Nineteen year-old Lady Allisandra is a ward of King Charles II. When he orders her from court to stay with her old friend Elizabeth Hastings, the Duchess of Langley, Allisandra finds herself trapped inside a coach-and-four with the notorious rake Lord Dorchester.
Linore Rose Burkard
Nineteen year-old Lady Allisandra is a ward of King Charles II. When he orders her from court to stay with her old friend Elizabeth Hastings, the Duchess of Langley, Allisandra finds herself trapped inside a coach-and-four with the notorious rake Lord Dorchester. Has the duchess betrayed her? Perhaps, but things are not as they appear, and whether it is Her Grace, the infamous earl of Dorchester or the king himself bent on evil,only time will tell. In the meantime, how does a strong-minded young woman handle first a highwayman, then a debauched earl? Find out in this tale of the late 1600s in England, when conspiracy and betrayal can lead to unexpected love.
Note: This is a 15,000+ word short story.
A well-appointed aristocratic coach rumbled to a stop in front of the stately family seat of the Duchess of Langley. The night was cheerless with no moon to speak of, stars hidden in a gloomy pall, and the air bitingly cold.
Her Grace, a woman of a matronly age but without children, hurried to emerge from the vehicle the moment the steps were down. She stopped and turned at the door, however, and said to the young Allisandra FitzJames behind her, “No, not you, my dear.” She seemed apologetic as she shut the door on Allisandra, leaving her inside the coach.
The duchess’s eyes were regretful but Allisandra, mistaking their meaning, inferred that a game was afoot. She felt a small thrill at the thought. No wonder her friend had dragged her out on such an ungodly night. And why else would Elizabeth proceed to shut the carriage door behind her, leaving Allisandra alone inside the equipage on a cold, dark night? She was preparing some sort of surprise!
Through the window, the duchess added, “Stay put, sweet, I have need to call upon your trust in me as your friend.” Her face wrinkled in concern, and she looked out into the darkness as though searching for something.
Allisandra smiled. “Elizabeth, I prithee, what game is this?” But the duchess held up a gloved hand.
“All will be made plain, I avow, sweet child.” She resumed her preoccupied expression, looking about anxiously. To Allisandra's puzzled face, the duchess added, “'Tis for the best. For your safety! You are like my own daughter!”
“My dear Elizabeth!” Allisandra was no longer amused. Her friend was not playing a game, she could see that by the gravity of her expression, and the seriousness of her tone. Filled with alarm, Allisandra threw off her warm wrap, ignored the biting cold, and flung herself at the door. Whatever Elizabeth was up to, she did not care for it. She wouldn’t abide it for a moment longer.
She tried to open the door and discovered a footman holding it shut from the outside. With dismay, she turned and saw that the other door was guarded as well. Her thoughts began running together, trying to make sense of what was happening.
“Elizabeth!” She would demand an explanation, but the duchess was not in sight, and Allisandra’s fear took a sharp turn for the worse. An ominous foreboding seemed to fall upon the turn of events which had led to this moment.
Earlier that night…
Lady Allisandra and the Duchess had been getting on famously, as they always did. She had come to stay at Langley with much relief, leaving His Majesty's court as a Woman of the Bedchamber to the Queen with little reluctance. Court life was filled with intrigues and suspicions, and she was weary of having to deflect amorous advances of courtiers as well as glances of suspicion from those who maintained she had been mistress to the king. Preposterous!
Lady Allisandra, almost nineteen, was the King's ward—one of many, but his undisputed favorite. It was for this reason, his favouring her, that people either courted her acquaintance or were jealous of her. Despite her affection for the Queen, therefore, when her royal guardian had instructed that she should remove to Langley, with no explanation or specified amount of time, she had not required either. Indeed, she was happy to visit her longtime friend, the Duchess of Langley, Elizabeth Hastings.
Now, however, she felt more than a trifle alarmed at this behaviour on the lady's part. Elizabeth had formed what seemed a flimsy excuse to induce Allisandra to go outside this cold evening, saying she longed for air—but that Allisandra must accompany her. No sooner had they left the great house, than the duchess decided it was a drive she needed—in the black of night!--and lo, but the duchess's luxurious coach and four were already in front, at their service.
It was clear, even then, that Elizabeth had been up to something. But there was no reason for Allisandra to think it had anything to do with her. Moreover, she loved her friend and wished to be agreeable , so she asked no questions and did as the duchess bade her. Now she was regretting having done so. It appeared Elizabeth had a secret reason for inducing Allisandra to take the drive. What could her friend be thinking? Had she forgotten, already, the recent shock Allisandra had suffered when the coach she'd been travelling in—on her way to Langley only three weeks earlier—had been set upon by highwaymen?
In the end, that event had left her impressed with a man she ought to despise; but he was singular for a highwayman, the type to fill a girl's head with romantic notions. What's more, he hadn't hurt her. To this day, she thought of him wistfully—against her better judgment of course. Though her encounter at his hands had not ended in any great abuse, the rake had insisted upon kissing her.....