Nelson, who by that time was already a legendary hero among the British, presented a strong, slender, confident figure. He had once been considered dashingly handsome, but his years of naval combat robbed him of an eye as well as an arm, and had left his face scarred and somewhat disfigured. He had a wickedly naughty sense of humor, however, and he was known for his contagious, musical laughter. It was clear from the way his good eye danced and sparkled whenever Emma entered a room, that he absolutely adored her.
|Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson|
“So, Mr. Braham,” Nelson chimed, “I’ve heard that while you were in Paris, you and your lovely lady were seen in frequent company with Bonaparte.”
They had been invited to dine with Lord Nelson and his mistress, and provide the entertainment for the company, which included Elizabeth Billington (who introduced them to Nelson), as well as the Queen of Naples, who was another sister of Emperor Joseph II and Marie Antoinette, and whom Nelson brought to safety in Liverno when Napoleon’s armies began to lay siege on the city.
“Yes we were, Your Grace,” Braham replied. “However, it was actually Signora Storace who spent the greater amount of time with him. I was fonder of his brother Jerome’s company.” He glanced at Nancy who sat glaring at him. “I found him to be a much more pleasant chap than his brother, and much easier to engage in conversation. But Signora Storace seemed to have a special ‘touch’ with Napoleon,” he added, as he cleared his throat.
Nelson turned to Nancy, who sat next to Emma. “So, tell us, Signora, what type of man is he?”
Nancy politely put her fork down, dotted the corners of her mouth with her napkin and laid it neatly back into her lap. “He’s a quiet and thoughtful man, Your Grace,” she replied as she gave Braham a sharp kick under the table. “Quite intelligent and extremely calculating, yet there seems to run deep within him a curiously tender heart.”
“So the man has a soft spot,” he said as he reached for Emma’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
|Lady Emma Hamilton|
“I hear his soldiers call him ‘The Petite Commander’,” Emma said, giggling.
“Indeed, they do,” Nancy replied, “but only as a term of endearment. He chooses personal guards who stand much taller than himself, which gives him the reputation of being short of stature, which in reality, he is not.”
“What would you consider his greatest strengths?” Nelson continued, intent on learning more about his foe.
“He has tremendous resolve. He won’t be deterred and his opinions are not easily swayed, especially when he is convinced that he is right. He is a man of tremendous conviction and integrity,” she said as she looked at Braham.
“He can be rather arrogant on that point, can he not?”
Nancy smiled. “I do suppose, Your Grace that one could see it as arrogance, but having known the man in a social capacity, I see it as a mask.”
“A mask? For what, pray tell?”
“For his insecurities and weaknesses,” she answered.
“Ah, yes,” Nelson replied, nodding.
“Tis the man’s arrogance that could eventually be his undoing, for, despite the appearance, the attitude doesn’t indicate confidence, but reveals a streak of insecurity.” He pondered this for a moment, then he asked, “And how did you learn all of this about him, Signora?”
Braham began to squirm.
“Chess, Your Grace,” Nancy answered, smiling.
“Indeed, Your Grace, chess.
"I've found that everything that can be known about a man is revealed in his chess game.”
Nelson laughed and then slapped the table, bellowing, “God damn it Braham, where the bloody hell did you find this woman? She’s a bleedin’ military genius! By George, I’m going to slap her into a uniform and give her a commission in my navy!”
“She is a rare catch, to be sure, Your Grace,” Braham replied. He took Nancy by the hand and leaned in close, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Now that I know her secret I shall have to be much more cautious the next time we play chess, or she’ll be learning more about me than I care to reveal,” he said as he chuckled nervously.
© K. Lynette Erwin, 2014