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Turner's Rage: Chapter Thirteen

The Bugle App

James Seymour

08 June 2024, 11:00 PM

Turner's Rage: Chapter Thirteen

Check out the list of characters here: Turner's Rage: List of Characters

Turner’s Rage: Part 2

“Living by the Truth Requires Sacrifice.”

September 1826, Portsmouth

Chapter 13

Admiral Sir Tristram Sutherland sat at a large desk in a comfortable office at Blue Fleet Headquarters, Portsmouth. Writing notes for the discussion with his next guest, he looked up as a cold wind gust blew some papers off his desk.

“Jacobs, close that window for me, please.”

Finishing his notes, he stood up and peered out the window. There were white caps on the bay from the rising north-westerly.

“When South arrives, please hold him out there for a minute.”

“Yes, Sir!” Commodore Jacobs placed a file on the Admiral’s desk and exited the room.

The Admiral frowned. It was a bit early for a cold north-westerly, so perhaps they were in for a severe winter this year. He opened the window again and braced himself, breathing in. A career navy man of forty years, he missed standing on the quarter deck, the ship twisting and turning, wrestling against the waves as the wind drove the sails hard above him. He longed for sea duty, but with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the government reduced the navy budget. He shook his head. ‘We must keep the Navy strong! It is in the national interest.’ He looked out across the harbour and enjoyed seeing a frigate racing past Gosport, making full use of the stiff breeze.

‘Lucky dogs – I wish!’

“Sir Tristram, your next guest has arrived.”

“Give me a few more minutes, Jacobs, please,” he enjoyed watching how the crew handled a frigate returning to port. They were nearly through the channel and should turn any time now. The captain would be aware of the many eyes watching. The sky and royals were already down.

“Ah, there he goes,” the Admiral murmured, and then the topgallants and topsails were quickly being furled, the fore and mizzen gallants followed, leaving just the courses, staysails, jibs and spanker up as she turned across the wind. “Good, Good!” the admiral murmured again. Then, in sleek precision, the crew furled the courses as she used the breeze and glided toward the quay before finding her position, turning into the wind and letting down the anchor. “Well done!” the Admiral was pleased with this fine display of seamanship and smiled. Captain Mark Foster was no slouch and made no mistakes as he manoeuvred HMS Providence beautifully into port.

“Jacobs!” the Admiral raised his voice slightly.

The door opened, and Commodore Jacobs announced the next guest.

“Sir Tristram, Commander Sir Robert South.”

“Thank you, Jacobs. Come in, Sir Robert. Have you come direct from Fintelton?”

“Yes, Sir. We ventured down for some business of Lieutenant Bassington in Guildford, then on to Fintelton for the night. I arrived here as fast as I could. I am at your service, Sir.”

“Good, good, South. Congratulations on your promotion to Commander and the Captain of Restless. You are a lucky fellow. There are plenty of captains without a ship, so the Admiralty has been kind to you. Make sure you take care of Restless, as that ship is your next career step, and you should build on this for the future.”

“I was quite surprised at the honour bestowed on me, Sir. My great thanks for your trust in me.”

“Now, now, Robert. The Board promoted you on merit. Foster gave you a splendid recommendation, and you have already distinguished yourself. We need young fellows like you commanding our ships. There are looming challenges on the horizon, so we must ensure the Navy is kept strong despite the government cuts. Promotions like yours give me confidence that we can maintain a strong fleet.”

“I noticed Captain Foster bringing in Providence, Sir. A splendid bit of seamanship!”

“Yes, I agree indeed. I would not mind being back out there again, but duty calls here. While my flagship is under refit, the blue fleet headquarters will remain ashore, probably for some time. Blast it; the world is changing. Eh! Would you like a glass of sherry, Sir?”

“Yes, Sir, Thank you.”

“Damned shame about Bassington giving the Navy away! He is a fine surgeon. Do you think we might entice him back, Sir?”

Robert paused then said, tongue in cheek with a smile, “Perhaps an invitation a few months after the first child is born, Sir!”

They both had a great laugh at this. Sir Tristram spluttered, “Well said, Sir. Well said! I will keep that in mind. Ha, Ha.”

The Admiral sat down at his desk and offered Robert a chair. He called in Commander Jacobs, who entered and sat down with a large brown package on his lap.

“I will include Jacobs in the interview, as he has prepared the documents for your mission.”

“Very good, Sir.”

The Admiral cleared his voice.

“Let me tell you what your role will be over the next six months. Firstly, sail Restless hard up the coast and dock at the navy yards in Woolwich. Alexander Steele will install two of those new canons he makes in the bow of your schooner. Your ship is larger than the normal schooner and will easily handle the weight of these bow chasers. You will need these canons for your first mission. Let me make it clear, Robert, you will see action. I’m sorry about sending you into this again, but the situation is serious.”

“What situation, Sir?”

“Once your canons are on board, set sail quickly for Portsmouth. I believe you are the best man at Neville’s wedding. He has sent me an invitation, and Foster as well. So, our wives and we will be travelling up together. I will let you make your arrangements as I am sure you youngsters will organise some shenanigans before the day. Once your wedding duties are over, return here as soon as possible, and I will give you the latest briefing.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Admiral Sutherland thought for a moment, then looked at Robert again.

“After the war with Napoleon ended¹, we paid off many captains and crews, downsizing the Navy. Damn shame that was. But smuggling between France and England has increased dramatically, creating employment for paid-off sailors. Knowing that smuggling was on the rise and with a reduced navy, the government decided to upsize coastal vigilance. Many seamen have now become either blockade men or joined the customs service. But the point is, with many ex-navy sailors making up the smuggler crews, they present a more significant challenge with their excellent seamanship skills.

¹ The Napoleonic Wars finally ended in June 1815 with the defeat of the French army by the Allies (Seventh coalition) at Waterloo. Wikipedia.

On the east coast, we have a substantial preventative service established. There is a significant land presence but not many quality ships. This service extends as far as Bristol, but the west coast preventive measures are a bit sparse with no customs ships, and this area now provides a better opportunity for the smugglers. We have heard that with the corn laws keeping the price of grain high, there is some smuggling in of French grain on larger ships that use the Scottish west coast. The usual contraband of liquor and other high-priced items is also present. We do not have much intelligence on this, and your job will be challenging ships, boarding and checking cargo for smuggled goods.

Robert, these smugglers have been violent in the past. They have no morals – their game is making money. Do not trust anyone, and always have soldiers with you. I will assign a double marine squad to your voyage for six months. Your good friend Horace Coombes will command the Marines and work with you to gather intelligence.”

The Admiral took a long breath and then refocused.

“Commander Jacobs, please give Captain South his orders.”

Jacobs handed over the large brown paper packet.

“Thank you, Sir.”

The Admiral then said, “Thank you, Jacobs. You may go now.”

Jacobs stood and withdrew. The Admiral waited until he heard the door shut.

“Robert, what you have just heard is your cover story, and now I will tell you your real mission!

Of course, if you find any smugglers, catch them and let the Customs men deal with them!”

Robert looked up from the brown paper packet with his name on it. He was now intrigued by what the Admiral was saying.

“The previous Captain of Restless is now in the navy hospital at Gosport. Hughes suffered terrible injuries from Irish nationalists who boarded and attempted to take over his ship. Many of the crew were seriously injured, including six dead. Hughes did a splendid job and luckily survived. The ship’s crew is now at full strength again. We have dealt very quietly with this for obvious reasons.

You will recall the Irish Rebellion in ninety-eight and the more recent uprising involving Emmet. We have information about continuing unrest in Ireland. A new, more violent movement has emerged, seeking support from the French and Americans. We believe the nationalists are smuggling arms through the Irish Sea. Once they reach the Irish shore, they are safe as movements against British rule are popular.

The government requires these ships to be intercepted, boarded, and their origin and destination discovered. This new movement has already demonstrated how dangerous it is.

You will not take prisoners. These ships and their crews will be destroyed and sunk out of sight of land! No survivors - that is an order. There must be no contact between these ships and the enemy.

Robert, this is a bad business. As captain of Restless, you will remain onboard your ship. I have assigned Lieutenant Small as your senior supporting officer. Let Small and Coombes do any required boarding. They will be the only trustworthy crew members. Jacobs has briefed them, so do not trust anyone else, Sir. Make sure you find a trustworthy servant. As I said, Restless is larger than your normal schooner, and there is room for a servant. Brief him that he is your bodyguard, especially while Coombes and Small are off the ship.”

Robert was becoming concerned about the amount of specific detail the Admiral gave on security.

“We do not know how Captain Hughes was discovered or boarded, but we can only assume someone in the crew passed on that information. We believe that person will still be there. There may also be others. A few Irish are in the crew, but no facts link them to the previous mutiny attempt. It may be the Scottish who have fallen in with them. Investigate the background of every crew member, Robert.”

“You think they will try again, Admiral?”

“I do indeed, Sir! My advice is to work the crew hard. Do not give them time for scheming, and regularly have crew counts completed by the men on watch. The responsibility is yours, Sir. By the way, if you discover the traitors, you should have them executed immediately. You, as captain, have the authority, so ‘Hang Them High’ in front of the crew as a lesson. Robert, you must rid yourself of them quickly. If you keep them as prisoners, they will infect the crew.

Commander South, you are a fine fellow who would not recklessly destroy life, but this movement is deadly. They are already responsible for killing six of our men and nearly killing

Captain Hughes; they will have no hesitation in killing you if they get the chance. It appears they aim to take your ship and use it against the King and country. You will take no prisoners and show no mercy. We must destroy this movement quickly. Good hunting.”

The Admiral stood up, and Robert immediately rose.

“Here is an additional set of orders from a higher authority that Jacobs has not seen. You should return here by 18 October for your final Irish sea briefing, when we may have more intelligence.

Horace will have his men here on the seventeenth and board that day. The Irish Sea will be performing by then, so you best ensure plenty of oilskins are aboard. Use Douglas in the Isle of Man as your station port. I have included some details for intelligence contacts there for you.

Foster will be patrolling the Irish west coast, so you need only cover the east coast. He knows of your mission and will be using an alternate home port. Only meet with Foster at sea and out of sight of land. Put into some Scottish ports so your cover story stays intact. I want this business cleared up by the new year if possible.

Now, young man! Sail that ship of yours hard. Have Steele install those canons and return them here. Keep your mission confidential, Robert –the fewer people who know, the better. Do not delay there for testing – you can do that on your return journey. I expect reports monthly, and I will have a packet coming through Douglas at the end of each month. It is all in your orders. I shall meet you at the wedding before you depart for the Irish Sea. Good luck, and God Bless.”

They shook hands.

Before Robert opened the door, Sir Tristram came around his desk and quietly said, “Robert, I know you think your father might have influenced your promotion, but let me put your mind at rest. The Admiralty decided on your promotion purely on merit. Your father’s influence did not affect the outcome. You will be an excellent captain. By the way, that commander’s epaulette looks most handsome. Now off you go.”

“Thank you, Sir Tristram.”

Robert left the room, closing the door quietly behind him. He saluted Commodore Jacobs and exited fleet headquarters. Walking quickly towards the quay, he thought, “This will be some first command!”

The Turner Household, Guilford ...

Later in the afternoon, a small coach with two horses drew up outside the Turner house. The Coachman dismounted and opened the door for a short, well-dressed man who hopped down, straightened his attire and checked the address. William, who was feeling far better today, was on the front landing of the house and watched this gentleman’s movements.

The gentleman did not smile and moved forward and up the stairs till he came face to face with William.

William addressed the man in his usual precocious manner, “Who are you?”

The man looked down at the young boy and breathed in.

“I am seeking Miss Anne Turner, young man, as I have a message and invitation for her! Would I be at the correct address?”

“You would be!” William said in reply, not assisting the situation.

They both stood in silence, looking at each other.

Breathing in again, the man said, “Who am I addressing, young man?”

“I am William Turner, one of Anne’s brothers!”

“Then, young William, would you please call her?”

“I can take the message for you.”

The man was about to snarl at William but checked himself, “The message must be delivered in person by myself. I have come a long way, and the message requires an in-person meeting. Please fetch Miss Anne, William.”

William understood that he dared not continue this situation further, so he darted into the house, searching for Anne. The gentleman moved away from the front stairs onto the portico. He looked up at the two floors above, then turned and looked down at the coach waiting for him. He mused, ‘At least it is a respectably sized house! Young William seems somewhat difficult for a small lad. Perhaps he did not sleep well!’

Anne was in the parlour, home from clothes shopping in preparation for her mother’s London trip and the wedding. Still dressed in a bright blue gown with her hair done with some matching ribbons, she, as usual, looked magnificent. William burst upon the group of women admiring the new clothes.

Clementine was most impressed with a hat Marion had bought, “Mother, could I have a hat like this one, please? It would match my best dress beautifully, and I am old enough for a hat like that now!”

William blurted out, “Anne, quick, a gentleman at the front door is asking for you.”

They all turned and wondered who it could be. Anne put down the blouse she held and followed William outside.

As Anne appeared at the front door, Mr Stem stepped back, overcome by this young lady’s beauty. For a moment, he lost his voice.

“Good day, Sir. I am Anne Turner. How may I be of assistance?”

“Miss Turner, please let me introduce myself. I am Malcolm Stem, the Estate Manager from Fintelton Manor.”

Anne noticed the coach below waiting for the gentleman. “Good day, Mr Stem. Would you come in and take some tea with us?”

“Excuse me, Miss Turner, it would be best if I remain here. I have some business in Guildford and have instructions from Lady Emma South to deliver this invitation by hand. Here is theinvitation. I have also been instructed to give you a message once you have read the invitation.”

“Thank you.” Anne took the invitation and noticed the ‘Fintelton’ symbol stamped on the seal. She opened it and read it aloud,

Lady Emma South and the Lady Jane South

The Countess of Fintelton

Request the pleasure and company of

Miss Anne Turner

At dinner at the Fox and Hound

High Street, Guildford

At 8.00 pm

On Friday, 9 September, 1826

RSVP to the bearer of this letter.

Anne took a deep breath and then covered her mouth with her hand. The gentleman saw the young lady was quite overcome by the invitation.

He gently asked. “Are you well, Miss Turner?”

She steadied herself and replied, “Yes, I am in good health. I did not expect the invitation so soon and in this manner.”

“I am sorry, Miss Turner. Lady Emma advised me that she is excited to make your acquaintance. She indicated she welcomes the meeting as Doctor Neville Bassington and Sir Robert have told her much about you. Lady Fintelton also sends her warm greetings. She explains that at her age, she may retire early. It will depend on her health. However, she also welcomes your acquaintance and the inspection of the tailor’s shop.

Lady Emma also requested that I call in the morning and take your reply with me on my return. I shall call at nine in the morning and pick up your response. Lady Emma sends her apologies for the short notice but was keen on not missing the opportunity to meet you here in Guildford. She understands that Doctor Neville Bassington, whom she regards as a good friend, has advised you of the address of the residence he is purchasing and the building that will house his forthcoming medical practice.

Lady Emma also noted that your father owns a Tailor’s chain of stores. They would be pleased if you would show them the Guilford store, as they are always searching for a good tailor closer to Petersfield.”

“Thank you, Mr Stem. Certainly, I will accept the kind invitation. I will have the reply ready in the morning.”

Mr Stem noticed that Anne remained nervous about the invitation. He understood that she was not of the aristocracy and would be overwhelmed by such an event. Mindful of his position, Malcolm Stem thought he might give this young lady some additional assurance. He suspected she was receiving this sudden invitation for some good reason. Lady Emma had not disclosed to him the reason.

“Miss Turner, I see you are a little troubled by this invitation. I am unaware of the circumstances, but I would reassure you that the Earl and the Countess are fine people. I have worked for them for nearly twenty years, and they have always treated me fairly. This invitation is one of friendship. Lady Emma and Lady Jane desire your company. You need not be worried – they will accept you as a friend and an equal.”

Anne once again breathed in and felt the tear in her eye. She did what she could to hide it and looked Malcolm Stem straight in the face, ‘Thank you, Mr Stem. That is most comforting. In your message, Lady Jane indicates that because of her age, she may retire early. Pray, what age is she? You see, I have never met them before.”

“Ah, the Lady would be nearly sixty, and the Earl is in his early seventies. They married late, with the children coming even later. Lady Emma was born about a year after I commenced my employment there. The two brothers were born before I commenced. The elder brother Hugh is now firmly in control of the estate, and the Earl spends most of his time catching up with family and friends.”

“I see!”

“Thank you, Miss Turner. I shall call for your reply at nine tomorrow morning!” Her sparkling blue eyes impressed him.

“Mr Stem. Would it be possible for you to call on me at Turner’s bakery, in the offices there? I will have a reply ready for you. We are extremely busy, and I will have been at work for nearly two hours by then, so I will not be home.”

“You work, My Lady?”

“Yes, Mr Stem, I assist my father in managing the bakery operations. I will expect you there.”

Anne thought she might give herself a slight promotion as it may improve the report this fellow gave Emma.

Mr Stem was quite surprised by this. He wondered how her father could employ such a well- dressed and refined young lady. Still, it was her father’s business, so that would be something interesting in his report.

“Certainly, Miss Anne, I shall call there at nine in the morning and ask for you.” He raised his eyebrows.

“The world is changing, Mr Stem, is it not?” She smiled.

“Yes, Miss Turner! I must now be about the estate business. Good day!”

“Good day, Sir. I shall not forget your kindness.”

“And a good day to you, Master William.” He gave William a wink.

William, who stood beside Anne during the conversation, looked up and said, “Good Day, Mr Stem.” He tried winking back with his left eye and smiling at the same time but found the eye stayed shut. Anne put her arm around his shoulders.

Mr Stem smiled, looked up from William, nodded, and descended the stairs. Anne returned inside, finding Bethany, Clementine and Mrs Turner standing inside the open door. William stayed on the portico and watched the carriage clatter down the High Street.

Anne looked somewhat sheepish and said, “I presume you heard the conversation?”

“Yes,” said Mrs Turner. “How exciting – may I look at the invitation?” She scanned it and looked up at Anne. “Dear, we will be going shopping for clothes again tomorrow. This news is excellent. Also, Mrs Smith will need her most elegant garments and fabrics on display for Saturday morning as she may have some new customers!”

Thomas Turner arrived home keen on a pre-dinner walk with Marion. He ventured in, attracted by the sounds of the excited conversation taking place in the parlour.

“Ah, Thomas – just look at all these lovely clothes we have purchased today,” Mrs Turner said as he appeared. “And if you are looking for Marion, she is upstairs trying on some new garments.”

“I will see her soon, but first, I must wash and change my clothes. I think we will take a walk before dinner.” Moving off upstairs, he was glad they were back with William, who appeared to be recovered.

William tugged on his mother’s sleeve, pleading to accompany Simeon as he walked Snups.

“Certainly, William – you seem recovered, but take it slowly. Not too much excitement. Go

slowly, please!”

William was delighted with this and was off in an instant.

Jonathan Turner finished the day satisfied the new staff arrangements were in place. Now everything was ready for the London trip! They would set out this coming Thursday morning. He was excited about making the acquaintance of the Bassingtons. The stay with the McPhersons should be straightforward.

Thomas knocked on Marion’s door and, as the door opened, found her excited and radiant in a new dress.

“What a picture you are, Marion! That is a lovely dress. Did you purchase it today?”

“Thank you, Thomas. Yes, I found it at Hursts. They have some lovely fashions there, and Mrs Smith is so helpful, I could not resist. I thought you would like it.”

“It is splendid!”

“By the way, Thomas, is it your father or mother who owns Hursts?”

“It is mother’s, but father appointed a manager who runs the chain. He lives in Woking. It would be fair to say both mother and father control the business, but it is legally mother’s.”

Marion was satisfied with this answer, and before ducking back through the door, she said, “Give me five minutes, and I will change.” And the door closed.

Thomas leaned back on the railing and breathed in the atmosphere, which was a mixture of Marion’s perfume and the usual smells of the well-polished wood of the house. He was a happy man. His love from Greenwich was in the next room, and his career was about to leap into a new industry. He now thought of brewing as far more exciting than baking. What more could a man want? Aggie passed him with a pail of water in her hand. She noticed his pleasant demeanour, “You look happy, Master Thomas.”

“I am indeed Aggie, indeed! And what is Mrs Jennings preparing for our dinner tonight?”

“It is a surprise, Sir, but I think it may contain some duck!”

“Good – I like the crispy duck she does!”

Marion reappeared from her room in a completely different outfit, more suitable for walking.

Thomas was impressed again, “I’m not sure how you ladies change your clothes so quickly!”

“Shall we go, Thomas, as I have had a question on my mind all day? I am so happy when I am here with you, but I shudder about Greenwich and returning without you. When will you visit next?”

They descended the stairs, out the front door and off along the High Street.

“Marion. Let me tell you some good news. Father and I spent the day working out all the new staffing arrangements, which are now in place. As a result, I may now change my role, and I am free to return with you to Greenwich. So, we can work on the wedding arrangements together.”

“Thomas. The news is wonderful as the thought of the return journey on Thursday without you worries me. Your mother and father will travel to London on Thursday and Friday. I will

accompany them. Now there is no reason why you cannot come. The trip will be perfect.”

She hugged him with a kiss on the cheek. The good news gave Marion’s confidence a boost.

“We shall enjoy the journey together. Now, shall we walk along the riverbank for a while? It is a cool and quiet place in the late afternoon. We may even see some swans. They are such regal birds – the white ones, I mean.”

Marion was miles away, already planning the wedding day.

“Thomas, I’m sure Mr and Mrs McPherson will plan a huge wedding for us. You don’t mind if the guest list is rather large?”

“Not if they are paying and happy with a large list. No, I don’t mind at all.”

“The McPhersons have a great deal of money, and they and my father are close. I’m sure the money will not be a problem. If I know Mrs McPherson, she will plan this as one of the year’s social events. It will benefit Mr McPherson and our fathers’ businesses.”

“The McPhersons appear quite wealthy. Was it always this way?”

“I understand they were poor when they were first married, but they have worked hard in Scotland and built their brewing business over the years. In Glasgow, they have some ships they use for importing goods. The business regularly trades in France, Spain and the American states – mostly New York and Boston. I’m not clear how it started, but my father tells me it came from another brother of Mr McPherson, now deceased. I gather that my uncle inherited the business some twenty years ago. It was sad that he lost a brother but a nice surprise gaining a viable business for free.”

“I’m sure it was! I wish someone would give me a shipping business!”

“I hear it is quite tricky, Thomas. James McPherson and his elder brother, Lachlan, are often away on voyages. The ships are busy with much freight, most bound for the Glasgow breweries. But it must be lucrative as they are never short of money.”

“I thought they each ran breweries.”

“They do, but that is not all they do.”

“It will be interesting meeting James when we are in Greenwich.”

“He is a charming young man. I have known him most of my life, and he treats me like the little sister he never had. I think you two will get on well.”

“Good, good! We have probably walked far enough along the bank here. It is best if we now turn and head for home. We should be in plenty of time for dinner.”

“Now, Thomas. We must talk tonight. After dinner...... “

They continued with an animated conversation while walking home.

There was much discussion about the coming weddings at dinner, and Thomas suggested joining Marion on Thursday’s London trip. Jonathan Turner readily agreed, satisfied that the new staff structure was complete. So, the travelling party would now be six. Mindful that Eleanora was with child, Jonathan decided the number was too many for the one coach. He announced he would hire another coach for Marion and Thomas but asked them to remain in convoy and stop overnight with them at Ewell. It would be a good opportunity for Uncle Richard and Auntie Sarah to meet Marion. She beamed at the thought of them having their coach. Thomas joked, saying the coach would probably be one of his father’s baker’s carts. A quick explanation was necessary as Marion was perplexed at the thought. She was much relieved to find the comment was in jest.

Anne and Bethany talked a little about the coming occasions while sitting side by side.

“I’m sure you are looking forward to Neville returning tomorrow. I hope he makes it on time for the London trip.”

“Yes, Anne. That worries me, but he seems punctual except when in the bath!” They both smiled.

“I understand that the paperwork was not about resigning his commission but some medicalrecords from his last ship that needed completing. I hope he does not regret leaving the Navy!”

“I think there is little prospect of that. It is a demanding career, and I am sure Neville will prefer a land-based life. It must take special men to be cooped up on a ship like that for so long. They say the voyage to Sydney Cove takes at least four to six months by sail and twelve months if the winds are not right. You would lose all track of time.”

“A life here will be very different for him!”

“Now, Bethany. Tomorrow, you must show me your new residence and the building Neville has purchased for his practice. Emma and Lady Jane have requested a viewing on Saturday. Perhaps before work tomorrow if you are free?”

“Yes, but I have written the details out for you and informed the agent. Surely you know these addresses?”

“I do, but I want your commentary on them so I am prepared when talking with the ladies. They will surely have objections, and I must be ready with prepared answers. I will look foolish if I become tongue-tied.”

“Anne, with your gift of the word, I think it unlikely that you will appear limited, but I will give you the grand tour tomorrow morning early. I have the keys and will leave them with you. Are you prepared for the dinner on Friday night?”

“I should never have let Robert talk me into this, as I am petrified that it will all go wrong. These are aristocrats, and they must look down on me. It will only be their generosity that will allow any friendship at all. I should have thought of this when I first met Robert, but I did not. I now understand that the possibility of any attachment is almost impossible.”

“That’s not true, Anne. You are a gentleman’s daughter and are their equal. Why the way father’s businesses are growing, we may have more money than they, in the future.”

Anne was not convinced and carried a troubled frown on her face.

“Anne, I am disappointed that I will not accompany you on Friday night. I would if I had my way, but we must travel to London! There is no room for a delay with our mother’s condition!”

“Beth, you are so sweet. Just thinking about your good wishes gives me hope that the dinner will go well. Tell me, has Neville discussed Mother’s condition with you?”

Bethany looked concerned and said, “Not now, Anne, perhaps tonight in our room.”

Dinner was now over, and Marion approached Beth, requesting help explaining the third chapter of a complex book. Bethany gladly obliged, taking the opportunity to understand Marion better. As they moved into the parlour, Thomas sat beside Anne.

He quietly said, “Marion told me a little about the McPhersons. They also have a shipping company working out of Glasgow, Scotland. They inherited it lock, stock and barrel. One of Mr McPherson’s brothers passed away and left it to him. Father will have his attorneys enquire about it discreetly, of course. When I have more information, I will share it with you. Perhaps you would discuss with Robert what he knows about the shipping line?”

“You should not involve Robert! Anyway, we will not meet until Beth’s wedding. He has enough responsibility in his life without our worries.”

“He is already involved! During his last visit, I took the opportunity to have a long private talk with him. He was wondering the same thing. How did they accumulate so much so quickly? He assumed it was just because of the successful breweries they own.”

“You should not have involved him, Thomas. That is not fair.”

“Nothing is fair in this world, Anne. Anyway, I hope he may be my brother-in-law one day.” It seemed that her secret was well and truly out. She wondered if Robert’s family was aware.

The Evening before the Trip to London ...

Neville sat with the two boys in their room upstairs. Arriving after lunch on Wednesday, he announced he was out of the Navy unless there was a war. The government could call upon him if hostilities broke out. With no signs of a war on the horizon, there was little prospect of them calling upon him.

“William, the rash is gone, and your throat seems clear. I see you have your energy back. You will be ready for school once Reverend Taggart starts again.”

William thought about that comment. School would not be an option if he told Neville he was tired. Being perceptive, Neville raised the issue, “Of course, if you’re feeling tired, then I should bleed you again. How are you feeling?”

William instantly said, “I’m feeling fine. Let me run around the house and show you!”

“Really! Off you go and show me.” William darted off, nearly knocking over his father as Jonathan entered the room.

“Damn, boy!”

Neville frowned and directed his next comment at Simeon, “I think it is time we removed that cast and have a good look at that arm. It has been several weeks now. Let me see if the break has mended cleanly. I will put another cast on if needed.”

“I think it is fine!” Simeon moved away from Neville up the bed.

“You will be far more comfortable with it off, and it won’t hurt. I’ll show you how.”

Neville opened his medical bag and pulled out a massive pair of shears. “These will cut right through the plaster. You won’t feel a thing.”

Simeon’s eyes grew quite large as he saw the long scissors.

Jonathan Turner said, “This, I must see!”

Bethany and Anne retired together upstairs after taking their leave.

Anne worried about her mother’s health and wanted an update, “What does Neville think about mother’s condition?”

“He feels the baby is fine, but he is concerned about the outcome for her after the delivery. He thinks there is some underlying health problem that he cannot easily diagnose. He has discussed this with Father but will not tell me the details. From the look on his face, I would say it is quite serious.”

“Perhaps that explains why Father is outlaying so much for her comfort on this trip?” Anne suspected there might be another reason.

“I think so – he takes such good care of our mother.”

Anne was amazed. Beth seemed oblivious to her mother’s beating.

“At times, Beth, but he has also been cruel. Father is presently very loving and kind, but that is possibly from guilt!”

“We are family, Anne, so we must remain united – it is our strength in society. You should not criticise our father!”

The rage within Anne erupted, “Even if it means men may beat women into submission? You were away for two years, Beth. You have not seen what I have. I would rather run away than be beaten by a husband.”

Beth thought about this and sighed, “It’s not that I approve of it, but how do we deal with reality? A woman is completely dependent on her family or husband. I am lucky to have found a kind gentleman who is so in love with me. I cannot foretell what will happen in twenty years!

Should I find myself in our mother’s position, I would probably do as she has done. Let it settle down and make the best of it.”

Anne could not accept this, “No, Beth, we are all born equal and should plan for our future. Married or not, we need our independence. I have saved all my wages from my work at the bakery, and in time, I will make investments that will grow. I will discuss it with father and mother, ensuring each of us gains a fair share of the business. This will allow us all to be independent. I fear being reliant on any man. If I marry, I want the option of independence if the need should ever arise.”

“And if you marry Robert, would you think the same?”

“Of course, but he is making his career as his family’s estate is entailed on the older brother. So, I’m sure he would encourage me in what I am doing. He will do the same thing. And if I am so lucky that we marry, I would enjoy a long, happy life with an Admiral and equally pass on all my wealth. None of this entailment nonsense for me.”

“I am impressed with your aims, Anne. I pray you are not disappointed if it does not work out that way. But I will always be your friend and sister, whatever happens.”

“And I yours.”

Later that night, Thomas knocked lightly on Marion’s door. He heard footsteps, and then the door slightly opened, revealing a dark room.

“Sorry, Marion, were you asleep?”

The door opened a bit more, and Marion pulled him quickly into the room and closed the door.

Thomas found the room pitch dark. Then he felt her beside him. She guided him over towards the bed. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed her standing very close in a nightgown.

“Thomas put your arms around me and kiss me.”

Thomas was always one for a good kiss, and there was no hesitation in joining lips with her and enjoying the experience. Then Marion opened the nightgown, and he found her naked. He pulled her against him and said, “Are you cold?”

“A bit, but you can warm me up.”

She pulled him onto the bed and started kissing his face madly.

Thomas was a bit surprised as he was expecting only a quick conversation. This action seemed a little desperate on her part and could be dangerous. But he found her perfume intoxicating, and his hands moved onto her breasts, which were small and firm, just as he had imagined. As he kissed them, she jumped as they were very tender. She whispered, “Gently, Darling, gently.”

Following her instructions, he commenced exploring her body, but he thought better. ‘Somehow, I must stop this now without upsetting Marion. I do not want a pregnant wife on our wedding day.’ Marion was thinking about Mrs McPherson’s discussion with her before leaving Greenwich. In this household, she felt insecure, being the newcomer in the family. She needed affirmation of Thomas’s full support. Her Aunt advised, ‘If given a chance, you should cement the alliance.’

Did Aunty Marjorie have doubts about Thomas or the Turner family? The daughters were all so beautiful, and the sons were handsome. Was she saying catch him while you can?

Pregnancy was not in her plan for the first year of marriage, but she was petrified of being left on the shelf. That would be a disaster. If Thomas found her pregnant, would he resent it? She must find a way of understanding his thoughts. It might be risky, but she must allow him the opportunity.

He rolled her onto her side and started kissing her back. He found it exquisite. She enjoyed his touch as he kissed her slowly from the top of her shoulders and down her spine. Slowly, he rolled her over, kissing her right around and onto her stomach. Lifting his head with her hands, she kissed his lips and wrapped her legs around his thighs.

“This is wonderful, Marion, but should we not stop here? If we go any further, I may not control myself. I want you so much, but we should do this correctly. I am sure we should wait until our wedding night!”

Marion was content with this comment. She was sure of him now as a lesser man would have taken advantage. She was not as innocent as Thomas might think and, unfortunately, had experienced men taking advantage of her before. She was amazed by the control he was showing. “Yes, darling, we should stop, but let us lie in each other’s arms a little more so we can think of this till the wedding day.”

Thomas was unsure this was a good idea but remembered his father’s advice, ‘If the opportunity arises, cement the alliance!’ Perhaps his father was speaking from experience. His mother related that he was born premature, but there were no side effects. He was a happy and healthy baby. Thomas frowned – his father must have been sure of his mother well before the marriage. It was clear now in his mind - he was born full term.

“Marion, darling. There is nothing else I would rather do than what we are doing now. I want you forever lying in my arms. You are the sweetest, most beautiful young lady and will make a wonderful wife. But I will not honour you as I should if I do this now. We should consummate our union in marriage and with God’s blessing. I think we will need time as a couple before we have children. Enjoying the honeymoon would be difficult if you are pregnant, darling.”

He was right. The honeymoon would be in France in winter. There would be plenty of time in bed keeping warm. Marion was satisfied that she had offered him the opportunity. A lesser man would have taken her without even thinking. Thomas thought rationally, even in a stressful situation. He honoured her and valued chastity before marriage – Marion felt she liked this. She wasn’t worried about what God thought or what the church taught. Marion rarely considered faith, but this man she loved held high ideals. This self-control must come from belief and faith – virtues she had always struggled with. Thomas was the right man for her; perhaps he would teach her much as their relationship grew. She gently kissed his lips again and said, “You are right.”

They kissed and hugged again, and then she said, “Good night. Off you go.”

Thomas slowly moved off the bed and towards the door. He listened for any movement in the hallway. Nothing! Opening the door onto a dark landing, he faced his father. He froze, nearly jumping out of his skin.

Jonathan Turner winked at him and quietly said, “That’s my boy!” His father tiptoed away down the hall. Surprised by his father’s appearance, Thomas said nothing and watched as Jonathan left. As he stood there, he wondered what his father was thinking. Having done the honourable thing, Thomas hoped his father thought the same. Somehow, he suspected his father thought differently. He rationalised, “If that is what he believed, so be it. His problem, not mine.”

Thomas tiptoed upstairs, ensuring not to wake Simeon and William, who he thought were fast asleep! Once in bed, he was drifting off pleasantly when he felt a tugging on his sleeve. William knelt on the floor beside his bed, eyes inches away from Thomas’s face.

“Father was standing at Marion’s door, listening for about ten minutes. It was a bit spooky. I’m glad you were in there with her!”

Thomas opened his eyes, thought about it, and said, “Calm down, William. I have spoken to him. It is all explained. Go back to bed!”

The Turner Bakery, Guildford ...

Mr Malcolm Stem arrived at precisely nine in the morning. Entering the bakery, he asked for directions. His first impressions were of a far more extensive operation than he expected. Jeb led him past tables where staff mixed and kneaded dough, trays of products, storage racks and rows of ovens generating a heat well above the outside temperature. As he climbed the stairs, he noticed several baker’s carts with staff loading them with bread and various other products through a side door. The aroma of freshly baked bread pleasantly aroused his senses. Jeb stopped at the back of the office at the front of a desk where Anne Turner, wearing a grey smock, worked on a ledger full of figures. As usual, Anne lost herself in the calculations.

“Excuse me, Anne, Mr Malcolm Stem has an appointment with you?”

Raising her eyes, she recognised her visitor, “Ah, Mr Stem, thank you for coming.”

The Fintelton estate manager, feeling more comfortable in a working environment and the company of a man, asked Jeb, “Is she good at the figures, Mr Hiscock?”

“Ah, she is a genius! So quick and accurate. And better than that, she understands what they mean!” Malcolm Stem looked impressed.

“Thank you, Jeb. You may go. I will look after Mr Stem.”

The new bakery manager was pleased to leave them as a mountain of work awaited. Mr Stem considered Anne differently today. He now saw her in working clothes. She was just as attractive, but now he recognised that this girl was cleverer than anyone perceived. She would be a challenge for any of the ladies at Fintelton.

“Miss Anne, if you ever visit Fintelton, might I be so bold as to request your assistance in giving me some instruction on the Estate figures? I can add up, subtract and divide, but I find it difficult to understand what the answers mean.”

Anne smiled and quickly said, “Mr Stem, it would be an honour if I am ever fortunate enough to receive an invitation. Here is the response for Lady Emma, and I wish you a pleasant journey.”

Understanding that this young lady did not waste time, Mr Stem checked himself and said no more on the subject. He was unsure what he was dealing with here, but he thought if the ladies of Fintelton would be visiting, then there was a high probability she would soon appear at the estate. Unaware of what the connection was, he felt safer being careful.

“Thank you, Miss Anne.” He made a respectful nod and went.

Anne breathed out a sigh of relief and recommenced her calculations. Sales continued increasing. The only explanation must be that Guildford was expanding. She would discuss this with her father on his return from London. Then she thought about the coming dinner, wondering how the ladies at Fintelton would receive her acceptance. It was all organised now. There was no turning back.

She was due at ten for a fitting at Hursts with Mrs Smith. Her mother and Beth have left Guildford by now, so only Mrs Smith and she would be there.

She preferred advice from her mother or Beth on selections, but this would not be possible today. It was time she packed up, as time was running out for the two new dresses she ordered. Mrs Smith must complete them today, so there was no panic before Friday evening. Once the fitting was over, she would return and discuss the figures with Jeb.

At Ewell ...

By mid-afternoon, the travelling party were keen for the comforts of Richard Turner’s hotel in Ewell. Eleanora, although uncomfortable in her gentle condition, handled the trip well. The conversation between Beth and Eleanora was endless, with Neville occasionally adding comments. Jonathan wondered how so much discussion could be endlessly generated and quickly lost interest. As they reached the outskirts of Ewell, he was ready for a quiet drink and some dinner.

The first chance for business discussion between Jonathan and Richard was later that evening. They were seated in Richard’s private study, enjoying a scotch and quietly talking about business.

“Jonathan, I must tell you! My application for land in South Africa has been successful.”

Jonathan looked up in surprise.

“Some of the first farmers who took up land grants have given up their holdings and gone off looking for either gold or diamonds. Fortune hunters! They have lost their land grants to my advantage, and the government has allocated five adjoining properties, not more than twenty miles from Grahamstown² (Makhanda), to me. Just up from Port Elizabeth³ (Gqeberha).”

² The town’s name change from Grahamstown to Makhanda was officially Gazetted on 29 June 2018. The town was officially renamed to Makhanda in memory of the Xhosa warrior and prophet Makhanda ka Nxele. Wikipedia

³ In 2019, the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee recommended that Port Elizabeth be renamed Gqebertha, after the Xhoa and Southern Khoe name for the Baakens River that flows through the city. The city’s name change was officially gazetted on 23 February 2021. Wikipedia.

“Congratulations, Richard. How much land would this be?”

“The normal grant is around one hundred acres, but it might be up to one hundred acres per member if it was a cooperative. In this case, it combines two cooperatives and three individual holdings of two thousand five hundred acres. Interestingly, there are more holdings on offer, and some of the settlers have done so poorly that they are offering to indenture themselves for five years. I am negotiating for some of these.”

“Wouldn’t that mean the land is not good for farming?”

“That’s precisely correct, Jonathan. But I have done my research and know that the native people, the land’s original inhabitants, used it for cattle grazing, not farming. My feeling is that the locals might understand the country a bit better than the British governor out there. I plan to graze cattle and sheep, mostly sheep, and seek more land grants.”

Jonathan was surprised Richard’s plans had progressed so quickly and worried he would be leaving sooner than expected.

“Richard, when will you take up these land holdings?”

“I have already accepted them. I am arranging the transport of sheep and cattle out there for a breeding program. With the English appetite for wool these days, I should begin receiving income from wool clips by the middle of next year. There is a growing population in South Africa, so there will also be a market for beef and lamb.”

“So, when is your departure date?”

“If all goes well, it should be around February or March next year. Oliver is now fully trained at Epsom and will grow the business quickly. Harry understands the ropes here, and I am confident he will manage well. If you come down, let us say one day a month, have a discussion and a tour of the establishment; that should be enough. My attorneys have some accountants who will be doing the figures, so you might involve Anne in checking them. She will brief you on the financial position. I will depend on your assistance, Johnathan. The boys will still need a mentor.”

“I am not that familiar with the books of a pub, Richard. I have no experience in this.”

“Jonathan, I do, and tonight will be your first lesson. You will become familiar with them if we can meet several times before I depart. You will know from your business that cash flow is everything. In a pub, if you keep your margins correct and maintain your regular clientele, stable cash flow will result, and you cannot go wrong. Here, you may start with these ledgers.”

“Perhaps I should bring Anne next time, so she is also familiar with the books? Do you have a bookkeeper?”

“Yes, Harry manages the bookkeeper. And yes, please bring Anne. She is a magician with the figures, Jonathan! You best make sure she does not marry! Without her, you would be lost.”

The two brothers worked long into the night. Around one am, Jonathan cried for mercy, “Richard, that is enough, my head is spinning. Time for bed.”

Richard smiled as he understood the difficulties of grappling with a new set of books.

“At our next meeting, say in October, I will have Oliver and Harry here so you can question them. That will make it much easier. Oliver has found you a good ‘stable manager’. He is an older fellow who was a trainer at the Epsom course but wants a more regular job. His name is Thomas Baxter, a single gentleman; he seems like a nice chap. You should meet with him if you can stop at Epsom on your return journey.”

“Sounds promising, Richard, but I must retire now. Please have Oliver hire this Thomas Baxter. I trust his judgment. We need the stables operating for the fast carts. I am too tired now for more figures; tomorrow will be another long day. Good night.”

Jonathan did not linger, and within a few minutes of his head hitting the pillow, he was fast asleep.

At Fintelton Manor …

Malcolm Stem worked on several estate issues needing priority, and it was not until around five in the evening that he met with Lady Emma and reported back.

“Mr Stem, how was your Guildford trip?”

“Most interesting, Milady. Most interesting. I have a reply from Miss Anne Turner for you here.”

Mr Stem passed the envelope over. She took it with interest, taking a glance and then looked up.

“What did you think of the young lady, Mr Stem? You see, I have not met her myself!”

“Milady, it is strange that you say this as she said something similar about you. She welcomes the meeting but is also nervous about the occasion.” Before speaking, Malcolm Stem considered his next comment, “I found her very presentable, Milady. She is intelligent, and I think you will find her good company. She dresses well!”

“Mr Stem, I am relieved. It sounds as if her conversation is lively. You say she was well dressed. Do you mean she lacked beauty, and the dress made up for it? A plain girl, Mr Stem?” Emma hoped this might be the case.

“Far from it, Milady. I would call her handsome, indeed. Her sense of dress matches well with her good looks. I was impressed and think you will find her acceptable, Milady.”

Emma was not without insight and understood that Stem was careful in what he said. There was no advantage in him becoming offside with the daughter of his master. But Emma knew Stem, and he meant what he said. By this account, Anne must be presentable indeed. Perhaps she should review her dressing plans for tomorrow night. She was determined that a baker’s daughter would not outdo her.

“You were impressed, Mr Stem. I am intrigued. And the family?”

“I only met her younger brother, as I did not enter the house. However, it seems a very respectable house in Guildford, Milady.”

The report was more than what Emma expected. This girl sounded interesting. Surely, this baker’s daughter could not have the manners of a well-educated lady such as herself and the circles she moved in! Of course not! Tomorrow would tell.

“Thank you for carrying out this task, Mr Stem – I appreciate your assistance. Now, I understand that you will be accompanying my mother to Guildford. You will collect Miss Turner from her home, escort her to the hotel and return her home at the end of the evening. I take it these arrangements are suitable?”

“They are Milady, and it will be my pleasure! Milady, might I inquire how this meeting with Miss Turner came about?”

Emma quickly thought about her response and decided not to mention Robert’s name.

“Doctor Neville Bassington, a good family friend, has announced his engagement. He will marry Miss Turner’s older sister, Bethany. We will break our London journey at Guildford and take the opportunity of meeting with her.”

Emma thought this was ample explanation, and it satisfied the Estate Manager.

Mr Stem nodded and mused as he walked off, ‘Lady Emma may be quite surprised when she meets Miss Anne Turner!’

After dinner, Emma found her mother reading in the parlour. She opened the letter from Anne and found the writing was of a high standard.

High Street, Guildford

Wednesday, 6 September 1826

Dear Lady Emma and Lady Jane South

Thank you for your kind invitation to dinner this Friday evening at the Fox and Hound. It gives me great pleasure to accept your invitation. I look forward to meeting you both and, on the Saturday following, showing you the properties at Guilford that our mutual friend, Doctor Neville Bassington, has selected.

Yours sincerely

Miss Anne Turner.

“Mother, this young Miss Anne Turner displays a fair hand. Here is her reply.”

Emma passed the letter across. Lady Jane South quickly read the letter and handed it back.

“She must have some education then. Most unusual for the daughter of a tradesman. But as you say, if we receive a wedding invitation, the acquaintance of at least one friendly face will be welcome. And, of course, Neville. Why is his fiancée not meeting with us for dinner as well?”

“As I told you, Mother, they are in London, where she and her parents meet with Neville’s family for the first time.”

“That should be amusing – the baker meeting the newspaper mogul!” Lady Fintelton gave a slight giggle.

“Now, Mother, sometimes we must keep an open mind. I am fond of Neville’s parents. They are fine people, and I hope this young lady matches him well. And...... ”

She was about to include Robert in her answer but stopped herself. Including Robert at this time would not be helpful.

“And what, Dear?”

“Nothing, Mother – it seems a good match. As the Curate says, we are fortunate and should not judge!”

“Judge who?” Hugh was interested.

Lord Fintelton and his son, Sir Hugh, returned to the parlour as their estate work was complete. Emma turned and smiled at them, though she was unsettled now as mentioning the meeting, particularly with Hugh, was certainly not part of their plan. Unfortunately, Hugh picked up on the last part of the sentence.

“Neville requested we call on the younger sister of his fiancée in Guildford as we travel up to London. Their family owns a chain of tailor shops, and Mother and I will visit the shop on Saturday morning. We will also inspect Neville’s new residence and the building he will practise from.”

Standing beside his wife’s chair, the Earl spluttered his disapproval, “But has anyone formally introduced you? Surely not, my Dear. Go straight to London.”

“Neville Bassington has introduced us, a long-term and good friend of the family, my Dear, and the arrangements are complete. The discovery of a decent tailor a bit closer than London would be welcome. We would no longer require these long trips so often. I am becoming too ancient for all this travel. Emma and I will go and be pleased to make Miss Turner’s acquaintance.”

Emma said under her breath, ‘Bravo, mother!’

“Where will you be staying, Mother?” Hugh’s interest continued.

“The Fox and Hound is a very respectable hotel and is quite central and close to Miss Turner’s family home.”

Hugh sat in a chair beside his mother, putting his hands on his thighs as he leaned back, stretching the leather. He would not object as he was interested in a tailor in closer proximity. He agreed that the London trip was long, and he enjoyed Guilford. There were a few good wenches there that would satisfy his appetite. Perhaps this friend of Neville’s might be a fair prospect. He had no plans for this coming Saturday.

“Mother, I have some business in Guildford. Perhaps I shall join your party for dinner on Saturday?”

Emma was petrified. She knew Robert would be against such a plan, as he and Hugh held quite different views. Robert was a true gentleman. On the other hand, Hugh rarely displayed the qualities of his class despite his heritage. Fortunately for him, his parents were not aware of his antics. They never inquired, and Emma had no wish to bring a message that would ruin her relationship with her parents. Hugh was the apple of their eye, the next Earl of Fintelton.

“Yes, definitely, I will meet you there. What time on Friday do you dine?”

Lady Jane smiled and said, “Eight o’clock. That is kind of you, Hugh. I shall feel safe with you there!”

In a gruff voice, the Earl said, “No need at all. But good boy – keep the women protected, especially when mixing with the lower classes. I am for bed. Goodnight all! Come, Jane, I will walk you upstairs.”

“Thank you, David.”

The Earl and Lady Jane slowly moved out of the parlour.

Emma’s heart sank. She had promised Robert a faultless plan. With Hugh coming, it could turn into a disaster. Anne would need protection from Hugh. Emma was aware of how he used women for his gratification. Sometimes, she felt she disliked Hugh as much as Robert did. She must meet with Anne before dinner. Also, they would need Stem in town again as a backup against any improper advance Hugh might make. Emma sighed; this was turning into a major exercise.

Hugh walked over to the sideboard, grabbed a large whiskey bottle and two glasses, and returned to join her.

“Have a drink with me, Em?”

“No, thank you, Hugh. I have a headache and will turn in. Sorry, but I am also tired. Good night.”

Hugh did not answer as he was too busy pouring the first glass of scotch down his throat. Then he looked around and, in a deep, loud voice, screamed,“Pike! Where are you, man? Get me some pastries. I am hungry! Pike!”