White Swan, Queen of Rogues

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A half a day into the trip, they saw the first reward posters offering two thousand silver guineas for the capture of an escaped lunatic asylum inmate, thinking herself to be a white swan. Trying to distract them from their worried thoughts, Humphrey whispered, “Well, the highest ever reward offered was for the capture of Lady Harriet Bumswell’s murderer, £500. You, my dear Lady White Swan, are worth four times that. Considering that an average domestic earns as little as £5 per annum, someone is very displeased with you my dear,”

Virginia whispered back worriedly, “Frankly Humphrey, with such a high reward, I am no longer sure that one of our compatriots would not seek to collect the bounty.” But Humphrey assured, “None of our compatriots are friends to the Bloody Lord, and most have a grievance or resentment towards the bastard. Aside, they are all from well-to-do backgrounds, and do not know of our return plans.”

Distracting Virginia in another way, Humphrey asked, “How are you holding up standing on this bouncy carriage? Still good to continue, or would you prefer to be inside with Roger? We still have another day until we reach London, all going well.”

They were taking a roundabout way from Cambridge to London, not direct, but along the coast through Bury St Edmonds and Ipswich, which would be less well watched, they hoped. This detour almost doubled their traveling distance, but Humphrey figured that it would be more than twice as safe. Bugger, there, standing ahead of them were uniformed soldiers. They motioned the coachman to stop and be searched.

Humphrey dutifully jumped down, set up the footstool, and opened the door. Roger remained seated, speaking, “What is it, man. Why have we stopped.” The soldier apologized and asked, “Anyone else with you, my lord?” Humphrey almost broke out in perspiration, expecting one of Roger’s smart remarks, which could agitate the soldier, and here it comes.

Roger drawled, “Let me check my pockets, Corporal. No, nothing here and nothing there, Corporal, and nothing sticking to the soul of my slippered feet. Do you see anything other than me inside this carriage, Corporal?” The solder spoke, “No sir and beggin yer pardon, sir, but these are sergeants stripes, sir.” Roger responded, “Not for long, Corporal, not for long. Now, can we continue, or do you wish to resume being a Private,” The man looked at Roger insecurely? Not once had he looked at their coachman or Humphrey and most certainly never looked up at Virginia with her soot smeared face and thick loose clothing. The Seargent waved them on.

Humphrey closed the door, put away the footstool, mounted the back of the carriage, and they were off again. Along the way to the Cat and Turkey Inn were two more roadblocks, but they were almost carbon copies of the first. They arrived safely at the Inn, where Roger slept in the best quarters the Inn had to offer with Humphrey and Virginia slept in the hay with the coachman.

The next day, each time they were stopped, no one even glanced at the lowly footman or the driver. For many of the landed gentry, servants were as trees or furniture—much the same, part of the landscape to be ignored unless needed. So too, the second and third roadblock. All the soldiers sought to do is to examine the inside of each carriage. They were on the lookout for a woman garbed as a white swan or even just a woman.

When they approached the gates of London proper, it became the most nerve wrenching several hours of thir lives, bar none. Many, many carriages, wagons, and riders stood on their way to the gates, checked by a multitude of soldiers and several of the Bloody Lords guards. Each vehicle and person was inspected several times. They thought their goose was cooked, except it was not. They made it through and to the port.

The coachman delivered them at the Humberford Tavern, which they had booked well ahead, and that had their luggage already there. They had separate quarters to Roger, who fell asleep still wearing his Dandy clothing. For Humphrey and Vergina, it was a tense night, and Humphrey decided to do something to ease the tension. They will remember that night forever, especially nine months later.

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