The Woolwich Affair
When William woke the next morning, he was stiff and miserable. He had fallen asleep still in his supper clothes, and in a chair and, to add to his misery, a stiff back. He recalled the evening before, and shuddered. Sanders had a left a note by his door, and he read it.
I am as sorry about everything as you are. Somehow...I cannot believe that you would commit ALL of the said deeds. I trust you, even if the evidence points to you. I am upset, to be sure, but cannot understand the entire matter. Feel free to stay as long as you feel comfortable doing, you are a delightful guest. I am sorry, understand that. I hope you got some sleep. I shall be out on the docks, if you want me.
William tossed the note aside, and dressed hurriedly. Nothing would improve by his sulking inside. The best thing would be to find Sanders and Brayle, his loyal friends. Pulling on his second boot, he rushed from the door, alerting the chambermaid that he would be on the docks if anyone should want him. He did not break his fast, but ran out the door. Even food has limits to what it can soothe.
The docks were busy at this hour. Ships were being inspected, loaded and unloaded. Men were rushing about with carts, with tools, with ropes. Officers stood about on decks, or about the docks, talking. William caught a glimpse of fair hair, and recognized Brayle. He hurried over.
On seeing William, Brayle looked relieved.
"I was afraid that you would hide away all day."
"I realized that no good would come of that. I should be beset by demons and go mad if I was left to myself."
"You are an innocent man."
"Thank you," William smiled faintly at his friend. "How are you able to tell?"
"No guilty man would feel such demons as you describe. A guilty man would have quit Woolwich by now. Your stay is a smack in the fact to Sommers."
"What? You think Sommers has something to do with this?"
"I do not know. However, he certainly profits from the crime."
"Price, would you care to come on deck a last time?"
They strode off together, and attempted to board the Admirable. A sailor stopped them.
"Misser Brayle," he said, "I have orders to keep Misser Price off the ship. I'm sorry."
"Whose orders?" asked William. He should have liked to bid farewell to his lovely ship.
"Cap'in Sommers, sir."
"Sommers!" shouted Brayle. "I should have known! The dirty man!" Then, to the sailor, "Is Captain Sommers on board?"
"Could you fetch him here?"
"I'm not promising anything, Mr. Brayle, sir."
They waited for a while, until Sommers appeared.
"I'm sorry, Brayle," he said smoothly. "I don't think it right to have such a man on board. I am surprised such a noble and true man as yourself would associate with him."
Under his breath, William muttered, "I am surprised that Brayle would stand associating with you.
Sommers must have heard of seen William's lips, for he then sneered,
"Price, perhaps you should leave now. Look, there are two fine ladies. What don't you go and seduce them away from their families...steal her from her own betrothed."
William looked, the Miss Robertsons were approaching, on their morning promenade about the harbor. He was startled that Sommers really thought that he was stealing Katherine away, but he dismissed the notion. Sommers would forever be jealous of he, William,over the matter of this ship. William may be disgraced, but he was still the first choice for captain on a desirable ship.
Sommers turned away, and went back into the ship. Brayle, having been asked the night before about William, turned to the ladies. They now knew of the trouble, to some extent, and were mad at Sommers. Katherine and Juliana cautiously came up to William. Juliana spoke.
"Captain Price, are you going to remain in Woolwich?"
"Perhaps. Maybe I will go visit my sister. She said that I would always be welcome."
"The sister in Northampton?" Katherine spoke.
"Do you plan to leave soon?" Juliana.
"As soon as I have sent a letter and received a response."
"Oh." The ladies looked a bit distressed. Criminal or not, William Price had been an important new member to their society, and they were loathe to lose him.
Brayle attempted to change the subject.
"Is your father about this morning?"
Katherine answered, though reluctantly, "He is with the Admiral and Mr. Campbell today, with a magistrate."
They understood why. Every subject lead back to the fatal one.
They gossiped for a little but the gossip which most thrived about town was about the Admirable scandal. Katherine was at a loss for trivial social affairs. After a while, the groups separated again, and William would head back to the house to write Fanny. The sooner he left the better.
Juliana ran back, and stood a moment.
"Kath doesn't blame you. She doesn't believe Sommers. I don't believe him either...I don't think. I think Kath is usually right...but she's over her head now. So are you. Good luck. I'll see you...some time."
She turned. William spoke.
"Miss Robertson, does your sister really possess such a belief? She cannot tell me so to my face."
"No...what I said is true," said Julie, "Just...Campbell is jealous. Captain Price, my sister is to be married. Please let her continue with her life."
Julie ran, face covered with her hands. Brayle, standing too far off to hear, caught up with William, and escorted him back to the Sanders' home.
William was amazed. Was he doing something malicious? He had not meant to interfere...Katherine was a lovely girl...but she was engaged. He had never doubted that. Julie's words left him upset. He locked himself in his room, and began to write to Fanny.
My dear Fanny,William began his letter,
I fear that I have bad news to relate, and a request to ask of you. Through strange occurrences, which I myself was not involved in, I have become accused of some criminal affairs that I had no business with. Indeed, I was safely elsewhere, to my knowledge, and have become mistaken with some criminal.
There is proof, weak, but still proof, consisting of a rather inferior handkerchief, with my name, found on the scene of one of these mishaps. I have not used such an inferior handkerchief in quite a while, indeed, after I first became a Lieutenant aboard the Wren, I began to buy handkerchiefs of better quality. Anyone could have had the item in those years, I wouldn't have cared for it.
They have taken away my orders to captain the Admirable. As I am not the seeming mastermind, I have only been dismissed from this journey, and not my honors completely taken from me. However, not sailing will be painful. The good ship leaves quite soon, although will be delayed slightly, due to this affair.
My request of you is that you receive a favorable answer to an old invitation of yours for me to visit. Although I have supporters here, I shall soon be without the chief of these, a Mr. Brayle, whom I believe you know. I remain in the house of Captain Sanders, but am eager to leave. If I may, I shall be at your home within a week of your receiving this. If this is not convenient, pray, write soon. If this is so, I shall return home, but the disappointment of the affair will be hard for me to face, and the sympathy our family has to offer had best wait to cool down a bit. Too much sympathy is hard to bear. So, dear sister, I leave you now, and pray that this letter reaches you soon, and in good health. My fond regards to your little ones and God bless.
After completing the letter, William sealed it, addressed it, and entrusted it into the care of the Sanderses' elderly housekeeper, to be dispatched by the next post.
É * É
Fanny received her letter, and although disturbed and upset about this news of her favorite brother, she wrote back immediately and calmly, asking him to come, and welcoming his visit.
É * É
The night before the Admirable was to set out, William visited Brayle in his rooms. They ate, they drank, they played chess, and they talked. Brayle was earnest in wanting to keep in touch with his unfortunate friend.
"Indeed Price, I shall write to you. With Sommers in charge, I don't know how I shall stand it. He really is a loathsome man. I shall depend upon writing letters to a solid mind and firm heart. Price, I shall write miles of letters, and dispatch them via any poor ship coming home again. You shall be swamped, but I shall be content."
"Indeed, hearing from you shall cheer me. I fear that I shall be overcome with fits of depression. I shall be staying with my sister Fanny in Northampton, and then, I shall head back to Portsmouth.I believe you know both addresses well enough."
Brayle smiled. Then, he looked both serious and embarrassed.
"Price, William, would you look out for your sister for me...Miss Price...Just keep an eye on her, you know..."
William smiled. "I shall be a shepherd for her. Only, I don't know whether she will invite such attentions from me or you."
"Oh no," said Brayle, with a knowing smile, "I am sure that she will invite such attentions from me ."
"You devil!" exclaimed William, "Carrying on with my sister! But, I should like you as a brother."
"Fine," agreed Brayle. "Your not so bad yourself."
Then, William frowned.
"However, I'm doing a bad job of looking after myself."
"No one could have suspected this. I blame it all on Sommers. He's the sort who benefits from these affairs."
"He wasn't the only one who wanted me out of the way," mumbled William. "Campbell."
Brayle looked knowingly into his friend's eyes. "Katherine Robertson," he whispered.
From then on, they talked of naught but the weather and of their chess game until William was obliged to leave. However, Brayle extracted a promise from him to see the Admirable off.
É * É
There was a sizable crowd out to see the Admirable off. Many of the onlookers watched William as he came onto the docks, muttering. The affair was gossip for Woolwich already. Many people sympathized with him, others didn't, but William ignored them. He found Murray Sanders with young George Sanders, and stood by them. Brayle waved to the last, towards the small group as the ship was pulled slowly from the harbor. The crowd smiled and waved, and then dispersed about their business. The two Sanderses accompanied William back to their house. He would leave that night.
The day was spent packing, and when at last the carriage had been ordered and loaded the family had tears in their eyes. All were fond of William's cheerful moods and bright face, and quite upset about his being sent from the Admirable. (Needless to say, none believed Sommers or Campbell, and all believed William.)
Mrs. White got all teary, and gave William a chaste peck on the forehead, thanking him for being so gallant. Mrs. Sanders worried over him, and gave him a enormous lunch basket, for fear that he should become famished along the road. Miss Liark looked miserable, and with her books set aside she quietly shook his hand, and wished him to have a safe journey. The young girl was awfully fond of William, but saved her tears until he had left.
Little George Sanders did not understand why William had to go. He was confused, pouted, and made a mess on the floor with one of the jars of preserves Mrs. Sanders had packed in the lunch basket. William hugged the lad, and gave a little wooden boat, which he could play with as he took his bath.
Captain Murray Sanders showed William out the door, and escorted him the the post carriage, hired by Sanders.
"Goodbye, Price. I only wish that your visit had ended differently. If you get any leads about his affair, write to me. I'll stay true to you. You couldn't have done...any of those things. I don't believe you capable." A pause. "Well, have a nice trip...and come back again, if you can bear to. I'd like to have you here. The women and Georgie took to you. God bless you, Price. We'll remember you favorably."
With a wave Murray Sanders sent William off to his sister. Sanders hoped that the journey would do his young friend some good. Woolwich was currently a difficult place, and he, Murray Taylor Sanders, somewhat retired Captain in His Majesty's Navy, would clear William Price's reputation if it took a lifetime. Some friends are worth that much.
Fanny had rushed out of the parsonage as soon as she caught sight of her brother's carriage. Uncle William was a great favorite of Hollis Bertram, age three, and Tom, age eighteen months. The two children were "playing" (if a child a year and a half senior to a mere baby can play with such a creature) under the shade of one of the apricot trees, and ran out to where their mother stood. Holly particularly enjoyed to see the horses come up, and waved at them, although they were so much taller than herself.
Out from the carriage jumped William, looking tired and subdued, but nonetheless pleased to see his sister. He paid attention to each child, embraced his sister, and as Edmund came up a path, gave his brother-in-law a warm greeting. William was rushed inside, and offered all sorts of treats for tea, including some pastries which Holly claimed to have made herself (truly, Holly had chosen the kinds of pastries, and eaten the scraps, while Fanny and a hired girl made the treats.)
William then was shown to his room, a modest but comfortable chamber, which he had occupied on earlier visits. Fanny had dug his things out from trunks where he left a few spare things, and had set up his small collection of model boats he had made, a uniform hat and a few books to welcome him into the room. When evening finally came, William thankfully slipped into the bed, and slept dreamlessly.
On awakening, William was pleased to be able to slip into a life where he had no duties to perform. He minded both his niece and his nephew, to Fanny's pleasure, and he accompanied the Bertrams on visits to the Park, where he again struck up a close acquaintance with his aunt and uncle. He went with them to visit Sir and Lady Brayle, his friend's possessive parents.
Stolkholm House, where the Brayles resided was rather large and ugly, but the gardens where beautiful. The present Lady Brayle was a kind woman, although she liked to have things kept the same. Her son running away to sea was not something that agreed with her, but it was a comfort for her to know that without family assistance he must soon tire of the profession, and become a nice clergyman like her son Hal. In the meanwhile, she would cultivate her garden and developed specimens of flora to be put in her son's garden, whenever he should return from sea and settle down.
William was afraid that Lady Brayle should be domineering, but was glad to see that she was merely a spoilt woman who was very indulgent towards her own children. She had three grandchildren of her own, and adored Holly and Tom. They were often asked to attend their grandparents when visiting Stolkholm House. Today, they served as a distraction as Lady Brayle realized that William knew her rogue son. Sometimes the questions were awkward, and William thought it an excellent time to bounce young Tom on his knee. Lady Brayle adored children, and had them running all over whenever she could find any to run. Lady Bertram merely followed the conversation politely, and fussed over how her poor Pug would be, all alone at home. Lady Brayle's fondness towards little ones did not extend to dogs.
"So, Captain Price, my Ned has just left aboard what ship? They confuse me so."
"The Admirable, ma'am."
"Under what captain?" Her smile was innocent. Tom bounced for a few minutes before William spoke.
"Sommers. A Captain Sommers."
"What is he like? Is he a good and trustworthy man? Can he sail a ship?"
William bounced Tom. He answered the last question.
"He is an able seaman."
Lady Brayle let out a sigh of relief, and beamed.
"Good. I want him home for Christmas."
Sir Hubert Brayle entered and bowed to William, and proceeded to go over some accounts in a corner with his laconic eldest son, Richard.
The rest of the visit was uneventful, and Tom had to reproach is uncle several times for not bouncing him enough. By the end of the visit William felt that he had found his place with his sister, and he would remain with her for a while yet. Edmund and Fanny had been enthusiastic on the plan. Edmund thought William a good sort and a fine man to have about, while Fanny was in raptures over being with her dear brother whom she saw so little of. Holly and Tom, had they been immediately informed of their uncle's intentions, should have shouted for joy, and muddied their clothes in glee.
É * É
So, William spent his first week with his cousin and his sister, and their family, learning again how to act like a gentleman, and enjoying the country as such a seaman as William ought not to be able to. He all but forgot his troubles while he played with his young relations, and entertained his aunt and uncle with stories from abroad. He was very kind to Pug, and had William a proper home (and not a boat) he would have indeed been in danger of being forced to accept on of Pug's younger relations.
William generally enjoyed life in at Mansfield. Fanny often asked about his various ships, but he was not very interested in talking about his life. He was a cheerful enough person, but when he thought about the Admirable, Campbell or Sommers, he cringed. He would find out what was behind this whole affair...when Fanny could spare him. Now she was calling him in, as Hal Brayle had come to call. With a letter from Ned Brayle...the first correspondence from the Admirable. William put down his book about different types of country grass, and ran inside to tidy himself. He wanted to read that letter very badly.
When William had put on clean clothing (for some inexplicable reason the garden of the parsonage at Mansfield had very cling-y dirt), he entered the parlor, and sat down and receive a cup of tea which his sister offered him with a smile. The letter was on the table. However...first, William must help to entertain the guest.
Hal Brayle looked very similar to his brother. He was serious, and was not adventurous at all, however, but was just as observant as Ned Brayle. He had also received a short letter from his brother, and was smiling somewhat, so the news must not be bad. Hal had never met William, but as Ned had only praises for William, they were inclined to like eachother.
"So, you are William Price? My brother writes fondly of you."
"I like your brother a great deal, Mr. Brayle."
"As do we all! Richard, maybe, not as much, but Charlie and I adore him." The second son...Charlie. There were so many Brayles! Sibling quarrels, choosing sides...William suddenly felt shockingly lonesome for his family...his mother, father, Susan, Sam, Tom, Charles, Betsey...he was very lonesome. However, he smiled, and spoke happily of Brayle.
"I was sorry not to be able to join your brother on this journey. He is the most agreeable man ever. It seems to be a family trait!" William laughed as he thought of all the charming Brayles, who, each in their own way, tried their best to make the world a more comfortable place. Hal was charmed.
"Thank you. My brother seems to wish that you were his captain, as well. he...does not speak of his Captain in...fond terms. But I understand that the other man was more...suitable for this particular trip."
William smiled vaguely. Hal and Ned were the only Brayles aware of his current troubles. Even Sir Thomas was not immediately informed with the particulars of his nephew's reasons for the prolonged visit. He knew that another man had been put into William's place, but the reasons were unknown to the man. Hal smiled. he would not bring up the matter any more. The two men talked a while, and attended to Holly while she danced a little dance for them. AT the end of the visit, the letter was surrendered to William, and Hal Brayle stood up to leave. He spoke softly and seriously to William as he went out the door.
"Price...I don't think I like this Sommers...wish for the best." Hal squeezed his friend's hand and left. William opened the letter. Ned Brayle must not have been content.
Sorry that it is a bit short, but inspiration was running dry at the time. ~Hannah E.
I do not trust Sommers. What a statement! I never like the man, but I have no respect for him now, at all. His seamanship even disgusts me. This man appears to have no scruples. Men who commit the slightest errors are punished severely. His disallows the use of alcohol amongst the crew (which is a good thing) but drinks occasionally in the view of all, so that we might see his authority aboard this vessel. I can tell you that I am not the only one to mutter to my neighbor as he passes....and he appears to think I am a great frind of his! He quizzes me thoroughly, however, most often about you. Your "unsuitability" for the post. How it take a real man to captain a vessel like the Admirable. Some of the men want to mutiny...I have misadvised this, however, it should only rile our irritable captain more.
Enough about my woes aboard this ill fated vessel. I cannot help thinking that I would welcome the attack of Spanish or Dutch pirates or such persons, to make us need to work well together. Oh! But it isn't that we all dislike the captain, he has a group of allies amongst some unscrupulous looking midshipmen.I am constantly being charged to settle disputes amongst the split parties aboard this ship. Ah to be on land with you!
And her I am anxious about you. Do you mope? Do you mourn? I pray that you do not, some other post shall surely come your way, and this whole affair cleared up. Do not avoid Woolwich because of this matter, live again, it will all pass. You'll see.
Now, of your family. I trust that they are all well? Your married sister I trust is taking excellent care of you, and I can see you now, trying to help out around the house, and charming the company you keep. I have written to my brother with this letter, as Sommers was watching me suspiciously, and I hope that you find him agreeable. My family will no doubt quiz your extensively about me, and pray give them as polite answers as you can muster. They still think of me as their darling child...and when you see Hal, think kindly of him. I may have made him out t be a bore, but his heart is in the right place.
And speaking of families...my warm regards to your sister, Miss Price. The stormy seas hold no company half so agreeable. My friend, be glad. And pray for this voyage to end without incident. Our camps have been divided, and the sentries quarrel. But if I have your prayers, I shall be gladdened. My warm affections to you and yours.
William was rather startled to hear of Sommers's behavior on board. A captain should be benign towards his crew, and work to make the voyage safe and successful. Sommers seemed to be failing miserably in these two fields. Poor Brayle! He was trapped on such an unfortunate ship! Still, William had every faith in his friend, and folded away the letter, and placed it in a drawer.
Suddenly he was overcome by a longing for life as it had been before the dinner party...as it had been when a cheerful Murray Sanders had invited him for some relaxation and society before he was off again. He missed Captain Sanders and his family...even Mrs. White and Miss Liark, the tag-alongs to that family.
Then, he was lonesome for the cheerful company of Katherine Robertson. After hearing from Juliana that Katherine was affectionate towards him, he had not known exactly how to react. He had felt an enmity towards Campbell since the whole Woolwich affair had begun, but now it boiled within him. He was going to take Katherine's affections, and deserve them. Missing the lady he thought of, he just sat about and dreamt of her. He acknowledged to himself that he was quite fond of her, and that if he could do anything about it, he would break of Katherine and Campbell's engagement. Campbell could never deserve Katherine. Nor did Katherine seem particularly attentive to Campbell. In William's acquaintance with the good lad, she always seemed to glow when in his presence, while she seemed irritable with Campbell. Julie had seen this...and did not want any trouble for her family from Campbell. But William knew that he would be better than Campbell. He would keep Katherine happy.
Woolwich! That town had altered his life so greatly. William knew that he should never be content again, unless he spoke again to Miss Robertson and saw his dear ship, the Admirable once again. These, two females in his life, had left him now. He had only the remnants of his reputation, and he would try his hardest to retrieve it. Captain Price was no coward, nor was he criminal. Also...his livelihood greatly affected his family. He had to think of them. The sooner he found out what was behind these false accusations, the better.
William was woken from his musings by a shout of Edmund's. His sister, Julia, and her husband, Yates, arrived for a long awaited visit. William scarcely remembered his cousin, but he hastened down from the privacy of his room, to go visit Mansfield Park. Yates was a man of the world...perhaps he knew something of Sommers. That would be worth knowing. Brayle's letter was left in the drawer, and William set out for the great house with his sister and his cousin, Holly and Tom in bed. There was always the possibility that everything would come right again soon. then...who knew? Happy things could be lurking around a bend in the road.
Julia and Yates had settled comfortably into two of the Bertram's best chairs when Edmund, Fanny and William arrived. They were little changed in looks, although both were considerately more steady. Yates had settled down from such a busy life, and along with his young wife was doing quite well. However, he still longed for laughter, and delighted in lively company...therefore he was delighted to see William, a naval officer strait from on the seas.
William accepted the friendship of Yates, they had several friends in common, and were fond of many outdoor events. William had never had the chance to participate in many of Yates's favorite pastimes, but Yates was only too willing to coach him in various sports and share with him various lively plays. They had lovely conversations, too, and soon William had spilt forth his tale of woe for Yates and Julia.
Both were properly offended and sympathetic, in such a combination that soothed him. He told them all about Captain Sommers, and about Campbell, even a bit about Katherine...those parts as related to Campbell. When Yates heard Sommers's name, he was thoughtful.
"Not James Sommers? I think I have heard of the man...a captain..."
"I believe his Christian name was James, but all called him Captain Sommers...no, there was one occasion where I heard Campbell call him Jim...his name was James, I am fairly sure."
"A man of a doubtful reputation, I understood."
"I gathered that his reputation was not spotless, indeed, I had heard that he was a suspect for a few of my "crimes". I abhor the man. He is causing no little trouble to my friend Brayle, who sails as Lieutenant."
"The Brayle family that dwells in these parts? I believe that I know them, after Sir Thomas accepted us back again, he invited them to come shooting...three sons? Four? I never saw them all at once, and most of them looked quite alike."
"Yes, Edward Brayle is my comrade, the third son...the one who ran off to sea, but comes home on leave every once in a while."
"Ah...now what were we speaking of? Sommers? Name sounds an awful lie...not Summers or anything nice but gives you a rather cold feeling, when you think about his reputation."
"What has he done?"
"He has been tried for any number of small offenses, and merely suspended, like you. They've never caught him. He is suspected of smuggling wine into France, amongst other things. I believe that he was nearly responsible for arson, but that a fireplace was found to have been already dangerous, he was cleared...that is the closest he's gotten to being caught. They can't do anything about him. He's a superb seaman, and is too clever. He'd do anything. What I think him capable of, I shudder at...there was this one man, Giles Hoggin, who was blamed for a theft which everyone though Sommers had committed...but all concrete evidence pointed the other way. Poor Hoggin, ended up in debtor's prison, and died..."
William's senses sharpened.
"Do you think that this affair was set up by Sommers?"
"It is possible...I hadn't really thought...."
"But you think the man capable and willing...?"
"Certainly. I'll keep my eyes peeled...but how would this benefit him..how did he benefit from the crime?"
"He got the commission. And a boat, with a crew, which stops at any number of places on its way home."
"Smuggling? Power? Even if the man is going straight, he wins...yes. You have a point."
"But what about the proof? Can you know anything about that?"
"Your hanky, your name...sorry, Price, I don't know what to tell you. Sommers may be unscrupulous, but he hasn't access to your hankies. He'd've had to have taken that years ago, and you've only just met."
"Well, Yates, keep your eyes peeled. If you hear anything, let me know...but Yates...?"
"Why does everyone respect Yates if he is so completely dubious?"
"Ah. I..er...am rather acquainted with the low life gossips. I've likely drank with Sommers in my time. Nothing really concrete, save the scrapes with the law. A dubious character, but I am likely one of the more informed."
É * É
William was vexed when he left the Great House, and struggled internally. He had known that someone must have set up the crimes (after all, he was innocent), but Sommers? Truly? To pin this all on the foul man was his heart's dream. If only he could figure it all out! He would write to Brayle, ask Brayle to watch Sommers's activities, listen to him in his sleep if need be (if such a demon ever slept). William longed for his reputation to be made whole...indeed, he longed to be comfortable with his family. Mansfield and Fanny were delightful, but this wasn't his home. He would write to Brayle, and then to his family. William wanted to come home. He mentioned this to Fanny the next day, as he helped her to repair Holly's swing.
Fanny was reasonable when he put forward his suggestion to quite Mansfield. She had known that she could not keep him with her forever, and although she wept to think that he would be gone again, she was bright-eyed to the fact that he should be with his family.
Indeed, they were more his family than hers. They all depended upon him, gloried when he was praised, and sighed when he was insulted.He was a part of the Price family in a way that she could never be, and she knew it. The Price family revolved around William like the moon about the sun, and a disaster with William could bother them to no end. William should go home, and she would let him do so.
All the necessary letters were written and answered, and calls paid. Hal Brayle had thrown a small dinner for William before he left, which the Bertrams, Yateses and Brayles all attended. Charlie Brayle even showed up, a very handsome man with chestnut curls, a lawyer in Town. Everyone was very kind to William, and Holly (who had been permitted to attend the event before the very grievous event of her favorite Uncle's departure) solemnly played he one piece she knew on a piano while they adults milled about talking. William was sorry to leave them all, but he left with many kind messages for his family, a promise from Yates to search about Sommers, and a pledge from Charlie that he would visit William some time, whether in Portsmouth or Woolwich. William had a knack for making friends, and was happy to agree to the visit.
So, William managed to enter his post carriage very early in the morning, laid down with bundles and gifts, messages, prayers, and Fanny's worry that he should not have had enough rest. Holly cried, Young Tom was oblivious t the whole affair, and Charlie had shown up in a dubious riding habit to see him off. The morning was bright, and William left for a long journey.
É Ô É
William traveled for a long time, spent the night in Oxford, then traveled on and boarded at an inn in Newbury, then arrived in Portsmouth by the following day. The modest but clean house in which his family dwelt was full of noises, but as soon as the sleek post carriage had turned onto the street where it stopped outside the inn, William saw Susan, wearing a modest but sweet gown, and toting young Betsey by the hand...young is a comparative word, for Betsey was all of ten years, and was quite proud of it. They smiled when they saw their brother, and soothes and petted him, and helped him with his luggage. They had hired a cart, and helped him back to the house.
A welcome awaited.
When William arrived at the house, he saw his family waiting for him. His mother's face was worn and pale, but she managed a smile, and put down the bowl in which she had been stirring up the mixture for a cake. The new serving girl, Una (who was, it must be said, much more helpful than Rebecca had ever been) had set the table handsomely for her main employer. Charles was the only boy yet at home, and he entered the room running towards his long lost brother. William's father entered slowly, and somewhat stiffly, but was also pleased to see his son.
The whole family acted as cheerful as they could, and no mention was made of the unfortunate affair at Woolwich. Susan passed all of William's favorite dishes to him, and he managed t eat more than he had since leaving Woolwich. Betsey kept on demanding his attention, and telling him of her various accomplishments, while Mrs. Price asked after Fanny. A hamper full of jellies and cakes from Fanny was produced at this point, and Betsey thought that her world was absolutely complete.
After the meal, the family dispersed for various activities. Betsey took up knitting needles, and concentrated fiercely, and ended up with a few inches of a scarf in return for the effort. Susan had taken up a bonnet, and was attempting to refurbish it, and Charles had taken up a old school book. Mr. Price looked over the newspaper had had borrowed from a friend, and William sat with his mother, who was resting at the table, while Una cleared up the meal.
Frances Price was a woman who had been through a great deal, and the current affairs concerning her son made her quite worried. She was afraid that William should be disabled from service...and with another war likely in France...those devils could scarcely keep calm, it seemed...he might miss out on a chance to make a small fortune. She didn't want to complain of her surroundings and home...indeed, she had gotten over that stage in the first few years of her marriage...but if William could not work, it was likely that they all would suffer. There were her boys...who had looked forward to careers led by their brother...and her girls too. How would they marry well unless the family had a decent income and reputation?
Her daughter, Fanny, had married for love, and given up her rich suitor...and that any of her other girls got rich suitors was unlikely. Susan ought to have more admirers. She was of an age when marriage would be the safest option, and she had no real suitors, save that Lieutenant who had been visiting...the one on the Admirable...who should have been traveling with William. William! The whole affair was undoubtably tied up to this one affair. She sighed.
"William...have you done anything about this...we are all in danger."
William had known that his family would suffer from his inactivity.
"I have set the matter before a few friends...who are trying to assist me. But...I don't even really know who is behind this all! I am not able to travel out to sea aboard my own ship...and the evidence must have been faked. I am so lost..."
"Murray Sanders, Ned Brayle, Charlie Brayle and my cousin's husband, Yates. I have hope."
They mulled over the matter in silence. William was suddenly struck by something.
"Ma, when did I last have those plain white handkerchiefs...the ones with my name marked in blue?"
"Not for ever so long. You had new ones...handsome ones...with your first pay after the Thrush...I gave your old ones to Sam and Tom and Charles."
"Could they have left them about?"
"In truth...no...I was so angry after Tom misplaced his gloves...the boys brought them back regularly...after your second larger pay, I got them their own. Unless you misplaced one, I think they are accounted for."
"Ah." Then, "I've never even been to Eastbourne...I haven't met Mr. Coward, and I am not taken towards gambling." Then, sullenly, "I can't afford it. Why does this have to happen to me? If I didn't think so poorly of Sommers....well, what is done is done. I suppose."
Mrs. Price looked up.
"William. Do you not think that I am not disappointed as you? There are harder days to come...you have so many dependents...it isn't fair for you, but here we are...your father isn't fit for service, and you have far more siblings than are necessary for anyone to have. We all wish that this had never happened, but I don't see what we can do. Pay the debts...inquire after the affair...whatever you do, work again. Your influence is needed."
"Of course, Mother, I shall work again. But Ma, the debts are so large! I could never pay them...and that would be admitting. Do you think that I could ever get another decent position with that?"
"Can you get a position now?" The question was deliberate, but the eyes were pleading."
"I shall...see..." William stammered, "Tomorrow."
"I trust in you William...just clear this away. Make us joyful again. And bring Susan's suitor home again. I don't know what is to become of this family!"
William left his mother, and joined Susan. Betsey and Charles had taken themselves off to bed. Mr. Price had fallen asleep over his paper, and they were, so to speak, the only conscious creatures in the room. Disturbance seemed unlikely for a while, so Susan approached the subject which had been so avoided over the meal.
"Now, William, what has happened? Your letter were unreadable, and besides, Mother takes all correspondence of yours as her own belongings. What has happened...who is aboard the Admirable? Who is behind this all? It's a personal affront, that's what it is. A personal affront to me, by way of insulting my favorite brother." She smiled firmly, and touched his hand, in supplication. "Please tell me. I must know."
William told her, slowly, and keeping as many of his suspicions apart from the story as he could. He even admitted that Campbell had been on negative terms with him, over Katherine. Susan laughed at her brother when he tried to talk of Katherine, and smiled knowingly. Then, she questioned him about Brayle.
"You have let Mr. Brayle out on that boat with that monster, Sommers? I oughtn't to be talking to you!"
"Su....As little as I like Sommers, you must understand that he can handle a boat. He may be making Ned Brayle's live difficult, but I have nothing concrete against him."
"Will, you don't understand me. I know that Sommers can sail, otherwise he shouldn't have gotten the ship. No, what I meant is well...if Mr. Brayle gets on a bad foot with Sommers, won't he be a target for revenge?"
"Are you saying that Sommers is a vengeful man?"
"Will! You are exasperating, even at your best moments. No, I think that this affair, brought to the light by Sommers, please note, was the act of the same man. You raised his ire by receiving the command of the Admirable, which he wanted. From what you imply without saying, he does not sound a desirable man, and he could do anything. Maybe even get a hold of your handkerchief."
"...and go by the names William of Portsmouth and William Paris? Why does everyone think that I am William Paris? I doubt that girl would recognize me if I went to see her. Lord! I am tired. Su, let's let this rest. Tomorrow I need to visit some men of the navy, and well...it is late."
"Will you write to Ned Brayle?" Susan's face was a mixture between hopeful and shy.
"Yes. He is fond of you, however did you contrive to meet? No, No, don't blush. I like Ned more than I like many other young men...and I know the facts...but this is crazy! My friend and my sister, behind my back...how you managed to pick him, I shall never know. What do you think of him?"
"I like him very well. Ma is fond of calling him my suitor, but how am I to know? I saw him one blissful season, and he left. You say that he cares?...Maybe life isn't as empty as I'd thought." Susan whistled joyfully for a moment, and then said, "Well, sleep well. Ma will have made up your room by now...G'night."
The next morning, William woke up, and dressed in his small but comfortable room. The family gathered for their morning meal, and they ran off their various ways. Susan was saddled with Betsey for the morning, but nonetheless, she decided to walk with William out along the harbor.
The harbor was bright in the morning sunlight, and William was greeted cordially by many men, some who had heard of his sad state of affairs, and some who hadn't. School fellows of his approached him with smiles, passing the time, and smiling at Susan and Betsey. Betsey was rather fond of the gulls which roosted on the masts of ships, and threw them crumbs, as well as greeting all the little errand boys who ran about on the busy morning.
They were walking at a good pace, and William would have passed a green-clad figure if Susan hadn't needed to stop and tie her boot lace. William, while waiting for her, happened to glance up the street, and was shocked to see Katherine Robertson walking down towards him on the arm of a Mrs. Edwards, wife to a captain friend of his. She looked equally surprised to see him about. She approached, though, smiling.
"Captain Price! I had no idea that you were in Portsmouth!"
"Nor I, you, Miss Robertson."
Susan rose from her boot, And caught a glimpse of the flushed look on each of their faces, and smiled. This was the legendary Katherine Robertson. She nudged William.
"Oh, yes. Miss Robertson, this is my sister Susan, and my other sister Elizabeth." He gestured to where Betsey was tossing crumbs to a friendly flock of gulls. She turned, and smiled at the pretty lady.
"I'm Betsey," she said.
Katherine laughed beautifully. "I am Katherine Robertson. I am a friend of your brother."
"Oh," said Betsey. "You sure are pretty."
Katherine laughed again. "Thank you." Then, she turned back to William.
"My sister and I have just arrived here to stay a short time with my uncle. I believe you know Mrs. Captain Edwards, my aunt?"
"I do indeed, Good morning, Mrs. Edwards, how is the Captain? I am afraid that I never knew of your relation. Katherine never mentioned that she was your niece."
Mrs. Edwards overlooked the use of Katherine's first name, Susan smiled at it, and Katherine shot a glance at William.
"My husband has heard of your unfortunate episode," Mrs. Edwards was saying, "And he is a sympathizer with you. We know perfectly well that you would never do such a thing, and we give you every support. In fact, we were just going to visit your family. My niece told me all about the affair, and we wanted to condole with your family. But now we have met you. Is your family in?"
"My mother, yes," responded William.
"Then we must call on her. Katherine, we shall visit the Prices as planned. Come along."
The small group walked along. Betsey was intent on talking to the pretty lady, and let her crumbs drop unnoticed. William walked between Mrs. Edwards and Katherine, and Susan was left to stumble herself behind them. But Susan didn't mind. She could watch Miss Robertson and William just as well by standing behind them.
Mrs. Price was in when the party arrived. Luckily, the house had been scoured for William's arrival, and they all sat down in the parlor, with tea, and one of Fanny's cakes. Betsey had been told to run along upstairs, where she watched from the stairs anything that happened. Mostly, though, she did not find it interesting.
Susan found the whole affair very interesting. Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Price did not seem to be part of the nucleus of the conversation, but rather it was Katherine Robertson and William.
As soon as Katherine had been comfortable seated, William questioned Katherine about his affairs in Woolwich. Was there any news?
"Nay, there is not much news. Bad accounts of Sommers's behavior have come back in letters by various members of the crew. Also we have found that that the inn keeper's daughter said that the man was dark, not fair like yourself. We all are rather dubious over the matter. It seems that you are not to be permanently blamed. And the Admiral thinks it was wrong to take Sommers on so suddenly...but I trust that you have heard a first hand account from Mr. Brayle."
Susan flushed. William nodded.
"I have heard from him. He distrusts Sommers. I do not trust the man, either. A friend of mine knows him to be unreliable. Why did none of this come out before?"
"He is trusted by my fiance. My fiance is a man of influence in Woolwich, to some extent. A man trusted by him is hoped to be found trustworthy by all."
Susan was astonished, and blurted out,
"You have a fiance? I would not...did not..."
Katherine sighed. "I do have a fiance. That much is still clear to me now. Whether everything is the same as it was when it started, I doubt. People change. Campbell...My fiance, Miss Price, did you know him?, is too quick to temper. William...he had access to a handkerchief of yours."
Silence by the three main players in the conversation.
"I do not know whether he still has it, but when we first met, I remember laughing at the act that his handkerchief said 'W. Price' on it. I do not even recall what the article looked like, but I know that he had access to it."
William looked solemn, but then spoke.
"Katherine...Miss Robertson, he is the last man to want me to stay on land. Much as there might have been a rivalry between...us, he would have wanted me gone..until...well, so I could stop meddling."
"I hadn't thought of that," sighed Katherine. "You are right. Julie was right, I don't know what i am thinking any more. Is there any news on your side?"
"Only that my cousin's husband is out searching over Sommers's history, and Mr. Brayle and his older brother have promised to keep their ears open. Nothing much new. Did you mention your sister? Is she about as well?"
"Oh, yes. Julie is off at the milliner's now. I thought I'd rather...meet your family. Aunt Helen wanted to visit them. And we have. I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss Price. I hope that we shall see more of each other during my stay. I don't know many of the young people here. And do call me Katherine."
"And me Susan. I am pleased to meet you as well. I have heard much about you."
"I hope it is not all about how shameless I am, by dancing with strange captains when I am engaged to a perfectly fine man."
"No...I mean..." William smiled, and ostentatiously turned to his mother.
Susan continued. "From what I have heard, I am eager to make your acquaintance."
"And my fiance is not a perfectly fine man. Lordy! He is bosom friend to Captain Sommers! But," she said with a slight sigh, "I shall make him into a fine enough man by the time of our wedding. But I think I'd rather not think of that yet. Aunt Edwards..." she turned to her aunt. Mrs. Edwards seemed to recall something.
"Oh yes! Mrs. Price, you, your husband, your son here and Miss Susan are invited for supper and cards the day after tomorrow. The Captain and I are having a nice quiet group, and would be delighted for your and your husband, as well as these two young lively people, to join us. You shall attend? Splendid! Katherine, we really must be going."
They rose again, fixed their hats in front of a mirror, and were escorted out the door by William and Susan. Both were very content with their visitor, and were anxious to see her at the supper party.
Captain Edwards was a fairly fashionable man, and his home was filled with many smart officers and their families. As the price party entered, Mrs. Edwards greeted them kindly, and introduced them all to Juliana Robertson, and reintroduced them to Katherine. Both girls were dressed prettily, and seemed as much at home amongst this throng of strangers as they had at the parties given in their own home.
Julie again wore dark colors, as she had at her and William's first meeting, colors which became her well. Katherine wore bright colors, and the dress merely contrasted the characters of the two sisters even more. Julie was cautious, and had scruples over tradition and decorum. Katherine was more active, and alive, but often spoke more quickly than she ought to.
Susan was very grateful to be with both sisters. They both thought well of her brother, and they were quite fashionable amongst their own circles in Woolwich. They also knew Ned Brayle slightly, and were able to sympathize with Susan over the fact that all the dashing men seemed to run off to sea, where they were not seen for such long periods of time.
Captain Edwards welcomed William heartily. He had heard of the Woolwich trouble, and was sympathetic to the young captain. He also had heard that the affair at the inn had been cleared up, and was disposed to consider William as innocent. Captain Edwards brought William over to a group of his friends, who then sat about and pondered over the matter, while sharing stories about several dubious sailors in their acquaintance, amongst them, Captain Sommers, and several members of the Admirable's crew.
"I have heard that Sommers is so run up in debt that he fawns on his rich friends in Woolwich," spoke one rather elderly ex-sailor, by the name of Briggs.
"What friends?" roared a hearty and red-faced man called Glenn.
William smiled rather sadly.
"Why don't you ask Miss Robertson. She is betrothed to one of the man's friends."
"No offense to the man, but how can he stomach the man. I would not be able to."
"I have no idea. Now my poor friend Mr. Brayle must stomach the man for as long as the journey takes."
É * É
Brayle, at this time, was finding it very difficult to handle Sommers, who oversaw the ship as if he were a king. All were to obey him completely, and to obey his self-imposed rules. Sommers was more and more ostentatious whenever he drank brandy or liquor of any sort. Some of Brayle's friends had managed to pilfer a small cask of beer from within the hold, but the daunting midshipmen stole it back from them, and drank it loudly in plain view of all. Sommers made no move to stop them, but had a man whipped for stealing the cask in the first place. Life was close to unbearable aboard the Admirable.
Ned Brayle sat back in a chair in his cabin, and tried to compose a few letters. The Gertrude had been sighted in the far distance, and was heading back to England. A chance to send the letters. Both Gertrude and Admirable would anchor in a sheltered cove that night, and haste was needed to complete the letters in time.
Again Brayle told about the sad affairs aboard the ship. He had heard nothing new, and was anxious over his friend's health and state of mind. He had left William in far from optimal circumstances. He closed the letter abruptly, and sealed it, and then took up the next paper.
He had his doubts about its propriety, but wrote the letter anyway.
Dear Miss Price,
Our acquaintance could be deemed short, I know, but I am rather inclined to write this, regardless, and pray that you shall have the good patience to hear me through.
I have long been fond of your company, those months in Portsmouth have assured me of your generosity, compassion and gentle character. You were so agreeable to me, and so compassionate of my concerns and my hopes that I pray that you shall consent to be my wife.
As I said earlier, please do not consider me presumptive, but I care very deeply, even though our acquaintance is short. I shall not be content with any other woman. your character and personality soothe me to no end, and I rather wish that you were here on this ill fated ship with me now, rather than the man who has usurped the position of your amiable brother.
Your turn of mind is so like his that I can find no fault in you, sister to my dearest friend. Pray, lift my suffering. I am not in wholly bad circumstances, either. While I am the third son, I have some small inheritance to look forward to, and through friends am rapidly improving my connections along the path of my career. You could be made comfortable, and happy, I am sure. Most beautiful Susan, I must leave you. If I receive any news for your brother, I shall sent it in haste, as best I can. My affection is strong, and I shall write to your father as well, and enclose it with this letter. If you refuse my proposal, please forget it all, I would by no means hinder you in any way.
Edward C. Brayle
Brayle picked up the letters, and made towards the door, so that he might have time to observe the location of the Gertrude. He stopped, however, when he heard hushed voices not far from his doorway. Cautiously sticking his head around the door, he observed two men, their backs to him, leaning over some papers, with glasses and bottles nearby. The men were Sommers and his head henchman. Both were not entirely intending to say what they did.
"Higgins, you shall be repaid for your services when we get onto shore again. I promised you. I got this position, didn't I? I can pay back any debt now."
"Just 'cause you got this post, doesn't mean you'll get another. Besides, when I show the officials those letters of yours, you will never get a post."
"Don't tell a soul! I mean it. I could cast you overboard any night I choose."
"Threatening never helped anyone. I might've told my mates where those letters are hid."
"You wouldn't have."
"Wouldn't I? Wouldn't I? They are under Sommers's bunk!" He shouted the last bit. None of the other men than Brayle paid heed. Higgins liked to shout, and loved an audience. Brayle was very interested.
He slipped into Sommers's cabin, and searched under the bunk. There was nothing there but a note from Campbell.
Meet them before the first set at the Admiral's ball. They will be outside. All is arranged. He mustn't interfere with me any longer. - Campbell.
"Very interesting," Brayle said to himself, and fled out of the cabin, hearing Higgins leave the captain. He opened his letter to William, and began again...
É * É
William was happily seated next to Katherine at her uncle's table. Julie sat across, with Susan. All were laughing heartily, and acting gaily. Still, William wondered about the whole affair. How did Katherine fit in? How would he find out whether the hanky had been truly in Campbell's possession? He sipped his wine carefully, and sighed over the rim of the glass. Katherine caught his eyes, and whispered,
"Meet me some time before we leave again. Something must be done."
Something must be done. William had suffered quite enough already, and was eager for progress. Susan smiled across the table. William had plenty of support, and was eager for action to be taken. And action would be taken, while William had support.
Several days after the dinner party, Katherine came to call at the Price home. Mrs. Price was out on a rare engagement, and Susan and William were the only ones available to welcome the caller. Both professed their eagerness to talk with her, and she settled into a chair comfortably. She also desired to speak to both. After pleasantries were exchanged, she spoke plainly.
"Captain Price, Miss Price, you must know that I came to talk to you about the unfortunate affair at Woolwich."
They nodded, each having guessed this.
"The charges that were laid against you, Captain Price, are as follows, to my understanding. You have been behind a series of waterfront robberies in nearly every port on the south west coast of England. Amongst these, you are supposed to have assaulted an innkeeper's daughter, and stolen all valuables from the innkeeper himself. One of the main points of proof against you here is that you left a handkerchief in the inn."
Only, he didn't," spoke Susan, "because he didn't do any of those things."
"True," smiled Katherine. Then, she continued with the charges. "You are also accused of blackmailing several witnesses, and not paying gambling debts, and borrowing money from a Mr. Coward of Eastbourne, who in turn became so in debt that he was reduced to being a pauper, and lost all he owned. You signed the receipt William Paris, soon to be the H.M.S. Admirable." Katherine's face was grave, then, her face became bright and broke into a smile.
"The whole affair is absurd! I can no more imagining you borrowing money and robbing and gambling than I can imagine you as a farmer. It is not in your character."
"I thank you for your trust, Miss Robertson," was William's reply. "But did you not tell me that some of these charges have been removed?"
"Yes. You were not the assailant in the inn, unless you changed your eye color and dyed your hair. Not to mention acquiring a Liverpool accent."
"A Liverpool accent I have not, and I know of no way to alter the color eyes I was given. You may consider me innocent of assaulting the girl. What did you say of the handkerchief?"
"It...it had been in the possession of my...fiance...four years ago. W.Price on it, in neat lettering. It was rather a plain article, and how I laughed at it! Campbell was so poor, I originally thought, that he could not afford to buy his own handkerchiefs! But, I know now that it was merely an odd coincidence. Could you have given it to Campbell aboard the Thrush?"
"yes...no...yes. I am fairly sure that I did. Yes, I did! I only had half a dozen hankies at the time, and I remember giving Campbell one when his hand was cut open by a rope...he didn't use it to mop up the mess...he used his own for that, but needed mine in the meanwhile until his was cleaned again, for that day. I doubt that he ever gave it back. But did he leave it in an inn?"
"I doubt that. Mr. Campbell is unwilling to do any unpleasant thing. A robbery would be not his taste at all. He might have given it to someone else, though."
"Then it could have been anyone."
Susan broke in. "Anyone with dark hair and eyes, and a Liverpool accent."
"Yes," agreed William. "But how are we to find who Campbell gave the article to?"
"Me," said Katherine, ungrammatically. "I'll find out. After all, I am to marry him, in just a month or so."
"In a month!" exclaimed Susan, "Do you not yet have a gown?It seems that you are rather unprepared, if you will pardon me saying so."
"Speak as you like. I do not know where I lie with Campbell. I might as well leave the dress until the last possible minute."
William stayed on track.
"You will go to Campbell, and try to find out what you can?"
"I'll pry as much as I can. We'll arrange it somehow. I'll force him to tell me. He isn't on the right side. We three shall be much more powerful."
As Katherine spoke, Juliana entered the room, announced by Una. She had heard only William's and Katherine's statements, and she wasn't sure that she liked the look of conspiracy that she saw. Katherine fell silent in spite of herself, and the conversation turned back to pleasantries.
The two callers left soon after Julie's arrival. William was pleased that he was cleared in some respects, and was fully confident that he would soon be cleared in all others. He was only worried about Katherine. Would she really marry that Campbell? He was lost to thought for the next several days, as business affairs kept him busy. Then, one morning, he gathered the post from a servant, and was pleased to see that amongst the pile was a letter from Brayle. He sat back and read of the distracted affairs aboard the Admirable. He was fully distressed. He tried to think whether anyone had left the ball early on, and talked outside. He was upset that Sommers had threatened to throw a man overboard, and by the fact that Sommers had papers hidden which, if found, would prevent him from ever being given a post again. William was so distressed that he did not notice Susan enter the room, and search for paper on which to write Fanny.
Susan found the paper, and had gathered up William's best bottle of ink when she noticed that one of the letters from the post was addressed to her. Letters, save from Fanny, and William when he was absent, were rare, and she left the ink in her eagerness to see what it said.
É * É
William was busy writing to Captain Sanders when Susan entered to room again, a little over a half an hour later. Her face was flushed, and she seemed excited.
"Your best stationary, William, and pass me your ink."
"Why the elegant paper?"
"I have had a letter."
"Who possibly from?"
"Aye. He wants me to marry him."
"And shall you?"
"If you will give me the paper and ink now, so I might respond to him."
William handed her the writing things readily.
"I am glad!" he cried. "I am ever so glad! I like Ned as much as any young man I have ever met, and am so glad for you. Have you spoken to father?"
"He came in not ten minutes ago. Mr. Brayle had enclosed a letter to him. Thank you for the things. I really must write now. Poor Ned! He must be waiting so!"
She dashed from the room, fair head bouncing about in her excitement. She called to Una, who was busy darning a woolen stocking,
"I shan't be an old maid after all!"
Una looked completely oblivious, and smiled, before turning back to the hole. William shut the door, and stared into the fireplace. He was happy, he really was. Susan was his second dearest sister, and the happiness of his family meant much to William. While the family had not been brought up with much in the way of material luxuries, they had always been an affectionate family, and were pleased when any other member of the family succeeded.
Ned Brayle would be an ideal brother-in-law, and William was glad that his cheerful presence would be made even more valuable by the connection. The world suddenly was bright again, and Woolwich and Campbell were pushed aside for more pleasant thoughts.
Continued in Part 3
© 2001 Copyright held by author