So it’s like this.
There is now a third book in the series. You know how it is….
I do actually have a timeline of my characters. It’s not a helpful one – could I tell you Thomazine’s actual birthday? no, no more than I could tell you her father’s – except that she was born in the early spring of 1644, while the aforementioned Colonel Babbitt was up to the backsides (as he would put it) in mud and arsy troopers at Nantwich. That particular revelation’s in “The Smoke Of Her Burning”.
And Russell had just turned twenty-one when he was blinded at Naseby, in June 1645 – and so the summer of 1645 is the first time he and Thomazine meet.
Yes, mathematicians, he is nineteen years older than his wife, and yes, she has been fairly consistently attached to him since she was all of eighteen months old. Give or take a wobbly patch after the Burford Leveller mutiny, when he disappeared without trace into the interior of Scotland and came back promoted, with an ADC with a suspiciously Lowlands accent, and a tertian fever. That’s beside the point. Hapless was born in mid-June 1624. Somehow I think the idea that he was a summer baby makes his early life that much the sadder…
But knowing birthdays makes it easier. I now know that Charles II created a Board of Customs in 1671, which would make our Hapless forty-seven at the time of its creation.
(“What? Me? Gerroff!”
“Because I’m a bloody sheep-farmer, tibber! The hell has wool-smuggling got to do with me?”
“Think you just answered your own question, bright-eyes…”)
Makes Thomazine twenty-eight, too.
And means they’ve been married for six years.
(“No, Thomazine. Just. No. No. More. Babies. Three is a sufficiency. No.”
“Going to sleep on the floor, are you?”
“No! But – no! You are not a brood mare, to be put to – no!”
“I like babies, Russell.” There’s a pause, in which the author is going to discreetly look the other way, having known Thomazine’s ability to wind her stern, dignified husband round her fingers since – well, since around 1645. “I like your babies, Russell.”)
And now I know where I’m headed, in 1671, with the Board of Customs.
Essex. Mersea Island, to be specific.