David Mallinson and Simon Tanner are two of my favorite characters from the series. David is Charles’s best friend, the heir to an earldom, a burden he takes very seriously (his father is the wily spymaster Lord Carfax). Simon is David’s lover, friends with David and Charles from their Oxford days, now a playwright with pronounced radical views (which tend to push beyond the bounds of thinking of the liberal Whig David). It was a lot of fun to return to David and Simon in Imperial Scandal. This month’s teaser is a brief glimpse of the scene where they arrive in Brussels. It’s the day after the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, the day of the battle of Quatre Bras.
Cordelia broke off at the sound of carriage wheels rattling to s stop directly below. She and Mélanie ran to the window to see that a post chaise had pulled up before the house.
“That must be the only carriage to come into Brussels today,” Cordelia said.
The door opened before the coachman had let down the steps. A tall man with strongly marked features and smooth dark uncovered hair sprang down, quickly followed by a slightly less tall man with pale skin and wavy brown hair showing beneath the curling brim of a beaver hat.
“Good heavens,” Mélanie said. She spun round, pausing to scoop up Colin who had run out of the nursery and was tugging at her skirts, and hurried down the stairs and across the hall to the front door. She pushed it open, ignoring Valentin, to find David Mallinson, Viscount Worsley, and Simon Tanner on the front steps.
“Melly.” A grin broke across Simon’s angular face. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. You see, David, I told you she wouldn’t have turned craven and fled to Antwerp.”
Mélanie nearly laughed from the sheer relief of seeing familiar, friendly faces. Still holding Colin, she leaned forward to hug first Simon, then David.
Colin surveyed them with a serious gaze.
“Good day, young chap,” Simon said. “I don’t suppose you remember us. It’s been nearly a year.”
“Your Uncle Simon and your Uncle David,” Mélanie said. “Two of Daddy’s best and oldest friends.”
Colin shook hands solemnly.
“David! Simon!” Aline came running down the hall like the schoolgirl she had been not so very long ago and hugged both men.
“Mrs. Blackwell.” David spun her round. “I haven’t seen you since you’ve been a married woman.”
“I’m precisely the same. Save that I’m going to have a baby.”
“And this is Lady Cordelia Davenport.” Mélanie turned to Cordelia who had followed her down the stairs. “She and her daughter are staying with us, as is Aline.”
“David and I’ve known each other since we were in the nursery,” Cordelia said, shaking David’s hand. “Mr. Tanner, we met once at Carfax Court years ago. I’ve enjoyed many of your plays.”
Simon grinned. “You’re a diplomat, Lady Cordelia.”
“And you and David are either exceedingly brave or exceedingly foolhardy to be traveling into Brussels today of all days.”
“As it happens my father sent us,” David said. “With messages for Charles.”
David’s father was Lord Carfax, unofficial head of British intelligence. It wasn’t unusual for him to send messages to Charles, but David was an unusual choice of messenger. “I’m afraid Charles is off on an errand,” Mélanie said.
“Leaving you alone?” David’s brows rose.
“Not for the first or last time. And it’s not as though there’s a great deal he could do if the French do come marching through.” A cannonade rumbled through the air to punctuate her words. “Miles off,” she said in a brisk voice. “Let’s get your bags unloaded and then come into the salon for some refreshment.”
“The line of carriages going out of Brussels was worse than the crush outside a Mayfair ball,” Simon said a quarter hour later, relaxing into a corner of one of the sofas with a glass of sherry. “Of course we galloped briskly through, even if we did get some odd looks at some of the posting houses. Not to mention stories to rival any fiction I could devise. According to some accounts the French were already in Brussels.”
David leaned forward, face drawn. “Have you had any news?”
“Not since last night.” Mélanie quickly brought the two men up to date on what they knew, with Cordelia and Aline filling in bits and pieces.
“Nothing to do but wait,” Aline concluded.
“Damnable.” Simon took a quick sip of sherry. “Whatever I thought of the war in the first place.”
Cordelia cast a quick glance at him.
“Some of us argued strenuously that there were other ways to deal with Bonaparte,” he said. “David did so quite eloquently in the House, to his father’s horror.”
David shook his head. “Even the Prime Minister had his doubts at first. But that’s all changed.”
“I rather think my husband might agree with you about there being other ways,” Cordelia said. “But nobody asked him, as he’d be quick to point out.”
“It’s done now,” David said. “We can but hope for victory.”
Mélanie took a sip of sherry.
Which characters from the series would you most like to see make a return appearance?
This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Raoul after Charles/Malcolm’s arrest.