Edward Gardiner—Uncle to the Bennet sisters, brother to Frances Bennet

Madeline Gardiner—Wife of Edward Gardiner

Annabella Adams Norris—Wife of Randolph Norris, schoolmate of Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst

Lady Victoria Uppercross—Acquaintance of Sir John

Vienna, Austria

Field Marshall Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, GCB—Hero of the Peninsular War, head of His Majesty’s delegation to the Congress of Vienna (1815), commander of all British forces on the Continent [*]

Lady Beatrice Wellesley—Cousin to Wellington

Countess Roxanne de Pontchartrain—Wife of the Count de Pontchartrain (member of the Royal French delegation), acquaintance of Sir John Buford

Baron Wolfgang von Odbar—Member of the Prussian delegation

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord—Prince of Benevento, French foreign minister, and delegate to the Congress of Vienna [*]

Belgium—Waterloo, Brussels, and surrounding areas

Captain Hewitt, British Army

Prince Willem of Orange—Dutch Crown Prince, Wellington’s second in command, commander of I Corps [*]

Lieutenant General Sir Henry William Paget, 2nd Earl of Uxbridge, GCB—Commander of British Horse at Waterloo [*]

Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, GCB—Commander of the British 5th Division of Foot [*]

Major General Sir William Ponsonby, KCB—Commander of the Union Cavalry Brigade [*]

Major General Sir John Vandeleur—Commander of the 4th Cavalry Brigade [*]

Major General Sir Hussey Vivian, KCB—Commander of the 6th Cavalry Brigade [*]

Napoleon Bonaparte—Emperor of the French [*]


1814. Peace had come to England.

Since 1740, George III’s Great Britain had been in recurrent conflict with its ancient enemy France and all its various governments. She fought Louis XV’s Kingdom of France again and again over their colonies in the New World and India. She prevented the expansion of Robespierre’s homicidal French Republic and its Revolution. She had spent irreplaceable men and treasure to overthrow the menace of Napoleon Bonaparte as he tried to build an empire out of Europe.

After seventy-four years of recurring warfare, her work was done. The cost in blood and gold had been high, but the country was safe. The self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. A new French king, one finally friendly to Britain, was established on his throne in Paris. A grand congress of all the allies who had stood against the Tyrant was assembled in Vienna to re-draw the post-war world. Britain was master of the subcontinent. Soldiers and sailors were brought back to sweet England, paid off, and sent home.

Only the unpopular conflict with their former American colonies remained, and Prime Minister Lord Liverpool was working hard to end it. Even now, diplomats in Ghent were dancing the steps of diplomacy to fashion a peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain. It was hoped it would be signed before Christmas.

With the fall of Bonaparte and the end of the American War in sight, the people of Regency England dutifully gathered in church, sang their praises to God and king, and then turned their attention to more mundane and heartfelt concerns: the business of living happily ever after.

*   *   *


Colonel Christopher Brandon sat at his breakfast table in Delaford Manor, enjoying his second cup of coffee. He had become enamored of the drink while serving in India and on the Continent during the wars against France— first against the godless Jacobites and then later against the Corsican artilleryman who dared name himself emperor of the French. At first, his young, lovely wife could not reason why anyone would drink anything but tea, but she assumed it to be another of his eccentricities. Then one cold, winter afternoon, impatient for the teakettle, she seized her husband’s cup and drained half of it. That impulsive act had the result of doubling the amount in the Brandon household budget for coffee.

“Look, Joy. There is your papa.”

Christopher looked up, delight spreading over his rather plain features. There was his Marianne, returning his smile, holding the greatest miracle of his life—his infant daughter, Joy. Christopher got to his feet and crossed over to the pair. Holding out his hands, he received the squirming babe from his wife. Christopher kissed and cooed at the child for a few moments before handing Joy to the nurse standing nearby. The baby gurgled happily as she was carried back to the nursery. Christopher then escorted Marianne to the table, pulling out her chair and giving her a discreet peck on the cheek. Marianne returned the gesture with a caress before sitting down to her first cup of the day.

“Goodness, Colonel Brandon, I do not know what gift of yours has given me more pleasure—our daughter, Joy, or a taste for coffee,” she exclaimed and not for the first time.

“Indeed, madam. I will have to increase my rents to keep you in beans.” He crossed over to the sideboard to fill his wife’s plate—a task he had done every morning since her confinement. Marianne declared that his kindness, while appreciated, was unnecessary since their child’s birth, but the colonel would not give it up, insisting that he got much enjoyment from performing such a mundane task for her. It was Marianne’s happy lot to suffer his attentions.

“Does my habit of expense threaten Joy’s dowry, do you think? Heaven forbid! Well, I am afraid she will just have to marry for money.”

“Like her mother, my dear?” Christopher chuckled at Marianne’s glare.

“I should agree with you, sir. It would serve you right!” But the spat could not last. Marianne could never be displeased for long with those she loved. Her face finally broke out in a smile at their teasing. She shook her head and asked, “Has the paper come?”

“Yes, my dear. It awaits your pleasure,” responded Christopher as he placed Marianne’s breakfast before her.

Several quiet but pleasant minutes later, the two retired to the library for their morning ritual of reading the newspapers, handling the correspondence, and enjoying a last cup of coffee. The letters were handled first.

“Look, my love, a letter from the Continent,” said Marianne as she handed him his share of the post. “And there is an invitation.”

It was their usual practice to discuss not only their correspondence, personal and business, but also the news of the world. Since he began the improvement of Marianne Dashwood’s mind three years ago, Christopher found that he had developed a valuable partner. Marianne’s partner was a loving, sensible person who could keep her emotions in check, while Christopher gained an advisor whose sensibilities often gave him an insight he would not otherwise acquire.

“What news, Husband?”

“’Tis a letter from Wellington in Paris. He and Lady Beatrice send their regards.”

“Lady Beatrice? I long to see her again! Did he say how long she was to remain to play hostess for her cousin?”

“Nothing in here, my dear.” It was well known that Wellington was estranged from his wife and, therefore,

Вы читаете The Three Colonels
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату