The Earl of Diamonds
Edward Carlisle, the Duke of Westborough, watched his daughter as she descended the staircase. At seventeen she matured into a beautiful, graceful young lady, and he was glowing with pride as he admired her.
"Have you finished packing, Marissa?" her father asked.
"Yes, Papa, and Grandmother will be down in a few minutes. We won't be late for the departure, will we?" Marissa asked anxiously.
"No my dear, we will have time to spare. Are you excited?" he asked smiling.
"Oh yes! Even though I had been on a ship before, with Grandmother and Aunt Marion, to the Mediterranean, I am excited about sailing all the way to America! I cannot wait to see Aunt Emily and Uncle Michael's little boy. Will Aunt Marion meet us at the ship?"
"Yes, Raynhurst and Elise will want to see her off, so they will take her there. I imagine she is anxious to see her sister and her new nephew, just as much as you are," he answered.
Edward was eager to see Marion again. When his wife, Rachel, had died, Marion had been a great comfort to Marissa. She helped to bring her out from being the quiet shy child. But he has not seen Marion for almost a year, when she went to Sussex to take care of Elise's during her third pregnancy, and help her with Anthony, and his little sister, Eleanor. Odd that he had not appreciated Marion until she had left London. She had always been available whenever he called . . . until the time she walked into the parlor and found him with Lady Caroline Spencer in his arms.
He had never given it much thought that being a widower, he was now considered an extremely eligible catch . . . the very wealthy, Duke of Westborough. He was flattered by all the attention, he must admit. It was not until the notorious Lady Caroline set her cap for him that he decided this was not at all what he wanted out of life.
With some excuse Caroline managed to come to his house and corner him in the parlor where he had found himself in a dishonorable position. It seemed it was one of her nefarious plans, he heard about from other unsuspecting eligible males. Also, he should have known better, after the way she chased after Raynhurst, causing him that trouble with Elise over the diamond bracelet. Caroline had arrived with Lady Cowper and Lady Jersey, but while these two prestigious ladies were admiring the garden, Caroline delayed him in the parlor where she pretended a dizzy spell and was about to faint, so he reached out to catch her, and was startled when Caroline threw her arms around him. Luckily Marion had arrived at that time, but from the look on her face she was shocked at finding Caroline in his arms. He had explained he was only preventing her from falling when she was about to faint. Of course, Caroline had to agree, since Marion was not the person she expected to enter the room. Apparently Caroline had planned for the Ladies Cowper and Jersey to find them whereupon he would have been forced into an honorable declaration of marriage.
Marion had taken her leave from them, and had never again spoken to him. When he had heard she moved back to Sussex to take care of Elise, it was then he realized how much Marion had meant to him . . . not only for the sake of Marissa . . . but for his own. He missed her witty conversation, and the sparkle in her eyes when she laughed. It dawned on him that he had fallen in love with her, and he was anxious to tell her so before she left for America . . . he wanted to make sure she would return to him.
"Well, here I am . . . and at my age going on another adventure!" laughed the Dowager Duchess, as she glided down the stairs to meet her son and granddaughter.
"You seem to get younger every year, Mother, rather than older," said Edward affectionately.
"It has been all the excitement in my life, since Elise had written to me that first time from Paris. Look at all that had happened since then!" she answered.
"Do you think we will see any Indians?" Marissa asked eagerly.
"It certainly is a possibility. You are going all the way to Ohio . . . to the city of Cincinnati. Your Uncle Michael insisted it is not what is considered the wild, wild, west though. He assured me it was a well-populated city on the Ohio River. He and Emily had moved there when Michael retired from the British Navy, and invested in the Steamboat business operating on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers," Edward answered. "Now, if you are ready, we shall get you off on this new adventure of yours."
Lord Raynhurst and his family, along with his Mother, arrived at the docks from their home in Sussex, after having stopped on the way to have lunch at Agnes and Robert's Inn not far from their home. Since Agnes became Mrs. Robert Tomlin, and received the fifty-thousand pound dowry, the couple have done well. They were fortunate enough to have a set of twin boys, now a year old, and had purchased the inn when the former owner of it died and his wife sold the property. It was doing poorly at the time of purchase, but with the advice of Raynhurst on how to make it a place the haute ton would seek out as a stopover, it has now grown into a flourishing business. The Prince Regent, hearing of the new inn that was all the crack, had surprised them with a visit, bringing with him a retinue of followers which insured their success.
The docks were a teeming mass of humanity and cargo. Raynhurst carried two-year-old Eleanor on his arm, while holding one hand of five-year-old Anthony with his other hand. Elise was holding Anthony's other hand, having left their new baby, Philip, at home with the nanny. Marion had a hold of Elise's other arm.
"Stay close, Elise . . . Mother. Anthony, hold on tight to my hand. I wouldn't want any of you to get lost in this crowd," Raynhurst said firmly, looking around to find Edward and the others. The carriage had dropped them off and the footmen were unloading Marion's luggage.
Raynhurst heard his name called, and finally noticed Edward waving from the ship's railing. Waving back, he edged his way passed the other passengers standing around talking in groups. They boarded the ship and after receiving confirmation from the ship steward, Raynhurst directed the footmen to take the luggage to Marion's compartment, and then proceeded toward where Edward's family was standing.
Marion was nervous at seeing Edward. She hadn't spoken to him since that day she saw him with that Spencer woman. The shock of seeing a woman in Edward's arms had completely devastated her. She had fallen in love with him when he came to Sussex for Emily and Michael's wedding and stayed for a while before his wife had died. Marion knew she could not do anything about it or let him know how she felt. Then when the terrible news came of Rachel's death, her heart went out to him in his loss. She felt sorry for him and wanted to do all she could to help ease the burden she knew he would have with raising a teenage daughter.
For the next two years she had spent most of her days at their home in the company of Marissa, traveling with her and Lydia on the tour when Marissa was fifteen. At that time Edward had spent time with them too, they became closer friends and having fun together. She had not realized that he was seeing other women until she saw him that day in the parlor, then she had felt so foolish for thinking he would ever care for her that she left the next day for Sussex and never saw or spoke to him again. Now she was about to come face to face with him. Her heart was beating faster and she was having trouble breathing properly. Marion kept her eyes lowered, afraid to look up at Edward.
"Grandmother! It is so good to see you again. You will have to come out to Sussex when you get back, to see how your great grandchildren have grown," Elise said as she hugged her grandmother.
"Oh Elise . . . isn't it wonderful? Why . . . we must be traveling halfway around the world! I am so excited at seeing Michael and Emily again . . . and of course my new grandson, Richard Anthony Carlisle. Isn't that a lovely name?"
"Anthony was thrilled to know he had a cousin named after him. Try to have a miniature portrait made, if you can, to bring back to us," Elise said.
Marissa had stooped down to talk to Anthony, while Edward and Raynhurst discussed the schedule of departure. Edward kept glancing at Marion as she stood by the railing watching the activity below on the dock. He was disappointed she hadn't looked at him, and would have to find away to get her alone before he had to leave the ship.
Raynhurst did not miss these glances, and wondered what had happened between his mother and Edward when she had suddenly returned to Sussex looking so upset. He hoped they would have a chance to sort it out before the ship sailed.
"The ship looks pretty well filled up. Were most of the passengers on board before it arrived in London?" Raynhurst asked, looking around at the crowd standing by the railing waving to friends and relatives.
"I believe so . . . I understand the ship has sailed all the way from Rome," Edward answered.
"How do you feel about the three ladies traveling on their own? I know they have sailed before, but not all the way to America. I know that I am a little worried about their safety," Raynhurst asked in a low voice, so the women would not hear.
"My thoughts exactly. I had it in mind to talk to the ship's Captain . . . about keeping an eye on them," Edward answered.
"Good idea . . . why don't we do that now? I think I'd feel better knowing someone would protect them," Raynhurst said, then turned to Elise, handing her Eleanor, and mentioned that he and Edward were going to have a word with the Captain.
"Let me hold her, dear," said the grandmother. "I will not be seeing her for a while. Oh my, she is the picture of Eleanor when she was a baby . . . and I imagine you were the same, Elise," taking the child from Elise's arms, admiring the honey-gold curls and violet-blue eyes of little Eleanor.
Raynhurst and Edward headed up the stairs to the quarter deck where they saw the Captain talking to one of the crew members. After introducing themselves they explained the circumstances, and Raynhurst offered him a monetary gratuity for his help. The Captain, overwhelmed at the amount, said he would see that the ladies had the best of care during their trip. Satisfied, Raynhurst following Edward back down the steps, almost bumped into him, when Edward stopped suddenly.
"Lo..look! Over there! Isn't that your cousin Cedric?" Edward stammered in disbelief, pointing to the railing at the opposite end of where the ladies were standing.
"Bloody Hell . . . it is! Let me by! I'm not going to let him get away again!" Raynhurst yelled and shoved past Edward as he leaped the last few steps and started running toward Cedric. Edward came out of his shock and ran after him.
Cedric, leaned on the rail and smoked his cigar while he watched the shoreline of England. He was surprised when he learned the ship was making a stop here. He had been in Italy three years now, and decided its time to move onto greener pastures. Cedric barely escaping the police when he killed a man who had caught him cheating at cards. The man planned on telling the others who had been in the game and he couldn't let that happen. He had lived by his wits after going through what was left of his mother's money.
On the trip to Italy, she had fallen overboard, and Cedric had convinced the authorities it had been an accident. Later going through her luggage, he was surprised at how much money she had hoarded away without telling him, still, it didn't take long to gamble it all away. Now he had just enough to catch the first ship sailing to America and try his luck in new territory . . . he heard a man could make a fortune there.
The thud to Cedric's back, sent the cigar over the rail, and before he could turn, he felt someone yank on his coat collar and spin him around. Cedric eyes flew open in shock at seeing Raynhurst before a solid punch to his stomach doubled him over in pain, then another blow hit him on the chin and he heard the crack of his jaw as it broke, before he collapsed into oblivion.
"Get some rope!" Raynhurst commanded to a deckhand.
"This man's a criminal," Edward added looking at the shocked seaman.
The Captain rushed to them when he saw what was happening, and ordered the man to do as he was told before turning back to Raynhurst.
"I take it you know this man," he said respectfully, knowing he wasn't about to doubt the conduct of this wealthy nobleman.
"Yes, he is wanted for murder here in England, and had escaped from Newgate before he could be hanged for his crimes. This time he is not going to escape his punishment. I waited three years for the day when he would be caught," Raynhurst said with satisfaction, as he looked at the crumpled body of his cousin lying unconscious. It felt good, Raynhurst thought, to be the one to catch him, and to give him back a little of the pain he had caused others before he went to the gallows.
A crowd had gathered around them, including the ladies who were stunned to see it was Cedric. Anthony looked with wide-eyes at the man on the deck being tied up, and then at his father. The scene reminded him of when he was taken to his uncle's boat a long time ago by that bad man.
"Papa! Papa is as strong as Uncle Michael!" Anthony said with admiration.
"Good heavens! Cedric! He was going to America on the very same boat as us?" Marion exclaimed as she looked with trepidation at her vile odious nephew. How horrible it would have been if he had not been caught, and they would have run into him while out on the ocean.
Edward stepped next to Marion, putting his arms around her. Without thinking Marion laid her head on his shoulder feeling the security of his strong arms. While Raynhurst was discussing with the Captain how to proceed about removing Cedric from the ship and taking him back to Newgate, Edward moved Marion further away from the crowd.
"I had to get you alone . . . to talk to you . . . before you left for America. Oh Marion, I have missed you so much since you left London without a word to me . . . I didn't realize how much until you were gone," Edward said softly, turning her to face him.
Marion looked up at him with wide eyes. She couldn't believe he had really missed her.
"Do you think that you might miss me while you are in America?" he asked anxiously.
"Oh yes, Edward, I will miss you. I . . . .I. missed you as soon as I moved to Sussex," Marion answered lowering her head in embarrassment.
He lifted her chin with his forefinger, and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Marion. Would you consent to being my wife when you return from your trip . . . although I do not know how I can wait that long!" he said, before bending down to gently kiss her lips.
"Oh Edward! You know I will marry you . . . that is what I had longed for over the past two years. I just didn't think you cared about me," she said sliding her arms around his waist.
"I did care . . . except it took your leaving to make me realize it," Edward whispered in her ear as he enfolded her in his arms again.
Having finished with the plans to remove Cedric to Newgate, Raynhurst and the others were standing on the side watching this little love scene. Finally Raynhurst cleared his throat and said, "Sorry to interrupt, but is there something that you would like to tell us, Mother?"
"Oh!" Marion startled, blushed and stepped back out of Edward's arms.
Pulling her back to him, Edward announced that they were going to be married when Marion returned to England.
The congratulations were overwhelming. Not only did Stephen, Elise, Edward's mother and daughter join in wishing them happiness, the crowd that had gathered over the capture of Cedric were cheering and applauding.
"May I join in the congratulations?"came a familiar voice behind Raynhurst. Turning, he looked at the well-dressed gentleman.
"Detective Davidson! This is a surprise! Did you hear we caught Cedric?"
"Yes, I was at the Magistrate's Office when the report came to pick him up, and I couldn't resist seeing him being led away in irons. By the way, it is Sir Francis Davidson now . . . been awarded a knighthood recently," Davidson said modestly.
"Well, then, you are to be congratulated too, Sir Francis! You are no longer working Bow Street?" Raynhurst said shaking hands.
"No, I . . . ahem . . . met a nice lady . . . a wealthy widow that I helped out of a little trouble last year, and we sort of hit it off, so to speak. We were married last winter, and she's afraid I'll get hurt chasing after the crooks . . . I guess it's time to retire anyhow," he shrugged.
"I imagine we'll be seeing you at various functions in town then," Raynhurst said.
"Don't count on it! The little lady may have talked me into retiring, but I'm not apt to be joining that social circus . . . no sir, your lordship, I refuse to get into that!" Davidson said shaking his head in disgust.
Raynhurst laughed and wished him luck before leaving the ship with Elise, and the others.
Edward, Stephen, Elise and the children stood on the dock waving farewell as the ship pulled away from the dock. Edward said goodbye to Raynhurst and Elise, promising he would drive down to Sussex tomorrow and spend sometime with Raynhurst to work out the settlement for his marriage to Marion.
Raynhurst carrying a tired Anthony snuggled on his shoulder, and Elise with a sleeping Eleanor in her arms, they walked back to their carriage.
"I am so glad the episode with Cedric is finally closed. I had nightmares of him showing up to try and inherit the title again," Raynhurst said wryly.
"Ah yes . . . there is no longer a reason to worry about that . . . I guess this means I need not have any more children to put him at the bottom of the list," Elise said with a guileless look at Stephen.
"What! How can you say: no more children?" Raynhurst said in mock indignation. "Have you forgotten, dearest one, that I still have seven diamond Dynasty rings already ordered?" he added, as he assisted Elise and the children into the carriage.
"To be sure, my lovely wife, it will be seven, and we have a long way to go yet!" Raynhurst said emphatically, settling down next to Elise, and putting his arm around her.
"A long way, you say?" Elise asked, smiling seductively. "Then, milord
husband, I suggest we hurry home to start on number four."
*** The End ***