Donald paced casually in the Culpepper drawing room. A time traveler developed patience naturally. At least, that’s what the Board said was true. Donald had his doubts about that. Still, the girl was within his grasp. That satisfied him, even if the ensuing formalities would take a little time to get through.
The only thing that bothered him was that he had not had a glimpse of her since that first day he had arrived. Or the others. He knew they were part of the household. His research on that score had been thorough enough. But since the few dinners he’d had with Sir James had failed to turn up the three, Donald was forced to woo that fool girl in an effort to insinuate himself into the household.
Robin, Dean, and the girl had to be around someplace. He’d seen the girl, and that power pull had come from the Culpepper house. The girl hadn’t generated it. As far as Donald knew, she and the other two had no way of knowing he was there, so he doubted they were hiding. But where were they, especially Robin, who was the most dangerous of the three?
Donald shuddered. That Robin seemed to be staying one step ahead of him didn’t make sense. Donald idly wondered whether he wanted to get the girl or get Robin.
Sir James walked in.
“Ah, Mr. Farquhar, good day.” The old man seemed in a pleasant enough mood.
Donald nodded. “Good day, Sir James.”
“You do not wish to visit my daughter today?”
“Perhaps later.” Donald put on his most ingratiating smile. “I would like to discuss an urgent matter with you first.”
“Regarding?” Sir James signaled a young footman. “Some tea? The girl just brought it up.”
“Yes, I saw. Thank you.” Still smiling, Donald cursed inwardly. “The matter does concern your daughter.”
“Indeed.” Sir James rubbed his hands together expectantly.
Donald nodded at the footman as he accepted the cup of tea. “I’ve become quite fond of her.”
“Indeed.” Sir James’ eyebrow lifted as he watched the footman stand expectantly looking at Donald.
“I realize this is rather sudden.” Donald moved away from the footman. “But I’ve been given to understand that you are looking for a husband for her.”
“I am,” said Sir James, as he watched the footman elegantly sidle up next to Donald. “I am indeed.”
Donald turned an exasperated glare at the footman and moved away. “I would imagine she has quite a full list of suitors, but I should hate to lose my chance with her simply for lack of speaking my intentions, eh, sir.”
There was an awkward pause as the footman again placed himself expectantly next to Donald. Donald was about to move again when he suddenly remembered the blasted vail. It took no small effort to hide his disdain as he dropped the piece of silver into the young man’s hand. The footman, for his part, made no effort to hide his disdain as he withdrew.
“Insolent beasts,” Sir James grumbled cheerfully. “Now to your business. You’d like to be considered as a suitor, eh? Well, young man, what are you prepared to offer my daughter?”
“Fifty pounds a year allowance, plus any clothes she needs, and upon my death, should she survive me, her dowry and all my possessions, providing they go to our children upon her death.”
Sir James nodded. “Very generous.”
“I’ll also raise her allowance as my means prove capable.”
“Indeed.” Sir James smiled approvingly. “I must admit you make a very impressive offer. You’ve got very good references, too.” He paced about, musing. “Still, she is my only daughter. I would like to ensure her happiness, as well.”
Donald clicked his heels. “I will make her happiness my foremost priority.”
“Indeed.” Sir James stopped pacing. “Well, Mr. Farquhar, I think I can see my way to letting you press your suit. Let’s not say anything to Deborah or Her Ladyship just yet. Take some time and win my daughter’s heart first. We can draw up a preliminary contract Tuesday afternoon, if you will.”
“Very good, sir. Thank you.”
“Would you like to see Deborah now?”
“I would, thank you.”
Outside in the hall, Robin ran up the stairs. She knocked first on Dean and Elizabeth’s door, then burst in when admitted.
“Damn and blast!” She slammed the door shut.
“What’s the matter?” asked Dean. He had his breeches on and lounged on the bed. Elizabeth rested at the table.
“Neddrick, alias Farquhar.” Robin leaned on the door. “He just asked Sir James for Deborah’s hand, and Sir James all but handed it over.”
“Oh, no!” gasped Elizabeth.
“’Oh, no’ is right,” grumbled Robin. “The only thing I can figure is that he’s marrying Deborah to get at you, Elizabeth. But why?”
Elizabeth thought. “Perhaps he hopes to get to us by joining the household. He strikes me as too proud to come in as a servant.”
“But how could he know we’re here?” asked Dean.
“I have no idea,” said Robin. “But he must. Why else would we be taking such a drastic measure to insinuate himself into the family?”
“We’ll have to quit,” grumbled Dean.
Robin glared at him. “And where are we going to find jobs? People don’t just change employers willy-nilly here, you know.”
“Well, how much longer before you get the machine fixed?” Dean complained.
Robin sighed. “Dean, there’s a good chance I’ll never get that machine fixed. Half the materials it’s made from haven’t been discovered yet.”
“So boost Neddrick’s,” said Dean.
“It looks like I’ll have to,” Robin said.
Elizabeth shook her head. “I know you don’t like stealing, Robin, but it is the only way.”
“That’s for sure.” Robin began to pace. “You’re certainly in no shape to run for it. Not to mention it’s getting harder to cover up your condition.”
“I know.” Elizabeth pulled her India gown over her ample belly. “But if I must run, I must. Until then we must do what we can to save Deborah.”
“We do have to do that much,” Robin grumbled. “What are the odds of Lord Edward getting in there before the contract is drawn up?”
“So long even Anthony wouldn’t bet on them,” Dean snorted.
Robin winced. “We’ve really got to light a fire under that clown now if we’re going to keep Elizabeth out of Neddrick’s hands and keep our jobs.”
“Well.” Dean got up. “That’s my job. I’ll leave the felonies to you, Robby.”
“You’re so generous, Dean.” Robin’s lip curled. “The hard part is going to be finding out where Neddrick’s sacked out. I’m tied up here all day with Sir James, and all night with chasing Tony around. Elizabeth, why don’t we make that your assignment.”
Elizabeth frowned. “I’ll do my best. Perhaps if Deborah wrote him some sort of letter. I could have George deliver it instead of Andrew.”
“Andrew?” Robin asked.
“Deborah’s footman,” Dean explained.
“Yes,” said Elizabeth. “If George delivers it, then I could find out where. I might be able to get Andrew to tell me, but George is far more likely to.”
“That’s all very well and good,” said Robin. “But why on earth would Deborah want to write a letter to Mr. Farquhar? She doesn’t like him.”
Dean grinned suddenly. “I bet I could do it. I could write the letter for Deborah. I can forge her handwriting easy. I’ll write him a hate letter. I mean, who’s gonna know?”
“Uh, Deborah?” Robin replied. “And that’s just for starters. Dean, it’s insane.”
“Not really,” Elizabeth said. “Although I think it would be better if Deborah did the writing. I expect she’ll be calling for me any minute now, wanting to know how to discourage Mr. Farquhar. All I have to do then is suggest writing him a note saying that she’d prefer it if he focused his attentions elsewhere. There’s nothing improper in that, and all I have to do is see to it that George makes the delivery.”
It seemed simple enough. But Elizabeth couldn’t get Deborah to cooperate. Apparently, Sir James had let his daughter know that he highly approved of Mr. Farquhar and that she was not to discourage him. Dean was a little more successful with Lord Edward. While the nervous suitor refused to speak with Sir James, he did agree to ask Lady Culpepper’s advice on the matter. What occurred during the interview that Monday, Dean never found out. He avoided Her Ladyship as much as he could without losing his job.
Lady Culpepper sent for him constantly, to the point that Sir James began to notice her unusual interest in his clerk. Tuesday morning found Sir James fuming about it to Robin.
“Don’t think I’m accusing you, Parker,” he grumbled. “But I wonder if your brother is aware of how indiscreet such things are.”
“He’s very aware of it, sir,” Robin replied. “He’s trying to avoid the situation, but, well, this is very awkward, sir.”
“I’ll be damned if it isn’t. I know what you’re trying to say.”
“I don’t mean to offend or accuse, sir,” said Robin, nervously. “It’s just the way things appear. I’m sure Her Ladyship’s intentions are perfectly innocent, as are my brother’s. He just doesn’t know how to handle it properly.”
Sir James sighed. “Your lies are very kind, Parker. I’ve heard the servants talking, and I’m not the blind old fool they think. Her Ladyship is behaving exactly as it appears. Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be a cuckold, even if I have to remove a perfectly good clerk from my household.”
Robin gulped. “Yes, sir.”
“I can see you don’t like the idea. I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it. I refuse to be made a fool of by a member of my own household, even if it’s innocently.”
“The greatest difficulty is that he has made himself quite indispensable.” Sir James began pacing. “I’ll have to find someone else to take his position before I let him go.” He stopped and looked at Robin. “Pray don’t say anything to your brother just yet. It will take some time to find a replacement and I shouldn’t like him to be uncomfortable.”
“Thank you, sir,” Robin replied as she pondered how she could sabotage Sir James’ employee search.
There was a knock on the door.
“Yes?” Sir James asked.
The door opened.
“Mr. Farquhar is here,” said the butler.
“Thank you, Barnes. Send him up.”
Robin waited until the door had shut. “I’d better get those other accounts done, sir. They’re in my room.”
“No. I’ll need you to take dictation.” Sir James popped open his snuff-box and took a pinch.
“Why don’t I get Morgan?” Robin fought to keep her voice steady. “He’s much faster at it than I am.”
Sir James snuffled, then dabbed at his nose with a lacy handkerchief. “This is too important to take a chance on Anthony messing it up. And I don’t want to have to remember all the details when you come back to get the corrections when you re-do his work.”
“Yes, sir.” Robin swallowed and resolved to remain cool. She didn’t think Neddrick would take a chance on telling Sir James she was from another time, if only because she could make the same accusation.
When Farquhar came in and saw her, a brief smile flickered across his face.
“Good day, Mr. Farquhar,” said Sir James cheerfully.
Farquhar smiled again. “Good day, Sir James.”
“I’m glad to see you’re on time.” Sir James dabbed at his nose again. “This is my clerk, Parker. He’ll be taking down the contract as we dictate it.”
“He will?” Farquhar stressed the “he” with an insinuating glance at Robin.
“Parker is an excellent clerk,” protested Sir James. “His work is extremely accurate. I have every confidence in his abilities.”
Farquhar simpered smugly. “I beg your pardon, Sir James. I wasn’t questioning his abilities. Merely… Well, he does seem rather young. No beard to speak of.”
Robin glared back at Farquhar. “Sir James is aware of my unfortunate accident.”
“Ahem. Indeed,” said Sir James, growing a little red in the face. “Not something one wishes to discuss.”
Robin turned back to Sir James. “Excuse me, sir, what is the contract we are to draw up?”
“We are going to start a marriage contract between Mr. Farquhar and Deborah,” said Sir James proudly.
“Mr. Farquhar?” Robin feigned surprise. “I understood it was the other young man that Deborah favored.”
“That letter writer? Bah!” Sir James grandly whipped out his handkerchief. “If he hasn’t the nerve to show himself, then he shan’t have my daughter.”
Robin shot an icy glance at Farquhar. “Perhaps he’s waiting to be sure he’s won the mistress’s heart, rather than going ahead and marrying a woman who doesn’t like him very much.”
“What rot. I did and I’ve managed—” Sir James stopped suddenly. “I’ll take that into consideration, Parker. Eh. This isn’t the final contract, in any case. Fetch your quills and paper. We’ve work to do.”
That evening, Robin fumed in Dean and Elizabeth’s room.
“He promised the damned moon!” she groaned. “And I had to take it all down, knowing damned well he has no intention of keeping it. What’s worse, he’ll get off scot-free. He’ll take off for another time, and never get caught.”
Elizabeth nodded. It was pointless to remind Robin of the increasing pressure. Robin was all too aware of it.
Two nights later, a Thursday, Robin lost Morgan again. He left quite a trail. Robin made all the usual inquiries, including ones at the brothel, and a couple others, and found that Morgan had stopped in at most of the places and left before she arrived.
She was closing in on him, when, as she left a tavern, two largish men met her at the door, and escorted her to a deserted road.
“We understand your name is Robin Parker,” said one, a pasty looking fellow with a large brown mole on his chin.
“Yes,” Robin answered.
“Last Monday night, you played a few rounds with our master, Mr. Beverton, and lost quite a bit of money.”
Robin frowned. “I don’t believe so. I don’t know any Mr. Beverton, and I spent Monday night attending my master in his home.”
“Mr. Parker, you signed your name to several notes, and promised Mr. Beverton should have the money Tuesday.” The man’s grip tightened on Robin’s arm. “It’s Thursday, and Mr. Beverton has received no money.”
“I don’t sign notes.” Glaring, Robin pulled herself up.
“You did Monday.”
“I was… Oh, damn! That Morgan!” Robin added a few other epithets. “I know what happened. A colleague of mine has signed my name to his notes. Take me to your Mr. Beverton. He’ll tell you I wasn’t the one who gambled with him Monday night.”
The man with the mole on his chin thought it over, then nodded at his companion. They escorted Robin to a coffee house frequented by gentlemen. Mr. Beverton sat at a table playing cards with Morgan. He looked up as he noticed his servants entering.
“Ah, Daniels, Simpson,” Beverton said as they came up. “I needn’t have sent you out after Mr. Parker. Here he is. Who is this young man?”
“The real Robin Parker,” Robin growled. She yanked Morgan up out of his chair. “Tony Morgan, you are dead meat. I oughta turn you in to your uncle!”
“No! Robin, please don’t!” Swaying only a little, Tony seemed much more sober than he probably was.
Robin rolled her eyes. “Are you paid up?”
“To me, he is.” Mr. Beverton smiled. “In fact, he’s even won a little.”
“Aren’t you one lucky SOB.” Robin scooped up the coins. “Well, if you can lose in my name, you can win for me also. Thanks for the money. Mr. Beverton, my pleasure.”
Robin shoved Morgan out of the coffee house. “All right, you brainless alky. How many other notes have you signed my name to?”
Morgan shrugged. “I don’t know. Not many. A few.”
“How much?” Morgan burped and giggled.
In response, Robin tightened her grasp so Morgan cried out. Furious, she propelled him home.
The next day, she had another piece of dubious luck. Sir James wanted a message sent to Mr. Farquhar’s lodgings. Though Robin knew that message delivery was Samuel’s job, she decided to use her footman’s sour disposition as an excuse and delivered the note, herself.
Farquhar was out when she arrived. Robin debated for a moment, then decided it would be worth it to look around, at least. Given that Farquhar was expected back at any minute, she doubted she’d be able to steal the machine, but she’d be able to get the lay of the land, as it were, for a future visit.
“Which is Mr. Farquhar’s room?” she asked the footman at the door. “My master was most adamant that he get this letter. If I were to slide it under his door, that should be adequate assurance.”
The footman hesitated. Robin pulled out a couple silver shillings from her pouch and held them up. The footman sighed. Heavily. Robin dug in her pouch for a crown piece, plus the two shillings, all of which ended up with the footman. But Robin did get the information she wanted.
After sliding the envelope under the door indicated, she paused. Downstairs, she could hear the door opening and the footman greeting a resident. Farquhar’s voice answered, with a certain snideness, as if he was only being polite because it was expected of him.
While there probably was a servant’s stair, Robin decided it would not be politic to use it. That left only the main stair, and Robin did not want an encounter with Farquhar. So, she slid up the main stair only so far as she could avoid being seen.
Fortunately, Farquhar went straight to the door the footman had said was his. His hand on the doorknob, he suddenly paused and listened. Robin pulled back into the stairwell and held her breath. Slowly, she edged around and saw him looking behind him as if he had reason to believe he was being followed. Somehow, he missed checking the stairwell and entered his room.
Robin let her breath out and as quietly as she could, slid past his room and out of the building.
She didn’t go back that night. Friday was Morgan’s big night out, and Robin felt it would be wise to make sure she and the others still had jobs in case something went wrong.
Sunday the sky was a brilliant blue with huge white clouds scudding across. Dean and Elizabeth insisted that Robin join them for a walk in the nearby park.
“So, what’s the big joke you wanted to tell us about yesterday?” Dean asked Robin as they strolled among the trees.
“Oh, that.” Robin snickered. “Sir James got a letter from his son in the Colonies.”
“What about it?” Dean shrugged, unimpressed.
Robin couldn’t contain her grin. “Think, Dean. What year is this?”
“What happened in 1776?” Gleefully, Robin poked him in the ribs.
“The American Revolution.” Dean twisted to avoid another poke. “That’s old news. Besides, like you said, if we look at it from everyone here’s point of view, it is ridiculous that they could win the war.”
“I know. But listen to the latest. Captain Culpepper made a copy of a certain document that went on display over in Philadelphia, where he’s stationed. It starts ‘When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…’“ Robin waited expectantly.
“That sounds familiar,” said Dean. Elizabeth shrugged.
“It damn well better.” Robin chortled. “Come on, Dean, you know what it is. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America.”
The light switch went on in Dean’s head. “That’s not the Declaration of Independence, is it?”
“Of course, it is, you lunkhead!”
Dean frowned. “But doesn’t that start ‘We the people…’?”
Robin groaned. “That’s the Constitution.”
“Oh, right. I remember now.”
“But why is this declaration so amusing?” asked Elizabeth.
“Because the hot-headed rebels who drew it up are going to do the impossible and win the war,” Robin replied. “What the Declaration goes on to say is that the Colonies are no longer part of England. Of course, everyone here doesn’t know that yet.”
“It sounds like treason to me.” Elizabeth shook her head.
Robin shrugged. “For the moment, it is. But in another fifty years or so, Britain will be friends with the United States.”
“Hm.” The whole idea sounded incredible to Elizabeth.
“Hey, Elizabeth, that’s our home we’re talking about,” said Dean. “Where Robin and I come from, and where we’re all going to be living. This is just the beginning.”
“I know.” Elizabeth sighed. “You’ve told me.”
Robin smiled. The news would be hitting everywhere soon. As she listened to a couple older gentlemen converse, she realized it had reached some people already. The men were aghast at such a preposterous move. They deserved it, Robin thought with a surge of patriotism for her homeland.
That evening, however, any glee was quickly squelched. As usual, on Sunday evenings, Sir James gathered his household for dinner, and as always, that Sunday, he insisted that his clerks be there, along with the young Mrs. Parker.
The group gathered in the salon before the meal, dressed in their best. Sir James was less than pleased about what was going on in the colonies but was confident that his son and the rest of the King’s army would put down the rebels in no time. But his bluster seemed somewhat distracted, and Robin soon realized why. Lady Culpepper was eyeing Dean with obvious hunger. Dean stayed as close to Elizabeth as possible without taking up the same space.
When dinner was announced, Lady Culpepper attempted to slide up next to Dean that he might escort her in to dinner, but Robin slipped in first and gently took her arm.
“My Lady,” Robin whispered softly, as they walked into the dining room. “I know you’re fond of my brother, but I don’t think you want your husband to find you out. If he does, then my brother will be gone.”
“Impertinent beast!” Her Ladyship hissed back, then stopped and laughed as she noticed the others staring. “A silly joke. But Mr. Parker, I do think you should be more discreet around a lady.”
“I will endeavor to do so,” Robin replied.
Dinner went more smoothly than usual, but Sir James’ eye wandered over to Dean far too often for either he or Robin to feel comfortable.