The Quiet Gentleman
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The Quiet Gentleman is a Regency novel by Georgette Heyer. Set in the spring of 1816, after the Battle of Waterloo, it is the story of the return home from the wars of the Seventh Earl of St Erth to claim his inheritance.
Gervase Frant, 7th Earl of St Erth, returns to his family seat at Stanyon, having inherited from his father while abroad with the army against Napoleon. Also residing at the house are his stepmother, the Dowager Lady St Erth, Gervase's younger half-brother Martin, his cousin Theo and his stepmother's young friend, Drusilla Morville, who is on a long-term visit.
Gervase had not spent much time at Stanyon as a child; his maternal grandmother had taken him in instead. Lady St Erth and Martin make plain to Gervase that they are disappointed that he has survived the war, as Martin might have inherited instead. Theo, his cousin and acting steward, is therefore the only person at Stanyon with whom he has had much friendly contact. Gervase goes on to get his own way in the household, not by bluster but by quiet insistence.
Out riding one day, Gervase happens upon an attractive young lady who has fallen off her horse and discovers her to be Marianne, the daughter of another member of the local gentry, Sir Thomas Bolderwood, a Baronet who inherited unexpectedly from his older brother. Since he had successfully made his fortune in India, he is known locally as the Nabob. Gervase, being rather taken with Marianne, finds that Lady St Erth is less impressed with his new acquaintance; while she is fond of Marianne in her self-centred way, she hopes of her making a match with Martin.
Having made Marianne's acquaintance, Gervase resolves that there should be a ball, an idea which Martin throws himself into with enthusiasm, although it falls to Drusilla to organize it. Martin's older sister arrives with her husband and two infant children to attend Gervase's first big function at Stanyon; so too does "Lucy" (short for Lucius Austell, Viscount Ulverston), an old Army friend of Gervase's who is heir to the earldom of Wrexham.
The ball is a resounding success; particularly successful is the meeting between Lucy, Lord Ulverston and Marianne. This upsets Martin, although Gervase receives it with equanimity. Lord Ulverston and Marianne will later become engaged.
After the ball, and as life seems to be settling back into a routine, more alarming things begin to happen. Gervase, who sleeps in the panelled and ancient master bedroom at Stanyon, wakes thinking someone is in his room. A bridge he is about to cross has been damaged by flooding and he is not forewarned. Someone sets up a tripwire for his horse and he is stunned by the fall. The person suspected as behind all these incidents appears to be Martin, who cannot conceal his envy of Gervase, and who had also attempted to fight Gervase without a button on his fencing foil.
Later someone shoots Gervase. The injury proves not fatal, but Gervase is laid up for some time with an injured shoulder. Immediately after the incident, Martin disappears and it is assumed that he fled to avoid blame for the shooting. When he reappears, it is with a story of being attacked, tied up and abandoned in a sandpit. Everyone is sceptical about this story except for Gervase.
As soon as he is fairly well recovered, Gervase rides out to see Theo, but he is hotly pursued by Martin. Martin tells Gervase that he believes Theo is behind the attempts to compromise them both, and Gervase agrees that this is what he always suspected. Rather than risk the scandal of a prosecution without proof, Gervase sends Theo to manage Martin's plantation in the West Indies. Now that the half-brothers are reconciled, Gervase suggests that Martin take over the successful running of the estate in Theo’s place.
Drusilla, who is the daughter of a republican philosopher and has won over Gervase with her quiet practicality, has shared his suspicions. In her agitation while the male family members are away from home, she trips on the stairs and breaks her arm in the fall. Her parents arrive to take care of her and, when Gervase’s feelings become apparent, both his step-mother and Drusilla’s father forbid the match. While those two then engage in a dispute over whose family is the most ancient, Gervase and Drusilla come to a satisfactory understanding.
Characters in "The Quiet Gentleman"
Martin Frant - 2nd son of the 6th earl, half-brother of St Erth, a spoilt and moody youth
Theodore Frant - Gervase and Martin's capable cousin
Dowager Countess St Erth - the 6th earl's second wife
Mr Clowne - the family chaplain
Lady Louisa Grampound - half-sister of St Erth, married to Lord Grampound
Miss Drusilla Morville - a neighbour, staying at Stanyon while her parents visit the Lakes. Her mother writes novels; her father is engaged on a Republican history.
Barney Warboys - friend of Martin
Miss Marianne Bolderwood - flirtatious daughter of Sir Thomas Bolderwood
Sir Thomas Bolderwood - who has succeeded his brother as Master of Wissenhurst
Lady Bolderwood - Sir Thomas's wife
Chard - Gervase's groom and trusted servant; served under Gervase as his sergeant during the Peninsular War
Turvey - Gervase's valet
Viscount Ulverston - heir to the Earl of Wrexham, ex cavalry captain
Abney - the butler at Stanyon
Leek - a Bow Street Runner, posing as Martin's valet
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