Amateur botanist Charlotte de Ware couldn't be more excited about sailing with her orchid collection from Scotland to New York to visit kin for Christmas. When she stumbles upon a dashing stowaway on the ship, she refuses to let the captain throw him overboard. But she soon questions her charity when she learns that the stowaway surgeon is a notorious rake.
Travis Jameson never meant to go to America. But his controversial medical studies have made him a dangerous target, and his friends spirit him aboard a packet ship for his own safety. He finds adventure on the ship and love in the charming yet unattainable lass who comes to his aid. But when they reach their destination and must part ways, a terrible secret and a twist of fate reverses their fortunes, and it's up to the tarnished scoundrel to save the desperate young miss.
Prequel novella for California Legends
These are chronicles of the Old West--of the native people who lived on the land for generations and the pioneers who came from all over the world in search of riches...the struggle to survive in a land without laws...the strange bedfellows that resulted from the clash of cultures...and the common language of the heart that spoke of a love more precious than gold.
Length: 29,000 words = 172 pages
Rating: R-rated for passionate passages
In This Series
1810 – THE STOWAWAY (a novella)
1851 – NATIVE GOLD
1875 – NATIVE WOLF
1875 – NATIVE HAWK
Key Themes: Regency historical romance, Scottish characters, ocean voyage, immigrating to America, 19th century, doctor hero, orchids, seafaring stories, 1800s ship, medical history, botany, indentured servant, Scottish terrier, Edinburgh, New York, stories with dogs, rakes, scoundrels, stories with humor
More Historical Romances by Glynnis Campbell
The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch
THE SHIPWRECK (a novella)
A YULETIDE KISS (a short story)
The Warrior Daughters of Rivenloch
THE STORMING (a novella)
A RIVENLOCH CHRISTMAS (a short story)
BRIDE OF FIRE
The Knights of de Ware
THE HANDFASTING (a novella)
THE REIVER (a novella)
THE OUTCAST (a novella)
Release date: November 12, 2019
Publisher: Glynnis Campbell
Print pages: 105
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
“Damn, George! Are ye sure ye want to do this?”
“’Tis a rather large sum, old boy.”
“Aye, and ye’re already down a wee fortune.”
Charlotte knew it wasn’t proper to eavesdrop. The young gentlemen had retired to the library after dinner. They expected privacy. It was none of a lady’s affair what the brandy-and-cigar set did while the females were left to their own devices in the drawing room.
Unfortunately for Charlotte, those feminine devices included chattering endlessly on and on. About the latest fashions in London. The romantic eligibility of various Edinburgh bachelors. And who’d been invited to which Christmas ball. All of which she found incredibly shallow and deadly dull.
Besides, as her father oft remarked, Charlotte had been born with inexorable curiosity. It was that curiosity that gave her a scientific mind. And sometimes got her into more than a wee bit of trouble.
She’d excused herself from the ladies, ostensibly to powder her nose, mostly to give her ears a rest. But as she breezed past the library, she couldn’t help but be intrigued by the conversation drifting through the open crack of the door.
Hearing her brother George’s name, she naturally felt compelled to stop and apprise herself of the situation.
Their parents had gone to Oxford to visit her oldest brother, William, at university. The second oldest, John, was an officer in the Navy, fighting in the Baltic Sea. In their absence, George had been left in charge of the household.
Despite her brother being only a year older than she, Charlotte was well aware that George and Responsibility weren’t the best of companions. Thus, she felt it was her duty to make sure Tragedy didn’t ensue.
Even if that involved a bit of subterfuge and listening at doors.
Tucking a stray lock of her short brown curls under her bandeau, she peered through the crack of the door, searching the group of lounging dandies until she spotted George at cards.
Cigar smoke hovered like a halo over the six young gentlemen at the rosewood card table. But they hardly looked angelic. Their jackets were slung over the backs of their chairs. Their white sleeves were rolled up and their cravats undone. Brandy sparkled in their cut crystal rummers. They slouched over a game of vingt-et-un.
Charlotte narrowed her eyes in disapproval. Every night this week, George had met with his friends to play cards—drinking, smoking, and gambling long into the wee hours. It seemed her brother was intent on squeezing all the debauchery he could into the weeks their parents were away.
She wouldn’t have minded if the games were a casual entertainment. But George seemed to be obsessed with wagering of late. Eager to play. Feverish to win.
If he wasn’t careful…
George took a swig of brandy and slammed down the empty glass, motioning for a servant to refill his rummer.
“Are ye in or out, lads?” he challenged, his words slurred by drink. “Put up your damned markers.”
“Not so fast, old boy,” the banquier warned, placing a hand on George’s forearm. “Are ye sure ye’re good for the wager?”
Righteous indignation crackled off George like lightning as he cast off the banquier’s hand. He snarled, “O’ course I’m good for it! I’m a bloody de Ware, aren’t I?”
His vehement outburst silenced the room. Charlotte bit her lip. She felt sorry for her brother, even though he could be a complete cad when he’d been drinking. George was embarrassing himself in front of his peers.
In the next moment, he seemed to realize that. One corner of his lip curled up in a mischievous grin, and his eyes twinkled as he glanced around the library—at the distinguished portraits on the wall, the shelves full of leather-bound books, the gilt mahogany furnishings. “Ach! I’m growin’ weary o’ this shabby hovel anyway.”
His jest broke the uncomfortable silence and made everyone laugh. Everyone but Charlotte. She found no humor in the notion of George gambling away their home.
A young man warming his hands by the fire called out, “Well, if ye happen to lose it all, Georgie, I know a lady who’ll keep ye in fine style for five years at least.”
A conspiratorial “ooh” circled the room.
“As a concubine?” George asked, stroking his chin as if considering the option.
“Nay,” the man replied. “As an indentured servant.”
More laughter filled the room, disgusting Charlotte. Debt was not a laughing matter. She knew of more than one family that had been ruined by gambling debt, forced to sell off their possessions, one by one.
The banquier tapped his finger on the table. “Let’s see what we’ve all got then, gents.”
Charlotte held her breath as the players began to reveal their hands.
Then, just as George was reaching to flip over his card, Humphries the butler barked out behind her. “Miss!”
She gasped and whirled around.
They both knew what she’d been doing.
His eyes were flat with disapproval.
Her face was pink with guilt.
But the servant was wise enough not to scold her.
And she was wise enough not to try to explain.
He cleared his throat. “The ladies are inquiring about your absence, Miss.”
“I was just on my way back.”
He gave a nod of his head. “Very good, Miss.” He reached past her and silently closed the door.
Charlotte smoothed her rose satin gown, which she realized probably matched her face at the moment. Trying to salvage her dignity, she walked toward the drawing room.
Somehow, she managed to fritter away another hour, pretending to enjoy the inane conversation. As usual, she failed to engage any of the women in her own topic of interest—botany.
Once the purview of females, botany had fallen out of favor with proper ladies. Prudish Johann Siegesbeck had deemed the sexual classification of flowers “loathsome harlotry,” too offensive to a woman’s delicate sensibilities. What might have been common ground in years past was now considered outré by decent society.
And so, as always, Charlotte ended up having little to say and was left feeling awkward. Out of step. And socially exhausted.
It had been George’s idea to have his university friends over this eve, dignifying the gathering by including several of their sisters. Thus it had fallen to Charlotte to serve as hostess, no matter how much she resented the task.
She’d much rather have spent the evening studying the Caledonian Horticultural Society report. The latest installment had arrived this afternoon and was sitting on her father’s desk, unread.
The report was sent to her father after every meeting. Not because Charles de Ware was interested in horticulture. In all honesty, he couldn’t tell a dandelion from a daisy.
But Charlotte’s application for membership in the newfound Caledonian Horticultural Society had been turned down. Not because she was a hobbyist. The Society was accepting those with or without formal education. It had been turned down because she was a woman.
Her father would hear none of that. Refusing to bow to what he deemed archaic rules, he promptly gave a hefty donation to the Society, obliging them to send him the notes from their meetings, which he then handed over to Charlotte.
Charlotte looked forward to perusing the report. Though it dealt mostly with crops and propagation, horticulture was a world she understood. Reading the latest discoveries made her feel like part of the scientific community.
Sadly, by the time the gentlemen came round to collect the ladies, the night was half gone. Charlotte’s smile was worn thin with overuse. Her eyes drooped like the petals of an overwatered rose.
She bid the guests goodnight and dismissed Mrs. Scott, telling her she could clean up in the morning—an order the fastidious housekeeper predictably refused. When Charlotte finally mounted the stairs to her bedroom, she found her brother had already retired. She’d have to wait until tomorrow to learn how he’d fared at cards.
Charlotte woke long before George, of course. After his night of carousing, she imagined her brother would sleep till afternoon.
She threw on her white muslin morning dress, splashed water on her face, and raked back her unruly mop of dark curls. Then, snapping up the notebook she kept by her bed, she hurried to the first of the three south-facing windows, which were lined with flowerpots.
She smiled in satisfaction. The sky was cloudless. Her plants would get a good drenching of sunlight today.
She was aware her collection of two dozen specimens of Orchidaceae was impressive. The fact that she’d managed to keep the tropical flowers alive and blooming, some for as long as fifteen years, was even more remarkable, given the inhospitable clime of Scotland.
To a wee lass, the colorful flowers had been treasures her Grandfather de Ware brought back for her from the exotic places he sailed. With every ocean voyage he took, he collected a plant for her. Soon she’d acquired an assortment of beautiful blooms in every color of the rainbow.
When her father obtained the translated volumes of Linnaeus’ A System of Vegetables for his library, she began to learn the taxonomy of the flowers she possessed.
And two years ago, when he’d gifted her a copy of Olof Swartz’s Genera Orchidacearum for her birthday, she’d been able to finely tune that identification and classification of the various genera and species.
Only then did she realize what a true treasure they were.
Stopping at the first flower, the Oncidium punchellum with its lavender labellum and maroon guide markings, she turned the pot to count the blooms and check for new growth.
Some orchids went dormant in autumn. But those of the Oncidium genus flourished in winter. Sure enough, a new nub of a rhizome protruded perhaps two millimeters off the base of the stem.
She carefully dug her finger into the soil at the edge of the pot, checking the level of moisture.
Outdoors, the flowers would never have thrived. The weather was too cold and rainy. Tropical orchids preferred lots of sunlight, just enough humidity to keep the roots damp, and at least a modicum of warmth. She found keeping them on the windowsill was ideal for protecting them against chill and dehydration.
It took her nearly an hour to record her daily observations. But it always thrilled her when she could measure the slow progress of a plant, catalog the birth and death of a blossom, and, best of all, witness the surprising revelation of an orchid’s first bloom.
She’d already filled several books with meticulous notes and sketches. They were observations nobody but she had ever read. Observations nobody would ever read, she supposed.
Yet she’d always sensed that her notes were somehow important. That they would one day be of use. She considered it her scientific duty to record each day’s statistics. Even when it meant missing breakfast and having to raid the kitchen for a mid-morning roll with marmalade.
Because most of the plants were dormant at this time of year, she fulfilled her obligations in short order. She managed to take her morning tea and toast well before noon. Then she went to her father’s study to fetch the Caledonian Horticultural Society’s report, bringing it to the drawing room to read.
Some hours later, lost in an article on the cultivation of French pears, she nearly jumped off the settee when Humphries suddenly appeared with a silver tray.
“The post, Miss,” he announced. “Shall I…?”
Before Humphries had to face the uncomfortable decision of whether to hand the day’s post to her instead of the Man of the House, George came hurtling down the stairs.
“I’ll take that, Humphries,” he said.
George looked dreadful. His valet had managed to dress him in a clean shirt and breeches and comb his hair. But his skin had a pale cast, almost like the color of her Vanilla planifolia orchid, and his hands were shaking as he reached out for the letter on the tray. His eyes were rimmed with red, and there were dark circles around them, as if he’d lain awake all night.
She waited until Humphries was gone to address him in concern. “Are ye feelin’ well, George?”
Shuffling through the envelopes, he selected one and stared at the thing, as if he were afraid to open it.
“What is it?” She lowered the report to her lap. “Not the Navy?” she asked, her heart in her throat. She frequently worried about her brother John, away at war.
“Nay,” he muttered, “’tis just business.”
She lifted a brow. Business? George? That was news to her. George didn’t seem to be interested in business of any kind.
George, still staring at the envelope, wiped away the sweat above his lip with the back of his fingers.
Disturbed by his sickly appearance, Charlotte rose from the settee. “Perhaps ye should have somethin’ to eat, George. ‘Twill make ye feel—”
“I don’t need anythin’ to eat,” he snapped. Then, remembering his manners, he lowered his eyes. “Thank ye for the offer,” he murmured. “I’ll be fine. I’m just tired.”
No doubt, she thought, considering he’d been up until all hours of the night, five nights in a row. Too much brandy had likely taken its toll as well. Then she recalled the conversation she’d overheard in the library.
Was it possible George had had a round of bad luck? Had he overplayed his hand? Was he in trouble?
“I’ll be in the library,” he said, never meeting her eyes. “I’ll take tea in there.”
“George,” she called out as he turned to go.
“Aye?” he said over his shoulder.
One had to be delicate about these things.
“Did ye…enjoy the evenin’?”
He shrugged. “As much as any.”
She forced a nervous chuckle to her lips. “Ye didn’t gamble away my dowry, did ye?”
He stiffened. For one awful instant, Charlotte wondered if he’d done just that.
But in the next moment, his shoulders dropped, and he turned to her with his familiar cheeky grin. “Why? Ye have a husband lined up, do ye?”
George could always make her laugh. “Hardly.” She had yet to meet a man who wasn’t either intimidated or repulsed by her scientific pursuits. And unless and until she did, marriage seemed like an undesirable ambition.
“Well then…” He turned away, heading down the hall toward the library. “As a matter o’ fact,” he called out, “things worked out quite well. I’m out o’ debt and back in the game.”
She frowned as he closed the library door behind him. Back in the game. That didn’t sound good. She was hoping his brush with financial ruin would cure his fever for cards.
Whatever business George had in the library occupied him all afternoon.
Charlotte, donning a chip straw bonnet and old half boots and tying an apron over her morning dress, spent most of the day outdoors.
From the time she’d been young, the things growing in the garden had fascinated her. She’d spent hours collecting seeds, dissecting flowers, and pollinating plants by hand.
Today was no different. She made sketches of bulging rose hips, cutting one in half to examine the interior layers. She harvested the strange curly seeds of the Calendula officinalis, marigold, slipping them into a paper envelope for safekeeping. She wished to study whether they would germinate if stored for one year, two years, or more. Then, feeling ambitious, she used a trowel to unearth several of the Lilium bulbs for study, dividing and replanting the rest.
So distracted was she that she missed her afternoon tea and had to rush into her Narcissus jonquilla-colored silk gown for supper. When she arrived at the table, Humphries indicated with a critical arch of his brow that, despite thoroughly washing her hands, there was still a thin rim of dirt under her nails.
She didn’t care. In fact, she would just as soon dine in the garden in her boots and apron. It seemed wasteful to her to make so many changes of clothing, especially when the only other person at the table was George. And despite the talented Mrs. Abernathy and her sumptuous courses, Charlotte would have been just as happy with bread and cheese, especially since, for the first time in days, there were no guests to feed.
Despite—or perhaps because of—George’s unhealthy pallor, he ate only half his supper before he laid the napkin down on the table.
“I’ve had a letter from Father,” he said, waiting to catch her eye.
She looked up, holding her fork full of minced collops aloft. “Aye?”
He glanced at his claret. Picked up the glass. Brought it toward his mouth. Changed his mind. Put it back down.
“There’s been a wee change o’ plans.”
“Mm?” She slipped the fork into her mouth, chewing the rich bits of beef.
“It seems they won’t be comin’ home for the holidays after all.”
Her brows popped up. She set her fork down on the plate and swallowed the collops.
“But what about the ball?” For as long as she could remember, the de Wares had hosted a grand Christmas ball.
George raised his glass again. This time he finished off the claret.
Suddenly, Charlotte had an awful thought. “They’re not expectin’ us to host the Christmas ball, are they?” Her stomach tightened with dread.
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Then what?”
“We’ve been asked to spend Christmas with kin.”
“What kin? Not Aunt Effie?” While Aunt Effie was a sweet old bird, she lived in a drafty estate in the Highlands. Besides, she was as dotty as a ladybug.
“Nay,” he said. “’Tis a cousin…abroad.”
“Abroad?” She wasn’t aware they had any kin abroad. Maybe a relative from Norman times who still lived in France. But the French and Scottish weren’t exactly on friendly terms at the moment. “Abroad where?”
He lifted his glass again, forgetting it was empty. When he set it back down, he stared at the stem, twisting it between his fingers.
“America!” Her shriek rang out in the dining room.
At her outburst, Humphries poked his head in to see what was amiss. Satisfied that no mayhem had ensued, he sighed and closed the door again.
“America?” she repeated in a whisper.
George scraped back his chair to reach for the decanter of claret in the middle of the table. He unstopped it and poured himself a second glass.
“What kin do we have in America?” she asked.
He sat, gazing into his glass a long while before taking another drink. “Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Eugenia Smith.”
“She’s a…distant cousin o’ Mother’s, a widow.”
Charlotte blinked in surprise. This was the first she’d heard of cousin Eugenia.
George added, “Father thought ‘twould be good for us to meet the New York branch o’ the family.”
A tingling started in her veins. Christmas in New York?
Suddenly she didn’t care if Mrs. Eugenia Smith was the half-sister of her third cousin, twice removed. She’d leap at the chance to go to New York.
New York, after all, was the location of the Elgin Botanic Garden.
Since she was a young lass, when Professor David Hosack had first planted the public garden, it had been a dream of Charlotte’s to see the amazing place. But she’d always considered it an unachievable dream, as likely as becoming Queen or owning an elephant.
The idea it might be possible thrilled and excited her.
“We’re goin’ to New York?” she asked breathlessly.
She sincerely hoped this wasn’t one of George’s nasty jests. That he wouldn’t suddenly burst out in laughter at how gullible his wee sister was. Because if it was a jest, it would be too cruel for words.
“Aye.” He looked serious. Not even a hint of humor lurked in his eyes.
“But this is wonderful!” she burst out.
“O’ course, ye silly. New York is where the Elgin Botanic Garden is.”
“Oh, aye,” he seemed to remember. “Ye’ve always longed to go there, aye?”
Her eyes lit up. “And maybe we can visit Columbia College.” David Hosack had once been the Professor of Botany at the esteemed college. “New York,” she sighed.
“So ye want to go?” George acted surprised, but she was sure he was teasing her.
“O’ course I want to go! Who wouldn’t want to go to America?” Unable to contain her excitement, she got up from the table and began pacing. “But truly, George? We’re truly goin’ to New York?”
“There’s a ship leavin’ in three days.”
“Three days!” she exclaimed, halting in her tracks. “’Tis hardly time to pack. Only three days?”
“Aye.” George seemed unusually calm, considering the adventure they were about to undertake. She blamed it on his overindulgence in brandy last night. “Eight o’clock sharp on Monday mornin’.”
She resumed pacing, caught up in a flurry of plans and possibilities. There was little time to prepare.
“I’ll have to pack straightaway.” Then she hesitated. “How many servants will we take?”
“Servants.” He winced. “I don’t think we’ll have room for any servants. The ship’s bound to be tight quarters. We’ll have to manage on our own. Do ye think ye can do that?”
Charlotte nodded. Then the reality of the voyage hit her with sudden clarity. Squealing in excitement, she rushed over to George and wrapped her arms about his neck.
“Oh, Georgie, ‘twill be a real adventure, won’t it? Just ye and me on an ocean voyage, off to explore a new world.”
Amused and annoyed by her familiarity, George pried her arms loose. “Go on now.” His voice was gruff, but full of brotherly fondness. “And only pack what ye need,” he called after her as she rushed from the library. “No more than three or four trunks.”
That would do fine. She could stuff her gowns and hats into one trunk, her slippers, pelisses, and research books into another. That would leave two trunks for her orchids.
She had no intention of leaving them behind. Humphries and Mrs. Scott might be able to manage the house well enough while she was away. But no one could manage her collection of plants with the care and attention they required.
Fortunately, when her grandfather retired from his voyages abroad, he gave her his copy of Directions for Bringing Over Seeds and Plants from the East-Indies and Other Distant Countries in a State of Vegetation. She knew just how to pack her precious flowers for the journey.
It took a full day to have the special trunks built. They were three feet long, one foot wide and two feet high, with a six-inch shelf along the bottom and ventilation slots on the ends.
The next day she carefully repotted the Orchidacaea, wrapping each ball of roots in wet Sphagnum palustre moss, stringing pack-thread between each plant to stabilize it, and tucking more moss into the crevices to insulate the plants.
Then, after she tossed her clothes and shoes and fripperies into the remaining two trunks, she tucked in a few of her most precious botany volumes and several spare notebooks to record her observations.
If her brother was rather quiet, Charlotte took no special notice of it, other than to be relieved he wasn’t wasting his coin at cards. She was too excited about the journey ahead to pay him much mind. Indeed, the night before they were due to embark, she was almost too excited to sleep.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...