Berkshire, England, March 1815
Church bells chimed; birds sang; the sun shone and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, which was a blessing in itself when considering the fickleness of the English clime; oh what a glorious day this was for a wedding.
At last, Amelia and Jonathan were together and officiated in matrimony in the eyes of God and the world. In fact they had been engaged for nearly half a year. Time had passed by so quickly and now they were leaving the chapel on Amelia’s father’s estate and heading to the manor house where the wedding reception would be held. Amelia was Mrs. Jonathan Mitchell now, or as her mother would prefer, Lady Amelia Mackinnon of Mitchell. It still made her smile. Mother had gotten all she had ever wished for in the end. And Amelia, well, she couldn’t have been happier.
So much had happened. After the duel when Amelia had feared for Jonathan’s life, her father and mother had miraculously accepted Jonathan as the man she loved. To a certain extent, Sir Thomas owed Jonathan his life – his gentlemanly conduct had been exemplary for in not returning fire, Jonathan had chosen honor above revenge. In Regency Britain and back in America such conduct was considered the pinnacle of chivalrous behavior.
Things had turned out even better than that. Amelia’s father even considered Jonathan as his son. So much so that father-in-law and his new son-in-law had agreed to enter into business together. It was strange how men could despise each other one day and bury the hatchet the very next.
The two of them were a match made in heaven. Sir Thomas’s business acumen and experience in the merchant shipping business combined with Jonathan and Jake’s hands-on maritime knowledge and familiarity with the American side of things had the makings of a very successful enterprise indeed. Already, ships fully loaded with cotton were leaving Richmond and Charleston for Liverpool and its mills that would make the finest cloth, dominating the market for decades to come.
But that was not what this day was all about. Love had triumphed and that was all that mattered. Two people, four to be precise when including Anna and Jake, had found each other and prevailed against considerable odds. War, dissident parents and an unwanted betrothal could not stand in loves way.
“Happy, my Lady Amelia?” asked Jonathan, chuckling. He still wasn’t sure whether he liked being a peer of the realm. In his heart, Jonathan was a veritable American patriot that had fought against the British in the War of 1812. But what could it hurt? Both Great Britain and the United States of America had signed the peace treaty at Ghent. And despite their differences these two countries had finally realized that their future would be better off as trade partners forging a wealthier tomorrow.
Amelia eyed her husband closely. “Are you still making a mockery of the British way of doing things?” she chided.
“I just find it strange that a man like me would ever carry such a title,” said Jonathan, eying his bride closely.
His breath hitched in his throat. Amelia looked beautiful. Her ash-black hair was elegantly yet simply arranged. Its beauty owed more to its natural wave than to the art of the friseur; her dark tresses were crowned with a most superb wreath of white blossoms. Her dress, although white upon first glance, had a silver sheen that was enhanced by the silky texture of the fabric. The garment was perfect; body and sleeves were in flawless harmony and elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace.
Jonathan smiled when he saw the engagement gifts he had presented her. Amelia bedazzled with diamond earrings and an armlet made of the same delight and a splendid set of pearls around her neck.
“Have you been listening to a word I have been saying?” she asked, studying him closely.
Jonathan laughed again. It was as if all of the tension of the matrimonial ceremony and their travails of old were leaving his body. He was the happiest man alive to be married to the woman he had abducted on the high seas not so long ago. He had taken much booty in his time as the captain of the Trion, but Amelia was the greatest prize and one that would last a lifetime. “Yes…I was listening. It is just that you are so beautiful, Amelia. I tend to lose my train of thought when I look upon your loveliness.”
An impish expression crossed her face; it was particularly evident in the way the corners of her mouth inched up. “Then I suppose that I should use this moment to my advantage and press on the issue of purchasing a property here in England.”
Again he laughed. “We all know the saying; ‘father like son’, but in this case I would have to claim that it is more like, ‘father like daughter’.”
This time it was Amelia who laughed. “Good timing is everything when negotiating.” She grinned at him. Like her husband, she could not be more content. But a home in England would add the icing on the cake.
“Ah…is that what this is?” he asked with a smirk skirting his lips.
“Indeed it is. I am your wife now and your woman in all things.” She puckered her lips. “And I am English as well as your wife.”
Jonathan thought for a moment. “Well, I suppose we could have a look at a few properties when we get back from our honeymoon.”
Amelia could’ve jumped up and down with glee. But her garments would not allow for such antics. Also, her mother, even though considerably mellowed since Jonathan had become her son-in-law, was in close attendance. She would not approve of such uncouth behavior and especially as she was following closely behind them with the Duchess of Waverly and her coterie of ladies in tow.
“Now that you brought that up, I am eager to see what your family’s lands are like;” said Amelia.
“Aye, I hear that the Highlands are magical,” said Jonathan, imitating a Scottish accent.
“That was terrible,” she said, smiling.
“It was all I could pick up from Anna,” said Jonathan, referring to Anna’s Scottish heritage.
Holding hands, they walked the short distance that remained to the manor house. The luncheon would be held indoors as it was still too fresh to eat outside. More than two hundred people went with them. They were the pinnacle of society. Ever since the prince regent had bestowed such honor on the now famous American, the Carlyle’s had, in a sense, attained celebrity status. An invitation to the wedding was considered a must in the year’s social calendar.
“Ah, the bride and groom. Isn’t she lovely?” announced the prince regent. He was attired in his usual extravagant ensemble that this time had taken on the persona of an admiral in the Royal Navy. He stood happily in the drawing room quaffing champagne with Amelia’s father, the Duke of Brandon and two members of the ‘Dandy Club’.
“Here, here,” said Sir Thomas with pride lacing his voice.
“And married to a laird no less.” The regent winked at Jonathan who smiled back at him. “Ah, I see that your best man is never far behind you, Mitchell,” said the regent when he saw Jake and Anna stepping into the drawing room with more and more wedding guests.
“He is a very good friend,” said Jonathan.
“That he is,” concurred the regent.
“Priney, it is wonderful to see you. We must play another game of backgammon very soon. The last time you really got the better of me,” said Jake, approaching. To Anna’s chagrin, he had been spending quite some time at the White’s Club in London as of late.
The regent chuckled. “It was but mere luck, Jake. But I will take up the challenge,” he said with a wink.
“Not today the two of yewon’t,” said Anna in her customary direct manner. “This is a wedding celebration and not some gathering of drunken men trying to avoid their women.”
The regent arched his eyebrows. Those people that had heard the remark started to take a few steps back lest the royal deflate his corpulence in wrath. “So, this is your betrothed, Jake?” he asked, eying the feisty Scotswoman.
Jake inclined his head. “Yes, I have the good fortune to call this woman as such. She is a singular red rose in a garden of white blooms.”
The regent’s face lit up. “I would have to agree with you…singular in that she has a great many thorns. Do be careful, dear Jake, for I have the feeling that this lady has the better of you.”
This remark invited much hilarity. “What would a rose be without the odd thorn, Priney. I would have her no other way,” said Jake, looking at Anna fondly.
Jake and the regent continued to exchange hearty banter. Jonathan and Sir Thomas stepped to the side so that they could discuss business. They made especially sure that they were out of the regent’s earshot because everybody knew that he abhorred commercial speak.
“So, my dear. You look like the happiest woman in the whole of England,” said the Duke of Brandon, fondly.
“I am, Your Grace. I could not be more pleased,” said Amelia.
“Then I am too. I find there is nothing more enticing than a woman in love,” he said.
“Always the romantic my husband,” said a lady’s voice. The sound was crisp and authoritative but not unappealing.
Amelia’s gaze instantly sought out its source. Standing before her was a handsome lady well into her fifties. Amelia’s estimate of her age was based on mere assumption. She had guessed, assuming she would be just as old as the duke whom she knew was slightly over sixty.
“So, we finally meet, Lady Mackinnon of Mitchell.” The tall woman with the silvery grey hair and the aristocratic face that exuded the apex of breeding held out a gloved hand.
Not knowing what else to do, Amelia curtseyed. The Duchess of Brandon was like a force of nature; it was as if she could will people to do her bidding with just the strength of her gaze. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Your Grace,” she said, taking the proffered hand.
To Amelia’s surprise the duchess smiled. “Your love affair with the American has taken England by storm, my dear.” Her words were not in malice no matter the phraseology.
“It is not what we wanted, Your Grace. We fell in love,” said Amelia, stiffening her posture in preparation for a confrontation with the mother of her erstwhile betrothed.
“Indeed…there is no more worthier cause than love.” She stroked her husband’s arm affectionately. “I wish you both the best of luck, my dear.” With those words, she departed.
“Does she not despise me?” Amelia was flabbergasted.
The duke chuckled. “My darling wife knows of the mistakes she made with our son. In fact, it was her idea to send him to India in the first place. I was not entirely sure at first, but ultimately I saw the wisdom in her decision.” The duke pleated his brow. “It appears William Congreve had a point when he coined the saying ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. It appears that she was rather put out by our son’s behavior towards you.”
“How did she know? I never met the duchess before today,” said Amelia.
“She knows everything, my dear.”
The duke said no more on the subject as they slowly moved in the direction of the ballroom that had been prepared for a large banquet. Before them, Jonathan and her father, still in deep conversation, walked. Priney and Jake were exchanging jokes with the ‘Dandy Club’ and to Amelia’s great surprise, Anna was conversing with the Duchess of Waverly and her mother.
The world was a strange place she decided. Social and nationalistic divide were such pillars in the world she lived in, and yet, here she was among people representing both those compasses and still there was harmony. Maybe there was hope for the future after all, she thought. There had to be. She loved Jonathan and soon they would be one not only in soul but also in body – ultimately, love would always prevail.
Ah, before you go...
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