continued from here:
The inquisitive governess wonders whether a spoonful of brimstone and treacle is in order.
Two or three sheets of parchment were scattered over the desk in the corner of the room with writing tools, tracing paper, a pot of glue and an oil-paint brush. A half page had been cut from one o f the old, unruled and incomplete Parish Registers. The Earl had refined his brainchild whilst watching Freddy make a brass-rubbing of the fourteenth century Thomas, Lord Berkeley and his wife, Margaret. He had followed the contours of Hupsman’s signature again and again until he was satisfied that in freehand it appeared reasonably authentic. Augustus Thomas Hupsman. The late vicar had inspired the measure and his restless spirit brooded over it now, clutching at straws for exculpation. He had never deviated from the belief that the Earl of Berkeley and Mary Cole were married on the thirtieth day of March in the year of Grace one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-five. If that were not quintessentially the case, he believed he would be everlastingly damned for blasphemy.
Upon brief inspection, the text in the body of the registration might be worthy of comparison with that of the Banns, but in many ways was unlike it. In the first instance, it had no printed lines or words where information might be filled in. Also, the ink had faded on the Banns: that had been written with a very fine quill, whereas Berkeley’s was cut to a more assertive thickness, the ink blacker. His was a wholly confident, not to say arrogant, hand. There was a calculated inconsistency in the way of forming a capital A which might imply to the reader that the record had been prepared by a clerk. The A of Frederick Augustus in the opening words was in a different style to the A of Augustus in Hupsman’s moniker the end. In any case, Berkeley reasoned, there had been a space of approximately four months between the first and second documents. Another pen would have been used. If he were to make a fresh copy of the Banns, suspicion might be aroused. A vestige of truthfulness made him stall at further forgery. The doings of this day were ominous enough!
The Earl ceased shifting from boot to boot, and resuming his seat at the desk, scored a curt and irascible autograph under the deposition. Berkeley. Mary and William were leaning over him with bated breath.
“Now you, Mary.” He rose and delivered the pen into her hand.
Mary sat down. Electricity crackled along her nape. She recalled that strange moment in St. Mary-at-Lambeth on the day of her marriage and strove to control her shaking hand. Mary Cole. With the last stroke of the pen, there was a knock at the door so that the tail of the E jerked a fraction. In much consternation, she hurried to answer it.
“Price! I gave explicit instructions that I was not to be disturbed!”
“A thousand apologies for the intrusion, your ladyship. I would not have inconvenienced you, but Henry is not at all well. A bilious attack coming on, I suspect. I wonder, should I give him a little bicarbonate of soda in warm water? Or a spoonful of brimstone and treacle, perhaps?” The governess peered over Mary’s shoulder into the room with a defiant curiosity at variance with her air of servitude. Her penetrating eye took in the muddled paperwork, and the calf tomes with marbling. The sunblinds had been drawn down against the ditchwater light of February, as if to prevent being spied upon from the upper rooms on the other side of the courtyard. A pillar candle on the desk wavered and streamed in the draught from the open door, casting huddled silhouettes in torsion upon the walls.
“Give him a teaspoon of Nux Vomica, well-shaken,” bade Mary and pushed the door shut, accidentally stubbing Price’s toes.
William took a quill with a needle-like point and wrote a miserly W. Tudor with the barest touch of Rococo flamboyance. No generous William Henry Tudor here lending himself to felicitation of the couple. The mark of the nomad Richard Barns was easy to improvise.
to be continued
read preview excerpts from THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Book Two of the Berkeley Trilogy
Frederick Augustus, 5th Earl of Berkeley and eldest son, William Fitzhardinge Berkeley (the disputed Lord Dursley)
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...