As only one of several avid news gatherers at the wedding of Viscount Effingale’s niece, Miss Isabella Smithson, to the Prince of Wales’ pet cit and latest baron, Holsworthy, of Seventh Sea Shipping, this reporter can nevertheless assure you this information is perfectly truthful, accurate, and directly from the source. You see, Readers, I myself am the source.
I sat in the same taproom—heavily veiled, of course—where the three gentlemen in question held their consultation. An invited guest to the wedding, along with the Prince of Wales and Princess Amelia and a sizable handful of lords and ladies who had traveled to Saltash on Seventh Sea’s new flagship to celebrate the wedding and the launch of the Prince’s latest enterprise, in which we are all now heavily invested.
Of course, the royals were not staying at the inn, but rather in the richly appointed quarters on the new ship, but the small village hostelry was packed to the rafters, more than half the bride’s family: the Viscount and Viscountess Effingale and their two sons, Hugh and Guy Amberly; the Marquess and Marchioness of Firthley, Charlotte and Alexander Marloughe; and the bride’s father, Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet, and his two sons, John and Jeremy.
The baron stayed his last night as a bachelor at his parents’ cottage, a good walk away, which might have been a mistake, given what I overheard, late at night, on the eve of our latest diplomat’s departure. And not such a strange thing does it seem, now, that the bride’s father and brothers turned up the night before her nuptials, but did not appear for her wedding, for it was these three whom I overheard, discussing deeds of such infamy that I wrote to Bow Street before I wrote this column.
All I can say, Readers, is it is a very good thing Miss Smithson married money and a title and left the country when she did.
Mr. John Smithson slipped to the back of the taproom, kicking his brother’s boot as he passed, to get Jeremy to pull his head off the table, hissing under his breath to pull the attention of his father, Sir Jasper Smithson, from the pot of ale before him.
“We must leave, and now.”
“Leave?” John’s father scoffed. “I haven’t yet spoken to the Prince of Wales about my tin mine.”
“If you speak to him of your tin mine, Father, we will all hang. We must all leave. Effingale and Firthley have been gathering evidence, and you can be sure Bella turned coat. Have you got Holsworthy’s money yet?”
“You know as well as I, we receive the money tomorrow afternoon at his solicitor’s office, after the wedding.” Jasper Smithson’s eyes narrowed. “What has she done?”
“It will be a trap, Father. They are only waiting until Bella is gone before they take us, and I don’t doubt for a second that is the only reason for the invitation. I, for one, am leaving, with or without the two of you. I do not care to know what Bella might or might not have told them.”
Jeremy got to his feet, swaying a bit. John had fortified himself with gin for the last encounter with Bella, and now wished he hadn’t. In fact, he wished he hadn’t even come to Saltash. Jeremy had taken the same drinks, but in celebration of their good fortune, which wasn’t so very good anymore, and he didn’t have the good sense to realize he would be better off facing what was about to happen sober.
“We cannot stay in Evercreech on Effingale’s land, or the house in Bath, or anywhere else we might be expected to go.” John looked his father and brother both in the eyes to make certain they understood. “We have no money if Holsworthy withholds payment, and there is no reason for him to pay if he knows we will be in Newgate on the morrow. We can go to a big city and lose ourselves in the stews until we can make a plan. What we cannot do is stay here and attend Bella’s wedding and her departure.”
Jasper was suspiciously quiet for a normally bellicose man, accustomed to getting his own way.
“The bitch has given us up, to be sure, and I will find a way that she will pay, I promise you that, perhaps as soon as the morning. But you are right, John. We will hire horses, and you and your brother will ride to London tonight and seek out Smite. He owes me a favor and he can put you to work at his tables. We can travel together as far as Evercreech, and I will meet you in London once I have collected what I need from Brittlestep Manor. It won’t do to leave evidence lying about when there are men on the lookout for it, and it will behoove us to keep track of our insurance.”
Jeremy argued, “It is not a far piece off the same road to the baron’s estate, Father. Angel Bairstowe and her father’s land is better insurance than anything you have hidden.”
John shoved his brother in the shoulder. “You would drag her down with you? Have you not a hint of honor? Leave Miss Bairstowe alone and face the problem at hand. Father is right. Smite can give us work in the gaming hells until we gather enough money to flee to the Continent.” John opened, then closed, then opened his mouth, finally shrugging and saying, “Father, I know I cannot stop whatever you think to do to ruin my sister’s life, but you should leave Bella alone. She has done nothing you would not have done, if it came to your own preservation. She is your daughter. Wish her happy, and bear the consequences of your own actions.”
“Bah. You have no loyalty. And I shall take care of you still, ungrateful wretch, and keep your neck from a rope. I will take care of your sister, too, and hear no more about it. Gather your things, the both of you, and we shall make a stop at the Bairstowe holding on the way. I should like to at least talk to the girl’s father before I allow my heir to be taken in by her.”
Readers, it was at this point, the Smithson gentlemen took their leave—and I use the term “gentlemen” rather more loosely than I might have only days ago—and I took up my pen to contact Bow Street and make careful notes for a story I might write once the law was able to see to the matter. Less than a fortnight later, once the Holsworthy’s ship was well away from England, the news came that Jasper Smithson, 2nd Bt. died at his own hand and his sons had disappeared. Miss Bairstowe remains unmarried and, it is said, has retired to her family’s villa outside Bologne.
The events of this vignette happen between Chapters Ten and Eleven of Shipmate, now FREE at book retailers, and mentions characters and situations from all of the books in the Sailing Home series, by Mariana Gabrielle.
The heavy hands and sharp tongues of Bella Smithson’s family have left her almost too timid to converse with a gentleman, much less conduct a husband hunt. Unfortunately, her overbearing aunt and managing cousin are determined to help her escape her black-hearted father and brothers.
Thanks to the Prince of Wales, retiring shipping magnate Myron Clewes has an ever-growing fortune, a fresh-minted peerage, a brand-new flagship, and an impossible set of requirements for a bride. Not least, she must be willing to leave England and everything she knows, possibly for good, in less than two months’ time.
Bella’s Happy-Ever-After in Royal Regard had its origins in a Happier-Than-She-Expected with her first husband, Baron Holsworthy, who gave her the confidence to steady her sea legs, take her life by the helm, and command her own voice, empowering a shy, young girl and unlikely adventurer to grow into one of King George IV’s trusted advisors.
The Sailing Home Series
Book One: Royal Regard
When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.
Book Two: ‘Tis Her Season: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella
(available only until March 31, 2016 in Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem; re-release May 8).
Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?
Book Three: Shipmate: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella
(FREE at all major retailers)
For shy Bella Smithson, landing a husband seems laughable, so when shipping magnate Myron Clewes offers to buy her from her unfeeling family and take her to sea, she is obligated to accept his suit—and a long list of demands she might never be able to meet.
Book Four: A Rose Renamed
(coming Fall 2016)
Major John Smythe returns from Waterloo a broken man, determined to stay one step ahead of his former life, but when he meets Rose Allen, the sins of his past must be confronted, for without her, he has no hope for a future.