9 Jan 1806
“Jesus,” Tom breathed. “I’ve never seen a London mob so quiet.”
Mary slapped him lightly, absent mindedly. “Watch your language. Gentlemen don’t talk like that in front of ladies.”
“Well, I’m not a gentleman, am I? Just an honest working class lad from Stepney, and I’m telling you I never would’ve known a London crowd could be so fuckin’ silent.”
The noise of the crowd had actually just returned to its customary level, as the funeral cortege moved on toward Ludgate Hill and St. Paul’s. Now they had to raise their voices to hear each other as they stood on the balcony of the elegant Charing Cross townhome.
“It’s Nelson. The country’s never mourned anyone like they mourned him.”
Tom shrugged. “Yeah, but this...this is like Princess Diana.”
“Holy shit. Did you just compare Admiral Lord Nelson to Princess Diana?”
“No! I just meant…I never realized how popular he was. And ladies don’t say ‘holy shit.’”
“I’m not a lady, I’m an honest middle class lass from Las Vegas. You do know who Lord Nelson was, don’t you, Tom?”
He screwed up his face as if thinking very hard. “Let’s see…funny looking bloke at the top of the really big pillar in Trafalgar Square, right?”
He laughed as she sputtered in disbelief.
“Calm down, darling. I know who he was. Is. Was. He beat the frogs at Trafalgar.”
“Yes, he did. He died doing it. And thanks to that victory, Napoleon’s lost any chance of invading England. The English are rather grateful for that, so they’ve thrown him a five day state funeral. Honestly, Tom, we’ve been talking about this for months.”
“No, you’ve been talking about this for months. I’ve been building a wind farm in Northhamptonshire. If I’d known what was going to happen, I suppose I would’ve paid more attention in me history classes twenty years ago, yeah?”
Mary just shook her head with a smile. Hanging out with the brash RAF pilot always cheered her up.
“So what happens now?” he asked after a few minutes.
“Now they take him to St. Paul’s. The streets are so crowded that the front end of this procession reached—sorry, reaches—St. Paul’s before the funeral carriage left—leaves—shit…” He grinned again, and she rolled her eyes. “…the Admiralty building. There’s going to be a four hour service in the cathedral, and then they’ll put him in the crypt.” She gave Tom a sideways glance. “You’ve never been in St. Paul’s, have you?”
He tsked her with an air of wounded pride. “Darling, I’ll have you know my uncle had a fish and chips van on Ludgate Hill for twenty years. Yes, I’ve been inside St. Paul’s. Never made it down to the crypt, though. That’s where they buried him, right?”
“Right. In the most amazing sarcophagus you’ve ever seen. It was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey. See, they mothballed it when he pissed off Henry VIII, and…” She stopped as Tom yawned, loud and wide and obviously. “Too much history geeking, huh?”
“Just a bit.”
He pushed himself away from the balcony railing and stretched. “All right. I think I'll leave you now. I’m meeting Smythe-Wooding at the Cheshire Cheese, if I can even get all the way over there in this crowd. We’re taking off in the morning.”
“Oh? Where you headed?”
“Surfing. In the North Sea. In January.”
He flashed his smartass grin. “California boys. Mad bastards, the lot of ‘em. But they have neoprene suits.”
“The suits weren’t confiscated?”
He shrugged. “Apparently no one’s come up with 19th century uses for neoprene. Sure they will, some point.”
She shivered, and not just because, with sunset at three in the afternoon, it was freaking cold. Just thinking about what the North Sea would feel like made her teeth hurt.
“You lot are insane.”
He grinned again. “And where are you off to now?”
“I suppose I’ll fight my way back home for the evening.” Home was a townhouse not quite so grand as this one in the far reaches of Battersea. “And tomorrow I have to wake up early because the Captain and I are meeting with Mr. Pitt and the Prince Regent.”
He whistled. “Sorry to hear that, love. What about?”
She sighed. “We have to explain why we didn’t tell anyone Lord Nelson would die at Trafalgar.”
Click here for Chapter Two...
Click here for Chapter Two...