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Authors: Carla Kelly

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Regency Christmas Gifts

BOOK: Regency Christmas Gifts
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Regency Christmas Gifts

 

Three Stories

 

Carla Kelly

 

 

 

Camel Press

PO Box 70515

Seattle, WA 98127

 

For more information go to:
www.camelpress.com

www.carlakellyauthor.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Cover design by Sabrina Sun

 

 

Regency Christmas Gifts

Copyright © 2015 by Carla Kelly

 

ISBN: 978-1-60381-994-7 (Trade
Paper)

ISBN: 978-1-60381-995-4 (eBook)

 

Library of Congress Control Number:
2015950162

 

Produced in the United States of
America

 

 

* * *

 

 

D
edicated to all readers who
love the holiday season, and writers fortunate enough to spin the
yarns.

 

 

* * *

 

 

The Lasting Gift
Prologue


S
uzie, I am
bored.”

There. He’d admitted it. Maybe if the house
Thomas Jenkins had purchased here in Plymouth, England, had been in
dire need of renovation, it would have kept him busy for a year.
But no, the prospect of moving into a wreck had no appeal. Besides,
Thomas could afford to be overcharged for a pastel-blue row house
with white shutters located north of the Barbican on Notte Street.
Once the carter had delivered Suzie’s furniture all the way from
Cardiff, Wales, and he had added his paltry bed and favorite chair,
what else was there to do?

Convincing his sister to quit Cardiff had taken
up several months of his time and involved diplomacy worthy of
Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna. As little brother, Thomas
Jenkins (sailing master retired, Royal Navy) had no bargaining
chips except one, which he hated to play. He had played it at last,
when the matter seemed in some doubt and he had no
choice.

He even remembered the date: November 4, 1816.
For six months he had been cooling his heels at the Drake in
Plymouth, sending his widowed sister letter after letter, cajoling
her to leave her little place in Cardiff and move in with him in
the house he was about to purchase. He wheedled; she wavered. He
put down his foot; she played the older sister card and ignored
him. There seemed to be no end to her evasion.

As did many things in life, the matter came
down to money. Bluntly, he had it and she didn’t. A visit to
Cardiff in September had found him sitting across the desk from
Susan Jenkins Davis in her closet of a bookroom, staring at her
banking statements showing a paltry balance, thanks to the tiny
pension from her late husband.


Suzie, you’re at your last prayers
and I won’t have you living here in genteel poverty,” he said,
through with dodging and weaving the issue like Gentleman
Jackson.

Ah, but she was still a Jenkins, so she gave
the matter one last stab. “Tommy, you could move back here to
Cardiff.”


I think not, Sister,” he replied,
but gently. “I’m fond of Plymouth, and I have bought a lovely place
with a view of Sutton Harbor. You’ll have your bedchamber and your
own sitting room.” He took both her hands in his. “And I will not
have to worry about you, dear heart. Humor me and manage my
domestic affairs. What do I know about living in a
house?”

She finally agreed, probably because each foray
through her tattered accounts was more frightening than the one
before. She certainly did not need to oversee the little brother
who had fought for years at sea and who could take care of
himself.

A month later, she’d moved into his new house.
Her last feeble attempt to dissuade him only made him
laugh.


Me, marry? Suzie, who in the world
wants a sailing master set in his ways?”

 


Bored, Tommy? Do this little thing:
I have wrapped the brush and comb set that the former owner left
here. Either deliver it in person—it is a mere four miles to
Haven—or take it round to the posting house. Mrs. Poole can afford
whatever the charge will be.”

Packaged addressed
,
he wrapped his boat
cloak tighter and braved the treachery of slick streets in autumn
rain. If he mailed the package, time would remain for a walk to
Devonport to observe good ships being dismasted and placed in
ordinary, now that Napoleon was far away and peace reigned. Of
course, such a sight wasn’t one to foster a cheerful
mood.

The rain let up after the package was safely on
its way. He stared at the ships long enough to mangle his heart,
the one that still wanted to be at sea.


Peace is a humbug,” he announced to
a seagull eyeing him from the mainmast of a frigate—gadfreys, it
was the HMS
Thunderer—
doomed to lose its masts in a day or
two.

He sighed. “I am still bored.”

 

 

Chapter One


T
here must
be some mistake. How in the world am I to pay for this package?”
Mary Ann Poole asked herself in dismay as she stared at the note
her landlord had tacked to her front door.

Since yr were at worke, I paid ta man
,
he had written—dear Mr. Laidlaw, whose grasp of English was a loose
hold, indeed.
We can sittle up this evling
.

She hadn’t ordered anything. Any extravagance
through the post was far beyond her means.

Such news was the last straw in a week of last
straws. Mary Ann wanted to plop herself down on the bench by her
home, drum her feet on the pavement, and throw a royal tantrum,
such as she had seen today at the home of Lady Naismith, where she
worked. True, she was Lady N’s secretary and in the bookroom with
the door closed, but the argument was loud and long. She was too
frightened by all the noise to open the door even a crack to see if
Lady’s Naismith’s spoiled daughter threw the fit or if her little
boy did the honors. Thank goodness her own daughter Beth had better
manners.


My head aches,” Mary Ann said as
she stood up, removed the note, and entered her home.

Beth looked up when Mary Ann came inside. She
held the open package in her hands, and Mary Ann saw what looked
like a carved ivory brush and comb set.

Mary Ann kissed the top of her daughter’s head.
“Did school dismiss early, or am I late again?”


Late again, Mama,” Beth said. “Is
Lady Naismith being unreasonable?”

More than unreasonable
, Mary Ann
thought,
but you don’t need to know that
. The subject was
easy enough to change. “ ‘Unreasonable’? Is that a new
spelling word for this week?”

Beth nodded. “So are ‘quality’ and
‘inestimable,’ but unreasonable seemed to fit. After all, I am only
seven,” she concluded, satisfied she had made her point and logic
was on her side.

The unwanted brush and comb forgotten a moment,
Mary Ann wished with all her heart that her late husband were there
to enjoy Beth and her wit, which reminded her of his own.
Drat
you for dying, my dear
, she thought for the umpteenth
time.


So you are only seven,” she said.
“I don’t doubt that before bedtime, you will find a way to use both
words in a sentence.”

She sat down beside her daughter, because she
couldn’t continue to ignore the expensive-looking comb and brush.
She picked up the brush from Beth’s lap, turning it over to admire
the delicate filigree. Her own hairbrush was serviceable beech,
with boar bristles, left behind by her husband when he left for
Spain with Sir John Moore’s army.

Beth held the ivory comb, equally carved along
the top. “Mama, does this belong to a princess? Ha!” She held it
high in triumph. “It is of
inestimable quality
. I did it!”
She leaned against her mother and giggled.


I predict you will someday be the
first woman admitted to the Royal Academy for … for …
something or other.”

Mary Ann set down the brush and picked up the
box that the set had arrived in. She looked at the brown paper,
putting two torn edges together. “Mrs. M. Poole, plain as day. I am
certainly M. Poole,” she said. “I can see why you opened it,
Bethie, but this can’t be ours.” She looked closer at the address
itself, squinting, because the hour was late and Beth had been
taught not to lay a fire without her mama or Mr. Laidlaw present.
Coal was dear, after all. “Fifty-two Dinwoody Street. Oh dear. That
is the error.” She held it up so Beth could read it. “I suppose
Dinwoody looks like Carmoody at least a little. Maybe they were
rushed at the posting office.”


Should we take it ’round to
Dinwoody Street?” Beth asked. She avoided Mary Ann’s gaze and spoke
in a small voice. “I should have looked carefully, but Mama, I have
never opened a package before and I wanted to.”


I suppose you have not,” she said,
wondering just how many prosaic events Elizabeth Poole would be
denied because of their poverty. She could be philosophical as she
pulled her daughter closer. “Did you enjoy opening it?”

Beth leaned back against her. “I
anticipated
something wonderful,” she said solemnly, rolling
that wonderful word from last week’s spelling list around on her
tongue. “It was a mystery, all wrapped in tissue and brown
paper.”

She turned around in Mary Ann’s lap to look at
her. “Can we put it back in the box and take it to that
address?”

Mary Ann tightened her arms around the only
blessing that Second Lieutenant Bartimus Poole had been able to
give her. “If it is supposed to be a surprise to this Mrs. Poole,
we had probably better return it to the original owner so he or she
can rewrap it.” She squinted at the return address. “S.M. Thomas
Jenkins, 34 Notte Street, Plymouth, Devon. That’s a relief. We’re
only a few miles from Plymouth. We’ll take it to … what on
earth is S.M.?”


Sadly Maintained?” Beth teased, and
cuddled closer.

Mary Ann laughed. “I prefer Strangely Morbid.”
Sitting so close, she heard her little daughter’s stomach growl.
“But now I suggest supper.”

Mary Ann waited until after supper and put Beth
to copying her letters on her slate before taking a look in the tin
box where she kept her monthly funds. The postal stamp on the gift
clearly indicated five pence that she now owed her landlord. She
took out the coins, thinking of the vicar’s sermon on loaves and
fishes. That was well and good for sermons, but only left her
wishing she could turn even one pence into a handful of them. Well,
the package had to be paid for no matter what.

She left her daughter busy with the week’s
spelling words and went next door to the Laidlaw residence, no more
grand than her own three rooms. There was a time when she would
have laughed behind her hand at such a humble row of houses, but
that was back when she was newly married, with Bart’s promising
career dangling before them like a carrot before a horse—but no,
more like Aesop’s goose, whose golden eggs would keep coming,
providing no one killed her.

BOOK: Regency Christmas Gifts
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