Henry, the King's Cavalier
(The Lydiard Chronicles: 1603-1664)
By Elizabeth St.John
A man may think his life is only measured by battles fought for the king. Until he meets a woman worth fighting for.
Henry Wilmot. Cavalier. Seasoned soldier. Grieving widower. On the eve of battle he is sent by the king to requisition arms. What he did not expect was that the supplies were a gift from a feisty and attractive widow who was hiding her own Royalist beliefs in plain sight. Even more alarming was that his quest took him into the heart of an enemy Parliamentarian household. Will Henry survive the fight of his life? And will Nan remember him if he does?
A counterpoint is a melody played in conjunction with another, or an opposing viewpoint in an argument. Our lives are complex, and each one of us carries within us a counterpoint to another’s story.
Here is a counterpoint to Nan Wilmot, from Written in Their Stars.
On the eve of the battle of Edge Hill, Henry Wilmot is in a desperate race to acquire arms on behalf of the king. He enlists the help of Allen Apsley, who leads him to his cousin.
The foolish groom just ignored me before bending and feebly pushing the guns back into a pile. He was a weed of a man, the guns near as long as him. At that rate, we would be there all night.
I nudged him with my boot. “Don’t be so bloody stupid, you whoreson. Get out of the damned way. Now.”
The fellow snatched up a gun and pointed it at me. “And you don’t be so bloody rude.” In a swift motion, Allen seized the weapon and flung it to the ground—and then burst out laughing. I was still struggling to understand why a stripling whose voice had not even broken was on a mission like this.
Allen hugged the lad, knocking off his hat. The recruit laughed with a laugh that sent heat to my gut. And shook loose a wash of auburn curls.
“Dear God!” I exclaimed.
She swept me a look that would have stopped the Earl of Essex dead and saved us the trouble of fighting again that month.
“Where’s my brother?” she demanded of Apsley.
“With the advance cavalry, on his way to London.” He paused. “Ned’s perfectly safe, Nan. We meet up from here and ride together.”
She nodded in my direction. “Who’s this?”
“Henry Wilmot, at your service.” I swept my best bow. Somehow her attitude and the occasion demanded it.
“Should I know you, Mr. Wilmot?”
Again that arrogance. I just stared at her.
Apsley rushed to my rescue. “Colonel Wilmot is the king’s Commissioner General of the Horse. He leads the cavalry in his army, Nan. He is the most experienced military commander, second only to Prince Rupert.” He paused. “And more popular.”
She sniffed. “Let’s see if you can ride as well as you curse.” She turned to Apsley. “Give me a leg up, Allen. I’ll show you the shortcut across Ditchley Park. It’ll save you two hours on the track.”
This was too much. We did not need a woman slowing us down at this vital moment. “Can’t your men lead us? This is really no place for a lady.”
As Apsley cupped his hands and Lady Lee stepped up on her high horse—if it was even possible for her to climb any higher—her cloak swung open, revealing a pair of breeches and a man’s jacket, some kind of linen shirt and velvet waistcoat. None of which did anything to hide her figure nor her agility.
“Not what I had expected, Apsley,” I muttered under my breath. “Yet certainly more than I wished for.”
He grinned and quickly mounted, as did I. “Ride forward with Nan, Colonel, and I’ll bring up the rear to ensure the pack ponies don’t lag.” Cantering down the track, he left me at his cousin’s mercy.
“Shall we go?” She shot me another glance. “Or are you concerned about keeping up with a woman in unknown territory?”
She urged her horse forward, her hair streaming behind like the mane of a wild filly.
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Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England, lives in California, and spends most of her time in the 17th Century. To inspire her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story...