A Perfect Gentleman:Tenacious Trents 02

By: Jane Charles

For: Bernard

High school wouldn’t have been the same without you

Bentley Manor, 1789

Matthew Trent sat in the large chair facing his father, the Earl of Bentley, his bottom smarting from the whipping he’d just received. Once he was free of this room Matthew doubted he would sit again for a week. As it was, it took everything to keep from squirming to find a more comfortable position. It wasn’t his fault John had climbed the tree and then fell and broke his arm.

The earl leaned forward and braced an elbow on the desk, his bushy grey eyebrows drawn together over his nose in a frown. The man was frightening indeed. “I am disappointed in you, Matthew.”

When wasn’t his father disappointed in him or one of his three brothers except perhaps Clayton, his favorite?

“You should have stopped your brother.” His father’s right hand caressed the end of the willow switch.

“I tried, but he wouldn’t listen to me, sir.”

The earl’s face grew sterner.

Oh, please don’t let him whip me again.

Father picked up the glass of dark liquid and sipped. Matthew wanted to be from the room before the earl had too many more drinks or he was sure to be whipped again. “You need to be more authoritative when dealing with those who look up to you.”

How could he be an authority, or order John around? John was only five and Matthew just turned seven. His brother was not going to listen to him no matter what.

“How can you be a good vicar if you can’t lead your parishioners? You must be someone they look to for guidance in all things.”

Matthew swallowed. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be a vicar. It sounded too important. And, you had to be good. Very, very good to be a vicar and he wasn’t good. If he were, then his father would never need to take the willow switch to his bottom.

“You like to pray, don’t you, Matthew?” His father poured more liquid from the decanter into his glass. Was this his second or third drink?

“Yes, sir.” Matthew did pray a lot. For a long time he prayed that God would send Mother back to him. For the last week he had been praying for Adele, his step-mother, and Julia, his baby sister, to be sent back. But God hadn’t granted that prayer. Why was it so hard to give him either? God raised Lazarus from the dead easily. Instead, God let his step-mother and sister both be swept out to sea after their carriage had gone off the side of a bridge. It wasn’t fair and at this moment, Matthew was fairly certain he did not want to be a vicar. You couldn’t be a vicar and be angry with God, could you?

Matthew looked down at his lap so his father would not see the tears and blinked quickly. Crying would earn him another punishment. But, he missed Adele and Julia. Adele, more than Julia. His step-mother smelled pretty and played games with them. Julia wasn’t nearly as fun, but she would have been when she got bigger.

His father leaned back in the big leather chair and folded his hands on his large belly, thus he was no longer touching the willow switch. Matthew relaxed but didn’t alter the straight line of his spine.

“I’ve decided that since you cannot be a good influence on your brother, you need to spend more time in your studies.”

Matthew looked up and swallowed, hoping his father didn’t hear the little groan. Matthew hated to study almost as much as he hated his tutor, Mr. Pomroy. The man liked to smack his knuckles as often as father took the switch to him or his brothers.

“You are to visit Vicar Hinrich each afternoon for additional education to prepare you to be the perfect vicar.”

Matthew perked up. He liked Vicar Hinrich, very much. And, his wife made the most delicious cherry tarts.

His father leaned forward once again, and caressed the willow as if he were the softest silk. “I expect you to excel at your studies, Matthew. You are my third son and need a way to support yourself. I expect nothing but perfection from you.”

Yorkshire, England, October, 1813

Grace Cooper ran across the field of wildflowers, one hand on her bonnet to keep it in place. The church bells tolled in the distance and she picked up speed. A lady would have taken the carriage, or at least traveled upon the road. But, as she was simply the daughter of landed gentry, lady not attached to her name; Grace reasoned a simple miss could do as she pleased – almost.

The new vicar was to give the sermon today. She had not yet met him, but rumors and gossip claimed him to be quite young, and handsome. Not that it mattered. Grace just didn’t like to leave a poor first impression. She frowned. Which was exactly what would occur when she entered the sanctuary several minutes late.

Perhaps he wouldn’t notice. The church was sure to be full, if not over packed. Everyone would come to see and hear him. Oh, how she wished she could recall his name. She was certain several people had told her, but the information was no longer in her mind.

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