Posted on 2017-04-26
Grosvenor Street, London
September 05, 1811
Where the hell have you been? Off to God knows where, for Queen and country I am sure. Eddy gave me this address to contact you. You have been spending time down in Dorset with your merry group of soldiers. I know you are busy but I need some information.
I have recently hired a young man with quite a story. I half believe it and half do not. Can you find out all you can about a Samuel Jones? He claims to having been raised by the steward for the Earl of Dorchester, and grew up at Milton Abby.
Find out all you can, if you please. I would consider it a personal favor.
The Duke of Shrewsbury sighed and sat back in his study. He could hear noise coming from outside his window. He rose and saw his ever busy neighbors getting into their carriage. Eddy and Bea are always doing something. I am surprised I was able to catch him this morning to find out where their youngest son was stationed. James Talbot smiled as he saw his friends’ youngest daughter hurrying toward the carriage. As the duke stood near the window and watched his friends go down the street he heard a slight clearing of a throat from behind him.
Without taking his eyes from the window he called out, “Yes Burke?”
He turned and surveyed his most trusted servant, Jamison Burke. Tall and broad, Burke stood close to the door ready to leave if his master was not available. James smiled at the man and as usual the man never smiled back. If I did not know him so well, I might even be intimidated, thought the duke.
The duke turned fully to his servant waiting for whatever message the man had to say, “Your Grace, I have the new man working in the stables for the moment.”
James’ smiled broaden as he asked, “Taking his measure are you?”
The bulky man simply shrugged and replied, “He will not work well if he cannot do as he is told without complaint. You can tell a lot about a man by not only what he is willing to do but rather how far he is willing to go for his master.”
“I know your views on these things,” responded the gentleman, “I have trusted your instincts for more than myself these past twenty years, at least. Tell me, what is your initial thought on the boy?”
Burke grunted and replied, “That he would take offense to being called a boy.”
Waving off the reply the duke asked again, “Burke, not many men would feel differently; you know that is not what I am asking you.”
Burke shrugged again and replied, “I think it too soon to tell. His story is…barely believable, but he reeks of integrity and honor. I gave him plenty of reasons, just now, to show disrespect and he has not.”
“But his story: is he telling the truth?”
“There is truth in all of his looks and actions; however, we both know that the world has some very accomplished liars in it.”
James nodded and immediately thought back to a point in his own history where a very accomplished liar almost separated him from, Elizabeth, his granddaughter. James fingered the recent letter he had received from her. She had only just returned to Hertfordshire, where she lived with her uncle and his family. James caressed the letter sitting on his desk he had received just that morning from her and replied to Burke, “Yes, we are very aware of the danger of trusting too easily. You were right to start hard with him.”
The duke then held up the letter he had completed to Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, and said, “Please make sure this gets to Dorset. The Earl of Matlock told me his son, Richard, has been stationed there for a while. He knows the boy will be sent someplace else soon. If need be, send one of our riders.”
Burke nodded as he accepted the letter from the duke, once he had it; the loyal servant stepped back and waited for further instructions.
James immediately started to say, “Did you find out if the carriage did any damage to the boy?”
Burke shook his head and responded, “I had a doctor here to make sure,” the corners of his mouth lifted only a little which was the closest he had ever come to smiling, and added, “Jones was not very happy with having to be inspected. I told him you were taking care of it, and that he had to be seen by a doctor before we could put him to work.” Here the old servant hesitated.
“Why do I have the feeling there is more?”
Burke continued, “Well, I got him some new clothes, like you told me to, and had him wash up before we fed him,” the man shook his head, “he refused to allow the doctor to remove his clothing until I was out of the room. I will say this, if you choose to keep him on, you may find the rooms overlooking the stable areas to be less than…their normal pristine as many of the maids were…enthralled with the man.”
James laughed and said, “Handsome as the devil is he not? I am sure my granddaughter’s youngest cousins would feel the same way.” Here he became more serious as he added, “Make sure he is aware of my policy: I do not mind relationships in my staff, but I do mind if he dallies with any of them.”
Burke nodded and replied, “I already said as much. He responded that it would not be a problem; he even got offended that I brought it up.” Nodding with decision he said, “I will admit, he rose a little in my esteem for his reaction. Something tells me he has experience with someone who would dally. Maybe a maid he liked in Dorset or something.”
James sighed and said, “Well, if proves to be as trustworthy as I think he will be, I hope he feels comfortable enough to tell me. If I can do something about it, I will.”
Burke nodded. When he saw the man was lost to his thoughts again, the loyal servant left the room as quietly as he had come.
Hot and sweaty, Samuel Jones worked his hardest in the stables. His ribs ached like the devil and he had hard time breathing at moments. He was sure none of his ribs were broken but he was equally as sure at least two others were severely bruised; but he continued to work as if nothing was wrong. It is not like I have never been in this situation before , the young man thought to himself.
Jones immediately regretted the thought because like always it brought to mind parts of his past he hoped one day to forget. His mind immediately took him back to Milton Abby in the stables as he was getting Adonis saddled and ready for his master to ride.
“Come here Sammy boy!” cried the Earl of Dorchester. “What are you doing?”
Samuel could smell the port on his master’s breath as he drew near, “You wanted to go for a ride, my Lord.”
The Earl of Dorchester clumsily walked over to where Jones was standing. Jones looked over at Miles, a younger stable hand, who nodded that he was available if Jones had to physically return the Earl to the Abby house.
The Earl started to grab for the horse, which immediately started to side step him. No matter how Jones held the horse, it simply would not allow the Earl on his back. “Jones! You are not holding him! I cannot ride if I cannot get up! He is making me dizzy!” cried the Earl.
Jones could not help but think that the horse had good sense to not allow the inebriated Earl up. However, to the Earl he said, “Sir, should you be riding?”
The Earl immediately stopped his attempt to ascend to the horse’s back and went straight for Jones and sneered, “I say I am going riding them I am going riding, boy! Do not think you have any special favors coming from me. My father was a weak simple minded man who was conned into giving you an education. For what purpose, I might ask? To shovel horse manure?”
The Earl, as he started laughing at his own joke, went back to get up on the horse. Jones went to assist him and after a few minutes, got his master up on top of the black stallion. Jones still held the reins as it was apparent the horse had no wish to have the inebriated gentleman on his back.
“Get back Jones! You are scaring the horse!” cried the Earl.
“Sir, I do not think –”started Jones, he stopped and jumped back and released the reins when the Earl snapped his rein close to Jones’ hands. “My Lord!” he cried.
“I said get back!” cried the Earl.
Jones just watched in horror as the black stallion started bucking trying to get intoxicated man off of him. It only took two bucks before the Earl fell in a heap on the dirty floor of the stables. Jones cried out, “Miles! Go get Adonis! Michael!” he shouted for the third stable hand that had been hiding from the Earl in the back portion of the stables. As soon as he saw the burly man run around the corner and pause at the sight of the Earl on the ground, he rushed over.
The Earl was so drunk that he hardly knew what had happened. As soon as the men ascertained the Earl was not hurt and helped him to his feet, George Damer started spewing the worst of words from him mouth. For a good ten minutes Jones had to stand there and accept the verbal abuse from the Earl as the drunk blamed the entire thing on Jones for letting loose of the reins.
Finally, Jones could not handle the compassion on Michael’s face and attempted to defend himself, “My Lord, I did not mean to let go; however, you did tell me to and you even thought to use your whip on me.”
The Earl became deadly quite. In his state of intoxication, Jones had no idea what the Earl would do and started to become fearful; he had been violent before, but Jones had never made him this angry either. Finally the Earl came very close, with his whip in hand, and proceeded to say, “Took my whip to you did I? I see no such thing, and even if I did, you are my servant and I can do what I wish to you.”
Then the drunken man sneered and raised his whip high. With horror James saw it come down toward him and rushed to move out of its way. This only emboldened the Earl who started to chase Jones into a stall where he proceeded to beat Jones until both men lost consciousness. When Jones woke, he was told that the earl had broken his whip on Jones’ back and then had proceeded to use his fists.
Jones shook his head to dispel the memories. He had no wish to remember what two broken ribs and countless lacerations had felt like. It had only been one of many times he took a beating from the Earl of Dorchester, and this particular memory would not be his last. In fact, Jones’ back was so full of scars from the beating he had taken in the last two years he spent at Milton Abby, Jones found he could hardly look at himself in the mirror.
Jones hated it when others saw his scars. In the past year, he had learned, quite early on, that he should keep his scars to himself. He barely let anyone see them. When Burke had forced him to allow a doctor to check him for injuries, Jones had asked the good man to keep them to himself. He had no wish to tell anyone of his past; Jones only wished to move on from it.
No, never again, Jones thought as he pushed the thought of the last beating he had taken out of his mind. I will never go there again, that life is done, I need to move on, and will. One day I will be able to look at my stripes without pain or hatred. One day…they will mean nothing to me , Jones promised himself as he returned to scooping the manure out of the stall.
He reflected on his life since his home in Dorset and decided that if he had to spend the rest of his days mucking out stalls for the Duke of Shrewsbury, he would. Here was a man Jones knew he could trust, and could only hope to one day earn Duke’s trust in return. After all, he could have left my in the street, instead he brings me to his home and has his own doctor look at me. He gives me new clothes and an honest job. The Duke of Shrewsbury may be eccentric to some, but I see none of it. All I see is a good man ; pausing to wipe the sweat from his brow he added, and there are not a lot of men like him left.
He was quite thankful the old man had almost run him over in the streets. It had been the day before. Somehow, Jones had earned enough for passage to London. He had been dropped off at a local inn, where he could not afford lodgings. For seven days, Jones had looked for work in London and could not find anyone who would take him. He had slept in ally’s and had used any water he could find to wash himself as much as possible.
On that last day, he had almost given up hope. Jones had found himself in Cheapside and was trying to find a church. He had heard that the Reverends of the smaller parishes were much more inclined to Christian charity than the Abbots and Priests in the larger more well populated cathedrals. He had just seen a steeple when he had stepped out in the street, only to hear a scream of a women watching and the neighing of horses being halted. Unfortunately, everything went black after that.
When he woke up, he had found himself in a strange well-ordered room. It was not adorned, and had a chest of drawers, a chair that was pulled up next to the bed he was laying in, and a small desk. He half rose from where he had been laying to look out a window and saw a washing area for clothing. It occurred to him that he was staying at some large house by the looks of the servant’s area outside.
His suspicions where confirmed when a tall thin man entered the room. He said in a quiet and soothing voice, “Good, you are awake. The Master wishes to be informed the moment you wake up.” Before the man left he turned and bowed to Jones and said, “By the way, I am Fredrick Baines, head butler here.”
“And where is here?” tentatively asked Jones.
“You are on Grosvenor Street at the home of His Grace James Talbot, 3rd Duke of Shrewsbury,” replied Mr. Baines, Jones fell back into the fluffy white pillow and sighed with relief.
It did not take long for Baines to return only to be followed in the room by the duke himself. Jones was a little intimidated by the strong solid man standing behind the duke, and immediately recognized that this was the duke’s personal body guard.
The next hour, Jones felt interrogated by the duke. His Grace had recognized that Jones had an education simply by how he spoke and asked about it. Jones felt compelled to give a good report of the old Earl; his opinion of the new Earl, Jones kept to himself. He could tell His Grace knew Jones was holding back, but Jones simply wanted to forget about his past and said as much to the duke.
James responded, “We should never forget our past. It is what shapes us: no, we should always learn from it then put it behind us. However, never forget.” The shrewd man then asked, “What are you plans now?”
“To find employment with someone I can respect and trust,” replied Jones.
“Well, I have a position open, would you be able to respect me? Trust me?”
“Absolutely, sir.” Jones felt compelled to add, “You could have just left me in the road, and instead you brought me back to your home. I will gladly work for you.”
The duke laughed and asked, “Do you not want to know what job you have accepted before you accept it? What if I have you muck the stalls?” here he winked at the large man behind him.
Jones held back his sigh of resignation knowing he would do whatever he could to get a job with the man most working class people in London respected, and replied, “I would do so with a glad and thankful heart, Your Grace.”
The next day, Jones found himself in the stalls, mucking them out. Something told Jones he would not be in the stalls for very long. He had been introduced to Burke, the man behind the duke, right before the duke left. He had found out from some of the kitchen maids that Burke was, in fact, the Duke’s own personal guard. The only servant closer to the duke than Burke was Remington, the Duke’s valet. With the amount of time Burke seemed to take, in checking on a lowly stable hand, Jones felt certain the duke was testing him.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Burke tested Jones in every way possible. If it was a dirty task, Burke had him assigned to it. Every last servant was loyal and grateful to the Duke and kept their distance from Jones until Burke would give his approval of the new hire. Servants rarely left the service of the Duke which was a rarity in itself, and everyone knew Burke had been recently reunited with his sweetheart Margaret Thames.
The rumor mill was speculating on the fact that Burke may be considering the new servant Jones to be his replacement. Not choosing from the current guard staff had more than one person worried. However, as each individual servant met and watched Jones take on every task without hesitation or compliant they found themselves fascinated by the man. Over the course of three weeks, one by one each servant started to hope that Jones just may be the next head guard.
On more than one occasion, Jones stopped kitchen maids from carrying things too heavy for them. Each time there was a slight reprimand toward the closest footman for not helping; nothing that would be embarrassing but enough that would encourage the servants to help each other more. He offered to cover for other stable hands who wanted to meet with their sweethearts. He showed multiple coworkers how to do their jobs more efficiently. It did not take long for Jones’ natural leadership to carve a place for himself in the middle of the staff.
The only one who was not completely convinced of the man’s character was Burke. Jones’ hesitation and stalwart determination to leave his past in the past and his refusal to speak of it had Burke worried. What was the man hiding? One afternoon, he was called to the Duke’s study and found two men with the duke.
Bowing to the men, he said, “I apologize sirs, I had no idea you had guests Your Grace.”
Waving his servant off, James rose and said, “Burke, you have met Colonel Fitzwilliam and my godson Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. They have information and I want you present.” Then nodding to the Colonel he said, “Please, Richard, what have you found out?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head in disgust, and replied, “When you wrote to me about learning more about this man, Samuel Jones, I really thought it would not take me long. Once I started speaking with people who knew him, I was appalled for him.”
“What do you mean?” asked the Duke.
Mr. Darcy spoke up and said, “James, have you ever met the Earl of Dorchester, His Lordship George Damer?”
Shaking his head as he thought, James finally replied, “About twenty or more years ago I think. He was one of the young dandies who hoped to marry Faith. However, when she married Gregory, I think he settled down and married a local girl near his estate.”
Mr. Darcy shook his head at his godfather and replied, “No, that was the Earl’s Father, Lord Joseph Damer. His son is the current Earl. He was granted the title and his inheritance when his father died over three years ago.”
James shook his head, “Then no, I have not had the pleasure.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam snorted as he said, “It was no pleasure I assure you.”
James’ eyebrow rose as he said, “From that I gather, you have met the man?”
“Yes, while I was in Dorset these past months,” the Colonel replied before he nodded to Darcy, “Before I tell you what I found out about your new man, I think Darcy should be listened to.”
Darcy bowed his head as he said, “I have met the man on multiple occasions. In fact, this past season, he was brazen enough to ask about an arranged marriage with Georgiana, who is just barely sixteen and not even out yet. I understand from multiple sources that he is running his estate into the ground and spending more money than he is earning. Richard came to stay with me yesterday and we went to my club and asked around. There was nothing good to be said for the man.”
James looked between two men he treasured as sons as they were the sons of two of his friends. He had watched these men grow into fine and respected gentlemen and implicitly trusted them. He finally asked, “I feel as if you are setting the stage for something. Jones is not his illegitimate brother is he? Will I have to deal with the Earl for simply hiring Jones?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head, and said, “No. I simply wished to confirm the stories I had heard. I have no wish to make accusations about the man without….further proof. One cannot simply take the word of unknown servants. They may have held an unhealthy regard for the man simply because they watched him grow up.” As he said this, Richard looked to Darcy.
James nodded, and asked, “Is there something I should know? Should I be concerned that a Colonel in Her Majesty’s Army needed to be validated by his cousin?”
Darcy spoke, “Richard seeks his own counsel, at all times, as you are well aware James. It is only, this mans’ situation closely resembles that of my own father and his steward.”
“Jones told you the truth, James,” started Richard, “But it was not the complete truth, which I can only imagine he held back out of respect for the old Earl.”
In frustration the Duke cried, “Will you two please just tell me what you know?”
“He was, as he said, granted an education by the older man. When he returned from Cambridge, the Earl had him learning from Jones’ father to replace his father as steward. That part is true. What Jones failed to inform you was, within a month his father died, his heart simply stopped in his sleep. Within a week of his Father’s death the old Earl died as well. Less than two months after returning from school, Jones found himself stripped of his position and placed in the stables as a lower stable hand,” replied the Colonel.
Richard hung his head in sadness as he continued, “That is not all of the degradation he had to endure however. Apparently Lord George repeatedly struck Jones anytime he wished. He also, on a number of occasions, gave Jones to his guards as a whipping boy. I was told of one circumstance by a man name Michael, when the Earl was so intoxicated he beat Jones with his whip until it broke, only to follow with his fists. He apparently was knocked unconscious for two days. When he woke, Jones simply went back to work in the stables still injured.”
James looked in horror between Richard and Darcy and cried incredulously, “You are not serious? He returned? Why did he not leave?”
Richard, with great hesitation said, “He never left because of a young maid named Anna.”
James felt a sickening in his stomach but asked anyway, “What happened?”
“Apparently, the Earl wished to…acquaint himself with her and cornered her in the stables where she was taking the noon lunch meal to the stable hands. He ordered all of the hands from the stables and cornered her in a stall. Jones had been outside washing down a horse and found the girl lying bloody and unconscious in the stall. He immediately called for help and got the girl inside. He then confronted the Earl who was entertaining some friends of class. The Earl was unrepentant and did nothing to deny the charge. Jones struck him and broke his nose.
“For the damage to his visage, George Damer then ordered Jones to be beaten within an inch of his life; a task that his head guard apparently took delight in. Some of the more loyal servants to Jones collected his things and those of the young girls’ from the servant’s quarters. They sought asylum on a nearby estate where the family took pity on the young scullery maid,” The Colonel stopped after getting control of his temper said, “Jones took the abuse for two years before he finally stood up for a young child. Anna was only fourteen and his sister.”
James rose in anger and lashed out at his peer, “Damer did what?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam stood as well, but before he could calm the Duke down, Darcy calmly said, “James, sit.”
“James, sit?” yelled the duke, “James, sit? That is all you can say about this injustice? Where is the girl, bring her to me! She will be sent to Heythrop and I dare that leech to try to get to her!”
“The family estate where Jones and his sister were taken, have been taking care of the girl and her child this past year,” Darcy calmly responded,
“Anna and Peter are already on her way to Heythrop Park.”
James just stood with his mouth open, gaping at Darcy. Finally he sat with a heave of breath and started to laugh, “Know me that well, do you boy? Good! Good! Capital!”
Darcy stood and said, “As much as I would like to spend more time with you, James, I am needed back at home. I am leaving in the morning to visit a friend’s estate and wish to spend my remaining time with Georgiana. Richard, I will see you tonight.”
James nodded and watched his godson leave. That is a good man , he thought, George Darcy raised his son better than Joseph Damer did . Colonel Fitzwilliam only stayed a little longer to answer any questions the Duke still had.
Once he was gone, the duke released the breath he had been holding and studied his guard who had found a seat at the back of the room, “Well, Burke, what do you think now?”
Burke had listened to as the rest of the men in the room had discussed the new servant for almost a hour before the Colonel and Mr. Darcy left. He was just as appalled by the behavior of the Earl of Dorschester as the Duke was. He stood in the back of the study, silently thanking his lucky stars for having the honor of being employed by his master. He could not imagine what it would have taken to stay in place where you knew you were neither wanted nor respected; and to add physical abuse to the mix, Burke was disgusted.
With each piece of information he heard about the new stable hand, Burke felt a rising urge to protect the young man from his previous life. However, he also knew the importance of trusting one’s master to do the right thing. He came forward and sat across from his employer and after a few moments of contemplation replied, “Everything fits now. His integrity I have never questioned. His loyalty, if he gives it to you, will never be questioned either. I wonder if he is aware of his sister’s new location.”
Here the bulky man hesitated and asked, “James, I know you already believe you can trust the man. For myself, I would feel very comfortable retiring to Heythrop Park if he were to replace me. However,” here Burke paused and chose his words carefully, “If he is unable to trust you , how can you be sure he will bring to your attention situations that you should handle not him?’
Burke sighed is resignation, he knew he had to be completely blunt with His Grace and replied, “Let us pose a hypothetical situation. Let us imagine for a moment that he intercepts a man trying to dally with one of the maids. He takes care of it himself, as he should. However, this particular man is a peer and because he feels that he has taken care of the situation well enough, does not inform you about it. The man is then still allowed to be near your granddaughter or even her cousins’. Will the threat of a dalliance with one of them be gone? No. He needs to be able to trust you with everything, not just some things that he deems important.”
“Why would he not tell me of a dalliance?”
“Because, in his mind, he has already handled it; just like with his sister. Why would it need to be brought up again?”
James simply nodded his head, and said, “So you suggest what?”
Burke shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I think you need him to prove to you that he trusts you, before you offer him anything, and that he will hold nothing back from you. I think you need to get him to willingly tell you his story.”
“Burke, you have always known exactly what to do, have you not?”
Burke shook his head, “Maggie would not agree with that.”
James laughed and replied, “You have served me well Burke, it is time you did what your heart has always wished it could. We leave for Heythrop soon. By the time we return for Elizabeth's presentation, I will expect him fully trained.” Then smiling, “I have already written to Martin, to have the cottage near the stables cleaned out and repaired. You and Maggie can get married there with my blessing! I only wish it could have happened sooner.”
“Maggie understands now sir; do not you worry about it.”
James nodded and said, “Well, have Baines retrieve Jones personally. It is time I speak with him again.”
Tired and dirty, Jones was irritated. The horse he had been working with was pregnant and was acting as temperamental as his mother did with Anna.
All day, thoughts of his sister filled his head as Jones attempted to focus on his duties.
“Jones!” came a cry from the opening of the stables,
“What?” Jones yelled from inside the stall. Instantly contrite, Jones apologized as he came out from the stables, “I am sorry, I am a little unfocused today. Did you need…Baines? What brings you out here?”
Baines only smiled and replied, “No, my duties are normally only in the house, however, His Grace wishes your audience. Come with me.”
As Jones followed the head Butler, he started to develop a sinking in his stomach, and asked, “Baines, would you mind terribly, if I washed a little before going in to meet him? I will not be long?”
Baines looked confused and replied, “His Grace will not mind, I assure you.”
“But I will. I should not be in the house this dirty; if for no other reason than not causing more work for the maids.” Jones replied.
Baines nodded in approval at the man’s respect toward all work, and indicated a room with a clean and fresh wash basin, “Please hurry, though, His Grace is waiting.”
About twenty minutes later, Jones’ pit in the bottom of his stomach felt like it turned to a rock as he was ushered in to the Duke’s study. Having only been in the male quarters, kitchens, and stables in the past three weeks, Jones had never seen the duke in his element. In fact, since that first visit, he had not seen the duke at all.
As he entered the room, he saw the duke sitting at his desk smiling at something Burke had just said. As soon as the duke looked up he cried, “Jones! Ah! Thank you Baines!”
All at once Jones felt as if he were getting fired. Burke stood and indicated Jones should take a seat, he then moved to stand behind James. James stood and also indicated the seat.
As Jones sat, tentatively on the edge of the seat he hesitantly said, “I am sorry sir, if my work is unsatisfactory. I promise: I will improve.”
James sat back and studied the man. Under his scrutiny Jones started to fidget. Finally James said, “You have not been completely honest with me.”
Jones immediately responded, “I have told you the truth your Grace, what have I lied about?”
James shook his head and said, “I said you have not been completely honest with me. You withheld information from me and I do not like that.” Holding out his hands he asked, “How am I to trust you in my home, with the people I care for and am responsible for if you are not completely honest with me?”
Jones was silent as he considered telling his employer his complete past. He saw the fear in his sister’s face when she had to tell him she was with child by the man that had raped her. Jones’ anger instantly rising; he worked to tramp it down. When he felt in control again, he felt speaking of it would do no good. He needed his sister to move on, he needed to move on and forget the man who had ruined his life. To James he said, “Your Grace, I thank you for the opportunity to work for you. However, I believe I will not trespass on your time any longer. I will immediately remove my things.”
He rose to leave when James asked, “Why will you not share your past with me? What are you hiding?”
Sighing Jones reached for the door and looked back at His Grace and replied, “I am not trying to hide anything. I simply wish to move on with my life. Continually bringing up the past will not change it. I have learned from it, I am only trying to move on without bringing up the feelings and memories dwelling causes. It does no good to me or the people that are in them.”
“Like Anna?” queried James.
James smiled widely as Jones whirled around and stood in front of the study door and demanded, “How do you know about Anna? What do you know about Anna?”
James smiled and replied, “I know that if you were to leave my employ it would make visiting your sister very awkward because she has been removed to my country estate in Oxford.” With a slight snarl he added, “I dare the Earl of Dorchester to try to get to her there!”
Jones stood in shock at what the Duke had just said, weakly he asked, “How…what do you know about Anna?”
James rose from his desk and came around to put his hand on Jones’ shoulder and replied, “I know that both of you deserve to finally find peace. I am offering that. Ann has already accepted a position as an upstairs maid. She will be groomed to one day be a personal maid. My granddaughter has four cousins; all of whom, I look upon as granddaughters. There will always be a need for personal maids with them around. Of that I am sure.”
Jones stood shocked and confused, finally he asked only one question, “Why, Your Grace? Why?”
James shrugged and returned to sit in his chair behind the desk. When he realized Jones had no intention of moving from his place in front of the door, he dryly stated, “I have no wish to send Burke after you, should you decide to bolt. However, if you wish to hear my own tale, I would be more than happy to tell you. After all, you should know if I am to trust you with the things most precious to me.”
Jones weakly walked over to the chair he had been sitting in before and hesitated only a moment before he sat down silently.
James considered his newest servant for a moment before he quietly asked, “I need to know that you trust me, Jones. This is so important. Do you trust me?”
Jones hesitated before he nodded his head slightly in agreement.
“Do you really?” asked Jones again, “Do you trust me enough with your story? That of your sister and of your nephew? If you do, would you please tell me your side of it?”
Jones mumbled, “You seem to already know my past sir, I can hardly fathom why you would need to hear of it again.”
“Because, if I am to trust you enough to tell you my story and that of my family; trust me enough with your secrets and I will trust you with mine.”
Jones started mumbling hesitantly, “I do not know where you want me to start Your Grace. I was raised by a kind man who had an equally kind and compassionate master. When both died three years ago, my world was ruined; I was forced to work in a position that was an embarrassment to my upbringing and education. I was repeatedly abused: verbally, mentally, and even physically often. The only thing that kept me focused was my sister. She is quite a few years younger than I.”
Jones stopped here in his story and attempted to control his anger as he ground his teeth and seethed out, “I knew what he was. I knew what he was and I chose to do nothing about it. It is completely my fault that he was able to irrevocably harm my sister.”
“Tell me what happened,” the duke requested calmly.
“She was sheltered. Our mother died when she was only an infant, and she spent much of her time with our father, or with Lady Adeline, the current Earl’s sister. They are around the same age. When Father and then the old earl died, I was sent to the stables; Lord George stated Anna was just as much of a servant as I was and that she would need to learn her place as well. He put her to work in the scullery; she was only twelve.”
Jones paused and shuddered, “He claimed he had need of the Steward’s cottage for his new steward and that man’s family. We had one day to get everything that was personal from the cottage. We were not allowed to take anything that was not our family’s; blankets, rugs, pillows, and those types of things were considered part of the house. There were only a few quilts that my mother had made that he allowed us to take with us. Basically, we left with our clothes and few journals and books and things. He oversaw our removal personally. The entire time, he was leering at Anna.”
Here, Jones rose to pace as he spoke to relieve some of the anger and tension he felt, “I saw what he was like with the other servants, how he took what he wanted when he wanted. He was always partial to younger girls but never one as young as Anna who was only twelve. There were many times, the old earl, instead of correcting his son, simply removed the girls from the house. It was so much simpler for the man to only employee older more mature females, than to keep his son away from everyone.”
He turned and speared James with anger his eyes and cried, “I knew! I knew what he was capable of, and I kept deluding myself that she was simply too young, that we could save our money and leave and make a life of our own. We did, for two years, save our money. I should have seen the signs. They were everywhere; Anna kept telling me that he was constantly overseeing her work. When she barely turned fourteen, he had the housekeeper increase her duties in order to ‘help her to learn more skills’ and made her an upstairs maid; I warned her to make sure to complete her work there while he was busy in his study or his whereabouts were completely known! I warned her to never find herself alone in any upstairs room with him.”
Jones started pacing again, “One day, I had been sent to work with a particularly aggressive mare. I was supposed to wash and rub her down. It was only supposed to take me an hour, at most. I found myself gone for almost three hours, since somehow the reigns had been loosened from where I had him tied and the horse had bolted. When I finally got the horse back to the barn, in the very stall the horse was supposed to bed down in was…” Jones hesitated and attempted to keep the image from his mind, “ was…was…was…” he simply could not bring himself to say her name, “my sister, lying bloody, in the hay. Her skirt was torn from her bodice, and her undergarments were….nowhere to be found.”
James rose and came forward to comfort Jones. As soon as the elder man touched the younger’s shoulder, Jones recoiled. The anger that burned in the man’s eyes, when he looked up into James’ own, had Burke coming closer as well.
Jones seethed, “Yes, I approached him. He had guests; a full party in another room. I did not want to confront him in front of his peers, but I needed to know for certain that it was him. He denied nothing. He even laughed and said, ‘she was not even worth it’. I do not even remember hitting him, Your Grace. I do remember being hauled away, back to the stables; after that…nothing. I woke up four days later on an estate two days away.
“The servants, who took Anna and my lifeless body to that estate, knew I knew the family, or at least was friends with the youngest child, Samuel. Thankfully, they were willing to take my sister in until I was able to find us a place and a job for me. I walked and earned my way to London; it took me almost a year to get here. I took work anywhere and everywhere I could, for as long as they would have me. I was here for seven days before I started working for you.”
Jones stood to his full height and said, “If you expect me to feel remorse for how I acted to the Earl, I will not. I know he is a member of the peerage, but as for myself, a more despicable man I have never met. The only remorse I feel is for not listening to Anna when she first told me of her discomfort.”
James indicated the chair in front of his desk again, and sought his own. As soon as everyone was seated he asked, “Jones, what will you do if you see the Earl again? If you remain in my employ, and take the position I am willing to offer you, it might be possible for that to happen.”
Jones sat back and thought for a moment, “If you are asking if I will take action and assault him again, the answer is no; at least not without provocation. I have no desire to spend the rest of my life in a prison, sent to the colonies in Australia, or the Americas. I will not lie to you: I wish he were dead and the day that happens, I will rejoice. But it will not be by my hands.” Jones hesitated and asked, “Sir, just moving her to your estate in Oxford, does much to relieve my worries. I just want her to be able to live her life, if she cannot move on from this, then he has effectively killed her.”
Quietly he added, “Anna is so much stronger than I am. When I woke up, she had already forgiven the…man for what he had done to her. She told me that hating him allows him to control our lives.” James visibility started calmly as he spoke of his sister, “She claims she does not care what happens to him, as far as she is concerned, the father of her child is already dead and she and her son Peter could move on.”
The room was silent for only a moment before Jones tentatively asked, “Your Grace, please do not be offended but will your staff understand…what they are being told about…I mean…”
James smiled and said, “I do not know for certain as my Godson made the arrangements. I will find out, however, I will add, even if my people at Heythrop are aware of what happened, I assure you, Anna will be wrapped with warmth, love, and encouragement. I do not have a lot of younger servants myself there; simply because I have not had the need to replace any. There are a few, one specifically, Maria, who went through something extremely similar to your sister’s circumstances. She has a nine year old son, herself from her unfortunate circumstances; Marcus is a delight to all the staff. Please do not worry about her or your nephewr.” With steel in his eyes he added, “Once you are a servant of mine, you are under my protection. Anna will be safe.”
Jones nodded weakly, and held out his hands, “Is there something else you wished to know about me, sir?”
James sighed as he realized it was now his turn and said, “Yes, but first you need to understand my own story.” James stood and stared out the window for quite a while before he said, “You have probably surmised that I have a granddaughter, by now. I cannot imagine that she did not come up in conversation. Somehow I am always bringing that young lady into conversations.”
“You have mentioned her. Something about her living with her cousins?”
James smiled and replied, “Yes, the Bennet’s.” Turning to Jones he said, “It must seem odd to you that an uncle is raising her instead of myself; after all, she is my only heir.”
“I honestly had not thought of it, Your Grace.”
“Well, you should,” James turned back to the window as he said, “To anyone the heiress to the Duchy of Shrewsbury being raised by an insignificant gentleman farmer, would be ludicrous. I supposed it would seem even more foolish to keep it a secret; but then was it not Shakespeare who wrote that it was better to be a ‘witty fool than a foolish wit’? There is a reason and somewhat of an intelligent scheme behind my decision. However, it all stems from a fear; a fear of loss.”
The room went quiet as James was transported back to the night he first learned of Elizabeth’s disappearance. It only took a few moments before he shook himself out of his thoughts, and said, “When Elizabeth was three years old she was kidnapped. Her nurse had a part to play, and we were able to catch her. However, the master mind, the one who was behind the kidnapping was never caught. There are many who were involved with the case, who believes all responsible parties have been found, however, even seventeen years later I cannot shake the feeling that he or she is still out there and would take advantage of her if they knew of Elizabeth’s connection to myself.”
Jones was quiet as he let his employer speak, “Elizabeth’s father was the second son and his brother inherited a small estate out in Hertfordshire. At first, I wanted her to be brought up by Thomas Bennet because she would lead a relatively safe life in that part of the country. However, as the years pass, that fear of losing Elizabeth again has diminished. We have taken numerous steps to ensure the connection between myself and Elizabeth is unknown expect to a few key people. I do feel comfortable that she as safe as she can be.”
Seeing the look of question on his new servant’s face, James continued, “Then why have we continued to keep our connection secret? Simple: privacy. My daughter, Faith, did not like growing up under society’s gaze. I did not either, and I can safely say none of my brothers did either. When she was born, Faith and her husband purchased a home near the seaside; and had chosen to forsake the life of a duke. They went by ‘Bennet’ for the two years they were married. They had absolutely no plans to rejoin high society, at least until Elizabeth was of age.”
Jones’ eyes rose in shock, and James laughed, “Yes, imagine that: a member of the duchy wishing they were not. In most families you cannot choose such a thing, however, in mine; we can. My title can only be inherited by a Talbot. When Faith married Gregory Bennet, he chose secretly change his last name to Talbot. Elizabeth will be the next Duchess of Shrewsbury, but Faith had no desire to be a duchess, she never did. So, when it came about that Elizabeth was old enough to know the truth of her heritage, she chose to continue in the same secrecy as before.”
James turned to Jones and said, “It may seem odd to you that I have guards around me at all times. Even though people see them as having the physical ability to protect me, they miss the entire reason I employ so many like Burke here. Their jobs, and more than likely your own, is to protect both my privacy but also that of Elizabeth.”
James saw the look of confusion on Jones’ face and said, “Being part of my protection detail is more than being able to jump in front of a carriage for me, even though you have already shown you are hearty enough to take what a carriage can give,” James teased and with delight saw a slight blush of embarrassment cross Jones’ face. He continued, “It is also about being able to recognize the signs of an invasion of our privacy. A good example would be of young Standish. He is a relatively new guard, but I chose to take him with a few other guards to an opening night opera recently. Elizabeth was with me, she has not yet been introduced as my granddaughter and so we seek to keep our connection away from prying eyes.”
Jones looked confused, “Would not being seen with her in public cause suspicion to rise?”
James chuckled and replied, “I am seen as an eccentric because I loan my box out to working class friends. Then when I wish to go to an opera or something like it with Elizabeth, we slip in unnoticed. However, you are right, we could have been seen. However, that brings me to Standish. He saw an acquaintance of mine approaching and immediately stepped in and walked Elizabeth to our carriage before our connection was made. He protected our privacy.”
Jones still looked confused, “Your Grace, I still do not understand. Why, and I may be considered impertinent for asking, do you and your granddaughter wish to keep the connection secret, surely she is of age by now? Or is she not?”
“She has been out in country society for a little over four years now.” James paused and decided to try another way to explain the situation to Jones, “Would you say that your sister lost her childhood when she was forced to take on a role as servant at the age of twelve? I would. I know it is common and many families could use the extra money, but I have never felt right working a child so young.”
Jones fidgeted in his chair, if it had been up to him, his sister would have never had to work, “If it were my choice, sir, I would have supported her until she wed. It is too common of a practice for children to work.”
James smiled; the young man’s answer confirmed his suspicions that the two men think alike. “The first time I saw my granddaughter after she went to live with Thomas Bennet, her uncle on her Father’s side, she was only eleven. She walked in through the large doors at Heythrop holding the hand of her elder cousin, Jane Bennet. A more frightened yet emboldened child I had never met before. She dropped Jane’s hand and walked right up to me and asked if I was her grandfather. You could see the fear, confusion, and the anxiety in her eyes and yet she put all of it beside to introduce herself to me.” Wiping a tear that had started to form in his own eyes, he added, “it was like looking at my own Faith standing in front of me again.
“As her stay continued, I realized that her confidence was all bravado. She was only as courageous as her cousin was. Watching as Elizabeth and Jane interacted; I knew I had made the right decision in asking Thomas to raise Elizabeth with his own children. I have seen her grow into a confident, lively, and witty person; she can charm a room of the dourest people.”
James then furrowed his eyebrows and added, “But I have also watched two other siblings grow up; their mother dying at a very young age, and then the father dying about five years ago. The age difference is extreme: ten years between the two of them. As I watch my godson, Fitzwilliam Darcy struggle to be the guardian of his younger sister, Georgiana, I am struck by the difference in relationships. Darcy treats her almost as if she is his child rather than a sibling. Their relationship, although very close, does not resemble Jane and Elizabeth’s. I am also afraid that the lack of female companionship for Georgiana has actually made her life a lonely one. It strikes me that if I had not sent Elizabeth to stay with her four female cousins, she would be just as introverted and timid as Georgiana; after having the relationship I do with Elizabeth I cannot imagine her timid or shy and would not want to. I know that having so much responsibility thrust upon William has caused his more…reticent nature to manifest itself.”
Raising an eyebrow to Jones, he concluded, “In a long winded fashion, I believe my answer is quite simple. A few years ago, when she turned sixteen, we discussed entering her into high society, and it was her wish to forgo that pleasure until she absolutely had to. I believe her decision was partly due to her mother’s wish, but also partly due to her wish not to relinquish her life with her cousins. Elizabeth grew outside of the overwhelming strictures the ton places on their children and had a happy childhood. I have no problem withholding the demands that will be place upon her from her from as long as I can.” Holding his hands out in admission, he concluded, “This may be another reason the ton calls me ‘eccentric’.”
“Do you mind my asking when you and your granddaughter will finally acknowledge the connection, sir?”
James laughed and cried, “Next year! Next year, she will be here by my side!” He then pounded his desk a few times with his face in good humor, “which means we have a little while to train you properly. I would love to get started today, we leave for Heythrop in a few months and I want you to be able to take over for Burke before we get there!”
James laughed outrageously as the white drained from Jones’ face, “But Your Grace! I could not!” cried Jones, “He is been with you for….quite a while! I have never done anything like…” Jones started waving his hand erratically toward where Burke was standing, “What he does! Why do you not choose from your current guards? Surely one of them is more qualified.”
James shook his head, “I do not need ‘more qualified’ I need someone I can trust implicitly to do what is right and best for myself and my granddaughter. You have had an education, something none of my other guards have had. You have perseverance, integrity, honor, and a clear head. You put your sister before yourself, and know how to judge a man correctly. None of my current staff expect to replace Burke. I need someone who can step into his position with authority and without question.” James leaned back and smiled as he added, “Burke has also told me that you have already won over most of my staff. I have no doubt you will fit the bill perfectly.”
Jones just stammered and sputtered. He had no idea what to say, from stable boy to person guard to a duke? “Your Grace, my past –”
“Will not be a problem,” the duke snorted and added, “I dare that idiotic Earl to do something stupid. If he does, I give you full leave to knock him out on my orders.” James smiled at Jones and held out his hand to the man as he stood, “Welcome to my staff, Jones. Trust me; you’ll earn every stripe you get here.”
Jones looked at the hand outstretched to his and tentatively stood. He grasped the elder man’s hand solidly in his own and made a vow he would keep to his dying day, “I will. I will do everything I can to protect you and your family, Your Grace. You can trust me.”
James just smiled and squeezed the younger man’s hand and said, “I know. I will do everything I can to protect you and your family Jones. You can trust me as well.” With a twinkle in his eyes, James added, “It was very advantageous that you decided to get hit by my carriage Jones!”
“Believe me, sir: the advantages are all on my side,” replied Jones.
Jones faithfully served the house of Talbot for many more years. Throughout the years, he nor his employers ever had a reason to doubt that both sides gained much that fateful day. Jones’ life and the life of his sister were richly rewarded. Jones would be instrumental in the rescue of one of the Lady Elizabeth’s cousins, and would stand up as best man for another of the Lady Elizabeth’s’ cousin’s marriage.
When Heythrop had a fire while he was away with the family, only then Jones would then transfer his loyalty to the house of Darcy where he could continue to protect his master’s granddaughter as she raised her own children. Jones’ own children could be seen playing with Darcy’s children. Indeed, life would come full circle, when one of his own children, would one day become the steward to the vast holdings held by the Darcy family.
When Jones finally died, people would travel for days to pay their respects to his family. On that day, his children thanked the Darcy family for almost running over their beloved father; it had truly changed his life.