Merry Mayhem; A Collection – Anna Markland

Jaw clenched, Teague Maxwell, Earl of Tisdale, conducted an inspection of the surviving members of the Highland regiment he commanded. Shutting out the approaching tramp of military boots, he spoke softly with a handful of individuals who had demonstrated exemplary bravery during the siege. Satisfied all was in order—plaids neatly draped, muskets and claymores clean, spines rigid, chins jutting proudly—he took up a position in front of his men. Inhaling deeply in an effort to quell the pulse thudding in his ears, he stood to attention and narrowed his eyes as the soldiers of the Manchester Regiment marched into Preston’s market square. In their wake came a tall, thin officer Teague knew only by reputation. Compared to the bloody battles in which the renowned General Charles Mills had fought with distinguished bravery, the brief siege and surrender of the Jacobite forces at Preston must have seemed like a walk in the park. Teague had warned the Northumbrian commander of the Jacobite army that barricading the rebel troops within Preston’s walls was a tactical mistake, but Forester insisted on pulling away from the defensible position near the River Ribble. Upon his arrival, Mills had only to surround the town and wait for the arrival of reinforcements. As soon as approaching dragoons were sighted by the lookouts in the church steeple, Forester announced there was no option but to surrender. The Tisdale Highlanders swore they were prepared to fight on to the last man, but the treacherous Northumbrian negotiated with Mills without Teague’s knowledge or consent. As a result, Teague now stood face to face with Mills, his beloved claymore held in both hands, his jaw clenched. “As commander of the Tisdale Regiment,” he declared, offering the weapon to the general, “I, Teague Maxwell, third Earl of Tisdale, acknowledge defeat and surrender my men, in the belief they will be treated with the respect courageous warriors deserve.” Mills accepted the sword, handing it to a minion standing behind him without even glancing at the ornately decorated blade. “On behalf of his glorious Majesty, King George, I accept your surrender. Your men will be taken prisoner and tried for treason.

” If he didn’t advocate on their behalf, Teague doubted Mills had the wherewithal to provide a fair hearing for over a thousand men, his Highlanders among them. “I respectfully request I be allowed to remain with them.” “Denied. It’s the Tower for you, my friend,” Mills replied in a distinct Cornish accent before stalking off, issuing clipped orders. As manacles and shackles were clamped on his wrists and ankles, Teague’s broken heart acknowledged he would never see his beloved Scotland again. Execution or transportation would be his fate. He swallowed the bitterness of his biggest regret. He should have married the intriguing Lady Kenzie McCardell when he had the chance—but then she’d soon be a widow. This way, her father could arrange another betrothal. He prayed the only woman who’d ever captured his heart would quickly forget him and find happiness with a wiser man.

# Teague, Forester and another English officer shared a cramped prison wagon for the bone-jarring two-hundred-and-fifty-mile journey south from Preston to London. The iron bars provided no protection from the elements. Teague was glad of the warmth of his plaid against the bitter November winds. When the heavens opened and the rains poured, the smell of wet wool was strangely comforting. A reminder of home. He’d lived around horses all his life but traveling directly behind two dray animals for hours on end was nauseating. For the first time in his life, he knew hunger. The unidentifiable slop they were given twice daily only served to aggravate the lead ball of dread lodged in his belly. He had trouble making his frozen limbs work during the five minutes a day they were herded out of the wagon so it could be sluiced out. The shackles often caused him to stumble.

As the interminable miles dragged on, he thought often of Kenzie. He found comfort in his memories of her—basking in the glow of her beautiful smile, sifting his fingers through flaxen hair, daydreaming of the day he’d once more cup her bountiful breasts in his hands, suckle rigid nipples and join his body with hers for the first time. Passion had flared as soon as they’d met, but he’d respected her wish to save herself for their wedding night. It had been difficult for them both to keep their hands to themselves. “Alas, ’twas never meant to be,” he lamented, determined not to let his hands wander to his manhood. The metallic clink of manacles drew too much attention. When they passed through Birmingham—a notorious Puritan stronghold since before the Civil War—an angry crowd pelted them with rotten vegetables. “Animals,” Forester muttered. Teague became increasingly concerned about the second Englishman. John Smythe retreated to a corner of the wagon where he sobbed quietly.

Forester turned up his nose in disgust, but Teague understood John’s fear and the heartbreak of never seeing loved ones again. “They say ’tisna too bad in the Tower,” he said in an effort to raise the man’s spirits. “’Twas originally built as a palace, nay a prison, ye ken. I expect we’ll receive better treatment than this.” “I doubt it,” Forester grunted, but John nodded, sniffling back his tears. After a week cooped up in the wagon like an animal, Teague could barely stomach his own stench. He was almost relieved to finally be shoved aboard a barge on the Thames. The dark waters of the mighty river he’d heard so much about reeked of decay. They floated beneath London Bridge. “A grand feat of engineering,” he declared, hoping to divert John’s attention from the severed heads of recently executed prisoners displayed on pikes.

“I’ve ne’er seen a bridge with so many tall buildings built atop it.” Smythe had lapsed into a trance by the time they passed under the archway known as Traitors’ Gate. Teague swallowed the lump in his throat. “Pray for me, Kenzie,” he murmured. Anna Markland To Rescue A Highland Rebel JOURNEY TO LONDON McCardell House, Tisdale, Highlands, 21 November “Kenzie,” Algernon McCardell pleaded. “Will ye please cease pacing back and forth? Ye’re wearing a hole in the carpet. I ken the news is dire, but…” Kenzie brandished the crumpled missive in her hand. “Dire? ’Tis a disaster. My brave, handsome Teague a prisoner in the Tower of London? I canna bear it.” Her sighing father put an arm around her shoulders.

“Naught we can do about it. King George wants to make an example of the Jacobites.” “We must do something,” she retorted. “How long does it take to get from Preston to London? Has he been delivered there yet, do ye think?” He shook his head. “I dinna ken. I suppose it depends how the prisoners were transported.” Kenzie shuddered. “I’ll think of a way to free him. Can we petition the king for clemency?” “There’s scant chance of that,” he replied. “I canna travel south with yer mother nay long in her grave, and I dinna have connections at the Hanoverian court.

” Guilt crept up her spine. Her father had enough to worry about. They both grieved the recently departed Nora McCardell. “Has anyone ever escaped from the Tower?” she asked after long minutes of silence. Scratching his bald head, her father eyed her, clearly of the opinion she’d lost her mind. “Well, I heard tell of a Welsh prince who attempted an escape hundreds of years ago.” Her hopes rose a smidgen. “And?” “Fell to his death.” He stroked her back when she wailed into his shoulder. “Once, there was a Jesuit priest who wrote secret messages to his brethren in the juice squeezed from oranges.

” She inhaled deeply. “This isna the time to make mock.” “Nay,” he insisted. “They got the message and helped him escape by means of a rope tied to a cannon on one end and a boat in the Thames on the other. He managed to shinny down despite his hands being mangled by the torturers.” Kenzie felt sick. “Surely they willna torture Teague? He’s an earl.” “Maybe they willna,” he replied. “Now, ye can cry for a week or two, then we’ll talk about another betrothal.” “But I love Teague,” she protested.

“And he loves me.” “Aye,” he replied, sighing again. “’Twas a good match. But he kent the risks when he went off to fight. Ye canna wed a dead man.” # It took a lot of weeping and wailing and a refusal to eat for three days, but Kenzie finally convinced her father they should travel to London and do what they could to advocate on Teague’s behalf. It was a major victory. Such a journey would have been impossible without his help. He insisted he’d only capitulated because he had a brother in London he hadn’t seen for twenty years, but she sensed a need to get away from Tisdale and painful memories of his wife’s long illness. “We must be discreet,” he warned.

“I dinna want to be arrested as a Catholic rebel. Who kens where my brother’s sympathies lie?” She recognized her Protestant father’s predicament. “Teague didna join the Jacobites to restore a Catholic monarch. Like ye, he wanted Scotland to regain her independence. Prince James Francis Edward Stuart committed to repealing the Act of Union.” “Aye,” he conceded. “Things have only worsened under yon Hanoverian usurper. I doot he even kens Scotland exists.” They traveled from the Highlands to Edinburgh on horseback, riding as fast as the frost-rutted tracks allowed. The stagecoach from Edinburgh to London ran only once a month.

If they missed it, they might arrive too late to save Teague. They lodged in a coaching house in Edinburgh, relieved to discover they’d only two days to wait. Her father sent the armed escort back to Tisdale. Only her lady’s maid and her father’s valet would make the journey with them. They passed the time planning their course of action once they reached London. “We could end up spending most of yer dowry on this fool’s errand,” he warned. “Food and lodging expenses if my brother willna take us in, bribes…” “’Tisna important,” she retorted. “I dinna intend to wed another if I canna have Teague as my husband.” He rolled his eyes, “Wheest, lass, ye’ll get over him.” It was useless to try to explain the all-consuming passion she and Teague shared.

More than once, she’d allowed his coaxing tongue entry when they kissed. She’d let his hands roam over her body and touch intimate places. She wished now she’d surrendered completely to his kisses. If she’d given in to his obvious desire to mate with her, they might have planted the seed of a bairn. At least, a wee one would be a reminder of him. Simply looking at his fair face, sifting her fingers through his dark, silky hair, feeling the warmth of his hands on her waist when he lifted her down from her horse… “Daydreaming’s of little use,” her father admonished, jerking her back to the cramped chamber of the inn. “We need a plan.” Throughout the tedious and uncomfortable twelve-day trek to London, she racked her brain to devise a way to free Teague, finally realizing it was pointless until they arrived and ascertained the lay of the land. They lodged in various coaching inns that ranged from comfortable to downright filthy. Kenzie slept little, worried she’d be covered in flea bites if she ever did see Teague again.

Her parsimonious father fretted about the double fare he’d paid to secure seats and chambers for the two of them and their servants. “Twelve shillings! Sterling! Each!” he muttered over and over.

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