Hearts Adrift – Part One

Chapter One   At Bearsham Manor, Hampshire, England, Sir Robert de Briers, baronet, lay dying. His ragged breathing was shallow and fast, indicating that the end was near. This last apoplexy had proved too much of a strain on Sir Robert’s heavyset, gout-infected body, even though his mind was as sharp as ever. With considerable effort, he opened his pale blue, bloodshot eyes and searched for the tall figure of his son and heir, Richard. Sir Robert had one last, yet most urgent request for him. “Come, my son, come closer…” Richard de Briers obeyed readily and bent down on … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Two

  Chapter Two   “Are you certain, sir, that you want to pursue this matter? The streets are extremely dangerous in Paris right now.” The young man’s pleasant countenance grew serious, causing Richard de Briers to turn a sharp eye on him. “What is it that you are saying, Jake? Are the streets barred? Bridges over the Seine destroyed, maybe?” Jake Davies had been acting as Richard’s business man in Paris for the last four years. He had begun his life as a London street urchin and Robert de Briers had caught the boy trying to steal his handkerchief one … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Three

Chapter Three   The band of fugitives made its way to the quays aligning the river Seine without being spotted by members of the Garde Révolutionaire. A small boat was moored at the bottom of the steps. They got on board, Manon and Jéhan at the stern and Jake at the bow, while de Briers took the oars. He began rowing downstream in a steady rhythm, the heavy oaken shafts cutting the water in silence. They slid along the riverbank, and de Briers kept the boat as close to the quay wall as he could without crashing into it. Their … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Four

Chapter Four   The company set off at dawn, as was agreed, in a cart drawn by a large horse, one that de Briers had purchased from a brewer. He had paid handsomely for the horse, as well as for the cart, and had asked the brewer and the landlady to keep quiet about himself and his charges. As a precaution, he had let slip that their destination was Le Havre, instead of Boulogne. It was an insurance that meant whoever followed them would take the wrong road, heading due west instead of north. Jake and Manon sat on the … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Five

Chapter Five   Five days and four nights later, Richard and his companions reached Amiens. The journey had been relatively easy, with one checkpoint in Beauvais after twenty-one miles of travelling through the lush Picardie countryside. The farther they moved away from Paris, the less people seemed affected by the Revolution. At least, the farmers were still at their work; the fields had been sowed and the pastures had cattle grazing on them. Even at the Beauvais checkpoint, the guards seemed lax and did not question the travellers. Apparently, a small family of what looked like farmers was not prone … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Six

Chapter Six   Longpré was reached in the late afternoon, and the travellers were all exhausted, hungry and downtrodden. They hid in the surrounding woods while Jake went into the village. He was the least conspicuous of them all; he could pass as a harmless farmhand. Jéhan was fast asleep, his head on Manon’s lap. She gently brushed the boy’s auburn hair from his brow, a gesture that went straight to Richard’s heart. “You both have Lily’s colouring, Manon,” he said, his voice a bit hoarse, “and she was the image of her own mother, Lady Elizabeth. There is a … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Seven

Chapter Seven   Jake eyed them both with barely concealed astonishment, but he said nothing. “What about Jéhan?” Manon asked. “Could we not take him into the room also?” “I want to sleep with the other men!” Jéhan protested. “Jake is my friend, and I have to watch over him!” Manon saw her uncle’s sweet smile curve his lips before he answered, “Of course you must, my boy! Jake will watch over you also; will you not, Jake?” “Yes, master, I will. Rest assured, miss, he is safe with me.” Manon pressed Jake’s hand in gratitude, glad that the young … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Eight

Chapter Eight   As Richard had foreseen, they reached Boulogne in three days, but it was night when they entered the small seaside town. As a precaution, they had not slept at inns the two previous nights, after they had spotted a company of soldiers camped near the village of Quend, fifteen miles north of Abbeville. Instead, they had made camp in the woods lining the road. It had been uncomfortable, but not overly so, because the June nights were balmy. With Jake and Jéhan present, it also proved bearable to sleep close to Richard, Manon found. She took her … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Nine

Chapter Nine Lucian’s carriage was a large chaise-and-four, drawn by four splendid matching greys. It would cover the twenty-three miles in less than three hours. They were heading for Lucian’s estate, Whitehaven, near Romney in Kent. Jéhan was fast asleep, snuggled up in a blanket against Lucian. Jake was sitting next to the coachman on the bench, while Manon and Richard occupied the bench opposite Lucian. Night had fallen, and as the carriage rolled on through the quiet countryside, Manon felt her body go limp with fatigue. Her head lolled as her eyes grew heavy, and eventually, she could no … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Ten

Chapter Ten   Manon’s proposition made perfect sense. Richard’s logical mind acknowledged Manon’s words, and his foolish heart welcomed them, of course. It was true that he loved her, and he knew beyond all doubt that she loved him back. Despite the fact that he knew they could never be husband and wife, Richard was overwhelmed by true, unmitigated happiness, because his Manon loved him. His Manon? Yes, it was the undeniable truth. She was Lily’s daughter, and Lily had been the light of his life. Manon, so like Lily, had come to fill the hole in his heart that … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Eleven

Chapter Eleven   Manon woke when Bessy knocked and entered the room with a tray of tea and toast. “Sir Lucian’s compliments, miss; and would you join the gentlemen in the breakfast room when you are dressed?” the girl said in a cheerful voice. “Thank you, Bessy,” Manon answered, glancing surreptitiously around the room. She was lying naked under her covers, and she was terrified the maid would find out. He was not here. Understanding why did nothing to dampen down the wave of burning grief that washed over her as disappointment struck. He had left her after he lifted … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twelve

Chapter Twelve   The ride to Brighton was to take six hours, necessitating a stop in Hastings for luncheon. The Saxon and Norman Inn, near Hastings Castle, served a decent shepherd’s pie and boasted an appreciable amber-coloured ale by the name of “Coxcomb”. Lucian Blackthorne, Viscount Rossiter requested the private parlour for his party. During the meal, Richard kept himself in the background, responding only when a direct question was addressed to him, glad that his friend Lucian was not drawing him into the conversation. Lucian started lecturing about the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the subsequent conquering … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen   Manon followed her uncle downstairs to the large library, where a cluster of comfortable chairs was gathered around a low table. He gestured towards one of the chairs and turned to Pritchard, who had opened the door for them. “Bring us some coffee, Pritchard.” “Very well, sir.” The butler bowed and went off. “Why is he addressing you thus? Are you not a nobleman? Should he not call you ‘my lord’, instead?” Manon asked, drawing her brows together over a question that had been on her mind for several days. Richard smiled and shook his head. “I … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen   On the first Thursday of July, a sumptuous ball was given by Richard de Briers, Baronet Bearsham, in his townhouse, to present his niece, Miss Manon Favier to the Brighton society. Standing near the large, high ballroom windows, Richard was watching the line of dancers that occupied the floor in an intricate country dance. All the dancers were part of Brighton’s ton, and the coastal town’s society was rapidly increasing, due to the Prince Regent’s presence. There was, of course, his best friend, Lucian Blackthorne, Viscount Rossiter, who was at present leading Manon between the lines. There … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen   When the cotillion ended, Richard led Blanche to a seat. He then bid her leave to go and see to his many other guests, whom he had been neglecting somewhat. She graciously released him and turned to a girl whom she knew from childhood but had not seen since. Richard hastened after his niece – he had forgotten all else, after he noticed the paleness of her face when she left the dance floor. But where was Manon? Standing in the doorway to the entrance hall, he scanned the crowd gathered there, which was easy because of … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen   “Thank you, Mr Waldham,” Richard de Briers said to his steward. “That will conclude our meeting for today. I trust you will inform me when the works will start on the northwest meadows. We need to drain them as soon as possible before the autumn rains start.” “Certainly, sir; you may depend on me,” the short, middle-aged steward replied. He bowed and left Richard’s library carrying the ledgers they had been studying together. Richard rose and went to stand at the window overlooking the vast lawn in front of the house. It was his favourite spot, when … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen Richard was furious. In fact, he could not recall ever having been so outraged in his whole life. He had done his utmost to provide Manon with the best of opportunities to organize her life, and look what the foolish chit made of it! What was his niece thinking? Setting up an infirmary, of all things! It was unthinkable! Yet here was her letter, written in a tiny, neat hand, explaining that she would be searching for suitable premises near Brighton Port and that she would need to employ staff to help her. In a totally candid manner, … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty

Chapter Twenty   At The Wild Rose, Richard found Pritchard, on duty as he always was. The rest of his staff, his housekeeper, his cook, and all the footmen and maids, even the tweenie and scullery maid were at the infirmary. It seemed that Manon had commandeered his entire staff into her service. Since even her maid Bessie was absent, Richard carried Manon to her room and laid her on the bed. She had not stirred, not even when he removed her apron, shoes, stockings and mobcap. Not even when he spread a blanket over her and tucked her in. … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-One   “I hate him.” The sentence was uttered through clenched teeth, in a voice, low with malice. Mildred de Briers stood looking over Bearsham Manor’s sunny lawn from the window of her boudoir when she spoke the words that had simmered in her heart for twenty-seven years. “Yes…” The voice of her lover drawled, “you have said that before, more times than I care to recall, darling. It is time you acted upon it.” Mildred turned towards her large four-poster bed, where Jeremy Lawson lay sprawled in all his splendid nakedness. They had just made love, and Mildred, … Read more

Hearts Adrift – Part Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Two   In Brighton, Manon devoted herself to the running of the infirmary, due to her desire to ensure everything was firmly established. Richard wanted her to come to Bearsham Manor at the beginning of August, and that moment was fast approaching. It would be marvellous to see Richard’s estate, knowing how proud he was of his ancestral home. Manon also longed to see her little brother again. She fiercely missed Jéhan and was eager to know how much he had learned under Jake’s tutelage. The letters that Jake sent her weekly only teased Manon’s appetite for learning … Read more