The Woolwich Affair
Katherine and Julie left Portsmouth within a week of the arrival of Ned Brayle's letters. Katherine was pleased when she heard of the engagement, but was sad to be leaving her new friend so soon. The girls were needed in Woolwich again, and further developments from Katherine's upcoming wedding needed to be planned.
Campbell was pleased to have Katherine safely in her home again, as he knew that William Price lived in Portsmouth. Katherine was also being unusually more pleasant than she had been being. She tolerated his company with the good humor and patience which had frayed while William was still in town. Campbell thought that he could now confide in Katherine, and Katherine was pleased to learn what she could, for the sake of her friends in Portsmouth.
One morning Katherine and Campbell were strolling along the harbor at Woolwich, watching the gulls, and the boats, and the water, Katherine questioned him directly.
"Have you heard from the Admirable?"
"What? That ship that set out not so long ago?"
"Yes. I believe you are well acquainted with the captain, sir."
"Oh, Yes! Sommers is quite a good chap. I would have had him for my man at the wedding, if he would be in the country. Unfortunately he is not, so my cousin, Mr. Abrahams shall have to be. Surely you have met Abrahams?"
Katherine steered her fiance off the subject of the fascinating Mr. Abrahams.
"How is the ship? There was a dreadful scandal beforehand."
"Yes. That knave Price. Have you heard from him?" Campbell suddenly asked, his eyes narrowing. Katherine faltered slightly.
"We had met a few times in Portsmouth. My aunt is acquainted with his family."
Campbell passed over the aunt, and tried to set his mind on answering Katherine's question.
"I have heard from the Admirable. I have heard that they are making excellent time, and have had great luck so far. There are some in the crew who disobey orders, and others who purr like kittens when my friend takes the helm. A ship is not such an interesting place for a woman such as yourself. My dear, dear Katherine, you belong in a fine house, far away from the ships and their crews."
Katherine managed to smile sweetly, although Campbell was bothering her dreadfully.
"Ah." Then, "Shall I keep far away from such unvirtuous men as Captain Price?"
"Of course. They are not worth your bother. Any man who leaves his handkerchiefs about like Price cannot be trusted. Such clumsiness! Sailors are mean tot be neat and nimble, and solid. Young Price seems a bit to flimsy for the post originally trusted to him. He should not have made a good captain.Sommers knew this, and took measures."
Campbell had temporarily strayed from guard.
"Measures?" Katherine was quick to notice his lapse.
He snapped back again at her sharp tone.
"No...Measures? He reported what he knew."
"And the handkerchief? Was it in Sommers's possession?"
Campbell was caught. He stumbled.
"I...Sommers found it in the inn...and kept it. As evidence."
Katherine looked at him. "Sommers was in the inn?"
"Why can my friends not attend inns as they choose?"
"Was your friend there at the time of the incident?"
"I...suppose...or soon after it, to find the handkerchief."
"Why did he keep it, when some authority or other likely needed it as proof."
"I...why are you asking me this?"
"I just am curious. Sadly so, perhaps, but truly. I have a nose for judgment, and I did not like your friend's reasons."
"For removing evidence, and for not mentioning that he was at the inn himself. And what about the innkeeper. Did he not recognize the man who held the recognized proof?"
"Sommers could be any man. Fairly tall, dark, accent...any working class man. Do you suppose and inn keeper to take special notice of his working class customers? They do not pay as handsomely as the independent ones."
Katherine was mystified by Campbell's withdrawal of information. He seemed eager to shied his friend, but was not doing a very good job of it. There was something fishy. She tried to think about the handkerchief. However, Julie soon caught up to them, and forced them to have lighter, freer conversation.
"Campbell, when we had just met, remember how I though you were a pauper?"
"Gracious! Kate, I had all but forgotten! How hilarious that was. Your joking spirit would not leave me alone. That is likely the reason I am marrying you."
"I thought that you were poor because you wore such a shabby cost, and you carried a handkerchief about you which was not your own. What a lark that was!"
"W. Price...yes. I recall. You wrote me a very nice invitation to dinner, after we had met more formally, addressed so. You gave me the option of being named Wilbur, Waldo or Winthrop."
"Yes, Waldo, dear."
Campbell had admitted it. Julie had heard. W. Price. The handkerchief had been in his possession. Sommers was mysterious. He was tallish, dark, and spoke with an accent. What could be more plain? Katherine now itched to return home so she might write Susan with the news.
The conversation turned to the weather.
É * É
That evening, Katherine went to dinner, leaving two full sheets of paper, her letter to Susan, on the study table. As Julie passed by in search of a book of prose, she noticed them, and read them through.
Dear Susan...I have learned something rather alarming... My fiance involved. The handkerchief was certainly owned by Campbell previously....I have a witness to that fact...Sommers fits description at inn....How could I forget that he speaks in a Liverpool accent?...Pray, tell your dear brother, and let him use what i have found out to clear his name... also, the fellow in Eastbourne's problems occurred while William was away at sea...the June, a year previous to now...I beg you to clear your good brother's name, it could give me great comfort...
Julie read no more. She was disturbed by the warm terms with which Katherine addressed William, and the less than fond ones to Campbell. How was Katherine to marry one man, and love another? the idea was wrong. She didn't understand much of what the letter said but she knew one thing. She copied several passages, and put them in an envelope, addressed to Campbell.
É * É
On receiving the passages, Campbell was shocked. Julie had sent him all relating to Katherine's conviction of Sommers and himself. Campbell, worried, wrote Sommers that night. The man needed to be on a look out. If the affair back fired, Campbell should look a fool, and Sommers should fare worse than William was now. Prospects were bleak, unless Sommers was warned. Above all, Sommers must watch two things. Ned Brayle and how he held his liquor. Both were dangerous to Campbell and Sommers. Both could free William from his current problems.
When Katherine entered the study, she noted the disarray of the papers on the table, and the stained pen. She ran to the table, and leafed through the sheets there, noting passages with tiny ink dots by them...and the ink was still tacky. Someone had noted passages. Passages pertaining to her information of Sommers, and those pertaining to her affectionate terms of Captain Price. She was a bit alarmed as to what this could mean, and directly copied the letter again, and sealed the copy for Susan. Then, dispatching the letter, she ran upstairs to her room, and stared at the wall.
Julie soon entered, to say good-night, and came over to her sister when she saw the worried expression in her sister's eyes. Julie may have been angry with her sister over the contents of the letter, but in truth, she was quite concerned about her sister, and her sister's unusual position.
"Katherine, are you well?" she asked, taking Katherine's hands in her own.
Katherine was silent, then, looking at her sister's smooth hands, noticed the tiny smears of ink.
"It was you!" she burst forth. "You...you read my letter...and noted the paragraphs...why, Julie? What have you done?"
Julie was alarmed that her sister had noticed the affair, but thought it best to confront her sister now, as to the complications of her current situation.
"Kath! It is you I am worried for. You are the one who writes warmly of a man other than your intended! What were you going to do? -- break off the engagement when it is so close to the wedding? Your gown has been ordered! How could you speak such to Captain Price?"
"I have not spoken thus to him," remarked Katherine somewhat calmly. "I have spoken thus to his sister, a new and dear friend of mine."
Julie ignored this.
"Did you know what you were writing about Sommers? If such comes out, Campbell will be involved. By now you must be serious in your plan to wed the man. The disgrace! Sommers will be severely punished, no doubt, and your husband implicated!"
Katherine, confused as to her thoughts on Campbell and Captain Price, stuttered, "I..I..want Will...Captain Price to be cleared. Did...did you see how many he has to support? His sister will now be married, but where is the money for her things to come from? Will...Captain Price... cannot get work. Should the entire family suffer? Sommers is at fault, of his doing...not mine. He is to blame. Why should Will..., Captain Price, be made to suffer for what he did not do? If my...if Campbell is implicated, surely that is of his doing, and must be...brought to light?" She finished breathless, but she knew that she had won Julie over.
"Ohh...," moaned Julie, "But what are you going to do about Campbell?"
"Leave Campbell to me," smiled Katherine weakly.
É * É
A tall, handsome man knocked on the door of William's home, and was admitted warmly by those within. Charlie Brayle, brother of Susan's intended, had come for his long promised visit, so that he might help this amiable man, Captain Price. Susan was glad to meet Charlie, for he was to help her brother, and his face was very like that of Ned.
By this time, Katherine's letter had reached Susan, and the contents poured over by Charlie with a laugh. He shook his chestnut head, and sighed.
"Girl has pluck. Price, this seems rather hopeless on her side, and hopeful on yours. Have you written my brother?"
"This very morning. Though, as he is at sea, I cannot say when he will receive it."
"In any case, the sooner the letter sent, the sooner it shall be received."
"Yes, that is generally true. What do you believe is of the most importance?"
"That Campbell gave the handkerchief to Sommers. It was not mine. And that Sommers fits the description well. He seems to be your man."
"So, I shall go and look up this Campbell in Woolwich, and these Robertsons, and on my way take a round-about to the inn, and look up the keeper. Price, here is what you ought to do. Take good care of my sister-in-law-to-be, and hi thee away to Woolwich, and meet there. I believe that we must see then men who accused you once more."
William truly smiled, meaningfully and joyfully for the first time in quite a while.
"I shall, Charlie. Thank you."
The man broke into a wide grin, and put back on his hat and gloves.
"It has been a pleasure meeting you again, and your sister. Ned will be a lucky fellow, I think."
Susan rose and swatted the air.
"You think . William! Tell him I shall be the optimal wife."
William smiled. Taking sides was still difficult for him, but he was beginning to feel at peace again.
É * É
Ned Brayle sighed again, as he handed more money to Captain Sommers. Sommers had been eager for a bit of gambling, and Brayle had been conscripted into the game. He had also lost more often than he would have liked. However, Sommers was having pretty bad luck as well. Another man of their party, a Mr. Phoon, was quite good at cards. All the money Sommers won from Brayle was going to Phoon almost immediately. Phoon dealt again.
They proceeded in their game.Their other companion, a midshipman who was known to be clever at cards, called Fields, was neither winning nor losing much. Brayle wondered how long the game would go on. He didn't like the idea of leaving in such loss, but he didn't see how his luck could change, either. Sommers was drinking more and more, and indeed, he was rather annoying Brayle, as he spewed out tales which Brayle would like to have declined the pleasure of hearing.
Fields, unbelievingly, soon declared himself lost, and was excluded from the game. It turned out that he had very little money with him, and was quite worried over the prospect of how much he would have to bring home to his wife. Brayle quite understood him, but Sommers would not let Brayle leave yet.
"Just a few more hands..," he muttered, pouring himself more brandy.
Brayle sat back, and looked at his hand. It was not terribly bad, and he could tell from Sommers's face that the Captain's hand was not better. Drunk, Sommers could keep no control of his face. Phoon seemed slightly agitated, so Ned laid out his hand. For the first time in quite a while that evening, Brayle received money from his opponents. Unfortunately, this mean that Sommers would not let him leave at all, wanting to recuperate his losses, which were, at this stage of the game, rather high.
The evening passed, and it was night. Somehow Sommers had not fallen asleep, but was sharp enough to notice Phoon cheating. Phoon was cast from the game, and his winnings (those which he had not concealed around his person) were split between Brayle and Sommers.
More time passed, and Brayle seemed to be getting more lucky. His opponent's stupor helped him, but Sommers seemed in control f his actions, though not his words. The game went on...and on...and on.
Sommers soon declared that he had no more ready cash about him. Brayle looked hopefully at the clock, hoping that Sommers would end the game, but this was not to be. Somers suddenly looked Brayle in the eye and said,
"We shall now play for information. I know much more than you. If I win, you give me money, and if you win, I shall tell you something among my secrets."
The bargain seemed completely unfair, but Brayle had no choice but to agree. Besides, what Sommers knew could be very interesting. They dealt again.
Sommers won, then won again, then, falling into a short sleep, lost his winnings. Sommers next was forced to give up information.
"Mr. Brayle...I shall tell you all I know of my step-brother, William. He shall amuse you, no doubt!" He paused. "Now, William is such a loose man with his money...he gambles more than I. He runs about all sorts of inns, and gambles there. But..." Sommers smiled sleepily into his glass, "He always wins. He cheats so! And he always signs receipts...never pays for damages caused to the inns in which he plays...William..what a nutty man. Why! Th' other day, I was asked out him. A shop keeper, it was...said "Sommers, I don't like that step brother of yours... I wish I'd never set eyes on William Paris!" That's what he said...My deal."
Brayle was rather disgruntled that this was all Sommers was going to say...but the name William Paris was familiar....by Jove! That was the name signed by the man in the inn...the one who gambled with Mr. Coward...the one whom everyone had thought was William Price! Perhaps this tidbit was worth hearing after all!"
They played the next hand. Sommers lost again.
" Now...about my step-brother Paris, he is so loose with his money that he'll pay any bills signed in inns...I have gotten away with his paying so much! I, indeed, should be quite guilty of many things, if Paris were not to cover them so neatly...ha ha!"
With his laugh, Sommers fell promptly asleep, his face next to his now empty glass of brandy. Brayle quietly got up, extracted his winnings, and retired to his cabin to write to Admiral Grant. Poor William Price! It seemed that after all, that none of the evidence was pointing his way, after all!
Charlie Brayle stopped off at the inn where William was supposed to have done unthinkable things. First, the handsome Charlie obtained an interview with the girl, who ascertained that the man who had assaulted her was dark, not fair at all. Charlie, somewhat expert with a crayon, produced a sketch of William Price, and showed it to her. She denied that this was the man whom she had seen. Brayle had never met Sommers, so was unable to produce a sketch of him, though the girl recognized the description furbished by William. That issue cleared, Charlie wrote out the substance of the interview, and had the girl sign the pages.
Next, Charlie met with the inn keeper, and talked to him. The man whom he had served previous to the robbery fitted Sommers's description well. The innkeeper had never seen the man Charlie had sketched out. William seemed to never have been to the inn before in his life.
Charlie ate a very good lunch there, consisting of a meat pie and fresh vegetables, and then proceeded to Woolwich.
É * É
Katherine was quite interested when she saw a tall handsome man approach the Robertson home. She called Julie to the window, and they sat and pondered whom he might be. However, as they saw him enter the house, they tidied themselves and went downstairs. To Julie especially, such a man was a treat. Katherine usually monopolized all other nice men who came to visit, but Katherine was not monopolizing this one, but rather handing him to Julie. Julie was gratified.
The man introduced himself to Captain Robertson as the brother of Mr. Edward Brayle, currently aboard the Admirable, and the good friend of Captain William Price, of Portsmouth. With this introduction, Katherine was quite interested, but kept her face calm. Julie recognized why the man was here at once. He wanted her father's support in helping the dashing William Price clear his name. Why else could he be there? He mentioned his friendship and his brother, and of his new acquaintance with Captain Murray Sanders. All these men were trying to clear up the affair, and handsome Charles Brayle appeared to be helping them. Julie immediately stopped believing that Campbell was right, and Katherine wrong, and threw her heart whole heartedly towards the same cause as this man was supporting.
Charlie, being human, noticed the look on the pretty dark haired girl, and sat by her, to the girl's delight. He addressed Katherine, bearing tidings from Susan Price, and telling the Robertsons of the engagement between Miss Price and his younger brother. Katherine was truly delighted with the engagement, and Julie could not help feeling so too, despite her small acquaintance with each young person.
Mrs. Robertson was called from the room shortly, but Charlie began to tell the Captain and the young ladies of what he had found at the inn. Katherine told him about how William could not have possibly been responsible for the losses of Mr. Coward of Eastbourne, as William was, at that time, sailing abroad. Charlie seems quite pleased with all he heard, and suggested that the group proceed to the Admiral...his name had escaped Charlie at resent...and produce the case. Then, perhaps the Admiral would be kind enough to find the tradesmen who had testified against William, who had testified perfect lies. The party rose, put on hats, bonnets and coats, and strolled from the house to that of the Admiral.
É * É
The Admiral was at home. He was in his study, reading the newspaper, but seemed happy enough to be disturbed from headlines predicting war. He greeted the Captain and his daughters with familiarity, and greeted Charlie Brayle very warmly. He was interested in what they had to say.
"You mean that William, dear boy, could not have been responsible for either in incident or the gambling charges? That is excellent news. What proof have you?"
They explained, and the Admiral seemed happier and happier. The bodings of war were forgotten, and he was busily copying out the names and addresses of the tradesmen who had testified. Also, Campbell was cited as a witness. Katherine seemed a bit unsure abut how to approach him, but be must be approached. Julie has forgotten about any of the Campbell implications, and was happily becoming insensible to everything but the capable man who brought good news to her sister.
After the group had talked for some time, Captain Robertson entrusted his daughters to his new found friend (seeing that his new friend was as gallant as his brother), and proceeded with Admiral Grant to find the tradesmen. He in no way wanted his daughters to see such unruly men, and sent them away with a smile.
Charlie took the arm of each charming young lady, and walked them home, stopping for a short while at the home of Captain Murray Sanders, giving him the list of places where the Admiral and Captain Robertson were going to look for the men. He immediately called for his hat, coat and stick, and walked out the door, eagerly hoping for the whole Woolwich affair to be cleared up and done with.
Charlie stopped next at the home of the Robertson girls, and gallantly bid them a good afternoon. By this point, Julie was fair smitten with her father's new friend. He left with Julie and Katherine the name and location of his lodgings, so that their father might locate him again. Then, he set out for a post inn, searching for a messenger to take a letter to William, asking him to come to Woolwich.
É * É
The first tradesman did not want to speak to the sea men at all. He spat, he cursed, he ate his lunch with his mouth open, and was only convinced to own that "Mr. Sommers told me that Mr. Price had done all that stuff. The real witnesses were afraid, and he was asked to read a signed receipt as to what happened." When he was asked about the receipt, he slurped his soup, and called the land lady to chase away his callers. However, the lady was too impressed by the Admiral to do so, and instead told the man to produce the receipt. He blushed, and admitted that he had never seen it, merely "read" it but Mr. Sommers. He was dealt with accordingly, and made to take back his statements on the night of the Grant's ball.
The second workman seemed genuinely sorry, after hearing of Mr. Price's troubles, himself having a family to supports, and owned everything. He had only spoken to afford a new set of teeth for his elderly mother. The Admiral took pity on him, and let him both with a warning about lying, and a reward for speaking so readily.
The rest of the workmen were easy to talk to, having already sensed that the game was up, by the attitude of the men when they entered. William now appeared to be innocent of anything these men had told the company on the night of the ball. Ned Brayle's tip to William, had been right. There was something amiss the night of the ball. All that remained to be dealt with was the water front robberies and Campbell.
Murray Sanders, Captain Robertson, and Admiral Grant were all sure themselves of William's innocence, and seemed pleased to push the affair over to Sommers. Who wouldn't?
William, sitting in the somewhat sunny front room of his home, was pleased to receive a letter from Mr. Yates, his good-cousin. Una curtsied, and left him to read alone. Mr. Yates had been busy, between frolics with his friends.
It may have taken longer than either of us would have originally wished, but I have at last found something which you might want to know. Several acquaintances of mine know of your Captain Sommers, and as I had originally told you, have nothing good to say of the man. He cannot even hold his liqueur. They have no use for him. The man cheats and lies, and pays with his step brother's name. Oddly enough, I may mention, the step brother seems to have no qualms in paying Sommers's bills.
As to my original message...these men alert me that the waterfront robberies, in the port of Woolwich, were arranged for a lark by a group of rowdy drunks, included amongst them our friend, Mr. Sommers. I have the names of the men, exhorted after no small trouble, but extracted all the same. They are as follows, and I enclose the statement copied down by a good friend of mine, a Latin scholar at Cambridge, a Sir Tony Fields. The names are: Captain J. Sommers, Mr. H. Harte, Mr. C. Daniels, Sir Reggie Carthwright (this man has already paid his allowance of repair, and I would urge you not to include him, if you can bear to not.), Mr. J. Campbell, Lt. P. Edwards and Mr. J. Bryon. Their addresses are somewhere amongst this wad of paper I have included, pardon the mess, but I am not a man of many letters.
These men have admitted, or been cited by their companions, and I fear that some men around the waterfront may recognize them. I pray that this helps you, you seem a good chap. Julia is in excellent health, and also our young son, John.
William was pleased about this charge being cleared. He broke into a smile as his sister entered, carrying a bonnet and a bag of trimmings.
"Why are you so pleased? Which lady is this letter from?"
"Sue! This is from Yates, our good-cousin."
"The man Julia Bertram ran away with?"
"What can that fellow have to say that amuses you so?"
"He has sent me some very good news. More of the unfortunate affair has been cleared from my name. He even encloses the names of the men responsible. He is indeed very kind."
Susan grabbed the letter.
"Hmmm...nice job of everything he has done. Maybe I like this Yates a little more than before. Fanny had always made her out to be a bit...you know... . What's this? Oh. The names. Captain J. Sommers, we suspected that one! Mr. H. Harte, I never heard of him...Mr. C. Daniels, he is the gentleman a friend of mine was asked to marry...she didn't, though! Sir Reggie Carthwright. The Reggie Carthwright? Tsk! Mr. J. Campbell...John Campbell? Does this mean the man your lovely Katherine is to marry?"
"Here are the addresses... --- Street, Woolwich...yes! I cannot believe it...perhaps now..."
"What? Katherine won't marry him?"
"Lt. P. Edwards and Mr. J. Bryon..." Susan continued, "Who wanted them anyway? You really ought to show this letter to the Admiral you spoke of, in Woolwich."
"You are right as always, dear sister! Una! I mean to leave this afternoon for Woolwich! Murray Sanders sad I would be welcome any time...I pray he really means it... Susan, most lovely of sisters, I bid you a farewell, and must run to see to my trunks."
He grabbed up the letter, and ran up the stairs.
Susan whistled to herself.
"I gave him a moment of hope, and he seized it. Well...I want Campbell removed, as well...what can I say?"
She took up the bonnet.
É * É
William arrived at Woolwich by the morning of the day after he had left his home in Portsmouth. Murray Sanders was indeed glad to see him, and had only good things to say of Charlie Brayle, who had broken the hearts of half his female acquaintance in Woolwich already. Miss Liark and Mrs. White greeted William happily, glad for their gallant house-guest to return.
Although much of William's time was taken up by his loyal friends, he lost no time in find the Admiral, and to share his letter from Yates. The Admiral had qualms about facing the Sir Reggie, but as the note had indicated, there was no need to implicate the man any further. The other men, with the exception of Captain J. Sommers, were talked to by the Admiral. Mr. J. Campbell was not pleased about this.
"Sir," he said, facing the Admiral, and William who stood by the door, "I may have been part of such an excursion, but what of my fellows? I assure you that I would plan no such thing..."
Campbell was fined for his part in the waterfront robberies, and the whole affair removed form the list of charges against Captain William Price.
The Admiral quickly began to gather up a party of men, who were to find the Admirable, and to take her captain back to England as speedily as possible. Mr. Edward Brayle, they thought, would be capable of finishing the journey as Captain.
Charlie Brayle, sitting in the parlor of the Robertson home, was pleased to hear this.
"Not only are they removing that odious man, but they give my dear baby brother a chance to prove himself...perchance he shall land a captain after all!"
Julie smiled, as Charlie was smiling. William looked questioningly at them, then moved to where Katherine sat, doing needlework.
"Miss Robertson, you seem quite well this morning."
"I thank you, Captain Price. May I inquire after your sister?"
"Indeed. She was quite well when I left her. She is greatly busy with her upcoming wedding." Here he paused...You must be busy with yours.
"Dear Susan and your dear Mr. Brayle!"
Charlie looked up.
"We speak of your brother, Charlie," William said.
Charlie looked back at Julie and continued his conversation.
"What of this Mr. Brayle? I see your sister..."
"I am afraid I had encouraged her. You see, it has brought her back to us. She was being virtuous, and alerting Campbell of my fickleness. He has been warned, but perhaps he has been thrown off his guard with the waterfront robberies incident and fine."
"How did you know...?" Katherine smiled, and he continued. "And of your sister? You say that she wrote to Campbell of our investigation?"
"Yes. She did."
Charlie looked up.
"I fear, my friends, you are not paying attention to the Brayle gift of being able to listen to two conversations at once. Tell me more of this. Campbell is alerted of what we know?"
Julie burst into tears.
"I did not mean...I thought it right that he should know what his intended...forgive me, gentlemen!"
Both were considerably taken aback. Charlie reached out and took Julie's hand, and held it for a few minutes. He began to smile.
"Miss Juliana, you have shown courage. I agree that it is of no assistance to us that you have done so, but it is admirable that you have tried to do a difficult thing...to take sides. I understand that you have taken a side for keeps, now?"
Julie, still pale, weakly smiled, and he let go of her hand.
"No, my dear young lady, what did I interrupt in our conversation?"
They commenced talking, but the man's eyes did not stray from the distressed girl.
William and Katherine continued.
"Now, Captain Price, I understand that Sommers is to be traced, and you to be cleared?"
"It is my intention that these happen." He smiled, and looked at Katherine, and was still gazing at her when Mr. Campbell was announced.
Hurriedly, Mr. Charlie Brayle and Captain William Price stood, and walked from the room. Campbell scowled at them.
John Campbell was not in a pleasant mood. He felt that his life had once more been invaded by the impertinent Captain Price. It would have been better to have just left matters alone, and have let Price off to sea. By retaining Price at hand, on land, nothing good could happen. And now he, Campbell, had found Price and his rather handsome friend in the sitting room of his fiance.
Campbell was not a man who could sit still with his rage. He was a man of action, and took the most prompt course of action he could think of. First, he proceeded to the nearest tavern, and ordered himself a large drink. Second, he began to spread rumors to his drinking companions. Rumors about William Price.
"Did you know that Price has sold his family's home to pay off the Admiral to give him another position? Or that Price has bribed the witnesses to say that they were paid to say it as him? And that Price has been robbing inns all up and down the coast, to afford his way of life?" The list went on. Price has been arrested for forgery. Price has stolen cakes from children. Price has tipped carriages for amusement. Campbell was getting more drunk, and making up crazier rumors. However, the company liked the rumors.
É * É
Katherine had been out for an early morning walk with her mother, and heard a few rumors. The merchant they stopped to buy tea and sugar from had several versions of the story, told to him by his customers. Mrs. Robertson was horrified, but, being Katherine's mother, did not believe them. Katherine was furious. Gathering her purchases, she fled from the shop, fuming.
"Haven't they hurt him enough? I cannot believe it! Rumors!"
It could not be Captain Sommers who had caused the trouble. Captain Sommers had not been heard from in some time. It could not be one of the "witnesses". They were all safely accounted for. That left one of the people who had committed the waterfront crimes. Though not Sir Reggie. However, that left one man with every reason in the world to want William Price disgraced. Her own fiance, John Campbell.
On entering her home, Katherine sought out the much improved Julie. Julie was properly appalled, and also thought Campbell was involved. Julie, however, had another idea.
"Why doesn't Mr. Brayle go and investigate? He is not so very commonly known as William's friend, and he could undoubtedly speak to undesirable persons, who spread such rumors. If indeed it is Campbell who is spreading the malicious tales, we might confront him with conviction, not merely suspicion."
Katherine agreed. Charlie, who entered, calling for the Miss Robertsons with William, shortly, thought the idea wonderful. He had heard only too many tales that morning. William sighed over it all, as the girls and the two young men went walking.
"Do I look as if I would torture stray animals?" William asked.
"Whoever is doing this is not doing a very good job of it. I shouldn't say that you could hurt anybody."
"I should like the hurt somebody." William was rather upset over the whole affair. He was now used to people avoiding him, And his name being dragged about, but he truly resented people placing charges against his character. He did not want other people to hear of these false charges. They were silly, yes, but they hurt him. Especially that Katherine was hearing these things.
"Apparently you also knock old women down in the street," said Katherine grimly.
"After his kind behavior towards Mrs. White?" exclaimed Julie, "I should think that they are absurd!"
"That much we know, my dear Miss Juliana," spoke Charlie. And I should dearly like to tell whomever so myself." They stopped outside a confectionery. "Here goes," muttered Charlie, about to enter, inquiring over the sources of the rumors. William and the Miss Robertsons went to another shop for drinks and waited.
Charlie came back after some while. He seemed triumphant.
"It took three shops, a warehouse, a clerk, a housemaid, and two taverns, but I found out something worth knowing. John Campbell showed up at the Rose and Thimble last night, and began telling tales. I cannot go further than that without confronting the man, and all circumstances point towards his authorship. William, someone really hates you."
William knew it too. As did Katherine. It really was all because of her. She knew that it was the time to act.
É * É
Katherine found Campbell without much trouble. Nervous, anxious, and upset, she confronted him.
"It was you, was it not? You who started the rumors. Those horrible fibs..lies, untruths?"
"You sound very righteous. Have you been reading Fordyce? I would not if I were you. It makes a bad habit."
"You know what I mean."
"I do. I did. What else would you have of me?"
"You did?...I...I would have your reasons."
"As I suspected. I dislike William Price. I wish every bad thing on William Price, and I am unable to do anything directly. I must use what methods are in my reach."
"Why? You ask me why? It is because of you. Madam, we are to be married in a number of weeks. I do not appreciate infidelity. What we are married, you shall not see him again."
"Threatening me? Mr. Campbell, you must know that if you are jealous, you might as well state your reasons."
"He is most attentive to you, and you to him."
"Are you not attentive to me any more? No. You are not. You are too busy worrying over insignificant matters. Breaking into properties! Conspiring against my family friends. If you had spent the time attentively, should I not have been attentive towards you in return? But no. Captain Sommers gets more of your time than I do."
"Family friend? I should say that Price is more your friend than a family friend."
Katherine was silent.
"Are my crimes what are bothering you? Afraid that you will be married to a man who is not a lily-white boy? I fear you are mistaken madam. The man does not exist whom you thought you knew."
Katherine turned very white.
"The man I knew, the man I loved, is no more. John Campbell, I thank you for your former regard and affection, but at this time I return your ring. And your presents to me."
She removed the ring, and also some jewelry she had on. She lay them on the table, and turned to leave.
"You created more than what happened. I would have married you if you had stayed the man you were."
"I never was the man I was. I haven't been for a long time. Madam, you have said quite enough, but it is time that you leave."
Katherine fled. Campbell was silent for a while. He was defeated. Katherine had been the piece he had been fighting for, and she had been removed from the game. His hatred for William increased tenfold as he sat in the chair. He hurled a glass at the wall, and watched the drops of liquid run down the wall. He would be silent from this point forward. Except for where it regarded his friend. He wrote a short spiritless letter to his friend. his friend who had not written in quite some time.
É * É
Katherine found Julie alone when she returned. Julie noticed the shaken look on her sister's face, and took her hands. In doing so, she noticed the absence of the ring.
Katherine nodded. No more needed to be said, but Katherine collapsed onto the floor, leaning against the wall, feet spread in front of her, wiggling her feet.
"I am free, Julie. I do not know why I did not do this earlier. We might have avoided this business."
"No, Kath. You would have gone through with the marriage. We needed this to happen. Do you want me to tell William?"
"No, not yet. Give me a little time."
"Yes. I wish you well..."
They smiled at each other, and were perfectly content. They spent the afternoon just themselves, thankful for silence, thankful for silent happiness which began to grow between them. There was one less man to fight. One more action done. And William would soon be freed from all of this affair.
William was woken very early by one of the Admiral's servants. The first news in a long while had been heard from the Admirable. The ship was inexplicably near, and Sommers had been ordered to step down from his command to face charges. The Admiral wanted to speak to William.
William dressed and ate hurriedly, then ran over to the Admiral's home. He was waiting for William when he arrived.
"William! I bear glad tidings. We had all been rather afraid that something had happened to the ship, but all seem to be well. Sommers has been ordered to step down, and Brayle shall take command until they fully return. Meanwhile, we seek to take a boat there, and find Sommers ourselves. You have been wronged by this all, and I am eager to prove your innocence."
"I thank you, Admiral. May I see your communication from the ship? I am anxious for my friend."
Yes, I had a letter from your good friend. He seems most competent. Deserving to be a captain, I should say. Yes, here it is."
Dear Admiral, Along with the other messages I have received, it appears that a great deal of the matters involving my friend, Captain Price, are beginning to clear up. I am thankful. While I am here, how wretched are affairs! Sommers is afraid. A communication from Woolwich gave him into a state I should hate any officer to be in. Our ship is heading towards Ireland now, seeking to dispatch some materials we have collected there for a branch of one business. We shall then return to Woolwich after gathering a few things in Ireland. I am eager to see my friend again, and please assure him of my safety. In the event that you need to see me in person, I can direct you to the location of the placed we dispatch materials to. They are enclosed. Therefore, my thanks and affection, E. Brayle.
"Thank Goodness he is well! I had fears of him, I must admit."
"As did we all, William. But they are quieted. We shall be gathering the evidence this afternoon, and then assembling a party to meet the Admirable. Should you like to be amongst the group?"
"Yes! You are very kind, Admiral. That would be a great pleasure, if I might attend."
"You are a steady lad, Price. You are needed out on a ship."
ƒ * ƒ
When Charlie heard of the mission, he was quite pleased.
"I'll be able to meet that do good dung pile myself! William, I must be allowed to go. After all, I can testify about the inn...pretty please, comrade?"
William laughed. "Your brother will be happy to see you."
"Is it true that the Admiral has spoken highly of him? To be a captain would greatly assist him, after all, he is to be married to your sister..."
"The Admiral would like to see him a captain. Any man who can stomach Sommers for that long is next to a saint, and a hardy sailor besides. I think it very likely that Ned gets to be a captain."
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Charlie, who was really rather fond of his younger brother.
ƒ * ƒ
The main party for the ship included several people of note. The Admiral Grant, who had taken such an interest in the whole affair, Captain William Price, a noteworthy man involved, Mr. Charles Brayle, brother to the first lieutenant on the Admirable, and a small committee of men who had reviewed the case. These were a Mr. Platt, a Mr. Grinks, a Captain Fieldings and a Captain Wrighte. All had previous arguments with Captain James Sommers, and all were hoping that he would end up in prison.
The rather optimistic group prepared to leave, and they would leave on the next morning. The night before the party was to leave, William, the Grants and Charlie dined with the Robertsons. The party was rather content together. The young people were all very fond of one another, and were friendly with the older people. The older ones were indeed fond of the young people as well.
After eating, the eight separated for cards. Charlie, Mr. Robertson, the Admiral and Julie played at whist, while the others tried their hands at quadrille. Underneath all the gaiety and good feeling in the room, William, and the other members of the boat party were anxious.
Katherine, seeing the anxiety, was very kind to William. She assisted him with his hand when he was staring off into the distance, and offered him coffee and cocoa, to bring him back into the cheery room. William was very thankful. However, as all pleasant evenings must, the party drew to a close.
Katherine chose to accompany William to the Sanders carriage, and seemed very anxious herself.
"You won't take any risks, will you, Captain Price? I have a very low opinion of Captain Sommers, indeed."
William laughed, but was grateful for her words.
"Indeed, for your sake, Miss Robertson, I shall restrain from doing what I wish to do to that man."
"And you'll watch after the Mr. Brayles, will you not? For I care for your sister, and indeed...for mine."
William understood the reference. Julie was also accompanying Charlie to the carriage. The Robertsons had very twisted hall ways, and the walk was a decent walk, for a hallway. Then, as they came to the door, and Katherine saw the carriage, she now brought herself to say what was truly on her mind.
"You needn't...be gentle with Campbell on my account, Captain Price. Indeed, he has shown himself to be most unsatisfactory...I could not believe you to be a Sunday traveler and a molester of lone walkers. Captain Price, I must tell you that I have broken my engagement with John Campbell."
They had reached the carriage now. There was no more to be said except for farewell. William, silently pressed her hand in his, and then spoke,
"I'll take care." They left each other silently, then, but for the noise of the carriage. Julie came up to Katherine, and turned with her once the carriage had turned the corner.
"You told him?"
"Yes," replied Katherine. "For better or worse, I did. But I think it is better. I really do." Julie, in her own glowing happiness, which comes when a young woman has spent the evening with a man she admires, smiled, and took her sister's hand.
"I said it before, and I say it again. I wish you luck."
In high spirits, William boarded the ship the next morning. Charlie was looking happy as well, perhaps it was the eagerness to hurt Captain Sommers that drew the happy flush to his cheek. Perhaps not.
The ship was making good time, and the trip would not be overly long. The Admirable had been sighted and detained near Ireland. The ship would not leave before the Admiral and his companions reached it. All of the companions looked happy. Sommers was the sort of man whom every other man has a grudge against.
É * É
The Admirable was as trip and fit looking as the day she had left the Woolwich harbor. The long voyage to the West Indies had shown little on her. However, the crew looked considerably different than when they had left. None of them seemed entirely clean, and all looked rather upset. The followers of Mr. Brayle where disenhearted by their journey, the followers of Captain Sommers were upset over the detention. The men who remained neural were all sea sick.
The ship containing the men from Woolwich drew up, and the men disembarked onto a pleasant, but cloudy and damp, harbor. They met up with a small party of local Admirals and other seamen, and the harbormaster, who led them to the Admirable. As William embarked, behind the Admiral, he suddenly recalled the last time he had attempted to board the craft.
"Misser Brayle, I have orders to keep Misser Price off the ship. I'm sorry."
"Cap'in Sommers, sir."
"Is Captain Sommers on board?"
"Could you fetch him here?"
"I'm not promising anything, Mr. Brayle, sir."
They had waited waited for a while, until Sommers had appeared.
"I'm sorry, Brayle. 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."
"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."
Sommers had insulted William in almost every way known to man. William wanted his revenge...but he was worried over what Sommers had originally said...steal Katherine from her own betrothed. He whispered his fears to Charlie as they were led onto the deck.
"That is ridiculous!" shouted Charlie. "If Katherine has broken the engagement, it is her affair, not yours. Would you rather she married Campbell?"
"Of course not. But I just regret to say that I think I have done what they accused me of, I broke apart the engagement."
"Who would want to marry that louse anyway? Katherine is a pretty lass, and I must say that you are more deserving than any other man I know."
"Then you think she'd have me?"
"I know she'd have you. Have you been watching her part in this messy business? It was she who tried to find out all she could. She was the one who helped all the various enquiries. She was the one to question Campbell, and to keep the Admiral sympathetic to you. She even traveled to Portsmouth to tell you what she had found, and then broke the engagement on her own free will. William, if you to not marry her, you are doing her a great disservice."
"I am not so wealthy as Campbell."
"But you are a better man. Let's go, the others are assembled there...and look! Ned!"
The two men turned to see the very dear face of their friend.
"William, Charlie!" He ran up to them, and embraced each. "My brother, and my brother to be. Thank goodness you all look well! Tell me news of land, while we wait for Sommers. Is Susan well?" He looked anxiously at William, who smiled. They talked for a few minutes, and then Sommers appeared.
He was looking his most dangerous, in a scrupulously clean uniform, and his most formal hat. He was unarmed, but looked quite angry indeed, especially at the sight of William.
"What do you mean by hindering this vessel?" he shouted. "I have as much a right to continue as any other captain. I wish to know what this is all about."
Admiral Grant made a grimace.
"'This' is about the charges laid at your feet. You have caused a Mr. Coward of Eastbourne to fall into heavy debt by not paying your own debts, you have used your brother's name to sign for the money, you were involved in several waterfront robberies, and are responsible for molesting an inn keeper's girl, and for stealing from the same in. We have evidence for all of this. Indeed, all this might not have been so great, but for the fact that you bribed men to claim that an upright and honorable young seaman was responsible, and indeed testified yourself on this matter. The young man was then suspended from work, and was cost a fine position as well as a great amount of embarrassment. Do you have any thin to say for yourself?"
"Maybe," sauced Sommers.
"William. Do you have any grievances to lay before this man?"
"Only too many, Admiral."
"And I believe that Mr. Platt and Mr. Grinks would also like to speak to you."
Sommers blanched as he recognized the two men. He connected them with something from his past, and immediately broke free from the group, and stood a bit apart.
"You cannot try a man twice," he stuttered.
"We have new charges related to the old ones," said Mr. Grinks, looking deliriously happy.
"You...cannot...it is not...possible.." Sommers looked genuinely upset.
"It is," said Platt cheerfully. "But if you come along with us, all will be easier."
Sommers seemed to sit a moment, and almost come back towards them, but then he grabbed a rope, and climbed up the rigging of the ship, before the others realized quite what was happening.
They turned about. Charlie, Grinks, William and Ned made towards the rigging, but Sommers was perched aloft with a knife, and was busily cutting the rigging away. William kept on task, carefully shifting his position about as Sommers sawed. Ned was close at his heels. Sommers looked particularly bitter.
"Price, I had thought your determination might pay out. I thought that if you were suspended that you might keep your nose out of things. But no, you butted in, and must pay." Sommers made to say the key rope which held William aloft. However, as he reached, his footing slipped, and he fell backwards, dangling from the rope. Ned ran up, and took his knife away. However, the rose he stepped upon soon broke, and the knife fell down to the deck, where Charlie grabbed it. Sommers, weaponless looked at the deck and at the water. He performed a tricky dive, and made for the water.
Sommers might have then been never heard from again, had he not brought a great piece of the rigging with him, attached to his foot. The Admiral and Captain Wrighte, with Charlie, pulled Sommers up from the water, and onto the deck.
"Suppose I just surrender?" queried a wet, weary and bruised Sommers.
"That would be an excellent idea," muttered Charlie.
É * É
The Woolwich courthouse was rather crowded at the trial of Captain James Sommers. Everyone was anxious to see the man finally incriminated after years of being a public menace. William Price and the Brayle brothers were amongst the witnesses against the man, and when he was led away to prison, they could not help but be glad. As they made their way from the courthouse, after the trial, they saw three figures running towards them. Captain Murray Sanders, William's dear friend, was leading the Miss Robertsons towards them.
There were smiles all around, and more than one person was happy. They made their way back to the Sanders household, where Mrs. Sanders, young George, Mrs. White and Miss Liark came to congratulate William on being given his honors back again. Amidst the congratulations, though, William looked out the window, and saw a figure hastening towards the house. Happily, he ran outside of the house, and embraced his sister, Susan.
Chapter 26: Conclusion:
Susan was speechless with pleasure at the sight of her brother. At last, she caught her breath, and whispered,
"Everything is all right! Everything will be well...I cannot believe it...have you heard? They want to make Ned a captain, and you are to have a great ship..have you not heard? William, all will be well, indeed it shall! Mother and father, and Betsey, and even John, who has come home, have come to find you, on hearing the news. William, all shall be well!"
William let his sister from his embrace, and smiled at her.
'How did you come to be in Woolwich?"
"That Admiral of yours, he sent for us, on your arrival back from Ireland. He is going to make Ned a captain..oh, William! Well, mother was so pleased on hearing that you were to get your honors back, she was crying so! Betsey didn't understand it all, but she is happy for you anyway, and longs to see you. Fanny has written the loveliest express, and we are so happy for you!"
"Sister, you must come inside, there is someone to meet you."
Susan's eyes were dancing. "And there is someone inside whom you do not want to be apart from." They laughed together, and went inside.
Ned Brayle ran towards them. "Susan!" he cried. The two approached each other very happily, and William thought it best to leave them be. They had not seen each other since before their engagement, and had a considerable amount of catching up to do.
Charlie smiled as he saw Ned and Susan standing aside in the corner.
"Something has come out quite well. Have you heard anything from the Admiral?"
"Susan says that your brother is to be made a captain."
Charlie's face broke into another smile. "That is great news indeed. It is indeed what he always wanted. It is very good for the both of them."
"They will be very happy."
"Soon." He looked over to where Katherine was correcting Miss Liark's positioning on the pianoforte. She turned around, and saw him looking, and smiled. She came over to the two.
"Your sister is very happy."
"Yes." William briefly noted the change in Katherine, and that in her sister since he had meet the two. Julie was laughing, dressed in gay colors, with the main group of William's well wishers, who had gathered in the Sanders' parlor. Katherine was in subdued tones, standing aside. The whole of the Woolwich affair had helped the two sisters to understand each other. Charlie noticed Julie had an empty seat near her, and excused himself to William and Katherine.
"So, I expect that you'll be out to sea soon."
"My sister says that I have a commission. A decent one at that. The admiralty seems eager to make amends to be about this business."
"I have letters from Admiral Grant. He sent them around to our house, because you had been spending time there of late. But you weren't there, and I brought them along." She held out a letter addressed to him, and one for Ned Brayle. William took his letter. He sat down, and she followed suit beside him. After a minute she asked,
"What does it say?"
"I am to be captain on the Brigid Stoke. She is a pretty one, and trim. There is good promise in this commission. She leaves in three weeks."
"Three weeks. So soon?"
"Yes. It is soon."
"I have heard that everyone wishes for Mr. Brayle to be made a captain."
"Most likely the other letter informs him of his commission."
There was a bit of silence for a moment.
"Three weeks is plenty of time," said William slowly.
"For what?" asked Katherine, although she already knew what he was going to say.
"To be married."
Katherine smiled. "Yes. Three weeks is plenty off time. I have had a wedding planned for such a while, and just canceled. Why call off the plans at all? I have found a more appropriate husband."
William smiled. "Excellent plan." They sat and stared into each other's eyes for a few minutes, and got up, and walked into the next room, where Susan and Ned were assisting Mrs. Sanders is getting drinks for the company.
Ned smiled. "I assume we have another couple happy to assist, as long as they are together."
"You judge correctly," said Katherine. William had never been the great speaker, and now he had a woman to help him speak. They cheerfully lifted a small tray of glasses, and brought them into the main parlor, side by side.
They saw Charlie and Julie looking cheerful together, while they might not be intended yet, the day would come. Charlie accepted a drink from them, and he settled down.
"I've been reading my brother's mail," he said cheerfully. "He wouldn't grudge me that. It appears that he is to be a captain indeed, on the Canadding. He leaves in little over a month, and is to be well respected as thus. Father will be pleased. He has always liked Ned's attitudes towards his profession, and has been eager for him to advance himself."
William, for not the first time, wondered at Sir Brayle and his wife. They really had the strangest attitudes towards the professions of their sons. Katherine laughed a bit. She was thinking similar thoughts.
With orders and thoughts as to rushed marriages, William and Ned retired for the night, Charlie laughing at them, but fully sympathizing.
É * É
To many people in Woolwich, the marriage of the young hero aboard the Admirable and the sister of their on land hero, was the event of the season. Susan and Ned were married very soon after the whole Woolwich affair was cleared up. The entire Price family managed to show up, as well as the many Brayles. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, seeing that the Brayles were pleased this marriage, decided to attend. Fanny, Edmund, Hollis and Tom also showed up, to William's great delight. The marriage ceremony went very smoothly, but with many tears, but none was happier than Ned Brayle, leading the lady of his heart from the church into their new life together.
The entire acquaintance of the Brayle and the Price families were happy with the marriage, and celebrated for as long as they possibly could. Hal Brayle was the preacher at the ceremony, and Edmund had promised to marry William and Katherine. Nothing stood in the way of the marriage, and William was truly happy.
Campbell had wisely removed himself to London, away from his Woolwich acquaintance, and denied the invitation which Katherine was spiteful enough to send. Yates and Julia showed up at the last minute, and happily clapped William on the back, glad to hear that his assistance had paid off.
É * É
At long last William and Katherine were married. Charlie and Julie attended together, and everyone in general rejoiced. Katherine was a local and well admired girl, and William was the sufferer in the late trouble. The guests at the wedding were wildly enthusiastic. Katherine was to accompany William on his voyage, which was only a few days after his wedding.
As William led his bride from the church, outside, listening to the gulls who dwelt throughout the town, he smiled.
"I can't think but that we owe Campbell something after all," said William.
"About his interference?"
"Yes. If I hadn't been delayed, this day you would have become Mrs. John Campbell."
"Yes, darling. But now you are Mrs. William Price."
"So I am. Come along, I cannot have you feeling sorry for John Campbell."
They approached their carriage, amongst the cheers of their companions. William handed Katherine into the carriage, and took his seat beside her. They waved to their friends, catching a glimpse of Ned and Susan standing by each other. They thought that if marriage was what Ned and Susan made it out to be, that they would have a very happy life together indeed. They waved to Charlie and Julie, newly engaged, to Captain Murray Sanders, and his extended family, to the Admiral and his family, the Robertsons, the Bertrams, Brayles and Prices.
Leaving the nebula of smiling faces, the pair left Woolwich, the town which had changed each so much. Finally, the carriage, bringing them back to Portsmouth for the week before they would board the Brigid Stoke. They hung out of the windows, and smiled. Woolwich was still there, but the affair had been cleared up, and the town was full of friendly people, eager to meet them again, as Captain and Mrs. William Price.
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