Chapter 2

by Julia Justiss



“You’re sure you saw your sister?” Lieutenant Benedict Ranworth asked his friend and army mate, Lieutenant the Honourable Hal Carlow, as they guided their mounts through the crowded city street.  “You did imbibe rather freely whilst winning that last round from Charnsworth

“I’m not too disguised to recognize my own kin,” Hal retorted.  “No, it was Honoria, and she had that friend of hers with her, the one who’s staying with us while her siblings recover from measles or chicken pox or some such ailment.  Felicity Morville.  You know, you met her when you came by last week.”

Ben had a vague memory of a petite lady with auburn hair and striking green eyes.  “I suppose so.  As a rule, I try not to look too closely at young ladies of marriageable age.”

“Good strategy,” Hal approved.  “Well, it was them, that’s for certain.  Though what in blazes they could be doing, heading off into the City at this hour, I can’t imagine.  Why, it’s practically still night!”


“Well, no, it is in fact several hours after dawn – even if we are just now returning from our revels,” Ben corrected. 

Hal waved a dismissive hand.  “Since it’s Honoria, I’m betting they’re up to some scheme or other.  I’d best make sure they don’t come to harm.”

“You, protecting a maiden’s virtue, rather than trying to seduce her out of it?” Ben gave a crack of laughter.  “Now, that’s a new role!”

“It’s my sister we’re talking about,” Hal said severely.  “Watching over the girls would be my elder brother’s problem, but Marcus is out of town.  Though I don’t mean to interfere, if it’s just good fun.  Honoria used to tag along with me when we were growing up, always game for any lark.  It’s hard on her, being a young lady now and confined by all those rules.”

“Thank the Lord I’m a man,” Ben agreed with a shudder.

As they neared the Inns of Court, Hal pulled up.  “Look, over there,” he pointed.  “That’s our groom Robbie, tending the horses.  They must be nearby.  We’ll have to continue on foot.”

“You don’t think they’ll see us?”

Hal shook his head.  “If we can sneak behind French lines to reconnoiter Soult’s positions, two English schoolgirls aren’t going to catch us.” 

Gesturing to one of the urchins loitering in the street, Hal dismounted and handed the boy his reins.  “Watch our horses,” he instructed, tossing the lad a coin.  “There’ll be another copper for you when we return.”

Using the passage of a heavily-laden wagon to shield them, they skirted the waiting groom.  “As I recall, there’s a sort of garden in the center, behind those shrubs and that wall,” Hal said.  “Let’s make our way to the other side.”

Beginning to enjoy the game, Ben followed his friend.  During their stealthy trek around the enclosure, Hal silently pointed out his sister Honoria, who was peeking around a large shrub into the courtyard within.  Taking up a position far enough away so as not to excite her notice, Hal and Ben leaned down to peer over the stone wall.

Inside was a knot garden of assorted herbs surrounded by gravel paths.  Strolling down the farthest path, arm-in-arm with a well-dressed, dark-haired man – and gazing raptly up into his face – was Lady Honoria’s friend, Miss Morville.

“Who’s the man?” Ben asked in an undertone.

“Devil if I know.  It’s too far away to see his face clearly.  But damn and blast, what’s he doing, handing my sister’s friend down some deserted pathway, and no chaperone in sight?  I swear, I’ll rip his arms off!”

Hal leapt up, looking as if he intended to do so this very moment.  “Wait!” Ben said, snagging him by the shoulder.

“What do you mean, ‘wait?’” Hal retorted angrily, trying to jerk free of Ben’s grasp.  “It’s as plain as ears on a mule, that bounder is making up to Miss Morville

“Are you sure he’s a bounder?”  At Hal’s withering stare, Ben said, “Yes, right: no chaperone, odd location far from fashionable London, bleeding edge of dawn; he’s a bounder for sure.”

“Are you going to let me go, or come with me?”

“What do you expect to accomplish, charging in there?” Ben asked.  “Think, man!  Most likely the blackguard will scarper off and the two will just find a way to meet again somewhere else.  After all, that’s what I would do.  Couldn’t you talk to your sister, persuade her that cozying up to some Macaroni merchant in the park ain’t a wise idea?”

“Since when did Honoria listen to any warning I delivered?  Especially if I’m trying to talk her out of doing something outrageous.”  Hal gave a rueful shrug.  “She’s too much like me.”

“Well, how about if you distract Miss Morville,” Ben suggested.  “An officer in the 11th Light Dragoons is far more dashing than some civilian   Ben’s disdainful tone conveyed exactly what he thought of those lacking the daring and courage necessary to join Wellington’s army.  “Why don't you woo her?  Not seriously, of course.  Just turn her head long enough for her to forget about the bounder."

“It could work,” Hal mused.  “Except…knowing my views on marriage, Honoria would never believe I’d seriously pay attention to a proper young lady.  But she doesn’t know you that well.”  Grinning, Hal looked over at Ben.  “Why don’t you bewitch the girl out of her attachment?”

Alarm bells, louder than the bugle call to charge, rang in Ben’s ears.  “I wouldn’t want to arouse expectations I had no intention of fulfilling.”

"Don't you think you're clever enough to entice her without making any promises, and avoid being caught in a compromising position?” Hal demanded.  “What kind of dragoon are you?  Where’s your resourcefulness?  Your ingenuity?  Your, ah, gallantry toward a damsel in danger?”

“I didn’t say I couldn’t,” Ben replied stiffly.  “I just don’t much like the notion.”

“It was your idea,” Hal pointed out.

While he cudgeled his brain for some equally effective countermeasure, Ben turned to stare at the distant couple in the garden.  At that moment, the man lifted Miss Morville’s hand to his lips and kissed it fervently. 

Both men uttered a snort of disgust.

With no better plan presenting itself, Ben said reluctantly, “Very well.  I suppose I shall romance Miss Morville


Click here for Chapter 1

Click here for Chapter 3