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Heiress in Hiding 4-6

December 26, 2017 08:34PM
Chapter 4

Lydia was a beautiful child, dark curls, rosebud lips and her cheeks flushed from recent sleep. She regarded Madelaine with questioning blue eyes.
“Hello, Lydia,” said Madelaine. “I’m Elaine.”
Two fluffy brows drew together in thought.
“Not twoss?” asked Lydia.
“I’m not cross,” said Madelaine, a little disconcerted.
“Miss Stone’s eyebrows look a bit cross, don’t they? But they aren’t,” said Adam.
Madelaine flushed.
“Oh, my unfortunate eyebrows! I did not think of their effect on a child, and I would not pluck them to please ... anyone.” She said. “You aren’t fooled by my eyebrows, are you?”
Lydia considered, and then she wriggled her eyebrows at Madelaine, and giggled. Madelaine solemnly raised and lowered her own.
Lydia put up her arms.
“Lydie up?”
Madelaine picked her up.
“I’ll leave you to it, then, Miss Stone,” said Adam. “Alice here will help you with Lydia’s physical needs.”
The maidservant bobbed a perfunctory curtsey to Madelaine, who nodded acknowledgement to her. She was surprised to see a hostile look on Alice’s face.
Lydia’s small world was filled with important things like dolls, balls and a rocking horse, as well as brightly coloured books.
She got on the rocking horse.
“Tock hos!” she said.
Madelaine blinked.
“I don’t quite ...”
“Tock hos!” repeated Lydia. “Wide tock hos!”
“Ride a cock horse?” asked Madelaine, hopefully.
Lydia beamed, and Madelaine heaved a sigh of relieve. Lydia seemed quite capable of rocking, but wanted ‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’ sung repeatedly, until the little girl tired of the game. Madelaine was exhausted! Then she was required to sing other nursery rhymes, and if Lydia could not say all the words, she certainly knew if something was missing, and Madelaine found herself subject to disapprobation when she could only built up London Bridge with sticks and stones and silver and gold. Lydia’s lower lip came out and tears filled her eyes.
“You left out wattle and clay, and the last verse goes like this,” said Adam, coming into the room. He sang,
Build it up with stone so strong,
Dance o'er my Lady lee,
Huzza! 'twill last for ages long,
With a gay lady.”

“Oh, thank you!” Madelaine’s gratitude was heartfelt. “I don’t know what made her so distressed.”
“She likes it to be built up and finished so it’s safe, I think,” said Adam.
“Safe,” said Lydia, in satisfaction. “Lydie up?” she put up her arms to him, and Adam picked her up. Lydia nestled against him and fell asleep.
“Well, that’s a bit early, but if you would like to come and drink tea with my sister and with me, Alice can give her nursery tea when she wakes up,” said Adam. “She’s put you through the mill, by the look of it!”
“I had no idea children so small could be so exhausting,” said Madelaine.
“If it’s any consolation, she appears to have taken to you,” said Adam.
“Oh, she’s delightful! But I’m not used to children ... er, so young,” said Madelaine.
Adam cocked an eyebrow at her. Madelaine flushed.
“Alice is there if you find it all too much,” he said. “I never discussed your salary with you.”
“I will manage,” said Madelaine. “I ... whatever the going rate is will be more than acceptable.”
“The going rate for a governess without certificates of knowledge of extras like Italian or music is forty pounds a year with board and keep,” said Adam. “Not that she needs extras like Italian or music yet.”
“No, I suppose not, thank you,” said Madelaine. In just under three weeks she would have control of her own fortune in any case, and she had brought a considerable sum of cash with her, since she rarely spent any of the pin money her mother doled out to her. She almost laughed out loud at the irony of having more than ten years worth of a governess’s salary in her reticule, and smirked a little to herself over the thought. Beth had told her off for having it loose in a bandbox, being an untenable temptation to any servant who might be packing or unpacking for her. It was lowering to think that a governess might not be paid more in a year than Madelaine was accustomed to having as her monthly allowance.

Madelaine had no idea that her little smirk was observed by Alice, the nursery maid, who thought that there was something very fishy about the new governess. Indeed, Madelaine basically ignored Alice, in the way she had been reared to ignore servants. Alice did not like this, even knowing that governesses were of the gentry. She had no idea that Madelaine gave her more courtesy than Mrs. Vardy would have done, since Alice had not been summarily dismissed. Madelaine felt that the girl might as well benefit from the warmth of the nursery fire, and so did not bid her depart, having a measure of compassion even if it would never occur to her to hold a conversation with one of the lower servants.
Alice had no idea that she had been the recipient of something meant as a kindness, and glowered at the new star in Lydia’s firmament. She might not be aware that Madelaine was dressed in the latest fashions, but she knew her dresses were better quality than a governess might be expected to own. And in Alice’s opinion, anyone who had fallen on hard times would surely protest a need for more. True, Alice earned much lower wages than a governess, concomitant with her lowlier position, but she had a shrewd idea what every one of the other servants earned, and she was fairly sure that any lady who spoke with such beautiful tones as Madelaine spoke was probably highly educated, and should be protesting that education to be demanding a higher salary in order to retain her accomplishments. And Miss didn’t seem used to children either.

“It’s my belief,” said Alice, with relish, in the servants’ hall, later, “that Miss is a desperate criminal and is hiding away from Bow Street by pretending to be a governess. Ooo! We might all be murdered in our beds!” she added, with ghoulish relish.
“What nonsense you do talk, yew silly little mauther,” said Mrs. Eade, the housekeeper. “Likely she’s not used to children dew she’ve fallen on hard times, and had to take up as a governess, and is glad of any job that she do-an’t dare quibble about wass offered her.” Mrs. Eade was a local, and though she had taken pains with her speech, the native idiom crept in at times. Alice was a London girl, taken on by Lydia’s mother before she had given birth, and Mrs. Eade considered her a ‘furriner’ and flighty.
“If you think that his lordship would take on a criminal, you must have rats in your attic, you foolish wench,” said Moyse, the butler. He was also a local, and indeed could trace his ancestry back to Peter the Pirate, but he had been more successful than Mrs. Eade in losing the Suffolk burr to his voice. Like all the descendents of Peter since the present lord succeeded to the barony, he had attended grammar school and revelled in knowing that he earned enough to set aside enough to become a land owner himself on his retirement. He saw no servility in his position; he had worked hard to be where he was at a relatively young age, and appreciated that Lord Darsham took the education and patronage of all his more irregular relatives very seriously. Moyse’s younger brother was at sea, a lieutenant, after having chosen to be educated as a midshipman at Dartmouth rather than attend grammar school. Without my lord’s patronage, both of them would have been labourers on the land with no prospects. Their sister had been provided with a dowry to wed a yeoman farmer, and if Moyse did not wed, he had a mind to leave his prospective land to the younger of his two hopeful nephews. Mary had named the boy ‘Vincent’ after him, her older brother, who was himself named after the battle of St Vincent, which had been reported just before his birth.
“’Is lordship might not know as how she’s a criminal,” persisted Alice.
Moyse, wrung from his thoughts of dynasty building, fixed her with an awful glare.
“You read too many novels, my girl,” he said. “Do you really think that my lord would not know if Miss Stone was a criminal? Moreover, she was recommended to him by Mrs. Edward Brandon, so don’t you dare suggest that Mrs. Edward isn’t all she should be!”
“People can be fooled,” said Alice.
“Yes, mostly you, you ninnyhammer,” said Moyse. “Criminal indeed! Mr. Edward and Mrs. Edward are good people, helping those in trouble, but they wouldn’t foist a criminal onto my lord’s household and in charge of Miss Lydie, and if you had half as much wit as you have hair, you’d realise it.”
Alice had short hair and was briefly abashed.
“She ain’t in the regular way of a governess though,” she added.
“No, she is not, and the reasons for her becoming a governess are none of your business,” said Moyse, majestically.
“Like she’s sick of the rattle of the season and is looking for quiet in the country,” said Mrs. Eade, comfortably.
“Maybe she’s written a scurrilous novel about society people and is hiding in shame because someone figured out it was her,” said another maid, giggling.
“Maybe she got jilted,” said another.
“Well, I grant you, she ain’t much to look at,” said Alice. “Them brows of hers! Nearly scared Lydia witless at first! And too tall for any man to want her. Too tall to be a woman, if you ask me, she might be a man in disguise!” she happily added fuel.
“Miss Stone is a very handsome woman, which is more than you are,” said Moyse. “And any man can tell you that you don’t get so handsome a bosom with falsies, not nowise. I sometimes despair of you girls, you all be wholly daft,” the Suffolk idiom slipped in with the drawn out syllables of the last few words. “Maybe she is escaping scandal of some kind, and you’ll be pleased to remember that she’s here to be away from town and any nonsense in the city. We be-ant daft sluberdigullions wass they are.” He lost his plummy accents completely for the last, but fixed the maids with so ferocious a glare that none of them dared giggle.
The subject was dropped, but was not forgotten, and Madelaine found herself subject to a number of curious glances. Since she did not take any notice of servants unless they were doing her a service she did not even notice.

Meeting Lady Daphne had been a trifle trying, since that lady had grilled Madelaine on her accomplishments, even if she never quite asked what the new governess’s origins were. Madelaine was also introduced to a Lieutenant Giles Armitage, who appeared to be courting Lady Daphne. A brave man indeed! Thought Madelaine.
Daphne thawed to Madelaine in the evening when Alice brought Lydia down, and the little girl ran happily to her new governess after kissing Adam, Daphne and the lieutenant.
“Baby pa’cay!” she demanded.
Fortunately Madelaine had encountered this one earlier and put up her hands to do the patting for ‘Pattercake, pattercake, baker’s man’, which had Lydia squealing in delight. Madelaine shot a sideways look to see whether such loud expressions of joy were supposed to be curbed, but Lady Daphne was smiling, happily, her hand in that of the lieutenant. The baron was smiling indulgently too. Madelaine was relieved; she could not begin to imagine the little cries of horror her mother would give at a child permitted to make a noise. Her mother had not even been very keen on the idea of Lucien, Viscount Stonhouse, their cousin, performing in public when he was fifteen. She almost laughed aloud, Lucien had not been keen on the idea either, and apparently had intended to sing a most bawdy song before he was stopped.
“Lydia has an excellent knowledge of nursery rhymes,” said Madelaine.
“Yes, we sing them to her as much as possible,” said Daphne. “I shall be remarrying soon, though, and will not be available to her, as I have been. I’ve been undertaking many of the duties you are taking over, and please don’t be offended if she asks for me, I thought perhaps we might split time with her, decreasing her time with me, but my daughter has been injured in a carriage accident, and I am planning on leaving to go to her side, as soon as the help I require has been mustered. Perhaps I might continue to take some of the care of her, as I have been, for the next couple of days, leaving her more and more to you, to get her more used to a change?”
“Yes, my lady, that seems sensible, if she has been used to spending much time with you.”
“You may think I have indulged her; my late husband could not see why I might want to spend time with my own daughters,” said Daphne. “She can be demanding! But you must establish a regimen you feel suitable, without unduly trammelling her.”
“I find her delightful and natural; I don’t agree with those mothers who insist that the baby is only to be around them when she is no trouble, and quiet. Quiet children learn to be sly, when there are too many strictures,” said Madelaine, forcefully.
Daphne nodded.
“I’m glad you feel that way. I am sure Lydia will be very happy with you.”
“I hope so,” said Madelaine. “I will try not to spoil her.”
“Adam will point it out if you do,” said Daphne. “He’s indulgent but he knows where to draw the line.”
“Children like to know where the limits are,” said Adam. “Strict or lenient, so long as there are guidelines for them, they are happy. As long as the guidelines stay the same, and do not suddenly change for some reason, or indeed are different for different children, or the rule giving is fickle, and changes from day to day.”
Madelaine nodded, feeling a pang of grief for her father; he had been a more lenient parent than her mother. And when he died, the rules had changed.

Lydia was in bed at last after a story downstairs from Adam, told ad lib, and another, read to her by Madelaine who was terrified of trying to tell a story off the top of her head, and Lydia relaxed at last in her own room.
It was a pleasant room, and not in the least bit poky, as she might have expected from her experience of the room her own governess had had. Indeed, it was two rooms, a guest room with dressing-room, she thought, with the dressing room turned into a bedroom, with a cosy bed, curtained with dimity and a gay counterpane of patched pieces, a commode, vanity, and a clothes press. The larger room was a sitting-room, with a deep sofa by the fire which crackled cheerily in the grate, and a desk set under the tall oriel window, well supplied with writing paper, wafers, wax and pens and ink. It was a thoughtful courtesy. Gay pegged rugs made it cheerful, and helped keep out the draughts, and the walls were panelled, as much of the house seemed to be, warm and cosy. The ceiling had been subject to the pargetter’s art, and swags of leaves and flowers surrounded the simple chandelier which hung in the centre of the room. It was not as fancy as the plaster work on the ceilings she had seen downstairs, but it was pleasing. A painting of some local site hung on one wall, the characteristic flat lands and elm trees of Suffolk with a rustic cottage in the foreground, on a small, shallow river, through which a horse picked its way, ridden by a cheeky looking urchin, who was looking over his shoulder out of the picture. It had a plate on the frame saying ‘Riding through the shallows by Willy Lott’s cottage, John Constable.’ Madelaine liked it; it was the sort of painting which could almost be a window.
There was also a bookcase, with a selection of novels and a few periodicals. The baron had made her free with the library, but it was an extra courtesy to provide her with some reading matter as well.
Some maid had unpacked the band boxes, which now lay on top of the clothes press, and Madelaine looked longingly at the night rail folded neatly on the pillow in the bed room. A dressing gown which was not hers lay beside it, with a note pinned to it. The note read,
“Martha tells me you have no dressing gown with you; I trust this one will fit, I am not as tall as you are, but better than tripping over the ends of one which is too long – Daphne.”
It was very kind of Lady Daphne, thought Madelaine. She had quite forgotten a dressing gown, but of course if Lydia was ill, she might need to be out of bed for the child, whose own rooms were just across the corridor. She made a decision, and got undressed, pulling on pumps for want of carpet slippers, and relaxing in the warm, mouse-coloured woollen dressing gown. It was short, barely below the knees, but her night-rail covered her modesty, and Madelaine curled up on the sofa, before the fire, having selected a lurid novel by Eliza Parsons. She wondered if the title of the two-volume book, ‘Errors of Education’ was one chosen by the baron with his tongue firmly in his cheek, but chose to read it in any case, immersing herself in the vicissitudes of the unfortunate Lady Beaumont over the foolishness of her over-indulged son, William. The moral points were somewhat laboured, but the luxury of reading a novel without having had it selected for being suitable by her mother was delightful. Madelaine had never read a gothic novel before, and was vastly entertained by the silliness.
She went to bed much relaxed.

Chapter 5

Madelaine rose feeling refreshed. She had been in bed before midnight, a rare occurrence for her during the season, but she had been tired enough to sleep deeply and restfully. It had been a long time since Madelaine had slept through the night without waking and sleeping from bad dreams, or tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep as her mind raced too fast, reviewing the frenetic days organised by her mother. She looked at her pocket watch, which she had left on the commode, and found it was almost seven. Lord Darsham was probably up and about, and Lydia would be waking soon, if she kept to the habits her guardian had described, but her morning ablutions, dressing, and feeding would be in the hands of Alice. Madelaine got up and washed in the water that had been left for her, and dressed, fumbling with doing up her gown for the want of a maid to do it for her. With her long hair brushed and twisted quickly into a simple knot, she felt ready to face the household, and went downstairs.
Adam was coming in the door as she came down the stairs.
“Ah, Miss Stone, up betimes? Will you join me to break your fast, or do you prefer to eat later?”
“I would be delighted to join you at breakfast, my lord,” said Madelaine, realising that she was actually hungry. She had picked a little at dinner the night before, too tired to enjoy it, but a good night’s sleep had given her an appetite. Madelaine usually had a piece of bread and butter and a cup of chocolate as her breakfast, at some time after noon. Even when the Season was over, her mother tended to keep as close to town hours as was convenient, whichever town they happened to be in for the summer, usually some spa or other. Madelaine could not recall when she had last seen an early morning, with the dew still on the grass, and the breakfast room had an even better view than her rooms, with French windows opening onto a patio and out into the gardens. The table was being laid as they went in, and Madelaine sniffed appreciatively at the enticing smell of coffee, mixed enchantingly with the smell of hot toast and buttered eggs. Cold meats also lay on the table, and bowls of brightly coloured pickles of various kinds. Madelaine’s mouth watered, and embarrassingly, her belly growled. She flushed.
Adam chuckled.
“Don’t be embarrassed, it happens to us all, Miss Stone,” he said. “You are not used to taking breakfast, I think? You seem surprised to be hungry.”
“I’m used to eating too late at night, and to have indigestion when I arise,” said Madelaine.
“Ah, the exigencies of the Season; I don’t think it’s healthy, myself,” said Adam. “They say, ‘early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,’ and it’s something I adhere to, though I suspect the devotees of Town live would change the second part to ‘makes Jack a dull boy’ by mixing of metaphors.”
“I’ve never known anything else, but it’s lovely out there, I am hoping to learn a different way of life,” said Madelaine. “I spend all my life dashing from one exciting thing to another and I am so bored.”
“I trust you are not here merely for boredom?” asked Adam.
She went red.
“No, my lord, the boredom is merely a part of my old life which I am happy to discard,” she said. “I want some freedom.”
“Being tied to being a governess is not most people’s idea of freedom.”
“Oh, but so far, though it is quite tiring at times, I have so much more time to myself, and if I sleep as much as seven hours every night, as I did last night, it will be wonderful!”
“You do not sleep well normally?”
“No, I am so tired all the time, but my mind will not let me sleep, I keep worrying all the time about not being in trouble for slouching, or letting people see I am tired or bored, or not wearing the right things, or failing to giggle at the right moment in some tedious story I’ve heard many times before. Here, I don’t have to impress Lydia, only entertain her, and I have time off, I don’t have to impress you over meals, I can slouch in my own room if I want, I can read when I have leisure, and anything I want, not just improving books which have received good reviews. I can do good plain sewing if I want, not have some fancy work to display. Oh, and my lord, please may I ask the housekeeper if she has a rag-bag to see if there is some old blanket to make myself some carpet slippers? I recall making some for my Papa with the help from our housekeeper, and Mama wanted to throw them away and give me money to buy him some, but Papa would not let her, he said they were the best slippers he had ever had. They weren’t, but it was kind of him to say so.”
“My dear girl, of course they were the best slippers he had ever had; there was love in every stitch of them from his favourite girl. It wouldn’t matter if the stitches were uneven and ragged, you made them for him. I quite understand,” said Adam. “However, so you don’t have to spend time sewing, I will send someone to buy you some slippers for now, and you can make yourself a second pair at your leisure. You forgot to pack them?”
“Yes, my lord, and it was so kind of Lady Daphne to loan me a dressing gown too. It was a last minute decision to run away.”
He nodded.
“One day, I hope you will tell me specifics, but I shan’t push for your confidences. Beth is a wise girl, and if she sent you to me, I’m sure she felt it was needful. Can I help you to more buttered eggs?”
Madelaine looked down in surprise.
“Why, I have eaten all that!” she said. “I had no idea I could do so! Yes, thank you, if you do not think it greedy. Beth fed me coddled eggs, and I believe I could get used to a more substantial breakfast.”
“Good; a good breakfast will set you up for the day,” said Adam. “Especially as I had a mind to take Lydia riding. Do you ride?”
“Yes, my lord, but I like a placid mount.”
“That will not be a problem. Do you have a habit with you?”
“No, my lord.”
“Well I believe Daphne will be happy to loan you one, will you be scandalised if it is a little short? At least a habit has a train so it will not show quite as much.”
“If Lady Daphne is willing for me to borrow one, I am sure you will be kind enough not to notice that it is a little short,” said Madelaine.
Daphne came to Madelaine’s room, knocking before entering, a courtesy Madelaine appreciated, knowing that her mother was wont to just barge in to her former governess’s room.
“This one is too long for me, Elaine, my dear, if you will permit me to be less formal now you are settling in,” said Daphne. “You’re of an age somewhere between my daughters after all! It was made a little long, and I haven’t had the alterations done yet, largely because now it has been made up, I do not think the colour suits me as well as I thought it would. I’m getting too old for wine red; it shows the crows feet, but you will look very well in it, so if you like, it is yours.”
“Why thank you, Lady Daphne!” Madelaine was astonished. “Perhaps I may purchase you a replacement in a colour you prefer?”
“Oh, not to worry, I have a couple of habits which I like very well. But I thank you for the thought,” said Daphne, schooling her face at the idea of a girl supposedly having to work for her keep offering quite naturally to replace a new habit. Adam had told her bluntly what she had already suspected, that it did not flatter her, whilst telling her he would buy her a new one if she gave it to Miss Stone, on whom it would look very well indeed.
Alice brought Lydia down after the child had eaten, and Adam threw her up in the air, to her squeals of delight.
“Is that safe if she’s just eaten?” asked Madelaine.
Adam hastily lowered Lydia.
“Good point, Miss Stone,” he said. “May I say how well that habit suits you? I trust you will not think it forward of me to pass a personal remark.”
Madelaine blushed.
“Thank you, my lord,” she said. “A compliment passed in good faith can never offend.”
“Then I will go so far as to say it suits you very well indeed. And being long enough, you will not have to worry. I will carry Lydia so you may hold the train out of the way, but perhaps you will take her while I mount and pass her up to me?”
“Certainly, my lord,” said Madelaine.
Adam had already sent orders to the stables, and Madelaine found that a handsome black mare had been arranged for her use, fully fifteen hands high, so she would not feel too tall. Adam’s mount was a roan. Madelaine took Lydia, who was chatting away excitedly and unintelligibly, and passed her up to Adam. Lydia plainly knew this was to be a treat, and settled down in front of him, holding on to the pommel.
“She’s a good little thing,” said Adam. “I had to speak sharply to her a few times at first, she was a fidget, but she’s learned to sit still and not try to throw herself about.”
“She has no fear of horses,” said Madelaine, mounting easily.
“No, which is both good and bad,” said Adam. “It’s good that she will have no fear of riding, and bad that she might, when she’s mobile enough to escape you and Alice, come out to the stables and contrive to get onto a horse on her own.”
“Is that likely?”
“Well, I did, when I was shy of my fourth birthday,” said Adam. “My father was furious, but also impressed, I escaped a thrashing by the skin of my teeth, I think. He bought me a pony and told me if he ever caught me on any other beast without permission, he would thrash me. One of the few things we were in accord over, horses,” he added.
The ride was taken at a walk, and Adam spoke mostly to Lydia, to keep her from becoming bored, but he addressed the odd remark to Madelaine, pointing out landmarks.
“If you should be riding without me, you may need to remember where you are, the land around here has little to distinguish it in the way of topography, so recalling what grows where, like that stand of Lombardy poplars to the east of my lands as a windbreak, might help you find your way around. The grooms have orders to saddle Ebony for you when you ask, so if you wish to ride during your time off, you can do so.”
“Thank you, my lord, you are generous.”
“No, it is my pleasure to make sure you are contented so that Lydia keeps a governess she appears to have taken a shine to. And you will need to be in practice to ride out with her when she is old enough for her own pony.”
“Of course, I had not considered that.”
Adam regarded her quizzically.
“You were thinking of this as a temporary measure, were you not, while your troubles subside?”
Madelaine flushed scarlet!
“I ... I had,” she said. “I ... realise that was impolite to you, and unkind to Lydia. If you wish me to leave, I will do so immediately before she becomes too attached to me.”
“I will not ask that of someone looking for sanctuary; but I will ask that you pledge to stay with her until she is five years old, and old enough for you to explain to her. Unless extraordinary circumstances arise, like you find someone you wish to marry.”
“I have no desire to marry,” said Madelaine. “I ... why not? I have nowhere I would rather be, though I ... I may need advice regarding my position ... but I do not wish to speak of it yet.”
“I understand,” he said. “Thank you; I am glad we have been able to have this frank talk, and I am glad that you recognise that it would be unfair to Lydia. I do not think that Beth thought of that; or perhaps she did not think that Lydia might become as attached to you as quickly as she seems to have done. I fancy you were not expecting to stay long enough for her to do so?”
“I planned to stay until the nineteenth of next month,” said Madelaine, baldly. “That is when I attain my majority.”
“What, am I abducting a minor now?” Adam smiled, whimsically.
“Hardly, my lord, as I thrust myself upon you,” said Madelaine. “I doubt anyone would look for me here, in any case.”
“Unless they know Beth and Edward had a hand in the case,” said Adam. “Even so, if any come looking, there are plenty of priests’ holes to hide in, including my study. Don’t worry, Miss Stone. I look forward to your full explanation, but it will be in your own good time.”
“Thank you, my lord.”

Chapter 6

A routine was swiftly established, though Madelaine found herself distracting Lydia a lot from the flurry of preparation on the part of Lady Daphne, to go to her wounded daughter. Why she might need a carriage full of villainous looking ex-soldiers, with various wounds, Madelaine could not guess, but she had rapidly come to the realisation that the rest of the staff did not think that the baron would arrange anything he did not consider necessary, and fell in with the general opinion that ‘his lordship will sort it out.’
The one servant whom Madelaine found truculent was Alice, who seemed to resent Madelaine, and was slow to obey, and insolent in her answers.
“Miss Lydie isn’t ready for her nap yet,” she said. “Are you, Miss Lydie?”
Lydia looked from one to the other, puzzled.
“Lydia, sweetie, your eyes are drooping. I’ll pop you in your bed and sing a lullaby,” said Madelaine, picking up Lydia and taking her through to her bedroom herself.
Alice followed.
“She’ll wake up wet if you don’t put her on the Jordan first,” she said, with a sneer.
“She’s too close to sleep. Fetch another diaper-cloth, Alice, and I’ll put it beneath her so she won’t spoil the bedding,” said Madelaine. Alice scowled but Madelaine looked at her steadily and she obeyed. It would, after all, be Alice who would have to strip the bed. Madelaine lay the child down on a well-folded pad of the diaper-cloth and sang until Lydia was fast asleep. Then Madelaine stalked out into the nursery, crooking her finger to Alice to follow.
“Alice, Lydia has her times when she sleeps, and the rules of the nursery which I have learned to adhere to,” she said. “Contradicting my strictures for her and trying to get her to agree with you undermines my authority as her governess.”
Alice sniffed.
“I don’t see why you should set the rules.”
Madelaine blinked at such blatant rudeness.
“As it happens, Alice, I would be within my rights as governess to set the rules, but I have been happy to accept the rules laid down by Lady Daphne. Surely you do not feel yourself above her?”
Alice flushed. She muttered something almost intelligible which sounded something like Lady Daphne being a real lady.
“What is your problem, Alice?” asked Madelaine, exasperated. It was against her mother’s strictures to ask a servant their opinion, but they had a shared charge of Lydia, and Madelaine felt it was better to get Alice’s views into the open.
“You think you’re lady muck and you’re only a servant like us. And I think you’re too havey cavey by half,” said Alice.
“Alice, I am a lady, not a servant. A governess is not of the same class as a servant. I am educated to a level which befits me educating another lady,” said Madelaine, sharply. “As to your foolish speculations about me, I suggest you go and find a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word ‘privacy’, since I am certainly not about to gossip about my affairs to a silly girl like you.”
Alice settled for glowering at Madelaine, but generally obeyed, perhaps afraid of being reported to his lordship.

Lydia was inclined to be a little fractious over having lost one of her favourite people, and Madelaine took her out for little walks to give her another interest, armed with a book on wild flowers from Lord Darsham’s library. Botany was not something Madelaine was knowledgeable about, and she had learned as much as Lydia from morning rides, when Adam pointed out all the plants that grew, starting with the tree blossom, and as the seasons progressed, the woodbine and the honeysuckle which ran through the hedgerows, showing her the way the bees collected pollen in little pockets on their knees. This made Lydia giggle.
“And bees make the pollen into the honey you have on your bread at breakfast,” Adam tld the child.
Madelaine was not sure how much Lydia was taking in, but she was grateful for the instruction, and if the child grew up with it, then it would not be the painful lessons for Lydia that it was for her governess. Consequently she carried the book of wild flowers with her when walking out with her charge, making sure to be out on such a walk when Daphne was to leave, so there would not be tears and tantrums at her leaving.
Madelaine returned with Lydia shortly after Daphne had left, to hear the voice of Giles Armitage in the breakfast room, where a light nuncheon was generally laid out. She froze as she heard herself mentioned.
“That new governess of yours that you got for young Lydia, I ain’t barking up the wrong tree in thinking that she interests you?”
“She’s too young for me,” said Adam. “But there is something of a mystery about her. What I need you to do is to stand by in case we need to kidnap Marjorie and the children, and whisk them off to Italy. Or America. Daphne will give me a good idea of the situation, and as soon as Marjorie is safe to move, we can consider that as a plan. The law may be on his side as regards the children, but possession is nine tenths of the law and I do not plan this disgraceful situation to continue any longer.”
“I am glad you do not disapprove of my attachment to Daphne,” said Giles.
“It ain’t the class in which you are born, it’s the manners you employ,” said Adam. “You and your father are more gentlemen than Solomon Braithwaite could ever be. If I’d had my way, I’d have bought you colours to enter the army rather than running you off the land, and told you and Daphne to see how you felt in three years time. But then, I’m generally accounted eccentric.”
“Rather let us call your eccentricity, ‘compassion.’ It would not have done, then; I could not keep Daphne in the state in which she was accustomed, and I could not have mixed with her class. I’ve learned lessons through being an officer, and now I can be a better match for her.”
“You’re an honest man, and to my mind that is worth more than many things. Pass the ratafia cakes, there’s a good fellow.”
Madelaine gulped and put Lydia down to run in to her guardian, following behind. Madelaine followed.
Adam gave her a shrewd look.
“Did you overhear much?” he asked.
“I don’t eavesdrop like a servant,” said Madelaine.
“Granted, but there are points at which one overhears conversations and is loath to barge in on them and dithers, uncertain whether to flee or to go on,” said Adam.
“You are disconcerting, my lord.”
“Thank you,” he said, gravely.
“I ... did hear some. I heard myself mentioned and ... dithered, and then the matter seemed private.”
“It’s not that private. The whole household knows that my sister was married to a brute, who has been recently hanged for piracy, and probably a selection of other naval crimes too obscure for any landsman to understand. He had the bad taste to try to murder a revenue man and his crew and they weren’t best pleased about it, as you might guess. Daphne’s decent son-in-law rescued the officer, and were delighted to get Swithin hung. However, he had already had his older daughter married to a man of his own stamp, who is treating her abominably. He was ready to beat her for writing to her own mother regarding the coach accident in which she broke a leg and lost her fourth child, because he is a bully and an outsider. Which is why Daphne went off with half a dozen of Edward’s protégés, to protect her. In law, if she leaves him, he can take their infant children. I am not going to permit that to happen, so you heard Giles and me plotting to egregiously break the law if there is no other recourse.”
Madelaine nodded, absently wiping Lydia’s mouth where she was spreading chutney happily over her face as well as on the cheese she was eating.
“I see, and I have to say I think the law vastly unfair. I’d be willing to do anything you need me to do to help.”
“That’s going further than I would have asked you; thank you,” said Adam. “And I might yet ask you to take village children of the right ages out and about as a decoy, if Marjorie comes here on the way to somewhere safer. I own a small villa in Italy, which may be in a parlous state as I’ve never visited it, but land is land, and the climate is less inclement there, so the odd draughts matter less. I would like to run the fellow through, but he would never accept a duel; man is no gentleman at all.”
“I say have him accidentally killed by a poacher,” growled Giles.
“That’s why you’re not there,” said Adam. “Daphne will assess the situation and will make a decision based on what she finds. And if that involves an accident, I am sure she is capable of ordering it.”
“Yes, Daphne is capable and no shrinking violet,” said Giles. “She endured the same from that Swithin fellow, but she will be a tiger in defence of her daughter and grandchildren.”
“I wish I were as brave as Lady Daphne,” sighed Madelaine.
“I’m sure you would be, in protection of your own children, or even of Lydia,” said Adam. Madelaine flushed, gratified.
“It is easier to be brave when you are not being shouted at and criticised all the time,” she said.
“You have also run from an abusive husband?” asked Giles.
Madelaine flushed.
“I don’t know, but it was my mother I was thinking about.” She said. “You have confided in me, I think I should confide in you, too. You see, I ... I do not wish to find myself as the principal at a wedding to someone I barely know.”
Adam’s eyebrow went up.
“You can say no,” he said.
“My mother doesn’t take ‘no’ as an answer,” said Madelaine. “And no vicar has enough endurance to stand before her.”
“You can’t hide forever, you know,” said Adam.
“No, but in six weeks I will reach my majority,” Madelaine said.
“And will that prevent your mother from being a force majeur?”
“No, but she will have no more legal jurisdiction over me, or over my inheritance.”
Adam regarded her thoughtfully.
“And will that reduce her own lifestyle?”
Madelaine stared.
“I ... I don’t know, my lord.”
“This man she wanted you to marry. Do you suspect there might have been some arrangement with regards to an allowance, if he had control of your money?”
Madelaine frowned.
“I do not know, my lord. I was planning on making an appointment to visit Child’s Bank, where my father banked, to see what my finances might be, and what arrangements had been made, when I was of age,” she said.
“I’ll write to Sally Jersey, if you’ll append a note giving me permission to be apprised of your situation,” said Adam. “She runs Child’s as well as any man might be expected to, and I have known her since she was a little girl, so stickler at Almack’s as a patroness she might be, but she’s also aware that I know her youthful peccadilloes, so she won’t come the grand lady at me. I’ll need your real name.”
“Oh, it’s Madelaine Vardy; I lopped off the front end of my first name, and chose part of my cousins’ name for the second, for I am related to the Stonhouse family.”
“Good grief, I fancy I’ve met your mother, and you are to be commiserated over her,” said Adam.
“At least she wasn’t hunting for a second husband,” said Madelaine, dryly. “She enjoys being the one in charge.”
“No, I should probably have fled in abject terror,” said Adam.
“I don’t believe that, my lord,” said Madelaine. “My mother is the daughter of a tradesman, which I think is why she is so pushy. You would have routed her.”
“He would, if he felt offended,” said Giles. “I’ve heard your mother mentioned; Edward says your father married her for her dowry.”
“He may have done, in order to escape his own family,” said Madelaine. “I think he was fond of her, though. And she was fond of him, for she would obey him if he really took the trouble to make his feelings known. Of course, he would take control of all her money when they married but I do not know how it was tied up; is it not usual to make a settlement so that the dowry becomes the widow’s portion? He used it to increase the family wealth with clever speculation, so she should not be left in penury, even with me being an heiress.”
“A lot depends on your mother’s definition of ‘penury’,” said Giles. “How much are you worth?”
“I have no idea; mother would never tell me,” said Madelaine. “She just said I must be careful, as I was an heiress.” She considered. “You know, I haven’t fallen over anything, or tripped, or ripped a hem, or anything like that since I have been here, save stumbling rather around Alice.”
“Am I to infer you do not like Alice?” asked Adam.
Madelaine shrugged.
“I find her ... difficult,” she said. “She has a problem with me; she thinks I should be more like a servant. A governess is not a servant, regardless of how brusque mother was with my governess.”
“No, a governess is a lady. Well, when Lydia is older, we can send Alice on her way with an excellent reference so we can be sure to get her off our hands,” said Adam. “I did that with my father’s butler, who was an encroaching, interfering old so-and-so. I praised him roundly to anyone who might want a butler, and he was duly offered more wage, and thank goodness, decided to take it.”
“Cunning,” said Giles.
“I rather liked it, myself,” said Adam. “Don’t worry about her, Miss Stone; I will speak to Mrs. Eade with regards to finding a replacement, and then I will see about providing her with a good reference, for her physical care of Lydia cannot be faulted, can it?”
“No, my lord, she looks after Lydia very well.”
“Then do your best to ignore her, beyond what courtesy dictates.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Madelaine was more than happy to put Alice from her mind, and as she became more used to caring for Lydia, and better at interpreting the little girl’s babble, she found she needed Alice less in any case, and indeed was happy to give Lydia her tea, and to see to her toilet needs between the times Alice had sole charge of Lydia.

Heiress in Hiding 4-6

Sarah WaldockDecember 26, 2017 08:34PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 4-6

Agnes BeatrixDecember 27, 2017 11:49PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 4-6

Sarah WaldockDecember 29, 2017 11:14AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 4-6

AlidaDecember 27, 2017 06:19AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 4-6

Sarah WaldockDecember 27, 2017 12:15PM


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