A Noble Pledge



© 2022




Jane stepped out of carriage and looked up at the imposing house, her heart warmed with fondness for it. Not too long ago, it had felt like a gilded cage to her. Not anymore. She glanced at the figure next to her, holding the door of the carriage. Thanks to Hirsh, it felt like home now.

“I’ll bring your luggage to your room, ma’am,” Hirsh said softly and quickly averted her eyes not wanting the other servants to notice that they were staring too closely at each other.

“Thank you, Hirsh.” She entered the house and made straight for the kitchen. She found Lizzy standing at the stove stirring a pot, which emitted the most tantalising aroma. Lizzy looked up and for a moment, she looked surprised before her face crinkled into a big smile.

“You’re back!”

Jane rushed to the old woman and grabbed her in a warm embrace. “We made good time.”

Lizzy sighed softly as she squeezed Jane back before she held her away to look at her.

“You look beautiful and happy.”

Tears welled up in Jane’s eyes. “I am happy and you know the reason for my elation.”

The older woman smiled tenderly.

“It does my heart good to see you like this.” She cupped Jane’s cheek. “You have some time to take a nap before I wake you for lunch.”

Jane yawned unexpectedly and covered her mouth with a small giggle. She hadn’t realised how tired she was until Lizzy mentioned a nap. She could rest a bit and hopefully she could entice Hirsh to join her in her bed later tonight when she was fresh and rested. But then Hirsh wouldn’t be refreshed. The woman drove all the way here and knowing her, Hirsh would want to make her rounds to ensure that nothing had gone wrong in her absence.

Still, she wouldn’t mind curling up to the sleeping woman tonight. She kissed Lizzy’s cheek before making her way to her bedroom where she threw herself on the bed. It was absolutely wonderful to be back home. There was a soft knock on the door and she sat up, calling for the person to enter. Hirsh entered the room carrying her trunk and looked at her.

“Where would you like it, ma’am?”

“Over there.”

Hirsh deposited the trunk and turned back to her. Jane couldn’t help but notice the exhaustion in the hazel eyes.

“Will there be anything else, ma’am?

Jane glanced at the open door and sighed. She couldn’t even close it briefly to cuddle her lover, but she promised herself she would do so later tonight.

“No, thank you, Hirsh. Please take the rest of the day off to rest and I’ll see you later tonight.” Hirsh hesitated as if she wanted to protest, but Jane shook her head. “Everything else can wait until tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She watched Hirsh leave and sighed, knowing that Hirsh had acquiesced far too easily. 


The arrest of the three attackers of Lord Percival Bannon, Marquis of Kempton, was frontpage news once again. This time it was accompanied by a speculative article about a faceless slumlord that ruled the areas with a quiet, but firm hand. Chester cursed under her breath at the reporter’s rather biased portrayal of the so-called slumlord’s character and assets. Apparently, the person was linked to a number of housebreakings and muggings that had been happening around the city. The victims, in most cases, were from the wealthy upper-class. She frowned when she read Lord Percival’s name and was thoroughly surprised after she had read what he had to say about the reporter’s interpretation of his attack and the presence of a powerful villain.

“The time has come that everyone should be able to have a say in where we hope to steer our great country. Unless we make a place at our table for our less fortunate citizens, they will gladly dine with anyone who can offer them a better meal. It is not too difficult to comprehend this situation.”

Chester took a moment to allow the young lord’s words to stew a bit as she tried to determine whether the man was sincere in his beliefs or if he was only using words to pave his way to whatever selfish goal he was hoping to achieve. Geon knew the man better and she would be able to tell whether he was speaking from his heart when addressing this issue. She might pay her a visit soon to discuss this development.


Jeremiah looked at the sleeping face of his son and smiled tenderly. The journey had been exhausting for the twins, but there were more than enough adults to ensure that they were comfortable. Oliver’s wetnurse had managed to arrange for another to accompany them on the journey and for her to return as soon as they were settled back in Coventry.

Now, with the babies fed and dozing, Abigail had instructed the wetnurse, Maisy, to go take a nap while they watched over the twins.

“I hope they’ll sleep through the night.”

Abigail looked up from her intent perusal of a sleeping Olivia. “Why?”

“It’ll only be me and the wetnurse here tonight.” He shrugged lightly. “Since she only has two hands, I’ll probably have to assist her.”

Abigail tilted her head slightly, a frown marring her forehead.

“If you think I’m leaving you alone with them, then you’re sorely mistaken, Jeremiah Mortimer.”


She held up her hand.

“You need to find a way to make it happen so that I can stay here with them.”

Jeremiah gaped at Abigail. How was he going to do that without the town finding out that their female, unmarried doctor was staying with a sworn bachelor in his house. He cringed at the rumours that would make the rounds and the damage to Abi’s reputation. Was this what poor Hirsh was struggling with all the time to protect Jane’s name?

“Please, Jeremiah, it will kill me to be parted from them now.” The plea in her voice and eyes finally did him in and he nodded.

“I’ll make a plan.”

How, he didn’t know, but glancing at his pocket watch, he noted that it was only one o’clock right now. He had the afternoon to accomplish the impossible. 

 “Do you think we have everything they will need?”

“Did we forget anything?” Abigail almost looked aghast at the thought. She and Jane had bought a mountain of effects for the twins before their travel.

“I don’t think so,” he stated quickly not wanting her anxiety to escalate. “I was going to go out for a while to purchase a few necessities and I wondered if there was something you wanted me to bring back for you.”

She shook her head and immediately returned her attention to the sleeping babies. Just as he was about to leave, she spoke again without looking at him.

“Please find a way.”

He nodded and left the room. As he was making his way to the butcher, his mind racing with thoughts of how to accomplish this latest challenge, he failed to hear his name being called. It was only when Paul touched him on the shoulder that he noticed his friend.

“For heaven’s sakes, Jeremiah! I had to run across the street to get your attention after my calls went unanswered.” He appeared a little of out of breath. “What has you so bothered that you couldn’t hear me calling.”

“My apologies, old friend. I’ve only returned from my journey an hour ago and found my icebox empty.” He smiled at Paul, happy to see him moving around with a cane. Two weeks away had brought on many changes. Good ones, from the look of Paul. “You seem to be much better than the last time I saw you.”

Paul grinned.

“And you were planning a secret trip. Was it fruitful?”

Jeremiah chuckled. “Yes and no.”

“You’ll have to explain.”

Jeremiah gave him a quick rundown of the events and how Abigail found out about it and joined him in London.

“You sorely underestimated that woman, Jeremiah. I hope you’ve learned not to do so in the future.”

If only Paul knew the half of it.

“Anyway, did anything new happen while I was away?”

Paul cheeriness faded almost instantly as he glanced around with a grim look on his face.

“Yes. The court case of McAllister is taking place soon and with the threat of him revealing the dealings of some dubious characters, the town has lately seen the influx of some truly unsavoury-looking individuals.” He pursed his lips. “Our women don’t feel safe walking the streets any longer without being accosted by these crooks.”

Jeremiah’s mood plummeted at hearing that. Maybe it was a good idea that Abigail wouldn’t be staying in her house alone for the time being. He’d have to find a way to neutralise this threat and make sure that his family remained safe at all times.

“I assume McAllister is in custody to await his trial?”

“Yes. However, he found himself a new solicitor.”

Oh, that was good news, Jeremiah thought.

“He has a woman with him and she is as tough as she appears.”

Jeremiah gaped. “A woman?”

“Yes. Elizabeth Granger. Never heard of her before, but she appears confident that she could save McAllister from the gallows.”

“Well, that is to be seen.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

They made an appointment to meet again soon so Paul and Margaret could meet the babies. Jeremiah, now aware of the situation in town, took note of the many new faces he came across as he ran his errands.


“Ah, ma cherie, you should eat something if you hope to strengthen your legs.”

Florence threw a scathing look at her friend and maid.

“Why would I need to strengthen my legs if I’m not using them?”

Elodie appeared a little taken aback by the sharp retort, but she held on to her smile.

“You won’t be in the bed forever, Florence. Soon, you’ll be attending parties again, dancing and even making love.”

The last part made Florence blush, even as she wanted to hold on to her frustration. She didn’t lack for intimacy. Since her return from Plymouth, Chester had made sure that Florence didn’t suffer on that end. It was wonderful every time and it only kept intensifying her need for her lover.

Still, she wanted to get out of this bed. With Jane and Abigail having left Coventry, she felt their absence keenly and wished to be anywhere but here in London. Not even Chester’s tender attentions would be able to drown out her hankering to be back home with her friends. It was incredible how much she had changed over the past few months. She went from a lonely, crippled middle-aged matron to one who had a vibrant circle of friends, a ridiculously attractive lover and the prospect of walking without a cane again. Why couldn’t she simply count her blessings instead of agonising over what she couldn’t change.

Elodie, still determined to cheer her up, continued.

“Soon, cherie, you and Chester will steal away into the woods to make love for hours, and you’ll be…”

“Like the two of you did under my nose,” she snapped and immediately felt herself overcome by shame and guilt. She had no right or reason to abuse the goodwill of her friend like this. Her eyes burned with helpless tears as she thought how to apologise to her dearest friend. The bed suddenly dipped and to her shock and horror she found that it wasn’t Elodie. From the musky scent that carried to her nose, it was unmistakably Chester. Had she been present all this time, she thought as she cringed inwardly? Not only had she hurt her friend with her needless words, she did so in the presence of the last person she had wanted to witness her insecurity. She kept her head turned away as silent tears of regret rolled down her cheeks. Chester’s tall body gently spooned hers as she cried quietly. When after a while, she was spent and lying stiff and silent in the warm cocoon produced by Chester’s heat, she wanted to tell her how very sorry she was for her childish and waspish outburst, but Chester beat her to it.

“You just have to say the word and I’ll take you home.” She turned her head to meet the solemn dark gaze. “I swear.”

Fresh tears welled up in her eyes and the handsome face soon was too blurred, but she still felt the intense gaze on her. She turned her head away and wiped her eyes.

“I’m acting like a shrew and neither you nor Elodie deserve such treatment from me.” She leaned back into the warm body. “I desperately need to speak to Elodie.”

“I’ll get her for you,” Chester said as she sat up. She walked to the door and turned back to face her. “I want you to think about what I’ve said. I’ll take you home tomorrow if you want to leave here.”

Florence felt even more ashamed at Chester’s offer. She was a grownup woman who had lived through enough to know that she would not always get her way in life. No amount of mistreatment of her friend or lover would bring that about. It wasn’t who she was and she refused to allow herself to become this selfish, shell of a woman when she had so much to be thankful for already. It was way more than she had ever had in her life.


Oliver studied the document carefully before he put it aside to pick up another. He had been rather careless lately when it came to his investments, but lucky for him, he had a solicitor who always stayed updated and who documented everything for him. He had hoped to finish reviewing his financials before he met Geon for lunch at the Grill but when his eyes fell on the stack of documents to his right, he sighed. He could either cancel their meeting and meet for dinner instead or he could leave now and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening studying the reports.

“My apologies, sir.”

“Yes, Alexander,” he responded without looking up.

“Lord Morris is here to see you.”

Oliver’s head snapped up. Lord Morris was here? It had been three days since he had spoken to the man and he had hoped their topic of discussion had been rejected and forgotten. Obviously not. He stood and gathered his reports which he locked away.

“Please, show Lord Morris in.”

“Yes, sir.”

What had he done? This could very well backfire on him. It could land Geon in prison and maybe even have her hanged. Lord Morris entered the study and closed the door behind him. He stood there for a moment; his back turned to Oliver. When he finally faced him, Oliver could see dark circles under the man’s eyes.

“I’ve never, ever lied to my wife. Not once. This morning I did and it was the most painful thing for me to do.”

Oliver swallowed hard to loosen the knot in his throat. Lord Morris would only lie to his wife if he had to keep something bad from her. Something like arresting the father of their only grandchild. He pointed at the decanter of brandy and the nobleman nodded almost eagerly. After pouring them each a healthy amount of liquid courage, he retook his seat behind his desk. He didn’t know what to expect, so he decided to let the older man speak. Lord Morris took a long sip of his drink and closed his eyes briefly.

“I have to ask you something very important and I want you to be honest with me, Potts.” His fixed a sharp gaze on Oliver. “The fact that you omitted to name these associates of yours and have hinted at them being possible enemies of the Crown, I want to know if you are, or have been in any criminal dealings with them?”

Oliver didn’t blink.


“Have you benefited directly or indirectly from their criminal transactions?”


The man held his gaze for a moment longer before he nodded and sipped from his brandy.

“Are you sure they can be trusted?”

He nodded.

“How do you know?”

Oliver stood to refill his glass and brought the decanter over with him. They would need more brandy to finish this discussion.

“I trust them with my life and that of my son and my fiancée.” He sat forward giving Lord Morris the chance to look deep into his eyes and to make up his mind. “They will lay their lives down to protect anyone in need.”

The nobleman topped up his glass and sat back in his chair. He had a puzzled look on his face.

“Then why, if they are such admirable ‘humanists’, would they be considered enemies of the Crown?”

“Because they fight on the side of the voiceless, the oppressed and the helpless.”

The room was quiet as the two of them studied each other. Lord Morris finally smiled, a faint curl of the lip.

“Are you sharing their sentiment?”

Oliver thought of Catherine and wondered where the woman would have ended up had she not been lucky to have met Jeremiah. How many women like Catherine are there in Great Britain—in the world? Used and discarded by the powerful and rich? He met Lord Morris’ eyes and nodded.

“I do. I believe that if one is born within the borders of the greatest nation in the world, you deserve to enjoy at least some of the fruits that makes ours such a great country. That means the right to representation, education, health and at the very least, a full stomach.”

The nobleman’s smile was gone as he listened.

“I never thought you to be such a radical. You’re consorting with known enemies of the Kingdom and you’ve just admitted to your belief in a collective agenda. Some could easily interpret your words and actions as traitorous.”

Oliver drained his glass as nerves set in.

“I also happen to have witnessed the abject poverty our own countrymen live in. I’ve met a woman who had been assaulted by a powerful man and discarded with her pregnant belly to the streets to do with as they wanted. I’ve also seen the pride these very people have for this country who treat them like sub-humans as they fought for its name and riches in wars that they wouldn’t directly benefit from.” Oliver sighed. “If that makes me a traitor; then I am sorry, but I stand by my belief.”

Lord Morris raked his fingers through his hair and nodded his head almost vigorously.

“My wife already adores you more than I feel comfortable with, I can only imagine her affection for you to grow even more, if she finds out that the two of you share the same philosophies for our great country’s future.” He stood. “The king wants you to contact your friends and determine what demands they have.”

Oliver sat in open-mouthed shock as the nobleman excused himself.  Now, the hardest part lay before him.



Florence lifted her head from Elodie’s chest to look into tender green eyes.

“You are too good to me.”

The Frenchwoman giggled as she brushed her hand over Florence’s hair.

“You’re family, ma soeur. We will always fight, but we’ll never stop loving each other.” She pressed a kiss to Florence’s forehead. “You have always been a difficult patient. Believe me, I did not take offense.”

“Even so, I want you to never let me get away with treating you like that.”

“I’ll make sure of it, if you promise not let this worry you too much.”

Florence burrowed deeper into her friend’s arms and sighed.


“You know what I thought?” Florence looked up at her and she smiled. “How would you like to spend some time in the garden? Bruce and Angus are thinning out the rose bushes and I thought you might like to see them at work.”

Florence loved the idea, but she doubted Chester would want her to put any weight on her legs right now.

“If it were possible, I would love it.”

“In that case, let me get you dressed so you can once again resemble the Lady of the House.” She untangled herself from Florence’s hold.

“I don’t think Chester will allow it.”

“Chester already agreed and is busy setting up the garden for your arrival.”

Florence’s mood lightened immensely at the idea of leaving the bed for a few hours. She brushed a hand over her hair.

“Then what are we waiting for?” she called out excitedly.


The heat of the kitchen finally drove Geon outside where she removed her hat and leaned against the rough wall. She was tired and she should be, after not getting enough sleep for the third night in a row. Oliver was insatiable and she simply couldn’t resist him. She was lucky to have made it home in time to see her friends off before they left this morning at four o’clock.

Fortunately, she wouldn’t have to stay at the Grill for the whole day. Teresa was doing exceptionally well as a stand-in for her and there hadn’t been any complaints from the patrons. The food was excellent as was the service. They were even busier nowadays since the Queen’s remark about her having sampled a few dishes off the Grill’s menu. Feeling her senses prickle, she slowly opened her eyes and her heart warmed at the sight of her lover standing a few feet away. He was impeccably dressed as always and she allowed her gaze to travel down his body with frank appreciation. A few wisps of grey were visible at his temples, giving him a very distinguished appearance. A complete contrast with the perspiring lover who had taken her with such abandon last night; his mussed hair falling into his face as he had ridden her mercilessly until she was almost hoarse from all the panting.


She scanned the area to see if they had an audience, before she crooked her finger at him. He came to her without hesitation and they kissed deeply before she reluctantly pushed him away and looked up into his eyes.

They were particularly stormy today, reflecting the weather above.

“What’s wrong?” He pursed his lips as he looked away. “Oliver?”

He exhaled loudly.

“You’ll be very angry if I tell you.”

“I’ll probably be very angry, too, if you don’t.”

He hesitated briefly, before he stepped closer.

“Can we go somewhere more private? This is not something that I can risk someone overhearing.”

Geon was getting worried now, since it sounded more serious than she had thought. Oliver didn’t panic easily, but she could almost feel the waves of anxiety coming off him.

“Let’s talk in my office.”

When the door was closed behind them, she watched with growing trepidation as Oliver reached for the decanter of brandy she kept there for when she had to work late. After he had swallowed his drink in two gulps, he turned to her.

“The king needs your help.”

She blinked slowly before she chuckled; startling Oliver.

“Again? Why didn’t he just send Pierre?”

At the mention of the Frenchman’s name, she noticed a tightening around Oliver’s eyes. The two butches had a strong dislike for each other.

“Because he has nothing to do with this,” Oliver snapped and Geon pursed her lips to hide the smile at her lover’s irritation with his rival. “It includes all of you. Hirsh, Marlin and Chester.”

“All of us? How?” She laughed softly. “I’ve taught them a few tricks, but I doubt they are ready to prepare a banquet for the King of England.”

Oliver raked his fingers through his hair, mussing it. She stepped closer to gently fixed the mess he had made.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with food preparation, does it, cher?” He stiffened and she ran her hands down his shoulders as she tried to help him relax. “What does the king want with us?”

“He needs your services to sneak into France and kidnap the Dauphin.”

Geon jerked away and glared at him. She had somehow suspected, after seeing his reaction, that he had revealed their identity to someone. That someone, she could only assume was Lord Morris. She had met the man only once, but she could tell he was of the good kind and that Oliver trusted him. They may be considered scoundrels by everybody else, but they had lines that they would never cross. They didn’t kill indiscriminately. Nor did they cause harm to defenceless women and children. What the King wanted from them was immoral and besides, they weren’t even on the same side as the king.

“No,” she said coldly and pulled further away from him. “Tell Lord Morris that we’re not interested.” She saw his eyes widen almost comically as he realised that she knew who his contact was.

“I…We…Yes, I’ll tell him and then we can put this behind us.”

“Unless he reveals our identities and the king comes after us,” she snapped and this time she was angry, because she realised that their refusal might cost them dearly in the end. They’d have to leave England for sure this time and not come back ever again. She shook her head. “There is a reason why we are fighting on the other side, Oliver. We do not trust greedy men like King George and his ilk.”

Oliver nodded, looking sufficiently chastised.  He was lucky he was getting off this relatively easily, because this was the second time he had breached her trust and failed to keep their secret.

“I understand, my love. I should also assure you that Lord Morris doesn’t know who you are. I simply mentioned that I knew of a group of people who could be trusted to get in and out of France undetected.”

She frowned.

“Why would he want to kidnap the French crown prince? I was under the impression that although things were still a little tense between the two countries, that the two kings had managed to reach a workable agreement between them.” She had spent six hours straight on her feet in the Palace kitchen to bridge the lingering animosity between the two sovereigns.

“It was actually King Louis’ idea. He feared that…”

“What? Did you just say that King Louis masterminded this whole plot? Why?” She was French and she knew how protective the French monarchs and their people are about their young future ruler. Something wasn’t making sense. Oliver leaned against the wall and folded his arms over his chest.

“There are some factions in his orbit that he fears would harm the young Prince in their pursuits of self-enrichment should King Louis shutdown the conflicts these members are fuelling.”


That was a different story. No one was being exploited except of course the ones suffering in those conflicts. If the King stopped these conflicts, they too, would benefit from this intervention. She sat back in her chair as she considered the situation. Would Hirsh be interested? And what would they gain from this? It was a humanitarian mission, but the risks were high. They would have to break into the Palace of Versailles to get their hands on the toddler. Hirsh wouldn’t want to risk any of them unless they could all benefit from such a mission.

“I’m not saying we’re interested; that is for Hirsh to decide, but I assume there would be certain demands to be met should Hirsh elect to do this.”

Oliver blinked.

“Do you think she might?”

Geon shrugged.

“That will depend on what the king is willing to offer.”

“In that case, Lord Morris wants to know what your demands would be.”

Geon shook her head slowly. Oliver had already thought of everything if the nobleman wanted to know what they would need to sweeten the pact.

“Are you hungry?”

He pushed away from the wall; his eyes lightening up dramatically as they roamed over her. “Yes.”

She smiled as she glanced at the closed door. Her butch had a voracious appetite.


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