Read Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts Online

Authors: Karla Darcy

Tags: #karla darcy, #regency romance, #romantic comedy, #romance, #five kisses, #pride and prejudice, #historical fiction, #sweets racing club, #downton abbey, #jane austen

Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts (20 page)

BOOK: Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts
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As the situation became tenser, Judith
wondered how much her own life paralleled the division in Newport.
She too had one foot in the English camp and one in the American
camp. Simon, an American to the heart, never lectured her or
offered any comment on her own ambivalence. They spent many
evenings talking and reading, each one enjoying the natural
curiosity of the other’s mind. Soon after her arrival, Judith had
realized that Simon hoped to convince her to remain in America. But
Judith herself was not sure.

She had grown to love Newport and realized
that her life here was totally different than the life she had led
in England. She thrived on the freedom and the heady awareness that
here women were expected to be resourceful, thoughtful and
educated. Her natural curiosity was not greeted with the cold looks
that indicated contempt for a “bluestocking” as it would have in
London. Questions were welcomed and an exchange of ideas a natural
process. Each day Judith felt she was expanding and growing. Yet
still she waited. She sensed something was missing that would push
her into making a decision.

Feeling restless with her unhappy thoughts,
Judith walked through the garden, hoping the beauty of the blossoms
would ease her whirling mind. Even Nathanael’s irritating presence
would be welcome. She had not seen the man since the party at Dr.
Case’s farm. Gracious heavens, Judith muttered. She must be at a
pretty sorry pass indeed to be wishing for the company of the
toplofty Master Bellingham. She would be better occupied in
discovery what the young and inventive Patrick O’Shea was up
to.

Patrick’s behavior at dinner was highly
suspicious in the light of Judith’s newly heightened perceptions.
Towards the end of the meal, the boy yawned at least six times,
commenting on how tired he was. Finally after he had gorged himself
on two helpings of cherry pie, the boy allowed as how he better
turn in early. The whole performance was havey-cavey. She debated
mentioning her suspicions to Simon but her father appeared
distracted and she did not want to worry him with what, for the
moment, was only conjecture. Tonight she would just have to keep
watch.

There was no moon outside her window and
Judith sat bundled up in the quilt from her bed, listening to the
night sounds. When the clock chimed midnight, she pulled herself
more erect, her senses alert to every sound. She had left her door
ajar so that she would be able to hear Patrick’s footsteps in the
hall. Her eyelids felt stretched as she stared into the darkness.
She hoped if he were going to make a move that he would make it
soon so that they could both sleep through what remained of the
night. It was a full ten minutes before Judith heard the first
sound but it came from a totally unexpected quarter. There was a
harsh scuffling sound outside the house.

Throwing off the coverlet, she eased herself
over to the window and was just in time to see a small shadowy
figure rounding the corner to disappear into the night. Walking
quickly but quietly she crossed the room and opened the door into
the hallway. In two strides she was at Patrick’s door and turned
the knob and entered the darkened room. Even before she struck the
Lucifer, she suspected the room was empty. In the wavering flame,
Judith took in the deserted bed, the opened window and the
convenient cherry tree. No wonder Patrick had eaten two pieces of
pie with such gusto, Judith muttered glaring at the tree.

What to do now? She blew out the flame and
sat on the edge of the boy’s bed, waiting until her eyes could
readjust to the darkness. She wondered if she ought to wake Simon,
but realized the futility of that, since she had no idea where the
boy had gone. She would have to wait. Fear for the boy’s safety
kept her awake through the long hours of his disappearance.

At the first scraping sound on the tree,
Judith struck a light to the candle. Although she was angry and
worried, she had no desire to frighten the boy when he entered the
darkened room. As the candle glow flickered in the gentle breeze,
there was a sudden silence outside. The pause was interminable.
Then the branches of the tree trembled and a small boy with
saucer-eyes appeared in the window. Narrowed hazel eyes touched
startled blue, holding their gaze until the boy shrugged
fatalistically. Throwing a leg over the windowsill, Patrick
clambered into the room.

“Are you all right?” Judith asked.

“Tired but I’m fine, thank you.” The boy
grinned self-consciously as he crossed the room to sit on the bed.
He patted Judith’s folded hands in a reassuring gesture, far older
than his years. “Gave me quite a turn when I saw the light.”

Judith snorted in disgust. “It gave me quite
a turn when I discovered you were not in your bed. I’ve been very
frightened, Patrick.”

“I’m sorry, Judith.” Although the apology
was sincere enough, there was a hint of stubbornness in the boy’s
voice. “I hadda go.”

“You shouldn’t have been out there, Patrick.
I warned you just today that the meetings are dangerous.”

“Oh, Judith, I’m sorry if you were worried
about that, but I wasn’t at one of those meetings. Roger and I were
passing out broadsheets!”

At first Judith was filled with relief that
the boy had had enough sense to stay away from the secret meetings.
Then she realized that, no matter what he was doing, his midnight
jauntering was just as dangerous.

“Good heavens!” Judith gasped. “How long
have you been doing that?”

“Just this last month. Roger’s been doing it
for ages. But it took him a while before he thought he could trust
me to help.” Patrick’s whispered voice quivered with pride. “And
now that we’ve got Mercury it goes ever so fast.”

“I can see that,” Judith said dryly. “Do
Roger’s parents know what he has been doing?”

“I dunno,” came the hesitant reply. “You
wouldn’t go and rat on us, would you, Judith?”

“What do you think Simon will say?” Judith
asked, avoiding for the moment any silent complicity in Patrick and
Roger’s behavior. “After all, young man, you are living in his
house and he is responsible for your conduct.”

“I don’t think he’d mind,” the boy answered
with more hope than conviction in his voice.

“Whether he does or not,” Judith said. “The
fact remains, my dear, that you shouldn’t be roaming outside at
night.”

“I have to,” Patrick said quietly.

He picked up one of Judith’s hands and held
it tightly. Then straightening his shoulders, he stared straight
into her eyes, giving her a glimpse of the young man he was all too
soon destined to be.

“This is my country now, Judith, and I want
to help. Palatine’s words are important. Everybody should read
them.”

Tears started in Judith’s eyes as she stared
at the little boy she had come to love. His life had not been an
easy one and, despite his youth, in a sense he was older than she.
She wondered how many mothers and sisters had sat just like this,
holding the hands of young boys who had taken on the responsibility
of a cause. He was not really a child in this venture. In the light
of day, he would return to his childhood but in the night he would
take on the mantle of adulthood and work for an objective he
believed in.

Loosing her hand from his, Judith put her
arms around the boy. For a moment he resisted, then curled himself
into the warmth of her body. When she spoke, she tried to keep her
voice light, without the hint of tears that threatened to engulf
her. “Just tell me when you’re going and try to keep Mercury from
dozing off before he brings you home.”

It was a long time before Judith was able to
sleep. She questioned her easy acceptance of Patrick’s role in what
had become a tense political climate. There were so many reasons
that the ten-year-old ought not to be out at night. She could
picture every kind of accident where he could be injured or
frightened. However in her heart, she knew that Patrick’s decision
was the right one. This was his country now and he must involve
himself in fighting for it.

In the morning she wondered if she should
tell Simon, but watching her father and the boy during breakfast,
she had a sneaking suspicion that he already knew and tacitly
approved of Patrick’s activities. The next time Patrick informed
her that he would be delivering the broadsides, Judith noted that
the dinner meal was an especially filling one. Naturally the
dessert was cherry pie. But despite her outward acquiescence to the
boy’s undertaking, Judith was deeply troubled.

She was afraid for Patrick on his night
deliveries. With the war fever escalating, the tension in Newport
was increasing. There had been more ships arriving and a rowdy
element had invaded the wharves and the surrounding areas. Patrick
should not be abroad after dark and it was in part his hero worship
that drove him to join in the clandestine operations. She could not
understand how Palatine could permit a child to take such
risks.

Worst of all for Judith was her own
indecision. On the one hand she had come to love America and wanted
to become a part of this new country. Yet her roots were buried
deep in the English soil and she felt disloyal when she applauded
the work that Palatine was doing. She had always thought of herself
as an Englishwoman, despite the fact that she had been born in
Newport. Her values were wholly English, weren’t they?

Even as the question reverberated in her
mind, Judith realized that was no longer true. She had broadened
her values since her arrival in America. In actual fact she
suspected that over the years, Simon had been able to expose her to
a more open education than would have normally been hers. She had
not been isolated within her social set, her father had seen to
that. Each visit had increased her visions of the world and fed her
innate curiosity. Simon had stretched her mind by introducing her
to new ideas that now made her question her own values and
priorities. Even before her mother’s death, Judith realized that
she did not quite fit the mold that had been predestined for her by
her birth and background.

But did she belong here in Newport? She
didn’t know. She wished that there were someone that she could talk
to in order to get her own thoughts in order. Simon wanted her to
stay, so his advice would be colored by his own inclinations. For a
time she wondered if she might not be able to talk to Nathanael. He
was in a similar position. He could remain in Newport or he could
return to England. She wondered if he too felt torn by a feeling of
separateness. At times when she talked to him he was the consummate
English lord, at others the independent American. Day after day she
wrestled with her thoughts.

“Tonight, I’m going to actually meet
Palatine! Roger says he’s going to give us the broadsheets
himself.”

Patrick had found Judith in the garden. He
had whispered the words excitedly to her, before he raced to the
stables to feed Mercury. Alone again, Judith sat very still, her
hands clutching the book she had been reading.

If only she could see Palatine, Judith
grumbled. The mystery pamphleteer knew his place in the scheme of
things. He was not straddling two cultures, but had chosen his
life’s course. She thought if she could just see him she would be
able to envision her own path more clearly. She stared across the
gravel paths and wondered why it had been her misfortune to be born
a girl. For a moment she wished that she could go with Patrick on
his nighttime adventure. Suddenly her wish formed into a hard knot
of resolve. No matter how foolish the idea sounded, she knew she
had to look at the man who had become a symbol of decision for her.
Placing the book firmly in her lap, she began to examine the
possibilities and decide how she would accomplish the feat.

All she needed to do was to follow Patrick
to the meeting place. According to the boy, Mercury had an aversion
to leaving his warm stall for the excitement of these nightly
forays. She could easily keep up with the laggardly pace of the
pony. For a moment she debated asking Patrick if she might go with
him, but on further reflection, she abandoned the idea. Even at
ten, he had a tendency to contemplate his activities as man’s work.
Besides, he had a clear, if misguided, idea of a proper young
lady’s behavior and she suspected he would view with horror any
suggestion that she wished to traipse around the countryside in the
middle of the night.

Judith questioned the wisdom of her scheme.
If it was dangerous for Patrick, it would be doubly dangerous for
her. Only women of the lowest morals would be traveling alone
during the night. If she was discovered, she might be subjected to
more than injury. It was definitely a man’s world, she muttered
rebelliously. No one would question a man’s right to be abroad.

On that thought, a picture crystalized in
Judith’s mind. She had found a trunk of old clothes in the spare
bedroom. There ought to be something there she could use to
disguise her figure. Dare she even consider such an outrageous
undertaking? Before she could turn missish, she got up, walking
determinedly toward the house. Simon was out for the afternoon, so
she should be undisturbed as she chose a suitable costume.

Judith looked up from the mending in her
lap. She peered across the parlor at Simon, nodding over the book
in his hands. Patrick had already gone up for the night. He would
nap until midnight and then slip down the stairs to the kitchen and
the door into the garden. Once Judith became aware of his evening
sojourns, she convinced him that she would worry less if he used a
more conventional method of exiting the house. The boy had hated
giving up the adventure of tree climbing, but one look at her
anxious face and he had agreed.

Folding the mending into a bundle, Judith
coughed lightly to waken Simon. She preceded her father up the
stairs and kissed him good night in the hallway before turning
toward her own room. Pulling the door closed behind her, she set
the candlestick on the bureau. She rummaged in the back of the
clothes press for the garments she had discovered in her afternoon
search. Still uncertain, she hesitated. Then she shrugged,
unbuttoned her dress and struggled into her disguise.

BOOK: Sweet Deception Regency 07 - The Divided Hearts
7.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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