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Heiress in Hiding 7-9

December 29, 2017 11:17AM
Chapter 7

Breakfast on the Friday, a couple of days later, saw the arrival of mail for Adam, a thick budget of a letter, which presumably Moyse had paid an extra sixpence for. Adam gasped as he read it.
“I’m sorry, Miss Stone, I shall not be riding with you this morning, I have matters to arrange. My niece, Marjorie, finds herself a very sudden widow. Her husband offended the innkeeper and was thrown out of the inn, where he slept under a hay rick. Unfortunately for him, it was set alight by rick-burners.”
“How horrible! Though it precludes you having to kidnap the children and get them abroad,” said Madelaine.
“Indeed, and I’m not even going to ask whether the official story is true or not,” said Adam. “However, I’m going to buy an empty property there for Daphne and Giles, so they can keep an eye on matters. Well, to tell truth,” he smiled, “The property belongs to an absentee landlord whom I can force to sell,” he said. “It was his ricks which were burned on account of not paying wages in years, and it was Daphne’s idea that Brandon management would be a reward to the rick burners.”
“It seems only fair,” said Madelaine. “You will need to see all sorts of people: Lydia and I will walk out instead of riding.”
“Thank you for understanding.” His smile was warm, and Madelaine felt her knees turn unaccountably to water at the warmth of his look. For some reason, too, she was quite breathless, as if they had already been riding quite briskly. She summoned a smile and tried to hide how very odd he made her feel.
Lydia’s lower lip was inclined to pout over not having a ride.
“For shame!” said Madelaine. “Do you think Uncle Adam has nothing better to do each day than to ride with you? You have been a lucky little girl to have had a ride for the last few days, while your uncle has been less busy. We will go instead for a walk.”
Lydia knew the tone, and considered sulking, and decided that a walk was preferable to being sat down to get over the sulks. It was not long before her sunny nature emerged again, and she said, tentatively,
“We can walk down the main drive to the bridge if you like,” said Madelaine, equably. The bridge was of a piece with the Palladian porchway, and had decorative pilasters holding the balustrade, which were not far enough apart for small people to fall through, but through which Lydia liked to drop sticks and run to the other side to watch the current pull them through. So long as they had enough sticks, it took a long time for this game to pall, so Madelaine greeted the suggestion with much relief.
Mrs. Eade was kind enough to provide some sticks from the kitchen’s kindling, which saved Lydia from becoming fractious at having to gather them. When she was older, gathering sticks would be part of the game, but as yet she was too young to walk far, since walking was a fairly new skill for her. Madelaine carried the little girl down the drive, since it was a long way for her little legs, and smiled as Lydia solemnly threw sticks as hard as she could, some of them bouncing off the bridge back at her, and then trotting across to the other side to watch them emerge. The little girl never failed to squeal with delight as her sticks emerged.
Adam emerged from his study while they were playing, and joined in the game, suggesting a race between his stick and Lydia’s. Lydia squealed with delight.
“I never thought of that,” said Madelaine, ruefully.
“Never mind; you will in the future,” said Adam. “And if you can tell two sticks apart, I certainly can’t, so it doesn’t matter which one comes out first, she has won.”
“How wise you are, my lord,” said Madelaine.
“Used to nieces and nephews, anyway,” said Adam.

Madelaine was to become used to some of those whom Adam considered to be nieces and nephews when Lydia’s half sister and half brother came to stay for a few days. It was not to be a long visit, in case Marjorie Braithwaite and her children needed to arrive in a hurry. Both Jasper and Phebe Finch were as dark haired as Lydia, and Jasper’s skin was dark too.
“Cousin Marjorie and her children have been badly treated so they won’t want extra people, so you need not think we will take offence if we have to leave in a hurry,” Jasper explained, as he introduced himself, his sister, Phebe, and her mop of a dog. The dog, whose name was descriptive, Moppy, was an affectionate, if outsize, beast, and after a moment’s hesitation, Lydia decided that the beast was a friend.
“Bear,” she said, about the most intelligible word she had managed.
“Not a bear, Moppy is my dog,” said Phebe, frowning.
“She’s only a baby, Phebe, if she wants to pretend Moppy is a bear, you know better and I know better, and Miss Stone knows better, so it don’t matter,” said Jasper.
“Very sensible,” said Madelaine. “How lucky Lydia is to have a big brother and sister!”
“We can look out for her,” said Jasper. “I left my dog at home, because he loves Ma Imogen well enough, but Phebe still needs Moppy to cuddle because of the wretch Pa farmed her out to before he married Ma was pretty awful.”
Adam had given Madelaine a brief history of the rather irregular family of Evelyn, Lord Finchbury* so she felt less at sea concerning their backgrounds than she might otherwise have done, albeit nervous about caring for two older children as well as Lydia.
Fortunately racing sticks under a bridge was a game which appealed to all three children, despite their disparate ages, Jasper being thirteen, and Phebe being almost nine. The two older ones were also excited to be told by Adam on a clear day that they might stay up to see Jupiter and its four moons, which were clearly visible.
“Some people can see the moons with their naked eyes,” said Adam. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you could, Jasper, for you’ve sharp eyesight. But I have a telescope as well, so we may all see them.”
Jasper could indeed pick out the moons.
“I can only see three,” he said.
“The other might be behind the planet; or you might see it as a dot on the planet’s disk through the telescope, for being in front of it,” Adam told him.
It was exciting to see another planet so clearly.
“It’s in the best position to observe that I’ve ever seen,” said Adam, when they had all looked. “But I see sleepy faces, so back to your rooms, and into nightgowns and dressing gowns, and you shall come down for hot chocolate.”
It was a most convivial evening.

It has to be said that Jasper did not always stay to play with his sisters, since he was a great friend of Adam’s bailiff, and went off early in the mornings to do a bit of shooting; but Madelaine was much impressed by the time and care he gave to the girls, and said so.
Jasper flushed.
“A chap has to look out for the people who matter, look you,” he said. “And I am pretty lucky; Da and Ma Imogen took me in, and took me out of the school where I was not getting on so well, and my real ma’s people like me a lot better without having a didekoi brat living with them.”
“Didekoi? What’s that?”
“Gypsy; my real ma is a gypsy wench. I like knowing gypsy things, but I like better being a gentleman. Did you know that Adam’s grandfather lived with gypsies for a while? I might even be really related to the Brandons through the tribes,” he added enthusiastically.
“He did mention it,” said Madelaine. “A couple of generations after the pirate.” Being half gypsy explained Jasper’s swarthy looks more than his love of the sun.
Jasper laughed.
“Old Gaffer Pirate is a caution. I love to hear his stories, and I cap them with ones I’ve made up that I tell him I was told by another pirate’s son, and see how outrageous he will get to go one better.”
“You are a bad boy, I think,” laughed Madelaine.
“Thank you,” said Jasper, bowing with a flourish. It was easy to see why he was a prime favourite with Adam, and if Adam cared to pretend a relationship through gypsy tribes, Madelaine was not about to complain about the compassion of a man who accepted the step children of his niece as family, as doubtless he would have done even had they not been coincidentally also the siblings of his ward.
Alice did not accept the idea of Adam’s ecumenism.
“Can’t think why his lordship puts up with filthy bastards and dirty gyppos,” she said, viciously, in hearing of the children.
“Alice, how nice to hear your opinion of Miss Lydia, did you with to stop caring for her because of her illegitimate state?” asked Madelaine, tartly. “I should think you are merely jealous that Master Jasper is a gentleman and Misses Phebe and Lydia are ladies, despite their irregular births, and you cannot aspire to the same. I suggest you first apologise and then keep your tongue between your teeth.”
Alice sneered.
“Oh, very sorry, I’m sure; and I’m sure you would know all about Master Jasper’s relatives.”
“I have no idea, but you seem to have the manners usually ascribed to ragamuffins and tinkers,” said Madelaine.
She slipped Jasper ten shillings when he made Alice an apple pie bed.

Jasper and Phebe went home the day before Adam received a letter from his sister that the inquest had gone well. He laughed over it, and read it out loud to Madelaine.

“Dear Adam,
The family were ably represented at the inquest on Solomon Braithwaite by one of Edward’s men, a villainous looking fellow with an eyepatch and peg leg, rejoicing under the name of Gamalial Grundy, otherwise known as ‘the sergeant’. Sgt Grundy is a man of few words, but he gave me a nice succinct gist of the proceedings which I will try to reproduce.
“Well, missus, Crowner looked like a starving raven, wiv the scent of carrion in ‘is nose, and most disappointed ‘e were that there weren’t no witnesses for ‘im to peck. Anyways, ‘e ‘ears that the owd bugger was slung out for bein’ violent, and no blame to the landlord as needs to protect ‘is other customers, and that there ‘ad been a threat to burn hay ricks, and ‘e deplores this like wot ‘e ‘as to do. And it being shown by the doctor that Mrs. B ain’t in no state to rise from ‘er bed, though I fort she ‘ad a broken leg, not a fractulated flibbier, and her little lad bain’t hardly even breeched, and Rev. Forester bein’ a man o’ the cloth who took her in and hain’t got no call to off the old B purposeful like, so in wanting for anyone to blame, it were accidental death, caused by property damage by person or person unknown, accounting of how nobody could expect anyone to go to sleep in a glorified ‘aystack, and no rick-burners ever likely to be found out nowise.”
I believe I have managed to preserve the picturesque essence of his speech, I could listen to Grundy with great delight for hours. I particularly enjoyed the ‘fractulated flibbier’ which I have tried to spell as he said it. However, the point is that there is no blame accruing to anyone, none of the rick-burners have been caught, and if any are, and if they are charged with killing Braithwaite, I am sure you will purchase the best barrister in their defence.

Yours, somewhat relieved,

“Fractulated flibbier? My goodness,” said Madelaine, chuckling. “You would have any rick burners defended?”
“Certainly, if they exist,” said Adam. “For my own part, I have no doubt but that Sgt. Grundy and his men arranged the whole thing, regardless of not having arrived until the morning after it supposedly happened. Tactical movement across country while my sister slept in blissful ignorance of their overnight activities would not be difficult to veterans of the peninsula and I plan to give each and every one of them a pension for a nice solution to the problem.”
“My goodness!” said Madelaine, faintly. “Well, I can’t say I blame them in the least.”
“Good girl,” said Adam.
At that moment, Moyse came in.
“There were notes left on the side table for you, my lord, and for miss,” he said. “The hand is childish and illiterate, but I thought I ought to bring them in.”
“Oh, yes, quite,” said Adam, holding out his hand. The butler held his salver for Adam to take the letters, passing one to Madelaine. “May I?” he asked her, indicating opening the letter.
“Certainly, if I may,” said Madelaine. Both broke open the cheap wafers. Adam started frowning, and Madelaine gasped.
In block capitals, the note read,


“Well, my letter is singularly unpleasant, Miss Vardy, or Miss Stone, I should still call you; what about yours?”
Madelaine passed hers over to him.
“Someone knows who I am and has written to Mama and she will drag me back to marry the comte, and I will not! I must go somewhere else!”
“Miss Stone! Madelaine! Calm yourself!” Adam took her gently by the upper arms. “I am not sure that the letter writer has written to your mother.”
“But ... but it said ...”
“It said they have written to London. No mention of your mother. Now what my letter said was that I was nurturing an imposter, who was no such thing as a governess, and who was actually a man dressed as a woman.”
“Are you serious?”
“Well, apparently the writer is serious,” said Adam. “The phrase, ‘haven’t you never wondered why ‘she’ is so tall?’ suggests a serious turn, at least for the melodramatic.”
“Who could be so idiotic?” asked Madelaine.
“I don’t know, but I will ring for Moyse,” said Adam. He did so, and the butler returned.
“My lord?”
“Cubit those letters appeared in the vestibule?”
“Yes, my lord. It is my opinion they were placed there by one of the household. I almost censored them rather than trouble you.”
“I am glad in a way that you did not. They are nasty poison pen letters, and I would like you to assemble all the servants, not discounting the stable hands, just in case, and inform them that if anyone would like to come to me in my study between teatime and dinner and confess, I will only turn them off with full pay. If I do not receive a confession, when I find out who has written such wicked lies, I will see them prosecuted.”
“Yes, my lord. Might I have an intimation what they said?”
“You may not; the imputations were laughable but most unpleasant. Miss Stone has been gravely insulted, and so has my intelligence.”
“Very good, my lord,” said Moyse. His own thoughts ran along the lines that someone had suggested that the governess was warming his lordship’s bed, though Moyse did not necessarily consider that was a bad thing. Miss Stone was more of a lady than the former Baroness had been, in his opinion. However, he would not speak of his speculations as his lordship plainly wished it kept quiet. He went off to summon all the servants as ordered.
“To whom do you think the writer wrote in London if not to my mother?” asked Madelaine, perplexed.
“Well, since you were named as a criminal in disguise, I assume to Bow Street,” said Adam. “I doubt they will take it seriously, but if they send a man out and find a mare’s nest I doubt they’ll be any happier with our poison pen than I am. But do not permit it to trouble you! Let me take you and Lydia for a drive this afternoon, and we shall visit Saxmundham and you may shop if you wish while Lydia discusses unsuitable pastries in the tea room.”
“What an excellent idea!” agreed Madelaine.

Chapter 8

The trip to Saxmundham was a treat. A market town could not compete with London for varieties of wares, but Madelaine had never been to a market, not being the sort of thing her mother approved of. It was as exciting for her as Lydia found it, to look at the bright stalls, selling fruit, vegetable, fish and meat as well as haberdashery, fancy goods, woven baskets of all kinds, and so on. The basket maker also made straw hats and bonnets, which had a quaint rustic charm, and Madelaine purchased one, and some silks and ribbons from the haberdasher’s stall to line and trim it. A bonnet which might be more robust than the one she had with her would be a good idea, when out and about with Lydia.
“One would think you had not been to a market before,” teased Adam, as Madelaine stared about, and insisted on seeing every stall.
“I have not, my lord; my mother thinks them low,” said Madelaine.
“Oh, well, she’s doubtless too good for a mere baron,” laughed Adam. “The Saxmundham market is held every Wednesday, and you might see our own Mrs. Eade over there, buying comestibles. Mostly she gets fish, which the home farm does not produce, but occasionally we are treated to more exotic fruit and vegetables than are to be found amongst our own produce. Mrs. Eade will not delegate the task to an underling, for she enjoys the market herself! Though of course, the polite fiction is that you never know what you might find, and you can’t, in her idiom, ‘trust some duzzy totty-hidded little ow’ mauther’ to make a decision on whether to purchase something extra or not.”
Madelaine laughed in delight at Adam’s perfect rendition of the local tongue. Both language and the phrasing sounded so like Mrs. Eade that she could almost hear that worthy saying it.
“And I suppose if the type of fish a girl was sent to buy was not available, unless she be a remarkable girl worth training in the housekeeper’s art, she would not know what to buy in substitute, and would come away with nothing?” asked Madelaine.
“More than likely,” said Adam.
“My lord, I fear I am such a totty-headed girl,” said Madelaine. “I have not been taught the housekeeper’s art at all; Mama would not countenance it. Since you plainly have some knowledge of it, and expect me to enter into the understanding of it, I presume she was wrong to consider it unnecessary?”
Adam made a face.
“Whilst I hesitate to criticise any parent to their offspring, I fear my opinion of your mother is dropping every time I hear about her,” he said. “A lady should always understand the tasks her servants do, in order to oversee them, if necessary, and show them how, and to catch them out if they are lax. Have you seen Daphne reach up and run a finger along the top of a door?”
“Yes, I did not like to ask what she was about, to do so,” said Madelaine.
“She was checking for dust,” said Adam. “There never has been; my servants are good, willing workers on the whole, but for a lady to carry out such checks shows the servants that the lady of the house is doing her duty too, in keeping them in line, that she knows her business, and that she is pleased to find nothing to criticise.”
“I see!” Madelaine was enlightened. “Do you think if I ask Mrs. Eade nicely, she will show my how to do a housekeeper’s job too? In case I ever marry,” she added, a little wistfully.
“We shall ask her now,” said Adam. “There she is, beating down poor old Greengrasse, the fish monger, and enjoying herself mightily at getting fish at a good price, as if we needed to dicker to forcefully.”
“He looks to be enjoying himself also,” said Madelaine. Adam observed the fishmonger critically.
“You are quite right; it must be a game they play,” he said. “Good, I would not want him to lose out. Mrs. Eade! Have you finished beggaring Greengrasse?”
“To the best of my ability, my lord,” Mrs. Eade dropped a curtsey. “Ar, and a whoolly hard man he be, puttin’ up his prices when he du see me comin’ I shouldn’t wonder.”
“Do-an’t yew git fresh with me, mor!” the fishmonger gave as good as he got. “Afternoon, moi lord, Miss, Miss,” he touched his forelock.
“I know you won’t let her drive you out of business, Greengrasse,” said Adam. “If you did, you’d have to let her marry you, and become fish supplier at the Hall.”
“Ar and I do-ant want to be at Mrs. Eade’s mercy,” said Greengrasse, grinning delightedly that my lord should pass the time of day and tease him.
“What hev I forgotten, moi lord?” asked Mrs. Eade.
“Nothing, Mrs. Eade! Only Miss Strong has informed me that her mother never had time to see to it that she learned the arts of housekeeping, and I wondered if you would be kind enough to teach her?”
Mrs. Eade regarded Madelaine thoughtfully, darting the odd look at Adam. She liked the well-spoken girl, who was unfailingly courteous to her, as some governesses might not be.
“Ar, reckon yor mother was a fule not to start yew follerin’ arter her, or your housekeeper dew yew hid one, when yew was a little ow’ mauther of about seven,” she said. “Well, yew bring Miss Lydie too; she ‘oon’t learn any younger.”
“I’m sure she absorbs everything she sees and hears,” said Madelaine.
“Ar, regular little diaper-cloths they are at that age, soaking up everything,” said Mrs. Eade, slipping a barley sugar cane to Lydia. “Don’t yew worry, Miss Stone, Mrs. Eade’ll taerke good care on yew.”

Madelaine was eager to learn the things her mother had considered unnecessary, and squirmed as she quickly discovered that if she had succeeded in finding a husband, she would have been a poor mistress of her new household, for not knowing how to keep the servants happy and industrious. She knew how to balance accounts, which was a part of the business of running a household, but Mrs. Eade, once Lydia was playing a complex game on the floor with her dolls, showed her several entries.
“Here, Miss, yew moight question expenditure. And I’ll tell yew plain, this’un here was acoss there ain’t no use skimpin’ over quality; and this’un here was account o’ how at that toime o’ year there wasn’t no better price to be had nowise.”
“But you would expect to justify a minor rise in price?”
“Miss, if I weren’t honest, dew I managed a couple o’ them hikes in price a week, matter o’ a couple o’ shilluns, thass a hundred shilluns a year, wass five pound. Now that moight not pinch the master’s purse, but that’d still be wholly dishonest. And I earn thirty-five pound a year, and perks, account o’how his lordship be whoolly generous, and provide me with cloth for moi clothes too, and tea for my use. Five pound more’d be a lot to me, and dew nobody noticed, a greedy housekeeper could get more.”
“Yes I can see that. Even a penny here or there would soon add up,” said Madelaine.
“Yes, Miss. And you need to show yew knows wass what.”
“I am also seeing from remarks that you have made why Mother can’t keep servants, she carps at them about minor things like being slow, but doesn’t show she knows how to check real industry and then if they let things slide too far she loses her temper and turns off half a dozen of them at once. And she doesn’t explain always what she wants done and then gets in a temper if it isn’t done to her satisfaction.” Madelaine suddenly wondered if she had given away too much, but it was too late now. Hopefully the housekeeper would feel it beneath her to gossip.
“Reckon yew’ve hed a decent governess, Miss, beings as yew du be noice and laerdyloike,” said Mrs. Eade.
“I think I did take my tone from her; I had very little to do with my mother until my father died,” said Madelaine.
“There, well, that was tu your advantage, anyroad,” said the housekeeper, comfortably.
“Mrs. Eade, am I undutiful to dislike my mother?” Madelaine blurted out.
“Well, now, Miss, hev your mother done anything in your interests?” asked Mrs. Eade.
“She takes me to all the Seasons and tries to find me a husband,” said Madelaine.
“Ar, and du you loike them ow’ Seasons, and du yew loike the men she foind?”
“No. To both.”
“Hev yew towd her?”
“Yes, but she says ‘nonsense Madelaine, you are being tiresome. You would enjoy yourself more if you only made up your mind to do so.’”
Mrs. Eade snorted.
“In other words, moi dear, Miss, I mean, she want yew tu be an image o’ what she want, not wass you be.”
“I’d rather be ‘my dear,’” said Madelaine wistfully. “I haven’t had an endearment since Papa died.”
“Oh yew pore little ow’ maid!” said Mrs. Eade. “Yew come here!” and she swept Madelaine into a warm, motherly cuddle. Madelaine felt her eyes prick.
“Oh, Mrs. Eade, I cannot cry on you, it will upset Lydia,” she said.
“There now, du yew come on down to moi room after she be in bed, and we’ll hev a proper coze,” said Mrs. Eade. “And dew yew marry a good man, yew’ll be better for knowing how to love him, which yew can’t if yew do-ant know how to be loved, even if yew do-ant want to ever talk to Mrs. Eade agin. And I’ll understand that.”
“You are good to me, and I can’t imagine not wanting to talk to you,” said Madelaine.
Mrs. Eade patted her back, and did not mention that she strongly expected Madelaine to be much elevated in position before the year was out. It was a fact of life that when people poured out their hearts, even if not elevated in position, they were likely not to want to see much of whoever they had opened themselves up to. Mrs. Eade had no intention of keeping false expectations, but she knew this girl needed a real mother figure at the moment, and if it did not last, well, then she would have done what was needful.
Madelaine had no idea of the directions of the kindly housekeeper’s thoughts.
“How long have you been at the Hall?” she asked.
“Bless you moi dear, girl and wumman I’ve been here, moi Ma was housekeeper afore me, patching up Mr. Adam, Mr. Bellamy, him wass was Mr. Edward’s father, Miss Cassie, Miss Daffy, and Miss Tiny, Miss Eglantine that is. Three little ow’ mauthers, and not hardly two years atween them, you may suppose they led their governess a merry dance! Three years older nor Mr. Adam, his lordship I should say, I be, and a hem lot o’ scrapes he got into as a boy, little ow’ tyke! I mind the time he come lookin’ for moi Ma, account o’ how he’d tore his new breeches, and he were terrifoid o’ a whipping for climbing trees in his new duds, arter he left off skeleton suits, and she weren’t there, so I mended ‘em for him. ‘Bessie’, he says, that bein’ my first name, ‘You’re a treasure. I won’t ever forget.’ And he never have, treated me roight he hev.”
“How splendid!” said Madelaine. “I am glad you were able to mend his breeches. I don’t think his father can have been a very nice man.”
“Oh, the old lord was a holy terror,” said Mrs. Eade. “He had his ideas, and nobody weren’t going to shift un. Ar, and a harsh father he wuz too. Milady quietly wasted away, and the poor motherless childer turned to Mr. Adam, account o’ how he be good at bringin’ schemes about tu get them out o’ trouble.”
“I see. Well, I know Beth, Mrs. Edward Brandon, that is, and they speak of their uncle as though he is an oracle. And I have to say, he soon figured out a lot about me,” Madelaine laughed and sighed. “I am sure you are aware I am hiding from my Mama.”
“It’s none of my business,” said Mrs. Eade.
“I’d like to tell you,” said Madelaine. “How can I accept you being a mother for me if I am living a lie? I am glad his lordship knows, too, he has been very kind.” She told Mrs. Eade all about it, and that worthy chuckled.
“So much for that silly piece’s fool ideas that yew be a criminal, even a man in disguise,” she said, shaking in mirth. “Criminal, indeed! As if his lordship would be hiding someone who was a criminal!”
“Which silly piece is that?” asked Madelaine. “For someone wrote unpleasant anonymous letters to both his lordship and me, and told me all was known, and the writer had written to London. His Lordship thought it meant Bow Street.”
“She wouldn’t!” Mrs. Eade gasped. “Ar, she might at that, pestilential brat. Alice, thass who and do-ant yew go tackling her, Miss, moi dearie. I’ll give her what for! And if Bow Street take any notice of sich squit, well, I’ll-a be givin’ her into charge like his lordship said was to happen. Do-ant yew worry your pretty hid no more.”
“Alice hates me, and I do not know why,” said Madelaine. “At least, I know why now, for I gave her a royal telling off for miscalling Jasper and Phebe. But she disliked me before that, and I think she blames me for the apple pie bed Jasper made for her.”
“Young limb he be! Ar, well, as to Alice, I’ll tell yew whoi,” said Mrs. Eade. “Her was a-hopin’ as how she’d get promoted tu governess. What put that maggot in her hid be beyond belief, higgerant girl as she be, can’t hardly read herself, let alone learn Miss Lydie her letters. But her give herself airs account o’ bein’ from Lunnon.”
“I should be sorry for her, but I’m not,” said Madelaine.
“Her! Don’t waste your sympathy, an ounce o’ good will on her’d go down the drain,” said Mrs. Eade. “Jes’ you enjoy your time with Miss Lydie, and I’ll hev a word with his lordship, and no, you be-ant squeakin’ beef, anonymous letters are right nasty, and if she ain’t brought up short on ut, she’ll do worse and hurt folks more.”
Madelaine was very grateful for the calm good sense of the housekeeper, and went to her bed in a better frame of mind.

Chapter 9

Alice disappeared from the nursery, and Lydia’s immediate needs were seen to by a fresh faced girl from the village, who introduced herself as Polly Eade, and who was willing, if not especially intelligible. She plainly adored Lydia, however, and the little girl was soon ready to chatter as unintelligibly to Polly as Polly did to her.
Madelaine noticed the difference. Alice had been perfectly able, but she had not spoken to Lydia as she cared for her, and without showing impatience for her charge, had treated the care of the little girl as a job, rather than entering into the joys of being a toddler learning to shout ‘Go!’ for the Jordan. Indeed, Madelaine privately thought that Alice had preferred to change wet diapers to having the trouble of getting Lydia to use the Jordan, and she was inordinately proud of herself for having managed to introduce the little girl to it and having encouraged her to speak up of her need to relieve herself.
Daphne returned the Hall, and Madelaine witnessed her emotional reunion with Giles Armitage, firmly heading Lydia off before she realised that ‘Daffy’ was there. Adam told her later that Giles and Daphne had put up the banns, and were planning on getting married as soon as was practicable after they had been called three times.
“Which to my reckoning is June nineteenth,” said Adam.
“Why, that’s my birthday,” said Madelaine.
“An auspicious day all round,” said Adam. “A day of happiness, anyway, for they will be joined in love and you will be free.”
“Yes,” said Madelaine, sighing.
“That didn’t sound happy,” said Adam.
She blushed.
“Contemplating marital bliss, and wishing it might happen to me and that I might be wanted for myself not my money,” she said.
“You are a very attractive and pleasant woman, and clever too; I am sure any man would want to marry you without caring what you were worth,” said Adam.
“Alas, it becomes increasingly unlikely,” said Madelaine. “But thank you for your kind words.”
Adam regarded her thoughtfully, but said no more.
Life continued as it had, and Madelaine had entirely forgotten the unpleasant letters which had probably been sent by Alice. There appeared to be no enquiries sent forth from Bow Street, and when she asked Adam, he shrugged.
“Bow Street get so many anonymous tip-offs, most of which are no more than spiteful designs to get others into trouble, I imagine they probably burn most of them. Since there is no real information to be laid about you, it being all the figment of a fevered imagination, they are probably considering it entirely spurious.”
Madelaine was much relieved. Whilst she had no expectation of anyone seriously taking her for a man, or a criminal, Madelaine was afraid of having to give her real name, and of her mother finding out, and coming to drag her home.
In the meantime, tried to make sure that Lydia got as much time outside as she possibly could, in a really intemperate summer. The temperature rarely rose much above sixty, and several days had been foggy.
“And quite ridiculous it is, when it’s less than two weeks to the longest day,” said Madelaine, crossly, looking out at rain. It was another day of indoor games, though Madelaine did not quite dare to let Lydia race down the stairs on tinware trays, as Jasper and Phebe had done before she caught them. Fortunately Lydia’s mobility was still limited by her little legs, and the nursery was big enough to accommodate nursery games like Humpty-Dumpty, Oranges and Lemons, and a local singing game which Polly taught called ‘Old Roger is dead and lies in his grave’. Adam explained, when asked, that Roger was probably Roger Bigod, who notoriously defied Henry II, and that he believed that in other parts of the countryside which were not such hotbeds of Puritanism, the game was called ‘Oliver Cromwell is buried and dead’. Madelaine was not too sure she liked a rhyme in which the dead man got up and knocked down an old woman for gathering apples under the tree over his grave, but Polly seemed to see no harm in it, nor took it seriously, so hopefully Lydia would take no harm. She would doubtless play it with village children in a few years anyway, if Mrs. Eade was to be believed about his lordship encouraging visiting youngsters to mix with his tenants’ children.
The next day, the rain had cleared, and if the ground was wet underfoot, it bid fair to be fine, and windless. Lydia did not attend church, so while the family drove out, Madelaine was left to entertain her. It being damp underfoot, Madelaine determined that Lydia should stick to the driveway, and they would beg sticks from the kitchen to race in the stream. It would occupy Lydia for hours, and the fresh air would be good for her.
Accordingly, well wrapped in her military style pelisse, and Lydia similarly clad, Madelaine and her charge sallied out. Lydia had got to the point where she objected to being carried anywhere, so they made their way down the drive at Lydia’s pace.
Madelaine had no objections; it was all good exercise for the little girl, and if she needed a carry back to the Hall, then that would not prove a problem.
Lydia was enthralled that the small river was somewhat in spate; without being dangerously overfull, or in danger of overflowing, it was carrying enough excess water to roil and bubble through the arches of the bridge, with a gurgling, chuckling noise. Lydia chuckled back at the over-excited water, and ran as fast as she could from one side to the other to see her thrown sticks positively erupt out on swirling white water. She was content to watch them without wanting to race them, and Madelaine propped herself against the bridge to watch the child’s pleasure, ready to grab Lydia if she should, for any reason, move off the bridge. Fortunately, it had not yet occurred to the child to climb onto the bridge balustrade, and when Jasper had started to do so during his visit, he had been amenable to reason, that giving little girls dangerous ideas was not what a gentleman did.
Madelaine was so engrossed in watching Lydia that she never noticed the approach of two men until one of them spoke.
“Yus, that’s the right one, much too tall to be a woman, grab her!”
“Wot about the kid, Charlie?”
“Someone will come out after it.”
“But what if she fall in the river and drown?”
“One less brat in the world.”
“Charlie, the kid is quality.”
Charlie hesitated.
“Who are you men and what do you think you are doing?” demanded Madelaine. She had temporarily forgotten the threat of Bow Street.
“Now, you come quiet-like and there won’t be no violence,” said Charlie.
“Excuse me? Why are you offering violence to a woman and a child?” asked Madelaine, moving towards Lydia and taking the child by the hand.
“Haha, matey, we knows you ain’t a woman. The kid we ain’t got no interest in, it can go back to the house, tell it.”
“Lydia is too small to walk all that way, you cruel monster, and you must be insane to say I’m not a woman. You’re here to kidnap me for ransom, aren’t you? Well I can scream,” said Madelaine, and proceeded to do so. “Adam! Help!” It must surely be time for the church party to return?
“She do sound like a woman,” said the cautious one. Charlie, however, was having none of it, and seized Madelaine, pushing Lydia over.
Madelaine struggled, hitting out at the man in fury.
“A woman wouldn’t struggle that strong, I’ll show you how much of a woman he is,” he said, tearing open Madelaine’s pelisse and ripping open her gown. Madelaine shrieked as her chemise tore too. “Oh bugger,” said Charlie, as it was now obvious that Madelaine was all woman. She slapped him, hard, sobbing in mortification, and then Charlie was suddenly being pulled away from her, slamming hard into the bridge balustrade and then flying over it. Madelaine gasped, as she became aware that these remarkable acts of prestidigitation were being undertaken by Adam, whose usual amiable countenance was suffused with fury. Somehow, his fury was not frightening, the way her mother’s was, for it was on her behalf. And then Adam was taking off his coat.
“Oh you got back in time!” she sobbed.
“I heard you scream and ran all the way. My dear Miss Stone, I pray you put this on to take yourself to your room so you may change. These fellows will be replacing your gown from their own salaries if they be employed, and if they be but vagrants, I’ll have it from their hides. You are both under arrest, if I haven’t managed to drown your impudent friend,” said Adam to the cautious one, who had been seized by a burly looking man in the dress of a lawyer. Madelaine let him place his coat around her, and briefly clung to him, before saying,
She felt little arms around her legs, and bent down to embrace the little girl.
“But sir! We’re Bow Street Officers!” the cautious one almost sobbed.
“Bow Street Runners? Don’t make me laugh,” said Adam, picking up the sobbing Lydia, and assisting Madelaine to her feet. “Now why would I believe that Bow Street Runners,” he deliberately used the slightly insulting name by which the Runners were known, rather than giving them the courtesy of calling them ‘officers’ as they preferred, “Would assault my ward and her governess?”
“It were a tip-off,” said the cautious one, reluctantly. “I told Charlie I thought it was a hum,” he added, “But he would have it that Miss was wearing falsies. I though she sounded like a woman, sir, and not like Kensington Jack at all.”
“Who the devil is Kensington Jack?” asked Adam. “Miss Stone, why are you still here?”
“I wanted to know who they were and what they wanted and I want to know why they should think I was this Kensington Jack,” said Madelaine.
“He’s a notorious ken cracker,” said the cautious one.
“Enlighten those of us unable to speak the hideous tongue of the underworld,” said Adam.
“He prigs sparklers from kens in the darkmans,” said the man.
“That was scarcely enlightening,” said Adam.
“He’s a housebreaker, a ken cracker,” the man managed. “Stealing jewellery while people are asleep.”
“Fascinating patois,” said Adam, with heavy irony. “You will come up to the house with me while as local magistrate I hold an extraordinary session to decide whether to have your friend transported for lewd assault of a lady of impeccable reputation or whether to merely incarcerate both of you in Norwich gaol for ... for being an affray. Would you like to take my arm, Miss Stone, as far as the house? I will carry Lydia, and see that Mrs. Eade takes her while you are changing. I will want your deposition.”
“Yes, my lord,” said Madelaine.
“My lord? Oh bullocks,” said the prisoner.
“You keep a civil tongue in your mouth in front of a lady!” Adam’s tone was stentorian.
“Er, yes, my lord, sorry, miss,” the man was in a sorry state of fear, perspiring freely. His companion had been retrieved from the river by a couple of servants, and was being dragged towards the house.
“Take that and strip and dry it, and put it in something dry so it won’t drip on my carpet,” said Adam, coldly. “It should, if its claims are true, have an Occurrence Book in its pocket to identify it. I want that as evidence. I shall, of course, be writing to Sir Nathanial Conant if they truly are from Bow Street, which I doubt, to ask what the devil he means in sending a pair of Captain Hackums instead of sending a letter to me about this so-called tip-off.” They reached the house, and Adam smiled at Madelaine, and kissed her hand. “Come down when you are composed, and if you feel a need to stop by with Mrs. Eade for a cup of tea and her excellent brand of comfort first, then do so.”
“Thank you, my lord,” said Madelaine, blushing. She was not sure why she blushed, but somehow the touch of Adam’s fingers on her hand were like fire, and she could have wished his lips had lingered more than the perfunctory brush that courtesy dictated. She almost ran upstairs to her room, to strip, and wash, and change. Fortunately the maids were careful to make sure she always had an ewer of washing water, being well aware that Lydia’s care tended to lead to mud and grass stains, and the kettle of drinking water to make her own tea could be used to add a little hot to it. Mostly Madelaine wanted to wash her face, for she knew it was tear streaked. Poor Lydia! She had been sadly frightened, and when Madelaine had dressed, she hurried to Mrs. Eade’s room to reassure Lydia that she was well.
Lydia climbed into Madelaine’s lap and clung to her, thumb in mouth.
“Poor little ow’ thing, she ain’t sucked her thumb long since,” said Mrs. Eade. “She have such nasty bruises look, where she fell, I’ve put arnica paste on them. Yew do look tu be done to a cow’s thumb, moi dearie, yew needs a nice cup o’ tea.”
“I believe I would find that most beneficial, Mrs. Eade,” said Madelaine. “I am in need of calming down, I had no idea Lydia had been hurt so badly, I can see the bruises coming out already! His Lordship wants my testimony, but he gave me permission to take tea first if I needed it.”
“Ar, thass him all over, thoughtful,” said Mrs. Eade. “I ain’t seen him in a temper like that since ... well, I can’t remember. Cold-angry he be mostly about them as hurt his relations, but he were fuming when he brought Miss Lydie in to me. Mind, I don’t say as he ain’t also letting what he feel about that Braithwaite fellow and that Caldecot what was married to Miss Daffy come out when these fellows pushed un too far. He du care for yew, seemingly.”
“Do ... do you think so?” asked Madelaine.
“I seen him man and boy; with his Lucy, wass he loved to distraction, with that hoity-toity piece wass Lydie’s ma, and roight infatuated she had him, and I tell you, dearie, he be more loike he was with Miss Lucy,” said Mrs. Eade. “Ut ain’t a sudden infatuation, thass more loike he’s comfortable tu hev yew around. But ut’ll taerke un a while tu see ut, mebbe, so do-ant yew go gittin’ impatient. Dew yew wants un.”
“I ... I should be horrified at the age difference.” Madelaine found herself entirely indifferent to the age difference; in truth, with Adam’s vigour, and better looks than a man half his age, she tended to forget that he was so much older than she was.
Mrs. Eade snorted.
“Mr. Adam be-ant no age at all. His years moight be fifty-seven, but cin yew think of a town man in his thirties as is fitter nor better looking?”
“Not many,” said Madelaine, candidly.
“Well, then,” said Mrs. Eade. “Do-ant yew go lookin’ a gift horse in the mouth when ut presents itself. Not that yew’d foind anything wrong with Mr. Adam’s teeth, he hev all his own, and he uses them yet tu crack walnuts and cobnuts, and there be-ant many men over thirty as can say that.”
“That’s true enough,” said Madelaine, who had already needed one extraction, and whose mother sported several false teeth wired to the ones she had left. She shuddered at the memory of the comte, who had visible blackened cavities in his teeth. By comparison, Adam was fifty-seven going on thirty.

Heiress in Hiding 7-9

Sarah WaldockDecember 29, 2017 11:17AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 7-9

AlidaDecember 29, 2017 11:07PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 7-9

Agnes BeatrixDecember 29, 2017 11:03PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 7-9

Sarah WaldockJanuary 03, 2018 09:35PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 7-9

KarenteaJanuary 04, 2018 03:15AM

Re: Mea culpa (nfm)

Sarah WaldockJanuary 04, 2018 01:59PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 7-9

KarenteaDecember 29, 2017 07:15PM


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