"Then when you send him, you will give the order to return Sally to England, with or without Haverford's approval?"
"David, there are so many nuances to this. It cannot be explained to your satisfaction in moments, and you will not be satisfied at all if you do not listen to me. Your Aunt Cherry is ill, and the trip will present her a great many difficulties, which is why Sally agreed to leave—well, that and the rumours, which I expect you have heard for yourself. Cherry has agreed to keep me abreast of their location, even if Haverford objects, and your Aunt Eleanor will act as conduit for Cherry's letters, should Haverford remain obdurate. Everyone is on your side in this. And on Sally's side. Except Haverford, and he is just stubborn and not thinking clearly. You must understand we all know what is at stake for you.
"As such, the crew I chose includes men who spent years protecting me, and who are aware of Sally's value to this family. She will be safeguarded by the best merchant sailors and former naval men I could muster, who answer to me and to Hawley—not to Haverford—and who will die in her service rather than see her harmed. That would never have been the case had they bought passage on the nearest steamship."
Toad nodded, aware of the loyalty his mother held among Seventh Sea sailors.
"And my father?" Toad snorted. "What did he do on my behalf? Provide her a new wardrobe for her trip?"
She sipped her tea again. "Your father, David, assured Sally he would not stand in the way of your marriage upon her return, which, we hope, will ensure she does not have her head turned by another man during her travels."
Toad stood so fast his brandy spilled from the glass. "He did what?"
"He stood for you against Haverford, though it may have cost him his oldest friend."
"He and Haverford split? After fifty years?"
"Time will tell, but at the moment, yes. Your father is not heartless, and he regrets the rift between you."
"He does not, or he would not seek to further it."
"You have been treating him as an enemy so long, he has taken it as truth, and you share a stubborn streak that puts the whole of Scotland to shame. Your father loves you, David, and would lay down his life for you, whether you wish to believe it or not. Everything he does is to further your wealth, power, and influence upon his death."
Toad sat back down, reaching up again to rub a hand across his face, like his father, so stopped and reached for his brandy. "I do not wish him to further my wealth, power, and influence. I wish him to support my position."
"He does, David. And I meant what I wrote to you. You must decide if you wish to see your father before you inherit from him. I think you have things to say to each other, though it will require one or the other to be the bigger man, and I am not sure your identical ducal temperaments will allow it."
Toad turned his face away, but he said in a low tone, "I intend to see him tomorrow, and I mean to be civil if I fall over dead from it."
"Excellent. I shall demand such consideration from the duke this evening. Captain Hawley and I have a wager on how long it will take one or the other of you to abandon the best behaviour you've promised and explode, but I will not tell you who has bet how much on whom. And incidentally, my boy, Captain Hawley says you are an outstanding sailor in every respect, and he will be honoured to operate Seventh Sea alongside you when and if the time comes."
"He said that?"
"He did. Would you like to hear what else he says about you? I would not have you imagine he is yet another person acting against you, and I doubt he is any more forthcoming with compliments than he was when I was your age."
YOU ARE READING
Never Kiss a ToadRomance
[A Victorian romance continuing family stories begun in the various Regency books of Jude Knight and Mariana Gabrielle.] David "Toad" Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah "Sal" Grenf...