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Authors: Roberta Gellis

The Cornish Heiress

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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

The Cornish Heiress

 

ISBN 9781419921001

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Cornish Heiress Copyright © 1981, 2009 Roberta Gellis

 

Cover art by Dar Albert.

 

Electronic book Publication March 2009

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are
registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not
be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written
permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc., 1056 Home Avenue,
Akron, OH 44310-3502.

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or
distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be
scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means,
electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright
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electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the
electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights
is appreciated.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

The Cornish Heiress
Roberta Gellis

Author’s Note

 

In the eighteenth and the very beginning of the nineteenth
centuries, smuggling was a way of life in Cornwall. Everyone was involved to
some extent: to stave off starvation or obtain an occasional luxury, the common
folk were happy to aid the smugglers or to “watch the wall” while the
“gentlemen” went by. The gentry bought the goods and also “looked the other
way”. However, for the gentry a marked gulf existed between drinking untaxed
liquor or smoking untaxed tobacco and actually making money out of smuggling.
To be exposed as engaging in the unsavory trade for profit could bring severe
social penalties, even if one escaped the legal consequences; one would become
déclassé and be ostracized.

As in
The English Heiress
, every attempt has been
made to maintain historical accuracy. Although the central characters of the
book are fictional, as are the adventures in which they are engaged, the
general events are real. England did fear an invasion and Bonaparte was indeed
in Boulogne in November 1803, going about the workshops and camps and
encouraging the men to greater efforts. However, it should be noted that it was
not possible for the author to discover certain facts, like the real name of
the
Chef du port maritime
of Boulogne in 1803 or whether he had a
daughter. Since the result of Philip’s spying was entirely negative—the
invasion fleet, despite Bonaparte’s efforts, was not ready until 1805 and in
fact never was launched—the intrusion of a fictional spy does no violence to
historical events.

In the same way, although Jacques d’Ursine, Francois Charon,
and the other French agents are fictional, no distortion of reality results.
The basic contention that some émigrés became spies for Bonaparte is true, as
is the implication that some found their way into high places owing to their
aristocratic connections before exile. Typical types are used: those who are
totally unprincipled and those who are true patriots. It must be remembered,
however, that only one side of the coin is shown in this book; in reality, as
many émigrés were devoted to their adopted country and served England
faithfully, and also there were plenty of Englishmen who betrayed their nation
for money.

The final adventure is dealt with similarly. Georges
Cadoudal and the plots to overthrow and later to assassinate Bonaparte are
real. There is evidence that Méhée de la Touche and Joseph Fouché were involved
as described. Logic demands some communication between the supporters of the
plot in England and the activists in France. Again, no violence is done to
history if fictional characters take part in a way that “must have” happened.

It is my hope that this pastiche of reality and fantasy will
bring life to history and be both enjoyable and informative. Any comments or
corrections from readers will be gratefully received.

 

Roberta Gellis

Lafayette, 1981, 2009

Chapter One

 

“Have you given Philip money to pay his debts again,
Leonie?” Roger St. Eyre asked his wife. Leonie raised her golden eyes to her
husband’s bright blue ones. “
Sacré
bleu
,” she sighed, “please do
not be angry with him, Roger. It does not mean anything to me—you know that. It
was not that he feared to go to you. It is only—I cannot bear to see him so
unhappy. He did not ask me. He does not even know—”

“I know that,” Roger said, kissing her fondly and sitting
down beside her. “How do you think I found out? Philip came to thank me, and to
tell me—very stiff and proper—that it was not necessary. He had his own plan
for settling, he said. I just told him that I hadn’t known he was in debt
again.”

“Stiff and proper?” Leonie repeated anxiously. “Is he still angry
because you would not buy him a commission, Roger?”

“No. He may be a fool, but not that much of a one. He did as
I suggested and looked into the matter more carefully. Besides, I didn’t say I
wouldn’t
buy him a commission. I said I didn’t think the life would suit him and pointed
out that he was just as likely to be sent to the Indies or ordered to guard one
of the damn palaces as to be involved in the war with France. He went out to
prove me wrong—and found out I was right.”

“Do you think he will wish to enter the navy now?” Leonie
asked fearfully.

“No.” Roger smiled. “The navy is not a service a person can
enter as an adult. Besides, Philip knows that life is even more rigid and
restricted than the army.” Roger paused and his mouth hardened. “God in heaven,
I will never forgive myself. I should have strangled Solange a week after she gave
birth to him. Dead thirteen years, her curse still lingers.”

Leonie did not answer that. She never uttered any criticism
of her husband’s first wife, although she often felt she would have killed
Solange with her bare hands had she not been dead already. Roger was right. The
scars Solange had inflicted on her husband and her son, though healed, still
deformed them. Solange had ignored Philip as an infant, and later had tried to
use him to manipulate Roger. The only reason Philip was not totally ruined was that
Roger had given him the warmth and tenderness, the unvarying affection that made
him a whole person.

To save his own sanity, Roger had yielded to Solange in her
insistence on surrounding Philip completely with French servants. It did not
seem important to him that the child spoke French far better than English. He
was bilingual himself and assumed Philip would drop the French for English when
he started school. He was more concerned with his son’s character, and he
talked to him a great deal about the need to reason out what was right rather than
blindly do what a feared—or even a loved—authority ordered.

Roger was thinking of Solange when he was so insistent that
Philip reason rather than obey. However, the habit of independent thinking, encouraged
by Roger himself always listening to his son and explaining why a thing must be
done, was carried beyond his mother’s influence. Innocently, Roger had taught Philip
to resist the urge to “be like everyone else”, because that was the excuse Solange
used most often to explain her gambling and extravagance. He never meant, of
course, that Philip should resist when what “everyone else” was doing, was good
and sensible, and, in general, Philip did understand that. However, the habit of
sticking by his guns unless there was a good reason not to had wider
repercussions than Roger ever dreamed.

These began quite early. When Philip went to school and the
boys called him ‘‘Frenchy”, he blacked their eyes to prove he was a good Englishman
rather than change his patterns of speech. In fact, the pressure of his peers and
his teachers made him cling passionately to his accent and to speaking French
by preference. The problem eventually grew so acute that the headmaster referred
it to Philip’s father.

After, soothing the headmaster, who was greatly incensed by
the flouting of his authority and not at all in sympathy with Roger’s notion
that he should have given Philip a
reason
for speaking English rather than
simply ordering him to do so and beating him when he refused, Roger interviewed
his son.

“It does no harm,” Philip said stubbornly. “It is
my
way
of speaking.”

Roger could not help chuckling. “It certainly did no good to
Lord Erne’s eye or to Lord Kevern’s nose, not to speak of the Honorable
Elliot’s loose teeth.”

Philip had cast a flickering glance at his father. What he saw
made him grin cheerfully. “Perce and Harry did not mind, and they were not
Elliot’s
front
teeth, sir. They were the side ones that had to come out
anyway. Really, sir, I do not see why the headmaster made such a fuss. The
other fellows only wanted to be sure I was not a sissy. We are all friends now.”

“Well, there are less destructive ways of proving your
manhood,” Roger felt obliged to say, but the reprimand was rather spoiled by
the twinkle in his eyes andthe golden guinea he pressed into his son’s
hand. Then he grew more serious. “But I do not like rudeness, Philip, and it is
very
rude to chatter in a language others around you don’t understand or
have difficulty understanding. Certainly I don’t insist that you speak English
exactly as the others do, but I hope you will be sufficiently a gentleman in
the future to match your manner and speech to your company.”

The arrested look on the boy’s face—cruel rudeness was one
of the devices his mother had used both on him and, in front of his face, on
his father—showed Roger he had made his point, and he said no more. A good
reason was usually enough to set Philip on the right path. He was a remarkably intelligent
child. To a degree Roger was right. There was no more trouble about language. Although
Philip never lost his accent and French continued to be the language he spoke
by preference, he soon switched back and forth between English and French without
thought, responding automatically to the tongue in which he was addressed.

However, Roger had long ago stopped worrying about Philip’s speech.
He was an extremely, a compulsively, just person. “It is not fair to blame
Solange completely,” he said. “I had more influence on Philip. My lectures on
reason sank in a little too far, I suppose.”

Leonie could not restrain a little giggle at that understatement.
She suppressed it as quickly as she could, but her eyes danced. “
Eh bien
,
but once Philippe got to Oxford he was much better,” she comforted as gravely
as she could. “He saw the reasons for the rules and was quite—ah,
ma
foi
—most
of the time he stayed out of trouble.” Then the laughter died out of her face and
her big golden eyes looked haunted. “But his hatred for the French—that is my fault.
I—”

Roger put his arms around his wife and kissed her. “You have
done him only good, my love. You always knew just how to deal with him.”

“But I never corrected him,” she murmured. “I let him get
into all kinds of mischief. I even joined him. You were often angry—”

“Never angry, Leonie,” Roger smiled at her. “Sometimes
exasperated, but never angry. Anyway,” he added briskly, “you were right. You
could stop him from doing anything really dangerous or bad just with that ‘
Mais,
Philippe, non
!’ where all my lectures—and reasons—would have been useless.”

“Yes, in little things, but in this… Oh, Roger, you can make
me talk of something different, but it is my hatred of the French that Philippe
has absorbed. I tried not to—but…”

“Don’t be silly, Leonie. You don’t hate the French, you’re
half French yourself. I don’t think he hates them either. He’s just young. He
wants to be a hero.”


Bien sûr
, but it is more than that. When the war was
declared in 1793, Philippe did not care. Your stepmother told me. He was
worried about you, but once you were back he showed no interest in the war. I
know that because all he talked of was his school—the games and sports. It was only
after he started to ask me what had happened to my family that he began to talk
of the ‘iniquities’ of the French.”

Roger shrugged. “Then it is my fault. I told him more than you
ever did. All you said was that it was dull and uncomfortable to be in prison.”

“But he is very sensitive, that Philippe, and
very
clever.
He read inside me… He saw…

She shuddered and Roger held her closer. Neither of them talked
of the real horrors of Leonie’s imprisonment, of how she had been brutally raped
by several men, of her mother and brother dying in the filthy cellar where they
had been confined, of her father being shot and killed during their escape. Roger
feared that she was right, that despite her light, smiling refusal to discuss
those dreadful months, Philip had drawn his own conclusions. Philip adored
Leonie. He would very likely wish to revenge her hurts. However, that was something
Roger would never admit. He would not, if he could prevent it, permit Leonie to
blame herself for what could not be helped.

“Nonsense,” he said briskly. “He never said a word about
joining the army all the time he was at Oxford. He talked himself into ‘hatred’
in those damned debating societies. I wish they had improved his English instead
of fixing the horrors of ‘republicanism’ in his mind. And then the ‘peace’
nearly drove him insane.”

Diverted momentarily, Leonie giggled again. “You were no
better, raving on and on about Cornwallis accepting terms that were only
fitting for a ‘defeated nation’ and taking worse losses at the conference table
than he had in the American colonies. Humiliating, you said.”

“I still think so.” Roger’s blue eyes flashed vividly. “And
then Bonaparte violated every provision, and screamed bloody murder when we would
not evacuate Malta.” He shrugged again. “It was that, I suppose, that really
set Philip off. I should have held my tongue. It was when war was declared
again that he first said he wanted a commission. Perhaps I should just have
purchased it and let—“

“No!’ Leonie exclaimed. “He would have ended up in Court-Martial.
Besides, Philippe admitted he was wrong. I know he was furious at first, but he
was very glad to make up the quarrel when you sent for him.”

“Yes,” Roger sighed, “but things aren’t really much better.
He’s never sober, and I’m afraid he’s developing a taste for gaming that will
end in disaster. And then I had to be so stupid as to suggest buying him a seat
in Parliament.”

Leonie squeezed her husband’s hand sympathetically, but
there was little she could say. That suggestion had been very unwise. It only
produced another violent quarrel in which Philip, quite justly, accused his
father of violating his principles out of affection. It was true, but Leonie
knew Roger hated to see his son turning to the usual opiates of a young man
with money—wine, women, and gambling.

“I’m at my wits’ end,” Roger admitted. “There’s nothing to
do but let him run his course.”

Roger had traveled the same road himself after his first
marriage turned sour, so he had not criticized his son’s excesses. He had not
even remonstrated with Philip when he outran his very generous allowance, but
had paid the debts presented without a word of blame. The second time Roger had
said only, “Draw it a little milder, Philip. You look like hell.”

Because self-disgust and guilt do not breed patience in the
young, this gentle reproof had sent Philip back to his own chambers in a black
rage, which expanded into another round of wild parties and all-night gambling
sessions. It was fortunate that Philip was either a lucky or a skillful
gambler. Men had been known to gamble away their entire fortunes in a night.
The Duchess of Devonshire was reputed to have lost fifty thousand pounds in one
session at the tables. Philip’s excesses were not of that magnitude.
Nonetheless, he was soon in debt again.

He had said nothing to his father this time, resolved to
find his own solution to the problem he had created. At another time Roger
would have noticed that his son was more than usually disturbed. This time he
did not. For one thing, he had become accustomed to seeing Philip miserable and
sullen; for another, he was extraordinarily busy. When it became apparent that
the war would be resumed, Roger had been asked to act as a consultant on French
affairs to Lord Hawkesbury, the Foreign Minister.

It was thus Leonie who had noticed that her stepson was more
than ordinarily depressed. Thinking she could avoid another confrontation
between father and son, Leonie had deposited a large sum in Philip’s account, telling
his banker (who was hers also) to deny he knew where the money came from.
Fortunately for the banker, Philip had never thought to ask. When he found his
account unnaturally swollen, he had assumed his father had tried to spare him
the embarrassment of asking for money yet again. Philip had found this
generosity even more acutely painful, and Roger’s prompt and surprised
denial—which made it plain that his stepmother had been the culprit—caused him
even greater anguish.

“I will not touch it,” he had raged. “Leonie has no right—”

At which point Roger’s long patience had snapped and he had
gotten to his feet so quickly that the chair he had been sitting on crashed to
the floor. “If you say one word or do one thing to hurt Leonie,” he roared, “I
will give you the hiding you have well deserved for these past six months. Now
get the devil out of here! Take yourself and your petty vapors down to
Dymchurch and stay there until you can say ‘Thank you’ to your stepmother with
becoming gratitude. And don’t show either of us that sullen face again.
Get
out
!”

Roger’s lips tightened as he thought of the scene, and
Leonie relaxed her grip on his hand and sighed. “He was angry about the money.
No, he was quite right to be angry. I see now it was a stupid thing to do. I
did not think—only that a young man would be careless and take it gladly and
say nothing. I should have realized he is too much like you—too honest. I will
tell him I am sorry when he comes today. You know he stops in almost every
day.”

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