Shana Galen

Shana Galen by Prideand Petticoats Read Free Book Online

Book: Shana Galen by Prideand Petticoats Read Free Book Online
Authors: Prideand Petticoats
pass, and Charlotte turned, surveying the tangle of masts rising like spires in the channel behind her and the barrels of rum being hoisted off a ship and onto a platform. Officials ticked off each barrel on their logs while uniformed guards eyed anyone passing by too slowly with menace. Finally her gaze rested on Addy, who stood directly behind her, clutching her meager shawl and frowning something monstrous.
    She gave her maid a weak smile, but she could understand how Addy felt. Would they ever be home again?
    “Dash it, girl. Keep your head down.” Dewhurst chastised her again.
    Immediately she lowered her head, but only because she did not want to attract attention any more than he wanted her to be seen. She’d meet all his high-brow friends and supercilious acquaintances soon enough.
    She wondered fleetingly if her mother had ever been to these docks—if Katherine Abernathy had walked on this same ground before her fateful trip to the colonies, where she’d met and fallen in love with George Burton. Charlotte did not have many memories of her English mother, but she could not imagine the gracious, demure woman she did remember in a noisy, dirty place like this. Perhaps by the time Charlotte had been born, the last festering pus of her mother’s British origins had been extracted.
    “Here we are,” Freddie said, indicating an old carriage for hire. He pulled open the door and held out a hand to Addy. “Madam, if you will allow me.” He handed Addy inside, then looked at Charlotte. No frilly words for her. He jerked his head toward the coach, and when she took his hand, he practically shoved her inside before climbing in himself. The driver opened the hatch above them and said something Charlotte could never hope to decipher. Dewhurst must have understood because he replied, “Take us to”—he glanced at Charlotte, considering—“Bruton Street. Number sixty-four.”
    “Difficulty remembering where you live, Mr. Dewhurst?”
    He frowned at her from across the carriage. “Not any more than you have remembering my title, Miss Burton.” He opened the curtains a bit. “Ah, good. The sun is up. You’ll be able to see the city.”
    “I declare, your city holds no interest for me.” She crossed her arms and looked at Addy for confirmation, but Addy was staring openmouthed out the window. Charlotte frowned, then shivered. Now that she was out of the hustle and bustle, she was even more conscious of the damp cold seeping into her bones and pulled her mantle tightly around her. It was late June, and when she’d left Charleston in May, the weather had been balmy. Here it was cold and dreary, the sun Dewhurst had touted invisible behind the sooty clouds.
    The weather reflected the city. The coach drove past dingy buildings, dirty streets, and rancid smells. The London sky was darkened by a thick fog, and she had the feeling that it wouldn’t dissipate with the morning. The few shops that were open were lit as if it were perpetually evening.
    The hordes of city dwellers off on their morning errands seemed not to notice their bleak surroundings. In all the racket, how could they? Charlotte pressed her palm to her forehead, finding it difficult to take in the press of carriages and horses, the swarms of humanity, and the hollow, haggard faces of the beggars on almost every corner. Then there was the added strain of redcoats. The city appeared under siege from the sheer numbers of enlisted men milling about, waiting to go to war or hoping to avoid it.
    “Oh, Lawd,” Addy murmured at the sight of the soldiers.
    “Not to worry, Miss Addy,” Dewhurst said. “You are quite safe here.”
    Charlotte snorted, and Dewhurst looked at her. “Old friends, Miss Burton?”
    She grimaced. “Hardly friends, Dewhurst, but we are acquainted.”
    “If you’d like to renew your friendships, I could take you to the daily parade of the Horse Guard from their barracks to Hyde Park.”
    “Only if you promise to meet our American

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