Wilder Perkins: Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities

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Wilder Perkins Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities
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    Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities
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Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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"Your appointment will not be gazetted yet, of course- not until you've read yourself in-or had Mr. What's-his-name do it for you. But you may mount your swab as soon as it pleases you to do so. And, since I'll wager you're going to be rushing off to Weymouth anyway, you may as well take this copy of the Chronicle with you while you're about it and read it to that widow who interests you so greatly. There's a bit in it about her late husband.

"But steer clear of Frobisher, though, d'ye understand? I can't have you in the same room with him. He's too important in that part of the countryside, and in the House, for you to get embroiled with him. Understand?"

Hoare nodded his assent, whispered his heartfelt thanks, made his bow, and left to find the best tailor in the port. Later, he would invite his friends to help him wet his new swab. Tomorrow morning, he would rent an agreeable horse and betake himself to Weymouth. There was not a moment to lose.

When Hoare handed the article to her, Mrs. Graves read it silently. Then she looked up at him. "This is very gratifying indeed, Mr. Hoare," she said. "I now apologize most abjectly for having misunderstood your intentions toward my late husband, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having cleared his good name. Ask me for any reward it is in my power to grant."

Hoare had done this once before, in Halifax, at the feet of his sweet Canadienne. Nevertheless, he was trembling as he dropped to one knee.

"Mrs. Graves… Eleanor," he began haltingly, "I have now reached a position in the service where my future is more certain than it was. And I already command a small but sufficient income. I wish to ask… to ask you if you could bring yourself to share that future."

"Mr. Hoare," she said, looking down at him with those piercing brown eyes. "Or perhaps I should say 'Captain Hoare,' if I remember my naval etiquette. Bartholomew. I am thirty-four years old and-to be blunt-still a virgin despite my widowed state. Are you so besotted as to think that, at my age, I would be able to accommodate the attentions of a man? That I would be, or could become, a suitable spouse for an active gentleman in the prime of life? That I could bear his children-yours, to be precise?

"Come, come, sir! I am a mundane woman, and I know it. I am not interested in a lark. No," she went on. "I thank you, not only for your offer, but for the kindness which must have inspired you to make it. To be sure, my late husband's lands go to his children. But you should know that poor Simon…" She seemed to choke, but continued, "When we were wed, Simon made over to me the jewels he gave me, his house and its furnishings, and his practice is mine to dispose of as I see fit. I shall not be thrown upon the town for my living. I have no children of my own for whom I am responsible. I shall be reasonably prosperous, in fact."

"I do not make my proposal out of pity, Eleanor," Hoare protested. "I make it out of admiration, high regard, and the deepest affection. I… I love you."

"I wonder, Bartholomew," she said gently, "if you recall the evening you spent with Simon, Miss Austen, Mr. Morrow-Moreau, I suppose I should call him-and myself…"


"Then you will remember my saying something like this: 'I permit no one but my husband to listen to the music of my heart. It belongs to him.' I meant those words then, Bartholomew, and I mean them still. Perhaps it is too soon after Simon's death, but my heart is not yet mine to bestow."

"Then I shall not withdraw my proposal," Hoare whispered. "Your heart may not now be yours to bestow on a living man, but perhaps it will find its way back to you in due course. Meanwhile, you have the disposition of my own."

Hoare could say no more. He bowed over Eleanor Graves's hand, turned, and left her house. Once again, it was raining.

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