(Excerpt from Chapter 2:)
A stray sunbeam caught Anne
Wentworth's eye, awaking her from a most satisfied slumber. She
stretched beneath the sheets of the rented bed, naked as a jaybird,
smelling some wonderful aroma, enjoying her recollections of
the night before. She had suspected she would enjoy the more
physical aspects of marriage with Frederick, and last night did
The first time was lovely,
but the second time
Anne's eyes popped right open.
She turned her head to see her husband, fully dressed sitting
on his side of the wedding bed, enjoying a cup of (now that she
was fully awake, her mind could understand what her nose was
trying to tell her) coffee. He had a small smirk on his lips.
"Good morning, dear."
"Good morning to you,
sir. Are you already out of bed?"
"As you see. There is
coffee on the night table for you."
"Thank you. Is this a
"No, my dear, just the
habit of a lifetime. I cannot abide lying in bed whist the sun
"Is that so?" She
sat up, not troubling to cover herself as the sheet fell away
from her torso. She took the cup from the night stand and began
to sip. "Ah
" she breathed.
Frederick's eyes grew dark. "I should answer your challenge
as you deserve, but
" he leaned close, "time and
tide waits for no man -- or rented coach neither. A bit of breakfast
and we should be away." A light kiss. "But I shall
keep this lovely vision in my mind
" another kiss,
"and put paid to you at a more appropriate time
"I shall depend upon that,
my rhyming Lord and Master."
The couple journeyed though
Wiltshire throughout that day, stopping only a few miles from
Hampshire for the night. There, to Mrs. Wentworth's delight,
Captain Wentworth kept to his promise of revenge. The next morning
the coach entered the county and crossed over to Portsea Island
and Portsmouth by mid day.
"Where to, sir?"
asked the driver.
"The Navy docks, if you
please," returned Wentworth. Soon the carriage was driving
along the docks. Frederick looked intently out the window, which
was a source of amusement to his wife. But before Anne would
utter some witty remark, Frederick cried, "Here! Stop here,
Before the carriage could lurch
to a stop Frederick threw open the door and leapt out. Startled,
Anne leaned over to see her husband's fate when he stuck his
head back in.
he grinned, "would you like to see your new home?"
"With all my heart, Captain."
Frederick helped Anne out of
the carriage. There before them, hard against the dock, lay HMS
Laconia. About one hundred forty feet long, not counting
the bow-sprit, it had three masts and a single deck of main guns.
Much lower to the water than the great line-of-battle ships,
like the Victory, it appeared fast and deadly.
Or at least it should; for
at the time Anne first beheld the craft it was an unholy mess.
The masts were struck down to the deck, rope and cordage were
everywhere, several cannons were unfastened, sails nowhere to
be seen, and crawling over the mass, like ants, were at least
a hundred men. A din of hammers and saws and curses filled the
Anne shuddered -- was she to
go to sea in that? She could not expect the ship to even
leave the harbor and remain dry. She turned to her husband to
ask what had happened to his command -- had the French attacked?
-- when she saw a singular look on his face.
She had seen it only once before
-- on their wedding night. It was at that moment that Mrs. Wentworth
knew she had a rival for her husband's affections. Frederick
was in love with the Laconia.
"Is she not beautiful,
my dear?" he cried.
lied, "I have never seen the like." She? Oh yes,
of course. Sailors refer to their ships as a female, for some
"To be sure, she looks
a bit shabby, with her yards all which way -- but see her lines!
She will do fifteen knots, ballast set right, or I am a Spaniard.
Not any leeway to speak of. And dry as a bone -- and she being
near twenty years on! Get her trim and ship-shape, with a spot
of paint and a shine on her brass, why she would be the Beauty
of the Ocean!"
called a voice from the chaos.
"Ahoy, Mr. Price!"
Frederick returned. "Report, sir!"
From the Laconia a tall,
well-looking young officer crossed over the gangplank and walked
towards them. He wore a worn blue coat, with one epaulette on
the right shoulder, and trousers. About five and twenty, his
open face wore what was to prove a habitual grin. He wore his
longish hair tied behind him.
"My dear," said Frederick,
"allow me to present to you the First Lieutenant of the
Laconia, Mr. William Price. Mr. Price, Mrs. Wentworth."
Lt. Price bowed. "Your
servant, madam. Allow me to wish you joy."
"Thank you Mr. Price.
You are very busy, I see."
"Oh, yes ma'am. Captain,
the guns are all aboard and the powder and shot, too."
"Excellent, William. I
see you got the long twelves for the quarterdeck."
"Yes, sir. They wanted
to give me smashers, but I recalled your preference and held
"Good, good. I have no
desire to fight from pistol-range with a lot of scurvy pirates.
You got the extra powder?"
"Yes sir -- enough to
practice from here to St. George."
"Make sure the bill goes
to my agent. What is the matter with the fore topgallant mast?"
"Carpenter says she's
sprung. Would you come take a look?"
"Yes, yes. I beg your
pardon, dear. Please excuse us. We should not be a minute."
The minute turned into a quarter-hour,
but it did not signify to Anne. She was still attempting to clear
her head -- the nautical terms thrown around by the two gentlemen
had quite confused her. Long twelves? Smashers? Fore topgallant?
She had no idea if they were important or not. Soon her husband
and his subordinate were leaving the ship.
"I would like to see that
mast set right before sunset tomorrow, Mr. Price."
"Aye aye, sir -- as long
as the supply yard comes through with the replacement."
"Any trouble, use Admiral
Croft's name -- he will be here in four days."
Price grinned. "It is
handy to have an admiral in the family, sir -- if you do not
mind me saying so."
Wentworth actually did mind,
but chose not to correct his very able lieutenant. "Well
done, Mr. Price. I will see you in the morning. Carry on."
Price touched his forelock,
the naval version of a salute. "Yes sir. My complements,
Anne was replying to Lt. Price
when a Marine rider pulled up beside the party. "Excuse
me, but is Captain Wentworth aboard?"
"I am Captain Wentworth,"
The Marine dismounted, pulled
an envelope from his saddlebag and saluted. "This dispatch
is for you, sir."
Frederick thanked the Marine
and then looked at the outside of the envelope. "Please
excuse me, my dear," he mumbled as he turned to read the
communication. He stared at it for a moment before turning back
to the Marine.
"Any reply, sir?"
the Marine asked.
"Only that I shall be
there at the appointed time."
"Yes, sir." The Marine
mounted his horse and rode away.
Frederick turned to his companions,
who were looking at him expectantly. "A dispatch from London.
I am to report to the Admiralty."
Lt. Price's face lost all good
humor. "Is it urgent, sir?"
Frederick shook his head. "No,
that is the strange thing about it. I am to report a week hence."
Price hesitated before responding.
"Singular, sir." It was obvious he felt stronger than
that about the mysterious order.
"Singular indeed, William."
Why an express if there was no emergency? The Navy wasn't one
to send riders all over the countryside for its own amusement.
What is this all about? "Very well -- until the morrow,
Mr. Price. Come, my dear."