The Captain and the Coquette
A Short Story Prequel to
Beauty and the Beast of Thornleigh.
From material which inspired my second novel.
I hope you enjoy the read.
Please be sure to comment and share!
Are you sure? Tomorrow morning, four o clock?’
‘Your mouth is open, sis. Close it. Yes, tomorrow morning.’ Charles Hailsham laughed. ‘I ought to know, for the note came today. My captain requires me aboard, and that, I am afraid, is the end of my leave. Mama is melancholy, of course, but she will rally. I dare say I’ll be back to port again soon enough. Brandt is to call here for me, and we shall travel together to Portsmouth. He leaves devilish early, I must say, but I dare say he is eager to inspect the “Victorious” before we pull anchor and it is a ten hour journey. Lord, how I shall be sore by the time we arrive! Well, I shall say my goodbyes after dinner, Cathy. I shall not expect you to rise at that ungodly hour!’
Catherine smiled weakly, but her mind was frantic. Captain Brandt was to go! And so soon! And she had received no offer, none at all, and no hint of one. Her heart began to pale. She must see him again before he went away! She could not bear it if she did not! She had never been in love before, and if she had ever known what it was to feel this mingling of joy and desperation, of happiness to be with him and to think of him, and the accompanying terror at the thought that she might never see him again, she would perhaps have been more cautious with her heart. But it was too late –she wanted none but him, and she could not allow him to leave her without making her heart known to him!
In misery she watched Charles go upstairs to pack. If only there was a way she could at least wish Captain Brandt goodbye! Then he would know her devotion; indeed he could not be immune to knowing himself so cherished, surely! She went into the drawing room and sat for some time at the window. Then, rising suddenly, she went upstairs. At Charles’s door, she knocked then entered. Her brother was just closing his trunks.
‘Pardon me, Charles, for interrupting—but how will you be travelling to Portsmouth? Did you say Captain Brandt was to call here for you?’
‘Why, yes, he’ll call here and then we will go direct to the stage coach with our trunks and cases. Why do you ask?’
‘Oh! Only because I was anxious as to your safety. I suppose if you are travelling public coach you are less likely to be held up. You know there have been incidents on many roads out of London.’
Charles reassured her laughingly. ‘Brandt always carries a weapon, as do I. I believe we shall be quite safe, you goose!’
‘Oh, good,’ replied Catherine absently, forgetting to object to the unflattering appellation. She left the room and retired to her own until dinner was called.
Their meal was a sombre one, Mrs Hailsham alternately putting down her knife and fork with a volley of sighs, and admonishing poor dear Charles to ‘keep his neck warm at all times and to write as soon as ever he was able’.
“Poor Charles”, rather excited to be going to sea again, and with all his faith in having the very steadiest of captains to carry him safely away and home again, was less moved than his parent. He ate and drank with a heartiness neither his sister nor mother could countenance, and instead of giving in to melancholy himself, he did his best to cheer them all up who were not going to sea, and were pretty well assured of comfortable and long lives!
Catherine, whose mind was much occupied with other thoughts, was the quietest of the three, and when finally the coffee was brought in and they had all sat together for the last time, she bid her brother a rather dry-eyed goodbye, pleaded tiredness, and went upstairs to bed.