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the braithwaite letters 22-24

May 23, 2017 02:25PM
Chapter 22

The women were clinging to each other in terror, well-cushioned in the bedding.
“I think we are in the ditch,” said Frid, adjusting her cap, which had fallen over her eyes.
“Anyone hurt?” asked Marjorie.
“No, thank you, my dear, other than a little bruised,” said Emily.
“I am unhurt, ma’am,” said Frid.
“And thanks to your quick-thinking that we are unharmed,” said Marjorie. “And no thanks to a reckless driver.”
There was some banging about, and the sounds of the coachman making soothing noises to the horses.
“Shouldn’t he check his passengers first?” asked Emily.
“Probably more than his job is worth not to see to the horses, and besides we aren’t screaming so he knows we are either unharmed, or dead, and in either case, dealing with panicking horses would make little difference,” said Marjorie. “They are valuable beasts for their speed and stamina. Hush, can you hear someone shouting for help?”
There were faint cries to leave the horses, qualified with an expletive, and help a human being.
“You ain’t a huming being, you stupid … fellow, and don’t you go swearing in front of my lady passengers like that, wot know I has to see to the ‘osses first and ain’t creatin’ a fuss like a little girl like you,” said the trenchant tones of the coachman. “What’s more, I’ll be seeing to the ladies first, being innocent parties, and you, you cow-handed dandyprat wot caused it can fester in the ditch until I’m good and ready to help you, if I feel like it, which right now, nowise I don’t.”
Marjorie giggled.
“That told him,” she said.
Presently the coachman’s face appeared at the peephole to the coachman’s box.
“You ladies all right and tight?” he asked.
“Yes, nobody hurt, but I fear we shall have trouble scrambling out,” said Marjorie.
“Well if you’re all bowman, I’ll go see to that tony and maybe he can help me right the carridge. If he ain’t more mouth than muscle that is, which I’m thinking he is. In which case, ladies, I’ll see if I can’t open the door underneath you, which you’ll have to be moving off of, and help you down into the ditch, which ain’t ideal nowise, account of it being wet.”
“Thank you, I know you will do your best and we shall wait for your instructions,” said Marjorie. He pulled his forelock and there were sounds of him climbing down.
“I don’t understand all the words he uses,” fretted Emily.
“Don’t worry about it, at least we can understand what he says in broad,” said Marjorie. “I don’t think ‘tony’ is complimentary, any more than ‘cow-handed dandyprat’ is, and I think he’s trying to avoid swearing any more in case we complain.”
“Under the circumstance, he can scarcely be blamed for invective,” said Emily.
Shortly the coachman’s face appeared again.
“Yon useless lump isn’t going to be getting this carriage righted nowise,” he said. “Iffen you ladies can move to perch on the seats at the side windows, I’ll be down in a brace of shakes to open the door. I collected a few boards from his curricle too, for you to stand on, so you shouldn’t get so wet.”
“Excellent, good thinking,” said Marjorie. “I trust your coach is repairable?”
“Oh, aye, it ain’t hurt, just upended a bit. Nothin’ looks wrung. His curricle’s a mess though,” he added with an evil sounding chuckle.
Marjorie helped Emily into the corner formed by the seat and the side of the carriage, and Frid scrambled up the other side.
“You get out first, Frid, and help Miss Pecksniff,” said Marjorie. “That way she won’t have to be lifted down by a man, who doesn’t understand her aches and pains.”
Frid nodded acquiescence. She understood well enough that it was less about Miss Pecksniff’s aches and pains and more about the exaggerated horror middle aged maiden ladies had of being handled by men. She readily scrambled down as the door swung downwards into the ditch.
Marjorie held Emily’s hands, and helped the older woman to slide down, where Frid and the coachman caught her and guided her, moaning in terror, to the rather unstable surface made of planks, teetering on the muddy ground above the worst of the wet. Frid led her to where the coachman had quickly dismantled the steps to his own seat to use to get out of the ditch and helped her climb, before returning for her own mistress. Marjorie pulled a face, dangled over, and called,
“I’m dropping now!” and let go. She was caught and lowered to the plank.
“You are game, Missus!” The coachman gave his encomium. “Up them rickety steps, and you’ll be on the road.”
“Thank you,” said Marjorie.
The three women stood on the road and surveyed the wreck which had once been a curricle. Sitting on its shaft, looking disconsolate and angry was someone Marjorie had never expected to see again.
“Tobias Craven!” she said, angrily. “Craven by name and craven by nature, it seems, not being ready to help right a carriage full of women. And what did you think you were doing driving like a maniac? Did you purpose to cause an accident? Were you lying in wait for us?”
He quailed before her fury.
“No, I swear! I didn’t know it was you, it was an accident, I expected your coachman to get over, out of my way!”
“I did get over, you ham-fisted lout, as far as the road went, you should have slowed and moved over yourself,” the coachman denied this accusation.
“We did move over, I felt it,” said Marjorie. “Reckless and foolish, Tobias Craven, and then making no move to help out the trouble you wrought! I know his name and his direction, er, Bennett,” she recalled the name of the coachman, “So your company can sue him for compensation. I’ll be having my solicitor bring a case against him myself since we will now have to walk to some uncomfortable country inn, in the rain, and put up until the carriage can be righted or another hired. Bennett, what do you suggest? I don’t know enough about this route.”
“Reckon I should get out a tarpaulin and rig a shelter for you ladies against the coach, and get some o’ your bedding to make yourselves as comfortable as possible, and I’ll take one of the ‘osses and lead the rest into Shimpling, and sort out at least a cart and see if we can’t get you ‘ome, or at least to Shimpling, wot ain’t what you’d rightly call civilisation, but at least there’ll be the Bush, which have been there for time immemorial so it ain’t going to be too bad.”
“I’ll like to get under cover,” said Tobias Craven.
“Well, I ain’t riggin’ it for you and I don’t suppose the ladies will want to share, nowise,” said Bennett. “You can walk on into Bury St Edmunds since your ‘osses have skedaddled; it’s about seven miles. And I’ll be leaving the ladies with the door pistol, so if you tries anythink on, they can shoot you.”
“Ladies wouldn’t ….” Craven tailed off before Marjorie’s blazing eyes.
“I have had enough of you, and your assumptions of what ladies do and do not do!” she shouted. “You are just as bad as my late husband, and be assured that if you dare to approach us I will shoot you!”
Craven took a step back, and then, with an angry shrug, and his shoulders hunched, stomped off the way he had been driving.
Bennett extracted a tarpaulin from the boot, and threw it up over the wheels that were in the air, tying the corners to top and bottom of the wheels. Then he ducked down into the ditch and returned with blankets and pillows.
“It ain’t ideal without a second tarp to stop the cold and wet coming through, but it’s better nor nothin’,” he said.
“It’s excellently contrived, Bennett, thank you, said Marjorie, pressing gold into his hand. “Now, what will you need for expenses in Shimpling? Will five guineas do?”
“Yes, ma’am, and if you’ll give me siller rather than gold, no need to go wasting your gelt on some silly locals,” said Bennett.
“Very well.” Marjorie handed over money. Frid, meanwhile, was arranging the thickest blanket on the verge of the road under the tarpaulin, with cushions on top, and further blankets to pull over their legs as they sat against the belly of the coach body.
It was a dreary, and tedious wait. Regardless of social rank, the three huddled together for warmth as the wet ground struck cold through the blanket. Emily was on the inside with Frid and Marjorie each side of her. Gradually the rain petered out and a thin, unwilling sun struggled to show itself through the clouds.
“I disremember when I’ve known such a wet August,” said Emily, a little fretfully.
“No, it has been horrid,” said Marjorie. “Hark, I hear hooves.”
“Has there been long enough?” asked Frid.
“Bennett said that Bury was seven miles, and I do not think that Shimpling is much further than that from Bury, so it cannot be far to the village,” said Marjorie. “Oh, no, that is unlikely to be it; it is a fine coach.”
The fine coach rumbled to a halt, and Bennett climbed off the back, along with several other men. A well-dressed man exited the coach, and advanced towards the ladies, who had arisen at his approach.
“Thomas Halifax at your service,” he said. “I live in Shimpling, Bennett here believes that with help he can get the carriage back on the road, and run it into the village for minor repairs; and I said I would see you ladies home.”
“Oh, how kind of you, Mr. Halifax,” said Marjorie. “We are very grateful and thankful. The children are expecting us, and I would hate them to worry.”
“Then please mount, so they need not do so, and we shall have your bag and baggage sorted out in a trice,” said Mr. Halifax.
It transpired that Thomas Halifax was a London Banker who had retired to the country, and was busy interesting himself in the local neighbourhood whilst he had a house built for himself. He told the weary women something of himself to put them at their ease. In a luxurious coach with up-to-date springs of the best, and soft squabs, they were soon relaxed and even drowsing.
“So who was this Craven fellow who ran you off the road?” asked Halifax.
“He is a solicitor; at least, I suppose he is, I believe his father wrote that he was a junior partner,” said Marjorie. “It appears that his father has been mishandling the funds my late husband left, and the younger Craven was, I believe, trying to marry me to get more control of the trust funds. I don’t perfectly understand it. I wonder why he took so long to leave, and why he was driving so badly?”
“Naughty temper because Rev. Forester told him he had better not still be there when you got home, I expect,” said Emily, tartly, sufficiently lulled by this comfort to find something of her old sharpness.
“That would not surprise me,” agreed Marjorie. “I am glad Bennett made him go north. I would hate to have him around after he was so indelicate.”
“Indeed, a horrid little man,” Emily nodded.
It was not long before they had returned to Deepwells Manor.
“You will take tea with us, Mr. Halifax?” asked Marjorie, as he assisted her to alight.
“No, no, I’ll not stay, though if I might, I may come visiting,” said Mr. Halifax.
“We should be delighted to receive you, and of course your good lady if you are married,” said Marjorie. “Thanks again for your timely rescue of us.”
“It was my pleasure to be of assistance to ladies in distress,” said Halifax, kissing the hands of both ladies with a courtly bow before remounting into his coach.
The children were waiting in the vestibule as they went in, restrained by Maddy and Charles; and Marjorie’s face lit up when she saw Charles.
“Oh Charles! How good it is to see you! But I fear proper greetings must wait for tomorrow, for Emily and Frid and I are so tired, especially after Mr. Craven overturned our carriage.”
“What is this?” Charles was startled.
“He said he did not know it was we, and I am inclined to believe him; just an unforunate coincidence,” said Marjorie, quickly telling the story as they went into the parlour to sit, explaining how clever Frid had been to anticipate a crash and to throw down the bedding.
“It will need more than usual attention in the laundry,” said Emily. “Dear me! What an eventful time we have had!”
“And we shall answer all questions tomorrow,” said Marjorie. “I will give out gifts, however! In order of age,” she added sternly. “Charles, one of the mills in Leeds makes a quality superfine, so I got you some for a new suit. I also bough cotton of all kinds for clothes of all kinds because it would be foolish not to when I could get them at mill prices, but the superfine was a special purchase for a very special man.”
“I look forward to having it made up,” said Charles. Much as he would have liked to have swept her into his arms to kiss her, the children were very effective chaperones!
“Harry, here is your ball-bearing, and your flageolet,” Marjorie handed over the silvery ball and the wrapped package.
“Thank you, Mama!” said Harry. Marjorie smiled. Doubtless he would make an infernal racket, but he might have a talent.
“Beth, you are next,” she handed a package to Beth, who murmured thanks and pulled away the silver paper wrapping a beautiful papier-mâché doll, dressed in a blue dress. Her eyes were wide; she had much admired Penelope’s carved wooden doll, and this was as fine. She hugged Marjorie.
Marjorie dropped a kiss on Beth’s curls.
“Penelope, you are next.” She handed her own eldest child a box.
“What is it, Mama?” asked Penelope.
“It is a carillon à musique,” said Marjorie. “Lift the lid; there is a key inside and it is wound up already.”
Penelope opened the lid, and a pretty, tinkling melody played.
“I do not know that music,” said Penelope.
“I am assured it is a song about Robin Hood,” said Marjorie. “I wrote down what it was called, and we can see if we can find the words.”
Penelope hugged it to her.
Lottie was regarding her sister’s doll with envy, and her squeal of delight when her own parcel contained one which was identical save for being dressed in jonquil was all Marjorie could have hoped.
David was almost jumping up and down with excitement, and ripped the paper from his tin drum with a proper strap to wear it. He was soon marching up and down, banging hard.
“I have made a rod for my own back with that,” said Marjorie, ruefully.
“David, what have you forgotten?” asked Maddie, sharply.
David turned round, thought a moment, and then said,
“Oh! Thank you Mama!”
“I am glad you like it,” said Marjorie. “Finally, Jacyntha.”
Jacyntha was too little to understand anything more than that everyone was happy and excited, so she was happy and excited too. Maddy helped her to unwrap a soft, flannel toy dog, and Jacyntha hugged it to her, eyes big with wonder.
“And when Mama and Miss Pecksniff have drunk tea, we are going to bed,” said Marjorie, firmly. “We might rise for a while later, but no stories until tomorrow! Charles, will you call on me when the children have come for lessons?”
“Gladly,” said Charles.


Chapter 23

Charles entered the salon and crossed to where Marjorie rose to greet him in two brief strides.
“My darling!” he said, and then he was kissing her.
Marjorie kissed him back as well as she knew how, and all her heart was on her lips.
“Oh Charles! We have so much to discuss!”
“Hush, Marjorie, we have nothing to discuss. I love you and you love me. Everything else follows naturally, and as fast or slow as you wish it to be.”
“You are not offended that I am … afraid?”
“How could I be offended? Say rather that I am furious with Braithwaite for taking a beautiful and naturally vivacious woman and trying to grind the spirit from her, and take that which is a most precious and sacred bond in marriage and turn it into torture. First and foremost, though, we are friends, and that means we can say anything to each other, including ‘no’.”
“Oh, Charles, I believe I must be the luckiest woman alive to be loved by someone as sensitive as you.”
“I am convinced that Braithwaite was the stupidest man alive not to know what a wonderful wife he had. It has been a great privilege to watch you blossom, from being as downtrodden as you were when I first met you, to a growing sense of your own self-worth, a flowering of your confidence, and bringing to fruit a latent business sense, nurtured unconsciously by being around a business man.”
Marjorie laughed and laid her head against his shoulder.
“My dear, am I a woman or an apple tree?” she asked him.
“The apple is a mystic fruit,” said Charles. “The Vikings revered it, and one of their goddesses carried the apples of youth. Idun, her name was, and there were occasional Idoneas in the parish register up to about a century ago. And what would King Arthur be without the Isle of Avalon, the island of apples? And was it not an apple which broke Adam and Eve from their place in paradise?”
“I always thought it was the serpent who engaged poor Eve in so much confusing sophistry that she let herself be beguiled,” said Marjorie.
“Well, yes, but the fruit was an apple, or similar,” said Charles. “And in Classical mythology, there are the golden apples of Hesperides, one of which charmed Atalanta, another golden apple awarded by Paris to Aphrodite… apples are very popular in myth and legend.”
“I do not know most of these stories,” said Marjorie.
“Then I shall derive great enjoyment acting the storyteller,” said Charles, “And I will start with those that may be told to children as bedtime stories with Mama and Papa in the nursery before they take themselves through to their bedrooms to sleep.”
“Oh, how delightful! You are such a good papa.”
“And you, my dear, are so maternal that you are meant to be surrounded by children.”
“So long as I do not become pear shaped and apple-cheeked.”
“You would still be beautiful,” he said, simply.
They could not spend much time in dalliance, for the children were eager to know all about the trip, and Marjorie was keen to tell them all about it.
“Maddy knew where to cut holes on my elder pipe, so I can play a bit,” said Harry. “Listen, it’s ‘Over the Hills and Far away’ like Tom the Piper’s son .”
He played a few bars on his flageolet, which with a bit of imagination might have born some resemblance to Tom Gay’s score. Davy banged his drum with more enthusiasm than sense of timing.
“I have kept the silver-paper used to wrap the gifts, and the girls have had some success with it wrapped around combs to hum along playing the comb and paper,” said Maddy.
“Dear me, I have never done that, will you show me?” Marjorie asked. The little girls were nothing loath, and soon were demonstrating.
“It makes your lips tickle, Mama,” said Penelope.
“That is the paper vibrating, and acting in a similar way to a reed in a more formal wind instrument,” said Maddy.
“I am glad you are knowledgeable about these things, Maddy,” said Marjorie.
“They can at least ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’,” laughed Charles, “Though I hesitate to call it music!”
“I don’t believe it matters with such young children,” said Maddy, serenely. “I have often noticed that children forced too young into formal lessons become wooden and mechanical performers, note perfect but with no love of music. Permitting them to play with music at an early age instils a love of it in them, and when they want for more, they will ask for lessons. Not all children can be expected to be young Mozarts and able to create music at six years old.”
“No, indeed,” agreed Charles. “And the four Thurkettle brothers who keep us in tune in church are self-taught, encouraged by their father, who plays the rebec rather than the violin, and learned for himself at his father’s knee. I doubt they play according to any rule of music but so long as they can accompany the hymns, neither they nor I care. Which is why I turned down your Uncle Adam’s offer of an organ,” he turned to Marjorie to speak, “For it would be a gross insult to the Thurkettles.”
“Yes, indeed, I can quite appreciate that,” said Marjorie. “And they do a perfectly good job with simple hymn tunes, and it is only pretension that makes hymns with complicated tunes which are hard to sing.”
“I agree totally,” said Charles, warmly. “I am glad we are in accord over the parishioners.”
“As a rector’s wife, I shall have to learn more about them,” said Marjorie.

Emily spent the morning in bed, and came down in the afternoon declaring herself to be much refreshed.
“Your colour is much better, I shall not have to call the doctor, which I thought about, for I was most concerned about you,” said Marjorie. “I am glad to see you in plumper currant.”
“Oh, indeed, you have been everything that is kind,” said Emily. “And the children have been very good, on the whole too.”
“Yes, I banished them outside to the old cheese room to play their infernal instruments. You were quite correct when you said I would regret buying Davy a drum!”
“Oh, nobody has made cheese in there since Cromwell’s time, I dare say; the farm has its own cheesery. It is used mostly for storing rubbish.”
“Well, perhaps we might sort out what is rubbish and what is not, and clear it, and the children may use it as a den which is almost outside, for days when there are showers,” said Marjorie. “And I will need to go through this house and make an inventory of everything too; Uncle Adam bought the house and contents, and a Jacobean house like this is bound to have accrued all kinds of things in the attics which can be thrown out, unless they can be refurbished, and you and I will have great fun in going through them.”
“Yes, indeed, and if we start today we might be finished by the time you are married, and you will have it all fresh. It is a shame it is raining so hard, or we might put things on the lawn. However, we might use the ballroom for now.”
“Do you then feel up to starting right away?”
“Oh, yes, Marjorie, I feel much refreshed, and I feel as though I should be doing something to help you for all your kindness! And as it is raining hard, such endeavour will cheer us up. ”
“It is a mutual feeling; friends help each other,” said Marjorie, marvelling that she would once have been horrified over the idea of calling Miss Pecksniff a friend. The poor woman only needed to feel useful. “I have already inventoried the linen, both in the linen closet and on the beds. Most of it was in good condition, I suppose from not having been used.”
“No, indeed, dear Ruth made sure everything was made good that had been torn or worn, and replaced when it could not be mended. It was Clement who let things slide, and once he was master of the house, he was rarely here.”
“Probably just as well,” said Marjorie, dryly.
“I know Ruth’s old clothes are in a trunk in the attic,” Emily said. “I made sure they were laid up in lavender and moth balls. There are some lovely brocades, and beautiful dresses. They don’t make them like that any more, just wisps of muslin.”
“I think the wisps of muslin are more comfortable, though,” said Marjorie. “Be honest, Emily, would you have managed that journey with paniers and a stomacher and stays tight enough to restrict your movements?”
Emily blanched.
“No, Marjorie, you are quite correct,” she said. “But I hope you will be able to use the fabrics, and won’t just drizzle out the gold thread.”
“No, I consider drizzling a waste of time, and a crying shame to spoil fabric, unless it be such small pieces as to be unable to be made into anything,” Marjorie assured her. “Even small pieces will dress dolls, and make bed hangings in dolls’ houses. And there was a lovely dolls’ house in the nursery, and a rocking horse.”
“Did you not have such things at your own home?” asked Emily.
“No, Braithwaite would only permit educational toys, and he could not understand why a dolls’ house teaches little girls to hold a household, since he declared that one had a housekeeper and servants for that. At least my Papa let us have a dolls’ house between us, and understood that a lady needs to know how to direct the servants. He treated Mama very badly but I think he was a little in awe of her being a baron’s daughter and sister of the current baron, and gave in to her declarations of what a lady needed to know. Braithwaite would have had the children hung up neatly in a closet to be brought out to show off at his whimsy if he could,” she added bitterly. “They were whipped for making a noise, you know.”
“He sounds a most unsatisfactory fellow,” said Emily.
“He was, and I am sure you understand why I am happy to lay aside mourning, because I feel no grief at his death,” Marjorie was defiant.
Emily tutted.
“Well, perhaps you had better not say so outside of your closest circle, my dear, the world is so very censorious! But it may be put about that you are glad to be a mother to the rectory children, and to provide your own with a papa so you reluctantly have come out of mourning early for the sake of the children.”
“That is very clever, Emily,” said Marjorie.
With the aid of the servants, turning out the attic was accomplished by midday next day, and there were four piles. One was for throwing out, and Marjorie decreed that any of her tenants who cared to cut up and take away wood from broken furniture was welcome to do so; another pile was furniture which could be mended, and was largely sent to the attic for being old fashioned. Marjorie picked one or two pieces that she liked, to have a carpenter come in to mend, gave Emily her pick, and then had the rest left outside, in a hastily-erected marquee Tricker found for the purpose, for anyone in the village to help themselves, and mend for their own use. The wood for burning was placed in there as well.
The third pile was fabrics, and these would be sorted last, and could be gone through over the winter. Marjorie had them put in chests in the linen cabinet for now.
“We can make some into dressing up costumes for theatricals for the children, and the good cottons will cut down into round gowns for you and me, and for the children as well,” Marjorie said to Emily. “The brocades will perhaps make jackets, spencers or pelisses of three quarter length, or be useful as trim. Those that are good might be put aside in case fashion turns again and they can be made more readily into gowns should brocade return to fashion. And the short pieces can be cushion covers.”
The final pile was of such things relegated to the attic purely for being out of fashion or unwanted, which included books, toys, furniture and bed hangings, and which might, said Marjorie, be used, the books returning to the library, the toys to the nursery for Maddy to puzzle out their use, furniture for the servants to use, if nothing else, and the hangings made into cushion covers or to upholster some of the chairs awaiting refurbishment. Some of this fabric thus joined the piles of chairs outside to be pulled over by the villagers.
It may be said that when Charles was admitted for afternoon tea that Wednesday, he thought that the smuts his lady had acquired on her face to be quite charming.
“There’s quite a fair atmosphere outside with people picking over your discarded furniture,” he said, cheerfully. “I did break up a fight between Nokes, the carpenter, and Seaman, the poacher. Seemingly Nokes thought he could reclaim some of the stretchers from broken chairs to make new or mend others, and Seaman wanted it for his fire. I brokered an agreement that Nokes should take what he could use, and let Seaman have the rest, and offcuts from Nokes’ own shop to make up the deficit. Both were happy with that.”
“That was cleverly done, Charles! I confess, I did not think of starting fights or causing resentments by leaving goods out for people to take away, only of getting rid of things we did not want, and hopefully helping out people in need of furniture or wood at the same time.”
“It is a brilliant idea, and the villagers most appreciative that you have not just incinerated everything,” said Charles. “Mrs. Hayes, the butcher’s wife, is taking orders from people to turn any offcuts from that upholstery fabric into slippers, and charging a nominal sum for her industry. She has been cutting out the worn leather from seats as soles, and Nokes is upholstering on the spot and asking for those benefitting to put a few pence in the poor box, which I wager he might not have done had he not been so pleased to get hold of those stretchers. He’s not a turner and he has no lathe, so he’s going to make a handsome profit on them.”
“Something for everyone,” said Marjorie. “A happy idea!”
“Indeed!” Charles agreed.




Chapter 24


Charles made an excuse to call again the next day, and this time found Marjorie alone. He kissed her, and this time permitted his hands to wander a little. Marjorie gave a little cry and pressed herself closer, and ran her hand up his back to entwine in the wisps of hair at the back of his neck. This was easier because of Charles’ short stature, hardly more than three or four inches taller than Marjorie, and she thought how comfortably they fitted together.
Charles was engaged in kissing his way down Marjorie’s throat, his fingers trailing in front of his kisses when there was a sound at the door, as though someone had banged into it. The couple broke apart, guiltily, and the door opened.
It was the butler, bringing mail on a salver. Charles and Marjorie’s eyes met with unholy glee, as Charles knew perfectly well that Marjorie had suddenly wondered how well the salver would press in tin. That aside, Charles appreciated the discretion of the butler in disturbing them before coming in, and wondered uncomfortably whether he had already entered silently like a good servant, and had retired to make a noise to avoid embarrassing his mistress.
Marjorie smiled. It was impossible not to, she was so happy.
“Thank you, Hawksworth,” she said, taking the letter. It was written on legal paper, no less.
Marjorie swallowed.
“I hope it is not bad news,” she said.
“You will not find out unless you open it,” Charles told her. “I will not leave you.”
Marjorie broke the seal, and opened the letter.
“It is from Mr. Pennyweather,” she said. “They have found a will!”
“That is extraordinary,” Charles said. “Will you want to read it out to me?”
Marjorie nodded.
“He has left the inn, and is staying with the local magistrate, for his own safety, in case there are any ruffians, he says,” she read. “Here’s the meat of it though,”

You will be wondering what this means for you, my dear Mrs. Braithwaite, and I confess, having travelled with such a delightful companion as yourself I have been hoping to do well by you, as well as having my duty to your interests.
The meaning of everything has changed with the discovery of a will made by your late husband, which Obadiah Craven had concealed. This will states that you are to inherit half the income of all his business enterprises for your lifetime to look after his children, or until his eldest son is of age, whichever comes soonest; and half of the rest is to be placed in a trust fund to provide dowries for any daughters of the marriage or for their keep if they reach 25 years old unmarried. The trustees he has appointed for the capital and for your daughters were your father and a man whom I understand was hanged at the same time as your father, being his confederate, and no mention at all of the solicitors. I wonder if Mr. Braithwaite already had some suspicions about Craven! Though in that case, I wonder why he did not change his solicitors? Perhaps Craven was blackmailing him about his tax evasion. Pardon an old man’s rambling, but I suspect that is the answer. This will means, my dear lady, that your income will not cease upon your remarriage, as no stipulation to that effect has been made. I have to stay for the trial, which is to be held tomorrow, and I hope to be with you by Wednesday next at latest, since I shall post down by stagecoach and take advantage of their speed, or even take the mail. I will bring the will, and the accounting of the Chandleries. I presume you will be happy to have your brother-in-law appointed as a trustee, and as you are the sole beneficiary of the income, I would advise two other trustees, perhaps your new husband and myself? I do not think there can be any qualms over a man who is to be your own son’s father administering his business, especially a clergyman.
I have every anticipation that Obadiah Craven will be transported for seven years, or maybe fourteen. Hiding a will as well as conniving at cheating His Majesty’s revenue is going to be taken seriously.
However, the outcome appears to be most fortuitous and happy, and you might have been spared a lot of worry had Craven been an honest man and declared the will, but of course then he could not claim a trustee’s right to administer the estate, and when an estate is left intestate, the solicitor is the first person usually chosen as a trustee when there are minors at issue.

Your very obedient servant, Gregory Pennyweather.

“My goodness!” said Marjorie, faintly.
“Indeed!” said Charles. “I am glad; you deserve some good luck after such a miserable marriage.”
“I will speak with Mr. Pennyweather when he comes,” said Marjory. “I confess, I should enjoy living in style and having enough to keep a coach and horses of our own, but we shall not need all that income. I purpose to put away two thirds of it for your children and those we share. Penelope and Jacyntha may reasonably be expected to have fortunes by the time they marry; and if some of what accrues to them is invested wisely by Val, they will not have to worry, or even to marry, because they will have enough to invest in the funds to have a comfortable income. My own holdings I will leave to whichever of our girls is most interested in it, but I hope to increase that, and add to my savings to leave as well. We should manage to see Harry through Oxford or Cambridge in some style, so he does not have to feel that he has to scrape every penny, and provide handsome dowries for Beth and Lottie.”
“You are under no obligation to do so.”
“Yes I am, as you are permitting me to retain my own finances. It’s only fair, since if I was not arguing for retention of my own funds, then all my money would be yours, to provide for your daughters, so I will straightaway set up a trust fund with Mr. Greengrass for Beth and Lottie, and some too for Harry.”
“You are good.”
“I have come to love them dearly, you know.”
“And they love you. They will readily forget being motherless.”
“I do not wish to spoil the memories of their mother.”
“Only Harry has any faint recollection of her, you know. And he told me that he couldn’t rightly recall what she looked like.”
“That must hurt you.”
“Oh, my dear, I am glad they are happy. Rebecca and I … do you mind if I speak about her?”
“Not at all; I am curious about the woman whose shoes I am stepping into, and other the fact that she was generous enough to be ready to adopt the child of a servant girl, I know nothing about her.”
“She was good and generous and we loved passionately and with the intensity of youth,” Charles said. “But by the time she died, our love had cooled and we were … well, we were contented enough together, comfortable, but more comfortable to live somewhat separate lives. In retrospect we were both too young, and our marriage was based on … frankly, on a shared lust as well as shared interests. I would never have stopped feeling a deep affection for her, but … we had lost something.”
“Oh, Charles! What if we lose it?”
“I do not think we shall, my dear, for we have based our love on friendship and mutual interests, for we have children in common, and a love of stories and a desire to help the parish. And I am interested in your businesses. I … I confess I do feel the flames of passion for you, but I was willing to live without satisfying that, if you were too frightened to accept my physical love. Because I love you well enough to wish to please you, and if that meant being continent in my physical needs, why I am old enough to be restrained.”
“Charles, I … I do not want you to forgo it if you can manage to … to avoid it hurting. And … maybe even teach me to enjoy it?”
“I promise I will never do anything you do not like. And yes, I will show you how to enjoy it.”
Charles reflected that as there would be some three weeks until they might get married, there would be time enough to gently and lovingly seduce his bride, without her even realising she was being seduced since modern fashions would enable a lot of caresses through clothing which would tease and tantalise without offending propriety through removing any garments!

The weather opened somewhat, though there were occasional showers, but it was generally somewhat better, and when Mr. Pennyweather arrived he was in a cheerful frame of mind, especially when tenderly ensconced before a warm fire, with tea and scones with jam and cream, permission to take his boots off, and place his feet on a warm brick, and cushions tucked into his neck.
He sighed in pleasure.
“Mrs. Braithwaite, you know how to make an old man comfortable,” he said.
“I am very grateful for your exertions on my behalf,” said Marjorie. “I have a couple of hot bricks in a bed for you, safer than warming pans I always think, and the fire is being kindled, and if you wish it, I found a clean nightshirt for you, which is laid out before the fire, and slippers, and I imagine you will prefer your own banyan.”
“My dear lady! I had expected to put up at the local inn, I asked the carrier to drop my baggage there!”
“On no account will I leave you putting up in the Blue Boar, the landlord is of intemperate disposition and it is noisy and I suspect draughty. I will have your baggage collected,” said Marjorie, and rang for her butler to issue orders to Tricker, whom Harry referred to as ‘My Lord of All Outdoor Doings’ as he referred to Hawksworth as ‘My Lord of All Indoor Doings’.
“I feel quite pampered,” said Mr. Pennyweather happily.
“And you shall be pampered,” said Marjorie, “and you need not speak business until you are full of buttered egg, toast, ham and pickles after breakfast tomorrow. Will you lie down before dinner?”
“No, I thank you, I shall do very well sitting up to rest, but if you will not think it a solecism, those slippers sound inviting.”
“I’ll take your boots up, sir, and get them,” said Harry, leaping up. “Shall I take your jacket as well, and find your banyan? Or you might borrow one that is in the linen closet for now.”
“Do you know, that sounds a lovely idea, if you will not think me rude to dress as I would in my own home for a solitary dinner, Mrs. Braithwaite.”
“Mr. Pennyweather, after your exertions, I shall be glad to accommodate you in comfort, and so you do not feel uncomfortable, we shall not dress for dinner, but will wear our afternoon gowns.” Marjorie was happy to treat the old man as a family member. He had, after all, made her family financially secure.
Val Braidwood turned up shortly thereafter.
“Made good time, must be in time for dinner,” he said, cheerfully. “Shall I put up at the inn, Marjorie, or are your sensibilities not outraged at me staying here?”
“You must stay here, of course, dear Val, and I will have a bed warmed directly, and as Mr. Pennyweather is dining in slippers and banyan, perhaps you would like to do so too,” said Marjorie.
Val opened his mouth to deny such valetudinarian habits, and shut it again. Marjorie was quite a clever little thing now she had opened up, and plainly she wanted the solicitor to feel at home.
“Demme if I won’t, and thank you for the courtesy,” he said.

The next day saw Mr. Pennyfeather sitting down with Marjorie, Val and Charles with ledgers and figures, and drafting out both a marriage settlement, and trust agreement with regards to Marjorie’s new income. She happily signed a waiver over reorganising such monies as had already been paid out, which Val countersigned. Mr. Pennyweather heaved a sigh of relief. It was not uncommon for beneficiaries of wills found after probate was initially granted to make difficulties about fulfilling all the terms of it back to the moment of death. A reasonable client who was prepared to leave the status quo of the previous few months was welcome. It was a quick and easy matter to draft all she required, and the husband-to-be happy to leave her income separate from his own, and the setting up of a new trust fund from part of her own income, making that right by seeing that his children as well as any shared offspring would benefit. Pennyweather drew up wills for the happy couple while he was there, and beamed beatifically on a family who knew how to make the best use of their solicitor, and promised to return for the wedding, arranged for the fourth day of September. Marjorie noticed that Emily Pecksniff also added her urgings to him to return, and smiled to herself.
She could find plenty of excuses to ask Mr. Gregory Pennyweather to stay and look over matters for her, with Emily asked to see to his comfort.

***

September the fourth was a warm day, though the nights had been chill, and the sun deigned to shine for the wedding. David and Harry made charming pageboys, bribed with having green jackets and trousers to subsequently use to be Robin Hood and a merry man, and the four little girls were attendants in white muslin with green ribbons. Marjorie had decided to shed mourning altogether, and was dressed in Pomona green with pink ribbons, on a whim to follow up Charles’ apple analogy, with pink roses in her hair from the reclaimed rose garden. Charles thought she looked lovely, and far too young to have a five year old daughter. Giles Armitage gave her away, as proud as if she was his own daughter, and Daphne wept with joy that her older daughter had finally found love.
Emily Pecksniff was chief attendant, in pale green with Pomona green trim, and Marjorie threw her rosy wreath to her, in time honoured fashion. Emily blushed! Mr. Pennyweather looked at the blushing woman anew, seeing that she was capable of being quite attractive. He reddened slightly himself, and Marjorie hid a smile.
The wedding breakfast was in the Manor for the guests, and a feast for the village in the same marquee which had housed the items from the attic, and a good time was had by all.
“My wife!” said Charles, with satisfaction.
“Oh, Charles, we have scarcely had any time to ourselves the last week, with all the sewing and fitting of clothing,” said Marjorie, who had insisted on doing some of the sewing for herself, as well as employing a couple of seamstresses to come in to sew.
“Well, my dear, we have all the time in the world, for now,” said Charles. “I have straitly charged the children that they may not disturb us until after ten of the clock tomorrow morning. Shall we slip away?”
“I … yes,” said Marjorie, slipping her hand trustingly into his.
In their shared bedchamber, Charles declared,
“I shall be your lady’s maid, my lady, so let me disrobe you properly.”
Marjorie was blushing furiously and breathing rather hard by the time he had undressed her, with the occasional strategic kiss and caress, and settled her, shockingly naked, into bed.
“I had the fire laid for later,” said Charles.
“Charles, what I love is that you are practical as well as such a romantic,” said Marjorie, who had worried about the night being as frosty as had the preceding few nights.
“I live but to please, my lady,” laughed Charles, as he undressed. Marjorie gazed on his nakedness nervously. He smiled reassuringly. “Nothing you do not like,” he said. “I promised, and I will keep that promise. Kisses and cuddles and we shall see if that leads any further.”
“Oh Charles!” she was too overcome with emotion to voice how her body wanted him, and how her fears fought that. Somehow, he knew, and she was aware that he knew.
He climbed into the big bed beside her, and cupped her face in his hands; and then he was kissing her.
Marjorie never knew what iron control Charles exercised until he had excited her enough to pull him to her, and to ask for him to love her, but the fear evaporated as she knew that she would never fear intimacy again, when it was an act performed in love. And if the newlyweds had very little sleep that night, they did not notice the frost either, until Charles woke up with a yell because his lower legs were out of the covers and were turning, he declared, into ice.
“We could warm you up with exercise,” suggested Marjorie.
“The woman tempted me,” said Charles. “But I resist long enough to get the fire going; we seemed to have forgotten, last night.”
“I wonder why,” murmured Marjorie.
“I do believe you might be a minx,” said Charles. He did not seem to mind if she was. “All it will take is to catch the tinder in the box and set a spill to it. I’ve been lighting fires since I was Harry’s age, and then I’ll set the kettle on the hob, and by the time we come up for air next, we can make tea, for I bespoke tea things to be left.”
“Charles, you are a civilised man,” said Marjorie. “However, there is a time to be civilised and a time to be delightfully primitive and play Adam, and as the wood is crackling, you may give up being civilised and get right back into bed.”
“Yes ma’am,” said Charles, needing no second invitation.


the story has grown a bit while it’s been in edit, on reading it through I discovered my editor was right and I’d left it a bit bare and sparse in places. But you ladies get the first draft so I shall be interested to see if you’ve asked for what my editor wanted as well!
SubjectAuthorPosted

the braithwaite letters 22-24

Sarah WaldockMay 23, 2017 02:25PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

robinsonalex760May 30, 2017 09:44AM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Sarah WaldockMay 30, 2017 10:55PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Caroline01June 16, 2017 09:32AM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Patricia NodaMay 23, 2017 10:04PM

Re: drizzling

Sarah WaldockMay 23, 2017 10:31PM

Re: drizzling

Patricia NodaMay 24, 2017 06:54PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Lily - not logged inMay 23, 2017 09:45PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Sarah WaldockMay 23, 2017 10:20PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 22-24

Agnes BeatrixMay 24, 2017 03:14PM

Re:funny you should say that ...

Sarah WaldockMay 24, 2017 05:55PM

Re: Re:funny you should say that ...

Agnes BeatrixMay 25, 2017 09:57AM



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