Stanley. John grab his other arm!”
The pair of footmen bundled him out of the saloon into the street. Hitting the chill air, John found he was a trifle disguised, but he rallied and his fists delivered a couple of heavy wallops to the man still held by his senior comrade. They may have lacked science, but it was bellows to mend with their victim. Both lads were a bit jug-bitten and were not completely thinking straight. They continued to drub the man, and his claret now had been drawn properly, as his nose was leaking blood profusely. The man in black tried to hit Peter back a couple of times, but was swaying on his feet. John contributed a few more of his own mashers, but he was not carrying his ale that well, as he staggered a little.
“Peter shouldn’t we take him back to Jenkins, for his lordship? He can call the runners after he’s had a
chance to talk to this one,” John staunchly said, enunciating his words one at a time.
He hoisted the battered foreigner from the gutter where he had fallen and Peter gripped the man’s other side as they dragged him back towards Grosvenor Square. But after a few halting steps, the man seemed to come to his senses. They swerved to allow another pedestrian to pass by, when he shrugged off their restraining hands and bolted down the street, the pair of inebriated footmen whooping and jeering at his heels.
He fled towards the centre of town, until out of breath with the footmen gaining upon him he managed to lose his pursuers by turning off from Oxford Street into Drury Lane, where he mingled with the crowd of theatre goers as they spilled out of the theatres.
The now sobering footmen gave a clear description of the inquisitive foreigner to the butler, Jenkins, as soon as they returned to Chalcombe House. They repeated their story to the earl, when he returned home. It was obvious to Edward his footmen had been approached by Stack’s erstwhile employer and whoever that gentleman might be he was very determined to find a way to do away with himself.
Author bio Giselle Marks
Giselle Marks is an English writer, poet and novelist, born in London, who has been writing in various forms most of her life. Currently Giselle lives in the beautiful Isle of Man. Her family is grown, contented and expanding. She spends most of her time writing.
Her books ‘The Fencing Master’s Daughter’ and ‘The Marquis’s Mistake,’ were published for a few months and received good reviews before the publisher folded. She was asked to contribute a Regency romantic novella to ‘The Chocolate House – All for Love,’ which is a charity anthology supporting GOSH, Great Ormond Hospital for Children based in London. Her novella is entitled ‘A Rose by Any other Name…’ With her fellow writer and cover artist Sarah J. Waldock, Giselle wrote and illustrated ‘Fae Tales’ an anthology of fae and mythic tales updated to modern times and intended for teenagers and adults. Both books are available. Links?
Following the republication of The Fencing Master’s Daughter she will be releasing the ‘Princess of Zenina,’ the first in the sci-fi / fantasy Zeninan Saga and ‘the Purchased Peer’, a Georgian Romance. She has also completed another Regency romance ‘A Compromised Rake’ and the first of a Regency gypsy series, ‘Jessica’s Tale – Book One, The Gypsy Countess series,’ although she is considering alternate titles.
The Zeninan Saga introduces Princess Marina, daughter of the reigning Queen of Zenina, a female dominated planet which protects a disparate empire in a dangerous universe. Marina seeks to avoid her destiny, but her decisions sometimes lead to greater problems.
Other long- term projects include a possible book of her poetry. Her poems have been published in Female
First and she has entered two of their contests, scoring a win and a commendation. Giselle has had short stories published in a number of anthologies.