When the governor of the Bahamas colony received an invitation to return for a winter visit to England to discuss how things were going on in his colony from the colonial office, he was admittedly a bit nonplused. He knew himself to be a bit of a dilatory correspondent, to be sure, but he did not suppose he had been so much incommunicado as to deserve a dressing down in person from the colonial office, which might prove fatal to himself personally, given his constitution, and would certainly prove to be damaging to his political career, which was on the upswing now that the Bahamas was considered to be a vital post in the defense of British interests given the concerns about the new United States.
As far as the governor was concerned, it was the fault of the Americans that he had been unable to write letters to the colonial office with the frequency and length and detail that they seemed to think they deserved. At least until a few months ago, he had delegated that task to the step-son of his relatively new second-in-command, a man of considerable energy and dispatch who had apparently written reports of such a nature that the colonial office was pleased to know how their island colony just a bit off the coast of once-again Spanish Florida and not far from Georgia and South Carolina. Unfortunately for him, the man had gone back home to take up his noble title after winding down his affairs in Nassau and much more work than he appreciated had fallen upon him to make sure that the titles of land were clear and that the former slaves who were now subjects, even free men, of His Majesty had sufficient supplies of food as well as fresh water. This was by no means an easy task.
There was at least one ray of light in the letter, the governor considered in a missive that was otherwise quite irritating to him, and that was the option to send his lieutenant governor and his wife to England to give a report in person. As he did not presume that a new royal official who was just winding up his position and who was the stepfather of a peer would receive the same dressing down as he would, being a mere knight whose important connections were on the outs with the current government, alas, and so he happily walked over to the office of the man and gave him the letter to read.
The response of Sir Arundel Martin to the offer of going back to London for a spell and enjoying a good portion of the London season was much as the governor would have hoped. He commented that his wife was very eager to travel away from Nassau if possible and that the opportunity of a trip to visit distant family and get away from the area for a few months would be a great aid to domestic tranquility. The governor almost sympathized with the plight of his second-in-command. It was hard on the marital happiness of couples when a spouse was unhappy about a posting. Sir Martin had long been unmarried and had hoped that a marriage would secure him domestic tranquility and bliss but found that wives have their own rational and irrational prejudices against places where their husbands may be sent on business, and though he dearly loved his wife, it was a burden on him that she was so hostile to Nassau.
The feelings of Lady Eliza Martin would have been hard for her husband to relate to. For Sir Martin, Nassau was a step up in the hierarchy of British civil servants, a chance to show that even if the English rule over East Florida was at an end, and even though he was nearing an age where most people considered retirement, he had finally moved beyond being a mere man of the Governor’s council but had moved up into the second-in-command of a crown colony of considerable importance to the well-being of Great Britain. This was a momentous achievement, all the more because other than his stepson, and then only recently, he had a shortage of influential friends in high places. It was all the more a great triumph because Sir Martin was by no means an extremely clever or brilliant man. He was, however, a very good man, loyal, hardworking, honest, conscientious, decent, without any notable strain of moral or political corruption, not greedy for money, a man of modest pleasures like listening to music or gardening. If he would never be considered among the shining lights of any political firmament, he was a solid man who had won the trust of the colonial office in a time where so many people had lately proven to be so unfaithful and disloyal to the crown, at such a great cost. The fact that he owed his character to his recent elevation was something that made him greatly happy, and he was glad to be able to help please his wife and spend some time in London, which might be useful in providing the chance to socialize a bit in quiet dinners where he could hear at least a bit of the conversation with his good ear.
For his wife, though, Nassau was not an enjoyable place to be. The fault could be blamed at her unfortunate interactions with some of the local population when she visited the island while a widow one time. She found herself the unwanted recipient of unwanted advances from someone who seemed unwilling to understand or accept that two-little word that begins with an n and ends with an o. Since her rejection of his interest had been met with no change of behavior and she considered herself in some danger, she managed to spend time with enough friends and avoid being alone so as to preserve her safety, but the experience had left her a bit shaken up. Though she had not suffered a repeat of any such issues, Nassau itself was a place that she did not enjoy living in or even visiting and it had plenty of bad memories for her. When she heard that her husband and her had received an invitation to travel to London for a good part of the social season, it was definitely something she looked forward to.
She was glad, too, that it pleased her husband, who was considerably honored by being able to explain the changes that were happening to the Bahamas in the aftermath of the settlement of many freed slaves in the colony. Before the American Revolution, the colony had been known as a place for pirates and smugglers and a generally unsavory population in general, and it was becoming considerably better in the aftermath of so many freed slaves who simply wanted land of their own and the ability to make an honest living by the sweat of their brow. She wished them well and cheered on the colorful homes they were building and the happiness that such people felt in enjoying their freedom from the lash and being subject to the whims and will of a human master.
With considerable dispatch the two of them boarded a ship and headed for England. They did not wish to waste time, as good sailing days in the winter were not to be taken for granted, and so it was that no one in England except for the colonial office expected them home. This sort of stealthy arrival was exactly the sort of thing Lady Martin reveled in. Although she had no difficulty in bringing to the attention of others awkward and uncomfortable truths that they may not want to address at that or any time, when she was involved in difficult and uncomfortable matters that might subject her to unpleasant accusations and conversations, her characteristic approach was to make a decisive and sudden decision that presented those around her with a fait accompli that must be accepted and dealt with as an immovable reality where argument was pointless and seen as such by everyone involved. Fortunately, such situations did not often arrive.
The trip along the wide Saragasso Sea was a pleasant one, and no terrible winter storms or icebergs found them as they sailed to the home country. While on the trip Lady Martin planned who she wanted to see and where she might drop in looking for a room while she spent time in London, as it did not happen that Sir Martin had any London home of his own and might feel a bit embarrassed about having to ask someone for a place to stay while he sought to improve his own standing among the King’s colonial officials, and ensure himself at least a pleasant and comfortable retirement to putter about in his English garden in the dales of Yorkshire, whenever that time came. Sir Martin himself spent much of the trip working on various reports of what was going on in the Bahamas so as to be able to provide the colonial office with information that was at least only a few weeks old rather than months old, at the very least.
Without too much trouble the ship landed at Weymouth, finding a pleasant anchorage in that spacious bay and not feeling it would be worthwhile to chance suffering winter storms to get closer to London. After their trunks were taken off of the ship they were able to rent a carriage and carry on to London, where Lady Martin gave the address to the driver, who thought for a minute, blinked, and asked if this was indeed where she wanted to go. Lady Martin replied that it was.
“Do you have some connection with the gentleman who lives here?”
“He is my son.”
There was a slight silence as the driver swallowed hard and commenced driving. The two of them made good time despite the lateness of the season and managed to stop past Southampton on the way to London and then comfortably arrive in London at the address of the Lipton House shortly before dinner the following day. Admittedly, the arrival was a bit of a surprise the Lord Lipton and his party, but as the Lord and Lady Sydney were already there with their daughter, it was quite an honor for Lord Lipton to introduce the party to his mother and stepfather to the gentleman in charge of the colonial office who Sir Martin was preparing to see. This was a pleasant surprise all around.
A couple of extra chairs were added to the table and the two of them sat down on a sofa in the seating room to enjoy the friendly conversation that was taking place. Though the visit was a surprise, it was by no means an unwelcome surprise to anyone involved. Neither Clarissa nor Miss Wood had ever met Lord Lipton’s mother and they looked forward to see what resemblance existed between the two, because while Lady Martin looked a great deal like an older version of Clarissa–something that pleased the the girl for a reason she could not explain–it was clear that Lord Lipton took after his father in terms of his looks. Lord Lipton was surprised to see his mother and stepfather, who he had not seen for a bit of time, since he had left Nassau himself and returned to England months ago, but he enjoyed seeing both his mother and his stepfather. It was certainly true that not all stepchildren got along well with the second spouses of their surviving parents, but Lord Lipton enjoyed the steady integrity of his stepfather and sincerely respected the man. For Lord Martin himself, he knew he would eat well with his stepson and enjoy friendly conversation, and he was pleased to see that Lord and Lady Sydney were at paints to get to know him and his wife and very happy to make an acquaintance and to acknowledge the connection between them and Lord Lipton, with whom they were evidently on intimate terms with, which brought great pleasure to both Lord and Lady.
For the aforementioned Lord and Lady Sydney, it was a considerable blessing to be able to see Lord Lipton among his closest relatives. They were aware that Lord Lipton’s family connections were indeed very small and it was a pleasure to see how warm and friendly Lord Lipton was with his mother and stepfather, asking how Lord Martin’s garden in Nassau was doing, what tropical plants were being taken care of, and the like. Lord Lipton directed all of these questions to his stepfather, knowing that his mother was not fond of Nassau but not wanting to bring her into any embarrassing conversations. To their pleasure as well Lord Lipton was keen on introducing his mother and stepfather to Sarah, who was very pleased to make their acquaintance and eager to please Lord Lipton’s mother, who she rightly supposed to be as full of strong opinions stoutly expressed as her son. So this is where he got it from, the group noted philosophically, but not unpleasantly. Lady Martin herself was very interested in seeing that her son evidently had some attachment with the young woman, and it did not take her very long to determine that the young lady was precisely the sort of girl that she would wish and expect her son to be interested in with regards to her age, her looks, her kind and friendly and unassumingly intelligent disposition, as well as the musical skill she showed on the harp. She resolved to talk to her son about the matter as soon she could find a private moment, even though that occasion was likely to be some hours from now.